Abbas denies mounting claims that Egypt has offered territory for a Palestinian state. Should we believe him?
What is Israel’s endgame in Gaza? It is a question that has been puzzling analysts and observers for some time. But belatedly, there are indications of the future Israel and Washington may have in mind for Gaza.
Desperately overcrowded, short on basic resources like fresh water, blockaded for eight years by Israel, with its infrastructure intermittently destroyed by Israeli bombing campaigns, Gaza looks like a giant pressure cooker waiting to explode.
It is difficult to imagine that sooner or later Israel will not face a massive upheaval on its doorstep. So how does Israel propose to avert a scenario in which it must either savagely repress a mass uprising by Palestinians in Gaza or sit by and watch them tear down their prison walls?
Reports in the Arab and Israeli media – in part corroborated by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas – suggest that Egypt may be at the heart of plans to solve the problem on Israel’s behalf.
This month Israeli media reported claims – apparently leaked by Israeli officials – that Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had offered the Palestinian leadership the chance to annex to Gaza an area of 1,600 sq km in Sinai. The donated territory would expand Gaza fivefold.
The scheme is said to have received the blessing of the United States.
‘Greater Gaza’ plan
According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The plan, which would most likely result in significant numbers of Palestinians moving outside the borders of historic Palestine, was quickly dismissed as “fabricated and baseless” by Egyptian and Palestinian officials.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a spokesman for Abbas, accused Israel of using the proposal to “destroy the Palestinian cause”, referring to Abbas’ efforts at the United Nations to win recognition of Palestinian statehood on parts of historic Palestine.
But Abdel Rahim’s denial raised more questions than it answered. While rejecting suggestions that Sisi had made such an offer, he added that the plan originated with Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser from 2004 to 2006.
Abdel Rahim appeared to be referring to a plan unveiled by Eiland in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later.
Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev.
Abdel Rahim also stated that a similar plan – the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Sinai – had been advanced briefly by Sisi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi, who served as president for a year from the summer of 2012 until his ousting by Sisi in a military coup, headed a Muslim Brotherhood administration that tried to strengthen ties to the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
The idea of creating a Palestinian state outside historic Palestine – in either Jordan or Sinai – has a long pedigree in Zionist thinking.
“Jordan is Palestine” has been a rallying cry on the Israeli right for decades. There have been parallel suggestions for Sinai.
In recent times, the Sinai option has found favour with the Israeli right, especially following the outbreak of the second intifada 14 years ago. Support appears to have intensified after the disengagement in 2005 and Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian national elections a year later.
Notably, the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister.
He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan.
A variation of the “Sinai is Palestine” option was dusted off again by the right during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza this summer.
Moshe Feiglin, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for Gaza’s inhabitants to be expelled from their homes under cover of the operation and moved into Sinai, in what he termed a “solution for Gaza”.
Did Morsi offer Sinai?
Given that the rationale of the Sinai option is to remove Palestinians from what the Israeli right considers Greater Israel, and such a plan is vehemently opposed by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, why would Morsi have backed it?
Further, why would he have proposed giving up a chunk of Egyptian territory to satisfy Israeli ambitions, thereby undermining his domestic credibility, at a time when he was fighting for political survival on many other fronts?
One possibility is that Abbas’ office simply made up the story to discredit Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and by extension Abbas’ political rivals in Hamas, and thereby win favour with Sisi.
But few Palestinians or Egyptians appear to have found the claim credible, and Sisi has shown no interest in pursuing this line of attack against Morsi. Why would Abbas fabricate a story that might rebound on him by linking him to such underhanded diplomacy by Egypt, Israel and the US?
There are two further pieces of the jigsaw suggesting that there may be more to the Sinai story than meets the eye.
The first are comments made by Abbas shortly before the Israeli media began reporting the alleged offer by Sisi. Abbas was responding to earlier rumours that began in the Arab media.
Abbas signalled at a meeting with Fatah loyalists on 31 August that a proposal to create a Palestinian state in Sinai was still of interest to Egyptian officials.
He reportedly said: “A senior leader in Egypt said: ‘a refuge must be found for the Palestinians and we have all this open land.’ This was said to me personally. But it’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it.”
The Times of Israel website said it had subsequently confirmed the comments with Abbas.
The Palestinian leader made similar remarks on Egyptian TV a week earlier, when he told an interviewer an Israeli plan for the Sinai had been “unfortunately accepted by some here [in Egypt]. Don’t ask me more about that. We abolished it, because it can’t be.”
What about Mubarak?
The second clue was provided in a barely noticed report in English published last month on the website of the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, headquartered in London but with strong ties to the Saudi royal family.
It claimed that in the later years of his presidency, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak came under concerted and repeated pressure from the US to cede territory in Sinai to the Palestinians to help them establish a state.
The article, based on information reportedly provided by an unnamed former Mubarak official, stated that pressure started to be exerted on Egypt from 2007.
The source quoted Mubarak as saying at the time: “We are fighting both the US and Israel. There is pressure on us to open the Rafah crossing for the Palestinians and grant them freedom of residence, particularly in Sinai. In a year or two, the issue of Palestinian refugee camps in Sinai will be internationalised.”
In Mubarak’s view, according to the report, Israel hoped that, once Palestinians were on Egyptian soil, the combined area of Sinai and Gaza would be treated as the Palestinian state. This would be the only territory to which Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return.
