Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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Some “anti-imperialists” who think that the US Empire is the cause of the war in Syria. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

WRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.

Putin cynically offers humanitarian corridors to Aleppo. The cynicism of his proposal is so obvious that even the spineless United Nations must insist on control of the corridors, so as to offer the proposal a fig leaf of “legitimacy”.

Putin’s offer must be understood for what it is: 1) He is responding to international pressure to end the siege of Aleppo, 2) He is preparing a “justification” for new massacres.

Just as the Assad regime only “negotiated” while preparing military offensives, the “humanitarian corridors” offered by Putin are only intended to deflect international criticism as Putin and Assad starve 300,000 people and bury them with air and artillery strikes.

The “terrorists” are using the people as shields, we are told by the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime. A casual comparison of the relatively easy military victory over Daesh (IS) at Fallujah with the titanic struggle over Aleppo gives instant lie to this infamy.

The relatively quick collapse of IS at Fallujah compares nothing to the titanic struggle taking place in Aleppo, and the reason is obvious: Assad and his backers are fighting the forces of a popular democratic revolution.

The revolutionaries are fighting to the death because they know Assad can only offer death. There is nothing to negotiate.

Yes, indeed, the “Terrorists” are using the people as shields: but the terrorists in the battle of Aleppo are Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs.

In attempting to understand the course of the Syrian democratic revolution and how it is that the Assad regime has gone from near collapse to its current position of strength, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Syrian democratic revolution has been abandoned by the US and European left. To say this does not ignore the role played by the US arms embargo placed upon the opposition to Assad, or the intentional effort by the US and its Gulf State allies to prevent the formation of a cohesively united military command for the struggle against Assad–the fracturing of the opposition was engineered because the Obama administration has never supported the formation of a strong democratic Syria. Yet, these factors are givens: international solidarity movements for the democratic struggles in Latin America were always built as movements in opposition to US policy; the solidarity movement with Syria has also always objectively been opposed to the actual course followed by the Obama administration–his lip service to democracy notwithstanding.

It is an inescapable fact that the leaderships of our antiwar coalitions consciously decided against building solidarity with the Syrian people. The decision to abandon the Syrian people to Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs was led by pro-Baathist and Stalinist forces, which openly apologize for the war-criminal Assad regime and defend their treachery with claims of “anti-imperialism”, but these usurpers of our antiwar opposition were only able to triumph by cynically appealing to “unity”. Fears of splitting our antiwar coalitions allowed the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime to dictate our movement’s political orientation.

In the UK, it's clear that the support is for the regime.

The pro-Baathist traitors within our antiwar opposition have completely demobilized our movement.

The antiwar movement is dead. It’s last action was to stand in solidarity with the Assad regime!

We should never, ever, let this ignominious demise be forgotten.

Attempts to get around the defeat and demise of our antiwar opposition by ignoring it will gain nothing. There cannot be any serious proposal for the victory of progressive forces that ignores the terrible dangers of a military triumph by the Assad regime. The reasons are becoming increasingly obvious, no matter how hard they are ignored by the US and European left.

Even if Assad triumphs militarily, his regime cannot rebuild and stabilize Syria. Assad can only burn Syria; he has no other power; he cannot inspire and mobilize–he can only terrorize. Crushing popular revolutionary movements does not advance national development; crushing the energy of these movements destroys the very spirit that builds nations.

In the context of a burning Syria, despair and demoralization will only feed the growth of violent extremism. The centrifugal forces unleashed in Iraq will gain momentum in Syria. Daesh may be defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, but the anger and despair that feed the plague of sectarian violence can only deepen with the bitter divisions fomented by the Assad regime and by Tehran’s sectarian policies in Iraq and Lebanon. The alternative to violently sectarian forces has always only ever been solidarity with the struggles for democracy and self determination.

The alternative to violent sectarianism, building international solidarity with the democratic struggles–and centrally with the struggle in Syria, is also the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror” and to the imposition of permanent states of siege and the targeted repression of Muslims and immigrants in the West.

Daesh can be militarily defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, as it was in Fallujah, but the fight that must be won is to build a political alternative to the despair and alienation that allows Daesh, or any such nihilistic forces, to recruit. Walls, spies, permanent occupation forces in far away lands, and never-ending military operations cannot bring safety and security to the citizenry in the West. Demagogic proponents of a strategy to “follow Israel’s example” fail to recognize that much of the high command of the Israeli military is gripped by a sense of despair at the impossibility of maintaining a permanent occupation in the West Bank and a never-ending siege on Gaza. The Apartheid system of permanent repression could not hold in South Africa; it cannot hold in the occupied territories of Palestine and it cannot work as a strategy to contain the democratic aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East.

The leaderships of our antiwar coalitions want to ignore Syria, but by doing so they ignore the reality that the victory of the democratic struggle in Syria is the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror”, and by ignoring this reality, these leaderships have completely paralyzed our movement. It is no accident that there have been no mobilizations against the growing presence of US troops in northern Syria, against Obama’s decision to reverse one of the central campaign issues that brought him electoral victories–a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is no accident that even when US air strikes result in documented large numbers of civilian casualties in Syria, there are no mobilizations. The US antiwar “movement” is dead; it died when it mobilized in solidarity with the Assad regime. It was betrayed and murdered by the apologists for the Assad regime. The pieces that make up our antiwar coalitions may be able to regroup and rebuild, but only if they embrace solidarity with the democratic struggles.

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These are the 'school' conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

These are the ‘school’ conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

Written by Rahim Hamid

While tens of millions of Iranian citizens from various ethnic minorities are denied the right to education in their mother language, the regime has now announced the introduction of a new compulsory language syllabus in five European languages.

A few days after President Hassan Rouhani emphasized the need for education in foreign languages, Ahmad Abedini, the deputy of the regime’s Supreme Council of Education and Training announced that education in five languages – German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian – will now be mandatory in Iran’s schools.

The regime’s newfound enthusiasm for education in languages other than Farsi doesn’t extend, however, to the native languages of many of its citizens, with Arabs in Ahwaz, Kurds in East Kurdistan, and Turks in South Azerbaijan denied the right to education in their mother tongues and brutally persecuted for using their own languages.   This policy is strictly maintained despite the fact that Articles 15 and 19 of the Iranian constitution specifically state respectively that “ethnic literature” should be available to pupils in all schools and that all of Iran’s non-Persian ethnic minorities have the right to education in their native languages.  Farsi remains the official state language and the only one used throughout the education system despite the fact that it is the native tongue of less than half of Iran’s population.

The theocratic regime’s discriminatory and supremacist policies towards the country’s ethnic minorities are a continuation of those practiced by the secular monarchy, overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

Although the publication of material in other languages is tolerated (barely) by the Iranian leadership, the regime’s vilification of those ethnic groups using non-Farsi languages is systemic and relentless.     A recent and typical example of this was the Persian-Iranian primary school teacher in Ahwaz who forced two Ahwazi Arab pupils to wash out their mouths with soap and water for speaking in their Arabic mother tongue. The teacher at a school in the Amaniyeh neighbourhood of the Arab region’s capital also warned other pupils that they would face the same punishment if he heard them speaking Arabic or if they were reported to have done so in his absence.

This incident sparked further outrage and resentment amongst Ahwazi people who already face extensive apartheid-style discrimination and legislation outlawing their Arab language, dress and culture.

The regime has acknowledged none of its blatant discrimination towards Iran’s ethnic minorities in its new language education program.  Indeed, Rouhani has called on other cultural institutions to allocate funds for language education and training – for English and the other aforementioned European languages – adding that a proposal to prioritise the teaching of these languages has been put forward to the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council.

While the regime president has argued that the teaching of English should be prioritised since it’s the principal language of science and technology internationally, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is less convinced, criticising any “insistence on the promotion exclusively of English”, adding “The language of science is not just English… I don’t mean to shut down the teaching of English from tomorrow, but we ought to know what we are doing.”

Rouhani, who believes that the teaching of English should be the first priority for Iran’s advancement, had said, “You see the Indian subcontinent; because of the huge population most are almost fluent in English. Look at what they have done in information technology and how greatly the subcontinent has gained.  We must teach the language that would be best for scientific progress, creating more jobs for the younger generation and facilitating the future of our communication economy with the world. ”

The president’s praise for India’s adoption of English as an example was quickly criticised, with state media organ Tasnim quoting Sepehr Khalaji, the director of the Ayatollah’s Public Relations office, as writing in a statement published on Instagram, “Due to British colonial domination of India and a planned erasure of its people’s cultural identity to force them into compliance, India was forced into learning English. This is precisely the effects of colonialism that, as a first step, removes the signs of cultural and national identity in an effort to destroy the spirit of independent-mindedness among the populace. So this colonialist method of learning a language is not an honourable one to cite as an example.”

protesting to raise the world's awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

protesting to raise the world’s awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

The official did not seem to recognise the irony of such criticism coming from a representative of a regime which pursues the colonialist policies of its predecessors who forcibly annexed and colonised Ahwazi Arabs’ lands with British support in 1925 and have ever since enforced Farsi as the dominant language, refusing the people their right to education in their own language in an effort to crush the spirit of independent-mindedness among its populace.

It should also be mentioned that “linguistic justice” is a principle enshrined in international law, including the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which criminalises discrimination in the areas of language, ethnicity or religion, three of the areas in which the Islamic Republic’s regime discriminates openly and brutally against millions of its own citizens.

 

TEXTBOOK AHW 2WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

Iran’s Ministry of Education has distributed a new, deeply racist textbook for children in the Arab Ahwaz region depicting Arabs as savage, uncivilised idiots.

According to credible sources in Ahwaz, the latest textbook (cover shown at left) depicts various derogatory images of Arabs, with the cover showing an image of an Arab man on camel, wearing traditional dress in the desert, certainly intended as a racist caricature.

Such crude anti-Arab bigotry and offensive stereotypes are standard in Iranian media and culture. All such depictions, as well as anti-Arab video games, poetry and other cultural artefacts, are closely monitored and approved by the theocratic regime, which actively encourages anti-Arab racism.

The two pictures show how an Arab man wearing traditional clothes inappropriately, suggesting that Arabs are stupid and uncivilised, like the stereotype carried in the popular Persian whenever Arabs are shown.

Another textbook shows an Arabic man, again riding a camel in a desert with a dirty face, piglike nose and bare feet, eating something with his finger and only dreaming of arriving at a lush garden and a beautiful waterfall.

Ahwazi activists have condemned this latest expression of anti-Arab sentiment, particularly in the guise of an educational book for Arab children, adding that this is part of a systemic supremacist culture of hatred towards Arabs and all things related to Arab identity rooted in resentment amongst many Iranians dating back to the fall of the Persian Empire at the hands of Muslims and Arabs.

This resentment has been actively promoted and encouraged by successive Iranian rulers, up to and including the current regime, as a way of justifying their own brutal persecution of Ahwazi and other Arab peoples.

TEXTBOOK AHW 1The Ahwazi activists warned against the perpetuation of such racist policies against both Ahwazi Arabs and other non-Persian minorities in Iran, adding that it could lead to a backlash against not only the regime itself but against Persian peoples generally.

This latest incident of regime-sanctioned racism follows recent widespread regional anger over Iranian state TV broadcasts of racist slurs against the Turkmen people of Southern Azerbaijan, which led to large demonstrations in Azerbaijan and elsewhere.

The racism against Ahwazis runs rampant; we can feel that the anti-Arab sentiments tainted by a deep-rooted fascism are not confined to ordinary Persian citizens, but include a considerable portion of the Persian elite that is directly fueled by state politics.

These racist textbooks are seemingly encouraged by the nonexistence of a law that penalizes such pernicious acts in a country. Akbar Abdi, a well-known comedian, has lately engaged in more of this racist chauvinism during a live program on state television. He mentioned a trip with his family to Mecca in which he reacted to an Arab man who requested to get his son engaged to his daughter by saying: If I equaled my daughter with Gold, I would not equal Arabs, you or your son with Persian rubbish.” He described the Arab man with ugly and dirty epithets.  This was not the first time and will not be the last, when the state-sanctioned stream of bigotry against Arabs and Ahwazis is broadcast nationwide. Television programme and state-owned newspapers for years have been offending and attacking Arabs as Ahwazis are bearing the brunt.

What actually motivates racism among Persians against Arabs in general and Ahwazi Arabs in particular along with Kurds, Turks and Baluchis is the misplaced belief instilled into Persians minds that they come from the special superior Aryan race while the rest of other ethnic groups have some inferior racial traits that result in that group being detestable.

ahwazi kidsWritten by Rahim Hamid  

The objective of this article is to highlight the pervasive systematic violations of the Ahwazi Arab people’s rights. Over the last 36 years, essentially coinciding with the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, these violations have increased many-fold, even as the Ahwazis continue demanding their legitimate rights.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of the prolonged oppression of the Ahwazi Arab people. They are suffering from ultra-national racism, institutionalized discrimination and deliberate neglect at the hands of Iran’s regime. They are facing various barriers in accessing education, employment, housing, healthcare and other essential services.

Since 1925, the Ahwazi Arab people have been subjected to summary executions, forcible displacement, migration, and the confiscation and destruction of homes and personal property. Under Iran’s current fundamentalist sectarian regime, the Ahwazi people live in constant fear of oppression. The current Iranian clerical regime is systematically completing the ethnic cleansing agenda that was begun by the deposed Pahlavi regime.

Around 10 million Ahwazi Arabs inhabit the south and southwest of Iran.  They are one of the Middle East’s oppressed peoples.

They are united through race, culture and language. Their Arab dialect resembles the Iraqi Arabic dialect.  The Majorities are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are a number of other religions and creeds, such as Christians and Mandaeans.

The Iranian regime has shown a deep-seated hatred against the Ahwazi Arab people, who constitute 10% of the population.  In 1925, the emirate of Al- Ahwaz, ruled by Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi, was toppled by an invasion by the Iranian regime. The invasion put an end to the independent sovereignty of Al-Ahwaz, which was annexed to the newly formed country of Iran in 1934.

Since then, through countless rebellions, armed insurrections and unarmed movements, the Ahwazi Arabs have reiterated their determination to continue their struggle and their resistance against the occupation of Ahwaz and to reassert the sovereignty of Ahwaz that was lost to the Iranian invasion.

For generations, the Ahwazis have received harsh treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities.  In response to the popular uprisings that followed the Iranian occupation, successive Iranian regimes have forcibly resettled much of the Ahwazi Arab population in Persian regions, as part of a program of ethnic cleansing. Historical Arabic names of cities have been changed into Persian ones. Arabic dress has been completely banned. The use of the Arabic language in Ahwaz has been greatly restricted and even criminalized. Even the ethnic identity of the Ahwazi Arab has been denied.

Ahwazi Arabs have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. In recent years, Ahwazi lands have been confiscated forcibly with threats and intimidation and redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to “Persianize” Ahwazi regions. In the late 1940s, the government began systematically settling the nomadic “Lur tribes”, who are offshoots of Persian ethnics, into areas with Arab majorities, particularly in the oil-rich cities from which the Arab people were forcibly relocated.

These ethnic cleansing policies have been accelerated in recent years in an effort to destroy the demographic fabric of Ahwaz. Any popular movement or protest led by the Ahwazi political class, such as the popular uprising of April 2005 against institutionalized ethnic oppression, has been brutally crushed  by cracking down on the protestors and making mass arrests, even executing the majority of the prominent political figures.

In fact, the Ahwazi Arab people have sought and tried all peaceful political channels to obtain their most basic and legitimate rights, which are enshrined and stated in Iran’s current constitution. In particular, the Ahwazi Arabs have sought the application of Articles 15 and 19 of the Constitution, which stress the right of education in the mother tongue for all ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchs. The regime, however, refuses to implement these articles, thus depriving more than 50% of the non-Persian population of their mother tongue. Instead, the regime has imposed the Persian language as the official language of the education curriculum. This policy has resulted in a high rate of students dropping out from schools at early ages in the marginalized non-Persian regions:  due to the challenges of learning the Persian language, students are held back linguistically, becoming only partially proficient in both their native tongue and the imposed Persian language. This also results in students suffering from a dual identity crisis.

 The Iranian occupation regime is utilizing a variety of strategies in its efforts to obliterate Arab identity in Al-Ahwaz. One of these strategies is to introduce Persian-speaking settlers and give them homes among communities of Arab citizens with the aim of having a negative impact on the Ahwazi Arab citizens in Al-Ahwaz. In addition, a massive number of schools, institutions, and centers are being built for the express goal of imposing and spreading the Persian language and culture, while obscuring and excluding the Arabic language and everything that is associated with the identity, culture and history of the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Iranian settlements are Persian-only, racially exclusive, and their residents live in comfort, with all the facilities provided, while the surrounding Ahwazi Arabs are denied the same facilities and live in desperate squalor in their own homeland.

Of course, the Ahwazi Arab people’s protests against the Iranian occupation are not limited to such issues. Since the military occupation of Al-Ahwaz until now, Iran has been practicing all types of repressive measures, and through the prosecution of multiple pernicious policies, the regime is attempting to eliminate totally the Arabic identity of the Ahwazis.

The terrible legacy of Iran’s repressive nationalist occupation cannot be overstated. It has inflicted horrendous suffering on around 10 million Ahwazi Arab people, who have long suffered systematic marginalization by consecutive regimes of Iranian occupation, going back to the Shah, before the current theocratic regime, in terms of land, territories, resources, language, culture, customary laws, and political and economic opportunities.

From the outset, the occupation of Al-Ahwaz by a racist colonial-settler state has been aimed at eradicating all that is Arabic in Al-Ahwaz. No effort has been spared to liquidate the culture, the language, the history and the whole Ahwazi Arab national entity within the crucible of the Persian culture through the denial of all legitimate rights, such as education and the teaching of the Arabic language, which is one of the most important pillars of raising new enlightened generations. A second language (Farsi) is being imposed.

