Obama and the Despots of the Middle East

Karl Marx, in his famous treatise on Louis Bonaparte’s 1851 coup d’état, which shared much in common with the late 18th century coup undertaken by his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, remarked that history has the tendency to repeat itself, ‘the first [time] as tragedy, then as farce’.

As with many other aspects of the dramatic developments unfolding in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region in recent weeks, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s midnight 28 January speech, and the various White House statements that preceded it, prove just how relevant the ideas of the German political theorist and revolutionary are today.

Like his Tunisian counterpart, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose similarly feeble attempt to assuage the anger and despair of the tens of thousands of brave citizens, from all political persuasions and walks of life who participated in the demonstrations, was met by demands to put an end to the government’s charade, Mubarak’s speech was seen by most Egyptians as too little, too late.

For the protesters in Egypt, as in Tunisia only a few weeks before, demanded not only an end to the human rights abuses, rampant corruption, lack of economic opportunities and political freedoms that characterised the state of affairs of their country for as long most of them can remember, but also, and as importantly, an end to the repressive regime that promulgated these conditions. They will certainly not be satisfied with Mubarak’s cynical attempts at ‘reform’, including the appointment of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, a man who was praised by former US Ambassador to Egypt, Edward S. Walker, for the amenable role he has played in supporting some of the most abhorrent and illegal activities associated with the US led ‘war on terror’, such as the torture and extraordinary rendition of ‘terror’ suspects.

Only 3 weeks earlier, Mubarak’s Tunisian counterpart, Ben Ali, had cut an equally pathetic figure in his speech to the Tunisian nation, in which he vowed to slash food prices and guarantee ‘total liberty for the press and to no longer close Internet sites’ and promised ‘no presidencies for life,’ in a desperate attempt to buy more time for his dictatorial rule.

The farce continued with the Obama administration, who, as in the Tunisian case, remained largely silent until the outrage expressed by the Egyptian people became so deafening it could no longer pretend not to hear their desperate pleas, dramatically changing its rhetoric. One could witness this shift in White House Secretary Robert Gibbs’ 28 January press conference. Whereas just the previous day Gibbs had reiterated the Mubarak regime’s position as ‘a close and important partner with our country’ and declared its stability, on 28 January his language had already changed, adopting a much more aggressive tone. ‘The legitimate grievances that have festered for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately, and violence is not the answer,’ Gibbs chided.

Later in the day, his boss engaged in rhetorical acrobatics in an effort to prove the Obama administration’s ‘democracy promotion’ credentials while at the same time refrain from undermining the ‘stability’ of a stalwart US ally – one that has provided invaluable support in promoting US geo-strategic interests vis-a-vis the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’, the ‘war on terror’, energy security, as well as promoting US-backed neoliberal economic ‘reforms’ in the region.

The $1.5 billion in rent/aid Egypt receives annually from its US patron, referred to by many as ‘peace dividends’ for its 1979 peace agreement with the Israelis, demonstrates just how important this relationship is to the Americans. In the past, though the Mubarak regime, like most rentier states, spent much of these payments on maintaining the security apparatuses necessary for its survival, it also wisely invested at least a portion of it on social spending, notably on food subsidies, education, health and government salaries, spending that primarily affected the lower classes. Over the last several decades, and particularly in recent years, however, this balance of rent spending has been heavily tipped in favor of ‘security’.

As with Tunisia, despite its MENA ‘democracy promotion’ agenda, Egypt’s nefarious use of US funds for patently undemocratic purposes has come as no surprise for the American government. In stark contrast to the feigned outrage with which the Obama administration received news of its ally’s heavy handed crackdown on the popular demonstrations breaking out across the country, as well as on the new media forms of communication that facilitated their organisation, the recent Wikileaks revelations uncovered US foreknowledge of the regime’s brutality. Exposing what most informed political analysts, as well as the majority of Egyptians, have known all along about the Mubarak regime, the second highest recipient of US military and economic aid in the world after Israel, one cable pointed out that government brutality is ‘routine and pervasive’. Furthermore, the use of torture against ordinary criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers, the cables acknowledged, is so widespread that the Egyptian government ‘no longer even tries to deny its existence.’

The cables also reveal that the Obama administration aimed to maintain a close political and military relationship with Mubarak, despite acknowledging the existence of a colossal democracy deficit, stating: ‘The tangible benefits to our [military] relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace.’

