Saturday, October 19, 2013

Confusion in Syria, by Khalil Bendib

Saudi Arabia and the Security Council


Isolationism, or a strategy for regional meddling?

By Brian Whitaker

"Saudi Arabia was one of the founding members of the United Nations and yet, throughout the organisation's 68-year history, it has never held a seat on the Security Council. Until recently it had also shown no desire to do so.
That changed just over a year ago when the kingdom began lobbying for membership of the Security Council and on Thursday it was duly elected – along with Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria – for a two-year term starting on January 1 next year.

Abdallah al-Mouallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, hailed this as "a defining moment in the kingdom's history". There was "much to rejoice over", he said, adding that "we welcome the positive shift, as well as the challenges, of being part of the Security Council body."

A few hours later, however, the Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement thanking UN members who had supported its election but announcing that it would not be taking up its seat until the Security Council is reformed.

The statement, posted on the government news agency's website in three parts (here, here and here), continued:

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a founding member of the United Nations, is proud of its full and permanent commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, believing that commitment of all Member States, honestly, truthfully and accurately, as agreed upon and stipulated in the Charter is the real guarantee for world security and peace.
"If the Member States of the United Nations consider winning the membership of UN Security Council, which is, according to the Charter of the Organisation, the sole agency responsible for preserving world peace and security, as a high honour and a great responsibility for participating directly and effectively in the service of international issues, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, the mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards preserving international peace and security as required, leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against the peoples, the violation of rights and the spread of conflicts and wars around the world.
"In this regard, it is unfortunate that all international efforts that have been exerted in recent years, and in which Saudi Arabia participated very effectively, did not result in reaching reforms required to be made to enable the Security Council to regain its desired role in the serve of the issues of peace and security in the world.
"With the current continuation of the Palestinian cause without a just and lasting solution for 65 years, which resulted in several wars threatened international peace and security is irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council's inability to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities.
"The failure of the Security Council to make the Middle East a free zone of all weapons of mass destruction, whether because of its inability to subdue the nuclear programs of all countries in the region, without exception, to the international control and inspection or to prevent any country in the region from possessing nuclear weapons, is another irrefutable evidence and proof of its inability to carry out its duties and hold its responsibilities.
"Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the chemical weapons, while the world stands idly, without applying deterrent sanctions against Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities.
"Accordingly, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, based on its historical responsibilities towards its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as towards the peoples aspiring for peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership of the Security Council until the Council is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security."

Setting aside the irony of one of the world's most reactionary countries demanding that the UN be reformed, how can we explain this sudden U-turn?

First, spending 12 months or more lobbying for a seat on the Security Council simply in order to refuse it doesn't make sense. If that had been the plan all along, the Saudi ambassador would surely have been aware of it – and clearly he wasn't.

It's also obvious that a decision to boycott the Security Council, because of its far-reaching implications for Saudi foreign policy, must have been approved – if not initiated – by the king himself. In taking this decision he appears to have over-ruled his own foreign ministry (or at least those within it who had been working towards Security Council membership) – indicating, perhaps, that there are substantial policy differences in the upper echelons of the royal family.

It is unlikely that the reasons given in the official statement for boycotting the Security Council – double standards, inaction over Syria, Palestine, etc – are the real ones. They are all well-known arguments which could have been made just as easily a year ago, before the kingdom started campaigning for its Security Council seat.

A more plausible explanation is that with several difficult decisions likely to be presented to the Security Council within the next couple of years – most notably on Syria and Iran – Saudi Arabia prefers to keep a low profile rather than having to make choices that might expose it to criticism.

In a blog post for the Atlantic Council website, Richard LeBaron

"A place on the Security Council would have provided the Kingdom with a visible platform to continue to press its objectives. Perhaps, at the crucial moment, that was part of the problem. Day-in day-out engagement on the UNSC would expose the Saudis to making choices and casting votes on highly controversial matters. 
"Behind the posturing contained in the Saudi statement could lie a fear of being forced to differ publicly with major powers on a variety of questions, without much positive result. Given their overall conservative approach and general allergy to public discussion of controversial issues, the Saudi leadership may have decided at the last minute that they just did not need the aggravation."

Staying out of the Security Council is more in line with Saudi Arabia's traditional approach to foreign policy than playing an active role within it. But LeBaron goes on to argue that the kingdom's preference for combining political influence with low visibility is becoming unsustainable – which may be why some in the foreign ministry want to pursue a different tack:

"Declining the [Security Council] seat demonstrates ineffective public diplomacy at a time when the Saudis need to focus on how to better tell their story and defend their interests in the public arena. The deep-seated Saudi preference for elite-elite secret diplomacy is not sufficient if they really wish to play a broader role on the international stage. The well-developed links with senior policymakers in the West need to be accompanied by efforts to engage publics outside the Arab world who know little or nothing about the Kingdom. 
"Enormous change is taking place under the surface in Saudi Arabia but it is largely beyond the comprehension of observers outside Saudi Arabia – and even Saudis are having difficulty processing the change that is occurring. The Saudi leadership needs to get comfortable will all the tools of public diplomacy and employ them in a systematic way if they want to gain influence on publics around the world that are suspicious if not hostile to Arabs and Islam.
"According to recent polling, they even have some work to do with their Middle Eastern neighbours. Saudis will not always win over sceptics, but Saudi Arabia will continue to limit its own influence if the country's public diplomacy is confined to awkward, ineffective, and possibly counterproductive symbolic acts."

A somewhat different interpretation comes from Nawaf Obaid (a former adviser to several Saudi princes) who argues that the kingdom's apparent isolationism is actually a step towards "a far more proactive and assertive role" in the world.

Obaid highlights the cancellation of Prince Saud al-Faisal's speech to the UN General Assembly as an example of this:

"What few seem to understand is that such a powerful gesture is not merely symbolic. Rather, it will be accompanied by concrete policy changes and rectifications in the coming months and years that are going to set the tone for a completely transformed Saudi foreign policy."

According to Obaid, this transformation involves "a shift away from western dependency and toward more local (and successful) interventionism" through reforming the Arab League and creating a regional security framework "initially consisting" of the GCC states plus Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

"Saudi Arabia," Obaid says, "has recently proven its growing political strength in regional affairs, having successfully spearheaded resolution [sic] of the situations in Bahrain and Yemen".

