March 5, 2011

‘Construction in West Bank settlements quadrupled since end of temporary freeze’: Haaretz

According to data by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, settlers began building over 114 houses during the 10-month settlement freeze, and began construction of over 427 houses since October 2010.
Since the end of the settlement moratorium five months ago, the construction rate in West Bank neighborhoods has quadrupled, data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed Saturday.

According to the data, over 114 housing units that settlers started building during the 10-month settlement freeze have been completed, as well as over 1,175 housing units which were started before the temporary moratorium.

The data also reveals that construction of over 427 housing units has begun since October 2010.

The Central Bureau of Statistics noted, however, that the data is based on partial information, and that there has also been a dramatic rise in illegal construction in West Bank outposts that has not been officially documented.

The data does not include caravans and tents that are often placed in illegal outposts to settle the land.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been on hold since Israel’s 10-month freeze on new settlements expired at the end of September 2010.

Is entertaining dictators worse than normalizing apartheid?: The Electronic Intifada

Nada Elia and Laurie King, 3 March 2011

As revolutions continue to sweep the Arab world, and the days of dictators seem numbered, we are learning a lot about the ties and alliances that have long characterized the west’s dealing with tyrants around the globe. “Stability,” apparently, requires us to make deals with the devil. And so we discover that the United States has long known about the human rights abuses of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, deposed Tunisian president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But it was willing nonetheless not only to turn a blind eye to these, but even to enable and fund, directly or indirectly, oppressive regimes, for the sake of what exactly? Oil? Corporations? The so-called “peace process?” Iraqi “freedom?” Israel’s security?

And as Arab tyrants are challenged, one by one, social media are abuzz with the embarrassing and numerous compliments and kind remarks that western heads of state, academics, pundits, and entertainers have given these deposed dictators. In a typical statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, said in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” Apparently, the Clinton-Mubarak friendship goes back about 20 years. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, a close friend of Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son and fourth in line to the British throne, has been a guest at Windsor Castle and Buckingham palace. The list is long.

But as the people seem determined to overthrow all those oppressive regimes, liberal Americans are openly questioning the wisdom and morality of “dealing with the devil.” In a highly critical segment on Anderson Cooper’s program AC 360, Cooper, a CNN journalist exhibiting an unusual level of courage and integrity among mainstream American media personalities, called out the various US presidents who have welcomed Gaddafi into their diplomatic circles, even as they acknowledged his tendency towards malice and mental instability, best epitomized by Ronald Reagan’s name for him: “the madman of the desert” (KTH: The West and Gadhafi’s regime,” 24 February 2011).

In that same episode, Cooper was critical of American artists Beyonce, Usher, and Mariah Carey, all three of whom gave private performances for the Gaddafis. Carey apparently received one million dollars for performing four songs for the Gaddafis on New Year in 2009. The following year, it was Beyonce and Usher who graced the Libyan dictator’s New Year’s celebration. Cooper asked why artists would perform for tyrants, and suggested that they donate the money they received to the Libyan people.

The news item was quickly picked up by other media. Rolling Stone magazine also ran an article stating that the music industry is lashing out at these artists, and quoting David T. Viecelli, agent for Arcade Fire and many other acts, as saying “Given what we know about Qaddafi and what his rule has been about, you have to willfully turn a blind eye in order to accept that money, and I don’t think it’s ethical” (Industry Lashes Out at Mariah, Beyonce and Others Who Played for Qaddafi’s Family,” 25 February 2011).

Amid all this uproar, Canadian singer Nelly Furtado announced on Twitter that she would donate to charity a one million dollar fee she received to perform for the Gaddafi family in 2007 (“Nelly Furtado to give away $1 million Gaddafi fee,” Reuters, 1 March 2011).

Those of us who have long been engaged in Palestine justice activism cannot help but notice glaring double-standards in these denunciations of the various deals with devils. And at this critical point in the history of the Arab world, we must request that our readers begin to “connect the dots” throughout the region. Is entertaining dictators a lesser crime than normalizing Israeli apartheid?

Why hold artists accountable for performing at the behest of tyrants, and let them off the hook for whitewashing Israel’s regime which engages in massive human rights abuses, all subsidized by the United States government?

Why not call out Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, and so many other artists, all of whom have performed in Israel, a state which practices a form of apartheid worse than anything the South African apartheid government had ever done? In 1973, the United Nations General Assembly defined the crime of Apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” As Israel’s official policy privileges Jewish nationals over non-Jewish citizens, creating de facto and de jure discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people, it is hard to dispute that this supposed “democracy” is in reality an apartheid state.

Many of the discriminatory measures Israel practices today were unthought of in apartheid South Africa. In his powerful essay, “Apartheid in the Holy Land,” penned shortly after his return from a visit to the West Bank, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa” (“Apartheid in the Holy Land,” The Guardian, 29 April 2002).

In 2009, a comprehensive study by South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories.

That study was inspired by the observations of John Dugard, South African law professor and former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, who wrote in 2006: “Israel’s large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassination of Palestinians far exceeded any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites.” And no roads were ever built for whites only in South Africa either, while Israel continues to build Jewish-only roads, cutting through the Palestinian landscape.

