Wednesday, October 22, 2014

الدور المصري في أحداث ليبيا

Khalil Bendib: Kobani Battle

The process of reconstructing Gaza

Lamis Andoni 
Lamis Andoni
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:23

(The Arabic original was posted earlier)
As usual, whatever Israel fails to impose by war, it tries to achieve by means of the subsequent agreements, and the reconstruction of Gaza agreement under the supervision of the UN is no difference. It is the manifestation of international complicity in not only solidifying the siege, but also using it to eliminate the resistance, using the UN as a cover.
The expected competition over bids, which are subject to Israeli veto, opens the door wide open for, not only Palestinian and international warlords, but also to the main Israeli companies at the expense of the affected families. These companies always take a significant share of the profits, as they deal with importing construction materials to the besieged Strip.
We all know what is going on. It is a repeat of the reconstruction process of Gaza after the 2012 war, but with new restrictions that allow Israel to gather detailed information about Gazan families and institutions and to have the process of rebuilding the homes destroyed by the bombing subject to Israeli supervision. Hence, Israel can disrupt or completely hinder reconstruction. According to the agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, the reconstruction of housing in Gaza is subject to inspection and monitoring according to specific conditions, including "Israel's security considerations with respect to the use of building materials that have 'dual uses'"; i.e. materials that Israel suspects may be used to build rockets or explosives, and these materials may include cement, iron and plastic, according to Israel's contraband list.
It is clear that Israel wants to use the "reconstruction" process to not only firmly root the blockade under UN sponsorship and through the PA, but also as a means by which Israel can punish the people of Gaza. This is possible because, based on the monitoring and inspection permitted by the agreement, Israel can prevent the reconstruction or repair of any Palestinian house, building, or institution which it accuses of being affiliated with or affiliated to a resistance faction.
The clause regarding compliance with "Israel's security considerations" is not only dangerous due to Israel's control of the process, but also because the UN and the Palestinian committee overseeing the reconstruction will be employed by Israel to gather intelligence information about every family and residential and commercial neighbourhood in Gaza. Thus, the reconstruction process will be turned into a legitimate spying operation with an Arab and international cover.

Israel's goal

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister, said Israel's aim in gathering information and retaining veto power to prevent the entry of construction materials or the reconstruction of the Strip is "to prevent Hamas from rebuilding the infrastructure of its military power," especially the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip .
But, Israel may not need to impose a veto on the construction, as the United Nations can do so, because the existing mechanism in the convention is committed to the implementation and application of the United Nations itself "against terrorism", especially on large projects, including schools and factories, although Israel had tried to start the application on homes and apartments. This means that the UN practically goes by the Israeli definition of Palestinian resistance, i.e. that they are terrorist organisations and therefore implicitly acts as a tool to hit and eliminate the Palestinian resistance. All of this is happening in public, with no objection, neither from the Palestinian Authority, which is the main party in the agreement, nor from the rest of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas.
What we are witnessing is a global Israeli blackmail operation and the exploitation Gaza's destruction and the suffering and tragedy of its people. There will be no reconstruction of Gaza unless the blockade is tightened and without subjecting Gaza to Israeli security consideration and there will be no consolation for the martyrs and the wounded.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 21 October, 2014

In U.N. Speech, Noam Chomsky Blasts United States for Supporting Israel, Blocking Palestinian State

Democracy Now!

"As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announces plans to set up an investigation into the attacks on United Nations facilities during Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip, we broadcast the speech of world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky, who recently spoke in the hall of the U.N. General Assembly at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “The pattern that was set in January 1976 continues to the present,” said Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Israel rejects a settlement of these terms and for many years has been devoting extensive resources to ensuring it will not be implemented with the unremitting and decisive support of the United States — military, economic, diplomatic and ideological.”......"

Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived up to International Law

Democracy Now!

"After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said....."

