Wednesday, December 31, 2014

فصائل فلسطينية تقاطع اجتماع عباس





The scandal of Egyptian military rule

By Rami Khouri
This week, which marks one year of detention in Egyptian jails for three Al-Jazeera television journalists, is an opportunity for Egyptians and all those who love Egypt to reflect on the wider predicaments and distortions from which the country suffers. They augur badly for Egypt and the entire Arab world.
The case of the three journalists – Mohammad Fahmy, Baher Mohammad and Peter Greste – is merely the tip of the iceberg of scandalous misuse of the judiciary and the police. These have become tools by which the executive branch and the armed forces reassert full control of all public power.
Dozens of other Egyptian journalists and an estimated 21,000 Egyptians – according to credible Egyptian human rights organizations – have been detained during the past year of military rule that overthrew the elected president, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammad Morsi, and ushered in the current president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
The charge that these three journalists, or the Al-Jazeera channel itself, could be involved in security threats and assisting the Muslim Brotherhood in a plot to destabilize Egypt are so beyond the realm of the reasonable – and the evidence the Egyptian prosecutors presented in court can only be described as a joke – that the charges against them will likely be dropped soon, their convictions overturned, or retrials ordered which would find them not guilty. Or Sisi could pardon them, since they have been sentenced to 7-10 years in prison.
All these options would be good news for these three men and their families, and perhaps will help free other journalists who are similarly detained on mostly fabricated charges. But if this happens, it should not be seen as reflecting a political governance system able to right its wrongs. Rather, it would mirror exactly the opposite: the sad depravities of a diseased and vicious political power structure that can jail tens of thousands of people and use the judicial and security systems to achieve the administration’s desire to eliminate any opposition and maintain Egypt under the control of the armed forces and their crony capitalist colleagues who have run the country into the ground since 1952.
Releasing the three Al-Jazeera journalists would be a welcome humanitarian gesture. But it would not dent the political power structure that has found that it can perpetuate the armed forces’ 62-year-old rule in Egypt without suffering any serious drops in its international military or financial support from Arab or Western sources.
The real danger for Egypt is that continuing to rely on the military to mismanage the country will only aggravate existing conditions – poverty, social and income disparities, lack of jobs, mass informal employment, corruption – that ultimately led to the uprising and revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in January 2011.
Perpetual military rule, which means forbidding genuine pluralism and accountability, guarantees that the long-term, slow-motion corrosion of the integrity of governance and public authority will become institutionalized. That is the reality even if it remains camouflaged beneath mass public hysteria that dreams of strong leaders who can provide instant national salvation. The Al-Jazeera journalists’ case rightly received massive international attention, but tens of thousands of other examples of misuse of the judiciary, the security agencies and the executive branch occur routinely in all sectors of society, whether in Egypt or most other Arab countries.
This case is the tip of an iceberg of mass misgovernance by military men that ultimately undermines what had once been a leader in terms of Arab public authority and cultural systems. Egyptian governance has become a mere shell of its former self, and little more than a vehicle for the well-being of a small minority of Egyptians. This is taking place while the majority spirals into an unending maelstrom of poverty, marginalization, vulnerability, incompetence and petty daily corruption. Tens of millions of Egyptians are being dehumanized one day, and seek solace in a savior the next.
The corrosion and decay of Egyptian public life offers the frightening specter of this pattern spreading across the Arab world – in those countries that have not plunged into gruesome civil war and dropped out of the business of orderly governance and sovereign statehood. The last four years have clarified that military-run political orders, with their civilian allies who benefit economically from such rule, will fight hard to maintain their autocratic control, at any cost.
In Egypt, the most awful sign of their ability to do such a thing is evident in the case of the jailed journalists. Military-dominated regimes turn once proud and credible judiciaries into cartoon-like international laughing stocks. The regimes’ incompetence and authoritarianism lead to such stressful life conditions for their own citizens that tens of millions of those citizens eventually come around to asking the military to return and fix the mess that it created in the first place.
The journalists must be freed. But so too must Egyptians and Arabs, from the crippling, deadly grip of military rule.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter @RamiKhouri.

