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. Fri, 27 Nov 2015 22:30:25 +0000 MEMO en-gb Israel’s arms sales have a questionable past, present and future Israel is alleged to have provided Hutu forces with 5.56-millimetre bullets as well as rifles and grenades captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. [file photo]There are many examples of Israel committing war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UN has said that the building of settlements in the territories contravenes international law and could amount to war crimes. A UN report on Israel’s most recent war against Gaza also said that it found evidence that the state had committed war crimes. Furthermore, its booming arms trade means that Israel is also complicit in war crimes, and even genocide, in many other countries.

Last week, a bill sponsored by the left-wing Meretz Party to make it harder for Israel to sell arms to human rights violators, was opposed by the foreign ministry, which claims that the current safeguards are sufficient. However, Israel’s long history of supplying arms to countries with questionable human rights records, suggests otherwise.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, for example, Israelis trained the elite military units of the then South African Defence Force, sold tanks and aviation technology to its army, and licensed the production of Galil rifles at a local factory. Israel profited handsomely from this arrangement, and the apartheid government in Pretoria managed to gain access to state-of-the-art weaponry at a time when the rest of the world was turning against it in a most effective — and eventually successful — boycott and sanctions movement. In 2010, secret documents were revealed showing that Israel had even offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime.

According to journalist Jeremy Bigwood, Israel has also supplied, trained and advised right-wing groups and regimes across Latin America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.

Israel was, for example, the main arms supplier to the Guatemalan army during a time when it was embroiled in a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in which at least 200,000 (mostly Native American Indians) were killed or “disappeared”. Israel also became the main supplier of weapons to the notorious Pinochet regime in Chile after the US administration suspended all military aid. It reportedly trained and prepared the Chilean secret service; Pinochet and his secret service were responsible for the kidnapping, murder and torture of tens of thousands of citizens.

In the Salvadoran conflict — a civil war between the right-wing landowning class supported by a particularly violent military pitted against left-wing popular organisations — Israel sold weapons and helped train ANSESAL, the secret police which later formed the framework of the infamous death squads that would kill tens of thousands of mostly civilian activists.

Perhaps the most shocking fact is Israel’s role in the supply of weapons to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Over a period of 100 days, an estimated 1 million Rwandans were killed in the genocide, which targeted members of the Tutsi ethnic group. Israel is alleged to have provided Hutu forces with 5.56-millimetre bullets as well as rifles and grenades captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Evidence of this has accumulated over the years, some of it gathered by Israelis who visited Rwanda during the genocide or shortly thereafter. Earlier this year, an Israeli court rejected a petition to get the state to release papers documenting Israeli arms exports to Rwanda during that dark period. Attorney Eitay Mack, who submitted the petition, ended his statement with a quote from an Israeli arms dealer. The man expressed pride in his actions after a tour of the valley of death because his arms helped the victims die quickly; a bullet to the head instead of being hacked to death by a machete. “I’m actually a doctor,” he said.

More recently, Israel’s arms industry focus has been on South Sudan. Since the country declared its independence in 2011, Israel has sent weapons and trained government forces. A UN report accused the military and its allies of carrying out “a campaign of violence”, reportedly killing civilians, looting and destroying villages and displacing over 100,000 people. It also accused the army of raping and then burning women and girls alive.

As a result of the reports coming from South Sudan, according to Al-Monitor, the US froze military aid to the country in April 2014; President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing an arms embargo and freezing assets of those involved in the fighting and war crimes there. At the end of the year, the EU also decided to impose an arms embargo. Meanwhile, in June, an official delegation from South Sudan attended ISDEF, the Israeli arms fair, without any apparent hindrance.

The same month, Tamar Zandberg MK (Meretz) wrote to Israel’s Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, asking that arms exports to the African country be stopped. Ya’alon’s ministry remained tight-lipped as to whether Israel was continuing to sell arms to the war-ravaged country.

Ambiguity surrounds much of Israel’s arms sales but this is not unusual for Tel Aviv, which also maintains a similar policy with regards to its nuclear weapons. It does not reveal the countries to which it exports arms, in an attempt to safeguard its strategic ties with those countries. We cannot help but wonder, though, if embarrassment plays a part, alongside a fear of what this means under international law and the potential for devastating legal action at the International Criminal Court should such questionable arms dealing continue.

]]> (Jessica Purkiss) Middle East Fri, 27 Nov 2015 12:12:15 +0000
Turkey warns Russia, ‘En garde!’ Tallha AbdulrazaqFollowing the downing of a Russian jet fighter by the Turkish Air Force last Tuesday, many have been questioning the details surrounding the incident. How did this happen over Middle Eastern skies? How did a Russian jet allegedly penetrating Turkish airspace manage to crash land in Syria, and what are the potential repercussions of this situation not only for Turkish-Russian relations, but also for the ongoing Syrian revolution against the murderous regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad? The reality is that this event is unlikely to change the overall conduct of the war in Syria, nor will it have too much of an impact on existing relations beyond muscle-flexing and a war of words.

According to Turkey, and now NATO, two Russian jets were warned to be “en garde” 10 times in 5 minutes by the pilot of a Turkish F-16; he ordered them to change their heading south and away from Turkish airspace after they were picked up on radar as coming uncomfortably close to Turkey’s border. The Russian jets seemingly ignored these warnings, and then proceeded to penetrate Turkish airspace over Hatay where one of them was engaged and shot down. The Su-24 crash landed 4 kilometres into Syrian territory. The Russian government disputes this version of events, claiming that their pilots were never warned and that they never entered Turkish territory; Moscow called Turkey’s actions “a stab in [Russia’s] back delivered by the accomplices of terrorists.”

NATO has since come out in defence of Turkey’s claims, saying that it has received analyses and intelligence from other NATO members that confirm the Turkish narrative. Similarly, the US has announced separately that the Turkish pilots did indeed repeat their warnings to their Russian counterparts, but were roundly ignored. Nevertheless, all sides appear now to be calling for calm and de-escalation following a war of words between the Turkish and Russian authorities.

So how did a Russian jet engaged over Turkish skies manage to end up 4 kilometres into Syrian territory? The answer is simple. When any warplane opens fire or unleashes an air-to-air missile, the projectile takes time to get from its source to the still-moving target. There is no information about what was used by the Turkish pilot used to shoot down his target, but it seems likely to have been the common “sidewinder” missile. Once fired, the missile accelerates to speeds of around Mach 2.3, and would then have to catch up to the Su-24, which itself can reach speeds of Mach 1.3. It is safe to assume that the Russian jet would have deployed countermeasures to throw the missile off target, and would also have accelerated to maximum speed to escape the incoming missile. It is important to note that, once fired, these missiles cannot be called back, and so it would have continued pursuing the target even if it left Turkish airspace.

WikiLeaks published what appears to be Turkey’s statement to the UN regarding this incident; the document shows that Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds. Depending on the initial distance of the F-16 that fired the missile, if it was moving at Mach 2.3 then it seems entirely possible for it to catch up to and strike the much slower Su-24 even if it was moving at top speed, which is likely, as I have already explained. As such, it is quite feasible that, after it was struck, the Su-24 was not going to just drop vertically and land in Turkish territory. The sheer momentum of the jet’s movement at altitude would mean that it would continue moving in relatively the same direction as when it was hit in by the Turkish missile. It therefore makes complete sense for the Russian jet to have been struck and continued with its forward movement as it was falling out of the sky. When you are moving at speeds of around 1,550 kilometres per hour, 4 kilometres is nothing, and so it is clear why Russia’s Su-24 crashed into Syrian territory.

Having cleared up that conundrum, let’s look at why this happened. This is not the first time that Russia has been caught provoking Turkey or other NATO members. In April, Britain’s Royal Air Force had to dispatch fighter jets to intercept a Russian bomber that was uncomfortably close to British airspace. Even more disturbingly, and also earlier this year, both France and Britain had to deploy ships and specialised aircraft to try to intercept a Russian submarine that was spotted lurking near Scotland. Turkey itself was forced to shoot down a Russian drone last month, and has previously shot down Syrian aircraft (Russia’s ally). This is, of course, not to forget Russia’s continued provocations and actions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe designed to see whether NATO still has teeth or whether it has developed into a paper tiger (with NATO’s complete lack of willingness to respond to Russian intimidation indicating the latter). Turkey, on the other hand, has established repeatedly that it will not tolerate breaches of its sovereignty and has demonstrably shown the Russians now that it is not joking when it says that it will shoot down any unwelcome visitors.

Although Russia has cut off military contact with Turkey and deployed the Moskva, the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, to the Syrian-Turkish coast, it is highly unlikely that Russia will retaliate directly. After all, it is in neither Turkey’s nor Russia’s interests to escalate matters even further, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already indicated that his country does not want war. Turkey is one of Russia’s largest energy customers, and they have a number of joint economic interests, including the construction of a new pipeline for Russian gas through Turkey. Russia will instead continue to show that it is undeterred by Turkey’s efforts (indeed, it is still bombing areas near the Turkish border), that it will step up air force protection (via anti-air platforms such as S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems) and that it may even start supporting Kurdish groups linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who may conduct further terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

Whatever Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to do next, Turkey has delivered a firm and frank message to Russia: “En garde!”

]]> (Tallha Abdulrazaq) Europe Fri, 27 Nov 2015 10:43:17 +0000
Israel, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State bogey Asa WinstanleyThe terrorist bogeyman de jour is nowadays of course the so-called "Islamic State". Do you remember back in the decade or so following the 9/11 attacks on the US? Back then it was all al-Qaeda, all the time. We were all meant to fear and quake in our boots over them. Ironically, the group is probably more of a threat now than they were then, and the actions taken by western governments back then helped to birth the creation of something of the ven more horrific "Islamic State."

Al-Qaeda were a conveniently ghoulish enemy which tabloid newspapers could use to whip up fear and loathing and which western governments used to build public support for ever-increasing powers for their various domestic spy agencies.

Even though the British media and government constantly obsessed about al-Qaeda and the threat it posed, it was greatly exaggerated. This was especially the case in the aftermath to 9/11 and the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. The so-called War on Terrorism was envisaged as a sort of endless war, in large part for the benefits of western capital, especially the arms firms, and for control of Middle Eastern oil.

Dick Cheney, George W. Bush's vice president (and himself a former CEO of oil and construction corporation Halliburton, which went on to make immense profits from the invasion of Iraq) spelled it out bluntly in October 2001: "it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime."

We were told that al-Qaeda was a threat, that Saddam Hussein was building "weapons of mass destruction" and had to be stopped and that he was even working in alliance with al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Of course, as is now widely know, there was no al-Qaeda operating in Iraq until after in the invasion. In fact, the invasion was the primary factor that caused the creation and rise of the horrific group once known as al-Qaeda in Iraq – which was ultimately the forerunner of "Islamic State." Even Tony Blair himself (the co-architect of the invasion of Iraq) now admits the invasion was a "principle cause" of the creation of Islamic State.

But we did not need to Blair to tell us that; it has long been evident. As I have previously shown, the 2003 invasion (and especially the very consciously sectarian policy of divide and rule that the occupation regime enforced) created the swamp in which al-Qaeda in Iraq was born (the group renamed itself several times: it became "Islamic State in Iraq," then the "Islamic State of Iraq and Sham" when it expanded into Syria and now calls itself simply the "Islamic State").

Furthermore, in May, a declassified Pentagon report showed that western spy agencies (active in Syria at the time, as they are still now) were aware as far back as August 2012 that something resembling "Islamic State" could arise – and in fact they even wanted it to do so "in order to isolate the Syrian regime."

By now, that strategy could be said to have backfired on the West: a very similar story to what happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Iraq after 2003.

Another aspect to all this mess is the continued involvement of the Israelis in Syria, both their spy agencies and their military actively aiding and (probably) arming rebel groups in Syria that are certainly allied to al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and almost certainly even the aiding that affiliate directly: the Nusra Front.

This is probably the most under-reported story in the entire Syrian civil war, one I have done my best in this column over the course of 2015 to gather together some of the scraps and fragments of reports that have slowly seeped out in the media.

In the spring, there were signs of Israel's sensitivity to this issue being exposed and gaining wider attention in mainstream media (something which has yet to happen). It is fairly often talked about on social media though (of course, with the typical exaggerations and rumours that social media is prone to). But in April, one Syrian Druze resident in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was imprisoned by Israel merely for talking about the issue on his Facebook page, and reporting that the Israeli military had met with "terrorist" rebels in the Golan. It let to some violent backlash by local Druze on both sides of the ceasefire line.

Earlier this week there was another sign of what a sensitive issue this is for the Israelis. Australian journalist Sharri Markson went on a press junket to Israel organized by the Australian Israel lobby. Markson can hardly be described as anti-Israel – in fact she came under fire for neglecting to mention in her reports filed from the trip who her little jaunt to occupied Palestine was funded by.

But even Markson came under attack from Israeli security over the issue of Israel's aid for Syrian rebels.

During an arranged trip to a hospital in the north of Israel used to treat injured rebels, Markson was detained by "security officials" at the hospital after she dared ask the injured rebels basic journalistic questions like their names and contact details. (Which only confirms that the trip was a PR exercise meant to show Israel's supposed humanitarian side.) The Israelis demanded she delete the details – but she apparently managed to hold on to them.

On Twitter later, Markson described the fighters as "at war with Assad and Daesh" [aka Islamic State] in Syria. This could mean the men were members of al-Qaeda in Syria, or it could meant the men were members of one of the other Syrian rebel groups, almost all of whom are allied to al-Qaeda in one way or another (apart from Islamic State, which fell out with and split from al-Qaeda, and is at war with).

However, despite al-Qaeda in Syria's turf war with Islamic State, and some tactical differences, the two groups share similar methods and ideology: the group recently praised the horrific attack on Paris, even expressing the wish that it had been Nusra that had carried it out instead of the "deviant sect".

If these are the details about Israel's involvement in fuelling the civil war in Syria that have managed to leak out to the press, who knows what else they are doing there under the cover of secrecy.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Thu, 26 Nov 2015 10:55:19 +0000
Cameron is letting oil-rich Gulf bullies dictate his foreign policy Mohamed Morsi

Of all the things the government might wish to encourage around the world, now more than ever, democracy and its accompanying dignities should be high on the list. And certainly there was praise in Downing Street when four years ago, amid jubilation and a stunningly high turnout, the Arab spring brought free and fair elections to Egypt. This was a distant cry from the present-day horrors of Islamic State and its visitations of violence across borders: surely the polling booths were no threat to western city streets.The Muslim Brotherhood-inspired government that followed this festival of voting showed its inexperience and did too little to build broader support, particularly with liberals. Yet it easily avoided the criminal abuses of power and violence that have characterised military dictatorship in Egypt since Gamal Abdel Nasser – and it had the considerable merit of being elected, in a region where that was a remarkable distinction. So it was no surprise that senior members of the ruling Freedom and Justice party were lauded guests in London, even visiting Chequers to break bread with David Cameron in his country home.

It wasn’t to last. The silence characterising London’s and Washington’s response to the military destruction of Egypt’s democracy in 2013 may have smelt more of complicity than disapproval, but worse was to follow. The prime minister was not only disinclined to speak up for his former dinner guests in their time of need; he was about to turn on them himself.

Any examination of the thuggish new military government could wait. Executions, mass shootings and show trials were put to one side as Cameron ordered a hostile UK government review into the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Britain, just months after tanks had forced its elected government from office. Egyptian generals, saved only by state immunity from being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, might be honoured guests in London, but the deposed ministers of an overthrown democracy were not.

British policymakers, it seems, were not in the mood to indulge these inexperienced, even inept, new democrats. And we may be sure that other, less tenderly minded players in the region noticed.

Any lingering puzzlement at the prime minister’s behaviour was emphatically dispelled when the Guardian recently revealed documents exposing the price tag likely to have attached to any alternative British policy that stood for democracy or failed to demonise victims of the military violence that destroyed it.

These documents made clear that suggestions from its detractors that the Muslim Brotherhood review was just a cynical device to ingratiate Downing Street with nervous allies in the Gulf weren’t just paranoia, as the government repeatedly claimed. In fact, the truth was cruder: principles, the sheikhs had made clear, would cost money.

Senior UAE figures explicitly threatened that, unless the British turned decisively against the Muslim Brotherhood during its period in government billions of pounds worth of arms deals would be lost. And, as Paddy Ashdown told the BBC yesterday, it took just a phone call from the Saudis to persuade the prime minister to launch his review “almost off the top of his head”.

It would be naive to dispute that an argument exists for Britain’s arms industry, as an export asset, to be protected and sustained. Morality and international comity are not always easy companions and our alliances in the Gulf have real strategic value. But in allowing himself to be bundled into quite such an ugly corner Cameron may have confused the wider national interest with the passing satisfaction of bank transfers. He may have passed too much control over our Middle East policy to despots addicted to cruelty.

Certainly, in the light of the unspeakable horrors in Paris, for Britain to have selected for special treatment and condemnation the only mass political movement in the Arab world to have sought legitimacy through suffrage seems a singularly tragic error.

In making it, the prime minister may have rubbed up against parts of the British state possessed of much finer instincts than his own. Sir John Jenkins, the former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who led the review, is not so supine in the face of oil-rich tantrums. He has reportedly declined to find that the Muslim Brotherhood represents a serious security threat in the UK at least – and he will not be bullied into tempering his view.

Most probably it is this unwelcome conclusion that has caused repeated postponements to a prime ministerial announcement railing against Islamists in our midst, so keenly anticipated by securocrats, to follow hard on the review. Instead, having foolishly agreed to humour Britain’s friends in the Gulf by traducing participants in a democratic experiment that the oil kingdoms were certainly right to fear, Cameron may now be reluctant to announce substantial measures against the Muslim Brotherhood for fear of provoking their lawyers into bringing a judicial review to force the publication of a report whose unhelpful conclusions he would prefer to keep hidden.

It would be damning irony indeed if the prime minister’s sole achievement in this demeaning affair was to give Whitehall a lesson in the emptiness of appeasement.

This article was first published by

]]> (Ken Macdonald) Africa Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:13:34 +0000
Revealed: UK ad watchdog gives green light to Israeli ‘annexation’ of West Bank 'Your Next Vacation: Israel' tourist brochure - click to enlarge

The UK advertising watchdog is facing calls for an inquiry after rejecting a complaint about an Israeli government-issued tourism brochure depicting the West Bank as part of Israel.

Cross-party MPs and Palestine solidarity campaigners have slammed the decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with the Palestinian ambassador to the UK warning that the ruling gives a green light to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to ‘annex’ the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The brochure, an official publication of the Israeli Government Tourism Office (IGTO), is titled ‘Your Next Vacation: Israel’ and features a map that shows ‘Israel’ incorporating the territory of the West Bank, which is labelled ‘Samaria’ and ‘Judean Desert’.

The use internationally of such a map by an Israeli government ministry is particularly awkward, in light of the frequent accusations by senior Israeli officials of so-called Palestinian ‘incitement’, or complaints about the maps used in Palestinian textbooks.

In early June, I initiated a complaint with the ASA, after being given the booklet at the Israeli tourism stall in the Christian Resources Exhibition International, held in London in May. The IGTO also makes the booklet available online for all UK tourists.

The map, as can be seen in this article, clearly implies that the Occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), as well as the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, are part of Israel. There is no mention anywhere of the West Bank, OPT, or even the Gaza Strip.

The map does show ‘Area A’ and Area B’, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited autonomy. However, Areas A and Area B combined constitute approximately 40 percent of the entire West Bank, divided into 227 separate ‘pieces’. The key does not mention Area C at all.

My complaint contended that by implying the West Bank is part of Israel, the IGTO advert was in breach of the advertising code, which states marketing communications must not “mislead the consumer by omitting material information” or “materially mislead or be likely to do so.”

Responding to the complaint, the IGTO claimed “it would be unduly onerous and inappropriate for tourism ads to include political statements when referring to places of international dispute, unless they had a practical impact on the plans of a tourist intending to visit those places.”

Yet it is the Israeli government map, which labels the West Bank as ‘Samaria’ and ‘Judean Desert’, which makes the ‘political statement’. Indeed, even in their response to the ASA, the IGTO described Areas A and B as “areas in Israel” that are “the subject of future negotiations.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is known for his, at best, contradictory statements regarding Palestinian statehood, while ministers in his coalition government have explicitly stated their rejection of the idea, and support for the annexation of ‘Area C’ of the West Bank.

The ASA, while acknowledging errors in the map, decided not to uphold the complaint on the grounds that “the average consumer of both ads would be generally aware that the Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was the subject of international dispute.”

In addition, the ASA claimed that “sites and attractions in the Golan Heights and West

Bank could only be visited by UK tourists via Israel or territory controlled by Israel.” Therefore, the body concluded, the ‘average consumer’ was “unlikely to be misled into taking a transactional decision that they otherwise would not have taken.”

It is in fact possible to visit the West Bank without entering Israel, via Jordan. While tourists making this journey must receive an entry visa from Israeli authorities, a tourist can go from, say, Amman to Bethlehem without entering Israel’s internationally-recognised, pre-1967 borders.

The authoritative source of information regarding personal safety and travel advice is the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). FCO travel advice for British nationals does not distinguish between ‘Areas A and B’, but between Israel and the OPT.

Thus aside from the politics of Israel’s map, it is the distinction between Israel and the OPT, erased in the ITGO map, that has implications for the consumer, with regards to personal safety, consular assistance, travel insurance purchases, and so on.

Manuel Hassassian, Ambassador of Palestine to the UK, described the ASA’s decision not to uphold the complaint as “inexcusable”, noting that Palestine has been a member of UNESCO since 2011, and that the West Bank is home to two Word Heritage sites.

According to Hassassian, the ruling “gives a green light to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to ‘annex’ the occupied Palestinian West Bank in its advertising and marketing materials in the UK. This is pure cultural appropriation.”

The ASA ruling was also greeted with dismay by MPs across the political spectrum. Labour MP Grahame Morris, referring to recent violence in Palestine and “decades of occupation”, said it was “imperative nothing is done to enflame the situation.”

He went on: “It is sheer hypocrisy for the Israeli government to accuse the Palestinians of ‘incitement’, while at the same time literally wiping Palestine off the map, this truly beggars belief.”

Morris’ response was echoed by Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan, who stated: “This is simple - the boundaries on the map are illegal and wrong and should in no way be endorsed by the ASA.” The former minister added that “if the ASA Council do not reverse their decision then frankly they should be summarily dismissed.”

SNP MP Tommy Shephard expressed concern that “for the ASA to rubber-stamp such a map can only give succour to those right-wing elements of the Israeli government who seek to annex the West Bank - what they call ‘Judea and Samaria’.”

He continued: “This flies in the face of recent moves by UN bodies, the EU, and the UK parliament, to make a clear distinction between Israel and the OPT, causing great damage to Palestinian tourism.”

Outside of Westminster, the ASA ruling was also criticised by activists. Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, called the decision an “absolute disgrace”, and said it appeared “to be the first time that the UK’s advertising watchdog has agreed with the Israeli government that there’s no such thing as Palestine.”

For Colborne, the decision “flies in the face of recent moves by UN governing bodies, the EU and the UK parliament to ensure there is a clear distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.” Describing the map as “Israeli state propaganda”, Colborne claimed the ASA had “thoroughly discredited itself in colluding with that propaganda.”

Chris Doyle, Director of Caabu (Council for Arab-British Understanding), flagged up the recent move by the European Union to label goods produced in Israeli settlements in the OPT, a reaffirmation of “its long-standing legal position that the occupied territories are not part of Israel.”

He added: “The EU position is clear-cut, the ASA position is all over the place and highly misleading. East Jerusalem is occupied territory and this includes the Old city. A full independent inquiry should be set up to determine just how such an absurd ruling could take place.”

My complaint also unearthed an additional disturbing development. In my correspondence, I referred to a previous ASA ruling from March this year, when a complaint was upheld concerning an IGTO ad that implied the Old City of Jerusalem is part of Israel. The decision made thenews.

I was subsequently informed that, following an independent review, the ASA had in fact decided to reverse its decision, and the complaint is now not upheld. But the grounds for doing so are unclear.

For an ASA decision to go to independent review, the complainant or advertiser, “must be able to establish that a substantial flaw of process or adjudication is apparent, or show that additional relevant evidence is available.”

The ASA has not explained to me how the reversal of its decision met the above requirements, or why the grounds for the complaint initially being upheld are now considered invalid. The original verdict can still be found here.

IGTO ads have been the subject of ASA complaint procedures in the past, which makes the new ruling all the more puzzling. In 2009, the ASA banned an IGTO poster campaign, on the grounds it implied that the OPT and Golan Heights were part of Israel. The following year, the ASA banned another IGTO ad that included images of Occupied East Jerusalem.

In 2012, the ASA again upheld a complaint about an IGTO ad for implying that the OPT and Golan were part of Israel, and told the IGTO “not to imply that the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were internationally recognised as part of the state of Israel.” The ASA “also told IGTO not to imply claims were universally accepted if there existed a significant division of informed opinion.”

It is unclear how and why the ASA has now decided to interpret the Code in such a way that the IGTO is able to use such misleading maps with impunity. As Chris Rose, Director of NGO Amos Trust told me, “for the vast majority of people who know little of the map of Israel and Palestine, it implies that large sections of the West Bank are part of Israel which is not the case.”

That the Israeli government would produce and distribute such a map is further evidence of its rejection of Palestinian self-determination and disregard for international law. For the ASA, the decision highlights a disturbing lack of transparency and risks the reputation of the organisation as a protector of UK consumers.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:01:00 +0000
'Delenda Carthago': ISIS, threat and recovery David AlpherMost of the discussion involving ISIS, the self-declared Islamic State, revolves around one thing. As the Romans said of their powerful enemy, delenda Carthago: Carthage must be destroyed. On the surface, this seems a blindingly obvious answer; the only answer. ISIS is committing mass atrocities on a wide scale. It is aggressively expansionist. Its interpretation of Islam is grotesquely skewed and virulently toxic. The group plans violent attacks against a laundry list of actors both local and global, and quite obviously has the means to carry them out.

Dr. Alpher has over 14 years' experience implementing field programs within conflict affected and fragile environments, designing programs and advocating for peacebuilding policy.

He is an adjunct professor at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, at George Mason University, where he teaches courses in conflict theory and the design of complex reconstruction and stabilization operations. As a district manager and Chief of Party in Iraq, he has led youth engagement and IDP reintegration programs; helped facilitate back-channel dialogues in Israel and the Palestinian Territories; led conflict analysis missions in Nepal and Ethiopia; and backstopped programs in the Palestinian Territories, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In addition to his programmatic expertise, he holds an MS and PhD in conflict analysis and resolution, focusing on the effect of democratization on sustainability and success in international development programming.He has also a visiting Fellow at the US Army War College's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.

Dr David AlpherMost of the discussion involving ISIS, the self-declared Islamic State, revolves around one thing. As the Romans said of their powerful enemy, delenda Carthago: Carthage must be destroyed. On the surface, this seems a blindingly obvious answer; the only answer. ISIS is committing mass atrocities on a wide scale. It is aggressively expansionist. Its interpretation of Islam is grotesquely skewed and virulently toxic. The group plans violent attacks against a laundry list of actors both local and global, and quite obviously has the means to carry them out.

Looking at a list like this, it is perhaps understandable that we come to the same conclusion that the Romans did. Unlike the annihilation that Rome accomplished however, “destroy them” isn’t possible in this case. The greatest threats that ISIS poses don’t stem from force of arms, they won’t be addressed by force of arms, and even if the group vanished overnight, the threats would still remain.

Grim? Yes. But not hopeless, and there is much that can be done.

The deepest threats

ISIS’s claim on territory has pulled back the curtain on the assumed inviolability of the nation-state system, which today seems so natural that we tend to forget how young it really is. Speaking of Rome, Italy, for example, has only recently celebrated its 150th anniversary as a unified state. And while we do have examples of new international boundaries from civil war (South Sudan) or multinational process (Israel), ISIS has done something quite startling: not content to aim for control of government or holding territory in advance of governmental conquest, ISIS has simply taken over territory and declared itself a Caliphate, something that bears more resemblance to empires past than it does to a modern state. Even the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and LTTE (Tamil Tigers), perhaps the closest analogues, never quite managed to do what ISIS has done in this regard.

The advance of ISIS, even if it were brought to a halt tomorrow, serves as “proof of concept” for future attempts by non-state actors at achieving the same brass ring. Taking this to an admittedly unlikely extreme for the sake of argument, there are 193 member states in the United Nations system, and several thousand ethnic, sectarian, tribal and other types of sub-national groups worldwide. The maths is quite worrisome to the Realpolitik mindset of the nation-state system, and attempts by sub-national groups to assert independence based on their own identity are usually challenged violently by the state or met with an official indifference that enables continued violence within the country.

