Archive | May 23rd, 2011

Saudi Arabia: Free Manal al-Sherif.

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“CAIRO — Saudi authorities have re-arrested an activist who defied a ban on female drivers in the conservative kingdom, a security official said Monday.

Manal al-Sherif was accused of “violating public order” and ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.

The 32-year-old al-Sherif launched a campaign against the longtime ban last week by posting a video clip on the Internet of herself behind the wheel in the eastern city of Khobar.

Through Facebook, the campaigners set June 17 as the day all women should drive their cars. The page, called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for the call. The campaign’s Twitter account also was deactivated.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Al-Sherif was initially detained for several hours on Saturday by the country’s religious police and released after she signed a pledge agreeing not to drive.

She was re-arrested on Sunday at dawn, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “

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Tel Aviv: Hundreds protest Obama speech

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Members of national Zionist movement say Obama’s call for Israel to return to ’67 borders is like asking Israelis to ‘commit suicide’

While Barack Obama presented the mild version of his Mideast speech before a Jewish audience in Washington, hundreds of activists gathered across from the US embassy in Tel Aviv in protest of the American president’s foreign policy.

Roughly 300 people took part in the demonstration, which was organized by My Israel, a national Zionist movement. They carried rope in their hands and around their necks, chanting: “Obama, Israel won’t commit suicide.” It was their response to the principles presented by Obama on Thursday, which lead to a reported rift between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It seems like Obama cannot differentiate between allies and enemies,” said Rafi Trablesi, one of the movement’s leaders. “I want to remind him that Israel is an ally of the United States, and that he should act like it.”

In a statement, the movement called for a protest against “The strange, unfounded demand made by the American president to give a state to Hamas, the organization that implicitly supported Osama bin Laden, who was assassinated recently by Obama’s direct order.”

The protest organizers claimed that Obama’s demand for Israel to return to 1967 is like asking Israel to commit suicide.

“There are those among us who are willing to make concessions, and there are those who aren’t,” they said. “No one is willing to kill himself.”

Obama addressed the ties between Israel and the US in his speech before AIPAC on Sunday, using the opportunity to correct the impression he made in mentioning the border issue last week.

He said that both sides must negotiate and determine where the border will lie, taking into account “the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”

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Obama to AIPAC: UN vote won’t create Palestine

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US president goes before Jewish lobby in DC, says US commitment to Israel’s security ‘ironclad,’ Washington won’t stand for Israel’s isolation in international arena. President further reassures: Israel, PA, to negotiate border different than 1967′s.

US President Barack Obama spoke before an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference in Washington Sunday, amid rumored tensions with both Jreusalem and the Jewish community in the United States, following his Mideast policy speech last week.

Obama’s speech, where he endorsed the 1967 borders as the basis for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has chafed the tense relations between Jerusalem and Washington further, as well as sparked rumors that the Jewish American community was, for the large part, rethinking its support for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Obama began by reassuring AIPAC that “the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad”; adding that the US was committed to keeping Israel the secure home of the Jewish people.

“I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech,” Obama began. “I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.”

Addressing the rumored tensions between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said that “While we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.

“A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of United States not simply because we share strategic interests… (it is) simply because we face common dangers.”

America, he continued, has “a profound commitment to Israel’s survival as a strong, secure homeland of the Jewish people. We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood.

“Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority,” he continued, saying that cooperation between the US military and the IDF was at “an unprecedented levels,” and that the US’ most advanced technologies are available to Israel, which is why the US has increased foreign military financing “to record levels.”

“Make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Obama stressed to the sound of the crowd’s roaring applause.

As for the Iranian nuclear threat Obama declared: “Let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

“You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, ‘Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,’ and ‘efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States,’” he assured his audience.

It because of the US’ commitment to Israel’s long-term security that Washington has worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the US president forged on.

“Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties, and… the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.

“We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.”

Obama then turned his attention to his controversial Mideast speech: “I know that stating principles – on the issues of territory and security – generated some controversy over the past few days,” he cut right to the core.

“But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. And so I want to share with you some of what I said to the prime Minister.

“I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict… The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate,” he said.

The US, he reaffirmed, “Will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.”

“There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous US Administrations,” Obama said.

The US “believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states… As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat,” he stressed.

“Let me reaffirm what ’1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means: By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.

“It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.

“The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace,” he concluded.

The conference is known as AIPAC’s annual show of strength and true to form, some 10,000 people from all over the US attended the meeting. An increased presence of senators and congressmen from all across the political spectrum was also noted.

