Not much new support for the anti-war movement
When it comes to uncovering the brutality of American military and covert operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is in fact not much that is new in these records, and not much that will compete with the revelations made in the established media that have had a very high profile. Wikileaks seems to be depending now on individuals to privately sift through thousands of records, and then to presumably publish their findings outside of newspapers, months from now, about events that happened perhaps years ago. This is great for historians, and not so great for anti-war activists who deal in the immediate, in the present. There is little here to compete with revelations of American mass killings of civilians, and disregard for human rights, as revealed by the very regime of Hamid Karzai, or by intrepid reporters such as Jerome Starkey and Michael Hastings. Whatever is found will often not have as much impact as the Rolling Stone article about General Stanley McChrystal, and his own admissions about the failures of the Marjah offensive, and of the dark side of the war that would turn off most Americans if they knew more. They can know more, but with considerable labour, and on their own, and that seems to be expecting a lot of citizens…
New support for fighting the Taleban
Julian Assange assumed his intentions were good enough that they could control the narrative that would be constructed around these records. He may learn differently. Assange told Der Spiegel that he enjoys “crushing bastards,” and he later told CNN’s Larry King that by “bastards” he meant U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The problem is that the news media have already made the question of who is a “bastard” more complicated and ambiguous, for showing the atrocities which the reports allege have been committed by the Taleban. The Guardian was first, speaking of the Taleban’s use of “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs): “the IED…not only strikes foreign troops on ground patrols and in road convoys, it is also an indiscriminate terror weapon killing and injuring thousands of civilians…. Taliban fighters appear to have been prepared to blow up large numbers of people in order to assassinate a single target, such as a high-ranking government official or police chief,” and the article says the reports show that the Taleban are responsible for the majority of civilians killed in Afghanistan. We might suspect that some elements of American public opinion will use this kind of information to renew the call for crushing the Taleban, the only group that patriotic Americans would ever call “bastards,” as if fighting the Taleban was an end in itself, one worthy of so much American blood and treasure.
Support for expanding the war to Pakistan and Iran
Is there a straight, logical line from these records to greater popular support for the anti-war movement? Clearly, there is not. Indeed, some of the first newspaper reports dedicated themselves to showing that Pakistan’s intelligence services and military cannot be counted upon as a good partner for the U.S. For some, that will mean pushing to have more American covert forces in Pakistan, thus further widening and Americanizing the war, the same way as happened in Vietnam and the region around it. Personally, the big shock for me was this article in The Guardian: “Afghanistan war logs: Iran’s covert operations in Afghanistan.” According to the article, “Iran is engaged in an extensive covert campaign to arm, finance, train and equip Taliban insurgents, Afghan warlords allied to al-Qaida and suicide bombers fighting to eject British and western forces from Afghanistan.” A connection between Iran and Al Qaeda? Was it not the suggestion of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda that was used by the Bush administration to successfully capture American public support for the Iraq invasion? And now that the U.S. and the European Union have escalated sanctions against Iran to a point beyond which the next steps can only lead to war, do these records not serve to provide a service to pro-war propagandists? As I write this, the very pro-war Fox News has fixed its attention on this very aspect of the Wikileaks records.
The incomplete and fragmentary nature of the records
In my own research with these records, involving the use of American social scientists in units known as Human Terrain Teams, I have come to some important realizations. These records are only some of the records that we might have had. They are incomplete and fragmentary. Can anyone believe that the records Wikileaks obtained, almost 110,000 of them, are all the records produced by the U.S. military in a period covering six years of war? If not, then what was left out? Why were these records released, and not others? How can we make any credible claim based on these records, without knowing what has been kept from our view? What if what we do not have would somehow modify or reshape what we now claim to know?
The records are not the same as “the truth”
These are records written by combatants on one side in a war. They are written by elements of the American military, with a military audience in mind, and to suit the purposes of that military. That many of the records are based on hearsay, rumours, and unsubstantiated allegations that would not survive review at higher levels of military intelligence, is also the case. The records lack context and often lack depth: short, terse bursts of information. Information is not the same thing as meaning, nor is it understanding. It is just data, and data is dead until an analyst gives it life by adding value. The worst thing that could happen would be to have great masses of people insisting that something is true because it was reported in these records. To add depth and context, one has to cross check these records, examine other records, interview the key participants, understand the larger aims and narratives. The people writing these reports are neither infallible nor objective. If few people understand this, we could end up with arguments that seem to be factually muscular, and yet are intellectually malnourished.
