OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The land research center said that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) established fake graves in Silwan district, south of the Aqsa Mosque, as part of feverish steps to Judaize the Arab history and identity of the holy city.
In a report released on Friday, the center stated that Zionist settler groups in cooperation with the nature and parks authority planted tombs built of stone on a tract of Palestinian land located between Silwan district and the Umayyad Palaces area, south of the Aqsa Mosque.
It noted that the tombs, engraved with the Star of David, were made look like age-old ones and presented to tourists as Jewish graves built before 1948.
“Such step confirms once again that the occupation state is seeking on purpose to fake the history of Jerusalem in violation of the international norms and laws that demand it not to make changes to any land under its occupation,” the center underlined.
The center also warned that creating fake graves enables Israel to seize more areas in east Jerusalem.
The Anadolu news agency reported a statement for Zoabi saying she had informed the Israeli police of her plan to appeal to the Israeli court against the “arbitrary” banning of women from entering the mosque.
She did not disclose with which court she was planning to file the appeal, but the process starts by filing an appeal to the magistrate court, then to the district court then to the High Court.
Zoabi described Israel’s ban on Palestinian women entering Al-Aqsa Mosque as a “dangerous precedent”, noting that the reason behind banning them is their role in “facing the settlers’ desecration of the mosque” in recent months.
For more than two months, Israeli police have banned women from entering the mosque from time to time. “They [Palestinian women] formed the front defence line against the Israeli violations and aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Zoabi said.
The Knesset member said she had sent a written letter to the Israeli Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich informing him of the “violations” committed by the Israeli police and Israeli border guards against women around and inside the holy site.
She noted in her letter that the violations and aggression on Palestinian women and banning them from entering into the mosque “undermines and ignores” their freedom. She also stressed that the lack of punishment against aggressors is a “green light” for more violations.
For about two months, the Israeli settlers, including extremist officials such as Knesset Deputy Speaker Moshe Feiglin have stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on almost a daily basis.
Palestinians remain inside the mosque trying to prevent such aggressions, but the Israeli police and occupation forces took measures to secure the settlers including preventing women and men under the age of 50 from entering Al-Aqsa’s grounds.
Yesterday, 20 Palestinians, including women, were wounded in clashes in the mosque and seven others were arrested, including minors.
It costs four dollars to visit the archaeological site of Susiya in the southernmost part of the West Bank. For your four dollars you can view an ancient Jewish city, supposedly once home to 3,000 people which peaked in the years 400 to 800 CE, the late Talmudic, mid-Byzantine, and early Arab eras. The Jewish inhabitants are estimated to have disappeared some 1,200 years ago, according to the Center for Educational Tourism in Israel.
Father and son, Muhammad and Nasser Nawaj’ah, paid their four dollars, not to marvel at the century’s old synagogue or the ancient water system but to reminisce- Mohammed was born in one of the cave dwellings as was his son. The area is now devoid of any signs of the Palestinian village that existed until the late 1980’s but it is still infused with memories of both their childhoods, of the community’s traditional way of life and of a far more stable time.
In 1986 the Palestinian residents were forcibly evicted to make way for the archaeological park. Today they live close by and continue to face the threat of eviction. In a 2011 short film Nasser and Muhammad are shown returning to their previous homes 25 years after they were displaced. Their first journey back is short-lived with the Israeli soldiers seeming keen to escort the pair out of the site. Nasser interjects: “Excuse me soldier, we bought a ticket so we could see our home.” In contrast, shortly before the army arrived, the father and son had watched an Israeli explanatory video stating: “Only traces remain (of the Jewish civilization) in these silent ruins, but they are engraved in stone.” The ruins have been used to invoke a present day Jewish connection with the land, and in the process, there is an attempt to erase any Palestinian connection to it.
Yonathan Mizrachi from Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO that seeks to unpick the role archaeology plays in the Israel/Palestine conflict says it is about reinforcing identity. “Archaeology is being used to emphasise a specific narrative, one side of the conflict. The question “who was here before?” is central to this conflict. This says: “my roots are older than yours.'”
According to the NGO, in the Eighth and Ninth centuries, a mosque was built on the remains of the ancient synagogue found in Susiya. The presence of the mosque on top of the synagogue raises interesting questions, none of which are addressed and could greatly enhance understanding of Susya’s place in the cultural and social space of the South Hebron Hills.
