Saturday, 28 November 2009

SMITH: Israel’s illegal settlements in America

November 29, 2009


by Grant Smith - - 28 November 2009

US Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was highly enthusiastic about Israel’s partial, temporary illegal settlement freeze stating “it is more than any Israeli government has done before and can help move toward agreement between the parties.” In fact, Israel has done more. In 2005 Israel reversed settlement construction and its overt occupation of Gaza. Palestinians’ situation worsened under a strangulating economic blockade and total Israeli control of borders, airspace and maritime access. Ironically, those Americans seeking a permanent end to Israeli settlement activities face a predicament similar to the Palestinians. Peace in the Middle East depends on reversing a peculiar manifestation of illegal Israeli settlements right here at home. These US settlements were built not on stolen land, but the strategic territory of US governance through violations of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Among Israel’s first international efforts as a state was establishing an “Israel Office of Information” (IOI) in the United States in the fall of 1948. The IOI registered as a foreign agent with the US Department of Justice which required it not only to file activity reports about its efforts on behalf of Israel every six months, but also place a stamp on pamphlets and other materials circulating in the US that their true origin was the Israeli government.

The IOI quickly ran into trouble. It was cited by the FARA section for failing to disclose the existence of a California office. The FBI noticed it wasn’t affixing disclosure stamps to the material it circulated. Isaiah Kenen, registered as a foreign agent of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, soon tired of such regulatory oversight and disclosures. He coordinated his IOI departure with the Israeli government from the IOI to lobby from a domestically chartered lobbying organization, the American Zionist Council (AZC). The DOJ ordered him to reregister, but he never did.

During a 1952 summit meeting, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proposed that leaders of major organizations centralize US lobbying and fundraising coordination under the American Zionist Council (AZC) rather than the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency. The AZC was a small umbrella organization that united the leadership of top organizations such as Hadassah and the Zionist Organization of America. But the AZC continued to rely heavily upon financial support from the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency in Jerusalem for public relations and lobbying until the 1960s. Between 1962-1963 a Senate and Justice Department investigation found the AZC and Kenen had received direction and the equivalent of $35 million from the Jewish Agency via its American Section in New York to lobby for US taxpayer-funded aid and arms. The Justice Department ordered the AZC to register as an Israeli foreign agent on November 21, 1962. This initiated a fierce DOJ/AZC battle that lasted until 1965, when the DOJ allowed the AZC to file a secret FARA declaration expecting it to shut down operations. The Jewish Agency was also forced shut down its American Section in New York after a rabbi and George Washington University legal scholar forced it to file its secret 1953 “covenant agreement” with the Israeli government which conferred governmental powers to the Jewish Agency.
The AZC quietly and quickly reorganized lobbying operations within its former division, internally referred to as the “Kenen Committee” (today called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC) which Isaiah Kenen led until 1975. The Jewish Agency also executed a shell company paper reshuffle, reemerging as the World Zionist Organization-American Section within the same building, with the same staff, management and publications.

Today, the most important nucleus of the Israeli government’s power in America lies far outside its Washington DC embassy, official consulates, or properly registered FARA entities. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations consists of only two key paid employees according to its 2008 charitable tax return (PDF). Like the AZC under Ben-Gurion’s mandate, the Conference of Presidents has only one true role: corralling American organizations into a US power base for the Israeli government. The Conference of President’s roster now includes such curiously named organizations as the American Friends of Likud and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs alongside old AZC mainstays such as the ZOA and Hadassah. As mandated by AIPAC’s bylaws (PDF), all Conference of Presidents member organizations are part of AIPAC’s executive committee, forming a combined grassroots lobbying might far more intimidating to the Justice Department than the old AZC.

Yet in reality, Israeli government’s newest lobbying venture is nothing more than a rebranded AZC — the stealth foreign agency relationships remain, some hidden, others not. One visible geographic linkage to the Israeli government is the Conference of Presidents offices which are located at the same 633 Third Avenue New York address as the World Zionist Organization’s American Section.
The World Zionist Organization-American Section, as the paper reincarnation of the Jewish Agency, is still compelled to register (PDF) as an Israeli foreign agent. In 2008 it spent $8,102,752, by far the largest expenditure of any registered foreign agent for Israel. Like its predecessor foreign agent, the Jewish Agency, the WZO American Section claims these large disbursements across America are mainly for “education” rather than political activity. Such claims are easily debunked.
The WZO was more accurately revealed by Israeli prosecutor Thalia Sasson in 2005 as being at the very center of illegal Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. Shimon Peres estimated that up to $50 billion was laundered into illegal settlement construction. Today WZO/Conference of Presidents “education” initiatives include organizing rabbis to effectively campaign for war on Iran, activities that are not accurately disclosed on the WZO’s disclosures to the Department of Justice.

The question of whether such Israeli-conceived plans are worth American blood and treasure are vitally important, as is rule of law. Under FARA, Americans have a clear right to full disclosure about AIPAC and the Conference of President’s political activities, public relations and transfer of things of value on behalf of their foreign principal(s). As foreign lobbying organizations emerging directly from the American Zionist Council, these leaders of the Israel lobby carry an expanding information debt to American taxpayers expected to fund their many initiatives. Yet in spite of the 1961 order by the attorney general, since March of 1965, neither has filed a single public declaration at the FARA office. This means that AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents now owe Americans 88 semiannual FARA declaration filings. For its part, the WZO must begin to accurately disclose its heavy involvement in illegal West Bank settlements, which are opposed by the Obama administration.

Given the Israel lobby’s past penchant for nondisclosure, such filings will no doubt garner a great deal of public scrutiny. Explanations for why so much classified US government information is passing between AIPAC it and its foreign principals in 1984 and 2005 have been a long time coming. These will be particularly timely and enlightening as Israel’s drumbeat for US attacks on Iran grows louder. Until they again begin to register under FARA, Israel’s principal colonization entities, the World Zionist Organization, political muscle (Conference of Presidents), and enforcer in Congress (AIPAC) are themselves illegal Israeli settlers in America.

Israel lies about using depleted uranium in Gaza

More lies from the Apartheid State, you have to remember that at one time they denied using white phosphorus although we could clearly see that they were.

Israel Denies Using Weapons Containing Uranium Components on Gaza

27 November 2009 23:19 Added by PT Editor Sarah Price
BabiesGaza, November 28, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - I knew it would only be a matter of time before data started coming out of Gaza to prove that the Palestinians had now fallen victim to weapons containing uranium. We have seen the evidence in the Iraq, Afghanistan and now Gaza.

Back towards the end of September the evidence started to emerge after Dr. Mowaiya Hassanen, director of the Emergency department at the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that after more than eight months since Cast Lead several birth defect cases were reported among the Gaza Strip newborns. He stated that several newborn babies have heart defects and abnormalities. Dr Hassanen blamed the IDF for using illegal weapons.

From my perspective I knew it would only take a short time for such weapons to take a toll on the people of Gaza. I would also add that this will not be confined only to Gaza but also to West Bank, Israel and adjacent countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and many other locations in and around the Middle East and beyond.

