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Israeli Students Cancel Speech by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “She is Anti-Semitic”

Alternative Information Center | 06 February 2011

Students at Israel’s Bar Ilan University cancelled a planned speech by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, claiming that she is “anti-Semitic.”

navi_pillay

Commissioner Pillay was invited by Bar Ilan University to speak at its Faculty of Law. University students affiliated with the right-wing “Forum for Eretz Israel” plastered the campus with posters against Pillay and sent a sharply worded letter of protest to the university’s administration.

“Ms. Pillay stands at the head of a commission…which is biased and tendentious in everything concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict,” the letter stated. “This commission explicitly promotes an anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist agenda, and a large number of her statements concerning Israel as like blood libels of the worst kind.”

Examples noted in the letter include Pillay’s statements that during Israel’s military attack on the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009 (Operation Cast Lead), Israel bombed hospitals for no reason and in several cases, soldiers killed Palestinians in cold blood. According to Israel’s daily Israel Hayom, the letter also contends that a report issued by Pillay concerning these military attacks repeat contentions of the Goldstone Commission that Israel committed war crimes.

“Just as the university would not allow a Holocaust denier to speak, there is no room to provide a platform for an anti-Semitic personality such as her.”

Bar Ilan University failed to respond to questions in this matter.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | 4 Comments

Egypt and the Palestinian question

The Mubarak regime has been a tool with which Israel and the US have pressured Palestinians

By Abdullah Al-Arian | Al-Jazeera | 05 Feb 2011

Along with the laundry list of domestic grievances expressed by Egyptian protesters calling for an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the popular perception of Egypt’s foreign policy has also been a focal point of the demonstrations.

Signs and chants have called on Mubarak to seek refuge in Tel Aviv, while his hastily appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman, has been disparaged as a puppet of the US. Egypt’s widely publicised sale of natural gas to Israel at rock bottom prices has featured in many refrains emanating from the crowds.

The widespread view among Egyptians that the regime has served the interests of the West has not been helped by Israel’s call for world leaders to support Mubarak, or the apparent unwillingness by American officials to give the protests their full backing.

Plummeting status

In the shadow of the current cries to topple the Egyptian regime, the Mubarak government has had a tough time keeping its role in international affairs out of public view.

In the area where Egypt’s foreign policy apparatus has served US interests most directly, Israel’s security, the Mubarak regime’s complicity in the failure to establish a Palestinian state has become widely publicised in recent years. Its role in placing the stranglehold on the people of Gaza, in conjunction with Israel, has seen Egypt’s status in the region plummet to a level it has not reached in decades.

The Palestine Papers, the leaked internal documents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that were recently exposed by Al Jazeera, provide further confirmation of Egypt’s role in the impasse between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

While much of the coverage of the Palestine Papers has focused on the unprecedented concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and how swiftly they were spurned by Israeli and American representatives, Egypt’s role as an instrument for added pressure stands out from the internal records.

As the peace process broke down over the past decade, Egypt was a party to many of the discussions and central to the security arrangements made between the PA and Israel.

Egyptian duplicity

Throughout the documents, Suleiman in particular is singled out as the point person whom Israeli and American officials could count on to execute their agenda of dividing the Palestinian factions or pressing the PA for greater concessions.

Barely a few months after the January 2006 Palestinian elections that resulted in a Hamas victory, PA leaders were already appealing for assistance in fending off their political opponents. At a meeting between leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US General Keith Dayton, the latter assured the Palestinians that the American administration is committed to reinforcing the PA’s Presidential Guard to maintain Mahmoud Abbas’ authority in the face of the newly elected Hamas government.

In support of his pledge, Dayton referred to discussions with Suleiman, who committed Egypt, along with Jordan, to providing training and equipment, “even at their own expense”.

Later in the year, as the Palestinian factions were engaged in negotiations over the formation of a unity government, a European diplomat told Erekat that the American position on unifying the Palestinians was “prematurely negative”. Erekat agreed, adding that Suleiman had also been discouraging of those efforts, saying that they would not work.

In early 2007, as the siege on Gaza had crippling consequences on the lives of Palestinians, negotiators complained that Egyptian leaders were duplicitous, speaking publicly in support of allowing goods into Gaza, but in reality, “it remains blocked on the ground …. This is a general problem with the Egyptians”.

