Fascism Grips Israel

Fascism Grips Israel

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Zeev Sternhell is an Israeli historian, political scientist and outspoken critic of emerging Israeli fascism.

Signs reached a peak during Operation Protective Edge, he says. Democracy granting equality to everyone is nonexistent.

Sternhell deplores Israel’s settlement project. He supports Palestinian self-determination. He believes establishing a Palestinian state is essential.

What passes for Israeli democracy “reached a new nadir in the current war,” he stresses. Fascist “indicators…definitely exist here.”

He’s greatly concerned about “absolute conformism” among Israeli intellectuals. “They just followed the herd,” he says.

“By intellectuals I mean professors and journalists. The intellectual bankruptcy of the mass media in this war is total.”

“It’s not easy to go against the herd. You can easily be trampled. But the role of the intellectual and the journalist is not to applaud the government.”

“Democracy crumbles when the intellectuals, the educated classes, toe the line of the thugs or look at them with a smile.”

“People here say, ‘(i)t’s not so terrible. It’s nothing like fascism. We have free elections and parties and a parliament.’ ”

“Yet, we reached a crisis in this war, in which, without anyone asking them to do so, all kinds of university bodies are suddenly demanding that the entire academic community roll back its criticism.”

Bar-Ilan University’s law school dean threatened sanctions against a colleague. He did so for expressing sorrow over lost lives on both sides.

He called grieving for enemy losses a treasonous subversive act. According to Sternhell:

“We are arriving at a situation of purely formal democracy, which keeps sinking to ever lower levels.”

In Israel, “one sees the gradual erosion of enlightenment values.”

Consider Netanyahu’s “demand that (Palestinians) recognize Israel as the Jewish state.”

Doing so forces them “to acknowledge that they are historically inferior…The Arabs are citizens, but it’s not their country.”

“(A) distinction is made between nationhood and citizenship. Anyone can be a citizen, but we are the masters.”

The potential for annulling citizenship always exists. Arabs have no power to demand rights everyone deserves.

Democracy isn’t about voting every few years, says Sternhell. It’s tested daily “in terms of human rights.”

Everything else is secondary because “dictatorial regimes” can be established through the ballot box.

Democracy in occupied Palestine never existed. “Palestinians have no human rights.”

“You rule them by force, and after three (Jewish) boys are murdered, you can” collectively punish an entire population.

It’s always been this way, “and it corrupts,” says Sternhell. “Democracies don’t collapse suddenly. They encounter a serious crisis.”

“We could find ourselves in (one) in which the whole shebang (goes) up in smoke.”

A Knesset majority can legislate “segregation between Jews and non-Jews, impos(e) censorship, intimidat(e) dissidents, (as well as) the media and universities…”

“(I)t’s happening now, but it could reach a boiling point. The water is already very hot…It’s on the brink of boiling over.”

Sternhall calls Operation Protective Edge “a war of complete choice…” There’s no justification for blaming an entire population for killing three Jews.

Israel must change its relationship with Palestinians and with Arabs “as a whole.”

“The first thing is to stop deepening the Jewish presence in the territories.” Then support a two-state solution, lift Gaza’s siege, “let the population breathe,” and treat Palestinians “as human beings on an equal footing with us.”

Sternhall calls settlements “a cancer. If Israel can’t muster sufficient strength, political power and mental fortitude to remove some of the settlements, that will signal that the Israeli story is finished…”

Israel is the last remaining colonial country. It can’t continue this way much longer.

If not for the myth of unique Jewish suffering and fear of being called anti-Semitic, “Europe would have long (ago) boycotted the settlements.”

European business and industry are already beginning to do it.

Sternhall calls Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Avigdor Lieberman and other Israeli right-wing extremists “truly dangerous people.”

They deplore democracy and human rights. They deeply hate Arabs. They don’t tolerate coexistence.

Asked if he’s afraid to criticize Israel in today’s charged atmosphere, Sternhell replied:

“If I need to be afraid to (speak freely), and to say it publicly to people’s faces, then our story here is over.”

Israel was never a democracy. For sure it’s not one now.

Its “story” reflects decades of institutionalized racism, apartheid worse than South Africa’s, militarized occupation, control over virtually all aspects of Palestinian lives, ruthless repression, contempt for rule of law principles, and belligerence in lieu of peace and stability.

Operation Protective Edge is the latest example. Netanyahu vows to continue mass slaughter and destruction until his goals are reached.

Perhaps he means exterminating an entire population one war at a time and by other means.

Operation Protective Edge has been ongoing for 49 days. The death and injury toll is horrific.

Palestinian casualties mount daily. The vast majority are non-combatant men, women and children.

Israel willfully targets them. Its aggression has nothing to do with Hamas rockets.

It has everything to do with preventing Palestinian self-determination, continuing its settlement project, stealing Palestinian land and resources, scuttling Fatah/Hamas unity, maintaining occupation harshness, and prioritizing belligerence over peace and security.

It’s unclear what happens next. Ceasefires come and go. They don’t hold. Israel obstructed Cairo talks.

It did so by making outrageous demands. It offered little or nothing in return.

Its agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Violations occur straightaway. Peace is fantasy. Conflict persists.

Here we go again. On August 25, Israeli and Palestinian news organizations said Egyptian mediators proposed a new ceasefire.

It includes opening border crossings, letting in construction materials and other aid, extending Gazan fishing from three to six miles and later 12. Tough issues will be discussed a month from now.

Both sides were contacted. According to the Israeli news web portal Wallal!, Israel is ready to accept an open-ended ceasefire. A PA official responded positively.

Hamas wants any agreement to end Israel’s eight year blockade unconditionally. Israel wants Gaza demilitarized.

It wants Gazans left defenseless. It wants the right to wage future aggressive wars for any reason or none at all unchallenged.

Another ceasefire is no more likely to succeed than previous ones. Israel doesn’t negotiate in good faith.

Gazans are tired of being treated like subhumans. They know Israel can’t be trusted. It doesn’t negotiate in good faith.

It takes a giant leap of faith to believe this time may be different. It never was before. It won’t be now.

Business as usual continues. It’s official Israeli policy. Nothing suggests positive change.

Not when Netanyahu lies saying “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.”

“They simply work in the same way. They are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

Not when other Israeli hardliners want Hamas entirely destroyed. Not when former Israeli US ambassador Moshe Arens wants the same thing.

“You have to defeat (Hamas) and disarm” it, he says. A ceasefire won’t work.

Not when Israel bears full responsibility for breaking them. Not when it prioritizes conflict over peace and stability.

Not when it spurns rule of law principles. Not when it maintains militarized occupation.

Not when it holds 1.7 million Gazans hostage under suffocating siege. Not when it attacks them for any reason or none at all.

Not when it terrorizes Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem communities multiple times daily.

Not when it denies all Palestinians fundamental rights everyone deserves. Not when it spurns positive change.

Not when Washington backs and encourages its killing machine. Not when Western leaders support its genocide.

Not while Palestinians are isolated on their own. Not while their liberating struggle remains unfulfilled.

Not when on Monday, Israel murdered seven more Palestinians, wounded 92 others, and destroyed 15 residential houses, a shopping center and a mosque.

Not when creeping fascism threatens Jews and non-Jews alike. So does the scourge of Zionism.

It made Israel a killing machine. Palestinians bear the brunt of its barbarism.

Nothing suggests positive change. It bears repeating. Business as usual continues.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Are UK banks targeting Muslim charities?

Are UK banks targeting Muslim charities?

 
 

Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.

 
Last updated: 05 Aug 2014 13:04
 
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Muslim charities and individuals are angry after big banks closed their accounts [Getty Images]

London, United Kingdom - Some Islamic charities in the UK have considered moving their financial affairs abroad amid concerns that they could be frozen out of the British banking system after several Muslim organisations and individuals linked to them had their accounts closed without explanation.

HSBC, the UK’s largest bank, faced accusations of prejudice against Muslims after sending letters last week to a London mosque, a Gaza-focused aid charity, and the leader of a prominent Islamic think tank notifying them that they were outside the bank’s “risk appetite” and giving them two months to withdraw their money.

Those who received the letters included Anas Altikriti, the head of the Cordoba Foundation think tank and a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, who said that HSBC had also written to members of his family, including his 14- and 12-year-old sons.

In a statement, the Cordoba Foundation said that those affected had been “confronted with a wall of silence” when they had sought further clarification from the bank and called on HSBC to issue an unequivocal apology.

The banks may have the financial power but when it comes to weighing them on the scales of morality, I wouldn’t say they had one percent left now after what they have done.

- Muhammad Ahmad, Ummah Welfare Trust spokesman

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, a mosque once associated with radical preachers that reopened under entirely new management in 2005, also received the letter and said it might take legal action and called for a customer boycott of the bank.

“Our legal advisor has said that while the bank has acted within its terms and conditions, if they have specifically targeted Muslim organisations then this decision can be challenged under discrimination laws,” said Kozbar.

Another organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, said it had opened an account with HSBC earlier this year, only for the bank to close it three days later, stating that it “did not meet the criteria to hold a bank account”.

The dreaded ‘T-word’

A spokesman for another charity, Helping Households Under Great Stress (HHUGS), which supports the families of Muslim prisoners accused of terrorism offences, told Al Jazeera that its account had been frozen with immediate effect in the past month by another bank, Barclays.

“The impact is devastating. Your reputation takes a hit obviously and the only thing I can see is the fact that we deal with the families of people who are suspected of being involved in terrorism,” Fahad Ansari, a lawyer speaking on behalf of HHUGS, told Al Jazeera.

“That T-word is obviously a risk factor for them, but for us, we are dealing with women and children, mothers and wives, and there is no reason why they should be criminalised. There are scores of prisoner support groups in this country and they have never had any problems with bank accounts. Muslims are second-class citizens and there is no other explanation for it.”

CAGE, a civil liberties group that campaigns against counter-terrorism policies, said that its accounts with both Barclays and the Co-operative Bank had been shut down earlier in the year after its director, Moazzam Begg, was arrested and charged with terrorism offences.

Begg has pleaded not guilty to the charges, while CAGE has published a letter from the UK Treasuryconfirming that it is not subject to any financial restrictions.

“I think there has been some sort of pressure placed on [the banks], but we just don’t know. A problem with the lack of regulation in the banking sector is that it is almost impossible to challenge these things,” Asim Qureshi, CAGE’s research director, told Al Jazeera.

“There appear to be forces at play that are seeking to cripple organisations at the heart of Muslim community; it smacks of religious discrimination and Islamophobia.”

Number of banks involved growing

Abdurahman Sharif, operations manager at the Muslim Charities Forum, said he knew of other charities that had so far not identified themselves publicly that had also had financial services withdrawn.

“It’s not one bank, it’s a number of banks and it is growing actually,” Sharif told Al Jazeera. “The problem is that once one bank does this it sets a precedent that other banks follow. That is a serious matter because in a couple of months you could see no Islamic charities having a bank account in this country.”