The many photographs that have come out of Iraq and Afghanistan all show the same characteristics and when one looks closely at these photographs one can see a common feature. We must remember that such defects were not in existence prior to the conflict with Israel. Unfortunately we see that such data is sometime held back by the authorities but I can assure you that this same situation will also exist in Southern Lebanon (2206) and adjacent Northern Israel. Since Gaza received an exceptional amount of such weapons during the conflict this same problem will manifest itself very clearly over the coming months with additional rises in many forms of cancer, diabetes and infertility etc. One can also expect this to show up in both Central and Southern Israel as these weapons do not respect international borders and are totally indiscriminate.

So let's just look at these three photographs - one from Iraq, one from Afghanistan and now one from Gaza. You can see very clearly that they all show terrible defects that follow the same path, all of which are victims of uranium based weapons. Some of the other photographs I have viewed are far more grotesque and therefore I will restrict them to these three only. The first one on the left is from Iraq; the one in the middle is from Afghanistan and finally the one on the right from Gaza. The same situation is now repeating itself in Pakistan and India both of which are downwind of the current conflict in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. I am sure that given enough time we will get even more photographs from many other locations.

It doesn't matter how many times we keep pushing this issue forward all the formal organisation, government, departments of defence and the NATO
Command still refuse to accept their responsibility in allowing such weapons to be manufacture and blasted around the world to contaminate millions of people. We have heard so many times that people like Kissinger had said we need to depopulate and others like Nicholas Rockefella said around half of the world's population needs to go. My question would be would it be ok if the Kissinger and Rockefella families set an example and allowed themselves to be the first pawns? Not forgetting our friends Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to name a few

We can keep talking about removing WMD from our countries but these false and sinister Presidents and Prime Minsters do not tell you that they still have weapons that in some respects are more horrible than the original nuclear weapons. They are mass producing these so called conventional weapons that contain uranium components and the effects once detonated can be far more devastating. The evil history behind DU as an example goes back to WW2 when they realised the terrible consequences of allowing such weapons to aerosol into the atmosphere both in the battlefield and beyond. They have now created a totally indiscriminate array of weapons that does not identify international borders.

It is obvious that until such times as the leaders of these so called superpowers start to loose their own loved ones or see their children give birth to badly disfigured babies will they realise what a terrible mistake they have made. Do we in the world just sit back and let this type of doomsday scenario continue or do we say no to our leaders and call for all weapons that contain any element of uranium to be prohibited forthwith.

After writing my last articles on the Christian and Jewish Zionist Diaspora I have to say we are now almost entirely under the control of some really misguided individuals that will do anything for their own economic greed or Christian misinformation It is time for the people of these countries to take their country back from the brink of this hidden catastrophe and bring stability and pride and respect back into our lives. We are not animals like Kissinger once said about the troops and we certainly do not wish to become slaves to such people as Rockefella.

As far as the environment is concerned we have these G20 people racing around the world living a life of total luxury, planning how they can get a better return on their respective investments. They are bullying the third world countries by forcing the banking system to collapse so that they can pick through what's left and then raise this very big issue called climate change. I personally think that this is also a false façade and that they are really trying to impose more taxes on the poor and bring underdeveloped countries under their control by way of the WB and the IMF. These countries will then fall victim to high debt and not be able to remain competitive with the west.

If they are so serious about climate change and global warming why are they not interested in the worldwide contamination by weapons containing uranium components. Millions of nanoparticles are floating around our atmosphere and yet they do not appear to show any interest in this aspect of contamination or pollution. Is there any logic in imposing severe restrictions and high stealth taxes hidden under the name of Global Warming if our Global Atmosphere becomes so polluted from these weapons that our respective eco systems collapse?

It is time that we all see through this game our governments are playing and start to address the real issues that exist. Why we went to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and even little old Gaza. This has nothing to do with democracy or global warming it all to do with "Global Control" by a "Global Government" of the earths natural resources. It intends to flatten all trade barriers in the poorer countries and in doing so open up the floodgate for the west to devastate their respective economies. The term "Make Poverty History" is an absolute joke......this can only create more unemployment, more poverty and in doing so make as many people as possible subservient to the west's greed.

Gandhi would turn over in his grave if he saw what this world has now become....his saying still linger on but most people in the west are now so evil and selfish they would never understand his thoughts:

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS."
Mahatma Gandhi.

Deception Has Always Been the Name of Zionism’s Game


Alan Hart

Theodore Herzl: Founder of Zionism

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu described his offer to temporarily restrict construction of all-new Jewish settlements on the West Bank excluding Arab East Jerusalem as a “far-reaching and painful step”, which was part of a policy he hoped would give a new impetus to peace talks.
Netanyahu is not stupid. He knows that some of us know he is not remotely interested in peace on terms the Palestinians could accept. So what then is his real game plan of the moment? Simple. He is seeking to make peace with the Obama administration. And its response suggests that with the help of the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress he’s got that matter firmly under control.
On 18 November President Obama himself expressed his dismay at Israel’s decision to approve 900 more housing units in East Jerusalem. He said it could lead to a “dangerous situation” because it made it harder for Israel to make peace in the region and “embitters the Palestinians.”
Eight days later the Obama administration says Netanyahu’s new offer, which stresses that there will be no restrictions, not even temporary ones, on new settlement development in East Jerusalem, will help “move forward” peace efforts.
What nonsense. It seems to me that the Obama administration doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going on the matter of how to deal with Netanyahu.

The response of senior Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti was much more in tune with reality. “What Netanyahu announced today is one of his biggest attempts at deception in his history.”
It is, of course, a deception but nobody should be surprised. Not only has deception always been the name of Zionism’s game, it knows no other.
Its very first mission statement way back in 1897 was a deception. The previous year Zionism’s founding father, Theodore Herzl, had written and published Der Judenstaat, The Jewish State. It opened with these words: “The Jews who will it shall have a state of their own.” But as all of Zionism’s founding fathers gathered for their first Congress at Basel in Switzerland, Herzl was among the first to appreciate the need to drop the word state from all public policy pronouncements.
Thus it was that the first Congress of the World Zionist Organisation ended with a public statement that declared Zionism’s mission to be the striving “to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”
The difference between “home” and “state” was great.
State would have signalled that what Zionism wanted (and was ruthlessly determined to get) was a sovereign entity, by definition one with full state powers backed by its own military. In other words, a sovereign, fully independent Jewish state would be one that could pose a threat to the rights and possibly even the existence of the Arabs of Palestine. At the time Zionism didn’t want the world, including most Jews of the world, to know that.
Home was a much softer, less disturbing term. It implied, and for propaganda purposes could be asserted to mean, that Zionism would be prepared to settle for an entity without sovereign powers and which therefore would not and could pose any kind of threat to the Arabs.
The proof that Zionism’s founding father knew the substitution of “home” for “state” in the first mission statement was a deception is in his diary, which was not published (was kept secret) for 63 years. Herzl’s entry for 3 September 1897, as published in 1960, included this:
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish state… Perhaps in five years, and certainly 50, everyone will know it… At Basel then, I created this abstraction which, as such, is invisible to the vast majority of people.”
It wasn’t only the Arabs and the major powers Zionism didn’t want to scare by using the term state. All of its founding fathers were fully aware that most informed and thoughtful Jews everywhere were opposed to the idea of creating a sovereign Jewish state in the Arab heartland. They believed it to be morally wrong. They feared it would lead to unending conflict. And most of all they feared that if Zionism was allowed by the major powers to have its way, it would one day provoke anti-Semitism.
As it happened, that Jewish concern and those Jewish fears were washed away by the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, without which Zionism almost certainly would not have triumphed.
After its unilateral declaration of independence, the Zionist (not Jewish) state’s policy was to advance by creating facts on the ground. In effect its message to the world was, as it still is: “We know we should not have done this, but we’ve done it. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Alan Hart

Alan HartAlan 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 and tweets on
See also:
President Obama’s opportunity to speak truth to power: Part 1
President Obama’s opportunity to speak truth to power – Rahm Emanuel does it for him Part II
Open Letter to President Obama: Change the Rules of the Game
An Appeal to the American People
Zionism’s Jewish Enemy

November 27, 2009 Posted by Elias

Palestinians forced to demolish their own homes

Palestinians forced to demolish their own homes

By Iqbal Tamimi

We are used to seeing Palestinian homes turned to rubble by the Israeli authorities, but what you probably do not know is that Palestinians are now cruelly being forced to destroy their own homes by their own hands.

