Israeli planes bombard Rafah in Gaza

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and other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
Israeli Demolishes 2 East Jerusalem Homes, 4 Hebron District Commercial Centres
Israeli authorities demolished two homes in East Jerusalem this morning (21 December), displacing at least 18 people.

Israel demolishes Palestinian home east of Bethlehem
Israeli bulldozers demolished the house of a Palestinian citizen called Daoud Shawawrah in Nu’man village, east of Bethlehem, which is encircled by the apartheid wall from all directions.

Naalin residents: Raze illegal police structure
West Bank village of Naalin petitions High Court to demolish emergency services building in Modiin Illit, built on what they claim is a local resident’s property. ‘Police stopped chasing thieves and started acting like them,’ says petitioner’s attorney.,7340,L-4002394,00.html

Activist group says Israel to expel Silwan leader
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Administrative Decree, enacted by power of the Emergency Defense Orders established under the British Mandate was handed down to a Silwan resident last month, banishing him from Jerusalem for a period of four months, supporters said.   The incident, which reportedly took place on 28 November, saw member of the Al-Bustan Neighborhood Committee and a dignitary of Silwan Adnan Gheith handed a notice after he had been summoned for questioning by Israeli police.

Jerusalem’s controversial Western Wall
There is controversy in the old city of Jerusalem. Jews and others have been outraged by Palestinian Authority officials, who said that the Western Wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holds no significance for Jews. Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reports from Jerusalem.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Israeli BDS activist detained by internal security upon entering the country
Matan Cohen was informed he is classified as ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity’; he was released after three hours.  Israeli activist Matan Cohen was detained by Israel’s internal security agency (ISA, or ‘Shabak’ in Hebrew) at Israel’s international airport yesterday. According to Cohen, his belongings were searched, and he was informed by a policeman that he is considered “a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.” (מוחשד פח”ע)

Siege mentality: Israel designates BDS activist ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity’, Philip Weiss
I know Matan Cohen, he’s a really nice guy. Just 22, he got his eye shot out demonstrating against the occupation a few years back. Now he’s an active proponent of boycott/divestment/sanctions, and Noam Sheizaf reports, he was detained for three hours at Ben Gurion airport and had to sign a paper:   “They searched my stuff and then asked me to sign a form, on which it was written that I am ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.’” Cohen says that he was told that this sentence doesn’t relate to a specific charge, but rather is a permanent status, determined by the ISA. [internal security agency]

#BDSS: Protest to Mark the 2nd Anniversary of the War on Gaza, London

#BDS: Growing worldwide solidarity with Palestine
In June 1967 Israel invaded the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, gaining control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and further fortifying its dominance over the Middle East. With one fell swoop Israel’s territory tripled and approximately 1 million Arabs were placed under its direct control in the newly captured territories. Palestinians had no power over the territories they lived in and were subject to rigorous military rule by Israel.

#BDS: Arab states seek UN call for business boycott over settlements
TEL AVIV // Arab states and the Palestinians may as soon as this week submit an official call for the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel’s settlement enterprise and take steps such as calling for a boycott of settlements’ businesses.
The success of such an initiative is likely to significantly increase pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction and tarnish the country’s international image should it persist in insisting on continued expansion. Representatives of Arab states at the UN in New York convened on Thursday and Friday to begin drafting their statement, which they plan to distribute to the members of the security council in coming days, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday, citing an unidentified Israeli foreign ministry official.

Israeli Intransigence Lets BDS Into the Mainstream, Alex Kane
The world is fed up with Israel, with its continued colonization of the West Bank, its continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, its suffocating siege of Gaza and its crackdown on nonviolent Palestinian popular resistance.  This major Human Rights Watch report exposes the infrastructure of Israeli apartheid.

Israeli arms firm to benefit from EU-funded research
BRUSSELS (IPS) – Arms traders are seeking to convince the European Union that publicly-funded scientific research grants should help develop weapons for future wars. In a series of secret discussions, Brussels officials and representatives of the arms industry are examining if the EU’s multi-billion euro “framework program” for research can be used for projects of a military nature.

Refugees/Siege/Rights Violations/Restriction of Movement
Human Rights NGO monitoring Palestinians’ legal rights robbed of internal documents
No signs of forced entry were found in their offices, raising suspicion that rightist groups managed to plant a mole in the organization.

