After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.
The vote, by a count of 310 to 303, was watched closely in Washington and Jerusalem and by Palestinians as a sign of momentum for a movement to pressure Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to end the occupation, with a campaign known as B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of a handful of historic mainline Protestant denominations and the church of many American presidents, is the largest yet to endorse divestment at a churchwide convention, and the vote follows a decade of debate — and a close call at the assembly two years ago, when divestment failed by only two votes…
The companies the church has targeted for divestment are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The church has about $21 million invested in them, a spokeswoman said. The church says it has tried for many years to convey its concerns that the companies are profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories by selling it bulldozers, surveillance technology and other equipment…
In a last-ditch tactic on Thursday, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, leader of the Reform movement (the largest branch in American Judaism), addressed the assembly and offered to broker a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the church’s two top leaders so they could convey their church’s concerns about the occupation — on the condition that the divestment measure was defeated.
That offer appears to have backfired, with some saying afterward that it felt both manipulative and ineffectual, given what they perceive as Mr. Netanyahu’s approval of more settlements in disputed areas and lack of enthusiasm for peace negotiations…
Of more influence was the presence at the church’s convention all week of Jewish activists, many of them young, in black T-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but growing organization that promotes divestment and works with Palestinian and Christian groups on the left…
It is not the first American church to use divestment to protest Israeli policies: The Mennonite Central Committee and the Quakers have sold stock in some companies that do business with Israel. Last week the pension board of the United Methodist Church announced that it had sold its stock in a company over concerns about its contracts with Israeli prisons.
Bravo. And, yes, it’s overdue. Community and religious organizations that saw the light of freedom bright enough to support the historic boycott of Apartheid South Africa have no excuse for absenting themselves from the BDS campaign against Apartheid Israel.
I’ve taken part in both campaigns and can heartily endorse the effect on the prospects for peace from such a campaign. We can’t count on our elected officials or the White House to get on board till the last possible minute; but, if the citizens of America still care to think of ourselves as a nation that stands up for justice and freedom – then climb on board the peace train and tell your church, your union, your college or university to divest themselves of holdings which aid Israel’s apartheid crimes.
Christians in Israel and Palestine fear an escalation of violence against them after a spate of vandalism in Jerusalem churches by hardline Jewish nationalists ahead of Pope Francis’s visit this month.
Earlier this week vandals wrote “Death to Arabs and Christians” in Hebrew on the Vatican’s Notre Dame centre in Jerusalem’s Old City and on Thursday night offensive graffiti was written on a wall close to the Romanian Orthodox church…
Both incidents come just weeks after a spate of attacks against Christians in Galilee, where a place of worship was vandalised and stones thrown at pilgrims. A radical rabbi also sent a threatening letter to a priest in Nazareth.
“It is increasing daily because nobody is doing anything about it. The police must know who these people are,” said Jamal Khader, the head of the Latin Patriarchate seminary and spokesman for the pope’s visit to Palestine…
In a statement earlier this week the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said that Christians in Israel felt neither safe nor protected and called on the government to take action against rightwing Jewish extremists.Acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank are known as “price-tagging”, a campaign of intimidation that extremists claim is the price Palestinians should pay for Israeli government crackdowns or restrictions on settlement activity…
Recent attacks, however, have specifically targetted Christians and have taken place in the heart of the Old City…
A senior official with Palestinian Liberation Organisation said the attacks demonstrated that the extreme right considered Christians and Palestinians as one and the same.
Life in an apartheid nation.
According to Dr. Yishai Ron, a researcher at Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, nearly half of the people who take medication for chronic constipation are unsatisfied with the results. That dissatisfaction can stem from unwanted side effects, concerns over the long-term safety of the medication, or “the fact that it simply doesn’t work.” That’s why he and his colleagues have created an oral capsule that relieves constipation by vibrating its way along the intestinal tract.
The capsule contains a tiny motor, that is programmed to start vibrating six to eight hours after being swallowed – this gives it enough time to reach the large intestine. Once it starts up, the vibrations reportedly stimulate the intestine into contracting, which in turn helps move stools through…
“Sometimes, drug therapies bring more issues than relief for these patients,” Dr. Ron said. “The results of this study point to the potential for an alternative treatment that avoids the typical drug side effects, such as bloating and electrolyte imbalance, by imitating the body’s natural physiology.”
