Saturday, 26 February 2011

All Roads Lead to Mecca

Robert Fisk has written a  significant and timely article in the Independent today about the destiny of the democratic uprisings breaking out across the Middle East. He insists prophetically, The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil
The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, "shock and awe" was the right description.
The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever.
The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave – even blackly humorous – results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve public servants' pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the country's state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And al-Qa'ida are, well, rather silent...
Of Saudi Arabia he observes:
We pay too little attention to this autocratic band of robber princes; we think they are archaic, illiterate in modern politics, wealthy (yes, "beyond the dreams of Croesus", etc), and we laughed when King Abdullah offered to make up any fall in bailouts from Washington to the Mubarak regime, and we laugh now when the old king promises $36bn to his citizens to keep their mouths shut. But this is no laughing matter. The Arab revolt which finally threw the Ottomans out of the Arab world started in the deserts of Arabia, its tribesmen trusting Lawrence and McMahon and the rest of our gang. And from Arabia came Wahabism, the deep and inebriating potion – white foam on the top of the black stuff – whose ghastly simplicity appealed to every would-be Islamist and suicide bomber in the Sunni Muslim world. The Saudis fostered Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Let us not even mention that they provided most of the 9/11 bombers. And the Saudis will now believe they are the only Muslims still in arms against the brightening world. I have an unhappy suspicion that the destiny of this pageant of Middle East history unfolding before us will be decided in the kingdom of oil, holy places and corruption. Watch out. 
Read the whole article here 

See also Hundreds back Facebook call for Saudi protest

Time to Get Off the Fence

Richard Silverstein has commented on a recent advert from Haaretz.
Eldad, a radical settler leader and Israeli MK has published an ad in Haaretz which calls for Jordan’s King Abdullah to accept the millions of Palestinians living within Israel and the Occupied Territories to be expelled to Jordan, their “rightful home” (according to Eldad).  Though according to whose ‘right’ it’s not clear.
Time indeed for the international community to get off the fence and recognise the State of Palestine on the 1949-1967 borders before Eldad and the settlers impose their 'final solution'.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Working Around America: A New Strategy on Israel-Palestine

Jeff Halper writes:

Last Friday’s vote in the UN in which the US refused to follow the other 14 members of the Security Council in condemning Israel’s ongoing settlement project – including, it should be noted, such traditionally pro-Israel stalwarts as Britain, France and even Germany and India (for whom Israel is the #2 supplier of arms, as it is with China) – revealed with international isolation into which the US has fallen. Without being pollyannish over the human rights records of the other members of the Security Council, human rights does, nevertheless, motivate the foreign policy of many countries of the world, if only because to be seen respecting human rights has become a standard of national legitimacy. Israel’s blatant violations of international law threaten the consensus upon which the international order rests, even if it is upheld in the breech.

The Security Council vote show that this is not true for the United States, whose perceived cultural and legal exceptionalism rests upon a rapidly eroding economic and military hegemony. The very message of the American vote – that we do not see ourselves subject to international law and human rights; we set the policies and rules, not the UN or international courts – sends a chill down the spine of people everywhere, especially those, such as the peoples uprising in the Middle East or those in Burma, the Congo, China and in American prisons, who cannot revolt yet hold out hope that struggles for human rights will eventually each them.

The American vote sent yet another, more concrete message: the United States simply cannot deliver on a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Assuming that Obama, Gates, perhaps Clinton and certainly Petraeus “get it,” that they understand that Israel’s occupation is unsustainable and only isolates the US in the international community, then how does one account for the American vote? The explanation given, that turning to the UN will somehow “undermine” a non-existent “peace process,” is laughable and persuaded no one. The answer, of course, is Congress. Structurally, not because of policy or will (though contempt for international law plays its role), the American Administration cannot resolve the conflict because the overwhelming majority of Congress, in both houses and both parties, feel they must be unwaveringly and uncritically “pro-Israel” if they are to be re-elected (even though this is patently mistaken; only 7 percent of Jews polled after the 2010 elections identified Israel as a decisive issue in their vote).

Unlike other foreign policy issues, Israel has become a domestic American issue. A candidate for office, even in a state such as Nevada, Iowa or Maine with few Jews or Christian fundamentalists, must often stake out a more “pro-Israeli” position than his or her opponent before getting on to even local issues. The strategic funding and political support (or the threat of withdrawing them) of candidates in both parties by AIPAC and the clout of the Christian Right in the Republican Party is matched by the influence of Pentagon defense contractors, who keep members of Congress in line by arguing that any cut in the billions given to Israel and, by extension, to the other countries in the region (totaling some $125 billion over the next decade), will cost jobs in their states and districts. Indeed, Susan Rice’s vote in the Security Council cannot be explained in any way except as a capitulation of vital American interests to “pro-Israel” forces and manufactured perceptions on the part of the Administration and Congress alike.

