Friday, January 29, 2010

In memory of Howard Zinn

In memory of beloved activist and historian Howard Zinn, who has passed away two days ago, I'm enclosing a article which reflects the spirit Zinn brought to the study of history. He writes: "I would never have become a historian if I thought that it would become my professional duty to go into the past and never emerge, to study long-gone events and remember them only for their uniqueness, not connecting them to events going on in my time. If the Holocaust was to have any meaning, I thought, we must transfer our anger to the brutalities of our time. We must atone for our allowing the Jewish Holocaust to happen by refusing to allow similar atrocities to take place now - yes, to use the Day of Atonement not to pray for the dead but to act for the living, to rescue those about to die".

Below that article, you'll find Daniel Ellsberg's "A Memory of Howard Zinn". The piece is introduced by my friends Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, long time peace and justice activists and editors of the Nuclear Resister.

Additionally, you can visit yesterday's Democracy Now! to see/hear Zinn in his own words, as well as to hear Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker and Anthony Arnove talking about Zinn.

I'll end with a wonderful Zinn quote:
"If we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Racheli Gai.

Howard Zinn: A Larger Consciousness

October, 10 1999

Some years ago, when I was teaching at Boston University, I was asked by a Jewish group to give a talk on the Holocaust. I spoke that evening, but not about the Holocaust of World War II, not about the genocide of six million Jews. It was the mid-Eighties, and the United States government was supporting death squad governments in Central America, so I spoke of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants in Guatemala and El Salvador, victims of American policy. My point was that the memory of the Jewish Holocaust should not be encircled by barbed wire, morally ghettoized, kept isolated from other genocides in history. It seemed to me that to remember what happened to Jews served no important purpose unless it aroused indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world.

A few days later, in the campus newspaper, there was a letter from a faculty member who had heard me speak - a Jewish refugee who had left Europe for Argentina, and then the United States. He objected strenuously to my extending the moral issue from Jews in Europe in the 1940s to people in other parts of the world, in our time. The Holocaust was a sacred memory. It was a unique event, not to be compared to other events. He was outraged that, invited to speak on the Jewish Holocaust, I had chosen to speak about other matters.

I was reminded of this experience when I recently read a book by Peter Novick, THE HOLOCAUST IN AMERICAN LIFE. Novick's starting point is the question: why, fifty years after the event, does the Holocaust play a more prominent role in this country -- the Holocaust Museum in Washington, hundreds of Holocaust programs in schools -- than it did in the first decades after the second World War? Surely at the core of the memory is a horror that should not be forgotten. But around that core, whose integrity needs no enhancement, there has grown up an industry of memorialists who have labored to keep that memory alive for purposes of their own.

Some Jews have used the Holocaust as a way of preserving a unique identity, which they see threatened by intermarriage and assimilation. Zionists have used the Holocaust, since the 1967 war, to justify further Israeli expansion into Palestianian land, and to build support for a beleaguered Israel (more beleaguered, as David Ben-Gurion had predicted, once it occupied the West Bank and Gaza). And non-Jewish politicians have used the Holocaust to build political support among the numerically small but influential Jewish voters - note the solemn pronouncements of Presidents wearing yarmulkas to underline their anguished sympathy.

I would never have become a historian if I thought that it would become my professional duty to go into the past and never emerge, to study long-gone events and remember them only for their uniqueness, not connecting them to events going on in my time. If the Holocaust was to have any meaning, I thought, we must transfer our anger to the brutalities of our time. We must atone for our allowing the Jewish Holocaust to happen by refusing to allow similar atrocities to take place now - yes, to use the Day of Atonement not to pray for the dead but to act for the living, to rescue those about to die.

When Jews turn inward to concentrate on their own history, and look away from the ordeal of others, they are, with terrible irony, doing exactly what the rest of the world did in allowing the genocide to happen. There were shameful moments, travesties of Jewish humanism, as when Jewish organizations lobbied against a Congressional recognition of the Armenian Holocaust of 1915 on the ground that it diluted the memory of the Jewish Holocaust. Or when the designers of the Holocaust Museum dropped the idea of mentioning the Armenian genocide after lobbying by the Israeli government. (Turkey was the only Moslem government with which Israel had diplomatic relations.) Another such moment came when Elie Wiesel, chair of President Carter's Commission on the Holocaust, refused to include in a description of the Holocaust Hitler's killing of millions of non-Jews. That would be, he said, to "falsify" the reality "in the name of misguided universalism." Novick quotes Wiesel as saying "They are
stealing the Holocaust from us." As a result the Holocaust Museum gave only passing attention to the five million or more non-Jews who died in the Nazi camps. To build a wall around the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust is to abandon the idea that humankind is all one, that we are all, of whatever color, nationality, religion, deserving of equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What happened to the Jews under Hitler is unique in its details but it shares universal characteristics with many other events in human history: the Atlantic slave trade, the genocide against native Americans, the injuries and deaths to millions of working people, victims of the capitalist ethos that put profit before human life.

In recent years, while paying more and more homage to the Holocaust as a central symbol of man's cruelty to man, we have, by silence and inaction, collaborated in an endless chain of cruelties. Hiroshima and My Lai are the most dramatic symbols - and did we hear from Wiesel and other keepers of the Holocaust flame outrage against those atrocities? Countee Cullen once wrote, in his poem "Scottsboro, Too, Is Worth Its Song" (after the sentencing to death of the Scottsboro Boys): "Surely, I said/ Now will the poets sing/ But they have raised no cry/I wonder why."

There have been the massacres of Rwanda, and the starvation in Somalia, with our government watching and doing nothing. There were the death squads in Latin America, and the decimation of the population of East Timor, with our government actively collaborating. Our church-going Christian presidents, so pious in their references to the genocide against the Jews, kept supplying the instruments of death to the perpetrators of other genocides.

True there are some horrors which seem beyond our powers. But there is an ongoing atrocity which is within our power to bring to an end. Novick points to it, and physician-anthropologist Paul Farmer describes it in detail in his remarkable new book INFECTIONS AND INEQUALITIES. That is: the deaths of ten million children all over the world who die every year of malnutrition and preventable diseases. The World Health Organization estimates three million people died last year of tuberculosis, which is preventable and curable, as Farmer has proved in his medical work in Haiti. With a small portion of our military budget we could wipe out tuberculosis.

The point of all this is not to diminish the experience of the Jewish Holocaust, but to enlarge it. For Jews it means to reclaim the tradition of Jewish universal humanism against an Israel-centered nationalism. Or, as Novick puts it, to go back to "that larger social consciousness that was the hallmark of the American Jewry of my youth". That larger consciousness was displayed in recent years by those Israelis who protested the beating of Palestinians in the Intifada, who demonstrated against the invasion of Lebanon.

For others -- whether Armenians or Native Americans or Africans or Bosnians or whatever -- it means to use their own bloody histories, not to set themselves against others, but to create a larger solidarity against the holders of wealth and power, the perpetrators and collaborators of the ongoing horrors of our time.

The Holocaust might serve a powerful purpose if it led us to think of the world today as wartime Germany - where millions die while the rest of the population obediently goes about its business. It is a frightening thought that the Nazis, in defeat, were victorious: today Germany, tomorrow the world. That is, until we withdraw our obedience.