If this is really what King Abdullah has in mind, Arabs should be seriously worried, as Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, points out:

"Saudi Arabia boasts about both its successful direct military intervention in Bahrain under a GCC umbrella and fruitful diplomacy in Yemen, but both countries remain volatile up to the present day. Suppressing a true mass movement in one country and replacing one president by his deputy in another are hardly recipes for long-term stability in the Arabian Peninsula …
"The military might that was deployed against peaceful protesters in Bahrain had one objective, namely the preservation of the monarchy at the expense of a truly representative government. Diplomacy in Yemen privileged the preservation of the status quo despite a changing of the guard, thus leaving both countries in prolonged limbo …
"A collective Arab security framework under Saudi Arabia's leadership cannot be built on tear gas and behind-the-scenes meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbours. Saudi Arabia is not a neutral arbiter of internal Arab conflicts. Yes, it has at its disposal incredible wealth, but it remains incapable of playing the leadership role in the region simply because of its own domestic situation.
"Saudi Arabia is not a political model that the Arab masses aspire to emulate, nor do they seek to become its privileged clients. They certainly desire its resources, seek access to its labour market and to grab a share of its investments abroad. Yet, it stands for all the negative political characteristics that they wished to get rid of when they occupied their capitals' squares.
"A collective security framework under Saudi leadership will be a reminder of what many Arabs do not want to return to, mainly repression and security pacts against the people and in favour of autocratic regimes.""


Al-Jazeera Video: العفو الدولية تندد بقانون التظاهر في مصر

Watch the video on Israeli racism The New York Times didn’t want you to see

 by Ali Abunimah

"Regular readers of The Electronic Intifada are familiar with the shocking and escalating racism in Israel against people from countries in Africa.
Our extensive coverage of the incitement and attacks on Africans, thanks in large part to the work of David Sheen, demonstrates that this phenomenon is not marginal, but is incited by Israel’s top political leadership.
When Israeli government ministers incite angry mobs, calling Africans “cancer,” they are simply expressing another face of the racism that Palestinians have always experienced.

Solicited, then rejected by The New York Times

Yet rarely does this knowledge make it into mainstream media.
The example of the video above, Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land, produced by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal, helps us to understand why.
Blumenthal explained to Consortium News how The New York Times commissioned the 11-minute video, but after the paper’s editors saw it, refused to publish it:
I was asked to submit something by The New York Times op docs, a new section on the website that published short video documentaries. I am known for short video documentaries about the right wing in the US, and extremism in Israel. They solicited a video from me, and when I didn’t produce it in time, they called me for it, saying they wanted it. So I sent them a video I produced with my colleague, David Sheen, an Israeli journalist who is covering the situation of non-Jewish Africans in Israel more extensively than any journalist in the world.
We put together some shocking footage of pogroms against African communities in Tel Aviv, and interviews with human rights activists. I thought it was a well-done documentary about a situation very few Americans were familiar with. We included analysis. We tailored it to their style, and of course it was rejected without an explanation after being solicited. I sent it to some other major websites and they have not even responded to me, when they had often solicited articles from me in the past.
Eventually, The Nation – which has also typically been quite timid in airing criticism of Israel – agreed to publish it.
While some of the footage in the video has already appeared on The Electronic Intifada, Sheen’s commentary is a good primer for those unfamiliar with the topic.
There is also a previously unseen interview with Michael Ben-Ari, one of Israel’s most notorious anti-African racists and a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Ben-Ari also has a long history of inciting racism and hatred against Palestinians and Christians.
In the same Consortium News interview Blumenthal, author of the bestselling and widely promoted 2009 book Republican Gomorrah, also spoke about the difficulty he has had getting any mainstream media attention for his new book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.
Just like this video, Blumenthal’s new book offers an unflinching look at the racist reality of Israel that America’s establishment media simply does not have the guts to confront."

The generals rule again in Egypt

Syrian soldiers killed in Damascus suicide bombing

Attack by rebel forces on checkpoint in pro-government suburb of Jaramana kills at least 16 regime soldiers, reports say,

Friday, October 18, 2013

U.S. Weapons and Arms Parts Continued to Flow to Egypt After June Coup & Deadly Crackdown

Democracy Now!

"The United States recently announced plans to scale back aid to Egypt’s military government three months after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Last week, the State Department said the United States will withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance until “credible progress” is made toward a “an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.” But a new investigation from Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines program shows that the recent aid cuts might be more symbolic than anything else. Al Jazeera recently revealed that from July 3 to September 24, eight ships left New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia, bound for the Egyptian cities of Damietta and Alexandria, where they unloaded defense equipment covered by laws that require State Department approval. We speak to Anjali Kamat, correspondent and producer for Al Jazeera’s “Fault Lines.”...."

عكا وحيفا تنثران الورود على روح اللاجئين الغارقين؛ ومطالبة منظمة التحرير بالتحرك

عــ48ـرب/ ربيع عيد

بمبادرة عدد من النشطاء في الداخل الفلسطيني، نُظم في اليومين الماضيين في مدينتي حيفا وعكا وقفتا حداد ونثر ورود على أرواح الشهداء الغارقين من اللاجئين الفلسطينيين والسوريين الذين لقوا حتفهم أمام سواحل جزيرة مالطا.

وكانت الوقفة الأولى في مدينة عكا يوم الثلاثاء في أول أيام عيد الأضحى، إذ شارك العشرات من الناشطين وأهالي مدينة عكا في نثر الورود من على ميناء عكا، اضافة للإبحار في سفينة الى داخل البحر في خطوة رمزية لذكرى 200 لاجئة ولاجئ فلسطيني سوريّ، وافتهم المنيّة غرقًا في طريق الهرب من أهوال الحرب.

أما الوقفة الثانية، فجرت يوم أمس الأربعاء على شاطئ مدينة حيفا، إذ حمل المشاركون الأعلام الفلسطينية واللافتات المنددة بحصار مخيم اليرموك.

وفي حديث لموقع عـ48ــرب مع الناشطة رنا عوايسي، إحدى المبادرات للوقفة في حيفا، قالت: "هذه الوقفة هي وقفة وفاء لأرواح اللاجئين الفلسطينيين والسوريين الذين أغرقهم رصاص الغدر وهم هاربون من جحيم الحصار والموت في سوريا، وبالذات في مخيم اليرموك المحاصر منذ ما يقارب العام، وللمطالبة برفع حصار التجويع عن المخيم المهدد بكارثة إنسانية إذ أن المعبر الرئيسي للمخيم مغلق إغلاقا تاما منذ ثلاثة أشهر إضافة لتعرضه للقصف المتواصل والنقص الحاد في المستلزمات الطبية".

صمت شعبي ورسمي

وأضافت " إن مأساة قوارب الموت نابعة بالأساس من حصار المخيم وقصفه المستمر، القضية التي تغيب إعلاميًا ورسميًا. هنالك صمت شعبي ورسمي معيب جدا حيال هذه القضية تحديدا، وعلى منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية وسلطتي رام الله وغزة تحمل مسؤولياتهم تجاه قضية مخيم اليرموك وقضية اللاجئين بشكل عام. لا يعقل أن يتم إصدار فتوى بإجازة اكل لحم القطط والكلاب والحمير ويستمر هذا الصمت، هذه الفتوى صدرت في السابق خلال مجزرة تل الزعتر، وعلينا منع تحول مخيم اليرموك إلى تل الزعتر 2".