An internal report from April 2007 confirms these suspicions. The Agreement on Movement and Access states: “Although there has been political agreement by Omar Suleiman and President Mubarak on allowing exports through, this agreement has never been translated into operational reality.”

Conditions in Gaza only worsened in the months ahead, thanks in large part to the stranglehold imposed by Israel and Egypt. As Hamas assumed sole control of Gaza by preventing a coup attempt by US-backed PA forces, Egypt determined to seal off the border.

In a February 2008 meeting between Ahmed Qurei, a high-ranking PA official, and Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister, Qurei relayed the Egyptian position conveyed to him by their leader. “President Mubarak said they’ll close down the borders after Sunday and whoever is caught on Egyptian territories will be considered illegal.”

The situation came to a stalemate in the months leading up to Israel’s December 2008 assault on Gaza that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians. As tensions were heightened, Erekat lamented to his Israeli counterpart that Suleiman was forced to cancel a meeting in the occupied territories. Amos Gilad, the director of Israeli military intelligence, speculated: “Regarding Omar Suleiman, maybe he delayed because he is afraid we will attack while he is here. It will hurt him. He will look like a collaborator.”

A tool to pressure Palestinians

The image of Egyptian officials as tools to pressure the Palestinians also emerges out of conversations between US and Palestinian officials. In late 2009, George Mitchell, Barack Obama’s envoy to the region, told Erekat that he had spoken with Suleiman and the two agreed that the PA could unilaterally declare new elections without any input from Hamas.

Furthermore, Mitchell and Suleiman agreed that any agreement would have to permanently eradicate any Hamas presence in the West Bank, while at the same time allowing the PA to resume control of Gaza, terms Hamas was sure to reject. But as Egypt was preparing a document on how the PA should proceed, Erekat assured Mitchell that: “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] won’t say no to whatever the Egyptians present to him”.

Even when it appeared that the Egyptians were attempting to display some degree of autonomy, it became more evident in the documents that external pressure was never too far behind. Only a few weeks later, Erekat complained to US negotiators that Egypt’s latest efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions were straying from the official line. Daniel Rubenstein, the US consul general and chief of mission in Jerusalem, responded: “I can tell you, we did put pressure on the Egyptians. I read the document. It was a disaster.”

As Erekat continued to grumble about the PA’s weakened position and Egypt’s lack of cooperation, General James Jones, the US special envoy for Middle East security, abruptly ended the meeting with his words: “It’s insulting. We’ll take care of this.”

Jones appeared to have lived up to his promise. Only three months later, in January 2010, US negotiator David Hale assured Erekat that in recent talks with Suleiman: “The Egyptians brought ideas similar to our thinking.”

In this instance, the US appeared to put pressure on the PA to accept the latest proposals by giving the impression that the US and its allies in the region were unified in their position. Hale further added of the Egyptians: “They talked with Netanyahu and think he is serious.”

‘Egypt’s number two’

Given the critical role that Suleiman has played in advancing US and Israeli objectives, it was no surprise that Mubarak chose to appoint him as vice-president on January 29, a move rejected by protesters, but reassuring to Egypt’s Western patrons. In the leaked documents, Israeli officials were already referring to Suleiman as “Egypt’s Number Two” at a time when most observers believed that Mubarak was grooming his son to be succeed him.

Among Western policymakers, it seems Suleiman remains a popular choice to replace Mubarak, as the candidate uniquely suited to maintaining Egypt’s current foreign policy, while also addressing domestic grievances expressed by protesters. That remains a distant prospect, given the unlikelihood that the Egyptian opposition would abandon its call to determine the nation’s role in regional affairs. But it also demonstrates that, unlike Tunisia, Egypt is far too critical to US objectives in the Middle East to be left to its own devices.

Whatever the outcome in Egypt, it is clear that the recent revelations will have a dramatic impact on the settlement of the Palestinian question. Already weakened by the scandal of the Palestine Papers, Erekat may now have to do without the support of an Egyptian regime he termed, “our ally, our backbone”.

In his first interview as vice-president, Suleiman decried as “unacceptable” what he called “foreign interference” in Egypt’s current turmoil. Coming from a regime whose ability to endure through the decades is owed largely to foreign interference, the irony of those words will not be lost on the Egyptian people.