Faced with the spectacle of an almost totally isolated US, why should any of us cling to the American default strategy of the past 44 years, whereby the United States is seen as the sole and ultimate arbitrator of the conflict? And in particular, why should the Palestinians? If the US cannot actually deliver on a just peace for structural reasons, and yet insists on an absolute monopoly over any “peace process,” the time is long overdue to develop a “working around America” strategy. Let’s look at the world beyond the US:

  • At least ten countries in Europe seem to be moving towards unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state within the ‘49/’67 borders; Cyprus did so a couple weeks ago. In fact, public opinion favoring the Palestinians is far in advance of the foot-dragging governments. Efforts to mobilize public opinion there should be redoubled, although much work needs to be done in the extremely conservative pro-American/pro-Israel states of Eastern Europe, which, Slovenia aside, hold the rest of the EU back on this issue.
  •   Most Latin American countries have already recognized a Palestinian state within recognized borders, although they have also accepted Israel as become the first non-Latin American country to sign a trade agreement with Mercosur, the region’s emerging common market. Given strong sympathies of Latin American peoples towards the Palestinians, vigorous campaigns calling for stronger government actions and BDS are called for.
  •   Turkey has become a lead player against the Occupation in the Middle East and internationally, while the fundamental changes sweeping the Arab world signal a fundamental shift in relations to Israel and the US – and perhaps a more critical and active role for the Arab League and the possibilities of mobilizing the wider Muslim world. Here, ironically, pressure has to be put on the Palestinian Authority to be more pro-active. It deserves credit for bringing the anti-settlement resolution before the Security Council despite strong US pressures, but Abbas’s refusal to bring a Palestinian declaration of independence within recognized borders before the UN in the end neutralizes the recognition accorded the Palestinians by Latin American and other countries.
  •   South Africa, recently made a member of the BRIC group of countries, is capable of taking a more active role on this issue given its expressed support for the Palestinian cause, and could play a leading role in mobilizing other African states.
  •   Russia recently reaffirmed its recognition of a Palestinian state, although it does not seem eager to confront the US in an American “sphere of influence.” China and India have yet to play a major role – in part because Israel is the #2 arms supplier to both countries. But certainly in India and other countries of Asia much more could be done to mobilize both the peoples and their governments.

The UN vote demonstrates the great potential in organizing beyond the US, although it remains to be seen whether the PA is capable of pushing its case beyond the confines of American patronage, or having the courage to do so. Until now it has failed to mobilize and harness its greatest ally – us, the peoples of the world, the international civil society. Still, with or without the PA, the grassroots should pursue the next phase of the struggle: refocusing our efforts on a “working around America” strategy. Eventually the US will have to realize that its growing isolation is simply too great a price to pay for supporting an unsustainable occupation, or it will be left in the dust.
(Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Great Game in the Middle East is Changing

Over on Mondoweiss, Seham has written a perceptive piece about how the geo-political tectonic plates are shifting in the Middle East. Time is running out for Israel. Entitled Netanyahu seems as delusional as Qadhafi, he concludes:
It's safe to assume that Hamas has in the last month rearmed via the tunnels in Egypt and that they are still rearming as I type this now and anyone who doesn’t believe that is happening is very delusional.  It's also safe to assume that Israel will never be able to wage a war against Gaza or Lebanon again, they will no longer have Egyptian support to do so and it's impossible that the Jordanians will at this point, or at any point in the future offer the same kind of logistic support as they have in the past.  A war against Lebanon?  Israel waged its last war in collaboration with the Lebanese government, now, Hezbollah's coalition controls the government, Iranian warships are docked in Syria and they have access to the Suez.  Of course no one can predict exactly how stupid the Israeli regime is to the new facts on the ground in the Arab world, but, I would wager that if Israel ever tried to attack Gaza again that the Palestinian resistance would have military support from Turkey, Egypt and Hezbollah.

