Aletho News


Colombians Increasingly Joining Strike

Prensa Latina | August 24, 2013

Bogota – More and more sectors continue joining the nationwide strike in Colombia, expressing their unhappiness with government economic policies, amid strong tension in the wake of police repression, detentions and blockage in 33 roads in several departments.

The situation is worsening, with no solution in sight. The Executive has reiterated it is ready to talk, but not before the strike is ended and blocking of roads lifted.

President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday that 30 persons have been brought to justice for blocking roads, “some of them charged with committing terrorism, facing over 20 year prison sentence.”

The day before the protests started, Santos had ordered police to act firmly against those blocking the roads.

Leaders of the protests have urged police to stop using force excessively and abusing power.

The first six days of protest left over 175 detainees and heavy damage worth some $25 million USD.

But protesters are determined to remain in the roads until their demands are heard by the government, whose policies against the workers and people in general limit their rights, privatize institutions and hand over the country’s resources to transnationals.

Boyaca remains the worst-hit department, with over 16 roads totally blocked.

Footage of police repression has been posted on the Internet.

The strike has also been strong in Bogota, and today more than 1,000 storekeepers of main wholesale chain Corabastos are expected to march toward Bolivar Square to support the protests, with people demanding to stop immediately the Free Trade Agreements that are hitting the people, mainly in rural areas.

“No More FTA, No More Riot Squadron (ESMAD), No More Privatized Seeds, No More Mega-Mining, No More Corruption,” ex Senator Piedad Cordoba wrote in a message on Twitter, where Colombians are massively backing the protests.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Comments Off on Colombians Increasingly Joining Strike

BBC and Democracy Now! Syrian Chemical Weapons Coverage: An exercise in Imperial deception

By William Bowles — August 23, 2013

Over the past three days, since the story first broke, the BBC’s news Website (I use the word news advisedly) has carried twelve stories on the alleged chemical weapons attack that took place in a suburb of Damascus. Today’s offerings include, Hague believes Assad behind attack (23/8/13), without offering a shred of proof that the Assad government is behind the alleged attack or even that it took place, takes foreign secretary Hague’s ‘belief’ as a given. The lead paragraph tells it all:

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says he believes President Assad was behind a chemical attack in Syria.

What Hague’s belief is based upon is not revealed, instead we get more of the same:

“I know that some people in the world would like to say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria,” said Mr Hague.

Now why does Hague feel compelled to bring in the issue of a conspiracy? Perhaps because it is a conspiracy? A conspiracy dreamed up to justify the overthrow of the sovereign government of Syria. Hague then makes the most astonishing statement:

“I think the chances of that are vanishingly small [that it was a conspiracy] and so we do believe that this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime.”

‘So we do believe’ intones Hague but the BBC article offers not a shred of actual proof that one, gas was actually used and two, if gas was used who it was used by?

Now you have to ask why the BBC feels it necessary to propagandise on behalf of the UKUS governments? What’s in it for the BBC? Well if it was an independent organisation, there could be no justification for promoting an allegation as fact even when its main UK advocate, Hague himself, can only offer his “belief”. But given as the BBC is the de facto mouthpiece for the UK state, it clearly has to peddle the ‘party line’. The piece continues:

“Pressing for UN weapons inspectors to be given access to the site, the UK foreign secretary said: “It seems the Assad regime has something to hide.

Why else have they not allowed the UN team to go there?”

But who says the Syrian government have denied access to Ghouta? Given as firstly, the area in question is under the control of the rebels (isn’t that the reason why all we have to go on are the rebels presentations, which judging by the videos I’ve seen, look suspiciously staged?), at the point of writing, there’s nothing the Syrian government can do about it. Second, just a few miles away there’s the newly arrived UN inspection team, who given the chance, I’m sure will want to check out the situation for themselves. In fact, they have, see here.

Even Barack Obama says “the alleged used of chemical weapons” and doesn’t actually name the Assad government. Once burned, twice shy perhaps, considering that the last alleged Syrian government use of chemical weapons turned out to have been used by the rebels. Do I detect a pattern here?