Anticipating later statements by Abbas’ office, the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.
US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport. The Brotherhood was urged to prepare Egyptian public opinion for the deal.
Pieces of the jigsaw
So what sense can we make of these various pieces of the jigsaw?
Each in itself can be discounted. The Asharq al-Awsat report is based on an anonymous source and there may be Saudi interests at work in promoting the story. Likewise, the Israelis could be waging a misinformation campaign.
But taken together, and given that Abbas appears reluctantly to have conceded key elements of the story, it becomes much harder to ignore the likelihood that the reports are grounded in some kind of reality.
There seems little doubt – from these reports and from the wider aspirations of the Israeli right – that a Sinai plan has been crafted by Israel’s security establishment and is being aggressively advanced, not least through the current leaks to the Israeli media. It also looks strongly like variations of this plan have been pushed more vigorously since 2007, when Hamas took exclusive control of Gaza.
Israel’s current rationale for the Sinai option is that it undermines Abbas’ intensifying campaign at the United Nations to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood, which Israel and the US adamantly oppose.
It also seems plausible, given the strength of its ties to Israel, that the US is backing the plan and adding its considerable weight to persuade the Egyptian and Palestinian leaderships.
Harder to read, however, is whether Egypt might have responded positively to such a campaign.
An Egyptian analyst explained the expected reaction from Sisi and his generals: “Egypt is relentlessly trying to keep Gaza at bay. Tunnels are being destroyed and a buffer zone is planned. Bringing more potentially hostile elements closer to Egypt would be a dangerous and reckless move.”
This is true enough. So what leverage do Israel and the US have over Egypt that might persuade it to override its national security concerns?
Turning the screw
Aside from the large sums of military aid Washington gives to Egypt each year, there is the increasingly pressing matter for Cairo of dire fuel shortages, which risk inflaming a new round of street protests.
Israel has recently discovered large offshore deposits of natural gas, which is it is ready to export to its neighbours. It is already quietly agreeing deals with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, and is reported to be in advanced discussions with Egypt.
Is this part of the pressure being exerted on Egyptian leaders to concede territory in Sinai? And has it been enough to make them overlook their security concerns?
Finally, there is the Palestinian leadership’s role. Abbas has said firmly he will not countenance such a deal. How might Israel think it could change his mind?
One controversial possibility, which throws a very different light on the events of this summer, is that Israel may hope it can “soften up” Palestinian opinion, especially in Gaza, by making life even less bearable than it already is for the population there.
It is noticeable that Israel’s large-scale operations attacking Gaza – in the winter of 2008-09, 2012 and again this year – started shortly after, according to Asharq al-Awsat, Israel and the US began turning the screws on Mubarak to concede part of Sinai.
The massive and repeated destruction of Gaza might have an added advantage for Israel: it allows Cairo to cast its offer of a small slice of the Sinai to the Palestinians as a desperately needed humanitarian gesture.
The success of Israel’s approach requires isolating Gaza, through a blockade, and inflicting massive damage on it to encourage Palestinians to rethink their opposition to a state outside historic Palestine. That precisely fits Israel’s policy since 2007.
The Sinai option may be difficult to confirm at this stage but we should keep it firmly in mind as we try to make sense of unfolding events in the region over the coming months and years.
What follows is an approximate transcription of an interview with Ken O’Keefe, a peace activist from London.
Press TV: Do you see this as a project that the United States really wants to stop this terrorist group or not?
O’Keefe: Absolutely not, and I find it laughable that anybody would even consider the United States to be seriously interested in ending terrorism.
We have had over 13 years of this farcical war on terror, all of it built on lies, from the false-flag of 9/11 to the non-prosecution of Osama bin Laden because the FBI admitted that there was no evidence linking him to 9/11, from every policy since the invasion, occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq; the attack on Libya, destroying that country; attempting to fully destroy Syria, all of this is terrorism – terrorism on a grand scale!
Let’s throw in Israel and its genocide against the Palestinians, the use of white phosphorus, depleted uranium and all sorts of other weapons of mass destruction against a civilian population in Gaza, which is comprised of over 900,000 children, and you find that the United States is without question the number one terrorist of the 20th and 21st century.
How in the world can anyone seriously believe that the United States has any interest in ending terrorism?
It is the ultimate terrorist.
Its little boogeyman creations of al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL – whatever the hell they call themselves tomorrow – is nothing more than the boogeyman necessary to justify this military industrial complex which is running roughshod over the world.
Press TV: Does the killing of an American citizen always trigger a specific type of a reaction from the United States?
O’Keefe: These beheadings have largely been debunked.
At the very least the people that are being executed in these videos are not alive.
We know when you execute somebody by cutting off their head when their heart is still beating blood will pour forth very profusely. This is not the case with these videos.
It also is one massive manipulation to suggest that the life of one or two Americans somehow justifies yet another invasion and occupation in which we have destroyed three countries at the very minimum in terms of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
We have largely caused the breeding grounds for so-called terrorism all around the region.
It beggars’ belief that anyone would be manipulated in yet another policy in which invasion, bombing, occupation and ultimately destruction of entire areas is somehow going to make the world a better place.
We have seen this all before and the United States is repeating its same role as it has been and it will make for more blood and more guts and more misery, and ultimately a breeding ground for those who see the West for what it is: absolutely hypocritical.
The West has no moral authority whatsoever.
