Articles Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:30:07 +0000 MEMO en-gb Commemorating the Nakba at a Grim Time Samah JabrSixty-seven years after the massive expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, the scene in Palestine is grimmer than ever. We observe for example that following almost a year of meetings, the US-backed talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel fell apart last April. What followed that summer was an escalation of violence and a destructive war on Gaza.

Although a reconciliation agreement was signed by conflicting Palestinian political parties in 2014, we are still living with the devastating effects of the war on Gaza and the political polarization - which rather than resolving, is now at its peak. The reconstruction of Gaza is on hold; Gaza government employees who were hired between 2007 and 2014 have not been receiving their salaries by the PA government despite the "reconciliation;" continuous electricity and clean water are unavailable in Gaza; and its Rafah entrance has been blocked for more than 100 consecutive days. PA officials claim that Hamas took part in secret negotiations with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity. The PA considers that plan a "scandalous conspiracy" and promises to not let it take place. Meanwhile, officials in Gaza dismiss such allegations as "false polemics" and clarify that they are negotiating merely to end the siege, to exchange prisoners, and to achieve a long term truce. Despite all its years of negotiations, the PA never addressed lifting of the siege of the Gaza Strip. And regarding the fate of East Jerusalem, where the PA hopes to establish the capital of the Palestinian state in accordance with the Oslo Accords, officials are giving no more than a lip service. And worst of all no one dares to talk about the right of Return.

During the recent clashes between the "Islamic State" and Palestinian fighters at Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus (where the besieged and starved population has shrunk from 150,000 to approximately 16,000 during the last four years of violence in Syria), there was a presidential decree that all public employees "volunteer" one day's salary to save Al Yarmouk. This was the response, instead of using this crisis as a lever to educate about the predicament of Palestinian refugees and to mobilize for the implementation of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees!

Sovereignty versus the State

In December, Palestinian officials submitted a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank within two years, a submission which was voted down. We remember that in 1974, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, to national independence, and to sovereignty - but our officials behave like helpless subcontracted managers in the service of the occupation.

At the Pesach holiday a few weeks ago, the West Bank was cut in two; Palestinians were unable to work across the Ramallah-Nablus road in order that Israeli settlers could run the Bible Marathon. This action went unopposed by the PA. Recently, the Israeli Army arrested Palestinian Parliament member Khalida Jarrar, bringing to sixteen the number of Palestinian lawmakers currently in Israeli detention and paralysing our legislative counsel. Jarrar and many others were arrested from "Area A" - an area under full PA control, where Israeli forces coordinate their entry with PA forces. Here as elsewhere, the Palestinian Authority remains in close coordination with Israeli security, even after the brutal killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last summer and the death of Minister Ziad Abu Ein last December in a violent confrontation with the occupation forces; an act for which no one has been punished.

In his speech last September at the United Nations during the 69thannual General Debate, Palestinian President Abbas said "It is impossible, and I repeat - it is impossible - to return to the cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of the matter and the fundamental question." And yet, now despite the Israeli President's recent blatant disavowal of a two-state solution, the President announced that "talks with Israel are still on the table," while addressing Palestinian leadership on April 4that the opening of a conference in the West Bank to discuss the future of the Palestinian Authority.

The PA has become an official member of the International Criminal Court, but PA officials report that going to the ICC is to deter Israel from only future crimes against Palestinians. In contrast, Shurat Ha Din, a legal group in the USA close to Israel, has already initiated action against Palestinians with the declared intent to push Palestinian institutions toward collapse. In February, a New York jury imposed $218 million damages upon the PA, as compensation for six attacks taking place more than a decade ago in which Israelis with US citizenship were killed or injured. Another such process, against the Arab Bank, was filed for transactions to accounts belonging to Hamas members. The latest case filed against Palestinians related to Hamas' briefly closing Israel's Ben Gorion airport during Israel's attack on Gaza last summer. Where is justice for all of the Palestinians killed or injured by US-sponsored arms? For Palestinians, with US citizenship, killed or tortured by Israel? For Rachel Corrie, crushed by an Israeli Army's Caterpillar bulldozer?

In addition to these actions, anti-terrorism laws in the US isolate most Palestinians from potential funding sources, manipulate their national agenda, and empower the political minority to implement its agendas in Palestine. The participation of Hamas in the government would risk the $400 million that Washington provides to the Palestinian Authority annually - the consequence that influenced the PA to backtrack on the reconciliation agreement it signed a year ago. Even among non-governmental Palestinian institutions and ordinary people, US money and US laws are not used to further the welfare of people, but to foster resentment, to intimidate, to hush voices of dissent, and to incite Palestinians to boycott one another.

Daring in the face of intimidation

Palestinian university students are voting against the party that is supported by the PA, even though these opponents are often arrested and harassed at election time. The Palestinians in the territories and in refugee camps too might dare to raise their voices in the face of a monopolizing leadership which has led the Palestinian cause to an impasse, in the face of political stagnation that is imposed by the violent occupation and the soft policies of its international allies who pressure us to conform to the colonial norms. It is by daring to speak that we find our way back to each other, to maintain our capacity for connection and empathy, and to survive over our anguish, fears and victimhood.

When I survey the intimidated world around me, I am also often frightened - but I return to my inner hopes to draw strength. I hope for a time when the refugees will return home, when the wall of separation will fall, when those who were treated as dangerous and were silenced for so long will be finally recognized and heard. I hope, equally, that those who once hushed our voices with all tools available to them will always be able to listen and speak too.

Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community - beyond issues of mental illness.

]]> (Samah Jabr) Middle East Sun, 26 Apr 2015 17:17:15 +0000
Courting apartheid: how Israel's top judges rubber-stamp discrimination Ben WhiteIsrael's Supreme Court has long been held up as a resolute defender of liberal values. Recent decisions handed down by its judges, however, provide an important opportunity to revisit this claim, and to interrogate its past and present validity.

According to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court "upholds the rule of law and strengthens human rights." (A note on terminology. Israel's Supreme Court also sits as the High Court of Justice (HCJ) for constitutional matters and citizens' petitions against government entities.)

This narrative is often reproduced by Israel's defenders. In March 2012, for example, Time magazine's Joe Klein hailed the Court as "one of the world's great bastions of civilized legal contemplation" and "a precious monument to the rule of law."

Others have argued that the courts in Israel are a check on racist legislation. Richard Goldstone, in his 2011 'apartheid slander' op-ed, claimed that in Israel, "equal rights are the law" and "inequities are often successfully challenged in court." Israel lobby group BICOM trumpets "the effectiveness of the Israeli Courts in countering incidents of unfair discrimination when they do arise."

The role of the Court in Israel's public diplomacy is clear – and not just in the crass boast that the court includes an Arab judge (the only one from 66 past and present justices). At the UN Human Rights Committee last October, a senior Israeli official "proudly recounted" rulings by the Supreme Court in striking down amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law.

According to an article in Ha'aretz, this was an example of "using High Court rulings to demonstrate Israel's commitment to human rights" even as the government "flouts them." While true, there are good grounds for questioning the Court's own 'commitment' to human rights.

A black week

The most high-profile recent decision was the upholding of the Anti-Boycott Law passed in 2011. The law was a "direct response to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign", and its impact has been a "chilling effect" and "stifling" of "political debate."

Sitting as the HCJ, the judges rejected most of the petition filed by human rights groups, and left the legislation almost entirely intact. Boycotts were described in the ruling as "political terror."

The Court voted 9-0 "on the authority of the finance minister to impose fines or withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel", and 8-1 on "the ability to file lawsuits against those NGOs."

While striking down by 9-0 the part of the law allowing punitive damages in lawsuits, the justices also voted 5-4 to allow such lawsuits "even if they were against groups that called only for boycotts of post-1967 Israel, meaning of Israeli settlements in the West Bank."

Responding to the verdict, Ma'ayan Dak of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group that used to call for boycott and divestment before the law, slammed the Supreme Court for having "approved the silencing and the restriction of legitimate protest to criticize and act to change Israeli policy."

Then, just one day after the Court had upheld the anti-boycott legislation, its justices also backed the confiscation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem using legislation passed in 1950 to appropriate the assets of expelled refugees.

The Absentee Property Law was the main instrument used to transfer land from ethnically cleansed Palestinians to the new State of Israel. It declared land to be 'abandoned' if its owner was absent for even just one day from November 1947 – but excluded Jewish Israelis from its provisions.

After 1967, and the unilateral, illegal expansion of Jerusalem's borders, Palestinians whose land now lay in the city were suddenly categorised as 'absentees', even if they only lived a few hundred metres away, the other side of the new municipal boundary.

As Adalah explained, by its decision the Supreme Court "affirmed the applicability of the [Absentee Property] law to East Jerusalem, approving all past expropriations and giving the green light for further expropriations in the future."

The group's general director Hassan Jabareen slammed the Court for having "validated one of Israel's most racist and arbitrary laws, enacted in 1950 primarily to confiscate Palestinian refugee property after their displacement from their homes."

There is no other place in the world, not in democratic systems nor in dictatorial regimes, where such a law applies. Despite these realities...the Supreme Court gave the green light for the application of arbitrary codes on occupied land and its population, with no regard to their protections under international law.

Finally, also last week, the Supreme Court – again sitting as the HCJ – rejected a petition on the right to higher education of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons. The ban was imposed by the Israeli government in 2011 as a punitive measure to pressure Hamas to release Gilad Shalit.

In its final judgment, the Supreme Court stated that, in the words of Adalah, "the prevention of university education does not constitute unacceptable discrimination between security and criminal prisoners", and the seven-judge panel "rejected the petition without further explanation."

Attorney Abeer Baker said the decision "establishes a special regime in the prison that allows arbitrary and abusive practices against Palestinian prisoners because they are Palestinians."

A troubled history

While certainly disturbing, these three rulings are not unprecedented. There are many examples of where the Supreme Court has given its seal of approval to laws and policies that form part of Israel's regime of settler-colonial dispossession and discrimination. Here are eight examples.

i. Denying the right of Palestinian citizens to the lands confiscated from them.

In 2003, the Court rejected a petition by Palestinian former residents of Iqrit, who sought to return to the lands from which they had been expelled in 1948. After the villagers were forced out on a 'temporary' basis, the army blew up their houses, and the land was leased to Jewish communities.

'Present absentees' – those Palestinians forcibly displaced within what became Israel – make up around 1 in 4 of all Palestinian citizens in Israel. In its ruling, the Court accepted the state's argument for preventing Iqrit's residents from returning.

The government claimed that "accepting the petition would have far-reaching and strategic implications that would harm Israel's vital interests, because 200,000 other displaced citizens have also demanded they be allowed to return to their former villages."

ii. Affirming that 'Israeli nationality' does not exist, in the context of a 'Jewish state'.

In October 2013, the Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge brought by petitioners who wished to change their nationality on the population registry from 'Jewish' to 'Israeli'. In "denying the existence of an Israeli nationality distinct from a Jewish one", the decision echoed a similar case brought before the Court in the 1970s.

The historic ruling, which the justice considered as "still applying to the subject of the appeal", stated that "there is no Israeli nation separation from the Jewish nation." The then-president of the Supreme Court Shimon Agranat said that an Israeli nationality "would negate the very foundation upon which the State of Israel was formed" – in other words, as a Jewish state.

According to Israeli legal scholar David Kretzmer, this concept of "nation" helps maintain "the distinction between citizens of the state who belong to the Jewish people and those who do not", and also "strengthens the dichotomy between the state as the political framework for all its citizens and the state as the particularistic nation-state of the Jewish people."

iii. Supporting punitive home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

In August 2014, the Court rejected an appeal by a human rights NGO against the punitive demolitions of three Palestinian houses in the West Bank. According to B'Tselem, the justices' ruling was not surprising, since the HCJ "has denied the vast majority of the petitions filed against punitive house demolitions and consistently refused to recognize the unlawfulness of this practice."

Again, on 31 December 2014, the HCJ rejected a petition filed by eight human rights groups against punitive house demolitions. Acknowledging "serious moral dilemmas", the judges nonetheless refused to re-examine previous decisions on the matter – including the Court's long-standing view that "the law of the land...trumps international law."

The judges also rejected claims of discrimination, saying that the reason why Section 119 of the emergency defense regulations – through which punitive demolitions are carried out – "is not utilized against Jews is rooted in the fact that there is no need for the same amount of deterrence among the Jewish population."

iv. Supporting the transfer of Palestinian prisoners out of occupied territory.

In 2010, the Supreme Court (as the HCJ) published a ruling "rejecting a petition to order the State to refrain from holding Palestinian prisoners and detainees in facilities located in Israeli territory within the Green Line", a "violation of the non-deportation provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Instructively, in making its decision, the Court upheld a 1988 ruling which stated that "in the event of a conflict between national law and international law - in this case, Article 6 of the Regulations versus Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (which prohibits the removal of protected persons from the occupied territory) - national law prevails."

In other words, and this is just one example of course, Israel's Supreme Court "is quite prepared to uphold grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes (in the case of transfer and detention inside Israel)."

v. Suppressing dissent through the Nakba Law.

In January 2012, the HCJ rejected a petition against the Nakba Law, which "fines bodies who openly reject Israel as a Jewish state or mark the Israel's Independence Day as a day of mourning." The justices avoided making a definitive decision on the constitutionality of the law by claiming that it was too early to assess the impact of the implementation of the legislation.

According to Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Supreme Court chose to ignore the fact that the passage of the law already harmed, in practice, "both the freedom of expression and the civil rights of Arab citizens."

vi. Supporting the separation of Palestinian spouses to prevent "national suicide."

In 2012, the Court upheld the notorious Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which denies status in Israel to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens, separating Palestinian husbands and wives when one has Israeli citizenship and one is from the oPt. In the majority opinion, Justice Asher Grunis wrote that "human rights are not a prescription for national suicide."

The 6-5 decision was greeted with dismay by human rights groups: the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called it a "dark day for the protection of human rights", and said that the Court had "stamped its approval on a racist law, one that will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins."

vii. Upholding residential 'admission committees' that discriminate against Palestinian citizens.

In September 2014, the HCJ upheld a law through which hundreds of Israeli communities screen and exclude potential residents on the grounds of "social suitability" and the communities' "social and cultural fabric." The Admission Committees Law was passed by the Knesset in 2011, though these bodies had in fact been operating for some time.

In the words of Adalah, "the court's decision effectively legalizes the principle of segregation in housing between Arab and Jewish citizens, and permits the practice of racism against Arab citizens in about 434 communities, or 43% of all towns in Israel."

It was yet another case of the judiciary allowing the government to further deepen racial inequality, by "choosing not to set precedents on critical cases affecting Palestinian rights."

viii. Giving a green light to the exploitation of natural resources in the oPt.

In 2011, the Court rejected a petition asking for a halt to the work of eight, Israeli-owned quarries operating in the West Bank, on the basis that they "take away valuable resources from the Palestinian people and from a future Palestinian state."

As B'Tselem put it, "the resources of an occupied territory are supposed to be used to benefit the local population", and thus the justices' decision "completely contradicts international law."

A further blow to Israel's reputation

Such examples abound. Israel's enlightened Supreme Court has backed the government's separation policy preventing Palestinians moving between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rejected a petition against the decision to upgrade Ariel settlement's college into a full-fledged university, and turned down a petition against Jewish settlers taking over Palestinian lands in the southern Hebron Hills.

As Israeli journalist and activist Haggai Matar put it, it was the Supreme Court that "legitimized the very existence of the settlements, the regime that props them up and the separation wall - all in violation of international law, as agreed upon by jurists around the world."

The Supreme Court, rather than being "a venue to challenge the occupation", has in fact "institutionalized it." Furthermore, the justices have left Israel's legal infrastructure of ethnocracy intact. Even former president Aharon Barak, loathed by the far-right, acknowledged Israel is "different from other countries" – "It is not only a democratic State, but also a Jewish State."

On the political level, election results demonstrate that the majority of the Jewish Israeli public is content voting for right-wing and far-right parties, and does not view the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an urgent issue to be resolved. Change is not coming via the ballot box.

On the level of popular mobilisation, there is no mass movement against the apartheid status quo. Indeed, on the contrary, as one Ha'aretzcolumnist put it, "military rule... is the largest, most visible project, with broader participation than any other endeavour in Israel."

95 percent of Israeli Jews saw "Operation Protective Edge" as justified. Annual protests against Israel's military occupation by "the tiny Israeli left" attract small crowds – and the head of Peace Now is proudly doing his reserve army duty protecting West Bank settlements.

In November 2011, a Ha'aretz editorial called the Supreme Court "the most significant force for the preservation of Israel's reputation in the world." Now, with that reputation continuing to plummet, even the Court stands exposed for what it is: an entity that endorses core elements of Israel's military occupation and institutionalised racism.

Western observers should not be misled by the Israeli far-right's attacks: the Supreme Court is no check on international law violations and systematic discrimination. On the political, popular and judicial levels in Israel, support for Palestinian rights is marginalised or non-existent. Without external pressure, change from within is impossible.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Sun, 26 Apr 2015 14:58:23 +0000
Of migrants, murder, and historical myopia Italian coast guard military. [File photo]

Nearly 2,000 people have been killed this year while attempting to make the perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean to the supposed safe haven of Europe – or rather, 2,000 and counting. In the wake of the grim news of a further 900 reported deaths over the weekend, there has been an information scramble as news organisations and politicians alike attempt to explain what has happened and, crucially, what we can do about it. Cue much grovelling and hand-wringing by European officials, and the oft-reiterated pledge that "something must be done" about the "problem" of unsafe migrant routes.

Now, it seems, that something might come in the guise of guns and warships. The EU announced this morning that it is planning on using "military means" to target the ships used by people traffickers, while David Cameron has pledged to send HMS Bulwark and military helicopters in a bid to "smash" the smuggler gangs.

Notwithstanding the sheer lunacy of this plan – a version of the trigger-happy Iraq war motto of "let's bomb people and see if that makes things better" – the notion of using a military response to solve what is essentially a humanitarian crisis is misguided at best, criminal at worst.

It seems increasingly ironic that Britain and other European countries are now pledging to stop a situation that they themselves are wholly responsible for. In last 12 months before it was withdrawn due to lack of funding, Italy's search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, rescued more than 150,000 refugees from the shark-infested waters of the Mediterranean. Since Mare Nostrum ended at the end of last year, there have been no attempts by European countries to save desperate migrants lost at sea. Indeed, Britain's stance on the matter was to withdraw all search and rescue missions in a bid to limit further migration, since the chance of rescue was deemed a potential "pull factor" – a decision whose twisted logic one commentator encapsulated in the phrase "Drown a Refugee to Save a Refugee".

The simple fact is that as a direct result of this policy, nearly 2,000 people have died in the first four months of this year alone. Deaths that could have been prevented entirely if Mare Nostrum and other rescue missions had continued to operate.

These people have left their homes and families, often travelling immense distances in the harshest of conditions in order to seek safety and refuge on our shores, and the policy of Europe towards them has been to sit back and watch them die. You never know, if they had actually made it here, they might have taken our jobs.

But the worst part of the attitude of the EU and other European powers to the migrant crisis is not just their criminal negligence of the thousands dying on their shores, but their wilful disregard for the past and the complicity of their governments in creating the political, economic and societal circumstances that are driving the tide of migration in the first place.

The history of European colonialism in the countries of Africa and the Middle East is one of pillaging, murder, corruption, and colonial arrogance. We treated the lands and the peoples of the countries we occupied with disdain bordering on hatred, and thought nothing of squeezing the last drops of commercial wealth out of them before discarding them to rot on the dust pile of history. Except, of course, when the battle-weary and desperate people of those countries turn up on our doorsteps asking for food and shelter – then they become demonised as "immigrants" and "benefit scroungers". In the words of comedian Frankie Boyle: "We fear the arrival of immigrants that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them [in the first place]." Without the diamonds, gold and ores of the African continent, without the tea, spices, silk and other tradable goods from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent – not to mention the oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf – the countries of Western Europe would be very poor indeed.

More recently, of course, Europe and the West has not contented itself with simply stealing from the people of these countries, but has been actively involved in meddling in the political and social fabric of nations across Africa and the Middle East. Without the NATO intervention in Libya, the arming of militant rebels in Syria, the catastrophic invasion of Iraq and the subsequent rise of Al-Qaeda and now ISIS to fill the power vacuum left by Western military and political games in the region, it is feasible that the situations in those countries would not have reached the crises that they currently endure.

In a very real sense, then, not only is Europe and the West directly to blame for the death of every single migrant they fail to save in the perilous waters of the Mediterranean, they are also to blame for the fact that the migrant even attempted the crossing in the first place. Without Western meddling, there may have been no civil war in Libya, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, ISIS in Syria, or any other factor that drives people to the desperate measures of scraping together all their money and piling themselves and their close family members into a badly-built and leaky boat in order to cross the deep and deadly waters of the Mediterranean in search of a better life.

This is why, at the end of the day, targeting the smugglers themselves, or the networks in which they operate, will have very little effect. Without addressing the deep-running roots of migrancy across the Mediterranean – namely, the abject poverty, social and political turmoil and civil wars created by the West through their incessant manipulation and interference in the countries of Africa and the Middle East – the death toll will keep mounting. And we only have ourselves to blame.

]]> (Emmanuela Eposti ) Europe Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:39:17 +0000
The partisanship of Egypt's judiciary In every country in the world, the judiciary is the source of justice and it delivers justice to the oppressed, or so it should be. The judiciary is the entity that should reassure people, regardless of their affiliations, that the law is applied to everyone without exception and should serve as a shining example of a state's morality and its commitment to create stability and civil peace.

It is a sign of civilisation and a barometer for a state's respect for humans and the preservation of their rights. The more the judiciary upholds justice, the higher the state is seen on the ladder of civilisation, and the higher the state is, the more their people develop and grow, gaining the strength to go higher on the ladder of affiliation, work and production.

A state gains strength from the strength of its people and whenever the judiciary declines, the people lose their confidence in their institutions and are aware that their rights are being lost under the feet of the more powerful. It is at that point that people's morals and ethics decline, their affiliation and loyalty decreases, and disputes and conflicts arise, threatening civil peace. Any ruler that does not watch over the fairness of the judiciary is neglecting the future of the state and its higher interests, thus putting the people in serious confrontations that lead to the undermining of the state's foundations.

We used to hear about the Egyptian judiciary, its integrity, neutrality and independence and we - through it - would be the Arab nucleus that would achieve justice for the oppressed Arab citizen. We had never looked into the details of the cases this judiciary dealt with, but the legends about the integrity of judges and their expertise and objectivity in considering the issues fascinated listeners. It was so nice to hear positive stories about an Arab judicial institution, but this beauty did not stand up to the practical tests that the Egyptian judiciary faced after the political developments that occurred in Egypt.

Anyone who has followed the rulings of the Egyptian judiciary in recent times cannot believe the legends and myths of the past. They find that they were just stories misguided by the media and political statements about the impartiality of the judiciary.

It was shocking that the Egyptian judiciary referred the cases of thousands of Egyptians to the state Mufti to approve their death sentences. The Egyptian judiciary is issuing mass death sentences without sufficiently investigating the charges against them, and their cases are quickly closed to move on to new cases awaiting similar death sentences.

Trials are a process and there are many complicated judicial measures. It is usually expected for underdeveloped countries to prolong the investigation into cases presented before the court so much that many cases are terminated and those involved are in despair and regret looking for a judicial solution for their problems.

The process of trials and the complex procedural issues have easily and quickly been overcome by Egypt's judiciary, as it seems that the judges are only concerned with issuing rulings that are consistent with predispositions they may have had in the past, those forced upon them by politicians, or those formed for them by the Egyptian media.

Sometimes one wonders if the Egyptian judges have thought about the consequences of their quickly issued rulings on the Egyptian civil peace and Egyptian national interests. Have they thought about their current life and afterlife? Did they consider the possibility of acts of revenge and punishment on Judgement Day? Did they think about the consequences of being unjust to the people and the desire for revenge, murder and destruction it generates? It seems that the vow taken by the judges was not enough to convince enough for them, as they decided to give into to their whims and misguidances.

The Egyptians hurt themselves in the beginning when they overthrew their elected president and they decided that the movements of other leaders were more legitimate and disciplined. They looked into the accusations directed against Morsi in order to justify his arrest and his exclusion from the political scene. The most bizarre accusation against Morsi was that he opened the doors of a prison, which held political prisoners with the help and cooperation of foreign parties, including Hamas. However, the revolution was supposed to change the situation in the country, including the prohibition of political arrests.

It was the duty of Morsi and all those who supported the Egyptian revolution to release all political prisoners who were accused by Mubarak of being a threat to Egypt's security. So, in actuality, Morsi and those who assisted him should be thanked for releasing the Egyptian prisoners. It is also strange that the Egyptian media and political circles accused Morsi of conspiring with Hamas, even though it is a Palestinian resistance movement that has done a great job confronting Israel in defence of Palestine, its people, and Egypt's national security. How can they talk about conspiracy when they are the ones conspiring with Israel? Those who betray the Arabs by conspiring with Israel have no right to talk about betrayal and spying. Also, was Hamas waiting for information from Morsi in order to occupy Egypt? That is ridiculous.

In addition to this, Morsi is symbolic in Egyptian history because he is the first ever elected president in Egypt. Morsi made a number of mistakes and many intellectuals and thinkers warned him about this, but he did not listen to any of them. However, these mistakes do not justify this historical mistake nor does it justify the overthrowing of a democratically elected president while we, in the Arab world, are falsely claiming to be democratic. The Egyptians ruined a symbolic achievement that would have gone down in history and they confirmed that the Arabs do not understand democracy nor can they practice it or respect its principles. Egypt has now joined Algeria, Palestine, Sudan, Mauritania and Iraq in the group of countries who went against those who were directly elected by the people.

The Egyptian judiciary recently sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison. This is a shame and disgrace that affects all of the Arabs. Developed nations monitor their leaders and put them on fair trails if they commit crimes, not if they make mistakes. Some countries are even content with removing a president from office if they are convicted, but do not put them in prison.

According to the developments in the Egyptian political arena, it is clear that the trials of Muslim Brotherhood members are all political, not judicial. It is also clear that the political circles are the judge and jury and that the judges are nothing more than tools in the hands of the politicians, which is also the case in other Arab countries. The politicians hire judges and the media brainwashes them. Trials are supposed to be held far from the media and politics in order to ensure that the judiciary does not give into selfish interests that could be achieved through the political level.

It is ironic today that Mubarak was found innocent despite the fact that the Egyptian people revolted against him and accused him of numerous crimes, including the murder of innocent people. Mubarak served for many years and he worked to sabotage Egypt's economy, revived classism in Egypt as well as economic and financial monopoly. He also did not hesitate to suppress his political opponents, monopolise the media and restrict media outlets who opposed him.

Mubarak did not properly distribute the country's wealth, he weakened Egypt's status in the Arab and international arenas, and he directly cooperated with Israel against the Palestinian and Lebanese resistances. He also worked with the US, which takes every opportunity to harm the Arabs. Despite all of the sins committed by Mubarak against Egypt, he came out of the trial innocent and unscathed, while Morsi ruled for a very short time and came out with a 20-year prison sentence.

I did not agree with Morsi and I was affiliated with no particular party; I was only affiliated with the greater Arab nation. I constantly commented on Morsi's mistakes, but I am not willing to ignore ethics in favour of achieving political goals. The neglect of ethics in Egypt has become common and is especially rampant in political and media circles.

Perhaps the unfair rulings may make some people feel better, which is the case in all countries of the world. There are influential figures and rulers who give in to revenge and cannot rest until they have their revenge against their political opponents. However, revenge was never a practical administrative principle that led to cohesion and unity amongst the people. Only the foolish govern their states with a vengeful spirit, while the clever adopt the approach of reconciliation, tolerance and unity. There are some in Egypt who are pleased with these rulings, but we hope they do not discuss terrorism in the media.

Injustice is the number one source of terrorism, and had the Arab regimes not severely oppressed their people, shattered their hopes and dreams, and used them like animals to serve their arrogance, then the revolutions would not have occurred. Oppression and injustice generate an explosion that it saturated with elements that fuel hatred, grudges and vendettas. Those who want to live peacefully and comfortably should not oppress people or rob them of their rights and comfort.

Many Arabs warned the new government in Egypt about the danger of injustice and they said that the actions of this government would lead to violent acts that will claim the lives of Egyptian soldiers and civilians. Many foresaw the military actions in Sinai and the various other Egyptian governorates because the actions of the government were provoking extremism against it and it had made enough enemies to form a large force inside Egypt.

There is a clear official position in Egypt opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which make up a large chunk of the masses all across the country. Did anyone expect the Brotherhood to remain silent in the face of the measures taken against them and rulings made against them? I do not believe that anyone with even a little bit of intelligence expected them to remain silent. Such rulings lead to escalations within Egypt. Who is the terrorist in this case? Those who defend themselves against oppression or those who began with the oppression?

Egypt is an economically weak country and its people have always suffered from poverty, ignorance, disease and scarceness. It is a country in need of national unity and reassurance. This requires all Egyptians to make an effort to work hard to improve the economic situation of the country, and therefore the efforts towards unity must prevail over the efforts of revenge.

The Egyptian people suffered much sorrow and pain and the political circles do not have the right to commit acts of injustice, thus intensifying the plight of the people. Egypt could serve itself through the efforts of its people rather than the foreign economic and financial aid it receives, which usually has strings attached or is a basis for the violation of Egypt's sovereignty. The people of Egypt need wise leaders that consider all matters and think before speaking and repeatedly look under their feet before taking any step. They must fear God in their dealings with the Egyptian people as they already have enough on their plates.

Translated from Al-Jazeera, 22 April 2015.

]]> (Abdel Sattar Qassem) Africa Thu, 23 Apr 2015 15:34:21 +0000
Leaked emails reveal Hollywood execs at work for Israel Hollywood SignTop Hollywood bosses enjoy a strong relationship with the Israeli government and various pro-Israel lobbying groups across the United States, according to a cache of Sony internal emails leaked to Wikileaks and published for the first time last week.

The emails reveal a dinner between Sony executives and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the presenter of American X-Factor chiding actress Natalie Portman aggressively for her views on Israel; meetings between top entertainment chiefs and the Israeli consulate-general; close ties between Sony's Co-Chairperson and various pro-Israel lobbying groups; and film chiefs planning, in detail, a new documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, about which the emails also reflect rising concern.

Amy Pascal, Co-Chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment from 2006 until 2015, was signed up to regular email updates on the security situation in Israel, from a right-wing pressure group called The Israel Project. The group was described by Jewish Daily Forward in 2010 as a Zionist group which, "Stokes Fear of Islam for Political Profit." The Israel Project has been admonished by the more liberal pro-Israel lobby group J-Street for taking a pro-settler stance. The daily emails sent to Pascal by The Israel Project had subject lines like "Protect Israel from a Nuclear Iran", "Fighting Anti-Israel Hate" and "Hamas Agrees to Ceasefire then Breaks It, Again". Most of the emails, which were being sent as often as once a day, contained requests for financial donations.

Pascal also received an email from the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Semitism watchdog with close links to the Israeli government, thanking her personally for being amongst eighteen entertainment executives whose names were displayed prominently in an ADL advert in Variety, The Jewish Journal, and The Hollywood Reporter. The advert quoted Golda Meir from 1957: "We can forgive them [the Palestinians] for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with them when they love their children more than they hate us." The quote was prefaced with additional commentary from ADL: "As talk turns to the future of Gaza, these haunting words of Golda Meir are as current as today's headlines. She could have been talking about Hamas."

Another leaked email exchange shows Pascal, who has since left Sony, being invited to "an intimate salon style discussion" at a J-Street supporter's home, in August 2014. The email emphasised that a special guest would be in attendance, J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. Pascal declined the invitation as she was on holiday in Vietnam, but responded, "I'm in for next steps and want to know how to get myself educated [sic]." J-Street bills itself as a "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace" organisation and is regarded as the liberal element of the US pro-Israel lobby.

Another email that Pascal received and responded to shows an organisation called Creative Community for Peace, "a group of influential music execs... which battles the BDS movement... which tries to stop artists performing in Israel" reminding Pascal that they had taken her and her husband on a trip to Israel back in 2007.

"At that time," wrote David Lonner, a top Hollywood executive and Advisory Board Member for CCP, "the war with Hezbollah had just ended and our community had exhibited a great deal of apathy and some ignorance on what Israel was up against." Lonner added: "My hope in the end, was that if there was another crisis, we would not be silent. 7 years have passed since our trip and tragically we are in another crisis with Hamas."

Lonner than claimed that CCP worked with Rihanna, Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys when international pressure nearly prevented them from playing concerts in Israel. The email asked for Pascal's and her husband's signatures on another appeal, this time to "support Israel" during the Toronto Film Festival. Pascal replied to the email, "Count on both us." [sic]

Pascal and her husband Bernard Weintraub also received a personal invitation to attend a private event in September last year with the Israeli Consul-General, according to another email in the leaked archive. Held at the home of media lawyer and marketing tycoon Michael Kassan, the event was billed as "A Special Briefing on the Situation in Israel by David Siegel, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and Jay Sanderson, President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles." The evening included "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres," and guests were advised to wear "Business Casual Attire."

Another top Sony executive, Michael Lynton, was also emailed by Israeli intelligence operative and veteran film producer Arnon Milchan, arranging for him to have an "intimate dinner" with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The dinner was later held at Milchan's private home in Malibu.

One of the most extraordinary exchanges in the leaked emails came as Hollywood executives discussed Ken Loach's call for "a complete cultural boycott of Israel". "Enough with this pathetic limousine liberals ignorant bs," responded Ben Silverman, Executive Producer of hit shows like The Office, Ugly Betty and The Tudors.

Silverman then claimed that Gazans watching Loach's films will "be lined up and shot in the street for doing so." He asserted that anyone

"with a wife, daughter, mother or sister knows the evil anti woman rhetoric of the sharia Islamists and it is time to draw attention to the fact that you can have a voice and a choice in our democracies and you can have nothing but hate in their monarchies and dictatorships who thrive on censorship that would never allow their works to be shown. Let's go gents. We can't lie down. We must stand up."

Hollywood star Natalie Portman is copied on the email. She complained that she doesn't want her personal email address shared with a group of people she doesn't know. Ryan Kavanaugh, a well-known producer, reported billionaire and Variety magazine's 2011 "Showman of the Year," then reproached her sarcastically.

