February 21, 2011

EDITOR: The Arab Intifada marches on across the region: Endgame in Libya is intensifying

Despite the initial victories in Tunisia and Egypt, the western front continues to support all tyrants until they are toppled 0 a recipe for continued hatred towards those countries without which the tyrants would never have lasted as long as they have. One wonders how many of those dictators must disappear brfore Washington, London and Paris might start thinking logically, not to say morally.

We are told that important financial calculation are directing this abysmal behaviour; if so, they are directing it into a crash, for sure. The new democratic governments which will start working soon in all the countries now under the sway of protesters, will not easily forget and forgive this behaviour of the west. In that sense, the west is not just acting, as it has all along, against democracy and human rights in these countries, but also against iots own interests.

The uprising in Libya is meeting the full might of the mad ruler, who is prepared to kill any number to continue his rule. Despite the barbarous attacks by the criminal ‘security forces’, and by numerous mercenaries from other African countries, shooting to kill, it seems that the end of this could only be the decapitating of this murderous regime, and sooner rather than later. Once the great fear of the regime has dissipated, as happened elsewhere, the bravery and anger will bring about welcome change.

Some time ago, William Hague, the UK foreign Secretary, has claimed he heard that Gadaffi is on his way to Venezuela, a rumour quickly scotched by the Venezuelans. One hopes that Chavez is not mad enough for such a move, offering the Butcher of Libya what the Saudi king has offered the deposed Tunisian leader… This could lead to protest close to home, in Caracas itself, for a change!

The only prpoer place for the Butcher is in the Court, where he will be dealt the justice he denied his own citizens for 42 years.

This may well concern the US and UK, whose many commercial and defense deals with sultans and Emirs across the region, once presented as great successes, now look decidedly dubious and rickety. One waits with some enjoyment for the changed tune in the western capitals…

It seems Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate, has gone underground, on Friday, and since then has had nothing to say about Libya or Bahrain. He really should get out more… Until now, he has manged to make Dubya like a real peace activist! It is also apparent that Gaddafi himself has gone somewhere, as he has disappeared at the same time as Obama, so maybe they are somewhere together?

