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


Stop the Israeli Oppression!

Publicising a peaceful way to bring Israel into line.

By Liam Bailey

Many people compare the Palestinian’s plight to that of South Africans living under 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.

The End of War as We Know It!

Islamic extremist terrorism is a new threat. It requires a new approach. By Liam Bailey

9/11 was the pinnacle of an emerging ideology that had been festering for many years. Mainly since 1979, successive American Presidents oil bias and selective or intentional ignorance to unintended consequences of foreign policy decisions created a monster. On 9/11 it bit the hand that stopped feeding it when it had served its purpose. In dealing with the monster Bush has invaded two oil-rich Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying on the great tradition of exacerbating the problem.

The history lessons should have already taught anyone considering the invasion of a Muslim country that it may not be such a good idea. The long running conflicts in Kashmir and Chechnya should ring alarm bells. The U.S government’s arrogance of “Anything you can do, we can do it better” and Bush’s refusal to admit their military short-comings in Vietnam prevented any such reluctance to invading Afghanistan.

Bush should really have been well versed in Afghanistan’s history and the perilous future of countries who invade, as many of Bush’s top aides were part of the Reagan cabinet that exacerbated the Soviet’s troubles in Afghanistan. A policy started by Reagan’s predecessor, which drew the Soviet Union into invading. The U.S was so confident that the Afghan Mujahideen would defeat the Soviet Union with their support that they concentrated on dragging it out for as long as possible. The spiralling cost of the invasion was a major factor in the demise of the Soviet Union. The U.S is proud their policy went so well, unfortunately it caused instability in Afghanistan for almost a decade.

Bush clearly wasn’t made aware of the possible quagmire Afghanistan could become, or, from Bush’s rhetoric, he holds his U.S and its military on a pedestal and refused to believe a few “Rag-tag” extremists (stirred up Moslems” as Zbigniew Brzezinski called them) could defeat it. The U.S heavily aided and armed the Northern Alliance, which was ousted by the Taliban and had been trying to regain control ever since. The Alliance was no match for the Taliban with Pakistan’s support. The sudden influx of U.S support redressed the balance and the Northern Alliance drove the Taliban back into their caves on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

In Afghanistan, recruiting was always going to be easy for the Taliban seeking to reform and regroup for the insurgency Mullah Mohammed Omar promised. In the Madrassas on the Afghanistan border and across Pakistan, many of which were built with U.S money during the Soviet invasion, a militant interpretation of Salafist Islam is taught. In these teachings there is no greater honour than to be a fighter in the Mujahideen’s struggle to liberate Islamic land from a godless invader.

Nobody knows whether NATO will prevail in Afghanistan or the radicals and Pakistan made Taliban will. Either way, the minute Bush invaded Afghanistan, not only did he legitimize Osama Bin Laden and other terror network’s Fatwahs [PDF p51] by giving their terrorism a battlefield. He then went ahead to show that Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda was true by failing to show remorse for “collateral damage”, and failing to rebuild Afghanistan, thus displaying the imperialistic traits of a war based on ulterior motives. None of which was concern for the Afghan people living under the cruel Taliban.

All the above amid the media frenzy caused by 9/11 and the new “War on Terror” –war on the world’s newest and biggest fear– meant Osama’s propaganda being proved right was watched by every Muslim fortunate enough to have a computer and/or television. The problem Al Qaeda had with dwindling global membership was solved by 9/11 and the war on terror’s first action. Gauntanamo, the “shock and awe” of the Iraq campaign and resulting “collateral damage” further served Al Qaeda’s Salafism fuelled cause. As did the atrocities committed by U.S forces.

Now Salafi Islamists had two battlefields to unleash the deeply entrenched anti-Americanism that had led to 9/11, in the form of insurgent warfare. Two places were U.S forces and interests could be attacked far easier, therefore far more frequently and far more effectively than any other country such interests exist.

Toppling Saddam was the easy part, sacking the Baathist supporters, some of which made up the police and security forces was the stupid part and led to the creation of another wing of the insurgency. An insurgency that now rocks Iraq with suicide bombings and other terror attacks daily. Both the above are Sunni elements of the insurgency, one fighting against the hated American empire, the other fighting to put Sunnis back into the primary position they had been in under Saddam. The latter adds a sectarian element to the insurgency, which the U.S exacerbated by –again acting stupidly– imposing a majority Shia Transitional Government, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The sectarian misery has built, from its early beginnings of shrines being blown up into two peoples of the same religion attacking each other in almost every way imaginable, driving each other from their homes, and an environment in which nobody feels safe. An environment so corrupted by Jihad, Anti-American propaganda and deep rooted hatred caused by Saddam favouring a minority, part of which were responsible, voluntarily or not, for brutalizing the majority.