In a new 100-pages report PCHR details the collective punishment of the population of Gaza
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) releases today a new report on the “Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population”.  The absolute closure of Gaza was imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover in June 2007.For more than three years and a half, this most extreme form of closure has been continuously applied to the so-called “hostile entity” that is the Gaza Strip, cutting off 1.7 million individuals from the outside world.

Palestinians suffering serious violations in Israeli prisons
Among the violations are deprivation of family visits, solitary confinement, poor diet and denial of appropriate medical care. The spokesperson of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza denounced treatment by Israeli jailers given to Palestinian prisoners, who suffer severe and systematic violations. Riyadh al-Ashqar, spokesman of the Ministry of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza City, commented on the harsh treatment of Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons in a forum organized by the Independent Department of Human Rights in Gaza City. He added that 36 Palestinian women are held in prisons of Hasharon and Damoun.  Al-Ashqar described measures taken against inmates that include deprivation of family visits, solitary confinement, poor diet and denial of adequate medical care. He argues that the dehumanizing measures are designed to avoid firmness and determination on the part of the prisoners.

Israel Attacks Human Rights Watch Report
The Israeli government is attacking Human Rights Watch over its new report “Separate and Unequal” that details Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.  Yigal Palmor, spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry: “This latest report from Human Rights Watch is just like its predecessors: full of mistakes, error, half-truths, misleading comments, misleading analysis and very tendentious presentation altogether.”  Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch defended the report.  Bill Van Esveld: “It’s not just that the settlements have it better, we all know that. It’s not just that the Palestinians have it worse, we know that. It’s that there’s a systemic widespread policy of discrimination that is unnecessarily harsh, and it’s making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to live their daily life in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank.”

Goods – Needs Vs. Supply – Nov 21 – Dec 18

Industrial Fuel – Needs Vs. Supply – Nov 21 – Dec 18

Israel Opens Only Kerem Shalom Border
On Tuesday, Israeli officials opened Kerem Shalom crossing point in southern Gaza, for the import of commercial goods, fuel and humanitarian aid. Since the blockade began, in 2007, the crossing is usually opened twice per week.

Gaza power plant runs successfully on fuels purchased from Egypt
Gaza’s only power plant successfully operated for days on industrial fuel purchased from Egypt, vice-president Ziad Al Dhadha said on the program Meeting with an Official held by the media bureau.

Gazan Women and Children Paint Their Trauma
An art exposition shows, in Gaza City, the work of hundred refugee women and children from the coastal enclave, who use the artwork as a way to convey their traumas, the Spanish daily El País echoed.

Racism and Discrimination
Teen gang arrested on suspicion of attacking Arabs in Jerusalem
Seven of nine suspects are minors who allegedly used a 14-year-old girl to lure Arabs into a schoolyard, where they would pelt them with rocks, bottles and pepper spray.

Upsurge in racism as protesters take to the streets against Arabs, migrant workers
Tel Aviv protesters called on government to deport aliens and refugees, and on local landlords to refrain from renting them apartments.

Racist Slogans Displayed During Beit Yam Protest Against Interfaith Couples
On Monday evening, approximately 200 people gathered in the city of Bat Yam, southern Tel Aviv-Jaffa, to protest against interfaith couples, under the banner “We Want a Jewish Bat Yam.” The Major condemned the event.

Knesset to water down bill barring Arabs from Jewish towns
Association for Civil Rights in Israel: Law is still discriminatory despite the changes, will constitute a stain on the country’s law books.

Hundreds in Tel Aviv call for deportation of foreign workers, refugees
Protesters in Tel Aviv’s working class Hatikva neighborhood claim foreign workers and refugees are responsible for violent incidents and drive up apartment prices.

IDF chief: Fence won’t end illegal immigration
Gabi Ashkenazi called on legislators to pass law making it easier to deport illegal immigrants; 13,350 illegal immigrants crossed Egypt border into Israel this year.

Israeli MK meets Austrian far right chief; irks local Jews
Likud’s Ayoob Kara says considers anti-immigration Freedom Party partner in fight against terrorism; Jewish community calls for his resignation.,7340,L-4002631,00.html