Support of the Israeli Peace Camp for the Autocratic Palestinian Regime

Tikva Honig-Parnass
The Zionist left has always supported US imperialism and its autocratic Arab allies, claiming that US policy seeks to enforce peace and democracy in the Middle East. This claim has likewise been the pretext for their support of the PA police state in the
making. However, Uri Avnery’s embrace of Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad’s oppressive regime lays bare an appalling fact: the genuine Palestinian national movement has no partner, even within the most radical wing of Israel’s so-called “peace camp.”
Academics and publicists from the Zionist left have persistently distorted the notion of democracy when insisting on applying it to the political regime in Israel. Despite the fact that some admit the “stains in Israel’s democracy,” they support the definition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” which implies the structural discrimination and marginalization of the indigenous Palestinian population. They usually cling to the misleading argument that the preference of Jews does not violate the equality of individual citizenship rights held by the Palestinians in Israel. This hypocritical stance of the self-proclaimed “liberals” has been largely sustained by the prevailing political culture, which they themselves actively helped create: namely, the state-centered culture portrayed by the late sociologist Baruch Kimmerling as “semi-fascist”. Accordingly, the values of individual human rights, the essence of democracy, are perceived as subservient to state security.
Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science has well represented the role of the intellectual on the Zionist left in granting “scientific” confirmation to the definition of the Zionist settler state as “democracy.” For example, he depicts the Law of Return – which is central to the Apartheid nature of the Israeli legal infrastructure as just an “immigration law,” no different from immigration laws in other democratic states such as the US and Norway’ 1.
Now, in wake of the popular uprising in Egypt that threatens the other dictatorial regimes across the Middle East, Shlomo Avinery has come up with a new insight on the imperative commitment of democrats to fight against an autocratic regime. He expressly argues that a peace treaty – which ensures the “security” of Israel – is a top “moral” value that justifies the past support of Mubarak’s totalitarian “internal” regime:
“Recently, we here were presented with a rather problematic choice: Do we support democracy, or do we support the Israeli interest in maintaining security and stability? When a moral value (democracy ) is thus posited against realpolitik (stability and
security), it is easy to lapse into the argument that Peace is not only a political, military and security arrangement; it is also a moral value. The fact that for 30 years not a single Israeli or Egyptian soldier was killed in hostile activities on our common
border, […] is not only a strategic achievement, but a moral achievement of the highest order, credit for which goes to political leaders on both sides.”
In his effort to justify the alliance with Mubarak and belittle his brutal oppression of the Egyptian people, Avineri makes a most bizarre comparison: [..]”Just as it is permissible to praise former Prime Minister Menachem Begin for achieving peace with Egypt, without agreeing with many of his views it is permissible to praise former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his determination, sometimes under great pressure, to preserve the peace initiated by his predecessor Anwar Sadat. That is not support for a despot; it’s support for the moral content of peace.”
The lip service paid to “Israel’s interest in democracy in Egypt” is soon wiped out by the summary of his main message to Israelis – and, indirectly, to Egyptians as well: “But Egypt’s internal regime is the business of its own citizens, and we would do well not to try to advise them whom to elect and whom not to elect. In any event, the moral aspect of peace, which is based on the principle of preserving human life and its quality of life, must be a guide to us, as to Egyptian society that has now embarked on a new path”.
Avineri’s indifference toward Mubarak’s despotic regime (and any regime that would replace his) because of Israel’s interests in peace with Egypt, is merely the expression of US imperial strategy in the Middle East (and elsewhere), to which Israel is a lesser partner. This strategy consists of supporting even the most brutal oppressive regimes as long as they sustain their submission to US interests. A recent article by Noam Chomsky deals with, among other things, US concerns about the “shock wave throughout the region set in motion by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that drove out western-backed dictators.” He reminds us of
what he has been emphasizing for a long time: “Washington and its allies keep to the well established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives [..]The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains.” 2
This is the true meaning of the “morality” that Prof. Avineri attributes to “maintaining security and stability” through peace with Egypt. He should know better the role of this “peace” in sustaining US and Israeli interests by fortifying the “moderate block” of the despotic Arab states. Their joint aim is to eliminate “secular nationalism,” including the national rights of the Palestinian people. Mubarak’s Egypt fully complied with Israel and the US in blocking a peace agreement that would recognize these rights, as has long since been known.
Shlomo Avineri’s doctrine of privileging Israel’s “security” over “internal” democracy, in the case of Egypt, has usually been adopted by leftist Zionists in regard to the Palestinian Authority, albeit without admitting it explicitly. It was Labor PM Ytzhak Rabin who justified Israeli “concessions” in the Oslo Accords on the grounds that the Accords would bring about a collaborative Palestinian Authority that would repress resistance “without [the shackles] of [Israel’s] Supreme Court and [the human rights organization] B’tselem.” And indeed, the Zionist left has embraced the autocratic regime that has developed under the PA, which thus granted the PA recognition as an “appropriate” partner for peace. This support for the oppressive and collaborationist PA has been shared by even the most militant wing of the Israeli peace camp. The release of the Al Jazeera documents, and Uri Avineri’s response to them, have contributed the ultimate proof of this shameful support. These documents revealed the full compliance of the Palestinian leadership with US-Israeli demands, as well as their collaboration with the latter’s schemes to do away with the national Palestinian movement. 3
Gush Shalom, founded and led by Uri Avnery, responded to the Al Jazeera papers in its weekly statement in Haaretz of January 28, 2011, saying: “The Al Jazeera Disclosures prove: The Palestinians have no partner for peace.” Indeed, the “Palestine Papers” confirm in every detail that, during the last decade, Israeli governments have objected to any potential plan for peace settlement, while simultaneously entrenching the occupation regime in the ’67 conquered territories. The papers disclose what was known to anyone who refused to take part in welcoming the charade of the peace process or to believe that it would lead to a peace settlement that would fulfill the Palestinians’ national aspirations. Uri Avney has played a significant role in creating and sustaining this
baseless belief, which he shared with the intellectual elite and activists among the Zionist left.
However, Avnery’s positions have had a significant influence on genuine peace-seekers in Israel and abroad, due to his determined and persistent struggle against the ’67 occupation and the atrocities committed in the occupied territories by Israeli authorities.
Avnery’s optimistic message has relied on what he calls the “realism” of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership that ascended to power after his death; namely, their readiness for partial concessions to Israeli demands in the framework of the two-state solution which, however, don’t violate the basic national rights of the Palestinian people. Moreover, Avnery has constantly assured the public, both in Israel and abroad, that the concessions made by Abu Mazen are accepted by the majority of the Palestinians who recognize the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority as their representative. He never challenged the legitimacy of the PA leadership even after the victory of Hamas in the 2006 democratic elections, which the PA ignored and which brought about the separation from the Gaza Strip.

To read the whole article, use the link above

Gadaffi, by Carlos Latuff

Fisk on Bahrain: Al Jazeera online

Libya protests spread and intensify: Al Jazeera online

Security forces open fire on anti-government demonstrators in Tripoli, as protests escalate across the country.
21 Feb 2011

”]At least 61 people were killed in clashes in the city on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The protests appeared to be gathering momentum, with demonstrators saying they have taken control of several important towns and the city of Benghazi, to the east of Tripoli.

A huge anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

Libyan authorities have cut all landline and wireless communication in the country, making it impossible to verify the report.

As violence flared, the Reuters news agency quoted William Hague, the British foreign secretary, as saying he had seen some information to suggest that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to Venezuela.

But Al Jazeera’s Dima Khatib, reporting from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, said government officials there denied that Gaddafi was on his way to the South American country.

The Libyan deputy foreign minister also denied that Gaddafi had fled the country.

With reports of large-scale military operations under way in Tripoli, a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief held extensive discussions with Gaddafi on Monday, condemned the escalating violence in Libya and told him that it “must stop immediately”.

” … The secretary-general underlined the need to ensure the protection of the civilian population under any circumstances. He urged all parties to exercise restraint and called upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogue to address legitimate concerns of the population,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

For this part, several Libyan diplomats at the country’s UN mission called on Gaddafi to step down.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, the deputy ambassador, said that if Gaddafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people [would] get rid of him”.