The lack of ethical concern, and an inadequate review process
Julian Assange of Wikileaks has now repeatedly asserted what he told Der Spiegel in an interview: that the source of the leaked records went through his “own harm-minimization process” (we do not know what that process was, nor the identity of the source). Assange added: “We understand the importance of protecting confidential sources, and we understand why it is important to protect certain US and ISAF sources.” Suddenly, the person who declared he enjoyed crushing the bastards, is very concerned about their protection, but he says little about protecting the identities of the many Afghan sources who are named and whose locations are revealed in the records. Assange says, “we identified cases where there may be a reasonable chance of harm occurring to the innocent. Those records were identified and edited accordingly.” However, I have seen absolutely no evidence to support his claim. First of all, when someone edits an original document, you must indicate in that document something like this: “name deleted,” or “section deleted” or simply black out the text to show that portions are being kept from view. I have seen none of that. Second, the names of Afghan informants have been retained and are in full public view. This subjects them to the possibility of being executed by the Taleban, and it will be thanks to Wikileaks.
Assange has told TIME that, “Our groups—the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the Guardian and WikiLeaks — covered about 2,000 reports in detail.” That is only 2,000 of the total of almost 92,000 that were released. By his own admission, only a small fraction of the records were reviewed in detail. And who is involved in that review process? Does it include military and intelligence specialists? Does it include any of the people who were actually there, in the situations described in the records? Does it include the Afghans who were named? Does it include any Afghans at all? Assange, who has never been to Afghanistan, nor served in the military, would not have the experience and sensitivity to understand what constitutes harmful information, outside of the local context. What if the same is true of those who were responsible for the small scale review that occurred? I understand the need to protect the identity of one’s sources—indeed, that is my argument here—but not the need to protect the identities of those who supposedly assisted Wikileaks in its review process. Name them, tell us their qualifications, let us hear from them.
Why are the news media not even asking these questions?
Dependence on the mainstream news media
There has also been a lack of credibility from Assange on the issue of why Wikileaks chose to suddenly depend on the mainstream news media for the release of the records—or at least he has failed to explain the obvious in a clear manner. When Wikileaks released the now famous video footage from the viewpoint of an Apache helicopter, firing on and killing civilians in Iraq, “Collateral Murder,” it was done independent of the established media. On YouTube alone, that video has been seen in excess of 7 million times. It does not seem that Wikileaks failed to gain notice and interest, and the news media still reported on its release. So why is it that the mainstream news media, so faulted by Assange for failing to do their job in covering the reality of the Afghan war, are now the primary intermediaries for this release?
The answer would seem simple: these written records are numerous and written in a specialized language, requiring journalistic expertise to make stories out of them. A video can be viewed by anyone and immediately apprehended. Or so one would think. There is nothing straightforward about visual imagery, and it can be hotly contested.
Crowd sourcing: an ideal with little substance?
Having first chosen mainstream news media for the release of the first stories based on the records, Wikileaks now turns to the wider public, sourcing opinion and analysis from the “crowd.” If Wikileaks had real faith in that process, it could have better appreciated and understood the wide range of expertise in the worldwide community of bloggers, and understood that the power to gain traction from a story can come just as much from below, as from above. Presumably Wikileaks understood this, and even cherishes this principle, which is what makes its choice of dependence on the news media strange. The crowd is not homogeneous. The crowd, just like with mainstream news media, contains sensitive specialists, and miserable propagandists. There is no escaping this. When one goes crowd sourcing, one must expect a lot of opinion that is based on poor understanding, inadequate training, selective reading, wishful thinking, and a deliberate desire to distort what the records say in order to suit certain political ends. The results will certainly be mixed, and these records will settle very little in our continuing public debates. But we should always expect surprises…including nasty ones.
Does Gaza today resemble South Africa under apartheid? (Matthew Cassel)
The Palestinian national movement has overlooked this question: does the Gaza Strip resemble the racist Bantustans of apartheid South Africa? During the apartheid era, South Africa’s black population was kept in isolation and without political and civil rights. Is Gaza similar? The answer is yes and no.
What is apartheid? As defined by the 1973 United Nations convention, apartheid is a policy of racial or ethnic segregation founded on a set of discriminatory practices that favor a specific group in order to ensure its racial supremacy over another group (“International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of Apartheid,” 30 November 1973). In Israel, institutionalized racial discrimination is unequivocally founded on ensuring the primacy of a group of Jewish settlers over the Palestinian Arabs. When comparing the applications of the apartheid policy, it is difficult to identify any differences between white rule in South Africa and its Israeli counterpart in Palestine in terms of the segregation and designation of certain areas to Israeli Jews and others to the Arabs, the delineation of certain laws and privileges for Jews and a discriminatory set of laws that apply only to Palestinians.
Currently, in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories there are two road systems, two housing systems, two educational systems and different legal and administrative systems for Jews and non-Jews. Every law enacted during the South African apartheid system has a corresponding law in Israel. This includes the Group Areas Act, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, the Law on Movement and Permits, the Public Safety Act, the Population Registration Act, the Immorality Act, the Land Act and, of course, the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act. The corresponding Israeli laws are the Law of Return, the 2003 “temporary” laws prohibiting mixed marriages, the Population Registry Law, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, the Israeli Nationality Law and land and property laws.