Al-Jazeera Cartoon

كاريكاتير: أدوار العرب

ISIS Pushes Back Into Iraq’s Northwest, Gains Continue in Anbar

ISIS Fighters Once Again Nearing Mount Sinjar


While the focus of the US air war on ISIS seems to be Kobani, in northern Syria, ISIS has once again turned its sights to Iraq, with mounting gains in Anbar Province and a new offensive pushing them back into Kurdish territory in the nation’s northwest.
ISIS seized parts of Anbar way back in January, but has grown its territory across the area, and now controls 80 percent of the province, with the other 20 percent virtually constantly being contested.
ISIS began attacking the Kurdish frontier on multiple fronts yesterday, and is pushing into territory they’d lost months ago. They’re also nearing Mount Sinjar once again, which was the original pretext for the US launching the war.
ISIS seems to grow its territory in Iraq in spurts, seizing major swathes of territory and then stalling their advance, focusing on shoring up their defenses in those areas. It seems that once again they’re in a growth period inside Iraq, and neither the Iraqi military nor the Kurds seem to be able to stop them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blowback in Yemen: Houthi Advance Is a Saudi Nightmare

By David Hearst
David Hearst
Nothing illustrates the free-wheeling chaos of the Middle East better than what is going on in Yemen.
A small Iranian-backed North Yemeni militia, modeled on Hezbollah and from an offshoot of Shia Islam, has walked into the capital Sanaa, taken over Hodeida, Yemen's main port on the Red Sea, and is now advancing southwards towards one of the most sensitive straits for oil traffic in the region. Cut off Bab al-Mandab, or the Mandab Strait, between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa and you make the Suez Canal redundant.
The Houthi offensive, complete with chants of "Death to America, and Curse on the Jews" is being conducted under the nose of a US military base in Djibouti from where drones operated by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command base attack Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthis are even protecting the US embassy in Sanaa.
Whatever the original demands of the Houthis were -- they took part in the 2011 uprising and held non-violent protests against social injustice and economic corruption -- today they look and act like a well armed, ideologically motivated force bent on seizing control. They have the capital, North Yemen's main port, and they are now attacking Safir, Yemen's largest oil company.
The chaos factor gets worse when you take into account the mounting evidence that United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia's closest ally, sent the Houthis on their way. The Houthis were unopposed because government forces still loyal to the former Yemeni president and strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh abandoned their bases. The Houthis were literally handed the capital on a silver plate.

