Friday, September 19, 2014

The United States Heading for a Crash in the Middle East

By Immanuel Wallerstein
September 18, 2014 "ICH" -  President Barack Obama has told the United States, and in particular its Congress, that it must do something very major in the Middle East to stop disaster. The analysis of the presumed problem is extremely murky, but the patriotic drums are being turned to high pitch and almost everyone is for the moment going along. A cooler head might say that they are all flailing around in desperation about a situation that the United States has the major responsibility for creating. They don’t know what to do, so they act in panic.
The explanation is simple. The United States is in serious decline. Everything is going wrong. And in the panic, they are like a driver of a powerful automobile who has lost control of it, and doesn’t know how to slow it down. So instead it is speeding it up and heading towards a major crash. The car is turning in all directions and skidding. It is self-destructive for the driver but the crash can bring disaster to the rest of the world as well.
A lot of attention is focused on what Obama has and hasn’t done. Even his closest defenders seem to doubt him. An Australian commentator, writing in the Financial Times, summed it up in one sentence: “In 2014 the world has grown suddenly weary of Barack Obama.” I wonder if Obama has not grown weary of Obama. But it’s a mistake to pin the blame just on him. Virtually no one among U.S. leaders has been making alternative proposals that are more sensible. Quite the contrary. There are the warmongers who want him to bomb everybody and right away. There are the politicians who really think it will make a lot of difference who will win the next elections in the United States.
A rare voice of sanity came in an interview in the New York Times with Daniel Benjamin, who had been the U.S. State Department’s top antiterrorism advisor during Obama’s first term. He called the so-called ISIS threat a “farce” with “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.” He says that what they have been saying is without any “corroborated evidence” and just demonstrates how easy it is for officials and the media to “spin the public into a panic.” But who is listening to Mr. Benjamin?
At the moment, and with the help of gruesome photos showing the beheading of two American journalists by the caliphate, the polls show enormous support in the United States for military action. But how long will this last? The support is there as long as it seems there are concrete results. Even Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey in advocating military action says it will take at least three years. Multiply three by five and one might come nearer to how long this will go on. And the U.S. public is sure to become quickly disenchanted.
For the moment, what Obama is proposing is some bombing in  Syria, no U.S. troops “on the ground” but increased special troops (up to about 2000 now) as trainers in Iraq (and probably elsewhere). When Obama was running for president in 2008, he made many promises, as is normal for a politician. But his signature promise was to get out of Iraq, and of Afghanistan. He is not going to keep it. Indeed, he is getting the United States into more countries.
Obama’s coalition is going to offer “training” to those they define as “good guys.” And it seems this training is to take place in Saudi Arabia. Good for Saudi Arabia. They can vet all the trainees, and judge which they can trust and which they can’t. This may make it possible for the Saudi regime (at least as confused as the U.S. regime) to appear to be doing something, and help them survive a little longer.
There are ways of tamping down this catastrophic scenario. They involve however a decision to shift from warfare to political deals between all sorts of groups who don’t like each other and don’t trust each other. Such political deals are not unknown, but they are very difficult to arrange, and fragile when first made, until they solidify. One major element in such deals coming to fruition in the Middle East is less involvement of the United States, not more. Nobody trusts the United States, even when they momentarily call for U.S. assistance in doing this or that. The New York Timesnotes that, at the meeting Obama convened to pursue his new coalition, support from the Middle East countries present was “tepid” and “reluctant” because there is “increased mistrust of the United States on all sides.” So even if they go along in some limited fashion, nobody is going to show gratitude for any U.S. assistance. The bottom line is that the people of the Middle East want to run their own show, not fulfill a U.S. vision of what’s said to be good for them.

The Beheading Coalition

Posted on Sep 18, 2014

The U.S. plan to fight Islamic State with a coalition of countries, including gems like Saudi Arabia, should make us reflect carefully about the motives behind the operation. In Mark Fiore's new animation, the cartoonist points out the inherent hypocrisy and contradictions involved in attacking brutal IS forces with brutal forces of our own (and while he focuses on Saudi Arabia, it's also worth turning the mirror on some U.S. military tactics which, lest we forget, were recently deemed torture). Read about Fiore's inspiration in his customary introduction and watch his latest animation below.
Now that the United States is forming another military coalition tocombat evil in the Middle East, maybe we should pause to take a closer look at the members of this coalition. Sure, ISIS is terrible and does awful things like behead people, but they’ve got nothing on Saudi Arabia, whichbeheads people as a matter of policy.
Between August 4th and 22nd, Saudi Arabia executed 22 people, bringing the yearly total to 34. (They executed 79 people in 2013 and killed 2000 people between 1985 and 2013.) They recently killed four members of thesame family for drug trafficking.
I’m not saying every one of our allies in the fight against ISIS has to be perfect, but it does seem a bit hypocritical when one of our most important allies in the Middle East has such a thing for beheading— just something to keep in mind when the next terrible ISIS beheading video is released. Nobody seems to get worked up when prisoners who have been tortured and condemned by a religious court are beheaded in a public square, as long as it happens in Saudi Arabia. Dogboy is a little confused by this whole thing, and Mr. Dan is trying desperately to make the world black and white. You can of course find more links about the news behind this cartoon here.




