Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shimon Peres died today - last of the great founding leaders of Israel

Noga Tarnopolsky just posted this beautiful photograph on Twitter, with the title Jerusalem, 6:00 am.

President Obama's statement about Peres:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Holocaust Trial" - October 10, 7:30 pm, Ithaca College

Lawrence Douglas, of Amherst College, is speaking on October 10th at Ithaca College on the four trials of John (Ivan) Demjanjuk. He will be speaking in Textor Hall 101 at 7:30 pm.

John (Ivan) Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian national who was accused of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious guard at the Treblinka death camp in Poland, during World War II. As an adult, after the war, he lived in suburban Cleveland. He was the subject of the lengthiest and most bizarre criminal case to arise out of the Holocaust. All told Demjanjuk was tried four times: twice in the United States on immigration charges; once in Israel, in one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in legal history; and finally in Germany, where a Munich court convicted him in 2011 of being a guard at a Nazi death camp.

Demjanjuk was tried in Israel and convicted on the charges of crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people, but the Israeli Supreme Court later threw out the verdict on the basis that newly-found documents from Russia, available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did not provide sufficient proof that Demjanjuk had served as a guard at Treblinka. Demjanjuk was later tried on Germany for being a guard at another death camp, Sobibor. In May, 2011, he was convicted on the charge of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder, and sentenced to five years in prison, but he died in March, 2012, before his appeals had been exhausted, and so did not serve a prison term.

Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought at Amherst College, covered Demjanjuk’s Munich trial for Harper’s and his recently published book, The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial,  builds on that reportage to show the historic importance of the enormous effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice.

Secretary of State Kerry: One State = One War

Haaretz reports on a private meeting that Secretary of State Kerry had with ministers representing the countries giving financial assistance to the PA:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took Israel to task at a private meeting in New York last Monday over its policy in the West Bank, Haaretz has learned. The comments came at a closed meeting of ministers representing the countries providing financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. 
Kerry repeatedly raised his voice, emphasizing that Israel and the Palestinians are moving in the direction of a binational state rather than a Palestinian state alongside Israel and are also headed toward war. He added that if the international community is interested in putting a halt to these developments, “Either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.” 
Western diplomats who were present at the meeting, but who asked not to be identified because the meeting was not public, noted that Kerry was extremely agitated. 
The U.S. secretary of state also expressed criticism of the Palestinians, the sources said, citing the increased number of Palestinian terror attacks and the incitement against Israel. However, the thrust of his remarks constituted criticism of the unprecedented rate of construction in the settlements in particular, and Israel’s policies in the West Bank in general. 
The Western diplomats noted that Kerry’s comments presented the despair on both sides, but also the understanding emerging not only on Kerry’s part but also among an increasing number of senior White House officials that they need to seriously consider the possibility of promoting a resolution at the United Nations Security Council or at another international forum. This would be immediately after the U.S. presidential election in November, and would deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue and preserving the option of a two-state solution in the future. 
In an interview with Channel 10 last Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, hinted at this, noting that the U.S. administration is considering a series of options, including a UN Security Council resolution. 
