Articles Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. Sun, 07 Feb 2016 12:53:28 +0000 MEMO en-gb Forbidden love tales in Israel... BorderlifeHow can a two-year-old novel become a best seller? Censorship is the short answer. The most important question is, however, why would the “Jewish democracy” censor a love fiction between a Jew and non-Jew?

The banned book Borderlife was based on a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man. According to Haaretz newspaper, the novel was recommended in 2015 for Hebrew high school literature classes by “a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers.”

The Israeli Ministry of Education rejected the fiction work for fear it would corrupt young Jewish minds. In explaining its decision, the ministry wrote “Intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threaten the separate identity.” The Israeli Education Ministry wrote that “young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the (Jewish) people and the significance of miscegenation.”

In layman’s terms, the educational authorities in the only “democracy” in the Middle East wanted to protect the fledgling Jewish minds from the plague of assimilation and intermarriages between people of different races. Wasn’t this what Adolph Hitler had advocated for the Aryan race?

But in an Orwellian love is hate doublethink, Dalia Fenzig, the head of the Israeli ministry committee that decides the Hebrew Literature matriculation reading list, told Israeli Army Radio: “The (love fiction) book could incite hatred...”

Fenzig further implied that Israeli societal racism rendered the book unfit for Israeli students. “Many parents in the state school system would strongly object to having their children study the novel,” she said.

Shlamo Herzig, the ministry’s head of literature studies that recommended the book was more forthright in addressing Israeli structural racism: “The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it.”

In a newspaper interview with the Telegraph, Israeli book author Dorit Rabinyan talked about the real fundamental issue for banning her work.

“My book’s only ‘harm’, if you want to call it that, is that a young (Israeli) person may get another perspective on Palestinians to the one they’re being exposed to by politicians and the news ... he’s a Palestinian and a full human. That is the power of the book and the reason for it to be banned.”

It is worth noting that the book’s author is anything but an ardent Zionist. She espoused the racist Zionist ideology that gave her Jewish parents the right to emigrate from Iran to live on land stolen from native Palestinians. This is while, like most Zionists, she rejects the right of those Palestinians to return to their homes.

Not surprising, the whole fiasco was very likely engineered by the ex-American, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett who previously said such things as “when Palestinians were climbing trees, we already had a Jewish state” and “I’ve killed lots of (Palestinian) Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.”

Bennett sees his educational role, “in the only ethnocentric diplomacy” as the national custodian to ensure Jewish blood remains pure and Palestinian-free, even in fiction tales.

In the face of blatant Israeli ethnocentric racism against non-Jews, the onus is on Jewish civil rights organisations, especially those advocating equality in the US and Europe to speak up against Jewish racism in Israel.

Jewish organisations cannot demand justice and equality when in the minority, while supporting a government perpetuating inequality under a self-proclaimed Jewish state majority.

Mr Kanj ( writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.

]]> (Jamal Kanj) Middle East Sun, 07 Feb 2016 12:32:24 +0000
UK hacked drone feeds to watch as Israel bombed Gaza Asa WinstanleyThe latest revelations from the documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden once again concern Israel.

Glenn Greenwald's site The Intercept revealed last week that American and British spies have managed to hack into the visual feed of the Israeli drones and F16 fighter jets that regularly bomb the civilian population of Gaza.

The programme is based on the island of Cyprus, and its code name is "Anarchist". It dates as far back as January 2008, at a time when Israel was bombing Gaza in an attack which killed and injured Palestinian civilians, including at least one child.

The GCHQ base on Cyprus intercepted Israeli drone feeds and sent the information back to the UK and to their allies in the NSA. Images published by The Intercept even show several video stills in which the wings of recognisable Israeli drone models are viewable, as well as radar maps of occupied Palestine.

It's unknown if this hacking is still ongoing. But these revelations are another sign of how fraught the military and intelligence relationship is between Israel and its ostensible Western allies.

The US arms Israel to the tune of billions in military aid every year, and the British government allows an arms trade worth millions to flow there. As previously published Snowden leaks showed in 2013, the US even has a broad agreement to share "raw sigint" with Israel – that is to say intelligence which has not been checked or redacted.

However, other Snowden leaks show that Israel is one the US's top priorities for counter-intelligence operations along with, Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and Venezuela. In other words Israel, supposedly one of America's top allies, is considered by US intelligence agencies to be one of the top spy threats to the US, ranking right alongside the countries considered the worst enemies.

A report in the Wall Street Journal in December shows that Israel is still massively targeting the US in its spy operations, and so the NSA still considers it an import counter-intelligence target.

This is not the first time Israeli drones have proven vulnerable to signals interception and hacking. As the The Intercept notes, Hizballah was able to perform an ambush of Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon in 1997 thanks to intercepted video footage nabbed from Israeli spy drone feeds. The incident was supposed to lead to the signals being encrypted.

But something which struck me in the new leaks was just how weak Israel's protection of its drone feeds still is. Although the signals are now scrambled, they use an outdated technology that Sky TV used to scramble its analogue satellite TV signal, a leaked GCHQ manual shows.

GCHQ was able to de-scramble this using a simple and freely available open-source tool called AntiSky – which was written 22 years ago. Hardly the sophisticated technology which Israel likes to portray itself as developing.

In 2005, Hizballah was still intercepting Israeli drone footage. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallh revealed in 2010 that Israeli spy drones had been monitoring the movements of assassinated Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and flew over the area on the day he was killed. Nasrallah argued that Israel had been behind the murder, with the motive of igniting a sectarian war in Lebanon. He released the footage itself at the same time.

In 2013, a Heron 1 Israeli drone was actually hijacked briefly by hackers, likely from Iran or Hizballah, before Israel managed to destroy it.

After all of this, it's important to remember one thing: the western "allies" spied on Israel for their on malign interests – just as Israel spies on the US for its own malign interests. According to the Intercept report, "US and British spies had a virtual seat in the cockpit" as Israel bombed Gaza.

In other words, they literally watched as Israel bombed Palestinian children to death.

One striking fact about the NSA and GCHQ's motives for intercepting Israeli drone footage was that it was partly about the arms industry. They reportedly wanted to see Israel drones (exported throughout the world) "in action" in real time. A pretty sickening thought.

The Israeli arms industry regularly boasts that its products are "battle tested". In other words, Palestinians are human test subjects in a gross industry of death.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sat, 06 Feb 2016 11:51:54 +0000
America decides: the Syrian people must leave, not Assad Abdul Wahab BadrakhanAmerica has revealed its choice and biases over Syria: it is saying no to the Syrian people and yes to Bashar Al-Assad; no to Saudi Arabia and Turkey and yes to Russia and Iran. The game of nations and powers supports injustice in Syria. The priority is the fight against terrorism, as they define it, but with a political solution like that being prepared through the Kerry-Lavrov understandings; no one should wonder where extremism comes from, because these understandings are laying the foundations for the new terrorism of the post-Daesh period.

On 23 January, America erased everything that was said by its officials, including Barack Obama, about the Damascus regime that lost its legitimacy, and that Assad must resign as there is no future as president for him. It even crossed out the Geneva statement which no longer exists, as the Russians and Iranians wanted. America dropped the mysteries and delusions that surrounded the Vienna statements, and gave in to Russian interpretations of UN Security Council resolution 2254. The alleged political solution, according to Kerry’s diktats to the opposition, is based on what the regime, its supporters and sympathetic “tame” opposition want, and what the Iranians and Russians want. That was the end result of the Vienna operation which coincided with statements suggesting that America still differs with Russia on the departure of Assad, but Kerry’s meeting with the opposition in Riyadh showed that America and Russia finally agreed that “the Syrian people must leave”.

Thus, there is no solution at all except a call for surrender that will cost more lives and more destruction. What Kerry is proposing to the opposition is the threat of a military takeover, in which the US will not intervene and will not help them to face. America’s non-involvement will be its tacit approval. He had no diplomacy in his speech, but rather a blunt announcement that America had made up its mind and decided on a coup against the Syrian people with no guarantees for them. So there is going to be no political transition, no transitional government, no full power government, no blaming or holding the regime accountable if negotiations fail, and no support for the opposition whether it goes to negotiations or not. All the previous notes do not constitute preconditions, according to the American secretary of state who agreed with his Russian counterpart for negotiations without preconditions. There could be no stranger or more brutal introduction for negotiations that aim to end a bloody conflict as those convened in Geneva about Syria.

For those still wondering about the post-nuclear deal stage and asking if Iran will change, there is a very clear answer: America has changed; America has changed to the point of showing an uglier face than the one it had during its Vietnam War era. It did all that was expected of it, and all the doubts that its allies and friends had about its positions have been realised: the US was never a friend of the Syrian people, but was deceiving them. It was using them as a slogan for negotiating with the Russians. It had no strategy so it adopted Moscow’s strategy. It did so after the scandal of the chemical weapons, and repeated it, continuing to do so despite the boycott. It actually breached that boycott all of a sudden to summon the Russian role to the point that it became a direct intervention, as if it was America’s deputy in Syria.

In the months prior to the Vienna meetings, Washington kept quiet and let the Russians and Iranians tackle their crises on their own. When it intervened, it was to help them and not to oppose them. The Russians and Iranians focused on redirecting the mission of UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura, with the US ignoring the fact that he had already made up his mind and is biased towards the regime, Russia and Iran; and that he is no longer comfortable with what he hears in Riyadh, Ankara or Doha. When Obama expressed his opinion, mocking the opposition, he was aware that de Mistura was about to change the make-up of the opposition that was readily accepted by Russia and Iran in negotiations, depending on long talks he held last spring in Geneva with Syrian committees and individuals. Those talks led to considering the so called opposition to be a very small part of the conflict had it not been for the fighting factions which were at that time taking control of areas originally held by the regime, and that any negotiations must include a wider range of “opposition” to that offered by the coalition or the coordination committee.

Thus, the Russians insisted on air strikes against opposition groups, not just Daesh. They were supposed to take into consideration what it meant for representatives of these factions to be present at the Riyadh conference, where they expressed their will to take part in a political solution, and also expressed the wish of those countries supporting them to end the conflict peacefully. The assassination of Zahran Alosh, a senior official of Jaishul Islam, and other assassinations that followed the conference and continued even while resolution 2254 was being issued, demonstrated that the Russians want to provoke the military opposition to Assad and push it to withdraw from any negotiations; this would leave the political opposition alone and weak, and susceptible to pressure, whether through de Mistura or the Russian conditions of which Kerry stressed US approval.

Since the beginning, Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime have decided that there is no place for logic in the crisis, and the games being played right now are putting negotiations at stake; it is as if the internationalisation of the conflict in Vienna and then the UN Security Council did not move things forward, but maintained the status quo under Assad’s tyranny. In fact, the opposition considered the Russian manoeuvres as a clear recipe for early manipulation of the issue of political transition, with the aim of breaking through the opposition delegates or inventing an alternative opposition, leading to tripartite negotiations; or even bilateral talks between the genuine opposition on one side and the regime and its “tame” opposition on the other. The intention of the Russians, it is believed, was to sabotage the negotiations from the beginning, knowing that the US would not exert pressure on behalf of the opposition but would do everything to satisfy Moscow, either on the pretext of fighting Daesh or something else that would reveal Washington’s real intentions.

It’s becoming clear now that the opposition’s analysis of Russia’s positions was naïve, and it was betting on America being strict, but someone was always saying, “Look for the American-Russian understandings”, a stark warning that there must be a missing link that will appear at a critical point in time. That point was the approaching date of the negotiations. Throughout the previous weeks, Moscow could not possibly have been able to act in this way and be against resolution 2254, as well as commit almost daily massacres against civilians in opposition areas in Syria, and completely cover blockades and barrel bombings, without any American objections. This lack of US intervention is based on understandings that have been agreed between the two sides. There has never been any real difference in the positions of Washington and Moscow towards the fighting factions, or any differentiation between moderate groups and terrorists. Their positions were almost identical at times, as they both used starvation to put pressure on the people and gain concessions from the Syrian opposition before they even began negotiations.

This was Kerry’s mission, in the name of understandings, when he warned the opposition that their only opportunity to gamble and lose in Geneva might lose even more if they were driven by emotions to disable negotiations. The opposition was told that joining negotiations was the lesser of two evils, as they will get a chance to voice their opinions and talk about their visions and needs, and that only their presence can force the regime into negotiations which it dreads and has always evaded. They were told that only then can Washington help them; but if they boycott negotiations, they will be doing the regime a favour and will put an end to any American role that may lessen the severity of current conditions.

The Palestinians were told the same thing in order to get them to negotiate, and they did so even though they were sure that the Americans would let them down, and that’s exactly what happened. However, it is very sad but true that people who are surrounded with injustice from all sides cannot afford to miss any chance to improve matters, even when it looks so obviously like an illusion.

Translated from Alkhaleejonline, 29 January, 2016.

]]> (Abdul Wahab Badrakhan) Americas Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:38:52 +0000
The missing data on the Palestinian revolt A woman uses the kuffiyeh as a mask to protect her identity during intifada clashes in the occupied West BankOn Wednesday, Palestinian youths from a village in the northern West Bank attacked Israeli Border Police officers outside Damascus Gate, in Occupied East Jerusalem, killing one and wounding another. The three assailants were killed on the spot.

With nearly daily bloodshed, most news agencies have been using ‘copy and paste’-style paragraphs to provide context for readers. Here are three such summaries, taken from reports of Wednesday’s attack by Reuters, The Associated Press, and AFP.

“It was the latest in a spate of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians that has killed 27 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October. Israeli forces have killed at least 155 Palestinians, 101 of them assailants according to authorities. Most of the others have died in violent protests.” (Reuters)

“Since mid-September, 27 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks. At least 154 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire, including 109 Israel said were attackers. The rest have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.” (The Associated Press)

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?

“The wave of violence has killed 26 Israelis, as well as an American and an Eritrean, according to an AFP count. At the same time, 164 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks but others during clashes and demonstrations.” (AFP)

These three paragraphs vary, but they all share some troubling similarities, evidence of how – even unthinkingly – coverage of an anti-colonial revolt is being distorted by a narrative that is shaped and promoted by the Israeli government and its allies.

Israel’s assertions about Palestinian assailants are repeated without even a ‘balancing’ counter-claim, despite the fact that in many cases, the circumstances in which Palestinians have been killed are disputed. As Gideon Levy wrote recently: “Israel executes people without trial nearly every day.”

Israeli forces’ use of lethal violence to suppress anti-occupation protests is barely mentioned. Reuters wrote that “most” of the other Palestinian fatalities “died in violent protests”, which both removes Israeli agency and also manages to infer blame on the part of the protesters themselves.

Finally, in contrast to Palestinian fatalities, the Israelis killed by Palestinians are not categorised in any way at all – not even ‘civilian’ or ‘military’. Nor are we told what proportion of Palestinian attacks took place inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

But the information is there, for anyone who wants to look for it.

Don’t mention the occupation

According to the Israel Security Agency (ISA), otherwise known as Shabak or Shin Bet, over a three month period (October-December), there were a total of 1,170 “attacks” by Palestinians (excluding Gaza), which included stabbings, shootings, and vehicle rammings. (Note that around 75-80 percent of these “terror attacks” were firebombs, typically synonymous for a Molotov cocktail.)

Revealingly, a mere 14 of these attacks – about 1 percent – took place inside the Green Line, the internationally-recognised division between Israel and the OPT. With regards specifically to stabbings, just 12 from a total of 85 such attacks occurred within Israel ‘proper’. Thus, according to the ISA, 86 percent of stabbings have happened in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This pattern is supported by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), whose website features what is described as “a list of major terror attacks against Israelis.” Out of a total of 143 separate attacks listed by Israel MFA as occurring in the four-month period October-January, just 21 of them – 15 percent – occurred within the Green Line; the rest, 85 percent, took place in the OPT.

Israel MFA’s list of 143 incidents includes 81 in which uniformed members of Israel’s security forces were either the target of the attack, or suffered casualties. The list also reveals that at least 69 soldiers, police officers (including Border Police) and settlement guards were wounded October-January, in addition to three fatalities (two soldiers and a Border Police officer).

The ISA has also stated that half of all Israelis moderately or severely injured in October were “members of the security forces.”

Suppressing protests – where’s the coverage?

As mentioned, Western media coverage has glossed over, misrepresented, or simply not reported, the routine violence being used by Israeli occupation forces to suppress Palestinian protests – protests by civilians living under a 49-year-old military regime.

Over a two-week period, October 1-14, the Palestinian death toll reached 31 with “at least 17 [of those killed] shot dead at demonstrations.” By the end of November, Israeli occupation forces had killed 39 Palestinians purely in the context of protests and raids.

In addition, over that two-month period, Israeli forces shot 4,192 Palestinians with either live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets. Thus on average, Israeli occupation forces shot almost 500 Palestinians every single week, suppressing protests and in raids, during October-November.

UN OCHA and Al-Haq data shows that in the four months October-January, Israeli occupation forces killed more than 50 Palestinians and injured approximately 14,000 in the suppression of protests and during raids. This extraordinary number is simply not reflected in most media coverage of the revolt.

Why October 1?

As Israeli journalist Amos Harel wrote a few days ago, the Israeli army “dates [the current round of violence] from the October 1 murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin, near Nablus.” It is obvious that this timeline serves Israel’s purposes – but why is it accepted so unquestioningly by journalists?

In the first five months of 2015, Israeli occupation forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded a further 933 in the OPT. By the end of August, 26 Palestinians had been killed over the previous eight months by Israeli forces and settlers, with a further 1,372 Palestinians injured.

Over ten days in July, 7 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers: a 21-year-old Palestinian shot dead “when he picked up a stone to throw” at soldiers; a 52-year-old father shot in his own home; three members of the Dawabsheh family; and two Palestinian teenagers shot dead while protesting the fatal arson attack in Duma.

But no one speaks of a ‘wave of violence’ when the fingers on the trigger are wearing Israeli army uniforms; it is the violence of the occupied that begins chronologies, not that of occupation forces or the colonists they protect. Yes, there has been an uptick in violence since the beginning of October – but it has not come out of the blue.

Palestinian lives (or deaths) are labelled ‘assailants’ or ‘violent protesters’. Israelis are just – Israelis. We are not told that 6 out of 7 stabbings (or alleged stabbings) carried out by Palestinians have taken place in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, whose indigenous inhabitants have spent half a century under colonial, military rule.

We are not told how many of the Israeli casualties were members of the occupation forces, or settlers living in West Bank colonies. The timelines do not begin with the murderous attack on the Dawabsheh family, or the shooting to death of Falah Abu Maria; they do not even take into account the Palestinians killed and injured throughout the year, up to October 1.

The thousands – thousands – of Palestinians shot by Israeli occupation forces go unmentioned. If it was the other way round – if thousands of Israelis had been shot by Palestinians over four months, you can be sure it would merit a mention in the news agencies’ ‘context’ paragraphs.

On January 26, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated a simple truth: “as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation.” Disappearing the violence of occupation and misrepresenting the Palestinians’ anti-colonial revolt is to be expected from Israeli authorities; but the media should not be helping them.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:23:52 +0000
Does the media fuel conflict in the Middle East? Thembisa FakudeThe growth of locally-based television channels is beginning to counter the narrative that has dominated the media coverage of the Middle East. Some television programmes depicting a normal life are gradually breaking the staple coverage of war and carnage. However, the ongoing conflict has prevented new entrants to journalism with different perspectives from working in the region. Consequently, more experienced journalists who have been stationed in the region are being recalled to work at the new channels. Unfortunately, most of these older hands insist on working according to their brief from their previous stints covering the region. Furthermore, the younger and newer journalists who do make it to the Middle East are not able to travel freely for research and newsgathering purposes. Understandably, the region is full of cynics who are suspicious of strangers due to the brutality of the mukhabarat (intelligence officers) from several countries who operate in the region.

Furthermore, the lack of investment in media logistics inhibits proper coverage. Technology has enabled many media institutions around the world — particularly television — to broadcast live as soon as stories break. In the Middle East, where broadband capabilities are still struggling, expensive satellite transmission is still the most dominant means of broadcasting. Moreover, most broadcast technicians are based in Europe, which means that regional media organisations are forced to wait for these skills from overseas when big stories break. This reality continues to pose challenges for news coverage, especially in English, of events in the Middle East. Consequently, most news organisations rely on news agencies for their coverage. Al-Jazeera English is the only global English news channel that has the capacity to broadcast and run with the story as it breaks. The reliance on news agencies like Reuters, Agence France Presse (AFP) and Associated Press (AP) by many local news organisations encourages lazy journalism. Too many journalists simply package their daily stories based on the footage provided by these agencies. Very few, if any at all, spend time researching and capturing their own footage; agencies remain the first point of call. That attitude deprives the region of the opportunity to showcase the human stories.

Does the media fuel conflict in the Middle East?

The broadcast of video footage prepared by extremist groups is on the increase. Every gruesome act is accompanied by a video tape or posting online describing those who carried it out and explaining why. What most social scientists and media analysts are asking is, to whom is the message directed? There are a number of young people from around the world who have reportedly left their countries to join extremist groups, particularly in Syria. The internet is usually blamed or mentioned as the main platform that is used to recruit and attract such youngsters to the Middle East. Images of AK47-wielding young fighters swearing to kill in the name of religion have become commonplace on our television screens.

Perhaps there is an element of fame that comes with these videos being shown on television, and maybe some degree of celebrity status within extremist circles comes into the equation. It is, therefore, not far-fetched to assume that those who harbour and support the extremists’ ideology will be attracted by such images and might be inspired to join their ranks.

The challenge within most newsrooms is whether or not to broadcast these images. The logical argument is obvious; the extremists are using the media to further their objectives so such images must not be broadcast. However, there is another imperative in journalism — the public’s right to know — that journalists cannot ignore; they simply can’t unilaterally withhold stories and images from the public domain. Given that the broadcast of these images is often driven by an increase in media competition, the use of exclusive footage is too hard to resist for many broadcasters. Most news organisations disregard basic rules about broadcasting certain pictures and videos; the rule of thumb has been, if it bleeds it must lead.

War reporting is shorthand for great journalism and has therefore attracted many aspiring journalists to the Middle East. Extremist organisations like Daesh provide the right material in terms of visuals. This raises the question of whether there are links between the populism of radical organisations and the media. What will happen to these organisations if the cameras are directed elsewhere and they are thus deprived of media exposure? What will happen if the cameras focus on other news in the region? Realistically speaking, the attitude of foreign journalists means that it is probably never going to happen.

Indeed, the engagement of foreign troops in the Middle East has seen the expansion of state-owned news organisations like Russia Today, CCTV and France 24 among many others. These organisations have brought new elements to news prioritisation and headlining. They highlight news featuring their own countries’ role in the conflict. Under the terms of its operating licence, the BBC World Service is not supposed to represent British national interests exclusively, and yet it is used by the foreign and commonwealth office in London as some kind of soft power tool. The BBC’s editorial lines reflect certain national and political positions unapologetically. The recent debate about the terminology used to describe Syrians trying to get into Europe en masse created interesting discussions within various newsrooms around the world. Eventually, some media organisations adopted a position which reflected their national interest in the debate. Al-Jazeera English went against the consensus of the other big four international news broadcasters and insisted on referring to the displaced Syrians as refugees instead of migrants. Bias and the over-politicisation of television coverage of global events has led to heightened media cynicism in the Middle East. The skewed and uneven reporting on important stories has led to apathy towards the traditional media in the region, particularly television.

The general attitude of governments and civil society in the Middle East towards journalists is one of the greatest obstacles in covering news in the region. There are strict requirements and long lists of permissions and legalities required for filming and newsgathering; failure to fulfil them can and does result in journalists being arrested. Some governments require individuals to get a journalism licence over and above a university qualification and employment offer. This makes it very difficult to be an independent journalist in some places in the Middle East.

Consequently many foreign journalists parade themselves as tourists to avoid stringent media laws. This has led to the proliferation of the “fixers”, a group of individuals who have connections within different societies and facilitate newsgathering on behalf of broadcasters and foreign journalists. Fixing has become one of the most prestigious occupations in the Middle East. Some fixers are journalists who are unable to meet the criterion for working in the profession. Most, though, are not journalists at all, but individuals who are politically well-connected, or in some cases simply drivers who can converse in a foreign language.

The reliance on fixers who have no journalism and professional background in newsgathering is compromising the quality of journalism and coverage of the region. They are not just facilitating interviews and driving journalists to hot spots; they also attend press conferences, take notes in Arabic and basically produce copy for journalists who are afraid to venture outside their offices. This has, unfortunately, compromised the quality of news production. The Middle East is an overly-politicised environment so there is a need to vet the fixers before employing their services for journalism purposes. Failure to do so presents unnecessary challenges, particularly the possible manipulation of the coverage of events.


The stereotypes about the region from both the journalists’ and their global audience perspectives dictate editorial choices in coverage of the Middle East. Furthermore, the advent of national broadcasters has added a new dimension to news coverage. Journalists report to targeted audiences who expect certain type of news; in most cases it is about the wellbeing and progress of their national interests. Having said that, journalists also have the responsibility to educate their audience.

Another important factor is that international television news organisations tend to cover events that attract many viewers. This audience becomes accustomed to certain types of narratives about the story in question; they watch and follow its progression in full expectation of a consistent narrative. This, in turn, creates stereotypes and most journalists find it hard to change certain jargon in the middle of an ongoing story even when there is a need to change the narrative.

