Jonathan CookSyndicate content

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net. A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Wikileaks and the decline of the American empire

The Wikileaks disclosure this week of confidential cables from United States embassies has been debated chiefly in terms either of the damage to Washington's reputation or of the questions it raises about national security and freedom of the press.

The headlines aside, most of the information so far revealed from the 250,000 documents is hardly earth-shattering, even if it often runs starkly counter to the official narrative of the U.S. as the benevolent global policeman, trying to maintain order amid an often unruly rabble of underlings.

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Israelis risk jail to smuggle Palestinians

Nearly 600 Israelis have signed up for a campaign of civil disobedience, vowing to risk jail to smuggle Palestinian women and children into Israel for a brief taste of life outside the occupied West Bank.

The Israelis say they have been inspired by the example of Ilana Hammerman, a writer who is threatened with prosecution after publishing an article in which she admitted breaking the law to bring three Palestinian teenagers into Israel for a day out.

Ms. Hammerman said she wanted to give the young women, who had never left the West Bank, "some fun" and a chance to see the Mediterranean for the first time.

Her story has shocked many Israelis and led to a police investigation after right-wing groups called for her to be tried for security offences.

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Jerusalem's new courthouse to be built on ancient Muslim cemetery

Israeli authorities are pressing ahead with plans to build a courthouse complex on a large historic Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem that is already at the centre of protest over plans to locate a "Museum of Tolerance" there.

The proposed courthouse is expected to provoke stiff opposition, especially from Islamic groups, after it was revealed that an excavation last year for the museum, close by, unearthed as many as 1,500 Muslim graves.

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Israeli MP's terror on aid ship

An Arab member of the Israeli parliament, who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys.

Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla's flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.

Terrified passengers had been forced off the deck when water was sprayed at them. She said she was not aware of any provocation or resistance by the passengers, who were all unarmed.

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What really happened during the Middle East peace talks?

Photo: flickr/Christyn

There was a mad scramble by Washington last week to prevent the seemingly inevitable -- an implosion of the Middle East peace talks. In a last-ditch effort to stop Israel reneging on a promise to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, the U.S. briefly threw in possibly the biggest bargaining chip in its hand: the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

With Israel still dragging its feet, an infuriated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas submitted applications to join 15 United Nations conventions, thereby reviving a campaign to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

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Incitement against Palestine, Israel not ready to give up 'villa in the jungle'

Photo: flickr/openDemocracy

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent last week testing the waters with Israelis and Palestinians over his so-called framework agreement -- designed to close the gaps between the two sides. But the issues he is trying to resolve appear more intractable by the day.

As he headed to the region, Israel’s hawkish cabinet ministers gave their blessing to legislation to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swath of the West Bank that might otherwise be the Palestinian state’s economic backbone and gateway to the outside world.

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Nelson Mandela: A complex legacy

Photo: flickr/HelenSTB

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Offering a dissenting opinion at this moment of a general outpouring of grief at Nelson Mandela’s death is not likely to court popularity. It is also likely to be misunderstood.

So let me start by recognizing Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid, and make clear my enormous respect for the great personal sacrifices he made, including spending so many years caged up for his part in the struggle to liberate his people. These are things impossible to forget or ignore when assessing someone’s life.

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Israel - Palestine: Once more into the peace process dead end

Photo: www.globalpost.com

It may not have reached the level of fevered expectation unleashed by that famous handshake between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the White House lawn in 1993, but the sense of hope inspired by the long-awaited revival of peace talks is both tangible and deeply misplaced.

The talks, which it was agreed this week will begin in earnest in the region in mid-August, are taking place not because either Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Palestnian president, Mahmoud Abbas, believe a deal is in reach. The two sides are talking each to avoid being blamed for embarrassing John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state.

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Israel's ethnic cleansing zones

Photo: Tal King Photographer/flickr

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Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel's eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank.

The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.

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What does Israel want in Syria?

Assad and Netanyahu (Photo: www.uruknet.info)

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For much of the past two years Israel stood sphinx-like on the sidelines of Syria's civil war. Did it want Bashar al-Assad's regime toppled? Did it favour military intervention to help opposition forces? And what did it think of the increasing visibility of Islamist groups in Syria? It was difficult to guess.

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