Israel’s form of apartheid includes the crippling blockade of Gaza; the ongoing seizure of Palestinian land and water sources; construction of the West Bank apartheid wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem; the denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees and discriminatory laws and mounting threats of expulsion against the 1.2 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.

And as word inevitably gets out, because we are no longer pleading for permission to narrate, but seizing our right to expose these crimes, Israel is hard at work trying to fix its image, without changing the policies and actions that have tarnished that image. As it cements its apartheid policies, Israel is funneling millions of dollars into burnishing its public image as a culturally vibrant, progressive, and thriving democracy.

Among its PR moves is the cultural “Re-Brand” campaign. Israel is intentionally inviting international artists to such “hip” places as Tel Aviv to mask the ugly face of occupation, apartheid, displacement, and dispossession. If we are to hold artists accountable for their choice of performance venues and income sources — as indeed we should — then we should hold them accountable for complicity in normalizing apartheid no less than for entertaining dictators.

In an important article that appeared in The Grio, Lori Adelman also asks: “Why are black pop stars performing at the behest of dictators?” before making the comparison to Sun City, the extravagant whites-only entertainment resort city in apartheid South Africa. And she reminds her readers of the impact of the Artists United Against Apartheid music project, which contributed one million dollars for anti-Apartheid efforts and, most importantly, raised awareness about the global power of artists to influence political discourse on human rights issues (“Why are black pop stars performing at the behest of dictators?,” 24 February 2011).

Today, there is global awareness of Israel’s numerous crimes. And there is a call for artists to boycott Israel, until the country abides by international law. The call was issued in 2005 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.pacbi.org/). In the US, where we live, the campaign is coordinated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. When we learn of an artist who is planning to perform in Tel Aviv, we contact them, inform them of the reality on the ground (should they need such information), and urge them to reconsider and cancel any concerts they may have scheduled. Many have already done so, including the industry’s biggest names: Carlos Santana, Bono, The Pixies, Elvis Costello and Gil Scott-Heron. Folk legend Pete Seeger also recently announced his support for boycotting Israel.

In what may be the most eloquent statement to date, Costello wrote: “One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament. Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent. … Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way” (“It Is After Considerable Contemplation …,” 15 May 2010).

Today, Artists Against Apartheid are still around, and they are active in promoting the boycott of a country that is practicing apartheid in the 21st century, namely Israel. The question should be, then, if artists boycotted Sun City, shouldn’t they also boycott Tel Aviv? Why the outrage when Beyonce entertains Gaddafi, but not when Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and so many more, entertain apartheid in Israel?

Laurie King, an anthropologist, is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

Nada Elia is a member of the Organizing Committee of USACBI, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (Facebook).

The people of Libya want freedom, Obama wants oil! by Carlos Latuff

EDITOR: The Winds of Change blow hard

It seems that the general disenchantment with the so-called ‘Two State Solution’ has reached an all time high. This ploy is now seen to be what it has always been – a crude attempt to derail Palestinians from even trying to achieve freedom and equality as well as full political rights, by continuously dangling this mantra in front of them. There has never been such a ‘solution’, as far as Israel is concerned – it was a way of getting international support while enlarging and enhancing its illegal settlements, and acquiring more control over the land and its resources, while oppressing the Palestinian population.

As this understanding is now widely spread, and the talk of a single state is also spreading and advancing, Netanyahu is forced to speak against it. This must be a sign of the growing strength of this tendency.

Netanyahu: Binational state would be disastrous for Israel: Haaretz

Comment comes as Prime Minister expected to present Mideast peace initiative after weeks of intense international pressure over the apparent peace talks deadlock.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected in the coming weeks to put forward a peace initiative in a bid to break through the deadlock in the peace process and extricate Israel from international isolation.

Netanyahu has warned in recent days during closed meetings that “a binational state would be disastrous for Israel,” and therefore it is necessary to undertake a political move that will remove this threat.

In recent weeks the prime minister has come under intense international pressure over Israel’s policies. Europe’s unequivocal stance against Israel at the Security Council vote on the issue of the settlements, the rebuke that accompanied the U.S. veto, and the unpleasant telephone exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week reportedly shook Netanyahu.

Moreover, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations are working together to push through an unprecedented agreement during the Quartet’s meeting in Paris in a week. According to the draft of the agreement that is being passed between the parties, the Quartet will declare that a Palestinian state will be established on the basis of the 1967 borders, with some land swaps.

In some of the drafts East Jerusalem is mentioned as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say that in recent weeks Netanyahu has been talking with the Obama administration in order to formulate a program that would restart the peace process.

His adviser, Ron Dermer, flew secretly to Washington a week ago and met with senior White House officials. U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and Fred Hoff also visited Israel and met with Netanyahu.

“The prime minister has realized that the political impasse is not working in favor of Israel,” one of Netanyahu’s advisers said.

“Following a few weeks of revolution in the Arab world he is convinced that there are opportunities, not just threats, and that it is important to take advantage of the situation that was created in order to restart the peace process and put an end to the unilateral initiatives of the Palestinians.”

In private talks recently, Netanyahu has reportedly begun discussing the growing threat of a binational state.

“This trend will intensify and become stronger,” Netanyahu told his advisers. “However there are those in Israel who think that one state is a good idea. I think it is a disaster.”

