January 29, 2011

Bill O'Reilly Defends US Support for Mubarak

If Mubarak is overthrown—and that is likely—who will take his place?  Right now the fear in Washington is that the Muslim Brotherhood will seize power.  They are jihadists who hate America and who will help al-Qaeda all day long. 

For decades, the choice in Egypt has been: Does America support Mubarak or the Islamic fundamentalists?  So obviously we take Mubarak. 

There is real danger here for you and me and every other American.  If countries like Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and perhaps Jordan are taken over by Muslim fanatics, then we will have a true world war on our hands.  Presently al-Qaeda is isolated in northern Pakistan, but if the Muslim Brotherhood takes power anywhere, al-Qaeda will have free reign, wherever that might be.

So, according to Bill O’Reilly, the United States has two choices here:

(1) Continue supporting Hosni Mubarak, whom, O’Reilly admits, is a “bad guy,” or

(2) Withdrawal our support from Mubarak, in which case anti-American Muslim fanatics might take power, resulting in worldwide chaos—Muslims flying more airplanes into American skyscrapers, Muslims planting nuclear bombs in Downtown Los Angeles, Muslims tracking down and murdering Jack Bauer before he can stop the bombs from going off, Muslims planting nuclear bombs in other American cities, Muslims taking over our courts and school boards, Muslims kidnapping our grandmothers and preventing them from eating pork, etc., etc.

Of course, the United States actually has a third choice, one that I doubt that O’Reilly has ever seriously contemplated:

(3) Stop murdering innocent people throughout the Muslim world and stop supporting evil dictators who do the same. 

You see, this is the real reason why “Muslim fanatics” hate us.  Not because we’re a nation of freedom-loving Christians but because we’re terrorists, by far the world’s biggest terrorists.  Every day of the week, the US kills innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The US funds Israel as it steals land and water from Palestinians.  The US supports a host of murderous thugs throughout the Muslim world, from Mubarak in Egypt to the King of Saudi Arabia to the death squads in Indonesia.

This is why we’re hated.  This is why we’re targeted by terrorists.  Because violence begets violence, terrorism begets terrorism. 

I’ve written about this many times over the past two years.  Instead of rehashing all my arguments here, I’ll simply refer you to the following posts:

January 28, 2011

The US Just Luuuuuvvvvvs Its Puppet Dictators

US silence on Tunisia proves it favors stability over democracy

As the uprising spread in Tunisia, the administration of President Barack Obama stayed largely silent until the day Mr. Ben Ali fled. That was when Mr. Obama issued a statement condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters and applauding "the courage and dignity" of Tunisians. By then, it was too late: The U.S.-backed dictator was gone, and the Arab world chalked up another example of how Washington favors stability over democracy…

On Jan. 13, a day before Mr. Ben Ali's fall, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lectured a group of Arab leaders assembled in Qatar on the danger of their countries "sinking into the sand" unless they overhaul their political systems and economies…

Ms. Clinton's words appeared prophetic the next day. But she neglected to mention that most of these leaders were U.S. allies who had heard the same rebukes from American officials many times.

In June 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the world that America would no longer support repressive regimes in the name of political expediency. "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region -- and we achieved neither," she said at the American University in Cairo. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."…

[T]he United States could have encouraged some genuine change in the region. But things fell apart when Washington confronted its first test: In late 2005, a small group of Egyptian judges challenged President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime. The United States stood by silently while Mr. Mubarak crushed public protests, and the Arab world understood, correctly, that Washington had given up on democracy -- or had never meant it in the first place.

It is these contradictions between U.S. rhetoric and actions that lead people in the Middle East to distrust America and spin conspiracy theories about its motives. 


US favors stability over democracy in Egypt

Speaking on Al Jazeera English today, [State Department spokesman] Crowley addressed the massive protests seen in Egypt over the past few days. Crowley urged "restraint on both sides," which has been a boilerplate refrain for State Department spokesmen and their boss, Hillary Clinton, when addressing turmoil all over the world, from China to Israel and Palestine. Recently, during a January 7, 2011 press briefing, Crowley stated that the United States wanted "to see restraint on all sides" in Tunisia. A week later, Clinton released a statement concerning the "several weeks of demonstrations and popular unrest" in Tunisia which "condemn[ed] the violence and urge[d] restraint on all sides."

