Saturday, April 5, 2014

Egypt must release three activists jailed under repressive new protest law

It is a depressing sign that in Egypt, where in 2011 mass protests were the driving force for change, prominent activists are now being thrown behind bars merely for taking part in demonstrations.
Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
Egypt must overturn the convictions of three government critics sentenced to three years in jail for taking part in an “unauthorized” protest and immediately and unconditionally release them, Amnesty International said ahead of the prisoners’ appeal verdict.
Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, both activists with the 6 April Youth Movement, and well-known blogger Ahmed Douma are the first Egyptians to be given jail terms for defying the country’s repressive protest law, adopted in November last year.
The appeal court is expected to issue its final verdict on the activists’ three-year sentence on Monday.
“Jailing government critics on trumped-up charges or for breaching the repressive protest law is part of the authorities’ ploy to silence dissenting voices and tighten their grip on the country,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Amnesty International.
“All three activists are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. As such, they must be released immediately and unconditionally.” 
The three activists were convicted of protesting without permission and “attacking” security forces outside Abdeen Misdemeanour Court on 30 November 2013. This is despite the fact that Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Douma were said to be inside the court at the time of the demonstration, while Adel was seen by witnesses trying to calm protestors outside the court.
Under Egypt’s new protest law, approved by interim president Adly Mansour in November 2013, protest organizers must submit their plans to the authorities three days in advance. 
The law also grants the authorities sweeping powers, including the ability to cancel or reroute proposed demonstrations and to disperse unauthorized peaceful protests using unnecessary and excessive force, including firearms.
“It is a depressing sign that in Egypt, where in 2011 mass protests were the driving force for change, prominent activists are now being thrown behind bars merely for taking part in demonstrations,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
The three men said they were beaten by security officials during their appeal hearing last month, with Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma showing marks of beatings on their hands, legs and stomach. Mohamed Adel also told his lawyers he was beaten during his arrest and while being held in an unknown location for at least four days following his arrest. 
“The Egyptian authorities must investigate the beatings alleged to have taken place inside the court and during arrest and detention and bring those responsible to justice,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
The increasing reports of torture and other ill-treatment inside Egyptian police stations and prisons are deeply disturbing.”
Scuffles broke out outside the Abdeen court on 30 November when Ahmed Maher turned himself in to the Public Prosecutor, who had ordered his arrest for participating in an earlier unauthorized protest on 27 November outside the Shura Council, of which he was later cleared.
The security forces guarding the court fired tear gas at a group of Ahmed Maher’s supporters who were staging a protest.
According to eyewitnesses and lawyers, Ahmed Maher – accompanied by Ahmed Douma – was inside the court being questioned at the time of the clashes.
Lawyers also said there is no evidence that Mohamed Adel attacked officials. Videos screened during the trial instead show him helping a police officer who was suffering from the effects of tear gas. 
Another police officer testified during the trial that Mohamed Adel had been trying to calm protesters and did not take part in the violence.
The three activists were convicted in December and sentenced to three years in prison with labour and a fine of LE50,000 (US$7,185). 

البرنامج - موسم 3 - الحلقه 9 كامله

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tutu condemns US efforts to curb free speech on Palestine

By Ali Abunimah
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu (Joshua Wanyama/Flickr)
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, a legendary figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, issued this statement on 2 April 2014 condemning escalating legislative efforts in the United States to curb freedom of speech and ostracize those who support justice in Palestine.
Statement by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on US Efforts to Curb Freedom of Speech
I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international nonviolent movement that seeks to force the Israeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.
I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli occupation.
The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.
I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.
Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Egypt: Failure to Meet US Aid Conditions

No Progress on Democratic Transition, Basic Freedoms

Human Rights Watch

The question is no longer whether Egypt is on the road to democratic transition, but how much of its brute repression the US will paper over. An accurate appraisal of Egypt’s record since the military-backed overthrow of President Morsy would conclude that, far from developing basic freedoms, the Egyptian authorities are doing the opposite.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director
(New York)– The US should acknowledge in its certification review for resuming certain military aid that Egypt has made no progress on developing basic freedoms or on its democratic transition, Human Rights Watch said in a letter it delivered on March 31, 2014, to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Since assuming power on July 3, 2013, Egypt’s military-backed government has killed well over 1,000 protesters and locked up more than 16,000 people, many solely on the basis of their peaceful exercise of rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The mass death sentenceshanded down by an Egyptian court to 529 alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood on March 24, in a trial lacking even basic elements of due process, is but one example of an escalating climate of extreme political repression.

