The Spooks Of Beirut

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By Rannie Amiri
Countercurrents.org

Lebanese parliamentary elections were held on June 7, and nearly five months later, there is still no government in place. And the reasons for it are all too predictable.

Despite threats in the run-up to the vote made by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton should the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition win, and the illegal election-eve campaigning (read: fear mongering) of Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, it was by all measures a free, fair ballot.

The winner was the Western-backed March 14 coalition, led by Future Movement head Saad Hariri. Due to the sectarian distribution of seats – ironically the great paralyzing factor in Lebanese politics yet one that has nonetheless managed to keep the country afloat—the winning alliance was able to clearly win the majority of seats in the National Assembly despite clearly losing the popular vote.

Hariri was nominated by his bloc to the post of prime minister and easily confirmed by the rest of parliament shortly thereafter.

The first question to face Hariri in forming the bloated 30-member cabinet was immediately apparent: would he continue to allow the opposition to wield veto-power as they did under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (a right granted to them as part of the May 2008 Doha Accords)?

Remarkably, a solution was rather quickly reached: 15 seats would be allocated to Hariri’s bloc, 10 to the opposition, and five would be appointed by President Michel Suleiman. By mutual agreement, one of Suleiman’s appointees would be approved by Hezbollah, thus giving them the one-third plus one number of ministers needed for a veto. Problem solved.

Then came the unexpected announcement of Lebanon’s consummate political opportunist, Druze and Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt. Despite roundly bashing Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah during the campaign and in years prior, Jumblatt did an about-face in August by saying he would break ranks with Hariri and pull out of the March 14 coalition.

“Our alliance with March 14 forces was driven by necessity and must not continue,” Jumblatt said as he hurriedly sought to meet with Nasrallah. Never missing an opportunity to play kingmaker and stay politically relevant, Jumblatt has now indicated that although he will not be part of the government, he will keep his PSP within March 14 and not join the opposition.

It was nevertheless a setback for Hariri in forming his cabinet, and in September said he would step down as prime minister-designate. Within weeks, he was reappointed by President Suleiman and told to try again.

Many analysts concluded that nothing would solve the deadlock until a much anticipated Saudi-Syrian rapprochement took place. This occurred when King Abdullah paid an official visit to President Assad in Damascus in early October. Not wanting to make it too obvious that the dysfunctional Lebanese body politic was dependent on this reconciliation, it was understandable that it would take more than the declared “just a few days” before a cabinet was finally put together.

But weeks later, it has yet to happen.

Proving that all politics is indeed local, the present day impasse stems in part from the demand of Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement within the March 8 coalition and the most popular Christian politician in the country, that his group be granted five ministries (which is not unreasonable considering the number of seats he has in parliament) and that one, the Telecommunications Ministry, be given to his son-in-law.

Control of telecommunications is contentious since it was the Siniora government that wanted to strip Hezbollah of their own telecommunications network and eventually led to the outbreak of violence on Beirut’s streets last year. As for General Aoun, he built his reputation on his “War of Liberation” against the Syrians in the late 1980s. Not long after his return from exile in 2005, he joined forces with the pro-Syrian March 8 alliance.

It should now be obvious why Lebanon has had no government since the June elections.

As each of above scenarios illustrate, to blame are entrenched, feudal lord politicians and their patrons, who are incapable of moving past personal agendas and egos to address the country’s pressing needs. They include Saad Hariri (who despite his youth, has completely failed to usher in any fresh ideas), Jumblatt, Aoun, and parliament speaker and Amal leader Nabih Berri. The latter’s 17 long years at the post will now be extended another four. At least Sayyid Nasrallah’s Hezbollah movement has invested in essential social welfare services and programs to aid those historically neglected by the state, not to mention having to continuously worry about the threat of Israeli aggression—and convince others in the government the reality of it.

Such politicians and their pettiness, belonging to both of the two main political camps, represent nothing more than intransigence; habitually shifting from one ineffective, transient set of conveniences, opportunities, or alliances, to another.

This Halloween these spooks of Beirut will haunt the city, doling out tricks, but not much else.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 9:19 PM
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Did Richard Goldstone hide more sinister crimes in Gaza?

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by Carlos Latuff

Part 1: White Phosphorus and Flechettes

There was much praise for the UN investigations into war crimes committed in Gaza, led by Richard Goldstone. However, I feel that this report did not go far enough to investigate some other more serious allegations that were made.

There is a sense of urgency to bring this investigation forward and to put those responsible on trial but one must understand that something much more sinister did not even get a mention and has since been swept under the carpet.

Let’s take a closer look at some aspects of this report which certainly showed a distinct weakness in the team’s ability to understand what constitutes a breach of the Geneva Convention.

Quote from item 46: the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.

Quote from item 47: The last incident concerns the launch of a bomb on a house resulting in the killing of 22 family members. Israel’s position in this case is that there was an “operational error” and that the intended target was a neighbouring house storing weapons. On the basis of its investigation, the Mission expresses significant doubts about the Israeli authorities’ account of the incident. The Mission concludes that, if indeed a mistake was made, there could not be said to be a case of wilful killing. State responsibility of Israel for an internationally wrongful act, however, would remain.

