Archive for December, 2008

Antidote to the Iraeli revisionism of history

31, December, 2008

Joshua Landis at Syriacomment gives an overview of – and links to – a series of excellent recent articles on Gaza by such clearheaded and principled writers as Robert Fisk, Johann Hari, Tariq Ali, Nir Rosen and others. Reading this collection of texts is an excellent and heartily recommended antidote to the current ahistorical drivel in the western (and much of the Arab) media, which haplessly and without any criticism copies the revisionist version of recent and not so recent Middle Eastern history which the Israelis and their allies are ceaselessly flooding us with.
Listening to virtually all of the French, British and American mass media, as well as Saudi-financed CNN-copy al Arabiya, you could be forgiven to ignore that the brutal occupation of Palestine by the facist, militarized and religiously fundamentalist apartheid regime called Israel has been going on for over 60 years. You could be forgiven for ignoring that Israel is a giant land-grabbing scheme, which is the very reason why the current inhabitants of overpopulated Gaza have been forced into this faithful copy of the Warsaw ghetto since 1948, before which time they used to live in towns and areas now called Ashkelon, Beersheva and Sderot, among many others. You could be excused for ignoring that the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestine has been going on for 60 years, in which time the part of the original population of what is now Israel, has been slowly but remorselessly driven further into misery, disease, illiteracy and impoverishment. You would not know that millions of Palestinians have been forced into exile in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, and are to this day prevented – in breach of binding UNSC resolution 242 and others – to return to the land that is theirs. You would not know that those Palestinians who have not been massacred or made into refugees in and outside their own country since 1948 are now living as third class citizens in their own land – the second class citizens being the Arab, Asian and African jews who are also being discriminated against in the profoundly racist zionist theocracy called Irael. Neither would you know that Israel is in breach of over 60 UN and UNSC resolutions, more than any other country in the world. You would be completely ignorant of the fact that the real international community is so overwhelmingly opposed to this imperialist Euro-American colony that in the UN General Assembly, there are routinely only four countries opposing motions against Israel: Israel itself, the US and two Pacific islands that, while nominally independent countries, are in reality no more than US military bases. You would certainly not be informed of the fact that under international law, every occupied population has the inalienable right to defend itself and fight the occupation by any means at its disposal, including armed resistance. And you will never be reminded of basic principles such as ‘oppression breeds resistance’. But whatever the brainwashing efforts, whatever the cynical perversions of international law and human rights declarations that attempt to make aggressors look like victims and to turn victims into aggressors, the truth is and remains self-evident to anybody with even a fleeting knowledge of history: all colonies are liberated in the end. Just like the French are no more in Algeria, just like the British are no more in India and Pakistan, just like the Belgians were forced out of the Congo and the Dutch out of Indonesia, so the European and American colonizers currently styling themselves Iraelis will soon be forced out of Palestine. It is exactly because they are becoming increasingly aware of this fact, it is exactly because they are realising that the Palestinians will not give in and desist, that they are becoming ever more desperate, murderous and ruthless. Just like the French were at their most murderous right before they were finally forced out of Algeria. Sic semper tyrannis.

Meanwhile in Arabia…

31, December, 2008

Whereas Egypt’s enthusiastic cooperation with Israel in slaughtering the Palestinians has received widespread condemnation in the Arab world and beyond, the usual ‘moderate’ suspects are just as enthusiastically making the very same mistake they made at the start of the 2006 war (i.e. blaming the victim – cf Saudi-Arabia and, shame on them, Fatah). The usual ‘radical’ suspects (Syria, Lybia and Iran) are equally making the same predictable noises while taking great care to not actually get involved in any concrete or meaningful way. That goes even for Hizbullah, up to now, although in their case there are pressing domestic reasons for not being seen as bringing another devastating war onto their compatriots.
The populations in the ‘moderate’ countries are becoming ever more vocal in expressing their disgust with ‘their’ US-financed leaders. In Yemen, a stadium full of protesters marshalled by the government actually turned into an anti-government rally that could only just be contained. In countries as far apart as Lebanon and Indonesia, mass rallies were criticising Arab governments as loudly as Israel and the US. Even in Brussels, people were throwing shoes at the Egyptian embassy.