Shapiro added, however, that a decision has yet to be made on the matter. 
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters at the beginning of last week, U.S. President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said Obama does not rule out such a process, but no specific proposal has been presented to him yet. 
At the New York meeting last Wednesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama, the subject did not come up for discussion. But in interviews the prime minister gave to Israeli television networks over the weekend, he said he hoped Obama would not force a unilateral political solution on Israel. 
On Friday, Netanyahu met one-on-one with Kerry to discuss the Palestinian issue. The meeting, which was hastily arranged, took place shortly after a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union). Also attending were the foreign ministers of France and Egypt. 
At the end of the meeting, the Quartet’s foreign ministers condemned accelerated construction in the settlements, demolitions of Palestinian homes and the retroactive approval of illegal West Bank outposts in recent months. 
“All those are steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” the Quartet statement said. “The Quartet stressed the growing urgency of taking affirmative steps to reverse these trends in order to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”
At last Monday’s conference of countries providing funding to the PA, Kerry told the several dozen foreign ministers in attendance that after close to four years of talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he had come to the conclusion that the actions the two have been taking — and, more than that, the actions they are not taking — are deepening the diplomatic stalemate. 
“Now, every single terrible act of violence, every new settlement announcement, takes us not closer to peace; they take us closer to a one-state solution,” he said. “That is no solution. It is an invitation to perpetual conflict. And as Shimon Peres himself said, it will bring one war, not one state. Make no mistake about it, I believe that is the risk if we continue on the current course.” 
Kerry noted that since the release last July of a Quartet report that included a major warning regarding the direction in which the Israelis and Palestinians were headed, there has only been an increase in violence and Palestinian incitement has continued. In addition, plans for 2,400 new housing units in the settlements were announced and there has been a dramatic increase in Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes. 
The U.S. secretary of state presented figures indicating that since Obama took office in 2009, the number of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by 95,000, and that 15,000 of that increase has come in the past year alone. 
“How does increasing the number of settlers indicate an attempt to create a Palestinian state?” Kerry asked, raising his voice. “The status quo is not sustainable. So either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.” 
The U.S. secretary of state also spoke with anger, cynicism and frustration about the steps Israel was purportedly taking on the ground to ease the lives of the Palestinians. However, many of the measures have not been implemented at all and remain in the nature of declarations or remain simply on paper. 
“I know this because I was told the Allenby Bridge [between the West Bank and Jordan] would open 24/7. It never did. I was told that the 3G [West Bank cellular service] agreement signed nearly a year ago would take place within months. It still is not fully implemented,” Kerry said. 
“If we really want to get serious about a two-state solution, we need much more than just one-time agreements and improvements. We need to fundamentally change the dynamic by resuming the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority in Area C, which was called for in prior agreements.” 
Area C is the designation for the areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control. 
Kerry concluded by saying that Israelis and Palestinians are at a crossroads. “Either we reverse course and take serious steps on the path to a two-state solution, or the momentum of existing actions will carry us further toward an intractable one-state reality that nobody wants and nobody really thinks can work. 
“The consequences of the current trends reverberate far beyond the immediate damage the destruction and displacement may cause. What’s happening today destroys hope. It empowers extremists,” he added.

