“Greater Lebanon”: where to?

August 19, 2019

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Abou Omar, a close friend of mine, is one whom I have so much in common. Not only he was my boss many moons ago, but we were both brought up in political families that endorsed and advocated the unity and integrity of Syria.

When I caught up with him recently after many years, I was not surprised that our thoughts had many congruencies, and the discussion we had has given me the inspiration to write this article.

One does not have to be a member of the Social Syrian National Party (SSNP) to realize that Syria and Lebanon have been the same country up till nearly a century ago when French General Gouraud redrew the map of what was then called “Petit Liban” (ie Small Lebanon) and annexed to it other territories and gave the “Grand Liban” (Greater Lebanon) tag to the new entity.

One of my first articles on The Saker, if not the first, was titled “The Capitulation of Grand Liban” https://thesaker.is/the-capitulation-of-grand-liban/. It outlines briefly the history of Lebanon in the 100 years or so.

For the benefit of those who do not wish to read the whole article above, I reiterate that the term “Small Lebanon” was used to describe a predominantly Christian Maronite and Druze entity. This state was the love child of an uneasy concession of the ailing Ottoman Empire to European powers (Britain, France, Italy, Austria and Russia) to give Mount Lebanon a reprieve after decades of sectarian strife between the Maronites and the Druze. The Maronites, being Catholic, were France’s favourites, whilst the Druze were Britain’s.

In rebranding Lebanon, as it were, and for whichever reason, Gouraud decided to include a Muslim component to the Lebanese demography. To this effect, the predominantly Sunni coastal cities of Beirut, Tripoli, Saida plus other Sunni provinces in the North, together with some Shiite provinces in the South and the Beqaa Valley were included in the new Mosaic that gave, according to the 1932 census, a marginal Maronite majority and hence stipulated, perhaps as planned, that the President of Lebanon will have to be a Maronite Christian. http://countrystudies.us/lebanon/34.htm

The 1932 infamous census was used as the defining foundation of “fairness” upon which all positions in all tiers of government were established. So unlike other states that provide merit-based employment, not only the President of Lebanon had to be a Catholic Maronite, but the PM had to be a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the House a Shiite Muslim, his deputy a Christian Orthodox and so forth. Each electorate was represented on sectarian grounds by candidates of same religion and sect, and even unqualified positions had to be based on “sectarian equality”. A government office could not even hire a janitor even if it needed only one, it must hire two; a Christian and a Muslim.

It wasn’t till the 1989 Taif agreement that followed the sectarian Civil War that the 1932-based model was revisited. But after a decade and a half of blood bath, one would think that the failed sectarian model was dumped altogether, but it wasn’t. It was only amended to give Muslims equal number of Parliamentarians as against the former 11-9 split.

But that sectarian “compromise”, which in itself was a reason for conflict, was not the only problem Lebanon had and has. In the 1920’s, the “new” Sunni Lebanese did not want to belong to what they considered a Western puppet state, and they took to the streets chanting “We demand Syrian unity, Christians and Muslims”. A few decades later when Egyptian President Nasser rose to prominence, the children of the first generation of new Lebanese took to the streets with a slightly amended version of the slogan demanding Arab unity for Christians and Muslims.

The Right-wing Lebanese Christians therefore felt Lebanese Muslims are fifth columnists who are not loyal to Lebanon, and as the rift grew and the Lebanese Left supported the PLO in its struggle, the Christian Right formed well trained and equipped militia, and the 1975-1989 Civil War was an inevitable outcome.

When the Syrian Army entered Lebanon in 1976 upon the request of the Lebanese Government, Syria had a golden opportunity to mend the growing rift between Lebanon and Syria, a rift that was fanned by pre-Civil War economic and development successes of Westernized Lebanon as opposed to an impoverished socialist Syria. But by then, Syria was on the road towards recovery under a huge nation-building scheme that was put in place by President Hafez Assad, the father of the current President and the founder of the Assad legacy.

Ironically, even after four and a half decades of the Lebanese slump and Syrian rise (despite the war), some Lebanese still live in the past and feel and act superior to their Syrian cousins. I say cousins not only metaphorically, but also because there is hardly a family in Lebanon that doesn’t have family in Syria.

