December 8 marks the 27th year of John Lennon's passing.
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It's not that Israel's borders are porous. They don't exist at all, writes Galal Nassar
By Galal Nassar
Perhaps seeking to distract attention from the crisis facing his government, or hoping to exploit the weakness of the Arab regional system, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is asking the Arabs to recognise Israel. Unfortunately, such a move may be a prelude to ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
"Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we would not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We would not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organise a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst -- Theodore Hertzel, the father of Zionism
Zionist ideas are a mixture of racism that exists in symbiotic relation with Western imperialism -- something made clear in Theodore Hertzl's book The Jewish State. Hertzl ignored the fact that Palestine was already inhabited by a people with an extensive history, something he sees as a minor hurdle. "Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we would not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We would not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organise a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst," he writes. It was on the basis of such formulations that the Basel Conference endorsed Zionism as its strategy in 1897.
In 1911, notes historian Walter Laqueur, Zionist leaders were wondering if they could persuade Palestinian Arabs to settle in neighbouring Arab countries, buying land with the money they get for selling their land in Palestine. The Zionists actually thought of buying land to settle Palestinians outside the country. And yet when Balfour issued his declaration in 1917, the number of Zionists did not exceed 45.8 per cent of Palestine's inhabitants.
During the peace conference in Paris in 1919, US president Wilson sent two envoys, Henry King and Charles Crane, to explore the situation in Palestine. After a tour lasting from 10 June to 18 August 1919, the two men submitted a report saying that Arab citizens were unanimously opposed to the Balfour Declaration and wanted unity with Syria. Should the peace conference reject that option, the Arabs said they would prefer an American to a British or a French mandate. President Wilson ignored the report, endorsing instead the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine under a British mandate.
In his memoirs Chaim Weizmann says that Britain had promised that Palestine would become a Jewish state by 1935, though by that year Zionists comprised just 28 per cent of Palestine's inhabitants, and owned only four per cent of the land, including the state property given to them by the Mandate authorities. The Palestinian people, meanwhile, continued to resist British immigration policies and tried to stop the sale of land to Jews.
The partitioning of Palestine was first recommended in 1937. A British committee suggested that the Zionists should take control of a portion of the land inhabited by 325,000 Arabs, who owned 75 per cent of Palestine. The Arab-controlled section would also host 10,000 Zionist settlers. The committee also proposed a population swap. In other words, the Arabs would be displaced, voluntarily or involuntarily, from their homes to provide a racially pure Zionist entity. The Arab revolution of 1936-37 foiled the plan.
In 1940 Joseph Weitz, who was in charge of setting up Zionist colonies in Palestine, declared that there was no place in the country for two nations, proposing the displacement of the Arabs. Neither the Americans nor the British were shocked by his assertions. US President Hoover favoured the deportation of Palestinian Arabs to Iraq. The British Labour Party also spoke in favour of such a move.
As soon as the British mandate ended in 1948, Chaim Weizmann sent a cable to president Truman calling for immediate recognition of the new state. The Americans obliged. It took the US administration 11 minutes to recognise the new state.
The 1948 war led to the displacement of 65 per cent of the Arab inhabitants, and yet the Arabs still constituted 11 per cent of the inhabitants in 1949. Today, and despite the immigration of millions of Jews to Israel after its creation, Arab Israelis comprise 20 per cent of the entire population. It has been 110 years since the Basel Conference laid the foundation of a Zionist state. But the Palestinians are still demanding their rights and ethnic cleansing remains a distant Israeli dream.
Now Israel wants the Palestinians, and eventually all Arabs, to recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. That is the demand it makes at every gathering addressing Palestinian rights. The fact that Israel has to voice this demand so often is extraordinary. Countries recognise one another in a routine manner. They do so without references to the "right to exist" and without noting their being Islamic, Christian, or even secular countries. So why does Israel repeat itself in this fashion? What does a Jewish state entail?
Apparently, Israel wants Jews and only Jews to live on the "land of Israel". In other words, non- Jewish sovereignty is out of the question in all, or even part, of Palestine. But without recognising a non-Jewish sovereignty on at least a section of the historic land of Palestine, diplomatic and political efforts are pointless. Israel wants non-Jews to be second class citizens and it treats Israeli Arabs accordingly. This is the main reason Israel has no constitution so far. A Jewish state is one that remains open to immigration by Jews living abroad, and we all know that such immigration would take place at the expense of the Palestinians.
So how about Israel's "right to exist"? This right is accorded to states that exist within recognised borders. So when Israel demands recognition of its "right to exist", one has to start wondering about its final borders. How can you recognise a country that has no clear borders? Once Israel draws borders it will imply an admission that what lies within them belongs to all its citizens, including non-Jews. It would thus be abandoning its Zionist ideals. So far, it has been reluctant to do so.
Israel is demanding recognition of its "right to exist" and yet it is in no mood to discuss borders. Yet since 1947 Israel's borders have changed repeatedly. Which are the ones it wants recognised?
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Young Palestinian relatives of Hamas militant Eyad Aziz grieve during his funeral. Yesterday dawn, two Palestinians were killed and four injured as Israeli tanks fired shells towards a group of Hamas militants on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Since the meeting in Annapolis, 22 Palestinians had been killed during Israeli attacks on the occupied territories
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:50:44 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Saed Bannoura
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) Weekly Report, in the week of the 29th of November to 5th of December, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, 22 were wounded, and 56 were abducted by Israeli forces.
18 of the victims are members of the military wing of Hamas and were killed by missiles and tanks shells. In addition to the killed and wounded, Israeli forces have continued to impose a total siege on the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, and have cut off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza. The number of patients who died due to the denial of their access to medical treatment increased to 13.
Israeli attacks in the West Bank:
Israeli Forces conducted 19 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Israeli troops positioned at checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 2 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children. 4 Palestinian civilians were wounded Israeli Forces used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration organized in protest of the construction of the Wall.
On December 2nd, Israeli Forces killed a Palestinian civilian near Ramallah, when they deliberately fired at him when he was having a picnic together with 2 of his relatives.
On 5 December 2007, an Israeli undercover unit shot dead a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Bethlehem. An Israeli spokesman claimed that the Israeli military operation in Bethlehem was “aimed at arresting wanted Palestinians, but Israeli Forces troops were fired at by militants and they returned fire.” He further claimed that Israeli Forces initiated an investigation into the incident.
But according to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:15, a vehicle of the Palestinin Customs Department was patrolling on Hebron – Bethlehem road, southeast of Bethlehem. A civilian van with a Palestinian registration plate chased the vehicle and demanded the driver to stop, but he proceeded towards the Palestinian security compound. Members of the Palestinian National Security Forces positioned in the area attempted to stop the suspicious van. Immediately, Israeli troops inside the van opened fire at members of the National Security Forces, wounding Mohammed Khalil Suleiman Salah, 36, with 4 gunshots to the head, the abdomen and the right thigh. He died at Beit Jala Hospital an hour later. Soon after, Israeli military vehicles moved into the town, and Israeli troops opened fire at Palestinian security sites, houses and shops. They withdrew from the town at approximately 17:30 that same evening.
During the reporting period, Israeli Forces conducted at least 19 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those incursions, Israeli Forces arrested 56 Palestinian civilians, including a child. Thus, the number of Palestinians arrested by Israeli Forces in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 2,525. During the reporting period, Israeli Forces transformed 3 Palestinian houses into military sites.
Israeli Forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians to and from Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been denied access to the city. Israeli Forces have established many checkpoints around and inside the city. Restrictions of the movement of Palestinian civilians often escalate on Fridays to prevent them from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli Annexation Wall:
Israeli Forces have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside West Bank territory. During the reporting period, Israeli Forces used force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilian in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah.
Following the Friday Prayer on 30 November 2007, scores of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders demonstrated in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah, to protest the construction of the Wall. Israeli Forces troops had placed barbwires in the area to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the Wall. The demonstrators attempted to move forward. Immediately, Israeli Forces troops fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, and violently beat them. As a result, 4 Palestinian civilians were wounded by rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters.
Israeli settler attacks:
Israeli Forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank in violation of international humanitarian law, and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.
At approximately 12:00 on Thursday, 29 November 2007, at least 10 Israeli settlers from “Ma’oun” settlement, south of Hebron, closed the road that links Yatta town with Kherbat Touba areas with rocks and sand.Israeli troops were present in the area, but did not intervene to prevent the settlers from closing the road.
Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:
Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip this week. All were members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas). 17 others were wounded by Israeli forces in 7 separate attacks throughout the Gaza Strip.Israeli Forces conducted 2 incursions into Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip, and Wadi al-Salqa in the central Gaza Strip. During those incursions, Israeli Forces wounded and arrested a Palestinian civilian, and arrested his two sons.On Saturday, December 1st, at approximately 00:50, Israeli warplanes fired 3 missiles at a number of fighters from the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas), who were stationed on agricultural land in ‘Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, hundreds of meters away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Ten minutes later, Israeli warplanes fired 2 additional missiles at another group of militants in the east of ‘Abassan village. As a result if the two air strikes, 5 fighters were killed.On Monday, December 3rd, in another incident, at approximately 22:30, an Israeli infantry unit moved nearly 600 meters into Wadi al-Salqa village, east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli troops besieged and fired at a house belonging to Mousa ‘Abdul Karim Abu Meghassib, 42. He was wounded by a gunshot to the right thigh. Israeli Forces troops then raided the house and arrested Abu Meghassib and his two sons: Bassem, 18; and Jamal, 17. Abu Meghassib’s wife claimed that Israeli Forces troops stole some jewelry from the house. A neighboring house was also damaged.In addition to the various airstrikes and invasions this week, Israeli Forces also decided a new reduction in the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip, which already suffers from serious shortages in fuel. It is noted that this decision preempted a pending decision by the Israeli High Court on a petition submitted by PCHR and several human rights organizations against the Israeli Forces decision on 25 October 2007 to reduce the fuel and electricity supplies to the Strip. The Israeli High Court held a session on 30 November to review the petition and it rejected the petition.
Statistics indicate that the Strip’s fuel supply was reduced by more than 50% since the Israeli Forces decision was issued on 25 October 2007. Gasoline supplies dropped 90,000 liters a day (73% decrease); benzene supplies dropped to 25,000 liters a day (67% decrease); whereas natural gas supplies dropped to 100 tons (56% decrease). The daily fuel needs of the Gaza Strip are 350,000 liters of gasoline, 120,000 liters of benzene, and 350 tons of natural gas.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:49:13 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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US-supported Iraqi leaders are drafting a long-term US-Iraq pact that many see as opening the door to permanent occupation, writes Salah Hemeid
By Salah Hemeid
On 26 November, US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signed a "declaration of principles" that will set the agenda for the future relationship between the US and Iraq. The cooperation pact indicates that Washington will maintain a "long-term" presence in Iraq, pledging to protect the government in Baghdad from internal coups and foreign enemies.
Public disclosure of the proposed arrangement came at a time when Washington has been trying to showcase recent "improvements" in security in Iraq following the deployment of an additional 30,000 US troops at the beginning of 2007 and the launching of a new "counterinsurgency" strategy. Under this two-tier approach, the American army used force and enlisted tribal sheikhs and war-weary citizens, mostly in Sunni areas, to combat extremist insurgents, especially Al-Qaeda and Shia Al-Mahdi Army militants.
Few details have been unveiled and the full pact, including the size of the US occupying force, remains to be worked out by 31 July 2008.
According to the "declaration" released by the White House, the military, economic and diplomatic agreement would be to "support the Iraqi government in contributing to the international fight against terrorism by confronting terrorists such as Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, other terrorist groups, as well as all other outlaw groups, such as criminal remnants of the former regime; and to provide security assurances to the Iraqi government to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq's territory."
In return, Iraq committed itself to establish "a long-term enduring relationship" with America and pledged itself to "encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq", which is widely believed to be a reference to American business in rebuilding the war-devastated nation, and especially it's badly damaged and vast oil industry.
With no timetable for the withdrawal of US troops made in the bilateral declaration, the agreement was immediately seen as a move to perpetuate the nearly five-year-old US occupation of Iraq, especially given that the US military has already built scores of bases all around the country.
Reliable Iraqi sources say that US military bases already constructed, or under construction, are large enough to accommodate some 100,000 American soldiers if the US command decides to keep them in Iraq. Sources say that the bases, mostly expansions of bases of the former Iraqi army, are buffered by broad swathes of land, fortified with heavy weaponry and remote-controlled electronic devices. The primary function of these bases will be to suppress internal opposition to the Iraqi government, but US air strength and special forces in these bases will also have rapid deployment capabilities for reaching points outside Iraq at need.
A report in The Washington Post on 22 May 2005 disclosed that four of these major bases were being constructed around existing airfields to ensure supply lines and troop mobility. It named the four as Tallil in the south, Al-Asad in the western desert region, Balad north of Baghdad, and Irbil in the northern Kurdish region. Al-Asad, for example, which can accommodate some 17,000 troops and workers, is described as a bustling American town, replete with a Burger King, Pizza Hut, a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.
The White House has denied that the US aims to perpetuate its military presence in Iraq. "We do not seek permanent bases in Iraq," spokeswoman Dana Perino said after the announcement of the bilateral agreement. But General Douglas Lute, assistant to President Bush for Iraq and Afghanistan, said the issue would be part of negotiations to decide the future of US-Iraq relations. "That's another dimension of continuing US support to the government of Iraq, and will certainly be a key item for negotiation next year," he told reporters in a recent press briefing.
Iraqi officials, however, told Al-Ahram Weekly that an understanding between the Iraqi government and the US administration and American officials has already been reached about a long term US presence in Iraq that might include the presence of some 50-70,000 soldiers across Iraq for years to come. "There is a sort of consensus (within the Shia-Kurdish controlled government) that a form of American long term presence is in Iraq's interests," one official said on condition of anonymity.
It is unclear, however, how key Iraqi political groups will react to such a long-term presence once an agreement is reached. Iraq's present constitution states that international treaties and agreements must be ratified by a two- thirds majority in parliament.
So far, the main Sunni groups -- notably, the Iraqi Accord Front -- and the Shia Al-Sadr movement have declared their objection to the Maliki-Bush understanding. Both can muster enough support among other members of parliament to torpedo the ratification of any final US-Iraq agreement. They can also use the issue to mobilise disgruntled public opinion against the government and the US occupation.
US-supported Kurdish forces will likely welcome any such agreement, as will Maliki's Al-Dawa Party. It remains to be seen, however, if the main pro-Iranian Shia group, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), will endorse an extended American presence. SCIRI's leader, Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, was received in Washington last month to discuss the plan with President Bush.
Moreoever, the Bush administration, or its successor, has to convince US Congress to ratify any such an agreement. The 2008 Defense Appropriations Act -- which Bush signed into law in mid-November -- bars the administration from setting up permanent bases in Iraq, or from controlling Iraqi oil. The 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which has passed the House and Senate and is expected to arrive to the president in the next few weeks, contains similar restrictions.
Yet Congress, especially in light of hysteria about Iran, can likely be convinced that long-term US military presence would serve US strategic interests in the Gulf region. It may also be argued by the US administration that the "agreement" is not -- and perhaps would not hold the force of -- a treaty, and therefore would not be subject to Congressional oversight. Much resides in the language adopted. The agreement could avoid any reference to troops or bases and paint the "new relationship" as one of cooperation between fully "sovereign" and independent states with common interests.
Such cooperation agreements have been signed before. In 1991, the US military was expelled from the Philippines, but by building bases for the country extended its stay indefinitely. US-operated bases in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf States function under a similar pretence of national government control.
Given deep suspicions among many Arabs about American goals in Iraq, US military bases will certainly be seen as an attempt to make permanent the occupation. A ring of US military bases throughout the region makes sense if US strategy is to protect Israel and command the region's energy resources as the best way to contain America's chief economic rivals, the European Union and China.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:47:17 am and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Avi Dichter, the Israeli internal security minister, has cancelled a trip to Britain over fears that he could be arrested for war crimes at the behest of pro-Palestinian groups.
Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet domestic spy service, was to have taken part in a London conference on Middle East .
"The minister was told that there was a good chance he could be at risk of arrest," Mati Gill, Dichter's chief of staff, said on Thursday.
The minister called off his visit on the advice of Israel's foreign and justice ministries.
"This incident has not marred our bilateral ties, but it is a shame that an opportunity for Dichter to share from his experience has gone to waste," Gill said.
Dichter was one of the planners of the assassination of Saleh Shehada, a Hamas commander, in 2002.
Shehada, and 14 Palestianian civilians, were killed by an Israeli air strike.
Doron Almog, an Israeli ex-general involved in the Shehada assassination, narrowly avoided arrested when in London in 2005.
He avoided arrest by returning to Israel after being warned that a British magistrate had ordered his detention.
A federal judge in the US threw out private war crimes proceedings against Dichter in 2005.
Israel has come under international censure for its handling of a Palestinian revolt that erupted in 2000. Israel says its methods are an appropriate response to armed fighters who operate in crowded Palestinian areas and use tactics like suicide bombings.
After Almog's near-arrest, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, asked British judicial authorities to review laws allowing magistrates to issue such arrest warrants.
Livni repeated the request during a visit by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, last month, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.
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Annapolis could mark the beginning of the end for Mahmoud Abbas, writes Saleh Al Naami
By Al-Naami from Gaza
Anyone following the commentary filling Palestinian newspapers funded by the Salam Fayyad government can hardly fail to have missed the change in the direction espoused by these papers -- which typically promote the views of the Palestinian Authority (PA) -- since the Annapolis meeting.
The majority of columnists and opinion writers are now warning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against accepting American- Israeli proposals that will deepen rifts in Palestine's body politic. Writers and members of the elite connected to the PA who previously defended the attendance of the leadership at the meeting with enthusiasm now express embarrassment over Israel's interpretation of what was agreed in Annapolis. Statements such as that made by the Israel premier Ehud Olmert that the end of 2008 is not an obligatory date for Israel to complete negotiations with the PA, or by Olmert's deputy, Avigdor Lieberman, who said even the end of 2008 may not be an appropriate date for ending the conflict, have undermined Abbas's credibility and ruined his attempts to frame the Annapolis meeting as a Palestinian success.
Observations by Israeli human rights organisations following the Annapolis meeting further complicate the picture. They have noted that Olmert's government continues not only to encourage settlement construction but consistently fails to take action against settlers who build without permits from the Israeli army authorities.
Meanwhile, the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank, where the Fayyad government is in charge, continues unabated. Assassinations, arrests, restrictions on movement and settler attacks against Palestinians continue at pre-Annapolis levels. More damaging to Abbas's credibility is that Israel's interpretation of what took place at Annapolis has not stopped his security forces from continuing the policy of "complementary" work, joining the Israeli army to quash resistance in the West Bank, particularly by Hamas.
Ghassan Al-Khatib, who held several ministerial positions in previous Abbas governments, says that many Palestinians now see Abbas's security agencies as playing the same as Antoine Lahad's pro-Israeli South Lebanese Army during Israel's occupation of South Lebanon.
Further diminishing the margins for manoeuvre available to Abbas and his advisors is the fact that the American administration, in order to appease Israel, has withdrawn a non-binding resolution proposal from the UN Security Council supporting the outcome of the Annapolis meeting. The withdrawal of the proposal is being interpreted as further evidence of US bias towards Israel and of Washington's inability to monitor, let alone arbitrate, the implementation of understandings reached in Annapolis.
The stresses are being felt within Fatah itself, with some of its leaders publicly speaking out against Annapolis.
Sources close to the movement told Al-Ahram Weekly that a group of leaders within Fatah is waiting for an opportunity to meet with Abu Mazen and urge him to resume dialogue with Hamas. They believe Abbas miscalculated that his hard stance against Hamas would convince Israel and Washington to grant him political gains, arguing that Israel will remain inflexible until the Palestinians unite.
There is a growing conviction among Fatah leaders, say sources, that Abbas's political life is reaching an end, speeded on by the public perception that Annapolis was an out and out failure. Many anticipate that the Palestinian president will submit his resignation, and want to see differences with Hamas settled before this happens.
Hamas itself expects that the fallout from Annapolis will be an intensification of Israeli hostility towards resistance in the Gaza Strip, with some predicting that a wide-scale Israeli military campaign will accompany a tightening of the siege.
Prominent Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya warns that the movement will adopt unprecedented ways of protesting against the continued siege. "Palestinians will not stay patient as they are slowly strangled by the siege," he told the Weekly. "We are capable of undertaking actions that will make international and regional forces realise how much they erred in supporting the siege of our people."
Nehad Al-Sheikh Khalil, a writer and researcher specialising in Palestinian domestic affairs, sees the main problem facing Abbas post- Annapolis as Olmert's return to the "non-sacred schedules" employed by former Israeli premiere Yitzhak Rabin to wriggle out of Israel's obligations under the Oslo Accords.
"Following Annapolis Palestinian public opinion is increasingly convinced that we are on the threshold of a new catastrophe [Nakba], granting legitimacy to Israeli plans for mass population transfers now that Bush has characterised Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews," he told the Weekly.
Khalil points to the growing conviction among Palestinians that a new stage in the struggle to save Jerusalem and affirm the right of return of refugees is becoming inevitable. Such a conviction, he believes, could take the form of tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees marching to the Erez crossing, which leads to Israel, to demand the implementation of Security Council Resolution 194 calling for the return of refugees and underlining their determination to return to the areas from which their families were driven.
Khalil stresses that the Annapolis meeting has served only to harm Abbas's political agenda and his rejection of the militarisation of armed resistance against the occupation at a time when even those close to him realise that its outcome will help Israel not only establish settlements as facts on the ground but also improve Tel Aviv's international standing without Israel showing any flexibility towards the Palestinians.
Widening Palestinian divisions was always one of the goals of Tel Aviv and Washington at Annapolis. Ironically, Israel's selective reading of the meeting's joint declaration of intentions may yet prompt Palestinians to heal these rifts.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:42:29 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
I also came across the two articles you just posted by Saleh Al Naami about Annapolis. I note some contradiction between the two though.
The very title of the first seems to indicate there was only one goal, Iran.
Here is the relevant cite:
"Professor Dan Shiftan, head of the Israeli National Security Studies Centre and a well-known specialist in American-Israeli relations, published an article in Haaretz newspaper on the eve of the Annapolis meeting stressing that it had absolutely no relation to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Shiftan wrote that the meeting was held in order to help President Bush create the necessary conditions for striking Iran. He further wrote that the Annapolis meeting must be viewed as a purely American-Israeli affair, with no input by the Palestinians or Arabs, and that Israel's goal in participating was to help Bush confront Iran. Shiftan mocked statements issued by Arab and Palestinian leaders describing the meeting as a "window of opportunity"."
While in the second the author acknowledges that the meeting had other "real" goals:
"Widening Palestinian divisions was always one of the goals of Tel Aviv and Washington at Annapolis."
I also saw acknowledgement of this difference of opinion in recent WaPo articles by David Ignatius. Here is an example from November 28, 2007:
"The Saudis came because they are worried about the rise of Iran and the radicals. But it would be a mistake to see Annapolis simply as a pretext for a new anti-Iranian front. "There is a feeling that all of us are exhausted by this," one Saudi explained. "To have stability in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue must be resolved."
"The Syrians came because Annapolis explicitly signaled that their issues are on the table, too. The schedule of yesterday's events specifically mentioned "Israel-Syria" and "Future Separate Tracks Between Israel and Neighbors." Some leading Israeli politicians, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, would like to start negotiations with Syria tomorrow. Damascus, by its presence in Annapolis, showed that it may be ready to play.
"Sometimes, the things that matter are the ones right in front of your nose, and that's the case with Annapolis. Critics talked for months about how the conference wouldn't happen and wouldn't matter anyway. Well, it did, and it does. A peace process, with all its ambiguity and occasional sophistry, is underway."
Obviously, it's been a long running question whether Bush will authorize a strike against Iran while he still has time in office. It was Fareed Zakaria who first raised the question for me whether Annapolis was really about bringing the Arabs, et al. together against Iran, who was not invited. The Israeli strike against Syria serves, for me, as a potential calculus-changing event. Prior to that strike, which could presage an analogous strike against Iran, I had thought that Bush had instructed Israel after 911 that the US would take the lead against Iran. But when the Israelis hit Syria with but little condemnation, the thought came that maybe the same could be done against Iran without too much blowback and that now Israel would take the lead. Imagine an Israeli strike this Christmas as a present from Israel to the US and the world.
The just-released NIE can then be construed as a form of shifting of the burden to Israel, given Saleh Al-Naami's point that:
"Israel holds that the point of no return is Iran's success in developing scientific, technological and human capacities for the production of nuclear arms, even if the weapons themselves are not produced. Were such a point reached, Israeli officials believe there is no benefit in bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, as Iran would exploit its scientific, technological and human capacities to develop its nuclear programme anew. The Americans, however, hold that the point of no return is Iran's success in producing nuclear arms."
Just a thought.
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While the world watched the Arabs, Annapolis was for Israel and the US to prepare the ground for attacking Iran, writes Saleh Al-Naami
By Saleh Al Naami
At 8.45 last Wednesday morning (Nov. 28), when most of the Arab delegation members to the Annapolis meeting were still in their hotel rooms, American President George W Bush met alone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Bush's White House office. According to most commentators in Israel, this very early meeting was the most important event related to the Annapolis meeting because it was entirely devoted to discussing Iran's nuclear programme. Spokespersons for Olmert have affirmed that the meeting addressed means of coordination between the two allies to confront Iranian nuclear activities. Although both parties have kept quiet on the outcome of the meeting, Israeli sources have indicated that it was devoted to answering the follow question: To what degree can bets be placed on economic sanctions thwarting Iranian nuclear ambitions, and if the answer indicates an insufficient likelihood of success, what kind of military mobilisation can meet this goal? This important meeting suggested to many that Israeli and American enthusiasm for the Annapolis meeting was essentially because it provided an opportunity for Israel and the United States to address the Iranian issue.
Israeli sources have indicated that President Bush showed great interest during the meeting in discussing ways to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions. One week prior to the Annapolis meeting, Shaul Mofaz, who is responsible for coordinating Israeli strategic relations with the United States, transmitted "decisive" strategic information confirming Iran's intentions and efforts to produce nuclear arms.
Professor Dan Shiftan, head of the Israeli National Security Studies Centre and a well-known specialist in American-Israeli relations, published an article in Haaretz newspaper on the eve of the Annapolis meeting stressing that it had absolutely no relation to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Shiftan wrote that the meeting was held in order to help President Bush create the necessary conditions for striking Iran. He further wrote that the Annapolis meeting must be viewed as a purely American-Israeli affair, with no input by the Palestinians or Arabs, and that Israel's goal in participating was to help Bush confront Iran. Shiftan mocked statements issued by Arab and Palestinian leaders describing the meeting as a "window of opportunity".
The ruling Israeli elite believes that Iran's possession of nuclear arms forms an "existential threat to Israel" that Tel Aviv must invest all of its capacity to divert. Ephraim Sneh, a leader in the Israeli Labour Party and former deputy defence minister, said, "if Iran succeeds in developing nuclear arms, it won't need to use them against Israel. It will be enough for the Jewish public in Israel to know that Ahmadinejad has acquired nuclear capacities for most of the Jews to leave Israel."
Israel and the US believe that it is better to undermine Iran's nuclear programme through the use of economic sanctions, but Israel at least is vocal in saying that should sanctions fail to meet their goal, military force must be used. Yet Israel prefers that Washington take on the onus of military activity against Iran should the effect of economic sanctions prove limited, on the argument that Iran's nuclear programme "threatens global security and not Israel's alone," as Olmert often says.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni holds that the Annapolis meeting will drive more states to join American efforts in increasing economic pressures on Iran. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Mejli Wehbi said that the US has informed China and Russia that regardless of whether a resolution is issued by the UN Security Council calling for increased economic sanctions on Iran, the American administration and the European Union will impose sanctions on Iran without being instructed by the council.
Wehbi has indicated that the EU is now waiting for Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana to submit his report on ways of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, suggesting also that an increasing number of European states support imposing strict economic sanctions on Iran, including Germany, France and the UK. He further suggests that these sanctions are expected to create popular Iranian reaction against the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Former Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom calls for investing in the atmosphere produced by the Annapolis meeting so as to enlist a growing number of states to confront Iran economically. So as to highlight the importance of economic sanctions, Shalom points out that the decision made by the governors of several American states to impose sanctions on American companies cooperating economically with Iran has had a strong influence on worsening the quality of services in a number of sectors of life in Iran.
According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, shortly before the Annapolis meeting the Israelis hoped to exploit it to convince European states to agree to a new bundle of extreme sanctions against Iran and to cancel agreements worth $22 billion granted annually to European companies trading with Iran. With regard to communications made on the eve of the Annapolis meeting, Tel Aviv and Washington circulated proposals to impose sanctions on banks dealing with Iran, in addition to pressure placed on European companies to not renew oil infrastructure in Iran, along with a long chain of other economic measures that will directly affect the Iranian economy, as understood by American and Israeli experts.
Yet much of the ruling elite in Israel holds that economic sanctions may not succeed in dissuading Iran from continuing its nuclear programme. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, has said that in addition to doubts over the ability of Israel and the United States to convince world states to participate in economic sanctions against Iran, even if they do it is doubtful that Iran's leadership can be convinced to give up on the nuclear path.
Opinion within Israel that the military option is the sole option capable of halting Iran's nuclear programme is gaining ground. As mentioned above, Tel Aviv prefers that Washington undertake the mission militarily. Yet despite the congruence of Israeli and American views on the dangers of Iranian nuclear ambitions, there are differences between the two regarding the conditions required for using military force. Israeli sources have suggested that this point in particular was discussed in the recent Olmert-Bush meeting. Israel holds that the point of no return is Iran's success in developing scientific, technological and human capacities for the production of nuclear arms, even if the weapons themselves are not produced. Were such a point reached, Israeli officials believe there is no benefit in bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, as Iran would exploit its scientific, technological and human capacities to develop its nuclear programme anew. The Americans, however, hold that the point of no return is Iran's success in producing nuclear arms.
At the same time, the calculations of some circles within the American administration regarding military action against Iran differ from Israel's. There is strong opinion within the American administration that any military action against Iran will have negative ramifications on American interests, including the threat for tens of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq who will become easy targets for Iran. American army leaders in Iraq are thus at the head of opposition to military activity against Iran.
Yet this does not mean that President Bush has decided not to direct military action against the Islamic Republic. And this is what has made Israelis decide to convince him of military mobilisation against Tehran as soon as possible. Some in Israel hold that when Bush and Olmert stressed the necessity of confronting "forces of extremism and darkness" in their speeches at the Annapolis meeting, they essentially intended to prepare global public opinion for military action against Iran.
Yet there are numerous indicators that confirm that the Israelis are prepared to strike Iran's nuclear facilities themselves should deterrent economic sanctions against Iran not be imposed or should Washington not undertake the mission of military action itself. Shortly before the Annapolis conference, Maariv indicated that the Israeli army was undergoing intense training in preparation for a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. According to the newspaper, the Israeli air force is undergoing long-distance air training, including long-distance attack flying and re-fuelling while in flight.
Yet this is not all. The Israeli government has entrusted the head of the Israeli air force, General Eliezer Shkedi, to develop a mechanism for coordinating between the various aspects of the Israeli military to prepare for the issuance of instructions for military action beyond the country's borders -- meaning a strike on Iran. At the same time, Olmert's government has entrusted the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, with responsibility for presenting strategic evaluations regarding Iran's nuclear programme. Dagan is taking this mission seriously, and Mossad recently published advertisements in the Israeli press to recruit Israeli youth who know Farsi, which has been interpreted as a step towards planting agents in Iran to garner the necessary intelligence.
Former deputy defence minister Sneh holds that prior to military action against Iran, two primary conditions must be met. The first is successful protection of Israel's interior from missiles and shells, thousands of which Iran may fire at Israeli cities. The second is the provision of budgets to provide fortification against chemical weapons by developing the "Hits" anti-missile programme.
Yet there are those who have doubts over the extent to which the Annapolis meeting will help Israel to forge the conditions that would permit a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Yoel Marcus, senior commentator for Haaretz newspaper, holds that there are many material and other obstacles in the way of a strike on these facilities. Marcus points out that Iran benefited from Israel bombing Iraq's atomic reactor in 1981 by building its nuclear facilities in various areas distant from each other, and constructing them deep underground. The Iranians intentionally separated the areas in which facilities are found according to stages in the atomic cycle, whereby there is not one facility that brings together all the stages of the nuclear programme. This way, if one of the facilities is bombed, only the stage for which this facility was built would be affected.
There are also those in Israel who warn against exaggerating the betting on post-Annapolis events. Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli foreign minister, claims that the sole means to halting Iran's nuclear programme is through political approaches, and suggests that Israel will also be asked to dispose of its nuclear weapons. "The best way to put an end to Iran's strategy in creating a lack of stability in the region is through comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace, after which would come international funding for building a system of peace and security in a Middle East free of nuclear weapons," he wrote in Yediot Aharonot newspaper following the conference.
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"Five Reasons to Bomb iran Now"
By Michael Freund
Have America and Israel suddenly gone soft on Iran's nefarious nuclear-weapons program? Despite sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gleefully pressing forward with his efforts to build a bomb, which Israeli military intelligence now believes he will succeed in doing by 2009.
Indeed, just last Friday, the would-be Hitler of Persia boasted about how Teheran had "defied" Western opposition, and was now "moving toward the peaks of success step by step."
Yet even as Iran continues to progress down the dangerous road to an atomic arsenal, the tough talk emanating from Washington and Jerusalem in recent months has suddenly and inexplicably melted away.
And this should have us all very, very worried.
It was just last month that US President George W. Bush declared at an October 17 press conference that, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Bush's statement was followed four days later by an equally emphatic Vice President Dick Cheney, who told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions."
Now, though, something appears to have changed. Various reports in recent days seem to indicate that US policy may have taken a sharp and terribly treacherous U-turn in the direction of acquiescence.
According to the Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the US Defense Department has begun updating its deterrence policy based on the assumption that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons.
The paper quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying that while "military strikes [against Iran's nuclear facilities] might set the program back a couple of years… current thinking is that it is just not worth the risks."
Similarly, Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told the Financial Times last week (Nov. 12) that a preemptive attack against Iranian nuclear installations is not "in the offing."
And, as Reuters reported, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have instructed cabinet officials to draft proposals for how to deal with "the day after" Iran obtains the bomb.
WHAT IS going on here? Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence? It is possible, of course, that these reports are merely part of the overall game-plan, and that they are aimed at lulling the Iranians into a false sense of security prior to a surprise attack on their nuclear installations.
Alternatively, it might reflect the shifting political realities in the US, where public opinion, goaded on by the mainstream liberal media, has turned against the war in neighboring Iraq.
But whatever the reality of the situation is, one thing should be clear: Iran can not and must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
This is not an issue with shades of grey - it is about as black and white as they come.
And here are five good reasons why:
1. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would transform the strategic dynamic of the entire Middle East, shifting the balance of power squarely in the direction of radical Shi'ite fundamentalism.
An atomic Iran will be able to threaten the region and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction, and they will use that leverage to further their fanatical and revolutionary aims.
2. A nuclear-armed Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, and ultimately to the West too. Iranian leaders have repeatedly and explicitly promised to wipe Israel off the map and to strike at the United States.
Teheran has been backing up its words with actions by steadily improving its ballistic missile capability. The Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 km, can hit all of Israel as well as US military targets in the Middle East. Iran is busy developing the Shihab-4, with a range of 2,000 km, that will put parts of Europe within striking distance. Teheran is also striving to build even longer-range intercontinental missiles that can hit the US as well. All of these weapons have the ability to deliver atomic warheads.
3. If Iran goes nuclear, it will inevitably tilt the neighboring Arab states further in the direction of extremism, as they seek to mollify the nuclear-armed ayatollahs. Whatever limited chances there might be of drawing at least some Arab states into the moderate camp are likely to be stymied rather quickly.
4. Failure to take action against Teheran will trigger a region-wide nuclear arms race, as countries throughout the Middle East will seek to achieve strategic and military parity.
A number of states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have already announced plans to build their own nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind. Permitting Iran to go nuclear essentially paves the way to a Middle East that will be brimming with atomic weapons.
5. If Iran were to develop "the bomb," what is to stop them from putting it into the hands of one of the myriad anti-Israel and anti-American terrorist groups that they support, such as Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad? Do we really want to take a chance that terrorists might at last be able to get their hands on nuclear weapons? This is not some "neocon nightmare scenario" or "warmonger wishful-thinking."
It is the cold, hard reality staring us all squarely in the face, unless Washington or Jerusalem takes military action, and soon.
CRITICS ARGUE that an attack on Iran would be logistically difficult, politically dangerous, and would result in some very serious consequences.
But as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the New York Times (November 9), "The choice is not between the world as it is today and the use of force. The choice is between the use of force and Iran with nuclear weapons." And when looked at in those terms, it becomes quite obvious that there really is no choice at all: the US and/or Israel must bomb Iran. They must act to remove the nuclear sword from the hand of the Persian executioner.
And they should do so now - before it is too late.
This entry was posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 02:29:27 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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You have made it a precondition to any engagement with us that we accept certain conditions. Yet you don't apply the same preconditions to the Israelis. You don't require of them recognition of Palestinian rights or a renunciation of the terrible violence that they daily invoke on us.
By Dr. Ahmad Yousuf - Senior Political Advisor
Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Gaza
The Honourable Secretary of State
Ms. Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice,
I am writing to you in light of the conference in Annapolis to fulfill our obligations to the Palestinian voters who have overwhelmingly legitimized our governance. Your administration cannot want peace more than the Palestinian people want and need peace. However, peace initiatives and conferences are ineffectual if the basic ingredients for success are not present. Meaningful steps toward a resolution cannot take place while the legitimacy of the elected government in Palestine continues to be ignored by your administration. Not only is the policy to isolate Hamas unethical it is ineffectual as well. Your administration ignores the realities on the ground. The Change and Reform Party, the name of the new political party we formed for the Palestinian elections, won an overwhelming majority in the occupied territories. To pretend otherwise is not only futile but detrimental to US interests in the region for many years to come and likely to add to the anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. You cannot preach about exporting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and ignore the democratic process in Palestine.
Many people make the mistake of presuming that we have some ideological aversion to making peace. Quite the opposite; we have consistently offered dialogue with the U.S. and the E.U. to try and resolve the very issues that you are trying to deal with in Annapolis. Our conflict with the Israelis is a grievance-based conflict. We want to end the occupation of our land and the systematic human rights abuses that our people suffer from daily. We do not have any ideological problems with living side by side with Christians and Jews. When we have not been occupied we have successfully done this for thousands of years. However, they can not live in peace and security in a land that was usurped. Indeed if you asked a Jewish person where they would have been safest to live over the last two millennia, with Arabs or Europeans, the answer would be obvious. Nor do we have any ideological arguments with the West. We are not anti-American, anti-European or anti-anyone. The root of the problem which neither Israel nor the US is willing to acknowledge, let alone address, is the dispossession of the Palestinian people upon the creation in their homeland of Israel in 1948.
It would come as no surprise to us if this letter were to be met with dismissal, in keeping with this administration’s policy of not dealing with “terrorists”, despite the fact that we entered the democratic process and held a unilateral ceasefire of our own for over two years. But how do you think the Arab and Muslim worlds react to this American hypocrisy? Even our growing ranks of western supporters complain about U.S. narrow-mindedness and the bullying of its allies to tow the American line. The State of Department should be looking for new solutions instead of reinforcing old stereotypes. On a personal note we found it amusing that a black person empathizes with Israeli deaths on the one hand and Palestinian segregation on the other if media reports are accurate. It is a military occupation, Ms. Rice. Their citizens face insecurity and death because that is the situation they have created for themselves. We do not beg you to recognize us. Our party is the legitimately elected party in the occupied territories. You owe it to your sense of fairness to engage meaningfully with all relevant parties to the conflict.
The conference is faulty in its inception. It was conceived in a vacuum and hastily announced for political expediency. In addition, it ignores the inherent weaknesses of the negotiating parties involved. Furthermore, despite your efforts the conference has not secured the key Arab support you were hoping for. Arab leaders are leery of committing to an American initiative that exhibits no fundamental change from the past. Annapolis’ failure will have negative consequences for those Arab states that supported it further destabilizing the region.
Our skepticism is based on experience. You know that despite every call for restraint by the U.S. over the last twenty years the Israelis have continued to expand and develop their vast network of towns and roads on Palestinian land. While you sat and talked in Annapolis the sound of cranes and bulldozers were echoing across the West Bank as those networks continue to grow. It is therefore hard to imagine an Israeli government bent on a peaceful withdrawal from our land. We can only presume that they are paying lip-service to your request to participate, seeing it as a delaying tactic to talk about peace with no real intention to deliver.
Meanwhile the entire Palestinian people are being punished for having the temerity to hold a free and fair election and choosing us as their government. It is hard to get across the appalling level of privation that the Palestinian people and in particular the 1.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza currently suffer from. Our isolation is complete, confining us in a ghetto (worse than the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw) where our sewage, power and water systems have been destroyed, all normal supplies constrained and even humanitarian aid withheld. Many people have not been paid for nearly two years, over 75% are unemployed and now the Israelis are threatening to cut off fuel and power supplies and to invade us once again.
You have made it a precondition to any engagement with us that we accept certain conditions. Yet you don't apply the same preconditions to the Israelis. You don't require of them recognition of Palestinian rights or a renunciation of the terrible violence that they daily invoke on us. Nor do you require that they comply with previous agreements or the settlement building would long since have stopped.
Your predecessor General Collin Powell stated that the U.S. has to find a way to engage with Hamas because it won the Palestinian elections and it continues to enjoy support among a large portion of the Palestinian people. He did not make that statement because he is less of an American or less committed to the service of America. He simply practiced at home what you are preaching about democracy abroad.
If you were even-handed in this conflict, if you engaged with us openly then the chances of peace would dramatically increase. As it is, you are setting yourself up for failure and with that failure will come more pain and anguish for the Palestinian people, a further colonization of our lands and a blank space in history for the Bush administration's role in making peace in the Middle East.
In the meantime, the people will hold steadfast to their rights and national constants. The internationally sanctioned resistance will not be quashed until the occupier packs its bags and leaves. And the aspiration of a free and independent Palestinian state is realized.
-Dr Ahmad Yousuf is a Senior Political Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza; he is the top advisor to deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hanyieh.
This entry was posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 09:33:01 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Agency admits recording "harsh" interrogations in 2002 but destroying videos later.
The CIA has admitted destroying video tapes showing what is described as the "harsh interrogation" of al-Qaeda suspects.
The interrogations of two suspects were taped in 2002 and the tapes were destroyed in 2005, after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq surfaced.
Michael Hayden, the CIA director, told his staff on Thursday that the tapes were destroyed so identities of interrogators would not be compromised.
Scrutiny and scandal
But Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the CIA must have realised the tapes would be trouble after the Abu Ghraib scandal, when leaked pictures of US forces abusing Iraqi prisoners surfaced in 2004, causing an international outcry.
The destruction also came amid scrutiny over the agency's "rendition" programme, where suspects were allegedly detained and interrogated in secret locations outside the US.
Hayden said congressional intelligence committee leaders were informed of the existence of the tapes and the CIA's intention to destroy them.
He added that the agency's internal watchdog had watched the tapes in 2003 and verified that the interrogation practices recorded were legal.
But Bishara said the methods were actually torture and the fact that the CIA had had the tapes but did not surrender them when the US commission to look into the 9/11 attacks and congress asked for such information, raised questions about whether the CIA obstructed justice.
Members of the commission and congress have expressed surprise at the existence of the tapes, saying that the CIA had repeatedly said that it did not record the interrogation of detainees.
Hayden's revelation appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt the New York Times, which informed the CIA on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish in Friday's newspaper a story about the destruction of the tapes.
Hayden said he was informing staff because the press had learnt about the destruction of the tapes.
Bishara said the intelligence community appeared to be "cleaning house", with the revelation about the tapes coming on the heels of a report saying Iran halted its nuclear programme in 2003.
Hayden's revelation comes a day after the US congress agreed to ban techniques such as waterboarding – where a detainee undergoes similar conditions as drowning – a method of interrogation believed to be filmed on the tapes.
He said the CIA began taping the interrogations as an internal check on the programme after George Bush, the US president, authorised the use of harsh questioning methods.
The methods included waterboarding, government officials said.
"The agency was determined that it proceed in accord with established legal and policy guidelines. So, on its own, CIA began to videotape interrogations," Hayden said in a written message to CIA employees.
The CIA - headed at the time by Porter Goss - also decided to destroy the tapes in "the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them", Hayden wrote, adding that videotaping of the interrogations stopped in 2002.
"The tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the programme, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathisers," Hayden's message said.
The CIA says it only taped the interrogation of the first two suspects it held, one of whom was Abu Zubaydah, who told CIA interrogators about alleged September 11 accomplice Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush said in 2006.
Al-Shibh was captured and interrogated and, together with Zubaydah's information, he led to the 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
The suspected senior al-Qaeda operative held at the Guantanamo prison has claimed to be behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Meanwhile, witness testimony has been heard for the first time since the US began prosecuting Guantanamo suspects.
A US major testified that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, was driving a car that contained two small rockets when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001.
The hearing will determine whether Hamdan, who says he is not an al-Qaeda member or fighter, an "unlawful enemy combatant" who should be tried before a military tribunal.
This entry was posted on Dec 06, 2007 at 11:09:03 pm and is filed under American Empire, Human Rights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Bob Cesca
Knowledge has been the president's enemy ever since his skull failed to completely fuse, leaving him with a spongy head and a brain that's susceptible to bruising. His other lifelong enemy, by the way, is a fork without a protective wine cork pressed onto its dangerous, eye-poking tines. I'm joking about the skull thing.
But now it appears as if having the knowledge to be able to build a nuclear bomb is enough to let slip the neocon jagoffs of war -- whether or not a nuclear weapon is actually being constructed. President Bush during Tuesday's press conference:
"Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Knowledge. That's the cause now. So let's say, just for argument's sake, that this new policy of smoking out knowledge is for real and not just the administration's political escape pod after the NIE proved the hawks to be full of hawky shit. The foreign policy of the United States, therefore, will be to threaten war against any nation that has the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb regardless of intent, materials or an actual, you know, nuclear weapons program.
The problem with this policy is... this.
Don't click that goddamn link! It takes you to an evildoer website called The Google where you'll find search results for the phrase "how to build an atomic bomb." When you click on those links, you'll learn about how to build a nuclear weapon from the knowledge supplied by such subversive organizations as UC Berkley, Cosmos Magazine and Amazon.com.
It doesn't matter, ultimately, how much knowledge you attain via The Google. Realistically, you'd need tens of millions of dollars; centrifuges; radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium; delicious yellow cake; various important-looking scientists (I recommend Germans -- they're really sciency); missile launching gadgets; rocket fuel; helmets; radiation suits; protective eyewear; and all varieties of other fancy-shmancy resources in order to build an actual bomb.
In addition, you'd also need to be savvy and sneaky enough to engage in this Herculean task without being detected by the United Nations' IAEA inspectors who are very smart and tenacious. If you manage to dodge them, you'll still be in plain view of dozens of spy satellites aimed at every square inch of your crappy square of desert. Or you could be stymied by an array of undercover nonproliferation intelligence operatives like, for instance, Valerie Plame-Wilson (before she was deliberately outted by Karl Rove and the Bush White House).
Altogether, building a nuclear weapon seems like a massive pain in the ass, which is probably why there are only nine countries in the entire history of the world that have successfully constructed one, and it's probably why Iran -- with its pathetic economy and spazzy, bearded-Jamie-Farr president -- shut down its weapons program four years ago.
In stark contrast to actually building a weapon, attaining the knowledge to build one is the easiest part and therefore the most common.