Despite all of this, in his 28 January press conference on the eve of the post-Juma’h (Friday prayer) protests, the most dramatic to hit Egypt since the unrest began, Obama refrained from acknowledging the demands of the brave protesters calling for Mubarak to step down. Instead, he emphasized the need for the regime to make reforms, saying: ‘This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise.’ Referring to his 2008 Cairo speech, Obama urged Mubarak to recognise that ‘no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise.’

Once again, the Obama administration has demonstrated a gross duplicity in its approach to the issue of democracy promotion in the region. In this sense it, like other western governments expressing their preferences for ‘stability’ and ‘order’ over justice and accountability, has found itself on the wrong side of history.

Perhaps there is a further lesson they could take from Marx’s 18th Brumaire, in which he made another of his most famous formulations, this time on the role individual agency plays in history: ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.’

In the face of overwhelming odds, including unflagging western support for their governments, a world economic order designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many, well-financed, equipped and trained security apparatuses, largely thanks to the Americans, as the tear-gas canisters used against protesters and stamped ‘made in America’, made chillingly clear- the people of Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the region where protesters have taken to the streets, have decided that despite these overwhelmingly inauspicious circumstances, they are no longer willing to be mere objects in a history written by, and for the benefit of others. They are prepared to risk life and limb to regain their rightful place amongst history’s subjects.

It is time for Obama to pay more than lip-service to the increasing role of people power in transforming the political contours of the region. He can start by supporting the demands of the Egyptian opposition, including Islamists, led by the most popular opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and secularists, represented by their most popular figurehead, former United Nations atomic energy chief Mohamed El-Baradei, for an immediate end to the repressive measures being employed by the Mubarak regime against demonstrators, described by a Muslim Brother leader to as ‘organised state terrorism’, an end to the Mubarak regime, and the instatement of a transitional government leading to real democratic reforms and accountability for the crimes committed by the Mubarak regime.

Obama can also take advantage of the opportunity to implement much-needed structural changes in US foreign policy towards the region, by placing real conditions on the economic and military aid the US government provides to all undemocratic and repressive regimes in the region, including Israel, Jordan and Yemen, to help facilitate the efforts of the people of these countries to similarly regain their agency and make ‘their own history’.

Significant cuts in aid to these states, coupled with an overall reduction in US military spending and an end to US aggression in the region, would have the effect of ‘killing two birds with one stone’, as it would also promote US government efforts to reduce the gaping US budget deficit in a more ethical manner than current proposals, which entail massive cuts to social spending. Going back to Obama’s pre-election promises, that would be real ‘change we can believe in’.

Corinna Mullin is a Lecturer in Comparative and International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), with reference to the Middle East. Her current research involves comparative international political theory and explores Islamist and Western conceptions of peace, war, justice, and sovereignty. She lives in London.

 

Ref Counterpunch

Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak (so speaks the real voice of the only democracy in M.E)

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime.

Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak’s ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt’s stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama called on Mubarak to take “concrete steps” toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

“The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren’t considering their genuine interests,” one senior Israeli official said. “Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they’re not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the security cabinet will convene Monday to discuss the situation in Egypt.

“The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these relations will continue to exist,” Netanyahu told his ministers. “We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.”

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israelis currently in Egypt to consider returning home and for those planning to visit the country to reconsider. It is telling Israelis who have decided to remain in Egypt to obey government directives.

Ref: Haaretz

Israel Believes Egyptian Regime Will Survive Democracy Protests ( so speaks the “only” democracy in the M.E)

The Israeli enemy expects the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will survive democracy protests that have shaken the country over the past three days, government officials and analysts said.

Israeli officials and analysts said they did not foresee the downfall of the Egyptian regime, and were confident that even regime change would not result in the breakdown of ties with Cairo.

“We have an earthquake in the Middle East… but we believe the Egyptian regime is strong enough and that Egypt is going to overcome the current wave of demonstrations,” an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists on Thursday. “Mubarak is not Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. There is a huge difference. The Egyptian regime is well rooted, including the defense establishment. Their regime is strong enough to overcome the situation,” he said.

A second government Israeli official echoed that view. “The regime may be shaken by the troubles, and anything is possible, but it doesn’t have a serious air to it,” he told AFP, adding that Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt was not in danger. “It is in the fundamental interests of Egypt to maintain its privileged ties with the West, and maintaining peace with Israel is part of that,” he added.