I haven’t even mentioned the Kurdish element. The years of oppression by Saddam, crushing their every revolt for an independent Kurdish state with his campaign of ethnic cleansing has led to a prevalence of the same militant Islamic teachings of Afghanistan’s troubled past. As such they make up their own part in Iraq’s misery, fighting for an independent state the hard way: adding to the death and destruction in the hope the U.S will eventually realize that creating three independent states is the only way to end it all. This may prove to be the case.

3000 U.S troops have been killed in Iraq and the occupation isn’t even three years old, which means that more than a thousand U.S troops have been killed every year of the occupation. Increasing the number of U.S troops in a so called “surge” may do no more than give the insurgents more prize targets to kill with their ambush tactics of hit and run, roadside bombs, suicide car bombs and rocket attacks.

What doesn’t help is the fact that any Muslim resistance group fighting occupation is almost guaranteed to be armed and/or funded by a sympathetic and oil-rich Muslim country, as Syria and Iran are showing in Iraq.

In the Lebanon invasion, similar tactics were employed by Hezbollah, another fundamentalist guerrilla group, also allegedly assisted by Syria and Iran. The way those “stirred up” Muslims stood the course of Israel’s organized military, with artillery, air support and even less scruples towards “collateral damage”, supports my argument.I’m not saying that every Muslim country invaded by a superior military will evolve into the state Iraq has become, the chances are they won’t. Iraq, like every Muslim country has its own individual religious and cultural dynamics. A few things are clear though:

The tactics have been set and their effectiveness proven. From now on, every non-Muslim country that ignores the historical lessons and invades a Muslim country, faces a war to decide not whether they will prevail and then restore order, but how long they are prepared to occupy a country partly populated with people who are willing to die to expel them, killing as many as possible in the process.

There is no doubt that the world faces a great threat from religious extremist terrorism, driven by an anti-modernist strand of Islam, interpreted to suit a violently anti-American ideology. This was expanded in 1998 to include U.S allies; almost every country in the western world. The simple fact is that trying to defeat it with the very military that is at the heart [PDF p50] of the anti-Americanism is only doing what the U.S usually does, exacerbating the problem. The new threat we face is not a conventional threat, and it cannot be defeated with conventional warfare.

Ending the Israel/Palestine Conflict?

I am starting a War Pages think-tank, well blog-tank actually. To be a part of it simply comment on this article with your views on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict could be resolved and I will select the best comments for the blog-tank.

Open the Debate:

Intent on ousting Hamas, dividing the PA and playing for time, Israel may be missing an achievable dream.

By Liam Bailey

The Gaza ceasefire is now an empty shroud, as Israel, patience exhausted has said the IDF will re-start launching “targeted” attacks on Palestinians launching rockets into Israel from the coastal strip, on average twice daily. So, the cycle will begin, attack, brings defensive attack, brings further attacks, brings defensive attacks… repeat infinite.

The always fragile truce, amid what can only be described as an abhorrent failure by both sides to realize the opportunity it presented, was doomed to failure from the start.

Hamas may be unwilling to recognise Israel but its actions during the ceasefire have proven it a willing partner in any peace process. Only unwilling to succumb to anything that will lessen the chances of a Palestinian state eventually achieved, being worth the years of bloodshed. That includes a unity government that allows Abbas free reign to lead the Palestinian people back down the path of his Israeli and American subservience.

Hamas’ attempts to do what was expected of them and resist the occupation through diplomacy, were not met with acceptance of the fact that they were clearly making an effort to moderate their ways. But by equal efforts to cripple their democratic intentions, because they refuse to recognise Israel, renounce violence and box themselves into a corner.

Israel has existed for many years regardless of who accepts its right to do so. I fail to see what difference Hamas’ recognition would make, like saying, at most twelve words would end Hamas violence, when years of the IDF military supremacy hasn’t.

Hamas’ infinite resilience in the face of the extreme pressure caused by the Israeli/U.S. forced boycott of Hamas governed Palestine, has led to more creative efforts to end their governance. Abbas’ call for new elections was at least partly done for the Palestinian people, realizing that a unity government was not on the horizon he tried to end the Palestinian siege one way or another. It was also undoubtedly done partly to get back into Israel and America’s good books and cheque books, at the expense of his relationship with Hamas and therefore at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and population.

His recent meeting with Olmert was a sign that it had worked. Olmert agreed to the removal of 27 West Bank check-points, slackening the noose around Gaza and the release of 100 million dollars in tax revenues. Revenues usually collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, under Hamas simply collected by Israel.

Olmert’s concessions to Abbas were undoubtedly an attempt to influence any elections that may be held in the PA by helping Abbas to regain some credibility with the Palestinian people. Just three days later Israel announced its authorization for a new West Bank settlement, already being built in the Jordan Valley, to re-house settlers evicted during the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Palestinians must have wretched at Israel behaving like a god over them; Israel giveth –slightly more freedom and money that was rightfully theirs– and Israel taketh away –yet more land from any future Palestinian state–.