It is in no position at all to discuss any issue regarding morality because it is the most corrupt and most violent of all peoples on this planet.
The West is the problem, not the rest of the world.
Our little boogeyman that we create will stop once we stop having the power through the global reserve currency of the US dollar to be able to pay these psychopaths to run around and behead and so on and so forth.
Press TV: What kind of precedent does this send? – Because US President Barack Obama has basically sent a message to the Syria government that if the Syrian government attacks any of their airplanes that they will take out their anti-aircraft system, basically that they would be under attack.
What does this mean when you’re talking about a sovereign country that another country has the right to go in and do whatever they want? – Whether they agree or disagree with the way that government does this business. What type of precedent does this set?
O’Keefe: It is not a precedent at all.
We have already been bombing Pakistan, Yemen. We have been running around the world and basically in a lawless kind of way have been carrying out policies including executions of anyone anywhere anytime based on the so-called president of the United States having a meeting and declaring somebody to be a terrorist.
This even includes American citizens. There is no sovereignty of nations. There is no international law.
This so-called intelligence analyst, this intelligence analyst seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that it was the United States which supported the Mujahideen which became al-Qaeda, which morphed into the al-Nusra Front, then ISIS, ISIL, IS – whatever the hell you want to call it – has been funding these people, training these people, providing bases, training in Jordan and also in Turkey, their little proxies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Kuwait have been funneling money and arms.
And now we’re being told that they are going to be training these so-called moderate factions of resistance in Syria in Saudi Arabia. That bastion of moderate behavior, the Wahabi Saudi Arabia regime, one of the most offensive – if not the most offensive regimes – on the planet, a place that we give weapons and we give cover to, political cover, media cover.
The idea that an intelligence analyst could be so oblivious and so completely incompetent at its own field that he does not recognize that the United States having supported, armed, trained, coddled and protected all these terrorists for decades now is beyond belief.
He cannot be so stupid, surely, not to know that the United States has an inherent interest in propping up continuously one boogeyman after another to justify what I said earlier, the military industrial complex, the goal of full spectrum dominance, military bases all around the world, and people with half a brain know this.
Press TV: We are looking at this type of scenario that it seems to repeat itself time and time again, especially if we are looking at a post-9/11 world. As you have said, we see boogeyman after boogeyman sort of being created.
I want to look at then the American people and do you think that this time they had to take it or it appears that the extremist nature that ISIL is presenting itself was something that it had to be that extreme in order to shake the American people up, who are extremely war-weary but because of the extent of the violence that they’re seeing that actually they will get on the bandwagon for another war in the region?
O’Keefe: What we have really is an amazing point in human history in which the sleeping masses that are literally mind-controlled through many different mechanisms from childhood in schools are brainwashed with all sorts of rubbish.
Even the pledge of allegiance which I said, along with every other school kid, ends with “liberty and justice for all”.
We have been indoctrinated with such incredible insanity that it becomes a reality for us, and many Americans are still caught up in that as are many people around the world.
But we also have at this time a growing number of people who are recapturing the ability to think for themselves and to recognize the history of both the United States and the West in general, and also the crimes of others – let us not be oblivious to the crimes of others.
But at the end of the day I come from the West and what we can see is that my birth nation, the United States, is the number one terrorist. This is simply not debatable.
I understand that many people are still being conned into believing this nonsense, the latest boogeyman creation, but ever-growing numbers of people are not buying it. They are not. And this is extremely promising and a necessary step for us to create a better world.
If we really wanted to end ISIS we would cut off their funding. And if we wanted to we could help the Iraqi government and the military and they could wipe them out in no time with a little bit of genuine financial support to be able to do what they need to do.
Iran would be an excellent partner in this. I would encourage Iraq to invite Iran in to help them wipe them out, because Iran definitely has an interest in ending real terrorism. That is why the foreign minister all too rightly said we are not all too convinced that America is serious about it. I think he is way too diplomatic, quite frankly.
But at the end of the day the United States is not serious about ending terrorism. It thrives on terrorism. Many Americans are growing to understand this.
Press TV: What scenario is this setting up, Ken, if we are looking at on the one hand, as you said that the United States does not really want to end terrorism, and on the other hand they are directly once again involved in the region, not that they were not in the region but now more directly in Iraq and again Syria.
What is this setting up? Tell me, how do you see this basically? How are you reading what is going to happen with the United States getting involved with this situation with ISIL? What is it? Do you think that they really want to destroy them because perhaps they have served their purpose or no, do they just want to see this chaos continue in the region?
O’Keefe: Chaos in the region is extremely advantageous.
The Project for a New American Century and Clean Break is an important document to read also.
Also, Oded Yinon’s strategy for Israel in the 1980s made it very clear that Iraq was target number one because of its strong Arab nationalist dictatorship.
Ultimately in the overall scheme you have this fantasy agenda of greater Israel: Israel expanding as the next great empire into Iraq, into Syria, Lebanon, also in part of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. This is their goal and it is a psychopath’s goal.
Right now all of this chaos that you see in that region fits perfectly in line with strategy papers. The policy is being carried out exactly as it was written. And the seeds of sectarian hatred and divide, which are necessary to fracture the people of the region so that they will be in a weakened state and therefore be subject to the real intention and goal, is again to expand the Israeli empire.
Ultimately this is all going to fall flat on its face but right now the chaos that is being sown is extremely advantageous for the powers that be.
