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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don’t Forget, Israel Is a Democracy

Don’t Forget, Israel Is a Democracy
by Uri Avnery, June 01, 2009

How lucky we are to have the extreme Right standing guard over our democracy.
This week, the Knesset voted by a large majority (47 to 34) for a law that threatens imprisonment for anyone who dares to deny that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.
The private member’s bill, proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev of the "Jewish Home" Party, which sailed through its preliminary hearing, promises one year in prison to anyone who publishes "a call that negates the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," if the contents of the call might cause "actions of hate, contempt, or disloyalty against the state or the institutions of government or the courts."

One can foresee the next steps. A million and a half Arab citizens cannot be expected to recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. They want it to be "a state of all its citizens" – Jews, Arabs, and others. They also claim with reason that Israel discriminates against them, and therefore is not really democratic. And, in addition, there are also Jews who do not want Israel to be defined as a Jewish state in which non-Jews have the status, at best, of tolerated outsiders.
The consequences are inevitable. The prisons will not be able to hold all those convicted of this crime. There will be a need for concentration camps all over the country to house all the deniers of Israeli democracy.
The police will be unable to deal with so many criminals. It will be necessary to set up a new unit. This may be called "Special Security," or, in short, SS.
Hopefully, these measures will suffice to preserve our democracy. If not, more stringent steps will have to be taken, such as revoking the citizenship of the democracy-deniers and deporting them from the country, together with the Jewish leftists and all the other enemies of the Jewish democracy.
After the preliminary reading of the bill, it now goes to the Legal Committee of the Knesset, which will prepare it for the first, and soon thereafter for the second and third, readings. Within a few weeks or months, it will be the law of the land.
By the way, the bill does not single out Arabs explicitly – even if this is its clear intention, and all those who voted for it understood this. It also prohibits Jews from advocating a change in the state’s definition, or the creation of a bi-national state in all of historic Palestine or spreading any other such unconventional ideas. One can only imagine what would happen in the U.S. if a senator proposed a law to imprison anyone who suggests an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The bill does not stand out at all in our new political landscape.
This government has already adopted a bill to imprison for three years anyone who mourns the Palestinian Nakba – the 1948 uprooting of more than half the Palestinian people from their homes and lands.
The sponsors expect Arab citizens to be happy about that event. True, the Palestinians were caused a certain unpleasantness, but that was only a byproduct of the foundation of our state. The Independence Day of the Jewish and democratic state must fill us all with joy. Anyone who does not express this joy should be locked up, and three years may not be enough.
This bill has been confirmed by the Ministerial Commission for Legal Matters, prior to being submitted to the Knesset. Since the rightist government commands a majority in the Knesset, it will be adopted almost automatically. (In the meantime, a slight delay has been caused by one minister, who appealed the decision, so the Ministerial Commission will have to confirm it again.)
The sponsors of the law hope, perhaps, that on Nakba Day the Arabs will dance in the streets, plant Israeli flags on the ruins of some 600 Arab villages that were wiped off the map, and offer up their thanks to Allah in the mosques for the miraculous good fortune that was bestowed on them.

This takes me back to the ’60s, when the weekly magazine I edited, Haolam Hazeh, published an Arabic edition. One of its employees was a young man called Rashed Hussein from the village of Musmus. Already as a youth he was a gifted poet with a promising future.
He told me that some years earlier the military governor of his area had summoned him to his office. At the time, all the Arabs in Israel were subject to a military government which controlled their lives in all matters big and small. Without a permit, an Arab citizen could not leave his village or town even for a few hours, nor get a job as a teacher, nor acquire a tractor or dig a well.
The governor received Rashed cordially, offered him coffee and paid lavish compliments to his poetry. Then he came to the point: in a month’s time, Independence Day was due, and the governor was going to hold a big reception for the Arab "notables"; he asked Rashed to write a special poem for the occasion.
Rashed was a proud youngster, nationalist to the core, and not lacking in courage. He explained to the governor that Independence Day was no joyful day for him, since his relatives had been driven from their homes and most of the Musmus village’s land had also been expropriated.
When Rashed arrived back at his village some hours later, he could not help noticing that his neighbors were looking at him in a peculiar way. When he entered his home, he was shocked. All the members of his family were sitting on the floor, the women lamenting at the top of their voices, the children huddling fearfully in a corner. His first thought was that somebody had died.
"What have you done to us!" one of the women cried. "What did we do to you?"
"You have destroyed the family," another shouted. "You have finished us!"
It appeared that the governor had called the family and told them that Rashed had refused to fulfill his duty to the state. The threat was clear: from now on, the extended family, one of the largest in the village, would be on the black list of the military government. The consequences were clear to everyone.
Rashed could not stand up against the lamentation of his family. He gave in and wrote the poem, as requested. But something inside him was broken. Some years later he emigrated to the U.S., got a job there at the PLO office and died tragically: he was burned alive in his bed after going to sleep, it appears, while smoking a cigarette.

These days are gone forever. We took part in many stormy demonstrations against the military government until it was finally abolished in 1966. As a newly elected member of parliament, I had the privilege of voting for its abolition.
The fearful and subservient Arab minority, then amounting to some 200,000 souls, has recovered its self-esteem. A second and third generation has grown up, its downtrodden national pride has raised its head again, and today they are a large and self-confident community of 1.5 million. But the attitude of the Jewish Right has not changed for the better. On the contrary.
In the Knesset bakery (the Hebrew word for bakery is mafia), some new pastries are being baked. One of them is a bill that stipulates that anyone applying for Israeli citizenship must declare their loyalty to "the Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state," and also undertake to serve in the army or its civilian alternative. Its sponsor is MK David Rotem of the "Israel Is Our Home" Party, who also happens to be the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee.
A declaration of loyalty to the state and its laws – a framework designed to safeguard the well-being and the rights of its citizens – is reasonable. But loyalty to the "Zionist" state? Zionism is an ideology, and in a democratic state the ideology can change from time to time. It would be like declaring loyalty to a "capitalist" USA, a "rightist Italy," a "leftist" Spain, a "Catholic Poland," or a "nationalist" Russia.
This would not be a problem for the tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in Israel who reject Zionism, since Jews will not be touched by this law. They obtain citizenship automatically the moment they arrive in Israel.
Another bill waiting for its turn before the Ministerial Committee proposes changing the declaration that every new Knesset member has to make before assuming office. Instead of loyalty "to the state of Israel and its laws," as now, he or she will be required to declare their loyalty "to the Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state of Israel, its symbols, and its values." That would exclude almost automatically all the elected Arabs, since declaring loyalty to the "Zionist" state would mean that no Arab would ever vote for them again.
It would also be a problem for the Orthodox members of the Knesset, who cannot declare loyalty to Zionism. According to Orthodox doctrine, the Zionists are depraved sinners and the Zionist flag is unclean. God exiled the Jews from this country because of their wickedness, and only God can permit them to return. Zionism, by preempting the job of the Messiah, has committed an unpardonable sin, and many Orthodox Rabbis chose to remain in Europe and be murdered by the Nazis rather than committing the Zionist sin of going to Palestine.

