Finkelstein Banned in Berlin:

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A Democracy that isn’t a Democracy

What an irony.  The descendant of people killed in the holocaust is prevented from speaking in Germany on the grounds that his speech is antisemitic.

By Anis Hamadeh

19/02/2010 – Dr. Norman Finkelstein wrote several books in the field Israel/Palestine/ Holocaust and is one of the most sagacious analysts of our time. Similar to Professor Ilan Pappe, he formulates sharp criticism in respect to past and presence of the State of Israel, and both use very rational argumentations and are reliable researchers. Especially since the mass murders in Jenin and in Gaza, these two men and many other Jews (also in Germany) speak out, because they do not want to be taken in for violent purposes by a state that arrogates to speak and act in the name of all Jews.

As is known now, both the Heinrich Boell Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation have canceled Finkelstein talks that were already scheduled in Berlin. While the foundation close to the Green party did not even bother to explain its behavior, the board of the foundation close to the Left party explained its drawback in a media info with the empty statement that such a talk would be “explosive” (“brisant”).

What is going on there, one wonders. Does Finkelstein call for violence? Are his views outside legal norms, does he disesteem the human rights? Nothing of all this. On the contrary. The reason for banning him is the veto of groups that seek to avert criticism of Israel, connecting this issue with the reproach of anti-Semitism. This is an old chestnut and not specifically interesting. What is interesting, though, is that the German public buys this nonsense and denies a man, who lost his family in German concentration camps, to talk on German soil, tolerating that he is labeled an anti-Semite for his reflections on violence in Israel. The same thing actually happened only some months ago to the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in Munich, when the city’s Lord Mayor canceled a scheduled talk. Pappe then wrote in an open letter that his father “was silenced in a similar way as a German Jew in the early 1930s”.

The German Self-Conception

So let us revisit the German self-conception and then take a short look at the historical background to understand this apparantly great fear that is going around in Germany. Recently, when the Israeli politician Shimon Peres talked on the occasion of the Holocaust Memorial Day in the German Bundestag, he received standing ovations. The few, who did not stand up for their refusal of Peres’ and Israel’s violent policies, were publically attacked. There is, for example, the quote of a member of the Bundestag: “The Nazi crimes, the Shoa, and the war of annihilation are the original crime of humanity. (…) The Jewish victims of National Socialism are memorized on January 27 in the Bundestag memorial. On this occasion, only they and the reminder of `Never again!’ can be the topic. Everything else in this context is a relativization of the Nazi crimes.” It is a quote typical for Germany and reveals the German angst as well as the great danger that goes with it.

The genocide of the Jews in this quote is taken out of any historical context and declared a unique event. Firstly, this reveals a “We (We!) are the greatest” narcissism. Secondly, it reveals a pro-Jewish racism, as if one racism could make up for another one. Not the victims are important, no, the Jewish victims are. The Nazi killing of Sinti and Roma thus is kind of OK. And how much then will the killing of Palestinains be OK if conducted by Jews. Put in a more general way: while calling the genocide of the Jews the “original crime”, the unique and incomparable act, every other crime is relativized and thus not so important. Finkelstein and Pappe do not fit in here, they disturb the celebration by entering the historical framework, which is all the more embarrassing as they are Jews with family ties to Nazi victims. Banning them shows that in the end even Jewish Nazi victims are not what the whole circus is about, despite all the pathetic oaths and solemn declarations. This is what Germany fears, that people realize that public “Remembering the Holocaust” is a fake and that Finkelstein and Pappe are eloquent and powerful enough to unmask this pharce.

Germany has decided to do penance for the Nazi crimes by means of supporting the State of Israel. When it stands in solidarity with the Zionist state, then Germany would fulfil its historical responsibility. This dogma is not questioned, although it is beyond any logic to support Zionism of all things in order to do penance. Beyond logic not in the first place because there had been fruitful cooperations between Nazis and Zionists. (It was in the interest of both ideologies to bring Jews out of Germany.) What is much worse is that violence is not recognized as the problem. Thus Hitler has won in the end, for the violence that made this criminal a criminal in the first place, this violence has not stopped. On the contrary: the compulsive “Never again!” serves as a justification of violence and killing. This works only because the genocide of the Jews was taken out of its historical context and floats around freely.