"Sorry. You are right jews being slaughtered for their beliefs and cannes members calling for the boycott of anything Israel or Jewish is much much less important than your email address being shared with 20 of our peers who are trying to make a difference. my deepest apologies.

I know that you don't care so I'll leave it alone, but I had lunch yesterday with Israel consulate general who brought J street up to me. He was so perplexed confused and concerned when he heard you supported them that he begged me to connect you two. I told him how you felt, you didn't want to hear from or speak to anyone who disagrees with your position. Three times he said "buts she's Jewish and smart."

Just thought you should know"

In another round-robin email, Hollywood executives discussed making a documentary about the recent resurgence in anti-Semitism. The well-respected independent film producer and agent Cassian Elwes suggested,

"How about we all club together and make a documentary about the rise of new anti-Semitism in Europe I would be willing to contribute and put time into it if others here would do the same. Between all of us I'm sure we could figure out a way to distribute it and get it into places like Cannes so we could have a response to guys like Loach. Perhaps we try to use it to rally support from film communities in Europe to help us distribute it there."

Copied in on the email are dozens of Hollywood names, including Natalie Portman and fellow actress Scarlett Johansson, executives at Lionsgate Productions, MGM and Fox, X-Factor presenter and producer of "Keeping up with the Kardashians" Ryan Seacrest, and several high profile actors' agents. One unidentified executive called the proposed documentary "A brilliant idea." Also copied is Amy Pascal of Sony, who writes "Me too," in response.

Jason Binn, the owner of luxury shopping website Gilt, then offered to promote the film to its nine million members and the three million readers of his luxury magazine DuJour.

Glenn Feig, owner of the entertainment law firm Reder and Feig, offered pro bono legal services for the planned documentary, before copying in his client Ram Bergman, producer of the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII and Star Wars Episode IX, and the thriller Looper, which starred A-Listers Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Also copied in on the email discussion about the upcoming film is Elliot Brandt, who was named in September 2014 as National Managing Director for the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying and political financing organisation. The emails reveal anxiety amongst the predominantly Jewish film executives regarding the rise of anti-Semitism.

One round-robin email, sent out by Bart Rosenblatt of Code Entertainment, is entitled "Too close to home." It details a hate crime at Emory University in October 2014 in which swastikas were scrawled onto a Jewish fraternity house. Executives also emailed each other articles from The Guardian newspaper saying that anti-Semitism "was at its worse since the Nazis", and an article claiming that Germany is now a no-go area for Jews.

Producer Ryan Kavanaugh wrote

"We can continue to be silent and pretend this isn't happening because it is not in our country yet. We can ignore the anti-Semitism akin to pre ww2 Germany... now lining the streets of London, France, Germany and around the world. We all may think we're protected here in the free US. We are not. It had now hit our doorstep and yet we remain silent?"

Another producer, Ron Rotholz, argued that

"many lines are being crossed ... it's a new reality for us. The tacit and subtle recognition of Hamas as a legitimate government with legitimate policies and a legitimate charter, by Western governments is a hate crime on a global scale"

Rotholz also called out the UK's National Union of Students:

"In the UK as you well know there has been a shocking rise in anti-Israel and anti-Semitism on university campuses here, both in terms of faculty and students and student orgs such as the potent and powerful NUS ( Natl Union of Students which holds great weight within the natl. Labour Party ).

The NUS has a long history of anti-Israel leadership and policy and their rhetoric and policies have become much more aggressive in the last year or so ... The intimidation of Jewish students, and those who support Israel in UK universities both by administrators, faculty and students is widespread, commonplace and alarming ... it's a dire situation and quite shocking in a nation which prides itself on tolerance and civility."

Those working on the anti-Semitism documentary also discussed who should present the film. One producer said that the project would need "a really good director who on the face of it doesn't seem completely biased, so that we can show something that gets the message across without making it seem like propaganda."

Organisers also planned to lean heavily on European institutions to make the film, anticipating good support. One executive wrote,

"I think we will get full cooperation from the impt media in europe, the eu, the current conservative govt. in the uk, the current govt in france, angela merkel in germany, many academics ( def at Oxford, Cambridge, LSE ) and of course, major jewish orgs in the uk france germany and in most eu countries ... This documentary is an essential tool for spreading our message."

Please follow on Twitter @AlastairSloan for more updates.

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Inquiry Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:33:48 +0000
US drone strikes have traumatised a generation of Yemenis and will push them towards militancy US Drone

A year ago today, Hussein Ahmed Saleh Abu Bakr, a labourer, was travelling to work in Al-Bayda, central Yemen, with 11 colleagues including family members when a drone struck the car. When the attack was over, Hussein emerged from where he had taken cover to look for the other passengers and found his father, 65, slumped in the road with shrapnel injuries to his head and chest. The bodies of the other passengers were scattered around the area, with some injuries so severe, Hussein was only able to identify them from their clothing. Four of the passengers were killed: Sanad Nasser Hussein Al-Khushm, Abdullah Nasser Abu Bakr Al-Khushm, Yasser Ali Abed Rabbo Al-Azzani and Ahmed Saleh Abu Bakr.

"Why? Why did they kill my son Sanad and my cousin Ahmed Saleh Abu Bakr? My son and my cousin did not belong to any organisation," said Hussein Nasser Abu Bakr Al-Khushm to researchers of a report released by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The attack was part of the US's targeted killing programme, a tactic which was employed in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and is a core part of "counterterrorism" efforts in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a BBC forum in 2013: "The only people that we fire a drone at [sic] are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level after a great deal of vetting that takes a long period of time. We don't just fire a drone at somebody and think they're a terrorist." However, the report entitled "Death by Drone: Civilian harm caused by US targeted killings in Yemen", found no evidence that the passengers in the car were linked to any terrorist organisation. It seems that they were "collateral damage" in a targeted attack on the car driving in front of them.

Collateral damage in US drone attacks have claimed many innocent lives. For example, in Yemen, strikes targeting 17 named men killed 273 people, at least seven of them children, according to the Guardian. These attacks have explicit support from the Yemeni government and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who took over power following former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year reign ended amid widespread protests during the Arab Spring, praised US drone strikes in Yemen and stated that he personally approved every drone strike taking place in the country.

These attacks have stayed largely out of mainstream news, except in December 2013 when a drone attack hit the wedding procession of Abdullah Mabkhut Al-Amri and Warda Al-Sorimi killing 12 of the guests. The Yemeni government gave the families $101,000 and 101 rifles in compensation. The US did not publically launch an investigation or provide compensation. Although the wedding attack led to Yemen's Parliament passing an almost unanimous but nonbinding resolution to prohibit the US from continuing drone strikes.

A lack of justice is however typical in such cases. Jen Gibson, an attorney at Reprieve who represents drone victims said: "For many innocent people in places like Yemen and Pakistan, drones are judge, jury and executioner all in one." She added: "The true extent of the US drone programme is shrouded in secrecy, and when the families of the victims seek redress for the terrible injustice of losing their loved ones – often women and children – there is zero accountability."

According to Reprieve, the US has used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – all countries against whom it has not declared war.

Contrary to the claims by Yemen and the US that the strikes help contain Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAB) activities, clinical and forensic psychiatrist Peter Schaapveld expressed fear in an interview to Channel 4 that the drones were pushing the youth into the hands of militant organisations. After conducting research in Yemen, he warned of a "psychological emergency" in towns impacted by drones, with 99 per cent of Yemenis he spoke to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He described the children he assessed as "hollowed-out shells of children" who are being "traumatised and re-traumatised"

He said: "Another young man, 17 years of age, he said prior to this, prior to the strikes: 'I was very interested in the western culture. Me and my friends followed western fashion, listened to western music and watched western films. Now we have no interest in the west because of what has been done to us.'" Entesar Al Qadhi, a prominent activist from Mareb, an area of Yemen devastated by drone strikes, said to the audience of a drone summit in 2013: "Until the United States interfered, we did not even know what Al Qaeda was."

This concern has been echoed by the likes of General James E. Cartwright (Ret.), former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former adviser to President Obama, who said: "We're seeing that blowback...If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted." General Stanley McChrystal (Ret.), who led coalition forces in Afghanistan and was the head of the US Joint Special Operations Command, recognised the drones were creating "a tremendous amount of resentment inside populations."

The Open Society Justice Initiative report, a collaborative piece of research conducted with Yemeni group Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, questions whether drone attacks in Yemen are in line with the US's own policy guidance and with international law. Similar questioning led President Obama to outline in May 2013 the steps his administration takes before launching a targeted killing. According to Obama, the US must have a "near-certainty" that a target is present who poses a "continuing and imminent threat to the American people," that capture is not feasible, and that no civilians will be harmed.

The death of Hussein Nasser Abu Bakr Al-Khushm's son and cousin, the targeting of Mabkhut Al-Amri's and Warda Al-Sorimi's wedding procession and the endless other cases of "collateral damage" seem to indicate that these steps are not closely followed.

Today, Yemeni's have swapped the constant buzz of drones for the sound of airstrikes, as a Saudi-led coalition is bombing Yemen for the 23rd consecutive day in an attempt to tackle Houthi rebels. As the country descends into further chaos and armed groups continue to thrive off of the power vacuum in Yemen, we should not underestimate how the constant buzz in the air in villages across Yemen serves as a catalyst pushing young men towards militancy.

]]> (Jessica Purkiss) Americas Mon, 20 Apr 2015 09:55:09 +0000
Peace should be enforced before negotiated: It's time for a paradigm shift in EU policies towards the Israel-Palestine conflict Dr Dimitris BourisOver the past few decades, the European Union has been instrumental in setting up the parameters upon which the so-called Middle East Peace Process was funded and in "feeding" the international community with ideas on what would constitute a fair solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.1

Dr Dimitris Bouris is a Research Fellow at the European Neighbourhood Policy Chair, at the College of Europe (Natolin). He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick and is the author of The European Union and Occupied Palestinian Territories: State-building without a State (Routledge, 2014) for which he was selected as Routledge Politics and International Relations author of the month for February 2014. Dimitris is currently co-editing (with Tobias Schumacher) a book on the Revised European Neighbourhood Policy which will be published by Palgrave in 2015.

He has written scholarly articles in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Mediterranean Politics, European Security, The Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, the Journal of Contemporary European Research and Political Perspectives. Dimitris has also written short articles and op-eds for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (with Nathan Brown), EU Observer, Gulf News, European Voice and Open Democracy. His research focuses on the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Arab Spring, the European Union's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as on the broader domains of peacebuilding, state-building, security sector reform and conflict resolution.

Dr Dimitris BourisOver the past few decades, the European Union has been instrumental in setting up the parameters upon which the so-called Middle East Peace Process was funded and in "feeding" the international community with ideas on what would constitute a fair solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.1

For all this time, the EU approach has been that a Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations with Israel. Different formulas have been tried based on the logic that if Palestinians embarked on a state- and institution-building exercise, this would eventually go hand-in-hand with positive developments on the political front and the eventual establishment and recognition of the state of Palestine.

This was the logic behind the 1993 Oslo Accords and when it became clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state was not looming on the horizon, the EU, with the Berlin Declaration, reaffirmed its commitment to "the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination including the option of a state". The declaration also expressed the EU's readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State "in due course". The reason behind this declaration was to prevent Yasser Arafat from declaring the state of Palestine unilaterally and thus "jeopardising" the negotiations paradigm.

Following the eruption of the second intifada in 2000 the effort to keep the negotiations paradigm alive was continued with the Roadmap, which required "a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement". The confidence-building logic of the Roadmap, which was based on three phases and envisioned parallel steps to be taken by the Israelis and the Palestinians, did not bring about a Palestinian state by the end of 2005 as originally envisaged.

Following Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, the "West Bank first" strategy was adopted with the hope that negotiations would again lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Instead, not only did a Palestinian state not come into being but Gaza was also subject to a devastating war by Israel.

The international community in general and the EU in particular did not want to see the death of the negotiation paradigm; instead of burying it, though, they decided to put it on a life support mechanism. The help came from the Palestinian leadership (legitimised by the "West Bank first" strategy) and former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who presented a plan entitled, "Ending the Occupation, Establishing the state". The logic of the plan was similar to that of the Oslo Accords; within a two-year period, the Palestinians would build their institutions and improve the security situation (mainly for Israel rather than for the Palestinians) which would lead to the recognition of a Palestinian state. Billions of euros were disbursed by the international community and the EU to support Fayyad's plan which served as an invaluable bottom-up approach, the progress of which did not go hand-in-hand with top-down negotiations.

The failure of the "proximity talks" orchestrated by the Obama administration and Senator George Mitchell, together with the threat that the Palestinian leadership would be submitting an application to the UN Security Council for recognition of the state of Palestine, prompted the EU, in May 2011, to declare its readiness to recognise a Palestinian State "when appropriate". The declaration was once more an effort to "keep the parties talking" and prevent unilateral moves by the Palestinians; it did not, however, clarify the basis on which the "appropriateness" would be decided. While the Palestinians achieved in the end something less than full recognition through their UN upgrade to "non-member observer state", the parties continued "talking" under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry even while Israel was inviting tenders for building more than 700 housing units in occupied Jerusalem's Gilo neighbourhood. According to a Peace Now report, investment in such illegal settlements grew by at least 38 per cent between 2009 and 2011 while invitations to bid for building contracts in the settlements had tripled since 2013 on average compared to the 2009-2013 period of Netanyahu's previous administration.

The negotiations path that the international community has led for decades now appears to be blocked, if not altogether dead. The negotiation paradigm has taken different forms across the decades and has failed repeatedly. Netanyahu's recent re-election following his comments that there will be no Palestinian state while he is prime minister makes it more than urgent for the EU to rethink its policies and attitudes towards the Israel-Palestine conflict in a manner that will enable a fresh approach. What was left from the negotiation and peace process is now finished and a fresh process should be put into full swing. In other words, using the lexicon of the conflict to-date, the EU should start creating facts on the ground.

One way to do this is by legitimising the state of Israel whilst de-legitimising the occupation. Since July 2013, the EU has put in place the so-called "Guidelines" which prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships to Israeli entities that have been established beyond the 1967 borders. This means that EU financial assistance will no longer go to Israeli entities based in the occupied Palestinian territories. Although the "Guidelines" have a very limited impact on the Israeli economy they have symbolic, normative and practical reverberations which cannot be ignored, which is why Israel's response to their publication has been frenzied.

Another way to legitimise the state of Israel and de-legitimise the occupation is the stepping up of efforts to address another key territorial issue, which is the labelling of products originating in Israeli settlements. The effort was led by the former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, after EU member states such as Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom had already issued similar guidelines to their citizens. While the new labelling regulations were supposed to be enacted by the end of 2013 the process has been frozen, although during her first days in office Ashton's successor, Federica Mogherini, hinted that the EU might use financial "incentives and disincentives" to address the realities on the ground.

Finally, the waves of Palestinian state recognition by governments and parliaments within the EU should swell. In October 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise the state of Palestine. In the months that followed, the British, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Danish and Belgian parliaments, as well as the EU parliament, all voted in favour of motions to give the state recognition. While such motions are largely symbolic it should not be overlooked that, as David Horovitz has put it, when it comes to the UN arena the EU is seen as the barometer of international legitimacy. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's recent statement that if Netanyahu rules out a Palestinian state and expands West Bank settlements, "the world, including the British parliament, would have no option, but to recognise a Palestinian state", should be followed by concrete actions and not remain empty rhetoric.

The Israeli general election results look likely to produce a right-wing government in Israel under a prime minister who has done everything possible to destroy any chance of a two-state solution (and who has been committed to building settlements as if there is no tomorrow); a government which will probably include members such as Avigdor Lieberman, who recently proposed the beheading of Arabs who are not loyal to Israel. A change of approach is needed urgently and desperately. While European action might not have much effect in the short-term, the EU's real ability to play a catalytic role in agenda-setting in the long-term and feed the international community with ideas should not be underestimated. What remains to be seen is whether the EU will manage to live up to expectations.


[1] Bouris, D. (2014) The EU and Occupied Palestinian Territories: state-building without a state, Oxon: Routledge.

]]> (Dr Dimitris Bouris) Guest Writers Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:01:50 +0000
Israeli apartheid week takes US campuses by storm Dr Sarah MarusekThroughout the months of February and March, students and activists around the world are organising activities for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which aims "to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system" and to build support for the "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as part of a growing global BDS movement."

Across the US, so far at least 23 cities have formally announced IAW activities this year, with more groups adding their programmes each day. Because university calendars are not universalised, this means that activities are generally spread out across several weeks.

IAW in New York and New Jersey kicked off last week and will continue into next week. This year's programme includes demonstrations, film screenings and a number of lectures, including talks by renowned journalists Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal, as well as more creative forms of outreach and protest like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) creating a human apartheid wall at Brooklyn College, or the "BDS on Broadway: An anti-Israeli apartheid musical walking tour" organised by the New York chapter of Adalah.

Events will be held in the streets, at churches and on various college and university campuses across New York City, including John Jay College, Brooklyn College, City College, Hunter College, Columbia University, New York University and The New School.

SJP is coordinating many of the campus programmes around the country. As MEMO has previously reported, American students who speak out for justice in Palestine are often unfairly targeted by university administrations, which attempt to silence any critical engagement of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Even lawmakers seek to limit academic freedom when it comes to Israel. For example, city officials threatened to withhold funding from Brooklyn College when its SJP chapter hosted a BDS discussion featuring prominent Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti and respected critical scholar Judith Butler.

Israeli apartheid week takes US campuses by storm - Human Apartheid wallCarlos Guzman, a student activist who has been involved in organising IAW activities in New York City for several years and who is also helping to coordinate the national campaign this year, told MEMO that last year the students at Brooklyn College created a wooden apartheid wall for IAW; however the college administration has since introduced new guidelines that explicitly forbid student groups from using wood or plexiglass to make any type of structure. The students ingeniously responded by creating a human apartheid wall.

Brooklyn-based activist Naomi Allen took part in the action and reported to MEMO that: "Brooklyn College SJP brought an apartheid wall to campus, a brilliant visual aid to the Israeli occupation for students who had never seen such a thing before. While about 20 students stood holding hand-made panels with pictures and slogans about the occupation, human rights and equality, others handed out Palestinian loss of land cards and flyers explaining what the apartheid wall means to Palestinians and how it disrupts their lives, threatens their livelihoods and steals their land. Hundreds of students, passing on their way to class, stopped to look and ask questions, to take flyers and express their amazement."

Other notable IAW events that have already been organised in US cities include activists demonstrating in Washington DC outside the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, by far the most powerful arm of the Israel Lobby in the US.

Students at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York created an apartheid wall highlighting 58 Israeli laws in particular that discriminate against Palestinians in the occupied territories, the structure physically emulating the actual apartheid wall that encloses the West Bank.

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at the University of Washington in Seattle launched their own version of an apartheid wall on campus in collaboration with the Chican @ Student Movement to draw the connections between the apartheid wall in Palestine and the Mexican-American border wall. As the Electronic Intifada reported earlier this month, one of the two main contractors for Israel's apartheid wall won a multimillion dollar contract in February from the US Department of Homeland Security to provide surveillance systems along the Mexico-US border that were tested on Palestinians.

And in Cambridge, Massachusetts the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee launched a testimony campaign, posting notices on the doors of Harvard undergraduate student halls, asking questions like, "How have you experienced apartheid?" or "What does apartheid mean to you?" The university's student newspaper reported that "Black, Latino, LGBTQ, Muslim, Jewish, working class, gender minority, disabled and Palestinian students [were] asked to grapple with a problem that exists not only" in Palestine and South Africa, "but also right here at home." As Carlos Guzman noted, this was an "engaging way of connecting struggles and making people think about what apartheid means to them and how they personally experienced discrimination in some way."

For more information or to announce your event, visit the USA IAW Facebook page.

[widgetkit id=184]

]]> (Dr Sarah Marusek) Activism Thu, 06 Mar 2014 11:07:02 +0000
An anonymous source '...sadly, professionalism has been lost amid billions of banknotes which have transformed the pen...'Anyone who denies that the Egyptian media, in both its visual and written form, is suffering from a professional and moral crisis is either too stubborn and proud or deceitful and glorifies unrighteousness to promote it as the truth. This has caused the cards to be mixed up and unrighteousness is now promoted as the defence of the right of media, which is demanded by everyone. It may be repetitive to mention that the freedom of thought and speech (which has now become a deplorable term due to the fact it is used by so many manipulative tongues that know nothing other than the language of lies, deceit, and incitement) is one of the foundations of democratic systems used to reveal corruption or immorality. However, all this is happening under the umbrella of law, which unfortunately is absent from Egypt. Following the glorious January revolution, Egypt has become a victim of the media funded by foreign countries that resent the revolution and are afraid that it will spread to their own counties and dethrone them. Moreover, such countries do not want to see Egypt regain its strength and glory and reclaim its historical and pioneering role in leading the Arab and Islamic nations. As such, billions of dollars are being pumped into establishing newspapers and opening television stations at a time when several factories and companies have been closed down and thousands of workers let go.


The media invasion in Egypt has also brought in new rules and creative media methods that utilise unsporting, criminal and internationally illegal weapons that violate media laws and norms. They were also inspired by Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels' saying "Give me media with no conscience; I will give you people who are unconscious." This is the path they took and were able to achieve quick success in the beginning of the invasion after dressing Mubarak's corrupt journalists in the robes of revolution and perseverance, even after they had praised him throughout the revolution. This process of clearing reputations was just the beginning of the brainwashing of the people, easing into their main goal for which the current media invasion was launched, which is to ultimately take over the people's consciousness and form new ideas against the revolution turning it from the people's revolution into a conspiracy carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood to seize control of the country.

These ideas have emerged in foreign-funded newspapers that are rewriting the history of the revolution and using their smart bombs to hit the body and mind of the revolution and ultimately kill it. In their new version of the story, they write that those who overthrew Mubarak were not Egyptians but members of Hamas, the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, who opened the prisons, destroyed buildings and killed the supporters of the revolution. This immoral and unprofessional nonsense is a disgrace to the revolution; a waste of martyrs' blood and a disregard of the people wounded and disabled during the revolution who sacrifices greatly for the sake of a greater cause – the freedom and dignity for the Egyptian people. However, this misguided media that promotes lies and fabrications does not care about such causes and reports such falsehoods by quoting "anonymous sources". This is the new fad that has plagued the media in light of this obnoxious media invasion which has completely distanced it from professionalism. A basic rule of professionalism is to verify a story from at least two sources before even thinking about reporting it. However, sadly, professionalism has been lost amid billions of banknotes which have transformed the pen, which God Almighty swore by, into a tool for the propagation of lies and delusion and the spread of discord in the country. Under the banner of such "anonymous sources", corrupt newspapers report artificial battles between the presidency and the various state institutions; sometimes the battles are with the army, and at other times with Al-Azhar or with the police, etc. The purpose of this is to turn all parts of society against the elected President, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, who also haven't been spared from these "anonymous sources".

Media which blurs and distorts facts must be addressed by the honourable people of this admirable profession. I realise that there are positive attempts from some colleagues protective of the profession, and whose hearts are saddened by this decline and fall of their colleagues who have stained the profession as a whole. They are now trying to pick up the pieces and set things right, however how can these diligent attempts succeed when those controlling the media are the students of "Goebbels" who taught them to lie. Moreover, millions of pounds are being used to blind them and turn them into political leaders after abandoning the profession and indulging in politics only for the purpose of overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood. The irony lies in the fact that they are the ones who have fallen after the people have seen the truth of their ways and their ugly faces were shown, but the Muslim Brotherhood will not fall; (And the unbelievers schemed but God brought their scheming to nought: for God is above all schemers.)

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Wed, 22 May 2013 16:02:14 +0000
The official end to the Arab-Israeli conflict Helmi Al-AsmarThe leaders of the official Arab governments have announced, explicitly and implicitly, through words and actions, that the conflict with Israel and the Zionist project as a whole has ended. This particular issue has been removed from the mainstream regional agenda and no longer has a place in it, not even in its margins. Therefore, it is strange that Israel is still very concerned about its security in relation to the Arab threat. I could find no better or more honest expression of this concern than what was written by Haaretz newspaper, "It's a regional mix that changes at a dizzying pace. One conflict spills over to, and influences, the neighbouring confrontation. Intelligence analysts and leaders have only a minimal ability to foresee events or navigate through them;" thus showing a sense of fear and dread from something unexpectedly happening.

The vast masses of deluded Arabs used to wait for "respite" from the official Arab regimes and have always considered the perpetual phrase "the Palestinian issue is the Arabs' top issue" with a sense of hope that it would one day lead to the light at the end of the tunnel. Today, almost no one believes that any of the official Arab figures are concerned with Palestine, or its people, or the outcome of the issue. Not only this, there are also practical measures being taken on the ground to persecute all of those who think outside the "official box". The courts are waiting for all those who are interested in the resistance and who speak about it to others. In addition to this, Israel's iron dome defence system is guarded by the Arab regimes and their top national security priority has become "drying out the sources of resistance". Anyone who breaks this golden rule faces murder, imprisonment or prosecution.

Finally, Palestine has been removed from the official Arab cycle of lies, as it was never its top priority and anything ever said in this regard was false and deceptive. It was the official Arab governments that helped Israel complete its project, not to mention help establish it, both publicly and secretly. This mutant would never have completely grown without the direct and indirect help and care of the Arab officials. The only difference between now and then is that the official Arab media machine has taken off its mask of shame and is no longer concerned with hiding the Arab officials' help for Israel, once under the pretext of "peace" treaties, once under the pretext of combating the so-called "terrorism", and another time under the pretext of preserving national security. However, these are all false claims that have nothing to do with the official Arab strategy that is firmly fixed on one matter that "Israel is here to stay."

I am now looking at a representative sample of the truth behind the official Arab regimes' position on Israel, which Israeli military circles in Israel call by its true name "drying up the sources of resistance", according to a report published last Sunday by Yedioth Ahronoth quoting an Israeli military source. The military source that the drying up of not only the sources of resistance, but also the sources of dignity, are being carried out with the utmost harshness and "courage", amid almost complete silence from the Arab elites, the vast majority of whom are sleeping in the government's bedrooms. We barely hear their voices and the justification for this is the Arab national security.

The Israeli military source exposed a matter that is no longer a secret, as the Arab media machine announced it "comfortably" when it stated since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came to power via coup in Cairo, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have not been able to bring one missile into the Gaza Strip via Sinai. This "achievement" was made after the Egyptian army adopted the policy of destroying the tunnels. However, the "greatest achievement" made by the Egyptian army is the elimination of the path used for the smuggling of arms and weapons, which were smuggled from Sudan to Gaza via Sinai. This measure was not carried out arbitrarily; it was the fruit of official "understandings" between Israel and Egypt, to ensure that Hamas's military strength does not grow, according to the Israeli source. Based on these understandings, Cairo stopped allowing cement allocated for charity projects to enter Gaza through Egyptian borders in order to prevent Hamas from using the cement to build tunnels and underground fortifications. Egypt has also prevented the entry of metal pipes out of fear that Hamas will use them to manufacture missiles, as well as chemical fertilizers used for agricultural purposes out of fear that it will be used to make explosive materials. Egypt has even prevented the entry of turning machines because Israel claims that they are used to produce missiles, and this is even applied to all other machines that may provide parts to be used in the manufacture of new missiles.

It is obvious here that during this phase of national deception and treachery, the level of confidence and trust between the Egyptian and Israeli security agencies has become very high and complete. This is cited by the words of the military expert who said that the cooperation and coordination between the two sides, which aims to prevent the growing Hamas' strength, has reached an unprecedented level. This military expert did not forget to praise Egypt and its President's success in making much greater achievements than the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, in all matters relating to the efforts aimed at preventing the growing of Hamas's strength. He even went as far as accusing Mubarak of condoning the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

The issue of Palestine has practically and publicly been removed from under the umbrella of official Arab deceitful concern. It was done so in broad daylight and very clearly, and no one, neither the masses nor the elites, are expecting anything from them. Instead, they have started looking elsewhere. Perhaps, this is the source of Israel's concern Haaretz referred to.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 23 April, 2015

]]> (Helmi Al-Asmar) Middle East Sat, 25 Apr 2015 13:41:53 +0000
Palestine is a cause that should transcend party politics Ed Miliband, UK Labour Party Leader

As a Labour party supporter and member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) I may be somewhat biased in advocating a Labour vote on 7 May, but some causes should transcend party politics, and Palestine is one of them.

For those demanding a government with an ethical and just foreign policy towards the Palestinians, a Labour government is our only chance as the evidence bears out. Since Ed Miliband became the party leader in 2010 he has taken an increasingly bold position on the issue helping the party move on from the dark shadow of the Blair era, while offering a credible alternative to current Prime Minister David Cameron, who, like Blair, has consistently failed to criticise Israel at every opportunity.

On state recognition

In 2011 and 2012, the Labour party unequivocally supported calls for the recognition of a Palestinian State at the UN Security Council and General Assembly, stating that "Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised." The Tory-led government abstained at both votes saying they would support state recognition only through or after a return to negotiations between both sides, in effect offering the occupier a veto over the self-determination of the occupied.

On 13 October 2014, LFPME's Chair Grahame Morris MP put forward an historic motion to the House of Commons which called for the government to recognise "the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution." An overwhelming majority of 274 to 12 MPs voted in favour (of which 195 were Labour). Ed Miliband described the vote as "right and fair and in line with the values of the Labour party"; while David Cameron abstained and stated that government policy would not change. Only 39 Conservative MPs (12.8 per cent) voted in favour of the motion.

It was a bold move by Ed Miliband and he attracted considerable criticism for his position. Newspaper headlines quoted senior disgruntled Jewish donors and supporters who threatened to withdraw support from the Labour party over what they called Ed's "toxic anti-Israeli stance over Gaza and the state recognition vote".

According to the Independent: "A senior Labour MP warned that Miliband now had a 'huge if not insurmountable challenge' to maintain support from parts of the Jewish community that had both backed and helped fund Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's election campaigns."

Glasgow MP Anas Sarwar said after the statehood vote: "This is not a question of pro-Israel or pro-Palestine; this is a motion that is pro-justice and pro-peace." But the pro-Israel lobby has always maintained a "with us or against us" policy, attempting to stifle any justifiable criticism of Israeli policy or actions; Ed Miliband's principled and balanced approach has clearly shaken up the status quo.

But was the UK position really so radical? The UK vote was seen as an historic shift and was followed by a number of European countries, including Spain, France, Ireland and Italy as well as a European Parliament vote in December to recognise Palestinian statehood. The sands are shifting in Europe and globally too and the Labour party has shown it is prepared to lead that shift.

While there are occasional voices of reason amongst the Tories, the fact that there is no Conservative Friends of Palestine is an indication of their isolation in the party. In August 2014, the Conservative's former chair and foreign office minister Baroness Warsi resigned over her party's uncritical position during the Gaza war, describing it as "morally indefensible", acknowledging it was not in "Britain's national interest and will have a long term effect on our reputation internationally and domestically." In 2010, former Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution was closing. But these voices are few and far between while in the Labour party the issue has firmly moved from the backbenches to the front.

On illegal settlements

It is not controversial to identify the ever-expanding illegal settlements as an obstacle to a Palestinian state and nor was it for Labour's shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham when he visited Israel and Palestine in 2013. He concluded there was a "real danger that the two-state solution is dying before our eyes and we urgently need to change the terms of debate." Yet in December 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron described them as simply "unhelpful".

On Gaza

Equally uncontroversial – you would think – would be to criticise the killing of 2,100 Palestinians (not to mention the 10,224 injured and 475,000 displaced) when Israel attacked Gaza last summer, which was already suffering a humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israel's eight-year blockade. Ed Miliband spoke out against Israel's "unacceptable and unjustifiable" killing of civilians in Gaza, adding that "the life of a Palestinian child is worth no less than the life of an Israeli child".

Prime Minister David Cameron squarely laid the blame on the Palestinian side stating: "The crisis was triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities, indiscriminately targeting civilians in contravention of all humanitarian law and norms." When asked if the Israeli incursion into Gaza was a war crime, Cameron responded: "What is certainly a war crime is launching unprovoked missile attacks on the sovereign territory of another country." It seemed as if the prime minister's briefing came directly from the Israeli Ministry of Propaganda.

If the Tories are successful on 7 May, this will serve only to strengthen their appalling positions on foreign policy. LFPME Chair Grahame Morris said: "The government's decision to not support Palestinian aspirations for statehood placed Britain not only at odds with the international consensus, but on the wrong side of history."

Meanwhile, the Labour party has demonstrated its commitment to supporting international law as an honest and impartial broker for peace, working closely with our European allies. That is not to say that there isn't scope for improvement, the party remains reticent about a ban on trade and investment with illegal settlements, while growing calls from across Europe suggest things are, and will, shift in this direction.

But there are growing calls within the Labour Party to support that shift too. Following a visit to Israel and Palestine in 2014, Stephen Kinnock, the Labour candidate for Aberavon said: "It's time for a radical new approach to the negotiations, based on a peace process that is rooted in international law and aimed at ending the occupation, rather than prolonging it."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, he added: "There's a need for the international community - particularly the EU - to play a more decisive role" and, urged the UK to "work with its European partners to end trade and investment with illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory." This is the kind of Labour party I want to support and will be voting for on 7 May.

At the 2010 Labour party conference, Ed Miliband said: "No solution to the conflict of the Middle East is possible without international action, providing support where it is needed, and pressure where it is right to do so."

LPFME will press a Labour government to honour pledges made in opposition and you can support us in doing so.

Komal Adris is a Labour supporter and an Executive Committee Member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME).

]]> (Komal Adris) Europe Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:00:52 +0000
The phoney ‘enlightenment’ battles in Egypt Khalil Al-Anani

Nothing is more indicative of the intellectual vacuum and political bankruptcy in Egypt than the ruckus caused by the phoney "enlightenment" battles on the nightly television programmes. It seems that there is no longer anything to fill the gaps in daily life after the windows for free expression were closed; the fake battles are intended primarily to distract people from the reality of their problems and crises, much like adults distract children with lines like "I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with..."