Like South Africa, Israel’s brand of apartheid is mixed with settler colonialism. As in the United States and Australia, settler colonialism in Israel and South Africa has also involved the ethnic cleansing or genocide of the indigenous people influenced by a racist and/or religious ideology of supremacy.
When evaluated along these lines, the term apartheid clearly applies to Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip are isolated from the rest of the population in historical Palestine, and do not enjoy minimum political rights and basic living conditions available to Jewish residents because they were born to mothers from the “wrong” religion. In this context, it should be recalled that 80 percent of the population in the Strip were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and are barred from returning to the villages and cities from which they were driven.
The Bantustans were part of the South Africa apartheid regime’s racist formula to separate the black population and preserve “white supremacy.” Although the Bantustans were called “independent homelands,” their inhabitants were not granted equal rights or even independent political decision-making power — a harbinger of what is planned for the so-called independent Palestinian state within the June 1967 borders. In South Africa, the debate was about 11 states that could live side by side in peace. In spite of Pretoria’s best efforts, the Bantustans gained no international recognition save from Israel.
Gaza is deprived of even this racist formula. Israel appears to have learned a lesson from South Africa. It did not appoint local leaders to provide “limited self-government” over the West Bank and Gaza. Rather, in coordination with the United States and shielded by the international community, Israel allowed “free” elections to take place so that the Bantustanization process could gain “legitimacy” and international approval with the consent of the indigenous people. Although hailed internationally, the elections which took place under occupation were a Palestinian tragedy. Israel succeeded in enticing the indigenous people in Palestine to promote the illusion of potential “independence” for segments of 22 percent of historical Palestine. These parcels of land without sovereignty would be sold to the world as an independent Palestinian state.
Gaza under siege
At the same time, the answer to the question of whether “apartheid” applies to Gaza is also no. The Gaza Strip has devolved from being a Bantustan between the Oslo accord years (1993-2002) into a large concentration camp. Several South African anti-apartheid activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said during their visits to the occupied Palestinian territory that what they saw was far worse than what South Africans witnessed during apartheid. The difference between the two kindred regimes — Israel and apartheid South Africa — is the difference between inferiority and dehumanization. As Palestinian intellectual and author Saree Makdisi has explained it is a difference between exploitation and genocide (“A racism outside of language: Israel’s apartheid,” Pambazuka News, 11 March 2010).
Never, throughout the history of apartheid in South Africa, did racist forces use the full force of their military against the civilian population in townships. In contrast, since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and culminating in the 2008-09 winter invasion, Gaza has been attacked by F-16s, Apache helicopter gunships, warships, Merkava Tanks and internationally prohibited phosphorus bombs.
Israel’s siege on Gaza was imposed after Palestinians elected Hamas in internationally sanctioned and observed elections in 2006. It was tightened after Hamas defeated forces loyal to the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Since then, the list of items banned from entering Gaza covered more than 200 articles including cement, paper, cancer medications and even pasta and chocolate! According to the Israeli organization Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Israel granted access to only 97 articles, compared to 4,000 before the blockade. About 80 percent of the Gaza Strip’s population survive on humanitarian aid. More than 90 percent of Gaza’s factories have been shut down.
When the 18-month-old siege was unable to break the will of Palestinians in Gaza, Israel launched its deadly invasion at the end of 2008. According to the human rights organizations and the UN-sanctioned Goldstone report, more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 300 children, were killed and thousands wounded. Israel destroyed at least 11,000 homes, 105 factories, 20 hospitals and clinics as well as 159 schools, universities and technical institutes. Furthermore, it resulted in the displacement of 51,800 persons of whom 20,000 remain homeless.
Commenting on this situation, Karen Abu Zayd, former Commissioner-General for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said: “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community.”
Learning from South Africa
There is an urgent need, at this historic moment after Israel’s 2008-09 winter invasion of Gaza, to reshape international public opinion that is supportive of the Palestinian cause with emphasis on the multiple similarities between Zionism and the apartheid regime in South Africa. This can be accomplished by focusing on the common suffering of the indigenous black population and the Palestinians today, not only in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also in the Palestinian Diaspora and inside Israel.
It is unfortunate that the “official” Palestinian leadership has not studied and learned lessons from the South African experience. On the contrary, they almost unanimously accepted the creation of a type of bantustan-based system that the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa rejected. One wonders about the real reason behind this deliberate disregard of a very rich experience. Does it derive from the same misguided notion as that of the bantustan leaders who claimed African racial nationalism? Does it involve chauvinism and lack of openness to other people’s experiences? Is our cause really so exceptional from a historical point of view that we must exceptionally accept racist solutions promoted as an “autonomous” solution?