Opponents of the military coup have organised mass protests across Egypt condemning the deterioration of living conditions, price hikes and the ongoing electricity crisis. They are also calling for the prosecution of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for “crimes against humanity”.
The protests came in response to a call by the Anti-Coup Alliance, which called for a “new revolutionary week” starting Friday under the slogan, “The oath of the revolution and the vow of the martyr”.
In the affluent Maadi neighborhood in Cairo, protesters denounced lifting subsidies and the increase in fuel prices. They also chanted for the release of all political prisoners and putting an end to torture in prisons.
In Hilwan, the alliance organised a morning protest against military rule and worsening living conditions. They vowed to continue protests until the leader of the coup is prosecuted.
In Baltim town in Kafr Al-Sheikh governorate, protesters condemned politicised trials and price hikes. In Desouk, protesters waved pictures of Mohamed Morsi and Rabaa signs and chanted against the deteriorating living conditions and poor services, especially electricity.
Unemployed and shattered by the 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza, Yasser decided to seek a better life elsewhere, boarding a boat to Europe that sank off Malta last week.
In one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks on record, the boat, with 500 people on board, was intentionally capsized by traffickers as it made its way from Egypt to Italy.
Only 10 people are known to have survived, among them four Palestinians from the 100 Gazans believed to have been on board. Yasser, a 23-year-old unemployed graduate, was not one of them.
Yasser’s story is far from unusual and explains why some Palestinians in Gaza are ready to risk everything to flee war and poverty in the coastal enclave, which was battered by a devastating seven-week Israeli aggression that ended late last month.
His brother Osama told AFP by telephone from his home in the United Arab Emirates that Yasser had graduated from university in Gaza but struggled to find work.
“He graduated last year and since then, like all young people, he has been unemployed. There is no future for them in Gaza,” Osama told AFP, asking that his family’s name not be published.
The crippling blockade of Gaza by Israel – and more recently Egypt – and Israeli restrictions in the occupied West Bank limit Palestinians’ ability to compete in export markets and contribute to an unemployment rate of almost 25 percent, the World Bank said in 2013.
“I tried to bring him to the Emirates but after seeing several of his friends reach Europe by boat, he decided to leave too,” he said.
Yasser crossed from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula via the Rafah crossing, paying some local Egyptians nearly $3,000 (2,300 euros) to fix his passage to Europe.
“You never know who you’re giving the money too,” Osama said.
The last time the brothers spoke was on September 5, the day before the boat carrying Yasser set sail from the port of Damietta in Egypt.
“Now I’m waiting to receive the list of survivors to know if he might still be alive,” Osama said.
Escape through the tunnels
Exact numbers of those leaving Gaza and making their way to Europe are hard to come by.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), some 2,890 people who declared themselves to be Palestinians have reached Italy so far this year.
But even that number may not be credible as some migrants falsely identify themselves as Palestinians to avoid being repatriated to home countries that have extradition agreements with the European Union.
“We estimate that thousands of people have left the Gaza Strip clandestinely over the past two months, especially during the war,” a local human rights worker told AFP.
“Due to the fact they left through tunnels to Egypt — an illegal, secret way to leave — we have no precise figure,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
With Gaza’s own access to the Mediterranean tightly closed by Israel’s naval blockade, those wanting to go to Europe would be forced to travel through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Rafah is Gaza’s only gateway to the world that is not occupied by Israel, but it has been kept largely closed by Egypt for more than a year, with the only other way across via the handful of precarious cross-border smuggling tunnels.
There’s nothing like a war and the bombing of a foreign bogeyman to unite Americans. Since President Barack Obama made his nationwide announcement last week of open-ended war to destroy the militant ISIS network in Iraq and Syria – a terror network covertly set up by the US in the first place – the polls show a majority of American public now supporting the call for all-out air strikes.
And American politicians on both sides of Congress are also united in their support for the president’s burnished war effort. House Republican leader John Boehner has opposed Obama on all manners of domestic policies, but when it comes to going on a foreign blitzkrieg, well, that’s a “compelling case.”
Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to finalize on how much budget cuts to slash ordinary American citizens with, but they sure can close ranks on drumming up an extra $500 million to pour more weapons into war-torn Syria. It must be the “smell of napalm in the morning” that stimulates their erogenous zones.
Beyond the US, however, the newly formed “international coalition” for the American-led fight against ISIS, also known as IS or ISIL, is far from united. Indeed, early signs are that Anti-Terror Team USA is self-imploding from its own internal contradictions and dubious criminal nature.
Earlier this week, on the day before Obama’s 9/11 reminder speech for expanding the fraudulent war on terror, his secretary of state John Kerry was scouring the Middle East soliciting allies to bomb extremists in Iraq and Syria. On Wednesday, Kerry was telling CNN that such a coalition would involve “40 participating nations.”
After tours of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Kerry was able to dragoon just 10 Arab states into joining the US bombing manifest.
‘Arab States Give Tepid Support To US Fight Against ISIS,’ reported the New York Times on September 12. These states include Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf medieval oil sheikhdoms of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman, plus Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. That’s hardly a constellation of legal probity and virtue; more like a rogue’s gallery of serial human rights violators.
A joint communiqué signed in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah stated a “shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism”. But the NYT noted: “The underlying tone was one of reluctance.” Even two of the signatories, Egypt and Jordan, expressed uneasy reservations about US plans to bomb ISIS into oblivion, despite signing up to the communiqué.
