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Special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry’s final briefing to the Security Council revealed the deep frustration of a man who’s spent seven years on the frontline of ‘one of the most spectacular deceptions in modern diplomatic history‘.

‘Upon leaving this position’, Serry explained, ‘I cannot but express an overriding feeling that I have been part of a peace process in which a can is kicked down an endless road’. ‘Gaza is our collective failure, and the people of Gaza continue to suffer the consequences’, while in the West Bank, ‘umbers’ – of settlement units constructed, of house demolitions – ‘hide the grim reality of entrenched occupation leading to growing despair’.

Diplomatically, we now face ‘the biggest crisis to date to our joint efforts to achieve a two-state solution’.

Serry urged the Security Council to break the deadlock by setting out its own parameters for resolving the conflict. Worryingly, he appeared to call for replacing UN Resolutions 242 & 338 with a ‘new peace architecture’ for resolving the conflict:

in full: http://jamiesternweiner.com/2015/03/27/a-new-peace-architecture/

Bio*Jamie Stern-Weiner was born in Israel and grew up in London, where he now lives.

He studied politics (undergraduate) and intellectual history (M.Phil) at the University of Cambridge.

He co-founded and co-edits New Left Project, one of the UK’s leading left-wing websites, and works as a researcher and editor for Spinwatch and OR Books, respectively.

His writing has been published by, among others, Le Monde diplomatique, Truthout, VICE, openDemocracy, Jadaliyya, CounterPunch, ZNet, Mondoweiss and Middle East Report Online (MERIP).

European consuls: Israel deepens hold on East Jerusalem

March 25, 2015

Palestinian worshippers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Jan. 16, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad

In the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem lies the home of the Sub Laban family. From the doorway one can see the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque, bright and shiny, almost within touching distance. Yet the family members are shuttered inside. They’re afraid police forces and judicial emissaries could show up any minute and forcibly remove them from the place they have lived since the early 1950s. After 35 years of legal battles, an Israeli court ruled that the family has lost its rights and no longer qualifies as a protected tenant. After they’re evicted, the key will be handed over to representatives of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization, marking another achievement in its bid to Judaize East Jerusalem.

The Shamasneh family of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is also living on borrowed time. Here, too, the law regulating the trusteeship of property owned by absentee landlords, which allows claims for property owned by Jews before 1948, serves the political aims of the settlers’ organization. The discriminatory Israeli law, which allows Jews to claim the property they were forced to leave in 1948 but bans Arabs from doing so, faithfully serves those wishing to display sovereignty over all parts of the holy city (and country). If the eviction is carried out, it will be the first time since the start of the protest in Sheikh Jarrah five years ago, which generated international interest and resonated abroad, that a Palestinian family will be forced to leave its home for the benefit of Jewish settlers.

Every house handed over to the right-wing nongovernmental organizations, which enjoy government backing, increases the separation between the Jerusalem Old City and the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city’s northeast. That’s the reason Sheikh Jarrah was dubbed Jerusalem’s E1 area, after the stretch of land that lies between Jerusalem and the settlement town of Maale Adumim. E1 is designed to further cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, although the Palestinians consider the two a single entity. Implementation of these measures will signal the end of the two-state solution more than all the recent declarations and denials by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning the Bar Ilan speech and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On March 20, The Guardian published details from a classified document compiled by the consuls of the European Union member-states in Jerusalem. The consuls note that the city has not been divided since 1967 as it has been for the past year. They warn of a vicious cycle of polarization and violence, and identify among the central causes the housing crisis in the Palestinian neighborhoods and the enforcement activity against illegal construction in those neighborhoods. A special chapter is devoted to the growing tensions on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). One of the document signatories told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity: “Since the question of Jerusalem in an essential dimension of the two-state solution for the EU, the report expressed serious concern regarding the unprecedented level of violence and division in the city, and warned that the solution to this situation cannot be of a security nature.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/east-jerusalem-consuls-europe-report-palestinians-eviction.html#ixzz3VanWjAb5

Amnesty Inter:Russian activists threatened with criminal charges after raising torture allegatiions


The Russian authorities’ threat to bring criminal charges against Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin, two human rights activists who published torture allegations from two men accused of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, raises alarming questions over the fairness of the investigation, said Amnesty International.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation suggested that raising allegations that Zaur Dadayev was tortured into confessing and that Shaghid Gubashev was also ill-treated may amount to “interference with the work of investigator with the purpose of preventing a comprehensive, full and objective investigation of the case”.

