War Pages Moving Home

I have set up another blog titled: War Pages on Blogspot. I have posted my latest article there. Because of this site’s high google ranking I will still be posting all my articles here, but with a short delay.

URL of new blog=http://warpages-leejay.blogspot.com

Governing Somalia:

What is more important, freedom or security? Asks Liam Bailey

In the last throes of 2006 Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia, and with Somalia’s Transitional Government (TG) forces drove the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) out of Mogadishu, and with the help of American air strikes, supposedly, out of Somalia. Somali residents had lived in a state of anarchy since the dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The Union of Islamic Courts restored order and allowed people to go about their normal lives in relative security.In UIC controlled areas children could go to school safely and once more hospitals could treat the sick without flows of injured coming in from daily violence. However, the UIC ruled with a strict code of Sharia law, meaning the security came at the cost of some personal freedoms and civil liberties. With the UIC ousted, 2007 began a new chapter for Somalia, a new chapter of violence and insecurity.The UIC began their sweep to power, taking the capital Mogadishu Jun 2006. By December they controlled most of Southern and Central Somalia. The Transitional Govermnent’s one remaining stronghold was Baidoa and a small area surrounding it, where it is widely believed Ethiopian troops were stationed to protect the government.

The United Nations was responsible for the imposition of the TG. In early December they still recognized it as the only governing body in Somalia or “The only route to peace and stability” –as it was called in Resolution 1725–, despite it being made up of warlords. The warlords were responsible for much of the violence, insecurity and terrorization of the civilian population before the UIC took power.

The U.S gave strong support to the TG, against the UIC forces. Strong support to the very warlords that, by inflicting heavy casualties, forced the withdrawal of U.S. forces in a peacekeeping mission in the early nineties. U.S support failed to stop the UIC advance. Shortly before the Ethiopian invasion the U.S presented a draft Resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC). The Resolution laid out the rules of engagement for a proposed Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and African Union force to enter Somalia. The fore was to protect the TG, to restart the peace negotiations between the TG and the UIC, but ultimately to reinstall the UN recognized government and engage any forces running contrary to that mission.

It was adopted as Resolution 1725 but the UIC’s rapid sweep to power gave the impression that they were a strong determined and highly capable fighting force. This combined with the UIC’s war declaration on Ethiopian forces in Somalia, their threats to attack peacekeepers and the Iraq quagmire, which started from a similar mission, to make IGAD countries reluctant to send their forces into what could easily become another Iraq.

Ethiopia showed no such reluctance, because Ethiopia had no such noble intentions. With U.S. support, Ethiopia responded to the UIC’s final attack on the last remaining government stronghold of Baidoa. Ethiopia said throughout that it had no intention of occupying Somalia, its only mission was to oust the UIC and return the TG to the seat of power. Unexpectedly the UIC put up little resistance, displaying none of the fight to the death attitude they had spoken of. Ethiopian and TG forces made short work of removing the strict regime of the UIC. As they beat a hasty retreat the UIC made statements to the press promising to wage a guerrilla war, “like Iraq”.

So, it seems that the U.S., Ethiopia and the UN believe freedom is more important than security.

Ethiopia is keeping to its word and their forces have already begun to withdraw. The UIC is also keeping its promise and since their defeat, Somalia, more specifically Mogadishu has been rocked by almost daily, mortar, rocket propelled grenade attacks, and occasional suicide bomb attacks. According to reports an 8000 strong African Union force is now expected to enter Somalia in mid-April 2007. Uganda was due to announce a date for a small Burundian advance force but the news conference was cancelled.

Given the failure of 7000 AU troops to stop the violence in Darfur, Sudan, it is unlikely they will adequately fill the vacuum left by the Ethiopian forces. It is also unlikely they will afford the TG the same protection as the Ethiopian force and a UIC uprising could begin anew. Given the consistent UIC statements to view peacekeepers as an invading force it is almost certain the peacekeepers will become targets for insurgent warfare, and even more certain they will fail to stop the insurgency.

Mogadishu residents are fleeing the city en masse to take residence in makeshift refugee camps on the outskirts. Without security people can’t live their day to day lives but have the freedom to make personal choices. I believe Somalis would rather be secure in their day to day lives, be able to live in their homes, be able to go out without getting caught up in violence or fear of not returning home, or having no home to return to, and be able to send their kids to school without fear of them being killed on the journey. Even if it meant they couldn’t enjoy western comforts, listen to western music, or go to the cinema.

So, by trying to give the Somali people freedom, Ethiopia and the U.S. have returned them to the anarchy they have already endured far too much of. Some people are forced to leave their homes, and so not free to live where they choose, others are forced to stay indoors. Therefore security is more important than freedom, because without security there isn’t much freedom, and what little there is can’t be enjoyed.

My latest articles can be read at http://warpages-leejay.blogspot.com

This article has also been published on War Pages on Blogspot

No Existential Threat to Israel

Israel, the U.S and others are over blowing the threat from a nuclear Iran.

By Liam BaileyI received an e-mail from Israeli newspaper, Haaretz daily with the subject line: Stand up to –Ahmadinejad. Inside was an advertising banner with the subject line above a picture of an exuberant Ahmadinejad speaking into a microphone. The banner linked to a two minute video by Aish.com, [Aish HaTorah, a yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem].

The Video

It is actually a slideshow. It starts with a picture of Adolf Hitler. Followed by a gruesome picture of tens of undernourished adult males, one standing, the rest lying in what I can only describe as a wall of pigeon-hole bunks. I assume it was taken in a liberated concentration camp. The narrator says: “Imagine you could have stopped Hitler in 1938.” another wall of pigeon holes, this time much smaller filled with human skulls. “Imagine you could have stopped him, but didn’t.”

Showing Ahmadinejad above the quote, “Israel must be wiped off the map,” the narrator announces: “Today a new Hitler is on the world stage calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” The narrator falls silent for the display of two more pictures of Ahmadinejad above the quotes: “The Zionist regime is a dried up and rotten tree which will be annihilated with one storm” and: “The Elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple.”

Ahmadinejad’s Intentions and Israeli Lies

The first quote about Israel being wiped off the map is a matter of international debate. Some analysts say Ahmadinejad has never made such a statement, that it is an intentional mistranslation by Israel or their supporters to overstate the danger from Iran. If they are right and only the latter two quotes can be accredited to Ahmadinejad, he is not alone in wanting Zionism to be eliminated, which doesn’t necessarily mean exterminating Jews or obliterating Israel. In my recent interview with Israeli author and academic Ilan Pape, he said: “Israel has to be de-Zionised to a point before any genuine reconciliation can be attempted.” He was talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The Hitler/Ahmadinejad Comparison

Whether Ahmadinejad said “Israel must be wiped off the map” or not, the comparison to Hitler and the holocaust is a blatant misrepresentation of one of the world’s most horrific acts. In 1938 the world was a different place, not least in the perception of Jews. 1938 was in an era when stereotypes were treated as fact and taught to children. Discrimination was accepted, in some cases even expected of people. Jews were stereotypically evil, greedy and devious and persecuted because of it.

When Hitler’s views began emerging, for those who didn’t hate Jews, such entrenched stereotypes made them indifferent. In short the Jews had no friends in the world capable of or willing to stop Hitler. Today the situation is very different.

No Comparison

The holocaust was a horrific and tragic occurrence. The world not even attempting to stop it pre-emptively was a disgrace. However, the world’s guilt over not stopping the holocaust, even if only indirectly, led to the partitioning of Palestine for a Jewish homeland.