Prior to Obama’s arrival, pro-Israel demonstrators rallied outside the gathering’s venue, protesting what they believed would be the US president’s reiteration of his support of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

Meanwhile, some 300 protesters gathered outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, rallying against Obama’s speech. The protesters were carrying signs reading “Obama, Israel will not commit suicide.”

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Cantor blames Arab ‘hatred’ for impasse

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Taking a shot at President Obama, the second-ranking House Republican said Sunday that Arab culture – not the dispute over 1967 borders – is to blame for the long-standing absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Painting in broad strokes, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) accused the Palestinians – and the Arab world more generally – of harboring a “resentment and hatred” toward Israel that, he says, has made an accord impossible.

Speaking to thousands of pro-Israel activists assembled in Washington for the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Cantor told the tale of an unnamed Palestinian woman who traveled from Gaza to an Israeli hospital for life-saving treatment. Some time later, he said, she returned with intentions of attacking the same hospital in a suicide bombing.

“What kind of culture leads one to do that? Sadly, it is a culture infused with resentment and hatred,” said Cantor, one of just two Jewish Republicans in Congress. “It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

“This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – it is not about the ’67 lines,” he added to roaring applause and a standing ovation. “And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.”

The debate over Israel’s 1967 borders has reached a fever pitch following Obama’s suggestion Thursday that those boundaries be the basis for renewing the stalled peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Although Israeli officials, behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have rejected that proposal in no uncertain terms, that didn’t prevent Obama from repeating it Sunday at the AIPAC conference.

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” Obama said, drawing some applause – and a smattering of “nos” – from the AIPAC delegates.

The president emphasized that basing the negotiations on the 1967 borders is not the same as endorsing those boundaries as part of a final deal. In fact, he said that would certainly not be the case.

“By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” he said. “That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means.”

Still, the delegates’ rousing reaction to Cantor’s 1967 reference is ready indication that many in the American Jewish community are wary of the president’s approach to renewing the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The hurdles to a peace deal grew higher in April when Fatah, the Palestinian political party, signed a reconciliation agreement with its rival Hamas, which both the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist organization.

Cantor on Sunday called directly on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renounce all attacks on Israel.

“Come to the negotiating table when you have prepared your people to forego hatred and renounce terrorism – and Israel will embrace you,” he said to another rousing ovation. “Until that day, there can be no peace with Hamas.”

Hours earlier, Obama had delivered a similar message regarding the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, warning that it “poses an enormous obstacle to peace.”

“No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,” he said, “and we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements.”

Before leaving the stage, Cantor took a final shot at Obama, who was characterized in a recent New Yorker article as “leading from the rear” in his approach to the recent turmoil in the Middle East.

“There is a time for talk; but now is the time for action,” Cantor said. “There is a time for following; but now is the time to lead – from the front.”

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Obama Vows ‘Pressure’ on Iran as AIPAC Cheers

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antiwar.com

Speaking today at a high profile America-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) conference, President Barack Obama faced what could have potentially been a hostile audience in the wake of condemnation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calling on Israel to be open to giving up occupied territories.

So he did what politicians trying to satisfy the pro-Israel lobby have been doing from time immemorial – he condemned Iran. Midway through a comparatively short speech, he promised the US would continue to escalate “pressure” on Iran, andaccused the nation of trying to make nuclear weapons.

“We remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Obama declared, to thunderous applause. He then went on to accuseIran of “hypocrisy” for criticizing the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. Obama declared earlier in the week that the US was committed to supporting the Bahrani regime and that the crackdowns showed they simply wanted a return to the “rule of law.”

Going to the Iran well is likely a cynical attempt to placate a potentially hostile lobby, and the thunderous applause suggest it did its job. The allegations against Iran, despite being identical to allegations made for years past, are not backed up by any hard evidence.

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Obama reaffirms “ironclad” commitment to Zioniost security

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WASHINGTON, May 22 (Xinhua) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday reaffirmed “ironclad” U.S. commitment to Israel’ security, vowing to maintain its “qualitative military edge.”

Obama stated his stand at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States, after his vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace based on territory and security drew fire, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama told his audience that in his Friday meeting with Netanyahu at the White House, “we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years that, even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.”

He said that a “strong and secure” Israel is in the national security interest of the U.S. because the two countries share strategic interests, face common dangers and share the same values.

“We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood, ” he said. “So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.”

Obama said he was not entirely surprised that his vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace generated some controversy over the past few days.

Netanyahu told Obama flatly that Israel cannot go back to the 1967 lines with the Palestinians as Obama envisioned in his speech a day earlier, in which the president called on the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders “with mutually agreed swaps,” so that “secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Netanyahu said the lines are “indefensible.”

