Saturday, May 3, 2014


May 3, 2014
By Eric Margolis
Did anyone really think that John Kerry’s nine-month effort to produce a Palestinian mini-state would ever work? If so, they were either ignorant of the Mideast, naïve, or deeply cynical.
The best one could say about Kerry’s fiasco was that it was a charade designed to show America’s Arab allies that Washington was really making an effort to resolve the nearly seven-decade suffering of the 5 million homeless Palestinians.
In 2002, I wrote that the latest Arab-Israel peace initiative – called “the roadmap to peace” – would be a dead end in the desert. So it was, and so was each ensuing peace spasm as Washington beseeched, begged , implored, cajoled and pleaded with Israel to allow creation of a small, semi-independent Palestinian state on the Israel-occupied West Bank.
Oooops! New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the Republican frontrunner for president, went to Las Vegas to lick the hand of Uber Zionist media mogul billionaire Sheldon Adelson. While kow-towing to Adelson, who made his billions by exploiting poor people’s addiction to gambling, Christie made what could be a fatal faux pas.
The New Jersey governor referred to what the United Nations terms the “Israeli-occupied West Bank” as the “Israeli-occupied West Bank.” Adelson, a chief financier of militant Jewish settlers on the West Bank and Golan, went ballistic. No, no, no! It’s Judea and Samaria, thundered the casino mogul, given to the chosen people by God himself!
Poor Christie slunk back to New Jersey. His plain speaking may cost him the presidential nomination. Adelson repeated his offer to give a sufficiently pro-Greater Israel Republican candidate $100 million.
This sickening tale of dirty money and an American political process totally corrupted by now unlimited money explains why Israel has no intention of signing a peace deal with the Palestinians. Why should it?
First, Israel’s ruling Likud Party and its even more extreme allies have vowed there will never be a Palestinian state. Period. In their view, all of Palestine belongs to the Jews, even if they hail from Russia, Morocco, Poland or Lithuania. As the late Gen. Ariel Sharon so often proclaimed, the true Palestinian state is Jordan. There will be no return to pre-1967 borders.
Second, Palestinians don’t exist, as the late Israeli PM Golda Meir was so fond of saying: they are merely landless Bedouin. How ironic that the Jewish thinker Arthur Koestler wrote much the same about the Jews, calling them descendants of nomadic Khazars.
Third, as Sharon used to boast, “don’t worry about the US. I control the US!” Israel’s right wing has turned the US Congress into performing seals. Any US official or politician deemed insufficiently pro-Israel has a short career. Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu even humiliated President Obama and VP Joe Biden – and was cheered by Congress.
Fourth, Israel holds all the cards. US Mideast policy is determined by the potent Israel lobby. Israel grows rich from US aid ($3-5 billion annually) and new energy discoveries. Its economy thrives and its tech sector is a world leader. Israel has annexed the region’s key water sources.
Militarily, Israel could conquer much of the Mideast in mere days. Israel’s American allies, known as neocons, engineered the Iraq war that destroyed Israel’s most capable Arab enemy. Now, thanks again to the neocons, the other serious enemy, Syria, lies in ruins.
Egypt, the Arab world’s leading power, is now run by a brutal fascist regime that is secretly allied with Israel. Distant Iran offers no current military challenge to Israel. Besides, nuclear-armed Israel has unlimited American military and financial backing.
Palestinians are split between the useless PLO – a sock puppet for the US and Israel – and Hamas, locked up in Gaza. They pose only nuisance value to Israel. The only serious remaining Arab fighting force is Lebanon’s Hezbollah – but it is only effective when fighting at home.
Israel’s right is quite prepared to enforce an apartheid state where Arabs have few rights and no political power. It’s no coincidence that Israel and apartheid South Africa were the closest of allies.
Finally, Israel’s Zionist hard right has always been reluctant to fix the nation’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. Who knows what Israel’s final borders will look like. Some on Israel’s hard right see golden opportunities in a collapsing, fragmented Arab world.

The Lousy Arab Finally Shows His True Color: in Support of a Most Murderous Regime

The Lousy Arab wrote today:
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"Syria and then Ukraine: Western logic
According to the West: the Syrian government is not justified in using force against armed rebels but in Ukraine, the government is justified in using force against unarmed civilians."

What this fool chose to ignore is that the bloody Syrian regime literally mowed down thousands of peaceful demonstrators, when the uprising began. Artillery fire and bombs from the air were used to quash peaceful demonstrations. Schools and hospitals were not spared. Every known weapon, including cluster bombs and Sarine gas were used. Only after all peaceful protests were met with unparalleled brutality and killing did the uprising resort to arms.

How could he compare a regime that for over 3 years demolished most of Syria, was responsible for over 150,000 Syrians killed and created over 9 million refugees, with the actions in the Ukraine? In the Ukraine it is the Russian-armed "civilians" who are shooting down Ukrainian helicopters! Most of the early casualties were from the Ukraine military. Still, the casualties are a few dozen, not over 150,000!

This fool's credibility, if he ever had any, is now gone with the credibility of his beloved Hizbullah. He can no longer pretend to be an unbiased observer.  