There will undoubtedly be many wonderful tributes written about activist, historian and teacher Howard Zinn, who died yesterday at the age of 87. We're forwarding this one from Daniel Ellsberg.
We are profoundly grateful for Howard Zinn's life - for all he did to change the way Americans view their country and the world, for his steadfast activism for peace and justice, for his many powerful books and articles, and personally, for his support of our work with the Nuclear Resister and the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu.
Howard Zinn, Presente!
Felice and Jack

Daniel Ellsberg: A Memory of Howard Zinn
January 27, 2010

I just learned that my friend Howard Zinn died today. Earlier this morning, I was being interviewed by the Boston Phoenix, in connection with the release in Boston February of a documentary in which he is featured prominently. The interviewer asked me who my own heroes were, and I had no hesitation in answering, first, ³Howard Zinn.²
Just weeks ago after watching the film on December 7, I woke up the next morning thinking that I had never told him how much he meant to me. For once in my life, I acted on that thought in a timely way. I sent him an e-mail in which I said, among other things, what I had often told others about him: that he was,² in my opinion, the best human being I¹ve ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life.²
Our first meeting was at Faneiul Hall in Boston in early 1971, where we both spoke against the indictments of Eqbal Ahmad and Phil Berrigan for ³conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger,² from which we marched with the rest of the crowd to make Citizens¹ Arrests at the Boston office of the FBI. Later that spring we went with our affinity group (including Noam Chomsky, Cindy Fredericks, Marilyn Young, Mark Ptashne, Zelda Gamson, Fred Branfman and Mitch Goodman), to the Mayday actions blocking traffic in Washington (³If they won¹t stop the war, we¹ll stop the government²). Howard tells that story in the film and I tell it at greater length in my memoir, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers [1] (pp.376-81). But for reasons of space, I had to cut out the next section in which Howard who had been arrested in DC after most of the rest of us had gone elsewhere came back to Boston for a rally and a blockade of the Federal Building. I¹ve never published that story, so
it is, an out-take from my manuscript:
A day later, Howard Zinn was the last speaker at a large rally in Boston Common. I was at the back of a huge crowd, listening to him over loudspeakers. 27 years later, I can remember some things he said. ³On Mayday in Washington thousands of us were arrested for disturbing the peace. But there is no peace. We were really arrested because we were disturbing the war.²
He said, ³If Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had been walking the streets of Georgetown yesterday, they would have been arrested. Arrested for being young.²
At the end of his comments he said, ³I want to speak now to some of the members of this audience, the plainclothes policemen among us, the military intelligence agents who are assigned to do surveillance. You are taking the part of secret police, spying on your fellow Americans. You should not be doing what you are doing. You should rethink it, and stop. You do not have to carry out orders that go against the grain of what it means to be an American.²
Those last weren¹t his exact words, but that was the spirit of them. He was to pay for that comment the next day, when we were sitting side by side in a blockade of the Federal Building in Boston. We had a circle of people all the way around the building, shoulder to shoulder, so no one could get in or out except by stepping over us. Behind us were crowds of people with posters who were supporting us but who hadn¹t chosen to risk arrest. In front of us, keeping us from getting any closer to the main entrance to the building, was a line of policemen, with a large formation of police behind them. All the police had large plastic masks tilted back on their heads and they were carrying long black clubs, about four feet long, like large baseball bats. Later the lawyers told us that city police regulations outlawed the use of batons that long.
But at first the relations with the police were almost friendly. We sat down impudently at the very feet of the policemen who were guarding the entrance, filling in the line that disappeared around the sides until someone came from the rear of the building and announced over a bullhorn, ³The blockade is complete. We¹ve surrounded the building!² There was a cheer from the crowd behind us, and more people joined us in sitting until the circle was two or three deep.
We expected them to start arresting us, but for a while the police did nothing. They could have manhandled a passage through the line and kept it open for employees to go in or out, but for some reason they didn¹t. We thought maybe they really sympathized with our protest, and this was their way of joining in. As the morning wore on, people took apples and crackers and bottles of water out of their pockets and packs and shared them around, and they always offered some to the police standing in front of us. The police always refused, but they seemed to appreciate the offer.
Then one of the officers came over to Howard and said, ³You¹re Professor Zinn, aren¹t you?² Howard said yes, and the officer reached down and shook his hand enthusiastically. He said, ³I heard you lecture at the Police Academy. A lot of us here did. That was a wonderful lecture.² Howard had been asked to speak to them about the role of dissent and civil disobedience in American history. Several other policemen came over to pay their respects to Howard and thank him for his lecture. The mood seemed quite a bit different from Washington.
Then a line of employees emerged from the building, wearing coats and ties or dresses. Their arms were raised and they were holding cards in their raised hands. As they circled past us they hold out the cards so we could see what they were: ID cards, showing they were federal employees. They were making the peace-sign with their other hands, they were circling around the building to show solidarity with what we were doing. Their spokesman said over a bullhorn, ³We want this war to be over, too! Thank you for what you are doing! Keep it up.² Photographers, including police, were scrambling to take pictures of them, and some of them held up their ID cards so they would get in the picture. It was the high point of the day.
A little while after the employees had gone back inside the building, there was a sudden shift in the mood of the police. An order had been passed. The bloc of police in the center of the square got into tight formation and lowered their plastic helmets. The police standing right in front of us, over us, straightened up, adjusted their uniforms and lowered their masks. Apparently the time had come to start arrests. The supporters who didn¹t want to be arrested fell back.
But there was no arrest warning. There was a whistle, and the line of police began inching forward, black batons raised upright. They were going to walk through us or over us, push us back. The man in front of us, who had been talking to Howard about his lecture a little earlier, muttered to us under his breath, ³Leave! Now! Quick, get up.² He was warning, not menacing us.
Howard and I looked at each other. We¹d come expecting to get arrested. It didn¹t seem right to just get up and move because someone told us to, without arresting us. We stayed where we were. No one else left either. Boots were touching our shoes. The voice over our heads whispered intensely, ³Move! Please. For God¹s sake, move!² Knees in uniform pressed our knees. I saw a club coming down. I put my hands over my head, fists clenched, and a four-foot baton hit my wrist, hard. Another one hit my shoulder.
I rolled over, keeping my arms over my head, got up and moved back a few yards. Howard was being hauled off by several policemen. One had Howard¹s arms pinned behind him, another had jerked his head back by the hair. Someone had ripped his shirt in two, there was blood on his bare chest. A moment before he had been sitting next to me and I waited for someone to do the same to me, but no one did. I didn¹t see anyone else getting arrested. But no one was sitting anymore, the line had been broken, disintegrated. Those who had been sitting hadn¹t moved very far, they were standing like me a few yards back, looking around, holding themselves where they¹d been clubbed. The police had stopped moving. They stood in a line, helmets still down, slapping their batons against their hands. Their adrenaline was still up, but they were standing in place.
Blood was running down my hand, covering the back of my hand. I was wearing a heavy watch and it had taken the force of the blow. The baton had smashed the crystal and driven pieces of glass into my wrist. Blood was dripping off my fingers. Someone gave me a handkerchief to wrap around my wrist and told me to raise my arm. The handkerchief got soaked quickly and blood was running down my arm while I looked for a first-aid station that was supposed to be at the back of the crowd, in a corner of the square. I finally found it and someone picked the glass out of my arm and put a thick bandage around it.
I went back to the protest. My shoulder was aching. The police were standing where they had stopped, and the blockade had reformed, people were sitting ten yards back from where they had been before. There seemed to be more people sitting, not fewer. Many of the supporters had joined in. But it was quiet. No one was speaking loudly, no laughing. People were waiting for the police to move forward again. They weren¹t expecting any longer to get arrested.
Only three or four people had been picked out of the line to be arrested before. The police had made a decision (it turned out) to arrest only the ³leaders,² not to give us the publicity of arrests and trials. Howard hadn¹t been an organizer of this action, he was just participating like the rest of us, but from the way they treated him when they pulled him out of the line, his comments directly to the police in the rally the day before must have rubbed someone the wrong way.
I found Roz Zinn, Howard¹s wife, sitting in the line on the side at right angles to where Howard and I had been before. I sat down between her and their housemate, a woman her age. They had been in support before until they had seen what happened to Howard.
Looking at the police in formation, with their uniforms and clubs, guns on their hips, I felt naked. I knew that it was an illusion in combat to think you were protected because you were carrying a weapon, but it was an illusion that worked. For the first time, I was very conscious of being unarmed. At last, in my own country, I understood what a Vietnamese villager must have felt at what the Marines called a ³county fair,² when the Marines rounded up everyone they could find in a hamlet all women and children and old people, never draft- or VC-age young men to be questioned one at a time in a tent, meanwhile passing out candy to the kids and giving vaccinations. Winning hearts and minds, trying to recruit informers. No one among the villagers knowing what the soldiers, in their combat gear, would do next, or which of them might be detained.
We sat and talked and waited for the police to come again. They lowered their helmets and formed up. The two women I was with were both older than I was. I moved my body in front of them, to take the first blows. I felt a hand on my elbow. ³Excuse me, I was sitting there,² the woman who shared the Zinn¹s house said to me, with a cold look. She hadn¹t come there that day and sat down, she told me later, to be protected by me. I apologized and scrambled back, behind them.
No one moved. The police didn¹t move, either. They stood in formation facing us, plastic masks over their faces, for quite a while. But they didn¹t come forward again. They had kept open a passage in front for the employees inside to leave after five, and eventually the police left, and we left..
There was a happier story to tell, just over one month later. On Saturday night, June 12, 1971, we had a date with Howard and Roz to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Harvard Square. But that morning I learned from someone at the New York Times that‹without having alerted me‹the Times was about to start publishing the top secret documents I had given them that evening. That meant I might get a visit from the FBI any moment; and for once, I had copies of the Papers in my apartment, because I planned to send them to Senator Mike Gravel for his filibuster against the draft.
From Secrets (p. 386):
³I had to get the documents out of our apartment. I called the Zinns, who had been planning to come by our apartment later to join us for the movie, and asked if we could come by their place in Newton instead. I took the papers in a box in the trunk of our car. They weren¹t the ideal people to avoid attracting the attention of the FBI. Howard had been in charge of managing antiwar activist Daniel Berrigan¹s movements underground while he was eluding the FBI for months (so from that practical point of view he was an ideal person to hide something from them), and it could be assumed that his phone was tapped, even if he wasn¹t under regular surveillance. However, I didn¹t know whom else to turn to that Saturday afternoon. Anyway, I had given Howard a large section of the study already, to read as a historian; he¹d kept it in his office at Boston University. As I expected, they said yes immediately. Howard helped me bring up the box from the car.
We drove back to Harvard Square for the movie. The Zinns had never seen Butch Cassidy before. It held up for all of us. Afterward we bought ice-cream cones at Brigham¹s and went back to our apartment. Finally Howard and Roz went home before it was time for the early edition of the Sunday New York Times to arrive at the subway kiosk below the square. Around midnight Patricia and I went over to the square and bought a couple of copies. We came up the stairs into Harvard Square reading the front page, with the three-column story about the secret archive, feeling very good.²
URL to article:

[1] Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers:

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Beinin on an Emerging Resistance Movemen

Bypassing politicians, the bogus "peace process," and Israel's current pretense at a settlement freeze, an actual movement of political change and resistance is gradually but persistently taking place in Palestine/Israel. Palestinians, Israelis, internationals, women and men, youth and older people, join weekly to resist injustice, oppression and a land-eating dragon-wall. In the article below, published in The Nation, Jewish Peace News contributor, Joel Beinin, reports on and analyzes this movement and describes its evolution. The people and the weekly gestures that comprise it, he writes, "are not the common images of Israeli occupation and Palestinian resistance in North American journalistic, diplomatic and scholarly discourse. But they are central components of an ongoing movement deeply rooted in the social fabric of the West Bank." The local independent resistance groups based in separate villages along the wall form, together, "a peasant-based social movement that is becoming
increasingly conscious of its political significance and filling the void in Palestinian leadership."

Rela Mazali


Building a Different Middle East


January 15, 2010

Ma`asara, West Bank, December 2009
Like every other woman in her village Umm Hasan wears a headscarf. Her husband and other male relatives are not on the scene. But this is not an obstacle to her animated interactions with the sixteen Israelis and foreigners she has never previously met but welcomes into her home. Among the visitors are a German and a Serb who are making a film about Palestinian hip-hop. Everyone has come to participate in the weekly demonstration against the separation barrier organized by the local Popular Committee.

While the Israelis make preparations for the demonstration, Umm Hasan tells the filmmakers about the current situation in the village. Neria, a young Israeli woman who attended a bilingual primary school, makes a poster in Arabic and Hebrew, `so the [Israeli] soldiers will know what it means` with the slogan: `They destroyed the wall in Berlin; tomorrow we`ll destroy it in Palestine.`

As the visitors arrive, Umm Hasan`s oldest son, Hasan, from whom her name is derived, is leading Friday prayers for a `dissident` congregation. His congregants support the weekly protests. The imam of the `official` village mosque does not. The consensus is that the imam and his followers fear that if they join in they will lose their permits to work in Israel or in the nearby quarry owned by a rich Palestinian who sells stone to Israeli contractors.

Hasan and his brother Muhammad are leaders of the Popular Committee of Ma`asara. Another leader, Mahmud, is currently in France on a political mission. Hasan is a supporter of Fatah, Muhammad supports the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Mahmud supports the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But these differences are of little consequence, because the Popular Committee includes all the factions in the village.

When Hasan returns from prayers, he serves tea to the guests. There is barely enough time to finish drinking before the guests depart to join about two dozen villagers for the demonstration. Muhammad stays behind because he is under a military court order that forbids him from participating. If Israeli authorities saw him attending a demonstration, he would forfeit a bond of 15,000 Israeli shekels (about $3,950).