But during the 29 year long presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, Syria did not manage to win the hearts and minds of the average apprehensive Lebanese. Among many other acts of corruption, Abou Omar’s (my friend) car was stolen by a corrupt Syrian Army officer. Acts of such nature did not sway those who understood the basics of the anti-Syrian politics. Abou Omar was a victim of corrupt Syrian Army thugs, but his loyalty to Syria remained unwavering.

Ironically, eventually a substantial section of Lebanese Sunnis became aggressively Lebanese in their outlook. It is possible that the current anti Hezbollah passion has united some Sunnis and Christians against a “common enemy”. But perhaps by the time they developed this sentiment, it was already too late for Great Lebanon to rise from the ashes.

And whilst the Lebanese economy is going down the gurgler, corruption is having a huge surge and the state is now virtually bankrupt with very heavy debt and no solution in sight. Corruption has reached epic proportions that recently, a Lebanese Member of Parliament has publically said in the House that the public knows that politicians are lying to the public about the debt, and the politicians know that the public knows that the politicians are lying. https://www.facebook.com/1234196636614228/posts/2624089564291588?s=549881917&v=e&sfns=mo (Facebook link).

During the Civil War, the specter of Lebanese partition was always on the cards and high on some agendas. Back then, the scenario for such a partition was that Israel would take South Lebanon and control the Litani River water, a Maronite “canton” akin to the former Small Lebanon would be created, and the North and the Beqaa would go back to Syria.

Such a partition scenario is no longer feasible, mainly because there is a new force on the ground; Hezbollah.

With Hezbollah on the ground, Israel will never be able to secure any territorial gains in Lebanon. Furthermore, the Maronite politicians ie members of the so-called “The Maronite Political Entity” are now split between a traditional Right and pro-Hezbollah faction. The incumbent President Aoun belongs to the latter group, but his tenure has thus far been plagued by bigtime corruption and squandering of resources.

Aoun’s ascendance to the presidency was not an easy birth. It was fraught with hard labour and many political settlements; the most important of which was the reconciliation of Maronite leaders. Another friend of mine, a former ambassador, a Sunni, told me back then that he felt that the Maronite-Maronite reconciliation puts Lebanon finally in good hands. This is because the Maronites are meant to be the custodians of Lebanon, the integrity of its statehood and independence, and that they would rebuild the state and its economy. But the Aoun presidency has failed abysmally and poured oil onto fire with its rampant corruption. Aoun, who is in his eighties, has given the actual reigns to his son-in-law Gibran Bassil, and Bassil is one hell of a corrupt crook with an insatiable fetish for dirty money.

General Gouraud announced the birth Greater Lebanon 99 years ago, and specifically on on the 1st of September 1920 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Lebanon. Will this state survive another century? It is simply cannot, because it is heading towards a cliff edge, and heading there fast.

So where does Greater Lebanon go from here?

With partition no longer on the agenda and Israel kept at arm’s length, Lebanon can only eventually merge back with Syria; but currently this is not possible given that the “War on Syria” has not yet ended.

Sooner or later, one way or the other, willingly or unwillingly, fully or partially, and I dare say for better or for worse, the Lebanese will see themselves back in the bosom of Syria. This however will be faced by resistance; not necessarily armed resistance, but one cannot zero out violence. Ironically this time, the biggest opponents may prove to be the anti-Syria Sunnis in the major coastal cities of Beirut, Tripoli and Saida. The Right wing Lebanese Christian groups will also oppose any such merger, but the much wiser Lebanese Christians understand that Syria has proven to be the actual defender and custodian of Levantine Christianity when the West stood by and watched young Christian Syrian girls sold as sex slaves.

The success or failure of the future “Take 2” version of the Syrian Army entering Lebanon will also depend on to what extent victorious Syria will be able to curb corruption within Syria first. A repeat of the 1976-2005 experience of Syrian Army presence in Lebanon will ultimately lead to another unsavoury outcome.

