Category: Israel/Palestine

Source, December 1, 2012
An old man in Gaza held a placard that reads: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” [1]

The old man’s message provides the proper context for the timelines on the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. They are useful, but any effort to establish a “beginning” cannot help but be misleading. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck them over the border for years after the official cease-fire. The persecution of Gazans took new forms when Israel conquered the Strip in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship we learn that the goal of the government was to drive the refugees into the Sinai, and if feasible the rest of the population too.

Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of General Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of Security Council orders. The reasons were made clear in internal discussion immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later Prime Minister, informed her Labor colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Dayan and others agreed. Prime Minister Eshkol explained that those expelled cannot be allowed to return because “We cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” — referring to the newly occupied territories, already tacitly considered part of Israel. In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders), though publication was delayed to permit UN Ambassador Abba Eban to attain what he called “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly, by concealing Israel’s intentions. [2]

The goals may remain alive, and might be a factor contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the US-backed Israeli siege.

The current upsurge of US-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world. Israel and the US reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government, routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back, and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.

The standard version of these events is more anodyne, for example, in the New York Times, November 29: “Hamas entered politics by running in, and winning, elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006. But it was unable to govern in the face of Western opposition and in 2007 took power in the Gaza Strip by force, deepening the political split [with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority].” [3]

Ignoring immediate Hamas offers of a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, mostly civilians, one-third minors. The escalation of attacks in 2007 killed 816 Palestinians, 360 civilians and 152 minors. The UN reports that 2879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza. [4]

A truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December. So matters have continued, while the US and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement in accord with the international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US has blocked since 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.

In late 2012 the US devoted extensive efforts to block a General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to that of a “non-member observer state.” The effort failed, leaving the US in its usual international isolation on November 29, when the resolution passed overwhelmingly on the anniversary of the 1947 General Assembly vote on partition. [5] The reasons Washington frankly offered for its opposition to the resolution were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court on Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes, which cannot be permitted judicial review for reasons that are all too obvious. A second concern, the New York Times reported, was that “the Palestinians might use the vote to seek membership in specialized agencies of the United Nations,” which could lead Washington to defund these international organizations, as it cut off financing to UNESCO in 2011 when it dared to admit Palestine as a member. The Master does not tolerate disobedience. [6]

Israel had warned that it would “go crazy” (“yishtagea”) if the resolution passed, reviving warnings from the 1950s that it would “go crazy” if crossed — not very meaningful then, much more so now. [7] And indeed, hours after the UN vote Israel announced its decision to carry forward settlement in Area E1 that connects the vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem that it annexed illegally to the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, greatly expanded under Clinton after the Oslo Accords, with lands extending virtually to Jericho, effectively bisecting the West Bank if the Area E1 corridor is closed by settlement. [8] Before Obama, US presidents had barred Israel’s efforts to expand its illegal settlements into the E1 region, so it was compelled to resort to stealth measures, like establishing a police station in the zone. Obama has been more supportive of Israeli criminal actions than his predecessors, and it remains to be seen whether he will keep to a tap on the wrist with a wink, as before.

Israel and the US insist on “direct negotiations” as the only “path to peace.” They also insist on crucial preconditions. First, the negotiations must be under US leadership, which makes as much sense as asking Iran to mediate Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq. Genuine negotiations would take place under the auspices of some neutral party with a claim to international respect, perhaps Brazil, and would have the US and Israel on one side of the table, and most of the rest of the world on the other. A second precondition, left tacit, is that expansion of Israel’s settlements must be allowed to continue in one or another form (as happened, for example, during the formal 10-month “suspension”), with Washington signaling its disapproval while continuing to provide the required support.

The call for “direct negotiations” without substance is an old Israeli tactic to prevent steps towards diplomatic settlement that would impede its expansionist projects. After the 1967 war, the respected diplomat Abba Eban, who was in charge of the effort, was highly praised by Golda Meir and other colleagues in the governing Labor Party for his success at the United Nations in carrying forward “Israel’s peacemaking strategy” of confusion and delay, which came to “take the shape of a consistent foreign policy of deception,” as it is described by Israeli scholar Avi Raz in a detailed review of internal records. [9] At that time the tactics angered US officials, who protested vigorously though to no effect. But much has changed since, particularly since Kissinger took control of policy and the US largely departed from the world on Israel-Palestine.

The practice of delay goes back to the earliest Zionist settlement, which sought to “create facts” on the ground while keeping goals obscure. Even the call for a “Jewish commonwealth” was not made officially by the Zionist organization until a May 1942 meeting at the Biltmore hotel in New York.

Returning to Gaza, one element of the unremitting torture of its people is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza from which Gazans are barred entry, almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land according to Sara Roy, the leading academic scholar of Gaza. From September 2005, after Israel transferred its settlers to other parts of the occupied territories, to September 2012, Israeli security forces killed 213 Palestinians in the zone, including 154 who were not taking part in hostilities, 17 of them children. [10]

From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on November 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was reported to have been killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israel fire. [11]

The full story is naturally more complex, and considerably uglier.

The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of Ha’aretz, describes him as Israel’s “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet in Gaza for over five years. [12] The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. [13] Plainly, if that is true it was not learned on November 14.

A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Baskin reports that hours before Jabari was assassinated, “he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.” A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on November 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate. [14]

Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the UN reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock. [15] One of the first of the series of hideous photos that were sent from Gaza in November showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier. In writing about the trip I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed simple drugs and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the US-Israeli siege, and Egyptian complicity.

The casualty rates from the November episode were about normal: over 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and 6 Israelis. Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in the New York Times, David Carr observes that “it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity’.” [16]

The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced US military equipment for the slaughter and destruction, and relied on US diplomatic support, including the usual US intervention to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire. [17]

With each such exploit Israel’s global image erodes. The images of terror and destruction, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people with eyes open.

The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington, but even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.

One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts (UN Charter, Article 51). Israel understands that well. That is the course it followed at the outbreak of the June 1967 war, but of course Israel’s appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that it was Israel that had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing well what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.

Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14, as often before.