The factory of racist laws with a distinct fascist odor is now working at full steam. That is built into the new coalition.
At its center is the Likud Party, a good part of which is pure racist (sorry for the oxymoron). To its right there is the ultra-racist Shas Party, to the right of which is Lieberman’s ultra-ultra racist "Israel Is Our Home" Party, the ultra-ultra-ultra racist "Jewish Home" Party, and to its right the even more racist "National Union" Party, which includes outright Kahanists and stands with one foot in the coalition and the other on the moon.
All these factions are trying to outdo each other. When one proposes a crazy bill, the next is compelled to propose an even crazier one, and so on.
All this is possible because Israel has no constitution. The ability of the Supreme Court to annul laws that contradict the "basic laws" is not anchored anywhere, and the rightist parties are trying to abolish it. Not for nothing did Avigdor Lieberman demand – and get – the justice and police ministries.
Just now, when the governments of the U.S. and Israel are clearly on a collision course over the settlements, this racist fever may infect all parts of the coalition.
If one goes to sleep with a dog, one should not be surprised to wake up with fleas (may the dogs among my readers pardon me). Those who elected such a government, and even more so those who joined it, should not be surprised by its laws, which ostensibly safeguard Jewish democracy.
The most appropriate name for these holy warriors would be "Racists for Democracy."

Defending Israeli War Crimes!


Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Stephen Zunes May 28, 2009

Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco

In response to a series of reports by human rights organizations and international legal scholars documenting serious large-scale violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli armed forces in its recent war on the Gaza Strip, 10 U.S. state attorneys general sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending the Israeli action. It is virtually unprecedented for state attorneys general — whose mandates focus on enforcement of state law — to weigh in on questions regarding the laws of war, particularly in a conflict on the far side of the world. More significantly, their statement runs directly counter to a broad consensus of international legal opinion that recognizes that Israel, as well as Hamas, engaged in war crimes.

The wording of the letter closely parallels arguments by Bush administration officials in support for Israel’s devastating offensive during their final days in office. Having been signed nearly 11 weeks after the end of the fighting and made public only late last month, it may have been part of an effort to undermine tentative efforts by the Obama administration to take a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A statement by state attorneys general putting forth a legal rationale for the large-scale killings of civilians is particularly distressing as concerns about civilian casualties from U.S. air and missile strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan has grown.

The attorneys general signing on to the letter included Republicans Rob McKenna of Washington, Mike Cox of Michigan, John Suthers of Colorado, Bill McCollum of Florida, Jon Bruning of Nebraska, and Mark Shurtleff of Utah. Signatories also included such prominent Democrats as Richard Cordray of Ohio, Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island, Jack Conway of Kentucky, and Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana.

Facile Legal Reasoning

The attorneys general also ignored the fact that Article 33 of the UN Charter explicitly prohibits nations going to war unless they “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” However, Israel — with strong bipartisan U.S. support — had refused to even meet with Hamas to negotiate a long-term ceasefire, which Hamas had offered prior to the breakdown of the six-month lull in return for a lift in the Israeli siege of the enclave.

The legal rationale put forward in the March 30 letter is extraordinarily facile. For example, they claim that the war waged on the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was taken in furtherance of Israel’s “right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.” In reality, however, while Article 51 does allow countries the right to resist an armed attack, it doesn’t grant any nation the right to engage in such a disproportionate response.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak admitted that the Israeli invasion had been planned for months, back when a six-month cease fire was still in effect. Even when Hamas resumed firing rockets into Israel in December, following a deadly Israeli raid into Gaza the previous month, there were few casualties. Indeed, not a single Israeli had been killed by Hamas rocket attacks for more than half a year prior to Israel launching its war on December 27. During the subsequent three weeks of fighting, Palestinians killed 10 Israelis, three of whom were civilians, while Israeli forces killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians.

Incredibly, these attorneys general insist that these mass killings by Israeli forces were “justified and, in our view, met the international legal standards.”

The letter correctly accuses Hamas, which had lobbed rockets into civilian-populated areas in southwestern Israel, of violating Article 48 of Protocol I to the Geneva Convention of 1948, which states: “Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

However, the attorneys general refused to acknowledge that Israel had also violated that same provision on a far grander scale. While virtually every human rights organization, intergovernmental organization, and international legal authority that researched this recent conflict recognizes both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes, these attorneys general still insist that Hamas alone was to blame and that Israel’s actions were perfectly legal.

Ignoring the Facts

Human Rights Watch (HRW) — which has been highly critical of Hamas attacks on civilian areas of Israel as well as repression by the Islamist group of Palestinian opponents within the Gaza Strip — reported during the fighting that in using heavy shelling against heavily-populated civilian areas, “Israel is committing indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war.” In a comprehensive report published in March, HRW noted that “Israel’s repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.”

Similarly, while Amnesty International also “found evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by all parties to the conflict” and attacks by both sides against civilian areas in which no fighters were present, the attorneys general insisted that the Palestinian side alone was guilty of such illegal actions.

An independent United Nations inquiry documented six major Israeli attacks against UN buildings, including schools in which children were killed, noting that actions by Israeli forces “involved varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property.” The report concluded that “no military activity was carried out from within the United Nations premises in any of the incidents.”

Without presenting any evidence to the contrary, the attorneys general categorically rejected such findings, insisting that Israel was engaged only in “a limited and directed action against the source of Hamas’s military acts.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) focused on other war crimes, noting how the “Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded,” citing instances in which Israeli forces prevented Red Cross or other medics safe access to assist seriously wounded civilians. The Israeli chapter of Physicians for Human Rights reported with “certainty” that Israel violated international humanitarian law by attacking medics, damaging medical buildings, engaging in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and delaying medical treatment for the injured. The ICRC declared Israel’s “delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable.” In addition, Israel rejected pleas by international humanitarian agencies by closing border crossings days at a time, denying access to food, medical supplies, fuel, and water sanitation equipment. Despite this, the attorneys general instead praised Israel for “allowing the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

A report by a delegation of prominent U.S. attorneys which visited Gaza Strip soon after the fighting reported that “that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza offensive.” The Israeli press has reported testimony of Israeli soldiers who killed Palestinian civilians under highly permissive rules of engagement that allowed soldiers to kill any Palestinian in certain areas regardless of whether they were armed, and were ordered to intentionally destroy civilian property. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian revealed a series of Israeli missile attacks against clearly distinguishable civilian targets.

United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Richard Falk, noting Israel’s “unlawful uses of force on a large scale” against Gazan society as a whole, referred to the operation as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, as set forth in the Geneva Conventions.” Falk, an American Jew and emeritus professor at Princeton University who is arguably the country’s preeminent international legal scholar, also noted the illegality of Hamas rocket attacks into Israel, but stressed that Israeli airstrikes “were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world.”

Ignoring such evidence, the attorneys general insisted that Israel was directing its artillery, bombings and missile attacks only towards “the source of Hamas’s military attacks” and the Israeli government should therefore not be held responsible for any military action which harmed Palestinian civilians because they did so “unintentionally.”

