News Release Archive - 2012

Israel Hitting Palestinian Infrastructure

AP reports that Israeli “missiles also knocked out five electricity transformers, plunging more than 400,000 people in southern Gaza into darkness, according to the Gaza electricity distribution company.”

MARK ZEITOUN, m.zeitoun at uea.ac.uk, www.uea.ac.uk/dev/People/Academic/zeitoun
Zeitoun is author of “Power and Water in the Middle East: The Hidden Politics of the Palestinian-Israeli Water Conflict.” He is at the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

DANNY MULLER, fugedaboutit at gmail, http://www.mecaforpeace.org
Muller focuses on disaster management and response in the Middle East and Haiti. He was in Gaza in the summer of 2012 and is returning in the coming weeks to coordinate humanitarian aid with the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

He said today: “It’s been reported Israeli air attacks knocked out five electricity transformers, cutting off power to more than 400,000 people. These same people have been living under siege and were only receiving four hours a day of electricity since Israel bombed the electrical infrastructure during Operation Cast Lead. Civil engineers in Gaza tell me that with nonstop attacks it’s very difficult to estimate the damages, and they can only respond to emergencies in coordination with The Red Cross to close major leakages of broken pipes and to replace transformers — hundreds of distribution lines were broken (water, sewage, electricity), as well as water wells, transformers and roads.

“This is collective punishment. These air strikes are directly targeting the civilian population and are war crimes. The United States is culpable for this through its blind support for Israel and its annual $3 billion in aid. The Jerusalem Post recently reported the Israeli army’s chief of staff stating that in the past three years, ‘U.S. taxpayers have contributed more to the Israeli defense budget than Israeli taxpayers.’ This is America’s war against children as much as it is Israel’s.”

See in the Israeli papaer Haaretz “Gaza’s 96 dead include farmers, water sellers and the girl next door.” http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/gaza-s-96-dead-include-farmers-water-sellers-and-the-girl-next-door.premium-1.479110

Over 90 Killed in Gaza; 3 in Israel — Parsing the Myths

MAIREAD MAGUIRE, [in Ireland] [email]
Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire just wrote the piece “Israeli Military Assault on Gaza Not Defence but Murder of Unarmed Civilians.”

RICHARD FALK [email]
Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Gaza and a professor of international law emeritus, Princeton University. This morning, he appeared with Raji Serani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, on Democracy Now! and said in response to a question on the Israeli attack on a media center in Gaza: “It is clear that any kind of deliberate attack on journalists is itself a war crime. … And it represents an attempt by Israel, I suppose, to avoid any kind of effort to tell the story of what is really happening … to tell the terrible ordeal the people of Gaza are being subjected to without the kind of protection international law should be affording them.”

Falk also stated that Hamas had proposed a long-term truce and Israel had assassinated the Hamas leader who was agreeing to the truce — adding that this has been virtually ignored by the media and totally ignored in President Obama’s rendition of events. See the New York Times oped “Israel’s Shortsighted Assassination” by Gershon Baskin, who negotiated for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released by the just-assassinated Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari. Baskin notes: “On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance.”

JOE CATRON, [in Gaza] [email], @jncatron
A freelance writer, English teacher and activist currently living in Gaza, Catron is involved with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which advocates using people-driven economic pressure on Israel to assert rights for Palestinians.

MOHAMMED OMER, [email]
Available for a limited number of interviews, Omer is a reporter based in Gaza, Omer reports that Israel is continuing and perhaps escalating bombing of Gaza with F-16s. He reports from a hospital in Gaza that 95 have been killed and 850 injured, including many children. He also noted that Israel appears to be using a substance that “burns bodies of children, makes it difficult to identify them.” See after last major Israeli attack in 2009 the BBC report “UN Accuses Israel Over Phosphorus.”

Omer recently wrote the piece: “Did Israel Assassinate Hamas’ Chief Peace Negotiator?”

AMJAD SHAWA, [in Gaza] [email]
Shawa is coordinator of PNGO the Palestinian NGO Network in Gaza.

ELIK ELHANAN, via Nurit Peled-Elhanan [email]
One of the co-founders of Combatants for Peace, Elhanan is a former paratrooper in the Israeli military. He said today: “This is an election trick by a prime minister [Netanyahu] whose entire ideology is being dismissed in Israel. It’s important to know that Israel killed the pragmatic man [Hamas official Ahmad Jabari] able to broker a truce and probably that’s why they did it.”

CINDY and CRAIG CORRIE [email]
Cindy and Craig Corrie returned a week ago from a trip to Gaza and Israel. They are the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003, while trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife and three young children.