In fact, the group’s advance was facilitated in both Syria and Iraq directly and deliberately (in both countries as a potential bulwark against sectarian aggression; vicious, perhaps, but “at least ours and vicious”) in addition to gaining strength as a symptom of sectarian schisms. The social and political fabric of both countries, already strained to breaking point before that advance, has now been torn severely. It wasn’t on the path towards healing before ISIS rose; it certainly won’t heal quickly now; it’s unlikely to heal completely at all. Those divisions have been worsened by ISIS, and will continue to worsen within what is now ISIS-held territory, in which supporters and non-supporters, collaborators and victims will be forced to contend with each other. The same point is repeated between ISIS-held areas and the rest of each respective country, in which tactics used to advance or hold the group at bay (such as the Shia paramilitary militias mobilised by the Iraqi government) have further exacerbated an already bad situation. The long and short of it is this: the social and political knitting without which a state is nothing but a Potemkin village is now vastly harder to achieve than it would have been before the advance of ISIS. Like all wars, it is inevitable that this one will end, but the soil of Iraq and Syria is now far more fertile for violence than it already was.

ISIS has taken the “franchise model” pioneered by Al-Qaeda and expanded upon it significantly. Al-Qaeda tended to bring in whole groups; ISIS has taken that to small-cell and even individual level. Al-Qaeda franchisees tended to have spent at least some amount of time within direct training or at least communication from the parent group; ISIS adherents may or may not have been in contact with anything but an ideological message. Once upon a time, Al-Qaeda’s choice of a cellular rather than hierarchical organisation was innovative. The lone-wolf and small cell model combined with the pervasive use of web-based social media not only to allow, but also invite adherents to claim allegiance through their actions as opposed to through a “real” organisational connection or membership, is the new wrinkle that makes Al-Qaeda look somewhat staid by comparison. The older group has maintained its focus on high profile mass-casualty attacks, but ISIS has made clear that its tactical philosophy mirrors that of its recruiting: small scale doesn’t mean small effect. Successful attacks across Europe show that this model can force sweeping change for a fraction of the usual cost.

So what can be done about it?

The simplistic answer is that it will take nothing less than a massive development and diplomatic effort, funded by outside interveners but designed and defined by the Iraqi and Syrian populations, to knit unity back into the socio-political fabric. The recent experience of watching ISIS grow from the shattered pieces of Al Qaeda should remind us that any effort that seeks only to destroy ISIS without also making the ground less fertile for the conditions and causes that led to its creation is doomed to do little but provide a small pause. Yes, this will take a long time, which doesn’t make it any less realistic an answer; it just means that “we’d better begin as soon as possible before more time is lost.”

The fertility of that ground means that “delenda ISIS” is the wrong starting point. Good strategy asks first what it is we are trying to produce, not remove, and so we should start by supporting the construction of a strong society surrounding ISIS that can provide a better alternative at the level of what the population sees around it every day, hold its own in resistance and eat away at ISIS from the edges inwards, leaving the core increasingly isolated. This is not sufficient to defeat ISIS or extremism overall, but it is a critically necessary move. Ultimately it will, of course, be necessary to destroy the group’s command and control structure and to remove its ability to carry out violence; but the violent and politically repressive means that have been used historically to achieve those goals overlap heavily with the reasons why groups like ISIS find their inroads in the first place. That’s a doomed effort, and the attempt to secure short-term gains can undermine our ability to achieve long-term success. This isn’t to make the claim that there’s no role for kinetic operations in the fight against ISIS; rather it’s that reminder again that this war can be lost because of how we chose to fight the battles.

What do the component parts look like?

While the conflict with the Assad regime still rages in Syria, Iraq (as fractured as it is) is the best place to begin. The first stage should build strength, legitimacy and most of all communication and coordination towards common goals within the local, indigenous and non-formal structures of governance - tribal and religious networks - that serve as connective tissue within both the Sunni and Shia parts of Iraq. Those, collectively, produce that strong, alternative civil society and a way for populations (especially the marginalized Sunni population) to bargain collectively. Those networks will need to be approached and supported first within Anbar Province, the seat of Iraq’s Sunni population and the one thing standing between what ISIS holds and what ISIS might take.

When the Iraq war began in 2003, Sunni tribes had little negotiation with each other, and Western intervention reduced, rather than increased it. Lacking that conflict-moderating conversation, they began to act unilaterally and make war amongst themselves, which allowed insurgents to play one group against the other and to take advantage of the cracks in security through which they were able to operate, much as ISIS has done now. The reduction in violence around 2007/8 had a great deal to do with re-starting alliances and political negotiation, thus closing the gaps and enabling hard security efforts to work better in concert. It ultimately failed because that process never had a chance in the face of Al-Maliki’s Western-backed government, which amounted to little more than the abovementioned Potemkin village as far as the depth of its democracy was concerned. Undermining ISIS starts with not duplicating those two mistakes.

The coordination needs to be re-started now; those informal power structures are the mechanism through which civil work gets done, civilian populations get protected, ISIS gets held at bay, and if they are in disarray or lose focus on common issues of defence and livelihood, the door will remain open for ISIS. In order to further close that door, efforts will also need to focus all of the above in coordination with the national government in order to build centrality and communication. The Iraqi government will in return have to make guarantees, backed and enforced by the international community, that will protect the Sunni and other minorities, and give real substance to power-sharing democracy. The international community, in turn, will need to act differently this time around, and prioritize this processes rather than uncritically backing top-down institutions in order to enforce stability.

With power-sharing and holistic civil society in mind, the same work will need to be done simultaneously within parallel Shia structures since, as things stand, an increase in strength or unity within one will be perceived as a threat by the other. Governance is far more than the existence of strong institutions - if there is to be peace in that region, it is vital to build cross-cutting communication and trust such that the Sunni do not see groups such as ISIS as a potentially better alternative to Shia aggression.

The whole effort should be tied to development programming that can provide tangible “peace dividends”, strategically used to provide benefits to negotiation and communication so that those efforts “do more than just talk.” This will serve to strengthen the positions of those who work towards integration relative to those who do not. Think power grids, municipal services, all of those mundane elements of civil society without which peace still doesn’t remove suffering. That again is a long process, which again means there’s not a moment to lose.

Networked communication, strengthened informal governance to protect and cross the sectarian divides, tangible resources as dividends, and internationally-backed inclusion. All are required. Currently, the international community is focused far more on delenda than on building the long-term needs of a society that hopes to outlast the current threat.

After the Romans destroyed Carthage, they famously salted the ground so that nothing would grow. We, on the other hand, have to have something to say about what we would grow, not just what we would destroy. In the end, that’s the only real way to win this kind of war.

]]> (Dr David Alpher) Guest Writers Sun, 01 Nov 2015 08:00:34 +0000
Kerry and the legitimacy of the desecration of Al-Aqsa Abdul Sattar QassemIt is difficult for anyone to argue the United States is not a party within the Arab-Israeli conflict especially in light of its indisputable bias in favour of the occupation against Palestinian national rights and for its direct role in providing Israel with various types of advanced weapons. At the same time, the US continuously works towards ensuring that the Palestinians are deprived of bullets.

The Arabs have tried to negotiate with America for decades, and with the exception of a few Arab countries who continue their orbit around the White House, as if it were the sun, the majority of Arab countries now realise that the US is not a suitable mediator and it is perhaps more suitable to search for another party to mediate the conflict if, of course, a mediator is inevitable.

The role of the US has been made loud and clear over the course of the past few days due to the work of US Secretary of State John Kerry in his efforts to contain the Palestinian uprising in the face of the military occupation, which has been the Palestinian public response in defence of Al- Aqsa Mosque and a blatant rejection of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories. Kerry recently announced the emergence of a potential agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II with regards to setting up cameras in Al-Aqsa’s courtyards, an Islamic holy site that people of other faiths could visit.

It is a well known fact that the UN adopted various resolutions in the General Assembly in their effort to maintain the historical status quo in Jerusalem and it has called upon Israel numerous times to respect the legitimacy of these international resolutions as they aim to protect the territories that fall under the military occupation. The UN has also insisted upon maintaining the status and categorisation of the sites and has wholly rejected any attempt to disturb the status quo at these sites. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to recognise any of the General Assembly’s resolutions, which were all opposed by the US for Israel’s sake.

While it is true that the US presidential administration has until this point not taken any steps towards officially considering Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the US Congress has vocalised its belief that it considers the holy city to be the capital of the Zionist entity and has since asked the executive branch of the government for permission to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Congress does not miss an opportunity to express its antagonism towards the Palestinian people or to exploit their standing.

Until now, the international community has played a role in protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque and the rest of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in general; however, it has not been out of love for the Palestinians or the Arabs but more so out of fear of an outpour of violence in the region. Colonial countries, including the United States and European countries, are only worried about their regional interests and the harmful impact that an outbreak of violence can have on their standing, especially in terms of economics and internal security. Western countries are invested in the concept of stability for Israel’s benefit because a lack of stability in the region will in turn affect the manner in which citizens in Israel react and how safe they feel. If citizens feel as though they are not safe and secure then many of them will in turn start to think about leaving the land of Palestine and that is what the majority of western states fear.

The possibility of demolishing Al-Aqsa or dividing it, whether literally or temporally, would lead to major instability as we have seen as of late with the Palestinian uprising. This outcome, in turn, explains the amount of pressure that Western countries are placing on Israel to avoid allowing the escalation of violence surrounding the events in Jerusalem and the holy sites. Many do not know that the British used to prevent Jews from praying near the Wailing Wall out of fear that a religious war would break out between the Jews and the Arabs. Britain enforced this decision in 1929 when many Jews attempted to pray at the wall. At that point in time, clashes broke out between the Jews and the Arabs leading to the death of hundreds of people and the violence would have continued were it not for the efforts put forward by Palestinian officials to bring an end to the violence by mobilising a movement against British forces who were attempting to control Palestine in front of the world.

However, what we are witnessing now is that the international community is giving Israel a great gift by supporting its decision to allow non-Muslims to worship in Al-Aqsa Mosque and at the sites in the surrounding courtyard. It should be the Palestinians who get to decide, out of their own will, who is entitled to visit the Islamic holy sites and who is not but all of these agreements ignore the desires of the Palestinian people and put the decision in the hands of countries like the United States and Israel. This is highly disappointing, as the Palestinians had begun to mobilise in defence of the holy sites and the mosque. The recent words of Secretary Kerry expressed the US’s belief that settlers should be allotted the maximum freedoms to visit the holy sites without Palestinian intervention. Kerry went on to say that he believed that Jewish visits to the holy sites should be internationally protected.

Kerry’s words allowed for a new step to be taken in the international arena, one that would classify Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic and Jewish site or maybe even a Jewish only site in the future. The mosque could potentially face the same fate as Palestine itself. Palestine was historically Arab in the beginning then changed to become Arab and Jewish at the same time and later as exclusively Jewish, at least in the eyes of the US. If Kerry accepts Netanyahu’s agreement, the international support for maintaining the status quo will change and Israel will implement the same policies in Al-Aqsa Mosque as it did in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and the rest of the West Bank. Gradually, we are witnessing the achievement of Zionist goals without the fear of a strong Palestinian reaction. The Palestinians have slowly learnt to accept the status of Israel and the need for its security but they cannot recognise their desire to dominate Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is a serious matter that must be rejected through words and actions. The Palestinians must continue to condemn such actions and denounce them.

As for the alleged security cameras that will be installed in Al-Aqsa’s courtyard, they would undoubtedly be under Zionist control and would therefore exclude Palestinians from Israel’s monopoly over all of the sites. For this reason, it is essential that the Palestinians arm themselves with sufficient awareness and do not allow themselves to be influence by American pressure, whether political or financial.

Is this the Third Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Are we witnessing the Third Intifada?

Finally, it must once again be noted that it was countries with colonial histories that allowed for the creation of the Zionist entity and contributed to the displacement of the Palestinian people from their homeland. Despite the fact that many of these countries voted for the Right of Return in the General Assembly’s Resolution 194, they have maintained silence on this issue as a whole. They consider the Right of Return as an expired good and have left the Palestinian refugees to fend for themselves. In short, the countries that consider themselves the international community are not trustworthy and if Palestinians want to deal with things on the international level they must work through the international community via the UN General Assembly. There is no other way.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 28 October 2015

]]> (Abdul Sattar Qassem) Americas Fri, 30 Oct 2015 16:07:54 +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.

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]]> (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
We love life, but we love our land more A Palestinian protestor burns tires in order to create a blockade during clashes with Israeli forcesThey claim that our Palestinian youth who are resisting Israel’s occupation sanctify the “culture of death”. They see them going to their deaths, but they are desperate in falsifying such a claim.

They do not realise that given the conditions of displacement and suffering to which Palestinians are subject, they — we — are one of the most “life-loving” nations in the world. Many of our youth, both male and female, survived their heroic resistance operations; others did not, while some of the martyrs did not intend to stab soldiers. However, if we look closely at the neo-fascist Zionist hatred of everything Palestinian, Arab or even human, we find that Israeli soldiers have killed young Palestinians and then placed knives near their bodies; many were shot merely because the soldiers suspected that they might be going to stab someone. This is extra-judicial execution based on suspicion of intent and nothing else.

Yes, our people love life and they live on the hope of liberating their land and living happily and freely, just like other men, women and children all over the world. However, if sacrificing oneself is the only way to get rid of the occupation, then most of our people would sacrifice their lives for the sake of their land, their people’s national rights and the happiness of future generations of Palestinians. Since the successive occupations of their land, especially since the foundation of the state of Israel, the Palestinians have been open targets. Our enemies have an insatiable appetite, and they would love to kill or wipe out all Palestinians. Hence, they hope that the sea will swallow Gaza; they are annoyed every time a Palestinian is born; and they even wish that the word “Palestine” could be erased from the dictionaries because it reminds them of their confiscation of the land, their colonisation, their founding myths and the fact that today’s new-borns will grow and fight them for the rights of their people. As such, the Israelis realise that they are only here for a short while.

The Palestinian mother is one of the most loving and protective for her children. Even so, the poet Al-Khansa, who loved her children and made them cry for the rest of her life with the poems she wrote, can still make whoever reads them cry. She sacrificed them for a noble cause. For the past hundred years, Palestinian women have suffered national oppression, deprivation and unbearable suffering due to the occupation of their land. Nevertheless, they do not prevent their children from carrying out acts of resistance against the Zionist enemies of history, humanity and life. Palestinian mothers cry blood and tears for each child who is martyred, and live their entire lives in sadness; if they could, they would give their own lives instead. The Palestinian mother is first and foremost a mother, so please spare us the desperate and miserable claims that these mothers raise their children with the culture of glorifying death; that they push them to carry out suicidal acts of resistance; and that they ululate and celebrate after they are martyred.

It was the not the Palestinians who created “suicide operations” or what we call “martyrdom operations”. Throughout history, there have been many examples: the original “assassins”, the Hashishin of the Ismailis; the Japanese Kamikaze pilots; Soviet soldiers during World War II; even Biblical Samson, who destroyed the temple and himself in the 11th century BC.

Those who live under an occupation the aim of which is to expel the Palestinians, steal their land and humiliate and oppress them, understand that it is virtually impossible to bear the inhumane methods of the cruel Israeli occupier. Israelis are, quite simply, killing us in cold blood.

Those who describe the struggle of the Palestinian people and their current popular intifada as born out of “desperation” and “frustration” are the ones who are both desperate and frustrated; they are not part of our people or our nation. They do not know what the struggle for liberation is or the methods of popular resistance because they are ignorant of the facts and context. If other nations need one resistance group, we need ten due to the exceptional nature of our circumstances: illegal colonial settlements and settlers; the Judaisation process; displacement; and a Zionist neo-fascist enemy intent on ethnic cleansing. What do you expect us to do when they burn our children, destroy our homes, desecrate our holy sites and uproot our trees? Should we shower them with roses? If you are unable to fight, then allow us to fight them while you remain silent in sight of the fragrant, pure and holy blood of the Palestinians. There is no living or joy under the occupation, just as there is no life or coexistence between the human body and a malignant disease.

I do not believe that the non-violent resistance adopted by Ghandi against the British occupation of India is suited to our struggle; that policy also caused much instability, turbulence and bloodshed. It led to massacres in India, as well as imprisonment and clashes in the streets between the people and the forces of the British Empire. The strategy of popular resistance, keeping the enemy up at night, breaking all of its laws and turning its occupation into a losing project both in the demographic sense (by killing occupation soldiers) and the economic sense (by making it costly), are all factors that contribute and make up an effective intifada in light of a historically-unprecedented enemy. What is expected of our people when the occupying army, groups of settlers and undercover police continue to attack them? What is expected of us, especially in the face of the field executions that Israel has adopted against our people?

What brings the Palestinians at home and in the Diaspora some comfort are the wonderful demonstrations occurring in Europe and around the world in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. All call on their governments to stop their support for Israel and to stop justifying its continued human rights violations in Palestine. Standing before the Israeli and US Embassies, the demonstrators demand justice for Palestinians, an end to Israeli incursions of Al-Aqsa Mosque and an end to settler violence. A boycott of Israeli goods and institutions is also demanded.

Unfortunately, we are, by and large, missing Arab demonstrations of solidarity in the majority of the Arab capitals, even though protests are the very least that can be done. Yes, the Arab elites and various political groups have held conferences in solidarity with our people, and although we appreciate this, it does not amount to a fraction of what the rest of the world is doing. Our intifada is in need of Arab solidarity and support in various forms, including political, financial and moral. Statements are nice, but we need action on the ground.

It is important to note that defending Palestine against Zionism is also to defend the Arab future and the future of each of the Arab countries. This is because Israel’s tentacles have affected Arab lands across the region, from the north of Iraq to the south of Sudan; from the shooting down of the Libyan civilian aircraft to the attack on Hammam Al-Shatt in Tunisia; the assassination of Abu Jihad; exporting the cotton problem to Egypt; destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor; attacking targets in Syria; assassinating Ghassan Kanafani and three other martyrs, Kamal Adwan, Kamal Nasser and Abu Yousef Al-Najjar in Beirut; the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai; and much more. The Arabs are mistaken if they believe that the enemy’s project is limited only to Palestine; if they do, then they are obviously not reading history and do not know the nature of the Arabs’ enemy from the ocean in the West to the gulf in the East.

All glory to our people who insist on expelling the occupiers from their land and restoring all of their rights, with no exceptions, and all immortality to our martyrs. Indeed, we will not die; rather we will eliminate death from our land. We do not sanctify the “culture of death”; we love life, but we love our land more.

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 25 November, 2015

]]> (Dr Fayez Rasheed) Middle East Fri, 27 Nov 2015 10:56:37 +0000
We need a new deal for Europe's Muslims Alastair Sloan

France's own war on terror, which has generally taken a different tack to that of the rest of the West, leaves much to be desired. The argument that its foreign policies are to blame for the Paris attacks are, however, conspicuously weak. France did not take part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has been one of Assad's most ardent Western opponents over Syria. If anything, it was French interventions across Africa that might have caused blowback, but Daesh is not really present in those countries, and the recent Mali attacks have been claimed by Al-Qaeda.

Blame, then, must lie with the attackers themselves, who do not appear to have been devout Muslims and saw fit to vent their anger by killing innocent Europeans who had done nothing wrong to them. Blame should sit further with the recruiters of these brainless beasts. Given the drug taking, late night partying, family estrangements and alcoholism that appeared to be prevalent amongst the bombers, it appears to be the chosen strategy of Daesh to prey on the vulnerable in society, to convince drifters to blow themselves up so that the recruiters don't have to do it themselves.

So if the foreign policy arguments don't quite add up, why else might France have been in the firing line?

A useful starting point is the list of European countries which have sent the most fighters to join Daesh. These include countries like Belgium, Sweden and Holland. They may be European powers, but they are not global powers like France and Britain. Attacks in Brussels, Stockholm or Amsterdam would not be so newsworthy, strange though that is. Stripping it down to France and Britain, then, or the famous metropolises of Paris and London, how would Daesh choose between the two potential targets?

In short, Paris was easier to hit. This is partly because of the English Channel, the refugee routes over mainland Europe and the relative shortage of automatic rifles available to buy on British streets; it is also because Britain’s security services are, in general, in far better shape than the French. France also has a much larger Muslim population, many of whom are extremely poor.

It was France, therefore, as an international power with a large, disaffected Muslim population, weak security services, accessed easily by land and with the possibility of buying Kalashnikovs, which was an obvious target. Judged perfectly in political terms, the largely successful terrorist attacks of Friday 13th onwards have been condemned by Western leaders, bolstered Daesh’s flagging credibility, and resulted in yet another kneejerk military intervention in the Middle East. ISIS 1 – Humanity 0.

If Western bombing of Raqqa won't work – and it won't – what other options are there? The first is to ask some tough questions of recent French governments. The last time Parisians saw such a heavy police presence on their streets was in 2005, when the suburbs burned amidst serious rioting. Impoverished, unemployed Muslims played a key role in that unrest. In the decade since, why have conditions in the Muslim-dominated banlieues of Paris not been improved? Why, so many years down the line, is it easy to find unemployed young French Muslims (not foreign Muslims, French Muslims) who can't find jobs? Why are their Arab names taken into consideration by prejudiced employers, and not just their CVs? Why are 70 per cent of the prisoners in French jails Muslims? And why was it ever on the agenda to ban the burqa?

Forget foreign policy as a cause of deadly resentment; if anything, this is about the failures of French domestic policies. Recruiters from Daesh/ISIS could have picked from hundreds if not thousands of disaffected French Muslims, willing to end their own lives based on the recruiter’s false promises, bolstered by the vacuum left by government indifference to its Muslim citizens’ fate.

As a matter of national security for any European nation like France, it should now be a top priority to reduce dramatically the available pool of potential suicide bombers and restaurant killers, of lone wolves and disaffected young Muslims; the same people who Daesh/ISIS prey on, not in the Middle East, but here, in Europe, among us.

That means improving conditions for France's Muslims; indeed, all of Europe's Muslims. Not all Muslims are poor, but too many are. Not all Muslims are discriminated against, but too many are. Not all Europeans discriminate against Muslims, but too many do.

Only when such improvements are tangible will the Daesh recruiters, scraping around in Europe’s underbelly picking up and brainwashing young Muslims, be disappointed as they try to find anyone willing to die for their ridiculous cause.

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Europe Wed, 25 Nov 2015 14:22:24 +0000
Cultural provocation won’t change political tendencies Abderrahim Chalfaouat

In Moroccan politics, the recurrence of — often hot — cultural frictions on such issues as personal freedoms, language policy or artistic events reveal hidden socio-political divergence. Their politicisation expresses discrepancies over the nature and future of the state that political parties and social movements yearn for. When summer festivals, for instance, host controversial guests, opposition prompts police brutality, to exemplify not only cultural difference, but rather what Moroccans call “dictatorship of the minority”.

This happens especially after elections wherein Islamists get landslide victories or when elections approach; cultural provocation accelerates to blur the image of Islamism-leaning political parties and groups. The purpose is twofold: to show Islamists’ weakness in defending Moroccan identity or in keeping faithful to their reform promises, as well as to hint at their unsuitability to govern a 21st century, modern Morocco.

Yet, unlike the last political season, the current term has started with frictions that affect public policies. In previous years, most disagreements over cultural issues happened between civil groups, or between the opposition and civil society. This year, the provocation started from within state institutions.

In this context, the Ministry of National Education issued a note requesting regional academies to impose French as the language in which scientific subjects is taught to technological common core pupils. The note — deprived of any context or pertinent educational research — claims to answer educational needs, though the ministry does not explain which needs precisely or how the decision does not contradict with the Constitution.

While civil society has been calling for more Arabisation of the Moroccan educational system, especially higher education, the note marginalises such advocacy. It claims that teaching scientific subjects in French in high schools will facilitate understanding at higher levels. The message is that no language reforms will occur in higher education that is taught mostly in French.

In reaction, the Federation of Pupils’ Parent Associations (FPPA) organised a sit-in in front of the ministry headquarters to condemn the plan. As they have witnessed, changing the language of instruction at schools used to be advocated by the Zakoura Association. However, the recurrent criticism aimed at its president, Noureddine Ayouch, especially for being a French puppet, seems to have obliged him to maintain a low profile.

Furthermore, the National Coalition for Arabic in Morocco (NCAM), a local NGO, issued a press release that described the notorious note as “a genuine threat to the educational and linguistic security of Moroccans.” It also said that the ministerial decision makes a “mockery” of Moroccan “values and social and constitutional consensus.” The NCAM called upon the government to put an end to the implementation of the note’s recommendation.

Both the FPPA and NCAM were conscious that changing the language of instruction at Moroccan schools is but the tip of an iceberg of a deeper, politicised cultural rift. It seems that cultural provocation has become a political programme, especially for anti-Islamist secularists, even from within the government, albeit at the hands of a technocrat on this occasion.

Moreover, a few weeks earlier, the Consultative Council for Human Rights (CCHR) included a controversial recommendation in a report on the situation of women in Morocco. The call for equating males and females in the inheritance system simultaneously challenges a Qur’anic principle, counters the general mood of the rise of religiosity in the country, shows a certain level of ignorance of the nuances within the inheritance system itself and overlooks the true human rights problems that Morocco faces and are in more urgent need of being addressed.

As the Head of the Government, Abdelilah Benkiran said in a TV interview that the CCHR acted as if it were an NGO or human rights association, not a state department. In the same vein, NGOs often make the remark that the CCRH is not pluralistic, but has been hijacked by ex-leftist activists and adheres to a leftist agenda of human rights.

The two weird moves from the Ministry of National Education and the CCHR, as two state departments, indicate the stiff political conflict at the frontline of culture and identity politics. That’s why, more, and maybe graver, cultural provocations are expected in this political season as the second parliamentary elections in post-Arab Spring Morocco come closer.

This explains why Bayt Alhikma (House of Wisdom, HoW), a leftist NGO that aligns with the Party for Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), seized the gloomy context of the recent Paris terrorist attacks to request the revision of Islamic education textbooks.

This carries a direct accusation that Moroccan schools, especially Islamic education classes, harbour and develop terrorists. Reminiscent of similar calls after the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca, this argument neglects the fact that terrorists of Moroccan origin are usually school dropouts. This was clear in the case of the Paris attacks; the Moroccans involved almost certainly never spent much time in a Moroccan classroom. Instead, it was possibly the lack of adequate Islamic education that facilitated their inclination towards terrorist networks.

Once more, this provocation overlooks the cultural realities in Moroccan society. Morocco has hundreds of Qur’an schools; youngsters win numerous international Qur’an recitation competitions. Some Moroccan students at public schools receive authentic education that is based mainly on the Qur’an. Mohammed VI Radio channel depends heavily on the Qur’an for its content and has been top of the popularity list ever since media metrics started in Morocco. If Islamic education is responsible for terrorism, it means that HoW views Morocco as an entire country of potential self-destructive fanatics.

In the context of the vulnerability that the region is subject to these days, consensus is required more than ever before. If cultural provocations aim towards pushing Moroccans not to vote for Islamists, the provocateurs are certainly taking the wrong path. If nothing else, anti-Islamist politicians must have learnt from the 2011 and 2015 elections that the more that Islamists are targeted, the more votes they get. Winning elections comes only through serious opposition and realistic, achievable political programmes.

]]> (Abderrahim Chalfaouat) Africa Wed, 25 Nov 2015 14:02:26 +0000
The crisis in Israel's arms industry File photo of BDS activists blockading a factory of Elbit Systems in Kent, UKLast month the heads of four major Israeli arms firms warned their government of a "major crisis" in the country's arms industry. The value of arms exports is falling at the rate of at least $1 billion per year, the CEOs wrote.

In their letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu they warned that "military exports have dropped from $7.5 billion in 2012, to $6.5 billion in 2013, and further to $5.5 billion in 2014. This year we are expecting exports to total $4-4.5 billion.”

That means that by the end of this year, the three-year fall in exports could amount to as much as $3.5 billion. What accounts for this dramatic situation?

Also Read: Israel trade deficit hits over $1bn in October

The CEOs themselves put it down to a bad economy and a generalised global downturn in defence spending on non-domestic industries: "defence markets are cutting back. Countries are buying fewer weapons, and the countries still buying are requesting to relocate production and development facilities to within their borders; we are facing serious dilemmas because of this."