Unsurprisingly, however, the State Department did not urge protesters and rioters in Iran to show restraint in the wake of President Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election.

In his televised interview today, Crowley also repeatedly referred to the Egyptian government as "an ally and friend of the United States," as well as a "partner" and "stabilizing force in the region."

Yet, one thing Crowley said stuck out among the repetitions. At one point, he called the Mubarak government "an anchor of stability in the Middle East." This phrase is strikingly reminiscent of what President Jimmy Carter said thirty-three years earlier in regard to the unflinching U.S.
support, both vocal and material, of the Shah of Iran's brutal dictatorship…

As part of the peace deal, the United States has since given upwards of $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year. When asked about this massive amount of financial assistance, which funds the Egyptian security forces currently unleashed against protesters, Crowley answered: "Egypt is an ally and we rely on Egypt as an ally to be a stabilizing force in the region and that's exactly what they are. And we contribute in terms of military and security assistance to help Egypt because that has benefits across the region as a whole."

Clearly, these "benefits" include the violent suppression of Egyptian self-determination and democracy, as well as the buying of the Egyptian government's cooperation and acquiescence in imprisoning and assaulting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. 



Joe Biden defends Mubarak, insults protesters 


NewsHour host Jim Lehrer asked Biden if the time has "come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go?" Biden answered: "No. I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some... of the needs of the people out there."

Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

He also appeared to make one of the famous Biden gaffes, in comments that could be interpreted as questioning the legitimacy of protesters' demands. Monitor Cairo correspondent Kristen Chick, other reporters in the country, and activists have generally characterized the main calls of demonstrators as focused on freedom, democracy, an end to police torture, and a more committed government effort to address the poverty that aflicts millions of Egyptians.

Biden urged non-violence from both protesters and the government and said: "We’re encouraging the protesters to – as they assemble, do it peacefully. And we’re encouraging the government to act responsibly and – and to try to engage in a discussion as to what the legitimate claims being made are, if they are, and try to work them out." He also said: "I think that what we should continue to do is to encourage reasonable... accommodation and discussion to try to resolve peacefully and amicably the concerns and claims made by those who have taken to the street. And those that are legitimate should be responded to because the economic well-being and the stability of Egypt rests upon that middle class buying into the future of Egypt."

Egypt's protesters, if they're paying attention to Biden at all, will certainly be wondering which of their demands thus far have been illegitimate

The long-term consequences of supporting dictators

Juan Cole writes about the new domino theory.  Just as US officials once believed that the US needed to support repressive regimes in places like Vietnam and Indonesia to prevent communism from spreading, Cole writes that officials today believe the US must support repressive regimes in places like Tunisia, Algeria, and Uzbekistan to prevent Islamism from spreading.  But, Cole argues, this policy only serves to radicalize local populations and create long-term blowback for the US.

For instance, as a result of Algeria’s abrogated 1992 elections, some members of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) “were radicalized and formed an organization they called the Armed Islamic Group, which later became an al-Qaeda affiliate.”  Had the election results been allowed to stand, it is certainly possible that “the FIS might have evolved into a parliamentary, democratic party, as later happened to the Justice and Development Party of Turkey, the leaders of which had been Muslim fundamentalists in the 1990s.”

“Were oil-rich Algeria, a much bigger country than Tunisia, to become unstable, it would be a strategically more striking and even less predictable event.  Blame would have to be laid not just at the feet of Bouteflika and his corrupt cronies, but at those of his foreign backers [namely, the US and France], deeply knowledgeable (as the WikiLeaks cables indicate) but set in their policy ways.”
Cole’s conclusion: “Hard-line policies such as those of the Algerian generals or of Uzbekistan’s Karimov often radicalize economically desperate and oppressed populations.  As a result, U.S. backing has a significant probability of boomeranging sooner or later.  Elites, confident that they will retain such backing as long as there is an al-Qaeda cell anywhere on the planet, tend to overreach, plunging into cultures of corruption and self-enrichment so vast that they undermine economies, while producing poverty, unemployment, despair, and ultimately widespread public anger.”