People assume that anything with the name ‘Islamic’ on it is suspicious.

- Abdurahman Sharif, Muslim Charities Forum

Muslim aid charities have been under increased scrutiny this year because of concerns that Britons intent on fighting in Syria have been using humanitarian convoys as cover to travel to the war zone and fears that donations raised in the UK could be reaching armed extremist groups.

William Shawcross, the head of the Charity Commission, said in April that Islamic extremism was “potentially the most deadly” problem that the regulator faced.

But Sharif said greater scrutiny of charities’ finances prompted by international money laundering concerns and tougher UK counter-terrorism laws had disproportionately affected Muslim charities.

“The issue is one of perception. People assume that anything with the name ‘Islamic’ on it is suspicious and that is the biggest challenge we are facing at the moment, and that is why we are seeing accounts closed down.”

Last month, David Anderson, the UK’s reviewer of terrorism legislation, said that the withdrawal of banking services to charities because of more stringent counter-terrorism legislation risked impeding “positive and worthwhile NGO activity” and called for dialogue between policy makers and NGOs to resolve the issue.

But representatives of some affected charities believe other factors may explain the banks’ withdrawal of services.

Linked to Gaza?

Muhammad Ahmad, a spokesman for the Ummah Welfare Trust, an aid charity given notice by HSBC, said he believed the closure of the group’s account was linked to its work in Gaza, where it maintains a field office. The charity’s account also was shut down by Barclays in 2008 during a previous Israeli assault on the besieged Palestinian territory.

“People are dying on the ground. People don’t know where to turn because they have lost everything and all we are trying to do is give them some kind of relief. The banks may have the financial power but when it comes to weighing them on the scales of morality, I wouldn’t say they had one percent left now after what they have done,” Ahmad told Al Jazeera.

Others criticised banks for taking action at a time which affected charities’ ability to raise money during Ramadan, their most important fundraising opportunity of the year.

Ansari said that HHUGS had come close to closing its doors after discovering its account had been frozen just days before Ramadan when donors reported that standing orders were being rejected. The charity has previously had accounts closed by two other banks, HSBC and Lloyds-TSB.

“We had literature that was published for Ramadan with the bank details and all of that had to be thrown in the bin and republished. We had no access to funds, we had salaries to pay, rent and bills to pay, and apart from that we had our beneficiaries who are reliant on us. Ultimately, thank God, we survived but each time our income has diminished rapidly and it is harder to get back on our feet.”

Ansari said the charity was now considering moving its financial affairs abroad.

“We are exploring all options at the moment. An overseas account is far from ideal because it looks suspicious and we incur charges, but we need to have something in place so that we can carry on with minimum disruption because what is happening now is an absolute nightmare.”

A Charity Commission spokesperson told Al Jazeera none of the charities named in this story were currently the subject of investigations but said that business relationships between charities and their banks were not a matter for the regulator to become involved in.

“We know that this has put the charities in great difficulty. We haven’t heard from the banks as to what might have motivated this and the charities haven’t been told either,” the spokesperson said.

“Our position is clear; charities need a bank account to operate safely and effectively.  We would have serious concerns if a charity were not able to operate because of a lack of banking services.”

Bank denies discrimination

HSBC told Al Jazeera that it had comprehensive rules in place to ensure race and religion were never factors in banking decisions and said discrimination against customers was “immoral, unacceptable and illegal”.

It said it had exited relationships with customers in 70 countries as part of a global review of its businesses after being fined $1.9bn by US authorities in 2012 over poor money laundering controls exploited by Latin American drug cartels to move hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC accounts.

The bank last year appointed Jonathan Evans, the former chief of the UK’s MI5 intelligence agency and an expert on Islamic extremism, to head a committee tasked with reducing its vulnerability to financial crime.

Barclays and the Co-operative Bank said they could not comment on specific customers’ affairs.

In an Eid message last week, David Cameron, the British prime minister, paid tribute to the “inspiring amount of charity” participated in and funded by British Muslims.

But charity officials say that access to banking facilities is vital for transparency and good governance and fear that fundraising and aid work in Muslim communities could otherwise be driven underground.

“The government has to understand that it is in their interest that genuine charities are able to operate freely without being hindered or abused in this way,” said Ahmad.

“Otherwise you are going to force Muslims who may have faith in some charities because of their Islamic principles to take charity into their own hands, and then the government will not know who the money is reaching.”

 
Source:
Al Jazeera

FarmBot: An Open Source 3D Farming Printer

FarmBot: An Open Source 3D Farming Printer That Aims to Create Food For Everyone

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When most of us think of 3D printers, we typically imagine the desktop machines that are used for creating small plastic objects, or the larger scale industrial level machines used for prototyping, and in some cases the printing of production ready parts. Then there are the extremely large 3D printers that have been created for the printing of concrete structured buildings and other large objects. Perhaps the printers which have the most intriguing uses are those which can print food. These printers, which are still only in the early stages of development, allow those with minimal food preparation experience to print out meals using specially designed software. All of these 3D printers have the potential to bring resources to countries and people who typically don’t have access to traditional means of manufacturing.  Yet, none of them ensure massive food production that could help feed the world’s hungry.

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The FarmBot Foundation, may have come up with a solution.  They plan to take this technology to an entirely new level by creating a 3D Printer that is capable of, you guessed it, farming. The Farmbot is a CNC/3D printer-like machine that can be used for farming and gardening. Their goal is a lofty one. They hope to create an open source hardware, software and data solution that allows anyone, anywhere to build and operate their 3D farming printer, the FarmBot.

“The world’s population is growing and with that growth we must produce more food,” wrote Rory Landon Aronson, project organizer at FarmBot. “Due to the industrial and petrochemical revolutions, the agriculture industry has kept up in food production, but only by compromising the soil, the environment, our health, and the food production system itself. The increased production has largely come from incremental changes in technology and economies of scale, but that trend is reaching a plateau. Conventional agriculture methods are unsustainable and a paradigm shift is needed.”

The FarmBot employs a similar system to that of typical Cartesian (xyz) based 3D printers, and as you can tell by the photos, it looks very similar to most FDM 3D printers. Instead of printing in your typical PLA or ABS plastics, this machine has the ability to do most of the typical farm jobs that would normally require hard labor and/or individual machines. It can be equipped with different tools, in a similar way as a CNC machine is. Some of those tools include seed injectors, plows, burners, robotic arms (for harvesting), cutters, shredders, tillers, discers, watering nozzles, sensors and more. The hardware used is completely open source and totally scalable for use on any sized farm/garden plots.

farmbot2

“The vision of this project is to create an open and accessible technology aiding everyone to grow food and to grow food for everyone,” explained Aronson. “The mission is to grow a community that produces free and open source hardware plans, software, data, and documentation enabling everyone to build and operate a farming machine.”

Some of the advantages that the FarmBot provides are:

  • The ability to plant in a more efficient manner.
  • The ability to optimize typical farming objectives such as spraying of pesticides, fertilizers and water. Each plant can be programmed for specific water/fertilizer needs.
  • The ability to eliminate soil compaction that is oftentimes seen with traditional tractor equipment.
  • Ensuring perfect seed spacing and most efficient planting layouts.
  • Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Allowing for an unlimited amount of farm designs.
  • Allowing for ‘Smart Farming’ by using specialized open source software and data.
  • Being Completely scalable, whether you want to use it for backyard gardening, or large scale farming.
  • Allowing for the decentralization and democratization of food production.
  • Accessibility for virtually anyone, anywhere in the world.
  • Allowing for farmers/gardeners to keep track of exact locations of seed plantings, waterings, etc.
  • Allowing for advanced weed removable without damaging plants, due to precise selective burning, spraying and tilling.

This project actually began back in 2011, when Aronson was in his Junior year of college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, studying Mechanical Engineering. He decided to take a class in Organic Agriculture, and it generated a strong interest and desire to create a system that is better than what we currently have today. When you come to think about it, much of the technology used in farming today dates back hundreds of years, and in many cases hasn’t changed with the times. While other businesses innovate through the use of sophisticated robotics, computer software, and 3D printers, farming has been stuck in a bit of a rut.

The tremendous potential that FarmBot creates, allows for many new methods of farming, including the ability to create “polycrops” which mix and match different crops, unlike methods seen on typical farms. This creates an advantage by providing “superior biological efficiency”. The diversity within the ecosystem allows for the growing of vegetation in conditions as close to nature as possible. Plants are allowed to work together, like nature had originally intended. Traditionally this has been impossible, as each different plant species requires different care techniques. For example, some crops require more water than others, while some crops require water at their stalk, rather than at their base. Some plants require more or different types of fertilizers than others. FarmBot’s software makes this process extremely simple, as each plant can virtually be programmed for their individual needs.

farmbot5

With the use of sensors, the FarmBot can gauge mosture levels, temperatures, rain amounts, humidity, wind speed/direction, pH levels of soil, and much more. The machine can be equipped with virtually any sensor desired, including computer aided vision, and hyperspectral imaging. This data can then be sent to a computer where necessary changes to the programming can be made.

The software used by FarmBot is, and will continue to be developed, to be extremely in-depth and sophisticated. Calculations of total expenditure can be made, in order for farms to maximize crop output while minimizing costs. It can be programmed with certain zones that require different types of care, as well as different harvesting schedules.  Farmers and gardeners can share data and techniques through an open source database, so that everyone, everywhere can have access to the best farming programs for their FarmBots.

farmbot3

All-in-all the FarmBot appears to be a perfect solution for providing food to the world, while also maximizing efficiency on today’s establish farms. Since the technology is all open source, the costs to create a FarmBot will be minimal. FarmBot plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign sometime in the first quarter of 2015.

“If the technology and the model prove viable, and we think it already is, then we may be uncovering a part of a solution to one of humanity’s most contemporary challenges,” explained Aronson.

What do you think? Is the FarmBot the 3D printer of the future? Will it revolutionize farming, and provide food for those most in need? Discuss in the FarmBot Forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out Rory Aronson’s TEDx talk on the FarmBot below:

 

 

 

Gruesome Tales Surface of Israeli Massacres Against Families in Gaza Neighborhood

Gruesome Tales Surface of Israeli Massacres Against Families in Gaza Neighborhood

Visiting what remains of Shujaiya yields evidence of massacres and stories of impossible courage.
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As the five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took hold on August 15, residents of Shujaiya returned to the shattered remains of their homes. They pitched tents and erected signs asserting their claim to their property, sorting determinedly through the ruins of their lives. 

Those who managed to survive the Israeli bombardment have come home to bedrooms obliterated by tank shells, kitchens pierced by Hellfire missiles, and boudoirs looted by soldiers who used their homes as bases of operations before embarking on a series of massacres. Once a solidly middle-class suburb of Gaza City comprised of multi-family apartments and stately homes, the neighborhood of Shujaiya was transformed into a gigantic crime scene.