A time of opportunity for Palestinians

May 03, 2014 12:11 AM
By Rami G. Khouri

The collapse of the American-mediated Palestinian-Israeli negotiations last week ushers in a period of uncertainty that will most likely be dominated by many unilateral moves, combined with appropriate threats and warnings from all sides.
The Palestinians are in the most difficult position, given their relative weakness militarily, their fragmentation politically, and their vulnerability economically. Yet this moment is also one of opportunity for the Palestinians, on three important fronts: national unity, coordinated political resistance and the mobilization of international support.
The absolute requirement for Palestinians now is to reconstitute a minimum of national unity, which goes well beyond implementing the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement. The Fatah- Hamas agreement aims to form a technocratic national-unity government that will in turn supervise new elections in Palestinian Authority-controlled regions. This is an important first step, but full national unity requires more.
The critical need is to revitalize the institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization which have been moribund since the Oslo agreements gave birth to the Palestinian Authority two decades ago. The PLO has always been the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people because it is the vehicle through which Palestinians engage the world diplomatically (including its nonmember observer state status at the United Nations) and the forum in which Palestinians express their views and seek to achieve national consensus.
A unified and coherent Palestinian people, represented by a single, democratic and consultative body such as the PLO, would be able to overcome the inherent weaknesses of being scattered around the world. In fact, Palestinians can turn their fragmentation into an asset, by using the PLO to adopt political strategies that fall into the category of national resistance to the continuing dangers posed by Zionism and the state of Israel – dangers that will be quickly and dramatically manifested in the months ahead by probable Israeli plans to unilaterally annex more occupied land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Palestinians now need to agree over a division of responsibility among their people across the region and the world. This they must do in order to implement more diligently a range of coordinated political action and national resistance strategies that they have been using until now in an uncoordinated and episodic manner.
These options include, first, diplomatic negotiations, which have failed for many decades but cannot be dropped from the political toolkit, especially if a more credible mediator than the United States appears on the scene.
Second, state-building in areas under Palestinian control. This project was promoted by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad without leading to any diplomatic advances. Yet it should be continued because state-building is good for the Palestinians in its own right.
Third, joining international organizations to give the PLO greater global diplomatic clout in its bid to gain more rights for the Palestinian people, whether under occupation or as refugees in Arab countries. This will also help Palestinians to use the available legal measures to stop or reduce ongoing Israeli actions such as colonization, assassination, annexation, imprisonment, siege of territories and others.
Fourth, mass nonviolent civil disobedience by Palestinians everywhere – inside Israel, in occupied lands, in Arab countries and around the world – could be used to simultaneously dramatize Israeli oppressive, inhuman and illegal measures, enhance a sense of common action by the scattered Palestinian community, and harness international support.
Fifth, promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement globally as the international arm of a nonviolent resistance movement. This movement is already drawing steady support from mainstream organizations around the world.
Sixth, initiate another uprising, or intifada, in occupied Palestinian lands. This is likely to have a limited impact in light of the first two uprisings in recent decades.
And seventh, consider armed resistance, which has been tried in many forms and has never achieved the desired goals of forcing Zionism and Israel to come to terms with the legitimacy of Palestinian national rights. That is why a massive nonviolent political resistance through a unified Palestinian national effort, backed by international support, is much more likely to succeed.
The requirement now is to utilize a combination of the above options to mobilize significant international support for the Palestinian national cause, which already enjoys widespread support around the world. That support, however, has never been effectively channeled into a clear diplomatic strategy. The growing momentum of the BDS movement around the world indicates the huge potential here, especially as unilateral Israeli measures increasingly invite comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and South Africa’s Apartheid system.
This dangerous moment for the Palestinians presents new possibilities for productive advances in the peaceful achievement of national rights for the Palestinians, and peace, justice and legitimacy for all in the region, including Israel.
Let us hope that the Palestinian leadership behaves more intelligently and responsibly than it has in similar historical junctures in the recent past. It must embark on a nationally coordinated political resistance strategy that would be widely supported by Palestinians, Arabs and people of good will around the world.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

بوتفليقة فاز بولاية رابعة رغم تدهور حالته الصحية، وأدى اليمين الدستورية وهو على كرسي متحرك (الأوروبية)

At the Edge of the Grave....
Just Checking.....
That His Heart is Still Beating!

The Death of Justice in Egypt

An Eight-Minute Trial, with No Arguments for the Defense, and One Judge Sentences 683 People to Death