I have witnessed this for myself years ago in the town of Halhul near my home town Alkhaleel (Hebron), but this crime is back more than ever.

In 1948 thousands of Palestinians fled their homes, memories, personal belonging when the Zionist immigrants carried out a number of massacres as a warning illustration to those who dared to stay.

Not content with what they seized and with the plans of further expansion Israel refused to declare its borders. In 1967 Israel occupied the West bank and again made life unbearable for every family to stay forcing the indigenous population to flee.

As Palestinian families grow, extra room is needed, be it newlyweds or the sickly who can’t share rooms with everybody else, but since Israeli authorities, who control everything, refuse Palestinians permission to build a doorway or open a window let alone an extra room on their own land, they were forced to build extra rooms any way.

Some people could not stay idle after years of refusal of tens of requests for a building permit.

Mosa Mashahreh was one of those who was forced to demolish his own home earlier this month. He was told by the Israeli authorities that if he did not demolish his own home, they will do it themselves and send him the bill.

Like Mashahreh many Palestinians are now forced to demolish their own homes by their own hands to cut their losses further.

Mashahreh, who is supporting a big family of six, is now homeless and penniless, and has nowhere to go after knocking down his home.

On November 2, he sent a plea for help, his 48m square home in the Sala’a neighbourhood at Mount Almokabber in Jerusalem is now a pile of rubble. He built his home 9 years ago because the Israeli authorities would not permit him to build, so he has sacrificed everything twice, for there no justice at all.

In the cruelest of twists this is happening at a time when thousands of illegal Jewish settlements continue to expand on stolen Palestinian lands and in as dubbed by the West ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East’.

Back to the front page



Messages for
The Muslim News

News and Views of Muslims in the United Kingdom

Mouths filled with hatred"


Via WIC, in JPOst, here

" ... Wearing a dark-blue robe, sitting in St. James's Church, the main Armenian church in the Old City, Aghoyan said, "Every single priest in this church has been spat on. It happens day and night.".... "All 15 monks at our friary have been spat at," he said. "Every [Christian cleric in the Old City] who's been here for awhile, who dresses in robes in public, has a story to tell about being spat at. The more you get around, the more it happens."

A nun in her 60s who's lived in an east Jerusalem convent for decades says she was spat at for the first time by a haredi man on Rehov Agron about 25 years ago. "As I was walking past, he spat on the ground right next to my shoes and he gave me a look of contempt," said the black-robed nun, sitting inside the convent. "It took me a moment, but then I understood." ... But the spitting incidents weren't the worst, she said - the worst was the time she was walking down Jaffa Road and a group of middle-aged haredi men coming her way pointed wordlessly to the curb, motioning her to move off the sidewalk to let them pass, which she did......

These are the very opposite of isolated incidents. Father Athanasius of the Christian Information Center called them a "phenomenon." George Hintlian, the unofficial spokesman for the local Armenian community and former secretary of the Armenian Patriarchate, said it was "like a campaign."..."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 6:49 PM

"... It can no longer be ignored..."


In the Economist/ here

"SIX years ago, Bashar Assad looked weak, stumbling and isolated. In the words of the neoconservatives dominant in Washington after the conquest of Iraq, his regime was “low-hanging fruit”. .... Yet now the position has drastically changed. Mr Assad is increasingly viewed as an essential part of the region’s diplomatic jigsaw. He is fast coming back into the game. Even America would like to embrace him.

Nothing illustrates this better than the recent flip-flop of Walid Jumblatt, hereditary head of Lebanon’s Druze minority.... Championing the movement that ousted Syria from Lebanon, Mr Jumblatt drew applause in Washington for calling it “a country hijacked by a family and a mafia”.

Yet Mr Jumblatt has recently changed tack again. Syria, he now says, is the core of the Arab world; Lebanon is destined to be on its side. If he had once spoken ill of Bashar Assad, it was only in the heat of emotion ....
..... America piled on the pressure, slapping on sanctions in 2003, recalling its ambassador in 2005 and staging raids across Iraq’s border until as recently as last year. Israeli fighter aircraft buzzed Mr Assad’s beach house in a humiliating display of effortless aerial supremacy. The European Union, for its part, suspended talks on an association agreement in 2004, leaving Syria the only Mediterranean country without a preferential trade deal.......
For sure, Syria’s dogged refusal to kowtow has been costly. Its hurried exit from Lebanon was humiliating. Its failure so far to accommodate itself to the new establishment in Baghdad has been expensive too, with Iraq’s rulers accusing it of plotting recent deadly bombings. Israel, meanwhile, clobbered Syria’s Hizbullah ally in 2006 and its Hamas friends in Gaza earlier this year. Israel also bombed a suspected nuclear site in the Syrian desert in 2007 and recently intercepted a shipload of Iranian arms apparently bound, through Syrian ports, for Hizbullah.If Mr Assad’s hard line at home has earned grudging respect, so has his firmness in foreign relations. Rather than flipping on Iran or abandoning ties to Hizbullah or the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, in order to please the West, his regime has upheld “resistance” as the best way to apply pressure on Israel, while offering to negotiate with it. Frightened by the invasion of Iraq, Syria nevertheless yanked the American lion’s tail by letting insurgents slip into the fray. Such nerve, along with Syria’s generous accommodation of Iraqi refugees, improved Mr Assad’s Arab nationalist credentials just when America’s moderate Arab allies looked callow and spineless.
But Mr Assad’s tenacious immobility has proved a winning course overall, reinforcing Syria’s centrality to regional issues. As stalemate prevails, from Iraq to Palestine, Mr Assad has slowly regained many of the cards he appeared to have lost.
The case of Lebanon is instructive. Since retreating in the face of a popular uprising against its interference, Syria has clawed its way back to a position of less overt but almost as effective dominance. Exploiting Lebanon’s fractiousness, Syria pushed its allies to undermine the pro-Western coalition that won Lebanon’s general election in 2005. Though pro-Syrian parties failed to end the coalition’s parliamentary majority in a more recent election, in June, they have hamstrung its attempts to govern. Only when the pro-Western coalition, known as the March 14th alliance, frustrated in politics and outgunned on the street, quietly addressed Syria’s concerns did Mr Assad’s Lebanese allies suddenly fall into line. The price appears to be that Hizbullah will keep its private army and that March 14th will not press for the UN to implicate Syria in its investigation of Mr Hariri’s death. Moreover, with Mr Jumblatt now hinting that he may jump ship, March 14th may well sink.
Syria’s stubbornness over Israel, while letting militia allies in Lebanon and Gaza harry the Jewish state, has paid dividends too. The Israelis’ assault on Gaza and their willingness to put only partial limits on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, outlined this week, have made it easier to bring Syria in from the cold. And Israel’s continuing failure to squelch Hamas or Hizbullah has left Syria with some useful chips. It hosts Hamas’s exiled leadership and still serves as a conduit for Iranian arms and money to Hizbullah. This gives Syria bargaining power in its long-standing demand for Israel to return the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967.
Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, tried to provoke a reaction from Mr Assad, when visiting President Nicolas Sarkozy in France, by calling for negotiations without preconditions. Syria had no preconditions, answered Mr Assad on his own Paris visit, but rather rights that everyone recognised. Indeed, Mr Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, seemed to accept that the Heights would one day have to be returned to Syria.
In the capitals of America’s Arab allies, a sense is growing that, in the light of the persistent stalemate between the Palestinians and Israel, stubbornly bloody-minded Syria has been canny all along. In the past, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been waiting for Syria to come truckling back into the moderate fold. Now people in Damascus think the moderates may come truckling to them."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 11:09 AM

