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Rebuild Gaza, and avert the next war

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A Palestinian schoolgirl walks though the rubble of destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on March 11

March 27

Nearly seven months after the end of the latest war in Gaza, none of the underlying causes of the conflict have been addressed. In the meantime, the people of Gaza are experiencing unprecedented levels of deprivation, and the prospect for renewed armed conflict is very real.

In June 2014, the Hamas-backed government in Gaza was dissolved, and a reunified Palestinian Authority cabinet was created under the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The international community reached a consensus, with tacit support from Israel, to empower this government to lead reconstruction in Gaza and, together with the United Nations, to track the delivery and use of building materials to address fears that cement and other supplies could be diverted to build tunnels into Israel.

The $5.4 billion pledged for rebuilding was predicated on the Palestinian Authority asserting itself in Gaza. However, relations between Hamas and its political rivals, Abbas’s Fatah party, remain fraught. The authority has proven unwilling or unable to govern in Gaza. As a result, the promised reconstruction money has not been delivered.

The shortage of funds is the most immediate problem, but it is not the only one: Israel has restricted access to Gaza, with three of four commercial crossing points closed. There is not enough money to buy building materials or support needy families. The Shelter Cluster, which coordinates housing construction between the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, estimates that Gaza needs at least 16,000 new units to replace homes destroyed or rendered uninhabitable during the war. In January, 16 truckloads of construction material were permitted into Gaza per day, compared with a need for 735 loads daily for three years to build the necessary homes. These numbers do not account for the additional 5,000 homes that still need to be rebuilt from previous wars or another 80,000 homes necessary to accommodate population growth.

The international community, including the Obama administration, should be given credit for recognizing the need to unify the Palestinian political system in order to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and stabilize the security situation. However, this consensus must now be backed by sustained pressure to implement reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas and to end Israel’s closure of Gaza. It is incumbent on the world to engage at the highest levels with the Palestinians, Egypt and Israel to push this process forward.

If there is no reconciliation, the international community must be willing to promote new arrangements for rebuilding Gaza and ending its isolation. Donors will have to coordinate directly with local and international NGOs, as well as the de facto Hamas authorities, while continuing to urge that the current Palestinian government of national consensus deploy in Gaza.

In addition, Western governments should push Israel to drop its insistence on tracking every bag of cement. The evidence suggests that such fine-grained monitoring may be impossible, but tunneling can be prevented with a supervised peace agreement. Further, by insisting on such oversight, Israel may be compromising its security in the short term, given the misery and volatility in Gaza. Instead, Israel should align the import-export regime for Gaza with that of the West Bank, and Gaza crossing points should be reopened. More generally, Israel should integrate the economy of Gaza with that of the West Bank to allow for more normal development.

Ultimately, only a peace agreement that grants freedom to self-governed Palestinians can bring the security that both the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve. As long as Palestinians remain divided, it will be difficult for any leader to sell to the Palestinian people a peace agreement with Israel. Absent such an agreement, lifting the closure and jump-starting Gaza’s reconstruction can do much to avert the next war.

(Source / 28.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 28, 2015 at 10:44 pm

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Syria’s disappeared Palestinians

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Article of 18 February 2015

Palestinians who fled Syria protest in Gaza City in October 2013

Aidah Tayem, a Palestinian woman from Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus now living in the occupied West Bank village of Beitin near Ramallah, has gone through a lifetime of trials.

She was hardly seventeen when her father was imprisoned by Syrian security forces in Damascus during the 1980s for his affiliation with the Fatah party which had split with the government. She quickly became the head of the family, running her father’s business and supporting her younger siblings.

Among only a handful of Palestinian refugees in Syria who received permits from the Palestinian Authority to enter the West Bank, her parents were among the Palestinians who came there after the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s.

She appears incredibly tough but behind her stoic demeanor is a woman clutching at the straws of hope — the hope of kissing her eldest son, Oday.

Oday Tayem, a 21-year-old Palestinian refugee born and raised in Yarmouk, was detained by Syrian security forces in August 2013 during an evening raid on his home in Jaramana, southeast of Damascus. Oday was an activist — “peaceful” is the description emphasized to this writer by his friends — and contributed to relief work both in Yarmouk refugee camp and in other besieged areas. This is believed to be the reason for his arrest.

Since he was taken into custody, his family has yet to receive any confirmed news regarding his whereabouts. Aidah knows too well what it’s like to have a loved one languishing in political detention; after all, her father was imprisoned for ten years, most of them spent in the notorious Tadmor desert prison.