Since the emergence of the Islamic Republic’s regime, everything related to Arab culture has been declared to be ‘against God’ and thus banned. As a matter of fact, the clerical regime does not concern itself with religious beliefs as much as they are concerned about fighting the Ahwazi Arab identity and snuffing out their culture. This colonialist policy has led the Ahwazi Arab people to fall far behind in terms of development and education, with the policy being practiced in parallel with terrorism, intimidation and oppression, all of which have weakened and made the Arabic language fragile among the Ahwazis.

The Iranian occupation apparatuses have been attempting to falsify and distort the national identity and   culture of Ahwazis by describing them as Iranian Arab and as an Arab-speaking minority, which is intended to suggest that they are not originally Arab, but that they are Persians who over time have come under the linguistic influence of their neighbors and become Arab-speakers because of the proximity of Arab countries. The threat of the national Ahwazi Arab ideal to a Persian national security policy has occupied a key position not only among the Iranian security forces; it has become central to the Iranian nationalist political ideology, which is based on the dual doctrines of Persian nationalism and Iranian Islam (Shia Islam).

From the books and studies published by the Iranian strategic centers at the service of the occupation, we can understand how critical this issue is to the regime. Such studies and publications are full of strategies and vile concepts aimed at countering the Ahwazi Arab struggle; they are filled with weird concepts created to tarnish the image of the national Ahwazi movement. For example, these books and publications label Ahwazis as loyalists of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. After the fall of the Iraqi regime, the Iranian occupation produced the concept of Wahhabism. Then it invented the lies that the Ahwazi political activists are Western spies and stooges, enemies of God, traitors, or infidel atheists. These charges carry the death penalty, and the biased judicial systems of the Iranian occupation use them to murder Ahwazi Arab political prisoners.

ahwazi3Owing to this, the threat of imprisonment and execution has been a constant reality for every Ahwazi. This threat is aimed at weakening the willpower of the Ahwazi Arab nation so that it will surrender its prolonged struggle for liberation, its struggle to regain the independence stolen by Iran in 1925. Despite all these repressive strategies, not only has the Ahwazi Arab culture not lost its fortitude, on the contrary, it has become even stronger.

Racial denial and elimination, mass extrajudicial murder, ethnocide and forced displacement have constituted the main policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in dealing with the Ahwazi people and other national groups. However, the indigenous culture and the ethical and historical values of the Ahwazi Arab nation, as manifested in the context of social resistance, have never surrendered to the assimilationist policies of the Iranian effort to build a nation state on the basis of a mono-ethnic Persian identity.

AHW 1WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid

Al-Ahwaz region of Iran is currently witnessing a wave of mass protests and demonstrations demanding freedom and an end to the Iranian regime’s multifaceted oppression of the Ahwazi people, which has been continuous since Iran first occupied the region by the use of military force.

Ahwazi Arabs are among the most brutally oppressed peoples in the Middle East. The population of the region in the south and southwest of Iran totals around 10 million, with the people united by race, culture and language. The Ahwazi Arab dialect strongly resembles the dialect in neighboring Iraq. The majority of Ahwazis are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are other sects and creeds, including Christian and Mandaean.

Ahwaz is a Persian-occupied Arab country located in the north and the east of the Arabian Gulf to the east of Shat Al-Arab waterway which has been occupied by Iran for more than eight decades and renamed ‘Khuzestan.’

The entire territory of Ahwaz, covering 324,000 square kilometers, is bounded to the west by Iraq, to the south-west by the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and to the north, east and south-east by the Zagros Mountains, the natural boundary between Ahwaz and Iran.  With an Arab population of ten million, Ahwaz is among the most resource-rich territories occupied by Iran, holding more than 80 percent of the country’s oil and gas resources.

The region has three major rivers, the Karoon, Jarrahi and Karkheh, which play a vital role in the lives of its people, with most Ahwazis long economically dependent on the three waterways for their income from both fishing and agriculture, with the waters used to irrigate the rich arable land.

Historically the Semitic Elami tribes, the first known peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, settled on Ahwaz’s riverbanks and valleys, establishing a great civilization, particularly the ancient city of Susa, now known as Shush.

Since the initial annexation of Ahwaz by Iran, then known as Persia, 90 years ago, the humanitarian situation of the Ahwazi Arab people has steadily worsened, with the level of murderous repression by the current regime rising daily, extending to the level of systemic ethnic cleansing as policy, forcible eviction of the Ahwazi indigenous people, and the construction of exclusive apartheid-style settlements for non- Ahwazi, non-Arab settlers; these settlers are offered multiple economic and social incentives to move there and given guarantees of a promising future, while the Ahwazi Arab indigenous peoples are further marginalised, alienated and denied the most basic rights in every field.

Historically the catastrophic suffering of the Ahwazi people first began after Reza Khan, the then-ruler of Persia, now called Iran, and invaded the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925, overthrowing the last independent Arab ruler of the region, Sheikh Khazaal Alkaabi, who was subsequently imprisoned in Tehran for 10 years before being murdered in 1936 by strangulation on the orders of Reza Khan.

The current theocratic Iranian regime has imposed authoritarian rule on Al-Ahwaz region by the harshest measures, in a bid to isolate the Ahwazi Arab people from their origins and their historical association with the Arab nations, simultaneously imposing an absolute media blackout on any reporting of the suffering of Ahwazis.

As is widely known, the Iranian regime provides no official statistics on the number of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, but studies conducted by Ahwazi activists confirm that the current total Ahwazi population stands at between 8 and 10 million. American historian William Theodore Strunk in his work about Ahwaz: The Reign of Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir and the Suppression of the Principality of Arabistan: A Study in British Imperialism in Southwestern Iran, 1897-1925, Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University August 1977, wrote that during the discovery of oil 1908 in Al-Ahwaz region, Ahwazi Arabs made up roughly 98 percent of the regional population.

AHW 2This majority has now shrunk to 70 percent, due to the regime’s policy of systemic and deliberate Persian immigration and colonisation of the region in order to alter its demographic composition.

The primary reason for Iran’s occupation of Al-Ahwaz is the region’s major oil and gas resources. The region also has extensive and fertile agricultural plains irrigated by the Karoon River.

Ahwaz is a tropical region located in the south and south-west of what is currently known as Iran, with the region being a major producer of crops, including dates, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat, sugar and corn and many other cereal crops.

Despite all this natural abundance and its status as the center of Iran’s oil and gas industry housing massive industrial complexes, Al-Ahwaz is also the home of Iran’s poorest people, with 99% of Ahwazi Arabs living in extreme poverty and endemic deprivation. This destitution among the region’s indigenous people has its origins in the profoundly racist mentality of the Iranian occupiers, in whose eyes the Ahwazi people’s Arab identity poses a dangerous threat to the country’s national security.

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive 

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive

Iranian colonial projects in Al-Ahwaz  

The Iranian regime occupiers to this day seek to increase the proportion of non-Arab settlers in Ahwaz, even changing the original Arabic names of cities, towns, rivers and other geographical features to Farsi names in an attempt to deny the region’s Arab identity.

This systemic eradication of the Arab character and identity of the Ahwaz region and its peoples extend into every area of life, showing a thoroughly planned strategy to bury and erase the Arab culture and identity of Ahwazis once and for all via the illegitimate and forcible imposition of the Persian occupiers’ culture on the Arab peoples.

There is all too plentiful evidence of this policy which has led to the current bitter daily reality of the Ahwazi peoples.  One of the earliest demonstrations of this policy was during the era of Reza Khan’s rule of then-Persia when the speaking of Arabic and wearing of Arab clothing in public were outlawed, with transgressors facing horrendous punishments.

Thereafter and to this day, Iran enforced an all-Farsi education curriculum in Al Ahwaz, with the teaching of the Arabic language forbidden and all studies in Arabic made illegal.  This led to rampant illiteracy among the Ahwazi people, adding to the problems of widespread unemployment, with Ahwazis denied access to job opportunities on the pretext of their lack of educational qualifications. Through these openly grotesquely racist policies, the Ahwazi people were very deliberately weakened, losing any possibility of economic and social stability. These apartheid policies of successive Iranian regimes mean that Ahwazi people are still forbidden from giving their children Arab names or from wearing Arab dress, with the ultimate goal of eradicating all Arab identity and subsuming the Ahwazi people into simply another part of the Persian nationalist whole.

Karoon Rivers which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Karoon River which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Ahwazi peoples suffer from systemic exclusion in every area of life and at all levels, with the regime continuing a policy of ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily seizing homes, land and property and ‘giving’ these to settlers from neighbouring Persian territories in order to change the demographic balance of the region; under the Iranian legal system, the Ahwazi peoples are denied any legal recourse to object to such grotesque injustices.

The key leadership positions in the region are dominated by Persians, with all such positions being off-limit to Arabs. There is no real representation of Ahwazi peoples at any political level in the region due to the ‘security’ concerns of the occupying Persian authorities in all affairs concerning the Ahwazi people.

Despite the region providing approximately 80 percent of Iran’s oil and gas resources, Ahwazis, the rightful owners of this wealth, are denied any share in the massive profits generated by their mineral or other resources.

The only part of the oil and gas production which is passed on to the Ahwazi people is the related air and water pollution and a related increase in dangerous diseases as a result of the toxic waste and toxic gases emitted by the oil and petrochemical facilities whose emissions are largely unmonitored, discharging massive amounts of harmful industrial substances into the surrounding environment.

Recent acid rainfall and dust storms in the region resulting from this large-scale industrial pollution have seen more than 50,000 Ahwazi people admitted to hospitals and medical clinics for treatment for related conditions, providing terrible and plentiful evidence of the environmental pollution in the region.

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Successive Iranian governments have allocated far less than one percent of the monies from the region’s oil and gas revenues and related petrochemical projects to the   development of Al Ahwaz; indeed the Iranian parliament recently rejected – for a fourth time – a proposal presented by the regional vice-consul to allocate 1.5 percent of the region’s oil revenues for the reconstruction of towns and cities in the region devastated in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which ended 27 years ago.

Following Reza Khan’s 1925 military invasion of Al Ahwaz in 1925 and the ousting of Sheikh Khazaal, Ahwazi independence and sovereignty were formally denied when Al Ahwaz was annexed to become part of the newly established nation of Iran in 1934.

Since then, several Ahwazi Arab uprisings have taken place and been brutally quashed, with both military and civil movements reiterating their determination to continue their resistance and struggle for justice and freedom from Iranian occupation and to restore Ahwaz to its previous sovereign status.

Each uprising has met with murderous brutality at the hands of the Iranian authorities, with massive numbers of Ahwazis being banished and forcibly transferred to Persian regions.

Ahwazis have now received harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities for generations. In the wake of the first popular uprising following the initial annexation of Ahwaz, Persia’s then-rulers banished large numbers of the people, forcibly resettling them in  Persian regions as part of an ethnic cleansing policy, as well as changing the name of the region to Khuzestan and conferring Farsi names on cities, towns,  villages and even geographic features like rivers, as well as banning the wearing of Arab clothing and criminalizing the speaking of Arabic, all in an effort to deny and effectively eradicate the region’s Arab identity and history.

These policies continue to the present day, with Ahwazi people’s land and property forcibly confiscated to be redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to ‘Persianise’ the Ahwaz region.  In the late 1940s, the Persian rulers introduced a policy of settling people of Persia’s nomadic ‘Lur’ tribes in areas with Arab majorities, particularly around the oil-rich cities in the Ahwaz region, while Arab residents were forcibly transferred elsewhere.

This systemic ethnic cleansing policy has accelerated in recent years, with the apparent objective of eradicating the Arab identity and culture of Ahwaz. Any popular political movement or uprising led by Ahwazi dissidents, such as the last major one in 2005, protesting against this institutionalized injustice and oppression is brutally quashed by regime authorities, with massive violence against demonstrators and mass arrests and executions of hundreds of the most prominent dissidents.

Ahwazi demonstration

Ahwazi demonstration

After every uprising, hundreds of bodies of Ahwazi dissidents arrested tortured and killed by Iranian security forces are recovered from the Karoon River where they are dumped.  The detained prisoners are routinely held incommunicado for months, during which they are subjected to horrific torture and interrogation, with ‘confessions’ extracted under duress.

Ahwazi people have repeatedly sought to utilize every peaceful political means to attain even the most basic human rights, which are supposedly guaranteed under the current Iranian regime’s constitution, particularly in Articles 15 and 19, which stress the right to education in the native language of all ethnic groups within Iran, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchis. This legislation is effectively superficial window dressing, however, since the regime refuses to implement these articles,  with the result that more than half of Iran’s population who are ethnically non-Persian  are denied the right to be educated in their mother tongue; this in turn means that, with an educational curriculum taught solely in Farsi,  schools in the already marginalised non-Persian areas see high rates of non-attendance, with pupils dropping out at an early stage, leaving these populations further disadvantaged by widespread illiteracy and low education levels.  Added to this, the criminalization of Arab culture, including proscriptions on Arabic language in both speech and education, along with the widely resented imposition of Farsi as the official language leaves students largely unskilled in both languages and suffering from a dual identity crisis.

Historical context

To understand the contemporary crisis in Ahwaz, it’s necessary to know some historical background.  Oil was first discovered in Ahwaz, as elsewhere in the Middle East, in 1908, piquing the colonial greed of both the Persian state and the Western powers, with the then-British Empire seeking to expand its regional power and control in tandem with other European powers.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ahwaz also assumed a strategic importance for the nations involved due to its strategic location.

In 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty came to power in Persia, ousting the previous ruler of Persia, Ahmad Shah Qajar.  Reza Pahlavi identified the geopolitical significance and resource wealth of Ahwaz as potential major assets, with the new rulers wasting no time in invading and annexing Ahwaz, deposing Sheikh Khazaal, in 1925.  In 1936, the year of Khazaal’s execution, Ahwaz was given a new, Farsi name, ‘Khuzestan’, while Persia was renamed ‘Iran’ – ‘Land of the Aryans.’

As Persia’s new name suggested, the Pahlavi dynasty was founded on a strongly nationalistic ideology, with all of Tehran’s territories depicted as homogenous parts of a mono-ethnic, monocultural Persian whole. This resulted inevitably in deeply racist antagonistic policies towards the Arab peoples of Ahwaz as to other non-Persian peoples in territories under Iran’s control from the 1920s which continue to the present day, with all non-Persians essentially robbed of their culture and identity. This denial and eradication of non-Persian identity extended into every area of life, from language, dress, education to all aspects of culture. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, these brutal proscriptions extended to religion, with non-Shiites (and Shiite dissidents) being persecuted and non-Shiite religious ceremonies and worship heavily punished by imprisonment, torture and often execution.

A History of Dissent: Ahwazi resistance continues in the second Pahlavi era under Mohammad Reza Shah (1941–1979) and since the ‘Islamic Revolution’.

The grievances of the minorities under Iranian rule (who combined comprise the majority)  grew throughout the second Pahlavi monarchy (1941-1979) since Mohammad Reza Pahlavi adopted his father’s deeply chauvinist policy to ethnically restructure the country completely based on Persian ethnicity and identity. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi introduced even more extensive policies intended to subjugate, marginalize and eliminate the five largest minorities under Iranian rule: Ahwazi Arabs, Turkish Azaris, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen peoples.

In response to these brutal policies, Ahwazi Arabs and other oppressed groups launched both peaceful and armed uprisings to defy this policy of systemic subjugation and ethnic cleansing.  In 1958, the ‘Arabistan Liberation Front’ was established with the objective of liberating the homeland from Iranian occupation, operating primarily in the cities of Abadan, Mohammareh and Ahwaz.

Two decades after this, in the initial period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ahwazi Arabs felt inspired and hopeful of positive change as a result of the overthrow of the brutal monarchy.  In light of this new spirit of optimism, a delegation of 33 leading Ahwazi figures representing all classes and points on the political spectrum was dispatched to Tehran in late April that year, under the aegis of the then-Ahwazi spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Taher Al Shobair Khaghani, for talks with the new provisional government, then chaired by Mehdi Bazargan.  The delegates took with them a memorandum containing 12 demands for very basic reforms, as agreed by the vast majority of prominent Ahwazi political and social leaders, with the people pinning their hopes on the new rulers in Tehran to help Ahwazis attain their legitimate rights and achieve long-denied freedom.

Among the demands laid out in the memorandum were:

  1. Legal recognition of Ahwazi Arab nationality, to be acknowledged and protected under the new Iranian constitution.
  2. The formation of a local committee to administer the affairs of the Ahwazi region as an autonomous, broadly independent territory.
  3. Recognition of Arabic as the official language in Ahwaz, to be taught at school and further education level and the foundation of schools and universities for this purpose, with Arab students to be granted the opportunity of overseas scholarships.
  4. A guarantee of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the freedom to establish Arabic newspapers and broadcast media, and an end to the draconian censorship policies of the Shah’s regime.
  5. Abolition of discriminatory policies towards Ahwazis in civil service recruitment.
  6. The allocation of sufficient funds from the oil and gas revenues from Ahwazi lands to help in development of the Ahwazi region.
  7. The restoration and recognition of the Ahwazi people’s right to their Arab identity, i.e. through reintroducing the Arabic names of towns, cities, villages and geographic features rather than the Farsi names conferred under the Shahs’ rule.
  8. Revisions and reforms to the previous regime’s agricultural legislation in order to allow land to be redistributed in a fair and equitable way among Ahwazi farmers, with their ownership rights to be taken into consideration.