The Magnificent Ten in Jeddah vowed to: end financing of extremist groups; prevent the flow of weapons to such groups; halt the supply of fighters; curb the spread of extremist ideology; and increase humanitarian aid to Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia also promised to set up training camps for “moderate rebels” who would allegedly counteract the extremist ISIS network.
That chore list sounds rather more like a confession of past crimes that some of these US allies have been up to over the past three years: financing, arming, manning and promoting ISIS and its ilk to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and Iraq. As for Wahhabi head-chopping Saudi Arabia setting up training camps to counteract its very own Wahhabi-sponsored head-chopping extremists in ISIS that’s just a risible joke.
Kerry tried to put a brave face on his dysfunctional regional posse. “Arab nations play a critical role, indeed a leading role,” he said in Jeddah, with a bravado that belied the fact that this proposed bombing campaign against ISIS is a US-led operation to give itself a license to bomb Syria for its long-held regime-change objective; the only critical role that these Arab puppets have is to give the covert campaign a veneer of Arab consent so that it doesn’t look like American imperialism on another criminal, murderous rampage – which it is.
NATO member Turkey, although non-Arab, dealt a blow from the outset to the US coalition by refusing to sign up. The Ankara government said it would not allow American warplanes to use its territory for air strikes against ISIS either in Iraq or Syria. Turkey has nearly 50 of its citizens currently held in captivity by the extremist groups in Syria and said that its “hands were tied.”
Ankara has also been a covert arms supplier of ISIS and other extremists, such as Jabhat al Nusra, along with the US and other NATO members, in a bid to oust the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad since mid-March 2011. That regime-change plan in Syria has failed miserably, with Assad winning overwhelmingly a presidential election last June, thus disproving the Western propaganda campaign of a popular revolution rising up against a tyrant.
Where the covert Western-backed terrorist campaign has failed on the ground, now Washington wants to add air power under the guise of “destroying” the ISIS terror network – a network that it in fact has spawned for the purpose of regime change in Syria. What are the bets that any US-led bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will soon morph into US air strikes on Assad government forces, which is the main target for Washington, not its CIA-sponsored mercenaries in ISIS?
Turkey is mindful of blowback terrorism if it were to publicly join in US-led air strikes against ISIS. All of the Arab bombing coalition are no doubt mindful of the same treacherous contradiction, hence their reported reluctance to sign up to the scheme, as the New York Times noted.
Meanwhile, Russia, Syria and Iran immediately warned of the legal consequences of Obama’s bombing strategy. The Iraqi government has approved, so that gives Washington a claim on legality for continuing its strikes against ISIS in the north of that country. But not so the Syrian government.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that without the consent of the Syrian government in Damascus or a UN Security Council mandate, any US-led air strikes on ISIS inside Syrian territory would amount to “a gross violation of international law”. The Syrian authorities added that any such US intervention would be “an act of aggression on a sovereign country.”
Obama claims that he has “executive war powers” to bomb and kill whomever he wants, under the fascistic post-9/11 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). But this White House Murder Inc. policy is increasingly threadbare and morally abhorrent. All the more so because Washington is exhorting the European Union to slap tougher economic sanctions on Russia for allegedly intervening militarily in Ukraine – which Moscow adamantly says it is not and moreover points out that there is no evidence of.
The dubious legality, not to mention logistical viability, of Washington’s latest bomb-first-ask-questions-later proposals to defeat the Frankenstein monster of its own creation in Iraq and Syria is cause for pause among even America’s pathetic European lackeys.
The French are balking at the prospect of bombing its former Syrian colony. French President Francois Hollande said: “France is ready to act, but once the political accord is there and in respect of international law.” That’s French diplomacy-speak for: “Don’t count on us being caught complicit in American war crimes.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was even more categorical in spurning the US-led coalition. Speaking in Berlin the day after Obama’s bravura televised speech to his nation, Germany’s top diplomat said of possible air strikes: “To be quite clear, we have not been asked to do so and neither will we do so.”
Britain’s Foreign Minister Philip Hammond also ruled out British involvement in US-led air strikes inside Syria. Hammond said his government supported the US-led coalition – placating the megalomaniac Yanks – but he told Reuters : “Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria. We have already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won’t be revisiting that position.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to quickly snub Hammond later on Friday when he said that “nothing was being ruled out” as far as British warplanes are concerned in possible Syria operations with the Americans.
Nevertheless, despite Cameron’s obviously compensatory bluster, it seems clear that the US-led campaign to “destroy ISIS” is already running out of commitment, even among Washington’s most dutiful, pathetically servile allies; and no wonder, too. This US-led anti-terror bombing coalition is such a barrel of volatile lies, unstable contradictions and inflammatory expediency it is bound to implode before it even starts to roll.
Syrian media accused Arab governments Tuesday of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against jihadists, with one daily calling for Damascus to form an alternative alliance with Moscow and Tehran.
The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.
“Washington, which used the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter the region militarily in 2003 and draw new geopolitical lines… is returning today under a new false pretext, the fight against terrorism,” said the Al-Baath newspaper.
“The Arabs meanwhile, are absent from every decision and are playing secondary roles,” it added.
The Baath party daily was referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which notoriously the alleged chemical and biological weapons that were used to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime were never found.
Kerry is set to meet foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the six Gulf Arab states in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
The talks are part of US efforts to build a coalition to tackle ISIS, which has seized large tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and carried out abuses including the decapitation of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese and two American journalists.
