Shimon Peres, A Brand without Substance
Former Israeli Prime Minister and President, Shimon Peres, was a very successful brand. He was presented to the world as stately, wise, a relentless advocate of peace, and a sane voice amidst a conflict deemed senseless and unending.
Now that he is dead at 93, international media are rife with touching tributes and heartwarming eulogies of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, one of Israel’s most sagacious ‘founding fathers’, who was also seen as a ‘giant among men’.
These attributes were mostly based on sentiment rather than fact, however, full knowledge of the man’s legacy certainly lingers among many Palestinians, Lebanese and advocates of peace and justice in the Middle East. Continue reading
Although intended to inspire his Fatah Party followers, a televised speech by Mahmoud Abbas on the 51st Anniversary of the group’s launch highlighted, instead, the unprecedented crisis that continues to wreak havoc on the Palestinian people. Not only did Abbas sound defensive and lacking in any serious or new initiatives, but his ultimate intention appeared as if it was about his political survival, and nothing else.
In his speech on December 31, he tossed in many of the old clichés, chastising Israel at times, although in carefully-worded language, and insisted that any vital decisions concerned with “the future of the land, people and national rights” would be “subject to general elections and (voted on by the Palestine) National Council (PNC), because our people made heavy sacrifices and they are the source of all authorities.” Continue reading
Writing in the New York Times in an article entitled, “Myanmar Generals Set the State for Their Own Exit“, Thomas Fuller expressed his and the media’s failure to recognize the total fraud that is Burmese democracy.
“The official results are still being tabulated,” he wrote, “but all signs, so far, point to that rarest of things: an authoritarian government peacefully giving up power after what outside election monitors have deemed a credible vote.”
Fuller, who said nothing about the persecuted Rohingya minority and little about the other millions of Burmese who were denied the chance to vote, only managed to contribute to the seemingly baffling media euphoria about the country’s alleged democracy. Continue reading
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is often perceived as one of the ‘good ones’ – the less hawkish of top American officials, who does not simply promote and defend his country’s military adventurism but reaches out to others, beyond polarizing rhetoric.
His unremitting efforts culminated partly in the Iran nuclear framework agreement in April, followed by a final deal, a few months later. Now, he is reportedly hard at work again to find some sort of consensus on a way out of the Syria war, a multi-party conflict that has killed over 300,000 people. His admirers see him as the diplomatic executor of a malleable and friendly US foreign policy agenda under President Obama. Continue reading
On April 26, 2011, a meeting that can only be described as sinister took place between the then Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. The most pressing issue discussed at the meeting in Rome was how to deal with African immigrants.
Sarkozy, who was under pressure from his right-wing and far-right constituencies to halt immigration originating from North Africa (resulting from the Tunisian uprising), desired to strike a deal with the opportunistic Italian leader. In exchange for an Italian agreement to join a French initiative aimed at tightening border control (Italy being accused of allowing immigrants to cross through its borders to the rest of Europe), France, in turn, would resolve major disputes involving a series of takeovers, involving French and Italian companies. Moreover, Italy would then secure French support for a bid by Italian Economist and Banker, Mario Draghi, to become the Head of the European Central Bank. Continue reading
It is still not about Islam, even if the media and militants attacking western targets say so. Actually, it never was. But it was important for many to conflate politics with religion; partly because it is convenient and self-validating.
First, let’s be clear on some points. Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world.
Freeing the slaves, who were owned by pagan Arab tribes, was a recurring theme in the Koran, always linked to the most basic signs of piety and virtue: Continue reading
When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now?
