zondag 13 juli 2014
Resistance in Gaza, Shoufat, Naqab and Haifa. Courtesy of the Qawim (Resist) movement. All rights reserved.
Something must be done about Israel’s number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, otherwise what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up, as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation.
Resistance in Gaza, Shoufat, Naqab and Haifa. Courtesy of the Qawim (Resist) movement. All rights reserved.
“When people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up before.”
This famous quote belongs to Mamie Till-Mobley, after her 14 year old son Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955 Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted his murderers. Nearly 60 years later, the lynching of a 16 year old Palestinian boy by Israeli settlers took place in Jerusalem. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, forced to drink gasoline, and was burned alive.
Mainstream media similarly acquitted the state of Israel, conveniently ignoring the racist, ethnocentric, and colonial ideology the state is premised upon. Reports circulated that Abu Khdeir’s murder was a ‘revenge killing’ after three settlers, reported missing for three weeks, were found dead on June 30. Palestinians took to the streets in outrage, yet the reaction of the de facto president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas was at the very least insipid. His response came almost a week after the lynching, when he announced he had sought help to form an international committee to investigate Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Such a dry proposition is in stark contrast to his words when it came to the three missing settlers. Then, he stressed their humanity and openly defended the security coordination with Israel, during the latter's biggest incursion into the West Bank in over a decade.
With the mainstream media labelling Abu Khdeir’s killers as ‘extremist,’ this has sought only to absolve the Israeli public and the state from the crime of what they represent: a colonizing, occupying, bigoted entity. As Palestinian writer Khaled Odetallah pointed out, using the word 'extremist' to describe an unruly pack of settlers is nothing but a mechanism for regarding the other Israeli population as natural, and discounting the blatant racism that is inherent in all colonizing entities.
Jerusalem and '48
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s lynching released an unprecedented wave of angry protests that has quickly spread from his hometown of Shuafat to other neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, and to Palestinian towns and villages in modern day ‘Israel.’ Since July 3, thousands protested across the Galilee, as initial confrontations took place between Palestinians and Israeli police in Nazareth, Arara, Umm al-Fahem, Taybeh, and Qalanswa. Tires were burned, tear gas and rubber bullets were fired, and chants resonated with the cry “The people demand the demise of Israel.”
As the days stretched out to complete one week since Abu Khdeir’s death, protests sprung up in other villages in the Galilee, referred to as the Triangle, such as Tamra, Deir Hanna, Kufr Manda, Baqa al-Gharbiyeh, Shifa Amro, Iblein, Sakhnin, Arraba al-Batouf, and Jadeeda al-Makr. The cities of Haifa and Akka also held protests, as well as Bi’r Sabe’ and Rahat in the southern Naqab desert. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Yafa after Israeli settlers attacked a few Palestinian homes in the old city. Palestinians are in the throes of direct protests against the state that has allocated Israeli citizenship to the 1.6 million Palestinians, but which systematically discriminates against them and regards them with a mixture of fear and suspicion. Hundreds have been arrested, including dozens of minors, and more than one hundred remain in detention.
On Monday night, July 7, Israel announced its incursion into Gaza, the most densely populated territory in the world. This came after it had already killed ten people the day before. In the first 24 hours of the bombing campaign, called Protective Edge by the Israeli army, 24 Palestinians were killed, including eight children. Civilian homes such as the Hamad family home in Beit Hanoun and the Kaware’ and Abadleh family homes in Khan Yunis were targeted by air strikes and destroyed with “surgical precision”, a phrase popular with warmongers and military officials.
The resistance in Gaza, comprised of the military wings of the various political factions, responded with a barrage of rockets that for the first time proved their long-range capabilities, hitting Khadera, which is 113 kilometers away from Gaza. Gaza's resistance tactics have surpassed the imagination of Israel, with a navy commando unit storming the Zikim military base after swimming there from Gaza. The Israeli government ordered the bomb shelters for its citizens to open, as air sirens went off from Sderot to Isdoud to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and further north, near the city of Haifa.
Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Hamas resistance al-Qassam brigades, listed in a brief press conference last Friday the conditions Israel must fulfil in order to stop the rockets. The first is for Israel to cease its aggression in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the ’48 occupied territories. The second demands that Israel release the former prisoners who were released in the 2011 prisoner swap deal but who were re-arrested in droves during the recent massive military raid on the West Bank last month. The Israeli government is already pushing for a bill to approve that these prisoners should serve out the remainder of their original sentences once they get re-arrested. Hamas will decide when to start and when to stop, not anyone else, despite Israeli prime minister Netanyahu declaring that he will “intensify attacks” in Gaza, and despite the support of western governments such as that of David Cameron, who promptly reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel.
Israel has boasted that it has launched air strikes on more than 400 sites in Gaza, where 1.7 million people, 75 percent of whom are women and children, reside in an area that is 365 kilometers squared. The strip has been targeted with 4000 tons of explosives, with an Israeli air strike occurring on average every four and a half minutes. The death toll has already surpassed 120. The last large scale attack on Gaza was in November 2012, where 173 Palestinians were killed, including 38 children.
Outsourcing the West Bank
In the middle of all of this, the West Bank remains conspicuously quiet. The protests by the shabab last month against the Israeli army as the latter swept through towns and villages, wreaking havoc, arresting hundreds, and killing six have subsided since the army nominally withdrew. It is well known that the resistance rockets from Gaza are no match for a heavily subsidized, professionalised, and technologically developed military, which forms the standing pillar of the state of Israel.
Rockets are part of the resistance, as are the protests in the ’48 territories. Yet without depriving Israel of its number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation. Mahmoud Abbas’ conduct and reaction has done him no favours as regards the recent events, and his speech at the normalizing Herzliyya “peace conference” where he begged Israelis to not miss his outstretched hand for peace is nothing but grovelling to the enemy, in the very same moment that homes in Gaza were being destroyed with their families still inside them. On Friday, Abbas' interview with PA-run Palestine TV insinuated that the resistance rockets from Gaza were pointless, and that he prefers to fight with politics and wisdom.
These events represent a period of escalated action, yet for the status quo to be truly smashed, the West Bank must rise up against the Palestinian Authority, effectively getting rid of the infamous security coordination with Israel, and replacing neoliberalism with a representative anti-occupation programme that is intolerant of oppression and colonization.
Otherwise, Hamas and Israel will sign another empty truce after the former incurs heavy losses on its side with no formal guarantee that Israel will not immediately violate it as it has in 2008 and again in 2012, and the demonstrations within the ’48 occupied territories will be hijacked or co-opted by the older generation of “Israeli-fied” Palestinians such as Ali Sallam (member of the Nazareth municipality who described the protesters as hooligans and thugs) and will fizzle out.
What cannot be ignored is that the PA has created an entire sector of society that benefits from its relations with Israel, and the fear barrier regarding its notorious intelligence and security services has not been broken. The West Bank has been reduced to a shadow of its self as the Palestinian cause was transformed into coffeehouse conversations, rather than actions targeted at the oppressive force of Israel and its collaborators. Yet as the resistance rockets are met with gleeful support by Palestinians across the country, the PA are already caught up in irrelevancy. The PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of Palestinians has been exposed as toothless, since the Palestinians in “Israel” resisting against the occupation serve as a reminder that their identity first and foremost, despite the passport imposed on them, will be Arab Palestinians. Widespread support among Palestinians across the country for the resistance is mounting, leaving the PA's fallacious and empty rhetoric of peaceful negotiations and security collaboration in a very tight space indeed, not to mention a strong sense of the inappropriate.
The Palestinian Authority has once again shown that it exists solely to maintain Israel’s security over and over again. This physical domination is coupled with a disastrous neoliberal order used to pacify and oppress Palestinians who demand to live with dignity. This is not the place to discuss strategies and plans on how to resist the PA; it is primarily crucial to acknowledge that precisely because of its deep entrenchment in Palestinian society in the West Bank, any movement aimed at dismantling it will constitute a social, economic, and political revolution in itself.
