Categorized | Middle East

Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



Cairo’s first dividend

Feb 14, 2011

Philip Weiss


Did you wonder why Jeffrey Goldberg was beating the Iran nukes bongos again this morning? Because the nightclub might be shutting its doors. Aluf Benn in Haaretz (thanks to Scott McConnell):

On the contrary: [Mubarak’s successor] will listen to Arab public opinion, which opposes a preemptive war against Iran. Israel will find it difficult to take action far to the east when it cannot rely on the tacit agreement to its actions on its western border. Without Mubarak there is no Israeli attack on Iran. His replacement will be concerned about the rage of the masses, if they see him as a collaborator in such operation.


Arab democratization and the future of ‘the only democracy’

Feb 14, 2011

Issa Khalaf


Such a pall of darkness had overtaken the Arab lands for so long that one thought Arabs existed in a permanent malaise, a condition of corruption and authoritarianism, their regimes maintaining a lock down on their subject populations and their mutual borders. It’s as if people slept, awoke, lived, and worked without hope, overtaken by the feeling that they could not even effect their own lives, much less something bigger. The Arab regimes’ lack of imagination in opening up to themselves and to other Arabs across the region, their inability to see that the future lies in economic, political, social cooperation and relations, is staggering, their parochialism, suspicion and fear for their power crippling their ability to respond meaningfully and effectively to the region’s multifaceted challenges.

The main issue was always the absence of citizen participation and representation in the affairs of state and society. In the past two decades, the monopoly of information in the public arena gradually stopped being in the exclusive hands of the state, leading to political culture’s democratization. This is why both the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are inspiring. Hope rekindled was the driving energy and determination of the Egyptian protestors. They saw possibilities. And possibilities ignite the human imagination.

The West, particularly the US was content with the old state of affairs. The lamentation of missing Arab democracy, smugly attributed to Arab/Muslim culture, was a charade to obfuscate the fact that the US in fact required autocrats as lynchpins for its economic and political domination of the region. All the talk about freedom is vacuous, not comporting to actual behavior. The barely cloaked response is one of fear, resentment, and antagonism, for there was not and is not a natural comfort with peoples in weak states managing their own affairs. These, after all, may have their own preferences, interests and needs. But with Egypt, and an American president smart and nuanced enough to understand what he is witnessing, support for mass democratic revolution, for now in Egypt, is better than the alternative if America hopes to maintain influence. Perhaps Egypt may begin to acclimatize Washington to a more imaginative way of dealing with the region. One litmus test will be whether the US suddenly discovers, as they did of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that, after all, Hamas and Hizballah, too, are sociopolitical movements rooted in their societies and not al-Qaida like terrorists. I doubt this, including that US strategic policy centered on Israel will end anytime soon.

The Israelis for their part exist in a universe of their own, so steeped are Israel’s elites and leaders in anachronistic racist stereotypes of Arab culture, which they openly utter, along with fulminating fundamentalist men of the cloth and neo-fascist nut jobs, unaware of how they look, of the degradation of their own humanity. Many if not most Israelis and Jewish-Americans see the Arabs (and Muslims) as a collection of anti-Semitic tribes, ethnicities, sects, and classes bound together only by their hatred of Israel. This crude, stupid thinking is a product of a state-socialized society nurtured on Arab inferiority, violence, backwardness, etc., unable to see the consequences of its own actions or the humanity of the Other.

It is not, of course, that Israelis do not and should not have legitimate security concerns. It is that they must decide what they want: colonization and war or relinquishing occupation, peace and coexistence. Israel cannot ultimately impose its will on the region. Feeling encircled is more a psychological function than a reality. Israel’s ideological foundations require fundamental reconsideration.

Practical considerations for Israeli opposition to peaceful Arab mass resistance and democratization are the fear of a similar Palestinian revolt, which may very well come, of highlighting Israel’s fierce denial of Palestinian human rights and freedom, and of the bankruptcy of the claim that Israel is the Western frontline against violent Arab and Islamic tyranny. The “only democracy in the Middle East” may begin to look not so democratic or innocent after all, undermining the mantra of American-Israeli shared values. A state, a people, convinced of its normality, its historical and moral rightness, cannot possibly fear others’ democratization unless it fears the consequences of its oppression and violence against them. On the other hand, screeching self-righteousness rationalizes all thought, perception, and behavior. Or, perhaps, Israel is concerned that it cannot maintain the status quo, that is, occupation, expansion, and military primacy, its control and coerced cooperation, when dealing with democratic will rather than autocrats. The Mubaraks of the Middle East, having been neutered by treaties and bought off with US aid, sustain Israeli intransigence and belligerence, such as in Gaza and Lebanon. If extremism and instability are not in anyone’s interest, is it wise to bet one’s security interests on repressive despots who give rise to these conditions?  Surely a state that genuinely desires peace on a legal and just basis has nothing to fear, especially from democratic nations, with whom peace is durable.