But lo behold, there is an exception: the Jordanian king has fallen out of character. Here, Abu Aardvark discusses why: ‘It’s no accident that King Abdullah and Queen Rania have been urgently calling for Israel to “end the violence immediately”, even as fellow pro-U.S. autocrats in Cairo and Riyadh hedge in anticipation of Hamas taking damage. There is no way for Jordan to stay on the sidelines of an Israeli-Palestinian crisis – and this one may prove more dangerous than others. The intensity of Jordanian public opinion on Gaza should not be surprising. Without resorting to the journalistic shorthand of assigning a percentage of the population as “Palestinian” (given decades of intermarriage and deep divides in the life-circumstances of, say, the impoverished residents of the camps and the wealthy Amman bourgeoisie), the Jordanian and Palestinian populations are deeply interconnected.  The Jordanian public has been extremely vocal, with protests in the streets and burning Israeli flags in the Parliament.  Normally level-headed commentators have been calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, the severing of ties with Israel, the “removal” of all things Israeli from the Kingdom, and more.  Unlike during the Hezbollah war of 2006, there’s a consensus in Jordan spanning liberals, Islamists, and conservatives over Gaza… with even those who have written extremely hostile commentary about Hamas in the last few years now lambasting Israel and defending Gaza. (…) Expect anti-Americanism in Jordan (and across the region) to spike again as the U.S. is blamed for allowing the Israeli offensive, just as during the 2002 Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank, and for moderate voices to be marginalized or radicalized.  The King is following the popular mood this time, to a point (with an ostentatious picture of him donating blood gracing the front pages of the papers).  But even as the influential columnist Samih al-Mayateh writes that the people and the Palace are united, it’s clear to all that the government has offered only words and has not acted on any of the popular demands.’ More than that, he has actually fired the head of his intelligence services, who had recently been promoting a detente with Hamas… Abu Aardvark adds: ‘I expect that the Jordanian regime will most likely ride out this round of domestic anger as it always has before — but it seems clear that the leadership is worried about the rising wave of anger and the possibility of violence migrating across the Jordan River. Whatever Abdullah’s real feelings about Hamas, it seems likely that he’s sincere about desperately wanting the crisis to be over and is trying to find ways to limit the impact at home.  Replacing his mukhabarat chief in the middle of the crisis suggests that desperation is turning to panic. ‘

Hizbullah 2006 vs Hamas 2009

31, December, 2008

Pat Lang has some interesting observations back at Sic Semper Tyrannis on the similarities between the IDF’s 2006 massacring of Lebanon and its current onslaught on Gaza, notably its lack of clear objectives and its inability to halt rocket launches: ‘Remember Lebanon in ’06.  We all really know how well that went for the IDF (irony alert).  In the Lebanon case the air power crowd succeeded in persuading the Israeli government that the Lebanese (in general) could be intimidated into accommodating the Likud/neocon/Bush program for Lebanon.  That failed in spite of devastating air attacks on civilian infrastructure targets the length and breath of the country.  Then, there was a half hearted air/ground effort to destroy Hizbullah’s forward positions and rocket firing capability.  That proved impossible to do at any price that Israel was willing to pay.  The net result was that Hizbullah became an exemplar for every Muslim enemy of Israel, an example of how the IDF can be defeated by brave and well prepared men.  Politically, the ultimate result of ’06 was to make Hizbullah, and their Christian allies under General Aoun, the arbiters of events in Lebanon. We have now seen the Israelis run through their target list in Gaza.  Hamas is still firing at Ashkalon and Beersheba.  One wonders just who has who by the testicles in this situation. If the Israelis back away with some sort of unilateral ceasefire, then the ’06 judgment of the Muslims on them will be confirmed in many minds.  Thus far there are not enough ground troops “showing” in what the Israelis have brought to Gaza.  These deployments are a mere threat.  They will have to call forward many more units before the threat of a major ground operation becomes credible. A major ground operation in Gaza may cause Hizbullah to resume hostilities from north of the Litani.  This should be considered as a risk inherent in a ground operation in Gaza.’

As well as this on the lessons Hamas (if not Israel) has learned from that 2006 July war: ‘”According to Israeli officials, Hamas has smuggled 70 tons of high explosives into Gaza since it violently wrested control of the territory from Abbas’ Fatah faction in June. Hamas also has at least 15,000 full-time guerrillas, many of them trained in Iran and Syria. Israel’s army does not want Hamas to acquire the capabilities Hezbollah demonstrated in Lebanon during the summer war in 2006. IDF officials say they cannot wait until Hamas has built up defenses along the Gaza frontier that would make an invasion unbearably costly in terms of Israeli casualties. “Hamas is trying to entrench itself along the Gaza Strip border fence,” Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir, a senior commander of Israel’s forces outside Gaza, told journalists recently. “They’re digging tunnels beneath, building bunkers, establishing mortar nests, observation posts and escape routes.” Amos Harel of the Ha’aretz daily said Israel feels its natural tactical superiority being eroded by the asymmetrical fighting with Hamas. “Until recently, it was obvious who was winning this confrontation. The Israel Defense Force has an enormous advantage in terms of firepower, observation, control of the air, armored vehicles and troop training,” Harel said. “But in recent months, the efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to improve Hamas’ military capabilities are beginning to be felt. It is not only better weaponry, but also careful study of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War.” (Jewish Arizona)’

