Facebook decides whether Palestinian editors can publish — or not

Facebook is deciding how the media should do its job again, even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg has insisted it’s “not a media company.” This time, two Palestinian news organizations say one of their Facebook pages, and the personal accounts of seven editors and executives, were suspended, al Jazeera reported. This prevented them from accessing their organizations’ Facebook pages, which collectively have 11 million “likes.”

The news organizations allege that the suspensions were the result of an agreement Facebook struck with Israel earlier this month to monitor incitement to violence on the platform. Facebook says it was a mistake with the way it handles accounts that have been flagged for review.

❝ Facebook reinstated the accounts over the weekend (Sept. 24) and apologized…Blah, blah, blah.

I think it was a warning on behalf of the Netanyahu government.

I contributed – a while back – to a Facebook site that averages 5 million hits a week – that was periodically shutdown, blocked or otherwise had access limited because it was critical of Israel’s apartheid policies. None of this surprises me.

❝ The system has caused outrage before, as was the case recently in Norway, when it removed posts with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph — the “napalm girl” of the Vietnam war — because it depicted a child’s nude form. Facebook reversed its position after Norway’s prime minister got involved.

Corporate politics, today, ain’t especially different from the class history of corporate politics. The reach is global, focused or broad in effect. Only the industries and sophistication have changed. Or not.

Senators try to block Billion$ U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Four U.S. senators introduced a joint resolution on Thursday seeking to block the U.S. sale of $1.15 billion of Abrams tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, citing issues including the conflict in Yemen.

The measure was introduced by Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee and Democrats Chris Murphy and Al Franken, the latest indication of strong disapproval of the deal among some U.S. lawmakers.

The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which implements foreign arms sales, said that General Dynamics would be the principal contractor for the sale…

“Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and ISIS, are getting stronger. Until the Saudis’ conduct changes, the U.S. should put a pause on further arms sales,” Senator Murphy said in a statement.

And in case you hadn’t noticed…

U.S. President Barack Obama has offered a record US$115 billion in arms, weapons, military equipment and training to Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the Center for International Policy…

The report, due to be released publicly today, said that since Obama started his presidency in 2009, the arms offers were made in 42 separate deals including small arms, ammunition, tanks, missiles and ships.

It did not mention how many deals were accepted by Saudi Arabia, with the majority of equipment not being delivered [yet]. The deal amounts to biggest deal to the Saudi’s of any U.S. administration…

A joint letter signed by 64 members of Congress called for a delay in a controversial tank deal and called “the actions of the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen are as reprehensible as they are illegal. The multiple, repeated airstrikes on civilians look like war crimes.”…

The Saudi-led bombing is also believed to be using U.S. cluster munitions, which 119 countries have signed a treaty against their use. The United States and Saudi Arabia have not signed the treaty.

One more example of the historic differences between Republican and Democrat administrations ain’t worth a whole boatload when it comes to foreign policy.

Celtic fans raise money for Palestinian charities after protest — UEFA suits want to fine the football club

Celtic fans support Palestine
Click to enlargeRussell Cheyne/Reuters

UEFA began disciplinary proceedings against Celtic last week after a number of fans displayed Palestinian flags during their 5-2 home victory against Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a Champions League qualifier. In an attempt to match an impending UEFA fine for displaying the flags, supporters of the Glasgow club have exceeded their initial target of raising £15,000 for Palestinian charities.

Since UEFA’s threat against the club went viral, supporters have now raised over £140,000 for Palestinian charities. Here’s the link if you wish to donate.

The Green Brigade group of supporters set up an appeal on the gofundme website on Sunday to match the anticipated fine. The fans are raising money for Medical Aid Palestine, which delivers health and medical care to those “worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement,” and the Lajee Centre, a cultural and sports project for children in Aida refugee camp, in Bethlehem.

BTW, the away leg was played in Israel, this week, and though Hapoel won the match, aggregate score gave victory to Celtic. Hapoel is now out of the tournament. In Israel’s “traditional spirit of fair play”, they limited the number of Celtic supporters allowed to attend the match to 250. They were searched by police before entering the stadium and threatened with arrest if they demonstrated support for Palestinians during the match.

#matchthefineforpalestine

Just in case you were worried taxpayers weren’t providing Israel with enough weapons…?

