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David Harris-Gershon
David Harris-Gershon
David Harris-Gershon's work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and elsewhere, and his memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (September, 2013).



Top Israeli Online Magazine Names Edward Snowden “Person of the Year”

Dec28

by: on December 28th, 2013 | 8 Comments »

One of Israel’s best online publications – +972 Magazine – has for the first time chosen someone unconnected to Israeli/Palestinian issues as its “Person of the Year.”

That person is Edward Snowden.

The unusual move by this progressive, politically searing outlet in Israel is testament to just how strongly Snowden’s leaks have reverberated across political spectra. And as +972 Magazine revealed, it is also testament to just how critical Snowden’s leaks are when considering the very nature of the Internet itself, and what it may become.

I found this selection from its editors to be quite compelling:

As journalists, we are experiencing firsthand how the Internet has altered our profession, putting some of us out of work while creating new opportunities for others, ones that we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. A project like 972 Magazine could not have existed without the platforms provided by WordPress and Google, Facebook and Twitter.

But as much as we are aware of the significance of these massive changes, the small amount of attention we pay to the battle over the Internet is astonishing. Until we are faced with a specific problem – a website crashing, a webpage removed, a Facebook account hacked – we tend to take it all for granted.

Rather, we used to tend to take things for granted. That is, until a soft-spoken, geeky-looking computer specialist showed us how fragile the new freedoms provided by technology are and the degree to which the virtual universe is exposed to manipulation and abuse. He showed us how underdeveloped our thinking is on privacy and political participation in this virtual space. He showed us just how exposed we are in the face of power in this virtual world – more than we could have ever imagined, let alone agreed to, in our more physical existence.

This is the context in which Edward Snowden’s act needs to be understood. One had to have been especially naïve to think that the U.S. government was not spying on the German chancellor or the Israeli prime minister, as Snowden’s documents revealed. The more tech-savvy among us knew well that digital communications are traceable, though few ever imagined the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs. But the story is not just your email, or the records of your phone calls stored on NSA servers and maybe shared with your own government. The issue at hand is the Internet, and what it will become: a force of freedom or the perfect machine for surveillance and control.


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Israel Thumbs Nose at Obama Administration – After Chiding U.S. for Bad Behavior

Dec25

by: on December 25th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

With Israel set to release a new slate of Palestinian prisoners as part of U.S.-brokered peace talks, John Kerry – at President Obama’s behest – personally asked Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to hold off on announcing new settlement construction plans.

Such an announcement could, in the Obama administration’s view, undermine any positive momentum generated by Israel’s prisoner release, thus poisoning the talk’s already murky waters.

Today, Haaretz is reporting that Israel plans to thumb its nose at the Obama administration (as well as the EU) by announcing new housing tenders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the prisoner release.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Israel’s plans for new housing tenders in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem next week, following the release of the third group of Palestinian prisoners, an official in Jerusalem said Wednesday.

Netanyahu did not heed the United States’ request to postpone the announcement of the new tenders and rejected warnings by the European Union which also urged Netanyahu to avoid announcing the new construction following the prisoner release.


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CNN: Al Qaeda More Honest Than Obama Administration

Dec24

by: on December 24th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, has suggested that al Qaeda is winning the honesty war against the United States in a piece entitled “Is al Qaeda outdoing the U.S. on truth telling?

While on first blush the suggestion might seem like partisan slander, a look at Bergen’s argument reveals an unsettling truth: we may be losing the honesty war to al Qaeda due to our secret, and unaccountable, drone program.

To make his point, Bergen compares two recent, and accidental, civilian massacres by each side, and how each side dealt with the situation. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, Bergen’s example demonstrates how we have become a nation so secretive in the region that we are incapable of apologizing for our mistakes, much less acknowledge them:

When Gen. David Petraeus was U.S. commander in Afghanistan in 2010 he issued guidance to his troops, one of the key points of which was to “be first with the truth.”

