On Brothers and Keepers: A Missing Link?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

On May 6, just before dawn, Ameer Makhoul was arrested. Initial reports state that the Haifa home of the director of Ittijah, a network of NGOs and grassroots organizations representing the interests of Arab citizens of Israel, was invaded by 16 Israeli security agents police officers. They confiscated documents, maps, computer hard drives, a camera and a tape recorder belonging to the couple and their two daughters. Ameer was taken away, as another security service team raided Ittijah’s offices, taking possession of documents and computer hard drives.

On May 7, the IAEA released the preliminary agenda for its June 2010 meeting, and for the very first time, Israel’s nuclear program is slated to be scrutinized as never before.

So?

Ameer has a brother, Issam. Between 1999 and 2006, Issam was an elected member of Israel’s parliament (Knesset), representing the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, better known as Hadash (New), a small Arab-Jewish “communist” political party. Issam became the first Member of Knesset (MK) to break the taboo on any public discussion of Israel’s nuclear policy. In a speech he delivered to the Knesset on Feb. 2, 2000, he dared to speak the unspeakable:

The international community has recognized that the nuclear issue is not an internal affair of any state, but has implications that reach beyond national and geographic borders and require international attention. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other treaties relating to this issue are the sum total of worldwide human wisdom mobilized to defend us from nuclear holocaust. Israel has chosen to remain outside the realm of human wisdom. That was a dangerous choice. The mentality of ‘a nation unto its own’ entails, in the context of the issue at hand, the syndrome of national suicide. Our lives and our security will not be guaranteed by the reactor in Dimona, nor by the hundreds of atomic bombs, nor by the millions of biological warfare germs that are produced at the Biological Institute in Nes Tsiona, nor by the chemical weapons that Israel is developing. Rather, our security would come from an inspired initiative to make the Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction. Israel is the party that started the race, and it bears the responsibility for changing that course.

Makhoul praised the recent release of portions of the transcripts from the trial of Mordechai Vanunu. [Vanunu was a 31 year old technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor who described Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program in detail to the British Sunday Times,which published his revelations on Oct. 5, 1986. Subsequently, a seductive Mossad agent named “Cindy” facilitated Vanunu’s involuntary repatriation to Israel, where he was tried in secret, and spent 18 years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement.] But more had to be done.

Makhoul declared that the Dimona reactor should be opened to international inspection, and Israel should declare a moratorium on the production of all weapons of mass destruction–nuclear, biological, and chemical. Not only did Makhoul propose the release of all information about the quantity of bombs that Israel possesses, but further demanded that Israel announce, as a confidence-building measure, its willingness to begin unilateral nuclear disarmament, to be completed in the framework of a general Middle East treaty.

Members of the Likud, the National Religious Party, Shas and several other Jewish parliamentarians had stormed out of the Knesset in protest even before Makhoul began to speak. Those who stayed excoriated Makhoul. The Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reported the next day (Feb. 3, 2000) that the ruling coalition’s parliamentary chairman, the dovish Ophir Pines-Paz of the Labor party, had shouted at Makhoul, “You are committing a crime against Israeli Arabs today!” Yosef Pritzky of the secular and relatively progressive Shinui (Change) party told Makhoul, “If anyone needed justification why Arab Knesset Members should not be members of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, you just provided it.”

“What are you blabbering about? Makhoul yelled back at his hecklers. “What I said appears in every newspaper in the world. You’re dummies!”

In spite of an attempt on his life in 2003 – a small bomb rigged under the family car exploded, nearly killing his wife — Issam Makhoul hasn’t given up—or shut up—about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction program. This past October, he wrote an article for the Hiroshima Peace Media Center: “Hiroshima and the World: From the Old Nuclear Order to the New Anti-Nuclear Order”. In it, Makhoul pointed out:

What motivates the public debate in the nuclear question today is not really the dangers facing countries who possess nuclear weapons, but rather the obsessive desire of these countries to preserve the old nuclear order which grants them, arbitrarily, a monopoly of nuclear weapons, both globally as well as regionally. This is especially the case with countries that are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), such as Israel, but threaten disastrous war on those nations that aspire toward nuclear capability. Those who oppose the Iranian nuclear project and wish to stop it cannot turn a blind eye to the extensive Israeli nuclear arsenal without being accused, and rightfully so, of hypocrisy.

