Explosive WikiLeaks Cables Nail Yudhoyono

Source:
http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3052&Itemid=175

Explosive WikiLeaks Cables Nail Yudhoyono

Written by Philip Dorling   Friday, 11 March 2011

Description:
US embassy in Jakarta has serious doubts about theIndonesian president’s own integrity

When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a surprise victory in Indonesia’s 2004 presidential elections, the United States Embassy in Jakarta hailed it as “aremarkable triumph of a popular, articulate figure against a rival[incumbent president Megawati Sukarnoputri] with more power, money, andconnections.

“The former army general and security minister has gone on to win international accolades for strengthening governance, promoting economic reform, and his efforts to suppress the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

While visiting Jakarta last November, US President Barack Obama applauded Indonesia’s democracy and “the leadership of my good friend President Yudhoyono. “However Yudhoyono’s record may have to be reviewed after secret US embassy cables, leaked to WikiLeaks and provided to Fairfax Media, reveal allegations of corruption and abuse of power that extend all the way to the presidential palace.

According to the diplomatic cables, Yudhoyono, widely known by his initials SBY, personally intervened to influence prosecutors and judges to protectcorrupt political figures and put pressure on his adversaries. He reportedly also used the Indonesian intelligence service to spy on rivals and, on at least one occasion, a senior minister in his own government.

Yudhoyono’s former vice-president reportedly paid out millions of dollars to buy control of Indonesia’s largest political party, while the President’s wife and her family have allegedly moved to enrich themselves on the basis of their political connections.

The US embassy’s political reporting, much of it classified “Secret/NoForn”- meaning for American eyes only – makes clear that the continuing influence of money politics, which extends, despite the President’s public commitment to combating corruption, to Yudhoyono himself.

The US embassy cables reveal that one of Yudhoyono’s early presidential actions was to personally intervene in the case of Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Taufik reportedly used his continuing control of his wife’s Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P) to broker protection from prosecution for what the US diplomats described as “legendary corruption during his wife’s tenure.”

Taufik has been publicly accused, though without charges being laid against him, of improper dealings in massive infrastructure projects heavily tainted with corruption. He is believed to have profited from deals relating to the US$2.3 billion Jakarta Outer Ring Road project, the US$2.4 billion double-track railway project from Merak in West Java to Banyuwangi in East Java, the US$2.3 billion trans-Kalimantan highway, and the US$1.7 billion trans-Papua highway.

In December 2004, the US embassy in Jakarta reported to Washington that one of its most valued political informants, senior presidential adviser TB Silalahi, had advised that Indonesia’s Assistant Attorney-General, Hendarman Supandji, who was then leading the new government’s anti-corruption campaign, had gathered “sufficient evidence of the corruption of former first gentleman Taufik Kiemas to warrant Taufik’s arrest.

“However, Silalahi, one of Yudhoyono’s closest political confidants, told the US embassy that the president “had personally instructed Hendarman not to pursue a case against Taufik.”No legal proceedings were brought against the former “first gentleman,” who remains an influential political figure and is now speaker of Indonesia’sparliament, the People’s Consultative Assembly.

While Yudhoyono protected Taufik from prosecution, his then vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, allegedly paid what the US embassy described as “enormous bribes” to win the chairmanship of Golkar, Indonesia’s largest political party, during a December 2004 party congress, US diplomats observed firsthand.

“According to multiple sources close to the major candidates, Kalla’s team offered district boards at least Rp 200 million (over US$22,000) for their votes,” the US embassy reported.

“Provincial boards – which had the same voting right, but also could influence subordinate district boards -received Rp 500 million or more. According to one contact with prior experience in such matters, board officials received down payments …and would expect full payment from the winner, in cash, within hours of thevote.

“US diplomats reported that, with 243 votes required to win a majority, the Golkar chairmanship would have cost more than US$6 million.

“One contact claimed that [then Indonesian House of Representatives chairman Agung Laksono] alone – not the wealthiest of Kalla’s backers – had allocated (if not actually spent) Rp50 billion (more than US$5.5 million ) on the event.”

