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The Roots of the Iraq and Syria Wars Go Back More than 60 Years

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It’s Always Been about Oil and Pipelines

The same issues which drove war and terrorism in the Middle East in the 1930s and 1940s are still driving it today

The best way to see this is to start with today, and work backwards …

The U.S. is bombing Iraq again in order to protect the major oil center in Erbil.

The war in Syria is also largely about oil and gas.   International Business Times noted last year:

[Syria] controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.


Syria also has oil shale resources with estimated reserves that range as high as 50 billion tons, according to a Syrian government source in 2010.

Moreover, Syria is a key chess piece in the pipeline wars:

Syria is an integral part of the proposed 1,200km Arab Gas Pipeline:

Here are some additional graphics courtesy of Adam Curry:

A picture named arabGasPipeline.jpg

A picture named syria-turkey.jpg

A picture named levantprovince2.jpg

So yes, regime change was planned against Syria (as well as Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) 20 years ago.

And yes, attacking Syria weakens its close allies Iran and Russia … and indirectly China.

But Syria’s central role in the Arab gas pipeline is also a key to why it is now being targeted.

Just as the Taliban was scheduled for removal after they demanded too much in return for the Unocal pipeline, Syria’s Assad is being targeted because he is not a reliable “player”.

Specifically, Turkey, Israel and their ally the U.S. want an assured flow of gas through Syria, and don’t want a Syrian regime which is not unquestionably loyal to those 3 countries to stand in the way of the pipeline … or which demands too big a cut of the profits.

A deal has also been inked to run a natural gas pipeline from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria (with a possible extension to Lebanon).

And a deal to run petroleum from Iraq’s Kirkuk oil field to the Syrian port of Banias has also been approved:

Turkey and Israel would be cut out of these competing pipelines.

Gail Tverberg- an expert on financial aspects of the oil industry – writes:

One of the limits in ramping up Iraqi oil extraction is the limited amount of infrastructure available for exporting oil from Iraq. If pipelines through Syria could be added, this might alleviate part of the problem in getting oil to international markets.

If you don’t believe that the war in Syria is about access to oil and gas, keep reading …

The architects of the Iraq War (the one which started in 2003) themselves admitted it was about oil.

The Gulf war was also about oil.   Specifically, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait caused oil prices to skyrocket. The U.S. invaded Iraq in order to calm oil markets.

In its August 20, 1990 issue, Time Magazine quoted an anonymous U.S. Official as saying:

Even a dolt understands the principle.  We need the oil. It’s nice to talk about standing up for freedom, but Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are not exactly democracies, and if their principal export were oranges, a mid-level State Department official would have issued a statement and we would have closed Washington down for August.

The Guardian reports that the U.S. and Britain planned regime change in Syria 57 years ago to guarantee the flow of oil:

Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a secretive “regime change” in another Arab country they accused of spreading terror and threatening thewest’s oil supplies, by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures.


The document [was] approved by London and Washington ….


Syria also had control of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connected pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey.

And between 1932 and 1948, the roots for the current wars in Iraq and Syria were planted.  As Wikipediaexplains:

File:Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline.svg

The Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline (also known as Mediterranean pipeline) was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel). The pipeline was operational in 1935–1948. Its length was about 942 kilometres (585 mi), with a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) (reducing to 10 and 8 inches (250 and 200 mm) in parts), and it took about 10 days for crude oil to travel the full length of the line. The oil arriving in Haifa was distilled in the Haifa refineries, stored in tanks, and then put in tankers for shipment to Europe.

The pipeline was built by the Iraq Petroleum Company between 1932 and 1935, during which period most of the area through which the pipeline passed was under a British mandate approved by the League of Nations. The pipeline was one of two pipelines carrying oil from the Kirkuk oilfield to the Mediterranean coast. The main pipeline split at Haditha with a second line carrying oil to Tripoli, Lebanon, which was then under a French mandate. This line was built primarily to satisfy the demands of the French partner in IPC, Compagnie Française des Pétroles, for a separate line to be built across French mandated territory.

The pipeline and the Haifa refineries were considered strategically important by the British Government, and indeed provided much of the fuel needs of the British and American forces in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.

The pipeline was a target of attacks by Arab gangs during the Great Arab Revolt, and as a result one of the main objectives of a joint British-Jewish Special Night Squads commanded by Captain Orde Wingate was to protect the pipeline against such attacks. Later on, the pipeline was the target of attacks by the Irgun. [Background.]

In 1948, with the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the official operation of the pipeline ended when the Iraqi Government refused to pump any more oil through it.

