**For the photo above: David Ignatius (left), the moderator of this panel at last year’s Davos World Economic Forum, tries to stop Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey (center) from speaking. Mr. Erdogan later left the stage to protest comments by President Shimon Peres of Israel (right).**
As the interlinked dramas of Israel’s attack on Turkish civilian ships on the high seas and the Obama Administration’s push for a new Iran sanctions resolution in the Security Council play out, some in the American foreign policy establishment are beginning to realize that the Middle East—and America’s place in it—are changing in profound ways.
Turkey’s deepening engagement in the region is an extremely important catalyst for change. Of course, this is not a new or suddenly breaking news story. Turkey’s refusal to allow U.S. forces to invade Iraq from Turkish territory in 2003—not long after Erdoğan’s AKP had come to power–should have been a wake-up call. At the time, though, Turkey’s decision was dismissed by the Washington establishment with a mix of disbelief and a refusal to appreciate how popular the decision was in Turkey.
After Turkey’s key role, along with Brazil, in brokering the recent nuclear deal with Iran and Erdoğan’s strong reaction to the Israeli attack on Turkish-flagged vessels, the U.S. foreign policy establishment is now compelled, by force of events, to recognize that something important is afoot. In this regard, we were struck by David Ignatius’ most recent column in the Washington Post, “Flotilla raid offers Israel a learning opportunity.” He writes,
“By attacking the relief flotilla, Israel picked a fight with Turkey, a more dangerous foe than Hamas. The quarrel has been brewing for the past several years, and it’s a huge strategic change in the Middle East. Once Israel’s most important regional ally, Turkey now seeks to challenge Israel’s hegemony as the local superpower. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a Muslim populist with a charismatic message: We won’t let Israel push us around. Where Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is often a buffoon, Erdoğan is a genuinely tough if erratic rival.”
Ignatius underestimates Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic’s challenge to Israel. But, to his credit, puts his finger on the most important strategic implication of Erdoğan’s challenge—it is fundamentally a challenge to Israel’s sense of unfettered hegemony over the region.
In explaining why Israel decided to attack Turkish ships headed for Gaza, Ignatius writes, with blazing clarity, “The answer is that over many years, Israel has become accustomed to unchallenged freedom of military action in the Middle East.” That is absolutely correct, and Israel is determined to preserve this freedom of action, whatever the cost—and to persuade craven American politicians and the more gullible parts of the American public that both vital U.S. interests and Israel’s very survival are at stake in preserving it, even when that is manifestly not the case.
We have previously made a similar argument about what is at stake for Israel in the disposition of the Iranian nuclear issue, see here. The Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is hardly an “existential threat” to Israel. But, a nuclear-capable Iran might, at the margins, begin to impose some limits on Israel’s absolute freedom to use military force unilaterally, wherever it wants, and for whatever purpose it favors.
The Israeli argument against Iran’s nuclear development—like its argument against Turkey’s pique over having Turkish vessels attacked on the high seas, its argument that settlements in occupied territory are completely legal, and its argument that blockading a civilian population in Gaza is also completely legal—is not based on rational analysis of actual physical threats. All of these arguments are directed towards the preservation of Israel’s regional hegemony, embodied in its unchallenged freedom of military action in the Middle East.
From this perspective, Iran and Turkey pose very similar “threats” to Israel. Iran’s re-emergence as a powerful regional player (with its principal regional foes, Iraq and Afghanistan, neutered by U.S. invasions) with the potential for a nuclear weapons “option” could effectively check Israel’s ability to use force unilaterally whenever and wherever it chooses. And, Turkey’s challenge to the siege of Gaza by Israel (and, let’s be fair, Egypt, too) could, if successful, have a similar effect.
Though free on bail, Sami Al-Arian remains politically imprisoned like many hundreds of others behind bars. Because of his faith, ethnicity, prominence and political activism, he was accused of supporting “terrorism” and other outrageous charges.
In fact, he’s a Palestinian refugee, a distinguished professor, scholar, community leader, and civil activist, a man deserving honor, not incarceration doing hard time until released after five and half years of brutal treatment, including solitary confinement in rat and roach-infested cells.
He was denied religious services, got no watch or clock, and was kept in windowless cells with artificial lights kept on round the clock. Whenever outside his cell, he was also shackled hands behind back and ankles. In protest, he staged hunger strikes, long enough to endanger is life.
A Brief Timeline of His Case
FBI investigations hounded him for 11 years, spending millions of dollars for half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other forms of harassment.
Events came to a head at 5AM on February 20, 2003 when FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officers stormed his home guns drawn. They arrested him and three others separately on spurious charges of supporting terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, giving material support to an outlawed group, extortion, perjury, and other offenses proved bogus in court.