The demonstrators march through neighboring villages, with a total population of about 10,000, to Umm Salamuna. There, several kilometers away from the separation barrier, twenty Israeli soldiers in full battle gear stand behind a razor wire, which they have stretched across the road to block the protesters` advance. Haggai, a young Israeli man who was jailed for two years for refusing to be drafted into the army, addresses the soldiers in Hebrew. Showing them a hand-drawn poster-board map of the area, he explains, `You are not in the territory of the state of Israel and you could not do what you are now doing inside Israel. We are demonstrating peacefully on Palestinian land. You are violating international law. Don`t be surprised if, when you repress peaceful demonstrations, some Palestinians resort to violence. You can choose not to obey your orders.` Jum`a, a member of the Popular Committee, addresses the crowd in Arabic and English, emphasizing that this is a nonviolent

Nonetheless, Rami, one of the villagers, is arrested. His apparent offense was stepping on the razor wire. Umm `Iyad, an older woman wearing a headscarf and a shawl in the colors of the Palestinian flag, crosses over the razor wire, undisturbed by the soldiers, and proceeds to negotiate for Rami`s release. During the negotiations a drum corps of five young Israeli women and one man and the Palestinian boys they have been teaching to drum sustains a steady succession of beats punctuated by chants in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

The soldiers do not deny that they are holding Rami hostage to force the demonstration to end. Eventually, an arrangement is reached. The soldiers release Rami with his ID card, which he must have to cross any of the more than 500 barriers and checkpoints the army maintains in the West Bank. The demonstration ends.


In mid-2002 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorized the construction of a separation barrier (known in Israeli parlance as the `fence` and in Palestinian parlance as the `apartheid wall`). About 85 percent of the barrier`s trajectory is to the east of the Green Line that marked the border between Israel and the West Bank from 1949 to 1967--i.e., inside the West Bank. The construction of the barrier is incomplete and its final trajectory is still contested. But if there is ever a negotiated resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Israeli consensus supports annexing Palestinian agricultural lands and Jewish settlements lying to the west of the barrier. This region is now designated as `the seam zone` (kav ha-tefer)--an indeterminate area that is not (yet) legally in Israel proper, but which has been effectively detached from the West Bank.

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that `the construction by Israel of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated regime are contrary to international law.` In Israel this was widely considered yet another confirmation that `the whole world is against us` and that Israel `shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.` Most Israelis do not care to know what happens on the other side of the barrier.

There are currently also weekly demonstrations in the villages of Bil`in and Ni`ilin. There, the demonstrators can actually reach the separation barrier, climb on it or open the gate to it. These actions are `illegal,` so the army uses considerably more force to disperse them than in Ma`asara, firing volleys of high-velocity tear gas canisters, percussion grenades, stink bombs, rubber-coated metal bullets and live 22-caliber ammunition. While the demonstrations are nonviolent, in some villages youths throw stones at the Israeli soldiers after the official demonstration is over.

Bil`in (pop. 1,800) has held weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier since March 2005, the longest continuous nonviolent popular mobilization in Palestinian history. Bil`in has achieved international renown and is the subject of a film, Bil`in, My Love, made by Shai Carmeli Pollak, one of the regular Israeli demonstrators. Since 2006 the village has hosted annual solidarity conferences attended by luminaries who also participate in the Friday demonstrations. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan was shot by a rubber-coated steel bullet at a demonstration during the April 2007 solidarity conference. European Parliament vice president Luisa Morgantini and other dignitaries were injured in a demonstration in June 2008. In August 2009 six members of `The Elders,` a group of widely respected, retired political figures--Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ela Bhatt, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson--visited Bil`in.

Bil`in is also the symbol of a certain victory for popular struggle against the separation barrier. On September 4, 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that the barrier, whose current trajectory cuts the village off from about one-quarter of its remaining agricultural lands, must be redirected. Chief Justice Dorit Beinish`s opinion stated that the court was `not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bil`in`s lands.` Despite this unequivocal ruling, the Israeli army has failed to implement the court`s order. The barrier remains, and hundreds of olive trees uprooted to make way for it have not been replaced.

Therefore, the weekly demonstrations have continued, and the Israeli reaction to the mobilization at Bil`in has become more fierce. In April 2009 a tear gas canister shot by the army during a demonstration killed Basim Ibrahim Abu Rahmah. In December 2009 Basim`s cousin and the coordinator of the Bil`in Popular Committee against the Wall, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was arrested. He was charged with possession of weapons because he maintains a `museum` in his home displaying spent tear gas canisters, percussion grenades and bullets fired by the Israeli army at unarmed demonstrators. In response, the Elders` chair, Desmond Tutu, released a statement saying, `My fellow Elders and I met Abu Rahmah and his colleague Mohammad Khatib in August when we visited Bil`in.... We were impressed by their commitment to peaceful political action, and their success in challenging the wall that unjustly separates the people of Bil`in from their land and their olive trees. I call on Israeli officials to
release Abu Rahmah immediately and unconditionally.`

On November 6, 2009, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, some 300 demonstrators at Ni`ilin (pop. 4,600) toppled a section of the eight-meter-high wall that separates the village from part of its lands. The demonstrations have been particularly violent there during the past year. Five residents have been killed and dozens have been wounded. In March 2009 an American, Tristan Anderson, was severely injured at Ni`ilin. In late 2009 he was still hospitalized with brain damage and a fractured skull.

During 2009 Bil`in, Ni`ilin, and Ma`asara were the most visible part of the story. But there is much more. Village-based Palestinian popular resistance supported by Israelis and internationals began in the fall of 2003, when local Palestinians and Israelis stood together against the separation barrier in the villages of Jayyus and Mas`ha.

On November 9, 2003, Budrus (pop. 1,400) became the first village to organize a formal weekly march from the village center to the site of the construction of the barrier. Two soldiers were wounded by stones in a demonstration at which there were no Israelis and foreigners. Wounded soldiers make news in Israel, so the Palestinian struggle against the separation barrier also received publicity.

Jonathan Pollak, a young Israeli activist, came to Budrus and asked `Ayid Mrar, a leader of the recently formed Popular Committee, `How can we help?` `Ayid replied, `It`s very important that you come and participate with us.` Relating the story later `Ayid recalls, `When foreigners and Israelis began coming to my house, people didn`t like it at first. People had never seen the other face of Israelis. They thought Jews are either soldiers or settlers. Then Israelis started to come to demonstrations. Now people accept and welcome it.`

During one of the weekly demonstrations Iltizam, `Ayid`s teenage daughter, organized a women`s contingent, which broke through the army lines and stopped the bulldozers from working. Women in Ma`asara did the same, under the leadership of Umm Hasan. Budrus too, is the subject of a film. Budrus, directed and written by Julia Bacha, held its world premier at the December 2009 Dubai International Film Festival, with `Ayid and Iltizam in attendance.

There have also been demonstrations in many other villages whose lands have been confiscated due to the construction of the separation barrier. The Israeli army and border police have killed some twenty Palestinians (six in 2009 alone) while attempting to disperse these protests. Hundreds have been injured and arrested. Many of the organizers are under military orders banning them from participating in the weekly demonstrations.

Israelis have joined the demonstrations, in large numbers on special occasions, and in smaller numbers on a regular basis. The most persistent Israelis have been associated with Anarchists against the Wall, a name given to the group by the Israeli media but which they accepted for its provocative character. A good number of the anarchists and other younger Israeli activists have learned Arabic as a result of their extensive stays in West Bank villages or through study motivated by political commitment. They have the wounds to prove that commitment. Jonathan Pollak was hit by a tear gas canister at one of the Bil`in demonstrations and suffered two brain hemorrhages and a wound requiring twenty-three stitches. Matan Cohen was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet at a demonstration at Beit Sira. He later enrolled in Hampshire College and became a prominent organizer of the campaign there that culminated in the college endowment fund divesting from six companies doing
business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. An Israeli court recently accepted the contention of the border police who shot Matan that his wound could have been caused by a stone with the exact dimensions of a bullet.