For example, even after learning that Kurds are often Sunni Muslims, most journalists continue to compare Kurds and Sunnis in the Middle East as if they are mutually exclusive. Hence, journalists will stick to the script to save face, even at the risk of misinforming their audience. The major ongoing stereotype about the Middle East and Islam can only change if the media give a more equal degree of coverage to other important stories. Until then, the image of the region in the West will remain unchanged and this will also affect the interaction between ordinary people in both.

Finally, good journalism thrives when there is a combination of education, professionalism and good socialisation. Most fixers employed by media institutions in the region are often lacking in these essentials. There is an overwhelming sense of nationalism and sectarianism in the Middle East; even some qualified journalists battle to balance their professionalism with their religious and political inclinations, and the random employment of fixers without proper checks and balances does not help the situation. All of these factors combined help to fuel conflict across the region. As things stand, it is hard to reach any other conclusion.

Thembisa Fakude is the Head of Research and International Relations at Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies, a Directorate of Al-Jazeera Media Network.

]]> (Thembisa Fakude) Guest Writers Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:37:33 +0000
The West should give financial aid, but more must be done for Syrian refugees David Cameron meets with Chancellor Merkel at the Supporting Syria & region ConferenceThe Supporting Syria Conference, starting in London this week, aims to raise $9 billion for Syrian refugees. The purpose of this money is to end the limbo in which Syrians living in neighbouring countries are currently trapped; unable to work, their children are also in many cases missing out on education. As world leaders gather for the conference to discuss the increase in aid money and how to distribute it, the goal is to prevent the creation of a permanent underclass of frustrated, uneducated, disenfranchised Syrians. The conference has been convened by David Cameron, Angela Merkel and the leaders of Norway and Kuwait. The organisers want money to stop going solely for the purpose of food and aid handouts; instead, it should be used to encourage local host countries to allow Syrian refugees to enter the workforce.

The reasons for this are twofold. Western governments want to stop angry Syrians from turning to extremism. They also want to stop people from deciding to make the journey to Europe. The migrant crisis has led to a full blown political crisis in the EU, with member states reluctant to accept mass resettlement and a broad anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping over the continent. This sentiment is perhaps exemplified by Denmark’s decision to seize the assets of refugees in order to pay for their upkeep. Over the past year, uncomfortable questions have been raised over some basic tenets of the EU, such as the principle of free movement and the Schengen visa system.

Governments across the continent are keen to avoid a repeat of the situation seen last summer, when hundreds of thousands of migrants attempted to reach Europe. Many of these people were not fleeing directly from Syria, but made the journey after several years in camps in Jordan or Turkey because they realised that the war in Syria is not going to end any time soon. They no longer wanted to live in limbo, unable to work and with their children out of school. (A recent survey found that 50 per cent of Syrians in Jordan wanted to leave because they could not see a future in the country.)

It is this logic — and a recognition of the enormous strain on neighbouring countries – which will underpin the conference discussion about increased aid. It is certainly true that more money is needed, urgently. The 2015 appeal for Syrian refugees failed to meet even half of its targets. This year, insist the organisers, the goal must be to get 1 million more Syrian refugees into education and to get work permits for tens of thousands.

This, though, is far from being a simple proposition. The numbers are dizzying. Syria’s neighbours have hosted 4.6 million refugees collectively. Countries such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have seen severe disruption to their domestic labour markets, and are therefore reluctant to offer work permits. One suggestion on the table is to offer more aid to countries like Jordan as a sort of pay-off for letting more Syrians into work, but is this going to be effective? If these jobs are created at all, it will take months, and there’s no guarantee that there will be anything like an adequate number, or indeed that the roles on offer will leave Syrians any better off than working as part of the black economy. There are only so many jobs that a small country can feasibly create and sustain, whatever the incentives to do so.

Could you make it as a refugee?

Since January 2015, over 1 million people have arrived in Europe by sea and land
Take the journey from Syria to Europe and see if you’d survive

Ever since the start of the conflict, the British government has favoured giving aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon rather than offering resettlement in Britain. Thus far, this has not been effective in keeping them in the Middle East, and it is highly optimistic to think that even these increased measures will be sufficient.

It is not a bad thing to support the right of Syrian refugees in the Middle East to work, nor to increase desperately needed food and educational aid. However, to have a realistic chance of easing the suffering, this needs to happen in conjunction with a whole host of other measures. One of these is structured resettlement. Due to the prevailing anti-migrant sentiment in Europe, most governments have been extremely reluctant to establish a formal mass resettlement programme, although this has not stopped people arriving in their droves. A properly managed resettlement scheme would be morally right as well as pragmatic, giving governments a measure of control over who enters their countries. Given the scale of displacement involved, a mass resettlement scheme should also include the Gulf States and the US. It does not seem likely that this will happen in the near future; thus far, these countries have been just as reluctant as Europe to offer refuge to desperate Syrians.

The war in Syria is one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times and it demands an exceptional response. It is right that wealthier nations should give generously and work to make refugees’ lives more viable wherever they are; on its own, though, this is simply not going to alleviate either their suffering or the strain on Syria’s neighbouring countries.

]]> (Samira Shackle) Europe Thu, 04 Feb 2016 09:31:50 +0000
Despotism will enhance Islamists, not defeat them Abderrahim ChalfaouatAs Arab Spring revolutions and advocacy overwhelmed the streets of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the main promise prioritised by political groups — ideological or intellectual differences notwithstanding — was democracy. This explains why the appearance of ballot boxes was a key transitory bridge to depart from pre-2011 dictatorships, once the initial uprising phases started to abate. In almost all 2011-2012 elections in the region, moderate Islamists secured majorities in parliaments and started to lead governments, before counter-revolutionary onslaughts were launched. Nevertheless, the hope for democratising political climates persists, albeit unsteadily.

Due to geopolitical proximity, regional ebbs and flows influence the Moroccan public sphere directly. In fact, Morocco follows suit in adopting regional transformations, but localises the outcome. Both the 2011 and 2015 elections brought moderate Islamists to the fore in the guise of the Justice and Development Party (PJD). Given the stiff attack by Moroccan and international opponents, the 2015 regional and local elections were expected to downgrade the government-leading party, but ballot box democracy rebutted them again.

Different factors increase the PJD’s self-confidence. For a start there is more voter trust. As a result, the party now governs all of the big cities in Morocco. Then we have government perseverance to complete its mandate without resorting to early elections. Finally, we see the government’s success in a number of economic factors, indicated through better performance in some national and international reports. Consequently, the election results have obliged government opponents to review their tactics in preparation for the parliamentary elections in October.

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Before last year’s elections, tactics depended on three key elements. The first was strengthening the opposition within decision-making institutions, especially the parliament. Rumours spread that some unseen hands intervened to elect Hamid Chabat and Driss Lachgar as secretaries general of the Istiqlal Party (IP) and the Union for Social Forces Party (USFP) respectively. Chabat immediately withdrew his party’s five ministers from the first government line-up, and signed an agreement with Lachgar to wage a “cultural war” on the PJD, which incited accusations against Abdelilah Benkiran of adhering to policies composed of a surreal mix of Daesh, Al-Nusra Front and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

The second was the mobilisation of radical opposition outside institutions. When all official players feared youth street activism, the narrative of stability was championed while parties, labour unions and social groups which used to express animosity to the monarchy started blaming the government instead. They all joined in efforts to hamper government work via general strikes nationwide, but in vain.

The third component was the media. On public TV newscasts, e-news sites and newspapers, the scrutiny of government moves or resolutions, and picking out mistakes, became a daily occupation. Sometimes, lies or exaggerations were spread, and ministers reacted by taking journalists to court. Even MPs and the head of the government complained frequently about biased public media coverage. Observers and media critics accuse Channel 2M of being nostalgic for the early days of TV characterised by openness, especially towards comrades on the left. That is why the channel worked hand in hand with previous communication ministers, all of whom were leftists, unlike the current holder of the post.

The tactics today seem to depend on pushing the government to implode. Early in this political season disputes among government parties occurred regarding the management of regional and local coalitions, aggravated by disagreements over reforms and initiatives in education, medicine, financial law, agriculture, retirement systems and the place of the police in the official structure. Observers attribute these disputes to the influence of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) on the National Rally of Independents (RNI), though their coalition broke in 2012.

In addition, there are efforts to put the government into a direct clash with popular mobilisation on the street. Different marches and sit-ins have been organised across the country, with indirect encouragement from the opposition. Even though government mismanagement may have triggered some protests, media leaks have also accused Ilyas Elomari of igniting social pressure in Tangier and the national strikes of pharmacists. With Hamid Chabat's silence after the 2015 elections — and the prospects of reconciling with the PJD — the street has regained power as the strongest opposition against government decisions, which the PAM may encourage instead of lead as an opposition party.

On top of that there is the media. A few weeks before becoming the Secretary General of the PAM, Ilyas Elomari launched a multi-faceted media bloc, Last Hour, made up of a sophisticated printing house, a daily newspaper in Arabic, a weekly in French, a magazine in Tamazight (Standard Moroccan Berber), an intellectual magazine and a news-website. The project is allegedly sponsored by Moroccan and Emirati businessmen. In addition, the previous mayor of Tangier, Elomari’s brother, is now the director of Cap Radio, a private channel. The new changes are expected to annex Cap Radio to Last Hour. The most recent revelation is that Rachid Ninni, a renowned government critic, is to launch a TV channel from Spain, allegedly close to the PAM too. These three moves, inter alia, will contribute to the ruthless competition as the 2016 elections approach.

Despite all the preparations, what Moroccans value is change on the ground; deeds not words. The recent PAM national congress exemplifies how aspects of despotism worsen parties' image of absent internal democracy. Before the congress, the party publicised a document explaining its intellectual and political background in order to engage the public. The document was intended principally for discussion during congress sessions.

As it happened, the congress and its document turned out to be a trick. The election of a new secretary general lasted for a few seconds, with clapping and a show of hands. Ilyas Elomari was the only candidate; no one dared to challenge him. There were no electoral rounds or discussions to go through, as if all the participants knew the outcome in advance. For observers and commentators, the way that the congress developed was reminiscent of Stalinism. In his first speech as secretary general, Elomari summarised his party's ideological and political programme in contributing to the confrontation with Islamists and defending Muslims. Instead of explaining who the other parties in this confrontation will be, or whether they distinguish between different Islamists, he narrated a story to exemplify the silent relationship his party hopes to build between the authorities and religious leaders.

With such incongruous discourse, and the stark difference between promises and practices, the opposition will simply strengthen the position of Islamists. If the aim is to defeat them democratically, despotism will be counter-productive; it will enhance the Islamists’ position, not defeat them.

]]> (Abderrahim Chalfaouat) Africa Wed, 03 Feb 2016 11:09:41 +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
Is Gaza paying the price of the Cypriot-Israeli-Greek alliance? Dr Saleh Al-Naami The Israeli, Cypriot, Greek summit held in Cyprus’s capital city, Nicosia, is another example of how Tel Aviv’s predictions regarding its gas discoveries on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea were realised. Tel Aviv had predicted that its huge gas discoveries in what it claims to be its “economic waters” would reinforce its geostrategic position, as well as its regional status. It also predicted that it would enable Israel to deepen its strategic partnership with the countries forming the Arab “axis of moderation”.

Cyprus and Greece agreed in the summit to market Israeli gas in Europe by transporting it through a large pipeline that would link Israel’s gas fields to Greece. From there, it will reach countries interested in importing it.

According to media reports, the cost of establishing this pipeline, which will be started soon, is about $6 billion.

Further suggestion of the serious steps being taken by the three countries in the context of their cooperation is their agreement to link the Israeli, Cypriot and Greek electricity networks. This ultimately aims to allow all three countries to rely on a joint electric network.

The tripartite summit and the resulting historic agreement occurred after a series of bilateral meetings between Netanyahu, Nicos Anastasiades and Alexis Tsipras in Tel Aviv, Nicosia and Athens.

Despite the fact that the summit was held in Nicosia, it was clear that Tsipras, who represents the radical left-wing in Greece, was the keenest on strengthening relations with Israel, as he visited Tel Aviv twice in less than two months.

Some Israeli commentators believe that Netanyahu will use the tripartite summit as a means of pressuring Turkey to back down from some of its conditions to normalise relations with Tel Aviv, especially in terms of the conditions for the export of Israeli gas through Turkey.

Arad Nir, Israel’s Channel 2 international commentator, says that Netanyahu is telling Erdogan that Israel could get things done without Turkey and that the regional atmosphere for Tel Aviv is much better than the international atmosphere is for Ankara.

Professor Arye Mekel, a prominent researcher at Bar-Ilan University and former ambassador to Greece, said hostility towards Turkey is a common denominator amongst the countries that formed the alliance, which they announced last Thursday in Nicosia.

According to Mekel, Israel used the strategy of hinting to Cyprus and Greece that it would improve its relations with Ankara at their expense to convince the Cypriots and Greeks to strengthen their strategic cooperation with Israel.

It is clear that Israel used the fact that the Greek and Cypriot decision-making circles and political elites see Turkey as their top enemy to their advantage.

An indicator of Israel’s predictions being fulfilled in terms of its relations with Greece is the fact that the EU Greek representative led the opposition against the proposal to label goods produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank when selling them in Europe.

It is worth noting that the Israeli minister of defence met with his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos, in Athens last week, and that on Wednesday, the Greek and Israeli governments held a joint meeting in occupied Jerusalem under the leadership of Netanyahu and Tsipras.

The new regional alliance also includes countries that did not participate in the meeting, including Egypt. It is important to note that the Egyptian-Cypriot-Greek summits held over the past two years compliment the summits which Israel participated in.

It is clear that Israel is interested in isolating Turkey economically and politically after establishing this four-party alliance.

The question that arises here is: Will the Gaza Strip, once again, pay the price of regional considerations? Has the four-party alliance drawn the curtain on the possibility of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip once and for all?

It is difficult to answer these questions because there are many people within the Israeli elite who believe that lifting the siege on Gaza is in Israel’s best interest, as it reduces the chance of a new confrontation.

Translated from Al-Resalah, 5 February 2016.

]]> (Dr Saleh Al-Naami) Middle East Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:26:18 +0000
Will Egypt’s road map open the Rafah crossing or keep it closed? Former Fatah leader, Mohammed Dahlan

Former Fatah official Sufian Abu Zaida announced during his participation in a seminar held in Gaza City on 8 December 2015 that the Egyptian authorities had a road map to open the Rafah border crossing and resolve the crisis once and for all.

According to Abu Zaida, who is close to former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, the road map includes achieving reconciliation within Fatah first, followed by a national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. It also involves forming a unity government that will control and manage matters in Gaza, including the crossing and border security, and holding presidential, as well as PLC and PNC elections.

This is the first time the Fatah official has said this and it seems to be true, as no denial was issued by the Egyptians or Palestinians. In addition to this, I do not believe that Abu Zaida could invest or fabricate such a matter that involves the Egyptian government. It is worth noting that he has repeated his words on two occasions. What is stranger is that this important statement passed quietly without stirring a Palestinian political or media discussion, and no one paid attention to it. Even the factional committee concerned with the crossing crisis did not give it any attention or respond to it in any manner.

The Egyptian road map simply means that there will be no complete opening of the crossing nor will there be a radical resolution to the suffocating crisis suffered by the people of Gaza without an internal Fatah reconciliation, i.e. a reconciliation between Abbas and Dahlan, followed by a national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas or Abbas and Hamas. This basically means that they have disregarded or ignored the reconciliation agreement brokered by Egypt itself, which did not address the idea of a Fatah reconciliation, despite its importance. It also did not mention handing over the reins of power to Hamas or restoring legitimacy in Gaza, as Mahmoud Abbas always says.

It is worth remembering that the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in May 2011, i.e. during the rule of the Military Council which is now back in power in a newer form, stipulated a number of matters for their reconciliation including the formation of a national consensus government, the meeting of the PLO’s top leadership, the resumption of the PLC’s duties, resolving Gaza’s crisis, including its reconstruction, and merging institutions to create conditions conducive to holding full elections.

In the security context, for example, the agreement spoke of keeping the security situation as it is while gradually merging 3,000 members of the former security agencies associated with the PA into the existing security agency in Gaza. It also mentioned the formation of a higher security council by means of consensus that would make the necessary reforms, after elections are held, and re-merge the security agencies in cooperation with an Arab security committee, the backbone of which would be Cairo.

Matters changed after the coup in Egypt, as the new Egyptian leadership closed the crossing in order to suffocate and weaken Hamas. The Egyptian leadership also repeatedly called for the need for the “legitimate authority” to supervise the crossing, as well as the borders between Gaza and Egypt, with a coy reference to the reconciliation agreement and its mechanisms, especially with Cairo abandoning its responsibilities as the broker. Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas totally obliterated the basis and foundations of the reconciliation with his constant talk of Hamas surrendering to the PA, or what he describes as restoring legitimacy in Gaza.

Simply, frankly and clearly, the blockade and the closure of the Rafah crossing has been used to blackmail Hamas and force it to surrender to Egypt’s and Abbas’s conditions by completely leaving power. In return, Abbas will kindly waive his condition of Hamas handing over its weapons, even if for a specific duration. Abbas ignored the equation that the Islamic movement agreed to after the April 2014 Al-Shati agreement, which included its acceptance and improvement of the famous Tunisian equation, which involves leaving government and remaining in power or authority and in the institutions in general.

Truth be told, despite the presence of a military political trend in Gaza that is not keen on the reconciliation and is looking for just the illusion of the PA’s return as well as a means to resolve Gaza’s problems without making any political or security concessions, the majority of the Hamas leadership, especially abroad, is serious and open to the reconciliation. They are willing for the government in Gaza to oversee the partnership and for institutions to carry out their duties without marginalising or excluding any party, given the fact that Hamas possesses the same legitimacy possessed by Abbas, as the constitutional term of the president and PLC have ended.

Therefore, after Abbas’s approval and openness, or rather his involvement in the blackmail of Hamas with the issues of the crossing and the siege in order to force Hamas to give in to his conditions, and his abandonment of the spirit of the reconciliation agreement and the concept of partnership in general, the Egyptian leadership proposed a new condition that is undoubtedly a complete and explicit blackmail of Abbas.

Cairo knows that Abu Mazen and a large part of the Fatah and PA leadership are rejecting reconciliation with Dahlan in any form. They also officially issued a firm response to this last November when Cairo attempted to gather the two sides together. They also responded to Egypt and Dahlan’s leaks promoting the idea in an official statement from Fatah, issued by its Central Committee, considering the Dahlan issue to be completely over and even criminal, accusing him of using political funds abroad to achieve personal and partisan political goals.

Despite this, Cairo proposed the condition of reconciling with Dahlan to tell Abbas if he wanted to achieve a political, economic and morale victory against Hamas and force it to surrender and give in to resolve Gaza’s crises and lift the siege, including opening the crossing, then it must do the same with Dahlan. Egypt is sending the message that the road to Gaza not only passes through the necessary reconciliation with Hamas, but also through a forced reconciliation with Dahlan that would put Dahlan back onto the scene, perhaps even as a serious candidate, in the eyes of his regional sponsors, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, to succeed Abbas.

We cannot deny the fact that reconciliation within Fatah is important and required because a large part of Fatah feels weakened and marginalised, especially those in Gaza. Resolving Fatah’s political conflicts must be in a partisan and democratic manner. As for the criminal accusations, they certainly belong in the just, independent and unpoliticised judiciary. However, it is not logical to link opening the crossing or the national reconciliation to the partisan reconciliation, specifically between Abbas and Dahlan.

The national reconciliation is also required, needed and urgent to achieve partnership without exclusion or a stronger and weaker party. This must be paired with honest and honourable implementation of the reconciliation agreements and understandings, of course by means of an unbiased and honest mediator by a party other than Cairo, as it abandoned its role and mediation and also refuses to allow any other party to carry out the dirty work. Despite this, the lack of a national or partisan reconciliation should not justify, in any case, the closure of the Rafah crossing or its use to blackmail Palestinian leaderships in the PA, Fatah or Hamas.

In short, the Egyptian road map to open the crossing includes unrealistic and even impossible demands. It is worth noting that opening the crossing in a regular and periodic manner for humanitarian purposes and emergencies, only requires Egyptian political will and decision, and this must not be associated, under any circumstances, with the developments and results of the internal Palestinian actions and movements. As for the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, it must be linked to a necessary national reconciliation that practically occurred since the Al-Shati’ Agreement at the hands of the Palestinians themselves after Cairo abandoned its role and sponsorship, and the lack of any other party willing, or capable, of doing the job.

Translated from Arabi21, 3 February 2016.

]]> (Majed Azam) Africa Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:59:43 +0000
Empty tokenism in Danish politics creates new lows in ‘values’ debate Grünkohl mit bregenwurst und bauchfleisch - Kale with pork belly and Bregenwurst, Danish politics is facing potentially radical changes. Not only has Denmark ruined its humanitarian socialist image of welfare and equality, but it has also seen numerous prominent politicians moving to the left as the Social Democrats perversely voted with the right-wing parties to approve the controversial amendment to the Immigration and Asylum Act L’87, last week. An upsurge of ambiguity in the use of terms such as Danish culture, integration and multiculturalism has fuelled the debates and projected domestic insecurities about what it means to be Danish onto refugees and migrants. This works to the benefit of centre and right-wing politics because the concept of Danish culture will never be clear-cut and, with culture being ever-changing, it creates fear amongst people who are under the illusion that we “once had” a pure cultural platform. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of fear arising out of an unrealistic concept of culture as territorial or national, which needs “protection” from the perceived negative influence of the “Others”.

Tightening up the L’87 act, with stricter controls on border with Germany, has reduced the number of people seeking refuge in Denmark from 632 in the first week of January to 241 last week, according to figures released by the foreign ministry. A total of 1,400 refugees are seeking asylum in Denmark, a country with a similar population as Lebanon, which has taken in 1.5 million refugees, despite its own structural and political instability. To call the influx of refugees to Europe or Denmark a “crisis” is close to satire, being used as a tool to create deep social and political divisions across Europe. The “fortress Europe” rhetoric of “protection” and “values” is empty tokenism, a cheap shot by the right-wing to collect or rather “save” frightened voters who are unaware of the reality on the ground, or the geo-political conditions and responsibility for the war from which Syrians are seeking refuge.

The opposition parties Alternativet, Enhedslisten and Radikale Venstre say that L’87 is simply tokenistic. Members and supporters of the Social Democrats have started to switch allegiance to the left-wing Radikale Venstre as the centre party’s tradition for humanism has taken a knock with its shift to the right, putting the vulnerable in society even more at risk.

The radical right-wing party Dansk Folkeparti’s initiation of the race to establish new political lows in the early 2000s has consequences for today’s political debates. It’s a normalisation of empty tokenism signifying that Denmark “doesn’t want you and if you have to be here, we will make it hard.” The L’87 act is brutal, forcing people to be apart from each other for three years and taking jewellery from refugees, allegedly to help “fund their stay”. Johanne Schmidt Nielsen, the leader of the left-wing Enhedslisten, complained at the parliamentary meeting that followed the acceptance of L’87 that the political debate is deceitful as jewellery, of course, will not be used for anything in reality; it is simply a mechanism to scare people away from Denmark’s borders. No denial of the veracity of this claim was made.

Several top politicians within the Social Democrats — the most prominent being Jens Rhode MEP — have moved to Radikale Venstre or Alternativet, both of which are to the left of the Social Democrats. A recent survey from Megaphon shows a 7 per cent drop in support for the latter, with voters migrating in a surge to Radikale Venstre and Alternativet. The director of Megaphon, Asger H Nielsen, is sure that the poll results are accurate. “If you disagree with it,” he insists, “then you live in a bubble.”

The left-wing parties believe that immigration will enrich Denmark, and tend not to talk immigration down as a threat to Danish values, whatever they are. The right-wing parties in Denmark and elsewhere, though, are capitalising on their own perception of Danish (or British, or German) culture, so much so that they created a (high) cultural canon of Danish art in 2004, with works from across the centuries grouped together as “Danish culture”. Former Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen often linked his own political Værdikamp (“battle for values”) to this canon. He received a lot of criticism for this, for which he apologised, and yet along with many of his party members has repeated it several times. The obsession with Værdikamp is now an unquestioned omnipresent paranoia of losing Danish values (yet to be defined), but forming the premise for the new changes to L’87.

From the centre and right, the political parties generally have a static view of what culture actually is. It has always been fluid and dynamic, something that has been proven time and time again. However, these parties are convinced that they need to “protect Danish values” within Danish culture, although no clear definitions are offered for any of this contentious terminology. A similar discussion — or lack thereof — is taking place in Britain, with David Cameron’s right-wing Conservative government insisting that schools, and Muslims in particular, embody as yet undefined “British values”.

An insight into what “values” in Denmark might actually be was given recently by the government as it pushed to make pork mandatory on the menu in public institutions, so as to “protect” Danish society from any special catering for minorities (in this case, Muslims). In other words, tokenism that will not benefit anyone, other than to send a clear symbol that multiculturalism and multi-faith societies are not welcome in Denmark. The message is clear: if Muslims or other minorities end up in the country, well, they will be given a hard time. As much as this episode shows what the government means by “Danish values”, it also shows just how juvenile its concept is.

Furthermore, the Danish right-wing seems to have conflated integration with assimilation, sending the signal that if you're a Muslim and you plan to come to the city of Randers, for example, then don't expect to be able to impose Islamic eating habits on others. “Pork here is on an equal footing with other food," is how Frank Noergaard, a member of the populist Danish People's Party (DF) and Randers city council member, described it.