The Israeli Self-Conception

Both Finkelstein and Pappe write about the missing historical context and this is what people are afraid of, for both use their arguments brilliantly, even compelling, and they are concerned as Jews whose families have Nazi experiences. Like Goldstone, Chomsky, and some others, the two academics are subject to hate and rejection of the ruling Zionism and its strenuous friends. Finkelstein lives in the USA, where Zionism is even stronger than in Israel, and he does not lead an easy life. Pappe needed to go to exile in England, because life in Israel became unbearable for him. He wrote the book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” in which he clearly shows how the Israeli state was built on heavy violence. Considering that both authors face bans in Germany it is no wonder that there is not much heard of the events around 1948 other than flat stereotypes.

According to the Israeli self-conception the Zionist state emerged out of a “War of Independence” . In this view, the Jewish victims of National Socialism have created a state to protect themselves and were immediately attacked by their evil Arab neighbors. This version of the story is sacrosanct and is defended with great hysteria, be it in Israel or in Germany, because it does not bear with a neutral analysis. For when Israel was founded in May 1948, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine had already been going on for half a year. This was called “Plan Dalet/Plan D” and everybody can read about it. Hundreds of indigenous Palestinians were killed and hundreds of thousands were expelled from their villages by Zionist militias. According to the Israeli self-conception many Palestinians went away voluntarily, as if anybody would voluntarily leave their home and property just like that.

International pressure led to the UN partition plan which deprived the native population of a little more than half of Palestine which was to be given to the Zionists. Yet the Zionists were not content with that. They received weapons and took more of the land by force. When they then built a state on this land, they did not do it in agreement with anybody, but unilaterally and surprisingly. The dogma of the “right of existence” was invented so that people would not talk about these events anymore. Here is the seed of the problems we are confronted with until today. It is possible to begin earlier, with the Sykes Picot Treaty or the first settlers from abroad who for the most part did not integrate, but appeared aggessively. One can talk about the British and about Zionist and Arab terrorism, about Jabotinsky and other pioneers. But it is the founding of the state and Plan D which show most clearly why history is escalating until today.

The massacre of Deir Yassin happened in the framework of this plan, it was covered in the world press. Nobody was ever held responsible for this blood-spree and thus a precedence was created which is working until today. Nobody has been taken to account for the mass murder in Gaza, neither, and all the other massacres that Israel habitually commits. The Plan D land theft is another precedence, for up to this day the Israeli territory gets wider while the Palestinian territory shrinks. All this is inherent in the biased concept of “right of existence”, as are the race laws from 1950 which guarantee all Jews in the world a “right of return” to Israel while the expelled native population had to keep out, an unprecedented act in the long history of the country. Their land and property was confiscated by the new masters who clinged to a blood-and-soil ideology. A lot of this reminds one of the Nazis, which by no means is a wonder, when you consider the victim/perpetrator dynamics. It is known that victims, because of their traumas, are prone to become perpetrators and it is so obvious that it takes a whole lot of energy to suppress the respective discourse. It is suppressed, in militarized Israel just like in Germany, it is taboo. For this reason, a government of right-wing extremists in Israel is not a problem. Right-wing extremism is not right-wing extremism, when it comes to Israel.

The Tip of the Iceberg

The cancelation of Finkelstein’s talks are but the tip of a huge iceberg. While these lines are written, Palestinian houses in Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya are being demolished and in Sheikh Jarrah/Jerusalem new land thefts are scheduled. A big historic Arab graveyard is to be confiscated to build a “Museum of Tolerance” on it while in Bil’in the nonviolent resistance against the wall enters its sixth year. The protesters are injured by the army on a regular basis, and also killed. The world press says almost nothing about the heroes of nonviolent resistance, because it does not fit the image. Russian Jews in Be’er Sheva in the Negev have just killed a bedouin boy and heavily injured another, while a group of fundamentalist settlers have injured a Palestinian child in Hebron. About 11.000 Palestinians are kept in Israeli prisons. The “checkpoints” to Nablus have been closed down recently so that nobody can enter. The Gaza fishermen are being shot at by the Israeli navy and Gaza is still under siege.

The head of the Dubai police just confirmed that according to police investigations there is a very high probability that the Mossad is behind the murder of a Hamas politician in the Emirates. Every day you can read on http://www.theheadl ines.org what happens in the country and that since 1948 there has been no change of the routine. In Germany, the Palästina Portal is one of the sources one can turn to.