The question is no longer whether Egypt is on the road to democratic transition, but how much of its brute repression the US will paper over,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “An accurate appraisal of Egypt’s record since the military-backed overthrow of President Morsy would conclude that, far from developing basic freedoms, the Egyptian authorities are doing the opposite.”

Under its Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Secretary Kerry must certify that Egypt is “taking steps to support a democratic transition… and for the development of… basic freedoms including civil society and the media” before the release of certain assistance to Egypt. At a congressional hearing in March, Secretary Kerry expressed hope to make “the appropriate decision” on restarting aid in the “coming days.”

Human Rights Watch detailed the widespread deterioration in freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, in addition to the campaign against Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The military-backed government has broadened its net to include secular activists, dissident academics, and members of the media. The government has not provided any meaningful accountability for the killings of protesters or the excessive use of force by security forces.

Secretary Kerry should consider specific steps that Egypt should take to demonstrate meaningful effort to develop basic freedoms, Human Rights Watch said. That includes releasing political dissidents, amending the restrictive public assembly law it passed in November 2013, and initiating criminal investigations into the unlawful use of lethal force and abuse of detainees by security officials.

“Minor gestures, such as releasing a few high-profile detainees, that don’t address the overwhelming reality of political repression in Egypt would only be cosmetic,” Whitson said. “Any certification that Egypt is on the road to democratic transition will ring hollow while thousands of opposition activists remain locked up and the pervasive culture of impunity for serious abuses persists.”

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة.. دعم مبارك للسيسي وقانون مكافحة "الإرهاب"

Palestinians must abandon the 'peace process'

Palestinians should not accept the current peace deal proposed by the US.

