Haiti arrests 10 US citizens for child smuggling and US denies entry to quake-hit Haitians
Haiti arrests 10 US citizens for child smuggling
Sun, 31 Jan 2010, Press TV
The Haitian police have arrested 10 US citizens after they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the earthquake-stricken nation.
One of the suspects, who says she is the leader of an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children’s Refuge, denied they had done anything wrong.
The suspects were detained at Malpasse, Haiti’s main border crossing with the Dominican Republic, after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle.
The Haitian authorities said the 10 US citizens had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoption of the 33 children — aged 2 months to 12 years old — through any embassy and no papers showing they were made orphans by the quake in the impoverished Caribbean country.
In addition to outright trafficking in children, Haitian officials have also expressed concern that legitimate aid groups may have flown children believed to be orphans out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.
As a result, the Haitian government halted many types of adoptions earlier this month.
Cash-strapped US denies entry to quake-hit Haitians
Sat, 30 Jan 2010, Press TV
The US military puts a stop to Haitian earthquake victims entering America for medical attention, due to cost concerns over the victim’s treatments.
Officials say the decision follows some government concerns about who will be footing the medical bill for the quake victims.
They say Florida and Georgia have made it clear that they cannot afford hosting quake victims without federal help.
“Florida stands ready to assist our neighbors in Haiti, but we need a plan of action and reimbursement for the care we are providing,” said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
While Crist’s request does not clearly stated the cost of medical care for the earthquake victims but according to Reuters the cost will amount to millions of dollars.
The airlift operations from Haiti were suspended on Wednesday.
American rescue services say medical facilities have been set up in Haiti and offshore to treat the injured.
“The fact that medical flights aren’t taking place does not mean that Haitians who need care aren’t getting it,” said Navy Captain Kevin Aandahl a spokesman for the US Transportation Command, which manages the military’s medical emergency airlifts.
“We have the medical facilities again on the island as well as offshore.”
The devastating magnitude-7.0 earthquake that rocked the impoverished Caribbean nation on January 12 killed at least 170,000 people.
Photo by Reuters
Americans arrested taking children out of Haiti
The five men and five women were in custody in the capital, Port-au-Prince after their arrests on Friday night. There are fears that traffickers could try to exploit the chaos and turmoil following Haiti’s January 12 earthquake quake to engage in illegal adoptions.
One of the suspects, who says she is leader of an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children’s Refuge, denied they had done anything wrong.
The suspects were detained at Malpasse, Haiti’s main border crossing with the Dominican Republic, after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle.
Authorities said the Americans had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoption of the 33 children — aged 2 months to 12 years — through any embassy and no papers showing they were made orphans by the quake in the impoverished Caribbean country.
“This is totally illegal,” said Yves Cristalin, Haiti’s social affairs minister. “No children can leave Haiti without proper authorization and these people did not have that authorization.”
U.S. authorities could not be reached for immediate comment on the arrests.
But Laura Sillsby from the Idaho group told Reuters from a jail cell at Haiti’s Judicial Police headquarters, “We had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.”
“We have a Baptist minister here (in Port-au-Prince) whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children to the orphanage in the Dominican Republic,” Sillsby added.
“I was going to come back here to do the paperwork,” Sillsby said. “They accuse us of children trafficking. This is something I would never do. We were not trying to do something wrong.”
In addition to outright trafficking in children, authorities have voiced fears since the quake that legitimate aid groups may have flown earthquake orphans out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.
As a result, the Haitian government halted many types of adoptions earlier this month.
There are no reliable estimates of the number of parentless and lost children at risk in Haiti’s quake-shattered capital.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
River to Sea
This is the extended version of a piece published in today’s Sunday Herald.
A strange calm prevails on the Middle Eastern surface. Occasionally a wave breaks through from beneath – the killing of an Iranian scientist, a bomb targetting Hamas’s representative to Lebanon (which instead kills three Hizbullah men), a failed attack on Israeli diplomats travelling through Jordan – and psychological warfare rages, as usual, between Israel and Hizbullah, but the high drama seems to have shifted for now to the east, to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Arab world (with the obvious exception of Yemen) appears to be holding its breath, waiting for what comes next.
