The Arab League has approved the imposition of unprecedented sanctions against Syria over the months-long unrest in the country.
On Sunday, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said in a press conference in the Egyptian capital of Cairo that 19 of the 22 member nations of the Arab organization were in favor of the sanctions, AP reported.
The approved sanctions against Syria include cutting off transactions with the Syrian Central Bank and an embargo on investments for projects in Syria.
The Qatari foreign minister added that Iraq abstained from the vote and would refuse to implement the sanctions, and Lebanon “disassociated itself” from the move.
Meanwhile, Damascus censured the Arab League decision, describing it as “a betrayal of Arab solidarity.”
On November 12, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria’s membership during an emergency session in Cairo, and called for the imposition of sanctions against the country.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem accused the Arab League of seeking to “internationalize” the unrest in Syria.
Last week, Muallem also described the Arab body as a “tool” that is being used to take the Syrian crisis to the United Nations Security Council.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in favor of President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.
The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but Damascus blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.
President Assad has warned against any foreign attack against Syria, saying the military action will cause instability in the whole Middle East.
The speech was thoughtful and Hass seemed to choose each word carefully. She avoided giving advice and warned more than once that she had become “an observer to Israeli society” more than a full time member– for the last decade and a half, her addresses alternated mainly between the Gaza Strip and Ramallah in the West Bank.
“The Israeli society lives insides two normalcies that contradict, but also complement each other,” explained Hass, the latest guest of the AIC Café. First, the civil normalcy: “If you live [in Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem] or if you come to visit [them] you can really feel that Israel is a normal country like in Europe.”
“As for the military, the Israelis consider a militarized society [to be normal], with soldiers all around you. Very few people questions this, because the possibility of war has a normal presence in life,” she continued. The journalist mentioned the social pressure that drives most young people to serve in the IDF, even those who don’t fully agree with the 1967 occupation, and the consequences this has on the rest of their lives.
“Serving in the Army not only is a fundamental tool for everyone who wants to find a job, but the military career has also become a lucrative one, especially in these times of crisis, and it can also be a bridge to higher politics or even the big companies.”
The Israeli army is one of the main forces in the Israel society and its politics, maybe even the main force: “They are a very visible group and they are considered as objective when analyzing the security situation in the country. This gives them incredible power because while they warn about the dangers of peace, they become more and more necessary.”
According to Hass, these two “abnormal normalcies” explain the cognitive dissonance many Israeli Jews experience: “Inside Israel they feel normal, but as soon as they go abroad they are considered criminals.”
The best example of this is the occupation: “It has become such a normal situation to most of the Israelis that they don’t see it anymore”. The same way that they don’t see how they are profiting from it.
Hass not only mentioned the appropriation of West Bank’s natural resources, such as water, but also the feeling of consensus that occupation and conflict bring to an otherwise divided society, where gaps and differences continue to grow due to neoliberal policies.
“The settlements, for example, have become a substitute for the welfare state that is disappearing in Israel,” the journalist explained. Subsidies, focus on education, and state-financed housing construction that used to exist in the 50s and the 60s inside the Israeli cities, moved to the West Bank settlements, especially after the 1990s with the Oslo peace process.
This might have illuminated the gaps amongst Israeli Jews, the author argued, but the Second Intifada had a unifying effect on the society: “The threat brought by the Second Intifada actually created a change in favor of the abnormal normalcy. It united the Israelis, despite their inner contradictions.”
After the lecture, Hass took some questions from the public. She was asked about the bills discussed nowadays in the Knesset that could restrain the freedom of the Israeli press and the general state of the country’s media.
“In most papers what exists today is internal censorship. The editor thinks he or she knows what the public wants or is interested in. They become a buffer between the information and the readers. But today there is also an atmosphere that says that the media should be careful. As always it is difficult to publish facts, but I think we will still be able to write opinions,” she explained.
Hass didn’t dismiss the debate on freedom of expression, but tried to put it into the bigger context of the occupation. “At the end, it is not our writings that will change the opinion of the Israeli society, we need much more than that, especially if we recognized how much the country profits from the occupation,” she concluded.