The attack on Shujaiya began at 11pm on July 19, with a combined Israeli bombardment from F-16s, tanks and mortar launchers. It was a night of hell which more than 100 did not survive and that none have recovered from. Inside the ruins of what used to be homes, returning locals related stories of survival and selflessness, detailing a harrowing night of death and destruction.

Outside a barely intact four-level, multi-family home that was hardly distinguishable from the other mangled structures lining the dusty roads of Shujaiya, I met members of the Atash family reclining on mats beside a makeshift stove. Khalil Atash, the 63-year-old patriarch of the family, motioned to his son heating a teapot above a few logs and muttered, “They’ve set us back a hundred years. Look at us, we’re now burning wood to survive.”

 

Click to enlarge.

Bombed-out remnants of Shujaiya after Israeli bombing. Photo by Max Blumenthal.

Khalil Atash led me inside the home to see the damage. The walls of the second floor that was to have been home to two of his newly married children had been blown off by tank shells. All that was left of the bathroom were the hot and cold knobs on the shower. On the next floor, four small children scampered barefoot across shattered glass and jagged shards of concrete. A bunk bed and crib were badly singed in the attack. But the damage could have been far worse.

 

Khalil Atash with his grandson in the ruins of his home in Shujaiya. Photo credit: Dan Cohen
Click to enlarge.

Khalil Atash with his grandson in the ruins of his home in Shujaiya. Photo by Dan Cohen.

As the attack on Shujaiya began, the Israeli army attempted to evacuate the Atash family, according to Khalil Atash, phoning them and ordering them out in Arabic. But the family was sure the call was a prank. When the army called again, a soldier exclaimed, “You think this is a joke? You have five minutes.” Three minutes later, an F-16 sent a missile through the roof. In an incredible stroke of luck, the missile did not explode. It remained lodged in the ceiling until a day prior to my visit, when a bomb detonation crew dismantled it. 

I asked why the family remained in ruins when the army could attack again at any time.

“We have nowhere else to go now,” Khalil Atash explained. “You only die once and we’re not afraid after what we’ve been through. So we just decided to live in our house.”

The Atash family was among only a small handful willing to brave the nights in an area that was comprehensively flattened. Shujaiya stood within the long swath of Gaza Strip towns and cities that had been rendered uninhabitable by Israeli bombardment. All of these areas had one thing in common: They abutted the vast buffer zone the Israeli military had established between its border and the Gaza Strip. By pounding neighborhoods like Shujiaya and cities like Beit Hanoun until nearly all of their residents were forced to flee west for shelter, Israel was tightening the cage on the entire population.

Sprint for Survival

Khalil Atash’s son, 30-year-old Tamer, related his story of survival.

“The missiles started getting closer and began to hit everywhere so randomly,” he recalled, detailing how the strikes on Shujaiya gradually intensified after the first hour. “So I just lost it. I was watching my neighbors die and I was so close to them, I felt like I was dead too. I had two choices: Either I die doing nothing at that house or do something about it. So I chose to do something.” 

Tamer called an ambulance crew and begged the driver to help transport his family out of the attack. “All I can do is pray for you,” the driver told him. But other first responders rushed headlong into the maelstrom, risking their lives to save as many of the fleeing residents as they could. By this time, the neighborhood was engulfed in flames and shrouded in darkness — Israeli forces had bombed all of its electricity towers. He and his family decided to make a run for it in the street. Neighbors followed closely behind them, embarking on a desperate sprint for survival as homes went up in flames around them.

Relying on cellphone flashlights to illuminate their path, the fleeing residents rushed ahead under withering shelling. Tens of people fell every few hundred meters, Tamer told me. But they continued anyway, sprinting for a full kilometer until they reached safety close to Gaza City. 

As soon as he reached sanctuary, Tamer said he was overcome with guilt. Friends and neighbors were stuck in the neighborhood with no one to evacuate them. He decided to return to help anyone he could. “I’m from Shujaiyia, I have no other place to go, and we don’t own land,” he explained. “This is our only place here. So of course I came back.”

It was well past midnight, Shujaiya was in flames, and the Qassam Brigades — Hamas’ armed wing — was beginning to mobilize for a counterattack. “The situation outside was literally hell,” Tamer said. 

In previous assaults on Gaza, Israeli forces met only light resistance. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, when the army attacked Gaza’s civilian population with indiscriminate firepower, most Israeli casualties were the result of fratricide. But this time was different. With little more than light weapons at their disposal, uniformed Qassam fighters engaged the Israelis at close distances, sometimes just a few meters away, exposing a glaring weakness of the Middle East’s most heavily equipped, technologically advanced armies. During the battle, Qassam fighters scored a hit on an Israeli armored personnel carrier, killing five soldiers inside, then momentarily captured the fatally wounded Lt. Shaul Oron. 

The loss of soldiers and the possible capture of Oron — a situation that raised the specter of a politically devastating prisoner swap — sent Israeli forces into a vengeful frenzy. “The F-16s were no longer up in the sky bombing us, they were flying just above the houses,” Tamer recalled. “It felt like an atomic bomb with four F-16s coming one way and another four from the opposite direction, weaving between the houses. At this point, we realized we were not surviving. We said our last prayers, and that was it. Because we know that when the Israelis lose one of their soldiers they become lunatics. We just knew they had suffered something, we could sense it.”

Tamer watched some of his neighbors jump from fourth-floor windows as their homes burst into flames. Others rushed out in their night clothes, nearly nude, prompting him and other men to hand over their shirts and even their trousers to women scurrying half exposed through the darkened streets. After giving the shirt off his back to one woman, he gave his sandals to another who had sliced her feet open on rubble. 

“Sure, I was crazy and stupid, but I just wanted for them to survive,” he said. “If I had to die, then fine, but someone had to make a sacrifice.” 

By dawn, waves of survivors poured from Shujaiya into Gaza City. Sons had carried their fathers on their backs; mothers had hoisted children into lorries and ambulances; others searched frantically for missing family when they arrived, only to learn that they had fallen under the shelling. For many, it was another Nakba, a hellish reincarnation of the fateful days of 1948 when Zionist militias forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land. This time, however, there was almost nowhere for the refugees to flee. 

Evidence of Chilling Plans

Back in Shujaiya, the shelling momentarily subsided for a one-hour ceasefire. But the International Committee of the Red Cross proved unable to evacuate those trapped in the area, possibly because of the Israeli army’s refusal to coordinate with its first responders or because the army had targeted its ambulances in airstrikes. Thus the stragglers and wounded were at the mercy of Israel’s Golani Brigade special forces troops, which had taken up positions at the edge of Shujaiya, occupying homes just east of the area’s main mosque.

I visited almost a dozen homes occupied by Israeli soldiers in eastern Shujaiya, wading through rubble and piles of shattered furniture in search of clues into the Israeli plans of operation. I found floors littered with bullet casings, sandbags used as foundations for heavy machine guns, sniper holes punched into walls just inches above floors, and piles of empty Israeli snack food containers. 

In the stairwell at the entrance to one home I visited, soldiers had engraved a Star of David. In another, soldiers used markers to scrawl in mangled Arabic, “We did not want to enter Gaza but terrorist Hamas made us enter. Damn terrorist Hamas and their supporters.”

I found a wall in another home vandalized with the symbol of Beitar Jerusalem, the Jerusalem-based football club popular among the hardcore cadres of Israel’s right-wing. Below the Beitar logo was the slogan, “Price Tag,” referring to the vigilante terror attacks carried out by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

 

Click to enlarge.

Graffiti by Israeli soldiers in a home in Shujaiya reads, “Price Tag.” Photo by Max Blumenthal.

In each home the soldiers occupied, I found walls etched with crude maps of the immediate vicinity. Each house was assigned a number, possibly to enable commanders to call in air and artillery strikes ahead of their forward positions. Names of soldiers, including those wounded or missing, were listed on several walls, but they were concealed with spray paint upon the troops’ departure.

In the ruins of a second-floor bedroom, in an empty ammo box under a tattered bed, a colleague discovered two laminated maps of Shujaiya. They were photographed by satellite at 10:32am on July 17, just days before the neighborhood was flattened. The date in the upper-right-hand corner of one map was written American-style, with the month before the day, raising the question of whether a US or Israeli satellite had captured the image. Outlined in orange was a row of homes numbered between 16 and 29; the homes immediately to their west were labeled with arrows indicating forward troop movements.

 

Click to enlarge.

 A map of Israeli army operations discovered in a destroyed home in Shujaiya. Photo by Max Blumenthal.

A local man who had accompanied us into the house pointed at the homes on the map outlined in orange, then motioned out the window to where they once stood. Every single house in that row had been obliterated by airstrikes. I looked back at the map and noticed that the dusty field we faced was labeled in Hebrew, “Soccer Field.” Two areas just west of the field were marked, “T.A. South” and “T.A. North,” perhaps a cryptic reference to Tel Aviv. Devised at least two days before the assault, the map sectioned Shujaiya into various areas of operation, with color-coded delineations that were impossible to decipher but suggested disturbing intentions.

Eran Efrati, a former Israeli combat soldier turned anti-occupation activist, interviewed several soldiers who participated in the assault on Shujaiya. “I can report that the official command that was handed down to the soldiers in Shujaiya was to capture Palestinian homes as outposts,” Efrati wrote. “From these posts, the soldiers drew an imaginary red line, and amongst themselves decided to shoot to death anyone who crosses it. Anyone crossing the line was defined as a threat to their outposts, and was thus deemed a legitimate target. This was the official reasoning inside the units.” 

In the area occupied by Israeli soldiers, the killing that had previously taken place by air and distant artillery assaults took on a gruesomely intimate quality. It was there, in the ruins of their homes, that returning locals told me of the cold-blooded execution of their family members. 

Massacres in Broad Daylight

At the eastern edge of the “Soccer Field” now occupied by tents and surrounded by demolished five-story apartment complexes, I met Mohammed Fathi Al Areer. A middle-aged man wearing an eyepatch, he led me through the first floor of his home, which was now a virtual cave furnished with a single sofa, then into what used to be his backyard, where the interior of his bedroom had been exposed by a tank shell. It was here, Al Areer told me, that four of his brothers were executed in cold blood. One of them, Hassan Al Areer, was mentally disabled and had little idea he was about to be killed. Mohammed Al Areer said he found bullet casings next to their heads when he discovered their decomposing bodies.

Just next door was the Shamaly family, one of the hardest hit in Shujaiya. Hesham Naser Shamaly, 25, described to me what happened when five members of his family decided to stay in their home to guard the thousands of dollars of clothing stocks they planned to sell through their family business. When soldiers approached the home with weapons drawn, Shamaly said his father emerged from the home with his hands up and attempted to address them in Hebrew. 