In its infancy Israel faced threats from the Arab countries surrounding it, who really did want to carry out a second holocaust, who really did want, and try to wipe Israel off the map. As Egypt’s President announced before the Sinai war: “Egypt has decided to dispatch her heroes, the disciples of pharaoh and the sons of Islam and they will cleanse the Land of Israel….There will be no peace on Israel’s border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel’s death.” The U.S began supporting Israel militarily in the sixties and rescued Israel from the brink of defeat by airlifting military supplies during the Yom Kippur war , the aggressors Egypt and other neighboring Arab states learned that the U.S wasn’t going to let Israel be defeated.

Since then and currently Israel faces a very small threat from neighboring countries, some have signed peace accords. The others are reduced to funding internal resistance groups against Israel’s occupation, none of which is anywhere near capable of wiping Israel off the map.

Let’s assume Ahmadinejad does want Israel wiped off the map.

Far from having no friends, Israel is now in the “in” crowd, with the most powerful friends in the world: the U.S., U.K. and any other states wanting to stay in America’s favor. With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), perhaps the most powerful lobby in America, America’s world influence and massive nuclear arsenal, Israel is one of the world’s best protected countries. If this support wasn’t enough to deter anyone considering an attack, or “the destruction of Israel”, Israel has a sizeable nuclear arsenal of its own, widely thought to be 200-400 active nuclear warheads. This is a significant deterrent against attack.

If Israel has 400 nuclear warheads, then Tel Aviv has the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than China or France. Iran is years from even having one workable nuclear warhead, and depending on the size and weight of the prototype building a missile to carry it could take just as long. Thus, Israel has sufficient capabilities to defend itself, along with protection from the U.S. as No. 1 nuclear proliferator.

What’s more Ahmadinejad’s patriotism is the driving force behind the dramatic showdown with the U.S. and the world over wanting the country’s right to nuclear power under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has not ratified. His patriotism will prevent him from risking the total obliteration of his country by attacking Israel. So, Iran poses no existential threat to Israel, at least until they have the capabilities to disable the U.S and Israel. I’m sure you’ll agree, that, without outside help this is many years away.

The Lies

Israeli officials know that there is no such “second holocaust” or existential threat from a nuclear Iran. As Gareth Porter reported in the Electronic Intifada:

An article in the online journal of a hard-line think-tank, the Ariel Centre for Policy Research, in August 2004 revealed that “one of the options that has been considered should Iran publicly declare itself to have nuclear weapons is for Israel to put an end to what is called its policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ or ‘opacity’. The author, Shalom Freedman, said that in light of Israel’s accumulation of “over 100 nuclear weapons” and its range of delivery systems for them, even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons within a few years, the “tremendous disproportion between the strength of Israel and an emergent nuclear Iran should serve as a deterrent.”Why the Lie

You may be wondering why Israelis would want to create mass hysteria on the basis of lies, the same reason it denies Palestinian right of return, and is building a great wall around the Jewish state… Zionism’s greatest fear, Israel becoming predominantly Arab.
You may be confused, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh explained in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, saying that under the threat from a nuclear Iran:

“most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with their families; and Israelis who can live abroad will. People are not enthusiastic about being scorched.” Thus the danger, Sneh elaborated, is that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would “be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.”

The Real Threats

Therefore, the fear is not over the existence of Israel, but over how Israel exists. I suspect Washington’s war planners know the existential threat is non-existent, but have their own reasons for failing to dispel the myth. America does not want allied Israel’s Middle East hegemony to end, especially not in favor of an enemy as staunch as Iran.

Israel putting such weight on their lies taking hold in the world media, has guaranteed their fears will be a reality should Iran successfully enrich uranium to weapons grade. That is why you can rest assured, if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian enrichment, Israel will attack with or without U.S help. There is a distinct possibility that the attack will involve the use of nuclear weapons, therefore Iran is more in danger of a nuclear holocaust from Israel.

This article has also been published on War Pages on Blogspot

“A Brighter Palestinian Future”

The new unity government accepts the demands, waters down the wording and expands on the stipulation.

By Liam Bailey

The new Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government is being hailed as a great thing for Palestinians. I don’t deny it is a step in the right direction but tough decisions, and hopefully negotiations lie ahead. If the right decisions aren’t made by all parties involved it will not improve one thing in the occupied territories. Speaking to Israel’s Haaretz daily, on condition of anonymity one Israeli official said: “The conditions have not been met. This is not something we can live with.” The U.S. State Department reiterated its call that the new government must meet international demands. It is clear from recent U.S. and Israel policies and their reactions to the new accord, that a serious change in Hamas’ overtures will be needed if the unity government is to be treated differently than its predecessor.

The reason for hostility towards Hamas is because their charter calls for the destruction of Israel and despite the international siege since early last year they have continually refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements made between the palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. The unity accord makes no mention of recognizing Israel or the other demand to renounce violence, only stipulating that Hamas will “respect” previous agreements made between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Abbas had held out for a commitment to adhere to previous agreements, but Hamas held firm and the wording was watered down.The watered down wording gave weight to the reactions from the U.S and Israel, and the European Union said it would study the new administration “in a positive but cautious manner.” The Quartet, (the EU, Russia and the UN) has been pressuring the U.S for an end to the PA blockade for months. The U.S and Israel have been as stubborn as Hamas.A Russian Foreign Ministry statement Feb. 9 welcomed the new deal between rival Palestinian factions and made a fresh appeal for the lifting of a freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government. It remains to be seen whether the slight concession from Hamas, the first from them since they took power will allow the other Quartet members to sufficiently tighten the thumbscrews on the U.S. to end the blockade.

It is almost certain the Arab states friendly to the Palestinians will make the most of a momentous achievement by the PA and use their leverage as a much needed Middle East ally for the U.S in stabilizing Iraq and ratcheting up the pressure on Iran’s nuclear regime, to secure they can get some badly needed aid back into to PA. However, while an injection of aid from friendly Arab states will alleviate the Palestinian’s plight, not least in allowing them to pay their employees a full salary for the first time since Hamas were elected. This will make things exponentially better for the workforce and the third of Palestinian families they take home the bacon to.

The normalization of relations with Israel and the U.S. is what’s really needed to bring PA life back to the Palestinian reality before Hamas were elected, which still isn’t western life but it is a good jumping off point for a new push for peace from both sides. This would include unfreezing bank’s and accounts and releasing the $800 million dollars of withheld Palestinian tax revenues and an end to the measure. The new unity in the PA gives its parties the chance to attempt normalizing their relationships with each other and the international community. They badly need the international community on their side, or at least not against them if they expect Israel to come to the table with a serious offer for peace.

What is also needed is the serious change in Hamas rhetoric towards Israel I mentioned, preferably in them accepting the three demands of the quartet. I suspect that their “respecting” past agreements will be enough to satisfy the Quartet on that demand, at least until the negotiation stage. The other demands are the hardest for Hamas to accept, and in fact, what the U.S. fails to realize, or, like Israel, doesn’t care about is that Hamas accepting the most crucial demand –Israel’s right to exist– will take away the unity governments credibility in the eyes of its members, and the population at large. Such an acceptance, to Palestinians would mean accepting that Israel had the right to expel Arabs in the 1948 war. Any negotiations would then risk being interrupted or at worst derailed by gunmen and/or armed wing members attacking each other or Israel.

I have a solution. The new unity government accepts the demands and maintains credibility by watering down the wording and expanding on the stipulation. For instance:
 

We, the PA unity government unconditionally recognize Israel’s existence within the 67 borders, as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 242.