Confronting ISIL: Why bombing is doomed to fail

The West’s experience in the Middle East is that military intervention doesn't counter terror; so why do it again?


Rachel Shabi

Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands.
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Opponents of such counterproductive actions are dismissed as knee-jerk anti-interventionists, writes Shabi [EPA]
It may have got what it wanted, the group that says we must call it "Islamic State". As it aired videos showing the unconscionable, gruesome beheadings of two US journalists and a British aid worker, the response from the leaders of those respective countries came right on cue.
Using the sort of rhetoric that so typified the "war on terror" years, US President Barack Obama vowed to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) "by any means necessary", while the CIA warned of a surge in ISIL numbers. And, presumably mindful of the growing public support for military intervention, Vice President Joe Biden added his own action movie flourish by declaring the intent to chase the group to the "gates of hell".
So once again, just like the last time western forces pointlessly and disastrously bombed an Arab or Muslim country (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya; take your pick), we are being presented with the same old arguments. You know by now how this script goes: We have no choice; military involvement is the least bad option; we must "do something" against such an evil force of terror.
Knee-jerk anti-interventionists
Opponents of such recklessly counterproductive actions are dismissed as knee-jerk anti-interventionists - as though military action is the only possible form of intervention.
And, as a final flourish, terrible and entirely predictable outcomes are brushed off as necessary "unintended consequences".
Amassing another coalition of the willing - which Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the US Institute for Policy Studies, has described as another "coalition of the killing" - the US is pursuing military action in Iraq to counter ISIL. Meanwhile, Obama just got a green light from the US House of Representatives to arm and train Syrian moderates - whoever those may be - as part of the same fight.
It should be obvious by now that if such bombing campaigns have an effect, it is to make things much worse. What western leaders portray as valiant efforts to rid the world of evil forces such as ISIL just don't play the same way in the region. In Iraq, for instance, western military intervention is viewed as support for the authoritarian, sectarian and West-approved leadership, whose persecution and air strikes are so bad that many Sunnis are prepared to put up with ISIL, for now, as preferable.
Western military intervention thus gives ISIL its recruitment fuel of choice: A war with a self-interested external enemy around which to galvanise support.
Meanwhile, arming supposed "moderates" in Syria is equally delusional: Even self-declared moderates have on the ground, allied with the currently dominant ISIL in the fight against dictator Bashar al-Assad, and even these so-called moderates have carried out beheadings and other brutalities. A cursory glance around the region shows exactly what happens when the West arms groups that somehow fit the "moderate" descriptive; as one writer most succinctly puts it: "The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them."
More sensible approach
Indeed, this situation is so bad that many have suggested a more sensible approach would be to impose a regional arms embargo. And if there is a need for a West-sanctioned flow of anything into the region, it is obviously of humanitarian aid, not guns.
Western leaders talk the talk about diplomacy and political solutions, both of which are far more likely than anything else to ultimately stem support for groups such as ISIL. But when it actually comes  to engaging in such endeavours - well, it's a different story. For instance, "diplomacy" at the moment involves side-lining Iran, a major regional player, with vital influence over rulers in both Syria and Iraq.
But the nation's involvement at a Paris summit on the issue on September 15 was nonetheless deemed "not appropriate" by US secretary of State John Kerry. It later turned out that this was because Saudi Arabia had threatened to "boycott" the summit if Iran came, too - and the US decided to go along with that, even though its clear that both Saudi Arabia and Iran have a common interest in containing ISIL. Small wonder, then, that Iran finds the US building a Sunni-dense alliance against ISIL as somewhat "suspicious".
Russia, another key player with influence over the regime in Syria, is found distasteful for different reasons, but similarly excluded. This is despite Russia's repeated warnings over ISIL - the country has its own reasons to fear the spread of this terror group. For the ringleaders of this new coalition, it is as though "diplomacy" simply means cherry-picking the people you find it easy to talk to, and ignoring everybody else.
So there are different forms of intervention available, alternatives to repeated air strikes that end up devastating ordinary lives and causing long-term chaos. The question isn't a handwringing: "What else can we do?" The question is why we aren't pursuing any options that don't involve dropping more bombs on the Middle East.
Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands.