The attack killed five Israelis and wounded others. It was, to a degree, an expected addition to a violent episode caused by police-sanctioned right-wing violence and abuse targeting the Palestinian population of the illegally occupied East Jerusalem. Much of the violence targeting Palestinians is systematic, involving severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, targeting houses of worship, and nightly attacks by Jewish mobs assailing Arabs, or anyone who may be suspected of being one. It also included the hanging, lynching and burning alive of Jerusalem Arab residents. Continue reading
In the rush to analyze the outcome of Israel’s 51-day war in Gaza, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, some may have neglected an important factor: this was not a war by traditional definitions of warfare, thus the conventional analyses of victory and defeat is simply not applicable.
That being the case, how can we explain Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s triumphant statement on 28 August, and the massive celebrations on the streets of Gaza regarding the resistance ‘victory’ over Israel? To be truly fathomed, they must be understood in context. Continue reading
Ask any Arab ruler, and they will tell you of the great sacrifices their countries have made for Palestine and the Palestinians. However, both history and present reality are testaments, not only to Arab failure to live up to the role expected of them and stand in solidarity with their own oppressed brethren, but also to the official Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The current war on Gaza, and the dubious role played by Egypt in the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are cases in point.
Read this comment by Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington to appreciate the depth of the unmistakable Arab betrayal. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” Miller told the New York Times. “The silence is deafening.” Continue reading
Things Cannot Stay the Same after Israeli Genocide in Gaza
After every bloody episode of violence perpetrated by Israel, media spin doctors are often deployed with one grand mission: to absolve Israel of any responsibility in their acts of carnage.
Not only do these apologists demonize Palestinians, but anyone who dares to take a stand on their behalf. The main staple of this Israeli strategy has been blaming the victim. Such a tactic is nothing new in the way the so-called “Arab-Israeli conflict” has been presented in Western media, whose narrative has been much closer to that of Israeli official and media discourses than that of Palestinians. This continued despite the decades-long military occupation, successive wars, and countless massacres. Continue reading
“Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? In Israeli prison, of course!,” was the title of an article by Jo Ehrlich published in Modoweiss.net on Dec 21, 2009. That was almost exactly one year after Israel’s concluded a major war against Gaza. The so-called Operation Cast Lead (December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009) was, till then, the deadliest Israeli attack against the impoverished strip for many years.
Ehrlich was not in the least being belittling by raising the question about the ‘Palestinian Gandhi’ but responding to the patronization of others. Right from the onset, he remarked: “Not that I’m in any way playing into the Palestinian Gandhi dialogue, I think it’s actually pretty diversionary/racist. But sometimes you have to laugh in order not to cry..” Continue reading
To some, US secretary of state John Kerry may have appeared to be a genuine peacemaker as he floated around ideas during a Cairo visit on 25 July about a ceasefire between Israel and resisting Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But behind his measured diplomatic language, there is a truth not even America’s top diplomat can easily hide. His country is very much involved in fighting this dirty war on Gaza that has killed over 1,050, injured thousands more, and destroyed much of an already poor, dilapidated space that is barely inhabitable to begin with.
US economic and military aid to Israel is measured annually in the billions, and the US government continues to be Israel’s strongest and most ardent ally and political benefactor. In fact, the US-Israel “special relationship” is getting more “special” by the day even though Israel is sinking further into the abyss of a well-deserved isolation. Continue reading
As Iraq stands on the verge of a complete breakdown into mini sectarian states, former leading neoconservative and Iraq war advocate Richard Perle made a sudden appearance on Newsmax TV. His statements in the interview were yet another testament to the intellectual degeneration of a group that had once promised a ‘new Middle East’, only to destabilize the region with violent consequences that continue to reverberate until this day.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which didn’t exist at the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, has seized large swathes of Syria and, along with a brewing Sunni rebellion, stands in control of large chunks of western, northern and central Iraq. Continue reading
When I was a child, I obsessed with socialism. It was not only because my father was a self-proclaimed socialist who read every book that a good socialist should read, but also because we lived in a refugee camp in Gaza under the harshest of conditions. Tanks roamed the dusty streets and every aspect of our lives was governed by a most intricate Israeli ‘civil administration’ system – a less distressing phrase for describing military occupation.