Unfortunately, the struggle for liberation has been reduced to one for bantustans. In other words, the consciousness of the Palestinian struggle has split as a result of fetishizing the concept of state at the expense of liberation, nullifying the right of return without saying so, and the tiresome reiteration of the “Palestinian national project.” This stands in conflict with the aspirations of the vast majority of the Palestinian people who are refugees guaranteed the right of return under international law.
The option of an independent Palestinian state has become impossible for several reasons, including Israel’s endeavors to transform settlements into cities, increase the number of settlers to more than half a million, build the apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, expand Greater Jerusalem and cleanse it of its Palestinian inhabitants, and systematically turn Gaza into the largest detention center on the face of the Earth. It is obvious that the Palestinian national movement as a whole has been infected with the virus of Oslo. The Oslo virus creates false consciousness that transforms the struggle for liberation, the return of refugees, human rights and full equality, into a struggle for “independence” with limited sovereignty: a flag, a national anthem and a small piece of land on which to exercise municipal sovereignty and establish ministries, all with the permission of the occupier. It is not very surprising, then, that first former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman no longer oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The other side of the Palestinian leadership frequently proposes 10-year and 20-year truces, arguing that the truce is an “alternative” to the demise of the two-state solution. Although there are no significant differences in terms of the principle of accepting a pure nationalist solution to the Palestinian cause between these two sides, this minor disagreement has gained greater prominence and has been employed to serve the racist solution. The so-called “alternative” of a 20-year truce bets that the pragmatic nature of this call will “persuade” the international community. In fact, it lacks a clear strategic vision to resolve the conflict in a way that ensures the return of refugees. What does a 20-year truce mean? Isn’t this a message to the refugees to endure another 20 years until the balance of power shifts? What happens if it does not shift?
The two-state solution has unfortunately become the prevailing political discourse over the past two decades. Some traditionally leftist intellectuals, having been transformed into a socially and politically right-wing or “neo-liberal” left, defend this solution as the only one available given the prevailing balance of power. They also defended it as a transitional — i.e., an interim — scheme. They occasionally threaten to espouse the one-state settlement, using this as a scarecrow not only to frighten Israel but also against us, the indigenous population. These attempts reveal an ideological decline and a lack of faith in the ability of the Palestinian people and the broader international solidarity movements to make revolutionary changes like those that took place against the apartheid regime.
In a short story entitled “The Music of the Violin,” South African writer Njabulo Ndebele, one of the characters comments on the “concessions” made by the apartheid regime to indigenous people: “”That’s how it is planned. That we be given a little of everything, and so prize the little we have that we forget about freedom.” In that same story, a black revolutionary intellectual says that “”[he'd] rather be a hungry dog that runs freely in the streets, than a fat, chained dog burdened with itself and the weight of the chain” (Fools and Other Stories, 1983). These two examples from South Africa summarize the lessons we should learn from Gaza 2009. There was no potential for coexistence with apartheid in South Africa, and we must accept no less.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.
This article was originally published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network
Israel announced plans to deport 400 children of migrant workers, born in Israel, speaking Hebrew, the children of people came legally to do work that Israelis don’t want to do and Palestinians aren’t allowed to do.
It’s an ugly business, but, as Benjamin Netanyahu succinctly put it, there are “Zionist considerations” which trump any humanitarian ones.
The deportations must pose quite a dilemma for open borders advocates such as those at the Wall Street Journal.
On the one hand, the Journal’s editors believe that open borders are good—that the US should have not only legal immigrants but illegal ones as well. On the other hand, they believe that Israel is always right. Roughly the same goes for Commentary and the Weekly Standard, which have long smeared the most moderate of American immigration restrictionists as bigots and nativists.
I used to travel in these circles, and never once came across an immigration restrictionist who advocated the repatriation of the children of LEGAL immigrants. I can’t even imagine it. (Though of course I’m sure you can find some neo Nazis who take that position.) But when Netanyahu does it, will the Wall Street Journal praise, or condemn? The ideological contradictions are surging way over the red line.
A cartoon published in an American newspaper in 2002 showed former president George Bush sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, utterly confused by a news report he was reading about India and Pakistan going to war over Kashmir. “But why are the two countries fighting over a sweater,” he asked Dick Cheney who stood by with his usual sly smile on his face.
Besides reflecting the intellectual capacity of the American president of the time, the cartoon was a realistic portrayal of the understanding that American leaders have generally shown of this longstanding dispute between Pakistan and India.
The unresolved Kashmir conflict has rocked South Asia for six decades. It has created an environment of distrust and acrimony, forced the people to sink into poverty with the bulk of the resources consumed by the war machines and claimed lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians as well as soldiers who died in the three wars fought between India and Pakistan. India, whose forcible occupation of Kashmir in 1947 created the conflict, refuses to settle it. The other stake holders, the Kashmiri people and Pakistan, insist on a fair solution. The international community including the US and the United Nations played little or no role in diffusing it either. Consequently, the conflict has developed into one of the most intractable problems of international politics that remains a continuing threat to peace of the region.