Already recent protests in Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and the outskirts of Ramallah have been suppressed by the Palestinian Authority security forces, an extension of the Israeli army. Protesters in an apparently planned attack on Friday night descended upon Qalandiya checkpoint with molotovs and fireworks, catching the Israeli soldiers there by surprise. Yet the PA apparatus must also be simultaneously targeted in order to achieve and affect real change.
As the popular quote goes, “If I had ten bullets I’d fire one at my enemy, and nine for the traitors.”
Linah Alsaafin is a graduate of Birzeit University and is currently pursuing her Master's degree at SOAS, London.
This article first appeared on openDemocracy 12 July 2014.
Geplaatst door Paul Lookman op 17:13
woensdag 2 juli 2014
The roots of the most recent crisis in Iraq can be traced to the US-led invasion of 2003 and western meddling in Syria. At stake, is the neoliberal blueprint of post-invasion Iraq, now defended in an effort coordinated between the Baghdad government and its western backers.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld gestures to emphasize his point during a press briefing with Ambassador Paul Bremer in the Pentagon on July 24, 2003. Rumsfeld and Bremer briefed reporters about the coalition progress in Iraq. Photo: R.D. Ward, 24 July 2003, Wikimedia Commons.
What today is ISIS, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), was founded as an Al-Qaida´s franchise in Iraq in direct response to the US-led invasion. The group thrived in the security vacuum the invaders created by dismantling the Iraqi security apparatus. At the time, Amnesty International criticized the US for not sufficiently investing in the security of civilians, while guarding oil fields around the clock. Needless to say, oil was the primary motive behind the invasion.
Dismantling Iraq´s security infrastructure entailed the dismissal of over 400.000 soldiers and intelligence personnel. With one stroke of the pen, Paul Bremer, who headed the occupation forces in Iraq, granted jihadi groups the ultimate recruitment ground: an ´army´ of jobless men who know their way around weapons. It was only a matter of time before various armed groups were rampaging through the country. Among those, the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS before expanding to Syria, won most infamy for targeting Shia.
Then, as now, western designs for Iraq were at the root of the sectarian logic of the violence. From his office in one of Saddam´s former palaces, Bremer issued his first ‘order’, which banned all public sector employees affiliated with Saddam´s Bath party from current and future employment by government, including a majority who had party membership forced upon them.
Although victimized like all other groups, Sunnis were favoured by the Saddam regime and thus disproportionately targeted by ‘de-Bathification’. In fact, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank, Sunni Arabs were “treated (...) as representatives of an oppressive state structure in need of dismantling” which “sent the message that de-Bathification was tantamount to de-Sunnification.”
Even when disregarding Bremer’s first order, post-Saddam Iraq was sectarian by design. As ICG explains, the US “enforced stringent security measures in Sunni-populated areas, even those traditionally hostile to the former regime” and built a political system “along ethnic and sectarian lines, making clear that Sunni Arabs would be relegated to a minor role”.
In doing so, the US essentially reproduced the British colonial legacy of ruling Iraq by sectarian division, with predictable outcomes. Although useful allies are co-opted regardless of sect, consecutive Shia majority governments have divided public position and resources on an ethno-sectarian basis. Meanwhile, elastic de-Bathification laws continue to deprive many Sunni families from employment and pensions, while equally flexible ‘anti-terrorism’ laws are used to eliminate political opponents of the establishment, including key figures in the Sunni community.
Against this backdrop, peaceful protests were staged in Sunni-majority areas in 2012 following the arrest of bodyguards working for Rafi Al-Issawi, a prominent Sunni politician. The protesters consisted primarily of ordinary people demanding decent living conditions and an end to Sunni exclusion by the government as well as political factions, ranging from militants to those seeking concessions from Baghdad.