Why is this relevant today?   Haaretz reported soon after the Iraq war started in 2003:

The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a “bonus” the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.

The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948.  During the War of Independence [what Jews call the 1948 war to form the state of Israel], the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.


National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month.


In response to rumors about the possible Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this development as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.

In other words, the same issues which drove war and terrorism in the Middle East in the 1930s and 1940s – oil, gas and pipelines – are still driving it today.

(Source / 20.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

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Is Jordan Israel’s new best friend?

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Jordanian protesters chant slogans during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 14, 2016

Some Palestinians fear they’ve been jilted by Jordan, which seems to be cozying up to Israel rather quickly. This courtship is clearly reflected in several recent events.

On Oct. 6, Israeli author Ephraim Herrera revealed in Israel Hayom newspaper that Jordan has requested security and political aid from Israel, which is showing its support for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, suggesting relations between the two sides are at their best. This observation is supported by the activities of the week before, which was a virtual whirlwind love fest:

  • The two sides signed a 15-year gas purchase agreement valued at $10 billion, whereby Jordan will buy 45 billion cubic meters of gas from Israel.
  • Israel announced it might employ more Jordanian workers in the Dead Sea hotels. Israel had issued 1,500 work permits for Jordanians to work in Eilat, an Israeli city off the coast of Aqaba on the Dead Sea.
  • Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot revealed that a Jordanian military mission composed of 12 retired generals had secretly visited Israel. During the three-day visit, the mission met with senior Israeli officials and senior officers in the Israeli army. The newspaper did not mention the names of the Jordanian officers who visited Israel but indicated that Walid Oueidat, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, planned and supervised the visit.

That’s all in addition to an Aug. 23 request from Jordan for Israel’s help in containing and cleaning up a crude oil leak from a pipeline off the Port of Aqaba.

It appears Palestinians are right to worry.

“Israel’s gas exportation to Jordan increases Israel’s foreign exports and boosts its economic growth, turning it from an energy-importing country into an energy-exporting country,” Khalil Namrouti, vice dean of commerce at the Islamic University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor. “This will further encourage it to extract gas off the coast of Gaza, which would be at the expense of the Palestinians.”

Maysara Malas, former deputy head of Jordan’s Higher Executive Committee for Anti-Normalization with Israel, used the same phrase in stating how much the Palestinians stand to lose because of the rapprochement.

“Any improvement in Jordan’s relations with Israel will be at the expense of the Palestinians,” he told Al-Monitor. “The Jordanian government’s rapprochement with Israel is unacceptable and rejected by Jordanians since it harms Palestinian interests. It should be noted that Amman and Tel Aviv have an important strategic relationship. Jordan is [strengthening] its ties with Israel and will give absolute priority to this relationship.”

Despite Jordan’s attempts to justify its gas agreement with Israel, a wide, popular protest swept through Jordan’s streets, accusing the government of normalization with the Israelis. The agreement also stirred heated exchanges on social media.

Some Palestinian columnists highlighted the disadvantages of the agreement, most notably Osama al-Ashkar in a Sept. 27 piece published on Safa News Agency‘s website. Ashkar said the agreement is an accessory to the crime of killing Palestinians.

Dima Tahboub, a Jordanian parliament member for the Muslim Brotherhood, said the split between Jordan and Palestinians has been widening for some time.

“The Jordan and Israel rapprochement began with the Jordanian disengagement from the West Bank in 1988 and the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991,” she told Al-Monitor. “Then, Jordanians and Palestinians started to separate their national, political and economic issues, and coordination between them was halted. The Jordanian government does not care about Palestinians’ anger toward Jordan’s rapprochement with Israel. The former Jordanian parliament issued in June an investment fund law granting Israeli investors the right to own land in Jordan.”

Jordan and Israel continue building their ties despite repeated announcements by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas that he rejects any normalization of Arab-Israeli relations before the State of Palestine is established. Abbas reiterated this statement in his Sept. 22 speech at the United Nations, saying, “Israel insists on the establishment of relations with the Arab countries first, without ending its occupation of Palestine.”

Hamas also weighed in on the issue. Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds on Sept. 27 that by normalizing relations with Israel, Arab countries are making Israel stronger and abandoning the Palestinians.

Samira al-Halaiqa, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas, told Al-Monitor, “The gas agreement between Israel and Jordan jeopardizes the entire Palestinian national project, as [the deal] was concluded while Israel had been [committing] crimes and laying a tight siege on Gaza.”

She explained that the agreement is a form of public normalization with Israel by the Arab countries and leads the Palestinians to doubt they will have Arab support for a confrontation with Israel.

