Israels new security: walls, land theft,
and high-tech hardware
Compiled by Bob Strott
June 23 (AGR) Israel has expropriated
thousands of acres of Palestinian farmland deep in the West Bank
for the most controversial segment of its separation barrier,
Palestinian officials said recently. The latest land seizures
are part of construction of a barrier segment near the Israeli
settlement of Ariel, in the heart of the West Bank.
Palestinians charge that the barrier project is meant to swallow
up large parts of the West Bank, pointing to the Ariel sector
as a prime example. If Israel builds the barrier to include Ariel
on the Israeli side, it would mean cutting a wedge
halfway through the northern part of the territory, because Ariel
is in the middle.
Israel suspended construction of the security barrier near the
village of Iskaka, east of Ariel, after hundreds of Palestinian
and Israeli demonstrators traded stones for tear gas with troops
and paramilitary police. The bulldozers are expected to be digging
Excavation began there recently, halfway between the Arab cities
of Nablus and Ramallah, despite an undertaking to the United States
to defer building. Israel said the new stretch around Ariel would
not be connected for the time being to the main barrier
separating the West Bank from Israel.
Six miles west of the settlement, where work started recently,
22 bulldozers were uprooting olive trees belonging to villagers
from Al-Zawyeh. The barrier will run barely 14 feet from the nearest
They have stolen our land, our water, said Anan al
Ashqar, head of the local committee to combat the wall. This
is a racist segregation. They have taken the best of our land,
the most beautiful landscapes in the West Bank.
Residents of the Palestinian village were informed that 4,500
acres of land are being expropriated for a 2-mile stretch of barrier,
said Annan Elashkar, a Palestinian liaison officer with Israel.
Al-Zawyeh resident Khader Abdel Raouf, 65, said he had his 32
acres of olive groves seized. He said his family of 15 lives off
the olive oil produced by the trees. I have been planting
and harvesting these olives since I was a small boy, Abdel
Raouf said in tears. This land belongs to me and I belong
In Ariel, Dina Shalit, director for the Jewish towns development
fund, claimed that most of the barrier was built on a state land.
The rest, she added, belonged to so-called Palestinians.
Israel is considering building thousands more homes in West Bank
settlements, in line with Prime Minister Ariel Sharons plan
to keep large chunks of the territory but give up Gaza.
The Israeli daily Maariy reported that Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz had asked the military to draw up plans within three months
for building thousands of homes in three of the settlement blocs
Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel.
Sharons plan of unilateral disengagement calls
for a withdrawal from all of Gaza and four West Bank settlements
by September 2005.
He has said that in exchange, he wants to keep and expand several
large settlement blocs in the West Bank a demand that has
won the support of US President George Bush.
Sharon has previously expressed a desire to confine the Palestinian
population to 42 percent of the West Bank while annexing the rest
The Israeli army is considering a plan to patrol the Gaza border
with remote-controlled buggies fitted with night-vision television
cameras and machine guns that could spot and kill infiltrators
before they crossed into Israel.
The technology was displayed by Israeli manufacturers at a Tel
Aviv trade fair earlier this year.
The four-wheeled buggies are armor-plated and can move on any
terrain. They would be added to a surveillance network, including
aerial drones and 60 foot observation towers. Military sources
say that night-vision cameras on top of the towers are responsible
for 70 percent of interceptions.
Israel is also worried about the Egypt-Gaza border, where they
say large quantities of arms are smuggled in to Palestinian fighters.
The Defense Ministry this week published a bid for digging a moat,
two and a half miles long and up to 80 feet deep, alongside Philadelphia
Road, a security corridor between Sinai and Gaza. Defense
officials said it had not yet been decided whether to flood the
moat with seawater or leave it as a dry trench fitted with sensors.
The bid was a first concrete step towards a project which was
previously dismissed as impracticable.
In the West Bank, meanwhile, dozens of Israelis, many of them
settlers, gathered at the hilltop outpost of Givat Haroeh. Carrying
sleeping bags and tents, they said they would try to prevent the
evacuation of the outposts 17 families.
Under the US-backed road map peace plan, Israel is
required to dismantle dozens of unauthorized outposts and freeze
construction in older settlements. It has removed only a few outposts
and has not stopped building in the others.
Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlements, says of
the 102 outposts it has located, 21 have been removed.
Jewish settlers began establishing outposts on West Bank hilltops
several years ago, to prevent the handover of land to Palestinians
as part of interim peace deals. Most outposts started out with
a few trailers, a generator and a water tower, but have expanded
The Israeli government has quietly funneled money to the outposts,
despite a public pledge to remove them.