Netanyahu would like to announce his peace plan in a speech in the coming weeks. One of the ideas being considered is that Netanyahu would speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Washington for an AIPAC conference in May, but his advisers are trying to move the trip to an earlier date. Discussion of a speech before a joint session was central to the talks between the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House.

A well-positioned Israeli source said that at this stage U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisers are reluctant to run with the idea over fears it has the imprint of talks between Netanyahu’s advisers and Republic Congressmen. Moreover, the White House is not yet convinced that Netanyahu’s speech will have sufficient substance for it to constitute a political breakthrough.

“The prime minister wants to move ahead substantively but he wants to know that he has American backing,” one of Netanyahu’s advisers said. “If the U.S. administration goes with him, he is willing to undertake compromises and take difficult steps.”

A senior source in Netanyahu’s bureau said that the prime minister had held talks about how to proceed forward with a small number of advisers, including ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, in order to avoid leaks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak participated in some of the meetings.

 

Saudis mobilise thousands of troops to quell growing revolt: The Independent

By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week’s “day of rage” by what is now called the “Hunayn Revolution”.

Saudi Arabia’s worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

Although desperate to avoid any outside news of the extent of the protests spreading, Saudi security officials have known for more than a month that the revolt of Shia Muslims in the tiny island of Bahrain was expected to spread to Saudi Arabia. Within the Saudi kingdom, thousands of emails and Facebook messages have encouraged Saudi Sunni Muslims to join the planned demonstrations across the “conservative” and highly corrupt kingdom. They suggest – and this idea is clearly co-ordinated – that during confrontations with armed police or the army next Friday, Saudi women should be placed among the front ranks of the protesters to dissuade the Saudi security forces from opening fire.

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a “key ally” of the US and one of the world’s principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

So far, the Saudi authorities have tried to dissuade their own people from supporting the 11 March demonstrations on the grounds that many protesters are “Iraqis and Iranians”. It’s the same old story used by Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt and Bouteflika of Algeria and Saleh of Yemen and the al-Khalifas of Bahrain: “foreign hands” are behind every democratic insurrection in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr Obama will be gritting their teeth next Friday in the hope that either the protesters appear in small numbers or that the Saudis “restrain” their cops and security; history suggests this is unlikely. When Saudi academics have in the past merely called for reforms, they have been harassed or arrested. King Abdullah, albeit a very old man, does not brook rebel lords or restive serfs telling him to make concessions to youth. His £27bn bribe of improved education and housing subsidies is unlikely to meet their demands.

An indication of the seriousness of the revolt against the Saudi royal family comes in its chosen title: Hunayn. This is a valley near Mecca, the scene of one of the last major battles of the Prophet Mohamed against a confederation of Bedouins in AD630. The Prophet won a tight victory after his men were fearful of their opponents. The reference in the Koran, 9: 25-26, as translated by Tarif el-Khalidi, contains a lesson for the Saudi princes: “God gave you victory on many battlefields. Recall the day of Hunayn when you fancied your great numbers.

“So the earth, with all its wide expanse, narrowed before you and you turned tail and fled. Then God made his serenity to descend upon his Messenger and the believers, and sent down troops you did not see – and punished the unbelievers.” The unbelievers, of course, are supposed – in the eyes of the Hunayn Revolution – to be the King and his thousand princes.

Like almost every other Arab potentate over the past three months, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia suddenly produced economic bribes and promised reforms when his enemy was at the gates. Can the Arabs be bribed? Their leaders can, perhaps, especially when, in the case of Egypt, Washington was offering it the largest handout of dollars – $1.5bn (£800m) – after Israel. But when the money rarely trickles down to impoverished and increasingly educated youth, past promises are recalled and mocked. With oil prices touching $120 a barrel and the Libyan debacle lowering its production by up to 75 per cent, the serious economic – and moral, should this interest the Western powers – question, is how long the “civilised world” can go on supporting the nation whose citizens made up almost all of the suicide killers of 9/11?

The Arabian peninsula gave the world the Prophet and the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans and the Taliban and 9/11 and – let us speak the truth – al-Qa’ida. This week’s protests in the kingdom will therefore affect us all – but none more so than the supposedly conservative and definitely hypocritical pseudo-state, run by a company without shareholders called the House of Saud.

The struggle for al-Araqib is the struggle for Palestine: The Electronic Intifada

Ameer Makhoul, 4 March 2011

Al-Araqib was the last village I visited before my arrest. Al-Araqib is not just a village, but the very heart of a nation and a people. On 5 May 2010, I was there under the tent of Sheikh Sayah, a local leader. There was a big crowd after the destruction and the reconstruction of the village. We met there until late at night, taking advantage of the desert darkness.

Al-Araqib is a small village in the southern part of historic Palestine known as al-Naqab but which Israel calls the “Negev.” Since mid-2010, Israel has bulldozed the village more than a dozen times.

We had come at the request of Sheikh Raed Salah but especially in answer to the call of our duty and our responsibility as a nation. Before the evening gathering of the activists in al-Araqib, we had visited the village of Houra where we met activist Nouri al-Uqbi, then Liqyeh and activist Alayan Sane. Our delegation from the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, in the framework of the High Follow up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, included Abdel Hakim Moufid, Raja Aghbariyeh, Qadri Abu Wassel, lawyer Abd al-Raouf Mouassi and myself. Forgive me if I have left anyone out.