“This agreement hurts the Palestinian cause and reveals the Arab countries’ complicity to woo Israel and establish political and economic relations with it,” she added.

A former Palestinian minister who follows Palestinian-Jordanian relations also did not mince words.

“The Israeli-Jordanian rapprochements, in particular the natural gas agreement, are partially due to the economic greed and aspirations of Jordanian businessmen and officials who have influence on the political decision-makers” in Jordan, he told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Amman does not care about any angry reactions by the PA. Their relations are not that at their best. The last meeting between Abbas and King Abdullah, in June, was not very friendly.”

As Jordan gets closer to Israel, relations with Palestinians become tarnished with apathy, particularly between Abbas and Abdullah. This is due to several reasons, the most important being Jordan’s role in finding a prospective successor for Abbas, and the PA’s accusation that Jordan signed an agreement Oct. 1 with Israel to install surveillance cameras at the Temple Mount site — without consulting the PA. An earlier deal was canceled in April. Jordan administers the site and says camera installation is designed to prevent confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Palestinians know that Jordan and Israel now maintain solid ties. The ties were secret before the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, also known as the Wadi Araba agreement, was signed. But the Palestinians cannot hide their disappointment in seeing their Jordanian brothers maintaining open relations with Israel on all political, economic and security levels, while Israel has been waging wars against Gaza since 2008.

Saleh Naami, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, has consistently revealed aspects of cooperation between Jordan and Israel. He told Al-Monitor, “The rapprochement between Amman and Tel Aviv reflects their growing strategic relationship, in light of the large revenues that the Jordanian regime is allowing Israel to reap by sparing it from the need to exploit immense human and military resources to secure its borders with the kingdom.”

He added, “Jordan has become a buffer zone limiting attacks from the eastern front against Israel. Jordan and Israel have a close intelligence cooperation regarding jihadi organizations. Moreover, Jordan allows Israel to export its goods to the Arabian Gulf through its territory.”

(Source / 19.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm

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Richard Falk: ‘History is on the side of the Palestinians’

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The former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine talks about his career, his commitment to the Palestinian cause and his hopes for the future

United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk presents his final report before the UN Human Rights Council on 24 March 2014 in Geneva

“Apartheid, annexation, mass displacement and collective punishment have become core policies of the state of Israel.” Such a clear and uncompromising statement may be unusual for a high-flying academic and former top UN official, but it is typical of Richard Falk.

With his tall, spare frame, neatly trimmed white beard and quiet, scholarly demeanour, Falk appears the epitome of a retired professor. He is indeed an Emeritus Professor of International Law at Princeton University, but “retired’ is not a word in his vocabulary, even at the age of 85.

His pages-long bibliography on issues as diverse and complex as racism, the Iraq war and climate change bears witness to his intellectual energy and the breadth of his political commitment. Still travelling the world speaking on a wide range of topics, his latest bookPalestine Horizon: Toward a Just Peace  will be published in a few months’ time.

“Apartheid, annexation, mass displacement and collective punishment have become core policies of the state of Israel”

Why Palestine?

As for many of his generation, including Noam Chomsky, the Vietnam war played a major role in Falk’s political education: “Two transformative visits to ‘the enemy,’ North Vietnam, led me to understand the war from the perspective of a low tech society utterly vulnerable to high tech warfare, and changed my commitment from opposition to an imprudent war to the rejection of an unjust and immoral war. It was this basic shift in political consciousness that underpins my approach to Israel/Palestine.”

Responding to the Zionist claim that Israel is unfairly singled out for criticism in a world full of brutally oppressive regimes, Falk points to two distinguishing features. One is the unprecedented role played by the UN, in endorsing the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and in partitioning Palestine.

The second is “the UN’s continuing inability to challenge Israel’s policies and practices that defySecurity Council Resolution 242 and the international consensus proposing an independent sovereign state of Palestine”.

Known as an authoritative voice on Palestine from the late 1990s, it was as UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine from 2008–2014 that Falk came to prominence worldwide. It is an unpaid job that few would envy, as the path of opposition to Israel’s policies is strewn with wrecked careers and ruined reputations. But Falk picked up this hottest of political hot potatoes without hesitation.

Part of his commitment stems from the fact that he is both American and Jewish. The US clearly provides Israel with unparalleled political, economic and military support and, “as a Jew it concerns me that this state that claims to be a Jewish state – itself problematic given its ethnic composition – fails to live up to international legal and moral standards”.

For him, being Jewish means being “preoccupied with overcoming injustice and thirsting for justice in the world, and that means being respectful toward other peoples regardless of their nationality or religion, and empathetic in the face of human suffering, whoever and wherever victimisation is encountered.”

