By Ein Katzenfreund | January 25, 2011
There is every reason to congratulate the Tunisian people for being rid of the dictator Ben Ali. His corrupt regime was a plague for the people and a shame for the country. The saga is that after Mohamed Bouazizi from Sidi Bouzid immolated himself, a heroic and protesting people managed to oust the corrupt dictator Ben Ali of the French client state using demonstrations and communicating via Twitter and Facebook. There is just one problem with this saga. It’s just one half of the truth.
This half of the truth says protests beginning in Sidi Bouzid spread accross the country, reached the capital Tunisia and ousted Ben Ali. Crucial in this process were a few internet activists for freedom of speech, transparency and democracy like @wedaddy, @slim404, @nawaat, @benmhennilina and @SBZ_news, which are all well connected to each other. These activists were spreading the news of the protests nationwide and made sure they reached the capital, using US based social media like Twitter and Facebook. Finally, after more than 70 deaths, the protests culminated in Tunis and forced Ben Ali to flee.
The other half of the truth is the covert hand of the United States, which planned, oversaw and directed the colored “jasmine revolution”. While the Tunesian people can rightly be proud to have become rid of Ben Ali, the helpful hidden hand of the United States may bring a high political price with it.
Where ever the United States has formed a colored revolution and successfully dominated the post revolution process of building democracy, the outcome has been an ugly right wing puppet regime of the United States, and some of these pseudo democracies proved to be even worse than what the people had before. One may take as a reference war criminal Saakashvili of Georgia, NATO mad man Yushchenko of Ukraine or dictator Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan.
So, how can we help prevent Tunisia becoming a US puppet right wing pseudo democracy? First of all, make the almost invisible hand of the United States visible.
On January 7th, Elliott Abrams, GW Bush’s “Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy”, welcomed the collapse of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia a week before it happened:
“Tunisia, whose literacy rate has long been the highest in Africa at nearly 80% and whose per capita GDP is about $8,000, should have the ability to sustain a democratic government — once the Ben Ali regime collapses.”
This is an interesting statement. Most of the world expected at that time, that dictator Ben Ali would order security forces to strike hard under false security pretenses and have his police and military shoot the protesters down until the country would become deathly quiet. A “miracle” saved Tunisia from this fate. Tunisian military Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar sided with the protesting people on January, 13th, and forced the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali to flee with this historic decision. Thierry Meyssan says, before making this critical decision, Rachid Ammar had been contacted by Africom Commander General William Ward. Whether this claim is true or not, I do not dare to say, but it’s clear, that the Tunisian regime was so angry with the U.S. for backing the regime change that it had summoned Washington’s ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray, days before Rachid Ammar made his historic decision to let the uprising succeed and I don’t believe in “miracles”, especially when they are predicted by regime change specialists of the U.S. government.
On January 15th, one day after Ben Ali fled, David Kenner was quoted at the elite foreignpolicy.com website; Scott Carpenter, GW Bush’s point man of his MEPI regime change program, confirming a hidden U.S. hand in Tunisia:
“We were doing a lot of stuff very, very quietly – not to say covert, but very quietly.”
Shortly after, Ben Ali’s prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi became the prime minister of the revolution and he promised to build a national unity transition government, restore freedom and hold elections soon. Rachid Ammar’s military forces successfully faught Ben Ali’s security forces and restored the public order. Union bosses formerly in bed with Ben Ali were to take part as ministers in the transition government and US-friendly opposition “leader” Ahmed Najib Chebbi became Regional Development Minister – in a cabinet where all crucial positions were held by former Ben Ali cronies in the RCD party. So the US seemed happy, the Tunisian revolution was labeled “Jasmine revolution” and it seemed to be a sure pro-US pro-Israeli finish, when after the promised elections Ahmed Najib Chebbi would be president.
Then something unexpected happened. The bases of the unions forced their bosses to resign from the transitional unity government and staged protests to oust Mohamed Ghannouchi and the whole corrupt RCD party formed by Ben Ali with him.
US-backed Rashid Ammar went to the protesters telling them to stop trying to oust the RCD cronies, telling them this would destroy the revolution. And while their fellow Tunisians protested on the streets to oust the RCD, the attitudes of pro-democracy and transparency Twitter activists, who managed the communication process of the Tunisian uprising, also changed. Very interesting tweets came from @Wedaddy, well funded by organizations like the right wing Bradley Foundation who tweets, though also fluent in French, Hebrew and Spanish, mostly in English and Arabic, at 25th Jan 2011:
Soldiers worked in the shadow. Interesting statement for a pro-democracy and pro-transparency activist, isn’t it? And these shadow soldiers seemed to have a lot of influence, at least so much, that they were able to push Facebook to close some of their notorious security holes due to the Tunesian uprising, as the Zionist magazine The Atlantic happily laid out.
If the revelation of soldiers working in the shadow for regime change is interesting, the following statement of wedaddy from Jan 25th is even more interesting:
So Ben Ali is definitely ousted, but it’s a bad time for the truth? That is completely contradictory to all stated democracy and transparency goals of the revolution. So, what is Wedaddy waiting for? For the end of the unexpected protests after Ben Ali was ousted, so he can be sure the pro-US forces have their power secured in Tunisia? Wadaddy doesn’t say, why is there no time for truth on processes behind the scenes after Ben Ali was ousted.