BP Settlement

HUGH KAUFMAN [email]
A noted expert and whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency, Kaufman said today: “BP lied about how much oil was being released because under the Clean Water Act they were liable for a penalty of up to a $4,000 per barrel released. Thus, the lies could save them tens of billions of dollars. That’s also why they used toxic dispersants to atomize the oil, and thus hide the oil below the surface.

“The government was in a pickle because high government officials were also involved in downplaying and hiding the amount of oil pouring out of the ruptured well. People in the government put out false information after the BP disaster as well and that constrains what the government can do to BP now. This reflects an even deeper problem — a massive pro-industry bias in the government.” Kaufman is featured in the documentary “The Big Fix.” See excerpt.

TYSON SLOCUM [email]
Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and to deter. This does neither. It is a weak-tea punishment that provides zero deterrence to BP or other companies. Consider that after the 2005 Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 people, BP pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid a fine. Now, after a 2010 event that killed 11 people, BP is again pleading guilty and paying a fine. Zero deterrence.” See full statement.

Spanish Unions Lead Anti-Austerity Strike

AFP is reporting: “Spain announced Thursday it has moved into a second year of a job-killing recession, a day after millions joined anti-austerity strikes and vast protests.”

DAVID MARTY, [email] Marty is with the International Organization for a Participatory Society in Spain and is co-author of the new book “Occupy Strategy.” He said today: “Just over a month after Spaniards gathered in the thousands around the Congress of Deputies in Madrid to protest against austerity, hundreds of thousands Wednesday have followed the call by the main labor unions (CCOO, UGT and CGT) and taken to the streets in one of the largest general strikes in the history of Spanish democracy. According to union representatives more than 75 percent of the labor force did not work.

“In the middle of yet another deep recession with nearly 26 percent unemployment — and no prospects of improvement in the near future — the rebellion against what is perceived to be force-fed austerity has now reached new levels with atypical segments of the population joining the citizenry in the protest against austerity. Following a recent series of suicides that occurred during home evictions, the national police union (SUP) … recently pressured the government to reform its unbalanced foreclosure laws, mainly allowing it to become non-recourse debt — the norm in most developed countries. Doctors have also joined the protest, together with other healthcare professionals against the dismantling of several public hospitals. The workers of El País — the highest-circulation daily newspaper in Spain — are now also on strike against its very controversial financial restructuring and the massive layoffs accompanying it.

“Starting in 2008, and under the socialist government (PSOE), Spain began to cutback on social spending despite having the smallest welfare state of the EU-15 zone (21 percent of GDP vs 27 percent on average ). After four years of austerity, Spain is now said to have the second worst inequality index (Gini) in Europe after Latvia, with more than one in five Spaniards below the poverty level.

“Despite those worrying results, the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy has been praised on several occasions by the European Commission for its rigorous implementation of austerity measures. Other countries that also followed the austerity course are: Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Greece, also in long-term recessions despite their relatively small welfare states.”

Israeli Attack on Gaza: Netanyahu’s Electioneering?

CINDY and CRAIG CORRIE [email]
Cindy and Craig Corrie are the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003, while trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife and three young children. Cindy Corrie said today: “We have just returned to Washington, D.C. from five days in Gaza (November 5-11) and from time in Israel where we visited a kibbutz near the Gaza border threatened with rocket fire. We are appalled by the decision of the Israeli Government (apparently supported by the U.S.) to ignore the truce that was developing. This decision unleashes more violence on those who year after year continue to suffer under the illegal siege in Gaza, and further threatens the safety and well-being of the Israeli people, as well.”

MOHAMMED OMER, [email]
A reporter based in Gaza, Omer was on Democracy Now! this morning. He stated that according to medical crews 15 Palestinians were killed in the last 24 hours. He also reported that most of the killed and injured are civilians.

AMJAD SHAWA, [in Gaza] [email]
Shawa is coordinator of PNGO, the Palestinian NGO Network in Gaza.

ELIK ELHANAN, via Nurit Peled-Elhanan [email]
One of the co-founders of Combatants for Peace, Elhanan is a former paratrooper in the Israeli military. He said today: “This is an election trick by a prime minister [Netanyahu] whose entire ideology is being dismissed in Israel. It’s important to know that Israel killed the pragmatic man [Hamas official Ahmad Jabari] able to broker a truce and probably that’s why they did it. Netanyahu set the land on fire just in case Obama decides to force Israel to negotiate.”