* * * * * 

UPDATE: The great Stephen Zunes has a relevant article, US Continues to Back Egyptian Dictatorship in the Face of Pro-Democracy Uprising.

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 3)

With US support, Palestinian Authority engaged in torture

The Palestine Papers provide unprecedented access into the internal workings of the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process. But the leaked documents and meetings also touch on other key issues surrounding U.S. intervention in the conflict – including dozens of documents on Palestinian security issues. At the heart of these is the work of the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), what many refer to as “The Dayton Mission,” – a designation derived from the USSC’s chief, Lt. General Keith Dayton, who retired last October. Among other things they confirm – from Dayton’s own mouth – that Palestinian Authority forces supported by the United States engaged in torture.  (Mark Perry)

PA lobbying blocked prisoner exchange

For almost five years, family members of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails have waited in the hope that they might be reunited with their loved ones as Israel and Hamas engaged in mediated negotiations on a deal to exchange Gilad Shalit, the single Israeli prisoner of war held in the Gaza Strip, for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners.

But despite high expectations, the deal has never materialized. Analysis of secret minutes of meetings between top Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials revealed in The Palestine Papers shows that strenuous PA lobbying likely torpedoed the deal in mid-2008 with the result that far fewer Palestinian prisoners have been released by Israel.

The PA officials were concerned that an Israeli deal with Hamas would further weaken the PA and its US-supported leader Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah political faction, Hamas' main rival.

This revelation underscores the extent to which the PA was prepared to subordinate the immediate needs of Palestinians -- including prisoners and their families -- to the desperate battle with Hamas, of which they often spoke of with Israeli officials as a common enemy.  (Ali Abunimah)

PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote

On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.  (Al Jazeera)

Admiral Mullen says Palestinian state is a U.S. ‘cardinal interest’ after raising troop deaths

General David Petraeus backed away from uttering similar words, but it's clearly a view that holds wide currency in the U.S. military establishment:  ending the Israel/Palestine conflict is a core U.S. interest that affects the safety of U.S. soldiers.  Haaretz picks up (though they bury it) that U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen"linkage" argument in a document published by Al Jazeera as part of the "Palestine Papers."  (Alex Kane

The US role as Israel's enabler

The Palestine Papers give the world an unprecedented look inside the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but they also provide a fly-on-the-wall view of how key senior American officials view their role as negotiators which, as the paprs show, apparently means never taking any position to which an Israeli government might object. The series of six documents that provide a core element to understanding the debates that raged over Israeli settlements show just how willing the U.S. is to acquiesce to Israeli demands – and how willing they are to pressing the PA leadership to move forward on the negotiations despite Israel’s flaunting of international agreements, including freezing all settlement activity.  (Mark Perry and Ali Abunimah)

[T]he documents put to death the idea that Israel has no Palestinian "partner for peace."  On the contrary, they reveal a PA leadership that is desperate for peace -- sometimes to the point of being craven -- and getting no help at all from the Israelis and precious little from the United States. They keep offering various concessions and trying different formulas, and get bupkus in return. Indeed, even when they might think they've obtained something of value -- such as Condi Rice's pledge that the 1967 borders will be the baseline for negotiations and territorial swaps -- they find that the next set of US negotiators take it away with scarcely a backward glance.

In this sense, the documents also expose the bipartisan and binational strategy that Israel and the United States have followed under both Bush and Obama: to keep putting pressure on the Palestinians to cut a one-sided deal.  And if you thought George Mitchell was acting like an even-handed mediator, think again: he keeps leaning on the Palestinians to get back to the table, to accept a less-than-complete settlement freeze, etc., yet there's no hint of any pressure on the Israeli side.  (Stephen Walt)

The Palestine Papers and the "Gaza coup"

In February 2007, after months of clashes between their supporters, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a "national unity government" headed by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Enraged by this, the US government hatched a plot, along with Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, to engage Hamas militarily in Gaza. But the plot failed and in June 2007 Hamas turned the tables and overran Dahlan's US-supported militias.

Until now, the most comprehensive and essential account of these events was contained in David Rose's April 2008 Vanity Fair article, "The Gaza Bombshell."

