Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan is facing calls to resign after admitting CIA officials spied on a Senate panel probing the agency’s torture and rendition program. The allegation surfaced in March when members of the Senate Intelligence Committee openly accused CIA officials of illegally monitoring their staffers’ computers. The Senate report has yet to be released but reportedly documents extensive abuses and a cover-up by CIA officials to Congress. At the time, Brennan denied the spying allegations and said those who make them will be proved wrong. But he reversed his stance this week after an internal CIA inquiry found the spying indeed took place with the involvement of 10 agency employees. Brennan apologized to lawmakers in a briefing earlier this week. The White House is standing by Brennan, citing President Obama’s "great confidence" in his leadership. But at least two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrats Mark Udall of Colorado and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, are calling for his resignation. We speak with the reporter who first broke the news of the CIA’s admission to spying on Senate computers: Jonathan Landay, senior national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.
On the same day Israeli forces killed 20 Palestinians at a U.N. school this week, the U.S. confirmed it had provided Israel with fresh supplies of munitions, including mortar rounds for tanks and ammo for grenade launchers. Now, one of the nation’s leading human rights organizations has called on the United States to stop arms transfers to Israel amid "growing evidence of war crimes in Gaza." On Thursday, Amnesty International said the U.S. government must immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of international law in Gaza. Amnesty’s call comes as the United Nations’ top human rights official has also criticized the United States. "They have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is now being used by Israel in Gaza, but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the Iron Domes to protect Israelis from the rockets attacks, but no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling," said Navi Pillay, U.N. human rights high commissioner. "So I am reminding United States that it’s a party to international humanitarian law and human rights law." The United States is the largest exporter of military equipment to Israel, by far. According to data made public by the U.S. government, its arms transfers to Israel from January to May 2014 included nearly $27 million for "rocket launchers," $9.3 million worth in "parts of guided missiles" and nearly $762,000 for "bombs, grenades and munitions of war." We speak to Sunjeev Bery, director of Middle East/North Africa advocacy at Amnesty International USA.
The Gaza Health Ministry now says at least 50 Palestinians have been killed today in Gaza following the collapse of a U.S.- and U.N.-backed ceasefire. Hamas and Israel are blaming each other for violating the truce. Israel has launched a major operation to rescue a soldier captured earlier today. The Israeli Defense Forces just identified the soldier as Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. Hamas says the soldier was captured before the ceasefire began. The 72-hour ceasefire announced Thursday was supposed to bring Israeli and Palestinian representatives together in Cairo, but the outbreak of violence puts those talks in jeopardy. We speak with Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center. "We cannot go back to a status quo where a ceasefire ends rocket fire from the Gaza Strip but does not end the system of violence that is the siege … enforced through the regular use of Israeli fire," Munayyer says. "You cannot call it a ceasefire while that system of violence still exists."
As new violence breaks out in Gaza following the collapse of a 72-hour ceasefire, the Palestinian death toll has now reached at least 1,460, mostly civilians, surpassing the number of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead nearly six years ago. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed, in addition to three civilians inside Israel. We are joined from Gaza City by Raji Sourani, one of the top advocates for Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Territories. The director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, Sourani serves on the executive board of the International Federation for Human Rights. He is a past winner of the Right Livelihood Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The ceasefire in Gaza has collapsed just hours after it began, with more than 40 Palestinians killed and the capture of an Israeli soldier. Israeli tanks reportedly opened fire in the southern Rafah area just hours after the 72-hour ceasefire began. Israel is claiming Hamas first broke the ceasefire by firing rockets from southern Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israeli military has launched a major effort to locate a soldier they say was captured near Rafah. The Israeli military says the soldier was captured when Israeli forces attempting to destroy a tunnel were attacked by militants, including a suicide bomber. Talks had been scheduled for this weekend in Cairo but are now in limbo. We are joined from Gaza by two guests: Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Mohammed Omer, an award-winning Palestinian journalist and Rafah resident.
