All The Best
THE ELEPHANT BAR IS CLOSED
I want to thank everyone who participated in the Elephant Bar over the past twelve years. We had millions of visitors from all around the World and you were part of it. Over the past dozen years, two or three times a night, I would open my laptop and some of you were always there. I will miss that.
My plans are to continue my work with technology and architecture. You know my interests and thoughts.
At times, things would get a little rough in the EB. To those of you that I may have offended over the years, I apologize. From all of you, I learned and grew.
An elephant never forgets.
Deuce, 21 June 2018
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
Published 29 June 2015 (8 hours 42 minutes ago)
Whistleblower Julian Assange implicated the United States – along with the Saudi Arabian government – in a plot to overthrow the Syrian government.
Saudi Arabia, the United States, France, and Britain were involved in a secret 2012 deal to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Sunday.
RELATED: Saudi Cables: We Have Ten Times More, Says Wikileaks “Saudi has been one of the dogs of the United States in the Middle East on a leash, and you think the man is walking a dog, but sometimes, if it is a big dog, the dog starts pulling a man," Assange told Russia 1 TV.
Last week, Assange’s whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released a batch of more than 60,000 of what it said were classified Saudi diplomatic cables. The leak aimed to prove that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey had a secret deal to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad as far back as 2012. Among the revelations contained in the files, believed to have been leaked by a group which calls itself the Yemen Cyber Army, are details about the country’s focus on its strategic rival, Iran, and the uprising in Egypt. The leaked files also contain details about Saudi Arabia’s allies and clients in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and other countries in the Middle East.
This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Wikileaks-US-Saudis-Planned-to-Topple-Syrias-Assad-in-2012-20150629-0011.html. If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Any occupied people have the right to resist, dissent and fight against their occupiers and tormenters. The Palestinians in Gaza have that right.
Israel likes to portray itself as the perma-victim but the fact is the ICC is investigating Israeli atrocities against Palestinian human beings in the apartheid ghettos under Israeli control.
The International Criminal Court wants to know more about Israeli War Crimes in Gaza to prepare for possible prosecutions.
THE REAL NEWS
Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Ratner Report.
Now joining us is the man behind the Report, Michael Ratner. He is the President Emeritus for the Center for Constitutional Rights, and he's also a board member for The Real News, and of course he's a regular contributor. Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with The Real News and with you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So Michael, we have this UN report that came out about the war between Gaza and Israel back in the summer of 2014. I know you've been tracking it quite closely. What are some highlights? What have you picked up from this report?
RATNER: Well you know, what I'm left with and what I'm at today really is how much longer is the world, and particularly the United States, going to facilitate and enable Israel in these periodic bloodlettings that they engage in in Gaza. And this report hopefully, like some of the other ones, is beginning to close that window on Israel, and hopefully Israeli officials won't have impunity forever for the murders and killings and devastation in Gaza.
But let's talk about this report. Last week the commission to investigate the violations of the laws of war and human rights violations in the Gaza Strip in 2014 during the war reported back to the UN Human Rights Commission, which can then decide what to do with the report and ultimately go to the Security Council. But what that commission was appointed to do was investigate an operation of the Israelis called Protective Edge.
Now to put that into context, it's the third such military operation by Israel in the last seven years. Major military assault on Gaza, which is essentially an open-air prison, surrounded by Israel, air space controlled by Israel, and occupied territory even though there's no actual Israeli troops on the ground most of the time. This is the third such operation. Operation Cast Lead, which we thought would be the end of this kind of thing because it was so horrible, was in 2008 and 2009, and Operation Pillar of Defense was in 2012.
Israel military strategists call these periodic "operations" mowing the lawn, as if killing thousands of Palestinians is essentially like cutting the grass. Cast Lead--and I've given reports on Real News on that, which was 2008-2009, resulted in 1,300 Palestinians killed. The majority were civilians, 5,000 wounded. Compare that to what happened to Israel. Thirteen Israelis killed, only three of which were civilians.
It resulted in an earlier report analogous to this one. That one became famous. It was called the Goldstone report. Former justice Goldstone wrote that report, and it condemned what was going on particularly in the occupied territories, essentially called it apartheid, and documented the slaughter that Israel had engaged in during that 2008-2009 Cast Lead assault on Gaza. However, because of pressure from the United States, particularly, Judge Goldstone started to retract on some of his findings. Of course, it didn't really mean much, the report was out. The other commissioners didn't retract. It was sort of--it's hard to say, but to some extent it just seems like he bowed to the pressure to perhaps not be an outcast in his own community. In any case, that was a report that condemned what Israel had done.