To the people complaining about the grad rocket attacks that hit Israel yesterday, I ask you, for how long did you think that Israel would be allowed to arrest and piss on Palestinian children, steal and destroy Palestinian land, enforce a barbaric siege against Gaza, murder peaceful protesters, look the other way while settlers murder Palestinians with impunity and just get away with it

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

AIPAC Vetos U.N. Resolution on Israeli Settlements – U.S. Casts the Actual Ballot

Philip Giraldi over on Sabbah Report, has written a scathing critique of the US Administration's decision to veto the UN Resolution on the illegal Jewish Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 
Last Friday's American veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank illegal was not only shameful, it was possibly the low point of the already foundering Obama presidency. To be sure, United States UN Ambassador Susan Rice accompanied the veto with a stirring rendition of "I'll cry tomorrow" as she described how the Obama White House really is opposed to the settlements.
It's just that supporting or even abstaining on a resolution criticizing Israel, however mildly framed, might setback the peace process, which, as Rice well knows, died completely over six months ago. But let's not get hung up on the details. Rice should have said instead that her boss in the White House is so afraid of the Israel Lobby that he has to ask permission when he goes to the bathroom. At least that would have been completely credible, something you can believe in from an Administration that has otherwise delivered squat to the many voters who supported Obama in hopes that he might actually be interested in peace in our times.

And Obama has a lot to be afraid of, mostly from the old knife in the back trick from the Israel boosters in his own party. "This is too clever by half," said Representative Anthony Weiner. "Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the UN." Representative Nita Lowey agreed, "Compromising our support for Israel at the UN is not an option."
Read more here

The Lies Bush Wanted To Believe

Eric S. Margolis, writes in the Yemen Observer about the 'black comedy of the Iraqi defector codenamed “Curveball” tells us a lot about how the United States has made such a mess in the Mideast.'
In 2000, an Iraqi, Ahmed Al Janabi, defected to Germany. To bolster his refugee status, he offered Germany’s intelligence service, BND, a bunch of laughable lies about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. The most notorious: the claim that president Saddam Hussein had mobile biological weapons units that threatened the world. The Germans didn’t believe “Curveball”. None of his claims checked out. But, being dutiful US ally, and knowing the Bush administration was hungry for alarming reports about Iraq, no matter how dubious, Germany passed on “Curveball’s” claims to CIA.

CIA’s able European chief, Tyler Drumheller, warned the claims were patently false. But CIA’s sycophantic director, George Tenet, knowing president Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, yearned for war against Iraq, sent “Curveball’s” phony tale to the White House.

This is hardly the first time fakers have made monkeys of US intelligence. For good example, back in the 1980’s, an Iranian working for Israeli intelligence, Manucher Ghorbanifar, sent president Reagan’s Washington into hysteria with phony tales of non-existent Libyan hit-men.

The deputy CIA director later admitted “Curveball’s” tall story was the only “evidence” he had for claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations and gravely warned of nefarious Iraqi germ weapons that threatened the world, complete with fanciful drawings of bio-warfare vans. Powell even fingered a little phial of white powder that everyone took to be anthrax. It was a performance worthy of Stalin’s Moscow show trials. Behind Powell sat CIA chief Tenet, and US UN chief John Negroponte.

How Powell, a decent if hardly brilliant man, allowed himself to be made a fool and liar, remains a mystery. Powell now blames CIA and the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency. But he, the Bush White House and Congress were fools for swallowing all the lies about Iraq. The US Congress and media demanded action against Iraq. As war fever swept over the United States, this writer, an old Iraq hand, warned Powell’s claims were absurd and that Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor delivery systems.
Read more here 

Monday, 21 February 2011

Islamophobia for Dummiez Goes to Egypt

And if you liked that, there are more here

US Veto is Endorsement of Christian Zionist Ideology

John Hubers has published this timely if provocative assessment of the latest US Veto of the Israeli Settlements on the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism website:

Christian Zionists have long asserted the right of Israel to take as much land as they choose for whatever reason they deem necessary. To Christian Zionists there are no "illegal" settlements as all the land currently inhabited by Israelis and Palestinians - the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights - the whole she-bang, is God's gift to the world's Jewish community, including those who live elsewhere. The map John Hagee uses goes even further, giving Israel additional right to most of Jordan, parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

And now we know that the president Christian Zionists love to hate, a man who draws nearly as much ire from the Rapture Ready crowd as Iran's Ahmadinejad, has thrown his hat into the Christian Zionist ring. How else can we interpret his decision to veto the UN resolution condemning Israel's illegal settlements? The claim that this will undermine the "fragile peace process" between Israelis and Palestinians has no credibility. What this is about is bending to the will of the Israeli right and its Christian Zionist friends, essentially endorsing Israel's expansionist claims.