Internationals, many organized by the International Solidarity Movement, have spent time in the villages, eaten and slept in local homes and participated in the weekly demonstrations. They have been tear gassed, wounded and killed, most famously Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by a Caterpillar bulldozer in March 2003 while trying to prevent it from demolishing a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners jointly confronting the Israeli army; locally organized and led protests, substantially nonviolent and uniting adherents of all the Palestinian factions; peacefully demonstrating Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners tear gassed, severely wounded and killed by the Israeli army; women wearing headscarves playing an active and independent political role: these are not the common images of Israeli occupation and Palestinian resistance in North American journalistic, diplomatic and scholarly discourse. But they are central components of an ongoing movement deeply rooted in the social fabric of the West Bank. While not necessarily opposed to existing political parties or urban-based elites, this movement has been organized by local forces seeking to unite all the elements of village communities in order to protect their lands from the encroachments of the separation barrier.

Despite its peasant base and leadership, the movement is extremely sophisticated. `Ayid Mrar says, `If we resist a bulldozer we aren`t opposing the Israeli soldier. We are opposing the bulldozer [coming to destroy our land.] We are resisting the wall. If the Israeli soldier puts himself between us and the bulldozer, he is putting himself in danger. But we have no weapons, and there is no violence or fighting on our part.... Our problem is not with Israel and not with Jews. Jonathan is a Jew. Our problem is with the occupation. If we want to have a developed, peaceful region, we have to work together. We can have peace on the basis of equality.`

Toward the end of 2009 a national coordinating committee of the local popular committees was being formed. Jonathan Pollak is the media coordinator for Israel and international media and webmaster. His first effort in this capacity was an op-ed on the Huffington Post blog about the arrest of Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Jonathan believes that the wave of recent arrests (over thirty in Bil`in alone since last June) and the escalation of violence against demonstrators are due to Israel`s fear of `a paradigm shift to grassroots resistance.`

The mobilizations are rooted in the particular dynamics of each village and depend on the balance of local political forces, family dynamics and economic factors like the possibility of obtaining permits to work in Israel. Together they form a peasant-based social movement that is becoming increasingly conscious of its political significance and filling the void in Palestinian leadership created by the futile struggle between the Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Is this movement likely to contribute to a resolution of the conflict anytime soon? `Ayid Mrar is doubtful. `I don`t know when the occupation will end,` he says. `Not in one or two years. Maybe in a hundred. If the Palestinian people achieve their freedom, we don`t want relations of enmity with Israel. We want to build a different Middle East.`

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Amira Hass: Pro-Gaza activists under siege - imposed by Egypt and Hamas / Ha'aretz

Amira Hass was in Cairo during the stay of the Free Gaza March activists, and she went into Gaza with the small group
that was allowed to enter (minus those who declined).
This article covers some of her impressions of the activists in Cairo, as well as what happened in Gaza. This last part
has not been widely reported, especially the role of Hamas in keeping the visitors under tight control, and undermining
civil society role in organizing and carrying out the Free Gaza March.

Racheli Gai.

Pro-Gaza activists under siege - imposed by Egypt and Hamas
By Amira Hass

The departure from Ramses Street in Cairo, in about 20 buses, was set for the morning of Monday, December 28. However, the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March knew the buses would not arrive. Just as on Sunday night, the buses hired by a group of French activists never made it to their starting point - Cairo's Charles de Gaulle Street, near the French Embassy and across from the zoo.

In the week before the planned march, the Foreign Ministry in Cairo made it clear that the protesters would not be permitted to enter Gaza. Boats even mysteriously disappeared from the Nile on Sunday evening. The Egyptian authorities knew that scores of activists were planning to sail and light candles to mark the first anniversary of Israel's attack on Gaza and the 1,400 people who were killed.

A total of 1,361 people came to Cairo from 43 countries to participate in the Gaza Freedom March, 700 of them from the United States alone, many more than initially expected. It started out as a small initiative. Then the American feminist and peace group Codepink signed on, and it gradually spread to other countries.

Bringing Gaza to Cairo

"If we can't go to Gaza, we'll bring Gaza to Cairo," said one American peace activist. And indeed, for an entire week, more than a thousand foreign citizens, the vast majority of them from Western countries, scurried around the Egyptian capital looking for ways and places to demonstrate against the blockade of Gaza.

"The demonstrations in Cairo are conclusive proof that Israel pressured Egypt not to allow entry into Gaza," said one Egyptian citizen (who like other Egyptians, did not dare participate in the demonstrations, for fear of punishment). "What does Egypt need this headache for? It would have been easier and simpler to have sent them all to Gaza and forget about them."

When the buses didn't show, the French activists set up tents and sleeping bags outside the embassy. At 2 A.M., they discovered that le camping had been surrounded by a fence and a tight cordon of riot-dispersal police. Tents, a police barrier, movement restrictions, and an area under siege: Without having planned it, they were replicating the Gazan situation in particular and the Palestinian situation in general. Withstanding the siege conditions became an aim and a challenge.

During the next two or three days, the cordon intensified, from one row of police to three. Every few hours, the activists discussed how to proceed; this was direct democracy in action. Without secrets, without orders from on high, without hierarchies.

A similar process unfolded at various spots around Cairo. Some activists discovered police were surrounding their hotels, blocking them from exiting. Several demonstrated in front of their respective embassies - and were immediately surrounded by riot police. The most violent were those posted to the American Embassy.

Who's to blame?

One large group set up under the United Nations Development Program's offices. "In our presence here, we are saying that we are not casting the blame on Egypt. The responsibility for the shameless and obscene Israeli siege on Gaza rests squarely with our own countries," explained one of the organizers.

This sounded like an answer to an accusation voiced mostly by supporters of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah: With Hamas encouragement, international especially Arab popular pressure is being directed at the wrong address - Egypt, rather than Israel. Some of the organizers said they were indeed under the impression that Hamas was not at all interested in demonstrating at the Erez crossing into Israel, which is almost sealed, but rather at the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

The dream was to have tens of thousands march to the Beit Hanun/Erez crossing point on the first anniversary of the Israel Defense Forces offensive, in order to demand that Israel and the world lift the siege. The would-be participants are a very varied bunch: Some have been left-wing activists for decades, while others joined only during the Gaza campaign itself. Students and pensioners, university lecturers, paupers, young and old.

The older activists included Hedy Epstein, 85, a German-born American citizen whose life was saved when her Jewish parents sent her to England when she was 14. They later perished in Auschwitz. She sat on a chair under the building housing the UNDP offices, with those on hunger strike, in protest of their being banned from entering Gaza. Hippies in their 50s and 60s cavorted nearby, Italians sang "Bella Ciao," and South African activists unfurled a banner calling for sanctions on Israel and quoting Nelson Mandela: "Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

Jewish mother

"I feel that I'm doing something for Israel, for the sake of its future," said one bearded young man from Boston, who has been volunteering in a Palestinian village in the West Bank. His mother, who is Jewish, accompanied him on one of his flights into Israel to have a look at his new life. When they landed, they learned his name was on a Border Control list at the airport, and mother and son were detained for eight hours of questioning.

"She came out of there a radical," laughed the young man, who a year and a half ago discovered the alternative discourse about his "second homeland."

