GAZA — The Inter-Parliamentary Union said it was ”appalled” at Israel’s repeated detention of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, calling it a violation of the Palestinians’ democratic rights.
The condemnation came in a letter by the IPU Human Rights Committee directed at Palestinian MP Mushir al-Masri, who heads the Gaza-based International Campaign for Releasing the Abducted Members of Parliament.
The letter came to clarify the IPU’s position during its latest session on 4 July 2011 with regard to the detention and banishment of PLC members.
It considered that the arrest campaign that followed the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had political motives and was an arbitrary decision, given Israel was well aware that Hamas nominees would appear on the election ballot.
The IPU also condemned the indefinite terms of administrative detention faced by Palestinian elected officials, as a violation of human rights.
The letter points out that the IPU had dispatched an observer to attend the latest Israeli Supreme Court hearing over the banishment of three Palestinian politicians from Jerusalem, two of them being members on the PLC.
The body said it would further discuss the matter in its 125th session to take place in mid-October 2011.
The IPU, established in 1889, is the oldest multilateral political organization. It brings together 155 affiliated parliaments and eight regional assemblies as associate members.
The world organization of parliaments has an Office in New York which acts as its permanent observer at the United Nations.
Western leaders and media label any Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation as terrorism, but it refuses to give Israel the same label when its military commits daily crimes against the Palestinians. Israel destroyed Gaza and committed massacres, starves the Palestinian population and bulldozes their houses in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It does not approve residency permits for Palestinians returning to their homes in the occupied lands and expels thousands of Palestinian families from Jerusalem.
The Arab population of Israel today stands at a little over one million, but the state has refused to allow them to create a single new Arab community to accommodate the natural population growth. The result is chronic overcrowding while the land lost to these Arab towns and villages has simply been passed to Jewish settlers for their benefit. Israel denies the right of the Arab-Israeli to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and Palestinians unlike Jews are not allowed to have dual citizenship.
Jewish settlements continue to grow rapidly in the Palestinian occupied lands while it is extremely hard for Palestinians to obtain permits to build homes on their own lands. The “Peace Now” organization found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for building in East Jerusalem and in the 60% of the West Bank that is referred to in Oslo agreements as “Area C”, have been refused since 2000, when such data has been available. Palestinian houses built without permits are considered illegal and routinely demolished while the state provides water, electricity and military protection to Jewish outposts that are built without permits in the West Bank.
When a Palestinian in Jerusalem or in the West Bank could no longer live in his parents’ home and decides to build a home on his family land that Israel has not yet confiscated, the planning authority refuses him a building permit. At the same time endless housing developments are springing up all over the illegally occupied territories for Jewish families only.
Where is the next generation of the Palestinians in the occupied lands including Jerusalem to live? What is the future envisaged for the next Palestinian generation by Israel? The denial of permits for Palestinians on such a large scale is part of Israel’s plan to force a ‘silent transfer’ of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Israel promotes a profoundly racist view of the Palestinians and enforces a system of land apartheid. It is the only member of the United Nations that is an apartheid state, but anyone who criticizes what it is doing to the Palestinians is called an anti-Semite or Jew-hater. A disproportionate part of the Western media coverage of anti-Semitism is concentrated on tarring critics of Israel’s action against the Palestinians with any unpleasant label.
It is sad to see the West led by the US following the hypocrisy as their main guiding principle on the question of the Palestinians. It leads me to ask a question that is on the minds of the frustrated victims of Israel’s human rights violations: “why do the US leaders hate the Palestinians so much?” The West defends and even supports Israel’s inhumane, cruel and unusual actions against the Palestinians.
Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has come under fire by US officials for posting what has been described as an “overtly anti-Semitic” cartoon on his blog. US Ambassador to the UN, Eileen Chamberlain Donadoe said on July 8th, “Mr. Falk’s continued comments and postings to his personal blog are deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms.” She suggested that Falk should resign his post in the UN saying: “his continued status as a UN mandate holder is a blight on the UN system.” The US criticized Falk several times before for his stance on Israel and Palestine.
When former President Jimmy Carter dared to title his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the US media was up in arms against Carter even before the first copy of the book was on the shelf.
Jews and the Western media have demanded exclusive rights to certain comparisons, such as nothing can be compared with the Jews suffering in Europe. Anyone who challenges that exclusive right, by suggesting that the Israeli Jews depopulated four hundred Palestinian villages and towns in 1947-48 and they are trying to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the 1967 occupied lands, is dismissed as anti-Semitic.