There are many similar examples of archaeology being recruited to assert ownership, such as in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. Silwan is the site of the “City of David,” an archaeological attraction tempting scores of tourists and pilgrims every year. Visitors travel from across the globe to marvel at the artefacts and caves, admiring the picturesque views.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, 65% of Palestinian owned homes in Silwan have demolition orders ,with lack of building permits predominantly cited as the justification, yet only 20 such permits have been issued since 1967 and permission to build an extra floor has to travel though a total of 11 Israeli ministries. Currently a plan is underway to create “green zones” in the area which will displace 1,200 residents.
“It (the archaeological site) gives settlers the legitimisation to live there,”.Mizarchi noted. He added: “The City of David succeeded in creating a new identity of Silwan.”
Herodion, Herod the Greats monumental palace built around 23-20 BC and perched on the highest hill in the area, is another example. From the top of the site, the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, which lies just 5km away, is clearly visible. On approach you must drive past a military base and pay an entrance fee to an Israeli man whose desk sits in a shop selling “I love Israel” and “Visit Israel” t-shirts.
Memo visited the site and asked some of the tourists, who shuttled off buses run by Israeli tour companies, where they believed they were. Most were unsure. One woman from the US remarked, “Judging from the Israeli soldiers and the Hebrew, I would say Israel.” While her husband walked away muttering Israel defiantly, the woman returned and said in a whisper, “I suppose we are where the person with the biggest weapons wants to tell us we are. That’s not right, but I think that’s how it is.”
We are increasingly seeing archaeology recruited by the Israeli government and settlers to demonstrate connection and roots of the Jewish people to Palestinian land, asserting ownership, and attempting to simultaneously wipe away traces of Palestinian ownership. This is not the way it is meant to be assures Yonathan. He notes: “Think about Jerusalem; there are many cultures, civilisations, religions, all part of the history of Jerusalem. It should open your mind; it is a story of difference. It is not the story of one people.”
|This photo was taken in a supermarket in Gilo – an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem – by an activist who documented the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the settlements of Gilo (pop. 28,980), Pisgat Ze’ev (pop. 39,748) and Ma’ale Adumim (pop. 35,673), and in the industrial park of Mishor Edomim, which services Ma’ale Adumim.|
Ben & Jerry’s Caters to Illegal Israeli Settlements
In August, 2011, an Israeli Jewish activist working with us contacted Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel, by e-mail and telephone, and confirmed that the company delivers ice cream to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory. Here is an e-mail communication, translated into English, between an employee at the factory and the Israeli activist, discussing arrangements for an ice cream cart to travel to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim:
B&J Employee: Thanks for writing. Our ice cream cart comes with 5 flavors to choose from, glasses, wafers, ice cream toppings, 2 stewards and all accessories. The cost for 250 people (free distribution); 3,500 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), or $919 US] including VAT. Attached is a list of flavors. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
Activist: Is there an extra cost that relates to the distance of your factory to the location of the party? i.e., is there an extra cost because the event is held in Ma’ale Adumin? I’m sorry about the need for detail but it’s necessary for our accounting department.
B&J Employee: Yes, the cost of transportation is 250 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), $65 US]. This is because we come from Be’er Tuvia (near Kiryat Malachi) to Ma’ale Adumim.
Israeli Settlements are Illegal Under International Law
Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian Territory violate Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which declares that “the Occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The commentary to the Convention states that this provision was intended “to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territory. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”
Transfer of settlers to occupied territory by an occupying power is also an international war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and most legal scholars have concluded that Israel’s settlements in the oPt contravene international law. The International Court of Justice declared in a 2004 decision that “the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”
Ben & Jerry’s business in illegal Israeli settlements also violates its obligations under the U.N.’s “Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises,” which asserts that corporations “shall not engage in nor benefit from war crimes, [or] crimes against humanity…” nor take actions that obstruct or impede economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
[Citations for the references above are in Our Report on Ben & Jerry’s business practices in the occupied Palestinian Territory.]
|The Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal distributes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at stores both in Israel and in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
The map at left, with dots denoting the locations of their stores, was displayed in their store in Mishor Adumim (an industrial zone that services one of Israel’s largest settlements, Ma’ale Adumim). Notice that it depicts Israel and occupied Palestine as one state. Palestinians under occupation are not allowed to enter most Israeli settlements, so the supermarkets in those places only sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Jewish settlers.