West Bank settlements are to expand with 2,553 new units, writes Karmi [EPA]
No term in the Israeli-Palestinians political lexicon has been so abused or so denuded of meaning as the "peace process". It was set up after the Oslo Accords in 1993, to settle the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians by peaceful negotiations, but has led nowhere.
Yet it is still ongoing, its latest manifestation launched in August 2013, when US Secretary of State John Kerry put forward an ambitious plan to resolve all the major issues that have bedevilled the conflict within the space of nine months. The result he envisaged was a "final-status agreement" over borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, which when resolved, would supposedly end the conflict for good.
Now close to the deadline proposed by Kerry, it is clear that no settlement is in the offing. Desperate to salvage the process, Kerry has come up with the idea of a "Framework Agreement" that sets out basic principles for the two sides to negotiate on in future. This, he hopes, will keep the "peace process" going for longer.
Thwarting peace
Yet Israel's policy has been the exact opposite. In December 2013, Israeli ministers voted eight to threeto annex the Jordan valley, and from the start of this year, West Bank settlements were set to be expanded by 2,553 new housing unitslaw preventing the Israeli prime minister from discussing the status of Jerusalem or the refugee issue at the peace talks without prior majority approval from the Israeli parliament, was proposed in January.
Head to Head - Have Palestinian leaders failed their people?
The Israeli prime minister subsequently assured his Likud party ministers and other Israeli political figures that he would reject any mention of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in the Framework Agreement. Israel has also reiterated its refusal to permit any return of the Palestinians refugees within its borders, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been pushing for a transfer of Arabs living in the Triangle area of the Galilee to Palestinian Authority rule. To all these conditions has been added the requirement to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
In an attempt to deter the US secretary of state further, senior Israeli officials have been accusing him of being ananti-Semite. The final straw came last week when Israel refused to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, the last of a total of 104 long time prisoners whose release was agreed on as a condition for the Palestinians' participation in the revived peace negotiations, last summer. Fearing that they would now pull out as a result of this Israeli breach of its commitments, the US has been making frantic efforts to prevent such an outcome, proposing an extension of the talks beyond the April 29 deadline. Israel has responded by offering to release the prisoners but only if the Palestinians agree to the talks' extension.
Simple facts
These absurd political manoeuvrings only serve to obscure the fundamental reality. In trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry's task is impossible to realise. This is not, as is often misleadingly asserted, because the issues are complex or because "painful compromises" are needed from both sides. The issues, in fact, are so embarrassingly simple it is an insult to the intelligence to have to set them down.
In plain English, one side has stolen land and resources belonging to the other and refuses to give them up. The thief is supported by powerful external agencies, while the losing side has no equivalent support. In this situation, it would be normal to call on an independent force or arbiter to compel the thief to return the stolen goods, and "compromise" would not be applicable.
But in the peace process as configured by those on the side of the thief, there is no independent agency, only an "arbiter" whose starting point is one of total commitment to the thief's welfare. How then, to solve the conflict that has arisen because of the robbery, but without penalising the robber or forcing him to return the booty? That, in essence, is where the problem lies for Kerry and his predecessors.
The "peace process" has all along been predicated on these lines, that Israel's welfare is paramount. What this has meant in practise is that pressure can only be applied to the Palestinians, and the ineffectual Arab states. Since Israel long ago won the battle to keep 80 percent of Palestine, the area behind the 1967 border and referred to as "Israel proper", it is the 20 percent that remains which Israel is fighting to keep.