The Palestinians want the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem,
territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, for their
Palestinian leaders have also expressed reservations on the Gaza
plan because of the implied tradeoff Israel giving up Gaza
while strengthening its hold on parts of the West Bank.
All Israeli settlements in West Bank and Gaza are considered illegal
under international law.
Sources: Al Jazeera,
AP, Guardian (UK), Independent (UK)
Bush plans to screen US for mental illness
By Jeanne Lenzer
New York, New York, June 19 A sweeping
mental health initiative will be unveiled by President George W. Bush
in July. The plan promises to integrate mentally ill patients fully
into the community by providing services in the community, rather
than institutions, according to a March 2004 progress report
entitled New Freedom Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html).
While some praise the plans goals, others say it protects the
profits of drug companies at the expense of the public.
Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April
2002 to conduct a comprehensive study of the United States mental
health service delivery system. The commission issued its recommendations
in July 2003. Bush instructed more than 25 federal agencies to develop
an implementation plan based on those recommendations.
The presidents commission found that despite their prevalence,
mental disorders often go undiagnosed and recommended comprehensive
mental health screening for consumers of all ages, including
preschool children. According to the commission, Each year,
young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities
for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders. Schools,
wrote the commission, are in a key position to screen
the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools.
The commission also recommended Linkage [of screening] with
treatment and supports including state-of-the-art treatments
using specific medications for specific conditions. The
commission commended the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP)
as a model medication treatment plan that illustrates
an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes.
Dr. Darrel Regier, director of research at the American Psychiatric
Association (APA), lauded the presidents initiative and the
Texas project model saying, Whats nice about TMAP is that
this is a logical plan based on efficacy data from clinical trials.
He said the association has called for increased funding for implementation
of the overall plan.
But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive
antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when
Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector
General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication
plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with
a stake in the medication algorithm. He was sacked this week for speaking
to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the New York Times.
The Texas project started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from
the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental
health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by
a Robert Wood Johnson grantand by several drug companies.
Jones told the BMJ that the same political/pharmaceutical alliance
that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of
the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower
report, were poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive
national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications
of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private
insurers to pick up more of the tab
Larry D. Sasich, research associate with Public Citizen in Washington,
DC, told the BMJ that studies in both the United States and Great
Britain suggest that using the older drugs first makes sense.
Theres nothing in the labeling of the newer atypical antipsychotic
drugs that suggests they are superior in efficacy to haloperidol [an
older typical antipsychotic]. There has to be an enormous
amount of unnecessary expenditures for the newer drugs.
Olanzapine (trade name Zyprexa), one of the atypical antipsychotic
drugs recommended as a first line drug in the Texas algorithm, grossed
$4.28 billion worldwide in 2003 and is Eli Lillys top selling
drug. A 2003 New York Times article by Gardiner Harris reported that
70 percent of olanzapine sales are paid for by government agencies,
such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Eli Lilly, manufacturer of olanzapine, has multiple ties to the Bush
administration. George Bush Sr. was a member of Lillys board
of directors and Bush Jr. appointed Lillys chief executive officer,
Sidney Taurel, to a seat on the Homeland Security Council. Lilly made
$1.6 million in political contributions in 2000 82 percent
of which went to Bush and the Republican Party.
Jones points out that the companies that helped to start up the Texas
project have been, and still are, big contributors to the election
funds of George W. Bush. In addition, some members of the New Freedom
Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies,
while others have direct ties to the TAMP.
Bush was the governor of Texas during the development of the Texas
project, and, during his 2000 presidential campaign, he boasted of
his support for the project and the fact that the legislation he passed
expanded Medicaid coverage of psychotropic drugs.
Bush is the clear front runner when it comes to drug company contributions.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), manufacturers
of drugs and health products have contributed $764,274 to the 2004
Bush campaign through their political action committees and employees
far outstripping the $149,400 given to his chief rival, John
Kerry, by Apr. 26.
Drug companies have fared exceedingly well under the Bush administration,
according to the centers spokesperson, Steven Weiss.
The commissions recommendation for increased screening has also
been questioned. Robert Whitaker, journalist and author of Mad in
America, says that while increased screening may seem defensible,
it could also be seen as fishing for customers, and that
exorbitant spending on new drugs robs from other forms of care
such as job training and shelter programs.
But Dr. Graham Emslie, who helped develop the Texas project, defends
screening: There are good data showing that if you identify
kids at an earlier age who are aggressive, you can intervene... and
change their trajectory.
