By Ramona Wadi © (Source / 11.03.2014)
Amidst increasing discourse regarding alleged threats to Israel’s security, the US and Israel have signed an agreement deemed “of strategic value” that ensures a continuation of production for the Iron Dome air defence system. According to reports in the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and YNet News, the US government will immediately transfer $429 million to Israel to be used for building the system glorified during Operation Pillar of Defence.
The US Department of Defence released a statement highlighting the mutual value of the agreement. “During Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, Iron Dome was credited with saving countless Israeli lives and was called a ‘game changer’ by many Israeli policy makers … Israel will obtain valuable resources to contribute to its defence and US industry will receive meaningful co-production opportunities for Iron Dome components.”
According to Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, the funding is “another shining example of the iron-clad friendship between the United States and Israel”.
According to YNet News, the chief defence attaché for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv said that “multi-layered defence” should also be considered within the region. “If we were able to build a regional defence capability in, say, Jordan, that capability could easily defend Israel, Jordan and even Egypt, if you so desired.”
Israeli coverage during Operation Pillar of Defence manipulated the loss of Palestinian lives by focusing upon intercepted rockets from Gaza. The distortion induced by the rhetoric of “saving lives” allowed Israel to gloss over the massacres perpetrated in Gaza following the targeted assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari. The trend was also evident in social media, allowing the Iron Dome to become a metaphor of security while obliterating the settler-colonial state’s sanctioned terror against Palestinians in Gaza.
The funding of Iron Dome consolidates Israel’s security threat narrative amidst escalating rhetoric about Hamas’s alleged procurement of weapons from abroad. The Israeli defence Forces (IDF) has been running a propaganda campaign about “Gaza terrorists” and the confiscated weapons from Iran that were allegedly on their way to Gaza.
The IDF blog displays a series of maps which project the area of the Gaza Strip onto its allies’ landscapes to illustrate the rockets’ reach capability to put the threat “in perspective”. Utilising maps of the US, Canada and the UK already diminishes the perspective by invoking images of hypothetical destruction upon Israel’s staunchest allies. Projecting the same improbability upon countries which have resisted colonial and imperial violence would have elicited far less misplaced compassion.
The funding of Iron Dome and its benefits for the oppressor states have been conveniently discarded in an attempt to deflect attention from the US’s constant compulsion to fuel terror and bolster Israel’s strategy of isolating Gaza while attempting to exploit regional instability as a pretext to disseminate its culture of annihilation. What emerges from the military cooperation is the deconstruction of settler-colonial and imperial violence in order to provide justifications for the endorsement of war and ostracising of Palestinians in Gaza.
The Libyan parliament has ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, after military forces failed to prevent the escape of a North Korea-flagged tanker laden with crude oil.
A total of 124 lawmakers out of 194 in attendance at the General National Congress (GNC) passed a vote of no-confidence – four more than the majority required – to oust Zeidan, MPs said on Tuesday.
The GNC named Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thani as the interim prime minister, having two weeks to find a replacement for Zeidan.
The move follows a standoff between the government and a group of militants in the eastern port of Sidra.
Militants at the rebel-held port loaded oil into a North Korea-flagged tanker, the Morning Glory, which had docked there without government permission on Saturday.
Authorities however later said they had taken control of the tanker and were prepared to unload the crude once it reached a western port, and then launch legal measures against the potential buyers.
However, the seaworthy tanker slipped past the warships during inclement weather early on Tuesday.
Tripoli has made efforts to end a wave of protests at oil ports and fields across the country that have drastically reduced its oil output.
Zeidan had earlier promised that he would end the blockade of all rebel-held ports in the east either through talks or by military force.
