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Palestine-Israel

Sari Hanafi, a sociology professor at the American University of Beirut, has done an incredibly brave or stupid act (depending on your perspective) co-editing a book with Israeli academics. This is particularly perplexing considering that Hanafi has put his name to the Lebanese Campaign for the boycott of Zionism in solidarity with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This includes boycotting Israeli academics and their institutions, as the statement reads:

Specifically, we ask our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.

The book is called The Power of Inclusive Exclusion and looks fascinating. The website details that the book is about:

The Power of Inclusive Exclusion analyzes the Israeli occupation as a rationalized system of political rule. With essays by leading Palestinian and Israeli scholars, a comprehensive chronology, photographs, and original documents, this groundbreaking book calls into question prevalent views of the occupation as a skewed form of brutal colonization, a type of Jewish apartheid, or an inevitable response to terrorism…. The Power of Inclusive Exclusion uncovers the structural logic that sustains and reproduces the occupation regime.

I imagine that Hanafi would take the argument that this project does not contribute to the continued occupation.

The Israeli co-editors of the book are Adi Ophir is Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University and Michal Givoni is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University.

The move by Hanafi has caused a quite a stir at the AUB campus and a petition has been created against normalisation of relations.

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Finkelstein has brought out a new book “This time we went too far” on what went on in Gaza and Mondoweiss has an excerpt from Chapter 5. It appears to be much of the same from Finkelstein who I am not a huge fan of. But I feel a duty to promote his book given the attempts to silence him and he having two talks cancelled in Germany due to protests by pro-Israeli groups. The book in typical Finkelstien style goes right for the jugular of his opponents and is on the one dimensional side. But in a conflict that is very one sided here is a nice fuck you.

Finkelstien:

At each of the parleys with Hamas members I repeated the same message: the current diplomatic posture of Hamas seemed in alignment with representative political organizations, respected juridical institutions, and major human rights groups. Many Hamas members appeared genuinely surprised when I rattled off the “pro-Palestinian” positions espoused by these mainstream bodies. If I was correct, then Hamas should couch its political platform in their language because the chink in Israel’s armor is its diplomatic isolation. Hamas must hammer away the critical point that Israel is the real outlier in the international community and obstacle to peace: not “Hamas says,” but “the U.N. General Assembly resolution supported by 160 nations says”; not “Hamas says, but “the International Court of Justice says”; not “Hamas says” but “Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say.”


Gordon Brown sent shivers down the spines of many ordinary citizens. Yes, in reaction to Israel abusing British sovereignty by using British passports to assassinate a senior Hamas official Brown is going to set up a inquiry.

Taxpayers all over London could be heard collectively groaning as another inquiry gets added to the “Load of old Chilcot” and “Have you seen my Butler?” inquiries.

Yes, an inquiry. Brown did not think it was suitable to call the Israeli ambassador to Downing Street. After all just because many Israelis are all saying it is Mossad and the Israeli government has not denounced it does not mean it was Mossad! Obviously there are thousands of people/organisations/countries with the desire, capability and technique to assassinate a senior Hamas official with a team of operatives with European passports.

Brown has already made sure that an escape route is well established:

“The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened, and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements.”

The reality is that clear evidence will never be obtained, it never is in these types of operations. So knowing this the Guardian reported:

Earlier, the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, broke his government’s silence saying there was no proof that Mossad was behind the killing. However, he did not explicitly deny any Israeli involvement, saying his government had a “policy of ambiguity” on intelligence issues…Lieberman said he believed that relations with Britain would not be damaged. “I think Britain recognises that Israel is a responsible country and that our security activity is conducted according to very clear, cautious and responsible rules of the game. Therefore we have no cause for concern,” he said.

Lieberman said it: no cause for concern.

Eleven European citizens, six of them British the rest Irish, French and German passports enter Dubai and assassinate senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Of course they were not European citizens, they were Mossad agents.