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel Calls on Ben & Jerry’s to:
Until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in compliance with international law:
- End the marketing, catering and sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
- Stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel.
- Issue a statement (a) calling on Israel to end its occupation and settlement enterprise and (b) appealing directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to cease business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements.
Click here to send a message to
Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont.
Tell Ben & Jerry’s that its complicity in Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlements is wrong and must stop!
Boycott Divestment & Sanctions:
In Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel’s opposition to Ben & Jerry’s business practices in Israel and occupied Palestine is motivated by the grave human rights abuses being committed by the State of Israel. We are are also aware that in 2005 Palestinian civil society called for an international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with three rights codified in international law.
- End Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle its separation wall;
- Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.
|Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, said in an interview:
“My mantra that I’ve repeated a hundred times since starting at Ben & Jerry’s is: ‘Change is a wonderful thing,’…. The world needs dramatic change to address the social and environmental challenges we are facing. Values led businesses can play a critical role in driving that positive change. We need to lead by example, and prove to the world that this is the best way to run a business. Historically, this company has been and must continue to be a pioneer to continually challenge how business can be a force for good and address inequities inherent in global business.”
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel agrees: The world – including Israel-Palestine
ANKARA – Kurds are not going to fight alongside Turkey against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria, Syrian Kurds leader Salih Muslim said in an interview with the Hurriyet newspaper Monday.
“Do you want us to fight against them in Damascus and be a soldier there instead of you? We will not do that. We have stopped being soldiers for others, which Kurds have done throughout history,” he said as quoted by Hurriyet.
Salih Muslim also commented on the situation in the Syrian border town of Kobani, which has been under attack by Islamic State (IS) militants for weeks now. Kurds living in the city have repeatedly asked Turkey for help, however Ankara has refused to intervene in the conflict.
“They [Turkish authorities] do not need to give anything else but anti-tank weapons if they really want to help our people in the region,” he stated.
The Kurdish leader added that he will see a single-sided establishment of buffer zones in northern Syria proposed by Turkey as an occupation. However, he stated that if the zone is established in accordance with international agreements, then he would not raise any objections.
For the past several weeks, the IS militants have besieged Kobani, one of the largest towns in the Kurdish region of Syria bordering Turkey. More than 400 people have died in clashes between the IS and Kurdish fighters in Kobani, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Some 200,000 refugees have crossed into Turkey to flee the IS threat.
The Islamic State is a Sunni jihadist group that has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, it launched an offensive in Iraq, seizing vast areas in both countries and announcing the establishment of an Islamic caliphate on the territories under its control.
There is good news and bad news of late for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On the one hand, companies such as Veolia, willing partners in the occupation, are losing out on mega-contracts. Despite plans to withdraw from Israel, the French company just lost a $750 million contract to provide waste management services to Kuwait City. Pleasing for BDS was the explicit reference to Veolia’s association with Israel and a head nod to their campaigning efforts. It comes on top of nearly $24 billion in lost contracts, seemingly over support for Israel.
Likewise G4S are suffering setbacks. Earlier this year, Bill Gates announced a massive divestment, while a report over the summer (by the Financial Times) suggested they would soon end their activities in Israel. Campaigners are rightly cautious – the company have gone back on their word in the past.
Companies like G4S and Veolia are the traditional bogeymen of leftist, progressive, anti-war or anti-globalisation movements. They are big targets, household names, transnational corporations that everyone can relate to – and when I say everyone, I mean the general public, not activists.
I can go down to my local train station and see a G4S security van parked outside. I see a Veolia truck pass my house once a week to collect my rubbish. Companies like Hewlett Packard advertise on television.
With such high profile and controversial brands, in some ways – isn’t this the easier end of the campaign?
After all – how many households would sign a petition against Serco? Quite a few, most people have heard of them.
But what then? There are thousands of British companies trading with Israel. Their names, headquarters and management are constantly changing – the past 12 months alone saw 37 acquisitions, mergers and IPOs of those companies. There are hundreds of thousands more trading from other countries. A tiny proportion are household names.