From the fabrications about the "renewal of heritage" to an even more phoney argument about taking off the veil, and the censorship of books deemed by the government to "incite terrorism", the country is drowning, along with the elite, the media and state institutions, in a sea of intellectual confusion. At times, this appears to be deliberate and planned, not spontaneous. Is it a coincidence, for example, that these phoney battles erupted only a few weeks after the death of the "development and prosperity" myths promoted and promised by the current government? Is it mere telepathy amongst the "modern enlighteners" that drove the people to emerge all at once with their ideas and proposals? Was it "spontaneous" when everyone suddenly started talking about "enlightenment" and it became the common denominator between all television programmes on the various media outlets acting as mouthpieces for the government? With every fading "enlightenment" issue, a new one emerges, as if the country has reached a level of economic luxury and free expression, allowing people to talk about and discuss matters that may be tricky, but are definitely not a priority.

It is funny how none of the "enlighteners" or the media outlets covering their discussions and "debates" can utter a single word about the deteriorating political situation in Egypt, or to comment on the systematic repression and human rights violations; the brutality of the security forces against civilians; the corruption that has flooded state institutions; the poverty that has struck the country from north to south; or the inflated prices and the lifting of subsidies for the poor, who deserve them most. None dare call for an end to the arbitrary executions of anyone opposed to the government, nor can they stand in solidarity with the dozens of prisoners who have been on hunger strike for months. These "enlighteners" can't demand fair trials for the government's political opponents or condemn the ongoing torture and murder of innocent citizens in detention. The enlighteners are "custom-built" and act according to the mood of the general controlling their actions and their minds. He guides their thoughts, forms their consciousness and directs their moral compass.

The phoney enlightenment battles reflect what Egypt, its culture, intellectuals and thinkers have become. One hundred years ago, Egypt fought true enlightenment battles, most of which occurred between great intellectuals and literati, such as Taha Hussein and Abbas El-Akkad, El-Akkad and Mostafa Al-Raf'i, and Al-Raf'i and Ahmed Shawqi. These were serious intellectual and literary battles in a big country that was aware of its cultural and civilisational role. However, nowadays, our intellectual battles are shrunken, not only because of the trivial nature of the issues and their distance from priority matters, but also because of the shallowness and superficiality of those engaged in them.

It is true that Egypt has many intellectual and cultural problems, but they are all symptoms of a serious illness called "tyranny". This is what the "modern enlighteners" fail to say. All of the genuine and original enlightenment experiences emerged for the purpose of freedom. No country has been able to achieve a genuinely effective enlightenment without true freedom. Freedom was a basic requirement for the European Enlightenment, with a deep desire to break away from absolute monarchy and weaken the power of religion.

Europe succeeded in its Enlightenment because it was able to liberate minds from the domination of the state and the church. Intellectuals could focus on fundamental issues such as restoring the relationship between the ruler and the ruled, and the state and society. The goal was to limit state control for the benefit of the individual and put authority under the supervision of the people by establishing institutions that hold rulers accountable for their actions, giving ordinary people the opportunity to change their government. European intellectuals fought brutal battles with the representatives of the state and the church, but triumphed because the time did not favour the institutions of repression and tyranny, and history sided with the individual citizen, who is actually the base and source of political power.

Egypt's "modern enlighteners" do not realise that they cannot produce an Enlightenment in a country ruled by a general, nor can they renew the "religious heritage" at a time when the religious scholars and institutions have no true independence from the authoritarian state. They do not know that "culture" and thought will not evolve and grow in a country where a quarter of the population are illiterate; or that a society where half of the people live below the poverty line and lack basic services, cannot rise up.

They do not realise that true enlightenment begins with liberating the individual, keeping the rulers in check, and holding the authority accountable. Anything other than this is just "useless noise"; in other words, a "false enlightenment".

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 21 April, 2015.

]]> (Khalil Al-Anani) Africa Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:38:49 +0000
Britain's deep state breaks cover at Southampton University Asa Winstanley

Since 2011's wave of protests and uprisings in the Arab world, we have heard a fair amount about something often titled the "deep state". This term is applied in different contexts but it seems most relevant in Egypt.

When, in 2011, a people's uprising managed to overthrow dictator Hosni Mubarak, it was not long before the deep state reasserted control. What is meant by this phrase?

Interpretations vary, and the context is different from country to country, but we can make some general observations. The deep state consists of those enduring, authoritarian and secretive institutions that pull the strings of power behind the scenes. While figureheads like Mubarak are ostensibly in charge, the deep state often manages to survive - or even thrive - after political leaders change or are deposed.

This is very much what happened in Egypt. Although Egypt's first elected president Muhammad Morsi made some, very tenuous, attempts to weaken the deep state, he mostly worked with the generals, who still held considerable sway. He, of course, was overthrown by that same military in July 2013's coup.

Between February 2011 and Morsi's overthrow the deep state (although challenged at times such as when protesters broke into a mukarbarat base and liberated many of its documents) was never uprooted. It managed to consolidate its power, ultimately leading to the coup.

The military. The intelligence services. The police. Those were some of the aspects of the deep state in Egypt. And – although the context is different in many ways – the same can be said of Britain's deep state.

There are powerful institutions in this country that work behind the scenes in a highly undemocratic manner, especially the spy agencies like MI5 and MI6. We often know very little about how they operate, and that's why it's so fascinating when we get a fleeting glimpse of them, peering over the parapets.

This week, organisers of a conference about Israel at Southampton University went to the High Court to challenge a university decision to cancel their event. I was in court, and reported the day's events for The Electronic Intifada. The organisers failed. The judge, in rather Orwellian language, ruled that the applicants could exercise their academic freedom "elsewhere".

But listening to the barristers from both sides argue their case, some intriguing information came to light.

The barristers for the conference's organisers (the applicants) objected to the fact that the university (the defence) had raised the existence of two police documents as relevant to their decision to cancel the conference (or "postpone" the conference, as the defence barrister rather laughably argued) – but had only disclosed one of them.

The first police document was an event assessment by Hampshire police, which looked at intelligence on expected protests by pro-Israel groups (including the English Defence League) against the conference. This was disclosed to the organisers, and it formed part of their case against the cancellation, since the document stated that the police would be able to to adequately police the event.

The existence of the second document, the applicants' barrister argued, had only been raised by the defence the night before Tuesday's High Court hearing. The defence claimed it had been shown to organisers, and in any event was not relevant to the judge's decision. The applicants denied both of these claims, and asked the judge to order the release of the document. She refused.

But after the lunch break, the defence barrister did define the nature of the document: it was from the Metropolitan Police, and they had disallowed any disclosure. It was a weekly round-up of intelligence from the National Domestic Extremism Unit. The defence barrister claimed it was irrelevant to the decision the judge had to make that day, and she seemed to buy that excuse totally.

One wonders, then, why the university raised the document's existence in the first place.

As the Undercover Research Group argued in a new article Thursday, the National Domestic Extremism Unit is in fact a front for Special Branch, Britain's "anti-terror" political police force.

Special Branch is supposed to protect the country from the threat of a broadly-defined "extremism" (usually a racist dog-whistle word for Islam) and from the threat of terrorist outrages. But in fact it has a long history of politicised and reactionary policing, often targeting left wing protest groups and peaceful Muslims associations for subversion, infiltration and sabotage, even allegedly acting as an agent provocateur in some cases.

And indeed, there were more direct references to Special Branch during the trial.

It was said in court that the university's head of security Gary Jackson held at least one meeting with Special Branch in which the alarming possibility of "armed response units" on campus was raised.

This was due to a possible "terror threat" that was said to be to those Jews who would be protesting against the event (alongside the EDL). Funnily enough, no one seem concerned about the safety of those Jews participating in the conference (of which there were due to be many, before it was indefinitely postponed).

All this talk of phantasmal "terror threats" and armed response units was in stark contrast to the local police force's assessment that the risk of protest seemed perfectly manageable.

No. What this was in reality, was the long arm of Britain's deep state setting out to enforce its own line on the bounds of acceptable political thought. This seems to have been very much in line with the political establishment -- Conservative minister Eric Pickles also spoke out and called for the conference to be cancelled.

For any real, long term political change in this country, our own deep state will have to be challenged too.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:15:48 +0000
American silence is a strategy to dismantle and reorganise the Arab region US president Barack Obama

Many observers have described US President Barack Obama as a hesitant individual who does not have a clear vision or strategy for dealing with the recurrent crises in the Middle East. They also say that after the withdrawal of the US military from Iraq and Afghanistan, his priorities are now focused on developing the economy and raising the level of domestic social and health services.

This position has its supporters, and it is relevant in light of the US's military withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq; as well as the US administration's refusal to directly intervene militarily in a number of Middle Eastern crises, such as Iraq, Syria and, recently, Yemen. In all these cases, the US has only provided humanitarian relief, logistical support to a friend or an ally, or has intervened through the use of aircraft to conduct specific military interventions in the context of combatting terrorism and extremism.

The three strategic interests

Disregarding all conspiracy theories, and without holding the US administration responsible for what has happened in the region, we must take a careful look at US policy towards the devastating Middle East crises. It is a well-known fact that the US administration has strategic interests in the Arab region and is willing to intervene with all its force in order to protect these interests; this is an indisputable concept in international politics. Such interests include:

  1. Preserving Israel's security.
  2. Securing energy sources.
  3. Securing the arms market.
  4. Ensuring the consumption of American goods in the Middle East.

These interests have been somewhat guaranteed over the past century, and Washington has been able to address any threat it faces with politics or military force, especially in the Gulf region – the latest of which was the US war on Iraq (or rather, on Saddam Hussein). Since then, American interests have not been exposed to any real threats, other than the straw man of "terrorism".

This path continued until the wave of Arab revolutions in 2011, which I believe came as a surprise to Washington, as well as to many Arab countries. The Arab Spring represented a sharp turn in the region due to the ousting of a number of Washington's allies, such as President Zine El Abidine and President Hosni Mubarak (described as Israel's "strategic treasure"). This sounded alarm bells in the White House out of fear that these changes would affect American interests as a result of local instability and US "uncertainty" regarding the region's future. There were a number of concerns aired at the time regarding the nature and form of the alternatives that might replace those Arab regimes allied with Washington. The American administration's concerns were intensified with the emergence of Islamist rule, especially in Egypt, one of the largest and most powerful countries in the Arab world. The rise to power of Muslim Brotherhood raised concerns over the future of the Camp David Accords and revolutionised Egypt's relationship with Israel and its security, as well as the potential of a knock-on effect in the Gulf states, which represent the US's strategic oil and natural gas stores in the region.

While facing these concerns and uncertainties, both the American administration and the governments of a number of Arab countries were invested in containing the wave of revolutionary change. However, the US administration, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, had greater goals beyond mere containment of the protests, as it realised that the Arab revolutions were the symptom of a number of complex issues rising from the depths of the collective (young) Arab consciousness. On the whole, revolutions are motivated by tyranny, injustice, and poverty and their goals are freedom, change and democracy – which may be brought about by the enemies of Washington and Tel Aviv enemies. Therefore, the process of replacing one leader with another may not convince the Arab peoples of deep change.

Unconventional measures are required

In addition to this, Washington is aware of the fact that its direct intervention is not generally welcomed by the Arab public because of their negative view of the American role in sponsoring Israel's security and its friendliness with the dictatorships that oppressed the Arab people – and which they consider the reason for their suffering on a social, economic, and political level. Washington is also aware of the financial and human costs it will have to pay for its direct intervention in the region, especially after its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Therefore, Washington and President Obama decided to assume the position of "strategic silence", which replaces direct American intervention with tacit and explicit support and by pitting Muslim and Arab parties against one another and against their own people. While these conflicting parties (both governments and groups) are working to achieve what they believe to be national and regional interests, in truth, they are achieving the American plan of unconventional strategic goals that are not revealed to the public. These goals were formulated to invest and exploit the events in the Arab region to the largest extent. Such goals include:

  • "Massaging" the collective consciousness of the Arab public by means of promoting violence and instability that causes Arab citizens to regret thinking of freedom and change and drives them to miss the regimes allied with Washington, which were overthrown by the revolution. This is accomplished by igniting sectarian and doctrinal wars, which are considered the most complex and violent wars in history.
  • Exhausting the region's major countries by means of internal and regional conflict, both militarily and economically, by prolonging such conflicts and fuelling them for many years. The events in Syria are a clear example of Washington's policy aiming to prolong the conflict by preventing both the regime and the opposition – and its supporters such as Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia – from resolving the battle. This policy seeks to have no winners or losers; to destroy the country, and thus destroy the Syrian people's spirit.
  • Exploiting the heavyweights in the Arab countries and stripping them of their unconventional weapons that may one day pose a true strategic threat to Israel's security. This was witnessed when Washington mobilised its fleets in the Mediterranean Sea to bomb Damascus in response to the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Gota. However, when the Syrian regime agreed to the Russian initiative to destroy its chemical weapons, Washington backed down from striking Syria and the scenario of internal conflict continued until over half of the Syrian people became refugees. This also applies to Iran's nuclear weapons. Iran is keen on sanctions being lifted because of the economic exhaustion it has suffered from its direct intervention and support for its allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, so the United States, led by Barack Obama, took advantage of Tehran's crippling economic situation to push it to make serious concessions regarding its nuclear programme in the context of the recent "Lausanne Agreement".
  • Demolishing the nation-states that emerged after World War II through ethnic conflicts (such as the Kurds), religious conflicts (Muslims, Christians, Druze, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, etc.), and sectarian conflicts (Shia and Sunni), and promoting the desire to divide the region into small fragments mostly devoid of sovereignty and self-advancement as a result of the destruction of their infrastructure and economy and the spread of poverty and ignorance. This is likely to occur in large countries such Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and may even spread to countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. If this occurs, the Arab region will lack a central country capable to attract Arab people to form a real renaissance.
  • The prolongation of the conflict, fighting and destruction means that the American economic wheel will continue to turn, as the military industries will be needed by the conflicting parties, and, in the long run, the entities emerging from the destruction of its cities will be in dire need of reconstruction. This will open the market for American and European companies to intervene and offer their services – at a price, of course.

Dismantlement and reorganisation as a condition for the success of the scenario

The US strategic goals mentioned above have partly been achieved by means of President Obama's "strategic silence". The most dangerous part may be achieved in the future, and this is the dismantlement of the entire region and its nation-states and reorganising them on ethnic, sectarian, and doctrinal basis in a manner serving America's three strategic interests (Israel's security, energy sources, and the Middle Eastern consumer market).

The condition for the success of the dismantlement and reorganisation of the region is to involve the largest Middle Eastern countries, which are still somewhat intact, in devastating conflicts – such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. This is what Washington is seeking to do by exploiting Iran's desire for expansion through giving it opportunities to spread its control, which in turn provokes Arab countries and Turkey against it. This scenario is progressing through the Houthi coup in Yemen, which is supported by Iran, and which brought about a Saudi response ("Operation Storm of Resolve") in order to protect itself from the perceived Shiite Iranian threat on its southern borders.

The weak American position towards the Houthi coup in Yemen a few months ago can be explained by Washington's desire to reassure Iran and push it to make more progress in the Yemeni issue. At the time, the White House expressed its concern regarding the development of events in Yemen, and stressed continued coordination with the Houthis to strike Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Obama's administration only provided limited support to Operation Storm of Resolve in order to encourage Saudi Arabia to take serious measures in confronting Iran in order to let Iran and Saudi Arabia fight it out and generate responses from other countries in the region.

In the same context, the Lausanne Agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear programme was reached during the heated battled in Yemen. This agreement was personally pushed for by President Obama despite the fact that it angered its ally Israel in order to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear bombs and give it hope that the sanctions against it will be lifted in order to encourage Iran to continue its expansionist project.

Hence, it is likely that the Arab region will witness more complications and conflicts due to the expansion of the confrontations in Yemen into a ground war, the results of which are difficult to predict. Just like Iran can disturb Saudi Arabia's internal situation by inciting the Shiites in the South and East, Saudi Arabia also has the ability to disturb Iran's internal situation by inciting the Sunni Arabs in Ahvaz in southwest Iran and the Sunni Baloch tribes that spread from east Iran to Pakistan, which is an ally of Riyadh. In addition to this, either side can directly interfere in the Syrian crisis.

I believe that President Barack Obama is highly capable of managing his foreign policy calmly and with political astuteness, and this is what has allowed him to push Iran to achieve its wild expansionist desires and get involved in Iran, Syria, and Iraq. He is completely aware that this would provoke angry responses from neighbouring Arab countries and would open the door to sectarian and doctrinal conflicts in the region.

I will conclude by quoting an interview conducted with Barack Obama by Thomas Friedman on 4 April, 2015, and published in the New York Times. In the interview, Obama said with regards to Washington's Sunni Arab allies: "I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries," and posed the question: "Why is it that we can't have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done?"

]]> (Ahmad Al-Hillah) Americas Fri, 10 Apr 2015 09:51:27 +0000
Beyond the ballot box: how Israel's 'Arab voters' are second-class citizens An Israeli casting her ballot

On Monday, newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret for his now notorious remarks on polling day last week, when he warned that Israel's Palestinian citizens were coming out to vote "in droves."

Netanyahu did not actually say sorry; he merely noted that what he had said "hurt some Israeli citizens", and added that he sees himself as the prime minister of "each and every one of you...without differentiating between religions, races and sex."

In the words of one journalist, Bibi's comments were "like publishing a one-column-inch apology on the obituary page for deliberately libelling a person on Page 1." The Joint List also rejected the non-apology, noting the prospect of further "racist and marginalising legislation" in the next Knesset.

Netanyahu's anti-Arab incitement received widespread condemnation, including from many Israel supporters. In the U.S., the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly said the video statement was "unacceptable" and "undermines the principles upon which the State of Israel was founded."

President Obama, meanwhile, described the Likud leader's "rhetoric" as "contrary to what is the best of Israel's traditions." As these examples show, Netanyahu's remarks were critiqued by Israel's allies as an aberration; this kind of racism, they suggested, is contrary to Israel's past and present values. But they are wrong.

Indeed, the election has demonstrated the weakness of one of the talking points repeated ad nauseam by Israel's spokespersons - that charges of systematic discrimination are somehow 'disproved' by the fact that Palestinian citizens can vote and run for the Knesset.

First, this is not even the first instance of its kind for Netanyahu. As prime minister in 2010, Bibi told a government meeting that a Negev "without a Jewish majority" would pose "a palpable threat." As finance minister in 2003, Netanyahu called Palestinian citizens the real "demographic problem."

This racist rhetoric is par for the course in Israel. In 2009, the Netanyahu-appointed Housing Minister declared it a "national duty" to "prevent the spread" of Palestinian citizens. It was Shimon Peres who told U.S. officials in 2005 that Bedouin citizens in the Negev constituted a "demographic threat."

As mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert said it was "a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population." The current mayor, Nir Barkat, states openly his intention of maintaining a Jewish majority in the city.

Second, this most recent election illustrated with crystal clarity that even as they head to the polls, Palestinians are reminded how they are 'outsiders' in their own land, excluded within a state that defines itself as Jewish - rather than one of all its citizens.

And it wasn't just Netanyahu's last-minute video. As legal rights group Adalah has documented, the elections "saw an unprecedented level of racist incitement against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel" in the form of "threats, intimidations, and attempts to delegitimize...their political participation."

In the lead up to the vote, the Central Elections Committee disqualified MK Haneen Zoabi, a decision subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. During the committee's hearings, Zoabi was called a terrorist and, when Zoabi spoke in Arabic, a Likud party member yelled: "I am scared that you are going to say 'Allahu Akbar' and blow yourself up!"

Even the Labour party's Isaac Herzog, heading up the Zionist Union ticket, broadcast a campaign video featuring Israeli army veterans lauding him as someone who "understands the Arab mentality" and "has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations" - including "in the crosshairs."

On the day of the election itself, far-right Jewish settlers from the West Bank sent 1,500 volunteers to voting stations in Palestinian communities. The organiser of the initiative commented: "Wherever there are Arab villages, there is fraud." The 'monitors' were accompanied by "an armed group."

Third, while the Joint List's success is a breakthrough for Palestinian representation in the Knesset, the limits of their potential were immediately apparent. Even before the election, Moshe Kahlon of 'centrist' party Kulanu said that he "would not sit on a government that relied on the Arabs."

It was an echo of comments made after the 2013 elections by another so-called centrist, Yair Lapid, when the Yesh Atid chair said he would "not join a blocking majority with Haneen Zoabis." In fact, no Arab party has ever been part of a ruling coalition – and Israel has only ever had two non-Jewish ministers (out of around 600 in 33 governments).

So while the Joint List may have 13 seats in the new Knesset, they will face long-standing restrictions on their ability to challenge the structural, legal discrimination facing Palestinian citizens in Israel. They may be inside the process - but they are outside of power.

Knesset rules of procedure mean that proposed legislation deemed to undermine Israel's existence as the state of the Jewish people are thrown out. Meanwhile, Palestinian MKs are targeted for politically-motivated persecution - both inside the Knesset itself, as well as in the courts.

Remember that in 2007, Israel's internal security agency stated it would "thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law." The following year, the Shin Bet's then-chief told US officials that many of the "Arab-Israeli population" are taking their rights "too far."

Finally, aside from the attempts to undermine the political representation of, and mobilisation by, Palestinian citizens - beyond the ballot box - Israel maintains a legal and political framework of racist privilege that Israel's apologists would consider beyond the pale anywhere else.

As I detail in my book, 'Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy', Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens in every area of life (and recall that for almost two decades after Israel's creation, they were subjected to military law).

There is no guarantee of full equality for Jewish and Palestinian citizens by law, while bodies like the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, bodies intended to privilege Jews, are granted responsibilities normally performed by the state.

By the mid-1970s, the average Palestinian village in Israel had lost 65 to 75 percent of its land. Admission committees filter residents in 70 percent of Israeli communities (a role legislated for in around 42 percent of communities), and are "used to exclude Arabs."

Meanwhile, tens of thousands live in "unrecognised villages" in the Negev and elsewhere, with many threatened by new plans for forced displacement. According to the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Israel pursues "a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities."

This is by no means a comprehensive list. To respond by saying 'Arab Israelis can vote', 'there are Arabs in the Knesset', or 'an Arab is a Supreme Court judge' is no response at all: it is cynical tokenism, or, at best, a demonstration of a profoundly shallow understanding of what constitutes 'democracy' and what defines the relationship between a state and a citizen.

As Adalah's summary of the Israeli elections put it, "racism was the most victorious ballot." Contrary to what some have maintained, this is no betrayal of Israel's 'principles' and 'traditions', but entirely consistent with them. Yes, Palestinian citizens can vote – and they are also second-class citizens in a 'Jewish state'.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:42:04 +0000
Fundamental rifts: power, wealth and inequality in the Arab world Dr Adam HaniehOver four years since mass uprisings ousted sclerotic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt it can seem that the initial hopes represented by these movements lie in tatters. Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq remain mired in bloody armed conflicts that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more within and across borders. In the pivotal case of Egypt, military rule has returned through the violent crushing of protests, the arrests of an estimated 40,000 people and the rebuilding of the repressive structures of the Mubarak era. Elsewhere, autocratic governments look more secure in their rule today than they have for many years.

In assessing the current moment, though, we need to look beyond the headline coverage of war, displacement and sectarianism. The Arab uprisings were not simply struggles against authoritarian rule; they were ineluctably wrapped up with a decades-long stagnation in living conditions and profound inequalities in wealth and power. Without addressing these socio-economic roots of the region's malaise, there is no way out of the current impasse.

Even prior to the 2008-9 global economic crisis, the Arab world ranked near the bottom of the world in numerous development indicators. Average unemployment rates for Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia were higher than any other region in the world, while labour force participation rates were the lowest (less than half of the population).[1] For the Arab world as a whole, youth and female participation rates also ranked at the bottom of the globe.[2] In addition, those actually in employment tended to be in precarious, low-paid informal jobs; the countries of North Africa, for example, had one of the fastest-growing informal sectors anywhere on the planet.[3] There are many other statistics like these that could be recounted for poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and other measures of social conditions; these are trends that have remained virtually unchanged for over two decades.

Key to explaining these outcomes are the IMF and World Bank-sponsored economic policies pursued by Arab governments since the 1980s. Of course there were important variations in pace and scale, but virtually all Arab states moved to implement the standard menu of neoliberal policies: cutbacks to social spending, privatisation of land and other state assets, labour market deregulation, financial and trade liberalisation, and so forth. These policies were focused upon the promotion of private-sector growth, while shifting more and more people into a reliance on the market and simultaneously eroding forms of collective social support. Western states applauded and drove these moves; indeed, the poster-child of Arab neoliberalism, Mubarak's Egypt, was anointed the world's "top reformer" by the World Bank in 2008.[4]

Not everyone, however, lost from these policies. Indeed, for several key countries, growing poverty levels occurred in tandem with high economic growth rates, demonstrating that wealth was flowing towards some and away from others. In Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, for example, real GDP per capita rose consistently from 2003 up to the onset of the global crisis in 2008, while stock markets boomed.[5] With reference to Egypt, the United Nations has puzzled recently over the co-existence of these two trends - growing wealth on one side and growing poverty on the other - claiming that this constitutes a "paradox" and an unexpected outcome of standard economic models.[6]

The supposed paradox, however, disappears once we reject positive-sum, mutually-beneficial assumptions about how markets operate. As social and economic life become more deeply embedded in market relations, those who hold the most power in those markets tend to benefit. The result is polarisation and inequality, not a uniform downward spiral (or, indeed, a steady upward climb) felt alike by all. In this regard, the neoliberal experience in the Arab world has been completely unexceptional; the same pattern can be seen replicated across the globe.

This polarisation of wealth and power is critical to unpacking the social roots of autocracy in the Middle East. As the handmaidens of neoliberal reform, autocratic rulers not only enriched themselves and allied elites but also moved to quash any domestic opposition to these policies. Simultaneously, they acted as dependable partners for Western policy in the region, receiving ample financial, political and military support in return. The problem is thus not simply "political"; that is, the existence of corrupt and nepotistic rulers. Rather, these forms of political rule reflect, protect and reinforce differences in socio-economic power. Politics and economics are fused.

Widening gaps of power and wealth are not only apparent within the borders of individual Arab states; they are also manifest at the regional level, most notably between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states on one hand, and other Arab countries on the other. These regional hierarchies have grown larger in the wake of recent multiple political, social and economic crises, illustrating once again that the impact of crisis also needs to be disaggregated between winners and losers.

According to an October 2014 report by the Institute of International Finance, net foreign assets (gross foreign assets minus external debt) of the GCC states rose from $878 billion in 2006 to a forecast $2.27 trillion by end-2014.[7] This compares to a decline in the net foreign assets of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, from a surplus of $11 billion in 2006 to a forecast deficit of $46.7 billion by end-2014.[8] Likewise, in 2014, the six states of the GCC were estimated to have a total current account surplus of just under $300 billion (17 per cent of their GDP), more than four times where they stood in 2009.[9] During the same period, the current account balance of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco reached an estimated total deficit of $25.9 billion in 2014 (-4.6 per cent of GDP), compared to a deficit of $18.8 billion in 2009 (-4.3 per cent of GDP).[10]

Within the GCC, privately-held wealth grew by 17.5 per cent each year from 2010 to 2014, with the total dollar amount doubling from $1.1 trillion to $2.2 trillion over this period.[11] Up to 5,100 Gulf families are estimated to hold more than $500 million per household in liquid assets; their combined total assets exceed $700 billion.[12] This figure, it should be noted, does not include so-called "illiquid" assets such as real estate holdings, business equity or collectable items like works of art.

Once again, we find evidence of the mutually-reinforcing trends of growing inequality and growing wealth, this time duplicated at the regional level. While the consequences of the recent drop in global oil prices remains to be seen, the very real potential for further downturn in the core zones of the world economy - most notably in Europe - means that this regional polarisation will likely remain an ever-present feature of the contemporary situation.

These inequalities in power and wealth are essential to understanding the counter-revolutionary moment and have provided a fertile ground for the growth of sectarianism. Of course, the varied forms of foreign and regional intervention - political, economic and military - would always seek to block any fundamental challenge to the regional order. The predictable outcomes of the Western destruction of Iraq over the past two decades helped nurture the rise of sectarian groups and Islamist irredentism. In Syria, the bloody hand of the Assad regime fomented these processes deliberately, and appears to have won tacit support from the West.

However, throughout all of these events, Left and progressive voices have remained largely marginal and too easily swayed by a Manichean geopolitical worldview or illusions in their own "patriotic bourgeoisie". Without addressing questions of social and economic justice and presenting an alternative to the market-led policies of recent decades, there is little hope of building a progressive pole that is opposed to both existing elites and the disastrous course of sectarianism. This is not simply an economic question but is in essence profoundly political; one that must involve challenging the coterie of high-ranking political and military officials, wealthy businessmen and large corporations who continue to benefit from the status quo.

The author is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London. Dr Adam Hanieh's book Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East (Haymarket Books, 2013) is available for purchase from here.


  1. International Monetary Fund, Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia, World Economic and Financial Surveys (Washington, DC: IMF, April 11, 2011), 39,
  2. ESCWA, (2013), The Arab Millennium Development Goals Report: Facing challenges and looking beyond 2015, p9.
  3. UNDP, Arab Human Development Report, The Challenge to Human Security (New York: UNDP, 2009), 111.
  5. World Bank Data, most recent years.
  6. ESCWA, (2013), The Arab Millennium Development Goals Report: Facing challenges and looking beyond 2015, p6.
  7. Institute of International Finance (IIF), 2014, "MENA Region: Recovery Buffeted by Geopolitical Risks", October 8, p32.
  8. IIF 2014, p34.
  9. IIF 2014, p31.
  10. IIF 2014, p31.
  11. Strategy& (2015) "GCC private banking study 2015: Seizing the opportunities", p3.
  12. Strategy& (2015), p8.
]]> (Dr Adam Hanieh) Guest Writers Sun, 01 Mar 2015 08:00:00 +0000
Palestinians call for protests against US military aid to the Israeli occupation Dr Sarah MarusekSince the US-sponsored peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel recommenced last summer, Israeli forces have: authorised the approval of several thousand illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; launched the construction of twice as many illegal housing units as in the previous year; forcibly dispersed a peaceful protest camp in the Jordan Valley; violently suppressed the nonviolent demonstrations that happen weekly throughout the occupied West Bank; demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures, with demolitions now at an all time high, leaving entire families homeless and exposed to the cold; arrested hundreds of Palestinian children and thousands of adults to be held without charge or tried in Israeli military courts; and killed dozens of Palestinians in raids in the West Bank and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, which also injured several thousand.

In addition, Israeli settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories have carried out countless attacks against Palestinians, for example uprooting olive trees, burning cars and painting racist graffiti on homes, mosques, churches and schools. According to the Associated Press, UN figures published in January show that the annual rate of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians has almost quadrupled over the last eight years.

Meanwhile, Palestinians were responsible for the deaths of six Israelis throughout all of last year; and militant groups in Gaza, a territory that the UN has warned may soon become uninhabitable due to the draconian siege imposed by Israel, consistently fired rockets at Israel, none of which caused any significant damage or injuries. In December, militants also planted a bomb on a bus near Tel Aviv, with no injuries reported.

Of course, all suffering is painful, but the systemic nature of Israel's violence against the Palestinians and the suffering caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine is extreme.

And yet, the US Congress has decided to place conditions on US aid to Palestine, not Israel, when it passed HR 3547. Furthermore, the bill HR 3868, or the "Palestinian peace promotion and anti-incitement act," aims to further cut development aid to the Palestinian Authority, apparently because it has not done enough to confront incitement against Israel at a time when Israeli forces and settlers are committing daily crimes and humiliations with impunity.

To provide one example of the power imbalance, according to Haaretz newspaper, Israeli police recently summoned a Palestinian photographer who lives in occupied East Jerusalem for incitement because he posted on his Facebook page that the mayor of Jerusalem is "the mayor of the occupation". The Israeli newspaper suggests that this view of East Jerusalem is more than justified when the Israeli authorities expel Palestinians from their homes, settlers illegally take over Palestinian neighbourhoods and Palestinian houses are demolished.

The new legal efforts to restrict US development aid to Palestine illustrate why so many people also say that Washington is an occupied city: the actions of US politicians clearly indicate that their primary allegiance is to the government of Israel.

US development aid to Palestine is currently about $440 million annually, slightly less than previous years allegedly due to budgetary constraints. This aid is subject to a wide range of restrictions and conditions to make sure that the Palestinian Authority spends it in a manner that Washington and Tel Aviv fully approve of.

On the other hand, US military aid to Israel is $3.1 billion annually, and with supplemental programmes, despite the budget cuts, this year US military aid to Israel amounts to at least $3.6 billion. Furthermore, the Congressional Research Service notes that: "Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some US military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, US assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in instalments."

But despite the vast discrepancies that already exist between US aid policy towards Israel and Palestine, some American lawmakers have decided that it is appropriate to further undermine the Palestinian position while the US-brokered negotiations are unfolding.

The Times of Israel newspaper reports that HR 3547 is a package of several appropriation bills, one of which seeks to limit aid to Palestine by guaranteeing that: "the Palestinian Authority is acting to counter incitement of violence against Israelis and is supporting activities aimed at promoting peace, coexistence and security cooperation with Israel." The US Congress approved HR 3547 with the federal budget at the end of last year.

Subsequently, the bill HR 3868 was introduced. According to the Congressional Research Service, this bill is more targeted and "expresses the sense of Congress that the Palestinian Authority has not lived up to its agreements with Israel to end incitement and should do more to prepare the Palestinian people for peace with Israel." HR 3868 has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it currently awaits further discussion.

The emergence of these two bills while negotiations are taking place under US auspices illustrates that American lawmakers are not interested in brokering a peace that even remotely resembles a just peace. However, they also appear at a time when Washington is becoming more and more isolated in its unquestioning support for Israel. The international community, and increasingly Western corporations, officials, churches, academics, artists and citizens, are voicing their concern and joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as called for by Palestinian civil society.

Now, Palestinians are also calling upon Americans and internationals to protest against US military aid to the Israeli occupation on what is known as America's Tax Day, 15 April. The call from the Popular Committees of Palestine, which coordinate the nonviolent resistance against Israel's apartheid wall and illegal settlements, can be accessed here.

In reality, Palestinians are also resisting against censorship across Western societies, because politicians and the mainstream media rarely focus on the stories of the occupied. As Iyad Burnat, head of the Bil'in Popular Committee against the Wall, explains: "Most of the American people are unaware that the Palestinian people live under the Israeli occupation rule, and are also unaware of what is happening to the Palestinians, from killing to destruction to theft of land, and building of settlements and building of the apartheid wall." The censorship is due to the disproportionate influence of the Israel Lobby, so "the American and European media do not show the true suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation, and all of that under the explicit support of the US government."