The same can be done with the renounce violence demand:
 

We the PA unity government make a declaration to completely renounce all forms of violence for a period of 6 months to allow preparations to be made for the full reinstatement of aid, unfreezing of accounts and return of withheld revenues in Israel and elsewhere it applies, and fresh negotiations with the starting point that adherence to Security Council Resolution 242 and the formation of a completely independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem according to the borders before the 1967 war, are a guarantee, regardless of the talks outcome.

The ball is then well and truly shifted into Israel and the U.S’ courts. UNSC Resolution 242 calls for the return of the above stated land, which was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. There are arguments that Resolution 242 could be backed up with force as it is legally binding under article 25 of the UN charter on the grounds of its incorporation in UN Resolution 338, presented to the UNSC by the U.S and Russia to end the Yom Kippur war. Resolution 338 may well have been backed up with force. The PA government could approach the UN about a reaffirmation of the resolutions demands for the Israeli/Palestine conflict.

There has never been a better time for Palestinians to maintain a peace, because the U.S needs friends like it never did before. The friendly Arab states, the EU, Russia, and the UN Security Council are all necessary allies for cranking up diplomatic pressure on Iran, The U.S also needs its Arab allies in stabilizing Iraq and possibly for airspace and bases in the event of war with Iran. Israel has always said that its main objective is peace and it is willing to give land to achieve it, whereas the Arabs objective is land, Israel expects them to give peace to achieve it. With the Palestinians doing everything that was expected of them, the U.S and Israel’s rhetoric and incessant peace overtures would back-fire on them. There would be no excuses left.

The Palestinians would need to ensure that they resist the Israeli tactics that would undoubtedly ensue, like the West Bank arrest Raids and new settlement in the recent ceasefire. And the most recent “renovations” at Al Aqsa mosque, which led to violence after the unity government deal was reached. The clashes add further difficulty for a new government that will undoubtedly struggle to regain control after the fierce factional fighting of the last few months. These tactics are aimed at drawing the Palestinians into actions that would end Israel’s uncomfortable predicament.

If the PA could keep to its side of the bargain any reluctance by Israel, which there would undoubtedly be, would be overruled by Iran’s nuclear program being firmly number one on the U.S’ agenda. Iran being such a U.S. priority is almost as much Israel’s fault as anyone else’s, vis-a-vis the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence in the current U.S administration. This would make it a double backfire when the U.S. applied pressure on Israel to give the Palestinians the talks they and the world community –badly needed allies– would be shouting for.

When talks commence the ball comes back into the Palestinians court on the basis of needing to compromise on other final status issues, such as the right of return. The Palestinians want refugees to return to the very land they were expelled from, after nearly 60 years this is impractical if not impossible for Israel to grant. I read about one Palestinian refugee who, if granted the right of return, would be building his house in the grounds of Jerusalem airport. Not to mention it would risk Israel becoming predominantly Arab, which would in turn further reduce the number of Jews immigrating to Israel under their Law of Return. Two things Israel will never risk.

A suitable compromise may be accepting a limited right of return, whereby refugees could only return on the grounds that they take up land in the now formally and completely independent Palestinian state. Three generations after the Naqba many of the people expelled in the 1948 war of [Israeli] independence are no longer refugees. They or their descendants have made lives for themselves and their families elsewhere in the world and wouldn’t want to return. The Palestinians clinging uncompromisingly to achieving this right in full is an unnecessary obstacle to peace.

The other thing that would undoubtedly be a new sticking point in any such negotiations would be the separation wall Israel has almost completed. When complete it originally would have enclosed the West Bank, Palestinians complained because it is built inside the land that should become the independent Palestinian state. Since it started there have been extensions to the planned route taking even more land the Palestinians feel is rightly theirs. The wall has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. The new pressure on Israel should also be taken advantage of by the Palestinians to achieve the tearing down of the wall, again, simply by maintaining the peace from their side. If they did this, despite Israel’s delaying and provocative tactics, Israel would eventually have to face the inevitable:

No security wall is needed with the PA adhering to its commitments and peacefully waiting for Israel to meet theirs. However reluctantly the U.S supported the PA, with theirs and the rest of the international community’s support for the new, moderate and peaceful unity government, Israel would be left with nowhere to go.

This might prove difficult, the longer Israel delayed meeting its commitments, and, based on previous initiatives that could be years of provocative actions, the more time the Palestinians would have, for one person or small group to revert to the habits of a lifetime. I’d like to hope the Palestinians would give the new unity government the respect they expect from the international community and that it would well and truly deserve for having the courage to compromise for a brighter Palestinian future.

This article has also been published on War Pages on Blogspot

Excluding Hamas Won’t Bring Peace!

Recent policies to bring Middle East peace, were pushing Palestinians apart and peace further away.

By Liam Bailey

The latest push for Middle East peace focused on strengthening moderates against “the extremists”. Fatah’s Abbas was the policy’s patron saint, well, a patron anyway. The policy exacerbated a rift that worsened when talks collapsed to create a unity Palestinian Authority government. A rift that quickly escalated in an environment under the pressure of extreme poverty caused by the western government boycott of the January elected Hamas government.

It was an unworkable policy, to the Palestinian people Fatah has sold itself time and time again, first and foremost by accepting Israel’s right to exist. To Palestinians this means accepting that Israel had the right to expel their Arab brethren in 1948. Something they will never do. Hamas in government gave the PA a shred of credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Now Fatah have united under this credibility I hope they can use their moderate status to push for Palestinian rights peacefully. If not any deals made and agreements reached will not bring peace. What’s more Israel and the west know this; one reason for the Hamas boycott was their refusal to renounce violence.

I believe that Hamas joining democratic proceedings and adhering to two ceasefires, one for almost a year, proves they are willing to renounce violence if it is reciprocated and leading to an independent Palestinian state within the 67 borders. The right of return and other final status issues could be settled in further negotiations in –a new concept for both states–, peacetime. Hamas certainly won’t renounce violence to adhere to an agreement reached on the basis of –Fatah–succumbing to Israeli demands and putting self-importance and greed before Palestinian rights. Hamas remaining outside the process that led to the Oslo accord and attempting to sabotage the process through terrorism showed this. However neither Israel nor the PLO adhered to their commitments under the accord anyway.The Palestinian people showed their displeasure for Fatah by electing Hamas. Therefore an agreement between Israel and Fatah would not have been appreciated or adhered to by the Palestinian population at large either, including Islamic Jihad. Palestinians will not support any peace that will not change their lives for the better. In the conditions they live a fair and just deal would be a complete turnaround in their lives. Only Hamas looked capable of sustaining its commitment to Palestinian rights and achieving such a deal. Israel may deal with Hamas now they have formed a coalition with the –supposedly– more moderate Fatah. So, the big push for peace, by worsening PA division to crisis point, and beyond, was actually pushing us away from peace.

The policy started late Dec. 2006, with Abbas meeting Olmert, who promised to free $100 million of withheld Palestinian tax revenues. He made good on his promise a few days later. His other concessions however agreeing to take away some West Bank checkpoints and ease the strangulation of there and Gaza, followed the history of such concessions in being much easier said than done. As Israeli analyst Gershon Bashkin put it in the Jerusalem Post Feb. 5: “the proof is in the pudding, and so far the pudding is rotten.” The meeting was followed by a massive arms transfer from Egypt, allowed to reach Fatah security forces by Israel. The U.S recently pledged $84 billion to Abbas as part of the large and multilateral campaign to arm and fund Fatah against a militarily stronger, –certainly in Gaza– Hamas.