Raising awareness of each of these companies requires disproportionate effort by a small number of time poor activists.
The BDS movement has put itself into a massive fight. And though there are some successes, figures released this week show that UK-Israel trade actually grew by 28 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014, now amounting to £2.5 billion. There may be successes here and there, but the machine of modern commerce is an extremely hard one to slow.
And despite the popular narrative of “well, it worked in South Africa”, the uncomfortable truth is that many economists and historians disagree.
“Perversely, South African businesses reaped at least $5 billion to $10 billion in windfalls as Western firms disinvested at fire sale prices between 1984 and 1989,” noted Thomas W. Hazlett, now at George Mason University. The political effect of the sanctions movement saw the white power elite retrench. Apartheid policies worsened – the police and military cracked down even harder.
In truth, the collapse of Soviet Communism, populist black movements in South Africa, white supremacists working with blacks rather than oppressing them, just to keep their families fed – led to the fall of apartheid. It’s nice to think the West played the lead role, but in truth, South Africa did a lot of it itself. Its role is, somewhat patronisingly, rarely acknowledged.
As the BDS movement has grown stronger – the domestic politics of Israel is tipping to the hard right. Attacks on Gaza are becoming more frequent. Knesset hard-liners have advocated genocide against Palestinian mothers, or published detailed plans on their Facebook pages about how the entire population of Gaza should be deported. Attacks on journalists, artists and pro-war activists by far right extremists are on the increase. The Israeli media propagates an us-and-them attitude to not only the Arab world, but also their detractors in the West. Are we already seeing what really happened in South Africa play out? Are the worst parts of Israeli society becoming stronger?
The campaign has some positives with regards solidarity, it contributes to educating the public – but ultimately, we don’t know whether it will make things worse and, as a pro-sanctions or boycott movement, it doesn’t yet have a successful precedent or contemporary model for success – just look at North Korea, Iran, Russia or indeed the porous Arab boycott against Israel.
But aside from the uncertain and potentially dangerous side-effects of BDS, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The crux of bringing the Israeli hawks to heel isn’t so much about corporate investments – it’s about political money, dripping from the campaign coffers of Western politicians bribed and briefed by Jerusalem cronies.
The funding is mysterious, ambiguous and seemingly unimpeachable, protected by anti-Semitism laws which forbid honest discussion of it, or by hasbara attack dogs who discredit any journalist or academic who speaks out.
But imagine the tabloid outcry if hundreds of millions in “Muslim” donations began pouring in to Western politics, Muslims with strong interests in the domestic or foreign policies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran.
You don’t have to imagine – last month Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (and Norway) were caught funding influential foreign policy think tanks in Washington. And there was an outcry.
But many feel uncomfortable taking on the Israeli lobby – because it’s scary. It comes with great risk – people have lost their jobs, careers and reputations. Nobody likes to be labelled an anti-Semite, which is their preferred mode of attack.
Assuming for a moment that South African white supremacists had actually wanted to continue with apartheid, if they had had the financial resources and strategic nous to invest millions into Washington and Westminster, a boycott campaign would have stood almost no chance of success.
Campaigning against corporate involvement in morally dubious interests should not be stopped. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Western corporations, pension funds, or governments invested in arms deals with dodgy regimes, or became complicit in mass human rights abuses, and nobody knew about it.
But we should recognise the limits of the BDS movement – both by recognising that the “low-hanging fruit” of corporate targets – international corporations who are already disliked by the public, may only be the warm-up, by better understanding what really happened in South Africa, and by asking – are we really attacking the root of the problem?
BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look.
Dismantling “the Israel lobby” is a tougher fight, but it’s a far more important one.
If we are over-awed by the challenge, or if indeed the BDS movement was itself a function of an inability to crack the lobby directly, there may still be cause for optimism. Removing big money from politics, in general, is an extremely populist movement.
There are very few Westerners who want the status quo to continue, for big corporations and foreign interests to hold such sway on our democracies – on any issue. You don’t have to be pro-Palestinian to recognise this.