The White House on Friday told members of Congress that it had offered to substantially sweeten a decade-long military aid package for Israel

Under the proposed terms, the United States would insist that the Israelis use the tens of billions of dollars they receive under the deal to buy United States-made goods and services, rather than spend a sizable portion in their own country as they are permitted to do now.

The administration laid out details of the package in a lengthy letter to senators who had written to the White House in April urging the completion of a new aid deal…

In the letter…Susan Rice…national security adviser, and Shaun Donovan…director of the OMB, said that the administration was prepared to increase the existing military aid package for Israel, worth nearly $30 billion, and sign a new one “that would constitute the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history.”…

Such an aid agreement “would build on the unparalleled support that the United States has provided to Israel under President Obama,” Ms. Rice and Mr. Donovan said. “Through word and deed, this administration has blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

…Political dynamics have complicated the talks.

Some analysts in the United States and Israel say that Mr. Netanyahu is calculating that he may reach a more advantageous deal with a future president, a charge that the Israelis strenuously deny. Others have suggested that Mr. Obama is pressing to finish the agreement in part to insulate himself against accusations that he has been too tough on Israel, especially if he decides later this year to pressure the country to accept a peace deal with the Palestinians that embraces a two-state solution.

What that means in plain English is that the Trumpkin is ready to promise Netanyahu absolutely anything to move not only conservative Jewish voters to support him; but, maybe more. He will give away the Pentagon farm and offer nary a peep if Israel decides to roll up the rest of Palestinian land that they haven’t yet stolen. Scares the crap out of some Democrats.

The negotiations have unfolded in secret, with neither side willing to detail its position on an agreement that people close to the talks have said could top $40 billion. For months, United States and Israeli officials have haggled over the price tag, as Israel has insisted on a higher figure than the United States was willing to support…

Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside the United States, and 13 percent of it on fuel — allowances that no other recipient of United States funding receives…

The provision originated in the 1980s as a way to spur the development of Israel’s defense industry, which is now booming. Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with the United States.

Uh-huh. We’re all buddies in the Imperial Club. Death and destruction is still one of the most profitable businesses in our world.

Politics in apartheid Israel have former Prime Minister warning of the “seeds of fascism”


Ehud BarakMarc Israel Sellem

A military affairs commentator interrupts his broadcast to deliver a monologue: I’m alarmed by what’s happening in Israel, he says, I think my children should leave.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak warns of “the seeds of fascism“. Moshe Arens, who served as defense minister three times, sees it as a turning point in Israeli politics and expects it to cause a “political earthquake”.

The past five days have produced tumult in Israeli politics, since conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unexpectedly turned his back on a deal to bring the center-left into his coalition and instead joined hands with far-right nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, one of his most virulent critics.

Lieberman, a West Bank settler, wants to be defense minister. So on Friday, Netanyahu’s former ally and confidant, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, resigned and quit Netanyahu’s Likud party in disgust…

Arens, who has served as defense minister, foreign minister and ambassador to the United States…said…”Yaalon’s ouster is likely to be a turning point in Israel’s political history,” he wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper. “A political earthquake is in the offing. It may take a little time, but it is coming. The law of unforeseen consequences is at work.”…

At a time when the command of the Israel Defense Forces is already at odds with the government over policies it feels are too hard-line, Lieberman’s appointment risks creating more tension between the political leadership and the military. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are on edge too.

“What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli government by dangerous elements,” Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier and a former defense minister following his spell as head of government…

Israel has been “infected by the seeds of fascism”, he said, adding that it should be “a red light for all of us regarding what’s going on in the government.”

Israel has become a mirror image of apartheid South Africa. A style of government by bigots which the United States once had the integrity to reject. Now, between conservative Democrats, rightwing Republicans, business-as-usual flunkies in both parties, there will be no reduction of military equipment or dollar$ for the Israeli government.

American electoral politics is as stuck into 1950’s political alliances as the White House is in fashioning a new Cold War in Asia. No matter that pro-Israel forces deliver no more real votes nationwide than leftover members of the Havana Yacht Club deliver in Florida. The imprint of how business is done in Congress and the White House requires matching policies in the Middle East.

Israel may officially move that fraction from Apartheid to Fascism. The Democrat and Republican Establishment will blather – and take away a few token privileges – and do nothing else.

Ehud Olmert is the first Israeli Prime Minister sentenced to prison

Olmert enters prison
Click to enlargeOlmert on the leftMoti Milrod

Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2009…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say this about George W Bush? Trouble is – even the anti-government Tea Party-types won’t join the campaign. Ideology still overrules any sense of fighting for justice.