None of the old ways of perceiving and doing make sense anymore. They are fantasies. A democratic Middle East, unlike the pretend vision of the neoconservatives whose main concern is Israel, is a stable, legitimate region. Do we want transient regimes or permanent political institutions? Do we want friendship of dictators or independent cooperation based on shared interests and values predicated on people’s decisions? Is it really good for US national interest to advocate and support the needs and whims of Israel, which falsely thinks it requires friendly autocrats, keeping their cutthroat rabble under heel, to maintain its security? Arab democracy will be neither a tectonic nor volcanic occurrence for the US or Israel, but a more complex, fluid relationship. Arab liberal democratic sensibility is an antidote to extremism, a tamer of political Islamists who in any case are themselves fragmented, have evolved towards a more pluralistic power sharing orientation. It is the avenue to open borders, enhanced contact between peoples, Israelis and Arabs, the path to familiarity and humanization.

Democracy is the best permanent guarantor of Israel’s peace and security, but only if Zionism understands that ideologically driven expansion, oppression, and regional depredations must end, and an urgent end to occupation without condition take place. Israelis could have had a two state solution over two decades ago, Palestinians and Israelis peacefully coexisting, the Palestinians the gateway to Israeli-Jewish entry into the Middle East, in trade, social and cultural contact, political cooperation, joint efforts to solve ecological problems and security challenges, perhaps increasing integration, over a decade or two, towards a larger regional entity. Muslims can be most forgiving, and even assume the banner of fighting anti-Semitism. I say this with the certainty of a non-Muslim. Yes, this was, is, all possible, realistic for anyone who knows the Middle East and its historical, psychological, and cultural make-up well. Instead, Israel’s elites choose isolation and domination, deliberately creating enemies and staging provocations for war, emphatically rejecting a goal Israelis say they desire to realize, acceptance into the Middle East. The Israeli poet and novelist Yitzhak Laor argues that Israelis vehemently insist on their identity as Westerners and Europeans, juxtaposed to the Arab barbarians. Israel has long been on the path of suicide, its future in jeopardy, so myopic are Israeli elites, so paralyzed by a mixture of trauma, victimhood, and superiority and enabled by Diaspora Jews politically organized on Israel’s behalf.

The intermediate to long-term future does not bode well. Zionism is ideologically and institutionally incapable of a liberal, pluralistic state. Israel has failed to create a tolerant, moral society. It has not brought peace to its people, despite essentially Arab pleading. It has become increasingly isolated. America, relatively or otherwise, is declining—exhausted by the folly of its elites and, partly, by Israeli scheming to have the US fight wars on its behalf—and it will globally retrench. Some scholars argue in 10 years at most. Signs of a collapsing US-imposed order are everywhere in the region. Middle Easterners will always be there, as witness the history of all previous imperial powers. The Palestinians in historic Palestine are growing, perhaps substantially exceeding Israeli Jews in the next 25 years. If the current trajectory persists, the victims, because of potential widespread destruction in the Middle East, will be both Israeli Jews and Palestinians, for this will not end well nor come to a peaceful conclusion. In this historical moment, it’s in the hands of the US and Western powers, but not for much longer.

Picture the following alternative reality yet again: an Israel coexisting with Palestine, working energetically with Arab democratic states and movements to construct the various facets of confederal arrangements, from Egypt to the eastern Mediterranean to Iraq. Supranational institutions to enhance economic cooperation and integration and accommodate the region’s diversity. A popular US, unequivocally in support of Arab democracy, dignity, human rights. The disappearance of global al-Qaida terrorism virtually overnight. This is not only possible, but also eminently realistic. It must first be imagined.

(12 February 2011)


But we don’t live in an ideal world

Feb 14, 2011

Jerome Slater


I’d like to continue a recent discussion at this site on the Jewish state and a possible settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and do so by addressing the very interesting and subtle comment by Shmuel.  (And why don’t you, the excellent Shmuel, identify yourself?)

Shmuel begins by quoting my response to another critic: “I am suggesting that in a Jewish state it would be possible to privilege certain matters of particular concern to Jews, but yet not mean that the Arabs would be treated as second class in all other ways of far greater consequence. You appear to be simply denying such a possibility, but you have provided no analysis of why such a system is impossible.”

Shmuel then writes:

“This was actually the premise of Israel’s declaration of independence, the platform of various political parties and governments throughout Israeli history, and it is an idea still espoused by many Israelis. Yet, it has never worked, de jure or de facto. Furthermore, there is an “us or them” attitude – reflected most grotesquely in the Israeli obsession with the “democratic problem” – that is unlikely to change as long as any sort of preference or privilege is afforded to one group over the other. With a Palestinian state next door, this may even get worse. You are basically talking about nuances of identity and administration that require an incredible amount of good will – far more, in my opinion, than the un-nuanced “one man one vote” approach. As Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist) points out, the part of whatever democratic polity may emerge that will be Jewish will not cease to be so simply because it does not have greater privilege or control than the non-Jewish parts of society. What comes naturally will come naturally, but I believe it is asking for trouble to begin the entire experiment with any kind of declared inequality – even nominal inequality. With regard to Israel continuing to serve as a safe haven for persecuted Jews, I’m convinced (and have heard as much from Palestinians) that a solution is possible, without the need to define Israel as a specifically Jewish state.”

I would like to see Shmuel develop his argument, and I have several queries for him:

       First, you do not appear to reject my argument that in principle there is no inherently irreconcilable conflict  between a formal recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the treatment of its Palestinian citizens as full equals.  Rather, you say that this was the way it was supposed to be, but it hasn’t worked. Does that imply that it can never work?