Source: British Meducal
Haitian clothing company continues union busting
Brussels, Belgium, June 17 After ducking
efforts by the local Haitian union, Sokowa, to address a series
of grievances, Grupo M, a Dominican Republic-based company, has
precipitated a strike, organized a lock-out of the workforce, and
has finally fired more than half its employees at the Ouanaminthe
plant, which manufactures jeans for Levis. The International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions is protesting against another
attempt at union-busting on the part of one of the biggest textile
companies in the Caribbean, by calling on the World Bank to intercede
in favor of the laid off Haitian workers.
The events in recent days have led to a storm of international protest
at the companys recurrent abuses of workers. According to
Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment
and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), workers were
protesting at the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone in Haiti because
of inhuman treatment including violence, intimidation, harassment,
forced stripping of women union leaders, beatings, kidnappings and
non-payment of wages.
The plant in question was built using a $20 million loan from the
International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Banks private-sector
lending arm. A one-day strike on June 7 ended in an agreement between
Grupo M and Sokowa for a return to work and the start of negotiations
to address workers grievances. The following day Grupo M locked
out the workforce and announced by letter the closure of their jeans
factory in Ouanaminthe. On the June 9, the letter was partially
rescinded, and the company restarted production, but on June 11,
in another apparent U-turn, it was announced that the firm was laying
off 254 workers. However according to the Sokowa union, 370 workers
(around 60 percent of the workforce) have been sacked.
While Grupo M claimed to be laying off the workers temporarily,
it emerged that they were being pressured to accept severance payments
at the same time, which the company may try to use as a pretext
to make the dismissals permanent. The sacking of the workers
was an effort to retaliate against them for their strike, and was
discriminatorily aimed at the union leaders. All but one of the
unions executive committee members have been fired,
said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.
While the IFC has proposed mediation between Grupo M and the union,
such efforts are likely to remain futile so long as 370 workers
have been fired and do not know if they have any chance of being
rehired. The ICFTU has sent a letter to the acting president of
Haiti, Alexandre Boniface, demanding the immediate rehiring of the
workers by Grupo M and the start of serious negotiations with the
union. It is also calling on the IFC to withhold its loan payments
until production is restored at the Haitian plant.
Grupo M is a particularly abusive employer. According to information
received by the ITGLWF, Grupo M CEO Fernando Capellan started threatening
to fire factory workers as early as June 3, saying that the factory
was suffering several million dollars in losses because of lack
of productivity. The same day managers summoned four women
workers into what is called the dark room, locked the
door, and posted Dominican guards outside. Under the threat of weapons,
the women were subjected to a police-style interrogation. Their
factory badges and work shirts were ripped off of them, leaving
the women topless. After they had been in the room for nearly two
hours, their co-workers grew worried and started to approach the
room, shouting for the workers to be let out. The guards posted
outside the room summoned backup. A truck full of guards arrived.
The guards aimed their weapons at the workers, ordering them to
back off behind a line traced on the ground with a rifle. A four-month
pregnant woman was thrown to the floor, in a pool of mud, her dress
According to Ryder, It is vital that the World Banks
IFC step in and ensure that these Haitian workers, who are in a
desperately poor situation, get their jobs back as soon as possible
and be allowed to work under humane conditions. In view of Grupo
Ms obligations in the loan agreement it signed, the IFC should
suspend disbursements on the loan until the workers are rehired
and a serious process of negotiations has begun with union to address
the workers grievances. Last January, following earlier
submissions by the ICFTU on the companys labor rights abuses,
the IFC agreed to make its $20 million loan to Grupo M conditional
on the companys respect for the freedom of association and
right to collective bargaining of its employees.
US operates hidden network of prisons
June 13 The United States government,
in conjunction with key allies, is running an invisible
network of prisons and detention centers into which thousands
of suspects have disappeared without trace since the war
on terror began. In the past three years, thousands of alleged
militants have been transferred around the world by American,
Arab and Far Eastern security services, often in secret operations
that by-pass extradition laws. The astonishing traffic has seen
many, including British citizens, sent from the West to countries
where they can be tortured to extract information. Anything learnt
is passed on to the US and, in some cases, reaches British intelligence.
The practice of renditions when suspects are
handed directly into the custody of another state without due
process has sparked particular anger. At least 70 such
transfers have occurred, according to CIA sources. Many involve
men who have been freed by the courts and are thus legally innocent.
Renditions are often used when American interrogators believe
that harsh treatment banned in their own country
would produce results.
In one incident, a British businessman called Wahab al-Rami, an
Iraqi living in the UK and a Palestinian seeking asylum were arrested
by US and local officers in Gambia in November 2002 as they stepped
off a flight from London.