Integration, of course, is a negotiation of cultures and values in various ways to make sense of one’s life. Should one fail to do this in Randers, one can go to Slagelse and negotiate culture and values there. The point is that there is no single Danish culture across the whole national territory; it is not homogenous and does not come with inscribed values; the same is true for all nations. Anthropologists have always been convinced that culture is and will be fluid and dynamic just as we, as people: ever-changing and challenging ourselves and others.

During the last Danish election, the debate about multiculturalism must have made anthropologists and humanists weep as the leaders of the Social Democrats, Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti were vying with each other to hit new racist lows. “We have not made the conditions better for immigrants,” the former Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning told Danish Radio in the debate, as she defended her party against accusations that it — the former ruling party — had made Denmark “attractive” for asylum seekers.

What we are seeing in Denmark at the moment is the result of populist politics and the conflation of values, culture and welfare, about none of which the right-wing have any clear idea. The empty tokenism and campaigning of fear and conflicting policies and values of the party have reshaped the broad spectrum of the political centre to put clear water between the left and right-wing.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Europe Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:08:38 +0000
In Saudi Arabia, Britain arms a regime following 'same thought' as Islamic State Asa Winstanley

A Parliamentary debate on the war in Yemen Thursday resulted in ridiculous scenes. A Tory minister with the Foreign Office claimed of a vital UN report that he "hadn't received it officially" even as he waved a copy in his hand. This resulted in mocking laughter from the opposition benches.

But of course the report is no laughing matter. A UN panel of experts, in a report leaked Wednesday, has found that the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has involved “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets.

Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest buyers of British-made weapons, and successive Labour and Conservative governments have considered it as a top ally. So it's no surprise to find a government minister defending alleged Saudi war crimes in this way.

According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, UK arms sales to the Saudis have totalled some £5.6 billion during David Cameron's time in office. Some £2.8 billion of this has been since the Saudis began bombing Yemen.

According to The Guardian, the leaked UN report says that the Saudis and their allies "conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes."

British "advisers" have been stationed in the Saudi command and control centre, but the government has denied they have an operational role.

Also on Wednesday, a London think tank published a translated clip from Emirati TV of a recent interview with a top Saudi cleric talking frankly about the similarities between the Saudi regime and the "Islamic State" regime in Syria and Iraq.

Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani told the presenter that "we follow the same thought [as Islamic State] but apply it in a refined way." He said "they draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, from our own principles"

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He said that the one who criticises Islamic State "the most does not criticise their thought, but their actions … the way people are executed … is brutal … it ruins our image in front of the world; if we execute them in a way that does not show us in a bad light, then that's fine."

"When some journalists were killed, it was as a result of specific religious rulings," he explained.

Islamic State has executed many journalists, often releasing hideous and graphic videos of the event taking place on camera in public. These have included Iraqi cameraman Raad Mohamed al-Azaoui, in October 2014. Al-Azaoui had allegedly refused the group's demand that he send all his reports to their media department for pre-approval. More widely publicised killings of western journalists such as Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff have often been announced in grimly slick video productions.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world's biggest perpetrators of the death penalty, carrying out more than 90 executions in 2014, according to Amnesty International (behind only Iran, with 289 and China, which carries out more than the rest of the world put together). Figures released in August suggest the rate had increased to an average of one person every two days.

Saudi executions are often carried out for alleged crimes such as drug smuggling or "sorcery". Much like in areas occupied by Islamic State, Saudi executions are is administered with beheading.

The frank admission by the Saudi cleric confirms something I mentioned in a column back in November 2014. The dissident Saudi researcher and activist Faud al-Ibrahim showed in an important essay, that "Islamic State" and Saudi Arabia share much the same ideology, and that books widely promoted by the Saudis are similarly pushed in Islamic State controlled areas.

Between 2007-2014, #Saudi Arabia was the leading customer for #US's arms trade, with agreements worth $86 billion!Infographic by The White Canvas

Posted by Middle East Monitor on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The writings of co-founder of the Saudi state "Mohammed bin Abdel Wahhab such as The Book of the Unity of God, Clarification of the Doubts, Nullifiers of Islam and others are distributed in the areas under ISIS' control and are taught and explained in private religious classes that the organization's educational department holds."

How can it be that even at the same time the British government says it is fighting the extremist group in Syria and Iraq (with a counter-productive bombing campaign), that it is selling billions in arms to a more "refined" version of exactly the same hideous ideology?

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Sun, 31 Jan 2016 12:18:58 +0000
The Apartheid Fear Ben WhiteApartheid, in the words of the Rome Statute, is when inhumane acts are committed “in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Increasingly, Israel’s “inhumane acts” against the Palestinians are being understood not as mere aberrations or excesses, but as part of a system of discrimination and segregation: an Israeli form ofapartheid. In response, support for campaigns like Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) is growing.

Recognising these developments, pro-Israel lobby groups are worried. In 2014, one such organisation, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, orBICOM, published a booklet called ‘ The Apartheid Smear’, written by staffer Alan Johnson.

The publication, intended to be “a vital tool” in fighting BDS, has been “circulated [worldwide] by Israel’s foreign ministry”, and distributed on British campuses. Yet this so-called ‘significant’ booklet is strewn with easily identifiable errors, distortions and omissions. The following are three examples – there are many more.

1. Disappearing international law

It is difficult to put a positive spin on Israel’s deliberate and persistent violations of international law. Alan Johnson’s strategy is to ignore it and hope that no one notices. In a booklet straining to appear serious and academic, the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is not mentioned once.

The only indication that the settlements might have, at the very least, a legal question mark over them is a quotation by Robbie Sabel, former adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he describes the “issue” of settlements as “a matter of debate in the international community.” To an extent, this is true - Israel debates it with everyone else.

  • UN Security Council: “The policy of Israel in establishing settlements in the occupied Arab territories has no legal validity and constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
  • UN General Assembly: “Israeli settlement activities involve…the confiscation of land, the exploitation of natural resources and other actions against the Palestinian civilian population that are contrary to international law”.
  • Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention: “The participating High Contracting Parties… reaffirm the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof.”
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ): “The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”
  • International Committee of the Red Cross: “For decades, restrictions linked to the settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law, have resulted in Palestinian farmers losing land and income.”
  • European Union: “The EU continues to oppose Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Territories as being illegal under international law and damaging for the Peace Process as they prejudge the outcome of the Final Status Negotiations.”
  • UK government: “Settlements are not only illegal under international law and in direct contravention of Israel’s Roadmap commitments, but more practically they represent an attempt to create ‘facts on the ground’ which make a two-state solution harder to achieve.”

The ICJ’s 2004 advisory opinion is in fact cited (though not quoted) by Johnson, but in such a way as to wilfully mislead. According to Johnson, the court was merely “critical” of Israel’s Separation Wall; in fact, the judges (14-1) described “construction of the wall” in the occupied territories as “contrary to international law”, and stated that Israel should immediately “dismantle” it.

Search ‘The Apartheid Smear’ for references to the Fourth Geneva Convention or Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, and you will find absolutely nothing. Johnson and BICOM demonstrate that to defend Israel, you need to live in a world where international law does not exist.

2. Dishonest with the data

Even Johnson must have been embarrassed by some of what he wrote in ‘The Apartheid Smear’. At one point, for example, he claims that Israel’s 49-year-old occupation of the OPT “persists…not because Israel wants to rule over the Territories but because peace talks…have failed thus far.” Five decades of settlements and colonisation do not, however, suggest a ‘reluctant’ occupier.

Johnson also describes “Israel’s actions” in the OPT as “security measures” or even “emergency security measures”, which, he concedes, might cause Palestinians some “discomforts”. The history of the occupation, Israel’s military laws, the settlement enterprise, and the impact of this network of illegal colonies on the lives of the occupied population, does not allow for such an interpretation.

The publication’s treatment of Israel’s checkpoints and travel permit regime is instructive. Johnson begins by getting his timeline wrong, writing that “Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement came in response to terrorist attacks that occurred initially after the signing of the [1993 & 1995] Oslo Accords”. In fact, Israeli restrictions began in the late 1980s, during the First Intifada.

Johnson also states that “Israeli restrictions on movement and access have been considerably reduced” in recent years. To support such a boast, he wrote the following: “In the period 2003-2006 there were between 376 and 735 checkpoints. By February 2013, there were 98 fixed checkpoints, according to the Israeli anti-occupation NGO B’tselem.”

The figures Johnson cites for 2003-2006 are inclusive of fixed checkpoints and other obstacles. For February 2013, however, he only cites the number of “fixed checkpoints”; the equivalent figure, including all types of obstacles, would have been around 500.

In fact, a likely source for Johnson’s (unreferenced) statistic is a fact page which states: “between 2003 and 2006 the total number of checkpoints and roadblocks hindering Palestinian movement in the West Bank ranged between 376 and 735” (my emphasis). This text is almost identical to what Johnson wrote – except he omitted mention of ‘roadblocks’.

By way of bringing this more up to date, as of December 2014, according to UN OCHA’s 2015 ‘Humanitarian Atlas’, there were some 490 different, Israeli-imposed physical obstacles to Palestinian freedom of movement in the Occupied West Bank.

3. Downplaying discrimination

When it comes to the issue of discrimination facing Palestinian citizens of Israel, Johnson is caught in two minds. The BICOM booklet acknowledges “disadvantages” faced by non-Jews, but does not provide detailed examples. Johnson claims “racism is not...institutionalised”, but at another point, concedes that “minorities” are not “completely free of institutionalised discrimination”.

‘The Apartheid Smear’ also attempts to explain away specific policies. One such example is Israel’s admission committees, which as Human Rights Watch noted in 2008, “have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs from living in rural Jewish communities” by filtering out applicants based on their “incompatibility with the social and cultural fabric.”

Johnson downplays the committees’ impact, claiming that they operate in merely “some small rural communities” numbering “a few dozen or a few hundred families.” Johnson omits that they actually exist, by law, in 42 per cent of all Israeli communities. In addition, through the regional councils of which they are part, these communities “exercise  control over a significant amount of land.”

A second policy Johnson tackles is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which denies status in Israel to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. This has the effect of separating Palestinian husbands and wives when one has Israeli citizenship and one is from the OPT.

When the law was passed as a ‘temporary’ measure in 2003, the Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the State of Israel described the law as establishing “a discriminatory regime to the detriment of Palestinians in the highly sensitive area of family rights.”

For Alan Johnson, this is an example of Israel “wrestling with the excruciating dilemma of striking the correct balance between terror and rights.” Clearly desperate, he adds: “It would have been absurd, for example, to demand of Britain that it allow German or Japanese citizens to immigrate there during World War Two, and to accuse it of racism for not agreeing to do so.”

This analogy really is ‘excruciating’. Israel’s racist law serves to prevent family unification between Palestinians living a few miles away from each other; one an Israeli citizen, and one under Israeli military occupation. It is not even remotely comparable to a German or Japanese citizen emigrating to Britain during World War Two.

The ‘security’ rationale is easily debunked: the Israeli authorities have no trouble vetting and processing thousands of entry permits for individual Palestinian workers. But Israeli officials have been more honest than BICOM about the real motivation for the law.

Listen to former Shin Bet deputy head Gideon Ezra, who put it like this: “the state of Israel is not prepared to accept a creeping right of return; no one wants our state to cease to be a Jewish state.” Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon similarly admitted: “There is no need to hide behind security arguments. There is a need for the existence of a Jewish state.”

Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012, stating: “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called it a “dark day for the protection of human rights”, saying the Court had “stamped its approval on a racist law, one that will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins.”

Finally, Johnson also downplays the amount of public racism targeting Palestinian citizens, dismissing the issue as a problem with a “small number of extremists.” This is laughable; anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia is commonplace – from elected officials to the Jewish Israeli general public.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is himself a good example. In 2003, Bibi called Palestinian citizens the real “demographic problem”, and in 2010, as premier,told a government meeting that a Negev “without a Jewish majority” would pose “a palpable threat.” His successful campaign for re-election in 2015 was shot through with anti-Palestinian incitement.

Other examples abound. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat explicitly seeks to maintain a Jewish majority in the city; when Ehud Olmert was mayor, he described it as “a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population.”

The racism crosses the (narrow) spectrum, from former Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas), who in 2009 declared it a “national duty” to “prevent the spread” of Palestinian citizens, to current Labor chair and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who never wants to see a Palestinian prime minister.

Popular anti-Palestinian racism is also endemic. In a 2007 poll, more than half of Jewish Israelis agreed that “the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason.” In a 2015 survey, 57 per cent of Jews were opposed to including Arab ministers in the government; 52% support separating Jewish and Palestinian passengers on buses in the West Bank.

I wonder what Johnson and the rest of his BICOM colleagues would think if the mayor of London or UK government ministers were using this kind of language about Jews? Or if public opinion polls in Britain reflected the same kind of racism against Jews, or any other group? I doubt it would be dismissed as a problem of just a “small number of extremists.”


As a BICOM press officer conceded in 2014, while the so-called “apartheid smear” was “once the preserve of the political fringe”, the “campaign to mainstream it is gaining ground.” It may be called ‘The Apartheid Smear’, but a more accurate name for the booklet would be ‘The Apartheid Fear’: the fear that more people are now recognising Israel’s illegal, racist policies for what they are, and responding through campaigns such as BDS.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Fri, 29 Jan 2016 14:16:21 +0000
What’s still wrong with the ‘War on Terror’? PrDr. Philip Leechesident Barack Obama’s final “State of the Union” speech to the US Congress addressed some controversial issues. In particular, though, when it came to US policy in the Middle East, the president made a serious gaff; he claimed that current conflicts in the region – complex as they are – “date back millennia”.

In doing so, Obama not only got the history of the region wrong, but he also perpetuated the harmful and implicitly racist myth that war in the Middle East is an inevitable product of ancient and irrational hatred. It presents current conflicts in the vein of an irresolvable “clash of civilisations” and, in so doing, would seem to imply the inferiority of Muslims to Western civilisation. (A myopic worldview that I’ve argued against previously.)

Perhaps most importantly, though, Obama’s gaff demonstrates that, at the end of his presidency, he has returned to the kind of lazy thinking about the Middle East that epitomised his predecessor’s two terms in office.

Indeed, despite running against President George W Bush’s record, Obama’s “War on Terror” has continued and – notwithstanding the administration’s laudable efforts to support a diplomatic relationship with Iran – the lack of imagination employed continues to mar US foreign policy. A particularly good example of this is Washington’s problematic approach towards dealing with Daesh (the so-called “Islamic State”) in Syria and Iraq.

The recent suicide bombing in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, that killed 10 people, is another act of horrific terrorism by Daesh which demonstrates the group playing to its strengths and exploiting the natural weaknesses of its opponents. It is likely that, with this latest attack, Daesh seeks to demonstrate that it remains unbowed by the increase in military activity against it since the attacks in Paris late last year.

The need for realism

Twelve years into a costly and debilitating global “war on terror” rife with myriad blunders and some catastrophic mistakes, a realist approach is exactly what is needed here; it begins with a rethinking of what the phenomenon of Daesh really means. According to Stephen Walt, a prominent realist thinker and professor at Harvard University, this means putting aside the image we have of Daesh as a unique and unprecedented bogeyman and accepting the fact that it’s meaning is actually best understood as akin to other “revolutionary states” in history.

This means that Daesh is more like the kinds of political movements that have come to power – like the Jacobins in France, the Bolsheviks in Russia, Mao’s Communists in China, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and Khomeini’s revolutionary movement in Iran – where the existing regime either collapsed or vacated power. In each case the revolutionary movement that took over the state imposed radical reforms on the population and remained outliers in the international system. As Walt explains, “Its religious dimension notwithstanding, the group is just the latest in a long line of state-building revolutionaries… These movements were as hostile to prevailing international norms as the Islamic State is, and they also used ruthless violence to eliminate or intimidate rivals and demonstrate their power to a wider world.”

None of this is to take away from the utter horror of Daesh’s rule, nor the terror that it exports around the world. However, Walt’s perspective does challenge us to stop buying-in to the excitable mythology that surrounds the group and put its threat into context, and thus approach it with more rationality and less emotion.

The threat of Daesh (to the West) in context.

A very useful study by the New York Times tracks the number of attacks undertaken and inspired by Daesh around the world. According to the Institute for the Study of War, attacks on the West comprise one aspect of a three-pronged strategy, which also includes inciting regional conflict and building relationships with other jihadist groups. Yet while overall the number of people who have been killed by terrorism has increased dramatically, the West has been relatively unaffected. As the Global Terrorism Index 2015, explains: “The majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the West. Excluding the September 11 attack, only 0.5 per cent of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West since 2000… Lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators of terrorist activity in the West. Seventy per cent of all deaths from terrorism in the West since 2006 were by lone wolf terrorists… Islamic fundamentalism was not the main cause of terrorism in the West over the last nine years. Eighty per cent of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, anti-government sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy.”

Indeed, as CNN demonstrated, since the start of this century Americans have faced a dramatically larger threat from gun violence than from terrorism, either at home or abroad (even when including the September 11 attacks of 2001).

The threat to Europe might be more tangible, particularly following the attacks in Paris and Istanbul, but it is hardly unprecedented. Indeed, prior to the emergence of Daesh, European states faced multiple threats of politically-motivated violence, often targeting civilians. This has included other Islamist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, neo-Nazi groups and far right wing individuals as well as organisations opposed to the colonial legacies of some European states.

There is no security case for this war

A major problem is that the current approach is actually unlikely to prevent further attacks. Indeed, as we have seen, Daesh’s strategy of choice – particularly when targeting the West – is to seek to inspire uncoordinated acts of violence by people who may be susceptible to its message. For instance, according to RAND (an organisation with close links to the US government): “Individuals join the jihadist cause for a variety of reasons, including the belief that the jihadist cause represents a thrilling call to action, the social bonds of friends and peer groups that galvanize the will to act, a misinformed view of scriptural tenets, and a desire to defend against a perceived war against Islam. Extremist narratives on the Internet seek to exploit all of these factors.”

Similarly, the Tony Blair “Faith Foundation” explains: “Violent ideologies do not operate in a vacuum. A fire requires oxygen to grow. A broader political culture overlaps significantly with some of the assumptions of the jihadi ideology, without necessarily being extreme or agreeing with its violence.”

Clearly then, Daesh’s ability to reach potential attackers is profound. It can disseminate its message widely (using a complex network of social media clients), tap into the genuine sense of grievance felt among some Muslims in the West and – like the best sophists – manipulate commonly understood doctrine to its own sinister goals.

Combine this reality with the fact that it is virtually impossible for non-police states to provide security for so-called “soft targets” like public spaces or tourist venues; this demonstrates that, no matter what steps Western governments take, in all reasonable likelihood some form of violence on the streets – tied to the Daesh phenomenon – will persist.

It is likely that most of this will be uncoordinated violence undertaken by the disenfranchised and marginalised individuals who are susceptible to Daesh’s propaganda (as they would be to the propaganda of similar groups). However, some of it may be coordinated, and representative of the fact that, no matter how good police and security measures are, there will always be gaps in the system and mistakes will be made. As Adam Shatz explained after the Paris and Beirut attacks, “We really do live in a single, if unequal world, where the torments in one region inevitably spill over into another, where everything connects, sometimes with lethal consequences.”


In the immediate background to this war against Daesh are the campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that have taken place over the past 14 years. Even further back, the legacy of British and French colonialism looms large. It is, after all, the Sykes-Picot borders between Iraq and Syria that Daesh wishes to erase.

While the proponents of the air strikes in Syria are right to point out that there is no direct parallel between the goals of the current campaign and the (almost universally) discredited invasion of Iraq, this does not mean that there are no lessons to be learned. Indeed, as we know, the situation in Syria in 2015 is very different to what it was in Iraq in 2003.

Furthermore, in both Afghanistan and Iraq the military campaign was justified on the basis that it would end tyrannical regimes and also avert the potential for massive destructive attacks on civilians to take place. In Libya, a similar rationale was used, the goal of regime change was justified by the desire to protect civilians. However, in both cases, in the aftermath of war there was not order but disorder, and from this void emerged the apparently even greater threat of Daesh.

In the current war the goal is, evidently, the end of Daesh and the restoration of the kind of stability that prevailed under Sykes-Picot. Working with the regime is an acceptable price to pay for that, if only because it is an unavoidable cost.

What is evidently missing from this rationale, though, is that the more that violence is undertaken by the West in Syria and Iraq, the more Daesh will be able to play on the narrative that it is involved in an anti-colonial struggle.

In order to avoid this possibility it would be far wiser if the use of force were restricted only to the goal of containing Daesh and preventing its expansion. Undertaking this strategy reduces the effectiveness of the group’s anti-imperialist rhetoric and consequently means that it will become less alluring.

It should also force the Daesh leadership to confront the fact that they exist in the real world and that, sooner or later, vicious tactics are no serious substitute to ruling through consent. In other words, Daesh will be forced to rein-in its radicalism in order to survive.

“Over time,” explains Walt, “the movement may collapse from its own excesses and internal divisions. That outcome would be preferable, of course, but it is not guaranteed. Fortunately, history suggests that if ISIS survives, it will become a more normal state over time. Revolutionaries can fantasise about transforming the world while out of power, but to survive over the long term, they must learn to compromise their ideals and moderate their behaviour, even if they do not wholly abandon their original principles. Leon Trotsky’s dreams of ‘world revolution’ gave way to Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’, and Mao’s radical policies at home were accompanied by a risk-averse policy toward other states. Revolutionary Iran has followed a similar trajectory and conducted its foreign policy in a mostly prudent and calculating manner.”

From the outset, the “war on terror” has been a product of wishful thinking and lazy rhetoric. It is perpetuated today because the emotional reactions play too strong a role in foreign policy-making in the West. We delude ourselves into believing that we should be safer than we can ever really be and that, when we are attacked, our responses can be more effective than they actually are.

Daesh itself is a product of this fantasy world. It emerged out of the war in Iraq and it recruits new members by selling a fanciful vision that overstates its own power and manipulates the religiosity and anger of others. It follows, then, that the best way to bring about the demise of this repulsive organisation is to prevent any further supply of fuel to its ideological fire.

This is no “epic struggle” rooted in events which happened “millennia” ago, as Obama has claimed. This is a military conflict about the mundane reality of power in the region. It is time that the West started treating it this way.

Dr Philip Leech is a visiting research fellow at the Council for British Research in the Levant. He is on twitter @phil_haqeeqa and his academic profile is available at

]]> (Dr. Philip Leech) Americas Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:05:58 +0000
Civilisational politics threatens everyone’s freedoms, not just Muslims’ Anshuman MondalThe anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo murders offers an opportunity to reflect on what has been a turbulent year, especially in France but elsewhere too. Personally speaking, such reflections are tinged by surrealism because on the morning of 7 January 2015 I was suffering from flu and had a temperature of 41 degrees. The launch of my book on Islam and freedom of speech controversies was scheduled for the following Monday, and that synchronicity seemed at the time to be too outrageous to be true. Drifting in and out of feverish sleep, I could not tell whether what I was hearing on my bedside radio was real or merely in my imagination.

During the rest of the year, I had plenty of opportunity to discuss those events at various debates and discussions, on the radio and TV, at literary festivals and in print. At no point was the assumption that the attack on Charlie Hebdo represented an attack on freedom of speech and hence “western values” interrogated seriously.

The underlying assumption is that “they” – people like the Kouachi brothers and other Islamist terrorists – hate “freedom”, which is a Western value that is alien to “them”. Some are careful to stress that “they” does not include all Muslims, but only a tiny minority of extremists; others are less scrupulous. However, whether nuanced or not, the assumption rests on a syllogism that a) freedom is a Western value; b) “they” hate the West; ergo c) “they” hate freedom.

The problem is that these terrorists don’t believe the West to be free. As any cursory examination of the ideological parameters of Islamism will reveal, its proponents believe that the West is indeed not free but in a state of jahiliyya. This term has traditionally been translated as “ignorance”, which in turn is linked strongly to kuffar, or “unbelievers”. Although there are other ways to translate jahiliyya that offer a profoundly different way of conceptualising and relating to non-Muslims, the customary translation is particularly hospitable to Islamists because it corresponds to their simple apprehension of the world in crude binary terms.

The point is that “unbelievers” are in a state of bondage not freedom. Jahiliyya enslaves them. From this perspective, then, it makes no sense to suggest that Islamist terrorists are attacking the West because they “hate freedom”. Rather, it is clear that they attack in the name of freedom. Sayyid Qutb’s ideological innovation, so crucial to all forms of contemporary takfiri (declaring Muslims to be non-Muslims) jihadism such as that practised by Daesh, was to extend the sphere of jahiliyya to encompass other Muslims and interpretations of Islam of which the terrorists do not approve. This absolves them of the heinous sin of stirring intra-Muslim discord or fitna, which is handy, I guess, if you believe that you are fighting for the kingdom of heaven.

When Islamist terrorists trained or inspired by Daesh attack “the West” they do so not because they hate its values or despise its culture, but because of the brute political fact that the existence of “unbelief” is a testimony to the incomplete realisation of their political vision, namely the global extension of the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) as they define it. The idiom of “Western imperialism” that they use to underline this vision is, all at once, a description of reality, a justification of their claim to be waging a war of “liberation” and a symptom of this incompleteness. Their call to jihad is a call for completion, to institute their imagined realm and freedom and justice in secular time.