B’TSELEM: Israel-Palestinian conflict kills 8,900 in 20 years


November 27, 2009

apartmetn_325 - 22 November 2009

JERUSALEM: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed almost 8,900 lives in two decades, the vast majority of them Palestinians, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said in a statement published on Sunday.

Israeli forces killed 7,398 Palestinians, including 1,537 minors, both in Israel and the occupied territories during that period, while Palestinians killed 1,483 Israelis, including 139 minors, B’Tselem said.

Among the Israeli victims, 488 were police officers or military troops, and the remaining 995 were civilians killed in attacks in Israel or in the occupied territories, the statement said.

This year, marked by Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, was the bloodiest in the past two decades for Palestinians.

A total of 1,033 Palestinians, including 315 minors, were killed so far in 2009, most of them during the Gaza war, the report said, adding that a total of 1,387 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli offensive.

Thirteen Israelis were killed, including four soldiers by friendly fire, in the three-week-long war that was launched on December 27.

For Israel, 2002, at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, was the deadliest year, with 420 people killed, including 269 civilians of whom 47 were minors, the statement said.

The statement, which marks B’Tselem 20th anniversary, also said 335 Palestinians are currently held without trial under Israeli military orders. In 1989 the number reached 1,794.

It also said Israeli authorities tore down 4,300 Palestinian homes over the past 20 years.

Israel justifies the demolitions saying the houses lacked the necessary permits, but Palestinians and human rights groups say the documents are virtually impossible to obtain.

In addition, B’Tselem estimates that 6,240 houses were destroyed during military operations in Gaza, including 3,540 during the December-January offensive which Israel said it launched to halt rocket attacks from the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.

The group took out a full-page ad in the Haaretz daily which looked like a funeral notice and stated: ‘The B’Tselem organisation regrets to announce that it has reached 20. We are fed up and people are fed up of us, but four million people live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are to this day deprived of their most basic human rights and they are even more fed up than we are,’ it said. —AFP

SPY TRADE: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy


By Grant F. Smith

Smith Once Again Exposes Israel Lobby’s Danger to America’s Security and Economy

By Andrew Burroughs

November 1, 2009

This is perhaps Smith’s most important work exposing the deleterious and dangerous influences of the Israeli lobby on both U.S. economic and national security. Smith has devoted several years objectively and thoroughly examining the history of the Israel lobby.
He earlier exposed how domestic political considerations undermined the Justice Department’s valiant efforts to define the lobby as an agent of a foreign power (See Deadly Dogma, Foreign Agents and America’s Defense Line).
As is his practice, Smith is thorough in his research. This latest work is 178 pages, contains more than 300 footnotes, citing more than hundred specific sources including files the FBI only recently declassified.
It is written in a commendably easy to read style, organized into short concise chapters that cover several critical topics including: Israeli arms smuggling; the history of the Israeli Lobby; how the Israeli lobby subverts the investigation of commercial espionage against American firms by Israeli agents; Jonathan Pollard’s treason; the harmful role played by AIPAC in advancing Israeli interests at the expense of the United States. So important is this book that I plan on putting it in my friends’ and family’s Christmas stockings.

Smith systematically demonstrates how since before the establishment of the Israeli state, Zionists abroad and in the United States violated federal laws solely to the advantage of the nascent state regardless of the consequences to American interests. It is this profound contempt for American interest by Zionists in pursing their almost fanatical allegiance to a foreign power that most troubles this reader.

Other writers such as Paul Findley and Mearsheimer have also discussed this danger to American strategic interests and how the “lobby” ensures that all those who challenge its stranglehold on American Congress and the media are publicly attacked, denied employment and marginalized. However, Smith provides an unassailably researched work documenting actual criminal activity. In fact, to this reader’s knowledge, neither Smith’s credibility nor his work’s research has ever been successfully challenged.

The America that Smith paints is a disturbing one. He presents a Congress motivated by lobby money, ignorance, indifference to the interests of the American people and influenced by an false image of Israel as a “David v. Goliath” justifying its systematic violations of U.S. law. Personally, I do not begrudge Israelis from engaging in activities to promote the interests of their home state. What I find disgusting and intolerable is when American citizens actively use political and economic leverage to subvert this country’s own strategic interests solely to the advantage of a foreign power. In my book this is called “treason,” “espionage,” and “betrayal.”

The picture documented by Smith should disturb all patriotic Americans. One truly wonders if this is the America that Washington and Jefferson imagined when they fought our war for independence. Have we substituted one imperial master for another more insidious?

Who can doubt that this country was manipulated into the invading Iraq solely to advance Israeli interests?
Why did Ahmed Chalabi make a secret visit to Israel in 2002 where he declared that the “road to Baghdad lies through Jerusalem!?!”

Was the war against al-Qaida effectively abandoned in Afghanistan to invade Iraq because the “lobby” took advantage of the 911 attack to push for the invasion of Iraq in order to advance Israeli regional interests? Is it only coincidental that al-Qaida has never attacked Israel?

These questions remain to be answered. This reader hopes that Smith will soon apply his demonstrated research and writing abilities to answering these critical questions.

Also See:
SPY TRADE: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy Foreword by Michael Scheuer, former chief, CIA Bin Laden unit
More Helpful Reviews: Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy

November 25, 2009 Posted by Elias

"Unprecedentally helpful" Israel OKs more settlments expansions!


Haaretz, here

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday ordered the IDF to issue a temporary freeze order, but at the same time allowed the construction of 28 new public buildings in settlements.

Meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that the state is expected to ask the Supreme Court for more time to evacuate illegal outposts....[and] intends to ask the court for more time in order to prepare a suitable policy for razing the illegal outposts, in view of the developments related to the freeze in settlement construction.

For its part, efforts were underway Thursday to maximize the impact of the freeze on the international arena. .......... displeased by the fact that the freeze was not absolute - in other words does not include East Jerusalem...."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 8:07 PM

Israel's occupation, linked by rail


The Jerusalem light railway is set to link to illegal settlements such as French Hill. Palestinians need help stopping it

Seth Freedman Seth Freedman, Thursday 26 November 2009 15.00 GMT

Article history

The architects of Israel's occupation of the West Bank are highly skilled at the art of needlework, deftly stitching up land inside Israel proper and disputed territory over the Green Line as though it was the most natural thing in the world. According to their logic, it should be possible to seamlessly suture together the two parts without raising eyebrows either at home or abroad, regardless of the contravention of both international law and basic morality that such actions entail.