During their week of talks in the capital, the delegates met with the then-Prime Minister and other ministers of the new government, as well as with the clerical regime’s religious leaders, including Ayatollah Khomeini.  In these talks, they were assured of the new leadership’s full commitment to overturning the policies of the previous regime, renouncing violence and preserving the unity and integrity of the country.  The delegates, on their part, reassured the officials that the Ahwazi people fully accepted that all state affairs concerning foreign policy, military issues, the monetary system, international treaties and economic plans should be exclusively the concern of the central state.

The Ahwazi delegates had hoped that even if all the demands laid out in the 12-point memorandum were not met, the new leadership would at least grant the Ahwazi people their basic rights and put an end to the Shahs’ decades-long policies of systemic brutal injustice and oppressive rule.   During their meetings, however, the delegates came to realise that the new rulers were little different to the previous despotic regime in their racist attitudes and discriminatory policies towards Iran’s non-Persian population.

Following their return from Tehran, the delegates issued an official statement declaring that the new Iranian leadership had trivialized and undermined the concerns of the Ahwazi people. This led to widespread public anger among Ahwazis, who had been hopeful of real change following the revolution, with many taking to the streets for demonstrations against the continuing racism of the Iranian state to voice their disappointment and disillusionment. The protesters pointed out that the leaders of the Islamic Revolution had come to power with slogans promising a new openness and tolerance and making promises to fulfill the Ahwazi people’s long-denied demands for basic rights, all of which had turned out to be false. Instead, said the protesters, the new regime had shown the same contempt as the previous one, baring its teeth in response to their demands for freedom and rights.

In response to these protests and to the Ahwazi Arabs’ demands, officials of the new clerical regime immediately launched a propaganda and disinformation campaign, now widely known as a standard regime tactic, falsely alleging that the Ahwazi peoples’ protests were part of a regional and global conspiracy to separate Ahwaz from Iran, and asserting that any concessions to the Ahwazi people’s demands would undoubtedly threaten Iran’s territorial integrity, warning ominously that any such protests should be ‘neutralised’ at any cost.

The meaning of this ‘neutralisation’ became horribly clear on May 29th 1979,  only a few months after the revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, with the new clerical regime’s military, supported by affiliated voluntary extremist sectarian militias launching a murderous offensive on Ahwazi Arab dissidents, killing many hundreds, with thousands more imprisoned and forcibly ‘disappeared’ or forcibly displaced.  The day subsequently became known amongst Ahwazis as ‘Black Wednesday.’

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

The ‘Black Wednesday massacre was carried out in direct response to a Fatwa (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, who directly ordered Ahmad Madani, the then-military governor of Ahwaz to organize the massacre of all the members of political and cultural organizations of the Ahwazi Arab people in Mohammareh city.  To carry out this crime against humanity, Madani deployed the regime’s air and naval forces, who were supported by masked volunteer militias, who coordinated a massive military operation besieging and attacking all the headquarters of Ahwazi political and cultural organisations in the cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, and Mohammareh cities.

Ahmad Madani subsequently became a hero to the Persian people for his leadership of this slaughter, being appointed Commander of the Iranian Navy as a reward for his leading role. He was subsequently quoted as stating, “The Ahwazi are inciting riots so I will drink their blood if they continue insisting on their illegal demands.”

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

The staff and anyone else in the buildings, including those who attempted to flee the regime’s forces, were either arrested or shot dead if they attempted to flee.  When news spread of the regime’s massively brutal offensives, hundreds of enraged residents of the three cities rushed to the scenes of the atrocities in a desperate effort to save the activists.  Despite being unarmed, these people in turn were machine-gunned in massive numbers by the masked militias and otherwise executed in cold blood, with survivors who didn’t manage to escape being arrested, imprisoned and/or forcibly exiled.

Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali, one of the main regime officials under Madani responsible for organizing this slaughter, was subsequently appointed as  Chief Justice of the regime’s revolutionary courts in the region, where he ordered the execution of countless other innocent Ahwazi Arabs, often following ‘military trials’ which lasted no longer than a few minutes.

Unfortunately, like so many of the clerical regime’s brutal crimes against Ahwazis and others, ‘Black Wednesday’ has remained uninvestigated and unmentioned by international human rights organisations to date, despite being deeply etched on the memories of the survivors and of all Ahwazi peoples, for whom it is impossible to forget or to forgive until the perpetrators are brought to justice. Despite the regime being accorded absolute impunity by the international community to act with barbaric savagery and to sweep such crimes against humanity under the carpet, the day will live in infamy among all Ahwazis, even those who weren’t born at the time.

One desperate reaction in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’ was the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London by an Ahwazi Arab pro-autonomy group who demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Given the relentless decades-long murderous repression of Ahwazis by successive regimes and their refusal to grant even the most basic human rights to the Ahwazi peoples,   some Ahwazis see no hope of regaining their rights under such monstrously unjust leadership, with the Pahlavis’ monarchy and the Islamic Republic’s theocracy being effectively two largely indistinguishable faces of the same genocidal and deeply racist coin for Ahwazis and other minorities in Iran.

Whilst it has gone down in Ahwazi history as one of the most infamous of the Khomeinist regime’s crimes,  ‘Black Wednesday’ was not isolated incident, with similar murderous brutality meted out routinely, indeed systemically as regime policy, to Ahwazi peoples and other minorities by regime forces and militias in that period and ever since.

Like their predecessors, Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals continue to face the threat of imprisonment, torture and execution simply for campaigning or writing in support of freedom, self-determination and human rights.

The three founders of the ALF, Mohiuddin Al-Nasser, Dohrab Al-Nasseri and Isa Nasseri, were executed in 1964 at the hands of the Organization of Intelligence and National Security, better known by its Farsi acronym, SAVAK, which led the regime’s rule of terror between 1957 and 1979. This, along with the tragic bloody massacre in  Mohammareh city in 1979, and the brutal crackdown on another popular uprising in 2005, are just a few of the stark indications of the dangers faced by Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals, who live under the constant threat of prison, torture, exile and/or execution.

In the face of this relentless persecution, the Ahwazi people have continued their long struggle for freedom, self-determination and their long-denied legitimate rights; despite the lack of regional and international support for their cause, the people have maintained their determination to continue until they attain their objectives.

Indeed, it could be argued that the many obstacles and the lack of external support or recognition of Ahwazis’ struggle have resulted in strengthened resolve among the Ahwazi people, recognizing that only they can achieve their liberation and succeed in the struggle for freedom, social emancipation and self-determination.

These efforts have led to the establishment of a number of political organisations and groups which have introduced political and social programs that enjoy widespread popular support. Ahwazi groups have also built strong links with liberation movements representing other non-Persian minorities in Iran oppressed by successive Iranian regimes during the same period, including Kurds, Turks, Baluchis and Turkmen.

After its initial revolutionary fervor, the clerical regime’s profoundly reactionary nature, along with its double standards and hypocrisy, became clearer as time went on. For one example, despite having lived and studied in France, the home of liberté, égalité, fraternité, during his exile, Bani Sadr, a prominent figure among the leaders of the Islamic Revolution, returned to Iran only to become one of the most vehemently racist Persian nationalists in the new regime.  Sadr enthusiastically supported the brutal persecution of the Ahwazi people under the new leadership, with his greed for power quickly overcoming any revolutionary ideals he had previously espoused. In an interview with a Paris-based Iranian news agency concerning the popular uprising by Ahwazis in support of freedom and self-determination, Sadr said, “  will not grant autonomy to any territory because it simply means the disintegration of the country”.

Another official, who had met with the Ahwazi delegates during the 1979 talks and promised that their demands would be submitted to the consultative committee then drafting the new constitution, reneged on his promises, telling the official news agency, “Granting autonomy is without doubt considered separation which threatens national unity.”

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khalkhali, prioritized his loyalty to the new regime, vehemently opposing any autonomy and stating, “We will cover the Shaat al-Arab with the blood of those pro-autonomy Ahwazi Arabs.”

In extracts from his posthumously published memoirs, reported in the Iranian Hamshahri newspaper in December 2001, the ayatollah appeared to have been proud of his criminal practices against Iran’s Arab Ahwazi and Kurdish peoples, writing, “I have killed a lot of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurdish and remnants of the monarchy, but I don’t regret it, and my conscience is not tormenting me.”

Regime oppression continues

The clerical regime’s racist attitudes to Ahwazi Arabs and other minorities remain as deeply entrenched today as they were in 1979, having become institutionalized and systemic as under the Shahs’ rule.  Ahwazis continue to be subjected to ethnic cleansing and the withholding of all rights, with imprisonment, torture and execution standard policy for even the most minor offence or for no reason other than to maintain fear,  and ensure continued subjugation and break the will of the people. As a result of this policy, the percentage of Ahwazi Arab prisoners in the regime’s prisons is, unsurprisingly higher than that of any other group. Regular calls by the EU and international human rights organisations for the introduction of fair and transparent trials for Ahwazi prisoners, who are routinely denied access to a lawyer as standard practice, have been disregarded.

Despite the clerical regime’s oft-repeated claims to stand for Palestinian freedom, anti-Arab racism is endemic and encouraged by the regime, with Arabs being commonly referred to by derogatory terms such as ‘lizard-eaters’ and ‘camel’s milk-drinkers’ and depicted as uncivilized  barbarians and barefoot nomadic peoples.

Denied rights and employment, destitution amongst Ahwazis is widespread, with disproportionate numbers living in the most abject poverty amid unimaginable conditions. With the Tehran regime deliberately withholding funding, infrastructure development is non-existent, with thousands in the regional capital, Ahwaz, living in areas with open sewers, no sanitation, rampant diseases due to pollution, no access to running water, electricity or gas, despite the fact that the region is, as mentioned above, the centre and backbone of Iran’s massive oil wealth, containing over 80 percent of its oil and gas resources. Ahwazi peoples are essentially treated as fifth-class subjects in their own lands, while Persian settlers introduced by Tehran to change the demographic balance live in great affluence in pleasant Persian-only settlements as part of the regime’s policy of tempting more Persians to move to these areas.   Those Ahwazis who are able to find employment have access only to the most menial, low-paid jobs, with all desirable jobs reserved for Persians.

Although most Ahwazis are Shiite, those who are Sunni face even greater discrimination due to the clerical regime’s persecution of non-Shiites.

Almost a century of systemic racist subjugation as policy has led to the Ahwazi people being one of the most marginalized and oppressed peoples in the Middle East and the world,  with one of the highest rates of incarceration and execution globally.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state towards Ahwazi Arabs have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, even while their lands sit on virtually limitless oil, gas and mineral resources that have been exploited to benefit Iranian occupiers since before the state of Iran even came into existence.

The absolute censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists attempting to raise awareness of the systemic racism and abuses perpetrated against the Ahwazi people, allowing the regime to continue these inhuman and supposedly internationally outlawed policies.

Iranian hard-liners consider Ahwazis a threat to the integrity of their theocratic state and to the oil and gas wealth which is one of its primary income sources, and have done their utmost to disseminate negative perceptions of Ahwazi peoples, labelling activists as apostates and terrorists and thus enabling the judicial system to issue grotesquely unjust prison sentences against them. The EU parliament and a number of international human rights organisations have issued a large number of extensive, well-documented reports listing some of the abuses and violations commonly inflicted on Ahwazi peoples and other non-Persian minorities in Iran. These decades-long abuses comprise part of a longstanding policy, which predates the clerical regime but have been enthusiastically adopted by it, with the ultimate objective of eradicating, subjugating and subsuming the non-Persian population in every way.

For far too long, successive Iranian regimes have denied the true diversity of the ethnic mosaic which makes up Iran, which is in reality the most ethnically diverse   country in the Middle East.  The flagrant and systemic violations and abuses against non-Persian minorities show that the current regime, like the monarchy that precedes it, is in reality founded on a savagely fascistic, repressive and racist mono-ethnic, monocultural ideology, regardless of its veneer of theocratic piety.

In summary

At present, we see strong and continues popular movement in Al-Ahwaz, once comes out in a football stadium to express the power held by the people against the Iranian military, again it shows up at the funeral of   “Younes Asakereh” the martyr which his funeral turned into a huge anti-regime protest in “Mohammareh” city.

As people in one united voice chanted revolutionary slogans calling for popular uprising in Ahwaz against the racial discrimination, the national oppression, the marginalization, the rampant poverty, unemployment, and attempts to obliterate the Arab identity of the region at the hands of the occupying   Tehran government’s policies in Al-Ahwaz.

As matter of fact, organizing such Ahwazi populace movement at wide scale which engulfed the most parts of Al-Ahwaz aims to the following:

–    Applying pressure on the Iranian regime, through the general popular rejection of the brutal Iranian policy in Ahwaz and in all countries that Iran presents.

–    Working with non-Persian peoples against mullahs’ authority to expose its violations against the peoples exists in geopolitics Iran.

In fact, this Ahwazi movement has become an example to the rest of peoples in geopolitical Iran, the people of (Turk, Kurds, and Baluchs) was directly affected by this movement on many occasions and in conjunction with Ahwazi people have staged protest rejecting the repressive measures of Iranian regime conducting against non-Persian national groups and even Persian community. Many senior intelligence officials has visited Ahwaz to calm the situation which came up in a very critical time for Iran while it’s looking for internal cohesion to continue its sabotage in the Arab world, This senior-level of security officials visits reflects the strong movement of Ahwaz and it’s reflection to what is going on in the Arab Nation which is fed up with Iranian hegemony.

Without doubt, all these events in the region are in the national security interests of the Arab countries, the inner uprising of the non-Persian peoples are fruitful to those peoples firstly, and secondly they are in the same row against Iranian expansion in the Arab world.

For Ahwazi Arab people, the matter is not being forgotten like before, we now see the Arab media generally interested in Ahwaz’s cause specially the Saudi media, as well as the liberation groups started to have armed wings, the “Arab struggle for the liberation of Ahwaz” movement on the top of it which succeeded in directing painful blows to Iran in both revolutionary field inside occupied Ahwaz homeland or its political activities in all over the world.

This is the truth in spite of Iranian media ignoring Ahwaz’s movement which is living real uprising despite more than eighty years of Ahwaz’s occupation, where Iran exercised all forms of racism to root out the Arabic identity and it didn’t even succeed to contain all Ahwaz’s Shiites, which most of them are resisting the Persian occupation, on the other side the Sunni elimination didn’t succeed and the number of Shiites who converted to be Sunni exceeded all the expectations.

It is noteworthy that ever since the April 15th uprising in Ahwaz in 2005 commemorating the anniversary of the original 1925 Iranian occupation of Ahwaz (which was subsequently renamed Khuzestan in 1936), Iranian security and intelligence services have launched brutal crackdowns and mass arrests of activists and civilians in the weeks preceding the anniversary in an attempt to intimidate the people and prevent further demonstrations.

It is imperative that Arab and Western human rights organisations take up the too-long ignored cause of Al Ahwaz on the basis of basic humanitarian principles, recognizing that the occupied and horrendously brutalized peoples are being deprived of their most basic rights as fellow human beings.

WRITTEN BY MASSIMO RUSSO, translated by Mary Rizzo
What do the tears of Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman at the summit for the Peace of Rome tell us: if we don’t like the present, it is only up to us to change it

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates
The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

“I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Iranian people for what the government of my country has done first in Syria, supporting a dictator – Bashar al-Assad – who kills his own citizens, and now to the Yemen of my sister Tawakkul, because it is helping the counter-revolution to stifle change. ”

Sometimes international meetings on peace are resolved in formal occasions to repeat formulas that are a  little ‘age-worn’. At the 14th World Summit of the Nobel Peace prize, which is being held these days in Rome, things were different. The abstract concept of peace and diplomacy became transformed into a hug, and into the tears of two women, the Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman, divided by nationality and religion, united by belonging to the species of those who did not give up.

And if you wonder what this has to do with Wired, the answer is: because both these women are innovative. No, they are more than that, they are hackers.

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian, won the Nobel in 2003 for her fight for human rights. Magistrate, she was relieved of her duties and lives actually in exile in London. Tawakkul was the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel in 2011 for her peaceful campaign for equality, freedom and against corruption, which led to the overthrow of the regime in Yemen. A few moments before receiving the embrace of Shirin, Tawakkul had cried out passionately, asking the international community to condemn Iran for its intervention in support of the dictators of Syria and Yemen and against the Arab Spring, in order to establish itself as a regional power and obtain more favourable terms in the negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

Tawakkul in her speech emphasises a concept dear to all disruptive innovators: do not ask permission.

“No one will give you your rights if you are not willing to take them for yourselves, to take to the front lines and fight for them. And the only ones able to declare your defeat are yourselves. If you lose hope, you are already finished, everything depends on you. ”

Ebadi adds: “Democracy is alive, and it must be looked over every day, even when you’ve achieved it.”

Then there’s the idea of hacking. Because only the creative tampering of reality, even when all logic is contrary, it can lead to change in seemingly hopeless situations. All revolutionaries, rebels who are really changing the world, start by listening to themselves, to their own convictions. So they act, and change their own roads, their own community, their own country. Without any excuses.