(Source / 11.03.2014)
Editors: Rex Brynen and Roula El-Rifai
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Pluto Press
Book Review By Ramona Wadi
The Palestinian right of return is crucial to the establishment of Palestinian identity and memory, so any discourse regarding the subject should not take place in isolation. The Palestine refugee problem: the search for a resolution (Pluto Press, 2014) incorporates this premise, bringing together various viewpoints within two main contexts: the centrality of Palestinian identity and the “reconceptualising” of the two-state solution in the absence of implementing the single state solution. No assumption of permanence with regard to negotiations is made throughout the book; indeed the analytical contributions highlight the regional instability and lack of popular Palestinian representation as impediments to achieving a solution.
The book identifies aspects that should be retained at the helm of any possible solution: forced exile and displacement as integral to the construction of Palestinian identity, a settlement which should be achieved through negotiations, availability of research and analysis to facilitate negotiations, and working towards an agreement which is sustainable. The dissemination of research is deemed restricted due to divergences in communication between policy-makers and academia and the avoidance of embarking upon research that is not in line with ongoing negotiations. Furthermore, refugees are not represented adequately in discourse pertaining to negotiations and the right of return, which creates a problem with regard to the strength of historical narratives and their influence in shaping a solution that focuses primarily on Palestinian recognition and reclamation of rights.
As described in the first chapters, the increase in research does not necessarily indicate better dissemination and implementation of possible solutions. While Israel has sought to counter research about Palestinian refugees by referring to the displacement of Jews from Arab countries, analysis highlighting the Palestinian struggle for the right of return is hampered by a lack of international coordination. Various bodies have funded and supported research, including the EU and the World Bank. However, sincere participation and support should be questioned in light of the constant support which international organisations have bequeathed to Israel.
The international community’s shaping of discourse regarding the Palestinian right of return is integral, yet should be subjected to intensive scrutiny. The proposed implementation mechanism acknowledges constrains in relation to the right of return and residency for Palestinians: “Within these constraints, the choice of the refugees needs to be maximised as much as possible.” The statement concerns the question of residence; however, constraints should also be discussed within the framework of international bodies that would collaborate upon implementation of return or choice of residency. One main concern would be the refusal of international organisations and imperialism to recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian identity and history, given the penchant for consolidating Israel’s fabricated narratives and claims to land.
Preparatory work identified as maximising Palestinians’ choice includes the gathering of evidence by Palestinians “from archives and historic records”, Israeli cooperation in allowing access to archives pertaining to claims and coordination with international organisations. However, it should be noted that in the aftermath of the Nakba, Israel took steps to obliterate evidence in order to ensure that Palestinians encounter immense difficulties in establishing ownership claims to the land.
Representation of refugees is another important issue tackled throughout the book. An initial contrast between Palestinian official representation and UNRWA’s role in highlighting the plight of Palestinian refugees depicts inconsistencies which also undermine a sustainable solution. The Palestinian Authority’s priority is the hypothetical establishment of a two-state solution, while UNRWA is said to provide a more efficient representation of Palestinian refugees and their needs. An implementation of the right to return would instigate a discussion about the future role of UNRWA and stipulated timeframes which may be detrimental to a comprehensive solution for Palestinians.
The right of return is also mired in unacceptable compromise, partly through acquiescence on behalf of Palestinian leadership. It is tied inherently to Palestinian history, although the official Palestinian representation has minimised discourse pertaining to the right of return by focusing specifically upon accountability and symbolism as opposed to a mass return. Rex Brynen quotes Yasser Arafat as stating, “We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and understand that the right of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.”
Hamas, on the other hand, insists upon a full implementation of the right of return taking into account the forced mass-displacement which started in 1948. It is Hamas that comes closer to the determination which should be asserted as part of the right of return by not only holding Israel accountable for its settler-colonial project, but also affirming that historic Palestine should be included within the discourse, something which is deftly ignored in many discussions about Palestinian refugees.