Syria has to win her moral war like she won her military war; and I have been emphasizing the need to do so in many previous articles, because unlike most other wars, this war has been a war of morality against immorality. Morality and corruption do not mix, and fighting corruption should now be high on President Assad’s agenda.

But above all, Syria is the key for the future of the region. She is the key for the regional geopolitical make-up, the key for Lebanon, the key for justice for Palestinians, the key for Palestine, the key for any matter pertaining to the Levant, because Syria is The Levant.

Bassam Shakaa: The Making of a Palestinian ‘Organic Intellectual’

Bassam Al Shakaa

Between his birth in Nablus in 1930 and his death, Bassam Shakaa fought a relentless struggle for Palestinian rights. He challenged Israel, the PA, US imperialism and reactionary Arab governments. Throughout this arduous journey, he survived exile, prison and an assassination attempt.

July 29th, 2019

t would be unfair to claim that Palestine has not produced great leaders. It has, and Bassam Shakaa, the former Mayor of Nablus, who passed away on July 22 at the age of 89, was living proof of this.

The supposed deficit in good Palestinian leadership can be attributed to the fact that many great leaders have been either assassinated, languish in prison or are politically marginalized by Palestinian factions.

What was unique about Shakaa is that he was a true nationalist leader who struggled on behalf of all Palestinians without harboring any ideological, factionalist or religious prejudice. Shakaa was an inclusive Palestinian leader, with profound affinity to pan-Arabism and constant awareness of the global class struggle.





In a way, Shakaa exemplified the ‘organic intellectual’ as described by Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci. Indeed, Shakaa was not a mere “mover of feelings and passions” but an “active participant in practical life, as constructor and organizer – a permanent persuader, not just a simple orator”.

Shakaa’s base of support was, and remained, the people – ordinary Palestinians from Nablus and throughout Palestine who always stood by his side, most memorably when the Israeli government attempted to exile him in 1975; when the Palestinian Authority (PA) placed him under house arrest in 1999 and when he was finally laid to rest in his beloved home town of Nablus, a few days ago.

Between his birth in Nablus in 1930 and his death, Shakaa fought a relentless struggle for Palestinian rights. He challenged Israel, the PA, US imperialism and reactionary Arab governments. Throughout this arduous journey, he survived exile, prison and an assassination attempt.

But there is more to Shakaa than his intellect, eloquence, and morally-guided positions. The man represented the rise of a true democratic Palestinian leadership, one that sprang from, spoke and fought for the people.

It was in the mid-1970s that Shakaa rose to prominence as a Palestinian nationalist leader, an event that changed the face of Palestinian politics to this day.

Following its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, the Israeli government moved quickly to fashion a new status quo, where the Occupation became permanent and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was denied any political base in the newly occupied territories.

Among other things, the Israeli government aimed at creating an ‘alternative’ Palestinian leadership that would engage with Israel with trivial, non-political matters, therefore marginalizing the PLO and its inclusive political program.

In April 1976, the Israeli government, then led by Yitzhak Rabin, conducted local elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel had, by then, assembled another group of Palestinian ‘leaders’, which consisted mostly of traditional heads of clans – a small, self-seeking oligarchy that historically accommodated whatever foreign power happened to be ruling over Palestinians.

Israel was almost certain that its hand-picked allies were ready to sweep the local elections. But the Occupation had its unintended consequences, which surprised the Israelis themselves. For the first time since Israel’s creation, all of historic Palestine was now under Israeli control. This also meant that the Palestinian people were, once again, part of the same demographic unit, which allowed for coordinated political mobilization and popular resistance.

These efforts were largely facilitated by the Palestinian National Front (PNF) which was founded in 1973 and comprised all Palestinian groups throughout Occupied Palestine. What irked Israel most is that the PNF had developed a political line that was largely parallel to that of the PLO.

To Israel’s dismay, the PNF decided to take part in the local elections, hoping that its victory could defeat the Israeli stratagem entirely. To thwart the PNF’s initiative, the Israeli army carried out a massive campaign of arrests and deportation of the group’s members, which included intellectuals, academics and local leaders.