The racism of Roger Cohen: a new low for the New York Times on Arabs, As’ad Abukhalil
Just a few days ago I wrote that Roger Cohen is the least unreasonable among those who write on the Middle East in the New York Times. How wrong I was.  Look at this utter racist trash by someone who stopped for a few days in Beirut (and visited Al-Akhbar’s offices and received a good lecture about Zionist media).  Look at his words:  ”This mocking “analysis” is often deployed deadpan by my colleague, Robert Worth, the New York Times correspondent in Beirut. After three years living in Lebanon and crisscrossing the Arab world, he uses this “theory” to express his frustration with the epidemic of cui bono thinking in the region.   “I say “thinking,” but that’s generous. What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds.”  Can you imagine if this was said about Jewish people or Africans?  Can you imagine the uproar?  All those who write in the New York Times should write under the headline: Proud to be Racist (and ignorant).   In fact, you can easily dissect his words: you can easily see that what is referring to as irrational thinking among Lebanese is very rational indeed: that the US exploits the Hariri tribunal and all UN agencies; that Israel has penetrated all communications systems in Lebanon, and now even Mubarak regime (a friend of Israel) has accused Israel of recruiting spies in Syria and Lebanon to penetrate the telecommunications systems; that Hariri himself was a tool of Syrian mukhabrat and not a foe of the Syrian regime.  In fact, the stupidity is in the analysis of Cohen and not in the thinking of those Lebanese he thought he was mocking.  Spare me your few days visits to the Middle East and your chats with cab drivers.  I would rather read the phone book and get more insights on the Middle East. [end]

Those dangerous Muslims in our midst: Israel’s dirty hands (Shoebat), As`ad Abukhalil
Look who is lecturing to local police:  ”Like Montijo, Walid Shoebat, a onetime Muslim who converted to Christianity, also lectures to local police. He too believes that most Muslims seek to impose sharia law in the United States. To prevent this, he said in an interview, he warns officers that “you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community.”   When Shoebat spoke to the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this June, he told them to monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones. “You can find out a lot of information that way,” he said.  A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. “Shariah: The Threat to America” describes what its authors call a “stealth jihad” that must be thwarted before it’s too late.  The book’s co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center’s director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.  Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.” [end]

Racial discrimination – a tool of occupation
A new report by Human Rights Watch has slammed Israel’s treatment of Palestinian communities in the West Bank. It says Israel is using a two-tier system to promote illegal settlements, while deliberately stifling Palestinian development. Nour Odeh filed this report from the community of Jubb Al-Dib, near Bethlehem, which has had first-hand experience.

Army Bombards Rafah
On Tuesday at night, the Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike targeting an area in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip; four Palestinians were wounded. The air strikes targeted an area reportedly being used as a training base for the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.  Adham Abu Salmiyya, spokesperson of the Higher committee of Emergency Services, reported that four Palestinians suffered mild injuries, and were moved to Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Khan Younis.  Earlier on Tuesday, three Palestinians were wounded in a number of air strikes targeting areas in the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip.  An Israeli army spokesperson reported that fighters fired at least 14 shells into adjacent Israeli settlements in the last two days.

Airstrikes Continue in Gaza; Three Reported Injuries
Gaza City – PNN – Israeli warplanes continued raids on the Gaza Strip throughout Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, injuring three Palestinians and one severely.  One young man’s foot was blown off in a raid targeting western Khan Yunes, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. Some airstrikes appear to have been warnings, targeting empty areas of land near Beit Lahiya, Rafah, and Gaza City, while others struck tunnel sites.

Israeli air raids on north and south Gaza, two Qassam fighters wounded
Two Palestinian resistance fighters from Al-Qassam Brigades were wounded during Israeli aerial attacks late Monday night on targets in the north and south of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Gaza Officials Appeal for Hold on Israel’s Attacks on Civilians
The deposed government of Gaza has addressed the world community asking to restrain Israel’s escalation of unjustified aggression on civilians in the Strip, The Palestinian Information Centre announced on Tuesday.

Overnight raids target Nablus, Al-Khader
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli forces entered the northern West Bank town of An-Nasiriyya early on Tuesday morning, where Palestinian police said three were detained.  A Palestinian police spokesman identified the detainees as 47-year-old Muhammad Salih Abu Zour and his sons 24-year-old Adham and 22-year-old Ehab.

Three Arrested in Overnight Raid Near Nablus
Israeli troops invaded a village near Nablus before dawn on Tuesday morning, where three Palestinians were detained, local sources claimed.

78-year-old woman denied visit to detained son
The IPS turned back a 78-year-old woman when visiting her son Abdel Nasser Issa, who is serving a life sentence in the Hadarim prison, after a cell phone chip was allegedly found in his possession.

