Up Yours, Howard

Good one, Elton. Should have mentioned Howard’s elevation to GG of the pedo priest protector Hollingworth while he was at it.

Pop star Sir Elton John has criticised Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s position on gay marriage.

The musician, on an Australian tour, was asked if he had a message for Howard, whose government overruled a local law allowing gay unions in June.

“Up yours!” replied the outspoken star, who “married” his partner David Furnish in a civil ceremony last year.

The issue of gay marriage has been high on the political agenda in Australia in recent months.

The Australian Capital Territory – the area around Canberra – became the first part of the country to legally recognise gay relationships when it voted on the issue in May this year.

But many members of Mr Howard’s conservative government opposed the change, and the law was invalidated.

‘Not homophobic’

Attorney General Philip Ruddock said that federal law clearly defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Mr Howard denied the move was homophobic. “It is not a question of discriminating against them,” he said.

“It is a question of preserving as an institution in our society marriage as having a special character.

“If you look at the legislation, what it effectively says, a civil union is not a marriage, but it will be treated for all purposes as being equivalent to a marriage,” he added.

Sir Elton has long been an advocate of gay rights, and caused an outcry earlier this month when he called for organised religion to be banned, and accused it of trying to “turn hatred towards gay people”.

Organised religion lacked compassion and turned people into “hateful lemmings”, he told the Observer Music Monthly magazine.

But the musician said he loved the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and said there were many gays he knew who loved their religion.

He added he would continue to fight for gay rights, “whether I do it silently behind the scenes or so vocally that I get locked up”.

Why focus on Israel?

Exposing Israel’s net propaganda helps prevent Israel getting away with further social injustices. These ongoing heinous injustices and flagrant aggressions have majorly contributed to very real grievances, providing fuel for terrorism against the west of which Australia is part.

We object to our current Australian government’s ill-considered, slavish pro-United States/Israeli policies – Howard’s partisan foolishness puts Australia in a very bad light and in this regard he does not serve our nation’s interests in *our* region – in fact he has increased our danger. Israel is regarded by nearly every country in the world as a pariah state because of its flaunting of international law and most especially for its hideous illegal occupation. Australia is now seen to be backing Israel’s lawlessness, which does not promote our nation’s prestige and security with our neighbours. Through Howard’s blatant favouritism, Australia has lost moral ground, not that it had much in the first place, considering its own history of settler colonial criminality and genocide.

Israel’s water theft

Mohammad Ghamlush, “the engineer heading the Wazzani river pumping systems, told Agence France Presse the Israeli army sabotaged the water pumps on the river last week and installed a pipe to pump hundreds of cubic meters to Israel.”

He said the Israeli army has installed two water pumps to transport water from the Wazzani river through two pipes, which run toward villages in Israel.

Ghamlush said the Israelis were pumping every day between 200 and 300 cubic meters of water from the Wazzani to Ghajar and to Israeli villages.

As for water stolen from the West Bank, there’s plenty of evidence for that. It is illegal under international law to retain land captured by warfare. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Shebaa Farms and Golan Heights is illegal whilst resisting the Israeli occupation is legal.

Of course, Israel doesn’t give two hoots about international law.

“However, soon afterward, the Israelis launched an unrelated attack on a West Bank Jordanian village, killing 53 people which came to be known as the Kibya massacre. As a result of the ensuing furor, on October 18, 1953, the Eisenhower administration made public its cutoff of aid to Israel. Eleven days later, under the pressure from the U.S. Zionist lobby and a pledge by Israel to suspend work on the diversion project, U.S. aid was resumed. (Taking Sides: America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, by Stephen Green, William Morrow and Co., N.Y. 1984. “The 1953 Aid Cutoff: A Parable for Our Times,” pp. 76- 93.)

Israeli work on diverting the water of the Jordan River was only temporarily suspended — perhaps for as long as two years. By 1960, however, the diversion project — which came to be known as the National Water Carrier — was complete and in fact was the target of the PLO’s first (and unsuccessful) attack in 1964.

Jordan and Syria strongly protested Israel’s unilateral appropriation of their water because Israel’s diversion made local agricultural activity impossible.