Such is the murky world of assassinations in this ravaged region that the Dubai police will no doubt not find out who did it conclusively. But all fingers point to Mossad.  Haaretz Correspondent, Yossi Melman has argued that the operation was done Mossad style:

The bits of information and the camera images suggest methods used by the Mossad that Mishka Ben-David wrote about in detail in his novel “Duet in Beirut.” Ben-David, who served as the intelligence officer for the Caesarea operations branch of the Mossad, insists that his novel is a work of fiction. However, it is obvious to all that the experience he accumulated in the Mossad over the years appears in his book.

There are those of course that will try and state the weak arguments that it was not Mossad. Like the appalying commentary by James Hider that suggests there are plenty of “red herrings”. But then changes his mind and that no it must be Mossad, Hider argues: “First of all, there was the professionalism of the 11-strong hit team, whose movements were revealed this week by the Dubai police.” (My emphasis).

Well yes, Mossad’s wonderful professionalism. They have done some pretty spectacular acts over the years. But they have also been caught red handed a few times trying to steal passports. New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel and suspended high-level contacts in 2004 because of two Israeli citizens trying to obtain fake New Zealand passports. Helen Clark, then Prime Minister, stated that it was a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.

Britain will not do the same. They will bury this issue, as in 1987 when a similar incident happened. In 1987 as many reports from Britain are pointing out Israel also forged British passports. The Associated Press reported at the time:

Britain said today that Israel had admitted using fake British passports, and a newspaper said the documents were intended to help agents of the Israeli secret service attack foes abroad. … a ”furious” diplomatic argument between Israel and Britain, with Israel at first refusing to apologize.

The last sentence says it all. There is no doubt a similar stage show will again be put on by the foreign office. Despite the flagrant abuse of British sovereignty and an act that only endanger British citizens, nothing will be done. Israel will not be messed with. Such confidence is illustrated by the fact that Israel would use British passports in such an audacious attack.

British officials will again view this issue  one dimensionally: through Israeli security and Israel protecting its citizens.

The “Israeli security” doctrine is again making British citizens less secure.

At the bottom of a British foreign office press release reporting that Britain is granting the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange £29,000 it adds a sweet little message that Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis:

… welcomed Israel’s response to the Goldstone report and urged Israel to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations of abuses during the Gaza conflict.

Lewis is applauding Israel for burying a report that painstakingly details Israeli war crimes during its Gaza onslaught. The British government is formally congratulating Israel for avoiding accountability for the death of one thousand one hundred civilians. Bravo Lewis! Hurrah for Britain! Or is that Israel? And how can anybody in their right mind state that Israel itself should set up an “independent” inquiry.

Lewis has said previously when asked in parliament if the UK would be voting for the Goldstone report:

The UN General Assembly in New York considered the Goldstone report on 5 November 2009 where we made our position clear: some aspects of the report were flawed-particularly its failure to acknowledge fully Israel’s right to protect its citizens, and the inadequate attention paid to Hamas’ actions. We eventually decided to abstain on the resolution, with France and 42 others, because voting for the resolution would have meant endorsing the report and ignoring its flaws. However, the issues raised by the report were very serious, and they should be credibly and independently investigated.

On what basis Lewis makes these statements is completely unclear. To add some context according to B’Tselem 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Nine Israeli’s were killed by Palestinian fire. The Goldestone report clearly condemned Hamas for firing rockets against Israel. As Tony Judt puts it:

To be sure, the Goldstone Report also itemizes the crimes of Hamas, notably in its campaign of rocket-firing into Israel. But the scale of human rights abuses by Israel vastly outdoes anything Hamas could hope to have achieved: Israeli civilian victims of Hamas rocket attacks numbered less than ten. The attack on Gaza by the IDF resulted in at least 1,100 Palestinian civilian deaths. The major perpetrator of human rights abuses in this conflict is without question the State of Israel, and Justice Goldstone records as much.

So why Lewis is Britain supporting an “independent inquiry”? How exactly is the Goldstone report not independent? How does the report not “acknowledge fully Israel’s right to protect its citizens” despite the fact it was written by a self confessed zionist and condemned Hamas for firing rockets into Israel? Is the ability to kill 1,100 civilians with no accountability the right to protect your citizens.