Issam’s brief bio appended to the above article noted that he is “a member of the International Planning Committee of the NPT Review Conference in May.” That NPT Review Conference is taking place right now in New York, (May 3-28, 2010). Whether Issam is actually there now, actively involved or on the sidelines, or just served on a planning committee whose work is done, is unclear at this time.

Nevertheless, Issam Makhoul now has a support base of unknown but presumably somewhat influential nuclear experts from around the world who also are working on nuclear non-proliferation issues. From a public relations perspective, the Israeli government can’t afford another Vanunu scenario, especially right after the Dubai assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh back in January, allegedly by Mossad-linked agents carrying forged international passports, which is currently being investigated by various governments, Is it conceivable that, rather than attempting to rein in Issam, the Israeli security apparatus might go after his brother Ameer instead?

About two weeks before the beginning of the NPT Review Conference, on April 21, Israeli Interior Eli Yishai had barred Ameer from leaving the country for 60 days for unspecified reasons of “national security.” The security officers and police who took Ameer from his Haifa home on May 6 claimed they had a warrant for his arrest signed on April 23. Why did the Israeli security services (not usually known for dragging their feet on matters concerning security threats) wait until two weeks after the warrant was issued to arrest him–one day before the IAEA announced its June agenda?

Understandably, human rights groups and political activists are viewing Ameer Makhoul’s arrest as another example of Israeli repression of Arabs, which, of course, it is. But no one yet appears to have considered the possibility of a link between Issam’s efforts to bring an end to Israeli nuclear “ambiguity” and to subject Israel to the kind of international accountability and scrutiny it demands be imposed on Iran.

Of course it might all just be a coincidence. Issam is not his brother’s keeper (Israeli security officials apparently are, at least at the moment), nor is Ameer responsible for Issam’s activities. Surely a “Jewish and democratic state” like Israel would never arrest an Arab political activist and hold him without charges—no discussion in the media allowed!—on account of something his brother had done? Like pinching Israel’s nuclear nerve again and again, and watching its politicians squirm…?

When the Israelis break the silence surrounding Ameer’s arrest, perhaps we’ll learn that these speculations are totally off base and the dots don’t connect at all. Even so, Issam’s writing on the Israeli nuclear issue–past and present– makes for some interesting and timely reading.

******

Updates: May 10, 8:30 am

The Israeli military censor’s gag order on any discussion of Ameer Makhoul’s arrest has now been lifted. Haaretz reports that Makhoul and Omar Said have been detained by the Shin Bet on suspicion of spying for Hezbollah:

Unofficial sources say Makhoul was in contact with a number of foreign activists, some with links to groups classified by the government as terror organizations. These include a Lebanese citizen, Hassan Geagea, who is married to the daughter of Palestinian writer and historian Akram Zaitar.

Hussein Abu Hasin, a lawyer who has handled several cases of spying charges, told Haaretz that espionage laws in Israel were so wide-ranging that an internet chat or telephone conversation with anyone in an ‘enemy state’ could lead to prosecution.

In another Haaretz article, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insists that there is “No Threat to Israel’s Policy of Nuclear Ambiguity“:

Despite recent international pressure pressure on the Netanyahu government to answer claims it holds atomic weapons, there is no real threat to Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday.

“I do not think there is a real or significant danger to Israel’s traditional stance of nuclear ambiguity,” Barak told the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied having nuclear arms. But the country is widely believed to have begun a weapons program in the 1950s and analysts estimate that Israel now has as many as 200 atomic warheads.

Kagan: Obama’s Latest Civil Liberties Disaster

Once again, when Obama had a chance to take a strong stand in favor of the Constitution, he took a dive.

His nomination of somemone for the Supreme Court who shirked the most controversial moral and legal issues of the war on terror is appalling.

Glenn Greenwald has the best analysis I’ve seen on why Kagan is a bad pick.

I’m sure there will be far more good reasons to reject Kagan for the Supreme Court coming to the surface in the coming weeks.

Where 9/11 came from?

1. It is impossible to kill enough people to end up with no enemies.

2. For every person your military kills, you create 100 more enemies from family, friends, countrymen, religious colleagues, etc.

3. Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

The intelligence services call it "blowback," of course.

–via Jomama and with apologies to Intech Concepts 34, DougBuchanan.com

Over the top?

In a disturbing comment on "OK, so who DID they slaughter?" poster "DOESITMATTER" suggested a scenario in which a drone pilot and helicopter gunship both mis-target apparent "militants" in Los Angeles, "cut[ting] to ribbons a group of Los Angeles commuters in one location and destroy[ing] a hospital at another site."