To that extent, Andrew Neil’s celebrated rant on The Daily Politics in the wake of the November Paris atrocities reveals the redundancy of the kinds of “values-talk” and “civilisation-speak” that are customarily, even ritualistically, mobilised after terrorist attacks such as these. Balancing the glittering achievements of French culture – Balzac, Zola, Monet etc. – against those espoused by Daesh and its like on the imaginary scales of civilisational achievement probably made him and many other people feel better momentarily, but the cold fact is that Daesh and its supporters don’t give Balzac, Zola, Monet and the rest of French culture a moment’s thought (with the possible exception of the French proclivity for wine).

Likewise, the Kouachi brothers probably didn’t give two hoots about freedom of speech. Of course, we can never know precisely why they chose to attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but it seems to me much more likely that they did so in direct response to that magazine’s high-profile provocations rather than to make a deeper philosophical-cum-political point about freedom of speech. Put simply, Charlie Hebdo was attacked because of the ways in which it used its right to free speech not because of freedom of speech per se. Had the magazine exercised that right in a different way it probably would not have been attacked, although someone or something else surely would have been, a point underscored by the attack on the Jewish supermarket later that day, and the multiple and apparently randomly selected Parisian targets in November.

While it is true that not all shades of Islamist jihadism are as implacably hostile to any form of political settlement as Daesh - hence the rather strange emphasis within Daesh ideology on political eschatology, the “end of days” narrative that is, in fact, common to many religious fundamentalisms across the world (for example, the Left Behind movement within US Christian fundamentalism) – the present leadership does indeed seem to be attached strongly to a “victory or death” scenario that, paradoxically, is both rooted in an underlying political fact – the contest for supremacy – and is utterly indifferent to politics, insofar as that can be defined as the pragmatic assessment of what is possible within the balance of power.

With that in mind, it is too simplistic to say that French interventionism in the politics of the Middle East, especially the government’s early and willing contribution to air strikes against Daesh targets in both Syria and Iraq, was directly responsible for the terrorist reprisals in Paris. It is perhaps more accurate to suggest that French foreign policy aided and abetted the shift in Daesh tactics that led to those atrocities.

The wider point, though, is that when, in response to terrorist attacks, Western politicians and media resort to “values-talk” they not only misrepresent the motivations behind specific outrages by deploying abstract terms – such as “freedom” – that are extremely mobile and shift according to perspective, but they also obscure the material conditions underlying the political problem behind an illusory mirage of “civilisation-speak” because “values-talk” is a way of articulating, covertly, a “clash of civilisations” rhetoric without appearing to do so.

However, in doing this, these politicians subscribe unwittingly to the same political calculus as Daesh. The implacable logic of such civilisational politics leads inevitably to “total victory”; there is no room for containment or détente because as long as the “other” exists the threat persists. Hence, the extension of the British government’s counter-extremism strategy to encompass “non-violent extremism”, itself defined as consisting of ideas and beliefs that are incompatible with British “values”.

There is more than a risk that such an extension will bring under suspicion not just those who espouse and express “non-violent extremist ideology” but also “conservative” and “orthodox” Muslim beliefs and practices; potentially any Muslim belief or practice that does not conform to a prescribed form of permissible religiosity as dictated by the state. The British government will never admit it, but this extension of the counter-extremism strategy is a way of policing thought and expression beyond direct incitement and expressions of racial or religious hatred. Apparently, we are told to believe, the threat to “freedom” (of speech, of religion) posed by this kind of approach is not something to worry about; but we should. We all should, and not just those of us in the Muslim community.

Anshuman Mondal is Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies, specialising in post-colonial studies, at Brunel University, London. He is the author of Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), Amitav Ghosh (Manchester University Press, 2007), and Young British Muslim Voices, an account of his journey across the UK talking to young Muslims. His latest book is Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech after Rushdie (Palgrave, 2014).

]]> (Anshuman Mondal) Guest Writers Fri, 01 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000
Palestinians call for protests against US military aid to the Israeli occupation Dr Sarah MarusekSince the US-sponsored peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel recommenced last summer, Israeli forces have: authorised the approval of several thousand illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; launched the construction of twice as many illegal housing units as in the previous year; forcibly dispersed a peaceful protest camp in the Jordan Valley; violently suppressed the nonviolent demonstrations that happen weekly throughout the occupied West Bank; demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures, with demolitions now at an all time high, leaving entire families homeless and exposed to the cold; arrested hundreds of Palestinian children and thousands of adults to be held without charge or tried in Israeli military courts; and killed dozens of Palestinians in raids in the West Bank and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, which also injured several thousand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Thu, 16 May 2013 15:45:00 +0000
Jordanians reach boiling point King Abdullah II of Jordan

The media has given a lot of attention to the positions expressed by King Abdullah II on the event of the donor countries’ conference in London. They focused particularly on two phrases: the first is about Jordanians reaching boiling point and the second is about making a qualitative change in the Jordanian approach to the Syrian refugees and perhaps even further than this.

Observers and journalists understood from the first statement that Jordan is on the verge of instability and that the King is afraid that the chaos spreading across the region over the past five years will move into Jordan. Others believed that the relationship between the hosting community and the refugee community, i.e. the Jordanians and Syrians, has reached a dangerous turn. I do not know how many people read the King’s statements as a cry of protest to the international community’s lack of support for Jordan, which shouldered the lion’s share of the Syrian refugee burden.

I believe that with his speech to the foreign parties, the King wanted to send a loud message to the donors mainly; it was not directed at the Jordanian public or the Syrian refugees. However, we are in the era of communication, so no interview or statement, regardless of the language, is made without being made public immediately across the world in various languages. If the international community does not understand the essence of the King’s message, then I believe the doors of Jordan will be open to many possibilities.

In his message, the King addressed the biggest challenge facing Jordan, in terms of security and stability; i.e. the worrying economic-social challenge. It is true that this challenge has other causes that came before the Syrian crisis and the spread of the refugee phenomenon, along with its known burdens, but it is also true that the presence of 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan has escalated and exacerbated this challenge. It has turned this challenge in to a source of threat if a helping hand is not extended to Jordan, sooner rather than later.

If the King directed his message to the international community, and especially to the international donor countries, then the echoes of his cry must have reached the neighbouring wealthy countries that have spent and continue to spend tens of billions of dollars left and right, but curbed their spending when it came to helping Jordan. This is not understandable especially in light of many senior officials in Jordan and in these wealthy countries constantly praising the close and exceptional relations between the two sides, as well as the mutual interests and strategies.

Jordan is relying heavily on the conference in London and what it may result in and lead to. When I say relying, I do not only mean a wad of cash that they may provide in the form of “emergency aid”, but more than that. Jordan is relying on a medium and long-term strategic plan in which the international community commits to a concept of “partnership” with Jordan in order to preserve its security and stability on one hand, and to reinforce its role as an effective partner, as well as enable Jordan to shoulder the great burdens of the refugees in the country and amongst its people.

I do not believe that Jordanians reaching boiling point means that Jordan is on the verge of a major explosion or on a mine that can explode any second, neither on the surface nor under the surface. This is cited by the actions in Jordan. It is true that the economic hardship is pressuring the Jordanians and that there are many factors of instability in Jordan, but it is also true that Jordan has succeeded in managing the crises that hit the country and surrounded it. It is not likely, at least in the near future, that Jordan will get caught up in the unconstructive chaos in the region, contrary to what some have concluded from the King’s statements.

I find that the King’s statements and strong warnings are an opportunity to remind everyone of the need for Jordan’s diplomats to think outside the box. Dealing with the refugee portfolio must not remain within the equation of “donors and receivers”, as the ceilings and limits of such equations are known and, at their best, they will only postpone the crisis and manage it rather than resolve it. A balanced diplomatic attack must be launched against the Moscow-Damascus axis in order to work on normalising the situation in south Syria beginning with encouraging local reconciliations and providing mediation and ending with seeking opportunities to create “mutual safe zones” that prevent more Syrian refugees from entering Jordan. This would also encourage at least some of those in Jordan to return to their homeland. There is also a need to provide secure channels to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrians on the other side of the border.

Such a scenario requires intensive political and diplomatic efforts. However, what gives a sense of optimism regarding the success of this is that it is aligned with the Vienna-Geneva path, the Russian-American agreements, the special relationship between Amman and Moscow, and the line of communication that has not been severed between Amman and Damascus. More importantly, this scenario is the one that best that serves the interests of Jordan and its people and preserves its security and stability.

The problem of Syrian asylum in Jordan is purely a Jordanian problem but this does not undermine or devalue the matter as a regional and international problem, as we did not cause it or escalate it. We are the ones suffering the consequences and are shouldering the burden. Now we must turn every stone in search of a radical solution for this problem, as sedatives will merely alleviate or numb the feeling of pain and suffering. Only solutions stemming from the national interests will benefit the people and last on the ground. So will we try to think out of the box this time?

Translated from Addustour, 4 February 2016.

]]> (Oraib Al-Rantawi) Middle East Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:19:02 +0000
France puts a spoke in Israel’s wheel Yvonne Ridley

The world is growing weary of Israel’s ongoing settlement activity which continues unabated. It is a bitter irony that while the settler-colonial construction in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem is illegal and unnecessary, thousands of Palestinian families in the war-torn Gaza Strip are still living under canvas almost 18 months since their homes were destroyed during Israel’s summer 2014 offensive. They are desperate for contractors to begin the reconstruction of their neighbourhoods.

Not even 1 per cent of the building work promised since Israel’s war has been delivered to those living in the besieged Gaza Strip despite all the pledges and funding offered by the international community. As the Palestinians struggle through their second bitter winter in temporary shelters, they face the real possibility of yet another Israeli military offensive looming on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, which accompanies settlement construction as part of Tel Aviv’s ethnic cleansing process, is speeding up. It is probably no coincidence that the latest spurt of development is happening during the political spectacle of the US presidential candidates’ selection debates.

While Washington and the rest of the world focuses on who will be the next leader in the White House, Israel is busy rolling out its illegal building programme. The start of every presidential hustings appears to be a signal for Israel to do what it wants, even if that includes making war on Palestinian civilians. The pre-election road show has in previous years enabled Israel to unleash its weapons of mass destruction with impunity on neighbouring Gaza three times within the past decade.

Even though Israel consistently refuses to follow international laws and conventions, it continues its illegal activities largely unchallenged by the international community. Anyone who dares to comment on this or contemplate an intervention, is usually dismissed by the Israelis as either anti-Semitic or a supporter of terrorism; sometimes both at once.

The latest to face such an accusation is the rather ineffectual UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, whose feeble attempts to restrain the Zionist State have failed miserably despite his criticism of Israel’s rough treatment of the Palestinian people. An outraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Ban of giving a “tailwind to terrorism” after the UN chief basically blamed a four-month long uprising by Palestinians on human nature and a natural reaction to Israel’s brutal occupation.

Now France has stepped into the firing line, with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announcing that his country is leading an initiative to convene an international peace summit to renew diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. He also served up a warning that if diplomacy fails, France will formally recognise a Palestinian state.

“Unfortunately, Israeli settlement construction continues,” he told a conference of French diplomats in Paris. “We must not let the two-state solution unravel. It is our responsibility as a permanent member of the UN security council.”

Around 550,000 Jewish settlers live in 250 illegal housing projects peppered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem and with no sign of peace in sight frustration among Palestinians has grown. As such, they welcome the initiative because they know that the US presidential election will prove to be the most dangerous time for anyone living in Palestine. Timing is everything and, based on previous experience, one has to wonder if France’s peace plan has arrived rather inconveniently for Israel, which could be preparing for its latest war against Gaza. The last attempt to broker a peace deal was led by US Secretary of State John Kerry back in April 2014 and they collapsed without plans for future discussions.

Typically, a senior government official in Tel Aviv dismissed the French threat as counter-productive. “There is no logic in a deadline for recognition of a Palestinian state, it will only encourage the Palestinians not to negotiate,” he claimed.

Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967, have been seeking a state for many years. Palestine already has non-member observer status at the UN and its flag flies with other member states at UN headquarters in New York.

Sweden led the way by becoming the first EU member to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014; to-date, a total of 136 other UN member states, mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, have given such recognition. However, Israel’s closest European allies, Britain and France, do not recognise Palestine as a state, which makes the threat by Paris all the more significant.

Israel’s main sponsor, of course, is the US, and the government in Tel Aviv is watching the presidential debates anxiously, as Bernie Sanders appears to be forging ahead of its favoured candidate Hillary Clinton. Sanders is regarded as non-compliant with the Zionist State’s ambitions after he criticised Israel’s actions during the 2014 Gaza offensive. The Senator for Vermont is chasing the Democratic nomination and insists that if he is elected as America’s first Jewish president, he will “maintain an even-handed approach” to the Middle East.

That will not please Netanyahu, who has a long-distance relationship with the concept of even-handedness. He has already been accused by Sanders of “overreacting and causing more civilian damage than was necessary” during the 50-day bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014.

“[The Israelis] have very sophisticated weapons systems,” said Senator Sanders. “They make the case, and I respect that, that they do try to make sure that civilians are not damaged. But the end result [in 2014] was that a lot of civilians were killed and a lot of housing was destroyed. There was terrible, terrible damage done.”

Regardless of who ends up in the White House, the French peace initiative may be just the spoke in the wheel needed to stop — or at least slow down — Israel's illegal settlement expansion and, indeed, its plans for the next war against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

]]> (Yvonne Ridley) Europe Mon, 01 Feb 2016 09:35:10 +0000
Did the January revolution die? Dr Amira Abo el-FetouhThe anniversary of the January revolution came this year and with it came the dreams of the Egyptians who took to the streets on the same day five years ago demanding freedom, human dignity and social justice. They staged a sit-in in Tahrir Square for 18 days demanding the fall of the regime until the president stepped down. We were happy, we thought we had triumphed. We danced, sang and chanted. This is the big trap we all fell into: the regime sacrificed only its president in order to live on with its deep roots which gripped the authority and the institutions of the deep state.

We were distracted by our false victory while the regime continued to plan, since that moment, to pounce on our new-born revolution and circumvent its noble goals. Since that day, January 25, they started planning the counter-revolution, and we all swallowed their bait. When I say all, I do not exclude anyone from this statement. The Islamists were happy with their seats in parliament and this distracted them from reading the events that were taking place on the ground and from looking into their true purpose and the unmistakable plotting and scheming taking place. However, the elation of the false victory blinded their eyes and blanked their minds, so they were unaware of the plotting taking place behind the scenes and in the dark rooms of the Egyptian, Arab and American intelligence agencies.

What happened, happened, and the plotting worked out and they attacked the people’s revolution. They were able to detain their elected president and most of its honourable figures and leaders; they stomped all over the revolution’s goals, exercised brutality, oppression and intimidation, and put their media machine to work. This is considered their most important weapon in their counter-revolution against the January 25 Revolution, considering it an American plot to overthrow Egypt and betray all of its symbols. One Member of Parliament even went as far as to propose that the month of January be removed from the calendar, and that the year start with the month of February.

Did you see how low the supporters of the coup have sunk? Another MP refused to take an oath on the constitution because it mentions the January 25 Revolution. In the days leading up to the honourable revolution’s fifth anniversary, the pro-coup television stations began terrorising and intimidating the people to prevent them from taking to Tahrir Square, warning them that their fate would be death and harm.

An unprecedented state of fear, intimidation and terror has spread across Egypt, and the state of panic and concern amongst the coup-led government drove it to block the squares with tanks and fill the streets with soldiers and police officers. We must admit that this security campaign or attack served its purpose as many Egyptians who were planning to take to the streets were intimidated and all the civil trends, with no exceptions, stayed at home. The April 6 Youth Movement announced that they would wear black and stay home, but they didn’t tell us if they were also planning on wearing black veils on their head.

However, only the Islamic trend, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, took it upon themselves to take to the streets to regain the revolution which was stolen from them. They were not intimidated by the tanks and their bullets; it only gave them more hope, perseverance and determination to carry on until they achieve victory.

They are the true rebels who are not afraid and who are sure that God will carry them to victory. They are the ones who give us hope that the January 25 Revolution will not die and its goals will never be buried, no matter how much the tyrants and oppressors try. Good must triumph in the end; evil cannot go on, no matter how long it has survived. This is God’s fate for the world and there can be no other fate than God’s.

]]> (Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Africa Sat, 30 Jan 2016 09:00:35 +0000
The PA's "One Gun" belongs to Israel Asa Winstanley

In December the US weapons industry trade publication Defense News carried a telling interview with two top big-wigs in the Palestinian Authority. These were PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and mukhabarat chief Major General Majid Faraj.

The magazine's Israel bureau chief, who conducted the interviews, described them as "the top two advisers" to PA leader Mamoud Abbas. Abbas is now 80 years old, has no clear successor, and has claimed he will not stand again for elections to the presidency of the PA.

In fact, Abbas has only won a single election, way back in 2005. Fresh elections are years overdue, and have been blocked at every turn. Back in 2006 Hamas, Palestine's Islamic resistance movement, won elections to the PA's legislative body. After a months of civil war with forces loyal to Abbas, the elected Hamas-led PA government was overthrown in a coup in the West Bank. Hamas pre-empted a similar coup in Gaza and kicked out militias loyal to Mohammad Dahlan, who had been backed by the CIA, Israel and other Western forces in an attempt to overthrow the results of a fully democratic election.

Since then there have been varying degrees of division between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the forces of Fatah in the West Bank. Various "unity deals" have come and gone without being implemented.

The reality is that elections to the PA were always for show, so that the West could claim it was backing the forces of democracy in the region. When the democratic processes did not go the way that the imperial power and its allies insisted on, the results could be overthrown.

The main function of the PA has always been to protect Israel from Palestinian popular anger and resistance to its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is why the PA's number-one area of spending is military and police, amounting to as much as 36 per cent of its total budget. This far outstrips spending on health, education or agriculture. As a percentage of total budget it is much more than the UK (10 per cent), India (16 per cent), Israel (20 per cent) and even the USA (23 per cent).

The PA acts as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinian population. It means that Israel is able, to some extent, to corrupt an elite sector of the population in order to get it to enforce occupation on itself. It is a classic colonial trick.

Back in January 2011, the Palestine Papers were obtained by Al Jazeera. These were documents from the PLO's negotiations department leaked by a disillusioned former staffer. One of these documents showed Erekat describing in stark terms to a US State Department delegation the brutal and violent nature of the PA: "we have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun".

MEMO fact sheet: Palestinian security cooperation with Israel

Defence News describes this in gushing terms as the PA's "cardinal policy". Erekat is fawned over as an "erudite, Western-educated political animal". Major General Faraj is described in more circumspect terms, but it still considered as one of two (with Erekat) "potential successors" to Abbas.

This shows how much the western political, military and media establishment care about democracy. A recent poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza showed Erekat's standing at a mere 3 per cent where he to stand for the PA presidency. In fact the winning candidate would likely be from Hamas: former PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh would win in an election against Abbas: 51 per cent to 41 per cent.

The PA in general is highly unpopular with the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip (to say nothing of the majority of the Palestinian population which lives in exile, mostly as refugees). The same poll says 65 per cent want Abbas to resign, while 78 per cent perceive PA institutions to be corrupt.

Erekat even admits in the interview that the PA and their "One Gun" are unpopular, protecting as they do Israel from Palestinian resistance organisations like Hamas. (The poll also shows that most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza support armed resistance: 66 per cent support an armed uprising. And 64 per cent support ending "security coordination" with Israel: the PA's One Gun.)

To distract from the realities of the PA's unpopularity, Eerekat and Faraj boast of how they have protected Israel from Palestinian resistance (armed and unarmed) throughout the current popular uprising against Israeli occupation. Faraj "insists that since October, PA intelligence and security forces have prevented 200 attacks against Israelis, confiscated weapons and arrested about 100 Palestinians".

Their other tactic is to scaremonger about the so-called Islamic State and how the downfall of the PA would supposedly lead to their rise in the vacuum. Faraj claims that "Daesh is on our border; they are here with their ideology; and they are looking to find a suitable platform to establish their base … The experts all know that in case of collapse, everybody will get hurt ... Ramallah, Amman and Tel Aviv must remain immune from them.”

This again avoids two key realities: as with the wider Arab public, the "Islamic State" is widely unpopular with Palestinians (88 percent in that poll oppose it and say it "does not represent true Islam"); secondly, there are other, far more popular Palestinian political and resistance forces, who are able to fight both Israel and Islamic State. Hamas, for example, has been doing a fair job of combating them in Gaza.

Although people have been predicting the collapse for the PA for years, it has proven resilient. Nonetheless, it's impossible to imagine that things will carry on in the same manner indefinitely: something has to give.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:42:13 +0000
New study details sexual torture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention ***TRIGGER WARNING***

This article, and pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

A new academic study in the peer-reviewed medical journal ‘Reproductive Health Matters’ has revealed dozens of cases of “alleged sexual torture or ill-treatment” of Palestinian male prisoners detained by Israel.

The article, ‘Sexual torture of Palestinian men by Israeli authorities’, claims to be “a first in the investigation of torture and ill-treatment of a sexual nature, allegedly carried out by Israeli security authorities on Palestinian men.”

The study’s findings “show that sexual ill-treatment is systemic”, with 60 testimonies identified over the period 2005-2012. According to the article, “Israeli authorities are systemically involved with torture and ill-treatment of a sexual nature.”

Daniel J.N. Weishut, a clinical psychologist and teaching associate at Bar Ilan University, authored the study based on a database of testimonies gathered by human rights NGO The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). Weishut is a volunteer member of PCATI’s forensic group.

According to Amnesty International, “Palestinian detainees continued to be tortured and otherwise ill-treated by Israeli security officials, particularly Internal Security Agency officials, who frequently held detainees incommunicado during interrogation for days and sometimes weeks.”

Categories of sexual torture and illtreatment

  Number of Incidents

Verbal sexual harassment

Verbal sexual humiliation 8
Threats of sexual harm 14
Verbal sexual humiliation (family) 9
Threats of sexual harm (family) 5

Forced nudity

Forced nudity (partial) 16
Forced nudity (complete) 19

Physical sexual assault

Hits/kicks to genitals 4
Simulated rape 1
Rape with object 1



Methods used included “physical assault such as slapping and throttling, prolonged shackling and stress positions, sleep deprivation, and threats against the detainee and their family.” Amnesty concluded: “The authorities failed to take adequate steps either to prevent torture or to conduct independent investigations when detainees alleged torture, fuelling a climate of impunity.”

Weishut describes “torture and ill-treatment of detained Palestinians” by Israeli officials as “prevalent”, despite Israel’s ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture, prohibition of “the use of several forms of torture”, and “laws against (sexual) harassment and abuse.”

Israeli interrogators, however, are officially permitted to use “exceptional” interrogation methods and “physical pressure” in so-called “ticking bomb” situations. Many believe that this ‘exception’ is used “much too broadly” and “de facto institutionalizes torture by Israeli authorities.”

In addition, while victims can go to court and be compensated “if torture were established”, in practice, “torture allegations are dismissed without criminal investigation or rejected and perpetrators are cleared, though in rare cases soldiers are punished through a disciplinary system.”

Such impunity is grimly familiar. An Israeli military examination of 400 incidents of suspected breaches of the law during 2009’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ led to just three indictments; the harshest sentence was given to a soldier who stole a credit card. When it comes to settler violence in the West Bank, the probability that a Palestinian complaint will produce a conviction is just 1.9 percent.

According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, cited in the study, torture is:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Weishut’s study aimed “at identifying sexual violence against male Palestinian detainees to reveal the extent and nature of sexual violence and ill treatment among collected reports, as one component in a broader frame of torture perpetrated by Israeli authorities.”

The majority of the Palestinian victims (43 percent) were aged 20-29 at the time of the incident; 15 percent were minors. Testimonies included “allegations toward four different categories of perpetrators: a) soldiers and border police officers (25 reports), b) secret service officers (25 reports), c) police officers (8 reports), and d) jail officers (9 reports).”

Weishut divided the incidents into three categories: verbal sexual harassment, forced nudity, and sexual assault (60 testimonies indicated incidents of sexual torture or ill-treatment, but as some of these testimonies included more than one such incident, a total of 77 incidents were identified).

According to the author, “verbal sexual harassment seems relatively widespread among Israeli security authorities”, including “verbal sexual harassment in general, threats of rape, sexual humiliation with regard to family members and threats toward family members.” Most of these cases “involved secret service officers, trying to get a confession.”

“And he said […] if you will talk and sign on everything that we’ll tell you, we’ll treat you nice and well, and if not, we’ll f**k your sister.” (age 15, perpetrator: secret service)
“One of the interrogators said ‘if you don’t confess, I’ll put my foot into your a*s.’ […] One of the two interrogators had an electric lamp with cables and told me ‘if you don’t confess, I’ll put these electricity cables in your a*s’. […] I confessed out of fear from the electricity and from putting the cables into my behind.” (age 17, perpetrator: secret service)

Examples of forced nudity included the description by some victims of being interrogated in the nude, while several detainees “recounted being photographed in the nude.” The study notes that “this kind of ill-treatment recalls incidents at Abu Ghraib.”

“When I got off the army jeep at [name place] I was nude like a baby is born, and the soldiers started to take pictures together with me.” (age 23, perpetrator: soldiers)

The study highlights a 2013 article which “concluded that sexual humiliation is considered a form of psychological torture, with many victims painfully reliving memories of sexual insults and threats. Forced nudity, which strips a person of his/her identity and puts him/her in a shameful position and at risk of assault, was suggested as comparable to sexual assault.”