But there is another very interesting Tweet. Look at this Wedaddy tweet of 25th Jan 2011:
So, wedaddy speaks of two people played “a pivotal role behind the scenes” in the Tunisian revolution. Have a look yourself, who @netfreedom is: it is Robert Guerra, director of the Internet Freedom project at Freedom House soft war organization. “Freedom house” is the right wing US organisation close to the CIA which played a pivotal role in the string of “colored revolutions” of the last decade, which put US lackeys like war criminal Saakashvili into power and called it democratisation. And see here a fresh presentation of Robert Guerra, where he takes pride for what he calls the “Jasmine revolution”. Now you know, where the term “Jasmine Revolution” comes from. It’s a term of Freedom house, invented probably long before it happened.
So, can we now expect that right wing US protagonists will seek to destroy leftist movements, islamic movements and real unions and bring instead a rightwing US puppet regime in Tunisia? Have a look, who just went to Tunisia: Jeffrey Feltman. Jeffrey Feltman is the chief enabler for the Zionist apartheid state in the Obama administration, who orchestrated the bloody US-sponsored Israeli campaign of lies and terror against the people’s resistance in Lebanon – calling it “cedar revolution”. And what do Feltman and the US currently do in Tunisia? They are trying to destroy the influence of unions, leftists and islamic popular resistance.
Tunisia can still prevent the Sidi Bouzid revolution being stolen but the US and the Zionists are trying to steal the #sidibouzid revolution, to make a “Jasmine Revolution” out of it and to install a rightwing pro-zionist regime as they did in so many countries before which had colored revolutions with almost invisible hands of Freedom House and friends in it.
The following is a time-line prepared by Aangarifan:
- 2000 – President Ben Ali broke all diplomatic ties with Israel
- 2003 – Ben Ali refused to take part in either of the two wars against Iraq.
- 2009 – Sakhr El Materi, chairman of the Tunisia-US Parliamentary Friendship Group, met the US ambassador at Materi’s home (Tunisia: Dinner With Sakher El Materi – TuniLeaks) “The Ambassador raised economic liberalization, noting the importance of opening up to franchising.”
- 2010 – A report (Transformation: Tunisia) notes: “Despite the formal abolition of trade barriers for industrial goods with the European Union as of 1 January 2008, in practice, Tunisia has seen too little progress in terms of trade liberalization.”
- May 2010 – General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, visited Tunisia and met Tunisian Minister of Defense Ridha Grira. “Minister Grira had recently returned from very positive talks in Washington with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.” (Tunisia – U.S. Africa Command Blog)
- October 2010 – Sakhr El Materi, chairman of the Tunisia-US Parliamentary Friendship Group, had talks with top Americans in the Pentagon and the State Department.
- November 2010 – A cable from the US embassy in Tunis released by wikileaks describes Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s family entourage as a “quasi Mafia” because of its “organized corruption”.
- 17 December – Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate, reportedly set himself alight in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in a protest over unemployment. He reportedly died on January 5 from burn wounds.
- 24 December 2010 – an important Washington think tank (Institute for Policy Studiesa) had an article about a possible change of regime in Tunisia (Foreign Policy In Focus.): “It would do Tunisians, even (Tunisian President) Ben Ali, well to recall how many US allies different American administrations have discarded…”
- 7 January 2011 – the Council on Foreign Relations’s Elliott Abrams (Elliott Abrams: Is Tunisia Next?) seems to suggest that the fall of Ben Ali would be a good thing. “Tunisians are clearly sick of looking at all the giant photos and paintings of Ben Ali that appear on walls, posters, and billboards all over the country… “If Tunisia can move toward democracy, Algerians and Egyptians and even Libyans will wonder why they cannot.”
- 8-10 January – More people die in three days of rioting. Mysterious rooftop snipers are at work.
- 13 January – The army withdraws from Tunis, which remains occupied by special forces. The leaders of the North African branch of Al-Qaeda/the CIA call for the overthrow of Ben Ali.
- 14 January – Ben Ali leaves the country.
Israel often claims it has no partner for peace. (Omar Rashidi/MaanImages)
For more than a decade, since the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000, the mantra of Israeli politics has been the same: “There is no Palestinian partner for peace.”
This week, the first of hundreds of leaked confidential Palestinian documents confirmed the suspicions of a growing number of observers that the rejectionists in the peace process are to be found on the Israeli, not Palestinian, side.
Some of the most revealing papers, jointly released by AlJazeera television and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, date from 2008, a relatively hopeful period in recent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
At the time, Ehud Olmert was Israel’s prime minister and had publicly committed himself to pursuing an agreement on Palestinian statehood. He was backed by the United States administration of George W. Bush, which had revived the peace process in late 2007 by hosting the Annapolis conference.
In those favorable circumstances, the papers show, Israel spurned a set of major concessions the Palestinian negotiating team offered over the following months on the most sensitive issues in the talks.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, has tried unconvincingly to deny the documents’ veracity, but has not been helped by the failure of Israeli officials to come to his aid.