Why else would President Bush cite knowledge as the qualifier? Knowledge is also the simplest justification to lie about due to the fact that it's so insanely difficult disprove. Oh, and it's a perfect fit for rallying the president's dingus base -- they hate anything that has to do with knownin' shit.
As such, it appears to be a policy that's been brewing in the White House for much longer than a week, which begs the question: what did the president know about Iran suspending its weapons program and when did he know it?
During Tuesday's news conference, the president said that he was first briefed on the NIE last Wednesday, November 28. This was a gigantic lie. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley inadvertently and preemptively debunked it on Monday when he said that the president was briefed much earlier -- perhaps as early as August or September -- about the content of the NIE. Then we have this from the president:
"In August, I think it was John Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was."
JOHN MIKE: Yo Bushie! I have some new information but I'm not telling. Bye!
THE PRESIDENT: Joke's on you, John Mike. I didn't wanna know anyway. Eh-eh-eh.
Obviously, Mike McConnell briefed the president and told him that Iran very likely ended its program in 2003. But the president thinks we're as spongy-skulled as he is so most of us will buy this raft of shitola. The cynical politics of Karl Rove lives on and on.
Furthermore, Seymour Hersh told CNN on Tuesday that the president mentioned the NIE findings to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on November 26.
And flash back to a little more than a year ago when Hersh wrote in the New Yorker (via TPM) that the administration was aware of and resistant to a top secret CIA report which corresponded precisely with the findings of this new NIE. Yet the White House continued to push for war in Iran for an entire year anyway. Hersh:
"They're not looking for a smoking gun," the [senior intelligence] official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. "They're looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission."
"The knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon" qualifies as both "comfortable" as and "less than a smoking gun," so it was added to the list of justifications -- justifications which included various other abandoned or debunked reasons for attacking Iran.
Back in October, the president remarked with a big smirky grin stretched diagonally across his spongy skull about the possibility of World War III if Iran attained the knowledge to build a weapon. The obnoxious, grinning hyperbole of the phrase "World War III" nearly eclipsed the fact that the president officially announced knowledge as the policy that day. Tuesday he reaffirmed it, and lied all the way through.
In the case of Iraq lies, the Bush Republicans reached the bottom of the bogus justification slag heap when Rick Santorum announced that he found the Iraqi WMD -- WMD that were chemically expired because they predated the first Gulf War -- but he found the WMD anyway. And then he was laughed out of office.
The administration has reached a similar point of desperation with this ridiculous knowledge argument, especially now that it's an on-the-record fact that Iran isn't developing a nuclear weapon. Then again, much like he did with Iraq, President Bush was lying, President Bush is lying, and President Bush will lie again about his approach to Iran. At least, after seven years, you and I have the knowledge to catch him doing it.
This entry was posted on Dec 06, 2007 at 09:07:22 am and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Bush previously said that Iran's nuclear ambitions could bring about a third world war [AFP]
By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst
"Dishonest", "misleading", "lying" and "spinning" are just some of the measured adjectives used in the mainstream US media to characterise George Bush, the president, and Stephen Hadley, his national security adviser, after they embraced the damning National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summary report on Iran as proof of the effectiveness and success of the administration's Tehran policy.
The NIE judges "with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme", and that "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005".
NIE report: Iran Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities
It further said that "...Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs". And that "this NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons".
The White House seems to have known of much of this and more for some time, but chose to escalate the war rhetoric against Tehran.
Depending on which version of the story one believes, the White House knew about the "discovery" any time between last spring and summer.
Even when new intelligence compelled the National Intelligence Board (NIB) to make a 180-degree change in its estimate, rendering the Iranian threat anything but imminent, administration officials continued to speak of the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons programme until hours before its publication.
The White House sent its third carrier into the Gulf transforming its "crisis management" mode with Iran into direct "confrontation management" and sealing the war scenario against Tehran when the decision comes down.
President Bush also warned during a news conference on October 17 that an Iranian nuclear bomb could lead to "world war three" and asked Congress to pass the highest defence budget in the history of the country, mostly under the guise of an imminent Iranian threat that he knew did not exist.
In a repeat of the dreadful and misleading escalation against Iraq prior to its 2003 invasion, the Bush administration escalated the war rhetoric against Tehran even though it knew with high confidence that it had no programme, no capability and, with moderate confidence, no intention of developing a nuclear weapons programme.
The leading presidential candidates followed suit.
Rudy Giuliani claimed: "As we all know, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and they're threatening to use them."
Likewise, Senator John McCain insisted: "There's no doubt that [Iran is] moving forward with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon."
And Hillary Clinton, before giving the president another vote of confidence to go to war, insisted that "Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism."
To the surprise of many Western observers, it turns out that the policies of the Iranian and Iraqi leaders were based on realistic "cost and benefit" grounds, not the irrational behaviour Washington accused them of as dangerous and unpredictable crazies.
On the other hand, the Bush administration's war policies towards Iraq and Iran have proven to be hardly cost and benefit driven even when calculating the oil and strategic interests.
Worse, the Bush administration lost all credibility when it went on to intimidate its allies and foes alike to punish Iran. It also attacked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBaradai, its director, for being soft on Iran, knowing all too well that they have been right all along.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of sate, told ElBaradei that his body was not "in the business of diplomacy".
ElBaradei, to his credit, has long believed Iran possessed no nuclear weapons programme and made a deal under which it would answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities.
According to Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bush knew about the new information regarding Iran's nuclear programme, because he and his deputy on the committee were also informed, albeit in a more general manner, by the intelligence community.
Gary Sick, a US-based Iran expert, estimates that the president might have known some nine months ago, when according to him the Iranian deputy defence minister defected to the West.
On November 14, Mike McConnell, NIE director, told the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars that he was not going to make his report public. Which begs the question, why has the White House allowed the publication of this embarrassing report?
Two possible scenarios have surfaced since the publication:
First, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, insisted on it. The Pentagon finances most of the programmes and departments that contribute to the NIE database.
Unlike the 2005 pro-war Rumsfeld, Gates does not want another Middle Eastern war as he told Congress recently, especially in light of the debacle in Iraq.
Second, it seems that congressional leaders who oppose Bush's Iran policy insisted that it be publicised after hearing or reading some of its preliminary conclusions.
In an election year, any such news is good news for the Democrats.
By default or by design?
Some believe that the Bush administration, famous for its political discipline, is none the less using the NIE in a clever, even if desperate, attempt to climb down from the hysterical "Carthage must be destroyed" line.
After all, how many times can you mention world war three without eventually having to start it?
Now that it is out, the new estimate could neutralise the neo-conservative fringe, and let the administration out of a rhetorical corner.
The White House announcement of the president's Middle East trip at the beginning of next year, following the attendance this week by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the Iranian president, at the Gulf co-operation summit, underlines the desire to relax tensions in the region following Annapolis and the relative "improvements" of the Iraq situation.
Today and in light of the NIE findings, some observers believe the central issue for the US and Iran is no longer the nuclear question but rather the future of Iraq.
The US understands that it "needs Iran for the endgame in Iraq", while for Iran, the recent developments in Iraq encourage it to make a deal with Washington before the latter strikes a deal with its adversaries.
Now that the new estimate is out, something has got to give.
First, international and domestic pressure will build up against a pre-emptive strike and, my guess, at least two permanent members will stand against another UN Security Council resolution punishing Iran, despite its civilian programme that contradicts past resolutions.
Second, the NIE publication might pave the way to bilateral negotiations between the US and Iran without stiff preconditions in order to relax the tensions in the Gulf with the participation of Iran's Arab neighbours, as well as its European allies.
Now that the nuclear roadblock is out of the way, Washington will find it ever more necessary and ever more enticing to talk to Iran about a "helpful" and perhaps beneficial role for itself and Iraq in the Gulf.
Either way, the White House will certainly face more questions and inquiries regarding the discrepancies of timings and policies; as more insiders come clean on US policy towards Iran. Americans would want to know what Bush and Co knew, when did they know it and what have they done or not done about it?
As so many commentators have said the morning after Bush and Hadley embraced the NIE report, the central question begging for an answer revolves around how corrupt politics have lead to dangerous policies.
This entry was posted on Dec 05, 2007 at 10:41:02 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. samsonblinded.org/blog/america-arranges-a-peace-deal-with-iran.htm ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn't it?
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GAZA, Palestine _ Israeli artillery killed three Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on Wednesday morning, medical sources said.
Ambulance crews found the three bodies, and two others wounded, near the Ash-Shayma school in Beit Lahiya. The dead and injured were taken to Kamal Udwan hospital.
The two dead men were identified as Muhammad Subih, and Iyad Aziz. Ali Subih was left in a coma and died in the hospital. All three men, were activists with Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.
Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said the Israeli forces once again used illegal weapons such as cluser bombs and nail-filled shells in Wednesday's attack.
Hamas calls on Arab states to oppose Israeli escalation in Gaza
Hamas called on the Arab states that attended the Annapolis summit to denounce the Israeli escalation on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning.
Israeli airstrikes have become a daily occurrence in Gaza, with two more Hamas activists killed on Wednesday morning. Israel has also cut off most fuel supplies to the coastal territory.
A Hamas statement called the escalation a "US-Israeli political decision," and accused the West Bank-based Palestinian caretaker government, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, of colluding with the Israeli occupation to intensify the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas also called on armed Palestinian factions to be prepared to respond to Israel's atrocities.
This entry was posted on Dec 05, 2007 at 09:23:42 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Saed Bannoura
According to eyewitnesses, a group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian child in Tuba’ village, near Hebron, and stole his donkey after pelting him with stones.
The incident took place on Saturday, just after a protest in which Israeli, international and Palestinian peace activists marched in opposition to ongoing settler violence in the area.
Villagers attempted to intervene on the child’s behalf, asking the Israeli police to retrieve the donkey that was stolen from the boy, but they were unsuccessful.
Then, Israeli activists with the peace initiative Ta’ayush attempted to march to the nearby Havot Ma’on settlement, where the attackers had taken the donkey. They were blocked at the entrance to the settlement by Israeli police.
Children from the village of Tuba’ are forced to take a long and circuitous route to reach their school in neighboring at-Tuwani village in order to avoid attacks by the settlers from Havot Ma’on settlement.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 10:56:34 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed Palestinian man in the village of At-Tira, near Ramallah on Sunday, witnesses said.
Thirty-one-year-old Firas Qasqas from the village of Battir, near Bethlehem, died of his wounds on Monday in a Ramallah hospital, his family said. He was visiting his brother-in-law in At-Tira at the time of the shooting.
Qasqas's brother-in-law Jamil said that they were out for an evening walk when Israeli forces attacked them: "Firas visited me to congratulate me on the new house. After we had dinner, we went out for a walk in the fields not far away from my residence. My little brother joined us. All of a sudden, seven Israeli soldiers surprised us shooting randomly at us."
"I found shelter behind the rocks along with my brother, but Firas was shot in his thigh and stomach. Then I stood up and shouted at the Israeli soldiers asking for help, but they only watched us before I went to the neighboring houses and asked local residents to help us take Firas to hospital," he said.
Jamil stressed that he and his brother-in-law were walking in an open field, with no Israeli military bases or settlements nearby.
Medical officials said the body was transferred from a Ramallah to the village of Battir, where he is to be buried.
Qasqas is survived by his wife and three young daughters.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 10:48:44 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
If you want to see true devils on this land , one should go and watch the cruel Israelis whose hands do not shake while killing anyone, and making a family support-less, making children orphan. I sometimes feel very surprised what kind of upbringing , what kind of religious study make them feel comfortable in stealing others land, harassing innocent people and killing anyone anytime. A true shame on this earth.
The following is a typically disgusting reply to a letter of protest we sent to the Israeli Embassy in London. We will of course reply and continue to fight for Justice for the memmory and family of Firas Qasqas Friends of Battir, Thank you for your email. I am a little unsure as to what you want. I assume you are simply writing on principle, since your “we therefore demand” does not include anything specific. However, could you please provide me with more information about this case, and where you received this information. I have no doubt that you are lobbying in good faith, but many of the complaints we receive are based on half-truths and downright lies from third sources. For one thing, I am most suspicious that you believe Mr Qasqas to have been randomly shot for no reason. The IDF does not arbitrarily shoot people. If, however, the law has been broken, the transgressor will be bought to justice (as has happened in the past). Thank you, Robin Hamilton-Taylor Public Affairs Embassy of Israel Tel: 020 7957 9505 http://london.mfa.gov.il Fax: 020 7957 5555 Subject: Re The murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas From Luton Friends of Battir Dave Barnes Secretary To Ambassador Zvi Heifetz Embassy of Israel 2 Palace Gardens London W8 4QB Tel 020 7957 9500 Fax 020 7957 9555 9 Dec 2007 Re The Murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas from Battir On Sunday 2nd Dec 2007 Israeli soldiers near Ramallah shot Feras Mousa Qasqas. Feras was unarmed and posed no threat to Israel and yet was shot twice and left to bleed to death. Feras is survived by his wife and their three children for whom life will never be the same again. We the undersigned are supporters of a twinning link between the village of Battir and Luton town. We have been campaigning for a year and a half to develop close friendships and ties with this Palestinian village and treat any injury to them as an assault on us. We are fully aware of the brutal nature of Israel ’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognise that such killings are far from exceptional. We will however promise you that we will pursue this matter to seek justice for the family of Feras Mousa Qasqas as if it was a murder that took place in Luton . We therefore demand that all those responsible for the murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas are brought to justice for this crime.
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By Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2007
Last Tuesday's demonstrations, which brought thousands onto the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus and Gaza in defiance of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) attempt to silence the peoples' voice, represented a crucial moment for Palestine.
Our demonstration, which was supported by the Popular Committees of the Refugee Camps and over 150 civil society organizations and representatives, called for the upholding of the fundamental principles of our struggle: the right of the refugees to return, the right to Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right to our land. We were refusing the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as this would legitimize the Zionist ideology of colonialism, racism and ethnic cleansing, and effectively exonerate Israel from the crimes of the Nakba, waiving the right of return. Such recognition would justify and reinforce the Israeli system of apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Palestine that we are fighting for is one which upholds the fundamental principles of our national rights and equality, and which respects the democratic right of the people to express their views in protest on the streets. The PA has shown that they do not share this vision. On Tuesday they attempted to prevent the people from asserting their rights, first by banning demonstrations and then by attacking us with tear gas, batons and military jeeps.
The departure of the occupation from our land and the right of the refugees to return is non-negotiable, as is the question of Jerusalem. For the oppressed and occupied, ongoing struggle and resistance using all necessary means is not only our right, it is our obligation in front of all those that have sacrificed before us and the future generation that has the right to live in freedom. It is our only tool to ensure that "negotiations" talk about how to achieve our rights and not how to abandon them step by step. Yet for the first time in the sixty years of our struggle, those who claim to represent us at a national level are no longer talking about resistance to the attacks of the occupiers. Instead, they are disingenuously opening up negotiations relying on the US, the occupation's most ardent backer, to act as an "honest broker."
Tuesday's actions were important in themselves as an expression of the voices raised against Annapolis, but also because by defying the ban on demonstrations, the popular committees, representatives of civil society and political parties threw down a powerful challenge to the Palestinian leadership: as the pressure for normalization grows, so the grassroots anti-normalization movement is growing. In the last month, the One Voice initiative, an attempt to coerce Palestinians into denying their own rights while recognizing their occupiers, was defeated by grassroots activists. Last week, Ramallah hosted a conference strategizing to beat the occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions. Palestinians from within the Green Line voiced their powerful opposition to recognition of a Jewish state on their lands in a unanimous decision made by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the senior representative body of Palestinian citizens in Israel. The demonstrations on Tuesday were not an isolated protest; they were part of a wide popular movement against concessions on basic principles, and against an apparent acceptance on the part of the Palestinian leadership of the isolation of Palestinians within the Green Line, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and in the Diaspora from each other. At the Cyprus conference in October, Palestinians inside Israel called Palestinians from all over their homeland and the diaspora together to build unified strategies and follow up mechanisms, as a powerful counterpoint to Israeli bantustanization.
In Annapolis, the Authority did not raise the issue of Palestinians within the Green Line, nor the right of return, nor the criminal siege of Gaza. The Wall caging Palestinians in the West Bank into ghettos was not on the agenda. Those appointed to rule the West Bank bantustans showed that they were not even representing the Palestinians there when they brutally repressed our protests. In this so-called "peace process," only a tiny portion of Palestinians are represented: they are laying the ground for an outcome that the Palestinian people cannot and will not accept.
The so-called "peace process" demands not only that the PA clamp down on armed resistance: it is also becoming clear that it will require the repression of all of us who reject the abandonment of our rights. The Palestinian people who are confronting the Israeli occupation day after day have not been consulted or informed about the negotiations: they only are to feel the batons when they disagree and call out for their rights. Tuesday was a testing ground to determine whether the PA will be able to make the Palestinian people swallow a second Oslo, further compromising our rights.
The gulf between the PA and the Palestinian people is becoming increasingly obvious. Indeed the whole range of Palestinian political and social forces joined in condemning the repression on Tuesday. The choice for the PA is clear: either to go along with the dictates of the US and the occupation; or to radically alter their course, to return to the people and remember that they are leaders of the Palestinian national struggle. The grassroots movement against normalization with the occupiers will continue to grow. Resistance will continue as the Palestinian people assert their fundamental rights.
Jamal Juma' is coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 08:40:42 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
In the United States of America
On Sunday, December 2, 2007, Venezuelan voters once again exercised their rights in an overwhelming display of the country’s vibrant democratic system. Though a set of proposed constitutional reforms were not accepted by voters – less than 2 percent separated the “Yes” and “No” options – the results are another step in the longstanding democratic debate started by President Hugo Chávez on how to shape a new and better Venezuela.
The manner in which the referendum was carried out and its result speaks to both to the legitimacy and independence of Venezuela’s electoral authority, the National Electoral Council, and the strengthening of the 1999 Constitution. It is now irrefutable that Venezuela’s elections are free, fair and fully transparent. Moreover, it is finally clear that the 1999 Constitution and the principles that underpin it – including participatory democracy, a social economy and equality for all Venezuelans – are now widely accepted as representing the new Venezuela that is being created.
Regardless, both the U.S. government and the media consistently attacked Venezuela’s electoral system and democracy in the months leading up to the referendum. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times dedicated over 11,000 words in 18 op-eds or editorials to attacking Venezuela just in the last month. Meanwhile, on Friday, November 30, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called into question Venezuela’s electoral system, while on December 3 Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns and National Security Council spokesperson Gordon Johndroe expressed their happiness with the result instead of issuing an apology and recognizing the transparency of the electoral system and Venezuela’s vibrant participatory democracy.
These statements serve as evidence of a clear double standard in which Venezuela’s electoral system is judged not on how effectively it serves voters, but rather on whether the final results it emits agree with U.S. policy.
Moreover, in various statements U.S. officials tried to claim that the result of the referendum was somehow linked to a perceived disapproval of the Venezuelan government. This opinion is clear expression of U.S. interventionism in Venezuelan affairs, and stands in stark contrast to that taken by other governments and international observers. The 100-120 observers – which came from 39 countries – verified the legitimacy of the CNE and the results of referendum, while various countries and institutions, including the OAS, congratulated Venezuela for an exemplar electoral process. Additionally, Venezuelan opposition groups also recognized, for the first time, the transparency of the electoral system and CNE handling of the election.
Since 1998, Venezuelans have been called to cast their votes 12 times. In addition, the Venezuelan people have become engaged citizens, participating in debates and discussions on everything from local water usage to how Venezuela can establish the foundations for a more equitable and efficient government. The process of the referendum demonstrates the full and irrefutable democratic character and agenda of the government of President Chávez, as well as the insistence of the government to submit to public debate and approval the discussion of how to best fulfill and deepen the principles of the 1999 Constitution.
Washington DC, December 3, 2007
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 08:23:39 pm and is filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Venezuelans have rejected constitutional changes proposed by Hugo Chavez, the president, in a close-run referendum, the National Electoral Council has declared.
Chavez conceded defeat in a live broadcast on Monday, having narrowly lost the vote on the changes which included the removing limits on the number of terms he could stay in office.
The electoral authority announced early on Monday the "No" camp had won 51 per cent of the vote compared to the pro-Chavez "Yes" camp's 49 per cent.
It said the result could not be reversed with the number of uncounted votes remaining and declared Chavez the loser.
It was the first victory for a against the populist president after nine years of electoral defeats.
Opponents claimed the defeat of the constitutional changes "a victory for Venezuelan democracy".
"He wanted to turn Venezuela from a democracy to a socialist state in which he would have almost full power," Adolfo Taylhardat, an opposition politician, said.
Chavez's 69 proposed changes would have allowed him to control Venezuela's foreign currency reserves, appoint regional elected officials and censor the media if he declares an emergency.
It would also have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely.
Opposition parties, business lobbies and the Roman Catholic Church were among the opponents who lined up against Chavez, calling the proposed changes authoritarian.
"This was a photo finish," Chavez said immediately after the vote, adding that his respect for the results proved that, unlike past Venezuelan governments, he respects the will of the people.
He said he would "continue in the battle to build socialism" and told his supporters: "Don't feel sad".
Chavez publicly congratulated the opposition and urged restraint from both sides.
"I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory," he said. "You won it. I wouldn't have wanted that Pyrrhic victory."
Tensions had surged in recent weeks as university students led protests and occasionally clashed with police and pro-Chavez supporters.
George Ciccariello, an expert on Venezuela with the University of California at Berkeley in the US, said there had been "a great deal of disinformation" about Chavez's campaign prior to the vote.
"There were rumors, there was pamphleteering, there was printing false copies of the reform proposal.
"That said, though, Chavez really took a hit on this in terms of his moderate supporters not turning up to vote."
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 08:23:09 pm and is filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”
Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.
But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”
The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the document was being made public “since our understanding of Iran’s capabilities has changed.”
Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings about the Iranian threat, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were secretly concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons work halted years ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was working.
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, portrayed the assessment as “directly challenging some of this administration’s alarming rhetoric about the threat posed by Iran.” He said he hoped the administration “appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy,” and called for a “a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”
But the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes.
“It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has been trying to do,” Mr. Hadley said.
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program — an estimate that led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the report’s conclusions turned out to be wrong.
Intelligence officials said that the specter of the botched 2002 N.I.E. hung over their deliberations over the Iran assessment, leading them to treat the document with particular caution.
“We felt that we needed to scrub all the assessments and sources to make sure we weren’t misleading ourselves,” said one senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 06:30:23 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Amira Hass
Original Hebrew: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/928977.html
Khaled rarely takes his children to the village of his birth in the western part of the West Bank, south of Qalqilya. It`s hard for him to sit on the roof of his parents` home and from there look out at the family land (about 500 meters away) without being able to reach it. This land had always been a kind of insurance; security for a continuing income, where all the brothers and sisters worked and from which they all benefited. It guaranteed respite from the urban crowd and was also a kind of savings and security for a time of need - sickness, heaven forbid; or higher education for the grandchildren. It was always possible to sell a dunam or to build on it in order to realize a dream.
Between the roof and the promise, between him and the 20 dunams that remained in the family`s possession, was the separation fence, an ugly scar of high fencing, barbed wire, and wide strips of exposed earth where a row of trees had been uprooted and whose absence remains painful like the stump of a missing limb.
The roof of his childhood home is Khaled`s Mount Nevo. He sees the promised land so close and cannot reach it. Staff of the Civil Authority take care to create lengthy, complicated bureaucratic procedures for Palestinians to try to gain periodic entrance permits to reach the private lands beyond the fence. By the time the processes are understood, they change, and the criteria become yet more restricted.
The result: parents get entrance permits to their land, but they can`t work the land alone. Children and grandchildren can get permits but not as members of the family, only as hired workers. Such permits are limited to a small number of days, and they are not suited to those who have regular jobs elsewhere. Moreover, the very necessity of requesting a permit to reach the family property - all that only if you can prove you have a justifiable reason for wanting to be on your own land - is so infuriating that they give up without trying.
In the West Bank there are about two million Khaleds. In every village and city many families have land that Israel prevents them from reaching, like land in area C (60% of the West Bank), by means of the separation barrier, security roads of Jewish settlements, settlements built on part of the land that blocks access to the land that hasn`t been confiscated, roads that are forbidden to Palestinian travel, closed military areas, army camps, or army road blocks.
Every Palestinian has their own Mount Nevo, from which they see the land, which has as much emotional as material value, being taken away from them. When a fire breaks out, as has happened more than once on the land of Kafin, it`s impossible to reach it and put out the fire in time. If one wants to grow vegetables, it`s impossible to irrigate them because the well is in the part of the private land that has been confiscated for the use of the nearby settlement, as was the case with Abu Fahmi from Dir Istiya. And when settlers occupy the land, it`s impossible to get rid of them, as was the case with the land belonging to the Kadan family from El Bireh when youths from Bet El turned their private property into a place of worship. The Civil Administration did remove the settlers from this intrusion, but in any case the army does not allow the Palestinians to come there. The result is the same: the land cannot be used.
The Israeli government is praised for its vision of two states for two peoples, apparently adopted by its leaders and brought by them to Annapolis. But Israel refuses to commit to a time table for implementing the vision. Meanwhile, its faithful messengers in the army and in the Civil authority and the settlers as well hold ongoing one-sided negotiations on the fate and shape of the future Palestinian state. They are doing everything to ensure that millions of dunams of land, the land reserve of the future Palestinian state, will not be returned to its lawful owners. They cause more and more land to be seen as abandoned land or what is known in Israeli Orwellian as absentee property, that is, land that the state of the Jewish people has learned to pronounce as being state owned in practice.
This entry was posted on Dec 02, 2007 at 11:00:37 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Islamic Jihad leader: Hamas and Fatah to meet in Cairo
GAZA, Palestine _ Islamic Jihad leader Khalid al-Batsh revealed to Ma'an on Sunday that there will be talks in Cairo between all Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah rivals in attempts to bring to an end the interim inter-Palestinian crisis.
He added that Islamic Jihad is exerting every effort to bring about dialogue in Cairo and Mecca, aimed at ending the political stalemate in the Palestinian territories.
He said Islamic Jihad is in the centre of the political spectrum between both Hamas and Fatah, despite the clashes with Hamas forces which have resulted in the deaths of some Islamic Jihad members.
This is the full interview with Khalid Al-Batsh:
Q: After six months of Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip, is there any progress towards dialogue to end this state of emergency?
A: Islamic Jihad has always announced its opposition to the conflict and we consider its outcome unacceptable. Consequently, we demand the resumption of dialogue so as to change this bitter situation and unite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under one Palestinian government which serves the Palestinian interests. To achieve this, both Hamas and Fatah have to stop sedition campaigns and halt night attacks against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian people can not remain hostages of rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. We have to end this state of division in order to counter the major danger of the Israeli occupation.
Q: Do we expect Arab countries such as Egypt, which previously patronized this dialogue, to play a role again?
A: Before we talk about Egypt, we have to pinpoint that Islamic Jihad is conducting ongoing high level contact between Hamas and Fatah to end the crisis.
These efforts are always enhanced by the Popular and the Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine among other factions. We realize that real dialogue can only be held in Cairo and Mecca, because Egypt and Saudi Arabia have played major roles in the past to reconcile between Hamas and Fatah. However, Islamic Jihad should take the initiative and take the first step towards dialogue.
I believe countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will play a significant role in reconciliation, and we might see, in the near future, meetings in Cairo between the Palestinian factions aimed at ending the state of division in the Palestinian political arena.
Q: The Annapolis conference is over, and you were worried about its results. What are you afraid of now after the conference?
A: First of all, the conference gave the Palestinians nothing. When we said it was not expected to be beneficial to the Palestinians, some said it would give them a state. There was no state declared neither was the embargo lifted. The Arab peace initiative, which Islamic Jihad had rejected, was not accredited either. The conference might have been an opportunity for economic relations between Israel and the Arab states.
We were included in the conference's front page, but when it came to reality, the conference discussed issues such as attacking Iran, Hezbollah and Syria in addition to preparing to invade the Gaza Strip.
Q: What is your stance towards the Fatah-Hamas dispute?
Frankly speaking, we do not side with one party against the other. We are against one government in the Gaza Strip and another in the West Bank, because this is against the interests of the Palestinian people. Consequently, we reject the practices of the Hamas-affiliated police forces in the Gaza Strip and those of the Fatah-affiliated police in Ramallah. We are part of the solution, but not part of the crisis.
Q: There have been several problems between you and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, then things calmed down. Have you reached an agreement?
The troubles with Hamas in the Gaza Strip harmed us as we lost many of our loved ones. However, we endeavored to contain the crisis and hoped it would not be repeated again. We reached agreement banning confrontations as we preach the same Islamic ideology and we do not wish to control ministries or security services. We have a joint scheme, which is resistance which we endeavor to keep away from in-fighting.
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Olmert says Israel will make "an effort" to hold talks speedily but "no commitment" to the deadline [AFP]
Less than a week after agreeing to work towards a peace deal with Palestinians by December 2008, the Israeli prime minister has told his cabinet that he will not be bound by the deadline.
"We will make an effort to hold speedy negotiations in the hope we may conclude by the end of 2008, but certainly there is no commitment for a firm timetable for their completion," Ehud Olmert said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Launching the first formal peace talks in seven years at the Middle East conference in the American city of Annapolis last week, Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, agreed to try to reach a deal on creating a Palestinian state by the end of next year.
Speaking at the first cabinet meeting since Annapolis, however, Olmert urged caution.
In an apparent hint to right-wing coalition partners that he was not planning concessions without a reciprocal move from the Palestinians, Olmert said any progress on peace would depend on adhering to commitments under a stalled US peace "road map".
"The most important thing in the joint statement is that ... any agreement that we reach in the future will be dependent on completion of all road map commitments.
"In other words, Israel will not have to implement any commitment which emanates from the agreement before all the road map commitments have been met," he said.
UN draft withdrawn
Olmert's comments came after the US withdrew a draft United Nations resolution endorsing action agreed to at Annapolis.
Although Israel apparently had no problems with the uncontroversial text, it said a resolution was inappropriate.
Analysts suggested it was worried a formal resolution would get the UN too involved in Middle East conflict resolution efforts.
The 2003 US road map provides benchmarks that include a freeze of Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, as well as a Palestinian crackdown on armed groups.
Both sides accuse the other of not meeting those benchmarks.
Israel has said it will release about 430 Palestinian prisoners on Monday as part of efforts to bolster Abbas against political rivals Hamas which seized the Gaza Strip in June and rejected the Annapolis talks and agreement.
On Sunday, Israeli artillery fire killed one Palestinian fighter and wounded five others in the Gaza Strip, Hamas said.
Hours earlier, three Israeli soldiers were injured by a mortar.
The Israeli military confirmed that it had fired on "suspicious silhouettes approaching the security barrier" and that three of its soldiers "were lightly wounded … by a mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip".
Israel regularly launches raids into Gaza to try to stop rockets from being fired at Israeli towns and said on Sunday it had stepped up attacks in the coastal strip in the past week.
A statement said Ehud Barak, the defence minister, had told ministers he had authorised more military action in Gaza, including the targeting of "manned military Hamas targets".
Barak said Israel had killed 22 fighters in the past week.
Israel also reduced the amount of fuel allowed into the coastal strip last month.
The move - which Israeli said was in response to the rocket salvoes - has left most Gaza petrol stations closed and brought traffic almost to a halt.
Mahmoud al-Khuzundar, the chairman of the society of petrol company owners, said on Sunday that "cooking gas will run out within days and cars will stop within hours".
This entry was posted on Dec 02, 2007 at 09:08:54 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
Just one small problem with this analysis - it's a total fabrication. There was no deadline; there was merely the agreement to try to reach an agreement by the end of next year.
Actually, there are lots more problems with this absurd article; basically, it's absurd in its entirety.
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Chavez says the constitutional changes are vital
to his "21st century socialism"
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, will face his stiffest challenge in years when voters decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would greatly expand his powers.
An emboldened opposition and recent violent clashes during street protests have created fears of a potentially volatile dispute if Sunday's vote is close.
Chavez has warned opponents he will not tolerate attempts to stir up violence, and threatened to cut off all oil exports if the US interferes in the referendum.
Reiterating a threat made on Saturday, he said: "There will be no oil for anyone, and the price per barrel will go up to $200 dollars."
The United States remains the number one buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Chavez says the changes are vital for his plans for "21st century socialism," and labels those who resist it pawns of the US president.
While the government has touted polls showing Chavez ahead, other surveys cited by the opposition have indicated strong resistance, which would present a challenge for a leader who won re-election last year with 63 per cent of the vote.
Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster, said tracking polls by his firm Datanalisis in the past week show the vote is too close to predict.
Which side wins will depend largely on turnout among Chavez's supporters and opponents, he said.
"Chavez is a very popular president still and he is counting on his own personal appeal to get the vote out in his favour"
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera
Send us your views
"If he wins by a very small margin, that's a scenario filled with conflict," Leon said.
"In a country where there are high levels of mistrust between the camps, it's obvious the opposition ... would think it was fraud."
The opposition has called for close monitoring of the results, raising tensions ahead of a vote on changes that would extend presidential terms from six to seven years, create new forms of communal property, and let Chavez seek re-election in 2012 and beyond.
About 100 electoral observers from 39 countries in Latin America, Europe and the US are on hand, plus hundreds of Venezuelan observers, the National Electoral Council said.
Chavez has accused his opponents of plotting to discredit the legitimate results of what he says will be a "knockout" at the polls, saying his enemies enjoy support from Washington.
Manuel Rosales, a Venezuelan opposition leader and the governor of Zulia state, recalled before a crowd of supporters on Friday night that he conceded defeat in the 2006 presidential race and urged Chavez to do the same and "recognize the will of the people".
On Saturday, Chavez lashed out at Spain, threatening to seize Venezuela's Spanish-owned banks, unless the Spanish king apologises for telling him to "shut up" earlier this month.
"Spanish companies go away, we really don't need them," he said during a news conference at the presidential palace.
The United States is the number one buyer
of Venezuelan oil [AFP]
Some 140,000 soldiers and reservists were to be posted to maintain security during the vote, the defence ministry said.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with university students lead protests and at times clashed with police and Chavista groups.
On Monday, one man was shot dead while trying to get through a road blocked by protesters.
Chavez, who has become Latin America's most outspoken antagonist of Washington since he was elected in 1998, has sought to capitalise on his personal popularity ahead of the vote.
He is seen by many supporters as a champion of the poor who has redistributed more oil wealth than any other leader in memory.
Opponents, including Roman Catholic leaders, press freedom groups, human rights groups and prominent business leaders, fear the reforms would grant Chavez unchecked power and threaten basic rights.
The changes would grant Chavez direct control over the Central Bank, allow his government to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency, and empower the president to redraw the country's political map and handpick provincial and municipal leaders.
Other proposed changes - such as shortening the workday from eight hours to six, creating a social security fund for millions of informal labourers and promoting communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds - have been welcomed by suuporters.
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In its latest trick, Israel is using the idea of a Palestinian state to ethnically cleanse itself and to keep its illegal settlements, marvels Saleh Al-Naami
Dismissed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh speaks at the beginning of a meeting of the sacked government at his office in Gaza; Palestinian youth demonstrate in support of their leader Mahmoud Abbas, near the Kalandia checkpoint; US President George W Bush shakes hands with Palestinian President Abbas; Palestinian demonstrators with chained hands protest in Gaza (photos: AFP)
The Israeli vice premier and minister of strategic threats (officially strategic affairs) Avigdor Lieberman doesn't let any opportunity pass without mentioning that the positions of the extreme right Israel Beituna Party that he heads have come to form a central "national" consensus in Israel. Lieberman does not conceal his relief that more parties and political movements in Israel have begun to adopt his party's position calling for the implementation of a land swap between Israel and a Palestinian state. In such a swap, the Palestinian leadership is supposed to agree to Israel annexing the major settlement conglomerations in the West Bank in return for annexing to a Palestinian state some of the residential areas in Israel in which the Palestinians live.
Lieberman has stressed that through this proposal Israel would achieve two strategic goals -- ridding itself of the Palestinian demographic burden within Israel, and at the same time wrenching agreement from the Palestinian leadership to annex settlement conglomerations in the West Bank to Israel. As Lieberman has clarified, the proposal is not a peace plan but rather a security plan, for he is concerned with the establishment of a Palestinian state on the condition that it contribute to solving Israel's demographic "problem". He fears Israel turning into a "bi-national" state if the natural growth of Palestinians within Israel continues as its current high rate.
More parties and political forces, both on the right and left, have become enthused over this idea of swapping land. Ephraim Sneh, a leader in the Labour Party and former Israeli deputy defence minister, holds that swapping land is the best solution to guaranteeing that "Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state". Even Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni has noted on more than one occasion that she is enthusiastic about the idea.
The idea of swapping land was first introduced during the Camp David II meeting in late 1999, when former US President Bill Clinton suggested that the Jewish settlement conglomerations remain under Israeli sovereignty while part of the resident-free Israeli area Halwasa be annexed to the Gaza Strip. This proposal was rejected by late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.
On the eve of the Annapolis conference, talk of land swapping increased, becoming a primary component of all the proposals put forth by Israeli officials. Yet no one in Israel is now proposing that Palestinians receive the Halwasa area; they are only offering some of the areas within Israel in which Palestinians reside to be exchanged for settlement conglomerations. The idea is fervently supported among researchers and the military elite in Tel Aviv. Gideon Begher, a professor of geography at Tel Aviv University, says that the idea of swapping land is alone capable of guaranteeing a Jewish majority while at the same time increasing the area of Jewish settlement. Begher says that swapping land between Israel and the Palestinian state would mean that Israel would rid itself of 200,000 Palestinians living within it.
Yet a close look at the map of the regions Israel is prepared to concede to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in exchange for settlement conglomerations shows that they include the city of Um Al-Faham and a group of towns and villages around it. This city is considered the stronghold of the Islamist movement in Israel under the leadership of Sheikh Raed Salah. The Israeli security agencies have concurred that this movement forms a "strategic threat" to Israel because it is an overtly religious movement and the one most extreme in its rejection of the "Jewish state". It calls for the boycott of Israel's "political institutions", defence of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and support of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in their struggle against the occupation.
From another perspective, the idea of swapping land is completely in keeping with Israel's demand that the PA acknowledge it as a Jewish state. As the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said, this acknowledgement would mean that the PA agreed that settlement of the conflict must ensure a continued Jewish majority in Israel, and would oblige the PA to give up implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they migrated from. It would also necessarily decrease the Palestinian presence within Israel.
Yet beyond the enthusiasm of officials and the elite in Israel for the idea of a land swap, what is the position of the PA? The Palestinian stance on this issue is hazy and sometimes contradictory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Palestinian negotiations delegation Ahmed Qurei have announced that they reject the idea of swapping land. Yet the Israeli officials who have communicated with PA representatives affirm that the PA has indicated preliminary agreement to the idea. On 22 November, Israeli television Channel 2 revealed that in the discussions held between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations on the eve of travelling to the Annapolis conference, it had been agreed that the idea of a land swap between the two parties should be a part of the permanent solution to the conflict. The station added that the understanding between the two sides regarding a Palestinian state included a paragraph stating the "establishment of an unarmed Palestinian state whose borders are those determined by 1967 maps, with agreement on the borders' details based on security needs, demographic developments, and humanitarian requirements, which will open the door to a swapping of land at a 1:1 ratio, with preservation of the settlement blocs within Israel".
But what about the opinion of the Palestinians within Israel, who will be the primary victims of this idea of a land swap? Israeli Knesset member Jamal Zehalqa holds that the insistence of Israeli officials in proposing this idea aims to weaken the Palestinian minority within Israel and do away with its political role, marginalising its effect on decision-making circles in Tel Aviv. "We absolutely cannot accept this deal," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Can we accept exchanging Jerusalem for Um Al-Faham?" Zehalqa added that if they were insistent on the idea, then its basis should be a return to the 1947 borders, which would mean that Israel would withdraw from expansive areas in the Galilee and Triangle regions, which would be annexed to a Palestinian state.
Wadi Al-Awaadeh, editor-in-chief of the website arabs48.com that covers developments among the Palestinian minority within Israel, says that he rejects the principle of equating himself as a Palestinian citizen living within Israel with settlers. "We are the landowners; we were born and raised on our land," he told the Weekly. "Merely proposing this idea is an indication of Israel's racism, for it is prepared to divest citizenship from us as Arabs merely to grant legitimacy to the annexations of angry settlers." Al-Awaadeh pointed out an extremely important point, that Israel only proposes transferring land that Palestinian citizens live on, without transferring the agricultural land they own or other land the occupation authorities previously confiscated. "What about the social connections between people here?" he asked. "When they want to annex Um Al-Faham city to a Palestinian state, how can communications continue between the residents of this city and their relatives in other cities and residential areas that remain within Israel?"
Abdul-Hakm Mufid, a Palestinian academic who lives in Um Al-Faham, says that with regard to the principle he has no objection to living under the rule of a Palestinian state or any other Arab rule, but that he notes that the Israelis wanted to get rid of the demographic "burden" that the Palestinian minority creates. "Since the Zionist movement began to implement its settlement endeavour, it has stuck to the rule that control must be taken of the largest area of land with the smallest number of Arabs," he told the Weekly. "This rule has driven the Israeli leadership to propose the idea of swapping land."
There is no dispute between Mufid, Al-Awaadeh, and Zehalqa that the PA is responsible to a large degree for Israel daring to propose this idea they describe as "racist". "Despite the reassurances of Abu Mazen that the idea will be rejected, I hear other voices within the PA supporting the idea," said Zehalqa. Al-Awaadeh and Mufid hold that the PA is considered the "full partner" of Israel in its attempts to deny the Palestinians their rights.
Shalom Dichter, general director of the Sikway organisation, one concerned with dialogue between Jews and Palestinians within Israel, holds that the idea of swapping land and including it within the settlement to the conflict between the Palestinian people and Israel will destroy relations between Israel and the Palestinian minority living within it. "This will lead to transforming the dream of political peace into a civil nightmare," he says. "The insistence of Israeli officials in proposing such ideas to get rid of Palestinian citizens because of their ethnic affiliation casts doubt on the extent to which officials and the drafters of political plans in Israel understand the essence of the concept of citizenship as the basic humanitarian building block of a state," he continues.
In sum, Israel wants to employ a potential Palestinian state to implement a "demographic and geographic transfer" through which it could rid itself of the greatest number possible of the Palestinians and their descendants who remained on territory claimed by Israel in 1948.
This entry was posted on Dec 01, 2007 at 07:00:32 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Serene Assir joins the Axis of Evil
Standing before a mixed but mainly Egyptian audience of at least 500, Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed mixes self- mockery with ridicule of global racism: "Arabs, we're the new black. Finally we get the lack of respect we deserve." The audience explodes into laughter, enthralled, as they identify with the politicised stand-up craze from Hollywood: Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.
Held at the Sawy Culture Wheel, the show is part of a Middle East tour covering Cairo, Amman, Dubai and Beirut and sponsored by Showtime Arabia. In Egypt it is presented by Ahmed who, energetic yet composed, instantly holds the attention of a predominantly young audience of bilinguals aware of the tension of being an Arab in the West. Recounting anecdotes based on personal experience, Ahmed pokes fun at his name, noting how common it is in Egypt as he points up the terror it inspires at United States and European airports, where it instantly raises the suspicion that its bearer is affiliated to Al-Qaeda. "I hate flying because my name's on nine lists," he says. "I Googled my name and it matches the name of a guy in the Middle East who's a terrorist. I think he's in the Middle East Googling me, going, 'There is this guy in America, man.' People go up to him to tell him, 'Hey man, you're so funny, tell me a joke.' 'I'm not the comedian! I'm a terrorist! You want me to prove it to you?'"
Then he goes on to introduce the cast members: Aron Kader (or Haroun Abu Khudeir) and Maz Jobrani, of Palestinian and Iranian origin, respectively, among others. He also describes the crew's name, Axis of Evil, as a response to US President George W Bush's 2002 characterisation of Iran, Syria and North Korea. "We looked for a North Korean, but we didn't find anyone," says Ahmed. Instead, Wonho Chung, from South Korea comes on stage, appearing timid and speaking only Korean to begin with. Encouraged by applause, Chung takes the microphone and gets ready to say something -- only to break into song in Arabic, followed by jokes in a hybrid of the Jordanian and Egyptian dialects (in honour of the Egyptian audience), which describe his experiences growing up in Amman.
For his part Kader, whose Palestinian father is from Shafat just south of Jerusalem and whose mother is a Mormon from the US, makes fun of how Palestinian events will always at some point feature a rendition of the dabka -- performing a warped version of the dance. Kader's humour is less pointedly political than Ahmed's and by spending most of his act making fun of male-female relations and the differences between how the two genders communicate, he manages to make it somewhat more universal. It seems he can't resist pulling a post-11 September mood joke though, suggesting that he will name his son Al, so that said son can be called Al "Kaidah", and his daughter, well -- Darth.
Finally Jobrani, who comes on stage to perform the highly energetic finale, combines charged politics with elements of the absurd. "There are Iranians in the US who don't want to be associated with Iran," he says. "They choose to call themselves Persian. 'I am Perrrrsian, like the cat, soft, you can pat me, miaoo.'" Particularly with an imminent strike on Iran, and with the historically tense Egyptian-Iranian relations, his presence on stage in Egypt is dramatic in its own way -- and he acknowledges this. He makes a point of differentiating between Iranians and Arabs, a difference which he points out many Americans ignore. Then he jumps back into the realm of the absurd by mimicking the difference in how Arabs and Iranians speak English. Absurd though his mimicry may be, the placement of the jokes in today's context is subtle and deeply striking.
In all, it appears that there is more than one goal that the Axis of Evil are seeking collectively to fulfil. Perhaps the key concept underlying their shows is the search for intercultural communication. "Like food, or music, comedy is a way to reach out and establish universality," Ahmed told Al-Ahram Weekly. By playing so heavily with stereotypes and images, the show also tactically deconstructs them, supplanting them with a new understanding of who the people with origins in the Middle East region really are.
"Americans have a very limited understanding of what happens beyond their borders. Very few of them even travel," he added.
Indeed, by performing in the Arab world, Axis of Evil are working to challenge that very lack of awareness. Showtime Arabia is documenting the shows and their journey, and the film will be aired in the US. "It's an interesting message," show-goer and teaching assistant at Misr International University Mahitab Khalil told the Weekly. "They want to show us Arabs to the Americans; they want to show them how hard we can laugh and enjoy ourselves."
But at a deeper level, a process of self-exploration is also going on, admittedly in different ways, among the Axis of Evil cast members. "For us, it's therapeutic to perform," Kader said. "We laugh at our own reality. That's why we find audiences are receptive -- because it's their reality too." Kader believes strongly in overt politically critical humour, while Ahmed feels he mustn't lose sight of the key purpose of his craft, which is entertainment. In this sense, the group's search for new comedians in the Arab world bore fruit through a series of auditions held in the various cities along their route, featuring budding stars aged as young as 12. "We found several who were good, and one who was a gem," said Ahmed, sad that so much talent is so often untapped in times as trying as these for the Arab world.
But for Kader, criticism emanates from a sense of responsibility. Speaking to the Weekly, he by no means appeared unaware of the risks involved. "People who go out there and are pro-war, they never get into trouble," he said, with his near- constant smile briefly fading. "It's all the anti-war people -- Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gandhi -- it's these people who get shot down."
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Foreign Terror Suspects Tell of Torture
By Craig Whitlock
Saturday, December 1, 2007; A01
AMMAN, Jordan -- Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of this city has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.
The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan's powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.
In most of the cases, the spy center served as a covert way station for CIA prisoners captured in other countries. It was a place where they could be hidden after being arrested and kept for a few days or several months before being moved on to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or CIA prisons elsewhere in the world.