“We don’t agree with anything the regime is doing … we are here to serve the Libyan people,” he told Al Jazeera.

Plea for no-fly zone

Dabbashi urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent mercenaries, weapons and other supplies from reaching Gaddafi and his security forces.

He said the Libyan diplomats were urging the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based body, to investigate possible crimes against humanity in the Libyan context.

Dabbashi’s comments came just hours after Ahmed Elgazir, a human-rights researcher at the Libyan News Centre (LNC) in Geneva, Switzerland, told Al Jazeera that security forces were “massacring” protesters in Tripoli.

Elgazir said the LNC received a call for help from a woman “witnessing the massacre in progress who called on a satellite phone”.

Earlier, a privately run local newspaper reported that the Libyan justice minister had resigned over the use of deadly force against protesters.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ahmad Jibreel, a Libyan diplomat, confirmed that the justice minister, Mustapha Abdul Jalil, had sided with the protesters.

“I was speaking to the minister of justice just a few minutes ago … he told me personally, he told me he had joined the supporters. He is trying to organise good things in all cities,” he said.

In protesters’ hands

Jibreel further said that key cities near Libya’s border with Egypt were now in the hands of protesters, which he said would enable the foreign media to enter the country.

“Gaddafi’s guards started shooting people in the second day and they shot two people only,” he said.

“We had on that day in Al Bayda city only 300 protesters. When they killed two people, we had more than 5,000 at their funeral, and when they killed 15 people the next day, we had more than 50,000 the following day.

“This means that the more Gaddafi kills people, the more people go into the streets.”

In another development on Monday, two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta and their pilots asked for political asylum, according to a military source.

The pilots, who made an unauthorised landing in Malta, claimed to have defected after failing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Benghazi in Libya, Karl Stagno-Navarra, an Al Jazeera contributor, said from Valletta.

The  pilots, who claimed to be colonels in the Libyan air force, were being questioned by authorities in an attempt to verify their identities.

The two Mirage jets landed at Malta’s international airport shortly after two civilian helicopters landed carrying seven people who said they were French. Only one of the passengers had a passport.

Against this backdrop of escalating violence, Libyan state television reported that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, was forming a committee to investigate the incidents taking place in the country

Earlier in the day, Saif al-Islam warned of a civil war if anti-government protests continued to spread in the country.

Speaking on state television, he blamed thugs, foreigners and Islamists for the unrest.

He promised a conference on constitutional reforms within two days and said Libyans should “forget oil and petrol” and prepare themselves for occupation by “the West” if they failed to agree.

The younger Gaddafi contrasted the situation in Libya with revolts earlier this year in Egypt and Tunisia, where longtime rulers were forced step down or fled in the face of mass popular discontent.

Protesters in Libya have similarly called for Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow, but his son warned against this, saying “Libya is different, if there is disturbance it will split into several states”.

Following Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s speech, witnesses in Tripoli reported an escalation of violence, as supporters of his father flooded into the city’s central square and confronted anti-government protesters.

Armed men in uniform fired into the crowds, witnesses said, and continuous gunfire could be heard in the background of recorded phone calls from the capital released to journalists by Libyans living abroad.

Netanyahu should view U.S. veto at the UN as a warning: Haaretz Editorial

Once again, the American superpower appeared to lose some of its prestige and international standing in order to defend the Israeli settlement enterprise, which enjoys the support of powerful patrons in Congress.
After hesitating until the very last moment, U.S. President Barack Obama decided to have his envoy veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements. The Palestinian-initiated proposal would have declared the Israeli settlement enterprise in the territories illegal. Fourteen members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, and only the U.S. veto kept it from being passed.

The Palestinians lost the vote, but achieved their goal: They exposed for all to see the international isolation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration and embarrassed the U.S. administration by revealing it as two-faced.

In explaining the veto decision, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, denounced the “illegitimacy” of the settlements and stressed that Obama agreed with the resolution’s sponsors but had to oppose it for political reasons.

Once again, the American superpower appeared to lose some of its prestige and international standing in order to defend the Israeli settlement enterprise, which enjoys the support of powerful patrons in Congress.

Netanyahu celebrated his victory over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but he should view the U.S. veto as a warning. The world’s patience over continuing construction in the settlements is wearing thin. The Palestinians are making suspension of building a prerequisite for negotiations, a position which has international support. Netanyahu’s efforts to blame Abbas for the absence of peace talks is received with skepticism in light of the settlement building.

Netanyahu is now calling for a new arms race in response to the revolution in Egypt. (“The defense budget will grow,” as he told the cabinet yesterday. )

Instead of fanning the flames in the region and further heightening Israel’s isolation he should work to defuse tension, to listen to the international community and to present a practical program for ending the occupation and the conflict.

Instead of acceding to the demands of right-wing cabinet members and approving major building plans in the West Bank, he should recognize the diplomatic damage that the settlements cause Israel, and renew the construction moratorium.

That would be Israel’s contribution to shaping the new reality in the region and preserving the status of the United States, which was injured by Friday’s veto in the Security Council.

Libya protests: Tripoli hit by renewed clashes: BBC

Security forces and protesters have clashed in Libya’s capital for the second night, after the government announced a new crackdown.