Defending Mass Killings of Civilians

These attorneys general try to absolve Israel of any responsibility of the hundreds of civilian deaths by accusing Hamas of “using these civilians as human shields.” They provide no evidence for this charge, however, save for a quote from the notoriously right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Independent human rights groups have accused Hamas of less-severe violations of international humanitarian law, such as not taking all necessary steps it should to prevent civilian casualties when it positioned fighters and armaments too close to concentrations of civilians. However, this isn’t the same thing as deliberately using civilians as shields. Furthermore, the nature of urban warfare, particularly in a territory as densely populated as the Gaza Strip, makes the proximity of retreating fighters and their equipment to civilians unavoidable in many cases.

Even if Hamas were using human shields in the legal definition of the term, it still does not absolve Israel from its obligation to avoid civilian casualties. Amnesty International has noted that the Geneva Conventions make it clear that even if one side is shielding itself behind civilians, such a violation “shall not release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians.”

To argue otherwise, as do these attorneys general, is a dangerous legal position for the chief law enforcement official of a state to take, such as ordering their state police to kill innocent people in a hostage situation. By this logic, if a botched bank robbery led the would-be robbers to hold bank employees and customers at gunpoint, these attorneys general could then order state patrolmen to kill the gunmen and hostages alike, defending their action on the grounds that the bad guys were using “human shields.”

Denying Political Reality

It’s not just this flawed legal reasoning that underscores how this initiative by these attorneys general was based not upon a legitimate interpretation of law but for narrow ideological purposes. They reveal their political prejudices in their insistence in the letter to Clinton in claiming that “Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005″ but that the Palestinians failed to establish “a flourishing independent state.” In reality, despite the removal of illegal Israeli settlements and the withdrawal of occupation forces from that crowded urban enclave, Israel has maintained sole control over Gaza Strip’s airspace and territorial waters, thereby prohibiting movement of people and goods by land and sea, as well as largely controlling the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt. Effectively preventing any exports or imports, except for occasional humanitarian aid, the economy has collapsed and, even prior to the war, the territory was experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis. Since Israel’s “withdrawal,” the Israeli government has also controlled the Gaza Strip’s electricity, water and telecommunications and has periodically engaged in air strikes and armed incursions into the enclave, murdering and kidnapping suspected militants. No people could reasonably be expected to establish “a flourishing independent state” under such circumstances. Furthermore, in maintaining their siege on the enclave, Israel legally remains the occupying power.

The attorneys general go on to accuse Hamas of taking advantage of Israel’s “withdrawal” to “cause a civil war with the Palestinian Authority, leading to a coup d’etat in 2007.” However, while Hamas is indeed guilty of innumerable political intrigues and inexcusable violence towards its Palestinian opponents, this is a gross misrepresentation of recent history:
Rather than making war against the Palestinian Authority, Hamas was part of the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, they controlled the legislative branch of government as well as the post of prime minister and most other ministries as a result of winning the plurality of the vote in parliamentary elections in January 2006. The following year, Saudi officials negotiated a power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which still controlled the presidency. U.S. officials, however, unsuccessfully encouraged President Mahmoud Abbas to renounce the agreement, dismiss the entire government and abolish parliament.

The Bush administration then began secretly arming Fatah groups to enable them to fight Hamas and pushing Fatah to stage a coup. This is what led Hamas to launch a countercoup by overrunning Fatah offices and taking full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Alvaro de Soto, former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, stated in his confidential final report leaked to the press a few weeks before the Hamas takeover that “the Americans clearly encouraged a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas” and “worked to isolate and damage Hamas and build up Fatah with recognition and weaponry.” De Soto also recalled how in the midst of Egyptian efforts to arrange a cease-fire following a flare-up in factional fighting earlier that year, a U.S. official told him that “I like this violence…[I]t means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas.”

Though all this has been well-documented and is widely known in both Israel and Palestine, this bipartisan group of attorneys general has instead sought to defend the Bush administration’s provocative and illegal intervention by putting the entire blame on Hamas.

This letter to the Secretary of State was put together by a right-wing group calling itself the American-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), which boasts that the organization has sent 42 states attorney general to Israel in the past 21 years. It refers to the letter as “a strong rejoinder to those who have castigated Israel over its role in Gaza and used it in an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish State.”

Dangerous Precedent

The Bush administration strongly supported Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip as an extension of its “war on terror.” It was in the name of this “war on terror” that President George W. Bush shamelessly politicized the U.S. Justice Department to justify spying on nonviolent dissidents at home and the torture of suspects abroad. Now we have a bipartisan group of state attorneys general who have shown themselves similarly willing to politicize their offices by putting forward twisted and perverse interpretations of the law in the name of fighting terrorism. Unless these rogue attorneys general are challenged by elected officials and ordinary citizens in their respective states for their signing on to such a reckless statement, it could mark a dangerous precedent regarding respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Dr. Stephan Zunes

Dr. Stephan Zunes

Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy In Focus senior analyst, is a professor of Politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies as the University of San Francisco.



Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

May 31, 2009 - Posted by Elias

"What will happen if Israel 'defeats' Obama?"


Akiva Eldar, in Haaretz, here
"You had to read it twice to believe it: "Criticism of the United States in Jerusalem." A senior Israeli official warns: "We are disappointed." The fly hovering about is complaining that the elephant is not obeying its orders. What chutzpah on the part of Barack Obama. He just entered the White House and already has something to say - about how many new houses we are building in Ofra, and about when we will dismantle the walls in the "illegal outposts," which are already beginning to disintegrate because of old age.

Instead of dismantling settlements, he would do better to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program. Otherwise Jerusalem will reassess its special relationship with Washington, and will reconsider its commitment to ensuring the qualitative advantage of the United States. If this situation continues, we may even stop vetoing anti-American decisions in the United Nations Security Council.

Let's assume that there is some point to the criticism of the U.S. president's determined insistence on petty details when it comes to Jewish construction in the territories. Let's agree that Obama in his naivete really has become preoccupied with inconsequential matters, such as a handful of pathetic outposts. Should the State of Israel risk a crisis with the most important power in the world because of what it considers "inconsequential matters"? Does Israel have a greater existential strategic asset than its relations with the U.S. and its neighbors' understanding that these intimate relations are unshakable?
Is this the way to keep "all options open," including receiving American approval to fly over the skies of Iraq, on the way to attacking Iran's nuclear installations? And what will we do when the Iranians launch missiles at Tel Aviv? Will we send the new Abba Eban, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to Washington to ask Obama to declare war on Tehran? At the same time, the settler from Nokdim can reprimand the president for refusing to take his "natural growth" into account.
Does Israel really have an interest in winning the battle over the settlements? What will happen if we destroy the prestige of the strongest man in the world and portray him as an empty vessel, incapable of halting the settlement program of a U.S. protege? Will an Israeli "victory" strengthen the status of the U.S. in the international campaign against Iran?

A partial answer to these questions can be found in the address last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before members of the Likud faction, regarding the necessity of evacuating the outposts. The right believes that the more they fatten this bastard goat, the more its removal will be considered to be what former prime minister Ariel Sharon called a "painful concession."