But it’s the scarcity of information that makes Oday’s absence even more excruciating. When Oday’s favorite song pops up on her phone, Aidah hangs on to his picture as tears well up in her eyes.

Aidah is among many women who, as Syrian journalist Jihad Asa’ad Muhammad writes, “do not seek consideration or sympathy from anyone. They ask for only one thing: to know the whereabouts of their forcibly disappeared loved ones.”

It is impossible to estimate the number of Palestinians detained in Syria. The Syrian government doesn’t provide any data regarding political prisoners. Neutral local or international monitoring and human rights groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are not granted access to the numerous prisons and detention facilities across the country.

And many families keep quiet about the detention of their loved ones. They stay anonymous, fearing the repercussions and backlash of publicity both on them and on the prisoners.

The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria, a London-based monitoring organization founded in 2012, has documented the names of 756 Palestinians currently being detained and nearly 300 more missing.

Death under torture

The vast majority of prisoners documented are held in the various detention facilities run by the Syrian government, but some are detained by jihadist or armed opposition groups. One of those is Bahaa Hussein from Yarmouk, detained by Jabhat al-Nusra in late January for blasphemy.

The same group has recorded the death under torture of 291 Palestinians in Syrian government detention since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Each of them has a face and a story, but very few of them have made the news.

Among them is Khaled Bakrawi, a prominent activist and cofounder of the Jafra Association for Aid and Development, which works to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria.

A refugee from Lubya, Bakrawi was active around Palestinian refugee rights well before the uprising began and was shot by Israeli occupation forces in June 2011 during theNaksa Day march to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. But after masses of displaced Syrians sought refuge in Yarmouk, he directed his efforts towards organizing humanitarian aid to them.

Bakrawi’s friends told me that he was arrested by Syrian security forces in January 2013 and his family learned of his death in September of that year. One of the most tragic aspects of death in Syrian prisons is that families are not even allowed to pay a final farewell glance to their dead and their bodies are not delivered back to them. Instead they are called up by security services only to claim the ID cards and the personal possessions of slain prisoners. Not only is it believed that Bakrawi was tortured to death, but his family and friends couldn’t even bury him or give him a proper funeral.

Unlike Bakrawi, Samira Sahli was not a known activist, but some details of her life are known from a profile published by the independent news site Siraj Press. A mother of four, Sahli regularly cooked for displaced Syrians filling Yarmouk’s schools back when the camp was still a refuge for people fleeing violence in neighboring areas. As siege intensified, she and her kids, like the 20,000 residents trapped inside the camp, relied on the sparse food aid sporadically allowed in.

According to Siraj Press, the 53-year-old was arrested at a government checkpoint while going to receive her food basket. Five months later, her family was informed of her death, making her the first Palestinian woman known to be killed in regime prisons since 2011.

“Tortured in the name of Palestine”

In an interview with The Electronic Intifada conducted via Skype, Abu Julia, a Palestinian activist who sought asylum in Germany at the end of 2013, where he remains, gave a glimpse into the horrors faced in Syrian regime jails.

The 29-year-old asked to be identified as Abu Julia in reference to the name of his first-born. When he was arrested by Syrian security forces, his daughter Julia was only five months old. He was arrested in October 2012 and released a year later, but there were moments when he thought he’d never live to see her again.

Abu Julia told the Electronic Intifada that he faced eighteen charges, the most serious of which was inciting against the state, as well as charges related to working in makeshift hospitals; sowing division and fueling chaos in Yarmouk camp; working with local coordination committees; making contacts with foreign agents and aiding the wounded.

“I was held in a detention center called ‘Palestine,’ which is a security branch established by Hafez al-Assad specifically for Palestinian factions in Syria,” he said, referring to the father of the current head of state. “That’s the most painful thing: being tortured in the name of Palestine.”

Abu Julia recalls being “welcomed” with a beating as soon as he entered the branch. He was placed in Cell One, which held 48 prisoners upon his entry. Detainees crammed in the 36-square meter cell reached as many as 120 in the hours before Abu Julia’s release.

“Following the first interrogation, which included beating with electric wires, I was told to forget my name. They handed me the number 16/1,” he recalled. “When you get in you lose everything: you lose your name, your confidence in people, in your family and in yourself. You lose your hope and love for life even though you hang on by the hope of returning to life.

“You are stripped of your feelings and turned into an animal who is only allowed to eat and drink, and even sleep is only permitted by a military order. Perhaps the only thing you don’t lose is your ability to dream while asleep.”

The decisive day of Abu Julia’s life came two days after his arrest. Following the interrogation in which he refused to make a confession, the interrogator ordered his torture for a week in the narrow corridors near the cells, he recalled.