According to the documents, the most significant Palestinian compromise — or “sell-out,” as many Palestinians are calling it — was on Jerusalem.
During a series of meetings over the summer of 2008, Palestinian negotiators agreed to Israel’s annexation of large swaths of East Jerusalem, including all but one of the city’s Jewish settlements and parts of the Old City itself.
It is difficult to imagine how the resulting patchwork of Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem, surrounded by Jewish settlements, could ever have functioned as the capital of the new state of Palestine.
At the earlier Camp David talks, according to official Israeli documents leaked to the Haaretz daily in 2008, Israel had proposed something very similar in Jerusalem: Palestinian control over what were then termed territorial “bubbles.”
In the later talks, the Palestinians also showed a willingness to renounce their claim to exclusive sovereignty over the Old City’s flashpoint of the Haram al-Sharif, the sacred compound that includes the al-Aqsa mosque and is flanked by the Western Wall. An international committee overseeing the area was proposed instead.
This was probably the biggest concession of all — control of the Haram was the issue that “blew up” the Camp David talks, according to an Israeli official who was present.
Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, is quoted promising Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim in history” — using the Hebrew word for Jerusalem — as his team effectively surrendered Palestinian rights enshrined in international law.
The concessions did not end there, however. The Palestinians agreed to land swaps to accommodate 70 percent of the half a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and to forgo the rights of all but a few thousand Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinian state was also to be demilitarized. In one of the papers recording negotiations in May 2008, Erekat asks Israel’s negotiators: “Short of your jet fighters in my sky and your army on my territory, can I choose where I secure external defense?” The Israeli answer was an emphatic “No.”
Interestingly, the Palestinian negotiators are said to have agreed to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” — a concession Israel now claims is one of the main stumbling blocks to a deal.
Israel was also insistent that Palestinians accept a land swap that would transfer a small area of Israel into the new Palestinian state along with as many as a fifth of Israel’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens. This demand echoes a controversial “population transfer” long proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister.
The Palestine Papers, as they are being called, demand a serious re-evaluation of two lingering — and erroneous — assumptions made by many Western observers about the peace process.
The first relates to the United States’ self-proclaimed role as honest broker. What shines through the documents is the reluctance of US officials to put reciprocal pressure on Israeli negotiators, even as the Palestinian team make major concessions on core issues. Israel’s “demands” are always treated as paramount.
The second is the assumption that peace talks have fallen into abeyance chiefly because of the election nearly two years ago of a right-wing Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu. He has drawn international criticism for refusing to pay more than lip-service to Palestinian statehood.
The Americans’ goal — at least in the early stages of Netanyahu’s premiership — was to strong-arm him into bringing into his coalition Tzipi Livni, leader of the centrist opposition party Kadima. She is still widely regarded as the most credible Israeli advocate for peace.
However, Livni, who was previously Olmert’s foreign minister, emerges in the leaked papers as an inflexible negotiator, dismissive of the huge concessions being made by the Palestinians. At a key moment, she turns down the Palestinians’ offer, after saying: “I really appreciate it.”
The sticking point for Livni was a handful of West Bank settlements the Palestinian negotiators refused to cede to Israel. The Palestinians have long complained that the two most significant — Maale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, and Ariel, near the Palestinian city of Nablus — would effectively cut the West Bank into three cantons, undermining any hopes of territorial contiguity.
Livni’s insistence on holding on to these settlements — after all the Palestinian compromises — suggests that there is no Israeli leader either prepared or able to reach a peace deal — unless, that is, the Palestinians cave in to almost every Israeli demand and abandon their ambitions for statehood.
One of the Palestine Papers quotes an exasperated Erekat asking a US diplomat last year: “What more can I give?”
The man with the answer may be Lieberman, who unveiled his own map of Palestinian statehood this week. It conceded a provisional state on less than half of the West Bank.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
There have been many critical examinations of New York Times articles on this website, and I’ve had my share of such posts to the point where it has gotten tiresome. But there is literally an endless supply of material. A particularly irksome error appears in today’s paper, in an article by Isabel Kershner on the shocking (!) finding of the Turkel Commission that Israel acted legally in killing nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara. While the Times article is worthy of more in-depth analysis, there is one whopper that stands out above all others:
Israel imposed its maritime blockade on Gaza in January 2009 during its military offensive against Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. The commission justified the blockade on security grounds, citing a need ‘to prevent weapons, terrorists and money from entering the Gaza Strip, and the need to prevent the departure of terrorists.’
Note how the first sentence is presented as objective fact, that the blockade was imposed in January 2009 during Israel’s attack, thereby supporting the Commission’s claim in the second sentence that the purposes of the blockade were solely military. Anyone paying minimal attention to the Gaza siege knows full well that Israel had been punishing the entire civilian population by severely curtailing the availability of basic goods since at least 2006, including by land or sea. Prior to 2009, there had been several attempts to bring in such civilian goods by sea, with mixed success; some ships were allowed to pass and others were stopped, or even rammed by the Israeli Navy, like the Dignity in late December, 2008.. Where did Kershner get her starting date for the naval blockade? From the Turkel Commission Report itself, which stated in par. 5 of its Summary:
After the Hamas terrorist organization seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the Government adopted various measures. On January 3, 2009, during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Israel imposed a naval blockade on the coastline of the Gaza Strip. . . the Government of Israel imposed the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip for military-security reasons, which mainly concerned the need to prevent weapons, terrorists, and money from entering the Gaza Strip, and the need to prevent the departure of terrorists and additional threats from the Gaza Strip by sea. The naval blockade was not imposed in order to restrict the transfer of humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip or to disrupt the commercial relations of the Gaza Strip. . . .