All that is required is a healthy dose of chutzpah, combined with a drip-drip effect in which a steady stream of expropriating activities are undertaken at a slow but relentless pace, in the hope that insufficient feathers are ruffled to put a halt to the overarching campaign of annexation.

The Jerusalem light railway is a case in point: in isolation, few Israelis would be too perturbed by the idea of providing a rail link between the city centre and outlying towns and suburbs on the periphery of the capital. However, in doing so, the authorities are simultaneously declaring their view that settlements such as French Hill and Pisgat Ze'ev are integral parts of Jerusalem and banging yet another nail into the coffin of a viable Palestinian state.

Under the guise of a desire to ease traffic congestion on Jerusalem's streets, the project bears all the hallmarks of previous efforts to stake a permanent and intractable claim to areas that once might have been considered as appropriate territory to concede as part of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. As the Alternative Information Centre notes, "by providing direct access to [these locations], the main illegal settlements will finally be linked with the centre and western part of the City. The adverse effects of this will serve to diminish any chance of East Jerusalem becoming the future capital of a Palestinian state under a two-state solution".

Palestinian officials this week issued a call for overseas assistance in preventing the completion of the rail link, having recognised that without such external pressure there is no hope of putting a halt to the illegal construction. Basing their opposition on statutes that deem such building work a violation of international law, the Palestinian Authority urged all Arab countries to end their links with companies associated with the light railway – including French conglomerates Veolia and Alstom – in the hope that such a stance would encourage the corporations involved to pull out of the project.

The Palestinians know full well that the rail link's presence will further ingrain in Israelis' minds the idea that every affected township over the Green Line is to be viewed simply as a benign part of Greater Jerusalem, rather than a malignant settlement that threatens the security of both Israelis and Palestinians in the long term. To confirm their fears, they need only look as far as Gilo or Har Homa, both areas built over the Green Line outside Jerusalem's original city limits, but now treated as no more contentious than Rehavia or the German Colony when it comes to Israel's continued construction there.

Last week's international criticism of plans to build a further 900 homes in Gilo raised hackles among the Israeli public. Many Israelis have become so accustomed to the idea that Gilo is part of Israel proper that they cannot for the life of them understand why anyone should deny them the right to construct houses there at will. Such a mind-set did not develop overnight; rather, it took years of patient joining of the dots by successive Israeli governments – by way of transport links, forging social ties between Gilo and other parts of Jerusalem, and so on – to convince Israelis that Gilo had come in from the cold and was now Jerusalem through and through.

When my army unit was based in Har Gilo (a suburb of Gilo even deeper into West Bank territory), none of the residents living alongside our headquarters saw themselves as settlers. Those to whom we spoke thought of themselves as simply Jerusalemites with no more reason to feel guilty about the location of their homes than those dwelling in Tel Aviv or Haifa. The fact that their houses were a stone's throw from Palestinian towns such as Bet-Jalla did little to change their minds: the Israeli government had thrown a comforting arm around their shoulders and told them all was well, and that was what mattered. But all is not well – whether in terms of Israel's relationship with the outside world, the spectre looming of a third Palestinian intifada, or the fact that Israelis are unquestioningly becoming more and more used to their collective status as perpetual oppressors of another people – and time is not on the peace camp's side.

The light railway and the construction plans for Gilo are not deal-breakers on their own, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to the annexation of the West Bank, and all interested parties should be doing their utmost to oppose anything that further cements an Israeli presence in the area. To sit back and do nothing is to be complicit with the insidious plans of those who seek never to accommodate Palestinian needs in terms of their statehood. Israelis, Palestinians and outsiders alike must continue to stand up to the occupation machine's operators, before the rot sets in completely and for ever.

OxFan: "... Momentum from events & assumptions of the Bush era, will continue to restrict the Obama's choices ..."


[OXFAN: Excerpts:]

"... Strategic summary
  • The administration has no 'grand theory' of how the Middle East works, unlike its predecessor. (I wonder what that previous 'theory' included)
  • US policy in 2009 has often been hostage to events, such as the outcome of Israeli and Iranian elections, and Palestinian infighting.
  • Washington will continue to offer Tehran an opportunity for a more positive relationship, but will also push for tighter sanctions.
  • The administration will push hard to maintain its Iraq troop withdrawal timetable, but it could slip.
  • The core of the immediate problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, rather than diplomatic.....
The war in Iraq and the push for democratisation in the Arab world (both of which were precipitated by the September 11, 2001 attacks) intimately tied the Bush administration's foreign policy legacy to the Middle East. In its later years, there was never any question where the administration's priorities lay. The Obama administration has not sought to link judgment of its political and policy success to the Middle East -- at least not to the same degree -- but will find itself tied to the region in this respect in 2010.

Policy preoccupations. Most frustrating for the White House is that dramatic regional policy reversals have not led to dramatically improved results, in terms of achieving US objectives:

1. Israel-Palestinians. Obama sought to signal early that the Bush approach of polite disengagement, combined with being tough on Palestinians and understanding toward Israelis, was over. In his first week in office, Obama called the major leaders in the region, pledged his involvement, and named former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as his special envoy. However, Israeli elections in February, followed by month-long negotiations over forming a government, stalled the new White House initiative:

  • Advantage Netanyahu. As 2009 closes, the Israeli government believes it has got the better of Obama. Determined not to make any significant agreements with a weak and splintered Palestinian National Authority (PNA) , Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has won broad public approval in Israel, while Obama's standing in the country has plummeted. Regardless of whether PNA President Mahmoud Abbas makes good on his threat to resign, Hamas appears entrenched in Gaza and Palestinian politics are melting down.
  • Potential US initiatives. Obama has no good options in 2010. He could opt to become even more personally engaged, but this would be high risk given current political conditions. Another route would involve floating a US-backed proposal, forcing each side to react to it. Such a strategy has been mooted since the summer, but has not been executed. A third option would quietly de-emphasise the issue on the president's agenda, leaving negotiations to lower-level officials. In 2010, greater personal involvement seems unlikely, but abandoning the issue is unthinkable given Obama's keen desire to connect with Muslim audiences.
  • Politics before diplomacy. Whatever the president does, his policy may need to focus on a pre-eminent truth: the core of the immediate problem is political, rather than diplomatic. There is no conceivable deal right now that either side could gain public support for signing up to, and neither leader is inclined to conclude an agreement with his opposite number. Altering these conditions, rather than constructing an 'ideal' agreement that meets the needs of each side, may need to be the first priority.
2. Iraq. Whereas Bush seemed to think about Iraq constantly, the issue appears to figure little on the agendas of most of the Obama administration's senior national security officials. With great uncertainty surrounding the elections scheduled for January, it is possible that a collapse in conditions in Iraq would prompt the United States to slow its troop withdrawal timetable. Yet, it seems unthinkable that the US military would contemplate a long-term presence in Iraq, and US goals for the country have been dramatically scaled back from the enthusiasms of the Bush era.

Many US government officials currently working on Iraq foresee a future not much different from the present, with a weak Shia-led government that incorporates some Sunnis but is wary of them, a Kurdish region that is ambivalent about its role in the future of the country, and outside powers supporting proxies there in an effort to advance their own interests. The oil industry is likely to expand, but such expansion will be hampered by sustained political uncertainty.