Not in the news…

29, December, 2008

Lest we forget, before there was Hamas, the Palestinians had another resistance organization, which Israel always insisted were evil terrorists they would destroy completely and never negotiate with – yes, the PLO, the sad remnants of which are now called Fatah and are to the Israeli occupation what the Vichy government in France was to the German occupation. Israel was so adamant in its wish to destroy this – secular – organization that it funded a religious organization to counter them and divide the Palestinians. This organization was called… Hamas: ‘Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies. Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,” said a former senior CIA official. According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were “weak and dormant” until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.’ Well they got what they wanted, didn’t they? They should stop complaining.

The article from which this excerpt is taken also contains some quotes of a US state dept. official on Israel’s strategies which would be smart and funny, were it not for the fact that they clearly show the Americans have not learned a thing from studying the Israeli mistakes: ‘According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, “the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it,” he said.

Is revolution… pt 2

29, December, 2008

Al-Manar TV: ‘The Egyptian interior ministry declared maximum state of emergency at its Central Security apparatus, canceling indefinitely all leaves for officers and soldiers.’

Nasrallah called on the people of Egypt to come out on the streets ‘in your millions, because the police forces can’t shoot millions of people’ to demand the opening of the Rafah border crossing…

In the latest news the Egyptians are now letting ‘some’ wounded Palestinians through.

Is revolution coming to Egypt?

29, December, 2008

The most disgusting and discouraging apect of the latest Israeli bout of genocide is not that the Israelis murder and maim again: that is what they do, and it is what they have to do to keep their colonizing effort alive – zionism is like islamism: it needs eternal wars and enemies to keep it going. It is not even the usual empty blabbering of Arab state leaders – an ‘emergency’ meeting of the Arab League next friday? Wow, the Israelis must be trembling in their warboots! The Arabs are going to come together and talk! Shudder and fear! Even Nasrallah is just speeching and threatening and not doing anything, even while Israeli planes are flying mock raids over southern Lebanon…. A big demonstration in Dahiyyeh is planned today, but will hardly change anything either…
No, the most disgusting aspect of this entire warcrime is the corrupt senile pharaoh of Egypt actually fighting on the side of Israel. The Egyptians have not only been blocking the Arab League meeting planned for yesterday, they are actively preventing wounded Gazans from escaping to their country, keeping the Rafah border crossing closed, and even refuse to let three Qatari planes’ worth of aid goods into Gaza. Nasser must be turning in his grave…

By the way, Juan Cole on Informed comment gives a handy list of the actual death figures of the last eight years of Israeli occupation: ‘Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis. Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war. The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.’

More warmongering by the eternally deluded

16, December, 2008

‘Israel has reiterated its threats against Lebanon amid talk about practical scenarios where the Israeli army would occupy the area south of the Litani and end its war with Hizbullah in a “quick and decisive victory.” The Jerusalem Post, quoting Israeli military sources, said the elite Golani Brigade has only recently concluded a one-week maneuver on the Golan Heights amid talk about the possibility that Israel could wage war both on Syria and Hizbullah. A senior Israeli officer told the daily that since Israel considers Hizbullah as a “partner” in the Lebanese government with veto powers, there is no reason to separate targets belonging to the Shiite group from others belonging to Lebanese areas in the next war.’

Semantics are a funny thung. Just replace ‘Israel’ in this quote with ‘Iran’, ‘Golani Brigades’ with ‘Revolutionary Guards’ and ‘Hizbullah’ with ‘Likud’ (or ‘Kadima’ or ‘Labour’ or whatever) and the entire Western press would be up in arms and shouting facist and warmonger. But of course, these are not shoe-throwing Arab terrorists we are talking about, these are respectable European colonizers and imperialists. That makes it alright to threaten entire countries with total destruction, I guess…
I especially like the part about a ‘quick and decisive victory’ – I think it was Bush going into Iraq who last used that phrase: ‘The sources said the Israeli army has put in place “practical plans” that should lead to “quick and decisive victory” within four or five days in its next war on Lebanon.’ Yeah right…. And pigs can fly too I’m sure. And to top it all: ‘The Jerusalem Post quoted the same sources as saying that no date has been set for launch war.’ Oh really? What a shame… But they can’t pin the date yet, of course, because they need a ‘Hizbullah provocation’ to ‘trigger’ the ‘conflict’ first, so they can claim that ‘they started’… Don’t you love how warmongers (any warmongers) never manage to rise above the bully-in-the-playground level?