Most of what happens remains unknown to us, our media skips most of it, in fear of an increasing “anti-Semitism” . It is for the same reason that we are not to listen to Finkelstein and Pappe, for they verify the terrible events and the historical development sketched above. Instead, we are fed with “information” on “terrorism”. It is well-known to some of the leading politicians and opinion-leaders that the Israeli policy can only lead to the self-destruction of the State of Israel. Call it a culture of death. Maybe self-hatred is another reason for this behavior, something human rights advocates like Finkelstein and Pappe are labeled by exactly those who display it themselves. But even according to our mainstream dogmas we have a big problem here, for this development is bad for the Jews, too, the Zionists among them and the anti-Zionists.

Norman Finkelstein (http://www.normanfinkelstein.com) will talk about Gaza in Munich on Feb. 24, 7 p.m. Amerikahaus, Karolinenplatz 3, and on Feb. 25, 7 p.m., Kulturhaus Milbertshofen, Curt-Mezger- Platz 1

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Karzai to Pay Taliban to Lay Down Their Arms

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Waheedullah Massoud (AFP)

2010-01-27T192506Z_1489401820_GM1E61S09H201_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN

Afghan President Hamid Karzai waves as he leaves 10 Downing Street after his meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, London January 27, 2010.  

REUTERS/Kevin Coombs 

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai unveiled an ambitious Western-funded plan Friday to offer money and jobs to tempt Taliban fighters to lay down their arms in an effort to quell a crippling insurgency.

His comments to the BBC came as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates described the Taliban as part of Afghanistan’ s “political fabric”, but said any future role would depend on insurgents laying down their weapons.

Karzai’s plan echoed similar proposals by Washington to try and bring low and mid-level extremists back into mainstream society, but the leadership of Islamist insurgent groups remain hostile to negotiations.

Militants led by the Taliban movement have been waging an increasingly deadly rebellion against the Afghan government and foreign troops since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime from power in late 2001.

“We know as the Afghan people we must have peace at any cost,” Karzai said in the television interview aired Friday ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan in London next week, where he will present the plan.

“Those that we approach to return will be provided with the abilities to work, to find jobs, to have protection, to resettle in their own communities.”

The Taliban gives its foot-soldiers higher salaries than the Afghan government can afford to pay its forces, and the president said his project would have international backing to provide the necessary funds.

Hardline Taliban supporters, who were members of Al-Qaeda or other terror groups, would not be accepted in the scheme, Karzai added.

The Taliban leadership have repeatedly rebuffed peace talks in the past, and on Friday a spokesman for the militia, Zabihullah Mujahid, reiterated that they would not negotiate with Karzai’s government.

“Our only and main goal is the freedom and independence of our country. We cannot be bought by money and bounties. The Taliban will not sell themselves off for cash,” Mujahid said, reacting to Karzai’s comments.

“We insist on our previous stance that we will not negotiate with this government. Any negotiation now would mean accepting being a slave of America. Our goal is enforcing an Islamic government and withdrawal of foreign forces.”

Insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who commands another radical Islamist group Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan, would come to the table with the US and Afghan government, but only under strict conditions, his spokesman Zubair Sediqi said.

“All the foreign forces must leave Afghanistan unconditionally. A permanent ceasefire must be enforced. All prisoners from all side must be freed. An interim administration must take charge for one year,” Sediqi told AFP.

Karzai has in the past urged the United States to back talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar but Washington has resisted negotiations with any figures linked to wider extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

On a visit to Pakistan — which has come under intense US pressure to do more to wipe out Islamist extremists along its border with Afghanistan — Gates said the Taliban had to prove they wanted a role in Afghanistan’s future.

“The question is whether they are prepared to play a legitimate role in the political fabric of Afghanistan going forward, meaning participating in elections, meaning not assassinating local officials and killing families,” he told reporters.

Gates had said earlier that some lower-ranking insurgents might be open to making peace with Kabul, but warned that the senior-most Taliban leaders would unlikely reconcile with Afghanistan’s government.

In Washington on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a long-term non-military strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The strategy aims to to rebuild the Afghan farm sector, improve governance and bring extremists back into mainstream society.

It complements a military strategy in which President Barack Obama announced on December 1 he would deploy another 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

Extra troop commitments from NATO allies are expected to take to around 150,000 the total number of foreign troops operating in Afghanistan under US and NATO command in the coming year.

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Community News (V11-I51)

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Madison mosque plan to be discussed

RIDGE LAND,MS–Consideration of a site plan for a proposed mosque north of Madison is on the agenda of the Madison County Planning and Zoning Commission this Thursday.

The Mississippi Muslim Association is seeking approval of the site plan for the mosque on a 5-acre site west of U.S. 51. A site plan depicts the architectural design of a building along with landscaping.