Kerry's negotiations are concerned with how to divide that 20 percent in Israel's favour while giving the Palestinians something too. Since whatever he proposes requires Israel's agreement, the only room for manoeuvring he has, is to minimise the offer to the Palestinians even further to ensure Israel's acquiescence. On the other hand, if the offer is too inadequate, the Palestinians will not accept it. This dilemma has forced Kerry to draw up an interim agreement and to propose a time extension for further negotiations.  
Dividing up the 20 percent
His Framework Agreement has not been published yet, as all peace talks have been conducted in total secrecy, but from various leaks and reports it would seem that it deals with all the major questions. Israel would retain its major West Bank settlements, annexing up to 10 percent of the land.
Al-Nakba - Episode 1
The Palestinians would receive 5.5 percent of as yet unspecified Israeli land in return. Israel would have to give up the Jordan Valley, to be subsequently policed by either NATO or combined Jordanian-US troops, or some combination of troops from friendly Muslim states, with Israeli oversight of the Jordan border and the right of veto over entrants. Gaza would be connected to the West Bank by bridges or tunnels. Israel would evacuate its forces from the new demilitarised Palestinian state over a period of five years, and NATO could take their place.
The Palestinian capital would be outside Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, in the villages adjoining East Jerusalem like al-Ram, Abu Dis, or al-Aizariyya, and a multi-national committee would be in charge of the holy places in the old city. The right of refugee return would be dealt with through an international compensation fund for refugees and offers of immigration to Australia, with a token number of returnees to Israel. If all that is agreed, it would constitute the end of the conflict. Kerry is reported to be pressing both sides hard to accept these ideas, many of which have been aired before and already largely accepted by the Palestinian leadership. It is Israel that is likely not to agree, and herein lies Kerry's problem.
Intimidation and redemption
Kerry's plan contains many of the features of previous peace proposals. None of them answers to international law, Palestinian rights or elemental justice. As a Haaretz article candidly put it on January 6, to succeed, Kerry's plan demands no less than a total and abject Palestinian surrender to Israeli and US diktat. And for that reason, it should be rejected outright without extensions or delays. The Palestinians should immediately join all the UN bodies open to "Palestine" as a non-member state and especially the International Criminal Court where they must initiate proceedings against Israel's breaches of international law. They must call for an international conference to discuss a settlement of the conflict and the resolution of all their fundamental rights.
That none of this has happened so far is testament to the intimidation practised by Israel and its allies on the Palestinian leadership. They have been persuaded that pragmatism and real politik is the best option. Israel is too powerful to fight and so they should settle for what is possible. This pernicious idea has been the guiding principle of the Palestinian negotiators, with the inevitable consequence that they have been forced to concede more of their rights with each round of talks.
To this sorry state of affairs has now been added an explicit US threat, that if the Palestinians reject the Kerry peace plan, they will face a political and economic blockade. All US and European aid will stop and they will be isolated. No Arab state has so far stepped in to make up for these threatened Palestinian losses, and most are, anyway, involved with conflicts inside their own borders.
At this moment in history the world appears weary of the Palestine problem and wants to see it end. But it is imperative that the Palestinians do not respond to this situation by selling their case cheap. It is true they are weak, but they have one strength: to say "No". No peace plan can go ahead without their assent, and Kerry and his proposals will come to nothing if they refuse them. They have alternatives and it would be irresponsible not to use them. Applying to accede to 15 multilateral treaties and conventions as the Palestinian president has just done on behalf of "Palestine" is a good start, but it is not enough. The Palestinian leadership, for too long timid and self-serving, finally has a chance to redeem itself.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Games the Stooge Abbas Plays: Palestinian U.N. moves designed to avoid U.S. retaliation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Palestinian leadership in the West Bank City of Ramallah April 1, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Palestinian leadership in the West Bank City of Ramallah April 1, 2014.