To say that this president has been a disappointment to those of us who had hopes for his presidency as a force for peace in the Middle East, is an understatement. His backbone has proven to be no stronger than any of the other presidents who have withered in the face of Israeli aggressive assertiveness. Which means that what the Arabs in their more cynical moments say is essentially true - Israel is America's fifty-first state. Or maybe we need to say that America is a client state of Israel. The tail is wagging the dog.
And this is ironic since President Obama reportedly told Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday night that 'no other American president has promoted the Palestinian issue more vigorously'.  

Whose Afraid of Norman Finkelstein?

American academic and critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, is due to speak at Mohawk College in Hamilton on Saturday. The college has requested $1,500 for security on top of other fees paid, putting the event in jeopardy. For more information, click here.

In response, Edward C. Corrigan, a lawyer specializing in citizenship and immigration law and immigration and refugee protection, has written an open letter to Mohawk College:
I have read with great dismay that some individuals are creating obstacles in an attempt to deny Dr. Norman Finkelstein the right to speak at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont. There is some irony that a college named after one of the indigenous communities of Canada is now attempting to suppress a talk about the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine.

Dr. Finkelstein's academic accomplishments are well recognized by the international academic community. Dr. Finkelstein's style is unique, the social justice and human rights issues he is dealing with are critically important and an entire society's survival is at stake.

The action of Mohawk College does not directly deal with the outrageous attacks made by Zionists on Dr. Finkelstein and their many other opponents, and the specious allegations of anti-Semitism and of being "self-hating Jews" for supporting the Palestinian cause. I submit that Mohawk College is hiding an anti-activist mentality, a refusal to address a major social justice issue and violation of human rights and racism against Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims in general. It is also an attack on people who associate with Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

Please note that I have previously won a complaint filed against a similar attempt to prevent the pro-Palestinian perspective from being heard in an academic setting. See my 1987 article linked to here, entitled "The Palestinian Question at the University: The Case of Western Ontario."

This denial of Dr. Finkelstein's unfettered right to speak is an attack on the right of individuals to support the Palestinians, and to criticize Israel and question the political ideology of Zionism. This denial is also a thinly disguised attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech. The campaign against Dr. Finkelstein and the many other supporters of human rights for Palestinians is a calculated attack on academic freedom and is part of an ongoing campaign against pro-Palestinian academics, activists and politicians in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in western society.
Read more here

The lecture was eventually moved to a local church 

See Norman Finkelstein deal with Crocodile Tears

Comparing Iran with Nazi Germany

The next time someone like John Hagee compares Iran with Nazi Germany, spare a thought for the Jewish community in Iran. There are more Jews living in Iran than in any other country in the Middle East after Israel. This is clearly an embarrassment to some within the Zionist community.

Yossi Melman, writing in Haaretz today, exposes one of the rouses used to pressure Iranian Jews to leave. Iranian Jews blast offer of cash for immigrating to Israel
An Iranian Jewish organization announced over the weekend that it rejected an initiative to compel Iran's Jewish community to immigrate to Israel using cash incentives.
"[The money is]inappropriate and politically immature," the group said in a statement that was carried by Western and Iranian news outlets.
It added Iran's Jewish community has remained loyal to the Islamic Republic and that their "Jewish Iranian identity is not a commodity that passes from the hands of one merchant to another in return for money."
The statment addressed an offer by expatriate Iranian Jews offering a sum of $10,000 to each individual to immigrate to Israel.
The $10,000 offer doubled the existing $5,000 allocated each Jewish Iranian upon arrival to Israel by the Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency.
Iran's Jewish community has decreased from 80,000 before the Islamic revolution, to about 20,000 today.
It is represented in parliament by a Jewish lawmaker and is the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.

The Grand Strategy for the Middle East

Last week I blogged about Niall Ferguson’s Newsweek cover story attacking President Obama’s lack of a “grand strategy” for the Middle East. I thought he made some good points, although he failed to mention the elephant in the room - the Israel Lobby.