Before the Israeli diversion, the U.S. plan apportioned 33% of Jordan River water for Israel’s use. As Stephen Green points out, the significance of this figure is that only 23% of the flow of the Jordan River originates in Israel. The Israelis, however, wanted more than 33%. Today, Israel takes virtually all of the Jordan River flow leaving only brackish, unusable water for the Syrians and Jordanians. Moreover, Israel’s diversion of the Jordan River water to the Mediterranean littoral and to the Negev, defies an important principle of international law regarding water use; namely that water should not be diverted from its catchment basin.”

“When Israel conquered the Golan Heights, they captured the headwaters of the Jordan and thus secured for themselves the greatest part of the flow of the Jordan River. Israel captured the final portion of the Jordan River flow in their 1982 invasion of Lebanon when they included as part of their self-declared “security zone” the Hasbani and Wazzani Rivers which arise in Lebanon and flow into the Jordan.”

“West Bank water not only makes up 30% of the water in Tel Aviv households but also is critical to preserving the pressure balance which keeps the salt water of the Mediterranean from invading the coastal aquifers.

Israel has permitted no new drilling of agricultural wells for water for the Palestinians in the territories and has permitted fewer than a dozen for domestic use. Moreover, the Israelis charge the Palestinians fees that are three times higher than they charge Israelis for water for domestic use (with even higher relative charges in Gaza).

As Sharif Elmusa points out: “[I]n terms of relative GNP per capita, Palestinians pay a minimum of fifteen times more than Israeli consumers — a phenomenal difference for water systems managed by the same company.” (“Dividing the Common Palestinian-Israeli Waters: An International Water Law Approach” in Journal of Palestine Studies, Spring 1993, No. 87, p. 63. See also note 11, p. 74.) ”

Here’s more history of Israel’s theft of water from the Jordan and the disastrous consequences.

“The main flow of the Jordan River has now been all but totally preempted by Israel’s diversions. All the headwaters’ flow is now collected by Israel and pumped out of the Jordan Basin, across the mountains, for use in irrigation or municipal water along the Mediterranean littoral of Israel.

The planning for diverting the Jordan River water by the Israelis started as early as the 1940s, but the very idea of capturing it is even more ancient. Much of the design of the civil works for capturing the Jordan River was completed in the 1950s, and they succeeded in diverting the entire volume of sweet water from the Upper Jordan by the late 1960s, when construction of the National Water Carrier system was completed. Pumps lift Jordan River water out of Lake Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee, and convey it across the watershed. The diverted flow is then pumped to Israeli consumers on the Mediterranean coast and down into the northern Negev.”

“To make things even more difficult, there is another source of extra-boundary water that Israel diverts for its own use, albeit less obviously. The amount of water that Israel take from the underground of the West Bank is almost as important as the water diverted from the Upper Jordan Valley. This could surprise as the West Bank appears to be quite dry much of the year. In fact it receives more rain than the coastal plain, mostly in wintertime. As the soil is extremely porous much goes into the ground and thus into the aquifers underneath which is now pumped by the Israelis. This subsurface flow of water is a major contributor to Israel’s water balance, representing with its 400 mcm/y of water just over 20% of total Israeli consumption. This explains why Palestinians have not been allowed to dig new wells since 1967 and why their water consumption was constantly restricted by the occupier: the hegemony over the West Bank is critical for Israel’s water supply.”

The Wazzani River is in Lebanon.

Not Israel. Israel may think it owns all the water in the region, but it doesn’t.

“Withdrawing from some villages, the Israeli forces redeployed to other areas leaving behind them a trail of destruction, such as in Labbouneh, whose trees and horticulture have been totally destroyed by bulldozers. In addition, convoys of Israeli trucks are transporting Lebanese agricultural soil over the border to Israeli settlements and Israeli soldiers are building a water duct to carry water from the Wazzani river to Israel. The deployment of Lebanese and UNIFIL forces is being hampered by Israel’s refusal to hand over the maps indicating the land mines they planted prior to their withdrawal in 2000 and the cluster bombs they dropped on Lebanese sites during the last three days of the recent war. Moreover, reports about Israeli commando operations shifting the border away from the Blue Line into Lebanese territory have prompted the Lebanese government to file a complaint with the United Nations under the new regulations set up by Resolution 1701 which is supposed to safeguard Lebanon against violations of its territory.”