“We are closely following the situation with great interest,” Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP in turn.

On Wednesday, Israeli vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom expressed hope that the Egyptian authorities would “give their citizens freedom and rights while continuing on the good path of good relations with Israel established over 30 years ago.”

Israeli analysts also said they thought it unlikely the regime in Cairo would fall, and said that even a regime change would not necessarily jeopardize the peace treaty Israel signed with Egypt in 1979. “Even if the Muslim Brotherhood, who have criticized ‘illegal ties with Israel,’ came to power, the army and the Egyptian security services would oppose it with all their might,” claimed Yoram Meital, a researcher at Beersheva University in southern Israel. “Even if the opposition is very hostile to Israel, if they refuse any form of normalization (with Israel), it is not ready to renounce the ‘cold peace’ between the two countries and take the risk of a new war,” Meital, a Middle East specialist, said.

Ref: Al jazeera

Gaza: it’s Hamas’s move now

Hamas must seize the initiative if there is ever to be an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine

So it has happened again. Nearly 18 months after the Israelis bombed Gaza to a wasteland, with barely a load of building materials allowed in since then, Turkey has taken the brunt of an operation of humanitarian assistance gone wrong.

The UN must establish the facts impartially and independently and, if laws have been broken, those responsible must be held to account. Political demonstrations posing as relief flotillas go wrong too easily and Israel understandably has to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza. But was this really the best way to bring the ships to shore for examination? A commando attack on civilian ships looks callous and disproportionate. No one should have been hurt, whatever the emotions behind all this.

Why is Gaza under siege in the first place? Under international law, the Israelis are responsible as the occupying force for the proper administration of the territory; and half the point of Israel is not to be above the law. Yet they are creating a traumatised territory of 1.5m neighbours, many of whose children seem to want to grow up to be suicide bombers. They are also pouring fertiliser on al-Qaida’s ground.

The director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, John Ging, gave a speech in London this week entitled “Illegal, inhuman and insane: a medieval siege on Gaza in 2010″. This objective humanitarian practitioner should be listened to. How has Israel, the only democracy in its region and a symbol of the need for racially inspired violence to end, come to risk any claim to international legitimacy in its handling of this situation?

Hamas are the enemy of Israel, but they do not have to be. They preach violent resistance too readily, yet over the past 17 months they have been trying to control the militant groups intent on threatening Israel with rockets – imperfectly perhaps, but not a single Israeli citizen has been killed (alas, one immigrant worker was) by a rocket since the Gaza bombing stopped in January 2009. They are also the implacable opponents of al-Qaida. They won a fair election in 2006 and claim to respect democracy. Let’s test them on that. At present, Hamas security people are being sniped at by the Israeli Defence Forces when they try to arrest other militant groups. This is genuinely getting insane.

The unwisdom of reliance on angry military responses is all the clearer when the mood in Palestine, in both the West Bank and Gaza, is steadily moving towards a negotiated end to the occupation. I am convinced from my own direct experience that Hamas is prepared to establish and respect a long-term ceasefire so that the talking can start without the threat of violence, and that they would enter in good faith, if that were reciprocated, into negotiations to establish two states in the disputed territories, Israel and Palestine, with their own rights and responsibilities under international law. The distortion of their position, a little of it the fault of their own PR, does no side any good.

If a comprehensive negotiation is too much to expect for now, what about a first step? I believe an arrangement to end the blockade is within reach if only Israel, Egypt and Gaza would test the possibilities of dialogue. Hamas have indicated that they could cease all attacks on Israeli soil, close the tunnels, release Gilead Shalit and stop the import of arms into Gaza if the blockade was ended, an agreed number of Palestinian prisoners were released and Gaza began to be rebuilt.

The Palestinians of course have work to do on their own internal reconciliation, while the relationship between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza remains so bad. But the UN, the US, Russia, the EU and the Arab world must make a much more serious attempt to test the possibilities, putting ordinary Israelis and Palestinians first, not their own political comfort.

We are coming close to losing the chance of a two-state solution. US policy, based on a West-Bank-only approach, is locked in a cul-de-sac if Gaza is left out of the equation, because majority Palestinian support will be lacking. Israel is confident in the knowledge that it cannot be militarily defeated.