There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one illustration is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. The authors, Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen, describe China’s reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han [Chinese] to death.” Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge, senior leaders in the security establishment were fired, and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest. [18]

In Gaza too a civilized reaction is possible. The US and Israel could end the merciless unremitting assault and open the borders, and provide for reconstruction — and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.

The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.” There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of US-Israeli willingness to rescind their policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.

Some day, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.” [19]



Here is the Speech by David Cameron yesterday, I’m going to do a critique on this.

This is a check against delivery version of the Prime Minister’s speech

“With me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable and whose commitment to Israel’s security is non-negotiable.

I will always stand by the Jewish people. And it is humbling to be here tonight and to be called a friend.

Here in this room, we have many of the people who are determined to build the strongest possible relationship between Britain and Israel.

The business leaders who have taken our trade to well over $8 billion a year and made Britain the second biggest export market for Israel in the world.

The scientists who are taking forward an ambitious programme of joint research as part of the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council, which includes no less than four Nobel Prize winners.

The leading academics who are helping to forge new partnerships between Manchester and the Weizmann Institute, Oxford and Ben Gurion, Cambridge and Tel Aviv.

The hi-tech specialists who are making a reality of the UK/Israel Tech Hub – the first of its kind in the world.

And, of course, our two ambassadors – Matthew Gould and Daniel Taub who are doing so much to help build this partnership between our countries.


Mick, Doug – you have made an inspirational contribution and I am sure that everyone will want to join me in paying tribute to your leadership and hard work over these past few years.

I am a big admirer of what the UJIA does both here in Britain and in Israel. Let me explain why.

First, the Jewish community in Britain is a role model for successful integration because you understand that as well as being part of a community with a common faith you are also part of a wider community – that of our country.

You epitomise the philanthropic spirit that is so central to Jewish teaching and which sees so many Jewish people give generously – not just to Jewish charities but to all charitable causes.

And through your support for Jewish youth movements and educational programmes for young people at both Jewish and mainstream schools and through your Summer Tours to Israel for 16 year olds and gap year students you continue to show each new generation that it is possible to be both a proud Jew steeped in the values of the Jewish people and a proud British citizen.

Yes, you can love this country, take pride in its history, celebrate its Olympics, even cry with its football fans every other year. There is no contradiction between being a proud Jew, a committed Zionist and a loyal British citizen.

In the past, governments allowed a flawed state multiculturalism that said we should encourage different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.

I don’t subscribe to that. And neither do you. I believe we have to end the passive tolerance of segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.

Let’s be clear what that means. It means getting preachers of hate out of our country.
It means proscribing organisations that incite terrorism. And it means zero tolerance for any form of anti-Semitism, especially on our campuses.

And to those in Britain’s universities and trades unions who want to boycott Israel and consign it to an international ghetto, I say not only will this Government never allow you to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger but I also say this: we know what you are doing – trying to delegitimise the State of Israel – and we will not have it.


I’m a fan of what you do in Israel too. The focus you have given to the Galilee has ensured that UJIA’s funding reaches those communities that most need it.

And the projects you’ve supported touch the lives, not just of those directly involved, but of all Israel. The medical school in Safad which teaches Jews and Arabs alike. Western Galilee College, where more than 30 per cent of the intake is Arab, and almost half of that Arab women. Or, of course, the high school in Shlomi. There in the shadow of the hills from which Hezbollah launched its missiles you brought an army of teachers and the hope of a new generation.

That is the vision, strength and courage on which our future depends. And that is what the UJIA is all about. Now, tonight I want to talk about three key steps to secure Israel’s future.

Standing up to Iran.

Seizing the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring and the spread of democracy in the wider region. And making the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

Let me take each in turn.


First, Iran. Let’s be clear about the facts. Iran is flouting six United Nations resolutions. The Regime’s claim that its nuclear programme is intended purely for civilian purposes is not remotely credible.

And it has shown its violent agenda by exporting terror and violence to Iraq, to Syria, to Gaza, to Lebanon and to many peace-loving countries across the world.

Iran is not just a threat to Israel. It is a threat to the world. Now there are some who say nothing will work – and that we have to learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran.

I say we don’t and we shouldn’t.

But at the same time I also refuse to give in to those who say that the current policy is fatally flawed, and that we have no choice but military action. A negotiated settlement remains within Iran’s grasp.

But until they change course, we have a strategy of ever tougher sanctions. Just today, Britain has secured a further round of new sanctions through the EU Foreign Affairs Council. And these relentless sanctions are having an impact no-one expected a year ago.

They have slowed the nuclear programme. Iranian oil exports have fallen by 45 per cent. That’s 1 million fewer barrels a day and $8 billion in revenues lost every quarter.

The Rial has plummeted – losing around half its value between May and September.
Inflation is soaring – thought to be as much as 50 per cent. And the Iranian Regime has had to establish an economic austerity taskforce to manage the pressure they have brought on their own people.

Most significantly, there are signs that the Iranian people are beginning to question the Regime’s strategy with even pro-regime groups protesting at the actions of the Government.

It’s mind boggling that the leaders of a nation so rich in oil have succeeded in turning their country into a banana republic desperately trying to put rockets into space while their people suffer.

The Iranian regime is under unprecedented pressure and faces an acute dilemma. They are leading their people to global isolation and an economic collapse. And they know it.

They know too that there is a simple way to bring sanctions to an end. By giving the international community the confidence we need that they are not and will not develop a nuclear weapon.

I have said to Prime Minister Netanyahu that now is not the time for Israel to resort to military action. Beyond the unpredictable dangers inherent in any conflict, the other reason is this:

At the very moment when the Regime faces unprecedented pressure and the people are on the streets and when Iran’s only real ally in Syria is losing his grip on power a foreign military strike is exactly the chance the Regime would look for to unite his people against a foreign enemy.

We shouldn’t give them that chance. We need the courage to give these sanctions time to work. But let me also say this. In the long term, if Iran makes the wrong choice, nothing is off the table. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to Israel. And a threat to the world. And this country will work unwaveringly to prevent that from happening

Open societies

Let me turn to the changing events in the wider region. I have no illusions about the dangers that political transition can bring in the Arab spring countries.

And I understand why instability can be a great cause for concern. I understand how dark things were for Israel when surrounded by enemies on every border. And I understand how Israelis feel when gas masks are handed out to families; and car parks are converted into bomb shelters.