Germany had accepted its responsibility and atoned for the Holocaust, whereas Israel is still pretending that the 1947-48 Nakba never took place. The Nakba marks the period when 750,000 Palestinians were terrorized or expelled from their homes, many beyond the state, and tens of massacres were committed by the Jewish military and militias. Plenty of evidence has emerged including official documents concerning a military operation known as “Plan Dalet”, to suggest that it was always the intention of the Jewish leaders to rid Israel of its Palestinian inhabitants. Germany had been paying large sums of compensation to individual Holocaust survivors and to the state of Israel, but Israel has yet to apologize for the mass expulsion of the Palestinian population. No one with authority dares call Israel an apartheid or outlaw state despite the obvious.
Israel cooperated in the past with the most notoriously brutal regimes, including Argentina’s military dictatorship, Pinochet’s Chile, and Apartheid South Africa. Its intimate alliance with Apartheid South Africa was the most extensive. The Israeli-South African relation was a marriage of interests and ideologies. Nancy Murray, the director of “The Middle East Justice Network”, wrote that the history of Israeli-South African cooperation is evidence of the two countries shared racist roots and “moral and political congruence” between their systems of government.
In the end, Apartheid South Africa collapsed and Apartheid Israel survived. According to the Israeli citizen and human rights advocate, Uri Davis “following the dismantlement of the legal structures of apartheid in South Africa, Israel remains the only member of the UN that is apartheid state.” In Israel, the parliament, the judicial system and the law enforcement bodies impose racist and xenophobic policies against the Palestinian population in Israel proper and the occupied lands.
Israel forced many facts on the ground including transforming Palestine into a “Jewish state” owned by Jews and Israel privileges Jews both inside the country and outside it in the Diaspora while denying the Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. The “Law of Return” openly states that it offers special privileges to the Jews only, and many other laws state simply that the benefits apply only to anyone who qualifies under “the Law of Return”- that is Jews.
Some of South Africa’s own anti-apartheid leaders have said that the system of racial discrimination Israel is implementing is even worse than what they suffered. Israel acts worse than latter-day South Africa by building Jews-only settlements and access roads; erecting the apartheid wall and countless military checkpoints on confiscated lands in the West Bank and Jerusalem to ensure compliance with the apartheid rules. And in Israel proper, 93% of the land is designated in law as state land for settlement, cultivation and development for Jews only, and less than 7% is private land that is theoretically accessible to the non-Jewish indigenous people.
John Dugart, the chairman of a UN commission on human rights, concluded that “Israel is a serious violator of human rights and is in serious violation of international law.” And in a report released in 2007, Dugart wrote that “It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel’s laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.”
The tragedy for the Palestinian people is that Israel and its supporters have succeeded in convincing the vast majority of the West population to accept the myth of Apartheid-Israel as “the only liberal democracy in the Middle East” as an article of faith and dismiss the Palestinians’ history and culture as irrelevant or nonexistent.
Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York)
The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for complete withdrawal, according to a former Afghan prime minister who set up a secret meeting between a senior Taliban official and a U.S. general two years ago.
They also have no problem with meeting the oft-repeated U.S. demand that the Taliban cut ties completely with Al-Qaeda.
Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who was acting prime minister of Afghanistan in 1995-96, told IPS in an interview that a group of Taliban officials conveyed the organisation’s position on starting peace negotiations to him in a meeting in Kabul a few days ago.
“They said once the Americans say ‘we are ready to withdraw’, they will sit with them,” said Ahmadzai.
The former prime minister said Taliban officials made it clear that they were not insisting on any specific date for final withdrawal. “The timetable is up to the Americans,” he said.
Ahmadzai contradicted a favourite theme of media coverage of the issue of peace negotiations on the war – that Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Taliban leadership council, has not been on board with contacts by Taliban officials with the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S.
He confirmed that Mullah Baradar, then second in command to Mullah Omar, had indeed had high-level contacts with officials in the Karzai government in 2009, as claimed by Karzai aides, before being detained by Pakistani intelligence in early 2010.
And contrary to speculation that Baradar’s relationship with Mullah Omar had been terminated either by those contacts or by his detention, Ahmadzai said, “Baradar is still the top man,” and “Mullah Omar’s position on him hasn’t changed.”
Ahmadzai, who studied engineering at Colorado State University before joining the U.S.-sponsored mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, maintains close ties with Quetta Shura officials but has also enjoyed personal contacts with the U.S. military. He brokered a meeting between a senior Taliban leader and Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder, then commander of the Combined Special Forces Special Operations Army Component Command in Kabul in summer 2009.
The former prime minister’s account of that meeting in the interview with IPS further documents the Taliban leadership’s interest in entering into peace negotiations with the United States prior to the Barack Obama administration’s decision to escalate U.S. military involvement sharply in 2009.
A senior Taliban leader told Reeder at the meeting that the insurgents had no problem with severing their ties to Al-Qaeda, but could not agree to U.S. demands for access to military bases.