Indian Brutalities & The International Reaction
India has not hesitated to use brutal force to maintain its hold on Indian occupied Kashmir and suppress revolt. The US, UN and other international organizations failed to take note of grave human rights violations. They failed to provide any specific, actionable proposals for a permanent solution. All they extended were diplomatic courtesies, suggested vague formulas and generalities that are open to multiple interpretations.
Although the US considers South Asia to be a sensitive and strategically important region from its geopolitical, security and economic standpoint and has expressed the desire to see peace prevail, it has so far paid only lip service to finding a permanent solution. It would not chastise India for human rights violations, which would have attracted its immediate attention if these were taking place in a country that it had chosen to punish, for fear of displeasing or alienating India which it has aggressively been courting in recent years.
This situation was compounded by the Indian dreams of regional hegemony that led it to dismember Pakistan in 1971 and go on to become a nuclear power, which forced Pakistan to develop its own nuclear deterrent for safeguarding its security.
Consequently, India has consistently and blatantly refused to honor the will of the people, negotiate Kashmir’s future status or stop the use of brutal force.
The Conflict Leads To The First Kashmir War
In the wake of the August 1947 partition of British India that brought into existence two sovereign states of the Indian Union and Pakistan, the British left after having midwifed the Kashmir dispute that has since bedeviled peace between the two countries. Essentially, the agreed principle that governed partition was that Muslim majority states to the east and west of British India would form Pakistan, while rest of the subcontinent was to form Indian Union.
Decisions by several Muslim rulers for accession of their states to Pakistan that had Hindu majorities (Hyderabad, Junagadh and Manavadar being cases in point) were rejected on the grounds that a Muslim ruler did not have the right to overrule the will of the Hindu majority population. But the decision of the Hindu Raja of the princely state of Kashmir, which was predominantly a Muslim majority state and should have acceded to Pakistan, was immediately accepted by the British viceroy and the Indian government, despite a popular Kashmiri revolt against his decision. Although an agreement of non-intervention in Kashmir had been signed between India and Pakistan, the new Indian government sent troops into Kashmir at the request of the Hindu ruler to enforce the instrument of accession and forcibly occupy the territory, in disregard of the agreed principle of accession applied elsewhere.
This led to the first Kashmir war in 1947 between India and Pakistan. In 1948 India sought cease fire, taking the issue to the UN Security Council, which passed resolution 47 on 21 April 1948 that imposed an immediate cease-fire along the line of actual control of territory by both parties and called on them to withdraw their troops. It also ruled that “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” The cease fire was enacted in December 1948, with both governments agreeing to hold the plebiscite in areas under their control. Ever since, India has been rejecting all resolutions of the Security Council and the proposals of the UN arbitrators for demilitarization of the region – all of which were accepted by Pakistan.
The Security Council Steps In
Although the resolutions of the Security Council were regarded as the ‘documents of reference’ for a durable and internationally acceptable solution, no steps were ever taken for their implementation. This was because in technical terms these were not mandatory – not having been based under Chapter VII of the Charter. This allowed India to get away, dashing the false expectations of the Kashmiris as to the possible role of the United Nations as facilitator of a solution to the Kashmir problem.
This injustice to the Kashmiri people was intrinsically linked to the veto privilege of the permanent members of the Security Council and the lack of unanimity between them for enforcement measures according to Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter. Their plight is similar to that of the Palestinians, in whose case also resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) that call upon Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territories are not based on Chapter VII and have hence enabled the occupying country, Israel, to ignore them.
That the United Nations Organization follows double standards was clearly visible when it adopted compulsory resolutions in other conflict situations, such as in case of the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990-1991, where the US – a permanent member was able to force the hand of other permanent members to do its bidding.
The cease fire line between the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir has since become the Line of Control and continues to be monitored by UN observers.
India Annexes The Disputed Occupied Kashmir
Thereafter, ignoring the Security Council resolutions, disregarding the internationally accepted ‘disputed’ status of the state and defying the will of the people, India went on to annex Occupied Kashmir into the Indian Union through an amendment to its Constitution, claiming it to be an integral part of India. On its part Pakistan continues to regard the part of Kashmir under its control as disputed territory and allows it self rule. It continues to plead for a final settlement taking the position that the people of Kashmir on both sides must get the right to choose their future through self determination.
People of Kashmir Demand The Right Of Self Determination
The people of Kashmir had begun to wage a struggle against the Hindu Raja’s rule as far back as in 1931 and refused to accept Indian occupation from the day it was imposed in 1947. Their struggle has since intensified and they have called for accession of a united Kashmir to Pakistan. Rejecting their demand, successive Indian governments have tried to suppress the struggle by use of force.
Writing in Kashmir Watch of July 11, 2010, a Kashmiri academic, Dr. Manzoor Alam, urged world bodies like the Arab League, OIC, Asia watch, human rights organizations and the European Union to make a paradigm shift in their policies and move from ‘mere condemnation’ to throwing their political weight and resources behind the Kashmiris in their freedom struggle.