Another Failed War to Re-Arrange the Middle East

Convenient Genocide

By Ramzy Baroud
CounterPunch
Obama Redrawing Middle East ISIS ISIL 2
A few months ago, not many Americans, in fact Europeans as well, knew that a Yazidi sect in fact existed in northwest Iraq. Even in the Middle East itself, the Yazidis and their way of life have been an enigma, shrouded by mystery and mostly grasped through stereotypes and fictitious evidence. Yet in no time, the fate of the Yazidis became a rally cry for another US-led Iraq military campaign.
It was not a surprise that the small Iraqi minority found itself a target for fanatical Islamic State (IS) militants, who had reportedly carried out unspeakable crimes against Yazidis, driving them to Dohuk, Irbil and other northern Iraqi regions. According to UN and other groups, 40,000 Yazidi had been stranded on Mount Sinjar, awaiting imminent “genocide” if the US and other powers didn’t take action to save them.
The rest of the story was spun from that point on. The logic for intervention that preceded the latest US bombing campaign of IS targets, which started in mid-June, is similar to what took place in Libya over three years ago. Early 2011, imminent “genocide” awaiting Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi was the rally cry that mobilised western powers to a war that wrought wanton killings and destruction in Libya. Since NATO’s intervention in Libya, which killed and wounded tens of thousands, the country has fallen prey to an endless and ruthless fight involving numerous militias, armed, and financially and politically-backed by various regional and international powers. Libya is now ruled by two governments, two parliaments, and a thousand militia. begging slogans6
When US Special Forces arrived to the top of Mount Sinjar, they realized that the Yazidis had either been rescued by Kurdish militias, or were already living there. They found less than 5,000 Yazidis there, half of them refugees. The mountain is revered in local legend, as the final resting place of Noah’s ark. It was also the final resting place for the Yazidi genocide story. The finding hardly received much coverage in the media, which used the original claim to create fervour in anticipation for Western intervention in Iraq.
We all know how the first intervention worked out. Not that IS’ brutal tactics in eastern, northern and central Iraq should be tolerated. But a true act of genocide had already taken place in Iraq for nearly two decades, starting with the US war in 1990-91, a decade-long embargo and a most destructive war and occupation starting in 2003. Not once did a major newspaper editorial in the US bestow the term “genocide” on the killing and maiming of millions of Iraqis. In fact, the IS campaign is actually part of a larger Sunni rebellion in Iraq, in response to the US war and Shite-led government oppression over the course of years. That context is hardly relevant in the selective reporting on the current violence in Iraq.
It goes without saying, US policymakers care little for the Yazidis, for they don’t serve US interests in any way. However, experience has taught that such groups only become relevant in a specially tailored narrative, in a specific point in time, to be exploited for political and strategic objectives. They will cease to exist the moment the objective is met. Consider for example, the fact that IS has been committing horrific war crimes in western and northern Syria for years, as did forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and militants belonging to the various opposition groups there. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and wounded. Various minority groups there faced and continue to face genocide. Yet, somehow, the horrifying bloodshed there was not only tolerated, but in fact encouraged.
For over three years, little effort was put forward to find or impose a fair political solution to the Syria civil war. The Syrians were killing each other and thousands of foreigners, thanks to a purposely porous Turkish borders were allowed to join in, in a perpetual “Guernica” that, with time, grew to become another Middle Eastern status quo.
Weren’t the massacres of Aleppo in fact genocide? The siege of Yarmouk? The wiping out of entire villages, the beheading and dismembering of people for belonging to the wrong sect or religion?
Even if they were, it definitely was not the kind of genocide that would propel action, specifically western-led action. In recent days, as it was becoming clear that the US was up to its old interventionist games, countries were being lined up to fight IS. US Secretary of State John Kerry was shuttling the globe once more, from US to Europe, to Turkey, to Iraq to Saudi Arabia, and still going. “We believe we can take on ISIL (previous name for IS) in the current coalition that we have,” he said. But why now?
In his speech on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Obama declared war on IS. Obama’s tangled foreign policy agenda became even more confused in his 13-minute speech from the White House. He promised to “hunt down” IS fighters “whenever they are” until the US ultimately destroys the group, as supposedly, it has down with al-Qaeda. IS, of course, is a splinter al-Qaeda group, which began as an idea, and thanks to the US global “war on terror”, has morphed into an army of many branches. The US never destroyed al-Qaeda; but it inadvertently allowed the creation of IS.
“That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Obama said. Of course, he needed to say that, as his Republican rivals have accused him of lack of decisiveness and his presidency of being weak. His democratic party could possibly lose control over the Senate come the November elections. His fight against IS is meant to help rebrand the president as resolute and decisive, and perhaps create some distraction from economic woes at home.
That same media has also cleverly devalued and branded conflicts, and acts of genocide in ways consistent with US foreign policy agendas. While the Yazidis were purportedly stranded on mount Sinjar, Israel was carrying out a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Over 2,150 were killed, mostly civilians, hundreds of them children, and over 11,000 wounded, the vast majority of whom were civilians. Not an alleged 40,000 but a confirmed 520,000 thousand were on the run, and along with the rest of Gaza’s 1.8 million, were entrapped in an open-air prison with no escape. But that was not an act of genocide either, as far as the US-western governments and media were concerned. Worse, they actively defended, and, especially in the case of the US, UK, France and Italy, armed and funded the Israeli aggression.
Experience has taught us that not all “acts of genocide” are created equal: Some are fabricated, and others are exaggerated. Some are useful to start wars, and others, no matter how atrocious, are not worth mentioning. Some acts of genocide are branded as wars to liberate, free and democratize. Other acts of genocide are to be encouraged, defended and financed.
But as far as the US involvement in the Middle East is concerned, the only real genocide is the one that serves the interests of the west, by offering an opportunity for military intervention, followed by political and strategic meddling to re-arrange the region.
The US experience in Iraq also taught us that its effort will only succeed in exacerbating an already difficult situation, yielding yet more disenfranchised groups, political despair and greater violence.
Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