A Venezuelan documentary director said, "Eighty percent of the participants I have interviewed at random are Jewish." Eighty percent is probably an exaggeration, though a large percentage of those present were Jews. The colorful crowd also included Palestinians who are citizens of Western countries, some of them Gazans hoping to see relatives for the first time in years. There were also religious Christians and Muslims. Some of the slogans they proclaimed were overly ambitious, such as "We have come to liberate Gaza."

But by and large, this variegated whole sounded a message of militant pacifism and feminism, liberation theories and a lot of faith in the cumulative, positive effect of popular, non-hierarchical action and its ability to bring about change.

It's a pity, I thought to myself: The Egyptians are preventing us from seeing what happens when this direct, transparent democracy meets the Hamas regime.

On Monday evening, the demonstrators learned that, at the request of the president's wife, Suzanne Mubarak, 100 people would be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. Many saw this as a way of breaking the demonstrators' solidarity and lessening the pressure on Egypt. In the end, on December 30, about 80 people set out on buses, including several journalists who were not affected by the dilemma.

At midnight, about 12 hours after leaving Cairo, we arrived at a hotel in Gaza. There the first surprise awaited us: A Hamas security official in civilian dress swooped down on a friend who had come to pick me up for a visit, announcing that guests could not stay in private homes.

The story gradually became clear. The international organizers of the march coordinated it with civil society, various non-governmental organizations, which were also supposed to involve the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, a semi-official organization affiliated with Hamas. Many European activists have long-standing connections with left-wing organizations in the Gaza Strip. Those organizations, especially the relatively large Popular Front, had organized lodging for several hundred guests in private homes. When the Hamas government heard this, it prohibited the move. "For security reasons." What else?

Also "for security reasons," apparently, on Thursday morning, the activists discovered a cordon of stern-faced, tough Hamas security men blocking them from leaving the hotel (which is owned by Hamas). The security officials accompanied the activists as they visited homes and organizations.

During the march itself, when Gazans watching from the sidelines tried to speak with the visitors, the stern-faced security men blocked them. "They didn't want us to speak to ordinary people," one woman concluded.

Hijacked or poorly organized?

The march was not what the organizers had dreamed of during the nine months of preparation. The day before the trip to Gaza, they already knew that the non-governmental organizations had backed out. Some people said that Hamas government representatives had found the NGOs did not have a clear, organized plan for the guests and therefore had taken the initiative. One Palestinian activist insisted: "When we heard there would only be 100, we canceled everything."

Another said, "From the outset, Hamas set conditions: No more than 5,000 marchers, no approaching the wall and the fence, how to make speeches, how long the speeches should be, who will make speeches. In short, Hamas hijacked the initiative from us and we gave in."

Hamas, or its Popular Committee, brought 200 or 300 marchers. The march turned into nothing more than a ritual, an opportunity for Hamas cabinet ministers to get decent media coverage in the company of Western demonstrators. Especially photogenic were four Americans from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta, who joined the trip only at Al Arish. There were no Palestinian women among the marchers - a slap to the many feminist organizers and participants, both women and men.

After the march, the guests voiced protests to some of the official Palestinian organizers. "We came to demonstrate against the siege, and we found that we ourselves were under siege," they said. Their variegation and the transparency of their behavior did not suit the military discipline the official hosts tried to impose. The officials listened, and after the reins were loosened a bit, I set out to visit the homes of friends.

There people described the lingering fear from the Israeli onslaught. Saturday afternoon, at 11:30 A.M. - the time of the first aerial bombardments - remains today a sensitive hour for many children. Just as thunderstorms, or electricity failures (an everyday occurrence) or a persistent drone flying above cause anxiety and evoke nightmarish memories.

Some of the marchers were now allowed to go out on their own, with Gazan acquaintances they had previously known only via telephone and e-mail. Some, especially the Arabic-speakers, complained that "a shadow in the shape of a security man" continued to accompany them. In quick "safari" tours of bombed neighborhoods, through bus windows, they saw ruins that had not yet been cleared, like the complex of bombed-out government buildings that are still standing - ugly concrete skeletons with empty rooms and no walls, like screaming mouths.

In meetings without the security men, several activists got the impression that non-Hamas residents live in fear, and are afraid to speak or identify themselves by name. "Now I understand that the call for 'Freedom for Gaza' has another meaning," one young man told me.

The participants spent Thursday and Friday in the Gaza Strip. Friday, January 1, was the 45th anniversary of the establishment of Fatah. The Hamas government does not allow the rival organization to assemble, just as the PA does not allow Hamas to assemble in the West Bank. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh congratulated Fatah on its anniversary, but at the same time the Hamas security services did all they could to deter the movement's activists from even thinking about a celebration.

Hundreds of Fatah activists were summoned by the police and kept in semi-detention for several hours, until evening. Security officials entered homes where candles were burning or Fatah flags were being flown to mark the anniversary. In one home, the security officials tried to arrest two people, and the mother tried to block them. One policeman allegedly hit her - and she had a heart attack and died.

I wondered: Were the restrictions an order from above, or an unwise interpretation by lower ranks? Does Hamas think it can entirely prevent the few visitors - clearly pro-Palestinian - from hearing non-official versions? Don't the people giving the orders realize what a bad image they were creating? Or was there really a security concern?

Someone who, to put it mildly, is not a Hamas fan explained to me that young men who quit Iz al-Din al-Qassam for the amorphous Jaljalat militia are a genuine headache. They are a convenient excuse for restricting contact with "just anyone," but the fear that they might try to harm the visitors in order to damage Hamas is real.

These are devout young men who, officially, criticize Hamas for not enforcing Islamic religious law in its entirely. However, as the critic said, "Unwittingly, because of their lost lives, our lost lives, they are angry at the whole world."

Postscript: After two days all the visitors, journalists included, had to leave Gaza. According to Hamas, this was an explicit Egyptian demand. Egyptian officers confirmed this.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Loosing Control of "Security"

Loosing Control of "Security"

Israel, like many other states, has undertaken the massive privatization and outsourcing of so-called security functions or, more precisely, of the state authorization to train for, equip for and exercise organized violence, both inside the country and beyond it. In demonstrable correlation with this ongoing process, the state of Israel has enacted a systematic loosening of checks and controls over one of the most powerful, sensitive and dangerous parts of executive government. Israel's government is arguably in the process of handing over its control of the militarized use of force to private entrepreneurs, effectively inviting corruption in this literally destructive "industry" while bypassing and seriously undercutting (alleged) democracy in Israel. Though it is far from being the only state "loosing control" in this vein (see for example reports on the recent US court ruling on the wanton killing of 17 Iraqi citizens by Blackwater security guards; for instance:, Israel is distinctive in the relative bulk and predominance of its security industry and exports, supported by the highly visible combat experience and supposed expertise of the ex-military (Israel Defense Force) personnel who own and staff many of the firms now selling this "know-how".

The three items below report on recent instances of corruption or serious investigations into corruption in Israeli "security" exports and industry.

Taken together, these three pieces offer a seriously troubling and even frightening look at the implications of combined militarization and privatization in Israel. There are many more instances exemplifying the anti-democratic underside of this continuing process. Like most other issues obscured and obfuscated under the "security" label, these too are largely, and dangerously, ignored by civic society and most of the public in Israel.