Witnesses say warplanes have fired on protesters in Tripoli.

To the west of the city, sources say the army is fighting forces loyal to ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi, who appears to be struggling to hold on to power.

Libya’s deputy envoy to the UN has called on Col Gaddafi to step down, and accused his government of genocide.

Ibrahim Dabbashi said that if Col Gaddafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people will get rid of him”.

Smoke and flames
The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in neighbouring Egypt, says Col Gaddafi has now lost the support of almost every section of society.

Tripoli’s airport is packed with passengers trying to leave the country. Hundreds of people of different nationalities have gathered with their families.

In the city, the streets are almost empty except for armed police or security with civilian outfits, who are on every corner.

Mobile phone networks are down and even landlines can’t dial international calls. Burnt-out buildings are smouldering in several locations, and as the sun sets, there is heavy gunfire in the city centre and planes flying overhead.

Reliable sources say Col Gaddafi has now left the capital, our correspondent adds.

Clashes in Tripoli on Sunday night were suppressed by the security forces. On Monday, state TV reported a renewed operation had begun against opposition elements.

“Security forces have started to storm into the dens of terror and sabotage, spurred by the hatred of Libya,” the Libyan TV channel reported.

An eyewitness in Tripoli told the BBC he could see people being shot down by aircraft.

Another eyewitness in the capital said the suburbs of Fashloom and Zawiyat al-Dahmani had been cordoned off by security forces.

Protesters were out on the streets, and flames and smoke could be seen rising from the area, the witness said.

In an earlier TV address, Col Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam conceded that the eastern cities of al-Bayda and Benghazi were under opposition control.

But he warned of civil war and vowed that the regime would “fight to the last bullet”.

Amid the turmoil on the streets, senior officials have begun to desert the regime.

Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil quit the government because of the “excessive use of violence”, the privately owned Quryna newspaper reported.

Libya’s envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, announced he was “joining the revolution”.

And several diplomatic missions reportedly said they were pledging allegiance to the people of Libya rather than the Gaddafi government.

Meanwhile, two Libyan fighter jets have landed in Malta, where officials say the pilots defected after they were ordered to bomb civilians.

Two Libyan helicopters apparently carrying French oil workers have also landed in Malta.

Oil price jumps
Reports from several cities suggest the country is sliding out of the government’s control:

In Az-Zawiya, 40km (25 miles) west of Tripoli, witnesses say the police have fled, government buildings have been burnt down and the city is in chaos.
Unconfirmed reports from the port city of Darnah say protesters are holding more than 300 workers hostage – many of them Bangladeshis.
Several hundred Libyans stormed a South Korean-run construction site west of Tripoli, injuring at least four workers.
In Benghazi, reports say 11 solders were killed by their commanding officers for refusing to fire on protesters.
The violence has helped to push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008.

At one point, Brent crude – one of the main benchmarks on world oil markets – reached $105 (£65) a barrel.

International firms including BP, one of the world’s biggest oil companies, are preparing to pull their staff out of Libya.

Thank you, Obama, for showing the Israeli left your true colors: Haaretz

Instead of castigating Obama’s hypocrisy, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would do well to take off his jacket, leave his compound and invite young people to a protest tent in Ramallah’s Manara Square.
By Akiva Eldar
The decision by 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Barack Obama, to veto a resolution urging Israel to refrain from activities deemed subversive to peace efforts represents a victory of domestic politics over foreign policy in the world’s leading superpower. The lame excuse that denunciation of construction in the settlements would harm “the peace process” constitutes a victory of opportunism over morality.

Just two weeks ago, during the demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States honors “the universal right of all persons to live in freedom.” Even Israel’s former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, a graduate of the “nationalist camp,” argues in his book that settlements violate human rights, the quality of life and freedom of movement of the Palestinians.

What would happen were the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to join other states in the Security Council and cast a vote in favor of the resolution condemning Israel’s settlement activity? Would the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government place a freeze on settlement activity? George Mitchell, the special envoy for Middle East peace, knows the answer to this question. Ten years ago, an international committee he headed found that Israel’s settlement policies cause humiliation to residents of the territories and disrupt their lives. Mitchell and his associates called on Israel to decide whether the settlements are a bargaining chip for future negotiations or a provocation that will prevent the start of such talks. The committee recommended that a freeze be placed on settlement expansion, even for purposes of “natural growth.” Israel’s government accepted the report.

Since then, the population of the settlements has grown by 50,000. The Mitchell committee’s recommendation for a general settlement freeze, along with the dismantling of settlement outposts set up after March 2001, was included in stage A of the Road Map plan, presented by the quartet to the two sides in April 2003. (The Sharon government did not refer to this recommendation for a freeze when it submitted 14 reservations regarding the Road Map plan. )

A few months later, the Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a Bush administration proposal calling on Israel and the Palestinians to uphold their obligations under the Road Map (Resolution 1515 ). What happened afterward? That’s correct: The settlements continued to grow. So did the settlement outposts. It bears mention that in June 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Knesset that his government intended to adopt a policy of “dismantling the unauthorized outposts.”