وخلصت إلى القول "جنى حسن هي طفلة رضيعة من مخيم اليرموك توفيت بسبب عدم توفر الحليب في المخيم وعدم تقبلها لحليب أمها، إضافة لمئات الشهداء الذين سقطوا نتيجة للقصف وإطلاق النار من قبل النظام والمعارضة المسلحة، ناهيك عن الموت في أقبية التعذيب، والذي كان آخر ضحاياه الناشط الإغاثي الشهيد ابن لوبية خالد بكراوي وعدنان شهابي الذي يبلغ من العمر 60 عامًا".

يُشار أيضا الى انه تم تنظيم وقفة في مدينة غزة أيضا بداية هذا الأسبوع.

عريضة تطالب منظمة التحرير بالوقوف على مسؤولياتها

ومن ضمن التحركات الداعمة للفلسطينيين في سوريا، أطلق فلسطينيون من الداخل والشتات عريضة تطالب منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية بالوقوف على مسؤولياتها تجاه اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في الشتات، وخاصة في سوريا وما يتعرضون له من معاناة ونكبة جديدة.

وجاء في العريضة "إنّ منظمة التحرير اليوم مطالبةٌ بل ومسؤولة عن متابعة أمور اللاجئين الفلسطينيين السوريين، والتخفيف من معاناتهم ونكبتهم أينما كانوا على اعتبار أن منظمة التحرير حسب ميثاقها الوطني وكل الاعترافات الدولية هي الممثل الشرعي والوحيد للشعب الفلسطيني في جميع أماكن تواجده، وبالتالي فهي تتحمل مسؤولية متابعة وتمثيل اللاجئين في الشتات وفي كل أنحاء العالم، ولدى كل السلطات الرسمية في جميع الدول العربية والأجنبية."

وطالب الموقّعون بالتدخل لدى جميع أطراف الصراع في سوريا، وتقديم الاحتجاج الرسمي لدى كل الهيئات الدولية لتأمين احتياجات المُحَاصَرين في مخيم منذ أكثر من تسعين يوماً، والعمل بالتنسيق مع كل أطراف الصراع على تحييد المخيمات الفلسطينية عن دائرة الحرب المشتعلة في سوريا. إضافة إلى تقديم اعتراض رسمي لدى السلطات المصرية وشكوى لدى الأمم المتحدة ضد التهجير القسري إلى سوريا ولبنان، والحاصل من قبل السلطات المصرية بحق اللاجئين الفلسطينيين من سوريا الى مصر.

كما طالبوا بتكليف بعثة المنظمة الديبلوماسية في إيطاليا وهي سفارة فلسطين في روما بمتابعة تجاوزات السلطات الإيطالية بحقّ اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في جزيرة صقلية، واستخدام العنف ضدهم لإجبارهم على التبصيم، وبالتالي تقديم طلبات لجوء في إيطاليا وأخذ شهادات اللاجئين الذين جرى تبصيمهم وتقديمها للحكومة الإيطالية ومطالبتها بفتح تحقيق رسمي في هذا الموضوع.

رابط الفعالية على الفيس بوك اضغط هنا

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Palestinians in Yarmouk Refugee Camp Near Damascus Are Besieged and Forced to Eat Cats and Dogs to Survive!

Photo: ‎عكا وحيفا تنثران الورود على روح اللاجئين الغارقين؛ ومطالبة منظمة التحرير بالتحرك


(Courtesy of Azmi Bishara's Facebook Page)

Rebel Snipers Kill Key Syrian General

Gen. Jamaa Slain in Deir Ezzor

"Syrian Major General Jamaa Jamaa, the top military intelligence officer for Deir Ezzor Province, was assassinated today in the province by rebel snipers, according to Syrian state media.
Jamaa had previously served as a top Syrian military official in Lebanon, and was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in 2006 after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, though he was never charged with involvement in the death.
Deir Ezzor is a key province in eastern Syria, and clashes were reported between military and rebel forces in several parts of the oil-rich province. The details surrounding the assassination are unclear, though it was said to happen in the capital city’s Rashdiya District.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory claimed Jamaa was shot in the middle of a battle in which the military was fighting against al-Qaeda forces. That hasn’t been confirmed by any other outlets "

Thursday, October 17, 2013

FBI Urged to Reopen Probe Into 1985 Assassination of Arab-American Leader Alex Odeh in California

Democracy Now!

"The FBI and Justice Department are being urged to renew its investigation into one of the most shocking political murders in recent U.S. history. Twenty-eight years ago, on October 11, 1985, a prominent Palestinian-American leader named Alex Odeh was killed by a powerful pipe bomb planted at the Santa Ana, California, offices of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, where Odeh worked as the group’s western regional director. The FBI quickly named the militant Jewish Defense League or JDL as a focus of its investigations. But decades later, no one has been questioned or indicted for Odeh’s murder. “Despite 28 years of knocking on the doors of justice, we have not found it yet. Alex was a very peaceful man,” says Albert Mokhiber, former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “He was known as an activist, in not just the Arab-American movement and Palestinian issues, but civil rights in general.” We also speak to attorney Abdeen Jabara who helped found the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan....."

Arab-American Attorney Abdeen Jabara: I Was Spied on by the National Security Agency 40 Years Ago

Democracy Now!

"As more revelations come to light about the National Security Agency, we speak to civil-right attorney Abdeen Jabara, co-founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He was involved in a groundbreaking court case in the 1970s that forced the NSA to acknowledge it had been spying on him since 1967. At the time of the spying, Jabara was a lawyer in Detroit representing Arab-American clients and people being targeted by the FBI. The disclosure was the first time the NSA admitted it had spied on an American......"

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you support Iran's right to make a nuclear weapon?

The vote is split almost evenly, with over 800 responding so far, 52% said yes.

Al-Jazeera Video: مستقبل الانقلاب العسكري في مصر

"تناولت حلقة الأربعاء 16/10/2013 من برنامج "بلا حدود" مستقبل وفرص الحكم العسكري بمصر في ظل تواصل المظاهرات المعارضة له. واستضافت الحلقة محرر شؤون الشرق الأوسط بصحيفة ذي غارديان البريطانية ديفد هيرست.
تقديم: أحمد منصور
الضيف: ديفد هيرست

Egypt: End deplorable detention and deportation of refugees from Syria

"The Egyptian authorities must end their appalling policy of unlawfully detaining and forcibly returning hundreds of refugees who have fled the armed conflict in Syria, said Amnesty International.