“He couldn’t even finish the sentence before they shot him,” Shamaly told me. “He was only injured and fainted, but they thought he was dead so they left him there and moved on to the others. They shot the rest — my uncle, my uncle’s wife, and my two cousins — they shot them dead.” 

Miraculously, Shamaly’s father managed to revive himself after laying bleeding for almost three days. He walked on his own strength toward Gaza City and found medical help. “Someone called me to tell me he was alive,” Shamaly said, “and I thought it was a joke.”

Hesham Shamaly’s 22-year-old cousin, Salem, was also executed by the Israeli soldiers who had taken up positions in the neighborhood. When Salem Shamaly returned to his neighborhood during the temporary ceasefire at 3:30pm on July 20 to search for missing family members alongside members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), he apparently crossed the imaginary red line drawn by the soldiers. When he waded into a pile of rubble, a single shot rang out from a nearby sniper, sending his body crumpling to the ground. As he attempted to get up, another shot struck him in the chest. A third shot left his body limp.

The incident was captured on camera by a local activist named Muhammad Abedullah, then disseminated across the world by the ISM. Israeli military spokespeople were strangely silent. Back in Gaza City, where survivors of the Shamaly family had taken shelter in a relative’s apartment, Salem Shamaly’s sister and cousin received an emailed link to the video.

Over the next three minutes, they watched Salem die. They knew it was him because they recognized the sound of his voice as he cried out for help. 

Despair and Resistance 

In an apartment on Remad Street in Gaza City, I met the parents, siblings and cousins of Salem Shamaly. They had been forced to relocate here after their home was completely obliterated by Israeli tank shells and drone strikes in Shujaiya. The apartment was crowded but impeccably clean. It was a more desirable arrangement than one of the UN schools where most of their neighbors lodged in squalid conditions with little to no privacy, though no less an indignity.

Salem Shamaly’s father, 62-year-old Khalil, said the family evacuated Shujaiya at 8am. As soon as they reached safety, they realized Salem was missing. “It’s impossible to put into words how difficult it was,” Khalil Shamaly said. “We waited for two or three days not knowing and when we found out, it was too difficult to handle. I have had to call on God and he helped me.”

The attacks on Shujaiya continued for days, making it impossible for the Shamaly family to retrieve Salem’s body. They beseeched the ICRC for help but after so many attacks on their vehicles from the Israeli army, which had declared all of Shujaiya a “closed military zone,” they were unwilling to approach the area. Salem’s father, Khalil, still believes his son might have been saved if he was evacuated right away. 

When Salem’s family finally retrieved his body, they found it badly burned, almost unrecognizable, and tossed dozens of meters from the location where he had been killed by subsequent bombardments. The death toll had reached such unbearable levels he could not be buried in Shujaiya, where the cemetery was overfull. When Shamaly’s finally found a place to bury him, they had to open a pre-existing grave because that cemetery was also full. This was just one of many stories I heard this week of a rushed burial, a family thrown into chaos, and a young life truncated and denied dignity in death.

Salem’s cousin, Hind Al Qattawi, whipped out a laptop and played for me a clip of a report on the killing by NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin. Al Qattawi had wanted to demonstrate for me the international impact the incident made, but instead, she summoned barely submerged emotions back to the surface. As soon as the video of Salem’s murder began to play, his mother, Amina, sobbed openly.

“The real problem is not just losing your home in the bombardment,” Muhammad Al Qattawi, the brother of Hind, told me. “The problem is you have lost your future, you lose your hope, and you can even lose your mind. Two million people here are on the verge of losing their minds.”

He handed me a packet of pills that had been prescribed to various family members. Deprived of justice, they had been given antidepressants to numb their despair.

Among those suffering most was Salem’s younger brother. The slightly built 14-year-old recalled his brother as a bright accounting student who paid for his education by working in his father’s corner store. He was one of his best friends. 

“We used to go out with him whenever we were bored and he used to take us places,” Waseem said, fighting back tears. “Now, he’s gone, and there’s no one else to fill his place.” 

When Waseem recovered, I asked him what he wanted to be when he came of age. He replied without pause that he planned to join the resistance. A look of intentness had replaced his sorrow. He said he had not considered becoming a fighter until the war came down on Shujaiya. 

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal..

Future Cell Phones Will Make Emergency Calls Even Without the Network

Future Cell Phones Will Make Emergency Calls Even When the Network Goes Down

A new cellular standard, LTE Direct, will be approved by the end of the year
 


 


Thomas Fuchs

When Hurricane Sandy battered the Eastern seaboard in 2012, it took down up to half of all cellular towers in the hardest-hit areas. The storm highlighted a flaw in our reliance on wireless phones as a primary means of communication. Qualcomm and other wireless companies have been working on a new cellular standard—a set of technical procedures that ensures devices can “talk” to one another—that will keep the lines open if the network fails. The Proximity Services, or so-called LTE Direct, standard will be approved by the end of the year.

In a typical cell phone call, the signal travels through a cellular tower. LTE Direct cuts out that middleman. In emergencies, phones that use it will be able to connect directly with one another over the same frequency as 4G LTE transmissions. Users will be able to call other users or first responders within about 500 meters. If the target is not nearby, the system can relay a message through multiple phones until it reaches its destination.

Qualcomm and others will need to update their antennas and processors to take advantage of LTE Direct, so it will be a year or more before phones have this functionality. But an approved standard means companies can get working.

This article was originally published with the title “A Network That Never Goes Down.”

Suspect in revenge killing of Palestinian teen hunted victim, prosecutors say

 August 18

 The Israeli eyeglass-shop owner accused of burning an Arab teenager alive last month led a “hunting expedition” to kill a Palestinian to avenge the murder of three Israeli yeshiva students, prosecutors say.

Many Israelis say they were appalled to see one of their own charged with murdering an Arab child. The revenge killing undercut Israel’s sense of moral superiority and exposed Israel to charges that Jewish extremists follow the same rules as Palestinian terror cells.

The criminal indictment against Yosef Haim Ben-David, 30, portrays him as a remorseless night stalker who prowled Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, armed with bottles of gasoline and plastic handcuffs, looking for a weak, vulnerable victim.

Ben-David’s attorneys have suggested that their client is mentally ill. Israeli police reports say he was taking medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Court filings show he was arrested briefly in 2012 after he told his therapist that he thought about strangling his infant daughter.

In a recent courtroom appearance, Ben-David proclaimed, “I am the messiah!” — an outburst that the families of his Arab victims fear was a calculated attempt to evade justice with an insanity defense.

 

The crime has roiled the deeply conservative, ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof, where the defendant’s father, a prominent rabbi named Saadiah Ben-David, raised 13 children and teaches classes in Jewish law at a yeshiva.

“This is against our Holy Torah and against the law,” the father was quoted as telling the Israeli Ynet news agency.

Yosef Haim Ben-David’s eyewear shop is in Geula, a dense, bustling commercial district in a religious neighborhood of Jerusalem. The store’s stock was recently cleared out and the business shuttered.

“He was a really good man. He was friends with everyone here,” said Yehuda Afgani, who works at a neighboring shop.

“I don’t care about the other guy,” Afgani said, referring to Ben-David’s teenage victim. “That’s what the stress of living here does to us.”

Ben-David rented a house in the Adam community, one of the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank that are considered by much of the world to be a violation of international law, though Israel disputes this.

When Ben-David was arrested before dawn July 6, by plainclothes police wearing masks, neighbors first thought it was a terrorist attack.

Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinian militants suspected in the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens. (AP)

His settlement boasts single-family villas, bougainvillea and sweeping views of the Judean hills. Neighbors said they had seen little of Ben-David since he moved to their quiet cul-de-sac 18 months ago. His wife was pleasant but kept to herself, minding their toddler daughter, they said.

Ben-David commonly wore jeans and brightly colored shirts instead of the black-and-white clothing of his ultra-Orthodox community.

A few days before the killing, he showed up two hours late to a Saturday religious service with his two teenage nephews, according to Rabbi Gur Lavi.

“They laughed and gave some excuse,” Lavi said. “This was not a serious man.”

The yeshiva of Ben-David’s father referred reporters to a family spokeswoman, who said Ben-David has had psychiatric issues since adolescence. She said his two accomplices, who were not named by authorities because they are minors, are relatives of his.

“Everyone here was against it. There is no ideology here of killing non-Jews,” said an elderly Jewish scholar with a long white beard and a tall black hat, sitting in a hushed room in a yeshiva filled with heavy books.

Ben-David’s first attack allegedly came after news broke June 13 of thekidnapping of the three Israeli yeshiva students as they hitchhiked home from the West Bank.

After midnight on June 15, Ben-David and a young accomplice went to an Arab-owned store. They broke the windows with a crowbar, poured gasoline inside and lit it on fire, the indictment said.

The victim of the attack, Raed Abu Khalil, 40, a father of eight, said Ben-David had often bought cigarettes with no problems.

“Thank God it was only the store,” Abu Khalil said in an interview. “It could have been one of my children.”

The discovery of the bodies of the three Jewish kidnapping victims on June 30 was an emotionally charged moment in Israel.

“Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created. Neither has vengeance for the blood of 3 pure youths who were on their way home to their parents,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on his Twitter account.

Late that night, Ben-David told one of his accomplices, a yeshiva student, “We have to take revenge against the Arabs,” according to the indictment.

The student changed into secular clothes and joined Ben-David on a drive to East Jerusalem, where Arab families were strolling after breaking the Ramadan fast.

There they spotted Deema Zalloum in a Muslim headscarf and a long coat, pushing a stroller with her 6-month-old daughter as her sons Yahia, 8, and Musa, 7, walked nearby.

The yeshiva student grabbed Musa “around his throat in a strangling position” and dragged him toward Ben-David’s Honda, the indictment said.

“My only thought was to rescue my son,” Zalloum recalled in an interview. She hit her son’s abductor on the head with her cellphone.

The teenage assailant punched her in the face and shoved her to the ground, kicking her with his boots “with hatred,” she said. Zalloum blacked out. Her sons escaped to a nearby dry cleaner, and the workers ran outside, but Ben-David and his accomplice sped away.

The July 1 funeral for the kidnapped Israeli youths prompted a national outpouring of grief. Late that night, Ben-David met at his eyeglass shop with the yeshiva student, 17, and a second accomplice, a toy-store clerk, 16, and suggested that they try to kidnap and kill an Arab, the indictment said.

They drove to Adam, removed the child seat in Ben-David’s car to make room for a victim and stopped in Hizmeh to fill bottles with gasoline, the indictment alleged.

Near a gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, the assailants stopped to offer Arab children cigarettes but failed to coax them into the car, the document said.

Finally, in the Shuafat district of East Jerusalem, they allegedly approached Mohammad Abu Khieder, who was 17 but looked younger. He was on his way to dawn prayers at the mosque.

Abu Khieder became suspicious and tried to call a friend, but the teenagers wrestled him into the car, and they sped away as Abu Khieder’s uncle shouted helplessly, the indictment said.