The other arm of the policy was a new peace process involving the Quartet, but completely excluding Hamas. If Hamas were to be ignored politically, all they had left was violence. This and the program of funding and arming Fatah militias was always going to make Hamas feel threatened and angry, which of course was going to escalate the fighting.

The rift between the Palestinian factions started just weeks before the Abbas/Olmert meeting, shortly after unity government talks collapsed three sons of a Fatah allied security guard were gunned down. Hamas were blamed but denied the attack. A Hamas judge was killed in a reprisal attack, for which Fatah denied responsibility. Things escalated again when the Hamas leader and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, returning because of the fighting, was held at the Gaza border by Israel. Hamas militants went to the border, which was being patrolled by Fatah security forces at the time. Fierce fighting broke out between the two factions. After a few hours Haniyeh was allowed to pass and in the chaos, bullets entered the car. Crossfire or not it was taken as an attempt on the Prime Ministers life. Haniyeh’s bodyguard was killed in the attack and his son wounded. Again Fatah were blamed but denied the attack.

Both Abbas and Haniyeh agreed many truces to end the infighting and called for all gunmen to leave the streets. Unfortunately the Hamas military wing is controlled from Syria by Kaleed Meshal. The push for peace presented the appearance that they [the U.S. and Israel] intended to arm and fund Fatah until Hamas was defeated or forced into submission and accepted the –unacceptable– demands laid on them by the west. With Hamas under such a threat and felt to be militarily stronger, Khaled Meshaal sought to ensure Hamas’ survival by defeating Fatah once and for all. At the same time ensuring Hamas’ survival in the political arena and therefore ensuring the Palestinian people will not be willingly led into an agreement of subdifuge.

Hamas and Fatah reached agreement for a power sharing government Feb. 8. Israel officials are casting doubt on whether the planned peace summit Feb. 19 with Abbas, U.S secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will go ahead with an Abbas now sharing power with Hamas. They are also talking about a reduced likelihood of Olmert making any concessions to Abbas if the meeting does go ahead. Whether it goes ahead or not will likely depend on the rhetoric from the new government towards Israel, and whether the U.S. pressures for it to go ahead under the facade that they are committed to a peace deal. If their commitment to peace was a strong as their commitment to Israel peace wouldn’t look such a far off prospect.

The unity agreement makes no mention of recognizing Israel or the other demand to renounce violence, only stipulating that Hamas will “respect” previous agreements made between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Abbas had held out for a commitment to adhere to previous agreements, but Hamas held firm and the wording was watered down.

Both Meshal and Abbas have stated their commitment to the deal and their desire for no further internal fighting in the PA, and that they hope the international siege of the PA will be lifted because of the new government. While U.S allies in the region, and the other three members of the quartet (Russia, the E.U. and the U.N.), who have been pressuring the U.S. to end the siege may reinstate diplomatic relations with the PA as a first step to making pledges of aid, the U.S. state department has already reiterated that the new government is required to meet international demands.

Just days after the latest push was started by the Abbas/Olmert meeting, the Israeli government approved a new settlement in the West Bank, one which was nearly completed before government approval. The settlement has now been “frozen” because of U.S pressure. The settlements approval, has recently been followed by another Jerusalem home demolition as part of the campaign to keep Jerusalem’s Arab population low and an extension to the planned route of the separation wall. The new route annexes even more land from the final Palestinian state.

This all happened while Palestinian infighting was diverting attention, as well as freeing Israeli security forces to carry out the operations. All are operations that help toward the Zionist dream of a pure, or at least remaining predominantly Jewish, Israel.

Therefore, even people adverse to conspiracies can see that Israel was the main beneficiary of the Palestinian infighting. Their policies after it began proved, at the very least, that they weighed capitalizing on it above creating a suitable environment for a lasting peace.

Meanwhile the U.S is still treating Israel as an ally in the war on terror and Hamas as an enemy in it. This conflict was going on before Osama Bin Laden could trouble anyone, Hamas were attacking Israel before Al Qaeda were attacking the West, Hamas could have jumped on the Al Qaeda band wagon but, despite Zawahiri’s best attempts, they haven’t.

If the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict was strengthening moderates against extremists, it would have been over years ago. The only push that will bring peace is all parties pushing the desire for peace to number 1 on the agenda. After nearly a century of conflict isn’t it about time they did?

 <i>I wrote this article two days before the PA unity deal was signed.  An example of how fast things can change in this conflict.</i>

This article has also been published, along with my new articles on War Pages on Blogspot

Hidden Victims: Israel’s Bedouin

Outside the media spotlight, native tribes forced into poverty and homelessness.

By Liam Bailey

I read the other day about a terrible act. I didn’t read it in the Guardian, the Times, the NY Post or any of the other major newspapers or mainstream media websites. The Electronic Intifada (EI) ran the report [1] by the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) with the headline Israel Destroys Bedouin Village For The Second Time.

It was a report on the Israeli government destroying Twail Abu Jarwal (Pic 1) for the second time in as many months: “Large police forces, with the aid of special-task forces and with the aerial help of a helicopter and two bulldozers, demolished the entire village.”

Bedouin Villages have been on the land since before the state of Israel was conceived. The Israeli government doesn’t recognize them and calls them illegal, therefore they are not entitled to any infrastructure. The “illegal” villages lack even basic amenities such as running water and electricity.

According to Yeela Raanan of the RCUV the elders have held receipts since the 70’s of payments made to Israel for plots of land in the town of Laquia. They lived on other people’s land in shacks and tents on the outskirts of the town, waiting for the land — which never came — to build homes for their families. A few years ago, their makeshift homes outgrown, the Bedouin returned to their ancestral land.

Yeela told me that Israel is employing various tactics in an attempt to confiscate the land. The recent demolitions flew in the face of the Israeli Knesset Interior Affairs and Environment Committee (IAEC) recommendation to postpone until the residents could find alternative housing. According to a Haaretz report [2] on the demolition of another village, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On told the IAEC that there are over 42,000 illegal buildings in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and the state has the authority to demolish them.

Knesset member Talab El-Sana from the United Arab List said the demolitions left children and the elderly without a roof over their heads in the dead of winter, and signified “a declaration of war by the state against its Bedouin citizens.”

El-Sana also stated that the demolitions were “a crime that is no better than those committed by the Israel Defense Forces in Beit Hanun,” referring to the errant shelling by an IDF artillery crew on November 8 that killed 20 Gaza civilians.

El-Sana argued that while the state was demolishing Bedouin houses, it was also apporving the construction of tens of farms and houses for Jewish residents of the Negev. According to El-Sana this derives from “a policy of racism.”

Echoing a 2003 Guardian report [3], the Dec 2006 RCUV report [4] said:

This policy’s aim is to force the Bedouins off their ancestral lands and to concentrate the Bedouins in urban townships, regardless of their wishes or their culture. However, there are no options for living in the concentration towns the government has built, as there are no available plots of land for homes. Therefore the government can “legally” demolish the homes of 80,000 members of this community, while they cannot build one “legal” home.

According to the RCUV’s Yeela Raanan, the latest demolition left 63 children and 30 adults without shelter in winter.

Yeela (Pic 2) was born and brought up in the Israeli Negev (southern region, desert). She spent a year (8th grade) in W. Sussex England during her father’s Sabbatical year in 1978 and studied for her PHD in anthropology in Utah, where she lived with her family for ten years. Returning to Israel after her studies, Yeela worked as the coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum, a Jewish-Arab organization based in the Negev. She left the organization, and has been with the RCUV for almost two years. She also teaches for the department of Public Administration at Sapir College. Yeela is 41 years old, married and has three teenage sons. She has returned to the Negev and lives with her family in Kibbutz Beeri today.