The Alice in Wonderland World of the UN Veto

By David Hearst
David Hearst
The New Year will dawn to another U.S. veto at the UN security council -- although, to its credit, not a French one. This ritual has become a fitting symbol of Washington's loosening grip over the Middle East. It reveals power strong enough to interdict, but too weak to build anything durable in its place; a country which spurn the very Arab countries over Israel that are needed for the coalition against the Islamic State; and diplomacy which has made itself irrelevant. This is a spat between allies who believe in a two state solution. Most Palestinians have long since passed that point.
The U.N. motion on Palestinian statehood had been toughened to include East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State, prisoner releases, halting settlements, and setting a 12 month deadline for talks. But it was not tough enough for Hamas, which refused to accept a divided Jerusalem or wording which equivocates on the right of return.
And it was off the scale for the State Department, which persists in peering exclusively through the prism of Israel's "legitimate security needs." This is a moveable feast which now includes the settlements around Jerusalem, a permanent presence on the Jordan Valley, and a rejection of even a token right of return.
This array of irreconcilable positions tells you all you need to know about the Alice in Wonderland world of the two state solution. Like the Cheshire Cat, it disappears on whim, leaving only its smile behind. But there again, can something that does not have a body ever be beheaded? Barack Obama must have read his Lewis Carroll.
If the status quo on the Palestinian conflict is a logjam of spent policies, no-one on the cusp of 2015 should be fool enough to confuse rigidity with stability. The currents flowing underneath are powerful and fast. Leaderless Jerusalem, over which the Palestinian Authority holds no sway, could ignite at any moment. As could the West Bank, over which it nominally does. Witness the voices at the funeral Tuesday of 17-year-old Imam Jamil Dweikat.
The same could be said of the region as a whole. 2014 has already been declared the nadir of the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular revolutionary forces which toppled dictators like ninepins four years ago. If this is what a defeat looks like, where exactly is the victory? Four countries could rightfully be declared failed states -- Iraq, Syria,Yemen and Libya.
Consider for a moment how 2015 must look through the eyes of the assumed victor of this struggle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. What does the new year have in store for him?
In whichever direction the king looks, Saudi Arabia is a frailer state than the one he inherited. To the north the black flags of the Islamic State flutter. To the south, in Yemen, al Qaeda is advancing its claim as the protector of the Sunnis. Iran now boasts, without too much hyperbole, of having four Arab capitals in its pocket.
Neither is the military coalition against the IS in the rudest of health. It took the capture of only one of its pilots for Jordan to waver. Its leaders have come under intense domestic pressure to secure the pilot's release with eight MPs signing a parliamentary request demanding that the government withdraw from the coalition.
Inside the Saudi kingdom, warning lights go off regularly, both within and outside the royal household. The health of his Crown Prince has deteriorated and the succession plagued by the claims of rival camps. Outside, the scenes on Sunday in a village called Awamiyah were alarming enough. 15,000 men women and children took to the streets for the funeral of four killed by the security forces. The Ministry of the Interior said that four "terrorists" were killed in an operation sparked by the gunning down of a policeman. The funeral goers shouted, " Down, down, al-Saud." They were not demanding justice. They were demanding revenge.
Can any state security service tell their king with confidence that these flash points are any less powerful mobilizers of popular wrath than than the self immolation of the street seller in Tunisia, or the arrest of the children who scrawled: "The people want the regime to fall" on a wall in Dara'a? The same forces which unleashed a pan arabic revolt four years ago are present today.
Abdullah's "victory" will have been to bequeath the Arab world with a binary choice between two forms of despotism -- the corruption, cronyism and inequality of absolute monarchy, or the despotism of the Islamic State.
The view from the Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi's office can not look much brighter. We know from recent leaks of telephone conversations what Egypt's all powerful leaders are arguing about: How to disguise the fact that the deposed president Mohamed Morsi was held by the army, not by the ministry of interior; how to sway judges hearing the case of four police offices sentenced to 10 years for "negligence" over the deaths of 37 prisoners in a police van; how to lift the travel ban imposed on the son of the pro Sisi veteran politician and former al-Ahram editor Mohammed Hassanein Haykal.
True, the forces that filled Tahrir Square remain bitterly divided and their division must remain Sisi's strongest source of comfort. If the secular revolutionary groups can not forgive the Brotherhood for abandoning them in the Mohamed Mahmoud street battles in 2011, neither do the Brotherhood find it easy to reach out to those who supported the June 30 ouster of Mohammed Morsi. Not a day passes, when the secular liberals are reminded of their folly in supporting Morsi's violent ouster but in reality both wings of Tahrir Square made astonishing misjudgments about the role of the army and the true nature of Sisi himself.
But neither opposition camp will remain a fixed quantity. Old leaders are being sidelined, as new ones emerge. About 70 percent, according to one informed source, of the Brotherhood's leadership in Egypt has been replaced, and the youth who are taking up these positions are unlikely to be as naive as the previous generation was about what it will take to make the next revolution succeed.
Despite Abdullah's best efforts, millions of Saudis continue to regard democracy as the way out. Even in Egypt, the stock of the Muslim Brotherhood has actually risen, according to successive Zogby polls.
The latest evidence is a poll which found that equal numbers of Egyptians (43% /44%) gave positive and negative answers to the Brotherhood's impact on developments in Egypt. This does not necessarily equate to the Brotherhood's popularity, but it does testify to the level of public unease about where Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is taking the country.
However you look at it, the flame lit four years ago will not be easily or rapidly extinguished. The time span of this revolution may indeed be longer than anyone thought four years ago. But look at other bourgeois revolutions. Within a year, the European worker revolts of 1848 had been crushed by a Bonapartist dictatorship , and the liberals who joined the revolts had been co-opted to reinstall new forms of dictatorship. Just as they have been doing in Egypt.
The ideas themselves of 1848 lived to see another day. The same will happen throughout the Arab world. Unless of course we are to accept democracy as stable form of government for everywhere bar the Arab world. This is what the those who cast their veto in U.N. currently argue. Like the status quo, that too is untenable.
This article was first published on the Huffington Post.