The Board of Supervisors in August approved a special zoning exemption for the mosque.The land was zoned R-1 residential so a special exception was necessary to build a place of worship.

The proposed mosque has met resistance from some residents. At the time the exception was granted, John R. Reeves, an attorney representing some of the residents, argued that the Muslim Association had yet to show adequate provisions for utilities and had not provided any kind of drawing or site plan to show that the proposed building is compatible with the surrounding area.

Citibank asked to apologize

CHICAGO,IL–The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today called on Citibank to apologize to a Muslim woman who was allegedly verbally abused by a security guard at a Gresham, Ill., branch because she wears a religious head scarf, or hijab.

According to the Muslim woman, the guard said it was against Citibank’s policy for customers to transact business wearing head coverings. While another Citibank employee did allow the woman to complete her business, that employee insisted on personally escorting her to the counter and watched over her shoulder as she conducted her transactions.

The guard also reportedly objected to the woman receiving service because it would encourage more of “them” to come into the bank. Throughout the process, which the Muslim customer described as “humiliating,” the guard allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks.

CAIR-Chicago is calling for the apology, a review of Citibank policies related to religious head coverings and for diversity training of bank staff.

“Denying someone the right to enjoy equal treatment in places of public accommodation is illegal and violates our most deeply held values of fairness and respect for others,” said Kevin Vodak, staff attorney at CAIR-Chicago.

“It appears that this security guard was purposefully trying to deter Muslims from patronizing the bank by harassing them. If this is the case, the bank needs to make sure this kind of discriminatory behavior is addressed,” said Christina Abraham, civil rights director at CAIR-Chicago. “It’s illegal and it’s bad business.”

Edmonton Muslims host Eid dinner

EDMONTON–Edmonton Muslims last Sunday hosted an Eid dinner for the needy irrespective of their faith at the Boyle Street Community Services Center.

Aziz Khan, president of the Islamic Family and Social Services Association said, “We hold this dinner closer to Christmas than the end of Ramadan, so it’s really a mixture of two great festivals,” he said.

“It’s part of the Islamic community connecting with the rest of the city, and you see the need with all the people we have here today.”

They prepare enough food for 1,000, and hungry people were lined up into the street.

Sofia Yaqub, an director of the association who’s involved with a variety of multicultural groups, said it’s sad to see the dinner numbers growing each year. “You wonder how all these people fell into this situation.”

Yaqub said the Muslim community encourages younger people to volunteer at the dinner. “We always get a big response, and it’s an excellent experience for them to see how fortunate they are.”

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Independent Palestinian State?

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Push causes Israeli alarm

By Donald Macintyre in Ramallah

2009-11-10T105107Z_1235520321_GM1E5BA1FW201_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS

Palestinians light candles around a poster depicting the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a rally marking the fifth anniversary of Arafat’s death, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 10, 2009. Arafat died on November 11, 2004.        

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinian leaders from President Mahmoud Abbas down have alarmed Israeli ministers by swinging their weight behind a planned effort to secure UN backing for a unilaterally declared independent state in the West Bank and Gaza.

In an innovative strategy which would not depend on the success of currently stalled negotiations with Israel, the leaders are preparing a push to secure formal UN Security Council support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders as a crucial first step towards the formation of a state.

Although there is no fixed timetable, Palestinian officials see the second half of 2011 as a plausible starting date for such a process. That is when the Palestinian Authority is due to fulfill Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s widely applauded two-year plan for completing work on all the institutions needed for a fully-fledged state.

One senior Palestinian official said here that the new plan was “the last resort of the peace camp in Palestine” given the current negotiating impasse left in the wake of the US failure to persuade Israel to agree a total freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank as a preliminary to talks.

The moderate Palestinian leadership also sees the unilateral process as a viable – and, in internal political terms, significantly more credible – alternative to surrendering to intense US pressure to enter negotiations without the settlement freeze.

As the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to denounce the Palestinian plan in a speech last night, Israel’s President Shimon Peres declared in Brazil, “A Palestinian state cannot be established without a peace agreement. It’s impossible and it will not work. It’s unacceptable that they change their minds every day. Bitterness is not a policy.”

But officials here are hoping that, without any progress towards “final status” negotiations on a future state, the US could be persuaded not to veto such a resolution. Explicit UN Security Council support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders would, the officials believe, dramatically intensify legal and moral pressure on Israel to lift the 42-year-old occupation.