Matt Duss has done an excellent job deconstructing Ferguson’s argument Niall Ferguson’s Phoned-In Obama Bashing
Others have already criticized  but I want to specifically address Ferguson’s suggestion that Obama has “just missed — again — …the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy“:
It seems to have become a bit of conservative campfire folklore that, by failing to say just the right things at just the right times in June 2009, President Obama somehow aborted the second Iranian revolution. Understand, the next person to describe a plausible scenario in which Obama could have actually effected a different outcome than the one that occurred in June 2009 will be the first. Ferguson accuses Obama of doing “nothing” — which is untrue — but what is the “something” that President Obama, or any U.S. president, could have done to prevent “the thugs of the Islamic Republic” from “ruthlessly crushing the demonstrations”? Ferguson doesn’t say. Because, of course, he doesn’t know.
Read more here

And his "Letter from Herzliya"  was published earlier this week in "The Nation" magazine online.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Widening Chasm Between Europe and USA on Israeli Settlements in Palestine

The British Foreign Secretary issued this terse statement following the US veto of the draft Security Council Resolution on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

“I have made clear my serious concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process. Today the UK voted with others, including France and Germany, to reinforce this and our longstanding view that settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and constitute a threat to a two-state solution.
We must not be diverted by events in the wider region from working towards a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that Israel’s security and the realisation of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary they are intimately intertwined objectives.
I call on both parties to return as soon as possible to direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, on the basis of clear parameters. Our formal Explanation of Vote today set out what we believe these need to include for negotiations to be successful:
  • An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on June 4 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties.
  • Security arrangements that, for Palestinians, respect their sovereignty and show that the occupation is over; and, for Israelis, protect their security, prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats.  
  • A just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question.
  • Fulfillment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
We therefore look to both parties to return to negotiations as soon as possible on this basis. Our goal remains an agreement on all final status issues and the welcoming of Palestine as a full member by September 2011. We will contribute to achieving this goal in any and every way that we can.
We understand Israel's deep and justified security concerns. As friends of Israel, we share those concerns, and will strive with Israel to preserve her security and the stability of the region around her. It is precisely because of those concerns that we vote today in favour of this resolution.
We believe a peaceful and safe future for Israel is best secured through a peace with the Palestinians that in turn can lead to peace with the entire region, and indeed will strengthen the stability of the region. We believe that Israel will be better able to face and tackle wider threats if it is at peace with the Palestinians. And so we regret anything which sets back the prospects for peace because we believe it also sets back Israel's security.”
Richard Silverstein reports on the shocking if futile attempt by Hilary Clinton to threaten the Palestinian Authority into backtracking over the UN Resolution.Threatening to withdraw US funding would merely lessen US influence in the region. He points out that even Israeli officials are worried at the chasm opening between US and European policy on Palestine:

Ynetnews notes the worries of Israeli officials that the solid European support for the Security Council resolution, even in the face of the U.S. veto, indicates a further distancing of Europe from Israel.  They’re even using the B (boycott) word:
State officials warn of political isolation following European nations’ support of Palestinian bid to condemn settlement construction in Security Council. ‘Every tender for settlement construction distances us from Europe.   Some countries boycott Israeli goods and things can deteriorate,’ one official says.
State officials said Saturday that the US veto which prevented a UN condemnation of settlement construction is not a reason for celebrations. “Israel is becoming increasingly isolated from West European countries which consider settlements a red rag [?],” one element said. The senior officials said they do not rule out financial consequences as a result of Israel’s isolation.

Is the Israel Lobby now the greatest existential threat to Israel?

Gush Shalom have published this press release in the light of the lone US veto of the UN Resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
Israel is becoming a liability to the United States, bringing US into the same international isolation into which Israel itself was cast.

The so-called "Israel Lobby", which prevents Israeli misconduct from ever being corrected, is a grave danger to Israel's future.

The vote in the U.N. shows the entire world unanimous in regarding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as manifestly illegal and a major obstacle to any chance of peace. It is clear to the entire world that there is no point to negotiations while the State of Israel is daily creating accomplished facts in the territory which is the subject of negotiations.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, too, are well aware of this. They gave unconvincing excuses for their act of imposing a veto on a highly justified and needed resolution, which all other countries supported. These excuses cannot hide the one and only reason for this illogical vote: the intervention of the government of Israel in American politics, using the power of the so-called "Israel Lobby" in the U.S. Congress.

The veto they were forced to cast should not mislead the Netanyahu government. It is clear for everybody to see that Israel is becoming more and more a liability to the US - bringing the United States into the same international isolation as that into which Israel itself was brought by the actions of its government.

President Obama was well aware that the imposition of the veto will impart additional momentum to settlement construction, that it shattered any remaining chance for resuming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that it causes great damage to the United States' status in an Arab World going through revolutionary upheaval. In Obama's weighing of interests party-politics prevailed once again over what he himself has declared to be the strategic interest of the United States, as well as over the chances of bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by a united effort of the Family of Nations.