The US embassy cables further allege that Yudhoyono had then cabinet secretary Sudi Silalahi “intimidate” at least one judge in a 2006 court case arising from a fight for control of former president Abdurahman Wahid’s National Awakening Party (PKB). According to the embassy’s contacts, Sudi told the judge “if the court were to help [Wahid] it would be like helping to overthrow the government.”The intervention of “SBY’s right-hand man” was not successful in a direct sense because, according to embassy sources with close ties to the PKB and lawyers involved in the case, Wahid’s supporters paid the judges Rp3 billion in bribes for a verdict that awarded control of PKB to Wahid instead of adissident faction. However, Yudhoyono’s strategic objective was achieved as external pressure on Wahid’s “precarious position” forced the PKB tore position itself to support the administration.

Other US embassy reports indicate that Yudhoyono has used the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to spy on both his political allies and opponents.The president reportedly also got BIN to spy on rival presidential candidates. This practice appears to have begun while Yudhoyono was serving as co-ordinating minister of political and security affairs in former president Megawati’s government. He directed the intelligence service to report on former army commander and Golkar presidential candidate Wiranto.

Subsequently, at a meeting of Yudhoyono’s cabinet, BIN chief Syamsir characterised Wiranto as a “terrorist mastermind.”

Through his own military contacts Wiranto learnt that he was the subject of”derogatory” BIN reports, but when he complained he was told by presidential adviser TB Silalahi that no such reports existed.

The leaked US embassy cables are ambiguous on the question of whether Yudhoyono has been personally engaged in corruption. However, US diplomats reported that at a 2006 meeting with the chairman of his own Democratic Party, Yudhoyono “be moaned his own failure to date to establish himself in business matters,” apparently feeling “he needed to ‘catch up’ … [and] wanted to ensure he left a sizeable legacy for his children.

“In the course of investigating the President’s private, political and business interests, American diplomats noted alleged links between Yudhoyono and Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, most notably Tomy Winata, an alleged underworld figure and member of the “Gang of Nine” or “Nine Dragons,” a leading gambling syndicate.

In 2006, Agung Laksono, now Yudhoyono’s Co-ordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, told US embassy officers that TB Silalahi “functioned as amiddleman, relaying funds from Winata to Yudhoyono, protecting the president from the potential liabilities that could arise if Yudhoyono were to deal with Tomy directly.

“Tomy Winata reportedly also used prominent entrepreneur Muhammad Lutfi as a channel of funding to Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono appointed Lutfi chairman of Indonesia’s Investment Co-ordinating Board.

Senior State Intelligence Agency official Yahya Asagaf also told the US embassy Tomy Winata was trying to cultivate influence by using a senior presidential aide as his channel to first lady Kristiani Herawati.

Yudhoyono’s wife and relatives also feature prominently in the US embassy’s political reporting, with American diplomats highlighting the efforts of the president’s family “particularly first lady Kristiani Herawati …to profit financially from its political position.

“In June 2006, one presidential staff member told US embassy officers Kristiani’s family members were “specifically targeting financial opportunities related to state-owned enterprises.” The well-connected staffer portrayed the President as “witting of these efforts, which his closest operators (e.g. Sudi Silalahi) would advance, while Yudhoyono himself maintained sufficient distance that he could not be implicated.

“Such is the first lady’s behind-the-scenes influence that the US embassy described her as “a cabinet of one” and “the President’s undisputed top adviser.”

The embassy reported: “As presidential adviser TB Silalahi told [US political officers], members of the President’s staff increasingly feel marginalised and powerless to provide counsel to the President.

“Yahya Asagaf at the State Intelligence Agency privately declared the first lady’s opinion to be “the only one that matters.

“Significantly, the US embassy’s contacts identified Kristiani as the primary influence behind Yudhoyono’s decision to drop vice-president Kalla as his running mate in the 2009 presidential elections.

With Bank of Indonesia governor Boediono as his new vice-presidential running mate, Yudhoyono went on to an overwhelming victory. The president secured more than 60 per cent of the vote, defeating both former president Megawati, who had teamed up with former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, and vice-president Kalla, who allied himself with Wiranto.

In January 2010 the US embassy observed: “Ten years of political and economic reform have made Indonesia democratic, stable, and increasingly confident about its leadership role in south-east Asia and the Muslim world.

Indonesia has held successful, free and fair elections; has weathered the global financial crisis; and is tackling internal security threats.