Ahmadzai said he negotiated the meeting with the Taliban leadership in the spring of 2009, at the request of Reeder, who had just arrived in Kabul a few weeks earlier. The process took four months, he recalled, because the Taliban leadership had so many questions that had to be addressed.
The main question, of course, was what arrangements would be made for the Taliban representative’s safety. In the end, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command facilitated the Taliban representative’s travel into Kabul, Ahmadzai recalled.
The Taliban official who met with Reeder and Ahmadzai in Kabul was a member of the Taliban Quetta Shura (leadership council) who called himself Mullah Min Mohammed for security reasons, according to Ahmadzai.
The Quetta Shura representative complained to Reeder about the failure of the United States to follow up on a previous contact with a senior Taliban representative, according to Ahmadzai’s account.
“Mullah Mohammed” recalled to Reeder that the Taliban had met two years earlier in southern Kandahar province with an unnamed U.S. official who had made two demands as the price for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan: an end to the Taliban’s relations with Al-Qaeda and U.S. long-term access to three airbases in the country.
“We agreed to one but not to the other,” the senior Taliban official was quoted by Ahmadzai as saying.
The Taliban leader explained that it had no trouble with the demand for cutting ties with Al-Qaeda, but that it would not agree to the U.S. retaining any military bases in Afghanistan – “not one metre”, according to Ahmadzai’s account.
The Quetta Shura representative then reproached the U.S. for having failed to make any response to the Taliban offer to cut the organisation’s ties with Al-Qaeda.
“You haven’t responded to us,” he is said to have told Reeder. “You never told us yes or no.”
The Taliban complaint suggested that the Quetta Shura leadership had been prepared to move into more substantive talks if the U.S. had indicated its interest in doing so.
Reeder, who has been commander of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg since July 2010, did not respond to an e-mail from IPS to the command’s Public Affairs Office for comment on Ahmadzai’s account of the meeting.
After the announcement of the major increase in troop deployment in Afghanistan, the Obama administration adopted a public posture that suggested the Taliban leadership had no reason to negotiate unless put under severe military pressure.
In light of the contacts between senior Taliban leaders and U.S. officials in 2007 and 2009, the Taliban clearly concluded that the United States would not negotiate with the Taliban except on the basis of accepting U.S. permanent military presence in Afghanistan.
After the 2009 meeting between Reeder and the Taliban leader, a number of reports indicated the Taliban leadership was not interested in negotiations with Washington.
Despite the apparent policy shift against seeking peace talks, the Taliban continued to signal to Washington that it was willing to exclude any presence for Al-Qaeda or other groups that might target the United States from Afghan territory.
Mullah Omar suggested that willingness in an unusual statement on the occasion of the Islamic holiday Eid in September 2009.
Then in early December, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the official title adopted by the Quetta Shura leadership for its political-military organisation – said in a statement posted on its website and circulated to Western news agencies that it was prepared to offer “legal guarantees” against any aggressive actions against other countries from its soil as part of a settlement with the United States.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) released the following statement today in the wake of last week’s horrific attacks in Norway:
Palestinian civil society, as broadly represented within the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), wishes to express its sincere condolences to and deep solidarity with the people of Norway and to Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), the Norwegian labour youth party, in particular after the massacre of last Friday committed by a far right fanatic.
Palestinians stand with the people of Norway as they mourn the victims, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have died.
This horrendous massacre serves as a grave reminder of the dangers posed by racism, hatred and intolerance. We are confident that Norway’s long tradition of peace loving, respecting diversity and upholding human rights anywhere in the world will stand up to this ugly test of fundamentalism and hate; we trust that the Norwegian people’s determination to fight xenophobia and its resultant disregard for equal human rights will be further strengthened.
These violent and horrific attacks cannot be viewed in isolation. There is a growing wave of officially sanctioned Islamophobia in several western countries, driven by misinformation, intolerance and right-wing Zionism, with strong links to Israel. Tragically, this racist and extreme rhetoric has been put into action with many Norwegians paying the price with their lives. The murderer, by his own admission, drew his motivation for this heinous crime from the by now widespread anti-Arab/Muslim discourse that dwells on a perceived “clash of civilizations” and a blind support for Israel and its crimes against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians deeply empathize and stand with Norwegians as fellow humans and as a people that has its own long experience of pain and grief. In Israel’s Gaza massacre alone, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, lost their lives. Homes, schools, UN shelters, university buildings, civilian infrastructure, hospitals, ambulances, sewage systems, power stations and more were ruthlessly decimated by Israel’s state terrorism in its assault on Gaza 2008-09. The noble humanitarian work and moving testimonies of the prominent Norwegian physician, Dr. Mads Gilbert, attest to the scale of the crime Israel has committed in Gaza and continues to commit on a daily basis with its illegal and immoral siege of 1.5 million Palestinians. It is often in times of great suffering, however, that human compassion and solidarity shine brightest.