What does this embrace between two extraordinary women in a sleepy Roman Saturday morning have to say to us? Again, the answer is a lot. To all of us. The first words that Shirin Ebadi addressed to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, and Italians were: “Do not accept the money of dictators. Many have brought their wealth to Italian banks. “But the real point is that people like these, with their vital example, speak to our attitude of detached cynicism, western pessimism of bored depression. The fate, the future is in our hands. From the crisis to corruption, to work, which is not created by decree. Nobody will change our destiny in our place. And the hunt for the culprit, to those who have it taken away, is simple. Just get up and look straight the first mirror.

original: http://www.wired.it/attualita/politica/2014/12/13/labbraccio-nobel-senso-dellinnovazione-nostra-pigrizia/

suora    This is a letter that can be sent to every venue that is hosting Mother Agnes-Mariam De La Croix as a speaker. It can be personalized and altered as required. As activists and responsible human beings, we cannot stand by while an apologist for genocide is given a platform in spaces that claim to promote peace, justice, and human rights:

Dear Sir/Madam,

In reference to the visit of Mother Agnes-Mariam De La Croix, the Superior of the Monastery of Deir Mar Yacoub, (and any other persons participating at DATE/ADDRESS), we would like to draw your attention to the following:
Large scale massacres against civilian populations have been committed by government military forces and pro-regime militias in Syria. Those invited to speak about this immense tragedy should be examined carefully as to their position in support of the forces behind the massacres. It is unethical to give a platform to persons who support these massacres or facilitate them by spreading information that has been proven again and again to be misleading, false, and in many cases pure propaganda of the regime perpetrating the crimes. It would be completely unconscionable for a religious or spiritual organization to put their facilities at the disposal of such persons.

We fully respect the principle of debate and freedom of expression, but in this case the person you have invited expresses blind support for a dictator who has massacred and is still massacring his own population, including over 11,000 children. The only reason for this violence is the regime’s intention to crush any and all people who stand up for their human rights and who they deem to be a threat to their tyrannical rule. The regime has killed countless numbers of people for trying to exercise their right to free expression. It is clearly evident that the uprising in Syria started peacefully, and was not militarized. Nor was it based on religious intolerance or sectarianism. It began with non-violent protests demanding reforms and basic freedoms that they had been denied for far too long. These protests were met with extreme violence and repression, and in order to justify that, a machine of propaganda was put in place, disseminating lies, passing off hoaxes as fact, and claiming that minorities in Syria were under threat of harm from religious extremists. The speaker you have invited is one of the key players in this propaganda machine, many of her claims have been debunked by experts and witnesses, while the voices of those murdered by the regime have been silenced once and for all.

The peaceful nature of the protests that your guest attempts to depict as a violent insurgency against Syria’s minorities has been recognised by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations. The crimes against humanity committed by Assad have also been recognised by these entities, as well as by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. People in Syria only took up arms against the regime when the killing had reached such a scale that they were forced to defend themselves and their families militarily.

We are astonished that you have made your venue available to supporters of a murderous dictatorship. What is happening in Syria is in the public domain and cannot be ignored. Support for this project may amount to complicity in crimes against humanity. This is not just a legal issue but also a moral one.

It is extremely ironic that the photo used by the organisation promoting the event depicts damage in Syria caused by airstrikes. It is common knowledge that ONLY the regime possesses air power and the capacity to bomb cities and residential areas in this way. The use of the image in this way is further evidence of the bad faith of the organisers of this event. 

We request that you cancel this event immediately and we would like to suggest that you organise a new event that will present what is happening in Syria in a truthful and objective way. We thank you for your solidarity with the people of Syria.

They tend to be motivated by feelings more than facts, by what they want to exist rather than what actually does exist. Extremists do a lot of wishful and fearful thinking.

Activists are bound to be involved (both because they wish to be or because they are dragged into it) in what are most commonly known as “flame wars” between persons who claim to be advocates of the same cause. The flame war is generally within the same “movement” and unfortunately, it sucks up huge amounts of energy from the causes itself. Yet, choosing to participate in these flame wars or choosing to characterise them instead as mechanisms of “Extremist Traits” used in militant political or social groups is essential in order to be able to devote the proper time and energy to what matters, the cause. Here is an outstanding summary by Laird Wilcox that describes the Extremist Traits so that they be identified as what they are and that those who seek truth and justice are never diverted from that course by what instead is the enemy of both of those things.

Robert F. Kennedy wrote:

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

In analyzing the rhetoric and propaganda of several hundred militant “fringe” political and social groups across the political spectrum, I have identified a number of specific traits or behaviors that tend to represent the extremist “style”…

1. CHARACTER ASSASSINATION.

Extremists often attack the character of an opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised. They will question motives, qualifications, past associations, alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and so on as a diversion from the issues under consideration. Some of these matters are not entirely irrelevant , but they should not serve to avoid the real issues.

Extremists object strenuously when this is done to them, of course!

2. NAME-CALLING AND LABELING.

Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hate monger, nut, crackpot, degenerate, un-American, anti-semite, red, commie, nazi, kook, fink, liar, bigot, and so on) to label and condemn opponents in order to divert attention from their arguments and to discourage others from hearing them out. These epithets don’t have to be proved to be effective; the mere fact that they have been said is often enough.

3. IRRESPONSIBLE SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS.

Extremists tend to make sweeping claims or judgments on little or no evidence, and they have a tendency to confuse similarity with sameness. That is, they assume that because two (or more) things, events, or persons are alike in some respects, they must be alike in most respects. The sloppy use of analogy is a treacherous form of logic and has a high potential for false conclusions.

4. INADEQUATE PROOF FOR ASSERTIONS.

Extremists tend to be very fuzzy about what constitutes proof, and they also tend to get caught up in logical fallacies, such as post hoc ergo propter hoc  (assuming that a prior event explains a subsequent occurrence simply because of their before and after relationship). They tend to project wished-for conclusions and to exaggerate the significance of information that confirms their beliefs while derogating or ignoring information that contradicts them. They tend to be motivated by feelings more than facts, by what they want to exist rather than what actually does exist. Extremists do a lot of wishful and fearful thinking.

5. ADVOCACY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS.

Extremists generally tend to judge themselves or their interest group in terms of their intentions, which they tend to view very generously, and others by their acts, which they tend to view very critically. They would like you to accept their assertions on faith, but they demand proof for yours. They tend to engage in special pleading on behalf of themselves or their interests, usually because of some alleged special status, past circumstances, or present disadvantage.

6. TENDENCY TO VIEW THEIR OPPONENTS AND CRITICS AS ESSENTIALLY EVIL.

To the extremist, opponents hold opposing positions because they are bad people, immoral, dishonest, unscrupulous, mean-spirited, hateful, cruel, or whatever, not merely because they simply disagree, see the matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken.

7. MANICHAEAN WORLDVIEW.

Extremists have a tendency to see the world in terms of absolutes of good and evil, for them or against them, with no middle ground or intermediate positions. All issues are ultimately moral issues of right and wrong, with the “right” position coinciding with their interests. Their slogan is often “those who are not with me are against me.”

8. ADVOCACY OF SOME DEGREE OF CENSORSHIP OR REPRESSION OF THEIR OPPONENTS AND/OR CRITICS.

This may include a very active campaign to keep opponents from media access and a public hearing, as in the case of blacklisting, banning or “quarantining” dissident spokespersons. They may actually lobby for legislation against speaking, writing, teaching, or instructing “subversive” or forbidden information or opinions. They may even attempt to keep offending books out of stores or off of library shelves, discourage advertising with threats of reprisals, and keep spokespersons for “offensive” views off the airwaves or certain columnists out of newspapers. In each case the goal is some kind of information control. Extremists would prefer that you listen only to them. They feel threatened when someone talks back or challenges their views.

9. TEND TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES IN TERMS OF WHO THEIR ENEMIES ARE: WHOM THEY HATE AND WHO HATES THEM.

Accordingly, extremists may become emotionally bound to their opponents, who are often competing extremists themselves. Because they tend to view their enemies as evil and powerful, they tend, perhaps subconsciously, to emulate them, adopting the same tactics to a certain degree. For example, anti-Communist and anti-Nazi groups often behave surprisingly like their opponents. Anti-Klan rallies often take on much of the character of the stereotype of Klan rallies themselves, including the orgy of emotion, bullying, screaming epithets, and even acts of violence. To behave the opposite of someone is to actually surrender your will to them, and “opposites” are often more like mirror images that, although they have “left” and “right” reversed, look and behave amazingly alike.

10. TENDENCY TOWARD ARGUMENT BY INTIMIDATION.

Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting their premises and conclusions. To disagree with them is to “ally oneself with the devil,” or to give aid and comfort to the enemy. They use a lot of moralizing and pontificating, and tend to be very judgmental. This shrill, harsh rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts off troublesome lines of argument, and allows them to define the perimeters of debate.

11. USE OF SLOGANS, BUZZWORDS, AND THOUGHT-STOPPING CLICHES.

For many extremists shortcuts in thinking and in reasoning matters out seem to be necessary in order to avoid or evade awareness of troublesome facts and compelling counter-arguments. Extremists generally behave in ways that reinforce their prejudices and alter their own consciousness in a manner that bolsters their false confidence and sense of self-righteousness.

12. ASSUMPTION OF MORAL OR OTHER SUPERIORITY OVER OTHERS.

Most obvious would be claims of general racial or ethnic superiority–a master race, for example. Less obvious are claims of ennoblement because of alleged victimhood, a special relationship with God, membership in a special “elite” or “class,” and a kind of aloof “highminded” snobbishness that accrues because of the weightiness of their preoccupations, their altruism, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (and others) to their cause. After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! Extremists can show great indignation when one is “insensitive” enough to challenge these claims.

13. DOOMSDAY THINKING.

Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequences from a situation or from failure to follow a specific course, and they tend to exhibit a kind of “crisis-mindedness.” It can be a Communist takeover, a Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath of God. Whatever it is, it’s just around the corner unless we follow their program and listen to the special insight and wisdom, to which only the truly enlightened have access. For extremists, any setback or defeat is the “beginning of the end!”

14. BELIEF THAT IT’S OKAY TO DO BAD THINGS IN THE SERVICE OF A “GOOD” CAUSE.

Extremists may deliberately lie, distort, misquote, slander, defame, or libel their opponents and/or critics, engage in censorship or repression , or undertake violence in “special cases.” This is done with little or no remorse as long as it’s in the service of defeating the Communists or Fascists or whomever. Defeating an “enemy” becomes an all-encompassing goal to which other values are subordinate. With extremists, the end justifies the means.

15. EMPHASIS ON EMOTIONAL RESPONSES AND, CORRESPONDINGLY, LESS IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO REASONING AND LOGICAL ANALYSIS.

Extremists have an unspoken reverence for propaganda, which they may call “education” or “consciousness-raising.” Symbolism plays an exaggerated role in their thinking, and they tend to think imprecisely and metamorphically. Harold D. Lasswell, in his book, *Psychopathology and Politics*, says, “The essential mark of the agitator is the high value he places on the emotional response of the public.” Effective extremists tend to be effective propagandists. Propaganda differs from education in that the former teaches one what to think, and the latter teaches one how to think.

16. HYPERSENSITIVITY AND VIGILANCE.

Extremists perceive hostile innuendo in even casual comments; imagine rejection and antagonism concealed in honest disagreement and dissent; see “latent” subversion, anti-semitism, perversion, racism, disloyalty, and so on in innocent gestures and ambiguous behaviors. Although few extremists are clinically paranoid, many of them adopt a paranoid style with its attendant hostility and distrust.

17. USE OF SUPERNATURAL RATIONALE FOR BELIEFS AND ACTIONS.

Some extremists, particularly those involved in “cults” or extreme religious movements, such as fundamentalist Christians, militant Zionist extremists, and members of mystical and metaphysical organizations, claim some kind of supernatural rationale for their beliefs and actions, and that their movement or cause is ordained by God. In this case, stark extremism may become reframed in a “religious” context, which can have a legitimizing effect for some people. It’s surprising how many people are reluctant to challenge religiously motivated extremism because it represents “religious belief” or because of the sacred-cow status of some religions in our culture.

18. PROBLEMS TOLERATING AMBIGUITY AND UNCERTAINTY.

Indeed, the ideologies and belief systems to which extremists tend to attach themselves often represent grasping for certainty in an uncertain world, or an attempt to achieve absolute security in an environment that is naturally unpredictable or perhaps populated by people with interests opposed to their own. Extremists exhibit a kind of risk-aversiveness that compels them to engage in controlling and manipulative behavior, both on a personal level and in a political context, to protect themselves from the unforeseen and unknown. The more laws or “rules” there are that regulate the behavior of others–particular their “enemies”–the more secure extremists feel.

19. INCLINATION TOWARD “GROUPTHINK.”

Extremists, their organizations , and their subcultures are prone to a kind of inward-looking group cohesiveness that leads to what Irving Janis discussed in his excellent book Victims of Groupthink. “Groupthink” involves a tendency to conform to group norms and to preserve solidarity and concurrence at the expense of distorting members’ observations of facts, conflicting evidence, and disquieting observations that would call into question the shared assumptions and beliefs of the group.

Right-wingers (or left-wingers), for example, talk only with one another, read material that reflects their own views, and can be almost phobic about the “propaganda” of the “other side.” The result is a deterioration of reality-testing, rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who challenge them are viewed with skepticism and hostility.

20. TENDENCY TO PERSONALIZE HOSTILITY.

Extremists often wish for the personal bad fortune of their “enemies,” and celebrate when it occurs. When a critic or an adversary dies or has a serious illness, a bad accident, or personal legal problems, extremists often rejoice and chortle about how they “deserved” it. I recall seeing right-wing extremists celebrate the assassination of Martin Luther King and leftists agonizing because George Wallace survived an assassination attempt. In each instance their hatred was not only directed against ideas, but also against individual human beings.

21. EXTREMISTS OFTEN FEEL THAT THE SYSTEM IS NO GOOD UNLESS THEY WIN.

For example, if they lose an election, then it was “rigged.” If public opinion turns against them, it was because of “brainwashing.” If their followers become disillusioned, it’s because of “sabotage.” The test of the rightness or wrongness of the system is how it impacts upon them…

[The Hoaxer Project Report, pp. 39-41]http://www.lairdwilcox.com/news/hoaxerproject.html

This subject’s always been on my mind, but I felt that I really have to write about it after the 25th of January and how the former president and his gang succeeded in making many of our fellow Egyptian citizens turn against us and our revolution. I started with searching about definitions of Brainwashing (AKA Mind Control) and how it started and when, so bear with me a little during this short journey through definitions and historical background.

Brainwashing is a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas or the application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation. Alternatively, it simply refers to a process in which a group or individual “systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated”. The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making. The world started talking about it during the Korean War and after many American soldiers became defected to the enemy’s side after becoming prisoners of war.

Now allow me to proceed with ordered questions and answers.

Who supported Mubarak?

1-        Climbers, parasites and those who have a relation of “mutualism” with the regime.

2-        Emotional people (and they are too many, unluckily). Those who love the person of “Mubarak” as an Egyptian figure and idol, those who shed tears during his speeches and a word can turn their opinions 180 degrees.

3-        The Brainwashed, and they had several flags, each represents one of the lies or viruses installed on their brains as I’ll explain later.   

What were the means of brainwashing during the reign of Mubarak?

I guess everyone knows the answer of this question, in a third world country like Egypt you don’t have many choices, people are simple and so are the means of brainwashing them. Media in general; TV, radio, newspapers. Simple means don’t necessarily mean simple techniques.

What are the most common techniques followed?

Repetition:  A simple but very effective way, it’s even used in Marketing! Make the customer see your product every second on TV, hear about it every second on the radio, read about it in every newspaper and his mind will accept it and want to buy it, same concept.

One of the techniques they depend on (and Egypt is such a fertile land for it) is making a rumor out of something they really want to do and it’ll find its way to every Egyptian ear in few hours! Your sister tells you and you tell your friend who tells his mother who tells her aunt and so on, at some point you’ll hear the rumor everywhere you go and for many days then sooner or later you accept is as a fact. Example: They wanted to make Mubarak the son the future president of Egypt and they released a rumor, the rumor spread and began to be part of every Egyptian discussion for months and years till some people surrendered and began to accept it as a fact, as a reality, fait accompli.

Assault on identity:  They kept focusing on the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic heritage and identity and did marginalize other eras or periods when councils or those elected or loved rulers existed, they kept consolidating the idea of the worshipped ruler with all the powers, the god king, they make you totally in peace with Totalitarianism.

Guilt:  They make you feel so guilty that you hate yourself, lose hope and self confidence. Example: you are 80 million human beings, you keep reproducing, you are the reason we can’t feed you, you are the reason of the bad education, you are the reason that the country is poor and you stole the pants of Homer Simpson! They make you reach a state of self-betrayal.

Breaking Point:  That’s when you are nothing but a wreck, that’s when you are raw again, that’s when you keep wondering about who you are and what you should do, and of course they’ll have the answers for you, they’ll fill your head with what they want and persuade you to do what they want too.

What are the biggest lies in the reign of Mubarak?

Mubarak is the wisest leader one earth (no comment).

Without Mubarak, chaos will prevail, we don’t have others who can lead (you insult Egypt and the whole Egyptian nation by saying this, there’s no single man with leadership skills and political awareness among 80 million citizens? epic fail).

Mubarak is the hero of the 6th of October war (Did Mubarak make the war plan? Did he fight in field or in air? Army leaders do not fight as I know, true heroes are those who died, got injured, and are those who fought).

The reason for all the problems in Egypt is that Egyptians make love everyday and bring new babies to the crowded country (I’m against having many babies but for god’s sake! Some countries exceed the double of our population, have less resources of income and they are living in prosperity, democracy and peace).

We can’t open our borders with Palestine because all Palestinians will leave their land to settle here and destroy our economy (no comment).

Uncountable lies, no space or time to mention all of them.

Prevention is better than treatment, how can we protect ourselves from Brainwashing?

Always make sure to write your goals in a notebook or something, always remember them, add to them, and edit them if necessary. Constantly visualize your goals.

Always smile, yes smile.

Stay positive and find the full half of the cup no matter what happens.

Stick to things that motivate you!

Pay more attention to your spiritual side.

Don’t be a loner! Make sure you have some good friends with some concepts, standards and goals in common between you and them.

Be more selective, throw your TV away and instead of letting them decide what you watch, go watch whatever “you” decide on the internet.