Anyway, Israel, shudder and beware: Lebanese defence minister Elias Murr has just announced that Russia agrees to ‘deliver 10 Russian MiG-29 fighter jets to Lebanon’. While the expected participation of the LAF in defending Lebanon from the next Iraelli onslaught is not likely to scare the Israelis, the fact that the Lebanese government has finally decided to turn to nations that will actually sell it real arms, as opposed to the useless second-hand toys the US has been sending it for the past few decades, is in itself highly significant and an indication of the shifting balance since Georgia 08/08/08.

Arab hero

16, December, 2008

Muntazer az-Zaidi has achieved more for the Arab world by simply throwing his shoes at Bush than all the Arafats, Abbases, Malikis, Abdullahs and Mubaraks combined. He’s enlisted more worldwide sympathy and understanding for the Arabs than all the Muqtada as-Sadrs, al-Zawahiris and al-Sistanis combined. And let nobody tell you he’s an islamist or a even a religious shia. He’s a leftist secular Iraqi. What am I saying, he’s a full-blooded anarchist. I salute him and so should you.

Books and jihadis

11, December, 2008

Apart from Aoun’s much-discussed visit to his former arch-foe Syria – and much inane commenting and loose shots from across the M14 political spectrum – nothing much has been happening in Lebanon recently. Unless you count the intensely nauseating commericalization of both eid al-adha and christmas, that is. Or the resulting monster traffic jams. Or Lebanese fighting each other with sticks and stones over parking spaces. The most important development in my view was me moving house. I actually have an AC now!

So a few backgrounders is all I have on offer this week: here is an overview-for-beginners of the Saudi-US-Al Qaeda co-operation record from 1979 Afghanistan to 2007 Lebanon. It is also something of a primer on basic internal Saudi power structures: ‘It is possible to look at the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a long struggle with religious forces. The very existence of the country is premised on a Faustian bargain of sorts between Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) and Muhammad Ibn Saud (head of the House of Saud from 1744-1765), where each one was (and their descendants still are) utterly reliant on the other. The al-Sauds provide the base for the Wahhabis to practice and proselytize their religious doctrine, and the Wahhabis, in turn, provide the al-Sauds with the necessary religious sanctification as well as a proven ability to whip the masses into a religious fervor when needed.’

And talking about faustian bargains: here is an in-depth look at the impossibly complicated Lebanese electoral system by means of a handy interactive map, courtesy of el Nashra website.

I dug up a few essential backgrounders too at the excellent and very extensive International Book Fair which is running its last day in Beirut right now: Roger Owen’s ‘State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East’ is basic reading for anybody wishing to have an opinion on the current Middle Eastern conflicts. (I wanted to link to the online version of the book, but it turns out there is none: I confused it with the equally informative and insightful ‘War, Insititutions and Social Change in the Middle East’, edited by Steven Heydemann, which can be found here.
The other jewel I discovered is Fred Halliday’s ‘Arabia without Sultans’, a thoroughly anti-imperialist account of the revolutionary liberation movements in Yemen, Oman and the Gulf in general and their struggle against the British – allied with tribal sheikhs and obscurantist imams in much the same way the US and British are now in Iraq and Afghanistan – in the sixties and seventies, and the various ways in which the nasseritescollided with the British and the Saudis to destroy them. It is astonishing to read this account, written in 1974, and realize how much has changed since then. Most of all, it shows how much of a nonsensical myth the whole ‘anti-modernity and irrepressible religiosity of the Arabs’-narrative is, or the ‘clash of civilisations’-nonsense… It has actually taken hard fighting to supress the thoroughly modern and secular worker’s movements around the Arab world and to impose the islamist frame of thinking on the general population which until the end of the 20th century was predominantly anti-imperialist and secular rather than anti-western and islamist (or even islamic). Halliday himself writes a new – and refreshingly unrepentant – introduction to this timely re-issue by the invaluable Saqi publishing house.


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