Following the deaths in recent weeks of refugees and asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, a short report published by Amnesty International today, ‘We cannot live here any more’: Refugees from Syria in Egypt, throws a spotlight on the tragic consequences of Egypt’s hardline stance towards refugees from Syria.
More and more refugees are risking their lives to make the treacherous journey by sea to Europe – often paying smugglers up to US $3,500 each to make the trip.
“The Egyptian authorities have a duty to provide protection to anyone who has fled the conflict in Syria and is seeking safe refuge in their country. At present Egypt is failing abysmally to meet its international obligations to protect even the most vulnerable refugees,” said Sherif Elsayed Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights.
“Instead of offering vital help and support to refugees from Syria the Egyptian authorities are arresting and deporting them, flouting human rights standards. Most refugees lost their homes and livelihoods when they fled Syria. Failing to help and protect them is a stain on the reputation of Egypt and could seriously damage its image as a key stakeholder in the region.”
Hundreds of refugees who fled Syria, including scores of children, many of them without their parents, face ongoing detention in poor conditions or deportation – in some cases separating family members. Amnesty International found two one-year-old twins among the refugees being indefinitely detained.
Several refugees told the organization that they felt compelled to leave Egypt due to the hostile conditions they face in the country.
The Egyptian navy has intercepted around 13 boats carrying refugees from Syria in their attempt to reach Europe. According to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 946 people have been arrested by the Egyptian authorities while attempting the crossing and 724 – women, children and men – remain in detention.
In most cases, once arrested people are kept in continued detention under orders of Egypt’s National Security agency, even after the public prosecution has ordered their release....."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Egyptian coup leaders hire US lobbyist with ties to Israel

Glover Park groupThe group's managing director, Arik Ben-Zvi, is an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli army and consulted on Israel's elections

"In response to the Obama Administration's announcement last week that it will be restructuring US military aid to Egypt in light of the ongoing military crackdown, officials in Cairo have hired a well-known lobby group to improve the image of Egypt's coup, according to a US newspaper.

The Hill, a political newspaper based in Washington DC, has revealed that documents filed with the US Justice Department on Friday confirm that Egypt's interim authorities are employing the Glover Park Group to "provide public diplomacy, strategic communications counsel and government relations services" for Egypt's post-coup government.
The records filed indicate that the firm's work for Egypt "will include communications associated with the Government's implementation of its Road Map to build the institutions of an inclusive democratic state through parliamentary and presidential elections."
The Glover Park Group is no stranger to Israel. The group's managing director, Arik Ben-Zvi, is an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli army and consulted on Israel's elections. In addition, one senior executive previously served as the National Deputy Political Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC, the most powerful arm of the Israel Lobby in the US, while another senior executive served in its legislative department.
The newspaper describes the Glover Park Group as one of Washington's most experienced lobbyists when it comes to representing foreign governments and politicians.
The interim Egyptian government's "recent violent crackdown on its opponents" has led the United States to suspend some of its foreign aid to Egypt, "including proposed sales of F-16 fighter jets, M1 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters as well as about $260 million in cash assistance," according to the newspaper

U.S. Eases Rules on Exporting Military Technology to Secure Role as World’s Leading Arms Dealer

Democracy Now!

"In a boon for military contractors, the United States is relaxing controls on military exports, allowing some U.S.-made military parts to flow to nearly any country in the world with little oversight. ProPublica reports that beginning this week, thousands of parts for military aircraft can be sent freely around the world, even to some countries currently under U.N. arms embargoes. Previously, military firms had to register with the State Department and obtain a license for each export deal. That allowed U.S. officials to screen for issues including possible human rights violations. But now, tens of thousands of items are shifting to the Commerce Department, where they fall under looser controls. The changes were heavily lobbied for by military firms including Lockheed Martin, Textron and Honeywell. “The whole globe, basically, is going to get an easier deal in terms of getting access to U.S. military technology without very many questions asked,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. The United States already heavily dominates arms exports market: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements — which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the global market....."

‘I am Israeli’

Israel will not recognize an Israeli nationality while it seeks to maintain Jewishness at all costs

By Jonathan Cook

"Israel is almost certainly the only country that deceives the global community every time one of its citizens crosses an international border. It does so because the passports it issues contain a fiction.

When a border official opens an Israeli passport for inspection, he or she sees the passport holder’s nationality stated as “Israeli.” And yet inside Israel, no state official, government agency or court recognizes the existence of an “Israeli” national.

This month the highest court in the land, Israel’s Supreme Court, explicitly affirmed that it could not uphold an Israeli nationality. Instead, the judges ruled, citizenship and nationality in Israel should be considered entirely separate categories, as they have been since Israel’s founding in 1948. All Israelis have Israeli citizenship, but none enjoys Israeli nationality.

This fiction of Israeli nationality, contained in Israeli passports and presented to the international community, is not simply a piece of legal eccentricity on Israel’s part. It is the keystone of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state – and much depends on it.

From this simple deception, Israel has been able to gerrymander its population by excluding Palestinian refugees from their land and homes while allowing millions of Jews to immigrate. And the same deception has served to veil a system of segregation in legal rights – a form of apartheid – between Israeli Jews and the country’s Palestinian minority, who comprise a fifth of the total population......"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Glenn Greenwald Leaving The Guardian For 'Momentous' New Venture

"Glenn Greenwald is leaving the Guardian for a new, as-yet-undescribed website, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.
Greenwald did not specify what his new project would look like, describing it only as a "momentous new venture" and a "once-in-a-career-dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline." He said that the site would be a general-interest outlet, that he would be responsible for its journalism output, and that it had substantial money behind it.
Speaking to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, Greenwald said the site would have branches in New York, Washington and San Francisco, and that it was being funded by a "particular backer."
"It would be impossible for any journalist, let alone me, to decline this opportunity," he added.
Greenwald had been with the Guardian for just over a year, during which he led the paper in its reporting of Edward Snowden's NSA leaks and saw his own public profile reach new levels of fame and notoriety.
Greenwald was a blogger with Salon and an independent writer before his move to the Guardian. Before that, he was a constitutional lawyer....."

Western PR firms bid for Bahrain contract

The 'acceptable' face of repression

By Brian Whitaker

"Seven public relations firms – mostly British or American – are vying to win a contract from Bahrain's repressive government. 
Western PR companies have often been criticised in the past for taking up lucrative assignments aimed at polishing the kingdom's tarnished image. In Bahrain itself, they have also been denounced as "PR mercenaries" that charge hefty fees while failing to deliver positive results.

Bidders for the latest contract were named last week by the Bahrain Tender Board. They are:

Gulf Hill & Knowlton
Bell Pottinger Bahrain
Portland PR Ltd
Consulum Bahrain
Media Consult.
Weber Shandwick
Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Bahrain's government has not published details of the contract apart from saying that it involves PR services for the Economic Development Board (EDB). Bahrain Watch, the advocacy group that highlighted the bids in a blog post yesterday, says the EDB is "a governmental body responsible for attracting international investment to Bahrain, and re-branding the country as 'business-friendly'."

Three of the bidding companies – Bell Pottinger, Hill & Knowlton and Weber Shandwick – have previously done PR work for Bahrain. 

Another of the bidders, Consulum, is a newer company set up by former Bell Pottinger employees based in the Gulf, according to Bahrain Watch. It has offices in London, Bahrain and Dubai and describes itself as "an international strategic communications consultancy that uses an in-depth understanding of public, commercial and political drivers to provide insightful strategic counsel and meet complex communications challenges". It claims to deliver "sophisticated communications programmes that shape awareness, guide opinion and enhance understanding on a national, regional and international basis".