A broader coalition of groups, from charities, to environmental campaigners, to trade unions, to newer organisations like Change.org and 38 Degrees could be the key. The influence of the Israel lobby isn’t a unique problem. Perhaps by looking to other marginalised groups who face similar challenges, the pro-Palestinian campaign can find yet more life.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Today in al-Khalil (Hebron), as part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, thousands of settlers and Zionist tourists descended upon the city. The Israeli military presence in Hebron, which is already a large and oppressive part of everyday life, greatly increased.
Hebron is the only city in the West Bank where there is an illegal settlement in the heart of the city. It is split into H1 and H2, H1 under Palestinian Authority Control, and H2 under Israeli military control.
This morning, in both the Salaymeh and Qeitun neighbourhoods, the checkpoints designating the end of H1 were extended further into Palestinian territory.
Israeli soldiers drove between Salaymeh and Qeitun, entering houses, hiding in alleyways, and aiming their guns at passing schoolchildren and other people in the area.
In the afternoon, the army presence was just as heavy, with children walking home past heavily armed soldiers.
In H1, Bab al-Zawiye (the centre of Hebron), Israeli forces partially closed the road to allow settlers and Zionist tourists through the checkpoint to visit a religious holy site.
They were escorted by approximately 45 Israeli border police and soldiers. Several Palestinian shops were forced to close for several hours, to allow the setters and tourists to pass.
The Ibrahimi mosque and nearby checkpoint was also closed today, with all Palestinian shops in the area forced to close with it.
HEBRON – Israeli soldiers raided a private Palestinian home in Hebron on Sunday morning and turned the third floor of the house into a military post, the owner said.
Salim al-Salayma told Ma’an that Israeli troops broke into his house in the al-Baqaa neighborhood in eastern Hebron and locked him and his 17 family members on the first floor.
While the family was locked on the first floor, al-Salayma said, Israeli soldiers brought military equipment to the third floor, turning it to a military post.
An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Israeli forces regularly occupy the homes of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank located in what they deem sensitive areas to conduct surveillance and enforce control.
South Africa’s largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), has joined with health sector unions to demand the expulsion of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) from the World Medical Association (WMA).
COSATU, along with NEHAWU (National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union), DENOSA (Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa), as well as the SA Medical Association (SAMA), issued the joint call earlier this week. Organisers will protest outside the WMA today, Friday 10 October, supported by campaign groups like BDS South Africa.
In issuing the call for expulsion, COSATU claimed that the IMA “has never denounced or seriously confronted the Israeli government on its shameless use of torture”, and has “shown blatant disregard for the ethical issue of medical neutrality.”
The South African trade unions also accused the IMA of having “stood silently in the face of…the killing, harassment and wounding of Palestinian health professionals on duty; and the destruction of the Palestinian health systems.” They note that “direct appeals to the IMA [over many years] have been unavailing.”
COSATU was one of the first trade unions in the world to endorse the Palestinian-led, international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Citing the struggle against South African apartheid, COSTAU is urging the expulsion of the IMA from the WMA, until the Israeli body “unequivocally condemns, distances and actively counter’s Israel’s torture, occupation and apartheid policies.”
The policies of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are becoming more and more dangerous both in Syria and the whole Middle East.
Ankara has not only been promoting terrorist and extremist groups, alongside its sole ally in the region, Qatar, but it is now preparing an invasion of northern Syria.
Erdogan thinks that he has the right to invade and occupy territories of Turkey’s neighbors and ignore and violate the sovereignty of these Arab countries. He has supported terrorist organizations in Syria and allowed illegal oil trading by these groups, ignored Baghdad’s sovereignty over the Iraqi Kurdistan and its resources and insulted the Egyptian president in the United Nations.
The Erdogan government has long been a key supporter of ISIL, al-Nusra Front and some other terrorist organizations. However, Ankara is now trying to use ISIL advances towards its border as a pretext to illegally send troops to occupy a part of the northern Syrian territory without the authorization of the Syrian government. This is clearly a war act.
Turkish propaganda is invoking a false excuse, the humanitarian protection for Kurds fleeing the advance of ISIL, to promote the creation of a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria.
The objective of this strategy is to weaken the Syrian state and give the Ankara-backed opposition armed groups a sanctuary from which they can launch attacks on the Syrian army and where the Turkish forces can train them.
On his return from New York, Erdogan unveiled some of the plans of the Turkish leadership, which explain the situation prevailing in northern Syria. “We must look to the events in Syria, not only from the angle of terrorism, but also from the angle of the Syrian regime”, he said.