As the RCUV liaison to the Civil Society, Leela is responsible for creating and maintaining working relationships with other (mostly Jewish) NGOs in Israel that are willing to work to promote the residents’ rights of the unrecognized villages. She handles the RCUV’s lobbying efforts. She also organizes the sheep and goat heard owners in their struggle for more rights in Israel and to forward their economic development.

Yeela answered a few of my questions by e-mail:

LB: Where are the homeless residents of Twail Abu Jarwal living now?

YR: The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) found an organization that donated 21 excellent large tents for the 21 homes that were demolished a couple of weeks ago. In addition people have been re-building their very modest tin homes (Pic 3). In any case, they have nowhere else to go, so they can stay at family for a day or so, but since we are talking about 100 people, their families cannot host them for more than a night or two.

LB: What plans do you have in action to stop Israel ‘s minister of interior, Roni Bar-On from enacting his plans to destroy all Bedouin homes that Israel deems to be illegal?

YR: Roni Bar-On cannot destroy all “illegal” homes, because it will be too much of an uproar, but he will push the borders of how many homes can be destroyed before the Negev burns. We have been working in all manners we can think of with the resources we have – including working with Israeli ministers (Meir Shitrit the minister of building and residence, who is “in charge of the Bedouins”, for example) and with other members of Knesset. In addition we are trying to get others to pressure our government – for example I am pleased that you received information of what is going on here, but we don’t have enough resources to pursue this as much as is needed. We are also working to empower the community, which has been suffering oppression for the last 58 years, and therefore is hard to bring together -they are afraid, and rightly so, of what will be done to them if they fight the system. Beyond working as we are today, the government, and Roni Bar-On in particular, have a lot of power and very little good will.

LB: Why do you think the mainstream media hasn’t covered the story of Twail Abu Jarwal’s relentless destruction?

YR: Because the Israeli government has launched an excellent campaign that portrays the Bedouins as land-grabbers, squatters and robbers of government (Jewish) lands, they are Arabs, and so in the Israeli psyche part of the enemy camps. The governmental story is therefore believable for most Israelis.

LB: What other major incidents have there been since 1948?

In the early 1950s all were concentrated in a reservation called the “Siyag” area. That means that many were uprooted, put on trucks and moved forcefully. This continued until the 1970s. Also Israel sprayed Bedouin crops sowed on disputed lands with herbicides, until the Israeli Supreme Court stopped this. The government is still destroying Bedouin crops with the use of tractors, but even leaving the villages of 80,000 citizens as “unrecognized”, meaning no water, electricity, roads, municipal services such as garbage disposal and sewer systems – and minimal community services such as medical care and schools – is a crime. Over half of the Bedouins citizens of Israel live in these conditions.

LB: Has the mainstream media covered any of them?

YR: Very scantly, and only when catastrophes occur. For example a child’s head was literally picked off by a bus that had to pass another bus driving in the opposite direction (in October of 2006) because the paths the busses take to the schools are impossibly narrow.

LB: What do you think the International community should be doing to help the Bedouin tribes?

YR: The international community must become knowledgeable, we will be happy to take people to visit the unrecognized villages, update via emails. The international community must use all channels available to pressure Israel to deal with this issue, and deal justly. To give these communities an economic boost, while allowing them to maintain their traditions and customs – for example allowing use of land for agriculture, animal husbandry, community size villages, and maintaining ownership of their ancestral lands.

You can contact Yeela by telephone on 054 7487005 or by e-mailing yallylivnat@gmail.com for more information.

*Liam Bailey writes regularly on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and other ME affairs for the Palestine Chronicle and Arabic Media Internet Network. He is an advanced blogger on the Washington Post’s Post Global blog and runs the War Pages blog. You can contact him by e-mail: wordsworth22@tesco.net.

Resources:

1: Electronic Intifada: Israel destroys Negev Bedouin village for second time
Report, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, 11 January 2007

2: Haaretz Dec 6 2006: State demolishes 17 houses in unrecognized Bedouin village in Negev, by Mijal Grinberg and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

3: The Guardian: Bedouin feel the squeeze as Israel resettles the Negev desert, Chris McGreal in Tel Al-Mileh Thursday February 27, 2003

4: Electronic Intifada: Israel demolishes entire Bedouin village in the Negev
Press Release, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, 6 December 2006

Pieces of State Part I

Palestinian exports are a small market, but with our help they could be big in ending Palestinian poverty

By Liam Bailey

The Palestinian Authority (PA) economy has never been allowed to expand as it should. In Gaza restricted land access, strict internal and external security measures and high population density have put the fragile economy under pressure. In the West Bank the same type of security measures, restricting movements of people to and from jobs and businesses, and making the movement and export of goods extremely difficult have had the same effect on the economy. The West Bank’s population is slightly less dense which slightly eases the pressure on its economy.

The security measures have been tightened and employed even more frequently, largely in response to the elevated threat from Palestinian resistance groups since the Second Intifada began. Borders and checkpoints being closed severely disrupting trade and labor movements and Israeli military actions destroying businesses and administrative structures were both a factor in the recession of 2001-2002. The separation wall being constructed since late 2002 has further exacerbated the problems. Corruption in the PA and the selfish plundering of its budget has also been extremely detrimental to the growth of the economy.

The Israeli and Western reaction to the election of Hamas in the January 2006 PA elections, refusing aid and boycotting exports and services, increased the Palestinian deficit from $60-$70 million to $110 million per month. Israel also began withholding tax revenues, which accounted for a third of the PA budget and were used for paying the full salaries of its 140,000 employees, the main breadwinners for a third of Palestinian families. These actions have combined to cripple the Palestinian economy

Hamas was elected for its stance on corruption and they haven’t plundered the economy, nor have they put selfish greed before Palestinian welfare. The west’s embargo has made this irrelevant. The economy is in a worse state than ever.

There are people and companies trying to help. Zaytoun is a UK company paying fair-trade prices to import olive oil and other produce from growers in Palestine. The products are sold over the internet and through many small outlets, with hope of attracting bigger stores. I will be covering Zaytoun in my next article in this series.

Another is Joe Turner of Freedom Clothing, a UK not for profit co-operative set up in Jun 2005, importing Palestinian clothing for sale online. I spoke to Joe by telephone. He told me that at the moment he only imports t-shirts from one factory in Beit Jala employing 80 Palestinians. He has his own printer and prints t-shirts with designs to order, for charities and organizations etc.

Joe also told me that the banks wouldn’t give him a loan because they didn’t think it could be done and that the company is currently costing him money, which can’t be sustained forever. Joe added: “if we do have excess finances, we are committed to giving the money away – either to charities that work directly to improve Palestinian society, to the suppliers as bonuses or as reinvestment in more products.” Joe also answered a few questions by e-mail:

Are the products you sell labelled as Palestinian exports?

Our products are labelled ‘Made in West Bank and Gaza’, because the European trade agreement between Europe and the Palestinians is with the ‘West Bank and Gaza’. There was a considerable amount of discussion with the factory owner about what the label should say, and he was adamant that we could get into trouble if it said ‘Made in Palestine’ and tried to export via Israel.

Do you take part in the boycott against Israel?