Obama said by definition, his reference to “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means that the parties themselves — the Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.

In the six-day war that broke out after the day, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation,” Obama said. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples.”

He added: “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”

He pointed to three facts that must be confronted by all.

– First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. “This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state,” Obama said.

– Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.

– Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. “A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders,” Obama observed. “Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.”

Obama noted that as the context has changed in the Middle East as well as in the international community over the last several years, there is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their statehood at the United Nations. “They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one,” he said. “Not just in the Arab World, but in Latin America, in Europe and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.”

He reiterated that the core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties, and that the U.S. will continue to demand Hamas, who has reached a reconciliation agreement with the mainstream Fatah faction, to accept the basic responsibilities of peace — recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements.

But he vowed to stand up against efforts to “single Israel out” at the UN or in any international forum, adding that “no vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.”

He pledged to continue to work to prevent Iran, which is seen by Israel as its arch foe, from acquiring nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism across the region.

King Abdullah II of Jordan warned on Sunday of another war ” whenever we accept the status quo.”

“If you look to the past 10 years, every two to two-and-a-half years there’s either the intifada (uprising) or a war or a conflict,” he told the ABC TV network’s “This Week” program. “So looking back over the past 12 years, my experience shows me that if we ignore the Israeli-Palestinian issue, something will burst.”

The king joined the launch of Israeli-Palestinian direct talks in early September last year in Washington, but the talks collapsed two weeks later due to Israel’s refusal to back down on the issue of settlement building on the West Bank. He stressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “core issue” of the Middle East when he met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

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James Petras and the lobby

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I don’t like to recycle, but I make an exception, because it’s the AIPAC conference this weekend and “thought” is suffusing the internet. Originally appeared here.

James Petras has been cloned. Petras I is still reliable, if a bit creaky in his old age. He digs for information in Chapare, Chiapas, and elsewhere in the Latin American countryside, interviewing militants from the Venezuelan National Peasant Front Ezequiel Zamora, rural organizers from the Brazilian Landless Worker’s Movements, syndicalists in Uruguay, and slum-dwellers in Argentine villas de miseria. He pores through primary resources in Portuguese and Spanish, clattering out endless reams of political journalism on the struggle of the dispossessed in Latin American, situating their struggles within the political economy of global imperialism. Petras I’s analysis may be a little theoretically fuzzy, but he gets his hands dirty and deals with facts.

Then there’s another Petras. Petras II is slightly off the rails. Still kind of coherent, he deploys Marxist sociological analysis in the pursuit of a highly idiosyncratic series of theses: that an interwoven complex of institutions called the Zionist Power Configuration has taken over the American government, that the ongoing aggression against Iraq emerged not out of Texaco, but out of Tel Aviv, and that the Iranian Green Movement was a bunch of Gucci revolutionaries from the posh neighborhoods of North Tehran. Both are busy, but especially the latter, who has been churning out pamphlets accusing Israel of allying with an American Fifth Column at the rate of one a year for the past half decade.

Petras II seems like he’s been stealing copy from Anthony Giddens and post-9/11 Rudolf Giuliani. He writes of the “post-colonial ethos of the American people” and is concerned that Israeli irredentism is jeopardizing the “work and security of American businessmen and officials” as they day-in and day-out construct the economic and political filigree of empire. He also offers counsel to the American fighting forces as to how to carry out our imperial wars, noting that things have gotten so bad that an American general – he means David Petraeus – commented that “Israel’s colonial dispossession of the Palestinian people has prolonged the war [in Iraq]…and undermined the capacity of the U.S. armed forces to successfully operate on multiple fronts to promote U.S. imperial interests.”

This latter Petras poses difficult problems for the Left. Is it better that the U.S. armed forces aren’t free to carpet bomb the Bolivarian Revolution because the Israeli Army’s carpet bombing of Gaza and transformation of the West Bank into a set of cantons traversed by endless Jewish-only roads and peppered with illegal settlements inhabited by glaze-eyed khasidim from Williamsburg insistent that the Torah gives them the right to uproot olive trees, beat the crap out of Palestinian shepherds in the South Hebron Hills, and generally thrash and steal from the aboriginal population, is slowing down the American occupation army in Iraq? Or should the Left instead oppose Israeli settler-colonialism and seek to shatter the spine of the American Israel lobby that supports it, so the U.S. Army, having ripped Iraqi society apart, can move back to its normal safari grounds in Latin America? Petras II would have us destroying the societies Petras I has been protecting for half a century. Not on purpose – but once we remove the imperial foot soldiers from the Middle East, we know that they tend to get busy elsewhere.