Socialism was then an escape to a utopian world where people were treated fairly; where children were not shot and killed on a daily basis; where cheap laborers were no longer despairing men fighting for meager daily wages at some Israeli factory or farm; and where equality was not an abstract notion. But since Gaza had little in terms of ‘means of production’, our socialism was tailored to accommodate every lacking aspect of our lives. Freedom, justice and ending the occupation was our ‘revolutionary socialism’ around which we teenagers in the camp secretly organized and declared strikes on the walls of the camp in red graffiti, and quoted (or misquoted) Marx as we pleased, often times out of context. Continue reading
Irrespective of how one feels about the direction taken by various Arab revolutions in the last three years, a few facts remain incontestable. Arab revolts began in the streets of poor, despairing Arab cities, and Arabs had every right to rebel considering the dismal state of affairs in which they live.
Few disagree with these two notions. However, the quarrel, in part, is concerned with the cost-benefit analysis of some of these revolutions, Syria being the prime example. Is it worth destroying a country, several times over and victimizing millions to achieve an uncertain democratic future?
The cost for Egypt was high as well, although not as high in comparison to Syria. The conundrum that Egyptians have been forced to contend with is that of ‘stability’ – based on the same old paradigm of powerful elites and a majority fighting for crumbs to survive on – vs. ‘instability’ within a relatively democratic system. Continue reading
The Bloody War that Doesn’t Exist
“In Yemen today, the US embassy is closed to the public. Officials telling CNN there is credible information of a threat against Western interests there,” a CNN news anchor read the news bulletin on May 08.
This is CNN’s Yemen. It is a Yemen that seems to exist for one single purpose, and nothing else: maintain Western, and by extension, US interests in that part of the world. When these interests are threatened, only then does Yemen matter.
Yemen of ‘Western Interests’
Every reference in that specifically-tailored discourse serves a purpose. It is as if al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) exists to justify US military intervention and unending drone war. Last April, 63 Yemenis were reportedly killed in US drone strikes allegedly targeting al-Qaeda. No credible verification of that claim is available, and none of the victims have been identified. “Signature” drone strikes don’t require identification, we are told. It could take months, if not years, before rights groups shed light on the April killings, which are a continuation of a protracted drone war. Continue reading
For years, Palestinian factions have striven for unity, and for years unity has evaded them. But is it possible that following several failed attempts, Fatah and Hamas have finally found that elusive middle ground? And if they have done so, why, to what end, and at what cost?
On April 23, top Fatah and Hamas officials hammered out the final details of the Beach Refugee Camp agreement without any Arab mediation. All major grievances have purportedly been smoothed over, differences have been abridged, and other sensitive issues have been referred to a specialized committee. One of these committees will be entrusted to incorporate Hamas and the Islamic Jihad into the fold of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Continue reading
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his predominantly rightwing cabinet. In a recent interview with The Economist, Elkin used the familiar tone of being conceited and oblivious to such notions as international or human rights, and reaffirmed his rejection of a Palestinian state.
Instead, Elkin wants Israel to annex a chunk of the West Bank. There is nothing new here, as such language is now official Israeli discourse. But one statement stood out, one that many Palestinians would find bewildering and exasperating.
These days, said Elkin with a chuckle, the West Bank is “the most stable part of the Middle East”. Continue reading
US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t hide his frustration anymore as the US-sponsored peace process continued to falter. After 8 months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, he admitted while in a visit to Morocco on April 04 that the latest setback had served as a ‘reality check’ for the peace process. But confining that reality check to the peace process is hardly representative of the painful reality through which the United States has been forced to subsist in during the last few years.
The state of US foreign policy in the Middle East, but also around the world, cannot be described with any buoyant language. In some instances, as in Syria, Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and most recently in Palestine and Israel, too many calamitous scenarios have exposed the fault lines of US foreign policy. The succession of crises is not allowing the US to cut its losses in the Middle East and stage a calculated ‘pivot’ to Asia following its disastrous Iraq war.