And more:

There are no bilateral water agreements between Lebanon and Israel, but both states are bound by the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, which has NOT been formally ratified. It must be noted that even this convention does NOT give Israel the right to actually draw water from within Lebanese territory. It merely puts a loose restriction on Lebanon in its usage of international watercourses that have downflow across the boundary. The Convention merely says that the state from which the watercourse flows should make sure to use the water source on its territory in a reasonable manner. This does NOT mean that Israel has the right to extend pipes across its boundary and pump water into Israel!!! Such a thing would fall under a bilateral agreement, which does NOT exist between Lebanon and Israel. Water diversion from the territory of one country by a foreign country is illegal under international law.

In fact, Israel’s occupation of Al-Ghajar and theft of water is merely a measure of revenge at a Lebanese project that dates a few years back, in which the Wazzani waters were to be put into use as part of a project to provide water to south Lebanese villages with no water access (a perfectly legitimate, legal project), and over which Israel was throwing a tantrum. It also explains why Israel has been pressuring Lebanon for the past 3 decades to initiate economic ties with it. This would basically mean the beginning of bilateral agreements, of which water is deemed to be an inseparable part. Direct access to these water sources would ensure that Israel would cover at least 40% of its water needs, not taking into account the Litani.

Between 1982 and 2000 Israel was pumping water OUT of Lebanon. Actually there is a very interesting study on this, I think done by the Lebanese ministry of energy & water, in the form of a booklet, but I think it’s only available in Arabic (a colleague once showed it to me, but I have not been able to get my hands on it). Throughout the occupation, the government in Beirut was prevented from having access to the water in the occupied south, while Israel pumped millions of cubic meters of water into Israel. From 1978 (Operation Litani) onwards, Israel stopped publishing full water and cultivation figures. Instead, only loose estimates were made available. As a counter-proposal to the Johnston plan for an agreement on the allocation of water sources to Arab countries and Israel, Israel proposed the diversion of the waters of the Litani (which does not feed any of the water sources inside Israel). Of course, the Johnston proposal was in itself inherently racist, and though its aspirations were high on resolving water conflict in the M.E as a precedent to political settlement, it nevertheless was a big failure not merely technically but also theoretically, in that it did not look at the core sources of the conflict (dispossession and colonization), but rather focused entirely on arriving to an artificial solution (settling the Palestinians in the Sinai desert). If you can, you should check out an article by John K. Cooley titled ‘The War over Water’, in the journal Foreign Policy, No. 54. (Spring, 1984), pp. 3-26.

For example, the article points out that when they captured the dam and lake at Qirawn in June 1982 the Israelis immediately seized all the hydrographic charts and technical documents relating to the Litani and its installations. The Israelis were openly augmenting the flow of the Hasbani across the frontier into Israel by laying surface pipes to catch the run-off and other waters from the mountains and nearby springs. Moreover, a watchful American military observer claims to have seen Israelis burying pipes deep in a hillside near Marjâuyn [Marjaâayoun] after the Israeli incursion of 1978, indicating that the Israelis might be secretly siphoning water underground from the Marj Plain in southern Lebanon into Israel, without affecting the measured flow of the Litani. Such a diversion would trap the extensive underground aquifer, which is fed by seepage from both the Litani and the Hasbani rivers and by underground streams from the Mount Hermon region. [S]eismic soundings and surveys had been conducted at a spot on the Litani gorges called Deir Mimas – soundings that Lebanese Litani River Authority officials were certain had been undertaken to find the optimum place for the inlet of a diversion tunnel to be dug about three miles into Israel (p. 22-23).

Another interesting read is an article titled ‘Israel’s Water Policies’, by Uri Davis, Antonia E. L. Maks, and John Richardson, which appeared in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2. (Winter, 1980), pp. 3-31.”

And yet more:

According to a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Israel was using water from the Lebanese Litani River, by means of an 11 mile tunnel it had drilled, as well as from Lebanons Wazzani springs (source: UPI). Note that no journalists can get to the area to confirm information about the siphoning of water and, indeed, such claims are contested (Aaron Wolf, in a U.N. publication, says there’s no way Israel would dream of stealing from the Litani).

But even whilst President Clinton and the Israeli government refused to negotiate over the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Israel imported over 100,000 Jews into the occupied West Bank. Those 100,000 use around the same amount of water that one million Palestinians do (something to do with swimming pools, say partisan analysts). As the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says:

“Israel’s water economy is on the brink of a crisis.”

Related Links

“No Peace Without Water” – The Role of Hydropolitics in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Megaphonies

The Israeli government is ensuring it amplifies its peculiar views throughout the internet via the use of downloadable software. The megaphonies’ public face is Amir Gissin, who works for the Israeli government.