After an eight-minute trial a judge in Egypt has sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the former President Mohamed Morsi who was ousted in a military coup last July. Among those condemned to die is the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organisation despite its tradition of non-violence and having won Egypt’s first-ever democratic elections.
The verdict after such a short mass trial is likely to discredit further the Egyptian authorities internationally, but they may not care about this so long as the military-backed regime can secure its power domestically. The sentencing by the judge Said Youssef on Monday in a court in Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo, was given a further bizarre twist when he reduced death sentences he imposed in March on all but 37 of 529 defendants to terms of life imprisonment.
The effect of the mass death sentences and life-long terms of imprisonment after a summary hearing will be to spread fear that any dissent could lead to execution or lengthy terms in Egypt’s notoriously brutal prison system.
Among those condemned to death is Mohamed Badie, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, most of whose leaders have been arrested. President Morsi was the first Egyptian leader chosen in a democratic election after millennia of authoritarian rule, but he was unable to gain control of institutions such as the army, police and judiciary.
He was overthrown in a military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 3 July last year. Supporters of the coup have claimed a quasi-democratic mandate because of a giant anti-Morsi rally on 30 June that they see as invalidating previous election results.
The death sentences imposed on Monday still have to be referred to the Grand Mufti but this is largely a formality. The mass trials are linked to the protests and riots that broke out last August when the security forces moved to crush sit-ins staged by the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters to show opposition to the coup. A report by Amnesty International says that at least 1,400 protesters and bystanders were killed by the security forces between July and January this year and another 16,000 people are in jail.
After the Mufti’s decision, the same court will hold another session on 21 June to issue the final verdicts. Families of the accused stood outside the court on Monday as they screamed in anger and disbelief at what had happened. “My three sons are inside,” said one woman who only gave her first name, Samiya to a reporter from a news agency. “I have no one but God.”
Security forces had surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings, which lawyers said lasted only eight minutes. There is further confusion over why only 148 defendants were present inside the court with no explanation what had happened to the others.
Amnesty International called the death sentences “grotesque” and Egyptian rights groups were astonished by verdicts, passed after one hearing in which the defence was unable to present its case. One observer said that the proceedings reminded him of the trial in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in which the Queen says “sentence first – verdict afterwards” and shouts “Off with her head!” when Alice objects.
In a separate effort to crush dissent, another Egyptian court banned the 6 April youth movement that helped launch the 2011 uprising that led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. Legislation last November gave the police and the judiciary carte blanche to jail dissenters of any kind. The Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests. Leaders of 6 April – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating the new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.
The first round of the presidential election is to be held on 26 and 27 May with Mr Sisi, until recently a field marshal, expected to be the winner, though opinion polls show his popularity as falling from 51 per cent to 39 per cent approval. The state-controlled or state-influenced media continues to glorify him and much of the opposition has denounced the poll as a charade.
The only candidate to run against Mr Sisi is Hamdeen Sabahi, a democratic politician with a long record of opposing military governments in the past. He came third with 4.8 million votes in the first round of the presidential election in 2012 which was won by Mr Morsi with 5.8 million votes and with Ahmed Shafiq, the military candidate, coming second with 5.5 million. Mr Morsi won the run-off with 13 million votes.
The Egyptian authorities have successfully reasserted themselves since the shock delivered by the fall of Mr Mubarak in 2011. The corrupt and dysfunctional state machine has rallied behind Mr Sisi and claims to be restoring law and order and economic prosperity. But the mass death sentences meted out to dissenters with no defence allowed shows that those in charge are not wholly confident that Egypt’s brief experience of democracy in 2011-13 will remain an atypical interlude in the country’s long history of autocracy.

Death Penalties in Egypt

Tom Janssen, Cagle Cartoons, The Netherlands

Asked about Kerry, Tutu says Israel “mirror image” of apartheid

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Wed, 04/30/2014 - 14:15

The backlash over US Secretary of State John Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe what would become of Israel if there is no “two-state solution” continues.
Leading anti-Palestinian group the Anti-Defamation League, for instance, welcomed Kerry’s craven apology:
And Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has acknowledged that he himself previously “used the word ‘apartheid’ not only to describe a possible terrible future for Israel, but also as a way of depicting some current and most unfortunate facts on the ground.”
Yet, Goldberg now claims it is inappropriate to use the word because “to describe the West Bank as an experiment in apartheid is insulting to the actual victims of South African apartheid, who lived under a uniquely baroque and grotesque set of race-based laws.”


But this is what legendary South African anti-apartheid freedom fighter Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has called “cheek” – another word for chutzpah.
Tutu and his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu were on HuffPostLive yesterday to talk about their new book The Book of Forgiving.
Tutu was asked about Kerry’s comments. Although he was unaware of the controversy, he addressed the issue of using the word apartheid to describe Israel’s oppression of Palestinians (video above):
I’m glad people have come to have this disgust about apartheid and one wants to acknowledge just how much we were supported by the international community. But surely if I, having experienced apartheid go to another part of the world and see things that reflect almost uncannily the sort of things that happened to us – I mean you could be stopped as a black person by police at roadblocks and it didn’t matter. I was bishop of Johannesburg when police would stop our car and want to body-search my wife and children … and I go and I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things I experienced under the apartheid. How can you stop me from the right to describe as I feel? You go anywhere in the world and if I see things that mirror the kind of experience that I know first hand I think it’s a cheek in a way for someone else to tell you ‘no you are wrong in feeling as you feel about what you have seen.’
I’ll take Tutu’s word over Goldberg’s any day.
You can also watch the full interview with Tutu and his daughter.

Syria: Failure to uphold UN resolution requires decisive Council action

Government forces continue to enforce sieges, including upon 20,000 civilians in Yarmouk, south of Damascus.
Government forces continue to enforce sieges, including upon 20,000 civilians in Yarmouk, south of Damascus.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened.
José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International's UN office in New York.
The UN Security Council must take concrete action, including threatening targeted sanctions, against parties in Syria that are brazenly flouting the terms of a unanimous UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses, said Amnesty International.
The Council is due to discuss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second report on the implementation of the UN resolution today.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International's UN office in New York.
“If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply. Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the terms of the resolution.”
More than 9 million people in Syria urgently need humanitarian aid, including those under siege and in hard-to-reach areas. Arbitrary detentions and abductions as well as indiscriminate attacks on civilians have continued unabated. Government forces are mostly responsible but armed groups are also to blame.
Under the terms of Resolution 2139 adopted in February, Security Council members are committed to “take further steps” if the resolution is not being implemented.
Russia, which along with China has vetoed three previous UN Security Council resolutions on the situation in Syria since the crisis began, will be key to decisive Security Council action.
“If Russia is serious about the legitimacy and credibility of the Security Council, as it consistently claims, then it should support decisive Council action and not allow resolution 2139, which it voted for, to continue to be so callously disregarded,” said José Luis Díaz. 
Despite a slight monthly increase in recipients of humanitarian assistance, aid to most of those in need remains blocked, and patterns of war crimes and crimes against humanity have continued unabated.
Government forces in particular continue to enforce sieges, including upon 20,000 civilians in Yarmouk, south of Damascus. Since Amnesty International published its last report on the situation in Yarmouk in March 2014, which included details of 194 siege-related deaths among residents, all said to be civilians, at least 60 further such deaths have been reported, including 19 from starvation.
“In Yarmouk and across Syria besieged civilians are continuing to suffer and die because of a failure to ensure that the resolution is being implemented on the ground,” said José Luis Díaz.
Government forces have also pummelled swathes of rebel-held Aleppo city, as well as besieged Daraya, for example, with indiscriminate, unguided barrel bombs. Practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths in custody – including in the custody of armed groups – continue relentlessly.
The authorities have also failed to comply with the resolution’s call to release all arbitrarily held detainees, who include prisoners of conscience.  Despite a few recent releases, armed groups also continue to hold civil society activists and others. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Egypt is a Police State: Senior Muslim Brotherhood Member Condemns New Mass Death Sentence for 628