I can reveal the existence of a meeting which took place months before the offensive, which might explain why Saleh's forces melted away as the Houthis approached.
The information comes from sources close to Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, whose presidency has been hollowed out by these events. Hadi has not been slow to point the finger of blame.
According to the sources, Hadi claims a meeting took place in Rome in May between the Iranians and Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was commander of the Republican Guard and is Yemen's ambassador to the UAE. The Iranians told Ahmad that they were willing to endorse his position in Yemen, if government units loyal to his father did not oppose the Houthi advance.
Hadi said he was informed of the meeting in Rome by the Americans, but only after the Houthis had captured Sanaa.
The Iranian backing for the Houthis is no longer a subject of conjecture. Senior Iranian advisers have few qualms today about claiming the credit for the Houthi offensive. Ali Akbar Velayati, one of the Supreme Leader's loyal lieutenants, and a former foreign minister of 16 years standing, said he hoped the Ansarullah (Houthi) group would play the same role in Yemen as Hezbollah does in Lebanon.
Ali Reza Zakani another Tehran politician close to Ali Khamenei boasted a month ago that Sanaa was the fourth Arab capital -- after Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut -- in Iranian control. For two years, US military and intelligence officials have been saying that significant quantities of light arms and rocket propelled grenades have been smuggled in with the help of the Quds Force. Last month two alleged members of the Iranian elite force were deported from Yemen to Oman.
A well connected Iranian writer and analyst Muhammad Sadiq Al-Husseini interviewed on Al-Mayadeen TV said:
" We are the new sultans of the Red Sea; we the new sultans of the gulf. We, (I mean) the axis of resistance: Tehran, Damascus, the (southern) district (of Beirut), Baghdad and Sanaa. We are the ones who will create the map of the region and we are also the sultans of the Red Sea. Remember Sayyid Hassan Nasrullah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah and the master of the resistance, when he said two years ago, I think: "We are now coming out for you from the Mediterranean. We have not yet come out for you from the Red Sea."
Al-Husseini described Saudi Arabia as a "tribe on the verge of extinction".
" Now, the one who is mighty is the Yemeni and the one who is poor is the Saudi. This is not in financial terms or in terms of weaponry and international ties but terms of creating geopolitics and making history. We are now in a state of transformation."
The Iranians are long term planners. The Saudis, in contrast, are anything but. Considering they now have an active, armed and trained Iranian proxy on their vulnerable southern border, their initial contacts with the Houthis now seem like a bet which has gone wildly wrong. From the Saudi perspective, the Houthi advance into the Sunni heartland of Yemen is a text-book example of what the CIA calls blow-back.
I first reported a year ago that the Saudis had opened contacts with the Houthis (with whom they once fought a bitter war) by flying the Houthi leader Saleh Habreh via London to meet with Prince Bandar, who was then Saudi intelligence chief. Saudi ambitions had been tactical and probably limited. They were aimed primarily at crushing Islah, the political Islamist group with whom Hadi was sharing power.
However, the Saudis may never have intended the Houthis to walk into the capital unopposed. They calculated, wrongly, that Islah would have stopped the Houthis long before they were at the city's gates. They assumed the Houthis and Islah would cancel each other out.
Islah did not play ball. They refused to confront the Houthis saying that this was the task of the government. By allowing, or at the very least, doing nothing to stop the Houthi offensive from taking place, Riyadh has opened the door to a much bigger and more destabilizing struggle taking place -- a conflict involving al Qaeda and the southern Yemeni tribes that has already become sectarian.
As the Zaydi Houthi movement advances into territory and cities which are traditionally Sunni, al-Qaida militants have launched car bombs against Houthi targets. A car bomb targeting a house sheltering Houthi militiamen in the western province of al-Bayda killed 20 on Monday.
Considering how much effort the Saudis put into keeping Saleh in power for 33 years, Riyadh's loss of control in what they have always regarded as their back yard must be regarded as one of the worst blunders in recent memory. They should be asking themselves: "Who lost Yemen ?"
Are they rethinking their disastrous, short term, policies? A high-ranking Yemeni general, regarded as close to Islah, Gen Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, took shelter in the Saudi embassy as Sanaa was falling. He was smuggled out of it and is now in Jeddah. Are they going to use him to regain influence? It would be ironic, to say the least if that were to be the case.
Meanwhile, the Saudis are trying to fight back using other more traditional methods. Letting the price of oil fall, is one way of hitting back at Iran and Russia and letting them know that there is a price to be paid for surrounding the kingdom from the north and the south.

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk on the Legitimacy of Hope in the Palestinian Struggle

Democracy Now!

"On Monday, the Israeli government made a rare appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, but its delegation refused to acknowledge responsibility for the conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel for nearly half a century. We speak to a legal expert who has just spent six years trying to hold Israel to account for its actions in the Occupied Territories. Richard Falk recently completed his term as special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights for the United Nations Human Rights Council. His writings about the Israel-Palestine issue and his experience as U.N. rapporteur are compiled in the new book, "Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope."...."

After Ignoring ISIS Assault on Kobani, U.S. Launches Major Strikes & Arms Turkey’s Kurdish Foes

Democracy Now!

"Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not act to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Kobani because the Syrian Kurdish town was not a "strategic objective." But as news cameras on the Turkish-Syrian border showed Islamic State fighters assaulting a town in plain sight, the U.S.-led coalition responded with the most airstrikes of its Syria campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has also begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move it had resisted for weeks. Now Turkey says it will open its border with Syria to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters join the fight. The Turkish government had opposed aiding the Syrian Kurds in Kobani because of their links to Turkey’s longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. To help us sort out this complicated picture, we are joined by longtime international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who has just returned from four months in Turkey...."