“However, America’s diplomats also noted that a series of political scandals through late 2009 and into 2010 had seriously damaged Yudhoyono’s political standing.

A protracted conflict between the Indonesian police and the national Corruption Eradication Commission had damaged the government’s publicanti-corruption credentials, while a parliamentary inquiry into the massive bailout of a major financial institution, Bank Century, called into question the Vice-President’s performance as former central bank governor.

One prominent anti-corruption non-government organization privately told the US embassy that it had “credible” information that funds from Bank Century had been used for financing Yudhoyono’s re-election campaign.

Former vice-president Kalla strongly criticized the bailout, alleging thatthe Bank of Indonesia under Boediono had been negligent in supervising Bank Century and arguing that the bank should have been closed as its failure wasdue to fraud perpetrated by major share holders.

Against this background the US embassy reported that Yudhoyono was increasingly “paralyzed” as his political popularity rapidly diminished.

“Unwilling to risk alienating segments of the parliament, media, bureaucracy and civil society, Yudhoyono has slowed reforms. He is also unwilling to cross any constituencies …

Until he is satisfied that he has shored up his political position, Yudhoyono is unlikely to spend any political capital to move his reform agenda, or controversial aspects of US -Indonesia relations,forward.

“Over the past 13 years Indonesian democracy has undoubtedly strengthened. The Suharto dictatorship has been replaced by a competitive political system characterized by robust debate and free media.

However, as the leaked US embassy’s reports show, in what is only a glimpseof the inside workings of President Yudhoyono’s tenure, some of the secretive and corrupt habits of the Suharto years still linger in Indonesian presidential politics.

Another version of this story appeared in The Age in Melbourne, Australia.

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SBY Threatened to be Overthrown by FPI

Islamic Defence Front (FPI) criticized the firm statement of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over his order to disband anarchist mass organizations.

Besides judging the president’s statement as unqualified, FPI even threatened to overthrow him such as what Tunisians did to President Ben Ali should SBY keep on making sort of statement. “If the president insists on exposing the statement on the disband, Islamic mass organisations and followers are ready to overthrow him since he is going to be considered of being in position of evil” said Advocate Chief of FPI Munawarman to Kompas.com, Friday.

Munarman judged the president’s statement as the most unqualified conveyed by a president as he blamed that Ahmadiyah was behind the violent mob in Cikeusik, Pandenglang. “He addressed the statement to the wrong addressee. Ahmadiyah caused all of the problem, how mass organisations could be blamed for that.” (LIN)
(Kompas.com)

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

NDONESIA

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

by Mathias Hariyadi

The bishop of Padang warns against the systematic and organised spread of radical Islamic ideology. Political authorities are criticised for failing to stop the wave of violence. In the meantime, police is out in force to prevent anti-Christian violence over the Christmas period.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Mathinus D Situmorang, president of the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s (KWI), warned Indonesian political elites on a potentially serious threat to the national interest. The prelate, who is the bishop of Padang (Western Sumatra), delivered his word of caution during the admission ceremony for new members of the Indonesian Catholic University Student Association (PMKRI). In his address, he criticised the state for its powerlessness in the face of dozens of attacks carried out by Islamic fundamentalist groups against churches and Christians. 

“In the past, Indonesia was occupied and colonised by foreign rulers. However, the present situation is not much better even if we are ruled by fellow Indonesian citizens,” the bishop said. Here, he was referring to recent attacks carried out by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), which stormed two places of worship in Rancaekek, Bandung Regency (West Java), forcing their closure. More broadly, he is deeply concerned that religious intolerance is spreading and taking rook among ordinary people. Muslim extremists, he explained, had no legal right to interfere with the aforementioned places of worship even if they did not have a building permit. What is more, the situation is getting worse because law enforcement is not stopping the Islamists, and it is not clear why.

Nonetheless, for the prelate, “A spirit of intolerance is finding fertile ground because of political interests”. In Parung, Bogor Regency, local authorities issued a ban against the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church to prevent Christmas celebrations. 

“If some Christian communities in Indonesia hold religious ceremonies in the streets or in the open, it is out of necessity because they have been unable to secure a building permit for their place of worship, and this, for years,” Bishop Situmorang explained.