But that ignores the huge danger of losing the political, diplomatic, legal and moral high ground. This matters in today’s world, as the US and the UK discovered in Iraq, because government authority and public opinion interact closely, and legitimacy breeds support.

Israel’s relationship with Turkey was the key to a broader understanding with the Islamic community and others beyond the west. That now lies in tatters. If Israel is left as the permanent occupier, or controlling a one-state structure with part of its population downgraded or imprisoned, it will truly be a disaster for its people and what they stand for.

I hope that Hamas will not sit back and enjoy Israel’s discomfiture. They have so far, for a political organisation, attracted much too narrow a range of international support. If they wish to be widely accepted as a negotiating partner, they must unequivocally accept the only fully justified condition set by the international Quartet – the cessation of violence – underline that their objective is a two-state settlement, and win international friends for the ending of the occupation. In whoever’s hands, bombs, bullets, rockets and iron bars will achieve nothing. But a push for justice will.

• This article was originally written for the Times but not published

Ref: Guardian

ISRAHELL HISTORY: The Lavon Affair

In July 1954 Egypt was plagued by a series of bomb outrages directed mainly against American and British property in Cairo and Alexandria. It was generally assumed that they were the work of the Moslem Brothers, then the most dangerous challenge to the still uncertain authority of Colonel (later President) Nasser and his two-year-old revolution. Nasser was negotiating with Britain over the evacuation of its giant military bases in the Suez Canal Zone, and, the Moslem Brothers, as zealous nationalists, were vigorously opposed to any Egyptian compromises.

It therefore came as a shock to world, and particularly Jewish opinion, when on 5 October the Egyptian Minister of the Interior, Zakaria Muhieddin, announced the break-up of a thirteen-man Israeli sabotage network. An ‘anti-Semitic’ frame-up was suspected.

Indignation increased when, on 11 December, the group was brought to trial. In the Israeli parliament, Prime Minister Moshe Sharett denounced the ‘wicked plot hatched in Alexandria … the show trial which is being organized there against a group of Jews who have fallen victims to false accusations and from who mit seems attempts are being made to extract confessions of imaginary crimes, by threats and torture . . .’49 The trade union newspaper Davar observed that the Egyptian regime ‘seems to take its inspiration from the Nazis’ and lamented the ‘deterioration in the status of Egyptian Jews in general‘.50 For Haaretz the trial ‘proved that the Egyptian rulers do not hesitate to invent the most fantastic accusations if it suits them'; it added that ‘in the present state of affairs in Egypt the junta certainly needs some diversions‘.51 And the next day the .7erusalem Post carried this headline: ‘Egypt Show Trial Arouses Israel, Sharett Tells House. Sees Inquisition Practices Revived.’

The trial established that the bombings had indeed been carried out by an Israeli espionage and terrorist network. This was headed by Colonel Avraharn Dar –alias John Darling– and a core of professionals who had set themselves up in Egypt under various guises. They had recruited a number of Egyptian Jews; one of them was a young woman, Marcelle Ninio, who worked in the offices of a British company. Naturally, the eventual exposure of such an organization was not going to improve the lot of the vast majority of Egyptian Jews who wanted no-thing to do with Zionism. There were still at least 50,000 Jews in Egypt; there had been something over 60,000 in 1947, more than half of whom were actually foreign nationals. During the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the populace had some times vented its frustration against them, and some were killed in mob violence or by terrorist bombs. In spite of this, and of the revolutionary upheaval which followed four years later, few Jews-including the foreign nationals-left the country, and fewer still went to Israel. A Jewish journalist insisted: ‘We, Egyptian Jews, feel secure in our homeland, Egypt.’52

The welfare of Oriental Jewry in their various homelands was, as we have seen, Israel’s last concern. And in July 1954 it had other worries. It was feeling isolated and insecure. Its Western friends-let alone the rest of the world-were unhappy about its aggressive behaviour. The US Assistant Secretary of State advised it to ‘drop the attitude of the conqueror’.53 More alarming was the rapprochement under way between Egypt, on the one hand, and the United States and Britain on the other. President Eisenhower had urged Britain to give up her giant military base in the Suez Canal Zone; Bengurion had failed to dissuade her. It was to sabotage this rapprochement that the head of Israeli intelligence, Colonel Benyamin Givli, ordered his Egyptian intelligence ring to strike.