Another year of morbid symptoms in the Middle East

No alternative to slowly disintegrating old order predicted for coming year


The political geography of the “Middle East” as we know it was conceived by Britain and France, exercising the victors’ imperial prerogative at the end of World War I. But the resulting system of nation-states enters 2015 on increasingly shaky foundations.
New sovereignties contemptuous of those national borders are being established by claimants who were either ignored (the Kurds) or hard to imagine (ISIL) when Messrs. Sykes and Picot drew their maps dividing up the territory in 1916. And the extent to which Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya continue to define functioning political units is increasingly in question. The demographic make-up of the states of the Levant has been dramatically altered in the wars that, by the end of 2014, have displaced 13.6 million people from their homes in Iraq and Syria— a “Nakbah” whose impact on the already fragile stability of surrounding countries will be felt more acutely in the coming year.
The region’s most dramatic news story in 2014 was the extraordinary battlefield gains by ISIL — the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — which largely eclipsed Al Qaeda by conquering and holding territory in both Syria and Iraq. While U.S.-led airstrikes (and in some cases, ground offensives involving elements with whom the United States is not exactly allied) have helped contain the group’s advances, even the Obama administration’s own projections suggest we’ll still be discussing ISIL a year from now. Indeed, internal discord over strategy and tactics may be the extremists’ most immediate problem.
President Barack Obama says the U.S. “leads a coalition” that will eventually degrade and destroy the organization, but that terminology doesn’t quite capture the desultory nature of the anti-ISIL effort — by allocation of resources alone, it’s clear that fighting ISIL is not an overwhelming strategic priority for Washington.  And most of its partners prioritize other agendas, often different from those of the U.S. The debacle at Kobane was but one example: Turkey held back on allowing the reinforcement of the town’s Kurdish defenders, who were aligned with a Kurdish faction — the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party — deemed a “terrorist” enemy by Ankara. Turkey was also reluctant to join a U.S. fight against ISIL that included no plan to take down the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
But tackling Assad is not part of the U.S. war plan in Syria, nor does anyone expect the regime to fall any time soon. And in Iraq, fighting ISIL puts the U.S. on the same side as an Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. While the Saudis and Emiratis have joined the fight against ISIL, combating Iranian influence remains a greater strategic priority. And so on, in a coalition somehow less than the sum of its parts.
A decade ago, the U.S. was setting the region’s agenda through the effort to re-engineer its politics through the mass projection of military force that began with the invasion of Iraq. That experiment failed, and today Washington’s importance in shaping the decisions of many longtime U.S. allies has considerably diminished — 2014 served up plenty of reminders that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, for example, no longer follow Washington’s lead and are increasingly willing to pursue their own strategies even when those conflict with U.S. goals.  Expect more of the same in 2015.
The hope for democratic transformation represented by the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings was largely a memory in 2014, amid the civil wars rending Syria and Libya — and the entrenchment in Egypt of a regime even more authoritarian than that of Hosni Mubarak confirms that trend. Tunisia did recently buck the trend by providing an example of a peaceful transfer of power, but even there the political sphere reflects extra-constitutional pressures.
The failure of the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace processsurprised no one. Nor did yet another Israeli pummeling of Gaza in the summer. The lesson of 2014 is that the U.S. is no longer able to credibly claim to be overseeing a process that will result in Israel ending its occupation of territories occupied since 1967. The result will be an amplification in the coming year of the recent trend by European countries to grant symbolic recognition to the principle of Palestinian statehood, and toward steps to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Pressure on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is also likely to grow, as a new generation of Palestinians — who’ve grown up with the PA as enforcers of the status quo — begin to challenge that status quo by confronting Israelis. Israel goes to the polls in the new year, but isexpected to return Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power with an even more hardline mandate.
Bizarre as it may seem, one of the more hopeful signs in a region battered by turbulence over the past year has been the consolidation of a diplomatic trend in U.S.-Iran relations through nuclear negotiations. Domestic repression in Tehran continues unabated, but even the failure to conclude a final nuclear agreement in November did not diminish the significance of the continuation of an interim agreement that has, for the past year, capped Iran’s nuclear work at levels that have reassured its international interlocutors. Regular negotiations between Iranian and U.S. officials for the first time since 1979 have raised hopes of greater regional stability, but hardliners in both Tehran and Washington — as well as Israel and the Saudis — are alarmed by what they see as unacceptable compromises, and will seek to cool the rapprochement in 2015. 
Iran’s calculations may be affected by the other key regional wildcard — the collapse in oil prices — which is now costing the sanctions-strapped Iranian economy as much as $1 billion a month.  But those falling prices could also change a number of other calculations. They reinforce Washington’s diminished strategic interest in the region, as the U.S. is projected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest supplier by 2020. It also diminishes the funds available to gulf oil producers to fund their political allies elsewhere in the turbulent region.
The Middle East of 2014 was beset by the morbid symptoms of the slow disintegration of an old order. Unfortunately, that disintegration shows no signs of being reversed — or replaced — in the coming year.