“If the [central] government and local authorities are stopped by every extremist Muslim group, the situation will get worse and the state’s sovereignty will be given away to illegal groups that will carry out actions against the law,” he lamented.

Still, the 3,000 parishioners who belong to the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church will be able to celebrate Christmas at a local nuns’ compound. Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who is Catholic, rejected the accusation, saying that any violent act would be punished. Mgr Situmorang is not so sure. For him, the state is powerless and incapable of dealing with the problem. Yet, he is still “proud to belong to a multicultural society, where the spirit of intolerance is restrained”. 

In the meantime, hours before the start of Christmas services, the country has been placed under tight security with thousands of police deployed near churches, 8,000 in Jakarta alone. In Bali, police has secured every strategic site, including churches.

A study by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace warns that whilst most violent actions are carried out by the infamous FPI, less noticeable actions by other radical Muslim groups are equally worrisome, especially since they are increasingly supported by ordinary people and are attracting even liberal groups and moderate clerics.

There are also rumours that radical elements have infiltrated the moderate Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), the country’s most important organisation of Muslim clerics, which wields the greatest influence in moral and political terms. According to the Setara report, beside the FPI, other important violent Islamist groups are the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI).

The same study noted that in “2005, FUI’s chief Al Khaththath [. . .] made it to the MUI’s board of directors,” and at the organisation’s annual meeting that year, he was among those who “actively lobbied the MUI to issue an edict forbidding the practice of liberal Islam”

Some People Have Planned to burn Koran in USA

Hearing tha some people of Christians have a planning for burning Koran to mark ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I do not agree for them like religious leader in my country.

Religious leaders and promoters of pluralism in the country have condemned the plans of a church in Florida in the US to burn copies of the Koran to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The most important o do is building dialogue continually for peace between Islam and Christians (West). What’s your opinion?

Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

Manufacturing Consent For The “War On Terror”

Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

By Julio Godoy

August 20, 2009 — BERLIN, Aug 20 ( IPS) – It was announced as a terror plot busted. German police had captured three young Muslim men in the small village Medebach-Oberschled or, some 450 km southwest of Berlin Sep. 4 in 2007. The police declared they had seized 730 kilograms of hydrogen peroxide, enough to make 550 kg of explosives.

The three men, and a fourth, who was captured a year later in Turkey, wanted to bomb U.S. military and other facilities in Germany, and to kill “as many U.S. soldiers as possible,” one of the accused later confessed.

The four men told court their plans were in retaliation against the U.S. war on ‘Islamic terrorism’, especially the abuse of hundreds of Muslims detained at Guantanamo prison. German authorities and the media dubbed the four men ‘the Sauerland group’, in reference to the region where they were captured.

The Sauerland group were declared to be members of the Islamic Jihad Union, an alleged terrorist organisation based in Uzbekistan.

Almost two years later, the case is before the higher regional court in Duesseldorf, some 460 km southwest of Berlin, and should come to a close early 2010.

But now, the case has ceased to be “the serious terrorist threat” it was called. It is now a mysterious puzzle of secret service games, prosecutors’ alarmism spread by the media, and basic failures of justice.

The supposedly dangerous group members have emerged as no more than some muddle-heads. They had no links whatsoever to international Islamic terror groups.

“No Islamic chief villain…in Pakistan or somewhere else influenced the group,” says Hans Leyendecker, one of Germany’s top investigative journalists. “Its members are dumb, narrow-minded young men who hate the U.S.”

Moreover, the fifth member of the group, yet to be captured, has been described as a Turkish national known only as Mevlut K. He now appears as an informer of the Turkish national intelligence organisation (MIT, after its Turkish name). He was the key figure in the plot, according to confessions by other members of the Sauerland group.

“Without Mevlut, we would not have been able to go as far with the preparations as we did,” Attila Selek, one of the accused, told the court. ‘K’ had procured 26 fuses for the bombs the group was supposed to make, Selek said. Only, the fuses were useless. German police investigations showed that all but two were too humid to work.

Fritz Gelowicz, another member of the terrorist group, said the four men were informed of K’s links with the MIT. “We knew that Mevlut had links with several secret services,” Gelowicz told the court. “We though that these links were good for us.”