Iraq’s civil war is over. The Shia majority, after grievous provocation from takfiri terrorists, and after its own leaderhip made grievous mistakes, decisively defeated the Sunni minority. Baghdad is no longer a mixed city but one with a large Shia majority and with no-go zones for all sects. In their defeat, a large section of the Sunni resistance started working for their American enemy. They did so for reasons of self-preservation and in order to remove Wahhabi-nihilists from the fortresses which Sunni mistakes had allowed them to build.
The collapse of the national resistance into sectarian civil war was a tragedy for the region, the Arabs and the entire Muslim world. The fact that it was partly engineered by the occupier does not excuse the Arabs. Imperialists will exploit any weaknesses they find. This is in the natural way of things. It is the task of the imperialised to rectify these weaknesses in order to be victorious.
The sectarian horror has taken the wind out of Iraqi resistance. Those who fought the Americans in the past and who choose not to collaborate now have gone quiet. Moqtada Sadr, for instance, having lost control of the more thuggish elements of his Jaish al-Mahdi and therefore much of his mass popularity, has disappeared into the Qom seminaries. He will emerge at some point with Ayatullah status. What he does then will depend on what comes next, which is not at all clear.
Will the monthly round of bomb attacks reignite civil war? Will resistance mount again as Iraqis move against the permanent US megabases on their land? Will there be a further American withdrawal? And if so, what happens then? Might Saudi Arabia be committed to preventing a Shia-majority government from functioning, at any price? Would it fund and arm an anti-Shia militia more fully than it has done in the past? Its attempts to defeat the Iraqi Shia would fail, but they could spark a new war in which the Saudis face Iran by proxy or even, by a chain of mismanagement, directly. This could satisfy perverse American and Israeli strategists as much as the Iraq-Iran conflict did in the 80s.
The Saudis and Iranians may already be fighting by proxy in Yemen. Saudi military involvement in its southern neighbour is a public fact (the kingdom is heroically bombarding poverty-stricken villagers with its expensive American bombs). Its enemy is the rebellious Houthi tribe, Shias. The president of collapsing Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, preposterously tells us that the Houthis are armed by both Iran and al-Qa’ida. Saudi media describes the enemy as ‘Shia’. Iranian media describes ‘Wahhabi’ massacres. Meanwhile, Iranian pilgrims have stopped visiting Mecca until such time as the Saudi authorities guarantee their protection from intolerable Wahhabi mistreatment.
In Palestine nothing is resolved and nothing is in sight of resolution. With the cleavage between Gaza and the West Bank successfully engineered, with Gaza walled, starved and bombed, with the West Bank warned that it will suffer Gaza’s fate if it removes its collaborator government, the Palestinian liberation project is in desperate straits. For now the West Bank enjoys a somewhat improved economy and freedom of movement, quietly realises the two state dream is over, and waits. For now Gaza does its best to survive, and waits. For now.
The Gaza model applies to Lebanon too. The general message is that a future Israel-Hizbullah conflict will be ‘a hundred times worse’ in its effects on Lebanese civilians than the atrocious 2006 assault. Hizbullah is careful and quiet, but by most accounts even better dug in than it was four years ago. Lebanon, meanwhile, is more stable than it has been since the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. After Hizbullah called the bluff of Hariri junior and his Saudi-US-backed militia, and with the mediation of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US have retreated to their traditional positions of influence in Lebanon. Saad Hariri has visited Damascus.
Syria has regained its strength. The Obama administration will continue to back Zionist expansion, has kept Bush-era anti-Syrian sanctions in place, and only yesterday appointed an ambassador to Damascus, but ‘regime change’ is no longer an American fantasy and, as noted above, a natural, non-militarised Syrian influence in Lebanon has been accepted. Syria’s position is again what it was under the late president Hafez al-Asad: Syria can not change the region on its own, but nobody can change the region without it.
The good news, and perhaps the what-comes-next, is Turkey.