Regarding a boycott, with respect to those people I know at the Palestinian solidarity groups, the policy is essentially unworkable. Everyone needs to appreciate the macro economics of the situation – the Palestinian economy is dependent on the Israeli economy, and to a lesser extent, the Israeli economy is dependent on the Palestinian economy. I do not have the exact figures to hand, but more than 90% of Palestinian exports go to or via Israel. Many international products marketed by Israeli companies originate in Palestine. Jerusalem Stone is a very good example. Most of the quarries are in Hebron or the Bethlehem area. And yet, most of the big companies that sell Jerusalem Stone tiles are from Israel. Much the same kind of thing happens with Dead Sea cosmetics.

The other day, I was talking to various groups about a strawberry we found in the UK that was marketed under a ‘Palestinian produce’ label by an Israeli company. This particular company is subject to an international boycott because it trades with Israeli settlements. On the other hand, the company buys from Palestinian farmers in Gaza who have no other market for their products. Refusing to buy Israeli, therefore, in a very direct way is likely to mean refusing to buy Palestinian and will lead to further economic depression in Palestine.

I think there is another way. We need to promote and spend every effort assisting and encouraging Palestinian exports. The structures and commitments are in place (even as policies from the Israeli government) for this to happen, but it does not in any major way. There are a few activists like ourselves, exporting small amounts of handicrafts, olive oil and clothing. There are a few people in the Diaspora who have businesses exporting relatives’ products, but there is much more that can and should be done. If we spent a whole lot less time moaning about the boycott and a whole lot more time creatively thinking of ways we can assist Palestinian exports, we stand to gain much more. I am calling for a reverse-boycott of Palestinian goods.

Does Israel make running your business easy or difficult?

We are not a conventional company. We have done the things that others think are stupid, impossible and irresponsible. Almost everything about our business is difficult. Every time I wish to go to visit the factories, I face hours of interrogation by immigration officials and our products are often held up by delays. Yet, the plain truth is that it is possible. If someone like me can do it, anyone can.

Do you think you’re turnover would increase if you were trading from an independent Palestinians state?

I think that life exports would be easier from an independent Palestinian state. Apart from anything else, if there was a functioning airport and seaport in Gaza, transportation would be a lot quicker and more reliable. Whether or not that would have an impact on our own turnover is impossible to say. It might well be the case that the need for a company such as mine would disappear.

Tell me about the problems you mentioned:

Regarding difficulties, the main problem with most Palestinian products, and Palestinian clothing in particular, is the price. This is related, but not entirely due, to the current difficulties. For example, the price of living in Palestine is relatively high, hence the cost of labour to make a product is relatively high. Palestinian factories are generally small, hence no economies of scale. The end result is that the Palestinian product is more expensive than can be purchased from China or India or wherever. This is the major threat to the Palestinian textile industry – many buyers are going elsewhere for cheaper products.

So, the struggle is to find ways that value can be added to Palestinian products, so they are no longer competing at the lowest end of the market but can extract some kind of premium. Generally, I believe that there is little currency in the fact that the products are made in Palestine. More time and effort should be spent in finding higher quality materials, and working to produce a much better quality product than the alternatives. Also the proximity of Palestine should mean that producers can get things to the European market much more swiftly than other parts of the world.

In what ways has the conflict affected you and the business?

In a sense, the conflict has had minimal effect on me. Clearly, I do not run the gambit of bullets, checkpoints and depression on a daily basis. On the other hand, it has been taking up much of my time and money for the last few years – on something that most other people see as a pointless endeavour. Our main objective is to build sustainability that means as many Palestinian workers as possible have stable jobs, can send their kids to schools, put falafal on the plate and hope in their hearts. People cannot eat words.

We may fail. We may make a minuscule effect even on the people that we directly give work to. But ultimately, if we fail, we will fail having tried everything in our power to do something positive. And hopefully others with more skills will take heart from our failure and see that Joe was no fool to give what he could not keep in an attempt to gain what he could not lose.

Joe and I talked a great deal on the phone. Joe hopes to expand the business, eventually importing jeans and other clothes from more Palestinian factories. On a limited budget and struggling to survive, Freedom Clothing badly needs to find buyers for the t-shirt business currently running and for other markets in the UK, Europe and around the world.

If you run a charity or other organization and want to buy printed t-shirts from an ethical company, trying to help manufacturers out of poverty instead of keeping them in it, Joe’s business will print any number of t-shirts with your design for a very competitive price.

Or if you are in a position to help Joe expand into other areas of the textile market, know a bulk buyer looking for reasonably priced ethical jeans, sheets etc, go to the Freedom Clothing website for contact information. Ask for Joe Turner.

This article was published by the Middle East’s leading English daily newspaperArab News.

A Powerful Voice: An Interview with Ilan Pape.

Painting a worrying picture and offering ways to alleviate the Palestinians plight.

By Liam Bailey 

Prominent Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape is openly critical of Israel. In his latest article, he called Israel’s policies in the West Bank ethnic cleansing and felt safe to call their actions in Gaza “measured genocide”.

Let us not forget that Ilan Pape is an Israeli and for him to accuse his own homeland of these things must be very hard indeed, and without a strong basis I’m sure he would reduce the terms to something much weaker. Secondly Ilan Pape has extensive experience of the conflict; he is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa.

He has also written books on the subject, including, among others: The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).

An Israeli with so much knowledge criticizing his homeland makes him a powerful voice. Ilan agreed to answer a few questions of mine on the above matters by e-mail.

Liam Bailey: Do you believe Israel will ever commit to peace?

Ilan Pape: Not in the near future and maybe not in the longer run. There is a need for a revolutionary change in global and regional balances of power before a genuine process of change takes place in Israel itself. If ever this happens, and it is likely to happen at one point, these are time consuming processes. Israel has to be de-Zionised to a point before any genuine reconciliation can be attempted.

LB: Do you think Israel would be more committed to peace if the U.S allowed resolutions against Israel, and threatened to withdraw U.S aid unless they make more concessions to achieve sustainable peace with the Palestinians?

IP: Yes by all means this is one of the revolutionary changes in the global balances I was taking about, above. It will be a crucial factor in forcing a new thinking within Israel and it would be a very positive message to the Arab world to believe once more in the possibility of peace.

LB: Do you share the opinion that the recent Gaza ceasefire was nothing more than appearing as committed to peace to guarantee continued U.S support from a Democrat Congress?

IP: I think the ceasefire was less to do with US policy as with two other factors: one, Israelis want to see how a civil war inside Gaza serves them and secondly, foolishly, Hamas and Fatah are willing to divert their energies and attention from fighting the occupation into trying to struggle one against the other.

LB: When this article is published, going by my past articles, I will be inundated with e-mails and comments saying that genocide in Gaza is a ludicrous suggestion, that Israel is only attacking Gaza in self defence, and that if the Palestinians would stop launching rockets and committing other acts of terrorism Israel would stop retaliating. What would you say to those people?

IP: The Israeli actions, as the Israeli army admits, increase the motivation for more rockets and missiles. The Israeli army itself admits the punitive actions have very little to do with the missile attacks and are meant to achieve ‘deterrence’. Moreover, ever since 1993, whenever any Palestinian group was willing to ceasefire and give a chance for a peace dialogue, the Israeli army immediately launched a provocative action so that the lull would not continue for too long. After the recent ceasefire was agreed upon, the Israeli army arrested a large number of leaders and killed activists and civilians in the West Bank; knowing perfectly well that this was a cassis belle in the eyes of the Palestinian groups.

LB: You paint a convincingly horrifying picture that Israel is actively committing measured genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. The only problem I have is that both policies cannot be achieved quickly, and will likely run through several governments. How can the people in Israel who want to carry these actions through be sure that the people don’t elect a more liberal government, which would put a stop to their well laid plans?