Democracy Now!

"Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has announced plans to block $650 million in military aid to Egypt after an Egyptian court sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s spiritual leader Mohamed Badie. Leahy, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, described the judicial proceedings as a "sham trial." Leahy’s announcement comes a week after the Obama administration said it would ease the suspension of military aid to Egypt that followed the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last year. In another controversial move, an Egyptian court has banned the April 6 movement, a pro-democracy group that played a key role in the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. We get an update on these developments live from Cairo with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. We also speak with Mohamed Soudan, the exiled Foreign Relations Secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood...."

Adelson 1st, King of Israel, by Khalil Bendib

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Egypt: Lift Ban on Youth Opposition Group

Court Ruling Further Attempt to Silence Dissent

Banning political dissent won’t make it go away. A judge’s gavel can’t turn back the clock to before 2011.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director
(Beirut) – An Egyptian court’s ban on the activities of the 6 April Movement is a clear violation of citizens’ rights to free association, peaceful assembly, and free expression. Rather than enforce the ruling against the youth opposition movement, authorities should dedicate themselves to overturning it in court.

Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters ruled on April 28, 2014 in response to a lawsuit filed by a lawyer, Ashraf Said. The suit called on the interim authorities to freeze the protest movement’s activities on the grounds that it allegedly engaged in espionage and defamed Egypt’s image abroad. Authorities can potentially use the ruling to criminalize a range of activities well within the limits of peaceful opposition, Human Rights Watch said.

Banning political dissent won’t make it go away,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.  “A judge’s gavel can’t turn back the clock to before 2011.”

The court’s ruling marked a further escalation in the government’s campaign against all peaceful opposition, Human Rights Watch said. Two of the group’s founding members, Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel, and a third activist, Ahmed Douma, are serving  three-year sentences issued in December 2013 for demonstrating against a repressive protest law and assaulting police officers. On April 7, a court rejected their appeal.

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The 6 April Movement, which emerged on that date to support a 2008 industrial strike in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla al-Kubra, was a key player in organizing the January 25, 2011, mass protests that prompted the ouster of Hosni Mubarak from Egypt’s presidency.

Said told the government-owned newspaper Al-Ahram that recorded phone calls among leading 6 April members aired on the television talk show “Black Box” in December 2013 inspired him to file the lawsuit. The host, ‘Abd al-Rahim ‘Ali, claimed he had more than 5,000 such recordings that proved the youth opposition group was “conspiring against state institutions.” Whatever the legality of the wiretaps, their release to the media clearly violated the activists’ right to privacy, as protected by the Egyptian constitution and international law.

The 6 April Movement’s popularity rocketed among Egypt’s youth after Mubarak stepped down. Since then government-friendly media and, at times, the government itself, have repeatedly accused 6 April of, for example, sedition and working with “foreign hands” against Egypt. In July 2011, the group took to the media to ask Egypt’s general prosecutor to investigate it to clear it of allegations of any wrongdoing after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power following Mubarak’s fall, claimed that the group was engaged in “suspicious schemes that seek to sow division between the armed forces and the people.”

After supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy in his successful 2012 presidential election campaign, the 6 April Movement backed the June 30, 2013 mass protests that encouraged the military to remove Morsy from the presidency. As Egypt’s human rights crisis worsened under the military-backed government, the group returned to opposition, and again became the target of a media rumor campaign.

Egypt’s protest law, as amended by presidential order on November 24, 2013, empowers security officials to ban protests on vague grounds, allows police officers to forcibly disperse any protest if even a single protester so much as throws a stone, and sets heavy prison sentences for offenses such as attempting to “influence the course of justice.” The law also gives the Interior Ministry the right to ban any meeting “of a public nature” of more than 10 people in a public place, including meetings related to electoral campaigning.

In a March 3 letter from Torah prison, just south of Cairo, the 6 April founder Maher urged fellow activists to tell the world that “the police display brutality every day, and there is no one who can stop them from murdering us in our cells if they want to. Tell them that there is no protection today nor tomorrow, and tell them that whoever is silent about it today will face worse tomorrow.”

Years of vilification did not silence the youth who risked their lives for a more democratic Egypt, and this ruling won’t either,” Stork said. “Rather than enforcing this ban, authorities should be vigorously defending the rights enshrined in Egypt’s constitution.”

Unity is timely for Palestine factions

By Ramzy Baroud
Asia Times

For years, Palestinian factions have strived for unity, and for years unity has evaded them. But is it possible that following several failed attempts, Fatah and Hamas have finally found that elusive middle ground? And if they have done so, why, to what end, and at what cost? 

On April 23, top Fatah and Hamas officials hammered out the final details of the Beach Refugee Camp agreement without any Arab mediation. All major grievances have purportedly been smoothed over, differences have been abridged, and other sensitive issues have been referred to a specialized committee. One of these committees will be entrusted to incorporate Hamas and the Islamic Jihad into the fold of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). 