But I passionately believe that what we are seeing through the Arab Spring need not be a new threat to Israel’s security. Democracy and open societies are not the problem – they can be a big part of the solution.

Yes, there are those who believe that in a volatile region only an authoritarian strong man can maintain stability and security. But when brutal dictators suppress their people in the name of stability, the end result is a region is that more dangerous – not less.

More dangerous because these regimes abuse the Palestinian cause to smother their own people’s hopes and aspirations, dealing with frustration at home by whipping up anger against their neighbours, Israel and the West. And more dangerous too, because people denied a job and a voice are given no alternative but a dead end choice between dictatorship or extremism.

Now, of course, many fear that elections can open the door to Islamist parties whose values are incompatible with truly open societies. But the answer is not to oppose elections. The answer is to respect the outcome of elections. And then judge governments by what they do.

For example, there are big questions facing President Mursi in Egypt. We want to know if he will live up to his commitments to protect the rule of law for all citizens, defend the rights of minorities and allow women to play a full in society. And I challenged him personally on these points when I met him in New York last month.

But when he re-launches Operation Eagle to try and do something about the lawlessness in the Sinai, we should welcome that. And when he goes to Tehran and speaks the truth to that regime about its despicable actions in Syria in support of Assad, we should welcome that too.

But if the Islamists attempt to undermine the stability of other countries or encourage terrorism instead of peace and conflict instead of partnership then we must and will oppose them. And that is why we will not waver from our insistence that Hamas gives up violence and that the rockets from Gaza must stop. Hamas must not be allowed to dictate the way forwards for Israelis and Palestinians.

Of course, the Arab Spring presents huge challenges. But if we can show the strength and courage to engage with new democratic governments, their chance to establish the building blocks of democracy, fair economies and open societies offers the greatest opportunity for stability and peace in a generation.


That brings me to the Palestinian Territories and the peace process. We can’t advocate democracy and open societies in one breath and then cite the need for stability as an excuse for why the Palestinians shouldn’t renew their democracy too.

It’s now seven years since Palestinians voted for a President and six since parliamentary elections. The Palestinian leadership needs to refresh its mandate and show it has the consent of its people, starting with municipal elections later this month. And it needs to resolve the situation in Gaza and restore to Palestinians a unified, leadership able to deliver peaceful resolution of the conflict with Israel.

So Palestinian reconciliation and Palestinian elections are key points on the path to peace – because without consent there can never be credible negotiation.

It will require great strength and courage to take the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

And let me say this: I know it takes two to negotiate. So let me tell President Abbas something very clearly there is no path to statehood except through talks with Israel.

So if the Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with Israel, Britain will never support it.

And let me say this to the Palestinians too. Britain will never support anyone who sponsors a football tournament named after a suicide bomber who killed 20 Israelis in a restaurant. We will not tolerate incitement to terrorism.

But in the search for peace both sides have to make hard choices. And just as President Abbas has followed through his commitment to non-violence with real progress on the West Bank so Israel needs a real drive to improve life for ordinary Palestinians.

That means more support for economic development in the West Bank, relaxing restrictions on Gaza, ending the demolition of Palestinian homes, and yes, it means meeting Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap and under international law to halt settlement building.

Britain’s position will not change. Settlements beyond the green line are illegal.

I know how hard the concessions needed for peace can be. But the truth is, time is running out for a two state solution – and with it Israel’s best chance to live in peace with its neighbours.


Brett, in your introduction you said that support for Israel was in the DNA of the political party I lead. It is. But I believe it is in the DNA of the country I lead too.

That is why Britain will always stand by Israel, protect Israel, and work with Israel on the path to peace.

I long for the day when I can come to a dinner like this and not have to talk about the threats to Israel. I long too for the day when making statements in support of Israel is as unnecessary as going to see President Obama and saying I support America’s right to exist.

For now, Israel will continue to face acute threats and a hard road to peace. But with strength and courage we can, together, stand up to Iran. We can, together, seize the opportunities presented by the spread of democracy in the wider region. And we can together take the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

So let me conclude by wishing you all a slightly belated shana tova and let us hope that it will be a sweet year for the British Jewish community and the Jewish people in the State of Israel. And one which brings us closer to the peace and security for Israel that its people so richly deserve.”



WASHINGTON, July 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy – The FBI partially declassified and released files linking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a nuclear technology smuggling ring that targeted the United States. The declassified files are now publicly available online at

FBI agents interviewed indicted American smuggler Richard Kelly Smyth on April 16-17, 2002, at the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. The secret interview report details how during trips to Israel Smyth’s handler placed him in contact with Benjamin Netanyahu at Heli Trading Company. The FBI report suggests that “Smyth and [Netanyahu] would meet in restaurants in Tel Aviv and in [Netanyahu’s] home and/or business.

It was not uncommon for [Netanyahu] to ask Smyth for unclassified material.”
Smyth was indicted in the mid-1980s for smuggling 800 dual use “krytrons” without proper export licenses through a multi-front company network. Smyth fled the U.S. and lived abroad, supported by unknown means, until he was captured by Interpol and returned to the U.S. in 2001. He was convicted in 2002.

During the 2002 Smyth counterintelligence debriefing, the FBI learned that the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered and paid an Israeli company called Heli Trading for krytrons. Heli in turn sourced them fromCalifornia-based MILCO in a clandestine operation codenamed “Project Pinto.” The report reveals how MILCO illegally shipped other prohibited military articles under general Commerce Department export licenses rather than smuggling them out via Israeli diplomatic pouches.

Released on the Internet on July 4, 2012, the files have been the subject of reporting in the Israeli press, including Israeli National News, Ma’ariv and The Marker. Some U.S. alternative media also explored the implications of the formerly secret files including, Tikkun Olam, Mondoweiss and CounterPunch. WBAI radio and the Scott Horton Show have hosted interviews.

Although the FBI report has now been sent to the New York Times, Washington Post, all members of Congress and United Nations members, no top-tier establishment news coverage, Congressional or UN investigations have been made public. On Friday, National Public Radio syndicated host Diane Rehmimmediately disconnected IRmep Research Director Grant F. Smith when he asked her reporter roundtable to assess the implications of the Netanyahu espionage ring.