The cost of commitment

The vilification Falk has endured is inevitable, given his reputation for combining legal rigour with unflinching candour. From the outset, his appointment as special rapporteur was vehemently opposed by Israel and its supporters. When he arrived to assume his duties, he was put in jail near Ben Gurion airport and has since been excluded from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Like many others who speak out on this issue, he has come up against pro-Israel groups which have sought – generally unsuccessfully – to get events he participated in cancelled, or speaking invitations withdrawn.

On the special venom reserved for Jewish critics of Israel, he recalls: “My worst moment with respect to being Jewish occurred when the Wiesenthal Institute in Los Angeles listed me as the third most dangerous anti-Semite in the world in their annual identification of the ten most dangerous anti-Semites in 2013.” He adds wryly, “Although hurtful, such a designation did give me the sense that I must be doing something right in my UN reports to get such prominent attention.”

Even his Turkish-born wife Hilal Elver, herself a highly distinguished academic, found herself in the firing line when she was about to be appointed UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food.

“UN Watch mounted a vicious campaign accusing her falsely of being a front for my views and sharing my alleged bias toward Israel. She actually had never taken public positions of any kind on political issues and had never published anything critical of Israel except for a short piece that raised some questions about the political uses of Israel’s desalination technology.

In the end, her appointment was approved by the Human Rights Council, but the adverse publicity made it a painful experience, especially for her, but also for me.”

Despite the obstacles, as Special Rapporteur Falk was tireless in monitoring and cataloguing events in the region in scrupulous detail. The conclusions he has drawn, especially in relation to Israel’s multiple violations of international law, are couched in unambiguous language, with terms such as “apartheid,” or “state-sponsored terrorism” and “ethnic cleansing,” being carefully defined and justified. And he has met the voices of his critics from the unconditional supporters of Israel with calm rational rebuttals.

Children bear the brunt

Of all aspects of the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people, the plight of children – be they the thousands killed and maimed in Gaza, or the hundreds detained every year in Israeli jails – has commanded his special attention.

A very recent contribution to the field of Palestinian human rights is Falk’s preface to a heart-rending collection of testimonies: “Dreaming of Freedom; Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak.”

Of the extortion of confessions from children he writes: “In a manner that I encountered in apartheid South Africa, maintaining innocence is usually punished worse than confessions, whether true of false, and thus there is no incentive whatsoever to hold out. What is even more dehumanising is the demand of Israeli officials that these Palestinian teenagers implicate their friends and neighbours.”

“Maintaining innocence is usually punished worse than confessions, whether true of false”

To Israel’s claims that the killing and imprisonment of young Palestinians – largely for the crime of throwing stones at military vehicles – is justified, he counters that physical resistance to many years of oppression, however ineffective, is “a natural and entirely understandable response to the brutalities and indignities of military occupation, especially if carried on in violation of international humanitarian law”.

He calls for the International Committee of the Red Cross “first to study the subject of children under occupation, and then to prepare a draft convention and convene a meeting of governments and legal experts to consider this special challenge of child prisoners in circumstances of belligerent occupation”. Failing that, he proposes that the UN Human Rights Council or the secretary general appoint a commission to prepare such a convention.

On the related question of calling Israel to account for alleged war crimes in Gaza, he admits that the political obstacles to any prosecution are immense: “It seems unlikely that the ICC [the International Criminal Court] will embark on such a politically difficult journey, especially since Israel will not cooperate with any issuance of arrest warrants.” He doubts whether the International Court of Justice would be any more effective: ”Israel would have to agree, which is inconceivable, or at least allow Israeli defendants to be brought before the court in the Hague.“

Another legal route, that of seeking an advisory opinion from the UN General Assembly, such as that issued in 2004, strongly condemning the construction of the separation wall, carries immense moral authority. Admittedly, he says, the latter proved ineffective in reining in Israel’s appetite for settlement and annexation, but the symbolic value of such measures and the encouragement they provide to civil society movements should not be underestimated.

The road ahead

A realist as well as an idealist, Falk sees no likelihood of Israel modifying its policies in the near future: “I do think that Israel is likely to continue mounting periodic attacks on Gaza for a variety of reasons, including the competitive edge gained in the arms market from field testing weapons and tactics.”

“I do think that Israel is likely to continue mounting periodic attacks on Gaza for a variety of reasons, including the competitive edge gained in the arms market from field testing weapons and tactics.”

“Jeff Halper’s The War Against the Peoplemakes this argument in a detailed and persuasive way. Halper also shows that these arms connections with more than 100 countries also have diplomatic side benefits, by giving foreign governments incentives not to take strong positions against Israel at the UN or elsewhere.”