PA Repression

PA intelligence detains journalists at Pal Media
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Intelligence Service raided Pal Media agency’s headquarters in Hebron on Tuesday and arrested two journalists, a report by MADA, the center for media freedom, said.  The detained journalists were identified as Al-Quds TV cameraman Akram Natshe and its correspondent in Hebron and Bethlehem Mamdouh Hamamreh. According to the report, the two were detained by officers who did not provide an arrest warrant, but said they had one from the Attorney General.

Hamas: Arrests sabotaging reconciliation
DAMASCUS: The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas Tuesday accused its rivals in the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas of undermining reconciliation efforts with a wave of arrests in the West Bank.

War Crimes
This time round, we get to do the pogrom, Philip Weiss
I recommend Yossi Gurvitz’s summary piece on the shocking new testimonies released by Breaking the Silence, from former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupation. It’s a chronicle of scatological humiliation, theft of workers’ important papers as pranks, and “pointless killings,” with all that phrase summons… Gurvitz begins with this wrenching episode narrated by an anonymous former soldier. How much more do you need to know?

I/P Wikileaks
The smoking cable: Israel said it had ’secret accord’ with U.S. over expanding settlements even as Obama said in Cairo they must stop!, Philip Weiss
This is why Wikileaks is so crucial: A June 2009 cable from France, days after the great Cairo speech of Obama, in which the Israelis are said to claim a secret deal with the US for settlement growth. I’m running. More to say later. And note too where Sarkozy says, Israel, the horse of history is galloping past the window. Jump now or you are finished. The Palestinians are stronger than you think. Beautiful. Europe is taking Palestine’s side now because of this understanding. Wow. Thank you, Mr. Assange.

Wikileaks cable: Israeli intelligence chief encouraged Hamas takeover of Gaza Strip
In the latest revelation to come out of the hundreds of thousands of leaked diplomatic cables provided by the website ‘Wikileaks’, a diplomatic exchange between then Israeli Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, and US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones showed Israeli support for a Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip which Israel could then declare Gaza to be a ‘hostile entity’.

Fatah: Claims over Hamas attack are Shin Bet conspiracy
Statement issued in response to US State Dept. cable claiming Fatah asked Israel to attack Hamas in Gaza in 2007.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank strongly denied on Tuesday that its representatives had asked Israel to attack Hamas in 2007.  Fatah claimed that a recent WikiLeaks revelation, to the effect that Fatah had sought Israel’s help to fight Hamas, was a “conspiracy” by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Wikileaks and Arab governments, As`ad Abukhalil
Something is going on among the Arab “victims” of Wikileaks. I notice that to either preempt Wikileaks release or to compensate for published Wikileaks, Arab officials are increasing their anti-Israeli rhetoric.  Suddenly, Husni Mubarak cracks an Israeli espionage network when his own regime spies for Israel.  Fu’ad Boo hoo Sanyurah issued a fierce anti-Israeli statement against Israeli flights over Lebanon, when he was silent during the Israeli July war on Lebanon and colluded with Israel through the French.  Lastly, the Saudi government sent aid to Gaza wrapped in words of sympathy from House of Saud. Something is going on.  It can only mean: stay tuned.  More wikileaks are coming out SOON.

Political Developments
PLO official: any deal with Israel won’t succeed without refugees
GAZA, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) — An official from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Monday that any future deal with Israel will not succeed if it dropped Palestinian refugees’ rights of return.  “It is not only the refugees who will reject the solutions, it is all the Palestinians, including the leadership and the PLO,” said Zakareya Al-Agha, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee.  Al-Agha said that “the fair solution” to the issue of refugees is the implementation of the United Nations Resolution 194 “and rejecting any interpretation that might weaken or play it down.”

PA Cabinet: Setting new date for local elections
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The appointed government cabinet said Monday that it intended to enforce last week’s Supreme Court decision which called the decision to postpone municipal elections illegal, and mandated that new elections be held immediately.  “In accordance with the law,” a statement following the regular Tuesday cabinet meeting said, ministers “discussed the required procedures for setting a new date to hold the elections,” and appointed the Minister of Local Government “to provide an integrated visualization to the Cabinet in this regard.”

PA submits objection to US House over anti-state vote
JERICHO (Ma’an) — Following the approval of a measure condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority submitted its official objection, PLO negotiations chief Saeb Erekat said.  During a Monday interview with Ma’an, Erekat said the pre-decision to use a US veto at teh UN Security Council if any attempt were made to have a Palestinian state declared was unjust.

Jerusalem scrambles as European states move to upgrade ties with Palestinians
Reports indicate Palestinians urging about a dozen EU states to upgrade the PA’s diplomatic status; Israel orders envoys abroad to take ‘urgent’ action against Palestinian efforts at UN.