IP: The cleansing of the Jewish space or the area of Palestine that all the Zionist parties, including the liberal ones, covet as a State, is a pillar in Zionist thought. As long as Israel is a Zionist state there is ‘no danger’ that a counter policy would ever be adopted by a Zionist government. After all, it was liberal Zionists who committed the greatest act of ethnic cleansing so far, the 1948 one, and a pure Jewish space is accepted by liberals as well, as a noble target. They are willing to be happy with a smaller part of the land for achieving this goal but there their liberalism ends. This is why there is ‘no rush’ and in fact it is a liberal Zionist concept that a slow measure nowadays is best for silencing world criticism or internal doubts.

LB: I know one Israeli, Reuven Kossover who openly criticises the government, but not for the Gaza siege or the years of disproportionate reactions and collective punishment, but because they don’t do enough to squash the resistance. He believes that Israel should either declare a border excluding Judea, Samaria and Gaza and expel all hostile Arabs from green line Israel, or annex Gaza and the West Bank completely and expel the hostile Arabs. In your experience do a lot of Israelis share similar opinions?

IP: I think yes, but I do think when it comes to voting we alternate every few years between the ‘Left’ a slower pace of ‘squashing’ and the ‘right, an accelerated one. From the victim’s point of view, alas, the result is the same.

LB: How do you think Israel can be stopped from committing ethnic cleansing and genocide?

IP: Only through a coordinated campaign like the one that stopped the apartheid system in South Africa. But for the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign to succeed you also need a strong, united and well orientated Palestinian leadership and strategy. We lack both.

LB: It is currently in the news that Israel faces an existential threat from Hamas and Hezbollah and most Israelis believe Ahmadinejad is synonymous with a second holocaust. Do you share the opinion that Israel currently poses a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Arab world does to Israel?

IP: Indeed, Israel is an unfinished project of statehood, and would go to any length to impose its will until most of the West Bank would be annexed to it, together with the Golan Heights and strategic control up to the Litani River in Lebanon. Anyone that stands in the way is or will be attacked.It is interesting that Israeli generals here say that Hizballah and Hamas are mere irritations and not strategic threats, which I think is an accurate description.LB: It seems to me that the fear of a counter-attack by Israel, the U.S, or both obliterating Iran completely will prevent Ahmadinejad from launching a nuclear attack, or any kind of attack. If it occurs to me then someone in Israel’s leadership must also realize the great threat their nuclear arsenal projects. Am I right that Israel always presents fears for its existence, allowing it to remind people of the holocaust at regular intervals, to stop the world criticising its actions against Palestinians?

IP: Yes the manipulation of the Holocaust memory is to allow the policies I have described above to be carried out without interruption. But I do think the fear in Israel is not from a nuclear attack from Iran, it is clear that the worst that can happen is deterrence policies such as the ones that took place in The Cold War. The fear is from a serious challenge to Israel’s absolute military hegemony in the area.

LB: Or does Israel do the above so that anyone who reads they are committing genocide will not believe it because of the way them and their ancestors suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s.

IP: I think what the Israelis rely on are two things. The slow measures that can obfuscate the general picture and hide the accumulative effect and secondly, the Jewish communities who would back unconditionally even the worst Israeli atrocities.

LB: Finally, I read the other day about a new youth movement –similar to the Hitler youth– that has been formed by Israeli MP, Ariyah Eldad. Its stated aims are hiking scouting and promoting the forced transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank. The group’s formation is clear evidence of his intention to carry on Israel’s policies into the next generation. Eldad said he formed the group because he was being asked by a lot of youths while touring schools, “where are we to go?” “What can we do now?” Do you believe he is telling the truth and that his group will attract significant numbers of Israeli youths?

IP: I am sure this will be a very popular youth movement given the present mood in the country, but the Israeli establishment will be very careful from openly endorsing it.

My interview with Ilan Pape has reinforced my view that this conflict is a long way from a peaceful solution. I just hope that the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions will achieve more popular support and have the desired effect of changing Israeli policies.

Stop the Israeli Oppression!

Publicising a peaceful way to bring Israel into line.

By Liam Bailey

Many people compare the apartheid; two peoples living in one country in completely separate circumstances, one being oppressed and treated inhumanely at the rule of the other. Israel’s separation wall that is being erected, at its current course annexing yet more Arab land reinforces the Israeli apartheid view.

Palestinians –like South Africans under apartheid– are suffering a great deal, especially in Gaza where they have been forced by an EU, U.S boycott to live in poverty as bad as anywhere else in the world. Unlike South Africans there is no significant campaign to stop the oppression. The British anti-apartheid movement became extremely popular across the western world, attracting the support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Its campaign of boycotting the South African regime, with such popular support, made a big difference in ending the apartheid, according to the people who lived under the regime.

Last year, in a cry for similar support, authoritative members of Palestinian civil society called for an academic, consumer, and cultural boycott of Israel as well as divestment from churches, universities, states, cities, unions, banks and anyone else who wants to take part. The text of the call was:

We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The call was endorsed by 171 Palestinian organizations, campaigns, unions and refugee rights associations, as the original call said: from “the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel.” The boycott –which could become a major part in the fight to end Israeli oppression– has begun. Several factors are stopping it from having the popular support from mainstream media and western governments enjoyed by the South African anti-apartheid movement:

One: The similarities between Israel treatment of the Palestinians and the South African Apartheid is not commonly connected, especially in the mainstream media, which for whatever reason refuses to make the connection.

Two: We live in a world ruled by the U.S, with Israel by their side, Israel have been extremely keen to have any form of boycott or divestment labelled as anti-Semitic, an almost equal campaign by pro-Israeli media and journalists has begun for people to boycott the boycott.

Three: Fear of terrorism, which gives weight to Islamaphobia and credibility and therefore increasing popularity to far-right wing groups and political parties, happily criticising the entire Muslim community as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. This means that the Palestinians actively fighting the oppressive Israeli occupation with the only means they have, is played out in the media and therefore seen by the world as terrorism.

Four: Al Qaeda continually seeking to affiliate its cause, which is, in short the murder of Americans and their allies anywhere in the world, with the Palestinians cause, seeking to live in an independent and oppression free-state, and be treated as equals by the world. This adds weight to the media stories, and that the Palestinians fighting the occupation are part of the same Islamic Extremist ideology that is a threat to the western world.

All these factors combine to prevent the calls for boycott and divestment of Israel, attempting similar activities as the anti-(South African)-Apartheid movement and with a similar cause, freeing a people from an oppressive and racist regime, from enjoying anywhere near the same level of support. The campaign is young and this is my way of helping.

Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape is a strong supporter of the boycott. In a recent interview given to Christopher Brown, Mr Pape said of the Boycott’s value in achieving a just solution for the Palestinians:

“It will be very hard in this globalized world we live in to bring about economic sanctions, which would have been the most effective in forcing a change in Israeli policy.

The second best, and more feasible, [way] is to send a message to Israel from the societies at large that its policies are unacceptable, that as long as it continues to do what it does it cannot be accepted … It cannot be in the community of civilized nations.

I think there is both a symbolic and a very political significance to a coordinated reaction by societies in the west for a message, a clear message, that is conveyed in the way of a boycott of divestment or any other symbolic act which says that there is a price tag attached to the policies that you pursue and as long as you pursue these policies, you are not welcomed here. Not as individuals — you are not welcomed here if you represent a certain ideology, a certain state, and especially if you appear as an official representative of this state.”