We believe that these despicable crimes in Norway will only strengthen the resolve of all people of conscience around the world to pursue freedom, justice and equality and to join hands in combating racism in all forms.
We appreciate greatly the support for Palestinian rights and, specifically, for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as shown by members of the AUF summer camp. We deeply appreciate the support for a boycott of Israel from LO, the Norwegian labor federation, and from close to half the people of Norway, as shown in polls following Israel’s bloody flotilla attack last summer. We salute the Norwegian pension fund for divesting from three Israeli companies implicated in Israel’s occupation and colonization. We are proud of the brave decision taken by Norway to ban testing submarines destined to Israel and to support a military embargo on Israel. We stand by the friends and families of all victims at this difficult time.
We hope to honour their memory by working more closely together with the AUF and other partners in Norwegian civil society towards a more just world where there is no place for racism and hatred.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
ATHENS, Greece — The flotilla was intended to challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, a closure that has been decried as a violation of international law. While Israel prevented the boats from reaching the Gaza Strip, the initiative was successful in bring media attention to the closure.
But Israel remains victorious on one crucial front. A tremendous majority of those talking about the blockade — from the mainstream media to critics and activists — use 2007 as the start-date, unintentionally lending legitimacy to Israel’s cause and effect explanation, an argument that pegs the closure to political events.
According to the Israeli government, the blockade was a response to the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. The stated goals of the closure are to weaken Hamas, to stop rocket fire and to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held in Gaza since 2006.
But the blockade — which the Israeli government has openly called “economic warfare” — did not begin in 2007. Nor did it start in 2006, with Israel’s economic sanctions against Gaza. The hermetic closure of Gaza is the culmination of a process that began 20 years ago.
It is important to note, first, the groundwork that made this process so devastating.
In her definitive piece on the economic de-development of the Gaza Strip, published in 1987, Dr Sara Roy uses data from the years of 1967 to 1985 to illustrate how the Israelis turned the Gaza Strip into a captive market and made Palestinian residents a labor pool dependent on Israel.
This was achieved, in part, by limiting Gaza’s exports and commercial production. These early restrictions (or economic warfare to use the Israeli term) predate Hamas.
When freedom of movement was limited during the First Intifada, Gaza was already pinched.
Sari Bashi is the founder and director of Gisha, an Israeli NGO that advocates for Palestinian freedom of movement. In an interview, Bashi remarked that the gradual closure of Gaza began in 1991, when Israel canceled the general exit permit that allowed most Palestinians to move freely through Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. It was then that non-Jewish residents of Gaza and the West Bank were required to obtain individual permits.
This was during the First Intifada. While the mere mention of the word invokes the image of suicide bombers in the Western imagination, it’s important to bear in mind that the First Intifada began as a non-violent uprising comprised of civil disobedience, strikes, and boycotts of Israeli goods.
So, that the general exit permit was canceled during this time suggests that this early hit on Palestinian freedom of movement was not rooted in security concerns. It seems, rather, a retributive act, intended to punish Palestinians for daring to resist the Israeli occupation.
Sporadic closures of the Gaza Strip started in 1993, Bashi continues, following a wave of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinians. Because a tremendous majority of Palestinians are not and were not suicide bombers, however, the restrictions on movement again constituted collective punishment for the actions of a few — foreshadowing the nature of the blockade to come.
Over the years, there were other suggestions that a hermetic, punitive closure was on the horizon. “Movement [was] gradually restricted,” Bashi says, adding that in 1995, the Israelis erected a fence around the Gaza Strip.
At the beginning of the Second Intifada, in September of 2000, Palestinian students were subject to a blanket ban, forbidding travel from Gaza to the West Bank. At this time, the Israelis also closed the “safe passage” — an armored convoy that facilitated Palestinian movement between the occupied territories.
As the Second Intifada wore on, so did restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom. In March of 2005, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and HaMoked penned a report titled, “One Big Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan.”
That there was the need to write such a report — and that the NGO’s findings elicited such an alarming title — suggests that the blockade was well under way at this time, more than two years before the Israeli government would have you believe it began.
B’Tselem’s and HaMoked’s March 2005 report stated that only a small number of Gazans were being allowed into Israel to work. Tens of thousands had lost their jobs due to the restrictions on movement.
The 2005 disengagement supposedly signaled the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza. But, in reality, it brought more Israeli limitations on the movement of both people and goods. While the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access — brokered by the US and signed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority — should have eased those restrictions, it didn’t.
The number of day laborers exiting Gaza via the Erez crossing offers a dramatic example. In January of 2000, before the Second Intifada began, an average of 17,635 day laborers passed through Erez every day. In January of 2005, that number had dropped to 49.