US foreign policy is almost entirely crippled. Continue reading
As the US-imposed April 29 deadline for a ‘framework’ agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority looms, time is also running out for the American administration itself. The Obama administration must now conjure up an escape route to avoid a political crisis if the talks are to fail, as they surely will.
Chances are the Americans knew well that peace under the current circumstances is simply not attainable. The Israeli government’s coalition is so adamantly anti-Arab, anti-peace and anti any kind of agreement that would fall short from endorsing the Israeli apartheid-like occupation, predicated on colonial expansion, annexations of borders, land confiscation, control of holy places and much more. Ideally for Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies in the right, far-right and ultranationalists, Palestinians would need to be crammed in disjointed communities, separated from each other by walls, Jewish settlements, Jewish-only bypass roads, checkpoints, security fences, and a large concentration of Israeli military presence including permanent Israeli control of the Jordan Valley. In fact, while politicians tirelessly speak of peace, the above is the exact ‘vision’ that the Israelis had in mind almost immediately following the 1967 war – the final conquest of all of historic Palestine and occupation of Arab lands. Continue reading
Long before the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign inched slowly from the fringes of global solidarity with Palestinians to take center stage, Tony Benn had been advocating a boycott of Israel with unrestricted conviction, for years.
“Britain should offer its support for this strategy by stopping all arms sales to Israel, introducing trade sanctions and a ban on all investment there together with a boycott of Israeli goods here and make it a condition for the lifting of these measures that Israel complies with these demands at once,” Benn wrote in his blog on April 19, 2002, under the title “A STATE OF PALESTINE NOW“. The ‘strategy’ of which Ben spoke was for Arafat to declare a state, and for ‘friendly nations’ to recognize it. Continue reading
Something sinister is brewing around and below al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, and it has the hallmark of a familiar Israeli campaign to strip the Mosque of its Muslim Arab identity. This time around, however, the stakes are much higher.
The status of al-Aqsa mosque is unparalleled within the context of Muslim heritage in Palestine itself. It is also the third holiest Muslim shrine anywhere. But equally as important, it is a symbol of faith, resistance and defiance. Its story of struggle and perseverance goes hand in hand with the very modern Palestinian struggle for rights, freedom and identity. Praying at al-Aqsa at times seems like an impossible feat. Many Palestinians lost life or limbs simply trying to gain access to the mosque. Continue reading
In the early days of the Syrian uprising-turned civil war three years ago, the writing on the wall of it becoming an intricate regional and international conflict was there for all to see. Palestinians in Syria were likely to find themselves a pawn in a dirty war, but few could have predicted the magnitude of the crisis, and perhaps, few cared.
Despite their many differences, there are two common denominators that unite all the parties involved in the Syrian conflict. One is that they are all contributing, directly or otherwise, to the killing of Syrians with unmitigated impunity, savageness even. And, two, in the same breath, they all pose as defenders of the Syrian people. It is not a puzzle, but the nature of dirty conflicts. Continue reading
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hurried to his helicopter ready to take off at the end of a visit to Iraq last year, it was becoming clearer that the Americans have lost control of a country they wished to mold to their liking. His departure on March 24, 2013 was the conclusion of a ‘surprise’ visit meant to mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Ten years prior, the US had stormed Baghdad, unleashing one of the 20th century’s most brutal and longest conflicts. Since then, Iraq has not ceased to bleed.
Kerry offered nothing of value on that visit, save the same predictable clichés of Iraq’s supposedly successful democracy, as a testament to some imagined triumph of American values. But it was telling that a decade of war was not even enough to assure an ordinary trip for the American diplomat. It was a ‘surprise’ because no amount of coordination between the US embassy, then consisting of 16,000 staff, and the Iraqi government, could guarantee Kerry’s safety. Continue reading
2013 has expectedly been a terrible year for several Arab nations. It has been terrible because the promise of greater freedoms and political reforms has been reversed, most violently in some instances, by taking a few countries down the path of anarchy and complete chaos. Syria and Egypt are two cases in point.