Response to item 46 and 47: Even if an operational mistake was made it still constitutes wilful killing as such bombs were dropped in areas of dense population and thus had the correct target been hit the civilians in the adjacent target area would have died or been severely injured.

Quote from Item 48: Based on its investigation of incidents involving the use of certain weapons such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles, the Mission, while accepting that white phosphorous is not at this stage proscribed under international law, finds that the Israeli armed forces were systematically reckless in determining its use in built-up areas. Moreover, doctors who treated patients with white phosphorous wounds spoke about the severity and sometimes untreatable nature of the burns caused by the substance. The Mission believes that serious consideration should be given to banning the use of white phosphorous in built-up areas. As to flechettes, the Mission notes that they are an area weapon incapable of discriminating between objectives after detonation. They are; therefore, particularly unsuitable for use in urban settings where there is reason to believe civilians may be present.

WP_victimResponse to Item 48: First of all Mr Goldstone needs to understand that White Phosphorus is an Incendiary Weapon and therefore is covered under international law in its use of White Phosphorus on densely populated areas.

It is in violation of the Geneva Convention: Protocol on Prohibitions
or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (Protocol III) namely:

Certain use of incendiary weapons, in particular the use of air delivered incendiary weapons against targets situated amongst concentrations of civilians (Protocol III to the Conventional Weapons Convention).

One should also draw attention to the fact that exactly the same treatment was handed out by the IDF in Southern Lebanon (2006). This picture shows the terrible lethal consequences on a child in Lebanon. Let’s now look at a case that was filed in Israel on the back of the Geneva Convention and the ICJ. As one would expect when dealing with the Israel court system the case failed. One could live in hope that such a case in the European Courts would carry a different result

The “Flechette” shells (from the French “flêchette,” meaning “small arrow”) are known to contain thousands of small metal arrows, each some four centimeters long. When the shell explodes in the air, at a height of approximately 30 m above the ground, the lethal arrows scatter over a cone-shaped area some 300 m in length and 94 m wide. It should be noted that the Flechette was developed by the Americans in Vietnam, when they sought an effective weapon for attacking Viet Cong forces hiding among the trees in the jungles and dispersed over a large area.

It is worth noting that this weapon has been considered controversial since it was first introduced. The arguments raised against the Flechette are based, inter alia, on the principles of international law in the field of the laws of war, according to which weapons causing “unnecessary suffering” are not to be used, and the indiscriminate use of weapons in population centers is prohibited. The Appellants will argue that the Flechette causes “unnecessary suffering” due to the enormous number of arrows, which injure the victim’s body (similarly to an explosive device containing nails), and that it is also considered an “indiscriminate” weapon, since it disperses over an enormous area, and is very difficult to use precisely. Accordingly, the Appellants argue, its use is prohibited, particularly in civilian population centers.

090316-bartlett-flechette-3090316-bartlett-flechette-2-2These photographs show flechettes as used in Gaza and an X-Ray of a boy’s shoulder clearly showing a flechette deeply embedded.

FlechetteFactual Background

As mentioned above, the IDF has used this weapon for many years, particularly in the context of its operational activities in southern Lebanon, during which “dead areas” were declared along the border of the “Security Zone” – any person entering these areas was considered a “terrorist” to be eliminated. As soon as movement was identified in these areas, the tanks fired Flechette shells. It is worth mentioning that even during this period, arguments were raised against the IDF that the use of these shells caused the death and injury of dozens of Lebanese citizens, despite the fact that the use of Flechette shells was limited to sparsely-populated areas.

Among other publications, a special chapter was devoted to the IDF’s use of this weapon in Lebanon in a report of the organization B’Tselem entitled “The Violation of the Human Rights of Lebanese Citizens by Israel (January 2000).”

Illegality in International Humanitarian Law – The Rules of War

It is a principle of international humanitarian law and the rules of war that means that cause indiscriminate injury or that are unable or incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants are prohibited. In addition, means causing unnecessary suffering and superfluous injury are prohibited.

The obligation to protect the health and life of civilians who are not engaged in combat is mentioned in all the conventions constituting international humanitarian law; in some conventions, the obligation is mentioned several times. The prohibition on the arbitrary taking of life outside the parameters of self-defense may be identified on several levels in international law. The most basic level is that of the general rules of war, which establish the basic principle that civilian targets, including civilians, shall not be the targets of attacks.

Inter alia, Article 22 of the Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, The Hague, 18 October 1907 (hereinafter “the Hague Regulations”), which was revolutionary for its time, stated that “the right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited”.

Among other provisions, a specific regulation was established prohibiting the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Article 23 states:

“Art. 23. In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden
(a)…
(b)…
(c)…
(d)…
(e) To employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering;
(f) …”

The second level establishes the prohibition against inhuman treatment for those not, at that time, actively engaged in fighting; the center of this facet is the prohibition against the taking of life.