The naval blockade was imposed on January 3, 2009? What was it called before that date? What transformed an existing “blockade” of land and sea into some other type of “naval blockade” or vice versa? How could Kershner buy the nonsense that the naval blockade was implemented as late as January, 2009, with the goal of keeping weapons out of Gaza? This is not a trivial mistake, but a truly profound one. Israel’s long-standing policy of deliberately restricting a civilian population’s access to food, water, medicines, fuel, books and toys is generally viewed by all but the most cold-hearted as sadistic and cruel, not to mention illegal. There is a vast difference in public perception between keeping out arms and keeping out such basic necessities. In the wake of the Mavi Marmara murders, there was a thoroughly dishonest but reasonably successful campaign to re-cast the blockade as one that was designed to keep out military supplies only. It’s no surprise that the Turkel Commission continued in this effort, but how could Kershner forget what had been a continuing news story for three years before Cast Lead? Of course, if Kershner’s amnesia could have been cured had she glanced at the Ha’aretz article on the Turkel Commission, which accurately records: “The Turkel Commission also determined that Israel’s three-and-a-half year blockade of the Gaza Strip does not break international law.”
This is the way lies become history. This is why so many believe that there were thousands of rockets launched from Lebanon against Israel in 1982 and again in 2000-2006, prompting the two “wars”; that Arafat initiated the Second Intifada of terrorism to win with violence what he failed to win through negotiations; that Israel’s siege of Gaza was to keep out weapons. Every time these factoids are repeated in the newspaper of record and similar MSM outlets, they become more ingrained in the collective memory. Even if Kershner did not deliberately lie, she was inexcusably lazy and careless in simply repeating a critical misrepresentation by the Turkel Commission, rather than accurately reporting an undisputed fact.
US position on borders perhaps opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer non-Jewish citizens
One of the more astonishing revelations in The Palestine Papers — detailed records and minutes of the Middle East peace process leaked to Al Jazeera — is that the administration of US President Barack Obama effectively repudiated the Road Map, which has formed the basis of the “peace process” since 2003. In doing so it has backed away even from commitments made by the George W. Bush administration and blown an irreparable hole in the already threadbare “two-state solution.”
But even worse, the US position perhaps unwittingly opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer — or ethnically cleanse — non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to create an ethnically pure “Jewish state.”
Shortly after it took office in January 2009, the Obama administration publicly called on Israel to freeze all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. After months of grueling shuttle diplomacy by US envoy George Mitchell, Obama eventually made do with an Israeli promise of a ten-month partial settlement moratorium excluding Jerusalem.
While those talks were ongoing, frustrated Palestinian negotiators tried repeatedly to wrestle a commitment from Mitchell that the terms of reference for US-brokered peace negotiations that were to begin once the settlement moratorium was in place would be for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 line with minor, agreed land swaps between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. This, the Palestinians argued, was the position the Bush administration had endorsed and was contained in the Road Map peace plan adopted by the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN) in 2003.
But in apparently contentious meetings between Mitchell and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and their respective teams in September and October 2009 — whose detailed contents have been revealed for the first time — Mitchell claimed the Bush administration position was nonbinding. He pressed the Palestinians to accept terms of reference that acquiesced to Israel’s refusal to recognize the 1967 line which separates Israel as it was established in 1948 from the West Bank and Gaza Strip where Palestinians hoped to have their state.
Dropping the 1967 border
On 23 September 2009, Obama told the UN General Assembly that his goal was for “Two states living side by side in peace and security — a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”
In 2008, Israeli negotiators – including then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni – proposed “swapping” some of Israel’s Arab villages into a future Palestinian state, even though a vast majority of Israeli Arabs oppose such a plan.
But this did not satisfy the Palestinians. The next day during a meeting at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York, Erekat refused an American request to adopt Obama’s speech as the terms of reference for negotiations. Erekat asked Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale why the Obama administration would not explicitly state that the intended outcome of negotiations would be a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with a third party security role and a staged Israeli withdrawal. Hale responded, “You ask why? How would it help you if we state something so specific and then not be able to deliver?” according to Palestinian minutes of the meeting.
At the same meeting, which Mitchell himself later joined, Erekat challenged the US envoy on how Obama could publicly endorse Israel as a “Jewish state” but not commit to the 1967 borders. Mitchell, according to the minutes, told Erekat “You can’t negotiate detailed ToRs [terms of reference for the negotiations]” so the Palestinians might as well be “positive” and proceed directly to negotiations. Erekat viewed Mitchell’s position as a US abandonment of the Road Map.
