Wednesday, June 24, 2009

US Charities Paying for Sending Aid to Palestinians

Khaleej Times

While US officials were dropping charges against former Senator Ted Stevens because of prosecutorial misconduct and against AIPAC operatives Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, Dallas US District Judge Jorge Solis handed Holy Land Foundation executive chairman Shukri Abu Baker a 65-year sentence, founding chairman Mohammad El-Mezain 15 years, former chairman Ghassan Elashi 65 years, former volunteer fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader 20 years, and former New Jersey representative Abdulrahman Odeh 15 years.

In an interview with Amy Goodman shortly after sentencing, Nancy Holder, attorney for HLF CEO Abu Baker, has pointed out: “There was never any allegation that any money went anywhere other 
than to charity. The government’s position was that these particular charities were associated with or controlled by Hamas. And it’s important to understand that the United States government, through USAID, continued to give money to the same charities for years after Holy Land was closed. But that’s what the allegation was all the way along. Although the government spent a great deal of time in the trial talking about and showing the jury horrific pictures of violent acts that Hamas did, our clients were not accused of nor convicted of one single 
act of violence.”

The first HLF prosecution ended in mistrial. The retrial conviction depended upon questionable translations and an anonymous Israeli Shin Bet agent, who provided evidence almost certainly obtained by torture. The case was noteworthy for vacuousness of charges, relentlessness of prosecution, and various levels of involvement of Bush administration officials, including Islamophobic propagandist Daniel Pipes, Defence Department adviser Rachel Ehrenfeld, Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Matthew Levitt, and Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey, whose continued service under Obama betrays the absence of any genuine difference between Bush and Obama administrations in attitude 
toward Muslims.

These four form the inner circle of a complex but deadly serious conspiracy to destroy Islamic finance and charities as well as to dominate the flow of information about the Middle East.

Ehrenfeld, who has a noticeable Israeli accent, had the bad luck to start her book writing career by publishing a text focused on Soviet narco-terrorism involvement just before the Soviet Union collapsed, but she quickly found her literary niche in 1992 by attacking Islamic banking and Islam. Her unsophisticated book, Evil Money, crassly defames Islam while she publicly equates Islamic finance with “stoning a women or cutting off a head.”

Levitt generates more sophisticated propaganda than Ehrenfeld. Educated at the Brookline Maimonides Academy, an exceptionally fanatic high school yeshiva, he was a key witness during the HLF retrial. His book, Hamas, Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, whose foreword was written by Dennis Ross, Obama’s US State Department Special Adviser for the Middle East and Southwest Asia, describes the prosecutorial logic: essentially, the HLF aided Hamas by providing rice and cooking oil to Palestinian civilians because Hamas might then shift money from social welfare into resistance. “In the absence of any serious examination of Israel’s occupation, Levitt’s portrayal of the rise of Hamas is completely detached from the context within which it was produced and shaped,” notes Harvard professor Sara Roy.

Levey slavishly follows Levitt’s analysis in designating groups and individuals as terrorism supporters. While receiving many accolades from the American Jewish Committee, Levey has predictably neither designated the IDF a terrorist organisation nor forced either closure of charities like Friends of the IDF or arrest of individuals like Irwin Moskowitz, who gives directly to IDF soldiers.

Since the late 1980s, Pipes has propagated the myth of a “worldwide Muslim conspiracy” in which Iran provides the fist of direct Islamic confrontation in coordination with “Saudi stealth subversion of the USA” via charitable and scholarly giving.

He claims that the major internal threat to America comes from “stealth or legal Islamists”: ordinary American Muslim citizens who respect and practise Shariah.

The infection of the US government with this pseudo analytical framework created and elaborated by this closely-knit conspiratorial team represents “the triumph of the Israeli mentality in American culture and politics”, according to Sephardic Heritage Center director David Shasha.

Because such thinking still permeates the highest US government levels, the FBI and Justice Department continue railroading Muslims into prison through paranoid prosecutions based on entrapment or ex-post facto applied laws.

While American Muslim, Asian or Arab defence organisations and individuals like Saudi businessman Khaled bin Mahfouz, who was libeled by Ehrenfeld, have occasionally resisted individual projects of Pipes or Ehrenfeld, they have yet to develop strategies to force Levey out of the US government or to counteract the hegemonic discourse that he is solidifying from his US Treasury office.