If only Israel’s leaders could see that granting the Palestinians what they want would also be the ideal solution for Israel.

There is currently worry within Israel that falling immigration may result in the balance being tipped against it remaining a predominantly Jewish state. If Israel gave the Palestinians an independent state within the borders as they stood before the 1967 six day war, and a partial right of return, allowing only descendants of those expelled in the 1948 war the right to return, only to the newly formed state, Israel’s Arab population would surely move into the new state. This would put Israel closer than ever to a totally Jewish state if not completing the dream.

Israel’s Arabs may not migrate however, as some people, such as Israeli businessman Reuven Kossover, fear that such a Palestinian state would be racked by poverty and at the mercy of foreign aid for its foreseeable future. There is also a simple solution to that problem:

Palestine’s warm climate would allow the growth of tropical fruits, which could be sold and exported in a global orchard business; grapes could obviously go to the manufacture of Palestinian wines. As well as craft manufacture industries that could also be exported around the world. We have already seen the pyrotechnical capabilities of the Qassam manufacturers, with a little training Palestinian rockets –and other fireworks– could bring happiness instead of misery. In my lifetime I have only seen one Palestinian export, Palestinian clove oil.

How many states can you name that have received more news coverage and publicity in recent years than Israel and Palestine?

According to the proverb that no publicity is bad publicity, the novelty of Palestinian exports and the strong support for the Palestinians plight around the world would ensure new businesses expand and provide jobs very quickly. This would not require heavy or sustained financial aid, but an international or Arab program ensuring Palestinians who desire to set up in business get adequate training in the field they choose. Let’s hope Israel sees sense soon.

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Ethiopia Gave Hobson’s Choice for Christmas

Somalis have recently been under a harsh Islamic regime, but the alternatives are much worse.

By Liam Bailey

Predominantly Christian Ethiopia gave its Muslim Somali neighbours perhaps the worst Christmas present of all. The reinstatement of full-blown war to replace the weeks of sporadic artillery fire and months of socially restrictive calm brought by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)sweeping to power in June.

Ethiopia entering the conflict proper by launching air-strikes on UIC towns and positions Dec. 24, brought report after report of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces taking towns and of the Courts in retreat. Reports Dec. 27 put the advancing forces at 50km from Mogadishu having taken control of all major towns en route to the capital.

Upon Ethiopia’s entry into the conflict the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting in which members met regarding a call to end the fighting in Somalia. No call was made however, because the U.S. and several of her allies objected to the text, saying that it singled out Ethiopia and that stability from a political agreement was needed before foreign troops could leave. Lebanon/Israel all over again, I wondered how many Somalis would be killed and displaced before the U.S let the UN pull its finger out. Literally, to point objectionably and tell them to “stop it”, about all it is good for of late.

The U.S of course, supported Ethiopia in fighting the UIC, viewing the action as part of the broad War on Terror. Again similarly to the war in Lebanon earlier this year, the U.S urged restraint by Ethiopia, and the maximum protection of civilians. Clearly the U.S has learned nothing from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Islamic fundamentalism is not like any ideology or threat the world has ever faced and cannot be dealt with by military force. The current wave of terrorism around the world is fuelled by the literal Quranic interpretations of Salafism and the Jihad it presents as central to Islam. Not only literal interpretations are the problem though, the translation of Islamic texts to suit an ideology of terrorism also contributes in the besiegement of the world.

Take the recent spate of suicide bombings… Suicide is forbidden in the Quran, but Salafism hails Jihad above all else, so suicide bombing as an act of Jihad therefore, is acceptable in their ideology. According to the same ideology those fighting Jihad are seen in a special light by Allah and those dying while doing so go straight to paradise, suicide bombers included.

Dec. 28 reports from Somalia were that the UIC had surrendered in Mogadishu, returning it to clan rule. The Courts had said they would re-group there and continue the war.

Somalia’s envoy to Ethiopia told reporters Dec. 27 that they planned to avoid civilian casualties by not fighting for Mogadishu, instead surrounding and besieging the capital until the UIC surrendered. Their strategy worked in a far quicker time than the Court’s rhetoric would have suggested.

It does now look like the transitional Federal Government has regained control of Somalia with Ethiopia’s assistance. What happens now however, is unclear.

Ethiopian ministers have stated that they do not intend to impose a government in Somalia and that they are there to defend their interests only. They had also said that TFG forces would be on their own in fighting for Mogadishu. Somalis however reported Dec. 27 Ethiopian tanks and troops marching towards the capital with TFG forces.

If Ethiopian ministers speak the truth and indeed intend to leave Somalia now that the courts have surrendered, Somalia will undoubtedly return to the anarchy of the 15 years before. On the other hand, if Ethiopia does intend to take some part in the running of Somalia, I hope it is planning for a long conflict. Somalis may have been worried about the loss of personal freedoms under the Courts, but as the recent demonstrations in Mogadishu displayed, they want to be ruled by Ethiopia even less.