Citigate Dewe Rogerson is a London-based firm which boasts of providing "seamless communication consultancy across the world’s business centres". It recently advised the British government on PR for the privatisation of Royal Mail

Portland PR Ltd is part of Portland Communications, a British firm founded by Tim Allan, a former adviser to Tony Blair. Portland's website says:

"Our Leadership Team has 40 years experience on Fleet Street and 35 years in Downing Street, as well as experience on The Hill. They know how Government, the media and business influence each other. And they know how successful campaigns work – because they have been there."

Last year Portland was accused of "improving" the Wikipedia entries for a number of its clients. This included deleting a reference to "Wife Beater" – the popular nickname in Britain for
Stella Artois lager.

Finally, there is a bidder listed as "Media Consult". This may not be its full name and its identity at present is unclear.

For more background on western PR firms and Bahrain, here are some previous blog posts:

From Azmi Bishara's Facebook Page

وردتني رسالة في العيد،
 صديقي العزيز،
كل عام وأنتم بخير
أنا بخير، حالي أفضل من الآخرين. سمعت من بعيد أن منزلي قد تهدم. لكننا لم نواجه الجوع، ولم نعش في مخيمات الذل بعد، أبنائي أحياء، وبناتي لم تغتصبن، وهذا أفضل من حال كثيرين. نعيش في هذا المكان وحدنا سوية. وأحيانا نكون سوية وحدنا. ولكي نواصل العيش غالبا ما تزورنا النسبية. لكن حكم العادة لم يزرنا بعد.
أرى الدمار وأسمع الثرثرة. وفي كل مساء أخرج غلى ...
الشرفة فأرى الأفق مخضّبا بالدماء.
قبل يومين حملت الرياح إلينا رعب أطفال أمسكوا عن البكاء من شدة الخوف، وما لبث أن تغلب الخوف على الخوف، وردد الفضاء انفجار البكاء من جديد.
حملت الرياح صدى عواء كائنات نصفها الأسفل آدمي، ونصفها الأعلى ذئبي، تعدو وهي تطلق النار، وتدوس على الضحايا.
وحملت الرياح رمالا، وغبارا، وابتسامات صفراء من أروقة الأمم.
حملت رياح ضحك ضباع تنطق بلغة البشر، وتضحك دون أن تتوقف عن الكلام، ترغي أن القتل افتراء، وانه في أفضل الحالات وجهة نظر، وأن الشاهد هو الضحية، والضحية ماتت. رواية القاتل ورواية القتيل وجهتا نظر. ضباع تستهتر بآلامنا ومآسينا، تزعم أن الاستعباد ليس سببا للثورة، وتعيّر الضحايا بأن الاستعباد على كل حال كان أفضل لهم من الموت؛ وتحمّل المسؤولية لمن أدخل أفكارا مثل الحرية والكرامة في عقول هؤلاء. الحرية مؤامرة، ومقاومة الظلم خيانة.
أنا مثلك وقفت ضد العدوان الأميركي على العراق، وضد العدوان الإسرائيلي على لبنان وغزة، ووقفت مع المقاومة بالفعل والقول. ومثلك لم اتفق مع جزء من المعارضة في بلادي حين راهن على التدخل الأميركي في العراق. ولكني حين وقفت مع جيل أبنائنا المنتصب القامة في وجه الاستبداد والإذلال،فلنقاوم الظلم في بلادنا، اتهمنا بأننا ضد المقاومة. المقاومة الوحيدة في نظر النظام وحلفائه هي المقاومة هكذا وحدها بدون مضاف إليه، أو مفعولا به. لقد أصبحت المقاومة لقبا. واللقب في بلادنا قد لا يمت بصلة لصاحبه. وقد يمنح لقاتل أو مغتصب، وحتى لمن وقف مع إسرائيل، طالما يقف الآن معنا. أما مقاومة أي شيء مثل مقاومة الظلم، مقاومة الفساد، مقاومة الذل، وحتى مقاومة الاحتلال، فكلها أنواع من الخيانة إذا أضرت بنظام الاستعباد والجريمة.
لم تتدخل أميركا وعقدت مع النظام صفقات، ولكم يتدخل ما يسمى "المجتمع الدولي". والتدخل المنظم الوحيد في بلادي هو تدخل حلفاء النظام. والتدخل لصالح الثورة "فزعات" لا نعرف لها أول من آخر، أفراد متعددو الدوافع، لا نعرف عن دوافعهم الكثير، ولا يعرفون عنا الكثير، يحاربون أعداءنا ويحاربونا في الوقت ذاته. أعرف أنهم لم يأتوا من أجلنا. وأنا مثلك أجد نفسي مع أطراف عربية، كانت وما زالت خصوما، لم افكر يوما أني سوف أكون معها على الجانب نفسه من المتراس، أطراف لم تربح في حياتها معركة واحدة.
ضباع كلامية ضاحكة تتابع بحماس مشاهد القصف والقتل، تدير ظهرها إلى الكامير وتحيي القتلة وتوصيهم "لا تترددوا في فعل شيء! ففي الحرب كما في الحرب"، ثم توجه كلامها إلى الكامير وتنكر القتل وتتهم الضحايا بأنهم قتلوا أطفالهم وانتحروا. وضباع كلامية أخرى تزني بأقلام مسروقة.
وألمس يا صديقي الطغيان في نفوس الضحايا. انتصرنا على النظام القائم فتحول إلى إمارة حرب، وأنتصر هو علينا فصرنا أمراء حرب. أمراء حرب بيننا يرددون صدى أمير الحرب القاتل القابع في العاصمة. كان في حلمنا حقدٌ مشروعٌ على الظلم ، أتوا بكوابيسهم على الحلم، وأبقوا من الحلم الحقدَ. هل فقدنا الأفق، هل أضعنا المدى؟
النظام يقصف مدننا وقرنا بشكل منهجي، بكل ترسانة الأسلحة التي يمكن تخيلها. ومعنا ترسانة من فوضى الشجاعة والجرأة والإقدام والحقد والكره والجبن والانتهازية والنرجسية والتفاني، والفوضى مرة أخرى... ومعنا أهلنا.
هل قدم شعب هذا الكم والكيف من التضحيات من أجل حريته. هل قرأت عن شجاعة مثل شجاعة شعبي، هل سمعت بمثلها؟ إذا كان شعبي لا يستحق الحرية والكرامة فما من شعب يستحقها. فهل سوف يودي أسوأ من فينا وما فينا بكل الشهامة والبطولات، هل سوف تذهب سدى؟ لست أبحث عن جواب، ففي المرة الأخيرة أجبتني أنك قلت ما عندك. ولكني أخاطب نفسي.
اشتاق لبلدي الذي تغير وأخشى أن لا يعرفني، ولكن هل سوف أرى البلد؟
ومرة أخرى كل عام وأنت بخير


Egypt: End of Hope

Battleground Cairo



"Instead of passion and hope, all there is left on the streets of Cairo is depressing defeatism, frustration and hate.
Once there were heads and hands raised high, and the Egyptian flags flew proudly in the wind; there were fiery speeches, dreams of social justice, of a brand new country with an enormous heart and a distinct place for every citizen. Once it all was not unlike what has been taking place all over Latin America for more than a decade.9780745333878

