America has never met an Arab despot it couldn’t coddle. Before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Reagan and Bush had a nice working relationship with Saddam Hussein. In fact, when the Iraqi dictator invaded Iran, they went so far as to supply him with chemical weapons and intelligence. After ‘liberating’ Kuwait, the powers that be in Washington had no qualms about re-installing the Emir as the absolute ruler of his people.
Ben Ali counted on the enthusiastic support of Washington until the Tunisian people revolted and ran him out of town. The Tunisian dictator took refuge in Saudi Arabia – another one of those ‘moderate’ Arab oil plantations that Washington showers with affection.
In his recent State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama declared that “the United States stands with the people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” He should have qualified that by noting that exceptions would be made for Egyptians. A day earlier, Hillary Rodham Clinton was reassuring Mubarak’s regime that it would continue to support the Egyptian government in its confrontation with pro-democracy demonstrators. The way Hillary sees things – “Egypt’s government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the needs of Egyptians.” I suppose those needs couldn’t possibly include democracy. After thirty years of dictatorship, Mubarak is feeding Egyptians subsidized bread. What more could they possibly ask for?
To be fair, America is not the only Western country that romances Middle Eastern despots. Three days before Ben Ali’s police state apparatus crumbled, France offered the Tunisian mafia chief assistance in putting down the uprising. So don’t just blame Washington; even the folks who invented liberty and egalitarianism don’t want the Arabs to be free.
Let it never be said that the gurus at the State Department and the National Security Council are inconsistent. The Washington foreign policy establishment cringes at the thought of Arabs lining up at ballot boxes. They’ve seen where that leads. Free elections in Algeria, Gaza, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq have all resulted in victories for the dreaded Islamic parties.
Mindful of that, the neo-con wizards had a plan worked out to circumvent any democratic hassles after the ‘liberation’ of Iraq. To avoid the risks of free elections, they set up the Iraqi Governing Council as an interim government. All twenty-five members of the council were appointed by Paul Bremer, the newly crowned emperor of Baghdad. Many of his appointees were Iraqi exiles like the infamous Ahmed Chalabi, the man groomed to be Iraq’s velvet-gloved dictator. When queried about the democracy promised by the American invaders, Bremer was dismissive. He famously said “elections that are held too early can be destructive.”
Even after the events in Tunisia, it’s unlikely that we will see any changes in America’s hostility towards political reform in the Middle East. Take Hillary at her word. The United States will continue to support the despotic regimes in the Middle East. It’s not just a matter of habit or perceived strategic and economic interests. It goes much deeper than that. There is a political culture that is deeply entrenched in the State Department, The national security apparatus, the Washington think tanks and the media. Simply put; Washington’s political establishment despises Muslims in general and Arabs in particular and they distrust their electoral choices.
When it comes to the Middle East, Washington is a Stalinist echo chamber where anti-Arab rhetoric has its rewards. Part of the reason is that the State Department and Congress are Israeli occupied territories. Regardless of who occupies the White House, one has to pass a Likudnik loyalty test to land a job as doorman at Foggy Bottom.
Just take a look at the resume of Jeffrey Feltman, the American diplomat dispatched to Tunis to sort things out. He’s a protégé of Martin Indyk, the Israeli lobbyist who was recruited directly from AIPAC to serve as American ambassador to Israel but never failed to perform his duties as an Israeli envoy to the State Department. On any policy issue pertaining to the Middle East, Israeli lobby operatives have the last word.
It’s no secret that committed Likudniks like Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were the driving force behind America’s trillion dollar misadventure in Iraq or that the same dark forces are braying for a confrontation with Iran. They even consider Turkey a mortal threat. American blood and treasure are of no consequence to these committed and disciplined Zionist ideologues. They march to the beat of an Israeli drum and as long as they remain entrenched in the State Department and the National Security Council, the essential acid test for American Foreign policy will be “Is it good for Israel?”
So take a moment and ponder what all the pundits and wizards in Washington have not lamented about the Tunisian revolt. Saddam could have very easily gone that way of Ben Ali. At the time of the invasion and due to the effectiveness of the no-fly zones, the Iraqi dictator’s security forces barely held sway over a third of the country and Saddam was so insecure about the sentiments of his people that he couldn’t risk sleeping in the same bed for two nights running. American and British planes bombed Iraq at will. I’m not only certain that Bush and Blair knew that Saddam had no WMDs; I’ve asserted before that if they really thought he had them, they wouldn’t have risked an invasion.