But Michael Deas of the BDS National Committee (the coalition of Palestinian civil society groups which leads and promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) wrote recently arguing that part of the reason for the decline in export sales can be attributed to Palestine solidarity campaigners who have long pushed for an end to military exports to Israel in their respective countries.

"The BDS movement is starting to challenge international military cooperation with Israel," he wrote. "Given the complaints about dropping sales from Israeli exporters, it may now no longer be a stretch to say that grassroots campaigning and shifting public attitudes are making it harder for Israel to export the weapons it tests on Palestinians."

The BNC has outlined a list of achievements in global campaigns for an arms embargo on Israel. More than a dozen banks have divested from Elbit, a huge Israeli arms firm. In 2014, the regional government of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul ended a large scale research collaboration project with Elbit Systems in the wake of protests. The governments of Norway and Turkey have announced forms of military embargo on Israel. The leader of the opposition in the UK, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn (long a Palestine rights campaigner) supports a two-way arms embargo and has said he would enact one on Israel should he ever be elected prime minister.

But there is a long way to go yet.

Israel still has a massive and profitable arms industry, even though the amounts made are trending downwards. In 2014, Israel was the eighth-largest arms exporter in the world – which is massive considering the small size of the country.

Israel markets its weapons as "field tested" – which means they have been trialled using human guinea pigs – Palestinians, or other Arabs during Israel's various wars of occupation and human rights abuses. This is a part of their appeal to unethical governments around the world who buy their weapons from Israeli firms: their arms have proven to be more efficient in killing civilians, so they make an attractive investment for war criminals and torturers around the world. Indeed, Israel has a long history of aiding and abetting some of history's most repressive regimes: both in the region and in the wider world. These have included the Shah of Iran, the apartheid-era regime in South Africa and former dictatorships in Latin America.

Despite this week's announcement that the European Union would outlaw the labelling of goods exported from illegal Israeli settlements build on Palestinian and Syrian land as "Made in Israel" (the labels must now use the term "Israeli settlement"), ties between European governments and Israel are in reality still strong, with the French government even now outlawing any call for boycotting Israel.

Activist campaigns against Israeli arms firms have meant that they have received far more bad publicity than in the past, which seems to have contributed towards this crisis. But the main source of their bad publicity has been Israel's own actions: its war crimes, such as in Gaza last year, and its long-lasting and brutal illegal occupation of Palestinian land has meant that more and more people in the general public are becoming more and more outraged at Israel's abuses against the Palestinian people.

The time is right for a full arms embargo on Israel. It is really the least that governments can do: to not participate in and contribute towards Israeli war crimes.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Mon, 16 Nov 2015 12:08:31 +0000
Rohingya and the Burmese Generals: How to forge a democracy and get away with it Buddhist monks attending a pre-election rally by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD)Writing in the New York Times in an article entitled, "Myanmar Generals Set the State for Their Own Exit", Thomas Fuller expressed his and the media's failure to recognise the total fraud that is Burmese democracy.

“The official results are still being tabulated,” he wrote, “but all signs, so far, point to that rarest of things: an authoritarian government peacefully giving up power after what outside election monitors have deemed a credible vote.”

Fuller, who said nothing about the persecuted Rohingya minority and little about the other millions of Burmese who were denied the chance to vote, only managed to contribute to the seemingly baffling media euphoria about the country’s alleged democracy.

Reporting from Burma - also known as Myanmar - Timothy McLaughlin dealt with the Rohingya subject directly; however, he offered a misleading sentiment that the oppressed minority, which was excluded from the vote, can see a ‘glimmer of hope’ in the outcome of the elections.

According to results, the National League for Democracy (NLD), under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, has won a stunning victory over its rivals in the ruling party, by garnering 348 seats, in contrast with only 40 seats obtained by the military-controlled party that has ruled Burma since 1962.

There is no real basis for that supposed ‘glimmer of hope’, aside from a non-binding statement made by an NLD official, Win Htein, that the Citizenship Act of 1982 “must be reviewed” – an Act which served as the basis for discrimination against the Rohingya.

Win Htein’s comments are disingenuous, let alone non-committal, at best. The Citizenship Act “must be reviewed because it is too extreme... review that law and make necessary amendments so that we consider those people who are already in our country, maybe second generation, so they will be considered as citizens," he told Reuters. His comments promote the myth that the well over one million Rohingya are ‘Bengalis”, who came to his Burma only recently as hapless immigrants.

While Burma, like any other ASEAN country has its fair share of immigrants, the fact is that most Rohingya Muslims are native to the state of "Rohang" (originally a kingdom in itself), officially known as Rakhine or Arakan. Over the years, especially in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the original inhabitants of Arakan were joined by cheap or forced labour from Bengal and India, who permanently settled there.

For decades, tension has brewed between Buddhists and Muslims in the region. Eventually, the majority, backed by a military junta, prevailed over the minority which had no serious regional or international backers. A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has reached genocidal levels in recent years and is targeting not only Rohingya Muslims, but also Christian and other minority groups in the country.

The Rohingya population of Arakan, estimated at nearly 800,000, subsist between the nightmare of having no legal status (as they are still denied citizenship), little or no rights and the occasional ethnic purges carried out by their neighbours. While Buddhists also paid a price for the clashes, the stateless Rohingya, being isolated and defenceless, were the ones to carry the heaviest death toll and destruction.

Writing in the Ecologist, Nafeez Ahmed cited alarming new findings conducted last October by the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at Queen Mary University in London, which “found that the Rohingya ..face ‘the final stages of a genocidal process’.” “Leaked government documents show that plans to inflict ‘mass annihilation’ have been prepared at the highest levels,” he wrote.

Not only did the elections disempower and further alienate the Rohingya, but it also empowered political groups that have openly sought the ‘mass annihilation’ of the defenceless minority, most of whom are living in abject poverty within closed refugee camps, while thousands have perished at sea in a bid to escape the violence.

One of these nationalist groups is the Arakan National Party (ANP), which has incited and enacted violent pogroms against the Rohingya for years. In fact, ethnically cleansing the Rohingya is a main rally cry for a group which now has a democratically elected 29 national level representatives in Rakhine, and is also in “decisive control of the state's regional assembly,” according to Reuters.

The sad fact is that much of the reporting on the Burmese elections stoked false hope that a democracy has finally prevailed in that country, and either brushed over or completely ignored the plight of the Rohingya altogether.

But how could anyone with a reasonable degree of knowledge in the political, constitutional and historical context of the November elections ignore the major discrepancies of the army-championed style of “Discipline Flourishing Democracy” program announced in August 2003 by General Khin Nyunt?

Burma’s generals have organized every facet of their sham democratic campaign since the early 1990s so that they give an illusion of democracy, while retaining power.

When the outcome of the 1990 elections did not work in their favour, they crushed their opponents and placed the leaders of the NLD under house-arrests or prison. This action, however, cost them international isolation outside the domain of China and a few ASEAN countries.

For years, the generals learned how to craft a system that would allow them to rule the country, while making symbolic gestures to meet the west’s half-hearted condition of democratization and pluralism.

The most recent elections have been, by far, the most successful of the generals’ democracy schemes in recent years. This clever scheme is rooted partly in the 2008 Constitution, “which elevates core interests of the military (such as the military budget, appointments, business conglomerates and security matters) above the law and parliamentary oversight,” wrote Maung Zarni in the Guardian.

According to the controversial constitution, “the military serves as the ultimate custodian with the power to discipline any elected government or MP who dares to stray from the military’s chosen path and its definition of parliamentary democracy,” Zarni wrote.

In fact, just last June, the military, defeated an attempt by parliamentarians to rescind its veto power. This is why the military remains the upper hand in the country, regardless of who wins or loses the elections. By reserving for itself a quarter of the seats in parliament, the military will continue to enjoy a veto power.

Then, why is there all this excitement about Burmese democracy? Simple - the rivalry between China and the United States, and their respective allies have reached a point where the massive amount of untapped wealth of oil and natural gas in Burma can no longer be ignored.

The US, UK and other countries are salivating at the limitless potential of economic opportunities in that country, estimated at “3.2 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.” According to a UK government report, under the theme, a ‘hotspot for exploration,” Burma’s “unproven resources may be vastly greater.”

With Burma climbing to the world top five countries in terms of proven oil and gas reserves, terms such as genocides, military juntas and human rights are abruptly and largely omitted from the new discourse.

Indeed, a whole new narrative is being conveniently drafted, written jointly by the Burmese army, nationalist parties, Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD, western investors and anyone else who stands to benefit from the treasures of one of the world’s worst human rights violators.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is:

]]> (Dr Ramzy Baroud) Americas Mon, 16 Nov 2015 10:40:10 +0000
Dialogue vs. BDS? Responding to arguments against an academic boycott of Israel

On Tuesday, October 27, a full-page advertisement appeared in The Guardian, announcing the support of more than 300 UK-based scholars for an academic boycott of Israel. A week on, the list of supporters had grown to some 600.

Criticism from the usual suspects was immediate, with condemnation by the Israeli embassy in London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC). Opponents of the boycott also expressed themselves in various op-ed columns and on The Guardian’s letters page.

Here I will suggest responses to the most common arguments advanced by critics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and specifically its academic component.

What we need is dialogue – boycotts are counterproductive

This is one of the most common arguments heard against the academic boycott. It was found on The Guardian’sletters page, and voiced by the Israeli embassy, who claimed that “divisive boycott initiatives…serve only to sow hatred, alienating the sides rather than promoting coexistence.”

According to Rabbi Janner-Klausner in The Telegraph, “stamping out academic dialogue may feel cathartic, but it prevents the dialogue desperately needed to solve the present situation in Israel, and to satisfy the need for Palestinian self-determination.”

This kind of argument is based on a misunderstanding of both the nature of the academic boycott (it is not about ending conversations), as well as what is required to end the ‘conflict’ (the answer is not more conversations).

Boycott and ‘dialogue’ are not mutually exclusive; BDS campaigns typically provoke and stimulate profound exchanges, and encourage education and awareness-raising. It is not about closing down discussions; it is about accountability for, and ending complicity in, violations of a people’s rights.

The boycott exists because dialogue is not enough, and does not tackle the asymmetrical status quo. As Martin Luther King wrote in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’, “it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.”

The idea that boycott, as opposed to some undefined ‘dialogue’, is unhelpful or counterproductive is often based on the suggestion that BDS only strengthens the ‘Israeli right’. However, this presupposes an alternative, credible ‘Israeli left’, which unfortunately just does not exist.

Labour MP Michael Dugher’s op-ed in The Jewish Chronicle is a case in point. Attacking boycotts as “misguided”, the shadow cabinet member proudly declared himself to be a “supporter of the Israeli Labor party” and critic of “settlements in Palestinian territories.”

So what of Israel’s ‘moderate’ opposition? Isaac Herzog, Labor party leader and head of the Zionist Camp, has declared himself “more extreme than Netanyahu” when it comes to “security”, and has backed the atrocities committed in the Gaza Strip.

Herzog’s last election campaign included Israeli army veterans praising him as someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.” His idea of a Palestinian ‘state’, meanwhile, is a blueprint for a Bantustan.

When assessing the effectiveness of the academic boycott specifically, it should not be isolated from the wider campaign of isolation and pressure of which it is a part. In the words of a group of anthropologists who back BDS:

Boycotts are effective. The boycott makes complicity with the status quo more burdensome for Israeli academic institutions. The boycott of Israeli institutions exerts pressure to motivate Israeli academics to demand policy change from their government.

Both supporters and opponents of boycott agree that Israel’s universities are significant, influential institutions. Imagine the impact they could have if they took a genuine stand; if they ended R&D programmes that produce weapons to kill Palestinians, stopped providing benefits for occupation forces, expressed support for Palestinian rights, went on strike, and so on.

Unfortunately, the reality is that nothing even remotely like these basic expressions of opposition to state crimes, or of support for Palestinian rights, has happened over the decades. The pressure of the boycott is the answer to these institutions’ ongoing, wilful complicity.

A boycott is an attack on academic freedom.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) upholds “the universal right to academic freedom”, and maintains that “the institutional boycott called for by Palestinian civil society does not conflict with such freedom.”

PACBI endorses what it describes as “the internationally-accepted definition of academic freedom as adopted by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (UNESCR).”

Palestinians, meanwhile, continue to face a decades-long attack on their academic freedom at the hands of their occupier. Professors and students have their movement restricted, while Palestinians experience discrimination and censorship in Israeli universities.

Thus while “Israel's apologists wring their hands over a cancelled conference invitation, Palestinian academics bury colleagues and students killed by Israeli university-developed weapons.” The boycott “aims to create conditions in which true academic freedom is enjoyed by all scholars in Palestine/Israel equally, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.”

Israeli universities are not responsible for their government’s policies.

According to the critics, an academic boycott unfairly punishes Israeli universities and their members for the actions of the state. This is incorrect. Israeli universities are responsible for their own choices to assist, collaborate or be complicit in, state policies of colonialism, occupation, and apartheid.

The role played by Israel’s higher education institutions is well documented. This 2009report, for example, notes how “Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians, despite the serious suspicions of crimes and atrocities hovering over them.”

Examples abound. The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has boasted of the “tailored” programmes offered to the Israeli army and Ministry of Defense, while its scientists helped develop the bulldozer used to demolish Palestinian homes.

Tel Aviv University is proud of its role “at the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel's military and technological edge”, with dozens of Ministry of Defence-funded projects. The university also participates in a settler-run archaeological dig in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem.

The University of Haifa has “trained hundreds of senior officers in the Israeli Defence Forces” through “a special programme of graduate studies in national security and strategic studies.” Bar Ilan University offers teaching certificate scholarships to “outstanding fighters”, in order to harness their values “for the benefit of Israel's next generation.”

Ben-Gurion University offered a special grant for each day of service to students who went on reserve duty during the ‘Operation Cast Lead’ assault on Gaza. Israeli universities similarly offered enthusiastic support for the ‘Operation Protective Edge’ offensive of 2014.

Hebrew University, meanwhile, has a joint programme with the Ministry of Defense for students heading to the army’s R&D units, who live in a special base located on campus. The university also works with the aforementioned settler-run archaeological dig in Silwan.

As for Ariel University, it is actually based in an illegal settlement in the Occupied West Bank. Settlements are a grave violation of international law, and considered a war crime.

Israeli universities are not just satisfied with supporting the state – they also are eager to defend its actions. A number of higher education institutions now offer hasbara courses, including Haifa and Tel Aviv – the former for Israelis, the latter for foreign students.

One Israeli scholar, while opposing BDS, described the belief in “a kind of cordon sanitaire [that] separates scholarship from the settlements” as “an inaccurate representation of Israeli reality.” She continued: “The entire nation is complicit in the occupation, and there is no safe haven in the libraries and laboratories within the Green Line.”

Whether it is the research dollar spent on a security algorithm, the professor serving guard duty as a reservist in the territories, or even the Bagel-Bagel snack (produced in Ariel!) purchased in a cafeteria, Israel’s educational network — regardless of the political persuasions of faculty — is already entrenched in the occupation.

Israeli academics in particular are vociferous critics of the government’s human rights abuses.

Expressing his opposition to the academic boycott last week, a University of Essex professor claimed that in his “interactions with academic colleagues in Israel”, he has found them to be “among the most critical of the treatment of Palestinians.”

This is another common argument against the boycott: letters in The Guardian last week described Israeli universities as “hot beds of antipathy to Israeli government policies” and “liberal institutions where all students and staff are at liberty to speak freely.” Pro-Israel activist David Hirsh claimed that “Israeli academics have always been central [in the politics of peace].”

Rarely is any evidence presented for this apparently remarkable dissent (in contrast to the copious evidence of their universities’ collaboration with the state and armed forces).

From 1988 to 1992, Birzeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank was closed by the Israeli authorities almost year-round. Other Palestinian universities faced similar repression. During that period, “the silence of Israeli universities was deafening.”

Jump forward some twenty years, and a 2008 petition supporting academic freedom in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – hardly a radical demand – was sent to some 9,000 Israeli academics. It was signed by 407 professors, or 4.5 percent of the total.

1,000 academics, meanwhile, signed a petition against the granting of university status to Ariel college (which ultimately took place). Even this protest, however, was motivated in part by the desire to protect Israeli academia from being identified globally with “the policy of settlements.”

Indeed, as Ha’aretz reported, a number of the academics actually working at Ariel University profess to having “distinctly leftist views”, yet “see no contradiction between their work place and their political positions” – some “were even pleasantly surprised when they discovered what it was like.”

‘Israeli-Arabs’ attend Israeli universities.

The fact that Palestinian citizens attend Israeli universities is not a stamp of approval for these institutions; they are not immigrants – it is their own country. To use this as an argument against the boycott, like other lines regularly trotted out (‘Palestinians work in settlements’, ‘there are Arabs in the Knesset’), manages to combine both irrelevancy and colonial condescension.

Yet, some BDS opponents make their case by describing Israeli academic institutions as “about as close to the embodiment of Arab-Israeli coexistence that the Middle East is likely to see” (with Haifa University cited specifically).

So let’s take Haifa, which has given preference to army veterans in its dormitory application process, thus excluding the vast majority of Palestinian students. The same university has also banned students from raising the Palestinian flag during demonstrations, restricted the activities of Palestinian student clubs, and tried to expel organisers.

These are not one-off incidents. Palestinian students routinely face “discriminatory practices and policies in Israeli post-secondary institutions.” One analysis of political cases heard by the disciplinary board in Haifa University between 2007 and 2012 found that “no Zionist or right-wing Jewish Israeli student was called before the board in that period.”

While Palestinians constitute some 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, according to the most recent statistics they make up 14.4 percent of Israeli university undergraduates, 10.5 percent of master’s degree students, and 5.9 percent of Ph.D. candidates.

A 2007 survey found that of 4,576 senior faculty members, 64 were Arabs, while just 23 of 8,558 administrative staff were Arabs. Data in 2013 showed only 2 percent of 174 senior staff members of state-funded institutions are Arab. Bar-Ilan University has two Palestinian senior faculty members.

Israeli universities conduct important and beneficial research.

A common objection to the academic boycott, in the words of another letter published in The Guardian, is that “Israeli universities are at the forefront of scientific research in countless fields.” But this is no grounds for opposing the boycott campaign.

Did the fact that the first ever human heart transplant took place in 1967 in Apartheid South Africa absolve that country’s regime of its crimes – or invalidate the boycott? Contributions to technological or cultural progress cannot exonerate a persistently criminal state from accountability.

An individual or entity responsible for an immoral or illegal act does not gain immunity from the consequences simply because he/she/it is also responsible for acts of great benefit – and it is hard to belief that those trumpeting the success of Israel’s universities would accept this premise.

Putting it another way, it is grossly irresponsible for Israeli universities to prejudice or jeopardise valuable academic endeavours by refusing to end their complicity in crimes for which they could, and should, be held to account.

The academic boycott singles out Israel.

Accusing the boycotters of a disturbing “selectivity”, one letter writer in The Guardian noted that “China occupies Tibet, India occupies Kashmir, Turkey occupies Northern Cyprus and Russia occupies Crimea and eastern Ukraine.”

Another went even further, claiming that “a selective academic boycott aimed only at Israeli academic institutions,” and “not at universities and research institutes belonging to other countries with equally bad or far worse records of human rights abuse” is simply “discriminatory.”

In fact, as the organisers of the initiative pointed out, “all boycotts are selective” – but this “does not mean that they are morally tarnished.” They continued:

If the demands of ‘consistency’ lead to the claim that nothing can be done unless and until everything is done, then passivity is bound to be the result. This, in relation to Israel, is surely what the critics intend.

At any given time, there are dozens of active consumer boycott campaigns with a host of state and corporate targets. Meanwhile, Western governments – including the UK and European Union – currently enforce sanctions and embargoes for a number of countries.

Thus in reality, Israel is ‘singled out’, but for diplomatic protection and impunity, military partnerships and aid, preferential trade deals, and institutional and governmental cooperation.

Furthermore, in the words of Nelson Mandela, boycott is “a tactical weapon”, not “a matter of principle.” The academic boycott of Israel is part of a broader campaign, called for by Palestinians, based on a persuasive assessment that Israel is vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

Palestinians ‘single out’ Israel because it is Israel who has expelled, dispossessed, colonised and occupied them. Are Palestinians uniquely prohibited from appealing for and receiving solidarity? Does anyone accuse Tibetan solidarity campaigners of disturbing selectivity in ‘singling out’ China?

A boycott based on nationality is discriminatory

PACBI explicitly rejects “boycotts of individuals based on their identity”, and makes it clear that “mere affiliation of Israeli scholars to an Israeli academic institution is…not grounds for applying the boycott.”

However, they continue, if “an individual is representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to “rebrand” itself, then her/his activities are subject to the institutional boycott the BDS movement is calling for.”

The boycott has nothing to do with discrimination; rather, it is about “academic organizations…using the power that is at their disposal, namely the freedom to dissociate from institutions that are complicit with the illegal Occupation and that facilitate the oppression of Palestinians and other groups in Israel.”

The academic boycott is antisemitic

The claim that the academic boycott is ‘antisemitic’ is sometimes stated explicitly – including with Nazi comparisons – while on other occasions, it is the unspoken implication of the accusation that Israel is being ‘singled out’ (the former version at least has the merit of honesty). There is also a (slightly) smarter variation: that the boycott is antisemitic ‘in effect’, if not in intent.

In 2013, an Employment Tribunal dismissed a case brought by a pro-Israel activist, represented by a prominent lawyer, who claimed he had suffered antisemitic harassment in the University College Union, in the context of efforts by Palestine solidarity campaigners to advance an academic boycott.

Much to the chagrin of his backers, who included two Members of Parliament, the judges described the activist’s claims as “without substance” and “devoid of any merit.” Another attempt to accuse academic boycott supporters of “racism” in the courts, this time in Australia in 2014, alsofailed.

Some of the signatories to the academic boycott statement launched last week have responded to the implications or accusations that their stance make them “antisemites and equivalent to Nazis” as “deeply offensive as well as intellectually and morally vacuous.”

Rather than casting slurs of antisemitism, advocates of universal human rights would do better to engage with the reasons why the violation of Palestinian human rights has become a matter of grave, international concern, and why a campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions is now an urgent necessity.

That campaign, including the academic boycott, is backed by a number of Jewish groups. Ahead of a forthcoming vote by the American Anthropological Association on a pro-boycott resolution, grassroots U.S. group Jewish Voice of Peace has spoken of being “heartened by this effort at the AAA to stand for human rights and social justice.”

In conclusion

The case for an academic boycott of Israel is based on the following three, key points.

  1. The facts of Israeli colonialism, occupation, and apartheid.
  2. The complicity in and role of Israeli academic institutions in the aforementioned crimes.
  3. The call and support for BDS as a tactic from Palestinian professors and students.

Opponents of the boycott always deny or ignore at least one of these elements – and often all three. In particular, however, what is the significance of so many BDS opponents simply ignoring the call from Palestinian professors and students?

This act of omission is instructive because those arguing against the boycott often explicitly position themselves as ‘friends’ of the Palestinians and ‘understanding’ of their plight – and yet in framing their argument in such a way, do not engage with or even mention the Palestinian boycott call.

‘Palestinian civil society’ is not some monolithic bloc, but the facts are that groups and unions representing Palestinian academics and students are calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. To ignore this appeal by the colonized is a telling act of erasure and silencing.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 06 Nov 2015 14:21:58 +0000
South Africa’s pro-Palestine movement - struggling to repay the anti-Apartheid solidarity debt Martin JansenBy the early 1990s it seemed that significant progress had been made to reach agreements in what were considered to be the world’s three main political hotspots – Northern Ireland, Palestine and South Africa. Several decades of liberation struggles were suddenly catapulted towards real possibilities for attaining the end-goal. This was largely due to a changed international political climate arising from the collapse of the USSR and its satellite states in Eastern Europe, effectively putting an end to the Cold War. Negotiated agreements between enemies was the order of the day resulting in South Africa having its first democratic elections in April 1994 and coinciding with the signing of the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel. The Oslo Accords ensured Israel’s recognition of the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinian people accompanied by the establishment of a Palestinian Authority (PA), effectively institutionalising Israel’s colonial occupation over the Palestinian people and land with the PLO’s collaboration and a surrogate state, the PA.

In the case of South Africa, its ruling class, dominated by white monopoly capital, had already decided by 1985 that it had to deal with the leading party of the liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) and settle for black majority rule. Its shift in position was not pushed or precipitated by any democratic, moral or human rights imperatives. Rather, typically it was driven by the economic crisis that had impacted on white fortunes since the 1970s and getting worse, aggravated by a shrinking domestic and international market. The latter in particular was biting hard due to the success of the international Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) boycott and sanctions campaign and the significant psychological blow suffered by the Apartheid regime with its military defeat at the hands of the MPLA and Cuban soldiers in Angola. The AAM ensured that by the mid to late 1980s, international boycotts in almost every sphere of cultural life such as sport, music and academia were effective, along with governments and international institutions such as the UN adopting resolutions and legislation enforcing economic sanctions and embargoes that also deprived the Apartheid regime of acquiring arms to suppress uprisings internally and wage war along its borders.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was strongest in the countries where it mattered most - Western Europe and North America - because these powerful imperialist nations had historically been the most ardent supporters and defenders of Apartheid South Africa. Their shift against Apartheid can be attributed mainly to the strengthening of the AAM internationally, particularly in North America and Europe along with most African states and their people.

Black South Africans, particularly the ANC, are indebted to the AAM for contributing to the liberation of South Africa. However, the reality in relation to a reciprocal involvement in the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonial occupation does not reflect this. This is despite the fact that the ANC enjoyed a direct alliance with the PLO whose support included arming and training soldiers of the ANC’s guerrilla army, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” said Nelson Mandela, reflecting and acknowledging this history, committing the ANC and his government to supporting efforts to liberate Palestine.

This political alliance was actually more profound than simply mutual support since the apartheid Israeli and South African regimes at the time had uncanny similarities in their settler-colonial roots, their establishment in 1948, their oppression and treatment of the native populations, direct economic relations and military co-operation with mutual admiration among their leaders. The South African Jewish community has historically been the biggest supporter and financial contributor - in proportion to its size - to the Zionist project since the establishment of the state of Israel, particularly through the Jewish National Fund.

In full view of the ANC, though, the Zionist support in contemporary South Africa has strengthened and even extends to young South African Jews serving in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) - illegally in terms of SA law - and literally acting as the IDF’s poster boys. Not a single Zionist has been investigated or prosecuted for this.

Little wonder then that leading global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Omar Barghouti was more than exasperated in disbelief and disappointment upon meeting ANC and government leaders in South Africa over a year ago. He genuinely struggled to comprehend and understand their complacency and refusal to act in any substantial way in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle; this despite the fact that they are in power and had a strategic seat at the UN Security Council at the time. The prevailing view of many in the BDS movement was clear: who was better to lead the campaign against Israeli apartheid at this level than the ANC and the South African government?

South Africa’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has long understood that in view of the relative weakness of the Palestinian masses compounded by the poor leadership of its dominant political parties, their struggle has to rely disproportionately on mass international solidarity. Moreover, given our history of a successful struggle against Apartheid oppression and white supremacy that relied on a strong global movement, the ANC government had a special contribution to make to advancing Palestinian liberation. We, along with many solidarity activists, had a reasonable expectation that the ANC in government would lead this struggle in the corridors of power of international institutions such as the UN and its Security Council.

Alas, this was not to be and, to-date, South Africa’s ANC government has neither done anything significant in solidarity with the Palestinians nor committed itself to do so, let alone support BDS. It has not even been prepared to wage a diplomatic battle at the UN despite having at its disposal a range of international resolutions and conventions that oppose Israel’s colonial oppression of the Palestinians.

Over the years, the PSC in South Africa has met with senior ANC officials to propose that they adopt BDS and legislation supporting it in order to compel South Africans, particularly big business and institutions, to isolate Israel politically and economically. Together with other solidarity organisations, we have also petitioned the government to stop using companies such as G4S, Caterpillar and Cape Gate which bolster Israel’s repressive apparatus. The ANC government has consistently ignored and refused these calls.

Even in the wake of Israel’s August 2014 attack on Gaza which resulted in another genocidal massacre that destroyed thousands of lives, the government refused even to accede to the demand to expel the Israeli ambassador. At a meeting with South Africa’s deputy minister of international relations a few months prior to this, the response to our demands was that the government needed civil society to ensure sufficient unrest and protests by South Africans to assist ministers in rationalising a more proactive BDS stance internationally. Yet, the temporary mass solidarity movement that emerged in August 2014, culminating in the biggest ever mass march to Parliament in Cape Town, with over 200 000 people on the streets, was insufficient to push the SA government to take concrete action in support of the Palestinians, not even significant humanitarian support. That was left to NGOs to do. What are we to make of this?