When I lived in Turkey in the early nineties the country was surrounded by enemies. Now all of its neighbours are friends. Internal relations between Turks and Kurds are also much better than they were a few years ago. Both developments stem from a long-overdue dilution of Kemalist national chauvinism brought about by new social forces. These are the upwardly mobile Anatolian Islamic-democrats represented by Prime Minister Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. They aim to build an inclusive post-Ottoman society, and their economy is flourishing.
An intellectual associated with the Justice and Development Party told a friend of mine that the best things to happen to Middle Eastern Muslims in the 20th century had been Ataturk and Wahhabism, because both challenges – the militantly secularist and the sectarian literalist – had forced (and are forcing) Muslims to rethink their core values. Turkey’s Sufi-based Sunnism is an attractive model which could sap the appeal of Salafism in the ex-Ottoman Arab world. But the Turkish-led alliance that is emerging inludes the Shia world too. Turkey has defended Iran’s right to nuclear energy and, against American orders, is investing enthusiastically in the Iranian economy.
Turkey and the Arabs are ending a century of mutual alienation. The late Ottoman state degenerated from a multicultural Muslim dominion into an empire on the European model in which nationalist Turks oppressed the Arab territories into stagnation. Arab nationalism flared in response. In what was a historical mistake – but perhaps a necessary one – in 1917 the Arabs accepted the help of the British to rid themselves of Turkish rule. The British promised an independent Arab state; what the Arabs got was the Sykes-Picot dismemberment of their homeland and the resulting irrevocably corrupt states system. Palestine was lost.
Ataturk defended the Turkish homeland from dismemberment and constructed a functioning European-style nation-state, but one run by the army. The governing ideology was fervently ethno-nationalist, precluding cooperation with non-Turks. Greeks fled to Greece while Greek Turks fled to Turkey. The Armenians had already been cleansed. Ataturk considered Turkey’s Arab and Persian neighbours to be degenerate oriental races. Official mythology taught that Turks had invented language and civilisation, that the ancient Sumerians were Turks, and that Turks had colonised India when the Indians lived in trees. Across the border in Syria, Baathist myths repeated these ideas in an Arab mirror.
The practical contention between the two countries was over Wilayat Iskenderoon, or Hatay in Turkish, which the French Mandate (mandated to guard Syria’s territorial unity) gave to Turkey in 1938 in return for a promise not to join Germany in a future war. Arab nationalists in Syria and elsewhere were outraged by the loss of ancient Antioch, of Iskenderoon, Syria’s major port, and of the green lands and markets around these cities. Syrian maps still show Wilayat Iskenderoon as part of Syria, although Syrians don’t resent the Turks like they resent the Israelis occupying the Golan. The Turks are old neighbours and they do not seek to drive out the Arabs. Now that the border is wide open, now that Syrians, Lebanese and Jordanians can enter Turkey without a visa, now that Turkish-Syrian trade is burgeoning, Iskenderoon does not even feel so lost any more.
Syria gave up the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, greatly reducing Turkish hostility. Syrian president Bashaar al-Asad and his wife Asma al-Akhras are popular figures in Turkey, and Turkish prime minister Erdogan is wildly popular in the Arab world, particularly after his public rebukes of Israel during the Gaza massacre.
The friendship with Syria shows that Turkey is engaging not only with Arabs but with Arab and Muslim interests too. Its hardening position in support of the Palestinians allows a voice of Muslim conscience to be heard in the international arena. This marks a change. The regional US-client regimes seem suddenly much less relevant, and the age of the ‘moderate camp’ versus ‘resistance front’ duality, which reigned a couple of years ago, has already passed.
Turkey has democratic stability on its side. Another military coup is highly unlikely, firstly because the miltary itself contains representatives of the new Turkish mood, and secondly because the army’s secularist hard-core would dash its hopes of moving further into the European Union’s embrace if it were to seize power. But it is Turkey’s slow realisation that the EU will never allow it to be a full member that has encouraged it to claim its place in Asia, where it belongs. In Asia it is admirably placed as the conduit of Iraqi, Iranian and Caspian Sea oil, as the bridge to Europe and Europe’s Muslims, and as a potential shield for the region against American attacks.