“I was hung in the air several hours each day and I was subjected to whips and burns,” he explained in graphic detail. The physical torture was accompanied with cursing, such as being called “Palestinian dog,” and being told “we hosted you in our country and now you betray us, traitor.”

The week of torture in the corridors, in which Abu Julia remembers that at least six inmates were killed, was followed by another, longer round of torture after he refused to confess to any of the charges again.

As Abu Julia meticulously detailed what he went through, it was hard not to wonder how he actually coped with all of this.

Defiance

“You know what really made me survive? My Palestinianness. This feeling of being Palestinian is what helped me persevere throughout all of this. Somehow, Palestinians would be on the verge of death and remain defiant,” he said.

For Abu Julia, this feeling, this added “Palestinianness” he found after his detention was not a cliché but an actual harbor. “It was a kind of response we developed during times of need. We drew strength and solace out of being Palestinian. When we were tortured or faced the interrogator, we just reminded ourselves that we are Palestinian,” he added.

After ten months in the Palestine branch, Abu Julia was transferred to Adra, the central prison in Damascus, and when he was moved from the car that transported him to a military court that he saw sunshine for the first time in ten months.

“I spent nearly a month and a half in Adra before being released … and then I hugged Julia; she was able to walk and say baba and mama,” he recalled.

Even while telling his harrowing story, Abu Julia still cracked jokes. “I weighed 129 kg when I was arrested and was only 65 kg when I was released. This free diet is the only good thing that happened to me there,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ammar, Aidah Tayem’s son and Oday’s seventeen-year-old brother, is still hoping for his brother and best friend to get out.

“I’m waiting. Actually waiting for him is the only thing I’m doing.”

Waiting is the punishing ordeal to which thousands of Palestinians and Syrians are sentenced.

(Source / 28.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 28, 2015 at 10:39 pm

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Pitting `Sunni Arabs’ Vs `Obama-Iran’, Israel wants to divide, dominate Middle-East through Yemen war

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Sanaa

Away from the public eye and not reported by the media, the Saudi Arabia initiated Yemen war is witnessing a re-alignment of regional political forces, gradual emergence of new conflict zones, and new polarization in Geo-politics.

There is also a parallel development of secret maneouvres and brinkmanship.

One area around which these maneouvres are concentrated form the Bab al Mandeb straits in Yemen.

The Bab al Mandeb straits constitute an important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. Control of these straits is vital for forces that play a role in oil supply routes between Saudi Arabia and Europe and US, as well as from the Gulf region to China.

In fact, the unprecendented, and sudden, Saudi attack on Yemen seems to be driven less by a desire to re-install Hadi on Sanaa, and more by an intense fear of Iranian control over Bab al Mandeb.

Only time will tell whether Saudi fears are justified; whether Iran’s sole intention in backing Houthis and anti-NATO Sunni forces in Yemen is because of a general policy to help resistance movements in the Middle-East; or whether control of Mandeb straits figures prominently among Iranian calculations.

In fact, Israel has been stoking Saudi and Egyptian fears of an Iranian `take-over’ of Mandeb straits and a `Persian’ control of oil supply routes between the Gulf and the rest of the world.

Rattled by Obama’s overtures towards Iran, and the US President’s exhaustion with belligerent Israeli policies, Israeli leaders like Netanyahu are leaving no stone unturned to drag in other players against the resistance movement in Palestine–and Iran–the main force backing the latter.

Israel has lied and committed dishonourable/despicable acts in the past; to garner US support, and bully prevaricating elements, for its regional conflict against Arab states, which were then pro-Palestine, Israel targeted USS Liberty warship killing US servicemen in the 1960s.

Since 1990s, Netanyahu has been saying that Iran is just some years away from getting a Nuclear Bomb. It is 2015–yet there is no Iranian bomb; but Netanyahu insists it is just a few years away even now!

Jewish-Zionist money has `perusaded’/forced lobbies in the west, especially the right-wing, to rally behind Netanyahu; but the Israeli leader feels insecure about Obama’s liberal-left sympathies for  a two-State solution and resolving the Palestine conflict, something which deep down Netanyahu does not desire.

Long before Netanyahu’s speech in US Congress, the Israeli leader began hunting for other allies than the US–or forces he can use to armtwist the US against any deal with Iran, its arch enemy.