رأس و سنة ! - الرسام عماد حجاج

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"In effect, the Syrian revolution is a monster"

By Maysaloon

Four years on and the commentary and perceptions surrounding Syria continue to be mired in childish perceptions and hopes. We think, as Syrians living abroad, and supporting the revolution, that we have an historic opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and all that we saw wrong with Syrian societies. Perhaps, but that is unlikely. The Syria that will emerge from this will be deeply conservative, deeply Islamic, and mired in conspiracy theories and ignorance. Any future government will be paranoid, paralysed, or both, owing to the nature of the divisions that we have been subjected to as a country. In fact, the Syrian state as a project is likely to be dead, and herein lies the strength of the Islamic State's vision, if nothing else, because it so far offers the only other terrifying alternative to Assad. This does not mean the Islamic State must not be resisted, simply that it must be understood, because it is tapping into something that is at the core of what makes Syria.

We think if we sing some songs, write some banners, play some games with children, and blog or intellectualise ourselves into a frenzy, that we have played our part in the revolution, but in truth the honeymoon stage of the Syrian revolution ended less than a year after it started. Yes, many activists kept trying to keep the myth of the Syrian revolution's idealistic phase alive, but they paid the price for this naiveté, most often with their lives. Recently a rumour, as yet unconfirmed, spread that a popular figure of the Syrian revolution, Abdel Baset Sarout (a former football player), had joined the ranks of ISIS (either out of desperation or conviction) and the news sent shockwaves through Syrian activists who had held him up as the best of Syria's revolution. It felt like a trust had been betrayed, but this was because we do not know where Sarout comes from. The Syria he lives and breathes in, that he sees, is alien to us, and even after four years we have only seen glimpses of it.

I once blogged that I believed there were two Syria's: one that was relatively modern, secular and aspired to lifestyles like the West; and another that was Eastern, Other, and Islamic. This other half, more than half in fact, is the Syria where people speak Arabic, think Arabic, and where tradition, religion, and tribal links are far more important than wearing jeans and owning an iPhone. We, and I count myself as one of them, pretended that this other Syria wasn't important, or that we ourselves came from it, but we didn't, not by a long shot. We talked about Palestine, anti-imperialism and national sovereignty as if we knew something, as if we ourselves were Syrian, but what we failed to acknowledge is that we were a thin peel, irrelevant, when push came to shove. In hindsight we were almost comical, but we had money and middle to upper class status so we thought we were all there was to the country.

Silly young Syrians, like myself, studying in foreign universities, talked revolution, Fanon and Malcolm X while fetishising the Palestinian struggle for years but we did not create this revolution, expect it, or want it. The people who created it came from the beating heart of Syria - from it's backbone and 'dark' interior. These were the people who were uncorrupted by city life and proximity to the regime, and whose sense of moral outrage was not diluted by comfortable living. They are Syria's greatest strength but also it's weakness, because the revolutions they unleash, when they come, result in a terrible reckoning that will not be recovered from easily. In effect, the Syrian revolution is a monster, or something akin to a force of nature, that was triggered by the corrupt and inept rule of a brutal dictatorship. One could even say that the Assad regime created the Syrian revolution, and it could not have been anything other than what it was - something many of us can have trouble accepting.

The pro-regime Syrians are rightly terrified of what will come, because they understand this dark heart of the country and tried for over forty years to repress it, and whoever runs ISIS recognises it, and they have tapped into it with startling effect. But pro-revolution Syrians mostly do not. Certainly not the generation of Syrians that have lived in the West most of their lives. They are sometimes allowed to help with aid and foreign advocacy because this dark heart of Syria, this "Avicennan"-style essence, without which there would be no Syria, will tolerate them, and needs all the help it can get, but "foreign" Syrians (again for lack of a better word) with their rubber independence day flag bracelets are spectators. We, as "foreign" Syrians, scratch our heads in puzzlement as to why the West is not coming to help our revolution, why they won't listen to us, and I suspect this is mainly because we ourselves do not know our country, though we claim to come from it.

We're also puzzled as to why our fellow Syrians mock our calls for respecting human rights and international law, and this is fundamentally down to our own failure to articulate, without condescension, an authentically Syrian translation of human rights, one that merges seamlessly with the traditions and religions that we instead deride and view as an inconvenience. If we try to know this Syria and step out of our ivory towers, if we get to know its pulse and it's language then, maybe, we will have a chance at building something and helping when the storm blows over. And we can then listen and understand and try to explain to the world what Syrians have been dying to say.

ما وراء الخبر- القدس في مشروع قرار إنهاء الاحتلال




Ali Farzat: شعارات العرب

ما وراء الخبر- مغزى تسريبات العسكريين بمصر

Arab authoritarianism makes a comeback in Tunisia

By: Khalil al-Anani 
Date of publication 29 December, 2014 
Counter-revolutionary forces are rolling back the gains of the Arab Spring.
Beji Caid Essebsi has won the presidential elections in Tunisia to become the second-oldest president in the world. The 88-year-old is topped only by Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, 90, who has been in office for more than thirty years.