The Istanbul Protocol is a set of international guidelines for the investigation and documentation of torture and its consequences; it became an official UN document in 1999. The guidelines state that “verbal sexual threats, abuse and mocking are also part of sexual torture”, and that “nudity enhances the psychological terror of every aspect of torture.”

Weishut’s study also includes reports of sexual assault, with “hits to the testicles…described by several victims.” One testimony concerned simulated rape.

“One of the undercover soldiers lay down on me and started to caress my bottom as if he was having sex with me and he started to move his hips and genitals while making sounds. At that point I tried to fight him with all my strength, but my hands were tight behind me and I wasn’t able to. When this undercover soldier got up from me, another came and he too started to caress me and my genitals and buttocks. He tried to take off my trousers, but I kicked him with my feet and they then hit me on all parts of my body with their hands and feet.” (age 26, perpetrator: soldiers)

Of all cases reviewed in this study, an incident in 2007 “of an actual rape with a blunt object” is the only case “in which the victim’s complaint was not rejected outright by the authorities.” According to the study, “at the time of writing this article, it is still in court.”

While the study highlights 60 specific incidents, according to the author “it is expected that the actual number of sexual torture and ill-treatment is much higher.” There have been “no convictions of perpetrators” based on these testimonies.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Tue, 12 Jan 2016 16:27:40 +0000
US paranoia and the affective life of documents In the current era of xenophobia and paranoia, where every new face represents a potential threat and the media delights in stoking public hysteria about the looming presence of “radicalism”, “extremism” and “terrorism” (more often than not equated in some way with Islam), the documents one holds, the papers and visas one is able to acquire, more or less defines one’s worth on the stage of international politics.

Take for example the contrast between Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing civil conflict in their country, doomed to risk life and limb making the perilous journey to Europe in search of safety – facing barriers at every border crossing and port authority – while British nationals, equipped with their shiny gold and burgundy British passports – are simply able to hop on a plane and within a few hours find themselves almost anywhere. Indeed, amidst the increased focus on where you’re from and what that entitles you to, in 2014 the Daily Mail published an infographic of “The world’s most powerful passports”, spelling out in black and white the differences a simple piece of paper can make to your life – incidentally, the UK, US and Scandinavian countries topped the list.

Despite the relatively recent history of universal passports (they weren’t required for international travel until after the second world war), the documents one possesses have long defined where one can go, what one can do and how one is perceived. One of the biggest issues facing so-called “stateless” peoples – those who don’t possess adequate documentation, such as the Bidoon in Kuwait, the Roma in Europe and certain tribes in Africa and South America – is the limitations imposed on them due to their lack of a simple piece of paper. Documents, in some form of other, have always harboured a certain amount of power and affect. As Yael Navaro-Yashin argues in her examination of what she calls “make-believe” documents in the Turkish Republic of Cyprus: “when placed in specific social relations with persons, documents have the potentiality to discharge affective energies which are felt or experienced by person… Documents, then, are phantasmatic objects with affective energies which are experienced as real.”1

So far, so obvious. But what happens when the power of certain documents changes – or, rather, when political circumstances come to shape the ways in which certain documents are perceived, allowing them to open some doors and not others (one of the suggestions for the origin of the word “passport” is an amalgam of the French words “passe portes”, meaning “to pass through doors”)?

This week there have been two news stories that point to the changing power of passports and other forms of documentation in today’s world. The first was the rescinding of US travel permits to a British Muslim family on their way to Disneyland; the second the news that dual citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan, or citizens of 38 countries, including the UK, who have travelled to these countries in the last five years, will no longer be eligible for a US visa waiver and will be required to submit to a face-to-face interview with a US embassy official in order to apply for a visa.

Predictably, the reasoning behind the changes is the belief that the US needs to tighten border security in the face of international terror threats, especially in the wake of the San Bernadino massacre in which 22 people were killed by married couple Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, the latter of whom was granted a K1 fiancee visa by the US embassy in Pakistan to join her US-born husband. The fact that Malik, a US citizen and son of Pakistani immigrants, travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet Farook, and then brought her back to the US, has raised concerns in some circles about the flexibility of travel to and from the US, especially via the visa waiver programme.

However, as many have pointed out, if the background of the San Bernadino killers was really the impetus for the new restrictions, then countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia should surely top the list of “undesirables”, while their absence is suggestive of deeper political reasons behind the changes. As one EU official told the BBC: “If you're a terrorist, you don't have a great big Syria stamp in your passport – you have Turkey, for example. It’s not going to catch the people who don't travel legitimately, it’s going to target the people who do travel legitimately.”

The move has provoked a backlash, with all EU ambassadors of member states co-signing an editorial arguing against the restrictions, while a Facebook campaign and online petition headed by America’s large and vibrant Iranian community have already attracted over 120,000 and 46,000 supporters respectively. The general sense of outrage and injustice felt by the many thousands of innocent people who will be affected by the new measures has been adequately summarised by one commentator on the group Facebook page:

“Thank you House Republicans for making me a Second Class US citizen. I was born in the US to American parents, am a fervent patriot and have lived in the US my entire life, but as of Friday I no longer share the same rights as First Class US citizens… I don’t hold an Iranian passport, but because I traveled (within the last five years) and will travel to Iran to visit my wife’s mother and family from time to time, I will no longer be able to travel to Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom (among 14 other countries) without the arduous and costly process of applying for and hoping for visa approval. Thank you House Committee on Appropriations-Republicans for demoting my citizenship.”

Indeed, one of the biggest worries for those countering the changes is that they are likely to lead to estrangement between family members, especially if citizens of countries such as the US, UK, Australia and EU member states – many of which have large immigrant populations – are unable to visit family in Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan without arousing suspicion from the authorities. Moreover, the changes are also likely to affect academics and researchers conducting ground-breaking and important studies in these countries. How are we supposed to build understanding of these countries and combat groups such as Daesh if Western researchers cannot travel to these places to see things first hand? This is guilt by association taken to ludicrous extremes.

And yet, as draconian and ill-thought out as the changes seem, they are all too in keeping with the growing paranoia of Western states such as the US when it comes to the “brown” (and more often than not Muslim) “other” lurking on their doorstep. It seems that for individuals unlucky enough to have been born the wrong side of an arbitrary line in the sand, or who have the audacity to dare to experience and attempt to understand countries and cultures other than their own, the noose is drawing tighter. If documents are what makes us modern citizens, it seems they can also be what breaks us – all depending in whose hands lies the power to differentiate between these flimsy and seemingly irrelevant pieces of paper.

1Navaro-Yashin (2007) “Make-believe papers, legal forms and the counterfeit: Affective interactions between documents and people in Britain and Cyprus”.

]]> (Emmanuela Eposti) Americas Fri, 25 Dec 2015 11:00:00 +0000
Lessons unlearned in Syria Nafeez Ahmed

"What the world needs to know is that we live under Daesh control on the ground, and constant air strikes from the sky. We are trapped."- Syrian citizen in Raqqa

Britain is going to war. Which is not entirely new, because Britain has continuously been at war since 9/11, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya – and that’s just where UK forces have been active directly, excluding where Britain has dispatched support to allied regimes through arms and aid, as part of the ‘war on terror.’

Nafeez Ahmed, PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and best-selling author who tracks what he calls the 'crisis of civilization'. He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He is the author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and , ZERO POINT, which is set in a near future following a Fourth Iraq War. Follow Ahmed on Facebook and Twitter.


Nafeez Ahmed

"What the world needs to know is that we live under Daesh control on the ground, and constant air strikes from the sky. We are trapped."- Syrian citizen in Raqqa

Britain is going to war. Which is not entirely new, because Britain has continuously been at war since 9/11, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya – and that’s just where UK forces have been active directly, excluding where Britain has dispatched support to allied regimes through arms and aid, as part of the ‘war on terror.’

But after the House of Commons vote overwhelmingly in favour of airstrikes, Britain – already part of the US-led coalition against the Daesh – will formally conduct airstrikes against the terror group.

What will the consequences of this escalation be?

The first major question is whether airstrikes have any meaningful prospect of success in terms of Prime Minister David Cameron’s stated aim of “crushing” Daesh. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee answered this question when it concluded that bombing would have only a “marginal effect” on Daesh:

“We consider that the focus on the extension of airstrikes against Daesh in Syria is 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 Daesh rise. We were not persuaded by the Government’s attempts to treat Daesh in Syria and the broader Syrian civil war as separate issues."

There are other obvious reasons for this.

Our terror

Last year, about a month after airstrikes had begun, a senior US Army official who had served in Iraq told me that they would not work: “It was almost 100% certain that airstrikes alone could never ‘defeat’ Daesh. The absolute automatic, certain reaction Daesh would take has been taken: they changed the way they operate, move, and where they live. They are now more deeply embedded in the civilian infrastructure so that continued striking is going to build up more and more civilian casualties.”

It is widely assumed that the US military has dramatically tightened up its rules of engagement to avoid civilian casualties.

This is false.

On the morning of 23rd September 2014, a Tomahawk missile hit the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province, killing a dozen civilians, including women and children. A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, confirmed that the so-called imperative to ensure the ‘near certainty’ of no civilian casualties in drone strikes did not apply to US military operations against Daesh.

“The ‘near certainty’ standard was intended to apply only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’ as we noted at the time,” Hayden said. “That description – outside areas of active hostilities – simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.”

We now know thanks to US military whistleblowers and former drone operators that the US Air Force has deliberately targeted civilians in drone strikes, in which 90% of victims are unidentified innocents. Children have been blown to pieces because they are viewed as “fun-size terrorists.” And drone strikes around the world have killed a grand total of 4,700 people by one estimate – more than died on 9/11.

In August, a study by the nonprofit journalism project Airwars found conservatively that coalition airstrikes against Daesh had killed at least hundreds of civilians, and likely over one thousand, in the first year of military operations. That is far more civilian casualties than Daesh has managed to inflict on Western targets.

The true-scale of the Syrian civilian death toll from coalition airstrikes is, however, impossible to know in these circumstances. All available figures, based on disparate reports, are likely to be underestimates.

US strikes have “killed so many people,” said Abdulla Sallom, a Syrian living in the northern city of Kafranbel in Idlib. “But for us – the people – it doesn’t mean much. We want them to stop striking.”

According to a Syrian surgeon working out of a field hospital in Idlib, he often treats civilian victims from coalition airstrikes: “We had little trust in the US government to begin with, and this trust is weakening… It’s not possible they didn’t notice they are killing civilians until now.”

Another Syrian activist, lawyer Yasir Alsyed who lives near the Turkey-Syria border, confirmed that Syrian activists, doctors, and civilians have been repeatedly telling US officials that innocent civilians are being routinely killed in US-led strikes.

In Iraq and Syria, the destruction of civilian life at the hands of the anti-Daesh coalition has occurred, as predicted, because Daesh militants have adapted by seeking to conceal themselves and blend in with civilian populations. As airstrikes have intensified, the more Daesh has sought to merge into that population – in turn intensifying civilian casualties, and rendering the strikes increasingly in effective.

Adding Britain to this mix of rank impotence is hardly going to defeat Daesh. If anything, it will strengthen Daesh.

Recruiting sergeant

We know this because it has already happened. In his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in mid-November, Obama’s CIA director John Brennan admitted that Daesh had experienced meteoric growth, despite military action to degrade and contain the group.

At first, Daesh started out with “maybe 700-or-so adherents left” during the US occupation of Iraq, said Brennan. “And then it grew quite a bit in the last several years, when it split then from al-Qaeda in Syria, and set up its own organisation.”

Last year, the CIA estimated that Daesh had between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters. The latest figures suggest Daesh has increased its recruits to some 80,000 fighters at least – more than double what it had a year ago.

This is a colossal increase. It means that in the aftermath of the Iraq War, the sectarian repression of the US-backed Shi’ite regime in Iraq, the escalation of Bashar al-Assad’s crimes against his own people in Syria, the number of Daesh fighters had increased by between 2,700 and 4,400%.

Since then, under Obama’s airwar, Daesh has grown by between 260 and 400%.

Does that sound like successful ‘containment’? Does it come anywhere close to ‘decapitation’ or even ‘degradation’?

The failure of the war on Daesh so far to come anywhere near defeating Daesh is part of a broader pattern in the ‘war on terror’, which has seen a direct empirical correlation between the escalation of Western military interventions and the outbreak of terrorist atrocities.

Since 9/11, after spending well over $5 trillion on fighting the ‘war on terror’, US State Department data shows that terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the number of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent.

Journalist Paul Gottinger, who analysed the data, noted that spikes in these figures coincided with military intervention: “…. from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries being occupied by the US at the time.” And in 2014, he found, “74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either US air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

The ‘war on terror’ has not, in other words, resulted in any sort of success at all. It has systematically inflamed the very phenomenon it purports to be countering.

This means that David Cameron’s win in the House of Commons will inevitably be a short-lived one.

A hollow victory

The airstrikes that Britain is now undertaking in Syria will have largely the same impact as the US-led airstrikes so far. They will spur Daesh to adapt, and will lend credence to Daesh’ grand narrative about fighting an apocalyptic civilisational Armageddon against the united ‘crusader’ states of the kuffar (disbelievers).

This narrative – pointing at the joint forces of the US, Britain, France and Russia, among others – will act as a lucrative recruiting sergeant to draw even greater numbers of local and foreign fighters into Daesh’ ranks.

Cameron’s airwar will not see Daesh’ numbers dwindle, but will trigger their inexorable expansion.

The airwar will inevitably result in civilian casualties, and as it intensifies, the Islamic State’s guerrilla-style response of melding into the wider population will extend the number of innocents blown apart by American, British and French bombs.

This will inflame local grievances and drive them further into the arms of Islamist militants, including Daesh.

The acceleration of the airwar will also, far from driving a wedge between the disparate rebel groups, encourage them to work together. Daesh’ claim to be simultaneously combating the apostate regime of Assad and the foreign imperialism in Muslim lands of Western states will have more appeal, prompting more coordination between Daesh, Islamist militants like Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Qaeda affiliated rebels, while radicalising the more secular remnants of the Free Syrian Army.

Just as the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s drove disparate mujahideen groups into a unified front, Cameron’s decision to drag Britain into the Syrian quagmire will increasingly drive the competing rebel factions into a united front against both Assad and the coalition. The Afghan resistance, it should be noted, played no small role in accelerating the collapse of the USSR. And the blowback from the foreign policy decisions of that era is still with us today.

The inevitable failure of the airwar will necessitate mission creep. As things get worse, it will soon be recognised that the airwar was never enough. Calls for ground troops will become more frequent, more shrill, and more urgent, as the failure of the war becomes more obvious.

Terrorist sympathising

Cameron’s answer to the question of a ground force is Syria’s anti-Assad rebels, who he suggested would provide the power projection needed to take-out Deash strongholds on the ground in tandem with airstrikes.

But in his parliamentary address, Cameron conceded that among the 70,000 fabled ‘moderate’ fighters in Syria, many were not “ideal partners.” Some, he said, “do have views that we don’t agree with.”

He also insisted that the 70,000 “excludes those in extremist groups like al-Nusra”, al-Qaeda’s official arm in Syria.

Cameron is lying.

According to Chatham House fellow Hassan Hassan, co-author of Daesh: Army of Terror, ‘moderate’ rebels have increasingly coordinated with al-Nusra in anti-Assad operations: “Most of the gains the opposition has made against the Assad government have been made alongside al-Nusra. It should not be surprising.” He added that the FSA “do not exclusively control any area. Al-Nusra is operating in almost all FSA areas.”

So Cameron’s strategy is to work with rebel forces who already systematically intersect with al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist militants, to defeat Daesh, all the while escalating an airwar that is likely to increase the probability that Daesh and al-Qaeda will coordinate to topple Assad and expel foreign interference.

The upshot is that British military operations in Syria will now empower one set of terrorists to defeat another.

This is nothing new, though. Direct British support for al-Qaeda in Syria, contrary to Cameron’s duplicity, was confirmed in a UK terrorism trial earlier this year.

In June, British courts sought to try Swedish national Bherlin Gildo on the charge of attending a terrorist training camp in Syria, receiving weapons training and possessing information onto extremists.

In pre-trial hearings, prosecuting lawyer for the Crown, Riel Karmy-Jones, told the court that from 2012 to 2013, Gildo had worked with al-Nusra Front, the “proscribed group considered to be al-Qaeda in Syria,” many of whose followers went on to join IS.

The trial collapsed when Gildo’s defence team pointed out the embarrassing fact that he had joined an anti-Assad group – al-Nusra – which had received British government support, some of which went through a CIA-MI6 al-Qaeda-facilitated arms "rat-line" from Libya to Syria.

Fearful of the prospect of Britain’s dirty covert operations in the region being aired through an embarrassing court process, and of MI6 officials being forced to testify, the Crown withdrew its case. Thus, a Swedish al-Qaeda fighter in Syria was, thanks to Cameron’s own dubious strategy of support to Islamist extremist rebels, allowed to walk free.

Deja vu

The end-result is that, as Cameron’s current war effort fails, the clarion call for a ground invasion will become increasingly seductive. Rather than recognising the folly of the entire sorry approach, we will see the usual unthinking reactionary jingoism.

Of course, the irony is that Daesh is a product of exactly what is being proposed. The airwar, invasion and occupation of Iraq paved the way for the rise of al-Qaeda in the country – a country where al-Qaeda previously had no presence whatsoever – eventually spawning Daesh.

We have been there, done that. We did shock and awe, and then we did boots on the ground. Now we’re still fighting in Iraq, and what began as an anti-occupation Sunni insurgency has metastasised into a fully-fledged terrorist quasi-state with global ambitions.

“What do you do next? Stop bombing? Bomb more?” said the American Iraq War veteran. “What more targets do you engage? Which additional targets will you engage? Or will you bring in Western ground troops to fight? That has been tried and conclusively failed.”

A ground invasion aiming to police a political transition in Syria would make the Iraq insurgency of the Bush era look like a veritable cake-walk. We would not just be fighting Daesh. We would be fighting the entire corpus of rebel groups who, whatever their commitment to vanquishing Assad, would be equally intolerable of a foreign imperial presence promising to benignly massage Syria into a pro-Western peace-loving democracy.

We appear to have learnt nothing from France’s terrible experiences. When France joined forces with the US-led coalition last year, it did so on the grounds of protecting France and Europe from attacks by Dash.

France’s frontal role in the war only amplified Daesh’ determination to strike Paris, leading to the Charlie Hebdo attack and the 13/11 Paris massacre.

Cameron’s claim that we are going to war to keep Britain safe is, in this context, absurd. Britain’s formal entry into the war means that targeting Britain is now a far higher priority for Daesh than previously.

As Cameron’s failing and self-defeating strategy unfolds in Syria, escalating Daesh recruitment, intensifying local grievances, proliferating Daesh militancy in other regions, efforts by Daesh to terrorise Britons on British soil will ramp up.

Of course, the increasing frequency of ensuing terror plots – which will probably result in an Daesh terrorist attack in Britain – will not lead to soul-searching about the absurd evidence-devoid strategy that led to this degradation of national security. Instead, as always, it will serve as yet another excuse for more of the same.

High emotions and self-righteous rhetoric will abound, paving the way for the consolidation of the surveillance state, the expansion of draconian anti-terror powers, and the demonisation of critics of government policies. Terror at home will trigger more calls to ‘do something’, and Britain will find itself buried in an even deeper level of perpetual war in the Middle East than it is in today.

Recognising that the failure of the Cameron non-strategy is a foregone conclusion does not imply a call to ‘do nothing’. Refusing to face the fact that our current course of action opens up a pathway to a counterproductive cycle of violence, will not change that fact. It merely prevents us from being able to at least begin scoping out alternative ways of addressing the Dash cancer.

Part of this means accepting where we have failed, so that we can stop continuously failing in the same way.

In the words of the US soldier, who still serves in the Army but in a separate theatre: “Neither the US or UK have been willing to even consider, much less admit, that a good chunk of the causality for this current mess originated with our actions in 2003 and ever since. In effect, the very bad policy and military actions we’ve taken in the past decade to help inflame this region – through considerable kinetic action and the funneling in of huge amounts of weapons and ammunition – will be deepened and expanded… So long as we don’t concede our actions have contributed greatly to this instability (not all, but a significant portion), we will be doomed to deepening the situation.”

]]> (Dr. Nafeez Ahmed) Guest Writers Thu, 03 Dec 2015 09:41:03 +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
The Israeli ambassador affair should concern us all, not just Tel Aviv Alastair Sloan

Daniel Taub, the former Israeli ambassador in London, has been named as the subject of an investigation into possible sexual abuse of minors and homosexual affairs that threatened Israel's national security. The news was broken by the tenacious blogger Richard Silverstein – after Israeli newspapers only reported that a “European ambassador” was under suspicion. Silverstein has been mauled online by defenders of Taub but, as usual, is holding up well and standing by his allegation.

Following Silverstein's scoop, the Guardian's Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem picked up on the story, although he declined to report on the exact nature of the allegations. Haaretz and Ynet have also reported on the case, with Haaretz correspondent Amir Oren claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew about the scandal last summer.

The Metropolitan Police are said to be investigating the involvement of at least one minor, after a complaint by a police officer who says he witnessed a trail of male adults and possible minors entering the embassy late at night. Taub claims that the accusation is vindictive and denies the presence of any children; the visits, he maintains, were “therapeutic”.

Coming to the end of his four year term in London, the married ambassador reportedly bragged to colleagues that he expected to remain in Britain on a special one -year extension. It appears, though, that he was recalled to Tel Aviv as a direct result of these allegations.

The Israeli foreign ministry has investigated and closed the case, but it now seems to have been re-opened. The primary concern of the Israeli government is that the visitors to the embassy were not registered, and that MI5 appears to have been aware of the arrangements. Ambassadors engaging in extramarital relationships are prime targets for blackmail, which would be of great concern to the Israeli security services. Taub was also inexperienced; his appointment in 2011 was resented by the Israeli diplomatic service, which noted that someone who had never held an ambassadorial role before was getting a very important posting.

This is a controversial situation and it is important not to presume guilt ahead of innocence, but the facts raise concerns and speak to a far wider problem. It is not the first time that an Israeli ambassador has been linked to accusations of child abuse, nor is Israel unique in hosting sexual controversies at its embassies. London's Arab embassies, particularly those from the Gulf, are hives of abuse, particularly affecting domestic workers often trafficked from their home countries. In early 2012 I learned of a particularly abhorrent episode of sexual abuse at a Gulf embassy, which cannot be named for legal reasons. The victim was terrified to speak out for fear of deportation. The Foreign Office was also embarrassed when allegations of abuse at both the Libyan and Sudanese embassies surfaced last February, generating two court cases. The Court of Appeal in London ruled that diplomatic immunity should not apply after two Moroccan nationals, cook Fatima Benkharbouche and domestic worker Minah Janah, were sacked and claimed unfair dismissal, failure to be paid the minimum wage and that they were forced to work impossibly long hours. Ms Janah also claimed arrears of pay, racial discrimination and harassment.

Diplomatic immunity, tacit collusion with the host government and a tendency to withdraw the ambassador as soon as allegations are made has created an environment in which embassy staff operate in a parallel legal dimension, not only with respect to British law, but also that of their home country. The ruling on the Libyan and Sudanese embassies is the exception and by no means the rule.

The British parliament first guaranteed diplomatic immunity to foreign ambassadors in 1709, after Count Andrey Matveyev, a Russian resident in London, claimed to have been subjected to abuse by British bailiffs. The Congress of Vienna, held in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and designed to quieten centuries of European violence, established the first instance of international law which allowed diplomats to get away with whatever they so pleased. These rules were designed to stop ambassadors being attacked in times of war, and today operate on a quid pro quo basis; don't touch our ambassadors, and we won't touch yours.

Scandal after scandal in both London and Washington have seen reported instances of drug smuggling, kidnapping, abuse of staff and alleged sexual assaults, all of which is quietly hushed up. This has nothing to do with espionage, which would be a half-decent excuse for a foreign power. This is about people of power abusing their privilege to conduct activities that any ordinary person can clearly see are wrong. If Arab and Israeli ambassadors are getting away with it in London, I wonder what our ambassadors are getting up to abroad? Ambassador Taub's current difficulties should concern us all, not just his bosses in Tel Aviv.

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Middle East Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:09:45 +0000
The cradle of the revolution is correcting the path of the Arab Spring Tunisians protesting against Government's economic billRevolutions are generally social movements that are subject to the conditions of their emergence, which may be significant and lead to a major rupture in society. If a revolution is thwarted and fails to achieve its objectives, the conditions which fed it in the first place will often come to the fore again, usually more powerfully.

There are many signs across the Arab Spring countries which confirm this. In Tunisia, for example, the cradle of the revolution is witnessing bloody protests in the city of Kasserine; along with Sidi Bou Said it represents the heart of the revolution. These protests are on the verge of expanding across all poor Tunisian areas, which were created by impoverishing colonialist policies and then agents propped up by the colonial power, Bourguiba and Ben Ali. The protests remind us of the winter of 2010 as they are prompted by the same social factors. At their core is the demand for employment and the right to development, social justice and fair distribution of wealth.