The rub is that Petras I and Petras II are one. Revolutionary intellectual cohabits the same body with reactionary ideologue. The gist of Petras’s argument – in this case, presented in a short pamphlet entitled War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America, about 25 percent of it devoted to reprinting the Executive Summary of the Goldstone Report, a valuable service to those of his readers unfamiliar with the World Wide Web – is that Israel has “strategic domination” of the U.S. political system, and the “Zionist Power Configuration” controls the “mass media,” while “Americans have suffered major losses as a result of Israel’s relentless pursuit of military-driven power in the Middle East.” Furthermore, “Israel’s arrogance damages attempts by U.S. private investors to broker oil deals for multinational corporations.” The problem is an abusive “relation between states,” or as Petras quickly rejiggers the argument, a relationship between peoples in which one group, “Israeli Jews and their powerful one percent fifth column agents in the U.S.” imposes their bellicose, tribute-taking agenda on another group: “the American taxpayers, soldiers, workers and businesspeople.” His italics.

In the process, the Left comes in for heavy abuse. Petras attacks the “Marxist…Zionist fellow travelers” of the American Left for not printing any “critical essays on Zionist power” in such journals as the New Left Review (British), New Politics, Socialist Register, and so on, especially upset that his and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s books don’t receive leftist attention.

The reaction to Walt and Mearsheimer is simply untrue. They were reviewed and responded to, if not always convincingly, and frequently far too dismissively. As for Petras, who can blame the Left? Most anyone not wearing a tinfoil hat would recoil from his conspiratorial gobbledygook. The Left in particular would tragically but correctly accuse Petras of whitewashing empire. Both reactions are too easy. Some of what Petras has been issuing in an unending stream over the past six years is correct. The Israel lobby – drop the “Zionist Power configuration” – is powerful. The mass-media does filter its news through a Zionist sieve. And it’s true that there has been a “Zionist/Israeli influence in promoting U.S. war policies.” The lobby’s power does hurt the many for the interests of the few. One can hardly find fault with Petras’s assertion that it must be countered. And Petras is enough of a leftist that parts of his political program are welcome. We should support “the class and popular struggle against finance, real estate and insurance billionaires.” But other things do not follow. Against his insistence, it is hard to identify “U.S. wars for Israel in the Middle East,” and Petras’s comment that the U.S. Left should organize under a banner with the legend, “ISRAEL DOESN’T TELL U.S. WORKERS WHO TO FIGHT” will not sit well with many leftists, having nothing to do with “Jewish ‘sensibilities’” as he writes and everything to do with the political and moral basis for left organization: that workers shouldn’t be fighting in capitalist wars.

Petras identifies institutional politics oriented towards ethnically conceived interests as the knot of the problem. But the lobby, pace Petras, Walt-Mearsheimer, and others, is not a fifth column-esque force making America deviate from its “national interest,” a bit of metaphysics imported from the conceptual universe of international relations theory. Those concerned about Palestinian liberation should know this more than anyone. The autocratic Palestinian Authority kowtows to Washington and Tel Aviv and promises Tzipi Livni the “biggest Yerushalayim” ever in return for the aid inflows that construct a collaborator class willing to administer the cantons from penthouses in Ramallah so long as the cash keeps piling up in the PA’s coffers. The children of the collaborator layer now have the freedom to puke in front of nightclubs just like in Western Europe, while their parents create employment for the underlying population in Palestinian industrial zones. Meanwhile Mohammed Dahlan’s Vichy torture squad tortures muqawama for fighting for their people. There are no “national interests,” merely class interests that permeate porous national borders. Money knows no flag.

Yet too much of what Petras says is correct for to be simply brushed off along with the nonsense. Noam Chomsky may not be a “liberal Zionist,” as Petras accuses, but when the latter wrote in The Fateful Triangle that “no pressure group [e.g. the lobby] will dominate access to public opinion or maintain consistent influence over policy-making elites unless its aims are close to those of elite elements with real power,” and in a later comment on the lobby wrote that what is at stake is weighing “(A) strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage, and (B) the Lobby,” problems arose. It feels impertinent to type out the words, but Chomsky’s analysis was not entirely sound. The appropriate binary is not between “pressure groups” and “domestic power,” precisely because the lobby is not a “domestic pressure group,” but a component of class power. As Gabriel Ash comments, “the Israel Lobby should rather be a shorthand designation for a segment of the elites that fully participates in making U.S. imperialism happen” – an elite which traverses national lines.