An initial reading of the Palestine Papers supports Rose's account and provides details of hitherto unknown secret, high-level "Quadripartite" meetings among Israeli, American, Egyptian and Palestinian officials whose explicit goal appears to have been to undermine the national unity government. The essential point here is that part of the PA -- loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and backed by the US -- was actively plotting with Israel and its allies against the legitimately-constituted unity government.  (Ali Abunimah)

January 26, 2011

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 2)

The PA Asked Israel to Tighten the Siege on Gaza

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had pleaded with the Israeli government to re-occupy the Philadelphi corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border, in order to tighten the siege on Hamas-run Gaza, The Palestine Papers show…

In one of the most candid examples of the PA’s bid to tighten the noose around the Gaza Strip in order to punish Hamas, Erekat shows his disagreements with Israel and Egypt on their Gaza policy. In a meeting with George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy in October 2009, Erekat appears frustrated that not enough was being done to maintain the siege on Gaza.  (Al Jazeera)  (See also Ali Abunimah)

Livni Proposed Ethnic Cleansing
During several 2008 meetings with Palestinian negotiators, [Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni proposed annexing Arab villages to the future Palestinian state, forcing tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose between their citizenship and their land…

Polls of Israeli Arabs over the last decade have consistently [show that] most would rather remain in Israel than live under Palestinian jurisdiction.  (Al Jazeera)

This [proposal] is not only catastrophic for Palestinian rights and the prospects for justice, but represents a return to nineteenth century notions, banished in the wake of two world wars, that population groups can be traded between states without their consent as if they were mere pieces on a chess board.  (Ali Abunimah)

Livni Confessed the Real Rationale Behind Settlement Expansion

In an attempt to show her good faith, Livni is recorded confirming what Palestinians have always accused Israeli governments of doing: creating facts on the ground to prevent the possibility of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

At a west Jerusalem meeting in November 2007, she told Qureia that she believed Palestinians saw settlement building as meaning “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible”; that “the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we'll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”.  (Guardian)

The PA Agreed to Relinquish Haram al-Sharif

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), had suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites, the Palestine Papers obtained by Al Jazeera show.

Minutes of negotiations at the US State Department in Washington DC indicate that Erekat was willing to concede control over the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, to the oversight of an international committee.  (Al Jazeera)

This was probably the biggest concession of all—control of the Haram was the issue that “blew up” the Camp David talks, according to an Israeli official who was present.  (Jonathan Cook)

The PA Colluded with Israel to Kill Palestinians

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, the Palestine Papers indicate. 

Among the documents are notes, handwritten in Arabic, revealing an exchange in 2005 between the PA and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip…

The Palestine Papers appear to reveal two primary motives for the Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with Israel and their crackdown on dissent. 

Firstly, it serves to maintain the movement’s political supremacy at a time when it is being questioned. Secondly, it is an attempt to signal to the US that it wants to remain a trusted partner in peace talks, regardless the costs…

The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.  (Al Jazeera)

Obama Abandoned the Road Map for Peace

One of the more astonishing revelations in The Palestine Papers…is that the administration of US President Barack Obama effectively repudiated the Road Map, which has formed the basis of the “peace process” since 2003. In doing so it has backed away even from commitments made by the George W. Bush administration and blown an irreparable hole in the already threadbare “two-state solution.” [According to Palestinian negotiators, Bush’s Road Map sought to establish a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with minor, mutual land swaps.]

But even worse, the US position perhaps unwittingly opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer—or ethnically cleanse—non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to create an ethnically pure “Jewish state.”  (Ali Abunimah)

* * * * * 

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 1)
The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 3) 

January 25, 2011

And Once Again, Reality Refutes Marc Thiessen

A few hours before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the state of America's terrorist detention policy will be laid bare in a Manhattan courtroom. Ahmed Ghailani, charged with 285 counts in the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, will be sentenced for one count of "destruction of government property"…

[T]he Ghailani case underscores the necessity of [Obama’s] quiet decision to change course and lift the ban he imposed after his inauguration on new military commission trials at Guantanamo.