Throughout the years there were upticks and downturns in the amount of workers exiting the strip. And in 2005, too, there was a brief rebound. But in 2006, the small number of Gazans who were still working in Israel were banned from entering, cutting them off from their jobs at a time when the coastal strip’s economy was thin to the point of breaking.
As a result of this recent history, the situation in Gaza today is stark.
The economy has been driven into the ground: some estimates put the unemployment rate at almost 50 percent; four out of every five Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian aid; hospitals are running out of supplies; the chronically ill cannot always get exit permits, which can lead to access-related deaths; students are sometimes prevented from reaching their universities abroad; families have been shattered.
While the flotilla might have successfully brought the blockade into the mainstream consciousness, it missed an opportunity to really push the envelope by re-framing the conversation altogether.
The author is an Israeli-American journalist based in Tel Aviv.
The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar July 12 is one of those moments when the long and bloody Afghanistan war suddenly comes into focus. It is not a picture one is eager to put up on the wall.
Karzai, a younger half brother (because their father had multiple wives) of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was the Kabul government’s viceroy in southern Afghanistan. What his nickname, “the king of Kandahar,” translates into is “warlord.” He controlled everything from the movement of drugs to the placement of car sales agencies. Want to open a Toyota dealership? See “AWK,” as he was also known, and come with a bucket load of cash.
AWK’s power, according to the Financial Times, “lay in a mafia-style network of oligarchs and loyal elders, funded, according to U.S. media reports, by heroin trafficking.” He was also on the CIA’s payroll. No truck moved through the south without paying him a tax. No United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) projects could be built without his okay. In case someone didn’t get the message, his Kandahar Strike Force Militia explained it to them. Next to AWK, Al Capone was a small-time pickpocket.
And he was our guy.
So was Jan Mohammed Khan, assassinated July 17, a key ally and advisor to the Afghan president, and a man so corrupt that the Dutch expeditionary forces forced his removal as the governor of Uruzgan Province in 2006.
The entire U.S. endeavor in Afghanistan—from the initial 2001 invasion to the current withdrawal plan—has relied on a narrow group of criminal entrepreneurs, the very people whose unchecked greed set off the 1992-96 Afghan civil war and led to the victory of the Taliban.
AWK was a member of the Popalzai tribe, which along with the Alikozai and Barakzai tribes, has run the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand since the early 1990s, systematically excluding other tribes. According to the Guardian’s Stephen Gray, “The formation of the Taliban was, in great measure, a revolt of the excluded.”
When the Americans invaded, “AWK and the Barakzai strongman and former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai not only seized control of NATO purse-strings by acquiring lucrative contracts, but they also manipulated U.S. intelligence and Special Forces to gain help with their predatory and retaliatory agenda,” says Gray, harassing and arresting Taliban members until they fled to Pakistan.
AWK not only poured money into the coffers of the Kabul government, he insured a second term for his brother by stuffing ballot boxes in the 2009 election, and he was a key actor in identifying targets for U.S. night raids. It is the success of these night raids in killing off Taliban leaders that has allowed the Obama Administration to claim a measure of victory in the Afghan war and to lay the groundwork for a withdrawal of most American troops by 2014.
With U.S. polls running heavily against the war—59 percent oppose it—and with more than 200 votes in Congress for speeding up the withdrawal timetable, the White House wants the war to be winding down as the U.S. goes into the 2012 elections.
For the Afghan central government and the Obama administration, then, AWK was probably the most powerful and important warlord in the country.
As in chess, there are winners and losers when a major piece falls.
The assassination has dealt a serious blow to the Americans. The rosy picture of progress painted by the U.S. Defense and State departments is shot to hell, literally. The Taliban have demonstrated that all the hype on “improved security” is about as real as an opium dream. Even if the assassination was due to a personal quarrel rather than a Taliban hit, few will believe that is so, particularly after Khan’s assassination just five days later.
While the Kabul government has appointed another Karzai in AWK’s place, there is almost certainly going to be a bloody internecine battle among surviving Kandahar power brokers. A major infight will end up robbing Kabul of much needed funds and further isolate the government. The only hope for the Karzai government now is to ramp up talks with the Taliban while Kabul still has some power and influence.
And that fact puts Pakistan in the driver’s seat, because there will be no talks without Islamabad. The Americans need these talks as well, so don’t pay a lot of attention to the White House’s huffing and puffing over aid.
In any case, the decision to cut some $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military has been less than a major success. Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told Express TV that “If Americans refuse to give us money, then okay…we cannot afford to keep the military out in the mountains for such a long period.”