In the car, the yeshiva student allegedly choked Abu Khieder until he lost consciousness. At the Jerusalem Forest, Abu Khieder made a sound, and Ben-David clubbed him with a wrench twice, calling out the names of the families of the kidnapping victims, according to the indictment.

The medical examination showed that Abu Khieder was still alive when Ben-David allegedly set him on fire.

Afterward, the trio returned to Adam, played guitar and slept, the indictment said.

After Abu Khieder’s body was discovered, his family was incensed when Israeli investigators asked if the violence had been part of a family feud, or if Abu Khieder had been gay and was slain in an honor killing.

When the arrests of the suspects were announced July 6, authorities said that “nationalistic” motives were behind the murder.

Ben-David was initially provided representation by Honenu, a legal aid group whose clients have included Jewish settlers accused of shooting Arabs, vandals who have spray-painted anti-Arab slogans and defaced mosques and churches, and soldiers charged with human rights abuses. His first lawyer told the news media that Ben-David would plead temporary insanity.

Families of the Arab victims were outraged.

“This was premeditated. It shows they’re not crazy,” said Rami Zalloum, the husband of the woman who, with her child, was attacked in East Jerusalem. “Always, when they commit a crime against an Arab, they’re crazy.”

 

Orly Halpern, Sufian Taha and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

The Jews who Loathe Israel

 

Gaza Strip: The Jews who Loathe Israel

 

As the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel gets underway, anti-Israeli groups including high profile Jews have vehemently condemned Israel’s offensive against Gaza that has killed more than 1,800 civilians since July 8. Here we take a look at some of Israel’s enemies.

Norman Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein
Norman Finkelsteinwikipedia

Norman Finkelstein, an American political scientist, activist, professor, and author, born to Jewish parents, is currently organising a mass pro-Gaza rally in New York on Friday to protest against Israel’s actions in the month long conflict.

He wrote on Stop the Terror Bombing! Lift the Blockade! Facebook page: “I am shocked by the cowardly Israeli massacre in Gaza, and Barack Obama’s cynical complicity. I am despairing that anything can be done to stop it. But its’ still in our power to bear witness, so it cannot be said that we stood by silently.”

Finkelstein’s primary fields of research are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust, which was motivated by the experiences of his parents who were Jewish Holocaust survivors. He has been branded a Holocaust denier after his work ‘The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering’ was published in 2000. He argues that Hungarian-born Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who was a prisoner in the Auschwitz, and others exploit the memory of the Holocaust as an “ideologicaly weapon” so the State of Israel “one of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record can cast itself as a victim state”. Finkelstein’s work has attracted a number of supporters including US philosopher Noam Chomsky as well as detractors from around the world.

Pro-Palestine rally
Palestine rally

 

Noam Chomsky

noam chomsky
Noam Chomskyhttp://en.wikipedia.org

Born to a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family in Philadelphia, US philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky, who was once voted the world’s top public intellectual is a leading critic of US foreign policy.

He believes Israel should be held to account over its actions, writing: “Israel’s crimes have by now reached such an appalling level of savagery that any legitimate means should be used to protest them and bring them to an end, and soon, while something still survives their vicious and sadistic onslaught.”

Being Jewish, he faced anti-semitisim as a child, particularly from the Irish and German communities living in Philadelphia. His career was damaged when he defended the right of French historian Robert Faurisson to be a Holocaust denier, prompting France’s mainstream media to accuse Chomsky of being a Holocaust denier himself. His plea for the historian’s freedom of speech was published as the preface to Faurisson’s 1980 book -’Mémoire en défense contre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire’, (Defense against those who accuse me of falsifying history).  Chomsky was married to Carol Doris Schatz (Chomsky) from 1949 until her death in 2008. They had 3 children together: Aviva, Diane and Harry.

Mira Bar-Hillel

mira bar-hillel
Mira Bar-Hillel

Mira Bar-Hillel, the property and planning correspondent for the Evening Standard, was born in Jerusalem in 1946 has described herself as a “deliberate outsider” in the British Jewish community since the most recent Gaza conflict – admitting to being on the verge of burning her Israeli passport. She was Israel’s first female radio news reporter after serving as a “non-aggressive” army member before moving to the UK in 1972.

She recently defended re-tweeting a far-Right hoax, re-telling tropes about ‘Jewish power’ in the USA, Hoax or not, saying, “Hoax or not the message is entirely true, and increasingly so.”

She made a vow she would never write about Israel  but changed her mind when she discovered Holocaust survivors were living “below the breadline” in the country.  She has also claimed in a recent interview on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme to have “a lot of evidence” that many of Britain’s 260,000 Jews will not speak up against Israel out of fear of being “ex-communicated” from their local community – fearing they will be blocked from their local synagogues, their children would be bullied and they would even be denied a Jewish burial. Her father was Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, an Israeli philosopher, mathematician, and linguist.

 

Alexei Sayle

alexei sayle
Alexei Sayle

The Jewish-British stand-up comedian, actor and author, whose mother Molly is from Lithuanian Jewish descent, is not a stranger to holding anarchic views and has recently been quoted as saying on Twitter in regard to the Israeli-Gaza conflict: “It is the psychology of the murderer, the rapist, the bully. That’s what Israel is in this situation.”

In an interview with Caabu (Council for Arab-British Understanding), he described Israel as the “Jimmy Saville of nation states”, which “clearly doesn’t care about damaging the lives of children.”

Sayle was born and raised in Anfield, Liverpool. His parents, Molly and Joseph, were both members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which he joined  in the aftermath of the May 1968 French uprising. Sayle’s diverse career stems from playing a central part on the alternative comedy circuit in the early 1980s to featuring in films including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Gorky Park. He also has written books such as ‘Mister Roberts’ and published his autobiography – ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’.

 

Tony Greenstein

Tony Greenstein
Tony Greensteinazvsas.blogspot.com

Political activist Tony Greenstein comes from an Orthodox Jewish family but is a passionate anti-Zionist comparing Nazism to Zionism – accusing the Jews of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

He is a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.  Greenstein has written for many publications includingTribune, Labour Briefing and Weekly Worker. His work has been published in Hodder & Stoughton’s The Essentials of Philosophy & Ethics (2006).

Greenstein has also written a number of articles for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section before he was banned for rejecting the idea that comparing Zionism and the Israeli State to the Nazis was anti-Semitic.

In an interview with the Brighton Argus newspaper, he said: “The first book I ever read was called The Scourge of the Swastika by Lord Russell of Liverpool which was about Auschwitz and the horrors of the Nazis.It made me think about how hateful human beings could be to other human beings. Soon I became aware that those arguing for the Jewish state were actually arguing for separation on racial grounds, which was exactly what the Nazis were doing. I thought it was wrong that a people who had been oppressed felt it was then OK to oppress others – so I decided to fight against it.”

Greenstein is a member of Brighton & Hove Trades Council, UNISON and Secretary of Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre. He is an activist in the Brighton Benefits Campaign. He is also a law graduate who works in the area of employment rights.

 

Neturei Karta

neturei karta
Rally of solidarity with Gaza – July 18, 2014www.nkusa.org

Neturei Karta – meaning “Guardians of the City” in Aramaic – is a Orthodox Jewish religious group, who refuses to recognise the existence or authority of the State of Israel and is calling for its dismantlement. They attend many pro-Gaza rallies across the world to publicly demonstrate their position of unadulterated Judaism and condemnation of Zionism. They believe Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

Last month Rabbi Yoel Glauber spoke up for Gaza at the Al-Quds Day rally at Times Square in New York.

He said: “We Orthodox Jews have come here today to present the religious community from around the world including Jerusalem. We are here to express our solidarity and sympathy with the suffering of the people of Palestine and Gaza, and to express our outrage and condemnation of the ongoing atrocity by the Israeli army against the people of Gaza. Our hearts cry for the people of Gaza.”

 

Israel Shamir

Israel Shamir
Israel ShamirWikipedia

Russian-born Jewish intellectual, Israel Shamir, is a writer and journalist, famously known as a Holocaust denier and being anti-Semitic.

He was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia, a grandson of a professor of mathematics and a descendant of a Rabbi from Tiberias, Palestine. He writes and comments on Arab-Israeli relations, believing in an one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also opposes Zionism and Judaism. 

“We should live in one state, not only because of the blatant failure of Oslo. The very idea of partition is wrong.” he said.

He criticises the Jewish quest for world hegemony, writing: “Palestine is not the ultimate goal of the Jews; the world is.”

He refutes accusations that he is a Holocaust denier despite alleging that gas chambers at Auschwitz did not exist on his own website.

Defending himself he wrote: “My family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols.”

Most recently he has been associated with controversial site, Wikileaks,  which publishes classified government information. Shamir is accused of giving the Russian Reporter “privileged access” to US diplomatic cables in 2010. He has also been blamed for allegedly leaking cables involving EU diplomats and passing on “sensitive cables” to the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

Shamir’s son, a journalist named Johannes Wahlstrom is a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in Sweden.

 Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein
Naomi KleinEd Kashi

Jewish-Canadian award-winning journalist, Naomi Klein, known for her international bestsellers:  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, has never shied away from heavily criticising Israel – once remarking that “the best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa”.

She is an avid supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, apologising to the Palestians in 2009 for joining it earlier. She emphasized it was important to her “not to boycott Israelis but rather to boycott the normalization of Israel”.

During a speech that year in Ramallah her remarks that “some Jews even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free-card” was branded by one Jerusalem Post columnist as “intrinsically evil” and “malicious”.

Klein is married to TV journalist and documentary filmmaker, Avi Lewis. They had their first child, son Toma, on June 13, 2012.

The Death of Sympathy

The Death of Sympathy

How Israel’s hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left.

TEL AVIV — Pro-war demonstrators stand behind a police barricade in Tel Aviv, chanting, “Gaza is a graveyard.” An elderly woman pushes a cart of groceries down the street in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and asks a reporter, “Jewish or Arab? Because I won’t talk to Arabs.” A man in Sderot, a town that lies less than a mile from Gaza, looks up as an Israeli plane, en route to the Hamas-ruled territory, drops a blizzard of leaflets over the town. “I hope that’s not all we’re dropping,” he says.

Even before the war, Israel was shifting right, as an increasingly strident cadre of politicians took ownership of the public debate on security and foreign affairs. But the Gaza conflict has accelerated the lurch — empowering nationalistic and militant voices, dramatically narrowing the space for debate, and eroding whatever public sympathy remained for the Palestinians.

The fighting seems to be winding down, but it leaves behind a hardened Israeli public opinion: There is a widespread feeling that Israelis are the true victims here, that this war with a guerrilla army in a besieged territory is existential.

Hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has found himself under pressure from politicians even further to his right. The premier has suspended negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, arrested more than 1,000 Palestinians, demolished the homes of several people convicted of no crimes, and launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 1,800 people. That’s not enough, even for some members of Netanyahu’s own party, who see worrying signs of weakness.