Israel seemed to have found a willing partner in Saudi Arabia; this Arab kingdom was very cosy with the neo-con, right-wing American establishment. The same cannot be said of its relations with Obama. At the same time, the failure to dislodge Assad regime in Syria, the slow drift of Syria towards Iran and Hezbollah–and then the looming failure of the ISIS experiment, which again is strengthening Iran’s role in Iraq and the war against ISIS, is giving Saudis the nightmares.

Israel, with help from right-wing US, seems to be key force that finally convinced Saudi Arabia to go to war `against Iran’ in Yemen.

On 26th March, as Saudi air-strikes began, Egypt quietly made a grab for Bab al Mandeb straits apparently, with Israeli help. Egyptian sources confirmed to News 786 that Israeli fighter planes were used in the Mandeb grab operation, disguised as an anti-piracy raid. 

Israeli-Hebrew websites are at present openly backing Egypt and Saudi Arabia and are calling the Saudi Yemen offensive `an Arab-Sunni revolt against Obama’s pro-Iranian line'; Israeli sources also, are expressing extreme nervousness over Obama’s coordination with Iran in the battle against ISIS in Tikrit, a fight which basically Iranian backed popular militias are fighting alongside Iraqi army.

Israel’s sympathies with ISIS in Tikrit, its participation in the grab for Mandeb straits, and its attempt tp drive a wedge between `Sunni Arabs’ and Obama’s `pro-Iranian line’, points towards the obvious: Saudis and Egyptians are being used by Israel as pawns in its quest for even cornering America and start the domination of the Middle-East as a prelude to something more sinister.

(Source / 28.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 28, 2015 at 10:27 pm

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Israel advocacy group pressured Missouri museum to cancel Ferguson-Palestine event

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The Missouri History Museum canceled a recent panel discussion on Ferguson, Ayotzinapa and Palestine due to pressure from the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to remove Palestine from the event, according to a cache of emailsreleased by the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace.

The JCRC is a national organization with an Israel advocacy wing.

The event, scheduled for 19 March, was organized by Washington University student group AtlaVoz in collaboration with local Black, Latino and Palestinian activist groups to draw parallels between the struggles against state violence in the US, Mexico and Palestine.

After fully approving and enthusiastically promoting it, museum officials changed their tone two days before the event, demanding that panel organizers either remove Palestinian panelists and the topic of Palestine or find a new venue. The organizers refused to acquiesce to censorship, so the event was canceled.

This prompted a large community protest outside the museum expressing outrage for the museum’s disrespect for speech and discrimination against Palestinians.

The museum claimed that it shut down the event because panel organizers drastically altered the discussion from the initially approved topic. Furthermore, a museum spokesperson insisted to The Electronic Intifada that “there was no outside pressure” to cancel the event and “the decision was made internally at the museum staff leadership level.”

The emails obtained by Jewish Voice for Peace through a Freedom of Information Act Sunshine request demonstrate that the publicly-funded research institution lied.

The museum has asked the JCRC and another anti-Palestinian organization to design a future program on “the history of Palestine and Israel.”

“Disturbed” by Palestine-Ferguson connection

On 17 March, JCRC executive director Batya Abramson-Goldstein emailed museum president Frances Levine to apply pressure to remove Palestine from the discussion.

“I am writing because I have been receiving emails and phone calls expressing dismay at the upcoming History Museum Program: Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine: Solidarity and Collaborative Action,” she said. “I can understand the dismay. How should I reply to those asking why this event is being sponsored by the History Museum?”

In another email to Levine, Abramson-Goldstein complained that “The conflating of the issues is disturbing. The parallels being made, likewise. The panel is seen as ‘stacked.’ The plan to base a documentary on the event raises the level of concern RE the harm this program may cause.”

Without hesitation, the museum contacted Sourik Betran, the Washington University student who organized the event, and gave him an ultimatum. Either remove Palestine and Palestinians from the discussion or find a new event location, he was told.

Levine dutifully responded to Abramson-Goldstein, writing, “Thanks Batya for bringing this to my attention. [Managing Director of Community Education and Events] Melanie [Adams] says she spoke to you and is back in touch with the students. This is not the program that she approved originally. She has given them some choices to bring the focus back where it was in Ferguson or to take the program back to their campus space. Not sure why they wanted it here anyway …”

Abramson-Goldstein then wrote to Levine expressing her gratitude and enthusiasm for the censorship. “When you and I eventually have our breakfast/lunch/coffee we can look back at this incident as an illustration of a potentially damaging incident defused,” she exalted.

ADL says call the cops

As Abramson-Goldstein and Levine congratulated one another for shutting down speech to silence Palestinians, museum education director Melanie Adams contacted Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — apparently unprompted — to brag about the event’s cancellation.