The Turkish-led alliance could prevent a fresh outbreak of war in Iraq. Turkey would make a sounder sponsor of Iraqi Sunni interests than Saudi Arabia, and could moderate Iranian influence in the country. An alliance is also essential for cross-border cooperation over water and fuel distribution as climate change and resource shortages loom across the region.
I have great hopes for the development of this alliance despite the potential weakness of Iran in the short to medium term (it is to be hoped that the Islamic Republic shows enough flexibility to adapt to some of the demands of its alienated portion), and despite the differences in the ruling ideologies – democratic-Islamist, theocratic, and Arabist – of its member states. In fact these differences are a good thing. They will discourage hasty leaps at union of the unthought type that Syria tried with Egypt in 1958.
What is necessary for the alliance’s growth is the long term stability of the relationship and an ongoing interchange of ideas along with people and goods. The alliance will represent Turks, Aryans and Arabs, and may eventually erase the imported nationalism which has so cursed us. It could be the first serious regional axis of the modern period, the first axis not organised by an imperial sponsor. Russia and China would be natural partners. A confident and informed power to ensure Middle Eastern rights and responsibilities would of course be in Europe’s interest too. Is it too much to hope that the emerging alliance will mark the end of Western dominance in the region? Could the alliance begin to fill the gaping hole left by the disappearance of the Caliphate?
River to Sea
By Alan Hart
Putting Tony Blair on trial would be much too cruel. The man is ill, delusional, quite possibly to the point of madness. What he needs most of all is psychiatric help. Any doubts I might have had about that diagnosis were removed by his six-hour presentation to the Chilcot Inquiry of his reasons for joining the neo-conned “Dubya” Bush in the war on Iraq.
Without understanding why, I never thought Blair was Bush’s puppet. Now, thanks to the access Blair gave us to the workings of his mind for six hours, I do understand. He was ahead of Bush in the war on terrorism game because he is a neo-con, the real thing, whereas Bush had to be won over, conned, by America’s mad men. Blair didn’t. He was always with them in spirit. After 9/11, immediately after it, probably while the towers were still collapsing, their agenda was his agenda.
Though the Chilcot Inquiry is concerned only with Iraq – how Blair’s government made the decision to go to war and what lessons should be learned – Blair could not resist beating the drum for war on Iran. He did that four times. One might have been listening to John Bolton or any of America’s or Israel’s lunatics.
When he was going on about terrorism being a threat to all, he threw in: “It’s a constant problem for Israel. They get attacked.” That there is a cause-and-effect relationship between Israeli occupation and Israel’s frequent demonstrations of state terrorism and a degree of violence directed at the Zionist state from time to time is not something Blair the neo-con can, or ever will, get his deluded mind around.
At one point during his display of insufferable, Zionist-like self-righteousness, Blair denied he had said in an interview with the BBC’s Fern Britton that he favoured regime change in Iraq. “I didn’t use the words regime change in that interview,” he said to the Chilcot Inquiry. He was telling the truth in that he did not use those actual words. What then did he say on camera to Fern Britton on 13 December 2009? She asked him if knowing what we all know today (that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction) would he still have gone to war. Blair replied, “I would still have thought it right to remove him.” If that is not regime change, what is?!
Blair still insists that the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein has “made the world a safer place”. The reality is that Blair and Bush together were the best recruiting sergeants for violent Islamic fundamentalism in many manifestations, not only the Al-Qaeda franchise.
Most amazing of all was that Blair declined an invitation to express any regret. He couldn’t even bring himself to say he regretted the loss of the lives of British soldiers and a great number of Iraqis (somewhere between 100,000 and 600,000), mainly civilians. To my way of thinking that makes him less than fully human.
Blair described Saddam Hussein as “a monster who threatened the world.” There’s an old English saying, “It takes one to know one.”
Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. Author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews: The False Messiah (Zionism, the Real Enemy of the Jews). He blogs on http://www.alanhart.net and tweets on www.twitter.com/alanauthor
River to Sea
As one may assume the supporters of Israel in Britain are far from happy about Britain’s magistrates being able to implement ‘universal jurisdiction’ laws, laws that allow local magistrates to issue arrest warrants for high profile foreign visitors accused of war crimes. The rabid Zionist Jewish Chronicle is obviously outraged because universal jurisdiction puts most of the Israeli political and military echelon at a severe risk. Last month ex Israeli Foreign minister Mrs. Tzipi Livini cancelled her visit to Britain over fears that arrest warrants would be issued in connection with accusations of war crimes under laws of universal jurisdiction.
