Klein: How war was turned into a brand

Naomo Klein on Israel's military-industrial complex:
Israel's economy isn't booming despite the political chaos that devours the headlines but because of it. This phase of development dates back to the mid-90s, when the country was in the vanguard of the information revolution - the most tech-dependent economy in the world. After the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, Israel's economy was devastated, facing its worst year since 1953. Then came 9/11, and suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack, and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners. Within three years, large parts of Israel's tech economy had been radically repurposed. Put in Friedmanesque terms, Israel went from inventing the networking tools of the "flat world" to selling fences to an apartheid planet. Many of the country's most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel's status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of 24-hour-a-day showroom, a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war. And the reason Israel is now enjoying supergrowth is that those companies are busily exporting that model to the world. Discussions of Israel's military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country - US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank, and British companies supplying parts for F-16s. Overlooked is Israel's huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2bn in "defence" products to the United States - up dramatically from $270m in 1999. In 2006, Israel exported $3.4bn in defence products - well over a billion more than it received in American military aid. That makes Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain. Much of this growth has been in the so-called homeland security sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2bn, an increase of 20%. The key products and services are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems - precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories. And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn't threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the "global war on terror".
There is a more sophisticated, highly original version of this thesis in the work of Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, notably in their groundbreaking book The Global Political Economy of Israel.
Read More

World Refugee Day: Help Iraqis

10050 Image1 Ri Wrd3-1

Click on the logo above to learn more about a campaign to get the White House to do more to help Iraqi refugees, the fastest growing refugee crisis worldwide. Refugees International is asking people to call the White House to ask them to increase the aid to Iraqi refugees to $290 million. Remember that, as we noted recently in a post on a recent Brooking report on Iraq's refugee crisis, the US has given refugee status to only about 800 Iraqis since 2003, although new legislation will increase that to a still measly 7,000.
Read More