Nevertheless, he finds reason for hope. “There have been major shifts of attitudes here in the US, especially among younger people, including Jews. Israel has lost its early image of being an idealistic and dynamic society that is a successful political model in a region that is dominated by military and religious autocracies.”

He also speaks of Palestinian civil society activists and their leaders as “increasingly the most authentic representatives of the Palestinian people,” and strongly supports the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) launched in 2005, which has become the centre of a growing global solidarity movement.

“If the BDS campaign can continue to build support and mount pressure,“ he says, “it has some chance of inducing Israeli political elites to recalculate their interests, and seek compromise and accommodation based on the equality of the two peoples. This is essentially what happened in South Africa, which also seemed like an impossibility – until it happened.”

Against this campaign are ranged the forces of a powerful pro-Israel lobby fighting worldwide to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Falk finds this understandable: “Israeli think tanks in recent years have accurately concluded that what they call ‘the delegitimation project’ is a greater danger to Israeli security than is the prospect of revived Palestinian armed struggle.”

Clinton hostility to BDS

In relation to the upcoming elections, he is deeply disturbed by Hillary Clinton’s pledge to major Jewish donors that, if elected, she will oppose BDS. For Falk, this is a position that poses constitutional questions of repressing freedom of expression and nonviolent political advocacy. “Criticism of a political movement or of state policies and practices is treated as if it were hate speech – which totally contradicts the idea that citizens in a democratic society have the right and even the duty to follow their conscience with respect to public issues.”

Having witnessed many unforeseen political convulsions and transformations around the world, from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the Arab Spring, Falk does not despair of an eventual just solution in Palestine. He sees a “settler colonial society” like Israel as a complete anachronism in the 21st century and is certain that “the flow of history is on the side of the Palestinians”.

“The only humane and practical solution,” he says, “is to work out some kind of arrangement that shares Palestine on the basis of equality, whether as one state or two.”

But there is a prerequisite for peace: “To reach such a goal, the Israeli leadership would also have to acknowledge, in an open formal process, the wrongs inflicted on the Palestinians over the years since the establishment of Israel in 1948, starting with the Nakba (catastrophe).”

An impossible dream? Falk refers again to the sea-change wrought in South Africa, with its courageous Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “If the regional situation turns against Israel and if the US is not unconditionally supportive, then unexpected changes should not be ruled out.”

(Source / 18.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 18, 2016 at 8:23 am

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How Israeli hawks and doves alike see Palestinians as a problem

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By Ben White

Newly revealed minutes shed valuable insight on what shaped Shimon Peres’s world view to the very end

Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week published minutes of a secret meeting between then-Israeli premier Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, who was head of the opposition at the time. The discussions took place on 31 August 1978, ahead of Begin’s talks with Egypt’s leader Anwar Sadat at Camp David, the US presidential retreat.

For Haaretz, the minutes “lay bare the hawk that peacemaker Peres once was”. In fact, the document gives a valuable insight into what shaped Peres’s world view to the very end: settler colonial racism.

What is most instructive about comparing the Peres of 1978 to the Peres of, say, the 1993 Oslo Accords, is not what changed – which was an issue of strategy – but what remained consistent: his overarching motivation. Let’s take each in turn.

Much changed – but much didn’t

First, what changed. As the minutes show, the Shimon Peres who proudly helped found the first illegal settlements in the West Bank believed “that Jordan is also Palestine,” adding: “I’m against… another Palestinian country, against an Arafat state.”

Yet fast forward a mere 15 years, and Peres is signing on the dotted line to create that very same “Arafat state”. It’s a choice of wording that, in hindsight, is ironically prescient about the permanently interim Palestinian Authority established with Israel’s blessing.

Shimon Peres

‘I do think that one of these days there will be a need for a partition because we won’t know what to do with the Arabs’

Why should this be seen as a change of strategy, not of heart? At the same time as declaring that “Jordan is Palestine,” Peres also told Begin that there was “no choice but a functional compromise” in the West Bank. Why? “I do think that one of these days there will be a need for a partition because we won’t know what to do with the Arabs.”

He went on: “We’ll reach 1.8 million Arabs, and I see our situation as getting very difficult and not a matter of police or prison… I see them eating the Galilee and my heart bleeds.” Note how in 2005 he was still describing Palestinian citizens as a “demographic threat”.

Peres added: “They live in houses in Afula and in Acre and they take over entire streets. The moshavim [rural collective communities] are full of Arab labourers, and Jews sitting in their houses and playing tennis and the Arabs are working in the fields. That doesn’t seem right to me.”