Either way in one of the world’s poorest countries, already enduring severe drought, famine and the aftermath of severe floods, things are set to get far worse for the Somali people. The war has already put an end to the humanitarian efforts being made and created thousands of refugees. In the coming months Somalia’s population will be faced with an environment similar to Iraq, with ex Courts militiamen, foreign fighters and clansmen waging unconventional warfare in Jihad against the Ethiopian occupiers. Or they will be returned to the previous 15 years of lawlessness, chaos, insecurity and violence, again, pretty similar to Iraq.

Somalis don’t get a say in the matter, but if they did it would be Hobson’s choice.

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Supporting Peace Is Not abandoning Israel

This article has so far been published by:
Arabic Media Internet Network

OhmyNews International and

Garowe Online (Somalia).

To be fourth E-mail me or syndicate it from blogburst.com if you are a member.

Blair and the EU have followed the U.S’ line on Hamas for far too long.

By Liam Bailey

Tony Blair wrapped up his Middle East visit Wednesday. The British Prime Minister had toured the Middle East over the past few days in the hope of finding some way to kick start the stalled Israeli/Palestinian peace process. While he was there Mahmoud Abbas said he was going to hold new elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA). He did this, basically, to see if the Palestinian people still wanted to be governed by Hamas after the months of poverty they had endured because the U.S and the west views Hamas as a terrorist organization. Immediately Bush, Blair and Olmert came out supporting Abbas’ decision, and when Tony Blair went to the Palestinian territories he met only with Abbas. The whole Middle East trip then became a mission to support the moderates against the extremists.

Olmert, Bush, Blair, and their allies would have us believe that Hamas won’t stop until Israel is wiped off the map and all Jews have been driven into the sea. Painting Hamas as a terrorist organization in the current climate makes Israel a staunch ally, standing beside the rest of the world in the fight against extremism. It doesn’t however give Hamas or the Palestinian people a fair deal.

Hamas are not like Al Qaeda or their affiliates around the world, who are simply using the Palestinian cause to fuel their own recruitment, with yet another call for Palestinian Jihad released on Al Jazeera this week. Hamas are not filling the internet with their Jihad videos of attacking civilians around the globe. They are not sending fighters into Iraq or Afghanistan to attack and make life difficult for U.S forces. Nor are they attacking or threatening to attack every country allied to the U.S, despite the U.S support of Israel, which is Al Qaeda’s main rallying cry. They don’t have cells in most countries and they are not radicalizing and/or recruiting young Muslims from around the globe to join them, or even attempting to do so.

They are made up of Palestinians, most of whom have lived all their lives under the control of Israel. Of course, according to Bush, Blair and Israel’s supporters it is not a cruel occupation. Israel has been fair to the Palestinians and has only used violence in self defence. By this reasoning the Palestinians should be thankful and their ungrateful violence only brings trouble into their people’s lives. The Palestinians life: not being able to go where they want when they want, living under fear of bombs falling on their home, and –as the current Hamas boycott has shown– at the mercy of Israel for their next meal. They have no army and they are beaten and arrested for protesting.

Hamas, born out of years of life in these conditions are fighting with the only means they have –terrorism– to end Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people. Wiping Israel off the map is simply powerful talk from a disempowered people. Meaning Hamas only maintain the rhetoric of wiping Israel off the map because it continues its cruel occupation and unrelenting refusal to grant the Palestinians their own state and any chance of a decent life.

You’re not trying to tell me that if Israel did give the Palestinians their own state and a partial right of return that Hamas would attempt to push Israeli’s into the sea. A course of action that would risk the wrath of Israel’s far superior military re-taking control and putting them back under the same conditions of occupation. What I mean by partial is allowing only descendants of those expelled the right and only to return to the new Palestinian state within the 67 borders. This wouldn’t cost Israel’s their Jewish state, the reason they have so far refused to give the right. In fact, if the Arabs currently living in Israel decided to go back and live in the new Palestinian state, which I suggest many of them would, it would further secure Israel as a Jewish state.

As I said, Tony Blair went to the Middle East to try and restart the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. As I also said he didn’t meet with Hamas’ leader and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. How can you re-start peace talks if you don’t talk to both the warring sides? Again it displays an arrogance and a short-sightedness in U.S foreign policy, which is again followed blindly by Blair on behalf of the U.K. They obviously believe that their PA siege will have achieved the desired effect and the Palestinian people will give in and vote Fatah at the polls. As I have previously wrote the Palestinian resolve, hardened by years of the David v Goliath conflict is a force to be reckoned with.