Pakistan currently has tens of thousands of troops on the 1,500-mile Pakistan-Afghan border, fighting an insurgency that did not exist until the American invasion drove the Taliban into the Tribal Areas and the Northwest Territories. From Pakistan’s point of view it is fighting its own people, and losing up to 3,000 soldiers and civilians a year, because of Washington’s policies in the region.
One loser is India, even though in the long run peace in Afghanistan will allow New Delhi to reap the rewards of a Central Asia gas pipeline. In the short run, however,Indian diplomacy in the region has badly misfired. India intervened in Afghanistan— providing more than a billion dollars in aid—in order to discomfort Pakistan.
But in 2009 New Delhi withdrew its support for the Karzai government because India was convinced the Americans were about to jettison the Afghan President. That never happened, but Karzai decided that his long-term survival lay in making peace with the Taliban, which in turn meant warming up ties with Islamabad.
In the meantime, Pakistan—fearful of India and suspicious of the U.S.—tightened its ties with China (discomforting the Indians even more). In fact, in the end, China may be the big winner. Beijing runs a huge copper mine and seems to have no trouble getting its ore out of the country, which suggests there is a deal among China, Pakistan and the Taliban to keep the roads open. China is also building a railroad, as well as exploring for iron ore and rare earth elements.
There are other potential winners here as well. Iran has traditionally been involved in northern Afghanistan, where it has roots among the Tajiks, who speak a language similar to Iran’s Farsi. Iran also has close ties to the Shiite Hazaras and pumps aid into western Afghanistan. Iran’s help will be essential if the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are to join in any peace agreement.
Whatever the final outcome, the U.S./NATO adventure has been an unmitigated disaster. With Europeans overwhelmingly opposed to the war, there is a stampede for the exit by virtually every country but Britain and the U.S. In the end, Afghanistan may well end up the graveyard of NATO.
The major losers, of course, are the Afghans. So far this has been the deadliest year for civilians since 2001. Most of those deaths come via roadside bombs, but casualties from NATO air attacks are up. In spite of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid, Afghanistan is still grindingly poor and stunningly violent. After almost a decade of war the words that spring to mind are Macbeth’s: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Conn Hallinan can be reached at: email@example.com
Israeli ministers Ehud Barak and Lieberman have been at odds over whether to meet Turkey’s condition of an apology over the attack before it would restore ties with Israel.
The workers were brought into Israel to upgrade tanks that the Israeli Military Industries was contracted to build under a defense agreement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to mull over Turkey’s demands for an apology, compensation to be paid to the flotilla victims’ families, and lift the blockade enforced on the Gaza Strip.
The war ministry wants to extend the workers’ visas amid fears that ejecting the workers could dampen already dismal relations with Turkey.
In a publication documenting violations of human rights against Palestinians by the Israeli army over two years, the Gaza-based rights group outlined 85 cases of Palestinians tortured in Israeli prison.
One detainee told Al-Mezan he was prevented from sleeping for more than a few hours, bound in stress positions, spat at and bombarded with loud music, during a 42-day interrogation.
Nadedh Ali Abed-Rabbo, from Jabalia in north-east Gaza, passed out four times and lost 12 kilograms during the questioning, the report said. Upon his release in July 2010, he received medical treatment in Gaza City for loss of hearing, nerve spasms and ongoing head pain.
The report slammed what it called a “loophole” in the Israeli Supreme Court prohibition of torture, which allows Israeli interrogators to secure permission from supervisors for banned methods if they believe a detainee poses an immediate threat to public safety.
The provision, it said, allows for “practicing torture with impunity.”
“Israel continues to use administrative detention against an excessively high number of Palestinians, and for a prolonged period of time,” the report said.
As of April 2011, an estimated 192 Palestinians were held in administrative detention in Israel, it noted.
The study detailed around 50 Palestinian prisoners being held in solitary confinement, and at least 15 Palestinians from Gaza detained as “unlawful combatants.”
This label, applied since Israel evacuated its settlers from Gaza in 2005, “denies them [Palestinians from Gaza] further protections and allows Israel to place them in prolonged detention,” the report highlighted.
West Bank family visits to prisoners in Israeli jails were denied in 1,500 out of 80,000 cases, the report said.
Al-Mezan documented the detention of 28 rubble and scrap collectors, including four children, by the Israeli army near the buffer zone, and 75 attacks and 65 arrests of Gaza fishermen by Israeli forces off Gaza waters.
“The essence of the policy of the blockade is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of the population at large, a prima facie violation of the [Convention Against Torture],” the report noted.
The study, which examined Israeli violations between May 2009 and April 2011, called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to comply with its international obligations through their political, technical and trade relations with the state.
Venezuelan foreign affairs minister Nicolas Maduro has criticised the U.S. government for having an “absurd and extreme” policy with regards to Venezuela.