More than 28,000 participants including head of states, ministers, parliamentary members, children and youths from different parts of the globe flocked to Istanbul to take part in the 5th World Water Forum.  As the title of the forum “Bridging Divides for Water” promised, the hope was to tackle current water crisis through open discussion and transparent dialogue, the exchange of ideas and experiences.  The forum was presumably designed to come up with new ideas and critical views, to ultimately reach a common understanding and consensus on water-related issues. However, from the sessions that I attended, I concluded that the forum outcomes fell far short of being a success. As the forum drew to a close, I could not avoid thinking repeatedly of the pressing question: Was the forum about “Bridging or Maintaining Divides”? In sessions that I attended, there was not much space to promote discussion and dialogue, let alone to challenge mainstream discourses. Hegemonic discourses of business and world politicians’ elites prevailed and went unchallenged. To better illustrate my impressions, I shall draw on a few sessions, which I attended.

 

In a session titled “Overcoming obstacles to serving the urban poor”, one expected the discussion to explore genuine mechanisms and approaches on how to realize universal access to water services, including the poor segments of societies.  However the session’s speakers overlooked recent experiences where privatization profoundly failed such as, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, and attempted to convey messages and convince the audience on how successful the privatization programs in Manila and Morocco have been to increase coverage and universal access of water supply. Experience shows that polices of privatization have been challenged by significant opposition and public protests, hostility and violence and aggregated power inequalities and socio-economic worsening. What’s more, the session speakers, in contrast to conventional knowledge on the driving forces of multinational companies, wanted us to believe that water companies are socially responsible for the poor and concerned about the Millennium Development Goals as an end but not as a means to profitable business. If this session was genuinely designed to bridge divides, as the title promises, then a wider range of participants should be invited to foster dialogue ad discussion and to conclude on constraints, openings and key factors to improve water supply services. People from case studies, such as Bolivia, where privatization of water services spawned public protest and drastic social and political consequences, would give a counter perspective. It was no surprise to learn that the stakeholders of this session are drawn from the private sector and development agencies.

 

More evidence for my perception came from the sessions and the side event related to the Tranboundary water issues on the Jordan River. A video presentation by one of the donors’ agencies attempted to convey a misleading and absurd message of existing cooperation and coming peace. The film wanted us to turn a blind eye to Israeli’s war crimes on Gaza that deliberately targeted civilians, homes, mosques, schools, universities and children and to have our ears deaf to the pleas of 1.5 million people besieged in Gaza. The aim of the video film, in my view, was intentionally to reduce the Palestinians cause and the Israeli occupation to sound like a normal conflict that is in way to be resolved and to normalize the sense of urgency that the international community may pick up to take action.

 

The Norwegian moderator, in both of the sessions: ‘Water management During and After Disasters / conflicts” and the “The UN – Water Day” did not allow for an open discussion, and constrained participants from asking questions or contributing by relevant statements. Instead he took the lead himself to address questions and sometimes he influenced the answers. While the head of Palestinian water authority was urging the participants, especially the Israeli audience, to depoliticize water issues from the political conflict, he couldn’t himself depoliticized his answers when addressing questions on how power asymmetry of the water-conflicted parties impact a real cooperation and water conflict resolutions. A few times, when one of the speakers succeeded to convey a short and clear quick message about the water crisis situation, the Norwegian moderator jumped in to normalize the message and reduce the significance of the water crisis. If this session was designed to bridge divides, the title should describe the reality as it is: ‘Water management under occupation and siege”. 

 

Despite of the remarkable presence of Palestinian water professionals, Palestinian speakers found themselves constrained and not able to say much about the water situation crisis and the Israeli mass destruction of water infrastructure, the thievery of water and the denial of their water rights from both surface and the ground water sources. The constrains can either because their messages has to be in harmony with what the Palestinian Authority (PA) want them to say or that they must follow instructions of the session’s chair persons or possibly because they are self-constrained. For them, it is a simple fact that if they were to convey a clear message about the crime polices on water, they would not be permitted by the Israelis, later on, to leave their occupied territories and attend the next water meeting event. Such decisions on the control of people’s movement are claimed to be for security reasons, and are not questioned or challenged. Also noteworthy are the two Palestinian children from Gaza who were supposed to participate in the children forum but were not allowed to leave Gaza. No justifications for their actions were given by the Israelis.

 

(photo at the left, a picture from one of the many pool installation companies in Israel) In a side event, a presentation dedicated to a future water scenario, was presented by a British consultant, on how to augment the water supply for Palestinians in the Jordan River Basin in 50 years. What this pragmatic proposal suggested is that riparian countries have to give up their water rights from the Jordan River and to adapt the available water quantity they have, if any. Ironically, the water consumption per capita in Israel, severe scarce country, is 320 liter per day, a figure which is far more than the water per capita consumption in a water rich country like Sweden (220 liters). The future scenario, as the consultant advocates, is based on two components. The first is to construct a desalination unit for the Gaza, with possibilities, on the Egyptian land. But what does this scenario imply? Does it imply that Gaza will be a separated geographic entity from the West Bank? That is not clear. If this unit is constructed inside, the consultant stated, there is a risk that it be destroyed by the Israelis. This is a naive speculation because if Israel wishes to destroy the unit, they can do as they have done in similar aggressive acts without any respect to the sovereignty of states or international law norms and without questioning.

 

Moreover, the proposal, ambiguously assumes that with the elapsing time, Palestinians will be able to develop their water infrastructure while living on a gradual and small augmentation of water supply. By time, he said, both the Israelis and Palestinians are expected to reach a positive-sum situation by developing new water sources. This assumption again is either naive or misleading. On which basis the proposal assumes that Israel will allow the Palestinians’ a free hand to develop their own infrastructure without delaying, undermining or destroying the developing water infrastructure?  What kind of signals on the ground, away from “lip service” rhetoric, has Israel given so far to base such proposals on?  More than 170 water projects, which were agreed upon between Palestinians and Israelis, have not been implemented due to imposed bureaucratic constraints by Israel. Furthermore, on which territory should the water infrastructure be built? Is this territory based on the references of United Nations resolutions? Has Israel identified its borders so far? Shouldn’t we have first and foremost identify the Palestinian lands before proposing a future scenario on water?  Land and water are inseparable issues to be resolved.

 

Palestinians also have to be cautious about the time issue. The time dimension has been always important for the realization of the Zionist project and the never-ending expansion of Israel’s state on the historical land of Palestine. Experience shows that the Israel governments base its strategies on creating new realties on the ground that are being realized by time. Time has been also a significant factor to discursively legitimatize the Israeli polices before the international community for more than 60 years. What was accepted by the international community including the Arabs before 1947, was different from that which was accepted in 1948, before and after 1967, now and so forth. Palestinians water professionals should be aware of the proposal implications on land, water, geographic integrity of the Palestinian territories. They also should engage as many water experts as possible, not only inside the occupied territories, but also in the exile to scrutinize proposals and challenges, to avoid losses or legitimized the illegitimatized and to safeguard water rights and shares in reference to the international norms. Palestinians should not accept less than that.

 

The Forum has been expected to build a platform for future settlement of divides on water. In reality, there have not been constructive discussions between parties who really need to bridge the divides.

 

Lina Suleiman, PhD candidate

Division of Urban and Regional Studies
Department of Urban Planning and Environment
School of Architecture and the Built Environment
KTH, Royal Institute of Technology
100 44 Stockholm

Well, not much really…. Just that when you invite people who don’t consider each other to be “within the pale”, as British columnist David Aaronovitch said, then the discussion on anti-Semitism turns into character assassination.  

No one expected a calm discussion during the debate entitled “Anti-Semitism – Alive and Well in Europe?”, which was organised by the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. Along with Aaronovitch, the panel included Gilad Atzmon and the Observer columnist Nick Cohen. 

It’s not clear why Cohen was invited to join at the very last minute when his views, to the naked eye at least, are akin to those of Aaronovitch’s. It would be fair to describe both men as supporters of Zionism who believe that anti-Semitism is on the rise and that much of it is “unfairly” blamed on Israel’s actions. 

Atzmon’s views, on the other hand, are well-known to those who follow websites on Palestinian activism. He has very strong views on “Jewishness” and “Jewish identity”, and makes a clear distinction between Jews as a people and those who commit crimes in the name of “Jewish ideology”. 

Both Aaronovitch and Cohen launched an attack on Atzmon. Aaronovich took the podium for 18 minutes (when we were told each speaker would only have 10, and indeed Atzmon had less than 10) during which he gave a  theatrical performance, reading out paragraph after paragraph of Atzmon’s articles to prove the point that the man was “fascist”. I doubt anyone in the audience managed to grasp what he was saying, but when you spit out the word “Jews” then at least it gives the impression what you’re saying about them is bad! 

Cohen, other the hand, kept wondering, over and over again, why “upper-class”, “educated”, “white” people would waste such a beautiful spring day debating anti-Semitism with a “nutter” (well, at least I could say I learned something about racial and class prejudice that day!) 

One can imagine how shocked and angry Atzmon was by the time it was his turn to take the podium. And this is why the event became a missed opportunity. He  tried to steer the debate back to its theme, but at times his emotions failed him. In between having to answer to the attacks levelled against him by Aaronovitch and Cohen, and trying to remind people of what they came to discuss, much of his ideas were lost on those who’ve never followed his writings. 

Once the floor was opened for questions, a member of the audience said the discussion, as a whole, “was a profound disappointment”. 

So why did the Oxford Literary Festival invite Atzmon? After all, he’s the “proud self-hating Jew” who wonders how America has allowed its foreign policies to be shaped by “ruthless Zionists”. He’s the one who insists that the burning of synagogues is illegitimate, yet he believes the motivations behind such actions are political rather than religious or racial.

Cohen certainly conceded that whenever Israel launches a fresh attack on Gaza or Lebanon, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries are attacked in the UK. Yet somehow he refuses to accept the correlation between Zionist policies and anti-Semitism. He wants us to believe that anti-Semitism is fuelled by pure hatred for the Jews. After all, Chinese property wasn’t attacked in the aftermath of the Tibetan clashes last year. Sudanese property wasn’t attacked when Darfur was in the media. 

Well, Mr. Cohen, maybe it’s because China and Sudan are being condemned in the international community, especially in Britain, while Israel to this day is being hailed as the West’s indispensable partner. Maybe it’s because what Israel has committed in Gaza during “Operation Cast Lead” earlier this year has created more devastation than what happened in Darfur (and this is according to the head of the International Red Cross). Maybe it’s because it is acceptable for British Jews to join the IDF, and actively take part in Israel’s wars, while British Muslims or Chinese or whatever would never dare join a non-British army. 

The response from some members of the “upper-middle class, educated, white” audience proved that these questions are not an endorsement of conspiracy theories. They are legitimate questions. 

One man raised the question of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington. It was their pressure that led Obama to back down on his decision to appoint Mr. Freeman as an advisor, a man well-known for his criticism of Israel. “In those circumstances,” the man asked, “is a rise in anti-Semitism surprising when democracy is affected by that type of lobbying activity that prevents Obama from being able to appoint Ambassador Freeman?” 

We know what Atzmon would’ve said, but neither Aaronovitch nor Cohen answered that question. 

None of this justifies attacking synagogues or anti-Jewish graffiti. If anything, Atzmon – whom Aaronovitch and Cohen blasted as a “fascist” and a “nutter – was saying ordinary Jewish people “must be saved of the crimes imposed on them.” The crimes taking place in Palestine aren’t being committed just in the name of Israel, but in the name of the Jewish people. That’s not a conspiracy theory, that’s a fact. If you’re in doubt, go and read the Israeli government’s statements during Operation Cast Lead. 

Is it so outrageous to ask Jews in the UK to disassociate themselves from what is happening in Israel, without being labelled as an “anti-Semite”? Apparently it is. When people applauded Atzmon for making that point in the discussion, they were attacked by Aaronovitch who shouted “Shame on you! How dare you!”, even addressing one member in the audience by saying “You Sir, are an anti-Semite.”

In the aftermath of the July 7th attacks, Muslims were attacked everywhere. It became so dangerous that a fatwa had to be issued allowing women to take off the headscarf if they felt their lives were in danger. Yet at the same time, the Muslim community was under enormous pressure to disassociate itself from the terrorists who blew up those trains and busses. While they were being attacked themselves, they were still expected to make a clear statement that what happened on July 7th does not represent them and is not being committed in their name. 

Try and say that to the Jewish community today without being called an “anti-Semite”. 

Now I don’t want to ponder too much semantics but it is very ironic that anti-Semitism has been coined as a term exclusively for Jews when most of them do not belong to the Semitic race. Arabs, on the other hand, are Semitic. So if for one moment I, as an Arab, could reclaim that definition, I leave you with one point to think about. 

In the beginning of his speech, Aaronovitch wanted to illustrate just how bad Atzmon was. He quoted the Guardian’s Jon Lewis who described Atzmon’s writings as “extremely popular in the Arab world.” Aaronovitch then fixed his audience with a gaze and asked them to keep that sentence at the very front of their minds. 

On second thought, I think I did learn something about “anti-Semitism” that day. 

Dima Omar is a Palestinian journalist and filmmaker. She is based in London. 

To listen to David Aaronovitch reading Gilad Atzmon click here

To listen to David Aaronovitch’s tantrum click here

To Listen to Gilad Atzmon deconstructing antisemitism click here

To listen to Atzmon confronted with a outraged Jewish member of the audience click here
 
To listen to a disappointed member of the audience click here
 
To link to Aaronovitch confronted with a Jewish member of the audience click here
 
To listen to Aaronovitch’s closing remarks click here
 
To listen to Atzmon’s closing remarks  click here

On the occasion of the June 2009 European elections, we are launching an urgent appeal to all candidates for the 736 seats in the European parliament.
We ask that they actively pursue the immediate and unconditional removal of Hamas and all other Palestinian liberation organizations from the European list of proscribed terrorist organizations. We further ask that they acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and, by so doing, recognise, Hamas as a legitimate voice for the Palestinian people’s aspirations for national liberation.
http://www.recogniseresistance.net/

http://www.recogniseresistance.net/index.php

Initial Signatories:

275 personalities on March 30th 2009

ABICHT Ludo Belgique-ABOUDAN F, Dr. Stellvertret Vorsitzender des Deutsch Syrischen e.V. Allemagne-ABOU JAHJAH Dyab, activiste, Belgique-Liban Belgique-ABUALROB Mohammad, coordinator of the Palestinian People society Afrique du Sud-AHIDAR Fouad, parlementaire bruxellois Belgique-ALEGRE Greta, cinéaste, Artistes contre le Mur Belgique – ALI Tariq, writer, film-maker and editor of New Left Review Royaume-Uni-ALLEG Henri France-ALLEG-SALEM Gilberte France-AL-ZOEBI Mohammed, prof. Dr., ex-Minister in Syria Allemagne-AMADOR Irene, anthropologue Espagne-AMARA Jean-Claude, porte-parole de Droits devant !!, France-ANDREEVA Nina, Secretary general of Central Comity A-UCPB Russie-ANWAR Aamer, Human Rights Lawyer, Ecosse Royaume-Uni-AOURAGH Miriyam, co-organizer Dutch antiwar and antiracism campaign, Pays-Bas-ARSALAN Fathallah, porte-parole du mouvement Justice et Spiritualité Maroc-ARTLIEB Marion, Dpl.Ing. computer scientist Autriche-ATZMON Gilad, artiste de jazz et écrivain Royaume-Uni-AYALA SOSA Rosa (Dr.ssa), CIEP  Italie-BADER Wilfried, local counsellor Angerberg, Tirol Autriche-BARBEAU-LAVALETTE Anaïs, Réalisatrice Québec Canada-BARGHOUTHY Hani, Writer, editor-in-chief of arabianawareness.com Canada-Baroud Ramzy, Author, Journalist USA-BARRETT Mark, civil liberties campaigner, London Royaume Uni-BARTOLIK Pawel Michal, Journalist of Trybuna Robotnicza (Workers Tribune) Pologne-BEAUGIER Catherine, Poète – Ecrivain Belgique-BELAHRACHE Radouane, Nîmes France-BELAL Aabdelhai, PHD student Chypre-BENGHABRIT Hassan, écrivain/poète France-BENMERAD Djamal, Ecrivain Bruxelles Belgique-BENZAKOUR Mohammed, écrivain et journaliste Pays-Bas-BERLIN Greta, co-fondatrice Free Gaza Movment USA-BIBEAU Robert, expert en éducation au Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec Canada-BLEITRACH Danielle, sociologue et écrivain France-BOAL Augusto, homme de théâtre Brésil-BONALI Giulio Italie-BONAZZI Giuseppe, Professore emerito Fac. Scienze Politiche Università di Torino Italie-BORREMAN Hadassah, publiciste Belgique-BORREMAN Shmiel Mordche, Yechouroun Judaïsme contre Sionisme Belgique-BOUAMAMA Saïd, sociologue France-BOUKMAN Daniel, écrivain Martinique-BOUMEDIENE-THIERY Alima, sénatrice France-BOUSSOUMAH Youssef, Mouvement des Indigènes de la République France-BOUTELDJA Houria, Mouvement des Indigènes de la République France-BOUTELDJA Naima, Journalist, Royaume-Uni-BOUZERDA Abdou, président Arab European League Pays-Bas-BRACKE Maud, lecturer, University of Glasgow Royaume-Uni-BRACKE Sarah, féministe & professor KULeuven Belgique-BRICMONT Jean, physicien Belgique-BROWN Brenda, Chair, Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign  Royaume-Uni-BRUGUIER Alain, vice-président de l’AFPS de Nîmes (Gard) France-BUSTANI Hisham, Writer and Secretary of the Socialist Thought Forum Jordanie-CAPORALE Alessandra, social anthropologist, university lecturer, Barcelona Espagne-CATALINOTTO John, managing editor, Workers World Newspaper USA-CAVALLI Franco, Immediate Past President of UICC, Direktor IOSI in Bellinzona, Initiator Medicuba, Nationalrat der SP Schweiz von 1995 – 2007 Suisse-CERRI Giovanni, Professore di Letteratura greca antica Università di Roma Tre Italie-CHAAMBI Abdelaziz, militant associatif France-CHANDAN Sukant, Chair, English branch of the IUPFP Royaume-Uni-CHASSEUR Tony, musicien Martinique-CHIAROTTO Francesca, dottoranda in Studi Politici, Torino Italie-CHICHAH Souhail, chercheur ULB Belgique-CHIESA Giulietto, parlamentare europeo e giornalista Italie-CHRISTISON Bill, writer, Palestinian rights activist USA-CHRISTISON Kathleen, writer, Palestinian rights activist USA-COLLON Michel, écrivain et journaliste Belgique-COLONNA Eric, citoyen engagé, Lyon France-CONFIANT Raphaël, écrivain Martinique-CONSTANTINOU Petros, Campain Genoa 2001 Grèce-COOPER Alan, Senior Lecturer, European College of Business and Management, Royaume-Uni-COSSELLU Mario Gabrielli, Segretario Circolo PRC/SE “Enrico Berlinguer” Bruxelles Belgique-CRETAUX Sophie, ex-chercheur au CNRS, agrégée d’histoire France-CROOKE Alistair, Conflicts Forum Director and Founder Royaume-Uni-DALTON Des, Vize-Präsident von Republican Sinn Féin, Betriebsrat der Gewerkschaft SIPTU Irlande-DAWOOD Fakeer, Dr., Prof. Telecommunication, Montreal, Qc Canada-DE BRABANDER Ludo, Stafmedewerker vzw Vrede Belgique-DE HERT Robbe, cinéaste Belgique-DE LEY Herman, emeritus professor.Universiteit Gent Belgique-DE SANTI Massimo (Prof.), Presidente Comitato Internazionale di Educazione per la Pace Italie-DE WITTE Ludo, auteur Belgique-DE WITTE Paul, Woordvoerder Basisbewehging voor democratie in samenlevving en kerken, Belgique-DEDAJ Viktor, cyberjournaliaste France-DEKKERS Daniel, Ingénieur retraité Belgique-DELMOTTE Paul, professeur IHECS Belgique-DELORCA Frédéric, Sociologue, coordinateur du blog de l’Atlas alternatif, France-DELPHY Christine, Fondatrice et directrice de la revue NQF, France-DEQUEECKER Ida, féministe Belgique-DERMAGNE Jean-Marie, Avocat, Enseignant à l’Université Belgique-DERONNE Thierry, vice-président télévision publique Vive TV République bolivarienne du Venezuela Venezuela-DERRICHE Ouardia, membre de l’Association Belgique-Palestine Belgique-DIAGNE Roland, enseignant en France, militant communiste marxiste-léniniste France-D’ORSI Angelo (Prof.),  Cattedra di Storia del Pensiero politico Dipartimento di Studi Politici, Università di -Torino Italie-DOUGLAS Emory, Former Minister of Culture of The Black Panther Party USA-DRURY Ivan, member of Vancouver Socialist Forum, contributing editor of Socialist Voice Canada-DUISENBERG Gretta, Chair Foundation Stop the Occupation Pays-Bas-DUMAS F. LAFONTANT Doumafis, Organizer, African Liberation Day USA-DURAND Benjamin, professeur de cinéma et télévision, Caracas Venezuela-DUTHU Françoise, ancienne députée au Parlement Européen (Les Verts) France-DWORCZAK Hermann, social scientist, trade unionist Autriche-EDDE Dominique, écrivain franco-libanaise France-EL KADI Mohamed, Président de l’Agence Méditerranée pour la Coopération Internationale, Journaliste /Directeur du Journal “La Méditerranée”, Fès Maroc-EL-ABED Chairman Fathi, Danish Palestinian Friendship Association and Candidate to the EU-Parliament (The -Socialist People Party) Danemark-EL-SALAHI Zaki, Masters student, Edinburgh, Scotland Royaume-Uni-ELSÄSSER Jürgen, journalist, Berlin Allemagne-FADIL Nadia, sociologue Belgique-FANON-MENDES-FRANCE Mireille France-FELLER Jonas, Anti-imperialist activist and high school student, Rostock Allemagne-FIGUEIREDO Jorge, Webmaster resistir.info Portugal-FINKELSTEIN Norman G., enseignant, auteur USA-FISCHER Franz, Sekretariat Partei der Arbeit der Schweiz – Sektion Basel, Trade Union UNIA Suisse-FLINKER Jean,  enseignant, membre d’Attac-Bruxelles, Belgique-FLOUNDERS Sara, co-director, International Action Center USA-FRABETTI Carlo, écrivain Espagne-GABRIEL Leo, journalist and social anthropologist, member of the council of the World Social Forum Autriche-GARREAU Micheline, militante ISM  France-GEYS Herman, Kunstenaar Belgique-GHARBI Anouar, Président de « Droit pout tous » et porte parole de la « Campagne Européenne pour mettre -fin au siège de Gaza » Suisse-GHARBI Anouar, Président de « Droit pout tous » et porte parole de la « Campagne Européenne pour mettre fin au siège de Gaza », Suisse-GIRARD Youssef, étudiant France-GOEMAN Eric, woordvoerder Attac Vlaanderen Belgique-GOOSSENS Pol, journaliste Belgique-GRAZIANI Tiberio, directeur Eurasia. Rivista di studi geopolitici Roma Italie-HABERKORN Amir Belgique-HACK Margherita, Astrofisica Italie-HADDAD Georges, Writer, Bulgaria/Liban-HAIDER Ahmad, Dr. med. Urologe und Androloge Allemagne-HALPIN David, FRCS Standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people Royaume-Uni-HAMAD Nidal, Writer and Joournalist, Palestine/Norway Norvège-HAMIDI Malika, doctorante EHESS à Paris Belgique-HARTMANN Klaus, Offenbach am Main, Bundesvorsitzender des Deutschen Freidenker-Verbandes Allemagne-HASSOUN Karim, Voorzitter AEL Belgique-HAYDEN Josephine, ehem. politische Gefangene in Irland, Sekretärin von Republican Sinn Féin Irlande-HAYEEM A
be, Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine Royaume-Uni-HAZAN Eric, éditeur France-HEARD Brenda, Founder Friends of Lebanon London Royaume-Uni-HECHT-GALINSKI Evelyn, Publizistin Allemagne-HELMUT Franz, Oberstleutnant der Deutschen Bundeswehr i. R. Allemagne-HOFBAUER Hannes, publisher and publicist  Autriche-HÖRSTEL Christoph, Regierungs-/Unternehmensberater, Buchautor, Vors. Friedenskreis Deutschland e.V. i.G., Nehls, Gertrud, AK Asyl Allemagne-HOUSE James, maitre de conférences à l’Université de Leeds Royaume-Uni-HOUTART François, professeur émérite de l’Université catholique de Louvain Belgique-HUI Matthias, Fachstelle OeME, Ref. Kirchen Bern-Jura-Solothurn, Suisse-HUTNYK John, Professor of Cultural Studies, Academic Director of CCS Goldsmiths University of London -Royaume-Uni-ITANI Zouhair, Prof.Dr.med. Dermatologist, Düsseldorf Allemagne-JENART Nathalie, psychologue, directrice d’un centre PMS, Bruxelles Belgique-JENNAR Raoul Marc, consultant en relations internationales France-KAREL Arnaut, antropoloog, UGent  Belgique-KARSLI Jamal, FAKT-Party Allemagne-KASRILS Ronnie, former South African government minister, writer Afrique du Sud-KEHOE Jon, artist, London Royaume-Uni-KHIARI Sadri, Mouvement des indigènes de la république France-KHRESHE Hassan Dr., Vice President Palestinian legislative council Palestine-KOUCHAKJI George A., Palestine Solidarity Basel Suisse-KOWALEWSKI Zbigniew Marcin, researcher and editor Pologne-KREBS Djamila, membre d’Europalestine Allemagne-KRZYŻANIAK Piotr, trade-unionist of All-Polish Trade Union “Workers’ Initiative” (Ogólnopolski Związek —Zawodowy “Inicjatywa Pracownicza”) Pologne-LACROIX-RIZ Annie, professeur d’histoire contemporaine, université Paris 7 France-LAHAYE Laure, Chargée de collections en arabe à la Bibliothèque nationale de France, Conseillère de quartier, -Paris, France-LAMB Franklin P. , PhD, Director Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Washington DC – Beirut Acting –Chair, the Sabra-Shatila Memorial Scholarship Program Laptop Initiative, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp-LAMP Paul, board member of Stop the Occupation Pays-Bas-LAMRABET Asma, Médecin et Essayiste Maroc-LANGTHALER Wilhelm, Anti-imperialist Camp Autriche-LANOYE Tom, auteur Belgique-LAROSIERE Jean-François, responsable syndical et associatif France-LAWLOR Zoe, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign Membership Officer Irlande-LEGRAND Michel, Président du Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient Luxembourg-LEUENBERGER Peter, Historiker, Vorstandsmitglied Gesellschaft Schweiz- Palästina, Suisse-LEVY Laurent, essayiste France-LOPE (de) Monique, professeur émérite à l’Université de Provence France-LOS René, bestuurder Belgique-LOSURDO Domenico, Direttore Istituto Scienze filosofiche, università di Urbino Italie-LOUCKX Fred, Sociologue,  Vrije Universiteit Brussel Belgique-LOUIS Tim, Former Vancouver City Councillor Canada-MAC MANUS Patrick, author Danemark-MAESTRO MARTIN Ángeles, mèdica especialista en salud pública Espagne-MAGUIRE Mairead, prix Nobel de la Paix Irlande-MAHI Yacob, Enseignant, Théologien, Dr. en Histoire et Sciences des Religions, Belgique-MAIRA Antonio, Politólogo, redactor Diario digital inSurGente Espagne-MANAMELA Buti, National Secretary Young Communist League of South Africa-MANDUCA Paola, geneticist Italie-MANISCO Lucio, giornalista ed ex parlamentare europeo Italie-MARTINEZ Miguel, website kelebekler.com Italie-MASSARRAT Mohssen, Professor Dr. Osnabrück Allemagne-MAUERSBERGER Günter, Botschafter a.D., Vize- Vorsitzender des Nahostforum e.V. Allemagne-MELVYN Peter, Jewish voices for a just peace in the Middle East Autriche-MEYER HAJO G., Bestuurslid “Een Ander Joods Geluid” Pays-Bas-MOFFA Claudio, Professor University of Teramo Italie-MOMMAERTS Omer, militant vakbond ACV-CSC Belgique-MORRISON Danny, writer Irlande-MORTIER Erwin, schrijver Belgique-MOUEDDEN Mohsin, éducateur Belgique-MOUSSET Renée, Association Belgique-Palestine, Liège Belgique-MUKUNA Olivier, journaliste Belgique-MYRDAL Jan, écrivain Suède-NOUR DACHAN Mohamed (Dr.), Unione delle Comunità ed organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia Italie-Ó BRÁDAIGH Ruairí, President Sinn Féin Poblachtach since 1969, IRA Chief of Staff 1956-62 Irlande-OBERKOFLER Gerhard, University professor, Vice president of the Association Alfred Klahr, Innsbruck Autriche-OBID Milan, chairman of the Slovene Students Club Vienna Autriche-OLFF-RASTEGAR Perrine, Porte-parole du Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Paix – Strasbourg France-PAGANI Giovanna (Prof.ssa), Presidente On. Wilpf Italia -Lega Internazionale delle Donne per la Pace e la Libertà Italie-PEIRCE Gareth, solicitor, Londres Royaume-Uni-PELLEGRIN-RESCIA Marie L., Présidente, Séminaire d’anthropologie et psychologie sociale J S, Paris V—Sorbonne France-PEREZ BERROCAL Gloria, programmatrice de télévision Espagne-PETRAS James, Bartle professor emeritus Binghamton University USA-PIERART Pierre, Professeur Honoraire Université Mons Hainaut Belgique-PINO Julio (Dr.), professor of history USA-PIRKER Werner, journalist Autriche-PLOUVIER Liliane, Professeur de droit international Bruxelles Belgique-POLGAR Alexandru, philosophe, éditeur de la revue Idea Roumanie-POSMAN André, eredocent actualiteit Sint Lucasinstituut Gent, lic. Geschiedenis. Dir Concertreeksen DE Rode -Pomp Gent Belgique-RAHWANJI Maha, Member of the Executive Committee, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Royaume-Uni-RAMADAN Tariq, professor, Oxford/Erasmus Universities Royaume-Uni-RAMIREZ Ronnie, cinéaste Belgique-RAVENTÓS BARANGÉ Anna, PhD Senior Lecturer Faculty of Arts and Letters University of Seville Espagne-REVELLI  Philippe, journaliste France-RICHA Raymond, Ingénieur France-RICHET Mathis, Musician Royaume-Uni-RIDLEY Yvonne, journaliste Royaume-Uni-RIZZO Mary, co-Editor of Palestine Think Tank and co-founders of Tlaxcala, Dr. Art Historian and Art Restorer Italie-ROELS Frank, MD, emeritus professor Ugent Belgique-ROMANO Vicente, professeur d’université Espagne-ROSA-ROSSO Nadine, enseignante et auteur Belgique-ROSSEEL Eric, gepensioneerd docent psychologie VUB Belgique-RUMEAU Mireille, militante ISM France-SAÏDI Nordine, Mouvement Citoyen Palestine Belgique-SALEM Jean, philosophe, professeur à la Sorbonne, Paris France-SANDBAEK Ulla, Former Member of the European Parliament Danemark-SARAMAGO Jose, écrivain, Portugal-SCHAUER Waltraud, former human shield in Iraq Autriche-SCHLERETH Einar, Journalist Suède-SCHMID Estella, Kurdistan Solidarity Committee & CAMPACC Royaume-Uni-SCHÖGLER Johann, Styrian Peace Platform Autriche-SCHOMBLOND Christiane, chargée de cours honoraire de l’ULB Belgique-SCHYDLO Krystyna, Deutsch-Palästinensische Gesellschaft, Ruhrgebiet Allemagne-SEBOGO BERNARD NKUMAH, Chairperson of Boston Branch, All African People’s Revolutionary Party USA-SEIFERT Arne C. (Dr.), Botschafter a.D., Sprecher der Initiativer “Diplomaten für Frieden mit der Islamischen Welt” Allemagne-SENOUCI Brahim, maître de conférences France-SHEIKH KHALIL Nabil, Association to Support Palestinians in Need Suisse-SIFAKAKIS Yiannis, Stop the war Coalition Grèce-SOETERIK Robert, antropoloog, Middle East Research Associates Pays-Bas-STASZEWSKI Michel, enseignant, Bruxelles Belgique-STERN Catherine, enseignante d’Histoire à la retraite, ancienne chargée de cours à Paris France-STUDEN-KIRCHNER Aleks, author and interpreter Autriche-SWYNGEDOUW Erik, Professor of Geography School of Environment and Development Manchester University Royaume-Uni-TALENS Manuel, écrivain Espagne-TAWFIK AL-MANSOURI Mohamed, Ph.D., Writer and Researcher, Afnan Magazine Canada-TENA Carlos, periodista Espagne-THARANI Marishka, Actress Royaume-Uni-TIBON-CORNILLOT Michel, Universitaire, écrivain France-TILLEY Virginia, political scientist Afrique du Sud-TURINE Jean-Marc, écrivain Belgique-URBANO Miguel, écrivain Portugal-VAN DEN BERGHE Gie, professor Universiteit Gent, ethicus en historicus Belgique-VAN HOORNE Michel, coordinateur du mouvement ‘Links Ecologisch Forum (LEF)’Belgique-VANDEN BAVIERE Paul, journaliste et historien Belgique-VANDEPERRE Elke, coördinator v
zw Motief Belgique-VANHOVE Daniel, Observateur civil, auteur, membre de l’ABP et du MCP Belgique-VARNAVA-SKOURA Gella, professeur en sciences de l’éducation à l’Université d’Athènes Grèce-VATTIMO Gianni, Filosofo ed ex parlamentare europeo Italie-VERCHEVAL Véronique, Photographe Belgique-VERCRUYSSEN Frank, acteur Belgique-VERGAELEN Eva, writer Belgique-VERLICCHI Elsa, Anthropologist, Rome Italie-VERVAET Luk, président section belge IUPFP Belgique-VERWIMP Remi, coördinator Werkplaats voor Theologie en Maatschappiij Belgique-VIRGIN Robin, Pluto Press, England Royaume-Uni-VISCHER Daniel, MP of the Green Party Suisse-VON RAUSSENDORFF Klaus, Referent für internationale Fragen beim Bundesvorstand des Deutschen Freidenker-Verbands  Allemagne-WALSH Richard, Pressesprecher von Republican Sinn Féin und Vorsitzender der Republican Prisoners Action Group Irlande-WILHELMSON Lasse, teacher Suède-WINTER Heinz-Dieter (Dr.), Botschafter a.D. Allemagne-YAFOUT Merieme, Responsable de la section féminine du mouvement Justice et Spiritualité Maroc-ZAAF Mohamed, chirurgien et conseiller municipal France-ZAAIMAN Andre, Researcher Afrique du Sud-ZEMOR Olivia, présidente de CAPJPO-EuroPalestine et responsable europalestine.com France-ZOLO Danilo, Docente di Filosofia del Diritto internazionale, università di Firenze Italie

My friends at the Italian-Palestinian youth group “Wael Zuaiter” shared this incredible new creative initiative that was partly organised by the Italian NGO “Vento di Terra” (http://www.ventoditerra.org/). It’s the first Web TV program from the refugee camp of Qalandia and these kids ready to share pieces of their daily experiences with us. Armed with one camera (and they need more, so anyone who can help, please do!) we’ll get a child’s view of things, which is just as important a view as an adult’s if not more important! It just went on line two days ago, a few bugs need to be worked out before it is up and running to full capacity but it looks promising!

http://nuke.kalandiachildren.com/PressKit/tabid/487/Default.aspx


 

http://nuke.kalandiachildren.com/

WRITTEN BY Henry Siegman

 

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

 

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

 

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

 

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.