This obligation is established in Article 3, which is common to all four Geneva Conventions from 1949. This applies to all armed conflicts, not only to occupied territories. Among other provisions, sub-clause 1 states:

Persons taking no active part in hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

Violence to life and person

A) The above-mentioned Article 3, which, as noted, is common to all four Geneva Conventions, is today considered international customary law binding all nations of the world; as such, it may be enforced by this Court. In addition, the State of Israel signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions in 1951; accordingly, it is also legally bound to observe the conventions as a contracting party.

The third level of the rules of war comprises the rules for the control of occupied territory, which grant the occupied population special protection in addition to the rights and protections accruing from the general rules of law and to the rights and protections enjoyed by all citizens, whether or not living in an occupied territory.

These protections and rights are established both in the Hague Regulations and in many clauses scattered throughout the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the Protection of Civilian Population, as well as in the two protocols to the conventions, signed in 1977.

Regulation 30 of the Hague Regulations relates to the protection of the residents of an occupied territory, stating as follows:
“Family honour and rights, the lives of persons and private property… must be protected”

No-one would deny that the general and special rules of law, as reflected in the Hague Regulations, now constitute international customary law binding all nations of the world, and enforceable in this Court (see, for example, the comments by then Justice Barak in HCJ 393/82, Jamayat Iskan Almu’alamoun v Commander of IDF Forces, Piskei Din 37(5) 785, in para. 11 of the ruling).

However, the principal protection is afforded to the citizens of an occupied territory in the Fourth Geneva Convention. These citizens are “protected persons” as defined in Article 4 of the Convention. The disagreements between the international community and Israel regarding the applicability of the definition in Article 4 to the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories has already been resolved in a long series of petitions to this Court, in which the state has declared its commitment to observe the humanitarian provisions of the Convention as if they applied to the territory.

In order to complete the picture, we should note that additional protections on civilian lives are established in the two protocols to the Geneva Convention signed in 1977; these expanded the protection afforded to the civilian population to include disputes other than those between states. The State of Israel has not signed these protocols, but some of their provisions constitute a part of international customary law, and as such bind Israel.

Prohibition on the Use of Weapons Causing “Unnecessary Suffering” and “Indiscriminate” Weapons – Customary Law

The Appellants shall argue that the use of Flechette shells by the IDF is incompatible with the principles of international customary law as noted above, which require the military echelon to consider, alongside military needs, the need to minimize unreasonable danger of injury to the local population.

Article 35(2) of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) (hereinafter “the First Protocol”) establishes as follows:
Article 35.–Basic rules
1. In any armed conflict, the right of the Parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited.
2. It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and
methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.
3. It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.

Article 51 establishes:
Article 51.–Protection of the civilian population
1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in circumstances.
2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:
(a) Those which are not directed at a specific military objective;
(b) Those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or
(c) Those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:
(…)
(b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
(…)

Although the State of Israel is not committed to the provisions of the First Protocol, these articles are considered customary and binding in international law. Proof of this may be found in the “Advisory Opinion” of the International Court of Justice dated July 8, 1996 on the subject of the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.”

In the course of the above-mentioned opinion, the court was asked, inter alia, to address the subject of an indiscriminate weapon that causes unnecessary suffering. Among other points, the court ruled as follows:
A large number of customary rules have been developed by the practice of States and are an integral part of the international law relevant to the question posed.

The cardinal principles contained in the texts constituting the fabric of humanitarian law are the following. The first is aimed at the protection of the civilian population and civilian objects and establishes the distinction between combatants and non-combatants; States must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets. According to the second principle, it is prohibited to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants: it is accordingly prohibited to use weapons causing them such harm or uselessly aggravating their suffering.

In application of that second principle, States do not have unlimited freedom of choice of means in the weapons they use.
(…)
In conformity with the aforementioned principles, humanitarian law, at a very early stage, prohibited certain types of weapons either because of their indiscriminate effect on combatants and civilians or because of the unnecessary suffering caused to combatants, that is to say, a harm greater than that unavoidable to achieve legitimate military objectives. If an envisaged use of weapons would not meet the requirements of humanitarian law, a threat to engage in such use would also be contrary to that law.
(…)
Nor is there any need for the Court elaborate on the question of the applicability of Additional Protocol I of 1977 to nuclear weapons. It need only observe that while, at the Diplomatic Conference of 1974-1977, there was no substantive debate on the nuclear issue and no specific solution concerning this question was put forward, Additional Protocol I in no way replaced the general customary rules applicable to all means and methods of combat including nuclear weapons. In particular, the Court recalls that all States are bound by those rules in Additional Protocol I which, when adopted, were merely the expression of the pre-existing customary law, such as the Martens Clause, reaffirmed in the first article of Additional Protocol I. The fact that certain types of weapons were not specifically dealt with by the 1974-1977 Conference does not permit the drawing of any legal conclusions relating to the substantive issues which the use of such weapons would raise.”…

The entire text as per above was taken from http://www.btselem.org with reference to Legal Documents/HC8990 02 Flachette Appeal
Israel Supreme Court – Sitting as the High Court of Justice – HCJ/02 in the case of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and The Palestinian Centre for Human Right (The Appellants) V General of the Southern Command – Doron Almog and The State of Israel – Ministry of Defense (The Respondents)

Petition for an Interim Decree

A petition is hereby respectfully submitted to the Court requesting that the Respondents be ordered to come and give grounds why the use of “Flechette” type tank shells in the context of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip area should not be halted and prohibited.