Contrary to the claim made by the Americans, another Security Council denunciation would not have reduced the chances of promoting peace negotiations, just as the veto they cast does not increase the probability that Netanyahu will come around and present his positions on core issues. Since 1967, the international community, headed by the United States, has paid lip service to the Palestinians, and in recent years, also considerable taxpayer funds. No state will be created as a result. Were it not for the masses of Egyptians who stood up bravely to the policemen at Tahrir Square, the Americans would continue to chirp duplicitously upon reading the State Department’s chilling reports about human rights abuses in Egypt. “There is a young generation in the Middle East which seeks opportunity,” declared Obama, when he grasped that the Mubarak era had reached its end. The president added: “The leaders cannot lag behind the demands made by young people.” These words obviously also apply to the young people of Nablus and East Jerusalem, who, after 43 years of occupation, hunger for liberation, freedom and dignity.

Instead of castigating Obama’s hypocrisy, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would do well to take off his jacket, leave his compound and invite young people to a protest tent in Ramallah’s Manara Square. Instead of toying with the illusion that the United Nations will recognize a Palestinian state, Abbas should announce that should Netanyahu persist with his refusal to present a permanent border plan, the Palestinian Authority will tell donor states that it is closing its gates and returning the keys to Israel’s military government. Under such circumstances, perhaps even the Israeli left will stop whining about the world’s “hypocrisy” and purge itself of the illusion that some foreign politician will risk his job to save us from ourselves.

Thanks, Obama, for taking off the mask and showing us your real face. It’s high time we took a look at ourselves in the mirror.

Gaddafi cruelly resists, but this Arab democratic revolution is far from over: The Guardian

The burning question is, where next? After Ben Ali and Mubarak, others may not fall so easily – but most regimes are candidates
David Hirst
The world has yet to settle on an agreed term for the great events unfolding across the Middle East. I was in the depths of the French countryside – out of touch, and with a BBC World Service that could only fade in and out of hearing late at night and early morning – during their latest, awe-inspiring Egypt phase. But I was soon persuaded that the designation which, in an article in Le Monde, Gilles Kepel, the noted expert on Islamic fundamentalism, assigned them would prove as accurately encapsulating as any. He dubbed them the “Arab democratic revolution”.

It is definitely, all-encompassingly Arab. The moment one Arab country, Tunisia, lit the spark, it ignited a fire, a contagion, which all Arabs instantly hoped – and its initially mysterious begetters seem to have envisaged or even planned – would spread to the whole “Arab nation”. They all recognised themselves in the aspirations of the Tunisian people, and most appeared to be seized with the belief that if one Arab people could achieve what all had long craved, so could the others.

It is self-evidently democratic. To be sure, other factors, above all the socio-economic, greatly fuelled it, but the concentration on this single aspect of it, the virtual absence of other factional or ideological slogans has been striking. Indeed, so striking that, some now say, this emergence of democracy as an ideal and politically mobilising force amounts to nothing less than a “third way” in modern Arab history. The first was nationalism, nourished by the experience of European colonial rule and all its works, from the initial great carve-up of the “Arab nation” to the creation of Israel, and the west’s subsequent, continued will to dominate and shape the region. The second, which only achieved real power in non-Arab Iran, was “political Islam”, nourished by the failure of nationalism.

And it is doubly revolutionary. First, in the very conduct of the revolution itself, and the sheer novelty and creativity of the educated and widely apolitical youth who, with the internet as their tool, kindled it. Second, and more conventionally, in the depth, scale and suddenness of the transformation in a vast existing order that it seems manifestly bound to wreak.

Arab, yes – but not in the sense of the Arabs going their own away again. Quite the reverse. No other such geopolitical ensemble has so long boasted such a collection of dinosaurs, such inveterate survivors from an earlier, totalitarian era; no other has so completely missed out on the waves of “people’s power” that swept away the Soviet empire and despotisms in Latin America, Asia and Africa. In rallying at last to this now universal, but essentially western value called democracy, they are in effect rejoining the world, catching up with history that has left them behind.

If it was in Tunis that the celebrated “Arab street” first moved, the country in which – apart from their own – Arabs everywhere immediately hoped that it would move next was Egypt. That would amount to a virtual guarantee that it would eventually come to them all. For, most pivotal, populous and prestigious of Arab states, Egypt was always a model, sometimes a great agent of change, for the whole region. It was during the nationalist era, after President Nasser’s overthrow of the monarchy in 1952, that it most spectacularly played that role. But in a quieter, longer-term fashion, it was also the chief progenitor, through the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, of the “political Islam” we know today, including – in both the theoretical basis as well as substantially in personnel – the global jihad and al-Qaida that were to become its ultimate, deviant and fanatical descendants.

But third, and most topically, it was also the earliest and most influential exemplar of the thing which, nearly 60 years on, the Arab democratic revolution is all about. Nasser did seek the “genuine democracy” that he held to be best fitted for the goals of his revolution. But, for all its democratic trappings, it was really a military-led, though populist, autocracy from the very outset; down the years it underwent vast changes of ideology, policy and reputation, but, forever retaining its basic structures, it steadily degenerated into that aggravated, arthritic,deeply oppressive and immensely corrupt version of its original self over which Hosni Mubarak presided. With local variations, the system replicated itself in most Arab autocracies, especially the one-time revolutionary ones like his, but in the older, traditional monarchies too.