(Reuters) - When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed onto 15 international conventions on Tuesday, he shocked the U.S. sponsors of troubled Middle East peace talks. But the move was carefully limited to avoid American retaliation.
Abbas's action may have been designed more as a symbolic act of defiance to shore up his tenuous standing among Palestinians frustrated at the diplomatic impasse with Israel over their goal of statehood than a knife in the heart of peacemaking.
As a non-member state in the United Nations, Palestinians can join 63 international agencies and accords. However, by only signing conventions dealing with social and human rights instead of seeking full membership in U.N. bodies, the Palestinians' foreign minister said they would not provoke U.S. sanctions.
"Frankly speaking, I don't expect any consequences coming from the U.S. Congress regarding this step at all," Riad al-Malki told reporters on Wednesday.
"We did not talk about us becoming members of the U.N. specialized agencies in order for the Congress to activate their decision. We are talking about and we are still talking about letters of submission to protocols and conventions, and that's it."
Peace negotiations are near collapse amid mutual accusations of bad faith. In the latest such episode, Abbas inked the 15 conventions in search of more leverage against Israel after it refused to free a batch of Palestinian prisoners under terms of a previous agreement. Israel, in turn, said it would not release those detainees without a Palestinian commitment to continue negotiations beyond an initial end-of-April deadline.
U.S. officials criticized what they called "unhelpful, unilateral actions" by both sides.
Abbas's limited self-rule administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is dependent on U.S. support. Around $500 million in annual aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority helps keep its bloated public sector and security forces afloat.
But Congress has repeatedly docked payments as punishment for Palestinian political decisions it disagrees with, including an earlier bid for statehood recognition. A 1990 law also bars U.S. funding to U.N. bodies which recognize a Palestinian state.
The law put the United States in the awkward position of losing its right to vote in the cultural and educational body UNESCO last year after Palestinians acceded to it in 2011.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pleaded with a congressional foreign affairs committee last month to reassess its U.N. divestment policies - a sign of how badly his State Department wishes to avoid diplomatic damage arising from Palestinian moves.
"On the next issue of the U.N. waiver, please, I've got to tell you, this is a very one-sided event against us...whether or not the United States loses its vote and gets punished for (Abbas) going (to U.N. agencies) is irrelevant to him. He'll go, because it's a tool for him to be able to do things he hopes that, you know, make life miserable for Israel," Kerry said.
"They'll go again if they think it's in their best interests. And who will pay the price? The United States of America. We won't be able to vote."
Palestinians seek an independent state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - lands captured by Israel in a 1967 war. While all parties say negotiations are the best path to peace, Palestinians say they may eventually resort to international bodies to force the militarily vastly more powerful Israel to make concessions for peace.
The U.N. General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member state in 2012, entitling them to join the accords which Abbas signed up on Tuesday, including conventions against discrimination against women and for the rights of disabled people as well as the Geneva Conventions.
They burden the Palestinians with few binding commitments on their government, which has been accused of corruption and abuses of detainees and journalists.
Nor do they court retaliation by immediately empowering them to lodge legal complaints against Israel or rattle U.S. foreign policy, a senior U.N. official told Reuters.
"The nuclear option for Abbas would be to go for the International Criminal Court and International Atomic Energy Agency. Those are the ones that matter," the official said.
"(The latest signing is) actually quite a clever move. Abbas is saying that the Palestinians want to be part of the global community and improve its state building mechanisms by signing up to a load of well-meaning conventions. He can turn around and say, 'Why should Israel feel threatened by us signing a convention protecting women's rights?'"
Peace moves by Abbas, a veteran negotiator who has chosen diplomacy over the violent militancy espoused by his predecessors and Palestinian rivals such as the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, have not been welcomed by his countrymen.
Campaigns for recognition at the United Nations, while mostly symbolic, have been praised by many Palestinians.
The 78-year old president - who saw his term expire over five years ago but remains in office because of a stalemate with Hamas over conditions for the next elections - may have been keen to shore up his appeal after Israel over the weekend failed to free a fourth and final group of over two dozen Palestinian prisoners as part of a pledge to restart peace talks last year.
"That's when he reached his endpoint and said, 'I've got to do another measure that's going to improve my popularity,' and going to the U.N. has so far been successful in terms of boosting his popularity," said Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to Palestinian peace negotiators.

