May 2010

It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged. If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.

With most Israelis assuming a new Middle East war is just around the corner, settler leaders are trying to prove to their compatriots that some 120 illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank will provide an indispensable safe haven in time of emergency. The settlements have drawn up plans to accommodate as many as half a million Israelis forced to flee areas inside the country’s recognised borders if they come under rocket fire in wartime.

A leading human rights activist from Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority was charged yesterday with the most serious security offences on Israel’s statute book, including espionage. Prosecutors indicted Ameer Makhoul, the head of Ittijah, an umbrella organisation for Arab human rights groups in Israel, with spying on security facilities on behalf of Hizbollah after an alleged meeting with one of its agents in Denmark in 2008.

Israel faces unprecedented pressure to abandon its official policy of “ambiguity” on its possession of nuclear weapons as the international community meets at the United Nations in New York this week to consider banning such arsenals from the Middle East. Israel’s equivocal stance on its atomic status was shattered by reports on Monday that it offered to sell nuclear-armed Jericho missiles to South Africa’s apartheid regime back in 1975.

Unemployed computer engineer Morad Lashin would like to work in Israel’s Electricity Company, a large state utility, but admitted his chances of being recruited are slim. The reasons were set out in graphic form this month when a parliamentary committee revealed that only 1.3 per cent of the company’s 12,000 workers are Arab, despite the Arab minority constituting nearly 20 per cent of the population.

The construction of sections of a controversial segregated road network in the West Bank planned by Israel for Palestinians – leaving the main roads for exclusive use by settlers – is being financed by a US government aid agency, a map prepared by Palestinian researchers has revealed. USAid, which funds development projects in Palestinian areas, is reported to have helped to build 114km of Israeli-proposed roads, described by human rights groups as Israel’s “apartheid road” plan.

The recent arrest of two respected public figures from Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority in nighttime raids on their homes by the Shin Bet secret police — brought to light this week when a gag order was partially lifted — has sent shock waves through the community. The arrests are not the first of their kind. The Shin Bet has been hounding and imprisoning politicians and intellectuals from the country’s Palestinian minority since the birth of the Jewish state more than six decades ago.

Job interviews for the position of imam at mosques in Israel are conducted not by senior clerics but by the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, a labour tribunal has revealed. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Ajwa, 36, is fighting the Shin Bet’s refusal to approve his appointment as an imam in a case that has lifted the lid on Israel’s secret surveillance of the country’s Islamic leaders. At a hearing last month, a senior government official admitted that 60 undercover inspectors were employed effectively as spies to collect information on Muslim clerics.

Six Arab members of the Israeli parliament returned last week from a visit to Libya at the personal invitation of its leader, Muammer Qadafi, to a storm of protest in Israel, including threats to prosecute them and bar them from standing in future elections. The delegation of 39 public figures from Israel’s Arab minority, who were flown to Tripoli on Mr Qadafi’s private plane last weekend, had requested the visit in the hope of breaking their isolation in the Arab world.