Some officials are even drawing a direct comparison with the diplomatic process by which Israel itself was established as a state: a UN resolution endorsing it in November 1947, the Declaration of Independence by David Ben Gurion in May 1948 and the subsequent swift recognition by the US and Soviet Union.

The strategy is tied closely to – though not specified in – Mr Fayyad’s plan, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, and is thought to have originated with the Prime Minister, an independent who has recently publicly questioned the willingness of Mr Netanyahu’s government to grant more than a “mickey mouse” state in any negotiations. But it has since had strong backing from Mr Abbas, and other leading figures in his Fatah faction.

At a commemoration of his predecessor Yasser Arafat’s death, Mr Abbas declared last week, “The Palestinian state is a fact which the world recognises”. Saying that more than 100 countries supported Palestinian aspirations for a state, he added: “Now we are fighting to get the world to recognise the borders of our nation.” Mr Abbas, who reaffirmed his intention not to run again as President, has insisted that he will not return to negotiations without a settlement freeze and clear terms of reference specifying a state based on 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the capital, and an agreed solution for refugees.

The leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat yesterday followed his Fatah colleague Mohammed Dahlan in strongly endorsing the plan. “We have taken an Arab foreign ministers’ decision to seek the help of the international community,” Mr Erekat told Reuters, adding that the US and other leading international players would be consulted before any UN move. “If the Americans cannot get the Israelis to stop settlement activities, they should also not cover them when we decide to go to the Security Council,” he added.

Ghassan Khatib, head of the Palestinian government’s media centre, said that the international community should confront Israel with a choice of a clear negotiating path towards a state based on 1967 borders, or international recognition for a Palestinian state without an agreement. “They cannot block the negotiating approach to two states and at the same time refuse the alternative,” he added.

He said that progress by the current “peace camp” in charge in Ramallah was essential if it was not to “run out of ammunition” against the alternative offered by Hamas. “I honestly think there is no future for the peace camp in Palestine if this is not going to work,” he said, adding that it would be “political suicide” for the present leadership to enter negotiations on present terms. He said the international community had long been striving “for an agreed end to the conflict – a two-state solution as a result of an agreement. But we are saying it’s not working. Why not recognise a Palestinian state when it is ready, without necessarily relying on Israeli consent?”

Mr Khatib added that recognition for a unilaterally declared state would parallel Israel’s recognition as in 1948. “The other side was not [then] expected to accept. There was no consent by either the Palestinians or the Arab [states].” Such a strategy would be severely complicated by Gaza, if it were still controlled by Hamas at the time – but no more so than the negotiations which the US is currently trying to promote.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to reject the Palestinian proposal. Addressing a forum on the Middle East in Jerusalem, he said, “There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority…any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel’s side.”

Independence: Getting past the roadblock

Q. Would a unilateral declaration of independence carry risks?

A. Even if it were underpinned by a UN endorsement of a Palestinian state based on the areas occupied in 1967, it would certainly be a lurch into uncharted diplomatic waters. But some Western diplomats believe it would remove any lingering doubts about the meaning of UN Resolution 242, on which Palestinian and international demands for an end to the occupation begun in 1967 are based.

Q. What might be the advantage for the Palestinians?

A. Israel technically regards the West Bank as a disputed territory the final status of which is a matter for negotiation. Palestinians hope that a process of obtaining UN Security Council support for independence, followed by major individual countries recognising the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza as a state, would greatly and immediately put Israel under pressure to withdraw its forces and civilian settlers from the occupied territories in the West Bank. At the most extreme interpretation, Israel would then be regarded as occupying a foreign country. The UN could also grant the new Palestine immediate and full membership, with voting and proposing rights, in major international bodies.

Q. What is Israel’s main problem with the proposal?

A. Israel argues that such a unilateral declaration would not only violate its right to reach an agreement on borders with the Palestinians, but also directly cuts across the 1995 Oslo-derived agreement that neither side should take unilateral steps affecting the status of the territories.

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Elements of US Peace Plan Revealed

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Palestine Center Blog

An elected Palestinian official unveiled details of a US peace plan for a “permanent peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict” drafted by Pres. Obama, who intends to officially declare it soon, according to Hassan Khraisha, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament.

Xinhua reported Khraisha said the plan includes:

* Statehood: the establishment of Palestinian statehood first in the West Bank by 2011. Later, the Gaza Strip will be integrated.

* No Authority Over East Jerusalem: “The plan puts parts of East Jerusalem under the full Israeli sovereignty without any actual Palestinian control on it. But the holy sites will be under Arab and Islamic administration,” said Khraisha.

