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Sept 10, 2001: US pulls the plug on Muslim websites

US pulls the plug on Muslim websites

Islamic groups have condemned a government crackdown on a Texan telecoms company as part of a “witch-hunt”, writes Brian Whitaker

Five hundred websites – many of them with an Arab or Muslim connection – crashed last Wednesday when an anti-terrorism taskforce raided InfoCom Corporation in Texas.

The 80-strong taskforce that descended upon the IT company included FBI agents, Secret Service agents, Diplomatic Security agents, tax inspectors, immigration officials, customs officials, department of commerce officials and computer experts.

Three days later, they were still busy inside the building, reportedly copying every hard disc they could find. InfoCom hosts websites for numerous clients in the Middle East, including al-Jazeera (the satellite TV station), al-Sharq (a daily newspaper in Qatar), and Birzeit (the Palestinian university on the West Bank).

It also hosts sites for several Muslim organisations in the United States, among them the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the Islamic Association for Palestine, and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

In addition, InfoCom is the registered owner of “.iq” – the internet country code for Iraq.

A coalition of American Muslim groups immediately denounced the raid as part of an “anti-Muslim witch-hunt” promoted by the Israeli lobby in the United States.

Mahdi Bray, political adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said: “We have deep concerns that this once again is an attempt to rush to judgment and to marginalise the American Muslim community. There is a pattern of bias that often permeates all of these types of investigations.”

The FBI, meanwhile, insisted the search had nothing to do with religion or Middle East politics. “This is a criminal investigation, not a political investigation,” a spokeswoman said. “We’re hoping to find evidence of criminal activity.”

Several Muslim groups have linked the raid to an article which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on August 13. Written by Daniel Pipes, director of the foreign policy research institute in Philadelphia, it called on the US to “support Israel in rolling back the forces of terror” by shutting down websites belonging to the Islamic Association for Palestine and the Holy Land Foundation.

“The federal authorities should use the tools it already has in closing down these websites and organisations,” the article said.

Daniel Pipes appears regularly in the US media, where he is regarded as an authority on the Middle East. Arab-Americans, on the other hand, regard him as a Muslim-basher and a staunch supporter of Israel.

In one magazine article Pipes wrote: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene… All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”

In 1995, after the Oklahoma bombing (for which former war hero Timothy McVeigh was eventually executed) Pipes wasted no time in pinning the blame on Muslim extremists. He told USA Today: “People need to understand that this is just the beginning. The fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it very clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us.”

It is unlikely, however, that the FBI could have obtained a warrant to search InfoCom on the basis of Daniel Pipes’s remarks in the Wall Street Journal. They would have to demonstrate “probable cause” to a judge, but in this case the reasons may never be known because the judge ordered the warrant to be sealed.

InfoCom’s lawyer, Mark Enoch, said that whatever the company was suspected of, the FBI had “bad information”; InfoCom was innocent of any wrongdoing.

According to the New York Times, citing unnamed government officials, the purpose of the search was to discover whether InfoCom has any links to the militant Palestinian organisation, Hamas.

Under an anti-terrorism law introduced in 1996, it is illegal in the US to provide “material support” for Hamas or other organisations on the state department’s banned list. Although Israeli sympathisers in the US have been clamouring for prosecutions, there have been no major cases so far and some lawyers question whether the 1996 law is constitutional.

Just across the road from InfoCom’s offices, in Richardson on the outskirts of Dallas, is the headquarters of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). Apart from their physical proximity, InfoCom and HLF are intimately connected through two brothers: Ghassan and Bayan Elashi. The Elashis are of Palestinian origin and of a religious disposition. Ghassan is chairman of HLF and vice-president (marketing) of InfoCom.

InfoCom is a small but apparently successful company with a global business in computers, networking, telecommunications and internet services. Established in 1982, it moved to the area of Texas known as “Telecom Corridor” nine years ago. Its business in the Middle East has been expanding largely because of its expertise in Arabic-language databases. It recently won a contract in Jordan for a website where people can buy and sell cars.

Asked about the company’s ownership of “.iq”, the Iraqi national internet address, Ghassan Elashi said: “We were one of the pioneers of the internet at a time when all the upper domain names were available for everyone. We searched the lists and found Iraq was available for registration.”