Although the most prominent slogans of the Tunisian revolution described the regime as a “gang of thieves” it did not hold any of them accountable, even though they prevented development and employment and looted the country’s wealth. Nor did the revolution bring forth a political elite capable of overcoming its ideological affiliations and old conflicts in order to determine a national ceiling for revolutionary achievements. Instead, it created large spaces for disputed issues associated with doctrine, identity and authority at a time when such issues should have been secondary to providing immediate solutions for everyday social problems.

Marginalisation and poverty continue to make the lives of millions of Tunisians unbearable. Thousands of people are driven to emigrate, be displaced, become extreme or even, in some cases, commit suicide; these are daily events in cities such as Kairouan and other impoverished areas. I am certain that the pain of poverty is still with us, despite all the promises made by the government that adopted a revolutionary guise to appear changed, but has not changed much at all.

The return of popular protests in Tunisia is an indicator of two main factors. First, the demand is neither political nor ideological, but social; the suffering, poverty and marginalisation - all of which feature prominently in oppression and tyranny - have to be alleviated. Oppression, tyranny and injustice are the regime’s tools for looting the country’s wealth; they enable colonial companies to control anything that may allow the masses to fulfil the aims of a true uprising and escape the grip of underdevelopment, dependence and colonialism.

The freedom demanded by the revolutionary masses is not political freedom, such as might be made by an ideological party in order to receive positions and privileges; it is a demand for social justice. Freedom is a social goal, a first step against the corruption that has infiltrated the state and blocks any project capable of overcoming poverty and unemployment.

The second factor is the political failure of the transitional phase, as it circumvented the demands of the people who started the revolution. They were mainly young people without a future, the poor and the marginalised. They have a right to share and manage the country’s wealth.

The Tunisian political elite, with foreign assistance, have turned the revolutionary demands into partisan shares and quotas divided amongst themselves, the remnants of Ben Ali’s regime. The transitional phase also divided the Tunisian cake amongst parties and elites who did not originally participate in the revolution, including the Islamists.

Today we see the youth taking action in their hundreds to protect state institutions and facilities, side by side with the security forces and army. They are targeting looters. Thus, the situation on the Tunisian streets has returned to the starting point, when the youth were protecting and guarding the institutions in the winter of 2010-2011, at a time when the regime’s gangs and snipers were destroying vital facilities and killing innocent people.

The non-politicised and non-partisan youth are resisting the vandals as well as the pawns of the counter-revolution who are trying to derail reform. This is actually the heart of the battle between the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces.

There is an awareness that many forces are lying in wait to ambush the Tunisian experience, which, despite all the negatives, still poses an advanced model compared to the bloody experiences of the Arab Spring elsewhere. Such forces are trying to cause the model to fail by pushing the country towards extremism, terrorism, violence and the destruction of institutions and facilities. They are responsible for a large number of the terrorist attacks taking place in Tunisia, and they target the elite security forces. The money pumped into the country by the Gulf States which have backed coups in Arab Spring countries is the best example of the desperate attempts by these forces to kill the gains of the Tunisian revolution.

We are seeing in Tunisia today the partisan utilisation of non-partisan social demands, with many politicians jumping on the bandwagon in order to settle scores. Not too long ago, they were the top beneficiaries from the poor people’s revolution which rid them of the tyrant who stood between them and the positions they seized after the revolution.

The “spare tyranny tyre”, as the Tunisians call them, as well as Ben Ali’s media mouthpieces who did not leave the country with him, are trying to reproduce the same opportunist rhetoric by demonising the protesters and attacking neighbouring countries, especially Libya, in order to find pathetic excuses for their dire failure. This is exactly what they did on the eve of the revolution on 17 December 2010.

This goes hand in hand with abuse of the power of the trades unions, as their leadership has, over the five years since the revolution, tried to burn the traditional path economically by means of thousands of strikes and sit-ins that have exhausted the national economy. This has also caused the country to go into humiliating debt to foreign powers at a time when the unions themselves have spent millions of dollars of their members’ money on a new building.

The warning from Tunisia is that the manoeuvres of the deep state and its media mouthpieces have failed miserably to turn the conflict from one focused on wealth and rights to a conflict against terrorism and other spectres created by the tyrannical regime’s media.

The circumvention of the social demands we are witnessing today, the deprivation of the people from their legitimate rights, the internationalisation of the country’s wealth, the failure to dismantle the networks of corruption and organised looting by the gangs who control the national economy, are all the real reasons for the revival of the uprising and protests. One day, they may be catastrophic for everyone.

The political elite today has had five years of failure to hold the corrupt to account, take control of the union gangs and neutralise the political wheeler-dealers. Most of all, the political elites are normalising relations with the deep state - the corrupt state - which is a clear violation of the revolution’s red lines and main slogans.

Today’s lesson is that no voice is louder than that of the street, as it is the pulse of society and is the only thing that can change the entire situation and determine the most important positions. The miserable political paths taken, including the latest suspicious elections based on corrupt Gulf money, are nothing but desperate attempts to jump over the prioritised social demands in a move that has been exposed and the failure of which is apparent. The popular demands and rights that the helpless elites portray as being impossible to fulfil represent the minimum social demands. This is because the only message that the unemployed and revolutionaries in Tunisia will listen to is that the government is combatting corruption; revising colonial contracts; determining ministerial and MP salaries, containing their greed and downsizing their privileges, which include cars, grants, deeds, land and properties; and exposing the hands stained with Arab blood who conspire against the people’s revolution and wealth.

How can the presidency double its budget to $100 billion at a time when people in the country are dying of cold and hunger? How can members of the crippled parliament vote themselves an increase in salaries while others are dying due to poverty?

The Arab Spring:
5 years on

Take a look at the Arab Spring countries five years on.

Visit the site >>

This warning may be the last before the next explosion. The state’s attempt to export its problem abroad and accuse the impoverished and crushed members of society of plotting to damage the democratic experience is a repeat of Ben Ali’s discourse throughout his years of oppression, when he talked about the “targeted Tunisian miracle”. This ultimately revealed one of the most brutal oppressive regimes and its social and economic failures.

The crushed, impoverished, unemployed and marginalised have nothing to lose; their death is already pending. All of the patch-up solutions and attempts to gain some time in order to ride out the current storm will not stop the next one. Instead, it will intensify the violence of its winds and harshness that will not show mercy to anyone.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 27 January, 2016

]]> (Mohammad Hunaid) Africa Fri, 29 Jan 2016 10:40:48 +0000
What we forget about the Kindertransport Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939Today Britain marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps. We remember Britain’s response to the Jewish refugees and look at its response to today’s refugee crisis.

In the dead of night, herds of parents watched their children embark on a train from the periphery of a station in Vienna. The train was destined for Britain, and the children were Jews escaping the persecution they faced in Hitler’s Germany. The Kristallnacht had just happened, a night of organised and deadly violence targeting Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship across Germany and Austria. As concern for the safety of Jewish communities grew, so did pressure on the British government.

British Jewish groups and the Quakers lobbied hard for something to be done. Their work paid off; a debate was held in Westminster on November 21 1938 which led to a Bill that waived certain immigration requirements so as to allow the entry of unaccompanied children ranging from infants up to the age of 17 into Britain. Trains would evacuate the selected children from Nazi occupied areas in what became called “Kindertransport”.

Less than a fortnight after the debate, the first Kindertransport left Vienna packed with unaccompanied minors; British would not provide visas for their parents and sadly many did not survive Hitler’s concentration camps. An estimated 10,000 children arrived to the UK via the Kindertransport. After arriving in Britain most refugees went to live with British families, who had responded in the hundreds to an appeal for foster homes issued on the BBC Home Service by Conservative Home Secretary Samuel Hoare just four days after the commons debate.

The story of Britain’s heroic rescue of Jewish children from the clutches of the Nazis is a source of national pride. Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, evoked the memory of it to push for more support for Syrian refugees. She said: “Our long tradition of giving that help and sanctuary, and of providing refuge for the most desperate, is a testimony to what kind of country Britain is and wants to be. That is why we should stand together in Parliament to support that tradition this afternoon.”

But, the Kindertransport story does not accurately depict British attitudes to Jewish refugees. Before the Second World War broke out, asylum was only granted on the basis that British Jewish organisations would cover all the costs. Even the Kindertransport was only agreed to after promises that the arriving children would not become a financial “burden” to the public. Immigration laws were relaxed following the Kristallnacht but once the war broke out, things got harder. In the feverish xenophobia aroused by the war, the government interned some 27,000 Jews as ‘enemy aliens’ alongside Nazi sympathisers until public protests led to their release in 1943.

For those that made it, fear and suspicion surrounded them. The newspapers stoked people’s concerns; a Daily Mail headline from 1938 which reported “Stateless Jews pouring into this country”, warned of “aliens” entering the UK through the “back door”. An Observer extract from 1938 also reads: "A typically baffling illustration of the difficulty is the fact that Britain now has more Jews than Germany ever had. If a further accretion of, say, 100,000 of them come into the country, how could the danger be averted of an anti-Jewish feeling here?" Segments of the populations were also not particularly welcoming of their new neighbours- around 3,000 residents signed a petition in October 1945 in Hampstead, London, where many German-Jewish refugees had settled demanding that “aliens of Hampstead” be evicted from their homes to make room for returning British people.

An estimated 4.6 million refugees have fled Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. According to Mercy Corps, over 4 million Syrians are being hosted by the nation’s most immediate neighbours – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. A small number of refugees have been offered sanctuary by other countries. Europe has lagged behind and Britain in particular is failing to pull its weight.

The refugees that have made it to the UK are treated with the suspicion and fear similar to what the Jewish refugees of the Holocaust dealt with. Red doors for refugees in Middlesbrough and red bracelets in Cardiff have singled refugees out in their host communities and opened them up to abuse. Newspapers feature headlines such as: “Refugees ‘flood’ Britain for new homes.” The Prime Minister has referred to refugees in Calais as “swarms”. Groups such as Citizens UK and its 350 member institutions, which include churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, universities, trades unions and community groups, are running a campaign to urge councils to offer sanctuary to refugees. The network is tackling some of the practical issues, such as working out how to provide housing, school places, healthcare, so in a similar way to the British Jewish organisations during the 30’s and 40s, the government doesn’t have to.

Right now David Cameron is considering plans to admit thousands of unaccompanied children into the UK within weeks, the result of calls from a number of charities over concerns they are at serious risk of falling prey to people traffickers. This would be in addition to the 20,000 refugees the UK has already pledged to take direct from refugee camps over the next five years. If the plans go ahead, the image of children arriving in the UK will be a source of pride like the newsreels showing the Kindertransport children disembarking off the trains came to be. But let’s not forget why most came alone. We wouldn’t let their parents in- once again.

]]> (Jessica Purkiss) Europe Wed, 27 Jan 2016 15:15:03 +0000
Tangible achievements of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine Asa Winstanley

Ireland's second-largest company announced earlier this month that it had entirely sold-off its 25 per cent stake in the holding corporation of Israel's only cement-making firm. This withdrawal followed a decade-long campaign by Irish activists calling on the company, CRH, to divest from Israeli cement-maker, Nesher.

The Irish company had admitted "in all probability" that cement from the firm had been used to build Israel's apartheid wall in the West Bank (which the World Court declared illegal in 2004). Nesher's cement is also used in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – which are build on land belonging to dispossessed and expelled Palestinians and are illegal under international law.

The sale was the largest of 13 divestments CRH made in 2015, totalling €260 million, according to a new report released by the company. While CRH denied that there was anything other than purely business motives behind their decision to divest, the sale of the huge stake in Nesher is part of a growing trend.

There's little doubt in my mind that the sustained campaign by Irish activists (detailed in a press release by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign) made a huge difference over time, and contributed significantly to this victory for the BDS movement – the campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until it starts to recognise and implement basic Palestinian human rights.

The BDS movement is now more than a decade old, and it's easy to forget just how much it has achieved in that time. It's not for nothing that Israel has declared "war" on BDS, in increasingly desperate terms – even deploying its spy agencies against the movement.

Israel's defenders like to argue that the claims of BDS activists are exaggerated, and that the movement is making little real economic impact. But there is no doubt that, after a decade and more of dedicated and patient campaigning, the strategy is beginning to bite. In October, the heads of four major Israeli arms firms warned their government of a "major crisis" in the country's arms industry.

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 [2015] we are expecting exports to total $4-4.5 billion.”

Even for arms-buyers, being associated with Israeli war crimes is more trouble than it's worth, it seems.

The CRH divestment is part of a growing trend: firms targeted by BDS caving in and pulling out altogether. In 2010, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held its London session, which I did some press work for. After the session deliberated and came to its conclusions, myself and the Tribunal's organizer (Frank Barat) edited a book compiling the evidence.

Activists used the detailed information and research the Tribunal put together to help them campaign for those companies to withdraw from Israel – or to withdraw from their complicity in the case of Israeli companies. (In its concluding press conference on the last day of the London session held at Amnesty International in Shoreditch, the Tribunal called for the legal defence of BDS activists.)

CRH was one of the companies targeted by the Russell Tribunal, and named as being complicit with Israeli war crimes. Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign officer John Dorman gave a testimony to the Tribunal. So it is gratifying to now to see that years later all the hard work has paid off.

French multinational Veolia was also highlighted by the Tribunal, for its involvement in providing transport and infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including in occupied eastern Jerusalem. The trend continued in August as, after years of hard-fought BDS campaigning against Veolia's involvement there, the company finally sold off its last investment in Israel and its settlements.

Israeli company Sodastream was also targeted by the Russell Tribunal. It has been forced into retreat after retreat, after an exceptionally brilliant BDS campaign – Sodastream's woefully inept PR didn't help either with the 2014 Scarlett Johansson ad scandal entirely backfiring.

Its main production facility in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank finally closed down in September 2015. The company claimed to be bringing jobs to Palestinians in the area. But in fact, the settlement the plant was situated in had been built on land stolen from local Palestinians, and (speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals) one Palestinian factory worker told The Electronic Intifada that Sodastream “treats us like slaves.”

However, the company remains a BDS target. As Palestinian BDS leader Rafeef Ziadah said in 2014 (when the West Bank closure was announced) Sodastream's "new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred … Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.”

And there are indications that Ahava may be the next company to follow this trend. The Israeli cosmetics company was another major target of the London session of the Russell Tribunal, due to its location in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, its pillaging of Palestinian natural resources (Dead Sea minerals) and its part-ownership by two settlements. After a long and sustained BDS campaign against Ahava, the company announced in June that it is contemplating withdrawal from its settlement base. In September, a company announcement seemed to show that it had been unable to find a European or American buyer, after a Chinese company bought a majority stake. Changes to the way the business operates are expected.

Those campaigns took years to show tangible results, but now they finally have. BDS gets the goods.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:02:58 +0000
Israel debates how to stop BDS even as it continues to lose friends abroad Houses of ParliamentOn Wednesday, a debate was held in the British Parliament on the issue of Palestinian child prisoners detained by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

The same day, two thousand miles away, Israel’s Knesset hosted a discussion on how to combat the growing, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Together, these two parliamentary meetings serve as a useful illustration of why Israel’s international image continues to deteriorate – and why it is not likely to improve any time soon.

First, to Westminster, where Labour MP Sarah Champion sponsored a debate on Palestinian child prisoners. The majority of the debate was taken up by a detailed account of the situation as it currently stands, including how children are taken from their homes at night, and the injustices and discrimination inherent in Israel’s use of military courts to try and jail Palestinian children.

Instructively, however, the debate did not just focus on the human rights abuses being perpetrated by Israel, but what can be done to stop them.

Champion, describing the transfer of Palestinian detainees out of the OPT as a war crime, urged the government to establish “a watch list” of those responsible, and to “ensure that any individual on the watch list who attempts to enter the UK is detained for questioning and, if sufficient evidence is available, charged and prosecuted, subject to the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, meanwhile, asked Champion whether she agreed “that it is now time for action”, and suggested that “the UK could call for the suspension of the EU-Israel association agreement”, on the basis that it includes “a clause saying that if there are human rights abuses, there is a right to suspend the agreement.” Champion called the recommendation “superb.”

Two members of Labour’s frontbench similarly urged further meaningful steps to be taken: shadow Foreign Office minister Diana Johnson insisted that “the British Government need to do much more to hold the Israeli Government to account”, while shadow minister for human rights Andy Slaughter criticised what he called “the apartheid regime that exists…in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Interestingly, given how strong the support for Israel has been, and continues to be, within the Conservative Party, three Tory MPs also voiced criticism of Israeli policies. Tania Mathias, for example, noted the “sad coincidence” that the debate was taking place the same week the UN human rights envoy to the Palestinian territories resigned because Israel denied him access.

Conservative MP Bob Stewart predicted that, unless Israel changes its illegal policies, “people such as me, who actually are big supporters of Israel, will lose the urge to be supporters.” Similarly, Tory MP David Jones, calling himself a friend of Israel, said that “the way that Israel is conducting itself is in a way that should bring shame to any self-respecting democracy.”

Attempts to defend Israel during the debate were feeble and predictable. Labour MP Ian Austin was literally laughed at, after he asserted that the detention of children under-12 simply “does not happen.” Conservative MP John Howell referred to Palestinian “incitement” six times in one minute, and also declared that “we should focus our attention on the Saudi execution of minors.”

Andy Slaughter put it succinctly when he said “government Members—and, indeed, Opposition Members—who seek to defend the occupation are increasingly clutching at straws in doing so.”

In the Knesset, meanwhile, Wednesday saw some 150 politicians and activists gather for a two-hour discussion organised by the Caucus to Fight Delegitmization on how to fight the BDS campaign. The caucus has five, cross-party co-chairs: Michael Oren (Kulanu), Anat Berko (Likud), Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu).

Read: Israel sets up special ministry to tackle BDS

The meeting was chaired by Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who called for “a network to face a network”, echoing the wording used by think-tank the Reut Institute. Erdan is responsible for coordinating the government’s efforts to sabotage the various global campaigns designed to hold Israel to account, with a NIS 100 million budget for 2016.

Erdan described delegitimization as “a challenge with strategic potential”, and BDS as “part of a broader campaign that covers many areas, including education and culture.” BDS activists’ aim, the minister warned, is “to restrict the IDF’s actions and discriminate in international institutions.”

The Labor party’s Nachman Shai emphasised how the fight against the growing boycott united both coalition and opposition alike. MK Berko called BDS “jihad dressed up in a suit.” Most speakers were well-known pro-Israel advocates, including Irwin Cotler, former ambassador Ron Prosor, NGO Monitor head Gerald Steinberg, and Shurat HaDin’s ‎Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

MK Michael Oren, meanwhile, in remarks made to the press beforehand, claimed that BDS activists “are well-funded, highly organized and very sophisticated.” According to Oren, Israel is yet to “come up with an answer [to BDS]”, and suggested a role for the Israeli military and intelligence services.

Desperate stuff, and the suggestions made during the meeting were more of what has already been tried: former Israeli soldiers visiting North American campuses, ‘exposing’ BDS activists, and so on.

Also see: A look at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement in 2015

Meanwhile, in London, British politicians – including many who still describe themselves as ‘friends’ of Israel – despaired of the treatment of Palestinians under a discriminatory occupation, and, crucially, called for the government to go beyond mere words.

Israel’s leaders still don’t understand. BDS is not some well-resourced, evil conspiracy but a grassroots response to Israel’s colonialism, occupation, and apartheid. Without drastic changes on the ground, support for this form of pressure will only grow – including in Westminster.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Thu, 07 Jan 2016 17:18:05 +0000
Beware 'Sunni-Stan': Neocons are Back and Their 'Vision' is Darker than Ever Ramzy Baroud

John Bolton is a tarnished character. The once United States Ambassador to the United Nations is now promoted as a ‘scholar’ in the pro-Israel lobby group, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Bolton is not a peacemaker, nor, in his defense, did he ever try to appear as if one. When he was appointed as the US Ambassador to the UN by George W. Bush, his stint lasted for only one year, starting August 2005. His time in this position was marked with discord and conflict. He stole the limelight with such statements as "The (UN) Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.”

When the Iraq war failed to achieve any of its objectives, thus signaling an American retreat in the Middle East, neo-conservative politicians like Bolton retreated to their right-wing, neo-conservative institutions. Those who did not have one, established an organization of their own and began issuing press releases at random, hailing Israel at times, and chastising their President, Barack Obama, for one thing or another.

When the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ took place, neocons, like Bolton, saw in it an opportunity, but one that was difficult to discern. On one hand, they understood little of the mechanisms that propelled popular actions, for they are used to operate at the highest level of power with total disconnect from the people. On the other hand, it was clear for them from the start that Obama was taking no chances by stepping back into a Middle East quagmire that was originally designed by his predecessor.

Unable to affect much change in the region, as they once envisioned under the leadership of the likes of Richard Perle and his Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the neocons mounted a strategy predicated mostly on discrediting their administration’s lack of strategy.

In a sense the ‘Arab Spring’ invigorated the neocons, but also reminded them of their political impotence. Gone were the days of concocting foreign policies from neo-conservative think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), of which, among others, Perle is an active member.

In fact, Perle is quite a cherished member of the American Enterprise Institute, where Bolton often mounts his occasional articles in mainstream US media, offering a ‘vision’ regarding how to take on Iran, how to reform Arab states and how to redraw the map of the Middle East in ways that are conducive to US foreign policy interests.

The latest of such intellectual charges by Bolton was published in the New York Times on November 24. Under the title, “To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State,” he theorized once more, raging against "Obama's ineffective efforts" to destroy ISIS and demanding, instead, a “clear view shared by NATO allies." The main drive behind his logic is that once ISIS is destroyed, the region that the militant group designated as a 'state' should be turned into a Sunni state, which, as a working title he called "Sunni-Stan."

Bolton’s reasoning is as predictable as it is arrogant. It is predictable in the sense that, like other neocon initiatives in the past, it has no respect for the wishes of the people of the Middle East. His arguments are constructed upon the same world view that sees conflict as an opportunity, and warring nations as pawns in a larger game, aimed at subduing people to achieve ‘security’ and ‘stability’ for the US and its supposed allies.

It is also arrogant for the obvious reason that he believes the world should be designed to fit the narrow, self-serving and often violent visions of failed politicians like himself, who, alas, has access to the US’s most respected newspapers.

Bolton’s conceit has completely blinded him to the failures of the Bush administration and the entire collapse of the neo-conservative’s intellectual discourse during, and following the Iraq war. On the contrary, he is asking to repeat exactly what went wrong in Iraq.

“As we did in Iraq with the 2006 ‘Anbar Awakening,’ the counter-insurgency operation that dislodged Al Qaeda from its stronghold in that Iraqi province, we and our allies must empower viable Sunni leaders, including tribal authorities, who prize their existing social structure,” he wrote.

Only an unreasonable person cannot appreciate how the sectarian seed that the US has sowed in Iraq, based on the recommendations of the likes of Bolton, has resulted in the disfiguring of the Iraqi nation. This massive tampering with the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society – by first empowering the Shia, oppressing the Sunni, then turning the Sunnis against one another, and so forth – has paved the way for unity among various Sunni groups, which ultimately formed ISIS.

It is the grand experimentations of Bolton and his peers that made ISIS the ‘state’ that it is today, which he is proposing to replace with yet another sectarian state, thus slicing up two Arab countries that were once the seats of the two most prominent Caliphate civilizations in history, the Abbasid and the Umayyad.

But for what purpose and at what price? If meddling at a relatively small scale has turned the Middle East into a perpetual inferno, and roped in regional and international rivals into a war that seems to be in constant expansion, one can only imagine what such a large scale reconfiguration of the region could lead to; and for what? So that Bolton can ensure the complete dismantling of the region in favor of Israel and that a buffer state can be established to block the Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon? So that his country could gain access to more oil supplies? So that Russia’s attempt at having a stake in the future Middle East would be thwarted?

Whatever it is, the neo-conservatives should never be allowed access to the Middle East discourse, and their visions, those of doom and destruction, should remain confined to their ever mushrooming think tanks.

True, it is the perpetual war and horrific rivalries in the Middle East that have finally empowered the neocons to stage a comeback; but considering the damage that these groups have already done, one is certain that no good can possibly come from Bolton and his clique.

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:

]]> (Ramzy Baroud) Americas Mon, 21 Dec 2015 11:16:21 +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
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 real cost of Middle East wars File photo of a soldier on patrolThe world has been sucked into a whirlpool of wars since the beginning of the 21st century. Millions of Muslims have lost their lives in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and in fighting in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Thousands of women, children, elderly people, youngsters and other innocent people are being added to the list every day. As one part of the world dies, another produces reports praising the war machinery that it employs.

These wars have become a kind of convention for new weaponry. The US first used its new B2 bombers in the fighting in Afghanistan and Libya. The unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones were first used by the CIA in Pakistan. The $75-billion F22 Raptor aircraft had to wait for the Syrian civil war. F35 fighters, on which $400 billion has been spent to date out of a $1 trillion budget, are waiting their turn to rain down death and destruction.

Russia has not been slow to take part in this arms exhibition. It first put its Tupelov TU-160 warplanes, Raduga Kh-101 cruise missiles, new mechanised howitzer the MSTA-B and S 400 missile system on show in the Syrian civil war. France showcased its Rafale fighter aircraft in the Libyan and Syrian civil wars. Russia also launched its 3M-14 missiles with their 1,500 mile range at targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea.

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Each new weapon competes to cause greater killing and devastation. Success in the arms race is measured in the amount of innocent blood spilled. The reward for the winners is international praise and money to commit new slaughter. New weapons introduced by one side leads the other bloc to develop an even better one. While money is spent on developing a weapon, billions of dollars are also diverted to develop defence systems to counter it. The world’s resources are more than adequate to feed, house and provide pleasant lives for its 7 billion inhabitants, yet these countries spend their wealth, not on keeping people alive, but on the means to kill them.