      Second, if so, what is the alternative?  If I understand your argument correctly, the implication of “the un-nuanced one man one vote approach” that you favor would require a single binational state.  If so, why would you consider that a more realistic alternative than relatively small privileging of Jews in a Jewish state? That a binational state would be morally preferable in an ideal world is not the issue–we don’t live in that world.   If the Israelis won’t grant full equality to a minority currently constituting 20% of a de facto Jewish state, what possibility is there that they would do so if they became a minority in a binational state?

   Third, I agree that the need–or alleged need, if you prefer–for a specifically-defined Jewish state would be greatly and maybe completely alleviated if the Jewish “right of return “ to Israel could be maintained.  Can you develop this?  Has it become part of the negotiating process, even informally?  Would that work even in a binational state?  And if immigration were unlimited for Jews but not for others, why wouldn’t that be an inequality?  And if you concede that it would be, then wouldn’t that undercut the argument that other inequalities–which you agree  might be nominal–cannot be allowed?

Here’s my own bottom line.  Given the history of the Jews, it was necessary to establish a Jewish state, somewhere, and in light of that same history, it cannot be said that the need for a Jewish state—de facto or formal—has definitively ended, for all time. That the creation of that state in Israel in a land already inhabited by another people created an injustice is undeniable, but the dilemma of Zionism—there was an imperative need for a Jewish state, but no place to put it—could and of course should have been mitigated in many ways by the Israelis, none of which they did.

           It’s not too late to mitigate the inevitable injustice to the Palestinians, but given Israeli attitudes,  not to mention the inevitable consequences of more than 80 years of binational conflict, the most that can be expected is an end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state, along the lines accepted by practically everyone, including, it now appears, the West Bank leadership.

           We all know that Netanyahu raised the issue of a formal acknowledgment of Israel as a Jewish state as a pretext to avoid any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but unfortunately the demand apparently has taken on a life of its own among most Israelis.  That being the case, the Palestinians should agree to the demand, but only as part of an overall settlement that created a viable Palestinian state, accompanied by guarantees that the Israelis would now grant fully equal economic and civil rights to the Israeli Arabs.

            This latter argument cannot be refuted by observing that the Israelis have already made that commitment to its Arab citizens and violated it, so what would stop them from doing so in the future? Not much, probably.  But that’s not the point: what is the alternative?  Isn’t it more likely that the Israelis would live up to their principles in conditions of peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole, than under the current circumstances?

            To conclude: we live in an imperfect world, full of injustices, tragic dilemmas, and circumstances we can’t control.  There is no perfectly just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even in principle, let alone in practice.   If those who rightly abhor Israeli policies give up on a two-state settlement in favor of a binational state that under all present and foreseeable circumstances is pure fantasy, they will get nowhere at all.    


‘Newsweek”s ‘new columnist’ slings caliphate tripe

Feb 14, 2011



This is hilariously stupid, from Niall Ferguson, Newsweek’s “new columnist.” I hear he’s going out with Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Last week, while other commentators ran around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hyperventilating about what they saw as an Arab 1989, I flew to Tel Aviv for the annual Herzliya security conference. The consensus among the assembled experts on the Middle East? A colossal failure of American foreign policy….

These were [Obama’s] words back in June 2009:

America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Those lines will come back to haunt Obama if, as cannot be ruled out, the ultimate beneficiary of his bungling in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains by far the best organized opposition force in the country—and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Sharia.

They hate us because of our freedom?

Feb 14, 2011

Philip Weiss


King County, WA, is being sued by the Seattle Mid East Awareness Campaignbecause it would not let Israeli War Crimes ads go on the sides of buses. From the Post-Intelligencer account, it sure sounds like the county was manipulated, or that it allowed itself to be manipulated. The P-I:

King County worried about civil disobedience, violence and even “terrorist activity” if ads critical of Israel ran on the side of Metro buses, a federal judge was told Monday.

But an attorney for a group that wanted to run ads that said “Israeli War Crimes Your Tax Dollars At Work” said the county’s fears were overblown and that it had allowed controversial messages to run on buses before…

The County couldn’t fully quantify the number of complaints and threats, something [Seattle MidEast Awareness Campaign attorney Jeffrey] Grant seized on. He said he only identified 37 threatening e-mails. He also said only about 20 members of the county’s bus drivers’ union complained – out of about 4,000 active members.

[County attorney Endel] Kolde said the furor over the ads had been referenced on a website run by Hamas, the Palestinian group that has been classified a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.


Everyone in the Middle East deserves rights except Palestinians

Feb 14, 2011

Philip Weiss


Hillary Clinton is cheerleading the protesters in Iran, as she failed to do in Egypt. This is the same secretary of state who can say nothing about jailed protesters in Palestine, and unending settlements, and uprooting of Palestinian villages. Clinton:

“We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunities that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize.”


Neo-Cons: Egypt shows Bush as prophet and the demise of ‘Arab Exceptionalism’

Feb 14, 2011

David Samel


The people of Egypt have toppled their dictator, which surely ranks among the most remarkable and wonderful human achievements in memory. However, every significant event is an occasion for idiotic and offensive commentary, and this has been no exception. Prominent members of the neo-con community have declared that the Egyptian people should acknowledge a debt of gratitude owed to … George W. Bush.