For all practical measures, Saddam was the mayor of Baghdad – a defanged delusional tiger who spent his last days in power penning love stories. Saddam was contained by brutal sanctions and the United States had already made contacts with Iraqi generals who agreed to stand down and offer no resistance. When he finally realized the end was near, Saddam used back channels and offered every conceivable concession to avoid an American invasion. Of course, after taking control of the country, the neo-cons stabbed the generals in the back and disbanded the army because of their obsession with de-Ba’athication. Absent American military intervention, Iraqis might very well have managed to remove their despotic leader and resurrect a secular republic. It wouldn’t have been perfect but it would certainly not have turned into a failed theocratic state in Iran’s sphere of influence.
At the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties, 4,500 American fatalities, two million refugees that include half of Iraq’s pre-war Christian population and a trillion dollars borrowed from the Chinese, George Bush rolled out the red carpet for Iranian allied sectarian parties. Why? Because his advisers – Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith – thought it would be good for Israel. The outcomes in Iraq obviously didn’t match the Likudniks’ wet dreams but had they removed their ideological blinders, the war party might have been more sober in doing their risk assessments and spared Americans a disastrous foreign policy fiasco and the enduring enmity of tens of millions of people in the Middle East and beyond.
So there should be no confusion about Hillary’s stand on Mubarak as opposed to Obama’s latent support of the Tunisian revolutionaries. The inconsistencies are in perfect harmony with the Israeli lobby’s traditional hostility towards the Arab people. It is a hostility that has very little to do with America’s national interests and everything to do with the Likudnik architects of America’s foreign policy in the region.
Make no mistake, the Arabs will soon reach the mountain top and taste the sweet wine of liberty but it will be not thanks to Hillary, Obama or the Israeli Lobby.
As Palestinians bicker over who has sold out and who should step down following the release of the Palestine Papers, another separate but still relevant thought occurred to me the other day as I was crossing the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint on my way home. If there is one constant thread in this insane situation where accusations and conspiracy theories run wild it is that the Israelis have already cemented a system of segregation in place regardless of what scandalous reports or documents are leaked to the public. For Israel, whether the Palestinian leadership is shamed before its people or not is of no concern. For Israel, the Palestinians are right where it wants them.
I’m wondering how many people actually contemplate the many divisions Israel has categorized us under. In the occupied territories, there are the “purebred” Palestinians – those who carry green ID cards and passports (I use this term loosely), who are, for all practical purposes, at the bottom of the food chain. That is, if we exclude the truly unlucky souls isolated in the Gaza Strip. West Bankers must cross Israeli checkpoints even to go from one Palestinian city to the next; they must obtain visas for just about any country they wish to travel to save Jordan and Malaysia. They cannot enter Jerusalem or Israel without an Israeli permit and, if they are unlucky enough to live close to a Jewish settlement, to a bypass road, a military outpost or the separation wall – all Israeli presences in the West Bank – then they are under constant threat of land confiscation or home demolitions.
At Qalandiya checkpoint, for those few West Bankers who do have an Israeli permit to cross into Jerusalem, the line to cross is always long. For one, West Bankers are only allowed to cross from three of the 11 or so checkpoints around Jerusalem and must always do so on foot. This brings us to Class B of Israel’s categorization, the Jerusalemites.
Carrying blue ID cards, these are the Palestinians who were included in the national consensus after the 1967 War and after Israel unilaterally annexed occupied east Jerusalem. One rung up from the West Bankers in terms of travel restrictions, Palestinian Jerusalemites must also get down at Qalandiya checkpoint and walk through if they are traveling by public transportation. There are exceptions though for Jerusalemites. Mothers with small children and the elderly are allowed to stay on the bus (West Bankers don’t enjoy this luxury). And if they have a car, they can also drive through the inspection (if they have a good hour or so to waste waiting for their turn). Still, Jerusalemites, who have permanent residency in the city but not citizenship, can travel between their city and Ramallah without a permit. They can also travel abroad through Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, another luxury denied to West Bankers, who are forced to cross the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.