3. Iranian imponderables. The administration has made good on its pledge to engage the Iranian leadership. Working closely with the IAEA and European partners, it has sought actively to strike agreements with Iran on nuclear issues, most notably on the proposal to reprocess Iranian low-enriched uranium. However, the shift in US strategy has not been met with a shift in Iranian strategy:
  • Limited leverage. Given the political unrest visible in Iran since the June 2009 elections, and the relatively poor insight that most foreign governments (including the United States) have into the inner workings of the regime, it is difficult for Washington and its allies to devise strategies to change Iranian behaviour.
  • Medium-term approach. The most likely route forward is a new round of sanctions targeting the financial sector, a series of informal inter-governmental agreements that quietly make things harder for Iran, and a continued effort by the US government to provide the Iranians with the opportunity for a more positive relationship.
  • Chinese interests. As 2010 mid-term elections draw closer in the United States, Congress is likely to pass additional sanctions legislation intended to block investment in the Iranian energy sector. Given increased Chinese interest in that sector, and the importance of China to any multilateral sanctions regime, the administration will find itself walking a difficult line.
Coordination problems. Unlike its predecessors, the Obama administration has no grand theory of how the Middle East works, but this has made prioritising among its various challenges more difficult. In addition, lines of authority seem muddled:

  • With Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke as special envoys for the Arab-Israeli conflict and Afghanistan-Pakistan, respectively, and Dennis Ross as a special assistant to the president for an ill-defined 'Central Region', it is sometimes unclear who is reporting to whom.
  • National Security Advisor James Jones has not identified a clear concept of the country's Middle East strategy, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be seeking to make her imprint in the more promising environs of Asia.
  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seems preoccupied with broad issues such as force structure and procurement reform, and dealing with immediate crises in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military leadership is still adjusting to greater fiscal constraints.
.... The Bush-era US approach to the region has clearly ended, as the Obama administration has departed significantly from many of its policy approaches and assumptions -- but this has not yet produced better results from Washington's perspective. Momentum from events unleashed under Bush will continue to restrict the Obama administration's choices, and its possibilities, in 2010. "
Posted by G, Z, or B at 4:21 PM

The End of the Arabs?


In 2007 I read Peter W. Galbraith’s “The End of Iraq“, which suggests cutting Iraq into three mini-states, and then responded in two parts. The first part criticises Galbraith’s thesis, and the second part criticises the failures of Arabism. Both are merged below. More recently it has been revealed that Galbraith actually stood to gain financially from the dismantlement of Iraq.

explosion at Baghdad's Mutanabi Street book market

Peter W. Galbraith’s book ‘The End of Iraq’ argues the initially persuasive thesis that Iraqis have already divided themselves into three separate countries roughly corresponding to the Ottoman provinces of Basra (the Shii Arab south), Baghdad (the Sunni Arab centre) and Mosul (the Kurdish north), and that American attempts to keep the country unified are bound to fail. I agree wholeheartedly with Galbraith’s call for America to withdraw from Iraq – America is incapable of stopping the civil war, and is in fact exacerbating it. (update: I stick by this. The civil war has to some extent calmed because of internal Iraqi dynamics, not because of the US ’surge’ – the Sunni forces turned on al-Qaida, and also realised that they had lost the battle for Baghdad and national power. Some groups then allied with the US for a variety of reasons to do with self-preservation). The rest of Galbraith’s argument is much more debatable.

For a start, he minimises the extent to which the US occupation has contributed to the disintegration of Iraq. I do not wish to deny the sectarian and ethnic fractures which exist in Iraq and other Arab countries, but it is reasonable to expect that any country, having suffered dictatorship, war, sanctions, and then the overnight collapse of all its institutions, would enter a period of chaos and division. Galbraith accurately records Western support for Saddam Hussain throughout the Iran-Iraq war, when he was gassing Kurds, and the American refusal to intervene when Republican Guards were slaughtering southern Shia in 1991 (the massacres happened under the eyes of American forces occupying the south at the end of the Kuwait war). He describes the criminal failure in 2003 of the occupying forces to stop the looting and burning of every ministry except the oil ministry, of military arsenals and even yellowcake uranium stocks the Americans claimed to be so concerned about in the run-up to the invasion, and of the national museum and national library. (He doesn’t examine claims made at the time by Robert Fisk and others that masked men with Kuwaiti accents were bussed in to certain ministries to set fires professionally.) The attack on Iraq’s – and the world’s – heritage is of course a cultural crime far greater than the despicable Taliban destruction of the Bamyan Buddha statues. Bombing and looting ravaged what was left of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure. The Iraqi state was destroyed within the first week of occupation, long before the sectarian killing began.

Galbraith charitably calls incompetence what may more realistically be seen as deliberate divide and rule policies. Certainly arrogance, stupidity and corruption have played a large role – the arrogance and stupidity which allowed Americans to park their tanks on the ruins of Sumerian cities; the corruption which allowed Halliburton to profit by the billion from reconstruction which never happened, and which put Americans in their early twenties, and with no knowledge or experience of Iraq, in charge of entire sectors of the Iraqi economy simply because they were members of the right ‘think tank’ or prayer group. At a certain point, however, it seems naïve to put all the mistakes down to incompetence. From the very beginning it was obvious to me and the people I talk to that a violent assault on an Iraq already crippled by war and sanctions would not result in a prosperous, unified democracy. It was obvious that every ‘mistake’ made would further damage national unity. I and my friends are not geniuses, and unlike the neo-conservative and Zionist architects of the invasion, we aren’t paid to study the Middle East.

The immediate and sweeping dissolution of the Ba’ath Party, the army and security forces made it inevitable that people would look to the nearest militia or criminal gang to provide security and material supplies. Before long each area had its dominant gang, and the country was a free competition zone for Shia, Sunni, takfiri, and Kurdish militias, American and British troops, South African and Latin American mercenaries, imported Wahhabi nihilists, kidnappers and drug traffickers, and so on. John Negroponte, who had made a career setting up fascist death squads to destabilise leftist democracies in Latin America, was brought in to organise Kurdish and Shia militia into ‘police’ to pacify militantly Sunni towns. Meanwhile, Bremer at one stroke abolished Iraqi economic independence, opening every sector of Iraq to privatisation and foreign control.

These supposed ‘mistakes’ give us a much clearer picture of the real purposes of the invasion than all the journalistic psychoanalysis of a traumatised post-September 11th America or of its ignorant president. The war was designed as corporate rape of a resource-rich country and as a further hammer blow to the possibility of any secular Arab state taking on apartheid Israel. Having the Iraqis split into tiny units, each fighting the other and looking for an external sponsor, guarantees that there will be no unified Iraqi force to pose a serious threat to the corporations or their imperial and Zionist facilitators.

Despite the hatreds unleashed by the sectarian war, the number of Arab Iraqis I’ve met who want the disintegration of their country to be formalised is precisely zero. The neat picture ‘The End of Iraq’ presents of three clearcut post-Iraq zones is not realistic. Iraq has splintered into smaller pieces than the three zones Galbraith describes. In the south, the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army battle for supremacy. In al-Anbar, the battle is between the tribes, the Ba’ath, and al-Qa’ida. Baghdad, supposedly part of the Sunni zone, has a Shii majority. Mosul is a largely Sunni Arab city with a largely Kurdish hinterland. For these cities and other mixed areas such as Diyala and Babil a formalised partition would lead to greatly intensified ethnic cleansing. The horrific bomb attacks which recently killed 500 Yezidi Kurds happened within the context of a forthcoming referendum on which northern areas will join the Kurdish zone.