في العمق - آثار الأزمة اليمنية الراهنة على دول الخليج

HOW THE UAE TRIED TO SILENCE A POPULAR ARAB SPRING ACTIVIST

The Intercept
Featured photo - How the UAE Tried to Silence a Popular Arab Spring Activist
Earlier this year, as a wave of counterrevolution and repression continued to roll back popular democratic uprisings across the Middle East, one of the Arab Spring’s most popular online activists found himself sitting in a jail cell.
Iyad el-Baghdadi, a popular blogger and Twitter personality who first came to prominence during the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, was arrested by authorities in the United Arab Emirates in April. Detained, imprisoned and then expelled from the country, he has been living in limbo in Malaysia ever since.
Baghdadi – a Palestinian citizen born and raised in the UAE – maintained a highly active social media presence during the revolutions which suddenly went quiet earlier this year, shortly after the death of his friend and well-known Egyptian activist Bassem Sabry. His last Tweet, about Sabry’s death, was on April 30th.
The very next day, he was summoned to an immigration office in the UAE, arrested, and told that he would be immediately deported from the country. “The morning I was arrested,” Baghdadi says, “I woke up still crying over losing him…I didn’t get to mourn him like everyone else.”
A UAE OFFICIAL SIMPLY TOLD HIM, “YOU SHOULD TRY AND REMEMBER IF YOU SAID ANYTHING THAT MIGHT CAUSE SOMETHING LIKE THIS.”
Despite his lifetime residence in the UAE, as a Palestinian citizen, Baghdadi had no recourse to contest this order. He could not be deported back to Palestine, so he was given a choice: indefinite detention or deportation to Malaysia. He chose Malaysia.
Baghdadi was imprisoned under difficult conditions for several weeks in the UAE before his deportation. Arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on May 13th, he lacked even proper travel documentation or identification. Upon arrival, Malaysian authorities refused to grant him entry, forcing him to spend three full weeks living in the airport before the Palestinian embassy in the country convinced authorities to admit him as an exceptional case.
At no point during his ordeal was ever he charged with any crime, and the UAE immigration officials who conducted his expulsion informed him that there was no criminal complaint against him. But Baghdadi believes that UAE officials were upset over his online activism. Among other things, he maintained one of the most popular Twitter accounts in the country and had a large following both within the region and throughout the world. At the time of his arrest, and in response to questions regarding why he was being detained, he says a UAE official simply told him, “You should try and remember if you said anything that might cause something like this.”
Staff at the UAE embassy in the United States have not responded to a request for comment.
The UAE has dealt harshly with dissent and with proponents of civil liberties. Last year, the country sentenced 69 political dissidents to lengthy prison terms — 10 years, for most — on charges of plotting to “overthrow the country’s political system” in a mass trial marred by allegations of torture and violations of due process standards. “The UAE sees opponents and enemies at every turn,” says Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “Iyad’s case is symptomatic of the UAE’s paranoia and its fear of critical thought and free speech.”
Though Baghdadi scrupulously avoided criticizing the country’s leaders directly, in the weeks and months leading up to his arrest he had become increasingly vocal about controversial aspects of UAE foreign policy. In particular, he had made strident criticisms of Egypt’s increasingly brutal, UAE-backed military dictatorship and its leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
The coup that brought Sisi to power was supported by a triumvirate of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Baghdadi believes that his critical commentary on this issue caused him to run afoul of local authorities, who had become increasingly worried about potential dissent over their policies.
It is worth recalling that while the Arab Spring and its activists were largely celebrated throughout the world, in regional dictatorships they have always been eyed with deep suspicion. News broadcasts in the UAE would refer to the uprisings themselves as “the so-called Arab Spring” or simply as a fitna— sedition. In this environment, a popular civil society activist such as Baghdadi might as well have been wearing a target on his back.
During the uprisings, Baghdadi became famous for creating the popular revolutionary hashtag #ArabTyrantManual and for providing the English translation of Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz’s iconic YouTube speechcalling for protests in Tahrir Square, which many credit with helping usher in the fall of then-president Hosni Mubarak. During the uprisings, his tweets and comments were referenced in publications like the The New York Times and The Guardian.
Iyad el-Baghdadi (right) with the late Egyptian activist Bassem Sabry
A vocal critic of both political Islamist movements and secular dictatorships, Baghdadi’s unique combination of humor and insight gained him a large and devoted online following.
H.A. Hellyer, a British Middle East expert and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a UK-based defense think tank, said of Baghdadi: “Like many people, I first met Iyad el-Baghdadi online — and was impressed by his consistency in criticizing various political forces, dependent on principle, rather than partisanship. That meant a great deal to many people throughout the region, as well as beyond.”
Baghdadi, whose wife was seven months pregnant at the time of his detention and deportation, has been stranded in Malaysia since his expulsion from the UAE. During this time, he has been largely separated from his family, who remained behind in the UAE, and was unable to be present at the birth of his first child. Exiled to live in a country where he has no legal status, with no permission to seek employment and no connections, he has been forced to rely on the financial support of friends and family to survive. Meanwhile, he has stopped speaking out online, a silence that is understandable, given how much of his family, for whom he fears retribution, remain behind in the UAE.
While Baghdadi has remained largely silent about his ordeal and has conspicuously disappeared from social media, he’s been appealing quietly to human rights groups and other nonprofits about his case. To this end, he is expected to give an address at the Oslo Freedom Forum human rights conference in Norway this week, his first appearance or public statement since his detention.
While he is keen to tell his story to the world, his trip will be bittersweet. His wife and young child were able to join him in Malaysia for the first time since his detention just this past week, and his trip to Norway means being separated from them again. “It breaks my heart to meet my family and then have to say goodbye to them after only three days,” he says. “But I am glad I got to see them, at least.”
Caught between an authoritarian government seeking to stifle dissent and the predicament of his own statelessness as a Palestinian, Baghdadi today remains in a precarious situation. An apparent victim of state retribution, his plight is in many ways a microcosm of the suffering endured by some of the Arab Spring’s most prominent activists, many whom have been exiled, imprisoned and even killed.
Despite this, Baghdadi remains steadfastly committed to his cause, saying:
Despite everything that I went through and all the pain caused to my family, I’m OK. The same can’t be said of the people languishing in the deportation chamber in Al Sad prison in Abu Dhabi, or the people stuck in the airport for months and nobody hears about them, or the Syrian and Palestinian refugees living on the streets in Kuala Lumpur, or the people who never made it and are either killed back home, drowned trying to escape, or who are being tortured in jail…
If there’s something I want the world to realize, it’s that the Arab Spring is our only salvation… This I pledge to God, to my last breath, to my last heart beat, I will never be on the side of the tyrants.
Photo: Julia Reinhart / Demotix