The first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in U.S. federal court under the Obama administration was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for his role in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings

Ghailani received the same sentence that he would have if he had been convicted on all counts. He "will never again breathe free air," [US Attorney Preet] Bharara said.

[T]he Ghailani case only showcases the strengths of the American justice system.  Ghailani received what was widely-perceived as a fair trial in which he was able to thoroughly challenge the government’s assertions that he played an integral role in the East African Embassy bombings.  At one point, evidence obtained by torture was properly excluded by the judge presiding over the case—a development that should have been lauded by all who support a criminal justice system based on the rule of law.  Instead, commentators such as Theissen and [Andrew] McCarthy decried the judge’s ruling and insisted the case should have been tried in a military commission so that Ghailani would have no chance of being set free.  That seems an especially odd argument to take seriously today—the day on which Ghailani was issued a life sentence for his crime...

Given the overwhelming success of civilian terrorism trials compared to their military commissions counterparts, it is disappointing that the Obama administration intends to go forward with new cases in the fundamentally flawed military commissions.  [Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, federal courts have convicted more that 400 individuals of terrorism-related crimes, with a conviction rate of over 90%.  In that same time period, military commissions, suffering from one setback after another, have only convicted five, two of whom are free today.]  But the Obama administration should also take this opportunity to make a renewed effort to try Guantanamo detainees in federal courts, which remains its preferred venue for trying terrorism suspects.  Although Congress has placed some restrictions on the President’s ability to transfer Guantanamo detainees to federal courts for trial, the President still has the ability to move forward with cases if he has the political will to do so.  Along similar lines, the President should take concrete steps to more forcefully oppose any further congressional efforts to restrict his authority to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo.  President Obama remains committed to closing Guantanamo, and if he is serious about this commitment, he must take immediate steps to ensure that prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees move forward in tried and true federal courts.

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 1)


“Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents—memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations—date from 1999 to 2010” (Al Jazeera).

Palestinian Concessions

The PA (Palestinian Authority) “secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements [Har Homa] built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem” (Guardian).  The PA also “privately discussed giving up part of the flashpoint Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah” (Guardian).

“Palestinian negotiators privately agreed that only 10, 000 refugees and their families—out of a total refugee population exceeding 5 million—could return to Israel as part of a peace settlement” (Guardian).

The PA secretly agreed to Israel’s demand that any future Palestinian state would be demilitarized (Guardian).

Israel as a Jewish State
“Palestinian negotiators privately accepted Israel’s demand that it define itself as a Jewish state” (Guardian).

So in Other Words…

The PA made extraordinary concessions to Israel.

International law doesn’t require the Palestinians to relinquish any of the settlements in East Jerusalem.  To the contrary, international law states that the entirety of East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that all of the settlements there are illegal (International Court of Justice).

International law mandates that all of the five million refugees, not a mere “symbolic number,” be allowed to return to their and their ancestors’ homes (Al Jazeera).

Given that Israel affirms its own right to self-defense, it is extraordinarily unfair that Palestinians not be given this same right.

Israel as a Jewish State
Given that 1 million Arabs live in Israel, it is extremely discriminatory to define Israel as a Jewish state.

Israeli Intransigence

Despite these truly remarkable concessions, Israel refused to end the occupation because the PA wouldn’t allow it to annex a number of settlements deeper in the West Bank, including Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Giv’at Ze’ev, and Ephrat.  As Al Jazeera notes, the annexation of these settlements “would be ruinous for the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state” (Al Jazeera).  Yet Tzipi Livni refused to surrender these settlements, telling the PA: “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands, and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it” (Guardian).

So in other words, the Palestine Papers refute the oft-repeated claim that Palestinian leaders are to blame for the Middle East conflict and that Israel has done all it can reasonably be expected to do.  The truth, we see, is the exact opposite.  Palestinian leaders have made extraordinary concessions.  Palestinian leaders have in fact conceded too much; for the sake of obtaining their own state, they have sold out the very people they claim to represent.  And yet even this hasn’t been enough for Israeli leaders. 