Others were arrested while transiting through Jordan, including two detained during stopovers at Amman's international airport. Another prisoner, a microbiology student captured in Pakistan in the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has not been seen since he was flown to Amman on a CIA plane six years ago.
The most recent case to come to light involved a Palestinian detainee, Marwan al-Jabour, who was transferred to Jordan last year from a CIA-run secret prison, then released several weeks later in the Gaza Strip.
The General Intelligence Department, or GID, is perhaps the CIA's most trusted partner in the Arab world. The Jordanian agency has received money, training and equipment from the CIA for decades and even has a public English-language Web site. The relationship has deepened in recent years, with U.S. officials praising their Jordanian counterparts for the depth of their knowledge regarding al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, however, the GID was attractive for another reason, according to former U.S. counterterrorism officials and Jordanian human rights advocates. Its interrogators had a reputation for persuading tight-lipped suspects to talk, even if that meant using abusive tactics that could violate U.S. or international law.
"I was kidnapped, not knowing anything of my fate, with continuous torture and interrogation for the whole of two years," Al-Haj Abdu Ali Sharqawi, a Guantanamo prisoner from Yemen, recounted in a written account of his experiences in Jordanian custody. "When I told them the truth, I was tortured and beaten."
Sharqawi was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, in February 2002 in a joint Pakistani-U.S. operation. Although the Guantanamo Bay prison had just opened, the CIA flew him instead to Amman, where he was imprisoned for 19 months, according to his account and flight records. He was later taken to another CIA-run secret prison, his statement says, before he was finally moved to Guantanamo in February 2004.
Sharqawi said he was threatened with sexual abuse and electrocution while in Jordan. He also said he was hidden from officials of the International Committee for the Red Cross during their visits to inspect Jordanian prisons.
"I was told that if I wanted to leave with permanent disability both mental and physical, that that could be arranged," Sharqawi said in his April 2006 statement, which was released by a London-based attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Guantanamo inmates. "They said they had all the facilities of Jordan to achieve that. I was told that I had to talk, I had to tell them everything."
Bush administration officials have said they do not hand over terrorism suspects to countries that are likely to abuse them. For several years, however, the State Department has cited widespread allegations of torture by Jordan's security agencies in its annual report cards on human rights.
Independent monitors have become increasingly critical of Jordan's record. Since 2006, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued reports on abuses in Jordan, often singling out the General Intelligence Department.
Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.
In a report released in January 2007, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator for torture, found that "the practice of torture is routine" at GID headquarters and concluded "that there is total impunity for torture and ill-treatment in the country."
Officials with the GID did not respond to a letter seeking an interview for this article. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also did not respond to interview requests.
The CIA declined to comment on its relationship with the GID but defended in general the covert transfer of terrorism suspects to other countries, a practice known as rendition.
"The United States does not transfer individuals to any country if it believes they will be tortured there," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman. "Setting aside the myths, rendition is, in fact, a lawful, effective tool that has been used over the years on a very limited scale, and is designed to take terrorists off the street."
'In Jordan, Nobody Asks'
Immediately after Sept. 11, the CIA had nowhere to hold terrorism suspects it had captured abroad. The military prison at Guantanamo did not open until January 2002. And it took the CIA until the spring of 2002 to get its own network of secret overseas prisons up and running.
Short on options, the CIA sought help from its counterparts in Jordan. Soon, CIA airplanes began carrying prisoners to Amman.
Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni microbiology student, was captured in a U.S.-Pakistani operation in Karachi a few weeks after 9/11 on suspicion of helping to finance al-Qaeda operations. Witnesses reported seeing masked men take him aboard a Gulfstream V jet at the Karachi airport Oct. 24, 2001.
Records show that the plane was chartered by a CIA front company and that it flew directly to Amman. Mohammed has not been seen since. Amnesty International said it has asked the Jordanian government for information on his whereabouts but has not received an answer.
About the same time, Jamal Alawi Mari, another Yemeni citizen, was apprehended at his home in Karachi by Pakistani and U.S. agents. Records show that U.S. officials suspected him of working for Islamic charities that allegedly supported al-Qaeda.
Soon after, Mari was also flown by the CIA to Amman. "They never told me where I was going," he testified later before a U.S. military tribunal. "I found out later I was in Jordan."
Mari said he was imprisoned for four months in Jordan, out of sight of visiting Red Cross officials. In early 2002, he was taken to Guantanamo and remains imprisoned there.
Defense lawyers and human rights advocates in Amman said it wasn't a surprise that the CIA turned to Jordan's security agency for assistance.
"In America, people will ask about any breach of the law," said Younis Arab, a lawyer who has represented a CIA prisoner brought to Jordan. "Here in Jordan, nobody asks. So the Americans get the Jordanians to do the dirty work."
Other Jordanian lawyers cited unconfirmed reports that the CIA had transferred high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders to Jordan for interrogation. Although hard evidence is elusive, some former inmates have reported being detained in the same wing as Ramzi Binalshibh, a key planner in the Hamburg cell that carried out the Sept. 11 hijackings, said Abdulkareem al-Shureidah, an Amman lawyer.
"He was detained in Jordanian jails, definitely," Shureidah said of Binalshibh, who was kept in CIA custody in undisclosed locations from the time of his capture in Karachi in September 2002 until September 2006, when he was transferred to Guantanamo. "The U.S. brought all kinds of persons here from around the world."
Samieh Khreis, an Amman lawyer who has represented former Guantanamo inmates from Jordan, said testimony by former prisoners and others in Jordan reinforced a long-held suspicion that the CIA ran a satellite operation inside headquarters of the General Intelligence Department.
"Of course they had a jail here, a secret jail -- of course, no question," he said. "If they were to put me in that GID building over there, in my mind, it might as well be an American jail."
Khreis said the Jordanian spy service has a well-deserved reputation for using dubious tactics to force confessions. But he said the CIA sent prisoners to Amman primarily to take advantage of the GID's knowledge of Islamic radical groups.
"Torture is not the main reason," he said.
A Flat Denial
On June 26, 2006, just after 6 p.m., Nowak, the U.N. investigator, paid a surprise visit to GID headquarters in Amman.
The Jordanian government had previously agreed to give Nowak carte blanche to inspect any prison in the country, with no preconditions and unfettered access to inmates. As a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Jordan was eager to win Nowak's seal of approval. GID officials permitted Nowak to tour its prison wing. But they refused to allow him to speak with prisoners in private. When Nowak asked about allegations that the CIA had used the building as a proxy jail, department officials said the reports were untrue.
"The response was just very flat, a simple denial, 'We don't know anything about that,' " Nowak recalled in an interview.
In interviews with former GID prisoners, Nowak said, he heard repeated, credible reports of inmates being subjected to electric shocks, sleep deprivation and various forms of beatings, including farruj and falaqa.
He said several inmates reported that their chief tormentor was Col. Ali Birjak, head of the GID's counterterrorism unit and one of the officials who had denied cooperating with the CIA. Based on those interviews, Nowak recommended in his report that Birjak be investigated by Jordanian authorities on torture charges.
In a written response to Nowak's findings on Oct. 10, 2006, the Jordanian government called the torture allegations "untrue" and noted that they were lodged by people with criminal records.
"It is common for prisoners to make false allegations about torture in a pathetic attempt to evade punishment and to influence the court," the government wrote.
In interviews with The Washington Post, however, former prisoners of the GID gave similar accounts of physical abuse.
Masaad Omer Behari, a Sudanese citizen, spent 86 days in the department's custody in early 2003 after he was arrested during a stopover at Amman's international airport.
Behari said his interrogators wanted to know about his activities in Vienna, where he had lived for more than a decade. He had been asked many of the same questions previously by the FBI and Austrian security officials about an alleged plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Vienna in 1998, he said, though he had denied any role and was never charged.
While he was in custody in Amman, Behari said, guards meted out a combination of falaqa and farruj. They struck the soles of his feet with batons while he was handcuffed and hanging upside down, then doused him with cold water and forced him to walk over a salt-strewn floor.
"I thought they were going to kill me," he said. "I said my prayers, thinking I was going to die."
Researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.
This entry was posted on Dec 01, 2007 at 06:27:32 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Hamas said the dead men had been
on a night patrol [Reuters[
Five Hamas fighters killed in an Israeli air raid have been buried in the Gaza Strip.
Several other people were wounded in the attack near the town of Khan Younis early on Saturday morning.
The Israeli army has killed 11 people in Gaza since Tuesday, when the Annapolis peace initiative started in the United States.
Israel, which carries out regular assaults on Gaza against fighters launching homemade rockets into Israel, said they began the raid after identifying armed men near the border.
Hamas said the dead men, members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, its armed wing, had been on a night patrol.
Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel have increased since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June.
Israel responded by largely closing off the territory and its 1.5 million people from the outside world.
It began reducing fuel supplies to Gaza last month and plans to begin scaling back electricity from Sunday.
Israel's supreme court ruled on Friday that the Israeli government can continue cutting fuel supplies to residents of Gaza but must postpone the planned electricity cut.
The ruling was in response to a legal challenge from a coalition of human rights groups that claims the policy constitutes collective punishment.
Gaza is dependent on Israel for all of its fuel and about half its electricity.
In January 2006, Hamas were democraticaly elected following Palestinian parliamentary elections in which they took 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber.
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The US draft resolution was written after Bush, right, met Israeli and Palestinian leaders [AFP]
The United States has withdrawn a resolution it presented to the UN Security Council endorsing the relaunch of Middle East peace talks agreed in Annapolis, Maryland.
US officials did not give a reason for Friday's move but diplomats indicated that Israel, which is a close ally of Washington, did not want the UN involved in the process.
"We looked at this matter, talked about it and at the end of the day the secretary [of state Condoleezza Rice] believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak by themselves," Sean McCormack, US state department spokesman, said.
The US draft said the council "endorses the programme of action for negotiations and implementation of outstanding obligations ... agreed upon by the Israeli and Palestinian leadership at Annapolis, Maryland on November 27, 2007".
"It's not the proper venue," Daniel Carmon, Israel's deputy ambassador, said after Friday's council meeting.
"We feel that the appreciation of Annapolis has other means of being expressed than in a resolution."
Carmon said that the US had told Israel that the Palestinians also objected to the draft.
Another Israeli diplomat said his government considered the relaunch of the peace process to be solely a matter between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Friday that he did not know the details of the draft resolution but that he saw it as a sign of Wasington's seriousness.
"This means, if what we have learned is verified, that there are serious steps that speak to the existence of an American position supporting the negotiations," he said in Tunisia.
On Thursday, after the session at which the draft was submitted, Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN, said Security Council members intended to discuss the text with the parties involved.
His comments appeared to suggest that Israel and the Palestinians had not been consulted before the text was drafted.
After the draft resolution was withdrawn, Riyad Mansour, UN permanent representative for Palestine, said: "We were supportive of a reaction of the Security Council to support what came out from Annapolis in any form."
George Bush, US president, brought together Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister and Abbas at Annapolis on Tuesday in a bid to restart the Middle East peace process.
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Bush's peace meeting is nothing but an empty orgy of rhetoric, writes Azmi Bishara
By Asmi Bishara
Bush's brilliant brainstorm to hold a meaningless, lustreless peace conference is like dry lightning, which brings not the prayed for rain. The US administration needed something to prove that its policy towards the Arab region was not a drastic failure. It came up with nothing better than to restage the Madrid peace conference that was engineered by James Baker, secretary of state under Bush's father. For some reason, Republicans regard the Bush Sr-Baker policy following the war in Kuwait a success story worthy of commemoration and emulation. So we have a conference, today, that has brought the Arabs to Washington, flushed with gratitude to the imperial grace for bestowing its attention again upon the Palestinian cause.
Over the years, Arab officialdom and its entourage has adopted such terms and concepts as "the peace process," "the process," "the priority [high or low] that the US administration has accorded to the Palestinian cause," "giving impetus to diplomatic efforts," and even "the Bush vision". What all these terms and concepts have in common is that they are disseminated as positive values, in their own right, for their purported ability to inspire hope and budge stagnant waters. Another common virtue is their ability to sideline substance and to promote the veneration of form (the "process" and "priority on the agenda"). They also presume the public's recurrent and total amnesia with respect to the very history of these terms, which their proponents never tire of repeating. As for people who venture to ask "But why?" and "To what end?" they are scoffed at as naïve and babbling children.
True, international conferences are historic events. But as Karl Marx observed with respect to Napoleon III, some historical events are repeated twice, once as tragedy and the second time as farce. Madrid set the scene for the formulation of negotiating tracks and the tragedy of Oslo, to which the Palestinian cause is still held hostage. With Annapolis, the curtains opened to farce. At first people thought that it was to be a conference, only to learn that it was to be an assembly. Then it was billed as a "meeting" and, finally, as an inauguration of a peace process, which is to say a negotiating process. But Madrid, too, turned out to be the inauguration of a negotiating process. How many negotiating process inaugurations can there be? How many times must pompous speeches, embellished with quotes from the Torah, inlaid with Quranic verses, bespangled with references to "our common father Abraham" and to the step- siblings Isaac and Ishmael, be delivered to specially prepared over air-conditioned halls crammed with delegations and journalists, all anticipating nothing, dying of boredom and passing their time pondering how they're going to recast the dullest, most innocuous ramblings into speeches that were "profound," "cohesive," "eloquent" or otherwise? What have the Arabs done from Madrid to the present day? They've negotiated. Why do we need another rhetoric orgy to introduce more of the same? Your guess is as good as mine. Of course, some say, or maintain (for those who think that the subject requires a soberer tongue that is not pressed into the cheek), that this time negotiations will be serious about creating a Palestinian state, that we are inaugurating a serious phase in the negotiations, that what we'll be seeing in the next eight months will make all the negotiations that have taken place up to now look like child's play. At least so the Palestinian negotiators promise themselves, even as Olmert counters this promise with the promise that he will not be bound to any timetable or deadline for concluding negotiations over a permanent solution.
The Palestinians and Israelis have reached no understanding with regard to the status of Jerusalem, borders or dismantling Israeli settlements. On the Palestinian right to return, on the other hand, they've made no small amount of headway -- towards the Palestinian and Arab official abnegation of the exercise of that right. This was done by turning a non-subject -- the Jewishness of the state of Israel -- into a negotiating issue on par with all the others, such as Jerusalem, the refugees, borders and settlements.
There is also a quasi consensus over Bush's "vision". Essentially the same as the earlier "Sharon vision", it is a formula for bartering away all once "non-negotiable" Palestinian rights in exchange for a Palestinian political entity to be governed after an age or two by a Palestinian elite after it does its part of fighting "terrorism". That political entity, to be termed a state, will not be territorially defined by pre-June 1967 boundaries. Its creation will not be accompanied by the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and by the dismantlement of major Israeli settlements. It will not exercise sovereignty over Arab Jerusalem although it may possibly be able to extend citizenship to Arabs in Jerusalem who may possibly be able to retain their residence there. There may also possibly be some provision for easy access to key holy sites. It is a rosy dream for those who dream of ruling a state, a nightmare for anyone who still clings to the justice of the Palestinian cause.
In all events, before this dream comes to pass, negotiators will have to gather and hammer it together. But first, America needs some fanfare: a Bush-Rice-Blair-Republican Party fete to celebrate their stunning success, at last, in getting a peace conference off the ground, while the Palestinians in Gaza, the Lebanese and the Iraqis are living a very real nightmare.
But the Annapolis meeting was not just borne of American yearning for a PR coup but also of the need to cater to the position of Arab moderates. These have toed the American line on all issues and on every occasion and have not once quibbled with Washington since the neo- conservatives stopped meddling in their domestic affairs. Now is the time for the US to reward them by offering something on the "peace process". But once again, they are going to Washington instead of making Washington come to them. Olmert offered no good-faith initiatives and he was supported in this by Israeli public opinion, the majority of which refuses to discuss final status issues, even if a 65 to 75 per cent majority supported Israeli attendance at Annapolis and negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians. Washington made no attempt to call Olmert on his lack of cooperativeness and eventually it became very awkward for "moderate" Arabs to even consider attending a conference that was supposedly being held, in part, to help them. Sure, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president could be heard, in Cairo, talking about the historic opportunity that should not be missed. But everyone knows that he is hostage to the negotiating process and to Israeli handouts, and that he would rather flee forward further into Israeli clutches than entertain the idea of returning to a Palestinian national unity government.
The foregoing leads to what had been accomplished in advance of the conference. This conference was built upon internal Palestinian discord and strife. Before the Fatah-Hamas rift, there was a freeze in the so-called peace process and Israel told the PA and its president that they had to stop even speaking with Hamas in order for Israel to agree to so much as talk with them. Israel has an inexhaustible font of conditions, not just for reaching an agreement with the PA but merely to deign to speak with it. The latest was that the PA had to cease any form of cooperation and parleying with Hamas, which is to say with the representatives of a huge portion of the Palestinian people.
This was the first accomplishment. And so well did the PA perform it that it received hundreds of pats on the back for its resolute stance against Hamas, the whole world summoned to Annapolis to bear false witness to negotiations that haven't begun and that offer no guarantees for success if and when they do. All this display just to bolster (or "empower" in political science jargon) the position of Palestinian moderates who must be so proud of themselves for having seized the "historic opportunity" that they can already hear the wings of history fluttering over Annapolis. How important a person can feel when he accepts Israeli conditions! How good the US and Israel (and Europe, which just wants to get it all over with) are at making the people they want feel important!
The second accomplishment is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Israel had announced on several occasions and through various spokespersons that the condition for talking with the Palestinians had been met. Now, for talks to make any progress, the Palestinians had to honour their commitments under the roadmap, which were to fight "terrorism" and dismantle the "terrorist infrastructure". By this Israel meant crushing the Palestinian resistance, beginning in the West Bank. This commitment under the roadmap had always been a bone of contention between Israel and Arafat, in large part because the Israeli style is to force the Palestinians to prove themselves and then tell them, "Let's wait and see." But Israel succeeded in prevailing upon the post-Arafat PA to accept this condition.
With these accomplishments harvested by Israel even before negotiations began, the Palestinian negotiator is weaker than ever. He's even weak in the eyes of Israeli public opinion as a consequence of the Palestinian rift and as a consequence of how dependent the PA leadership has become on Israel's good faith and the success of negotiations. When the Palestinians were more or less united, Israel required an internal Palestinian rift in order to talk. After the rift it claimed that the PA was too weak to control its field and could not be taken seriously enough to merit concessions of good faith.
But there was a third accomplishment: Arab disengagement from the Palestinian cause. The Arabs can see how weak the PA is and in whose hands the PA's decision-making powers reside. They share its weakness and so can understand it very well, which is why they grasp at any "pragmatic" solution that this weakness has made possible. They are not about to be "more Palestinian than the Palestinians," which is to say the Palestinian negotiator. True, they take advantage of every rut and bump in the negotiating process to proclaim how steadfast is the Palestinian side, and how it will not cave in easily. But ultimately, whether or not it came to them easily and whether or not they suffered pangs of conscience, they agreed to sell the cause down the river.
That this is the foundation that has been set for the Annapolis meeting is not to say that merely to sit around the table is to tacitly normalise relations with Israel. All the delegations that reported to Annapolis had attended Madrid in the past. Their participation did not necessarily lead to normalisation. It led to separate negotiating tracks, some of which have stalled. The only party that signed a peace agreement with Israel since Madrid was Jordan. The only party to have normalised its relations with Israel without a peace agreement was the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Apparently Syria decided to take part in Annapolis for fear that it would be left totally isolated in the Arab world if it did not. That it chose to participate offers no guarantee that the Golan Heights will be restored to it, even if that issue was listed on the Annapolis agenda. It had to be affixed to the agenda, because otherwise Syria could not accept to go. In the not so distant past, it would have taken only a quick assessment of how detrimental this inaugural ceremony will be to the Palestinian cause for Damascus to decide not to attend, whether Golan was mentioned on the agenda or not.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:17:36 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Despite avowing "optimism" in the countdown to the opening of the International Peace Conference in Annapolis, Maryland on Tuesday, when almost everyone else was openly pessimistic, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was destined to be disappointed. The Palestinians and the Israelis failed to agree on a joint accord that would have set a time frame for "peace negotiations" yet still representatives from 50 countries crossed the Atlantic to participate in a meeting the vast majority believe will fail to achieve any progress towards peace.
The Arab League's secretary-general announced the "death of the peace process" when Israel launched its bloody war on Lebanon last year, a ruthless assault that targeted and killed hundreds of innocent civilians and destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure. Shouldn't that have been a reminder of who exactly Abbas's peace partner is? So how is it that peace has been so suddenly resurrected?
Is Annapolis simply an exercise in listening to harmless proposals and ideas to "revive" the "peace process"? And why are Arab officials so keen to project an Arab consensus -- a euphemism for collective defeat -- by participating in a conference they have regularly predicted can end only in failure? Or is all the noise simply a strategy to deflect from the startling decision of Saudi Arabia and Syria to openly sit and talk with Israel? Israel clearly feels it is high time that the model of "moderate" Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan -- which have full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv -- should be embraced by other Arab states, and at absolutely no cost to itself.
The Annapolis conference does, of course, carry a deeper and more disturbing significance. For judging by what was heard and seen in the American city the participants who represent 50 nations are making a statement, simply by their presence. And what they are saying is that the United Nations and its many resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are now irrelevant to the entire peace process. This gives the US and Israel freedom to act outside the boundaries of international law. It also further partitions the region into moderate states and those that are not: it is the latter that, in Washington and Tel Aviv's scheme of things, remain the obstacle to US and Israeli plans for the region, while the former are being softened up to accept a possible military attack on Iran. For it is Iran -- a country pursuing its right, in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency standards, to develop nuclear energy independently -- that is the invisible guest at a feast the purpose of which is to further isolate Tehran.
The media hype surrounding the Annapolis meeting has been pegged on the Middle East peace process. Statements on "a future Palestinian state" were invariably followed by the qualification "free of terror" and the importance of guaranteeing "Israeli security". Israeli occupation, land grabbing, illegal settlements, demolition of Palestinian property and houses and daily killing of Palestinian civilians were not mentioned in Annapolis. No one expected them to be.
Annapolis is a legacy that well suits US President George W Bush.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:11:04 pm and is filed under American Empire, Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Disappointed in Annapolis, the Palestinians feel deceived once again, reports Khaled Amayreh from the West Bank
By Khaled Amayreh
Palestinians throughout the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have reacted to the American-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, with a heady combination of scepticism, ambivalence and anger.
The Palestinians used epithets like "another deception", "another lie", "another illusion" and "another Oslo" to describe the much-publicised Annapolis conference that they watched live on their television screens.
"Another Oslo" is a reference to the 1993 Oslo Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which generated high hopes, euphoria and great expectations. These upbeat feelings were soon thwarted and eventually proved to be totally misplaced as Israel continued to consolidate its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while pretending to seek peace.
In the southern West Bank town of Hebron, a Palestinian man was killed Tuesday afternoon when poorly-trained and utterly-undisciplined Palestinian police opened fire on a rally, organised by the Islamic Liberation Party, protesting against the Annapolis conference.
The usually non-violent group which calls for the reinstitution of the Islamic Caliphate that encompasses the entire Muslim world, is considered the second largest organised militant Islamic group in the West Bank after Hamas.
The group's spokesman in Hebron, Mohamed Jaabari, condemned the "cold-blooded murder" of the Palestinian man and accused the PA police of "emulating the Israeli occupation army in killing and repressing Palestinians".
"I don't see any difference. They are acting like the Israeli occupation army. They are traitors and quislings. This is why the Zionists and the Americans armed them and brought them here to kill us and silence our voices," said Jaabari.
Hebron's appointed governor, Hussein Al-Araj, blamed the organisers for the violence, saying "we told them not to organise any rally, but they chose to challenge us. They bear full responsibility for the consequences."
However, when asked why the police didn't use non-fatal methods to disperse the estimated 3,000 protesters, the governor sardonically said, "this is another problem."
Similarly, PA police, recently re-armed and equipped by the US, violently repressed protests against the Annapolis conference in Nablus, Bethlehem and Ramallah and a number of other localities in the West Bank.
Dozens of protesters and a number of reporters and cameramen were injured, some badly, when anti-riot police ganged up on protesters in the centre of Ramallah, beating the demonstrators with clubs and rifle-butts.
Earlier, the PA warned the media against covering any "anti-Annapolis protests" unless they get a permission beforehand. However, the local and international media apparently didn't heed the warning, infuriating PA security chiefs.
In Gaza, as many as 150,000 (organisers say a quarter of a million) people held rallies denouncing the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas for what Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar termed "using Jerusalem and the right of return as a bargaining chip".
"Let them go to a thousand conferences, we say in the name of our people that we haven't authorised anyone to sign any agreement or any document compromising or harming our inalienable rights. Anyone compromising our rights will be judged by history as a traitor."
Ahmed Bahr, deputy-speaker of the now virtually paralysed Palestinian Legislative Council addressed the huge multitude, saying that, "we will not let our people down, we will not compromise our national constants. We will not sell Jerusalem out, the right of return is a red line."
Speaker Aziz Duweik is imprisoned in Israel for running in elections under the banner of an illegal organisation --Hamas. Meanwhile, Mohamed Al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader, similarly lashed out at Arab leaders and representatives for attending the conference. "I don't know why they are trooping off to Annapolis. What has changed in Israel's attitudes and positions? Or, do they want to use this occasion to normalise relations with Israel?"
Interestingly, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas's faction, which controls the West Bank, failed to organise rallies supporting Annapolis. Insiders within Fatah intimated that the organisation was worried that such rallies would attract a few people compared to the anti-Annapolis rallies, and would therefore embarrass Fatah.
In fact, much of the indignation, disenchantment and frustration in the Palestinian street is not aimed at PA President Abbas per se as much as it is an expression of distrust of Israeli intentions.
"Abbas's speech is good and balanced. The problem is that he is being deceived by Israel and the US just as Yasser Arafat was deceived and cheated on by Israel and the US after the conclusion of the Oslo Agreement," explained a Palestinian teacher from Hebron after watching live speeches at Annapolis by US President George W Bush, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The teacher added that the Annapolis conference would be just another "big fiasco" because "Israel doesn't want peace and is not ready or willing to pay the price of peace."
"Israel wants a peace deal that looks very much like a Palestinian capitulation, a deal that would reflect Israeli victory over the Palestinians, not one based on human rights and international law. And, the US is not willing to put pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian rights. That is the crux of the matter."
Palestinian intellectuals generally hold the same views. Professor Ali Jerbawi, a prominent political scientist and leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, described the Annapolis conference as "theatrical".
"We are talking about a conference without guarantees, without legal references, without a timetable. It is a journey to the unknown. Bush is simply telling the occupier and the victim of occupation to sort it out before he leaves the White House by the end of 2008."
"I think in a certain sense we are becoming the Singapore of the Middle East as Palestine, our homeland, is being dwarfed into a mere city-state much like Singapore. But it is a Singapore of poverty, misery, roadblocks and despair."
Jerbawi predicted that the excitement of the Annapolis conference would just evaporate very soon just like the commotion that followed the Madrid conference and the Oslo Accords soon died out. "What we really need is to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and stop this foolishness of thwarting the Palestinian cause for the sake of establishing a state that has a name but has no substance.
"Abbas and his people should have realised this a long time ago. However, their immediate interests seem to blur their vision and make them see a distant mirage as real water."
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:03:13 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Syria bit the bullet and accepted Bush's invitation. Here's why, explains Sami Moubayed
There was much speculation in Syria on whether to attend the Annapolis conference or not. Reservations stemmed from an earlier no-mention of the occupied Golan Heights, tension in Syrian-US relations, US backing for the anti- Syrian regime in Beirut, and the latest Israeli air attack against Syria, which took place on 6 September 2007. The Syrians could not forget what had happened on 6 September, which apparently was done in compliance with the Americans. They also could not ignore that in December 2003, President Bush had said, "Syria is a weak country that just has to wait" until all other pending Middle East issues are solved.
The Syrians believe that Bush is unable to bring peace to the region, because of the problems on his hands in Iraq, and because, unlike president Bill Clinton; he is not interested in Arab-Israeli peace. President Bashar Al-Assad put forth his country's condition to attend: negotiations on the occupied Golan. The Americans said yes. If the Syrians were to attend, who would represent them in the United States? Would it be Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualim, his deputy Faysal Miqdad, or Ambassador Emad Mustafa? Sending Al-Moualim would give the conference too much importance, and the Syrians were really going there just to tell the world, "we did our part. We attended. But Annapolis led to nothing!"
Some in Syria wanted a complete boycott of Annapolis. According to the London-based Al-Hayat, the decision was taken only after a series of phone calls between Foreign Minister Al-Moualim and his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Egypt. The British and French ambassadors to Damascus also visited the foreign minister. All of them reportedly wanted Syria to go to Maryland so as not to miss the chance, after four years of absence from the Washington arena, to make themselves heard in the US. On the other hand, the Iranians and Hamas wanted Syria to boycott the event, seeing it as nothing but a PR stunt for Bush. Significantly, expressing how the Syrians views the conference, the official Syria News said, 24 hours before the conference, that Al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad view Annapolis as doomed to failure.
But regardless of outcomes, the Syrians scored a goal when Golan was actually put on the conference agenda. So a three-man Syrian delegation arrived in Annapolis, headed by Faysal Miqdad, his country's ambassador to the United Nations from 2003 to 2006. Ahmed Salkini, a communications officer at the Syrian Embassy in the US, said, "we participate with the understanding that the Golan will be discussed. Syria continues to be committed to the Arab peace initiative as the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East." Al-Hayat quoted an unnamed Syrian source saying, "what we asked for was granted." Reportedly, the US Chargé d'Affaires to Syria Michael Corbin contacted a senior Foreign Ministry official on 24 November, giving him the final schedule for Annapolis. In a session called "Comprehensive Peace" the Syrian-Israeli track will be discussed, as well as the Lebanese- Israeli one.
The Syrians head off to Annapolis convinced that solutions cannot be reached -- for different reasons -- so long as President George W Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are in power in Washington and Tel Aviv. It would have been unwise not to attend, however, for this would have given the Americans justification to say, "the Syrians are not ready or interested in peace." Recently, Ambassador Emad Mustafa was quoted in Forward, Syria's English monthly: "He [Al-Assad] has come to a realisation, however, that it is almost impossible to do business with this US administration. He concluded that with this administration, contacts would be either minimal, or non-existent." But regardless, the Syrians want to maintain ties and even improve relations with the US administration. Again, Ambassador Mustafa explains: "He is not hostile -- not at all -- towards the US. He is keen to improve relations with Washington, a basic reason being the understanding that it is very difficult for any country in the world not to have good relations with the world superpower."
Last summer, Olmert made an initiative towards the Syrians in a interview with the Saudi channel Al-Arabiya. Olmert said: "I am ready to sit with you and talk about peace, not war. I will be happy if I could make peace with Syria. I do not want to wage war against Syria." This proposal was echoed by President Shimon Peres in September, who added, "we are ready for dialogue with Damascus." Back in July, President Al-Assad gave a speech in parliament in which he re-emphasised his country's willingness for peace, recalling that the basis of any Syrian cooperation would be the borders of 4 June, 1967. He also asked for guarantees, saying that from experience in the 1990s, Syria does not trust the Israelis. "We did not trust them before the 1990s and distrust them further now." Al-Assad asked for something similar to the agreement reached with the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, which promised to restore the Golan Heights in full to Syria.
Then came the Israeli air invasion, with US support, on 6 September 2007, which put a damper on Syrian hopes and shed serious doubt on Olmert's credibility. With that in mind, the Syrians went to Annapolis, almost convinced that it will lead to nothing. The Syrians believe that Olmert is in a difficult position because of the results of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in July-August 2006. Olmert understands that none of his declared objectives were met: Hizbullah was not crushed, and the two Israeli soldiers abducted in South Lebanon are still held by the Lebanese. The Israeli public holds him and his team accountable for the ill-fated Lebanon adventure. His Kadima-Labour cabinet was on the verge of collapse, arch-foe Ehud Barak was making a thundering political comeback, and the Winograd Report on the summer war made life all the more difficult for the Israeli prime minister. Olmert needed to divert attention fast from Israeli domestic affairs and find solutions to the tension in the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese crisis.
With such a defeat on his record, the Israeli prime minister cannot possibly deliver peace with the Syrians, who are viewed as the main backers of Hizbullah. Olmert needs to obtain his war medals to right the wrongs done to his image in Lebanon. Only after waging another war -- and either winning or at least not losing it -- can he project himself as a "peacemaker". That was the prevailing mood in Damascus this summer.
Then, something changed in Israel. Many started to say that only Syria can secure Israel's border with Lebanon. Making peace with the Syrians, the Israelis started thinking, seemed all the more logical since it automatically would mean peace with Hizbullah. And since Hizbullah cannot be crushed by force (as the results of last year's war proved) then the best solution would be to isolate and neutralise it by making peace with the Syrians. If they sign a peace pact, after all, they cannot continue supporting Hizbullah. In April 2007, US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Damascus with a message to Al-Assad from Olmert. The Israeli press went into a frenzy revisiting the Syrian-Israeli peace track. The Syrians were, and still are, unimpressed by the Israeli conditions for peace, which included halting Syria's cooperation with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran.
All of these recent events help explain why the Syrians are worried as they head off to Annapolis. Countries interested in peace don't go around flying into their neighbour's airspace without permission, especially when the two countries are in a state of war. They don't fire missiles into other countries' territory. The last time I checked, this was called war-making rather than peace-making. But despite all that, the Syrians have been committed to peace since Madrid and are willing to try Annapolis. But it's doubtful that Annapolis will lead to a breakthrough, with the likes of Bush and Olmert in power.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 09:48:39 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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US President George W Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert... but, could this be a Camp David 2000 déjà-vu?
By Dina Ezzat
The dust may have settled in Annapolis, but not in the Middle East. Dina Ezzat examines the aftermath of a controversial peace meeting
Arab and Israeli delegates who took part in the Annapolis diplomatic fiesta should be coming down from the excitement of the world-observed event to the sad truth of reality on the ground: continued Israeli occupation of Arab territories faced by a mix of deep resentment and outright resistance.
The Israeli delegation, however, is coming back with a victory: photos and signs of nascent normalisation with Arab countries and promises, declared and undeclared, of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and member states of the Arab League. Over half of the Arab League's 22 states were represented, mostly at the foreign ministers level, in Annapolis.
The participation of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal, in particular, is a success story for the Israelis, despite the fact that Saudi envoy Prince Bandar Bin Sultan turned up at the 1991 Madrid peace conference and that Saudi delegates were present at some rounds of talks launched as part of the Madrid process.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, whose organisation is in theory the custodian of the Arab boycott of Israel pending a comprehensive and final peace deal, was also there. Moussa, who said he was attending under the umbrella of the Arab Peace Initiative and a "no normalisation before peace" understanding, is the first of the six secretary-generals of the Arab organisation to sit down at the same table with Israeli negotiators.
Hamas and many Arab public quarters expressed shock and dismay at the wide Arab participation and declined to accept the rationale offered by Moussa's speech in Annapolis that this participation is designed to support the Palestinian delegation and to impress upon the international community that it must act to secure at least some preliminary Arab demands, especially a freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Israeli and US officials praised the wide Arab participation, especially by countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel. In his opening ceremony speech, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed present Arab -- as well as Islamic -- delegations and demanded normal relations with them. The demand had been repeatedly pressed on the eve of Annapolis and was seconded by Bush's inaugural speech.
ISRAELI GAINS ABOUND: The Israeli delegation is also coming back with renewed US acknowledgement of Israel as a "Jewish state" and "homeland for the Jewish people", as affirmed three times by US President George W Bush in his inaugural speech Tuesday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warmly applauded the Bush speech. In his speech that followed he did not object to the characterisation of the "Jewish nature of Israel" nor its impact on the fate of 1948 Palestinians and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Sources in Annapolis tell Al-Ahram Weekly that only a constrained Arab rejection of such characterisation was offered in the closed meetings that followed the opening.
Also in the bag for the Israeli delegation coming back from Annapolis is a televised promise of Abbas that his authorities will do whatever it takes to combat all forms of "terrorism" against the state of Israel in line with the roadmap plan for peace. "Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the roadmap, as judged by the United States," read a joint statement adopted in Annapolis.
Abbas, who albeit referred to continued Israeli occupation as the main cause behind "terrorism", added with a nod to a proud Olmert and smiling Bush that any act of "terror", irrespective of its rationale, remains inexcusable though international law affirms the right to resist belligerent occupation by all means, including armed struggle.
An informed American think-tank analyst told the Weekly from Washington that the US administration reassured Olmert, over and over, that a Palestinian state would not come to life until Israel is sure that Palestinian leaders -- be it President Abbas or someone else -- would be able to properly run such a state in line with Israel's security agenda. Any future Palestinian state, Bush said in his opening speech, should be able to contribute to the security of its people, of Israel, and that of the entire region.
Meanwhile, US/international promises of involvement in advancing Palestinian/Arab-Israeli talks were traded for Arab promises to advance signs of normalisation with Israel, instead of waiting for the conclusion of a comprehensive peace as stipulated by the Arab Peace Initiative. "Arabs need to get off the fence and understand that normalisation is not a prize for Israel," Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister said in Annapolis.
In Annapolis too, the foreign minister of Bahrain said that a request made by his Israeli counterpart for diplomatic relations between Manama and Tel Aviv would be considered in the wake of Annapolis.
As such, the conditions set by Moussa -- and for that matter Al-Faisal -- on linking normalisation with a comprehensive peace deal were directly challenged in Annapolis -- despite the fact that both Arab diplomats declined to pause for cameras and handshake shots with Israeli officials. Moreover, statements made by Syrian officials suggesting that their delegation would firmly oppose any premature signs of normalisation were simply overruled.
Even more alarmingly, informed diplomatic sources told the Weekly that Olmert gained Palestinian and Arab assurances that only the symbolic return of a few hundred refugees would be included in a final status agreement. One source suggested that Canada is heavily involved in an accommodation plan for the majority of refugees that will be presented when the time is ripe.
Moreover, Arab diplomats privately said that several Arab capitals, including many those directly involved in the Arab-Israeli negotiations process, believe it "a waste of time" to dispute the "Jewish nature of Israel". As for East Jerusalem, Arabs are aware that as they were affirming their participation in Annapolis, the Israeli Knesset adopted a resolution stipulating that any change on the unified nature of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would require the approval of 80 -- up from 61 -- of the 120 Knesset members.
In Annapolis, Olmert declined to grant his host's wish to launch final status talks in Washington, DC -- not even an elementary negotiations round would be allowed -- only a ceremonial inauguration was granted by the Israeli prime minister. It is back in the Middle East, Olmert said, that negotiations would start, on a bilateral level. According to the Annapolis joint statement, the first session of negotiations shall take place on 12 December.
Indeed, the maximum that Olmert gave in Annapolis was to sit quietly while Abbas made his speech and demanded a negotiated deal on core issues, as perceived by the Palestinian side, including a reference to East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state "that will be open to West Jerusalem" and a reference to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the right of return, or to compensation, for Palestinian refugees of 1948.
Indeed, the joint statement of Annapolis does not make even a reference to an end of Israeli occupation of territories seized in 1967, or the land-for-peace principal that used to be the guideline of Arab-Israeli negotiations. The reference made in the statement to the loose 2008 deadline for the settlement of final status issues is as non-committal as it could be: "We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."
The Israeli delegation, meanwhile, is coming back having made a loose promise to ease adverse conditions for Palestinians on the ground, though always in line with the Israeli security priorities that were re-acknowledged by the Annapolis meeting. In establishing those security priorities, Olmert said clearly that he would not exclude the liquidation of wanted Palestinian militants -- in other words, targeted assassinations -- nor would he eschew military intervention in principle. On the eve of Annapolis, Israeli occupation forces killed six Palestinians.
EMPTY ARAB HANDS: In contrast to the Israelis, Arab delegates are coming back with mere assurances of US/international support for Palestinian-Israeli final status talks, as well as possible negotiations on the Syrian/Lebanese tracks. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised to exert a similar level of effort to that in the lead up to Annapolis. Such promises, however, are not coupled with a commitment to intervene should Israel fail to live up to the requirements of peacemaking.
"However, we are coming back to a different political context. It is a context whereby the clinically dead Palestinian and Israeli negotiation process is coming back to life. We are now talking about final status negotiations," commented a senior Arab diplomat who participated in Annapolis.
In statements on the eve of and during Annapolis, Bush, Rice and every American diplomat stated in no uncertain terms that no imposition would be put on Israel to undertake measures deemed incompatible with its security priorities and "Jewish nature". Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli strategic interests minister, summed up Annapolis with remarkable candour: it was "a terrific cocktail party and a fantastic photo opportunity with no chance of a breakthrough".
One additional secured outcome for the Israeli delegation was restated US-Israeli agreement on the need to step up pressure on, and perhaps even opt for military action to halt, Iran's nuclear activities. Moreover, agreement was affirmed between Israel and the US, with the support of some Arab delegations, on the need for further regional cooperation to contain pro-Iranian groups, especially Hamas and Hizbullah, who joined Tehran this week in rejecting Annapolis as a futile exercise in submission.
If it can be called a success, Arabs are coming back with promises by the international community -- especially usually generous European donors -- that financial support would be promptly offered to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for "early state institutions building", with an unmistakable emphasis laid on bolstering -- and likely reforming -- the PA's security apparatus to ensure that it effectively implement the demands of Phase I of the 2003 roadmap plan: curtail Islamist militant resistance groups.
Palestinian/Arab demands of a total freeze on Israeli settlements, an end to changes on the ground in East Jerusalem, and a firm and detailed international commitment to a more comprehensive peace process, were all but overlooked in Annapolis. Meanwhile, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is worsening. An already suffocated and starved Gaza is under threat of collective punishment by Israel in its plans to deny the impoverished Strip significant power supplies within a few days.
Karen Abu Zayd, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said she hoped a high- stakes Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis would improve living conditions in Gaza. She added that the UN wanted to see a neutral body monitoring crossings in and out of the occupied Palestinian territories. "One thing we can say hopefully about Annapolis is that this is an internationalisation of the problem," she told a European Parliament committee. "Let us hope that something comes out of [Annapolis] to show that."
Abu Zayd described new Israeli restrictions on movement in the West Bank, requiring Palestinians, including UNRWA staff, to obtain crossing permits and to enter and leave East Jerusalem on foot through mechanised terminals, as "crippling".
Hamas, provoked by and critical of the decision of Abbas to go to Annapolis without prior consultations with its leaders or those of other "opposition" Palestinian factions, is qualifying the Annapolis meeting as an attempt to encroach on legitimate Palestinian rights, especially in relation to East Jerusalem and the fate of refugees. The Palestinian people are not forced to honour any commitments that Palestinian negotiators make in Annapolis, Hamas leaders said this week during meetings in Gaza.
Wider Arab public opinion is not particularly supportive of Annapolis or its outcome either. Extensive live coverage carried by Arab satellite channels and polls conducted by many Internet sites reflected hardly any hope that the Annapolis meeting would stem the misery of the daily lives of Palestinians, much less kick-start final status talks. Still, Abbas called it "an opportunity that might not occur again".
POST-ANNAPOLIS STRATEGY: In a report issued on the eve of Annapolis, the International Crisis Group (ICG) acknowledged the regional and international political difficulties that are likely to defy the chances of building on whatever political momentum the Annapolis meeting secured to advance the seven-year stalled negotiations process. "The process that [was] launched [in] Annapolis may not quite be do-or-die for the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, but at the very least it is do-or-barely-survive," argued the ICG report, entitled The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Annapolis and After.
"To maximise the chances of success and minimise the costs of failure, the Israelis and Palestinians need to seriously confront permanent status issues, while taking steps to improve the situation on the ground," argued the report. It added that the "US and other international actors need to adopt a more proactive role, proposing timely compromises as well as imposing accountability for both sides' actions." The report suggested, moreover, the need for "a different approach towards those [principally Syria and Hamas] whose exclusion jeopardises any progress."
"While virtually all attention has been given to [the Annapolis] gathering itself, what truly matters is what follows it," the ICG report stated. The "day after" Annapolis may bring the beginning of final status talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and may even bolster chances for wider Arab-Israeli talks. However, the report warns that failure to build on post-Annapolis momentum could effectively risk the entire Arab-Israeli peace process.
"The stakes are extremely high. Failure of this process could discredit both the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships while further undermining faith in negotiations," said Ezzeddine Choukri-Fischere, director of the ICG's Arab-Israeli Project, focussing on the peace process.
"Our report argues that Annapolis has been through a number of lives; it started as an institution-building conference, developed into a political conference that was supposed to [and eventually did] endorse an Israeli-Palestinian document, and then became a launching pad for permanent status negotiations between Israel and the [Palestinians]," said Choukri-Fischere.
"Now that we have Annapolis shaped as a launching pad for peace talks, we think it is important that a number of things happen in Annapolis and immediately after." According to Choukri-Fischere, the first requirement for a successful post- Annapolis process is to design a negotiation process that maximises the chances of success, ensuring "active involvement by the international community and the Arab world, and thinking of a fall- back strategy in case parties get stuck in bilateral talks."
Second, Choukri-Fischere argued that it is "of vital importance that Palestinian national dialogue starts without further delay". "It is unthinkable that we push for peace between Israel and only a part of the Palestinian political landscape, or -- as some would say -- between Israel and the Palestinians against other Palestinians," he argued. According to Choukri-Fischere, if Annapolis is perceived as an attempt to undermine Hamas the latter will have an interest in fighting it. "We want the opposite to happen. We want Hamas to have a stake in the success of peace talks after Annapolis," he said.
Finally, the ICG is calling for the substantive engagement of Syria on the basis that the ultimate objective is an Arab-Israeli peace, not merely an Israeli-Palestinian peace. "I am glad that the US administration has recently made changes in order to make room for Syrian participation. This is a good beginning and I hope both Syria and the US build on it," Choukri-Fischere said.
Choukri-Fischere added that post-Annapolis also requires inward Arab coordination: "The ICG is recommending to Arab states that they lay down a vision for the future: What will they do if Israel and the [Palestinians] make serious progress towards an agreement? What steps would they take towards Israel if the latter signed a permanent peace agreement? When and how would Arab states decide that their 'conditions' for normalisation are met?"
According to the ICG report, despite the many obstacles ahead, there remains at least some hope. "I think [we must] follow closely Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in the coming few months, and see what the dynamic is," Choukri-Fischere said. "In three or four months from now we will be able to detect how serious the parties are and how involved the partners are," he added.
DOWN TO REALITY: Judging by statements made at the opening ceremony in Annapolis, and by the language of letters of invitation forwarded by the US to Arab participants, including Palestinian participants, none of the criteria that the ICG suggested is necessary for progress is likely to be met. US involvement will not go beyond that of "facilitator", with an obvious bias towards Israel. Pressure on Olmert will be minimal, both from the US and the international community. Hamas will continue to be marginalised according to the wishes of Abbas and Olmert, each for different reasons.
Syria may emerge as the only possible progress out of Annapolis, as predicted by the ICG. "It is somewhat ironic, but at the end of the day it might be Syria, who was reluctant about taking part in the meeting, that would come out as the real winner of Annapolis," commented one Arab diplomat on condition of anonymity. According to this diplomat, if the Israelis feel they can make progress on the Syrian track -- which is embraced by the Israeli cabinet -- the Palestinian track may be put again on the backburner for an indefinite period.