“We cancelled a program brought to us by a wash u student group because they changed the content to include the St. Louis Palestine group talking about how they are similar to the movement in ferguson. We let them know we were not comfortable with this change,” wrote Adams.

Adams added that the students started a social media campaign and were planning to protest outside the museum the next day.

Aroesty responded by encouraging the museum to contact the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department “to let them know you may need additional personnel.”

“However the decision was made to cancel the program, I very much appreciate the allyship,” Aroesty added. “This is a tough time on so many levels, whatever you need from me, don’t hesitate to call.”

Aroesty’s advice to dispatch St. Louis police against activists of color who have been protesting violence deployed against their community by that very same police department, all because they dared to discuss Palestine, encapsulates the role her organization has played in forging connections between purveyors of racist state violence in the US and Israel.

Enforcing unpopular agenda

The ADL, a leading Israel lobby organization, organizes frequent training junkets to Israel for US law enforcement agencies in order to learn occupation enforcement and repression tactics from the Israeli security apparatus.

Aroesty’s comment also demonstrates the Zionist community’s knee-jerk reliance on the state to enforce its increasingly unpopular agenda.

Following the email disclosures, Aroesty told the Riverfront Times, “I feel like the Palestine issue kind of hijacked the Ferguson issue and the Ayotzinapa issue.”

The ADL, along with Zionist groups more generally, has repeatedly condemned the growing bonds between the Black and Palestinian liberation struggles in the wake of the Ferguson uprising, to little effect.

As St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee member Sandra Tamari said in a press release, “When Ferguson started, I found it very interesting that the Anti-Defamation League, put out no fewer than three statements saying ‘don’t compare Ferguson and Palestine.’” She added, “Our solidarity is obviously very powerful and people are scared of us joining forces. The event at the museum is just one example of how we are challenging the status quo.”

Meanwhile, the museum has asked the ADL and JCRC to craft an acceptably pro-Israel program on Palestine to replace the event that was canceled.

In an email to the ADL, Adams wrote: “In light of the current situation, we would like to plan a program that looks at the history of Palestine and Israel. We would like to work with the ADL and the JCRC to put something together. Is this something you are open to doing?”

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From Ferguson to Palestine, we will not let divide us

Written by altahrir

March 28, 2015 at 9:04 pm

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Eight urgent ‘musts’ needed for Palestinians to defeat Apartheid

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It’s time for Palestinians to surmount ideological, factional and political divides, for no matter how deep divisions are – Palestine is, should and will always be one

Waiting on Israeli society to change from within is a colossal waste of time, during which the suffering of an entire nation – torn between an occupied home and a harsh diaspora – will not cease. But what are Palestinians and the supporters of a just peace in Palestine and Israel to do? Plenty.

Those who counted on some sort of a miracle to emerge from the outcome of the recent Israeli elections have only themselves to blame. Neither logic nor numbers were on their side, nor the long history laden with disappointing experiences of “leftist” Israelis unleashing wars and cementing occupation. Despite a few differences between Israel’s right and the so-called left on internal matters, their positions are almost identical regarding all major issues related to Palestine. These include the Right of Return and the status of occupied Jerusalem to the illegal settlements.

Equally important, most sectors of Israel’s political classes that are dominated by Zionist Jews are also in concord regarding the status of Israel’s Palestinian Arab population (1948 Palestinians). Don’t let the racist fearmongering of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – terrifying Israeli Jews of Arabs voting in “droves” – blind you to the fact that the Zionist Labor bloc is equally racist, although, in a less vulgar fashion.

But Palestinians are not without options. Sure, the odds against them are great, but such is the fate of the oppressed as they are left between two options: either a perpetual fight for justice or unending humiliation and servitude.

1. Abbas, Oslo must go

First, the most difficult obstacle to overcome is the stronghold of Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt circle on Palestine’s political discourse at home. This is not an outcome of Abbas’s particular savvy or the genius of his class. The post-Oslo circle only exists to maintain the status quo: US interests and involvement as a mediator in the conflict, Israel’s security – thus the constant crackdown on Palestinian opposition and resistance – and ensuring that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has a reason to exist for the sake of ensuring the many privileges that come with the job.

This whole apparatus must be overcome and eventually removed entirely from the Palestinian body politic if Palestinians are to have any chance at formulating an alternative strategy.

2. Factionalism must be defeated, crushed

But for that to take place, the very ailments that have afflicted Palestinian society for years, leading to the creation of the ineffectual PA in the first place, would have to be confronted heads on. One such condition is factionalism, which has to be overpowered by a collective that defines itself first and foremost as Palestinian.