Unless Muslims and Asian and Arab Americans get their act together, their status in the United States will only decline while more Muslim populations suffer military assaults around the world.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Industrialized Farming Endangers World Food Supply

Multi-national food corporations are increasingly using global food insecurity as a tool for political control. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports that “land grabbing” by foreign investors in developing countries has resulted in a new form of colonialism. Spanish NGO, GRAIN reports that rich countries are buying poor countries’ fertile soil, water and sun to ship food and fuel back home. IFPRI researcher Joachim von Braun states, “About one-quarter of these investments are for biofuel plantations.”

Agribusiness imposes a devastating toll on small farmers worldwide. Landowners in African countries, where there are no official land deeds, have no legal recourse against foreign companies that steal their farmland. In the United States ranchers and farmers lose their land to agribusinesses and end up working as employees. American cattle ranchers have the highest suicide rate among American professions. Similar humiliations have also led thousands of farmers in India to take their own lives.

The ‘Global Food Security Act’ [S384] recently introduced in the US Senate will give USAID $7.5 billion over five years. Arun Shrivastava of the Centre for Research on Globalization reports: “USAID is actually an arm of the US-Department of Defense; it serves US foreign policy interest and has little to do with humanism.” There are two other similar pending bills, HR875 and S425.

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, points out that while purporting to address issues of global nutrition and health, “the US Congress is hell bent on introducing laws with global reach that would destroy the very basis of people’s food security and food sovereignty.”

HR 875, the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2009, writes Barbara Minton in Natural News, “would effectively hand over control of America's food supply to such a nefarious giant as Monsanto and its lesser counterparts such as Tyson and Cargill.”

Monsanto GMO corn plants, which were designed with a built-in resistance to Monsanto's weed killers, have already devastated thousands of South African farmers. The corn plants look healthy, but inside the husks there are no kernels! This GMO crop failure highlights the dangers of agribusiness domination of the global food supply.

“To ensure the perpetuation of its near monopoly, Monsanto is helping to install the right people in the right places,” Minton continues. “To that end, Michael Taylor, the ex FDA head who approved the use of bovine growth hormone (rBGH), has just become ensconced in the Obama transition team where he may soon be overseeing food safety. He will join already well placed Tom Vilsack, the pro-GMO Secretary of Agriculture.”

South Africa repeats the pattern of Iraq and of Afghanistan, where new laws prohibit farmers to save or trade their own seeds. These laws being promoted within the US would also block access to non-GMO seeds.

“Iraq, it must be remembered, has the oldest history of farming and one of the longest traditions of cultivation in the civilized world,” writes Latha Jishnu in the Business Standard of India. According to the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “Farm-saved seeds and the free exchange of planting materials among farmers have long been the basis of agricultural practice in Iraq.”

The Oil-for-Food program in Iraq forced the large-scale importation of food after the first Gulf War. Devastated Iraqi farmers then became the victims of USAID.

Under US occupation, Iraqi farmers must pay a “technology fee” plus an annual license fee to agribusinesses supplying the seeds and equipment. Similar policies exist in Afghanistan, which compel dependency on supplies from multi-national agribusinesses while industrial agricultural training courses provide the US military with opportunities to gather intelligence from the local population. A US Special Forces civil affairs manager in Afghanistan explains, “The presence of this agricultural center is a security measure in and of itself.”

GRAIN reports, “The war provides these corporations with both a lucrative short-term market in the blossoming “reconstruction” industry and an opportunity to integrate Afghanistan into their global production networks and markets in the long term.”

Industrial agriculture is based on mono-cropping, use of GMO seeds, fertilizers, lethal pesticides, and expensive farm machinery. Environmentalists say these methods cause topsoil erosion, depleted soil fertility, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, decreased nutritional value of food, and serious health risks. Iowa State University biotech researchers are putting flu vaccines into the DNA of corn, reports Bryan Salvage in the Meat and Poultry Journal. This genetic manipulation is likely to increase the rate of viral mutation, rather than to reduce disease as claimed.

French Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, molecular endocrinologist at the University of Caen found that Monsanto’s GMO corn damages the liver and kidneys like pesticides. Hungarian biology professor Bela Darvas of Debrecen University discovered that Monsanto's corn endangers protected insect species. Spiegel reports that because corn is a wind-pollinated plant, GMO crops inevitably contaminate nearby farms. Because of these dangers, Germany has banned GMO corn.