The first item was researched and compiled by activists of the Who Profits? group (of which I'm a supporting member) based in Israel and working to expose the "money trail" of Israel's crimes of occupation (see: The item, published Sunday, December 27 2009, reports on the shady dealings and problematic history of the Israeli security firm "responsible for … [the recent] failure to prevent a bombing attempt on a Delta Airlines transatlantic flight leaving from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam".

The second and third items are recently published parts of the ongoing work of journalist Yossi Melman of Haaretz.

The second item focuses on an investigation into "'aspects of the employment of IDF retirees in the [domestic] security industry'". Ordered by the State Comptroller and dragged out indefinitely by the military, this effectively blocked probe arouses "doleful thoughts about the army's procedures for investigation, inquiry, and learning lessons". It also, I might add, raises the question just who is behind, and indeed who profits from, this procrastination on the part of the army. And, accordingly, who is actually in charge? Is it the state or the army, the elected body/ies or the high-ranking officers, of which, an alleged offender told Melman, "there are thousands" involved in similar cases.

The third item highlights a different channel through which the supposedly democratic civic sphere – both inside and beyond Israel – integrates militarized practices, shading into violent coercion for profit and power, and into possible illegality. The item reports on a partnership of security consultants suspected of illegally peddling arms, military training and security systems to the new ex-military ruler of the African state of Guinea. The partnership, including former Israeli officials such as former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami and former Tel Aviv police commander David Tzur, was contracted in part to "teach Guinean decision-makers in a 'strategic' workshop, for the stated purpose of increasing awareness of democratic values. Responsibility for the workshops was to have been placed in the hands of former foreign minister Ben-Ami and former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh. Later on, Ben Ami and Ziv sent former MK and former ambassador to France Nissim Zvili to
Guinea." (See Amnesty International's most recent press release on the current actions of Guinean decision-makers at: Following a September 2009 slaughter of demonstrators by the new president's freshly trained soldiers, "The French government and the United Nations approached Israel with a request to examine the involvement of Israeli military advisors in Guinea". The article reports on some of the surprising details of the still ongoing investigation.

Rela Mazali

WhoProfits on Israeli Airline Security
Sun at 10:11pm

An Israeli security firm is responsible for this Saturday's failure to prevent a bombing attempt on a Delta Airlines transatlantic flight leaving from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. The bomber got on the flight with the necessary bomb ingredients despite being on some warning lists and after being screened by airport security. It was his fellow passengers that managed to stop him from putting together the bomb.

Starting in Feb 2008, the company awarded the passenger screening contract (for 5 years) in Schiphol airport is ICTS (International Consultants on Targeted Security), a security services company registered in the Netherlands but traded in New York, founded and owned by Israelis offering Israeli security knowhow and technologies:

ICTS was founded in 1982 by Ezra Harel with five other veteran Israeli security experts. Ezra Harel has a rich history of bankrupted public companies (,7340,L-2359434,00.html) along with fraud allegations, and even alleged bribes to the former (expedited) judge Dan Cohen.

The company established itself in the 90s as a big aviation security services provider mainly in US airports. After one of the airport checkpoints managed by ICTS in Logan airport allowed the 9-11 airplane hijackers through, conspiracy theorists have hinted at connections between Israeli security and the 9-11 attacks, and a new
federal law (2001) was made against all foreign firms giving security services in US airports. Thus, the company lost most of its US business.

The company, facing bankruptcy, tried to re-establish itself through its Netherlands subsidiary by providing services in Europe. The founder and CEO Ezra Harel was investigated by the Israeli SEC in 2003 for cheating investors, and while sailing in his Yacht in the Canary Islands, he tried a change a sail, had a heart attack and died at sea.

Following the death, the company stocks jumped and it was bought by his old partner Menachem (Menta) Atzmon, formerly the co-treasurer of the Likud party, who was convicted in court in the fictitious invoices scandal (1988). His partner then as co-treasurer of the Likud party was Ehud Olmert (he was charged but not convicted).

For two years after this purchase, ICTS showed remarkable recovery, gaining more and more contracts around the world with airports and airlines security.

At the same time, the company neglected to issue proper reports to the stock exchange, resulting in its being delisted from Nasdaq in 2006. It was still traded as an OTC paper, and about 11% of it owned by Everest Fund of Nani Maoz. Lately, Everest Fund have complained to the US SEC about misconduct of ICTS( in concealing information from the investors and misrepresenting the
true worth of the company.

In response to questions raised today against ICTS security after the company's failure to prevent the bombing attempt, officials suggested that the blame lies with European regulations against "Israeli Style" ethnic profiling and privacy concerns preventing the use of SafeView-style "nude" full body scanners that would have detected the non-metal bomb ingredients (such as the scanners used in the Erez checkpoint).


Thu., December 24, 2009

Inside Intel / An officer and an investigation

By Yossi Melman

The State Comptroller has been waiting more than a year for the examination that the IDF was supposed to have carried out on ethics and conflicts of interest with regard to senior officers. But the examination has been delayed, arousing doleful thoughts about the army's procedures for investigation, inquiry, and learning lessons.

In September 2008, the Israel Defense Forces security division of the State Comptroller's office under Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Orr gave the army the findings of a report on "aspects of the employment of IDF retirees in the security industry."

One section of the report was devoted to Brig. Gen. (ret.) Hagi Lotan, an intelligence officer in the northern command. Lotan, who is considered by the comptroller's office to be a serious person, and a professional and highly valued officer, devotes many days to the army - almost 100 a year on average for reserve duty. It was in this context that Lotan took part in discussions shaping the army's intelligence approach and deployment plans for the north, as well as issues dealing with intelligence material needs.

Since 1995, Lotan, in his civilian capacity, has also advised the Defense Ministry, the army, and the aerospace industry in the development of computerized intelligence systems for data processing and the production of aids.

He has also established partnerships in this field.

The Comptroller's office concluded in this case that it suspected a significant conflict of interest. Even before the army responded to the report, and before its publication, Lotan was summoned to several hearings by members of the Comptroller's office.

He tried to convince them that their findings were mistaken. He managed to moderate their criticism, which was reformulated, but did not succeed in convincing them completely that he was right. While a section of the report focused on Lotan, the problem raised by the comptroller is broader and deals with basic principles.

"The IDF and the defense ministry," the report reads, "have not examined the question of possible conflicts of interest ... The business of senior [reserve] officers as suppliers or advisors to the IDF arouses a fundamental issue which is deserving of investigation by the army and the Defense Ministry."

The IDF agreed that a committee would be formed to examine the issues and also the specific case of Lotan.

The IDF made a commitment to finish its inquiry by the end of the first quarter of 2009. Maj. Gen. Yishai Bar, president of the army court of appeals, was appointed committee chairman, but he retired from the army before the investigation was completed.

The army didn't lift a finger to take care of the matter for a while.

Only recently has a new committee been appointed under the leadership of Maj. Gen. (ret.) Udi Shani. But it appears that Shani may tackle only the underlying principles.

He is prevented from looking into the Lotan case for the simple reason that Shani served directly over Lotan as head of the northern command. About a month ago, the IDF agreed to appoint a new officer who would finish the investigation within a few months.

But even if the army keeps its promise this time, a year and a half will have passed since the Comptroller's findings were published and conclusions are possibly drawn from it.