Givli’s boss, Defence Minister Pinhas Lavon, and the Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, knew nothing of the operation. For Givli was a member of a powerful Defence Ministry clique which often acted independently, or in outright defiance, of the cabinet. They were proteges of Bengurion and, although ‘The Old Man’ had left the Premiership for Sde Boker, his Negev desert retreat, a few months before, he was able, through them, to perpetuate the hardline ‘activist’ policies in which he believed. On Givli’s instructions, the Egyptian network was to plant bombs in American and British cultural centres, British-owned cinemas and Egyptian public buildings. The Western powers, it was hoped, would conclude that there was fierce internal opposition to the rapprochement and that Nasser’s young r6gime,faced with this challenge, was not one in which they could place much confidence.54 Mysterious violence might therefore persuade both London and Washington that British troops should remain astride the Canal; the world had not forgotten Black Saturday, 28 January 1951, in the last year of King Farouk’s reign, when mobs rampaged through downtown Cairo, setting fire to foreign-owned hotels and shops, in which scores of people, including thirteen Britons, died.

The first bomb went off, on 2 July, in the Alexandria post office. On 11 July, the Anglo-Egyptian Suez negotiations, which had been blocked for nine months, got under way again. The next day the Israeli embassy in London was assured that, up on the British evacuation from Suez, stock-piled arms would not be handed over to the Egyptians. But the Defence Ministry activists were unconvinced. On 14 July their agents, in clandestine radio contact with Tel Aviv, fire-bombed US Information Service libraries in Cairo and Alexandria. That same day, a phosphorous bomb exploded prematurely in the pocket of one Philip Natanson, nearly burning him alive, as he was about to enter the British-owned Rio cinema in Alexandria. His arrest and subsequent confession led to the break-up of the whole ring-but not before the completion of another cycle of clandestine action and diplomatic failure. On 15 July President Eisenhower assured the Egyptians that ‘simultaneously’ with the signing of a Suez agreement the United States would enter into ‘firm commitments’ for economic aid to strengthen their armed forces.55 On 23 July –anniversary of the 1952 revolution– the Israeli agents still at large had a final fling; they started fires in two Cairo cinemas, in the central post office and the railway station. On the same day, Britain announced that the War Secretary, Antony Head, was going to Cairo. And on 27 July he and the Egyptians initiated the ‘Heads of Agreement’ on the terms of Britain’s evacuation.

The trial lasted from 11 December to 3 January. Not all the culprits were there, because Colonel Dar and an Israeli colleague managed to escape, and the third Israeli, Hungarian-born Max Bennett, committed suicide; but those who were present all pleaded guilty. Most of them, including Marcelle Ninio, were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. But Dr Musa Lieto Marzuk, a Tunisian-born citizen of France who was a surgeon at the Jewish Hospital in Cairo, and Samuel Azar, an engineering professor from Alexandria, were condemned to death. In spite of representations from France, Britain and the United States the two men were hanged. Politically, it would have been very difficult for Nasser to spare them, for only seven weeks before six Moslem Brothers had been executed for complicity in an attempt on his life. Nevertheless Israel reacted with grief and anger. So did some Western Jews. Marzuk and Azar ‘died the death of martyrs’, said Sharett on the same day in the Knesset, whose members stood in silent tribute. Israel went into official mourning the following day. Beersheba and Ramat Gan named streets after the executed men. Israeli delegates to the Egyptian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission refused to attend its meeting, declaring that they would not sit down with representatives of the Cairo junta. In New York there were bomb threats against the Egyptian consulate and a sniper fired four shots into its fourth-floor window.56

This whole episode, which was to poison Israeli political life for a decade and more, came to be known as the ‘Lavon Affair’, for it had been established in the Cairo trial that Lavon, as Minister of Defence, had approved the campaign of sabotage. At least so the available evidence made it appear. But in Israel, Lavon had asked Moshe Sharett for a secret inquiry into a matter about which the cabinet knew nothing. Benyamin Givli, the intelligence chief, claimed that the so-called ‘security operation’ had been authorized by Lavon himself. Two other Bengurion proteges, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, testified against Lavon. Lavon denounced Givli’s papers as forgeries and demanded the resignation of all three men. Instead, Sharett ordered Lavon himself to resign and invited Bengurion to come out of retirement and take over the Defence Ministry. It was a triumphant comeback for the ‘activist’ philosophy whose excesses both Sharett and Lavon had tried to modify. It was con-summated, a week later, by an unprovoked raid on Gaza, which left thirty-nine Egyptians dead and led to the Suez War Of 1956.57