And if Iraq is allowed to formally splinter, where does the break-up stop? The Arabs of the Jezira in eastern Syria have more in common ethnically, culturally and tribally with the Arabs of al-Anbar than they do with the urban Levantine Arabs of western Syria. There are almost two million Iraqi refugees in Syria, most in Damascus, very many of them Sunnis who have nowhere to return to if Iraq is not put back together. An ethnic-sectarian Sunni state would also pull at the fabric of Jordan, as artificial a state as they come with its three populations of urban Iraqi Sunnis, Jordanian Beduin, and Palestinian refugees. And in Syria, if the Sunnis were to give their allegiance to a sectarian identity, what would stop the Alawis demanding a state in the north west, or the Druze in the Hauran? Which would bring us back to an early French imperial plan for Syria. I could go on, ad infinitum, to prospects for the division of Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and further afield.

Division is a disaster for all but imperialists and for Israel, the region’s key sectarian state. If the map must be changed, we should aim for fewer state units, not more. Yet Arabism as manifested so far has clearly failed. I’ll examine why in part two.

Part Two

Peter W. Galbraith writes that Iraq is an artificial creation made up of different ethnic groups. This is true, but Iraq is not alone in its artificiality. All states are artificial in that they have been created by historical process and human machination, not by God or nature, and all contain different ethnic groups. More specifically, the centralised nation state in the Middle East (and Africa and much of Asia) is always artificial because the very concept of the nation state is an import from 19th Century Europe. The borders of every Arab state were determined, suddenly, by imperialism, and not by the long processes of war, negotiation and ideological mythmaking that drew borders in Europe. It is this imperialist division of the Arabs which has led to various forms of pan-Arab nationalism.

The definition of ‘Arab’ has expanded over the last hundred and fifty years from describing tribal nomads as opposed to townsmen, to describing the people of the Arabian peninsula, and then to describe all from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf who share the heritage of the Arabic language.

The Ba’ath Party went so far as to find religious significance in ‘Arab,’ as is evident from the slogan ‘One Arab Nation bearing an Eternal Message.’ The ‘risala’ or message is what Arabs would previously have assumed to be the revelation of the Prophet (more often called Messenger in Arabic) Muhammad. The word used for ‘nation’ is ‘umma’ – a word previously used to denote the international Muslim community. In fact, Ba’athism should be seen as one of the twentieth century’s many attempts to compensate for the collapse of traditional religion (Nazism, Zionism, Stalinism, contemporary Wahhabism and hedonist consumerism are others).

In its effort to spiritualise and mythologise Arabism Ba’athism surely takes nationalism to absurd extremes, but it is significant that the Ba’ath Party was founded by a Damascene Christian, and that it appealed in the main to minority communities. Arab nationalism’s potential strength was its inclusive nature, the possibility that Sunni and Shia, Christians and Muslims, urban and rural populations would all identify together as members of the Arab nation. Sadly, it is precisely this inclusiveness that has failed.

If nationalism’s definition of ‘Arab’ had been the widest possible – to engage all those who share the common heritage of the Arabic language in a cooperative enterprise – the Arabs could perhaps have overcome their underdevelopment and imposed borders more easily. They would have had increased political weight for a start, and would not have wasted so much blood and treasure on intra-Arab fighting (or rather, fighting on behalf of the little ruling classes of each state). Given that some Arab countries are blessed with fertile land but not with oil, others with educated people but not with sea ports, an intelligent sharing of resources would have been mutually beneficial.

This cooperation has failed, and there is no Arab state, but the Arab nation exists. The nation, not the state. The nation exists despite the tens of states, and now the attempt to splinter the Arabs further, into yet more mini-states squabbling over sect and ethnic variation, all of them dependent on a corporate-imperial sponsor for survival. It exists in shared language and cultural reference points. Any Arab who travels the great distances of the Arab world will find each corner foreign and also familiar. He will recognise the classic and contemporary music on the radio. He’ll see the same Egyptian films in the cinemas, the same Syrian comedies and historical dramas on the television. He’ll understand the newspaper. He’ll feel welcomed and understood, more than he would, for instance, in a non-Arab Muslim country. Wherever you go in the Arab world the ordinary people want closer economic cooperation between Arab countries, an end to foreign military bases, and justice for the Palestinians. In these times of rising sectarian conflict, it’s important to realise and remember that the Arab nation exists.

So why then is Galbraith’s thesis – that even a single unit of Arabism like Iraq needs to disintegrate – to some extent persuasive? Because the same homogenising impulse that animates both contemporary Islamism and late capitalism has perverted Arabism. I’ll repeat it: Arabism only had a chance if it recognised the diversity of the Arab world’s peoples. The inheritors of Arab history, culture and language include blue-eyed Syrians and black Africans in the Sudan. Many of the heroes of the Arabist narrative were not ethnically Arab at all. Salahuddeen al-Ayubbi (Saladin) was a Kurd, Ibn Rushd a Spaniard, Ibn Batuta a Berber. In Iraq, where Arabism has failed most spectacularly, ‘Arab’ even began to morph into ‘ethnically-Arab Sunni Muslim,’ but many of the great Arabic-language writers and scientists have been Christians and Jews, Berbers and Persians.

The moral degeneration of Arabism is painfully evident on Layla Anwar’s blog. We must make allowances for the fact that Mrs. Anwar lives, it seems, in Baghdad, in the midst of a savage occupation and civil war. Many of the Iraqis I meet who have recently left Iraq are traumatised in some way or other, and Mrs. Anwar probably is too. But then, she doesn’t make any allowances for the Kurds or Shia who suffered so much under the previous regime. She calls the Kurds turds (ha ha), and denies that any were massacred by Saddam Hussain. I must say here that by now, although I don’t believe that new states can set anybody free, I understand the Kurdish desire for an independent state, at least in Iraqi Kurdistan. Perhaps Iraqi Arabs could have persuaded the Kurds to be part of an Arab state if, from the start, they had treated them as full citizens with full rights to cultural expression. What happened was that they were seen as a non-Arab security problem, and that thousands of their villages were razed, hundreds of thousands of their people subjected to poison gas attacks. True, it was a dictatorship, backed at the time by the West, that committed these crimes, and relations between ordinary Kurds and Arabs often remained good. But if people like Layla Anwar can’t accept that the oppression even happened, we have an insurmountable obstacle to coexistence. Mrs. Anwar declares in one of her postings that the Kurds are guests in Arab Iraq. How shameful that this supposed nationalist is unaware of her own country’s history. Kurds have been present in Mesopotamia for as long as Semites, and for far longer than Sunni Muslims.

Mrs. Anwar regards ALL Shia forces in her country as Persian, and therefore inauthentic. Again, exclusive national-chauvinist extremism has blinded her to her country’s reality. The Shia are of course a majority of Iraq’s people. It is both true and unsurprising that many Shia escaped Saddam’s persecution by crossing the border to Iran, where some founded organisations with Iranian help. Some of these organisations, like al-Hakim’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, returned to Iraq after the regime’s fall, made themselves available to the Americans as death squads, and are now in powerful positions. But other organisations, like Moqtada Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi, are Arab nationalist as well as Shia, and resent the Iranian-supported organisations. Mrs. Anwar rightly complains about the persecution of Sunnis by Shia militias, but is silent on both the sectarian repression practised by the Ba’ath regime which provoked the Shia revival, and the horrific Wahhabi terrorism to which Shia militia crimes have been retaliation.