From Azmi Bishara's Facebook Page: ارقام قياسية جديدة


ارقام قياسية جديدة

سجلت محاولة الأنظمة العربية استغلال الاصطفاف الدولي المتجدد في المنطقة العربية ليمرر كل منها أجنداته أرقاما قياسية عالمية في التفاهة والعجز وسوء الأداء. فكل نظام يضغط على الائتلاف الدولي المتجدد كي يحارب من أجله أعداءه هو. ويزعل من لا تقبل أجنداته ويهدد بالتخريب. ويتذاكى من يتفذلك في توسيع تعريف الإرهاب لكي يشمل خصومه.
المهم أن الاصطفاف الدولي في بلاد هذه الأنظمة يبدو وكأنه الأمر الطبيعي، وكأن الأنظمة هي من يتطفل على التدخل الأجنبي. لا يجوز القول أن العبث هنا يبلغ قمته أو ينحط إلى حضيضه، فهو يحكم تعريفه بلا قمة ولا حضيض. تبدو الأنظمة العربية هنا مثل شرذمة من القراصنة وقطاع الطرق التي تتطفل على قوافل الاستعمار في بلادها. تعرض خدماتها في بلادها وتتاجر وتقايض على شعوبها.
عزمي بشارة

"داعش".. أو إله الثورة المضادة!

المشاركون باجتماع جدة أعلنوا التزامهم المشترك للوقوف صفا واحدا ضد تهديد "الإرهاب" (رويترز)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The sole representative of the Palestinian people

Toujan Faisal 

Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:25

[The Arabic original of this article was posted here before.]