When the truth about the Lavon Affair came to light, six years after the event, it confirmed that there had been a frame-up-not, however, by the Egyptians, but by Bengurion and his young proteges. Exposure was fortuitous. Giving evidence in a forgery trial in September 1960, a witness divulged on passant that he had seen the faked signature of Lavon on a document relating to a 1954 ‘security mishap’.58 Bengurion immediately announced that the three-year statute of limitations prohibited the opening of the case. But Lavon, now head of the powerful Histradut Trade Union Federation, seized upon this opportunity to demand an inquiry. Bengurion did everything in his power to stop it, but his cabinet overruled him. The investigation revealed that the security operation’ had been planned behind Lavon’s back. His signature had been forged, and the bombing had actually begun long before his approval –which he withheld– had been sought. He was a scapegoat pure and simple. On Christmas Day 1960,the Israeli cabinet unanimously exonerated him of all guilt in the ‘disastrous security adventure in Egypt'; the Attorney General had, in the meantime, found ‘conclusive evidence of forgeries as well as false testimony in an earlier inquiry’.59 Bengurion was enraged. He issued an ultimatum to the ruling Labour party to remove Lavon, stormed out of a cabinet meeting and resigned. In what one trade unionist described as ‘an immoral and unjust submission to dictatorship’, his diehard supporters in the Histradut swung the vote in favour i)f accepting Lavon’s resignation. Lavon, however, won a moral victory over the man who twice forced him from office. In the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, students demonstrated in his favour. They carried placards reading: ‘Bengurion Go to Sde Boker, Take Dayan and Peres with You. We do Not Accept Leaders with Elastic Consciences.’60 The affair rocked the ruling establishment, split public opinion, forced new elections and contributed largely to Bengurion’s eventual disappearance from public life.

But Lavon was not the only real victim. There were also those misguided Egyptian Jews who paid with their lives or long terms of imprisonment. It is true that when, in 1968, Marcelle Ninio and her colleagues were exchanged for Egyptian’ prisoners in Israel, they received a heroes’ welcome. True, too, that when Miss Ninio got married Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defence Minister Dayan and Chief of Staff General Bar Lev all attended the wedding and Dayan told the bride ‘the Six-Day War was success enough that it led to your freedom’.61 However, after spending fourteen years in an Egyptian prison, the former terrorists did not share the leadership’s enthusiasm. When Ninio and two of her colleagues appeared on Israel television a few years later, they all expressed the belief that the reason why they were not released earlier was because Israel made little effort to get them out. ‘Maybe they didn’t want us to come back,’ said Robert Dassa. ‘There was so much intrigue in Israel. We were instruments in the hands of the Egyptians and of others … and what is more painful after all that we went through is that this continues to be so.’ In Ninio’s opinion, ‘the government didn’t want to spoil its relations with the United States and didn’t want the embarrassment of admitting it was behind our action’.62

But the real victims were the great mass of Egyptian Jewry. Episodes like the Lavon Affair tended to identify them, in the mind of ordinary Egyptians, with the Zionist movement. When, in 1956, Israeli invaded and occupied Sinai, feeling ran high against them. The government, playing into the Zionist hands, began ordering Jews to leave the country. Belatedly, reluctantly, 21,000 left in the following year; more were expelled later, and others, their livelihood gone, had nothing to stay for. But precious few went to Israel.

Ref: Al Jazeera

NOTES

49. Jerusalem Post, 12 December 1954.
5O. 13 December 1954.
51. 13 December 1954.
52. Berger, op. cit., p. 14.
53. love, Kennett, Suez: The Twice-Fought War, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1969, P. 71.
54. Ibid., p . 73.
55. Ibid., p. 74.
56. Love, op. cit., P. 77.
57. See p. 198.
58. New York Times, 10 February 1961.
59. Ibid
60. Jewish Chronicle, London, 17 February 1971.
61. Ha’olam Hazeh, 1 December 1971
62. Associated Press, 16 March 1975.

VIVA PALESTINE! Gaza aid held-up in Jordan

Since June 2007 Gaza has been under a crippling blockade with few essential goods making it through.

Now an aid convoy of 250 trucks and ambulances is attempting to reach the Strip to deliver much needed supplies.