Furthermore, whenever Palestinians do try to raise their voices to communicate their oppression they are brutally suppressed. After Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, the authorities passed "Order No. 101" or the "Order regarding prohibition of incitement and hostile propaganda actions". According to +972 Magazine, this order dictates that any assembly, vigil or procession of ten or more people requires a permit from the local Israeli occupation forces commander and imposes ten years' imprisonment on violators. While the order applies to all Palestinians who live in the occupied Palestinian territories under full Israeli military control, Israeli settlers are subject to Israeli civil law.

This means that under occupation, it is illegal for Palestinians to protest against their occupation, while Israeli settlers are granted extraterritorial rights to openly demonstrate in support of their illegal settler movement. Furthermore, Israel uses American weapons funded by US taxpayers to ensure that the Palestinians remain silent.

Israeli forces regularly use overwhelming force to suppress any form of protest inside the occupied Palestinian territories, turning nonviolent demonstrations into clashes where "non-lethal weapons" result in mass casualties and even death. Indeed, a recent report by Amnesty International entitled "Trigger-happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank" finds that Israeli forces often resort to "unnecessary, arbitrary and abusive" force against nonviolent protesters. Burnat describes how in his village "peaceful demonstrators were killed by weapons made in America." This is powerfully documented in his brother's Oscar nominated film Five Broken Cameras.

Burnat continues: "Many peaceful demonstrators were killed in many places in Palestine by American-made weapons, and many international activists have been participating in these demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians; some were wounded or detained and in some cases were killed like Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately driven over by an American-made bulldozer while trying to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes." The call for internationals to join Palestinians in their protest against US military aid to Israel is a call to end the Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.

Although resistance is a long and difficult struggle, Palestinians also know that justice is inevitable. The BDS movement and the tax day protests aim to make Israel's occupation of Palestine unprofitable, using similar tactics that helped to dismantle South Africa's apartheid regime. Waiting for peace is no longer an option—direct action is required. As Burnat notes, "The last country to stand against the discriminating regime in South Africa was the US, and it is the only country that has not yet boycotted the Israeli occupation."

]]> (Dr Sarah Marusek) Activism Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:47:55 +0000
Oh Jerusalem! We have stopped counting on the Arab leaders to do anything but have high hopes of the Arab people to wake from their long slumber and rise in support of Jerusalem and liberate it from Israeli desecration.It has been 46 years since we lost East Jerusalem; Israel seized control of it in 1967, annexing the eastern half of the city illegally almost straight away. Israel celebrates this painful memory by holding an annual celebration in which it emphasises that Jerusalem is the "permanent capital" of the state. Each year, Israelis rub more salt into our wounds by erasing the city's Arab and Islamic landmarks, falsifying its history and "Judaising" the occupied territory.

This year, Israel celebrated the establishment of illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, making the point of only inviting non-Arab Israelis to move there; Arabs are still a majority of the city's population. The government has also allowed Jewish settlers to enter the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque under police protection, and have allowed Israeli police officers to wear their uniforms in the mosque, although this was prohibited in the past. Moreover, this year, Israel has continued its rogue actions by arresting the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein; this is a dangerous escalation in an attempt to silence any critical voice calling for the defence and protection of the religious sites in Jerusalem.

All this has occurred without any external Arab interference. Even the statements of condemnation, which the Arabs are known for using to conceal their weakness and failure to do anything, have not been made. It is as if they have abandoned their religious, moral and national responsibilities and have surrendered to the oppressive Israeli occupation. Have the Arab leaders forgotten that Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic issue before a Palestinian issue? Where has the Islamic passion gone; where has Arab chivalry gone? The Israeli occupation is desecrating Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Grand Mufti is arrested before their eyes, and they do not stir or bat an eyelid. They stand by silently while the Arab territories are seized, historical structures are demolished and Arab street names are "Judaised" by Israel's occupation authority in an attempt to establish "facts on the ground" that will be difficult to change. Since the complicit international community has been silent in the face of all these violations, do not wait for them to support us in our cause; their position on Israel is linked to America's unshakeable backing of Israel and its blind advocacy of any measure the Netanyahu or any other Israeli government takes.

However, we cannot blame the US; all the blame and shame is on the weak, corrupt Arab regimes which have dropped the Palestinian cause off of their list of priorities and forgotten their religious and national duties. Instead, they have chased after their personal interests; some fearing for their throne, others fearing for their emirate and sheikhdom; and yet others trading the Palestinian cause for the preservation of their presidency. It is painful and lamentable that these kings and presidents have behind the scenes contact and relations with the Israeli enemy, and work on gaining their approval ultimately to please America, which guarantees their place on the throne, forgetting that God gives power to whom he pleases, and takes it away from whom he pleases, not America or Israel.

We have stopped counting on the Arab leaders to do anything but have high hopes of the Arab people to wake from their long slumber and rise in support of Jerusalem and liberate it from Israeli desecration. The youth of our nation should mobilise to protect Jerusalem in their millions; the true struggle is in the Holy Land, as foretold to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). One day Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea, and Zionism will be no more. Until then, we must all do all that we can to protect Jerusalem and its people from Israel's brutal occupation and oppression.

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Thu, 16 May 2013 15:45:00 +0000
Saudi airstrikes in Yemen may have stopped, but the conflict rages on Yemen after Saudi strikeIt has been nearly a month since a Saudi-led coalition began a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Since then, around 950 people have died, with nearly 3,500 wounded. The existing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, has worsened.

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, the Saudi defence ministry said that it would halt airstrikes, as its objectives had been fulfilled and the rebels no longer posed a danger to Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries. It said that the new phase of the operation would focus on rebuilding the country while denying the rebels operational movement, protecting civilians and supporting evacuation and relief operations.

The US – which backed the campaign – welcomed the Saudi's move. There has been some speculation that the decision to reel in the operation was made under pressure from Washington, which is anxious that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the terror group, is making gains amid all the chaos. The decision was also welcomed by Iran, which Saudi Arabia accuses of arming the rebels; Iran denies that it has done so. After the announcement, there were international calls for a return to peace talks and for urgent deliveries of humanitarian aid to Yemen. However, locally, the decision to halt the airstrikes came as a surprise; the deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has not been restored to power and Houthi fighters are still in control of the capital, Sana'a.

Indeed, just hours after the Saudi announcement, Houthi fighters captured an army brigade base loyal to Hadi's government in the central city of Taiz. Soon afterwards, a Saudi airstrike hit the brigade headquarters, illustrating the ongoing fragility of the situation. The Saudi declaration that bombing was over did make an allowance for continued strikes, saying that it would take action against the Houthis as and when necessary.

Negotiations are already underway to stop the fighting in Yemen, but there is no clear way out of the conflict. On 14 April, the UN Security Council passed a resolution making clear demands on the Houthis. Among other things, it called for them to give up their weapons and the territory they have seized (including the capital city). After years of insurgency, though, both before the 2011 revolution and since, the Houthis have fought hard to get to the position they are in, and will not be willing to give it up readily.

Many analysts have noted that the conflict in Yemen is turning into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This week, it was reported that a nine-ship convoy from Iran was in the area. The US said it was monitoring these vessels, which are suspected of carrying weapons to the rebels in violation of a UN embargo. The scale of Iranian involvement with the Houthis has never been confirmed, but there is little doubt that the relationship was one of the key motivating factors for the Saudi airstrikes. As the Houthis seized the capital and cemented their grip on Yemen, the prospect of an Iranian client-state on its border was too much for the kingdom to countenance. There is also little doubt that the increased role of external powers in the Yemeni conflict has worsened the already dire situation significantly.

However, to understand the situation in Yemen only in terms of the sectarian Sunni-Shia conflict that is unfolding across the region would be to misunderstand it completely. While there is a sectarian flavour – the Houthis are Zaidi Shia Muslims and many of the tribes fighting against them are Sunni – the war is not defined by sectarianism. It has its roots in decades of tension between the north and south of the country (which were only unified in the 1990s), in tribal rivalries, and in the long-term economic and political marginalisation of different communities during the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh's long spell in power. Saleh, having repressed the Houthis throughout his leadership, is now backing the movement in a bid to destabilise the regime of his successor, Hadi.

It is not a natural ground for a proxy war, because the battle lines are so blurred, and there is no clear exit strategy for either side. The only hope for peace in Yemen is a negotiated settlement that brings in all parties; but as the Houthis fight to retain their hard-won gains and southern militias pledge to keep fighting even if the Saudis leave, and the Saudis make apparent steps towards a possible ground invasion, it does not seem that the willingness is there to agree or implement such a plan. The airstrikes might have stopped (or at least, reduced in intensity) but the conflict rages on.

]]> (Samira Shackle) Middle East Fri, 24 Apr 2015 08:24:34 +0000
What’s really behind Morsi's guilty verdict? Flag of Egypt

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in jail today. Taking his age into consideration, he's 63, and the fact that the average life expectance in Egypt is 71, this sentence is not only a covert life sentence, but also a slower and more painful alternative to a death sentence. Many of the English news outlets that reported the sentencing said that he was sentenced to 20 years for killing protestors, possibly as a result of facts being lost in translation. The verdict was actually that he incited "violent intimidation" during the riots outside the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in 2012, a term that doesn't have a legal definition in Arabic or in English.

When examining the case, not only do many contradictions arise, but it becomes more apparent that Morsi's sentence was unfair and hypocritical.

Firstly, the 2012 riot that killed two people according to the Egyptian court actually killed 10. Eight Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed during the riots.

The protests were held as a result of the formation of the constitution, which led to a few dozen anti-Morsi protestors holding a sit-in outside the palace. On 5 December, this sit-in was intercepted by Morsi supporters; creating a conflict. The conflict escalated on both sides and the riot police that were present did not intervene to calm the situation.

Morsi gave personal instructions to the security services not to use excessive force and to keep casualties to a minimum. Thus, the allegation that Morsi used force in this instance is inaccurate as this was a civil riot. Although the majority of the deaths were Brotherhood supporters', showing the violence was disproportionately carried out by anti-Morsi rioters; the violence that came from the side of the Brotherhood supporters was enticed by civilians that had no affiliation to Morsi.

It's important to remember that the president has no direct responsibility for any misconduct by the security services. Their incompetency to halt the violence during the riot is undeniable, but legally this is not something that Morsi should have been held accountable for. Full accountability should go to the interior ministry as they are the ones that are directly responsible for law enforcement in a country.

The interior minister at the time, Mohamed Youssef Ibrahim, not only failed to prevent the December riots, but many of the other riots which ensued. He faced much criticism for being a member of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorial regime which ruled Egypt for 40 years and many demanded he step down.

He was also thought to be incompetent. His ineptness should be investigated to ensure that he was not deliberately enhancing civil instabilities to ease the way for the 2013 coup that toppled the democratically elected Morsi. After the 2013 coup, not only was he one of the ministers that stayed in government, but his anti-Brotherhood stance was more vocal and more violent.

Soon after the coup, in an interview with the state run news website Al Ahram, he said that pro-Morsi vigils and sit-ins would be put to an end no matter how peaceful they were. His inability to breakup protests diminished when pro-Morsi demonstrations were being held, including during the massacre of 2,000 anti-coup protestors on 14 August 2013.

It's clear that Morsi's sentence is based on outright lies and he was held responsible for events that he was not responsible for. It's noteworthy that while Morsi received what is in essence a life sentence, an Egyptian court dropped charges against the country's former dictator Hosni Mubarak and declared him innocent in November 2014 of killing protesters. Ironically, unlike Morsi, he was not charged for the killing of protestors during the 2011 uprising, nor was he charged for his decades of corruption that left millions of Egyptians subjected to injustice.

Today has shown the world once again that Egyptian courts act out of political motives rather than to attain justice, and seek to preserve the oppressive autocracy that plagues the country's streets and its legal system.

]]> (Diana Alghoul) Africa Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:09:17 +0000
Massive demonstration in Brussels on anniversary of Iranian occupation of Al-Ahwaz Photo from the protest at Brussels on FridayOn Friday, 17 April 2015, a massive demonstration was held in front of the European Parliament in Brussels to commemorate both the 10th anniversary of the popular Ahwazi uprising of April 2005 and the 90th anniversary of the Iranian occupation of Al-Ahwaz (subsequently renamed 'Khuzestan') in 1925. The demonstration, in solidarity with Ahwazi Arabs living under brutal and oppressive Iranian occupation, condemned the persistent systemic injustice against them in the south and south-west of Iran.

Members of Europe's Ahwazi community held the demonstration to condemn Iranian occupation and raise the long-oppressed voice of Ahwazi Arabs, who have suffered the most savage and racist persecution by consecutive Iranian regimes for 90 years, with the complicity of the "international community".

The protest in Brussels was one of series of demonstrations and other activities undertaken by the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Ahwaz in a bid to expose the abhorrent apartheid policies of the occupying Iranian regime. In addition, the demonstrations and other events will allow the world to hear the voices of the millions of Ahwazi Arabs who have been subjected to the brutal state policies of the Iranian occupiers for almost a century.

Hundreds of Ahwazis and Syrians took part in the demonstration. There was a significant presence of several Arab communities in the diaspora, including Palestinians, Iraqis, Yemenis and Lebanese, who came from different European countries. In addition, distinguished media figures and human rights advocates came from Arab Gulf states, while other nations from non-Persian communities residing in Europe who are also subjected to similar persecution were present to express solidarity with the Ahwazi cause: Turks from South Azerbaijan, Kurds from East Kurdistan and Baluchis from Baluchistan took part.

These representatives were there to denounce the Iranian regime for its criminal and barbaric policies, such as the cold-blooded murder and ethnic cleansing of their peoples. They condemned Iran's mass executions, which are on an industrial scale against activists, not only from these groups, but also against their Ahwazi counterparts.

During the demonstration in Brussels, participants raised the Ahwaz national flag and the flags of various liberation movements. Photographs of Ahwazi martyrs and prisoners were exhibited, and numerous banners in Arabic and English denounced the Iranian regime's continued forced displacement and policies aimed at changing the demographic structure of Ahwazi Arab areas through the construction of vast settlements exclusively for Persian settlers.

There were also banners condemning the environmental devastation wreaked by the Iranian regime's policy of diverting rivers in the Ahwaz region to central areas of Iran by the construction of massive dams, leading to the desertification and devastation of large agricultural areas and marshlands in the Ahwaz region and driving countless farmers and fishermen into poverty.

On the fringe of the demonstration, the protesters stressed the presence of non-Persian political organisations, including those run by Turks, Kurds and Baluchis, alongside Ahwazi liberationist movements to increase the level of mutual coordination and to galvanise joint action in the struggle against the Iranian occupying regime. Action will continue until the full realisation of their just demands and the fall of the Safavid-Persian centralised government.

Across the Ahwaz region recently, Tehran has launched a pre-emptive campaign of raids and arbitrary arrests of Ahwazi activists and civic leaders aimed at terrorising the people into silence and preventing demonstrations from taking place as the anniversary of the 2005 Uprising approached. It was then, on 15 April, 2005, that thousands of Ahwazi Arabs defied the totalitarian Iranian regime and took to the streets in towns and cities across the region, to protest peacefully at Tehran's ethnic cleansing policies.

The peaceful intifada (uprising) was initially very successful, but the regime soon reacted with its customary savagery, sending in security forces who killed over 100 of the unarmed protesters and arrested thousands more. The bodies of many of the detainees had to be retrieved from rivers where they had been thrown by security forces after being tortured to death. Many others were executed after being found guilty on false charges such as "waging war against God". Those executed on such patently ludicrous charges included activists Ali Chebeishat and Sayed Khaled Mousavi, and two high school teachers, Hashem Shabani, and Hadi Rashedi.

The Iranian occupiers continue to deny Arab sovereignty in Al-Ahwaz, which was declared an Iranian province in 1925: eleven years later in 1936, the then-rulers in Tehran changed its name to "Khuzestan". This occupation, like others in the region, was perpetrated with the full support of the British Empire, which sought to control oil resources; Ahwaz holds around 80 per cent of Iran's oil and gas resources.

Successive Iranian rulers, both under the Shah and under the current clerical regime, have imposed a brutal and abusive occupation on the region. In April every year, Ahwazi activists in the homeland and worldwide diaspora hold demonstrations, vigils, and seminars to mark the anniversary of the occupation and theft of their lands.

Ahwaz City has some of the most notorious prisons in Iran, a state renowned for torture and extra-judicial killings. Secret security facilities are deployed to extract fabricated confessions. The majority of Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are incarcerated only for demanding their basic cultural, linguistic and civil and human rights; in response, they are subjected to summary trials in secret revolutionary courts, often lasting less than 5 minutes and without access to defence lawyers. The death penalty usually follows.

Although Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution prohibits any kind of torture in order to extract forced confessions, the authorities subject Ahwazi Arab detainees to every form of torture, forcing them to sign false confessions of illegal activities. Such confessions obtained under torture are broadcast routinely on national TV even before the end of the kangaroo trials, and are used as credible evidence in Iranian courts.

These broadcasts themselves breach Iran's obligations under international law to provide a fair trial, including the presumption that defendants are innocent until proven guilty under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the regime is consistent in violating all human rights principles.

In recent months, the Ahwazi Arabs have been affected adversely by the environmental consequences of the Iranian government's colonial river diversion projects; widespread sugar cane farming after extensive confiscation of Ahwazi Arab farmland; and industrial pollution. All are part of the regime's misguided economic development policies targeting Ahwazis and their environment.

The Iranian government is seeking to eradicate Ahwazi Arab existence and presence in the country once and for all. As such, activists insist that international silence about the regime's crimes implies international approval. They are calling for the international community to intervene unconditionally to stop the Iranian regime's campaign of genocide; the relentless executions, torture and destruction of basic human and civil rights; the destruction of the environment; and the annihilation of the culture, identity and existence of an entire Arab nation.

]]> (Rahim Hamid) Europe Sun, 19 Apr 2015 15:14:44 +0000
Israel moves to cover-up its alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria Asa WinstanleySedqi al-Maqet, a Syrian activist who lives in the Israeli-occupied part of Syria known as the Golan Heights was interned after a dawn raid on his home by Israeli secret police at the end of February. Until quite recently, the Israeli media was absolutely banned from mentioning his case at all, even from referring or linking to foreign press reports on the issue.

Al-Maqet is a Syrian Druze from Majdal Shams known for his media activism and support of the Bashar al-Assad regime. He had published information online (including via his Facebook account) about contacts he said he had witnessed between Israeli armed forces in the Golan and what he termed terrorists active in the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan.

As I have noted in this column before, Israeli military spokespeople have now admitted to what the reports of UN peace-keeping forces in the Golan have been implying for some time: Israel has an active alliance with the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria.

Although al-Qaeda as a movement has a history of making hostile statements against Israel (and statements of an anti-Semitic nature) it has never been involved in much in the way of military confrontations against the Zionist state. Al-Qaeda has historically had two main focuses: US military and civilian targets, and military and civilian targets within Arab states (often specialising in brutal sectarian attacks against those it considers false Muslims).

Since the Nusra Front took over a key checkpoint in the Golan in the summer, it has not gone unnoticed by Arabs that Nusra has completely avoided attacking Israeli military targets in the region. The Qunaitra crossing stands between the Israeli-occupied and the Syrian-controlled sectors of the Golan – Nusra has held it since August.

UN peacekeepers have observed regular contacts between Nusra forces in the area and the Israeli troops stationed on the other side of the ceasefire line (Israel has illegally occupied part of the Golan since 1967). They also observed cargo of an unknown nature passing between the two sides from the Israelis.

More recently, when an army spokesperson talking to the Wall Street Journal confirmed Israel's aid to al-Qaeda, it was shown that it also took the form of treating Nusra fighters in Israeli field hospitals near the ceasefire line and then sending them back to fight against the government of Syria. (Some defenders of Israel have claimed this is no different from how it supposedly treats any enemy fighter in its hospitals. But there is a crucial difference: fighters from Hamas or Hizballah captured by Israel would be sent straight to jail after hospital discharge.)

Now, thanks to the extreme risks al-Maqet took, we know a little more about this secret Israeli war in Syria. Its tactical alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria has been exposed, and the Shabak, Israel' secret police force, is none too happy about it.

Al-Maqet posted a video online, which was later aired on Syrian TV, containing his commentary to camera on what he said he had seen in the Golan: a meeting taking place between the Israeli occupation forces and the terrorists, as he put it.

Although the Israeli media was at first banned by military decree from covering the story, the Hebrew-literate American blogger Richard Silverstein has covered the story in detail. He was the first journalist to report al-Maqet's arrest. It was likely in part thanks to his work that the gag order was partly lifted (it did little to stop the story getting out onto the internet in any case).

Silverstein has seen a copy of part of the indictment against al-Maqet. Although some of the charges remain secret, most of the ones we know of relate to posting comments and videos to Facebook and YouTube. As Silverstein put it in a detailed summary of the case for Middle East Eye this week: "Al-Maket may be the first individual accused of spying through social media. Along with a description of the content of the posts, the clerks in the Shabak or prosecutor's office have taken the trouble to compile the number of Likes, Shares and YouTube clicks his posts obtained."

Al-Maqet was detained without access to a lawyer for ten days, and the military court eventually ruled that he must use a lawyer with a high-level security clearance (in other words he has to use a former Israeli military officer as a lawyer ... as his defender in a military court).

The amount of trouble that Israel's Deep State is going to in order to shut this man up is deeply emblematic of the state's fundamentally anti-democractic nature. It also shows that, the more press coverage there is of Israel's alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria (it has been pretty much ignored by mainstream media to date) the more Israel is sensitive to the facts being exposed.

After all, by aiding al-Qaeda in Syria, Israel is by providing material support to a group that it itself defines as a terrorist organization, as do the US and British governments.

Scouring Hebrew media, Silverstein also found last year that Israel established "a Camp Ashraf-style Syrian rebel encampment just inside Israeli[-occupied] territory" in the Golan Heights. Israeli media have even filmed the camp, as video on Silverstein's blog shows. (Camp Ashraf was the former base of the MEK, an Iraq-based group that was backed by the US and Israel and used as a proxy force in a terrorist war against Iran).

With ISIS, the so-called "Islamic State", currently battling it out for control of Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, this issue has become even more important. The Nusra Front has reportedly put aside some of its differences with ISIS, and allied with the group in Yarmouk, allowing it to take over much of the camp.

Israel. Nusra. ISIS. The capture of Yarmouk. The alliances in the war in Syria grow ever more strange and complicated.

The internment of al-Maqet likely shows that Israel is beginning to get a little worried that the reality of its alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria may eventually start to break through to mainstream media in the west. So far, the media has shown little interest in the story, but that is not guaranteed to hold true.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 11 Apr 2015 16:04:03 +0000
The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length Destruction of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.  [File photo]Destruction of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

So relentless has the violence convulsing the Middle East become that an attack on yet another Arab country and its descent into full-scale war barely registers in the rest of the world. That's how it has been with the onslaught on impoverished Yemen by western-backed Saudi Arabia and a string of other Gulf dictatorships.

Barely two weeks into their bombardment from air and sea, more than 500 have been killed and the Red Cross is warning of a "catastrophe" in the port of Aden. Where half a century ago Yemenis were tortured and killed by British colonial troops, Houthi rebels from the north are now fighting Saudi-backed forces loyal to the ousted President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Up to 40 civilians sheltering at a UN refugee camp in the poorest country in the Arab world were killed in a single Saudi air attack last week. But of course the US and Britain are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Saudi intervention. Already providing "logistical and intelligence" support via a "joint planning cell", the US this week announced it is stepping up weapons deliveries to the Saudis. Britain's foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, has promised to "support the Saudi operation in every way we can".

The pretext for the Saudi war is that Yemen's Houthi fighters are supported by Iran and loyal to a Shia branch of Islam. Hadi, who was installed after a popular uprising as part of a Saudi-orchestrated deal and one-man election in 2012, is said to be the legitimate president with every right to call on international support.

In reality, Iran's backing for the homegrown Houthis seems to be modest, and their Zaidi strand of Islam is a sort of halfway house between Sunni and Shia. Hadi's term as transitional president expired last year, and he resigned in January before fleeing the country after the Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital Sana'a. Compare Hadi's treatment with the fully elected former president of Ukraine, whose flight from Kiev to another part of the country a year ago was considered by the western powers to have somehow legitimised his overthrow, and it's clear how elastic these things can be.

But the clear danger of the Saudi attack on Yemen is that it will ignite a wider conflagration, intensifying the sectarian schism across the region and potentially bring Saudi Arabia and Iran into direct conflict. Already 150,000 troops are massed on the Yemeni border. Pakistan is under pressure to send troops to do Riyadh's dirty work for it. The Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has said he will despatch troops to fight in Yemen "if necessary".

The Houthi uprising, supported by parts of the army and Hadi's predecessor as president, has its roots in poverty and discrimination, and dates back to the time of the US-British invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago. But Yemen, which has a strong al-Qaida presence, has also been the target of hundreds of murderous US drone attacks in recent years. And the combination of civil war and external intervention is giving al-Qaida a new lease of life.The idea that the corrupt tyranny of Saudi Arabia, the sectarian heart of reaction in the Middle East since colonial times, and its fellow Gulf autocracies – backed by the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – are going to bring stability, let alone freedom, to the people of Yemen is beyond fantasy. This is the state, after all, that crushed the popular uprising in Bahrain in 2011, that funded the overthrow of Egypt's first elected president in 2013, and has sponsored takfiri jihadi movements for years with disastrous consequences.

For the Saudis, the war in Yemen is about enforcing their control of the Arabian peninsula and their leadership of the Sunni world in the face of Shia and Iranian resurgence. For the western powers that arm them to the hilt, it's about money, and the pivotal role that Saudi Arabia plays in protecting their interests in the oil and gas El Dorado that is the Middle East.

Since the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies are reluctant to risk boots on the ground. But their military interventions are multiplying. Barack Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries since he became US president. There are now four full-scale wars raging in the Arab world (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen), and every one of them has involved US and wider western military intervention. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest British arms market; US weapons sales to the Gulf have exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US military aid to Egypt.

What has changed is that, in true imperial fashion, the west's alliances have become more contradictory, playing off one side against the other. In Yemen, it is supporting the Sunni powers against Iran's Shia allies. In Iraq, it is the opposite: the US and its friends are giving air support to Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Sunni takfiri group Isis. In Syria, they are bombing one part of the armed opposition while arming and training another. The nuclear deal with Iran – which the Obama administration pushed through in the teeth of opposition from Israel and the Gulf states – needs to be seen in that context. The US isn't leaving the Middle East, as some imagine, but looking for a more effective way of controlling it at arm's length: by rebalancing the region's powers, as the former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke puts it, in an "equilibrium of antagonisms".

So a tilt towards Iran can be offset with war in Yemen or Syria. Something similar can be seen in US policy in Latin America. Only a couple of months after Obama's historic opening towards Cuba last December, he signed an order declaring Cuba's closest ally, Venezuela, "an unusual and extraordinary threat to US national security" and imposed sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.

Those pale into insignificance next to many carried out by the US government itself, let alone by some of its staunchest allies such as Saudi Arabia. There's no single route to regime change, and the US is clearly hoping to use the opportunity of Venezuela's economic problems to ratchet up its longstanding destabilisation campaign.

But it's a game that can also go badly wrong. When it comes to US support for Saudi aggression in Yemen, that risks not only breaking the country apart but destabilising Saudi Arabia itself. What's needed is a UN-backed negotiation to end the Yemeni conflict, not another big power-fuelled sectarian proxy war. These calamitous interventions have to be brought to an end.

This article was first published by The Guardian.

]]> (Seumas Milne) Americas Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:27:54 +0000
Amongst frustrated allies, patience has run out with Israel Ben WhiteThe British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond didn't mince his words. Israel, he said, was guilty of "what looks and feels like a deliberate attempt to sabotage the two-state-solution."

The diplomat went on, claiming that the "window" for a two-state agreement is "closing", and that this was down to Israeli "settlement patterns" in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

And all this even before Netanyahu's re-election as prime minister had been confirmed.

In fact, Hammond made the remarks in an interview conducted on the very day of the Israeli election, and just after the Likud leader had made it clear that, for as long as he was premier, he would never allow the establishment of a Palestinian state.

After Netanyahu's victory at the ballot box, one theme dominated the international fallout, perhaps best summarised by this Associated Press headline: "Israel likely headed toward conflict, isolation."

Most significant was the reaction of Israel's closest allies - including the US. Angered by Netanyahu's explicit rejection of Palestinian statehood and incitement against Palestinian citizens, Obama administration officials, on and off the record, have made it clear that "you can't unring the bell."

Now the talk is of a "need to re-assess [the US's] options" in light of Israel's lack of commitment to a two-state solution. "There are policy ramifications for what he said", commented one official – and Netanyahu's efforts to row-back are cutting no ice in Washington.

But it's not just the US - as another newswire story put it, Bibi's "comments may have reinforced a belief in many world capitals that [he] isn't serious about peace." A case in point, former Swedish PM and diplomat Carl Bildt presumably spoke for many when he tweeted:

Here in the UK, there were similar responses – with the notable exception of PM David Cameron – as Labour front bencher Andy Burnham tweeted that Netanyahu's re-election "on pledge to build more settlements" meant "Palestine will need more international support."

Which brings us back to Philip Hammond. In his interview earlier this week, the Conservative minister described his "European colleagues" as increasingly "frustrated" - in his words: "They want to support Israel but they need something back in return."

They need some clear sense that Israel is at least willing to try to find a two-state solution. To be blunt it's only the really robust position that Britain and Germany take that has held the line from seeing the EU questioning more the position we collectively take.

Hammond's frank assessment resonates with what I found in Brussels almost exactly a year ago; while many EU officials want a close relationship with Israel, the latter's ideologically-driven intransigence is exasperating, and making the case for sanctions grow ever more plausible.

Today we read of a leaked report by heads of mission of European countries in Jerusalem that recommends punitive measures be taken in response to Israel's "systematic" settlement construction in the occupied east. The Guardian added the following:

According to well-informed European sources, the report – now being discussed in Brussels – reflects a strong desire from European governments for additional measures against Israel over its continued settlement-building, and comes at a time when Europe is confronting 'the new reality' of a new and potentially more rightwing Netanyahu government.

And it is precisely this kind of 'confrontation' that provides opportunities for the Palestinians, and their supporters. As Ali Abunimah argued, "the Israeli Jewish public's choice to re-elect Netanyahu should make it clear to people around the world that Israel does not seek peace and does not seek justice." Israeli NGO B'Tselem has made a similar assessment.

The election results show, loud and clear, that the voting public in Israel favors the ongoing occupation in its present form: a military rule that denies basic rights to millions of people, settlement expansion and its inverse the expropriation of Palestinian lands and the dispossession of its owners, and an entire occupation apparatus that entrenches two separate legal systems, unjust military courts, and a permit regime controlling most aspects of Palestinian life.

The recent film Selma gave cinema-goers an insight into another historical struggle against a different regime of segregation and control: the civil rights movement. A key element of Martin Luther King's strategy that we see played out in the film was the use of protests and civil disobedience to provoke a confrontation with authorities and create a drama.

This strategy's success depended, in part, on a brutal overreaction from law enforcement that would draw attention to the systematic injustice and violence of daily life in the segregated South. When King arrived in Selma, he wanted to know about the opposition.

Would the movement face in Selma someone as vicious and mistake-prone as the police commissioner of Birmingham, Bull Connor, who two years before had given the world the horrendous images of his attack dogs and fire hoses? Or...would they face someone politically astute like the police chief of Albany, Laurie Pritchett, who had frustrated and defused and, in most people's minds, defeated the movement with his sensitivity to the movement's goals and his tactic of mass arrests?

"Is [local sheriff] Jim Clark a Bull Connor or a Laurie Pritchett?" King asks. The answer was the former, and the civil rights leader knew that Selma was the place to make a stand.

The question then is this: will Netanyahu be Israel's Bull Connor?

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:52:37 +0000
Turkey and the development of democracy in the Middle East Yasar YakisThe evolution of democracy in the Middle East in its contemporary sense has gone through various stages. The first was the Ottoman period. With the exception of Iran and Morocco, almost all Middle Eastern countries were part of the Ottoman State for centuries. It is reasonable to say, therefore, that both democracy and the absence thereof must have been at comparable levels across the region for centuries, though some areas may have experienced better democracy than others.

Yaşar Yakış is the former foreign minister of Turkey, and a former ambassador to the UN Office in Vienna, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Yasar YakisThe evolution of democracy in the Middle East in its contemporary sense has gone through various stages. The first was the Ottoman period. With the exception of Iran and Morocco, almost all Middle Eastern countries were part of the Ottoman State for centuries. It is reasonable to say, therefore, that both democracy and the absence thereof must have been at comparable levels across the region for centuries, though some areas may have experienced better democracy than others.

The constitutional monarchy was introduced in the Ottoman State in 1876 with the inauguration of the first parliament where all Ottoman provinces (Eyalets) were represented by elected members. The people in the following modern states were represented in this parliament one way or another: Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. This was no more than democracy in its embryonic stage.

The second period followed the break-up of the Ottoman State. Every Ottoman province that has become an independent state since the dismemberment of the empire developed democracy according to its own traditions and experience. Tunisia, after three centuries of Ottoman rule, became part of France's overseas territories in 1881 and its political institutions developed according to French traditions. Egypt became a British protectorate in 1914 and its political institutions evolved according to the traditions of the United Kingdom. In the wake of World War One, Syria and Lebanon were put under a French mandate, while Iraq and Palestine were ruled by British mandate authorities; their political institutions developed in line with their respective mandatory powers. Saudi Arabia and several Gulf monarchies chose strict Islamic rule as a method of governance. The Republic of Turkey emerged as a secular state.

This diversification saw Turkey become the only secular country to emerge from the Ottoman Empire. If there is a difference between democracy in Turkey and the other Middle Eastern countries, it is due mainly to the secular character of the regime.

The third stage in the development of democracy in the region was the outbreak of the Arab Spring. At the beginning, there were expectations that this might turn out to be an epoch-making development for the spread of genuine democracy in the Middle East. These expectations have yet to be fulfilled. There were also frequent references to Turkey as a role model for the Arab Spring countries. In part this was due to the fact that the revolutions started in a country where Turkey's secular experience had been followed with great interest and enthusiasm since the era of Habib Bourgiba, the first President of the independent Republic of Tunisia.