This talk of 'internationalising' the Palestinian struggle in this way would also lead to the internationalisation of Jerusalem or, even worse, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, a project which Israel is already implementing...
I would like to move you from the victorious celebrations to the rooms where secret negotiations are held and international decisions are made when it comes to the Gaza Strip in particular. Forgive me, but I believe that our perception of a victory in Gaza requires us to consider Che Guevara's famous quote: "Revolution is created by the most honourable and inherited and exploited by scoundrels."
As many predicted, there was nothing at all surprising about the "surprising non-traditional plan for resolving the Palestinian issue", which was promised by Mahmoud Abbas on the eve of the ceasefire. In fact, one could argue that what ensued is the worst possible thing that could have happened to the cause and that this was due to the steps taken by Abbas himself.
Let us recall that the Oslo Agreement (which in no way exonerates Arafat and the ministers who were with him at the time) was a "declaration of principles" and that Oslo II (The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), which was born from the womb of the Gaza-Jericho agreement, led to the eventual destruction of the Yasser Arafat International Airport in the Gaza Strip. The legacies resulting from these agreements can be considered the "worst of the worst" and yet, what is even worse, is that in reality another agreement, the Abbas-Beilin agreement, was being negotiated in secret and in conjunction with the Oslo agreement behind closed doors.
Those close to Yasser Arafat have claimed that Mahmoud Abbas used to boost Arafat's image as a leader and a "head of state" so that the late leader would leave the actual politics to someone other than himself, and that this someone was none other than Mahmoud Abbas. He had long been preparing to take his place as Arafat's heir after he, of course, completed the challenging tasks that were expected of him as a future leader. Among these was the need to modify the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which ultimately meant that with the right modifications Arafat was no longer needed and the road could be paved for Abbas to take his place. So the story goes.
The secret agreement between Abbas and Yossi Beilin went into great detail and exposed the ugly truth about the Oslo agreement. In fact, many of the points in the Abbas-Beilin agreement retreated from the original points that were discussed and agreed upon under Oslo. Dr Rubhi Halloum gives a detailed description of this secret agreement on his website, including the following: the agreement that Jerusalem, Bethany and the surrounding areas would be placed under Israeli control and that these areas would be governed in a way that was similar to the Vatican; that the largest Israeli settlements would remain; that there would be a mandate period for Palestine that will take place over 20 years; that Palestine would be a demilitarised state; and that UNRWA would be dissolved and replaced with a different organisation that would relocate refugees with less fuss.
And yet, it seems that some of these negotiation points have proven to be even worse in reality, and that the only truth is that now Mahmoud Abbas is president of an authority without any real sense of authority regardless of true political legitimacy and elections. The PLO and Fatah seem to be more and more marginalised with no constants other than the fact that Abbas intends to remain president for the rest of his life.
A closer look at the Israeli occupation confirms the idea that Abbas is acting as a "filter" that encourages and influences Palestinian factions to give up their most valuable politicians to Israel's prisons. He has not asked for the release of Palestinian prisoners and has worked to limit the Palestinian resistance as much as possible. In fact, he has done everything in his power to ensure that Palestinian resistance does not go beyond the negotiating table. He engages outside Arab parties as much as he can for the sake of normalisation and finance and holds them responsible for burdens that he is incapable of bearing on his own. In addition, Abbas does everything in his power to prevent Israel from being held accountable for its actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; indeed, he has turned this into a business venture for his family members and entourage.
The intention of this article is not to berate Mahmoud Abbas as a person but to expose the truth, which is that very little has been done to shorten the length of the siege and foreign military occupation of an entire land and population. The occupation, as it directly relates to the people of Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora especially, not only threatens Palestinian identity and weakens affiliations with it, but it also treats the Palestinian people as if their existence is anti-Arab and threatens greater Arab survival. Reducing the Palestinian cause to a competition for Israeli approval run by Abbas and Mohamed Dahlan has diminished the efforts and meaning of what Fatah truly is. In fact, this competition seems to be Fatah's only concern right now.
This situation is what caused Gaza to become what it is today according to the laws of nature. If Dahlan's attempt at a coup in Gaza had been successful, Gaza would have responded with true resistance that is so powerful it would inevitably have spilt into the neighbourhoods of the West Bank. It is for this reason that Ariel Sharon agreed to withdraw his forces from the Gaza Strip so that he would be able to focus his efforts on the West Bank, what he called Judea and Samaria, and ensure that he uprooted the seeds of resistance from its lands entirely.
The Israeli far right's rejection of the reconciliation agreement helps to explain the reasons behind its defeat in Gaza; however, we must be mindful of the fact that the Israelis are still promoting the illusion that the Palestinian Authority is the only authority or entity that represents the Palestinian people. The Israeli government and PA are working together to encourage Arab governments in their demonisation of Hamas. The goal behind this is to credit all resistance and all true political change to Fatah and its members. It appears that only the State of Qatar is able and willing to bring a sense of balance to the equation, as all other parties are subservient to Israel's will.
The information that was leaked about the reconciliation agreements that took place in Doha demonstrate that a great deal of pressure was placed on Hamas and Qatar as a sponsor not to place unnecessary pressure on Fatah and consequently spoil Abbas's efforts. However, it has also become clear that neither Hamas nor Qatar are limiting their involvement in the Palestinian cause and that they do not consider limiting Abbas's political influence as their sole goal and purpose. This reality is what worries Abbas and his supporters, who fear that Hamas and Qatar's zone of influence is expanding and that they will be able to counter any disagreement with which they do not agree.