JERUSALEM – An Israeli official said Saturday evening on live television that if the Palestinian Authority collapses it would not be the “end of the world for Israel.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Shimon Sheffer, former Palestinian minister Sufian Zayda, and Dove Viziglas, who was former adviser to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, were analyzing the possibility of the PA disbanding on the television show “Face the press.”
“The Palestinians have to know that they can’t scare us by threatening to disband the PA,” Ayalon said.
“The tax revenue which Israel transfers to the PA is meant to help them stand in the face of Hamas, and since Mahmoud Abbas allied with Khalid Mashaal, this money will not be delivered from now on.
“If the PLO wants to quit, Israel will look for international or local forces to take charge of the PA, and if they can’t find them and the PA collapses, that will not be the end of the world for Israel,” the deputy foreign minster added.
Sufian Zayda — a former Fatah detainees minister — responded to the comments by stating that withholding PA tax revenues amounts to stealing Palestinian money.
“If Israel continues to withhold that money, the PA will collapse in three months, and thus Israeli occupation will have to take charge of all ministries and be responsible for a people under occupation,” the former PA minister said.
“In this case, the one state for two people will be the only choice left,” he added.
The Israeli deputy foreign minister replied by saying Zayda was “dreaming” as Israel will “never allow the concept of one state for two peoples.”
Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Simon Sheffer said that reoccupying the West Bank is what Netanyahu “really wants,” and if the PA collapses Israel, under his leadership, will not hesitate to move in military forces.
Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967.
Faced with the scenario of the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz heads to the West Bank, with the Shabak in tow, to talk with local leaders about the possibility of setting up village councils rather than an autonomous state
Israel Katz, Israeli Transport Minister
The Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood, submitted to the United Nations in September, was a last-ditch attempt to break the stalemate in the US-brokered peace process which began with the failure of the Camp David II negotiations of July 2000. While Israel rejects the UN bid, as do the major powers involved in the conflict, no one seems to have an alternative to the PA’s move. And then there is what some consider the worst possible scenario, an outcome of a failed UN bid: the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, as proposed by several Fatah and PLO leaders.
In light of this possibility, Israeli Transport Minister, Israel Katz, is promoting the idea of establishing several autonomies in the West Bank under the rule of local family leaders. These enclaves would resemble the “village leagues” that existed in Occupied Palestinian Territories during the 1980s.
Ariel Kahane, of the right wing newspaper Makor Rishon (First Source), claims that Katz and Hebron’s Sheikh Abu Khader Al Jabari met in September at the home of former Knesset Member (MK) Rafi Eitan. The purpose of the meeting—which reportedly included members of the General Security Service (Shin Bet or Shabak)—was to discuss alternatives in the event that the Palestinian Authority pushes the UN bid or a joint Hamas-Fatah government is established.
Sheikh Jabari maintains close contacts with Hebron’s Jewish settlers and has hosted the settlers’ leadership in his home several times. The Sheikh, who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, supports the creation of an autonomous Palestinian territory under Israeli rule. According to Makor Rishon, this scenario was discussed in the meeting and with Jabari insisting that Palestinians receive full Israeli citizenship if this possibility came to fruition.
Katz, however, made it clear that the Palestinians in the occupied territories will not be entitled to Israeli citizenship but said that Israel will be ready to cooperate with Jabari and his men in the event that the PA pursues the UN bid or further reconciliation with Hamas.
“If there is a change in the current situation and the PA will ‘break the dishes,'” Katz remarked, “I’ll lead an Israeli initiative to recognize autonomies of this kind. It seems to me a true and realistic response”.
In other words, this means returning to the idea of “village leagues,” which were established in the occupied territories with the encouragement of Ariel Sharon and Professor Menachem Milson. The military government adviser on Arab affairs in the West Bank, Milson, who later served as the chief of the Civil Administration, assumed that the leagues would replace the PLO.