Doron Barkat, 29, in Jerusalem, spends long nights trawling the web to try to swing the debate Israel’s way. “When I see internet polls for or against Israel I send out a mailing list to vote for Israel,” he said. “It can be that after 15 minutes there will be 400 votes for Israel.

“It’s very satisfying. There are also forums where Lebanese and Israelis talk.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry must avoid direct involvement with the campaign but is in contact with international Jewish and evangelical Christian groups, distributing internet information packs.

Amir Gissin, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s public relations director, said: “The internet’s become a leading tool for news, shaping the world view of millions.”

Interesting alternate views and commentary about the megaphonies are megaphonies are here and here

Is Israel a Democracy?

Not in my view.

Here’s some Jewish voices who don’t think Israel is a democracy either.

Tim Wise:

Of course not: and yet the term is repeatedly used to describe Israel — as in “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This, despite the fact that Israel has no constitution; despite the fact that Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, providing special rights and privileges to anyone in the world who is Jewish and seeks to live there, over and above longtime Arab residents. This, despite the fact that Israel bars any candidate from holding office who thinks the country should be a secular, democratic state with equal rights for all. This, despite the fact that non-Jews are restricted in terms of how much land they can own, and in which places they can own land at all, thanks to laws granting preferential treatment to Jewish residents. This, despite that fact that even the Israeli Supreme Court has acknowledged the use of torture against suspected “terrorists” and other “enemies” of the Jewish state.

For some, it is apparently sufficient that Israel has an electoral system, and that Arabs have the right to vote in those elections (though just how equally this right is protected is of course a different matter). The fact that one can’t vote for a candidate who questions the special Jewish nature of the state, because such candidates can’t run for or hold office, strikes most as irrelevant: hardly enough to call into question their democratic credentials.

The Soviet Union also had elections, of a sort. And in those elections, most people could vote, though candidates who espoused an end to the communist system were barred from participation. Voters got to choose between communists. In Israel, voters get to choose between Zionists. In the former case, we recognize such truncated freedom as authoritarianism. In the latter case, we call it democracy.

If giving names like “Operation Enduring Freedom” or “Operation Just Cause” to deadly military offensives is not sufficient to indicate that the English language is dead, this should pretty well prove the point. If what we see in Israel is indeed democracy, then what does fascism look like?

I’m sorry, but I am over it. As a Jew, I am over it. And if my language seems too harsh here, that’s tough. Because it’s nothing compared to the sickening things said by Israeli leaders throughout the years. Like Menachem Begin, former Prime Minister who told the Knesset in 1982 that the Palestinians were “beasts walking on two legs.” Or former P.M. Ehud Barak, who offered a more precise form of dehumanization when he referred to the Palestinians as “crocodiles.”

Neve Gordon:

De-facto, then, Israel is not a democracy. One-third of the demos does not enjoy a series of basic rights which make up the pillars of liberal democracies. The state of Israel has existed for 55 years and has controlled the Palestinian population in the occupied territories without giving them political rights for two-thirds of this period. Accordingly, the notion that the occupation is provisional or temporary should, by now, be considered an illusion concealing the reality on the ground.

IDI found that only 77 percent of the Jewish population supports the statement that “democracy is the best form of government,” the lowest percentage (alongside Poland) among the 32 countries for which there is available data. Over half the population (56%) is of the opinion that “strong leaders can be more useful to the state than all the deliberations and laws.” Fifty percent concur that if there is a conflict between security interests and the preservation of the rule of law, the former should take precedence. And only 57 percent agree with the statement that violence should never be used to attain political objectives.

More than half of the Jews in Israel (53%) state that they are against full equality for the Arabs; 77 percent say there should be a Jewish majority on crucial political decisions; less than a third (31%) support having Arab political parties in the government; and the majority (57%) think that the Arabs should be encouraged to emigrate. Not only is the majority of the Jewish population against the provision of equal rights for Arab citizens, half of the Jews are even unwilling to face up to the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against.

The courageous and tenacious Israeli, Tanya Reinhart, sums up Israel’s grave symptoms of political malaise:

Being against Israel is the best act of solidarity and compassion with the Jews that one can have. … The system of prisons that Israel is building is also a prison for Israelis. This small state is making itself the enemy of the entire Arab world and now the Muslim world. A state with this strategy does not have a future, so the solution for the Palestinians is also the solution for Israel.