As Rashid Khalidi states: “The most important [revelation], I think, is the degree to which not only Palestinian negotiators were forthcoming, but the degree to which the Israelis were unwilling to accept concessions. It seriously casts into doubt the idea that Israel would accept anything but complete capitulation by the Palestinians to absolutely everything they’re demanding on every front” (Democracy Now!).

* * * * *


In a June 2008 meeting between the PA, Israel, and the United States, former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei stated: “This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.”  Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat proceeded “to enumerate some of the settlements that the PA was willing to concede: French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Talpiot, and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city.”  Erekat “did not mention the fate of other major East Jerusalem settlements, like Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Ya’akov, but Qurei’s language indicates that they would also remain a part of Israel” (Al Jazeera).  “It is difficult to imagine how the resulting patchwork of Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem, surrounded by Jewish settlements, could ever have functioned as the capital of the new state of Palestine” (Jonathan Cook).

One document reports Erekat telling George Mitchell (Obama’s Middle East envoy): “On refugees, the deal is there.”  A later document reports Erekat confirmed the specifics of this deal to his own staff: “Olmert accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years.”  PA President Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have said in private: “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel” (Guardian).

As Erekat told George Mitchell in 2009: “The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations.  They won't have an army, air force or navy” (Guardian).  And the following year, speaking to Obama advisor David Hale: “Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state… what more can I give?” (Al Jazeera).  Also see “Demanding a demilitarized state.
Israel as a Jewish State
Given that 1/5th of Israel’s population is Palestinian, Palestinian leaders have publicly condemned any suggestion that Israel be defined in ethnic or religious terms.  “But behind closed doors in November 2007, Erekat told Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister and now opposition leader: ‘If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want,’ comparing it to Iran and Saudi Arabia's definition of themselves as Islamic or Arab” (Guardian). 

* * * * * 

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 2)
The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 3)

January 23, 2011

Why Are We in Afghanistan?

Although WikiLeaks has thus far released many eye-opening State Department cables, I have yet to see a cable in which US diplomats explain why we’re at war in Afghanistan.  That would be an important revelation, far more important than the vast majority of cables already released. 

The Pentagon Papers, you might remember, contained a memo from the Johnson Administration admitting its real reason for staying in Vietnam:

70% - To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.
20% - To keep [South Vietnam] (and the adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.
10% - To permit the people [of South Vietnam] to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
ALSO - To emerge from the crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.
NOT - To 'help a friend’

Well I’d like to know the Obama Administration’s real reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan.  Obama claims that it’s about disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda, but, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta, there are no more than 100 al-Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan.  While much of al-Qaeda relocated to Pakistan in late 2001, US National Counterterrorism Director Michael Leiter estimates that there are only 300 or so al-Qaeda guys there.

If Obama really wanted to protect Americans from al-Qaeda, then he would end the occupation, which, more than anything else, is putting American lives at risk.  As Robert Pape writes:

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance…

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically -- from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. [From 1980 to 2003, no more than 10% of all suicide attacks were anti-American.]  The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

Although some have claimed that the US needs to stay to build up the Karzai government and prevent the Taliban from regaining power, there’s no reason to believe that the Taliban would again allow al-Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a safe haven.  In the weeks following 9/11, the Taliban offered to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives.  It just wanted to do so in a face-saving manner, something which George W. Bush found unacceptable.  Stephen Walt points out that, given all the trouble that al-Qaeda has caused for the Taliban, “if they were lucky enough to regain power, it is hard to believe they would give us a reason to come back in force.” 

So the question remains: Why does Obama still have 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan?  Why does he continue sacrificing American blood and treasure in this unnecessary and immoral war?  Noam Chomsky speculates:

Obama and his advisers are making a political decision. They know that the war is unpopular. A majority of the population by now thinks we shouldn’t be there. But they also know that if they get out of Afghanistan without something that they can call a victory they’ll be slaughtered by the right-wing propaganda system. And I suspect they’re trying to find a way to hang on long enough so they can have a situation which maybe they can sell as a victory and then partially withdraw.

Unless WikiLeaks releases a cable proving otherwise, I’m going to have to assume that Chomsky’s speculation is correct.