But all had failed as Palestine’s new leaders won decisive victories, claiming most mayoral offices and bravely articulating an anti-occupation, pro-PLO agenda.

“We are for the PLO, and we say this in our electoral speeches,” the elected Mayor of Ramallah, Karim Khalaf, said at the time. “The people who come along to our meetings do not ask about road improvements and new factories; we want an end to the Occupation.”

Bassam Shakaa was at the forefront of that nascent movement, whose ideals and slogans spread out to all Palestinian communities, including those inside Israel.

Bassam Al Shakaa

Bassam Al Shakaa following an assassination attempt

Despite decades of exile, fragmentation and Occupation, the Palestinian national identity was now at its zenith, an outcome the Israeli government could never have anticipated.

In October 1978, Shakaa, Khalaf and the other empowered mayors were joined by city councilors and leaders of various nationalist institutions to form the National Leadership Committee, the main objective of which was to challenge the disastrous Camp David agreement and the resulting marginalization of the Palestinian people and their leadership.

On July 2, 1980, a bomb planted by a Jewish terrorist group, blew up Shakaa’s car, costing him both of his legs. Another targeted Khalaf, who had one of his legs amputated. The leaders emerged even stronger following the assassination attempts.

“They ripped off both my legs, but this only means that I am closer to my land,” said Shakaa from his hospital bed.

“I have my heart, my intellect and a just aim to fight for, I don’t need my legs.”

In November 1981, the Israeli government dismissed the nationalist mayors, including Shakaa. But that was not the end of his struggle which, following the formation of the PA in Ramallah in 1994, acquired a new impetus.

Shakaa challenged the PA’s corruption and subservience to Israel. His frustration with the PA led him to help draft and to sign, in 1999, a “Cry from the Homeland”, which denounced the PA for its “systematic methodology of corruption, humiliation and abuse against the people.” As a result, the PA placed Shakaa, then 70, under house arrest. 

However, it was that very movement created by Shakaa, Khalaf and their peers that sowed the seeds for the popular Palestinian uprising in 1987. In fact, the ‘First Intifada’ remains the most powerful popular movement in modern Palestinian history.

May Shakaa rest in peace and power, now that he has fulfilled his historic mission as one of Palestine’s most beloved leaders and true organic intellectuals of all times.

Feature photo | Bassam Al Shakaa poses in front of an Israeli police vehicle just one week after being released from an Israeli jail.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website iswww.ramzybaroud.net

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Unilateral Surrender? Hollow Mahmoud Abbas Suspension of Agreements with Israel

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Global Research, July 26, 2019
Image result for traitor Abbas

 

In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was anointed by Israel to serve its interests.

Installed by a rigged election with no legitimacy, his term expired in 2009 but it didn’t matter. 

Israeli hardliners kept him in power where he remains as long as staying submissive to their will, meaningless rhetoric not an issue.

For over 14 years, he served as Jewish state enforcer in the Occupied Territories, betraying the Palestinian people. More convenient stooge than statesman, he’s Israel’s puppet.

He long ago abandoned Palestine’s liberating struggle, collaborating with the enemy for benefits afforded him and his family.

Betrayal pays well. Middle East expert As’ad AbuKhalil earlier estimated his super-wealth, saying he amassed around $1 million monthly, largely from stolen Palestinian money and other embezzled funds, adding:

His wealth is stashed abroad in Jordanian and other accounts — “not under any national or international scrutiny.”

Unnamed PA sources earlier said he has extensive property holdings. His sons Tarek and Yasser also profited hugely from PA projects.

A former Abbas aide called him the “sultan of Ramallah,” describing him as thin-skinned and vengeful, tolerating no opposition.

He’s in power unchallenged because Israel and the US wants him heading the PA, largely serving their interests by enforcing harshness on the Palestinian people.

Since Hamas was elected Palestine’s legitimate ruling authority in January 2006, Abbas collaborated with Israel against its leadership, part of the Jewish state’s divide and conquer strategy.

In 1993, he was part of the Palestinian team in Oslo, negotiating the Versailles accord, his signature on the capitulation.