An audio clip of the brief exchange is available at:

IRmep is a private nonprofit that studies how warranted law enforcement and civil action can improve U.S. Middle East policy.


Private memo threatens ‘significant negative consequences’ if Palestinian Authority succeeds in obtaining enhanced status


The United States has warned European governments against supporting a Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the United Nations, saying such a move “would be extremely counterproductive” and threatening “significant negative consequences” for the Palestinian Authority, including financial sanctions.

A US memorandum, seen by the Guardian, said Palestinian statehood “can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis” and urged European governments “to support [American] efforts” to block the bid. The message was communicated by officials to representatives of European governments at the UN general assembly (UNGA) in New York last week.

Palestinian officials accused the US of exerting “tremendous pressure” on European governments to oppose their bid for upgraded “non-member state” status at the UNGA. Announced by president Mahmoud Abbas last week (video), the move is a significant diminution of Palestinian ambitions after its application for full statehood failed last year when it was blocked by the US in the security council.

The Palestinians will wait until after the US presidential election in early November before proceeding with their bid for upgraded status. However, they insist they will press for a vote by the end of the year and are confident of winning a comfortable majority among the UN’s 193 countries. The US has no veto at the general assembly.

The memorandum – described by one diplomatic source as “private correspondence” – said the US was continuing to work for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and urged both parties “to avoid provocative one-sided actions that could undermine trust or otherwise distract from the pursuit of peace”.

A Palestinian resolution on non-member state status “would have significant negative consequences, for the peace process itself, for the UN system, as well as our ability to maintain our significant financial support for the Palestinian Authority”.
It added that a successful resolution could lead to Palestinian participation as a state in international bodies such as the international criminal court. Israel is concerned that Palestinian recourse to the ICC could have repercussions for its policies on settlements, the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

“We believe your government understands what is at stake here, and – like us – wants to avoid a collision at the coming UNGA session,” said the text. “We hope you are willing to support our efforts … We would appreciate knowing where your government stands on this issue. We would also be interested in knowing whether you have been approached on this matter by Palestinian representatives.”

Hanan Ashwari, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee, described the memorandum as “typical American behaviour but also overkill”.

“It is ridiculous and unconscionable the way they put themselves at the service of Israel in such a blatant way. This is tremendous American pressure and bias.”

She said most European countries had already decided their position on the issue: “I don’t think [the US] will make countries change their minds.”

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said the memorandum reflected the US position but he hoped that “the Europeans will follow their interests and choose peace over settlements”.

One European diplomat said that, until recently, US officials believed a “diplomatic ceasefire” was in force and that the Palestinians would not pursue the statehood issue at the general assembly. But pressure from street protests in the West Bank in recent weeks had stiffened Abbas’s resolve, and the current consensus among diplomats was that the Palestinians were determined to press ahead.

There were differing views among European countries on the wisdom of the Palestinians’ move, the diplomat added. “The closer we get to the prospect of a vote in the UN general assembly, the more concerned the US administration is likely to be. This letter is an expression of their well-known position against such a vote. But if we are to persuade Abbas not to pull the trigger, a serious alternative needs to be put on the table, and fast.”

A second European diplomat said the US had “made it very clear to all of us that they’re opposed to any [Palestinian] move at the UN”. He also criticised the Palestinians for not engaging in “serious, high-level diplomacy” on the issue.

Some European countries are alarmed at the prospect of the US withdrawing financial support for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of a bid for upgraded status, fearing that the EU would have to fill the funding gap.

Following the Palestinians’ acceptance as a state by the United Nations cultural and heritage body, Unesco, the US cut off funding as a punitive measure. The US had contributed 22% of Unesco’s annual budget.

Discussions among European governments on whether to support the Palestinians’ bid are due to be held this week. However the 27 member states are unlikely to forge a common line.
The US state department declined to comment on the memorandum.


By Zvi Bar’el


Who has better information: the Israel Defense Forces, which didn’t know that a group of right-wing activists planned to cross the border into Jordan last month, or the band of thugs living on West Bank hilltops, who know when the IDF plans to destroy every last hut? The IDF and the Shin Bet security service, which have been unable to determine who is behind the torching of mosques, or those same Jewish terrorists, who get information directly from officers, soldiers and Knesset members about plans for IDF operations against illegal settlement outposts?

Even as senior politicians are declaring that a cyber attack is like a declaration of war or a terror attack, it turns out that an intelligence war is taking place under their very noses, using simple, traditional, unglamorous tools like cell phones, Excel spreadsheets and chatting with “sources.”

But this actually isn’t an intelligence war. Transfers of information from the IDF to the settlers are nothing new; they have accompanied the settlement enterprise from the outset. Nor should this be surprising in a reality where the IDF is viewed as an enemy, while the hilltop thugs are viewed merely as mischievous kids.

As long as the IDF boasts of how many religious Jews it has among its combat ranks, it shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that religious Jews have an agenda. They either have friends in the settlements or are themselves are residents of settlements who won’t lend a hand to house demolitions there, even if the houses were built illegally. For some, service in the IDF is conditional on not receiving orders that contradict the divine decrees transmitted by their rabbis. They don’t view passing on information about plans to destroy their homes as a crime, but as a religious obligation.

Would the IDF be willing on this account to forgo the service of an entire community that it views as “the salt of the earth”? Would it be willing to exclude them from army service the way it does many Israeli Arabs?

After all, the exemption Israeli Arabs receive from IDF service rests in part on the desire not to put them into a situation in which they would have to fight their brothers across the border. Settlers similarly understand that IDF soldiers won’t fight their brothers from the territories.

Moreover, anyone who views passing information to settlers as serious espionage, even treason, must in the same breath define that band of thugs as an enemy of the state. But as long as the prime minister refrains even from calling the torchers of mosques and uprooters of olive trees “terrorists,” much less enemies of the state, the suspicions of “espionage” leveled against MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) are pathetic.

Elkin is no more of a criminal than those who have hitherto allowed these illegal buildings to go up – the same buildings about which he reported on plans to demolish, or not demolish. Indeed, he has more integrity than those who, for months and years, have been making a mockery of the High Court of Justice, which ordered these buildings destroyed, or than those who knew in advance that these buildings were slated to be built on privately-owned Palestinian land, or than those who portray the leaking of this “secret” information to the settlers as a blow to the IDF’s most deeply-held secrets.