Just hours after the White House condemned the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza, the Pentagon confirmed it was providing Israel with fresh supplies of ammunition, including mortar rounds for tanks and ammunition for grenade launchers. Meanwhile, members of Congress are working to supply hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding for Israel’s "Iron Dome" missile shield. While U.S. news anchors, pundits and politicians have repeatedly extolled the efficacy of the Iron Dome in deflecting rocket attacks, the acclaimed physicist Theodore Postol says there is no evidence Iron Dome is actually working. He estimates the Iron Dome, which is partially built by Raytheon, intercepts just 5 percent of rockets fired at Israel. A professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Postol is an expert in missiles, missile defenses and other aspects of modern warfare.
Click here to watch part 2 of this interview.
In the second part of our interview, Henry Siegman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America, discusses the assault on Gaza, Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, and how peace could be attainable if the Obama administration reverse decades-long support for the Israeli occupation. Born in 1930 in Germany, Siegman fled as the Nazis came to power, eventually arriving in the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement pushing for the creation of a Jewish state. In New York, Siegman studied and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. He now serves as president of the U.S./Middle East Project. Commenting on the Hamas charter that calls for Israel’s destruction, Siegman says: "The difference between Hamas and Israel is that Israel is actually implementing [a destruction policy] — actually preventing a Palestinian state which doesn’t exist. Millions of Palestinians live in this subservient position without rights, without security, without hope, and without a future." Commenting on Israeli justifications for killing Palestinians in the name of self-defense from 1948 through today, Siegman responds: "If you don’t want to kill Palestinians, if that’s what pains you so much, you don’t have to kill them. You can give them their rights, and you can end the occupation. And to put the blame for the occupation and for the killing of innocents that we are seeing in Gaza now on the Palestinians — why? Because they want a state of their own? They want what Jews wanted and achieved? This is a great moral insult."
Click here to watch part 1 of this interview.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned what he called the "outrageous" and "unjustifiable" Israeli shelling of a U.N. shelter in Gaza that killed 20 Palestinian civilians on Wednesday. Many of the dead were children who were sleeping. The United Nations has not directly condemned Israel, but says all available evidence points to its responsibility for the bombing. It was the sixth time a U.N. shelter had been bombed since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began 24 days ago. The United Nations said it had given the coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times prior to the attack. According to the United Nations, more than 240,000 Palestinians are now staying in U.N. shelters in Gaza. Another 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced and are staying with other families. We are joined by Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. "UNRWA has reached a breaking point," Gunness says. "Eight of our staff have been killed. Our facilities are overwhelmed. Because of the continued displacement ... we may soon find ourselves where there are tens of thousands of people in the streets of Gaza — no food, no water, no shelter, no safety, frankly, after we’ve found that Israeli artillery is capable of hitting our shelters. And we’re saying: enough is enough."
Given his background, what American Jewish leader Henry Siegman has to say about Israel’s founding in 1948 through the current assault on Gaza may surprise you. From 1978 to 1994, Siegman served as executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s "big three" Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Born in Germany three years before the Nazis came to power in 1933, Siegman’s family eventually moved to the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement that pushed for the creation of a Jewish state. In New York, Siegman studied the religion and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, later becoming head of the Synagogue Council of America. After his time at the American Jewish Congress, Siegman became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He now serves as president of the U.S./Middle East Project. In the first of our two-part interview, Siegman discusses the assault on Gaza, the myths surrounding Israel’s founding in 1948, and his own background as a German-Jewish refugee who fled Nazi occupation to later become a leading American Jewish voice and now vocal critic of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories.
"When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis — and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success," Siegman says. Responding to Israel’s U.S.-backed claim that its assault on Gaza is necessary because no country would tolerate the rocket fire from militants in Gaza, Siegman says: "What undermines this principle is that no country and no people would live the way that Gazans have been made to live. … The question of the morality of Israel’s action depends, in the first instance, on the question, couldn’t Israel be doing something [to prevent] this disaster that is playing out now, in terms of the destruction of human life? Couldn’t they have done something that did not require that cost? And the answer is, sure, they could have ended the occupation."
Dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed in the most intensive 48-hour bombardment of Gaza so far. At least 50 Palestinians have died over the past day, bringing the death toll from Israel’s three-week assault to more than 1,250. Earlier today, two bombs hit a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp used by the United Nations to house displaced Palestinians. Around 20 Palestinians were reportedly killed, including a medic and an infant. Scores were injured. The United Nations has accused Israel of bombing the school. It marks the sixth time a U.N. shelter has been attacked since Israel launched its offensive 23 days ago. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, just back from visiting the bombed-out school.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that "large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work." The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense. We speak to Alex Sinha, author of the report, "With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance Is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy," and to national security reporter Jeremy Scahill.
The Obama administration has expanded the national terrorist watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. A leaked copy of the secret government guidebook reveals that to be deemed a "terrorist" target, "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary." Both "known" and "suspected" suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined that it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion on the watchlist include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist. We are joined by investigative reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept. Last week they published the secret U.S. document along with their new article, "The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist."
The Palestinian death toll has topped 1,100 after one of the deadliest 24-hour periods since the Israeli assault on Gaza began 22 days ago. Most of the dead have been civilians. More than 180,000 Palestinians have been displaced over the past three weeks — that is roughly 10 percent of the population of Gaza. We are joined from Gaza City by award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. "I believe Israel wants to make people turn against the resistance," Omer says. "There is no way for people to turn against the resistance — in fact it is the other way around. People in the street say we do support resistance because that is the only way to end the occupation. ... I’m afraid we are going to have more radical generations in the Gaza Strip, and I fear for the future of Gaza and the future of the West Bank — and I fear the future of the region if the international community is not acting now to end the blockade and the operation in Gaza."
Despite a U.N. Security Council call for a ceasefire, Israel has intensified its attack on Gaza and warned of a "protracted campaign." Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in the past 24 hours, with some saying Monday was the most intensive night of bombing so far. In this time period, Israel attacked more than 150 sites including Gaza’s only power station and a media center that houses the broadcasting headquarters of Hamas and a number of other Arab satellite news channels. Earlier on Monday, 10 people were killed, eight of which were children, and 40 others wounded by an explosion in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. The child victims were said to be playing on a playground swing when they were hit. Israel denied carrying out the attack, but eyewitnesses said the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike. Another Israeli bombing reportedly hit an outpatient building at al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital. Meanwhile, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai farmworker have died since the assault began. We go to Gaza City to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "[Israel has] shelled hospitals, U.N. schools, they’ve bombed people in their homes," Kouddous says. "There’s literally nowhere for these people to run to."
As the Palestinian death toll tops 1,000 in Gaza, we are joined from Haifa by Israeli professor and historian Ilan Pappé. "I think Israel in 2014 made a decision that it prefers to be a racist apartheid state and not a democracy," Pappé says. "It still hopes that the United States will license this decision and provide it with the immunity to continue, with the necessary implication of such a policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians wherever they are." A professor of history and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, Pappé is the author of several books, including most recently, "The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge."
Five years ago Palestinian student Amer Shurrab lost his two brothers in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Last week, Shurrab learned four of his cousins in Gaza had been killed in Israel’s latest offensive. In January 2009, Amer’s father and brothers were fleeing their village when the vehicle they were driving in came under Israeli fire. Twenty-eight-year-old Kassab died in a hail of bullets trying to flee the vehicle. Amer’s other brother, 18-year-old Ibrahim, survived the initial attack, but Israeli troops refused to allow an ambulance to reach him until 20 hours later. By then, it was too late. Ibrahim had bled to death in front of his father. A graduate student at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, Amer Shurrab has been recounting the story of his brothers and other Palestinians at college campuses and community gatherings across the United States. "Israel is deliberately targeting civilians from the day one of this attack," he says. "They have been bombing houses, wiping entire families to try to scare people into submission."
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