Speaking to the Weekly as the Annapolis meetings were drawing to a close, Choukri-Fischere argued that the US-hosted peace conference offered "positive signs but an incomplete work". "We heard talk about the international intervention and about the follow-up mechanism. We saw Syria present and we heard that a meeting to be hosted by Russia [by the spring of] next year would follow up on the Palestinian-Israeli track and address more attention to the Syrian-Israeli track. These are good signs," he said. However, he hastened to add, "what matters now is to see that there is sufficient substance to these [gestures] which should not be [reduced to mere political] ornaments." Moreover, the director of the ICG peace project expressed worry over the continued marginalisation of Hamas, but added that this concern could be addressed through an endeavour to induce national Palestinian reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Arab peace process diplomats say that while the Americans are not blind to the many difficulties embedded in the Arab-Israeli struggle, they still want some progress, if only to cover up for miserable US failure in Afghanistan and Iraq. "When Bush went for his war on Iraq against the advice of those who called for a settlement of the Middle East situation first, he argued that the road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad. Today, it seems that he is taking the reverse road," commented one diplomat.
Indeed, for the Bush administration, a semblance of movement on the Palestinian-Israeli front could help gear up support for a potential military strike against Iran. "The most worrisome part is that it is not just Iran that qualifies for the US's 'extremists' list. Hamas and Hizbullah are also there, and this could mean an open confrontation between Hamas, which rejects Annapolis, and Abbas, who is very keen on Annapolis," commented one diplomat.
In this sense, commented the same diplomat, "the day after" Annapolis could be a day of Palestinian bloodshed, "and may even end the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, chaired by Abbas," and witness the rise of the resistance approach, as epitomised by "both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad". Were this to happen, the "difficulties" Bush predicted in his speech to lie ahead, may be of a wholly new order.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 09:32:38 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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That the Palestinians would be the losers at Annapolis was a foregone conclusion, writes Saleh Al-Naami
By Al Naami
Shaul Goldstein, leader of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank, had only praise for his prime minister, Ehud Olmert, after hearing the speeches of US President George W Bush, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Olmert at the Annapolis meeting on Tuesday. Speaking to Israeli television Channel 10, this stalwart of Israel's far right hailed the outcome of Annapolis as positive because it would allow settlements to expand in the West Bank. Goldstein's glee is in stark contrast to the feelings of most Palestinians who, reading the text of the speeches, could be left in no doubt that they are the losers.
The joint declaration read by President Bush at the start of his speech reiterated Israeli demands that the meeting would not issue a binding document of principles but instead a "declaration of intent". The statement underlined how far Abu Mazen had retreated from his earlier promises to the Palestinians that he would not go to Annapolis before agreeing on a declaration of principles that would address fundamental issues in the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, five million Palestinian refugees and borders. The Palestinian negotiating team had also vowed not to travel to Annapolis until Olmert announced the freezing of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, a halt to construction of the apartheid, and the removal of military checkpoints around the West Bank.
As expected, the joint declaration failed to announce any deadline for the completion of negotiations. Bush promised to exert "great effort" to ensure that negotiations would end before his presidential term but failed to provide any details of the mechanisms that would make such a goal possible.
If Abu Mazen should be tempted to consider the Annapolis meeting, attended by representatives of 50 countries, as a success for the Palestinians on the grounds that the participating states will pressure Israel to adopt less intransigent positions, the joint statement, which stressed that negotiations between the two sides will be bilateral, with the American administration monopolising the role of adjudicator, must surely temper his optimism. The US administration, after all, has been monopolising the same role for 14 years.
More alarming, perhaps, is the fact that the declaration considers the roadmap the sole reference for the negotiating process, suggesting that talks between the two sides could continue indefinitely.
Bush may have stressed that both Israel and the Palestinians must fulfil their commitments outlined in the plan but the Americans and Israelis hold that these commitments must be successive. What this means in fact is that the PA must first fulfil its obligations and, if it succeeds, it will be the turn of Israel to meet its obligations. The PA then must succeed in the impossible task of disarming Palestinian resistance movements before Israel is obliged to lift a finger.
According to the Israeli media, both Bush and Olmert told Abu Mazen in their tripartite meeting that he must regain control of Gaza and halt the firing of missiles. It is a scenario that holds out the prospect of a Palestinian civil war.
Two months ago, Abu Mazen promised to work towards unifying the West Bank and Gaza. Now it seems the goal of unity is not to be pursued via dialogue with Hamas. Speaking to Israeli TV following Olmert's opening speech in Annapolis, Israeli deputy premier Avigdor Lieberman said that, "Abu Mazen and [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad appeared more eager for Israel to reoccupy the Strip than the residents of Sederot [the settlement subjected to Palestinian shelling from Gaza]."
Difficult as it is to count the incidents of Palestinian failure at Annapolis, one of the most chilling moments came when Bush described Israel as the "national homeland of the Jews". The significance of the statement is not just that it presupposes the Palestinians will concede the right of return, it also paves the way for Israel "to expel the 1948 Palestinians", as Benny Alon, head of the Israeli Moledet Party, stated. Even Abdullah Abdullah, head of the political committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a close associate of Abu Mazen, thought the statement was "catastrophic".
"This means uprooting hundreds of thousands of our people from their land," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Hamas spokesman Salah Al-Bardaweil told the Weekly that Bush's statement was tantamount to a "new Balfour promise", while to Abdul-Sattar Qassem, professor of political science at An-Najah University, it represented an "attack on the collective consciousness of the Palestinians... They want us to protect the Israeli occupation and its institutions with American money."
Bush snubbed the Arab delegations that attended the meeting when he failed to make any reference to the 2002 Arab initiative, offering full normalisation with Israel in return for withdrawal to the 1967 borders, effectively draining their participation of any meaning. He then made matters worse by referring to his letter of guarantees sent to former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon as the most important reference point for the negotiations. The letter blocks the right of return, withdrawal to the 1967 borders and allows Israel to annex settlements built on occupied land. Syria, which was obliged to attend the meeting, was rewarded with no mention of the occupied Golan Heights in the speeches of either Bush or Olmert.
The subtexts to Bush's talk of "extremists" and the "forces of darkness", and Olmert's call for Arabs to participate with Israel in the war against fundamentalism, were clear to all, not least Dan Schueftan, head of the Israeli national security research centre. The Annapolis meeting, he said, had never been about resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but was convened to pave the way for an American strike against Iran in cooperation with the Arabs and Israel.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 09:25:26 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Hamas says the sanctions are blackmail
Israel's highest court has upheld a government decision to reduce fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, but postponed electricity cuts to the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel cut down the amount of fuel oil, diesel and petrol arriving in Gaza last month, as part of economic sanctions ordered in response to the firing of Palestinian rockets.
The government said it would begin cutting power on December 2, officials said on Friday.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Western leaders warned Israel against imposing illegal "collective punishment" on Gaza's largely aid-dependent 1.5 million residents.
Human rights groups have appealed to Israel's high court to intervene.
However, the court ruling has found in favour of the government's argument that fuel supplies for vital activities such as running Gaza's only power plant would be maintained.
"We are convinced that, for now, there is no need to issue a stay ... especially as the [government] respondents undertook from the outset to ensure that the [fuel] reductions do not cause humanitarian harm," the panel of three justices wrote.
Israel's high court said in its ruling that it sought clarification on how, "given conditions in the Gaza Strip, it is possible to carry out the proposed [power] reductions without harming the population's vital humanitarian needs".
The court has in turn demanded extending deliberations on the proposed sanctions by at least 19 days.
Israel had planned to begin power cuts on Sunday, but Shlomo Dror, a senior defence ministry official, said the measure would be postponed.
"Clearly we cannot move on this until the high court has its final say," Dror told Reuters.
Israel's sanctions have coincided with the attendance of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, and Abbas at US-sponsored talks at this week's in Annapolis, Maryland.
Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control all its imports.
Cutting utilities is preferable to mounting a bloody invasion to stop Palestinians firing makeshift short-range rockets, Israel claims.
Hamas has condemned the sanctions as "blackmail" and hinted that Gaza's privations could stoke Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Dror said that Israel reduced fuels supplied to Gaza by about 13 per cent, depending on type, last month. Palestinian officials disputed this, reporting fuel cuts of between 40 and 50 per cent.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Gaza's population uses about 200 megawatts of electricity, of which 120 are provided directly from Israeli power lines, 17 are delivered from Egypt, and 65 are produced at the Palestinian plant.
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Australia's prime minister-elect has said that his country's 550 combat troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by the middle of next year.
"The combat force in Iraq, we would have home by around about the middle of next year," Kevin Rudd told a Melbourne radio station on Friday.
"We've not begun our discussions with the United States on that. We'll have a meeting with the United States ambassador before too long to set up the appropriate processes for discussing that."
Rudd won Saturday's elections by a landslide, beating John Howard, the prime minister who staunchly supported the US-led war in Iraq.
Rudd had promised to withdraw the battle group from Iraq if elected but said he would leave behind some Australian soldiers, including those providing security at Australia's embassy in Baghdad.
Australia has some 1,500 troops involved in Iraqi operations, but most are outside the country.
The withdrawal plan covers only the 550 combat troops deployed in the south of the war-torn country.
Iraq was a key point of difference between Rudd's centre-left Labor party and Howard's conservative coalition during the election, but in his victory speech Rudd moved to allay US concerns about the troop withdrawal, describing the US as a great ally.
Last of 'coalition'
Robert McCallum, the US ambassador, said Washington would work with Rudd on the plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.
The withdrawal plan covers only the 550
combat troops deployed inside Iraq [EPA]
"It's a situation where Australia is determining how it is going to reposition forces and how it is going to deploy its resources in a new and different way, and we are looking forward to working with Mr Rudd in achieving that," McCallum said this week.
"There are going to be Australian troops left in Iraq as security forces that relate to the Australian embassy in Baghdad; there are naval forces and air forces that are offshore that relate to security issues," he added.
Howard was US President George Bush's last major partner in the "coalition of the willing" that once included former prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain; Jose Maria Aznar of Spain; Silvio Berlusconi of Italy; and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, has announced that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut by more than half early next year.
This entry was posted on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:49:44 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Gulamhusein A. Abba
"The only matter to be negotiated at Anapolis and thereafter is how to evacuate the Israeli army and settlers in a humane and safe manner, what to do with the settlements and other assets that will have to be left behind by the Israelis in the occupied territories and how much reparation is to be paid by Israel to the Palestinians"
When Iraq occupied Kuwait there was no question of negotiations, concessions, painful sacrifices. Iraq was told bluntly to vacate the occupation. When it refused to comply, the international community, led by US, drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait by military force, chasing it almost to the gates of Baghdad, leaving behind killing fields full of burnt out vehicles and corpses littered all over. It was ghastly and tragic but nevertheless a victory for international law.
There exist clear boundary lines, recognized and accepted by the international community, between Israel and Palestinian territories. These were set out in the original 1947 UN resolution proposing the setting up of an Israeli state. This boundary was modified by what has come to be known as the Green Line which came into being as a result of the Armistice agreement accepted by the Palestinians and Israel. In 1967 Israel crossed these lines and occupied all of the Palestinian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem (and the Golan Heights.)
International law is very clear on this. All land acquired through conquest must be returned by the occupier. There is no question of negotiations or concessions or sacrifices. All of the land has to be given back, unconditionally.
In any discussion about the "peace negotiations" that have now been initiated by the US between Israel and Palestine, two factors must be constantly borne in mind: Firstly, the Palestinians are the aggrieved victims and Israel the offending occupier. It is a travesty to treat the thief and the victim, the person wearing the boot and the one being crushed under it, on the same footing; Secondly, Israel will not be "giving" anything at all to the Palestinians. It will be merely returning to them what is rightfully theirs and which Israel took by force in 1967.
As for "concessions" and "giving", a major portion of their land was taken away from the Palestinians and given to the Jewish people to form Israel. Later the Palestinians gave even more land when they signed the Armistice agreement. Now they have a mere 22% of their original holding. What more is there for them to give? It is most unfair and the height of injustice to ask them to give even more.
Recognition by neighboring Arab states:
Undoubtedly recognition of Israel by the neighboring Arab countries is important to Israel. This is a separate matter. It does not in any way affect the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own, especially when it is sought on a mere 22% of the land they originally had. Clearly the recognition of Israel by the neighbouring Arab states, though of great strategic importance to Israel, cannot be a condition for the setting up of a Palestinian state. It is up to Israel to woo the Arab states. This should not be difficult. They have already said the would recognize Israel provided it withdrew to the boundaries existing prior to Israel's 1967 occupation of Palestinian territories.
Similarly, the question of refugees is a thorny one for Israel. But, this again, is a separate matter. It cannot be allowed to hold up the setting of an independent Palestinian state. It is a problem between Israel and the refugees and has to be solved according to international law on the subject.
Whenever the question of setting up a Palestinian state comes up, the bogey of Israel's security is raised! Israel has an army which is among the largest and most powerful in the world. It has nuclear arsenal. It has more than once not only repulsed attacks by the combined armies of all the neighboring Arab states but inflicted humiliating defeats on them. This coalition has now been weakened by two of them -- Egypt and Jordan -- signing peace agreements with Israel. And several Arab states, though not formally declaring their recognition of Israel, are doing flouring business with Israel. In addition it has the undying and unquestioned support and backing of the most powerful nation in the world -- the USA. And Israel is worried about its security consequent to the creation of a Palestinian state? A state that has no army, no arsenal, nuclear or otherwise, worth the name? What can be more ridiculous?
If anyone needs security guarantees, it is the envisaged Palestinian state.
It would be relevant to ask as to where those so concerned now about guaranteeing Israel's security were when Israel was being envisaged? Were guarantees of security of the Arab population in and around the areas which were to become Israel asked for from the Jewish leaders before moving to set up an Israeli state? Were any steps taken by the international community to safeguard their "security" when the state of Israel was being announced?
This question of "security" is a mere bogey raised to confuse issues and provide excuses to Israel for delaying the formation of a Palestinian state. Already claims are being made that no peace agreement can be reached unless the launching of mortars on Israel is completely stopped. It wants this stopped though it refuses to stop its grab of Palestinian land, stop the construction of the security wall, stop its incursions into Palestinian territories, stop its arrests and killings of Palestinians.
Israel knows very well that its security lies in ending its brutal 40 years plus occupation of West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, releasing the Palestinian prisoners it holds and helping set up, recognizing and developing sincere, friendly relations with a contiguous, viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state.
Settlements and settlers:
This is a difficult and thorny problem. But it is Israel alone that is responsible for it. It knowingly and deliberately built the settlements as a strategy for expansion. It was illegal to do so. Yet it went ahead and did it. In spite of pleas from the Palestinians, the international community did nothing to stop it. It is now totally unacceptable to allow Israel to use the "facts on the ground" that it created as an excuse to demand more land from the Palestinians.
That Israel wants the land on which the major settlements are built is well known. But it has no right to demand it. If it is too proud to beg for it, the least it can do is request the Palestinians to let it have the land. It would then be up to the Palestinians to grant or refuse the request. It would be up to Israel to make an offer the Palestinians cannot refuse! Here again, the granting of such a request cannot be a condition for setting up a Palestinian state nor its refusal be an excuse for continuing the occupation.
Similarly, Israel needs water over which the Palestinians would have control after the creation of a Palestinian state. That is an unfortunate fact of life. It comes with the throw of the dice. After all Israel accepted the UN resolution proposing the setting up of Israel. The boundaries of the proposed Israeli state were clearly delineated. Israel's acceptance of the resolution implied the acceptance and honouring of the boundaries. If it had any concerns about water then, it should have insisted on that being a part of what was being offered to the Jewish people by the international community.
This, of course, does not bar them from requesting from the Palestinians concessions in regard to water. Israel cannot demand it and it certainly cannot insist that granting of these concessions be a condition for the setting up of a Palestinian state.
In fact, negotiations on this can be carried out in a fair and friendly manner only between two states that are negotiating on an equal footing. In other words, these negotiations, properly speaking, can be carried on only after the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
What then is to be negotiated now?
The only matter to be negotiated at Annapolis and thereafter is how to evacuate the Israeli army and settlers in a humane and safe manner, what to do with the settlements and other assets that will have to be left behind by the Israelis in the occupied territories and how much reparation is to be paid by Israel to the Palestinians.
Gulamhusein A. Abba is a retired journalist and a semi-retired activist who continues to stand up for peace, justice and human rights. He lives in Danbury, Conn.
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(Photo via My Sideways World.)
By Christy Hardin Smith
Two top Kurdish leaders are a long way from the mountains of northern Iraq this week.
On Monday night, Omer Fattah Hussain was the toast of a dinner held at the 10,000-square-foot McLean mansion of Ed Rogers, a Reagan White House political director and current chairman of the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. In an opulent living room just off an art-filled entryway with a curved double stairway, the deputy prime minister of the Iraqi Kurds’ autonomous region mingled with such luminaries as former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former White House press secretary Tony Snow.
Today, Hussain travels to Houston with Ashti Abdullah Hawrami, the Kurdish regional oil minister, to woo an even more important audience: U.S. oil companies.
After more than a year of political deadlock in Iraq over a national petroleum law, the Kurdistan Regional Government unanimously adopted its own petroleum legislation in August. In the past month, it has signed a dozen oil exploration contracts and hopes that foreign firms will ultimately invest $10 billion in the oil sector and bring 1 million barrels a day of new oil production from the Kurdish region over the next five years.
“Everyone is lining up . . . saying ‘I want a piece of this action,’ ” said Hawrami, who hopes to complete negotiations on two more deals in Houston.
Hawrami said the contracts posed no conflict with Iraq’s federal constitution. The Iraqi central government, however, is irate over the Kurdish contracts — and the State Department isn’t happy either. The Bush administration has been striving mightily over the past year to get a national petroleum law approved before international firms jump in….
Some of the recent signing activity may have begun when Dallas-based Hunt Oil, whose chief executive Ray L. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a major contributor to Bush’s campaigns, signed a contract in September. Smaller U.S. companies have followed suit….
Nope, no conflicts of interest here. What a cozy soiree laden with George Bush and Dick Cheney’s pals and confidentes attempting to sway policy interests in the most oil-rich portion of Iraq: Richard Perle and Scooter Libby, along with erstwhile Karl and Scooter talking head defender guy, Ed Rogers. Wow, those wingnut welfare gigs sure do pay off in cocktail weenies, don’t they? Ethics abound…talk about grooming the hands that cover your flanks, eh?
UPDATE: From John Anderson in the comments:
Yes, and guess who’s representing the Hunt Oil interests in the Kurdish autonomous region? Why, Baker Botts, of course. Hey, you don’t even have to follow the benjamins on this one, you just have to follow the Baker Botts [which happens to be one of the firms that represents Barbour, Griffith & Rogers] flag. My old magazine, The American Lawyer, reports the story today in its December issue.
Yes, as in James Baker. Everyone sing, “it’s a small world after all…” (If you haven’t read John’s book “Follow the Money,” you really should.)
This entry was posted on Nov 29, 2007 at 08:04:58 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Sacco's work often portrays Israeli raids as particularly brutal [Fantagraphics]
By Omar Khalifa
"I had a difficult time finding a job in journalism ... One that remotely interested me ... One that addressed the need to do something inspiring...
"I never thought of it as a career path; never even thought of it as a hobby. It was a passion ... I would draw comics ... but still wanted to be a hard news reporter..."
As a result, Maltese cartoonist Joe Sacco, went to the West Bank and Gaza to spend time with Palestinians between 1991 and 1992. On his return to the US, he started writing and drawing the award-winning book, Palestine. With a special edition of the comic book released in November, Al Jazeera speaks to Sacco about his experiences, methodology, and the 15 years since the comic book's first release.
Q: What were you trying to do with Palestine?
I don't really know what I was trying to do, but I think my impetus for going was that I felt the American media had really misportrayed the situation [between Israel and the Palestinians] and I was really shocked by that.
I grew up thinking of Palestinians as terrorists, and it took a lot of time, and reading the right things, to understand the power dynamic in the Middle East was not what I had thought it was... And basically, it upset me enough that I wanted to go, and, in a small way, give the Palestinians a voice - a lens through which people could see their lives.
There are two ways in which Palestinians are portrayed - as terrorist and as victim.
There may be truth in certain situations for both descriptions, but Palestinians are also people going to school, who have families, have lives, invite you into their home, and think about their food.
I'm deeply saddened by what's going on there ... the same is true for Bosnia. I was appalled by what was going on and went to see what I could do. I was compelled to go and do these stories, as this was the only form of solidarity that I could offer from within me.
There are so many things in the Middle East that I'm interested in - Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria - but I feel that if I'm to pursue this course, I'll need to learn Arabic.
Q: What was your methodology in creating Palestine?
I wasn't sure what I was gong to be doing when I went to the Palestinian territories. I already had a minor career as a cartoonist and knew that was my direction.
I went thinking, well, I'll do a travelogue of my experience there, but I knew I'd be talking to people and taking notes, so when I got there, I felt the journalist impulse came to the fore, interviewing people, getting stories, looking at the occupation and needing to do something about it.
So I began looking at major aspects of occupation, finding people who had those experiences and finding people with something to say about it.
It became methodical, but there were certainly more random aspects to the book. I let myself be pulled in many ways, with the mindset: "What ever comes up, comes up."
I took photos purely for reference, and I had a sketch book with me but I found myself not really using it. My photos aren't good; I only use them to have an idea of what things looked like as I mainly wanted to talk to people.
The book has a very organic feel. So many of my adventures were random. I'd get into a taxi to a certain city, and I thought: "Let's see who comes up to me." Someone was always likely to approach me and I'd say to them: "I'm here to see how you live, what your lives are like."
More often, the Palestinians I met would say: "If you want to see something, follow me." People at that time appreciated your interest in them and their lives, and were less worried or paranoid like they are today.
Q: Do you think your work tried to reconcile the differences between Israelis and Palestinians?
I wasn't trying to reconcile the differences between Israelis and Palestinians. I wanted to show some of the small issues related to the occupation. In fact, I don't think I showed anything spectacular.
I heard torture stories that were unusually harsh, but I decided not to use those kinds of stories, and instead something less shocking, something more of an "everyman" experience.
I think it's the "everyman experience" that people can relate to. It's harder to imagine; harder to put yourself in the picture of someone who is being humiliated.
For the average Westerner, the hooding of a detainee, stress positions, sleep deprivation ... obviously all Americans know that goes on now, but those sorts of things go on in cells all over the world.
Showing physical trauma, psychologically, would make it more difficult to bond with the reader, which is what I ultimately wanted to do.
I'm more comfortable as a journalist talking about stories that were about the common man.
Q: Edward Said wrote the foreword for Palestine – how did that come about?
Out of the blue I received a book from him, Peace and its Discontents, with a nice note written about the Palestine release, when they were a series of comics. Allegedly his son had been reading them.
Some years later, when Palestine was released as a single volume, I was asked: "Who should we get to write an intro?"
I wrote to Edward Said, and said that I would be honoured if he could do it, understanding that he was unwell at the time and in fact, didn't expect him to say yes. When he did, I was overwhelmed.
Q: Ever thought about turning this book into a film?
I don't think the book, Palestine, can be made into a film. It's too episodic. I've been approached a few times, but nobody has come to me with a legitimate way of making [it a] film.
I like doing comics. It's the thing I'm good at and I get to work on it alone.
I am in 100 per cent control. I design the sets and lighting, I don't need millions of dollars to do it. I don't want a committee telling me how to produce it.
The great thing about my work, as a cartoonist, is that it's a one man show.
Biography: Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco was born in Malta. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. His comic book, Palestine, won an American Book Award in 1996, and his graphic novel, Safe Area: Goradze, about his time in Bosnia, won the Will Eisener Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.
Sacco is currently working on a comic book about the southern Gaza Strip called Footnotes in Gaza, due for release at the end of 2008.
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The occupation is not benign, wirtes Al Haq. It is aggressive. It is an accumulation of 40 years of violations of international law through which Israel has advanced a policy of control, isolation and annexation of Palestinian land, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
-- Al Haq is an independent human rights organization with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It is based in Ramallah, Palestine.
Over the past 40 years Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has aggressively targeted both the land and the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Not simply haphazard structures of concrete, steel and tarmac, Israel’s settlements and their accompanying maze of bypass roads, hundreds of checkpoints, other movement restrictions and the Annexation Wall, are ever-increasing monuments to the dispossession and subjugation of the Palestinian people, at the expense of their fundamental rights guaranteed under international law.
Supporting the physical infrastructure of the occupation is an invisible system of administrative restrictions and military dictates. Military orders serve as the arbitrary basis for land expropriation, property destruction and the exclusion of Palestinians from vast tracts of land, while a permit regime further restricts movement and stifles social, economic and cultural existence. Since the beginning of the occupation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, thousands more killed in extrajudicial executions, and an estimated 115,000 forcibly displaced internally, while over six million Palestinians remain refugees, unable to return to their homeland.
The occupation is not benign. It is aggressive. It is an accumulation of 40 years of violations of international law through which Israel has advanced a policy of control, isolation and annexation of Palestinian land, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. Ultimately, the occupation eviscerates not only their rights as individuals, but also their most fundamental right as a people - the right to self-determination.
On this, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the international community must not only clearly renounce its tacit acquiescence to Israel’s violations of international law, but also commit to concrete action to end these violations, and in doing so, end the occupation itself.
Transforming the Land, Targeting the People
Israel’s intention to annex Palestinian land became evident in the immediate aftermath of the June 1967 war. Approximately 30 settlements were established in the first 18 months of the occupation; 40 years later, there are some 149 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, housing more than 450,000 settlers. These settlements, including built-up areas, land reserves and non-developed areas within the settlements' boundaries control approximately 40 percent of the total land area of the occupied West Bank, the vast majority of which is off-limits to Palestinians.
In parallel to Israel’s settlement enterprise, the annexation of territory is further enabled by Israeli policies which isolate Palestinians from their land and each other, in particular through physical and administrative restrictions on their freedom of movement. Checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches, road gates, and other physical barriers prevent Palestinians from travelling freely within the West Bank. In July 2007, the UN recorded a total of 545 physical obstacles to Palestinian movement; they are accompanied by a pervasive permit system that limits the movement of Palestinians through certain checkpoints, and confines them to specific roads and areas of the OPT.
The most recent tool in Israel’s policy of territorial acquisition is the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank. Begun in June 2002, the route of the Wall encroaches deep into the West Bank to surround major settlements housing over 80 percent of the settler population. Stretching over twice the length of the Green Line (the de facto border between Israel and the OPT), some 80 percent of the Wall will be built inside the West Bank. Already over 56 percent complete, once the structure is finished, approximately 10 percent of the West Bank will be isolated between the Green Line and the Wall, including both East Jerusalem and some of the most arable land in the northern West Bank, as well as some of the OPT’s most essential water resources.
The system effectively serves to fragment the West Bank and its population into isolated geographical units, an archipelago of land locked Palestinian islands in a sea of Israeli control, with movement between them heavily restricted. In recent years a number of these checkpoints, deep within the West Bank and along the route of the Wall, have developed into terminals similar to international border crossings, testifying to their intended permanence.
The interaction of Israel’s settlements, movement restrictions, Wall and permit system as harbingers of annexation has been most blatant in occupied East Jerusalem. Approximately two weeks after the end of the June 1967 war, the Israeli authorities announced the extension of their jurisdiction over East Jerusalem as well as a sizeable amount of the land of surrounding Palestinian villages. The Israeli-defined municipal borders of Jerusalem more than doubled through this de facto annexation. Approximately one-third of the illegally annexed land was expropriated to build 12 settlements, currently home to over 250,000 Israeli settlers. The majority of the remaining land was re-zoned so as to prevent Palestinian use, and in effect serves as a land reserve for further settlement construction and expansion. While Palestinians constitute over 50 percent of the population of East Jerusalem, through a complex intersection of physical and administrative measures, only 7.3 percent of the land therein is available for Palestinian construction, most of which is already built-up. Palestinian movement to and from the city is massively restricted, and further limited by the route of the Wall which encloses all settlements in and surrounding East Jerusalem, permanently sealing the city off from the rest of the West Bank.
A similar pattern of annexation is apparent in other areas of the West Bank, most notably in the Jordan Valley. This area, one of the most fertile in the OPT and thus a critical part of the fragile (and agricultural-dependant) Palestinian economy, forms approximately 25 percent of the West Bank. Israeli authorities established settlements in the region from the early days of the occupation, declaring it a closed military area, which enabled the effective confiscation and expropriation of much of the land in the area. At present, Israel controls an estimated 90 percent of the land, to which Palestinians are denied access and use. This denial has been implemented through an invisible Wall of permits, checkpoints and restricted access roads that allow Israel to exert total control over the movement of Palestinians to and from the Jordan Valley.
The consistent policy of the Israeli government has been that control over East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and the settlement ‘blocs’ will be retained by Israel in any negotiated solution. The current Israeli Prime Minister has himself stated that the Jordan Valley constitutes Israel’s “eastern border,” and that the route of the Wall, which incorporates the settlement ‘blocs’ and East Jerusalem, will be the basis of the future border of the state of Israel.
Despite its lack of contiguity with the West Bank, the Gaza Strip with its population of 1.5 million Palestinians is an integral part of the OPT. On 15 September 2005, Israel completed its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, removing some 8,000 Israeli settlers and its military forces from the Gaza Strip. The stated objective of the Disengagement Plan was, in its initial formulation, the removal of the "basis for claiming that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory," seeking to "dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." Further, trying to negate its occupation, the Israeli government has recently declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” and used this designation as the basis for the overt and indiscriminate punishment of the Palestinian civilian population therein. Despite these legal gymnastics, as long as Israel remains in effective control of the Gaza Strip – requiring only that it has the ability to make its authority felt within a reasonable time – it remains an occupying power. Israel's exclusive border control, maintenance of authority over the Palestinian population registry, and repeated and ongoing military operations in Gaza, ranging from shelling to large-scale ground invasions, clearly demonstrate that this remains the case.
An Unlawful Occupation
The sustained patterns of abuse perpetrated for the last 40 years against the Palestinian people, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the practices inherent in Israel’s prolonged occupation of the OPT are in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits, inter alia, an Occupying Power from transferring part of its civilian population into the occupied territory, and the confiscation or destruction of property except where required by imperative military necessity. The restrictions on Palestinian movement, and by extension on access to healthcare, education and employment, constitute clear violations of human rights, as do ill-treatment at checkpoints, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions. These violations are not separate from the occupation but are at its core, intrinsic to its everyday existence in the lives of the Palestinian people. While these pervasive and systematic individual violations committed against Palestinian civilians through the occupation are enough to assert that the occupation itself is illegal, Israel’s policy in the OPT goes beyond disregarding binding human rights and humanitarian protections and extends to total contempt for general principles of international law, namely, the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
The illegality of the acquisition of territory by force is a foundation of international law that finds expression in the UN Charter and resolutions Security Council and General Assembly. It is recognised by the international community as a prohibition from which no derogation is permitted. As already noted, Israel intends to retain its settlements in the OPT in any negotiations, amounting to a declared intention to acquire territory by force in violation of international law.
Further, the retention of settlements and their associated infrastructure by Israel would not only amount to the illegal annexation of territory, but would also fragment the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, into isolated geographical units. When this is considered in parallel with the total isolation of the Gaza Strip, this makes a mockery of the idea of territorial contiguity in the OPT, and severely undermines any possibility of the meaningful exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable right to self-determination. In stifling the ability of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, and other fundamental rights, Israel denies them the ability to shape their own future and live in dignity, further fuelling instability.
The Role of the International Community
The sustained denial by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, with the tacit acquiescence of the international community, fails not only to recognise the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to free themselves of oppressive occupation but further suggests such an aspiration is not worthy of international support. With the acquiescence of the international community, the meaningful exercise of the right to self-determination has been all but decimated by four decades of Israeli occupation. Rather than affirming the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, the international community has opted to seek to mitigate the disastrous effects of Israel’s illegal policies and practices in the OPT. In doing so, it has failed to meaningfully address the root causes of the conflict, voicing at best timid criticism devoid of concrete action and thereby serving only to feed despair and isolation, further removing international law as a reference point in the Palestinian struggle.
In 2006, in the wake of the democratic election of the Palestinian Legislative Council, this sense of isolation was heightened by the role that the international community played in actively undermining the Palestinian national institutions they championed only a decade before as key elements of the realisation of the Palestinian right to self-determination. The financial boycott of the Palestinian National Authority, already exercising substantially limited governance responsibilities, has rendered these institutions all but destitute. In such an atmosphere it is little surprise that disarray has become common currency. It is also notable that this is the first time in history that sanctions have been imposed on the victims of an oppressive regime rather than on the regime itself.
Now the international community has stumbled into another peace process, that similar to all past efforts, be they formal or informal, gives international legal norms little import, blindly assuming that peace can be realised without justice and accountability. In the context of a current global environment in which "security" concerns trump the rule of law, reason and democratic dissent, the Israeli authorities have increasing latitude to continue their unlawful practices in the OPT. Despite this ongoing pattern of violations, few remedies have been made available to Palestinians. This is compounded by the fact that those officials responsible enjoy undisputed immunity, in both Israel and abroad.
This systematic denial of justice is enabled by a deficit of enforcement from a seemingly indifferent international community. Rather, international leaders make diplomatic overtures which seek to realise a more benevolent occupation, without addressing the core of the problem - the occupation itself. In this respect the full implementation of international law must be taken as the unalterable core of any negotiated solution, and not simply treated as a disposable political afterthought.
The occupation was built by action, not words, at the expense of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. Action, and not only words, is therefore required to reaffirm these rights and in doing so end the occupation. The international community has the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to ensure Israel’s respect of international law, whether as the individual member states, regional organisations or as the United Nations. It is essential that these tools now be used, effectively and in accordance with international law. It is time to place, at this critical point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the imperatives of respect for the rule of law, human dignity and justice as the central narrative for achieving any negotiated solution. If any hope of a peace that is not devoid of meaning it to be achieved, the international community must stir from its complacency and rise to the defence of international law and the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
Al-Haq, PO Box 1413 - Ramallah, West Bank
Tel: +972 2 295 4646/9 Fax: +972 2 295 4903
firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.alhaq.org
This entry was posted on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:31:16 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ Amnesty International said on Saturday that if the Annapolis summit is to succeed the "grave human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law must be addressed."
A new Amnesty report, released shortly before the summit is due to begin next week, said that "measurable benchmarks should be laid down by the parties to the talks -- together with a clearly-defined mechanism for their implementation and including a regime of enforceable measures -- to ensure that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) comply with their obligations under international law and that the fundamental rights of both Palestinians and Israelis are respected."
Amnesty also called for the deployment of international human rights monitors in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), with a mandate to monitor and report publicly on compliance and on violations by either party of their commitments under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The international Quartet and the Middle Eastern countries involved in the Annapolis negotiations must ensure that international law and the Geneva Conventions are respected, according to Amnesty. "They should use these prerogatives as a positive force for change and insist that both the Israeli government and the PA adhere to their human rights and international humanitarian law commitments," the report said.
Amnesty International stressed that the most urgent issues to be addressed are those that impact daily on the human rights of millions of Palestinians and Israelis.
They called on both the Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups to immediately end unlawful killings and all other attacks on civilians, adding "the Israeli government and the PA must both bring to justice all perpetrators of such abuses -- regardless of their rank and seniority and political affiliation or backing."
The report also said the Israeli government should immediately lift the "regime of blockades and restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the OPT which have effectively paralyzed the Palestinian economy and denied any semblance of normal life to the 3.5 million Palestinian inhabitants."
"The Israeli government also should lift immediately the blockade it has imposed on the Gaza Strip and which has fuelled a humanitarian crisis, causing extreme and widespread poverty and food aid dependency, and the deaths of individuals in need of medical care unavailable in the Gaza Strip," the report added.
Amnesty called for the ceasing of all construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, including the 80 percent of the 700km separation wall built inside the occupied West Bank. "If a fence/wall is needed to protect Israelis' security, it should be positioned on the boundary between Israel and the OPT, not inside the OPT," the report said.
Israel must also begin preparations to relocate Israeli settlers from Palestinian territories back to Israel, according to Amnesty.
Amnesty also called on the Israeli authorities to stop destroying Palestinian homes and lands and to cancel outstanding demolition orders.
"The Israeli authorities should release Palestinians arbitrarily detained, notably more than 800 administrative detainees who are held without charge or trial, and should review the cases of some 300 Palestinian children, who have been trial or are awaiting trial by Israeli military courts without benefiting from the necessary procedures designed to protect children, in breach of the provisions stipulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," the report stipulated.
The Amnesty report said the international Quartet must insist the Israeli government end its unlawful appropriation of Palestinian land and natural resources in Palestinian territories.
According to the report, Israel has failed to abide by agreements to stop settlement expansion. "Under the 'Roadmap' agreement, the Israeli government undertook to freeze all settlement activity, including expansion for so-called "natural growth," and to dismantle all the settlement "outposts" established since 2001, but it has signally failed to do so." Instead, dozens of these "outposts" -- as well as some 150 settlements officially recognized by the Israeli government throughout the West Bank -- have been expanded. While the removal of some 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 was a positive step, it was offset by a larger increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank."
The report also highlighted that the Israeli government has failed to fulfill its commitment made last month to the US administration in preparation for the Annapolis meeting to remove some of the 560 military checkpoints and blockades which impede the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages in the West Bank, and to allow access for Palestinian farmers now cut off from their land by special procedures or processes designed to protect children the construction of the separation wall.
"At the same time, the tightening by Israel of the blockade on the Gaza Strip continues to have devastating consequences for its 1.5 million inhabitants. With only rare exceptions, critically ill patients continue to be prevented from leaving Gaza, where the medical treatment they need is not available, and several have died as a result. The World Health Organization reported earlier this month a shortage of some essential drugs and a further deterioration in health among the inhabitants of Gaza, where hospitals are also affected by food shortages, including dairy products and meat. International aid agencies have expressed concern that Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip are severely hampering their ability to meet the humanitarian needs of the population -- 80 percent of whom are now forced to rely on international assistance," the report added.
"The international community must also demand the immediate lifting of the arbitrary and disproportionate blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, which constitutes a form of collective punishment on the Palestinian inhabitants, including hundreds of thousands of children and others who bear no responsibility for the violence and who are living in a dire situation of enforced poverty," the report concluded.
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Israeli naval forces kill two Palestinian Police Officers in southern Gaza
Israeli naval forces on Wednesday afternoon killed two Palestinian Police Officers and injured five others in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, local sources reported.
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Israeli army kills Palestinian farmer in Rafah; death toll rises to six in 24 hours
A total of six Palestinians, a number including civilians and resistance fighters, have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in the last 24 hours.
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Israeli troops execute injured Palestinian in Gaza, eyewitnesses say
GAZA – Local residents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip told Ma'an's correspondent that Israeli forces executed a Palestinian man after he was wounded in the Israeli air strike on Wednesday afternoon.
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Israeli Army Abducts Two Young Men From Azzun, Shoots Three Teenagers Critically Injuring One, and Assaults Human Rights Workers
Approximately 10 military vehicles invaded and took over the residential streets of Azzun Tuesday mid-afternoon, abducting two young men, terrorizing the residents, and shooting 3 teenagers with live ammunition. Residents report that over 200 Israeli soldiers, including Special Forces, entered the old city quarter around 2:45 pm from different directions, positioning themselves at various points on the narrow lanes, firing live bullets and throwing sound bombs while closing in on the home of the young man they sought. IOF foot soldiers entered first, followed about 30 minutes later by a series of military trucks and jeeps, as well as two undercover Palestinian minibuses with further special forces inside.
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IMEMC Photographer beaten and detained by PA (President Mahmoud Abbas's) Security forces
Palestinian Security forces on Tuesdaya assaulted and detained IMEMC’s Photographer and News Producer Ghassan Bannoura as he covered an anti-Annapolis demonstration in Bethlehem.
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Fifty-seven injured as PA (President Mahmoud Abbas's) security forces attack Hebron funeral
Fifty seven Palestinians were injured, several of them seriously, on Wednesday when Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire during a funeral for a civilian killed during Tuesday's anti-Annapolis protests in Hebron, eyewitnesses and medical sources reported.
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By MOHAMMED KHATIB
On the eve of the meeting intended to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians at Annapolis, Maryland, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel will build no new West Bank settlements, but will not "strangle" existing Israel settlements. This means that construction in the 149 existing Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank that are strangling Palestinians, including the settlements on our village's land, will continue unchecked. Olmert's cynical announcement underlines our fear that Israel, with US support, will insist on retaining most West Bank settlements in the upcoming negotiations, locking Palestinians into a "separate but unequal" position.
When United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visited the Middle East a few weeks ago, people from our small village of Bil'in joined neighboring villages to send her a message. We protested peacefully against a West Bank highway near us that is reserved for Jewish Israeli settlers, and off-limits to Palestinians, though it was built on Palestinian land. Our banner read: "Condi, What would Rosa Parks do?"
We know that Dr. Rice experienced the bitter taste of discrimination growing up in the South during the US civil rights struggle. In Bil'in, we've drawn inspiration from the US civil rights movement as we've carried out a three year nonviolent resistance campaign against the discriminatory policies of Israel's military occupation.
We share Dr. Rice's admiration for the courage of Rosa Parks who was arrested in Alabama, Rice's home state, for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man. As Palestinians we aren't even allowed in buses on many roads in our own country, because 200 miles of the best West Bank roads are reserved for Israeli Jewish settlers.1 The color of Palestinian license plates is different from the licenses of Israelis. Palestinian plates are not allowed on most of the highways crisscrossing the West Bank, many of which were built with US government funding. Palestinians have been banned for five years now from Highway 443 where we protested.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are 561 physical obstacles and checkpoints inside the West Bank restricting Palestinian movement within the West Bank2, in comparison with only eight checkpoints which separate the West Bank from Israel proper. Nearly all the obstacles and checkpoints are located along the West Bank roads reserved for Israelis. This makes getting to the hospital, school and work or visiting relatives painstakingly difficult or impossible for us. This fragmentation of the West Bank has devastated our economy.
For Palestinians, accepting a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on just 22% of our historic homeland was already a dramatic compromise. But President Bush promised Israel in 2004 that in any negotiated agreement with the Palestinians Israel would retain its "already existing major population centers" in the West Bank.
However, all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. By annexing to Israel strategically located clusters of settlements, or "settlement blocs", and their highways which carve Palestinian areas into isolated enclaves, Israel will gain permanent control of our movement, borders, water, and cut us off from Jerusalem.
The Israeli organization Peace Now reported a few weeks ago that the population growth rate in the settlements is three times the growth rate within Israel.3 We're experiencing such rapid settlement construction around Bil'in and throughout the West Bank that I can't even find an accurate map of the West Bank for my son.
In 2001, Israeli developers began building settlement homes on land seized from Bil'in, calling them a neighborhood of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc. Four years later, Israel's segregation wall separated Bil'in from 50% of our agricultural land under the pretext of protecting this new settlement. In response, we held over 200 nonviolent protests together with Israeli and international supporters.
Hundreds of us were injured and arrested. After our protests, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the wall's route in Bil'in must be changed to return around half of our seized land. Though we celebrated this success, Israel continues to build on our land that wasn't returned and plans to annex it as part of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc.4
Israel has already de facto annexed the 10.2% of the West Bank that lies between the Green Line and the segregation wall, including the major settlement blocs and 80% of Israel's 450,000 settlers. The segregation wall, settlements and settlement roads carve Palestinian areas into isolated enclaves.
We pray that our children will not spend their lives under Israeli military occupation. We hope that the Annapolis meeting will bring our dreams of freedom closer to fulfillment. But we are concerned that if Israel is allowed to keep most of its settlements and the roads that connect them, then the existing system of "separate but unequal" will be cemented in place in a Palestinian state.
Mohammed Khatib is a leading member of Bilin's Popular Committee Against the Wall and the secretary of its village council.
 Forbidden roads: The discriminatory West Bank road regime, B'Tselem.
 OCHA Closure Update: October 2007, The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
 West Bank settlements 'expanding' BBC, 7 November 2007.
 One Palestinian Village Struggles Against Israel's Ever-Expanding "Settlements", Alternet, 26 September 2007.
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By JAMES PETRAS
On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday, December 2, 2007.
The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government.
The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60 per cent abstention.
The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit former Chavez supporters among the social democrats (PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel, claiming to have reduced the 'yes' vote by 6 per cent from its original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives concede that they have reached their ceiling, recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the electoral route.
The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP) [Operación Tenaza] be operationalized. OP involves a two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum, rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for a 'no' vote. The run up to the referendum includes running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and running propaganda through the private media accusing the government of fraud and calling for a 'no' vote. Contradictions, the report emphasizes, are of no matter.
The CIA-Embassy reports internal division and recriminations among the opponents of the amendments including several defections from their 'umbrella group'. The key and most dangerous threats to democracy raised by the Embassy memo point to their success in mobilizing the private university students (backed by top administrators) to attack key government buildings including the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council. The Embassy is especially full of praise for the ex-Maoist 'Red Flag' group for its violent street fighting activity. Ironically, small Trotskyist sects and their trade unionists join the ex-Maoists in opposing the constitutional amendments. The Embassy, while discarding their 'Marxist rhetoric', perceives their opposition as fitting in with their overall strategy.
The ultimate objective of 'Operation Pincer' is to seize a territorial or institutional base with the 'massive support' of the defeated electoral minority within three or four days (presumably after the elections though this is not clear. JP) backed by an uprising by oppositionist military officers principally in the National Guard. The Embassy operative concede that the military plotters have run into serous problems as key intelligence operatives were detected, stores of arms were decommissioned and several plotters are under tight surveillance.
Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary organization of the Venezuelan business elite (FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private television, radio and newspaper outlets have been engaged in a campaign of fear and intimidation campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items and have provoked large scale capital flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a 'no' vote.
President Chavez Counter-Attacks
In a speech to pro-Chavez, pro-amendment nationalist business-people (Entrepreneurs for Venezuela EMPREVEN) Chavez warned the President of FEDECAMARAS that if he continues to threaten the government with a coup, he would nationalize all their business affiliates. With the exception of the Trotskyists and other sects, the vast majority of organized workers, peasants, small farmers, poor neighborhood councils, informal self-employed and public school students have mobilized and demonstrated in favor of the constitutional amendments.
The reason for the popular majority is found in a few of the key amendments: One article expedites land expropriation facilitating re-distribution to the landless and small producers. Chavez has already settled over 150,000 landless workers on 2 million acres of land. Another amendment provides universal social security coverage for the entire informal sector (street sellers, domestic workers, self-employed) amounting to 40 per cent of the labor force. Organized and unorganized workers' workweek will be reduced from 40 to 36 hours a week (Monday to Friday noon) with no reduction in pay. Open admission and universal free higher education will open greater educational opportunities for lower class students. Amendments will allow the government to by-pass current bureaucratic blockage of the socialization of strategic industries, thus creating greater employment and lower utility costs. Most important, an amendment will increase the power and budget of neighborhood councils to legislate and invest in their communities.
The electorate supporting the constitutional amendments is voting in favor of their socio-economic and class interests; the issue of extended re-election of the President is not high on their priorities: And that is the issue that the Right has focused on in calling Chavez a 'dictator' and the referendum a 'coup'.
With strong financial backing from the US Embassy ($8 million dollars in propaganda alone according to the Embassy memo) and the business elite and 'free time' by the right-wing media, the Right has organized a majority of the upper middle class students from the private universities, backed by the Catholic Church hierarchy, large swaths of the affluent middle class neighborhoods, entire sectors of the commercial, real estate and financial middle classes and apparently sectors of the military, especially officials in the National Guard. While the Right has control over the major private media, public television and radio back the constitutional reforms. While the Right has its followers among some generals and the National Guard, Chavez has the backing of the paratroops and legions of middle-rank officers and most other generals.
The outcome of the Referendum of December 2 is a major historical event first and foremost for Venezuela but also for the rest of the Americas. A positive vote (Vota 'Sí') will provide the legal framework for the democratization of the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, empower the poor and provide the basis for a self-managed factory system. A negative vote (or a successful US-backed civil-military uprising) would reverse the most promising living experience of popular self-rule, of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism. A reversal, especially a military dictated outcome, would lead to a blood bath, such as we have not seen since the days of the Indonesian Generals' Coup of 1966, which killed over a million workers and peasants or the Argentine Coup of 1976 in which over 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the US- backed Generals.