Perhaps what this all means is that Abbas and his team of followers are being placed in a situation similar to the madness of King George III, in that the Palestinian people will refuse to bow down to state-sponsored elections (influenced by the US, Europe and Israel). Soon, the people will find no use for "their George" and say that there is no need for a president who merely relocates from capital to capital and appears on many news channels. The alleged reconciliation agreement, which really is nothing more than an attempt to bring Gaza under the Palestinian Authority's umbrella, has not even succeeded in forcing the government to pay the wages of government employees in the Gaza Strip. The interesting thing to consider is that Abbas has insisted that Qatar pays to the PA the money intended for Gaza's wages so that he will receive it personally and redistribute it to the workers in the territory. Is this what reconciliation means? Has the concept of reconciliation been reduced to Abbas playing the exclusive role of a high-commission bank to the people of Gaza?
What is even more devastating now is that Gaza's historical sponsors now need to pay a sum that is far larger than the sum of the outstanding salaries and that it was suggested that the money allocated for rebuilding the Gaza Strip should go through Fatah first. The cost of human sacrifice, however, cannot be counted and the loss of human capital can never be retrieved or compensated for. In reality, we cannot make any joke out of this because the Palestinian people have remained steadfast in their struggle and they have given up a great deal to stay resilient. The death of one resistance fighter is enough to redeem the homeland and the death of one innocent child is truly too much to be equated with anything else. These two sacrifices alone are far greater than the force of the occupation, its supporters and its collaborators.
A collaborator in this context is anyone who participates in the killing of freedom fighters in any resistance struggle around the globe. This description includes those in Europe and the Western world. The atrocities carried out by the Nazis are what justified the establishment of a Jewish national home on Palestinian soil and it is due to this recent global history that we must define carefully what it means to be a collaborator and what it means to be the occupier as opposed to the occupied.
We now come to what Abbas will do with his powers, as it appears that he will use international platforms to pressure Hamas into signing agreements that he sees fit in light of the great achievements of the resistance in Gaza, which swayed international public opinion from being on the Israeli side to largely favouring the Palestinians. It is clear at this point that Abbas will ask US Secretary of State John Kerry to formulate an agreement that is based on the 1967 borders, one that includes both the West Bank and Gaza Strip in addition to East Jerusalem. However, it will be impossible for Kerry to meet these demands in light of the numerous concessions that the Palestinian Authority has made over the past few decades. It has already agreed to give up much of the territory that was initially included in the 1967 agreement. Abbas has also lost the support of the UN Security Council, which had previously put a timetable on ending the Israeli occupation.
The threats used by Abbas, primarily the argument that, "All doors are open for Palestine to request membership in international organisations such as the UN, which would subsequently afford Palestinians the opportunity to hold Israel accountable for its violation of international agreements and bring an end to security coordination..." is nothing but a well known talking point. In fact, Abbas's "bag of tricks" and negotiation talking points are nothing more than a bag of cheap trinkets that do not mean much in the grand scheme of things.
The truth is that security coordination with Israel is the last of thing Abbas seeks to bring to an end because, quite frankly, it would bring an end to his own security. Indeed, Abbas's "non-traditional surprise", which he promised that he would share with us, turned out to be that he planned to meet with Arab foreign ministers to ask for their help and support at the UN. What Abbas means by this is that he wants to take some of the Palestinian cause's blood off his hands and distribute the blame to other Arab and non-Arab partners.
Going to the United Nations and its hijacked sub-organisations is a mere continuation of Abbas's failed attempt to take the Palestinian cause to an international platform. He seeks to negotiate key factors within this international domain; however, he fails to acknowledge that many members of the UN General Assembly opted not to hold Israel accountable for its crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
Abbas has stated previously that he already accepts the decision of the UN General Assembly, meaning that he has expressed his compliance with the idea that all of historic Palestine is up for auction to the highest bidder with some of these bidders being countries none of us ever hear about unless there is a crisis taking place. It would seem as though those are the demands of the democratisation that is so prevalent in our era.
All of these factors and more are what will raise the stakes in this bidding game and this is why Abbas previously used the term "non-traditional" to describe his willingness to surrender the many sacrifices that have been made by successive Palestinian generations. This is indeed an unprecedented move in the world of global politics because the Palestinian cause has entered the world of gambling.
This talk of "internationalising" the Palestinian struggle in this way would also lead to the internationalisation of Jerusalem or, even worse, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, a project which Israel is already implementing and has become the subject of many academic studies and research projects. Moreover, Abbas has further lost any Palestinian claim to Jerusalem due to his surprise visit to Amman during which it was discussed that Jerusalem and all other Holy Land sites would be placed under the custody of King Abdullah II, as it was agreed upon previously in former treaties.
One must also note that Israel has alluded to the fact that (according to the Arava agreement) all Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank will indeed be placed under Jordanian custody. Abbas has also suggested adding Christian holy sites to that list, which would reinstate Jordan's historical role in maintaining and governing the West Bank. However, this is impossible in today's world because placing Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites under Jordanian custody would require a military force equivalent to that of Salahuddin and nothing less.
The Arab situation in the United Nations today is dictated by the international community's decision to avoid giving Saudi Arabia a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Jordan has submitted a draft to the UN Security Council and it does not differ much from those submitted by Europe and the United States. Because many long-awaited decisions are delayed continuously, as they present opposing Arab and Western views, one can assume that the worst outcomes will come out of resolutions 1850 and 1860.
We need to consider further the dangers of the decision by Europe, America and Israel to grant Mahmoud Abbas the agency to act on behalf of the Palestinian people and for Fatah to act as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. This misplaced agency is what will result in monstrous decisions of huge proportions.
Translated from Al Jazeera net, 16 September, 2014