However, even Netanyahu knows that Obama does not intend to participate in these goat games. The U.S. president is not a political amateur, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak implied when he said that dismantling the outposts would not stop the Iranian nuclear program. Obama will be visiting Riyadh and Cairo this week, in an attempt to revive the Madrid conference coalition, which president Bush, Sr. formed after the first Gulf War, in October 1991. Incidentally, then too, the Likud, led by Yitzhak Shamir, "leveled harsh criticism" against the U.S. administration and "expressed disappointment" at its refusal to recognize the natural growth of the settler population. We can assume that Obama has also heard the news that its number (without East Jerusalem) has grown since then, from fewer than 100,000 to almost 300,000. Enviable fertility indeed.

The new-old Arab-Israeli-American coalition is Obama's answer to the Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah one. It is based on the peace initiative of the Arab League, which was adopted by the Organization of Islamic States, including Iran. An Israeli decision to adopt its principles - all the territories in return for a general peace - will remove the Shi'ite-Iranian minority from the Arab and Muslim consensus. As far as the latter are concerned, let Israel nurture the outposts, expand the settlements, clip the wings of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It will help pave a shortcut for Iran from Gaza to Ramallah.
Israel itself, the Israel that does not understand the connection between the settlement of Yizhar and the reactor in Bushehr, claims that Hamastan is nothing more than a subsidiary of Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not shed a tear if Israel blows off Obama with his two-state solution. The sharper the conflict between the Jews and the Americans on "inconsequential matters," the greater the joy of Shushan/Iran."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 9:17 PM

Gilad Atzmon - For God's sake, Let them be Sad


By Gilad Atzmon • May 31st, 2009 at 21:57 • Category: Gilad Atzmon, Hasbara Deconstruction Site, Israel, Newswire, Our Authors, Palestine, Religion, Zionism

As part of their racist campaign against the indigenous Palestinians, Israeli lawmakers are now insisting upon making the commemoration of the Nakba illegal. Recently a number of Israeli cabinet and Knesset Members proposed a "draft law" that would criminalize the remembrance of 1948 Palestinian holocaust (Nakba) by Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship. Interestingly enough, the Jewish state that sets its raison d'être around the remembrance of Jewish suffering is attempting to ban Palestinians from doing exactly the same with their own.

As we know, Israel had wiped out every possible remnant of Palestinian existence on the ground. Palestinian villages, towns, orchards, fields and cultural assets had been erased soon after 1948. Currently, the Israeli lawmakers are taking the war against the Palestinian heritage one step further. It is not just a physical expulsion and erasure of facts on the ground, it is not just racially motivated ethnic cleansing, starvation, land confiscation, house demolition, bombing schools or spreading white phosphorous over populated neighbourhoods, from now on, Israel wants to invade the Palestinian mind. Israeli Knesset members insist upon eradicating the Palestinian collective memory. At least formally, they are trying to ban the right to remember.

As Khalid Amayreh pointed out a few days ago, “one Israeli Palestinian parliamentarian compared the proposed law with an imagined promulgation by Germany of a law banning all Jewish activities commemorating the holocaust.” The equation between the Nakba and the Jewish holocaust is well placed. We are talking about two racist crimes of a colossal magnitude. Yet, it is rather obvious that while Germans came collectively to terms with their past, the Jewish state is advancing into its seventh decade of denial bonded with total abuse of an innocent civilian population.

In the light of the new measures of Israeli merciless brutality it is rather interesting to explore a Jewish ‘voice of reason’. The odd voice of a person who stood up against this very ludicrous draft law. Professor Ruth Gavison is such a voice. Gavison is an Israeli Law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is also ‘the president’ of, try not to laugh, ‘The Centre of Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanitarian Thought’. Last week she published an article in the highly popular Hebrew Ynet online news magazine denouncing the new proposed law.

Professor Gavison believes that Zionism could be interpreted as humanist and a liberal endeavour. However, a brief scrutiny of her thoughts reveals the devastating truth, the Law professor lacks the essential comprehension of the notion of universal ethics or humanism. Her vision of justice, is rather Zionised. She, seemingly, tries to juggle some old Zionist symbolic clichés hoping that her Hebrew readers would be too bored to challenge her lame argument.

Gavison is against the draft law. She rightly argues that the proposed law is, “Unjustified and foolish for misidentifying the core problem in our public life.” She argues that legalism is the least appropriate route to confront the core issue. But this is more or less where Professor Gavison runs out of kindness.

In spite of the promising departure, it doesn’t take too long before the Israeli law professor shows her spots.

Here is Gavison on the Nakba.

“It is an accepted fact that the day when the Jewish majority celebrates their independence in their own land, is the same day that symbolizes for some of the Arab minority the day of their disaster.” It is indeed revealing to know that as far as Professor Gavison is concerned, it is not the Palestinians as a whole who commemorate their Nakba as a disaster but only just “some” of them. However, for Gavison, the Palestinians have themselves to blame for it and no one but themselves.

“It must be remembered,” says Gavison, that “it could as well be different… this day could have been a celebration for both Israelis and Palestinians who could celebrate the foundation of two national states.” One may wonder at this stage, who is it exactly which Gavison is trying to fool or mislead. Surely she must know that the plan to expel the Palestinians was well imbued in the Zionist agenda from the very beginning. “The Palestinians,” she continues, “stood up against the partition resolution and the consequences of this war is the fact that the Israeli state was erected on the wreckage of the Palestinian

society and over the Palestinian land. Many Palestinians became refugees and a Palestinian state is yet to be established.”

One would expect that at this stage, the Israeli law professor who is also a ‘president’ of an institute that is there to promote an image of ‘Jewish humanism’ would come with the necessary conclusion: time is more than ripe to bring the expelled Palestinians back to their lands and homes.

Do not hold your breath, Gavison is not exactly a universal humanist, she is just a Zionist one. All she really wants is to stop the current legislation that bans Palestinians from mourning. In other words, she wants to allow Palestinians to be sad so they can lament as much as they want.

“Sadness is a natural feeling for people who suffer so much,” acknowledges the gracious professor, “We should never deny the history, we should never ban it legally, our challenge is to confront it.” One would expect that such a revelation from an alleged humanist would lead her to acknowledge the Zionist sin and even take responsibility.

This is not going to happen. The president of ‘The Centre of ‘Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanitarian Thought’ doesn’t fit easily into our common notion of a humanist. She is more of a Jewish tribal campaigner that tries to mould some liberal sporadic terminology to justify some relentless and crude non-ethical behaviour. Gavison doesn’t really want to bring justice to the region. All she demands is to develop an “awareness of the past, that would eventually evolve into a civilian future in which Arab and Jews live side by side,” never together I guess.

True, Gavison is indeed compassionate enough to let the Palestinians lament over their past. But she is clearly reluctant to take responsibility for the consequences of the Jewish national colonial apparatus. She clearly prefers to dwell on Palestinian land and even to call it “homeland” rather than giving it back to its true owner. More than the right wing Zionist zealots who brought up the sinister draft law, it is actually Professor Gavison, the so-called ‘humanist Zionist’, who embodies the true meaning of Israeli brutality and ugliness. In the name of humanist symbolism she promotes the maintenance of the Jewish nationalist crime.