The ANC, like its nationalist counterparts in Fatah and the PLO, has always been a party led and dominated by middle-class interests, even in periods of heightened popularity during mass uprisings such as those in the 1980s. Liberation for the middle class from conditions of colonial oppression is not the same as for the poor and working class masses who invariably suffer the most. For middle-class nationalists it is and has been about removing all impediments and obstacles for them to survive, prosper and thrive, and open up possibilities for elevating themselves socially towards the dominant capitalist class. In the case of both the ANC and PLO it directs them towards joining and becoming dependent on the global class of monopoly capitalists and getting closer to their political representatives, the imperialist states of the USA and Western Europe.

The ANC, especially its top leadership, is in now in real terms closer than ever to big business in South Africa which is in no small measure supportive of Zionism and Israel. This is epitomised by South African President Jacob Zuma reportedly enjoying close personal and family business ties with wealthy Zionist arms dealer Ivor Ichikowitz of the Paramount group of companies. The ANC leadership, including the country’s first post-Apartheid President, Nelson Mandela, enjoyed a similar cosy relationship with Ichikowitz. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has a myriad of business ties within major local and global companies such as McDonalds.

The bottom line for us and the global Palestine solidarity movement is that the ANC and the current South African government cannot be relied upon to play any meaningful role in supporting the Palestine liberation struggle.

Despite the dire genocidal situation of the Palestinian masses we need to accept the long and hard road of mass mobilisation, organisation and a resolute uncompromising global struggle for one unitary and fully democratic state within historic Palestine for all who live there, to which all Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return, as is their legal right. The global BDS campaign offers us the direction and platform for achieving this but it needs to be led and supported actively by a much more proactive Palestinian grassroots, working class organisation and movement of activists.

The author is director/editor of Workers World Media Productions in Cape Town, South Africa. He formerly held positions of leadership in the Plastics and Allied Workers Union and the Chemical Workers Industrial Union (CWIU). He has represented the CWIU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Labour Research Service and Workers World Media Productions at various national and international meetings and conferences.

]]> (Martin Jansen) Guest Writers Thu, 01 Oct 2015 06:00:00 +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
Kerry’s second visit to abort the intifada Munir ShafiqJohn Kerry came to meet Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas a week after the outbreak of the third intifada. He was unable to hold a four-party meeting in Amman with himself, Netanyahu, Jordan's King Abdullah II and the Palestinian president, so he found that the best thing he could do to abort the intifada was to announce what was known as the “Kerry-Netanyahu understandings”.

This included Netanyahu’s assurance that he would not change the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque (which the US secretary of state referred to as “Temple Mount”), meaning that he would back down from the implantation of his coalition decision to divide the prayer times between Muslims and Jews. This was a victory for the intifada. However, these understandings maintained the presence of the Israeli security forces in Al-Aqsa, especially to supervise the visits of non-Muslims, adding surveillance cameras which Kerry and Netanyahu wanted to monitor the young men and women protecting the sacred mosque.

The first goal of the understandings is to stop the intifada as long as the retraction of the temporal division of Al-Aqsa Mosque is maintained. This is because it is considered to be the prime reason for the outbreak of the popular uprising, which then turned into an intifada.

They failed to achieve the first goal for two reasons. First, because the understandings allowed the Israeli army to have security control over Al-Aqsa Mosque and supervise the visits of non-Muslims. These are the same Zionist gangs that raid Al-Aqsa with the protection of the Israeli army in order to impose the temporal and spatial division of prayer between Muslims and Jews. The second reason is the fact that this intifada has other goals that go beyond thwarting the temporal division of the mosque, no matter how important that might be.

The goals of the intifada are to defeat the Israeli occupation, dismantle the settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, lift the blockade imposed on Gaza, and the unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners with no negotiations, no deals and no recognition.

These are real-time goals that can be achieved by the intifada if it turns into a comprehensive, continuous and widespread uprising that cannot be reversed, in order to force the enemy to withdraw and dismantle its illegal settlements. We can do this by making withdrawal less costly than continuing the occupation, building settlements and suppressing the intifada.

Neither the Zionist enemy nor its allies in America or Europe can afford to face a comprehensive and complete intifada that is well-planned, long-term and under one national banner. This is because if the intifada continues, it will mobilise the Arab and Muslim masses, as well as international public opinion, in the Palestinians’ favour. This will embarrass every government that has tried to ignore the uprising, conspired to stop it or supported Netanyahu’s government under the pretext of the “right to self-defence”, as Obama and other Western leaders have claimed.

The compass of the Palestinian struggle has shifted, making the first goal the establishment of a Palestinian state on the “borders before 5 June 1967”. This has made it adopt the strategy of negotiations and agreement on the final resolution of the Palestinian issue (a “two-state solution”). The experience of the negotiations in Madrid and Oslo, along with the negotiations of Mahmoud Abbas in the name of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, has proven that this path is a complete failure. It has simply bought time for the expansion of Israeli settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque, brutality against prisoners and oppression of the resistance and popular movements. It also allowed Israel to launch military offensives against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, as well impose a suffocating blockade on Gaza. It has contributed to knocking the Palestinian cause off the top of the list of Arab, Muslim and international priorities. None of this debatable; it is cited from bitter experiences over the past 24 years, beginning with the Madrid Conference.

Keeping the door open to the “two-state solution” allows John Kerry to come to occupied Palestine today and propose, once again, proposals that pave the way to a new round of negotiations in order to abort the intifada. There is a fear that Israel will be defeated by a popular uprising, and fear of America and the West becoming more disgraced by their support for Israel while it continues to commit massacres against the Palestinian people.

However, if Kerry is surprised by a unified Palestinian position which insists that the intifada aims to defeat Israel’s occupation and dismantle its settlements without any limits or conditions, then we will cross that bridge when we get there. He will have nothing to say, as he cannot negotiate in favour of an occupation and settlements while his government maintains that they are illegal. In this event he will be backed into a corner. He will have to either announce that he defends the occupation and the settlements, or that he wants to reward Israel for them by offering it yet more Palestinian, Arab and Muslim concessions.

The equation will then no longer be about negotiations, but the dissolution of the Palestinian cause by means of the liquidating and delusional “two-state solution”, which is a cover for the occupation, settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the blockade on Gaza, and the failure to release Palestinian prisoners. At that point, the defeat of the occupation, the dismantling of the settlements and resolution of the issues of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Gaza Strip and the prisoners will be linked to reaching a final agreement by means of negotiations, or it will be linked to giving priority to establishing a Palestinian state. This would be like putting the cart before the horse.

What will we do after the land is liberated? We will leave that to a popular referendum, as there are several options.

Anyone talking about the national Palestinian project must be aware that the only solution is the liberation of Palestine from the River Jordan to the sea and implementing the right of return for refugees. As such, it is wrong to propose any other project, such as a two-state solution, a binational state or a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.

Those who are concerned with rescuing Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites of Muslims and Christians, as well as liberating Jerusalem and the West Bank, lifting the siege on Gaza, releasing all the prisoners and moving forward towards the liberation of all of historic Palestine, must be aware that there is nothing more important than making that list the goals of the current uprising. These goals can unite all of the Palestinian factions and can be achieved by the intifada.

Mahmoud Abbas should place these goals in front of John Kerry. The secretary of state will be unable to face them and will seek respite in negotiations and a two-state solution. At that point, Abbas should try to tell him that this intifada will continue; if not, then the occupation, settlements, Judaisation of Jerusalem and violations of Al-Aqsa will continue. This is what happened after the second intifada was stopped.

It goes without saying that Mahmoud Abbas will not do this, but Fatah and the other factions which supported negotiations and the two-state solution at any point should. Of course, they should do this alongside Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the youth of the intifada. John Kerry must return to the US unsuccessful in his attempt to abort the intifada.

Translated from Arabi21, 25 November, 2015.

]]> (Munir Shafiq) Middle East Thu, 26 Nov 2015 15:01:31 +0000
Rebel-linked Israeli businessman has Syrian Jews kidnapped Asa Winstanley

A bizarre and disturbing story earlier this month shed a tiny sliver of light on the under-reported and murky role of Israel in the increasingly complex Syrian civil war.

Agence France Presse reported the story of several Syrian Jews who were taken out of the country by rebel fighters hired by Israeli-American businessman (and former mercenary) Moti Kahana.

But a close reading of the text of the story quickly reveals that the headline about a "rescue" of Jews from Syria is highly misleading.

In fact, the report states, "the family did not want to leave" and Kahana even claimed that "it was 'necessary' to scare them into getting in a minibus," according to AFP's Joe Dyke. In the Jewish Chroniclepiece (which apparently was first to break the story) Kahana noted that because the family did not want to leave, the only way he could compel them to do so was to “scare the shit out of them.”

That sounds far more like a kidnapping than a "rescue." The family were, in the process of this forcible "rescue," lied to and told they would be allowed to go to New York, but Kahana then ended up sending them to Israel.

To make matters worse one of the three women was refused a visa to Israel because she was not Jewish enough for the Zionist entity.

There are several shady elements to the story, and Kahana seems like a fantasist and a liar, prone to exaggeration and self-aggrandisement. Even the Jewish Agency (the para-statal Zionist organization responsible for pressuring and scaring Jews from around the world to leave their native countries in order to become colonial settlers in occupied Palestine) criticised Kahana for being a "self-appointed freelancer" who had not acted "discreetly" and indulged in "unnecessary exhibitionism". (It's clear from such language that the Jewish Agency, which has a long history of coercing Jews to leave their own countries, was not objecting to Kahana's actions on moral grounds, but merely on strategic and public relations grounds.)

The three different published stories I have seen on this incident all use Kahana as their main or only source, so you'd think they would all align. But they contain discrepancies and contradictions – Kahana's tall tales apparently change in the telling to each journalist. Fpr example, the mother, Miram, is 88 in the JC and Telegraph accounts but "in her 70s" in the AFP account.

Kahana also apparently told AFP that they "managed to narrowly escape and make their way to Turkey, passing through a checkpoint managed by the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate". This alarming formulation once again raises questions about Israel's bizarre alliance with the Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria), as I have covered in this column before. In other accounts, Kahana tries to make it sound like they narrowly escaped al-Qaeda, rather than pretty much collaborating with them.

There are a whole lot of unanswered questions about the whole disgraceful incident, but it seems pretty clear that these Syrian Jews were taken out of the country against their will by a Zionist fanatic working in the service of the Israeli government, hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda-allied Syrian rebels.

Who is this man Moti Kahana? According to a gushing "profile" the Jewish Chronicle published, he is a former Israeli bomber pilot and mercenary. He was once a bodyguard for Ariel Sharon, the Israeli war criminal and late prime minister. He later set up a car rental company "that specialised in shipping vehicles from one end of the United States to the other," from which he apparently made his fortune.

According to his own boasts, he has ploughed $1 million into helping and equipping Syrian rebel groups: "I will give a satellite phone or goods," he stated. He says he was active on the ground in Syria until his identity as an Israeli was exposed.

One clip from Israeli television which I found online (apparently uploaded by the self-promoting Kahana himself) shows him attending a 2013 symposium on Syria organized by WINEP, the think tank established by AIPAC (which is America's most powerful Israel lobby organization) along with members of Syrian opposition known to work closely with the US government's attempts to arm and control rebel groups in Syria.

The video clip shows that these included Louay Sakka of the Syrian Support Group and Mouaz Moustafa, director of the "Syrian Emergency Task Force". The latter man was infamously involved in organizing John McCain's 2013 visit to rebel-controlled Syria. He was also once listed on the WINEP website as one of "our experts". Moustafa apparently got WINEP to delete this from their website after the Irish journalist Maidhc Ó Cathail published an expose on his links with the Israel lobby, suggesting WINEP may have been behind McCain's trip to Syria.

Despite Moustafa complaining to me that the article was "slander" he did not deny speaking at the WINEP event, and even promised me to get a withdrawn video of the event published by WINEP (and promoted by his own organization) back up on the internet (two and a half years later I am still waiting). In any event, Moustafa has since then spoken at at least one other WINEP event (despite protesting to me in 2013 that "I never have contacted Winep [sic] since my speech") and is once again listed on their site as one of "our experts" (albeit as an "outside author" this time).

Moti Kahana's Facebook page shows him posing happily with Issac Herzog, the leader of the Israeli Labour party, and Kamal Labawani, a member of the Syrian opposition who has offered to "sell" the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Israel in a post-Assad Syria.

That we even know about the kidnapping is only because Kahana's ego appears to have come into competition with the territorial Jewish Agency, which apparently sees Syria's Jews as being "their" responsibility – Zionists fighting it out against each other. The whole affair leaves us with more questions than answers, but it does seem that there is more to the Israeli hand in the Syrian civil war than that which has come to light so far.

This article originally stated that the mother of the family, Miriam Halabi, had been the one refused a visa by Israel. In fact, it was one of her two daughters. This has now been corrected in the text. on 15:42 (GMT) on 26th Novemeber 2015.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:06:27 +0000
Deaths in Egyptian prisons have trebled in the last three years Dr Tarek El-Ghandour photographed with his familyVIDEO & IMAGES

Ayah El-Ghandour says that her father was murdered. Arrested and taken from his home in the middle of the night Dr Tarek El-Ghandour was everything that the Egyptian regime despises: anti-government, anti-regime ideology, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and professor of dermatology and venereal diseases at Ain Shams University, an institution that has hosted several anti-coup student protests.

Around a year into his detention, El-Ghandour started to bleed profusely when stitches from an operation on his oesophagus became loose, yet nobody in the hospital would treat him. He paid a member of staff at the hospital to give him a medical balloon and put it in place; eventually, the bleeding subsided, but doctors later pulled the balloon out.

“One of the blatant medical mistakes, which in my opinion was the reason behind the murder of my father, is that they took him to the operating room and removed the balloon,” Ayah tells MEMO. “Of course, the balloon must stay in place for at least two days. When they removed it a fountain of blood exploded and they were unable to get the bleeding under control. His heart stopped and he remained in the ICU until he died on the morning of 12 November.”

Dr Tarek El-Ghandour's medical report

Ayah’s father is one of 323 people who have died inside Egypt’s detention facilities since August 2013. Like Tarek El-Ghandour, many of them died after being denied medical care even when there was evidence of how critical their situation was. Ayah sent MEMO this medical report, which states that El-Ghandour’s health was in a serious condition and he needed to be transferred from the prison to a proper hospital for an operation.

The Egyptian authorities claim that they provided him with the medical care he needed but Ayah says this is simply untrue: “If they had given him medical attention they would not have left him to bleed for six hours without doing anything about it. If they had given him medical attention, they would not have removed the balloon he used to treat himself.” Many others have confirmed what Ayah said; that when medical treatment is desperately needed, it is deliberately stalled.

Ahmad Al-Basousy told MEMO that his father, Dr Salah Al-Basousy, was healthy when he went into prison. Then one day Ahmad received a phone call from a fellow detainee to say that his father was suffering from internal bleeding in the kidneys and needed an injection. When Ahmad informed the prison authorities that treatment was needed they simply told him that they didn’t open the cell doors at night. The next day they refused again and Ahmad’s father died before dawn.

“This is a clear violation and it is medical negligence,” says Thomas-John Guinard, legal officer for the Nile region of Alkarama, a Geneva based Human Rights NGO, commenting on the refusal to provide necessary medical care to a prisoner. Just because someone is in prison it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any rights to receive medical care and yet this is exactly what’s happening in Egypt. “What we have seen in the past two years is that there is a systemisation of the denial of medical care to political prisoners,” explained Guinard.

Throughout Egypt’s history many prisoners have died in its dungeons. A recent report authored by Guinard for Alkarama, Death Behind Bars, documents that 52 died under interim military rule and 56 perished under Mohamed Morsi, whilst Mubarak oversaw 30 years’ worth of violations. Yet Guinard says the culture of impunity under the current Egyptian authorities has reached “unprecedented levels” with figures more than trebling in the past three years. The report concludes that these deaths are the consequence of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic abuses.

From their arrest to their death prisoners in Egypt are treated inhumanely. Taken from their homes in the middle of the night, their locations are kept a secret for days with families left to search and wonder. Often they are picked up for protesting but in many cases the exact reason for the arrest is not clear.

As well as being denied medical assistance prisoners are also systematically tortured, which in some cases has been the cause of their death and in many has certainly contributed towards it. Israa Said, niece of Dr Emad Hassan, told MEMO that after her uncle’s arrest her family were still trying to locate him when they received a phone call from the prison requesting them to go and collect his body, which bore the signs of torture. “No one knows why he was taken,” she says. “He didn’t even protest.”

Khalid Ali tells MEMO that his brother Emad was arrested at 3am on the charge of protesting, and was healthy before he went to prison. For the following eight days he was tortured, beaten and given electric shocks. When his health got worse he was denied medical assistance, despite his family offering to pay for treatment; eventually he was given antibiotics but it didn’t stop him vomiting blood.

The prison authorities claimed that they were trying to help diagnose him but he was given no treatment, his tests were two weeks apart and no reports or results were produced; the delay was blamed on paperwork and the system. On Eid Al-Adha, a nurse called to say that Emad was dead. When asked if he will take the case to court Khalid replies simply, “There’s no point, there is no law.”

As highlighted by Deaths Behind Bars courts do not dismiss confessions obtained under torture, which in turn encourages officers to extract “confessions” in this way. The authorities refuse to open investigations and instead produce fake death certificates claiming that the person has committed suicide whilst at the same time providing no independent autopsy results.

In some cases the denial of medical care is torture itself and although it’s hard to evaluate exactly where the threshold is, when the refusal is constant and based on political affiliation “torture is easily characterised,” says Guinard. “What we have seen in the past two years is that there is a systemisation of the denial of medical care to political prisoners.” That applies to any member of the opposition with little regard for their age, gender or position.

Somaia Safwat realised that her father – Dr Sawfat Khalil, a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood — was missing when their family returned home from a protest without him. Eventually, someone answered her sister’s calls to say that he had been arrested and asked her not to call again.

Dr Sawfat Khalil being arrested

Khalil had cancer and had previously had a leg amputated. The family showed the prison authorities official documents from the hospital in which he was being treated which said that he required special medical care and that he must continue his chemotherapy. Even so, the prison authorities wouldn’t allow him to have any medication to ease the pain.

“They deliberately delayed his treatment sessions, and he was treated while being handcuffed,” Somaia tells MEMO. “When we would beg them to un-cuff him only while he received his treatment, they would refuse this and say those were their orders. He was in pain both from the chemotherapy as well as the cuffs… this of course led to the severe deterioration of his health.”

Dr Sawfat Khalil's medical report

When Somaia visited her father she saw signs of torture on his arms and legs, which she believes pushed him to suffer from severe weakness and nausea. “This caused him to reach a very progressed stage of his illness which ultimately led to his death,” she says, but she won’t take it to court because the lawyers used by political prisoners have also been arrested. “We do not have a judiciary,” she says.

Like all the people MEMO spoke to for this article the conditions in which Somaia’s father was held sound grim. “They brought [prisoners] their food in the plastic containers used to mop the floors,” she says. “They used their hands to search any food brought in by the family.”

Cells are often packed to three times their capacity, which means that detainees have to take shifts in standing and lying down. There are no beds and no exceptions for the disabled or pregnant women. The windows are small, which makes the summer unbearable, worsened when other inmates smoke and take drugs. Detainees report bedbugs, cockroaches, insects, rats, pigeons, unclean toilets and poor quality food whilst their private property is confiscated and visitation times are kept as short as two minutes. Illnesses which are fairly straightforward to treat, such as asthma, are exacerbated; Alkarama documents that five prisoners have died from suffocation after having asthma attacks.

“What emerges from the Egyptian detainees’ testimonies about their conditions of detention is the absolute deprivation of their dignity,” says Guinard. The video link below, recorded by a detainee in Minya Prison last year and sent to Alkarama, exposes these terrible conditions.

The human rights abuses revealed by these families’ stories are a small part of the widespread violations that have taken place in Egypt in the past two years. Massacres, arbitrary arrests, death sentences, farcical trials, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial or summary executions, violations of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and have all been documented widely; they have also been widely ignored.

Rather than taking a step back from Egypt the international community has shown support, says Guinard, pointing out that after the Rabaa massacre the US re-established military aid to Egypt, France sold aircraft to Al-Sisi and David Cameron did not address human rights abuses on the Egyptian president’s recent visit to Britain. This is because Egypt is seen to be taking the lead in the fight against terrorism, but it does not do so with integrity. “Egypt, under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, commits a lot of human rights violations,” says Guinard. “It’s normal to fight against terrorism but this has to be done in a way that respects fundamental human rights, which Egypt is not doing.”

Western countries in particular really see the threat of terrorism as something that is above fundamental human rights, he continues. “They themselves don’t respect fundamental rights when they act against terrorism so of course you will have less chance of Egypt being criticised for its human rights record.” Without international condemnation Egypt’s civil society is blocked. “What we have today is a dictatorship in Egypt; it’s a military regime and as long as the international community is OK with that it will continue to violate human rights.”

This level of impunity will slow down the implementation of human rights in Egypt as will the fact that injustice in the country has turned on its head the simple notions of what is right and what is wrong. Somaia Safwat recalls waking up one day to see that her car had been set on fire. “When I thought about notifying the police,” she tells me, “I was advised not to in order to avoid being arrested.”

Somaia’s story neatly demonstrates Egypt today: the victims of injustice are treated like criminals, while the real criminals get away, quite literally, with murder. And all, it seems, with the blessing of Western governments.

]]> (Amelia Smith) Africa Tue, 24 Nov 2015 11:54:00 +0000
Those behind the Paris attack have globalised xenophobia Medical staff assist the wounded and injured in the aftermath of the Paris attacks

The image of little Aylan Kurdi, the Kurdish-Syrian refugee washed up on the shores of Turkey, prompted a wave of compassion around the world for those fleeing from war zones for a safer life in Europe. Two months later, these same people are now being seen as a security threat because a group of extremists carried out a terrorist attack in the name of “Islamic State”; this has stigmatised the refugees and, indeed, the very concept of seeking refuge.

The tragedy of the Paris terrorist attack, in which 129 people were killed and 352 injured, has created panic worldwide; as often happens, anger and fear have been taken out on some of the most vulnerable people in society, who also happen to be Muslims. Mosques, even on the other side of the Atlantic, have been threatened, with one set on fire by white supremacists. A Muslim family in Tampa, Florida found bullet holes in their house after returning from feeding the homeless. In Britain, anti-hate crime charity Tell Mama has logged 91 cases of Islamophobic incidents from the morning after the Paris attack until yesterday (Friday 20 November).

It’s important to remember that when looking at Islamophobia, the “white racist vs the Muslim” paradigm is now unrealistic; Islamophobia has gone beyond this. “This appropriation of anti-Muslim rhetoric by members of Black Minority Ethnic [BME] communities should not be surprising given that they will have been exposed to some online and offline media sources that frame Muslims in stereotypical ways,” a spokesperson at Tell Mama told me. “Furthermore, we should not be surprised by the scale of the anger of perpetrators when rhetoric has sought to dehumanise 'the other' and take away any sense of empathy with them. This is the harsh reality of hate. It permeates society.”

To put it simply, no one is immune to propaganda because of where they are from, or what they believe in. When looking at the bigger picture, and taking the matter out of the lens of Islamophobia in the Western world, it is clear that the anti-Muslim rhetoric is creating a globalised and systematic structure of oppression. Not all of the victims in this structure are Muslims and not all of those on the other side are non-Muslims.

The backlash against refugees, along with the spike in Islamophobia after the Paris attack demonstrates this. As the details about the attackers start to emerge, it is clear that the people who took part were not only settled in Europe and not refugees, but they were also not practicing Muslims. Hasna Aitboulahcen, who now has the dubious distinction of being branded as Europe’s first female suicide bomber, had no real interest in Islam. She did not study it, despite her brother apparently trying to spark some interest within her. She was a party girl, with a troubled childhood; her friends described her as being “extremely vulnerable”. Her brother has admitted to not seeing her for five years, so he was unable to track her radicalisation process. Aitboulahcen’s friends said that her radicalisation was very sudden and unexpected, to the point where she posted a social network status about wanting to go to Syria and no one believed her. She was not a refugee, having been born in Belgium to parents of Moroccan descent; for most of her childhood she stayed with foster families.

One of the attackers was originally thought to be Syrian because of a passport found at the scene, but this was declared later to be fake. The man in question, Omar Ismail Mostefai, was a 29 year old born and raised in Paris; a French citizen of Algerian descent. It is also thought that he recently returned from fighting in Syria, but the French intelligence services did not pick this up and arrest him despite being warned about him twice by the Turkish intelligence services, once in December 2014 and again in June this year. Mostefai had a previous conviction for drug dealing.

Another one of the suicide bombers owned a bar in Belgium. Ibrahim Abdeslam’s ex-wife said that he had never even been to a mosque and spent all of his time smoking an “alarming” amount of cannabis every day.

Despite all of these details becoming clearer, it is the refugees and Muslims who have been the victims of the inevitable backlash from the media, right-wing politicians and xenophobes. Hours after the Paris attacks, a refugee camp in Calais was set on fire and the anti-refugee campaign was magnified to terrifying levels. Europe is now expressing doubts about hosting refugees and Poland has said that it will not take any at all. The French response was military, with airstrikes ostensibly at Daesh/ISIS targets in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa; predictably, these attacks also affected civilians who suffer under the extremists’ rule.

If the French intelligence services had taken warning signs more seriously and focused more on preventative measures, not only would Paris have been a lot safer, but it would also have spared innocent people of all races and faiths from extremism across the political spectrum. Terrorism is not a simple issue; things are rarely black and white. By prompting such responses to the Paris attacks, the terrorists have already globalised xenophobia. If right-wing politicians and media in the West don’t understand this and reflect it in their discourse, then the terrorists will have won.

]]> (Diana Alghoul) Europe Sat, 21 Nov 2015 13:27:27 +0000
When all was ‘calm’: a typical month for Palestinians under Israeli occupation Ben WhiteWhen US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Middle East last week, for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the senior diplomat had one clear stated goal: to restore ‘calm’ after several weeks of violence.

Speaking last Thursday, Kerry stressed the need to “defuse the situation”, and spoke of the need for “parties…to move to a de-escalation.” Other recent diplomatic efforts, and media reports, have used a similar kind of language.

It is unclear when exactly this ‘calm’ ended. Many start their timeline with October 1, while other chronologies begin in September, including the confrontations between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

So let’s go back instead to August, and examine what ‘calm’ looks like for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. What follows is a (partial) snapshot of a typical month.

During August, 3 Palestinians were killed, all civilians, and a further 195 were injured, also all civilians and 35 of whom were children. During the same time period, there were no Israeli fatalities, and 20 Israelis were injured, of whom 9 were civilians.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupation forces conducted 254 raids on Palestinian communities – an average of eight per day, every day – and arrested some 380 Palestinians. Dozens had their detention extended, and 33 administrative detention orders were issued.

August also saw Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Allaan’s hunger-strike take him to death’s door, as he fell into a coma after refusing food for 65 days in protest at his detention without trial (Allaan’s detention was suspended, only for him to be later re-detained).

Israeli settlers carried out at least 18 attacks that led to either Palestinian casualties or damage to their property and land (or both), including an attack on a Palestinian vehicle, an assault on a Palestinian near Nablus, and arson attacks on Palestinian village land and a public park.

August also saw, in the words of the UN, “the highest number of Palestinian structures demolished by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in a single month in five years.”

Israel demolished 145 structures in the OPT over the course of the month, displacing more than 200 Palestinians. 126 of those displaced were children. In one instance, Israeli forces “left 127 men, women and children without shelter in 42-degree-Celsius heat.”

Israeli occupation forces also destroyed a two-storey building in Jenin refugee camp during a ‘search and arrest’ raid, despite the fact that the “the wanted man was not present.” According to the UN, this was the 13th home destroyed by Israel in West Bank military operations since January 2014.

August also saw the resumption by Israeli authorities of construction of the Apartheid Wall in the Bethlehem governorate, as bulldozers tore up ancient olive trees and levelled land in Beit Jala.

August’s ‘calm’ in the West Bank meant Israeli occupation forces shooting a Palestinian at a checkpoint, Palestinian villagers having their water cut off, and unarmed protesters at weekly, anti-occupation demonstrations being shot with live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets.