But a bureaucratic argument with Egypt is holding it back in Aqaba in southwest Jordan.

Al Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher reports.

Visit VIVA PALESTINA!

OBAMA SPEECH: Convenient Crutch: Forget ‘Negotiations’, Mr. Obama

Whenever western leaders lecture us about a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem, they rely on those comfortable, woolly words “negotiation” and “peace process”… it’s a convenient crutch.

Kick away the crutch and they’d finally have to grasp the nettle of justice, something they have always avoided.

Justice is underpinned by law, but the operation of law in the Holy Land is conspicuously absent. The Arabs, I believe, want plain, simple justice. Why is this such a problem to a western alliance that claims to itself sweeping moral authority?

President Obama, speaking the other day in a BBC interview, said he believed the US was “going to be able to get serious negotiations back on track” between Israel and the Palestinians. Asked about Israel’s defiance of his call for a halt to illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Obama urged patience, saying it was early in the conversation. “Diplomacy is always a matter of a long hard slog. It’s never a matter of quick results.”

Diplomacy hasn’t produced a result in 61 years, and he made no mention of implementing international law and enforcing UN resolutions. Like others, he much prefers the soft and fluffy option of negotiations that go nowhere and a “process” that is doomed to fail, enabling Israel to pursue its evil designs indefinitely. In their minds, and for some unexplained reason, Israel is exempt from laws, conventions, codes of conduct and respect for human rights that other nations of the civilised world are expected to observe. It is allowed to act the brutal aggressor with impunity

“Negotiations” Without Law Are Immoral

There are, of course, several objections to the idea of “negotiations” in the Israel-Palestine context. In particular, it is immoral to put a weak party and a strong party together and expect a fair outcome when the strong party is in permanent occupation and has its military boot on the other’s throat.

It is immoral to expect a weak party to negotiate with a strong party that’s daily in breach of international law, commits war crimes and acts of piracy and continues to steal land and dispossess the weak party’s citizens in order to unlawfully expand its borders.

It is immoral for the sponsors of the negotiations to be partisan and vilify the democratically elected representatives of the weak party, and to refuse to acknowledge the weak party’s right to political self-determination and territorial integrity.

It is immoral to force negotiations without first establishing a level playing field in terms of compliance with international law and UN resolutions. The international community has shirked this responsibility for decades – not because the peoples of the member nations are reluctant but because their leaders are corrupt.

Mr. Obama says there needs to be “a good deal of truth-telling” if the rift between America and the Muslim world is to be healed. Which of the many painful truths will he tell? As David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, remarked: “If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it is true, but 2,000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country.”

Truth-telling: What is Obama’s Version of the Truth?

The whole rotten 90 years of lies and betrayal needs to be ventilated and understood in the West… the chicanery leading up to the 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine that gave the Jews 57 percent when they accounted for only 30 percent of the population, and how the plan designated Jerusalem, with its major religious sites, an internationally administered city.

How the Jews apparently accepted the plan, declared statehood in May 1948 but wanted more. How the new Israel immediately proceeded to uproot 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes and lands, obliterated nearly 400 Arab villages and towns, and allegedly committed some 34 massacres in pursuit of its territorial ambitions.

How Israel demolished 125,000 Palestinian homes, and after 1967 destroyed 18,000 more. How house demolition is still used today as a deliberate strategic tool to break the Palestinians’ will, achieve ethnic transfer and help make Israel’s control of Occupied Palestine permanent.

And how, in the process, Israel has flagrantly breached of every rule, convention and declaration governing civilised conduct.

UN Resolution 194, re-passed many times since 1948, requires Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and compensate those choosing not to. Israel has refused to comply. Meanwhile any Jew from anywhere in the world, who has never before lived in Israel and whose ancestors have never lived in Israel, can go and live in Israel while Palestinians who can prove title to their former homes may not.

In 1967, under the pretext of the Six Day War, Israel seized what remained of Palestine – the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Resolution 242 ordered Israel to withdraw its armed forces, but again it defied the international community and international law. As a result Palestinians today comprise the largest refugee population in the world and have endured the longest, most brutal occupation in modern times.

Obama should remind himself of the countless other UN resolutions that Israel has defied.

Israel says it “withdrew completely” from Gaza in 2005. It didn’t. It still occupies Gaza’s airspace, airwaves and coastal waters, and the military invade with tanks, bulldozers and aircraft to shoot the place up whenever they please. Israel still controls all the border crossings except the one with Egypt, which it is allowed to ‘monitor’.