The Israel lobby about which Petras is so pissed is precisely that: a class alliance between American and Israeli capitalists. It is more the outcome of Israel’s useful work as a regional Sparta and global arms merchant, dealing materiel to the terror states of Central America and the Southern Cone, to the Shah and Pretoria, than the cause of it. For that mercenary work of bloodletting amongst the brown people of Latin America and southern Africa, Israel got rewarded well: a couple billion dollars yearly since 1967. Given the links between the state and capital in Israel, that means Israeli elites got richly rewarded—chiefly, the ahusalim, or Ashkenazi founders of the state. While most of that money re-circulates back to the American military-industrial complex – the main role of Israeli political institutions in the political economy of American accumulation is to make the rich even richer – 25 percent is consistently allowed to stay in Israel, where it has built up a sizable domestic high-technology and military-industrial complex.

The physical plant stayed there, but the ownership did not. In a world of globalized capital movements, starting in the mid-1990s the “Israeli” MIC became decreasingly Israeli and increasingly American in ownership. Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler have calculated that the correlation coefficient between the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and the NASDAQ was .7 in the five-year span from 1996 to 2001 – meaning 70 percent of variations in the TASE were “explained” by variations in the NASDAQ. From 2002 to 2007, a nearly synchronous 92 percent of variations in the TASE were explained by movements in the NASDAQ.

The Israeli economy is a misnomer. There is an Israeli state with a constellation of institutions, not least among them an army, and an American state similarly poised, and between them flows of capital and flows of people with dual-passports, jet-setting from the Upper East Side to Eilat. The Israel lobby is certainly real. But it’s an expression of, and a complement to, material links. Ideology plays a role: the settlers’ American-abetted insistence on growing the Israeli state by nibbling away at the bits of land left for the Palestinian people, alongside the refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism that pervades the camouflaged hawks of the Israeli “peace camp.”

Petras and the lobby theorists hyperventilate about the settlement project endangering American interests, and they may be correct, even once one has reinterpreted “American interests” to mean the uneasy compromise between the decreasingly autonomous political apparatus operating as the executive committee of the ruling class and whichever fragments of capital propelled that elite into office. But they still ask the wrong questions, restricting their inquiries to the “fifth column.” That “fifth column” is just the American allies of the Israeli ruling class. They press on the U.S. government to facilitate settlement expansion because to cease or reverse settlement expansion runs the small but real risk of tearing Israeli society apart. No Israeli political leader would carry out such a task. And so Israel’s American allies, with billions of dollars in foreign investment in Israel, don’t push for it either, and they all shrug as messianic payes-sporting American and European Jews build up Judea over piles of Palestinian corpses. The lobby, deeply institutionalized in American politics, ensures that America does not exert pressure on Israel, while the PA skips happily along, gorging on aid inflows that will never develop the Palestinian economy. No one particularly cares.

Once one has sifted through the endless pages of bureaucratese and the self-deluded jargon of defense intellectuals, the lobby debate as it is conducted on the right is whether or not having Israel as an American ally is the best way to secure American capitalist interests in the Middle East. Petras, Mearsheimer, and Walt insist not. In juxtaposition with the “global hegemony strategy” called for by the Bush Administration and previous Republican administrations, they call for “off-shore balancing,” in which, as Walt writes, “the United States would intervene with its own forces only when regional powers are unable to uphold the balance of power on their own.” A part of this would be “giving Israel a choice: it can end its self-defeating occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and remain a cherished partner of the United States, or it can remain an occupying power on its own.” As he astutely notes, “This policy would undoubtedly be anathema to the different elements of the Israel lobby and would probably make some other Americans uneasy.” We get to the root of the issue: the lobby blocks the two-state settlement that would secure American regional interests.

Misunderstanding those interests, some claiming to be on the Left insist that any support of Israel irks the oil-rich Gulf sheikhdoms. Let Israel loose, they insist, and let’s be friends with the guys sitting on tremendous pools of petroleum. That analysis misunderstands the political economy of petroleum from the perspective of the oil majors and the state apparatuses they serially capture. Their sole interest is keeping prices elevated and controlling the flow of proceeds from those elevated prices. To do so, they need the sheikhdoms to be controlled by friendly regimes. Israel in that sense is a secondary issue, troublesome only to the extent that it incites popular pressure against the collaborator regimes, especially Aladdin’s cave – Saudi Arabia, capable of producing 10 million barrels of oil per day and sedulous about reinvesting the proceeds from its oil profits into American financial securities and American weapons systems. As Robert Vitalis comments, “For the region known as the Gun Belt, the Persian Gulf represents a critical market at a time of crisis in the arms industry,” keeping entire production lines going during lulls in Pentagon procurement.