A decisive vote for 'Sí' will not end US military and political destabilization campaigns but it will certainly undermine and demoralize their collaborators. On December 2, 2007 the Venezuelans have a rendezvous with history.
James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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By JEFF HALPER
One may well think that the struggle inside the Jewish community of Israel is between those of the political right, who want to maintain the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank so as to "redeem" the Greater Land of Israel as a Jewish country, and those of the left who seek a two-state solution with the Palestinians and are thus willing to relinquish enough of the "territories", if not all, in order that a viable Palestinian state may emerge.
This is not really the case. Polls and the make-up of the Israeli government suggest that perhaps a quarter of Israeli Jews fall into the first group, the die-hards, while not more than 10 per cent support a full withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Negotiations must take place once in a while, if only to project an image of Israel as a country seeking peace--Annapolis being merely the latest charade--but they can never lead to any real breakthrough because two-thirds of the Jewish public support a permanent Israeli presence in the occupied territories, civilian and military, that forecloses a viable Palestinian state.
(Virtually no Israeli Jews use the term "occupation," which Israel denies it has.) The vast majority of Israeli Jews, stretching from the liberal Meretz party through Labour, Kadima and into the "liberal" wing of the Likud, excepting only the religious parties and the extreme right-wing led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, share a broad consensus: for both security reasons and because of Israel's "facts on the ground", the Arabs (as we [Israelis] call the Palestinians) will have to settle for a truncated mini- state on no more than 15-20 per cent of the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
What's more, it's agreed that the decision whether to relinquish any territory and how much is an exclusively Israeli decision. We may proffer to the Palestinians some kind of a "generous offer" if they behave themselves and it suits our purpose, but any initiative in the direction of "peace" must be unilateral. The Palestinians may indicate a preference, but the decision is ours and ours alone. Our power, our all-encompassing concern for security and the plain fact that the Arabs just don't count (except as a nuisance factor) limit any peace process to, at best, a willingness to grant them a tiny Bantustan on four or five cantons, all encircled by Israeli settlements and the military. Israeli control of the entire Land of Israel, whether for religious, national or security reasons, is a given, never to be compromised.
This is, of course, completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. That by itself doesn't matter, but it does raise a fundamental problem. In any genuine negotiations leading to just, sustainable and mutually agreed-upon agreement, Israel would have to give up much more than it is willing to do. Negotiations must take place once in a while, if only to project an image of Israel as a country seeking peace--Annapolis being merely the latest charade--but they can never lead to any real breakthrough because two-thirds of the Jewish public support a permanent Israeli presence in the occupied territories, civilian and military, that forecloses a viable Palestinian state. How, then, does Israel retain its major settlements, a "greater" Jerusalem and control over territory and borders without appearing intransigent? How can it maintain its image as the only seeker of peace and the victim of Arab terrorism, effectively concealing its own violence and, indeed, the very fact of occupation in order to shift the blame to the Palestinians?
The answer for the past 40 years of occupation is the status quo, delay, while quietly expanding the settlements and strengthening its grip on Judea and Samaria (again, we do not use the terms "occupation" or "occupied territories" in Israel, not to mention "Palestinian"). Just look at the run-up to Annapolis and the negotiations Israel is promising. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said recently that "Annapolis is a landmark on the path to negotiations and of the genuine effort to achieve the realization of the vision of two nations: the State of Israel--the nation of the Jewish people; and the Palestinian state--the nation of the Palestinian people". Sounds good, doesn't it? Now look at the pre-conditions Israel has imposed just in the two weeks before Annapolis:
Redefining Phase 1 of the Road Map. The first phase of the Road Map, the very basis of negotiations, calls for Israel to freeze its settlement construction. That is something Israel will obviously not do. So, on the basis of a letter former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received from President Bush in 2004--a fundamental change in American policy that nevertheless does not commit the other members of the Road Map "Quartet", Europe, Russia and the UN--Israel announced that it defines the areas considered "occupied" by the Quartet as only those areas falling outside its major settlement blocs and "greater" Jerusalem. Thus, unilaterally, Israel (and the US apparently) reduced the territory to be negotiated with the Palestinians from 22 per cent to a mere 15 per cent, and that truncated into fragmented cantons.
Requiring recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state." The Palestinians are required to formally recognize the state of Israel. They did so already in 1988 when they accepted the two-state solution, at the outset of the Oslo process and repeatedly over the past two decades. Now comes a fresh demand: that before any negotiations they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Not only does that introduce an entirely new element that Israel knows the Palestinians will not accept, but it prejudices the equal status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, a full 20 per cent of the Israeli population. This leads the way to transfer, to ethnic cleansing. Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, recently told a press conference that the future of Israel's Arab citizens is in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel itself.
Creating insurmountable political obstacles. Two weeks before Annapolis was to convene, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a law that a majority of two-thirds would be required to approve any change in the status of Jerusalem, an impossible threshold.
Delayed implementation. OK, the Israeli government says, we'll negotiate. But the implementation of any agreement will wait on the complete cessation of any resistance on the part of the Palestinians. Given the fact that Israel views any resistance, armed or non-violent, as a form of terrorism, this erects yet another insurmountable obstacle before any peace process.
Declaring a "transitional" Palestinian state. If all else fails--actually negotiating with the Palestinians or relinquishing the occupation not being an option--the US, at Israel's behest, can manage to skip Phase 1 of the Road Map and go directly to Phase 2, which calls for a "transitional" Palestinian state before, in Phase 3, its actual borders, territory and sovereignty are agreed upon. This is the Palestinians' nightmare: being locked indefinitely in the limbo of a "transitional" state. For Israel it is ideal, since it offers the possibility of imposing borders and expanding into the Palestinian areas unilaterally yet, since its fait accompli is only "transitional," seeming to conform to the Road Map's requirement to decide the final issues through negotiations.
The end result, towards which Israel has been progressing deliberately and systematically since 1967, can only be called apartheid, which means "separation" in Afrikaner, precisely the term Israel uses to describe its policy (hafrada in Hebrew). And it is apartheid in the strict sense of the term: one population separating itself from the rest, then dominating them permanently and institutionally through a political regime like an expanded Israel locking the Palestinians into dependent and impoverished cantons. The overriding question for the Israeli government, then, is not how to reach peace. If peace and security were truly the issue, Israel could have had that 20 years ago if it would have conceded the 22 per cent of the country required for a viable Palestinian state. Today, when Israel's control is infinitely stronger, why, ask the Israeli Jewish public and the government it elects, should we concede anything significant? We enjoy peace with Egypt and Jordan, and Syria is dying to negotiate. We have relations with most Arab and Muslim states. We enjoy the absolute and uncritical support of the world's only superpower, supported by a compliant Europe. Terrorism is under control, the conflict has been made manageable, Israel's economy is booming. What, ask Israelis, is wrong with this picture?
No, the issue for Israel is rather how to transform its Occupation from what the world considers a temporary situation to a permanent political fact accepted by the international community, de facto if need be or, if apartheid can be finessed in the form of a two-state solution, then formally. And here's the dilemma, and the source of debate within the Israeli government: does Israel continue with the strategy that has served it so well these past 40 years, delaying or prolonging negotiations so as to maintain the status quo, all the while strengthening its hold over the Palestinian territories or, at this unique but fleeting moment in history when George Bush is still in office, does it try to nail it all down, forcing upon the Palestinians a transitional state within the framework of the Road Map?
Olmert, following Sharon, is pushing for the former. Netanyahu, Lieberman, the right-wing (including many in Olmert's own party) and, significantly, Labour Chairman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, always a military hawk, are resisting out of fear that even a process of pretend negotiations might get out of hand, creating expectations on Israel. Better, they say, to stay with the tried-and-true policy of status quo which can, if cleverly managed, extend indefinitely. Besides, Bush is a lame duck, and no pressure will be put on Israel until June 2009, at least six months after the next American president is inaugurated, Democrat or Republican. We're just fine until then; why rock the boat? The only tricky time for Israel is the two years in the midst of a presidential term. We can weather that. Annapolis? We'll try cautiously for apartheid, hoping that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], prodded by Quartet envoy Tony Blair, will play the role of collaborator. If that doesn't work, well, status quo is always a reliable default.
In the meantime, as long as the Israeli public enjoys peace-and-quiet and a good economy, and as long as it remains convinced that security requires Israel to retain control of the territories, no pressure will come from the home front for any meaningful change of policy. Given this political landscape in Israel, in the territories and abroad, it's hard for Israeli leaders to conceal their ebullient feeling that, whether formally or not, "we've won".
Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a candidate, with the Palestinian peace activist Ghassan Andoni, for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A UN inquiry into the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister has suggested that that two or more teams may have prepared and carried out the assassination.
Serge Brammertz, leading an inquiry into the death of Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005, said in his final report to the UN Security Council that the investigation had new leads.
Brammertz has not confirmed the view . . .that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were involved in the attack.
"The commission has ... deepened and broadened its understanding of the possible involvement of a number of persons of interest," Brammertz said on Wednesday.
Al-Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive bomb blast on Beirut's Corniche, months after he ended a term as Lebanese prime minister.
Brammertz said the inquiry team had found apparent links between some people under investigation.
"In addition to the progress made in linking various persons of interest to the commission of the crime, the commission has also established links between some of these persons," he said.
Brammertz said the investigating commission also confirmed that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of 18 other targeted assassinations and bomb attacks in Lebanon.
The report was issued just after the Security Council approved Brammertz's nomination to lead the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands.
Daniel Bellemare, a former Canadian prosecutor, has been selected by Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, to head the al-Hariri probe.
Investigators have confirmed that al-Hariri and 22 others were killed by a single blast from a van packed with 1,800kg of high explosives.
The investigators say that a single male was most likely to have carried out the actual attack.
Brammertz has not confirmed the view of Detlev Mehlis, the investigation's first chief, that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were involved in the attack.
Four Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murders.
Syria has consistently denied involvement in al-Hariri's killing but withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005 after widespread protests by Lebanese civilians in the wake of al-Hariri's death.
The Syrian pullout brought an end to 29 years of involvement by Damascus in Lebanon.
Brammertz said in Wednesday's report that Syrian co-operation with investigators "remains generally satisfactory".
He said the commission had made 11 requests for information to Syria in the last four months, bringing the total to 68 since January 2006.
The investigator also said "encouraging" progress had been made towards conclusions on the type of explosives used, the van, and the individuals involved in the surveillance on al-Hariri.
The commission had also investigated al-Hariri's leadership in the Sunni community, as a potential factor in a motive for his killing.
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The Annapolis diary, day 3
By Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner
If there is a need for proof that nothing changes in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the joint declaration should suffice - the one that was signed a few minutes before President George W. Bush went to the podium and only after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put a little pressure on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. If proof is needed to show that much has changed, then the whispering between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas - a moment after Abbas finished his speech and Olmert took the floor - is proof of this.
The talks over the joint declaration, a total of only 437 words, lasted many weeks and reflected previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian talks. As always, the Palestinians announced each day that there was a "crisis," and until the last minute declared they were going to pass on the whole thing. As always, the Israelis said that things will be fine, and played down the disagreements. And as always, at the moment of truth, the two sides did not disappoint their American kindergarten teacher. At least they offered a bit of drama to the media on a diplomatic document that is quite dull.
The Americans insisted for many months, with a persistence that is reserved for officials convinced they are correct, that in Annapolis there will be a "meeting" and not a "summit." In the media and the rest of the world they ignored this precise terminology, but the U.S. administration did not give in. It was one of its ways of lowering expectations. Even Olmert, who has a compulsion for correcting mistakes, constantly reiterated that "this is not a conference, but a gathering." Still, in the joint declaration the two leaders expressed their thanks to the "participants in this international conference."
The joint declaration has other such delicate formulations that are understood only by legal experts and veterans of the peace industry. For example, on the question of what the declaration would be called, "declaration" was the Israelis' choice, "document" was the Palestinians' preference, and "understanding" was the American compromise accepted in the end.
Such distinctions may give cause for a giggle, but the declaration contains two elements that will serve the Israeli right wing in attacks it is expected to make on the prime minister. The first is the comparison the declaration makes between "terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis." Translation: Olmert agreed that Israel too is responsible for terrorism and incitement against the Palestinians, and that America will decide in every case who is inciting and who is a terrorist.
No public relations spin will be able to erase that: The comments Ariel Sharon's government presented for the road map specifically rejected the requirement that Israel "cease the violence and the incitement against the Palestinians." Now Israel has given up on its opposition and a moral comparison has been established, which leaves Olmert with a lot of explaining to do. (One of his explanations: it's not "Israel" but rather "Israelis").
The second problematic element, from Israel's point of view, is the commitment to "make every effort" to complete the agreement by the end of 2008. On this matter, the Palestinian demand for a timetable was accepted, and Israel's position, which proposed to leave the timing unspecified, was rejected.
Olmert did everything he could to sterilize the Annapolis declaration from any political booby traps. He had two problems. Avigdor Lieberman and Shas opposed any talk on the core issues, and Eli Yishai threatened that Shas would leave the coalition if "Jerusalem was mentioned at Annapolis." On the other hand, Olmert was faced with the objections of Ehud Barak and the defense establishment to any overly generous gestures of good will to Abbas.
The only issue on which there is no organized opposition was the timetable. No one will leave the cabinet because Israel has committed to reaching a final-status agreement in a year. In politics, a year is a lifetime. And in the Middle East, as Yitzhak Rabin said about the Oslo Accords, "no date is sacred." Therefore, it was convenient for Olmert to give in on this without taking a chance. 'Let the negotiations begin, then we'll see,' is the attitude.
Israel's main gain at Annapolis was in conditioning the implementation of the future agreement, if such is achieved, to the implementation of the obligations laid out in the road map and in rejecting the Palestinian demand that the road map be implemented in parallel with the final-status agreement. The Palestinians wanted Israel to have to evacuate an outpost or freeze a settlement in exchange for every one of their security-related operations. Israel insisted on separating the two, and succeeded.
The issue that threatened to disrupt the talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her lead-negotiating counterpart, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia, was over who would supervise the two sides and decide whether they are meeting their road map obligations. Experience in the Middle East suggests that the Israelis and the Palestinians are very good at blaming the other side, but they do not really like to keep their obligations. Had this been different the Palestinian terrorist groups and the outposts in the West Bank would have long gone. During the Oslo period there was no responsible adult around to ensure that the obligations were met. The road map sought to correct this and set a mechanism of monitoring under American control.
The Palestinians and the Americans proposed for the current negotiations to set up a tripartite committee that would discuss all issues and decide who was right and who needs to correct things. Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed this proposal, fearing that Israel will find itself in a minority position, and proposed instead that an American arbitrator would be assigned to decide. The final compromise is that a committee will be set up, but the decision maker will be U.S. General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander, who will take up his new duties in the coming days. Like other generals appointed by the White House for this thankless job, Jones will also probably go through a complicated breaking-in period in the Middle East.
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By Chris Hedges
I will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran. I realize this is a desperate and perhaps futile gesture. But an attack on Iran--which appears increasingly likely before the coming presidential election--will unleash a regional conflict of catastrophic proportions. This war, and especially Iranian retaliatory strikes on American targets, will be used to silence domestic dissent and abolish what is left of our civil liberties. It will solidify the slow-motion coup d'état that has been under way since the 9/11 attacks. It could mean the death of the Republic.
Let us hope sanity prevails. But sanity is a rare commodity in a White House that has twisted Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution into a policy of permanent war with nefarious aims--to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to strip citizens of their constitutional rights.
A war with Iran is doomed. It will be no more successful than the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon in 2006, which failed to break Hezbollah and united most Lebanese behind that militant group. The Israeli bombing did not pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 65 million people whose land mass is three times the size of France?
Once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters and cruise missiles on Iran, this is the choice that must be faced: either send US forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war, or walk away in humiliation.
But more ominous, an attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with possible Silkworm missile attacks by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send the price of oil soaring to somewhere around $200 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a global depression. The Middle East has two-thirds of the world's proven petroleum reserves and nearly half its natural gas. A disruption in the supply will be felt immediately.
This attack will be interpreted by many Shiites in the Middle East as a religious war. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia (heavily concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province), the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey could turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We could see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and widespread sabotage of oil production in the Persian Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for US troops. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which has so far not joined the insurgency, has strong ties to Iran. It could begin full-scale guerrilla resistance, possibly uniting for the first time with Sunnis against the occupation. Iran, in retaliation, will fire its missiles, some with a range of 1,100 miles, at US installations, including Baghdad's Green Zone. Expect substantial casualties, especially with Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies calling in precise coordinates. Iranian missiles could be launched at Israel. The Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, will become treacherous, perhaps unnavigable. Chinese-supplied antiship missiles, mines and coastal artillery, along with speedboats packed with explosives and suicide bombers, will target US shipping, along with Saudi oil production and oil export centers.
Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, closely allied with Iran, may in solidarity fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, could then carry out retaliatory raids against both Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan, with its huge Shiite minority, will become even more unstable. Unrest could result in the overthrow of the already weakened Pervez Musharraf and usher Islamic radicals into power. Pakistan, rather than Iran, would then become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The neat little war with Iran, which many Democrats do not oppose, has the potential to ignite an inferno.
George W. Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Conventions and human rights law in the treatment of detainees. Most egregious, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. He seeks to do the same in Iran.
This President is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the "crime of aggression." And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for this crime, if we do not actively defy this government, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation--largely put in place by the United States--and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. We must as citizens make sacrifices to defend a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation and the law are respected. If we allow these international legal systems to unravel, we will destroy the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies.
The strongest institutional barrier standing between us and a war with Iran is being mounted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Adm. William Fallon, head of the Central Command; and Gen. George Casey, the Army's new chief of staff. These three men have informed Bush and Congress that the military is too depleted to take on another conflict and may not be able to contain or cope effectively with a regional conflagration resulting from strikes on Iran. This line of defense, however, is tenuous. Not only can Gates, Fallon and Casey easily be replaced but a provocation by Iran could be used by war propagandists here to stoke a public clamor for revenge.
A country that exists in a state of permanent war cannot exist as a democracy. Our long row of candles is being snuffed out. We may soon be in darkness. Any resistance, however symbolic, is essential. There are ways to resist without being jailed. If you owe money on your federal tax return, refuse to pay some or all of it, should Bush attack Iran. If you have a telephone, do not pay the 3 percent excise tax. If you do not owe federal taxes, reduce what is withheld by claiming at least one additional allowance on your W-4 form--and write to the IRS to explain the reasons for your protest. Many of the details and their legal ramifications are available on the War Resisters League's website (www.warresisters.org/wtr.htm).
I will put the taxes I owe in an escrow account. I will go to court to challenge the legality of the war. Maybe a courageous judge will rule that the Constitution has been usurped and the government is guilty of what the postwar Nuremberg tribunal defined as a criminal war of aggression. Maybe not. I do not know. But I do know this: I have friends in Tehran, Gaza, Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Cairo. They will endure far greater suffering and deprivation. I want to be able, once the slaughter is over, to at least earn the right to ask for their forgiveness.
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George Bush, US president, has told Israeli and Palestinian leaders that he is optimistic on the eve of a Middle East conference in Maryland.
"I'm looking forward to continuing our serious dialogue with you and the president of the Palestinian authority to see whether or not peace is possible," he told Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.
"I'm optimistic, I know you're optimistic," Bush said.
Later on Monday, he met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, telling him that "the United States cannot impose our vision but we can help facilitate."
Abbas said he had "a great deal of hope" for Tuesday's talks.
Sixteen Arab countries and the Arab League have agreed to attend Tuesday's one-day meeting with Israel - the first such gathering in more than a decade.
However, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which is not among those invited to the talks, said it will not be bound by any decisions made in the US.
And earlier on Monday, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in Gaza in an air strike and a ground clash.
"The decisions taken at Annapolis are not binding on the Palestinian people, who have not authorised anyone, either Arab or Palestinian, to erase their rights," Fawzi Barhum, Hamas spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
Hamas supporters are staging daily demonstrations against the Annapolis gathering and Abbas.
"The land of Palestine ... is purely owned by the Palestinians," Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a Hamas leader, said in a speech on Monday, referring to the territory that includes Israel.
"No person, group, government or generation has the right to give up one inch of it."
Speaking at a meeting of 2,000 activists from local armed groups, al-Zahhar declared: "Anyone who stands in the face of resistance or fights it or co-operates with the (Israeli) occupation against it is a traitor."
Final status talks
The meetings with Bush came as Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams suggested that progress had been made on a joint statement setting out the direction of future peace talks.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian negotiator, said that a joint document agreed by both Israel and the Palestinians would be made public on Monday after weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions.
"This document, which we are due to conclude today with the blessing of the Americans will determine the terms of reference for negotiations - such as the roadmap and international resolutions - and the modalities for negotiations after Annapolis," he said.
Abed Rabbo that final-status negotiations on core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital; the borders of a future Palestinian state; and the fate of Palestinian refugees would be formally launched in Washington in two days time.
"The negotiations on the final status will begin on Wednesday in the presence of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas," he told the AFP news agency.
Mark Regev, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, also acknowledged that "important progress towards an agreement on a joint document" had been made.
But he denied Palestinian claims that the two sides had agreed on a final draft of the document outlining the contours of future negotiations.
The differing messages coming out of the negotiations are one of many reasons why many analysts do not share Bush's optimism.
Michael Tarazi, a former adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, told Al Jazeera: "It would be a mistake to think that anything meaningful is going to come out of these talks.
"This is a conference where people are going to talk about beginning to talk.
"The real important thing is not what happens at Annapolis, but rather what happens the day after - is there really going to be momentum to address the really thorny issues?"
Washington pushed for a broad Arab presence at Annapolis and both Syria and Saudi Arabia finally decided to send delegates. It will be the first time that Saudi officials will have sat with Israelis to talk about peace in the Middle East.
But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who was not invited to the conference, has criticised Saudi Arabia for its decision.
"I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not among those attending the Annapolis conference," he told King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in a telephone conversation late on Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA.
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New York Review of Books
Volume 54, Number 19 · December 6, 2007
Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine
By David Shulman
University of Chicago Press, 226 pp., $22.00
By Avishai Margalit
"I am an Israeli. I live in Jerusalem. I have a story, not yet finished, to tell." This is the opening line of David Shulman's powerful and memorable book, Dark Hope, a diary of four years of political activity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is a record of the author's intense involvement with a volunteer organization composed of Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews, called Ta'ayush, an Arabic term for "living together" or "life in common." The group was founded in October 2000, soon after the start of the second Palestinian intifada.
"This book aims," Shulman writes,
at showing something of the Israeli peace movement in action, on the basis of one individual's very limited experience.... I want to give you some sense of what it feels like to be part of this struggle and of why we do it.
Struggle with whom? Shulman explains:
Israel, like any society, has violent, sociopathic elements. What is unusual about the last four decades in Israel is that many destructive individuals have found a haven, complete with ideological legitimation, within the settlement enterprise. Here, in places like Chavat Maon, Itamar, Tapuach, and Hebron, they have, in effect, unfettered freedom to terrorize the local Palestinian population; to attack, shoot, injure, sometimes kill—all in the name of the alleged sanctity of the land and of the Jews' exclusive right to it.
His diary proceeds to show how this happens.
Shulman speaks of "the last four decades." It is forty years since the Israeli victory of 1967 brought the West Bank under occupation. That was also the year Shulman immigrated to Israel from the US, just after graduation from high school. In the Israeli army he was trained as a medic, which turned out to be a great asset for his later work in the West Bank. His first aid skills, as well as the medical kit he always carried with him, were equally in demand by Israeli comrades and Palestinian villagers injured by settlers, soldiers, and police.
Shulman attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he acquired, among many languages, a good mastery of Arabic. This, too, proved to be useful in dealing with the Palestinians whom he and his friends tried to help. He emerged as a formidable scholar: on Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit poetry, Dravidian linguistics, Carnatic music, and Tamil Islam. His linguistic and cultural interests were mainly focused on South India. In 1987, when he was thirty-seven, he received a MacArthur Fellowship. He has published many translations of Indian poetry. Shulman's language in his diary is fresh and uncontaminated by the lazy clichés often used to describe the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. By temperament and calling, Shulman is a scholar, not a politician. Recalling Auden's lines on Yeats, we may say that mad Israel hurt him into politics.
Into what sort of politics, one may ask. Shulman's work on India and its culture suggests that his politics—if this is the term—would draw on Gandhi's example. He writes, "We follow the classical tradition of civil disobedience, in the footsteps of Gandhi, Thoreau, and Martin Luther King." This suggests a much larger question: Would the two sides to the conflict have fared better if the Palestinian struggle against the occupation had been carried out in a Gandhian spirit of nonviolent resistance? This question can be raised as a matter of moral principle, but it can also be raised on practical, tactical grounds.
It is by no means new. At the beginning of the first intifada, in 1988, Israel expelled Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American child psychologist who advocated Gandhian tactics for resisting the occupation. The Israeli government understood right away that nonviolent tactics had the potential to embarrass Israel, and was determined to stop him. In truth, however, the government had no reason to be worried, since Awad made no headway among the Palestinians. I once asked a Palestinian friend why in his opinion Awad failed to convince the Palestinians of the validity of nonviolent tactics. His answer was revealing: nonviolent struggle is perceived by his fellow Palestinians as "unmanly." They are drawn to the slogan "What was taken by force must be regained by force."
Since the second intifada, the Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh has become the main advocate of Gandhian nonviolent tactics among the Palestinians, both on moral and practical grounds. Nusseibeh does not accept that nonviolent tactics have no chance with the Palestinians because of cultural macho. He believes that nonviolent struggle—in the form of strikes and other protests—was very much in use by the Palestinians during the Ottoman rule of Palestine, and later against the British and the pre-state Jewish settlement in Palestine.
Are Israelis more likely to support making concessions to the Palestinians when they are violent or when they are nonviolent?
We seem to have an answer to this question from a surprising source. When Ariel Sharon came to power, he commissioned the political analyst Kalman Gaier to conduct a private poll for him. Gaier asked Israelis whether they were ready to accept a solution to the conflict that would relinquish 94 percent of the territories to the Palestinians in exchange for peace, with 2 percent of the rest of the territory exchanged in a land swap. Palestinian refugees would be settled in Palestine, and East Jerusalem divided. (These terms are close to the Clinton proposals of December 2001.)
Raviv Druker, an Israeli TV journalist, recently had access to polls Sharon never published. They reveal that in March 2002, at a moment when the second intifada was particularly violent, 70 percent of the respondents were willing to accept such a settlement; but when the poll was repeated in May 2005, a period of calm (just before Israel's disengagement from Gaza), only 44 percent were willing to settle on those terms.
Do these findings indicate that Israelis understand only the language of force, and should they be seen as a decisive argument against nonviolent resistance? I don't think so. In order to assess a nonviolent strategy one should not compare a period of violence to a period in which violent attacks were not taking place. One should compare, if possible, a period of violent resistance to a period of active nonviolent resistance. But more important than the question of how Palestinian violence influences Israeli public opinion is the question of how it influences Israeli leaders; and here my impression—and it is no more than that—is that no prominent leader, whether of the center-right or center-left, is willing to make serious concessions to the Palestinians in times of violence, lest he or she be perceived as weak. (Sharon, the exception, could withdraw from Gaza while maintaining his popularity.) The factual question—how Palestinian violence affects Israel's policies toward a peaceful settlement—remains in my opinion an open question. The effect of Palestinian violence on Israel's war policy is clear. During the second intifada, Palestinian violence elicited an intense military response from the Israeli side, resulting in devastation of the Palestinian community in the West Bank.
Regarding the moral issue of violent struggle, Shulman cites Mordechai Kremnitzer, a law professor at the Hebrew University, whom we both regard as a moral force in Israel:
Even if you accept the Palestinian reading of what happened at Camp David and assume that the Israeli proposals were inadequate, still it is impossible to accept the violence they have adopted as their weapon while still faced with an Israeli partner who wanted to reach a solution. It is not clear what the Palestinians want—for us not to be there [i.e., not to exist at all], in the territories, or for us not to be. They have the right to end the occupation, but not at any cost. But the Israeli Right uses Palestinian violence to its own advantage. Thus, worst of all, we may well find ourselves in a paradoxical, soul-destroying situation of having to serve in an army that is bent on illegal acts.
Shulman advocates a Gandhian approach on moral grounds and perhaps also on practical grounds, and a large number of his activities would have pleased the Mahatma. But in my opinion he is trying to do something that can be accurately seen as part of the nonviolent struggle to alleviate the burdens of the occupation but is also different from it. Shulman is a moral witness —he makes an effort to observe and report on suffering arising from evil conduct. He may take risks in doing so, but he has a moral purpose: to expose the evil done by a regime that tries to cover up its immoral deeds. A moral witness acts with a sense of hope: that there is, or will be, a moral community for which his or her testimony matters.
About such hopes, Shulman can be ambivalent. The original Hebrew title of his book is not Dark Hope but Bitter Hope. Abraham, the great believer, is praised by Saint Paul as he who "against hope, believed in hope." The Russian writer Nadezhda ("hope" in Russian) Mandelstam admired Paul's account and called her first book about persecution in Stalin's Russia Hope Against Hope; yet the title of her second book, Hope Abandoned, is drawn not from Paul but from Dante's Inferno. Shulman's account seems to me to vacillate between the two: between hoping against hope and abandoning hope.
Shulman starts with an impersonal account describing what happened on April 2, 2005, near a settlement south of the Hebron Hills where the Palestinians lived in caves and kept flocks of sheep and goats:
It began some two weeks ago when Palestinians from [the village of] Twaneh noticed a settler —almost certainly from Chavat Maon, the most virulent of the settlements in the area—walking deliberately through their fields in the early morning. Shortly afterward the animals got sick and the first sheep died. Then the shepherds found the poison scattered over the hills, tiny blue-green pellets of barley coated with... deadly rat poison from the fluoroacetate family.... The aim was clear: to kill the herds of goats and sheep, the backbone of the cave dwellers' subsistence economy in this harsh terrain, and thus to force them off the land.
Visiting the Arab settlement, Shulman writes:
After half an hour I start to wonder if we have come here for nothing. I stare hard at the rocky ground, the purple wildflowers, the thorns, the fresh sheep droppings. Still no poison. Then a surprise: bending low, with my face nearly touching the soil, I see two —no, three—of the blue-green grains of poisoned barley....
Five minutes later Judy [his companion] strikes gold—a huge cache of them.... The real art of this grotesque treasure hunt is to retrace the vanished footsteps of the poisoner; one pile of pellets should, in theory, lead to another. And so, indeed, it goes.
Shulman then observed that all the while, on the hill opposite, directly under the settlement,
one of these settlers, with his gun, is watching us, advancing...as we move; he is dressed in black, an ominous presence, an Israeli Darth Vader. Farther up, a set of army jeeps is also in place. Maybe this time, at least, they'll keep the settlers from attacking us.
Shulman seldom makes general comments: he sticks to the concrete and shies away from the symbolic. Not this time, though. Here is his explanation:
I have always hated the symbolic. It is the cheapest, most meretricious act of the mind, and the furthest away from anything real. But today, as I sift through the brown, moist soil under the eyes of the settlers, even I cannot resist the sense of something horribly symbolic. [The settlers] claim to feel something for this land, yet they treat it—her—with contempt. It, she, interests them mostly as an object to be raped, despoiled, and above all stolen by brute force from its rightful owners. It belongs, in this wild, ravished, ravishing landscape, to the people of the caves.
This is not merely a matter of injustice, though flagrant injustice screams out, unmistakably, at every point. Nor is it a matter of madness, though the settlers here are truly demented. It is, in the most serious, most atrocious sense of the word, a crime—a crime against the land the settlers glibly call holy, against life itself. Who, what human individual, would deliberately poison a wild deer? What kind of man would poison a whole herd, and through this, the community of human beings who live off this herd?
Shulman's account needs some background, which can be found in the reports of the Israeli human rights group B'tselem for July 2005. As it happens, Assaf Sharon, a former student of mine and currently a graduate student at Stanford, also took part in many of the activities that Shulman describes. He is mentioned in the book, like all other "comrades," by his first name only. Assaf, who studied in his youth in a yeshiva not far from Hebron, is a particularly shrewd observer who, unlike Shulman, has intimate knowledge of the settlers, including the younger generation.
In the southern West Bank, Assaf tells us, southeast of Yata, the main township in the area, more than a thousand Palestinians dwell in caves, in an area of some 7,500 acres. Some of the cave dwellers live in this area only during the seasons for planting and harvesting; some live there throughout the year. Water is scarce and the cave dwellers are dependent to a large degree on local cisterns.
In the 1970s, Israel declared part of the Yata region a "closed military area." In 1980, next to the closed area, Israel established four settlements, which now have about two thousand settlers. Between 1996 and 2001, these settlers erected four additional outposts—small, armed encampments, said to be needed to protect the larger settlements. A fifth outpost, Maon Farm, was set up inside the area that the occupation forces had said was closed to settlement, and the settlers at Maon Farm were evacuated by the army for a few months; but they soon returned. Before they did so, the army had already expelled the Palestinian cave dwellers by force from the closed area, destroying their wells, blocking their caves, and confiscating their meager property of blankets and food. The army justified the expulsion on grounds of "a necessary military need," specifically, its need for a training ground that would use live ammunition, endangering anyone who lived there. But the settlers of Maon Farm returned to the closed area unopposed by the Israeli authorities, and there was no mention of live ammunition endangering them.
On the face of it, the story of the cave people may seem to present a relatively small issue in comparison, for example, with what Shulman tells us about how the separation wall has disastrously affected the lives of Palestinians in the more populated parts of the West Bank or in Jerusalem, places where the main drama of the conflict unfolds. The South Hebron Hills, where the poisoning scene took place, is a sparsely populated area, remote from the main action.
But what takes place in the South Hebron Hills shows in stark form what is so bad about the occupation. The actions of some other Israeli settlers may be more ambiguous morally; but what Shulman saw in the South Hebron Hills causes him to use the word "evil" unsparingly:
What we are fighting in the South Hebron Hills is pure, rarefied, unadulterated, unreasoning, uncontainable human evil. Nothing but malice drives this campaign to uproot the few thousand cave dwellers with their babies and lambs. They have hurt nobody. They were never a security threat. They led peaceful, if somewhat impoverished lives until the settlers came. Since then, there has been no peace. They are tormented, terrified, incredulous. As am I.
Shulman shows that the settlers are supported by what he calls the "intricate machine," a term he uses to describe various Israeli government agencies, including the army, the police, and the civil authorities that administer the West Bank. But the relations among the various agencies can be so intricate that it is no longer clear who is in charge of a particular policy or action. Hagai Allon, an Israeli official appointed by the former defense minister to be in charge of "the social fabric" in the territories, stated that the army does not comply with the defense minister's orders. Referring specifically to the Hebron Hills area, Allon said the army acts "in the service" of the settlers. It carries out, he said, "an apartheid policy," establishing facts on the ground that are meant to make evacuation of settlers of the West Bank impossible.
Shulman's book is not an analysis of how the intricate machinery of the occupation works or, for that matter, of what the settlers do in their daily lives. It mainly describes the face-to-face clashes between human rights activists like himself and the settlers, the soldiers, and the police.
He makes it clear, however, that the settlers in the South Hebron Hills are almost all religious people. The established leaders in most of the older settlements often belong to the Gush Emunim or reflect its mentality: religious, intensely nationalistic, idealistic. They are not just seeking agreeable suburbs from which to commute to Israeli cities. They were born and raised in Israel and are still attached to Israeli society.
By contrast, the members of the second generation of settlers—roughly, those under thirty-five years of age— were born and raised in the closed communities of the territories. They were shocked by the Oslo peace accord of 1992, fearing they were going to be betrayed by Israel's leaders and forced to move back to the Israel defined by the pre-1967 Green Line. Another formative experience was the assassination in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin by a fanatical young man who had social and ideological connections with the settlements. Many settlers felt that they were unfairly and collectively blamed for Rabin's murder. In my own experience, I have found among the second generation a lethal combination of attitudes: a conviction that they have the right to dominate Palestinians and a sense that they are themselves victims. They share the historic megalomania of their parents, seeing themselves, with no small degree of self-righteousness, as a misunderstood avant-garde of a messianic vision. But they have not benefited from the civilizing effect of rabbinic learning as some of their parents did.
In short, Shulman shows that a wild generation was born in the territories, a generation whose members are far bolder than their parents, far more ready to defy the law, and far more capable of utter lawlessness with regard to Palestinians. It is a generation saturated with intense hostility toward the Arabs, and ferociously tribalistic. Shulman describes his encounters with tribalistic young settlers who scorned him:
By now the settlers are upon us, all in their twenties or so, with long embroidered skullcaps and tzitzit fringes and guns. "You should be ashamed," they scream at us. "What kind of Jews are you?" Helpless, angry, I yell back: "I am a Jew. That's why I am here."
There seems no chance that these young people will understand what Shulman is trying to do. On a cold, wet, and muddy January day, Shulman and his friends are on their way to bring blankets to the cave people. The settlers try to stop them. "One of the men shouts that we are on the side of Bin Laden.... They are determined to keep the blankets away from the cave dwellers." The man who shouted "You are on the side of Bin Laden" was not making a political remark of the kind we expect from Dick Cheney but was expressing a tribalistic view. For these people and especially the young among them, providing the cave dwellers with blankets is giving aid and comfort to mortal enemies of their tribe—to people on the side of bin Laden.
Most of what is written on the ideologically motivated settlers deals with the founding generation. They were more articulate and produced texts that can be quoted. But the older generation in the settlements is by now irrelevant to the day-to-day reality in the occupied territories. After the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza in 2005, which was blamed by the young generation of settlers on the timidity both of the older generation of settlers and of Israelis generally, the older leaders of the settlements lost their grip. For the young generation, Israel itself is a remote reality, an entity to be confronted when it does not go the settlers' way. The young generation in the South Hebron Hills is a particularly strong manifestation of the second generation of settlers. They have, in fact, succeeded in radicalizing their parents, who are now willing to confront the army and the police in ways that for ideological reasons they would not have dared to do before.
The fantasy of the young generation is "biblical," and owes something to movies about the American West: you can see them riding horses in "biblical" gowns. They are inspired by charismatic, Sergio Leone types such as Yehoshafat Tor and Dov Driben, the founders of Maon Farm. Driben, who incessantly threatened the Palestinian neighboring cave dwellers, was murdered. The villager accused of killing him was released for lack of evidence after serving four years in jail. Dov Driben's admirers regarded his death as a license to go wild. In the South Hebron Hills, there is now a place aptly called "Lucifer's Farm." Its "owner," Yaakov Talia, is an Afrikaner who converted to Judaism at the end of apartheid in South Africa. He is another wild, charismatic tough guy who attracts many religious young people. They spend time on his farm helping to take over more and more land.
The second intifada, beginning in 2000, brought about a radical change not only in the young settlers but also in many of the young peace activists, who became highly skeptical about any grand scheme to bring peace. They want to do something concrete, even if it is very limited in scope, not because it will have a large impact, but because it is the morally right thing to do. From my own experience, they know the Palestinians in the West Bank better than the activists of my own generation who advocated the "peace process" ever did.
They have their heroes too, among them Ezra Nawi, a plumber of Iraqi Jewish extraction from Jerusalem, who was greatly admired by the cave dwellers. He organized a summer camp for their children and took them for the first time in their lives to a swimming pool in Jericho. He is constantly subjected to derisive, homophobic shouting by the settlers. To those who know him and those who saw the recent documentary film about him, his warm, humorous character is unmistakable. Now in his fifties, he exemplifies the desire of young Israeli activists to act concretely, even if it means working locally and avoiding involvement in large-scale proposals for peace.
Shulman uses as a motto for his book a phrase by the Australian-British human rights activist James Mawdsley: "Hell is realizing that one did not help when one could have." He does not feel at ease with ambitious plans for peace. He made this view clear when we met a few years ago in Jerusalem with some members of Peace Now to support Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University in Abu-Dis, near Jerusalem, in protesting the separation wall that was being built across the soccer field of the al-Quds campus. Shulman asked himself whether the wall across the soccer field was worth the effort to oppose it. "The loss of a few dunams belonging to a university is trivial," he writes, relative to the other acts that have devastated Palestinian life. He decided, "Yes, it is worth it. Every small victory counts." Nusseibeh and his supporters were "our colleagues and friends. We cannot just stand by." In fact, the protesters had a small victory at al-Quds University. The wall was removed from the university grounds after Nusseibeh got some Israelis to appeal to Condoleezza Rice, who asked the government to stop building the wall.
Returning from al-Quds with Israeli protesters from Peace Now, Shulman writes:
My mind wanders away from the relatively minor distress of our colleagues and friends in Al-Quds, away from the intense political discussions going on in the car. There is talk of a new initiative, a document signed by leading public figures on both sides that sets out the basis for an agreed settlement to the conflict—the Geneva initiative.... I listen, halfhearted, my attention wandering.
I was one of those in the car who talked of possible peace plans and of working for a political solution through party politics, winning votes, forming coalitions, and compromising on the way.
Now a new grand scheme is being discussed: a conference of Middle East nations and others is to take place in November, at Annapolis, Maryland. Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Abu Mazen, or so it is hoped, may agree on principles for a settlement of the conflict. But Abu Mazen, according to reports, wants an agreement to be specific and Olmert wants it to be vague, and the question is whether they can arrive at a compromise. The conference would deal with the core issues between the two sides: Jerusalem, refugees, and territories. The two men are desperately in need of an agreement, even if only to show that they are still politically relevant. Many believe that any such deal would fall apart even if it were signed: the two leaders are so politically weak that it does not matter what they agree on.
Still, it is too early to dismiss the possibilities that something useful might emerge from such a conference. To put the matter crudely, Jews and Arabs have to deal with three situations: war, peace, and the "peace process"—which is not a process that leads to peace, but an intermediate stage of neither war nor peace. A realistic way to view the negotiations between Olmert and Abu Mazen is that they could make a move from open hostility ("war") to the intermediate situation of "peace process."
Shulman's diary, however, gives an acute sense of the gap between peace schemes in their "peace process" phase and the relentless and dreadful reality on the ground. The reality is shaped not by agreements but mainly by the violent workings of Israel's intricate machine and by the violence of Palestinian forces.
The diary gives us only a glimpse of some of the visible workings of the intricate machine. But I believe that understanding what is going on in the South Hebron Hills, a tiny part of the conflict, can free us from misconceptions about how the intricate machine works. There are relatively few settlers around Hebron and far fewer in the outposts that have been set up there. Their number is not about to get dramatically larger. Nonetheless, the official Israeli machinery is inexorably having its effect—it controls the land and gets rid of the Palestinians living on it by making their lives intolerable. The intricate machine does not depend on the number of settlers. It depends far more on the ways the roads to the settlements and the outposts are planned, built, and protected by the Israeli forces.
In fact, many of the outposts in the West Bank are little more than Potemkin villages, but this, too, is almost irrelevant, since the roads leading to them are roads that, according to official doctrine, need to be protected constantly, in order to ensure the safety of the inhabitants even if they consist of only one or two families. The fewer the number of settlers, the more vulnerable they are, and so they need heavier protection. Protecting a road means preventing the Palestinians from getting near both sides of it and regulating their movement by means of barriers on the roads they are allowed to use. There are 539 barriers to movement in the West Bank, eighty-six of which are manned checkpoints.
So the roads are the method by which the West Bank is fragmented, with almost no mobility for the Arabs locked in their enclaves. In addition to this, every settlement and every outpost is surrounded by a safety zone called a "special security area." So the expansion of Israeli control of the West Bank is not determined by the number of settlers but by the extent of the zone of protection, from which Palestinians are excluded.
Here is how it works. First, a settlement is established with a designated area for future development and a wide zone of protection. Then satellite outposts are erected in the hills on the outskirts of the settlement. The outposts enlarge the area to be protected and especially the roads leading to the outposts. The commentators who emphasize the growth of the number of settlers in the West Bank miss the intricacy of the machine. Population growth is not the main factor. In fact, the main growth in population in recent years has been in four ultra-orthodox towns that are not far from the Green Line. The population in these four towns now amounts to nearly one third of the settlers in the West Bank. Clearly more important than the increase of settlers is the increase in the number of outposts and their interconnecting roads.
The intricate machine works relentlessly—it hardly matters which group is in power. Center- and Labor-based governments believe that it is too much of a political and military hassle to dismantle the settlements one by one. They say that one day these settlements will be dealt with on a wholesale basis—the way Sharon dealt with the Gaza Strip settlements, which were all evacuated at the same time. Likud-based governments, by contrast, are against removing the settlements in any case. All governments of Israel have also shared the view that all the settlers—authorized as well as unauthorized—should be protected by the army. Benefiting from these shared views, the intricate machine works no matter who is in power.
No one among the Palestinians is going to believe in a grand scheme for a final settlement as long as their lives are so degraded. Hamas has declared itself, as a matter of principle, against a large-scale scheme for a peaceful settlement with Israel; but the issue that must be faced is the utter mistrust of large-scale schemes on the part of Palestinians who are not followers of Hamas and want to lead peaceful lives. To narrow the gap between the grand schemes and the reality on the ground, the intricate machine must be halted. Daily life has to be seriously improved if any grand scheme is to be trusted. To believe that this is going to happen, however, calls for a leap of faith—the sort of faith, perhaps, that keeps a man like David Shulman trying to help Palestinians, even while he distrusts grand schemes.
—November 7, 2007
 For an extensive discussion of the idea of moral witness, see Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory (Harvard University Press, 2002), Chapter 5.
 Citizen Nawi, Israel 2007, Nissim Mossek, director, Sharon Schaveet, producer.
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By Agustin Velloso
On Sunday, 11th November 2007, at about four o'clock in the morning, the pharmacist Salim Madani is in Sufa, the only border post to the Gaza Strip that the government of Israel opens every now and then. They have been waiting for 14 day for a truck loaded with medicines for distribution in the Strip, still stuck on the Israeli side. They have been waiting for permission from the Israeli government so that they may move the load onto another truck so the medicines can move into Khan Yunis on the Palestinian side.
For many months ill Palestinians have been dying needlessly because many other trucks have not been authorized to transport medicines or even any other basic products - to the prison into which Gaza has been transformed. The martyr children Mohammad Turk, Mohammad Helow and Shaban Lulu, are only three of the hundreds of Palestinians that have died in the last so many months as a result of the Israeli and international blockade.
Shifa'a hospital staff in Gaza City pointed out September 5, that the three boys had died because of renal complications that could not be treated as they had run out of the necessary medicines. The Emergency General Director of the Ministry of Health warned at the time of the imminent danger of death faced by more than six hundred children suffering from renal deficiencies. Since then, actually since Israel occupied Palestine for the first time, it has been very plain that Palestinian children, old people, women and men face the very present danger of losing their land, their houses, their way of life and even life itself, for no other reason other than they are not Jews.
It is also glaringly clear that from that date on that the international community has refused to put a stop to this slow and painful genocide. On the contrary, they have chosen to make it possible in many ways for Israel to carry out its own Final Solution in Palestine: giving them weapons, money, political support and punishing the Palestinians in Gaza with a boycott that cries out to heaven with anguish for its cruelty and brutality.
Here, in Spain, on September 12, 2007, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was making public the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli bullets and missiles (4.878 of whom 969 were children), the Prince of Asturias Foundation, in an act that could only be understood if committed by a psychopath such as Hannibal Lector, granted the "Concord Prize" to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem for being a living memory of a great historical tragedy and for its great efforts to promote, among the present and future generations, from that memory, the defeat of hate, racism and intolerance (sic).