Um, OK. I’m glad they don’t have a YouTube video.
Adelson and his Israeli Ace
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife plowed more than $92 million into efforts to help mostly losing candidates in the 2012 elections, is undertaking a new strategy for 2016 — to tap his fortune on behalf of a more mainstream Republican with a clear shot at winning the White House…
In 2012, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson spent so much of their money on long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich that they helped extend an ugly intraparty fight that left the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, severely bruised by the time he faced President Obama in the general election.
This time, the Adelsons are plotting their investments based not on personal loyalty but on a much more strategic aim: to help select a Republican nominee they believe will have broad appeal to an increasingly diverse national electorate…
So, if you’re dumb enough to believe the lies they’ll be shoveling out onto the airwaves – you might think the Republican Party has had a change of heart and doesn’t belong just to the rich and powerful. A position chosen for them by the rich and powerful.
This strategy would favor more-established 2016 hopefuls such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four will descend this week on Adelson’s luxury hotel in Las Vegas, the Venetian, for an important step in what some are calling the “Sheldon Primary.”
Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be at the Venetian for the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which begins Thursday with a golf outing, followed by a VIP dinner featuring Bush and hosted by the Adelsons in the private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet.
But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats — over coffee, at dinner or in his private office — with the prospective candidates.
Victor Chaltiel, a GOP donor and an Adelson friend who sits on the board of Las Vegas Sands, said at this early stage in the 2016 sweepstakes, Adelson is “neutral” and has his eye on a number of potential candidates, including Bush and Christie.
“He doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Chaltiel said. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has convictions but is not totally crazy.”
What that means in plain English is who is the best liar? There are no proposals to change Republican policies. The War on Women, the War on Children, the War on Hispanics and Blacks, the War on Gays and Lesbians, the War on working people and unemployed – remain priorities for Adelson and his followers.
Everything that can be done to cut taxes, national fiscal responsibilities to the nation where Republicans used to make most of their money – remains target number one for Adelson. Killing the Affordable Care Act, stopping anything to do with equal pay for equal work for women, these still are top of the charts for Kingmakers like Uncle Sheldon.
Pimps like Karl Rove are waiting in the wings for Adelson to turn over matching funds to compete with ideologues like the Koch Bros who prefer a platform more like the old days of the John Birch Society and Barry Goldwater. Either road, they’ll settle for outright ownership of a mortgage on the White House to match the one they have on Congress.
A group of Israeli teenagers have told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they will refuse to serve in the military because of its role in the occupation of Palestinian land…
The group referred to “human rights violations” in the West Bank, including “executions, settlement construction, administrative detention, torture, collective punishment and unfair distribution of water and electricity”.
“Any military service perpetuates the current situation, and therefore we cannot take part in a system that carries out these deeds,” read the letter posted on the Facebook page of Yesh Gvul.
Haaretz reported that Yesh Gvul, which advocates conscientious objection, said on Saturday evening in response to the letter’s publication that “refusal is a personal decision by every person in a democratic society”.
According to Haaretz, Yesh Gvul added: “We support anyone whose democratic and humanist values drove him to refuse to take part in occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.”
Yesh Gvul (There is a limit) describes itself as a “peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature”…
Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women two.
Progressives often support reinstitution of the draft in the United States. Surely that would provide motivation for some of our Congress-critters to oppose one or another of our useless wars.
An American organization of professors on Monday announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, signaling that a movement to isolate and pressure Israel that is gaining ground in Europe has begun to make strides in the United States.
Members of the American Studies Association voted by a ratio of more than two to one to endorse the boycott in online balloting that concluded Sunday night…
Its vote is a milestone for a Palestinian movement known as B.D.S., for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions, which for the past decade had found little traction in the United States. The American Studies Association is the second American academic group to back the boycott, movement organizers say, following the Association for Asian American Studies, which did so in April.
The vote reminds me – as it should – of the divestment movement against Apartheid South Afria. There is more of a congruency than a parallel. The racism and bigotry of Israel’s official practices against the folks who’ve been in place for centuries stinks on ice.
Add in the role of cats paw in the region Israel has played for decades on behalf of Western governments, oil companies and other criminal barons of mineral wealth – and divestment and boycotts make an admirable first line of peaceful economic protest.
William Burns, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan – negotiators in secret
The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran…
The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.