Professor Gavison ends her article by declaring that, “denial of the past is inappropriate, but failing to take responsibility for it is unacceptable either. We have to come with solutions that approve the right of the Jews of self determination in (part of their) homeland.” I would really expect the profound ‘Zio-humanist’ professor to open our eyes so we understand once and for all what gives the Jews the right to ‘self determination’ at the expense of others. Once we understand that, we may be mature enough to let professor Gavison or any other ‘Humanist Zionist’ enlighten us so we grasp what is it in Palestine that makes it into a legitimate Jewish homeland.

Reading Gavison reveals once again how devastating the truth of the matter is: Zionism and liberal Jewish thought have very little to do with humanism, ethics or universalism. If anything, Zionism and humanism are opposing concepts for the simple reason that Zionism is a racially orientated tribal philosophy and humanism aims at the universal.

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(some humor) "Israel to US: Stop favoring Palestinians"


Haaretz, here

"We're disappointed," said one senior official. "All of the understandings reached during the [George W.] Bush administration are worth nothing." Another official said the U.S. administration is refusing every Israeli attempt to reach new agreements on settlement construction. "The United States is taking a line of granting concessions to the Palestinians that is not fair toward Israel," he said. The Israeli officials attributed the unyielding U.S. stance to the speech Obama will make in Cairo this Thursday..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 9:01 PM

Halutz: Israel failed to kill Nasrallah


In the JPOst, here

".... In the Second Lebanon War there was an attempt to hit Hizbullah leader Hassan Nassralah, but it wasn't successful," .... Meanwhile in Lebanon, Hizbullah's leadership instructed all its operatives to raise their alert to "emergency level" for the duration of the IDF Home Front Command's week-long 'Turning Point 3' national drill, Lebanese media reported.

Hizbullah expressed fear over what they called "Israel's attempt to use the drill in order to attack targets in Lebanon or carry out special operations.".."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 5:39 PM


- May 31 09:

The timing of this raid is an indication of the magnitude of this crime.

Definitely aimed at the Palestinian reconciliation talks, this may succeed in digging the final nail in the unity's coffin.

Abbas may now thank General Dayton for another coup against Palestine.

"Three Palestinian police officers, two Hamas fighters and a bystander have been killed in a clash in the occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh reports that keeping Hamas and Fatah - currently in talks in Egypt - from further clashes may be wishful thinking."

Palestine Video - A Palestine Vlog

Hamas Considers Suspending Participation in Cairo Dialogue

The Palestinian Hamas Resistance movement said on Sunday it considers the possibility to suspend participation in inter-Palestinian dialogue following the killing of its two members during clashes with security forces in the West Bank. "We are now studying the suspension of our participation in the Cairo-hosted dialogue as part of the response to the assassination of two holy fighters in Qalqilya city in the West Bank," Salah ... Details

Clashes Between Fatah and Hamas Kill 6 in WBank

Gaza war kept tourists away from Israel



El Al's first quarter losses are no surprise to anyone. With incoming tourism down 17% and outgoing tourism down 12%, it's no wonder El Al had 13% fewer passengers in the first three months of 2009 than in the parallel period last year. Fewer passengers, lower average revenue per passenger and the strengthening of the dollar against European currencies resulted in a 26% decline in sales, to $347 million. Operating losses totaled $42.5 million and net losses were $40 million.

El Al CEO Haim Romano and CFO Nissim Malchi estimated that the company lost 150,000 flight segments, or $25 million, due to Operation Cast Lead, the Israel Defense Forces' three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip, which ended January 18, 2009. Revenues from El Al's cargo jets were down 52%, to $19 million, due mainly to the global slump in air cargo transport.

Despite the reduced demand, foreign airlines increased their supply of seats by 9% in the first quarter, and increased pressure to lower prices. El Al responded to the drop in demand by reducing its seat supply by 8%, and was thus able to limit the decline in occupancy rates to just 2%. Flight occupancy in the first quarter of 2009 was 78.9%.

Even so, gross profits plummeted by 65%, to $19 million, or 5.4% of revenues, compared to 11.4% in the parallel. El Al would have been in even worse shape if the dollar had not strengthened against the shekel. The improved dollar exchange rate was responsible for 74% of the $27-million decline in El Al's salary expenses, compared to the parallel. A closer look at the figures, however, reveals that El Al's regular employee complement rose 3%, even as the total number of workers shrank 5%, and revenues shrank 26%. El Al's wage structure apparently needs a total overhaul. Romano believes the company's shift rules are causing unnecessary expenses, as is paying overtime, which is not a common practice at El Al's low-cost competitors.

The collapse of the price of fuel helped El Al reduce the decline in profitability, as jet fuel expenses were $56 million lower in the past quarter than in the parallel quarter of 2008. Malchi says that jet fuel currently costs $57-$58 per barrel, and the 12-month forecast is for an increase to $62-$65 per barrel, so that expense is on the rise again.

El Al has been combating stiffening competition by boosting online sales, which grew to $21.7 million - a 111% increase over the first quarter of 2008. With more online sales, El Al paid 24% less to travel agents, and reduced operating losses by 10%.


"Second Lebanese colonel arrested spying for Israel..."


"....The army officer was the second colonel arrested in less than a week in an espionage investigation that has produced charges against at least 21 suspects and several confessions, the authorities say. Israel has not commented on the arrests...."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 5:33 PM

Director of B'nai Brith facing child-porn charges


Bill Surkis, a prominent member of Montreal's Jewish community, was led to court in handcuffs Friday to face two charges related to accessing and possessing child pornography.

Surkis, 69, is the former Quebec Regional Director of B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group. He also worked in the education sector for 47 years, serving as academic dean at John Abbott College for more than two decades.

He was released on bail, on a number of conditions that restrict his access to children and the Internet.

Virus check on computer revealed pornographic material

The child pornography was allegedly discovered after Surkis took his computer to a store to be checked out for viruses.

"It was the people at the computer store who noticed these images on his computer," said CTV Montreal's Rob Lurie, reporting live from the Montreal courthouse.

"We're talking about 23 videos, allegedly of child pornography, found on the hard drive of his computer," Lurie added.

The employees at the computer notified police of the suspicious material.

Surkis turned himself in on Thursday, and spent the night in jail.


Surkis spoke briefly to reporters Friday afternoon before leaving the Montreal courthouse.

"They're serious charges. We're looking into them. My lawyer's working with me. We're coming back to court on September 24th and we'll proceed from there."

Surkis said members of the Jewish community will be disappointed by the news of the charges against him, but said he remains hopeful that he will maintain his reputation.

"They know me as a staunch individual, they know that I've stood for what is right. I continue to stand for what is right. That's why we're doing the things that we're doing so that we can clear my name."

When Surkis was asked how the pornographic material ended up on his hard drive, his lawyer, Steven Slimovitch, intervened.

"Look, I think that's something that we can discuss when the time's not a question of's a question of looking at what is it we're talking about, looking at everything, and dealing with everything," said Slimovitch.

"We're not hiding. We voluntarily went to the police station yesterday. We are fully cooperating with the police. We've accepted the conditions that the crown prosecution has put (in place) and we're taking the matter very, very seriously," he added.