On 2 October 2009 Mitchell met with Erekat at the State Department and again attempted to persuade the Palestinian team to return to negotiations. Despite Erekat’s entreaties that the US should stand by its earlier positions, Mitchell responded, “If you think Obama will force the option you’ve described, you are seriously misreading him. I am begging you to take this opportunity.”
Erekat replied, according to the minutes, “All I ask is to say two states on 67 border with agreed modifications. This protects me against Israeli greed and land grab – it allows Israel to keep some realities on the ground” (a reference to Palestinian willingness to allow Israel to annex some West Bank settlements as part of minor land swaps). Erekat argued that this position had been explicitly endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under the Bush administration.
“Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don’t use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements – not discussions or statements,” Mitchell reportedly said.
The US envoy was firm that if the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not agree to language in the terms of reference the US would not try to force it. Yet Mitchell continued to pressure the Palestinian side to adopt formulas the Palestinians feared would give Israel leeway to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank without providing any compensation.
At a critical 21 October 2009 meeting, Mitchell read out proposed language for terms of reference:
“The US believes that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that achieves both the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state encompassing all the territory occupied in 1967 or its equivalent in value, and the Israeli goal of secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meets Israeli security requirements.”
Erekat’s response was blunt: “So no Road Map?” The implication of the words “or equivalent in value” is that the US would only commit to Palestinians receiving a specific amount of territory — 6258 square kilometers, or the equivalent area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — but not to any specific borders.
“Two states for two peoples”
This is an earthquake. It not only up-ends the two-state solution as it is conventionally understood, but opens the door to possible future American acceptance of Israeli aspirations to create an ethnically-pure Jewish state by “exchanging” territories where many of Israel’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens are concentrated. This would be a violation of these Palestinians’ most fundamental rights and a repudiation of the universally-accepted self-determination principles established at the Versailles Conference after World War I. It potentially replaces the two-state solution with what Israeli officials call the “two states for two peoples solution.”
Then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni elaborated what this would look like during a November 13, 2007 negotiating session with Palestinian officials, confidential minutes of which were also revealed among The Palestine Papers:
“Our idea is to refer to two states for two peoples. Or two nation states, Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security with each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self determination.”
Livni stressed, “Israel [is] the state of the Jewish people — and I would like to emphasize the meaning of ‘its people’ is the Jewish people — with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years.”
Livni thus makes clear that only Jews are guaranteed citizenship in Israel and that Palestinian citizens do not really belong even though they are natives who have lived on the land since before Israel existed. It negates Palestinian refugee rights and raises the spectre of the expulsion or “exchange” of Palestinians already in the country. Yet Livni’s troubling statement appears to reflect more than just her personal opinion.
A 29 October 2008 internal Palestinian memorandum titled “Progress Report on Territory Negotiations” states that Palestinian negotiators rejected the notion that Palestinians could be included in land swaps. But, according to the document, “the Israelis continued to raise the prospect of including Palestinian citizens of Israel” in such swaps, during negotiations between Palestinian officials and the government of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In September last year, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman presented a plan the UN General Assembly in which Israel would keep West Bank settlements and cede to a future Palestinian state some lands with highly concentrated populations of non-Jewish citizens. “A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” Lieberman said, “has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations.”
While Lieberman heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, and Livni the Kadima opposition (often inaccurately perceived as more “moderate” than Israel’s current government), the two politicians’ views are symptomatic of increasingly overt racism within Israeli society.
The Obama administration’s failure to press Israel to accept the international consensus that the Palestinian state would be established on all the territories Israel occupied in 1967, except for minor adjustments, dooms the two-state solution. It may well be that a US administration that came to office promising unparalleled efforts to bring peace, ends up clearing the path for Lieberman’s and Livni’s abhorrent ideas to enter the mainstream.
This is not only catastrophic for Palestinian rights and the prospects for justice, but represents a return to nineteenth century notions, banished in the wake of two world wars, that population groups can be traded between states without their consent as if they were mere pieces on a chess board.
Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to the newly-released book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict. He is a co-founder of the widely read online publication The Electronic Intifada, an award-winning online publication about Palestine and the Palestine conflict.
Many people told them so — told them, meaning told the United States and Israel and even the overeager Palestinian leadership, that the Oslo agreement in1993 wasn’t fair, that it made too many demands of the Palestinians and virtually no enforceable demands of Israel; that the United States, no honest broker or neutral mediator, was looking out only for Israel’s interests and cared nothing for Palestinian concerns; that the peace process breakdown at Camp David in 2000 was not the fault of the Palestinians but was the responsibility of President Clinton and his “Israeli lawyer” advisers for representing only Israel’s needs; that while Clinton demanded Palestinian concessions, he was winking at Israel’s steady expansion of settlements and land grabs in Palestinian territory; that Clinton’s two successors did the same.
Many analysts told them that hopes for a genuine two-state solution died in the 1990s — indeed, were never realistic — because Israel, with U.S. knowledge and support, was swallowing Palestine, eating the pizza they were supposed to be negotiating over, as many Palestinians have said. But no one in power in the United States or the international community or in the media listened.