Factionalism, in its current form, has destroyed much of the social fabric of Palestine. It has divided the already divided people into fragments making them easy to be controlled, manipulated, suppressed – and when necessary – besieged. 67 years are just too long a period for a nation that lives mostly in exile, trapped or confined behind walls, to sustain its political identity and remain unified around the same “constants” without proper leadership.

Yet somehow many Palestinians persisted, insisting on one Palestine, one people, one identity, one goal. For these energies to be streamlined into a meaningful push against Israeli colonial designs, factionalism would have to be put to rest. Additionally, the Palestinian flag must occupy every public place currently occupied by red, yellow, green or any other factional colour or symbol.

3. But the transition must be smooth

Such seismic change cannot come easily. It must be gradual and part of a national initiative. It must be a conversation that brings friends and rivals not to divide material perks, useless “ministries” and worthless “government” posts, but rather to mend the broken unanimity that once existed. In fact, once upon a time, Palestinians were not united or disjointed around the frivolous “peace process,” but instead around “national constants,” where the Right of Return took central stage.

The transition from disunity and chaos into something visionary and not confined by short-term political interests, must be smooth, calculated and led by respected Palestinian figures, not those with hands soiled by blood and corruption.

4. Right of return must be brought back to centre of discourse

One major issue that must dominate the new political discourse is the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, guaranteed by international law. The issue is not only essential in its centrality in the lives of millions of Palestinians suffering in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, but is also essential to any sensible understanding of the conflict and its resolution.

The struggle in Palestine doesn’t date back to the war of 1967, but the Zionist takeover of Palestine between 1947-48 that resulted in nearly a million refugees, the expropriation of their land, homes, rights and the attempt at erasing any evidence of their existence.

By marginalising the Right of Return, one diminishes the very roots of the conflict, and any serious attempt at reconciling the painful past with the equally agonising present.

5. Palestine 48 must be fully incorporated into national agenda

Not all Palestinians became refugees. Some remained in Palestine as it was being transferred to some other entity before their own eyes.

The Palestinians of 1948 have always, and will remain a major component of the Palestine question and the Palestinian struggle for freedom and human rights. The fragmentation between the communities were imposed by calculated political realities, enforced by Israel or circumstances. That said, the issues have never been truly separated: the plight of Palestinians in Israel, those under military occupation in the occupied territories, and refugees in the diaspora all go back to the same historical point of reference – the Nakba of 48. These common struggles continue to be sustained by Israel, its racist laws, its military occupation and its refusal to adhere to international law.

Without the Palestinians of 48, the Palestinian national identity will remain politically fragmented and scarred. The persistence and collective strength of that population is an important asset, and their struggles are part and parcel of the struggle and resistance of Palestinians in the occupied territories and those in the diaspora.

6. Resistance must be respected

However, fuel is needed to urge that new collective awareness forward, and nothing can possibly achieve such an end but the insistence on resistance, in both the real and cerebral sense.

The term “resistance” once dominated references made by Palestinian leaders in yesteryears, but was purposely marginalised following the signing of Oslo in 1993. That was driven by two subtle understandings that resistance was ineffective, and that to achieve a degree of validity and stateliness in the eyes of their US benefactors, the new rulers of Palestine needed to abandon seemingly unsophisticated references to a bygone era.

Yet without resistance there is only submission and defeat, which is precisely what took place. Only popular resistance in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the steadfastness of 48 Palestinians, crowned by the legendary resistance of Palestinians in Gaza under a harsh siege and repeated wars, continue to frustrate Israel. Yet, the harsher Israel tries to destroy Palestinian resistance, the more emboldened Palestinians become, for resistance is a culture, not a political choice.

Without resistance, Palestinians may as well raise white flags and sign on whatever dotted line is dictated by Israel. And then, they would simply be agreeing to perpetual subjugation.

7. BDS must continue to grow, bridge gaps

Resistance is part and parcel of the ongoing global campaign, to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. The outcome of the Israeli elections, and the rise of a more self-assertive Palestinian political collective by 48 Palestinians, would mean that BDS must enlarge its mission, not just rhetorically by practically as well.

The BDS movement had already emphasised equality for 48 Palestinians as a main objective that is as vital as all other objectives. The Joint List Arab party which won 13 seats in the Knesset solidified the relationship between Palestinian Arab communities within Israel as the BDS movement has to a large extent solidified the rapport between Palestinian communities across political and geographical divides. But more is needed. The new self-assertive Palestinian community in Israel deserves greater engagement. By doing so, BDS would defeat Israel’s constant attempt at diminishing the collective aspiration of the Palestinian people.