Data listed within this article were taken from the Internet site of the International Court of Justice (www.icj-cij.org).

As we would expect the case failed to achieve it goals and was kicked out of court as follows:

The appellants asked us to prohibit the army from using flechette shells. Since we have realized that the use of this ammunition is not prohibited by the laws of war, the petitioners’ request cannot be accepted. This court has ruled that “the choice of weapons, which the respondents use for the goal of preventing murderous terror attacks, is not one of the topics in which this court sees fit to intervene.” (HCJ 5872/ 01, Bracha v Prime Minister, PD 56 (3)1). Needless to say, the respondents have eased our minds that the scope of use of this ammunition is arranged by the IDF through rules that are binding on the commanders of forces acting in the field. The decision regarding the question as to whether the conditions in the arena of combat, in every given case, justify use of the flechette, is determined by the authorized commander, who in formulating his decision is commanded to act according to professional guidelines, that in principle were intended to prevent harming residents not involved in activities that endanger IDF soldiers or Israeli citizens.

The petition is rejected. Justice The Honourable Justice M. Heshin: I agree.
Justice The Honourable Justice A. Hayout: I agree.
Decided, as stated, in Justice E. Matza’s decision.
Rendered today, 25 Nissan 5763 (27 April 2003)

It must be noted that Goldstone’s report did not follow the same conclusion as per the case above but rather highlighted Flechette’s unsuitability in an urban environment when he quoted the following: “As to flechettes, the Mission notes that they are an area weapon incapable of discriminating between objectives after detonation. They are, therefore, particularly unsuitable for use in urban settings where there is reason to believe civilians may be present”

Part 2 of this series will next cover the use of DIME weapons within Gaza. It will also focus on Goldstones disregard of the use of depleted uranium that had been raised in earlier submissions. This surely must head the top of the list of the Israeli War Crimes in that weapons that contain uranium components do not discriminate between military and civilian targets or respect international borders. Consequently these weapons contaminated the entire Gaza Strip and crossed over the border to contaminate most of Central and Southern Israel and beyond. What is ironic was this same situation developed during the Lebanon War in 2006 when the entire Southern part of Lebanon was contaminated and again the contamination crossed over the border to do the same to Northern Israel. In other words the IDF has “Nuked” its own people.

We will cover how these two weapons were clearly left out of the enquiry despite the fact they were originally very much part of the initial submissions. One would also assume that accordingly the people of Israel would have a case against the Israeli Government and the IDF. To be continued…………………….

– Peter Eyre, Middle East Consultant

http://www.paltelegraph.com/

Posted @ 20:37

Post Title:

Palestinian Majority in Jerusalem … Within 20 Years

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The Media Line, here

“A new report presented to Israeli parliamentarians has found that despite decades of government attempts to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, Palestinians will make up the majority of the city’s population within 20 years.

The report, issued by the Israeli Macro Center for Political Economics in partnership with the Washington-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation, found that the Palestinian population has grown from 25.5% of the city’s population in 1967 to 35% today…

“It has been Israeli policy to try guarantee a Jewish majority and generate a Jewish hegemony in Jerusalem since 1967,” Dr. Roby Nathanson, Director of Israel’s Macro Center for Political Economics and editor of the report, told The Media Line. “Israel has annexed huge parts of Jerusalem, enlarged the boundaries of the municipality, taken lots of land in the eastern part of the city and built more than 50,000 housing units on this land exclusively for Jews.”“Yet despite all these policies, it has not changed the demographic balance of the city,” Dr Nathanson said. “Indeed the number of Palestinians living in the city has grown constantly and Palestinians will soon make up the majority of the residents in Jerusalem.”

The report claims that since 1967 Israel has expropriated almost 6,000 acres of land, mostly from Palestinian owners, making up 35% of East Jerusalem. The report found that around 50,000 housing units were built with government assistance on this expropriated land, in an effort to create Jewish neighborhoods such as Har Homa, Gilo and Neve Yaakov. The report claims that only 600 housing units for Palestinians were built with government assistance during the same period, the most recent of which was built over 30 years ago.

Dr Nathanson argued that against Israel’s intentions, the separation barrier had increased the Palestinian presence in the city.“Paradoxically, as a consequence of the fence, Israel had to include different neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city into the municipal boundaries, thus increasing the Palestinian population even more.” Dr Nathanson said Israel was attempting the impossible.

“You cannot create a demographic majority artificially, and this is what the Israeli government is trying to do,” he said. “You cannot force a solution – you cannot force the Palestinians to leave the city and you cannot force a million or so Jews to come settle in the city – you have to look at the reality and make the best out of it.”“You have the Palestinian side of the city and the Israeli side of the city,” Dr Nathanson added. “The city is not divided but there is a kind of a glass wall between both parts. It’s invisible but it is there and everybody knows that.”