Maduro made the comments following the publication of a report earlier this week which outlines the U.S. government’s tactics for dealing with transnational criminal organisations. The document cites Venezuela as a country that promotes a “permissive environment for narco-trafficking and terrorist organisations”.
Venezuela’s government has consistently maintained that the U.S. is singling out Venezuela for political reasons and accuses the U.S. government of having a hypocritical attitude with regards to its own record on human rights, terrorism and narco-trafficking.
“We strongly reject the steps taken by the ultra-rightwing, which pulls a good part of Congress and the U.S. government towards an absurd and extremist policy against Latin America and against our nation, hoping to attack and intimidate us,” said Maduro, who added that the U.S. had adopted a policy of “permanent aggression” towards Venezuela.
U.S Latin American Policy
Last Wednesday, the House Committee on Foreign Relations also voted 22 to 20 to withdraw this year’s funding of $48.5 million to the Organization of American States on the basis that the organisation is supposedly controlled by left-wing states such as Venezuela and Cuba.
The House Committee also passed multiple amendments to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, including; cutting off all U.S. aid to the governments of Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and to those countries that oppose the U.S. more than 50% of the time in the United Nations. Obama’s travel reforms allowing increased travel to Cuba were also retracted.
“The five amendments passed through the full committee will send the right message from our government through the region, in the absence of any coherent foreign policy from this Administration. Prohibiting taxpayer dollars from corrupt governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua; while helping our allies is the right approach,” said Republican Connie Mack, who spearheaded some of the amendments.
Mack was also influential in engineering U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in May this year and has consistently demanded that Venezuela be named on the “state sponsor of terrorism” list.
The Senate and the House of Representatives will have to vote on the amendments before they are approved.
This Wednesday Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez also condemned the U.S. government’s stance towards Venezuela after U.S. Military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, expressed “concern” over it’s relationship with Iran.
“Go and worry about your own affairs, decadent empire,” said Chávez, who also dismissed U.S. conservative Roger Noriega’s claims that he is suffering from an advanced form of cancer and has 18 months to live.
“This is all just feeding the macabre show of the rightwing. Here, the sub-imperial rightwing keeps repeating that I don’t even have anything, that my illness is just a show, a strategy mounted by Chávez and Fidel Castro,” said the president.
“I will be standing as the candidate for the 2012 elections and I will win,” he added.
On 15 July, thousands of Israelis marched in occupied East Jerusalem to show their support for a Palestinian “state” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Portrayed by its Israeli organizers as a joint Palestinian-Israeli march and ornamented with the slogans of “shared struggle” and “solidarity,” the Palestinian participation in the event was however scarce — a fraction of those in attendance were Palestinians. This event came a few weeks after a similar march in Tel Aviv, and while the Jerusalem march garnered more publicity due to its location, both events expose the failures of the purported solidarity of the Israeli Zionist “left” with the Palestinians.
The term solidarity — much like co-existence — is so overused in the liberal Zionist discourse as to render it meaningless. The misconception of solidarity raises the question: what does solidarity mean and, more specifically, when can an act carried out by Israelis in the name of supporting Palestinians be considered an act of true solidarity?
Can every instance of Israelis flocking to the streets chanting “End the occupation” be blithely described as solidarity? Should every occasion of Israelis carrying Palestinian flags be ecstatically celebrated as a major boost for the Palestinian cause? Should Palestinians be simply grateful that, amid the increasing construction of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the overwhelming surge of racism in Israeli society, there are still some Israeli voices willing to “recognize” a Palestinian state?
When persons in a position of privilege formulate and design a solution and impose it on a colonized and occupied people as the only viable solution and the “sole remaining constructive step,” as the 15 July call to action put it, this is not solidarity but rather another form of occupation. Solidarity means not telling people what you think their problem is, let alone telling them what you think the solution should be. Solidarity means not agreeing on everything or even agreeing on a fixed solution but fighting for a shared cause irrespective of the differences.
A quasi-state built on 22 percent of the land of historic Palestine is not what Palestinians have been fighting for over the last 63 years and presenting it as such strips Palestinians of their voices and of their right to decide their own destiny.
Many argue, though, that struggling shoulder-to-shoulder with Zionist leftists widens the support base for Palestine and provides Palestinians with an opportunity to debate and convince the other side. This would be true if Zionists viewed Palestinians as equal partners but they do not. The whole idea of two states for two peoples as the only solution to the Palestinian-Israeli impasse — extremely popular among liberal Zionists — is predicated upon isolationism, exceptionalism and Zionists’ sense of moral righteousness and superiority to Palestinians which grants them the legitimacy to determine the problem, the solution and the means by which this solution shall be achieved.
A “joint” Palestinian-Zionist march does not offer an opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue; it rather gives Zionists one more chance to marginalize Palestinians’ voices and lecture Palestinians on how they should resist and what they should accept.