“Cliff” Part of Ploy to Target Social Security and Medicare

RANDALL WRAY [email]
Author of Modern Money Theory, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute in New York, Wray said today: “We all knew the election was a minor diversion because no matter who won, the first order of business would be to gut the social safety net. The ‘fiscal cliff’ was always part of the plot line, to stiffen the will of Democrats to reverse the progressive stance it had taken since the time of Roosevelt. Pete Peterson’s billions bought both parties and now it’s payback time. Don’t be duped by the dopes in Washington — there is no deficit and debt crisis now or looming in the distant future. The electorate must hold the feet of politicians to the fire: keep your darned hands off my Social Security and Medicare!” See Wray’s blog, “Great Leap Forward”.

ROBERT KUTTNER [email]
Co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, Kuttner is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle to Control Our Economic Future.

In a recent piece in the Huffington Post titled “Let’s Not Make a Deal,” Kuttner writes: “We need more public spending both because the private economy is weak and because Hurricane Sandy just revealed the need for hundreds of billions of more outlay to protect our coastal communities from ocean waters that will continue rising. We will need hundreds of billions beyond that invested in renewable energy to keep global climate change from worsening. …

“The president’s own proposed budget cuts of $4 trillion over ten years average out to $400 billion a year. In other words, the Obama Cliff is almost as large as the fiscal cliff that everyone dreads. Whatever the precise mix of tax increases and spending cuts, $4 trillion is too big a cliff. …

“In that aborted [budget] deal [of 2011], Obama was prepared to cut Social Security and increase the Medicare eligibility age. White House leaks have suggested that both items will be on the table this time. That’s bad policy, and worse politics. The clearest principled differences that distinguish Democrats from Republicans is that Democrats are staunch defenders of Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans are eager to cut, privatize, and voucherize.

“So the good news is that the Democrats won the election and President Obama’s spine has been stiffened on the subject of taxes. The bad news is that the skids are greased for a budget deal that cuts more than necessary, risks putting the economy back into recession, and blurs differences between the parties on critical issues like Social Security and Medicare.

“If Obama will just realize it, he holds most of the cards. He prevailed in the election. Most voters agree that the rich should pay higher taxes. Most don’t want cuts in Medicare and Social Security. …

“But by all appearances, the eager-beaver bipartisan Obama that we saw in early 2009, (until he got his clock cleaned) is back. Despite his recent victory, if he is too eager to make a deal, he –and we — will get rolled.”

UN Condemns U.S.’s Cuba Policy, 188-3

AP reports: “The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 21st year in a row. The final tally Tuesday was 188-3, with Israel and Palau joining the United States.”

SAUL LANDAU [email]
Professor emeritus at California State University, Pomona, Landau is a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and has won numerous awards for the 40 films he has produced, several of which are about Cuba. He said today: “We look like idiots to the whole world. Every year, virtually the entire United Nations General Assembly votes against us.

“The embargo is 52 years old, started by Eisenhower, and formalized by Kennedy. What should we say — give it time?

“It stays partly because of the influence of right-wing Cubans in Miami, but they’ve been weakened with the recent loss of David Rivera. The other half of it is the apparent desire of the State Department to punish Cuba for disobedience. It’s funding AID programs to foster ‘civil society’ — but the Cubans rejected the civil society they had with Batista and dominated by the mafia. Civil society, a term no one seems to look up, according to Rousseau, is based around the bourgeoisie and protecting property. The Cubans have built a different society based on social justice and equality. They are privatizing some, but it’s unlikely that will change.”

IAN WILLIAMS [email]
Williams is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus and author of Rum: A Social & Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, and The UN For Beginners. He said today: “The UN vote on the Cuba embargo reminds us yet again that U.S. foreign policy is concocted in a bubble detached from the real world, where most nations recognize that the boycott is designed to pander to the most reactionary Cuban emigres in Florida. Even dissidents in Cuba think that it is counterproductive, giving the Cuban government an excuse for its inefficiencies, while, like most such sanctions, harming more the population than those in power. Obama, embarking on a second term, and winning Florida despite the Cuban vote, owes them nothing. He should use his influence to call off the embargo and allow free travel to and from Cuba.”

“It’s Not a Cliff”

CHRIS HELLMAN [email]
MATTEA KRAMER [email]
Hellman is communications liaison at the National Priorities Project and specializes in the military budget. Kramer is senior research analyst there, and lead author of A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget. They recently wrote the piece “Washington’s Cliff Notes” for TomDispatch. It states: “Ignore the sound and fury. While prophecy is usually a perilous occupation, in this case it’s pretty easy to predict how lawmakers will deal with nearly every challenge on the president’s and Congress’s end-of-year obstacle course. …

“Once again, it’s all about politics, not about the stuff that actually matters — a reality that becomes more obvious with the next two obstacles. There’s a bundle of expiring provisions in the tax code — known esoterically as ‘tax extenders’ and the Alternative Minimum Tax ‘patch’ — that benefit corporations and upper-middle class Americans, respectively. Congress will likely extend these expiring provisions without much discussion, just as they’ve done in the past.