Essebsi's victory was not a surprise but a natural result of the revolutionary ebb in the Arab region and the failure of the first wave of the Arab Spring. It is a victory that some consider to be part of the consecutive victories of the counter-revolution, and additional proof that Arab revolutions have failed to achieve any real gains over the past few years.
Authoritarianism has revived and modernised itself, while revolutionary forces have suffered from fragmentation and decline.
Essebsi's victory indicates the ability of Arab authoritarianism to revive itself and modernise its methods, while revolutionary forces suffer from fragmentation and decline. During the first two years of the Arab Spring, Arab autocracies fought the idea of change in an attempt to stop the revolutionary wave from reaching their shores and inspiring their citizens.

Authoritarian resurgence

However, in the past two years - after absorbing the shockwave of the first revolutions - authoritarianism began again to reorganise its ranks, and went on the attack. It charged the batteries of the counter-revolution and re-launched it. It rebuilt internal alliances and revived internal centres of power in addition to co-opting all the groups and movements it could. All of this was done to tarnish the revolution and kill the dream of change in the Arab World.

Arab authoritarianism was also successful in reading local, regional and international change.

Locally, the mood of the Arab street changed quite drastically from support for the revolution and demanding change to a desire to return to the stability of the pre-revolutionary state.

Regionally, authoritarianism fed the ghost of extremism and supported radical trends against revolution and change, which have since become synonymous with chaos and violence. Internationally, it has successfully utilised Western hesitation and employed its cards to deter any sympathy with the Arab Spring.

The victory of Essebsi represents the cohesion of the Arab authoritarian alliance and its rise to power, while the revolutionary axis declines.

It also indicates that hopes of achieving meaningful, peaceful change in the region have dissipated - which could open the door to depressing scenarios of chaos and violence, especially since we are no longer dealing with a traditional form of authoritarianism, but a fundamentalist and vicious authoritarianism that does not agree to negotiate or return to its pre-Arab Spring state.

It is an authoritarianism that has no qualms with obliterating everything connected with change, and repressing every person who dreams of freedom and dignity in our region.
Essebsi's victory reflects the ability of authoritarianism to take advantage of the mistakes of its rivals.

Existential battle
This fundamentalist authoritarianism is engaged in an existential battle with change. This has been apparent from the very beginning of the Arab Spring.

It will not agree to a de-escalation and will not grant political concessions. On the contrary, it will do all it can do to stop change by launching pre-emptive strikes against all who support change.

Essebsi did not win because of Tunisians' hatred for the revolution or because of their belief that this alternative failed to find solutions to the economic, political and social problems of the country, in essence the fruit of the previous authoritarian regime.

It seems Essebsi's victory reflects the ability of fundamentalist authoritarianism to take advantage of the mistakes, divisions and imprudence of its rivals. It proves the battle for change in the Arab World is not an easy one, and cannot be won within a few short years.

Essebsi's victory sends a clear message: what fundamentalist authoritarianism cannot achieve through coups, it can achieve through the ballot box.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

Monday, December 29, 2014

ما وراء الخبر- مغزى تسريبات العسكريين بمصر

في العمق- مآلات التغيير في المنطقة العربية

With Azmi Bishara

Khalil Bendib: The Cradle of Arab Democracy

Palestine UN resolution is an attempt to cheat reality

Palestine UN resolution is an attempt to cheat reality
By: Azmi Bishara 
Date of publication 27 December, 2014
The Palestinian leadership's attempt to bring their cause to the world stage would have proven useful if it was done in a spirit of defiance rather than with the mindset of bilateral negotiations.
The PLO leadership fell into a trap when it tried to replicate the Egyptian approach of achieving a unilateral, negotiations-based peace accord with the Israelis. Unlike the Egyptians, the PLO was never speaking on behalf of a country which was seeking to renegotiate its borders. The PLO, rather, was the political representative of a people and a cause and who it was entitled to represent in negotiations with the oppressor provided that the latter could be made to accept the cause's legitimacy. In the case of the Palestinians, however, their oppressor never did accept that their cause was just, insisting that the Palestinians abandon
    Palestinian negotiators seem to have jumped out of the Israeli frying pan into an American fire.
any commitment to their own cause—even if only rhetorical and theoretical. Of course, with the very legitimacy of the Palestinian cause being called into question, there could be no legitimacy for the armed resistance, either. In return for these concessions, the Palestinians would receive control of authority structures without sovereignty, the primary role of which was to preserve security in the midst of an occupation.

Just as soon as the PLO leadership accepted this path, with the ostensible aim of salvaging what they could of the Palestinian people's demands, the organization was transformed from a movement for national liberation into a political institution that was stripped of sovereignty; it came to hold all of the responsibilities of a state body, but none of its rights. In turn, arbitration over the Palestinian cause came to be based on the balance of power between two parties, and not on the inherent justice of the Palestinians' cause. Given this reality, the Israelis have been able to liberate themselves from the strictures of any agreements, lopsided as they were, and to intensify the construction of settlements in the midst of an occupation.Today, it is negotiations — and not the resistance — that have become futile.