But it now appears to be over, burned down and in ruins. These days it is hate that has replaced hope, and there is so much of it, so much hate, all over the capital and all over the country!
And it is not a healthy, constructive hate pointed at savage capitalism or imperialism. It is a depressing hate, a defeatist hate; a hate that Egyptians are now showing towards each other. There is hardly any ideology left, except in the ranks of the Socialist Revolutionary Organization, and very few other groups and movements that are still fighting for the essential values of the 2011 Arab Spring.
There is still a core, a skeleton of the “Movement of the 6th Of April” – the organization that stood at the vanguard of the Revolution. But even that suddenly appears to be too weak – not strong enough to halt this depressing reverse trend.
As I look down from the bridge at Bulak neighborhood, the citizens are engaged at finder-pointing and loud shouting. Men and women are insulting each other, and soon there are skirmishes and fistfights. This is some sort of local-level settling of scores between the supporters of The Muslim Brotherhood and the followers of the military – that very same military which overthrew the moderate but inept Islamic government in July 2013.
Soon I am spotted and several fists are raised towards me, fingers pointed. One minute later, stones are flying my way.
“Get into the car!” My Egyptian friend shouts at me. “Get inside! If even one person attacks you, the crowd will get here in no time and they will take you apart… They will kill you.”
“But why?” I wonder naively.
“These days they don’t need any reason”, he explains. “They hate foreigners. They hate each other. Don’t you see what is happening in my country?”

I see. And what I observe, I don’t like at all. The hope is over. What is left is a terrible hangover and a bad, dark mood.
But many rich urban dwellers are trying to convince each other that things will get better soon. The upper and upper-middle classes are openly supporting the military, not unlike in Chile, after the 9-11-1973 military coup’ d’état in which the pro-Western faction of the army led by General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the progressive government of Salvador Allende......."

Monday, October 14, 2013

استقبال العيد تحت الحصار


رأي القدس

"انشغلت الفضائيات العربية ووكالات الانباء الاجنبية يوم امس ببث صور واشرطة عن استعدادات المسلمين للاحتفال اليوم بعيد الاضحى المبارك، من خلال شراء الاضاحي والحلويات والملابس الجديدة. وغابت عن هذا المشهد صور بثها ناشطون فلسطينيون للاجئين الفلسطينيين، وهم يعتصمون في مخيم اليرموك، ويرفعون يافطات تطالب بادخال الخبز وحليب الاطفال والادوية.
يعاني مخيم اليرموك من الحصار المحكم الذي يفرضه النظام السوري منذ عدة شهور، وقد بدأ الحصار منذ 26 كانون الاول (ديسمبر) 2012، بعد استهداف المخيم بغارات جوية، واشتد الحصار خلال الشهور الثلاثة الاخيرة، ما ادى لنفاد معظم المواد التموينية والادوية والوقود، وتقول مجموعة العمل من اجل فلسطينيي
سورية، ان المواد الاساسية لاستمرار الحياة البشرية، وخاصة الخبز والدواء وحليب الاطفال لم تعد متوفرة للاجئين بالمخيمات الفلسطينية في سورية، اضافة الى انقطاع خدمات البنى التحتية عنها من ماء وكهرباء واتصالات.
بعد زيارة المبعوث الفلسطيني عباس زكي موفدا من الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس الاسبوع الماضي لدمشق، ولقائه الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد، وتصريحاته بعد الزيارة المتعاطفة مع النظام، كان من المقرر خلال اليومين الماضيين ادخال قافلة مساعدات انسانية الى المخيم، الا ان ذلك لم يتم. وقبل زيارة عباس زكي، كانت منظمة التحرير ارسلت وفدا رباعيا، ضم عضو اللجنة التنفيذية احمد مجدلاني، وزكريا الاغا وبلال قاسم والعميد اسماعيل جبر، حاملا مبادرة لرفع الحصار عن المخيمات ووقف اقحام وزج مخيم اليرموك وسكانه بالصراع العسكري، في سورية والحفاظ على المخيمات بيئة آمنة تحتضن سكانها من فلسطينيين وسوريين، ولم تصل تلك المبادرة الى اي نتيجة.المأساة في مخيم اليرموك وصلت حد الاعلان من خلال منابر المساجد عن تحليل اكل لحم الكلاب والقطط، وهو ما يذكرنا بحصار المخيمات في
لبنان، الذي بدأ في ايار (مايو) 1985 واستمر حتى اواسط عام 1988، حيث عانى السكان نقصا حادا في الاحتياجات بما في ذلك المياه.
مأساة المخيمات الفلسطينية في سورية لا تقف عند مخيم اليرموك، فالايام الماضية شهدت مقتل واصابة العشرات في مخيم درعا جنوب سورية.
ومن بين 510.500 لاجئ فلسطيني في سورية، اضطر 250 الفا الى النزوح من مخيماتهم الى اماكن اخرى في سورية، ونجح عشرات الآلاف بالهجرة من جديد. وفي حين يستطيع السوريون دخول
تركيا بدون تأشيرات ويستطيعون دخول مخيمات اللاجئين السوريين في الاردن، الا ان الفلسطينيين محرومون من ذلك، ومن نجح منهم باللجوء الى لبنان ينضم الى مخيمات مكتظة تعاني اصلا من نقص كبير في البنى التحتية، وادنى المستلزمات الصحية والحياة الكريمة.
بعض اللاجئين الفلسطينيين نجح بالوصول الى
مصر، وبسبب الاوضاع البيروقراطية وعدم وجود وكالة غوث وتشغيل اللاجئين الفلسطينيين (الاونروا) يحاول معظم الفارين الى مصر، البدء برحلة محفوفة بالمخاطر وعبر قوارب الموت الابحار الى اوروبا، وقد غرق الاسبوع الماضي 70 فلسطينيا في مياه المتوسط. ومن ينجح بالوصول لشواطئ اوروبا يبدأ معاناة محاولة الحصول على صفة لاجئ من جديد.
رغم الاسى الذي يثيره وضع المخيمات في سورية، فاننا لا ننسى ان سورية نفسها اصبحت بمثابة مخيمات فلسطينية، فكما عاش السوريون والفلسطينيون معا في مخيم اليرموك وغيره، كذلك يعانون اليوم معا من الحرمان والجوع، فالنظام الذي يرفض ادخال الاغاثة الى ابناء شعبه في مختلف انحاء سورية، ليس غريبا عليه ان يكون سجانا للفلسطينيين، كما سبق ان فعل في لبنان ايضا.

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر.. قانون تنظيم التظاهر يثير جدلا بمصر

Egypt: State-sanctioned pattern of excessive use of force by security forces

"Evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, health officials and wounded protesters suggests security forces used live ammunition to disperse crowds of mostly peaceful demonstrators on 6 October, said Amnesty International.