The book also expounds upon the diverging perspectives regarding the right of return. Palestinian refugees frame return “as a matter of rights, dignity and international law”. Conversely, Western discourse regarding the right of return falls within the convenience of humanitarianism. Such framing of discourse not only undermines Palestinian history and identity; it also allows Israel to maintain its dominant narrative within the international arena. Israel articulates three main concerns which have been absorbed by mainstream discourse: the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, impunity with regard to the Nakba and a permanent agreement which would eliminate the possibility of further refugee claims. A lack of agreement upon these issues is said to promulgate conflict; in reality an agreement with regard to these conditions would diminish Palestinian history, identity and memory, as well as the legitimacy of return under international law.
If the Palestinian right of return continues to be discussed externally, or as an Israeli concern, history and the loss of Palestine will become secondary issues. It is important to define 1948 as the enforced loss of Palestinian territory in order to establish the settler-colonial state. Giving prominence to the destruction wrought by settler-colonialism would have strengthened the argument in favour of nostalgia as a vital component of memory and Palestinian refugee claims. An unhindered right of return for Palestinians should focus upon reclamation of territory and an assertion of self-determination, rather than be perceived as a sequel to any peace agreement concocted by the Palestinian leadership, Israel and its international allies.
(Source / 11.03.2014)
By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)
At the opening of a 2 day meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo yesterday, Ahmad Jarbar, the head of the Opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), said the time for diplomacy and negotiations with the Assad regime is over.
“There is no longer space for diplomatic language or political solutions. They [the Syrian Government) have met the positive signs on our part by…firing tank guns and dropping barrel bombs on unarmed civilians,” Jarba told the delegates from the Arab League.
Arab League Foreign Ministers Meet in Cairo
“They are people who do not understand anything but force. Only force will deter them,” adding, “You have seen the efforts the Bashar al-Assad regime made to sabotage Geneva II”.
Jarbar also went on to call for the banning of Hezbollah (Shia) and the (Sunni) Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), describing them as terror groups trying to occupy his country.
Saudia Arabia has not only banned membership of Hezbollah and ISIL but also the Qatari backed Muslim Brotherhood (MB), designating it also on Friday as a “terrorist organisation”. The Moslem Brotherhood is the party of former president Mohammad Morsi of Egypt, who was democratically elected but has since been deposed.
Saudi Arabia (scroll down – see below), along with other Gulf States, last week withdrew its ambassador from Qatar in protest at that country’s support for MB, primarily because the Brotherhood is opposed to despotic government by small, elite families who pass the rule from one family member to another.
The Qatari royal family, though related by marriage to most of the others despotic ruling Gulf State families, seems to be far more liberal minded.
The SNC is similarly divided. Ahmad Jarbar is backed by the Saudis, but it is reported that the large block that left the Coalition prior to the Geneva ll talks, and which is supported by Qatar, now wants to bring back its 40 members into the decision making process.
This dissenting group is led by Riyad Hijab, a defected former prime minister in the Assad Government, who narrowly lost to Jarbar for the SNC presidency in elections last July.
The divisions on who influences whom have been reflected on the ground, with the Saudis and the Qataris both supplying and withholding weapon supplies to their chosen or rejected Opposition fighting groups, seriously and damagingly affecting their ability to take on Assad’s well supplied troops.
The other dispute over the sacking of Colonel Salim Idriss as head of the Supreme Military Council for the SNC, which was reported last Thursday (scroll down – see below) to have been resolved, appears to be ongoing.
According to reports in the London-based, Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi over the weekend, Idriss is claiming that some member of the Supreme Military Council were “bribed” to vote against him and others present had, in fact, no right to vote at all. You can read more, HERE:
(EDITOR: Until they solve this problem, in my view, it is unlikely that Assad will be defeated and the war could continue to remain in stalemate, with each side endlessly gaining here and losing there.)
CHRISTIAN NUNS RELEASED IN EXCHANGE FOR 152 WOMEN PRISONERS AND THEIR CHILDREN HELD BY THE ASSAD REGIME:
The Qataris seem to have some influence over the Al Nusra Front, a Jihadist group who were holding 13 Greek Orthodox nuns and their 2 maids from the monastery of St. Thecla in Maloula, which was captured by Opposition forces some time ago.