Notes on Gaza

Some readers have written to ask why I am not writing about the recent events in Palestine. The main reason, aside from not having internet access over the last few days, is that I am not there and do not follow events there very closely. For fresh analysis and reporting, you could do no better than head over to my friend Charles Levinson's Conflict Blotter, which is shock-full of interesting tidbits such as this timeline of the recent clashes. I have some thoughts on how this links in to bigger regional issues, but that will have to wait. I actually think the most important document you can read to understand the current crisis is Alvaro de Soto's recently leaked UN report, revealed by the Guardian, in which he illustrates the sheer cravenness of US and Israeli policies towards the conflict, basically suggesting that the UN (and European countries) should withdraw from the sham that is the Quartet. The report is basically explosive, and considering this is widely believed to be one of the most important conflicts on the planet, it is an extremely important story. It has been fairly widely reported by the European press since the Guardian broke it. I just checked the websites of the New York Times and the name "Alvaro de Soto" does not show up at all in the past week; the Washington Post printed a story on page A16 last Thursday (I subscribe to the Post's daily mailing list and to its mideast RSS feed and did not see it). Below are clippings from a variety of sources, some very anti-Palestinian, but they illustrate well one thing: that the leaders of Fatah, by and large, may have not had control of a real state but were cut from very much the same cloth as most other Arab leaders. Hamas Takes Over Gaza Security Services - New York Sun
World Net Daily's Aaron Klein first broke the story of the document stash yesterday, publishing an interview with a spokesman for the Hamas allied Popular Resistance Committee, Muhammed Abdel-El. He told Mr. Klein, "The CIA files we seized, which include documents, CDs, taped conversations, and videos, are more important than all the American weapons we obtained the last two days as we took over the traitor Fatah's positions." A CIA spokesman yesterday declined to comment. But a former CIA operations officer who worked in the Middle East, Robert Baer, said it was a major blow to Fatah, the party founded in 1966 by Yasser Arafat that America sought to prop up during the Oslo process as the CIA and Egyptian security services trained its members in the hopes that they would take action against jihadists such as Hamas. "They are going to identify Fatah with the CIA. Fatah equals CIA is not a good selling point. They are going to show a record of training, spying on Hamas, that's about it. It's what we all knew. But the point is they have undermined the secular Palestinians for a long time. No one wants to be publicly associated with the CIA in the Middle East, except for maybe the Albanians," Mr. Baer said. Mr. Baer said that most of the training the CIA provided in the Oslo years, aid codified in the Wye River Accords in 1998 between America, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was fairly low level. "What we did was throw money at them. We give them dumb training, soft interrogation techniques, reports writing. All this stuff is a total waste of time. They will never get to the point where they do anything more than transmit a report verbally to someone they trust. That is just the culture."
PA Chairman Abbas issues decree outlawing Hamas armed militias - Haaretz
According to the current plan, Abbas will continue to refuse to negotiate with Hamas or to reach a compromise with the movement's leadership. This weekend he turned down a request to meet with Khaled Meshal. The emergency cabinet of Salam Fayad is sure to obtain broad Arab and international support. Since it contains no Hamas members, the boycott against the PA will be lifted and it will receive financial and diplomatic support from the whole world. This weekend, representatives of Abbas asked a number of non-partisan Gazan figures to join the new cabinet but so far none has agreed. The blockade of the Gaza Strip will continue, under the plan framed by Abbas. Israel and Egypt will provide a small amount of humanitarian aid to Gaza residents, but the government of Ismail Haniyeh - dissolved by Abbas - will continue to be viewed as illegitimate in the eyes of the international community. Gaza's borders will be nearly hermetically sealed, with only limited emergency supplies and intermittent water and electricity provided by Israel. The intention is to maintain the siege on Gaza for a few weeks - not to defeat Hamas or to reoccupy the strip, but to pressure Hamas into agreeing to a compromise according to terms dictated by Abbas. Abbas sought and received Egypt's blessing for this plan, in contrast to Cairo's firm and public opposition to Abbas' Plan B, which called for introducing an Arab or international force into Gaza. The Egyptians explained that such a move would provoke resistance from Hamas and would turn Gaza into Baghdad.
Abbas aide: Fayad completed formation of emergency gov't - Haaretz
Hamas' Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal said Friday his group does not want to seize power in the Palestinian Authority, and that the group recognizes Abbas as the head of the PA. "Hamas does not want to seize power ... We are faithful to the Palestinian people," Meshal said, promising to help rebuild Palestinian homes damaged in the months of bloody infighting. "What happened in Gaza was a necessary step. The people were suffering from chaos and lack of security and this treatment was needed," Meshal continued. "The lack of security drove the crisis toward explosion." "Abbas has legitimacy," Meshal said, "There's no one who would question or doubt that, he is an elected president, and we will cooperate with him for the sake of national interest."
How Hamas turned on Palestine's 'traitors' - The Observer

Discreetly, Hamas had forged links with members and former members of Fatah with whom it was happy to deal. It had drawn up a list of buildings belonging to the security forces of Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to be overrun, and lists of Fatah loyalists it blamed for the murder of Hamas members. Finally, it had briefed journalists on the Hamas-controlled television channel al-Aqsa TV on the message to broadcast to Gaza's 1.4 million people to reassure them, as the fighting turned from clashes to an all-out assault on Fatah-held positions.

It was a message that would dramatically underline the nature of last week's assault. It was not an attack on Fatah, the broadcasts would insist, or Gaza's people. Instead, those under attack, the supporters of Gaza's head of the Preventive Security Force, Mohammed Dahlan, were 'collaborators with Israel and the US and traitors'.

What they did not say, but what was understood by all Gazans, was that the leadership of Hamas has a more personal grudge against the deeply unpopular Dahlan. Specifically, they blamed him for ordering a series of killings of members of Hamas that in their view had fuelled the cycle of violence that stepped up after Hamas swept Fatah from power in January last year.

The reality is that the only people who are really behind Salam Fayyad are the European and US diplomats who have long sung his praises behind the scenes to any journalist prepared to listen. So yesterday President Bush and the other members of the Quartet got what they wanted. Abbas trooped dutifully in to see the US consul-general in Jerusalem with Mohammed Dahlan, the man widely credited with beginning the cycle of violence in Gaza, in tow. And when they emerged, the boycott of US monies to the Palestinian government had been lifted.

Israeli official: Dayton failed - Jerusalem Post

As security coordinator between Israel and the PA, US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton was responsible for training and financing equipment used by the Presidential Guard, Abbas's elite force that was in charge of the Rafah and Karni crossings. During last week's fighting in Gaza, the forces proved their ineffectiveness and together with the rest of the Fatah military and political wing, failed to demonstrate a real opposition to Hamas.