January 16, 2011

How Dictatorships End

From the New York Times:

There were reports in Arabic news outlets this weekend that it was the Tunisian military that finally triggered the unwinding of Mr. Ben Ali’s government. As the demonstrations escalated on Thursday afternoon, the country’s top military official, Gen. Rachid Ammar, is said to have refused to shoot protesters.

That afternoon, the military began pulling its tanks and personnel out of downtown Tunis, leaving the police and other security forces loyal to the ruling party to take their place as President Ben Ali delivered his final speech pleading, in effect, for another chance. The tanks returned after Mr. Ben Ali left the country.

We can only hope that the events in Tunisia encourage soldiers serving other dictators to start following their consciences and defy their unjust rulers.

And not only is this how dictatorships end; it's also how immoral wars waged by Western democracies end.  I'm reminded here of the must-see documentary Sir! No Sir!, which documents how the Vietnam War ended largely because American soldiers finally decided that enough was enough and began refusing to follow orders.  More recently, journalists like Dahr Jamail have written about the growing number of soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's a 12-minute trailer for Sir! No Sir!, which, if you haven't already, you really should see. 

If you're interested in supporting American soldiers who've refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, I encourage you to visit CourageToResist.org.

January 3, 2011

Palestinian Leaders Have Compromised Enough

In case you haven’t been following the news over the past few months, I just thought I’d let you know that the Middle East peace process has again stalled.  Yes, surprising, I know.  Israeli leaders have blamed the failure entirely on Palestinian leaders.  Equally surprising, I know.  Writing in Foreign Policy, Israeli official Moshe Ya’alon contends:

[W]hat stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire. But instead of concluding a deal with Israel, they have demonstrated a total unwillingness to compromise.

Ya’alon goes on to claim:

The Palestinians remain steadfast in their refusal to accept that there even exists a Jewish nation that lays legitimate claim to its land. They reject the entire premise of a state for the Jewish people—not only beyond the pre-1967 lines of the state of Israel, but even within its original 1948 boundaries.

Now even if you haven’t kept up with recent events, it should be obvious that Ya’alon is lying.  For several years now, Palestinian leaders have recognized Israel’s right to exist and have shown that they are willing to compromise on every single core issue.  Consider the 1999 Camp David Summit.  Although many claim that the summit failed because Yasser Arafat essentially got greedy, the truth is that he made tremendous concessions to Israel.  Robert Malley, who served on Clinton’s peace team during the summit, has written:

The Palestinians were arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. They accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of [roughly 9% of] West Bank territory to accommodate settlement blocs. They accepted the principle of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem—neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the Six Day War in 1967. And, while they insisted on recognition of the refugees' right of return, they agreed that it should be implemented in a manner that protected Israel’s demographic and security interests by limiting the number of returnees. No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel—not Anwar el-Sadat's Egypt, not King Hussein's Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Assad's Syria—ever came close to even considering such compromises.

And yet Israeli leaders felt that these concessions didn’t go far enough.  

Of course, the truth of the matter is that these concessions went much too far.  Consider the following:

  • According to international law, Israel is obligated to allow all of the refugees to return, not a predetermined number intended to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority.

So, although Arafat was well within his rights to demand Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank and from all of East Jerusalem and to demand that it allow all of the refugees to return to their homes, he simply asked that Israel withdraw from 91% of the West Bank, the non-Jewish parts of East Jerusalem, and that it allow a fraction of the refugees to return. 

Palestinian leaders continue insisting that they are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 borders.  In other words, Palestinian leaders continue demanding a mere 22% of Historic Palestine.  From last October:

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said…that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem…

“If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour,” added Rabbo.

The Netanyahu government, by contrast, refuses to offer Palestinians anything that remotely resembles a state.  Yes, Netanyahu says that he’s willing to grant the Palestinians a“state,” but his idea of a Palestinian “state” isn’t really a state at all. Not only has he made it clear that Israel will permanently retain large areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, but he has stated that any future Palestinian “state” will not be allowed to have an army and that Israel will maintain complete control over the area’s borders and airspace.

Although some Israeli hardliners believe that Netanyahu has offered more than enough, as Malley wrote of the Barak government, so too we can say now: “the measure of Israel’s concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point; it must be how far it has moved toward a fair solution.”