Salim, sick of his pointless wait, is about to go back home once more when he sees that another truck appears to take the place of the one for which he has been waiting. Puzzled, he decides to wait. Several workers transfer the goods very quickly from the truck that brought them through Israeli territory to the truck that will take them to the Palestinian side. This is a compulsory system implanted by Israel to make life for the Palestinian people as difficult as possible. What was it? Perhaps food or basic products, urgent supplies or medicines. Of course not! it was a load of banners, flags, pennants, T-shirts and caps to be used at the march to take place on the 11th to commemorate the anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death.
Thanks to the politics of the slow motion Final Solution implemented in the Gaza Strip, Gazans lack everything and very nearly nothing goes in. On the other hand, the border post of Sufa, which according to OCHA's report no 50 of November 9, 2007 lacks the infrastructure to handle the distribution of food and medicines and was open only six days out of the nine it was supposed to be operational according report no 49 of October 2.
Talking in less technical terms but closer to reality, what OCHA is actually saying is that the Israelis stop the food at the border until it perishes and the medicines go out of date. In this way " the beasts in two legs" (as the Palestinians are called by the Israelis) fall ill for lack of vitamins, enough food or the essential elements necessary for a healthy life. Then they find that they cannot find any help in medicines that turn out to be ineffective.
Back in Gaza city, Salim goes out to the street where he watches thousands of demonstrators with empty stomachs and heads full of false illusions. A few, nevertheless, have a fully satisfied belly and a wallet far bigger than most; they plan to move from plan A, which is commemorating the death of Arafat three years ago, to plan B, which is provoking the Palestinian [Hamas] security forces by engineering a violent confrontation with them. It seems necessary to add, in every propitious occasion, one more problem to the long and heavy list that the whole world has thrown onto Hamas' back in order to try to defeat it on points, once they have had to admit that it is too strong to be defeated by KO.
It is necessary to exhaust and confuse the hungry and desperate masses, so that they are able to believe that it is Hamas, the party they voted so massively into power, almost two years ago, the real obstacle that stops them getting the bread and peace that has been denied to them, although not by Gaza, but by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
While Salim sees what is happening and smokes a cigarette, he wonders in silence why a big march to remember Arafat could not have been organized last year, or the year before, but this year.
For his part, Abu Mazen, along with the other traitors and collaborators, gives orders to extract as much political profit from the violence as possible despite the fact that on the eve of the march there was a meeting between Fatah and Hamas to smooth over any tensions. Below the surface, however, they were preparing a subversive action against the legitimate Hamas government, but even more so, against the Palestinian cause.
A few insults and threats here, some stone throwing and the firing of a few shots there, were enough for the pressure cooker that is Gaza to explode without hope. The social and mental balance of these people cannot possibly be more fragile after the collective punishment they have endured in the last few years, so a well timed provocation could be quite enough to bring the government down.
The ingenious Israeli policies in Palestine, which basically try to implement the Nazi-like Final Solution in slow motion are evident to the careful observer. Sadly, it seems that the Palestinians themselves have hastened this process with a fratricidal war. For that Israel relies on a handful of collaborators, with hundreds of thousands of very desperate people and a group of accomplices who support them and even reward them.
Author: Agustin Velloso (Madrid - Spain)
Translated by Ernesto Paramo (www.tlaxcala.org)
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The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty! -- Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish
By Laila El-Haddad
Even in the worst of times, there's one thing we're never short of in our troubled part of the world: another conference, meeting, declaration, summit, agreement. Something to save the day, to "steer" us back to whatever predetermined path it is we are or were meant to be on. And to help us navigate that path.
Never mind the arguable shortcomings of this path, or the discontent it may have generated, for we all know what happens to people who question that; the important thing is to move forward, full steam ahead.
Enter Annapolis. I've been there a couple of times. Beautiful port city, great crabs, quaint antique shops. And of course, the US Navy.
So what exactly is different this time around? Well, if you believe some of the newspaper headlines, lots. Like the fact that Ehud Olmert has promised not to build new settlements or expropriate land.
And yet, as recently as September, Israel expropriated 1,100 dunams (272 acres) of Palestinian land in the West Bank to facilitate the development of E-1, a five-square-mile area in the West Bank, east of Jerusalem where Israel plans to build 3,500 houses, a hotel and an industrial park, completing the encirclement of Jerusalem with Jewish colonies, and cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank.
The conference simply generates new and ever-more superfluous and intricate promises which Israeli leaders can commit to and yet somehow evade. An exercise in legal obfuscation at its best: we won't build new settlements, we'll just expropriate more land and expand to account for their "natural growth", until they resemble towns, not colonies, and have them legitimised by a US administration looking for some way to save face. And then we'll promise to raze outposts.
Each step in the evolution of Israel's occupation - together with the efforts to sustain it and the language to describe it - has become ever more sophisticated, strategic and euphemistic.
Israel has also promised the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners (who have, by Israel's own admission, nearly completed their sentences) on Sunday ahead of the conference, while dozens of others are detained and thousands of others remain in custody without charges or trial - making theirs the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Still, Annapolis is being hailed as the most serious attempt in eight years at getting "back on track". According to the US State Department's spokesperson, the conference "will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts, and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realisation of Israeli-Palestinian peace."
Support, I gather, that will also entail arms and money to help Abbas rid Gaza of Hamas once and for all.
So then what are people's expectations in Gaza from all of this?
In short, not much. But then, if history has taught them anything, it's that they never have much of a say in anything that involves their destiny, be it Madrid or Oslo or the Road Map. And the moment they do attempt to take control, the repercussions are to "teach" them never to attempt to do so again.
To quote Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, "The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!"
The stage has been set, the roles are the same, but the actors have been switched. That is the feeling of many in Gaza.
"The Annapolis meeting will not bring anything new for the Palestinians; it is a repetition of many other conferences which sought to reinforce the principle of making concession on the Palestinian national rights," says Yousef Diab, a 35-year-old government employee.
For Fares Akram, a young Gaza-based journalist, the conference will result in little more than token concessions aimed at further isolating Hamas-run Gaza, and bolstering support for Abbas: "The Israeli government is weak in this time. President Abbas may get some support in the conference but the support will be for his struggle against Hamas. Gaza will remain forgotten and the improvements that may come out from the meeting will only apply to the West Bank while nothing will be done here in Gaza."
Fida Qishta, a videographer and community activist in Gaza's troubled town of Rafah, can't even be bothered with thinking of things as abstract and distant and - ultimately - irrelevant as Annpolis when life in Gaza as she sees it has all but come to a standstill.
"I wish you were here to see how life is, it is really like a body that died. I still can't imagine we are living through this and I try not to think about it a lot."
Aliya Moor, a mother of eight, adds: "We're already dead, the only thing we need is to be buried, to be pushed into the grave and buried. It's already been dug up for us."
We are prisoners, others have told me, constantly waiting and helplessly hoping for decisions to be made that determine whether they live or die - both figuratively and literally.
Except prisoners are guaranteed certain things, like food and water and access to medical care. Gazans are guaranteed none of these things. Instead, they are setting the bar as the first occupied people in history to be embargoed and declared hostile.
"People just want out," explained another friend. It doesn't matter whether it's Fatah or Hamas any more. It just doesn't matter."
We have become a people, to quote Darwish, constantly preparing for dawn, in the darkness of cellars lit by our enemies.
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By Paul Buchheit
It gets tiresome to hear the one-sided media coverage of Hugo Chavez. Yes, he’s authoritarian. He’s also abrasive, arrogant, stubborn, and all too human. But he knows what happened to leaders in Iran and Guatemala and Chile and Haiti over the past half-century when they tried to defy the western world by nationalizing oil and other industries. He’s influenced by the memory of the US-backed attempt to depose him in 2002. And he can see the effects of unregulated multinational companies in Nigeria, where in 2004 80% of the revenue from the oil industry went to only 1% of the population, and only 2% of Shell Oil’s employees were from the local population.
Chavez has alienated the wealthy, the business establishment, thousands of upper-class student protestors, and, perhaps worst of all for him, the media. But the mainstream media rarely speaks for the poor majority. Chavez has instituted a literacy program, land-acquisition policies that benefit the poor, job training for unskilled workers, free health care, and manufacturing cooperatives which give the poor an active role in business development. He was democratically elected, and recent polls still place him about 20 percentage points ahead of his nearest challenger.
The Venezuelan leader’s popularity is summarized by human rights activist Medea Benjamin:
“Walk through poor barrios in Venezuela and you’ll hear the same stories over and over. The very poor can now go to a designated home in the neighborhood to pick up a hot meal every day. The elderly have monthly pensions that allow them to live with dignity. Young people can take advantage of greatly expanded free college programs. And with 13,000 Cuban doctors spread throughout the country and reaching over half the population, the poor now have their own family doctors on call 24-hours a day.”
Opposition to Chavez comes from those with connections to the old political elite: the Venezuelan business community, the Chamber of Commerce (Fedecámaras), and the major union federation CTV, who used their control over the media to disparage Chavez for economic problems and communist ties. Many officials and journalists in the U.S. dismiss him as a troublesome dictator. An editor of the leading El Nacional newspaper said Chavez and his cabinet “just want to steal and get rich.” Even some of the Venezuelan poor resent his attempts to spread his influence with anti-poverty programs outside the country.
Ironically, Chavez was criticized for two initiatives that most Americans would like to see implemented in the U.S. — health care and increased oil company taxes. He is maligned for his friendship with Fidel Castro, even though some 10,000 Cuban doctors and health care workers came to Venezuela in return for oil. His industry reforms included a doubling of oil company taxes. He also opposes U.S. efforts to implement free trade agreements that would surrender the country’s raw materials in return for expensive products from abroad. Perhaps most significantly, Chavez is feared because of his growing independence in a country whose vast oil reserves are coveted by the north.
One doesn’t have to be a socialist to cheer for equal opportunity for hard-working citizens of any country. According to the U.S. Department of State, the income gap in Venezuela decreased between 2003 and 2005, with the Gini coefficient (a measure of income disparity from 0 (equal) to 1 (unequal)) dropping from .618 in 2003 to .514 in 2005. Chavez speaks, however noisily, for the poor. Most of the media speaks for the people with money.
Paul Buchheit is a professor with the Chicago City Colleges, co-founder of Global Initiative Chicago ( www.GIChicago.org )
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A financial crisis will likely send the U.S. dollar into a free fall of as much as 90 percent and gold soaring to $2,000 an ounce, a trends researcher said.
"We are going to see economic times the likes of which no living person has seen," Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente said, forecasting a "Panic of 2008."
"The bigger they are, the harder they'll fall," he said in an interview with New York's Hudson Valley Business Journal.
Celente -- who forecast the subprime mortgage financial crisis and the dollar's decline a year ago and gold's current rise in May -- told the newspaper the subprime mortgage meltdown was just the first "small, high-risk segment of the market" to collapse.
Derivative dealers, hedge funds, buyout firms and other market players will also unravel, he said.
Massive corporate losses, such as those recently posted by Citigroup Inc. and General Motors Corp., will also be fairly common "for some time to come," he said.
He said he would not "be surprised if giants tumble to their deaths," Celente said.
The Panic of 2008 will lead to a lower U.S. standard of living, he said.
A result will be a drop in holiday spending a year from now, followed by a permanent end of the "retail holiday frenzy" that has driven the U.S. economy since the 1940s, he said.
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By Robert Fisk:
In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad
So where do we go from here? I am talking into blackness because there is no electricity in Beirut. And everyone, of course, is frightened. A president was supposed to be elected today. He was not elected. The corniche outside my home is empty. No one wants to walk beside the sea.
When I went to get my usual breakfast cheese manouche there were no other guests in the café. We are all afraid. My driver, Abed, who has loyally travelled with me across all the war zones of Lebanon, is frightened to drive by night. I was supposed to go to Rome yesterday. I spared him the journey to the airport.
It's difficult to describe what it's like to be in a country that sits on plate glass. It is impossible to be certain if the glass will break. When a constitution breaks – as it is beginning to break in Lebanon – you never know when the glass will give way.
People are moving out of their homes, just as they have moved out of their homes in Baghdad. I may not be frightened, because I'm a foreigner. But the Lebanese are frightened. I was not in Lebanon in 1975 when the civil war began, but I was in Lebanon in 1976 when it was under way. I see many young Lebanese who want to invest their lives in this country, who are frightened, and they are right to frightened. What can we do?
Last week, I had lunch at Giovanni's, one of the best restaurants in Beirut, and took out as my companion Sherif Samaha, who is the owner of the Mayflower Hotel. Many of the guests I've had over the past 31 years I have sent to the Mayflower. But Sherif was worried because I suggested that his guests had included militia working for Saad Hariri, who is the son of the former prime minister, murdered – if you believe most Lebanese – by the Syrians on 14 February 2005.
Poor Sherif. He never had the militia men in his hotel. They were in a neighbouring building. But so Lebanese is Sherif that he even offered to pick me up in his car to have lunch. He is right to be worried.
A woman friend of mine, married to a doctor at the American University Hospital, called me two days before. "Robert, come and see the building they are making next to us," she said. And I took Abed and we went to see this awful building. It has almost no windows. All its installations are plumbing. It is virtually a militia prison. And I'm sure that's what it is meant to be. This evening I sit on my balcony, in a power cut, as I dictate this column. And there is no one in the street. Because they are all frightened.
So what can a Middle East correspondent write on a Saturday morning except that the world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. "Palestine". Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colourless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.
And what hell disasters are we creating? Let me quote a letter from a reader in Bristol. She asks me to quote a professor at Baghdad University, a respected man in his community who tells a story of real hell; you should read it. Here are his own words:
"'A'adhamiya Knights' is a new force that has started its task with the Americans to lead them to al-Qa'ida and Tawheed and Jihad militants. This 300-fighter force started their raids very early at dawn wearing their black uniform and black masks to hide their faces. Their tours started three days ago, arresting about 150 citizens from A'adhamiya. The 'Knight' leads the Americans to a citizen who might be one of his colleagues who used to fight the Americans with him. These acts resulted in violent reactions of al-Qa'ida. Its militants and the militants of Tawheed and Jihad distributed banners on mosques' walls, especially on Imam Abu Hanifa mosque, threatening the Islamic Party, al-Ishreen revolution groups and Sunni endowment Diwan with death because these three groups took part in establishing 'A'adhamiya Knights'. Some crimes happened accordingly, targeting two from Sunni Diwan staff and one from the Islamic Party.
"Al-Qa'ida militants are distributed through the streets, stopping the people and asking about their IDs ... they carry lists of names. Anyone whose name is on these lists is kidnapped and taken to an unknown place. Eleven persons have been kidnapped up to now from Omar Bin Abdul Aziz Street."
The writer describes how her professor friend was kidnapped and taken to a prison. "They helped me sit on a chair (I was blindfolded) and someone came and held my hand saying, 'We are Muhajeen, we know you but we don't know where you are from.' They did not take my wallet nor did they search me. They only asked me if I have a gun. An hour or so later, one of them came and asked me to come with them. They drove me towards where my car was in the street and they said no more." So who are the A'adhamiya Knights? Who is paying them? What are we doing in the Middle East?
And how can we even conceive of a moral stand in the Middle East when we still we refuse to accept the fact – reiterated by Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and all the details of US diplomats in the First World War – that the Armenian genocide occurred in 1915? Here is the official British government position on the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. "Officially, the Government acknowledges the strength of feeling [note, reader, the 'strength of feeling'] about what it describes as a terrible episode of history and recognises the massacres of 1915-16 as a tragedy. However, neither the current Government nor previous British governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to be persuaded that these events should be categorised as genocide as it is defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide." When we can't get the First World War right, how in God's name can we get World War III right?
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Video and Transcript
Are assumptions about Iran wrong?
"Suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq's a country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You can't have a serious discussion about whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the discussion is that we own the world." --Noam Chomsky
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: ElBaradei, is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated quite definitively there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. The recent resolution—the Kyle-Lieberman amendment—and the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, which one of the charges is that Iran has been helping what they call insurgents in Iraq. There's practically no evidence of that either. Based on what we know as evidence, there's not a lot of reasons for U.S. policy to be as aggressive right now towards Iran as it is, certainly not for the stated reason. What really does motivate U.S. policy towards Iran?
NOAM CHOMSKY, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, MIT: Well, if I can make a comment about the stated reasons, the very fact that we're discussing them tells us a lot about the sort of intellectual culture and moral culture in the United States. I mean, suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq's a country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You can't have a serious discussion about whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the discussion is that we own the world. So if we invade and occupy another country, then it's a criminal act for anyone to interfere with it. What about the nuclear weapons? I mean, are there countries with nuclear weapons in the region? Israel has a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. The United States gives more support to it than any other country in the world. The Bush administration is trying very hard to push through an agreement that not only authorizes India's illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons but assists it. That's what the U.S.-Indo Nuclear Pact is about. And, furthermore, there happens to be an obligation of the states in the Security Council and elsewhere to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. Now that would include Iran and Israel and any U.S. forces deployed there. That's part of Resolution 687. Now to your question. The real reasons for the attack on Iran, the sanctions, and so on go back into history. I mean, we like to forget the history; Iranians don't. In 1953, the United States and Britain overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah, who ruled until 1979. And during his rule, incidentally, the United States was strongly supporting the same programs they're objecting to today. In 1979, the population overthrew the dictator, and since then the United States has been essentially torturing Iran. First it tried a military coup. Then it supported Saddam Hussein during Iraq's invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Then, after that was over, the United States started imposing harsh sanctions on Iran. And now it's escalating that. The point is: Iran is out of control. You know, it's supposed to be a U.S.-client state, as it was under the Shah, and it's refusing to play that role.
JAY: The sanctions that were just issued recently [are] the beginnings of a kind of act of war, this ratcheting up of the rhetoric right at a time when the IAEA is saying, in fact, Iran's cooperating in the process. But it's all coming down to this question of does Iran even have its right to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear, which in fact it has, under the non-proliferation treaty. But Bush in his last press conference, where he had his famous World War III warning, has said even the knowledge of having nuclear weapons we won't permit, never mind a civilian program. This puts U.S. policy on a collision course with the IAEA, with international law.
CHOMSKY: Just a couple of years ago, from 2004 through 2006, Iran did agree to suspend all uranium enrichment, halt even what everyone agrees they're legally entitled to. That was an agreement with the European Union. They agreed to suspend all uranium enrichment. And in return, the European Union was to provide what were called full guarantees on security issues—that means getting the United States to call off its threats to attack and destroy Iran. Well, the European Union didn't live up to its obligation, [as] they couldn't get the U.S. to stop it. So the Iranians then also pulled out and began to return to uranium enrichment. The way that's described here is-- the Iranians broke the agreement.
JAY: The experts are saying, including ElBaradei and others, that if you can enrich uranium to something just under 5%, which is apparently what's needed for civilian purposes, you're most of the way there towards the technology of having a bomb, that once you have that enrichment technology, you're not that much further towards a bomb.
CHOMSKY: Yeah, but that's true of every developed country in the world. Why pick out Iran? It's true of Japan, it's true of Brazil, it's true of Egypt. And in fact, one could say—here I tend to agree with the Bush administration. In the non-proliferation treaty, there's an article, Article 4, which says that countries signing the NPT are allowed to develop nuclear energy. Well, okay, that made some sense in 1970, but by now technology has developed enough so that it has reached the point that you describe. When you've developed nuclear energy, you're not that far from nuclear weapons. So, yeah, I think something should be done about that. But that has nothing special to do with Iran. In fact, it's a much more serious problem for those nuclear weapons states who are obligated under that same treaty to make good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. And, in fact, there are some solutions to that. ElBaradei had proposed a couple of years ago that no states should develop weapons-grade materials: all high enrichment should be done by an international agency, maybe the IAEA or something else, and then countries should apply to it. If they want enriched uranium for nuclear energy, the international agency should determine whether they're doing it for peaceful means. As far as I'm aware, there's only one country that formally agreed to ElBaradei's proposal. That was Iran. And there's more. I mean, there's an international treaty, called the Fissban, to ban production of fissile materials except under international control. The United States has been strongly opposed to that, to a verifiable treaty. Nevertheless, it did come to the General Assembly, the U.N. Disarmament Commission in the General Assembly, which overwhelmingly voted in favour of it. The disarmament commission vote was, I think, 147 to 1, the United States being the 1. Unless a verifiable fissile materials treaty is passed and implemented, the world very well may move towards nuclear disaster.
JAY: Do you think we're actually moving towards a military confrontation? Or are we seeing a game of brinksmanship?
CHOMSKY: Well, whether purposely or not, yes, we're moving towards a military confrontation.
Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT. He is the author of over 30 political books dissecting U.S. interventionism in the developing world, the political economy of human rights and the propaganda role of corporate media.
This entry was posted on Nov 24, 2007 at 11:14:35 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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As you will see from the list below, it seems the US has invited practically everyone in the world to this fandango -- from Poland to Sweden to Slovenia [Slovenia???] to Yemen to the World Bank and the
IMF... except the PLO -- which is the only body that has the authority and international standing to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people! In addition, the elected government of Hamas is also not
invited, of course.
-- sent by Francis Boyle - Nov 23, 2007
My Dear Palestinian Friends:
As you can see from the US Government's list of Invitees [below] to the Annapolis Conference, it has only invited the Palestinian Authority, not the PLO. But only the PLO has the authority under international law to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian People and the State of Palestine. That is why the Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement in the name of the PLO. The Palestinian Authority has no authorization under international law to negotiate on behalf of the
Palestinian People, let alone the State of Palestine, whose Provisional Government is the PLO Executive Committee. Indeed, an entire series of UN General Assembly Resolutions have made it clear that only the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. Hence this delegation of the Palestinian Authority to the Annapolis Conference has no legal authority under international law to conclude anything on behalf of the Palestinian People, let alone the State of Palestine.
I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to bring this matter to the attention of the Palestinian People around the world.
Francis A. Boyle
Professor of International Law
Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation
to the Middle East Peace Negotiations
and His Excellency Dr. Haidar Abdul Shaffi (1991-1993)
US State Department - Nov 20, 2007
Announcement of Annapolis Conference
November 20, 2007
Announcement of Annapolis Conference
On November 27, the United States will host Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, along with the Members of the Quartet, the Members of the Arab League Follow-on
Committee, the G-8, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and other key international actors for a conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Secretary Rice will host a dinner the preceding evening here in Washington, where President Bush will deliver remarks. President Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will deliver speeches to open the formal conference
The Annapolis Conference will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts, and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Those invited to attend the conference are:
Arab League Secretary General
EU High Rep
EU Pres Portugal
Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair
United Arab Emirates
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Umm Adnan Yasin holds a metal pan that she uses to separate leaves from olives.
By Sandy Tolan
I'd glanced at them through the rental car windshield hundreds of times before, while crisscrossing the West Bank on assignment. They were everywhere — along the ancient hillsides, from Nablus to Tulkarm, Ramallah to Jerusalem, Beit Jala to Bethlehem to Hebron: The ancient olive trees of Palestine.
I'd looked, but hadn't really seen, hadn't touched, hadn't even thought much about these gnarly creatures and their rootedness in the landscape. Hadn't considered what they say about the Palestinian culture and its hidden kitchen: the annual olive harvest.
"If anyone wants to get his son married, he says, 'Well, after the olive oil season,'" Dr. Osama Odeh, a PhD in electrochemistry and olive expert, told me one day as we toured his family-supported olive cooperative in his home village of Bidya. "If he wants to buy clothes for his kids he makes it after the olive oil season. If he wants to build an additional room on his house, he makes it after the season. It's a matter of life for them." And for Odeh himself.
When you think about it, it shouldn't be surprising that Odeh is an olive-obsessed man. In Arabic, the root word for his town means "the stone for crushing olives." At the town center stands an old press, with twin one-ton stones of granite that crush olives into oil. And Odeh is just one in an endless and ancient line of farmers — many of whom now have professional day jobs — whose life is transformed every fall, when ripe olives return to the trees.
'Like Jewels in the Mountains'
That's when Palestinians leave their school and work, drag their tarps and ladders, donkeys and pickup trucks to the groves and begin to pick.
"They are like jewels in the mountains," said the Palestinian artist Rana Bishara. "They glow in the landscape of Palestine," inviting villagers to renew the ritual.
"The life comes again!" shouted the young farmer, Abdul Razzak Abu Rahma, on the second day of the harvest at Bili'in. As if that weren't enough, he looked at me with a beatific smile and began gesturing with his hands.
"The life comes again for us!" he said. "You can't imagine this feeling! You can't have words for this feeling! We are going to harvest our olive trees!"
That same afternoon, a grove or two away, Raslan Yasin, a hydrologist most days, was on the upper rungs of a metal ladder, holding his toddler son with one arm as both of them reached into the branches with their hands. Some families prefer to use plastic combs; others beat the branches with sticks. (Others, certain this is bad for the tree and its output, don't approve: "Those people who use sticks should go to prison!" declared Hanna Elias, director of the film The Olive Harvest. He was joking. Barely. I think.)
As Yasin and his son pulled their hands down the branches, the olives fell in a soft rain to the canvas. This is a "low" year for the Palestinian harvest — the big seasons come every other year — but to me, it sure seemed like a lot of olives pattering onto the tarp.
There below, Yasin's mother, Umm Adnan, sat cross-legged in her traditional Palestinian dress, pulling the olives together in a pile and shaking them in a round metal pan to separate the fruit from the leaves. (Others prefer to blow on them or pick the leaves out by hand. Still others, I was told, use electric blowers, provoking more outrage at the assault on tradition.) Now and then Umm Adnan would stop so her grandson could sit on her lap and play with his toy motorcycle.
"People here record their history in relation to the olive trees," Yasin told me. "My mother is telling me that when my grandmother died, my father came to plant that tree" — Yasin then gestured toward it — "to be a mark for the day that his mother died. I feel that every tree has a memory for us. These are benchmarks for our stories."
Separating Farmers from Their Crops
This was one of those rare Middle East assignments fundamentally about connection, not conflict. But like almost any story in the West Bank, conflict lies just below the surface, or in the case of Bili'in, just at the edge of town. There, Israel's separation barrier slices through, cutting off villagers from many of their olive groves. The village has been the site of weekly protests.
The barrier — in some places, a 25-foot wall, and in others, like Bili'in, a series of electrified and barbed-wire fences with trenches — would be 480 miles long upon completion and is considered an essential security measure by Israel.
Opponents note that the barrier route does not follow the line between Israel and the West Bank, but rather cuts deep inside Palestinian territory, separating Palestinian farmers from their crops.
"Farming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the barrier's route, an area that constitutes one of the most fertile areas in the West Bank," declared a report from the respected Israeli human rights group, B'tselem. "The harm to the farming sector is liable to have drastic economic effects on the residents — whose economic situation is already very difficult — and drive many families into poverty."
In August, Israel's supreme court essentially agreed, at least in the case of Bili'in, ordering the government to reroute part of the separation barrier. But problems with the harvest remain, especially in the many places where Israeli settlements in the West Bank are expanded, virtually on top of ancient Palestinian villages.
"You can see where settlers planted on Palestinian lands," Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, told me as we hiked up a hill toward a harvest in the northern West Bank.
We stopped as he pointed to the countless olive trees blanketing the hillsides.
"In our Torah readings," Ascherman said, "we read of the story of Noah and the dove coming with the olive branch in its mouth, making the olive branch the symbol of peace. Yet unfortunately, in this region in recent history, the olive tree has been a symbol of strife. Because of its rootedness there've been efforts to uproot olive trees, by settlers, over a struggle over land."
Thousands of Palestinian olive trees have been uprooted in recent years, according to human rights groups.
A Shared Beauty
Up the hill, Arab and Jewish workers were working shoulder to shoulder, part of a larger group of thousands of volunteers who come from Israel, the United States and Europe to help with the harvest. A mixture of Arabic, Hebrew and broken English drifted through the air, mixing with the sounds of olives pouring into buckets, cell phones chirping and a yelping, outraged donkey tied to a tree.
"Do you have, in your village, olive tree?" asked a young Palestinian woman, Nama, to her fellow picker, a 16-year-old Israeli named Natenel.
"No," Natenel replied, softly and politely. "Not in my village."
"But, olive tree, very beautiful," said Nama, smiling beneath her baseball cap atop a white headscarf. "And the olive oil, very, very beautiful."
"It's good in the salad!" Natenel replied eagerly.
Pause for a Meal
Noontime on a warm, clear, dry West Bank day. A pause in the harvest. In the village of Qira — declared a "paradise" for olive oil growing by a French tasting jury — the Taamallah family has spread out its harvest kitchen on a blanket in the shade of an old olive tree.
Here's what will keep the pickers going into the afternoon: hummus, baba ganoush, cucumber salad, labneh (a delicious cross between yogurt and cheese), olives, and the Palestinian staple, zayt u za'tar — that is, olive oil and za'tar, a mixture of wild Palestinian thyme, sumac and sesame.
"The main thing now, I am hungry!" Fareed Taamallah said with a laugh, leaning forward to dip a piece of Arabic bread into the oil. "After that, I will be very lazy! And then we'll continue."
Soon the family's sacks of olives will be on their way to one of hundreds of West Bank presses, where people like Osama Odeh will be waiting to turn the fruit into oil.
"It's like a rush-hour downtown," Odeh told me. "You never stop working. Everybody is running, taking olives, filling the oil (containers). People come with the tractor, the donkey …. No one cares about sleeping."
And that is the secret of the Palestinian kitchen: No matter how far the kitchen from the landscape, olives are the constant.
"I've lived in the United States for 20 years," the writer Ibtisam Barakat told me. She now lives in Columbia, Mo. "I've gone home only twice, but I think of olives every day. Every year, I mark the olive harvest on my calendar. I eat olives and olive oil every day. The name of my cat is Zaytun, which means olives. I have an olive tree in my living room. In Missouri."
"Where I live," she said. "I want to have an olive tree living with me."
This entry was posted on Nov 24, 2007 at 10:03:33 am and is filed under Human Rights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Wajahat Ali speaks to American political scientist and writer Dr. Norman Finkelstein about the denial of his tenure at DePaul University, anti-Semitism, and challenging the academic status quo on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
WAJAHAT ALI: In the recent DePaul University tenure controversy, you and a vocal community of supporters suggested "external pressures" forced the University to deny you tenure despite your overwhelming popularity and respect amongst your peers and students. What is your response to this denial?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I do not want to be a tenure martyr. It was for sure a disgusting ordeal. But my main concern now is to move on and put it behind me. Reasonable people do not doubt why I was denied tenure. The facts are straightforward. I easily met all the criteria of tenure at DePaul. I was denied tenure due to my vocal opposition to Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
WAJAHAT ALI: Regarding your scholarship, you question and challenge what some consider long-held assumptions regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict, specifically the actual intentions and motivations of several parties, such as the Israeli government, the United States, and the Arab world. Currently, what do you believe are the most crucial and major obstacles that if removed, could establish some sustainable semblance of peace in that region?
NF The basic terms for settling the conflict are not a mystery. They are embodied every year in the same General Assembly resolution titled "Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question." The resolution calls for full Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 borders. The entire world apart from the U.S., Israel and this or that South Pacific atoll (Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Micronesia, Marshall Islands) supports this settlement. Once the U.S. and Israel accept the G.A. resolution, the basis will be in place to resolve the conflict.
WA In your book Beyond Chutzpah, you present evidence against Dr. Alan Desrhowitz's book, Case for Israel, and conclude that his work is a mixture of plagiarism, shoddy research, and poor scholarship. If Dr. Dershowitz's book is filled with so much error, how do such works become authoritative pieces on the subject?
NF To win acclaim in mainstream media on certain subjects you merely have to echo the party line; it has precious little to do with actual scholarship. The Nazi holocaust and the Israel-Palestine conflict are two such subjects. Terrorism is another one. I just read this ridiculous book by a so-called leading American intellectual named Paul Berman entitled Terror and Liberalism. The book is fact-free. Indeed, it might be called insane in a rational culture. It starts from the premise that no country in the world has done more for Muslims than the United States. That's the central premise. You can imagine where it goes from there. Of course it's a huge bestseller in the United States. It's hard to imagine how debased U.S. intellectual culture is. Although, in all fairness, I doubt it has yet sunk to the level of France where Bernard Henri-Levy is called a philosopher.
WA In your controversial book, The Holocaust Industry, you make two arguments. One is that the promotion of the uniqueness of "Jewish suffering" experienced during the Holocaust is used to shield and deflect legitimate criticism of Israel. The second builds upon this and says that this promotion allows a powerful industry to label any such critic, no matter how legitimate, an Anti-Semite. How has this "labeling" played out in recent years in regard to critics of Israeli domestic and internal policies?
MF Whenever Israel comes under international pressure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict diplomatically or on account of its human rights violations, it revives the extravaganza called The New Anti-Semitism. In 1974 the Anti-Defamation League, an Israel lobby group in the U.S., put out a book called The New Anti-Semitism and in 1981 it put out another book called The Real Anti-Semitism. Right after the new intifada began, the Israel lobby again started with The New Anti-Semitism. The purposes of this agitprop are pretty obvious: to delegitimize all criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism and to turn the perpetrators into the victims. It seems to have less effect in recent years due to overuse: once you start calling Jimmy Carter an anti-Semite, people really begin to wonder.
Anyone who knows this "info-tainment industry" well knows that "scholarship" and polemical histrionics make loyal bedfellows, thus explaining the phenomenon of shock jocks, right wing radio hosts, and the rise of polemical pundits.
WA What is the role of the professional and ethical academic and historian, specifically one whose concentration deals with the Middle East, in today's hysterical society? Does your experience with DePaul University signal a warning call to those who tread what some consider your controversial path?
NF I don't think my personal experience has much wider meaning. I was targeted because I am politically active. I don't limit myself to a professional audience of other academics. I have a public reputation, and it was this reputation that the Israel lobby was trying to discredit, successfully, as it turns out. But most academics speak to other academics.
WA The "Muslim World" has gained a considerable spotlight after 9-11 with pundits commenting on the "clash of civilizations," "the roots of Muslim rage," and the newest label suggesting an emergence of "Islamo-fascism". You have had considerable experience with Muslims and Muslim Americans.Do you believe that a conflict exists between the so-called West and Islam? If so, how can we, as an American society, regain Muslim trust, confidence, and understanding specifically in light of the Iraq War, the Palestine-Israel conflict, and the aggressive rhetoric against Iran, which some Muslims claim is ample proof of a war on Islam rather than realpolitik?
"Islamo-fascism" is a meaningless term. If I am not mistaken, it was coined by the commentator Christopher Hitchens. The term is a throwback to when juvenile leftists, myself among them, labeled everyone we disagreed with a "fascist pig." So this is a kosher-halal version of that epithet. Fascism used to refer to a fairly precise historical phenomenon, although it's even doubtful that the term accurately encompasses regimes as different as Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. But when you start using the term to characterize terrorist bands who want to turn the clock back several centuries and resurrect the Caliphate, it is simply a vacuous epithet like "Evil Empire," "Axis of Evil" and the rest.
WA Your parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. Your published works and scholarship, although labeled Anti-Semitic by your critics, are generally dedicated by yourself to honoring and preserving the integrity of those victims, such as your parents from those you claim exploit their suFfering for political ends. Like others in your field, you could have easily avoided controversy by agreeing with the mainstream. With all the issues you have faced as a result of your scholarship, what has motivated you to continue down this road?
MF Whenever I wonder why I do what I do - and I do have those moments of self-doubt - I put in my mind's eye the suffering of my late parents, I think of my friends in the occupied territories, and the doubts vanish. I press on, knowing that soon I will pass from the scene, hopefully having done some good, and not too much evil.
Wajahat Ali is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and J.D. whose work, "The Domestic Crusaders," (www.domesticcrusaders.com) is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. He can be reached at email@example.com
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 10:51:06 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Gary Leupp
The Swat District in Pakistan's Northwestern Frontier Province, dominated by the Swat Valley, watered by the River Swat, surrounded by snow-capped mountains rising as high as 20,000 feet, has been compared to Switzerland in its breathtaking beauty. Only 684 square miles in area (two-thirds the size of Rhode Island), with a population of 1.5 million, it has little commercial agriculture or industry but is rich in history as well as natural scenery. Until recently, it has been a mecca for the archeologist and for the tourist. Both are drawn largely by the presence of Buddhist artifacts, including great Buddhas carved into the mountainside, similar to those crafted 1500 years ago in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
Conquered by Alexander the Greek and his Macedonians in the 320s BCE, this region became part of the Mauryan Empire. Emperor Ashoka in the mid-third century BCE promoted the spread of Buddhism here, and in the second century BCE the local Greek King Menander may have been a convert. (The Questions of Menander---supposedly a conversation between the king and a Buddhist monk---is unique among ancient Buddhist texts in its dialogue form, characteristic of Greek philosophical texts, and may have actually been composed originally in Greek.) Later the Kushan Empire centering on the Gandhara region encouraged the emergence of an Indo-Greek Buddhist style of sculpture. The Swat Valley was at the cutting edge of one of the most extraordinary syntheses in art history: Buddhist content and classical realistic western sculpture. The Buddha, earlier represented symbolically (as a footprint), came to be depicted as a Greek deity or king, standing or seated in meditation.
This, for example, is the 23-foot high Buddha of Jenanabad, one of the finest examples of Gandharan art, as it appeared until recently.
Here's how it has looked since October 8.
Remember how the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, in Afghanistan, in March 2001? Well, this Buddha in Swat was attacked twice last September by forces led by a local cleric named Maulana Fazlullah, who heads the "Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law," aligned with the Taliban. On October 8, the Pakistani Talibs succeeded in obliterating its face with dynamite. This was not widely reported in the U.S. press, perhaps because it would have so dramatically demonstrated how Taliban influence far from waning has spread outside Afghanistan, and is even leading some Pakistanis to attack their national treasures.
The Buddhist law of karma states that willed actions have inevitable consequences. Evil actions produce more evil. There is a strange karma at work nowadays, making everything worse everywhere in Southwest Asia. George Bush invaded Afghanistan in 2001, to capture Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," crush al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban regime. He in fact failed to capture bin Laden, and U.S. intelligence reports conclude that al-Qaeda is stronger now than in 2001. Meanwhile the Taliban relying on new recruits controls large swathes of Afghanistan, kills "Coalition" soldiers in record numbers (218 so far this year, including 111 Americans, compared with 191 including 98 Americans in 2006), and expands operations in Pakistan. The Taliban is rooted in the Pashtun tribes who straddle Afghanistan and Pakistan and have little use for the border. They are linked by a common language (Pashto) and culture centering around the Pashtunwali or traditional code of conduct (preceding even the arrival of Islam, which is to say dating at least to the Buddhist period) which more than any other value emphasizes hospitality to visitors (melmastia).
Perhaps the Bush administration didn't consider this when it drove al-Qaeda and the Taliban across the border during the Battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, or when in March 2002 Bush told a White House press conference in March 2002, "I truly am not that concerned about" bin Laden. Since March of this year administration officials have been voicing mounting alarm over Taliban and al-Qaeda gains in the border area, even speaking ominously about possible U.S. attacks on Pakistani soil. These statements have produced immediate denunciations from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, partly no doubt to assure the public that the unpopular regime opposes an U.S. attack, and partly to dissuade Washington from attacks that would exacerbate the current anti-American sentiment in the country. This has risen precipitously in recent years.
The Pashtuns of the Northwestern Frontier provinces, including those of Swat, have plainly extended hospitality and provided sanctuary to many on the U.S. wanted list, probably including Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden. As the Taliban resurges in Afghanistan, it abets its progress, placing Pakistan's dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a terrible bind. He has deployed troops unfamiliar with the region to attack local Taliban supporters, at Washington's insistence, but they have fared poorly and his efforts have only produced more local support for the Islamists and more opposition to his government. According to the New York Times, the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command plans to" train and equip the Pakistani Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that has about 85,000 members coming mostly from border tribes" and to recruit Pakistani tribal leaders to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But how will they do this in a region where bin Laden is even more highly admired than in Pakistan as a whole, where his approval rating as of September was 46 percent, compared with 38 percent for Musharraf and 9 percent for Bush?
Citing the growing security threat, Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended the Pakistani constitution November 3, prompting an all-around political crisis in a nuclear-armed close ally of the U.S. He had apparently planned to do this in August but was dissuaded by Washington. Now he is taking a big risk. He may fall, and the Islamist iconoclasts or their backers in the Pakistani military could move into a power vacuum, as Islamists gained control over Iran following the overthrow of the hated Shah. Or power might pass to Benazir Bhutto who would, like Musharraf, need to steer a careful course between cooperating with the U.S. in its "war on terror," and posing as a nationalist and defender of moderate Islam. In the face of near-universal hatred for the Bush administration in Pakistan, and suspicions that its war is in fact against Islam in general, the prospect for a Taliban seizure of power in parts of Pakistan is very real. The Bush administration, unable to control the events it has triggered, is in a state of consternation.
How did this happen? What are the causes and effects behind the Talibanization of the frontier? One can either trace the bad karma forwards or backwards. If we do the former, we might start with the first big U.S. intervention into Southwest Asian history: the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. (Having nationalized the country's oil industry, he was falsely declared a "Communist" by U.S. politicians and media.) But let's proceed backwards towards that point.
The al-Qaeda and Taliban presence in Pakistan stem from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan stemmed from the al-Qaeda 9-11 attacks on the U.S.
The al-Qaeda 9-11 attacks stemmed from the establishment of U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia (more than any other cause).
The establishment of U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia, which were never accepted by the Saudi people but seen as a travesty in the land of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, stemmed from the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq in 1990.
The first President Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq and destroy its military stemmed from Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
That invasion of Kuwait stemmed mainly from quarrels between Iraq and Kuwait concerning Iraq's debt to the latter.
Iraq's debt to Kuwait stemmed from its heavy borrowing from its neighbor during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and Kuwait's refusal (backed by the U.S.) to forgive the debt after the war.
That war stemmed from Saddam's supposition that Iran was weak, and that Iraq could adjust the border between the two countries by military force.
Saddam's optimism stemmed in part from his two meetings during the war with Donald Rumsfeld, who offered and provided him with U.S. military assistance.
U.S. desire to assist Saddam stemmed from the policy objective of overthrowing the Iranian government.
This objective stemmed from the overthrow of the pro-U.S. Shah in 1979 and the emergence of an anti-U.S. Islamist regime.
The acquisition of power by the Islamist regime stemmed from the hatred of the Shah, who had been overthrown in 1979 in the most genuine, mass-based revolutionary upheaval in the history of the Muslim world.
The Shah's return to the throne 26 years earlier stemmed from a U.S. imperialist calculus that he would be the best man to look after U.S. interests in the Gulf region.
This is of course a simplified backwards-looking chronology. It leaves out a lot, including the deep background fact that the whole map of the Middle East was drawn up by British and French colonialists after World War I. (This is why Kuwait is separate from Iraq, why Kurdistan never became a state, why Lebanon's Christians wield disproportionate political power, etc.) Some might of course blame me for laying out a "blame America first" perspective covering the period from the CIA coup in Iran, but what government deserves more blame for the current crises from Lebanon to Pakistan? I might add that the very existence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban stem from the U.S. effort throughout the 1980s into the 90s to mobilize Islamists for a jihad against the Soviets and their allies in Afghanistan. The conscious deployment of jihadis versus secularist "communists" during the late Cold War era led directly to the emergence of such groups. The Afghan resistance lionized by Reagan was not by and large progressive in any sense; it opposed the education of girls, the establishment of clinics, land reform, curbs on clerics' powers, lifting of Islamic dress regulations. It was filled with religious fanatics as opposed to American as Soviet meddling in their affairs. After the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan, many wound up attacking the U.S. This is what the CIA calls "blowback." It's the bad karma of imperialism.
But back to the Swat Valley and its Buddhist heritage. Mullah Fazlulah, whose "Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law" dates back to the early 1990s, reportedly now has some 4,500 militants under his influence. He inveighs against UNESCO-administered polio inoculations, CD shops, and girls' schools, and apparently spearheads the effort to erase Swat's non-Muslim past. Anyone advocating U.S. strikes against Pakistan (a number of neocons have done so over the last nine months) will mention all these things in order to emphasize the enemy's caveman otherness. But we should ask such people: Why are the Mullah Fazlulahs on a roll right now? What is the cause, what is the effect?
Why do these religious fanatics want to target priceless, irreplaceable Buddhist art? Why have some Muslims in this region, who have lived contentedly in the shadow of these images for many centuries, only within recent years started blowing them up? (The last effort to destroy them was in the seventeenth century, during the reign of the uncommonly intolerant Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb.) According to Peshawar Museum archeologist Zainul Wahab, "the militants say [the statues] are 'symbols of evil.'" The Swat Islamists are aware that the Qur'an forbids the depiction of the human or animal forms in religious art (although some "miniature paintings" showing these in books has been allowed, notably in Shiite Persia) as a safeguard against idolatry. (See Qur'an 6:74, 14:35, 22:30, etc.) But why these actions, now?
The Bamiyan episode may hold some clues. In July 1999, Mullah Omar actually ordered that the Buddhas be preserved. They were not being used as objects of worship (there being no Buddhists in Afghanistan in centuries). Moreoever, "The government considers the Bamyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors. The Taliban states that Bamyan shall not be destroyed but protected." But in March 2001 a new decree called for the destruction of all such images. Mullah Omar explained to a Pakistani journalist in April 2004, "I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings - the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddhas' destruction."
It sounds entirely illogical. The westerners, Omar reasons, were more concerned with saving a statue than with saving people in a country at war for sixteen years, vying with Ethiopia as the world's most impoverished state---and so the Bamiyan Buddhas must be destroyed. Totally irrational. But it indicates a connection between extreme Islamist actions and global power structures. Omar would not agree with this interpretation of recent history, but the fact is the Soviet Union, taken by surprise by the leftist coup in 1978 in Afghanistan but determined thereafter to support a secular, progressive modern regime, sent in troops in 1979 to protect that regime from backward Islamists like Omar. And the U.S. threw its weight enthusiastically behind the jihadis, half the CIA money flowing to the notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar now targeted for assassination. In 1993 the Northern Alliance warlords (principally Tajiks and Uzbeks) captured the capital, castrated and hung the last secular ruler who had taken refuge at the UN compound, proclaimed victory over anti-Islamic forces and set about constructing their new order. They fell into infighting among themselves and Hekmatyar, a Pashtun at one point named Prime Minister, laid siege to Kabul. The chaos ended in 1996 when the Taliban, supported by Pakistani military intelligence, took the capital and imposed the draconian regime deposed in the U.S. attack five years later.
In the interim---between 1993 and 2001---the U.S. basically ignored Afghanistan. Washington had relished the opportunity to (as President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinsky put it) "bleed the Soviets, the way they bled us in Vietnam." But once the Soviets were gone, the U.S. lost interest. It recognized the new Northern Alliance-dominated government, but provided little aid. Its principal interests in Afghanistan were "drugs and thugs" -- discouragement of opium production, and containment of mujahadeen who having ousted the Soviets were now venting hostility towards their former infidel allies. After the Taliban took power in 1996, the oil firm UNOCAL through its representative Zalmay Khalilzad hosted Taliban officials in the U.S. to discuss pipeline construction. Colin Powell negotiated an aid package specifically for opium eradication. But while U.S. allies Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Oman recognized the Taliban and sent some aid, the U.S. and the west in general did little to alleviate hunger in Afghanistan. Hence, perhaps, the mullah's indignation.
He no doubt thinks the west doesn't have its priorities right. But is his thinking about art so distant from that of the architects of the Iraq War, who failed to protect the Baghdad Museum from looters, calling the looting "creative chaos"? Or the U.S. military whose vehicles have crushed artifacts in Babylon dating back to the time of King Nebuchadnezzar II? Or the U.S. troops who used the ninth-century Malwiya Minaret in Samarra as a lookout and sniper post, drawing a bomb attack that damaged its top tier? I don't sense that preservation of culture looms large among the priorities of the Bush administration; it's concerned with conquest, not art and religion. The Pakistani state meanwhile ostensibly seeks to preserve the Buddhist images of Swat. But as a police official at the police station closest to the Buddha of Jenanabad put it, "Due to the precarious law and order situation in the area we are confined to the police station and could not go to the place." The state is spread thin and its top priority is to protect itself.