"Dayton's plan completely failed," a senior defense official said. "The Presidential Guards which he was responsible for were easily run over by Hamas."

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a noted analyst of Palestinian politics. We were talking about the dynamics of the Hamas-Fatah fighting. I asked him what he thought would happen if Dahlan is assassinated. He paused, thought a while, smiled and then answered: "Palestine is liberated."
Read More

Iraqi refugees

The Brookings Institution put out a report last week that describes in detail the situation of the 1 to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees currently living in Syria (there are an estimated 2 million in the region, in addition to 2 million internally displaced). The report discusses the reasons refugees are leaving Iraq: getting caught in fighting between US and Iraqi forces and insurgents (200,000 refugees arrived after the fall of Fallujah in 2004); fleeing sectarian violence; fleeing crime, violence and the impossibility of making a livelihood generally; and being in need of medical services that are no longer available in Iraq. The report describes the ways in which refugees travel to Syria, and their living conditions there. It points out that while many Iraqis arrive with some resources and skills, and can count on support from relatives across the border, many of them are running out of money (and turning to child labour and prostitution) and that their numbers may yet continue to swell dramatically. The Syrian goverment, for all its (countless, enormous) faults, has been by far the most generous host to Iraqi refugees, letting them in easily and giving them access to state health care and education. The Syrian government has been much more generous than, say, the American government, which has given refugee status to about 800 Iraqis since 2003. But we just passed legislation that will allow us to resettle "nearly 7,000." So we're doing our bit.
Read More

State Department: Human trafficking report

Most of the Gulf countries have made it onto the Tier 3 list (those countries with the worst record in human trafficking, according to the report) of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2007: Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. UAE is on the Tier 2 watch list. So is Egypt. From the report:
Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and other Eastern European countries to Israel for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and may be a source for children trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Reports indicate that some of Cairo’s estimated 1 million street children — both girls and boys — are exploited in prostitution.
I'm surprised at this large number of street children in Cairo. Does anyone have other sources on this?
In addition, wealthy men from the Gulf reportedly travel to Egypt to purchase “temporary marriages� with Egyptian women, including in some cases girls who are under age 18, often apparently as a front for commercial sexual exploitation facilitated by the females’ parents and marriage brokers.
What I also heard is that Cairo's chronically underfunded state-run orphanages are using this to make some extra money (or their employees). The full report can be downloaded here.
Read More

The "Gay Bomb"

You really can't make this stuff up:
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsequently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb." . . . As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior." The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon. "The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistably attractive to one another," Hammond said after reviewing the documents. "The notion was that a chemical that would probably be pleasant in the human body in low quantities could be identified, and by virtue of either breathing or having their skin exposed to this chemical, the notion was that soliders would become gay," explained Hammond.
Read More

House moves to cut Egypt military aid by $200m

Potentially a major development in US-Egypt relations, if it holds up:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced legislation aimed at pressuring Egypt to improve its human rights record by withholding some military aid until progress is made. The House Appropriations Committee approved a wide-ranging foreign aid bill for next year that would hold back $200 million in military funds for Egypt until the close U.S. ally takes steps to curb police abuses, reform its judicial system and stop weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.
This appears for now to be essentially a threat, albeit a highly symbolic one:
"The $200 million cut is substantial," said Rep. James Moran (news, bio, voting record), a Virginia Democrat on the House panel. "Our ally is not upholding the principles that define us." Rep. Nita Lowey (news, bio, voting record), a New York Democrat who will steer the foreign aid bill through the House, said she hoped Egypt would quickly get the message from Congress and make progress on human rights matters before lawmakers finish work on the legislation later this year.
I was in Washington a few weeks ago and interviewed several Egypt-watchers there -- including administration officials -- who did not think this would happen, and hence I tend to see this as a threat that is unlikely to actually be implemented. I have also received the same impression from Congressional staffers and other senior American officials I've recently spoken to on the subject. More on this in the morning...
Read More