Posted by G, Z, or B at 8:56 AM

Book review: The timeless work of Naji al-Ali

Book review: The timeless work of Naji al-Ali

Toufic Haddad, The Electronic Intifada, 29 October 2009

Cartoonist Naji al-Ali was a towering figure in the Palestinian cultural and political scene. His daily political drawings were a knife-twisting, gut-wrenching journey into how Palestinians perceived their predicament. Each drawing taps into hidden reservoirs of forbidden ideas and feelings — all somehow related to the unfulfilled expectations of the Palestinian national movement and the larger struggle for Arab self-determination. Hope, injustice, anger, pain and the struggle for dignity bled from al-Ali’s nib in a manner so raw that they captured the imagination of millions. During his life and after his death at the hands of an unknown assassin in 1987, al-Ali was widely admired and respected as a visionary artist and political commentator. Indeed, with few if any amendments, hundreds of his decades-old drawings could be republished today to reflect the miserable state of the contemporary Palestinian and Arab reality.

How does one book explain the weight of such an enormous yet largely silenced cultural and political heritage? It can’t, and the new volume A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali, published by Verso, doesn’t. What it does do however is guide the reader through the background and logic behind many of these ideas. In so doing, the enormous gap between Western perceptions of the Arab world, and how the majority of downtrodden Arabs view themselves and Western policies in the region, is laid bare. In the process, al-Ali is also able to humanize his Arab subjects. He portrays refugees, peasants and members of the Arab working classes, as conscious, politicized and resisting agents, struggling against enormous odds, and engaging in the defense of their dignity and rights.

A Child in Palestine is clearly oriented to a Western audience. Its division into five thematic chapters (Palestine; Human Rights; US Dominance, Oil and Arab Collusion; the Peace Process; and Resistance) is designed to orient readers to general concepts in al-Ali’s drawings. Joe Sacco’s brief but compassionate introduction, combined with the short introductory essays at the beginning of each chapter, offers context to readers. One or two explanatory lines at the bottom of each drawing attempt to accomplish the task of translating any Arabic text as well to describe the illustrated universe of concepts depicted. Reductive by nature, the explanations generally accomplish their task, although they sometimes feel insufficient when contrasted with al-Ali’s caustic wit.

Al-Ali was an unapologetic radical concerned with the liberation of his people, both on a national and individual level. He once explained that the political duties of caricature drawing were “Incitement, preaching the birth of a new Arab human being.” Moreover, he saw no need to mince words or drawings, preferring to go straight to biting critiques of his adversaries: US imperialism, Zionism and the State of Israel, the Arab ruling classes and the bourgeois Palestinian national leadership. As al-Ali saw it, the situation was too far gone, too hypocritical, and too Orwellian to waste time beating around any bushes.

Al-Ali’s family fled their village of Shajara in Palestine’s Galilee region during the 1948 Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and the creation of the State of Israel, yet to return. The trauma of the Nakba was compounded by Israel’s repeated military assaults against neighboring Arab states and the Palestinian national movement, and was reinforced by inter-Arab rivalries and divisions and complicity in Zionist aspirations. In response, some picked up their rocks or guns — al-Ali picked up his pen.

Expectedly, al-Ali made many enemies along the way. His ideas, simply put, were illegal, the grounds for certain arrest and torture at the hands of Israel or the Arab dictatorships. Banned throughout most of the Arab world and in Israel, it is amazing to see what a following he was able to galvanize under these conditions, and what he is still able to stir today.

One does not envy the editorial task of sifting through thousands of al-Ali drawings and selecting the appropriate ones for an imagined Western audience. Certainly there are plenty of themes that he addressed that find little or no representation in this book, and all to the reader’s loss. The two most prominent are sectarianism and women’s rights — both highly relevant to the contemporary Arab reality and their depictions in Western media. Al-Ali addressed both squarely, lambasting sectarianism, and supporting women’s rights. But he understood that both could not be sufficiently addressed in isolation from the struggle to free Palestinians and Arabs from imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and occupation. Most observers focus on al-Ali’s signature character Handalah, the ten-year-old refugee child observing the absurdity around him. However, the hero of many of his drawings is actually the figure of Fatima — the mother figure in his reoccurring depictions of the plight of a typical Palestinian refugee family. Although Fatima is selectively depicted in the book, the theme of women’s rights is under-represented considering Fatima’s centrality in al-Ali’s overall body of work.

In spite of these flaws, A Child in Palestine is successful in providing a general readership with the chance to see the Arab world and Palestine from within, looking out. This is no small feat considering US and European policies in the region and the demonization of Arabs and Palestinians in the mainstream Western media. In this regard, Naji al-Ali’s defiance and determination to struggle still calls out from the pages, offering people hope and solidarity whatever their background.

Toufic Haddad is a Palestinian-American journalist based in Jerusalem. He is also the co-author of Between the Lines: Israel, the Palestinians and the US “War on Terror” with Israeli author Tikva Honig Parnass, published by Haymarket Books, 2007. He can be reached at tawfiq_haddad AT yahoo DOT com.