It should be stated clearly and unequivocally: the body known as "AIPAC" is not an "Israel lobby", but an anti-Israel lobby, a body which accumulated enormous power which it uses for preventing Israeli ruthless politics from being ever corrected. By thus stifling Israel in a self-destructive mode it helps to destroy the future of Israel, to deny Israel any chance of achieving peace with its neighbors, to push our country deeper and deeper into the abyss of occupation, settlement and racism. It is the duty of all who consider themselves true friends of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, to confront AIPAC and break its power of silencing criticism. This is the only hope for Israel's future.

Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson, 054-2340749

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America

“The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago. Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity … and missed it completely.

 Newsweek's newest columnist, Niall Ferguson, has written a brilliant critique of Barak Obama's failure to catch either the first wave (Iran) or the second even bigger revolutionary wave  (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Jordan) to hit the Middle East since he became president.
In Bismarck’s case it was not so much God’s coattails he caught as the revolutionary wave of mid-19th-century German nationalism. And he did more than catch it; he managed to surf it in a direction of his own choosing. The wave Obama just missed—again—is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East’s most populous country.
In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both—some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”
The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region—Israel and Saudi Arabia—are both disgusted. The Saudis, who dread all manifestations of revolution, are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis, meanwhile, are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness.

All that is missing in Ferguson's article is an acknowledgement of the influence of the Israel Lobby on the US Administration and their clear agenda in the Middle East which prefers US funded compliant dictators to revolutionary Arab democracy.

Ferguson's conclusions expose the stark contrast between Bismark and Obama's foreign policy:
Grand strategy is all about the necessity of choice. Today, it means choosing between a daunting list of objectives: to resist the spread of radical Islam, to limit Iran’s ambition to become dominant in the Middle East, to contain the rise of China as an economic rival, to guard against a Russian “reconquista” of Eastern Europe—and so on. The defining characteristic of Obama’s foreign policy has been not just a failure to prioritize, but also a failure to recognize the need to do so. A succession of speeches saying, in essence, “I am not George W. Bush” is no substitute for a strategy.
Bismarck knew how to choose. He understood that riding the nationalist wave would enable Prussia to become the dominant force in Germany, but that thereafter the No. 1 objective must be to keep France and Russia from uniting against his new Reich. When asked for his opinion about colonizing Africa, Bismarck famously replied: “My map of Africa lies in Europe. Here lies Russia and here lies France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”
Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is. At best, it is in the heartland states of America, where the fate of his presidency will be decided next year, just as Jimmy Carter’s was back in 1980.
At worst, he has no map at all.
 Read the full article here

Monday, 14 February 2011

Why Egypt is a Problem to Christian Zionists

John Hubers has written this insightful analysis for the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism

Christian Zionist leader,  John Hagee, is on record prophesying that Egypt will become the next Iran, meaning, a new head for the many-headed beast that is Islam, and this despite the fact that those who  understand the dynamics of Egyptian history and society (not to mention the way the Egyptian revolution came about)  say that this is not going to happen.  Which underscores why Egypt is a problem for Christian Zionists.

When Hal Lindsey wrote his Christian Zionist potboiler, The Late, Great Planet Earth, in 1969 he spoke with great assurance about the critical nature of the alliance Egypt would make with the Soviet Union in an aggressive move against Israel as a necessary precursor to  the  Second Coming of Christ.  Then Egypt broke relations with the Soviets followed by the later demise of the Soviet Union itself.  By the time Lindsey wrote his next book this scenario was no longer tenable, forcing him  to pin his apocalyptic hopes on another political demon. (which has now more or less become Islam).   

One wonders what Hagee and Lindsey others  like them  are going to do when Egypt and possibly other of the Middle Eastern states Christian Zionists love to villianize in their apocalyptic scenarios, become secular democracies.  Or even worse (from an apocalyptic Christian Zionist perspective) what will they do if a new democratic Egyptian government helps bring about a legitimate peace treaty with Israel, one that leads to the dismantlement of illegal settlements and the creation of a viable Palestinian state on land Christian Zionists insist belongs to the world's Jews.    The point is, what if these events lead to a political settlement that makes the Christian Zionist End Times scenario no longer tenable?   Will Hagee and company continue to raise the apocalyptic flag even when there is no wind to keep it flying?  Or will they simply close up shop, turning their backs on Israel because she didn't keep her side of the apocalyptic bargain? Given that this is the primary basis  upon which Christian Zionists like Hagee  build their support for the Israeli state  (despite Hagee's assertions to the contrary) such a scenario is not beyond possibility. 

