Anat Kamm, a lonely figure in the face of the massive power of the Israeli military-intelligence establishment (Motti Milrod)
In the closing act of a travesty foisted upon Israel by its military-intelligence apparatus and tacitly supported by a quiescent media, Anat Kamm accepted a plea deal that will force her to spend four and one half years in prison for passing secret IDF [sic] documents to Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau. Now, Kamm becomes the Israeli version of Bradley Manning and Shamai Leibowitz, both of whom (Manning is imprisoned but not yet tried or convicted) were sentenced to jail sentences for obeying their conscience and revealing secrets that implicated their governments (or Israel in Leibowitz’s case) in acts that violated the law and drew the nation closer to war.
Long ago, an Israeli journalist pointed out that IDF generals and cabinet ministers all leak top-secret information to journalists. It’s called doing their job. They’re not imprisoned. Often they’re promoted as a result. As long as you leak in service to your commander and prime minister, no matter what the garbage you leak, you are in like Flynn. But obey your conscience and cross the political/military elite, and you’ll be destroyed.
A journalist once pointed out that an IDF soldier of similar rank to Kamm once leaked secret documents to a reporter and received a sentence of a few days confinement to base from her commander.
The Israeli far right has demonized Anat Kamm. They’ve vandalized her home where she served two years under house arrest. They’ve painted graffiti on it calling her “traitor.”
In some ways, the State only had to wait out Kamm. It knew that she could only withstand house arrest so long before having to make a deal. She felt she got the best deal she could and realized that as far as the Israeli state is concerned this might be China, and she could be under house arrest for the remainder of her days.
This is sad day, a day of disgrace for Israel. A day in which military malfeasance was endorsed (Kamm’s materials revealed that IDF general Yair Naveh ordered unarmed Palestinian militants to be assassinated in contravention of Supreme Court rulings–rulings the Court of course has refused to enforce in this case out of deference to the IDF supreme role in society). A day in which a woman who should be a national heroine was made to grovel in the dirt.
Egypt has a budget deficit of nearly 10 percent of GDP and the finance minister recently said that the country is on the brink of a liquidity crisis. Meanwhile, economic growth has slowed since the uprising, decreasing government revenues, while public sector workers around the country are striking to raise wages that have been stagnant for decades. Egypt is in a tight fiscal spot.
But a group of Egyptian and international activists have a solution that would take pressure off the budget and at the same time undo the economic legacy of Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt regime. The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt, a coalition of civil society groups and concerned individuals, are calling for a comprehensive public debt audit with the eventual aim of debt forgiveness from foreign lenders.
“This is a popular movement that aims to facilitate Egypt’s economic independence from the many forms of exploitation, subordination and resource misappropriation that were imposed upon the people of Egypt during the past decades by the regime of the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak and his collaborators abroad,” the campaign wrote in its founding statement.
The campaign, which has been growing since it began on Facebook in March, will kick off publicly with a “Global Day for Egyptian Debt Audit/Cancellation” on 31 October, marked by events in Cairo, as well as Paris, Berlin and London – the capitals of some of Egypt’s biggest creditors. The campaign here has earned the support of some prominent civil society organizations in addition to individual activists, economists and economics journalists.
Organizers hope that this will help push the issue of debt forgiveness into the public conversation in Egypt and among governments that hold Egyptian debt.
“What we’re trying to do is draw public attention, because no one is talking about it,” says Noha al-Shoky, one of the founders of the campaign. “The masses don’t understand that we have a situation at hand here.”
The conference in Cairo will also feature Fathi Chamkhi, a Tunisian university professor who is also leading a similar campaign at home. Those involved in the campaign are hoping that in the wake of the uprisings in the North African countries there is a chance for a clean break with the economic legacies of the fallen regimes.
Budget problems, debt solutions?
International credit rating agencies downgraded Egypt’s sovereign debt rating earlier this month due in part to fears about the high budget deficit.
By the end of the fourth fiscal quarter of the 2010/11 fiscal year, Egypt will hold almost US$35 million in external debt, most of it medium- or long-term, according to the Central Bank of Egypt, which also states that the government pays US$3.4 billion in interest on foreign debt. In addition to this, Egypt has about four times as much debt held by local banks.
Economists and analysts point to a number of other problems that contribute to the high budget deficit, such as massive spending on untargeted subsidies. But debt relief could be a major step toward solving the problem.
At the same time, though, the military-backed interim government is looking elsewhere for budget support.
Planning and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abouelnaga, who is responsible for international agreements, is currently negotiating with the G8 industrialized states, Gulf countries and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in an attempt to secure US$35 billion in loans and economic assistance, according to a government statement earlier this week.
Abouelnaga also announced on Tuesday that she would begin negotiations with the IMF for a US$3 billion loan, the same amount that the cabinet rejected from the IMF in June.
“Given the status of the huge budget deficit and borrowing from abroad, then definitely we need some kind of relief from the debt we have from the past, which is actually more than a third of the budget,” says Ahmed Ghoneim, a professor of economics at Cairo University who is not affiliated with the campaign in any way. “Any kind of initiative [for debt forgiveness] could help the economy.”
Also, some activists hope, wiping some US$30 billion from the ledger book could free up more funds for the social justice spending that many demand, from doctors who are asking for more money for public health to public sector workers demanding better wages.
Moreover, an infusion of foreign capital in the form of debt relief could help spur Egypt’s economic recovery, says Amr Adly, an economist with the NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has backed the campaign. Improved economic conditions will help produce political stability in the long-term, Adly says.