The government responded violently. Four months after the demonstrations started, a protest camp in Hawija (Kirkuk province) was raided leaving dozens dead and over 100 wounded. Violence escalated, empowering militant groups, primarily ISIS. Soon, sectarian hostilities soared to levels unseen since the height of the US-occupation, reaching a monthly death toll of approximately 1000 by January this year.
The recent meteoric ascent of ISIS in Iraq, having been largely contained by around 2010, is closely tied to its newly acquired position in Syria. There, it has trained fresh fighters, amassed advanced weapons and found new financial resources to an extent unimaginable without de facto western support.
ISIS troops have reportedly received training from US instructors at a secret base in Jordan. At the Turkish border with Syria, NATO - represented by Germany, the US and the Netherlands - deployed patriot missiles and 1200 troops, prompting any Syrian pilot to think twice before venturing within NATO´s reach in northern Syria, the location of the main ISIS strongholds. The US has knowingly contributed to shipments of weapons most of which have been delivered to jihadi hardliners fighting Bashar Al-Assad.
But when ISIS took control over large swathes of territory in western Iraq, the US administration quickly sent Apache helicopters, drones and hell-fire missiles to the embattled Iraqi regime it had once installed. Targeting Al-Assad is fine, but turning your weapons against a US ally is a different matter altogether. It appears one man´s freedom fighter can be the same man’s terrorist.
For much the same reason, New York, London and Paris newspapers devoted their headlines to ISIS when it reemerged in Iraq, but were largely silent when the same ‘terrorist liberators’ were committing gruesome atrocities in Syria, ranging from summary executions of civilians, to imposing misogynist laws and the recruitment of child soldiers.
Likewise, atrocities committed by the Iraqi army while “fighting terrorism” are generally withheld from mainstream media audiences. When ISIS troops raised their black-and-white banners in Fallujah, the city was indiscriminately shelled by the US-armed Iraqi forces. The newly obtained hellfire missiles killed unarmed civilians, including children. With this in mind, some 500,000 people fled from Mosul after it was seized by ISIS, more out of fear of the Government´s response than jihadi extremism.
The success of a few thousand ISIS troops facing a US-backed army, is dependent upon the support of Iraqi Sunni fighters and at least some tolerance by the civilian population. Further alienated by recent government violence and in some cases out of sheer self-defence against indiscriminate cruelty, a significant section of the Sunni community has felt compelled to strike a Faustian bargain with ISIS against the central government. More than just a jihadi exploit, the advance of ISIS thus represents widespread popular opposition to the ruling elite after peaceful resistance was thwarted.
Mainstream reporting is all but entirely oblivious of the above, reducing the whole affair to purported ‘ancient hatreds’ between Shia and Sunnis. It should be common sense, however, that sectarianism, in Iraq and elsewhere, is an elite-constructed vehicle to channel popular dissent in a manner that maintains the status quo. In the case of Iraq, this amounts to preserving western interests at the cost of the common people.
The protesters in Tikrit and Anbar were demanding an end to corruption, poverty, unemployment and shortages of water and electricity. These grievances are at the root of popular dissatisfaction and by extension the advance of ISIS. Though articulated in sectarian language, they target the very economic architecture of post-invasion Iraq.
Under military occupation, Bremer’s infamous orders transformed Iraq into a neoliberal, free-market paradise. Order number 39 for example, allowed the unrestricted, tax-free export of profits by corporations and granted them 40-years ownership licenses. Order number 12 lifted all protection of Iraqi industries.
In exclusive hotels, public firms were auctioned at fire-sales prizes to foreign investors and the newly-arrived pro-US elite. Most importantly, Iraqi oil has been all but privatized and is exploited by multinational corporations without parliamentary approval. The lion’s share of profits accrues to western oil giants.
From a US perspective, it does not matter who is the president of Iraq as long as the current arrangement is maintained. This is why it may be advantageous for the US to replace Maliki with another ‘manager’.
The consequences of neoliberalism in the Third World are well-known. Multinationals virtually own the economy, sharing part of it with a local elite that ensures the continuation of neoliberal policies. The crumbs that fall off their dinner table are then tossed to the population, which translates into the grievances of, for instance, the protestors in western Iraq.