Yes, it seems that Egyptians were only fulfilling the wise prophecy made by that visionary more than seven years earlier. Of course, these same neo-cons previously operated as though poverty, corruption and tyranny for 80 million people was a small price to pay for their tormentor’s loyalty to Western “values.” Now they claim it is their progressive philosophy that deserves credit. Take Elliott Abrams, whose avoidance of a well-deserved lengthy prison sentence would have been far more tolerable had he not remained a high-profile commentator and Bush Administration official. Here’s what Abrams had to say during the demonstrations:

In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question: “Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?” The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events, have affirmed that the answer is no and are exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism. Arab nations, too, yearn to throw off the secret police, to read a newspaper that the Ministry of Information has not censored and to vote in free elections.

Here’s what Abrams doesn’t say. Bush delivered this speech in November, 2003, about eight months after the US-led invasion of Iraq by the coalition of the bullied and bought. It already was quite clear that the WMD’s we had been promised were not going to surface. Having lost their casus belli, Bush & co. were scrambling for a replacement, and the cause of Arab democracy was tried on for size: “Sure, we thought Saddam had WMD’s, but even if we were honestly mistaken, we toppled an evil dictator who was oppressing 25 million people.” Those who opposed the war were excoriated for their love of Saddam and insensitivity to freedom for the peoples of the Middle East. The anti-war crowd was portrayed as quasi-racists who thought Arabs were not equipped to function under democracy, when their real position was that the U.S. could not successfully impose “democracy” by bombing, invasion and occupation. Bush faced a small dilemma in extolling the virtues of Arab democracy. He did not want to offend the tyrannical Arab regimes that were recipients of lavish financial and/or diplomatic support from the U.S., including Egypt and the Bush family favorite, Saudi Arabia. Problem solved! With a wink and a nod to his Arab allies, Bush signaled that he was not really serious about spreading the dangerous notion of democracy throughout the region. According to the Washington Post:

[Bush]praised the governments of Egypt, which said “should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East,” and Saudi Arabia, which he said is “taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections.”

Yes, that is the same article discussing the same speech that was linked by Abrams as support for his thesis of Bush as visionary prophet. Abrams actually exalted his former employer as a guiding light of Egyptian democracy based upon a speech in which Bush praised Egypt’s dictatorship as a role model.

Bush gets credit for mouthing insufferably paternalistic platitudes that were a transparent pretext for waging aggressive war that would take at least hundreds of thousands of lives and displace millions more. His administration continued to bribe the Mubarak regime with over a billion dollars a year to toe the US line, with full awareness that the tyrant was lining his pockets while keeping Egyptians in misery. Anyone familiar with Abrams could not be surprised at his dishonesty, but it helps to be reminded of the depths of depravity to which such “respected” commentators sink on a regular basis.

Another entry in the rogues’ gallery of odious neocon punditry is this gem from Charles Krauthammer. The celebrated Mr. K sees Bush and Blair as members of the vanguard that refused to accept the “leftist” notion of Arab preference for dictatorship over liberty:

Today, everyone and his cousin supports the ‘freedom agenda.’ Of course, yesterday it was just George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a band of neocons with unusual hypnotic powers who dared challenge the received wisdom of Arab exceptionalism — the notion that Arabs, as opposed to East Asians, Latin Americans, Europeans and Africans, were uniquely allergic to democracy. Indeed, the left spent the better part of the Bush years excoriating the freedom agenda as either fantasy or yet another sordid example of U.S. imperialism. Now it seems everyone, even the left, is enthusiastic for Arab democracy.

For reasons far too lengthy to discuss here, Krauthammer’s hypocrisy is at least as brazen and contemptible as Abrams’s. It is more noteworthy that Messrs. K and A both employ the same phrase — “Arab exceptionalism” – that has now been proven wrong. A quick google check indicates that it may have been coined in these very articles. Obviously, it bears a superficial resemblance to American and Israeli exceptionalism, with one critical difference. Those exceptionalisms are positive, in the sense that the U.S. and Israel are endowed by their Creator with unique authority to interfere in the affairs of other countries, covertly if possibly but with overwhelming militarily force if deemed necessary; to violate international and even domestic law at whim; and to assert a right of “self-defense” that would be considered outrageous aggression if asserted by an “unexceptional” nation.

By contrast, the now discredited Arab exceptionalism, as described by Krauthammer and Abrams, is the quasi-racist assumption (made by “the left”) that Arabs aren’t ready to enjoy the freedom and enlightenment we take for granted. This neo-con rejection of Arab exceptionalism, however belated and insincere, is good news and has broad implications. In the one-state, two-state debate, it is this very notion of Arab exceptionalism that has been trumpeted in response to those who favor a single democratic state of equal citizens. The argument is that while Jews can survive and even prosper as a tiny minority in a country like the US or the UK, how dare anyone suggest that they subject themselves to the will of the majority when they constitute fully 50% of the population, where the other half is, gasp, unwashed masses of Arabs? The Jews would instantly be victimized by the Arab temperament, which includes not only anti-democratic tendencies but a sworn commitment to impose Sharia law on all heretics upon pain of death. (How the Arab Christians have survived all this time remains a mystery.) Jews require sovereignty and self-rule, even if that means rule over others God placed on Jewish land as a bizarre practical joke. Hasbarists love to note that Jewish presence in Palestine has been continuous for thousands of years, as if that somehow justifies the current regime of Jewish dominance. In fact, the continuous Jewish presence is evidence of acceptance of that presence by the majority population, at least until the complications resulting from the 20th century concept of Jewish sovereignty requiring ethnic cleansing. Even such enlightened countries as the US and UK might get a bit testy if their Jewish populations demanded a swath of territory designated for Jewish rule. Now, apparently, Krauthammer and Abrams have unwittingly joined the growing one-state bandwagon. By throwing overboard the negative concept of Arab exceptionalism, they have removed any objection to the type of one person/one vote system with guarantees of equality for all that we in the “West” take for granted. Whaddya know, Arabs are just like us after all. The logical extension of his newfound faith in universality is that Jews could continue to live and even thrive as equals in an Israel/Palestine and need not insist upon domination and control over the non-Jewish population.