But by the last section of the article we read:

He [Hague] added: “This is what we are focused on and we are working with countries all over the world to try to bring this about and to try to establish the truth to the satisfaction of the world about what is clearly a terrible atrocity.

Well at least now the man is admitting that he doesn’t actually know what really happened, and it makes a nonsense of the BBC’s title. But just how compelling the propaganda assault has been (it reminds me somewhat of the media’s coverage of the Boston Bombing), is that ‘progressive’ media outlet, Democracy Now! has just published a piece that’s pretty much in step with the BBC’s coverage, though it does at least entertain the idea that if the Syrian government had done it it had shot itself in the foot and opened the door to direct (as opposed to indirect) foreign intervention, which is what Hague is proposing we do. Thus proof is is crucial.

“The only possible explanation of what we have been able to see is that it was a chemical attack and clearly many, many hundreds of people have been killed, some of the estimates are well over 1,000.

“There is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale.” – Hague

There is nothing clear about anything at this point in time, not even that chemical weapons were actually used. We have only the conveniently supplied rebel footage, which when viewed objectively, tells us nothing much at all, except that some appeared to be dead but not how they died and in some of the footage it’s not even clear the people are actually dead. Another part of Democracy Now!’s footage shows people, young an old, walking around rather aimlessly and clearly very aware of the camera’s presence, too aware I think.

The entire event registers as false, as contrived and just too damn convenient and to have happened on the same day as the UN inspection team arrived? That’s a coincidence? At the end of the day, it’s the latest and the most elaborate provocation staged to try and justify direct, foreign intervention by the Imperialist powers, given that the ‘rebels’ appear to be on the run.

Yesterday, the 22nd of August, the BBC put out another propaganda piece titled, Obama’s thick red line on Syria by the BBC’s North American Editor, Mark Mardell. The title tells it all doesn’t it? Obama is indecisive, unsure of what to do (the issue of the chemical weapons is not even mentioned directly, it’s just assumed that it was the Assad government that used them):

President Obama clearly has a problem, and will be accused of inaction and dithering.

Mardell gives the game away when he writes:

The president’s main military adviser has cancelled a planned news conference. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey was due to answer questions at the foreign press centre.

Perhaps he’s had to call it off because he is busy planning what happens next in Syria. [my emph.]

‘Busy planning what happens next in Syria’ says it all really. Syria is just another place to blow up and decide if it has a future.  The BBC speaks with an Imperialist tongue, that’s why the BBC is so gung ho about invading Syria to the point that it’s entire coverage of the events in Ghouta are based on nothing more than supposition and allegation? This outrageous piece of out and out warmongering ends thus:

In either case, Mr Obama is likely to insist on going the full UN route to gather the maximum possible support for any action – and that means waiting for the inspector’s report on earlier incidents at the very least.

I could be very wrong. The bombers could be in the air by this afternoon.

But at the moment all Mr Obama plans for today is a talk about the cost of college education and “a better deal for the middle classes”.

I suspect his red line is very thick indeed.

Obviously too thick for the BBC aka the state.

In another, later Mardell piece, quoting from Obama’s speech on the subject we read (just in case we didn’t get it with the earlier piece):

[Obama] calls the attack “troublesome” and says it touches on core national interests of the US, but quickly adds: “Sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region.”

Damn these dithering imperialists, Mardell seems to be telling us! Get on with it and bomb the crap out of Assad! Mardell continues:

You might think a private punishment is not much of a deterrent and anything that happens now will have to be a lot more public.


It does not sound like a man gung ho for military action. It sounds like the pleading of man being dragged, pushed and pulled by allies and world opinion to do something but who wants to be certain it doesn’t end up in a new war.

Mardell is pissed off because Obama doesn’t want to start bombing another country (yet)! What is going on here when a journalist, paid for out of the public purse and purportedly working for a media outfit that is bound by law to be objective and impartial, can act as point man for the Empire and its fucking wars?!