“Village leagues” or similar institutions are not part of the right wing strategic thinking among officials close to the Prime Minister. For example, a report published by the Beguin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (BESA) on alternatives to a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 proposed annexation of the territories west of the separation wall and either the establishment of Palestinian-Jordanian federation, to which Israel will transfer lands in areas not adjacent to the West Bank, or a Palestinian-Egyptian-Israeli land swap in the Negev and Sinai to the south of the Gaza Strip.
Memogate and the U.S. attack on the Pakistani border post that killed 28 Pakistani soldier increases the chance of Imran Kahn’s Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party to win the next Pakistani election. Kahn is against the U.S. Pakistan alliance. It also increases the risk of a coup by some lower rank officers in Pakistan.
This is all well known by the U.S. and that is why there is something with the deadly attack which I do not get:
A NATO spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, offered details suggesting that allied and Afghan troops operating near the border came under fire from unknown enemies and summoned coalition warplanes for help.“In the early night hours of this morning, a force consisting of Afghan forces and coalition forces, in the eastern border area where the Durand Line is not always 100 percent clear, got involved in a firefight,” General Jacobson said [...]
“Air force was called in into this activity,” he said, “and we have to look into this situation of what actually happened on the ground.”
The Pakistani border post that was attacked is on a high point some 1.5 miles within Pakistani territory. The actual border line is not always clear, there are no markings, and at 2:00am in the middle of the night no patrol in the area will be able to tell on which side of the border it really is.
So why are the U.S. and Afghan forces patrolling there at all?
Why not pull back the troops like five miles away from the border and establish the surveillance and defense line against infiltrations from Pakistan there? Except where the roads cross the border there is nothing of value or interest in the immediate border area. A pull back would allow for full use of indirect weapons (mortar, planes etc) against any infiltrating enemy while being sure that no Pakistani land and troops will get hurt in such a response.
Declare a no man’s land and free fire zone in the buffer on the Afghan side and have at it. Wouldn’t that be the sensible thing to do if one wants to avoid such incidence with Pakistan?
Then again – maybe such incidents are intended. But for what purpose?
Yesterday I did a shocked post about the fact that Ed Rendell, the telegenic former governor of Pennsylvania, a favorite of Chris Matthews and MSNBC, did a fundraiser for the Israeli army in Philadelphia, at which he said it was the obligation of American Jews to support Israel thru thick and thin. Help!
Well, my wife and I have a houseguest from Philly for Thanksgiving, and he shocked me a little bit more by telling me about David Cohen.
Not surprisingly, David Cohen is close to Barack Obama. A few months ago, he raised $1.2 million for Obama in a heartbeat, at his Philadelphia home.
Later in the evening, Comcast’s executive vice president, David L. Cohen, hosted about 120 people in his home for a dinner, each of the attendees giving at least $10,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign.
Like Ed Rendell, Cohen is pro-Israel. He is the former vice chair of the Jewish Federations in Philadelphia, a pro-Israel organization. Cohen was said by a Philadelphia Jewish publication to be “genetically hard-wired” to serve that role:
He believes that there is historic precedent for Jews “rallying to Federation” during times of crisis. “Whenever Israel’s physical security is threatened, people turn to Federation to provide support,” he says, adding “we must ignite this same Jewish passion to meet local needs addressed by Federation and its partner agencies.”
As the owner of NBC, Cohen sits at the right hand of his old friend, and Rendell’s old friend, Brian Roberts. Roberts’s father Ralph started Comcast, and Brian is today chairman of Comcast.
Big surprise– Brian Roberts is also very close to the president. Last summer Barack Obama visited Brian Roberts’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. The media industrial complex!
Is Roberts also pro-Israel? I don’t know, but I suspect he is; he participated in several Israeli athletic events in the 80s and 90s according to Wikipedia: the Maccabiah games, the Jewish Olympics. And he received an award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
What is the Israel lobby? It is the force inside our discourse that defends the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, forever. Are all Jews part of the Israel lobby? Of course not. There is growing diversity inside the Jewish community, bucking the commandment, Thou must support Israel. But Ed Rendell is certainly part of the lobby, witness his participation in that Israeli army fundraiser. And I think Cohen is part of it, too, given his former role at the Federations. I don’t know about Roberts. But I wonder how he’d feel about, say, Palestinian solidarity types speaking on his network.