Surely universal jurisdiction is not a bad thing. It is actually an ethically orientated idea that is there to prevent world leaders from abusing their powers and committing crimes against humanity. It is also there to chase war criminals and to stop them from celebrating their freedom. Yet, it is not very surprising that the only political lobby in Britain that acts against such a set of universal laws is the Zionist lobby.
While in the past Zionist activists tried to hide their conspiratorial actions, JC political editor Martin Bright and Chief editor Stephen Pollard are providing us with a glimpse into the Jewish relentless political activity here. “Will the government ever act?” they ask in their latest editorial as if the British government has to act in order to satisfy the Zionist will.
Interestingly enough, the JC editors do not offer a single ideological, ethical or legal argument suggesting what is wrong with laws of universal jurisdiction except suggesting that it is not good for the Jews or Israel.
The JC is rather outraged with Justice Secretary Jack Straw who apparently fails to bow to Israeli pressure. Considering Jack Straw is of Jewish descent, the JC must believe that it is entitled to use some measures to put him in the line of fire. In spite of the fact that Straw is known in Britain for his notorious call for Muslim women to remove their veils and also as a backer of the illegal invasion of Iraq. The JC blames Straw for being too friendly with Muslims. “Mr Straw is known to be highly sensitive to the views of his Muslim constituents in Blackburn and is close to the Muslim Council of Britain, which opposes a change to the law.”
The JC should have also accepted the fact that, bearing in mind Straw’s Jewish origin, it is just natural for him to be reluctant to put a change into British law that is there to solely to serve Israeli interests and stands in total opposition to every universal and ethical value.
According to the JC, the Jews of Britain should not be too worried. The Shadow Middle East minister David Lidington is already in their pockets. ”This has to be sorted and quickly”, says the shadow man. “It is very clear to me that this issue is doing serious damage to relations with Israel”.
The JC also assures its Zionist readers that they have a man within the government who is working hard serving their interests willingly and even enthusiastically. David Miliband, the British foreign minister who is also listed as an “Israeli Propaganda (Hasbara) author’ on an Israeli official Hasbara site already announced his intention to change the law late last year. According to the JC he is “pushing hard within Whitehall for a solution”. Earlier this month, says the JC “the Foreign Office briefed that an announcement of the law change was imminent”. I wouldn’t except less from a listed ‘Hasbara author’
But the JC is taking it even further. In its JC Opinion editorial it says it is “Crystal clear who is to blame” referring to Justice Secretary Straw and PM Brown
“The time for excuses is over”, says the paper. “For weeks the government has been giving every possible off-the-record promise that it would change the law on universal jurisdiction. No longer would unsuitable magistrates be able to issue warrants for the arrest of some of our closest allies”. One may wonder why exactly ‘on the record’ genocidal murderers such as Livni, Barak or Olmert should be considered as ‘Britain closest allies’. In fact these people are primary enemies of humanity and as such they are also the enemy of Britain and any other nation.
Seemingly, the JC, doesn’t just talk on behalf of its editors. For some reason it prefers to talk in the name of the ‘Jewish community’. “Mr Straw must take the Jewish community for mugs if he thinks his behaviour is not transparent”. The only possible interpretation of this statement is that British Jewry wants Britain to give up on universal Jurisdiction just to appease its Zionists.
In case PM Brown is slightly confused and doesn’t know how to react, the JC is there to tell him how he should run Britain just to keep the Jewish community happy. “As for the Prime Minister: all he has ever needed to do is make clear that he backs Mr Miliband, and the issue would have been over”. Considering Miliband is listed as an ‘Israeli Propaganda author’ the message here is clear. Britain better start to work for Israel and even change its laws accordingly so it can easily comply with Israeli unethical conduct.