This was my last visit before police and security forces raided my home and arrested me one hour after I arrived back in Haifa after midnight. I can no longer follow the evolution of events except for the biased information available here in prison.

At that meeting in al-Araqib, we knew that the eyes of the Israeli forces of uprooting were upon us under the convenient cover of the desert, hiding their criminal face and hands in its darkness. Just as the saying goes, that the “people of Mecca know their territory better than anyone else,” so the people of al-Araqib know their territory and its night-time environment better than anyone. However, the uprooters have usurped the friendly obscurity of the desert. They invade the land and the night, bringing with them injustice, blackness, uprooting, expulsion and forced exile. The Zionist project has cast this darkness throughout its history.

The darkness of the plan has cast its dark shadow over al-Araqib, the Naqab, the Galilee, the coast, the Triangle, Jerusalem, Gaza, West Bank and has travelled across the ocean, preventing the light of liberty from reaching Gaza, besieging it. The darkness has stretched out over those in exile in a vain attempt to hide the homeland, cut it off from light and hope, hidden from the option of return.

But the people in our homeland know what they are doing and know who is watching them. They know their right to their homeland as well as the rights due to them inside it.

Neither the Israeli eyes watching us nor the bulldozers of destruction and ethnic cleansing can change our minds. They have been active every minute for six decades. But we, the masses of the people inside, have been growing in strength every day since the Nakba — the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine in 1947-48 — and during the ongoing Nakba. We have become stronger in our resistance to oppression and the system of ethnic cleansing, and our will has broken free.

At the meeting in al-Araqib, we prepared an emergency plan of action and confrontation to resist and hold our ground. We divided up the tasks and shared our concerns while planning how to face the imminent destruction with our bodies by mobilizing people backed by efficient local and international solidarity. We determined that every single house destroyed would be rebuilt and every single tent torn down set up again, no matter what the price. The reconstruction would take place immediately after such crimes of destruction. Our visit was not the beginning of our existential struggle. It was a planned additional step to gain momentum in the knowledge that it is a decisive battle, not a local problem, but a strategic stand. The battle for al-Araqib is a fundamental event in defense of the nation and what is left of the land in order to protect Arab existence in the Naqab and to recuperate as much stolen land as possible. This is a battle for our homeland, a test of our willpower and an expression of the direction our popular struggle has taken over several decades.

If we see this battle as just one more incident, we will deliver al-Araqib and all it represents into their hands. We cannot. Al-Araqib is an integral part of the nation at a key moment when national duty and the spirit of defiance and steadfastness call upon the people to resist, bearing in mind the initial battle for land and home, on 30 March 1976: Land Day.

On that day, Israeli forces killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting against a government decision to confiscate thousands of dunams of their land in the Galilee. Palestinians everywhere annually commemorate Land Day as a protest against Israel’s discriminatory policies towards its 1.2 million Palestinian citizens and to underline their collective and individual rights.

Today, we face a plan for ethnic cleansing from the same system, of the same nature, but focusing on al-Araqib.

There is an intimate link between popular resistance in al-Araqib and in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Nilin, Bilin, in the Triangle and in al-Rawha, the fight against house demolition and Judaization in the Galilee, the fight for Umm Sahali and all the struggles of The Association of the Forty of Ein Hod and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, Nuri al-Uqbi’s fight for the defense of his land and his right to live on it, the Palestinian and international movement against the blockade of Gaza, the fight to preserve the Arab character of Jerusalem and its holy sites and other popular resistance movements.

The energy of these struggles, born of grassroots and local solidarity movements and taken up by international supporters, is growing every minute. This solidarity constitutes a powerful force of dissuasion against those invading al-Araqib and elsewhere and acts as a protection for the people of this country and its landowners whether living here at the moment or refugees from here.

It is important to realize that Israel has now understood that the Arab peoples are a strategic force of which, at this stage, the Palestinians are the best organized. They are able to defend their rights, their existence and all the rights due to their people. They are as capable of recuperating rights they have been denied, such as their national inheritance and their land, as they are of waging legal battles, where our position is much stronger than Israel’s. The system intent on uprooting al-Araqib, like the entire process of uprooting and expulsion, must be ever vigilant to justify its legitimacy, while we in turn need to question its legitimacy every day in order to put a halt to all its illegal actions.

This system will stop at no crime unless we challenge its every move. The dynamics of this confrontation prove that neither al-Araqib nor its population needs any recognition from its oppressors and uprooters since the land and its history acknowledges their presence: the nation knows its own people and their legitimacy derives from this unbreakable tie.

All honor to the High Follow up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel for making the correct connection between the Jerusalem/al-Quds and al-Aqsa uprisings in 2000 and the fight for al-Araqib and the defense of the homeland by calling for major action in the Naqab and on the land of al-Araqib in the Naqab on the eve of Land Day. They send a message to us and to the world that our cause is indivisible, that our people stand united for our cause.

Ameer Makhoul is a Palestinian civil society leader in Israel and currently in Gilboa prison. This edited essay was translated from Arabic to French by Rim al-Khatib and from French to English by Carol Scheller.