Maloula is a famous place of Christian pilgrimage and one of the few places in the world that still speaks Aramaic, the original language of Jesus of Nazarath.
Released Orthodox Christian Nuns Arrive in Damascus
According to reports, the nuns were exchanged over the weekend for 152 women held in Assad’s prisons and even after leaving their Islamic captors they reported that they had been treated well and with respect while in captivity. They had been held in Yabroud, now under heavy regime attack, for 4 months.
Video footage shows good relations between the nuns and their captors, who exchange smiles and good words before their departure.
The video goes on to show the nuns leaving their place of captivity in the middle of the night and being driven to a rendezvous where they are exchanged for the women prisoners, many of whom seem to have children with them (look out for the bright-eyed boy at the end), HERE:
The nuns were then taken across the border to the Sunni town of Arsal and then on to Beirut on Sunday, crossing back into regime held Syria at 1.30 am in the morning and reaching Damascus at dawn today, Monday. Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
2 JOURNALISTS KILLED IN 48 HOURS BUT CITIZENS OF ONE TOWN HEAVE SIGH OF RELIEF AT FINAL DEPARTURE OF ISIS JIHADISTS:
Elsewhere in Syria, fighting continues between multiple sides, with an explosion reported at the Odessa Hotel in Raqqah this morning, which is a HQ of ISIL in the city, and fighting between the extreme Jihadist group and a combined Opposition and Kurdish fighting force at Sarrin in the extreme north-west of the province for control of a bridge across the Euphrates river.
The impact crater of a Scud missile that came down in Raqqah can be seen, HERE:
In Hasakah province fighting is also reported between ISIL and more moderate Opposition groups in Markada, a southern district of Hasakah city.
In Homs province, where Government forces captured the village of Al-Zara on Saturday, below the Krak des Chevaliers crusader fortress, Opposition activists are claiming that some residents of the village have been executed by Assad’s National Defence Force. The number of executions claimed varies from 20 to 150, depending on the report.
Body Parts Are Now Routinely Found After Assad Barrel-Bombing
To the south-east of Homs at Qaryatayn, Opposition fighters have destroyed another 2 of Assad’s tanks.
On the northern side of Idlib city, fighting is reported between Opposition forces and the regime with the Syrian Army suffering casualties following mortar attacks. A number of wounded are also reported after a similar Opposition Grad missile attack over the weekend on Latakia city.
In Hama yesterday, Sunday, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) targeted the Sheikh Hadeed Checkpoint in the city, HERE: while also in Hama province Assad’s forces are reported to have killed 10 Opposition fighters in the countryside around the town of Karnaz.
In Deir Ez Zour, Opposition fighters are now very near the boundary of the military airport, this video footage showing the airports landing lights and the buildings inside, HERE:
In Deraa, to the south of the country, Opposition fighters have attacked a gas plant in the city, HERE: and are advancing on the nearby central prison, HERE:
It is also reported that Government reinforcements have arrived in the city, including trucks of military supplies and 25 tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
Meanwhile heavy spring rain has destroyed more than 300 tents at a refugee camp in northern Aleppo province and badly flooded parts of Aleppo city, here:
Aleppo is also disappearing under mountains of rat-infested garbage, HERE:
10 civilians were reported killed by a regime airstrike on Sunday in Aleppo’s eastern district of Haidariya, including a Canadian photographer, Ali Moustafa, who was also hit by shrapnel from the barrel-bomb explosion while standing near firefighters.