Their seizure, which followed a tip-off from the UK security services,
came just days after they had been arrested by British police
on suspicion of terrorism and then freed by a British court. Two
were transported from Gambia to Guantanamo Bay, where they remain
today without any legal process.
In another incident, two Turks, a Saudi, a Kenyan and a Sudanese
man were arrested in Malawi in June 2003 on suspicion of funding
terrorist networks. Though freed by local courts, the men were
handed over to the CIA and held for several months. Campaigners
say these incidents are the tip of an iceberg.
One of the most harrowing stories concerns a Syrian-born Canadian,
Maher Arar, who was arrested by US authorities in late 2002 during
a stopover in New York, on suspicion of terrorist activities.
After several days of questioning, the 34-year-old IT specialist
was flown to Jordan, where the CIA passed him on to local security
officials. He was repeatedly assaulted in Jordan before being
driven to Syria, where he was kept in solitary confinement in
a 6 foot by 3 foot cell for several months and repeatedly beaten
with cables. All charges were dropped on his release. Arar said
last week that he was trying to rebuild [his] life.
I never did anything to make me a suspect. I could not believe
they would send me back to Syria, but they did, he said.
They sent me back to be tortured.
The ghost prison network stretches around the globe. The biggest
American-run facilities are at the Bagram airbase, north of Kabul
in Afghanistan; at Guantanamo Bay, where around 400 men are held;
and in Iraq, where tens of thousands of detainees are held.
However, Washington is relying heavily on allies.
In Morocco, scores of detainees once held by the Americans are
believed to be held at the al-Tamara interrogation center sited
in a forest five miles outside the capital, Rabat. Many of the
detainees were originally captured by the Pakistani authorities,
who passed them on to the Americans. Last November, Amnesty International
criticized the sharp rise in torture during 2003 in
In Syria, detainees sent by Washington are held at the Palestine
wing of the main intelligence headquarters and a series
of jails in Damascus and other cities.
Egypt has also received a steady flow of suspects from American
installations. Many other suspects have been sent to Egypt by
other countries through transfers assisted by the Americans, often
using planes run by the CIA. In Cairo, prisoners are kept in the
interrogation center in the general intelligence directorate in
Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison.
Suspects have also been sent to facilities in Baku, Azerbaijan,
and to unidentified locations in Thailand. Scores more are thought
to be at a US airbase in Qatar, and a large number are believed
to have been sent to Saudi Arabia, where CIA agents are allowed
to sit in on some of the interrogations. Elsewhere, security officials
merely provide the Americans with summaries.
Some high-value prisoners such as those suspected
of being directly connected to the Sept. 11 attacks or other al-Qaida
strikes, or of being senior aides of bin Laden are held
in prisons in Jordans capital, Amman, and in desert locations
in the east of the country. Jordanian investigators are seen as
professional by Western intelligence services, although
the nation has been repeatedly criticized for its human rights
Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who both already
helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks, were also transferred to American
custody soon after their capture by Pakistani security forces
in September 2002 and March 2003 respectively. They are believed
to have been interrogated in Thailand.
The whereabouts of Riduan Isamuddin, the Indonesian activist dubbed
the bin Laden of the Far East, who was passed to the
Americans following arrest by Thai security forces in August last
year, are unknown. Jabarah Mohamed Mansur, allegedly involved
in an attempt to bomb the US and Israeli embassies in Singapore,
is reported to have been interrogated in Oman.
In March 2003, FBI agents kidnapped a Yemeni al-Qaida suspect
from a hospital in Mogadishu, where he was being treated for gunshot
wounds. Two months earlier, a sophisticated operation involving
a fake charity lured a 54-year-old Yemeni to Germany, where he
was detained and later extradited to the US. To seize Mohammed
Iqbal Madni, a suspected al-Qaida operative, in Indonesia, US
investigators worked three states legal systems to provide
an excuse to pick up the 24-year-old Pakistani. They then flew
him to Cairo on a private US-run jet.
The exact number of prisoners held by the Americans or their allies
is unknown, but US officials claim that more than 3,000 al-Qaida
suspects have been arrested since 11 September. Only around 350
are held in Guantanamo Bay. Very few have been released.
American officials are unrepentant. You have to break eggs
to make omelettes, said one last week. The world is
a bad place.
But former intelligence officers criticized the new tactics last
week. Milton Bearden, who ended a 30-year career with the CIA
in 1994, said that coercion did not work.
You just get all kinds of confessions that turn out to be
completely untrue, he said. And rendition to someone
who will torture a suspect is as bad as doing it yourself.
Source: Observer (UK)