At least 49 people were killed and hundreds injured in Cairo alone, as security forces used excessive and unwarranted lethal force to disperse pro-Morsi protesters. According to eyewitnesses, in some instances, security forces stood by as men in civilian clothing armed with knives, swords or firearms attacked and clashed with demonstrators.

The Egyptian security forces patently failed to prevent the loss of life. In a number of cases bystanders or non-violent protesters were caught up in the violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  

“Although some pro-Morsi protesters threw rocks, burned tyres and used fireworks or other incendiaries against security forces and local residents, the security forces – once again -resorted to the use of lethal force when it was not strictly necessary. Excessive use of force seems to have become the ‘normal’ modus operandi of Egyptian security forces.”

Under international law and standards, security forces should refrain from the use of firearms unless there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Amnesty International is calling for a full, impartial and independent investigation into the events on 6 October.

No members of the security forces were killed during the violence......"

Edward Snowden Speaks Out Against NSA "Dragnet Mass Surveillance"

Democracy Now!

"For the first time in months, the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has appeared on video speaking in Moscow. He warned about “dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything even when it’s not needed.” Snowden’s remarks were made after four American whistleblowers traveled to Russia to give him the Integrity Award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence...."

The Folly of Empire

By Chris Hedges

"The final days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship’s wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters......

Our collapse will take the whole planet with it.
It is more pleasant, I admit, to stand mesmerized in front of our electronic hallucinations. It is easier to check out intellectually. It is more gratifying to imbibe the hedonism and the sickness of the worship of the self and money. It is more comforting to chatter about celebrity gossip and ignore or dismiss what is reality.

Thomas Mann in “The Magic Mountain” and Joseph Roth in “Hotel Savoy” brilliantly chronicled this peculiar state of mind. In Roth’s hotel the first three floors house in luxury the bloated rich, the amoral politicians, the bankers and the business owners. The upper floors are crammed with people who struggle to pay their bills and who are steadily divested of their possessions until they are destitute and cast out. There is no political ideology among decayed ruling elites, despite choreographed debates and elaborate political theater. It is, as it always is at the end, one vast kleptocracy.

Just before World War II, a friend asked Roth, a Jewish intellectual who had fled Nazi Germany for Paris, “Why are you drinking so much?” Roth answered: “Do you think you are going to escape? You too are going to be wiped out.” "

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة- الانتهاكات الحقوقية بمصر، تداعيات جنيف 2

The Desert of Israeli Democracy

by Max Blumenthal and Tom Engelhardt
October 14, 2013

Only one problem: just about all the "Israeli" news here is focused on its future policy toward Iran, and remarkably little of it on the way Israel continues to eat up Palestinian lands and displace Palestinians on the West Bank and elsewhere, or the way in which Israeli control over so much of the West Bank is stunting the Palestinian economy. Fortunately, Max Blumenthal, who previously slipped inside the Republican Party and produced a bestselling book, has spent four years researching the on-the-ground realities of Israel. Today, he offers us a powerful, if grim, glimpse of just where Israel has been and where it’s heading, the sort of up-close-and-personal reporting you’re not likely to see in the American mainstream media (not, at least, since President Obama tried – and failed – to get the Israelis to stop building new settlements and other housing on Palestinian or contested lands). But think of today’s TomDispatch post as just a snapshot. The full picture can be found in Blumenthal’s new blockbuster of a book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. It’s an odyssey of a trip into a largely unknown Israel and a remarkable, as well as riveting, piece of reportage. ~ Tom

A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare
By Max Blumenthal

From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews "bludgeoned" and "left for dead" by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country’s policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.
Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, "Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China’s Tiananmen Square], when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented."
Now the country’s top official, Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy. While the prime minister ranted against Iran in New York City and in a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to "concentrate" them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu’s planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

Expulsions in the Desert

On September 9th, I visited Umm al-Hiran, a village that the state of Israel plans to wipe off the map. Located in the northern Negev Desert, well behind the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines that are considered the starting point for any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations) and inside the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a U.S.-brokered two-state solution, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are mobilizing to resist their forced removal.
In the living room of a dusty but impeccably tidy cinderblock home on the outskirts of the village, Hajj al-Ahmed, an aging sheikh, described to a group of colleagues from the website Mondoweiss and me the experience of the 80,000 Bedouin living in what are classified as "unrecognized" villages. The products of continuous dispossession, many of these communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.
Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated "illegal" constructions and are routinely marked for demolition. And now, their very presence on their own land has been placed in jeopardy.
Under the Prawer Plan, the people of Umm al-Hiran will be among the 40,000 Bedouins forcibly relocated to American-Indian-reservation-style towns constructed by the Israeli government. As the fastest growing group among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Bedouins have been designated as an existential threat to Israel’s Jewish majority. "It is not in Israel’s interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev," said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and director of the government’s effort to engineer a "Zionist majority" in the southern desert.
According to the website of the Or Movement, a government-linked organization overseeing Jewish settlement in the Negev, residents of the unrecognized villages will be moved to towns constructed "to concentrate the Bedouin population." In turn, small Jews-only communities will be constructed on the remnants of the evicted Bedouin communities. They will be guaranteed handsome benefits from the Israeli government and lavish funding from private pro-Israel donors like the billionaire cosmetics fortune heir Ron Lauder. "The United States had its Manifest Destiny in the West," Lauder has declared. "For Israel, that land is the Negev."
When I met al-Ahmed, he described a group of 150 strangers who had suddenly appeared at the periphery of his village the previous day. From a hilltop, he said, they had surveyed the land and debated which parcels each of them would receive after the Prawer Plan was complete. Al-Ahmed called them "the Jews in the woods."
Several hundred meters east of Umm al-Hiran lies the Yattir Forest, a vast grove in the heart of the desert planted by the para-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1964. The JNF’s director at the time, Yosef Weitz, had headed the governmental Transfer Committee that orchestrated the final stages of Palestinian removal in 1948. For Weitz, planting forests served a dual strategic purpose: those like Yattir near the Green Line were to provide a demographic buffer between Jews and Arabs, while those planted atop destroyed Palestinian villages like Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas would prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. As he wrote in 1949, once Israel’s Jewish majority had been established through mass expulsion, "The abandoned lands will never return to their absentee [Palestinian Arab] owners.”
As darkness came to the desert, I set out with my colleagues into the piney woods of Yattir. In a small car, we wound along its unlit roads until we reached a gate bristling with barbed wire. This was the settlement-style village of Hiran – "the Jews in the woods," as al-Ahmed had put it. We called out into the night until the gate was opened. Then we parked in the middle of a compound of trailer homes. Like a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, the hard-bitten Imperial Russian territory once reserved for Jewish residency, the place exuded a sense of suspicion and siege.
A bearded religious nationalist stepped out of an aluminum-sided synagogue and met us at a group of picnic benches. His name was Af-Shalom and he was in his thirties. He was not, he said, permitted to speak until a representative from the Or Movement arrived. After a few uncomfortable minutes and half a cigarette, however, he began to hold forth. He sent his children, he told us, to school over the Green Line in the settlement of Susiya, just eight minutes away on an Israelis-only access road. He then added that the Bedouins were "illegals" occupying his God-given land and would continue to take it over unless they were forcibly removed. Just as Af-Shalom was hitting his stride, Moshe, a curt Or Movement representative who refused to give his last name, arrived to escort us out without a comment.