“ … we are talking about freedom from India which is our basic and fundamental right and this right was promised to us by Jawaharlal Nehru on June 26, 1952. We make an earnest and urgent appeal to the conscience of the world to act promptly to save Kashmir and her people. It is time for the United Nations to wake up to its responsibilities. It has to assume its duty in saving millions of Kashmiri lives. Enough is enough.”
Grave Human Rights Violations
Indian troops in combination with paramilitary forces and state police have let loose a consistent and massive reign of terror on unarmed civilians. Men, women and children, young and old, are being indiscriminately killed, injured and maimed and women are being raped with impunity.
A recent report on Human Rights violations states that that between 1989 to June 30, 2010 the number of Kashmiris killed at the hands of Indian security forces stands at 93,274. Additionally, there have been 6,969 custodial killings, over 107,351 children have been orphaned, 22,728 women widowed and 9,920 women gang raped. In June 2010 alone, 33 people were killed including four children, 572 people were tortured and injured and 8 women were molested, 117,345 people were arrested and 105,861 houses or structures in the use of the communities were razed or destroyed.
Human rights groups blame the culture of impunity among security forces in Kashmir on a controversial 1990 national law granting soldiers the right to detain or eliminate all suspected terrorists and destroy their property without fear of prosecution. Critics call this provision a license to kill as it does not clearly define “terrorists”.
The murky cycle of violence is picking up speed. The killing of innocent civilians draws protests in all nooks and corners of the state by enraged people which in turn provoke the security forces to indulge in more killing. More recently, the state has remained on a knife’s edge since June 11, when angry protests began against the killing by Indian security forces of three 11th grade teenagers without provocation. This continues to happen also because the state or the federal government does not believe in explaining their actions or carrying out investigations and punishing those who use excessive force. Instead, the Indian government proudly calls all of these achievements ‘successful counter insurgency’ operations.
To punish the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir for the uprising, the state machinery is economically strangulating it through the ruthless action of road blockades that have resulted in acute shortages of foodstuff, medicines and other critical items of daily use in the valley. Protestors were fired upon earlier this month, resulting in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, including some prominent leaders.
Under a well thought out plan, India has brought about a demographic change in Jammu after Hindu rule was imposed in October 1947. Muslims constituted 62% of the population there according to a 1941 census which now stands in the 30s. The Indian government is now focusing on the Kashmir valley where land allotments to Hindus from outside the state are being made to encourage population transfer in order to reduce the Muslim majority.
India Cold Shoulders Pakistan’s Out Of The Box Solutions
Pakistan’s willingness, as stated by Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf, to get away from old paradigms and launch fresh proposals for a just and durable solution, did not draw any bold steps or a concrete response from India. Although he went so far as to say that for the sake of a settlement, options that are “unacceptable to either side” should be set aside and he went on to float the idea in December 2005 of a “United States of Kashmir” that would include all regions, India did not show any interest in engaging in a meaningful dialogue. India has continued hedging the core issue and has instead been raising peripheral issues one after the other as an evasive tactic. It has been demanding confidence building measures before any dialogue could seriously get underway but even these CBMs initiated by Pakistan did not prove enough. The track II diplomacy has also not been able to achieve much. This causes frustrations, not only for Pakistan but also among the Kashmiris, causing a very volatile climate, further raising the political temperature.
In Search Of The Solution
After six decades of bloodshed and armed confrontation, Indian leaders should realize the impossibility of sweeping the issue under the carpet or keeping the Kashmiris subjugated through force, an option which has acquired an entirely new dimension due to India and Pakistan having become nuclear powers. It is now time that India should move, and move with sincerity, towards resolving the dispute with the following in mind:
- A solution must be pursued not only on the basis of bilateral approach involving India and Pakistan but also on the tripartite level that would take into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir.
- Kashmir must be treated as an issue of basic human rights, which forms part of the jus cogens of general international law. Kashmir is also an issue of religious rights and identity where the majority Muslim community has been adversely affected by the partition along the “Line of Control”.
- Kashmir is not only a regional issue in terms of territorial claims by three states, including China, but it is, at the same time, a matter concerning the international community since it has implications for global peace and security. The nuclear potential of the three powers actually controlling parts of the disputed territory can simply not be ignored.
- The struggle of the people of Kashmir must not be confused with the so-called “global war on terror”, which happens to be a superpower agenda that is alien to this conflict. Instead of falling in this trap and making this issue further intractable, India needs to understand the dictum: “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
- In the interest of finding a durable solution, India will have to move away from the police and military approach, or as India likes to put it as “a battle against terrorists”. Instead of dealing with symptoms, it must address the root cause of the conflict – the question of self-determination.