I’m sure Blair will have learned in history lessons about the British home front facing the onslaught of the Nazi Blitzkrieg on the meagre government rations. The British wouldn’t have surrendered to the Nazis in a million years, so Bush and Blair may just get a shock if the PA elections go ahead. If they do go ahead and the Palestinian people vote Hamas again, Bush and Blair will be at a loss as to how to progress toward achieving peace in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and no closer to meeting the Baker report recommendation on saving face in Iraq.

Notice in this article how many times I have wrote Bush and Blair, as though they are acting on shared interests, which Blair obviously still believes they are.

Blair needs to open his eyes and realize that Bush’s actions are blatantly biased towards Israel. How else can you justify collectively punishing the Palestinian people for acting under the democracy you have fought two wars to try and impose on foreign countries. No one can deny that the past and current U.S led attempts at resolving the conflict have failed miserably.

Blair needs to reunite with the EU, who then need to look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without the War on Terror blinkers. The unified EU should finally admit that Hamas only want a viable Palestinian state. They are not a terrorist organization that can’t be reasoned with and won’t stop till Israel is wiped off the map. Only if they make these admissions will they have any hope of achieving a lasting peace agreed to by all the Palestinian factions.

Liam Bailey is a UK freelance journalist.

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US: End of Middle East Dominance: What Dominance?

Previously suppressed states are exploiting the mess in Iraq and vying for supremacy.By Liam Bailey

With the Baker report suggesting America talks with its staunch adversaries Iran and Syria, and the public’s apparent support for Baker’s findings. It is beginning to look like Bush might finally be forced into –unthinkable for him– acts of history validated common sense. Since talking to Iran and Syria was first suggested by Blair after he gave evidence to the Baker Commission, analysts have been questioning the end of U.S domination in the Middle East.

The question should be: did the U.S ever dominate the Middle East? Sure, unconditionally supporting Israel ensured their influence in that conflict, IDF style. Bombing and shooting the Palestinians into agreement with the U.S’ –fad– peace plan at the time. Meanwhile the U.S exerted little or no influence in Israel’s often ill-advised and frequently illegal actions. Israel currently has little or no influence in Middle East affairs anyway. It couldn’t get by without U.S aid [PDF], let alone suppress the latest Palestinian Intifada.

There was a tradition of U.K and U.S influence in Iran’s monarchical rule after we imposed a suitable Shah. The current stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, and its meddling in Iraq [PDF] show how much things have changed. Not only recently but since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the hostages taken in the U.S embassy during the revolution flipped the bird to U.S influence in Iran.

Iran currently showing disregard for U.S power is a facade to amplify its own strength and help their hegemonic aims.

Syrian diplomats have always adhered strictly to agreements reached with their U.S counterparts. But they have also been close to all-out war over the Israeli Lebanon conflict in 1983. The U.S, recognising that Syria plays a central role in the Middle East and in global Jihad, attempts to exert its influence. And turn the “rogue state” from a supporter of terrorism to a supporter of democracy and U.S hegemony. They have and probably will never succeed in that aim.

The U.S has enjoyed 70 years of good relations with Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, until 9/11 put a significant strain on the “special relationship”. Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel during the Israel/Hezbollah conflict and rhetoric of going to war showed that the U.S doesn’t hold much influence over Saudi Arabia.

In Iraq’s case, we all know the current scenario. The U.S has as much influence in Iraq now as any of the rival militia factions. The same influence it has recently had over every other Middle East country, very little.

The U.S has had reasonable influence in Turkey since shortly after World War II, with the exception of the mid-late 70’s when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The U.S’ influence in Turkey crumbled in the build up to the Iraq war. Turkey refusing U.S forces entry to hit Iraq from the North, showed that –unlike Saudi Arabia– Turkey’s loyalty to their Iraqi Muslim brothers and sisters influenced their policy more than U.S relations. U.S aid [PDF] was cut-off 2003. Except a small military grant, which I presume was necessary for Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Relations fell apart in Mar. 2005, when the U.S ambassador to Turkey resigned after two years. Because Turkey’s government came out in support of their President’s decision to visit Syria in early April that year, despite the U.S warning against it. Also for ignoring the ambassador’s calls for Turkey to join an international coalition concerning Syria.

The U.S weighs its relationship with and influence of Egypt perhaps higher than any other Middle East country, because of its leadership role in the region. A role which was set when Egypt was actively fighting Israel and sought military aid from the Soviets. Several other Arab states shortly followed suit. U.S Israel relations improved after the 1979 peace treaty was signed with Israel. Since then the U.S has given billions of dollars [PDF] in military and financial aid to sustain Egypt’s moderate voice in Arab councils. Persuade less moderate regimes of the benefits of compromise and to maintain the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.

The latter has been more successful than the other two by far. As the U.S failed to realize that the feelings of Egypt’s leaders toward Israel’s treatment of their Arab Palestinian brothers didn’t change overnight. More likely they realised they would be in a much better position to help the Palestinians in every way with a whole whack of U.S aid.