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 7 Comments

Israel’s propagandists shoot themselves in the foot as they shoot off their mouths

By Greg Felton | September 30, 2009

If you have ever visited a blog or on-line discussion group on the Middle East you have doubtless had the misfortune to run into them.

They are known by the language they use: depraved sexual insults, bile, bigotry, threats, disinformation and character assassination. That’s right: I’m talking about “hasbarats,” Zionist trolls who infect the Internet with hasbara, pro-Israel propaganda. Of course, mainstream media hasbarats have been around for decades, as have “hasbaratchiks,” fifth-columns in foreign governments who subvert national policies to serve Israel. The Internet, though, is the latest, some might say the greatest, propaganda playground, and Israel cannot cope with factual, passionate, well-documented stories that expose its war crimes and unrepentant criminality.

If you’ve come across a hasbarat, on-line or otherwise, you have learned that no amount of reasoned argument or intellectual maturity has any effect. That’s because hasbarats don’t care if they come across as ignorant, obnoxious, nasty or inane. All that matters for them is sabotaging criticism of Israel and support for Muslims. They’re like anti-intellectual stink bombs: designed to cause maximum discomfort but have little if any real power.

This deliberate proliferation of on-line hasbarats raises two points. The first concerns why anyone would spend hours a day to prostitute themselves for Israel. Money, of course. Ilan Shturman, deputy director of the Israeli foreign ministry’s hasbara department (!), told an Israeli business newspaper in July that US$150,000 had been allocated for the first stage of a campaign to seed the Internet with hasbarats:

“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed.”

The second point is why Israel felt it had to resort to intellectual fraud on an international scale. The Internet has shown that Israel is a failed oppressor state that commits crimes against humanity as a matter of policy. The last straw for many was “Operation Cast Lead,” an act of such unspeakable unapologetic sadism that allusions to Nazi Germany are entirely appropriate.

Every day, it seems, the mythic foundations of Israel’s legitimacy—the holocaust, Jewish victimhood, Jewish “people,” Israeli “democracy,” “evil” Muslims—are exposed for all to see.

In January, Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul-general in Toronto, sent out a hasbara recruitment letter, which read in part: “If you are frustrated or concerned with the portrayal of Israel in Canadian News and with biased [!] depictions, your voice can be heard. Now, think that you’re not alone 10,000 voices like yours can respond every day: praise, protest, inform, correct on leading Canadian news websites, in real time, effectively.”

The weakness with this tactic, as you probably figured out, is that hasbarats will inevitably shout and whine themselves into irrelevance. Eventually, intelligent people will tune out the Zionist boilerplate, the anti-Muslim smears, and the interminable drone about the holocaust. Already, the once-dreaded epithet “anti-Semite” has lost all significance, as if it ever had any, and the person who hurled it is more likely to be mocked than feared.

Two recent events demonstrate the growing desperation and ineptitude of Israel’s propaganda industry. Today, we look at an example of “positive hasbara.”

Toronto International Film Festival

A major tactic of hasbarats is to project the illusion that Israel is a normal Western democracy, thereby taking focus away from Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Also, countries that buy into the deceit will be unwilling to criticize Israel for fear of calling into question their role in covering up zionist war crimes.

This tactic was tried at the recent Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as Tel Aviv was spotlighted in a City-to-City program with Toronto. The ostensible purpose was to use an apolitical, cultural event to obscure the tyranny that Tel Aviv represents, but more than 1,000 filmmakers and performers, weren’t fooled. They put their names to The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation, an open letter to the TIFF that protested the co-optation of the festival by the Israeli propaganda machine.

The protest accomplished precisely what the hasbarats tried to prevent. “Rather than talking about Israel’s rich cinematic culture, the buzz this week in Toronto has centered on the one thing Israeli officials had sought to avoid: the conflict with the Palestinians,” reported the Jewish Telegraph Agency.


The hasbara campaign to ‘re-brand’ Israel during the Toronto International Film Festival failed miserably. So much attention was paid to the protest that it overshadowed the political objectives of Israel’s propaganda machine.