- Police brutalities, rape and other human rights violations will have to come to an end and have to be prosecuted with full determination and without bias. At the same time, deliberate attacks on civilians will have to be terminated once and for all.
- The legacy of the Security Council resolutions 38 and 47 (1948) as well as the resolutions adopted by the UNCIP in 1948 and 1949 cannot be discarded, in spite of the time that has elapsed since their adoption, as these have neither become obsolete, nor invalid nor have they been recalled by the Council at any stage. On the other hand, ten years after the initial resolutions, Security Council resolution 122 (1957) reaffirmed the same democratic principle as basis of a just solution. India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is on record fully endorsing this principle when on November 2, 1947 he said:
“We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given […] not only to the people of Kashmir but the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations.”
It is time for the present Indian leadership to listen to its founding fathers, if it does not wish to listen to the rest of the world.
Settler groups have stepped up attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including the torching of a mosque near Nablus in May of this year. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)
Nazareth: A rabbi from one of the most violent settlements in the West Bank was questioned on suspicion of incitement last week as Israeli police stepped up their investigation into a book in which he sanctions the killing of non-Jews, including children and babies.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira is one of the leading ideologues of the most extreme wing of the religious settler movement. He is known to be a champion of the “price-tag” policy of reprisal attacks on Palestinians, including punishing them for attempts by officials to enforce Israeli law against the settlements.
So far the policy has chiefly involved violent harassment of Palestinians, with settlers inflicting beatings, attacking homes, throwing stones, burning fields, killing livestock and poisoning wells.
It is feared, however, that Shapira’s book The King’s Torah, published last year, is intended to offer ideological justifications for widening the scope of such attacks to include killing Palestinians, even children.
Although Shapira was released a few hours after his questioning last Monday, dozens of rabbis, as well as several members of parliament, rallied to his side, condemning the arrest.
Shlomo Aviner, one of the settlement movement’s leaders, defended the book’s arguments as a “legitimate stance” and one that should be taught in Jewish seminaries.
But in a sign of mounting official unease at Shapira’s influence on the settlement movement, the Israeli military authorities also threatened last week to enforce a decade-old demolition order on Yitzhar’s seminary, which was built without a permit.
Dror Etkes, a Tel Aviv-based expert on the settlements, said the order was unlikely to be carried out but was a way to pressure Yitzhar’s 500 inhabitants to rein in their more violent attacks.
He said the authorities had begun taking a harder line against Yitzhar only since Shapira and several of his students were suspected of torching a mosque in the neighboring village of Yasuf last December.
“Shapira is trying to redefine the conflict with the Palestinians, turning it from a national conflict into a religious one. That frightens Israel. It doesn’t want to look as though it is fighting the whole Islamic world,” Etkes said.
He added that the rabbi and his supporters were closely associated with Kach, a movement founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane that demands the expulsion of all Palestinians from a “Greater Israel”. Despite Kach being banned, officials have largely turned a blind eye as its ideology has flourished in the settlements.
“It may be illegal to call oneself Kach but the authorities are more than tolerant of settlers who hold such views and carry out violent attacks. In fact, what Kahane was doing in the 1980s seems like child’s play compared with today’s settlers.”
In the 230-page book, Shapira and his co-author, Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, also from Yitzhar, argue that Jewish law permits the killing of non-Jews in a wide variety of circumstances. The terms “gentiles” and “non-Jews” in the book are widely understood as references to Palestinians.
They write that Jews have the right to kill gentiles in any situation in which “a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives” even if the gentile is “not at all guilty for the situation that has been created”.
The book sanctions the killing of non-Jewish children and babies: “There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
The rabbis suggest that harming the children of non-Jewish leaders is justified if it is likely to bring pressure to bear on them to change policy.
The authors also advocate committing “cruel deeds to create the proper balance of terror” and treating all members of an “enemy nation” as targets for retaliation, even if they are not directly participating in hostile activities.
The rabbis appear to be offering justifications in Jewish law for collective punishment and other war crimes of the kind committed by the Israeli army in its attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008.
Pamphlets similarly calling on soldiers to “show no mercy” were distributed by the army’s rabbinate as troops prepared for the Gaza operation, in which 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, were killed. Religious settlers have come to dominate many combat units.
An investigation last year by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, found Shapira’s seminary had received government funds worth at least $300,000 in recent years. American and British groups have also contributed tens of thousands of dollars in tax-deductible donations.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Yitzhar settlers have responded to the demolition order against their seminary by threatening to publish documents showing that the housing and transport ministries were closely involved in the project too.
The settlers have repeatedly rampaged through nearby Palestinian villages, most notoriously in September 2008, when they were filmed shooting at homes in Assira al-Kabaliya, smashing properties and daubing Stars of David on homes. Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of the time, termed the settlers’ actions a “pogrom”.
The same year a religious student from Yitzhar was arrested for firing home-made rockets at Palestinian villages close by.