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Divide and Rule: The Key Strategy of the US and Its Western Allies

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Posted by realistic bird under Caricature, Politics Tags: , , , , , ,

by Kahlid kataa-White and Black newspaper-Syria

By S. Hewage, October 28, 2009, source

The latest attacks on Indian embassy in Afghanistan and the Pakistan’s military headquarters would trigger a new wave of accusations and counteraccusations by India and Pakistan. It seems that the United States is achieving its military strategy to keep regional conflicts going, so that the United States is not only secure, but also economically strong. Unfortunately, both India and Pakistan have so far failed to realize this, to work out a solution to their internal problems and to keep the hegemonic forces out of their region. The situation in Pakistan will soon be like that of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the West will continue to fuel Islamic and other ethno-religious insurgencies in that region.

It is a well-known fact among international security experts that one of the longstanding foreign policy doctrines of the United States is to destabilize countries and regions that are considered hostile to US economic and strategic interests. This policy has been the bedrock of American military and covert operations across the globe throughout the cold war period. When the US fails to win support from countries for its self-interested economic and defense policies, the US undertakes covert operations to overthrow democratically elected leaders in those countries by supporting military juntas and insurgent movements, cut off economic aid, and isolate them internationally until they give in to US pressure.

Since the end of the cold war, the US has inducted a new weapon to its arsenals of destabilization: This new weapon is the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the West. Independent scholars believe that many of these NGOs are in fact covertly backing various nefarious elements hell-bent on creating political violence, rather than helping to solve problems. Numerous citizens of Western countries associated with the United Nations Organizations and Human Rights Organizations are operating as the long arm of the Western governments in “regime change campaigns” in countries that are openly hostile to US foreign policies and hegemonic designs. Many of these individuals have local agents, who are openly campaigning for greater cooperation with the West. The US has been openly supporting various nongovernmental organizations to marshal mass support against elected governments that refuse to kowtow the US on the pretext of campaigning to protect human rights, media freedom, and democracy. The US funded international nongovernmental organizations and their local counterparts have been operating as the proxy of the US government across Latin America, the Middle East, and South, and South East Asia. The underline objective of all these covert operations is to cause political upheavals in specific countries, or regions with a long-term global strategy.

Once a nation becomes embroiled in fighting internal rebellions, whether they are ethnic or religiously motivated groups, or involved in cross-border conflicts, that nation soon becomes overwhelmed by the concerns of its survival. This would eventually force the leadership of that country to capitulate to the American strategic and economic interests in that country, and the region. This, in turn, would ensure US economic and political hegemony in the long- run, especially in nonwestern countries. For example, when Saddam Hussein refused to bow down to US pressure they invaded his country and violated all international conventions, rules and norms at will, and killed more than half a million civilians.

In 1998, a UN survey revealed that the mortality rates among children below five years of age in southern Iraq had more than doubled compared to the previous decade, meaning 500,000 excess deaths of children had occurred by that year due to diarrhea and acute respiratory infections because of sanctions imposed by the US and it allies. UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq (1997-98) Denis Halliday called sanctions ‘genocide’ and resigned in protest. His successor Hans von Sponeck followed suit in 2002 citing the same reasons. The UN World Food Program Director in Iraq Jutta Burghardt also registered his protest by fully subscribing to Sponeck’s position and tendering his resignation. That was before the US lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. Following the invasion, at the end of 2006, more than 600,000 civilians had been killed. The high-ranking retired US government official argued that the “price was worth” considering the importance of US strategic and economic interests in that region. It was argued that the invasion was necessary to remove “weapons of mass-destruction” that were being amassed by Saddam Hussein. When that was proved untrue, the Anglo-American invaders argued that they wanted to establish democracy in Iraq. Today Iraq is in the midst of a civil war created by the West. The major Western news organizations and the non-governmental organizations such the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which are heavily funded by the West, remain decidedly silence despite daily carnage taking place in that country. There is no moral outrage on the part of these human rights campaigners for the suffering of innocent Iraqis when the culprits were their paymasters.

Iraq is today one of the most dangerous places on Earth, thanks to the global “democracy” campaign of the Anglo-American leaders. Iraqis today not only have no democracy, but most importantly, lack basic security to go about their daily activities. In the meantime, the US has gained a permanent foothold in Iraq as never before with a largest fortified embassy, total control of its oil supply and, most importantly, a puppet regime installed by the US. This has given the US a guaranteed access to Iraq’s market for the supply of both military and consumer goods. The Anglo-American global “democracy” project is now complete, and the Western media and INGO allies are fully satisfied with the outcome of the Iraq war. They have moved on to their next assignment: Afghanistan, which is part the US strategy in South and Southeast Asia.

The South Asia has been particularly important for the US global strategy since the cold war. The creation of Al Quida organization involving Islamic militants against the Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan began in the early 1980s. With the end of the cold war, the key partners of the US strategic alliances broke up, and Al Quida became a sworn enemy of the West. A classic case of the “creature turned against its creator” with vengeance.

Some may think that the purpose of the current war in Afghanistan and Pakistan involving US and NATO troops is to capture Osama Bin Laden, terrorist master-mind in 9/11 attack, and now hiding in somewhere in the tribal area of Pakistan. If that is the real reason, a well-equipped, nearly 100,000-man army should have finished the job in a few weeks, if not months. The truth is that they are not interested in Osama Bin Laden per se, but to stir up regional conflicts to prevent countries in that neighborhood from realizing their economic potential.