Another major defeat for Israel came courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert. After offering a knee-jerk condemnation of the City-to-City protests, he reversed himself the next day:

“I wasn’t prepared with enough facts about the events leading up to the Festival’s decision to showcase Tel Aviv in the City-to-City section. I [initially] thought of it as an innocent goodwill gesture, but now realize it was part of a deliberate plan to ‘re-brand’ Israel in Toronto, as a pilot for a larger such program. The Festival should never have agreed to be used like this. It was naïve for the plan’s supporters to believe it would have the effect they hoped for.”

Speaking of naïve, how about Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv! Whether out of overconfidence or stupidity, he publicly admitted the underlying hasbara in an interview with the JTA:

“While the City to City program was initiated by the festival, the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs was involved as part of its Brand Israel media and advertising campaign, which was launched last year.”

Quite obviously, Israel would have been better off if the hasbarats had not tried to manipulate the festival. Even the predictable pro-Israel counter-protest merely added to the protest’s notoriety and detracted from the cultural propaganda. Moreover the standard claim that the protest was an attack on Israel and artistic freedom was demonstrably false. If anything, the protest highlighted Israel’s active suppression of Palestinian culture. According to the authors of the Toronto Declaration:

“Many Palestinian artists and filmmakers, denied freedom of movement by Israel’s Occupation and pass system, are de facto boycotted, unable to communicate with their communities or travel freely. The double standard is mind-boggling and, slowly, these are the issues we are helping to put under a spotlight.”

Finally, it is important to note that the Declaration’s authors succeeded without any media help. They had no money to place ads, and no newspaper would publish their open letter. On the other hand, hasbarats had the full support (read: “obedience”) of Canada’s national media, and lost.

If a modest, unfunded, popular protest can effectively defeat an orchestrated propaganda campaign, what does that say about Israel’s ability to pose as a legitimate, democratic state? Even though hasbarats get their disinformation out with relative ease, it is not clear that it’s generally accepted.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Creating Chilling Effects On Speech Is A Feature, Not A Bug, Of The Surveillance State

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | August 23, 2013

We’ve discussed a few times how the pervasive surveillance efforts of the NSA and others have tremendous chilling effects on how people communicate and how they act. We’ve discussed how this is a “cost” to the program that not many, especially those who are backing these programs, seem interested in measuring or even thinking about. Of course, implicit in our assumption is that these “costs” are things that are negatives of the program. Others would point out that for those in power, that’s not so much a cost as a benefit. It’s not a bug or an unintended consequence, but a feature. Chilling speech and clamping down on communications? Why that’s a good thing for those in power.

Josh Levy, from Free Press, has a great guest post over at Boing Boing where he discusses how the NSA’s surveillance regime is a huge attack on free speech, and how this is both inevitable, and for some, the intent of the program:

The chilling of free speech isn’t just a consequence of surveillance. It’s also a motive. We adopt the art of self-censorship, closing down blogs, watching what we say on Facebook, forgoing “private” email for fear that any errant word may come back to haunt us in one, five or fifteen 15 years. “The mind’s tendency to still feel observed when alone… can be inhibiting,” writes Janna Malamud Smith. Indeed.

Peggy Noonan, describing a conversation with longtime civil liberties advocate Nat Hentoff, writes that “the inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.”

Hentoff stressed that privacy invasions of this magnitude are “attempts to try to change who we are as Americans.” In fact, they are attempts to define who we are as human beings.

Meanwhile, over at the Atlantic, Bruce Schneier has a post discussing the detainment of David Miranda, where he comes to similar conclusions, that these authoritarian police states clearly have no practical benefit, except to enable a powerful government to show off its power to invade your lives:

This leaves one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They’re lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they’re not to be messed with — that the normal rules of polite conduct don’t apply to people who screw with them. That’s probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the U.S. and U.K. intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone.