In April, Yitzhar’s settlers marched through the village of Huwara and pelted a Palestinian family’s home with stones in “reprisal” for the arrest of 11 of their number.
A settler from Yitzhar was questioned last month over the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Palestinian, Aysar Zaban, in May, reportedly after stones were thrown at the settler’s car. The teenager was shot in the back.
Last week, the settlers attacked Burin, shooting at villagers and burning fields.
In most of these cases, the settlers who were arrested were released a short time later either by the police or the courts. In January, a Jerusalem judge freed Rabbi Shapira for lack of evidence in the arson attack on the mosque.
Yitzhak Ginsburg, an authority on Jewish law and a mentor to Shapira, was questioned by police last Thursday over his endorsement of the book. In the past Ginsburg has praised Baruch Goldstein, a settler who opened fire in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, killing 29 Palestinian worshippers.
In 2003 Ginsburg was accused of incitement for publishing a book that called for the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories, but the charges were dropped after he issued a “clarification statement”.
A group calling itself “Students of Yitzhak Ginsburg” recently distributed a leaflet urging Israeli soldiers to “spare your lives and the lives of your friends and show no concern for a population that surrounds us and harms us”.
Kach was founded in 1971 by the late Meir Kahane, an American rabbi who immigrated to Israel. He won a seat in the Israeli parliament in 1984 on a platform of expelling all Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories. As an MP, he drafted legislation to revoke the Israeli citizenship of non-Jews and ban sexual relations between Jews and gentiles.
The political party was banned from running for the Israeli parliament in 1988 and the movement was outlawed six years later. Although the group is considered a terrorist organization in the United States and most of Europe, its ideology has been allowed to thrive in the settlements.
Today, dozens of rabbis espouse an interpretation of Jewish religious law identical to or worse than Kahane’s.
Michael Ben Ari, a former Kach leader, was elected as an MP last year for the far-right National Union party, which holds four seats in the 120-member parliament.
Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the parliament’s third largest party and is foreign minister, briefly joined the party before it was banned. His own party’s anti-Arab “No loyalty, no citizenship” program includes echoes of Kahane’s ideology.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
Gaza – Israeli warplanes targeted the home of a senior Hamas military leader in the central Gaza Strip early Monday leaving 42 civilians injured, medics said.
Al-Qassam Brigades leader Alla Ad-Danaf’s home in Deir Al-Balah was destroyed along with five others by a missile from an Israeli F16 fighter jet, military medical services coordinator Adham Abu Salmiyya told Ma’an. At least 42 civilians were injured as a result, he added, with wounds ranging from slight to moderate.
The Israeli army has denied involvement, with an Israeli military spokeswoman saying there was no army or air force activity overnight.
On Saturday morning, an Al-Qassam leader was killed in an Israeli airstrike, which the Israeli army said came in response to projectile fire.
The latest blast follows a weekend of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, with residents saying the raids were reminiscent of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead between December 2008 and January 2009.
At least eight people have been killed in three separate incidents in Indian-administered Kashmir, bringing the death toll from recent weeks of violence to 31.
Four people were shot by security forces who opened fire on thousands of protesters, while four others died in a blast at a police station that had been set on fire by residents, police said.
A 17-year-old girl was among those shot by police on Sunday, after government forces tried to prevent demonstrators from marching in the towns of Pampore and Khrew.
Residents were angry at the two deaths in Khrew, a town near Srinagar where hundreds had been protesting against Indian rule, and attacked the local police station, setting it on fire, a police officer said.
There were no casualties among the police officers, who fled the area as the residents approached the police station.
Al Jazeera’s India correspondent, Prerna Suri, said that at least 35 protesters were injured in the explosion, which comes after three days of clashes in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
“Many of the protesters were defying state imposed curfews and are demanding security personnel to be off their streets,” our correspondent said.
Police said they had to open fire after tear gas and baton charges failed to disperse the protesters.
Residents said they were holding peaceful protests against Indian rule when security troops fired on them.
The shooting brought even more people out on to the streets, and witnesses said that they retaliated against the police with rocks and sticks.
They also set fire to at least three government buildings and two vehicles.
Our correspondent said that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, issued a rare statement appealing for public calm.
She also said that Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, held an emergency meeting with his cabinet colleagues on the issue of security in Kashmir.
India has blamed separatists for instigating the latest unrest but locals say the protests are spontaneous.
Decades of on-off political dialogue about the status of the disputed territory have yielded few rewards and no end to the deadlock. This has bred frustration among the residents.
The violence on Friday and Saturday was focused on the northern district of Baramulla, a traditional hotbed of Muslim separatism in the valley. It spread to south Kashmir on Sunday.
Police and witnesses said police and protesters clashed at over two dozens places across the valley.
Last week, the Kashmir state government ordered a judicial probe into the recent spate of police shootings.
The inquiry will be led by two retired judges and has been tasked with submitting a report within three months.