Jordan’s monarchy has perhaps the best relationship with the U.S. The U.S began providing Jordan with economic and military aid in 1951 and 1957 respectively. Relations were slightly soured by Jordan’s reluctance to participate in the first Iraq war to liberate Kuwait. Relations improved throughout the 1990’s as Jordan began to take a more favourable view of normalization of relations with Israel. Over the years the U.S has provided billions of dollars [PDF] in aid to Jordan. In return Jordan provided logistical support in the Afghanistan war, and, informally the same in the current Iraq war, although the monarchy was publicly opposed.

King Abdullah’s policies of normalization with Israel and alliance with the U.S cause much unrest from Jordan’s Islamic fundamentalist groups. Like the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood, an influential part of the political mainstream. It also causes unrest in parts of the Palestinian communities, and in prominent professional and trade organizations.

The Middle East and its rich oil reserves have always been at the fore-front of U.S policy. So much so that they have taken their eye off the ball elsewhere; allowing China to become the main influence in Asia and enter the fight for global supremacy. The North Korean nuke test is another example of the Bush administration taking their eye off the ball.

Given all this focus on their Middle East policy it is ludicrous that it has descended into such a farce.

Little wonder as it is largely the world’s most backward foreign policy. Unconditionally supporting a country surrounded by enemies –Israel–, while hoping to exert influence over its enemies. Is like a boxer’s coach shouting orders at the opposing fighter. Stupid. Previously however the U.S had tried to exert their influence over Israel’s enemies by diplomacy in the main. Bush Jnr coming in with his complete ignorance of foreign policy and its relation to even recent history, alongside his policy of never talking to your adversary. Combined with the backward policies above, are perhaps the main reasons for the current state of the Middle East.

Something else I find laughable however is Bush Snr, responsible for another reason for the current mess. Coming in now and telling his son what he needs to do in Iraq. If he had honoured his statements to the Iraq’s Shia and Kurdish populations, by ordering U.S forces to go on into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, in the first gulf war 1991. Embracing the uprising started by the Shia in the south and driving Iraqi forces into the Kurdish uprising in the North. Both of which were started because of Bush’s suggestion of support.

Saddam would undoubtedly have been easily defeated. As he was 2003, but the occupying U.S or U.S/U.N forces would have probably had the support of the Kurdish minority and Shia Majority. Giving the Sunni’s no choice but to join the new diplomatic efforts or be left out of Iraq’s democratic future. As oppose to miss-trust for Bush Jnr by Shia and Kurd’s after being lied to by his dad before him. And resentment because of the massacres his lies led them into.

I believe had Bush Snr done this Iraq would have been a stable democracy by now, certainly closer than has been for decades.

In closing, the U.S never really had much influence in Middle Eastern affairs. The little it did have from supplying heavy financial aid to needy countries in prominent positions. And U.S and Israel’s superior military force were sufficient to secure the things they really needed and manipulate affairs to ensure no-one else gained more control.

The Iraq war in 2003 showing that U.S military force was useless against sporadic Jihad’s guerrilla warfare. Accelerated the rate at which the little Middle East influence the U.S had is disappearing. All that remains is moderate influence in return for heavy aid to countries with even less influence –than the U.S– in Middle East affairs.

The rich and influential Middle East countries are exploiting the exposed weakness to secure their own hegemony.

It will be interesting to watch the changing political and military landscapes in the coming months. Especially if a serious U.S strategy shift in Iraq coincides with a policy shift in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Liam Bailey is a writer from the UK, he runs the War Pages weblog and can be contacted by e-mail.

Does U.S Support Prevent Israel from Commiting to Peace?

Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians… By Liam BaileyThe United Nations General Assembly finally passed a resolution condemning Israel for killing 19 civilians in an artillery attack on Beit Hanoun. The resolution put forward by Qatar and other Arab UN member states was passed Nov. 17 2006, 9 days after the errant shells that were so costly to civilian life.

Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman walked out after saying the “one-sided” resolution lends a hand to terror and that he would be better holding a press conference down the road. Despite this and similar criticism from U.S ambassador John Bolton the resolution was overwhelmingly passed, with 156 of the 192 member General Assembly members accepting the resolution’s “tweaked” wording. Seven rejected the resolution and there were six abstentions. The General Assembly has none of the powers of the Security Council, such as imposing sanctions or possibly even authorizing a UN peacekeeping force. As such the resolution is little more than rhetorical condemnation.

Practically the same resolution was presented to the Security Council, again by Qatar and other Arab member states, calling for an end to the violence on both sides. The U.S vetoed the resolution, with Bolton calling it “unbalanced,” “biased against Israel,” and “politically motivated.” If such wanton death or excessive (collective) punishment were being inflicted on a civilian population by any other country than Israel, I personally believe a U.N. security council resolution would have long since been passed trying to put a stop to the violence. This suggests that the U.S. supports Israel’s actions unquestioningly.