 

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.) When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’. They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas ­ brutally, to be sure ­pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.

 

Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population. The charge is a lie twice over. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.

 

The greater lie is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:

 

What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

 

Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?

 

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

 

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

 

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

 

It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’. It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood, in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to end an oppressive occupation and bring about a Palestinian state. While Hamas’s ideology formally calls for that state to be established on the ruins of the state of Israel, this doesn’t determine Hamas’s actual policies today any more than the same declaration in the PLO charter determined Fatah’s actions.

 

These are not the conclusions of an apologist for Hamas but the opinions of the former head of Mossad and Sharon’s national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy. The Hamas leadership has undergone a change ‘right under our very noses’, Halevy wrote recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, by recognising that ‘its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.’ It is now ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within the temporary borders of 1967. Halevy noted that while Hamas has not said how ‘temporary’ those borders would be, ‘they know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.’ In an earlier article, Halevy also pointed out the absurdity of linking Hamas to al-Qaida.

 

In the eyes of al-Qaida, the members of Hamas are perceived as heretics due to their stated desire to participate, even indirectly, in processes of any understandings or agreements with Israel. [The Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled] Mashal’s declaration diametrically contradicts al-Qaida’s approach, and provides Israel with an opportunity, perhaps a historic one, to leverage it for the better.

 

Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War.[*] They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

 

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question. If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

 

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas ­ one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost ­ and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’

 

15 January

 

Note

 

[*] See my piece in the LRB, 16 August 2007.

 

Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

 

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html

 

LRB contributors react to events in Gaza

 

Tariq Ali, David Bromwich, Alastair Crooke, Conor Gearty, R.W. Johnson, Rashid Khalidi, Yitzhak Laor, Yonatan Mendel, John Mearsheimer, Gabriel Piterberg, Jacqueline Rose (certainly to be published elsewhere), Eliot Weinberger, Michael Wood.

 

January 15, 2009

 

http://www.lrb.co.uk/web/15/01/2009/mult04_.html#tariqali

 

Tariq Ali

 

A few weeks before the assault on Gaza, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army published a levelheaded document on ‘Hamas and Israel’, which argued that ‘Israel’s stance towards the democratically-elected Palestinian government headed by Hamas in 2006, and towards Palestinian national coherence – ­legal, territorial, political and economic – has been a major obstacle to substantive peacemaking.’ Whatever their reservations about the organisation, the authors of the paper detected signs that Hamas was considering a shift of position even before the blockade:

 

It is frequently stated that Israel or the United States cannot ‘meet’ with Hamas (although meeting is not illegal; materially aiding terrorism is, if proven) because the latter will not ‘recognise Israel’. In contrast, the PLO has ‘recognised’ Israel’s right to exist and agreed in principle to bargain for significantly less land than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is not clear that Israel has ever agreed to accept a Palestinian state. The recognition of Israel did not bring an end to violence, as wings of various factions of the PLO did fight Israelis, especially at the height of the Second (al- Aqsa) Intifada. Recognition of Israel by Hamas, in the way that it is described in the Western media, cannot serve as a formula for peace. Hamas moderates have, however, signaled that it implicitly recognises Israel, and that even a tahdiya (calming, minor truce) or a hudna, a longer-term truce, obviously implies recognition. Khalid Mish’al states: ‘We are realists,’ and there is ‘an entity called Israel,’ but ‘realism does not mean that you have to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation.’

 

The war on Gaza has killed the two-state solution by making it clear to Palestinians that the only acceptable Palestine would have fewer rights than the Bantustans created by apartheid South Africa. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians with equal rights for all. Certainly it seems utopian at the moment with the two Palestinian parties in Israel ­Balad and the United Arab List – both barred from contesting the February elections. Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, has breathed a sigh of satisfaction: ‘Now that it has been decided that the Balad terrorist organisation will not be able to run, the first battle is over.’ But even victory has its drawbacks. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Isaac Deutscher warned his one-time friend Ben Gurion: ‘The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase “Mann kann sich totseigen!” — you can triumph yourself to death. This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow.’

 

Five hundred courageous Israelis have sent a letter to Western embassies calling for sanctions and other measures to be applied against their country, echoing the 2005 call by numerous Palestinian organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the South African model. This will not happen overnight but it is the only non-violent way to help the struggle for freedom and equality in Israel-Palestine.

 

Tariq Ali’s latest book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.

 

David Bromwich

 

Like the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada, the rockets from Gaza were a choice of tactics of a spectacular vengefulness. The spectacle was greater than the damage: no Israeli had been killed by a rocket before the IDF launched their assault. Yet the idea of rockets falling induces terror, whereas the idea of an army invading a neighbouring territory has an official sound. The numbers of the dead ­ as of 15 January, more than 1000 Palestinians and fewer than 20 Israelis tell a different story. Many people remain unmoved by the tremendous disproportion because they cannot get the image of rockets out of their heads.

 

In the United States, since this one-sided war began on 27 December, facts are not suppressed but fiction pervades the commentary. We are offered an analogy: what would Americans do if rockets were fired from Canada or Cuba? The question has been repeated with docility by congressional leaders of both parties; but the rockets are assumed to come suddenly without cause. The choking of the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air, the rejection by the US of the Palestinian Unity Government, the coup launched by Fatah and bankrolled by the US, which ended in the seizure of power by Hamas ­ all of this happened before the rockets fell from thee sky. It is as if it belonged to a prehistoric time.

 

American politicians exhibit an identification with Israel that is now in excess of the measurable effects of the Israel lobby. The blindness of the identification has led the US to respond with keen sensitivity to Israeli requests for assistance and moral support, and to underestimate the suffering caused by the Gaza blockade and by the settlements and checkpoints and the wall on the West Bank. Yet grant the potency of the lobby and the identification ­ even so, the arrogance with which Israel dictates policy is hard to comprehend on the usual index of motives. Ehud Olmert boasted to a crowd in Ashkelon on 12 January that with one phone call to Bush, he forced Condoleezza Rice to abstain from voting for the UN ceasefire resolution she herself had prepared. The depth, the efficacy and the immediacy of the influence are treated by Olmert as an open secret.

 

To judge by the nomination of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and the likely nomination of Dennis Ross as Middle East envoy, Obama wants to be seen as someone who intends no major change of course. In a televised interview on 11 January, he said he would deal with Israel and Palestine in the manner of the Clinton and Bush administrations. The unhappy message of his recent utterances has been reconciliation without truth; and reconciliation, above all, for Americans. This preference for bringing-together over bringing-to-light is a trait of Obama’s political character we are only now coming to see the extent of. It is an element  -until lately an unperceived element- ­ of a certain native moderation of temper that is likely to mark his presidency. Yet his silence on Gaza has been startling, even immoderate. The ascent of Barack Obama was connected in the world as well as in the US with peculiar and passionate hopes, and his chances of emerging as a leader of the world are diminished with every passing day of silence.

 

David Bromwich teaches English at Yale.

 

Alastair Crooke

 

‘We have to ask the West a question: when the Israelis bombed the house of Sheikh Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader, killing him, his wives, his nine children, and killing 19 others who happened to live in adjoining houses ­because they saw him as a target, ­was this terrorism? If the West’s answer is that this was not terrorism, it was self-defence ­then we must think to adopt this definition too.’

 

This was said to me by a leading Islamist in Beirut a few days ago. He was making a point, but behind his rhetorical question plainly lies the deeper issue of what the Gaza violence will signify for mainstream Islamists in the future.

 

Take Egypt. Mubarak has made no secret of his wish to see Israel teach Hamas a ‘lesson’. Hamas are sure that his officials urged Israel to proceed, assuring Amos Yadlin, Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence, at a meeting in Cairo that Hamas would collapse within three days of the Israeli onslaught.

 

Islamists in Egypt and other pro-Western ‘moderate’ alliance states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan have noted Israel’s wanton disregard for the deaths of civilians in its desire to crush Hamas. They have seen the barely concealed pleasure of the regimes that run those states. The message is clear: the struggle for the future of this region is going to be uncompromising and bloody.

 

For all Islamists, the events in Gaza will be definitive: they will tell the story of a heroic stand in the name of justice against overwhelming odds. This archetype was already in place on the day of Ashura which fell this year on 7 January — when Shi’ites everywhere commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson, killed by an overwhelming military force at Kerbala. The speeches given by Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s secretary general, were avidly followed; the ceremony of Ashura drove home the message of martyrdom and sacrifice.

 

Islamists are likely to conclude from Gaza that Arab regimes backed by the US and some European states will go to any lengths in their struggle against Islamism. Many Sunni Muslims will turn to the salafi-jihadists, al-Qaida included, who warned Hamas and others about the kind of punishment being visited on them now. Mainstream movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbullah will find it hard to resist the radical trend. The middle ground is eroding fast.

 

At one level Gaza will be seen as a repeat of Algeria. At another, it will speak to wider struggles in the Arab world, where elites favoured by the West soldier on with no real legitimacy, while the weight of support for change builds up. The overhang may persist for a while yet, but a small event could trip the avalanche.

 

Alastair Crooke is co-director of Conflicts Forum and has been an EU mediator with Hamas and other Islamist movements. Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution will come out next month.

 

Conor Gearty

 

It is just possible the killings in Gaza may mark the end of Israel’s disastrous plunge into militant Zionism. The key is Obama: will he collapse under pressure like most of his predecessors, or is there more to him? Let us assume he knows how senseless it is for the US to collude in a crime of the kind going on in Gaza. There are ways of marking this without unleashing the pro-Israeli forces against him at too early a stage.

 

Clearly the new administration desires to re-engage with the global community and revive its commitment to international law: the ‘war on terror’ will be reconfigured and Guantanamo closed. A rededication of the US to law should also involve a more consensual approach to the UN ­“Security Council business in particular ­ including (for example) support for UN investigative missions to regions where egregious violations of human rights and breaches of the UN charter have occurred. It should entail the US signing up to the International Criminal Court” and urging its closest allies to do likewise. Framed in this way, a US engagement in the international human rights agenda would quickly lead to a crucial re-empowerment of the rapporteurs, special representatives, committees of experts and so on who have languished on the margins for so long.

 

This reformist energy would then need to be backed by mechanisms along the lines of the MacBride principles or the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act linking US financial and military aid to the newly emerging international legal order. The worst offenders against the new dispensation would run the risk of economic and intellectual boycotts. Since its application would be general, Obama could do all this without any mention of Israel, leaving the consequences to be worked through by various bureaucracies, while the phone calls and special pleas are politely fended off with an easy ‘it is out of my hands’. Were pressure from the lobbies to reach dangerous levels, the president might choose to take the issue to the American people, to discuss openly whether Israel should have an exemption from the system of values to which every other genuine ally and the US itself will by then have signed up. That is not likely to be a debate which the Israeli leadership will want.

 

Conor Gearty, Rausing Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and professor of human rights law at the LSE, has written a number of books on terrorism and human rights.

 

R.W. Johnson

 

The current crisis has probably not changed anything fundamental. As even the more pessimistic Israeli analysts have been noting for some time, the pressure of the crisis has turned many, perhaps most Palestinians into irreconcilable foes of Israel. To that extent the two-state solution, however much the great and good may wish it, gradually becomes less and less of a real solution. The present crisis was probably unavoidable given (a) Iran’s position, (b) the coming Israeli election and (c) the failure of Israel to achieve full-scale victory over Hizbullah last year. That last factor has weighed on all minds, showing Iran how much leverage it had, threatening to turn all Arab-occupied land into rocket-launching grounds and increasing Israeli determination to show that this is a prohibitively expensive option for anyone who opts to host such an exercise. The stalemate seems complete.

 

I doubt whether Obama will make much difference. His chief of staff is an ex-Israeli soldier and his administration will be heavily in hock to the Israel lobby from day one. Israel may be unhappy that he will talk to Hamas but this unhappiness is quite unnecessary. He is not going to soft-talk them into accepting Israel’s existence and laying down their rockets, so what will such talks really change?

 

The real key remains US-Iran relations. This was a period in which many expected an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The fact that it has not happened is promising and suggests that the CIA is right to say Iran is not close to having nuclear weapons. As it is the US has hugely strengthened Iran by handing Iraq over to Shi’ites and an Obama administration might try to capitalise on that by making a US-Iranian deal the cornerstone of Middle East politics, thus reducing Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian leverage. Iran would obviously be greatly tempted by such a deal. But if Obama and Ahmadinejad really could reach a deal it would probably be very bad news for both Hizbullah and Hamas, who might get cut off from Iranian aid. If that happens, I can’t see much joy for Palestinian militancy. But if it doesn’t and the US under Obama is left to face an unchanged position, he is bound to end up taking Israel’s side as much as Bush did. Which also doesn’t bode well for militant Palestinians. So whatever happens I’d expect the Palestinians to emerge worse off from this conflict and Israel stronger, though probably less popular.

 

R.W. Johnson lives in Cape Town.

 

Rashid Khalidi

 

It is commonplace to talk about the ‘fog of war’, but war can also clarify things. The war in Gaza has pointed up the Israeli security establishment’s belief in force as a means of imposing ‘solutions’ which result in massive Arab civilian suffering and solve nothing. It has also laid bare the feebleness of the Arab states, and their inability to protect Palestinian civilians from the Israeli military, to the despair and fury of their citizens. Almost from the moment the war began, America’s Arab allies ­ above all Egypt ­ found themselves on the defensive, facing accusations of impotence and even treason in some of the largest demonstrations the region has seen in years. Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbullah in Lebanon, reserved some of his harshest criticism for the Mubarak regime; at Hizbullah rallies, protesters chanted ‘Where are you, Nasser?’ ­ a question that is also being asked by Egyptians.

 

The Egyptian government and its Arab allies ­ Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco ­ responded to the war much as they responded to thee 2006 invasion of Lebanon: by tacitly supporting Israel’s offensive in the hope of weakening a resistance movement which they see as a proxy for Iran and Syria. When the bombing began, Egypt criticised Hamas over the breakdown of the reconciliation talks with Fatah that Cairo had brokered, and for firing rockets at Israel. The implication was that Hamas was responsible for the war. Refusing to open the Rafah crossing, the Mubarak government pointed out that Israel, the occupying power, not Egypt, was responsibile for the humanitarian situation in Gaza under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Egypt’s concern is understandable: ever since it recovered the Sinai in 1979, it has worried that Israel might attempt to dump responsibility onto it for the Strip’s 1.5 million impoverished residents, a fear that has grown as the prospects of ending the occupation have receded. But its initial refusal to open the crossing to relief supplies, medical personnel and reporters made it difficult for Cairo to deny charges that it was indifferent to Palestinian suffering, and that it valued relations with Israel and the US (its main patron) more highly than the welfare of Gaza’s people.

 

Since Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006, Egypt’s press has been rife with lurid warnings ­ echoed in conservative Lebanese and Saudi newspapers, as well as Israeli ones ­about the establishment in Gaza of an Islamic emirate backed by Iran. Cairo’s distrust of Hamas is closely connected with internal politics: Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brothers, the country’s largest opposition movement; and it came to power in Gaza in the kind of democratic elections that Mubarak has done everything to prevent. (He is likely to be succeeded by his son, Gamal, after sham elections.) When there still seemed hope of a Palestinian Authority (PA) coalition government between Fatah and Hamas (which would have diluted the latter’s power), Egypt was careful to appear balanced. But after the deep split in Palestinian politics that followed the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, Egypt tilted increasingly against Hamas. The division of occupied Palestine into two PAs ­ a Fatah-ruled West  Bank and a Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, both without sovereignty, jurisdiction or much in the way of authority ­ was seen in Cairo as a threat to domestic security: it promised greater instability on Egypt’s borders, jeopardised the negotiated two-state solution with Israel to which Egypt was committed, and emboldened allies of the Muslim Brothers.

 

Egypt has also been alarmed by Hamas’s deepening relationship with its fiercest adversaries: Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. ‘Moderate’ Arab regimes like the one in Egypt ­ deeply authoritarian, at best, but friendly with the US ­ have favoured peaceful negotiations with Israel, but negotiations have not led to Palestinian independence, or even translated into diplomatic leverage. Resistance movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, by contrast, can plausibly claim that they forced Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab land while scoring impressive gains at the ballot box; they have also been reasonably free of corruption. As if determined to increase the influence of these radical movements, Israel has undermined Abbas and the PA at every turn: settlements, bypass roads and ‘security barriers’ continue to encroach on Palestinian land; none of the 600 checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank has been removed; and more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners languish in Israeli jails. The result has been the erosion of support for the PA, and for the conciliatory approach pursued by the PA and Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which reacted by moving even closer to the Bush administration in its waning days. Mubarak, according to Ha’aretz, urged Olmert to continue the Gaza offensive until Hamas was severely weakened – though Egypt has, of course, denied these reports.