Someone may have to start listening. This U.S. complicity in Israeli expansionism, and the desperate acquiescence of the Palestinian leadership in Israeli demands for its surrender, have now been exposed in the massive document leak by al-Jazeera. Dubbed the Palestine Papers, the collection of almost 1,700 documents was obtained from unknown, possibly Palestinian, sources and covers a decade of “peace process” maneuvering. So far, there is only silence from the Obama administration, which is implicated in the documents along with the Bush and Clinton administrations. But reaction around the world is voluble and hard to ignore.
Palestinians, the documents show, offered compromises that verge on total capitulation. At a time in 2008 when talks with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were coming to a head and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pushing hard, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his colleagues offered Israel the 1967 borders, the Palestinians’ right of return, and Israeli settlements on a silver platter. The Palestinians would have agreed to let Israel keep all settlements in East Jerusalem except Har Homa; allowed Israel to annex more settlements in the West Bank (altogether totaling over 400,000 settlers); agreed to an inequitable territorial swap in return for giving Israel prime West Bank real estate, and settled for the return of only 5,000 Palestinian refugees (out of more than four million) over a five-year period. And still Israel rejected the package of compromises, which they said “does not meet our demands” — presumably because their principal desire is that the Palestinians simply disappear.
The Palestinian eagerness to offer Israel such massive compromises has been the most prominent story from the Palestine Papers thus far, but the story of the pressure one U.S. administration after another has exerted on Palestinian negotiators to make these concessions and accommodate all Israel’s demands shows U.S. conduct throughout almost two decades of negotiations to be perhaps the most cynical, and indeed the most shameful, of the three parties.
United States negotiators, from Bill Clinton’s team, through Rice, to Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell today, have consistently treated the Palestinian leadership with humiliating derision. In the fall of 2009, Hillary Clinton asked Erekat why the Palestinians were, as she remarked snidely, “always in a chapter of a Greek tragedy.” Mitchell treated Erekat with similar contempt. During a meeting in 2008, Rice dismissed a Palestinian request for compensation for refugees forced to flee their homes in 1948 — a demand that goes to the heart of Palestinian grievances — with the remark that “bad things happen to people all around the world all the time.”
Policymakers clearly couldn’t be bothered. Scat, these Americans said to the pesky Palestinians in effect; we’re not interested in your silly grievances. In a blunt commentary on al-Jazeera, former CIA officer Robert Grenier has written that his reaction to what the Palestine Papers reveal about U.S. conduct is “one of shame.” The U.S., he says, has always followed a path of political expediency, “at the cost of decency, justice and our clear, long-term interests. More pointedly, the Palestine papers reveal us to have . . . demanded and encouraged the Palestinian participants to take disproportionate risks for a negotiated settlement, and then to have refused to extend ourselves to help them achieve it, leaving them exposed and vulnerable.” The papers “further document an American legacy of ignominy in Palestine.”
Shameful indeed. A London Guardian editorial captures the essence of U.S. policy as it has been pursued since the first days of the Obama administration and indeed since the first days of Israel 63 years ago: the Americans’ neutrality, the Guardian writes pointedly, “consists of bullying the weak and holding the hand of the strong.”
It may be too much to hope for serious change in this U.S. policy anytime soon, but the Palestine Papers revelations may at least open discussion on the wisdom of continuing to pursue a policy that virtually everyone throughout the world recognize as a “legacy of ignominy.”
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and the author of several books on the Palestinian situation, including Palestine in Pieces, co-authored with her late husband Bill Christison. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UK’s opposition Labour Party has challenged Prime Minister David Cameron over dinning secretly with James Murdoch, the son of the media tycoon Rupert.
The Prime Minister has held a secret dinner with James Murdoch amid the government’s attempt to decide on the Murdoch media empire after a flurry of resignations and dismissals over telephone hacking at Murdoch’s News of the World and his bid to buy BskyB, the daily Independent reported.
The Labor Opposition questioned whether Cameron had broken the ministerial code of conduct by meeting the chairman of News Corporation in Europe and Asia.
Cameron’s secret meeting with James comes only a few days after the premier stripped Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, of the power to decide whether News Corp should be allowed to buy the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own.
The government was also under an all-party pressure over its links with Rupert Murdoch despite last week’s resignation of Andy Coulson, the Downing Street director of communications, over the continuing controversy about telephone hacking at Murdoch’s News of the World, which cost Coulson his job as the paper’s editor in 2007.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, was expected to pursue legal action against News International over his phone being hacked rather than accept an out-of-court settlement.
He told the Commons last September that while he defended freedom of the press, “this [phone hacking] is abuse and illegality. It has to end, and we must be robust about it.”
The Independent revealed that Cameron met James Murdoch at the Oxfordshire home of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International. The private dinner she hosted took place shortly before Christmas.
Jennifer Rubin has spent much time advocating for escalating U.S. measures on Iran. At Commentary, she called a U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic the “best of the disagreeable options.” Now, at the Washington Post, Rubin seems to have softened this view, calling for “more fruitful actions.”
But Rubin’s reporting on Iran issues often reflects the same sort of sloppy disregard for facts we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War: Neoconservative pundits and journalists pass speculation off as fact, ignoring context and mitigating factors that might cast doubt on their pronouncements.