Britain is heading towards election, and the JC is advising PM Brown that he is about to pay the ultimate political price for his unwillingness to succumb to the Zionist will. “That he (PM Brown) has done precisely nothing since promising action speaks volumes about his own bona fides. If – and now it looks like when – the deadline for action passes and nothing is done, it will be crystal clear who is to blame.”
In plain language the JC is suggesting that PM Brown as far as the Jews are concerned, is basically finished. I wonder how long it will take for British people to wake up and say enough is enough. How long will it take before they say NO to Israeli and Zionist infiltration into their politics, laws and value system.
River to Sea
By ABE SELIG
Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are playing an increasing role in growing participation of young Israelis in protest rallies.
Activists and journalists both described a situation in which protesters were relying on the Internet to try and affect change on the ground and raise awareness of the arrests made during demonstrations in the neighborhood.
“It’s all Facebook, e-mails and Twitter,” said Didi Remez, a human rights activist, who has become noticeably involved in the Sheikh Jarrah protests as of late. Remez was arrested during a protest there last Friday.
Below is one example of a recent video not pulled from YouTube… (my comment)
Remez also said that distant audiences, like American Jews, who might be deprived of Sheikh Jarrah coverage due to the mainstream media’s lack of interest, were instead staying abreast of the situation via social networking sites.
“The American media is for some reason refusing to cover this,” he said. “Even though it’s becoming a major issue in Israel. And still, despite that, there’s a lot of awareness [of this issue] among Jewish Americans, the reason being that they are increasingly connected through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so on.”
“They’re getting information on this without The New York Times,” Remez continued. “So, something that hasn’t been covered at all by the [American] mainstream media, is still getting coverage through new media, and I think that’s a statement about the decline of the mainstream media and maybe a larger comment on the shift away from it.”
Others echoed Remez’s comments, but added that another advantage of social media was its ability to counter police statements about Sheikh Jarrah they said the mainstream media often parroted.
“This is an issue that the media hasn’t really been covering, and when they have, they’ve mostly relied on police statements that portrayed the protesters as a handful of extreme leftists or anarchists, which is simply not true,” said Lisa Goldman, a Tel-Aviv based freelance journalist who has used Facebook, Twitter and blogs to follow the Sheikh Jarrah protests.
“What the social media outlets have been able to provide is a direct source of information that isn’t filtered through the mainstream media,” she said, adding that in this vein, the use of new media had been “absolutely crucial.”
Additionally, Goldman added, social media outlets had also served as a tool to awaken the mainstream Left to the goings-on in Sheikh Jarrah, including, but not limited to, the emerging issue of police behavior towards protesters there, which the Jerusalem Magistrate Court has even censured – ruling last week that the arrests of 17 protesters during a rally two weeks ago was illegal.
“The silent Israeli Left is finally waking up,” she said. “And it’s a result of the way some young people are using social media. It’s been very effective in raising awareness among the moderate Left, who are seeing that the police are suppressing free speech.”
Goldman also pointed to the participation in last Friday’s rally of Prof. Moshe Halbertal, who helped draft the IDF code of ethics and who has been active in disputing the United Nation’s Goldstone Report, as an example of figures who would certainly not be considered extreme, but who have joined the Sheikh Jarrah fray.
Hagai El-Ad, the director of the Association for Human Rights in Israel and one of the 17 protesters arrested two weeks ago, added that the use of new media to circumvent the mainstream media, which, he said, was often “reluctant to cover hard issues, or blatantly hostile,” was spreading rapidly.
“However, it’s not just new media [at play in Sheikh Jarrah],” he said. “I think there’s a need to [step back] from the tactics being used there, and zoom in on the core issue, which is the moral outrage of Jerusalemite families being thrown out of their homes and living in tents in the street. That’s the essential injustice here, and I think it’s a fuel of its own.”
Yet El-Ad did concede that the use of new media was a driving force behind the success of the Sheikh Jarrah protest organizers.
“They are a courageous group of young people, who are functioning without any real budget or resources,” he said. “But they are cleverly online, and they’ve been able to translate that into real movement on the ground – it’s not just a Facebook group that people add their names too.”
“Yes, the mobilization happens online,” El-Ad added, “but the end result is the most classic form of civil protest.”