Many people did not think it could happen again, but of course it did. It did last summer. It began on June 13, the Israeli assault on Gaza called Protective Edge, and this time the numbers were even worse. 2,131 killed, perhaps more, of which 1,473 were civilians, and 500 children. The UN commission report which came out last week gave a figure roughly analogous, 65 percent civilians were killed. That's an astounding figure in a war. There are--of course, civilians are often killed in war. When it's like that it makes you question, was Israel intentionally targeting civilians?
The answer to that, always disputed. In the Goldstone report initially it was said they were. Goldstone retracted, but the report still stands. In this report without saying that explicitly, you can draw the conclusion that on a number of occasions civilians were intentionally targeted. Compare that 2,100 figure to the Israeli figure. 71 Israelis were killed, 55 soldiers, and 5 civilians. So less than 10 percent civilians, compared to 65 percent or over. And as the report said, and it's devastating, really, in Gaza--I'm quoting from it--in Gaza, the scale of devastation was unprecedented. Unprecedented. The killed, the injured, and the infrastructure destroyed. 18,000 houses, 80,000 damaged.
So it's a very strong report documenting what Israel did, and saying Israel had to be held accountable for it. And it also talked about, and this is important, like the Goldstone report it put this attack and really the response of the Palestinians into the context of the occupation, which has been going on since 1967, the settlements which have been continuing even as we speak, the house destructions going on in the occupied territories, the prisons and the treatment of prisoners with cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during this period. And it talked about war crimes based on proportionality. You can't kill more civilians than are necessary to achieve your military goal, and you have to distinguish between civilians and military. So it talks a lot about that. It's a good report.
A critique of the report that I have is that it--not that it talks about Palestinian armed groups and what they did. Yes, they sent rockets into Israel. And there were tunnels, although it's not clear that those tunnels were used for any purpose other than for people to go through, soldiers to go through and attack Israeli targets, and not on a great level. But it talks about what Palestine did. Unfortunately to me it begins the report with what the Palestinian armed groups, as it refers to them, are called. And the problem of the report is it looks at them as if there's some symmetry between what Israel did and what the Palestinians did. Of course, there's not.
Clearly, as I pointed out, there's not that in terms of numbers and destruction. Very little was destroyed in Israel. The numbers were, any killed person is serious, but how do you compare a number in the 70s to a number over 2,000. So nothing close. So you can't make a symmetry out of what occurred, the way the war was fought, et cetera.
But you also can't have symmetry in terms of context. In one case Israel is the occupier. Israel is the oppressor. And the other is the oppressed and the occupied. You get rid of the occupation and you won't have the need to resist it. The problem with the report making any kind of symmetry between those two is it plays into the Israeli and to a certain extent the U.S. narrative, that somehow Israel with the support of the U.S. has the right to defend itself. In fact, of course, it's the occupied people that have the right to resist occupation. Israel, what it should be doing, is ending the occupation.
What Israel needs to be doing is ending the occupation. If in fact Israel obeyed international law, followed UN resolutions, the occupation would long be over and there wouldn't be need--and there never has been a need, but Israel wouldn't feel it has any need, and of course I don't think it does, to do what it has done in Gaza.
Despite this drawback, it's still an important report. It's another document by neutral observers of Israeli war crimes. There's been three, there's been responses to it. The U.S. gave one of the more sickening press conferences I've ever looked at. The U.S. essentially is an ostrich, or ostrich-like. They said there's no more need for the UN to do anything here, there's a bias against Israel, et cetera, ignoring the war crimes documented in the report.
And let's just remember this. The U.S., with its over $3 billion a year, is an enabler of Israeli war crimes. It continues to support Israel with military weapons, despite knowing it's committing serious, serious human rights violations. When Israel, Israeli officials, are finally put into the dock, U.S. officials I hope will be going along with them.
Israel's response was simply to not cooperate again with the UN commission. They simply don't respond. Not to any letters, they wouldn't cooperate, are claiming that there's bias against Israel. And then in their actual response they said Israel acted morally. It has moral behavior, and it's terror that it's confronted. And it's been moral in that. Well, that's a complete reversal. The terror here is being committed by Israel, not by the Palestinians. And then they claimed Israel is a democracy. Well, apart from lots of disputes on that and what happens within Israel, and the fact that there's millions of Palestinians who can't vote in any election that Israel has, how does a democracy justify the slaughter that has taken place in Gaza.