A rift lasting seven years has been healed, rejoiced some headlines in Arabic media. Israelis and their media were divided. Some, close to right-wing parties, decried the betrayal of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of the "peace process". Others, mostly on the left, pointed the finger at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pushing Abbas over the edge - "into Hamas's arms" per the assessment of Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing party Meretz. 

It is untrue that the rift between Fatah and Hamas goes back to the January 2006 elections, when Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and formed a government. The feud is as old as Hamas itself. The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, was founded in Gaza with two main objectives, one direct and the other inferred: to resist the Israeli military occupation at the start of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, and to counterbalance the influence of the PLO. 

Hamas founders were not the only Palestinians to have a problem with the PLO. The latter group, which represented and spoke on behalf of all Palestinians everywhere, was designated by an Arab League summit in 1974 as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people. The target of such specific language was not Hamas, for at the time, it didn't exist. The reference was aimed at other Arab governments who posed as Palestine's representatives regionally and internationally. 

The "sole representation" bit, however, endured even after surpassing its usefulness. Following the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982 that mainly targeted PLO factions, the leading Palestinian institution, now operating from Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and other Arab entities, began to flounder. Its message grew more exclusivist and was dominated by a small clique within Fatah, one that was closest to former leader Yasser Arafat. 

When Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, the once unifying character of the 'sole representative' of Palestinians began to quickly change. The PLO shrunk into the Palestinian Authority, which governed parts of the West Bank and Gaza under the watchful eye of Israel; and the parliament in exile became the PLC, a much more restricted parliament at home that was still under occupation. The blurred lines grew between the PLO, the PA and Fatah. It was clear that the liberation project, mounted by the PLO and Fatah in the early 1960s, became anything but that. 

In fact, the whole paradigm was fluctuating at all fronts. "Donor countries" became the true friends of Palestine, and geography suddenly became a maze of confusing classifications of areas A, B and C. The status of Jerusalem was a deferred topic for later discussions; the refugees' "right of return" was a mere problem that needed to be cleverly and creatively resolved with possible symbolic gestures. 

The befuddling peace process has remained in motion, and is likely to continue even after the unity deal. On April 18, former Israel lobbyist and current US peace envoy Martin Indyk returned to the region in a last desperate effort to push both parties to an agreement, any agreement, even one that would simply postpone the US-imposed deadline for a "framework agreement". But little could be done. Netanyahu had no reasons to move forward with the talks, especially being under little or no pressure to do so. Abbas's only hope that Israel would release a few Palestinian prisoners, from the thousands of prisoners it currently holds, was dashed. He had nothing to show his people by way of an "achievement". 

With the imminent collapse of the peace process, this time engineered by Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas needed an exit, thus the Beach Refugee Camp agreement with Hamas. 

The timing for Hamas was also crucial. The group, which once represented Palestinian resistance, not just for Islamists, but for others as well, was running out of options. "Hamas is cornered, unpopular at home and boxed in as tightly as ever by both Egypt and Israel," wrote the Economist on April 26. "Its former foreign patrons, such as Qatar, have been keeping their distance, withholding funds for projects that used to bolster Hamas." 

Indeed, the regional scene was getting too complicated, even for resourceful Hamas, a group that was born into a crisis and is used to navigating its way out of tough political terrains. Despite putting up stiff resistance to Israeli wars and incursions, the group has in recent years been obliged to facilitate hudnas (ceasefires) with Israel, doing its utmost in keeping Gaza's border with Israel rocket-free. 

Moreover, the destruction of the Rafah tunnels since July of last year had cost the Hamas government nearly US$230 million. To manage an economy in a poor region like Gaza is one thing, to sustain it under the harshest of sieges is proving nearly impossible. 

As is the case for Abbas's PA, for Hamas the agreement was necessitated by circumstances other than finding true ground for national unity to combat the Israeli occupation. In fact, the Beach Camp deal would allow Abbas to continue with his part of the peace process, as he will also remain at the helm of the prospected unity government, to be formed within a few weeks from the signing of the agreement. Although Arab governments were not directly involved in bringing both parties together - as was the case in previous agreements in Sana, Mecca, Cairo and Doha - some still hold sway. 

The Americans and the Israelis have the largest keys to quashing the unity deal. Netanyahu immediately suspended the peace process, as the Hamas-Fatah agreement was a last minute escape route for his government to disown the futile talks, whose collapse is now being blamed on the Palestinians. The Americans are in agreement with Israel, as has always been the case. 

Scenes in Gaza tell of much hope and rejoicing, but it is a repeated scene of past agreements that have failed. Sometimes despair and hope go hand in hand. The impoverished place has served as a battlefield for several wars and a continued siege. It is aching for a glimmer of hope. 