Abdullah Al-Arian is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Georgetown University.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

Five Norwegian PR Firms Reject Lucrative Offers to Improve Israel’s Global Image

Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center | 06 February 2011

Five of Norway’s largest PR firms have said ‘no’ to offers to improve Israel’s global public relations campaign, reported the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naæringsliv.

Israel is attempting to widen its global public relations campaign by hiring foreign PR firm to improve its reputation abroad. With the increasing threat being posed by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and the publicity surrounding Israelis human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel has contacted public relations specialists in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway for help.

The project, for which each firm would be paid around 3.5 million USD annually, is to help Israel promote its vision in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as prevent the international boycott, amongst other things.

“Israel is an highly controversial project,” Sigurd Grytten, the PR firm Burson-Marsteller’s Managing Director, told the paper.

Statements by heads of the public relations agencies Geelmuyden.Keise, Gambit H&K, Apeland Informasjon, and First House range from “difficult”, to “no comment”. Only one agency, Kreab, has said it might consider the assignment.

In response, Aviad Ivri, Counselor at the Israeli embassy in Oslo, said, “It’s no secret that Israel has a reputation problem.”

Norway has a growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. The country’s Government Pension Fund Global recently divested from two Israeli companies, Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, due to their involvement in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

“Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under the [Geneva] Convention,” said Norway’s Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen at the time of the much-publicized divestment.

What’s more late 2010, Israel accused the Norwegian government of funding and encouraging blatant anti-Israel incitement. The accusations were based on reports that a local Norwegian municipality is funding a trip for students to New York in order to take part in the “Gaza Monologues” play, and view an exhibition by Norwegian artists.

The play, which “deals with the suffering of children in Gaza as a result of the Israeli occupation,” was written by a Palestinian playwright from Gaza, and was presented at the United Nations headquarters. The Norwegian government responded to the Israeli accusation, saying that the Norwegian government supports freedom of expression and will not be intervening in the arts.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | 11 Comments

Egyptians unleash anger at US, Israel

Press TV – February 6, 2011

Reports say anger at the United States and Israel is widespread among the Egyptian crowds protesting against out-of-favor President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

The protesters hold Washington responsible for President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year dictatorship.

A Press TV correspondent says many slogans at Liberation Square are directed against the US, Israel and France.

This comes as Egyptian demonstrators gathered in Cairo’s Liberation Square on Sunday to honor the martyrs of 13 days of anti-government protests.

They have managed to stay in the central square, despite heavy army presence and attacks by pro-government thugs.

Protesters say their achievements in recent days have made it impossible for them to give up until President Mubarak quits power.

The developments come as the government has entered talks with opposition groups to discuss political reforms.

Egypt’s opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, has agreed to join talks with the government of President Mubarak but says that the meeting is “in no way in the form of negotiations, it is rather statement of our demands.”

Senior party officials said they would enter talks with Vice-President Omar Suleiman, but will drop out if the demands made by the protesters during the last two weeks are not met.

Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood representative in Britain, Mohammad Ghanem, confirmed to Press TV that his party will hold talks with the government. However, he said the position of the Muslim Brotherhood has not changed.

The government has pledged to hold talks with all opposition parties to discuss democratic reforms that would lead to the replacement of President Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt. The group, however, enjoys popular support.

Meanwhile, people and leaders around the world are rallying in solidarity with the Egyptian people’s protests against Mubarak.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a democratic transition in Egypt as soon as possible.

Erdogan suggested that an interim administration be formed to pave the way for the fulfillment of the Egyptian people’s demands.

The Turkish leader said democratic change in Egypt would have a positive impact on the entire region.

Earlier, Erdogan called on the Egyptian president to immediately step down, saying Mubarak’s promise to resign in September is not enough.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

The danger to Egypt’s revolution comes from Washington

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 6 February 2011

The greatest danger to the Egyptian revolution and the prospects for a free and independent Egypt emanates not from the “baltagiyya” — the mercenaries and thugs the regime sent to beat, stone, stab, shoot and kill protestors in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities last week — but from Washington.

Ever since the Egyptian uprising began on 25 January, the United States government and the Washington establishment that rationalizes its policies have been scared to death of “losing Egypt.” What they fear losing is a regime that has consistently ignored the rights and well-being of its people in order to plunder the country and enrich the few who control it, and that has done America’s bidding, especially supporting Israel in its oppression and wars against the Palestinians and other Arabs.