The late Edward Said minced no words calling it unilateral surrender, Palestinians getting nothing in return but hollow Israeli promises, abandoned before the ink was dry.

Throughout Abbas’ tenure as puppet president, Israel expanded settlements on stolen Palestinian land unobstructed by him or his cronies, handsomely bribed to capitulate to their interests.

Collaborating with the enemy is treason, how Abbas operated since Oslo and throughout his time as PA head.

He hasn’t gone along with what he knows about Trump’s no-peace/peace plan “deal of the century” for good reason.

A third intifada might erupt if he capitulated to what no responsible leadership should touch, possibly making him a marked man by Palestinians for elimination, maybe killed for betrayal.

Time and again in response to unacceptable Israeli actions against long-suffering Palestinians, Abbas threatened to suspend cooperation with the Jewish state, never following through with commitment, his rhetoric amounting to hollow deception.

His latest threat came in response to Israel’s unlawful demolition of 70 Wadi al-Hummus homes in Sur Baher township, a Palestinian neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem.

Israel claimed they were too close to its separation wall, what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled illegal in 2004 — a land theft scheme unrelated to security issues.

Israel wants the entire city Judaized for exclusive Jewish development and use, Palestinians ethnically cleansed from land they legally own.

Most Sur Baher Palestinian structures destroyed were in West Bank Areas A and B, under Palestinian jurisdiction, according to Oslo.

It didn’t matter and never does. Nothing stands in the way of Israeli pursuit of its agenda at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights and the rule of law.

Abbas’ latest “suspension” threat takes effect on July 26, saying

“(w)e will not succumb to the dictates and the imposing of a fait accompli on the ground with brute force, specifically in Jerusalem. All that the (Israeli) occupation state is doing is illegal,” adding:

“Our hands have been and are still extended to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. But this does not mean that we accept the status quo or surrender to the measures of the occupation.”

“We will not surrender and we will not coexist with the occupation, nor will we accept the ‘deal of the century.’ ”

“Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain. They are not a real estate deal in a real estate company…no matter how much time it takes, the repugnant occupation is going to be defeated and our future state will be independent.”

In 2017, the PA suspended diplomatic relations with the US over Trump’s one-sided support for Israel, including his no-peace “deal of the century” peace plan — a symbolic gesture, achieving nothing positive for the Palestinian people.

Image result for traitor Abbas

Abbas and his cronies capitulated to occupation harshness for over 25 years ago, permitting hundreds of thousands of settlers to control Palestinian land illegally — Israel ignoring Fourth Geneva’s Article 49, the PA leadership doing nothing to contest its unlawful actions.

The Fourth Geneva provision prohibits

“(i)ndividuals or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not…regardless of their motive.”

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

It’s what Israel has done since 1967 — unobstructed by the world community and UN authorities — nor by PA leadership since Oslo (1993) and follow-up agreements.

Ignoring his longstanding collaboration with Israel against Hamas, undermining Palestinian unity against repressive occupation, land theft, and other Jewish state high crimes against long-suffering Palestinians, including three Israeli wars of aggression against Gaza since December 2008, Abbas falsely said:

“My hand is extended (to Hamas) for reconciliation, and it is time to get more serious.”

Image result for Ramallah traitor

Political analyst Dawoud Yousef downplayed Abbas’ threatened suspension of ties to Israel, saying:

“(T)he PA is completely powerless to make these kind of dictates. They exist because the occupation allows it,” adding:

“From the Oslo Accords onwards, the PA has been designed and structured to be dependent on cooperation with Israel.”

It’s a powerless, Israeli created body to serve its interests. Earlier PA threats to cut cooperation with Israel were “never complete and only meant the ending of high level communications, not day to day interactions between security forces,” Yousef explained, adding:

“(T)hese threats demonstrate to an acute degree the complete emptiness of the PA’s diplomatic strategy within the current Post-Oslo paradigm.”

“The asymmetry of power wasn’t offset by the PA’s establishment. It was officially entrenched. (Its threats are) as if the prisoner says that he no longer recognizes his cell.”