The money spent on arms represents only a very small part of the total cost of wars. Several think-tanks have calculated the cost to the US economy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $6 trillion. A large part of the cost represents expenditure not on the battlefield but on indirect costs. In addition to the $2 trillion it has already spent, the US will spend another $4 trillion over the next 30 years in loan interest, new arms purchases and lifetime health costs for injured veterans. One week before the start of the Iraq War, the then US Vice President Dick Cheney said that it would last only 2 years and would cost around $100 billion. However, the conflicts have never ended, and the cost has been at least 40-50 times higher.

The world is becoming an ever more dangerous place, with the side-effects of wars that cannot be measured in money. Billions of dollars are being spent on security alone. Instead of our old world fighting hunger, poverty and disease, huge efforts are being made to protect against threats from unknown directions.

In its peace report for 2014, the Institute for Economics and Peace revealed that 81 countries have gradually become more dangerous places, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Israel and Lebanon. The annual cost of the climate of violence in these six countries alone is $300 billion. The annual cost to the world due to violence is estimated at $10 trillion. Of that, $3 trillion represents the costs of obtaining arms, $3 trillion is related to crime and personal violence (murders, acts of violence in society, sex crimes and prison expenditure), $2.2 trillion for domestic security and $1.2 trillion for the cost of regional or global conflicts. Instead of this money being spent on preventing hunger, poverty and the deaths of homeless children, and raising prosperity across the world, it is being wasted on a dead-end from which there can be no winners.

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It would be wrong to measure the costs of war in monetary terms alone, though. The climate of conflict that peaked with the “War on Terror” programme has cost some 3 million lives. It is impossible to put a financial valuation on the right to life of innocent men, women, children and the elderly. This process has, to date, devastated eight countries. Hundreds of cities and tens of thousands of towns have to be rebuilt. Four million people have had to flee their countries, while another 8 million are displaced within them. Turkey alone is housing more than 2 million Syrian refugees. Hundreds of thousands are clamouring at the border of the EU, many of whom drown before they ever get there.

Another major effect of the wars in the Middle East that will persist for many long years is the way that they have distanced the peoples of the East and West from one another. Islam is equated with war and terror in many Western homes, while in the East, millions regard the people of the West as invaders and warmongers.

The greatest cost of these wars is the way that all sides lose their humanity. Official news agencies carry reports of how many bombs have been produced and how many targets have been struck every day, and portray their own countries as heroic. Yet it is unclear who is targeted or hit in these operations. Military spokespersons describe “successful” operations as things to be proud of, even though all such terminology in fact means more corpses, more destruction and more poverty. The material and psychological costs of this sort of scenario will grow even more terrible so long as mankind tries to solve disputes through war, instead of peace. The goal should be to act outside of this mindset and bring peace to the world. More war will never be the way to do this.

]]> (Harun Yahya) Middle East Wed, 03 Feb 2016 11:02:59 +0000
Did the 25th January Revolution die under torture? Helmi Al-Asmar

Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist Negad El-Borai has made some important comments about the judiciary’s attitude towards those who kill detainees deliberately. Speaking on a well-known Egyptian television channel sympathetic to the regime (the opposition has no such access to the media any more), he said that the judgement against two national security officers accused of torturing lawyer Kareem Hamdy to death is an example of how judges show “compassion” towards state officials while ordinary citizens face harsh sentences.

The law stipulates clearly, he pointed out, that if a suspect is killed while being tortured into confessing, it is deemed to be “deliberate murder”. The court, however, was “compassionate” towards the officers but did not allow those defending civil rights to challenge the ruling in the Court of Cassation. According to El-Borai, the court has sent a message to the torturers within the interior ministry that, basically, they needn’t worry about what they do; the Egyptian judiciary will treat them with compassion. “As such, torture will continue to take place in police stations,” the lawyer concluded despairingly. “A five-year prison sentence is better than nothing, I suppose. Look where we were and where we are now; these are national security officers.” He demanded that “these criminals” must be removed and dismissed from public service. “They should be forced to pay compensation for their abuse and for damaging the reputation of the police force,” he added.

“Better than nothing” sums up the story of the revolution, which may have died under torture, or may be clinically dead waiting for someone to wake it from its coma, which may take some time. Egypt is back to square one just five years after the revolution. There are those who doubt whether it was a real revolution, as revolutions should not only change the head of the regime, but also the entire regime itself. Failure to do so, as happened in Egypt, allows the counter-revolution to place a new, alternate head in place to put matters back to the way they were pre-revolution, or worse.

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Kareem Hamdy was being questioned about his alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood by officers from what used to be called the state security agency when he was killed. He had neck injuries, six broken ribs, a lacerated lung, a bruised heart and internal bleeding. The officers responsible were sentenced to five years in prison.

Dying under torture has become a term used widely in Egypt; it is no longer surprising to read or hear the “semi-official” Egyptian media reporting someone’s death in this way. It has become part of the miserable conditions suffered by political detainees, in stark contrast to the comfortable prison conditions enjoyed by the recently-released Israeli spy Ouda Tarabin, for example. He claimed that the conditions were similar to those of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; he had a microwave and a refrigerator, and was able to prepare his own food because the prison food was “terrible”. Such facilities were provided, he said, because he is an Israeli citizen and the Israeli Embassy put pressure on the Egyptian authorities.

Information gathered by international human rights organisations shows that the number of those killed due to torture and medical negligence in Egyptian prisons since the coup on 3 July 2013 is much higher than the official figure of 350; in any case, the statistics do not include those who have simply “disappeared” or whose death has not been recognised. The reasons given for death include electric shock, severed body parts, broken bones and the failure of the authorities to provide medical attention. Sometimes it is claimed that the prisoner has “committed suicide”, as happened on Tuesday when a member of the Muslim Brotherhood detained in Abu Hammad Prison was said to have killed himself. The number of those dying under torture has hit a record high, not only in Egypt, but also around the world. The death of even one individual under torture in any country should be a major cause for concern, so what about the death of hundreds?

The revolution in Egypt provides a dark example for others. It has cast a shadow on other Arab countries, whether they have undergone an Arab Spring experience which has gone horribly wrong, or still hope for an inspirational revolution to follow.

All or most of those who wrote about Egypt’s 25th January Revolution have admitted, in one way or another, that the country is back to square one. It is as if there was no rebellion; as if Egypt did not hear the chants of “We are all Khaled Saeed” in memory of the young man from Alexandria who died after being tortured by the police. At that time, the interior ministry said that he died as a result of swallowing a bag of hashish. This sparked-off the revolution and inspired the rebels. Today, five years later, the Egyptians do not know whose name to use instead of Khaled Saeed, there are so many candidates who have also died under torture.

I am certain, though, in the midst of such darkness, that nations do not die even if their revolutions are in a coma; there will be a sudden awakening. We do not know when, but the reasons for having a revolution in the first place still exist, on top of which there are even more. The people require a revised and intensified revolution which protects them from oppression and being seized and killed under torture.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 28 January, 2016.

]]> (Helmi Al-Asmar) Africa Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:39:53 +0000
The Geneva trap Zuhair Kseibati

The Russians and Americans are keen to stick to specific “principles” for the management of the Syrian war; at least this is what President Vladimir Putin has tried hard to suggest. The US has also made great efforts to dispel the impression of a Russian “stick” which some have claimed US Secretary of State John Kerry waved at the Syrian opposition in Riyadh.

There is nothing new in Putin’s defence of the “legitimate authority” in Damascus, and it is not altered by Washington’s talk of President Bashar Al-Assad losing his “legitimacy”. If the Russia-Turkey clash on the eve of the Geneva talks is a reflection of the continued dispute between Moscow and Ankara, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s defence of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s participation in the talks, then it is odd that the Kremlin continues to insist that it does not interfere in Syria’s political affairs.

Another dark irony in the Syrian catastrophe is that Lavrov challenged anyone to find evidence of Russian fighter jets killing civilians during its scorched earth raids. The jets bomb residential buildings, but the minister’s logic suggests that the missiles must be able to distinguish between Daesh fighters and women and children as it is the latter who are found in the rubble.

Lavrov’s objective was to create a new obstacle for the opposition’s Supreme Negotiations Committee just hours before it made its decision about going to Geneva. At the same time, the minister sent another message that contained an implicit threat: Moscow wants a final settlement. This means that if the negotiations are conducted only with those who are present, the Russians can accuse the committee of isolating itself and refusing to find a solution for the five-year conflict. The Russians can also present faces who have been accused openly of having links to the Syrian regime as the “legitimate representatives” of the opposition, who will join the regime in forming a national unity government.

The minefield that the committee is facing neither starts nor ends with the representation of the Democratic Union Party or with the acceptance of negotiations in light of the regime’s siege of cities and the raids of which the Russians are boasting, without a ceasefire first. No matter what Washington or Kerry do, the greatest suspicion that many opposition factions have is that the Russian-American agreement in Zurich on the eve of Kerry’s trip to Riyadh reinforces their concern regarding the possibility of dragging the negotiations committee into a trap in Geneva. This would mean that the ceiling for outcomes would be co-existance with Al-Assad’s regime in a “unity government”, the postponement of a decision about the president’s fate and no reform to be implemented without his approval.

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Following the explanation from US special envoy to Syria Michael Ratni of what happened during the meeting between Kerry, the Supreme Negotiations Committee and de facto chief negotiator Riyad HijabIt, it may be an exaggeration to accuse the secretary of state of “conspiring” with Lavrov, who is aware of what is “fair” and what is “unfair” in the formation of the committee’s delegation to Geneva. Although Kerry reassured the opposition that it will still be supported, even if the negotiations fail, a question arises about Washington’s failure to provide any guarantee to those who were supported to prepare for the fully-mandated transitional ruling committee. Hence, the fate of Al-Assad has become a “Syrian affair”, while the elimination of “terrorism” from Syria has become Russia’s job, even if dozens of civilian leaders fighting the regime are killed during Moscow’s air raids.

Hence, the Russian-American agreement in Zurich includes Al-Assad’s fate, and it is worth noting that Moscow has not promised him asylum, nor has it been requested. If the Syrians have fought for five years, sacrificed 250,000 people and seen millions more displaced, how can the Geneva III conference, and whatever is to come after it, succeed after 6 months, while the main enemy remains in his position thanks to Putin’s “stick” and bombs? How many more Syrians will be killed before the master of the Kremlin is reassured of his victory over Daesh from Syria to Afghanistan and Georgia?

Kerry seems to be exhausted by his work on the Iranian nuclear agreement, the US-Cuba sanctions deal and Baghdad’s stubbornness, which caused the loss of Mosul in the dead of night. Perhaps he will ask has pal Sergey to show “mercy” to the Syrian opposition after convincing its leadership about the awful alternative to negotiations. The Russian Geneva trap has much more room for the delegations and six months is enough to break any of them.

According to Putin, Moscow still does not interfere in politics, and he is happy with the US intercontinental mandate. The Russian leader is definitely not concerned with Washington’s programme to train the opposition or by Iran’s bitterness after he pulled the carpet from under Tehran’s feet in the Levant.

In the best case scenario in Geneva, the opposition will not, no matter what, be able to pass any clauses unless they are accepted by the Syrian regime, assuming that the opposition surrenders the right to determine the fate of the regime. What kind of negotiations are these intended to be? How many more innocent lives will be lost; how much more destruction will take place in the cities; and how much more fragmentation will happen in the six months set aside for the Geneva trap, while Syria is handed over to another occupier?

Translated from Al Hayat, 27 January, 2016.

]]> (Zuhair Kseibati) Europe Thu, 28 Jan 2016 11:59:04 +0000
Israel's 'war' against BDS is increasingly desperate Asa Winstanley

A fascinating article by a Jerusalem Post Knesset reporter earlier this month gives quite the insight into the increasingly desperate state of the Israeli "war" against BDS. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement aims to hold Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

At first ignored, and later derided, the BDS movement has by now become one of the top strategic threats to Israel's ability carry on the business of occupation as usual. Formally founded in 2005, the movement aims to encourage people of conscience around the world to boycott Israel products, dis-invest from Israeli businesses and to put pressure on governments to implement sanctions against Israel.

And over the last 11 years, the movement has achieved some impressive results, despite an enormous and well-funded backlash by Israel's powerful supporters in the West. Examples are too numerous to detail, but the most recent victory has been the move of the United Methodist Church in the US to divest its $20-billion pension fund of any stake in five Israeli banks – excluded for their involvement in illegal Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the West Bank.

In May, the Israeli president termed the academic boycott a "strategic threat of the first order." In June, Yitzhak Herzog, the head of the supposedly left-wing Israeli Labour Party (and the leader of the opposition in the Knesset) said that "the boycott of Israel is a new kind of terrorism" which "should be fought with all the means and all the power available to countries of the world".

Fighting talk. In Israeli propaganda, BDS has now replaced Iran as the biggest "existential threat" to the state.

Barely a week passes, it seems, without the launch of a new initiative or Israeli government department to fight BDS.

In August, Israel's military intelligence agency (Aman) revealed that it now operates a “delegitimization department” which “routinely gathers information on foreign, left-wing organizations” that promote BDS. Millions of dollars and shekels are being poured in – to little discernible effect, so far.

The Jerusalem Post report recounted the launch of a new such initiative. Titled the "Caucus to Battle Delegitimization," the new project is meant to coordinate Israeli efforts against BDS. So many different departments within various government ministries have been launched over the last few years that efforts have become fragmented. So this cross-party Knesset grouping is meant to improve the situation for the anti-BDS ultras.

The conference was addressed by Gilad Erdan, who was touted during his appointment last year as the "Minister for BDS" (an admission of the power of BDS in itself). Using the Israeli terminology for Palestine solidarity, Erdan told the conference that “delegitimization is a challenge with strategic potential.” He also said his ministry has been allocated 100 million Israeli shekels (more than £17 million) to combat BDS and other forms of "delegitimization."

Most tellingly, the Post reported that the Minister for BDS admitted that "the government cannot fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement alone; it needs a network" of supporters.

This smacks of desperation.

Israel seems to be panicking. As well they might. There is really little they can do against BDS in the long run except delay it. As the BDS movement's co-founder Omar Barghouti says, Israel has no real answer to BDS.

Figures in the Israeli government have for a long while now been obsessed with describing their campaign against BDS, a purely non-violent civil society movement, in violent and military terms. The habit of fighting wars is not easy to drop, it seems.

Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit in 2014 criticised the government for not fighting hard enough against BDS: "In this age of asymmetrical warfare we are not using all our force, and this has a detrimental effect on our deterrent power." And Labour leader Herzog, who I quoted earlier, seemed to be actually advocating violence against BDS activists.

Speaking at the conference, former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren (now an Israeli parliamentarian) is also hooked on the military jargon, saying Israel's battle against BDS was “a war like any other, and in war, we must take off the gloves and reach new battlefields on campuses around the world … no tank will move and no plane will take off if we don’t have the right to defend ourselves.”

Bizarre really. I'm not sure who any of this is meant to reach. It's all rather like preaching to the choir.

All of this is an encouraging sign that Israel and its apologists still have no clue how to effectively fight BDS. Back in February 2014, I offered them some free advice: "you can't make the 'BDS threat' go away by throwing money at the problem."

I'm happy to see that they completely ignored me and are still pouring their cash down the drain.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Mon, 18 Jan 2016 12:07:31 +0000
Concern over Israel’s attacks on NGOs betrays anti-Palestinian racism Ben White

Two weeks ago, the Israeli cabinet gave its approval to proposed legislation that would “impose new regulations on Israeli non-profit groups that receive funds from foreign governments.”

The ‘Transparency Bill’ will compel NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments to state so in all official publications, and to “provide details about that funding in any communication with elected officials.”

Representatives of the groups “would also be required to wear a special tag at Knesset sessions.” An NGO violating the law’s provisions can be fined.

The move came at the end of a year when deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely – currently Israel’s de facto senior diplomat – had urged her European counterparts to “freeze funding to left-wing organisations.” Meanwhile, there is support within the Knesset for even stronger measures against groups “involved in activity deemed hostile toward the state.”

Coverage of this new law in the West has demonstrated, once again, the continued potency of the myth of Israel’s ‘democracy’ and, in parallel, just how little weight is given, intentionally or otherwise, to what Israel’s settler colonialism has meant for Palestinians. An editorial in The Washington Post on January 2 provides an instructive example.

The paper wrapped its criticism of the proposed new law in a paean to what it called Israel’s “stubbornly free society” and “core values as a democratic state.” It is Israel’s “bedrock commitment” to freedom, said the Post, which is now threatened by the legislation.

This framing is typical of reports on the escalating popular and political hostility towards human rights-focused NGOs in Israel. Last June, for example, a Reuters correspondent described Israel as “a country that has traditionally taken dissent on the chin”, adding that “in the past”, Israel had been able to “hold itself up as a beacon of openness”, and was noted for its “pluralism.”

That such viewpoints are written as fact, in the reporter’s voice as opposed to a clearly flagged opinion of a pundit or politician, is indicative of the ongoing, critical blind spot on the part of both conservatives and liberals in the West – the experience of Palestinians.

Today, some 4.75 million Palestinians live under Israeli military rule; protected by the same military, around 600,000 Israelis live in segregated settlements built on expropriated land.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank have now voted in 14 Knesset elections, something the Palestinians they live amongst cannot do. Palestinian protesters are killed and maimed by Israeli forces with impunity. Palestinians, including children, are jailed by Israeli military, not civilian, courts.

Does this state of affairs, maintained by the Israeli state for almost half a century, not tarnish Israel’s claims to ‘democracy’ or ‘pluralism’?

Palestinians with citizenship, meanwhile, are subjected to institutionalised discrimination across the board – in land, housing, education, welfare, family life, and the criminal justice system. Indeed, Israel used martial law against its Palestinian citizens for the first 18 years of the state’s existence (ceasing the year before the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began).

The only way, therefore, that a new law stigmatising liberal Israeli NGOs can be seen as an almost unparalleled ‘threat’ to Israeli ‘democracy’ is if you are either ignorant of the above crimes visited upon the Palestinian people – or if you think that their lives do not matter.

Consequently, attacks on the civil liberties and free expression of Israelis – and Jewish Israelis in particular – are liable to do Israel’s image in the West more damage than jailed Palestinian children, drone strikes in Gaza, and settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Some of Israel’s friends know this. The German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Bundestag has warned Benjamin Netanyahu that a bill restricting the activities of human rights NGOs would “make it difficult…to help Israel fend off boycotts and attempts at delegitimization.”

A senior official at the New Israel Fund has similarly expressed her concern that “the signals sent by the government’s arrogant defiance of supposedly shared democratic values” only “further damages Israel’s international standing” – and at a time “when Israel’s relationships with its most important partners, the United States and the European Union, are already shaky.”

Many of those seeking to undermine the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign point to Israel’s NGOs as proof of the country’s supposed robust democracy and capacity for internal change. But, as one pro-Israel activist put it, “if there is no NGO community, or those that support that free press are vilified, what democracy will these allies defend?”

In 1968, the late scholar and scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote what became a famous essay, in which he urged Israel to immediately relinquish control of the newly-conquered West Bank and Gaza Strip. Why? Because “a state ruling a hostile population…would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech, and democratic institutions.”

For Palestinians, Israel has always meant ethnic cleansing, military rule, segregation, and discrimination. As Ahmed Tibi once said, Israel is “Jewish and democratic: Democratic towards Jews, and Jewish toward Arabs” – and for many in the West, that has been just fine.

Thus in what is yet another reflection of anti-Palestinian racism, it could well be the shrinking of democratic space for Israelis that finally persuades the country’s political allies in the West to say enough is enough, for private disquiet to become public, and for opposition to boycotts to wither.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Tue, 05 Jan 2016 16:37:52 +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
What will it take for the US to cut military aid to Egypt? Sarah MarusekEver since the 3 July military coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected government, the world has stood back to witness the Egyptian authorities' brazen attempt to cleanse an entire community from Egypt's population.

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

And I am not the only American asking this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Military aid and "peace"

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

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

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

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

Is it aid or blackmail?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How US aid to Egypt works

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

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

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

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

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

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

This included helicopters, fighter aircrafts and tank kits.

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

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

And then there is "war on terror"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> (Dr. Amira Abo el-Fetouh) Letter from Cairo Tue, 23 Apr 2013 09:39:45 +0000
The Turkish-Kurdish peace process is on hold PKK fighters standing in formation

A letter written by a Turkish soldier has been published in the local media in Turkey. The soldier is currently fighting against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Cizre, which is a hot spot in the conflict between the Turkish army and the Kurdish insurgents.

“We are all the children of this country,” he wrote, “and we love the people of Cizre. We are here to ensure the territorial integrity of our country. We came here not to kill or to shed blood; we are here just to save your peace and tranquillity.” With his colleagues, the man was clearly billeted in someone’s house. “We’ve stayed as guests at your home and we’ve used some of your stuff. Please forgive us and accept this sum of money which is all what we got; it might not be enough but please forgive us.”

Some background to this is useful. The Turkish-Kurdish reconciliation process was initiated with secret meetings involving what was later revealed to be senior officials within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. The latter ostensibly had inclined to be involved actively in the political approach and abandoned the armed struggle. In 2013, Ocalan, as the PKK’s founder, called on the group’s fighters to lay down their arms as part of a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the AKP-led government made fundamental legal revisions and constitutional amendments in favour of the Kurds, including the approval of Kurdish as a second language of instruction in regions with a Kurdish majority. The government also authorised the right to publish and compose in Kurdish. In 2009, an official Kurdish TV channel was launched and in 2012 Kurdish was offered as an optional language in Turkish schools. Moreover, in 2013, new laws allowed defendants to use Kurdish in Turkish courts.

In 2013, the then Prime Minister (and now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a package of democratic reforms which ended discrimination based on ethnicity. The new laws provided for harsh penalties for those found guilty of racism and discrimination on the basis of language, ethnicity or nationalism.

The constitutional amendments were accompanied by economic incentives for investors and entrepreneurs in South-East Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions. Dozens of development and infrastructure projects went ahead, including, hospitals, universities, airports and other facilities.

In the political arena, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) won 13 per cent of the votes in last June’s elections, which was considered to be a great triumph. It was the first time that a pro-Kurd party had exceeded the 10 per cent vote threshold, which was imposed by the 1982 military coup constitution and which the AKP wants to lower or even cancel in a new reform package to be approved by parliament or a national referendum. The political success of the HDP prompted expectations of a political compromise for the Kurdish question.

The AKP lost almost 9 per cent of its voters last June, a drop that was attributed to general discontent with the government’s approach to reconciliation with the PKK as well as an intensive campaign against Erdogan’s so-called “violations” of the constitution. He was accused by the opposition of not maintaining his objectivity as the president of the Republic of Turkey by participating in AKP events; the AKP is Erdogan’s own party. This was cited by the opposition media as clear evidence of Erdogan’s “dictatorship” for which he strives with his all-powerful, tailor-made presidential system.

On 20 July last year, a Daesh suicide bomber killed 32 pro-Kurdish activists in the city of Suruc in the South-East of Turkey. Without hesitation, the HDP alleged that the government was just as responsible as Daesh. The PKK retaliated immediately by killing Turkish policemen and soldiers; that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and ended the almost 3-year lull in the conflict with Ankara.

In the snap election of 1 November last year, the HDP lost ground, polling just 10.6 per cent of the vote and just scraping past the threshold. It was seen as a punishment by the electorate for the party’s attitude in the aftermath of terrorist attacks against not only military posts but also civilian properties. Suggestions that the HDP favour reconciliation and peace over violence were not supported by its approaches and media statements which showed that the party was unable to distance itself from the terrorism of the PKK. This underlined the internal conflict amongst Kurds; Ocalan wants to move on from armed conflict and encourages the PKK to disarm in favour of engagement in the democratic process.

Murat Karayilan, on the other hand, does not. The PKK military commander in the Qandil Mountain area of northern Iraq does not believe that the peace process is an effective solution to the Kurdish question; he does not agree with the disarming of the PKK and will not lay down his arms. Karayilan is believed to be supported by regional and international powers which are keen to keep him in place as an irritant for the ruling AKP in Ankara. Although the HDP is a legitimate political party in Turkey and the PKK is a designated terrorist movement, many Turks believe that they are two sides of the same coin.

The PKK is unlikely to abandon the armed struggle, and Erdogan has said that the war against terrorism will not end until and unless the group’s fighters lay down their arms. He also insists that the HDP should distance itself from the PKK and demonstrate its independence.

The dilemma facing the Turkish government is that the HDP, despite being a democratically-elected pro-Kurdish party, does not serve as a true interlocutor or partner in the peace process. The HDP, in turn, believes that the reconciliation talks failed merely because of Erdogan’s wish to grab more authority in the presidential system that he is keen to adopt.

That is why HDP representatives in Europe always call on Washington to take part in the Turkish-Kurdish reconciliation process. It also explains a side of the US agenda in Vice President Joe Biden’s latest visit to Turkey and his criticism of the Turkish government’s human rights record and abuse of power.

The While House has declared the PKK to be a terrorist group but it openly backs the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is a secular, armed, Syrian-Kurdish group identifying exclusively with the PKK. This presents an immediate threat to Ankara, especially in the light of recent talks to deploy multinational ground troops on the ground in Syria; there would be ambiguity about such troops and their targets.