The Arab Spring also coincided with another political development in Turkey, where the Justice and Development Party (AKP) achieved substantial reforms in the political and economic fields in the framework of the process for its accession to the European Union (EU). "The reforms that Turkey achieved in the last 18 months [in 2004] were more than the reforms achieved in the last 80 years," said the then commissioner in charge of EU expansion. These reforms were achieved in Turkey by a political party with Islamic roots. The leadership of the AKP pointed out that religious values were not taken as a reference in the performance of the party, but the core membership was composed of former members of the Virtue Party (Fazilet), which had strong Islamic references but had been dissolved by Turkey's constitutional court because of its anti-secular activities. The Muslim Brotherhood emerged in many Middle Eastern countries as the strongest political force in the elections held after the Arab Spring.

In the turmoil of the aftermath of the democratic revolutions, a party like the AKP, guided by moderate Islam, was regarded as a source of inspiration for political reform. Rachid Ghannouchi of Tunisia was the first political leader to refer to Turkey as a role model. He is the intellectual leader of the Ennahda Party, which emerged as the strongest political movement in the Tunisian elections that were held after ousting the regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The chances of an Islamist political party coming to power had created mixed feelings in liberal and secular quarters, both in Tunisia and overseas. To dispel any fears, Ghannouchi announced that when Ennahda came to power it would not introduce sharia; it would not force women to wear the scarf; it would not ban alcohol in restaurants; and the party would be inspired by the practices of the ruling party of Turkey, the AKP.

A similar attitude was adopted by certain members of the Egyptian intelligentsia after the Arab Spring broke out in their country. They said that the best model suitable for Egypt was Turkish secularism. This gave way to the hope that a belt of like-minded political parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movement would come to power in many Middle Eastern countries including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey, and probably Syria.

After Brotherhood parties won the first democratic elections in Tunisia and Egypt, the public were disillusioned by their failure to deliver the expected democratisation. The presidential election in December 2014 demonstrated that the people of Tunisia could show the Islamist Ennahda the red card, having tested it in power for a short while. In Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi thought that a slim majority would allow him to turn a deaf ear to those who did not vote for him. The emergence of the "Islamic State" (ISIS) has exacerbated the generally-held negative feelings about regimes that are inspired by Islam.

We are now at the fourth stage post-Arab Spring, which is characterised by several questions about democracy. Public opinion in the Middle East is asking whether unhindered democracy will be able to bring the standard of living that people have sought for a long time. Will Islamic fundamentalism overwhelm the values that they still hold dear?

Turkey is far from being a democratic paradise but it has gained some experience since the formation of its parliament 150 years ago. From 1923 to 1946 it tested one-party parliamentary democracy and now it has been testing a multi-party democracy for 70 years, albeit interrupted by several military coups. The accession process to the European Union contributed considerably to the elimination of many discrepancies in Turkish democracy. Moreover, its democracy functions much better, relatively speaking, than almost all other Middle Eastern countries.

Having said this, Turkey is no longer perceived as a role model for the Middle East. Interest in the Turkish model has faded as a result of Turkey's increasing isolation caused by various factors, including its policies on Syria and Egypt, and by the increasing emphasis on religious values in Turkish society.

We will be able to say that democracy is dawning in the Arab countries only when we see that those who came to power immediately after the Arab Spring are replaced by governments elected through democratic processes. So far this has happened only in Tunisia.

]]> (Yaşar Yakış) Guest Writers Sun, 01 Feb 2015 09:00:07 +0000
The struggle for collective rights unites all Indigenous peoples from North America to Palestine Dr Sarah MarusekThe UN has declared 2014 to be the "Year of solidarity with the Palestinian people", a move that reflects the rising level of international support for equal rights and justice in Palestine. But while this is certainly a welcome development, we must also recognise that the liberal framework underpinning the UN and international law, which the Palestinian Authority and international activists are both increasingly calling upon, prioritises individual rights and national sovereignty within a bounded geographical territory, whereas the Palestinian cause is actually a struggle for the self-determination of all Palestinians, no matter where they happen to live.

This is why it is so important that communities that have been subject to similar forms of collective oppression throughout history, and which continue to suffer today, are also increasingly mobilising in support of the liberation of Palestine, from South Africa to India to North America. The struggle for collective rights unites all Indigenous peoples, and while the struggle against oppression and for liberation is something universal, when the oppression is collectively based, liberation must also be collectively realised. Thus those seeking universal liberation are uniting in the fight against colonialism and imperialism, the frameworks of collective oppression.

While the American Studies Association dominated the headlines last month after it decided to endorse the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, following the precedent set by the Asian American Studies Association in April 2013, shortly afterwards the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) also announced its support for the boycott campaign.

According to Indian Country Today newsmagazine, the leading independent news source providing a national platform for Native voices and issues, the NAISA declaration of support states that: "As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonisation and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples."

There are many reasons why supporters of Indigenous rights would stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Of course Palestinians are indigenous to the land of Palestine, but we should not forget that this is a movement seeking to empower all those who continue to be collectively oppressed by the colonial and imperial projects, ultimately securing rights for all humans.

The struggle against colonialism and for Indigenous rights in the Americas has been going on for centuries. As Native American author and political activist Ward Churchill testified to the New York session for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in October 2012: "By the beginning of the twentieth century the population of American Indians in North America had been reduced by roughly 95 per cent from the onset of the European invasion some 300 years earlier." The European settlers achieved this mass genocide – the near eradication of all Indigenous peoples of North America – through the systematic killing, displacement and quarantining of Native Americans, as well as the destruction of their livelihoods and ecosystems, leading to disease and environmental degradation.

Churchill stressed that this history of oppression continues, with rampant poverty, unemployment and preventable diseases afflicting many American Indian communities today. This is because the colonial project never really ended: "The status of American Indian peoples as sovereign nations has been recognized 400 times over through the ratification of treaties by the US. Nonetheless, the US has unilaterally asserted jurisdiction over all remaining Indian territories within its claimed boundaries." Furthermore, by repeatedly enforcing policies that undermine the collective aspects of Native American cultures, the US has become more effective at confronting their resistance.

Churchill ended his testimony by saying that much of the American Indian story "will resonate with considerable familiarity among Palestinians. While the particulars are in many respects different, the effects suffered are entirely similar."

Indeed, there is growing level of solidarity between the Indigenous peoples of North America and Palestine. In addition to the NAISA endorsement of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, in December 2012 more than 100 Palestinian activists and 50 solidarity organisations signed onto a statement of support for Indigenous rights and Canada's Idle No More movement in particular, which stands firmly against colonisation, racism, injustice and oppression.

In a recent issue of Jacobin magazine with a special focus on Palestine, the editors argue that: "Building a European state outside of Europe meant the destruction, expulsion, or assimilation of Indigenous people, what the historian Patrick Wolfe has called the 'logic of elimination'." Although they are making a particular point about Palestine here, their argument works just as well for North America. However, the editors also warn us that it is unwise to take this comparison too far. At heart this is not only a question of American and Zionist settler colonialism, but also a global North-South struggle, which means it is similarly a fight against the oppressive forces of global capitalism.

Because as the editors also point out: "Israeli Jews - especially those from North Africa and the Middle East - can also be an oppressed class in historical Palestine. We ignore them at our peril, for any change that doesn't also pass through the prism of the minds of the Jewish working class would be a revolution from above: an imposed decolonisation."

Focusing on the struggle for justice in the periphery highlights the class dynamics and the racial motivations of the settler colonial and imperial projects, universalised by global capitalism, and helps us to confront Israel's "Redwashing" campaign – using Indigenous spokespersons to cover up Israel's on-going occupation of Palestinian land and the violations of Palestinian rights.

Palestinian scholar and activist Sa'ed Atshan suggests that "Redwashing" is yet another part of the government's "Brand Israel campaign, which not only obfuscates the reality of Israeli colonisation but also works to sever Palestinian links with other Indigenous peoples while also aiming to secure Indigenous support for Zionist settler-colonialism in Palestine."

That the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls its public relations effort "Brand Israel" is apt, because this terminology illustrates how the campaign parallels the logic of capitalism. Corporations spend vast amounts of resources to shape their public images to generate more capital, all the while exploiting their workforce and the environment. Likewise, Israel spends vast resources to create the illusion that Israel is a democracy to further entrench the Zionist project in Palestine, all the while exploiting a peace process that prolongs the occupation and denying Palestinians their rights.

Furthermore, Israel's efforts to co-opt Indigenous peoples in order to legitimise its occupation of Palestine are often embraced by colonial elites with particular interests. Atshan explains that: "We find colonial elites among Native Americans, for example, pushing for Native participation in the US military to support its imperialist endeavours, while colonial elites among Palestinians, including in the Palestinian Authority, serve as subcontractors for Israeli colonisation."

Although many colonial elites may still live in the geographical periphery, they have symbolically placed themselves in the centre by building fences around their privileges, whereas those who are struggling for a new global politics seek to enlarge the circle of humanity, not contain it. As Atshan told MEMO, "We need to understand the transnational networks in which settler-colonial states are embedded. Too often we look at internal dynamics of settler-colonial states without examining how these states are connected by common and shared and interlinked processes. The global military industrial complex and prison industrial complex come to mind."

By focusing on the global processes at play, this also reminds us that the global struggle is continuous, despite any given political setback. Atshan points out that: "The analogies between the Native American reservations and the fate of Palestinians often assume a static reality of the Native American experience. It takes as a given that the US settler-colonial project has prevailed and that Native American spirits have been crushed. It erases a rich history of Native American resistance and resilience that continues until today." The documentary film Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines, produced by Indigenous organiser Amanda Lickers, is a fine illustration of this on-going resistance against global capitalism and for Indigenous rights.

Connecting all of these struggles has never been more urgent. As the Palestinian supporters of Idle No More urge, "Now is the time – from Canada/Turtle Island to Palestine, we must all be 'Idle No More', and take a stand: against colonialism, against occupation, and for self-determination, sovereignty, rights and justice for Indigenous peoples." Indeed, for all peoples.

]]> (Dr Sarah Marusek) Activism Mon, 27 Jan 2014 14:09:48 +0000
We have forgotten Palestine! "We have no more time to waste; enough is enough. We must rise to support Palestine before we lose it in these meaningless negotiations"We Arabs have unwittingly fulfilled the dreams of the Zionists. We have regressed and become distracted with our own internal issues and foolish disputes within the borders of our own countries, and lost sight of our most important issue. Although, Palestine is still in the heart and soul of every Arab, unfortunately we have done nothing effective for it. We are no longer moved by what the Zionists are doing and destroying in the occupied Palestinian territories, nor do we care anymore about the thousands of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli prisons. We don't even bat an eye when we hear about their hunger strikes or about them dying in Israeli prisons. We are no longer concerned about the excavations and tunnels being dug under the Al-Aqsa Mosque; the first qibla, the third holiest site in Isla and the site from where our beloved Prophet took his night journey. All this is happening before the eyes of the Islamic nation and no one is taking action! We witness the humiliation and torture of our fellow Muslims by the Zionist soldiers on our television screens, and we frown upon it, but we do not get angry; we do not revolt! Where has the passion for Islam gone; where is the anger of the Muslims whose sanctities are being dishonoured?

Is it possible for us to lose sight of all this in favour of our meaningless internal conflicts? Even though it appears we have forgotten about Palestine, is it really possible to overlook it? This question reassures me and gives me a glimmer of hope. Prophet Mohammad's nation must wake up, pull themselves together, and rise again to defend their honour, pride, and dignity; they must liberate Palestine from the river to the sea. I am not one of those people who have been chasing after the mirage of empty negotiations ever since the Oslo Accords in 1992 which were falsely labelled peace talks. This was a way of distracting the Arabs with delusions until they had finished carrying out their evil plans including the completion of settlement construction on seized Palestinian land, and the Judaisation of East Jerusalem with a view to completely take over the entire.

However, we are too busy with our sectarian and denominational disputes that the Salafists consider to be the cause they must fight to the death for. They view this as a holy war, and forget that the true holy war is the war against the Zionists in Palestine as stated by the Quranic verse "[And We said] If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves." "Then when the final promise came, [We sent your enemies] to disfigure your faces and to enter the temple in Jerusalem, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy all that fell into their power with [total] destruction."

We do not have the luxury of starting new pointless negotiations such as those being planned and prepared for at the moment. It is now being claimed that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, whose term ended years ago, has come to an agreement with the Israeli side to swap land between the two states. Hasn't "Abu Mazen", who is living in a stupor, learned the lessons of the past taught to him by Sharon who is still stronger than him even though he is in an actual coma? Sharon rooted the concept of meaningless negotiations which has now become the chosen method used in Israeli policies which seize, loot and murder, and know nothing of dialogue and peace. Their hands are blood stained because all they have ever carried is a rifle; they have never carried an olive branch, but instead they kill olive trees.

When will the Arabs realise this and wake up? We have no more time to waste; enough is enough. We must rise to support Palestine before we lose it in these meaningless negotiations.

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Wed, 08 May 2013 16:52:06 +0000
Is a solution to the Syrian conflict on the horizon? Everything happening in Syria confirms a single truth: there is no room for a military solution for any of the Syrian factions that are carrying weapons on the ground because the military option is a red line for everyone from the Arab countries to the wider international community. It also confirms that civilians will only feel safe in areas that are controlled by armed forces.

Various armed groups are on the ground in Syria. Most have a Salafist ideology and are offshoots of Al-Qaeda to varying degrees. These groups control areas which were once under the control of the Assad regime, in part because they started to recruit fighters on social networking sites shortly after Damascus ordered airstrikes on the areas in question. It was then that the displacement of Syrian civilians started in earnest, including those who had stayed put in the early stages of the conflict. It is as if the goal of the so-called liberation process was to empty what was left of Syria's towns, cities and populated areas. It would have been better for the Syrian opposition groups if those countries which provided them with weapons had established a no-fly zone to stop Assad's air force from bombing civilians. This would have allowed life to continue in Syrian towns and the first wave of displaced citizens could have returned to their homes; it might even have allowed refugees to settle down, albeit in different towns around the country.

The current situation is only likely to lead to the continuation of national division, something that the official media is still ignoring. Is this media strategy merely part of a larger ploy to allow politicians to organise themselves before an agreement is reached that could save what is left of Syria and its people? It seems as though regional and Arab forces are expecting that a political solution, similar to the Taif Accords which ended the Lebanese Civil War, is on the horizon for Syria; this is a small beacon of hope in the dark reality suffocating the country. The events that will take place after the repercussions of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen unfold, or those following the final points of the US-Iran nuclear deal, will not be the same as those that came before this moment in the region's political history.

There are many factors affecting the Middle East that makes outside parties think that there is no link between themselves and the situation in Syria. Yet, participants at the upcoming Cairo conference are said to represent the Syrian opposition. Furthermore, Saudi Arabian leaders are also expected to meet with more than 150 Syrian personalities who all claim to be representatives of the Syrian people and their factions. The recent public appearances made by Zahran Alloush, the commander of Jayas Al-Islam, also lead many to believe that negotiations for a solution to the Syrian conflict may be made public soon. In the same context, the recent killing of Izzat Al-Duri, one of the founders of ISIS; the recent remarks advocating the need to return to Geneva 1; and the remarks of researchers outlining their predictions as to what will the fate of Bashar Al-Assad, all indicate that a possible solution to the Syrian conflict or a discussion thereof is nigh. In addition, some information has been leaked indicating that certain roadmaps have been outlined for the Syrian negotiations. All of these are understandable and can be deemed acceptable if it means finding a solution to the ongoing massacre, which has been an extraordinary tragedy in Syrian history.

However, does all of this not require the Syrian opposition groups to show their hand and set out everything clearly that has happened there over the past four years? Is this step not required before the next phase starts? We are not asking this of the regime because it is quite clear how immoral its crimes have been, but it remains the opposition's responsibility to reveal all of their own mistakes to the public. They must claim their part of the responsibility for the political impasse that has led Syria into the abyss; that is, of course, if we truly have the intention of finding a political solution for this crisis and return to the principles set forth by the Geneva Convention. This potential solution is unlikely to take place any time soon. In the meantime, the Syrian people will remain displaced, under siege and living in fear of hunger and death while the politicians keep their hands in the mud and the country sinks to the bottom of the swamp.

]]> (Rasha Imran) Middle East Thu, 23 Apr 2015 15:15:20 +0000
Justice, Jenin and Janner Yvonne RidleyThere is outrage in Britain over the decision not to prosecute a senior British peer over child sex offences. Lord Greville Janner should have been charged with historic child sex offences on three occasions over the past 25 years but he has now apparently escaped prosecution because, at 86 years old, he has dementia. It is not known for certain why previous allegations were not taken to court by the public prosecutor.

Frankly, I have no idea if Lord Janner is a predatory paedophile or not, but now that he will not be charged it is unlikely that he will ever face his accusers in court. Certainly the many alleged victims who say that they were groomed, assaulted and exploited by him are outraged that justice has been denied to them.

On previous occasions, Janner had denied such accusations vehemently, but since I believe that his lordship has a long distance relationship with the truth, his word means little to me. I say this because way back in 2002, while he was actively being investigated — yet again — by British police for child sex offences, he visited Palestine around the same time that I did.

The West Bank town of Jenin, a name now synonymous with heroic resistance, was under siege and there were several reports of an Israeli military-led massacre. I was one of the first journalists to get into Jenin within hours of the siege being lifted and to this day I am haunted by what I saw. I've never been able to speak about Jenin without tears coming to my eyes; they are welling up again as I write.

That day in April I arrived to see Palestinians still recovering the bodies of their loved ones from beneath the rubble where their homes once stood. Around 50 were missing and 25 of those had been buried alive as Israelis moved their tanks in to bulldoze the buildings. I saw one widow whose hands were shredded and bloodied as she dug desperately through the concrete, stones and crushed mortar to try to find the body of her wheelchair-bound uncle. "We had less than two minutes' notice to get out and he didn't make it," she cried.

Not one home had escaped the onslaught as F16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters sent their hellfire missiles and shells into the civilian areas.

A man called Marwan told me how he watched the lifeblood of his wife ebb from her body over several agonising hours after shrapnel from one of the shells tore through the kitchen window and sliced her jugular vein as she peeled vegetables in her kitchen. Israeli soldiers refused to let him carry her to a nearby hospital for help and those medics held back on the outskirts of Jenin with their ambulances were refused permission to enter.

Amidst all of this carnage, some Palestinian women told me, Israeli soldiers stole their jewellery. Others explained to me that they were used as human shields while the soldiers went about their dirty work. I walked around the town with a delegation of Labour MPs and saw the evidence with my own eyes. The world knew that something horrific had happened in Jenin but few were allowed in to give an eye witness account. I'm still not sure how or why our delegation led by the then Labour MP George Galloway gained access, but we did.

In the meantime, friends and allies of the Zionist state tumbled in to Jerusalem to carry out some damage limitation. Among them was Lord Janner, a leading light in Westminster's pro-Israel lobby, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State.

Powell gave a press conference in the luxurious King David Hotel in Jerusalem and told the media that he had seen no evidence of a massacre in Jenin. This was the same man, you may recall, who in December 1968 said that there was no evidence of a massacre at a place called My Lai in South Vietnam. Of course, there had been a massacre; in both places.

The reason Colin Powell "saw no evidence" is because he never left the hotel and I have often wondered if Greville Janner ever actually put a foot in Jenin. If he didn't then he lied to his House of Lords colleagues about going to Jenin and if he did go to the town and saw what I saw then he lied about there being no massacre. He said back then that he did not find "evidence of allegations of disproportionate force." Either way, his lordship's word is not something upon which I would ever rely.

Not only is he a man who cannot be trusted, but he is also a hypocrite. Five years before the massacre of Jenin, in January 1997, an Old Bailey jury decided that a man aged 86 –Janner's age now – was too ill to stand trial for atrocities that had taken place in 1941 and 1942.

Lord Janner's reaction, as chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, certainly makes interesting reading in the light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to pursue him on child sex offences. "I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand," said Janner at the time. "War criminals have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades. There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever."

The man in question was Szymon Serafinowicz, a retired carpenter from Surrey, who was arrested in 1995 as the first British person to be charged under the War Crimes Act in connection with the murder of three Jews during the Second World War. He had denied the allegations but could not answer questions because of the severity of his dementia. Lord Janner, a former Labour MP for Leicester West and co-founder and co-chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust raged, "I don't care what bloody age they are... these criminals should have been dealt with years ago."

He has now been suspended by the Labour Party following the revelation that he is facing charges of 14 indecent assaults on a male under 16 between 1969 and 1988; two indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988; four counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987; and two counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988.

More than a dozen people claim that they were abused by the politician, who is alleged to have used his position to prey on vulnerable young boys from children's homes in Leicestershire. Now it seems that Janner's alleged victims will be denied their day in court. The people of Jenin were promised a full investigation and enquiry by the United Nations but, 13 years later, they are still waiting. Justice for them is elusive as, indeed, it looks like it is going to be for those who claim to have been abused by Lord Greville Janner. Justice, Jenin and Jenner; an alliterative disgrace in every respect.

]]> (Yvonne Ridley) Europe Sat, 18 Apr 2015 12:40:45 +0000
What is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Abdulwahab Effendi

For more than three decades, I have had the privilege of communicating with numerous Islamic parties around the world by virtue of my work. I connected with groups and movements from Nigeria to Sweden; Malaysia and Indonesia to Morocco; and from America and Britain to India. I often wondered what the common thread between these groups was during my meetings with them. Was it, perhaps, how to translate Islamic values and principles in today's world?

The answer is both yes and no. While it is true that many of these movements and political groups do, in fact, focus on how to adapt Islamic values to the modern world, I was surprised to find that they focused on the nuances that were characteristics of their own country; that is, they emphasised the differences in both culture and the political reality present in their countries as opposed to emphasising the commonalities across the Islamic world at large. Just a few days ago, I had the privilege of listening to a Turkish academic give a speech on the particularities of the Turkish political scene and, in doing so, he quoted an article written by a prominent Islamic Turkish thinker titled, "The failure of political Kemalism and the victory of secular Kemalism in Turkey". As the title suggests, secularism in Turkey is the preference of the majority of the Turkish people, even the religious amongst them.

Over the years, I have also heard similar narratives on the uniqueness of the situations in the Indonesian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Gulf, Jordanian and European arenas. Of course, one must not simply argue that every country has its specifics but that every region within that country has its own socio-political and cultural realities. Interestingly enough, the focus was on those particularities which were celebrated, despite the prevailing expectations advocated by the Islamists to overcome these specificities and work towards global Islamic unity. Yet, thinking in this way often makes people forget the reason why social movements are created in the first place; that every movement is born as a result of its environment and serves as a reflection of its reality. Remembering this helps us to explain why many communist movements failed and why we saw the emergence of different varieties of communism, as was the case in China, the Soviet Union and even Yugoslavia prior to its breakup and subsequent conflict.

Against this backdrop, the short answer to the question I pose in the title is that the Muslim Brotherhood is a movement with an Egyptian identity and national configuration. The Brotherhood originated in Egypt and the majority of its members remain Egyptian. When the movement emerged, its founding father Shaikh Hassan Al-Banna considered the possibility of moving to Yemen and then to Saudi Arabia; in the end he chose to stay in Egypt, which he described in his memoirs as the "leader of all Islamic countries" (Al-Banna mentioned Egypt nearly one hundred and fifty times in his memoirs).

His message can be summarised, as it often is in multiple texts, by the following quotation: "I call upon my Muslim brothers and sisters to commit themselves to Islam and being Muslims and to take it upon themselves to advance this religion." Al-Banna went on to encourage Muslims to help spread the message of Islam and to stand firm in the face threats against it. We will go back to some of these questions later but the question that I would like to answer now is, have the Egyptian people responded to this call?

According to most experts and observers of the history and development of the Muslim Brotherhood, its total number of employees and supporters on the eve of the big strike, which occurred at the start of the Nasserite era in 1954-1955, is estimated at nearly half a million people. In the 2011 Egyptian elections, the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won more than ten million votes. Although the first to respond to Hassan Al-Banna's call were workers and craftsmen, the Muslim Brotherhood's message later spread among students and teachers, especially teachers of the Arabic language and religious education, and a small segment of the bourgeoisie and people living in the countryside.

It goes without saying that people's existing religious commitment was not necessarily their motivation for joining the movement because then there would no longer be the need to talk to people about their affiliation with Islam. It is also curious to see how few Islamic scholars now affiliate themselves with the movement despite the fact that it is quite sympathetic to people in this sector of society. According to its founders, the impetus behind the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood was to address the rise of a secular aesthetic and the spread of Westernisation.

From here we can begin to define what sectors of society responded to Al-Banna and how many rejected him. Many of those who aligned themselves with his ideology were those who rejected the cultural alienation that was beginning to take over many of Egypt's new educational institutions. The rejection of this development was the natural reaction of the rural population and the petite bourgeoisie. A real breakthrough came with the mass recruitment of members after the outbreak of the Palestinian crisis in the mid-thirties and the Brotherhood's decision to form the Palestine Solidarity Movement as a declaration of its rejection of colonialism and foreign hegemony in the region. The Brotherhood's political capital increased after the outbreak of the 1947-1948 war in Palestine, the Egyptians' rejection of a British presence in their country and the subsequent disasters of the defeat in the war with the nascent state of Israel. Anger and discontent rose as a result of the political crises in the region. With these developments, the Muslim Brotherhood aligned itself with national liberation movements.

The Brotherhood experienced a decline in popularity during the Nasser era, not because its causes were no longer relevant but simply because Nasser stole the clothes off the Islamic movement's back by adopting its most important stances of standing against Western hegemony in the region and advocating popular causes and the rights of the poor. In contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood gained a lot of leverage in the Sadat era, not because he supported it as is often claimed, but because his presidency re-oriented Egypt towards the West and abandoned the poor. Sadat took advantage of public apprehension towards the Brotherhood in order to increase the leverage of Left Wing groups in universities; such political endeavours would have been insignificant if the movement did not have a great deal of political capital and initiatives taking place on the ground.

The Muslim Brotherhood was not the leading religious movement in the 1970s; the Salafist movement surpassed it for several reasons. In his fight against religious movements, Nasser focused most of his energy on combating those of a specific, more traditional category. The strategy of traditional Islamist movements, such as the Salafis, was to publish works that called for a pre-modern way of life. Thus many traditionalists called for the publication of books that pre-dated modern heritage and interpretation, such as the works of Al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyyah. This new orientation not only expanded to sweep the Muslim Brotherhood under its current but also coincided with the oil boom and the migration of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, especially the workers, craftsmen and teachers, to the Gulf States.

This migration had several effects, the first being a shift in the economic hierarchy between workers and small craftsmen and the petite and traditional bourgeoisie, which dominated the cultural landscape. The second was that the Salafist migrants who went to Saudi Arabia were able to foster a message of religious simplicity that appealed to the popular classes, especially in the non-politicised version of their message, which prepared its acceptance amid the popular classes.

The Salafist movement was not the only dominant force in the political arena. The 1970s saw many trends among students in Egyptian universities, especially new universities in the countryside. These trends emerged during the absence of Muslim Brotherhood activities, as it was banned by the government and many of its leaders were in prison or exile. Despite all of these obstacles, the Brotherhood was able to attract many members later on thanks to its outstanding leadership.

In summary, one could say that the Muslim Brotherhood was formed by uniting the sectors of Egyptian society that rejected foreign domination and internal manifestations of Westernisation and secularisation, in addition to its sympathy with the disadvantaged and, of course, its religious ethos. The majority of the Muslim Brotherhood's members were and remain outside of the influential classes. What this confirms is that the campaign to eradicate the movement aims, in effect, to eradicate the most important sector of the Egyptian people, along with its principles and values. In short, this is a war on Egypt that seeks to empower external forces, as was the case during the colonial era.

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 13 April, 2015.

]]> (Dr Abdul-Wahab Effendi) Africa Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:57:13 +0000
The persistence of the Palestinian Authority Asa WinstanleyFor years now, analysts and observers of Palestine have predicted a third intifada, or uprising against occupation. The first intifada which, lasted from 1987 until 1993, caught everyone off guard, and few predicted it. This included the PLO itself.

While political cadres of the various PLO factions were active on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in leading the intifada, including through the Unified National Leadership, the higher echelons of the exiled PLO leadership soon attempted to direct the spontaneous popular uprising from their bases in Tunisia.

Due to the high level of popular Palestinian support for the PLO at the time, this would have not been a problem, were it not for the way that historical PLO leader Yasser Arafat ultimately directed the intifada.

The hard-fought gains that the Palestinian people won through popular resistance, demonstrations, boycotts, stone throwing and (towards the end of the almost entirely unarmed uprising) some limited guerilla actions against Israeli soldiers, were ultimately squandered by Arafat. This was done even against the wishes of many in the PLO, including the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (led by the late George Habash) and independent intellectuals like Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish.

Said for his part not only left the PLO in protest, but almost immediately saw 1993's Oslo accords for what they were: "an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles," as he wrote a month after that infamous ceremony on the Whitehouse Lawn and the orchestrated shaking of hands between Arafat and Israeli war criminal Yitzak Rabin. As early as 9 June 1994 Said described the Palestinian Authority as "an Israeli protectorate resembling... a Middle East version of a South African Bantustan" – an analogy which is now made quite often, but would have been far more controversial in those days.

As with the first intifada, so with the second: few people really saw it coming. Although, like the first intifada, the "al-Aqsa intifada" of 2000-2005 began as an unarmed popular uprising of demonstrations, protests and stone throwing, extraordinary Israeli brutality against the demonstrations meant that it soon escalated, and armed Palestinian factions began to strike back.

The Hebrew press reported that Israeli soldiers fired one million bullets at the demonstrations within the first two weeks of the intifada. With such brutality on display, it is no wonder Palestinians began to lose faith in unarmed resistance.

As the first two intifadas were largely unpredicted, it has since become a fairly regular occurrence for pundits to predict a "third intifada". Usually alongside this prediction comes another: that its first target will be the Palestinian Authority. This makes a certain logical sense, as the PA is – as Edward Said said it would be – little more than a Palestinian subcontractor for the Israeli occupation regime.

And yet, years later, the Palestinian Authority endures. Despite occasional murmurous of discontent and even demonstrations against the PA (such as 2012's brief surge of protest against the neoliberal policies of unelected former Prime Minister Salim Fayyad), the West Bank seems largely under the control of the PA – and hence of Israel. What accounts for this?

There are many factors, most of which are beyond the scope of this column. But I would like to highlight a central one here: those wanting to know more should read the chapter "Neoliberal Palestine" in my colleague at The Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah's latest book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine (which won MEMO's 2014 Palestine Book Award).

After the end of the second intifada, and especially after 2007, Israel and its allies sought to impose pacification on the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank under the guise of "economic peace". That latter year was when a US-Israel-Fatah coup against the elected Palestinian Authority government, led by Hamas, succeeded in the West Bank, but failed in the Gaza Strip where Hamas (Palestine's Islamic liberation movement) expelled the US-trained forces of Muhammad Dahlan from Gaza (dubbed the "Palestinian Contras" by Abunimah). In that chapter, he outlines how the brutal neoliberal economic policies of Fayyad, backed by the anti-democratic thuggery of Mahmoud Abbas's US-trained PA forces kept the people under the regime's thumb.

All this, combined with a new neoliberal spirit of consumerism and culture of debt, means that people are less likely to resist. Any "third intifada" seems a long way off. But the very nature of spontaneous uprising against oppression means few will really see it coming.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 04 Apr 2015 11:43:05 +0000
Will the Obama administration go through with its threats to re-evaluate the relationship with Israel? US and Israeli flags

The Obama administration announced that it would re-evaluate its policies regarding Israel in light of the statements made by Netanyahu during his election campaign. This included his abandonment of his commitment to a Palestinian state. In order to justify this position, the White House spokesperson said that Washington believes in the need to establish a Palestinian state because its establishment serves the American and Israeli interests, as well as the Palestinian interests.

In order for the American administration to give gravity to its talk of re-evaluation, Obama did not express any concern regarding Netanyahu's "back down" from his position on the Palestinian state after winning in the elections. The US State Department spokesman said that his administration might abstain from voting if a draft resolution recognising the Palestinian state is proposed to the UN Security Council and that the US may even recognise the Palestinian state without waiting for the outcome of the negotiations.

Will the American administration go through with its threats? What would be the outcome of this? What are the expected scenarios?

The first scenario would involve Washington backing down from its intention to re-evaluate its policies and instead Obama will remain content with the ear pulling he delivered to Netanyahu in exchange for Netanyahu's commitment to the Palestinian state. This is despite the fact that he knows, more than anyone else, that this commitment was meaningless since day one because Netanyahu set impossible conditions to agree to the establishment of the state. These conditions include ensuring Israel's security and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state. After he withdrew his commitment, Netanyahu added new conditions such as Abu Mazen's need to abandon his partnership with Hamas; he must choose between Hamas and Israel. He also added a new condition involving Israel needing to guarantee itself in terms of security more than ever after the serious developments and shifts in the region before it agrees to the establishment of the Palestinian state. Even before backing down from his commitment, Netanyahu said that the establishment of the state must not prevent Israel from the right to intervene within the territories of the state to protect Israel's security.

When Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state during a speech in 2009, it was an attempt to please the American administration and Washington was content with it being only a formality. It was not concerned with the fact that Netanyahu's government was rejecting initiatives, causing negotiations to fail and continuing its aggression and racial discrimination. This fortifies the establishment of a fait accompli that makes the Israeli solution (which fails to meet even the basic rights that should be accorded to Palestinians) the only solution that is feasible.

This scenario is reinforced by the fact that Obama is giving priority to his deal with Iran, which is strongly opposed by Israel, the Republican Party and supporters of Israel and the fact that he does not want to open another front especially in light of his presidential term approaching its end. To even consider doing so would lead to pressure from his party and its presidential candidates, specifically Hillary Clinton. She has taken a pro-Israel position and does not want to lose the backing of Israel's supporters in the next presidential election.

In this scenario, the administration takes the advice of author and diplomat Dennis Ross. He believes that now is not the time for negotiations or solutions but rather it is the time to focus on restoring confidence and providing the appropriate conditions for the resumption of negotiations. Ross has also said that it is only possible to manage the conflict, not resolve it.