He openly called for the creation of a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in northern Syria, while criticizing Germany’s decision to provide Peshmerga Kurdish forces fighting against ISIL in Iraq with arms, claiming that they could end up in the hands of terrorist organizations, according to the Turkish classification, such as PKK.
That is, from Erdogan’s point of view, the main enemy is not ISIL but the Syrian government and PKK, which are both fighting the ISIL terrorists.
It is noteworthy to point out that the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has also claimed that Turkey opposes supplying the Iraqi army with weapons, because “95 percent” of the soldiers are Shiites, according to him.
Recently, Abdulkadir Selvi, journalist in the newspaper Yeni Safak, which is considered a leading pro-Erdogan outlet, said that Turkey will not take part in any air war or ground war with the coalition against ISIL in order to press the US to establish a buffer zone in Syria or allow Turkey to do so with its own warplanes and troops.
Erdogan is now using the events in the Kurdish town of Kobani to increase this pressure: If you do not allow me to send troops to Syria, Kobani will fall. This is Erdogan’s new strategy.
According to several media, Syrian Kurds are denouncing Erdogan’s plans. One of them, Binici Ibrahim, member of the Popular Democratic Party (HDP), has blamed Ankara for the situation in northern Syria due to its support for ISIL “The Turkish authorities are partly responsible for this situation. They protect ISIL, which is a terrorist organization”, Binici said, “Today they prevent young Kurds from returning to Syria to defend their territory.” “The Turkish government does not want to defend our city”, accused Mehmet Eminakma, another young HDP activist. “It crazily supports ISIL and not the Syrian people.”
Therefore, Ankara is trying to prevent young Syrian Kurds living in Turkey from returning and fighting against ISIL in order to create a humanitarian crisis and press ahead with its plans.
Facing this blackmail, the strategy of the Obama Administration is not clear. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said that stopping ISIL terrorists in Kobani is not a priority because “the strategic objective of the US war is to attack ISIS infrastructure”.
This could mean that Washington understands the Turkish game and is unwilling to fall into the trap.
Nevertheless, on October 8, US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the UK and the US were “ready to examine the Turkish idea of setting up a buffer zone in Syria to protect refugees fleeing ISIL violence.” Kerry made the announcement in a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Washington DC.
“The buffer zone is an idea that is out there. It is worth examining. It is worth looking at very, very closely,” said Kerry. The US Secretary of State added that creating a buffer zone will be one of the issues General John Allen, President Barack Obama’s anti-ISIL envoy, will be discussing with Turkish officials during an upcoming meeting in Turkey.
Some months ago, Turkey sent some troops to protect the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, located 33 km from the border. According to Turkish media, the convoy entered the Syrian territory without asking permission of Damascus. The excuse was some alleged links between the site and the Ottoman history. If such an argument was acceptable, dozens of countries could use a similar pretext to invade other neighbouring states.
Obstacles for a Turkish intervention
However, there are some obstacles for a possible Turkish intervention. First of all, Syrian and Arab peoples remember the Ottoman occupation and they do not want to see the Turks return. Erdogan’s policies have outraged not only Syria and Iraq but also other states of the region. In fact, Jordan’s alleged decision to suspend its participation in the airstrikes in Syria has been linked by some Arab media to Turkish actions in this country.
Other countries, such as Egypt and United Arab Emirates, do not want a Turkish intervention in Syria either. They think that Turkish government, alongside with Qatar, is trying to mobilize its allies of the Muslim Brotherhood in northern Syria and this is a clear threat for these countries, which are battling this group in their territories.
Even Saudi Arabia, despite its hostility towards the Syrian government, will not likely be happy either, as the Saudi regime does not want a more powerful Brotherhood-supporting Turkey in the region.
Secondly, Syria and Iraq have rejected any military Turkish interference. Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar Abadi reiterated on October 7 to his Turkish counterpart, Ahmed Davutoglu, that Iraq rejects any ground intervention of foreign forces in his country under the pretext of fighting ISIL. Syria has also warned that any Turkish military deployment in its territory would be an “act of aggression”.