The US-sponsored negotiations have become a farce, typified by a putative inability of Obama's America to achieve anything, and by Kerry's theatrical, duplicitous shuttle visits. We all know that Kerry was put up to these visits by the president, and he is well aware that they are a charade put on to preserve the fiction of a “peace process”. The only hope for the overturning of the balance of powers came from initiatives lying outside of the negotiations framework. These initiatives included the Second Intifada (whence the lack of unanimity amongst the Palestinian leadership allowed Israel and the US to single out Yasser Arafat as a target), armed resistance, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign alongside other promising civil society initiatives that continue to take shape. In response, a number of attempts have been made to create a new reality which supersedes the zero-sum game of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and which re-introduces the Palestinian cause to the international arena.

These attempts to re-introduce the Palestinian cause to the international arena have included half-hearted expressions of unease towards the US-sponsored bi-lateral peace negotiations, which have lasted two decades without bearing fruit. The Palestinians hope that the US can be shamed into making concessions, just like a condemned prisoner might hope to escape the gallows once his horse is allowed to testify. What they fail to see is that the United States has no shame: while Obama and Kerry resent Netanyahu, even despise him, for the way in which he shows up their incapacity and for the Israeli Premier's imperious tone, the Americans continue to demand that the UN resolution be drained of any substance, at the risk of exercising their veto.

The Palestinian leadership's attempt to bring their cause to the world stage would have proven useful if it was done in a spirit of defiance aimed at overturning the status quo, such as what happened during the struggle against Apartheid. Instead, they have remained stuck in the mindset of bi-lateral negotiations, with the difference this time being that their interlocutors are the Americans and not the Israelis. Palestinian negotiators seem to have jumped out of the Israeli frying pan into an American fire. The new negotiations may drive the Palestinian leadership to make concessions on the crucial “final status issues”--such as the status of Palestinian refugees, and of Jerusalem—and which lie at the heart of the Palestinian cause; they would make such concessions not to achieve a just resolution, but merely for the sake of securing an international agreement. Yet everybody knows that no such agreement could ever be implemented in the present regional and global climate. The success of any such negotiations with neither a bridging of the gap between the parties' points of view, nor a change of the balance of powers between them, would result in nothing more than craftily worded statements. There will be no consensus on how to interpret these exercises in semantics, far less on how to implement them. Instead, the Palestinians will be running to stay in place, except this time they would be staying in place after having conceded a number of issues at the heart of their cause, and having foregone a lasting peace.

Re-introducing the Palestinian cause to the world stage would be productive on the proviso that the Palestinian leadership abandoned the negotiations mindset that has consumed it for so long. In other words, the Palestinian leadership must adopt the revolutionary demands of boycotting the occupation and the system of racial segregation in Palestine. In such a way, and armed with a democratic political agenda that is bolstered by the justice of their own cause and the tyranny of occupation, the Palestinian leadership can again lead a liberation movement on the global stage, one which is enriched by multi-faceted paths of resistance to the occupation.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff. 

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the proposed Arab resolution in the Security Council will contribute anything new to the Palestinian cause?

So far, 90% have voted no.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Azmi Bishara on Al-Jazeera on Monday (12/29) at 2:00 PM, GMT

غدا الاثنين 29 ديسمبر\ كانون الأول الساعة العاشرة مساء (التاسعة بتوقيت القدس) عزمي بشارة ضيف برنامج في العمق على قناة الجزيرة في تلخيص تحليلي لأسئلة العام 2014.

Real News Video: US/Saudi Oil Play Is Economic Warfare

Lawrence Wilkerson says the target of low oil prices is Russia and Iran, throwing their economies into turmoil and opening their doors to sovereign raiders 

On political culture and stalled democratisation

The lack of a democratic culture amongst the Arab elites is the single most pressing question within the topic of political culture in the Arab world.

I have never accepted the notion, that “political culture” determines the success or failure of democratic transition. Indeed, I devoted an entire chapter to this question in my 2007 book On the Arab Question, where I argue for the existence of an Arab exceptionalism, not with regards to democratic culture (as is often argued), but rather with respect to how the relationship between state, nation and national identity has developed. The fact that this relationship remains unresolved, in the Arab case, leads to the disintegration of existing nation-state institutions and thus, creates multi-faceted obstacles on the path towards democratic transition. One of the manifestations of is the emphasis on authoritarianism — as opposed to the state — as the guarantor of the integrity of existing political 
    Opposition elites did not become more democratic while they sat in the opposition.
institutions against the challenges presented by sub-national identities.

In a chapter of On the Arab Question dedicated to the subject of political culture, I further argue that any impact that a society’s “political culture” may have on the democratic transition is heightened in the Arab case by the way in which large sections of the Arab publics have joined the political fray, a phenomenon to which the mass media has also contributed. It also demonstrates one of the paradoxes of the democratic transition in the Third World: given that the bulk of the European population was not politically enfranchised during that continent’s democratization, the Arab publics are asked in fact to be more democratic in their culture than the Europeans when their countries were democratizing.