If the US opposes genocide, why aren't we intervening in Aleppo?

On February 17, 2016, Lee Smith of Tablet Magazine wrote on the shamefulness of our Syria policy.
Even die-hard supporters of President Barack Obama’s “realist” approach to foreign affairs are nauseated by the White House’s Syria policy. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, a vocal supporter of the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, is fed up with nearly five years of the “fecklessness and purposelessness” of a Syria policy that “has become hard to distinguish” from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. “Syria is now the Obama administration’s shame,” Cohen wrote last week, “a debacle of such dimensions that it may overshadow the president’s domestic achievements.” 
Ambassador Dennis Ross and New York Times military correspondent David Sanger also published articles excoriating Obama’s policies in Syria. There is a military solution, it’s “just not our military solution,” a senior U.S. security official admitted to Sanger. It’s Putin’s. 
Perhaps most damning of the stink-bouquets was a Washington Post op-ed from former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff. “It is time for those who care about the moral standing of the United States to say that this policy is shameful,” they wrote. “If the United States and its NATO allies allow [Putin and his allies] to encircle and starve the people of Aleppo, they will be complicit in crimes of war.”
That is what we are doing right now.

Smith continues:
From the very beginning when Assad opened fire on peaceful protesters, to the present, as Russia bombs hospitals, the United States has done nothing to stop Assad and his gory friends—and all the faux-outraged tweets and Putin-blaming in the world will not distract a single Syrian from the plain facts that the United States was not only indifferent to the destruction of their country, but has also diplomatically enabled their horrific suffering. 
Remember when Obama warned Assad not to use chemical weapons against his own people? That, said Obama, “might change his calculus”—i.e., the use of chemical weapons against civilians would be such an obvious and grotesque violation of the international laws and norms and a host of arms agreements that Assad might actually manage to shame commander-in-chief into stopping a genocide. Obama was told repeatedly that Assad was using chemical weapons, but when the butcher of Damascus dared Obama, the leader of the free world blinked and said he wasn’t really going to take military action after all. Even after continued attacks with chemical agents, Obama boasted about getting rid of Assad’s chemical weapons’ arsenal, as if unconventional weapons was the only way the Syrian tyrant could process human flesh through his meat grinder.... 
Lots of people did argue for a no-fly zone or buffer zone to protect Syrians fleeing from Assad’s killing machine. But the White House said no. Mighty Syrian air defenses were too much for the U.S. air force, said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.
There was a time when virtually all of Obama’s national security staff advocated arming the rebels to take down Assad. The president was against it. He derided the opposition. As he told Thomas Friedman in August 2014, “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.” But the reality is that those doctors, farmers, and pharmacists are still out in the field, and might already have stopped the genocide against them on their own, if the president of the United States had been moved to help them help themselves.

Doomsday in Aleppo

The record of the US government in Syria is shameful. We have supported the non-Islamist rebels only sporadically and ineffectively. We have failed to ensure that aid gets through to people besieged by either the Syrian government or rebels. We focus our energy on bombing ISIS (and thus also bomb and kill Syrian civilians), without doing anything to prevent the Syrian government from murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians. We should have intervened long ago - at the very least created a no-fly zone in part of Syria to provide a haven for refugees and to prevent the Syrian government from dropping barrel bombs and chlorine gas on their own people. We should have (and can still) supported the Syrian Kurds far more effectively than we have. On our own, we probably could not have ended the civil war, but we could at least have prevented some of the civilian deaths.

Why do I say this now?

Because of the siege of Aleppo. The bombardment of the rebel-held areas of the city by the Assad regime and the Russians has vastly increased. Yesterday, they "launched ferocious aerial assaults on opposition-held areas of Aleppo amid threats of a big ground offensive."

Two million people are now without access to water - caused both by the Syrian government, which bombed the water station in the eastern part of the city, which is held by the rebels - and by the rebels, who switched off another water station, located in the eastern part of the city, but which furnishes water to the western part, held by the government.

On February 11, 2016, the Syrian Center for Policy Research said that 470,000 Syrians had died as a result of the war. How many have died since then?

The Syrian government is responsible for the overwhelming percentage of deaths of civilians.  In October of 2015, the Syrian Center for Policy Research reported that 3/4 of the civilian deaths in the first half of 2015 were caused by the Syrian government.

An article from yesterday's New York Times tells the horrifying story of the increasingly bloody siege of Aleppo - "'Doomsday Today in Aleppo': Assad and Russian Forces Bombard City."
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Syria’s war escalated abruptly on Friday as government forces and their Russian allies launched ferocious aerial assaults on opposition-held areas of Aleppo amid threats of a big ground offensive, while efforts at the United Nations to revive a cease-fire appeared to collapse. 
Repeated airstrikes that obliterated buildings and engulfed neighborhoods in flames killed about 100 people in Aleppo, the divided northern Syrian city that has epitomized the horrors of the war, turning the brief cease-fire of last week and hopes for humanitarian relief into faint memories. The bombings knocked out running water to an estimated two million people, the United Nations said. 
“It is the worst day that we’ve had for a very long time,” said James Le Mesurier, the head of Mayday Rescue, which trains Syrian rescue workers. “They are calling it Dresden-esque.”