There are those who see the way the army has conducted itself in this case as a message that it is not attentive to the issue of conflict of interest and the need to strictly avoid it, and not just for the sake of appearances. It's hoped that the army is approaching operational investigations more seriously.

'Won't offer up my head'

Meanwhile, Lotan continues to serve as an officer for the intelligence corps and has no intention of resigning. He continues to believe he is innocent.

"I reject the comptroller's complaints about me; I felt that the investigators were basically hostile towards me, that they were overly enthusiastic about catching a retired brigadier general and presenting him as a criminal," he said. "I imagine that someone there doesn't like me and complained about me. The investigators were especially rude to me. They threw accusations at me that I had taken double payments from the army and from one of the security firms, a claim that they themselves discovered to be false. There are thousands of cases like mine in a small country like Israel of officers serving in the reserves whose civilian professions supposedly conflict with the army. I have no intention of falling victim to the system. I won't offer up my head for the general good. And so I haven't considered for a second to resign from my [reserve] job. If I had ever so much as blinked to myself, I would admit that I wasn't okay, but I have never thought that, not even for a second."

The IDF Spokesman, in a detailed response to Haaretz, presented the chain of events as described above, emphasizing that Shani "is to complete his task in the near future and present his conclusions to the deputy chief of staff. In addition they will be offered to the security sub-committee of the Knesset."

With regard to the delay in the matter of Hagi Lotan, the spokesman said, "It has been decided to appoint an investigatory committee headed by a senior officer to examine this specific case. The deputy chief of staff is expected to appoint the officer who will head it in a few days."

The spokesman emphasized that the IDF attributes great importance to the State Comptroller and sees in the office "an important and effective tool to improve the way the army conducts itself. The IDF is undertaking thorough procedures to create a plan to deal with the State Comptroller's November 2008 report, including its approval by the deputy chief of staff's committee, as is required."


Thu., December 31, 2009

Inside Intel / Bloody business in Africa

By Yossi Melman

The Defense Ministry is investigating suspicions that Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, his company CTS Global and his business partners have broken the law regarding military exports.

The investigations unit of the security division of the ministry, the export supervisory wing, and the ministry's legal advisor are involved in the probe, which has one main focus: the suspicion that Ziv signed a $10 million contract to train and supply Guinea's army without first obtaining the proper permits.

The story of Ziv's involvement and that of his partners and other Israelis (including former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami and former Tel Aviv police commander David Tzur) in Guinea appeared in Haaretz in Hebrew last Friday.

Ziv and Tzur became involved in Guinea following a military coup d'etat by Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power in December 2008 after the death of previous ruler Lansana Conte. Camara, who suspended the constitution, clamped down on freedoms in the country and would later be a victim of a failed assassination attempt by one of his generals.

Wary of both his gendarmerie and the old presidential guard, Camara began looking for a security expert who would train his own guard of loyalists.

Mining contracts

Guinea, located on the west coast of Africa, is rich in diamonds, iron ore, bauxite, uranium and salt mines. Since achieving independence in 1959, it has been controlled by corrupt dictators.

Although there are no official diplomatic ties with the country, some Israelis frequent Guinea for business, including international diamond dealer Benny Steinmetz, whose company, BSGR, received a concession to mine iron ore in the country. Steinmetz has received further concessions from Camara.

To consolidate his influence in Guinea, Steinmetz took former prime minister Ehud Olmert with him during one of his visits to the capital Conakry, where they met with Camara. Against that background, stories were reported in the international press that Steinmetz was involved in bringing Israeli military experts, led by Ziv, into Guinea. Steinmetz denied the stories and threatened to sue any media outlets which printed them.

Olmert ignored the foreign ministry's advice not to travel to Guinea, which is under sanctions imposed by the European Union and African nations.

The truth is that it was not Steinmetz that paved the way for Ziv, but Israeli Victor Kenan, who has lived in Guinea for several years.

In March 2009 Ziv and some of his people went to Guinea, met the president and convinced him to grant them a contract to establish and train his new presidential guard and arm it with more sophisticated equipment. Before he went to Guinea, Ziv approached the Defense Ministry and requested permission to contract with Guinea to train forced there.

Ziv and Tzur told Haaretz that they had all necessary papers from the Defense Ministry in hand, and as soon as the ministry ordered them to cease their involvement, they did so immediately. But sources in the defense and foreign ministries are offering a different version of events. Ziv approached the Defense Ministry, as required by law, and requested permission to conduct negotiations with Guinea to train military forces there. But the ministry refused to grant permission, only allowing for Ziv to carry out a preliminary survey in which the exporter could hear out the customer's needs, though he could not discuss a deal or suggest prices.

According to the information that reached the foreign and defense ministries, Ziv did not make do with a survey, but conducted negotiations and signed a contract according to which Global would supply two services to Guinea.

'Strategic' workshops

The first was the establishment and equipping of the presidential guard unit, and a larger force composed of members of the president's tribal loyalists.

The other element of the contract was that Global would teach Guinean decision-makers in a 'strategic' workshop, for the stated purpose of increasing awareness of democratic values. Responsibility for the workshops was to have been placed in the hands of former foreign minister Ben-Ami and former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh.

Later on, Ben Ami and Ziv sent former MK and former ambassador to France Nissim Zvili to Guinea to survey the country for the possibility of introducing democracy.

When asked by Haaretz why a security consultant like Ziv would send him for such a mission he replied, "I was told that Ziv is a political adviser to the Guinean president."

The contract between Global and Guinea bears the date May 4.

Global representatives claimed to the foreign and defense ministries that they were not forbidden to negotiate and sign a contract at that time.

Both state offices think otherwise, and say that Ziv and his people were forbidden to do so.

UN investigation

In September, the president's soldiers slaughtered demonstrators who had gathered in the soccer stadium in Conakry. According to human rights organizations, 157 people were killed in the massacre, dozens of women were raped by soldiers and hundreds of demonstrators were beaten. The French government and the United Nations approached Israel with a request to examine the involvement of Israeli military advisors in Guinea.

Three days after the slaughter, Ziv, Ben-Ami and Sneh held a discussion with deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and other senior officials in the ministry.

Veteran officials at the ministry were especially surprised by Ben-Ami's participation in the session.

"We couldn't believe that a social democrat sensitive to the matter of human rights would be involved in this type of situation, and even more so, in a country like Guinea," one of them said.

The three tried to overturn the decision not to allow any security-related exports to Guinea.

"If we had been there, we could have prevented the massacre," they claimed.

The discussion became heated when Ayalon rejected their assertion that they were working for Israel's interests, and supported the professional ranks of the ministry. Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon confirmed to Haaretz that "It was a difficult meeting, but I don't comment on matters of private business in foreign countries."

A month ago the Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint against Global with the Defense Ministry's enforcement committee, whose role is to decide how to deal with someone who breaks the law and bypasses export permissions. At their disposal are reprimands, the imposition of fines or transfer of the matter to a police investigation, if a criminal offense is suspected.

At the Defense Ministry, a decision has not yet been made, and they are continuing to investigate the matter.

The Defense Ministry spokesman responded to an inquiry by Haaretz that "the ministry is prohibited from releasing details about enforcement activities it takes in the case of one exporter or another."

Global said in response that as far as it knows, there is no investigation. Rather, they say, it is a technical process of clarification regarding business norms and they add they are cooperating with the process.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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