K apparently did not hide his links to the Turkish secret service. On at least one occasion K told the group they were being monitored by the German security agencies. “Then he told me he was stealing this information from secret services,” Selek told the court.

Despite warnings that the German police were constantly informed of their actions, the four men continued their preparations until they were captured.

Numerous sources have confirmed that the German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendi enst (BND) knew in 2004 that Mevlut K worked for the MIT. That year, the sources said, the MIT proposed to the BND that K be infiltrated into Islam movements in Germany. The BND reportedly rejected the Turkish plan.

Despite the confessions about K’s involvement, German justice failed to order his capture for a long time. Mevlut K. is believed to be living in Turkey.

German authorities only issued an international warrant against Mevlut K. Aug. 13, several weeks after depositions by the other four members of the group had been widely circulated.

The Sauerland group could have been “an orchestration to make believe that a huge terrorist threat” was looming over U.S. military facilities in Germany, says Rene Hellig, leading commentator with the Neues Deutschland daily.

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray calls it a fake case orchestrated by Uzbek security services.

“I should make plain that regrettably it is a fact that there are those who commit violence, motivated by a fanatic version of their faith,” Murray wrote in his personal blog. “Sadly the appalling aggression of the U.S. government and allied war policy has made such reaction much more frequent. They may or may not have been planning to commit explosions. But if they were, the question is who was really pulling their strings, and why?”

Murray says there is no evidence of the existence of Islamic Jihad Union, alleged to have been directing the Sauerland group, other than that given by Uzbek security services. “There are, for example, no communications intercepts between senior terrorists referring to themselves as the Islamic Jihad Union,” he said.

Murray said the planned attacks the Uzbekistan government attributed to the group since the spring of 2004 “are in fact largely fake and almost certainly the work of the Uzbek security services, from my investigations on the spot at the time.” (END/2009)

 
 

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

ZIONIST PIONEER RENOUCES ZIONISM

August 17, 2009

Zionist Pioneer Renounces Zionism

By HELENA COBBAN

 

I’ve never met Dov Yermiya, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who is now 94 years old. But I read of course the book he published in 1983 in which he wrote with anguish about the torture and other gross mistreatment of civilians he witnessed directly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the year before.

I have it in my hand now.

I just learned, from  an open letter published  by Uri Avnery, that Yermiya, recently renounced the ideology and practice of Zionism with these stirring words:

“I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,

“Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.

“… for 42 years, Israel turned what should have been Palestine into a giant detention camp, and is holding a whole people captive under an oppressive and cruel regime, with the sole aim of taking away their country, come what may!!!

“”The IDF eagerly suppresses their efforts at rebellion, with the active assistance of the settlement thugs, by the brutal means of a sophisticated Apartheid and a choking blockade, inhuman harassment of the sick and of women in labor, the destruction of their economy and the theft of their best land and water.

“Over all this there is waving the black flag of the frightening contempt for the life and blood of the Palestinians. Israel will never be forgiven for the terrible toll of blood spilt, and especially the blood of children, in hair-raising quantities.. . “

Avnery’s response is fascinating. He too is a veteran peace activist, and of about the same generation as Yermiya. But in the letter he is, I think, pleading with Yermiya not to renounce Zionism completely, but rather to reconnect with the “idealistic” Zionism that they both experienced during their youth.

He writes,

“When I think of our youth, yours and mine, one scene is never far from my mind: the 1947 Dalia festival.

“Tens of thousands of young men and women were sitting on the slope of a hill in the natural amphitheater near Kibbutz Dalia on Mount Carmel. Ostensibly it was a festival of folk dancing, but in reality it was much more – a great celebration of the new Hebrew culture which we were then creating in the country, in which folk dancing played an important role. The dancing groups came mainly from the kibbutzim and the youth movements, and the dances were original Hebrew creations, interwoven with Russian, Polish, Yemenite and Hassidic ones. A group of Arabs danced the Debka in ecstasy, dancing and dancing and dancing on.

“In the middle of the event, the loudspeakers announced that members of the UN Commission of Inquiry, which had been sent by the international organization to decide upon the future of the country, were joining us. When we saw them entering the amphitheater, the tens of thousands spontaneously rose to their feet and started to sing the “Hatikva”, the national anthem, with a holy fervor that reverberated from the surrounding mountains.