“We’ve seen the influence of [Tzipi] Livni over the prime minister,” Likud Knesset member Danny Danon told Foreign Policy, referring to the justice minister and her centrist party. “My position is to make sure we’re not becoming a construct of the left…. As long as he stays loyal, he’ll have the backing of the party.”

Netanyahu fired Danon from his post as deputy defense minister last month, because he was too critical of the government’s strategy in Gaza. But Danon cannot be dismissed as a marginal figure: He took control of the Likud central committee last year, and has used the post to steer the party further right — an ironic turnabout, as Netanyahu used the same tactics to drive out former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a decade ago. 

Even before his election, the 2012 Likud primary turned Netanyahu into perhaps the most liberal member of his own party.
 

Even before his election, the 2012 Likud primary turned Netanyahu into perhaps the most liberal member of his own party.

 

Public opinion polls confirm the Israeli right’s gains during the current conflict. A survey conducted by the Knesset Channel last week found that the right-wing parties would win 56 seats in the next election, up from 43 last year. The center-left bloc would shrink from 59 seats to 48. Other surveys suggest that the right could win a majority by itself, without needing religious parties or centrists to form a coalition.

But perhaps more striking is the public’s near-unanimous support for the Gaza war, from Israelis across the political spectrum. Roughly 90 percent of Jewish Israelis support the war, according to recent polls. Less than 4 percent believe the army has used “excessive firepower,” the Israel Democracy Institute found, though even Israeli officials admit that a majority of the 1,800 Palestinians killed so far are civilians.

Meanwhile, Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, the ostensible head of the opposition, is doing public relations work for Netanyahu, defending the war at a gathering of foreign diplomats. Livni herself at times sounds more hawkish than the prime minister, arguing that Israel should topple Hamas and build a moat to separate itself from Gaza. “I have two words for you: Get lost,” she told the U.N. Human Rights Council after it voted to investigate possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

And Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who once threatened to bolt the coalition if talks with the Palestinians collapsed, has been another vocal advocate. “This is a tough war, but a necessary one,” he said last month.

Decades ago, a commentator coined the phrase “quiet, we’re shooting” — a reflection of the Israeli public’s tendency to rally behind the army in wartime. But this time, public dissent hasn’t just been silenced, it’s been all but smothered. A popular comedian was dumped from her job as the spokeswoman for a cruise line after she criticized the war. Local radiorefused to air an advertisement from B’Tselem, a rights group, which simply intended to name the victims in Gaza.

Scattered anti-war rallies have drawn small crowds, mostly in the low hundreds; the largest brought several thousand people to Tel Aviv on July 26. But most of the protests ended in violence at the hands of ultranationalists, who attacked them and set up roving checkpoints to hunt for “leftists” afterwards. Demonstrators have been beaten, pepper-sprayed, and bludgeoned with chairs.

In hundreds of interviews with Israelis over the past month, there has been little criticism of their government’s actions, much less sympathy for Gaza’s. “We have suffered terribly, but when you are pushed into a corner, you have no choice,” said one man in Ashkelon. “Their children? What about our children? If they cared about their children, they wouldn’t have chosen Hamas,” said a woman in Kiryat Malachi, a city in Israel’s south.

The media, by and large, has become a unanimous choir in support of destroying Hamas. The only exception is Haaretz, where Gideon Levy, one of the newspaper’s best-known columnists, has started reporting with a bodyguard after he was accosted during a live television interview in Ashkelon. Yariv Levin, a Knesset member from Likud and a chairman of the governing coalition, wants to charge Levy with treason because of his writing.

“I’ve never had it so harsh, so violent, and so tense,” Levy said. 

“We will face a new Israel after this operation … nationalistic, religious in many ways, brainwashed, militaristic, with very little empathy for the sacrifice of the other side. Nobody in Israel cares at all.”
 

“We will face a new Israel after this operation … nationalistic, religious in many ways, brainwashed, militaristic, with very little empathy for the sacrifice of the other side. Nobody in Israel cares at all.”

 

Already, figures who challenge Israel’s dominant narrative about the conflict — or even dare to tweak public sensibilities — have been met with an overwhelming and vicious backlash. Last week, Hanoch Sheinman, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University, emailed his students about their revised exam schedule. He opened by wishing “that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed.”

The dean of the law school pronounced himself shocked at Sheinman’s email, and wrote to students that Sheinman’s “hurtful letter … contravene[s] the values of the university.”

“Even this trivial expression of concern stirred such a backlash, and that’s not trivial at all,” Sheinman told Foreign Policy. “To be shocked or angered … by a trivial expression of sympathy to everyone is to betray a lack of such sympathy.”

Even in the Knesset, voices of dissent have been silenced. Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is a favorite target for the right, has been barred from most parliamentary activity for six months. Her punishment, the harshest one meted out by the Ethics Committee, was a response to a radio interview in which she said the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers was not terrorism. “The atmosphere has become very radical,” said Basel Ghattas, a colleague of Zoabi’s.

On the other side of the political spectrum — and dominating the conversation — are people like Moshe Feiglin, a clownish figure from Likud and a deputy speaker of parliament. He called last week for the “conquest” of Gaza, and the “elimination of all military forces and their supporters.” This is our land, he wrote, “only ours, including Gaza.” Nobody has demanded his censure.

Though this current bout of fighting in Gaza may be now at an end, Israel’s rightward turn appears here to stay. The deaths of more than 60 Israeli soldiers in the conflict have not dented public support for the war; if anything, it appears to have whet many Israelis’ appetite for vengeance.

At a funeral last month, hundreds of mourners sobbed softly as the flag-draped coffin of an Israeli officer was brought into the cemetery. The soldier’s mother lay her head on the coffin, refusing to let an honor guard lower it into the grave; steps away, the officer’s pregnant wife consoled his anguished father, who wore a torn black shirt in accordance with Jewish custom. Next to the grave was another freshly dug plot.

One young woman, a casual acquaintance of the officer’s, leaned on the metal police barricades ringing the gravesite. “We should kill 100 of theirs for every one of ours,” she said.

DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Im

SLAVES OF HAPPINESS ISLAND

SLAVES OF HAPPINESS ISLAND

ABU DHABI AND THE DARK SIDE OF HIGH ART

By Molly Crabapple 

607
 
5 points on reddit

All illustrations by the author

My message to the head of the Louvre would be to come and see how we are living here,” said Tariq,* a carpenter’s helper working on construction of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a $653 million Middle Eastern outpost of the iconic Parisian museum. Set to be completed in 2015, its collection will include a Torah from 19th-century Yemen, Picassos, and Magrittes.

“See our living conditions and think about the promises they made,” Tariq told me through a translator.

Last year, in his mid 30s, Tariq left his job at a Pakistani textile mill with dreams of being a crane operator in the Gulf. He showed me his certificate of crane proficiency, pulling the worn piece of paper out of the pocket of his beige salwar kameez. Recruiters promised him a salary of $326 a month—for a $1,776 recruitment fee to be paid in advance. With a cousin guiding him through the process, Tariq flew to Abu Dhabi to work for the Regal Construction company, one of roughly 900 construction outfits that employ foreign workers in the emirate.

But when Tariq arrived, Regal didn’t need him. For 24 days, he waited without pay, living in a squalid workers’ camp. When work finally materialized, he learned he would make only $176 a month. His boss confiscated his passport so that he couldn’t change jobs or leave the country. He sends half his salary back to his family. After 11 months in the Gulf, he still has not paid back the loan he took out to get there.

“How can I stay happy with a salary of $176?” Tariq asked, with an uncomfortable smile.

Tariq is one of dozens of construction workers laboring on Saadiyat Island whom I interviewed this May. He took out his flip phone and snapped a picture of the drawing I’d sketched of him. He had a gentle face that lit up when he talked about cricket. He told me he’d use my drawing as a profile pic on Facebook.

Though it is now only a sunbaked construction site, Saadiyat, a ten-square-mile atoll 500 yards off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will be home to branches of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and New York University, alongside hotels, shopping, and luxurious homes. It will be a cultural paradise, conjured by the country’s vast oil wealth but built on the backs of men who are little more than indentured servants.

While there are no official statistics, there may be as many as 1 million migrant construction workers in the UAE today. Like Tariq, the men I talked to have had their passports confiscated and earn between $150 and $300 a month. They will have to spend years working off debts to recruiters who have gotten them their jobs.

Reports about the conditions of workers in the Gulf have been wide and probing. Articles contrast the glittering skyscrapers they build and the scant wages they receive. In May, the New York Timespublished a scathing exposé of labor abuses at NYU Abu Dhabi.

But what’s often lost in much of the reporting about foreign labor in the United Arab Emirates—and Abu Dhabi specifically—is the agency of the workers themselves. The men I met in the Gulf are brave and ambitious—heroes to their families back home. They dared to chase better prospects and were met with repression instead. In a country where the faintest whisper of dissent can get you deported, more than a hundred strikes have rocked the construction industry in the past three years. While workers may be lied to and forced to live and work in brutal conditions, they also—improbably—are fighting back.

***

The Saadiyat Island Cultural District is the flagship project of TDIC (Tourism Development & Investment Company), a state-owned firm responsible for much of Abu Dhabi’s development. Announced in 2007, with an initial budget of $27 billion, according to media reports, Saadiyat will be the largest mixed-use development on the Arabian Gulf.

TDIC’s website promises fantasias of contemporary architecture. Plans show museums that look like they are pierced with moonbeams or modeled after the feathers of giant birds. After a day of culture, visitors will be able to relax at the St. Regis hotel or the Shangri-La. They will be able to play golf on world-class courses, or lounge by a series of man-made lagoons and mangrove forests, and then eat at one of dozens of gourmet restaurants run by international celebrity chefs. While construction of all these projects is happening piecemeal, Saadiyat, as envisioned by Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, chairman of TDIC and member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, may be completed by 2020. For at least five more years, the island will need a veritable army of laborers.

I first set foot on Saadiyat on a day so hot it nearly made me faint. Journalists are not allowed to visit without government minders, so I sneaked in. Saadiyat’s terrain looked like the moon. Bulldozers churned up pearl-colored dust. The dust dried my eyes. It came out in my snot. In company-branded jumpsuits, men toiled through their 12-hour shifts, welding and lugging rebar beneath the merciless sun.

Ibrahim served as my translator. He is in his early 20s. With his carefully styled black hair, he resembles a South Asian James Dean. Ibrahim asked me to withhold details about his life for fear of deportation, or worse. “If I speak to the media, they will take me from my room and put me somewhere no one will find me,” he said. Ibrahim has the sort of intelligence that crackles around him in sly, sarcastic sparks. He is smart in a way so obvious that he tries to hide it from his bosses by speaking in broken English. He knows five languages, loves poetry, and dreams of getting a master’s degree.