“These allegations, coupled with reports that Zaur Dadaev was only allowed to see a state-appointed lawyer and not the lawyer contracted by his family, raises very serious questions about the fairness of these proceedings and fuels speculation about a possible state-sanctioned cover-up.”

Zaur Dadayev, one of at least six men suspected of killing Boris Nemtsov, told members of the Public Monitoring Commission (an independent group authorised to visit places of detention in Russia) that after his detention he was hand-cuffed and blind-folded with a bag placed over his head for two days. He said he confessed to the crime after the authorities promised they would release his friend. Another suspect in the case, Shaghid Gubashev, said he had been “beaten and tortured.”

in full: https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/03/russian-activists-threatened-with-criminal-charges-after-raising-torture-allegations/

Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare by Scott Horton

Bio: Scott Horton is a Contributing Editor at Harper's Magazine, an attorney active in international practice, and a lecturer at Columbia Law School. A life-long human rights advocate, Horton served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union. His journalistic work has received the National Magazine Award for Reporting, among other distinctions.

Forty years ago, a majority of Americans were highly engaged in issues of war and peace. Whether to go to war or keep out of conflicts was a vital question at the heart of the country’s vibrant, if fractious, democracy. But American political consciousness has drifted. In the last decade, America has gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, while pursuing a new kind of warfare in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. National security issues have increasingly faded from the political agenda, due in part to the growth of government secrecy.

In lucid and chilling detail, journalist and lawyer Scott Horton shows how secrecy has changed the way America functions. Executive decisions about war and peace are increasingly made by autonomous, self-directing, and unaccountable national security elites. Secrecy is justified as part of a bargain under which the state promises to keep the people safe from its enemies, but in fact allows excesses, mistakes, and crimes to go unchecked. Bureaucracies use secrets to conceal their mistakes and advance their power in government, invariable at the expense of the rights of the people. Never before have the American people had so little information concerning the wars waged in their name, nor has Congress exercised so little oversight over the war effort. American democracy is in deep trouble.

Lords of Secrecy explores the most important national security debates of our time, including the legal and moral issues surrounding the turn to private security contractors, the sweeping surveillance methods of intelligence agencies, and the use of robotic weapons such as drones. Horton looks at the legal edifice upon which these decisions are based and discusses approaches to rolling back the flood of secrets that is engulfing America today.Whistleblowers, but also Congress, the public, and the media, play a vital role in this process.

As the ancient Greeks recognized, too much secrecy changes the nature of the state itself, transforming a democracy into something else. Horton reminds us that dealing with the country’s national security concerns is both a right and a responsibility of a free citizenry, something that has always sat at the heart of any democracy that earns the name.

in full: http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/hardcover/lords-of-secrecy/9781568587455

Stanford Exposes Rodgin Cohen’s Myth of the Myth of Regulatory Capture

By William K. Black
Quito: March 19, 2015

Sometimes the fates conspire to bring together two stories that when considered together bring that lightbulb moment. The first story, dated March 18, 2015, is from the Wall Street Journal. It overwhelmingly conveys the opinion of Rodgin Cohen, the super-lawyer to the super-fraudulent bank CEOs. He was a leader of the financial regulation wrecking crew that produced the criminogenic environments that drove our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. As I will explain in a future column, Cohen basically has one speech, which he has repeated with minor variants for decades. The latest Cohen variant claims that:

“The regulatory environment today is the most tension-filled, confrontational and skeptical of any time in my professional career.

Cohen says the strained relations between government regulators and bank officials stems from ‘the myth of regulatory capture.’

‘The consequences of such as approach are likely to be less effective examinations, not more,’ he said. ‘Unless we deal with the canard of regulatory capture, we will inevitably be placing pressure on examiners to disprove this charge.’”