Yet, in Yemen where the U.S. has been fighting a small, undeclared war for the past four years, we have now arrived at the ironic point where America’s main enemy there, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is doing a better job of truth telling than the U.S.

In a video message released on Sunday, a leader of al Qaeda in Yemen apologized for an attack on a hospital in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa earlier this month in which civilians were killed … “We confess to this mistake and fault. We offer our apologies and condolences to the families of the victims,” said the al Qaeda leader.

Bergen’s example is contrasted with the U.S. military’s recent, tragic drone strike against a wedding procession in Yemen on December 12. The strike killed scores of innocent civilians on their way to a joyous celebration and sparked outrage in Yemen.

More outrageous, however, is that the Obama administration, unlike al Qaeda, has said nothing about the incident. No acknowledgement. No apology.

Nothing.


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This Could End the NSA: Financial Market Manipulation

Dec21

by: on December 21st, 2013 | 5 Comments »

When the White House task force’s independent report was released this week, expectations were that it would contain mostly cosmetic recommendations. However, combing through the 300 page document reveals shockingly specific, detailed suggestions for reform which seem to be addressing known, or suspected, NSA activities.

Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation found a specific recommendation buried in the report which could spell the NSA’s doom if it’s revealed that this recommendation is responding to actual activities by the intelligence agency.

Here is recommendation 31(2), as presented by techdirt:

NSA

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Stepping-Stone Journalism: When Reporters Seek Positions of Power

Dec17

by: on December 17th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

After John Miller’s infomercial for the NSA had run its course on 60 Minutes, it was reported – to nobody’s great surprise – that the CBS newsman was ditching his television contract to take a top intelligence post at the NYPD.

For Miller, this was just a continuation of his revolving door professional career, alternating between national security appointments and journalism posts. Problematic? Of course. However, the most troubling aspect was the revelation that Miller had been under consideration for the NYPD post while working on his NSA story.

He wasn’t just a past insider ‘reporting’ on the NSA. This was a future insider doing a story about the inside. This was a journalist having full access to the inside and reporting upon it not to critique it, but to celebrate it, knowing his goal was to become a part of it.


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Obama Suppressing 6,000-Page Report on CIA Torture Adopted by Senate Intelligence Committee

Dec14

by: on December 14th, 2013 | 7 Comments »

Over a year ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt a historic, 6,000-page report which contains “startling details” about CIA misdeeds related to its torture program.

The report, which cost $40 million to produce and appears to pose no national security threats, has been set for release since December 13, 2012. However, it has yet to see the light of day.

The reason: the Obama administration continues to suppress its release, apparently for no reason other than to protect the reputations of the guilty.

Per The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf:

[Over a year ago], the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt a 6,000-page report on the CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program that led to torture. Its contents include details on each prisoner in CIA custody, the conditions of their confinement, whether they were tortured, the intelligence they provided, and the degree to which the CIA lied about its behavior to overseers. Senator Dianne Feinstein declared it one of the most significant oversight efforts in American history, noting that it contains “startling details” and raises “critical questions.” But all these months later, the report is still being suppressed.

The Obama Administration has no valid reason to suppress the report. Its contents do not threaten national security, as evidenced by the fact that numerous figures who normally defer to the national-security state want it released with minor redactions. The most prominent of all is Vice President Joe Biden.


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Israel’s Double Standard Illuminated by Opposition to Iran Deal

Nov26

by: on November 26th, 2013 | 14 Comments »

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his vociferous opposition to U.S. negotiations with Iran, has argued with particular force against the easing of international sanctions against Iran. His logic? No sanctions should be lifted until Iran abides completely by those international agreements it has been violating in the pursuit of nuclear advancement.

Israel’s problem is that this is a similar argument many Palestinians and peace proponents have been making for years: that Israel should be pressured by the international community to forgo its settlement enterprise, deemed illegal by international law.