Could this be the beginning of a neo-con wave of conversion to the growing chorus of one-staters? Surely not, but it is one more indication that the miraculous Egyptian revolt is bringing about a sea change in the way the West views all Arabs. Even the neocons are forced to acknoweldge, albeit for cynical reasons, that long-nurtured notions of Arab backwardness are no longer acceptable.



Naomi Klein: Did Goldstone single Israel out?

Feb 14, 2011

Philip Weiss


We’ve been so busy on Egypt we’re still catching up with some other important pieces. Naomi Klein has a great piece about Justice Goldstone in the new Nation magazine. (It’s actually the introduction to our book). In it, she takes on the central criticism of the UN, that it has singled Israel out for criticism, and she does so by citing Goldstone’s lifelong commitment to the principle, Never again.

Israel has no shortage of critics, many of them Jewish. So what was it about Goldstone that ignited this conflagration? The likeliest answer lies in the particular rhetorical techniques Israel’s leaders reliably employ to defend their actions. For decades, Israeli officials have deflected any and all human rights criticisms by claiming that Israel was being unfairly “singled out” by those who claim to care about international law but who look the other way when equally serious crimes are committed by other states. The problem posed by Goldstone was that his record as a judge on the world stage made it impossible for Israel to make this claim with any credibility.

Goldstone began his judicial career as one of a handful of liberal judges serving on the South African bench during the apartheid era. Though required to enforce the country’s brutal discriminatory laws, these judges were also able to chip away at the system from within, helping to loosen the grip of apartheid in its final years. A 1982 ruling by Goldstone, for instance, blocked judges from evicting blacks and “coloreds” from their homes to make way for whites-only neighborhoods without considering whether suitable alternative accommodations could be found, a requirement that made it virtually impossible to enforce the much-hated Group Areas Act. As apartheid weakened, Goldstone began playing a more activist role, exposing a system of extrajudicial death squads within South Africa’s police and military—crimes that eventually came before the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Goldstone’s contribution to building South Africa’s first multiracial democracy eventually took him to the international arena, where he sought justice for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide as chief prosecutor of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. It was here that Goldstone began to dedicate his life to the post-Holocaust pledge of “never again”—never again to anyone. “If future perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes are brought to justice and appropriately punished,” he wrote in a 2001 essay, “then the millions of innocent victims who perished in the Holocaust will not have died in vain. Their memory will remain alive and they will be remembered when future war criminals are brought to justice. And, it is certainly not too much to hope that efficient justice will also serve to deter war crimes in the future and so protect the untold numbers of potential victims.” The judge was always clear that this quest for justice was deeply informed by his Jewishness. “Because of our history, I find it difficult to understand how any Jew wouldn’t instinctively be against any form of discrimination,” he told theJerusalem Report in 2000.

It is this theory of justice—a direct response to the Nazi Holocaust—that Justice Goldstone brought to his work in Gaza in 2009, insisting that his fact-finding mission would examine the crimes committed both by Israelis and Palestinians. For Israel’s leaders it was terrifying when Goldstone took on the Gaza assignment precisely because there was absolutely no way to claim that the judge was “singling out Israel” for special condemnation. Clearly and indisputably, Goldstone was applying the same principles to Israel that he had systematically applied to other countries for decades….

But while Western governments continue to protect Israel from accountability, insisting that economic sanctions are off the table, even welcoming Israel into the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, civil society around the world is filling the gap. The findings of the Goldstone Report have become a powerful tool in the hands of the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which is attempting to pressure Israel to comply with international law by using the same nonviolent pressure tactics that helped put an end to apartheid in South Africa. A new book, The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, will allow many more people to read the text of the report, along with contextualizing analysis. And they will be free to make their own judgments about whether Israel has been unfairly “singled out”—or whether, on the contrary, it is finally being held to account.

One of the most remarkable responses to the report came in January 2010, when a coalition of eleven leading Palestinian human rights groups called on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to investigate Goldstone’s allegations that they were complicit in war crimes—despite the fact that the Israeli government had refused to launch an independent investigation of the far more numerous allegations leveled against it in the report. Theirs was a deeply courageous position, one that points to what may prove to be the Goldstone Report’s most enduring legacy. Although most of us profess to believe in universal human rights and oppose all crimes of war, for too long those principles have been applied in ways that are far from universal. Too often we make apologies for the crimes of “our” side; too often our empathy is selectively deployed. To cite just one relevant example, the Human Rights Council has frequently failed to live up to its duty to investigate all major human rights abuses, regardless of their state origins.