Hypocrisy triumphs as talks collapse

April 30, 2014 12:13 AM
By Rami G. Khouri

The Israeli decision to break off negotiations with the Palestinians last week after the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas announced their reconciliation agreement reveals the darkest and most destructive sides of Israel and its Western backers vis-a-vis their declared desire for a negotiated peace agreement: their inconsistency, insincerity and hypocrisy.
You might say these are normal attributes of any political actor, which is true to some extent. But here this kind of behavior also advances the accusation that Israel and the United States in particular only wish to negotiate peace on their terms, and not on terms that treat the Palestinians and Israelis equally.
I say this because in their reconciliation announcement, Fatah and Hamas made it clear that the unity government and the desired subsequent negotiations with Israel would be based on three important principles that have long been an Israeli and American demand and that the Quartet in 2006 specifically demanded from Hamas: that Hamas adhere to nonviolence, to previous agreements and accept Israel’s right to exist. On this basis, it was assumed, Palestinian negotiators would speak for all Palestinians, while Israel, the United States and other countries would deal with Hamas.
The national-unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas last week precisely mentioned that Hamas had agreed to these three demands. The U.N. secretary-general’s special representative to the Arab-Israeli peace process, Robert Serry, made it clear after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the national-unity government would respect the existing PLO commitments that include recognition of Israel, nonviolence and adherence to previous agreements. In other words, the U.N. sees the Palestinian unity agreement terms as having met the conditions that the Quartet set on Jan. 30, 2006.
So what did Israel do in return for Hamas meetings its conditions, with the U.S. in tow? It immediately ended the negotiations and told Abbas that he had to choose between peace with Israel or a “pact” with Hamas. The American government, predictably, described Palestinian unity as “unhelpful.” So when the Israelis and Americans suddenly came face-to-face with a united Palestinian leadership that openly and explicitly accepted the Israeli-American terms for diplomatic engagement, the Israelis-Americans ignored their own terms for talks and totally shattered the most recent attempt to negotiate peace.
This kind of reckless hypocrisy or straightforward lying is bad enough in itself, but it is made even worse by the fact that on the Israeli side, there are ministers in the Netanyahu government who reject the Quartet’s three conditions: they reject Palestine’s right to exist, they reject previous agreements (most notably the OsloAccords) and they reserve the right to use violence against Palestinians and other Arabs and to create their envisioned Greater Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
This only reminds us yet again of why the peace negotiations that the Americans have mediated single-handedly have failed to produce any meaningful results during the past two decades since the Oslo agreements. This is because the Israelis deem it appropriate to set the terms they wish for the negotiations and to ignore those same terms when they wish, while the United States meekly follows the Israeli position.
The consequences of this are enormous, starting with the likelihood of very few people ever believing again what the United States tells them is Washington’s position on the issues. The U.S. will not be trusted as a mediator for some time, and Palestinians and other Arabs perhaps will think twice about “giving up violence, accepting previous agreements and recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” because it now seems that doing so would result only in diplomatic punishment. Palestinians also expect to get punished for joining United Nations organizations, whose main aim is to spread adherence to the rule of law and nonviolent conflict resolution.
The Quartet has now officially died a merciful death, in the wake of Washington’s ignoring the three key principles it had once demanded of Hamas. Netanyahu, for his part, responded to Hamas’ acceptance of these three principles by announcing on April 24 that he would vastly expand Israeli settlements by approving the construction of another 350,000 homes for Jews only, and prepare for “widespread death and destruction through bombing campaigns and full-scale ground invasions.”
The many consequences of this series of events that has been unleashed will need time to be clarified, but they are likely to be destructive. Political violence is sure to escalate on various fronts, and the idea of negotiating a comprehensive peace agreement will probably remain dormant for some time. The U.S. will find it very difficult to regain the trust of the key parties, which is essential for any serious mediation.
A reasonable conclusion is that Israel prefers violence, chaos and perpetual warfare to the terms of nonviolent negotiations and respect for agreements that it had itself set in 2006.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Multiple Ways Kleptocrats and Militarists Fleece Americans

By James Petras

Introduction: American living standards are plunging and it’s not simply because they are paid less, work longer (or shorter hours) under highly stressful workplace conditions and pay a higher percentage of their income for health and pension coverage.