Announcing Conflict Blotter

Those of you who've read this blog for a few years will remember Charles Levinson, who in 2004-2005 was a regular contributor. Charles left Egypt a couple of years ago and after a stint in Iraq ended up in Jerusalem, where he currently works for the Sunday Telegraph. Over the last week he's set up a new blog of his own at www.conflictblotter.com. It already has some great live reporting from Gaza, where Charles currently is, including coverage of the renewed fighting between Fatah and Hamas:
Protracted firefights raged though the night and are continuing with no let up. We barely slept and were tossed from our beds multiple times by nearby explosions. The windows in the building next door shattered at one point. It’s 7 a.m. now and there is no sign that things are quieting. Loud explosions and the constant rattle of gunfire can be heard from near and far. We’re located just north of Abbas’ compound, and are pinned down for now in our apartment, but what we’re hearing is that this is going on throughout Gaza City and northern Gaza. This is far more than a skirmish. This is a sustained hours long firefight. Unlike past infighting here, this fighting, for the first time, seems to have engaged the full strength and firepower of the Palestinian security services. The latest bit of news we’ve heard is that Fatah spokesman Maher Mikdad, with whom we had an interview skedded for today, is caught in his house which is surrounded and under siege by Hamas.
Bookmark it now!
Read More

Norman Finkelstein denied tenure

I don't really have anything to add to what Richard Silverstein has written on the subject. It's sad for Finkelstein, sad for DePaul University, and sad for academia generally speaking, especially as it is generally recognized that Finkelstein is an accomplished scholar and it appears he was denied tenure essentially because of his personality. Finkelstein is an aggressive debater, some people (even among his ideological allies) may think he is too polemical but I think that kind of aggressivity is essential when the party he opposes (Alan Dershowitz and his ilk) had the resources to wage entire campaigns of obfuscation and slander. See also Kafr al-Hanadwa and of course Finkelstein's own website, where there is a statement of support by noted Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg as well as an interesting interview on the 1967 war I recently listened to. And of course, if you haven't already, read his books:
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, New and Revised Edition The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, New Edition 2nd Edition Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History
P.S. Can someone explain to me whether this means it is unlikely Finkelstein will be hired anywhere else? Can a campaign be organized for him to be hired elsewhere? Perhaps in the region, since Finkelstein is interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
Read More

Iraq's war economy

Finally, here’s (part of) the story behind the news: The authors Christopher Parker and Pete W. Moore in the latest MERIP issue analyze Iraq’s war economy and see much of the motives behind the insurgency against the US-led occupation in decades-old gray economic structures that are challenged by the new guys in power.
Throughout the 1990s, most of Iraq’s oil was transported in relatively small tanker trucks—to Jordan and Turkey with dispensation from Washington and undercover to Syria and the Gulf. As the pipelines to Turkey and the Gulf were turned back on in 2003, most of these truckers—many of whom had close ties with, and indeed colleagues in, neighboring countries—were out of a job. Hence, it is not surprising to learn that pipeline attacks “are now orchestrated by [insurgents and criminal gangs] to force the government to import and distribute as much fuel as possible using thousands of tanker trucks.
The authors challenge the mainstream view (and thereby also the whole reconstruction ideology) that in pre-invasion Iraq the state still functioned as a regulatory agent and controlled much of the Iraqi economy.
Washing their hands of any responsibility for the violence that plagues Iraq, they present the insurgency as springing from a yearning for lost domination on the part of groups linked to the Saddam-era state. This is the statist narrative—the idea that Saddam’s regime controlled everything worth controlling before it was overthrown.
Highly interesting are the remarks on the links to Iraq’s neighbors, most notably Jordan:
The political and social histories of modern Iraq and Jordan are bound tightly together. The deep ties between families, tribes, political movements and economic actors across the borders of these two countries have a history that, by and large, has yet to be written.
From the article it also becomes clear that the 2003 invasion merely finished off what was left of the prosperous nation that Iraq was in 1980. The US got most of the job done by sponsoring Saddam in the 80s and engineering UN sanctions in the 90s.
Read More