Gaza’s 3,000 licensed fishermen are unable to put to sea and earn their living for fear of being fired on by Israel patrol boats.

We in the West are asked to believe the siege of Gaza is about rockets “raining down” on Sderot, an Israeli township built on stolen Palestinian land. Stop the Gaza rockets and things will be OK, says Israel. But Palestinians in the West Bank don’t fire rockets and the Israelis are still in occupation after 41 years. They have seized Palestinian agricultural land and water resources for their own use. While Israelis fill their swimming pools and wash their cars, Palestinians have to survive on as little as 10 to 15 litres a day. More than 38% of their territory is now off-limits to them. In the Gaza Strip the UN reports that a border “exclusion zone” imposed by Israel bites as much as a mile into the narrow enclave and renders 30 percent of Gaza’s farmland unusable.

Gaza overflows with unpalatable truths. Hamas have invited Obama to visit and see the evidence for himself. He could demonstrate his good intentions by accepting.

The ‘roadmap’ endorsed by the UN Security Council puts Israel under an obligation to immediately dismantle outposts erected since 2001, freeze all squatter activity and do nothing to undermine trust, including confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property. Israel rides roughshod over these obligations.

“Because Israel does not recognize Ottoman or British-era deeds, 72% of the West Bank is considered Israeli ‘state lands’. More than 200 settlements have been constructed in the Occupied Territories, and 450,000 Israelis have migrated across the 1967 boundaries,” says the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The main aim of the squatter project, together with the exclusive Jewish claim to the entire country, is to prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. “The settlements, the infrastructure serving them and the security system necessary to protect them have carved the Occupied Territories into dozens of isolated, impoverished enclaves. Palestinians are forbidden to travel between these enclaves without military permission, thus turning their own towns and villages into prisons.”

Nevertheless Israel’s allies continue preaching a two-state solution to safeguard the ‘purity’ of the racist regime, knowing that it involves the remnants of Occupied Palestine becoming a permanently ghettoized sub-state, subservient to Israel and never capable of prospering.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the route of the Separation Wall, where it intrudes deeply into Palestinian territory, is illegal and should be dismantled. Far from complying, Israel is still building it.

In the wake of Israel’s 22-day devastation of Gaza and wholesale murder of its civilians at the New Year, the Zionist regime is not only blocking humanitarian and reconstruction aid but also denying access to teams investigating allegations of war crimes.
And let’s not forget that 10,000 Palestinians, including women and children abducted from their homes, are rotting in Israeli jails, many without charge or trial. 30+ democratically elected Palestinian parliamentarians are also imprisoned.

Here’s something else for us all – not just Muslims – to worry about. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission says that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal possibly larger than the British stockpile. Israel is the only state in the region that is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. It has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Nevertheless the US government pours aid into Israel at a rate of around $3 billion annually. The money helps pay for Israel’s illegal occupation, its helicopter gun-ships, tanks and high-tech weaponry, Caterpillar bulldozers, and all the other paraphernalia of military oppression. Israel usually gets another $2 to 3 billion in indirect aid – military support, loan write-offs and special grants. So the US taxpayer is generously funding Israel’s destruction of Palestinian infrastructure (often paid for by British, EU and US taxpayers) and livelihoods, and its ethnic cleansing programme.

And what does the President think about the racist overtones in the manifesto of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party? It says: “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state… Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel… The government firmly rejects attempts of various sources in the world, some anti-Semitic in origin, to question Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital.”

Rivals Kadima aim for a solid Jewish majority and claim the Jewish people have a national and historic right to the Land of Israel “in its entirety”. They seem determined to grab all of it.

The last official word on the question of Jerusalem, I believe, was the UN’s declaration at the time of the 1947 Partition that it should be a ‘corpus separatum’ – an international city. So a good starting point for Mr. Obama and the international community would be to knock these nonsensical Zionist claims of exclusive ownership on the head and properly implement at least this part of the UN plan, in order to take some of the heat out of the situation.

There are many more truths that ought to be aired. But enough are mentioned here to send a simple and obvious message to Mr. Obama. End the occupation. Apply the law. Deliver justice. Stop helping to sustain Israeli oppression. It would not be tolerated anywhere else.

Ref. Palestine chronicle

- Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.

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