Thus Peres “the hawk” already believed that some kind of “partition” would be necessary because of that age-old Zionist problem: “What to do with the Arabs.” Peres “the dove” saw the Oslo peace process as the answer to the question that had bothered him years earlier.

Peres also told Begin their areas of common ground for any deal. “We don’t agree to return to the 1967 borders, Jerusalem must remain unified and the defence of Israel must begin from the Jordan River with an IDF presence in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”

And what did Yitzhak Rabin tell the Knesset, weeks before he was assassinated in 1995? That the Oslo Accords would produce “a Palestinian entity… which is less than a state”. A “united” Jerusalem. Israel retaining major settlements. The Jordan river becoming a “security” border in the “broadest meaning”.

The problem for the Zionist project

It is a shame that these minutes had not been published prior to his death and the avalanche of eulogies from the great and the good about this “man of peace”. For the problem with the coverage of Peres’s life was not just a whitewashing of his record by the omission of specific atrocities (although that was all too common).

No, it was deeper than that. It was the portrayal of Peres the “founding father,” the “dove turned hawk,” the tireless advocate of peaceful compromise, reflecting a widely held mythology about the Oslo Accords, the “peace process” and Zionism (and especially liberal Zionism) more generally.

The declassified document shows how the Israeli right and left are united by the question of what to do with the Palestinians

The declassified document shows how the Israeli right and left are united by the question of what to do with the Palestinians. Yes, the answers differ. But that the very existence of the Palestinian people is a problem at all for the Jewish state is a belief shared by so-called hawks and doves alike.

Today, there are some Israeli politicians who wish to formally annex all, or some, of the West Bank. Then there are those like present Zionist Union member Tzipi Livni, who, on his passing, declared that “Shimon Peres was my teacher”. She has urged  “partition” of the land as a solution to the problem of what to do with the Palestinians.

The journey that several Israeli politicians are perceived to have travelled – Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, even Ariel Sharon – is one of strategy, not ideology. Ultimately, none has seen the Palestinians as equal human beings. Instead they have been a problem for the Zionist project.

(Source / 16.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 16, 2016 at 7:51 pm

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Who is worse, Putin or Al-Baghdadi?

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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Daesh

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Daesh

This story is far more dangerous than Aleppo despite the atrocities that are taking place in and around there. The story is bigger than Mosul despite the city’s importance in the Iran-Turkey balance on Iraq’s sick land. The story is far larger than the dismantling of a state here or there and the deadly Sunni-Shia rivalry. It is larger than the wave of killing sprees and the refugees. The story is bigger than Daesh.

We are at the starting point of a Russia versus the West challenge for hegemony that puts the world’s economy and stability at stake. There is no point in comparing it to the past when countless soldiers died, or even the Cuban missile crisis because, today, we are living in a completely different world.

I am not making hasty assumptions or claiming that certain emotive scenarios will unfold. I will stop and consider the words of an official who is not quick to make assumptions: “It is a fallacy to think that this is a new Cold War,” said German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier. “The current times are more difficult and more dangerous.”

Similarly, Wolfgang Ochner, who was an intermediary for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe during the Ukrainian crisis, has pointed to the “big risk” of military confrontation. “This risk cannot be compared to anything that has happened for decades between the West and the East. It is not nearly as weak as that.”

What has taken place in the UN Security Council, with regards to both the French and Russian initiatives for solving the Aleppo crisis, further supports the statements made by German officials. It is not a simple matter for Western European states to make the hefty accusation of “war crimes” against Russia for its actions in Aleppo. Moscow could easily respond by saying that France’s initiative further fosters and protects terrorists.

Russia will not allow any party to draw red lines that will limit its room to manoeuvre in Aleppo and Syria at large. Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, killed the chances of the French initiative by using the Russian veto; it was the fifth time since 2011 that he blocked an initiative for Syria simply by lifting his finger. Churkin is an extension of Putin, who threatens the West.

The Russian veto has pushed the West to go back to the drawing board. It did not move when Putin intervened in Syria and it looks as if some Western European countries would rather see a Russian Syria rather than an Iranian Syria or a Daesh-led Syria. There are also those who falsely imagined that the Russian leader was going to bring down the Assad regime and thus make Russia responsible for a political victory in line with the Geneva conferences, or something of that nature.

Barack Obama’s decision with regards to Syria was clear; he refused to enter the mire, as it was not deemed worthy of American blood and the loss of US troops. Moreover, Washington did not want to have the responsibility of re-building Syria post-conflict. It forced the Syrian regime to surrender its chemical weapons and then walked away.