And, sure enough, Egypt’s “street” did swiftly move, and in nothing like the wild and violent manner that the image of the street in action has always tends to conjure up in anxious minds. As a broad and manifestly authentic expression of the people’s will, it accomplished the first, crucial stage of what surely ranks as one of the most exemplary, civilised uprisings in history. The Egyptians feel themselves reborn, the Arab world once more holds Egypt, “mother of the world”, in the highest esteem. And finally – after much artful equivocation as they waited to see whether the pharaoh, for 30 years the very cornerstone of their Middle East, had actually fallen – President Obama and others bestowed on them the unstinting official tributes of the west.

These plaudits raise the great question: if the Arabs are now rejoining the world what does it mean for the world? Will the adoption of a fundamental western value make it necessarily receptive to western policies or prescriptions? Probably not. Democracy itself, let alone Arab resentment over the west’s long record of upholding the old, despotic order, will militate against that.

Practically speaking, the Arabs’ “third way” only means that democracy, a political neutral concept in itself, will henceforth serve as their gateway for the conduct of their politics. It doesn’t mean supplanting the first two ways. For the politics of those cannot but persist into the third. Islamism, the west’s great bugbear, will still be there. A democratic order will find it impossible, on its own or any else’s behalf, to do what Nasser once did in the despotic one, execute some Muslim Brotherhood leaders and harshly suppress their followers. It is bound to accommodate them, openly and electorally ceding to them their true weight in Arab affairs, along with that of all other movements in competition with them.

Nationalism, once the other great western bugbear, will be one of these, and very probably, given the Brotherhood’s less than glorious role in the uprising, it will regain some of the ground it seriously began losing to the Islamists after the shattering Arab defeat of 1967.

A key, perhaps the key, element in America’s now sorely stricken Middle East strategies has always been about the Arab-Israeli conflict. With Islamism and nationalism, not to mention other political forces, freely expressing themselves, an Egyptian democracy will not, cannot, continue to play the role – utterly subservient, if not frankly treasonable, in many Arab eyes – that Mubarak did on behalf of the US and Israel. How significant this particular Egyptian-American divergence becomes remains to be seen. But most Israelis already see it as a calamity in the making, with the ironic consequence that the self-styled “only democracy in the Middle East” now leads the field in proclaiming that democracy should never have been for the Arabs.

But all this is looking ahead. For the time being, the burning questions will be about where the Arab democratic revolution strikes next. Though Europe 1989 is the obvious precedent, the kings and presidents may not fall like dominoes as the Honeckers and Ceausescus did. And, in the wake of Ben Ali and Mubarak, others may not fall so easily or prettily either. That is already apparent from the two latest, and most dramatic, episodes in the almost unceasing pro-democracy turbulence that already grips a good half-dozen Arab countries. The 200-year old Bahraini monarchy may have currently retreated into an attempt at dialogue and reconciliation, but this tight-knit, Sunni-minority regime has already shown how tenacious and tough – and bloody – it can be in the face of its Shia-majority uprising. As for Libya, there could hardly ever have been much doubt that, confronted with his uprising, Colonel Gaddafi, cruellest and most capricious of Arab dictators, would seek to do, in the grand manner, what he has always openly proclaimed he would do to any opponent of his 42-year-old Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab State of the Masses: which is to “cut them to pieces”.

But most regimes are candidates. Among the few likely exceptions, perhaps the most important, and certainly the most apt, is Lebanon, to which I have now returned. Ever turbulent, ever the most of exposed of Arabs to the consequences of what other Arabs do, it might logically seem destined to be among the first to go. But it isn’t – mainly because, alone in the region, it has always been a democracy of sorts.

Libya protests bloodiest yet as regime clings on – and cracks down: The Guardian

Unfolding events described by country’s deputy UN ambassador as a ‘real genocide’ as Gaddafi struggles to stay in power

Libya’s state television station shows what it said were supporters of leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, while reporting operations were under way against ‘terrorist nests’. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Libyan security forces fired on crowds of protesters in Tripoli as Muammar Gaddafi struggled desperately to hold on to power in what has become the bloodiest crackdown yet on Arab pro-democracy protesters.

With diplomats resigning en masse and two senior fighter pilots defecting to Malta after refusing to attack demonstrators, the Libyan leader looked beleaguered at home, unwelcome anywhere abroad and with very few options left.

“What’s going on in Libya is a real genocide,” said the country’s deputy UN ambassador, Ibrahim al-Dabashi.

“Death is everywhere,” one distraught Tripoli resident told al-Jazeera TV as he described air attacks on the terrified city. “Why is the world silent?”

Venezuela and Libya flatly denied reports that Gaddafi was on his way to exile in South America. But Libyan state TV said military operations were under way against “terrorist nests” and there were predictions of a bloodbath by a now desperate regime which feels the end approaching.

Developments on Monday included:

• The US ordering all non-emergency staff to leave Libya – a sure sign that the crisis is worsening.

• Libya’s justice minister announcing he was quitting, as did ambassadors in at least seven countries.

• Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the scene of alleged massacres in recent days, was reported to be in the hands of anti-government protesters, but violence continued unabated. Residents were organising vigilante groups to protect themselves and distribute food.