In East Jerusalem, five Palestinian-owned structures were demolished during August, including a three-story building under construction in Wadi al-Joz and two homes under construction in Jabal al-Mukabir. Israeli occupation forces also closed 3 of 4 entrances in Issawiya, and closed off a main street in al-Tur with cement blocks.

Israel detained 150 Palestinians in the city, including 70 minors. Israel frequently imposed restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa for Palestinian worshippers, while facilitating visits by right-wing Jewish activists. 37 Palestinians were banned from Al-Aqsa for periods ranging from 10-60 days.

In addition, at least 20 radical Jewish settlers moved into a 12-apartment building in Silwan, a development which “nearly doubled the number of Jewish settlers in the neighbourhood.”

Is this the Third Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Are we witnessing the Third Intifada?

In the Gaza Strip, Israel conducted 26 attacks, including shootings, 6 land incursions (such as this one), and arresting fishermen at sea. Palestinian casualties included a 14-year-old boy shot in the face with live ammunition east of Beit Hanoun. 4 policemen were injured in one of two airstrikes.

August also saw Israeli authorities revise the list of goods classified as “dual-use” (civilian and military) banned from entry into Gaza without special authorization – adding to the list “wooden boards thicker than 1cm (as opposed to 5cm previously).”

This is what ‘calm’ looks like for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. This anatomy of apartheid for the month of August provides an insight into what Palestinians face day in and day out, and is essential context for what has subsequently unfolded.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 30 Oct 2015 15:18:10 +0000
Has America lost its aura or just changed its strategy? Dr Faisal Al-Qasim

Some people believe that America has lost its aura, especially since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. What is irrational about this view is the fact that those who share it have linked America’s status and prestige to its hesitation to interfere in Syria. Based on this, they are saying that Uncle Sam has lost his teeth, not least since the blatant Russian intervention in Syria.

It is naïve and foolish to describe US President Barack Obama's policy towards Syria, and the Middle East in general, as “confused”, “hesitant”, “cold” and “indifferent”. Do people not know that “indifference” in politics is a policy in itself and that hesitancy is not actually hesitation, but a deliberate move? The problem with most of those who think this way is that they do not follow the US statements or presidential platforms and programmes proposed by would-be presidents in order to reach the White House.

Americans are usually blunt, brazenly so, when it comes to their foreign strategies and policies. They do not beat around the bush; rather they announce their project to the media openly. The problem with the Arabs is that they do not read this until it is too late.

The Obama administration has said time and time again, during his first term in office, that the president will take a completely different political path to that of his predecessor George W Bush. Obama had come with a programme that went against Bush’s policies, which cost America a lot militarily, economically and politically. Obama said explicitly that he wanted to play quietly, aware of the political chaos that characterised the era of his predecessor.

In other words, Obama dispelled the image of the political “cowboy” that prevailed in previous American administrations. The US president no longer reaches for his gun every time a fly flies in front of him; instead, he has started to think in a more subtle and calm manner about how to achieve goals and strategies. Some may say that the “cowboy” mentality brought the Americans many catastrophes and hatred, especially in their recent foreign adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that they are now afraid of this disastrous policy, and they may be right. However, they are also capable of achieving what they want without resorting to Bush-style recklessness. Ever since the beginning of his presidency, Obama has said that he would rely on “intelligence wars” rather than military wars, since they are more effective and far less expensive. We have seen this during the Syrian conflict, as the Americans have given the impression that they are disinterested, indifferent or confused about the situation. The CIA, meanwhile, has been carrying out operations within Syria from their stations on the Turkish border.

While America was watching the various forces tearing each other apart in Syria, just as Washington wanted, we heard many media outlets talking about the US distance from the conflict. Since Obama became president, many Americans have relied on the principle of “backseat driving”, allowing those on the ground to drive according to the directions and instructions provided by the US, without making any noise or commotion.

The Americans are no longer willing to interfere directly in any conflict. This was pointed out by the veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger in a number of newspaper articles regarding Obama’s administration. Kissinger even called on Washington to pay due regard to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which calls for respect to be shown to the sovereignty of other countries. This, of course, has a negative ulterior motive, as under the pretext of respecting the sovereignty of other countries, this new Kissinger diplomacy achieves all that it wants without interfering blatantly in the affairs of others, as it did in the past. It is worth noting that even the US air strikes on Al-Qaeda areas in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia were carried out by drones to avoid the loss of American pilots. And did the Americans lose a single soldier in Libya?

Those who believe that the US was weak when it negotiated with Iran are mistaken. Absolutely not; US force and power can destroy the world one hundred times over. However, the US-Obama policy also aims to restore balance to the American economy, and so the current administration does not want to engage in costly new overseas adventures as long as it is able to achieve what it wants by means of “soft power”. Hence, it believes that negotiating with Iran and sanctions are more effective than wars.

Those who describe the Obama administration’s current policy regarding the Middle East as “stupid” do not know anything about politics. The American policy that some call “stupid” stripped Syria of its strategic chemical weapons, something that none of the wars in the region was able to achieve, and it now has its sights set on matters other than such weapons. More importantly, it reined in Iran’s nuclear project without losing one dollar or one soldier. Compare the amount of money spent by America on its escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan — trillions of dollars — to what it is spending on the Syrian and Iranian issues.

The US has achieved for itself and its closest ally Israel everything it wanted by means of working in line with the famous principle of Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” It spent billions of dollars to push back Iraq to the Stone Age, as promised by the then Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. However, in Syria, it achieved everything it achieved in Iraq for free, albeit at the expense of Syrian blood and bodies and the wealth of others. If this American policy of “confusion, indifference, and stupidity” was able to achieve all of these results, what if the policy was smart? The Obama administration achieved in Iran and Syria what America failed to achieve over the past twenty years with regards to the Middle East and ensuring Israel’s security, but how? With only talk-talk, keeping calm, hesitation and studied indifference?

US journalist Thomas Friedman said in the New York Times after the Russian intervention in Syria: “Bravo Obama. Stay far away and let them get involved.” Before him, the White House Chief of Staff said that the situation in Syria is ideal for the US, as “the bad guys are burning each other.” Those who said that America seems to be bowing down are right, but it is bowing down to win. It hasn’t lost its aura; it’s simply changed its strategy.

Translated from Alkhaleejonline, 10 October 2015.

]]> (Dr Faisal Al-Qasim) Americas Tue, 13 Oct 2015 09:25:43 +0000
The right of return; a forgotten issue Dr Ghada KarmiNo issue has been so much at the heart of the Palestine cause, or so resistant to resolution, as the right of return. Palestinians world wide see it as the basis of their case. Enshrined in international law and historical precedent, it has acquired an almost sacred quality for Palestinians, an untouchable right that no one can dispute. Generations of refugees have been reared on the expectation of return to their homeland. Their position derives not only from natural justice, but is also underpinned legally by UN Resolution 194, passed by the General Assembly in December 1948. It called on the newly-formed Israeli state to repatriate the displaced Palestinians “wishing to live in peace with their neighbours... at the earliest practicable date”, and to compensate them for their losses. A Conciliation Commission was set up to oversee the repatriation of the returnees. Though never implemented and frequently ignored since then, Resolution 194 has remained the legal basis for the “right of return”.

Yet, far from this fundamental plank of the Palestinian case being recognised as such and forming the core of any final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ignoring it has become the norm in political discourse. It simply either does not feature any more, or if it does, it is mostly as a bargaining chip in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The marginalisation of this fundamental right is not new; it started soon after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) began to consider the possibility of setting up “an authority” on any liberated part of Palestine. Prior to that date, Palestine’s total liberation had been the PLO’s aim and this would mean the return to the homeland of all displaced Palestinians. By the late 1970s, though, the idea of partial liberation had developed into the aim to create a Palestinian state. In 1988, the independent “State of Palestine” was declared by the PLO on the 1967 territories, confirming the official Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution that has been with us ever since.

In 1992, at the Madrid peace conference that followed the Gulf war, a so-called multi-lateral track was established without reference to the refugees. After protest by the PLO the issue was included, but Israel insisted it would refer only to those displaced by the 1967 war, and not those displaced in 1948 when the state was created. The whole thing came to nothing in the end, largely due to disagreement with Israel over definitions. The 1993 Oslo Accord took UN resolutions 242 and 338 as its basis, both of which deal with the refugee issue obliquely, and make no reference to Resolution 194. The issue was relegated along with others to “final status talks” between Israel and the Palestinians which have never been held. Palestinian acceptance of the Oslo terms, as well as the two-state solution, inevitably excluded the right of return, though this was never admitted explicitly. Talks at Taba between the two sides in January 2001 were a slight improvement; the Israelis offered a recognition of Israel’s moral and legal responsibility for the refugee exodus of 1948, but there would be no right of return to Israel, and the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries was brought up as if it were an equivalent issue.

A certain official prevarication about the Palestinian right of return first became apparent in 2002, when the Palestinian Authority is reported to have proposed dropping it as “an obstacle in the talks”. By 2011, when the revelations about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process between 1999 and 2010 were published by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian newspaper, it became clear that the Palestinian leadership was indeed prepared to cede the right of return in its negotiations with Israel. They agreed that only a token 10,000 refugees and their families would return there, and that Israel could not be expected to compromise its Jewish character by taking in any more. These offers were made without authorisation from the Palestinian people, let alone the refugees; in fact, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told George Mitchell, US envoy to the peace talks, in 2009, “On refugees, the deal is there.”

To assert against this background of appeasement that the right of return is the sine qua non of any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is viewed today as “unrealistic” and old-fashioned, even an obstacle to peace, as if the passage of sixty-seven years had disqualified the Palestinians from entitlement to their homeland. Israel, conversely, shows no such ambiguity in its perennial and unambiguous rejection of the right of return. Through this process, the Arab discourse about the right of return has become deliberately vague, responding to Israel’s anxieties. The latest obfuscation of this right, supposed to lure Israel to the negotiating table with the Arabs, is the Arab peace plan, first devised in 2002. The plan included an ambiguous clause about the return of the Palestinian refugees, but without specifying whether refugees were to be "returned" to Israel or to the Palestinian state that would be created. No details of numbers of returnees or mechanisms for their repatriation were provided, but the plan spoke of achieving “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.”

When Israel was founded in May 1948, many Western states saw it as a moral and necessary act to compensate Jews for the damage inflicted on them by Nazi Germany. A faraway country, Palestine, in a backward region, mostly under Western control and without the capacity to resist, must have seemed an ideal refuge for the stricken European Jews. As all Arabs know, in this euphoria of settling the post-war Jewish refugees and at the same time solving the centuries-old “Jewish question” which had plagued Europe and its Jews, the West ignored the cost to the native population of Palestine.

The resulting tragedy for the Palestinian people has been documented endlessly; despite Israeli propaganda to the contrary, this was both inevitable and predictable, given the determination of Israel’s founders to create a state for Jews in a land that was not Jewish. They recognised from the beginning that they would have to reverse Palestine’s demography, by converting the existing Arab majority into a Jewish one. As Yoram Bar Porath put it bluntly to the Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot, on 14 July 1972, “There is no Zionism, colonisation or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” Rafael Eitan, Israel’s Chief of Staff, told the New York Times on 14 April 1983, “The Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimetre of Eretz Israel.”

This thinking inevitably caused the flight and expulsion in 1948 of between 750,000 and 900,000 native Palestinians, three-quarters of the total population of Mandate Palestine. A third of them had already been evicted by Jewish militias before Israeli statehood was declared, in line with Zionist strategy, and it was this Palestinian dispossession that formed the background to Resolution 194. Israel rejected UN demands root and branch, even though the terms of its admission to UN membership required adherence to UN resolutions, including 194. When the UN Mediator for Palestine, the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte, who was appalled by the refugees’ plight, tried to push for repatriation in line with Resolution 194, dissidents from the Irgun terror gang under Menachem Begin (who later became Israel’s prime minister) assassinated him in September 1948. Nothing since has succeeded in shifting Israel’s opposition. In sixty-seven years, it has not repatriated a single refugee or even apologised for its deeds in 1948, demanding instead that the refugees settle in other states and find compensation from international funds.

There is no doubt that this Israeli obduracy, supported by powerful Western states, has persuaded many in the Palestinian leadership to compromise on the right of return. And no wonder; every serious peace plan since Resolution 194 has foundered on the refugee question. Today, the refugee camps appear to be a permanent feature of the Arab countries in which they were established. The refugees and their descendants number some 5.8 million, living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, suspended in an anomalous existence, all too often without rights or a future. By what logic could the displaced Kosovans be repatriated in 1999, or the displaced people of Bosnia-Hertzogovina be offered return and compensation under a strict international administration with built-in monitoring, while the Palestinians remain in limbo?

Watering down the right of return, and pandering to Israel, is not the way to solve the problem. Only solutions that can reconcile the right of Palestinian return with the existence of an Israeli Jewish community which, whether we like it or not, now exists and has acquired rights too, can succeed. The two-state solution, currently promoted, cannot do this. There is only one solution for this sixty-seven year old impasse that addresses the rights of Palestinians, Israelis and the needs of justice. Difficult as it is to envisage, only a unitary state in Israel-Palestine can encompass the returning Palestinians and ensure the continued existence of an Israeli Jewish community, however egregious their presence in that land.

Neither side can win the war over exclusive ownership of historic Palestine. Israel’s attempt to do so has only caused unending conflict and suffering for Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. The UN made Israel and must now unmake it, not by expulsion and displacement as in 1948, but by converting its aggressive and hate-filled legacy into a future of hope for both peoples in one state. If that happens, the Palestinians’ right to return will have been fulfilled.

Ghada Karmi’s latest book, ‘Return: a Palestinian memoir’ is published by Verso.

]]> (Dr Ghada Karmi) Guest Writers Tue, 01 Sep 2015 06:00:00 +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
Syria: Where reason is crushed in the rush to war David Hearst

The First World War started over less. Jets from Turkey, a member of NATO, shot down a Sukhoi 24 fighter from Russia, a state with around 7,700 nuclear warheads, over Turkey’s border with Syria.

The circumstances and location of the shooting are, of course, in dispute. The Turks say it was over their air space, that they warned the Russian pilot 10 times in five minutes, and that they downed the plane "under rules of engagement".

The Russians say their plane was in Syrian air space and the country's president, Vladimir Putin, called its destruction "a stab in the back from the accomplices of terror" - meaning Turkey.

Needless to say, this did not come out of the blue. The territory where the Su-24 and its two pilots came down was in a border area controlled by Turkmens who are fighting for the overthrow of the Russian-backed Bashar al-Assad. Only last Friday the Turkish government summoned the Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov to protest at the "intense" Russian bombing of Turkmen villages close to the border.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, issued a detailed statement warning that the continued bombing of Turkmen villages could have serious consequences. He said: "Nobody can legitimise attacks targeting our Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish siblings there via claiming to have been fighting against terror."

Thousands of Turkmen have fled the bombing, and Turkey has been pressing for a meeting of the UN Security Council to protect the minority.

The insanity of intervention

This is only the latest chapter of insanity that is now foreign intervention in Syria. The club of interveners grows by the week. Last week it was France seeking revenge for the attacks on Paris. This week parliament in Britain may overturn its well-rehearsed objections to a bombing campaign in Syria.

What’s going on in Syria is collective, multilateral madness. The Russian, Iranians and Hezbollah are fighting all opposition forces to shore up Assad. Shia fighters in Iraq are welcoming the Russian bombing campaign, having been bombed, they claimed, by the US near Ramadi. The US are providing air cover and special forces units on the ground to back the advance of Peshmerga and Syrian Kurdish groups, but they will not advance further than their own territory.

The $500mn US “train and equip” programme collapsed after many of their Syrian fighters called Division 30 were captured by Jabhat al Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

The Jordanians have withdrawn support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades including the Southern Front group, which launched a series of offensives in June on the Syrian government’s positions in Daraa. The Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman said the attacks were chaotic and ineffective, but says it reached an agreement with Russia not to bomb the Southern Front.

Turkey is fighting the PKK-aligned PYD in northern Syria, while joining Saudi Arabia in backing Jaish al-Fatah, "the Army of Conquest", which includes in its command structure Jabhat al-Nusra.

What a perfect time for Britain to join the throng. Defying all evidence on the ground, David Cameron claimed in Paris on Monday that "the world was coming together" in its fight against the Islamic State. It was his firm conviction that the UK should join the airstrikes in Syria, and even before a vote in parliament, he revealed that Britain had offered France the use of the RAF base in Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Like Putin whose support for dictatorship in the Middle East is unwavering, Francois Hollande has made France a fully paid-up member of neo-conservative interventionism. He is talking and behaving exactly as George W Bush did in the aftermath of the 9/11 bombings. In fact Hollande is the new Bush. He is even going as far as establishing a French version of the US Patriot Act.

Before even the facts and the numbers of those who planned the raids in Paris on 13 November are known, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on France Inter: "We must fight against Islamism which is a pathology of Islam."

French fighters could be searching for a wide range of targets in Syria since Islamists - Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood - constitute the biggest single electoral bloc in most Arab countries. A Washington Institute poll found support for the Brotherhood running at about 30 per cent in the very Gulf states which have been doing their utmost to suppress it - the Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

A new cycle of madness

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the bitter memory of 14 years of catastrophically misjudged warfare in the Middle East have been jettisoned: the body counts; the civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes; the resurgence of the Sunni-Shia divide; the fracturing of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen; the interventions that Bush and Blair could start but never manage to finish; the inability to build a new state in the ruins of the old.

When Bush declared his "war on terror", the foreign (mainly Arab) militants fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan numbered 800. A young Jordanian from al-Zarqaa called Ahmad Fadhil al-Khalayleh had just 80 followers at a camp in Herat. In time he became known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and - like the Americans - moved his war to Iraq.

In 2015, and eight years after his death, there are between 20,000-30,000 fighters following Zarqawi's Takfiri sect in Iraq and Syria. Their reach on social media is much wider.

Stanley McChrystal, the one time US counter-insurgency star in Afghanistan who infamously boasted that he could “unpack democracy from the back of a Chinook”, claimed that IS reaches a daily audience of 100 million on social media.

The voices of reason are being drowned out in the call to arms. A sensible and well researched report by the Foreign Affairs Committee arguing why bombing Syria would be a disaster is being ignored, while its chairman Crispin Blunt has sadly switched sides in the debate.

It said there should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there was a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIS and of ending the civil war in Syria: ”In the absence of such a strategy, taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent."

It considered that the focus on the extension of air strikes against IS in Syria was "a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to the conflict in Syria and thereby removing one of the main facilitators of ISIS’s rise.

“We are not persuaded that talks involving all parties would be any more of an incentive for people to join ISIS than allowing the continuation of the chaos and conflict." These conclusions are more valid after the Paris attack than they were before it.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader who is pilloried and disparaged every working day, has been the subject of opprobrium - not least from his own party - for saying the obvious. Namely that Britain must not be "drawn into a response that feeds a cycle of violence and hate" following the Paris attacks.

Corbyn said: "The dreadful Paris attacks make the case for a far more urgent effort to reach a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Syria and the end to the threat from Isis. It is the conflict in Syria and the consequences of the Iraq war which have created the conditions for Isis to thrive and spread its murderous rule," he added.

“For the past 14 years, Britain has been at the centre of a succession of disastrous wars that have brought devastation to large parts of the wider Middle East. They have increased, not diminished, the threats to our own national security in the process."

No one is listening to him. History, recent history, tells us the West's response to terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid, Casablanca, London, and now Paris have a been an endlessly self-repeating disaster, spreading the flames, collapsing states, supporting dictators whose only mission in life is self-preservation, crushing any form of democratic expression, making war on moderates and extremists alike, and enlarging the ISIS fan club.

And the news is, we are just about to relive the whole cycle of the last 14 years - anger, revenge, mindless air strikes, civilian deaths and ultimately defeat and withdrawal all over again. Corbyn was right on Iraq in 2003 and he is right on Syria now.

This article was first published by

]]> (David Hearst) Middle East Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:32:16 +0000
Responses to Paris attack are playing into the terrorists’ hands Jessica Purkiss

In revenge for last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, the French air force dropped 20 bombs in one night on the Syrian city of Raqqa. It may well be the headquarters of Daesh, but Raqqa is also home to 500,000 civilians; the French bombing destroyed a command centre, training camp and munitions dump, it was claimed.

Other countries followed France’s lead; the US promised to step up its own airstrikes against the group, while British Prime Minister David Cameron said that it is his “firm conviction” that Britain should extend its airstrikes against Daesh targets. On the home-front, the focus has been on the security issues supposedly posed by British citizens who might harbour Daesh sympathies, along with the terrorists who may be hiding among Syrian refugees in Europe. While these responses have been formulated to tackle the extremist group, it is likely that Daesh will view them as a victory for its tactics.

Daesh has been attempting to draw Western countries, the US in particular, into the conflict in Syria for some time. The gruesomely awful beheading videos, some of which have addressed US President Barack Obama directly, are designed to do just that and have been successful; since September 2014, the US has been leading a coalition of states in a sustained aerial campaign against the group. As of 6 October this year, the US and its allies had conducted 57,843 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Syria. Despite the airstrikes, Daesh has still managed to advance; for example, in May it seized Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra just days after capturing Anbar’s provincial capital Ramadi, an hour away from Baghdad.

Some politicians are calling for stronger action against the group in the wake of the Paris attacks. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Grahame believes that the US should, “Go in on the ground and destroy their caliphate.” Presidential candidate Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon seeking the Republican nomination, said American troops on the ground would “probably” help the anti-Daesh effort.

In the words of counter-terrorism analyst Harleen Gambhir, Daesh deliberately "set a trap" for Europe with the Paris attack, a provocation seeking to set the conditions for an apocalyptic war. The extremists believe that everything which is happening is part of an “end of the world” process, leading to a showdown between an army of Muslims from across the world and the “crusaders”, which is said to be set to take place in the village of Dabiq, in Syria.

They have been seeking to bring forward that battle by goading the international coalition to confront it in Dabiq. In the video showing the beheading of US citizen Peter Kassig, his masked executioner announced, “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.” According to journalist Graeme Woods, during fighting in Iraq last December, perhaps inaccurate reports which claimed to have spotted US troops produced a rapturous response on Daesh Twitter accounts. Waging a war directly against the worlds’ superpowers will undoubtedly attract new recruits to the terrorists’ cause.

Former hostage Nicholas Henin believes that it is central to the group’s world view that other communities cannot live together with Muslims, and their antennae are tuned towards finding supporting evidence for this belief every day. As the news broke that the Paris attackers included French nationals and a Syrian refugee who had arrived in Europe via Greece (although this is now believed to be false), Daesh/ISIS is no doubt watching carefully.

In the aftermath of Paris, David Cameron has announced plans to host a donor conference early next year to raise "significant new funding" to “tackle” the flood of refugees coming from Syria. More than half of the state governors in the US — 26 states, in fact — have said that they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. Less than 24 hours after the tragedy, Poland’s incoming European affairs minister told the website that the country would pull back from an EU-wide quota commitment to relocate refugees across the continent. US politicians Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, meanwhile, even urged the US government only to allow Syrian Christians to go to America.

Europe’s increasingly popular right wing parties capitalised on the fear of “home-grown” terrorism to stoke up anti-Islam, anti-Muslim sentiment following Paris. On Monday, Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front Party, tweeted: "Islamic fundamentalism must be annihilated, radical mosques must be closed and radical imams must be expelled.” Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned that some Muslims in Britain are “conflicted in their loyalties.” Ordinary, non-threatening Muslims are already paying in the price in terms of Islamophobic attacks.

This response is exactly what Daesh is aiming for. Pledges to ignore refugee quotas do not protect European governments, they work in the extremists’ favour, whereas an organised programme of resettlement will enable Europe to screen refugees before they arrive and give governments a better chance of weeding out potential or actual terrorists. The images of Muslim refugees welcomed warmly by crowds of supporters in Germany, for example, demonstrate the opposite of what Daesh wants.

The group’s strategy is to polarise Western society. As it explained after last January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine, such events will lead, it hopes, to a situation where, “Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatise… or they [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the Crusader governments and citizens.” It calculates, according to Harleen Gambhir, that a small number of attackers can force a profound shift in the way that European society views its 44 million Muslim citizens and, as a result, the way that European Muslims view themselves.

France’s aerial bombing of Raqqa did not just hit an ISIS command centre, training camp and munitions dump, by the way; it also hit a stadium, museum, clinics, a hospital, a chicken farm and a local governmental building, killing and wounding civilians. Our response to Daesh/ISIS should be more humane; it is in this way that we can defeat the group, at least in terms of propaganda material. By overreaction, division, fear and prejudice, we are playing into the terrorists’ hands.

]]> (Jessica Purkiss) Europe Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:33:33 +0000
You don’t want the Brotherhood, take Daesh Helmi Al-Asmar

The accusation that has always been ready to be directed at the Muslim Brotherhood is that they are the allies of the system, any system. This accusation is based on a very important fact which is that the movement is not a secret movement, but rather sought official “licensing” from the state it is operating in, as it possesses a dynamic that enables it to adapt to the laws and constitutions adopted in their countries of operation. The movement adopted the method of participating in public life, adhering to the ballot boxes, and even acted as part of the executive authority in other countries. Wouldn’t it be easy to monitor and prevent the “danger” posed by a movement with such features and which operates in broad daylight within the rule of the law, according to the beliefs of the security forces in this country or that?

This movement actually played the role of a “sponge” absorbing the energy of the youth, as it was a haven for those enthusiastic about preaching, and every time the Muslim Brotherhood was persecuted and its headquarters were shut down, in any Arab country, the opportunity for the establishment of groups described as extremists arose. Perhaps Daesh, and before it Al-Qaeda, along with other Takfirist and violent groups are the starkest examples of this, especially since nature does not accept vacuums and the enormous youth energy could have filled the vacuum with an organised idea that serves the community instead of being filled with others.

The policy of “banning” the moderate Islamic groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, proved to be a failure. Not a failure to eliminate the idea on which the group was founded, rather the ban formed an incubator suitable for the growth of extremist and fanatical groups, such as Daesh and others. In addition to this, the Muslim Brotherhood is not an organisation, only a movement or action sense. It is an idea and a movement, and those who are ideologically affiliated with the “idea” are double and triple those who are organisationally affiliated with the movement. Banning the organisation undoubtedly is influential in the legal aspect, but not in the ideological aspect, as it has no impact at all. I would even go as far as saying that organisationally banning it would benefit it much more than it being an organisation above ground, with public headquarters and activities. This is because this group is much better at working far from the eye than working in broad daylight. In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood has mastered the role of being persecuted, imprisoned and banned more than it has mastered the role of promoting an official slogan.

History has proven that anyone that has banned the Muslim Brotherhood eventually disappeared, while the Brotherhood continued to grow, expand and multiply. If we consider that all the times the Muslim Brotherhood faced persecution and challenges in the Arab and Persian countries, it should have disappeared, but it survived and its opponents departed. This is not because its leaders are geniuses, but because it is a simple idea based on the foundations of its life, which is based on the simplicity of Islam and its nature. Therefore, it is impossible for any government to erase it from history, and even though there are those who were good at trying to do so, no one was better than General Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia or El-Bekbashi Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt.

There is a very important question circulating amongst the Arab elites: How can a state (any state) succeed in its war on the “extremist” jihadi groups, although they have also waged a war on the Muslim Brotherhood which has been, and still is, completely moderate, has always been part of the Arab political system, and effectively participated in political life even reaching the extent of being in a ministry? Who can convince the eager Muslim youth, after targeting the most moderate Islamic movement, of the feasibility or use of “peaceful” preaching efforts, adhering to the ballot boxes, and participating in the “democratic game”?

The policy of banning of the Muslim Brotherhood in a non-Arab country has provided a cover for other countries, such as Israel, to ban organisations with the same ideologies, even if they do not share the same name, such as the Islamic Movement in 48 Palestine, also known as the Southern Islamic Movement. This led some social networking activists to the conclusion that this group poses a “threat” to both the Arab governments and Israel. This necessarily means that the two sides are in the same trenches. It is unfortunate that they both receive great support from Western governments and they both receive military and economic aid that would allow them to adopt policies that would ultimately harm Western interests and open the opportunity to exporting “extremism” to them as long as these “extremists” do not have anywhere to express their opinions or to even live in light of dictatorship and tyranny. In other words, the brutality of the governments has led to the brutality of the organisations. In a world that has become as small as ours, where it is easy to move about and communicate with others, when any fire ignites in a country, there is no guarantee that the spark will not move to another country, even far away.