Israel still laying down law for Palestinian police in West Bank

Feb 14, 2011



and other news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers

Israel to build more East Jerusalem homes
JERUSALEM (AFP) 14 Feb — Jerusalem’s municipal council on Monday approved the construction of 120 new homes in the Jewish settlement neighbourhood of Ramot in occupied east Jerusalem, a councillor told AFP … The vote came on the eve of a visit by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has said that east Jerusalem settlement building harms the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Beit Ummar residents say harassed by settlers
HEBRON (Ma‘an) — A small group of armed settlers entered the town of Beit Ummar Sunday night, local sources said, describing a tense scene in the area and closed roads in and out … Town spokesman Mohammad Ayyad Awad said two armed settlers and a few others were walking around the residential area, causing residents to fear leaving their homes.

IOA planning establishment of 19 synagogues in OJ
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC) 14 Feb — The Israeli-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem is planning to build 19 Jewish synagogues in Jabal Abu Ghuneim south of the holy city, Hebrew press reports said on Monday. Ha’aretz quoted inhabitants in the suburb as saying that the decision would mean turning the suburb in the future into a purely Jewish haredi neighborhood.


Palestinian injured in Gaza
GAZA, Feb 14 (WAFA) — Israeli forces shot and injured an 18-year-old Palestinian on Monday while he was collecting gravel north of Gaza Strip, medical sources said. Israeli forces stationed near the fence separating Gaza from Israel opened fire at a group of Palestinians collecting gravel injuring one Palestinian, according to witnesses. Medical sources said that the young Palestinian was shot in the leg and transferred to a hospital in north Gaza. His condition was described as moderate.

Israeli police refuse murder victim Jerusalem burial
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Israeli authorities are still refusing to return the body of a Palestinian murdered in Jerusalem on Friday, relatives of the victim said. Husam Rweidi, 24, was stabbed to death early Friday morning by a mob of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem’s city center. The victim’s cousin Firas Baydoun said Monday that Israeli police summoned Rweidi’s father, Hussein, to the Russian Compound interrogation center in Jerusalem to discuss funeral arrangements. Israeli police told Hussein his son’s body would be delivered to Qalandia checkpoint, and that he must be buried in the West Bank and not in Jerusalem, Baydoun said.

Detention / Incursions

Israel detains two Palestinians during a raid in Hebron
West Bank, (Pal Telegraph) 14 Feb — Israeli forces detained Monday two Palestinian youths  from Hebron in the south of The West Bank. Security sources told that two Palestinians known as Raed El-Shwamra and Ahmed Baruosh,25, were captured after raiding their homes, leading them to an unknown destination. Israeli soldiers also severely beat Osama Ghannam from Al-Tarrama in Hebron as they broke into his house and searched its content. Witnesses told that a group of settlers attacked a house owned by Mazen Masouda in the east of Hebron. Israeli forces also raided Bani Naim and Halhoul towns and several neighborhoods in Hebron and stopped civilians’ vehicles to verify their ID cards.

Hamas: PA detained 4 supporters
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Hamas leaders in the West Bank accused the Palestinian Authority security services Monday of detaining for supporters for political reasons, and called for their release. The four were detained from Hebron overnight, a statement from the Islamist party said.

4 Hebron residents sentenced to lifetime of hard labor
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — A Palestinian Authority court on Monday sentenced four Hebron residents convicted of treason to a lifetime of hard labor, sources in the court told Ma‘an. The sentence was based on Article 110 of the 1960 Palestinian penal code and may be appealed, court officials said.

Activism / Solidarity

Channel 2 covers Bil‘in, Palestinians are nowhere to be seen / Haggai Matar
…I made sure the crew was filming when [Khatib] gave a speech to the protesters at the outset of the demonstration, in the heart of the village, when he spoke about Bil‘in’s solidarity with Jonathan Pollak. I explained to the researchers and the film crew who were with me for the march that it’s important they talk to him, and they did in fact interview him afterwards. Later, at the end of the demonstration, a veteran activist, Wajee Burnat, who was filmed as he received medical treatment, found the film crew and gave a heart-felt speech about his family’s lands which lay on the other side of the fence, explaining that even if the fence is moved as is planned, it will not return all of their lands. But somehow, Khatib, Burnat, and all the other Palestinians just fell aside in the news piece, when it was broadcast last night. The full news item can be viewed here [Hebrew].

Siege / Restriction of movement

Hamas-Fatah rivalry behind Gaza medical shortages
RAMALLAH (IRIN)  14 Feb — The main reason for the worsening shortages of essential drugs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is that the Palestinian Authority ministry of health in the West Bank has not delivered enough drugs and medical supplies to Gaza, according to the World Health Organization, international aid organizations and Gaza health ministry officials … Spokesperson for the PA health ministry Omar Al-Nasser told IRIN $19 million of the PA health ministry’s 2010 budget of $43 million was spent in Gaza. “We refuse to talk to officials from Gaza,” said Al-Nasser. ”

West Bank – Jordan crossing to close Wed a.m.
JERICHO (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — The Palestinian Border Police Administration announced Monday that the Allenby Bridge Crossing and the Al-Karama crossing between the West Bank and Jordan would be closed on Wednesday morning. The closure will affect travelers going in both directions between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on 16 February for what officials said was an Israeli military training exercise.