To keep weapons purchases whirring along, excuses are helpful, even if the arms themselves sit in warehouses in the peninsula’s deserts. Israel provides the best excuse: the U.S. government’s legally-binding commitment to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge ensures that it must have the latest weapons systems at all times. When Lockheed Martin wants customers for the F-35, apparently an over-sophisticated under-engineered ostrich of an airplane that can barely get off the ground, it looks to Israel. Israel obliges, with American taxpayers footing the bill. Israel thus equipped with the latest gewgaws out of Bethesda, U.S. death-merchants can sell the F-15 to Saudi Arabia, this time with dollars extracted from American taxpayers not through the IRS but at the gas pump. Meanwhile Israel’s itinerant bombing runs destabilize the Middle East, part of the consequence of creating what Chaim Weizmann called an “Asiatic Belgium.” Israel was envisioned as foreign irritant and plays precisely that role. The result is constant conflict. The Middle East has been aflame non-stop from 2001 to 2009. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell made 876 billion in profits during that span. Coincidence, surely.

Misunderstanding this point, Petras, like so many of Walt and Mearsheimer’s epigones, also insists on casting the Iraq War as a tremendous failure for America, with American oil companies now not even bothering to place winning bids for development of Iraqi oil fields and with Iraqi oil production still trickling out at its pre-war levels, with the national interest crumpled somewhere between Fallujah and the Green Zone. Their mirror-images on the “Left” like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri vacuously rumble about the inadequacy of thinking that U.S. military actions are “primarily directed at a specific economic advantage…Such specific goals are secondary…Military force must guarantee the conditions for the functioning of the world market.” The dual metaphysics of capital and national interests explain everything – and nothing. Hardt and Negri are so scared of the accusation of vulgar economism that they miss the basic correlation between war and conflict in the Middle East – 1973, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1991, 2001, 2003 – and elevated profits for the oil companies and the arms merchants that sell their wares to the petro-states seeking something to do with the freshets of capital pouring into their bank accounts, while the rightist neo-populists and realists don’t ever look at capital accumulation and don’t see that the oil companies do just fine while Israel mucks around with dense inert metal explosives in the Middle East and Gaza burns.

They benefit because when the embers of instability are banked, burning steadily but hotly, gas and oil prices remain elevated. Petro-dollars gush into the coffers of the oil majors as well as the Gulf States, who then spend their cash on arms—overwhelmingly, American arms. Most of the rest provides the circulatory flows keeping the FIRE sector flush with cash. People make money off suffering and death in the Middle East, and they can easily hide behind the Israel lobby. Something strong enough to both hide and legitimate immense power, while contributing to American militarism in the Middle East, has a lot of power itself, and for that reason, the lobby is no pushover.

Precisely for that reason, the lobby must be confronted. It is a component of ruling class power, and to deny its influence will not fly. But behind and among it are blood-merchants, and none of them care about Palestinians – nor, one suspects, do Palestinians’ latest allies among the “realist” policy intelligentsia. American capital barely cares enough about Israeli militarism and occupation to dump its money into J Street, let alone to crash the hammer down on Zionist malfeasance in the Middle East. They do not and will not care about Palestinians until their interests are threatened more directly. The way to do that is simple. It’s by linking demands with others threatened by Israeli militarism, by American imperialism, and by capitalism more broadly, and making the costs of maintaining an Israeli client state in the Middle East higher than the costs of giving it up. Misguided fairy tales like Petras peddles simply won’t do in forging the political project that can lead to freedom in the Middle East. Perhaps at this hour it’s time for some realism. Which doesn’t mean defeatism. Just because the enemy is big does not mean we can’t bring it down.

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‘US policy change only in appearance’

NOVANEWS

 

Press TV

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says only the appearance of US new Middle East policy differs from Washington’s previous approaches.

The change might have been believable for people if the US had admitted its mistakes and attempted to correct its wrong policies, Mehmanparast said on Sunday in reference to US President Barack Obama’s speech on Thursday. Mehmanparast added that reviewing the US new policies, however, did not reveal any change compared to the past. 

In a televised speech about Middle East developments on May 19, US President Barack Obama talked about marking a “new chapter in American diplomacy.”

“For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa… I would like to talk about this change, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security,” Obama said.

“Israel’s interests in the region are the most important thing Americans are worried about,” the Iranian official said.

“They have felt that Israel’s interests have been threatened by the Islamic Awakening and popular movements especially in Egypt and Middle East countries,” Mehmanparast added.