The Obama Administration quickly dissociated itself from its envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, after the latter candidly told the BBC on 5 February that he thought President Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office in order to steer” any transition to a post-Mubarak order (“US special envoy: ‘Mubarak must stay for now’,” 5 February 2011).

But one suspects that Wisner was inadvertently speaking in his master’s voice. US President Barack Obama and his national security establishment may be willing to give up Mubarak the person, but they are not willing to give up Mubarak’s regime. It is notable that the US has never supported the Egyptian protestors demand that Mubarak must go now. Nor has the United States suspended its $1.5 billion annual aid package to Egypt, much of which goes to the state security forces that are oppressing protestors and beating up and arresting journalists.

As The New York Times — always a reliable barometer of official thinking — reported, “The United States and leading European nations on Saturday threw their weight behind Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, backing his attempt to defuse a popular uprising without immediately removing President Hosni Mubarak from power.” Obama administration officials, the newspaper added, “said Mr. Suleiman had promised them an ‘orderly transition’ that would include constitutional reform and outreach to opposition groups” (“West Backs Gradual Egyptian Transition,” 5 February 2011).

Moreoever, the Times reported, the United States has already managed to persuade two of its major European clients — the United Kingdom and Germany — to back continuing the existing regime with only a change of figurehead.

Suleiman, long the powerful chief of Egypt’s intelligence services, has served — perhaps even more so than Mubarak — as the guarantor of Egypt’s regional role in maintaining the American- and Israeli-dominated order. As author Jane Mayer has documented, Suleiman played a key role in the US “rendition” program, working closely with the CIA which kidnapped “terror suspects” from around the world and delivered them into Suleiman’s hands for interrogation, and almost certainly torture (“Who is Omar Suleiman?,” The New Yorker, 29 January 2011).

High praise for Suleiman’s work has also come from top Israeli military brass. “I always believed in the abilities of the Egyptian Intelligence service [GIS],” Israeli General Amos Gilad told American, Palestinian Authority and Egyptian officials during a secret April 2007 meeting whose leaked minutes were recently released by Al Jazeera as part of the Palestine Papers. “It keeps order and security among 70 millions — 20 millions in one city [a reference to the population of Egypt, actually closer to 83 million, and to Cairo] — this is a great achievement, for which you deserve a medal. It is the best asset for the Middle East,” Gilad said.

The notion that anyone, let alone US officials, could believe that Suleiman would lead an “orderly transition” to democracy would be laughable if it were not so sinister. Much more likely, the strategy is to try to ride out the protests and wear out and split the opposition, consolidate the regime under Suleiman’s ruthless grip with the backing of the Egyptian army, and then enact cosmetic “reforms” to keep the Egyptian people politically divided and busy while business carries on as usual. Under any Suleiman “transition” political activists, journalists and anyone suspected of being part of the current uprising would be in grave danger.

From the American perspective, the strategy can be likened to what happened in the summer of 2008 when the house-of-cards international financial system started to collapse. Think of the Tunisian regime of deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as the investment bank Lehman Brothers. When a run on the bank began, the United States government refused to provide it with financial guarantees to bail it out, and it quickly went bankrupt.

But when the panic spread and even larger “too big to fail” financial firms including massive insurance company AIG began to see their positions suddenly deteriorate, the United States government stepped in to bail them out with hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Egyptian regime is the AIG of the region and what we are seeing now is an American attempt to bail it out. If Egypt goes under, the United States fears that the contagion would spread as Arab publics realize that the US-backed despots who rule them can be replaced. The toppling of these regimes whose only promise to their people has been “security” is not the end of the world but the start of renewal.

Of course, no analogy is exact. Whereas, allowing Lehman Brothers to collapse was a calculated decision, the United States did not see the revolution in Tunisia, or the uprising in Egypt coming. “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton infamously declared on 25 January, the day the anti-regime protests broke out (“US urges restraint in Egypt, says government stable,” Reuters, 25 January 2011).

Clinton’s cluelessness is reminiscent of her predecessor Condoleezza Rice’s famous words (“didn’t see it coming”) in relation to Hamas’ victory in Palestinian legislative council elections in 2006.

According to The New York Times, Obama himself is unhappy with US intelligence failures in the Arab world (“Obama Faults Spy Agencies’ Performance in Gauging Mideast Unrest, Officials Say,” 4 February 2011). For close watchers of the United States, this obliviousness is no mystery.