The question is, what's next. What's next is this commission report will go to the Human Rights Council. It may well likely be approved there, I hope. Then it could go to the Security Council, but the problem in the Security Council is the United States has a veto. It looms large over it. And the Security Council will therefore be able to do nothing about carrying this report forward to accountability. The Security Council could refer the report, and Israeli violations as well as Palestinian violations, to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. will prohibit that.
And finally let's talk about the International Criminal Court. Palestine, I hope as most of our viewers know, because it's important, joined that court a few months ago. It was recognized in April as a member of the International Criminal Court, and it's recognized as a state by the UN and the majority of countries in the world. Israel has not joined the International Criminal Court, nor has the United States. But unfortunately for Israel, crimes on Palestinian territory can be investigated by the International Criminal Court because Palestine is a member. And today, just as I'm giving this report, there's important news. The prosecutor at the Criminal Court had asked for information from both sides, Israel and Palestine, on what happened in Gaza. And today Palestine submitted hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages of reports, on what war crimes of Israel in Palestinian territory. Israel of course did nothing, did not submit anything.
And it did it in three areas. First in what we've been talking about, the report on the way this war was fought, Protective Edge. And it talked about the war crimes that were committed, the thousands of civilians killed and destruction of tens of thousands of houses. And that report was, that's aspect one of what it submitted to the ICC. Aspect two was the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees in Israeli jails, many without charges. And thirdly, and this is important and I'm going to end on this point, that they also submitted to the International Criminal Court the question of the settlements. And the settlements, which are of course in occupied territory, are absolutely, 100 percent, slam dunk illegal. They're a war crime. There's no real defense for them. You're not allowed to put settlers of your own country into occupied territories.
And the question remaining now is, will the prosecutor in the International Criminal Court open a full-scale investigation? If she doesn't, in my view it will end any legitimacy that court has left. So let's hope she does. Unfortunately time is running as she considers it, and it can take a long time at the International Criminal Court. During that period operations like the assault on Gaza could happen again. Perhaps if the prosecutor acts rapidly it will dissuade the Israelis from entering into another Gaza war. Let's just hope so.
So there's movement. It's much slower, I think, than the Palestinians need or deserve, but hopefully it will make a difference.
DESVARIEUX: All right. Michael Ratner, joining us from New York. Thank you so much for being with us.
RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Gaza Reconstruction Is Moving at ‘Snail’s Pace’
Posted on Jun 25, 2015
It will likely take 30 years to repair the damage to the Gaza Strip, given the current rate of construction, a senior United Nations official has said.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed in last summer’s 50-day war, according to the U.N.
An Associated Press interview explains:
Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a U.N. agency involved in reconstruction, blamed the delays on the slow flow of promised foreign aid and continued Israeli curbs on the entry of building material to Gaza.Read more here.
Speaking in the Gaza City office of the U.N. Development Program, he said his tour of destroyed neighborhoods this week was “very, very disheartening.”
Israel and Egypt have severely restricted access to Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
Valent told The Associated Press on Wednesday [June 24] that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza’s borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed.
“The housing stock is being reconstructed at such a snail’s pace,” he said. Easing access is not enough and “the real solution is the lifting of restrictions.”
In New York, U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council on Wednesday that the pace of reconstruction “remains far too slow,” but that the U.N.-supervised system has been vital for getting building materials into Gaza. He said close to 90,000 homeowners have received construction materials for repairs and that 135 construction projects were approved by Israel, out of 202 submitted.
Critics of the reconstruction efforts note that not a single home has been rebuilt. Feltman said the construction of 16,000 homes is expected to begin shortly.
He appealed to donors to send promised aid. Otherwise, money will run out by September, he said.
Donor countries have pledged $5.4 billion in aid, including for Gaza reconstruction, but Palestinian officials say they’ve received only a fraction so far.
The Israeli group Gisha, which advocates for Gaza civilians, said about 5 million tons of construction materials are needed to rebuild the 2014 war damage.
—Posted by Roisin Davis
Friday, June 26, 2015
Pope Francis is at it again, applying the Gospels to today’s sin-soaked world as if he’s some kind of expert.
The pope’s new encyclical on the moral and material impacts of climate change and income inequality is ruffling the self-righteous feathers of right-wingers who would prefer that God’s spokesman stick to the GOP party line: Climate change is a hoax, the poor are lazy and gay marriage is the greatest threat to the American Way of Life, after the Kenyan Muslim Socialist Black Panther in the White House.
A sampling of the wingnut response, beginning with Rush Limbaugh, who believes so much in the sanctity of marriage he has tried it four times:
“You know, when this guy came out with his economic statements and I said it’s Marxism, the world erupted in outrage that I would dare characterize the Pope as a Marxist,” Rush whined. “But his economic policies and philosophies as he explained them were completely that.