So other Buddhist sites in Swat, including the Butkara stupa and Takht-i-Bahi Buddhist monastery ruins, remain under threat, at the mercy not only of religious fanaticism but the absence of a state apparatus preoccupied elsewhere. Both of these problems are aggravated by the U.S. invasion of the region. The current wave of Islamist violence was unleashed by U.S. imperialism, itself born out of capitalist competition between states dating way back to the nineteenth century. That's when the major western powers, having carved up China into concessions and colonized the Pacific, divided Africa and Southeast Asia. Russia and Britain vied for control of Afghanistan, with Britain ultimately winning control over its foreign affairs. But the British imperialists were unable to obtain colonial control of Afghanistan despite two bloody wars for that purpose (1839-42 and 1878-80). In May 1919 the Afghan khan Amanullah attacked British forces, who responded with the first aerial bombardment (on Kabul) in Afghanistan's history. Fighting ended inconclusively with an agreement in which Britain acknowledged Afghanistan's self-determination in its foreign relations. (That was just after revolutionary Russia had established relations with the country.)
In 1857, Friedrich Engels described the First Anglo-Afghan War as an "attempt of the British to set up a prince of their own making in Afghanistan" that was doomed due to the Afghans' "indomitable hatred of rule, and their love of independence." This I submit is an issue larger than any kind of religiosity. People don't like being invaded. They don't like it when their close kin across an artificial border created by imperialist mapmakers are invaded. The Pashtuns of the Swat Valley are angered by the toppling of the Taliban, and no doubt by U.S. support for Musharraf and by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And if they are like Muslims throughout the Middle East, they turn to Islamic extremism in part due to frustration with poverty and lack of economic opportunity. These are the results of imperialist globalization; the Swat Valley is rich in minerals and has significant agricultural potential but the state has not promoted all-round development, relying instead on tourism. Outrage at military strikes, the growing civilian death toll in Afghanistan, and the lack of jobs and income in Swat combines with religious passion to attract young men into pro-Taliban groups. Now these groups are defying neocon plans for the region, rebelling against the Pakistani state, and attacking Buddhist images. But these Pashtun assaults are only the proximate cause of the Jenanabad Buddha's defacement. The deeper karmic causes lie, in time and space, far outside the beautiful Swat Valley.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 10:34:39 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By William A. Cook
"A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God." Jeremiah 2:21
This week the forces of good will assemble in the city of Ann, the Queen who presided over her colonies, an apt gesture as the Israeli colonialist state meets to consider the fate of its Palestine colony, the one carefully preserved behind its apartheid wall of infamy, to attempt once again the fraud perpetrated on the American people and the United Nations that Israel is sincere in wanting peace. The moguls that control our press and TV channels sing the praises of Ehud Olmert and the Israeli Knesset as custodians of peace seeking to bring justice to the war weary peoples of Palestine. Thus are sown the seeds of discord that will reap the whirlwind of bitter disappointment, followed by the weeping and gnashing of teeth by these perpetrators of deceit.
How can any serious person consider the probability of peace in Palestine when the Olmert government includes the racist party of Avigdor Lieberman who advocates the expulsion of Palestinians from their land, and has, in effect, achieved a "Targeted assassination" of the summit before the invitations went out (Ha'aretz, Yossi Verter, "Assassinating Annapolis," 15/11/07)? How can any serious person consider the probability of peace when the broker of record is the United States, the erstwhile Godfather of the Neo-con Zionists that control both Israel and the multitude of AIPACs that own our Congress? And even now, as the world waits with baited breathe the possibility of peace, the racist government of Olmert cuts off electricity to the already decimated people of Gaza because he does not accede to international law but only to his own.
In brutally blunt terms, the peace process overseen by Condoleeza Rice is a joke. The United States is not an honest broker. It has colluded with the Olmert government to negate the democratically elected government of Palestine, and then, in all brazen chutzpas, has engaged a previously discarded politician, Ahmud Abbas, as a straw man to circumvent the duly elected government. In this process our government and that of Israel has decimated the Palestinian people making their lives a living hell, and they have done it in full contravention of international law that prohibits collective punishment and demands of the occupier that they care for the people under their control. Concurrent with these deplorable actions, the "broker," the fair and balanced broker, has not only continued its normal welfare to the state of Israel in the form of 5 billion in aid, but has doubled that this year while adding an additional 15 billion over the next ten years. How can the world blind itself to the hypocrisy of these actions?
But the picture painted above does not reveal the real reason why peace is impossible in Palestine. The real reason is imbedded in the reality of Zionism and the forces that now control and have controlled the rise of the Israeli state from the very beginning. It is that story that must be told for in it resides the curse of Jeremiah condemning the Jews who have "perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God."
In a heretofore unreleased file housed in the Rhodes archives of the Bodleian Library at Oxford (MSS.Medit. S. 20 (1), the Palestine Government (the British Mandate government) submitted a most secret report to the British Secretary of State through its High Commissioner, Harold MacMichael. The document labeled "Jewish Approaches to the Question of Jewish-Arab Co-Operation during the period 1919-1941" covers the early attempts by Jewish leaders, before the takeover of the Jewish population by the Zionists from Europe, to find accommodation through agreements and assimilation with the much larger Arab population. The report outlines two "schools of thought" among the Jews: a majority opinion that regarded Jewish Agency co-operation as an "instrument, which can be picked up and set aside as needed, for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine," and a minority opinion that regarded co-operation with Arabs as essential to the continued existence of the Jews in Palestine. A side note states that intellectuals, professionals and socialists belonged to this second group. The report mentions three phases of co-operation.
a. Phase one began in 1919 with the Feisal-Weizman agreement, based on idealism and liberal principles for fruitful partnership with the Arabs, an agreement built on the assumption that the two peoples had much in common and could be mutually supportive in the development of a state beneficial to both. The French occupation of Damascus in the following year brought a halt to the continuation of this agreement since Feisal lost his throne and was no longer in a position to affect it.
b. The second phase directed its attention towards a political compromise, i.e. to establish a modus vivendi in Palestine from 1929 until the promulgation of the British "White Paper" in 1939.
c. The third phase, as the report was being written, referred to what existed in 1941-1947 between the Arab Federation and the Jews in Palestine.
The Feisal-Weizman agreement detailed how the Balfour Declaration could be affected and guaranteed, how continuation of Jewish immigration on a larger scale could be accommodated while maintaining the rights of the indigenous population, and how freedom of worship, Moslem control of their holy places, economic assistance by the newly arrived Zionist groups could be achieved, with the understanding, that the agreement would be implemented, contingent upon the claim submitted to the Peace Conference for Arab independence in Palestine. The parties did not contemplate Palestine as either a Jewish or an Arab state but rather a bi-national state associated with other Arab states.
The Feisal-Weizman agreement did not die altogether. Dr. Chaim Kalvarisky, working on behalf of the Brith Shalom, the Kidma Mizrahi, and the Jewish Arab Co-operation groups, and at the invitation of a Feisal advisor, outlined a plan based on the historical affinity of the two peoples that could serve as a foundation for collaboration, that both groups would have opportunities to administer the country, and practical measures for education based on the ideal of close co-operation and freedom of immigration into Palestine by Jews could work. The Zionists wanted a National Home supported, not by the Arab Federation, but by Europe and the United States. This plan was submitted to the Zionist Council in 1936 and was rejected out of hand. That rejection doomed the dreams of Dr. Kalvarisky for a state where Jewish and Arab cultures could develop "side by side in perfect and undisturbed harmony."
The British report notes the Royal Commission had determined by 1937 that Jewish Arab co-operation was not possible, indeed, that the two sides were irreconcilable. "The Jewish desire for a National Home in fact excluded Arabs and this was the main objection of Arabs to further co-operation." It's important to realize that the conclusion arrived at in this report comes after the Zionist organization had taken absolute control of the Jews in Palestine. "The Zionist organization, the whole social structure which it has created in Palestine, has the trappings but none of the essentials of democracy. The community is under the closed oligarchy of the Jewish official organizations which control Zionist policy and circumscribe the lives of the Jewish community in all directions The reality of power is in the Agency, with the Hagana, the illegal military organization, always in the background." (MacMichael, 2).
The report itself, accompanied as it is with documentary evidence from the Jewish organizations detailing their activities, demonstrates that the Zionists had created "(1) a secret army and espionage system, (2) utilized smuggling, theft and the manufacture of arms (3) illegal immigration, (4) violence and civil disobedience, (5) seditious and hostile propaganda, and (6) encroachment upon the civil rights of Jewish citizens to force their will upon the Jewish people and undermine the legitimate government in Palestine." This last item is perhaps the most telling and the least known or understood. The Zionists controlled the Jewish communities by intimidation, coercion, physical harm and even death. (Evidence, based on seized documents from the Jewish organizations, presented in the appendices of the report (see appendices XXXVII, XLb and B among others) reveal these methods of handling uncooperative Jews.
No one can help but see the irony of the conditions now faced by the Israeli government as it occupies Palestine and is confronted by "terrorists" fighting for their own homeland. Thus does the wolf in its uncontrollable viciousness bite its own tail.
We must not overlook the initial impetus of the Jews, the real Jews, to further their condition by full co-operation with the Arabs that inhabited Palestine when the British were in charge of the Mandate. "Since authentic Jewish people are opposed to the notion of a State altogether, there would be no problem whatsoever in Jews living in the area of Israel and Palestine. For hundreds of years there were Jewish communities of Prayer and study in the area that the State of Israel rules today. These communities lived in complete peace with the surrounding Arabs. The hatred between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was caused by Zionism." "The true definition of a Jew is faith and Torah. Zionism says it is nationalism." (Pat Harrington interview with Rabi Beck of Neturei Karta, 1991).
To what extent will Zionists go to attain their predetermined ends? Theodore Herzl in 1895, founder of the Zionist movement, made clear the original intent: "We should try to spirit the penniless Arab population across the borders by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." Thus begins the deception that has characterized the ethnic cleansing and genocidal actions of the Zionists ever since. "In 1921, Dr. Eder, a member of the Zionist Commission in Jerusalem, told the British court of enquiry appointed to investigate the causes of the first riots to break out between Arabs and Jews that 'There can be only one national home in Palestine, and that a Jewish one, and no equity in the partnership between the Jews and Arabs, but a Jewish preponderance as soon as the numbers of the (Jewish) race are sufficiently increased.'" (Sami Hadawi, Journal of Historical Review). "One National Home without equity," so has it been ever since.
Let us not forget that beneath these pronouncements resides an insidious set of assumptions, never enunciated lest the truth of their horrific consequences be unveiled, that the right of a National Home in Palestine to exist must remain unquestioned because the Jews were given that real estate by their God in a covenant almost 4000 years ago. How do we know this? Because a group of Jewish Rabbis over an extended period of years, estimated as between 400 BCE to 90 BCE, determined which books composed the Old Testament, and those books alone represented the word of God to His chosen people. In those books the covenant resides. Who wrote the books? On whose authority do the claims stated in the Bible rest? Since only a miniscule percent of the world's population believes in this book, must the world accept the confiscation of Palestinian land as just?
Who is this God? Does the international community and International Law acknowledge the right of a small religious group to assert that their belief in a God who dispensed real estate to their fore bears centuries ago gives them a right to confiscate that land from people who have lived on it and worked it for over two thousand years? Should that right be acknowledged, then the Native American population, asserting the sacredness of the land they occupied for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans, could claim the return of the United States to its rightful owners. Indeed, they would have a more valid claim since they never left the land that was stolen from them while over 90% of the Jews now in Israel are immigrants and most had never been to Palestine. Without this assertion of land rights from centuries ago, the Zionists have no claim to the lands of Palestine. So this "nationalist" and secular group uses the religious beliefs of the Jews to force into existence the state of Israel. In the process two horrific consequences emerge: the true nature of the Jews as represented by Rabbi Beck above is destroyed as they become complicit in the genocide taking place in Palestine, and the Palestinian people are destroyed, their lands and homes confiscated or demolished, and those with rights under International Law portrayed as terrorists. Hope destroyed, justice denied.
With these consequences in mind, let's continue the march of Zionism over the years. In 1943, General Patrick Hurley, Personal Representative of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt disclosed the Zionist plans for expulsion and dispossession of the Moslem and Christian inhabitants of Palestine and beyond. This reference comes from pages 776-777 in Foreign Relations of the United States: Near East and Africa, Washington D.C., 1960 as reported by Sami Hadawi in the Journal of Historical Review:
The Zionist Organizations in Palestine has committed itself to an enlarged program which would include (1) a sovereign Jewish state which would embrace Palestine and probably eventually Trans-Jordan; (2) an eventual transfer of the Arab population from Palestine to Iraq; (3) Jewish leadership for the whole Middle-East in the fields of economic development and control.
The Rhodes papers referred to above contain seized documents from the Jewish Agency and the Hagana papers among others that describe details of Plans A and B covering the period from 1941 on as the illegal Zionist military imposed its will on the Jewish communities in Palestine. Indeed, every 18 year old was conscripted into the Hagana army and sworn to alliegeance by an oath that culminated with this statement:
"I hereby swear to devote all my strength, and even to sacrifice my life, to defence (sic) and battle for my people and my Homeland, for the freedom of Israel and for the redemption of Zion."
In this personal commitment lies the true deceit since no individual had freedom to not serve and thus all Jews were immersed in the intentions of the Zionist Organization whether they understood the totality of its illegal goals, as outlined by General Hurley to President Roosevelt, or not. The full implications of their intent are present in the first of the program goals Hurley presented, the "redemption of Zion" means in reality a "sovereign Jewish state which would embrace Palestine and probably eventually Trans-Jordan," in short, a plan to steal lands already occupied by other people.
To maintain this secret and illegal army, the Zionist Organization needed funds. It created a levy system that was imposed on all Jews, a taxation on top of that imposed by the British Mandate government. Some objected. A letter in Hebrew dated 5/4/46 from Y. Gesundheit in Tel Aviv to D. Ben Gurion of the Jewish Agency decries both the levy of this tax to fund the military and the need to use violence to establish the National Home.
He expresses concern that he has paid out LP 1000 "more than I can afford, to the Resque Committee for the express provision that it was only to be used for the rescue of refugees from Europe and not for volunteering purposes or for Hagana and weapons." He expands on this point to drive home his real feelings as a Jew. "I am opposed to the use of arms except in self-defense I do not believe in conquering the country by violence, be it directed against the British or against the Arabs." And he goes one step further by referring to Ben Gurion's answers to the Enquiry Commission Hearing, telling him, " it is impossible to rebuild the country and to found a Jewish State by resort to obvious lies." But conscientious objection carried no weight with the Zionist Organization. In the document that lays out how these funds were to be assessed and collected there is this item: "Everyone who assists a shirker or who refuses to comply with the directions of the disciplinary committee will have all the requisite steps taken against him." The steps mentioned can culminate in death. (appendix XLb).
The systemization of the expulsion process adopted by the Zionist Organization as the critical years of 1946 and 1947 approached are detailed in yet another set of Plans C and D. The nature of these plans does not appear in the MacMichael/Catling files at Rhodes, but they are presented by Professor Ilan Pappe in his carefully documented and authoritative work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. "It was this Plan (D Dalet) that sealed the fate of the Palestinians within the territory the Zionist Leaders had set their eyes on for their future Jewish State. Indifferent as to whether these Palestinians might decide to collaborate with or oppose their Jewish State, Plan Dalet called for their systematic and total expulsion from their homeland." (28).
It must be understood that these secret plans of the Organization required the Zionists to operate illegally against the British Mandate government. Yet that government was essentially pro-Israel in that it was the Balfour Declaration that gave hope to and actually followed through with the establishment of a Jewish state. However, to the Zionists, any action that ran counter to the Zionist positions was anathema and could not be tolerated. "We regard it as our duty to caution you against any attempt to decide on an anti-Zionist solution We shall not accept the status of a minority in our own land, whether the minority be 33% or 49%." This arrogance against the legitimate government of Palestine, a government required to protect both populations, Arab and Jew, meant nothing to the Zionists and they so informed the British authorities. "The Jews are a nation. The land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. The Jewish State will be established. It is better that it should be established with your help and for your benefit, than against you."(25th March, 1946, The Jewish Resistance Movement, continuation sheet 9, appendix VIII).
Let me close this section with this quote from the British GSO 1 resulting from an interview with Dr. Weizman in Appendix XXB. "If further action was taken or if the Jews really believed that Britain meant to destroy Zionism, then there would be a 'blood bath.' Nothing could prevent it. Not only would we be forced to fight the 80,000 of the Hagana but the 200,000 reserves that stood behind them as well, for all these would shoot. Nobody would be safe in Palestine." (12/7/1946). It's important to recognize just how strong the Jewish forces were at this time. They were without question, both in their own minds and that of the British occupying forces, the superior military in the mid-east. The cries of the Zionists that this small group of innocent Jews were at the mercy of the Arab forces that desired to drive them out is nothing short of deception and a calculated plea to exact sympathy from the American people and its politicians. Thus does deception masquerade as truth.
There followed, of course, the UN's partition of Palestine in 1947 with full implementation to take place May 14 of 1948. Between March and May the world failed to notice one of the most vicious, ruthless, calculated slaughters ever undertaken by a purported civilized group of people. The Zionist army went on the march as the Mandate forces looked on, unable to stop the rampage, the destruction, the rape and carnage. I need not detail this period, it's available to those who would want to know in the recent history of the period by the Israeli historian, Benny Morris who has identified 34 Arab communities whose inhabitants were expelled or killed or, better yet, the very recent study done by Dr. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
The instruments of expulsion were many, psychological, economic, and military. The Huns had swords, horses and bad temperaments. The Zionists had cold, heartless intelligence and a trained and superior military force that could surround a town on three sides, drive the inhabitants out the fourth, kill any who resisted, rape women, pillage houses, dynamite homes while the residents were inside, unable to get out, their home becoming both their tomb and their headstone, and force those who fled to walk long miles to another Arab area or another country to become refugees for the next 60 years while Israel brazenly goes to the international courts to get redress for Jews expelled from Arab countries years ago, indifferent to the anguish they inflicted on the impoverished natives of the land they stole. All of this forced on those true Jews who did not accept the nationalist tenets of the Zionists or the methods they employed to carry out their designs.
But the American press carried none of this. Americans still believe that the Jews were attacked and defended themselves against the bloodthirsty Arabs, Arabs that had been defeated by the Brits in the 1936 uprising, leaving that people leaderless and without a viable military to defend themselves. But these facts are not given to the American people nor to our Congress that caters totally to the ruthless regimes that have plundered the people of Palestine.
How ironic, no, how unjust the hypocrisy that grows with arrogance. How ironic that "Right of return" as a principle of human rights to protect those forced from their homes and land, a guarantee that they can have redress and return, becomes twisted in the Israeli, Zionist state to protect those who had never been to the land of Palestine because they belong to a religion while preventing the return of those expelled from their homes and livelihoods. How ironic to proclaim that a state created on the assumption that only those of a particular religion can be members of the citizenry is a democracy and repeat it over and over so those who do not know the truth accept it as true. How ironic to cry to the world that Jews are victims of terrorists, heartless terrorists who blow themselves up killing in the process innocent people while they are the children of such slaughter, as the blowing up of the King David Hotel attests and as the Hagana admit they executed, only they had the means to blow up the innocent without killing themselves, and for that one becomes a terrorist and the other a defender of his country. How ironic that Israel goes before the UN to decry Iran's proclamation by its President that "Israel will be wiped off the map," when that translation is not correct but serves their purpose, calling on the UN to condemn Iran for intended genocide while they have been in the slow, agonizing process of ethnically cleansing the people of Palestine for 60 years. How ironic that our American main stream press touts the new peace initiative as one proffered by Israel attempting to provide yet once more peace in Palestine when Olmert's government can remain in place only if he denies the very premise of peace, the just return of Palestinian land to its owners and full recognition of a contiguous Palestinian state capable of managing its own affairs independent of Israel, something comparable to the Saudi Prince's plan, rejected out of hand by Sharon in 2002.
Indeed a voice was heard in the high places, a voice decrying the hypocrisy of our government and that of Israel for putting forth yet one more time a faux peace plan that will do nothing but provide the Israeli dominated think tanks with fodder to show how ungrateful the Palestinians are for not accepting the remnants of the land left to them as Israel locks them into Bantustans where millions have to survive on pittance, dependent on the world for basic necessities since Israel has stolen their water, their crops, their access to waterways on the east and west, and requires that they recognize the legitimacy of the state that devastated their culture while that state has yet to recognize the right of Palestine to exist; and worse, that they stop their legitimate defense of their occupied country in full compliance with international law while Israel cries wolf becoming in their turn the Mandate government they, as terrorists, fought against, asking the world body to condemn the just and protect the criminal; and, finally, as a feeling world reacts with weeping and supplications to the international community that justice might at last come to the Palestinians, we hear the Zionist's cry heralded from the temple mount by Menachem Begin "a Jew will not bow to anybody except God," a God whose will is determined by Zionists and Zionists alone, and is that not the greatest deception of all, that God speaks through the mouths of those who slaughter God's creatures. Thus are we among the perverted and have forgotten the Lord our God.
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 09:48:12 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Gulf and other Arab states should think seriously of striking a strategic alliance with Iran, writes Ayman El-Amir*
By Ayman El Amir
The recently concluded third summit conference of the leaders of OPEC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, must have had more than oil and dollar value on its agenda. For Arab producers, the protection of this much- coveted commodity must have loomed high, particularly now that the price per barrel of oil is flirting with the watershed value of $100. This opens out on the larger question of the security and stability of the troubled oil-rich region. The need for a new, home grown Middle East security alliance is becoming a pressing necessity as the geopolitical and military situation continues to deteriorate.
Political and military alliances have an odious record in the contemporary history of the Middle East. As the Arab nationalist movement culminated in independence in the second half of the 20th century, the military presence and political influence of the old colonial powers declined. However, the Cold War was escalating and the two superpowers, the United States and the former Soviet Union, competed to extend their spheres of influence to strategic areas of the world. The US drew a line in the sand around the oil- rich region to ward off any attempt by the former Soviet Union to get too close to that lifeline of Western economic survival.
While Turkey served in the 1950s and 1960s as NATO's southern bulwark against communist expansion, US obsession with the policy of containment of the former Soviet Union engineered the idea of lumping strategic Arab countries into a British-US controlled military and political alliance -- the short- lived Middle East Treaty Organisation, better known as the Baghdad Pact. The Western order of priorities perceived the communist threat as the main concern for Middle Eastern countries. However, this view clashed with the Arab nationalist movement and such leaders as Gamal Abdel-Nasser who regarded Israel, not communist expansion, as the most lethal and immediate threat to the development and progress of their nations. A conflict of wills and strategic visions followed. US-led Western paranoia was self-defeating as it drove Nasser and a number of Arab nationalist leaders into closer alliance with the former Soviet Union. This, in turn, made leaders like Nasser a target of hostile Western machinations. The vibrant movement of Arab nationalism broke down as Egypt suffered its most humiliating military defeat in a century during the June 1967 War with Israel. Thus, a shining chapter in the history of the independent Arab nationalist movement was slammed shut.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that was associated with the rise of national independence compromised itself by violating its founding principle and pre-condition of its membership: to be free from foreign military bases or alliances. State members of the movement were accepted as "non-aligned" with foreign military bases on their territories. The caveat was that in some cases these bases were not present as a matter of national choice but as a force majeure. Others existed under long-term agreements that preceded the formation of the NAM, such as the century-old US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But there were other, more flagrant examples, too, where alliances were code-named friendship and cooperation agreements and military bases were camouflaged as facilities and advisors. The NAM was sucked into the winds of the Cold War.
In the Gulf region, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 demonstrated the vulnerability of the oil states to interregional rivalries, and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 marked the revival of the defunct colonialist conquest of territories awash in natural resources that are coveted by Western economies. In both cases, small wealthy Gulf States were either incapable or unwilling to defend their national territories and wealth against ravenous foreign powers hungry for oil and strategic position. Saddam's most unpardonable mistake was that he used his country's growing military power to intimidate and/or invade his neighbours in a short sighted show of regional hegemony. With the invasion of Iran and then Kuwait, Saddam lost any credibility of serving as the linchpin of a common regional security alliance that could defend the region and its wealth against foreign ambitions.
After four costly wars in the Gulf region in less than three decades the wealthy but vulnerable Gulf States decided to outsource their national defence. The US was only too happy to be the sub-contractor, except that it is bleeding heavily in Iraq and its armed forces are thinly spread over more than 700 military installations across the world. Now that the threat of Saddam is removed, the US has conjured up the scarecrow threat of Shia Iran to justify its sprawling military presence in almost all states of the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia. It is a mutually rewarding arrangement: the US will dominate, control and defend oil resources against real or made-up enemies while the Gulf states that foot the bill need not worry about external threats, actual or imaginary.
The only problem with this happy agreement is that conventional Arab pride considers foreign military presence as an anathema rather than a panacea. It is a source of resentment that feeds into the agenda of nationalist and fundamentalist groups and could be a trigger to destabilise present everlasting regimes. The Gulf Arab region is not Japan or Germany where US military presence is part of the terms of surrender treaties or defence pacts. It is viewed rather as part of the colonial legacy, or neo-colonial hegemony, as the invasion of Iraq has proven. As the case was in the attempted Western domination of the 1950s, the US is misrepresenting Arab priorities again, making Iran and not Israel the most lethal and immediate threat to the development and growth of Arab countries, the same way it presented communism as contaminating toxic waste.
The US, however, underestimates Iran, which has so far successfully broken through the isolation straightjacket the US has been trying to dress it in. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit and talks in Bahrain a few days ago was an important gesture that Iran has dropped Shah-era territorial claims in the small Gulf state. Last month, Iran hosted a summit conference of the heads of the five Caspian Sea littoral states that agreed to form an economic cooperation organisation. They also pledged that their territories would not be used as launching pads for aggression against any member of the group. In the meantime, China has dropped out of a US-planned meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany that was designed to discuss new sanctions against Iran. The meeting, which was supposed to be a test of the unanimity of the Security Council on imposing new sanctions, was cancelled.
Iran and the Arabs may have their political differences and minor territorial disputes, but the Shia-Sunni rift the US and Israel are promoting and unfurling in Iraq smacks of the old divide and rule policy. Arab monarchies and pseudo-republican regimes are more apprehensive of Iran's revolutionary rhetoric than potential military intervention. After all, it was Saddam who invaded Iran in 1980 to impress upon his weak Gulf neighbours his credentials as the uncontested leader of the Arab world. His misadventure played into the hands of the US, which eventually rushed to save him from a humiliating defeat. In addition, the Arab pack stood helplessly by -- and some actively helped -- as their ally, the US, not Iran, invaded and destroyed one of their own, Iraq.
Several Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have embarked on a multi-billion dollar shopping spree for advanced Western weaponry systems. Building national defences is a legitimate prerogative of every country. But planning military strategy for national defence presupposes a complex number of variables and the definition of potential threats, as well as the power and reach of the enemy and underlying political motivations. Gulf States would not want to be caught up as innocent bystanders in a potential US military confrontation with Iran, or an Israeli military strike against, and consequent reprisals by Iran.
At a time when regional economic, political and military alliances are sprouting in every region of the world, it would make great sense that Gulf and other Arab states build a regional economic zone and a military defence pact in association with Iran. If you think that, due to heavy US military presence in the Gulf and other constraints, this is more easily said than done, you're probably right. Much preparatory work has to be done to reform and harmonise political, economic, social and cultural standards in these countries and minimise disparities. But there is also much more common interest among all parties concerned than meets the eye. Only such an alliance could help pacify and reconstruct Iraq, mitigate regional tensions, protect against military intervention, settle old regional disputes and create an area of common prosperity. Saudi Arabia has recently unveiled plans to build a special 35,000-strong special force to protect oil wells and installations. The Gulf Cooperation Council, with an increasingly proactive Saudi Arabia at its helm, should take the lead.
* The writer is a former correspondent for Al-Ahram in Washington, DC. He also served as director of UN Radio and Television in New York.
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 09:40:03 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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The tone of the much-vaunted upcoming Arab-Israeli peace meeting is turning perceptively positive, inexplicably, writes Dina Ezzat
By Dina Ezzat
This afternoon, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah are expected in Sharm El-Sheikh for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. The three-way Arab summit might expand to include some other Arab leaders. It will be followed, this evening and tomorrow morning, by a ministerial meeting of the 13-member Arab Peace Initiative Committee in which Abbas and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa will participate.
These meetings come 48 hours after the US has already issued invitations for its proposed peace meeting to be held in Annapolis, next Tuesday. They also come at the tail end of an Egyptian- Israeli summit that convened in Sharm El-Sheikh Tuesday morning and where both President Mubarak and his guest Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that the Annapolis meeting would pave the way to the eventual launch of final status talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
"Our consultations come [only] one week before the international conference on Middle East peace and as part of continuous Egyptian contacts with the Israeli and Palestinian sides, as well as with concerned regional and international parties, to secure the success of the [Annapolis] meeting and to make sure that it produces the [kind of] results that would break the stalemate in the peace process on the Palestinian-Israeli track and open the way to similar progress on other tracks," Mubarak said following his 90-minute strictly private talks with Olmert.
In a sceptical tenor that seemed to overshadow a deliberately positive lexicon, Mubarak expressed "sincere hopes" -- but spoke of no expectations -- of success in Annapolis. And in an obvious attempt to avoid casting a "spoiling" shadow over the American organised diplomatic feast, Mubarak declined to speak of the "failure of Annapolis". For him, this would be akin to talk of a total freeze of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations -- a scenario that the Egyptian head of state warned many a time would lead to very grave consequences.
"We might face problems on the road and we might have to find ways to overcome these problems," Mubarak said Tuesday. He expressed hope that Olmert would take "the constructive positions" necessary to make Annapolis a success.
For his part, Moussa, who insists that the convocation of an international peace meeting is essentially Arab, said Monday that he is "hopeful rather than optimistic".
Diplomatic diction aside, the question remains: what would be considered a successful meeting by the criteria of Arab officials who have for months insisted that they would not go to Annapolis for yet another pointless photo opportunity?
From the Israeli point of view, according to statements made by Olmert during a joint press conference with Mubarak Tuesday, "the mere convocation of the Annapolis meeting is a success."
By Israel's own logic, this is a perfectly reasonable stance. In Annapolis, Israeli officials would doubtless savour pausing for the world press together with an enlarged cast of Arab counterparts. In other words, simply by showing up, Israel takes home an unprecedented signal of normalisation from Arab states, including from heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia.
On the Arab side, there seems to be no such clarity of possible gains. Beyond the all but reluctant and not particularly detailed promise made Monday by Olmert regarding a freeze of settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel does not seem to be willing to commit much. It is, rather, making provocative demands of Palestinians and Arabs going to Annapolis to recognise the "Jewish" nature of Israel, irrespective of the consequences of such recognition on the fate of 1948 Arabs who refused or avoided expulsion, or for that matter the legitimate right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Olmert said in Sharm El-Sheikh this week that his government admires (which does not mean recognise) the Arab Peace Initiative -- the alibi for the participation of Arab League secretary-general and some other Arab foreign ministers whose countries have no relations with Israel in the peace meeting, and perhaps even for handshakes with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
According to diplomatic sources acquainted with Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, conducted for the past few weeks to prepare for Annapolis, Israel is not yet prepared to set a fixed timeline or deadline for final status talks with the Palestinians. Nor is it particularly firm on plans proposed by Russia and France to pursue an "Annapolis II" meeting to examine prospects for the resumption of talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
In Sharm El-Sheikh, Olmert came armed with overt and covert threats against Hamas militants and the entirety of Gaza. He was full of demands regarding more active Egyptian involvement in efforts aimed to lead to the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinians in June 2006, and regarding firmer Egyptian control of the Gaza-Egypt border to prevent potential arms smuggling to Hamas. He urged a high-level wide Arab participation in Annapolis. However, when it came to Palestinian rights, including basic human rights, Olmert argued that the problems of 60 years of struggle could not be resolved in the short term.
Speaking on background, some Arab diplomatic sources suggested a positive opening up, especially on the US side. "We will get some freeze on the settlements, tentative timelines for future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, some sort of a follow-up committee to secure the implementation of whatever is agreed upon by the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams, and a reference to the need to address the Syrian and Lebanese tracks," commented one senior Arab official. "It is not exactly what we had demanded for our participation in Annapolis," he admitted. In the assessment of this official, Arabs are promised 50 to 60 per cent of the demands they laid out during the past few weeks. "This means we are not going on the cheap," he said.
During press statements in Egypt, and elsewhere in the region, visiting UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and International Quartet on the Middle East Envoy Tony Blair urged all concerned parties to realise that talks, even if tough and complicated, are better for the region than the freeze of negotiations that has caused despair during the past seven years.
"If there is an opportunity we don't wish to turn our back on it," Moussa said Monday. He added: "we are going to Annapolis to [engage in] peace [talks]."
During their joint press conference in Sharm El-Sheikh Tuesday, Mubarak and Olmert paid tribute to the "historic" visit of late president Anwar El-Sadat to Jerusalem three decades ago and his speech before the Knesset that appealed for Arab- Israeli peace. Both the Egyptian president and the Israeli prime minister expressed hope that Sadat's call for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would materialise with the signing of a final status agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis in the next 12 months.
In mid-May next year, Israel will celebrate 60 years as a state. At the same time the Palestinians -- and also Arabs -- will remember the Nakba (dispossession) that Israel's creation entailed. It is not clear if by that date the two sides will be close to marking a historic settlement of the struggle. What is clear is that unless the Annapolis meeting is more than a brainstorming and good intentions declaration opportunity, peace will remain elusive as this momentous anniversary approaches.
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 09:26:12 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Fatah uses the commemoration of Arafat's death to step up its campaign to destroy Hamas, reports Saleh Al-Naami
Fatah supporters wave the Palestinian flag during an anti-Hamas demonstration in Ramallah
By Saleh Al-Naani
The Unknown Soldier's Square was empty of the youth who had recently staged a noisy demonstration there, just next to the Palestinian Legislative Council's headquarters in Gaza City. They had been demanding national conciliation between Fatah and Hamas, but such talk seems ever more unrealistic following the bloody events that took place in Gaza during the commemoration of the third anniversary of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's death. Clashes between Fatah activists and members of the Palestinian police force left seven dead and dozens wounded. These clashes took matters back to square one, said Khalil Ziyad, 22, a university student and activist in one of the youth groups calling for conciliation. "These unfortunate events showed that we must exert greater efforts and mobilise more of the public to drive conciliation forward."
A number of Hamas leaders who asked to remain anonymous told Al-Ahram Weekly that the clashes could have been prevented by the police leadership, which "failed to carry out its duties". With obvious frustration, the Hamas leaders stressed that Ismail Haniyeh's dismissed government had been lured into the position that Salam Fayyad's government wanted to see it in so as to be able to point at its impotence in maintaining security. To deal with the crisis, Haniyeh, prime minister of the dismissed government, rushed to announce his decision to release all those who had been arrested with the exception of those proven to have been involved in acts of violence. He also announced the formation of a "powerful and impartial" investigation committee. In a speech to the Palestinian people, Haniyeh said that he had not ruled out the possibility that the police had been responsible for the bloody events, but also stressed the role the Ramallah government had played in instigating the violence.
Particularly disappointing to the Haniyeh government and the Hamas leadership was the fact that the government had exerted great efforts to hold a successful commemoration for Arafat. This government realised that any attempt to disturb the event would harm its legitimacy in the eyes of much of the Palestinian public who see Arafat as a "leader and symbol of the Palestinian national struggle". Haniyeh recounted the steps his government had taken to facilitate the commemoration, including suspending classes for the duration so that students could attend. The Ministry of Education had also issued instructions for the first two classes that day to be dedicated to discussions with students about the characteristics of the late Yasser Arafat.
Yet Haniyeh's clarifications did not mean anything to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who seemed as though he had been waiting on hot coals for what took place in order to immediately exploit it and use it against Hamas. He called on the Palestinian public to bring down the Hamas government, pointing to the massive numbers participating in the commemoration, estimated at 200,000 individuals, as evidence of support for Fatah. Abbas assumed that Fatah's success in mobilising such a number meant that it would be able to cause the collapse of Haniyeh's government through tremendous popular mobilisation.
Yet even according to the Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip, Abbas's reading of events was entirely wrong. Hazem Abu Shanab, speaker of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, clarified that one of the reasons for interest in the commemoration was that it stressed a refusal to make concessions on Palestinian "constants" on the eve of the fall meeting in Annapolis. "The commemoration was not directed against Hamas. On the contrary, it stressed the necessity of holding onto the constants for which Arafat was assassinated," he told the Weekly. Abu Shanab stressed that despite what happened, Hamas is a nationalist movement with an important role in the Palestinian national struggle, and that the primary adversary of Fatah must be the occupation. He further noted that while his movement is protesting against the actions of the Haniyeh government's security forces, it also rejects the actions of Abbas's security agencies in the West Bank.
More concrete evidence that Abbas's reading of the tremendous public response to the commemoration was wrong and that it did not indicate support of Fatah is the fact that Fatah supporters failed to organise a public march to protest against what took place. There is no dispute among observers in the Gaza Strip that the Fatah movement there is facing two major problems. On the one hand, it is suffering from a leadership vacuum since most of its prominent leaders fled following Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, there is a strong sense of bitterness among Fatah activists over Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's treatment of them, particularly following his talk of dismissing thousands of Fatah security agencies in the Gaza Strip.
Yet President Abbas didn't stop with his call for the overthrow of the Hamas movement; he has again rejected all reconciliation efforts, instructing Rouhi Fatouh, his personal envoy to Damascus, to cancel a meeting scheduled with the head of Hamas there, Khaled Meshaal. At the same time, Abu Mazen's security agents have exploited the Gaza events to escalate their security campaign against Hamas activists in the West Bank. These agents are continuing to arrest Hamas activists around the West Bank, and the independent Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has confirmed that those arrested are being subjected to methodic and cruel torture. A large number of those arrested have been transferred to hospitals because of their deteriorating health due to torture.
But what is truly appalling is that Abbas's campaign against Hamas activists is coordinated with the Israeli occupation army. In Nablus, for example, a city that the Fayyad government announced would be the first in the West Bank in which the security plan would be implemented, security work is actually split between the occupation army and Abbas's agencies. At night, special units of the occupation army undertake arrest campaigns against activists in the Palestinian resistance movements, including Hamas activists. During the day, the same mission is carried out by the Palestinian security agents. Haniyeh explains that these campaigns against Hamas activists aim to uncover the organisational structure of the movement in the West Bank so as to destroy it.
Abu Mazen has exploited the Gaza events to escalate operations against Hamas activists and ban political and social activism in the movement altogether. He has also cancelled meetings with Hamas leaders in the West Bank that he hoped would lead to a split within Hamas.
The Fayyad government has not halted at striking Hamas. Rather, it has issued orders to strike at all resistance movements, a move that has only increased their criticisms of the policies of Abbas and his government. The minister of the interior in Fayyad's government, Abdel Razaq Al-Yehia, stated that his government had made a commitment to Israel to dissolve all the military arms of the resistance movements without exception as part of its commitment to the "roadmap". Khaled Al-Batsch, a prominent leader in the Islamic Jihad movement, says that what Abu Mazen's agencies are doing in the West Bank confirm that it has no relation to Hamas's control over the Gaza Strip, but rather is related to a plan to liquidate the entire Palestinian resistance. "Abu Mazen will lose his legitimacy as president if he collaborates with the occupation state and conspires against the resistance," he told the Weekly.
Yet despite the signs that the Gaza events have ended current reconciliation efforts, some still believe that there is no escape from dialogue. Yehia Daabsa, deputy head of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, is one. "There are two choices facing Abu Mazen after the Annapolis conference, which will end in complete failure," he told the Weekly. "He can either submit his resignation and step back, or he can return to the negotiation table to end the division in the Palestinian arena."
Whether Al-Daabsa's expectations are met or not, one thing that is certain is that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are living in a state of frustration. While Palestinians have been able to acclimatise to a strangulating siege, deteriorating economic conditions and constant operations by the Israeli army, it is hard for them to tolerate the pain of this internal struggle.
This entry was posted on Nov 23, 2007 at 09:15:11 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By OREN BEN-DOR
Yet again, the Annapolis meeting between Olmert and Abbas is preconditioned upon the recognition by the Palestinian side of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed the "road map" should lead to, and legitimate, once and for all, the right of such a Jewish state to exist in definitive borders and in peace with its neighbours. The vision of justice, both past and future, simply has to be that of two states, one Palestinian, one Jewish, which would coexist side by side in peace and stability. Finding a formula for a reasonably just partition and separation is still the essence of what is considered to be moderate, pragmatic and fair ethos.
Thus, the really deep issues--the "core"--are conceived as the status of Jerusalem, the fate and future of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and the viability of the future Palestinian state beside the Jewish one. The fate of the descendants of those 750,000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 from what is now, and would continue to be under a two-state solutions, the State of Israel, constitutes a "problem" but never an "issue" because, God forbid, to make it an issue on the table would be to threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. The existence of Israel as a Jewish state must never become a core issue. That premise unites political opinion in the Jewish state, left and right and also persists as a pragmatic view of many Palestinians who would prefer some improvement to no improvement at all.Only "extremists" such as Hamas, anti-Semites, and Self-Hating Jews--terribly disturbed, misguided and detached lot--can make Israel's existence into a core problem and in turn into a necessary issue to be debated and addressed.
The Jewish state, a supposedly potential haven for all the Jews in the world in the case a second Holocaust comes about, should be recognised as a fact on the ground blackmailed into the "never again" rhetoric. All considerations of pragmatism and reasonableness in envisioning a "peace process" to settle the 'Israeli/Palestinian' conflict must never destabilise the sacred status of that premise that a Jewish state has a right to exist.
Notice, however, that Palestinian are not asked merely to recognise the perfectly true fact and with it, the absolutely feasible moral claim, that millions of Jewish people are now living in the State of Israel and that their physical existence, liberty and equality should be protected in any future settlement. They are not asked merely to recognise the assurance that any future arrangement would recognise historic Palestine as a home for the Jewish People.What Palestinians are asked to subscribe to recognition the right of an ideology that informs the make-up of a state to exist as Jewish one. They are asked to recognise that ethno-nationalistic premise of statehood.
The fallacy is clear: the recognition of the right of Jews who are there--however unjustly many of their Parents or Grandparents came to acquire what they own--to remain there under liberty and equality in a post-colonial political settlement, is perfectly compatible with the non-recognition of the state whose constitution gives those Jews a preferential stake in the polity.
It is an abuse of the notion of pragmatism to conceive its effort as putting the very notion of Jewish state beyond the possible and desirable implementation of egalitarian moral scrutiny. To so abuse pragmatism would be to put it at the service of the continuation of colonialism. A pragmatic and reasonable solution ought to centre on the problem of how to address past, present, and future injustices to non-Jew-Arabs without thereby cause other injustices to Jews. This would be a very complex pragmatic issue which would call for much imagination and generosity. But reasonableness and pragmatism should not determine whether the cause for such injustices be included or excluded from debates or negotiations. To pragmatically exclude moral claims and to pragmatically protect immoral assertions by fiat must in fact hide some form of extremism. The causes of colonial injustice and the causes that constitutionally prevent their full articulation and address should not be excluded from the debate. Pragmatism can not become the very tool that legitimate constitutional structures that hinder de-colonisation and the establishment of egalitarian constitution.
So let us boldly ask: What exactly is entailed by the requirement to recognise Israel as a Jewish state? What do we recognise and support when we purchase a delightful avocado or a date from Israel or when we invite Israel to take part in an international football event? What does it mean to be a friend of Israel? What precisely is that Jewish state whose status as such would be once and for all legitimised by such a two-state solution?
A Jewish state is a state which exists more for the sake of whoever is considered Jewish according to various ethnic, tribal, religious, criteria, than for the sake of those who do not pass this test. What precisely are the criteria of the test for Jewishness is not important and at any rate the feeble consensus around them is constantly reinvented in Israel. Instigating violence provides them with the impetus for doing that. What is significant, thought, is that a test of Jewishness is being used in order to constitutionally protect differential stakes in, that is the differential ownership of, a polity. A recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is a recognition of the Jews special entitlement, as eternal victims, to have a Jewish state. Such a test of supreme stake for Jews is the supreme criterion not only for racist policy making by the legislature but also for a racist constitutional interpretation by the Supreme Court.The idea of a state that is first and foremost for the sake of Jews trumps even that basic law of Human Freedom and Dignity to which the Israeli Supreme Court pays so much lip service. Such constitutional interpretation would have to make the egalitarian principle equality of citizenship compatible with, and thus subservient to, the need to maintain the Jewish majority and character of the state. This of course constitutes a serious compromise of equality, translated into many individual manifestations of oppression and domination of those victims of such compromise--non-Jews-Arabs citizens of Israel.
In our world, a world that resisted Apartheid South Africa so impressively, recognition of the right of the Jewish state to exist is a litmus test for moderation and pragmatism. The demand is that Palestinians recognise Israel's entitlement to constitutionally entrench a system of racist basic laws and policies, differential immigration criteria for Jews and non-Jews, differential ownership and settlements rights, differential capital investments, differential investment in education, formal rules and informal conventions that differentiate the potential stakes of political participation, lame-duck academic freedom and debate.
In the Jewish state of Israel non-Jews-Arabs citizens are just "bad luck" and are considered an ticking demographic bomb of "enemy within". They can be given the right to vote--indeed one member one vote--but the potential of their political power, even their birth rate, should be kept at bay by visible and invisible, instrumental and symbolic, discrimination. But now they are asked to put up with their inferior stake and recognise the right of Israel to continue to legitimate the non-egalitarian premise of its statehood.
We must not forget that the two state "solution" would open a further possibility to non-Jew-Arabs citizens of Israel: "put up and shut up or go to a viable neighbouring Palestinian state where you can have your full equality of stake".Such an option, we must never forget, is just a part of a pragmatic and reasonable package.
The Jewish state could only come into being in May 1948 by ethnically cleansing most of the indigenous population--750000 of them. The judaisation of the state could only be effectively implemented by constantly internally displacing the population of many villages within the Israel state.
It would be unbearable and unreasonable to demand Jews to allow for the Right of Return of those descendants of the expelled. Presumably, those descendants too could go to a viable Palestinian state rather than, for example, rebuild their ruined village in the Galilee. On the other hand, a Jewish young couple from Toronto who never set their foot in Palestine has a right to settle in the Galilee. Jews and their descendants hold this right in perpetuity. You see, that right "liberates" them as people. Jews must never be put under the pressure to live as a substantial minority in the Holy Land under egalitarian arrangement. Their past justifies their preferential stake and the preservation of their numerical majority in Palestine.
So the non-egalitarian hits us again. It is clear that part of the realisation of that right of return would not only be a just the actual return, but also the assurance of equal stake and citizenship of all, Jews and non-Jews-Arabs after the return. A return would make the egalitarian claim by those who return even more difficult to conceal than currently with regard to Israel Arab second class citizens. What unites Israelis and many world Jews behind the call for the recognition of the right of a Jewish state to exist is their aversion for the possibility of living, as a minority, under conditions of equality of stake to all. But if Jews enjoys this equality in Canada why can not they support such equality in Palestine through giving full effect to the right of Return of Palestinians?
Let us look precisely at what the pragmatic challenge consists of: not pragmatism that entrenches inequality but pragmatism that responds to the challenge of equality.