Of course, Schneier sees some upside to this in the long run — which is that such blatantly ridiculous activity seems to only embolden others to push back on this trampling of our rights. Hopefully, that pushback works, because the alternative is horrifying to those who believe in a free and open society.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Creating Chilling Effects On Speech Is A Feature, Not A Bug, Of The Surveillance State

Chiquita Playing the Victim Card in Latest Legal Battle

By Kevin Edmonds | The Other Side of Paradise | August 22, 2013

In 2007, Chiquita Brands International admitted to making payments to an array of Colombian paramilitary and guerilla groups over the past ten years in exchange for a paltry fine of $25 million. One group in particular, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) or the AUC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2001 – and one of the primary recipients of the payments. Claiming no wrongdoing Chiquita argued that it was being extorted and that it had never received “any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments.”

At the time of the initial sentencing Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein remarked, in a seemingly straightforward manner, that “Like any criminal enterprise, a terrorist organization needs a funding stream to support its operations. For several years, the AUC terrorist group found one in the payments they demanded from Chiquita Brands International. Thanks to Chiquita’s cooperation and this prosecution, that funding stream is now dry and corporations are on notice that they cannot make protection payments to terrorists.”

It now appears that things are not as simple as Assistant Attorney General Wainstein initially thought. In April, Chiquita Brands International filed a reverse Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to stop the public release of thousands of documents handed over to the Security and Exchange Commission. The documents are said to outline in detail Chiquita’s illegal payments to terrorist organizations such as the AUC.

Despite the clear and existing evidence that Chiquita had engaged in criminal activity, Chiquita is arguing that under Exception 7(B) of the Freedom of Information Act, mandatory disclosure provisions do not apply to “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes . . . to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information . . . would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.”

In an effort to portray the multinational corporation as the real victim in this case Chiquita’s lawyer, James Garland, argued that the disclosure of the documents “will make them available to the general public, including members of the press and individuals and organizations that seek to distort the facts surrounding the payments that Banadex (a subsidiary of Chiquita) made to the AUC under threat of force. Past experience with release of Chiquita’s documents has demonstrated that media campaigns based on gross mischaracterizations of released documents are certain to occur in an effort to entrench misconceptions of relevant facts in the minds of fact finders integral to the fairness of the proceedings.”

Furthermore, Garland has engaged in a campaign alleging that the National Security Archive is not an independent research organization, but instead is seeking to assist lawyers involved in a class action lawsuit against Chiquita in Colombia, on behalf of the victims of paramilitaries, in addition to an ongoing criminal investigation of former Chiquita employees in Colombia. The fact that the National Security Archive would not have found evidence of criminal wrongdoing if it had never happened in the first place seems lost on Garland.

However, this illogical line of argument is not baseless – as in 1997 Chiquita managed to overturn a brilliant investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer on the basis of the “illegitimate” gathering of evidence. The investigation uncovered that Chiquita was engaging in widespread murder, bribery, arms trafficking, and knowingly poisoning the environment throughout Latin America, but the charges were thrown out. The newspaper was sued and the journalists had their careers cut short.

In 2007, ten years after the Cincinnati Enquirer investigation, the first batch of over five thousand documents, known as the “Chiquita Papers” were published and made available to the public by the National Security Archive. The documents were released by the Justice Department and the FBI in response to the National Security Archive’s Freedom of Information requests.

Michael Evans, Director of the Colombia Project at the National Security Archives remarked on the importance of the documents, stating that “This may well be the most important collection of records ever assembled on corporate ties to terrorism. This was a massive, years-long investigation that involved multiple federal agencies and resulted in the one of the first convictions of a major US company of financing a terrorist group.”

Despite Chiquita’s posturing, the most likely reason they are demanding that the additional documents be suppressed is because it would provide further the evidence of criminal wrongdoing in Colombia. Based on the first batch of documents, Evans highlighted that “we found very strong indications that Chiquita did, in some cases, receive something in return for their illicit payments – that there was a quid pro quo with both guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The evidence we found directly contradicted the U.S. Attorney’s finding, stated in the sentencing memorandum, that the company had never received “any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments.  For instance, a legal memo written by one of Chiquita’s lawyers said that the general manager of Chiquita operations in Turbó, Colombia, had told him “that the Guerrilla Groups are used to supply security personnel at the various farms.”  It’s right there in a Chiquita legal memo written on Chiquita letterhead.”