The West, and perhaps even the entire world, is now paying the price of their support for the tyrannical, oppressive and coup regimes because these regimes failed in the equation: feed them against hunger and security against fear. The eager youth are looking for themselves in the brutal regimes, after the brutality of the regimes turned them into creatures that prefer to ascend to the sky after the world has become too difficult for them, and they wouldn’t mind “killing” the “infidels” and anyone else they get their hands on, on their way to “getting closer to God”.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 19 November 2015.

]]> (Helmi Al-Asmar) Africa Thu, 19 Nov 2015 15:41:36 +0000
New heights of pandering to Israel in liberal America Asa WinstanleyThis week an influential think tank in the US invited the leader of Israel to address it in Washington DC. Nothing unusual in that you may think. True; except the group was the Center for American Progress, an organisation with close ties to the Democratic party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, is head of the right-wing Likud party and can in no way be described as a "progressive". CAP, under pressure from some liberal critics, justified the move claiming that they would ask Netanyahu tough questions and that they have a policy of engaging with people they may disagree with.

In the event, neither of these things was true. The "moderated conversation" totally pandered to Netanyahu. The host was CAP's president, Neera Tandem (a Hilary Clinton loyalist). She let him lie though his teeth about all sorts of important issues while he was free to launch his charm offensive to win back liberals in the US, some of whom have been growing increasingly critical of Israel in recent years.

The recent spat with Obama over the Iran deal may well have been a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (or in any event very little - just another way to get even more military aid out of the US). But it did have a certain effect on the liberal base, with more and more of the grassroots of Democratic party becoming sceptical of Israel. And with the fuss over Netanyahu being invited by the Republican party to address Congress earlier this year (a perceived snub of Obama) they had more reasons to be critical.

But these are narrow differences. No concern is shown there about the real issues: continuous and unrelenting Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land, denial of basic human rights to Palestinians and the most egregious of war crimes (551 Palestinian children were killed by Israel during the last war against Gaza alone).

But even those narrow differences were considered by CAP to be too much. Netanyahu – who politically speaking is a right-wing extremist by any reasonable standard – must be fully embraced by the supposedly-liberal organisation. Anything for Israel.

This phenomenon is what is often dubbed the "Progressive Except for Palestine" syndrome in the US. In other words, left-wingers or liberals who support progressive caused like gay marriage, civil rights and free speech issues; even anti-war causes – but not basic Palestinian human rights.

CAP is an organisation that is so dominated by this stifling pro-Israel status quo that it even in the past censored its own journalists, some of whom had dared write some very mildly critical things of Israel on its in-house blog, Think Progress. At some point, CAP even instituted a special editor past through whom all Israel-related articles had to be passed. This is an unprecedented level of censorship.

Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton did not submit one particular article to this special Editor For the Protection of Israel, because the article was about Islamophobia, and was not directly about Israel. But it did mention in passing that an Islamophobic hate film had been partly funded by individual Israeli donors. Even that was too much for CAP – all references to Israelis were disappeared from the article shortly after it was published.

Emails leaked to Glenn Greenwald's news site The Intercept recently show that this happened after long-time Democratic party operative Howard Wolfson (formerly a top aide to Hillary Clinton) wrote to CAP's Neera Tanden complaining about the blog post.

The whole affair was instructive, if rather dismaying.

But I found one particular comment by one player in this drama most illuminating for its frankness. Ann Lewis, another Clinton advisor, once said that "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties."

This was back in 2008, when Barack Obama was still campaigning to be president. He had reportedly held the view that to be pro-Israel he need not necessarily be pro-Likud. Lewis (supposedly a liberal, recall) was hitting back that the president should support Israel, right-or-wrong.

But what a give away that comment is! "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel." Astonishing if you think about it. Support Israelis no matter what?

Does that include the Israelis who in July burnt to death the Dawabshi family, including 18-month-old baby Ali? Does that include the crowds of Israelis who flock to the hills surrounding Gaza whenever their latest war against the Palestinians population is launched, in order to watch and (literally) to dance with joy?

Does that include the more than 90 percent of Israelis who supported that war (which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 (mostly civilian) Palestinians, including 551 children)? Does that include the majority of Israelis that polls consistently show openly support state-enforced racism and are proud of their hatred for Arabs?

Apparently so.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 14 Nov 2015 12:46:18 +0000
Palestinian youth and the ‘force of disobedience' Ben White

During the first nine months of 2015, Israel killed 26 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and injured, on average, 45 Palestinians every week. Over the last fortnight, the total Palestinian fatalities for the year have more than doubled, and the number of injuries has jumped off the charts.

At the time of writing, 33 Palestinians have been killed since October 1, the vast majority shot by Israeli occupation forces suppressing protests, in addition to those killed conducting attacks or alleged attacks against Israelis.

More than 2,000 Palestinians have been injured, including hundreds from live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets.

Is this the Third Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Are we witnessing the Third Intifada?

In January 2011, Tunisian activist Sadri Khiari wrote a short reflection on “the force of disobedience.” He began by noting how, over the years, he had read, endless academic studies of Tunisian politics, economics, ‘civil society’, and culture – but that there had been one thing missing: “the people.”

The people who disobey. The people who resist in the obscurity of everyday life. The people who, when forgotten too long, remind the world of their existence and break into history without prior notice.

According to Khiari, “there is no voluntary servitude”, merely “the impatient waiting that erodes the machinery of oppression. There is nothing but pressure day by day, minute by minute, to overthrow the oppressor.” So-called “compromises” are “almost always mixed with indiscipline, rebellion; molecular resistances that condense and explode into the view of all when the time comes.”

That time has come once again, but how it will evolve is unclear. Last week, I suggested that asking whether we are witnessing the birth of a new intifada is be distracted by names and definitions: more important is a clear picture of the facts on the ground. These tell us that “a new tide of Palestinian rebellion has been rising for the last few years.”

The current revolt is characterised by its spontaneity, the participation of youth, and the marginalisation – or outright rejection – of factional involvement. In the words of a Palestinian researcher specialising in mass movements, it is “a new generation of Palestinian rebellion”

Mahmoud Abbas and the PA security forces have, unsurprisingly, not budged from their opposition to a wider uprising. Abbas reportedly plans a ‘PR offensive’ next week on Israeli television. But the PA is not just an obstacle to a widening of the revolt – it is one of the reasons for its eruption.

Thus young Palestinians talk of the need to create organisational structures “apart from the political establishment”, and that for the uprising to sustain its momentum, “networks of communal solidarity and horizontal support” must expand “to become a social movement.”

Of course, history can be a teacher – but it can also mislead. The First and Second Intifadas were completely different in nature, and we may search them in vain for simple clues about how to identify a third – or how such an uprising would develop.

Rather than look to a history of intifadas, the present rebellion might be better understood through a different chronology: one that includes the 15 March youth protests of 2011, Nakba Day demonstrations the same year, hunger strike solidarity activism, and the ‘Stop Prawer’ campaign of 2013. Now, in 2015, Palestinian youth across their historic homeland have seized the initiative again.

This week, I remembered an article written by Palestinian political prisoner Ameer Makhoul who, reflecting from his Israeli jail cell on the Arab revolts in 2011, wrote how “in a dictatorship, everything goes well until the last 15 minutes.”

This is not intended to sound like fatalistic triumphalism, but rather speaks to the reality addressed by Khiari. “There is no oppression without resistance”, he wrote. “There is only time stretching more or less slowly before unexpected—or out of sight—the collective heroism of a people arises.”

Netanyahu, with his appeals for ‘calm’ and ‘stability’, seeks a return to a quiet occupation, with Palestinian resistance ‘out of sight’. For now, at least, Palestinian youth are intent on defying him.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 16 Oct 2015 13:11:40 +0000
Israel’s role in the Guatemalan genocide Nick RodrigoOn 1 September, Alejandro Maldonado was installed as Guatemalan president. The choice was controversial due his role in nullifying the conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who had been sentenced for acts of genocide during the civil war. This thirty-six year war was a particularly brutal episode in Guatemala’s troubled postcolonial history and still leaves deep wounds, particularly on the collective psyche of the country’s Mayan population. Israel’s support of Guatemala government forces during this time is an example of Zionist foreign policy at its most calculated.

During the 1960s the entrenched status of servitude and poverty for Guatemala’s Mayan peasantry led to a series of armed and unarmed insurrectionary movements in the countryside. The state responded with unbridled brutality, attacking anyone deemed to be a dissident, including Mayan activists and trade unionists. In 1982, a coup brought Rios Montt to power; in the same year an Inter-American Human Rights Commission issued a report pointing the blame at the Guatemalan government for thousands of illegal executions and missing persons in the 1970s, particularly against campensinos and Indians. The following year Montt deployed the “Firjoles y Fusiles” (beans and guns) campaign which was essentially a scorched earth military programme against “unruly” villages. Taking on the tactics of his predecessors, Montt entrenched agricultural resettlement schemes into the military’s counterinsurgency plans. His successors emulated his pacification techniques in an attempt to destroy indigenous life and rural existence, replacing it with agricultural cooperatives that maintained the feudal status quo. By the time that the UN had brokered peace in 1996, the UN-backed Historical Clarification Commission estimated the total number of deaths at around 250,000. The report, in line with the findings of a Catholic Church-sponsored truth commission, found that the state’s military operations had a disproportionate toll on indigenous communities, including more than 600 massacres, but also incidents of torture, rape and forced displacement.

Rios Montt finally faced justice on 10 May 2013. Convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Dozens of survivors gave testimony at his trial; some were women who had been raped repeatedly, others were children when the Guatemalan forces attacked their villages. The killings, displacement and disappearances carried out under Montt and other Guatemalan leaders could not have been conducted to such effect without the special relationship that the country enjoyed with Israel, which extended from agricultural assistance to counterinsurgency techniques.

Beans, guns and training: Zionist support of Guatemalan state repression

Six years before the “Beans and Guns” campaign ripped through Mayan village life, the Israeli government initiated a two-year programme for Guatemalan officials to study agricultural schemes in Israel. The Kibbutzim pioneer culture of Zionism shares much with the Gaucho frontierism of colonial and postcolonial Latin America, and in the 1978-1979 period, about 1,000 Guatemalans were trained by Israeli settlement study centres in Rohovot and other areas. When the Guatemalan congress gave Israel its highest honour in 2009, the speaker commented, “If there is thriving agriculture, it’s an Israeli contribution.” In reality, there is no thriving agriculture which benefits Guatemalans today, with hundreds of thousands of rural families dependent upon aid.

By the late 1970s, reports of human rights abuses by US-trained and armed Guatemalan soldiers were causing headaches for the Carter administration in Washington; the US congress subsequently suspended military aid in 1977. Within months, Israel had stepped in to fill the void with President Ephraim Katzir signing an agreement for military assistance. According to the Stockholm Institute for Peace, Israel supplied Guatemala with $38 million worth of arms during the civil war period. This included Arava aircraft, artillery pieces and gunboats. The Galil assault rifle, an Israeli-made weapon, was standard issue for the Guatemalan army by 1980, with the state owned small-arms production facility in Alta Verapaz producing its ammunition under Israeli licence. Indeed, corporate enterprise was a significant aspect of Israel’s involvement in the Guatemalan civil war, with a number of Israeli firms active on Guatemalan territory, providing services ranging from military equipment to radar control systems to water development projects. Israel also utilised its shadowy arms industry to avoid embarrassing the US, often shuttling arms to Guatemala through intermediaries, normally retired generals and “securocrats” with dual nationalities. In June 1977, Barbados customs agents discovered a shipment of 26 tons of arms and ammunition destined for Guatemala from Israel in an Argentinian cargo plane; similar shipments were discovered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Reagan’s election in 1979 and his policy of containment in Central America were exploited by Israel. The late Ariel Sharon engineered a relationship with the US in which Israel would carry out much of its dirty work in the region, in a bid to cement a closer relationship and align the countries’ geostrategic interests. This included funnelling weapons to Nicaragua and El Salvador. In a special report by the New York Times in 1983, it was noted that Israel had a role in supplementing US strategic interests.

Israel had contributed considerably to Guatemala’s counterinsurgency programme by the late 1980s, with at least 300 retired and Israeli government affiliated trainers active in the country, passing-on expertise on everything ranging from computer tracking of insurgents and activists through complex snooping techniques, to training elite troops known as “Kaibiles” for the rural pacification programme.

Nicaragua vs USA: The framework for reparations from Israel

In the International Court of Justice case Nicaragua vs USA, America was forced, due to its military and paramilitary acts in Nicaragua, to pay compensation to the Nicaraguan people. There are a number of merits from this ruling which could be used to draw up a case against Israel. Under paragraph 220 of the case it notes that states are obliged to refrain from encouraging a party to commit violations or provide concrete assistance: “The United States is thus under an obligation not to encourage persons or groups engaged in the conflict in Nicaragua to act in violation of the provisions of Article 3 common to the four 1949 Geneva conventions.” Under the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation, it states:

4. In cases of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law constituting crimes under international law, States have the duty to investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, the duty to submit to prosecution the person allegedly responsible for the violations and, if found guilty, the duty to punish her or him […]

Israel’s work in providing Guatemala with military advisors and technical assistance to Rios Montt could constitute such “assistance” for a Guatemalan to conduct genocide and violations of international humanitarian law.

Solidarity of rights

What is most remarkable about the tactics used by the Guatemalan government against the indigenous communities is how much they emulate strategies used by Israel to control and break those under its military occupation. Development towns and forced displacement are official policy used by Israel against its Bedouin population; a scorched earth policy was deployed in South Lebanon; counterinsurgency techniques used by the Shin Bet are deployed to stifle popular protest by Palestinians. Truth, reconciliation and reparations are amongst the hardest of socio-legal programmes to implement. It has been a long and torturous process for Guatemala’s impoverished and marginalised communities to extract confessions from those guilty of atrocities committed during the war. Any admittance of guilt from Israel, in complicity with Guatemalan state crimes, will be difficult to ascertain. Israel’s intricate web of lobby groups, as well as one of the strongest legal defence teams in the world, would make the task difficult. Nevertheless, by bringing a case to the ICJ, a deeper bond of solidarity between Guatemala’s oppressed peoples and their natural allies in Palestine could well be fostered.

]]> (Nick Rodrigo) Americas Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:24:00 +0000
Israel shows its true colours as use of the A-word increases Chris McGrealIt's difficult to say exactly when the taboo was broken.

Was it when former US President Jimmy Carter put the word "apartheid" in the title of his book to sound a warning to Israel? Was it when South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the situation in the Palestinian territories struck him as worse than the white racist regime he'd lived under? Or was it when the A-word began spilling from the lips of former Israeli prime ministers?

Chris McGreal is a reporter for the Guardian who was based in Johannesburg during the last years of apartheid and in Jerusalem during the second intifada. He is now reporting from the US. Before joining the Guardian, Chris was a journalist for the BBC World Service in Mexico and Central America during the 1980s.

Chris McGrealIt's difficult to say exactly when the taboo was broken.

Was it when former US President Jimmy Carter put the word "apartheid" in the title of his book to sound a warning to Israel? Was it when South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the situation in the Palestinian territories struck him as worse than the white racist regime he'd lived under? Or was it when the A-word began spilling from the lips of former Israeli prime ministers?

A decade ago, pointing out the parallels between the policies of successive Israeli governments and the political system of the old South Africa generally invited abuse and scorn. Uri Davis did it in his landmark book Israel: An Apartheid State in 1987. Others ventured there too, but pro-Israel activists on the right and left worked hard to delegitimise discussion of the myriad of similarities by dismissing it as unworthy of serious debate or claiming it had the stink of anti-Semitism.

I know this because in 2006, as a reporter for the Guardian who worked in Johannesburg and then Jerusalem, I explored the apartheid parallel in a couple of long articles (to be found here and here) prompting a predictable barrage of denunciations. The soon-to-be editor of London's Jewish Chronicle compared me to the Holocaust-denying leader of Iran: "Other than the desire to drop a nuclear weapon on Israel, there appears to be not a cigarette paper between McGreal and President Ahmadinejad."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews sent a delegation to confront the Guardian's editor and created a small stir by swearing at him.

A pro-Israel pressure group in the US, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera), filed the longest submission in the British Press Complaints Commission's history, running to around 35,000 words. It was a brazen attempt to impose an invented history, even going so far as to deny Israel's persistent and well documented obsession with demographics and the number of Arabs in its orbit, as well as laying amorphous charges of "denying the historic rights of the Jewish people" and "showing contempt for Zionism".

Tellingly, Camera – which bears the hallmarks of a Jewish supremacist organisation in its contorted defence of settlers and occupation - argued that discrimination against Arabs with Israeli citizenship was legitimate if it was by private organisations.

The PCC ruled against the group on every part of its complaint and added a heart-warming coda about freedom of speech. That touched on the real issue. Camera wasn't interested in accuracy. It wanted to harass, intimidate and shut down any talk about Israel and apartheid.

These were standard tactics.

Camera took a full page advert in the New York Times to denounce Carter for his book, "Palestine: peace not apartheid" and set about harassing his publisher. A group of American Jews filed a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages on the grounds that the former president's book "misled" readers with information that "defamed Israel".

Archbishop Tutu, a courageous leader against apartheid, was the target of a sustained vilification campaign. Alan Dershowitz, the American constitutional lawyer and self-appointed defender of Israel who once said that "there is a special place in hell for Jimmy Carter", accused Tutu of being an anti-Semite and "one of the most evil men in the world".

This kind of aggression was driven by particular alarm over the sticking of the apartheid label on Israel because it challenges the myth that decades of occupation, settlements and denial of many basic human rights are a necessary evil that the Palestinians have brought on themselves. If Israel is deliberately imposing a form of apartheid, then something else is behind it; racism.

The attempt to hold the line that there are no grounds for discussion of apartheid in Israel was breached fatally when the country's own political leaders, former intelligence chiefs and parts of its media began touting the idea. They included former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Barak warned that so long as Israel governs the Palestinians and Palestinians don't have a vote, "that will be an apartheid state."

Ami Ayalon, the ex-head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service, has said that his country already has "apartheid characteristics."

The idea has even strayed into the highest levels of the US government. Last year, Secretary of State John Kerry dared to warn that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state if it didn't end the occupation. Kerry was forced to apologise for using the A-word but he did so in a manner which suggested that he regretted the political backlash not the thought.

The only thing Kerry got wrong was the tense. The risk is not of a future apartheid state. It's already here and increasingly difficult to deny. The inexorable expansion of Jewish settlements, the construction of the West Bank separation barrier to grab yet more territory and the carving out of the de facto Palestinian Bantustans are there for all to see.

Some of the most powerful politicians in Israel no longer even bother to pay lip service to a two state solution buried under a rising tide of Jewish nationalism and overt denial of the right of Palestinians to a say in the system that rules over them.

In the face of this, the perennial apologists for Israeli government policies have set up a new defensive line. Some are now prepared to acknowledge that there is indeed something resembling apartheid in the West Bank but insist that there are no parallels within Israel proper. It's a convenient distinction because it perpetuates the lie that systematic discrimination in the occupied territories is the product of conflict with the Palestinians when it is has been rooted in Israel's treatment of its own Arab citizens for decades.

Its falsity has been made blindingly clear by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party and its allies in government.

There has been no shortage of racists in previous Israeli administrations which tolerated ministers who advocated ethnic cleansing, who called Palestinians a "cancer" and "lice", and who made it clear that Israel's Arab citizens remained on sufferance. But they generally paid lip service to the rule of law and Israel as a democracy.

Now even that is being stripped away. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a former director of Netanyahu's office, has had no compunction about expounding her views in support of the colonisation of Palestinian territory, that there should never be a Palestinian state or that the entire Palestinian people are "the enemy".

Shaked, though, represents something more. As justice minister she is at the forefront of a political movement that unashamedly subordinates Israel's already compromised democracy to the grab for land and Jewish domination.

Her particular target is Israel's Supreme Court which has had the temerity to rule that the country's Arab citizens have equal rights. Many Palestinian Israelis will tell you that they don't in practice and the highest court in the land has been cautious to ensure that its rulings do not go too far to challenge systematic discrimination. But even that has been too much.

With a background in the tech industry not law, Shaked came into office saying that she would not allow the legal system to "eat away" at the power of the politicians.

The Israeli right has grown increasingly exasperated with the Supreme Court. It was particularly angered when the court struck down a decades-old system of discrimination which permitted residents of smaller towns and villages to veto potential Arab neighbours. It was also used by the state-run Israel Lands Authority to reserve vast tracts of the country for Jews only and to keep Arab citizens confined to towns with bad infrastructure, fewer jobs and second-rate schools.

The court ruled that the system of "admissions committees" was illegal after it was challenged by a Palestinian-Israeli nurse. The decision sent a shudder through the Israeli right. Local councils cooked up new rules for residents of their towns, such as demanding service in the military, knowing that only Jews are conscripted, and requiring pledges of support for "Zionist values".

Leading rabbis issued a religious ruling forbidding houses to be rented to non-Jews. One rabbi said that it was to stop "Arabs setting down roots in Israel." Another defended the measure by arguing that "racism originated in the Torah."

The ruling coalition in Israel's parliament rushed to circumvent the court ruling, passing a law which legalised the committees and permitted towns to turn away potential residents who "fail to meet the fundamental views of the community" or do not fit into its social fabric. The loose wording of the law deliberately left room for creative interpretation.

MPs were frank about the intent. One of them, David Rotem, said that it would ensure that there were towns for "people who want to live with other Jews." He advanced the unusual argument that freedom means deciding who can live on your street. "In a democratic state," he explained, "each one of us has got to be allowed to choose who he wants to be his neighbours." Other MPs said openly that Arabs should not be regarded as full citizens.

Tel Aviv's Haaretz newspaper described the admissions committee law as an "outrageous attempt to preserve Jewish purity." A former cabinet minister put it another way. It was, he said, "a law that reeks of apartheid.".

The legal and political struggle over acceptance committees kindled a campaign to amend Israel's Basic Law, its de facto constitution, to subordinate equality of all its citizens in favour of stipulating that the Jewish majority has superior rights. Among other things, the changes would require courts to put Jewish identity before democratic considerations in cases about equal rights.

Netanyahu gave his endorsement to the change that would define Israel as "the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people". The right-wing economy minister and leader of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett, backed the amendment by saying that Israel should have "zero tolerance" for the aspirations of its Arab population.

Now Shaked wants to weaken the powers of Israel's Supreme Court to ensure that it does not again rule in favour of equality. At least equality for Arabs.

None of this has anything to do with occupation. It has everything to do with apartheid.

]]> (Chris McGreal) Guest Writers Sat, 01 Aug 2015 06:00:00 +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
The meddling West offers the Arab world no solution Yvonne Ridley

The Arab world is in chaos, so much so that artificial borders drawn carefully by Western imperialists a hundred years ago have today become meaningless. Colonial powers like Britain and France are now beginning to taste the unwelcome fruits of those ruler-straight lines mapped out in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. You reap what you sow.

They and other European powers, along with America and Russia, are bombing the region to try to get rid of an enemy which has evolved and thrived from the mass of discontent caused directly by constant Western meddling.

Not surprisingly, the Arab people are on the move in their millions; many displaced by war, some wanting to escape the tyranny of despots parachuted into power long ago by the West, while others fear with justification the brutality and subjugation of the rapidly-growing Daesh roadshow. In short, Arabs no longer recognise their historic homelands.

Little wonder that hundreds of thousands are heading towards Europe after decades of tyranny, war and oppression have robbed them of hope or a future for themselves and the generations yet to be born. The latest Middle East exodus should come as no surprise because these are people who have been robbed of their identities and sense of belonging. It is no coincidence that refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and beyond share the same surnames despite the vast geographic differences in their places of birth. They come from the Arab world where movement was once unhindered and the land was free of dictatorship and tyranny.

The eruption of the Arab Spring was, in hindsight, unsurprising, but what the majority of people wanted arguably wasn’t democracy but the restoration of a unity which defined them, regardless of faith, not by nationality but as Arabs. It was undermined by surviving dictatorships elsewhere in the region; it was also a missed opportunity for Western powers to put things right after so much destructive meddling over the decades.

The clock cannot be turned back, just as the refugees and asylum seekers from across the old Arab world will probably not be convinced to go back, for the simple reason that they no longer know where home is. It’s been blitzed by Western bombs, attacked by Daesh and brutalised by tyrants. Ask yourself this: what would make you want to stay in the region?

While the West tried to force the Arab world to live behind colonial borders created without consultation, it is ironic that the only state now which operates without defined borders is Israel. That’s another Western creation which has grabbed land in Syria and Lebanon as well as Palestine, of course, making it impossible for any cartographer to draw an accurate map of where the Zionist State begins and ends.

And so it squats there, in the middle of Arab lands, like a festering, running sore which its Arab neighbours have been told to accept or endure in silence. What the region needs is justice and not more bombs; you’d think that the fourth consecutive US president to blitz Iraq would have learnt that lesson, but Barak Obama appears to be as gung-ho as his predecessors.

European leaders are no better, equally bereft of ideas and panicking now as their morally vile military invasions are coming back to haunt them and us, their citizens. The Paris killings, Madrid bombings, 7/7, 9/11, the downing of passenger planes and ramped-up security so that our streets look like war zones are all a direct consequence of reckless western meddling overseas. The heart-breaking arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers is now threatening to divide Europe and has caused inter-state squabbling.

We are six months away from the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which the British and French carved-up Ottoman territory even before they had any hold over it. It was an obscene deal cut by Britain and France with the backing of Russia. The anniversary presents Western governments with a challenge to put things right and unpick the damage caused 100 years ago when they dismembered the Arab world with made-up frontiers, invented nations and cooked-up kingdoms.

Only by unpicking the damage caused by the past can we hope to give a future to the Arab people and ourselves. If that all sounds a little insane, just think back two years, when British Prime Minister David Cameron's solution for peace in the region was to bomb President Bashar Al-Assad and his forces; today he wants to bomb Daesh with the backing of Assad and his allies.

There are many problems in the Middle East today, of which Daesh is, without doubt, a major example. The even bigger problem, though, is that on the evidence available so far, the West has proved that it can never be, or provide, the solution.

]]> (Yvonne Ridley) Middle East Tue, 24 Nov 2015 17:31:58 +0000
Egyptian army contaminates Palestinian soil on Gaza border The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since mid-2007, has called on Egypt a number of times to stop pumping seawater into the Palestinian soilEXCLUSIVE IMAGES & VIDEO 

Walking along the Palestine-Egypt border between the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula nowadays is a dangerous adventure. You might, for example, fall deep underground in a hole made by the seawater pumped into the area by the Egyptian army.

Huge water pipes have been installed along the border and the seawater is pumped through in order, it is claimed, to “destroy the smuggling tunnels” which are allegedly used by terrorists to attack Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. Such tunnels are, in fact, known widely as Gaza’s “lifeline”, used to smuggle basic necessities in order to break the Israeli-led siege of the enclave since 2007.

The siege was tightened after the ouster of the first ever freely-elected Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, on 30 July, 2013. The army, which carried out a coup and now governs Egypt, immediately closed the Rafah border crossing and started a war against the tunnels.

“Like a spring”

Abdul-Rahman Ali, a member of the Palestinian National Service movement, serves in one of the security bases scattered along the border. He described how he was surprised when he saw the seawater coming out of the ground.

“The first time I saw this was about five weeks ago,” Ali told me. “I was patrolling the border with two of my colleagues. Suddenly, we saw water coming out from the ground like a spring. We were shocked.”

When they got closer, he explained, they tasted it and realised that it wasn’t fresh spring water. He hadn’t heard about the Egyptian installation of the pipes for the purpose of flooding the tunnels.

“I contacted the operation room, informed them about the situation and they contacted water and soil experts who came to the area. We were all surprised to see these ‘springs’ in other places as well.”


Abu-Lo’ai, the owner of a tunnel, spoke to MEMO on condition of anonymity. He said that his tunnel is still undamaged, but he has suspended its use and sent the workers away.

“I feel it is dangerous because another tunnel, just 15 metres away from mine, was flooded with seawater and large parts of it were damaged. I am afraid that today, tomorrow or after tomorrow the water will affect my tunnel.”

He spoke about dozens of tunnels which were filled completely with seawater and either partially or completely damaged.

However, he said that this is not such a “chronic” problem because he believes that he and his colleagues will find a solution. The problem that Abu-Lo’ai is afraid of is that the soil might become instable and this could cause landslides.

Engineer Usama Abu-Nqirah, the Director of the Environment and Hygiene Department in the municipality of Rafah, has similar concerns. He said that there were a number of landslides and warned of more if the seawater continues to be pumped in.