This support is also visible in U.S financial aid to Israel, which, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, using Congressional research figures [PDF] from 2005 has been between US$1.7 billion and US$4.9 billion per year since 1976, with varying amounts going straight back into the U.S. buying advanced weapons and military technology. The same CRS report, cited on the Jewish Virtual Library estimated U.S aid to Israel for 2006 as U.S$2.56 billion: a U.S$2.28 billion military grant, 240 million economic grant and a 40 million dollar grant for the resettlement of Jewish refugees.

In the current climate Israel is seen by the U.S. a staunch ally in the War on Terror, Bush and Olmert standing side by side in the face of Islamic extremist terrorism.

Comparing the violent acts of the Hamas militant wing and the many other Palestinian militant groups resisting the occupation to the indiscriminate and unnecessary terror that Al Qaeda and similar groups are inflicting on the world is not only a big mistake, but is also the reason that the biggest obstacle to Middle East peace is the lack of Israeli commitment to that goal.

Ahdaf Soueif, who writes on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for the Guardian and Eyal Weisman, architect and prominent Middle East liberal writer both share my views on Israel’s commitment, I asked them both this question by e-mail:

Do you think the lack of Israeli commitment over the decades has been a major factor in the failure to resolve the conflict?

Both answered: “Yes”

Eyal Weizman is currently lecturing at Goldsmith’s college London, part of his lecture is on his forthcoming book Hollow Land, to be published in 2007 by Verso. The book includes the following excerpt:

“The chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, Dan Halutz, confirms that the Israeli army sees the conflict as “unresolvable”. It has “geared itself to operate within an environment saturated with conflict and within a future of permanent violence … it sees itself acting just under the threshold of international sanctions … keeping the conflict on a flame low enough for Israeli society to be able to live and prosper within it.”

So, there you have it, Israel’s leadership doesn’t want peace. Israel’s UN ambassador also said before walking out of the General Assembly meeting on the shelling of Beit Hanoun, that the debate offered the Hamas government no incentive to renounce their ways of terror. Let’s look at incentives…

Since suicide bomb attacks effectively ceased with the erection of the separating wall, Israeli civilians have been relatively safe in the conflict. Although the Qassam rockets fired regularly from the Gaza strip by Palestinian militants are extremely disturbing and regularly cause damage to property, the thousands fired have killed nine Israeli’s this year. An Amnesty U.S.A total of 20 Israeli’s killed by Palestinian armed groups this year, is a stark contrast to the 240 Palestinians killed by Israel in the same period.

Therefore all Palestinians, including the Hamas government have one big incentive for renouncing terror and seeking peace: the heavy civilian death toll of every upsurge in Israeli retaliation. The Israeli leadership has no such incentive.

As I said Israel has received heavy financial aid from its U.S allies throughout its decades of conflict with its Palestinian occupants. Israeli leaders must wonder therefore whether achieving a sustainable peace in the on-going conflict would result in U.S aid being reduced. This is an incentive for Israel to keep the conflict going.

I also said that the latest U.S veto suggested that Israel enjoys unquestioned U.S support in the UN, which has a history of speaking the truth about Israeli actions. Add the latest veto to the 40 resolutions critical of Israel vetoed by the U.S since 1972 and it becomes clear just how unquestioning the U.S’ support for Israel’s military actions is. Therefore, whether I am right that Israel isn’t fully committed to peace, for whatever reason, or not, this unquestioning support from the U.S would certainly allow them to suppress the Palestinians sufficiently, as -Dan Halutz- suggests, to make such a policy viable.

Therefore if we are to see peace in the Middle East, the U.S has to change its attitude towards Israel. I believe if the U.S. stopped its unquestioning support of Israel in the U.N., perhaps allowing resolutions and possibly even sanctions against the Jewish state, alongside an ultimatum of cutting U.S. aid unless Israel’s leadership commits fully to achieving a sustainable peace with their Palestinian neighbours — firstly by sticking to promises and adhering to past resolutions, possibly by making more concessions, and certainly by being more willing to compromise — Israel’s leadership would become far more committed to peace. I put this to Ahdaf Soueif and Eyal Weisman:

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 if Israel doesn’t make more concessions to achieve sustainable peace with the Palestinians?

Again, both answered: “Yes”

As the lack of commitment by Israel’s leadership has been such a factor in the failure to resolve the conflict. I believe such increased commitment by Israel would greatly increase the chances of sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If this was followed by an international peace conference as is currently being talked about who knows, there could finally be a lasting peace in the Middle East.