Upon closer examination of the Chiquita Papers, it became clear that the Attorney General failed to read or truly understand evidence contained in the documents, with Evans adding that “Another document that we published in 2011 shows that Chiquita also paid right-wing paramilitary forces for security services. The March 2000 memo, again, written on Chiquita letterhead and based on a conversation with one of the managers in Colombia, says that a group known to be a front for paramilitary terrorists was formed to disguise “the real purpose of providing security” and that the “money [was] for info[rmation] on guerrilla movements.” The company manager also suggested that they “should continue making the payments,” because the company would not “get the same level of support from the military.”

It will be telling how much information is released to the public, as Chiquita Brands International has some friends in very high places. During the 2007 investigation in which Chiquita was fined $25 million, the company was represented by current Attorney General Eric Holder.

In effect, the current reverse Freedom of Information lawsuit amounts to Chiquita asking the United States District Court for the District of Colombia to hide documents which can potentially reveal the corporation’s involvement in criminal activities which have resulted in the death and assault of thousands of Colombians. The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice produced such a small penalty despite the evidence of criminal wrongdoing in 2007 should be disconcerting to all interested in human rights, as it is further evidence of the abuses of corporate political power.

Kevin Edmonds is a NACLA blogger focusing on the Caribbean. Edmonds is a former NACLA research associate and a current PhD student at the University of Toronto, where he is studying the impact of neoliberalism on the St. Lucian banana trade. Follow him on twitter @kevin_edmonds.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chiquita Playing the Victim Card in Latest Legal Battle

Will Gaza have a date with ‘lean’ years in the future?

By Sufian al-Shorbeiji | Alestqlal News* | August 22, 2013

A state of anxiety and confusion has taken over the residents of Gaza as the tunnels leading to the Egyptian border have been almost entirely closed off. Humanitarian crises are beginning to emerge as it becomes increasingly difficult to move consumer goods both into and within the Gaza Strip. Many fear that Gaza will once again be under siege as a result of the tensions occurring in the Egyptian arena. The current situation differs greatly from the sense of relief and mobility that Gazans experienced last year when the blockade was gradually lifted.

Hamas has recently called on regional and international forces to make every possible effort to break the siege on Gaza that occurred after the majority of tunnels were destroyed and the Rafah border was closed off entirely.

Political and economic analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan believes that the situation in the Gaza Strip is regressing back to the initial stages of the 2007 siege. Ramadan anticipates that this time, the consequences will be more severe in terms of the ability to move both goods and people, which are restricted by Israel’s continued siege of the Strip. Conditions will be worsened by the decreasing amounts of supplies brought in through the tunnels as the chaos in the Egyptian arena continues. He pointed out that the commercial crossing linking Israel to the Gaza strip provides a mere thirty per cent of the needs of the people; whereas, the remaining seventy per cent of goods come through the Egyptian tunnels.

In a conversation with Alesteqlal, Abu Ramadan explained that Egyptian procedures and restrictions related to the tunnels and the closure of the Rafah border have pushed Hamas to call on convoys to break the siege. The group has also asked for the creation of a waterway that would link the Gaza Strip to the world. Abu Ramadan pointed out that while the proposal is legitimate and while Gazans do deserve to have a channel that links it to the international community, it is more important to remedy the lack of connections between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The divisions must first be solved by forming a national government as soon as possible, so that any passage that is built would be considered part of the Palestinian Territories and not just particular to Gaza.

Large implications

Abu Ramadan stressed that the return of a severe siege on Gaza would have seriously detrimental repercussions for the residents of the Strip. The humanitarian conditions will also be negatively impacted due to the various crises resulting from the Israeli blockade and the closure of the crossings. He noted that if the situation in Egypt continues in this vein, it would have a negative impact on the social and humanitarian quality of life for Gaza’s population.