“There were only a couple of landslides, but there are dozens of cracks along the border and the ground is expected to subside, making huge holes if more and more water is used,” he explained. Abu-Nqirah also warned that soil instability jeopardises residential buildings in the area as there is a lot of subsidence just metres away from a large building in the city.

The Egyptian army knew the potential effects of the seawater and kept them in mind when local residents were evacuated from what is now a wide buffer zone along the Egyptian side of the border. In Gaza, however, there are residential buildings just 50 metres from the border fence.

Aquifer damage

In addition to contaminating the soil with so much salt, destroying the tunnels and threatening homes, pumping seawater into the soil damages the natural aquifers, which are already depleted and polluted by the Israeli occupation. “The Palestinian aquifers are depleted by the Israelis, who dig wells thousands of metres deeper than ours,” said Abu-Nqirah. “They steal our fresh water and seawater slowly seeps in to take its place.”

Such abuse of the soil accelerates an increase in saline levels in the aquifers, he pointed out. “They pour a huge amount of salty water into the soil, which should only be absorbing fresh rain water.” Abu-Nqirah said that international water experts warned of “massive and dangerous” consequences for the environment as a result of the Egyptian army project, mainly regarding the aquifers.

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since mid-2007, has called on Egypt a number of times to stop pumping seawater into the Palestinian soil. However, the Egyptians insist that this is essential to protect their national security. During his visit to Cairo last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists that he is aware of all Egyptian measures taken on the Gaza border.

Images by MEMO correspondent in Gaza, Motasem A Dalloul.

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]]> (Motasem A Dalloul) Africa Fri, 20 Nov 2015 13:12:52 +0000
War comes home John Keane“War in the heart of Paris” screams the headline of Le Figaro. Scenes of carnage, troops on the streets, politicians speaking, sirens in the background, terrified people in tears. The unfolding state of emergency triggers strange thoughts in my political head, but I try to pause. In exceptional moments like these, I remind myself, old-fashioned virtues are vital. Emotional distance, clear-headed thinking and prudent judgements become indispensable. So I ask: Setting aside all the media chatter and clatter, what do these local Paris events mean for the wider world? Will they have unintended effects? Might the cruel attacks have a broader historical significance?

We can’t yet be sure of the answers, or even whether these are the right questions, but already some things ought to be clear. The attackers knew well what they were doing. Their violence was neither “mindless” nor “irrational” nor “mediaeval” nor somehow based on or guided by the Qur'an. In style and substance, the Paris violence was thoroughly 21st-century. Operating through decentralised shadowy networks, the attackers engaged in a type of “connective action”. They were loosely coordinated and well-equipped, thanks to the unregulated treachery of the global arms trade. AK-47 Kalashnikovs come dirt-cheap these days; their average global price is now just over $500, but often less. With guns in hand and bombs strapped to bellies, the attackers' sense of political timing and mise en scène proved impeccable. They knew the arts of situationist pranking, détournement and staging a global media event. In less than two hours of brutal murder, seven men in three teams managed to grab headlines on every conceivable news platform, everywhere on the face of our planet.

Instant publicity on this scale is a remarkable achievement. So, too, is the reminder issued by the attackers to Europeans, and to the rest of the world, of some plain political truths. In every actually existing democracy, religious politics is back. French-style secularism (“La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale” says its constitution) is no workable or legitimate peace formula. French laïcité is a problem, not a solution. In the name of ridding the polity of bigotry, as I explained earlier this year, the bigoted secularist insistence that “reasonable” men and women must leave God not for other gods, but for no god, compounds the felt indignity of Muslims and stirs up serious political and religious troubles.

The Paris attacks have other significance. They’re a disturbing reminder of the deepening world-wide civil war among Muslims. The Paris carnage also makes clear that the so-called “war on terror” doesn’t work. Alain Gresh, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique magazine, has said it well: “We have been in this war against terror for years and years, and [yet] we have more terror.” Above all, the Paris violence teaches us that the American-led strategy of swapping boots on the ground with new forms of war built on air power and robotics cannot be body-bag free. Calling on Muslims everywhere to fight the “infidels” using all available arms and “poison”, the attackers have brought the war home, to the civilised streets of Paris. Other cities will soon be targeted. Mumbai, Beirut, Madrid, Boston, Grozny, London, Moscow, Damascus, Sydney, Paris … Which city will be next?

Of course, there are those who are saying loudly, and in language much too self-righteously flowery for my taste, that the organised violence against French civilians is an attack on people everywhere. Barack Obama has a point: the Paris violence is indeed an assault on “all of humanity and the universal values that we share”. But as the Iranian scholar Hamid Dabashi has just noted, the strange and hypocritical thing is that similar attacks on civilians in the cities of Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iraqi, Somalia, Palestine and other places are never greeted with the same public outcry, or moral indignation. Why is this? Aren’t these also attacks on “all of humanity and the universal values that we share”? So why do democracies harbour double standards? Why do we keep bombing and bullying people who are determined to take revenge on us? Surely there will be no peace until we find other ways of compromise and reconciliation?

French President François Hollande has said the Paris attacks are nothing short of “an act of war”. In an effort to play the role of Charles de Gaulle in a national emergency, and to save his political skin, he will soon be addressing an extraordinary session of the parliament. The country will observe three days of official mourning. Yet regional elections are scheduled for next month, and we should not be surprised if the French far right led by Marine Le Pen makes substantial gains. Ignorant talk of “terrorism”, “Islamic militants” and “national security” will flourish. The hateful baiting of Muslims by perfectly civilised French citizens will continue to function as the new anti-Semitism of our times. For all Muslims everywhere, not just in France, life will become much less pleasant. Not even those fleeing for their lives will be safe. With poisonous media coverage and rumours circulating that one or two attackers may have passed recently through Greece from Syria, the tens of thousands of Muslims fleeing the violent destruction of their homelands will be greeted in Europe by ever taller walls of bigotry, targeted violence and state hostility. European democracies will continue to be transformed into garrison states wrapped in barbed wire and total surveillance. And the war will go on, not just in the heartlands of the Muslim world, and in Europe, but in the rest of the world as well.

The author is a Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney. This article was first published by The Conversation

]]> (John Keane) Europe Tue, 17 Nov 2015 13:48:39 +0000
The Israeli plot to jail Raed Salah – part 2 of 2 Sheikh Raed SalahSince the start of October, at least 61 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces (although the death toll is rising, literally as I type) and ten Israelis (often soldiers) have been killed by Palestinians - usually youths armed with knives at the absolute end of their tether.

Sheikh Raed Salah

Read part one here.

Since the start of October, at least 61 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces (although the death toll is rising, literally as I type) and ten Israelis (often soldiers) have been killed by Palestinians - usually youths armed with knives at the absolute end of their tether.

During this time, the Israelis have claimed that increasing tensions around al-Aqsa are nothing more than mindless Palestinian incitement aimed at attacking Jews for the sake of it, and all the talk of Israeli encroachment is nothing more than Hamas and Fatah propaganda.

But the reality is very different.

A host of perfectly legal Israeli settlers' groups openly incite for the destruction of the Mosque and have made detailed plans about the "Third Temple" they want to replace it with. Traditional Orthodox Jewish theology held the Temple Mount to be the site of the "Holy of Holies" from the Biblical stories (the physical site of God's presence manifest on earth) so it was considered far too sacred for Jews to enter. So these efforts are nothing to do with Jewish religious freedom, and everything to do with anti-Palestinian and anti-Islamic provocation and are yet another part of Israel's long-term project to erase the Palestinians entirely from their own homeland.

As an example take Yehuda Glick, an American settler and a key leader in the "Temple activist" movement. Glick likes to tour other settlers and prospective around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound showing them what it would look like after the destruction of the site and its replacement with a Temple. This is perfectly legal under the occupation "status quo" Israel has enforced since 1967, but it is not hard to see why it makes Palestinians nervous, despite Netanyahu's instance they they are protesting about nothing. There is a precedent after all.

The Ibrahimi Mosque, a Palestinian religious site in Hebron which dates back to the 7th century has been partly seized by Israel for use as a Jewish religious site. This move too took place incrementally, with gradual moves soon after the Israeli occupation of Hebron began in 1967, but it was only in the mid-1990s when part of the Mosque was fully seized a a synagogue. It's not too hard to imagine Israel doing something similar in Jerusalem.

Indeed, only last year Israeli legislators from both Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the supposedly left-wing Labour party proposed a bill that would allow Jews to hold prayer services at the al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first time in history.

It is because of such aggressive moves that popular Palestinian protest has often focused on Jerusalem's religious sites. And it is that same popular movement that Raed Salah has long been renowned as a leader of.

It is for that very reason that Israel this week has finally decided to throw Salah in jail, on a trumped-up charge of "inciting violence" because of a 2007 speech he made to a group of protesters outside of Jerusalem's Old City protesting against Israeli aggression in the city.

This same speech has been used by Israel to pursue Salah for years. They even used a fabricated interpretation of it during a 2011 visit by Salah to the UK to encourage the British authorities to arrest and imprison Salah – which they did, as I reported on for The Electronic Intifada in detail at the time. Salah was ultimately vindicated by the courts, but it was yet another sign of the lengths Israel will go to to persecute its enemies.

Salah is not involved in any kind of armed struggle whatsoever, so Israel uses any and all nefarious methods it can think of against him. These may even have gone as far as attempted assassination attempts.

During the 2010 Israeli massacre that targeted the Mavi Marmama, the Turkish ship full of activists that had been headed to break the illegal Israeli siege on Gaza, one of the ten Turks murdered by Israel (nine died at the time and a further one died in a coma years later), Ibrahim Bilgen, bore a resemblance to Salah (who was also on the same ship) and was apparently specifically targeted by the Israeli soldiers. It may well have been a case of mistaken identity, as Salah alleged at the time.

Also in 2010, secret video footage showed that the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, had attempted to persuade Chaim Pearlman, a known extremist Jewish settler, to assassinate Salah. In the video the Shin Bet agent, who befriended Pearlman and was known as “Dada,” can be heard exhorting him both to go to an “Arab village” to “turn it into a fireworks display” and to execute Salah.

Last year, Netanyahu also moved towards banning Salah's movement, comparing it to the Kach, the Jewish terrorist organisation banned in 1994 after one of its members had murdered 29 Palestinians worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque. This despite the fact that the Islamic Movement is a purely non-violent political group.

So the long campaign against Salah continues. Even after his 11-month jail sentence, set to begin this month, it seems unlikely either that Salah will submit to their will or that the popular movement he leads will die.

The Palestinian struggle will continue for as long as Israeli occupation does.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Mon, 02 Nov 2015 13:11:21 +0000
A new intifada? You're asking the wrong question Palestinian man being arrested by Israeli soldiersOver the last few days, one question has been repeated over and over again: are we witnessing the beginning of a new intifada in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)?

It is understandable that people are asking this: more than 500 Palestinians were injured in confrontations with Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank over 72 hours – a third of whom were shot with live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets.

Since last Thursday, four Israelis and four Palestinians have been killed in different incidents in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The latest fatality was a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, shot and killed by an Israeli soldier in Aida refugee camp in northern Bethlehem on Monday.

But debating whether or not the ongoing clashes constitute a third intifada is less useful than an assessment of the facts, an important part of which is the data we have for violence in the OPT, both by Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinians resisting their presence.

In 2015 to date, 30 Palestinians have been killed, and 8 Israelis. A comparison with 2014 figures is not so helpful, because of two major Israeli offensives: ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ and ‘Operation Protective Edge’. In 2013, however, 38 Palestinians were killed and 4 Israelis.

Graph 1A database maintained by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, is a useful barometer of the level of Palestinian resistance in the OPT (once you get past the absurdity of Molotov cocktails targeting an occupying army being described as ‘terror attacks’).

Over a 12-month timespan from September 2014 to August 2015 inclusive (see Graph 1), the number of Palestinian attacks in the West Bank does vary, but has tended to range at between 100-150 incidents per month (targeting both occupation forces and settlers).

Graph 2Graph 2, meanwhile, shows the number of ‘firebomb’ (i.e. Molotov cocktails) attacks recorded by Shin Bet over the same 12-month period. Again, there is no obvious, steady increase – though in East Jerusalem it is possible to discern a marked uptick in recent months that has been maintained.

Finally, in Graph 3, we see the number of Israeli raids on Palestinian communities, as well as how many Palestinians have been arrested, and injured. Taken together, these three graphs defy attempts to identify a straightforward trend or pattern.

Graph 3The bigger picture, however, shows a clear increase in the number of Palestinian attacks on Israeli occupation forces and settlers. In 2011, Shin Bet recorded 320 such incidents in the West Bank: in 2012, this rose to 578, and in 2013, to 1,271 (including a five-fold increase in the use of firearms).

The relatively small number of Israeli fatalities in recent years - including, in 2012, a year when not a single Israeli was killed in the West Bank - can obscure this increase in Palestinian resistance (note that the vast majority of recorded ‘attacks’ are stone-throwing incidents or Molotov cocktails).

There are a number of factors at play here. The lack of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is part of the story, of course - but more significant is the main reason for this collapse in the peace process: an Israeli government ruled by the right and extreme-right.

Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Moshe Ya’alon, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked - the Israeli cabinet is packed with politicians whose commitment to Palestinian statehood is suspect or explicitly non-existent - but whose dedication to the colonisation of East Jerusalem and West Bank is a matter of record.

When Yair Lapid is the voice of moderation inside government, and Isaac Herzog is the face of the ‘opposition’, you know things are bad. Many Palestinians gave up on the official ‘peace process’ track a long time ago - now even the die-hard believers are doubting what these talks can achieve.

Meanwhile, the various aspects of Israel’s apartheid regime remain: settlements grow, land is expropriated, Israeli forces kill civilians with impunity, Palestinians languish in Israeli jails, homes are demolished, settler violence continues, and Palestinian freedom of movement is restricted.

On the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority’s political leadership and security forces are still opposed to a broader uprising. As Amira Hass put it, “Fatah’s shaky political condition precludes the convention of regular conferences, let alone the conducting of a new intifada.”

Writing in August, Mouin Rabbani pointed out how, for “most of the past decade”, the Palestinian Authority (PA) “has been systematically conducting offensive operations…against its own people and precisely in order to obstruct the emergence of a serious challenge to Israel’s occupation.”

It is those areas where PA forces wield less influence or are absent, such as the West Bank refugee camps, Area C, and most notably East Jerusalem, which have seen more consistent and intense confrontations with Israeli forces.

The factors Rabbani identified in the summer “that together conspire against renewed rebellion” have not disappeared. A groundswell of public support for a wider, more sustained and organised uprising, especially coming from Fatah activists, could change this, but it is unclear if this will materialise at the current juncture.

We have been here before. The Israeli media asked “Is this a new intifada?” as early as March 2006, almost a decade ago. A third intifada was described as “inevitable” but “not imminent” in 2011, “inevitable” again in 2012, while in 2013, an Israeli commander announced it had already begun.

Is this a new intifada? Simply put, it is too soon to tell, but probably not. However, rather than worrying about definitions or labels, it makes more sense to focus on the reality on the ground. This tells us that a new tide of Palestinian rebellion has been rising for the last few years, for the quite obvious reason that occupation, colonialism, and apartheid produces resistance.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:58:48 +0000
Obama in limbo while Putin strikes US-backed Syrian rebels Residents of Kafranbel in Syria protested on Saturday against Russian airstrikes.

The United States has failed to protect its allies in Syria. Russia’s airstrikes, which aim to empower the embattled dictator Bashar Al-Assad, have killed any hope for a political resolution to the conflict. Regional powers, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are likely to respond with military force to counter Russia and Iran’s influence over events in Syria.

“There’s no other solution to the Syrian crisis other than strengthening the effective government’s structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Charlie Rose in an interview on 28 September. Two days later, Russia’s jets carried out their first strikes in Syria, declaring that Daesh was the target. Prior to the start of the airstrikes, Russia spent several weeks deploying fighters in Syria and building up military bases in the western coastal region.

According to its foreign minister, Russia intends to “weaken” Daesh by targeting the group’s strategic positions in coordination with the Assad regime. However, Russia’s airstrikes have not actually hit the militants; instead, they bombed positions held by opposition groups in Homs and Hama, some of whom are believed to have been trained and equipped by the US.

Over 30 civilians were reported to have been killed in the first Russian attack on Talbisah, Homs. Suhaib Al-Ali, the spokesperson of Homs Liberation Movement, one of the major rebel groups in the province, said that his group was targeted by the Russian airstrikes on Wednesday. “We don’t have any advanced anti-aircraft weapons, only heavy machine-guns,” he explained. “But they couldn’t make any advance on any front.”

Caption: Residents of Kafranbel in Syria protested on Saturday against Russian airstrikes. Photo courtesy of Kafranbel Syrian Revolution.

Putin is facing increasing criticism from Western and Gulf leaders over his military campaign in support of the Assad regime. US officials have raised concerns that Daesh/ISIS is not present in the areas hit by the Russians. On Friday, Barack Obama criticised the Russian involvement, suggesting that its airstrikes are only “strengthening” ISIS. However, the US president has made it clear that America is not going to confront Russia directly over its air campaign in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, added to the criticism, suggesting that Russia had committed a “grave mistake” in bombing Syria. The Russian deployment has coincided with the Pentagon withdrawing US Patriot missile defence system from Turkey’s border with Syria.

Samir Nashar, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told MEMO that there are talks between Saudi Arabia and Turkey to take joint action in Syria. “With the Russian intervention, I believe that we have strayed from the political solution,” he said. “I see that the military track is more of a possibility, as the political track is retreating.”

Russia’s presence in Syria may prevent the establishment of an ad hoc no-fly zone, a motion that has been discussed among regional and international powers to protect civilians and shelter Western-equipped opposition forces. Nashar thinks that Obama is hesitant to take any action against Russia and noted that the current US administration has no clear role nor strategy in Syria. “The United States is completely powerless.”

The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, insisted that Bashar Al-Assad has no future in any resolution in Syria. Reports indicate that more funds and advanced weapons are likely to be delivered to Syria’s rebels from regional powers in order to balance the present situation. Saudi Arabia has also been weary of Iran’s involvement in the region, especially after Tehran’s re-engagement with the Russians through the establishment of a joint intelligence operations room based in Baghdad, which also involved Syria and Iraq.

Syria represents a strategic interest for the Russians. Since the 1950s, Moscow has invested heavily in the Ba’ath Party in the region and in the Assad family in Syria; arguably, it is too late for the crumbling status of the regime to be saved.

In a speech weeks before the deployment of Russia’s military personnel in Syria, Assad declared that his forces lacked manpower, even though his army has been reinforced by thousands of fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah over the past two years. Some observers have argued that Russia’s support for the Syrian regime is not meant to enable Assad to regain control over the country, but to serve Moscow’s intention of maintaining a foothold in the regime’s military institution.

That doesn’t wash with Syrian opposition groups though. “The mission of the Russian airstrikes is to extend the lifetime of the [Assad] regime,” concluded Suhaib Al-Ali in Homs.

Abdulrahman al-Masri is an independent journalist based in Canada. Follow him on Twitter @AbdulrhmanMasri.

See also:

Syrian opposition chief slams Russian-Iranian ‘occupation’

Erdogan: Russia made a 'serious mistake' in Syria

Assad’s winning hand: what Russian involvement really means for the Syrian civil war

]]> (Abdulrahman al-Masri) Americas Mon, 05 Oct 2015 11:30:46 +0000
Turkey's growing unease about the consequences of the Syrian crisis Professor Özden Zeynep OktavSyria was once the jewel in the crown of Turkey's "zero problems with neighbours" policy. However, the Arab Spring and Syrian revolution not only devastated that policy but also led to a big economic burden stemming from an ever-increasing number of Syrian refugees fleeing from the brutal violence and crossing into Turkey. The Syrian crisis also crystallised Turkey's Achilles' heel, Kurdish separatism, and the Sunni-Alawite split as the spillover effect of the Syrian conflict became more and more evident with the appearance of new, and unwelcome, neighbours along the 900 km border: the Jihadist groups Al-Nusra Front, ISIS and the Democratic Union Party ("Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat" or PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK).

This article will mainly analyse two issues which have endangered Turkey's border security as well as its relations with neighbouring countries and the West: the Syrian refugee problem and the Kobane crisis. Both are of vital importance as they are related directly to Turkey's very sensitive domestic political issues.

The Syrian refugee problem

On 29 April 2011, when Syrian civilians started to seek refuge in Turkey, they were only 252 in number and were settled in temporary camps. "As their numbers grew towards the end of 2011, the government extended 'temporary protection' to Syrian refugees, the only country to do so in the region. This was a reflection of Turkey's open door policy, its policy of non-refoulement and its commitment to ensure basic humanitarian services to refugees."

From the Turkish officials' perspective, that open door policy showed that "even facing massive inflows, it is possible to uphold a humanitarian approach and enact policies that prioritise the needs of refugees, rather than treat them as a threat to state security."

However, with the lingering diplomatic process, Turkey's attempts to create a global coalition that would stage strong opposition to the Assad regime in Damascus remained fruitless and the number of Syrian refugees increased in an unprecedented way due to the escalating war. Turkey has come face to face with both security and economic challenges. For example, Turkish funds for humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees exceeded $2 billion by the end of 2013.

Since August 2012, the Turkish authorities have started to put restrictions on official entries of Syrians without valid passports in order to provide more space for the refugees in the existing camps. This has led to the creation of makeshift camps on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey. To accommodate this situation, the Turkish government has also put in place a "zero-point delivery system" whereby humanitarian help is delivered to the border with Syria, to be picked up by Syrian organisations and distributed to people in need on the other side.

Despite such humanitarian efforts by Turkey, its credibility on international platforms has fallen on the basis that the jihadist groups were provided by Ankara with "light weapons [and] bullets and were treated at Turkish hospitals in Hatay".

Many alleged that due to the open door policy, not only Syrian civilians but also rebels - including jihadists - could move freely in and out of Turkey while officials looked the other way, because the Jihadists fought against the Asad regime efficiently. As such, Turkish officials' claim that Ankara continues to pursue a peaceful solution to the conflict rang hollow.

As the war in Syria escalated, and the lack of international consensus to act against Assad became more and more evident, the two new actors, the PYD and ISIS, arrived to set Turkish alarm bells ringing.

Assad promised to give autonomy in an area covering six districts in the region, including Haseki, Ras Al-Ain, Afrin, Darbasiyya, Ainal-Araband and Kamishli.

From Ankara's perspective, at a time when Turkey has been trying to make peace with its own Kurdish population, the PYD's aspirations to gain autonomy aiming at a probable independent Kurdish state which would have access to the Mediterranean was unacceptable. In a region under PYD control, the PKK would have the ability to establish a strong foothold and lead to a serious border security issue for Turkey. This perception of Turkey has led to Kurdish resentment on the Turkish side of the border, especially against the policy-makers of the ruling AKP. This confrontation between the Kurdish Democratic Peoples' Party in Turkey and the AKP government became most evident when the Kobane crisis arose.

The Kobane crisis

With the brutal fighting initiated by ISIS against the Kurds in Kobane in October 2014, another big wave of Syrian refugees flooded to the Turkish border, and the Kurds in Turkey wanted to join the PYD forces in their fight against ISIS. However, due to concerns in Ankara, Turkey did not want to act to prevent the events in Kobane. This led to unprecedented protests in dozens of Turkish cities. Ankara's concerns were manifold. First of all, from the government's perspective, both the PYD and ISIS are terrorist organisations and the pro-Islamist Kurds opposing the PKK should have been taken into consideration on the eve of the general elections. Second, despite ongoing negotiations with Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and the peace process, the Turkish government did not want to support the PKK openly as many in Turkey were still very sensitive and approaching the ongoing negotiations from a nationalistic perspective. Third, the Kobane issue also had the potential to trigger a civil-military confrontation as the Turkish army was quite sensitive and uneasy about cooperating with the PYD, a branch of the PKK, against another terrorist organisation, ISIS.

Last, but not least, many in Turkey believed firmly that the situation in Kobane was a tool in the hands of Washington to intervene in Turkey's PKK/Kurdish problem and was acting as a champion of Syria's Kurds.

Despite so many concerns about the crisis, Ankara consented unexpectedly to the Peshmerga forces' passage to Kobane to fight alongside their ethnic brothers. The Turkish government thus put an end to its ambivalent policies towards the crisis by allying with its sole brotherly neighbour, Iraqi Kurdistan. The government thus aimed to "overshadow the PKK's military success in Kobane vis-à-vis the Islamic State organisation, to address international criticism and to strengthen the position of Barzani's KDP among the Syrian Kurds."

Concluding remarks

When looked at closely, it can be said that among the other regional countries, Turkey, as a front-line state, has been the one most effected in a negative way by the Syrian crisis on many levels: political, economic and security. Most important of all, the Syrian revolt not only provoked its domestic political issue but also led to a deterioration in its relations with the West by enhancing Turkey's feelings of mistrust toward the United States as well as the European Union.

Despite many miscalculations and wrong strategies by the government in Ankara, it should be borne in mind that the Turkish people passed a very severe test by approving the AKP government's "open door policy" by which they believed that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians – including women and children – would be saved. During the Kobane crisis, two hundred thousand Kurds were allowed to enter Turkey overnight. Today, the number of Syrian refugees exceeds two million. In a nutshell, Turkey, when compared with other countries where Syrian refugees are sheltered, such as Egypt and Jordan, for example, is the only country which has provided the most humane conditions for the refugees; this demonstrates that Turkey has prioritised humanitarian policies over its strategic interests, despite its growing unease over the consequences of the conflict across the border.

Professor Özden Zeynep Oktav teaches in the Faculty of Economics & Administrative Sciences, Yildiz Technical University, Turkey.

]]> (Professor Özden Zeynep Oktav) Guest Writers Wed, 01 Jul 2015 06:00:51 +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
Israel’s decision to ban the Islamic Movement may just be the tip of the iceberg Palestinian political activist and religious leader, Shaikh Raed Salah

Israel’s decision to ban the Islamic Movement, led by Shaikh Raed Salah, has opened a new door to confrontation. It also sheds light once again on the reality of their turbulent relationship over the past few years after voices from within the government, parliament and security services have called for incitement against the group. From the nature of this relationship it may be possible to predict Israel’s behaviour against the movement and its prominent figures.

List of accusations

There are many important reasons for the new and rapid Israeli developments with regards to the Islamic Movement, most notably its role in warning Palestinians and Muslims about Israel’s efforts to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque, leading the groups of worshippers inside in Al-Aqsa and confronting the Jewish settlers who insist on storming the mosque on a frequent basis.

Is this the Third Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Are we witnessing the Third Intifada?

There is solid support for the Islamic Movement in the Triangle (a concentration of Arab towns adjacent to the 1949 Armistice — “the Green” — Line) and Galilee. As such, Israel fears the Palestinians’ desire for cultural separation and for the area to become a source of unrest, or forming the core of help for the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel does not underestimate the charitable and social efforts of the Islamic Movement in supporting and sponsoring orphans, martyrs’ children and poor families in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It relies on the donations it receives from the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to do this. Although the movement carries out its activities in a legal and open manner, they have been the source of the accusations against it and the reason behind the closure of its institutions and the arrest of its members; the Israelis allege that such money is going to resistance groups in one way or another.

It seems that what Israel is not voicing is its fear of the continued reinforcement of national feelings and commitment to the Palestinian cause amongst Palestinians in the occupied territories, by means of actions such as linking the children of martyrs to wealthy Palestinian sponsors living inside Israel (known by Palestinians as the “territories occupied in 1948”). This sparked a clear conflict amongst Israeli security agencies, some of which support the ban while others oppose it. There are joint fears between the two sides over the Islamic Movement leadership’s attempt to continue working within the constraints of the law, even after it has been outlawed. This is because it does not want to give up the strength that it has gained over the years, and it will continue to participate in the game under other names and disguises.

Israel’s decision to ban the Islamic Movement at this time has put the state in a dilemma of the kind faced by Arab governments in the past in their dealings with Islamic groups. Outlawing or banning the movement is the easier option; one of the results of choosing this path is the possibility that some of its members will go underground with their work, which happened in the Arab countries. This would put Israel in an unbearable position, and it has still not eliminated the “annoying intifada nightmare”, so it does not want to open any more cans of worms.

One contribution to Israel’s increased hostility towards the Islamic Movement could be its efforts to “Islamise” the Occupied Palestinian Territories and thwart Israel’s Judaisation projects, especially in Jerusalem. It may also be related to the increasing number of Palestinian-Israeli citizens whose religious commitment is growing thanks to the activities of the group.