Abunimah: It's not just the occupation

The great Ali Abunimah has another excellent reflection on the debate around 1967 that cuts through the bullshit:
"Forty years ago today was the last day the citizens of Israel were a free people in their own land," wrote Ha'aretz columnist Akiva Eldar on June 4. "It was the last day we lived here without living other peoples' lives." This sums up the cherished mythology of what is still called the Israeli left and much of the international peace process industry -- that prior to the 1967 war, Israel was pure and on the right path. Had it not "become an occupier" the region would have had a happier history and Israel would be an accepted member of the international community rather than a pariah wearing the "apartheid" label. The exclusive focus on the occupation serves increasingly to obscure that the conflict in Palestine is at its core a colonial struggle whose boundaries do not conveniently coincide with the lines of June 4, 1967. I do not often agree with leaders of the settler movement, but they speak a truth Israeli and American liberals prefer to ignore when they point out that the settlements in Gaza and the West Bank built after 1967 are not morally different from towns and kibbutzim inside Israel's pre-1967 borders. The Israel that was created in 1948 was established on land violently expropriated from ethnically-cleansed Palestinians. Israel has been maintained as a "Jewish state" only by the imposition of numerous laws that maintain the inferior status of its Palestinian citizens and forcibly exclude Palestinian refugees. Even Israelis who condemn the occupation support these racist laws. There is an Israeli consensus that it is legitimate to defend the Jewish state against the so-called "demographic threat" from Palestinians who will be again, as they were prior to 1948, the majority population group in Palestine-Israel despite six decades of Israeli efforts to reduce their numbers with expulsions, massacres and administrative ethnic cleansing. It is the imperative to gerrymander an enclave with a Jewish majority rather than any recognition of Palestinian equality that underpins whatever limited rhetorical Israeli support exists for a Palestinian state.
I would add that's it's also not just about the Palestinians, but about the fundamentally destabilizing role of an uneven regional balance of power that US-Israeli regional hegemony has created over the last half-century.
Read More

CoE report documents rendition program

More fine reporting by Stephen Grey, who literally wrote the book on rendition, about the upcoming Council of Europe findings on the CIA flights in Europe:
Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council's report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons' operations and the identities of some of the prisoners. The council has also established that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Nato signed an agreement with the US that allowed civilian jets used by the CIA during its so-called extraordinary rendition programme to move across member states' airspace. Its report states: "We have sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA's illegal activities on their territories." The council's investigators believe that agreement may have been illegal. . . . The 19-month inquiry by the council, which promotes human rights across Europe, was headed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and former state prosecutor. He said: "What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice." His report says there is "now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania".
Yet another reason I think the EU should have never expanded to include Eastern European countries. Update: Also see HRW's backgrounder on U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror”.
Read More

Shame on you, Tabsir

Without wanting to get into the recent decision by the British Academics' Union to pass a motion encouraging a boycott of Israeli universities and academics (I fully support this show of solidarity which remains, after all, optional and provides a course of action for selective boycott of academics who are in bed with the Israeli security establishment), I was rather dismayed to see this critic of the boycott use a picture of Nazi persecution of Jews in the 1930s. It's especially sad as this site, Tabsir, often has great posts on things Middle Eastern by well-known specialists in their fields. So what is that picture saying? That the majority of British academics who voted in favor of the boycott are Nazis? That they are anti-Semites? This is typical of the use of alleged anti-Semitism to deflect justified criticism of Israel, which after all has carried a brutal occupation for many decades. I expect it from Likudnik hacks like Abraham Foxman and the ADL, but not of Tabsir.
Read More

Tony Blair, the dictators' sharmouta

Tony Blair on the recent allegations that Saudi Prince Bandar pocketed a $2 billion commission on an arms deal with BAe:
"This investigation, if it had it gone ahead, would have involved the most serious allegations in investigations being made into the Saudi royal family," Blair said at a meeting of the Group of Eight nations in Germany. He added that, "My job is to give advice as to whether that is a sensible thing in circumstances where I don't believe the investigation incidentally would have led anywhere except to the complete wreckage of a vital strategic relationship for our country. . . . Quite apart from the fact that we would have lost thousands, thousands of British jobs."
This a week after Tony Blair heaps praise on the regime of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya as a major oil deal is signed with BP. Corruption, the Arab world's number one export. In fact when you think about it, between the Arabs' petrodollars and the Israelis' various mafias (diamonds, ecstasy, weapons, etc.), this region is probably the world's nexus of sleaze. Update: This story has more details on the Bandar-BAe-Blair scandal. And a note: sharmouta is Arabic slang for slut or whore.
Read More