The second scenario involves Obama approving the issuance of a Security Council resolution that recognises the Palestinian state and includes a timeframe for its establishment. Abbas will then be forced to activate the Palestinian membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and implement the Central Committee's decisions regarding ending security coordination with Israel. In this case, the situation is likely to completely deteriorate and will lead to a Palestinian - Israeli confrontation that will have repercussions on the entire region; a region already witnessing wars and divisions.

A Security Council resolution recognising the Palestinian state or America's recognition of a Palestinian state will be costly for the Palestinians. This resolution will include American and international standards such as the inclusion of "land swaps", considering Israel's security a priority and giving up on major Palestinian issues. The American administration may also demand that the resolution include a clause referring to the "Jewishness" of Israel (as was the case in the French draft resolution) and will most likely be paired with the demand for the any attempts made to "delegitimise" Israel to be halted.

This means that the price of such a resolution would be greater than any gains, even though it would be portrayed as a victory for Palestine. It could merely be an addition to the past international resolutions and recognitions which have been cast aside and are being undermined by the facts and actions on the ground. This undermines any possibility of reaching a solution and makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to establish a Palestinian state.

The American administration may be content with only supporting a Security Council resolution that condemns settlements and calls for freezing settlement activity. It will likely follow this with calls for the resumption of negotiations on this basis. By doing so, the Obama administration will have only dealt a light blow to Netanyahu without changing the adopted policies.

The third scenario involves the American administration imposing some of the sanctions that Europe threatened to impose against Israel and wait for them to have an effect on Israel.

Regardless of anyone of the scenarios' potential harm or benefit, Palestine will be unable to reap the benefits or effectively tackle the potential harm as long as division within Palestine continues. In this regard, I must warn against the five-year truce initiative between Hamas and Israel currently being promoted by Arab, regional and international forces in exchange for restoring use of the port. This will ultimately deepen the state of division.

Any divisions will allow Netanyahu's government (as well as any other government) to contain and absorb any damages caused by any Security Council resolution or measures taken by the American administration or EU. If there is no international action taken in which all the concerned parties are involved (including international and regional powers) then we will remain in the vicious cycle of managing the conflict rather than resolving it. Even if we do find a solution, it will be weak and will allow the establishment of state that is void of the components of a state.

The priority must be the restoration of unity, especially in light of the escalation of the challenges and risks faced by the Palestinian cause. Unity alone can keep the cause alive, provide the motivation to persevere, reduce the damages and turn risks into opportunities.

Regardless of whether the division between Israel and its allies continues, we must not fall for the delusions believed by the PA leadership for so long which have already cost the Palestinian people dearly. Such delusions include distinctions between the Israeli political parties based on there being a "peace" camp in Israel. The results of the recent Israeli elections demonstrated that this was false. It is time for a realisation that changing Israel from the inside is too difficult. Change in Israel can only come from pressure from external forces. This may lead to the development of a true peace camp that opposes the colonial settlement project.

We must also abandon the delusion of achieving a state by means of bi-lateral negotiations under sole American sponsorship. This requires us to prove our good intentions, merit and to abandon the unity of the cause, people and land.

There are challenges, risks and plots, but there are also great opportunities for the Palestinians to cleverly use them to their advantage.

This article was first published in Arabic by This article was update at 16.57 GMT on March 25th, 2015 to update the headline to represent the content better.

]]> (Dr Hani Al-Masri ) Americas Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:51:29 +0000
10 facts about Israel's elections and the Palestinian vote Ben White

On 17 March, Israelis will go to the polls to elect a new government. Here are 10 facts about the Knesset elections and the Palestinian vote.

1. One in seven Palestinians can vote in Israel's elections.

Only one in seven of the total Palestinian population live inside Israel's pre-1967 borders and have citizenship. A third live under Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and can't vote (though the Jewish settlers living among them can). Meanwhile, around half of all Palestinians are prevented from returning to their homeland by Israel; expelled and denationalised, their forced exclusion is the reason why the majority of Israel's citizens are Jewish.

2. Israel has only ever had two non-Jewish ministers.

Since the creation of Israel in 1948, around 600 ministers have served in 33 governments. Only two of them have been non-Jews, and they served for a combined total of approximately three years.

3. No Arab party has ever been part of a ruling coalition.

After the 2013 elections, centrist Yair Lapid explicitly ruled out forming a tactical alliance with Arab parties, saying he would "not join a blocking majority with Haneen Zoabis" – a reference to the Palestinian MK from Balad. It is not impossible, however, that this time around they could be invited to form part of a ruling coalition or, that Palestinian MKs could recommend the Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu's main challenger for premier, to President Reuven Rivlin.

4. Palestinian voter participation is expected to rise.

Voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel is set to rise, and could return to levels not seen since the 1990s. In 2013, voter participation was 56 percent – in 1999, it was 75 percent. One of the key factors is the decision by Arab parties to form an alliance, the Joint List (Balad, Ta'al, United Arab List, and Hadash, a joint Jewish-Arab party).

5. Some Palestinian factions urge a boycott of Knesset elections.

Political groups that advocate a boycott of the elections include the Islamic Movement's northern branch, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, and the Abn'a el-Balad movement, along with unaffiliated activists and student campaigners.

6. The Arab parties' Joint List will boost votes.

In 2013, Arab parties secured a combined 11 seats in the Knesset. This time round, the Joint List could gain as many as 15 MKs in the new parliament. The new electoral threshold is 3.25 percent of the vote, up from 2 percent last time around.

7. Palestinian voters worry about employment, education, discrimination.

The main issues facing Palestinian citizens of Israel are economic concerns (i.e. unemployment and job creation), education, town and regional planning restrictions, home demolitions (especially in the Negev), racist or ultra-nationalist legislation, and other issues that stem from the structural discrimination faced by non-Jews.

8. Palestinian MK Haneen Zoabi was initially disqualified from running.

Israel's Central Elections Committee voted to ban two candidates: Haneen Zoabi – by 27 votes to 6 – and far-right Jewish nationalist Baruch Marzel – by 17 votes to 16. Both decisions were overturned by the High Court, though Zoabi's disqualification was backed by most candidates – including the Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog. Under Israeli law, a candidate or party can be banned from the elections for, among other things, negating the existence of Israel as a 'Jewish state'.

9. Knesset rules restrict Palestinian MKs' ability to challenge structural discrimination.

Knesset rules of procedure mean that proposed bills which undermine Israel's existence as the state of the Jewish people – as opposed to all its citizens – are thrown out.

10. Palestinian MKs are often targeted for political persecution.

Once in the Knesset, Palestinian MKs are frequent targets for politically-motivated persecution. In the past, this has included suspensions from the Knesset, investigations for visiting an 'enemy state', and criminal prosecutions based on trumped-up charges. More broadly, the Shin Bet is on record as stating it thwarts activities of any group seeking to undermine Israel's Jewish character, while in 2008, the internal security agency's then-chief Yuval Diskin, told US officials that many of the "Arab-Israeli population" are taking their rights "too far."

]]> (Ben White) Debate Wed, 11 Mar 2015 15:45:48 +0000
Palestine and the British trade unions Stephen BellMEMO's important book "The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe" analysed changing perspectives in Europe towards the Palestinian struggle. A look at the trade unions in Britain reveals that a similar process is underway. Given that these bodies are the largest social movement in the country, with approximately 7 million members, the change is not unimportant.

On closer examination, the policy shift is particularly notable. Strong support for Zionism and the Israeli state characterised the union position for almost the whole of the 20th Century. Equally, from its earliest days, the Labour Party, funded by the trade unions, was the strongest supporter of the Zionist project amongst British political parties.

In his authoritative study, "The British left and Zionism", Paul Kelemen wrote: "In August 1917, two and a half months before the Balfour Declaration committed Britain to support the setting up of a 'Jewish home' in Palestine, the Labour Party took the first step to adopting a new near identical policy in its War Aims Memorandum. The document drafted by a subcommittee of the party's executive included a proposal that Palestine should be set free from Turkish rule in order that this country may form a Free State under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish people as desire to do so may return and work at their own salvation." (p12)

This policy was endorsed by the Labour Party conference in December 1917, shortly after the Balfour Declaration. It may be thought that this was simply the work of politicians. Not so, for the trade unions registered 90 per cent of the vote at the conference. In addition, there were prominent trade union leaders at the heart of Labour's leadership, such as Arthur Henderson and Ernest Bevin, who had a direct part in framing policy on Palestine.

The "socialist" case for this support was not so surprising. Most of the parties of the Second International had come to accept the supposedly progressive argument for colonialism. The imperial bargain for this acceptance was the tolerance by the ruling class of trade union and socialist party agitation on domestic matters; colonial super-profits, meanwhile, allowed for concessions at home to be funded.

The Zionist project was seen as a logical extension of the civilising mission of European society. This could also be presented conveniently in labour movement circles as a particularly progressive example. The pioneers amongst the Jewish settlers in Palestine were drawn from the Israeli Labour Party, a sister of its namesake in Britain. The organisation of the labour market in the settlements was under the control of the Histadrut, the trade union centre of the Zionists.

Even Zionism's discriminatory practices were presented in a progressive light. The Jewish National Fund, for example, permitted land leases for "the cultivation of the holding only with Jewish labour." The Histadrut made sure that its role was to ensure that this policy was enforced. This was presented as preventing labour from being undercut, and raising living standards for all workers.

The labour movement in Britain believed in the advanced nature of Zionism over Arab or Palestinian nationalism. The Palestinian rebellion of 1936 was not supported. The assumption was that there could not be a conflict of interest between Arab and Jewish workers. Instead, it was argued by Harold Laski that the source of the problem came from "the effendi and such trouble makers as the Grand Mufti." (Kelemen p31)

A small minority, including Stafford Cripps, Michael Foot and the British Communist Party, opposed this view. The dominant position was expressed most strongly in 1939 when Labour's Front Bench opposed the Cabinet White Paper, which sought a Palestinian state in ten years and a limitation on Jewish immigration for five years. At the 1939 Labour conference this opposition was endorsed with only two votes registered against.

The position at the end of the Second World War was hardly more favourable. The statement adopted at the 1944 Labour Party conference read: "...there is surely neither hope nor meaning in a 'Jewish National Home', unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the War. There is an irrefutable case now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe... let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in."

This can only have been carried at the conference because the trade unions voted for it.

It is obvious that the experience of the British labour movement was also reinforced by the impact of the Holocaust. Sections of the armed forces were involved directly in liberating the Nazi concentration camps, along with Russia's Red Army from the East. It is impossible to imagine the effect that this had upon those who experienced it, but it meant that the case for a sovereign Jewish state became absolutely conclusive in the eyes of many progressives.

The late Tony Benn had an outstanding record in supporting the movements for colonial freedom from the 1950s. Yet as a former member of the wartime Royal Air Force, he could not let go of his support for the Israeli government until Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the resultant expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila.

Critics of Israel on the left were effectively silenced when the government of the USSR became the first government in the world to recognise the nascent State of Israel in 1948. Stalin may well have regarded the foundation of Israel as a blow to British imperialism but, in truth, its conflict with Britain was purely momentary. The damage to the Palestinian people because of the Soviet government's position is of another order. A large section of the international anti-colonial movement was disorientated by Moscow's move.

In these circumstances, there was no effective support for the Palestinians from the international, or British, labour movement. It took Stalin's death, the Egyptian victory at Suez in 1956 and the subsequent turning to the USSR by Nasser before the left within the labour movement became more supportive of the Palestinians.

However, this support would definitely have been a minority inside the labour movement in Britain, Europe and North America. When I first started arguing the case for the Palestinians in 1973, as an activist in the Transport and General Workers' Union, the position was seen by other union members as very threatening. The image of the Palestinians being presented then was based on aircraft hijackings and the Black September operation at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Obviously, the Israeli government position was more or less supported by the labour movement in the 1967 and 1973 wars. The TUC Congress carried motions of support for Israel in 1967 and 1976.

A first shift may well have begun when the UN General Assembly debated the issue after 22 years of treating the Palestinians as purely a refugee problem. Yasser Arafat's 1974 address to the UN and the subsequent majority vote for Palestinian self-determination and national independence was an important change in international perception of the issue.

As has often been the way, the Conservative Party proved to be more adept at recognising the significance of this development for British commercial interests in the Middle East. Reginald Maudling, then Shadow Foreign Secretary for the Tories, told parliament in 1975 that the PLO "is the voice of Palestinians."

Margaret Thatcher's government voted for the European Community declaration in 1979 which supported the Palestinian "right to self-determination". Labour leader James Callaghan opposed this in parliament, and suggested that the Palestinians should be placed under Jordanian jurisdiction.

Between 1974 and 1981 there were only 3 resolutions placed before the Labour Party conference on the Middle East. Two these were from Poale Zion, a Marxist-Zionist movement. Out of the 268 Labour MPs in the 1979 intake, 140 were members of Labour Friends of Israel. George Galloway and Ken Livingstone were exceptions amongst Labour politicians at the time in their readiness to support the Palestinians.

Without doubt, Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon had a big impact. At the TUC Congress that year a motion from the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) deplored the invasion and supported Palestinian self-determination. Despite General Council opposition this was carried.

Two weeks later 46 emergency motions critical of Israel were placed before the Labour Party conference. A National Executive Council statement was carried, which was broadly critical of the Likud government and supportive of the Israeli Labour Party call for a judicial enquiry into the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Further, the conference also carried two radical resolutions: from Dundee East came the call for an independent, sovereign Palestinian state, without making this conditional upon Israel's "security". The other, from Norwood, demanded recognition of the PLO and supported the establishment of a democratic secular state in Palestine.

A number of union conferences also passed pro-Palestinian resolutions: the National Association of Local Government Officers (NALGO), the FBU, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers-Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Section (AUEW/TASS), the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT 82), the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT). This was a growing influence, but still a minority. My own experience was probably more typical. At the 1990 Union of Communication Workers conference (UCW), a motion was debated in support of the Palestinians. The left delegates supported the motion strongly in debate, but received only about 10 per cent of the vote.

In many ways, the issue was subject to a left/right divide inside the labour movement. Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were (and remain) all enthusiastic supporters of Israel and carried much support with them.

The Oslo process generally slowed down the debate inside the British labour movement. The assumption was that this process gave some parity to the Palestinians; that it brought them into a political process and away from violence; and that it had an independent state guaranteed at the end.

The grinding inertia of the process did not really create much disillusion within the labour movement until the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000. The media coverage renewed interest, with some unions increasing their involvement in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

A major fillip occurred through the growth of the anti-war movement against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Palestinian slogans were raised and speakers referred constantly to the Palestinians at mass public demonstrations. Of great significance was that the trade unions broke with the Blair government on this issue. The TUC General Council voted on two occasions against the Iraq war.

A new generation of union leaders had reached positions of authority after the rise of Bennism. These leaders were also influenced by the growing diversity of multi-cultural Britain, with its impact on workplace union organisation. An anti-imperialist sentiment achieved a majority position inside much of the trade union movement.

The shift from opposition to the Iraq war to support for Palestine became hardened with each failure of Israel's aggressive policy: in Lebanon in 2006, Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in 2008/9, and the attack upon the Freedom Flotilla's Mavi Marmara in 2010.

The TUC Congress was marked by a series of pro-Palestinian motions: in 2009 from the FBU, with a General Council statement, and in 2010 a composite motion from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA)/the GMB/Unison/the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)/the FBU. In 2011 there was another composite from Unite and the PCS and in 2012 the CWU submitted a motion. An emergency motion from the General Council condemned Israel's summer 2014 war in Gaza and the events in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The size of this shift was conveyed by Martin Bright in an article in the Jewish Chronicle on 14 September, 2012: "Supporters of Israel are losing the battle of ideas in the UK. This has probably been true for some time if only they would admit it. But after this year's TUC conference there is no longer any question about it, on the left least... When David Taub was appointed as Israel's ambassador to the UK he made it his personal mission to reach out to the trade union movement. But they have no intention of listening... this motion was passed unanimously. The consensus in large swathes of the left is quite simply this: Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinians, the oppressed..."

Earlier, in 2010, the Reut Institute published a document "Building a Political Firewall against the Assault on Israel's legitimacy". The document represented a very serious attempt to analyse the growing strength of the Palestinian solidarity movement in all its key features. Its conclusions were chilling for supporters of the Israeli government: "The TUC comprises 58 affiliated unions representing nearly seven million people. With a constituency of this size, and given the relative political prominence of trade unions within British society, a trade union brace of PSC-led campaigns can substantially impact the British mainstream." (p39)

The authors of the document could not avoid a conclusion which looked decidedly like sour grapes. "The PSC's work in the trade union arena is a particularly potent example of the ability of a relatively marginal advocacy organisation to make a substantial impact." (p36)

The shift in the union and labour movement on Palestine is extremely clear when the whole history of the relationship is examined. Moreover, this becomes even clearer when the relatively conservative character of the unions is taken into account.

It is extremely difficult to win a policy change of this magnitude inside the British trade unions. It takes a great deal of time and effort to achieve. That same conservative character means that it is going to be extremely difficult to overturn a change once won. A powerful platform for Palestinian solidarity has been secured. It is up to all trade unionists to ensure that this is henceforth delivered effectively.

The author is head of policy at the Communications Workers Union (CWU) in the United Kingdom

]]> (Stephen Bell) Guest Writers Thu, 01 Jan 2015 06:30:44 +0000
The Israel-Palestine 'peace process' as a capitalist metaphor Dr Sarah MarusekMEMO published an article recently by Egyptian scholar and diplomat Abdullah Al-Ashaal about what he calls the disastrous "bartering policy" framework of the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In theory, the way this framework is supposed to work is that both parties have their sets of demands and both are expected to make certain concessions.

However, Al-Ashaal makes the important argument that, during these negotiations, "established Arab rights are being bartered, such as security in exchange for freedom, even though the people need both." After all, human rights are inalienable, so how can they be bartered?

Of course, bartering is a system of exchange that predates the money system. Traditionally, it involves trading services or goods between individuals or groups. Al-Ashaal, though, suggests that the Palestinians are "providing one thing in exchange for another" kind of thing altogether, an unequal exchange quite different to bartering in the traditional sense of the term.

For example, he argues that: "The bartering policy started when UN Security Council Resolution 242 was issued in 1967. This resolution linked Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories to the recognition of Israel and normalisation with it."

Here the Palestinians are expected to exchange some rights in order to secure others, even though all are enshrined as rights guaranteed to all humans.

On the other hand, Israel is merely "conceding" to abandon one aspect of its criminal aggression: seizing all of Palestine in 1967. What is a concession for Israel is only the undoing of one illegal and unjust act, without ever addressing the crime of expelling 750,000 Palestinians from their lands during the Nakba in 1948. To put it another way, a burglar cannot enter a house, steal everything inside, and then instead of being held accountable in some way, expect negotiations with the homeowner that result in the burglar returning only some of the items, in what is described as a "concession", while the homeowner is forced to make another kind of "concession" altogether by agreeing to allow the burglar to keep some of the stolen goods. The homeowner ends up surrendering some rightful claims to win others, whereas the burglar concedes only what he or she acquired unjustly.

This is an excellent point that Al-Ashaal is making about the Western sponsored "peace process". Israeli settlements are illegal, so why are the Palestinians expected to give up anything in return for their dismantlement? And why is their ongoing existence even a possibility? This is not a framework for peace, but a framework that sanctions and legitimises Israel's criminal actions.

This is where I would like to diverge slightly from Al-Ashaal's analysis, and suggest that the reason for why this is not the traditional system of exchange is because it is not really bartering at all, but instead something more akin to capitalism.

This may require a creative, and perhaps even unscholarly, leap in manipulating Marxist theory, and so I apologise to those Marxists who will take offence. It is not a perfect comparison; however, trying to make it does help us to understand how both systems are exploitative.

To understand how the "peace process" could be seen as a metaphor for capitalism, we must first start by recognising that Israel has capital and the Palestinians do not.

In capitalism, those with capital, or money, trade in commodities for no other reason than to generate more money. In other words, capitalists are not actually interested in the commodities they trade, but only in selling them to accumulate capital. Furthermore, the accumulation of capital is limitless, which results in cycles of destruction in order to create new markets.

In the capitalist system, the labour that goes into producing these commodities is also a commodity to be bought and sold via wages. Because the accumulation of capital is limitless, capitalists force workers to work longer and harder to produce more commodities in order to generate what is known as surplus value, or profits, resulting in an exploitative system.

Now, Israel is not really interested in Palestinians or their lands. Its concern is expanding the Zionist project. That is why so many Palestinian villages under Israeli control have been completely destroyed and yet the land is now vacant. Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta has meticulously mapped out the villages of every refugee forced to leave Palestine during the Nakba. His findings illustrate how not only has nearly every trace of the native presence been erased from the landscape, which is why this qualifies as ethnic cleansing, but also how most of these lands continue to be uninhabited today and remain under state control. The land is not really the issue, but rather control of the land and the removal of the people. Capital here is sovereignty over Palestine.

|And while Palestinian lands and resources may be finite, Palestinians see Zionism as limitless, especially when during each new round of negotiations Israel changes the parameters for what it will take to establish an independent and autonomous Palestinian state, negating past agreements, all the while expanding settlements and further entrenching the occupation. This is why Israel's demand to the PA has escalated in recent years from asking for recognition as a state, which is a legal definition the Palestinians have already accepted, to recognition as a Jewish state, a religious/racial/political definition the Palestinians refuse to accept, because if they do recognise Israel as a Jewish state, then they would be sanctioning the occupation to be, in fact, endless.

So, in a way, Israel is using the "peace process" to perpetuate a system of creative destruction. By constantly changing the parameters that form the basis of any agreement, the negotiations become endless and the occupation continues indefinitely; all the while Israel maintains its international image as a potential broker of peace, not the perpetual warrior that it is.

Ever since the "peace process" established the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinians have also been providing the labour that sustains the expansion of Zionism. Israel outsources its policing and security to the PA, which prevents the growth of a resistance movement in the West Bank. International aid to the PA also tries to buy popular support for the negotiations. Meanwhile, the PA's commitment to the negotiations buys additional time for the construction of more illegal settlements, which tragically are sometimes even built by Palestinians themselves. Whenever the PA deviates from this framework, its wages are withheld, as happened when President Mahmoud Abbas lobbied successfully for state recognition at the UN General Assembly.

Furthermore, the Palestinian negotiators are expected to help consolidate the Zionist project by sacrificing Palestinian rights. Indeed, when you think about it, the "peace process" has also rendered Palestinian rights into commodities. Palestinian rights are no longer considered fundamental moral and ethical entitlements that are guaranteed to all humans, but instead commodities to be exchanged, whose usefulness is determined solely by the Zionists in respect to the survival of Zionism. And because certain Palestinian rights are more threatening to Zionism than others, like the right of return, they are given more value and thus become more expensive to acquire at the negotiating table. At the same time, Israel and its Zionist allies force these highly valued "Palestinian commodities" simultaneously into an equal exchange relation with "Israeli commodities", which only undo selected crimes that the Zionist project can persist without.

During this negotiating process, rights that hold qualitative value are disfigured into quantities and things. For example, the right of return is transformed into a negotiable number, say a handful of refugees, and exchanged for maybe dismantling some settlements. Or the significance of Jerusalem is reduced to granting the Palestinians bragging rights to a name, even though the capital of Palestine is pushed into the eastern suburbs, or what US Secretary of State John Kerry calls "greater Jerusalem".

In this way, the right of return, where all humans have the inalienable right to return to, and re-enter, his or her country of origin, which for Palestinians is also enshrined in UN resolution 194, and the rights of equality, citizenship and sovereignty, are no longer non-negotiable human rights, but instead Palestinian commodities to be exchanged for Israeli commodities that undo small parts of, but do not challenge, the oppressive conditions of the Zionist occupation.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, Marx's critique of capitalism includes the key observation that the social dimension of commodities becomes obscured. In capitalism, a commodity's value is represented solely by its monetary worth or exchange value, even though it also has significant qualitative value that derives from its use, as well as the social labour that went into making it and the social relations of production in which that labour was performed. As a result, commodities (including labour) are de-historicised, or severed from their history. Fetishising commodities in this way, or only valuing the price tag and the pleasure derived, conceals the exploitative system of wage labour that is required to produce these commodities.

For example, today we do not buy clothing thinking about the unsafe conditions of the factory workers making them, let alone the meagre wages of those who tend the cotton and silk farms, or the sickness of those mixing the industrial dyes. Nor do we consider how many hours without break somebody has to drive in order to deliver the clothing to our local shop. We only look at the price tag and whether or not we like the item; if it will give us pleasure.

In the case of Israel and Palestine, what is being concealed by the "peace process" is the history of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and 1967, resulting in the forced exile of millions of Palestinians today, and Israel's continued occupation of Palestine ever since. The social relations of occupation are obscured. However, this history is why the right of return is so important for Palestinians. Yes, we all have this right, but it means something very different to refugees than it does to expatriates or people who live where they were born. When the right of return is made into a commodity, the social relations and this history are hidden. What it boils down to is that the historical conditions of Palestinians, who have suffered and continue to suffer from displacement, exile, occupation and oppression, are outside the framework of the "peace process".

And when the dismantlement of settlements is made into a commodity as well, this conceals the racism and violence that have inspired and continued to inspire the Zionist project. The colonial impulse that leads one people to settle on another people's land is left unquestioned, and thus uncontested. Dismantling some of the settlements merely becomes a price that the occupier pays.

While this metaphor is imperfect and has its limitations, thinking about the "peace process" in terms of the capitalist system does help to show us why pursuing peace without equality and justice will never work, just as pursuing political rights means nothing when we are so economically and socially unequal. Thus, in the same way that Marxism calls for a revolutionary movement to dismantle the capitalist system and create a new set of relations based on equality and justice politically, economically and socially, so too must a revolutionary movement undo the framework of the current Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" and replace it with a historicised understanding of what needs to be done to realise equality and justice. Only then will peace ever be achievable.

]]> (Dr Sarah Marusek) Activism Mon, 13 Jan 2014 11:41:33 +0000
The time of false leaders "It is ironic that they used to call it "Mubarak's corrupt judiciary" and yet are now fighting to keep it in place"We live in a time of media and moral laxity so, in Egypt, we must expect the illogical in every aspect of life; yesterday's friend is today's enemy, and yesterday's enemy, who you sought to overthrow with the help of yesterday's friend, is now your friend and the victor that you carry on your shoulders. The television screens are filled with images of this false leader. Moreover, his speeches are given airtime, presenting him with a golden opportunity to enhance his reputation, save face and escape justice. The latter has, in the process, been dealt a deadly blow and is now part of the political bazaar in which the entire country is living. Such schizophrenic behaviour plagues what the media calls "the elite and political forces" but should not block the revolution and its goals.

Since the beginning of the revolution, we have been demanding a cleansing purge of the judiciary, media and Interior Ministry, and the isolation of the Prosecutor General. This demand is still there, as can be seen from the posters hanging in Tahrir Square, which was the stronghold of the genuine revolutionaries before they were infiltrated by the remnants of the former regime. It has now become the den of the counter-revolution, aided by yesterday's friends who share a hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood to the extent that they are prepared to see Egypt sink if it means overthrowing the elected government. Love of country has been outweighed by their hatred for the Islamic movement and their own self-interests.

The scourge of corruption has reached every level of Egypt's institutions, including the judiciary, despite some honourable judges campaigning to liberate their posts from political interference. "Justice is lost in Egypt," said one such judge in Tahrir Square recently. Sadly, though, the same man has joined those who he accused of corruption and has become an icon of the old regime's remnants.

Similarly, we see former members of parliament who presented draft laws to reform the judiciary before parliament was dissolved but who are now shifting to the other side and warning against any action to purge the judiciary. It is ironic that they used to call it "Mubarak's corrupt judiciary" and yet are now fighting to keep it in place.

Other political figures and intellectuals who once called for reform of the judiciary became the first to attend meetings of the Judge's Association even though they used to call them "the den of corruption". They are also calling for the return of the ex-Prosecutor General, the same man who they accused of accepting "gifts" (a euphemism for bribes) from news organisations. Logically, they should be more convinced than ever before of the need for reform, which they demanded in the past. Instead, we see them turning against reform.

This is indeed irrational but it reflects the time in which we live. The political arena is now a circus in which respectable opposition has been turned into sad acrobatics and u-turns by the false leaders we see in Egypt today. Every time we try to reform the country's corrupt administration, they object, claiming that the country is being "Ikhwanified", the Ikhwan being the Muslim Brotherhood. This weapon is used to blackmail the real authorities, which are, unfortunately, giving in to it at the country's expense. When such chicanery is allowed, we are all the losers.

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Wed, 01 May 2013 12:05:50 +0000
Netanyahu's fantasy In Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 3 March speech to the US Congress he likened what was happening in the Middle East to the hugely popular American fantasy television series "Game of Thrones". Presumably his audience were aficionados; they loved the comparison as they cheered Netanyahu on thunderously.

"The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn't turn Iran into a friend of America," averred Netanyahu. "Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. In this deadly game of thrones, there's no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don't share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone."

For those few who, like myself, have never watched the programme, here is a quick précis of the series and its three interwoven plot lines, courtesy of Wikipedia: "The first narrative arc follows a civil war among several noble houses for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North; the third chronicles the attempts of the exiled last scion of the realm's deposed ruling dynasty to reclaim the throne."

In the world according to Netanyahu, the great threat, what he called "the foremost sponsor of terrorism", remains Iran. "We must," he insisted, "stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation and terror."

Presumably, then, Iran has the inside track, ahead of ISIS, for the "Iron Throne" of Islamist domination. It is a breathtakingly simplistic and recklessly dangerous reduction of a complex and multi-layered reality and one that ignores the rampant menace that the so-called Islamic State has become.

However, it has to be acknowledged that conflating the threat of Iran and linking that threat to ISIS was a masterstroke by a veteran street fighter who used the politics of fear to secure a surprising election win, thus making him the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history. As Haaretz newspaper's Carlo Strenger wrote presciently back in February: "Fear has always been Netanyahu's best friend. Because of the region's instability and the rise of ISIS, most of Israel's centre-left policy makers are currently paralysed when it comes to the country's existential issues. Netanyahu should therefore send letters of thanks to Islamic State, whose members are about to secure him another term in the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem."

However, having won the political war, surely now is the time for Netanyahu to drop the fantasy that Iran poses a greater immediate threat to Israel and the region than ISIS. He need look no further than neighbouring Jordan, where the terrorist group has made startling inroads, for the evidence.

Writing this week in Al-Monitor, Mona Alami charts the shift of Salafist jihadists from Jabhat Al-Nusra to ISIS in Jordan. She argues that poverty and the collapse of the middle classes, as taxes rise and cuts to food and fuel subsidies begin to bite, is driving ever more young Jordanians into the deadly embrace of the group.

Elsewhere, in Syria, the Sinai Peninsula and Lebanon, it is clear that ISIS is either winning new supporters or forging useful alliances with other terror groups. Israel, it can be argued, is threatened on all sides by an organisation the ultimate aim of which is not only to seize the Arabian Gulf and with it Islam's two holiest sites of Makkah and Madinah, but also to ride into Jerusalem and lay claim to the third, Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Making Iran the regional bogeyman while ISIS thrives is therefore an odd strategic choice. After all, Iran's Revolutionary Guard has proved invaluable in the fight to save Iraq and remains an essential though largely unacknowledged ally both for the US-led air campaign and the embattled Iraqi army.

As such, the role that Iran is playing in the degradation and eventual destruction of ISIS — which is a necessary precursor to any stability and any hope for peaceful solutions to the region's myriad problems — is obvious for anyone to see. Obvious, that is, unless you continue to insist wilfully that the only way to define an unfolding tragedy is through the prism of an American fantasy television series.

]]> (Bill Law) Middle East Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:41:24 +0000
On the Sinai Sisi does not know Khalil Al-Anani

On 23 September 2013 one of Egypt's semi-official newspapers headlined its front page with "Egypt will be declared terrorism-free in a few days". A year and a half has passed since this headline and terrorism is still widespread in Egypt. The headline was part of a public relations campaign aiming to pave the way, at the time, for General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi to run in the presidential elections and to give the impression that all is well and stable. Since then statements and reports stressing that Egypt "triumphed over terrorism" or that "Sinai has been purified of all terrorist and takfirist cells" have circulated and were reiterated by the military spokesman. It is surprising that after such statements, new terrorist attacks and bombings occur, similar to those occurring in the past few weeks. It is as if the terrorists deliberately "blast" the state's official narrative regarding the situation in Sinai.

The irony is that every time bombings occurred in the Sinai Peninsula, the military leaders and officials are promoted to jobs unrelated to the Sinai issue. This occurred two days ago when Major General Mohammed Faraj Shahat, the second field army commander in charge of the Sinai Peninsula, was promoted to director of military intelligence and reconnaissance. In addition to this, his assistant, Major General Nasser Al-Asi, who was chief of staff for the second field army, was also promoted to replace Shahat. If Egypt were a normal country, like any other, then Shahat, Al-Asi and all other officials responsible for military operations in Sinai would be dismissed and held accountable for their miserable failure to protect the lives of the soldiers and people in Sinai.

The only way Al-Sisi knows how to deal with the Sinai issue is through security measures and an iron fist, which is the case in all other issues. Therefore, the security failure is always the result of the logic behind the continuous military operations. He does not realise that while his planes are destroying the homes of Egyptians in search of one suspect, they are killing and injuring dozens of innocent Egyptians.

Three days ago, the Al-Habidi family was massacred in the village of Al-Thahir in southern Sheikh Zuweid. Eleven members of the family were killed, including children and women, one of whom was pregnant. Al-Sisi also does not realise that when his cannons bomb Bedouin farms and kill their cattle, it creates new problems that drive those affected to join terrorist organisations, not out of conviction in the ideology, but for revenge. Al-Sisi does not know that when he displaces hundreds of families from their homes in Rafah and uproots them from their origins and identities, he creates new generations that see violence and revenge as the only way to deal with the state.

Al-Sisi does not know that the families of Sinai are bored of the "false" promises made by the state and its officials to develop their areas and resolve their problems, as well as integrate its people, especially the Bedouins and treat them as full citizens with all their rights. He does not know that they know that all the development plans that are announced in the media, the most recent of which is a plan for which $1.3 million was allocated, are basically ink on paper, none of which is actually implemented. Al-Sisi does not know that people of Sinai reject violence and terrorism as much as they reject the marginalisation and deprivation imposed on them by the state for the past 40 years. Al-Sisi does not know, or maybe does not want to know, that the solution to the Sinai crisis is not only a security solution, but that the solution must begin with admitting that the security strategy implemented in Sinai has failed miserably in achieving its goals and that it is time to reconsider it and make radical changes.