The one that should really be worried is the Yesha Council of settlements, which always knew how to gather reliable information on the IDF’s plans quickly and effectively. Suddenly, under its nose, a parallel intelligence organization has sprung up, comprised of thugs who undermine the council’s sovereignty. Until now, the council itself had been the official underminer of IDF sovereignty in the West Bank.

Elkin did not reveal state secrets. His main crime is that because of him, that game of winks and nods that has been conducted for years between the IDF and its governmental masters from both right and left on one hand, and the settlers on the other, has been revealed in all its nakedness. All he did was tear the remnants of the veil off the face of the reality that everyone already knew quite well: a reality in which the IDF, the sovereign power in the territories, was ordered to shoot itself in the foot.

The IDF has the unfortunate duty to both assume responsibility for the security of those hilltop thugs, allow them to build their illegal shacks, and also, when necessary, destroy those very same shacks – with a wink and a nod, of course. It must be stealthy and effective when it is allowed to use its sovereign power, but it knows this power is a sieve.

If the IDF doesn’t leak the “secret” of which heap of boards in the shape of a hut it plans to sic its bulldozers on, some MK or minister surely will. That’s how it has always been, and that’s how it will be in the future as well.

Electronic Intifada

by Ali Abunima


The National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) has become a full-time partner in the Israeli government’s efforts to spread its propaganda online and on college campuses around the world.

NUIS has launched a program to pay Israeli university students $2,000 to spread pro-Israel propaganda online for 5 hours per week from the “comfort of home.”

The union is also partnering with Israel’s Jewish Agency to send Israeli students as missionaries to spread propaganda in other countries, for which they will also receive a stipend.

This active recruitment of Israeli students is part of Israel’s orchestrated effort to suppress the Palestinian solidarity movement under the guise of combating “delegitimization” of Israel and anti-Semitism.

The involvement of the official Israeli student union as well as Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and Sapir College in these state propaganda programs will likely bolster Palestinian calls for the international boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Paying students to spread Israeli propaganda online

This is our opportunity, as Israeli students, to provide hasbara [state propaganda] that is correct and balanced, to help in the struggle against the delegitimization of the State of Israel and against hatred of Jews in the world.

That is one of the exhortations in a Hebrew document issued by NUIS, and translated by The Electronic Intifada, inviting Israeli students to apply for a program to help spread Israel’s message.

The project seeks to take advantage of the fact that “Many students in Israel master the Internet and are proficient at using the Internet and social networking and various sites and are required to write and express themselves in English.”

The paid scholarship will allow them to get training and then work from home for five hours per week for a year to “refute” what it calls “misinformation” about Israel on social networking sites.

Among the stated goals of the scholarships is “to deepen and expand hasbara activities of students in the State of Israel.” The document explains:

The Internet allows uncontrolled access to content from marginal groups and therefore can influence many audiences who are exposed to such information, particularly young people who are more easily influenced.

The Internet, then, is used as a major tool for the dissemination of anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel and of Jews and thus the Internet is also the place to battle against such sites, pull the ground from under them and to provide reliable and balanced information.

Work from the “comfort of home”

The NUIS program document explains:

After training, the student will begin his activities. The student will do the activities in the comfort of his home, where every week he will be obligated to about 5 hours of activities for a period of one calendar year (not academic year). Students will be paid a total of NIS 7,500 [$2,000] to perform the tasks of the project, at least 5 hours weekly for a total of 240 hours of activities under the project umbrella.

What is completely missing from the program is any indication that criticism of Israel could be valid. Rather the National Union of Israeli Students apparently seeks to indoctrinate Israeli students that every criticism of Israel is “hate” and “anti-Semitism” and that the Internet should be seen as a battlefield on which they are foot soldiers.

Using e-learning tools for government propaganda

An interesting aspect of the NUIS program is that it uses the common open source virtual learning environment Moodle as its interface with program participants. This interface can be found at

Whereas Moodle was designed for education – to spread mind-opening learning beyond the constraints of geography – the Israeli innovation here is to use it for mind-narrowing propaganda: getting students to be uncritical, to not think for themselves, but rather to spread Israel’s state-sponsored propaganda.

See the world, spread more propaganda

NUIS has also partnered with the Jewish Agency, the Israeli state body that encourages Jews from around the world to settle on stolen Palestinian land, to spread propaganda on college campuses around the world.

The Jewish Agency website announces, as translated from Hebrew by Dena Shunra for The Electronic Intifada:

For the first time in Israel – a unique, world-encompassing scholarship, in cooperation between the Student Union and the Jewish Agency.

Every year the Jewish Agency of Israel sends approximately 150 emissaries to various places around the world – North America, England, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Italy and South America, who engage in Jewish education and hasbara in three main streams – Hillel emissaries (to campuses around North America), community emissaries and youth movement emissaries.

Training for these overseas missions for successful applicants will take place at Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and Sapir College, after which the would-be missionaries “will set off for a one-year mission in the various Jewish communities around the world, and will also receive a scholarship of up to NIS 5,000 [$1300].”

Applications are open to Israeli citizens who have lived in the country for three years, those who have completed service in the Israeli army, and those who speak foreign languages, among other criteria.

A student union in the service of the state

In most countries student unions often find themselves at odds with state authorities, fighting for the rights of students. But it would appear that Israel’s “student union” does not so much represent students and fight for their rights, but represents the state in the state’s efforts to recruit students to do its political bidding.

In this sense, the NUIS functions in a very similar way to Israel’s “trade union” the Histadrut.

Who funds NUIS and what role do they play in government propaganda efforts?

See: Israel’s “pretty face”: How National Union of Israeli Students does government’s propaganda dirty work

Translation: Students in the Struggle against Anti-Semitism on the Internet

National Union of Israeli Students

Students in the Struggle against Anti-Semitism on the Internet

Vision and background:

The National Union of Israeli Students [NUIS] unites about 300,000 students from all over the country. NUIS promotes the goals and objectives of students, guards the status of students and impacts the public agenda in all aspects from the perspective that the future generation should be a full partner in shaping the Israeli reality of tomorrow.