MERIP roundtable on 1967

MERIP has a roundtable of Israeli and Palestinian views on 1967. I thought this point by Samera Esmeir was particularly worth highlighting:
1967 was a year of setback for the Palestinians not only because Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also because the new occupation effectively set the older one of 1948 in stone. As political attention quickly turned to the newly occupied areas, it became more difficult to mount challenges to the earlier stages of the occupation, or even to name them occupation. The “occupied Palestinian territories” became the name of the Palestinian areas occupied in 1967, not in 1948. While Israel, in many of its official narratives, refers to the events of 1948 as occupation, the reference to 1948 as occupation dropped from the international vocabulary, effectively naturalizing the existence of Israel and concealing the violence constitutive of its creation. Since then, attempts constantly to “catch up” with new forms of Israeli subjugation shaped much of Palestinian politics, as Israel consistently raised the stakes on its dispossession of the Palestinians. If the settlements and green areas were the main vehicle for dispossessing Palestinians and confiscating their lands, soon the networks of highways and the separation wall became new mechanisms. But among many Palestinians, this “catching up” produced tragic politics characterized by amnesia. For, if the Palestinians were expected to respond systematically to the newly enacted empirical ends of the occupation, they had to suspend their responses to previous ends. The trouble was that new ends were always being introduced.
Chilling is the great Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani's look at what we might be commemorating on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war:
June 5, 2007 may well be the last time we commemorate a further decade of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the rate things are going -- the accelerated colonization of West Bank territory most visibly represented by the wall that Israel is building, and unprecedented levels of international neglect/support for such policies -- these are unlikely to remain occupied territories for much longer. Prolonged military occupation lasting successive decades was an untenable proposition to begin with, and has been sustained only by international law, the refusal of the international community to formally recognize Israel’s territorial claims and, most pertinently, the presence and resistance of the Palestinians in the form of individual communities and, until recently, a coherent national movement. By 2017 that is likely to change. How the international community seeks to accommodate Israel’s claims to strategic portions of the West Bank while maintaining effective control over the rest, and how the Palestinians and others in the region will respond, are interesting questions. The answers are likely to combine elements of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries: the colonialism and ethnic structures of the first, the formal adherence to independence of the second, and the belief of the third that advanced technology can resolve the political challenge resulting from the inherent contradictions of the first two. Absent drastic changes, remaining doubts about the feasibility of a two-state settlement are also going to be removed in the coming years. Many believe the point of no return has already been passed. Most view it as imminent. The one certainty is that the two-state settlement paradigm is not going to be replaced by that of a secular democratic state -- desirable as the latter may be. Rather, the more likely scenario is a regression toward existential conflict, on a more bloody scale than seen thus far and probably with a greater regional dimension than in recent decades.
As a generally pro-Oslo person in my student days in the 1990s, I increasingly believe that another regional war over Israel is not only likely but perhaps the only way to resolve the conflict. But because of the festering occupation and international irresponsibility towards Israel (from both the US and EU), it is probably going to be resolved in a bloodier and more radical way than any of the previous conflicts over that wretched piece of land.
Read More

Egyptian pilot remembers 1967

Interesting interview from the BBC of a former Egyptian pilot remember his dogfight with Israeli jets on 6 June 1967. Note that in terms of the technology used, it was basically Egyptians flying slower Soviet MiGs against Israelis in French Mystere and the newer Mirage jets. What comes across in this as in so many Egyptian testimonies is the inexcusable degree of unpreparedness for the attack, despite the high tensions at the time. No wonder the pilot has this to say:
The air force felt very angry and humiliated by this war. Once, during the war, two of my fellow officers had to stop me banging my head repeatedly against a pair of concrete pillars at our air base. Another time, still during the war, I and some others were sent to stay in a hotel in Cairo, but the waiter in the hotel was too sympathetic and even placed his hand on my shoulder to comfort me. This was so embarrassing, we asked to be taken back to the base.
Read More