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Returning with Oslo: Stateless, without Identity

By Al-Ahed

Gaza – Ayman Matar, a Palestinian from the besieged Gaza Strip, had the opportunity to work as a teacher in a school in Kuwait. But sadly, he won’t be able to travel because he has a “zeroed” passport.

People with “zeroed” or invalid passports are those carrying the temporary Palestinian passports, who entered the Gaza Strip after the return of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, filed family reunion applications years ago to obtain an identity card with an official number, but still didn’t receive any endorsement by the ‘Israeli’ occupation authorities regarding the “family reunion”, hence their passports carry zeroes as their serial numbers.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian and Jordanian authorities stopped dealing with people carrying “zeroed passports” under the pretext of lacking identification papers that qualify them for traveling.

Ayman is shocked for not being able to leave the Gaza Strip to build his future. “I am jobless in Gaza. I’ve made the impossible to be accepted among the teachers’ mission to Kuwait… but I am deprived of my simplest rights, God will suffice me,” he says.

Ayman adds that his right to travel is one of the simplest rights in other countries, as well as for other Palestinians who enjoy travelling freely without any obstacle.

“Why there are not yet any solutions for the people with ‘zeroed passports’,” Ayman asks, adding that: “We have the right to travel, receive medical treatment, study and work just like any other human being.”

Noting that he had entered Gaza via his ‘zeroed passport’, Ayman called on the Palestinian Authority to find solutions for those people to be able to travel and fulfill their needs.

Another case is Mrs. Sahar al-Baz. Her ‘zeroed passport’ banned her from seeing her father before he died in 2009 after she came to the Gaza Strip where she made a family and settled without her parents who remained abroad.

“There are different examples and painful stories of the people with ‘zeroed passports’… for what is this pain they are rooting in our hearts? We need a solution to our problems, it is enough of grief, sorrow and suffering,” Mrs. al-Baz says.

“I have the right to own a Palestinian identity and be recognized in the entire Arab world.”

The lady, in her forties, called on the Palestinian Authority to communicate with the Egyptian government to allow them pass through the Rafah Checkpoint to access the outer world.

People carrying these passports hold sit-ins in front of the Refugees Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] in Gaza to demand radical and quick solutions for their cause that is still extending.

According to Palestinian Journalist Muthni al-Najjar,

“We are protesting in front of the PLO’s gate to convey a message of protest and ask all the concerned parties whether in Gaza or Egypt to stop the suffering of more than 5000 Palestinians for not being legally nor internationally recognized.”

The journalist returned to Gaza from Iraq in 1994 and remained there without a national record. He has a blue identity card issued by the Gazan Interior Ministry which allows him to enjoy domestic rights but is not recognized abroad.

There are some 5000 Palestinian nationals carrying the ‘zeroed passports’, lacking all rights that range between the right to receive medical treatment abroad to seeing their family members outside the Gaza Strip, not to mention their natural right to receive education in a foreign country.

The ‘zeroed passports’ term is referred to the people who were displaced due to the ‘Israeli’ occupation of Palestine and returned with the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Accord between 1994 and 2000, without obtaining the regular ‘green’ Palestinian identity card. They were rather offered the ‘zeroed passport’ by the Refugees’ Affairs Department of the PLO, an unofficial document that is supposed to ease their living.

Lebanon Rejects US-Led Summit in Bahrain, Backs Palestinian Boycott

By Staff, Agencies

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says his country is boycotting the forthcoming US-led conference in Bahrain in support of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the “Israeli” regime and Palestinians, dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” because Palestinians are not taking part in the event.

“We will not participate in the Bahrain conference [scheduled for June 25-26] because the Palestinians are not participating and we prefer to have a clear idea about the proposed plan for peace. We were not consulted regarding [the plan],” Bassil said on Tuesday.

The statement came after an unnamed senior White House official said Jordan, Egypt and Morocco had informed the administration they would send representatives to Manama.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the conference.

The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Hamas resistance movement have called for an Arab boycott of the Bahrain conference.

Hamas, in a statement issued on May 20, also called on Arab countries to provide the Palestinian people with every support to confront and frustrate the US “deal of the century.”