Zahar to Egypt: Open Rafah crossing to goods, vehicles
JPost 14 Feb — Hamas leader in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahar called on Egypt to provide electricity and water to the Gaza Strip and to open the Rafah Crossing to allow free movement of goods and vehicles to and from the territory , Israel Radio reported on Monday. Zahar said Egypt should open for renegotiation its peace treaty with Israel so that it would be allowed to deploy troops throughout Sinai.

Israel opens 2 crossings for imports
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Israeli authorities informed Palestinian liaison officers in Gaza City that two crossing terminals would be opened for limited goods transport on Monday, with an expected total of 320 truckloads of goods to enter.


Gaza militants fire projectile into Israel
(AFP) 14 Feb — Militants from the Gaza Strip fired a projectile into the Eshkol settlement of southern Israel on Monday, the Israeli army said, but there were no reports of casualties. A military spokesman said it was not immediately clear if the object was a mortar shell or a locally-produced Qassam rockets.

Racism / Discrimination / Repression

‘I said I was from Sudan and was attacked’
Ynet 14 Feb — Ali Alhira, who was stabbed in back and stomach by eight men with skullcaps, recounts moments of horror from his hospital bed. ‘They assaulted me and my brother without any reason, and no one did anything.’ I’m sorry I ever came to Israel, he adds,7340,L-4028142,00.html

Top Israeli intellectuals to state: Probe rabbi’s alleged link to Rabin assassination
Authors, Israel Prize laureates urge the investigation of rabbi Dov Lior, wanted by police for questioning for his support of a book justifying the killing of non-Jews.

Protecting Israel from its citizens / Avirama Golan
Haaretz 14 Feb –The parliamentary investigative panel to examine organizations’ funding sources actually have no interest in questions of legality and constitutionality. All they want is to delegitimize protest and political opinions, and to scare us.

Israeli lecturers urge state to probe university’s alleged anti-leftist policies
Haaretz 14 Feb — Bar-Ilan University faculty members urge Council For Higher Education to examine claims by lecturers that they were denied promotion because of leftist political activities and opinions.

Political developments

Abbas asks Fayyad to form new government
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered his government’s resignation Monday, just months before local and legislative elections are expected to be held … Following the resignation, Abbas asked Fayyad to work to appoint a new cabinet … Officials said at least one new ministry would be created, under the tentative title the Ministry of Civil Society, while seven others would change, including the ministries of health, agriculture, tourism, foreign affairs.

Hamas: PA cabinet shuffle ‘superficial’
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — The Palestinian Authority cabinet shuffle is a “superficial change with no hint of reform,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Monday.

Hamas, Fatah officials say talks could continue
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Hamas leader Ismail Radwan told rival Fatah leader Nabil Shaath that if intentions were genuine, unity talks between the parties could resume. The breakthrough comment came on a national radio broadcast on the Ma’an network, after Shaath told Radwan that the parties shared the concerns put forward by the Islamist party over “understandings reached in the Damascus agreement.”

Arab summit in Baghdad on March 29
CAIRO (AFP) 14 Feb — Arab heads of state will hold their annual summit in Baghdad on March 29, Iraq’s ambassador to the Arab League told reporters on Monday … It will be the first summit of the 22-member body since the resignation of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, who led the regional powerhouse for 30 years.

Abbas: Targeting Qatar over leaked papers over
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree on Sunday, banning local media and officials from abuse and slander of the emir of Qatar and the emirate’s government. The announcement came a day after the resignation of PLO negotiations chief Saeb Erekat, who had made several accusations against the both targets, the most recent of which included allegations that the nation had holdings in companies active in Israeli settlement construction.

Lieberman: I, not Netanyahu, choose Israel’s ambassadors
Haaretz 14 Feb – Foreign Minister rejects reports that Uzi Arad was planning to leave position of national security adviser to replace Ron Prosor as envoy to London.

Friedman: White House disgusted with Israel
Ynet 14 Feb — Senior New York Times columnist describes Israeli cabinet as ‘out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven’; says Jerusalem unable to adjust to changes in Egypt,7340,L-4028189,00.html

Analysis / Opinion

For Palestinian police in West Bank, Israel is still laying down the law / Amira Hass
14 Feb — Head of European mission training PA police acknowledges that in training, everything is done with the approval of State of Israel … “Any equipment we bring in has to be approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. In addition, the police force works under the mental programming of life under occupation. The reality on the ground affects how they see the future. When I meet my counterpart, the head of the Palestinian police force, for example, he is genuinely concerned about the absence of [Israeli] concessions. The absence of concessions makes it difficult to motivate members of his force when they carry out the mission of maintaining law and order…”

Israel and the sudden return of land for peace / Bradley Burston
14 Feb — When the revolution began in Egypt, many in Israel expected it to fail. What is more telling, though, is that so many in Israel quietly wanted it to. … Abruptly, and as a direct result of revolution in Egypt, Land for Peace has returned. Some of the very rightists who for years have pointed to hasty, unilateral Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza as proof that no withdrawal can ever work, that pullouts lead only to war, have changed their tune overnight.


Sunday: 3 Iraqis killed, 12 wounded
Parliament filled several important posts today but failed to vote on the defense, interior and national security portfolios. Meanwhile, at least three Iraqis were killed and 12 more were wounded in new violence. In one incident, Iraq’s first reported self-immolation protest occurred, significantly ratcheting up demonstrations that have taken place in recent days.