• Information remains fragmentary and confused, with phone lines and the internet intermittently cut and al-Jazeera satellite TV reportedly jammed by Libyan intelligence.

• Qatar condemned the use of military aircraft and machine guns against unarmed protesters and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League.

• The death toll passed 250 after six days of unrest but this is a conservative estimate. Al-Jazeera quoted medical sources in Tripoli saying 61 people had died in the latest protests there. The International Federation of Human Rights estimated the death toll at 300 to 400.

• Tribal and religious leaders spoke out against Gaddafi, with a coalition of Islamic scholars issuing a fatwa telling all Muslims it was their duty to rebel.

• Reports from Tripoli said the parliament building used by the General People’s Congress was on fire. Protests spread to the capital on Sunday after previously being confined largely to the east of Libya.

• Unconfirmed reports described firing from presumed Libyan naval vessels in the Mediterranean off Tripoli. The mood in the capital and its residential suburbs was tense and chaotic, with locals barricading themselves into neighbourhoods or staying inside, afraid of foreign mercenaries paid to shoot to kill.

Libyans had reacted furiously to Sunday night’s speech by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who warned of civil war, vowed to fight to the “last bullet” and claimed the country could be taken over by Islamists and divided by “imperialists”. TV clips showed furious people throwing shoes at the TV screen as he spoke.

“The regime is clutching at straws,” a Tripoli man told a friend abroad. “Their only hope is to create fear in the hearts of Libyans by planting the seed of fitna (sectarian strife). Fitna is often used by the weak to create upheaval and chaos in order to achieve division. We are united and we will continue.”

Most analysts believe that after the extraordinary events of the last few days, the end of Gaddafi’s rule is approaching.

“There is nowhere for him to go in the Arab world – the Saudis hate him,” said Charles Gurdon of Menas Associates, a London-based Middle East consultancy. “It would have to be somewhere like Zimbabwe or Venezuela. It may take 24 hours or a couple of months – no one really knows. But the end is nigh.”

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who spoke at length to Gaddafi, condemned the escalating violence in Libya and told him it “must stop immediately”.

Analysts are now looking ahead to the post-Gaddafi era, but admit that after 41 years of his rule the country is a “black box” about which it is hard to make predictions. “Everything is fragmented, there are no obvious leaders,” said George Joffe of Cambridge University. “Politicians have been functionaries of the regime. The only people with power were in the Gaddafi family or in the tribes.”

The Middle East: People, power, politics: The Guardian Editorial

It will be only when Gaddafi’s security forces cross lines that his maniacal grip will slip – but that moment could be far off
At the time, it was called the Libyan model, a turnaround so complete that everyone in the US from neocon to liberal claimed the credit for it. When Libya agreed in 1999 to hand over two suspects to the Lockerbie trial and then abandon its WMD programme in 2003, it was hailed an example of how a state once described by the CIA as an uninhibited supporter of international terrorism could come in from the cold. Everyone, not least the then prime minister, Tony Blair, flocked to shake Muammar Gaddafi’s hand. Announcing a new relationship, Mr Blair said he had been struck by how the Libyan leader wished to join Britain in the common cause of fighting al-Qaida, extremists and terrorism. The other part of that common cause was a deal with Shell for exploration rights. Peace with Libya has been lucrative ever since.

Now that at least 200 Libyans have been gunned down by their own security forces in the last four days – and that has to be a conservative estimate – the “new” Colonel Gaddafi is looking very much like the old one. It is impossible to say how widespread the Libyan revolt has become. We know it has been taking place in Benghazi and four other cities in the eastern tribal belt, where his support has been weaker than in Tripoli. Before what is being called a massacre took place on Saturday, the colonel dispatched his son Saadi to the city, where he promised reform. In the same vein, an SMS message sent late on Saturday appealed to Libyans to stop the bloodshed. Having fired on demonstrators and then on the funeral marches that those murders generated, the Libyan regime will find that these appeals will have little effect. As Sir Richard Dalton, a former ambassador to Libya, said, the attitude of the regime is all or nothing. High-velocity bullets speak louder than words.

It will be only when Gaddafi’s security forces refuse to obey orders or cross lines and join the demonstrators that his maniacal grip over his country will slip, but that moment could be far off. If the widespread reports of African mercenaries being used to shoot Libyans are accurate, he has few qualms about mowing down his own people. But by the same token, the very knowledge of what would happen to them at the hands of the secret police if they stopped now may have convinced most people in Benghazi that there is only one way, and that is forward. In a country where life is cheap, both sides in this conflict are locked in a fight to the finish. Unlike the falling regimes of Tunisia, Egypt or the still-standing monarchy in Bahrain, the US has little purchase on the Libyan leader. As a convert to the cause, the Libyan leader may still be considered too valuable to lose, as US influence in the region decreases. Nowhere is that truer than in the cockpit of the crisis, Palestine.