For young people the Internet is first of all a tool for work and study. Many students in Israel master the Internet and are proficient at using the Internet and social networking and various sites and are required to write and express themselves in English. Like other web users, students encounter anti-Semitic websites disseminating hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews on the Internet.

In recent years use of the Internet for work, finding information and leisure has become accepted and common all over the world. Alongside the development of the Internet and its use, websites have developed that disseminate anti-Semitic and false information that one could not find a publisher [for] in the pre-Internet age.

The Internet allows uncontrolled access to content from marginal groups and therefore can influence many audiences who are exposed to such information, particularly young people who are more easily influenced.

The Internet, then, is used as a major tool for the dissemination of anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel and of Jews and thus the Internet is also the place to battle against such sites, pull the ground from under them and to provide reliable and balanced information.

In the present reality, in which the Internet has become a key tool in spreading anti-Semitism, and given that most students use this medium, it is requested that Israeli students will be the ones to lead the battle against hostile websites.

The following proposed scholarships will allow students to map the anti-Semitic websites and to deal with what is said on them. During the project students can work on social networks to refute misinformation comprehensively available throughout this medium.

  • This is our opportunity, as Israeli students, to provide hasbara [state propaganda] that is correct and balanced, to help in the struggle against the delegitimization of the State of Israel and against hatred of Jews in the world.

Project goals

  1. To deal with, struggle [against] and reduce dissemination of anti-Semitism on the Internet;
  2. To deepen and expand hasbara activities of students in the State of Israel;
  3. To increase the awareness and involvement of the National Union of Israeli Students, local student associations, and students in general about what is happening in the world concerning Jews and the status of Israel.

Student activities

After training, the student will begin his activities. The student will do the activities in the comfort of his home, where every week he will be obligated to about 5 hours of activities for a period of one calendar year (not academic year). Students will be paid a total of NIS 7,500 [$2,000] to perform the tasks of the project, at least 5 hours weekly for a total of 240 hours of activities under the project umbrella.

The scholarship will be given to the student at three periods; in April, in August at the NUIS scholarship award ceremony, and in November.

Students will be admitted into the project only if they are members of student union at their institution of higher learning, provided such institution is a member of NUIS. Applications are made through the NUIS website at the scholarships page.

Translation: Student Union and Jewish Agency scholarship

Shacham Scholarship – Jewish Agency and Student Union

A scholarship which is a mission – the Jewish Agency and Student Union

Shacham – Mission, Education, Action

For the first time in Israel – a unique, world-encompassing scholarship, in cooperation between the Student Union and the Jewish Agency.

Every year the Jewish Agency of Israel sends approximately 150 emissaries to various places around the world – North America, England, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Italy and South America, who engage in Jewish education and hasbara in three main streams – Hillel emissaries (to campuses around North America), community emissaries and youth movement emissaries.

The scholarship introduces program participants with content relevant to the position, in a 12-meeting course, which is held every other weeks and deals with various issues:

  • Jewish identity
  • Israeli society
  • Tikkun Olam [the religious obligation to repair the world – or make it better]
  • Hasbara skills
  • History of the Nation of Israel in modern times
  • and more…

The course is experiential and includes lectures from the very best lecturers in the country, an active and reflective workshop, an educational experience of collaboration and coping both intellectually and emotionally with a variety of different topics. In August 2012, course graduates will set off for a one-year mission in the various Jewish communities around the world, and will also receive a scholarship of up to NIS 5,000.

The course will be held in four regional centers:

  • South: Sapir College/Ben Gurion [University]
  • Center: Tel Aviv University
  • Jerusalem: the Hebrew University
  • North: the Haifa University.

Eligibility for application:

  • Students in their last years of study for an academic degree;
  • Holding Israeli citizenship and having lived in Israel for at least 3 years.
  • Having completed military or national service.
  • With good command of English/Russian/Spanish/French/Portuguese/or other languages.
  • Having experience as camp counselors, teachers, and the ability to speak publicly.
  • Having an affinity to Judaism and the Israeli culture and familiarity with Diaspora Jewry.

Admittance to the program is conditional upon passing the screening process, which will be held in November-December 2011 at the various campuses.

Applications can be filed here: []
For further information, call Karen at 02-621623


New York Times

By Michiele Cieply July 17,2011

LOS ANGELES — “Never, never tell jokes about a man with easy access to weapons of mass destruction,” Peter Chernin, a former News Corporation official, once light-heartedly warned of Arnon Milchan, who has long tantalized Hollywood with his dual identity as a producer of popular movies and a businessman tied to the arms industry.

Mr. Chernin may have been even more right than he knew.

“Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan,” written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, and set for publication on July 30 by Gefen Books, now holds that Mr. Milchan — whose credits include “Love and Other Drugs” and “Knight and Day” — at least through the mid-1980s was a full-fledged operative for Israel’s top-secret intelligence agency, Lakam. (The acronym is from the Hebrew for the blandly named Science Liaison Bureau.)

In that capacity, according to the book, Mr. Milchan supervised government-backed accounts and front companies that financed “the special needs of the entirety of Israel’s intelligence operations outside the country.”

The “special needs” serviced by Mr. Milchan, who is now 66 years old, included buying components to build and maintain Israel’s nuclear arsenal. But with the indictment in 1985 of Richard Kelly Smyth, an aerospace executive who had made illegal shipments of nuclear triggers through Milchan companies, Mr. Milchan unexpectedly found his arms-dealing in the news even as he was wrangling with Universal Pictures over the near collapse of a movie, “Brazil,” directed by Terry Gilliam.

Mr. Smyth became a fugitive. He was finally arrested in 2001, convicted and imprisoned. He was released on probation in 2005.

Mr. Milchan was not accused of wrongdoing, but the case drew scrutiny to his activities in the arms business even as he stepped up his film career under deals first at Warner Brothers, then at 20th Century Fox, whose parent company bought a stake in his Regency Enterprises. In the glow of friendships with the likes of Brad Pitt and Robert De Niro, speculation about his intrigues seemed to fade — until a pair of unlikely biographers decided to figure out why Israel had been filtering a large part of its military budget through Hollywood hands.