In his home country, Ibrahim had worked as a translator for an international NGO. Insurgents murdered locals who collaborated with foreigners. Ibrahim’s friends worried that he’d be next. The NGO offered little protection because he wasn’t an employee, so it was time to skip town.

Seeing a newspaper ad for construction jobs in Abu Dhabi, Ibrahim scraped together $760 from friends to pay a recruiter. He arrived in the UAE in the summer of 2013. “It’s so hot under that sun,” Ibrahim told me. “The sweat pours off your body like rain.”

“Hell is better than here,” he told his boss soon after he came to work on Saadiyat.

“Haha! Go to hell then,” the boss responded.

Ibrahim relished describing his boss, a blowhard who berates his workers and often calls them donkeys, which means “idiot” in idiomatic Arabic. Because of Ibrahim’s language proficiency, workers demand that he tell his boss that they work hard, that they are men.

We drove around Saadiyat in a creaky rental. It overheated whenever we turned on the air. At the NYU site, cheerful signs invited workers to share their opinions about their conditions. They were in English, a language few workers understand. We drove past the Louvre site. TDIC had hung banners from the perimeter fence showing the museum as it would be in 2015. When I looked inside, the building was nothing more than a shell of steel beams. Workers at the Louvre are all employed by a company called Arabtec, one of the Gulf’s largest construction outfits. The government of Abu Dhabi holds a 20 percent stake in Arabtec, and workers have staged strikes against them for years.

In 2007, up to 30,000 Arabtec workers went on strike in Dubai. Men building Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, put down their tools. The strike had been coordinated with mobile phones to protest low wages and poor living conditions. Police arrested 4,000 strikers. At the end of ten days, Arabtec promised a pay raise. Managing Director Riad Kamal told Reuters that the impact on the company’s profits would be less than 1 percent.

But the strikes—and crackdowns—continued. Three thousand more workers went on strike in Dubai in 2011. They made $176 a month and wanted a $41 raise. The police arrested 70 men they claimed were ringleaders. “Their presence in the country is dangerous,” Colonel Mohammed al Murr, director of the Dubai Police’s General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control, told theNational, a state-owned newspaper.

After this, Bangladeshi workers, who were alleged to have helped organize the strikes, were banned for an indefinite period from seeking UAE visas.

In May 2013, thousands of Arabtec workers stopped work in Dubai and on Saadiyat—including at the Louvre. They demanded an $81 a month stipend for food. According to a source who asked for anonymity, “The police were called in after one day. Workers were told to return to work or they’d be sent home. Over the coming weeks at least a thousand Arabtec workers in Abu Dhabi alone were rounded up and had their visas canceled. The majority were Bangladeshis.”

In response, Arabtec promised a 20 percent wage hike. No worker I interviewed had seen the promised cash.

Arabtec also replaced Bangladeshis with Pakistanis. It was classic divide-and-rule strategy, harking back to the British Empire. In August 2013, the tension exploded into riots between Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Saadiyat Village. Workers turned their tools against one another. The police fired live ammo into the air.

After the riots, Pakistani workers were shipped off to other camps.

Arabtec is not the only company to draw protests. In May 2014, the New York Times reported that hundreds of workers at BKGulf (which is building NYU Abu Dhabi) had been deported for striking. Management bluffed that they’d negotiate, but police broke down workers’ doors instead. Workers told the Times that police had beaten them to force confessions.

Ibrahim told me about smaller disobediences. On the Bani Yas villas site, about 15 miles inland from downtown Abu Dhabi, workers had organized a brutal beat-down of an abusive engineer. To protest the lack of air conditioning in buses, workers had staged impromptu soccer games with their hard hats to prevent the buses from leaving.

While wages may sometimes rise, the Emirates will never permit workers to formally organize. Workers’ councils, or any form of unionization, are strictly banned.

We parked the car on a spot overlooking the Louvre site on Saadiyat. Ibrahim and I stepped into the hallucinatory heat and walked up to two workers who seemed to be on break.

We made sure no supervisors were around, then asked the laborers how much money they made. They answered gladly.

One said $200 a month; the other said $175. Yes, their bosses kept their passports.

***

Ibrahim lives in one of Abu Dhabi’s labor camps, in a low-rise building set among row after row of identical blocks. Like most camps, it is hidden deep in the desert, far from central Abu Dhabi. Forty thousand men can live in a single camp. They are Nepali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian—and work for a variety of companies. Often, since they don’t speak English, they won’t know what project they’re building

Corporate buses ferry workers to job sites. Even these are no respite from the heat. Despite laws to the contrary, many buses have no air conditioning. Commutes last up to two hours, and the temperatures often reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ibrahim showed me a cell-phone video of the windowless dorm he shares with ten men. Outside, he has only a mosque, a hypermarket, and the sun.

On his one day off, Ibrahim told me, he would like to stroll Abu Dhabi’s corniche. But there’s no public transit. He is a virtual prisoner in the workers’ city.

Besides a few cashiers, the camps contain no women—just as the UAE, flush with laborers, is two-thirds male. Men save up for occasional visits to Ethiopian prostitutes. They too are migrants, often former maids who ran away from abusive employers. Because of their dark skin, Ethiopian prostitutes aren’t favored by the country’s Emirati elite and have to charge prices that even laborers can afford.

“We are so bored, and it’s a long time away from home,” Ibrahim told me when I asked him about the women. “We sit in that room for the whole day. We can’t go outside because of the heat, can’t afford to get to the beach or the mall.”

Some workers sleep with each other. Several of Ibrahim’s acquaintances have been jailed for having romantic relationships with other men. To save face, one of them, a Pashtun, told his family he’d been charged with murder.

“A beautiful boy is like a girlfriend,” Ibrahim said. Bus drivers, among the best-paid workers, court good-looking young men with promises of meals at restaurants and cell-phone credit. One driver offered Ibrahim 20 dirhams to find him a boyfriend. After a week he called Ibrahim, peeved he had turned up no one. Promising to do better, Ibrahim shook him down for ten dirhams more.

If Ibrahim is late sending money back home, his mom voices her displeasure. “What are you doing? Drinking at nightclubs in Dubai?” Ibrahim shouted, in imitation of her maternal holler. “If you’re not going to send money, come home!”

“If you ask a thousand workers,” Ibrahim said, “not one will tell you we are happy.”

***

Roughly 10 percent of the UAE’s 9.2 million residents are citizens. The rest are “expats” (if they’re white-collar professionals) or “migrant labor” (if they’re working class). Foreigners can live in the Emirates for generations, but short of proving Emirati heritage, there’s no way they can get citizenship. They can be deported at whim.

Amid this disenfranchisement, Emiratis can appear to foreigners like aristocrats. One can be arrested just for flipping them off in traffic.

Pravasalokam is a hit TV show in Kerala, India. A reality program whose name means “Workers’ World” in Malayalam, the show depicts the rescue of workers who have disappeared—due to jail, poverty, or abuse—in the Gulf. The Gulf nightmare is well known, yet migrants keep coming. The $14 billion a year in remittances they send home is integral to the economies of Nepal and Bangladesh (in Bangladesh the two largest sources of foreign currency are migrant labor and garments). But migrants are pushed by war as well as cash. Many workers hail from Kashmir, Pakistan’s Taliban-dominated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and other crisis areas in South Asia.

Whatever his country of origin, a migrant almost always has to pay a recruiter fee (which is then shared with subcontractors inside the Emirates). While hiring companies claim to cover costs like airfare, visas, and medical exams, recruiters in the sending countries and their partners in the UAE often skim a year’s potential wages from the worker himself. In some countries recruiters dodge local labor laws by hiring subcontractors, who trawl villages for the illiterate, the desperate, or those simply frustrated enough to risk the dangers of the Gulf. Workers take out loans, empty their families’ savings, or use land as collateral.

At Mafraq Workers’ City No. 2, a labor camp 23 miles from central Abu Dhabi, I interviewed workers cutting one another’s hair in an improvised outdoor barbershop. They crowded around me, telling me about salaries of $150 to $300 a month and police who hassled them if they dared visit the beach in their salwar kameez. While Emiratis are dependent on migrant labor, they’d prefer that the workers stay invisible in their off-hours.

Friends crouched in the shade beneath buses. One group sneaked a forbidden bottle of wine. The rules here were as strict as summer camp—no booze, no cooking, no gambling, no porn.

***

In addition to the acres-wide sandpits and towering construction cranes, Saadiyat Island is also home to what is billed to be the most humane labor camp in the entire Gulf. In response to international pressure, TDIC created what they call the Saadiyat Accommodation Village to house all workers building Western cultural institutions. In the words of its developer, it “provide[s] an internationally recognized world-class standard of living.” Its huge cricket field, writing classes, and a library containing Steinbeck are everything a visiting dignitary could desire.

But despite TDIC’s claims, many workers live elsewhere, including in crumbling tenements in central Abu Dhabi. And Saadiyat Village is hardly a paradise.

Tariq, the Louvre worker, told me, “The grounds are the only things that are good. Everything else will make you feel awful. The bathrooms always stink. We don’t even have doors there. The food given to us is inedible.”

Andrew Ross is an NYU professor and activist from Gulf Labor, a coalition of artists who advocate for the rights of workers building cultural institutions on Saadiyat. In May, TDIC invited Gulf Labor to tour Saadiyat Village. But when the activists visited other labor camps unsupervised, they noticed that they were followed. The surveillance only stopped when they left their cell phones behind.

According to Ross, Saadiyat Village is a “high-security zone” where workers are constantly monitored.

Workers live more than a mile beyond a checkpoint they are forbidden from walking to. Their only escape is a bus that runs once a week to Abu Dhabi. In the wake of the Arab Spring, security concerns are cited to outside visitors as a reason for keeping the all-male workforce in physical isolation. But if controlling and isolating workers helps TDIC manage the fallout of international pressure, it also produces a less than ideal side effect for the press-shy Emiratis: It helps workers organize and resist.

***

In 2006, three eminent figures in the French art world wrote an open letter to Le Monde titled “Museums Are Not for Sale.” Françoise Cachin, Jean Clair, and Roland Recht decried the Louvre’s partnership with Abu Dhabi. “Isn’t that ‘selling your soul’?” they asked.

The most simplistic accusation against Abu Dhabi is that by building branches of the Louvre or Guggenheim, the city is buying culture. This logic pretends that Cleopatra’s Needle ended up in Paris through the goodness of Egyptian hearts, or that Lord Elgin didn’t just pillage the marbles that bear his name.

Those accusations also perpetuate another myth: The UAE has no culture of its own.

Two generations ago, the Emiratis were Bedouins, nomadic desert people whose main economic activity was pearl diving. They built wind towers, trained falcons, and composed swashbuckling poetry. Emirati culture was rich, but Emiratis were poor. Now they are wealthy. From the lens of European dominance, Emiratis can seem like improper overlords.