Real News Video: What direction is Egypt headed, several years after the Revolution?

Journalist Sharif Kouddous and scholar Mervat Hatem discuss the current social and political situation in Egypt.

Video: Settlers cheer as Israeli soldiers attack disabled Palestinian child

This disturbing footage shot by Palestinian videographer Samih Da’na and published by the Israeli nongovernmental organization B’Tselem documents the violent abuse of a developmentally disabled Palestinian child.
As Israeli occupation soldiers abuse the child, settlers and their children cheer and shout abuse at Palestinians.
Da’na shot the footage on 19 October from his home in the occupied West Bank city ofHebron, whose Palestinian residents are relentlessly targeted by occupation army and settler violence.
According to B’Tselem’s description of the video, “soldiers are seen holding the boy, handcuffing him, blindfolding him and closing him in the jeep, despite cries by Palestinian residents that the boy is mentally disabled. The footage also shows settlers from Kiryat Arba, watching the incident from behind the settlement’s fence. Some are seen calling out encouragement to the soldiers, including several racist remarks.”
Kiryat Arba, an illegal colony adjacent to Hebron, is home to some of the most notoriously racist and violent Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
In the description of the video, B’Tselem says that the occupation soldiers detained “a developmentally disabled Palestinian boy, who is under the age of criminal responsibility, on suspicion that he had thrown stones.”
“The boy, A. a-Rajbi (full name withheld in interest of privacy), who will be twelve in a month, was detained after Palestinian children threw stones at soldiers on the main road of the Jabel Johar neighborhood in Hebron, close to the settlement of Kiryat Arba,” B’Tselem says.
The boy was “handcuffed, blindfolded, and held on the floor of an army jeep for some fifteen minutes until his father arrived and convinced the soldiers to release his son, who is mentally disabled and cannot speak.”
While Palestinian youths do throw stones at heavily armed occupation soldiers as a form of community self-defense, protest and resistance, stone-throwing is also frequently a trumped-up charge used to extract confessions under torture and intimidate Palestinian children and youths into becoming informants.
Israel is the only country in the world that subjects children – and only Palestinian children – to military tribunals.
Also of note: At one point in the video, one of the settlers’ children appears to be holding an object that looks like a handgun (far left of the screenshot below). It is unclear from the footage if it is real or a toy:

Khalil Bendib: The Middle East Pizza Process

Carlos Latuff: Please, RT! United States, the mother of terrorism, via @al_tagreer #ISIS

United States mother of terrorism Altagreer

Zoabi: No need to compare Israel to ISIS, its crimes are enough

Zoabi had stressed that the Israeli army does not need to be compared to any other party, ISIS or any other party
While she is being violently attacked by Israeli politicians due to statements she made which were broadcasted by Israel's Channel 2, Palestinian MP Hanin Zoabi explained that the issue of the Islamic State (ISIS) infringed on her interview regarding her petition against being banned from the Knesset, making the "fringe" issue the main issue of her interview.

Zoabi said: "When asking me to compare between ISIS and the Israeli army, I explained to the journalist that the question was not related to the subject of the interview, although it was good that he was aware that there were grounds for comparison between the two, and that it wasn't absurd or illogical."
Zoabi also told Arabs 48: "Although the journalist left this out of my answer, at the beginning of the answer, I stressed that ISIS is a barbaric anti-humane movement and had no core values. I also said that it is opposed to the aspirations of the Arab people and against their revolutions which call for justice, democracy and individual rights, and that they are not only against the Arab regimes, but also against the communities and the achievements of the Arab people."
She said that in her interview she had stressed that the Israeli army does not need to be compared to any other party, ISIS or any other party, in order to highlight its violence and its hostility towards people and values, as the army's systematic crimes and daily violations are enough to categorise it as being anti-human rights and as committing war crimes. It belongs in international courts, she said.
None of this was reported by the Israeli journalist who conducted the interview. He did, however, quote Zoabi saying: "Advanced technology is more fatal than a knife. One kills barbarically, while the other releases bombs from their aircraft and only feels 'a blow in the wing'. One looks into the eyes of their victims while the other strikes from afar. One kills one person at a time while aerial missiles and artillery shelling kills hundreds at a time. One boasts their barbarism while the other pretends to be civilised and humane." Zoabi said: "Yes, I did say this and I emphasise it."
The Arab member of the Knesset ended by saying: "I forgot to mention to the young journalist that the terrorist organisation ISIS is against its people and its people are against it, whereas the Israeli army is not against its people nor are its people against it. On the contrary, the people are proud of the army and its murderous terrorism."