Leading article: As the LSE has learnt, Libyan leaders bearing gifts are also to be feared: The Indpendent Editorial

Saturday, 5 March 2011

It is rare to find someone in public life who accepts responsibility for a mistake as frankly and cogently as Sir Howard Davies did in resigning as director of the London School of Economics over research money from the Gaddafi clan, and he deserves credit for that.

Here, at last, is someone who recognises where the buck stops and draws the appropriate conclusion.

Sir Howard’s departure, however, must not be used as a pretext for sweeping under the carpet awkward questions about foreign money in British academia. So far as the LSE is concerned, it is to be hoped that the inquiry, which will be headed by the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, will sort out what was given, by whom, and how it was used, so that clarity is brought to the whole affair. But the LSE is far from alone among educational establishments in having benefited from links with Gaddafi’s Libya. Nor is the colonel’s the only dubious regime to have seduced British universities with its money.

If the soul-searching at the LSE encourages others to review their sources of recent funding, that is all to the good. The incentives given to universities to take any money that might be going, both in fees from overseas students and endowments, has brought about a situation where – it might seem from outside – almost anything goes.

The spotlight now cast so harshly on the LSE should prompt other establishments to ensure that the money they have so actively solicited has neither skewed academic priorities nor given the impression that degrees are for sale. Either, in the end, would prove counterproductive, as British qualifications started to lose their kudos. But such long-term considerations may not be treated as seriously as they should be, at a time when government grants and home-grown cash are running short.

A distinction is also worth making between genuine commercial contracts for education and training purposes and gifts that may conceal an ulterior motive. In an interview elaborating on the reasons for his resignation yesterday, Sir Howard Davies drew a distinction between the acceptance of a donation – which he admitted was wrong in this case – and a contract with Libya to train the country’s future leaders, which he defended. That distinction is valid. It reflects well on Britain and its universities if they are chosen to educate the world’s elite of tomorrow. Our military establishments have long been seen as academies for the very best; our universities are justified in seeking a similar role.

It should already be evident, however, that the links forged by the LSE and the Gaddafi family had their origins in more than mutually advantageous opportunism. Sir Howard has noted that the initial contacts received official encouragement from Tony Blair and his government, as part of the effort to bring Libya in from the cold (and profit from business) after the “Deal in the Desert” of 2004.

Sir Howard was invited to take part in official delegations, as were other members of his staff, and he became a financial adviser to the Libyan leadership. There was not just the uncomfortable fusion of personal and professional roles that Sir Howard regretted in his resignation; there was active government involvement. When the wind of change started to buffet Libya, the LSE – and how many others? – was left, embarrassed, behind.

Chile president: Non-violence will free Palestine: Ma’an News

05/03/2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Sebastian Pinera is proud to be the first Chilean president to visit the occupied Palestinian territories.

He says the relationship between the two countries — Chile recognizes Palestine as an independent state — could not be stronger.

Pinera is also proud of the Palestinian Authority, especially its embrace of non-violence in facing the Israeli occupation. He expects the “intelligent strategy” to lead to the world’s eventual recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The Arabs are transitioning into freer regimes,” he says, urging change without resorting to arms.

“Not only are the Arabs changing, but America is changing as well. The whole world is moving toward more openness and democracy,” he told Ma’an in an interview at Bethlehem’s Intercontinental Hotel.

“That’s why the transition should be easy and without violence.”

Pinera, whose country announced its recognition of a Palestinian state in January, began a visit to Israel and the occupied territories on Thursday. He meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

Direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down last autumn over an intractable dispute about persistent Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians say they will not negotiate while Jewish settlers build on land they want for a future state, but Israel has refused to freeze construction, leaving the negotiations at a dead end.

The Palestinians have also embarked on an campaign to clinch international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state based on borders that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

During that conflict Israel seized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as east Jerusalem — the mostly Palestinian part of the city now annexed by Israel that the Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East. Its recognition of Palestinian statehood in January followed in the footsteps of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador.

But, unlike its neighbors, Chile did not specifically refer to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Still, Pinera says Chile will support action at the United Nations to resolve the Palestinian question. That is what he will tell Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres when they meet, he says.

Greetings from Libya to the Egyptian revolution: Ahram online

Ahram Online visits two Libyan border towns: one euphoric as rebels repell the latest government attack, the other a desert of disappointment as Africans await evacuation
Lina El-Wardani from Tobrok (Libya), Saturday 5 Mar 2011

A Libyan rebel who is part of the forces against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stands next to the old flag of Libya before leaving to the front-line near Ras Lanuf, west of the town of Brega, eastern Libya, Friday, 4 March 2011. (AP)

The road to the Libyan border from Cairo, Egypt takes a long 10 hours. But we did it in seven. We cut through 700 kilometres of magnificent desert and sea shores at a hurried pace to get to the Libyan border town, Saloum, to check on the crisis there.
Saloum is an open-air waiting lounge for thousands of immigrants, mainly West Africans and South East Indians. They line up at gates and some lay on floors and pavements covered in rags and blankets waiting for their embassies to take them home. Among them is Addo Manu from Ghana who is having his first meal of the day at 6:30pm — mere bread and jam shared by some Libyan passengers. It is his fourth day at the border. “Immigration officers took our passports and messed them up. They call our names randomly, the embassy asks us to be patient,” sighed Manu.