Al-Sisi is following in the footsteps of his predecessors and is dealing with Sinai as a source of danger and concern, rather than a victim of official methodological neglect, making it more like a ticking time bomb. The source of the problem in Sinai is not only security, but rather social, economic and political as well. He does not ask himself why the rate of terrorist attacks has increased in quantity and quality since the army began its operations in the area in September 2013.

These attacks also dramatically increased after Al-Sisi rose to power in June 2014. Al-Sisi has not asked himself why the Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai) forces became violent and took control of entire villages, according to experts in Sinai affairs. Al-Sisi did not visit the people of Sinai in order to pay his condolences to the victims of the indiscriminate bombing, nor did he send a delegate to pay condolences to their families on his behalf. We did not hear the military spokesperson pray for the souls of the children and women who were killed in a war they have no part in. It is as if the people of Sinai are not Egyptian citizens who deserve care and attention; as if they deserve the punishment of the state and its institutions.

The war on terror will not succeed, especially in Sinai, until a change is made in the ideology, strategy and approach behind dealing with the accumulating problems there. The Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai) forces will not be defeated without the participation of Sinai's civil society in the fight against this force. Most of the people in Sinai are against the organisation, but there are between the anvil of terrorism and the hammer of a state that does not care about them or address their problems.

The fight against terrorism in Sinai and other areas requires Al-Sisi to know and acknowledge that violence and indiscriminate killing are not solutions and that without recognising the state and its institutions' responsibility for what Sinai has become, terrorism will not stop and the terrorists will not be defeated.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 14 April 2015.

]]> (Khalil Al-Anani) Africa Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:28:22 +0000
Ed Miliband will back Israel Alastair Sloan

The Jewish Chronicle has commissioned a fascinating political poll of British Jews' voting intentions at the upcoming election. The results must be frightening for Labour strategists – showing mass approval for Prime Minister David Cameron, and the opposition leader Ed Miliband as a figure few British Jews trust. All this with just three weeks to go to what could be the tightest result in decades.

Around three quarters of those surveyed said the attitudes of the British political parties towards Israel were "very" or "quite" important to them, and while 65 per cent of voters said they "trusted" Cameron over Israel, only ten per cent could say the same for Miliband. Some 69 per cent of Jewish voters told the polling company, Survation, that they would be voting Conservative, with just 22 per cent electing Labour.

These are extraordinary results. Back in 2010, a similar survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found an exactly even split between Labour and Conservative amongst Jewish voters, with just over ten per cent supporting the Liberal Democrats (this group has since dropped to two per cent).

Miliband, labelled "toxic Ed" by the Jewish Chronicle and former pro-Israel Labour Party donors, has driven Jewish voters into Conservative arms with two recent decisions – first to urge Labour MPs to recognise the state of Palestine in a parliamentary vote last winter, and in the heat of the Gaza onslaught a few months before – to criticise the Israeli leadership over their conduct during the war.

Last week, Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, also told the Evening Standard of other smaller incidents, such as when Birmingham Member of Parliament Shabana Mahmood took part in a protest against goods from Israeli settlements, or when Yasmin Qureshi MP was forced to deny she compared Britons joining the Israeli army to those joining the Islamic State (ISIS). Neither of these MPs are close to the Labour leadership, yet even their transgressions are being called out by Arkush, "the voice of British Jewry".

Meanwhile, according to the Jewish Chronicle, the Liberal Democrats have been punished for advocating an arms embargo against Israel during last year's Gaza war. With their support dropping from one in five British Jews at the last Election, to just two per cent of British Jews in 2015.

The Conservative party has been capitalising on this, with Cameron giving frequent and re-assuring speeches to notable Jewish groups including the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Jewish youth charity United Jewish Israel Appeal, the Jewish disabilities charity Norwood, the anti-Semitism watchdog Community Security Trust, and the lobbying group, Conservative Friends of Israel. In contrast, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been largely invisible on the Jewish campaign trail.

The Conservatives have also cleverly positioned Labour as the "anti-Israel party". Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, also a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, told Jewish Chronicle reporters in January that the impact of a Labour government on Britain's relationship with Israel could be "chilling".

British Jews are one of the UK's smallest religious minorities, at less than 0.5 per cent of the population. Yet they are also some of the most likely to vote, and of the 12 crucial swing seats – at least one, the constituency of Hendon, will be decided by Jewish voters.

Yet though the issue of Israel is, as British Jews admit, very important in deciding who they vote for - any mistrust in Miliband is misplaced.

As the Independent reported last year: "Mr Miliband has been warned that Jewish backers are deserting the party in droves over what community leaders perceive to be a new, aggressive pro-Palestine policy at the expense of Israeli interests." As a result, the party is expected to fall short of its fundraising target for the campaign, in what the Independent suggested was a funding "crisis", largely instigated by the pro-Israel bloc of donors.

Does this financial withdrawal indicate a loss of influence from the pro-Israel lobby? No – if anything, it represents leverage. The pro-Israel lobby are showing their power – if the Labour party waiver in their support of Israeli aggression, no matter how bloody it is, they must pay the political price.

Senior Labour party figures have already shown they are desperate to win back the cash and patronage of Britain's pro-Israel bloc. Shortly after the donors told the Independent they were pulling out from the election campaign, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper protested that the allegation against her party being "anti-Israel" was "nonsense". She also told the Jewish Chronicle that the UK would continue to be a "key ally" of Israel under a Labour government.

Labour Friends of Israel, a highly influential lobbying group, was also described before the last General Election as "less unquestioning in its support of the Israeli government than the Conservative Friends of Israel." Its current members include at least 22 former and current members of Cabinet or the shadow Cabinet.

Miliband may have hesitated for a moment in his support of Israeli aggression, colonisation and land-grabbing, but he has paid the price. The pro-Israel lobby remains firmly in control of foreign policy for both the Conservative and Labour parties, and if Miliband doesn't win – he will rue the day he crossed them.

If he does win, his party's fight will have been that much harder without the pro-Israel money. In British politics, unless your support for Israel is unconditional – you can quickly make life very difficult for yourself, and for your party. So is it really worth the trouble?

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Europe Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:28:19 +0000
Netanyahu's lies Asa WinstanleyThat racket you can hear coming from the general direction of liberal Zionists is the sound of lamenting and wailing at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu's election victory.

They are not upset at the prospect of Netanhayu leading Israel into a more entrenched system of anti-Palestinian apartheid, more entrenched colonial policies that seize more and more of Palestinians' land, or even at more wars of massacre against the devastated civilian population of Gaza. No.

After all, the opposition Zionist Union, led by the supposedly "leftist" Israeli Labor party, agrees with Netanyahu on all of those policies. The Israeli Labor party never met an Israeli war it did not like. Most the main historic wars of massacre and ethnic cleansing were led by the Labor party.

The 1967 war in which Israel attacked all the surrounding Arab countries and illegally occupied the remaining Palestinian led left behind from historical Palestine was led by a Labor government. The 1948 war of ethnic cleansing which expelled some 750,000 Palestinians by force was done under the watch of Labor party leader David Ben Gurion.

So no. The liberal Zionists are not bothered about Israeli war crimes. They are only concerned that Israel's international reputation may be deteriorating to the extent that even its most solid political allies in the US and in European governments may start to get slightly uncomfortable. The prospect of those leaders doing anything other than continuing to solidly back Israel is still vanishingly remote.

But this is in part thanks to Israel's allies in the liberal press in the West, who would continue to back Israel even if it were led by outright fascists like Avigdor Lieberman. There was a pretty grotesque example of that this week, after Netanyahu's anti-Arab racism got too explicit for even the White House to ignore it without comment.

In the election campaign, it looked like Netanyahu's main challenger, the Zionist Union could have a strong showing in the polls. In the end, his Likud party won easily. But it seemed touch and go for a while, with exit polls predicting a near tie.

So to save himself at the last minute, Netanyahu engaged in an activity sure to be popular with the vast majority of Israeli Jewish voters: anti-Palestinian racism and incitement.

"The right-wing government is in danger. Arabs are advancing on the ballot boxes in droves," Netanyahu said in a video message posted on his Facebook page.

Even aside from the racist and dehumanising terminology referring to a group of human beings as a "drove," as if they were insects, the choice of words was interesting: "advancing on the ballot boxes". The image he was going for was explicitly military one, as if this were not a democratic process, but a war. And indeed, that is how Israeli racists like Netanyahu see all Arabs as: an existential threat. "We have Order Number Eight," he continued in the video, referencing the order that calls Israeli citizens up for army duty. It was voters' duty to cast their ballots for Likud, he was saying.

After Obama - very mildly - criticised this racist language (although he is not going to do anything about it) Israel's powerful defenders in the liberal press in the West forgot all about their brief love affair with the Zionist Union and went to bat for Netanyahu.

The spin was that Netanyahu "apologised" for these racist remarks in a speech to "community leaders from the Arab sector" (in fact they were a hand-picked gang of collaborators who literally chanted "Bibi, Bibi!" -- Netanyahu's nickname – as if it were a Saddam Hussein rally).

The Guardianclaimed that "Netanyahu, has said he regrets saying during last week's elections that that 'Arab voters are heading to the polls in droves' in an attempt to mobilise voters." The New York Times had a long and awful article by liberal Zionist reporter Jody Rodoren which did its best to exonerate Netanyahu and criticise Obama even for his mild and useless lip-service.

But in fact Netanyahu did not even apologise for his comments as claimed in the headlines. If you check the actual quote, it's clear that what he said was that he was sorry that Israel's Palestinian Arab citizens took offence at his racism: "I know that my comments last week offended some Israeli citizens and offended the Arabs of Israel ... I'm sorry about that".

This quote is a more accurate translation (provided by Israel expert Dena Shunra) than the one The New York Times provides in the subtitles to the video of the short statement they've uploaded onto their website as part of Rudoren's article. (Netanyahu certainly did not use the word "apologize".)

But translation nuances aside, Netanyahu's "apology" was nothing of the sort. He is only sorry that his comments were widely picked up on in the west and that many people in the world were disgusted by it. He is only sorry his racism was criticized.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:24:18 +0000
If Cameron Stout was Kareem Salah everyone would know of the plot to assassinate Obama Nasim Ahmed

What would the reaction be if a Muslim was known to have plotted to assassinate the president of the United States? How could we even approximate of the level of outrage and hysteria that would follow if, God forbid, some lunatic from the Muslim fringe was indeed attempting to kill Obama?

Such a plot was revealed last week, but it wasn't put together by a Muslim, which is why nobody knows about it. If plotter Cameron Stout was actually Kareem Salah the story would have headlined around the world. Instead, he's a white guy from Missouri who made plans to shoot President Obama and solicited help from a former member of the so-called Aryan Nation. This is an American Christian separatist group and its link to Stout was revealed when federal charges against him were filed last Tuesday in Jefferson City.

You may not be too surprised to learn that the media is reluctant to call Stout a "Christian terrorist". This, despite the fact that he told a federal informant, "If you had contact with the people that you say you had contact with, I could kill the president of the United States, and then we storm Washington, and then we take over the country that our forefathers created."

The plot to assassinate the president was to be carried out during Obama's next visit to Kansas City, claimed Stout. He wanted to contact an Aryan Nation leader through the informant in order to help him "to escape from Washington DC" after shooting the president. It is alleged that he told the informant, "Niggers shouldn't be president" and researched wind speeds in Washington DC and the type of weapon he would need to carry out the assassination. Stout also allegedly drew diagrams of the capital for the informant, who gave them to law enforcement officers. His defence lawyer pointed out that his client contradicted himself by mentioning both Kansas City and Washington DC as the proposed assassination scene. In the context of this discussion, that's irrelevant. The fact is that it is all too easy to imagine the hysteria fanned by the media if Stout was a Muslim.

Such under-reporting of terrorist plots and acts by non-Muslims may not even be done consciously; it could well be a Pavlovian conditioning of society to associate only Muslims with terrorism.

Compare the assassination plot with a recent political storm in Britain fuelled mainly by suspicion and baseless information. The so-called "Trojan horse" affair blew up a year ago and the Muslim community is still reeling from its damaging and destructive effects.

The allegation behind the affair was that "Islamic extremists" had tried to take over several schools in Birmingham to promote radical interpretations of Islam. This led to headlines such as "the Islamist plot", "Islamic Militants confiscate Easter Eggs", "Islamist conspiracy in Birmingham", "What is the Muslim plot all about?" and "Islamists plot in schools".

Politicians and commentators who never miss an opportunity to vilify the Muslim community were lining up to warn us all about "Muslim infiltration" and to press the need for "Muslims to accept British Values". The latter, however, have never actually been defined apart from broad values held in common by most right-minded and decent people around the world, including Muslims.

Even so, Muslim communities across Britain were made to feel like the "enemy within"; a bunch of fifth columnists waiting to take over the country. A number of state and Muslim schools which had been held up previously as models of excellence, were downgraded to "special measures" after very aggressive, no-notice inspections. The feeling was that the grading was decided in advance and the inspectors had to find "evidence" to support them.

What did this lead to? A government enquiry into the affair has now concluded that there was no "Trojan horse" plot. Graham Stuart, Chair of the Parliamentary Education Committee, said: "One incident apart, no evidence of extremism or radicalisation was found by any of the inquiries in any of the schools involved. Neither was there any evidence of a sustained plot, nor of significant problems in other parts of the country."

Reporting of the "Trojan horse" events followed a common and well-worn pattern of vilification of Muslims at large, reflecting the cultural normalisation of anti-Muslim bigotry. Under the British government's current "counter-radicalisation", "counter-subversion" and "counter-terrorism" agenda, denigrating Muslims has become a conditioned reflex action in British society.

Within the existing political climate the media and parts of the establishment can generate a political storm artificially and excoriate sections of society based on nothing more than the embellishment of unverified information which, it turns out, is largely fictional.

Such a condition, which in all likelihood is the best diagnosis of the current ailment of society, maintains the necessary illusion that in the "fight against terrorism", even though "not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorist are Muslims". The statistics, though, show overwhelmingly that those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren't Muslims at all.

As Europol, the European Union's law-enforcement agency, noted in a report last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups, such as France's FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. In Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. Across the Mediterranean in Italy, meanwhile, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks, including the sending of a bomb to a journalist. The list goes on.

The "terrorist" label is an easy way to discredit individuals and groups who may have genuine causes and campaigns for justice. The most obvious at the moment is the legitimate Palestinian struggle to end Israel's brutal military occupation of their land. The vilification of Palestinians is a classic example of the way that politicians and the media, often with neo-conservative, pro-Israel agendas of their own, can dictate the narrative within which such causes are discussed and perceived by the general public.

Violent extremism is a genuine concern for everyone, Muslims included, but the manner in which it is being tackled by governments, especially through the flawed radicalisation model that generates suspicion against Muslims, their organisations and political activities, hinder rather than help the process. If Cameron Stout was Kareem Salah we would all know about the plot to murder Barack Obama. It's time for politicians and the media to be more balanced and honest in how such incidents are recorded and reported.

]]> (Nasim Ahmed) Americas Tue, 24 Mar 2015 16:06:31 +0000
Israel is losing the debate - in more ways than one Ben WhiteLast night, I participated in a debate at the Cambridge Union on 'This House Believes Israel is a Rogue State.' Speaking alongside Ghada Karmi and Norman Finkelstein for the proposition, the motion was carried by 51 percent to 19 percent - with a 7 percent swing from the pre-debate vote.

The debating chamber was packed, and the atmosphere charged. At the end of the debate, cries of 'Free, Free Palestine' rang out. But my main takeaway from the proceedings was the sheer weakness of the opposition's arguments - a microcosm of pro-Israel propaganda that simply no longer works.

In my opening speech, I pointed out that the issue was not about whether Israel is 'perfect', or makes 'mistakes'. To concede that Israel is 'not perfect', as I suggested the opposition may do, is in fact no concession at all, and misses the point. The issue is whether Israel violates international law and human rights, and whether it does so systematically.

I also stressed that the debate was not about the record of other countries or actors, in the region or elsewhere. It was not about Iran or Syria, Hamas or ISIS, North Korea or Russia. The Cambridge debating chamber hosts debates about dozens of topics of international interest but last night, the subject was Israeli policy, and the question was plain - is Israel a rogue state?

Yet in the speech directly following mine, Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, opened up for the opposition by stating exactly what I had predicted just minutes before: 'Israel is not perfect.' Such is the reliance of Israel's apologists on predictable talking points.

Similarly, Wineman – like the other two opposition speakers - indulged in the familiar tactic of citing abuses by other states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.). The rest of his talk was a regurgitation of tired talking points about the Israeli army's morality and so forth.

Joining Wineman in opposing the motion were Hannah Weisfeld, head of liberal Zionist advocacy group Yachad, and Davis Lewin, deputy director of the Henry Jackson Society.

Weisfeld's approach was to immediately state she had no intention of defending the occupation or settlements. The bulk of her speech was an attempt to demonstrate that Israel could not be a rogue state because it has parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a free press, and that critics of the government are not arrested.

She did not clarify if this wonderful list also applies to the millions of Palestinians living for half a century under a military regime.

Extraordinarily, Weisfeld claimed that her argument was further confirmed by her ability to visit Israel freely as a critic of the occupation. Meanwhile opposite her, was a speaker excluded from her homeland because she is Palestinian, and an American Jew denied entry for his political activities.

Wineman's old school hasbara and Weisfeld's new school 'nuance' were followed by an extraordinary contribution from Davis Lewin. His performance was 10 minutes of screaming, finger-jabbing, and insults directed at both speakers and Union members.

Lewin's speech was a combination of Twitter troll and YouTube commenter - and sheds light on the nature of the Henry Jackson Society, a think-tank in the loosest sense of the word.

Together, Wineman, Weisfeld, and Lewin represent the variety of Israeli propaganda strategy in all its limited predictability: historical fantasies, faux-liberal concern, and offensive smears.

Presented with the arguments, the University of Cambridge students voted with their feet, and found Israel to be a rogue state by an overwhelming majority.

Ethnic cleansing, colonisation, war crimes; behind these repeated Israeli policy decisions is a disregard for and defiance of a global order shaped by international law and treaties. It is an attitude that stretches from the founding of Israel through to its politicians and leaders of today.

In 1955, Israel's first prime minister Ben-Gurion stated that: "Our future does not depend on what the nations [the international community] say, but what the Jews do." Jump forward to 2007, and Tzipi Livni - former minister and so-called 'moderate' - revealed: "I am a lawyer...But I am against law - international law in particular. Law in general."

Israel commits grave, systematic violations of international law; expands beyond its borders; and seriously abuses the human rights of Palestinians terrorised by settlers acting with impunity. The evidence is irrefutable - and the theatrics of apartheid apologists can no longer hide it.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:55:30 +0000
Accountability is an essential part of the peace process, not an obstacle Toby M. CadmanIt has emerged that US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the Palestinian Authority, possibly even used the threat of sanctions, not to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. If true, this would be the first time that a state has been threatened with sanctions in order not to apply the rule of law. I stress that this is an allegation and has not been confirmed; nonetheless, it would represent a deeply disturbing development in the long and bitter Palestinian conflict. The US must support the rule of law and not circumvent it in its own interests. It must also recognise that it is in Israel's best interest for the rule of law to be applied without discrimination and for a politically and economical stable Palestine to emerge from the peace process. Terrorism thrives on poverty and oppression, not stability and democracy.

Toby Cadman is an international criminal law specialist. He is a Barrister member at Nine Bedford Row International Chambers in London and a member of the International Criminal Bureau in The Hague.

He has served as counsel in a number of high profile international cases, appearing before the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh, the European Court of Human Rights, the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber and the UN Human Rights Committee.

Toby M. CadmanIt has emerged that US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the Palestinian Authority, possibly even used the threat of sanctions, not to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. If true, this would be the first time that a state has been threatened with sanctions in order not to apply the rule of law. I stress that this is an allegation and has not been confirmed; nonetheless, it would represent a deeply disturbing development in the long and bitter Palestinian conflict. The US must support the rule of law and not circumvent it in its own interests. It must also recognise that it is in Israel's best interest for the rule of law to be applied without discrimination and for a politically and economical stable Palestine to emerge from the peace process. Terrorism thrives on poverty and oppression, not stability and democracy.

Incidents in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine are never far from the news. With an almost daily occurrence of attacks from one side or the other it is often difficult to know where to begin when one is asked to consider relevant issues in the context of the application of international law and the need for accountability rather than state-sponsored impunity that we appear to be witnessing at present.

There are two issues that deserve further consideration in the context of the unlawful occupation and aggression towards the Palestinian people. First, the recently announced decision by the ICC Prosecutor not to open a formal investigation into the deaths of nine civilians following the storming of the Mavi Marmara flotilla by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in 2010. Second, the summer Israeli incursion into Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge that resulted in the killing of more than 2,100 Palestinians.

The ICC decision is disappointing as there is a clear basis for the Prosecutor to investigate the Gaza flotilla incident. However, there are positive aspects that result from the decision that may have been lost in the disappointment of no action being taken at the international level to hold Israel accountable. It is important to remember that the jurisdiction of the ICC is complex and often misunderstood; we need to understand this before considering whether the Prosecutor reached the right decision. Personally, I think that the decision was wrong, but rather than offer criticism I would like to consider what positives may be drawn and whether the Palestinian Authority takes it from here.

The ICC Prosecutor said that the situation under review was not sufficiently grave to warrant investigation at the international level. She made the point of recognising that the conduct under review may well, and probably does, constitute war crimes and that, despite protestations to the contrary, Gaza is under de facto occupation by Israel. These two points are significant and will have an impact when the Prosecutor is given the jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.

However, the first hurdle one must always consider is the complex jurisdiction of the ICC. Neither Palestine nor Israel are signatories to the Rome Statute. As they are not "State Parties" jurisdiction can only be triggered by a UN Security Council resolution referring the situation to the court. It goes without saying that one of the permanent members of the Security Council is likely to veto any such resolution.

Israel has stated consistently that it responds to acts of terror in self-defence. It has accused Hamas of firing rockets into civilian areas from civilian locations and using civilians as human shields. The government in Tel Aviv states that all these acts constitute war crimes and yet its own actions are, it claims, permitted under international law.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, and in particular Hamas, have called for the international community to investigate the actions of the State of Israel and in doing so recognise that their own conduct may come under scrutiny. The Hamas leadership has urged President Mahmoud Abbas to sign the Rome Statute to force the ICC Prosecutor to investigate Operation Protective Edge.

It is clear that Israel has no intention of signing the statute and acceding to international scrutiny. For all its bravado of justice and accountability, Israel is desperate to manoeuvre politically and diplomatically. It has refused to cooperate with a UN Commission of Inquiry that it considers to be biased and it has refused to allow a number of UN Special Rapporteurs access to the Palestinian Territories under unlawful occupation. Palestine however is in a much stronger position. The PA has the right, and surely the duty, to ratify those international treaties that ensure its citizens are protected by law without discrimination. Ratifying the Rome Statute will allow that to happen.

The question as to whether the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate the Mavi Marmara incident is a simple one and is quite separate from the allegations arising out of Operation Protective Edge and subsequent events. The incident was referred by the Comoros Islands (under whose flag the ship was registered), a state party to the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor has confirmed that the conduct in question may constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC; namely war crimes.

The issue was simply one of gravity. As much as I may offer criticism of the Prosecutor's decision I am minded to accept it as being technically correct on this basis. By virtue of Article 17(1) of the Rome Statute, the Court has an inherent right to "determine that a case is inadmissible where: [...] (d) the case is not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court". However, when dealing with the issue of gravity, the Court has considered previously that it is not just scale that has to be considered; there are other factors, such as the impact of the crimes and the harm caused to victims and their families, the employed means for the execution of the crimes to name but two. There are potentially grounds to appeal the matter to the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC). Whether or not the PTC will apply a different test than the Prosecutor did is likely to be subject to some discussion in the intervening period.

When one is looking at the matters under consideration regarding the Mavi Marmara investigation one must enquire as to whether the Prosecutor would have reached the same finding had the victims been UN Peacekeepers as opposed to civilians. Certainly the Prosecutor reached a different conclusion in the Darfur investigation which concerned the killing of 7 peacekeepers and the wounding of 17 military and police personnel on 13 July 2013. Ironically, in the Darfur case the Prosecutor stated that her office "...will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have committed such crimes should the national authorities fail to..." It is clear that Israel has absolutely no intention of investigating the matter and has in fact refused publicly to cooperate with a prior investigation conducted by the Turkish authorities.

Turning to Operation Protective Edge, the legality of the operation has already been written upon extensively, with varying conclusions and varying justifications. What cannot be argued against however, despite various attempts, is that there is a basis for suggesting that war crimes and crimes again humanity were committed during the operation. There are simply too many examples of tactics employed that contravene international humanitarian law, such as the bombing of a beach which killed children; the use of indiscriminate ordinance such as flechettes; the bombings of schools and hospitals; and the destruction of power plants and water sanitation plants.

The IDF cannot argue that its use of precision munitions and the warnings it provided absolve it of the responsibility to protect civilian life. A warning does not mean that any death that may follow is acceptable under international law.

The real issue however is the pursuit of accountability and whether any meaningful progress can be made. The onus is now on the Palestinian Authority and, in particular, Mahmoud Abbas to ratify the Rome Statute. This is something that has been raised time and time again. However, President Abbas has stated recently that if the Security Council fails to pass an as yet to be drafted resolution calling on Israel to retreat behind previous lines and end the blockade of Gaza, his government will ratify the statute. It remains to be seen if this is another empty promise, but, for the sake of accountability; for the sake of the victims; and for the sake of the stalled peace process, it is hoped that justice is at the forefront of that policy.

Whilst the Prosecutor's decision may be criticised for failing to apply a consistent approach to all investigations of this nature, it is important to highlight once again the positive aspects of her decision. The very significant point is that the Prosecutor found that war crimes were likely to have been committed by the IDF. Hence, this goes some way towards dispelling the suggestion that the IDF was acting in accordance with international law, and acting purely on the basis of self-defence. It was not, and it is quite right that the Prosecutor should say so. This is direct criticism of Israel by an international body, the importance of which should not be under-estimated. It is of further significance given that the Prosecutor found that Israel remained an occupying force in Gaza.

These two elements of the decision, as much as they are welcome, raise a number of questions. Was their inclusion in the Prosecutor's decision merely to cushion the blow? Was it a message to the authorities on both sides of the conflict to say "we" are watching you? Or was it a further plea to the Palestinian Authority to ratify the Rome Statute? In my mind, there does not appear to be any logic to their inclusion unless it was as a cushion, a threat or an invitation. I am minded to believe that it was the latter and, as welcome as it may appear, it has put the Prosecutor into somewhat of a bind. If the Palestinian Authority ratifies the Rome Statute today and invites the ICC to apply it retrospectively to Operation Protective Edge it is difficult to see how the Prosecutor can refuse to investigate. Perhaps that is her intention.

Quite naturally this whole approach has angered Israel. Of course, it welcomed the decision not to investigate, but it criticised the Prosecutor for taking a swipe at its "moral" armed forces in its so-called legitimate actions to combat terrorism. The decision has also angered the Palestinians, in that it acknowledges the allegations as likely war crimes and that Israel is an unlawful occupying force, and yet it then says that there is nothing that the court can do about it. This merely reinforces the widely held belief that Israel is immune from criticism.

The immunity, or rather impunity, that Israel has benefitted from in recent years is fast coming to an end. As noted previously, the winds of change are taking Palestine towards statehood and with that comes accountability.

To suggest that ratification of international treaties or recognition by the UN harms the peace process is nonsensical. The blatant double standards of certain members of the international community must be highlighted, and must end if there is to be any hope of a lasting peace between the parties.

Israel needs to understand that Gaza, the West Bank and, in particular, East Jerusalem are not its backyard. Throwing its weight around with such a level of impunity is unacceptable and if the United States refuses to act then the rest of the free world must. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

]]> (Toby M. Cadman) Guest Writers Mon, 01 Dec 2014 06:30:00 +0000
What will it take for the US to cut military aid to Egypt? Sarah MarusekEver since the 3 July military coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected government, the world has stood back to witness the Egyptian authorities' brazen attempt to cleanse an entire community from Egypt's population.

As an American citizen I have to ask: how many Egyptians need to be killed, injured, arrested and tortured, and how many families torn apart and destroyed, before the US will take decisive action against Egypt's post-coup military regime?

And I am not the only American asking this question.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times newspaper published an editorial under the headline "Stop coddling Egypt's military". The editors argue that: "It's increasingly evident that the military rulers of Egypt are determined to intimidate and silence their political opponents, whether they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood or secular Egyptians who believe the generals are betraying the spirit of the 'Arab Spring'. Yet the Obama administration continues to entertain the pious hope that Egypt is on the road to an inclusive democracy."

The editors criticise the US response to the continued crackdown as being "polite to the point of pusillanimity", and conclude that, "Clearly the current policy of trying not to offend [Egypt's military] isn't working."

One week earlier, the Washington Post newspaper published a similar editorial, in which the editors denounce the Egyptian authorities' criminalisation of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was designated a terrorist organisation on 25 December.

The Post's editors lament how "Egypt has abandoned the path to democracy," calling this a "tragedy" and asserting that: "The time has come for stronger US protests and action. To remain timid in the face of repression will invite only more."

So why is the Obama administration not acting? After all, the US is supposedly a global superpower, and we have spent billions of dollars buying Egypt's friendship.

Well, if we take a closer look at the two countries relations, we see that Egypt has never really been a client state of the US, and in fact the relationship is quite the reverse.

Military aid and "peace"

In February 2012, when Egypt's military-led government under SCAF indicted 16 Americans working for non-governmental organisations in Egypt on charges of receiving foreign funds to foment unrest, US officials were quick to decry the move, and threatened a halt to American military aid to Egypt. In fact, 40 senators sent a strongly worded letter of warning directly to the former head of Egypt's military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee, warned the Egyptian military that, "the days of blank checks are over."

And yet the following week, the rhetoric coming out of Washington was remarkably softened. According to the Atlantic magazine, officials had initially been so caught up in their outrage over the charges against Americans, including the son of the US Secretary of Transportation, that they did not think about how cutting Egypt's military aid would have implications for their best friend in the Middle East, Israel.

Egypt is currently the fifth largest recipient of US aid in the world, and cumulatively second only to Israel. Foreign aid to Egypt was negligible until the mid-1970s and only ballooned after Egypt signed the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978. Since the mid-1980s, Egypt has received annually about $1.3 billion in military aid, while Israel received $1.8 billion until the year 2000, after which military aid to Israel fluctuated between $2 to $3.1 billion.

According to the Washington Institute, military aid to Egypt was initially tied to US aid levels to Israel, which is why the figures remained proportional up until 2000, when the launch of the second Palestinian intifada altered the equation. Two other factors also contributed to the shift. The first is that by the turn of the millennium, Egypt was no longer isolated in the region as a result of its neighbourly relations with Israel. The second is that by then, the US had phased out its economic aid to Israel, allocating part of it instead for military use.

Is it aid or blackmail?

Still, continued US aid to Egypt remains an unwritten condition of the Camp David Accords, and since the January 2011 revolution in Egypt, the Israel Lobby has repeatedly voiced its concern that if the aid were to dry up, then the peace treaty would be in jeopardy.

So it is not surprising that despite being subject to the harshly worded threats, Egypt continued to prosecute the American NGO workers, a political slap in Washington's face, all the while receiving US military aid. All 16 Americans, along with 27 of their Egyptian peers, were eventually convicted and sentenced in absentia in June 2013.

This case is interesting for two reasons. One is that it highlights how US aid to Egypt is meant first and foremost to please and protect Israel. The second is that the Egyptian military regime knows this, and thus acts with impunity. The case against the 16 American NGO workers illustrates that. But so does the history of US economic aid to Egypt.

The US has always employed its foreign aid as a political tool, and its economic assistance is handled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Both during the Cold War and in the neoliberal era, USAID projects have come with conditions strongly favouring free markets and privatisation. But interestingly, in the case of Egypt, scholar Bessma Momani argues that: "the Egyptian government perceived the aid programme as an entitlement for signing the Camp David Accord, where equality of treatment between Egypt and Israel was supposedly guaranteed. In consequence, USAID found that the aid at its disposal did not give the organisation any real influence to induce Egypt to alter its economic policies."

Writing in 1997, scholar Duncan Clarke also noted that Egypt views the American funds as its entitlement for making peace with Israel, thus despite the massive amounts of US aid to Egypt, "The remarkable absence of vigorous, reliable Egyptian advocates of the US is particularly striking." In 1991, the US and its allies even agreed to forgive half the $20.2 billion debt that Egypt owed to them, in thanks for Egypt's support during the Persian Gulf War. Nevertheless, Momani suggests that during this time, the Egyptian government was still not willing to alter its economic policy enough for Washington's liking.

Continually frustrated by Egypt's unwillingness to "reform" its state driven economy, in 1993 the US decided to privatise its economic aid to Egypt. Momani describes how Cairo and Washington set up a "Presidents' Council" consisting of 15 American and 15 Egyptian corporate representatives to manage private American investment in Egypt as an alternative to official US government aid. Oil executives along with major US multinationals comprised the American team, while companies that had well-established connections with the Egyptian elite and were close to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made up the Egyptian team, which was headed by Mubarak's son Gamal.

In this way Egypt's rulers successfully transformed the US's ideologically driven neoliberal policy into a crony trade relationship that directly profited the Mubarak regime.

How US aid to Egypt works

There are other aspects of the bilateral relationship that also limit Washington's options.

All US military aid to foreign countries is deposited into an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as part of the Foreign Military Financing programme, which is run by a division of the Pentagon called the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). Nearly all countries have to spend the funds the US allocates each year, but Egypt is allowed to place orders on credit, which means that Egypt usually has a backlog of orders before the annual aid is even dispersed. The only other country granted this privilege is Israel.

The Washington Institute cites estimates that Egypt currently has about "$4 billion in outstanding contractual commitments to be paid by cash-flow financing". In other words, Egypt has run up a $4 billion debt to satisfy its rapacious appetite for American-made weapons and military equipment, and all at the expense of US taxpayers, whose money is being funnelled into the pockets of American weapons manufacturers.