Israeli airline asked her to change seats – must not offend an Orthodox male

Renee Rabinowitz is a sharp-witted retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, who escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child. Now she is about to become a test case in the battle over religion and gender in Israel’s public spaces — and the skies above — as the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing El Al, the national airline, of discrimination.

Ms. Rabinowitz was comfortably settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section on El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv in December when, as she put it, “this rather distinguished-looking man in Hasidic or Haredi garb, I’d guess around 50 or so, shows up.”

The man was assigned the window seat in her row. But, like many ultra-Orthodox male passengers, he did not want to sit next to a woman, seeing even inadvertent contact with the opposite sex as verboten under the strictest interpretation of Jewish law. Soon, Ms. Rabinowitz said, a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat, up front, closer to first class.

Reluctantly, Ms. Rabinowitz, an impeccably groomed 81-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane because of bad knees, agreed.

“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she recalled in a recent interview…

Now, a liberal advocacy group that had spent two years searching for a test case on switching seats plans to sue the blue-and-white flag carrier on Ms. Rabinowitz’s behalf in a Tel Aviv court next week.

“We needed a case of a flight attendant being actively involved,” explained the group’s director, Anat Hoffman, “to show that El Al has internalized the commandment, ‘I cannot sit next to a woman…’ ”

❝ “When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?” Ms. Rabinowitz asked. Citing examples like the biblical warrior Deborah, the matriarch Sarah and Queen Esther, she noted: “Our heroes in history were not modest little women.”

I have no notion of how Israeli courts will rule. That nation’s relationship with state religion is obviously very different from the United States. As are many other countries with official state religions. There are standards for international commerce and travel and I believe – at a minimum – segregated flight isn’t allowable.

Maybe not.

Israeli politicians attack dissident soldiers who expose crimes against Palestinians

Yehuda Shaul was an infantryman in the Israeli army in Hebron during the second intifada. But in recent weeks, he and his group of veterans have been vilified by right-wing organizations and mainstream politicians in a public campaign against Israeli groups critical of their country’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon forbade serving Israeli military personnel from cooperating or meeting with representatives of Shaul’s group, Breaking the Silence (BTS). Education Minister Naftali Bennet issued a similar order to all public schools. And right-wing advocacy group Im Tirzu published a report accusing most Israeli human rights groups of being “foreign agents” because of the funding they receive from friendly states. That report was accompanied by a video and an advertising campaign accusing specific human rights activists of “defending terrorists” and “representing foreign interests.” Those named all received death threats after the ads.

A poll conducted by Channel 10 this weekend found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis surveyed said they support outlawing BTS, with only 22 opposing such a move. Politicians of the right are not the only ones calling for action against Israeli human rights organizations. On Sunday, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, dedicated an entire press conference to attacking BTS, which he said has “crossed the line between [legitimate] criticism and subversion against the state of Israel…”

The silence that BTS has set out to break, according to Shaul, is Israeli society’s lack of awareness of the actions taken in its name by conscript soldiers serving in the West Bank and Gaza. The group has attempted to change that by collecting and disseminating firsthand accounts from soldiers about the actions taken by their units in the occupation…

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has worked to disrupt BTS’ activities abroad. Israel’s embassy in Germany managed to force cancellation of a scheduled exhibition by the group in Cologne; Israel failed to prevent a similar event in Switzerland…

BTS follows a long-standing tradition, dating back to the aftermath of Israel’s war of independence and the Palestinian Nakba, of Israeli military personnel publicizing accounts of their actions in uniform that have challenged official narratives. That testimony has always produced backlash, but an across-the-board attempt to silence them would traditionally have been deemed contrary to Israel’s democratic traditions.

Those democratic traditions disappeared alongside assumption of apartheid policies, racist and bigoted characterization of any Palestinian resistance to Israel’s colonial policies.

RTFA for details of the harassment of dissident Israeli soldiers. This may not be a surprise to some; but, regardless, it’s worth bringing the truth of “democratic” Israel’s undemocratic policies against Israelis as well as Palestinians into the light.

Pic of the day


Click to enlargeReuters/Mohamad Torokman

A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah…

Just in case you hadn’t noticed that young people are still being murdered by the apartheid regime in Israel. They fight back against tanks and guns with stones.