However, even in the Arab region, democratization remains more sensitive to the political culture of the elites than that of the people as a whole. In effect, the lack of a democratic culture amongst the Arab elites is the single most pressing question within the topic of political culture in the Arab world.

The Arab peoples have acted in ways that reflect the extent to which they are invested in the matter of civil rights, notwithstanding certain specific and gleaming caveats around the topic of personal freedoms. Such difficulties, however, were exacerbated by the elites, whose interests and political culture lie at the heart of the formulation of popular discourse, and whose role is vital in deciding whether to guide the people, or frighten them; to persuade the public, or to whip them into a frenzy; whether to inform their opinions, or appeal to their baser instincts.

At the outset, a majority of the Arab public adopted the rhetoric of change against despotism, and for human dignity and social justice. Once they were assured that their votes will mean something and that the results will not be manipulated, they duly went to the ballot boxes in good faith.
It was the elites, however, who did not show tolerance and pluralist political attitudes.

My use of the word elite here does not signify any recognition, prestige or virtue, nor does it necessarily indicate any sophistication. It reflects, rather, the influence and status enjoyed by sections of the military, political, bureaucratic, business and media establishments. Only a minority within these groups accepted the democratic process and its outcomes, or even countenanced the idea of sharing power with a new set of partners different from themselves. They also demonstrated indifference towards violations of human rights and civil liberties in spite of liberal rhetoric against Islamists. 

In fact, for some of the political groups formerly in the opposition, the fear that a new breed of political force would wield influence outweighed other considerations and drove them into alliances with the ancien regime. For another section of the opposition—and specifically, religious political parties—which had never been a part of the economic, bureaucratic, political, military or media elites, the revolutions and the downfall of tyranny presented only a historic opportunity to rule.

This group had long been held out as the only alternative to the previous, tyrannical regimes: crucially, they alone, and not democratic system and governance, were the alternative. They were convinced of the dichotomy put forward by the former regimes: that they are the only alternative to tyranny. They have yet to accept democracy as a system of governance, of values and behaviors. At a time when elements of the previous regime remained in place, the only way religious movements could have gone through a process of democratization and guarantee stability in the turbulent period of transition would have been for them to cooperate with other forces within the opposition, instead of competing against them. In the case of Egypt, they preferred to rule and the so-called democratic elites declined from any cooperation with them in the transitional period.

It was, then, the political, bureaucratic, economic and military elites within the state apparatus, alongside the political and cultural elites within the opposition that aroused an already existing element of conservatism within the popular culture that was so averse to change and afraid of the unknown that it was prepared to submit to tyranny in order to avoid chaos. The media, too, played a facilitating role in this, and usually without any sense of professionalism. 

The travesty here, and the source of my own great dismay, is born of the fact that the opposition elites (nationalists, leftists, Islamists. liberals) did not reform their ideologies and values, they did not become more democratic while they sat in the opposition. Some of these elites would still prefer a military ruler, or perhaps a former Minister of Interior and member of the old guard, even over another candidate drawn from their own ranks. They would prefer a civil war to dialogue, or to a coalition with other forces different to themselves. When opposition elites martialed their supporters against the competitors in other opposition camps, they did nothing to enhance the confidence of the public in them as an alternative, but rather laid the groundwork for an acceptance of a return of the old guard. 

There are wide swathes of the youth movement who have been left disappointed, after having given democracy a chance to change the miserable realities in which they lived. The horrid sense of abandonment which these youth who led the protest movements now feel will go down as the defining characteristic of our present time. Marginalized by the present conflict, which more closely resembles an internecine civil war between undemocratic forces, or conflict of identities of communities (real and imagined), than a revolution, they are acutely aware of their failure to protect the gains of the Arab Spring. Without a doubt, the counter-revolutionary vindictive use of violence will drive some into the arms of terrorist forces who operate outside of the realm of the state.