"But as a measure, it's a weak one. He didn't go all the way to hold Israel accountable and he didn't abandon negotiations."

Kerry’s Looming Deadline and the Peace Process Industry


By Ramzy Baroud

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: CNN)As the US-imposed April 29 deadline for a ‘framework’ agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority looms, time is also running out for the American administration itself. The Obama administration must now conjure up an escape route to avoid a political crisis if the talks are to fail, as they surely will.
Chances are the Americans knew well that peace under the current circumstances is simply not attainable. The Israeli government’s coalition is so adamantly anti-Arab, anti-peace and anti any kind of agreement that would fall short from endorsing the Israeli apartheid-like occupation, predicated on colonial expansion, annexations of borders, land confiscation, control of holy places and much more. Ideally for Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies in the right, far-right and ultranationalists, Palestinians would need to be crammed in disjointed communities, separated from each other by walls, Jewish settlements, Jewish-only bypass roads, checkpoints, security fences, and a large concentration of Israeli military presence including permanent Israeli control of the Jordan Valley. In fact, while politicians tirelessly speak of peace, the above is the exact ‘vision’ that the Israelis had in mind almost immediately following the 1967 war - the final conquest of all of historic Palestine and occupation of Arab lands.
Palestinians are currently paying the price of earlier Israeli visions, where Vladimir Jabotinsky's ‘Iron Wall’ of 1923 was coupled with the Allon plan, named after Yigal Allon, a former general and minister in the Israeli government, who took on the task of drawing an Israeli design for the newly conquered Palestinian territories in 67. Not only would it not make any sense for a Zionist leader like Netanyahu - backed by one of the most rightwing governments in Israeli history - to bargain with Palestinians on what he considers to be Eretz Yisrael - the Whole Land of Israel -he has shown no desire, not even the most miniscule, to reach an agreement that would provide Palestinians with any of their rightful demands, true sovereignty notwithstanding.
It is implausible that the Americans were unaware of Israel’s lack of interest in the whole undertaking. For one, Israeli extremists like Naftali Bennett – Israel’s minister of economy and the head of the rightwing political party the Jewish Home – are constantly reminding the US through unconstrained insults that Israel is simply not interested in peacemaking efforts. The Americans persist, however, for reasons that are hardly related to peace or justice.
Previous administrations suffered unmitigated failures in the past as they invested time, effort, resources, and reputation, even to a greater extent than to Obama’s, in order to broker an agreement. There are the familiar explanations of why they failed, including the objection to any US pressure on Israel by the pro-Israel Zionist lobby in Washington, which remains very strong despite setbacks. The lobby maintains a stronghold on the US Congress in all matters related to Israel and Israeli interests anywhere.
Preparing for the foreseeable failure, US Secretary of State John Kerry remained secretive about his plans, leaving analysts in suspense over what is being discussed between Mahmoud Abbas’s negotiators and the Israeli government. From the very start, Kerry downgraded expectations. But the secrecy didn’t last for long. According to Palestinian sources cited in al-Quds newspaper, the most widely read Palestinian daily, PA president Abbas had pulled out of a meeting with Kerry in Paris late February because Kerry’s proposal didn’t meet the minimum of Palestinian expectations.
According to the report, it turned out that Kerry’s ambitious peace agenda was no more than a rehash of everything that Israel tried to impose by force or diplomacy, and Palestinians had consistently rejected: reducing the Palestinian aspiration of a Jerusalem capital into a tiny East Jerusalem neighborhood (Beit Hanina), and allowing Israel to keep 10 large settlement blocks built illegally on Palestinian land, aside from a land swap meant to accommodate Israel’s security needs. Moreover, the Jordan Valley would not be part of any future Palestinian state, nor would international forces be allowed there either. In other words, Israel would maintain the occupation under any other name, except that the PA would be allowed a level of autonomy over Palestinian population centers. It is hard to understand how Kerry’s proposal is any different from the current reality on the ground.
Most commentary dealing with the latest US push for a negotiated agreement would go as far back as Bush’s Roadmap of 2002, the Arab peace initiative earlier the same year, or even the Oslo accords of 1993. What is often ignored is the fact that the ‘peace process’ is a political invention by a hardliner, US politician Henry Kissinger, who served as a National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State in the Nixon Administration. The idea was to co-opt the Arabs following the Israeli military victory of 1967, the sudden expansion of Israel’s borders into various Arab borders, with full US support and reinforcement. It was Kissinger himself who lobbied for massive US arms to Israel that changed the course of the 1973 war, and he was the man who worked to secure Israeli gains through diplomacy.
While many are quick to conclude that the ‘peace process’ has been a historical failure, the bleak estimation discounts that the intent behind the ‘peace process’ was never to secure a lasting peace, but Israeli military gains. In that sense, it has been a splendid success. Over the years, however, the ‘peace process’ became an American investment in the Middle East, a status quo in itself, and a reason for political relevance. During the administration of both Bushes, father and son, the ‘peace process’ went hand in hand with the Iraq war. The Madrid Peace Talks in 1991 were initiated following the US-led war in Kuwait and Iraq, and was meant to balance out the extreme militancy that had gripped and destabilized the region. George W. Bush’s Roadmap fell between the war on Afghanistan and months before the war on Iraq. Bush was heavily criticized for being a ‘war president’ and for having no peace vision. The Roadmap, which was drafted with the help of pro-Israel neoconservative elements in his administration, in consultation with the lobby and heavy amendments by the Israeli government, was W Bush’s ‘peace’ overture. Naturally, the Roadmap failed, but until this day, Bush’s insincere drive for peace had helped maintain the peace process charade for a few more years, until Bill Clinton arrived to the scene, and kick started the make-believe process once more.
In the last four decades, the ‘peace process’ became an American diplomatic staple in the region. It is an investment that goes hand in hand with their support of Israel and interest in energy supplies. It is an end in itself, and is infused regularly for reasons other than genuine peace.
Now that Kerry’s deadline of a ‘framework agreement’ is quickly approaching, all parties must be preparing for all possibilities. Ultimately, the Americans are keen on maintaining the peace process charade; the Palestinian Authority is desperate to survive; and Israel needs to expand settlements unhindered by a Palestinian uprising or unnecessary international attention. But will they succeed?

Real News Video: Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster

Madawi Al-Rasheed: Saudi Arabia helped create a network of terrorism to achieve political aims, and while it does come back to bite them at times, they promote a similar ideology and continue to these alliances