The longer this conflict lasts, both Afghanistan and Pakistan will have no chance of economic recovery, and will remain impoverished. They would continue to depend on American economic and military aid to carry on with a vicious military campaign, which has no obvious winners, except the US.

Likewise, India will continue to be rattled by periodic cross-border attacks by disaffected Muslims in the region. Moreover, India’s inability to resist the US pressure to get involved in the American geo-political agenda in that region will eventually antagonize not only China, but also many other smaller countries in the region.

Throughout the Cold War, the US kept Pakistan as its ally to undermine India, which was an ally of the Soviet Union. However, today, the US has almost abandoned Pakistan in favor of India, as the new US strategy to contain China requires much larger military and economic cooperation in the region. By bringing India on the side of the US to counter China’s economic and military influence in South Asia, the US foreign policy and military strategists intend to create a much bigger conflict in that region, which would destroy India. The Indian foreign policy mandarins must somehow find a way to cut India free from the “American Rope,” if India is to avoid military confrontation with China.

As recently as last week, Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta warned Indian authorities that India is no match for China when it comes to Chinese military and naval superiority. The US strategists are fully aware of this “sudden” and “perceived” insecurity by the Indian military leaders. In an attempt to exploit this, the US military strategists and media continue to highlight a perceived so called “military ring” being created by China in South Asia. Although Chinese concerned is purely its own economic and territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national security, the US has its own agenda to weaken China through various insurgent groups including Muslim minority and Tibetan separatists. By portraying China as a potential military threat to India, two large emerging economies in Asia, and forcing India to spend a large sum of money to build up Indian armed forces annually, the US is going to benefit economically in the short-run by selling military hardware to India. However, in the long-run, the objective is to destroy both China and India, as potential global economic rivals to the US.

“Israel’s” European Lobby

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by Carlos Latuff

By Maidhc Ó Cathail, October 28, 2009, source

In their 2006 article “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt famously assert, “Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.” Having for decades successfully steered policymaking in Washington in a pro-Israel direction, Israel’s American Lobby has more recently turned its attention to Europe. Despite its brief presence in Brussels, it appears to have already had marked success in influencing the nascent foreign policy of the European Union.

One of the most important of the more than 60 organizations that make up “the Lobby” is the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Jeff Blankfort, an American Jew who is one of the Lobby’s most trenchant critics, described the AJC as “the Lobby’s unofficial foreign office.” Extending its global diplomatic mission, the AJC opened an office in Brussels in 2004. Since then, according to Blankfort, it has held weekly meetings with a high official or the chief of state of EU member states. The meetings seem to be having the desired effect. As Blankfort wrote in 2006, “Over the past year the EU has moved away from relative support for the Palestinians to adopting one position after another reflecting Israeli demands.”

As part of its lobbying efforts in Brussels, the AJC founded the Transatlantic Institute (TAI) in February 2004. According to its mission statement, the institute functions as “an intellectual bridge between the United States and the European Union” with the aim of “strengthening transatlantic ties.” Although it describes itself as “nongovernmental, non-partisan and independent,” TAI’s publications leave little doubt that it intends to shift the EU in a more aggressively pro-Israel direction, as the neoconservatives succeeded in doing with the Bush administration’s Middle Eastern policy.

Like American neocons, the TAI’s executive director, Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, has a “special affinity for Israel.” Before moving to Brussels, the Jewish Italian academic taught Israel Studies (a discipline which Mearsheimer and Walt describe as “intended in large part to promote Israel’s image”) at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, after having received his PhD in political science from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And like the current Israeli government and pro-Israeli groups worldwide, Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons are Ottolenghi’s overriding concern at the moment – now that the threat of Iraq’s non-existent WMDs has promptly been forgotten. In his 2009 book, Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb, Ottolenghi urges Europeans to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Despite his concern about the bomb, it’s unlikely that he would support a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons in the Middle East – since Israel is the only country in the region that currently possesses them.

Israel’s crying wolf is nothing if not predictable though. As for the “mushroom cloud” that’s supposedly looming over Europe, who, bar the mainstream media, could forget Condoleezza Rice’s pre-Iraq invasion soundbite: “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”? It was Michael Gerson, Bush’s pro-Israel speechwriter, who thought up that one. Incidentally, Gerson was so incensed by Mearsheimer and Walt’s criticism of the Lobby that he accused them in his Washington Post column of “sowing the seeds of anti-Semitism.”

Anyone for World War IV?

Before European policymakers give too much credence to the prescriptions of Ottolenghi and his “non-partisan” institute, they should familiarize themselves with the geopolitical outlook of Commentary, the magazine for which Ottolenghi blogs. Like the Transatlantic Institute, which became “the flagship of neoconservatism” in the 1970s, it was also founded by the American Jewish Committee, a relationship that lasted from 1945 to 2006. But above all, Commentary has been dominated by the political views of Norman Podhoretz.