8. One State must become the rally cry for equality and freedom

There is no need or time for despair. In fact, the opposite is true. The more empowered and racist Israel becomes, and the deeper it digs into the roots of its Apartheid and racist institutions and walls, the more obvious the answer becomes: a state for two peoples with equal rights. Both Palestinians and Jews exist in that very space, but they are governed by two sets of laws that make peaceful co-existence impossible. In order to speed up the achievement of that moment and lessen suffering, Palestinians have some urgent work to do.

It is time for Palestinian communities everywhere to surmount ideological, factional and political divides, reach out to one another, unite their ranks, and harness their energies, for no matter how deep the divide, Palestine is, should and will always be one.

(Source / 27.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 27, 2015 at 9:52 pm

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Saudi activist: Yemen developments are the outcome of the Kingdom’s failed policies

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Dr Madawi Al-Rashid

According to Dr Madawi Al-Rashid, the Saudi regime’s policies also failed in Bahrain, where it managed to preserve the monarchy but at the expense of dialogue between Bahrain and its opposition

Saudi activist and renowned academic Dr Madawi Al-Rashid has outlined a series of failures in Saudi foreign policy since the beginning of the Arab Spring that she claims have led to the current situation in the Arab region, but more specifically in Yemen, which has been almost completely taken over by Houthis rebels.

Al-Rashid said in a series of tweets that “the Saudi regime is reaping the fruits of the failure of its foreign policy since the beginning of the Arab revolutions, which the regime considered a direct threat to the hereditary regime. The Saudi regime stood in the face of the inclination of the masses of all forms especially the Islamic masses, which joined the democratic process and succeeded in the elections. The Saudi regime has reaped the enmity of the most horizontally widespread current in the Arab societies but stood alone and found none but new dictatorships to stand by it.”

Al-Rashid went on to say: “In North Africa, the Saudi regime contributed to the re-production of despotism in a new format especially upon dreading what happened in Egypt after the revolution and in Iraq after its occupation, to which the Saudi regime contributed. The Saudi regime did not succeed in restoring Iraq to the Arab house. Instead it took a hostile position toward it, permitting Iran to penetrate it freely.”

Al-Rashid pointed out that the Saudi regime failed in Syria too, and was not able to save it from Iranian influence. Instead, it considered the Syrian revolution a vehicle for bringing down the regime in Syria without any consideration for the interests of the Syrian people. It also failed in Lebanon when the Saudi operation fell after the Saudi regime “held the Lebanese responsible for the Israeli war in 2006 and hence took the side of the aggressor rather than the victim.”

Al-Rashid also commented that “in Palestine, the Saudi regime sided by one faction against another and therefore its claims and initiatives for Palestinian reconciliation were no good.” Also, “the Saudi regime erred in reading Washington’s policy under the Obama administration when it thought it was the cornerstone in the administration’s Middle East policy. But Washington pulled the rug from underneath its feet. Washington surpassed Riyadh and went straight ahead to initiate dialogue with Iran. It was in this way that the siege was tightened on the Saudi regime and it ended standing alone.”

According to Al-Rashid, the Saudi regime’s policies also failed in Bahrain, where it managed to preserve the monarchy but at the expense of dialogue between Bahrain and its opposition.

As for Yemen, “Saudi Arabia believed that it had allies in Yemen but they turned against its initiative and today it is incapable of military intervention and is just watching the begetting of a new entity in Yemen.”

Dr Al-Rashid concluded that, “this foreign policy needs a new Saudi approach that includes sitting down around a table to have dialogue with the regional players Iran and Turkey instead of the alleged Sunni coalition, which will fail because politics cannot simply be based on an alleged Shiite-Sunni conflict.”

Al-Rashid also believes that “the current situation necessitates changing those who are in charge of foreign policy in Saudi Arabia. A new team, who thinks strategically and not in a stupid sectarian fashion, should be appointed. Saudi Arabia also needs to disengage its internal fears about a popular movement from its foreign policy. The revolutionary tide cannot simply be stopped. It should not embroil itself in a military adventure in Yemen while knowing that Yemen is a nest of wasps that will sooner or later come back to sting it.”

It is worth noting that Dr Al-Rashid’s tweets came in the aftermath of reports about clashes within the city of Aden and the seizure of the airport by troops loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Salih, not to mention reports that President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi has fled to a location outside Yemen. Some reports have talked about his presence in Saudi Arabia.

(Source / 26.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

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Are climate change deniers funding attack on Palestine activism?