Mr. Doron spoke recently over coffee at a patio cafe here, expressing puzzlement at Israel’s reliance on a middleman to broker deals that seemingly could have been made without the services of his Milchan Brothers umbrella company and affiliates.

He was flanked by Mr. Gelman, who sipped watermelon juice, and joined in explaining how the two — who are brothers-in-law — conceived of writing about Mr. Milchan, who had been vaguely identified in Israel’s press as the “Chuck Norris of the Lakam.” Mr. Gelman, who was born in the United States, had lived in Israel and served as a paratrooper during the 1982 war in Lebanon. Mr. Doron had been a writer and editor specializing in Israeli military issues.

Never having written together, they began culling public records and published accounts. Eventually, they met Mr. Smyth, who was by then living in Lompoc, Calif., and, with his story in hand, cobbled together a draft of their book before approaching Mr. Milchan.

“Should I be concerned?” Mr. Milchan asked during a first conversation by phone in 2009, Mr. Gelman said. A major worry, Mr. Gelman told him, was the impression that he had profited hugely from Israel’s security dilemmas.

“I did it for my country, the money did not go to me,” Mr. Gelman recalled Mr. Milchan explaining, when the three later met, and began a series of sessions that went on for six months.

Mr. Milchan’s disclaimer about profiteering provoked further research into how various companies set up by Mr. Milchan or associated with Milchan Brothers traded in arms for Israel and other countries. While doing so, he set aside money in accounts for use by Israel, allowing that country’s prime minister “to execute decisions beyond Israel’s borders without the need for the formal budgeting, cabinet approvals, petty internal politics, or leaks to the press that might endanger the operation.”

In the end, the book was not authorized by Mr. Milchan. The account was based partly on interviews with the likes of Shimon Peres, the Israeli president who, according to the book, acknowledged having “recruited” Mr. Milchan as a clandestine operative.

“Confidential” was sold to Gefen Publishing by David Kuhn, a literary agent who was previously an editor at Brill’s Content and The New Yorker. Its narrative follows Mr. Milchan through his first acquaintance with the arms business via his father’s company, through his introduction to Israel’s nuclear program by Mr. Peres and the Lakam chief, Benjamin Blumberg.

After the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Mr. Milchan began acquiring both big-ticket conventional weapons and krytrons, devices that can trigger nuclear bombs. In the middle of it all, he was introduced to the film business by Elliott Kastner, now deceased, the American producer with whom he collaborated on a 1977 picture, “The Stick-Up.”

Mr. Milchan thought the movie bad enough to remove his credit but he immediately backed another film, “Black Joy,” that appeared at the Cannes Film Festival. By the early 1980s, Mr. Milchan was a force in Hollywood, with a growing string of credits on films like “The King of Comedy” and “Once Upon a Time in America,” both with Mr. De Niro — and the movies soon became not just convenient cover, but a full-blown second career.

In the late 1990s, the News Corporation, which owns Fox, paid $200 million for a 20 percent stake in Mr. Milchan’s Regency Enterprises. A News Corporation spokeswoman, Teri Everett, had no immediate response to a query about the company’s reason for backing Mr. Milchan, and about any reaction by its chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, to revelations in the new book. (Mr. Milchan’s latest film for Fox, the comedy “Monte Carlo,” opened to soft reviews and modest prospects a few weeks ago.)

Asked whether Mr. Milchan would discuss the book, his executive assistant, Jane Bulmer, said he was traveling and out of reach. But, Ms. Bulmer said in an e-mail, Mr. Milchan had told her “that he has not read the book and does not plan on commenting on any unauthorized books that have been written about him.”

As for Mr. Milchan’s current status with Israeli intelligence, Mr. Gelman and Mr. Doron declined to venture a guess. “We really don’t know with certainty,” Mr. Gelman said.

Electronic Intifada

by Sarah Ali

What could possibly explain the Israeli army’s targeting of children in the Gaza Strip?

I am a terrorist. At least that is what they call me. I grew up hearing the same word being repeated so often that I thought terrorists were the good guys for a second. They are apparently not. Of the many sad times I have gone through, the 2008-09 offensive that Israel launched on the Gaza Strip was the worst and probably the most painful. I was “lucky” enough to survive and to now have the chance to speak for those who lost their lives, although I am quite sure their deaths can speak well for them.

It was 27 December 2008 when the Israeli warplanes started dropping bombs on every place in Gaza, killing anything or anybody getting — or not getting — in their way.

The war left lots of people dead. Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed, thousands more injured. There were people dying everyday.

Then there was Anwar.

Just when we began to hear the news of Israel’s intentions to end the war, Anwar Shehada was killed. Anwar was a 13-year-old neighbor of mine who lived a few meters away from where I live. It was the last day of the war when Anwar told her younger sister she was going up to get the laundry from the roof. Her sister asked her not to go; Anwar told her sister not to worry because the war was almost over.

Before her parents could see her going up to the roof, Anwar was already gone. She probably thought that Israel would not kill a beautiful 13-year-old girl. Israel proved her wrong. The explosion that killed Anwar was the loudest one I have ever heard. I thought it was our house being shelled. The floor was literally shaking. We waited for death. In seconds, we saw the smoke coming out of the neighbors’ house. They said Anwar’s blood was all over the roof. Her head was found in the street.

Killed in a “safe” house

And then, there was Haneen.

Haneen was actually killed before Anwar, but we knew about her death a week after the end of the war. Haneen was my five-year-old friend who I first met in a mosque to which we both used to go. All I remember about her is the way she liked to tease me. She used to make that sound of “meow” because she knew I hate cats. “Meow” was actually the way she said “hi” each time we saw each other. During the war, Haneen’s family decided to go stay with their relatives in Tal al-Tawa, assuming that the area would be less dangerous. Haneen left her house, only to be killed in a house that was thought to be safe.

I cannot imagine the pain Haneen felt when the bomb penetrated her little heart, tearing it apart. I do not know what it feels like to lose a child, and I have no idea how tremendous the suffering of Anwar and Haneen’s parents is. I cannot imagine the shock Haneen felt when she saw the ceiling of the bedroom falling down and getting closer to her face.