Of course, there is nothing ‘Sunni’ about such grievances, which torment all ordinary Iraqis and have incited them regularly. This explains why several Shia leaders publicly supported the Sunni majority protests. The habitual response of the ruling elite, however, was to recast the protests as an existential threat to the Shia, to the detriment of inter-sectarian class-solidarity. The chances of a united anti-establishment movement, potentially threatening the current order Iraq, further declined.
In this context, the central government exaggerated the ‘terror’ threat, opting for an iron fist instead of genuine security measures. For example, before the elections, Fallujah was willing “to evict the jihadis if guaranteed it would not face regime attacks”. But the Prime Minister did not order his troops to retreat for he had “staked his re-election on an anti-terrorism campaign with a crude sectarian cast”, says ICG.
Apart from deepening sectarian divides, the above has rallied the Shia behind a status quo government, to the advantage of Maliki and his foreign backers, who, unsurprisingly, share his ‘terror is upon us’ discourse. Even members of the Sadrist movement, the most potent and popular anti-establishment force in the Shia community, are now volunteering to fight alongside government troops, unwittingly defending their own poverty.
Meanwhile, mainstream western media continue to reduce the crisis to ‘Arab-looking’ men wielding beards and Kalashnikovs and spreading terror in a sectarian quagmire. This orientalist frame conveniently obscures what lies behind the turmoil, rendering terror and sectarian violence a ‘natural’ phenomenon to the Arab world, entirely detached from western involvement. And so, while Iraqis, who are massacred by the thousands, are portrayed as sectarian fanatics, western military superpowers can plead innocent once again.
Ali Al-Jaberi is a journalist and political scientist. Former correspondent in the Middle East and lecturer in International Relations.
This article first appeared on openDemocracy 1 July 2014.
dinsdag 10 juni 2014
By Mike Head
US President Barack Obama meets with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia on 7 July 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
With US Vice President Joseph Biden in the audience, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectioner, was formally sworn in Saturday as president of Ukraine. Delivering a bellicose speech, he pledged to confront Russia, suppress the separatists in Ukraine’s east and fully militarise the country. At the same time, he alluded to his plans to impose brutal austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class.
Poroshenko began by paying homage to the fascistic forces that spearheaded his installation, via a US- and European Union-backed putsch in February followed by an election held May 25 amid a reign of terror and military violence in eastern Ukraine. He enthused over the “victorious revolution” by “Ukrainian patriots” and “warriors.”
While the Western media portrayed it as a powerful performance, the speech only underscored the fact that Poroshenko is nothing but a front man for German and particularly American imperialism, and is entirely dependent on them. Adopting a provocative stance toward Russia, he declared he would never accept Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and vowed to repudiate the Budapest Agreement that restricts the deployment of Western military forces within former Soviet states.
“Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil,” Poroshenko insisted. Referring to a brief meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the D-Day commemoration in France, he said: “Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure.”
Fresh from talks in France with US President Barack Obama, Poroshenko rejected any negotiations with pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine’s east. He vowed instead to swiftly put an end to the resistance to February’s pro-Western, fascist-led coup in Kiev.
He depicted those holding control in dozens of eastern cities and towns as “bandits,” “criminals,” “terrorists” and “Russian mercenaries,” foreshadowing a renewed offensive by the Ukrainian military and allied right-wing militias.
Even as Poroshenko spoke, there was an assassination attempt on Denis Pushilin, a pro-Russian leader in Donetsk, resulting in the shooting death of an assistant, Maksym Petruhin. Photographs on Ukrainian news sites showed Petruhin, wearing a business suit, lying face down on a street alongside a parked car with at least seven bullet holes in the rear door panel.
“For peace to become lasting, we must get used to living in constant combat readiness,” the tycoon known as Ukraine’s “chocolate king” declared. “We have to keep the gunpowder dry. The army and its re-equipment by means of national military-industrial complex is our top priority… Our army must become a true elite of the Ukrainian community.”