Palestinians one-up Israeli PR machine
JERUSALEM // Israel’s public relations machine has long been the country’s most formidable weapon in the Middle East conflict, but Palestinians have managed to one-up the Israelis recently, earning some noteworthy diplomatic support for their statehood ambitions.  Ever since direct negotiations were suspended earlier this year, Palestinian diplomats have criss-crossed the world, visiting capitals in Europe and the Americas to gain support.  Now that politicking seems to be paying dividends. Several Latin American countries in the last month have either recognised an independent Palestinian state along Israel’s 1967 borders or expressed their willingness to do so.

Mideast Peace: What If the Palestinians Turn to the U.N.? ( – Arab diplomats are reportedly preparing a resolution that could put Washington in a tight spot by more forcefully reiterating U.S. demands rebuffed by Israel.*

Brazil donates land for Palestinian embassy
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinian ambassador to Brazil Ibrahim Az-Zein received the title to a piece of land Monday, where the Palestinian embassy in Brazil will stand following that country’s recognition of a Palestinian state earlier in the month. Following the presentation of the generous gift, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement thanking Brazil for what it said was a 22-dunum track of land with an estimated value of $14 million.

Palestinian Embassy in Brazil Ready to be Constructed
On Monday, Brazilian government authorized the construction of a Palestinian embassy in the capital of the country, Brasilia. Lula da Silva, coinciding with his farewell party in Rio, doubt about the ability of the U.S. as a peace mediator.

Syria: West is moving away from Turkey – not vice versa
Syrian President says Turkey has been playing an important role in recent years, bringing ‘balance to this turbulent region.’

Palestinian-American Meeting Held In Ramallah
Head of the Palestinian negotiations team, Dr. Saeb Erekat, stated Tuesday that Palestinian and American officials held a meeting in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, but added that this meeting does not, in any way, mean the resumption of talks with Israel.

Other News
Gaza anti-tank missile penetrated IDF tank, Ashkenazi reveals
IDF chief tells Knesset a Kornet missile was fired more than two weeks ago at tank on the Gaza border, penetrated its outer shell, but did not explode.

If Gaza events spin out of control, Israel will struggle against new arms
Lacking a channel of communications, messages between Israel, Hamas are expressed mainly via displays of strength; dangerous skirmishes likely to continue in days ahead.

PA court convicts Salfit man of treason
NABLUS (Ma’an) — The Court of First Instance in Nablus on Monday sentenced a 39-year-old man to ten years of penal servitude after he was found guilty of treason.  The unidentified man, from the village of Bidya in the Salfit district, was detained on 3 June 2008.  For the prosecution, attorney Khalil Salama said the court found evidence submitted was sufficient to convict the man of treason.

Holy Land Patriarch voices hope for peace
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal says Palestinian assistance during Carmel fire ‘could be the beginning of a fruitful collaboration in the future’.,7340,L-4002724,00.html

Nablus on Facebook
The city of Nablus officially gets a Facebook profile, the PNN reported on Tuesday.

Palestine Analysis/Op-ed
Palestine needs a unified policy
If one listens to the Palestinians these days, or to those concerned with the issue of Palestine, one hears a cacophony of disturbing sound. One can follow the zig-zagging by Washington as it “intervenes” to act as an honest broker, which usually means caving in and meeting Israeli demands.

The death of the peace process
This month marked a low point in the Obama administration’s attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead of emphasizing direct talks between the parties, Washington will now attempt to mediate between them to develop a framework agreement around the core issues. Sound familiar? It should. The Obama administration is following the same failed path of its three predecessors to achieve peace. Osamah Khalil comments.

Israeli Exceptionalism – Book Review, Robin Yassin-Kassab
M. Shahid Alam’s latest book ‘Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism’ is a fascinating historical analysis, densely detailed and referenced, of the nature and trajectory of Jewish nationalism. It is bracingly honest, dispensing with the usual Western pieties to describe three elements of what Edward Said called Israel’s ‘ideology of difference.’ These are, firstly, the notion of Jewish chosenness and divine right to Palestine; secondly, the ‘miraculous’ creation and survival of the state; and thirdly, the uniquely tragic history of the Jewish people.