Out of touch and out of his mind


By Mohammad

Many people with their heads in the clouds anticipated that the Obama administration would finally swing US foreign policy towards advocating justice, rather than capitulation, for the Palestinians. In diplomatic circles, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has repeated ad nauseum its belief that President Obama would finally listen to both sides and take into consideration the huge imbalance in concessions demanded from Israel and the PA.

It was therefore hoped (admittedly not by many) that Abbasshole would present a forceful case for Palestinian rights in his meeting with Obama, particularly since both men continue to preach the two-state solution as the only viable solution for this conflict. The idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank is no more than a pipe dream, of course, with unprecedented Israeli settlement construction making 40% of the land inaccessible to its residents and owners, and the system of checkpoints, walls, closures and Israeli-only highways bisecting the West Bank and dividing it into six distinct cantons.

The Obama administration’s stance on these settlements (“We believe settlement construction should stop, but we’re definitely not going to do shit to make sure it does”) seems to have hoodwinked Abbasshole into thinking that time is on his side. Rather than making a forceful case to a President who may be slightly more sympathetic than the previous one (not saying much), the illegal head of the PA and self proclaimed President of the Nonexistent State of Palestine has instead outlined his strategy-sheer and utter passivity.

From the Washington Post

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze -- if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. "It will take a couple of years," one official breezily predicted. Abbas rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession -- such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.

Instead, he says, he will remain passive. "I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements," he said. "Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life."

What the fuck? Let’s start with the first part-that Abbas predicts it will take two years for Obama to get Israel to stop settlement construction. Does he not realize that settlement construction means…settlement construction? That things on the ground will not stay the way they are? That he is giving Israel the green light to steal and plunder even more of the West Bank, even more of its resources, to wall in even more of its people? And what on earth guarantees that the settlements will cease in two years?

This man is either completely bonkers, or the dirtiest, slimiest form of collaborator. Take your pick, I’ve already made mine. But what galls me most is that last line, that people in the West Bank are living a normal life.

I have been trapped in the West Bank for four years now, unable to leave because of laws and arbitrary rules set by the illegal Israeli occupation. Life here is oppressive and insecure. The Israeli military steals land and steals lives as it pleases, Israeli settlers abuse and plunder and pillage without reprimand, and there is no way to guarantee your safety as a Palestinian. Trade is severely curtailed, unemployment is rife, poverty levels are high-all direct consequences of the Israeli occupation. Settlers set fire to fields, while the military closes more farms off behind walls and fences from their owners. Palestinians are arrested across the West Bank on a daily basis without due process, extra judicial killings are the modus operandi of the undercover Israeli death squads that roam the West Bank and over 600 road blocks and checkpoint choke the movement of average Palestinians between their own towns, villages and refugee camps.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh on the old Zionist. After all, he doesn’t actually spend much time in the West Bank, traveling abroad two thirds of each year. When he is here, he barely leaves the Green Zone of the West Bank, Ramallah, travelling in his heavily armed motorcade almost exclusively from his villa, yards away from the mokhabarat building where Hamas affiliates are routinely tortured and in at least one case killed, to the Moqata’a, five minutes away. So for him, life in the West Bank probably does seem good.

For the people he is so utterly out of touch with, life in the West Bank is a terrible existence. Because of that, it would be futile and ultimately dangerous to assume that Mahmoud Abbas can deliver anything for the Palestinian people, or that he can ever adequately represent their cause.

The Battle of Lebanon; New names, same games


posted by Robert Dreyfuss on 05/28/2009 @ 10:55am

Five days before the crucial elections in Iran on June 12, voters go to the polls in another Middle East country: Lebanon. The stakes in Lebanon are high, since it's looking more and more likely that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite fundamentalist group, and its allies will win a majority and take control of the government in Beirut. That would create a fundamental choice for the Obama administration: does the United States continue to have contact with, and send military aid to, a Lebanese government controlled by Israel's implacable foe?

Last year, in a power-sharing deal brokered by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, Hezbollah was given a share of power in the Lebanese state proportional to its strength in parliament and on the ground, after massive pro-Hezbollah demonstrations rocked the country.

Expect a lot of outside meddling in Lebanon during the next two weeks -- on all sides.

An early shot was fired this week from Germany, where Der Spiegel, the conservative weekly magazine, revealed that investigators probing the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri have concluded that Hezbollah, and not Syria, is responsible for the spectacular bombing that killed Hariri, a pro-Western billionaire with close ties to France and Saudi Arabia. (Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, is leading the anti-Hezbollah coalition in the June 7 election.)

What's interesting about the Der Spiegel exclusive, if true, is not only that it exonerates Syria, but that it blames Hezbollah. The magazine reports that the UN special tribunal in the case intended to withhold its conclusion until late June, i.e., until after the election. The fact that it is now being reported makes the Spiegel report seem like a calculated leak designed to undercut Hezbollah's election chances.

Reports the magazine:

Spiegel has learned from sources close to the tribunal and verified by examining internal documents, that the Hariri case is about to take a sensational turn. Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion: that it was not the Syrians, but instead special forces of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah ("Party of God") that planned and executed the diabolical attack. Tribunal chief prosecutor Bellemare and his judges apparently want to hold back this information, of which they been aware for about a month. What are they afraid of?

That's a good question -- "What are they afraid of?" -- but another good question is: what's the motive of the people who leaked the super-secret conclusion? (And two other questions: is the Der Spiegel report correct that the UN panel has concluded that Hezbollah killed Hariri? And, if they have concluded that, is their conclusion true?)

Writing in the Washington Times, former Dick Cheney aide John Hannah, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel thinktank with neoconservative ties, rings every alarm bell he can reach:

Make no mistake: Hezbollah's triumph would constitute a major U.S. defeat. Despite the Obama administration's overtures to Iran, it remains the case that across the Middle East, the battle for Lebanon is understood as part of a much larger struggle for power being waged by Washington and Tehran.

The formal collapse of the Cedar Revolution would send shockwaves throughout the region, providing powerful confirmation of Iran's ascendancy and America's decline. It would dramatically embolden Teheran at a time when Washington hopes to negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear weapons program, its support for terrorism and its escalating efforts -- frequently using Hezbollah operatives -- to subvert pro-U.S. governments across the Arab world from Iraq to Egypt to Morocco.

From Iraq to Morocco! Whew! Talk about the Domino Theory. In fact, the Hezbollah victory would do nothing of the kind, except that it would ratify the democratic expression of what the Lebanese people want. If Hezbollah does win, its victory will be marginal, only a few points, and Lebanese politics will continue to be balanced on a knife's edge, complicated by the presence of armed militias and ethnic warlords across the political spectrum.

America's view of the Lebanon election is pretty clear. Recently, both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made high-profile visits to Beirut to boost the chances of the Hariri-led coalition. No doubt, pro-American, conservative Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are pouring millions of dollars into the anti-Hezbollah effort, while Iran is doing the same -- along with Syria -- for the other side.