This article was published by OhmyNews International and Arabic Media Internet Network

Al Qaida: The Iraq Trap

New book author on BBC2 suggests Al Qaida tricked the U.S into (their downfall) the Iraq war. By Liam Bailey

Released Oct. 17, “Inside the Global Jihad how I infiltrated Al Qaeda and was abandoned by Western Intelligence” is the story of Omar Nasiri, who started out running guns for Algerian Islamic Radicals: Groupes Islamiques Armés; Armed Islamic Groups in English, GIA as they are most commonly known. After stealing money from the radicals he was forced to seek the protection of French intelligence in Belgium, who were taking the GIA threat very seriously. Omar Nasiri, which is a pen name to protect his identity, was given the money to return to the radicals and over the next 7 years became a vital French intelligence asset.

As the various splinter Islamic radical groups began to coalesce into the global threat of Al Qaida. Nasiri was sent to the training camps of Afghanistan, losing contact with his French intelligence controllers. When his training was complete he was sent to the UK, to form a sleeper cell. Picked up by British intelligence he again became a spy under the joint control of British and French intelligence, the French were worried that London wasn’t taking the threat seriously, naming the capital Londonistan because of the number of radicals taking refuge there. While in London Omar Nasiri provided intelligence on radical clerics like, Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza and mosques like Finsbury park; a haven for radical preaching. Until he parted company with the intelligence community in the late 90’s when they began to lose trust in him and he began to become frustrated that they weren’t taking his information seriously enough.

Omar Nasiri’s account of life inside Al Qaeda training camps is, according to Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden Unit, “more complete than any intelligence we had available to us in the 1990s” and “has no peer in the publications of the American intelligence community.” As well as being checked for validity by Michael Scheuer, the facts were also checked by members of various European intelligence agencies before publication.

The above facts about Nasiri’s story came from his Oct. 16 interview on BBC2’s Newsnight. During the interview Nasiri gave some details about the training regime inside Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan. Nasiri talked of seeing one of his fellow trainees hanging by his feet from the ceiling, his trainer explained to him that the man wasn’t being punished; he was being trained in what to do if he was captured and tortured under interrogation. Nasiri said that Al Qaida operatives are taught, not how to maintain silence under torture, but to lie; to tell the enemy what they think the enemy wants to hear.

This brought the interviewer to ask about the top Al Qaida operative Iban al Shakh al Libby, who, when captured revealed the intelligence that Colin Powell presented to the UN in the run up to the Iraq invasion. Nasiri said that al Libby was accomplished in the training techniques of remaining calm and telling the enemy what they want to hear under interrogation. Evidence emerged recently that the intelligence from al Libby that formed the basis for the Iraq war was art of a confession extracted under torture in a CIA prison in Egypt. When Nasiri was asked what al Libby would do if tortured, Nasiri said, “he would lie.”

Nasiri went on to suggest that, before the Iraq war, Al Qaida had wanted to draw the U.S into invading a Middle East Muslim country, and said that Iraq was believed to be the weakest. Given the long running battle between the U.S and the UN as to whether Saddam’s reluctance to cooperate with weapons inspectors was strong enough evidence that he was concealing an active WMD program, and given that U.S Neocon plans for an Iraq invasion since 1998 were almost common knowledge. It is easy to see that the intelligence al Libby provided on Al Qaida links with Saddam were –knowingly– exactly what the enemy wanted to hear, and according to Nasiri, exactly what Al Qaida wanted the U.S to believe.

This adds yet more doubt in the ability of President Bush to run his country effectively. Not only were Bush’s father and his aides, many top U.S intelligence analysts and many respected media analysts able to predict that an Iraq invasion would go horribly for the U.S. But Al Qaida, the U.S’ biggest enemy at the time were also able to predict that among other things, their activities would turn Iraq into a quagmire for coalition forces, also adding weight to the claims that Al Qaida have stirred up Iraq’s sectarian misery. So again I ask: why wasn’t Bush Jnr or anyone by his side able to see that they were right?

If Nasiri is correct, and what al Libby revealed under torture did draw the U.S into the very invasion of a Muslim country that Al Qaida were praying for. Then the U.S has been given a taste of its own medicine in Iraq.

Although the official line remains that U.S funding for the Afghan Mujahideen began after the Soviet invasion in 1980. A 1998 interview with President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski revealed that the U.S had begun covertly funding the Mujahideen in Afghanistan July 3 1979, long before the Soviet invasion Dec. 24 the same year. Brzezinski advised the President the day funding began, that he believed it the covert aid would induce the Soviet’s to invade Afghanistan, and, so called the Afghan trap, would be an opportunity to give the Soviet’s their Vietnam War.

Just as the Afghanistan war effectively ended the Soviet’s run –against the U.S- for world supremacy. The Iraq war, with the U.S now considering seeking their enemies help has effectively ended the U.S’ run for joint –with Israel- Middle East domination and their reign of world supremacy.

This article was published by OhmyNews International 18/11/06

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