Seattle Activists Aim To Put Israel Divestment on City’s Agenda

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By Rebecca Spence
Wed. May 21, 2008

Los Angeles – If a local activist group has its way, Seattle could soon become the first major American city to divest from companies that provide material support to Israel.

Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, a citizens group, is angling to get an initiative on the ballot that would mandate city pension funds to divest from businesses that profit from the Iraq War, as well as from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since late March, when initiative I-97 was approved for petition circulation by the City Attorney’s Office, local Seattle Jewish groups have coalesced to beat back the nascent effort.

The ballot initiative comes as Jewish groups and their supporters emerged victorious in recent weeks from a hard-fought Israel divestment battle with The United Methodist Church. Mainstream Jewish groups undertook a major lobbying effort – at both the grass-roots and leadership levels – to keep five anti-Israel divestment measures from passing at the Methodists’ plenum early this month. Previous efforts to stymie Israel divestment measures proposed by another mainline Protestant church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), also proved successful.

This latest battle, dealing at the local level, could prove to be a different sort of testing ground. While passage of the Seattle ballot initiative would not have significant economic consequences for the Jewish state, Jewish groups fear that its repercussions could be far-reaching.

“Its symbolic impact would be fairly large, because it’s a public body of civic employees taking a stand on an unresolved issue,” said Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. “It could snowball to other cities, to other institutions. That is why we pushed very hard when first the Presbyterian Church, and later The United Methodist Church, also considered similar divestment activities.”

Already, Seattle-area Jewish groups have met with some initial success. A lawsuit filed May 13 by the Washington Israel Business Council, a statewide group, and StandWithUs, a national pro-Israel activist group that has been active on college campuses, resulted in the initiative’s language being amended. The coalition of Jewish groups – which also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the AJCommittee – raised concerns that the language of the initiative’s title and preliminary text did not adequately make clear that I-97 targeted Israel in addition to Iraq.

“They clearly put Iraq up first, with the recognition that the Iraq War was very unpopular,” said Robert Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest. “And they downplayed the anti-Israel aspect because they would get fewer signatures if people knew they were signing a petition against Israel.”

But the initiative’s backers contend that their intent was not to mislead. A spokeswoman for the group, Judith Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said that the initiative’s aim is simply to divest Seattle pension funds from companies turning a profit from the Iraq War and from Israel’s occupation.

“It is a single issue,” Kolokoff said. “It is really an issue of stopping investing in companies that are directly involved in the wars and occupations in the Middle East that have not been authorized by the United Nations.”

The initiative specifically targets Halliburton, the military contractor that has reaped billions from its work in Iraq, and Caterpillar, which has famously provided Israel with bulldozers, some of which have been used in the destruction of Palestinian homes, Kolokoff added. The proposed measure also calls for the city to withdraw any investment in Israeli bonds in the event that the Jewish state attacks Iran.

The initiative’s backers have six months to collect 18,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. If sufficient signatures are collected quickly enough, I-97 could potentially appear on the November general election ballot. Thus far, Kolokoff said, the group has collected “several thousand” signatures.

Local Jewish leaders say that if the initiative makes it to the ballot, they are prepared to launch a large-scale campaign to defeat it. Already, StandWithUs is collecting donations to go toward such a campaign. “We’re hoping that the initiative supporters are unable to get their 18,000 signatures and that Seattle residents, by not signing the petition, make a statement that the Seattle community supports Israel,” Jacobs said. “But if they do get their signatures, then the community here is fully prepared to respond to the challenge and will try to make a case in opposition to the ballot.”

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The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

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By Paul Craig Roberts

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran. [U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran, By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, April 26, 2008]

The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Rice, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 Minutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the Second World War. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “Greater Israel”?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

“There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”[Intelligence Or Propaganda, April 26, 2008]

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under siege? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

Another Israeli American Sponsorship Shoah of Force in Gaza

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‘Someone planning new holocaust’

Thousands of Israeli Arabs protest Gaza operation; Monitoring Committee Chairman warns of ‘new holocaust’; Knesset Member Zahalka says Arab community infuriated, slams ‘madness’ displayed by Israel’s leaders

Thousands of people, including Arab-Israeli Knesset members, marched in the streets of the northern town of Umm al-Fahm Tuesday evening to protest “Israel’s crimes” and the “massacre,” as they characterized it, committed by the IDF against Gaza’s civilian population.

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The protestors were carrying PLO and black flags, as well as signs such as “Say no to killing and no to starvation of the Palestinian people.”

“Take note: Someone is planning a new holocaust in Gaza,” said Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Shawki Khatib in his speech. “We will not stand idle in the face of the blood spilling in Gaza, the blood of our children and women; we’re one body. The massacre in Gaza shall end and the occupation shall run away from there.”

Khatib also slammed the Arab world for failing to express its support for Gaza residents.

“They’re not criticizing. They’re embarrassed to even talk,” he said. “Israeli leaders should learn from history – there are no forceful solutions.”

Arab-Israelis are infuriated over Israel’s operation in Gaza, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka said during the protest rally.

“The Arab public is angry at the Israeli government, which is committing war crimes in Gaza and threatening to continue them,” he said. “Olmert’s and Barak’s madness must be stopped. If they continue refusing a ceasefire, it should be forced upon them in order to spare the blood of innocents.”

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‘Catastrophic plans’

Meanwhile Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh the demonstration was held to protest the “prime minister’s and defense minister’s catastrophic plans.”

“The Arab population will not remain silent. This is just one protest in a series of demonstrations held across the country as of Friday,” he said. “We feel discontent among the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel.”

In an emergency session held Sunday by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, participants decided to formulate a proposal for a Palestinian national unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The meeting, which was attended by most Arab Knesset members, dealt with the importance of unity among different Palestinian factions in the face of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.