As for more general Iranian influence in Iraq, which many Sunni Arabs are unable to accept, this is natural. The word itself, Iraq, comes from the Persian ‘Eraagh’, meaning ‘lowlands.’ The Arabs of southern Iraq have been as influenced by the cooking and religious and philosophical ideas of Persia as much as the Arabs of Syria have been influenced by the Turks and Mediterranean cultures. This doesn’t stop them being Arabs.

Nations (as opposed to states) are imaginary structures. Their borders are porous and membership in them is not exclusive. You can feel allegiance to the Arabs and also to Islam, or Africa, or Christianity, or Shi’ism. Variety and diversity should be the strength and richness of the Arabs, but many Arabs are ill with the centralised state disease, the rage for conformity which made Saddam Hussain brutalise the majority of Iraq’s people. When we replace humane, inclusive nationalism with exclusive totalitarian police states, we have lost nationalism as a positive force.

There are still glimmers of light. Important sections of Sunni Iraqi opinion have turned decisively against both Wahhabism and Ba’athism. The vast majority of Shia feel both Iraqi and Arab. But the Iraqis and other Arabs will be unable to work cooperatively until they honestly confront sectarianism and the class oppression which it usually masks, until they are able to sympathise with the history of the other, until they can think beyond the imported nation state.

More to Egypt riots than football


The tribalistic violence that followed the World Cup defeat to Algeria was fuelled by a genuine set of grievances

Jack Shenker, Wednesday 25 November 2009 16.00 GMT

The chauvinistic brand of nationalism that swept across Egypt last week – the violent fringe of which saw riots outside the Algerian embassy in Cairo – really isn't about the football, despite what Joseph Mayton says in his Cif article yesterday.

The spark was a football match, certainly, but Mayton's contention that depressed Egyptians were simply "unable to deal with the fact that even on the football pitch, they cannot achieve success" does not tell the whole story.

Mayton appears to want to condemn the flag-burners, congratulate the police, slam President Mubarak, and move on. The reality is far more nuanced, and far less heartening; an irresponsible and sensationalist media in two countries mobilised a particularly poisonous form of latent tribalism among some Egyptians by fixating on – and exaggerating – a very genuine set of grievances over the way Egyptians were being treated abroad.

The first point to make is that Algerian attacks against Egyptian targets in Algiers were real, and the fact that they were allowed to occur in a exceptionally security-conscious state, suggests there was some government complicity in them, indirectly at least. One observer witnessed 200 youths vandalising the offices of Orascom, an Egyptian communications giant, while riot police looked on; the same firm has now been hit by a $600m bill by the Algerian tax authorities in a move that suggests Algeria is willing to jeopardise its entire foreign investment infrastructure for the sake of firing another salvo at its Arab neighbours. Embellishments and fabrications are two-a-penny in this mess, but not to recognise that Egypt was provoked in any way is disingenuous to say the least.

Second, it's all very well to denounce those who allegedly threw bricks and lobbed Molotov cocktails around in Cairo; you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who'd endorse that sort of xenophobic rampage. But righteous disapproval doesn't take us any closer to understanding the sentiments of tens of millions of non-rampaging Egyptians who were also furious with Algeria and expressed their outrage in other ways.

Like most post-colonial countries, Egypt is a "nationalistic" state. Combined with poor education levels, low standards of living and the inevitable sense of disenfranchisement arising from systematic oppression (which is helpfully meted out to Egyptians daily by their own government), such patriotic fervour ensures the spectre of tribalism – the retreat into an exclusionary group identity – always bubbles just below the surface.

Egypt is hardly unique in this respect; there are countless examples of African and Asian countries where ethnic tensions are high and forms of tribalism more visible. But it does exist here, even if it remains largely subterranean; after all, there is usually little opportunity for proud flag-waving under a regime that has overseen the decline of Egypt's role on the international stage, the rise of relative poverty among its people and the murder of innocent civilians by police sporting the national symbol of an eagle on their armbands. Football, of course, is an exception: the "romanticism of an 'all or nothing' game" offers the perfect outlet for a bit of brazen nationalism, relatively untainted by the government-induced disarray the rest of the country is lying in.

The key characteristic of tribalism is that it is aggravated far more by external actions – because it involves an image of the self that is inherently based on some conception of "the other" – than it is by threats at home. In fact the dignity and rights of Egyptians are assaulted a great deal more often, and to a far greater extent by Egypt's own elite than they have been by Algerians or any other recent outsiders; as Hossam el-Hamalawy, a local journalist and activist, pointed out recently, "Hosni Mubarak's thugs have beaten and killed more Egyptians than any hooligans."

But to many Egyptians, that wasn't the point; the attacks in Algiers were perceived as an extraneous peril that deserved an extreme response. The conditions were set for an explosion, and somebody just needed to light the fuse.

Enter a phalanx of pampered actors, singers, TV personalities and other assorted celebrities who quickly saw a chance to jump on a populist bandwagon and regale all the talk shows with lurid accounts of their near-death experiences while attending the playoff match in Sudan. There is an epic chasm between the lives of the (mainly) upper-class Egyptians who could afford to journey down to Khartoum for the game and the world of the masses who watched it in their living rooms and in shisha cafes, a chasm that the former attempted to bridge through a hypocritical and exploitative campaign of disinformation.

No matter that most of these individuals have now quietly recanted their claims of bloodletting in the stands; the media were only too happy to whip up the hysterical tales of these two-bit phonies who thought they could grab some grubby stardust by singing along with lies and distortions to the patriotic tune. The same process, by the way, was also under way in the Algerian press, where the poisonous al-Chorouk newspaper printed fake story after fake story in an attempt to stoke tension.

This confluence of chauvinistic nationalism and media hyperbole lay at the heart of last week's chaos. That's not an excuse, just an explanation (and an incomplete one too, as nothing this wide-ranging affair can be pinned down to a single cause). The government played a key role in fanning the flames, and they certainly tried to exploit the crisis for political gain – although I'm inclined to think Mubarak's clique decided somewhat belatedly to surf the wave of popular anger, rather than playing any part in initiating it.

As one Egyptian friend recently put it to me, Egypt's ruling class are "half-bright bureaucrats and armchair statesmen"; in the international arena they prefer to keep their heads down and avoid making enemies, which is why Egypt has so shamelessly sold out the Palestinians in Gaza and also failed to stand up to Libya or Saudi Arabia over the well-documented mistreatment of Egyptian migrant workers.

Indeed, the only good thing that might possibly emerge from the past fortnight would be a growing awareness of the duplicity of Egypt's political leaders, who are now promising to unleash "Egypt's wrath" on those who flout the rights of Egyptians. Championing those rights in recent years has involved arresting peaceful demonstrators, torturing dissidents and presiding over a state so corrupt and dysfunctional that recent train and ferry accidents have killed more than 300 and 1000 Egyptians respectively (tragedies, incidentally, that Mubarak did not think warranted a presidential visit). Tribalism may search for antagonists beyond the borders, but the real enemy of the Egyptian people lies closer to home.