On Sunday, the Arab League pledged to take “necessary measures” to confront ISIS, and said it was ready for “international cooperation on all fronts.”
But Syria, and its ally Iran, will not be present at the talks in Saudi Arabia, and Damascus fears efforts to tackle ISIS will involve air strikes on its territory without its permission.
State-run newspaper Al-Thawra warned: “The United States is setting the stage to bring new wars to the region.
“Its local partners are ready to carry out its orders without even knowing the details of the American plan,” it added.
Government daily Tishrin questioned why Kerry and US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel were coming to the region “when the Arab League has already given its prior agreement for a new war in the region organized by the United States.”
A newspaper called for the formation of an alternative “Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition” against the jihadists to that being put together by Washington.
“Western and regional governments are excluding the nations that really want to fight terrorism,” it said, charging that the US-led coalition included nations that “support terrorism financially, military and logistically.”
Damascus considers all rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists” and has long accused the rebels’ supporters, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of funding “terror.”
Similarly, critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.
On Monday, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.
Israeli military magazine Israel Defence has reported that Israel is concerned over the possibility of Russia supplying Egypt with the developed anti-aircraft system S-300.
According to foreign media reports, Israel does not possess the proper technology to undermine the work of such an advanced system.
Sources told the magazine that Israel may not allow for Egypt to deploy such anti-aircraft missiles, if they are in fact being obtained, in the Sinai Peninsula.
A source in the Russian military industrial complex told Russia News Agency last month that the anti-aircraft system Egypt is currently negotiating with Russia over was initially produced for Syria. However, Egyptian partners have now “expressed interest in S-300 purchases”.
“The system may be re-equipped for Egypt in a short period of time,” the source added.
Israel Defence noted that if the anti-aircraft system were to be placed in Suez, its radar would cover half of Israel, and if placed in Port Said, it would cover almost the entire area of Israel.
This means that any Israeli plane flying towards Egypt or any Israeli rocket launched at Egypt would be monitored while still inside Israel.
The arming of US police agencies with military-grade weaponry and tactics can be traced back, at the very least, to the creation of the paramilitary “Special Weapons and Tactics” Unit (SWAT) in 1967. In Overkill: Rise of Paramilitary Policing journalist Radley Balko notes that what inspired the heavily militarized SWAT team of today was “a specialized force in Delano, California, made up of crowd control officers, riot police, and snipers, assembled to counter the farm worker uprisings led by Cesar Chavez.” Balko writes in August 2013 for The Wall Street Journal that by 1975 from this first experimental SWAT unit grew to “approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13 percent of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80 percent.”
In War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, published in June 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it is reported that federal programs “are arming state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war with almost no public discussion or oversight.” One such policy is the Department of Defense (DoD) Excess Property Program, or the 1033 Program, which “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.” Items provided by the DoD include, but are not limited to, mine-resistant ambush protected armored vehicles, aircrafts, grenade launchers, countless machine guns, magazines, bomb suits, forced entry tools and units of surveillance.
In the small city of Ferguson, Missouri, an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, was shot multiple times by a police officer on August 9. Witnesses say that the police officer had initiated a confrontation with Brown, and then physically assaulted him, as reported by Margaret Hartmann for New York Magazine :
“Brown’s friend, Dorin Johnson, says they were walking in the street when the officer pulled up and told them to “get the eff onto the sidewalk.” Johnson says the officer then reached “his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around the neck.” Witness Piaget Crenshaw said he saw the officer chasing Brown. “They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died.”
After the murder of Michael Brown, protests began to quickly take shape in Ferguson in response, not only at the scene of the crime but in front of the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. The police response to these protesters, many of whom literally had their hands raised above their heads while shouting “don’t shoot!”, was alarming – dogs were called, and heavily armed police officers lined up, intimidating the men, women and children of Ferguson. At least one police officer was recorded shouting, “Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!” Extremely troubling was the implementation of a no-fly zone over Ferguson, meant “to stop media from flying over the area to film.”
The targeting of Black communities by law enforcement is historic and ubiquitous; it has long colored every aspect of life for even those indirectly impacted by police actions – when systematic racism meets a militarized police force the outcome is continued dehumanization of Black bodies, societal acceptance of black deaths at the hands of the police and a disastrous escalation, oftentimes with public approval, of violent tactics against the Black people and communities of color. Modern US police departments share a colonial history that gives context to police violence of today – recognizing this framework is essential when examining how police brutality has developed historically. From constables in the 1600s who made up a sort of “neighborhood watch,” wherein they would capture slaves and prevent them from organizing for payment, the slave patrols of the early 1700s, the brazen appointment of police officers by way of their political affiliations in the 1880’s and stop-and-frisk, adopted from English common law, we learn that not only is violence an inherent part of the institution itself but it is a necessary component which allows for the state to control its citizens, and it has emerged and developed in the most destructive of ways. Police officers are trained to use force and are given the most lethal of weapons in order for them to do so and, according to data presented in the June 2014 report by the ACLU, this violence is overwhelmingly directed towards people of color. “Sixty-one percent of all the people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases were minorities” and a majority are Black:
“[W]hen the data was examined by agency (and with local population taken into consideration), racial disparities in SWAT deployments were extreme. As shown in the table and graph below, in every agency, Blacks were disproportionately more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites, sometimes substantially so. For example, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Blacks were nearly 24 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were, and in Huntington, West Virginia, Blacks were 37 times more likely. Further, in Ogden, Utah, Blacks were 40 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were.”