* Palestinian Foreign Policy: It prevents the Palestinian state from making any foreign military alliances in the region, according to Khraisha.

* Limited Refugee Resettlement: Resettling “a limited number of Palestinian refugees in the Jordan valley and other areas in the West Bank” between Nablus and Ramallah, Khraisha said.

* Not Clear on Refugees in Arab World: The “plan did not show what would be the fate of the Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab and foreign countries.”

* Settlements: the plan talks about keeping big settlements in the West Bank, and to start negotiations on smaller settlements within three months.

* Demilitarization: The Palestinian state would be demilitarized.

* Airspace: Israel exercises control of the airspace above the Palestinian state.

* Factions as Parties: “The new U.S. plan calls for turning the different armed Palestinian factions into political parties which condemn the use of violence against Israel,” said Khraisha.

* Palestinian prisoners: The plan includes an Israeli release of a number of prisoners from its jails as soon as a permanent peace agreement is signed between Israel and the PNA. The prisoners’ release would take three years.

Khraisha, who declined to say from where he got the draft, said that the U.S. administration had finalized the plan with the assistance of some Jewish figures specialized in the Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

Khraisha opposes the U.S. plan, saying “it means to dwarf the Palestinian political project and smashes the legitimate rights of the Palestinians in two basic issues, Jerusalem and the refugees return.”

“The plans and declarations of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to start building up the establishments and the institutions of the future Palestinian statehood might be made in accordance with the U.S. peace plan,” said Khraisha.

He said that the PNA “might deal with the plan, which is very dangerous and it comes in a status of Palestinian weakness due to the current political rift between Hamas and Fatah.”

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Many Guantanamo Cases Referred to US Prosecutors

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Devlin Barrett 

Washington – Dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases have been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal trials in the nation’s capital, Virginia and New York City, officials told The Associated Press on Monday as a second strategy for trying the detainees emerged within the Obama administration.

The Justice Department’s strategy of holding trials in East Coast cities could be a sharp departure from a Pentagon plan to hold all Guantanamo-related civilian and military trials in the Midwest.

The politically volatile decisions about where and how to try Guantanamo Bay detainees ultimately will rest with President Barack Obama as he tries to meet his self-imposed January deadline for closing the island prison.

Obama administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations, said Attorney General Eric Holder met privately last week with the chief federal prosecutor in each of the East Coast areas to discuss the preparations for possible indictments and trials in those districts.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Guantanamo Bay detainee task force “has referred a significant number of cases for possible prosecution, and those cases have now been sent to U.S. Attorney offices who are reviewing them with prosecutors from the Office of Military Commissions.” His statement didn’t identify the districts involved.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said no final decisions have been made on where in the U.S. to transfer Guantanamo detainees.

One official said prosecutors and military lawyers are now reviewing the individual cases. The work is aimed at indicting individuals in civilian courts, but final decisions have not been made on the cases and some of the inmates whose cases were referred could still end up before military commissions instead.

Officials said the districts which have been referred Guantanamo cases are: Washington, D.C.; the Eastern District of Virginia, which has a courthouse in Alexandria, Va.; the Southern District of New York, which is based in lower Manhattan in New York City; and the Eastern District of New York, which is based in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Each district has experience prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, and each courthouse has high-security facilities for holding particularly dangerous inmates.
Yet the plan to hold terror trials in those cities may run afoul of a separate initiative being considered to build a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. heartland.

Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the suspected 229 al-Qaida, Taliban, and foreign fighters now jailed at Guantanamo.

The president has said some detainees will be tried in civilian courts, some in military commissions, and some will be held without trial because they are simply too dangerous but the evidence against them cannot be aired in any courtroom.

The proposed Midwest facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

Both the Justice and Pentagon plans face legal and logistical problems.

If a significant number of civilian trials were to be held in the Midwest, the government might have to send in prosecutors and judges experienced in terrorism cases, and lawyers for the detainees could object to the jury pool.

Such a plan would also require an expensive upgrade of the facilities in Kansas or Michigan, and it’s unclear if there is enough time for such work under the president’s deadline.

But trying them on the East Coast could generate more of the kind of public opposition that led Congress earlier this year to yank funding for bringing such detainees to U.S. soil until the administration produces an acceptable plan for shuttering the Guantanamo facility.

The Obama administration has already transferred one detainee to U.S. courts – Ahmed Ghailani was sent to New York in June to face charges he helped blow up U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

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