This current period of counter revolution is bloody, but it will pass. Sooner or later, the time will come when the democratic youth of these days will come to lead. For now, they should prepare themselves and organize by understanding the scale and gravity of the responsibility which has fallen to them.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Great comment by MIDEASTERNIST 
I consistently grapple with writing on Syria because in all honesty, why bother? Everyone’s already come to their own conclusions. Everyone’s found the narratives that are convenient to their constructs. Put simply: everyone thinks they’ve got Syria all figured out. No one bothers listening to the Syrians speak for themselves. Syrian voices are drowned out by the experts, op-ed writers, and the talking heads.
In March it’ll be 4 years. Time has effectively escaped us as we’ve mourned day after day, month after month, year after year for a country destroyed by overlapping wars for power, hegemony, and greed. We’ll continue to mourn, but we’ll also remember. We won’t forget.
We’ll remember the long forgotten chants of the people in all their glory paired with their screams, their agony, and pain. Long forgotten by the world is Syria’s struggle. But we’ll remember and we’ll mourn. We won’t forget.
In the beginning, Syrians marched endlessly. Day in and day out. From the alleyways of Old Homs to the open spaces of Hama and across the Hauran Plains. They came out in small numbers at first. The security forces shot and arrested those early protestors as much as they could and yet thousands upon thousands emerged. Many have forgotten what it looked like, forgotten its chants for freedom, dignity, and unity.
“The Syrian people are…”, was one such chant for unity as outside observers critiqued the nascent opposition for not appealing to minorities, barely hiding their own sectarianism.
Many forget the regime killed thousands before anyone seriously lifted a finger against it. They forget the massive displays of non-violence in Hama, Homs, Damascus, and Aleppo. And others know this full well and choose to ignore facts. Facts are lies from Qatar by way of Israel, anyway.
Syria’s early intifada for freedom was inconvenient for a diverse group. Even Syria’s “friends” were and continue to be inconvenienced by Syria’s struggle. Many of Syria’s Arab “brethren” found freedom in Syria inconvenient as well. Some sent money to lure Syrians away from their original path. While others sent fighters to stand directly in their way as they struggled to resist against an increasingly brutal regime.
Peaceful revolution thwarted. Armed revolution stunted. Lives shattered. Homes lost. Resisting oppression is too controversial, though. Too difficult for even some of the brightest to grasp despite its infinite simplicity.
They’d rather be comfortably and conveniently silent, pretending nothing was happening. Plenty has happened, however. And had they spoken up in the past, Syria would be in a very different place. But, again, too inconvenient. Too inconvenient to stand up for the rights of your fellow human being. Too inconvenient to say enough of the tyranny and systemic murder.
After all, the west is behind the Syrian opposition, they said. America is backing the rebels, they said. What they didn’t realize is that America hurt far more than it ever helped. Syrians abandoned by their neighbors in their time of need resorted to asking imperialist powers for help in their desperation. And for this they were blamed again.
The regime was once again hailed as an “anti-imperialist” hero when it was in fact working with these powers all along. Regime self-preservation is Assad’s number one goal – not resisting against the Zionist usurpation of indigenous, Palestinian land – or even Syrian land, for that matter. But faux anti-imperialism will remain the regime’s bread and butter.
What does matter is this: 4 years later Syrians are no closer to achieving their rights to freedom and dignity. No longer do they have one oppressive force standing in their way – they have several. And the key to ridding Syria of the latter is getting rid of the former.
Through its wanton oppression, the Assad regime gave way to the rise of Jabhat AlNusra, ISIS, and authoritarian Islamist factions. The power vacuum that developed between 2012 and 2013 saw the rise of corrupt factions of the Free Syrian Army – some of which continue to plunder villages across several provinces today. All of this has worked in Assad’s favor, ironically convincing ordinary people that the only “stable” option for Syria is Assad, despite being the main cause behind Syria’s instability.
The Assad regime also introduced an occupation by Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, and even the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to fight alongside the Syrian military, attempting to halt the advance of the opposition which had taken nearly half the country. These interventions have been successful in many areas, but their repercussions are far deeper.
While these interventions were largely politically motivated, they exacerbated already existing sectarian tensions. These tensions went through the proverbial roof as a result and the ranks of the most hardline and sectarian groups began to swell. Sectarian language now resonated with many young men who had formerly held true to the Syrian revolution’s original goals. The groups also saw an uptick in their funding from the Gulf Arab donors – which did wonders as secular and moderate groups struggled to equip fighters with weapons and ammo.
By 2013, the opposition stronghold of Aleppo had also become a center for ISIS activity as they were an ascending force that hadn’t yet showed its true nature despite the suspicions around it. ISIS would constantly harass civil society activists for their work organizing and speaking out against the group, effectively warning ISIS was Assad-reincarnate in rebel-controlled areas. ISIS responded by either running them out of town, arresting them for several days, or disappearing them completely.
One such activist, AbdulWahab AlMulla, was a resident of Saudi Arabia prior to the revolution and originally from Aleppo’s AlBab district. AbdulWahab, who would come to be known as “Abu Staif”, left everything for Aleppo in 2012 after the opposition took half the city in mid-2012. In Aleppo he became part of the armed resistance but realized his calling was in media. After recording several revolutionary songs from Aleppo’s frontlines, alMulla started his own TV program based in rebel-controlled Aleppo which he broadcast on Youtube with the help of fellow activists.
On “3 Star Revolution” AlMulla discussed real issues that affected people in Aleppo and across Syria, infusing his humor and vibrancy into the show. He became well-known throughout Aleppo and eventually outside opposition channels picked up his show, broadcasting daily during Ramadan.
In the last episode AlMulla discussed the difference between a religious-based state and civil state, something Syrians continue to debate and discuss to this day. AlMulla believed in free speech and the right of every Syrian to discuss sensitive issues openly. And for that alMulla was disappeared. The majority consensus says ISIS is behind his kidnapping. No news of Abu Staif since then.
Another symbol of revolution and positive change stolen from Syrians too soon.
What’s left of Syria’s revolution fades with every passing day – along with the international community’s ability to remember and care for Syrians both inside and out.
Syrian resolve and resiliency remains, however. Be certain of this.
And know that if the war ends today or tomorrow or even the day after Syria’s struggle for freedom and dignity will continue.