Call me cynical, but this proves the old adage, Freedom of the press belongs to he who owns one. And it explains why Chris Matthews keeps his mouth shut on Israel/Palestine. Matthews is from Philadelphia. His brother lives in Chestnut Hill, not far from Brian Roberts and David Cohen. And Chris Matthews is a shrewdy, as my grandmother used to say.
Walter Russell Mead silenced Glenn Loury at bloggingheads the other day by saying it’s anti-semitic to speak about the Jewish presence in the media, and the Jewish presence in the Israel lobby. I would counter that while these issues are uncomfortable, responsible intellectuals simply cannot avoid them if they want to make sense of our society and our foreign policy. Brian Roberts and David Cohen are two of the most powerful figures in our media, they are both Jewish, and one of them has inhaled the pro-Israel religion, as has his dear friend, Ed Rendell, who is on their network all the time. Imagine for one minute if Catholics played this role in a media organization, and it was by and large against abortion. Would liberals be afraid to talk about religious identity and ideology? Of course not.
British anti-war campaigns have thrown their weight behind the nationwide strike against the government’s cuts in pensions and welfare services, urging the government to cut warfare not welfare.
Stop the War Coalition (SWC) and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament announced that they would participate in the November 30 strike action organized by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to call on the government to cut war and Trident spending not pensions.
The campaigns stressed that the government’s spending cuts have only been applied on jobs and public services, while spending on war is mounting without interruption.
Britain spent at least £1.5 billion on the Libya war, and spends about £5 billion per year on the Afghanistan war, SWC revealed. The campaign also said that the overall costs of the war on terror to the US are $3 trillion.
It is estimated that over three million public sector workers will participate in the pension strike across Britain, to defend their pensions against the government’s austerity measures.
The anti-war campaigns proclaimed they would support the strike action of 28 unions, believing the Tory-led government’s wrong policies would boost poverty and misery for the poor people.
“The budget deficits in the US and Britain have been caused in part by the rising cost of wars. Governments have borrowed money to pay for war. They are now asking people to accept cuts and austerity to pay for them,” SWC convener Lindsey German said.
Suggesting an alternative to the cut plans, German said the government could “cut spending on war and the Trident nuclear submarine system and use the money to fund welfare.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), also condemned the government’s war policies. “The war in Afghanistan and the war in Libya are wrong. They are misjudged; they are not about what people claim they are about. And we should actually find a way out of those pretty quickly, not make the situation in those countries worse as well as at the same time take valuable resources that could go into schools and hospitals,” he said.
It’s interesting that the Third Man at the centre of a growing scandal involving a plot to attack Iran and the man who appointed him to be Britain’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel share a somewhat similar background. In a profile of Matthew Gould entitled “New envoy’s a passionate horse-loving Zionist,” the Jewish Telegraph quotes the ambassador:
“My dad’s parents came from Poland in the 1910s and 1920s and met in Birmingham. My grandfather actually took part in the Battle of Cable Street in east London, something I am really proud of. The family’s original name was Goldkorn, but my dad, Sid, changed it when he went to read maths at university.”
In a Mail Online article from August 4, 2007 entitled “Putin aide: ‘Miliband’s hatred for Russia runs in family’” we learn
“The [Russian] newspaper said that in the Twenties the Foreign Secretary’s grandfather, Samuel, then Shimon, Miliband, a native of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, had fought under the command of Trotsky ‘eliminating’ white Russians opposed to Communism.”
Is it possible that Shimon Miliband and Matthew Gould’s grandfather knew each other from radical Jewish circles in early 20th century Poland? More importantly, what influence might their common ideological heritage have played in David Miliband’s decision to send Gould as Britain’s supposed “Man in Tel Aviv.”