Although life at the border is difficult, and at times near deadly because of the cold weather, lack of food and medicine — at least it is safer than inside Libya. Manu recalls his last hours in Benghazi where he lived and worked for four “good years”: “I was working until the very last minute. I didn’t get my pay and when the riots came I had no time to get my money or belongings and had to run for my life,” he said. Manu was rescued by his landlord who took him to the seaside.

Manu’s biggest fear these four days as he’s been waiting at the border is the cold: “I have one blanket, sometimes I lay on it and sometimes I cover myself with it. We get food in a very humiliating way. Either Egyptians throw food and we pick it up from the ground or some passengers have food and we beg for some,” said Manu.

Manu is one of around 10,000 Africans stuck at the border, according to an Egyptian officer at the border who preferred to remain anonymous. “Some of them have lost their passports and their embassies are taking a long time to finish the procedures and take them home. Today, the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) has arrived to help and things are much better,” said the police officer.

Ever since the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi said on TV that that he sealed a deal with African mercenaries to fight the rebels it has been particularly unsafe for Africans. “Unless you take a taxi it is very difficult to walk in the street. You are very likely to get killed,” said Tsante Jonny, 41, whose wife and two children are waiting for him in Ghana. He can’t wait to get home but doesn’t believe it will happen anytime soon.

“Our leaders don’t care. They say tomorrow or the day after we will take you home, but we see nothing,” said Jonny, who, in spite of everything, supports the revolution. “Every nation should have democracy and freedom. I expect that things will improve; people will change and the pan-African nations will be back,” said Jonny.

Across the street from Jonny, Um Heba, a street seller from Saloum dressed in black traditional garb, offers different kinds of local and exported cigarettes. She complains of a lack of work and money, but also declares her support for the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

“I cook at home and bring food and cigarettes to the people here. I sell a hot meal for LE10 ($1.70) and cigarettes for LE12 ($2). But the conditions here are so difficult. Sometimes I give food for free for those who can’t afford it. Many people lost their jobs and all their savings and just fled to the border. I saw a lot of injuries, and dead bodies; a lot of injustice, but the army and UNHCR are working hard to evacuate people since yesterday and things are looking better today,” added Um Heba.

Just a few steps away, on the Libyan side of the border and at the gate of Tobrok city, the ambiance is completely different. Civilians dressed in army clothes brandish guns and search cars while chanting pro-revolution slogans. The success and euphoria of the revolution is in the air. The young Libyan rebels all carry the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag. All the walls are covered with pro-revolution slogans like “Long live Libya,” “Long live the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions,” “Gadaffi must go,” “Greetings from the Libyan 17 February Revolution to the Egyptian 25 January Revolution.”

Eid, a young man, searches, along with his friends, everyone at the gate, to protect his hometown. He confidently says the situation is under control and that the rebels reclaimed all of Libya except Tripoli.

As for yesterday’s attack in Al-Brega, he says the rebels quickly counter-attacked and managed to push Gaddafi’s special forces out. “The only problem is the air force. We control the roads, but we don’t control the air,” said Eid, who is Libyan/Egyptian. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on the Mediterranean, then moved with his parents to Tobrok. He works as a driver, but for the time being he is a full-time rebel.

Today, Libyan rebels like Eid fought off a coordinated assault by military jets and armoured ground forces near Al-Brega, a key oil port, thwarting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s repeated attempts yet to retake eastern territory lost last week amid a nationwide uprising.

Abbas: Palestinian state must become permanent member of UN: Haaretz

PA president reiterates his opposition to an Israeli peace initiative for a Palestinian state with temporary borders.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the time has come that an independent Palestinian state will become a permanent member of the United Nations.

During a press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Ramallah on Saturday, Abbas argued that now is the time to have an independent Palestinian state – based on the 1967 borders – that would become a permanent member of the United Nations by September.

He stressed that he will ask the Middle East quartet during its next meeting to “take whatever steps are necessary to stop Israel’s aggression and occupation of our land.”

Moreover, Abbas reiterated that he will not accept any Israeli peace initiative if it calls for temporary borders for a future Palestinian state and said that he has yet to be notified of the new plan that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce in the coming weeks.

“We know that there was a past idea about a state with provisional borders and if this idea is proposed again, we will not accept it,” he added.

The remarks highlight the chasm between Palestinian and Israeli officials over where to begin negotiations that are meant to lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu hasn’t revealed details of the new initiative but Palestinians fear it will include provisional borders, which they say could allow Israel to annex remaining lands that they seek for their future state.

Stephen R. Shalom: Why we need to divest from the US-backed Israeli Occupation: IOA

3 MARCH 2011
By Stephen R. Shalom, The Israeli Occupation Archive – 3 March 2011
[Slightly edited and footnoted version of remarks delivered at New York University 28 Feb 2011 for Israel Apartheid Week]

This evening a campaign is being launched at NYU to “Divest From the US-backed Israeli Occupation Now!”

Why is everybody always picking on Israel?