Abu Ramadan pointed out that the best way to break the siege on Gaza is to achieve solidarity among the masses, in addition to working towards achieving national reconciliation and the formation of a unified national government. The new unified government would then work towards breaking the siege that has been imposed upon Gaza for years.

All tunnels found under the border of the Gaza Strip and Egypt previously provided residents with supplies, food, fuel and other daily necessities. However operations within the tunnels have been fully stopped in the wake of security threats following the coup against President Morsi.

‘Explosion’ in the South

Political analyst Hamza Abu Shanab confirmed that Gaza is currently living under extremely difficult conditions as a result of the lack of stability in the Sinai and the direct effect this is having on the Palestinian scene. In 2008, the Egyptian leadership broke the barrier that separated Egypt from the Gaza Strip. This resulted in mass migrations of Palestinians towards the city of Al-Arish in order to buy their necessities. Abu Shanab noted that the Egyptian leadership learned from this experience and realised from a humanitarian standpoint that any siege on Gaza leads to an ‘explosion’ of people moving towards the south. For that reason, although restrictions will be likely implemented, they will not reach the severity of a siege.

In regards to the situation’s effect on communication between Gaza and Egypt, Abu Shanab said: “Regardless of how much communication increases or decreases, there will always be common interests between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt’s national security remains tied to Gaza regardless of what government is in power and for that reason communication will ultimately not change.”

“The political situation differs from the economic situation. This blockade might be directed towards the political leadership affiliated with Hamas and based on the lack of mobility in Egypt. However, in the end, Egypt will cooperate with whoever is running the Gaza Strip because it benefits the country’s strategic interests,” Abu Shanab added. He explained that the government in the Gaza Strip will attempt to revive the issue of breaking the siege in order to relieve some of the pressure on the Rafah border and on working conditions. However, it is currently too early to speak of solidarity efforts due in large part to the conditions in the surrounding areas.

Abu Shanab believes that the Israeli occupation will not tighten the siege on Gaza in the near future due to a truce between Hamas and Israel. He added that the Israeli occupation does not want the situation in Gaza to escalate and that Israel is avoiding the Gaza Strip altogether until the end of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Abu Shanab also noted that Hamas’ attempts to break the siege are currently limited; however, the group can take advantage of one factor, which is to use pressure from the masses to break the siege. It helps that Hamas’ allies in the region, mainly Turkey and Qatar, currently do not have a stable relationship with Egypt. Furthermore, the security situation coupled with Hamas’ ability to control movement within its territory will force Egypt to deal with the government in Gaza.

Insistent force

According to Jamal Khudairi, the chairman of the People’s Committee against the siege, the Israeli occupation is the first force that is responsible for the severe siege imposed on the Gaza Strip over the last few years. They are also responsible for the difficulties that resulted from closing all border crossings with the exception of one, which is used at all times and under all conditions. Israel forces all travellers to travel through the Beit Hanoun crossing and prevents all goods and necessities from entering the Strip, in addition to prohibiting exports. Khudairi also pointed out that speaking about third parties diminishes Israel’s culpability in the matter.

In his conversation with Alesteqlal, Khudairi said that the door for solidarity campaigns with Gaza is open and that efforts that result from them must be put into effect in the coming months. All solidarity projects bring about legitimate results whether they come in the form of ships breaking the siege, or journalists, human rights groups, or parliamentary groups. Khudairi emphasized that all of the efforts are effective in creating a catalyst for breaking the siege. He also stressed the need to form a Palestinian, Arab, and international force that would raise more pressure for breaking the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for many years.

Khudairi expects a wide international response to the calls for solidarity based on what happened during the last siege; however, he also stressed that each group must be given the ability to determine how much they can help and what means they ought to use based on their own particular capabilities. The most important thing is that these groups call for permanently and completely removing the blockade. He stressed that the occupying forces must be collectively punished and held accountable for the siege, which is in violation of international law.

* Translated by Middle East Monitor

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Will Gaza have a date with ‘lean’ years in the future?