What would that be like?

According to Mr. Obama, assassination of American citizens is now OK, so is "DOESITMATTER" really that far over-the-top?

I sure hope so. Because if not, it could get much much worse. Suppose "our" pols, following Mr. Schwarzenegger’s lead, recognize we can’t afford more prisons — or to super-size the law-and-order industry any more — and realize there’s a "mature," economic and well-rehearsed solution just waiting to be repatriated – – –

WASHINGTON: The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region, current and former counter-terrorism officials say.

The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by Barack Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as "pattern-of-life" analysis… The information was used to target suspected militants, even when their full identities were not known, the officials said. Previously the CIA was restricted in most cases to killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list…

The rules had transformed the program… into a large-scale campaign of air strikes…

Instead of just a few dozen attacks a year, CIA-operated unmanned aircraft now carry out multiple missile strikes each week… [S]ome analysts said permitting the CIA to kill people whose names were unknown created a serious risk of killing innocent people. — CIA allowed to kill terrorist suspects without identification, DAVID CLOUD, http://www.smh.com.au, May 7, 2010

I know, I know. It couldn’t happen here.

After all, even though they have already begun to use drones here in the U.S., – – –

–High-Tech Drones Joining Miami Police Force, Unmanned Aircraft System Will Help SWAT Units, POSTED: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

– – – they aren’t armed.

Yet.

Dennis Ross Talks Up Petraeus Linkage

From Josh Rogin’s excellent “Cable” blog at foreignpolicy.com today:

Dennis Ross links Middle East peace to Iran
Posted By Josh Rogin Wednesday, May 5, 2010 – 6:16 PM

The National Security Council’s Dennis Ross is the latest U.S. official to link the Obama administration’s drive to secure peace between Israelis and Arabs to the overall goal of bringing greater stability to the region and combating the threat from Iran.

“In this region, pursuing peace is instrumental to shaping a new regional context,” Ross said in remarks Monday evening. “Pursuing peace is not a substitute for dealing with the other challenges … It is also not a panacea. But especially as it relates to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, if one could do that, it would deny state and non-state actors a tool they use to exploit anger and grievances.”

Ross was speaking at the closing dinner for the Anti-Defamation League annual conference, where attendees also heard from the NSC’s Daniel Shapiro, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin, special envoy for monitoring anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, Israeli Amb. Michael Oren, and others.

Ross, whose exact portfolio at the NSC has been the subject of much speculation outside the administration, noted that “the greatest challenge for peace, for security in the Middle East, lies in Iran” and tied the Israeli-Arab conflict to the Islamic Republic.

“Clearly one way that Iran is increasing its influence in the region is by exploiting the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” Ross said, echoing statements made by U.S. Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus in a report (pdf) submitted to Congress back in March.

“The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests,” Petraeus wrote. “The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”

Conservative hard-liners ripped Petraeus for the statement, linking the report to a story on Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel (some elements of which are in dispute). The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy even accused the general of “echoing the narrative peddled incessantly by leftists in the government he serves and by Islamists in the countries where he works.”

But Ross, who is not often accused of being too hard on Israel, made similar comments Monday. “The continuation of the conflict strengthens Iran’s rejectionist partners and also Hezbollah. Iran deliberately uses the conflict to expose even the moderates in the region by stoking the fears of its populations and playing the worst most anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist prejudices,” he said.

This is quite a remarkable statement and should no doubt create some consternation at AIPAC, among other right-wing Israel Lobby institutions.

OK, so who DID they slaughter?

[viddler id=f166caa9&w=247&h=227]"Those who would slaughter innocent men, women, and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses. … Around the world and here at home there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women, and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda." –U.S. President Barak Obama, 2009 & 2010

So from his statements here and elsewhere, it would seem that Mr. Obama is implacably opposed to those who "would slaughter innocent men, women, and children."

Yet we know that he and his Administration have stepped- up use of drone assassinations — so stories reporting successful drone assassinations shouldn’t be a surprise – – –

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is dead, say officials – CSMonitor.com, Kristen Chick, Correspondent / February 10, 2010

We also know that drone and air strikes are notoriously inaccurate, regularly resulting in so-called "collateral damage" — and that government officials traditionally lie.

So, it should also be no surprise that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is alive — also here and here.

But, if it wasn’t Hakimullah Mehusud they assassinated and otherwise droned to death, which innocent men, women and children did they slaughter — in pursuit of their murderous agenda?