Insisting that “great sacrifices” would have to be made by the Ukrainian population, Poroshenko stated: “Those who grudge money for the armed forces feed the foreign army… Our most reliable allies and the best guarantors of peace are our army, fleet, the National Guard and professional special forces.”
At a meeting with Poroshenko, Biden reiterated American support for his regime. “America’s with you,” Biden said. “That is not hyperbole.”
In conjunction with Biden’s visit, the White House announced $48 million in new aid to Ukraine, as well as $8 million for Moldova and $5 million for Georgia, both of which are also expected to sign agreements with the EU this month.
According to the White House statement, the aid would help the Ukrainian government “conduct key reforms, build law enforcement capacity, and strengthen national unity.” It specifically committed the US to supporting Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “economic development,” including “the reforms needed to make its IMF and World Bank programs.”
Poroshenko promised to move swiftly to an economic agreement with the EU from which Ukraine’s former government backed away last November, fearing the social unrest that would be triggered by the austerity dictates of the EU and the International Monetary Fund. “My pen is in my hands,” he said, pointing out that the EU association agreement was but the first step “towards fully-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union.”
The unelected interim government installed in February has already begun to implement the austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF, including scrapping domestic energy subsidies and allowing the currency, the hryvnia, to depreciate about 30 percent against the US dollar. Average gas prices for Ukrainian households began rising by more than 50 percent in May, and heating prices are expected to climb by about 40 percent, starting in July.
Far harsher measures are still to come, including a freeze on public-sector wages, mass redundancies of government workers, the cancellation of scheduled pension increases and a range of social spending cuts.
The Wall Street Journal reported concerns about Poroshenko’s capacity to deliver. “It looks like people are ready to accept this decline in living standards,” Vitaliy Vavryshchuk, head of research at Kiev-based investment house SP Advisors, told the newspaper, but Ukrainians expected economic improvement. “Patience is not unlimited,” he warned.
For all the efforts of the Western powers and the compliant media to dress up Poroshenko as a popular and democratic figure, he is a particularly venal representative of the corrupt Ukrainian elites that enriched themselves by looting the assets of the former Soviet Union. He held senior cabinet posts under both the pro-Western government of President Viktor Yushchenko that followed the US- and EU-backed 2004 “Orange Revolution” and, after Yushchenko’s disgrace, the Moscow-aligned leadership of recently ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Having served as Yushchenko’s foreign minister and Yanukovych’s trade minister, Poroshenko is well-known in the Western corridors of power as a pliable instrument for promoting their interests.
Russian President Vladimir Putin who, like Poroshenko, represents the oligarchy that arose from the liquidation of the Soviet Union, is desperately trying to reach an accommodation with the Kiev regime and Washington. At a press conference, after meeting with Poroshenko for about 15 minutes in France, he declared: “I liked his attitude,” adding: “I cannot but welcome the position of Poroshenko on the necessity to end the bloodletting immediately in the east of Ukraine.”
There is every indication that Putin is prepared to give Poroshenko a free hand to crush the resistance in eastern Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported that for weeks, “Mr Putin has been sending back-channel messages to the West trying to distance the Kremlin from the actions of the rebels and suggesting it was prepared to support efforts to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine.”
Moscow returned its ambassador, Mikhail Zurabov, to Kiev to attend the inaugural festivities, and Russian news agencies reported that Putin had ordered tighter controls on the border to prevent people from crossing to fight against the regime in Kiev.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande reportedly arranged the French meeting between Putin and Poroshenko, seeking to facilitate a settlement. German and French imperialism, while fully backing the Kiev coup, have close economic and energy ties with Russia, as well as their own historic aspirations to dominate Ukraine and Russia. Washington, however, has made it clear that it intends to fully pursue its underlying agenda: to exploit the Ukrainian crisis in order to subjugate Russia and transform it into a US semi-colony.
This article first appeared on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on 9 June 2014, and was republished with permission.