More at The Real News

مبارك: السيسي هو الأصلح لقيادة مصر حاليا

مبارك عبر عن تخوفه من مشروع قناة السويس وقال إنه حذر من مستقبل الإخوان (الأوروبية)
قال الرئيس المصري المخلوع حسني مبارك إن عبد الفتاح السيسي المرشح الرئاسي ووزير الدفاع السابق هو الأصلح لقيادة مصر حاليا، وانتقد المرشح الآخر حمدين صباحي، ودعا المصريين للعمل وعدم الاكتفاء بالمساعدات التي تقدمها الدول الخليجية.
وأشاد مبارك -في تسجيل صوتي بثته صحيفة المصري اليوم على شبكة الإنترنت لحوار أجرته معه وطرحت عليه أسئلة عن الوضع الراهن في مصر- بوزير الدفاع المستقيل ومرشح الرئاسة عبد الفتاح السيسي.
وفي إجابة عن سؤال طرحه محاوره بشأن اختيار السيسي في الانتخابات الرئاسية القادمة، قال مبارك إنه "لا يوجد غيره".
وانتقد الرئيس المخلوع المرشح الرئاسي حمدين صباحي، قائلا "لا فائدة ترجى منه"، وأكد أنه
لا يصلح لأن يكون رئيسا لمصر، واعتبر أنه لا يمثل الرئيس الراحل جمال عبد الناصر الذي يحاول التشبه به.

وبخصوص جماعة الإخوان المسلمين، أوضح مبارك أنه لا يزال حذرا بخصوص مستقبلها. وردا على ما قال محاوره إن توكيلات تم جمعها لترشيحه مع نجله جمال للانتخابات الرئاسية القادمة، أكد مبارك أنه تعب من السلطة، وقال إنه عمل للبلاد أكثر من ستين سنة، منها ثلاثون سنة في المجال الحربي.

واتهم الرئيس المصري المخلوع الولايات المتحدة بالضغط على مصر لإشراك الإخوان في الحكومة مقابل منحها طائرات عسكرية.

وأكد مبارك أنه غير مقتنع بمشروع قناة السويس الذي تسعى السلطات لتنفيذه، وعبر عن مخاوفه من أن يكون بوابة لدخول مستثمرين إسرائيليين لتنفيذ المشروع والاستحواذ على الضفة الشرقية من القناة. ودعا المصريين إلى العمل وعدم الاكتفاء بالاعتماد على المساعدات التي تقدمها دول خليجية لمصر.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Real News Video: What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)

Ms. Madawi Al-Rasheed: Saudi society appears to be controlled, but beneath the surface, there is widespread discontent

More at The Real News

Monday, March 31, 2014

Exclusive: Egyptian Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah on Prison & Regime’s "War on a Whole Generation"

Democracy Now!
"In a Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with one of Egypt’s most prominent dissidents, Alaa Abdel Fattah, speaking in his first extended interview after nearly four months behind bars. An open-internet and political activist, Fattah has been at the forefront of the struggle for change in Egypt for many years and has the distinction of having been actively persecuted by Egypt’s past four successive rulers. Facing a potential return to prison in the coming months, Fattah sits down with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous to discuss his case, Egypt’s future and its ongoing crackdown on activists. "They are on a sentencing frenzy," Fattah says of Egypt’s military rulers. "This is not just about me. It’s almost as if it’s a war on a whole generation." Special thanks to Omar Robert Hamilton and Sherine Tadros......"

Terrorism: The legacy of US war in Iraq

The US, as global policeman, is no different from any other imperial power when asserting its influence.