Syria has been hit the hardest. For months, the United Nations has maintained that over 100,000 people have been killed in the 33 months of conflict. More recently, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concluded that at least 125,835, of which more than third of them are civilians, have been killed.
The UN’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) says that millions of Syrians living in perpetual suffering are in need of aid, and this number will reach 9.3 million by the end of next year. Continue reading
The intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s supporters is appalling. But in some odd way, it is also understandable. How else could they respond to the massively growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?
When a non-violent campaign – empowered by thousands of committed civil society activists from South Africa to Sweden and most countries in between – leads a moral campaign to isolate and hold into account an Apartheid country like Israel, all that the supporters of the latter can do is spread lies and misinformation. There can be no other strategy, unless of course, Israel’s friends get their own moment of moral awakening, and join the BDS flood that has already broken many barriers and liberated many minds from the grip of Israeli hasbara. Continue reading
The latest punishment of Gaza may seem like another familiar plot to humiliate the strip to the satisfaction of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, and the military-controlled Egyptian government. But something far more sinister is brewing.
This time, the collective punishment of Gaza arrives in the form of raw sewage that is flooding many neighborhoods across the impoverished and energy-chocked region of 360 km2 (139 sq mi) and 1.8 million inhabitants. Even before the latest crisis resulting from a severe shortage of electricity and diesel fuel that is usually smuggled through Egypt, Gaza was rendered gradually uninhabitable. A comprehensive UN report last year said that if no urgent action were taken, Gaza would be ‘unlivable’ by 2020. Since the report was issued in August 2012, the situation has grown much worse. Continue reading
In an initially pointless exercise that lasted nearly an hour, I flipped between two Palestinian television channels, Al Aqsa TV of Hamas in Gaza and Palestine TV of Fatah in the West Bank. While both purported to represent Palestine and the Palestinians, each seemed to represent some other place and some other people. It was all very disappointing.
Hamas’ world is fixated on their hate of Fatah and other factional personal business. Fatah TV is stuck between several worlds of archaic language of phony revolutions, factional rivalry and unmatched self-adoration. The two narratives are growingly alien and will unlikely ever move beyond their immediate sense of self-gratification and utter absurdity.
It is no wonder why Palestinians are still struggling to tell the world such a simple, straightforward and truthful story. Perhaps it is now out of desperation that they expect Israel’s New Historians, internationals who make occasional visits to Palestine or an unexceptionally fair western journalist to tell it. Continue reading
“Nothing is more precious than freedom,” is quoted as being attributed to Vo Nguyen Giap, a Vietnamese General that led his country through two liberation wars. The first was against French colonialists, the second against the Americans. And despite heavy and painful losses, Vietnam prevailed, defeating the first colonial quest at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) and the second at Ho Chí Minh Campaign (1975).
General Giap, the son of a peasant scholar, stood tall in both wars, only bowing down to the resolve of his people. “Any forces that would impose their will on other nations will most certainly face defeat,” he once said. His words will always be true.
He died on Friday, October 4, at the age of 102. Continue reading
Egypt’s new ruler, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, may not realize that the bond between Egypt, Palestine and especially Gaza is beyond historic, and simply cannot be severed with border restrictions, albeit they have caused immense suffering for many Palestinians.
Gaza is being ‘collectively punished’, and is now facing economic hardship and a severe fuel shortage as a result of the Egyptian army’s destroying of underground tunnels. This is nothing particularly new. In fact, such ‘collective punishment’ has defined Gaza’s relationship to Israel for the last 65 years. Successive sieges and wars have left Gaza with deep scars, but left its people extremely strong, resilient and resourceful. Continue reading