Those wishing to avoid GMO should buy foods certified “organic.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Israel Steals Palestinian Heritage, History

Khaleej Times

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad has made a formal complaint to the Canadian government regarding the intention of Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum to collaborate with the Israel Antiquities Authority to host "Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World" from June 27 to January 3, 2010.

Palestinian Archaeological Department Director-General Hamdan Taha explains,"The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from thePalestinian territories... I think it is important that Canadian institutionswould be responsible and act in accordance with Canada's obligations."

The Israeli exhibition violates international conventions or protocols that Canada has ratified and that protect cultural property during armed conflict.

The State of Israel seized the Jordanian-owned Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem in 1967 to take possession of the scrolls and has continued to loot similar Palestinian cultural property from the Occupied Territories ever since. Under the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1954 Hague Convention along with its two associated protocols, Canada is legally obliged "to take appropriate steps to recover and return any such cultural property" at the request of the wronged party.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is part of Israel's effort to re-brand itself.

According to The Economist, American Jewish groups and Israeli diplomats are trying to create the perception of Israel as "hip, cool, cultured, fun and creative." The campaign has included placing sexually suggestive advertisements in Maxim and other men's magazines.

Harvard Professor Stephen Walt suggests in his Foreign Policy blog that the re-branding effort is foredoomed to failure: "Restoring Israel's image in the West isn't a matter of spin or PR or `re-branding;' it's a matter of abandoning the policies that have cost it the sympathy it once enjoyed. It's really just about that simple."

The archaeological component of the propaganda campaign, however, uses subliminal suggestion to bypass such political arguments. A top Israeli re-branding advocate argues, "[Let's] get to that first stage when people associate Israel with science and music and archaeology...Then we'll take it from there."

In Facts on the Ground Columbia Professor Nadia Abu Al Haj writes, "In the context of Israel and Palestine, archaeology emerged as a central scientific discipline because of the manner in which colonial settlement was configured in a language of, and a belief in, Jewish national return." Even though asserting ownership to a country after absence of 2000 years is preposterous, Israel's theft of Palestine from the native population is popularly legitimised through the claim that today's Jews descend from inhabitants of Greco-Roman Judea.

According to New York Times Reporters Ethan Bonner and Isabel Kershner in "Parks Fortify Israel's Claim to Jerusalem," "[There] is a battle for historical legitimacy. As part of the effort, archaeologists are finding indisputable evidence of ancient Jewish life here."

This claim is nonsense.

Intellectuals of Jewish origin in 19th century Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, invented their folk narratives 'retrospectively,' out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people, argues Tel Aviv University Professor Shlomo Sand, author of How and When the Jewish People Was Invented.

There is no single founder population for modern Jewry any more than there is a single founder population for modern Christians or modern Muslims. Late ancient and early medieval texts describe an ethnically diverse collection of communities associated with proselytizing pre-Rabbinic Judaism.

In English to use the word Jew is anachronistic before the 10th century when medieval Rabbinic Judaism crystallised thanks to the efforts of Saadyah Gaon (Sa`îd bin Yûsuf al-Fayyûmi) and his colleagues.

With the revolutionary codification of Rabbinic law these communities became part of a vast trade network that spanned the Christian and Muslim world and that extended into China and began to exchange members on a large scale. The main population-exporting region seems to have been located in territories near the Black Sea.

Current genetic anthropological findings based on DNA analysis indicate that the male ancestors of Yiddish Jewry were of Eastern European and non-Levantine Southwest Asian origin while the female ancestors were Eastern Europeans.

Sand admits, "[The] chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I [meaning Israeli Jews] are its descendents."

The Palestinians' ancestors created the Hasmonean Kingdom, composed the Hebrew Bible, followed Jesus, wrote the New Testament, compiled the Mishnah, and redacted the Jerusalem Talmud. The Palestinian people constitute the living link to the earliest beginnings of the heritage from the Torah and Gospel.

Zionists are almost pitiable, for they are so ashamed of their own history that they have usurped one belonging to another people. When the Israeli government sends the Dead Sea Scrolls to Canada, by its own law Canada must turn them over to their rightful owners — the Palestinian people.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article