I cannot imagine how a soldier looked right from his plane at that little girl and decided to end her life. I cannot imagine the kind of hatred that soldier had towards Palestinians that made him believe that murdering a child was okay. I cannot imagine the denial that soldier lived in that made him think what he did was “self-defense.” I cannot imagine how this very same soldier can now eat, drink, sleep and simply go on with his life. And I cannot understand how stupid Israel has to be to think that I will not fight back and seek justice for my little friends.

I kept thinking of Haneen for a year after she got killed, but now I do not think of her too much. It is just when I see her mother in the street that I remember how cute Haneen was. In fact, I have become selfish enough to avoid saying hi to Haneen’s mom whenever we meet. Each time I see her, I hide my face, hoping she will not see me. When Haneen was alive, her mother and I used to chat about how smart Haneen was and how bright her future would be. Now I just have nothing to say to her. I cannot make things better. I cannot look her mother in the eye and ask her “how are things?” because each time she replies “things are good,” I am sure that they are not.

A world of confusion

I am living in a world whose concepts are no longer clear to me. A world where the criminal walks free and the victim is called a terrorist. A world where killing a five-year-old kid is permissible. A world that has left me baffled about what is right and what is wrong. I have always thought that we could figure out who the terrorist was simply by looking at who died on whose side. I was wrong. Israel has the ability to kill Palestinians at night and call them terrorists the next morning.

Haneen did not know what cold-hearted blood is. Haneen was a little kid whose life was snuffed out because an Israeli soldier felt like killing somebody, and she just happened to be that somebody. Haneen was an unfortunate human being who was born Palestinian and accordingly guilty. She did nothing wrong to Israel. She was a five-year-old girl who was split into little pieces while in bed.

Haneen was too young to die. Who cares about Haneen’s death anyway? Was she a terrorist too?

Sarah Ali, 20, is a Gazan blogger and a student of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. Her blog is

The Electronic Intifada

A worker at an Israeli media pressure group used her low dissertation mark as a post-graduate student at University of Warwick to smear a professor involved in Palestine solidarity activism this month.

Smadar Bakovic claimed that Professor Nicola Pratt had unfairly graded her dissertation. She told a pro-Israel journalist that the same dissertation was passed with a distinction after being re-marked by a second professor. But the paper running the story failed to mention that Bakovic works for MediaCentral in Jerusalem, an agency affiliated with pro-Israel media pressure group HonestReporting.

The article appeared in The Jewish Chronicle(a pro-Israel paper), first published on their website on 22 December. It drew heavily on Bakovic as its source, but portrayed her merely as an Israeli student, without mentioning her MediaCentral affiliation. A university spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada that the article contained multiple inaccuracies, which he had alerted the paper to but they still ran their version (“Anti-Zionist professor’s low marks for Israeli – now a distinction,” 22 December 2011).

University spokesperson Peter Dunn said Bakovic’s claims were false. It is “not true that she made repeated requests for a supervisor change,” he said. She asked to change supervisors only once, and, despite that, said she was happy with Pratt’s supervision. It was only when she received her low mark that she asked the university to change.

Nicola Pratt is associate professor of international politics of the Middle East at the University of Warwick in the midlands of the UK. She is reportedly active in Palestine solidarity campaigns, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“I did it for Israel”

The Electronic Intifada contacted Professor Pratt who referred us to Dunn. He said theJewish Chronicle journalist had also told him Bakovic admitted to being happy with Pratt’s supervision. Dunn said Bakovic had to resubmit her dissertation to the second professor with “substantial changes” for the higher mark. Dunn said he had confirmed with her new supervisor that Bakovic’s claim this second version was only “tweaked” was untrue. In order to protect Bakovic’s privacy, Dunn could not name the second professor.

The Electronic Intifada wrote to Bakovic to ask her to reveal the name of the second professor in order to verify this, but she declined to respond. “I did it for Israel,” she told The Jewish Chronicle, referring to her year-long campaign to be allowed to redo her dissertation. The Jewish Chronicle claimed it had seen emails (presumably from Bakovic) showing the second dissertation contained “no major changes” from the one marked by Pratt.

Dunn said he had not been shown these emails, and the journalist was making an unjustified inference, probably based on an early stage in the process. Dunn said: “the first mark was also matched by an external examiner as well as Nicola. The university stands by both marks for both pieces of work and the complaints panel found Nicola’s supervision to be exemplary.” The Electronic Intifada asked Bakovic to prove the second version was not substantially different, but she failed to reply.

University’s disappointment

Bakovic is listed as the media services coordinator on the website of MediaCentral. Based in Jerusalem, the group says it is a “free or low-cost” fixer agency that immerses foreign journalists in Israeli perspectives.

The group is a project of HonestReporting, which once described itself on its website as “an organization dedicated to defending Israel against prejudice in the media” (“Our Mission”).

Its managing editor, Simon Plosker, is a reservist soldier in the Israeli army’s press office. He previously worked for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) and NGO Monitor, another Israel lobby group (“Meet the editors”).

Asked to comment on Bakovic’s membership of MediaCentral, Dunn said he knew nothing about her beyond the academic issues, and that the university’s concern was only to defend its academic reputation. It was unusual for the university to allow a student to redo her dissertation in this way and they had thought Bakovic would be grateful, and were disappointed to be depicted like this, he added.

The Electronic Intifada put Dunn’s claims to Bakovic via email, and asked whether or not she had informed The Jewish Chronicle she works for MediaCentral. She declined to reply.

Bakovic told The Jewish Chronicle that she monitored the university’s Palestine solidarity movement: “I knew Prof Pratt because whenever there was an anti-Israel event at the university I went along and she was often there,” she stated.

Professor Pratt was one of many academic signatories to a seminal letter in The Guardianduring the 2008-09 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which asserted that “if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides … against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank” (“Growing outrage at the killing in Gaza,” 15 January 2009).

In the Reut Institute’s now-infamous 2010 report on how to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the influential think tank advised Israel to “sabotage” the movement of solidarity with Palestine.

One of the many examples it gave of possible counter-strategies was “Mobilizing and training civil society partners … for example students and faculty in academia” (“The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall, March 2010, p. 71).

If this was another attempt to “sabotage” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, it was an especially clumsy one