Despite this, the focus on the actions of individual officers, while warranted, should not overwhelm the discourse – the data presented by the ACLU is not only an indictment of police officers alone but of the police institution itself. Police agencies have created an environment which not only employs violence against minorities but encourages violence against them.
Present-day US law enforcement as an institution has cooperated with a long list of state agencies which are integral components of the larger machinery of government as well as international police forces. The joint training between the United States and Israel is one such example. In May 2010, 50 retired US admirals and generals vigorously argued that Israel is a security asset in a letter to President Obama, that “American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks,” they wrote in part. In 2010, the Anti-Defamation League publicized that it had sponsored 15 senior law enforcement officials – including from the FBI, NYPD and Boston Police – to take part in an intensive “counter-terrorism training mission” in Israel so that they could share “information, strategies and tactics,” then again in 2011 and 2013. This program, which was first established in 2003, has sent over 115 state, federal and local law enforcement executives to Israel. In 2013, members of a US bomb squad from Arizona, including a US deputy, traveled to Israel for training which included “going to a West Bank outpost with the Israeli National Police bomb squad… learning about port inspections as they relate to counter explosives and counter IED operations.”
One of the reasons for this training? “To improve techniques and tactics they use along the US-Mexico border.”
The ADL is not the only organization boasting of this militarized US-Israel partnership. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has an entire publication dedicated to this “strategic partnership,” noting that “Israel has worked with multiple American agencies, including the FBI, NYPD, LAPD, and the Washington, D.C. Police Department.” According to the pamphlet not only have the U.S. Capitol Police undergone training in “Israeli counterterrorism techniques” but the partnership between these two colonial entities is far reaching, even beyond the scope of traditional law enforcement, with FEMA and the National Guard “often [traveling] to Israel to participate in Israeli homeland security drills.” The United States is not only learning from the brutality of the Israeli occupation forces but sharing their knowledge with other nations. The Middle Eastern Law Enforcement Training Center, which is co-sponsored by the FBI and the U.A.E. at the Dubai Police Academy, where FBI agents offer special training courses that “[involve] many aspects of law enforcement, including ways to combat white-collar crime, violent crime, forensics and counter-terrorism.” The United States also conducts military exchange programs in places like Egypt where US forces and Egyptian forces take part in joint military exercises, and offers FBI training to Egypt’s secret police who “routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition” according to victim testimony.
Police institutions, which continue to work and expand under the guise of law while merging with the most prominent characters behind war-making, including the arms industry, lobbyists, and politicians, demand that communities, most often those of color, surrender what little autonomy they have so that they may receive “protection.” That they are ever permitted to collect on this guardianship is of no consequence because these institutions define protection and determine, for everyone, what is a most satisfactory response to any and all actions on the part of the community members.
Black men and women have long fought, with their blood, for the decentralization and democratization of the police and the right of their communities to determine their future without threat of police brutality – the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program, written in 1966, is a clear-cut example. “We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People,” the program reads in part. “We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.” An article in the Palm Beach Post, published in 1969, reads “Decentralized Police Sought By Black Panthers”:
“Six intense Black Panthers have come in out of the West as advance men for a national conference which will drumbeat a simplistic theme – decentralize the police systems of big cities, place the cops under neighborhood control and give each community its own police commissioner.”
US police forces uphold white supremacy with their racist implementation of violence, where in places like Ogden, Utah, Black people “were 40 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were,” according to the ACLU. These forces work towards the preservation of capitalism, and the police, as an institution, use elitism, violence and authoritarianism in order to preserve the state.
Decentralization is not only possible but proving to be a necessary process in order to dismantle the structuralized and militarized brutality that communities of color face at the hands of racist paramilitary police forces. The police have proven that they are not accountable to the communities they allegedly “serve and protect,” and so in order to implement restorative justice the institution itself should be dismantled and replaced with an organization that is transparent, represents the diversity of these communities and which, most importantly, is limited in regards to the scope of the organization’s power.
GAZA CITY – Egyptian authorities denied entry to a Kuwaiti delegation bringing aid to the Gaza Strip on Thursday as it opened the Rafah crossing for humanitarian cases.
Palestinian crossing officials said that injured Palestinians, medical patients and foreign nationals were allowed to use the crossing and Gaza residents in Egypt were allowed to return.
Egyptian security prevented a four-man Kuwaiti delegation carrying medical aid from entering Gaza.
No reason was given for the refusal.
Egyptian authorities have largely kept the Rafah crossing closed since the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The terminal is the only border crossing that most of Gaza’s 1.8 million people can use to leave the enclave.