The Israeli army’s Manpower Directorate accuse the Islamic Movement of being behind the campaigns to urge Bedouin youth not to volunteer for service. An average of 3,600 recruits a year in the early 1980s had dropped to 390 by 2006.

Leading the masses

The Israeli establishment does not hide the fact that it has a personal vendetta against the Islamic Movement’s leader, Shaikh Raed Salah. The man possesses many leadership qualities such as willpower, patience and insistence on achieving a goal with bold words and principled stands. His most important distinguishing characteristic, though, is his ability to transform Islamic moral values into political activities; his red lines do not budge, his constants remain firm and his positions do not change. He was able to turn the phrase, “Al-Aqsa is in danger” into an international slogan that embarrasses the Israeli administration. He has remained firm in his positions, even in the courtroom and after his movement was banned.

Raed Salah was imprisoned by Israel early on in his political life on charges of affiliation with a banned organisation in 1981. After he was released, he was put under house arrest, during which he was prohibited from leaving his home city of Umm Al-Fahm, prohibited from leaving his house at night and required to register once or twice a day at the local police station.

The discovery of the tunnel under Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1996, which was first revealed by Shaikh Raed, was a turning point in his life. It reinforced his fears of Israeli intentions to damage the mosque and the need to intensify efforts to protect it. This pushed him to launch projects to revive the love of Al-Aqsa Mosque amongst Muslims and protection for the sacred site. In 1998, after what was known as the Rouha incident during which the Israeli police raided Umm Al-Fahm and injured 600 citizens, Salah announced what he called the “self-reliant community” initiative, which aimed to achieve Palestinian self-development.

The campaign intensified until 2003 when Shaikh Raed was arrested again. He was released two years later and accused of transferring funds to Hamas, contact with “hostile parties” and supporting “terrorism”. While in prison, the shaikh expressed his conviction that his arrest for the third time was a disgrace to Israel and clear proof that it was politicising its legal system in an attempt to control the type of decisions made in special security cases.

The Israeli authorities also deliberately harassed and placed restrictions on Shaikh Raed for months and years on end. The internal security agency, Shin Bet, announced that he may be put on trial for having relations with organisations hostile to Israel, both inside and outside the country. The Israeli authorities believe that Hamas is a sister organisation of the Islamic Movement within Israel.

He was also subjected to an assassination attempt at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces during the 2000 Al-Aqsa Intifada, when he was shot in the face. The ministry of the interior issued an order in 2002 prohibiting him from travelling outside the country based on what it considered to be intelligence information. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal against the decision.

The consequences of the ban

The incitement against the Islamic Movement in general and Shaikh Raed Salah in particular grew after Al-Aqsa Intifada, and the security forces have always tried to eliminate and hinder his work on charity projects by cutting off his contact with the Arab and Muslim worlds. The former Defence Minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said that the shaikh is a threat to Israel’s security.

Before being prohibited by Israel, Jordan had forbidden him from entering the country six times. The most recent occasion was when he was prohibited from travelling via Jordan to Saudi Arabia to perform the Lesser Pilgrimage of Umrah.

The Israeli authorities and their security forces have escalated their actions against Shaikh Raed, questioning him many times about basic religious matters, such as the dawn prayer, the pillars of Islam and other matters related to the nature of Islamic belief and doctrine.

Perhaps what contributed the most to Shaikh Raed being targeted by Israel is his boycott of Knesset elections and his public call for non-participation; this is a long-held position. The series of articles he published under the heading, “The elections and us”, are an example of his firm position on voting in Israel. They provide a careful and in-depth study, as well as the political vision of the Islamic Movement, regarding Israeli parliamentary work. He believes that participation aims to, “Exhaust our strength, waste our lives and drown our aspirations, as we spend all of our energy in an imaginary battle that will achieve nothing. The experience that lasted over 50 years in the Knesset has proven that the result of this work is almost nothing, as the Knesset is always in a fixed position to thwart all efforts of its Arab members.”

The harassment and limitations imposed on him have prevented him from giving lectures to Arab students at Israeli universities regarding purely religious matters that have nothing to do with politics. Indeed, university administrators regard his very presence on campus to be a challenge to the relations between Arab and Jewish students.

Limited options

All of the above might push any objective observer to conclude that what is actually going on is Israel’s active search for fabricated charges with which to prosecute — and thus persecute — Shaikh Raed Salah; the state wants to limit his activities and derail his mission, political career and position against its actions in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. This was highlighted after his sentencing to prison just two days before the announcement of the ban on the Islamic Movement.

In the face that all that has happened, Israel only has two options left. It can either suppress the Islamic Movement and its activities or it can ban and outlaw the movement completely by shutting down its institutions. Both of these options will harm Israel on many levels, both domestically and externally, and will reinforce the role of the Islamic Movement, not only in the territories occupied in 1967, but also within Israel itself.

The prevalent belief in Israel is that the measures expected to be taken following the decision to ban the Islamic Movement are prohibiting its members from giving Friday sermons in mosques in Israel; banning its leaders from entering the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; prohibiting the leadership from leaving Israel; examining the sources of the movement’s funding; monitoring the funds that enter the Palestinian areas; prohibiting any Islamic festivals or large gatherings; and shutting down the educational institutions affiliated with the group.

The Islamic Movement is facing many serious problems at the hands of the Israeli authorities because its activities have been banned, including those of more than 20 public service institutions. They may continue to act within the margins available to them to reinforce their Islamic and national convictions, but Israel has taken action within the limits of its internal budget and strategic visions, and taken advantage of the full range of the law to persecute the movement. It has gathered intelligence to support its claims, which confirms that it has an iron grip on the group; it has moved from statements against the movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to direct action.

In the end, it seems that the clash between the Islamic Movement and its “self-reliance” project on one hand, and Israel and its “elimination” policies on the other, is inevitable. However, in light of the contrasting positions and perspectives regarding the movement within the Israeli security agencies, it seems that the state will keep its grip on it and is likely to continue to do so as the right-wing continues to rise in Israel. The relationship will remain within such a context, and the scenario is likely to get bleaker for the movement and its members. The decision to ban it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 23 November 2015.

]]> (Dr Adnan Abu Amer) Middle East Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:45:09 +0000
Sisi’s failure and talk of conspiracy Khalil Al-Anani

“Egypt is fighting a war on terror and the people are confronting conspiracy,” this is the slogan that many Egyptian journalist have taken to in the past few days in order to divert the public’s attention from the Russian jet that crashed in Sinai last month, which claimed 224 lives.

Talk of conspiracy is the new veil that the authorities are using in Egypt to cover for their failure to achieve safety and security, and their inability to protect the lives of foreign tourists. All of this began taking place after it was reported that a Russian aircraft Metrojet 9268 crashed leaving the aircraft in two. Debris from the aircraft was scattered across 13 kilometres.

From the moment of the catastrophe, Egyptian authorities have refused any of the scenarios that have been proposed to explain the accident and it denies the possibility of a terrorist act. At a time when the world is sympathising with the victims’ families, a press release issued by Wilayat Sinai a few hours after the plane crash saw the group claim responsibility for it. Egyptian authorities responded by saying that this type of scenario could not have happened. It is as if the Egyptian authorities do not fully comprehend the full magnitude of this catastrophe on both the local and international levels. Instead, they have chosen to hold on to an inconsistent and unconvincing narrative. What has worked to the Egyptian state’s advantage is that these types of events are natural and sometimes expected and that anything is possible. We must, therefore, wait for the end results of the investigation.

At the same time, the alternative narrative in regards to this plane crash was that a terrorist attack is what led to the plight of the Russian plane. Many international and local (Arab government officials) are keen to accept this narrative. After many countries, such as the UK and Russia, announced their divestment from Sharm El-Sheikh, the Egyptian state changed the manner in which it discussed this event on official news and media outlets. In fact, Egyptian authorities began to voice their belief in a conspiracy which saw that the West targeting Egypt.

The political sing-song claims that this is conspiracy began after Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said: “Western governments are not sharing the facts that they have available with regards to the plane crash.” Sukri went on to point out that Western officials (from France, Germany, Ireland and Russia) failed to attend the press conference organised by Ayman Al-Muqadem, which was intended to launch the investigation.

It was after this point that we saw the launching of a new media campaign, one that claims that the West is conspiring against Egypt. In fact, Egyptian officials have even gone so far as to ask the public to boycott goods from countries that are conspiring against Egypt, as they would describe the situation.

The talk of conspiracy is falsified by the factors and the realities at hand regarding this case and there are many. On the one hand, the current Egyptian regime, which has been in power since the coup that took place on 3 July 2013, has been reaping the benefits of European foreign aid from the very countries it now claims are conspiring against it. Egyptian officials have called these same countries Egypt’s partners in its “War on Terror”. Were it not for foreign aid, the Egyptian authorities would not have had the privilege of enjoying its position of power until now.

And on the other hand, the countries that are allegedly conspiring against Egypt (the UK, the US, Russia and Israel) are among the biggest strategic allies for the current regime. The UK is the biggest foreign investor in Egypt with investments reaching approximately $24 billion. British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi in London despite a great deal of protests both inside and outside Britain. Furthermore, the US represents the longest-standing and most powerful ally to the Egyptian regime; were it not for American support, the coup would not have succeeded for more than a few weeks or even a few days. In fact, the Egyptian regime is the second largest recipient of US foreign military aid after Israel with sums reaching nearly $1.3 billion a year.

Al-Sisi does not hesitate to seize an opportunity in which he could ask US President Barack Obama for continued monetary support and aid for his “War on Terror”. Not to mention that there are on-going meetings between the Pentagon and its Egyptian equivalent, the last of which took place a few days ago.

Moreover, Russia continues to be the Sisi regime’s biggest ally as there are many military and strategic relations between the two of them. In fact, since his tenure began, Al-Sisi has visited Moscow more than any other foreign capital, averaging more than three visits per year. Because of this, it is not possible to think of Russia as being a member of this alleged conspiracy against Egypt. Finally, Israel also constitutes an important ally for the Egyptian regime, as Egyptian officials have been quoted as describing Tel Aviv as a “strategic treasure”, while Tel Aviv’s rabbis view Egypt as the “most important miracle to befall Israel”.

It can be concluded then that the current reality of the facts on the ground negates the possibility of a conspiracy against Egypt. The Egyptian government’s claims further expose the manner in which they have failed to gain the public’s trust or even to conduct their business truthfully. We have achieved a situation in which it has become normal for the regime to claim that it is a victim of a conspiracy at every instance in which it is unable to provide answers. This has been the go to explanation that the regime has used since it came to power. It began with placing the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood and later developed into an excuse for every shortcoming.

With every natural disaster - from flooding in the Nile Delta and beyond - the Sisi regime does not hesitate to use the rhetoric of the Brotherhood conspiracy but what is new is the phenomenon of accusing Prime Minister Cameron of being a member of the Brotherhood after he cancelled his latest trip from London to Sharm El-Sheikh.

The “modern conspiracy” is an integral part of authoritarian regimes that are always looking for an external enemy in order to justify their repression and violence, on the one hand, and as a cover for their failures on the other. This ploy has been used by countless authoritarian regimes throughout history and has often been part of the propaganda carried out by the state to promote and ensure its survival.

Often the regime uses a conspiracy theory in conjunction with its state propaganda in order to validate the official narrative of the state. As German thinker Hanna Arendt writes in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, many states use propaganda to maintain their claim to power and this in turn turns into a doctrine of ideology aimed at scaring the people. It is clear that since the coup on 3 July 2013, Al-Sisi has been using such propaganda to renew popular support for the regime. He employs this propaganda in every channel from the media to the government to mosques and churches.

But as time goes on this talk of conspiracy merely gets repeated and it does not work to mask the increasing problems in the country or the inability of the system to deal with issues of this nature realistically. As a result of this, sometimes a regime will go so far as to claim that a conspiracy has been held within the system itself as happened with famed businessman Saleh Diab who, despite his public support for Al-Sisi, was arrested and later released on bail.

If Al-Sisi’s regime succeeds in implementing the use of the “conspiracy” ploy in an effort to avoid launching a proper investigation into the Russian plane crash, then at least we know that the final result will lead to many problems for the regime. If this were to happen then the least of the Sisi regime’s problems would be the lack of international allies against their alleged war on terror.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 12 November 2015.

]]> (Khalil Al-Anani) Africa Tue, 17 Nov 2015 11:00:40 +0000
If you wouldn't say it about a Jew, please don't say it about a Muslim British Muslims“Jews are transforming Europe, says celebrity, in warning over dangers of mass immigration. One major entertainment figure has bravely voiced an alternative view, highlight[ing] how an influx of Jews could change the nature of the UK for ever.”

Does that headline and opening sentence make you feel uncomfortable? No? Perhaps this will.

“In some Jews’ hearts these vile gunmen are bringing forward the day of Jewish domination. Secretly they may look forward to that.”

The above quotes are taken, respectively, from articles by Sebastian Shakespeare in the Daily Mail in September, and Kelvin MacKenzie in the Sun newspaper on Monday, post-Paris terrorist attacks. I have, as you have probably already guessed, made some slight alterations to the original text. The word “Muslims” has been replaced with “Jews”. The swap is not merely to highlight the universal nature of prejudice and stereotype, but to remind us of a historic context.

Imagine my redactions as a time machine and that we have gone back to 1946. The King David Hotel has just been bombed in Jerusalem, killing 91 people, mainly civilians, at Britain's headquarters in the Palestinian Mandate. The perpetrators were Jewish terrorists, who, impatient for the state of Israel to be established, had decided to kill innocent civilians.

Contrary to the myths that pervade today, large sections of the British public were hostile to Jews before, during and even after the war, goaded by contemporary polemicists of the Shakespeare and MacKenzie kind, and brainwashed by slanted news coverage in publications like the Daily Mail. Jewish immigration was restricted even in the face of pending, contemporaneous and post-genocide, mainly because Jews were considered “unassimilable”. The parallels with today's Syrian refugee crisis are uncanny.

I have no doubt that Kelvin MacKenzie and Sebastian Shakespeare would have been “warning” about Jewish immigration to Britain if they had been working in the 1940s. They would have denied they were being anti-Semitic, of course, but merely pointing out facts. After all, Jews really were carrying out terrorist attacks against British subjects in London, Rome, Cairo and Palestine. Even the White House was sent letter bombs by the same group of Jewish terrorists. Yet just as we do now, the actions of a few resulted in prejudice being dished out against the many.

Bigotry is irrational and timeless; it simply attacks the weakest target at any given time, with only scantly plausible justification. First it was the Jews accused of political conspiracies or terrorism; then it was the Ugandan Asians, who were described by one British media outlet as “parasites” and greeted at the airport by Brits waving placards saying “Go home”; now it is the turn of the Muslims of the Middle East, and even those who are British citizens. Little or no effort is made to understand them, or even to talk to those who are being criticised. How many pundits who criticise Islamists and jihadists so hotly have ever even met one? How many have spent time with conservative Muslims, to test their jaundiced assumptions that they support terrorism?

I despair when know-it-all commentators puff up their chests and declare patronisingly, “Islam is not the problem, Islamism is”, as if this is some sort of extraordinary insight that demonstrates their expertise in these matters. Then you read the accompanying article and discover that they think Islamists are exemplified by Al-Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS or Nigeria’s Boko Haram instead of those groups being, by sheer lack of numbers, the radicals on the extreme fringe.

Take Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood for example, which may have well over a million members, with which the British government has, despite its best efforts, failed comprehensively to find any evidence of links to terrorist activity. Or take the “jihadi revisionists” of the late nineties, Egyptian Islamists who convinced thousands of other Islamists to lay down their arms and enter peaceful politics. Or the ordinary peaceful Islamists in Britain today, some of whom have risked a great deal to negotiate the safe release of numerous Western hostages from ISIS and other militants’ hands, only to return home to be smeared by the government and a pliant media as “non-violent extremists”.

This persistent myth that much of Britain was never actively hostile to Jews fleeing the Holocaust prevents serious introspection today about the level of Islamophobia currently gripping Britain. Until the reality of our collective prejudice at that most desperate time in European history is recognised properly, writers like Sebastian Shakespeare and Kelvin MacKenzie will continue to believe that their bigotry is rationalised through present circumstances.

This history denial was exemplified by a recent article in the Daily Express: “Outrage as UN compares not accepting more Syrian refugees to refusing Jewish people in WW2” thundered the headline. The piece was on UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who reminded the world about, “The 1938 Evian conference, where countries including the UK, US and Australia said admitting large numbers of German and Austrian Jews would strain their economies and societies.”

In response, Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash labelled Hussein's comments “deplorable” and claimed: “Britain took in a huge number of Jews and stood against Hitler. It is not appropriate to use that kind of analogy against those who saved Europe from the kind of abominations that were being perpetrated by Germany.”

It is an absurd claim by Cash, given that before the Jewish refugee crisis, Britain had no immigration controls whatsoever and introduced its first visa system specifically to reduce the flow of refugees from Germany and Austria, who were predominantly Jews. Both Roosevelt and Churchill were keen not to give the impression that the war was being undertaken to save Jews, for fear of provoking an anti-Semitic domestic backlash.

As Leon Silver of East London Central Synagogue, which stands close to the much-defamed East London Mosque, puts it, “What was said about Jews then, they are saying about Muslims now.” The memory of the Holocaust has, certain inaccuracies excluded, produced a near impenetrable moral shield against anti-Semitism for Britain's Jews. Why then, are Muslims suffering in the exact same way that the Jews once did? It's time for a new rule: if you wouldn't say it about a Jew, please don't say it about a Muslim.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AlastairSloan

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Europe Mon, 16 Nov 2015 16:50:47 +0000
The Israeli plot to jail Raed Salah - part 1 of 2 Raed SalahAs is quite well known, the Palestinian body politic is split between political factions. Historically, the Palestine Liberation Organisation was split between its leftist factions (foremost among them the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Fatah, the Palestinian national liberation movement. Since the late 1980s and early '90s, the Islamist factions increased in popularity, with Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, leading the way.

Various degrees of competition and animosity have ebbed and flowed over the years, with the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah even degenerating into a short civil war of sorts on the streets of Gaza in 2006 and 2007.

But the reality of the "Gaza coup" was quite the opposite of what is portrayed in Israeli propaganda, which still to this day maintains it was a coup by Hamas over the legitimate Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

Also Read: The Israeli plot to jail Raed Salah – part 2 of 2

In fact, the reality of the 2007 coup was that it was instigated by forces within Fatah (led by by the now-disgraced warlord Muhammad Dahlan) against the elected government of the PA - Hamas swept to power in the democratic elections of 2006.

Naturally, the forces of reaction in region and their international backers stood behind the anti-democratic coup-mongers – namely Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the US. Forces loyal to Hamas managed to nip the planned coup in the bud and still maintain control of the Gaza Strip to this day, although it has by now theoretically handed back power to the unelected PA government in Ramallah after reconciliation with Fatah in 2014.

But the Hamas-Fatah division aside, western analysts too often neglect the wider context of political variety within Palestine. The primary historical reality when it comes to Palestinian division is not that of political factions (as important as these are) but of the more geographical and historic variety.

Since the Nakba of 1948 - the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias that established the state of Israel - Palestinians have primarily been divided between three sectors: those in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip (occupied by Israel in 1967), those in the diaspora and refugee camps, and those in the territories occupied by Israel in 1948 (i.e. the Palestinian citizens of Israel).

It is this third sector of the Palestinian population that is most often neglected by western commentators when they talk about the Palestinian people.

Too often, British newspapers endorse the Israeli propaganda term "Arab Israelis" when talking about Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship (including even The Guardian). In fact, when you talk to the Palestinians in Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth and so forth, overwhelmingly, they identify themselves as one sector of the Palestinian people and refuse the term "Israeli Arabs". Very few identify themselves as "Israeli".

And for good reason: as contradictory as it sounds, the reality is that in Israeli law and practice there is no such nationality as "Israeli" – but there is "Jewish nationality". In 2013, the Israeli high court rejected a request by a group of secular Israeli Jews to have the "nationality" field on their ID documents changed from "Jewish" to "Israeli". The court ruled that such a move would undermine the "Jewish" character of the state.

The "Palestinians of '48" (as they are often referred to in Arabic) have their own movements, organizations and political leaders. To oversimplify, their political landscape mirrors that in the wider Palestinian body politic: nationalists, Islamists and leftists. However, the lines between these three over-broad categories often overlap, and, in any case, tend to be oversimplifications in themselves.

Certainly one of the main political leaders among Palestinian citizens of Israel is Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement. While one part of this movement has stood in Knesset elections for many years, Salah's faction chooses to boycott the elections.

Even among those Palestinians of differing political persuasions, Salah is widely recognised and respected as a courageous leader of non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation and the wider racist policies of the state. As a religious leader too, Sheikh Salah has led much resistance to increasing Israeli encroachments in Jerusalem against Palestinian religious sites in the whole of Palestine. These encroachments have taken various forms. In July, for example, the Church of Loaves and Fishes near the sea of Galilee was burned out and gutted by suspected ultra-nationalists: Hebrew graffiti was found on site reading “False idols will be smashed.”

At the centre of Israeli occupation policy for years, however, has been a gradual encroachment targeted at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the location of Islam's third-holiest site, and a Palestinian national symbol.

It is a centre of religious life for Palestinian Muslims, although increasingly shut off by Israeli occupation forces, who habitually bar, en masse, Palestinians from the city.

Extremist Jewish groups have for years targeted the site and have openly declared their intentions to destroy the Mosque and build a "Third Temple" on the site. The state claims that it would not allow such a thing to happen, but there are many disturbing signs they are not telling the truth about this.

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

Also Read: The Israeli plot to jail Raed Salah – part 2 of 2

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 31 Oct 2015 14:59:22 +0000
Palestinians could learn from Bolivia’s indigenous movement Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border

Bolivia’s 35-plus indigenous nations make up over 60 per cent of the country’s population and have a long history of struggle with the state. This has linked material grievances to the ethnic segregationist system, which emerged after the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Palestinians, who are witnessing the plundering of their natural resources, particularly water, by a military occupation with overt commercial interests, could learn much from the Bolivian indigenous movement, which defeated a move to privatise water in 2000.

Infrastructure of dissent

The emerging feudal economy in postcolonial Bolivia centred on the mining industry and the seizure of indigenous lands by a rapacious hacienda creole class. In order to facilitate the incorporation of indigenous peasants into the emerging mining economy, rigid racial categories arose in which indigenous peoples were deemed eligible only as labourers, with no access to membership of the full citizenry. This contributed to the emergence of an indigenous class movement in Bolivia, which centred on a crystalizing infrastructure for dissent. This informal infrastructure was based upon the multi-faceted institutions of the tin-miners’ movement/indigenous agrarian class, and was informed cognitively by an Andean culture of insurrection, drawing on the memory of King Tupaj Aamuru’s gallant stand in the face of Spanish colonial forces. Radical ideologies began to blossom from this infrastructure, which drew on facets of Marxism and indigenous anarchism, fastening a renascent indigenous identity politics onto material realities. This indigenous dissent manifested itself at varying moments across the 20th century.

The water wars

By 1999, the neoliberal counter-revolution of the 1980s had consigned vast swathes of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples to abject penury, with 80 per cent of Quechua living in poverty. Financial accountability to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through structural adjustment loans meant the infiltration of a market logic into Bolivia’s domestic politics. In 1999 the multi-billion dollar international corporation Bechtel drew up the Aguas del Tunari, with local Cochabamba officials. Bechtel and its co-investors were granted control of Cochabamba City’s water company for forty years and guaranteed an average profit of 16 per cent for each of those years. The resultant 43 per cent increase in water rates for the poorest families pushed the unions and indigenous peasant class over the edge. In 2000 a series of pitched battles, strikes and walkouts by trade unions and other organisations was staged which came to be known as the Cochabamba water war. The central organising actor was the Coordinadora, a coalition of irrigators, coca growers and coca cutters. One of the central tactics used by the Coordinadora was roadblocks, one which had been part of the resistance repertoire of the miners’ unions during the 1970s. After months of coordination, demonstration and state retaliation, representatives from Bechtel fled the city and then the country, and President Banzer was forced to cancel the contract. Cochabamba reacted with jubilation, with Coordinadora leaders flying back from remote prisons in Bolivia’s interior to a heroes’ welcome.

Grassroots mobilisation had faced down the government of a dictator, and overcome the power of one of the world’s largest corporations. It also brought the insurrectionary nature of indigenous politics into sharper focus, and more coordination. By 2002, Evo Morales, leader of the coca growers’ unions, ran for the national presidency as head of MAS (Movement towards Socialism). Linking neoliberalism to the regulation of access to resources for Bolivia’s poorest made him a standout candidate, and he was duly elected in 2005

Four years later, the long battle for equal access to natural resources secured a legislative victory with the passage of Bolivia’s “plurinational” constitution. This guaranteed the right to water on the “principles of solidarity, complementariness, reciprocity, equity, diversity and sustainability”, whilst also passing provisions relating to the equitable and sustainable use of Bolivia’s resources and the reacquisition of land for indigenous use.

Water in the West Bank

In the occupied and colonised West Bank, one manifestation of the apartheid reality for the 1.7 million Palestinians and 628,000 Israeli settler-colonists who live there is the unequal access to water. On average, a settler lives on 350 litres of water per day, whereas Palestinians live on an average of 73 litres; for the 113,000 Palestinians not hooked up to the water grid, it can be as low as 20 litres. Access to water is monitored tightly by the occupation regime, which has intertwined with the economics of occupation to limit Palestinian access.

Under Article 40 of the Oslo Accords, Israel recognised Palestinian water rights in the West Bank, but it did not take into account the excessive allocation of water to the 179 West Bank settlements, with no cap on their water supply. Oslo allocated 80 per cent of the water pumped from one of three underground water reserves to Israelis, and only 20 per cent to the Palestinians. The deal also created the Joint Water Committee (JWC), an Israeli-Palestinian body in charge of every water project (Palestinian and Israeli) in the West Bank; it is subject to the power imbalances which characterise the PA’s relationship with Israel since the former’s inception. Israel has effective veto over any water project, a veto not accorded to the Palestinians. This has resulted in a high number of Palestinian water projects being delayed and rejected between 1995 and 2010; only one Israeli project was rejected during this time.

Delays and rejections are carried out at the behest of an array of complex military orders, which have governed the West Bank since 1967. Military Order 92 transferred full authority over all water concerning issues in the West Bank from various local utilities to an Israeli official appointed by the military commander for “Judea and Samaria”. Military Order 158 introduced a permit system for all water projects; permits must be obtained when approaching the JWC. Finally, Military Order 291 declares all water resources to be the property of the State of Israel.

Privatising water: a free drink for the occupation

In 1982, Israel’s Mekorot water company took over responsibility for the water resources in the West Bank; by 2007, the company was state-owned. For Palestinians not linked to the water grid, mostly in Area C, water must be obtained from Mekorot filling stations. The most common form of dependency is through Mekorot-supplied Palestinian water institutions. The 80:20 water supply means that Palestinian water institutions have to purchase water from Mekorot in order to supply their customers; the water is often from aquafers in the West Bank. In short, Palestinians are buying their own water. “The lack of availability of Palestinian water resources has led to chronic shortages among Palestinian communities in Area C and a dependence on Mekorot” commented a UNHCR report. “Mekorot supplies almost half the water consumed by Palestinian communities.” Not surprisingly, Mekerot’s equity stands at $1.58 billion.

Infrastructure of dissent and the possibility of a “water intifada”

Since Oslo, the infrastructure for dissent which has characterised Palestinians’ relationship with Israel has become disaggregated, with the leadership class falling in line with the occupation through micromanagement of its most egregious consequences. The impending environmental security crisis which faces Palestinians over their access to water, is unprecedented; in the Gaza Strip, the situation is even worse.

Power must be reclaimed at a grassroots level, through the resurrection of the ideals of “Sumud” (steadfastness), which drove the first intifada. Fastening these ideals onto the seizure of water by the Israeli occupation could galvanise a new movement, which brings other material realities into the forefront of contemporary Palestinian resistance. The indigenous movement in Bolivia ground the state to a halt by reacting to a new phase in their centuries-long oppression — the privatisation of their water. By resurrecting the ideals of insurrection, which has characterised contemporary Palestinian nationalism, a new phase in Palestinian resistance could emerge; one which links the occupation to the fundamentals of life in Palestine.

Nick Rodrigo is a research associate at the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg; his writing has appeared in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

]]> (Nick Rodrigo) Americas Tue, 29 Sep 2015 10:58:05 +0000