The Right of Return of Palestinians means that Israel acknowledges and apologises for what it did in 1948. It does mean that Palestinian memory of the 1948 catastrophe, the Nakbah, is publicly revived in the Geography and collective memory of the polity. It does mean that Palestinians descendants would be allowed to come back to their villages. If this is not possible because there is a Jewish settlement there, they should be given the choice to found an alternative settlement nearby. This may mean some painful compulsory state purchase of agricultural lands that should be handed back to those who return. In cases when this is impossible they ought to be allowed the choice to settle in another place in the larger area or if not possible in another area in Palestine. Compensation would be the last resort and would always be offered as a choice. This kind of moral claim of return would encompass all Palestine including Tel Aviv.
At no time, however, it would be on the cards to throw Israeli Jews from their land.An egalitarian and pragmatic realisation of the Right of Return constitutes an egalitarian legal revolution. As such it would be paramount to address Jews' worries about security and equality in any future arrangement in which they, or any other group, may become a minority. Jews national symbols and importance would be preserved. Equality of stake involves equality of symbolic ownership.
But it is important to emphasis that the Palestinian Right of Return would mean that what would cease to exist is the premise of a Jewish as well as indeed a Muslim state. A return without the removal of the constitutionally enshrined preferential stake is return to serfdom.
The upshot is that only by individuating cases of injustice, by extending claims for injustice to all historic Palestine, by fair address of them without creating another injustice for Jews and finally by ensuring the elimination of all racist laws that stems from the Jewish nature of the state including that nature itself, would justice be, and with it peace, possible. What we need is a spirit of generosity that is pragmatic but also morally uncompromising in terms of geographic ambit of the moral claims for repatriation and equality. This vision would propel the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But for all this to happen we must start by ceasing to recognize the right Israel to exist as a Jewish state. No spirit of generosity would be established without an egalitarian call for jettisoning the ethno-nationalistic notion upon which the Jewish state is based.
The path of two states is the path of separation.Its realisation would mean the entrenchment of exclusionary nationalism for many years. It would mean that the return of the dispossessed and the equality of those who return and those non-Jew-Arabs who are now there would have to be deferred indefinitely consigned to the dusty shelved of historical injustices.Such a scenario is sure to provoke more violence as it would establish the realisation and legitimisation of Zionist racism and imperialism.
Also, any bi-national arrangement ought to be subjected to a principle of equality of citizenship and not vice versa. The notion of separation and partition that can infect bi-nationalism, should be done away with and should not be tinkered with or rationalised in any way. Both spiritually and materially Jews and non-Jews can find national expression in a single egalitarian and non-sectarian state.
The non-recognition of the Jewish state is an egalitarian imperative that looks both at the past and to the future. It is the uncritical recognition of the right of Israel to exist at a Jewish state which is the core hindrance for this egalitarian premise to shape the ethical challenge that Palestine poses. A recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state means the silencing that would breed more and more violence and bloodshed.
The same moral intuition that brought so many people to condemn and sanction Apartheid South Africa ought also to prompt them to stop seeing a threat to existence of the Jewish state as the effect caused by the refugee 'problem" or by the "demographic threat" from the non-Jew-Arabs within it. It is rather the other way round. It is the non-egalitarian premise of a Jewish state and the lack of empathy and corruption of all those who make us uncritically accept the right of such a state to exist that is both the cause of the refugee problem and cause for the inability to implement their return and treating them as equals thereafter.
We must see that the uncritically accepted recognition of Israel right to exist is, as Joseph Massad so well puts it in Al-Ahram, to accept Israel claim to have the right to be racist or, to develop Massad's brilliant formulation, Israel's claim to have the right to occupy to dispossess and to discriminate. What is it, I wonder, that prevent Israelis and so many of world Jews to respond to the egalitarian challenge? What is it, I wonder, that oppresses the whole world to sing the song of a "peace process" that is destined to legitimise racism in Palestine?
To claim such a right to be racist must come from a being whose victim's face must hide very dark primordial aggression and hatred of all others.How can we find a connective tissue to that mentality that claims the legitimate right to harm other human beings? How can this aggression that is embedded in victim mentality be perturbed?
The Annapolis meeting is a con. As an egalitarian argument we should say loud and clear that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state.
Oren Ben-Dor grew up in Israel. He teaches Legal and Political Philosophy at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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The upcoming Annapolis summit will result in a "plan" that will fail for the same reason all the other plans have failed: ignoring human rights and international law, Mazin Qumsiyeh writes.
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
* The Annapolis script is laid out for who will say and do what at Annapolis. It is designed to achieve a number of results like public relations, encircling Iran, isolating Hamas, and on and on -- everything but achieving real and enduring peace.
* Don't expect human rights or international law to be mentioned.
* Many parallels with Camp David of 2000 and the wars that followed.
* Recognizing Israel as "Jewish state" means recognizing and accepting past ethnic cleansing and legitimizing future ones.
* A more honest and direct route to peace is available based on International Law and human rights and some of the engines that would accelerate movement in that direction are Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS).
* Rescuing US foreign policy from the Zionist straightjacket is difficult but doable and might be the only thing that could salvage the sagging US economy (in recession even if people do not yet know it; see decrease in value of houses and US currency, and increase in prices of oil, gold, and other commodities, and the financial meltdown which is only beginning).
* Each of us can make a difference for peace and prosperity (and already many are). Suggested ACTIONS are in the last paragraph of this article.
After the attempt by the Clinton and Barak administrations to squeeze a surrender agreement from Yasser Arafat in July 2000 failed, two months later Sharon lit the fuse to the second intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation and colonization project. Now seven years after Camp David, 16 years after the negotiations started in Oslo, forty years after the illegal occupation of 1967, 60 years after the ethnic cleansing of 1947-1949, another meeting will be held.
A rational examination of potential outcomes requires us to first look at the reality that the gatekeepers of mainstream media are trying desperately to shield from the US public (the rest of the world sees it and US Citizens are beginning to see some of this thanks to the internet and the efforts of thousands of fellow activists). After that, we can revisit what will likely happen in Annapolis and more importantly after Annapolis and we can more easily see the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about and that is blocking the only door to peace while many imagine its droppings on the wall to be doors and windows.
The leadership of the PLO recognized Israel on 78% of the land of Palestine in hopes of being allowed an independent state on the remaining 22%. Many "deals" since then failed because, as Amnesty International put it, they fail to recognize the importance of human rights. Thus we had "plans" named Baker, Oslo, Zinni, Tenet, Clinton, Geneva, and the "road map". The latter was a plan with timetables to achieve Israeli security, a freeze on settlement activity but no end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine let alone any reversal of those. In 2218 words, the "Road Map to Peace" does not mention "human rights" or "International law". The upcoming Annapolis summit that I am sure will result in another "plan" will fail for the same reasons: ignoring human rights and International law.
The Zionist establishment in the meantime is busy in the US suppressing free speech in academia and pushing for a new war (this time on Iran). While Democrats recognize the staggering cost of the war on Iraq, their leading presidential candidates pander to the Israel-first lobby. Leading Republicans use language that reminds us of Nazi propaganda efforts in the early 1930s about the threat from abroad, the need to curb freedoms at home, and shift resources to the military. (exceptions Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich).
In the meantime, Palestinian leaders are asked to abrogate the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands and to recognize Israel, not as a state of its citizens, but as a state "for the Jewish people." As Palestinian Journalist Khalid Amayreh stated: "the reason why Palestinians can't recognize Israel as a Jewish state is because 'Jewish state' is euphemism for denying the right of return for Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes and villages by Jewish terrorists nearly 60 years ago. The other reason is that Israel interprets recognition as a Jewish state as a pretext to expel or discriminate against the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. In other words, Israel wants to have the right to carry out ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish citizens, on the ground that Israel is an exclusively Jewish state."
Denial of basic rights of Palestinians in favor of support of legitimizing ethnic cleansing blatantly violates International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). What it means is that the victims of Israeli colonialism are expected to certify that it is OK for Israel to remain the only country in the world that identifies its lands as belonging not to its citizens but to "Jewish people everywhere". This means that the Palestinians accept that Israel caused the largest remaining refugee problem in the world and can break international law and basic human rights and refuse to allow them to return to their farms, businesses, homes and lands. The Palestinians must recognize that Israel can remain the only country in the world that gives members of a particular religion including converts, automatic rights (citizenship, land, homes, subsidies) that supercede and mostly replace those of "citizens" and native people who belong to other religions. Israel grants automatic citizenship to any individual who has one Jewish grandparent while denying citizenship to native Christians and Muslims simply for being of the wrong religion.
Israel is the only country in the world whose legitimacy does not flow from rights of self-determination of natives but Zionist claim of biblical authority. The US pushed, threatened and lobbied to barely get a UN general assembly resolution in 1947 that contradicted the UN Charter of Self Determination. The resolution recommended partition of a native land to give 55% of the land to Jews who at the time represented 30% of the population (most of them illegal settlers/colonists) and owned 7% of the land. The few native Jews actually were not Zionists for the most part and rejected such partition. The resolution was unfair and could not be accepted any more than Algerians were willing to split their country with French colonists. Yet, the resolution rejected any population transfer and included internationalizing Jerusalem, on an economic union, and on free movement of people. All these provisions where unacceptable to the Zionist movement. Recognizing Israel as a "Jewish state" means recognizing and accepting past ethnic cleansing and legitimizing future ones (to maintain the Jewish demographic super-majority). Asking the US and other countries to do so violates international law but asking the victims to do so is the ultimate in what is called Chutzpah. This is even worse since the best example of Chutzpah given is that a son who murders his parents asks for forgiveness from the judge because he is an orphan. In this case the son kills a parent and then demands the remaining parent recognize that there was no other parent and further more that he is a lonely and victimized child.
Hajo Meyer, an 83 year old survivor of Auschwitz* who now lives in Holland spoke about this pathology in a recent conference in CT:
"Jews are not a nation but they do share a common socio-cultural heritage: JUDAISM. With its mixture of dietary and other customs Jews naturally were apart from communities were they lived and this led to resentment and animosity. Zionism and enlightened Judaism are opposite sides of the spectrum. Yet, the Torah (Old Testament) contains basic elements for both. Israel is thus a Zionist State. Its designation as Jewish state is misleading!
"Claims that Zionism part of Judaism’s heritage is correct [but] Zionism is related to the darkest part of the Torah. This part of the heritage is nationalistic, ethnocentric, xenophobic, blood-and-soil. Its nationalistic God orders his “chosen people” to perform cruel ethnic cleansing. It is extensively found in Joshua, Judges and Samuel. It took me more than 70 years to learn about it because since 70 AC. and especially after Mendelssohn and French Revolution German Reform rabbis made it ever more obscure. Their colleagues in the US did the same!
"The religious fanatic and murderer of Prime Minister Rabin said: 'If I had to murder children like prescribed in Joshua I would gladly do it.' By contrast, the bright side of Judaism is seen in Lev 19:34: `The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you and thou shalt love him. He is like you, for you (as well) were strangers in the land of Egypt.'
"This message of equality was also noted by many Prophets, by Rabbi Hillel, [1st century B.C.], by German Reform Rabbis, and later by the US Reform movement (although the latter seem to have abandoned it).
"Here is Rabbi Leo Baeck in THE ESSENCE OF JUDAISM I: “Man has been created in the image of God… However large the differences, what they have in common and what characterizes all of them is that image of God in them… It is impossible to express the unity of all human beings more clearly and more definitely… Simon ben Asai said: ... When God created man he created him in his image’—in this sentence all of Torah is contained.”
"Here is the US Reform Pittsburgh Platform 1885: 'We recognize in the Mosaic Legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only the moral laws.. and reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.' And the US Reform Columbus Platform 1937: 'Judaism emphasizes the kinship of the human race, the sanctity and worth of human life and personality. .. Justice to all irrespective of race sect or class ...is the inescapable obligation of all. ... It abhors all violence and relies upon moral education, love and sympathy to secure human progress.'
"Conclusion: occupation is at variance with basic concepts of universal and humanistic Judaism, at variance with ethics, at variance with international and humanitarian law. To address this we must address the unequal power structure [occupied /colonized versus occupiers/colonizers] and speak the truth to demolish the myths that Zionism is the same as Judaism."
(I urge you to get Meyer's book titled "An Ethical Tradition Betrayed: The End of Judaism". Email me if you want details.)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently spoke in pain:
"My heart aches. I say, why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden? . . . This is God's world. For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The [South African] apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosovic and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust... Injustice and oppression WILL NEVER PREVAIL. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: What is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment."
These sober assessments are shared by millions of objective US Citizens. Yet, the foreign policy of the only remaining superpower was hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Wurmser and other "neoconservatives." They are content to lead us into endless "preemptive" wars for "securing the [Israeli] realm" (as Perle and company put it in a 1996 document submitted to the Israeli government). They play the bad cop. The good cop is played by the left Zionists who managed to get to the echelons of power in the democratic party and thus chatter about wanting a "two state solution" while avoiding mention of international law (such as the illegality of the occupation) and human rights (such as the right of return, right of self determination, and even the right of freedom of movement).
On the positive side there are key people on both parties (e.g. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) and certainly the Green Party, which is getting significant public support despite being censored in elitist and Zionist dominated media outlets (for alternative news not seen on CNN and Fox, visit http://www.informationclearinghouse.info ).
The farce of Annapolis will not unravel at Annapolis. There we expect accolades for Israel's release of 440 of the 11,000 political prisoners it holds (and most of the released will have jail terms about to expire). We expect accolades for Olmert merely saying Israel will freeze settlement expansions except in East Jerusalem and the large settlement blocks (the roadmap demands a freeze in all settlement growth including for "natural growth"). The Israeli paper Haaretz actually summed up well "According to the Israeli government sources, the Americans asked Israel whether it preferred to announce a settlement freeze or outpost evacuations. 'Of the two, a settlement freeze is easier than evacuating the outposts, because this only involves a declaration, not a confrontation with settlers in the field," explained one [government official].
Olmert, like Sharon, will be labeled by the pandering US politicians "a man of peace." The apartheid (hafrada in Hebrew) state will be showered with more US aid (stolen from US citizens to satisfy the Israel lobby).
Mahmoud Abbas will be covered in the media only when he talks about how bad is Hamas and thus will be labeled "moderate." Everyone will be expected to attack Iran verbally and soon in other ways and Israel and the US still hope to build a block of "moderates" against Iran by giving the illusions of progress on the issue of Palestine. The daughter of the terrorist who oversaw the bombing of the King David hotel will be praised for speaking eloquently about combating "Arab" and "Muslim" terrorism and thus advance her ambition to move from Israeli foreign minister to a future Prime Minister. It will be a great photo opportunity for all attending.
Meanwhile, Gaza will continue to be starved (a creeping genocide) and four million Iraqis and seven million Palestinians refugees and displaced people will get angrier. Actually, Israel may feel freed by Annapolis to wreak further havoc on Gaza (see http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/870/re82.htm ).
Perhaps this time, two months will not pass by as they did between Camp David and the Intifada (mass uprising) of 2000 or perhaps it will be longer (Palestinians were set up to fight with each other now). Perhaps this time, the "new Pearl Harbor" (Neocon Zionists projection of 1997) would occur as an election surprise. But it is only a matter of time before frustration boils over and a new Intifada erupts just like the last time. As before, the older generation who has given up will have to make way for the new generation. This is actually the prediction of the Israeli army, which will be engaged in the next few days in massive exercises in the West Bank in preparation for just such a scenario. This is exactly what happened in the lead up to the 2000 Intifada when the occupation forces had done massive exercises for a brutal oppression. firing over 1.5 million bullets and killing and injuring hundreds of Palestinians before the first Israeli was killed.
Instead of repeating history with new variations (Abbas for Arafat, Olmert for Sharon, declaration for “road map” for Oslo etc.), there is an obvious and more honest route to peace, security, and economic prosperity for all (Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Iraqis etc). It involves rejecting the corroding and self-defeating effect of the Israel-first lobby and this will cause the US government to cut off US massive taxpayer military aid to Israeli apartheid.
Politicians can't take it until massive popular pressure builds (they are politicians after all). There is also, like in South Africa under apartheid, a growing international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) that will continue to grow until Israel evolves into a democracy with equality for all (Jews, Christians, Muslims etc) and implements international law including allowing the refugees to return to their homes and lands. Such a return and recognition of the injustice committed to the native people is the only way to allow a functioning Hebrew and Israeli culture to remain in Western Asia. The alternative to basic justice based on human rights and international law is not the fictional "two-state solution" but is too horrible to contemplate -- a disaster for both Israelis and Palestinians. Would we want the outcome of Algerian French settlers (one million who had to pack up and leave after native Algerians lost 1 million people in the struggle) or would we want the more hopeful (though not by all means perfect) South African model? I think the choice is clear.
Rescuing US foreign policy from the Zionist straightjacket -- the Israeli lobby that now occupies Washington DC like it occupies Palestinian lands -- is difficult and requires hard work. But it is doable and might be the only thing that could salvage the US economy. While many don’t yet see it, the US economy is already in recession; see decline in housing prices, the financial meltdown, the skyrocketing price of oil and gold, and most significantly the precipitous decline in the value of the US currency and the abandonment of the $ as a trade and reserve currency by so many countries and private entities.
Political Zionism is failing like many other ideologies based on injustice. The question is will we let it drag more humans into more wars before the inevitable happens? Taking action will accelerate the inevitable and thus save lives and treasures.
In all countries contact groups, churches, etc, and build boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) actions and contact politicians and the media. See also http://www.qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/
In the US (the main sponsor of Israeli apartheid) and besides mobilizing for a demonstration in Annapolis on the 27th:
- Contact the executive branch: President George W Bush, 202-456-1111 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary for Middle East Affairs David Welch 202-647-6575 email: email@example.com
- Contact your elected representatives in the legislative branch using http://capwiz.com/fconl/dbq/officials/ and by phone call 1-202-225-3121 and ask for your two senators and your representatives
Also see contacts at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
- Host the Wheels of Justice bus tour or try to arrange seeking engagements (see http://justicewheels.org)
This entry was posted on Nov 21, 2007 at 09:32:34 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Chidanand Rajghatta ,TNN
WASHINGTON: Pakistan's nuclear weapons are already under American control even as analysts are working themselves into a lather on the subject, a well-regarded intelligence journal has said.
In a stunning disclosure certain to stir up things in Washington's (and in Islamabad and New Delhi's) strategic community, the journal Stratfor reported on Monday that the "United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed US forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India's help."
"This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet," the journal, which is widely read among the intelligence community, said.
The Stratfor commentary came in response to an earlier New York Times story that reported that the Bush administration had spent around $100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its nuclear weapons, but left it unclear if Washington has a handle on the arsenal.
Over the past fortnight, even since the crisis in Pakistan broke and eclipsed every other geopolitical story, including Iraq, US officials and analysts have been speaking in different voices on the subject of a jihadi takeover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Some officials have expressed deep concern at the possibility and suggested US is ready with contingency plans to defang Pakistan of its nuclear weapons, while others have tried to assuage Islamabad by saying they believe the country's military rulers have good custodial control over their crown jewels.
On Monday, a State Department official once again addressed the issue and hinted that Washington was in control of the situation.
"... ultimately, the major responsibility for that falls with the Pakistani government. They have made public comments to the effect that the arsenal is secure, that they have taken a number of different steps to ensure that," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"We ourselves see no indication to indicate to the contrary. It is secure. We obviously have an interest in seeing that it is secure," McCormack added.
Stratfor , too, appears confident that the Bush administration has a handle on Pak's nukes.
Not everyone is so sanguine. In a separate commentary over the weekend that had some US and Pakistani analysts blowing their gasket, two prominent Washington commentators detailed a US military action plan inside Pakistan, possibly with the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces, to seize the nuclear arsenal if there was imminent danger of an extremist takeover.
"As the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss," proposed Frederick Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, analysts at two Washington DC think-tanks. "One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan's nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands."
Pakistan's own leaders have spoken about the subject -- of nuclear weapons falling into extremist hands --with different emphasis and objectives.
General Pervez Musharraf has suggested continued Western support to his military regime is the best way to prevent the nukes from falling into extremist hands, an "after-me-the-deluge" argument that some analysts see as unabashed blackmail.
The country's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has also invoked the loose nukes scenario to urge US to abandon the military regime, which she says has given rise to growing extremism and fissiparous tendencies that increase the danger of the nuclear arsenal going awry.
Officially though, Islamabad is touchy about any commentary on its nuclear arsenal, and goes into transports of hysteria to assert that it is a responsible country with good command and control over its crown jewels.
In the latest outburst, the country's out-going foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri asserted that Pakistan is fully capable of securing its nuclear assets and some Western lobbies are busy in creating confusion taking the advantage of ongoing conditions in Pakistan.
The multi-layer security structure of the nuclear assets has a strong command and control system in place and there is no need for anyone at home or abroad to worry about the security of these assets, he insisted.
But judging by the volume of worried commentary and analysis the subject is now getting, there aren't many takers for such assurances and the last word on the matter hasn't been said or written.
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Chavez, centre, said an attack on Iran could be costly, drawing criticism from the Saudi king
Venezuela's president has warned that oil
prices could more than double if the US attacks his country or Iran.
In his opening address on Saturday at a rare Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries summit in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, he declared that the group should "assert itself as an active political agent".
"If the United States was mad enough to attack Iran or agress Venezuela again the price of a barrel of oil won't just reach $100 but even $200 dollars," he said.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, rebuffed Chavez's idea of Opec becoming an overtly political organisation.
"Oil is an energy for development, it should not become a tool for conflict and emotions," King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, said.
Chavez is due to arrive in the Iranian capital Tehran on Sunday to hold talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president.
The two-day summit is only the third in Opec's 47-year history.
Oil, finance and foreign ministers of Opec are meeting against a backdrop of a depreciating US dollar and tension in world oil markets.
Chavez said on Saturday: "I think Opec should strengthen itself in this capacity and demand respect for the sovereignty of our nations, if the developed world wants a guaranteed supply of oil. We are witnessing constant threats against Iran."
In his speech, King Abdullah said: "Those who say that Opec should be a manipulative monopoly are ignoring the fact that Opec had always behaved moderately and wisely."
The Saudi king also tried to redirect the Opec opening session to the summit's agenda, announcing a move to support environmental efforts.
He said: "I wish to announce that the Saudi government has put $300m in a programme to finance scientific research in the fields of energy, environment and climate."
As the talks entered a second day on Sunday, other Opec members had not committed to the Saudi plan.
Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, which has rejoined Opec after a 15 year break, proposed that a tax be imposed on oil-consuming nations for environmental protection programmes elsewhere.
Earlier this week, Samuel Bodman, the US energy secretary called on Opec to increase production in order to halt oil price rises.
But Opec officials said they will not discuss whether to increase oil supplies until the group meets next month in the United Arab Emirates.
They also cast doubt on the effect any output hike would have on oil prices, saying the recent rise has been driven by the falling US dollar and financial speculation by investment funds, rather than any supply shortage.
Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, objected on Saturday to an attempt by Iran and Venezuela to highlight concern over the weakness of the US dollar.
A closed session of foreign and finance ministers voted against the proposal.
Abdalla Salem el-Badri, the Opec secretary-general, said the group had decided not to mention concern over dollar depreciation in the declaration.
Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told the session: "My fear is that any mention that Opec makes of studying the issue of the dollar will in itself have an impact."
A microphone mistakenly left on meant that the comments of al-Faisal were accidentally broadcast to journalists on Saturday.
He rejected the proposal by Iran and Venezuela who wanted the meeting to discuss the weak dollar, saying: "There are media people outside waiting to catch this point and they will add to it [exaggerate] and we may find that the dollar collapses."
Embarrassed organisers switched off the microphones after the comment.
Opec is under pressure to increase its output to help calm record crude prices that reached almost $100 a barrel for the first time last week.
Some Opec members want to increasingly sell their oil in euros and not dollars.
The Gulf Arab states and Saudi Arabia earn more than a billion dollars a day from oil sales.
Mamdouh Salameh, an international oil expert, told Al Jazeera: "Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are under the US military umbrella. Consequently, it will be anti-American decision if they shift to another currency other than the dollar."
Concern is growing, however, that the dollar's weakness signals the end of its reign as the world's main international currency.
The dollar would be further damaged if Opec started selling its oil in euros or created a basket of currencies as some producers now want.
Saudi Arabia's investments in the US - and many other countries - are also threatened by a weaker dollar.
The dollar has fallen 10 per cent against the euro this year, hitting oil producers' income.
The falling dollar has also made imports much more expensive, with Gulf countries particularly affected.
Inflation has risen dramatically, affecting low paid foreign workers especially hard.
Now Gulf currencies, such as the UAE dirham which has been pegged to the dollar for the past 30 years, could be unpegged because of growing pressure.
This entry was posted on Nov 18, 2007 at 09:26:47 am and is filed under American Empire, Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Sabri Al-Kurdi's funeral in Gaza [Ma'anImages]
GAZA, Palestine Twenty-one-year-old Sabri Al Kurdi became the most recent medical patient to die while waiting to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment this week.
His funeral was held in Gaza City on Saturday.
Al-Kurdi, who suffered from cancer, was denied permission from Israeli authorities to travel to Egypt for, where he was to be treated. Al-Kurdi was one of numerous patents to be denied or delayed by Israeli authorities for "security reasons."
Before he died, Al-Kurdi was reported to have said, "I'm sick and I need treatment, what am I going to do against Israel? I just need to go for treatment."
Naji Al-Khodri, head of the People's Committee to End the Seige, said Al-Kurdi has suffered from cancer for more than two years, and has applied for transfer to Israeli, then Egyptian hospitals for treatment.
Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip's border crossings, only a tiny number of medical patients are permitted to be transferred out of the territory. At least six people have died as a direct result of this policy since June.
Al-Khodri mentioned two other cases of patients dying as a result of the embargo, including a seven-month-old girl named Sana Al-Haj and a mother of seven named Ayda Abed Al-Al.
Sabri Al-Kurdi's mother said she blamed Israli soldiers for not allowing her son through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
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Coal-fired power stations are among the biggest contributors to global warming
Australia is the worst polluter in the world per capita, according to a new international study.
The Washington-based Centre for Global Development says Australian power plants produce 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year - five times as much as China and 20 times as much as India.
According to the report, Australia came seventh overall on a list of the top 50 countries by carbon dioxide-emitting power sectors, with 226 million tonnes.
But it came in ahead of many countries with larger populations and "on a per capita basis, Australians are some of the largest CO2 emitters in the world, producing more than 11 tonnes of power sector CO2 emissions per person per year", the report said.
The US, the world's largest overall CO2 emitter, emits nine tonnes per person each year, it said.
Global warming has become a key issue in Australia's upcoming election and Kevin Rudd, the opposition leader tipped to become the next prime minister, has promised to ratify the Kyoto treaty on climate change.
On Thursday, just hours after the report was published, Greenpeace protesters stormed a power plant north of Sydney and chained themselves to machinery to draw attention to the issue.
"We demonstrated what this country needs to do - close those coal-fired power stations and use cleaner energy," organiser Stephen Campbell, a protest organiser, said.
Fifteen protesters were arrested and charges of trespass and malicious damage were expected to be laid against them.
The power plant's operators said generating operations were not affected by the protest.
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The new Polish defence minister has said his country will withdraw its 900 troops deployed in Iraq next year.
The previous government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the former prime minister, had extended the deployment of its 900-strong force until the end of 2007 and planned to send more troops in 2008.
But Bogdan Klich, the new defence minister from the Liberal government, told the public radio station Jedynma: "I can confirm that in 2008, the Polish military contingent in Iraq will be withdrawn."
Klich said on Saturday that the details of the withdrawal would be announced next Friday when Donald Tusk, Poland's new prime minister, outlines his government's policies in parliament.
Warsaw had previously been one of most vocal supporters of the US policy in Iraq.
Polish troops took part in the invasion in 2003, sparking a bitter verbal confrontation with anti-war European Union members, notably France.
US-Polish ties strengthened after the election in 2005 of the previous Law and Justice party administration.
The conservative government of prime minister Kaczynski, the identical twin of the current Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, had said it was planning to send a new group of soldiers in 2008.
Tusk's Civic Platform, which won October's snap general elections, had earlier pledged a swift pull-out of Polish armed forces from Iraq.
Tusk said in November it was important that Washington recognise that his Civic Platform had won power with a pledge to "end the mission in Iraq at least in its current form, in 2008".
In October, Edward Pietrzyk, Poland's ambassador to Iraq, was seriously injured and his driver killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
A total of 22 Polish soldiers have been killed in Iraq since 2003.
The current 900-strong Polish contingent is stationed in the Diwaniyah region of Iraq, where 2,600 were deployed in 2003.
A public opinion poll last June found that 81 per cent of Poles were opposed to their soldiers' deployment alongside US troops in Iraq, with only 15 per cent in favour.
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By Haroon Siddique
Israeli companies are using UK property shows to sell housing in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Guardian Unlimited can reveal.
At the Israel Property Exhibition at Brent town hall, North London last Sunday, one company, Anglo-Saxon Real Estate, was offering for sale properties in Maale Adumim and Maccabim. Both West Bank settlements lie on the Palestinian side of the so-called green line, the pre-1967 boundary and often cited as the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, are expected to meet before the end of the year in Annapolis, in the US, for peace talks that have the backing of the UK government.
Abbas has demanded the Israelis halt all settlement activity and that the whole West Bank be included in a future Palestinian state. Kim Howells, the British minister for foreign and commonwealth affairs, has described settlement activity as an "obstacle to peace".
The Anglo-Saxon real estate website was today listing 67 new build residential properties in Maale Adumim and six in Maccabim. That they are new properties is particularly significant because it indicates buyers would be contributing to expansion of the settlements.
Maale Adumim forms part of the Israelis' controversial E1 plan, which would see the building of thousands of housing units as well as industrial and tourism zones to connect the settlement with Jerusalem.
The result would be to divide the West Bank, making travel between north and south more onerous and isolating east Jerusalem, according to critics. Maale Adumim has around 30,000 residents and is already one of the largest settlements in the West Bank. Israel wants to retain it in any future peace agreement.
In answer to a parliamentary question in June, Howells said: "The UK consistently makes clear its view that settlements are illegal under international law and that settlement activity is an obstacle to peace."
He added: "We are concerned by reports of Israeli construction work at El. The continuing process of establishing settlements is encircling east Jerusalem and breaking up Palestinian territorial contiguity throughout the West Bank.
"These practices fuel Palestinian anger, threaten to cut east Jerusalem off from the West Bank and undermine the prospect for a viable Palestinian state."
Gavin Gross, director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation, which organised the Brent fair, said: "While the promotion or sale of houses beyond Israel's green line is a contentious subject for some, it is not prohibited in Britain."
He said Anglo-Saxon was just one of a number of companies at the fair and other exhibitors were not selling properties in the West Bank.
Properties in illegal settlements were also on offer at a fair at Finchley synagogue, in North London, last month. The poster advertising the exhibition called on investors to "strengthen your portfolio and Israel's future".
Visitors to the fair received a free property guide, The Key to Israel, containing a map that omitted the green line and substituted Hebrew names for Palestinian cities. The Palestinian city of Nablus, labelled as Shechem, was just one example.
Among the companies featured in the guide were B Yair Building Corporation and Digital Investments and Holdings. The former's catalogue, also distributed at the fair, featured properties in Maale Adumim, Har Homa in Palestinian east Jerusalem and Beitar Illit. The latter is an orthodox settlement on the Palestinian side of the 1967 green line, to the west of Bethlehem. Digital Investments and Holdings markets properties in Nof Zion, another settlement in east Jerusalem.
The exhibition was organised by BayIt Beyisrael (your home in Israel), a realtor that also ran a fair at Alexandra Palace, in north London, in March. Its website advertises past exhibitions in Belgium and the USA.
UN security council resolutions and the fourth Geneva convention have rendered all Israeli settlements illegal, although Israel disputes the interpretation of these laws.
Dan Judelson, from the group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said the property fare had "huge ramifications" for the peace process.
"Perhaps it should be illegal or formally discouraged for British citizens to take actions [simply living in another country] that might appear fine but that have immense implications for one of the biggest conflicts worldwide and that contribute to global instability."
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said: "The issue of settlements will be one of the issues discussed between Israel and the Palestinians in the context of final status negotiations."
A UK foreign office spokesman said: "The road map is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement activity. We will continue to raise this issue with the Israeli governm
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GAZA, Palestine – Deposed Palestinian prime minister Isma'il Haniyeh on Thursday evening called for the formation of a "transparent and impartial national committee" to investigate Monday's bloody events in Gaza City that left seven dead and scores injured following a rally to commemorate the death of Yasser Arafat.
The violence occurred as the rally began to disperse. Eyewitnesses said Fatah supporters began taunting the Hamas-affiliated police force who then opened fire on the crowd.
The leader of the de facto government in Gaza demanded the release of all those arrested after the shootings except those thought to have been responsible for inciting violence.
Hs said his government will "adhere to its duties towards the victims" of the rally.
"Despite the facilitations which the government made, Hamas was not invited to attend the celebration. Furthermore the speakers at the rally attacked Hamas and the government and after the memorial ended peacefully, the sudden turn of events to bloodhshed surprised everyone," Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh called for the formation of a committee to hold a national dialogue to deal with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as foreign affairs.
He also demanded the release of all Hamas members detained by Palestinian security in the West Bank.
Meanwhile a meeting was held on Thursday evening between the de facto government's interior minister Said Siyam, spokesperson Eyhab Al-Ghussain and representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and Islamic Jihad to discuss what happened at Monday's gathering.
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The bombing of Hiroshima announced the arrival of the American empire. And on its fringes the moral confusions ripple away, writes Azmi Bishara
By Azmi Bishara
MUSHARRAF AND BHUTTO: Since coming to power through a military coup against Nawaz Sharif the Musharraf government has received $10 billion in American aid, of which $7 billion was for military purposes. One is reminded of the support received by the Zia-ul-Haq regime which deposed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Under General Zia's dictatorship Pakistan became the third largest recipient of US aid after Israel and Egypt.
In spite of Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency last Thursday, Bush's evening telephone call to him on the subject, calls in Congress for a suspension of aid to Pakistan and the White House's subsequent embarrassment, plans are still in full swing for a joint US-Pakistani offensive in the tribal region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Nag as America might it needs Musharraf to control the army, to keep down the Islamic opposition and to suppress rebellion. Musharraf, of course, knows this.
Musharraf had been in no position to wage a full scale military campaign against the Taliban and Islamists who use the tribal area as a refuge and base. The showdown at the Red Mosque, though, proved a turning point, and he resolved to act in the way the US wants him to. But if he was going to mount an offensive of that nature in alliance with the US he had to do something about the broad-based Islamist opposition. He had two choices: either he could declare a state of emergency and impose martial law, thereby clamping the mouth of that noisy opposition shut, or he could expand the popular base of the regime by opening the field to an opposition that was less dangerous, with which America felt comfortable and that could not rule the country without the army. He tried option two first, attempting a reconciliation with Benazir Bhutto, whom he hoped to gain as an ally against the Islamists. But the reaction of the Islamists, and Bhutto's unlimited and unrestrained political ambitions -- not the bombings that killed many of her supporters or the position of his American-sponsored potential partner in power -- made him jettison option two and turn to option one, the state of emergency and martial law.
The bloody conflict that is raging between the Bhutto-led opposition People's Party and the ruling regime is taking place within the American orbit. The US manages crises. It is also in a state of denial about the choices it has been presented with by Musharraf, which are either to get on with the fight against terrorism and go on the offensive against the tribal area, or plump for unregulated political plurality in Pakistan.
Here is another instance, like Turkey and the Iraqi province of Kurdistan, of an open conflict, not against the empire but at its fringes. To some extent each of the antagonists is fighting to win the imperial favour. America has such a hard time controlling its allies. Nor are its strategic priorities set by Congress, no matter how loudly congressional members clamour that respect for human rights as a condition for sending aid.
A PEACEFUL DEATH: On 1 November General Paul Tibbets passed away at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92. General Tibbets was the pilot of Enola Gay (named after his mother), the aeroplane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 people when it hit. Thousands more were injured and untold numbers died from radioactive poisoning or were born disfigured as a result of radioactive contamination.
The Wall Street Journal (9 November) praised the American hero. The act of dropping the bomb may be open to criticism, but Tibbets behaved as a soldier should in obeying the orders of his country, it wrote. But the newspaper not only admired Tibbets the soldier, a man who showed no regret for having accomplished his mission and who defended his action on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It also did something worthy of the newspapers of the Third Reich. With a stroke of the pen it reduced the number of people who died in that bombing to 80,000, and made no mention of the bomb's subsequent effects.
Now the art here is in making that numerical sleight-of-hand appear an admission of evil, out of duty to journalistic objectivity. The number is cited in the context of "legitimate criticism" of the dropping of the atom bomb. That criticism, in effect, is reduced to people do horrible things to their fellow human beings. There's no mention of superpower politics, American ambitions, Japanese ambitions, or anything of that sort. It's all brought down to the cosy generality of the evil that's in us all. That way, the reader can see the man who dropped the bomb and the president who issued the orders in the same light, offering as consolation human frailty and the fact they were victims of the kind of ills to which all flesh is heir.
This business of homing in on the commander, and the team that dropped the bomb, cannot be taken seriously, of course, even if they are guilty of executing an order that not only violates natural law, morals and religious stricture, and then of boasting about it later, even after they had learned the consequences of their act.
No, the real issue is the decision of the American government to drop a bomb on a densely populated civilian target at the end of a war it had already won and at a time when the US was the only power in possession of nuclear arms. The government that has appointed itself the judge of which countries may or may not present a danger if they possessed nuclear weapons is the only government that has demonstrated how dangerous nuclear weapons are. The way it demonstrated this danger was simple: it made a nuclear bomb and it used it. This same government claims to be a rational, secular, liberal democracy. Surely there must be some relationship between its appalling use of the nuclear bomb and this image it has of itself. I would suggest that this relationship can be summed up as follows. Since America believes that it is the epitome of all that is good and rational, whatever it does is right. (The same applies to its ally Israel, of course).
I will venture a hypothesis that is difficult to prove but nonetheless probable. If the US had continued to hold a monopoly on nuclear arms it would have used them on several occasions during the 20th century, against Korea and Vietnam, for example. What deterred it from repeating the crime it committed against Japan was not remorse or self-criticism but the fact that nuclear technology fell into other hands -- "evil" ones, of course.
- The US used a nuclear bomb against civilians.
- It did not use it out of desperation or in self- defence, as it charges that certain other countries will do. It used it to shorten the duration of a war and minimise its own military casualties.
- It was also prompted by irrational motives -- revenge for Pearl Harbour. Compared to its own display of vindictiveness what it charges is notorious oriental vengefulness pales. It was further inspired by ruthless Machiavellian notions, such as sending a message to the Soviet Union, the other major victor in World War II, just to make clear what power America possessed.
- America used the nuclear bomb when it held a monopoly on this weapon.
SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS: Even if France were tempted to play the guardian of Lebanese Christians once again -- with, of course, the approval of the American empire so necessary in this day and age -- it will be unable to do so in a way that favours the opposition, be it Christian or otherwise. And it is, in any case, a curious way to approach the issue of Lebanese conciliation. It makes it seem that conciliation is a mechanical process that involves tipping the balance of domestic forces in favour of the opposition, taking into account the international situation which can itself be tipped in favour of the government of Lebanon, and on and on.
All participants in dialogues on Lebanon at the international level (the Vatican, King Abdullah, Sarkozy, Bush) are supporters of the government in Beirut. The subject of their talks is whether to risk setting off an explosion by projecting the international balance of power onto Lebanon, or engineer a temporary adjustment between the balances of international and domestic forces until the opportunity arises to strike at the Lebanese resistance or lash out at its regional supporters. The discussions are always about how and when to take on the resistance, never about its right to exist. That it shouldn't is taken for granted.
This is why it is difficult, indeed impossible, for the resistance to back down on the question of the presidency until a comprehensive agreement is struck among domestic forces that offers certain guarantees. Any agreement upon who sits in the president's office must entail a complete reconciliation over a range of other matters, as opposed to leaving them unresolved until the enemies of the resistance and their foreign allies find the right time to act.
Since Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon the forces fighting American hegemony there have been retreating step by step, encouraging the forces allied with the US to up the pressure on the opposition in order to gain additional ground. Taking his cue from this process the American ambassador hastened to announce two weeks ago that even if a president is elected, in the absence of a Lebanese concord the opposition will fume and threaten, but it won't do anything.
Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon unilaterally, without an agreement for regulating the withdrawal or its aftermath. One side interpreted this as a resounding victory. Because Lebanese promises regarding the establishment of the best possible special relationship with Syria if Syrian forces withdrew were not officially set down on paper the drive against Syria quickly escalated into flagrant hostility that sought to strike at the heart of Damascus itself. Calls for toppling the Damascus regime could be heard inside Lebanon, as though the nature of the Syrian regime were a domestic Lebanese issue.
Even if the ruling forces failed to achieve a majority on their own in the Lebanese parliament they appropriated that position, just as Michel Aoun appropriated the opposition to the Syrian presence and the name 14 March. Although President Emile Lahoud has kept his distance the cabinet treats him as though he does not exist and has effectively pushed through everything it wants. Closing its ears to the president's observations the cabinet adopted the decisions of the international court. Ministers, who in Lebanese-Taif parlance were regarded as representative of a major faction in the government, withdrew and joined the opposition. The people who remained in the cabinet shrugged their shoulders and the government kept on governing in spite of the charge, based on the Taif Agreement and the constitution, that it was illegitimate.
When the Lebanese resistance heroically thwarted a savage Israeli aggression the time came for a counter- attack. This was led by forces that forged an opposition movement driven by a sense of patriotism and legitimacy and by its enormous sympathy for the resistance and a civilian population that had suffered horribly during the war. If aggression can be regarded as one way to settle a discussion, there were times when the opposition's actions seemed to constitute a domestic extension of the victory over Israel's intervention in Lebanese affairs. Then it stopped. The reason it stopped most likely had something to do with the opposition's sense of responsibility, its desire to preserve Lebanese unity and forestall a situation that its adversaries could escalate into sectarian strife. But other dynamics were still in play and these led to the criminal assassinations of prominent figures in the 14 March group. Even so, that group gradually achieved everything it wanted to achieve.
But the presidency is another matter. It is the goal, and in order to reach it both sides must take a step back so that they can work together to reach a point where they can agree on the identity of the president, the composition of the government (what triggered and sustains the current protests is the question of the composition of the cabinet, not the presidency) and a new electoral law. Unless such an agreement can be reached we will be left wondering whether one side will take the next step, which entails taking control of the presidency, the army and the government in order to fulfill its ultimate aspirations after the other side backs down. Or is this the end-game, from which there will be no backing down because the opposition has its back against the wall?
Concord in the sense described above offers an opportunity for all parties to risk a terminal inspection of such options.
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Provocations and misunderstandings abound, but Israel as a state for Jews only remains the heart of the problem, writes Khaled Amayreh
By Khaled Amayreh
While on his way to Jerusalem for another round of talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) and members of his negotiating team were held at an Israeli army checkpoint and kept waiting for nearly half an hour. The affront, which may have been deliberate, infuriated the former Palestinian Authority prime minister, who demanded that preparatory peace talks be moved to a third country.
"The Palestinian delegation is very angry. We don't go to negotiate with them in order to be humiliated. We represent the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. This is a humiliation we can't accept. We propose never to conduct negotiations in Israel again," he later told the Israeli state-run radio.
In fact, the incident serves as an allegory caricaturing the protracted talks between the two sides, notwithstanding the numerous bilateral meetings and several "bridging" but effectively futile visits to the region by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice is due to return next week to check on progress, that is if there is any.
Of course, tens of thousands of Palestinian travellers are routinely held and humiliated at the ubiquitous Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks on any given day. But the fact that a VIP like Abu Alaa had to experience, even minimally, what is a daily nightmare for the bulk of his people, may give him a clear idea of what the occupation means in real terms.
Qurei's bout of anger, however, didn't stop him from travelling again to West Jerusalem on 12 November for more talks with Livni. But the talks failed to reach even a semblance of concordance on any of the core issues that define the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ahead of the upcoming Annapolis conference, slated to be held on 26 November.
True, the two sides are in agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state in line with President George Bush's vague vision. But in terms of details, the gaps are still as wide as ever.
The PA wants Israel to withdraw from the West Bank in its entirety, with the possibility of swapping 3-5 per cent of its territory for a similar amount of land of the same quality in Israel proper.
This particular issue is very sensitive, especially for the Palestinian side. Israel, which insists on retaining the huge Jewish colonies built in and around East Jerusalem since 1967, including Maali Adomim, Pisgat Ze'ev, Har Homa, etc, has offered to "compensate" the Palestinians with some sandy swaths in the Negev desert.
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has never made its position clear on this issue. This week, Abbas said the PA would be willing to swap a limited area of the West Bank for a similar amount of territory. However, Jerusalem Palestinian leader Adnan Al-Husseini, who is also adviser to Abbas, said Israel would have to withdraw from 100 per cent of East Jerusalem.
Having failed to reach agreement on general guidelines governing a final-status settlement, mainly because Israel is not willing to give up all the spoils of the 1967 war, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators decided last week to re-adopt the dormant American-envisaged roadmap for peace in the Middle East. Accordingly, the two sides agreed that all subsequent talks before and after the Annapolis conference would be based on the roadmap.
But there is a huge catch-22 here. There is no unified Palestinian-Israeli understanding of the roadmap and what it exactly means and implies. For the Israeli government, the roadmap must also include President Bush's letter of April 2004 to then prime minister Ariel Sharon. In that famous letter, which was ratified by the House of Representatives by a vote of 407-9 and by the Senate by 95-1, Bush pledged to Sharon that Israel could retain major Jewish settlements in the West Bank in the context of any prospective final status solution with the Palestinians.
According to Jef Halper, an Israeli peace activist, Bush in one seemingly innocuous sentence "fatally but knowingly undermined UN Resolution 242," viewed generally as the basis of the two-state solution as well as the roadmap itself.
For their part, the Palestinians have in mind a substantially different roadmap. Abdullah Abdullah is a Fatah lawmaker and former director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. He says that the Palestinians are not bound by the Israeli understanding and interpretation of the roadmap. "The roadmap is not subject to negotiations. It must be implemented immediately, and Bush's pledges to Sharon are an Israeli- American matter and have nothing to do with the roadmap."
Abdullah told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Palestinians would never accept these pledges since they are incompatible with international law and UN resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian problem.
But then, who is the ultimate arbiter? The US? The US- dominated Quartet? Or possibly the UN, which is part of the Quartet?
An additional but extremely important sticking point is Israel's insistence that the PA recognise Israel as a "state of the Jewish people" not just as a nation state like the rest of the community of nations. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying that the starting point of all negotiations with the Palestinians would be the "recognition of Israel as a state of all the Jewish people. We won't hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state, this is a launching point for all negotiations," said Olmert. He added that he was sure the Palestinian leadership understood this "fact perfectly."
"We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever doesn't accept this can't hold any negotiations with me. This has been made clear to the Palestinians and the Americans. I have no doubt that Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are committed to prior agreements and want to make peace with Israel as a Jewish state." Olmert said he would set a precondition for future negotiations that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state. "This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state."
But recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is viewed by most Palestinian officials as amounting to a real national suicide since it would imply granting Israel a certain right, which can be activated in the future, to expel its Palestinian citizens who constitute nearly one-fourth of Israel's population.
In addition, recognising Israel as a state for Jews implies that Palestinians would have to completely forget about the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes and villages by Jewish terrorists in 1948.
More to the point, it is very clear from statements made by Israeli leaders, including opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu, that Israel would eventually contemplate preventing its non-Jewish population from exceeding a certain threshold in order to prevent Israel from losing