Other Op-ed/Analysis
In a big antiwar piece, Mearsheimer dares to say ‘why they hate us’, Philip Weiss
The reason I like Realists is that they have made the most forceful, full-throated arguments against war. Period. I know, some lefties have done so too. But liberal interventionism and Israel lobbyism have traction even inside the Democratic center-left, and this has spavined the antiwar effort. Liberals have done nothing to make neoconservatism a dirty word, they seem far more concerned about Tea Partiers. Here is John Mearsheimer at the National Interest.

Hizbullah, Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya oppose strife
BEIRUT: Hizbullah and Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya both rejected Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported Tuesday. In a statement issued following a meeting of the Hizbullah and Jamaa al-Islamiya joint committee, participants rejected civil strife and instability in Lebanon.

Nasrallah rejects attempts to stir sectarian strife
BEIRUT: A much-awaited Ashura speech by the leader of Hizbullah contained the expected denunciation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), but earned praise from rivals in the March 14 camp.

Aoun Holds President, PM Responsible for Obstructing Cabinet
The head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun held on Tuesday President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri responsible for the obstruction of the cabinet functioning, urging them to call for a session to be held on Wednesday.  Speaking to reporters following his bloc’s weekly meeting, Aoun warned against the illusory danger being fed by those seeking strife. “Whether they vote for or against it, the false witnesses file will not be dropped and postponing the matter is not in the country’s interest,” Aoun said.  “The constitution has been torn apart and obstructing article 65 has unfortunately taken place at the hands of the head of state,” the Free Patriotic Movement leader pointed out.  Addressing the Finance Ministry, Aoun stated: “After long studies, it has become confirmed to us that the ministry has been a failure since 1993” seeing as article 83 and 87 have not been implemented.

Egyptian paper: ‘Mossad spy’ tried to recruit Lebanese journalist
Al-Masry Al-Youm says Egyptian national accused of working for Mossad offered editor of major Lebanese newspaper money, talk show in exchange for his cooperation with Israeli intelligence,7340,L-4002617,00.html

PM Hariri: Sayyed Khamenei Free to Express His Opinion
21/12/2010 Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Tuesday that he respected Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, stressing that the latter was free to express his opinion.  Hariri made his remark during a joint press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov at the Grand Serail.  “This is Iran’s position,” Hariri told the news conference. “We have nothing but respect for Ayatollah Khamenei, and we fully respect all of his opinions, which he is free to hold,” he added.  “We in Lebanon, as a government, have our own views of the tribunal,” Hariri, who heads a deeply divided cabinet, pointed out. “There is no doubt that all parties have their own views on this matter, but when it comes to international resolutions, they are international resolutions.”

Berri: Lebanese Not Intimidated by Continued Israeli Threats
21/12/2010 Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the Lebanese were not intimidated by continued warnings by the Israeli enemy.  Speaking to IRNA news agency, Berri said that there was no real conception of the Israeli threat at the level of executive decision in Lebanon, expressing belief that the Lebanese do not know yet the degree of Israeli dangers.  The Speaker hailed the role that Tehran is playing in Lebanon, saying that thanks to Iran’s presence there is no longer unilateralism in the world. “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Islamic republic of Iran is playing that unique role,” Berri told IRNA. “That’s why its influence is not only felt in Lebanon but thanks to Iran’s presence there’s no longer unilateralism.”

Reform of Palestinian work rights insufficient, report says
BEIRUT: Recent labor reform laws that eased restrictions on Palestinians’ right to work are full of contradictions and will be difficult to implement in the future, a legal report released Tuesday has said.

Tuesday: 2 Iraqis Killed, 6 Wounded
The new government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was sworn in today. News of the breakthrough overshadowed if not dampened reports of violence. At least two Iraqis were killed and six others were wounded in light violence. In the United Kingdom meanwhile, over 200 Iraqis have lost their bid in a British court for a public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers abused them while in detention in Iraq.

Post-U.S. invasion mass grave found in Iraq’s Mosul includes corpses of small children
Iraqi troops have uncovered a mass grave where the bodies of 11 Iraqis were buried among them small children.  The victims were murdered and buried in the grave, close to a neighborhood in northern city of Mosul, said Major Iamd-el-deen Abdulkarim.  The officer said ordinary people alerted his troops about the new mass grave. “Citizens informed the army about the mass grave. The corpses uncovered are decomposed. Only one corpse could be identified. There are corpses of children as young as fresh flowers,” Abdulkarim aid.\2010-12-21\kurd.htm

Maliki’s governing style raises questions about future of Iraq’s fragile democracy
BAGHDAD – When a series of giant billboards depicting the face of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki mysteriously appeared on a central Baghdad square several weeks ago, the response from Maliki’s office was swift and decisive.