The Geneva deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity. All parties pledged to work toward a final accord next year that would remove remaining suspicions in the West that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.
Iran insists its nuclear interest is only in peaceful energy production and medical research.
The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, could avert years of threats of U.S. or Israeli military intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran – and become a crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama’s presidency.
First off, RTFA for the details. The AP has done a professional job outlining the chronology of this comparatively recent – and successful – effort.
The rest of the world will keep the whole history of relations between Iran and the United States in mind even though the average American hasn’t a clue. A condition perpetuated by what passes for news in our media-as-entertainment only, history in our schools.
It starts with the United States, the CIA and Iranian royalists combining to crush the first democratically-elected government in Iran back in 1953. No one in Iran, no one in the Middle East forgets how American greed for oil trumped democracy with violence. No one in the world seriously believes the United States has abandoned the imperial premises that brought about that coup.
The possibility of the detente that started during the Clinton years continuing – were abruptly halted, intentionally or otherwise – by George W. Bush announcing to the world how he demanded the Iranian people vote in elections in 2005. Only an old-fashioned fool in the mold of Colonel Blimp would expect a nation to bow their heads and say, “Yes, boss” to such arrogance. And, so, the Iranian nation ended up with a fool in charge to match the clown in the White House.
We are fortunate that one of the few promises kept by Barack Obama since his election was the one made about negotiating with Iran. No less arrogant than George W, as dedicated as ever to the premises that keep a right-wing government in power in Israel, nevertheless, through the good graces of the Sultan of Oman – communications were continued and expanded until this important first step moved forward yesterday evening.
The usual shitheads are upset. From Lindsay Graham in South Carolina to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, from Tea Party trollops to Chuck Shumer, the senator from Tel Aviv – right-wingers and liberals alike in their dedication to imperial greed from the United States and our client state in Israel are pissed off.
That is as it should be. Another sign of positive accomplishment.
Iranians have used social media to mock Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after he suggested they were not allowed to wear jeans.
In an interview with BBC Persian TV Mr Netanyahu said that if Iranians were free they would wear blue jeans, and listen to Western music.
Hundreds of Iranians both in Iran and abroad reacted on social media sites…Many posts showed mainly young Iranians wearing jeans and listening to Western music, some in comic poses.
Others mocked up scenes from ancient Persian history with the protagonists wearing denim.
Jeans are not banned in Iran, where an Islamic dress code requires women to cover their hair and wear modest outer clothing. Some Western music or Western-style music is tolerated.
One picture on social media sites showed a young boy in jeans whispering into the ear of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Another is a doctored photograph of Mr Netanyahu’s address at the UN last year in which he drew a red line across a sketch of a bomb, to warn that Iran was moving closer to the metaphorical “red line” of gaining enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.
In the mocked-up picture, widely-shared on Twitter, the bomb has been replaced with a picture of a female figure wearing jeans, with the Israeli prime minister appearing to draw a red line across the thighs.
One Iranian response on a Facebook page that has attracted hundreds of followers read: “He thinks he saw our bomb but he hasn’t seen our jeans.”
Most Americans probably can legitimately claim to be ignorant of the role our nation played in suppressing democracy in Iran – laying the groundwork for an Islamic revolution. Israelis really can’t. They can’t avoid a certain amount of history and knowledge. Though, obviously, their right-wing prime minister tries hard to portray himself as the theocratic village idiot.
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.
The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.
NSA won’t comment for the usual security restriction, blah, blah, saying they don’t do anything wrong at their end. RTFA for the details. There are lots of details and lots more legalizing of scumbag arguments by the Obama administration.
My bowling partner
US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the European Union to postpone a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories…
Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers on Saturday at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.
The EU imposed restrictions in July, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.
Asked about her response to Kerry’s comments about the aid guidelines, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the guidelines were simply “putting down on paper what is currently the EU position”…
The EU guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.
They angered Israel’s rightist government, which accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and responded by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians.
Palestinians praised the guidelines as a concrete step against illegal settlement construction, which they fear will deny them a viable state…
…Many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.
Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry’s main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on February 1.
Which delineates  how little Kerry has achieved since he took up his job as substitute for Hillary and  how little anyone expects him to achieve – since the United States doesn’t wish to nudge the apartheid government of Israel into anything like justice or peace.
The issues needing to be sorted after more than six decades of phony negotiations include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the removal of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. That’s all.