Thirdly, Iran and Russia have clearly stated that Syria is a red line and any aggression against Syria would violate their principles and interests. Russia will certainly block any project in the UN Security Council to create a buffer or a no-fly zone. Both countries would also respond to such a Turkish action. Russia has recently sent a new warship to the Mediterranean and has held military maneuvers in the Caspian Sea alongside with Iran in order to send a signal to Turkey.
In Turkey, a large part of the population strongly rejects Erdogan’s policies in the Middle East. Major Turkish opposition parties opposed a motion by AKP (Erdogan’s party) aimed at authorizing a military intervention in Syria and Iraq. The Republican People’s Party and Freedom and Democracy Party said that such a step would be “unacceptable”.
There have also been demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities against the government’s interference in Syria and its support for ISIL. On October 5th, 10,000 people marched in Istanbul behind banners proclaiming “ISIL killer; AKP accomplice”.
For the West, Erdogan’s Turkey is becoming a serious problem too. Turkey, a NATO member, is one of the main supporters of extremism in the Middle East, and its imperialist “neo-Otoman” dreams are endangering the whole region and feeding terrorism everywhere. Thus, it is not surprising that Erdogan has become the new hero of the extremist sites and forums in Internet.
However, a Turkish intervention in Syria would have dire consequences for both Erdogan and Turkey. He will soon discover everyone is against him and such a step would renew the fear of “the Otoman resurgence” among the Arab peoples. Therefore, it would become the last nail of the coffin of the Turkish leadership’s ambitions in the Middle East.
Tuesday this week commemorates 13 years since the start of the Afghan War — America’s longest running campaign of its kind — yet an end to the operation is hardly on the horizon.
Under the terms of the Bilateral Security Agreement, the pact signed last week by representatives for both the United States and Afghanistan, the US will significantly reduce the number of soldiers involved in its post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom at the end of this year. Troop numbers will shrink to 10,000, signaling indeed a major step towards ending the war in Afghanistan — a campaign promise made by US President Barack Obama during the lead-up to his re-election in 2012. With this week’s anniversary, however, the costs incurred already appear more evident than ever, and the length of the operation may be endless.
Combined with the only recently concluded war in Iraq, the financial toll of the Afghan war on Uncle Sam’s pocketbook could range in $4 trillion to $6 trillion, according to research published last year out of Harvard University. Additionally, the iCasualties website claims the US military has suffered 2,349 deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom — including 48 this year, or as many lives lost in that war in 2003 when it was still relatively new. Of that tally, Breitbart News recently reported, 1,649 deaths or about 75 percent, have occurred since the start Pres. Obama’s first term in early 2009.
Even with last week’s agreement, however, the Afghan War will only end in name, if at all. Under the terms of the pact, the roughly 9,800 US troops that will remain in Afghanistan past the end of this year will be cut in half by the end of the next, with a full-scale withdrawal tentatively slated for the end of 2016. By keeping US troops overseas for now, the State Department said recently, Afghanistan, the US and international community at large will “maintain the partnership we’ve established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade.” Once the last of the US forces leave, the Afghan army will again be tasked with preserving national security, and for the first time without American troops since 2001.
When those troops actually will exit Afghan for good, however, remains up in the air. Under the terms of the BSA, US and NATO troops have already been cleared to stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond,” suggesting Operation Enduring Freedom could extend for another decade even after already being America’s longest running war.
Thirteen years ago this Tuesday, George W Bush, then the president of the United States, said the Pentagon had officially begun a mission “designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.”
“This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and the arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries,” Bush said from the White House. “Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and will and purpose.”
That patience is still at play today, however, and has led Operation Enduring Freedom into the record books of being the longest-running US war ever. Now despite campaign promises made by Obama, even Bush’s successor might not see the end of a war in Afghanistan anytime soon: 13 years after Bush announced the start of a military operation against terrorists, the US and its allies are now in the midst of conducting an aerial campaign against the so-called Islamic State, a terrorist organization that even Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from over concerns involving the group’s violent practices. According to new research published last month by USA Today, Washington is investing roughly $10 million a day on fighting a campaign against that group. If the Pentagon’s numbers don’t change drastically over time, then the cost of fighting that war could come to over $3 billion annually — a fraction of the $77.7 billion spent during the last fiscal year on Operation Enduring Freedom, but costly nonetheless.