By The Numbers
Gaza: Indiscriminate Israeli War Crimes against Civilians
Number of Gazans killed by Israel: 1,943 (with 80 percent civilian casualties including 437 children and 243 women)
Number of Gazans wounded by Israel: 9,886
Number of Houses Destroyed: 5,622; Damaged: at least 36,700
Number of Mosques Destroyed: 64; Damaged: 152
Number of Schools or Educational Facilities Destroyed or Damaged: 189
Number of Hospitals or Medical Facilities Destroyed or Damaged: 24
Number of Structures Destroyed including the only Electric Power Plant: More than 1500
Egypt: A Brutal Military Coup To Halt Democracy and Silence Political Dissent
Number of people killed by the coup regime from July 3, 2013 to January 31, 2014: at least 3248 (including 299 students with 289 males and 10 females (table 5 at the bottom); at least 80 died while in custody)
Number of people injured by the coup regime from July 3, 2013 to February 28, 2014: 18,535 (including at least 1400 students)
Number of people arrested by the coup regime from July 3, 2013 to May 31, 2014: 41,163 (By April 2014 only 9,220 have been tried with about 1,260 receiving death sentences in mass trials)
Syria: a Bloody Civil War Fueled by Sectarianism and Foreign Interference
Number of Syrian Refugees and Displaced Persons according to the UN by end of July 2014: 2,951,423 (three fourths of which are women and children)
American Military Aid to Israel: Aiding and Abetting Israeli War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
Israel GDP per capita: $38,700 (more than Japan)
Gaza GDP per capita: less than $2,000 (164 in the world; less than half of West Bank)
Annual U.S. military aid to Israel: $3.6 Billion ($3.1B in direct military aid and $504 million in subsidies to Israeli military industries)
Daily U.S. military aid to Israel: $10 million
All Time Aid US Aid to Israel: $125 Billion ($160B when adjusted to inflation)
Amount of weapons and munitions US sent to Israel since its 2012 war on Gaza: $276 million not including exports of military transport equipment and high technologies
Amount of stockpile of ammunition the US military stores in Israel for that country’s use (called War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel): $1 Billion
Amount of rocket launchers, guided missiles, bombs, grenades and munitions of war US sent to Israel between January and May 2014: $37 million
Congressional Vote to give Israel $225 million in emergency military aid in early August 2014: House of Representatives: 395 to 8; Senate: 100 to 0.
The eight courageous dissenters in the House (four Democrats and four Republicans) are: Keith Ellison (D-MN), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Justin Amash (R-MI), Walter Jones (R-NC), Tom Massie (R-KY), and Mark Sanford (R-SC).
Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An official Egyptian document has revealed that Egyptian authorities are imposing incapacitating conditions on relief convoys seeking to deliver medical and food aid to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.
The document addressed the “regulatory rules for the entry of aid convoys to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing at this stage.”
The document, which was handed by the Egyptian authorities to the Arab branches of the Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations during their latest meeting in Jordan, stated that the Egyptian authorities have obliged relief organisations seeking to deliver aid to Gaza to submit a request to Egypt through the foreign ministries of the countries in which they operate. The request should include a list of the aid items that the organisations plan to take into Gaza through Rafah.
Relief agencies must then wait for the approval of the Egyptian foreign ministry before they start sending aid to Gaza.
The document specified that aid items must arrive at either the Ismailiya Airport or at Port Said. Aid agencies are required to pay the cost of unloading and shipping the food and medical aid items in any of the two locations.
Relief agencies are banned from providing construction material, gas cylinders, fuel, or funds into Gaza, according to the document, which also notified the Red Cross and Red Crescent that only a limited number of persons will be allowed to accompany the aid items into Gaza.
The document further stressed that journalists who seek to cross to Gaza must provide their names and passport information to the Egyptian authorities beforehand, and they must obtain approval from their countries’ foreign ministries or Cairo embassies. However, Egypt reserves the right to refuse people entry into Gaza through the Rafah crossing without specifying the reasons for this decision.
With regards medical teams, the document noted that doctors are required to submit requests to their countries’ foreign ministries and coordinate with the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah before they can obtain the Egyptian authorities’ approval to enter Gaza.
The head of the Algerian Red Crescent Saida Benhabyles, who is also a former minister, said in a press conference held in the Algerian capital that the Egyptian authorities want to put the logo of the Egyptian Red Crescent along with the logo of any aid or relief agency delivering aid into Gaza.
Benhabyles announced that, due to the Egyptian conditions, the Algerian Red Crescent had to cancel a donation campaign that had aimed to deliver blood to Gaza.
Gaza, Occupied Palestine – This morning a group of over 70 people, mostly women and children carrying foreign passports, planned to take advantage of the ceasefire to leave Gaza and enter Egypt. Israel began bombing Rafah and the Egyptian personnel closed the Egyptian side of the border, leaving them trapped at the crossing, as the bombs fall around them. The Red Cross is not being allowed to reach them due to the bombing in the area.
Their nationalities include German, Norwegian, Bulgarian, and Egyptian.
Call the Egyptian Embassy in your country.
Call the German, Norwegian, Bulgarian foreign office and political representatives to demand that the Egyptian government opens the crossing and allows civilians to take refuge.
“The situation is very scary, the borders are closed and we are here, 70 people, mostly women and children trapped. I can see the smoke and fire, and I can hear the explosions very close to where we are,” said Nalan, one of the women trapped at the Rafah Crossing, talking to The Real News.
Listen to the audio recording of a phone call with Nalan Al Sarraj, correspondent for The Real News Network, trapped at the crossing here.
A call issued by civil society organizations and public figures including African National Congress (ANC) leaders Ahmed Kathrada, Ronnie Kasrils, and former vice president of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini and Richard Falk states that “Despite a call from Egyptian citizens to lift the siege, the Egyptian government which controls one border and has the option to be part of a humanitarian response to the besieged people of Gaza, has instead supported the Israeli plan for return to the status quo of slow genocide.”