Meanwhile, less might be at stake than Hannah suggests. As the Jerusalem Post notes, Hezbollah will be a power in Lebanon whether it wins or loses:

Even if Hizbullah loses the upcoming election, it will continue to control Lebanon. It is the strongest force in Lebanon by far, and the country's Shi'ite community is growing. The Christians in the North have been weakened, and the Druse in the central region will strike a deal with anyone who furthers their interests. Nobody will separate Hizbullah from its weapons, and the group will continue to strengthen and deepen its control of Lebanon.

What's really at stake is not Hezbollah's power and its ability to send dominos toppling, but its international credibility -- and the crucial question of whether the United States will (a) deal with a Hezbollah-controlled government or (b) treat it like Hamas, which was duly elected in the Palestinian territories and then quarantined by the United States.

As the New York Times reports today, Hezbollah is already gaining legitimacy:

Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group, has talked with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union about continued financial support to Lebanon in the event the group's political alliance wins the June 7 parliamentary elections, Hezbollah officials said Wednesday.

In Beirut last week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said future American support to Lebanon, which includes military aid, would depend on the elections' outcome.

European governments have not issued any such veiled threats, and Western leaders have recently shown a greater willingness to engage in political dialogue with Hezbollah's patrons, Iran and Syria. Britain's Foreign Office said in March that it would re-establish relations with Hezbollah's political wing.

My guess: if Hezbollah wins, the Obama administration will figure out a way to finesse its dislike of the group, hold its nose, and continue to support the Lebanese government. To the utter consternation of John Hannah, the neoconservatives, the Israel lobby, and Israel's new right-wing government.

Interestingly, the elections come just two days after President Obama delivers a major speech in Cairo aimed at "re-booting" US relations with the Muslim world. Isolating Hezbollah, should it win a free and fair vote -- at least, as free and fair as Lebanon can produce! -- won't help with the rebooting, unless Obama's main audience is the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

New names, same games for Lebanon

".... Influence in Lebanon is both a means to an end, and an end in itself, they say, and proven culpability for the assassination of al-Hariri would seriously hinder this status quo. With each criminal action, goes the tale, Syria is attempting to jeopardise the work of the tribunal and blackmail Lebanon. ....In a process which Syria had always condemned as being politicised from the start, it was ruled there would be no judging without sufficient evidence. While this should have momentarily brought the accusations to a full circle, there seems to be little wish to tone down the rhetoric....

Amid the crescendo of accusations about Syria and its allies, the biggest threat which never ceased to manifest itself remained Israel, whose savage July 2006 onslaught sent droves of Lebanese refugees across the Syrian border, where they were welcomed with open arms and homes.

Not only did this war bring back a dose of reality about the bigger stakes, but it also put Lebanon's current majority in a difficult position against Hezbollah and effectively on Israel's side.

The war was a turning point where real alliances could not remain in the background any longer....

No matter how it is packaged, and even if it was explained as Hezbollah being responsible for provoking Israel by seizing its soldiers, the enormity of this situation was unprecedented. It laid the ground for the next big crisis which would hit Lebanon in May 2007,.....

In the days of Pax Syriana following the Taif agreement which ended the Lebanese civil war and established Syria as the de facto boss, most parties complied with the S-S dynamic ruling their lives - as long as Syria and Saudi Arabia agreed on the path to follow, Lebanon was relatively quiet.

Today, while the major regional players are the same, they are betting on different horses.... Until there is a new census reflecting current demographics, most groups in the country are secure in the fact that they have a voice in government. It does matter, of course, who wins the most seats and who is charged with forming a government, and many observers wonder whether Hezbollah's time has come to become the majority.

Given the clumsy foreign interference.... there seem to be real questions on the latter's capacity or even desire to reach office.

While Aoun would certainly welcome a presidential role eventually, Hezbollah would probably be happy to remain in opposition, especially since it has already proved its capacity to overturn decisions when needed. ....This situation would also serve Syria's interests for the time being.... Even without their own man in office in Lebanon, the Syrians know there is now little chance for any government to provoke it on the big issues and only need to wait for the other foreign powers to come to terms with this reality..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 10:14 AM

Abu Zuhri: The Qalqiliya crime is a translation of Abbas’s remarks in Washington

Abu Zuhri: The Qalqiliya crime is a translation of Abbas’s remarks in Washington

[ 31/05/2009 - 05:16 PM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated Sunday that the assassination of two Qassam fighters in Qalqiliya is a translation of earlier remarks made by former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in Washington about his commitment to the roadmap plan that criminalizes the resistance against the Israeli occupation.

In a statement to the Aqsa satellite channel, spokesman Abu Zuhri charged that Abbas’s security apparatuses try to repeat the Gaza experience in the West Bank, highlighting that his Movement would study its options for dealing with this crime.

For its part, the Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya held Abbas fully responsible for the consequences of the Qalqiliya crime, considering that the assassination of Qassam fighters Mohamed Al-Samman and Mohamed Yassin is natural extension of the crimes committed by the PA security apparatuses against the Palestinian resistance in Al-Khalil.

The PLC’s presidency also held Abbas as well as his unconstitutional government and security leaders responsible for the repercussions of this "heinous crime", stressing that it is high treason against the Palestinian people and a stab at the back of the Arab and Muslim nation.

In a statement received by the PIC, the PLC warned that this crime which was committed at the behest of Abbas and US officer Keith Dayton cannot be tolerated or goes without punishment.

In another statement received by the PIC, the Hamas Movement warned that it would take revenge on anyone targeting its resistance fighters, urging the Palestinian people in the West Bank to revolt against the collaborators of the Israeli occupation.

In a related context, thousands of Palestinian citizens on Sunday went on a massive march called for by Hamas in Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, in protest at the assassination of Qassam fighters in the West Bank.

The protesters chanted slogans calling for a popular revolt against Abbas and his security apparatuses in the West Bank.

Hamas on Sunday said that it was studying the suspension of its participation in the Cairo conciliation talks in the wake of the assassination of two of its armed wing's commanders in Qalqilia.

Hamas stated Sunday that the assassination of Al-Qassam leader Mohamed Al-Samman and his assistant Mohamed Yassin in Qalqiliya at the hands of PA security elements is a planned crime.

The Qassam Brigades on Sunday said that the PA security forces' assassination of two of its commanders in the West Bank represented a turning point in dealing with those who chase its cadres.

Toothless counsel

Toothless counsel

Opposition forces have been reduced by Arab regimes to servile advice givers, neglecting the aspirations of the people whose interests they exist to better defend, writes Azmi Bishara

Some Arab opposition forces criticise this regime or that for pursuing policies that run counter to its own interests. On what grounds does the opposition presume it is more aware of the regime's interests than the regime itself? The very charge is a sign of weakness in the opposition force that levels it. It is not the job of the opposition to offer advice on what is in a regime's best interests. Its job is to criticise a regime's policies on the basis of their assessment of what is in the country's and the people's best interests.

Opposition in politics does not exist for its own sake. The exception to this is the critical eye of a handful of intellectuals who make a mission of constant critique and analysis. While such a practice plays a part in politics it is generally not politicised. Still, it remains an essential complement to political activity and in order to perform its function its practitioners must avoid the type of attitudes and behaviour that cheapen it, such as superficiality, vanity, exhibitionism and egoism. By the latter I mean indulging such personal whims or obsessions by playing the role of victim; venting emotions such as love, hate, envy or rancour; or avenging oneself on particular people. By exhibitionism, I refer to the tendency of the critic to care less about his subject and his function and more about projecting an image of himself as an enfant terrible or a permanent and flippant devil's advocate.