Britain’s Phantoms of the Past in Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud
It would be intellectually dishonest to reflect on the British House of Commons’ vote of October 13, on a Palestinian state without digging deeper into history. Regardless of the meaning of the non-binding motion, the parliamentary action cannot be brushed off as just another would-be country to recognize Palestine, as was the Swedish government’s decision on October 3.
Unlike Sweden, and most of the 130-plus countries to effectively recognize Palestine, Britain is a party in the Middle East’s most protracted conflict. In fact, if it were not for Britain, there would be no conflict, or even Israel, of which to speak. It is within this context that the British vote matters, and greatly so.
As I listened to the heated debate by British MPs that preceded the historic vote of 272 in favor and 12 against, phantoms of historic significance occupied my mind.
When my father was born in historic Palestine in 1936, he found himself in a world politically dominated by Britain. Born and raised in the now long-destroyed Palestinian village of Beit Daras – which, like the rest of historic Palestine has now become part of "Israel proper" – he, along with his family – were entrapped between two anomalies that greatly scarred the otherwise peaceful landscape of Palestine countryside. A Jewish colony called Tabiyya, along with a heavily fortified British police compound that was largely aimed at safeguarding the interests of the colony, subjugated Beit Daras.
The residents of the village, still unaware of the plan to dispossess them from their homeland, grew wary of the dual treachery with time. But by 1947-48, it was too late. The British-coordinated withdrawal from Palestine was aimed at creating space for a Jewish state, today’s Israel. The Palestinians, for 66 years and counting, suffered from more than homelessness and dispossession, but also a military occupation and countless massacres, ending with the most recent Israeli war on Gaza. In what Israel calls Operation Protective Edge, nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and five-fold more were wounded. Yet, Palestinians continue to resist, with greater ferocity than ever.
Because of this, and the fact that the British government remains a member of the ever-shrinking club of Israel’s staunch supporters, the vote in the British parliament greatly matters. "Symbolic" and non-binding, it still matters. It matters because the Israeli arsenal is rife with British armaments. Because the British government, despite strong protestation of its people, still behaves towards Israel as if the latter were a law-abiding state with a flawless human-rights records. It matters despite the dubious language of the motion, linking the recognition of Palestine alongside Israel, to "securing a negotiated two-state solution".
But there can be no two states in a land that is already inhabited by two nations, who, despite the grossness of the occupation, are in fact interconnected geographically, demographically and in other ways as well. Israel has created irreversible realities in Palestine, and the respected MPs of the British parliament should know this.
The votes were motivated by different rationale and reasons. Some voted "yes" because they have been longtime supporters of Palestinians, others are simply fed up with Israel’s behavior. But if the vote largely reflected an attempt at breathing more life in the obsolete "two-state solution" to a conflict created by the British themselves, then, the terrible British legacy in Palestine which has lasted for nearly a century will continue unabated.
British army boots walked on Palestinian soil as early as 1917, after the British army defeated Turkey, whose vast Ottoman Empire, that included Palestine, was quickly disintegrating under the combined pressure of European powers. As soon as Jerusalem was captured by British forces under the command of General Sir Edmund Allenby in December 1917, and the rest of the country by October 1918, the will of the Palestinian people fell hostage to the British Empire. The figures of how many Palestinian Arabs were killed, wounded, tortured, imprisoned and exiled by Britain since that date, until the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, is beyond depressing.
However, Britain’s integral role in the suffering of the Palestinians and the establishment of Israel was hardly a coincidental policy necessitated by the nature of its immediate colonial ambitions. It was calculated and rooted in political and diplomatic intrigues that go back to the 19th century. It was also predicated on an unmistakable element of racism, rampant in the colonial culture at the time. Its manifestations still bring shame to Britain today, which still refuses to fully and unconditionally reverse that early policy.
It is inexplicable that one century after the British involvement in Palestine, which has proved its astounding failure, the current British foreign policy is not far removed from the language and policies executed by the British Empire when Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour "promised" Palestine for a Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration is dated November 2, 1917, before Palestine was even occupied by the British, thus reflecting the sheer arrogance and disregard of Palestinians and their rights. In one of his letters at the time, Balfour so conceitedly wrote:
For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country … The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right.
Encouraged by the overwhelming recent vote in favor of Palestine at the parliament (although nearly half of the MPs didn’t show up or abstained,) one can hardly deny the signs that both the British public and many in the country’s political establishment are simply disenchanted by Israel’s continued war and occupation which are the main reason behind the destabilization of the region long before the Syrian civil war and other upheavals began. Many British MPs are furious over Israel’s violent, expansionist and anti-peace conduct, including those who were once strong allies of Israel. That must not be denied.
But it is hardly enough. When the British government insists on maintaining its pro-Israeli policies, and when the general attitude of those who truly hold the reins of power in London remain committed to a farce vision of two-states, defending Israel and disempowering Palestinians at every turn, the Balfour vision of old will remain the real guidelines for British policy regarding Palestine.
Sixty-six years after ending its "mandate" in Palestine, Britain remains a party in a bloody conflict, where Israel is still carrying the same policies of colonial expansion, using Western – including British – funds, arms and political support. Only when Britain fully and completely ends its support of Israel and financing of its occupation, and works diligently and actively towards correcting the injustice it had imposed on the Palestinians a century ago, one can consider that a real change in British policies is finally taking hold.
Without a clear course of action to help Palestinians gain their freedom, the British vote will remain another symbolic gesture in a conflict in which military occupation, war, siege, death and destruction are very much real. And when British leaders, like conservative Prime Minister David Cameron continue to parrot their unconditional support for Israel, even after the Gaza wars and massacres, one will also continue to seek even moderate proof that the Balfour legacy has truly and finally ended.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).