On February 27, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft fired him, acting as a Bush administration stooge.
At his four day March bail hearing, prosecutors provided no evidence, witnesses, or any reason to hold him. Nonetheless, he and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail.
On March 27, he was incarcerated at maximum security federal penitentiary, Coleman, FL after initially held in jail. Later he was transferred repeatedly to other federal prisons.
In June 2005, his trial began. It was a witch-hunt travesty with phony evidence, the kind prosecutors use when they have none. Despite spending around $50 million for years of investigations and six months of trial, jurors exonerated him on eight serious charges, remaining deadlocked 10 – 2 for acquittal on nine lesser ones.
On March 2, 2006, fearing retrial, he agreed to plead guilty to one minor charge, be freed, then reunited with his family and deported. But it didn’t end there.
Assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg ordered him before a grand jury, violating terms of his plea bargain. Fearing entrapment, he refused, was held in contempt, again imprisoned, and sentenced to 18 months without mitigation – a clear effort to keep hounding and imprison him.
At the time, his attorney, Professor Jonathan Turley, called the Justice Department’s ploy “a classic perjury trap used repeatedly by the government to punish those individuals who could not be convicted before an American jury.”
Al-Arian appealed and remained imprisoned until released on bail on September 2, 2008 under house arrest, pending trial for criminal contempt. For the first time in over five years, he was reunited with his family, but his ordeal continues.
On October 29, 2010, a new hearing will be held before federal Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia to decide whether criminal contempt charges will be pursued or dropped.
Under Obama, prosecutors are as ruthlessly corrupted as their predecessors, using every trick in the book to convict, whether guilty or innocent, and when trials are politically motivated, intensifying pressure even more. The Justice Department thus filed a motion to deny a defense motion, filed 18 months earlier to dismiss criminal contempt charges. Three previous DOJ motions were rejected. This time, Holder prosecutors not only requested denying the defense’s dismissal request, but asked Judge Brinkema to reverse her earlier decision letting Al-Arian’s attorneys present evidence in case of trial.
In March 2009, she backed the defense’s request to file a motion to dismiss Al-Arian’s charges, saying she’d rule later at further hearings, and expressing concern over government “bait and switch” tactics:
“where Dr. Al-Arian and his counsel were assured that, if he agreed to plead guilty (to one minor charge), he would not be subject to any further involvement with the Justice Department beyond his deportation following the completion of his sentence.”
Bush prosecutors reneged on the agreement.
Like earlier departments under Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Mukasey, Holder shows equal contempt for the law and judicial fairness, presenting a challenge for the most competent defense lawyers. Al-Arian, however, is well represented, his team led by Professor Jonathan Turley, a recognized legal scholar who’s written extensively on constitutional and tort law as well as legal theory and other topics. With him are attorneys William E. Olsen and Philip J. Meitl.
On October 29, at 8:30AM, Al-Arian’s hearing will be held at the
Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
The freesamialarian site calls it his “most important” one so far, more than others up to now. His freedom and future depend on the outcome.
Some Final Comments
In July 2003, Amnesty International (AI) wrote US prosecutors, “calling for a review of the pre-trial detention conditions of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, aspects of which it said appeared to be ‘gratuitously punitive,’ ” and a breach of international standards.
In December 2005, AI sought fair procedures to resolve his case after jurors acquitted him of terrorist and other serious charges. AI noted his harsh solitary confinement, calling it “unnecessarily punitive.”
In August 2008, Howard Zinn said:
“I thought that (Al-Arian’s case) was an outrageous violation of human rights, both from a constitutional point of view and as a simple test of justice.”
His former appeals attorney, Professor Peter Erlinder and former National Lawyers Guild president said:
“The prosecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to silence political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. The nature of the political persecution of this case has been demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the trial and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after the stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised abuse of the grand jury system thereafter.”
Throughout his ordeal, many other individuals and organizations expressed support, demanding justice and an end to prosecutorial ruthlessness, false imprisonment, and contempt for the rule of law.
In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers produced a documentary titled, USA v. Al-Arian. An updated 2009 version is now available. Access the following link to order:
Al-Arian was targeted for his ethnicity, prominence, activism, and for being Muslim at the wrong time in America. Washington’s police state harshness makes everyone just as vulnerable.
Earlier articles explaining Al-Arian’s ordeal, a man Bush administration prosecutors hounded, persecuted and imprisoned on bogus charges, can be accessed through the following links:
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is what I don’t understand. Jonathan Tepperman of the “Eurasia group, a global political risk consulting firm,” is I’m guessing Jewish and is doing fine here in the U.S. So for him personally, as for me, the conceptual basis of Zionism– that Jews are endangered in the west– is probably meaningless; and I bet he likes living in a country where a member of a minority gets to be president. But here he is given a platform at the Atlantic to say that Israel is the “refuge for the Jews” and therefore it’s legitimate that it act to limit the population growth of Israeli Palestinians so they don’t threaten the Jewish majority–of a country he has the freedom to move to tomorrow and doesn’t want to.