“We are following with great concern the American announcement about holding an economic workshop next June in the Bahraini capital of Manama,” Hamas said, describing it as the first American conference in support of the so-called “Deal of the Century”.

The movement also denounced any Arab participation in adopting and executing the deal, saying any attendance in the American-led Bahrain conference would be considered a deviation from Arab and Islamic values.

Trump’s “peace plan” has already been dismissed by Palestinian authorities ahead of its unveiling at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the formation of the new “Israeli” cabinet, most likely in June.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at the initiative, asserting it was “born dead.”

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US were useless in the wake of the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds [Jerusalem], which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.

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The ‘Deal of the Century’: Two Con Men’s Job

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Elias Samo
May 5, 2019

Yes, you can ‘judge a book by its cover’, especially if the ‘book’ is the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the ‘cover’ lauds two con men, Trump and Netanyahu. Furthermore, when two con men are involved, ‘Deal of the Century’ is likely more akin to ‘Theft of the Century’.

The ‘Deal’, presumably a road map for peacefully settling the Palestinian problem, was drawn up, ironically, by a small group of American Zionists responsible for the formulation of American foreign policy. The group is led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and senior presidential adviser, with help from John Bolton, national security advisor, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and David Friedman, American ambassador in Israel. Anecdotally, it should be noted that Netanyahu is a close friend of the Kushner family and used to visit the family while in the US and stay overnight, at times in Jared’s bedroom; perhaps making Jared an unregistered foreign agent serving Israeli interests. With such strong pro-Israeli input in drawing up the ‘Deal’, what does one expect the ‘Deal’ to be except a right-wing, Likudist plan to establish a Great Israel from the River to the Sea.

A central question to this ‘Deal’ is, what does Trump have left in his pocket to offer the Palestinians? Historically, Palestinian maximum demand was the liberation of mandated Palestine. With the passage of time the Palestinians have lowered their demands to the minimum of three elements. First, a Palestinian state on the West Bank, (which David Friedman, the American ambassador no less, refers to it as Judea and Samaria). Second, East Jerusalem as its capital. Third, the return of the refugees. Trump has already given away or eliminated these three quintessential elements necessary for resolving the Palestinian problem peacefully. Trump has recognized united Jerusalem to be the eternal capital of Israel and moved the American embassy there. He has also acquiesced to Netanyahu’s declaration that he will annex the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and probably an eventual annexation of the entire West Bank. As to the Palestinian refugees, for Trump a Palestinian refugee is one who was alive when Israel was created in 1948, that is seventy one years old or more, which makes it very difficult to find many Palestinians still alive who qualify as refugees based on the criteria set by Trump. He furthermore severed political relations with the Palestinians when he ordered the closure of the PLO offices in Washington and imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinians when he stopped economic support to UNRWA.

Bearing in mind the fact that the ‘Deal’ was drawn up by Zionists in the Trump administration, it is only appropriate to expect that the ‘Deal’ will be everything Israel wants. Thus, a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian problem, in all probability, has become null and void in the foreseeable future; the ‘Deal’ offers nothing to the Palestinians and some prominent Palestinian officials have said so. Nabil Shaath, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, noted that Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ will not bring peace to Palestine. Riyad Maliki, Palestinian Foreign Minister, said that the ‘Deal of the Century’ which seeks to find the ultimate solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will bring bad news to the Middle East. Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, elaborated further, noting that “Trump and Netanyahu are planning to terminate the Palestinian cause by removing Jerusalem from any solution, annexing major settlements and finding a capital for us on the outskirts of Jerusalem.” In view of the foregoing, Mahmoud Abbas has no choice but to reject the ‘Deal’, with the consequence of being condemned for sabotaging the peace process and for Netanyahu reverting to his mantra that there are no Palestinians to negotiate with.

Are tensions at al-Aqsa reaching another boiling point?

Ben White is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. He is a writer for Middle East Monitor, and his articles have been published by Al Jazeera, al-Araby, Huffington Post, The Electronic Intifada, The Guardian’s Comment is free, and more.
A new conflict has emerged amid intensifying efforts by Israeli authorities and settlers to change the status quo at the holy site

Israeli police detain a Palestinian demonstrator at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)

Below the Western media’s radar, tensions have been escalating in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.