A time for transparency
Before debt is forgiven, the organizers of the campaign plan to hold a public debt audit, in which Egyptians fully examine the money owed in their names.
A debt audit is a comprehensive examination of what debts are owed to whom and how money has been used. Some of this information is publicly available, but is rarely looked at by people outside the economic elite responsible for making decisions.
The campaigners hope to involve as many people in the debt audit as possible, from students to civil society members to representatives from the popular committees. Some people have already begun working on this, Shoky says, including economics students who are combing through many CDs of data.
The audit will help introduce a level of transparency that never existed under the Mubarak regime.
“I am not a specialist in economics, but I believe that individuals should be involved in how the country is run,” Wael Khalil, an activist and blogger and member of the campaign said in a statement. “Part of this involvement is through knowledge sharing. The priority is to access information, to access the details and to be able to publish it.”
Public involvement in the debt audit will push for transparency and accountability, Adly says, forcing lenders to take into consideration the legitimacy of the governments that they are lending to.
Mubarak’s odious legacy
Debt cancellation campaigners believe that they can make a strong case for the cancellation of Egypt’s debts based on the principle of “odious debt,” a legal theory that holds that debts made by a government that are not in the people’s national interests are illegitimate and should be forgiven once the autocratic regime is removed from power.
Precedents for this date back to the 19th century.
Recently, after the United States invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, Washington succeeded in convincing many Western lenders to forgive Iraq’s foreign debts incurred under the former leader’s regime. Post-Mubarak Egypt should fall under the same logic, the debt cancellation campaigners believe.
“The whole idea of odious debt challenges the conclusion of the debt in the first place, saying that the government that signed the debt was not legitimate and borrowers didn’t keep up safeguards of having parliamentary supervision, monitoring,” says Adly.
“There’s been a lot of talk by Western governments about supporting people instead of dictators, so we’re challenging them to put their money where their mouths are,” says Philip Rizk, a co-founder of the campaign.
GAZA — Israel has escalated its military aggression against the Gaza Strip and intensified its air raids at dawn Sunday immediately after a truce brokered by Egypt was declared between the two sides.
A spokesman for medical services in Gaza told the Palestinian information center (PIC) reporter there that Israel waged from one o’clock to three thirty in the morning more than 10 air strikes on different targets in Gaza especially in Khan Younis and Rafah areas.
The air raids caused extreme horror and panic among civilians especially children and also caused material damage in the bombed areas, the spokesman added.
Egypt was reported to have managed to broker a truce, supposed to start at 3:00 am, between the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza and the Israeli occupation state, but the latter waged a series of air raids after this time violating the cease-fire.
A Palestinian informed source told the PIC that efforts made by the Egyptian intelligence service were able to convince the resistance factions in Gaza especially the Islamic Jihad Movement to accept a reciprocal cease-fire with the Israeli occupation starting today at three o’clock in the morning.
Islamabad – Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has condemned what he called the “criminal silence” of non-government organisations (NGOs) that claim to be champions of human rights, over the killings of civilians in US drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas.
The cricketer-turned-politician made these comments while addressing a protest rally in front of Parliament House in Islamabad. He said that civilian casualties due to drones were increasing with each passing day, and asked the government to quit if it could not take action in this regard.
Imran categorically rebutted the US opinion that no civilian casualties were taking place as a result of targeted strikes against high profile terrorists in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), The Dawn reports.
He demanded the implementation of the resolution adopted in recently held All Parties Conference (APC).
Human rights campaigner and Director of REPRIVE, a non- profit organisation, Clive Stafford Smith, also addressed the protest rally.
“We are interested solely in transparency, with an open and honest dialogue. The CIA cannot conduct what is patently an illegal war in Waziristan while simultaneously covering up any evidence of the death of children and other innocent civilians who are being killed on a regular basis,” Smith said.
“If they really believe what they are doing is right, then they should not fear the truth. If they do fear the truth, then it is certain that what that what they are doing is wrong,” he added.
The United States is planning to escalate its military presence in the Gulf after it withdraws its remaining forces from Iraq by year end. US Officials and diplomats have indicated that the actions could include the repositioning of its military forces in Kuwait so that it would be able to respond to any “security collapse” in Iraq or a “military confrontation” with Iran.
The New York Times published a report Saturday explaining that US President Barack Obama’s alternative to the US presence in Iraq would be a US military presence in Kuwait.
“With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new security architecture for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense,” the NY Times’s report explained.
Quoting US Central Command’s Chief of Staff, Major General Karl R. Horst, the paper said that “the command is focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries… we are kind of thinking of going back to the way it was before we had a “big boots on the ground” presence… I think it is healthy. I think it is efficient. I think it is practical.”
Horst further explained that the training exercises that the “US is executing were a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity.”
In parallel, Central Command’s Chief for Exercises Colonel John G. Worman noted that “for the first time, the military of Iraq had been invited to participate in a regional exercise in Jordan next year, called Eager Lion 12, built around the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.”
According to the paper, a sample from the new US post-Iraq strategy that involves strong collaboration with the Gulf Cooperation Council, is Qatar and the United Arab Emirates’ sending of military forces to Libya as part of the NATO’s intervention there. Another sample is the sending of Saudi forces into Bahrain to assist the government in suppressing the public demonstrations.
This repositioning strategy comes after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced during her presence in Tajikistan last week that the US will have a continuing robust presence in the region, warning Iran against any intervention in Iraq after the US forces’ withdrawal.