To the Israeli claims that the boycott is anti-semitic Mr Pape said: “the Israelis are over-using the anti-semitic accusation against anyone who criticizes them. Not only [against] those who call for a boycott, even the mildest criticism of Israel is depicted here as an act of anti-semitism. Maybe one or two known anti-semites have joined the wagon, but that doesn’t prove anything. The fact is that Israel wants to be immune from any criticism. And the shield it uses is always anti-semitism.”

Mr Pape’s final word in the interview was:

“Israel needs a wake-up call. Israelis don’t know that this is what the world thinks about them and I think that civil societies around the world can be the alarm clock for them, and they should be the alarm clock.”

The daily violence Palestinians have to endure under Israeli occupation, combined with what can safely be called “measured” “genocide” and intentions to ethnically cleanse the West Bank, should mean Palestinians have the massive support of all campaigners against oppression. They don’t.

The boycott is a way that you and I can support the Palestinians struggle, a way to let Israel know that the developed and civilized world will no longer tolerate their behaviour, even if our government’s will. I will be supporting it, click here to find out how you can too.

Jettison Blair!

Labour needs to push Blair overboard soon to have any chance in the May elections. By Liam Bailey

Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated his intentions to stand down before the next election. It is a near certainty that he will be replaced by the Chancellor Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown has announced his intentions to distance himself from the white house, to “speak his mind” and put Britain’s National interests first.

The Prime Minister has refused to set a date for his departure, but has said the 2006 Trades Union Congress (TUC) would be his last, meaning he will leave sometime before September. Most people believe he will leave in May to have a decade in office but keep his promise to go before the TUC 2007. Others believe he will go sometime before May to give his successor time to assure the maximum Labour vote at the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local councils.

Pollsters are predicting a heavy defeat for Labour at the May elections. Under Blair they may well be right. I predict arrogant Blair will again put his legacy before the Party and Britain’s national interests by staying in office until at least May, assuring his decade as Prime Minister. Not only that but Labour is currently conducting an extensive policy review, which Blair hopes will secure his legacy by entrenching long-term plans for public service reforms. It is highly unlikely that he will leave before its conclusion.

Many people also believe he will hang on as long as possible in the hope the Northern Ireland’s devolution can be restarted while he is still in office. All these things make it unlikely that he will be stepping down any time soon and unlikely his successor will have anytime to influence the vote in May, if in fact Blair doesn’t stay on for the elections.

The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it best: “We have a constitutional novelty. A prime minister with responsibility and no authority and a chancellor with authority but no responsibility. How can this dysfunctional government conduct the affairs of the country?” The latest Labour party scandal proves he is right.

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has caused a massive stir in the UK by taking her Dyslexic son out of state school and into a private school. Ms Kelly said she was doing “the right thing for my child”, in paying 15000 pounds per year fees to move her son from public schooling in Tower Hamlet’s borough to private schooling. A boarding school in Oxfordshire is Ms Kelly’s choice, despite there being 20 schools close to her home, six with either outstanding or excellent Special Education Needs (SEN) services according to a recent Ofsted report. Downing Street almost immediately released a statement supporting MS Kelly and David Cameron, who has a son with cerebal paulsey expressed his sympathy.

I doubt if the thousands of parents across the country, who have children with severe learning difficulties but can’t afford private school will feel the same, in fact it is likely that they will have lost faith in public sector SEN schooling. Either way the former Education Secretary, now Communities Minister Ruth Kelly has shown little faith in her community, little faith in the education system and therefore little faith in herself. Her decision has also caused a massive scandal for Labour, which could really do without it at the moment.

The debate has continued in the papers and Thursday’s British television news, since the Sunday Mirror expose. In 2005 David Blunkett became the ninth minister Blair had forced to resign, and five others have resigned in scandalous circumstances, four over the Iraq war. I have no doubt that Ruth Kelly would have been the tenth forced resignation under normal party conditions. An ITN news reporter echoed Menzies Campbell Wednesday, saying: Blair has the responsibility but no authority and Brown has the authority but no responsibility, so it looks likely she –Ruth Kelly– will stay in her job. So, not only is it yet another high-profile scandal and yet more bad publicity for the Labour Party, but it has yet again drawn attention to the “dysfunctional government” running the UK.

All the above combines to make it very unlikely the pollsters will be proved wrong about the May elections. Labour will indeed be in for a blood-bath.

So, what has never looked likely before begins to look likely now, a Scottish National Party (SNP) win in the Scottish Parliament elections and maybe even Scottish Independence. The Scottish National Party is slightly ahead of Scottish Labour, and miles ahead of all other parties in most opinion polls, you can’t blame them for thinking this could be their year.

The SNP will undoubtedly try to gain Scottish independence, which has a lot of support in Scotland but not from me. I am a proud Scot, but I am also proud to be British and believe we have far more clout in Europe and the world speaking with one unified voice. Devolution has meant Scotland can still act in its own right, with its own separate funding and separate policies, as the smoking ban in Scotland has proven. I am a smoker and to see people on T.V. smoking in English pubs, knowing we can no longer smoke in public places north of the border is one example I could do without.

New supporters are adding to the people who have always supported the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland. They believe Scotland could be better off as an independent state because it would have sole control and reap the profits of Scotland’s oil reserves, which they believe would expand the Scottish economy.

The fact that the opposition party set to gain the most in the Scottish Parliament elections is not the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats but the SNP is evidence of what is making people angry, perhaps more so than any of the above. The Scottish people want to distance themselves from Blair’s foreign policy and they see the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland as the best way to do that.

Therefore, perhaps the biggest disadvantage for having Blair onboard is his unrelenting support for Bush and the U.S. combined with anti-U.S. feeling in the U.K. running at an all time high. This is largely because of Bush’s foreign policy, which Blair has followed blindly. Despite support for the Iraq war and therefore Bush and therefore Blair being at an all time low, Blair refuses, whatever his reasoning to criticise Bush even slightly, no matter how stupid his foreign policies seem.

The latest U.S bombing in Somalia is yet another example, Blair was asked during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s questions if he was concerned by the air strikes from the US air force carried out on Somali targets over the last few days. It was suggested by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn that what was needed was not foreign intervention but a peace process. Blair agreed: “What is in the interests of everyone in Somalia is to have a peace process that works properly”.

Bearing in mind that for the last fifteen years Somalis have endured either all-out war or total violent chaos in the country, Blair should surely have stopped there, or perhaps added something like: and that is what everybody, including the U.S wants to see in the country. Instead he added: the extremists at work in Somalia pose a threat not just to those outside Somalia but those within it as well and that global terrorism around the world had “a clear ideology and strategy” and where lives were being affected by it, it was right that those responsible were targeted. Bush can do no wrong in Blair’s eyes.

People are worried that with Blair in power the government will be pressured by Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and won’t keep its promise of bringing thousands of our troops home this year. Home from what many believe is an un-winnable war.

Blair staying in power but not really in charge puts the Labour party at a definite disadvantage. For one thing it gives opposition MP’s an easy target to aim criticism and ridicule at. Everyday that passes without an announcement of Blair’s departure means less time for the new leader to turn things around, more time for people to get even angrier as the dysfunctional government is exposed time and again and more reason for opposition MP’s to rub their hands together.

There is a program scheduled on British T.V. channel More Four called the Trial of Tony Blair. In the program Blair is convicted and jailed by a war-crimes tribunal at The Hague. This is further evidence of the U.K’s feelings about the Iraq war and Blair’s part in it. The Labour Party needs to cast Blair from around their neck before it is too late.

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