Podhoretz, who has edited Commentary since 1960, claims that September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of World War IV (he considers the Cold War to have been World War III). “We are only in the very early stages of what promises to be a very long war,” declares the doyen of neoconservatism, “and Iraq is only the second front to have been opened in that war: the second scene, so to speak, of the first act of a five-act play.” Whatever about the incalculable cost in blood and treasure to the United States, presumably Israel won’t have any enemies left standing by the end of this bloody drama. Coincidentally or not, in 2007, the same year he published World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, Podhoretz was honoured by Bar-Ilan University with its Guardian of Zion Award, bestowed on Jews who have been supportive of the State of Israel.

However, those who question the motives behind Podhoretz’s enthusiasm for World War IV, or believe that his belligerent Zionism poses a far greater threat to world peace than “Islamofascism” – a nebulous concept that lumps together disparate entities such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Al Qaeda – are invariably smeared as anti-Semites. It’s not surprising, of course, that Zionists like Ottolenghi, in a transparent attempt to discredit their opponents, claim that “anti-Zionism is anti-semitism.” After all, “the charge of anti-semitism,” as Mearsheimer and Walt point out, is one of the Lobby’s “most powerful weapons.”

What is worrying, however, is that the EU now legitimates the deployment of that weapon by pro-Israelis against their critics. According to the definition given by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, it seems that you’re an anti-semite if you agree with Mearsheimer and Walt that pressure from Israel and the Lobby played a “critical” role in the decision to invade Iraq, or if you suspect that the likes of Podhoretz and Ottolenghi may be more loyal to Israel than they are to their respective countries. Before coming up with their working definition of anti-Semitism in 2004, the EU consulted with Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee. If they were asked about the question of loyalty, the AJC probably forgot to mention the case of Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, an American Jew, is now serving a life sentence for stealing thousands of documents while employed as an analyst for US naval intelligence during the mid-1980s. In Dangerous Liaison, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn write, “Though he always maintained that he was motivated purely by devotion to Israel, he was well paid for his services.” That money may have come from the US-Israeli Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), according to Claudia Wright, the author of Spy, Steal, and Smuggle:

Israel’s Special Relationship with the US. When Jordan Baruch, an adviser to BIRD’s board, was asked for an audit report, he replied, “Even if I did (have one), I couldn’t release it.” Interestingly, it was Baruch and his wife, “long-time AJC leaders,” who funded the Transatlantic Foundation.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, Benjamin Netanyahu portrayed Israel’s grievance against Iran as a conflict which “pits civilization against barbarism.” It’s tempting to dismiss the Israeli leader’s assertion as the hyperbolic trope of a demagogue, but there may be some truth to what he said. After all, what better word than “barbarism” to describe what Israel has done to the Palestinians for the past six decades? Or the havoc that Israel’s supporters in America have wrought on the people of Iraq? Or the untold devastation they have in mind for the Iranians? The influence the Israel Lobby wields in Washington has ensured that the United States has long been complicit in Israel’s barbarism. And if the Lobby gets it way in Brussels, so too will the European Union.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a freelance writer.

Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians: It’s All About Demography, Again!

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by Saed Bannoura, IMEMC, October 28, 2009

A recent Israeli report based on a study conducted by the Macro Center for Political Economy in Israel states that the aim of Israel in East Jerusalem is to guarantee a Jewish majority by all means in order to prevent any future partition of the city.

The report ‘warns’ that in twenty years, and in spite of land annexation and home demolitions, there will be a Palestinian majority in Jerusalem.
It adds that the Israeli policies in Jerusalem aim at maintaining Jewish majority by all means.

The report was distributed to Israeli members of Knesset in recent days. It says that in spite of the Israeli activities and policies that aim at preventing the Palestinians from becoming a majority in the city, their natural growth continue to ‘pose a threat to the Jewish majority, and if nothing is done about it, Jerusalem would become a bi-national city”.

“Regardless of land grab policies and annexation of Arab land since 1967, the Arab population continues to grow”, the report adds, “Arabs could become a majority within twenty years”.

The report was not shy in mentioning that in spite of the policies of consecutive governments in Israel, and the construction policies that aim at maintaining a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, ‘there is a doubt that this goal will be achieved’.

It adds that since capturing East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli authorities annexed more than 24000 Dunams (nearly 6000 Acres, 35% of the total size of Jerusalem).

“Most of the lands, annexed from the Palestinians, were used to construct homes for the Jewish residents”, the report stated, “yet, more is needed in order to prevent the city from becoming bi-national”.

It also states that after capturing East Jerusalem in 1967, the Palestinians who remained in the city were one-fourth of the total population, “but now, 35% of the population is Arab”.

The current Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, former member of Kach movement which was outlawed by Israel and considered a terrorist entity, repeatedly stated that the Arabs are a ‘demographic threat’.

Before taking office as a Foreign Minister, and during his post as a Knesset member, Lieberman repeatedly called for transferring the Arabs and Palestinians out of the country as he considers them a demographic threat to the “Jewish State’, his statements made him the Minister of Strategic Affairs.

Lieberman, a settler who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, is one of the biggest advocates for ongoing settlement activities in the occupied territories.

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