Yes historically, that was the basis of Israel’s founding. Does it make sense today?
Notice too that throughout this argument, Tepperman speaks of “Israelis” and means Jews, and speaks of Palestinian Israelis as “Arabs.” And Israel is for those Jews “their own land.” Not the Arabs’ land. That seems implicitly racist. Those Palestinians are actually Israelis! Those Palestinians may not be represented in the government, because of racism, but they’re Israeli citizens. Just as many blacks and Jews are Americans and many of us would resent it if, say, we were excluded from higher office in the U.S. As I say, I just don’t get this.
Also note Tepperman’s argument that Israel must preserve its majority because Jews in Arab countries have been oppressed. Interesting realist argument, a two-wrongs argument. Jeffrey Goldberg makes it too. I’ve been in the neighboring Arab countries and he’s right, their governments aren’t pretty, but I don’t see why this should check democratic reform in Israel and Palestine. Tepperman:
Due to a birthrate much higher than Israel’s Jewish population, it was only a matter of time before Jews ceased to be a numerical majority in the territory they controlled. Sure enough: In 1970, Jews represented about 70% of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. But by 1995 that figure had fallen to 56% and by 2005 (just before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza) to 51%.
These numbers forced successive Israeli leaders to face the fact that if they were determined to hold on to the Occupied Territories, they would soon become outnumbered in their own lands. At that point, Israel would have to choose between being Jewish or democratic, but it couldn’t be both. It was this hard logic that pushed such unsentimental men as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to eventually accept the logic of withdrawing from Gaza.
But as Lieberman has highlighted, the territories only represent part of the problem. Even if Israel were to shed itself completely of the West Bank today, the issue wouldn’t go away. For Israel proper–as defined by its 1967 borders–also has a sizable Arab population, and that population is also growing fast (or so it is commonly believed), again thanks to a birthrate higher than that of the Jews. The rate of increase is far too fast for the likes of people like Lieberman–but also too fast for many secular Israeli Jews, who worry that once again they risk being outnumbered in their own land.
This fear has merit. By the end of 2008 (the last date for which numbers are available), Israeli Arabs represented fully 20% of country’s population (excluding the territories), according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. This percentage has steadily risen over the years.
Now, those Israelis who worry about this, and dread being outnumbered by Arabs in their own country, aren’t necessarily racists. The two sides of Israel’s nature–its Jewish and democratic soul–have always coexisted uneasily, and would be quickly upset by a demographic shift. Israel was founded and internationally recognized as a refuge for Jews, and it is legitimate that modern Israelis are determined to keep it so. Given the way Jews have been treated in Arab lands, moreover, they have grounds to fear life under an Arab majority.
For all these reasons, a little demographic-induced panic is understandable.
New Delhi: About 500 civil rights activists from 17 Asian countries will march to Palestine to press Israel to end the siege of Gaza. The activists will gather in New Delhi on December 1 and proceed to Gaza. The march is being organized by Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine.
The group announced the schedule of the march in a press conference on October 5 in Delhi with similar press conferences on the same day in four other countries Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and Lebanon. According to the release, 500 civil resisters from 17 Asian countries will join the caravan from India and march through 18 Asian cities of Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to break the siege of Gaza through the sea route in December 2010.
“This struggle is broad, varied and multi-dimensional. It is humanitarian and for peace, freedom and human dignity. It is against occupation, imperialism, apartheid, Zionism and all forms of discrimination including religious discrimination,” the group said.
Their major demands include Palestinian Self-Determination; Ending the Occupation; Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine; the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees; and Establishment of a Sovereign, Independent and Democratic state of Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital.
The Caravan will be carrying relief materials for the people of Gaza. The Asia to Gaza Caravan will cross into Pakistan via Wagah border where the Pakistan Solidarity for Gaza groups will host a civic reception for the caravan and Pakistani civil resisters will join the Caravan onwards to Iran. In every country and city, welcome committees will host receptions and public meetings with mass organisations and civil resisters will join the caravan. The caravan will culminate in 500 civil resisters boarding a ship from a Mediterranean port to sail to Gaza to break the illegal Israeli siege.
According to the release, the march has been endorsed by various organizations and individuals including All India Students Association (AISA), Aman Bharat, Asha Parivar, Awami Bharat, Global Gandhi Forum, JamiatUlema-I-Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind. The individuals include Achin Vanaik, Agdish Nagarkar, Anand Grover, Anand Patwardhan, Shabnam Hashmi, Shahid Siddiqui and Medha Patkar.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the US was supporting some common enemies of Pakistan and Turkey and the time has come to unmask them and act together.