Moustafa is the 2nd journalist killed in 48 hours, the other being a cameraman for the pro-Assad Al Mayadeen TV who died on Saturday in Deir Ez Zour.
lastly, ongoing clashes between moderate Opposition forces and ISIL are still being reported at Manbej in Aleppo province but the citizens of Azaz they have heaved a sigh of relieve at the departure of the extreme Jihadists, as Al Jazeera reveals in this video report, HERE:
Syrian Coalition: We Regret That Some Factions Allow Their Own Interests to Take Precedence over the National Interest
Palestinians in the West Bank village of Beiten held a funeral for 20-year-old Saji Sayel Darwish, one day after he was killed by by Israeli Army fire in the West Bank. According to the IDF Spokesperson, Israeli soldiers spotted Darwish throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles on the road to the settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah, leading them to open fire.
The mother of Saji Sayel Darwish at her son’s funeral, killed yesterday by the Israeli army, March 11, 2014.
The funeral of Saji Sayel Darwish, killed yesterday by the Israeli army, March 11, 2014.
(Source / 11.03.2014)
Bickering in the coalition reflects regional rivalries that pit Qatar against Saudi Arabia
Amman: A large Qatar-backed bloc that left Syria’s opposition National Coalition has reversed its decision and wants to rejoin, setting the scene for a clash with the group’s Saudi-backed president, opposition sources said on Sunday.
The 40-member bloc, which quit the 120-member coalition before Syrian peace talks began in Geneva in January, said it had returned to confront what it saw as its unfair exclusion from decision-making.
Infighting within the opposition coalition has undermined rebel efforts to take on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and has also played into the hands of rival, more hardline Islamist outfits which include foreign militants.
US and Russian-sponsored talks to end the three-year-old civil war have stalled after two rounds in which the coalition and Al Assad’s representatives failed to make substantive progress.
Addressing Arab foreign ministers at an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday, Jarba said the Geneva talks had suffered a “setback” and called for advanced weapons to be supplied to moderate rebel brigades.
“There is no longer space for diplomatic language or political solutions. They [the government] have met the positive signs on our part by … firing tank guns and dropping barrel bombs on unarmed civilians,” he said.
“They are people who do not understand anything but force. Only force will deter them.” Bickering in the coalition reflects regional rivalries that pit Qatar against Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Tensions rose last week when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.
Within the National Coalition, Qatar’s candidate for the leadership of the group — former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab — narrowly lost out in January to the Saudi-backed Jarba.
Jarba faces another leadership vote in July, and coalition sources said the bloc’s decision to rejoin the opposition appeared to be aimed at curbing his powers.
“We have decided to resume our political activity in the coalition as a single bloc,” the 40 former defectors said in a statement, citing “perilous changes the Syrian revolt is undergoing”, an apparent reference to rebel infighting.
The bloc also said it expected the Geneva talks to fail and attacked Jarba’s decision to dismiss General Selim Idriss, a commander in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who opposition sources said had opened channels of communication with Qatar.
Coalition spokesman Monzer Akbik declined to comment on the defectors’ decision to rejoin the coalition.
Haitham Al Maleh, a veteran human rights campaigner who heads the coalition’s legal committee, said the 40 were entitled to attend the body’s next full meeting, which has been delayed but could be held in a few weeks’ time in Cairo.
“I hope they will attend,” Maleh said. “We are in the midst of a revolution. We are trying to prevent Syria from descending into catastrophe. This is not the time for competition over positions.” But a coalition official, who asked not to be named, warned that the bloc’s return could reignite tensions.
“Jarba is now expected to alter the composition of the FSA members to his advantage and strengthen his control of the coalition. The 40 have returned to try to prevent his re-election when it comes up on July 4,” the official said.
A pro-Jarba opposition source added: “I think Jarba would be making a mistake if he lets the 40 rejoin. He is being urged by his allies not to allow them back in.”
The most influential members of the dissident bloc are Mustafa Sabbagh, a businessman who is Qatar’s point man in the coalition, and Hijab, the most senior figure to defect from Al Assad’s government since the revolt began.
(Source / 11.03.2014)