Today, the West opens its books on Putin’s “aggressive politics” from the Crimea to Ukraine to Syria. From Russian-sponsored Malaysian fighter jets terrorising Asian countries to Russia’s threat against the stability of NATO member states, the fear of Russia has gone on to affect the US presidential election.

It is clear that the West is re-calibrating its calculations. In decision-making circles, no one assumed that Putin’s raising a finger would prolong the war in Syria and undermine intervention. The Russian president is building pyramids with dead Syrians until he achieves the victory he wants. He wants to prolong the mass migration to the West. He wants to drown Europe with refugees and shake its stability and security as well as that of the NATO countries. He also wants the incoming US president to have no choice but to admit that the Russians have won in Syria and that it is a new victory in the stand-off between two great world powers.

Who is the West’s main enemy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Al-Baghdadi of Daesh? The question might appear strange, but what is happening in the world requires it to be asked.

What Al-Baghdadi has done is serious; he has destroyed historical landmarks and taken control of Mosul. He has swept away the Iraq-Syria border and basically disregarded the Sykes-Picot agreement. He sent Daesh in all directions and its poison has spread across borders and continents. The Daesh leader has caused many atrocities and inflamed the animosity between Sunni and Shia, rubbing salt into the wounds of ethnic minorities and making co-existence impossible.

Al-Baghdadi has disturbed the world and become public enemy number one. Who would ask in today’s Western capitals whether Putin or Baghdadi is more dangerous? Putin has taken advantage of Baghdadi’s ascent to take control of the trajectory in Syria. He wants to take revenge on Western Europe for destroying the USSR without firing a single shot. He wants to take revenge on NATO, which seeks to promote a bad image of Russia. The time has come for the West to accept a new tsar and to understand that Syria is a model for what is to come in the region and elsewhere.

(Source / 16.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 16, 2016 at 6:18 pm

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Berlin, 1945; Grozny, 2000; Aleppo, 2016

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Drone Documents Aleppo Devastation By AMC VIA REUTERS

The destruction is so complete that it obliterates even a sense of time. At a glance, the video shot from a drone could show Berlin in 1945 or Grozny, 2000. Mass death erases all distinctions.

The place is Aleppo, Syria, the Mashhad district, or what remains of it after recent attacks by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies. Toppled rooftop satellite dishes, choked by plaster dust, resemble wilted flowers. Figures move through the pulverized rubble but are hard to make out.

“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?” Harry Lime asked on the Ferris wheel in “The Third Man,” the classic noir film set in postwar Vienna. This is drone footage, after all, shot from the same detached, superior perspective of the bombers who committed this atrocity in the name of fighting non-jihadist rebels. The video was made to document the devastation and bear witness, but it inevitably reduces people on the streets to Lime’s dots.

After the Second World War, Auschwitz survivors helped organize a display to memorialize the camp and came up with the archetypal piles of shoes and hair, prostheses and suitcases. The hope was to convey the scale of killing at a time when much of the world still didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, how many people the Nazis had murdered. Survivors declined to focus on stories of individual victims. They reckoned that nearly everyone in Europe had witnessed death up close and had their own stories to tell, whereas the industrial nature of murder was something else, something new, unfathomable and essential to record.

Today we are assaulted online, on television and in newspapers with big, senseless numbers: Hundreds slain by car bombs in Baghdad; thousands upon thousands slaughtered in Aleppo. The tallies blur together even while it can be nearly unbearable to glance at the photograph of Alan Kurdi, the dead 2-year-old refugee on the Turkish beach, or the video of Omran Daqneesh, the stunned little boy from Aleppo, pulled from the ashes, sitting in the ambulance, wiping blood from his face.

Once seen, these images become impossible to forget. More than the specter of endless shelters and the staggering numbers of displaced people, what comes to mind whenever I read about the war are the dusty, hopeful faces of six small, barefoot siblings I photographed with my phone while standing outside their windblown tent in Zaatari, a Syrian refugee camp, just across the border in Jordan. I wonder how they are doing.
There are now some 65 million displaced people around the world, equivalent in number to the entire population of the United Kingdom or France. Refugees spend 17 years on average in camps. The children at that Syrian camp fled their home just ahead of the guns and rockets.

I wonder what “home” will ever mean to them.

To those more fortunate, it promises safety, family. The ruined landscape in the drone video, reminiscent of that earlier Russian military campaign in Grozny, had been a community of shops, noisy streets — and homes. Now so hard to decipher, these crumbling apartment houses were, until lately, particular to the people who filled them with children and mementos. With raised voices and the whispered exchanges of love and heartbreak. With music, prayers, friends, the smells of food cooking on the stove. With dreams of a better life.