The ‘workplace’ is only one of several locations where American working people are experiencing a sharp decline in living standards. The new oligarchical Kleptocrats and political elites have elaborated new ways to fleece Americans. These include:
(1) Increased costs and declining quality of internet, cable and other communication systems.
(2) Intensive pervasive and perpetual surveillance by punitive espionage agencies eroding personal freedoms and violating the confidentiality of personal, political and business decisions affecting everyday life.
(3) Large scale, repeated financial swindles by the most active and influential private and publicly trading investment companies resulting in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in pensions and savings for tens of millions of middle and working class investors.
(4) Increases in taxes and charges, including sales taxes, social security deductions, medical co-payments and reductions in social services … This is a result of the government’s commitment to finance US corporate investments and bail-outs. Big business hoards their cash holdings abroad to avoid taxes on overseas profits. To pay dividends they borrow. The growth of corporate debt, concentrated in a few large corporations, holds the US taxpayer liable for any present or future collapse of the financial markets. This corporate-induced ‘hoarding of capital’ compromises present and future living standards. It plays a major role in the deterioration of employment, wages, social services and public infrastructure.
(5) The astronomical growth of state spending on wars of conquest, financial giveaways propping up right-wing dictatorships and building a vast network of global military bases, proxy wars and other empire building measures reduce living standards of Americans. By militarizing everyday life, citizens are subject to mindless repetitive propaganda designed to lower their mental capacity. State terror-mongering propagandists in the mass media distract citizens from their declining living standards. Political elites bully citizens to continue ‘sacrificing’ basic living standards. Video games reproduce the worlds of war and terror, reflecting the real world policies of the ruling class.
Video games allow Americans who know they no longer have influence on political decisions and whose living standards are in decline, to vicariously exercise power and realize favorable outcomes on their mobiles. Purchasing mobiles, video games and other gadgets enrich billionaires’— so-called “high tech” capitalists – and convert citizens into impoverished consumers. They inhabit a bubble of illusions and passivity in the face of growing economic inequalities and political-cultural impoverishment.
The Political Bases of Declining Living Standards
The case of Comcast, the communication monopoly’s seizure of internet, is illustrative of how politics and plunder converge. Comcast TWC, the largest communications company, presently will control 40% of the US broadband and one-third of the US cable television market. By controlling the internet, Comcast will monopolize the principal means of communication of most Americans. The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), which is supposed to regulate the industry and prevent price gouging monopolies, is “dominated by senior former industry officials” (Financial Times, (FT) 4/14/, pg. 9). Almost every elected national politician from Obama down has received substantial campaign funds from Comcast. During Senate hearings on Comcast’s bid to monopolize the internet through the take-over of Time Warner Cable, Comcast CEO David Cohen smirked and brushed off the Senators puff-questions. FCC complicity, Senatorial whitewashing of the private monopoly, is only part of the story. The internet was developed largely by public funds as was Google’s search engine: the public sector took the risk and the private monopolists , in this case Comcast, harvest the profits.
Comcast charges Americans several times greater then what it costs to use the internet in Sweden, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere. Yet, US average internet speed is as little as a tenth as fast as that in Japan. In other words the hundreds of millions of US citizens who rely on the internet spend more money for less internet quality in their work day and everyday life. Their work life is intensified, their free time is reduced and their living standards are diminished. With greater concentration of ownership, come greater inequalities in power and income, and a greater disparity of living standards. All of which is obscured by the main beneficiaries – the communication barons and their political cronies.
Declining Living Standards in the Era of the Police State
‘Living’ in the deepest and most intimate sense of the term, means the ability to share ideas, feelings and experiences with individuals, families, friends and citizens without the intrusive and pervasive presence of a punitive state apparatus. When a state spy apparatus intercepts, collects, files, analyzes and makes a police evaluation of citizen’s communications, scientists refer to it as a police-state. The gigantic growth of a police state and its permeation of civil society has dramatically changed for the worse the fundamental bases of inter-personal life and communications. Police state rule, has sharply deteriorated cultural, social, political and economic living conditions. The ‘standards’ for living have been harshly reduced. The ‘legal’, but arbitrary, executive prerogatives of the state have been enhanced. The parameters of the basic rights of citizens have shrunk. As police state expenditures grow and the subjects of surveillance increase, so do budgets and taxes.
Kleptocracy: The Highest Stage of Capitalism
Marx and Marxists for the greater part of the 20th century, focused on capital’s exploitation of labor and the resources of overseas colonies and neo-colonies. In the 21st century a new more dynamic and totally parasitic form of economy has emerged based in the dominant financial sector. Kleptocrats engaged in large-scale, perpetual financial swindles and the pillage of the public treasury greatly impoverish small investors, and the pension funds of employees and workers.
For the better part of two decades, major financial institutions have been engaged in systematic large scale swindles, involving the sale of fraudulent financial packets (dubbed ironically “securities”), profiteering based on insider trading and other illicit activity which is prejudicial to productive activity, investors, tax payers, salary, and wage workers.
Every major investment banks in the US and Europe has been repeatedly investigated, fined and rarely prosecuted. They pay a relatively light fine and return to criminal activity. Looking only at the mega-swindles, involving hundreds of billions of dollars, we would include Enron, the Information Tech “bubble” of the 1990’s to 2000, the Home Mortgage fraud, the Barron, Lehman and Bear Sterns scam. In the run-up to the 2008-9 financial crash , Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America were part of the “pump and dump” of low grade home mortgage bonds and equities. The swindlers are recidivists and are so because of the complicity of top Government officials at every moment. State officials design the rules promoting Kleptocracy (deregulation), suspend safeguards, provide tax incentives, and eliminate risk via trillion dollar bailouts of the biggest investment kleptocrats when the swindlers cannibalize their assets and run out of new victims to swindle.
Under kleptocratic capitalism the apex of the system is occupied by the top fifty investment banks, hedge funds and speculators who ‘make markets’. They determine what ‘stocks or investment objects are targeted, to be pumped or dumped, at what rate and for what period of time. The entire activity of the kleptocratic elite has nothing to do with financing the ‘real economy’. Kleptocrats creates paper ‘values’ – paper assets at paper prices, for real victims and huge profits. The kleptocratic system operates like a chain. Kleptocratic speculators extract the savings and investments of a second tier of financial houses. They draw on real resources: savings, trust and pension funds. The second tier speculators are the ‘bag men’ for the dominant kleptocrats and they receive a minor share of the booty in exchange for conning the savings of producers. They write the prospectus to entice investment funds; they formulate the promise of lucrative returns. They send progress reports to clients in exchange for ‘commissions. They also ‘take the rap”, when the crises hits and bankruptcies, foreclosures and scams unfold.