“We did not know then that within half a year the great Hebrew-Arab war would break out – our War of Independence and their Naqba. I believe that most of the 6000 young people who fell in the war on our side, as well as the thousands that were wounded – like you and me – were present at that moment in Dalia, seeing each other and singing together.

“What state did we think of then? What state did we set out to create?

“What has happened to the Hebrew society, the Hebrew culture, the Hebrew morality that we were so proud of then?”

Then, he pleads this:

“You, Dov, have invested in this state much too much to turn your back on it in a gesture of anger and despair. The most hackneyed and worn-out slogan in Israel is also true: ‘We don’t have another state!’

“Other states in the world have sunk to the depths of depravity and committed unspeakable crimes, far beyond our worst sins, and still brought themselves back to the family of nations and redeemed their souls.

“We and all the members of our generation, who were among those who created this state, bear a heavy responsibility for it. A responsibility to our offspring, to those oppressed by this state, to the entire world. From this responsibility we cannot escape.

“Even at your respectable age, and precisely because of it and because of what you represent, you must be a compass for the young and tell them: This state belongs to you, you can change it, don’t allow the nationalist wreckers to steal it from you!

“True, 61 years ago we had another state in mind. Now, after our state has tumbled to where it is today, we must remember that other state, and remind everybody, every day, what the state should have been like, what it can be like, and not allow our vision to disappear like a dream. Let’s lend our shoulders to every effort to repair and heal!
These are very weighty issues that these two longtime Zionists are debating.”

I remember the evening I had back in early March with longtime Jewish-Israeli nonviolence activist Amos Gvirtz. Gvirtz is “only” in his late 60s or early 70s. But like Avnery and Yermiya he grew up in Israel.

He told me in March,

“I became an anti-Zionist after Oslo, when the government expelled the Arabs of Jahhaleenn to make room for the big new settlement area if Maale Adummim… Like the Zionists, I believe we Jews need a state of our own. But unlike the Zionists I don’t think this should be built on the ruins of someone else’s home. So our state need not necessarily be right here.”

Gvirtz, too, like Avnery, identified a strong link between the events of 1947-48 and the situation today– though the nature of the link Gvirtz identified was very different from Avnery’s: “The Nakba wasn’t really a single event that happened in 1948, so much as a long-drawn-out process, that continues to this day.” In other words, he was quite unwilling to neatly divide Israeli history, as Avnery still does, between the idealized, prelapsarian days of the 1947 Dalia festival and the post-lapsarian era that was inaugurated- – in Avnery’s view– only by Israel’s conquest of the West Bank.

Obviously, this is a very weighty issue for Zionists and their supporters to grapple with. Did 1967 mark a notable break between a laudable past and a troublesome present? Or were there indeed, as Gvirtz and many other current non- and anti-Zionists have argued, many elements of continuity from the 1947 period right through to the present?

Anyway, I’d love to see the whole text of the latest Yermiya letter from which Avnery is quoting, if anyone can provide a link to it, preferably in English. The only recent English text that I could find by him online was this letter, published in the Communist weekly Zo Haderekh in June 2008.

In it, Yermiya was returning to Defense Minister Barak the invitation he had been sent to attend a ceremony to honor all veterans of Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” .

He wrote,

“As a veteran of the 1948 war, who was already wounded in face to face combat two weeks before the Declaration of the State, I feel obliged herewith to return the invitation to you, as Minister of Defence. I do so regretfully but see this as my duty.

“I consider you, Ehud Barak, as one of the top military commanders and prominent political leaders who were responsible for converting the army from ‘the Israeli Defence Force’ to an army of occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people and defender of the criminal settlements in their country.

“40 years of occupation have utterly corrupted the Israeli army and all strata of Israeli society.They are both characterized by the nationalist ‘east wind’ [the east wind brings the chamsin and locusts ]which blows and kindles conflagrations of endless wars, which threaten our people and land with the third and final destruction. Your share in the responsibility for all this is enormous, and therefore I return your invitation to you, without thanks…”

Helena Cobban is a veteran writer, researcher, and program organizer on global  affairs. Since 2003 she has published  “Just World News”, a lively blog on international issues that has gained a broad international readership. She can be reached at hcobban@gmail. com