Take, for example, Rubin’s Dec. 27 story about “the unchecked Iranian menace.” She draws all kinds of conclusions from a post by Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard. (The link to Hayes’s piece in Rubin’s post takes one to the login page for the Post’s content management system.) Hayes’s post is itself based on an article from the Long War Journal, a project of the neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The LWJ piece said that a Taliban member captured by ISAF (international forces in Afghanistan) was also a member of Iran’s elite Qods Force, a branch of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards. But the article had been updated from the original version (before either Hayes or Rubin picked it up).
The older version (reprinted here), as the newer one acknowledges, said that the claim about the Qods Force came from ISAF. The updated version noted that ISAF has since retracted the claim (here is the ISAF press release), but that an unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence official” corroborated the earlier version of events.
The story that the Taliban fighter was a member of the Qods force may well be true. (On the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television channel on Dec. 27, a London-based expert on Arab-Iranian relations said the fighter was indeed a Qods member.) But LWJ, to its credit, noted the ISAF retraction. Steven Hayes, writing at the Standard, did the same, albeit in a back-handed way:
Interestingly, ISAF officially confirmed the dual role of the captured operative, but later reversed itself. But Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio has a source that stands by the original claim.
Let’s hope we’re not muzzling the military now, too.
Then Jennifer Rubin picked up Hayes and… nada on the ISAF retraction.
Honest journalists feel the need to include critical context in their stories, even if that context can cast doubt on their report. While backed up by other sources, that’s exactly what this ISAF retraction did to the Taliban-Qods story — official Western military pronouncements tend to carry that kind of weight.
But Rubin, when it comes to Iran, seems incapable of honesty, let alone acknowledging facts that might cast doubt on her narrative of an ‘evil’ Iran. The fact that a writer at the ideological Weekly Standard felt the need to include the context that Rubin chose to leave out does not bode well for journalistic standards at the Washington Post.
“Marijuana’s Role in the Tucson Shooting” was the extremely misleading headline on an article by Joe Califano that the Huffington Post ran Jan. 21. Why is that supposedly liberal site disseminating propaganda by a leading Drug Warrior? There is no evidence that marijuana had any “role” in the Tucson shooting. Readers who only glance at the story will assume otherwise.
Califano begins by blowing politic kisses towards Barack Obama and John Boehner. Then he changes tone to sneer at “the thousands of pundits, left and right, arguing about the meaning of the tragedy in Arizona,” who missed a lesson “as important as any other lesson to come out of this tragedy. It’s about the relationship of marijuana use to psychotic illness.”
After another shot at commentators preoccupied with laws that allow automatic weapons and super-size ammo clips, Califano makes his pitch: “I haven’t seen press reports or talking heads discuss their concern about how easy it has been for this mentally ill young man to get marijuana. And there has been no mention of the potential of marijuana to spark latent psychosis and exacerbate schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.”
Califano cites a study in … the Lancet and two other studies suggesting that using cannabis leads to psychotic breaks. Califano does not allow that these studies are considered inconclusive at best by many psychiatrists, including Lester Grinspoon, whose textbook on Schizophrenia has been the standard text.
Califano quotes reports that Loughner once used marijuana; but he ignores other reports that Loughner quit three years ago and that his drug of choice was Salvia Divinorum. Califano wants the question settled: “If the police have any of the hair shaved from Loughner’s head, they can easily find out if marijuana was in his system at the time of the shooting. They may even be able to do so from hair that grows back in.”
It seems like an easy test to rig if one were so inclined. And we know Joe Califano of old, he has few qualms about manipulating the facts. The following is from O’Shaughnessy’s report on the Prop 215 campaign (the ballot initiative by which California voters legalized the medical use of marijuana on November 4, 1996):
In the final weeks of the campaign some leading drug warriors from Back East -stunned that the people of California were on the verge of rejecting a lifetime of their propaganda-decided to step in. Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, flew out to Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 28 to warn Californians that they did not understand the open-endedness of Prop 215. Califano had hired two pollsters to query 800 residents over the weekend. He must have been very confident of the outcome because arrangements for his press conference were made before the questions had been asked. “It was a push-pull,” explains Paul Maslin, a San Francisco pollster. This is a type of survey in which the questioner, after getting an initial response, provides additional information and then asks again, evoking a changed response. Califano announced at his press conference that 46 percent of the respondents supported Prop 215 when first asked, but only 36 percent after its inherent looseness had been pointed out to them. Califano’s goal in commissioning the poll, according to Maslin was to make voters think that the “no” side still had a realistic chance on Election Day and to minimize any bandwagon effect that would magnify the “yes” vote.
Flash-forward to the Huffington Post, Jan. 21. Califano concludes:
“we should be asking this question: Is Jared Loughner an individual whose psychosis was prompted or exacerbated by the use of marijuana? Whether or not he is, it is important for the press and parents to see this horrendous incident not only as a teaching moment about the easy availability and dangerous potential of automatic weapons, but also as a teaching moment about the easy availability and dangerous potential of marijuana to spark and exacerbate psychosis and schizophrenia in individuals with latent mental illnesses.
“The missing story line in existing news reports and television chatter shows is about the terrible trinity of easy availability of guns, easy availability of marijuana and mental illness. The question for all of us, especially parents of teenagers, to ask is this: Is the media’s failure to acknowledge this tragic trinity due to its tendency to overlook or underplay the dangers of marijuana use?
“Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder and Chair of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Carter Administration, and served from 1965 to 1969 as chief domestic affairs assistant to president Lyndon B. Johnson.”
The British government is complicit in torturing political prisoners detained and jailed in the occupied West Bank by the Palestinian Authority (PA), a senior British officer said.
The officer, James MacInnis is charged with training the PA’s top security officials as part of a plan to provide assistance and financial support to PA agents in arresting and torturing members of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas.
MacInnin admitted to the British role in torturing Palestinian prisoners after an Arab organization for human rights in London revealed that the PA has been torturing prisoners affiliated with Hamas for years.
Torture techniques used in PA prisons included shabh (hanging) of all kinds, beatings with cables, pulling out nails, suspension from the ceiling, flogging, kicking, cursing, electric shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of rape, according to the report.
At least six Palestinians have died under torture in PA prisons and many former detainees have permanent physical disabilities, the report found.
The human rights organization said that it has documented such “crimes” for three years, from October 2007 to October 2010.
During that period, the report said, PA security forces in the West Bank detained 8, 640 Palestinians at a rate of eight arrests per day.
“Every one of those detainees has been subject to humiliating and degrading treatment, and stayed in cells for more than 10 days,” the report said. “The analysis shows that an astonishing 95 percent of the detainees were subjected to severe torture, others feeling the detrimental effects on their health for varying periods.”
The report also found that 77 percent of those who had been detained by the PA security forces had been arrested in the past by Israel.
Representatives of the organization met with victims, or their relatives, and distributed a questionnaire, in secret, to detainees who were held in PA prisons.
“Men and women from all sectors of Palestinian society have been subject to arrest and torture,” the report noted. “These include students, workers, teachers, doctors, engineers, university professors and lawyers.”
I have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago on Jan. 25. But I will not testify, even at the risk of being put in jail for contempt of court, because I believe that our most fundamental rights as citizens are at stake.
I am one of 23 anti-war, labor and solidarity activists in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who are facing a grand jury as part of an investigation into “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.”
No crime has been identified. No arrests have been made. And when it raided several prominent organizers’ homes and offices on Sept. 24, the FBI acknowledged that there is no immediate threat to the American public. So what is this investigation really about?
The activists who have been ensnared in this fishing net work with different groups to end the US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to end US military aid for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and US military aid to Colombia, which has a shocking record of repression and human rights abuses. All of us have publicly and peacefully dedicated our lives to social justice and advocating for more just and less deadly US foreign policy.
I spent a year and a half working for a human rights organization in the occupied West Bank, where I witnessed how Israel established “facts on the ground” at the expense of international law and Palestinian rights. I saw the wall, settlements and checkpoints and the ugly reality of life under Israeli occupation which is bankrolled by the US government on the taxpayer’s dime. Many of us who are facing the grand jury have traveled to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Colombia to learn about the human rights situation and the impact of US foreign policy in those places so we may educate fellow Americans upon our return and work to build movements to end our government’s harmful intervention abroad.
Travel for such purposes should be protected by the first amendment. But new legislation now allows the US government to consider such travel as probable cause for invasive investigations that disrupt our movements and our lives.
The June 2010 US Supreme Court decision Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project expanded even further the scope of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 to include first amendment activity such as political speech and human rights training.
Even former President Jimmy Carter feels vulnerable under these laws because of his work doing elections training in Lebanon where one of the main political parties, until earlier this month a member of the ruling coalition, is listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US State Dept. “The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom,” Carter has said.
Former FBI officer Mike German, who now works with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the television program Democracy Now! that the subpoenas, search warrants and materials seized from activists’ homes make it clear that the government is interested in “address books, computer records, literature and advocacy materials, first amendment sort of materials.” He added, “unfortunately, after 9/11, [investigation standards] have been diluted significantly to where the FBI literally requires no factual predicate to start an investigation.”
The US government doesn’t need to call me before a grand jury to learn my activities and my beliefs. I have often appealed to my elected representatives to take a principled stand on foreign policy issues, protested outside federal buildings and have written countless articles over the years that can be easily found through a Google search.
Witnesses called to testify to a grand jury have no right to have a lawyer in the room and the jury is hand-picked by government prosecutors with no screening for bias. It is the ultimate abuse of power for a citizen to be forced to account to the government for no other reason than her exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and association.
This is why these grand jury proceedings are a threat to the rights of all Americans, and why those of us who have been targeted, and others in the movements we work with, call them a witch hunt. And, even though it means I risk being jailed for the life of the grand jury, I will not be appearing before it.
The grand jury has been scrapped in virtually all countries and more than half the states in this country. There is a long American history of abusing grand juries to launch inquisitions into domestic political movements, from the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement to labor activists advocating for an eight-hour work day to the anti-war movement during the Vietnam years.
We have done nothing wrong and risk being jailed because we have exercised our rights to free speech, to organize and hold our government accountable. It is a dark day for America when people face jail for exercising the rights that we hold so dear.
The author is a journalist and Palestine solidarity activist who lives in Chicago.