By Haifa Zangana

In Iraq today, security means lawlessness and the rule of law means the rule of sectarian militias, writes Zangana [AFP]
"The defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way," said George Orwell in "Politics and the English language", highlighting a pattern of statements that "are almost always made with intent to deceive".
Orwell's words could not be truer than in Iraq today where the conscious intent to deceive continues to be the US policy, 11 years after its illegal "shock and awe" invasion. Assisted by a sectarian corrupt regime, the US-led occupation "democratised" Iraq by dismantling the Iraqi state whose foundations were laid in the 1920s.
A state which had a civil service apparatus that provided services and stability for the country regardless of the successive regimes. With the aim of clearing the way for a plethora of multi-billion dollar reconstruction contracts for the US and UK for decades to come, the occupation ensured the destruction of the infrastructure. With the aim of creating a compliant population, the occupation attempted to erase cultural heritage and memory, torching libraries, pillaging museums and ancient sites, targeting academics and scientists, and fomenting sectarian violence while human rights violations became a daily practise.
Words with noble meanings are used to camouflage acts of state terror: liberation rather than occupation; democratic government rather than a sectarian regime; transparency rather than corruption by bribes, theft and extortion; communal violence rather than dirty war with manufactured terrorism and black operations.
Words with noble meanings are used to camouflage acts of state terror: liberation rather than occupation; democratic government rather than a sectarian regime; transparency rather than corruption by bribes, theft, and extortion; communal violence rather than dirty war with manufactured terrorism and black operations.
In Iraq today, security means lawlessness and the rule of law means the rule of sectarian militias, especially the US-trained Special Forces now attached directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office.
The familiar scenario for victims of arbitrary arrests goes like this: First, they are accused of being terrorists, so they are detained at a secret prison whose existence is denied by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Human Rights. Then, they are tortured to obtain forced confessions, held for months without trial mostly with the aim of extortion from families; then, sentenced to either long-term imprisonment or death penalty, based on the forced confession or information supplied by secret informants.
In some ways, this is a reproduction of how the US and other powerful states view human rights and international law.
Two levels of international law
The reality is there are two levels in international law. One level is applicable to residents of the "basement" of the world, ie, citizens of Third World countries, and the other level applicable to citizens of powerful countries. The so-called "war on terror" has reformulated many aspects of world politics and accountability of states has become the first victim. Human rights and accountability have become an open text subjected to selective "interpretations". Therefore, some governments have enjoyed impunity, no matter how brutally they have behaved, while the spotlights are shone on others, undesirables for commercial and resource appropriation reasons.  
In a rather bizarre timing, the International Counterterrorism Conference took place in Baghdad on March 12, to coincide with the act of aggression that made Iraq a breeding ground for all kinds of violence and terrorism. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk spoke at length in the conference about the US' "holistic" strategy against terrorism in Iraq where "the government and people are confronting one of themost serious terrorist threats in the world. Foremost among these threats is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."
While assuring the Iraqi regime that the US-Iraq partnership is permanent, he chose to ignore the continuous catastrophic effects of the US occupation of Iraq.
Listening to his speech, one cannot help but sense a deja vu: "We are liberators not invaders." Wasn't this the imperial British attitude while invading Iraq at the beginning of the last century? Didn't we hear the same terror-coated statement by US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations, a month before the invasion?
He said: "Iraq's involvement in terrorism, the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world, they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world, a sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. These al-Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months."
Iraq launches media campaign targeting ISIL
At the end of his dramatic speech, US military invasion of Iraq had become inevitable, a "must" in order to save the world and Iraqis. It did not take the world long to see through the heap of lies called WMD and al-Qaeda link. As for Iraqis, the daily killings in neighbourhoods, and human rights abuses in Abu Ghraib and other detention centres, has left them with a concrete belief that the war was not an ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour but a pre-planned project to destroy and pillage their country.
Racist deception
This racist deception cost the lives of over a million Iraqis, the legacy of using depleted uranium and white phosphorous, the imposing of a sectarian kleptocratic regime and the instigating of violence that has driven many Iraqis to regret opposing Saddam's regime and believing in democracy. The defeat of the US imperial project is spectacular, thanks to the resistance of the people who, contrary to some claims, did not welcome the occupier with sweets and flowers but have seen through the imperial claims of democracy and human rights, tearing apart the shrouds of its deception.
How is the "holistic" strategy translated in the Iraqi reality? In terms of propaganda, it claims that Iraqis are beyond the reach of democracy. They are "extremists" and "terrorists". These are the same Iraqis who have been demonstrating peacefully for almost two years, until the Maliki regime decided to turn the terrorism charge against them.
As for Iraqis, every day brings fresh atrocities with an increase in "execution-style" killings, and early morning discoveries of bullet-riddled bodies, signifying the presence of death squads, mercenaries, militias, and Iraqi security forces that have killed thousands in the aftermath of the US-led invasion.
The US is determined to continue to provide security assistance to the Iraqi forces. US assistance includes weapons and security equipment, information sharing, operational advice, and military training. This goes hand in hand with a restructuring of the US army to rely more on cost effective US proxy regimes or "moderates", in order to force terrorist groups into non-populated areas where they can be captured and killed.
By backing Maliki's brutal regime, the Obama administration, as the global policeman, has proven that when asserting its power, it is no different from any other imperial power: A ready made enemy is always useful to cover up its immoral foreign policy.