As Helena Cobban has observed, the Israel Lobby, “AIPAC and its attack dogs,” have conducted such a thorough “witch-hunt” over the past quarter century “against anyone with real Middle East expertise that the US government now contains no-one at the higher (or even mid-career) levels of policymaking who has any in-depth understanding of the region or of the aspirations of its people” (“Obama’s know-nothings discuss Egypt,” 28 January 2011).

But it is even worse than that. The US “policy” establishment seems only capable of viewing the region through Israeli eyes. This is why for so many officials and commentators the concerns of Israel to maintain a brutal hegemony trump the aspirations of 83 million Egyptians to determine their own future free from the shackles of the regime that has oppressed them for so long.

And different futures are possible. On the minds of many observers is the “Turkish model” of constitutional democracy, economic resurgence and foreign policy independence, all under the rule of a “moderate” Islamist party. Turkey, once closely in the orbit of the United States, started to break out with its refusal to allow the US to use the country’s bases for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In recent years, Turkey has developed a deliberate “360 degree” foreign policy doctrine which includes maintaining relations with Europe and the United States, while restoring close ties with all its neighbors among them Iran and Arab countries, and assuming a greater regional mediating role. Since 2009, Turkey’s once close alliance with Israel has deteriorated sharply, even though ties have not been cut. These shifts, along with its ubiquitous consumer and cultural products have given Turkey enormous regional influence and appeal.

Turkey has its own specific history and is no more perfect than any other country. But the bigger point is that subservience to the United States and Israel is not Egypt’s only option. The worst case scenario from the American viewpoint is to have three major regional powers, Iran, Turkey and Egypt, that are not under Washington’s control.

Of course Turkey is carving out its own path and Egyptians are struggling to go their own way which may be very different. There’s no reason either to believe that Egypt would become “another Iran” as ceaseless Israeli propaganda suggests. But given a free choice, Egypt is not likely to serve the “interests” of the United States and Israel the way the Mubarak regime has.

One example is that Egypt might dispense with US aid and still come out ahead by simply selling its natural gas on international markets rather than to Israel at what is reported to be a deep discount. Another is that a truly independent Egypt would eschew serving as Israel’s proxy in enforcing the criminal siege of Gaza and stoking intra-Palestinian divisions.

By coming to the streets in their millions, by sacrifing the lives of some of their very finest, the Egyptian people have said that they and they alone want to decide their nation’s future. Mubarak as a person is already irrelevant. The confrontation is now between the Egyptian people’s desire for democracy and self-determination on the one hand, and, on the other, US insistence (along with its clients in Egypt and the region) on continuing the old regime. Let us offer whatever solidarity we can from wherever we are to help the Egyptian people to win.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on The danger to Egypt’s revolution comes from Washington

Mubarak regime makes major concessions

Press TV – February 6, 2011

In a meeting with Egypt’s opposition representatives, the government has made a range of concessions including the formation of a constitutional reform panel, release of political prisoners and the freedom of the Press.

Vice President Omar Suleiman, who is known to be cooperating with CIA, met a wide representation of major opposition groups on Sunday, on the 13th consecutive day of massive anti-government protests across the country.

Suleiman endorsed a plan with the opposition to set up a committee of judiciary and political figures to study proposed constitutional amendments that would allow more candidates to run for president and impose term limits on the presidency, the state news agency reported.

The committee was given until the first week of March to finish the tasks.

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood commented on the outcome of the meeting saying, “We hope to take the country to stability, security and democracy, which can bring in the future prosperity, equality, justice and human dignity for all Egyptians.”

Millions of Egyptians took to the streets on Sunday to honor hundreds of protesters killed during the anti-government rallies of the past 13 days.

In the Egyptian capital, Cairo, tens of thousands of people have gathered in Liberation Square for what they have dubbed the “Day of Martyrs.”

Protesters are flooding into the heart of the city despite heavy military presence. The army has promised not to use force against protesters.

Protesters are demanding an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in power.

They say they will not leave the streets unless their demands are met. They are now calling for fresh millions-strong marches across Egypt.

The UN says at least 300 people have been killed and thousands more have been wounded in Egypt in the nearly two weeks of protest against the government.

People around the world are rallying to show solidarity with the Egyptian people.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment