Aletho News


Steve Walt: Time to start thinking beyond ‘impossible’ two state solution

By Philip Weiss on February 21, 2011

Glenn Greenwald describes the sad tidings from New York– and acknowledges that the Israel lobby effected Obama’s first veto in the UN Security Council. Note that he uses the language of national interests:

at one of the most critical times in that region in more than a century, the U.S. openly subverts the world consensus to protect the Israelis from censure over blatantly illegal acts — all to avoid angering “its supporters” in the U.S.

Remember, though:  talking about the power of the Israel Lobby and the way it causes the U.S. to sacrifice its own interests for this foreign country is strictly prohibited and a sure sign of deep malice.  And the only possible reason why Muslims in that region might harbor hostility toward the U.S. is because of primitive, crazed religious fanaticism and a contempt for Our Freedoms.

Steve Walt also talks about the Israel lobby, of course, but gets to the point about two states. Excerpts:

Thus far, all that Obama’s Middle East team has managed to do in two years is to further undermine U.S. credibility as a potential mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, and to dash the early hopes that the United States was serious about “two states for two peoples.” And while Obama, Mitchell, Clinton, Ross, and the rest of the team have floundered, the Netanyahu government has continued to evict Palestinian residents from their homes, its bulldozers and construction crews continuing to seize more and more of the land on which the Palestinians hoped to create a state.

Needless to say, the United States is all by its lonesome on this issue. …

As [many] commentators recognize, the real reason for Obama’s misguided decision was the profound influence of the Israel lobby. Indeed, few observers have missed this simple and obvious fact. One can only conclude that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s repeated claims that they are “friends of Israel” and devoted to its security are nothing more than empty, politically expedient rhetoric. Whatever they may say, the policies they are pursuing — including this latest veto — are in fact harmful to Israel’s long-term future. The man who declared in Cairo on June 4, 2009 that a two-state solution was “in the “Israel’s interest, the Palestinians’ interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest” must have changed his mind, because his actions ever since have merely hastened the moment when creating two viable states will be impossible (if that is not already the case). Then remember what former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2007, “if the two-state solution fails, Israel will face a South African style struggle for political rights.” And “once that happens,” he warned, “the state of Israel is finished.”…

If the United States hopes to be on the right side of history, it is time to start thinking about what its policy should be when everybody finally acknowledges that “two states for two peoples” is no longer a practical possibility. This is going to happen sooner or later, and anyone who is still advocating for a two-state solution at that point is going to sound like an ignorant fool. Not because of the flaws in that option, but simply because it will be impossible to implement. What alternative solution will the president and secretary of state support then? Ethnic cleansing? A binational, liberal democracy in which all inhabitants of Israel/Palestine have equal civil and political rights? Or permanent apartheid, in the form of disconnected Palestinian Bantustans under de facto Israeli control?

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 3 Comments

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to be Met with Protest in the U.S

By Ramona M. – IMEMC & Agencies – February 21, 2011

According to Adalah-NY, performances by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) will be met with protests in six of the seven cities where it is scheduled to appear during its U.S tour, during February and March.

Human rights advocates plan to protest the IPO’s role in whitewashing Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. The protests will be held in West Palm Beach, New York City, Newark, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Those involved in organizing the events are heeding the call by Palestinian civil society to boycott institutions that work to normalize Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

The growing international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has gained momentum in recent years with more supporters worldwide, and performers like Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, Devendra Banhart, and the Pixies all refusing to play in Israel.

By serving as cultural ambassadors for Israel, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is supporting the Israeli government’s “Brand Israel” initiative, a campaign by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to divert public attention from Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

The IPO refrains from criticism of Israel’s policies and is described by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as “Israel’s finest cultural emissary.” American Friends of the IPO further notes that “the goodwill created by [the IPO’s] tours…is of enormous value to the State of Israel. As a result, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra maintains its position at the forefront of cultural diplomacy and the international music scene.”

One corporate sponsor of the IPO’s US tour is Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who hosted a gala fundraiser last November for the IPO tour at his New York jewelry store. The IPO partners with Leviev, whose companies have built illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and have been involved in human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Southern Africa.

Leviev’s companies have been openly criticized by UNICEF, CARE, Oxfam, the British and Norwegian government, Hollywood stars and international investment firms because of these activities.

In 2004, Palestinian civil society, led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), called on colleagues in the international community to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel respects Palestinians’ basic rights. A year later, the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society groups. The Palestinian BDS movement is a nonviolent campaign for Palestinian rights inspired by the international boycott campaign that helped to abolish apartheid in South Africa.

The following are the scheduled dates and locations for the protests:

February 22, New York, NY, Carnegie Hall, 5:30 PM – 7:15 PM, Adalah-NY

February 23, Newark, NJ, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM, Adalah-NY & People’s Organization for Progress (POP)

February 26, Seattle, WA, Benaroya Hall, 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM, Palestine Solidarity Committee – Seattle

February 27, San Francisco, CA, Davies Symphony Hall, 6 PM, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!)

March 1, Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 6:30 PM – 8 PM, BDS-LA

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Craven US veto costs Washington its last shred of credibility

By Stuart Littlewood | Redress | 22 February 2011

Hang your head in shame, O Peace Prize laureate.

The Nobel award, said Barack Obama at the time, was “an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations” and must be shared with everyone who strives for “justice and dignity”. Where was the justice and dignity in the sad story of America’s UN veto?

Having blocked the United Nations Security Council draft resolution on 18 February, which would have condemned Israeli squatter colonies as illegal, Obama has now written America completely out of the script on Middle East peace.

Many will see it as a blessing that the US has so spectacularly disqualified itself from serious discussion, and that Obama has finally lifted the scales from the eyes of all those who unwisely invested high hopes in him.

Netanyahu’s office was cock-a-hoop and said Israel was “deeply grateful” to be let off the hook and being rewarded for the delinquent promises to be a good boy and “pursue negotiations vigorously” with the Palestinians. The US veto made it clear that “the only path to such a peace will come through direct negotiations and not through the decisions of international bodies”.

Some people will do anything to stop the United Nations getting a grip on the crisis. It would be more than a tad inconvenient to the crazed Greater Israel project. No doubt the champagne corks were popping in the US-Israeli Combined Operations headquarters as the Zionists danced late into the night to celebrate their victory.

The resolution, besides condemning the continuation of settlement activities and other measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the occupied Palestinian territories, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions, demanded that Israel cease forthwith and fully respect all of its legal obligations in that regard.

The US argued that although it opposes Israeli settlements, taking the issue to the UN would only complicate efforts to resume stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution. Why that should be the case wasn’t explained. Nor was the reason why negotiations should be restarted in the teeth of Israel’s uncompromising territorial objectives and clear dislike of peace.

It seems, from what US ambassador Susan Rice says, that craven Washington cannot bring itself to call Israel’s settlements on stolen Palestinian land what they really are – illegal – and is only prepared to label them “illegitimate”, presumably in case the correct term ruffles too many Israel lobby feathers.

Falling back onto the administration’s familiar double-speak, Rice explained that the veto “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity” but the US thinks it “unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians”.

In other words, the United States would much prefer to have the Israel-Palestine question resolved by arm-twisting behind closed doors, in the guise of “direct talks”, than let the Security Council intervene with another binding resolution.

This latest resolution had nearly 120 co-sponsors and the other 14 Security Council members all voted in favour. There are reports that Washington earlier threatened to slash aid to the Palestinian Authority if it wasn’t withdrawn, as if to remove any lingering doubt as to the crooked purpose of America’s meddling. When this failed the US, as one of the five permanent council members with blocking power, struck it down.

In doing so, the United States has advertised itself to the whole wide world as the willing tool of Zionist ambition and branded itself an enemy of Palestine and of all other countries threatened by the Israeli regime.

Sucked into the swamp of “direct negotiations”

Right on cue, British Foreign Secretary William Hague chimed in with some carefully-crafted balderdash:

I have made clear my serious concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East peace process. Today the UK voted with others, including France and Germany, to reinforce this and our longstanding view that settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and constitute a threat to a two-state solution…

He started well but quickly showed his eagerness to be sucked down by the US and Israel into the swamp of direct negotiations.

I call on both parties to return as soon as possible to direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, on the basis of clear parameters…

  • An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on 4 June 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties.
  • Security arrangements that, for Palestinians, respect their sovereignty and show that the occupation is over; and, for Israelis, protect their security, prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats.
  • A just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question.
  • Fulfillment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.

Just pause there, please, Mr Hague. First, if a state is doing something that’s illegal and an obstacle to peace, and won’t stop when asked, it surely becomes the responsibility of international community and its law courts, and especially the United Nations, to sort it out. The victim can hardly be expected to NEGOTIATE an end to it.

Secondly, why are Israel’s accumulated crimes now deemed negotiable when the issues were long ago determined by the UN and by international law and still wait to be implemented? Not once do you mention delivering that long-awaited justice. Instead you are obsessed with endless, unequal negotiations that are dishonestly convened and favour a very strong party that literally holds a gun to the weak party’s head.

And always the talk is of security for the Israelis rather than the Palestinians. You mention security arrangements to “prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats” against Israel. I don’t hear you pressing for equivalent arrangements to prevent Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians.

Mr Hague says:

We therefore look to both parties to return to negotiations as soon as possible on this basis. Our goal remains an agreement on all final status issues and the welcoming of Palestine as a full member by September 2011. We will contribute to achieving this goal in any and every way that we can.

What has the British government done over the years to pave the way towards Palestinian statehood, Mr Hague? Now you’re in an all-fired hurry to rush it through in six months but still unwilling to act positively to establish any likelihood of a JUST solution.

According to Mr Hague:

We understand Israel’s deep and justified security concerns. As friends of Israel, we share those concerns, and will strive with Israel to preserve her security and the stability of the region around her. It is precisely because of those concerns that we vote today in favour of this resolution.

And not for the key reason that the settlements are illegal and moving Israeli squatters onto occupied territory seriously breaches the Geneva Convention and amounts to a war crime? Is that not of sufficient concern for you to say so loudly and clearly?

For Mr Hague:

We regret anything which sets back the prospects for peace because we believe it also sets back Israel’s security.

There you go again – this slavish attachment to Israel’s security above all else. How can Britain be seen as an honest broker any more than the Zionist lackeys of the US administration?

The fact is, Mr Hague, the country you represent does not regard itself particularly as a friends of Israel and is not interested in preserving Israel’s security at the expense of its neighbours. It certainly doesn’t wish to be thought of as an enemy of Palestine just to appease your funny friends in Tel Aviv and Washington.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 3 Comments

Palestinian Refugees, Supporters Protest Canada Park

By Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center  on February 21, 2011

Palestinian, Israeli and international activists gathered in front of the Representative Office of Canada to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Embassy of Canada to Israel in Tel Aviv for protest vigils on Monday (21/2) organized by the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Latrun Villages.

A Memorandum to the Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Ambassador of Canada in Tel Aviv respectively was submitted, protesting on behalf of families of the Latrun villages, who were forcibly expelled from their villages in the 1967 war by the criminal action of ethnic cleansing, classified as a crime against humanity under international law.

Canada Park, built in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund, now occupies the site of the villages of Imwas, Yalo and Bayt Nuba, which were were completely destroyed in 1967. Their residents are now refugees in the West Bank and Jordan.

“Canada Park was planted and funded with the support of the Jewish National Fund of Canada over the lands and over the ruins of three ethnically-cleansed villages: Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba, occupied and ethnically cleansed in the course and the wake of the 1967 war,” Dr. Uri Davis told the Alternative Information Center (AIC) outside the Canadian Embassy.

“The ethnic cleansing was perpetrated by the Israeli army, not the JNF, but the JNF is complicit in this crime against humanity by veiling and covering up the crime, planting the Canada Park over the lands and over the ruins, and presenting itself as an environmentally-friendly organization concerned with public will and recreational welfare of all citizens of Israel.”

Participants carried banners reading:




The village defense committee has repeated requested that the Representative Office of Canada to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah meet with the Ambassador of Canada to Israel in Ramallah and together tour the Latrun area and the visiting the remains of the destroyed villages over whose ruins the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has planted “Canada Park.”

“Most representatives of the destroyed Latrun villages are not able to come to Tel Aviv to meet the Ambassador, it is our request that the Ambassador arrive in Ramallah, meet the people concerned and with a delegation of the destroyed, ethnically cleansed villages, visit Canada Park and submit an official report of his fact-finding to his government,” Dr. Davis said.

He continued saying, “Canada Park represents a blatant violation of international law, but it also represents a blatant violation of official Canadian policy condemning any intervention of settlement or occupation or change of demographic composition or any other alteration in the 1967 occupied territories.”

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Palestinian Refugees, Supporters Protest Canada Park

Iran Opposition Protests: Popular Unrest Or Media Generated Mirage?

By Rixon Stewart | TruthSeeker | February 21, 2011

As widespread popular protests swept the Middle East observers have watched Iran this past week to see if discontent would spill over there too.

The corporate media has certainly been working hard to drum up expectations, even if it wasn’t actually happening on the ground.

Just over a week ago London’s Financial Times reported demonstrations in Tehran attended by “hundreds of thousands” of protestors, or so it claimed.

Photo from Fox News showing the “hundreds of thousands” protesting in Tehran

It sounded impressive enough except that the Financial Times didn’t provide any photographic coverage to support those claims.

Moreover, the only photographic reports on demonstrations in Tehran at that time showed no more than a few hundred protestors, not the “vast numbers” the FT had claimed.

Still, what the FT report lacked in substansive evidence it made up for with confident hyperbole. Claiming that the protest “crowd – whose size far exceeded the predictions of most analysts – assembled despite threats by the Revolutionary Guard.”

Again, there was no photographic evidence to back those claims and the witnesses quoted remained unnamed.

Unlike the recent crackdowns in Bahrain and Libya, where despite stringent restrictions hard proof had been provided – with cell phone videos, named eyewitnesses and accounts from doctors who were treating the injured on the ground – the FT report could easily have been concocted by a journalist with little more than an active imagination.

However a week after the FT “story”, similar reports appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“For a second time in a week, Iran’s opposition drew tens of thousands of supporters to the streets across the nation on Sunday calling for the end to the Islamic Republic’s rule”, the WSJ reported. But as with the Financial Times the week before, the WSJ carried little else to substantiate those claims.

No photographs, no video links, no links of any kind and the only first hand accounts came from unnamed “eyewitnesses”. And these could just as easily have come from intelligence operatives with their own agenda to fulfill.

Remember, we’ve been down this path before with Iraq and Saddam Hussein and his fabled ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. It’s a familiar routine with the same unnamed sources, the same lack of evidence and the same unspoken, implied suggestions.

I’ve just seen a BBC report from Bahrain, which illustrates this perfectly; with Caroline Hawley reporting on the unrest sweeping the Middle East, where she said: “we’ve just heard similar reports from Tehran”.

She made no attempt to question the veracity of the report from Tehran or whether she was just repeating disinformation. Instead, she just lumped it together with other reports of protests in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.

Reports on unrest at these locations have been confirmed. So by reporting Iran together with them confirmation is implied, if only by association.

Intelligence chiefs must love the likes of Caroline Hawley. Even if they don’t pay her she does their dirty work for them, under the guise of “balanced journalism”.

Meanwhile Voice of America reported the latest protests in Tehran. Quoting “opposition websites”, the VOA said, “protests were under way in a number of squares and streets in Tehran”.

Again, no direct links were provided and all the eyewitnesses quoted remained unnamed.

Not to be left out the FT also reported on the latest protests in Iran:

“Eyewitnesses” said the FT, “could not estimate the number of protesters because they were scattered across the capital city.”

Again the FT doesn’t name its “eyewitnesses”, although this time around it’s a little more cautious in estimating the numbers involved.

So maybe “100,000″ were not involved but maybe more like one thousand?

While we have no doubt that there have been some protests against the regime in Iran, they are as nothing compared to the unrest elsewhere in the Middle East, such as Libya where more than 200 are estimated to have died in less than a week.

More significantly however, we suspect the involvement of covert agencies – the CIA, Mossad and British Intelligence – in fomenting dissent in Iran and trying through their media lackeys to exploit it for their own purposes.

Finally, the authorities in Iran say Tehran saw no anti-government rallies on Sunday.

We reserve judgement on that. The protests may have simply been nipped in the bud through a combination of strong police presence and lack of support.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 2 Comments

Egypt-Israel “peace treaty” brought more war than peace

By Richard Irvine, The Electronic Intifada, 21 February 2011
Without its ally Hosni Mubarak in power in Egypt, Israel will have to think twice before it wages attacks in the region. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)

As the Egyptian revolution approached its climax the first priority of Israel and the West was that the so-called cornerstone of Middle East peace and security remain in place — the much-fabled 1979 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the almost sacred truth that the “longstanding peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East.” Going further, military expert Amos Harel warned that any break in the treaty could have dire consequences for Israel and so consequently the Egyptian revolution represented “a nightmare to Israeli intelligence leaders and planners” (Cairo Tremors Will Be Felt Here, Haaretz, 30 January 2011).

This certainly would be understandable if an Egyptian abrogation of the treaty would be likely to lead to war, or if Israel had implemented the peace accords in good faith. The truth however is that Israel absolutely ignored its obligations under Part 1 of the treaty — to allow representative self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip leading to independence — while using the sure knowledge of Egypt’s neutrality to launch a series of devastating wars. Indeed, when one looks at the historical record there can surely be few treaties that have brought so little peace and so much war.

That Israel always viewed the Camp David Accords as a blank check is evident both in its behavior and in Western and Israeli commentators’ fears that the abrogation of the treaty might mean Israel will have to curtail its military interventions.

Writing in Israel’s Haaretz on 14 February, Aluf Benn declared, “Israel will find it difficult to take action far to the east when it cannot rely on the tacit agreement to its actions on its western border. Without Mubarak there is no Israeli attack on Iran.” Thus Benn concludes that Mubarak’s departure has actually prevented a new Israeli war.

Certainly Israel has used the absence of any significant Arab counterweight to pursue policies that have either repeatedly brought war, or in the case of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, presented “serious obstruction[s] to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East” as UN Security Council resolutions 446 and 478 put it.

What is evident from the record is that Israel wasted no time putting the treaty to the test. In 1980 it illegally annexed East Jerusalem, and the following year the Syrian Golan Heights. In 1981 it launched an illegal attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

More significantly Israel also used the accords as a means to continue the destruction and dispossession of Palestinian society. Under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israel developed a twin track approach with regard to the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip: a collaborationist “village league” form of governance was established, although due to Palestinian resistance it failed to take root, while simultaneously the number of illegal colonists in the West Bank and Gaza more than quadrupled (according to data published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, and collated by Peace Now, the number of settlers in the West Bank grew from 5,000 in the early 1970s to more than 20,000 in 1983).

This was a negation of the accords that led Israeli cabinet minister Ezer Weizman to resign after declaring that no one in the cabinet was interested in peace. Begin however was undeterred, which was not at all surprising as after the 1978 establishment of the illegal colony of Elon Moreh outside Nablus he had boasted that there would be “many more Elon Morehs to come” — a prophecy that has become only too true, as today there are over half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

However Begin’s primary use of the accords was as a means to wage war. In the first instance this meant the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the war against the Palestine Liberation Organization — a war launched without provocation and in the midst of what Noam Chomsky has described as a PLO “peace offensive.” During the course of this war Israel not only devastated the Palestinian and Lebanese populations of Lebanon but also systematically trashed the country and trounced the Syrian army when it sought to defend itself. At its end the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 17,825 civilians had been killed. Would this have been possible without Israel knowing that Egypt was permanently out of the conflict?

The same of course holds true for subsequent Israeli military actions, whether it was the brutal crushing of unarmed resistance during the first Intifada from 1987 to 1993, or the 1996 and 2006 reinvasions of Lebanon, or the mass casualties of the second intifada and the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza. In every case knowledge that Egypt would either stand idly by or indeed approve has made Israel confident that it could act with impunity.

Yet this was not always the case. For many years leading up to the Camp David Accords the Arab League had insisted that a final peace agreement must be a comprehensive one involving all parties to the conflict. Tragically Egypt under Sadat chose to break that consensus and by putting its own interests first effectively undermined the negotiating positions of all other Arab parties whilst giving Israel a free hand to militarily enforce its vision on the Middle East. If then the Camp David Accords do breakdown this should not be read as a sign that peace is further away than ever, but rather that perhaps at long last an all-embracing peace amongst equals may be possible.

Speaking at the time of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty signing, the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat commented, “Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last.” For Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and indeed Israelis, he has been proven only too correct.


Richard Irvine teaches a course at Queen’s University Belfast entitled “The Battle for Palestine” which explores the entire history of the conflict. Irvine has also worked voluntarily in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and taken part in olive planting and harvesting in the West Bank.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Egypt-Israel “peace treaty” brought more war than peace

Heated Israeli Suez Rhetoric Burden On U.S.?

Ali Gharib | Lobe Log | February 21st, 2011

The earth reportedly shook as two Iranian naval boats approached the Suez Canal on Monday morning. For the U.S., though, the building tension over the (delayed, for now) passage could result in diplomatic, not literal, earthquakes.

When the news was first announced last week that the two warships would pass through the canal, Israeli reaction appeared split. Now it seems Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has joined his foreign minister in ratcheting up the rhetoric, saying, “Israel takes a grave view of this Iranian step.”

Following closely on the U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution denouncing Israeli settlements, Israel’s blustering approach to the Iranian warships may provide yet another instance where the “special relationship” causes the U.S. to choose between its ally Israel, on one hand, and international law and maintaining regional influence on the other.

Egyptian approval of passage for the Iranian ships was first reported when Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the move amounted to a “provocation” by Iran. “The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations,” he warned ominously.

Covering the comments, the Wall Street Journal pointed to fissures over Lieberman’s blustering and the quieter approach preferred Ehud Barak and the Israeli Defense Ministry.

At the time, Lieberman’s comments seemed to be made for U.S. consumption. Ethan Bronner’s New York Times piece had this nugget (my emphasis):

The first word came from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in an address to a group of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The speech, which hinted at a possible response, was closed to reporters…

The bellicose comments led National Interest writer Jacob Heilbrunn to comment: “Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman isn’t just a thug. He’s also a moron.”

“A former State Department senior intelligence official called on Israel “to stand down and avoid any provocative actions.” Middle East Institute scholar Wayne White told LobeLog that Israeli “muscle-flexing” and a perception of “high-handedness” now could be harmful to U.S. (and even Israeli) interests on a wide range of issues. He mentioned the still-developing and fluid situation in Egypt, anti-regime protests in Iran itself, and uncertainty in Jordan, which is facing some unrest and, like Egypt, has a peace deal with Israel.

White’s list of examples gives a taste of just how many crises the U.S. is facing in the region. With protests in several U.S.-allied countries like Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, and even Iraq, the U.S. wants to keep things relatively calm. As White points out, another crisis, with Israel and the U.S. pitted against Iran and Syria (whose waters the Iranian ships are reportedly bound for), could easily inject anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiments into the anti-government movements that have been sweeping the region or permit besieged autocrats to divert popular attention and agitation.

The other elephant in the room is the notion of Suez passage itself. So far, the U.S. has taken a measured tone. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said on Friday: “If the ships move through the canal, we’ll evaluate what they actually do.” He said the potential issues were the ships’ cargo and destination. Crowley seemed eager to move onto a new topic, repeatedly interrupting the questioner(s).

The lack of U.S. focus on passage itself is perhaps a nod to both the Constantinople Convention (1988) governing Suez Passage and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1983, in force 1994), which allows “innocent passage” through even territorial waters. The Constantinople convention states:

The Suez Maritime Canal shall always be free and of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.

Consequently, the High Contracting Parties agree not in any way to interfere with the free use of the Canal, in time of war as in time of peace.

One of those contracting parties is, of course, Egypt, which may not interfere or block anyone’s passage. The U.S. relies on this status quo as much, if not more, than any other country. Indeed, if the right of “innocent passage” is questioned in this case, think of all the possible ramifications for the U.S. Navy and its 11 aircraft carrier groups that span the globe, if not always to the acclaim of the natives. It’s not for nothing that the Navy has been the country’s biggest advocate for Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention.

For now, it appears that the passage of the Iranian ships has been delayed, without any reason given. But if the Israelis keep pushing back against Iran, rumblings of the diplomatic sort could soon follow for the U.S. Once again, as when Israel backed ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak until his last days and relentlessly pressed the Obama administration to cast his UN Security Council veto on a resolution that was entirely consistent with U.S. policy since 1967, Washington’s “special relationship” with the Jewish State could become burdensome to broader U.S. strategic interests.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

Five killed in Morocco protests

Press TV – February 21, 2011

Five pro-democracy protesters have been killed and several others have been wounded in Morocco as thousands demand the King give up some of his powers.

Protesters died during Sunday’s rallies. Morocco’s Interior Ministry said 120 demonstrators were also arrested during clashes with security forces.

The developments come as popular power revolutions continue to sweep US-backed autocratic regimes across the Middle East and North Africa.

Protesters demand the Moroccan King give up some of his powers and clamp down on government corruption.

The protest was initiated by a group calling itself the February 20 Movement for Change. Tens of thousands of people voiced support for the rallies.

In an attempt to head off serious unrest, the Moroccan government has promised to boost subsidies for staples whose prices have sharply risen in recent.

Human rights and civil groups as well as independent journalists have joined the movement.

They are demanding constitutional reforms that would reduce King Mohammed’s powers and make the justice system more independent.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Five killed in Morocco protests

What If the Egyptian Protesters Were Democrats?

By Steven Salaita | Pulse Media | February 21, 2011

Their recent upheaval would certainly have been different, perhaps dramatically different.

In the past month, the people of Egypt—inspired by the recent democratic revolution in Tunisia and preceding emergent revolutions in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria—have undertaken a revolt of truly stunning proportions, one that includes men and women from all class strata, religious and ethnic origins, and ideological commitments.  They managed to rid themselves of a longstanding and brutal dictator worth over $40 billion and supported by the collective power of the United States, European Union, Israel, and the Arab Gulf States.

Now that two Arab dictators have been vanquished by the collective will of unaffiliated protesters, many American commentators have been forced to rethink their assumptions about the supposedly tribal and authoritarian Arab mind.  Such commentators, sometimes conservative but often liberal, fancy themselves guardians of a civic and political enlightenment that in reality is misinformed in addition to being conceited and imperialistic.

Nevertheless, given the ardor and self-confidence of the notion that American values exemplify democratic modernity, let us imagine a few potential outcomes had the pioneering people of Egypt followed the example of today’s liberal American Democrats.

Mubarak offered the Egyptian people what he deemed sweeping reforms.  The people rejected his overtures as inadequate and disingenuous, which only increased their desire to oust Mubarak.  A protester named Dalia observed, “Nothing will make this regime go unless we keep on coming and keep on coming.”  Had Dalia been a Democrat, she might have instead responded, “The Egyptian government has a real opportunity in the face of this very clear demonstration of opposition to begin a process that will truly respond to the aspirations of the people of Egypt.”

Despite police brutality, the people of Egypt remained steadfast and continued their chants of “down with Mubarak” and “Tunisia is the solution,” both slogans underscoring the importance of a genuinely transformative revolution.  Had they been Democrats, they surely would not have been so quixotic and would have instead opted for a pragmatic approach, as most Democrats do in every American election.  As Michael Moore warns, democratic transformation has no real place in American politics:  “And so, I just—I think that—I mean, what I’ve proposed for the last few years is that if we really want to try and get this power in our hands, in the people’s hands, in the hands of the working people of this country, then we should, on a very grassroots level, from the bottom up, be doing things to—whether it’s running for local office, taking over the local Democratic Party.”

Working within a corrupt system, rather than trying to abolish it, is the way American liberals like Moore prefer to pursue justice:  “well, we have these two political parties which are really very much like one party, why don’t we make sure that one of those parties actually is a second party and start locally and do that?  And that’s what I encourage people to do.  That’s my approach.”

The Egyptian protesters demanded rule by the people rather than subservience to a small caste of politicians and crony capitalists.  They continue to agitate for a new constitution, universal health care, a multiple-party democracy, unionization for workers, and an end to the violent suppression of dissent.  If they were Democrats, they probably wouldn’t be so ambitious.  In the United States, dissent is often suppressed, sometimes violently, unions are busted, two parties representing 300 million people assert plutocratic hegemony, and politicians of the two parties serve the interests not of their citizen constituents but of crony capitalists.  The Democrats do not tolerate dissentient action in the form of mass protest; they prefer the tactic of voting for Democrats during election season.

Liberal commentators dismiss as silliness any desire to oust dictatorial leaders outside the pragmatic framework of Democratic values.  Todd Gitlin preaches discipline in the face of abusive state power:  “Will the rebellious left discipline itself, cool its boiling blood, and decide that the pleasures of sectarianism are worth less than the steady resolve of infrastructural work?”  Speaking against—what else?—leftist politician Ralph Nader, Eric Alterman is less diplomatic:  “The man needs to go away.  I think he needs to live in a different country.  He’s done enough damage to this one.  Let him damage somebody else’s now.”  Alterman despises Nader because of Nader’s lack of faith in politicians:  “Politicians blow with political winds.  To force them to blow our way, progressives need leaders who can combine hardheaded realism with the ability to inspire Americans’ nascent idealism.”

According to liberal Democrats, alternate politics are impossible and thus undesirable.  The Egyptian people do not share the same viewpoint.  There was nothing pragmatic about what they did:  it is never a reasonable idea to march into bullets, tear gas canisters, and police boots in order to upend a rotten political system brandishing the imprimatur of the world’s most powerful armies and politicians.  But if the Egyptian people wanted a just political system, rather than the practical realities of theft and corruption, they needed to replace and not merely reform their government.  To challenge bad politicians by electing more bad politicians is not serious political thinking; it is an inducement to apathy and intellectual frivolity.

The Egyptian people erected a remarkably functional democratic space in Tahreer Square, complete with an infirmary, a kindergarten, and a pharmacy.  When Democratic Party bosses get together, protesters are entrapped in chain link cages.

In short, if the Egyptian protesters were Democrats, they would have undertaken no revolution.  The Democratic Party represents the pervasiveness of elite corporate power; its liberal supporters represent the appropriation of oppositional politics into the neoliberal economies of electoral hegemony; the Egyptian protesters represent a determined, collective will to social justice and legitimate freedom.  If those protesters were American liberals, they would have sided with the state while professing support for the people.

If the Egyptian protesters were Democrats, they would have accepted Mubarak’s proposed reforms—not because those reforms were good, but because Democrats are accustomed to settling for empty rhetoric.  They would have accepted Mubarak’s handpicked successor, the infamous torturer Omar Suleiman—not because they like him, but because he would presumably be less evil than his predecessor.  They would have accepted the inevitability of defeat—not because they wanted to lose, but because losing would be both pragmatic and realistic.  The actual Egyptian protesters, however, would only accept freedom.

For those who might respond to this hypothetical exercise by pointing out that the United States is not Egypt, I would agree.  Egypt under Mubarak was more equitable than the United States under Barack Obama.  Egypt has far less income inequality than the United States, and all of Mubarak’s brutality was at least indirectly underwritten by the American government.

The people of the Middle East and North Africa have never listened to American liberals, who through the years have loved to bestow unsolicited advice on Arabs.  Had the Arabs accepted this unsolicited advice, they would have become Democrats instead of revolutionaries.

The only acceptable liberal American response to the revolutions in the Arab World is the silence that enlivens a sincere attempt to listen.  Clearly it is time for American liberals to stop lecturing Arabs and start following their example, instead.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on What If the Egyptian Protesters Were Democrats?

Stinking Collective Punishment in West Bank Village Nabi Salah

By Yossi Bartal for the Alternative Information Center on February 21, 2011

During the weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Salah against the creeping annexation of their lands by the area settlements, the Israeli army imposed a particularly stinking collective punishment.

For several long minutes, soldiers emptied the containers of skunk water on houses in the centre of the village, also spraying the roofs of homes on which the residents collect rain water. The soldiers further sprayed the village cemetery with the skunk water. Israel’s massive use of tear gas and skunk water in the centre of the village was done with no intention of dispersing the demonstration, which had already ended by this time, but to stink up the homes of the residents and to contaminate their water sources.

Since January 2010 weekly demonstrations have been held in the village of Nabi Salah, located in the district of Ramallah, against attempts of the area settlers to take over the village land. From the onset, these demonstrations encountered particularly severe oppression by the Israeli army, including the massive use of tear gas, rubber coated bullets and occasionally live ammunition within the village.

Last Friday (18 February) the oppressive Israeli measures reached particularly smelly heights. After the army invaded the village, seven demonstrators were detained – 2 Palestinians, 4 Israelis and one international activist, all released many hours later. After several hours of shooting tear gas and rubber coated bullets within the village against the demonstrators and every person who wandered into the area, military reinforcements arrived from the village of Bil’in. Following the weekly demonstration in Bil’in, where Israel’s army also used skunk water against non-violent protesters, the skunk water truck made its way to Nabi Salah. Apparently because there remained large quantities of skunk water that the army didn’t manage to shoot at Bil’in demonstrators, the regional army commanders decided to use the extra liquid to collectively punish Nabi Salah demonstrators. After the demonstration had already finished, the skunk water truck entered the centre of the village and sprayed windows, walls and the roofs of homes. The truck also spewed its contents on the local cemetery.

Skunk water, the reeking liquid that is dispersed through water cannons, has served the Israeli army some two years already for dispersing demonstrations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The content of the skunk water, together with its long-term impacts, are not known, although its immediate impact is to cause nausea and headaches. Even after extensive washing of the affected area, whether clothing, skin or land, the stench continues for several days.

The strength of the remaining smell is so strong that in the past it caused a family in Nabi Salah to leave their home for an entire week. The impact of skunk water on sweet water used for drinking and watering is unknown. Spraying the skunk water on the village roofs, however, prevented the collection of rain water these past few days, which were amongst the rainiest of this winter.

Translated to English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Jerusalem Municipality to Further Annexation of Entire City with Green Parks Initiative

By Circarre Parrhesia – IMEMC & Agencies – February 21, 2011

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center, based in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, has published an article raising their concerns over a scheduled project to encircle East Jerusalem with parks to complete the annexation of the entire city and much of the surrounding area in the West Bank.

The Center states that the Israeli ran Jerusalem Municipality has approved the project that will install nine new parks around the East side of the city over the next eight years, with an annual budget of NIS 60 million (over US$ 16.5 million).

In the process, large amounts of Palestinian owned lands in Wadi Hilweh, Wadi Rababa, and al-Bustan neighborhoods of Silwan, Sawwanah, near the Mount of Olives and the Old City will have have to be razed, leading to mass displacement of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem are considered protected persons, due to Israel’s occupation of the city in 1967 and, as such, the transfer of the population, in part or whole, is illegal under international law.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

Colombia: Farmers demand right of return to lands taken for palm oil consortium

Communication from ASOCAB The Farmers Association of Buenos Aires, Community of Las Pavas | February 2011

We demand to return now!

We, the community of The Farmers Association of Buenos Aires (ASOCAB), have been victims of forced displacement by paramilitary groups and alleged drug trafficker, Jesus Emilio Escobar, who was owner of the Las Pavas estate. Several years after Emilio Escobar left the farm and the community had already established food crops, he reappeared to remove us by force and sell the land to the Consortium Labrador. This consortium is comprised of the companies San Isidro SA Contributions and C.I. Tequendama SA, which is part of the DAABON group. They are dedicated to the implementation of extensive oil palm cultivation and caused our last displacement in 2009 with the consent of the municipal, regional and national government by using an illegal political process. They expelled us from Las Pavas with the assistance of the National Police and perpetrating the crime of forced displacement.

We declare before the local, regional, National and International communities that the Consortium Labrador has endangered the life and physical integrity of our community by spreading an announcement through the communications media. In this communication they accuse us of trying to illegally and clandestinely invade the Las Pavas estate, violating the rights of workers in the palm and peace in the region.

This statement is nothing more than a defamation and criminalization of ASOCAB and is just one of the strategies used by the Consortium to violate the rights of our community and prevent us from exercising our fundamental right to return to the land. We do not intend to invade private property or engage in violent or illegal acts. We are farmers, living a deep humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by food shortages due to the eviction forced on us by the palm companies, the state and armed groups, whom deny our rights acquired by long years of work on the farm. This Crisis has been aggravated by the total abandonment by the state and a rainy winter that lasted several months and destroyed the few crops we still had left.

This situation leaves us, the 600 people, who comprise ASOCAB, only one option for survival, to exercise our fundamental right to return to the land from where we have been displaced, as the Constitution and the law enables us to do. We have stated publicly on major national radio broadcast stations that we confirm that we are going to exercise the right of return and condemn what the Consortium Labrador is doing to try to smear the current government policy, which seeks restitution and return of the land for Colombian peasants who have been victims of displacement.

The attitude of the DAABON economic group is very regrettable. They said publicly that they currently have no interest in the Las Pavas Estate, and they no longer own the property. However, when checking the documents of ownership, they continue to appear as the title holders. Added to this, they have initiated two processes in the Courts of Mompox, Bolívar, in order to seize a portion of the estate which we have rights as holders of the property and that are vacant, which we have reported and proved this to INCODER

So, what is clear is that DAABON, remains responsible for our eviction and accomplices in our forced displacement.

Equally, we condemn the strategy of intimidation that the Consortium Labrador has implemented against our community and are summarized in the following activities:

* The Presence of outsiders to the community in the district of Buenos Aires acting suspiciously and that constantly monitoring ASOCAB leaders

* The Presence of Mr. MARIO MARMOL a known paramilitary, who participated in the forced displacement that we were victims of in 2003. By his own account, he is an employee of Consortium El Labrador and now works in the district of Buenos Aires. He is armed and is saying that ASOCAB is not going to win the dispute with the Consortium. He is also threatening to put livestock in with the crop of those who have managed to keep a few crops on small areas of Las Pavas and requiring some members of the community to completely leave the premises.

* Threats made by Mr. DANILO PALACIOS, the counsel of Consortium El Labrador, against the leader of our association and professor of the township, ELIUD ALVEAR, which warns that if he does not remove himself from ASOCAB he will lose his teaching job. Added to this, ongoing work persecution against him by the Rector of the school community, Mr. Luis Villamil, who is also an ally of Palm Businesses.

* Unknown individuals set fire to a community meeting room that we had built as a venue for our meetings.

* The attempt to divide our community through bribery, blackmail, illegal offers of gifts and work on their plantations of palm, which are used to prevent us from exercising our rights.

All of these actions show that those who are truly acting illegally are the Consortium EL Labrador businesses. These acts create anxiety and terror in our community because we are peaceful people and we fear for our physical safety.

It is also necessary to condemn these companies in the region that have caused irreparable environmental damage. They now plan to build walls that surround the Las Pavas estate to stop flooding during the rainy season. This would cause exacerbated damming and flooding in the populated area, thus causing the houses in Buenos Aires and its people to disappear. The other project they are intending to implement is the canalization of the swamp “Mata Perros,” thus eliminating one of the fishing areas available to the region, aggravating the food crisis and accelerating the displacement of not only ASOCAB, but all residents of the area.

Furthermore, we want to appeal to General Oscar Naranjo, Director General of National Police, to review the actions of his men, who instead of ensuring our security for the return, as mandated by law, have acted on behalf of The Consortium of Labrador. They act as if it were a private security company and for several days have patrolled and fenced off the Las Pavas estate, preventing any access. Our children are reliving the psychological trauma created by the actions of police when they evicted us from our land on July 14, 2009 with weapons of war. It is necessary that the police remember that their constitutional obligation is to protect the population, not the criminals.

Finally, we express our surprise at the attitudes of the INCODER and the Ministry of Agriculture, neither of whom have given substantive solutions to our particular case. However, in an article published by a prestigious national newspaper on November 3, 2010, Dr. Juan Camilo Restrepo, the Minister of Agriculture, strongly criticized businesspeople who oppose the restoration of land to small farmers. He cites as an example of the consequences of this attitude, the decision of the multinational THE BODY SHOP to break its trade relations with DAABON for not resolving their dispute with our association at that time.

We clarified that we are not criminals, nor do we violate the right to work. We are farmers with dignity. We are a peaceful Christian community. We respect human rights and because of that we invite the Colombian government, the Economic Group DAABON and Consortium Labrador to assume a similar attitude.

We thank all organizations and communities of solidarity that send communications of support for the legitimate demands of ASOCAB.

Please send messages to the Minister of Agriculture, INCODER Manager, Vice President of the Republic, the Director of the National Police, the Director of Social Action, the Governor of Bolivar Department, the Constitutional Court and the Mayor of the Municipality of El Penon


Misael Payares Guerrero, presidente ASOCAB

(The Farmers Association of Buenos Aires(ASOCAB) is legally represented by its general manager, Misael Payares Guerrero, a resident of Buenos Aires,PeñónTownship, Southern Bolivar, Colombia)

Background COLOMBIA VIDEO: Biofuel Terrorism

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Colombia: Farmers demand right of return to lands taken for palm oil consortium