As Jodi Rudoren reports in The New York Times:

In some ways, Israel’s approach to Iran has echoed arguments long made by its Palestinian adversaries. Over the past few weeks, Israeli leaders frequently said Iran must be forced to comply with United Nations resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agreements that it has been violating for years. Similarly, the Palestinians insist that Israel must live up to prior promises to evacuate settlements considered illegal under international law.

“It shows a double standard,” said one senior Palestinian official involved in the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity under an American dictate not to discuss them publicly. “If they expect to reach a solution in Iran by pushing more and more sanctions, why shouldn’t they expect from our side to push for sanctions against Israel?”


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How to Create an Ethos of Enmity: Israel Military Cuffs, Detains 5- and 6-Year-Old Palestinian Children

Nov16

by: on November 16th, 2013 | 10 Comments »

Four Palestinian children, ages 5 to 9, were cuffed and detained for over an hour by Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s occupation in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum.

The detention of these children, who witnesses say had their hands cuffed behind their backs and were held without an adult or parent present, comes against the backdrop of a recent UNICEF report entitled, “Children in Israeli Military Detention.”

The report found widespread abuse of children who come into contact with the IDF and its military justice system, concluding:

It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.

[...]

Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears
to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized. This conclusion is based on the
repeated allegations about such treatment over the past 10 years and the volume,
consistency and persistence of these allegations.


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White House Publicly Breaking with Israel on … Palestine

Nov12

by: on November 12th, 2013 | 9 Comments »

Much has been written in the past week on Israel’s fiery condemnation of nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and several world powers, including the United States. Notably, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s vociferous opposition to talks championed by John Kerry.

Many have focused upon the moment when Netanyahu claimed that Iran was getting “the deal of the century” from America, to which Kerry publicly and testily countered that “the time to oppose [a deal with Iran] is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible.

However, while this rift over Iran between Israel and the Obama administration caught headlines, a significant, and possibly historic, break between Israel and the U.S. over Middle East peace was occurring as well.

On Thursday, in a rare joint interview on both Israeli and Palestinian television, Kerry made clear in ways this administration has never done just how frustrated Washington is with Israel’s settlement expansion and overall investment in peace:

How, if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps you’re not really serious.

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Israel to Raze Palestinian Village (within Israel) & Displace its Citizens to Build ‘Jewish’ Towns

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2013 | 16 Comments »

On Sunday, the Israeli government decided that it would raze the Bedouin-Palestinian village of Umm al-Hiran – and displace those Israeli citizens living within the village – to make room for Jewish, national-religious developments.

As Noam Sheizaf at +972 reported, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet met not in Jerusalem at the Knesset to make this decision, as per normal. Rather, they met Sde Boker, the kibbutz where Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, is buried.

Why did they meet in this symbolic location? Simple: the Negev desert, where those Bedouin villages to be razed are situated, was considered by Ben-Gurion as “Zionism’s final frontier.”

Israel’s justification for razing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran is that, in its 57-year existence, the village never received ‘official’ zoning approval. However, as Sheizaf writes, this is due to Israel’s unwillingness to grant official approval to the village, despite ordering the villagers to live in Umm al-Hiran in 1956:

[Umm al-Hiran] residents are originally from the western part of the Negev (Palestinians call the same desert Naqab); they were expelled eastward by the IDF following the 1948 war, and a kibbutz called Shoval was built on their land. After several years of moving from site to site, the army finally told those members of the Al-Qia’an tribe to build their homes in Umm al-Hiran and Atir, and so they did in 1956. Here is the army’s order (via Adala). It is marked “confidential.”

Despite the fact that it was the state who told the Al-Qia’an tribe where to move, the new villages were never made part of a zoning plan, and their residents still lack basic infrastructure like water and electricity. The government is finally deciding to build a proper settlement there – but not for the Palestinian Bedouin (who are citizens of Israel, some of whom even served in the IDF).


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