Also see THIS related post about the ongoing demonstrations.
River to Sea
January 30, 2010
A year after the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are still waiting for President Obama’s deeds to match his rhetoric in the Middle East.
by Eyad El-Sarraj – Foreign Policy – 28 January 2010
On the night Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency, he announced: “To all those … who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world … a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you…. The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.”
Obama’s words made the world shiver with anticipation.
One year later, anticipation has turned to disappointment. The U.S. president’s first State of the Union address coincides roughly with the anniversary of the end of Operation Cast Lead, the devastating Israeli military offensive on Gaza last winter. And yet Obama said nothing. During that assault, shuddering under ordnance dropped or fired by American-made F-16s, we Palestinians felt abandoned by the soon-to-be president. We recalled the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who maintained, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
The sting of the White House’s ongoing silence is devastating. Obama has remained a passive bystander as Israel has declared a faux freeze of settlements, arrested nonviolent civil society leaders, and denied desperate Palestinians, living in woeful conditions in Gaza, the basic necessities of livelihood.
Visitors to Gaza — those few permitted in by Israel and Egypt — are horrified at the scale of the human toll and widespread destruction. U.N. Justice Richard Goldstone concluded that war crimes might have been committed. Yet Obama has only broken his silence to defend Israeli war crimes by stifling the Goldstone report.
During Obama’s presidential campaign, he visited the Israeli city of Sderot and had no qualms about declaring his solidarity with Israelis terrified by Palestinian rocket fire. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
I wonder what his advice would be to a helpless father in Gaza who cannot protect his children from the American-made weaponry that killed more than 300 innocent Palestinian children. What would he say to the Palestinian grandmother ejected in 1948 by Israel and prohibited from returning to the agricultural land that could feed her stunted grandchildren?
In June, Obama stated in Cairo, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” But as each day goes by, Gaza slips into the hands of extremists, and the struggle for an equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is being lost.
The reason is not Islam and not Hamas. The principal reason that a just solution to the conflict is fading is Israel’s ongoing resort to military force in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas respected the June 2008 truce until Israel provoked renewed rocket fire with an incursion into Gaza on Nov. 4, 2008, the day of the U.S. presidential election, killing six people. Less than two months later, Israel chose to launch its devastating war rather than negotiate a new cease-fire. This does nothing to encourage the moderates within Hamas, who are there and well worth approaching and sounding out.
Last week, Hamas met all factional leaders and asked for a complete halt to all rocket fire from the Palestinian side, so as not to give Israel a fresh excuse to start a new war. Hamas should and will recognize an Israeli state — as Aziz Dweik, the Hamas speaker of the parliament, said last week — once Israel recognizes a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli governments have never accepted such an outcome yet have continually demanded that brutalized Palestinians show moderation.
The fundamental reason the opportunity for peace is slipping away is because Israeli extremists in the government and military are striving to prevent the birth of a Palestinian state. They want Palestinian land, but without the Palestinians. These Palestinians are to be cordoned off in Bantustans or made so miserable they leave for other countries.
The reconciliation of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, with Fatah — which rules parts of the West Bank but is absent from Jerusalem — is crucial to reaching a negotiated settlement. While we Palestinians must do more to put our own house in order, we should be assisted by a U.S. policy that no longer pits Palestinian against Palestinian in the ancient game of divide and rule. With Palestinians divided, Israel feels no pressure to negotiate in good faith. Yet further delay only leads to more Israeli facts on the ground — the very facts that might well make a two-state outcome impossible.
Obama should resolve to govern using the same principles that won the hearts of the American people and raised a glimmer of hope in the Arab world. In the Middle East, he should step off the sidelines and into action. Israel rules by the gun and will turn itself into an apartheid state if left to its own devices. The far-right elements within Israel’s government would prefer endless war to a just peace that requires Israel to abandon its settlement project. These forces must be identified, publicly rebuked, and stopped.
It is imperative that Obama help Israel’s leaders to understand that security cannot be achieved by the gun, but only by readiness to accept me, a Palestinian, as an equal human being with equal rights.
Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist, is founder and president of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and heads the National Reconciliation Group.
River to Sea