The bombings shook the ground, left residents cowering in their homes and made streets impassable, according to anti-government activists in Aleppo. “You don’t know if you might stay alive or not,” said Modar Shekho, a nurse at al-Dakkak hospital in an opposition-held part of the city. 
“There are no more roads to walk on,” said Zaher Azzaher, an Aleppo activist reached through WhatsApp. “Even between our neighborhoods, the roads are full of rubble and destruction.” .... 
Rescue workers shared numerous videos of men digging children out of piles of debris and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble
Hanaa Singer, the representative for Unicef in Syria, said in a statementthat attacks had damaged the pumping station that provides water to eastern Aleppo, where 250,000 residents are surrounded by government troops. In retaliation, she said, a pumping station in the city’s eastern side was shut off, stopping water from flowing to 1.5 million residents in the city’s western side. 
The population would have to rely on well water, which is often contaminated and would raise the risk of outbreaks of disease, she said. 
Ammar al-Salmo, head of the Aleppo branch of Syria Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue organization, said that three of his group’s centers had been bombed and that some of their rescue vehicles had been knocked out. 
“It is as if Russia and the regime used the truce only to maintain their weapons and plan on next targets,” Mr. Salmo said from Aleppo. “It is like doomsday today in Aleppo.”
See also an article published by Bloomberg today - Syrian Troops Advance in Aleppo Amid War's Heaviest Bombing.
Beirut (AP) -- Syrian troops captured a rebel-held area on the edge of Aleppo on Saturday, tightening their siege on opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city after what residents described as the heaviest air bombardment of the 5 ½-year civil war. 
The U.N. meanwhile said that nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and onetime commercial center, are without running water following the escalation in fighting over the past few days....
The Observatory said the death toll in Aleppo is expected to rise since many people are in critical condition and rescue workers are still digging through the rubble. 
Residents say the latest bombardment is the worst they've seen since rebels captured parts of the city in 2012. Activists reported dozens of airstrikes on Friday alone. 
"Since the beginning of the crisis, Aleppo has not been subjected to such a vicious campaign," said Mohammed Abu Jaafar, a forensics expert based in the city. "Aleppo is being wiped out." 
For days, videos and photographs from eastern Aleppo have shown flattened buildings and paramedics pulling bodies from the rubble. Wounded people have flooded into clinics, where many are being treated on the floor because of a lack of stretchers.

"People in Aleppo already suffocating under the effects of the siege, have yet again come under horrific attack," said Carlos Francisco of Doctors Without Borders, which supports a number of area clinics. "No aid, including urgent medical supplies, is allowed to enter."

"We are deeply worried by the high numbers of wounded reported by the hospitals we support, and also know that in many areas the wounded and sick have nowhere to go at all — they are simply left to die." 
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the "chilling" escalation in Aleppo, which he said marked the "most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict." The statement issued by his spokesman said the reported use of "indiscriminate" weapons in densely populated areas "may amount to war crimes." 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Tufts University in Boston, said what was happening in Aleppo was "beyond the pale." 
"If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war, then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community," he said.
Kerry is speaking to the wind. The Russians just broke the last agreement to cease fighting, and they and the Syrian government have increased their attacks upon Aleppo.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, one of Syria's main opposition groups, condemned the attacks on Aleppo, calling it "a crazy crime led by the Assad regime and Russian occupation." It said "the criminal campaign aims to settle international accounts at the expense of Syrians' blood." 
The escalation comes as diplomats in New York have failed to salvage a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that lasted nearly a week. Moscow is a key ally of Assad's government, while Washington supports the opposition. 
Aleppo has been an epicenter of fighting in recent months. It is the last major urban area held by the opposition, and the rebels' defeat there would mark a major turning point in the conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people and driven half of Syria's population from their homes. [I've seen figures that at least 450,000 people have been killed in Syria, 90% of them by the Syrian government]. 
Living conditions in the already-battered eastern districts have meanwhile grown even worse. 
Recent attacks have damaged the Bab al-Nairab station, which supplies water to some 250,000 people in the rebel-held east, according to Hanaa Singer of the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF. 
Singer said that in retaliation, the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station, also located in the rebel-held east, was switched off — cutting water to 1.5 million people in government-held western parts of the city. 
"Depriving children of water puts them at risk of catastrophic outbreaks of water-borne diseases," Singer warned in her statement, released late Friday.