Is it anti-Semitism? Hostility to democratic values? Jewish self-hatred? Sympathy for terrorism?

On the contrary, this campaign represents an affirmation of democratic values. It represents a non-violent way to challenge state terrorism. And far from reflecting anti-Semitism or self-hatred it represents an opportunity for Jews and non-Jews to support universal human rights and human dignity.

But surely, it will be said, Israel is not the worst violator of human rights in the world. It is not. But there are at least four reasons why it is entirely appropriate that those in the United States concerned with social justice devote considerable attention to addressing Israeli crimes against Palestinians, and to U.S. backing for those crimes.

First, the Israeli occupation and its policy of building settlements and displacing the local population are unequivocally illegal and unjustified.

Second, the Israeli occupation has been a vicious one, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Third, the Israeli occupation has been the most long-standing occupation in the world.

And fourth, our government, the United States government, has made possible this sordid record of occupation and abuse.

Let me briefly consider each of these points in turn.

1.     Legality

Some half a million Israeli settlers live in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.[1] These settlements are big and small. The single settlement of Maale Adumim is one and half times the size of Manhattan, with 35,000 people.[2] Some settlements are authorized, some are not. But whatever their size, whatever their authorization status, every one of them is illegal under international law.

The proof of their illegality is overwhelming. Theodor Meron, the Israeli government’s own legal adviser in 1967, privately warned that any settlements would be contrary to international law.[3] The International Court of Justice — in a portion of an opinion that had the unanimous support of all its judges, including the one from the United States — ruled that all the settlements in the occupied territories are illegal.[4] In December 2010, the General Assembly passed resolution 65/104 by a vote of 169-6, with 3 abstentions, reaffirming that the settlements are illegal. The six opposed were Israel, the United States, and four tiny Pacific islands, three of which are essentially U.S. dependencies.[5] And just 10 days ago, the Security Council considered a resolution co-sponsored by 120 countries, calling the settlements illegal. The Security Council vote was 14-1, with the United States casting a veto. In explaining its vote, the U.S. declared that its vote should not be misunderstood as support for settlement activity. “On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”[6] At one time, Washington used to call the settlements “illegal,” but then switched to “illegitimate,” maybe thinking this was a little gentler. Now if you look up “illegitimate” in the dictionary you find, in addition to “born out of wedlock,” the definition “against the law, illegal,” as well as “illogical” and “erratic.” So despite Washington’s word games, no country apart from Israel really thinks the settlements are legal.

Israel replies to this charge by claiming that the “occupied territories” were not really occupied since these territories were acquired by Israel in a just war of self-defense. Israel’s supporters argue that although Israel fired the first shots in this war, it was a justified preemptive war, given that Arab armies were mobilizing on Israel’s borders, with murderous rhetoric.

The rhetoric was indeed blood-curdling, and many people around the world worried for Israel’s safety. But those who understood the military situation — in the Israeli government and in the U.S. government — knew quite well that even if the Arabs struck first, Israel would prevail in any war. As Lyndon Johnson told the Israeli foreign minister, “All of our intelligence people are unanimous that if [Egypt] attacks, you will whip hell out of them.”[7] Nasser was looking for a way out and agreed to send his vice-president to Washington for negotiations. Israel attacked when it did in part because it rejected negotiations and the prospect of any face-saving compromise for Nasser. Menachem Begin, a member of the Israeli cabinet at the time and an enthusiastic supporter of this (and other) Israeli wars, was quite clear about whether it had been necessary to launch an attack: Israel, he said, “had a choice.” Egyptian Army concentrations did not prove that Nasser was about to attack us. “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”[8]

However, even if it were the case that the 1967 war was wholly defensive on Israel’s part, this cannot justify the continued rule over Palestinians. A people do not lose their right to self-determination because the government of a neighboring state goes to war. Sure, punish Egypt and Jordan — don’t give them back Gaza and the West Bank. But there is no basis for punishing the Palestinian population by forcing them to submit to foreign military occupation.

2.     Brutality

But this occupation is not just illegal and unjustified; it has also been extremely brutal. Since September 2000, some three thousand Palestinians who were not taking any part in hostilities were killed by Israeli security forces.[9] More than 18,000 Palestinian homes were demolished,[10] not counting the thousands blown to smithereens in the Gaza attack during the winter of 2009.

Gaza has been subjected to a particularly vicious blockade. As the UN reported in November,

“Some 1.5 million people had been trapped for over four years under the ‘illegal and inhumane and counter-productive blockade on the Gaza Strip.’  It was more than a humanitarian crisis; it was an economic crisis, as well as a crisis of physical infrastructure.  It was also a psychological crisis, especially for the 800,000 children.”[11]

The UN hoped that things might improve in recent months, but in January the UN found that unemployment had increased to 45 percent, and per capita wages shrunk almost 10 percent.[12]

Israel, of course, claims the blockade is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons into Gaza, but this claim is easily refuted by noting one essential fact: the blockade restricts exports as well as imports; in fact, there’s been a near total prohibition on exports, a ban whose only purpose is to crush the Gazan economy as a form of collective punishment.