Or perhaps Europeans are just jealous. The UAE’s oil money could have disappeared in the coffers of Western energy companies or corrupt leaders. Instead, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, built a munificent welfare state. Emirati citizens get free education, health care, and electricity, as well as generous wages subsidized by the government. They pay no taxes. But the foreigners who compose 90 percent of the population don’t share in this largesse.

At times the dream of Abu Dhabi slayed me. One afternoon I stood inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, in central Abu Dhabi. Built in 2007, the gigantic structure made me gasp at its loveliness. Its design spans the breadth of Muslim art: The domes were Taj Mahal, the stucco Moroccan, the tiles Turkish, the gold palm columns seemingly from the future. It embodied the cosmopolitanism of the Muslim world, vital with the energy of this young country.

For this piece, I met with several Emiratis involved in culture. None would speak on the record. They were charming, passionate about the arts, proud of their country. But when I asked them about workers, they frowned with irritation. Why did the press keep picking on them?

They would prefer to talk about charity: free Bollywood movies, free food baskets for Ramadan. The Radisson Blu’s Box project distributes boxes of toiletries. Their Facebook page shows a grim Emirati handing a box to a grim Bangladeshi worker. It’s turned logo-side toward the camera.

Charity can get you cheap Facebook photos. But what does it fix if workers aren’t paid enough to afford a bar of soap?

***

The Guggenheim Museum’s PR team claims, incorrectly, that labor is not a problem because construction has not yet begun on the Abu Dhabi outpost. Conversely, NYU asserts labor is not a problem because construction is technically over. I saw men working on both sites.

Andrew Ross from Gulf Labor stressed that an institution’s responsibilities don’t end with construction. “If you visit Saadiyat, you find NYU is the only finished building. Apart from the workers’ village, it’s surrounded by nothing. It will have construction going on for 20 years around it.”

When I asked the Guggenheim for comment on workers’ conditions, the director, Richard Armstrong, did not respond to my queries. The chief of global communications, Eleanor R. Goldhar, told me that construction workers were subcontractors.

“The main construction contract has not yet been awarded for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. We are working closely with TDIC so that existing labor laws and high standards are enforced on all aspects of the project,” Goldhar wrote.

Our world runs on subcontractors. How could any client know what they were up to, except that everything was too cheap to be true?

***

“You know how Ford said you can have any car you like as long as it’s black? In the UAE they can make whatever you want, as long as it’s a building. They can’t make free speech or human rights,” Ahmed Mansoor told me in the curtained-off back room of a Dubai restaurant.

An engineer by trade, Mansoor spent about eight months in jail in 2011 for running a website that allowed those living in the Emirates to speak frankly about politics, religion, and culture. It was at one time the most popular public forum in the country.

Mansoor and his co-defendants, known as the UAE5, were arrested for “publicly insulting” Abu Dhabi’s president, vice president, and crown prince. At the same time, the government mounted a smear campaign, allegedly bribing sheikhs to organize petitions denouncing Mansoor. One of his co-defendants was a lecturer at the Sorbonne.

In prison, guards gave Mansoor a wheelchair lined with infected fabric. He caught scabies. Guards denied him access to a dermatologist for months. After nearly eight months of incarceration, Mansoor and his co-defendants began a 16-day-long hunger strike that finally led to their pardon. He still hasn’t gotten his passport back.

Ever since Mansoor’s release, he’s suffered unfortunate coincidences. Thugs attacked him twice—once, brutally beating his head. A hundred and forty thousand dollars disappeared from Mansoor’s bank account, and his car was stolen. The police have not found a culprit for any of these crimes.

When I asked him about the Western cultural institutions being built on Saadiyat, he told me, “All these glittering buildings and huge names are there to hide an ugly face… Artists around the world appreciate the human struggle for freedom. In the UAE, we are only buying the image.”

Can you have art without freedom? Splendid objects get made for the highest bidder. Challenging ideas require something more than the Emirates may care to provide.

I put this question to a young artist born in the UAE. He told me: “By entertaining any vision of a culturally engaged metropolis, [the UAE] has opened up a Pandora’s box. Critical culture is forced into a more subversive form. This subversion itself can be a form of poetry. I have to think like this, because I live here and I need to survive the aftermath of my own thoughts.”

The artist is well off but not a citizen. Afraid of being deported, he asked me not to use his name.

One morning Ibrahim took me to a market in Musaffah, a port city southeast of Abu Dhabi. Construction workers sweating it out on $170 a month spent their free day going to Dubai to buy flash drives or watermelon, which they sold to other workers in Musaffah’s markets. This would earn them an extra $10 a day. One man sold dolls for workers to take home to the children they’d left behind. Each vendor said he was there because his salary was too low. No, they had no rest. Yes, they were tired.

As we got farther in, we passed homemade roulette wheels and porn. The market was illegal but tolerated. As I spoke to vendors, more and more men gathered around me. In all-male Musaffah, a white girl might as well be an alien.

I asked a butcher the price of a cow’s head. The crowd screamed as undercover cops yanked him away. The butcher was arrested, seemingly as punishment for speaking to a Westerner. Terrified that he might also be arrested, Ibrahim suggested that we leave the market quickly.

“I will leave this fucking country. I never want to come back to the Middle East in my life,” Ibrahim poured out to me as we drove away from the market. “This is a prison. People see the world’s tallest building, not the people who built it.”

***

“I have nothing to do with the workers,” said Zaha Hadid, the star architect behind one of Qatar’s phantasmagoric soccer stadiums being built for the 2022 World Cup, when the Guardian asked her in February 2014 about the deaths of 882 migrant laborers constructing her design. “It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.” Hadid is now designing the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre on Saadiyat.

The West’s museums lie atop metaphoric graveyards. Art’s temples have always been built on the backs of the poor. The Louvre in Paris touts its history in the passive voice on its website: “Was built to the west of the city”; “wings begun under Louis XIV were partially completed.” But what of the peasants who sweated and died in the construction? Of them, official histories have little to say. Neither do official histories mention the miners who mined the fortune that let Solomon R. Guggenheim build the museum that bears his name.

Defenders of Western institutions in Abu Dhabi are right about one thing. They are not unique. The labor abuses at the Louvre or NYU are the same labor abuses that are happening throughout the UAE. The UAE is not the worst country for workers in the Gulf, and the Gulf is not the worst region for workers in the world. Most countries sustain themselves on the labor of transient, disposable people. This may be unofficial, as in the United States (our agricultural industry would collapse overnight without undocumented migrants), or it may be institutionalized, as in the UAE.

“Capital is global and derives its velocity from replicating the same model everywhere. Gulf Labor is arguing for a global, humane, and fair standard of labor and migration regulations to accompany, and slow down, global capital,” said Naeem Mohaiemen, a New York–based Bangladeshi artist who is a member of Gulf Labor. “The implications can be staggering. If Saadiyat implemented world-standard labor and migration rights, that could become a precedent for implementing the same standards in the entire region. Then people would ask, what about migrant labor in Malaysia? In Texas? And so on…”

***

On my last day, Ibrahim and I drove out to the Guggenheim site on Saadiyat. Even though he was exhausted, Ibrahim grinned. After nearly a year in the UAE, he’d paid off his debts to recruiters. Once his contract concluded, he’d be free.

We interviewed Vijay*, a worker building a tunnel that will lead into the Guggenheim. His group of workers are laying the infrastructure that will feed the museum, and we believe he’s the first Guggenheim worker to speak about the conditions working there. In the back of our car, Vijay gulped water. He’d wrapped his head in wet cloth. His skin was beaded with sweat.

Vijay came to Abu Dhabi in 2004. His family was eking out a living growing vegetables on a small farm they owned near Chennai, India. Vijay has three sisters. Since he’s the only son, his father decided he would work in the Gulf. Vijay’s family rounded up $2,100 to pay a recruiter.

By 2008, his salary had peaked at $435 a month.

Then came the 2008 financial crash. On the pretext that there was less work, Vijay’s company slashed his monthly base salary to $217 (up to $326 with overtime), though his hours remained the same. His wages have not risen since.

“Some days I start at 7 AM. I never know when I will get done. We sometimes work past midnight. I sometimes sleep for only two or three hours,” he told me. “Yet we cannot complain.”

Vijay works seven days a week. His company withholds salaries for months at a time, especially if workers visit home. He believes that his company is cheating workers on overtime, denying them access to the ledgers in which their hours are marked.

“I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. My body is on the verge of giving up, but I cannot leave my job because I am responsible for my sisters,” he told me.

Vijay dreams of getting married in India and returning to his family’s modest farm near Chennai. But first, he wants to get a license to drive a minibus. Drivers are paid better and can work out of the sun, sitting down.

They say Sheikh Zayed built Abu Dhabi, just like Louis XIV built the Louvre. But this is a myth. Vijay built Abu Dhabi more than Sheikh Zayed did. He built it growing deeper in debt each day, his feet sinking into the lunar sand.

An Emirati curator told me that these museums were Abu Dhabi’s “gifts to the region.” She refused to go on record, certain my article would overplay the UAE’s labor problems. But she allowed that quote.

She is wrong about the giver of the gift. Saadiyat is a “gift” to the UAE from Vijay, from Tariq, from Ibrahim—from all the men whose hands have built these cities. But migrant workers’ names are never engraved on donor lists.

In a few years Saadiyat will be open for business. Artists and patrons will mingle at the Louvre and Guggenheim’s opening galas. The fresh buildings will sparkle like starlight.

Unfortunately, Vijay will not be in attendance. He will be working elsewhere, still trying to pay off his debt.

*Name has been changed.

Rightwing Jews who want to destroy Muslim holy site in Jerusalem raise funds on Indiegogo

Rightwing Jews who want to destroy Muslim holy site in Jerusalem raise funds on Indiegogo

The righting fundamentalist org, the Temple Institute, is raising money on Indiegogo to draft plans to build the third temple on the holy mount in occupied Jerusalem. They’ve raised nearly $17,000 out of a hoped-for $100,000, using the messianic video above that pictures the remade temple in its last frames.

The site is one of the holiest sites in Islam because of its place in Mohammed’s life– “the Noble Sanctuary” — and the Third Temple project is explicitly aimed at destroying Muslim sites of worship, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. As the Temple Institute states:

Geo-politically, the Temple Mount has to be cleared of the Dome of the Rock and the mosques which are presently located upon it before the physical rebuilding of the Holy Temple can begin. Many scenarios can be imagined which would accomplish this, the most promising, and not necessarily the most far-fetched, would entail Moslem recognition of the Mount as the intended location for the rebuilt Temple.

From the Indiegogo campaign:

After millennia of yearning, only one organization is paving the way for the rebuilding of the Temple…

Now is time for one of its most ambitious projects yet: completing architectural plans for the actual construction, fusing ancient texts and modern technology.

A friend, Khalid, sent a complaint to Indiegogo, and got a response (excerpted below), but Indiegogo has taken no action.

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This story has been at Haaretz and Al Jazeera too.