Apart from this there is no opposition in politics for opposition's sake. Of course there are people who oppose out of personal motives. A person might, for example, aspire to a government post and attempt to fulfil this ambition by grandstanding in the hope of forcing the government to award him an appointment merely to shut him up. Another may be similarly opportunistic, but his ambitions overlap with the aims of the opposition -- his hope for growing status and influence is linked with the arrival of the opposition to power. Such personal motives are considered legitimate in politics, albeit within limits. In all events, they have little bearing on our subject here, which is the political opposition movement or party.

In pluralistic democracies that permit for the peaceful rotation of power, the opposition advocates a platform of policies that conflict with those of the government. It claims that in order for these policies to be put into effect it must be voted into power or invited into sharing power. Protest movements and pressure groups, by contrast, try to influence the ruling government but do not strive for power. They do not present themselves as alternatives to the government. Rather, they oppose certain policies and try to press the government into changing these policies and meeting their demands. In democratic states there are numerous instances of protest movements transforming themselves into political parties after having accomplished their initial mission. There are also cases of opposition parties or forces using protest movements for their own ends. If the government is unable or unwilling to meet the protesters' demands, they can be mobilised in favour of the opposition. Conversely, the opposition may attempt to infiltrate the protest movement and manoeuvre it in such a way as to forestall the government's meeting its demands, for fear that if the government did concede this would weaken the opposition and undermine its prospects for the next elections. Protest movements sometimes try to steer clear of the influence of opposition parties and forces precisely because they fear the reaction of the ruling authorities that are perfectly aware of the aforementioned tactics.

The aim of the political opposition in democratic systems is to attain and/or share power. This is the only reason for establishing and organising a political party. Of course one occasionally finds fringe parties in democratic countries that have other designs, such as overthrowing the entire system of government, attaining power by subverting the rules of the game, or merely to advocate an idea different from the rivals in the mainstream. In the latter case, such parties gradually evolve into something more akin to an intellectual club or a cult in some cases.

Returning to our opening point, we stress again that an opposition party does not see it as one of its functions to counsel the ruling party or government on its best interests. Rather, it operates on the premise that it knows better than the government what is best for the country. It may go so far as to charge that the interests of the current government are at odds with the interests of the country. But his is not advice, but rather censure. To be thorough and precise, we must exempt from this rule certain extreme situations in which there is an overwhelming national consensus, as occurs when a country is under attack or suffers a natural catastrophe. In such cases, a wise government may actively solicit the advice of the opposition and the opposition may sincerely tender it on the overriding matters of national security on which they are in full accord in order to safeguard the political order in which they share a common interest and which embraces their democratic rivalry.

But if the above applies to democratic countries, does it also apply to non-democratic ones? Do not opposition forces in such countries also aspire to power? They certainly do. In modern non-democratic states, opposition forces organise themselves, per force, in clandestine or semi-clandestine parties that aim to leverage themselves into a position to put their political programmes -- whether democratic or anti-democratic -- into effect. Of course, non-democratic regimes may experience changes in rule or power structure without the direct influence of opposition parties. Political reforms or coups undertaken by the ruling party, the army or other agencies are the two major avenues towards this end. The new authorities may bring the opposition parties onboard or, conversely, they may step up the repression of these parties. Both trends are probably equally commonplace. Be that as it may, let us not be detracted from our primary concern here, which is the state of opposition parties themselves in non-democratic countries, Arab countries included.

A regime consolidates and bolsters itself by expanding its support base of beneficiaries and creating new sectors dependent upon it and/or by effectively suppressing and fracturing the opposition by means of clampdowns, detentions and exile. The longer a party remains in opposition under such circumstances the greater the chances that its remnants will also consolidate and perpetuate themselves. Some may strike a bargain with the ruling regime enabling them to function legitimately or semi-legitimately as an opposition party with a margin of freedom to criticise from the fringes of political life, resulting in a kind of permanent loyal opposition that prohibits itself from so much as thinking about attaining power. As we suggested above, a party that resigns itself to eternal opposition and, for the sake of self- preservation, to operate semi-legitimately in accordance with the conditions set by the regime gradually forfeits its capacity as a political party and loses its politicised character. It survives solely by power of inertia, awaiting an opportunity that will never come because it has effectively thrown in the towel in terms of its structure, ideas, aims and aspirations for power.

One of the peculiar phenomena such a situation gives rise to is a critical political discourse crafted and packaged as "advice" so as not to upset the regime and call down upon itself the authorities' wrath. It will say, for example, "it is in the interests of the regime to change its policy and side with the resistance," or "the regime would be well-advised to examine the concerns it has in common with other Arab nations," or "it would do credit to the regime to sever relations with Israel," and so on. I imagine the authorities smile contentedly when they hear such "criticism". It performs a service for them as it reveals that the opposition is operating on the premise of the interests of the regime. Indeed, it elevates this premise to a national axiom above discussion while simultaneously putting paid to the political and social functions a real opposition party should perform. Offering advice is a task suited to an advisor not to an opposition party that hopes to expose the futility or misguidedness of a government's policies or the inability of this government to safeguard and promote the welfare of society and the people.

Another curious phenomenon occurs when the opposition -- Arab nationalist as a rule -- acts as though it has some claim to authority and pretends to take the hand of the regime, the king or president, as though it were a guardian figure imparting wisdom to a minor. Now surely a regime that has remained in power for decades, if not necessarily wise, is far from a doltish minor. The perpetual opposition, meanwhile, has yet to prove that it could govern if it ever came to power, let alone offer sound advice to those in power. A real opposition, on the other hand, concerns itself with establishing that the government is acting against the interests of the people and the country or contrary to the principles (or its understanding of the principles) that underpin the national consensus. In addition, by means of its ability to mobilise, lead and organise its followers and the people it also establishes its credentials as a potential candidate for power. If a regime made a strategic decision to place its country in the American camp and believes that its relationship with Israel will help strengthen its relationship with the US, what stance should the opposition take? Should it say that this is not really in the interests of the regime or should it say that this runs counter to the interests of the country and the people? Should the Palestinian opposition try to convince the Palestinian Authority (PA) president that he would be doing himself a favour by cooperating with the resistance? Surely he is more aware than the opposition that his perpetuation in power is contingent upon his alliance with the US and Israel and that to change this policy in a way consistent with national unity is to change the security basis on which the PA is founded and thus to change its leader. So, if it makes little sense to offer such advice to the head of a Palestinian Authority that has no sovereign capacity it makes even less sense to offer similar advice to fully-fledged regimes with decades of experience in perpetuating their rule.

If the interests of the regime are founded on notions and policies that the opposition believes run counter to the welfare of the country then it's the job of the opposition to expose this on the basis of facts and logical arguments that proceed from these facts. The opposition should make solid criticism its mission, even if the prospect of attaining power is beyond it or not on its agenda. In the pursuit of this mission it should take the interests of the country -- as opposed to the interests of the ruling regime -- as its springboard.