Back to Judt:

In the first place he [Goldstone] is not only Jewish but has close family links to Israel and the Zionist ideal. Secondly, Richard Goldstone has an impeccable resumé as a critic of racism, prejudice and repression — most notably as an active opponent for many years of the apartheid regime in his native South Africa. During the ’90s he served as Chief Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals dealing with human rights abuses, crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. It would be hard to fictionalize a more convincing biography for an engaged and ethically uncompromising jurist in the great tradition of Jewish political activism. Goldstone’s standing in the world will only rise as a consequence of Israel’s short-sighted attempts to discredit the man, the report and the facts. That our own government has chosen to join in this unworthy exercise should be a source of deep embarrassment and shame.

Whose interests are you serving Lewis/Brown? This goes to the heart of what is wrong with the foreign policy of Britain in the Middle East. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of this labour government. Spineless directionless cowards does not even come close to describing them.

Again we see a foreign policy that blindly follows and purses short-term Israeli security interests above all else. Marc Lynch describes what could happen if a more intelligent policy was approached towards the report. The legacy of Blair continues of which more will come later…

All this comes as the Goldstone report is fully buried as any sense of justice and human rights is completely eradicated as Ban Ki Bloody Useless actually applauds Israel for the probing of its actions in Gaza. Putting to sleep his own report.

Entering the first month of the year and already two major disasters have hit very close to home. Although I  do not know anyone that has died in either Haiti or the Ethiopian airline crash it appears many of my friends did. When disaster strikes nearby it always of course makes it more real. I just cannot image what living in Baghdad is like as yet another bomb explodes and kills 18 people. Disaster continues day in and day out. When will it stop?

Foreign policy by Britain and the US is still mired in confusion, bias and prejudice. It is plain to see that the policy towards the Middle East is fundamentally flawed yet it continues unchanged year after year, disaster after disaster. No it’s not just America’s fault but Administrations come and go; US and British foreign policy in the region stays the same. Who would support US and Britain’s foreign policy in the region at the moment, except for expansionist Zionists and the evangelical right? If you are out there please step forward, would love to hear from you. No really. I want to “get it”.

My previous pessimism regarding Obama and the Middle East strategy is only confirmed by people like Stephan Walt calling for Obama’s Mid East envoy Mitchell to resign:

If Mideast special envoy George Mitchell wants to end his career with his reputation intact, it is time for him to resign.

Walt is very clear and insightful (as usual) as to where it has all gone wrong:

Which advisors told Obama and Mitchell to proceed as they did, raising expectations sky-high in the Cairo speech, publicly insisting on a settlement freeze, and then engaging in a humiliating retreat? Did they ever ask themselves what they would do if Netanyahu dug in his heels, as anyone with a triple-digit IQ should have expected? And if Obama now realizes how badly they screwed up, why do the people who recommended this approach still have their jobs?

The objective was admirably clear from the start — “two states for two peoples” what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through.

Clear thinking…if only. Who has a clue what Obama or Brown’s foreign policy strategy is. I can only see policies that are unplanned, reactionary and weak. That will in the end lead to a tide of unplanned decisions creating a whirlpool of disaster.

In Britain at the moment the argument continues as to wether the Iraq war was legal or not. Security council resolution 1441 that passed unanimously by the security council is at the centre of the debate. Did it allow a pre-emptive strike or not? I am not a lawyer but I wonder how much does it matter if it was legal or not. What really matters is why such an obviously disasters occupation was allowed to go ahead regardless of the legal implications. Why is there not a foreign policy enquiry being carried out that analysis why Britain, and the US as well, has continually screwed up and misunderstood this region. The reason of course is that they don’t want to upset the people they support in the region that keep the oil flowing. But there is another way.

I do believe the West can have oil without creating the kind of misguided policies that are in existence today. I don’t believe in a utopia where everyone will be getting along fine after decades of conflict. But the support of the kind of brutal regimes and equally brutal capitalistic models that we would never accept in our own societies does not have to occur. Why are we not looking seriously at ways to create more sensible foreign policies towards Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and of course Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine?