The Iranian official said the US was trying to preserve Israel’s interests at any cost, therefore they talked about resolving Palestine-Israel conflict.

In his speech Obama said that any solution would require Israel to go back to the borders drawn before the 1967 war.

His remarks however, drew criticism from Israeli officials and on Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly rejected any notion of Israel even considering a withdrawal from territories it seized in 1967.

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Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–(PFLP) Obama speech another attempt to deceive Palestinians into futile “peace process”

NOVANEWS

 

 

PFLP, May 21, 2011

 

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said on May 19, 2011, commenting on the speech of United States President Barack Obama, that the Obama speech lacked any form of meaningful change or objectivity in relation to US policy, and served as yet more attempted justification for the occupation and its crimes against the Palestinian people. Said the Front, it is clear that any claims that the United States upholds “values of freedom, democracy and justice” are belied by the fact that those values instantly evaporate in the case of Palestine and its people. Furthermore, said the Front, the Arab youth movement will not trade their dignity, freedom and democracy for U.S. dollars and wars.

In a press statement, the Front said that it is clear that the U.S. position remains – as always – in imperial alliance with its strategic partner, Zionism, completely ignoring the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people, international law and U.N. resolutions. It is clear, the Front said, that the U.S. adopts the positions of Netanyahu and his settler regime, in alliance to deprive the Palestinian people of its inalienable national rights to independence and self-determination, demanding that Palestinians participate in a U.S. negotiations regime that has no capacity for providing rights or freedom for Palestine and its people. The United States has failed in its attempts to impose its political demands upon Arab and Muslim peoples, and is completely inappropriate and incapable of sponsoring any political settlement that leads to justice or peace in the region.

The Front noted that the U.S. president once again demanded the reactivation of the so-called “peace process” based on bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the U.S., outside the reference of international law and UN resolutions, reflects the fact that the U.S. is simply once again attempting to deceive the Palestinian, Arab and international public opinion while the occupation continues its siege, aggression, settlement as “facts on the ground” against the Palestinian and Arab people. The occupation continues to flagrantly violate international humanitarian and human rights law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising our rights to self-determination and national sovereignty over our land, and achieving our rights to freedom, self-determination and return.

The PFLP concluded by calling upon all Palestinian political and social forces to act together in unity to reject any such proposals and instead reactivate the power of the Palestinian national movement, through a rebuilt and democratic Palestine Liberation Organization that can represent the highest reference for our people wherever they are, with a clear vision for national resistance and victory.

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Obama’s speech to AIPAC affirms commitment to Israel and US policies that doom it

NOVANEWS

 

 

Ali Abunimah

Eletronic Intifada,

 

Following his speech on Thursday night, and his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, US President Barack Obama spoke to the 2011 Policy Conference of AIPAC, the influential Israel lobby today.

Obama’s speech today contains a number of interesting elements of the United States’ and the president’s view: a hard-headed realism about the deep trouble Israel is in and an equally hard-headed determination to keep doing the same things that will make Israel’s prospects poorer over the long-run while prolonging the suffering for Palestinians. These contradictory impulses, will only heighten conflict and do little to advance the president’s stated goal: peace.

Obama also addressed the fake controversy following Netanyahu’s public rejection on Friday of the president’s reference to a peace “based on the 1967 lines.”

Here are some of the key points of Obama’s speech with analysis.

Demography
Obama:

Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder – without a peace deal – to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

Obama is simply pointing out the reality that Palestinians if not already, will soon be, the majority population in historic Palestine (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined).

Yet Obama does not call for a morally correct solution: equal rights for all who live within the territory and all who have been unjustly excluded from it on the basis of ethnicity, according to basic democratic principles.

Instead, the president exhorts Israel to rush to create a truncated Palestinian statelet in the false belief that a Palestinian mini-state on a fraction of historic Palestine can fulfill the rights of some 11 million Palestinians denied their human rights, and right to self-determination for decades.

Obama’s use of demographic scare-mongering indicates an acceptance of the fundamentally racist view that the mere existence of certain categories of humans (in this case non-Jewish Palestinians) in a country is unacceptable and dangerous – even if they or their parents or grandparents were born in that country. Palestinians “west of the Jordan River” are not interlopers or intruders. They are indigenous people of the country. Instead of searching for ways for Israel to escape them by gerrymandering a bantustan, Obama should be calling for full and equal rights, nothing less.

Obama’s failure to call on Israel to respect the full and equal rights of the 1.4 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, will also be taken as a signal by Israel that the president is fine with the growing raft of racist legislation directed against this indigenous community.