The pension funds, the individual trusts and savings of workers and employees, resulting from decades of creating value in the real economy, forms the base of the pyramid. They have no influence on the political officials who promote, protect and bailout the kleptocrats. Under the kleptocratic elite ideology of “too big to fail”, the state eliminates all the risk for the klepto’s and imposes the losses on the second tier, who pass the losses on to the wage and salaried workers as taxpayers, via trillion dollar transfers from Treasury. Investors suffer via the loss of equity; workers via the loss of jobs, homes, income and social services. Given the vast chasm between the perpetual fraudulent transactions in the mega paper economy and the daily work routines at the bottom, there is great uncertainty, volatility, and insecurity in the work-life of the wage and salaried classes. The uncertainty and capriciousness of the ‘normal’ capitalist economic cycle, is vastly exacerbated by the turbulence caused by the mega-swindles, endless frauds and crooked trades, endemic to the kleptocratic stage of capital.
Kleptocrats and Militarists Together: They Shall Overcome
Just as kleptocrats rule the paper economy, political confidence men and women engage in imperial wars prejudicing the real economy. Imperial militarists extract wealth from the Treasury (the taxpayer) via perpetual political swindles. Imperial invasions and interventions of sovereign countries are ‘sold’ to the taxpayers as “wars on terror”; non-nuclear Iran is sold as a nuclear threat; the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government by a pro Washington junta is sold as a “democratic transition”. Just as the kleptocracy’s “driving force” is repeated, large scale swindles, so the governing militarist elite’s “driving force” is the perpetual need to engage in warfare.
The ‘bridge’ between the kleptocrats and the militarists is the respectable financial press (Financial Times (FT), the Wall Street Journal(WSJ). They publicize and praise high level paper transactions (buy outs and mergers) and encourage imperial warfare everywhere and all the time. They editorialize in favor of wars which destroys lucrative trade and investment markets in the real economy because they are aligned with the kleptocrats linked to the paper economy. The Financial Times should change its name to the Military Times. The editors and columnists have supported wars destroying the Libyan, Iraq, Syrian and Ukrainian economies and back sanctions prejudicing trade with Iran. The financial press no longer promotes market relations of the real economy; it is embedded in the paper economy of the kleptos.
Kleptocratic activities have become ‘routinized’ and based on advanced technology and have created highly respected billionaires. Even as I write today (4/14/14) the FT reports that ‘insiders at some of the hottest private and publically traded web companies sold big personal stakes before the slump in stock companies’ (my emphasis) taking advantage of a bubble of their own creation (“pump”) to reap billions at the expense of small investors. Tell it to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, who sold at the pre-slump peak, prior to the tech bubble bursting
Domestic Corporate Debt and Overseas Corporate Tax Havens
According to Standards and Poor (S and P), the rating agency, “the biggest US companies have added significantly to their debts during the past three years, at the same time as corporate cash piles have increased” (FT 4/14/14). The total cash holding of the 1,100 companies rated by S and P rose by $204 billion to 1.23 trillion between 2010-13. However, during the same time span their gross debts grew fivefold, rising from $748 billion to $4 trillion. Their net debt (gross debt minus cash holdings) rose 24 percent to $2.78 trillion. By holding cash overseas, US corporations avoid domestic taxes – increasing fiscal pressures, the tax burden on domestic producers and workers, heightening the regressive nature of the tax system Secondly, by loading up on domestic debt, the corporate elite crowds out local borrowers. Piling up debt increases corporate vulnerability to bankruptcy if and when interest rates rise. The corporate elite evading taxes via overseas cash piles include Apple, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Chevron, and Merck among others. All told the top 25 multi nationals account for 43 percent of the total debt (FT 4/14/14).
Hoarding profits overseas avoids taxes. High domestic indebtedness results from the need to pay dividends and inflate returns to big shareholders. In other words, corporate elites escape taxes and increase economic insecurity for domestic job holders, both of which contribute to a decline in the material and psychological dimensions of ‘living standards’.
Kleptocracy and Militarism: Declining Living Standards
The rise of a powerful kleptocratic economic elite which ‘interpenetrates’ and shares power with a militarist political elite have joined forces to pillage the productive economy and the US Treasury. Their powerful links are the main reason for heightening class inequalities, political and social insecurities. They have driven American society into a permanent state of crises and wars. Over the past quarter century, Americans have lived through two major economic crashes, prolonged periods of stagnation and declining income, three major wars and a multitude of overt and covert military operations – all of which have eroded living standards.
Military propaganda saturates the mass media and permeates all mass spectacles. Stock reports, dominate the economic news. Investment speculators and swindlers are presented as cultural heroes. The gap between elite opinion and interests and those of the majority of citizens widens.
This leads politicians to greater dependence on billionaire campaign funders. The electoral process is unabashedly and totally controlled by the economic oligarchy. The vast majority of Americans recognizes and publically admit their total lack of political influence on all public issues of interest including those privileging the kleptocrats and the warlords.
The deeply felt and pervasive malaise resulting from social impotence in vital spheres of life is the clearest expression of the decline of political living standards. The shrinking of public involvement, the narrow focus of isolated individuals manipulating computerized gadgets , the replacement of face to face public engagement by impersonal electronic communications, are an expression of the decline of social living standards. The rise of ethno-religious chauvinism among klepto-elites is matched by the political warlords’ reliance on systematic deception and espionage of American citizens. Warlords and kleptocrats are enclosed in privileged living enclaves, including the private appropriation of former public spaces, but their intrusion into private communications define the diminished world of everyday life for the most Americans. Life expectancy may have increased but human life has decreased, drastically, over the past quarter of a century.
Blood and gore does not drip off the Saville suited clever inside trader. They never see or hear their victims, nor do they have an interest in them, except to fleece them collectively and anonymously.
America is ruled by a division of labor. The financial speculators, corporate tax evaders, investment bankers – the kleptocratic ruling class– pillage the treasury and productive economy. Their political counterparts manipulate, distract and police their exploited victims – to ensure that they submit or are intimidated if they protest.
When the political elites come up short, there are the new “opiums of the people’ videos, painkillers, terror threats, entertainment and sports spectacles.
But citizens are restless– as living standards continue to decline. Nobody believes in bailing out speculators because they are ‘too big to fail”. Nobody trusts the political leaders who lied their way to twelve year wars, adding others along the way. No one follows media pundit extremists in defense of kleptocrats and warlords. Passive resistance is widespread because it is clear to most Americans that living standards are in a free fall. Time awaits a popular backlash. Will it happen in our lifetime?