Jeb! (Bush), who is Catholic and doing his family duty and running for the GOP presidential nomination:
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” he said. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”
Never to be outdone when it comes to breathtaking hypocrisy, Rick Santorum, R-Torquemada, who is clearly running for vice president, actually said:
“The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is … theology and morality.”
I couldn’t agree more with Rick’s deference to scientists — the overwhelming majority of whom say climate change is real and being worsened by human behavior. Also, Pope Francis happens to hold a degree in chemistry. That doesn’t make him an expert on climate change, but if the day ever comes when Pope Francis needs advice on theology and morality from Rick Santorum, we will truly be living in The End Times.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
UN report on Gaza war likely to bolster international criminal court inquiry
Analysis: Report on 2014 Gaza conflict, claiming Israeli and Palestinian factions violated international law, will give momentum to ICC preliminary examination
The UN’s inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war issues a rallying call for suspected war criminals “at all levels of the political and military establishments” to be brought to justice, but as the report itself wearily concedes, that is unlikely to happen soon.
The UN’s inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war issues a rallying call for suspected war criminals “at all levels of the political and military establishments” to be brought to justice, but as the report itself wearily concedes, that is unlikely to happen soon.
However, the report is likely to bolster the international criminal court’s preliminary examination of last summer’s conflict, increasing the likelihood that a full investigation will eventually follow.
The UN commission identifies a culture of impunity surrounding Palestinian militant groups and the Israeli military alike, and the immediate reaction from both camps suggests this culture will remain highly resistant to change. Hamaswelcomed the report but noted only how it applied to the Israeli occupation, ignoring its finding on potential Palestinian abuses. Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials rejected the report as inherently biased on the grounds that it had been commissioned by the UN human rights council.
“You can see the reactions of the prime minister [Netanyahu] and other ministers, dismissing the implications of this report because it came from the human rights council,” said Yael Stein, research director of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation. “And there are problems with the council. But nobody is looking at what is actually written in this report. They just close the discussion.”
While there is little prospect of any greater procedural restraint being imposed on the operations of militant groups in Gaza, Israel is evaluating the findings of an earlier inquiry on the use of military force, known as the Turkel commission. However, those recommendations principally refer to the workings of the Military Advocate General office inside the Israeli military, and rights groups say none of the reforms would give it jurisdiction over senior officers or politicians.
“Even if all the Turkel recommendations were implemented, we think it would have no effect on the ground,” Stein said. “The bottom line is that the whole system is not built for accountability.”
In the absence of meaningful internal change, the UN report looks to potential legal intervention from outside. It calls on the international community to “exercise universal jurisdiction to try international crimes in national courts”. This is a reference to the capability of prosecutors in some European countries to issue arrest warrants based on allegations of war crimes or crimes against humanity committed elsewhere.
It was the principle behind the detention of the Chilean ex-dictator, Augusto Pinochet, in London in 1998, acting on a Spanish request, and it was the reason Israeli ministers were wary of travelling to Britain five years ago. But since then, universal jurisdiction guidelines have been tightened in the UK and several other European countries in a way that makes them less potentially threatening to Israeli ministers.
The main impact of the new UN report is likely to be felt indirectly through the momentum it gives the ICC preliminary examination into the Gaza conflict, started earlier this year. A spokeswoman for the court in The Hague said prosecutors there were studying the commission’s findings.
“The preliminary examination is still ongoing. It is an independent and impartial process; and the office [of the prosecutor] continues to gather information from multiple reliable sources, which will assist it in arriving at a fully informed decision at the end of the process,” the spokeswoman said in an email. Unconfirmed reports in Israel said ICC investigators were expected to travel to Gaza next month.
Fred Abrahams, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The report’s conclusions on the failures of Israel and Hamas to seriously investigate alleged war crimes will likely get the ICC’s immediate attention.”
However, David Bosco, the author of a book on the ICC, predicted it could be a long time until the ICC examination became a fully fledged investigation.
“A five- or six-month preliminary examination is not all that unusual. but in the end I would expect that this preliminary examination would last much longer than many others, in part because of the political and institutional backdrop,” said Bosco, who is an assistant professor at American University in Washington.
“It’s worth noting that Palestine itself has still not formally referred its situation to the court, although the court has jurisdiction. The prosecutor may take that as a sign that Palestinian leaders are uncertain about whether they actually want a full investigation. And that may increase the prosecutor’s hesitation.”