Palestinians are planning a day of rage in response to the veto the US wielded against a security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. As Dr Hanan Ashrawi, the veteran Palestinian legislator, said, Barack Obama was vetoing his own policy. At one point in a 50-minute conversation with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Obama reportedly threatened to cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. Mr Abbas has backed down before in the face of US threats, most notably over the Goldstone report on the war in Gaza. Had he done so this time, he might well have shared the same fate as his former ally, Hosni Mubarak. Both the veto and the threat to cut off aid are firsts for Mr Obama, a sorry betrayal of his inheritance of a potential fortune in US power – the trust of the Arab street. Britain, Germany and France, all allies of Israel, voted in favour of the motion. With demonstrations taking place in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Jenin, Mr Obama’s ability to persuade both sides to return to the negotiating table is rapidly diminishing, and with it the prospect of progress.

Egypt-Israel “peace treaty” brought more war than peace: The Electronic Intifada

Richard Irvine, 21 February 2011

Without its ally Hosni Mubarak in power in Egypt, Israel will have to think twice before it wages attacks in the region. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)

As the Egyptian revolution approached its climax the first priority of Israel and the West was that the so-called cornerstone of Middle East peace and security remain in place — the much-fabled 1979 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the almost sacred truth that the “longstanding peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East.” Going further, military expert Amos Harel warned that any break in the treaty could have dire consequences for Israel and so consequently the Egyptian revolution represented “a nightmare to Israeli intelligence leaders and planners” (“Cairo Tremors Will Be Felt Here, Haaretz, 30 January 2011).

This certainly would be understandable if an Egyptian abrogation of the treaty would be likely to lead to war, or if Israel had implemented the peace accords in good faith. The truth however is that Israel absolutely ignored its obligations under Part 1 of the treaty — to allow representative self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip leading to independence — while using the sure knowledge of Egypt’s neutrality to launch a series of devastating wars. Indeed, when one looks at the historical record there can surely be few treaties that have brought so little peace and so much war.

That Israel always viewed the Camp David Accords as a blank check is evident both in its behavior and in Western and Israeli commentators’ fears that the abrogation of the treaty might mean Israel will have to curtail its military interventions.

Writing in Israel’s Haaretz on 14 February, Aluf Benn declared, “Israel will find it difficult to take action far to the east when it cannot rely on the tacit agreement to its actions on its western border. Without Mubarak there is no Israeli attack on Iran.” Thus Benn concludes that Mubarak’s departure has actually prevented a new Israeli war.

Certainly Israel has used the absence of any significant Arab counterweight to pursue policies that have either repeatedly brought war, or in the case of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, presented “serious obstruction[s] to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East” as UN Security Council resolutions 446 and 478 put it.

What is evident from the record is that Israel wasted no time putting the treaty to the test. In 1980 it illegally annexed East Jerusalem, and the following year the Syrian Golan Heights. In 1981 it launched an illegal attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

More significantly Israel also used the accords as a means to continue the destruction and dispossession of Palestinian society. Under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israel developed a twin track approach with regard to the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip: a collaborationist “village league” form of governance was established, although due to Palestinian resistance it failed to take root, while simultaneously the number of illegal colonists in the West Bank and Gaza more than quadrupled (according to data published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, and collated by Peace Now, the number of settlers in the West Bank grew from 5,000 in the early 1970s to more than 20,000 in 1983).

This was a negation of the accords that led Israeli cabinet minister Ezer Weizman to resign after declaring that no one in the cabinet was interested in peace. Begin however was undeterred, which was not at all surprising as after the 1978 establishment of the illegal colony of Elon Moreh outside Nablus he had boasted that there would be “many more Elon Morehs to come” — a prophecy that has become only too true, as today there are over half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

However Begin’s primary use of the accords was as a means to wage war. In the first instance this meant the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the war against the Palestine Liberation Organization — a war launched without provocation and in the midst of what Noam Chomsky has described as a PLO “peace offensive.” During the course of this war Israel not only devastated the Palestinian and Lebanese populations of Lebanon but also systematically trashed the country and trounced the Syrian army when it sought to defend itself. At its end the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 17,825 civilians had been killed. Would this have been possible without Israel knowing that Egypt was permanently out of the conflict?

The same of course holds true for subsequent Israeli military actions, whether it was the brutal crushing of unarmed resistance during the first Intifada from 1987 to 1993, or the 1996 and 2006 reinvasions of Lebanon, or the mass casualties of the second intifada and the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza. In every case knowledge that Egypt would either stand idly by or indeed approve has made Israel confident that it could act with impunity.

Yet this was not always the case. For many years leading up to the Camp David Accords the Arab League had insisted that a final peace agreement must be a comprehensive one involving all parties to the conflict. Tragically Egypt under Sadat chose to break that consensus and by putting its own interests first effectively undermined the negotiating positions of all other Arab parties whilst giving Israel a free hand to militarily enforce its vision on the Middle East. If then the Camp David Accords do breakdown this should not be read as a sign that peace is further away than ever, but rather that perhaps at long last an all-embracing peace amongst equals may be possible.

Speaking at the time of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty signing, the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat commented, “Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last.” For Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and indeed Israelis, he has been proven only too correct.

Richard Irvine teaches a course at Queen’s University Belfast entitled “The Battle for Palestine” which explores the entire history of the conflict. Irvine has also worked voluntarily in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and taken part in olive planting and harvesting in the West Bank.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Permalink Print