Stark challenges ahead for Iraq’s new government (AP)
AP – Iraq seated a freely elected government Tuesday after nine months of haggling, bringing together the main ethnic and religious groups in a fragile balance that could make it difficult to rebuild a nation devastated by war as American troops prepare for their final withdrawal.*

Iraq: Preparing for the Return of Moqtada al-Sadr ( – The Iran-based cleric remains wildly popular in Iraq, which makes the democratic process a vehicle for his ambitions. Washington may simply have to get used to him.*

A lone woman in Iraq’s new cabinet (AFP)
AFP – The new Iraqi government, which received a vote of confidence from parliament on Tuesday, is almost exclusively male, with the exception of a lone woman who is a minister without portfolio.*

Iraq town cancels Christmas after Qaeda threats (AFP)

AFP – Al-Qaeda threats against Christians have led to Christmas festivities being cancelled in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk, its Chaldean Catholic archbishop said on Tuesday.*

High court rejects Iraqi prisoners’ call for public inquiry into torture claims
Judges uphold Liam Fox’s refusal to hold an immediate inquiry, but warn that one may be necessary in ‘due course’.   Iraqi men who were held as prisoners by the British military after the invasion today lost their high court bid for an inquiry into their allegations that they were tortured.  Two judges upheld the refusal by the defence secretary, Liam Fox, to order an immediate public inquiry into the allegations made by more than 200 men taken prisoner during the six-year British occupation of south-east Iraq.

Wikileaks Mirrors:  Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 2194 sites–Click to view list

Reporters Without Borders to host mirror site for WikiLeaks
Reporters “This is a gesture of support for WikiLeaks’ right to publish information without being obstructed,” it said in a report.

US cables: Bangladeshi ‘death squad’ trained by UK government
Rapid Action Battalion, accused of hundreds of extra-judicial killings, received training from UK officers, cables reveal.

US embassy cables: Halliburton boss complains of ‘outrageous’ cost of security firms in Iraq
2. (SBU) Since 2003, prominent foreign security companies such as Control Risks, Aegis, and Olive Group have been a familiar and prominent presence in Basrah. Their armored convoys and heavily armed western security guards protect and escort foreign companies and foreign government clients to appointments and site visits. Many, if not all, international oil companies (IOCs) employ them. However, the composition and bottom line of many security firms are changing due to improved security, greater competition, an increasing Iraqi workforce, and the GOI and public’s desire to see fewer armed westerners on their streets. While some IOCs complain of exorbitant charges for protection, security firms claim that Basrah still remains a potentially dangerous place. These firms will likely continue to increase their Iraqi workforce, recognizing locals’ greater familiarity with the culture, language, and terrain, reinforced by the better reception they enjoy with the populace, police, army and GOI. End summary.

US Cables: FBI Now Keeping Tabs on Native Americans — in South America?
WikiLeaks documents now reveal that the law enforcement agency has set its sights on other indigenous peoples farther afield — in South America no less.

US embassy cables: US anger over Fahrenheit 9/11 screening at New Zealand Labour Party fundraiser
Embassy Wellington learned July 30 that GNZ Cabinet Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs was reportedly hosting a special screening of Michael Moore’s controversial movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” as a local Labour Party fundraising event. DCM contacted the Prime Minister’s office to ask whether it could shed some light on the matter and was told by PM office staff that they were not aware of the issue but would look into it. DCM then contacted Minister Hobbs’ office but the Minister’s office declined to make her available to discuss the matter. Hobbs’ staff later informed Embassy that Hobbs would not be hosting the fundraiser. However, she would be attending the event.

WikiLeaks Founder Predicts Resignations At Big US Bank
In an interview with the British newspaper The Times, Julian Assange has confirmed that WikiLeaks is holding a vast cache of documents from a major US bank. Reports on the interview quote Assange as saying that there will likely be resignations once the information is released.

Raw Story report confirmed: Bank of America is Wikileaks’ target
LONDON (AFP) – – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday the Swedish women who have accused him of sexual assault had got into a “tizzy” about the possibility they had caught a sexually transmitted disease from him.  Assange told the BBC that one account of what happened in August — the month at the centre of allegations against him — was that the two women had panicked when they found out they had both slept with him and went to police who “bamboozled” them.  He insisted he was fighting a Swedish extradition warrant because he believes “no natural justice” would occur in Sweden.