“Next obstacle: health care. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — includes a handful of new taxes that will go live in 2013. … These taxes will likely go into effect right on schedule, but they’re so small they’ll have next to no discernible impact on the economy. …

“And then there’s the 21st century obstacle of obstacles in American politics: the Bush-era tax cuts for the high-income set. President Obama has said he will veto any legislation that keeps them in place, while Republicans in Congress insist that extending them must be part of any deal to maintain low rates for everyone else.

“Among all the spending and tax changes in the queue, and all the hype around the cliff, the great unknown is whether it’s finally farewell to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And that’s no perilous cliff. Letting those high-end tax cuts expire would amount to a blink-and-you-miss-it 0.003% contraction in the U.S. economy, according to Moody’s, and it would raise tens of billions of dollars in desperately-needed tax revenue next year. …

“On this, as on all other matters in the fiscal obstacle course, it’s not the economy. It’s the politics, stupid.”

Lame Duck Will Put Democrats to the Test

NORMAN SOLOMON [email]
Solomon’s article in the current edition of The Nation magazine is titled “How to Build a Grassroots Power Base.” He said today: “A profound question hovering over the lame duck session is whether Democrats in Congress will push back against White House pressure for a ‘grand bargain.’ Medicare and Medicaid are headed to the chopping block, and Social Security may not be far behind, but profligate military spending is another matter. The Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill cannot protect the legitimate interests of the party’s base without resisting the president’s apparent zeal to strike a ‘grand bargain’ at the expense of the very people who just voted him back into office.”

After providing much of the grassroots energy that kept Mitt Romney from winning the presidency, Solomon contends, progressive activists must now concentrate on a new task — restraining the president’s tendency to give ground to GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. Solomon asks: “What do you get when you cross a lame duck and a deficit hawk?” His answer: “The obscene specter of betrayal of Medicare and Medicaid.”

In his new article in The Nation, Solomon writes that “accommodation has been habit-forming for many left-leaning organizations, which are increasingly taking their cues from the party establishment: deferring to top Democrats in Washington, staying away from robust progressive populism and making excuses for the Democratic embrace of corporate power and perpetual war.”

Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign launched by Progressive Democrats of America. He co-founded RootsAction.org, which now has nearly 200,000 members nationwide. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

After Petraeus

RAY McGOVERN [email]
Veteran CIA analyst McGovern wrote the article “Pundit Tears for Petraeus’s Fall,” which states: “As commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus was able to elbow the substantive intelligence analysts in Washington off to the sidelines. … As for winning hearts and minds, it was Petraeus who shocked Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s aides by claiming that Afghan parents might have burned their own children in order to blame the casualties on U.S. military operations.

“And the same Petraeus eagerly increased the incredibly myopic drone strikes in Pakistan, killing thousands of civilian ‘militants’ and creating thousands more to contend with in the ‘long war’ now alienating a nuclear-armed country of 185 million people.

McGovern advises Obama: “You can select a person with a proven record of integrity and courage to speak truth, without fear or favor, and with savvy and experience in matters of State and Defense.

“There are still some very good people with integrity and courage around — former Ambassador Chas Freeman would be an excellent candidate. Go ahead, Mr. President. Show that you can stand up to the Israel lobby that succeeded in getting Freeman ousted on March 10, 2009, after just six hours on the job as Director of the National Intelligence Council.

“And there are still some genuine experts around to help you enlist Afghanistan’s neighbors in an effort to ease U.S. troop withdrawal well before the 2014 deadline. The faux experts — the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere — have had their chance. For God’s sake, take away their White House visiting badges at once.

“Create White House badges for genuine experts like former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt. Col., USA, ret.). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in ‘long wars’; they will tell you the truth; all you need do is listen.

“Do NOT listen this time to the likes of your counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, a former CIA functionary who was staff director for CIA Director George “slam-dunk” Tenet. Brennan will probably push for you to nominate Petraeus’s deputy and now Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who did the same dirty work for Tenet that Brennan did.

“Morell is even more likely to take his cues from Brennan and tell you what he and Brennan want you to hear. At best, Morell is likely to let things drift until you move on Petraeus’s replacement. And this is no time for drift.”

McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).