The second story is from “Yves Smith,” who created and runs the blog NakedCapitalism. It is actually two stories at this point. Her first article on March 17, 2015 explained how Andrew Bowden, a senior SEC official, had displayed a classic case of regulatory capture at a March 5, 2015 conference at Stanford. Stanford Law School posted the video of the conference showing Bowden as a literal cheerleader for the Private Equity business he is supposed to regulate. I wrote to point out as a former financial regulator why I would have immediately asked for the resignation of any of my staff that even remotely came close to Bowden’s disgraceful and dishonest behavior.

remainder: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/03/stanford-exposes-rodgin-cohens-myth-of-the-myth-of-regulatory-capture.html#more-9251

Sunnis face an even bleaker future in Iraq if the militants' reign of terror is finally defeated

Full title: Inside the 'Islamic State' - part four: Patrick Cockburn hears how moderate Sunnis - many fighting against jihadists - have no confidence in the 'corrupt' Shia government in Baghdad

Mahmoud Omar, a young Sunni photographer, is angered though not entirely surprised by the way in which the Baghdad government continues to mistreat his fellow Sunnis. Political leaders inside and outside Iraq all agree that the best, and possibly the only, way to defeat Isis is to turn at least part of the Sunni Arab community against it.

The idea is to repeat the US success in 2006-07 in supporting the Sunni “Awakening Movement” which weakened, though it never destroyed, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of Isis. Now as then, many Sunnis hate the extremists for their merciless violence and enforcement of outlandish and arbitrary rules on personal behaviour that have no connection to even the strictest interpretation of sharia.

The fact that so many Sunnis are alienated from or terrified by Isis should present an opportunity for Baghdad, since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government is meant to be more inclusive than that of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. Increasingly aggressive sectarian policies pursued by Mr Maliki during his eight years in power are now blamed for turning peaceful protests by Sunnis into armed resistance and pushing the Sunni community into the arms of Isis. This is an over-simplified version of recent history, but with the new government lauded internationally for its non-sectarian stance, the Sunni hoped they would face less day-to-day repression. “Isis has shocked many Sunni by its actions,” says Mahmoud. “But instead of the government treating us better to win us over, they are treating us even worse.”

As an example of this he cites the behaviour of police in Ramadi, the capital of the vast and overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar. His family comes from the city, which used to have a population of 600,000. Now 80 per cent have fled the fighting as Isis and government forces battle for control. Isis launched seven almost simultaneous suicide bomb attacks last week and was already holding 80 per cent of Ramadi.


Dalia Khalifa: Gaza's 'unbreakable' girl

March 17, 2015

Nine-year old Dalia Khalifa was in the living room of her family home in the Zaytoun district of the besieged Gaza Strip when an Israeli strike hit their house during last summer's Operation Protective Edge.

On the dawn of 1 August, 2014, she was rushed to Gaza's Shifa Hospital, where other members of her family – and many compatriots – were being treated.

Covered in blood and unable to open her eyes, with her younger sister clinging to her crying out "I love you," she wasn't aware where she was and what her surroundings were until she gradually recovered.

Her story was narrated by Mohammed Asad, a photojournalist from Gaza, who happened to be in the same hospital documenting civilian casualties of Israel's military offensive.

"When I saw her, the image of the Afghan girl Sharbat Gula came to my mind," Asad told MEE, in a reference to the famous photo by Steve McCurry published in the National Geographic.

Asad took a photo of Dalia on 9 August, 2014, noting that despite the shrapnel wounds to her face, she did not cry. The name given to the photo was "Assiyat al-Damea," which translates to "the one who does not cry easily". The English name given to the photo was simply "unbreakable".

The photo has recently become the Grand Jury Winner in a photography competition organised by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Middle East and North Africa (OCHA).

in full: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/dalia-khalifa-gazas-unbreakable-girl-1811803506

Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism

March 18, 2015 7 AM

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Noam Chomsky, a linguist, political philosopher and one of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare,” with Andre Vltchek.

– George Yancy

George Yancy: When I think about the title of your book “On Western Terrorism,” I’m reminded of the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism, from random beatings to the lynching of more than 3,000 black people (including women) between 1882 and 1968. This is why in 2003, when I read about the dehumanizing acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison, I wasn’t surprised. I recall that after the photos appeared President George W. Bush said that “This is not the America I know.” But isn’t this the America black people have always known?

Noam Chomsky: The America that “black people have always known” is not an attractive one. The first black slaves were brought to the colonies 400 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that during this long period there have been only a few decades when African-Americans, apart from a few, had some limited possibilities for entering the mainstream of American society.