That's why throughout the recent crackdown, the contracts never stopped coming in. According to the Politico web site, the day of the coup the US Army asked for information from contractors interested in building and upgrading F-16 bases in Egypt. And less than one week after the Egyptian security forces massacred and wounded thousands of anti-coup protesters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda Squares, "the US Air Force awarded a contract to General Electric to upgrade the Egyptian air force's fighter jets. The deal, worth nearly $14 million, is to extend the lives of 18 engines used on F-16s and other fighters."

The argument goes that cutting military aid to Egypt would mean that US companies would not get paid for the orders they are processing and this would negatively impact the US economy, resulting in job losses. However, maintaining the aid while stopping the delivery of the American-made weapons and military equipment is a possibility.

A report published by Businessweek magazine last August noted that, "Once the work is completed and the contractor is paid, it's up to the DSCA to deliver the equipment to Egypt." And according to the report, as of August the agency was not delivering anything.

This included helicopters, fighter aircrafts and tank kits.

The magazine pointed out that: "This wouldn't be the first time the US withheld military equipment it's sold to a foreign country. In 1972, Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi paid $70 million for eight C-130 Hercules aircraft. After political tensions arose and relations between the US and Libya became strained, Washington simply decided not to deliver the planes. To this day the aircraft are still sitting outside Lockheed's plant in Marietta, Ga."

However, according to Al-Jazeera America, after the Obama administration announced in early October that it would suspend some military assistance to Egypt, "nearly 2,000 tons of critical US military equipment continued to flow to Egyptian ports." Although there was a delay in the shipment of some fighter jets, other equipment, including several kinds of vehicles used for crowd control, missile systems and spare parts for tanks, helicopters and fighter jets, among other items, continued to depart from eastern US ports to Egypt.

And then there is "war on terror"

So if the aid was supposedly halted, what is the catch?

One problem is that the Obama administration has repeatedly vowed to continue its provision of weapons and military equipment to help the Egyptian authorities fight "terrorism" in the Sinai, which shares a border with Israel.

Another is that the shipments mainly contain spare parts. As Al-Jazeera America points out, during the 1980s and 1990s, US military aid "led Egypt to phase out its Soviet-made arsenal, replacing most of its military equipment with higher-end US products." Since then, Egypt has amassed an arsenal of American-made weapons and equipment, including thousands of tanks and the fourth-largest fleet of F-16 fighter aircrafts in the world.

"There's no conceivable scenario in which they'd need all those tanks short of an alien invasion," Shana Marshall of the Institute of Middle East Studies at George Washington University joked to American National Public Radio.

So while Egypt is not in need of more weapons, the existing equipment does get worn out and continues to require a constant supply of spare parts, which the US freely provides. And Marshall also told Al-Jazeera America that: "there's a lot of pressure on Congress [from the defence industry] to maintain those production lines in their own districts."

This helps to explain why so many members of Congress, including Eliot Engel of New York, the most senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed "concern" when the Obama administration announced that it was withholding selected aid in October.

That said, some members of Congress did actively lobby to end military aid to Egypt while the country was under the leadership of President Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood, after all, always did entertain the possibility of rethinking the Camp David Accords. Of course, these officials failed to realise that during Egypt's short-lived democracy, US military aid went directly to Egypt's military, and not to the civilian government.

In any case, there is public support for an aid freeze. A Pew Research survey in August found that "51 per cent of Americans believe the US should cut off military aid to Egypt to pressure the government there to end the violence against anti-government protesters." And this number would likely be higher if Americans knew that the dispersal of military aid to Egypt could continue while the deliveries of the weapons are halted, weapons which could then even be sold to other parties for a profit, thus ensuring that American jobs are not lost.

So what is the prognosis for US military aid to Egypt? Is it even possible for the US to follow the European Union's moral lead and suspend the export of all equipment that could be used by the Egyptian military regime in its ongoing campaign of repression?

Although in October President Obama suspended the delivery of some military equipment to Egypt pending the election of a civilian government, Washington still refuses to call the events surrounding 3 July a "coup", a determination that would automatically halt all US military aid to Egypt in accordance with US law. And significantly, right after President Obama announced the suspension, Egypt hired a new Washington lobby firm.

Thus it should be no surprise to hear that before going on winter recess, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill on 18 December "that would allow the US to resume its full $1.6 billion aid relationship with Egypt by granting President Obama the power to waive [the federal law on the coup restriction] based on national security," as reported by the Associated Press. Only a few days before the Senate committee passed this bill, three right wing House Republicans travelled to Cairo to visit General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi: Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Considering that for Washington, US national security is mainly defined by two key concerns, Israel and the global war on "terror", and that the three House Republicans have a particular obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood, it is no wonder that Egypt's interim authorities subsequently declared the movement a terrorist organisation.

And yet the new US law also aims to ensure that: "Egypt continues to implement the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, is fighting terrorism, is allowing the US Army to transit the territory of Egypt, is supporting a transition to an inclusive civilian government, is respecting and protecting the political and economic freedoms of all Egyptians, is respecting freedom of expression and due process of law, and finally, is abiding by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly.

While none of these conditions are anything particularly new, Hussein Haridy, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister, has declared the bill "a blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Egypt" that must be firmly rejected by the interim authorities.

So despite Egypt's continued human rights abuses and the calls from the American media for Washington to take action, US military aid to Egypt will probably continue to flow. Indeed, considering that in November Egypt negotiated a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia, financed by the petrol dollars of the monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the historical imbalance of power between the US and Egypt in the latter's favour, it seems more likely that if the aid were ever to be cancelled, then it would be the Egyptian authorities making that decision, not Washington.

]]> (Dr Sarah Marusek) Activism Mon, 06 Jan 2014 11:58:44 +0000
The bitter medicine needed for recovery "...the people must be told the truth in order to help them make the difficult choices and so that they are prepared to accept them out of hope for ending this crisis..."The World Bank envoy packed their bags and went back to where they came from, following negotiations with the government and meetings with leaders of the opposition that seemed to have stalled, for reasons unknown to me. Especially since we all know that the leaders they met have expressed their opposition to President Mohammad Morsi's rule and their desire to overthrow him in any way possible. They made several attempts and played all their cards in order to achieve this goal, and after the factional card was burned and buried in its cradle, all that was left was the economic card in their attempt to rock the presidential seat, convinced that they would be able to use it to seize the seat.

They do not care about the hard-working Egyptian citizens suffering in light of the economic crisis in the country, or their need for this loan in order for the Egyptian economy to recover and receive the stamp of approval that would attract investments in Egypt, open new job markets, and alleviate the unemployment crisis in the country. All this irritates these leaders because it will support President Morsi's rule through the support of the people who will begin to see the fruit of their revolution and the blessings of its country. Therefore, they refused the loan and frankly announced this after their meetings with the World Bank representatives. Matters got mixed up and unfortunately, their hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood became stronger than their love for their country. During a meeting, one of them even said let Egypt burn for the sake of overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood!

Therefore, I am astonished at the World Bank's insistence on accepting such individuals, despite the fact that negotiations should be made with the government because it is the only party dedicated to making the agreement. However, because matters are not as transparent as they should be, we do not know exactly what the World Bank's terms and conditions are. This has led to several rumours about ending the subsidisation of goods, especially those relating to energy, such as diesel fuel and gasoline, as well as an increase in electricity prices. The government is denying this, although they should have addressed the people frankly through the Prime Minister, Dr Hesham Kandil, with regard to the reality of the economic crisis suffered by the country. They also should have implemented short-term and long-term solutions to resolve this crisis, much like a doctor frankly telling their patient about the severity of their disease and prescribing the bitter medicine needed to treat them. The bitterness of this medicine would turn into sweet honey because the hope for recovery has alleviated the bitterness of the medicine, the opposite of which would have happened if the doctor did not tell the patient the truth, and they refused to take the medicine and preferred to die.

Therefore, the people must be told the truth in order to help them make the difficult choices and so that they are prepared to accept them out of hope for ending this crisis and escaping the bottleneck the Egyptian economy has been stuck in for years; it will then be able to emerge and begin its modern renewal. What we want is real hope, not false hope that deceives the people. The Prime Minister, Hesham Kandil, is required to tell the people what Churchill told the British people after WWII "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat to build Great Britain." The people must be involved in the government's negotiations with the IMF in order for them to be an asset and support the government's negotiations, and so it does not impose impossible conditions that become a burden on the Egyptian citizen.

We wouldn't have wanted this loan if it weren't for the chaotic mess left behind by the former regime that seized the country's treasures; the burden inherited by this regime, headed by its President, Dr Morsi, who is working day and night to save Egypt; may God help him and Egypt.

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Tue, 23 Apr 2013 09:39:45 +0000
The Jewishness of the state in exchange for a state on paper According to multiple sources, the relevant international decision-making capitals will launch a political and diplomatic campaign related to the peace process and two-state solution once Benjamin Netanyahu is finished forming his new government in the next two or three weeks. We know that there is currently a French draft resolution in the UN Security Council, and the Washington Post newspaper leaked news of a similar resolution proposed by the Obama administration to the international community, or rather, the administration instructed its friends to propose it in the hope that it would pressure Netanyahu's fourth government, perhaps pushing it to respond to calls for peace and a final solution.

Predictions regarding the Israelis' willingness and desire to end the occupation and enable the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders are very pessimistic. There is a growing conviction amongst the European community, and even in the US, that there is no "Israeli partner" in the peace process. Of course, there are serious questions regarding the state of the "Palestinian partner" including the question regarding the future of the PA after Mahmoud Abbas and the issue of internal Palestinian divisions.

However, the predictions that still raise questions and divisions among observers and diplomats alike are those related to what Obama will be doing in the remaining 20 months of his term. Some believe that this is the "golden time" for any president who serves two consecutive terms to achieve a "breakthrough" in foreign policy dossiers. There is also some talk of "a window of opportunity" lasting eight months before the president becomes a "lame duck". There is a camp that refers to Obama's deep desire to pay Netanyahu back for his actions in Congress in the Security Council, while there are those who believe it will be very difficult for Obama to deal two heavy blows to Israel at the same time, i.e. the nuclear deal with Iran and an international peace resolution. The opinions and predictions are endless in this regard.

The new strings in the game are becoming clearer and emerging from the rubble of all the regional crises, conflicts and wars. They are suggesting that the Security Council will be the scene for the regional-international discussion of the peace process and two-state solution. Such an endeavour is concerning to Israel but satisfies the Palestinian leadership who are leaning towards the option of "internationalising" the issue rather than exclusively relying on the US, which it has done for the past 25 years of the peace process, to no avail.

However, the Palestinian leadership must not expect this to be a "leisurely stroll" down the halls of the United Nations Security Council. The French-American-British discussions likely revolve around the following themes:

First, the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with limited and agreed upon land swaps so as to overcome the obstacle of the large settlements. Unfortunately, the PA accepted this matter in the bilateral negotiations with Israel, and therefore, there is nothing that leads us to believe that the PA will reject it in principle. Instead, discussions will probably revolve around numbers and percentages, as well as the issue parity in the quantity and quality of the swapped land.

The second issue to be discussed is that of Jerusalem as a joint capital for both states, and this is just a different spin on "East Jerusalem" being the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Thirdly, the solution of the refugee issue by means of a mutual agreement; this was accepted by the PA during the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 and in successive bilateral negotiations.

The most dangerous matter with this diplomatic action is that it stems from accepting the need to recognise the "Jewish State". It has been said that France wants to pass this issue in its draft resolution by referring to Resolution 181- the Partition Plan as a reference for the "Jewish State" without committing to the maps of this resolution. Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, the US is insisting on the idea of "the Jewish nation state".

There is a dispute regarding the need to set a binding calendar for the end of negotiations, the end of the occupation, and the manifestation of the two-state solution. Washington does not want to commit to deadlines while the European – the French in particular - position is still unclear in this regard.

We still do not know if these capitals will uphold and adhere to these standards until the end or if they will cave in under the pressure of Israel and the exploitation of pro-Israel groups in their countries. However, we are certain that no one will provide a guarantee to make sure that if the "new resolution" is passed, it will face a different fate from the dozens of other international resolutions that came before it. Therefore, we would not be surprised if this new attempt to revive the peace process and save the two-state solution option ends up "luring" the Palestinians into making new concessions with regards to the "Jewishness" of the state in exchange for a state and a shared capital only on paper.

Translated from Addustour newspaper, 22 April 2015.

]]> (Oraib Al-Rantawi) Middle East Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:45:44 +0000
Libya, a priority for Tunisian foreign policy? The Bardo attack indicates that Tunisia will not be able to remain immune to Libya's ongoing conflict where two rival governments fight for power and the Islamic State is gaining ground. This neighbouring country continues to be a delicate issue for the Tunisian government.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has recently aimed its notorious PR-machine at Tunisia. In a video a Tripoli-based ISIS-gunman threatens Tunisian leaders and promises revenge for the imprisonment of ISIS supporters. "The Islamic State is only a few kilometres from you [Tunisia], we are coming," the masked gunman said, promising to conquer Tunisia. The front page of the latest edition of the group's English propaganda magazine Dabiq, dedicated to ISIS Africa's expansion plans, also shows Kairouan's Grand Mosque, which is among Islam's most holiest sites, demonstrating the city's importance for the group's expansion plans. The escalation comes after the country experienced its worst terrorist attack since the 2003 assault on the small island of Djerba off the southern Tunisian coast.

It was on 18 March that two gunmen attacked the country's famous Bardo museum, frequently visited by tourists and symbolically situated next to the Tunisian Parliament, killing 24 people before they were shot dead by security forces. "The recent terrorist attack in Tunis has a Libyan connection," explained Libyan political analyst Mohamed Eljarh. The young gunmen, 27-year-old Yassine Laabidi and 19-year-old Saber Khachnaoui, were both believed to have spent December 2014 in one of the jihadist training camps in Libya, where it is believed they became radicalised.

However, it remains unclear which organisation the two assailants were associated with. Two contradictory versions are circulating. According to a vague official statement from the Tunisian authorities the blame was quickly placed on Uqba Ibn Nafi, which is operating along the Tunisia-Algeria border and is affiliated to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). At the same time, ISIS claimed responsibility in three different statements, which were never rejected by AQIM. The Bardo assault symbolises a change in the jihadists' operations in Tunisia which, prior to the assault, were centred around targeting state symbols, most often involving Uqba Ibn Nafi attacking Tunisian security forces, primarily in the interior parts of the country and the border area around Mount Chaambi, close to Kasserine.

"It is the first attack of this scale in Tunisia," explained Tunisian security analyst Habib M. Sayah, adding that it is important to remember that ISIS militant and senior commander Ahmed Rouissi, one of Tunisia's most wanted men and a member of Ansar Al-Sharia, organised two bombings targeting hotels in Sousse and Monastir a year ago. Even though these attempts failed, it reflects that "there was a will to target tourists and foreigners," argued Sayah. Rouissi, who was fighting alongside Libyan forces in Sirte and is believed to have held training and recruitment operations in Libya, was killed just days before the Bardo attack according to Tunisian security sources.

"Tunisian jihadis in Libya are more of a threat [than the Tunisian Salafi-Jihadi movement] because they operate for the Islamic State," argued Sayah. The group is popular among Tunisian Jihadi-Salafis, especially among former Ansar Al-Sharia sympathisers, he noted. There is motive for ISIS in Libya to organise the Tunisian Jihadi-Salafi movement, the legacy from Ansar Al-Sharia, he argued. But at the same time the threat from outside should not cast a shadow on the threat from the inside. The Tunisian Salafi-Jihadi movement has developed since 2011 and members of this movement may be ready to engage in, or support, terrorist attacks on Tunisian soil, Sayah explained.

"Tunisia finds itself in a place where it has to take a neutral position on the Libyan crisis out of care for its own national interests," argued Eljarh. The risk is that the self-declared Libya Dawn government will take counter-measures that could hurt Tunisian national security and interests, if the current Tunisian administration is too cooperative with the internationally recognised government in Tobruk, he explained. The fact that the Tobruk government controls the area located in eastern Libya far away from the Tunisian border, while the self-declared Libya Dawn government controls Tripoli and the immediate border crossing area with Tunisia, has placed Tunisia in an "extremely difficult position", Eljarh explained. At the same time, the "Tunisia-Libya relationship is deeply entrenched on all levels - security, economic, social and political too".

Concerns regarding the spill over effect that the Libyan conflict continues to pose to Tunisia's relatively successful democratic transition reached its peak before the 2014 elections. "We are in the process of building a new house, a new democracy, and there is a fire next door," announced Mongi Hamdi, the then foreign minister for Tunisia's caretaker interim government last year. "Tunisian security depends on Libya," argued Tunisian journalist Huda Mzioudet who is focusing on Libya and used to be based in Tripoli. According to her the Tunisian government should take a more proactive and bold approach towards its neighbour's conflict, including more positive diplomacy. "It has to approach the issue as not a Libyan issue but a regional one," Mzioudet concluded. She regrets that Tunisia is not taking a more active part in the national dialogue attempts. "We need to face the problem with a long-term perspective."

The Tunisian government is looking at the conflict from a narrow-minded viewpoint, argued Mzioudet. "Libya Dawn, which is seen by some political elements, in particular secular ones in Tunisia, as extremist, is a part of the conflict and they can't be disregarded," she said. In Tunisia there is a sense of denial within the rhetoric, which Mzioudet finds disturbing. "We don't want to deal with these so called extremists because they are not viable actors," but this is dangerous rhetoric, "then you don't understand diplomacy," she said. According to Mzioudet, Libya Dawn and its affiliates ought to be part of the dialogue, "otherwise the risk is that it will affect Tunisia even more." Mzioudet would like to see a more pragmatic approach, derived from common interests rather than "narrow party ideology".

Libya Dawn is de facto part of the dialogue and Tunisia needs to unify its position. "There is too much confusion between the presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," she argued. "We need a firm position on the necessity of the inclusion of all parties" in order to ensure the success of the dialogue.

Another danger for Tunisia is the media's very biased rhetoric, argued Mzioudet, which she fears fuels anger in Libya. "It shows that there is a clear siding, from not only the media, but according to many Libyans, the Tunisian public opinion, with the non-Islamist fractions and the internationally recognised government in Tobruk." Mzioudet believes this is risky, as no one is able to fathom how delicate the conflict is and this highlights the importance of not simplifying it into a secular vs. Islamist issue.

One example of its sensitivity, explained Mzioudet, was the reaction after the Tunisian government announced that it will re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya with a consulate in both the capital Tripoli and the second largest city Benghazi. "Some Libyans understood this as a kind of recognition of a two-state solution in Libya," explained Mzioudet, "which led to threats from the Tobruk based parliament against the Tunisian authorities." This is one example of how important it is to deal with the conflict with delicacy, Mzioudet concluded.

Priority for Tunisia now, according to Eljarh, is to ensure that it takes all the necessary measures to prevent the flow of fighters, leaders or weapons across its borders. "It is necessary that the supply lines for armed groups from Tunisia are cut off."

The Libya-Tunisia border has been considered fragile. "I am not sure to what extent border controls will increase following the Bardo attack," said Sayah, emphasising that some improvements have been made. "We had been noticing improvements in that field months before the Bardo attack as the Tunisian government considered the porosity of the Tunisian-Libyan border one of the main gaps and inflows of returnees and foreign fighters, which was a major security threat."

An independent writer, editor, researcher and analyst, Christine Petré is especially passionate international relations, conflict and humanitarian issues. Much of her work is aimed at challenging mainstream coverage of the Middle East and Africa.

]]> (Christine Petré) Africa Wed, 15 Apr 2015 09:49:58 +0000
Why does Maajid Nawaz get taxpayers' money to discredit Islam and Muslims? Maajid NawazSocial media has been awash with comments about the antics of the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz since a Daily Mail article splashed details of his "stag night" held last year. While it is tempting to join in and condemn him for being, it is alleged, "very drunk", as well being in a seedy strip club cavorting with a lap-dancer, it is more fitting to refrain from doing so. He denies acting "inappropriately" in any case. The owner of the club involved also carries a Muslim name, so one must presume that the visit of Nawaz was not unusual in itself and that the clientele includes Muslims as a matter of course. They, however, do not claim to be experts on Islam and Shari'ah law, unlike Nawaz. Hence the flood of criticism on Facebook and Twitter.

Should we care what someone does in his private life? Normally, probably not. What goes on behind closed doors should be of no concern to the public outside. However, it should ring a few alarm bells among reasonable people that Maajid Nawaz is seen by the Liberal Democrats to be a suitable candidate for a parliamentary election. The idea that someone who has gone to such a club and appears to be quite proud of it simply because it was his "stag night" is quite probably anathema to many, regardless of their personal beliefs. It would be foolish to expect MPs to be squeaky-clean in their personal lives – and they're not, as the expenses scandal demonstrated – and there may be other parliamentary candidates looking at Nawaz this weekend and saying, "There but for the Grace of God, go I." Nevertheless, people aspiring for public office are, not unreasonably, held to higher standards and are expected to set a good example for others to follow.

In Nawaz's case, he has also been promoted as a "moderate" Muslim by the government, which has poured a great deal of taxpayers' money into his Quilliam Foundation, the self-proclaimed "world's first counter-extremism organisation". Based in London, its staff include former leading members of Islamist organisations. The foundation lobbies the government and public institutions for more "nuanced policies regarding Islam" and the need for greater democracy in the Muslim world. Why, though, does he get taxpayers' money to discredit mainstream Islam? He has been at the forefront of the political and media vilification of Islamic organisations in Britain and abroad, and the individuals involved in them. It is also claimed that he is a member of "Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel", which probably puts him at odds with most Muslims in the world. Quilliam, it seems, sets the benchmark for what is an acceptable Islam (and Muslim) for an increasingly right-wing political class, and Nawaz has played a leading role in this.

The government clearly believes that the 37-year-old is representative of Islam and Muslims; the fact that the government has chosen Nawaz and his cronies to fulfil such a role says a great deal about what kind of Islam and Muslims the government envisages as the "ideal". Given that his foray into the lap-dancing world is claimed to have taken place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it emphasises further why he should neither claim to represent any version of Islam nor be promoted by the public authorities and taxpayers' money as doing so. Far from being a leading or significant member of the Muslim community, he is doing his best to distance himself from Islam and its tenets as practised by the vast majority of genuinely moderate Muslims in this country. There are many more suitable candidates for the government to promote as "best practice" for Muslims in Britain; most of them, incidentally, would not identify themselves as "Islamists".

A former member of Hizb-ut Tahrir (the Freedom Party) which campaigns for the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate through non-violent means (at least in Britain), Nawaz was jailed in Egypt in 2005 for his "radical" activities. He claims that he was tortured in prison which, given the propensity of Egyptian governments to do so, is more than likely. When he was released and returned to Britain in 2006, he renounced his "extremist" views and became a spokesman on the issue of extremism. On the face of it, this seems to have been an odd U-turn to make. He was jailed and tortured by the very secular regime of Hosni Mubarak, which persecuted Islamists, and yet upon his return to the UK he turned against the latter and, in effect, advocates the kind of "Islam" preferred by the likes of Mubarak and the current president in Egypt. In other words, it is hardly recognisable as Islam at all, beyond a degree of lip-service. The allegations of his activities in the lap-dancing club would appear to bear this out. He may not have been acting "inappropriately" for such an establishment, as his spokesman claims, but it was certainly inappropriate for a Muslim to even be in such a place (never mind own one, Mr Abdul Malik).

His friends have sprung to his defence, pointing out that only God can judge individuals and their actions, which is true. However, that's a bit odd coming from people who complain about Islamists' promotion of Shari'ah law and insist that everyone should uphold the law of the land, something with which most British Muslims would agree. He hasn't, of course, broken any law in this country that we know of, but his friends rightly refer to him being judged by a God whose revealed religion they claim to follow while simultaneously distancing themselves from it in practice. No wonder Nawaz seems to be so confused, although it does explain why his spokesman pointed out that the man with a fondness for lap-dancers who has claimed to be a "feminist" only has a reputation for advocating women's rights "in the context of Islamic extremism". Or that he apparently held his "stag night" four months before his wedding when, traditionally, it is held the night, or a few days, before the wedding. As someone who espouses "British values" in his "anti-extremism" work, Nawaz should have known that and briefed his spokesman more carefully.

At least one MP has called upon the Liberal Democrats to drop Nawaz as a parliamentary candidate. It has been reported, however, that party leader Nick Clegg has refused to turn his back on the man described by the Sunday Times as "Clegg's darling". The Muslim community in Britain turned their backs on Nawaz years ago. Perhaps it is time for the government to do so as well, and cut all links with the Quilliam Foundation if ministers are genuine about wanting support from within the Muslim community for their efforts to tackle extremism. Quilliam had very little credibility amongst British Muslims before the latest headlines; it has even less now.

]]> (Middle East Monitor) Europe Mon, 13 Apr 2015 08:33:59 +0000
Cameron buries Muslim Brotherhood report to please Gulf tyrants David CameronMonday was all set to be the day that the government finally published its long-delayed report into the British activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has now been delayed, once again.

The review was commissioned almost a one year ago, and has reportedly been gathering dust on the PM's desk for about nine months now. Sir John Jenkins, Britain's former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, reportedly delivered his conclusions to Downing Street only three months after he was asked to do so.

Reports in the British press suggest that Sir John has cleared the Brotherhood of any violent extremist tendencies. It is "not a terrorist organisation but should be more open about its dealings," is how The Independent summarised the findings on Monday, when the report failed to materialise.

As soon as it was announced, I for one was entirely cynical about the review, and declared it would be a fix from start to finish. It seems I was right, but not in the way I thought I would be.

Britain's alliance with the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, as well as the other absolutist tyrannies that are the Gulf monarchies, is a long-standing feature of this country's foreign policy. The appeasement of the Saudis at the top levels of government knows few bounds, it seems.

So just as the report was to clear the Brotherhood, it seems Cameron has stepped in and kicked it into the long grass. A vaguely-worded statement about the delay in publication means the report is unlikely to see the light of day until after May's election. And that means it may well never be published at all - especially if Labour wins the elections.

The modern Muslim Brotherhood aims to win power in the countries it operates in through democratic elections, as were run in Tunisia and Egypt. (Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, has its historical roots as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and won the only free and fair election in the region back in 2006. As a result it came to power in the Palestinian Authority, until the US and Israel sought to overthrow the results in a coup, which utilised local proxy forces. The coup was only successful in the West Bank, while Hamas defeated it in the Gaza Strip, which it still controls.)

To the Gulf monarchies, reliant on absolutist power and the crushing of even the smallest stirrings of democratic feelings, protest or practice, the Brotherhood's encouragement of elections as a way to win power is anathema.

Since the Brotherhood's popular support grew after the various uprisings in the Arab world in 2011, the movement has been seen as an even bigger threat to the dictatorships there, with Egypt outlawing it as a "terrorist" group. The United Arab Emirates saw it as such a threat to their control that they went on a banning spree last year, bizarrely declaring even the British Charity Islamic Relief and the US civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations to be "terrorist" groups.

The charges that these charity and civil rights groups are even remotely connected to ISIS and al-Qaeda are ridiculous. But then again, such irrationality should be expect from regimes that have passed such laws as the one which defines "terrorism" as including "calling for atheist thought in any form" - as the Saudis did last year.

The fact that Cameron even called for a "review" of the Brotherhood in the first place was yet another sign of how in bed all British governments are with undemocratic regimes in the Arab world -- as long as they serve elite interests.

Arms deals to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf tyrannies are extremely lucrative to British weapons dealers. Human rights and movements for real democratic change mean nothing to British politicians and other elites. It was Saudi and UAE troops that crushed the democratic uprising against the monarchy in Bahrain in 2011. British elites only seemed worried that the F1 contest set to take part in the country that year could be disrupted.

Government policy is reportedly constrained by the civil servants at the Foreign Office who, according to The Independent, have "generally taken a benign view of the Brotherhood". The report should be released now.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 21 Mar 2015 14:59:15 +0000
An American openness to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, and Iran Nicola Nasser

The appointment of Robert Malley as White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region is not considered a sufficient indicator that there will be any radical change in US strategy despite the campaign launched against the US by the Zionists due to its openness to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria and Iran.

On 6 March, President Barack Obama's administration appointed Robert Malley, the former senior director of the National Security Council who dealt with the Iraqi, Iranian, and Gulf issues, and a member of the delegation negotiating the Iranian nuclear issues, as the Special White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region. Malley is scheduled to begin his new position on 6 April, succeeding Philip Gordon.

Edward Abington, former US consul general in occupied Jerusalem, described the lawyer specialised in "conflict resolution" as being "American Jewish" and that his appointment is a "positive development". He was also described by US national security adviser Susan Rice as "one of our country's most respected experts on the Middle East, since February 2014 Rob has played a critical role in forming our policy on Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf."

However, the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) opposed the appointment of Malley for several reasons, stating that Malley is an "Israel-basher, advocate of US recognition of major, unreconstructed terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and proponent of containment of Iran (i.e., not preventing them from attaining nuclear weapons) and proponent of negotiating with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (i.e. not changing his regime)."

He also believes that working with the Muslim Brotherhood is "not a bad idea" and called Israel's settlements located in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 "colonies". He also called for abandoning the Road Map for Peace approved by the international Quartet in 2003 and replacing it with a comprehensive settlement plan to be imposed on the parties with the backing of the international community, including Arab and Muslim states. He did so before the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate in 2004. He also continues to urge the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and Hamas to "unite".

Malley also called for "involving" Hamas in the PLO's negotiations with the occupation, explaining his statement by saying that the PLO must include Hamas because it has become "antiquated, worn out, barely functioning, and is no longer considered the Palestinian people's sole legitimate representative." He also called for the resumption of negotiations between the Arabs and Israel "on all levels on the basis of the Arab peace initiative."

The ZOA did not fail to mention his father, Simon Malley who was born and worked in Egypt as a journalist for Al-Goumhouria newspaper before moving with his family to France and founding Afrique-Asie magazine. The ZOA said that Simon Malley was "a virulently anti-Israel member of the Egyptian Communist Party, a close confidante of Yasser Arafat, and an enthusiast for violent Third World 'liberation' movements." As for his mother, Barbara Malley, she worked with the United Nations delegation of the National Liberation Front (NLF), an Algerian independence group.

Robert Malley was Barack Obama's colleague at Harvard Law School and a Middle East affairs adviser for his 2008 campaign. However, Obama was forced to cast him aside due to the Zionist campaign against them both after Britain's it the Times revealed that Malley had been in contact with Hamas.

In his media interviews Malley explained that the contacts were part of his work with the International Crisis Group, saying: "My job with the International Crisis Group is to meet with all sorts of savoury and unsavoury people and report on what they say. I've never denied whom I meet with; that's what I do."

He added that he informs the State Department about his meetings beforehand and briefs them afterward. During the same year, London's Al-Hayat newspaper quoted deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, and Hamas official Dr Ahmed Yousef saying: "We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza, but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as they may have a negative effect on his election campaign."

Before this, Malley, who was a member of the US negotiating team in the 2000 Arafat-Barak-Clinton summit at Camp David, was the target of an Israeli-Zionist campaign because he held all three leaders responsible for the failure of the summit, and not only the late Palestinian leader, who was repeatedly accused by Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and their team of negotiators of causing the failure.

Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organisation of America, said: "How exactly does someone, who is dropped as an adviser because he advocates recognition of, and meets with, the genocidally-inclined terrorist organisation Hamas, now became a senior adviser to the president, unless President Obama has all along agreed with much of what Malley thinks and advocates?"

Due to the fact that the appointment of Malley coincided with the crisis in relations between the US and Israel, caused by the recent speech made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the US Congress behind Obama's back and without his approval, analysts have begun to talk about "changes in the US's role in the Middle East" in the context of the Israeli media outlets and its Zionist and Jewish arms. They have also predicted that "there will be no doubt that US policy will be focused exclusively on pressuring Israel over the course of the last 22 months of Obama's term", as written by Jonathan S. Tobin in America's Commentary magazine on 10 March.

During this time, Obama will be "free of electoral pressure" so the Obama administration's treatment of the Palestinian issue is about to take on a much more aggressive attitude over the next two years. This will allow Obama to "invest the little political credit he has left in 'bringing world peace'," as written by Alex Fishman in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

In Fishman's opinion, there are now two courses of work on the White House's agenda. First, it can follow the path of the "European Initiative" which proposes issuing a UN Security Council resolution for a "lasting solution in the Middle East", while the second path involves waiting for the results of the Israeli elections this week, as it is a "renewal of the American peace initiative, which will have behind it a very skilled, determined person, who isn't very fond of the current government: The president's new man in the Middle East," Robert Malley.

It is clear that these courses of action, the appointment of Malley and his record will undoubtedly breathe life into the PLO's negotiating team, especially since President Abbas repeatedly says that going to the UN and international organisations, as well as the PLO's Central Council recommendations, do not necessarily mean that negotiations will be abandoned. These negotiations can also be considered new material used by the American camp in the Arab League to justify its on-going pressure on the PLO to continue to rely on the United States.

The appointment of Malley indicates one conclusion: that the US is heading towards a new initiative to resume negotiations between the PLO and the occupation without making any changes to its references. If the PLO interacts and deals with the "European initiative" then it is likely to deal and interact with any new US initiative, according to all indications in this regard. In this case, the PLO's recent diplomatic actions not related to the negotiations and the United States has merely been "playing on borrowed time" while waiting for the results of the Israeli elections. However, these actions can still be built upon in order to completely depart from the American vision for the "resolution of the conflict" in the event that Netanyahu is re-elected as prime minister.

On the other hand, Hamas should not be fooled by Robert Malley's positions towards the movement, despite its importance, as it is an attempt to contain the movement and drag it into "negotiations" between the PLO and Israel based on the same references rejected and opposed by Hamas thus far.

As for Malley's performance in Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf, over the past year, which was praised by Susan Rice, it has had catastrophic consequences on the ground that speak for themselves. Malley's openness to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and Syria is nothing more than tactical dealings in order to serve the US strategy with forces that have proved their presence.

Appointing Robert Malley as White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region is not a sufficient indicator of any radical change in the US strategy that is on the verge of tearing the Arab world apart, along with its Islamic surroundings, unless it is deterred. This is true despite the Zionist campaign opposing his openness towards Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria and Iran.

Translated from

]]> (Nicola Nasser) Americas Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:35:53 +0000