Iraqi oil workers on strike

Between some of the most preposterously neo-liberal economic laws anywhere in the world and attempts to give oil companies some of the most generous formulas for production sharing, Iraq has suffered plenty at the hands of US-led efforts to remodel its economy. Now it's the Maliki government that's threatening to come down "with an iron fist" on striking oil workers:
WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- On the third day of an oil strike in southern Iraq, the Iraqi military has surrounded oil workers and the prime minister has issued arrest warrants for the union leaders, sparking an outcry from supporters and international unions. "This will not stop us because we are defending people's rights," said Hassan Jumaa Awad, president of IFOU. As of Wednesday morning, when United Press International spoke to Awad via mobile phone in Basra at the site of one of the strikes, no arrests had been made, "but regardless, the arrest warrant is still active." He said the "Iraqi Security Forces," who were present at the strike scenes, told him of the warrants and said they would be making any arrests. The arrest warrant accuses the union leaders of "sabotaging the economy," according a statement from British-based organization Naftana, and said Maliki warned his "iron fist" would be used against those who stopped the flow of oil. IFOU called a strike early last month but put it on hold twice after overtures from the government. Awad said that at a May 16 meeting, Maliki agreed to set up a committee to address the unions' demands. The demands include union entry to negotiations over the oil law they fear will allow foreign oil companies too much access to Iraq's oil, as well as a variety of improved working conditions. "Apparently they promise but they never do anything," Awad said, confirming reports the Iraqi Oil Ministry would send a delegation to Basra. "One person from the Ministry of Oil accompanied by an Iraqi military figure came to negotiate the demands. Instead it was all about threats. It was all about trying to shut us up, to marginalize our actions," Awad said. "The actions we are taking now are continuing with the strike until our demands are taken in concentration."
While you might say Iraq has bigger problems than labor woes at the moment, and that keep the oil flowing should be a national priority. Fine. But then how about giving oil workers their fair dues and not resorting to the thuggish violence characteristic of the previous regime? Or is this about keeping them off the negotiating table for the already controversial oil law?
Read More

Mutawwa reined in?

After the jump is a story from the FT about pressure being brought on the mutawwa (religious police) in Saudi Arabia -- worth reading. 5 June 2007 - Financial Times: Saudi religious police face pressure By Roula Khalaf in London and Andrew England in Cairo Published: June 4 2007 17:56 | Last updated: June 4 2007 17:56 Saudi Arabia’s religious police are under un­preced­ented pressure amid accusations that their over-zealous pursuit of moral compliance includes beating suspects, sometimes to death. According to Saudi newspapers and human rights defenders, four cases across the kingdom are under investigation, following allegations of violence over the past month by the so-called Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The role of the religious police is at the centre of the struggle between liberals and conservatives in a country where the regime derives its legitimacy from its role as guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites. The commission acts independently from the regular police to enforce the conservative kingdom’s moral code, which includes strict segregation between men and women. Its mandate, however, is broad and its members often enjoy the protection of the powerful religious establishment. Among recent cases is that of a man who was allegedly beaten to death in the capital, Riyadh, after a raid on his home on suspicion that he was dealing in alcohol. In the north-western region of Tabuk, a man died of what the authorities said was a heart attack while he was detained by the religious police for apparently letting into his car a woman who was not a relative (another offence in Saudi Arabia), His family is asking for an autopsy, suspecting he had been physically abused. Last week, a woman fell from the fourth floor of a building in the Red Sea city of Jeddah as the religious police were raiding the premises. On Monday the Okaz daily reported that an investigation had been launched in Najran, in the south of the country, after a student alleged he had been beaten by the religious police for having inappropriate pictures in his wallet. The cases appear to be part of a pattern of abuses. In its first report last month, the National Society for Human Rights, a newly formed government-patronised body, criticised the behaviour of the religious police, citing allegations of beatings and a failure to stick by the rules. “There was a feeling that they were exceeding the limit, that they were doing things without proper orders from the government,” one human rights official said. The official doubted, however, that serious action would be taken to rein in the mutawa’a, as the religious police is known in Arabic, pointing out the limited restrictions imposed after a 2002 fire at a girls’ school that left 14 students dead. Allegations that the mutawa’a had prevented the girls from leaving the building because they were not sufficiently covered provoked outrage in the media. Some Saudi lawyers are calling for an overhaul of the mandate and the structure of the religious police. Abdelrahman al-Lahem represents a woman he says was “kidnapped” for failing to conform to the all- encompassing black dress code. “It [the mutawa’a] has not been able to adapt to the political and legal changes in the country, where there is more freedom and more rights,” Mr Lahem told the FT. “I’m hoping the pressure it is now under will create a groundswell of public opinion in favour of changes, putting it under the ministry of the interior and defining its mandate. Now its powers are vast, it can stop you for anything.” Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Read More