The quagmire of Syria’s civil war has mixed-up all the cards and, if Turkey is fortunate, the struggle between the Turkish army and the PKK insurgents will be a transitory war of attrition. If not, the whole reconciliation process will eventually be buried, not just put on hold.

The leaders of the HDP and spokespersons of the Turkish government have all declared that the stalled peace talks have reached “a different chapter” or even “a point of no return”. However, Leyla Zana, the HDP MP and a leading Kurdish figure, has said that Erdogan alone can solve the Kurdish issue. She requested a meeting with the president recently and Erdogan welcomed her. According to Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of HDP, however, this was an old appeal and there are no such current requests by Zana or any other MP. The plot thickens and the peace process is still on hold.

]]> (Ahmed Alburai) Europe Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:07:07 +0000
Why riots raged in democratic Tunisia Soumaya GhannoushiVIDEO

Over the last few days, Tunisia has been in the grip of a wave of unrest that erupted from Kasserine in the centre of the country and spread to other towns and cities in the inner and southern regions, reaching the densely populated suburbs of the capital Tunis itself. Once more, the demands that brought protesters together around this north African country have been employment and decent living standards.

Ironically, this wave of civil turbulence comes weeks after Tunisia was awarded a Nobel peace prize for the success of its democratic transition, amidst a troubled region torn by wars and conflicts. The country was widely feted in Western capitals, receiving much praise and applause, but little more. Its coffers are empty, its economy is in tatters, with near zero growth levels and a once thriving tourist industry on the verge of collapse.

Unfortunately for Tunisia, the contrast between its impressive record of political achievements and the pitiful state of its economy could not be more pronounced. This is particularly apparent in the southern and central regions which had ignited the 17 December revolution and wider Arab spring, but find themselves poorer than ever today.

Little has improved for them in concrete terms. If anything, conditions have got worse, as the economy has deteriorated and state revenues have shrunk in a damaging climate of insecurity and a war raging next door in Libya, on the country’s southern borders.

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What has further complicated matters for Tunisia’s succession of governments since 2011 (six in total), has been the high aspirations unleashed by the revolution, particularly among the more deprived, younger sectors of society. As their dictator fled in the dead of night, five years ago, after decades of authoritarianism, the prevalent assumption was that a dawn of development and progress would soon ensue.

As unemployment remained stubbornly high and living standards have sunk further, disillusionment set in, especially among the thousands of university graduates (223,000, or 30 percent of all graduates) torn between a sense of entitlement to prosperity and the bitter reality of poverty and closed horizons.

Few would dispute the significant advances Tunisians have made towards democratisation since escaping Ben Ali’s dictatorship in 2011. The levels of free speech, movement and organisation they currently enjoy are unprecedented in their modern history and unparalleled in the Arab world. In the midst of a dangerous crisis that risked to propel the country down the precipice of civil conflict, the country’s political elite managed, against the odds, to settle its differences through dialogue and compromise.

The constitution their constituent assembly has unanimously adopted two years ago is the most progressive in the region. They have succeeded in holding two rounds of democratic elections a year ago and of forming a coalition government bringing together parties that had once been at loggerhead. But these accomplishments have remained elitist matters, viewed with apathy by the wider population, failing as they did to have any concrete reflection in their daily lives.

As for the international community paying lip service to the Tunisian democratic exception, it has done nothing in real terms to support this nascent democracy and keep it firmly on track.

The sweet promises made at the Deauville Conference weeks after the eruption of the Arab revolutions have long evaporated without trace. And the generosity of the US Congress is such that an aid package worth a measly $134 million was slashed by $50 million, with much of what is left directed to policing borders with Libya and hardly anything to supporting the economy or democratic governance.

Neither did help come from oil-rich fellow Arab countries. In fact, the role which some of these states have played in Tunisian politics has been a destabilising one. The object has been to reaffirm the old narrative that democracy is not only impossible, but undesirable, even catastrophic for Arabs.

Tunisia has not been immune to the destructive effects of the counterrevolution regional axis that has been actively seeking to reverse the process of change using the power of money, co-opting certain groups and individuals and using the media to deepen divisions, stir up conflicts and create a general climate of anxiety and despair.

Aside from the country’s economic woes, what has deepened Tunisians’ sense of disillusionment and triggered the current wave of protests has been the state of political fragmentation within the ruling Nida Tounes, a heterogeneous amalgam of divergent political elements hurriedly convened in opposition to the Troika that had governed Tunisia between November 2011 and January 2014.

The party managed to win the elections a year ago benefitting from the post-revolution climate of disaffection. Its grand promises to resolve Tunisia’s economic and developmental problems, claims to which the concentration of businessmen and seasoned former regime officials in its ranks lent credibility in the eyes of the electorate.

Weeks after its victory, however, in-fighting set in, with its parliamentary block crumbling and breaking into small rival groups, clashing in public, in full sight of a population grown weary of politics and despairing of politicians and their petty squabbles, as a succession of polls demonstrate.

The latest eruption of Tunisia’s inner provinces, forgotten for decades, if not centuries since the Beylical pre-colonial era, which centralised wealth and power in the hands of urban notables in the capital, then in the coastal regions under Bourguiba and Ben Ali, is a warning call to the political class as a whole: that democracy is not only a set of elections, parties or parliament. More importantly, it is a vehicle for social mobility, for improving the quality of people’s lives, for providing them with opportunity, with hope and a sense of dignity.

Democracy stands on two legs: political and socio-economic. Without both it is crippled, vulnerable and prone to collapse at any given moment.

This article was first published by

]]> (Soumaya Ghannoushi) Africa Mon, 25 Jan 2016 16:54:32 +0000
Buyer beware: Israeli spy tools may be spying right back Asa Winstanley

Last month I wrote about Israel's high-tech industry and how integrated it is with with state intelligence and military agencies. Top figures in the same agencies that systematically spy on and persecute Palestinian civilians often later go on to work in the private sector.

One reader of that article altered me to another such "revolving door" figure. Matan Caspy, the co-founder and head of operations at the firm which sells the Wifi spy boxes I wrote about listed on his LinkedIn page that he was for eight years a "special operation agent and team leader" with the Shin Bet, Israel's secret police.

Four years after he left he would found the firm, Rayzone. Is the idea that he and his friends and colleagues at the Shin Bet do not still stay in touch and share information the least bit credible? Of course not.

Caspy boasting about his links to Israeli spooks might not seem the brightest thing to do for a former spy. But apparently, high-tech investors and buyers seems to love the idea that their spy gear is made by an ex-Israeli spy. (Since I wrote that last article on Rayzone, his LinkedIn has been deleted. But I made copies, so you can still read it here.)

But revelations in the Wall Street Journal last month suggest an intriguing possibility: what if the Rayzone "InterApp Interception System" (designed to spy on Wifi connections within range of a small box) also clandestinely spies on the foreign state agencies it is marketed to?

The new revelations show there is a precedent.

The WSJ article details the story of how the NSA, under the Obama Whitehouse, kept a close watch on Israeli government communications during the period in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was agitating against the then-prospective six-power agreement with Iran (which ultimately limited its nuclear energy programme). Netanyahu, for his part, was spying on the US, to try to find out details of the negotiations. And, due to the fact that Netanyahu's people were briefing his allies in the US on how best to combat the deal, NSA monitoring of Israeli communications also picked up the communications of US citizens.

Despite the faux outrage of some US legislators to the revelations in the WSJ report, it's no surprise that US intelligence agencies should consider Israel a primary worry. In fact, instead of the NSA's disgraceful practice of mass-snooping on private citizens (as the Snowden revelations showed they do), countering the Israeli spy threat against the US sounds like exactly the sort of thing the NSA should be doing.

As whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed to The Washington Post in 2013, US intelligence services privately consider Israel to be one of the top global spy threats against America. US counter-intelligence operations are "strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel," the Post reported.

Even after this information entered the public domain, it did not stop them from spying on the US, and the US president and Congress have only coddled and rewarded Israel for its nefarious activities.

The WSJ reported that this pattern has been ongoing for a long time: "Early in the Obama presidency, for example, Unit 8200 [the Israeli equivalent to the NSA] gave the NSA a hacking tool the NSA later discovered also told Israel how the Americans used it. It wasn’t the only time the NSA caught Unit 8200 poking around restricted US networks. Israel would say intrusions were accidental, one former US official said, and the NSA would respond, 'Don’t worry. We make mistakes, too.'"

This seems to be a habit of Israeli spy agencies: spy on its own supposed allies. Which very much suggests the possibility that Israeli corporations flogging high-tech spy products to state agencies abroad (Rayzone is a case in point) may be doing the same sort of thing.

Especially considering the fact that so many of the leaders and founders of these companies are current and former members of Israeli spy agencies, it would seem to be a fairly simple thing for them to insert backdoors into these products which could then be used to spy on these very same foreign police forces, and other state agencies.

Are Rayzone doing such a thing? It's hard to know for sure of course, especially since they refuse to even explain how their products work in the first place.

Rayzone did not reply to an email asking what assurances they could give their customers that the InterApp box is not spying on its own customers too.

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

]]> (Asa Winstanley) Inquiry Fri, 15 Jan 2016 09:42:57 +0000
Israel offers its Palestinian citizens development without decolonisation Ben WhiteHundreds of Jewish Israelis demonstrated on Saturday in the northern city of Afula, after construction tenders issued for new housing were won by Palestinian citizens from nearby villages.

The demonstrators, who are calling for the tenders to be revoked, included “senior officials” from the Afula city council, as well as David Suissa, chief of staff to Israel’s Housing Minister. “The fight in Afula has set off many warning bells”, said Suissa, adding that the protest was on behalf of “anyone who grew up in the city and wants to safeguard its character.”

Bentzi Gopstein, head of the anti-assimilationist Lehava group, arrived late – but was still given a platform by organisers (and “was greeted with cheers and chants”). The crowd held placards with slogans such as ‘Afula is in danger’ – at a previous rally, signs read ‘Arabs out’. One protest organiser put it plainly: “The city of Afula is a Jewish city and we wish to maintain the status quo.”

The Afula episode is indicative of a wider trend recently reported on by Israeli business newspaper The Marker. In the paper’s words, “middle class Arabs” are leaving their villages “and settling in Jewish cities, which are ill-prepared for their absorption.”

Around 6 percent of Israel’s Palestinian citizens – more than 100,000 – live in seven so-called ‘mixed cities’ (defined as such when at least 10 percent of residents are Arab): Acre, Haifa, Ramle, Lod, Ma’alot-Tarshiha, Upper Nazareth and Jaffa. Most of these cities had a much bigger Palestinian population prior to the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba, but Upper Nazareth is a different case.

Upper Nazareth and Carmiel were established in the 1950s-1960s, as part of historical efforts by the Israeli government and bodies like the Jewish Agency to ‘Judaize’ the Galilee. In recent years, however, things have been changing, as a direct – and ironic – consequence of decades of systematic discrimination in land and housing policy.

Upper Nazareth covers 30.2 square kilometres, for a population of some 40,000 residents; Nazareth, meanwhile, has a population of more than 70,000 – in an area of 14.1 square kilometres. With no space, and sky-high prices, Palestinians have sought property in the development town originally built on land expropriated from Nazareth.

According to 2012 statistics, 19.2 percent of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian, “though unofficial estimates put the figure closer to 30%.” In Carmiel, the official Palestinian population is 2.5 percent – but experts say the real figure could 10-15 percent. Overall, 16,000 Palestinian citizens “are estimated to be living in 16 cities not officially defined as mixed, or in predominantly Jewish neighbourhoods of big cities such as Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

This process has been met with opposition from many Jewish Israelis – including elected officials – who are unhappy with the phenomenon, but who also do not wish to end the systematic discrimination that has contributed towards it. Both Upper Nazareth and Carmiel have seen explicit expressions of racist incitement, often in the context of election campaigns.

Events in Afula seem to be following a similar pattern; a resident quoted in Ha’aretz described the “prospective Arab homeowners” as “well-off families of doctors, lawyers, engineers and high-tech people who were looking to leave the choked neighbourhood in their communities and build a modern home in a modern neighbourhood at a reasonable price.”

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), in 2014, Afula’s population was 43,832. There was no data entered for the Arab population (and yes, CBS records each city’s Jewish and non-Jewish populations). The tender won by Palestinian citizens amounts to just a few dozen units – but for Afula Mayor Yitzhak Meron, “forty-eight families is not a drop in the ocean.”

Israel’s representatives, diplomats, and international supporters greet claims that the state discriminates against its Palestinian citizens with incredulity and anger. Talk about segregation or systematic racism, and you will be reassured that ‘Arabs vote’, ‘there are Arabs in the Knesset’, and that ‘there is even an Arab judge on the Supreme Court’.

However, Israeli media coverage of the issues facing ‘mixed cities’ and the housing crisis facing Palestinian citizens makes no bones about the facts of decades-long discrimination. As The Marker put it: “Discrimination against Arabs in the housing sector is an issue which this population has faced since the establishment of the State.” For example:

members of the Arab sector have no land to build on and to reside in, within the Arab towns and villages, due to the long-standing policy of discrimination by the Jewish establishment regarding planning and construction in the sector, and also due to other problems, such as private land on which private single-family houses have been built over the years rather than the dense construction of high rise buildings.

Meanwhile, in the words of The Marker, living in so-called “community settlements” or kibbutzim is “off limits” to Palestinian citizens, “due to the Admission Committees Law approved in 2011, which allows the filtering out of people in admission to the communities according to their ‘incompatibility with the social and cultural fabric’.”

In fact, the role of the admission committees – which act as a filter for who can live in around 70 percent of all the communities in Israel – goes back further than 2011. These communities come under the jurisdiction of 52 regional councils, which together cover 80 percent of the state’s territory; Human Rights Watch noted in 2008 how these committees “have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs from living in rural Jewish communities.”

As I wrote in my book, ‘Palestinians in Israel’, “they are a means by which a small number of people – about 5 percent of the population – can exercise control over a significant amount of land.” But admissions committees are only part of the story.

While Palestinian citizens constitute around 20 percent of Israel’s population, an analysis of Israel Lands Authority tenders in 2014 by legal rights organisation Adalah show that a mere 4.6 percent of the total housing units marketed were in Arab towns (1,844). Indeed, Israeli settlements in the West Bank had 72 percent more housing units marketed than Arab towns inside the Green Line (3,163).

Furthermore, while the number of tenders published for industrial and commercial zones in Jewish towns in 2014 were 36, the number for Arab towns was precisely zero. Arab local authorities “encompass about 15 percent of Israel’s population”, yet their share of industrial zones – “areas that generate corporate tax, creating economic growth for the local authority” – is just 3.8 percent.

The areas of jurisdiction of 139 Arab towns in Israel comprise only 2.5 percent of ​​the territory of the state. As Israel has neither “established a single new Arab community since 1948” (outside of the Negev), nor “expanded the existing communities’ jurisdictional areas”, the end result has been “an 11-fold increase in the population density of Arab localities.” Of the 139 Arab localities, only 41 have up to date master plans, severely hampering development. In addition, out of 126 local and regional planning committees in Israel, “only four are controlled by Arab local authorities.”

But is there now a change afoot? In December 2014, as part of a package intended to further the “economic development of minorities”, the Israeli government commissioned a panel chaired by Finance Ministry Budget Director Amir Levi to “formulate construction and housing solutions.” In March 2014, interestingly, Levi had acknowledged “that the state systematically discriminated against Arab towns with regard to budget allocations for education, public transportation, employment initiatives and the planning of industrial parks.”

The committee’s report, published in June 2015, was, according to Ha’aretz, “the first time ever” that an Israeli government team had “documented the extent of the land and housing shortage in Israel’s Arab communities and proposed recommendations for ending it”, including “tax breaks, the retroactive approval of illegal building and better organizing land registration and ownership.”

The panel also recommended “the enlargement of the area of jurisdiction of Arab communities, the introduction of subsidized training for city planners in the Arab sector, the extension of zoning variances to developers who are prepared to begin building immediately and the construction of more housing that is meant to be rented out.”

When the Levi panel released its recommendations, they were described by one commentator as “a revolution in land discrimination policy” and a “historic turning point.” Note, however, that in 2010 the same journalist hailed a different plan for investing in Arab towns as “the first time” that the state would “address the serious housing shortage in Arab communities and take action to end it.”

As MK Ayman Odeh commented in response to the Levi panel, “the report may be excellent, but what still remains is the reality-test of its implementation.” Just this week, MK Yousef Jabareen criticised yet another new proposal for financial assistance for the Arab community as inadequate. “We have a sour history with Israeli governments that declared plans that are not implemented on the ground”, Jabareen said, “and we hope that this will not be more of the same.”

This Wednesday, that new $3.86 billion plan goes to the Israeli cabinet for approval, an initiative that would see investment in “infrastructure, industry, education and healthcare” in Arab communities. As Ha’aretz noted, however, “Arab lawmakers and public figures have expressed doubts about the likelihood of the plan being implemented.” A different plan, formulated by the heads of Arab municipalities themselves, with MKs from the Joint Arab List, was “rejected” by the Finance Ministry.

Whether, and to what extent, these various economic and housing initiatives come to fruition, an Israeli government led by the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett has not suddenly discovered a passion for civil rights. The motivation to boost the economic potential of Palestinian citizens is simple: “the realisation…that the levels of poverty in the Arab sector have been holding back the economic development of the entire country.”

At a March 2011 conference, then-governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer declared that “reversing the relatively low rate of Arab participation in the labour force will increasingly be one of the keys to the success of the Israeli economy in the coming years.” At the same gathering, an OECD official urged Israel to “assign a higher priority for the employment and working conditions for Arabs and minority groups”, adding that “resources to support this objective need to scale up and be sustained over time if they are to become more effective.”

The ugly Afula protests thus speak to a much larger set of questions, including the sometimes contradictory nature of the relationship between Israel’s neoliberal economy on the one hand, and its ethnocratic legal framework and settler-colonial impulse on the other.

In April, Adalah responded to the State Comptroller’s report on the housing crisis by arguing that “the housing shortage in Arab communities is not the result of ‘failures’ or ‘deficiencies,’ but is a product of a deliberate, consistent, and systematic state policy, which excludes Arab citizens and sets many barriers to development in their way.”

As long as the policy persists under which ‘one hand confiscates and destroys and the other hand builds,’ and as long as the state views the Arab minority’s interest as conflicting head-on with the Israeli Jewish majority’s interest, the State Comptroller's recommendations will not be able to solve the housing crisis for Arab citizens.

Ultimately, the challenges facing Arab communities – issues of housing, land, education, and development – cannot be satisfactorily solved without a revolution in the state’s current relationship to its Palestinian citizens as that of a settler-colonial state to an indigenous population. This, in turn, is inseparable from the violently ongoing colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the suffering of blockaded and battered Gaza, and the enforced exile of Palestinian refugees.

This is not a recipe for inaction, but rather a recognition that systematic discrimination and segregation are not undone by budget supplements, just as the solution to the apartheid military regime in the West Bank is not internationally-funded industrial zones. Development without decolonisation is destined to fail.

With thanks to Ofer Neiman for translation.

]]> (Ben White) Debate Tue, 29 Dec 2015 11:22:58 +0000
Tiffany’s supplier funds IDF unit accused of war crimes: jewellery industry awash with blood diamonds DiamondsThe hypocrisy and double standards that permeate the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds is laid bare when one examines the ethical credential of Tiffany’s diamonds, one of the world’s most prestigious jewellers.

Given Tiffany’s extensive corporate social responsibility endeavours, complete with reassuring soft-focus video, few would question the ethical provenance of the company’s diamonds. However, even cursory due diligence exposes the fact that one of Tiffany’s main diamond suppliers, Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, has, through the Steinmetz Foundation, “adopted” a unit of the notorious Givati Brigade of the Israel Defence Forces.

The Givati Brigade was responsible for the massacre of the Samouni family in Gaza in January 2009. One hundred members of the extended family were corralled at gunpoint into a house and bombed by the Israelis, killing at least 21 men, women and children. The massacre was described as a war crime by the UNHRC.

The Steinmetz Foundation funded and supported the Givati Brigade during the 2008/9 Israeli offensive – Operation Cast Lead - which killed at least 1,387 Palestinians. Those killed were mainly civilians; over three hundred of them were children.

Tiffany’s Sustainability Report 2014 outlines the measures that the company has in place to ensure the ethical integrity of its diamonds. Lurking behind the clouds of information, though, lies the reality that the Steinmetz Company funds and supports an army brigade guilty of gross human rights violations in Palestine.

Furthermore, the report reveals that Tiffany’s sources 25-35 per cent (by value) of its polished diamonds from third-party suppliers who comply with the World Diamond Councils’ System of Warranties (SOW). The SOW is a bogus scheme introduced to create the illusion that regulations governing the trade in rough diamonds extends to the cut and polished trade. They don’t. There are no laws or regulations banning the trade in cut and polished diamonds that fund regimes guilty of human rights violations.

While Tiffany’s has voiced support for those protecting human rights linked to the diamond industry in Zimbabwe and Angola, the company’s collaboration with and funding of a mining company that funds and supports suspected Israeli war criminals undermines its credibility and the claim that, “Tiffany’s has been aggressive about ensuring respect for human rights in its supply chain.”

It was, therefore, ironically appropriate that members of the international diamond regulatory body - the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme - gathered last week in a plenary session in Angola. The hypocrisy could hardly be more glaring. The body set up ostensibly to end the trade in blood diamonds is chaired in 2015 by Angola, where government forces are accused of grievous human rights violations linked to the diamond industry.

Also Read: $83 million diamond default: Sotheby's and Israeli war crimes

Earlier this year, the Angolan government prosecuted the award-winning journalist and author Rafael Marques de Mores for writing a book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which exposes numerous examples of murder, rape, mutilation, torture and corruption associated with the diamond mining sector.

According to data published by the Kimberley Process (KP), Angola exported $1.3 billion of rough diamonds in 2014, making it the world’s sixth largest producer of diamonds. Despite being linked to bloodshed and violence, diamonds from Angola are fully compliant with KP regulations which ban “conflict diamonds”; diamonds that fund violence by rebel groups. Bizarrely, there are no regulations banning blood diamonds used to fund rogue regimes guilty of human rights violations.

The much lauded, but woefully defective, Kimberley Process provides the perfect cover for the blood diamond trade. As a result, blood diamonds worth billions of dollars are laundered legally through the jewellery industry each year and sold to unsuspecting consumers as conflict-free gems.

In 2011, the refusal of the KP to broaden the definition of a “conflict diamond” to include blood diamonds which fund human rights violations by government forces, resulted in diamonds from the Marange area of Zimbabwe, where the military is reported to have killed 200 diamond miners, being allowed on to the international market. The NGO Global Witness withdrew immediately from the KP at the time.

The diamond industry trumpets loudly and consistently the benefits of the Kimberley Process, but no one should be fooled by this diversionary tactic which blinds consumers and journalists alike to the ongoing trade in blood diamonds. Such diamonds from Africa are mostly uncut rough diamonds but their bloody history doesn’t end there. As they move along the supply pipe, through grading and polishing centres, to the high value retail end, many of them are processed in Israel where they generate revenue for another rogue regime, one which ranks among the world’s worst human rights offenders.

African blood diamonds thus go on to fund a second wave of bloodshed and violence in occupied Palestine. However, the jewellery industry and NGOs turn a blind eye to these super blood gems.

Although Israel has no diamond mines of its own, it is a leading trading and polishing centre with exports worth $19.4 billion gross ($10 billion net) in 2013. The value of Israel’s net diamond exports is almost ten times that of Angola’s gross diamond exports and multiples of that for Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic (CAR) where revenue from diamonds also funds bloodshed and violence. Blood diamonds coming through Israel account for approximately 30 per cent of the global market share in value terms.

In October, it was reported that a proposal from the World Diamond Council to broaden the KP definition of a “conflict diamond” in order to ban diamonds from countries guilty of human rights violations, not just in the mining sector but in trading and polishing as well, was vetoed by Israel because, “It could be disastrous to trading centres, and especially to Israel.”

Amnesty International issued a report recently detailing how blood diamonds from the CAR are entering the legitimate market. The World Diamond Council and Kimberley Process dismissed the report and invited Amnesty to join their cosy cartel.

The human rights body has documented numerous examples of the slaying of innocent Palestinians by trigger-happy Israeli forces. In the past two months alone, over 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces and illegal settlers.

Read: Israel's unscathed diamond trade contributes to Palestinian oppression

During the recent Kimberley Process meeting in Angola, the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) in the KP, led by Partnership Africa Canada, announced it would boycott the process in 2016 when the United Arab Emirates will occupy the rotating KP chair. The CSC boycott arises from concerns over lax controls in Dubai which facilitate the smuggling of blood diamonds from the CAR as well as transfer pricing (the undervaluing of diamonds from African countries to evade export taxes).

While the CAR report from Amnesty and the boycott of the KP by the CSC are welcome developments, their silence, and that of the jewellery industry as a whole, about the trade in blood diamonds from Israel is a grave disservice to society and a betrayal of Palestinians under the cosh of a brutal, diamond-funded apartheid regime that murders, maims and terrorises with impunity.

Sean Clinton is a human rights activist from Ireland. He has written a number of articles exposing the links between the global diamond industry and the Israeli occupation and war crimes in Palestine.

]]> (Sean Clinton) Americas Sun, 29 Nov 2015 13:41:11 +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