"The World’s Biggest Detention Center"

Only a few kilometers from Umm al-Hiran, in the southern Negev Desert and inside the Green Line, the state of Israel has initiated another ambitious project to "concentrate" an unwanted population. It is the Saharonim detention facility, a vast matrix of watchtowers, concrete blast walls, razor wire, and surveillance cameras that now comprise what the British Independent has described as "the world’s biggest detention center."
Originally constructed as a prison for Palestinians during the First Intifada, Saharonim was expanded to hold 8,000 Africans who had fled genocide and persecution. Currently, it is home to at least 1,800 African refugees, including women and children, who live in what the Israeli architectural group Bikrom has called "a huge concentration camp with harsh conditions."
Like the Bedouins of the Negev’s unrecognized villages, the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers who live in Israel have been identified as a demographic threat that must be purged from the body of the Jewish state. In a meeting with his cabinet ministers in May 2012, Netanyahu warned that their numbers could multiply tenfold "and cause the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." It was imperative "to physically remove the infiltrators," the prime minister declared. "We must crack down and mete out tougher punishments."
In short order, the Knesset amended the Infiltration Prevention Act it had passed in 1954 to prevent Palestinian refugees from ever reuniting with the families and property they were forced to leave behind in Israel. Under the new bill, non-Jewish Africans can be arrested and held without trial for as long as three years. (Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated the amendment, but the government has made no moves to enforce the ruling, and may not do so.) The bill earmarked funding for the construction of Saharonim and a massive wall along the Israeli-Egyptian border. Arnon Sofer, a longtime Netanyahu advisor, also urged the construction of "sea walls" to guard against future "climate change refugees."
"We don’t belong to this region," Sofer explained.
In that single sentence, he distilled the logic of Israel’s system of ethnocracy. The maintenance of the Jewish state demands the engineering of a demographic majority of nonindigenous Jews and their dispersal across historic Palestine through methods of colonial settlement. State planners like Sofer refer to the process as "Judaization." Because indigenous Palestinians and foreign migrants are not Jews, the state of Israel has legally defined most of them as "infiltrators," mandating their removal and permanent relocation to various zones of exclusion – from refugee camps across the Arab world to walled-off West Bank Bantustans to the besieged Gaza Strip to state-constructed Bedouin reservations to the desert camp of Saharonim.
As long as the state of Israel holds fast to its demographic imperatives, the non-Jewish outclass must be "concentrated" to make room for exclusively Jewish settlement and economic development. This is not a particularly humane system, to be sure, but it is one that all within the spectrum of Zionist opinion, from the Kahanist right to the J Street left, necessarily support. Indeed, if there is any substantial disagreement between the two seemingly divergent camps, it is over the style of rhetoric they deploy in defense of Israel’s ethnocracy. As the revisionist Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in his famous 1923 "Iron Wall" essay outlining the logic of what would become Israel’s deterrence strategy, "there are no meaningful differences between our ‘militarists’ and our ‘vegetarians.’"
During the Oslo era, the time of hope that prevailed in mid-1990’s Israel, it was the "dovish" Labor Party of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak that began surrounding the Gaza Strip with barricades and electrified fencing while drawing up plans for a wall separating the West Bank from "Israel proper." (That blueprint was implemented under the prime ministership of Ariel Sharon.)
"Us over here, them over there" was the slogan of Barak’s campaign for reelection in 1999, and of the Peace Now camp supporting a two-state solution at the time. Through the fulfillment of the Labor Party’s separationist policies, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have gradually disappeared from Israel’s prosperous coastal center, consolidating cities like Tel Aviv as meccas of European cosmopolitanism – "a villa in the jungle," as Barak said.
With the post-Oslo political transition that shattered Israel’s "peace camp," ascendant right-wing parties set out to finish the job that Labor had started. By 2009, when Israel elected the most hawkish government in its history, the country was still full of "infiltrators," the most visible of whom were those African migrants, deprived of work permits and increasingly forced to sleep in parks in south Tel Aviv. According to a report by the newspaper Haaretz on a brand new Israel Democracy Institute poll on Israeli attitudes, "Arabs no longer top the list of neighbors Israeli Jews would consider undesirable, replaced now by foreign workers. Almost 57% of Jewish respondents said that having foreign workers as neighbors would bother them."
Unrestricted by the center-left’s pretensions to tolerance, rightist members of the government launched a festival of unprecedented racist incitement. Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas Party (replaced after the 2013 election), for example, falsely described African asylum seekers as infected with "a range of diseases" and lamented that they "think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man."
"Until I can deport them," he promised, "I’ll lock them up to make their lives miserable."
At a May 2012 anti-African rally in Tel Aviv, on a stage before more than 1,000 riled up demonstrators, Knesset member and former Israeli army spokesperson Miri Regev proclaimed, "The Sudanese are a cancer in our body!" Incited into a violent frenzy, hundreds of protesters then rampaged through south Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African businesses and attacking any migrant they could find. "The people want the Africans to be burned!" they chanted.
As during other dark moments in history, eliminationist cries booming from an urban mob against a class of outcasts signaled a coming campaign of ethnic purification. And following the night of shattered glass, the cells of Saharonim continued to fill up.

Going South

Just as Western media consumers will find details about the Prawer Plan and the Saharonim camp hard to come by, casual visitors to the Negev Desert will find little evidence of the state’s more disturbing endeavors. Instead, highway signs will direct them to a little museum at Sde Boker, the humble kibbutz that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, called home.
In Ben Gurion’s memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight of the open desert, describing it as a "criminal waste" and "occupied territory." Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers. As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter to his son Amos, "We must expel Arabs and take their places."
Ben Gurion’s house is an austere-looking, single-story structure, sparsely furnished and poorly lit. The separate, spartan bedrooms he and his wife slept in are impeccably preserved, as though they might return home at any time. Nearby is a compact, somewhat shabby museum commemorating his legacy in a series of exhibits that do not appear to have been updated for at least a decade.
The site is a crumbling remnant of a bygone era that the country has left in the dust. The enlightened public of Israel’s coastal center has turned its back on the desert, preferring instead to face toward the urbane capitals of Europe, while the rest of the country draws increasing energy from the religious nationalist fervor emanating from the hilltops of the occupied West Bank. In the Negev, perhaps all that endures of Ben Gurion’s legacy is the continuous expulsion of the Bedouins.
On a gravelly path leading towards his home, a series of plaques highlight tidbits of wisdom from that Israeli founding father. One quote stands out from the others. Engraved on a narrow slab of granite, it reads, "The State of Israel, to exist, must go south.""