Apple attacks WikiLeaks, yanks iPhone app from app store
Update: Raw Story confirms that the WikiLeaks app is still available on the Android Marketplace Only a few days after its release, the unofficial WikiLeaks iPhone application has been removed from Apple’s App Store. For $1.99, the app offered access to documents on the WikiLeaks website and the @wikileaks twitter feed.

Prospect of WikiLeaks Dump Poses Problems for Regulators
Mr. Assange told a reporter from The Times of London that he had enough material to make bosses of a major bank resign. ?

CIA launches task force to assess impact of U.S. cables’ exposure by WikiLeaks
The CIA has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks.  Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it’s mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.  The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks. Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks Web site, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.

Julian Assange defends decision not to face questioning in Sweden
“They have asked, as part of their application, that if I go to Sweden and am arrested, I am to be held incommunicado. They have asked that my Swedish lawyer be gagged from talking to the public.”

Assange attacks allies and foes
Mr Assange told the Times newspaper he believed the US would face reprisals if it attempted to extradite him on conspiracy charges – an extradition he admits he fears. The 39-year-old Queenslander also accused his media partners from the Guardian newspaper – who worked closely with him to publish the leaks – of unfairly tarnishing him by revealing damaging details of the sex assault allegations he faces in Sweden.

Transcript And Audio The Assange BBC interview
Today programme presenter John Humphrys went to meet him for what is Mr Assange’s first face-to-face broadcast interview since his release.

‘People affiliated with our organization have already been assassinated,’ Assange claims
People have died because of their affiliation with secrets website WikiLeaks, according to founder Julian Assange. In a little-noticed interview with BBC’s John Humphrys, Assange claimed that WikiLeaks is not just facing financial and legal attacks. People associated with the website have actually been assassinated, he said.

Julian Assange Fires Back At The Guardian: Will They Be Cut Off?
WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange slammed the New York Times in October for the paper’s critical front-page profile of him.  That’s presumably one of the reasons The Times — which received hundreds of thousands of secret Afghanistan and Iraq documents from WikiLeaks — was shut out when WikiLeaks provided 250,000 State Dept.  cables to several news outlets for publication in November. The Times ended up getting its documents from The Guardian.  But now Assange is taking issue with The Guardian’s coverage of him. So could the British paper be shut out next?

Part II…Feminists Debate Sexual Allegations against Julian Assange
We play Part II of the debate between feminists Jaclyn Friedman and Naomi Wolf over the sex crimes allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Freed on bail in London, Assange hasn’t been charged but is wanted in Sweden for questioning on sexual crimes allegations. Assange and his supporters have said the case is part of a wider conspiracy to discredit him because of his work with WikiLeaks, but some in the feminist community have accused WikiLeaks supporters of minimizing violence against women. [includes rush transcript]

Does anyone in America believe in the rule of law?
Further evidence, if any is needed, that the 21st century U.S. is degenerating into a banana republic can be found from the increasingly casual attitude toward the law that is displayed all across the American political spectrum.

U.S. and other world news
NATO: 5 Afghan civilians killed in Helmand battle
NATO said Tuesday it was investigating the deaths of five civilians who were killed when coalition forces returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand.

U.S. troops may expand raids into Pakistan
Previous Special Operations ground raids have infuriated Pakistani officials. But even with the risks, U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan said the raids could bring an intelligence windfall if militants are captured and interrogated, the newspaper said.

New reviews for Guantanamo inmates
US President mulls possibility of ‘periodic review’ process for prolonged detentions at Guantanamo Bay prison.

White House Drafts Executive Order for Indefinite Detention
The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.  The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.

Kuwait MPs blast state for beating of academic
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaiti opposition MPs blasted the government Tuesday for the police beating of law professor Obaid al-Wasmi, who is now in prison. “We condemn the government measures against Wasmi and the brutal police beating,” independent opposition MP Mubarak al-Waalan said at a solidarity meeting held outside parliament.

Brazil: a new face in the Middle East | Nima Khorrami Assl
Brazil’s attempt to portray itself as an enabler in the Middle East is a sign of its ambitions in global political and economic affairs.  Despite the worldwide economic downturn, Brazil’s economic performance is the strongest in recent memory. Inflation is under target and international reserves stand at around $240bn (£155bn). This, in turn, has created a space for Brazilian diplomatic activity that reaches far wider than in the past. Partnerships with South Africa and India through the IBSA dialogue forum, a rising presence in Africa and the Middle East, and the strategic partnerships with China and the EU are all examples of Brazil’s emergence on the international stage.

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