 

But Hamas will not be so easily defeated, even if Israel’s merciless assault and Hamas’s own obduracy have brought untold suffering on the people of Gaza and much of the Strip lies in ruins: like Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006, all it has to do in order to proclaim victory is remain standing. The movement continued to fire rockets into Israel under devastating bombardment, and it looks likely to emerge politically stronger when the war is over, although as with Hizbullah, it may have provoked popular resentment for bringing Israeli fire down on the heads of the civilian population: there was little Palestinian popular support for the firing of rockets at Israel in the months before the Israeli offensive. It is doubtful, moreover, whether any Hamas leader will be as shrewd as Hassan Nasrallah after the 2006 Lebanon war, when he admitted that had he known the damage Israel would do, he would not have offered the pretext that triggered its onslaught.

 

Israel began a propaganda campaign several months ago, when it closed Gaza to journalists in what appears to have been an effort to remove witnesses from the scene before the crime took place. Cell phone transmission was interrupted to prevent the circulation of photos and videos. The result, in Israel and the US, has been an astonishingly sanitised war, in which, in a bizarre attempt at ‘balance’, the highly inaccurate rocket attacks against Israel and their three civilian victims since the fighting began on 27 December have received as much attention as the levelling of Gaza and the killing of more than 1000 Palestinians and the wounding of nearly 5000, most of them civilians. But Arabs and Muslims (and indeed most people not living in the US and Israel) have seen a very different war, with vivid images of those trapped in the Gaza Strip, thanks in large part to Arab journalists on the ground.

 

During the large demonstrations that erupted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen, condemnation was directed not only at the usual targets, Israel and the US, but also at the passivity, even complicity, of Arab governments. Stung by the protests and fearing popular unrest, several Arab states sent their foreign ministers to New York, led by Prince Sa’ud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, and forced through a Security Council resolution in the face of American resistance. Jordan withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv; Qatar broke off ties with Israel and offered $250 million for the rebuilding of Gaza. At the same time, Egypt made limited concessions, taking some wounded Gazans to hospitals in Egypt, providing medical supplies, and belatedly allowing a few medical personnel into the Strip through the Rafah crossing. Yet the Mubarak regime has otherwise continued to play the role of even-handed mediator.

 

As I write, its proposals for a ceasefire have met with a positive response from both Hamas (which has significantly modulated its criticism of Egypt) and Israel. It is still unclear how Egypt will respond to Israel’s demands that it halt arms smuggling through tunnels into Gaza; when and if the crossings will be fully opened; under what arrangements, and how reconstruction aid will be channelled to the devastated area; and indeed how an Egyptian-brokered arrangement, should it come into force and endure, will be regarded by Egyptian and Arab public opinion.

 

For the moment, the shaky legitimacy of Abbas’s government in Ramallah, and of the authoritarian Arab governments that have cast their lot with Israel and the United States in the regional contest with Iran, appears to have grown shakier still. Should Iran and Syria succeed in rapidly establishing new relationships with Washington under the Obama administration, these governments will be further weakened. Moreover, their inability (or their unwillingness) to do more to resolve the Palestine question, or even to alleviate Palestinian suffering, has been exposed once again. It contrasts starkly with democratic and non-Arab Turkey’s robust support for the Palestinians. Palestine has been a rallying cry for opposition movements in the Arab world since 1948, and in the decade after the first Arab-Israeli war a series of domestic upheavals, revolutions and coups took place in several Arab countries, including Egypt, where veterans of the Palestine war led by Nasser came to power in the 1952 coup against King Farouk. The repressive capacities of a government such as Egypt’s, whose secret police is said to employ more than a million people, should not be underestimated. But several unpopular regimes may face serious consequences at home for having aligned themselves with Israel.

 

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia.

 

Yitzhak Laor

 

We’ve been here before. It’s a ritual. Every two or three years, our military mounts another bloody expedition. The enemy is always smaller, weaker; our military is always larger, technologically more sophisticated, prepared for full-scale war against a full-scale army. But Iran is too scary, and even the relatively small Hizbullah gave us a hard time. That leaves the Palestinians.

 

Israel is engaged in a long war of annihilation against Palestinian society. The objective is to destroy the Palestinian nation and drive it back into pre-modern groupings based on the tribe, the clan and the enclave. This is the last phase of the Zionist colonial mission, culminating in inaccessible townships, camps, villages, districts, all of them to be walled or fenced off, and patrolled by a powerful army which, in the absence of a proper military objective, is really an over-equipped police force, with F16s, Apaches, tanks, artillery, commando units and hi-tech surveillance at its disposal.

 

The extent of the cruelty, the lack of shame and the refusal of self-restraint are striking, both in anthropological terms and historically. The worldwide Jewish support for this vandal offensive makes one wonder if this isn’t the moment Zionism is taking over the Jewish people.

 

But the real issue is that since 1991, and even more since the Oslo agreements in 1993, Israel has played on the idea that it really is trading land for peace, while the truth is very different. Israel has not given up the territories, but cantonised and blockaded them. The new strategy is to confine the Palestinians: they do not belong in our space, they are to remain out of sight, packed into their townships and camps, or swelling our prisons. This project now has the support of most of the Israeli press and academics.

 

We are the masters. We work and travel. They can make their living by policing their own people. We drive on the highways. They must live across the hills. The hills are ours. So are the fences. We control the roads, and the checkpoints and the borders. We control their electricity, their water, their milk, their oil, their wheat and their gasoline. If they protest peacefully we fire tear gas at them. If they throw stones, we fire bullets. If they launch a rocket, we destroy a house and its inhabitants. If they launch a missile, we destroy families, neighbourhoods, streets, towns.

 

Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state alongside it. It is willing to prove this with hundreds of dead and thousands of disabled, in a single ‘operation’. The message is always the same: leave or remain in subjugation, under our military dictatorship. We are a democracy. We have decided democratically that you will live like dogs.

 

On 27 December just before the bombs started falling on Gaza, the Zionist parties, from Meretz to Yisrael Betenu, were unanimously in favour of the attack. As usual ­ it’s the ritual again ­ differences emerged only over the dispatch of blankets and medication to Gaza. Our most fervent pro-war columnist, Ari Shavit, has suggested that Israel should go on with the assault and build a hospital for the victims. The enemy is wounded, bleeding, dying, desperate for help. Nobody is coming unless Obama moves ­ yes, we are all waiting for Godot. Maybe this time he shows up.

 

Yitzhak Laor lives in Tel Aviv. He is the editor of Mita’am.

 

John Mearsheimer

 

The Gaza war is not going to change relations between Israel and the Palestinians in any meaningful way. Instead, the conflict is likely to get worse in the years ahead. Israel will build more settlements and roads in the West Bank and the Palestinians will remain locked up in a handful of impoverished enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank. The two-state solution is probably dead.

 

‘Greater Israel’ will be an apartheid state. Ehud Olmert has sounded a warning note on this score, but he has done nothing to stop the settlements and by starting the Gaza war he doomed what little hope there was for creating a viable Palestinian state.

 

The Palestinians will continue to resist the occupation, and Hamas will still be able to strike Israel with rockets and mortars, whose range and effectiveness are likely to improve. Palestinians will increasingly make the case that Greater Israel should become a democratic binational state in which Palestinians and Jews enjoy equal political rights. They know that they will eventually outnumber the Jews, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This proposal is already gaining ground among Israel’s Palestinian citizens, striking fear into the hearts of many Israelis, who see them as a dangerous fifth column. This fear accounts in part for the recent Israeli decision to ban the major Arab political parties from participating in next month’s parliamentary elections.

 

There is no reason to think that Israel’s Jewish citizens would accept a binational state, and it’s safe to assume that Israel’s supporters in the Diaspora would have no interest in it. Apartheid is not a solution either, because it is repugnant and because the Palestinians will continue to resist, forcing Israel to escalate the repressive policies that have already cost it significant blood and treasure, encouraged political corruption, and badly tarnished its global image.

 

Israel may try to avoid the apartheid problem by expelling or ‘transferring’ the Palestinians. A substantial number of Israeli Jews ­ 400 per cent or more ­ think that the government should ‘encourage” their fellow Palestinian citizens to leave. Indeed, Tzipi Livni recently said that if there is a two-state solution, she expects the Palestinians inside Israel to move to the new Palestinian state.

 

Why would American and European leaders intervene? The Bush administration, after all, backed Israel’s creation of a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza, first with a devastating blockade and then with a brutal war. European leaders reacted to this collective punishment, which violates international law, not to mention basic decency, by upgrading Israel’s relationship with the European Union.

 

Many in the West expect Barack Obama to ride into town and fix the situation. Don’t bet on it. As his campaign showed, Obama is no match for the Israel lobby. His silence during the Gaza war speaks volumes about how tough he is likely to be with the Israelis. His chief Middle East adviser is likely to be Dennis Ross, whose deep attachment to Israel helped squander opportunities for peace during the Clinton administration.

 

In a recent op-ed about the Gaza war, Benny Morris said that ‘it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.’ I rarely agree with Morris these days, but I think he has it right in this case. Even bigger trouble is in the offing for Israel ­ and above all ffor the Palestinians.

 

John Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

 

Yonatan Mendel

 

It’s very frustrating to see Israeli society recruited so calmly and easily to war. Hardly anyone has dared to mention the connection between the decision to go to war and the fact that we are only a few weeks away from an election. Kadima (Tzipi Livni’s party) and Labour (Ehud Barak’s) were doing very badly in the polls. Now that they have killed more than 1000 Palestinians (250 on the first day ­ the highest number in 41 years of occupation) they are both doing very well. Barak was expected to win eight seats in the Knesset; now it is around 15. Netanyahu is the one sweating.

 

I am terribly sad about all this, and frustrated. On the first day of the operation I wrote an article for the Walla News website and within four hours I had received 1600 comments, most calling for my deportation (at best) or immediate execution (at worst). It showed me again how sensitive Israeli society is to any opposition to war. It is shocking how easily this society unites behind yet another military solution, after it has failed so many times. Hizbullah was created in response to Israel’s occupation of Lebanon in 1982. Hamas was created in 1987 in response to two decades of military occupation. What do we think we’ll achieve this time?

 

The state called up more than 10,000 reservists, and even people who had not been called also travelled to military bases and asked to be sent to Gaza. This shows once again how efficient the Israeli propaganda and justification machine is, and how naturally people here believe in myths that have been disproved again and again. If people were saying, ‘We killed 1000 people, but the army is not perfect, and this is war,’ I would say it was a stupid statement. But Israelis are saying: ‘We killed 1000 people, and our army is the most moral army in the world.’ This says a lot about the psychology of the conflict: people are not being told what to think or say; they reach these insights ‘naturally’.

 

Since I was a soldier myself ten years ago, I worry I might be called up as a reservist. If I were to refuse now, when Israel is at war, I would be sent to prison. But still, I tell myself, that would be so much easier than being part of what my country is doing. Apparently, every single Jewish member of the Knesset, except one from the Jewish-Arab list, believes that killing more Palestinians, keeping the Gazan population under siege, destroying their police stations, ministerial offices and headquarters will weaken Hamas, strengthen Israel, demonstrate to the Palestinians that next time they should vote for Fatah, and bring stability to the region. I have no words. Only one Jewish member of the Knesset, out of 107, went to the demonstration that followed the deliberate bombing by the Israelis of an UNRWA school being used to house refugees, resulting in the deaths of 45 civilians. Once again, the Israeli slogan is ‘Let the IDF win’ and once again everybody agrees. People have short memories. By 2008, two years after the Second Lebanon War ended, Hizbullah had more soldiers than before, three times more weapons, and had dramatically improved its political position. It now even has a right of veto in parliament. The same could happen to Hamas, but once again military magic enchants Israeli society.

 

I have a friend whose brother is a pilot in the IDF. I asked to speak to him. I told him what I thought about Israel’s behaviour and he seemed to agree with my general conclusions. He said, however, that a soldier should not ask himself such questions, which should be kept to the political sphere. I can’t agree. But the second thing he told me was more important. He told me that for pilots, a day like the first day of the war, when so many attacks are being made simultaneously, is a day full of excitement, a day you look forward to. If you take these words into account, and bear in mind that in Israel every man is a soldier, either in uniform or in reserve, there is no avoiding the conclusion that there are great pressures for it to act as a military society. Not acting is damaging to the IDF’s status, budget, masculinity, power and happiness, and not only to the IDF’s. This could explain why in Israel the military option is almost never considered second best. It is always the first choice.

 

Ha’aretz too is a source of unhappiness for me, since in wartime the paper is part of this militaristic discourse, shares its values and lack of vision. Ha’aretz did not criticise Israel when its troops deployed to Lebanon in 2006. Nor did it have anything to say when the same soldiers bombed Gaza’s police, schools and people. Even when there was a demonstration against the war, with more than 10,000 people taking part, both Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Ha’aretz website chose to publish a picture of a counter-demonstration, in which a few hundred participated, waving Israeli flags and shouting: ‘Let the IDF win.’

 

I have problems speaking to my closest friends and family these days, because I can no longer bear to hear the security establishment’s propaganda coming from their mouths. I cannot bear to hear people justifying the deaths of more than 200 children killed by Israeli soldiers. There is no justification for that, and it’s wrong to try to find one. Usually I feel part of society in Israel. I feel that I am on one side of the political map and other people are on the opposite side. But over the last few days, I feel that I am not part of this society any more. I do not call friends who support the war, and they do not call me. The same with my family. It is a hard thing for me to write, but this is how it is.

 

Yonatan Mendel was a correspondent for the Israeli news agency Walla. He is currently at Queens’ College, Cambridge working on a PhD that studies the connection between the Arabic language and security in Israel.

 

Gabriel Piterberg

 

Israel’s onslaught on Gaza may well do permanent damage to one of the most effective tools in its propaganda kit: the image of the morally handsome, ‘shooting and crying’ Israeli soldier.

 

Three weeks after the 1967 War, Avraham Shapira and Amos Oz, then a rising young author, were summoned to Labour Party headquarters. They were asked to make the demobilised soldiers from the kibbutzim break the wall of silence and discuss their war experience. Soldiers’ Talk (Siah Lohamim), the collection of interviews they edited, was a national and international success. The book, which forged the image of the handsome, dilemma-ridden, existentially soul-searching Israeli soldier, was a hymn to that frightening oxymoron, ‘purity of arms’ and the ideal of an exalted Jewish morality.

 

It was also a kind of ‘central casting’ from which Oz drew many of his fictional protagonists. Rabin (when he was ambassador to Washington) and Elie Wiesel read extracts in the US ‘in order to present the Israeli soldier’s profile’; and Golda Meir called it ‘a sacred book’: ‘we are fortunate to have been blessed with such sons.’ The latest version of Soldiers’ Talk, in terms of register and success, is Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir.

 

Given the might of Israel’s warriors and the vulnerability of their targets, now that the country no longer engages in wars against other state armies, the image is hard to keep alive. At the same time it no longer matters in the way it once did: for political and military elites in Israel, and the War on Terror constituency in the US, the killing of Arabs and Muslims no longer requires any weeping or soul-searching. It’s just what freedom-loving people do. The war adulation of the recent pro-Israel demonstrations in Los Angeles is chastening but you couldn’t call it hypocritical.

 

Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the attack on Gaza will be seen as the action of a colonial power that is running out of ideas; not unlike France in the final stage of the Algerian war.

 

Gabriel Piterberg teaches history at UCLA. The Returns of Zionism was published last year. 

 

Eliot Weinberger

 

1. Who remembers the original dream of Israel? A place where the observant could practice their religion in peace and the secular would be invisible as Jews ­ where being Jewish only mattered if you wanted it to matter. That dream was realised, not in Israel, but in New York City.

 

2. The second dream of Israel was of a place where socialist collectives could flourish in a secular nation with democratic freedoms. Who remembers that now?

 

3. ‘Never again’ should international Jews invoke the Holocaust as justification for Israeli acts of barbarism.

 

4. As in India-Pakistan, blaming the Brits is true enough, but useless.

 

5. A few days ago, to illustrate the Gaza invasion, the front page of the New York Times had a large pastoral photograph of handsome Israeli soldiers lounging on a hill above verdant fields. Unquestioning faith in the ‘milk and honey’ Utopia of Israel is the bedrock of American Judaism, and reality does not intrude on faith.

 

6. Any hope for some sort of peace will not come from the US, even without Bush. It must come from within an Israel where the same petrified leaders are elected time and again, where masses of the rational have emigrated to saner shores and have been replaced by Russians and the American cultists who become settlers. It is hard to believe that this will be anytime soon.

 

7. It is hard to believe that two states will ever be possible. So why not a new dream of Israel? A single nation, a single citizenry with equal rights, three languages­ English as a neutral third­ €“ and three religions, separate from the state. Give it a new name– say, Semitia, land of the Semites.

 

Eliot Weinberger’s recent books include What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles.

 

Michael Wood

 

A New York Times reporter describes the ‘lethal tricks’ of Hamas in Gaza. I don’t doubt the existence of the tricks, but the implication is that the far more lethal directness of the Israeli attack is not only justified but morally superior to the enemy’s underhand modes of action. This is an adaptation of an old paradigm, in which Israel gets to play the role of the rational modern state. The straightforward, civilised West meets the endlessly devious, backward Orient, and takes care of things in its up-to-date efficient way. What’s wrong with that? They are always ‘they’; their deaths don’t count as ours do.

 

When does an invasion become a massacre? How many Palestinians have to die just because they are Palestinians before we recognise another old paradigm? Herzl thought the native population of what was to become Israel would have to be ‘spirited’ across the border; now the very deaths of that population are being spirited off into arguments about the right to self-defence. If self-defence includes the bombing of ambulances and feeling no qualms at killing such an astonishing number of children, then we have entered a moral territory from which there may be no return. Unless of course we have merely returned to the imperial 19th century, a world of brutal and unapologetic conquest, where force was the only argument that mattered and our only choice was whether to be hypocritical about it or not.

 

Michael Wood teaches at Princeton. His most recent book is Literature and the Taste of Knowledge.

 www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html