Rewards and Punishments for Gaza

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Those of us who believe that the Israeli government has finally gone too far in its slaughter of Gazan civilians because the whole world, including most Americans, finally recognize something called ethnic cleansing at a level approaching genocide when they see it, should be aware that pushback has arrived. Israel and its powerful friends in both the US and international media as well as in government circles are energetically rewriting the story, not only regarding Gaza, to restore Israel’s status as the beleaguered little democracy in the Middle East and America’s only true friend and ally.
The reconstructed narrative is backed up by a not so subtle system of punishments and rewards for those who either deviate from or support the new orthodoxy. Indeed, politicians in general are leading the charge because they have the most to benefit from being perceived as friends of Israel, particularly if they are ambitious. Criminalization of criticism of Israel is also on the agenda in a number of countries. A current bipartisan congressional resolution with 93 co-sponsors is seeking to limit what might or might not be said regarding actions undertaken by the Israeli government. It “decries and condemns the comparison of Israel to Nazis perpetrating a Holocaust or genocides as an insult to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.” The bill is one of a number that have been floated in several countries, including Canada, to make any criticism of Israel a hate crime.
Republicans are lined up solidly in support of Israel. Senator Ted Cruz even felt compelled to sing the praises of Israel during a dinner hosted by Middle Eastern Christians, who have been victimized by Tel Aviv, before he was booed off the stage. Senator Rand Paul, who occasionally and unsuccessfully tries to talk like his principled non-interventionist father, thinks that Israel’s regular military interventions into the shrinking Palestinians territories are just fine because they are “defense.” Five hundred dead Palestinian children are apparently just a footnote for the eye doctor from Kentucky and the lawyer from Texas.
And it is also notable how professional “bleeding heart” advocates of protecting suffering humanity worldwide routinely make an exception for the Middle East. Reliably liberal Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, always “progressive except for Palestine,” has felt compelled to describe Israel’s shelling of schools and hospitals as a response to Hamas’s alleged use of those buildings to launch rockets, justifying Israel’s “right…to defend itself.” Per Warren, killing civilians is the “last thing Israel wants.” It might be noted that Warren, like Paul, just might be harboring presidential ambitions.
And the reward system is international. North of the border the benefits derived from talking nice about Israel are perhaps more palpable. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who defended the bombing and shelling of Gaza, has described Israel as a light that “…burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice.” He has also said “I will defend Israel whatever the cost” to Canada. Harper has been nominated by Canadian B’nai Brith for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he would share with “change we can believe in” President Barack Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Yes, that is how the Nobel citation actually reads .
And not talking nice about Israel can sometimes bring down real punishment. Here in the United States the Yale University Episcopalian Chaplain Reverend Bruce M. Shipman who wrote in a letter to the New York Times suggesting that there is a “relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond” fell afoul of the Israel thought police, who descended on him immediately, forcing him to resign. It would seem to be common sense to make the connection that behavior influences perceptions, but one has to wonder how many “big donors” might have contacted Yale to suggest that such a paradigm is unthinkable at a leading institution of higher learning. Just speculating, mind you.
Across the pond, British Member of Parliament George Galloway was recently attacked and beaten in London by a man wearing an Israeli Defense Forces t-shirt who shouted about the holocaust as he dislocated Galloway’s jaw and broke his ribs. The attacker had been stalking Galloway and had written on his Facebook page that he would like to cut his throat. During the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the parliamentarian had declared that his district in Bradford should be an “Israel free zone” and he urged his supporters to boycott all Israeli goods, services, academics and tourists. He was subsequently “interviewed under caution” by the police and investigated after complaints were received, during which he was questioned regarding “inciting racial hatred.” Galloway’s attacker has had a defense fund set up for him and the British government and media have been notably silent concerning rewarding someone for a premeditated assault on an elected official.
The latest effort also has its propaganda wing, promoting in the media the old argument that Israel should be judged by a different standard than other nations, which has meant in fact no standard at all. One particularly bizarre commentary comes from Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, who argues that it is the Palestinians who have benefited from a friendly mainstream media, not Israel, and that anti-Semitism is behind it all.