This used to be a neighborhood, in other words. A neighborhood is more than an assortment of buildings and streets. It is life, shared and rooted in place, passed down through generations — nowhere more so than in an ancient city like Aleppo, where some years ago I was taken to the home of a man who lived on a street that bore his family name.

“How long has your family lived here?” I asked him.

“On the street or in Aleppo?” he replied.

Before I could answer, he told me: “On the street, 800 years. In Aleppo, 1,200.”

Communities incubate hope. Extinguishing this is the goal of mass murderers and tyrants.

That is what the drone video shows.

(Source / 16.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 16, 2016 at 2:44 pm

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Palestinian leadership decision long overdue

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By Daoud Kuttab

The United States is not the only place that will be witnessing a leadership change. Elections for top institutions and the overall leadership will be taking place within the two leading Palestinian political movements.

Fateh is expected to hold its seventh congress this winter and Hamas is expected to choose its political bureau sometime before the end of this year.

Neither Mahmoud Abbas nor Khaled Mishaal are going to be running for the top leadership position.

If it is held as planned on November 29, the seventh congress will be held two years late. But this is a huge improvement over the sixth congress that took place in Bethlehem in August 2009, 20 years after the fifth.

The Fateh central committee met in September and took this decision. The actual date will be set in a meeting that is to take place late this October.

The plan is that the Palestine National Council, over which Fateh has decisive control, will meet afterwards to elect a new executive committee of the PLO and a new chairman.

It is unclear, and unlikely, that Hamas or Islamic Jihad will participate in this meeting if held before a full-fledged reconciliation takes place.

Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, holds three key positions: leader of Fateh, chairman of the PLO’s executive committee and president of the Palestinian Authority.

It is not clear whether the new leadership will continue this direction or if some of these three positions will be split among different people, especially considering the fact that the PLO, which has traditionally paid a lot of attention to the plight of the Palestinian diaspora, has weakened a lot as a result of Abbas’ spending all his time running the Palestinian government in Ramallah.

Palestinians have no idea yet who either Fateh or Hamas will choose as leaders. Neither current leader has handpicked a successor, therefore much will depend on the choices of grassroots activists in each group.

While much speculation has been focusing on the personalities of the supposed leaders of the top two Palestinian movements, little discussion has taken place on policy issues.

What will the new Palestinian strategy for liberation look like? How will the new leadership deal with the failed policies of the past? What will be the attitude towards negotiations, confrontation, diplomacy, governance, boycotts and so much more?

Mishaal has opened up some of the discussion by making a courageous statement in which he admitted that his movement made mistakes in the past.

While he was talking about mistakes that were committed in relationship with Fateh, many saw in his statement the beginnings of a serious effort to review and evaluate past performances and policy decisions with the aim of making the needed corrections.

Leaked information from Fateh focuses on a new political policy programme that will be introduced and voted on.

Some expect the new programme to reflect some of the worldwide evaluations that all pro-Muslim Brotherhood movements have been making recently as a result of their failures.

It is not clear whether this review will be substantial or superficial. Most importantly, whether it will touch on some of the absolute positions of the Islamic Liberation Movement’s position vis-à-vis the state of Israel.

In Fateh’s case, no change in the general policy towards Israel, which the movement recognised in 1993, is likely, but the movement might adopt a much more comprehensive position on how the popular struggle methodology that Fateh had adopted at the sixth congress will play out.

Abbas has drawn a line between support for boycotting Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the much more popular position of boycotting Israel, which is the protector of the settlements and the perpetuator of the half a century of occupation and refusal to grant Palestinian refugees their rights.

While activists of Fateh and Hamas will cast their votes, many expect that external powers will be trying to influence the outcome of these elections.

Already an Israeli television reporter has named former Palestinian UN representative and Arafat’s nephew Nasser Qudwa as a possible successor to Abbas and said that he has the support of four leading Arab countries.

Neither the named candidate nor any of the mentioned countries have publicly reacted to this report.

More than one generation of Palestinians have been raised without knowing any other leader but Arafat, Abbas and Mishaal.

A change in leadership is refreshing and long overdue, provided that such change will also bring with it fresh ideas and a serious strategy for ending the nightmare of refugees, occupation and settlements Palestinians have been suffering from for decades.

While the average Palestinian will have no role in the process that is limited to the members of these two movements, the decision will certain affect all Palestinians and everyone is hoping and praying that they make the right choices.

(Source / 13.10.2016)

Written by altahrir

October 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm

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