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Anti-Palestinian groups have spent a billion dollars in recent years to undermine solidarity activism

Last weekend, Zionist activists paid up to $1,000 each to attend a conference in Los Angeles on the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

StandWithUs, the conference’s organizer, is one of the most powerful outfits in the US leading the current backlash against activism in support of Palestinian rights. Though it tries to present itself as grassroots-led, it is funded by the Israeli government, as well as richly endowed foundations.

A new report by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network identifies eleven of the most significant of the foundations that provide financial backing to what IJAN calls the “Zionist backlash.”

Zionist organizations have received nearly a billion dollars from these sources over the last seven years, according to the report.

Hubs and catalysts

“It is almost unknown that eleven major donors, routing their capital through an array of foundations, fund nearly the entire network of ‘hubs and catalysts’ of anti-Palestinian backlash in the United States,” according to the report.

IJAN analyzed thousands of pages of tax returns of some of the most prominent “backlash” organizations, including the Amcha Initiative, StandWithUS and Hillel International.

It traced their funding to the Newton D. and Rochelle F. Becker Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Klarman Family Foundation, the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Adelson Family Foundation, the Koch Family Foundations, the Moskowitz Foundation and the Fairbrook Foundation.

Some of these names will be familiar to readers acquainted with the well-funded “Islamophobia industry” in the United States. Previous investigative reporting and research have shown that overlapping interests provoke anti-Muslim sentiment as well as strengthen the US-Israel relationship.

However, lesser-known players with similar objectives have undergone less scrutiny.

For example, the Koch Family Foundations, operated by Charles and David Koch — notorious for their zealous devotion to the free market as well as their significant sway over electoral outcomes — poured $56 million in 2012 alone to Donors Capital Fundand Donors Trust, intermediary groups that are used to obscure funding for sensitive or controversial causes. The Koch brothers’ firm, Koch Industries, is heavily involved in energy projects.

Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust gained notoriety for their heavy investment in institutions that produced dubious reports challenging the veracity of climate change.

But it has also contributed significantly to Zionist backlash organizations — including StandWithUs, the Friends of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Of note, in 2011 the Center for American Progress found that Donors Capital Fund was the largest contributor to the “Islamophobia network.”

Sustaining power and profit

Donors Capital Fund has also donated to Shurat HaDin — or Israel’s Law Center. Focused on taking lawsuits against Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists, that group has ties to the Mossad, Israel’s foreign inteligence outfit. Shurat HaDin assistedthe US government’s recent case against Palestinian American community leaderRasmea Odeh.

Many of the donors use intermediary “donor advised funds” — also called “anonymizers” — to obscure their support for more controversial groups. Anonymizers receive and disseminate direct donations and play a large role in distributing funds to Zionist backlash organizations, as the IJAN report details.

Only by reviewing a specific foundation’s public tax returns can one gain any insight into who is funding these intermediaries.

Like Donors Capital Fund, these intermediary groups have innocuous names including Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and Jewish Communal Fund. Yet they bankroll some of the most aggressively anti-Palestinian groups all over the United States.

IJAN’s report emphasizes the crucial alignment of interests that fuels such bounteous investment in fighting and undermining Palestinian activism in the United States. Profit competes with political ideology as a motivating force, the report suggests. Many of the biggest funders of the backlash also maintain substantial investments in oil, gas and weapon industries that have interests in Israel’s geopolitical position.

“While there are donors whose investments in the backlash are clearly ideological, we want to make the case that these are rational investments, that are, in part, about sustaining their power and profit,” David Langstaff, a researcher with IJAN, told The Electronic Intifada.

Langstaff also stated that while many of his colleagues were shocked by the sheer amount of money flowing to the Zionist backlash, he was more struck that these funders were simultaneously funding attacks on other movements for social justice, including environmental, anti-racist and labor organizing.

Langstaff was involved in the drawn-out legal battle by Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state after it decided to boycott Israeli merchandise. StandWithUs, along with the Zionist Organization of America and the Lawfare Project, propelled litigationagainst the co-op’s right to boycott Israeli goods on such dubious legal grounds that two courts ultimately ruled that the case had “no merit” and qualified as an attack on public expression.

While the litigative effort has thus far failed, Langstaff points out, “There were years’ worth of energy going into that single victory.”

But in spite of the big money that fuels their opposition, the IJAN report stresses that Palestine solidarity activism in the United States continues to have successes.

“It is our hopeful conclusion that our movement has made gains in spite of such enormous quantities of money,” Langstaff said.

(Source / 26.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 26, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Opinion others

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