To avoid any trouble over sanctions, InfoCom informed the state department that it had registered “.iq”, Elashi said. The state department replied with a “ridiculous” list of restrictions which mean that the company has never been able to make use of the Iraqi domain.

He said he had no idea what the task force was looking for in raiding InfoCom’s offices, though the staff were giving them full cooperation. He added: “Over the last four to five weeks we have experienced some unusual hacking – mostly by pro-Israeli hackers.”

The HLF, on the other side of the street, is a tax-exempt charity established in 1989. Most of its efforts are focused on helping Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon and the occupied territories, but it has also sent humanitarian aid to Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya, as well as earthquake relief to Turkey and flood relief to Mozambique.

According to its website, the HLF has provided sponsorship for more than 1,800 Palestinian orphans and 450 families living in refugee camps. It has funded several medical projects, including Dar al-Salam hospital in Gaza, al-Razi hospital in Jenin, al-Ahli hospital in Hebron and a rehabilitation center for the handicapped located in Amman, Jordan. In Lebanon, it provided safe water supplies for 72,000 refugees in the Palestinian camps.

For several years the HLF has been the target of attacks by Israeli sympathisers. A letter sent to news organisations by New York senator Charles Schumer accused it of “raising millions of dollars for the Palestinian cause in the Middle East, some of which has been knowingly channelled to support the families of Hamas terrorists.”

A more specific claim, mentioned on the website of a Jewish organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, is that it has provided “monthly stipends to the families of terrorist suicide bombers in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza”.

The evidence against the HLF presented by the League in a 1998 press release was somewhat tenuous. It said that Israel had banned a Jerusalem-based organisation called the Holy Land Foundation (which it described as the “apparent counterpart” of the Texas charity) on the grounds that it was a front for Hamas.

Also, the League said, the Texas-based Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) had urged its members to send donations to the HLF. The League noted that the IAP had also “distributed official Hamas literature in the United States” and that its fundraising letter described the Palestinian struggle as “jihad” – “a term regularly used by Hamas”.

More recently, HLF and several other Muslim charities have become the target of a $600m (£409m) lawsuit by the parents of David Boim, an Israeli-American student who was shot dead in the West Bank in 1996. Using the 1996 anti-terrorism law, the family are claiming compensation from the charities, alleging that they provided “material support” to Hamas and were therefore responsible for David’s death.

Ghassan Elashi dismisses all these allegations. “The Holy Land Foundation is as clean as crystal water,” he says. “We have never been bothered by any government agencies.”

But to the alarm of America’s Arab and Muslim minorities, there are signs that the climate may be changing. Assistant New York state attorney general Karen Goldman has recently been pressing for a tax audit of HLF to “enforce the laws applicable to exempt organisations”. Another Muslim charity, the Islamic African Relief Agency, is engaged in a legal dispute with the state department after it revoked US aid grants worth $4.2m.

It is, of course, a duty of governments to ensure that charities maintain financial probity. The concern is that some charities may be getting singled out for discriminatory reasons.

The catch-all nature of the 1996 law against providing “material support” to banned organisations is also arousing controversy. “It makes any support whatever a crime,” one Arab-American said last week. “Simply giving blankets to the wrong kind of hospital could be a violation of the law.”

Email
brian.whitaker@guardian.co.uk

Related special reports
Israel & the Middle East
Iraq
George Bush’s America

Other articles
More articles by Brian Whitaker

Useful links
InfoCom Corporation
Holy Land Foundation
Anti-Defamation League
Al-bab.com (Brian Whitaker’s website)



Israel plans to send bill to Palestinians over boycotts
June 14, 2010, 1:38 am
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Catrina Stewart, The Independent
11 June 2010

What do The Pixies, Elvis Costello, and Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, have in common? A cursory glance might suggest not much yet all have deeply irked Israel.

When Mr Fayyad first embarked on a door-to-door campaign to persuade Palestinians to shun all products made by Jewish settlers, the Israeli public simply shrugged. But when veteran crooner Costello peered into his conscience and pulled a scheduled appearance in Tel Aviv, Israelis sat up and took notice.


Jewish settler in Hebron throws wine at Palestinian Muslimah

Embattled and increasingly isolated, a group of politicians are now proposing a bill that would outlaw boycotts against the Jewish State, both homegrown and international.

Should the proposal gain traction in its current form, it would force boycotters to pay compensation to settlers who claim their business had suffered. It would also affect foreign citizens calling for a boycott of Israel, potentially barring them from Israel for 10 years.

The Land of Israel, a right-wing parliamentary lobby group committed to Jewish settlement of the West Bank, submitted the bill with the support of 25 politicians from right wing and centrist parties. If approved, it could theoretically force the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay thousands of dollars in compensation to Jewish businesses affected by the Fayyad-led boycott campaign, a scenario that would likely spark furious reaction from Palestinians.

The move comes amid a growing global backlash against Israeli policies, which has intensified since Israel launched its bloody raid on a Turkish-led humanitarian convoy trying to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Even before the flotilla affair, a campaign to persuade artists and authors to protest what they describe as an illegal and oppressive military occupation of the Palestinian territories was gaining ground. “Merely having your name added to a concert may be interpreted as a political act… and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent,” Costello said in a statement prior to the raid.

After last week’s deadly raid on the flotilla, US rock band The Pixies cancelled their gig. Several other bands have followed suit, prompting Israeli music promoter Shuki Weiss to complain that performers are waging a form of “cultural terrorism”.

Human rights activists, meanwhile, decried efforts by politicians to alienate those critical of Israel with new legislation. “We have wild right-wing politicians presenting wild demagogic bills … which create a very nasty public atmosphere,” said Adam Keller, spokesman for Gush Shalom, an Israeli NGO that has joined calls for a boycott of settler-made goods. “If this is passed into law, it would mean a total breakdown between Israel and the PA.”

Israel has condemned Mr Fayyad’s boycott campaign as harmful to the fragile peace process, and Israeli settler leaders have urged the government to respond with harsh retaliatory measures.

Should the proposal gain traction in its current form, it would force boycotters to pay compensation to settlers who claim their business had suffered. It would also affect foreign citizens calling for a boycott of Israel, potentially barring them from Israel for 10 years.

But activists said attempts to muzzle peace activists would make the movement stronger. “No Knesset laws can stop this tide of non-violent, morally consistent struggle for justice, self determination, equality and freedom,” political activist Omar Barghouti said in a statement.

Mr Fayyad, an economist by training, has provided the boycott campaign with fresh impetus in recent weeks, putting it at the heart of a peaceful resistance movement aimed at winning over international support. The boycott calls for Palestinians to shun all products made in the Jewish settlements, most of which sit on expropriated Palestinian farmland and are regarded as illegal under international law.

The PA has also barred Palestinians from working in the settlements as of the end of this year, an unpopular move only slightly eased by the promise of a $50m “dignity” fund designed to help workers make the transition. The PA has threatened those who fail to comply with fines.

The Jewish settlements, which sit atop the West Bank hills, have long been a thorn in the side of the peace process. Palestinians have maintained that as long as Jews are grabbing Palestinian land in the West Bank, Israel cannot be committed to a two-state solution.

“If I… were a Palestinian, I would certainly join the boycott that is being imposed on the settlements and their products,” wrote Yossi Sarid, a commentator in liberal Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. “After all, it would not be human to expect me to buy my tombstone from people who were determined to bury my hopes for a good life and independence.”

Israeli Minister of Minority Affairs, Avishay Braverman, who is responsible for Israel’s Arab population, said the boycott was a diversion from the pressing need for direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. US-sponsored efforts have brought both sides back to talks, but not in the same room.

“This boycott will have no real impact on Israel, but will harm Palestinian workers,” said Mr Braverman, a former World Bank economist. What it will do “is create a more general boycott on Israel that will harm relations between Israel and the Palestinians”.

And not everyone is moved, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Diana Krall, who is married to Costello, are still scheduled to perform in Israel later this year.

Meanwhile, authors Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh, the joint recipients of an Israeli literary award, have bristled at calls from activists to refuse the prize, with Atwood describing cultural boycotts as “a form of censorship”.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-plans-to-send-bill-to-palestinians-over-boycotts-1997295.html



VIDEO: USS Liberty Memorial – June 8, 2009
May 25, 2010, 4:56 pm
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Police say Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should be indicted
May 25, 2010, 12:47 am
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Police say Lieberman should be indicted
Mon, 24 May 2010 23:50:08 GMT
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Associated Press photo)
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should be indicted for peeping into an investigation of his own conduct, the police have said.