Instead the Chilcot inquiry is chugging along, deepening everyones pessimism about the democratic system and foreign policy. There are few sane Kantians left now.

There are some great websites that are painstakingly following the events of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion. And there are even people out there supporting Tony Blair who is due to give his testament soon. This blog that is passionatley for Blair and his invasion makes your stomach turn, here are some wonderful quotes from the blog to get your blood boiling:

THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS NO REASON TO DECRY THE INVASION

The last one makes me want to hit my head on my desk several times. Instead I think of Ghandi and breath:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Bin Laden is back with a new tape. Surprised?

So are commentators calling for an invasion of Iran, worryingly by people who should know better. Surprised?

Everyone is predicting a Hezbollah-Israeli war, which will be the war to end all wars. Surprised?

If there was a firm US policy that matches action with words and is more responsive to the justifiable grievances of the region, I personally believe that Bin Laden would be reduced, Hezbollah-Israel tension would be reduced and those calling for war would be marginalised. Instead all three remain on the front line.

I have just returned from a brilliant lecture by Salman Abu Sitta, the Palestinian researcher and writer, entitled “Palestinians:Reversing Ethnic Cleansing”.

Sitta’s argument is simple, loud and clear: the right of return is a fundamental right that is not up for negotiation and the return of Palestinians to Palestine is inevitable. Further to this, the right of return is enshrined in international law through UN Resolution 194 that he rejects was a recommendation: “…the UN has affirmed resolution 194 about 135 times, a case unprecedented in UN history.”

Sitta comes out with some devastating facts that we have all heard before but to me at least still causes disbelief. “UNRWA has a budget that allocates $76 per Palestinian refugee per year, while the US in military and aid give a total of $1000 per Israeli per year.”

Sitta produced some wonderful and painstakingly detailed maps and graph (compiled into his book the Atlas of Palestine 1948). He details how now after ejecting the Palestinians from the land 27% of the this so sacred land is made up of military zones. Sitta describes how Gaza that represents 1% of the total surface area of Palestine now roughly contains the same number of people as Palestine as a whole did in 1948. Of course you have heard all this before….

The interesting part of the Sitta’s argument that I have not heard is his take on UN Resolution 194 that calls for the right of return. Sitta focuses on a third element of resolution 194 that he argues is all too often ignored. This is the creation of a mechanism to implement the right of return: the UN Conciliation Committee for Palestine (UNCCP). The UNCCP ceased functioning in 1966 and Sitta calls for the UNCCP to be reactivated for the return and rehabilitation of refugees.

Sitta is a Palestinian that really believes in the international system. Despite being denied the right to return for all these decades he still believes that by shouting and screaming Palestinians will achieve their right of return. He argues that in Europe esepcially attitudes are changing. When challenged by a German lady in the audience who did not believe this to be the case, Sitta replied that Germany is different but in Scandinavia and in Britain (the people but not the government) there has been a remarkable change in opinion. “In the 1960s in Britain I could not even say Palestine now the public are very supportive.” But of course the way British power is used is very different which Sitta stating that Blair always has a “ever ready present of cash” to block the right of return. So for the UK he may have a point that public opinion may have changed but it is no where near enough.

Salman Abu Sitta is a man that feels he can wait this one out…that return is inevitable. I can’t help feel that is wishful thinking in a hopeless situation….the reality is that return is not inevitable and the balance of power as it is and with things getting worse rather than better this long conflict is only going to get longer. But I hope I am wrong. And as I was reading just the other day South African activists never thought the day would come when in 1990 de Klerk announced the release of Mandela. I am sure this can be applied to many other major historical triumphs but….

In relation to this ever going conflict…many analysts over on Qifa Nabki are predicting that 2010 is going to be the year of a new war between Hezbollah and Israel. The environment in Lebanon seems so far from that atmosphere at the moment. And I really really hope that I am right on that one!