In the last week, a new confrontation has emerged over al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in the context of intensifying efforts by Israeli authorities and settlers to change the status quo and take over Palestinian properties in and around the Old City.

The Jordanian government recently decided to expand the composition of the Waqf – the body charged with managing al-Aqsa Mosque compound – to include a number of high-ranking Palestinians, alongside the long-standing Jordanian members.

Gates shuttered

The move came in response to what International Crisis Group’s Ofer Zalzberg described to Haaretz as “the erosion of the status quo” at the site, including the tolerance by Israeli occupation forces of “quiet worship” by Jews in the compound – “a relatively new development”, the paper noted.

Last Thursday, the newly expanded council inspected, and prayed at, a building located at the Gate of Mercy (Bab al-Rahma), shuttered by Israeli occupation authorities since 2003. At the time, the closure was justified on the grounds of alleged political activities and links to Hamas – but the building has remained closed ever since.

What is taking place in Jerusalem is ‘an organised and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem’

Overnight on Sunday, Israeli forces put new locks on metal gates that lead to the building. When Palestinian worshippers attempted to open the gates, clashes broke out, and a number of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police.

Tuesday night saw renewed confrontations and arrests, while an Israeli court on Wednesday banned a dozen or so Palestinians from entering the compound. Both the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas have condemned the developments, and warned of the “volatility” of the situation.

New facts on the ground

Events in the compound cannot be viewed in isolation from the bigger picture in Jerusalem, and in particular, what Israeli NGO Ir Amim has called an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground”, including “a mounting number of state-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighbourhoods”.

One expression of such campaigns is the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes so that settlers can take possession of the properties. Last Sunday, the Abu Assab family was expelled from their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, a fate facing hundreds more Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem.

What is taking place in Jerusalem is “an organised and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem and to establish settlements in their stead”, in the words of an Israeli settlements’ monitor.

A Muslim man checks a gate closed by Israeli police at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)
A Muslim man checks a gate closed by Israeli police at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)

“It is very clear what they want: a Jewish majority here and in East Jerusalem,” Silwan-based activist Jawad Siyam told the Independent recently. His community is blighted by the presence of the settler-run “City of David” compound, which is set to receive a further boost from Israeli occupation authorities in the form of a planned cable-car station.

Jerusalem has largely been out of the headlines for awhile, with most attention – understandably – being paid to the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip and the bogged-down efforts to secure relief from the blockade. Israeli elections are also on the horizon, and speculation continues over what precisely the Trump administration has got in store by way of a “peace plan”.

In the background, however, accelerated Israeli colonial policies in occupied East Jerusalem could be leading to a new boiling point.

Grassroots activism

The Waqf has stated that it seeks the opening of the Bab al-Rahma site, a demand that has the potential to become a focus for the kinds of mass protests witnessed in the summer of 2017. Then, metal detectors introduced by Israeli occupation authorities outside al-Aqsa Mosque compound sparked spontaneous demonstrations, with the devices ultimately removed.

Whether or not the Waqf chooses such a path, it could also find its hand forced by the pressure of grassroots activism; there is considerable concern among Palestinians that the Israeli government – along with the so-called “Temple movement” activists – are ultimately working towards a spatial division of, and establishment of formalised Jewish prayers within, al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

How Israel is ‘cleansing’ Palestinians from Greater Jerusalem

Meanwhile, the United States is proceeding with the closure of its consulate in East Jerusalem, and relocation of Palestinian “affairs” to an office within the new embassy – a potent symbol, were one needed, that the Trump administration’s vision will be a stark departure from even the pretence of a “two-state solution”, and a rubber-stamp for Israel’s de-facto, single state.

This week’s events – however they develop – are a reminder, however, that while Israel and the US see Jerusalem as fair game for an accelerated process of colonisation and deepening imposition of Israeli sovereignty, the city’s Palestinian residents are experienced spoilers of Israeli designs, and may well soon reprise such a role.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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