Obama’s use of the demographic scare-tactic would have had its equivalent during the existence of apartheid South Africa in a US president urging the defunct racist regime in Pretoria to rush to create more bantustans so that South Africa could remain a ‘white and democratic state.’

When Obama claims, as peace process insiders often do, that the vision he laid out for “peace” is “is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation” it is important to remember that these are “formulas” made by power players without reference to millions of Palestinians – especially refugees – who have never been consulted and who certainly don’t consider their own mere existence a threat to anyone’s “democracy.”

Military force is not enough
Obama said:

…technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace

Obama is acknowledging that military superiority is insufficient to maintain Israel in the absence of political legitimacy. But again there is a contradictory impulse: the unconditional US commitment to give Israel any and all technology and military means allows Israel to delude itself that it can rely forever on force of arms in lieu of a peace agreement.

Waning US hegemony means Arab public opinion now matters
Obama:

…a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.

For decades the whole concept of the “peace process” was based on Israel signing treaties with unelected Arab leaders in spite of their publics’ deep opposition to such agreements that did nothing to restore the rights of Palestinians and only freed Israel’s hands to attack and occupy more. The 1979 Israel-Egypt and 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaties are prime examples, and for many years the US sought a similar deal between Israel and Syria.

Obama is acknowledging that if the United States is unsuccessful in imposing new obedient client leaders on Arab states (or maintaining the ones it still supports), Israel would actually have to be acceptable to Arab publics and electorates. This is true enough, but again, his solution: a truncated Palestinian bantustan is hardly a sufficient answer to the challenge.

Isolation of Israel will be unstoppable even with US support
Several times in his speech Obama vowed the United States would stand up against the “delegitimization” of Israel. That is the term Israel and its supporters have applied to the global Palestine solidarity movement, calling for equal rights, especially the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Obama also referred specifically to the Palestinian Authority effort to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state this September. Despite these US commitments, Obama observed:

But the march to isolate Israel internationally – and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations – will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. For us to have leverage with the Palestinians, with the Arab States, and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success.

This seems to be a clear warning to Israel and it should serve as an encouragement to Palestine solidarity activists everywhere. However, the president offered no sense that under his leadership the United States will take any action other than presidential speeches that have any “prospect of success.”

Obama backs Bush’s view on “1967 lines”
Perhaps the centerpiece of Obama’s speech today was when he addressed the fake controversy over his mention of the 1967 lines on Thursday. Today, Obama said:

Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.

Here Obama appears to be deliberately returning to a formulation that his predecessor President George W. Bush used in his famous April 2004 letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In the letter, which assured Israel of US support for annexation of West Bank settlements built in violation of international law, Bush wrote:

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

(Note: the 1949 armistice line is the June 1967 line – i.e. the line that existed between the 1949 Rhodes Armistice agreement and the Israeli surprise attack that launched the Six-Day War on 4 June 1967).

As the language I’ve highlighted shows, Obama is reaffirming the essential points made by Bush: the 1967 line is infinitely malleable (to suit Israel) and thus the reference to it does not in any way preclude massive Israeli annexations to the east of it.

Second, any border must be by “mutual agreement.” Given the hopefully lop-sided balance of power, and Obama’s affirmation that the US will steadfastly continue to put no pressure on Israel, this means in effect that the commitment to the 1967 line is devoid of content. Despite the fireworks there is no practical difference between Obama and Netanyahu.

Hamas-Fatah deal
Obama said:

…the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements.

Obama handed Netanyahu an excuse to continue to avoid the negotiations Obama claims are urgent, until Hamas learns –politically speaking – to sing HaTikva and dance a hora. Obama has never called on Israel to recognize fundamental Palestinian rights as a precondition for negotiations, and as we know has abandoned any effort to get Israel to adhere to international law or signed agreements by stopping settlement construction.

Obama could have learned something from President Clinton’s much more deft approach to the Irish peace process, but instead he chose to pander to Israel’s obstructionist preconditions diminishing the prospects for negotiations even further.

Settlements
In his speech on Thursday, Obama mentioned in passing that “Israeli settlement activity continues” in the occupied West Bank. But he pointedly did not make any call on Israel to stop building settlements. In today’s speech he didn’t mention the settlements at all.

Thus while exhorting Israel to rush toward a “two-state solution” in order to save itself from the terrifying threat of Palestinian infants, Obama has given up completely on any effort to confront the main obstacle to his preferred outcome: Israel’s accelerated colonization of the little remaining land.

Perhaps this more than anything sums up the competing impulses evident in Obama’s speech: an urgency to address an an “unsustainable status quo,” and his administration’s total commitment to the disastrous American policies that have brought us to precisely this point.

 

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