Young Iraqis send valentine to leaders
BAGHDAD (AFP) 13 Feb — Young Iraqis are to hold a Valentine’s Day rally on Monday to call on their leaders to love the war-battered country rather than rob its resources, an organiser told AFP. “We do not want Valentine’s Day to be only one day of love but a celebration for reform, democracy, citizenship and freedom,” said Karnas Ali, a young engineer.

Other Mideast / Arab world

Middle East and North Africa rocked by protests
NICOSIA (AFP) 14 Feb — Shock waves from the ouster of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt continued to roll across North Africa and the Middle East on Monday, with peoples long subject to autocratic rule demanding to be heard … Following is a breakdown of events, both current and planned, in the Arabic-speaking world and in Iran.

Food, demography are invisible drivers in Egypt uprising
PARIS (AFP) 14 Feb — Huge population growth and food insecurity count among the factors that fuelled the revolution in Egypt and serve as a caution for other countries facing human and environmental overload, say analysts.

Egypt protests continue in the factories / Hossam el-Hamalawy
Guardian 14 Feb — Egypt’s striking workers won’t entrust the transition to democracy to the generals who were the backbone of the dictatorship

Egypt army orders protesters out of square
(Reuters) 14 Feb — Military delivers ultimatum to dozens of committed demonstrators in Cairo to leave Tahrir Square and let life get back to normal or face arrest,7340,L-4028252,00.html

Egypt presidential hopeful: Peace treaty with Israel is over
Haaretz 14 Feb — Dr. Ayman Nur, a secular and liberal member of the opposition, tells Egypt radio that it would behoove the new government to renegotiate the terms of the Camp David accord.

Libya’s Kadhafi urges refugee ‘march on Palestine’
TRIPOLI (AFP) 13 Feb — Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi on Sunday urged Palestinian refugees to take advantage of current unrest sweeping across the Arab world and stage a march on the Palestinian territories … “This is not a call for war,” Kadhafi said, however, urging Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria to head for “the Palestinian borders, olive branches in hand in a sign of peace.”

Lebanon’s Hariri moves into opposition ranks
BEIRUT (AFP) 14 Feb — Six years after the murder of his father, Lebanon’s outgoing premier Saad Hariri was Monday to announce a shift into opposition ranks after Hezbollah forced the collapse of his frail government.

US honors Hariri memory, backs tribunal
(AFP) 14 Feb — President Obama says any attempt to interfere with probe into former Lebanese PM’s murder or fuel tensions within Lebanon ‘must not be tolerated’,7340,L-4028144,00.html

‘Hatred is nothing more than cowardice’ (groovin on Egypt with Cornel West)

Feb 14, 2011

Philip Weiss


Below are some of Cornel West’s wonderful facebook posts on Egypt. The man got it. They begin January 25 and continue up through the toppling of Mubarak. (If you want to harsh the buzz a little, just compare them to liberal hawk Jeffrey Goldberg calling the revolution “a military coup” that will bring dangerous engagement of the Muslim Brotherhood, or David Frum, saying that the revolution was not representative of the people.)(This post was outlined by Ibn Tufayl). West:

 I give great tribute to the incredible courage of my precious Egyptian brothers and sisters calling for an end to the ugly US-backed tyranny of Mubarak. When I gave the Edward Said lectures in Cairo Egypt three years ago, I compared Mubarak to a contemporary pharaoh.and as a follower of Martin Luther King, I say to all pharaohs, “Let my people go!”January 29

Shame on President Obama and Secretary Clinton for their centrist rhetoric when we all should be extremist for LOVE and JUSTICE! To my dear sister Mona Eltahawy, God be with you in your magnificent eloquence in the midst of this historic crisis. Long live the dignity and decency of my Egyptian brothers and sisters in their quest for a Democratic Egypt! January 29

It takes courage to ask – how did I become so well-adjusted to injustice? The courage to love is one of the preconditions to thinking critically. It takes courage to shatter conformity and cowardice. Hatred at its worst is nothing more than a form of cowardice. It takes courage for folk to stand up (RE: Jan. 25. 2011)…. When ordinary people wake up, elites begin to tremble in their boots.February 2

My deep love goes out to my precious and priceless Egyptian brothers and sisters. My tears flow in deep solidarity with you in the face of an embarrassing 30 years of U.S. backed tyranny in Egypt. Let us pray that the Obama administration is effectively more courageous in this matter. February 5

The precious tears of my dear Egyptian brother Wael Ghonim – one of the many heroes of the Egyptian revolution – bring more tears to my eyes. This is a great turning point in our new 21st Century in the struggle for democracy. How I wish I could be in Liberation Square and stand with my brave brothers and sisters against the 30 year US-backed tyranny. Like Reagan in his equivocal stance on apartheid in South Africa – with only lip service to those struggling and past commitments to those who rule, Obama has yet to take an unequivocal stance on behalf of the suffering yet dignified Egyptian people. Again, shame on him. For me, the greatest tribute to those struggling in authoritarian Egypt is this: Martin Luther King, Jr. smiles on you from the grave, your courage resurrects his spirit! This is a historic moment for the struggle for democracy… when you have everyday people who are willing to die. February 8

Mubarak is gone…Let the people reign! A democratic Egypt is now in the making… Hallelujah! February 11, 2011

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