In an exclusive chat with this correspondent in the presence of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Turkish prime minister very candidly answered critical questions not only about Turkey-Pakistan relations but also on some other important issues before leaving Pakistan on Tuesday night.
The Turkish premier said that the people of Pakistan should not fight with each other and they must concentrate on rehabilitation of 20 million flood victims. “Instability and infighting will only help your enemies who are looking for an opportunity to use Pakistanis against Pakistanis.
“If you will not understand the evil designs of your enemies then what will be the future of 20 million flood victims of Pakistan, who will help them if you start fighting with each other,” Erdogan warned.
He said that Pakistan,Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran have a common future, security of one country lies in the security of others but our enemies are creating problems for us. He said: “Pakistan is my second home and I am concerned about the internal situation of my second home”.
He insisted that Pakistan and Turkey must play a decisive role to stabilise Afghanistan. He said that both Pakistan and Turkey suffered from military dictators who were always supported by the USA; politicians were hanged by military regimes in both countries, and both the countries are fighting against terrorism these days.
Erdogan said: “We have common problems and common solutions, military dictatorships have always created problems and democracy is a common solution”.
When asked why no military dictator has ever not been tried in courts of Turkey and Pakistan, he said: “I don’t support hanging any military dictator but law must take its action against all those who abrogated constitution”. He said that some foreign hands are supporting terrorists in Pakistan and Turkey directly and also through some NGO’s.
Erdogan was very hard on the “double standards” of the USA and said that a recent Israeli attack on a Turkish ship Freedom Flotilla have unmasked the so-called civilised face of Washington who openly and shamelessly supported the state terrorism of Israel. “Nine Turkish martyrs on the ship received 21 bullets from Israeli soldiers in their bodies, we provided post mortem reports and even the pictures to the EU and USA but Washington is not ready to condemn the state terrorism of Israel against Turkey which means that the USA is supporting an international terrorist who killed our citizens in international waters”.
When asked that Turkey have diplomatic relations with Israel and what would be his advice to Pakistan for making diplomatic relations with Israel, Erdogan responded very carefully and said that “despite diplomatic relations Israel never behaved like a civilised country with Turkey and I cannot give any advice to my Pakistani brothers; it is their right to decide about making relations with Israel”. Erdogan said that Pakistan and India must resolve Kashmir dispute by peaceful talks. “You need strong political will for resolving Kashmir dispute,” he added.
During the conversation of the Turkish prime minister with this scribe, Yusuf Raza Gilani also suggested a question that “what is the procedure for the appointment of judges in Turkey?” Erdogan explained the whole process in detail and said that Parliament has an important role for the appointment of judges in Turkey. “I am facing problems from the courts but I am sure these problems will be resolved.” After listening this answer a very meaningful smile appeared on the face of PM Gilani and he said that “everything will be resolved nothing bad will happen in Pakistan”.
Trade exchange between Iran and the world’s major powers has seen a 12% rise in the first six months of the current Iranian year despite recent US-engineered sanctions.
During the first six months of the current Iranian year (started on March 21) the volume of trade between Iran and the P5+1 states — the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — has soared to 9.337 billion, reflecting a 12% increase, whereas the figure for the same period last year stood at 8.322 billion, Fars news agency reported on Sunday.
In defiance of persistent Western media hype with the aim of isolating the Islamic Republic, the country’s exports to China have climbed 66.76% with the value standing at $2.22 billion.
This is while the amount of imports rose to 34.39% valuing $2.53 billion.
During the same period, Iran’s imports from Germany had a 6.58% drop, but exports witnessed an increase of 5.77% reaching $124 million.
Iran’s trade volume with France has also seen a hike, with a 3.99% rise in import reaching $833 million and a 1.31% rise in export mounting to $24 million.
The amount of exports to Britain witnessed a 53.42% increase to stand at $25.5 million, while imports from the country declined 37% reaching $522 million.
Similarly, Iran’s imports from the US fell 36% to reach $73 million, whereas exports experienced an increase of 108% to stand at $77 million.
Russia was, however, the only P5+1 country with declining trade with Iran. Exports to Russia fell 32% to reach $89 million. In the meantime, imports from the country dropped to 10.24% worth $558 million.
The US, the European Union, and their allies accuse Iran of following a military nuclear program and shortly after the imposition of the fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions adopted unilateral punitive measures against Iran.
The sanctions aim to isolate the Islamic Republic and target the country’s energy and economy.
However, Iranian officials reject Western accusations that Tehran is pursuing a military nuclear program, arguing that sanctions are only a psychological war to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic and hamper its progress in the field of nuclear technology.