In fact, Israel’s friends get away with saying things that would not pass muster for any other ethnic or religious group. They do not hesitate to make the racist claim that all Muslims and Arabs in particularly have terrorist DNA which presumably justifies whatever Israel insists it has to do to keep them in line. The propaganda line goes something like this: Israel wants peace but the Arabs do not. Israel has suffered from Arab terrorists for many years even though it has done nothing wrong and has offered the hand of friendship. Israel is a democracy whereas the Arab states are all one form or another of autocracies, making it a natural friend and ally of the United States and Europe.
Regarding Gaza, the apologists claim that Israel was attacked and only defending itself. The United Nations and other international bodies are biased against Israel and can safely be ignored. The Arabs are so heedless of the value of human life that they deliberately used their own children as human shields while the Israeli army “the most moral in the world” reacted humanely and only returned fire when fired upon. In support of that line, Israel is disputing reliable United Nations statistics, obtained on the ground in Gaza, revealing that three quarters of the victims of the Israeli assault on Gaza were civilians, including 495 children and 253 women. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is instead insisting that 1000 of the more than two thousand dead were “terrorist operatives,” the preferred Israeli term, even though Israel has had no access to the actual casualties.
Of course the new “Stand by Israel” narrative is wrong in nearly every detail: the Israelis have rejected Arab offers for a comprehensive peace agreement; Israel started terrorism in the Middle East when it ethnically cleansed the Palestinians starting in 1948; the Israeli army epitomizes state sponsored terrorism in its brutal and illegal occupation of the West Bank; Israel is a true democracy only for its Jewish citizens; Israel provoked the carnage in Gaza; and there is no actual evidence of Palestinians using children as human shields. Israeli gunners killed civilians indiscriminately in their attack on Gaza just as they did in 2009 and, it might be added, that Israel has frequently been accused of other assorted crimes against humanity as well as war crimes over its oppression of the Palestinians. It has escaped any consequences because it is protected by the United States. Most recently Tel Aviv has announced plans to steal 1,000 more acres of land on the Arab West Bank for a new settlement, a violation of the Geneva conventions.
The most recent onslaught using the media to spread disinformation is attempting to demonstrate that groups like Hamas are pretty much the same as groups like ISIS. A full page ad that appeared in both the Washington Post and the New York Times on September 2nd, paid for by This World: The Values Network, an organization run by “America’s rabbi” Shmuley Boteach, claimed that radical Islam, which “threatens humanity,” is “beheading and crucifying children in its genocidal war,” while in Iran “the gay hating, women-stoning, free speech suppressing mullahs continue to fund murderous attacks against Americans and Jews worldwide, threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation.”
Boteach also informs the reader that “…bloodthirsty Hamas terrorists fire rockets at Israelis from homes, schools and mosques. Hamas sacrifices Palestinians babies as human shields, and uses Palestinian children as slave labor to builds terror tunnels in its never ending genocidal war against the Jews.”
To what end? The United Nations continues to “…castigate the Middle East’s only democracy as it acts in self-defense against the Hamas death cult.” The solution? “Join our fight against the UN making suckers of Americans. Join our fight against the Israel haters…”
One might rejoin, if rejoinder were invited by Rabbi Boteach, that many of the claims that he makes about wicked Arabs come straight from the hasbara propaganda mill at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Also, for one who claims to be an American citizen he fails to make any legitimate case that his own countrymen are in any way threatened by Iran or the Palestinians. He does cite Congressional support for recent Israeli war crimes but as everyone inside the beltway knows, that is low hanging fruit that can be plucked by anyone who cheerleads for Israel.
Indeed Boteach’s passion for another country blinds him to what US interests actually might be. He also chooses to ignore the fact that even if one is uncritically partisan it is indisputable that the Israelis have not exactly been innocents amidst all the death and destruction, that indiscriminate shelling and bombing of Gaza have killed more than 2,000, one quarter of them children, and that it will costnearly $8 billion to repair all the physical damage inflicted by the humane Israeli Army.
So if you listen to the politicians and media you will be bombarded with one vision of Israel, but if you actually pay attention to what is going on you might come to a different conclusion. Rabbi Boteach urges his supporters to stop the UN from “making suckers of Americans.” Actually, it is Israel and its friends that have been making suckers of the rest of us for a long time, a process that must end if the United States is ever to salvage any moral high ground from the disasters of the past thirteen years.