“Police have recommended charging Lieberman for violation of trust” for illegally receiving documentation about the probe, Reuters quoted police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld as saying on Monday.

He said a former ambassador to Belarus had provided Lieberman the information when the foreign minister served as a parliamentarian.

Lieberman, who is the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, is known for his anti-Arab remarks and distrust of the indirect talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.

The police have also advised that he be charged with bribery, money laundering, and obstruction of justice for his actions prior to assuming his ministerial post.

In response to previous scandals, Lieberman had said that he would step down, should he be officially charged, but he has made no remarks about the most recent allegations.



Australia: Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Adopts BDS

Australia: Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Adopts BDS

Posted by RORCoalition on Tue, 05/11/2010 – 21:00

The CFMEU (Construction Forestry, Mining and Electricity Union) national executive have a adopted a position supporting selective BDS. This means the union has become first Union in Australia to adopt a national postion on BDS.

Palestinian Resolution of the CFMEU National Executive Committee – May 12, 2010

The CFMEU National Executive in October 2009 discussed the latest state of affairs regarding the longstanding Israeli/Palestinian conflict and considered information regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) approach being adopted by some national trade union centres.

The CFMEU Executive resolved to invite the Palestinian Ambassador to Australia to address the CFMEU’s NEC and then consider our union’s approach to this matter further.

The NEC heard from Izzat Abdulhadi at its February meeting and considered the arguments for a boycott of products and goods produced in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Since that time further provocations have been forthcoming from the current aggressive Netanyahu regime including the announcement of the construction of fresh settlements during the visit of US Vice President Biden and the use of false passports (including forged Australian documents) in the Dubai killing of a Hamas official.

Most recently following the debate at the UK TUC Congress, the TUC have joined with the call for a selective consumer boycott of goods produced by Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the general banner of the global ‘BDS’ campaign. This has been assisted by recent UK Government moves to clearly label such goods as coming from occupied Palestine.

With comrades Mal Tulloch and David Forde who have just returned from a tour of the Occupied Territories during the recent APHEDA visit to Israel and Palestine furnishing us with detailed information on the Palestinian situation, the CFMEU is now in a position to adopt a considered approach on a union wide level.

In all the circumstances the CFMEU believes that a boycott of products made in the illegal settlements is justified and is the kind of solidarity action that can send a message loud and clear to the Netanyahu government.

The CFMEU further resolves that we will argue for this approach in the forums of the labour movement in Australia including the ACTU and the ALP and that we will also argue for it in international forums as appropriate.

The approach recommended on the BDS question remains one aspect of the broad solidarity and support that should be rendered to the long suffering Palestinian people until a just and lasting peace is secured with a durable two state solution.



Earth Day in Israel: Apartheid Showing Through the Greenwash
April 24, 2010, 1:25 pm
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Israel’s Earth Day celebrations. Please also see the extraordinary video filmed by Max Ajl inside Gaza where Israeli bulldozers, escorted by tanks, ripped up cultivated fields on Earth Day.


http://www.maxajl.com/?p=3482

Steph

http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1368

Earth Day in Israel: Apartheid Showing Through the Greenwash
By Stephanie Westbrook

On April 22, as part of the global Earth Day celebrations, homes, offices and public buildings in 14 Israeli cities turned out the lights for one hour in an effort to “increase awareness of the vital need to reduce energy consumption.” The Earth Day celebrations included scenes of green fields, wind generators and rainbows projected on the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, the Green Globes Award ceremony recognizing “outstanding contributions to promote the environment” and a concert in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv powered by generators running on vegetable oil as well as volunteers on 48 bikes pedaling away to produce electricity.

The irony was not lost on the 1.5 million residents of Gaza who have been living with daily power outages lasting hours on end for nearly three years due to the Israeli siege on the coastal territory. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reports that over 100 million liters of fuel were allowed into Gaza in 2009, however as Gisha points out, that amounts to only 57% of the need. As summer approaches bringing peak demands, spare parts and tools for turbine repair are in dire need. There are currently over 50 truckloads of electrical equipment awaiting approval by the Israeli authorities for entry to Gaza.