We also cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.


When you go to the polls – take Gaza with you

Op-ed by Hagai El-Ad, B'Tselem's executive director:

The Gaza Strip is the most silenced issue in the current election campaign. Silenced? Apart from certain politicians vying for credit for discovering the tunnel threat, Gaza is completely absent from this election – erased, along with this summer’s unpleasant war. Gaza is gone. Its residents do not exist. Our future, our suffering, isn’t interlinked with theirs. The Gazan neighbors of Sderot, Ashkelon, Nahal Oz, and Tel Aviv are invisible.

A-Tuffah neighborhood, Gaza city, 21 Sept. 2014. Photo: Anne Paq, Activestills.org

One might imagine that in an election that takes place so soon, not even six months, after a national trauma like this, there would be at least some politicians who insist on addressing it. You might imagine that even if all politicians tried to distance themselves from it, the public wouldn’t just take it and would insist on getting explanations for what happened and information about what’s to come. Why did we kill more than two thousand people? Why have more than seventy Israelis been killed? What are those who seek our trust planning other than the cruel inevitability of the next war in two years’ time? How many dead are planned for the summer of 2016?

If we’re not going to demand that Gaza be front and center in this election because of the hundreds of children we killed in Gaza this summer, then maybe we should for 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman’s sake. If we’re not going to talk about Gaza because of the tens of thousands still living in tents, schools or on the street, then maybe because of the 51 days of rocket attack alerts? If we don’t demand our politicians address Gaza in this election campaign because of the poverty and anguish, the eternal closure and the despair in the Strip, then at least let’s demand it because of the next round of violence, which is getting closer by the day.

Whether we think about Gaza or not when we go to the polls, Gaza isn’t going anywhere. The Israeli power, of which we are citizens, will continue to neighbor Gaza and the residents of the impoverished piece of land that is internally controlled by Hamas and externally controlled by Israel will continue to be our neighbors. Their future is our future is their future.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20150219_putting_gaza_into_the_elections

Life under Isis: The everyday reality of living in the Islamic 'Caliphate' with its 7th Century laws

Full title::Life under Isis: The everyday reality of living in the Islamic 'Caliphate' with its 7th Century laws, very modern methods and merciless violence

Inside the 'Islamic State' - part one: Patrick Cockburn today begins a groundbreaking week-long series of dispatches which will explore the creation of this so-called Islamic State, what it’s like to live under the jihadis’ rule, and what if anything the West can do about it. Today, he talks to people living in the ‘caliphate’ to find out how they regard Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s merciless but powerful new state and how it treats them

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 15 March 2015

It is one of the strangest states ever created. The Islamic State wants to force all humanity to believe in its vision of a religious and social utopia existing in the first days of Islam. Women are to be treated as chattels, forbidden to leave the house unless they are accompanied by a male relative. People deemed to be pagans, like the Yazidis, can be bought and sold as slaves. Punishments such as beheadings, amputations and flogging become the norm. All those not pledging allegiance to the caliphate declared by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on 29 June last year are considered enemies.

The rest of the world has watched with fascinated horror over the past eight months as Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, imposed its rule over a vast area in northern Iraq and eastern Syria inhabited by six million people. Highly publicised atrocities or acts of destruction, such as burning to death a Jordanian pilot, decapitating prisoners and destroying the remains of ancient cities, are deliberately staged as demonstrations of strength and acts of defiance. For a movement whose tenets are supposedly drawn from the religious norms of the 7th century CE, Isis has a very modern and manipulative approach to dominating the news agenda by means of attention-grabbing PR stunts in which merciless violence plays a central role.

These are not the acts of a weird but beleaguered cult, but of a powerful state and war machine. In swift succession last year, its fighters inflicted defeats on the Iraqi army, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, the Syrian army and Syrian rebels. They staged a 134-day siege of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobani and withstood 700 US air strikes targeting the small urban area where they were concentrated before finally being forced to pull back. The caliphate’s opponents deny it is a real state, but it is surprisingly well organised, capable of raising taxes, imposing conscription and even controlling rents.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/life-under-isis-the-everyday-reality-of-living-in-the-islamic-caliphate-with-its-7th-century-laws-very-modern-methods-and-merciless-violence-10109655.html
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