Jerusalemites can cross the bridge as well. But again, Israel has made a distinction between them and West Bankers at the crossing too. There are separate entrances for those with West Bank IDs and those with Jerusalem IDs, which makes it a bit tricky when, like myself, one parent is a West Banker while the children are Jerusalemites.
There are even more categories Israel has corralled us into, like Palestinians who live inside of Israel. Israel likes to call them “Israeli-Arabs” a term I reject and resent. These are Palestinians who were somehow able to resist expulsion, massacre and fleeing during the 1948 War and remained after the State of Israel was established. They are Palestinians first, Arabs second. Unlike those who live in the West Bank, their very identity is being challenged on a daily basis with attempts by Israel’s establishment to either annihilate it altogether or at least neutralize it and mesh it into an innocuous version of one more minority living in the Jewish state.
In any case, let’s not forget another category Israel created and enforced upon us with a vengeance, that of Palestinian refugees. This category, perhaps the most painful, has been an open wound for all Palestinians since the creation of the problem after the 1948 war. Although over 60 years have passed since then and refugees have made their homes (however bleak) in camps throughout the Arab world or elsewhere, most will still stubbornly hold on to this classification when asked. Not because they are so pleased with being called refugees but the relinquishing of the title means the relinquishing of the right to return, which they are not willing to do.
It is almost amazing that such a small nation – in all, the Palestinians everywhere comprise approximately 10 million people – could be dissected and divided into so many groups. But again, Israel knows what it’s doing. Enforcing a different set of rules for each category is one method to conquer and divide – it is much easier to oppress sub-groups than one united and cohesive people.
And here lies the crux. Palestinians themselves must not be sucked into this evil scheme. If anything is to be learned from the now infamous Palestine Papers it is that Israel is succeeding brilliantly in its grand plan of turning us against ourselves. We see no rebuttal from Israeli leaders to the information from the leaked documents. They don’t care. They are happy with the status quo. And, unlike us, they are united and unrelenting in their Zionist dream of a Jewish state for the Jewish people. We can actually learn quite a bit from them.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technology cooperation with China will bolster Venezuela’s industrial capacity, a government minister said.
The bilateral strategic ties are “very important” to Venezuela, Basic Industry and Mining Minister Jose Khan told Xinhua on Sunday, adding that the joint commissions of the two nations have held nine meetings to design production projects to boost Venezuelan economic development.
He said that the plans designed would cover various fundamental areas, such as transportation, agriculture, food production and telecom.
“In the case of basic industries, we have been discussing and approving a series of projects which will allow in 2011 the basic industries to recover their production and improve their productiveness,” he said.
Khan also told Xinhua the government plans to expand ports along the Orinoco River, the major transport system for eastern and interior Venezuela, in order to streamline the transportation of mining products.
There are also plans to buy hi-tech machinery for iron extraction, he said. In the case of aluminum, the government plans to upgrade existing plants and build new extraction plants.
He said these projects will improve “not only the conditions of the workers, but also the conditions of the people, because these materials will be used for the national housing plan.”
Following the arrests of Karim Saleh al-Tamimi and, his brother, Islam, the leader of the Popular Commitee Against The Wall & Settlements in Nabi Saleh, Bassam Tamimi has been arrested, on Wednesday, along with two fifteen year old boys.
Bassam Tamimi was taken from the village, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, at midday on Wednesday, and according to eye witnesses was beaten during his abduction. Tamimi was released an hour later, and confirmed the eye witness report, but the whereabouts of the two fifteen year old children are, as yet, unknown.
Karim al-Tamini, ten years old, was arrested on Tuesday, but was released to his father after seven hours in custody due to the work of an Israeli law firm.
His brother, Islam, fourteen years old, was abducted in a raid on Sunday, and was brought before a court today. Following his abduction, the second in three weeks, Islam was interrogated for eight hours.
He was denied access to legal council for the first five hours, during which he confessed to throwing stones during the weekly protest against the annexation wall, and his parents were denied access to their son during the interrogation; their legal right.
Islam will remain in prison Wednesday night, and will appear in front of the court once more on Thursday.
The village of an-Nabi Saleh joined the call to protest against the building of the annexation wall, the construction of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, and Israel’s military occupation one year ago, following the confiscation of a local spring, Ein al-Kus, by settlers from the nearby Halamish. Since then the village has come under harassment in the form of regular detentions of the villagers, and the violent repression of the Friday protests, including the use of live ammunition.