The constant power outages have led many families in Gaza to rely on low quality generators running on low quality fuels, both brought in through the tunnels from Egypt, causing a sharp increase in accidents resulting in injury and death. According to the UN agency OCHA, in the first three months of 2010, 17 people died in generator related accidents, including fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The mayor of the central Israeli city of Ra’anana, of which 48% is reserved for city parks, vowed to plant thousands of trees as part of the city’s sustainable agenda. Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of Qaryut near Nablus had their own tree planting ceremony in honor of Earth Day, only to find the 250 olive tree saplings uprooted by Israeli settlers from Givat Hayovel. Another 300 were uprooted during the night of April 13 outside the Palestinian village of Mihmas by settlers from the nearby Migron outpost. The Palestinian Land Research Center estimates that over 12000 olive trees were uprooted throughout the West Bank in 2009, with Israeli authorities responsible for about 60%, clearing the land for settlements and construction of the wall, and Israeli settlers the rest.

Earth Day in Gaza brought armor plated bulldozers escorted by Israeli tanks that proceeded to rip through fields of winter wheat, rye and lentils at Al Faraheen near Khan Younis in the Israeli imposed buffer zone, destroying the livelihood of a Palestinian family because, as Max Ajl, who filmed the entire shameful episode, explained, “They could.” ( http://www.maxajl.com/?p=3482 ).

But that’s not all that was being dug up in Gaza. The UN Mine Action Service uncovered and removed 345 unexploded ordnance, including 60 white phosphorus shells, left over from the Israeli assault on Gaza. Approximately half were found under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

As the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection was launching its “Clean Coast 2010” program for Earth Day, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage was being pumped into the Mediterranean sea from Gaza’s overworked, under funded and seldom repaired sewage treatment plant. Damage from Israeli air strikes and lack of electric power and spare parts due to the siege make it impossible for the plant to meet the demands of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, with the daily overflow creating serious health hazards.

In addition to the Green Globe awards, the Ministry of Environmental Protection had it’s own award ceremony last month recognizing Israeli Defense Force units, soldiers and commanders who “exhibited excellence in protecting the environment, environmental resources and the landscape.” The theme for this year’s annual competition was water and included projects related to the “protection of water sources” and “water savings.”

For Palestinians living in the West Bank, this “protection of water sources” was documented in Amnesty International’s October 2009 report Troubled Water: “The Israeli army’s destruction of Palestinian water facilities – rainwater harvesting and storage cisterns, agricultural pools and spring canals – on the grounds that they were constructed without permits from the army is often accompanied by other measures that aim to restrict or eliminate the presence of Palestinians from specific areas of the West Bank.”

The Amnesty International report also notes that for decades, Israeli settlers have instead “been given virtually unlimited access to water supplies to develop and irrigate the large farms which help to support unlawful Israeli settlements.” And nowhere is this more evident than the Jordan Valley where 95% of the area is occupied by Israeli settlements, plantations and military bases and where “Israeli water extraction inside the West Bank is highest.”

One such company helping to sustain the illegal settlement economy is Carmel Agrexco, Israel’s largest fresh produce exporter. By its own admission the company, which is half owned by the State of Israel, exports 70% of the produce grown in the West Bank settlements. Europe is by far its biggest market, though its produce arrives as far as North America and the Far East. Agrexco promotes itself as a green company, with a focus eco-friendly packaging and organic produce, though one could argue that transporting organic bell peppers from Israel to the US is hardly ecological. Even the self-proclaimed “green ships” used to bring fresh produce to Europe are named Bio-Top and EcoFresh. ”

But there is nothing green about occupation and colonization, nothing ecological in violating human rights and dignity. And that’s why an international coalition supporting the Palestinian call for boycotts of Israeli products has set its sights on removing Carmel Agrexco produce from supermarkets – and ports – across Europe.

The original Earth Day was about grassroots mobilization, public protest for change and political awareness of the issues. In Israel’s Earth Day celebrations, its Apartheid system is showing through the greenwash.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy and traveled to Gaza in June 2009. She can be reached at steph@webfabbrica.com

For more information on the boycott campaigns targeting Carmel Agrexco in Europe, see:
UK – http://www.bigcampaign.org/
Italy – http://www.stopagrexcoitalia.org/
France – http://www.coalitioncontreagrexco.com/



What do you know about Gaza?
February 9, 2010, 8:42 am
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