Stay tuned.

John Hubers
Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Compassion Project, Wakayamba, Uganda

Compassion Project UG-507, Wakayamba Child Development Centre near Kiwoko, Uganda

This is one amazing place. An oasis of hope in the midst of a sea of grinding poverty, the children at Wakayamba, many of whom are orphans, are well cared for, fed, clothed, educated and above all loved. Wakayama is giving purpose, hope and dignity to these children and their families.

Visit Compassion for more information on how you can sponsor a child.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Israeli Settlers Twin with North American Indians

Mike Huckabee was in East Jerusalem this week justifying the theft of Palestinian land for the illegal Jewish settlements.

Over on Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein reports on the conversation between Huckabee and settler MK Nissim Zeev who had the temerity to claim "We're connected to this land no less than your Indians." Silverstein writes,
In this photo, he’s pictured addressing a settler yeshiva established with the lucre of Miami-based bingo magnate Irving Moskowitz.  Moskowitz is the very one who stole the Palestinian Shepherd Hotel and partially demolished it last week so he can move in some settler families.  I guess no one told Huckabee that this project flies directly in the face of current U.S. policy as does supporting settler thugs guilty of promoting violence and hooliganism against Palestinians and Jews alike.
But I reserve the biggest laugh for Zeev’s recounting of his discussions with his pal, Mike, who the reporter erroneously credits with being a U.S. senator:
I got together with him to pursue two issues: [international] recognition of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and recognition by the UN of Israel with the status of “indigenous.”  It’s unacceptable that after 2,000 years of exile, we are still characterized as “occupiers.”  Since 2007, there are peoples recognized by the UN as indigenous.  The U.S. also recognizes Indians as indigenous and if it won’t return to them their ancestral lands it will offer reparations.  We too require similar recognition.  Our connection to the land appears in the Bible and we are connected to this land no less than the Indians.
In fact, I’d suggest as a terrific photo-op that Mike bring together a settler chief and an Indian chief and they can both compare war stories.  Maybe the settlers can set up shop on a few reservations and teach tribal leaders who to expand their “settlements” by annexing land belonging to white folk, and force the U.S. government to recognize their land thefts.  I’m sure that’ll go over big in Washington.
According to YNet News, Huckabee told reporters the US should be more concerned about Arabs building bombs than Jews building bedrooms.  Standing on the former site of the Shepherds Hotel, demolished to make way for more illegal Jewish settlers, Huckabee must be wilfully blind or culpably naive when he insists,"I don’t see why bedrooms for their children built by Jews on a hilltop in Samaria pose a threat to world peace," "It's the lack of construction that is irrational, not the opposite... Those who aim their rifles at Jewish babies are irrational; the danger is not the weapons, but the hatred behind the weapons."

I couldn't agree with you more Mike - its just the hatred and the weapons are in the hands of your friends the settlers.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Perfect Storm in the Middle East

In a message clearly directed at the Israeli government as much as other former US Allies in the Middle East, US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton predicted that the Middle East is facing a "perfect storm" of unrest and nations must embrace democratic change. According to the BBC, Mrs Clinton said the status quo in the region was "simply not sustainable". She said that transition to democracy could be chaotic but in the end "free people govern themselves best". Read more here

Whether or not Mubarak goes or not, US foreign policy is going to change and that can only be for the better at least for Israelis and Palestinians. Stephen Kinzer writing in Newsweek explains why the U.S. must abandon its self-defeating strategy in the region. In Egypt Protests Show American Foreign-Policy Folly, he writes,
The U.S. keeps Mubarak in power—it gave his regime $1.5 billion in aid last year—mainly because he supports America’s pro-Israel policies, especially by helping Israel maintain its stranglehold on Gaza. It supports Abbas for the same reason: he is seen as willing to compromise with Israel, and therefore a desirable negotiating partner. This was confirmed, to Abbas’s great embarrassment, by WikiLeaks cables that show how eager he has been to meet Israeli demands, even collaborating with Israeli security forces to arrest Palestinians he dislikes. American support for Mubarak and Abbas continues, although neither man is in power with any figment of legality; Mubarak brazenly stage-manages elections, and Abbas has ruled by decree since his term of office expired in 2009.
He concludes,
Accepting that Arabs have the right to elect their own leaders means accepting the rise of governments that do not share America’s pro-Israel militancy. This is the dilemma Washington now faces. Never has it been clearer that the U.S. needs to reassess its long-term Middle East strategy. It needs new approaches and new partners. Listening more closely to Turkey, the closest U.S. ally in the Muslim Middle East, would be a good start. A wise second step would be a reversal of policy toward Iran, from confrontation to a genuine search for compromise. Yet pathologies in American politics, fed by emotions that prevent cool assessment of national interest, continue to paralyze the U.S. diplomatic imagination. Even this month’s eruptions may not be enough to rouse Washington from its self-defeating slumber.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