Thus, these demonstrations that ostensibly demand equality in reality maintain the privileged status of Israeli Jews. And although such demonstrations are capable of drawing thousands of Israelis every once in a while, they do not really widen the Israeli support base for Palestinians. Instead, they reflect support for a “solution” that overlooks the refugee problem — the core of the Palestinian struggle — and fragments the Palestinian nation and dooms Palestinian citizens in Israel to perpetual inferiority and discrimination.
Solidarity is not measured by numbers; it’s not about how many people came to a pro-Palestine demonstration. It is about why those people came. Fighting alongside fifty Israelis who are truly committed to the Palestinian cause is, therefore, much more important and valuable than marching in the shadow of thousands of Israelis who think Palestine is merely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
On its Facebook page, the 15 July Jerusalem march was titled in Hebrew “Marching for the independence of Palestine” while the Arabic version read, “Together towards the liberation of Palestine.” There is a huge difference between liberation and an “independent state.” Freedom for Palestinians means much more than establishing a bantustan in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The inconsistency in the Arabic and Hebrew wording is telling but it is neither new nor rare for “leftist” Israeli organizations to address the Palestinian public in a different language and tone to that used for addressing the Israeli public.
Of the hundred or so Palestinians who attended the march, many may have joined because of the false perception that the aim of this march was to demand freedom, rather than to call for bogus “independence.” In addition, members of the Palestinian popular committees of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, whose neighborhoods face house demolitions and a silent, grinding process of ethnic cleansing, say that they felt they had no option but to join the march in order to draw attention to their struggle. But their plight was exploited by the organizers to advertise the march as a “joint struggle,” to score political points and serve their public relations purposes.
The contributions of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, the main organizers of the 15 July march, should not be diminished. The weekly demonstrations it has been organizing in Sheikh Jarrah and al-Lydd shed light on the struggle of the Palestinian residents against Israel’s systematic policy of house demolition and evictions. Leading members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and other Israeli leftist peace organizations receive vicious attacks from the Israeli far right, including death threats and accusations of treason.
This, however, must not place them beyond criticism. For all their activism, they have failed to fully embrace the Palestinian public and get it involved. Their demonstrations are dominated by white, secular liberal Zionists and the Palestinian voice, which they supposedly want to make heard, is inaudible amid a chorus of Hebrew-language chants about peace and coexistence. Even the slogans and the placards which were raised during the demonstrations were decided beforehand by the Israeli organizers, turning the protests into a tedious, painfully predictable and elitist routine.
In sum, Israeli “solidarity” is a double-edged sword. It has the potential of advancing the Palestinian cause and influencing Israeli public opinion and bringing the Palestinian struggle into the mainstream media. However, there is a great risk of groups hijacking the growing grassroots movement of Palestinian popular resistance under the cloak of solidarity and coexistence.
That there is a sweeping tide of blatant extremism among the Israeli ruling elite and wider society does not mean that Palestinians should gratefully cheer soft-core Zionist “compromises.” Solidarity is neither an act of charity nor a festival of boastful speeches and empty rhetoric. It is a moral obligation that should be carried out with full, unwavering and unconditional commitment.
Those who seek appreciation and gratitude had better stay in their cozy chairs in Tel Aviv. Attempts to exploit the Palestinian plight for political purposes and to turn the Palestinian cause from a struggle for human rights, justice, freedom and equality into a parade of fake independence and cliches must be called out and countered.
Budour Youssef Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian socialist activist and third-year law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/Budouroddick.
Bahrain’s February 14 Movement has called for a mass sit-in in front of the US embassy in Manama to condemn Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of the Persian Gulf country.
The spokesman of the Bahraini movement, Abdul Raouf al-Shayeb, said that the demonstrators intend to voice their opposition on Friday against the US support of the Al Khalifa regime.
The protesters seek to maintain the right to determine their own destiny, al-Shayeb added.
The main Bahraini opposition group, al-Wefaq, has also called for fresh rallies on Friday.
Al-Shayeb’s remarks come as Saudi-backed Bahraini regime forces continue cracking down on peaceful demonstrators.
On Wednesday, the regime forces attacked the protesters in the village of Nuwaidrat, according to witnesses.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed their first batch of military forces to Bahrain in mid-March.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia deployed more forces in Bahrain in an attempt to further help the ruling regime clamp down on anti-regime demonstrators.
In June, a military court in Bahrain tried seven opposition activists including al-Shayeb in absentia for “plotting to overthrow the ruling system.” The opposition spokesman was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Anti-regime protesters have been holding demonstrations across the country since mid-February, calling on the ruling family to relinquish power.
Scores of protesters have been killed — many under torture — and numerous others detained and transferred to unknown locations during the regime’s brutal onslaught on protesters.