In Gaza more than 90 per cent of the water supply is unfit for human consumption, and the Israeli blockade prevents the entry of materials needed to construct or repair water facilities.[13] But it’s not just Hamas-controlled Gaza where Israel denies Palestinians their basic needs. The World Health Organization estimates that a population requires on average 100 liters of water per capita. The average Israeli consumes 230 liters per capita; the average Israeli living in one of the West Bank settlements uses 282 liters per capita. The Palestinians of the West Bank, however, get only 66 liters per capita, just two thirds of their minimum needs.[14] And just this month the UN noted that Israeli officials have been destroying Palestinian water cisterns on the West Bank.[15]

Human Rights Watch recently issued a report summarizing the situation on the West Bank. It found a “two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas in the West Bank under its exclusive control, which provide preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians. … Such different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin and not narrowly tailored to meet security or other justifiable goals, violates the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law.”[16]

The Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem reported that “Israel’s severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the West Bank are enforced by a system of fixed checkpoints, surprise flying checkpoints, physical obstructions, roads on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel, and gates along the Separation Barrier.  The restrictions enable Israel to control Palestinian movement throughout the West Bank as suits its interests, in a sweeping breach of Palestinians’ rights.”[17]

In October 2010, there were 99 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank. In addition, there are what are called “flying checkpoints” along West Bank roads: from April 2009 to March 2010, there were some 300 per month. In addition, Israel blocks the access roads leading to some of the main traffic arteries in the West Bank by means of hundreds of physical obstructions. In May 2010, the UN counted 420 of these physical obstructions.[18] As of January 31, 2011, there were 73 kilometers of roads in the West Bank from which Palestinians were totally forbidden and another 155 to which their access was restricted.[19]

So just because there is no major Israeli attack going on as we speak does not mean that there currently aren’t severe human rights violations occurring in the West Bank, and far worse, of course, in Gaza.

3.     Longest Occupation

To be sure, there have been other horrendous foreign occupations. Some have suggested that those who criticize the Israeli occupation are guilty of a double standard for giving more attention to that occupation than to the others. Now of course the definition of an occupation is contentious. The United States stole Texas from Mexico, but most people don’t consider this an ongoing occupation. So let’s look at some occupations that are widely acknowledged.

South Africa occupied South West Africa for many years. But that occupation ended in 1990 with the independence of Namibia. If we date the occupation from 1966, when the General Assembly formally revoked South Africa’s mandate over the territory,[20] that occupation lasted 24 years, compared with Israel’s 43 plus. Most countries in the world showed no anti-Israel double standard: they condemned South Africa’s occupation just as they condemn Israel’s occupation. Not all countries, of course, condemned South Africa. The leading Western powers long blocked any serious sanctions against South Africa, and Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime in developing nuclear weapons.

Another awful occupation was Indonesia’s in East Timor. This occupation too is over. It also lasted 24 years, compared with Israel’s 43 plus. Because of Indonesia’s political clout the UN was pretty ineffectual in dealing with the Timor situation. Jakarta had the backing of many non-aligned nations, and its invasion and occupation were abetted by the United States. Among the countries that didn’t think Indonesian behavior was so bad, however, was Israel, which abstained on the eight General Assembly resolutions condemning Indonesia’s invasion. (This was better than the United States, which voted “no” on these resolutions.)[21]

Morocco’s rule in Western Sahara is a brutal occupation that is still going on. Morocco assumed control of two thirds of the territory in 1976 and the rest in 1979,[22] so that occupation has been in effect for ten years less than Israel’s. Washington and Paris have prevented any UN sanctions against Morocco, and have maintained close ties with that government. Israel too has been on good terms with the Moroccan regime.[23] The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is currently recognized as an independent state by 44 countries and the African Union; the United States and Israel are not among them.[24]

Thus, we note two things. First, that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories — which is still ongoing — has lasted longer than any other generally recognized occupation in the world. And second, the two governments that most vociferously complain that Israel has been singled out for criticism — Israel and the United States — have themselves been rather muted in their condemnation of other occupations.

4.     US role

As long as the United States has given full backing to Israel, the Israeli government has been able to pursue a policy of aggression, occupation, and abuse rather than one of peace.

The United States has given Israel massive amounts of military and economic aid. Since 1948, Washington has provided more than $100 billion in aid to Israel, which makes Israel the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance of any country in the world. On a per capita basis, the disproportion is even more extreme. Consider what Washington has given to various countries. Since World War II, the United States has given 15 dollars — $14.89 — in aid to every Nigerian; 13 dollars to every Indian; 18 dollars to every Brazilian; 17 dollars to every Mexican; 32 dollars to every Indonesian; and $13,373 to every Israeli. And, of course, Israel is a rich country, not a poor one with a desperate need for aid.

From 1976 to 2004, Israel was the leading annual recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Since then only the two countries where Washington has been waging war — Iraq and Afghanistan — have gotten more aid than Israel.

Lately, almost all U.S. aid to Israel has been military aid. Many of the weapons Israel used in its attack on Gaza came from the United States, paid for by our tax dollars.[25] One reason the Israeli public can afford “guns and butter” is because a large chunk of the guns are paid for by Washington. U.S. Foreign Military Financing grants represent 18 percent of the overall Israeli military budget.[26] And the U.S. is not just providing dollars, but military technology.

To read the rest of Stephen Shalom’s talk, use the link above

 

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