With God on our Side in Richmond: Wednesday 9th February

Presented by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Richmond and Kingston)
Wednesday 9th February at 7:30pm
Richmond and Putney Unitarian and Free Church Hall
Ormand Street, Richmond, TW10 6TH
(behind the Odeon cinema and near Richmond rail/underground station - see map)
Free admission. Doors open at 7:00pm
You are invited to see the provocative film With God on our Side that explodes the myths of Christian Zionism. With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God's chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel's security as a whole. 

"I dare anyone to see this film and remain unchanged".Steve Haas - VP World Vision USA
"I don’t know of anything quite like it - and I would have to say the church desperately needs it.”
Tony Campolo

See more video trailers from With God on our Side here

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Is Jordan Next?

While all the media attention is on Egypt at the moment, a similar popular uprising in Jordan has led to the King dissolving the government. This from Haaretz
Jordan's King Abdullah has sacked his government in the wake of street protests and has asked his former ex-military adviser Marouf Bakhit to form a new cabinet, an official said.King Abdullah's move comes after thousands of Jordanians took to the streets - inspired by the regime ouster in Tunisia and the turmoil in Egypt - and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms. 
Read more here and on the BBC

The question is - will we see a domino effect? So much for US cultivation of pro-Israeli Arab dictatorships.

Primates Fiddle as the Anglican Communion Burns

Anglican Curmudgeon writes of the recent meeting of Anglican Primates in Dublin,
The documents posted at the close of the recent Primates' Meeting in Dublin tell the story. The takeover of the Instruments of Communion by ECUSA, aided and abetted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is now complete. Anything of substance was carefully avoided at Lambeth 2008; the proposed Covenant itself was derailed at ACC-14 in Jamaica, and then carefully defanged by the newly reorganized Standing Committee; and now the Primates' Meeting has let itself descend into irrelevance -- with the primates of the churches having most of the Anglican Communion's membership absenting themselves, and refusing to prop up the pretense of normalcy any longer.
AC observes:
There is not a word in any of the statements released from Dublin today about the commitment that ECUSA's House of Bishops was supposed to make, and which bishops such as +Bruno, +Shaw and the Presiding Bishop herself have so deliberately flouted ever since -- along with the General Convention of the whole Church. It is abundantly clear, based on the statements from Dublin, that the Primates who gathered there are not going to follow through with their commitments at Dromantine and Dar es Salaam. So ECUSA has prevailed, and will have its way.
Charles Raven has written a considered and penetrating indictment entitled, Dublin and the Art of Dishonest Conversation
We might well ask ourselves what sort of Communion we are in when the chief passion of the Archbishop of Canterbury and those still willing to work with him is for ‘conversation’.  Why this preoccupation with interminable and inward looking dialogue? What about a passion for reaching the lost, for faithful teaching and preaching, for the glory and honour of Jesus Christ? However sincere or even passionate the Primates may feel themselves to be, this is actually ‘dishonest conversation’ which displaces the gospel and is spiritually dangerous. Fundamentally, this is because ‘conversing’ has come to replace ‘confessing’. In my book ‘Shadow Gospel’ I demonstrate how Rowan Williams’ methodology amounts to a  sophisticated redefinition of orthodoxy as a process of dialogue rather than faithfulness to a deposit of faith with its associated church order and morality.
 The faithful Anglican Primates who actually believe and obey the Scriptures and uphold the 39 Articles of the Church of England wisely and rightly absented themselves. I suspect as they continue to do so from future meetings chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, more and more Anglicans will come to realise that the split (for that is what it is) has been caused by another Reformation.

Lighting a candle for the absent Primates in Dublin will not keep the fire of God burning in the rump of the Anglican Communion, it merely expose the darkness at the heart of the structures. "Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple." (Ezekiel 10:18)

The Pentecostal fire of the Holy Spirit is nevertheless burning bright elsewhere.