Tag Archives: Egypt

Home / Egypt
31 Posts

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again | Common Dreams

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

The Palestinians won’t achieve statehood, but they will consign the ‘peace process’ to history.

The Palestinians won’t get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – “facts on the ground”: never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It’s over: the “peace process”, the “road map”, the “Oslo agreement”; the whole fandango is history.“In the new Middle East,” writes Fisk, “Amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. (EPA)

Personally, I think “Palestine” is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs’ land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don’t believe me. Israel’s massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the “cordons sanitaires” beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers’ roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of “Greater Israel” is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

Israel shares in this tragedy, of course. Its insane government has led its people on this road to perdition, adequately summed up by its sullen fear of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt – how typical that its principle ally in this nonsense should be the awful Saudi Arabia – and its cruel refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the Gaza flotilla last year and its equal refusal to apologise to Egypt for the killing of five of its policemen during a Palestinian incursion into Israel.

So goodbye to its only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel’s cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this.

The State of Israel may have been created unjustly – the Palestinian Diaspora is proof of this – but it was created legally. And its founders were perfectly capable of doing a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan after the 1948-49 war to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But it had been the UN, which met to decide the fate of Palestine on 29 November 1947, which gave Israel its legitimacy, the Americans being the first to vote for its creation. Now – by a supreme irony of history – it is Israel which wishes to prevent the UN from giving Palestinian Arabs their legitimacy – and it is America which will be the first to veto such a legitimacy.

Does Israel have a right to exist? The question is a tired trap, regularly and stupidly trotted out by Israel’s so-called supporters; to me, too, on regular though increasingly fewer occasions. States – not humans – give other states the right to exist. For individuals to do so, they have to see a map. For where exactly, geographically, is Israel? It is the only nation on earth which does not know and will not declare where its eastern frontier is. Is it the old UN armistice line, the 1967 border so beloved of Abbas and so hated by Netanyahu, or the Palestinian West Bank minus settlements, or the whole of the West Bank?

Show me a map of the United Kingdom which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it has the right to exist. But show me a map of the UK which claims to include the 26 counties of independent Ireland in the UK and shows Dublin to be a British rather than an Irish city, and I will say no, this nation does not have the right to exist within these expanded frontiers. Which is why, in the case of Israel, almost every Western embassy, including the US and British embassies, are in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.

In the new Middle East, amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

Should we say “poor old Obama”, as I have done in the past? I don’t think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.

US failures to stand up to Israel and to insist on a fair peace in “Palestine”, abetted by the hero of the Iraq war, Blair, are responsible. Arabs too, for allowing their dictators to last so long and thus to clog the sand with false frontiers and old dogmas and oil (and let’s not believe that a “new” “Palestine” would be a paradise for its own people). Israel, too, when it should be welcoming the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN with all its obligations of security and peace and recognition of other UN members. But no. The game is lost. America’s political power in the Middle East will this week be neutered on behalf of Israel. Quite a sacrifice in the name of liberty…

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Nile River row: Could it turn violent? | Africa News blog

Nile River row: Could it turn violent?

Jul 7, 2010 08:59 EDT

Nileresize.jpg

The giggles started when the seventh journalist in a row said that his question was for Egypt’s water and irrigation minister, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam.

The non-Egyptian media gave him a bit of a hammering at last week’s talks in Addis Ababa for the nine countries that the Nile passes through.

Allam bared his teeth when a Kenyan journalist accused him of hiding behind “colonial-era treaties” giving his country the brunt of the river’s vital waters whether that hurt the poorer upstream countries or not.

“You obviously don’t know enough about this subject to be asking questions about it,” he snapped before later apologising to her with a kiss on the cheek.

Five of the nine Nile countries — Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya — last month signed a deal to share the water that is a crucial resource for all of them. But Egypt and Sudan, who are entitled to most of the water and can veto upstream dams under a 1929 British-brokered agreement, refused.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi have not signed yet either and analysts are divided on whether they will or not. Six Nile countries must sign the agreement for it to have any power but Egypt says even that wouldn’t change its mind. The five signatories — some of the world’s poorest countries — have left the agreement open for debating and possible signing for up to a year.

Tensions were clearly still running high after two days of negotiations in Addis and despite grinning around the table and constantly referring to each other as “my brother”, the ministers always seemed in danger of breaking into bickering.

When the Sudanese water minister said his country was freezing cooperation with the Nile Basin Initiative — the name given to the ten-year effort to agree on how to manage the river — Ethiopia’s water minister loudly protested to the media that his Sudanese colleague had not revealed that during their private meetings.

Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abul Naga, arrived in Addis Ababaon Wednesday to again meet Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

It’s no surprise that the spat is getting a lot of press in both Ethiopia and Egypt.

“Egypt is a gift of the Nile,” people like to say in a country that worshipped the river as a God in ancient times. “If Egypt is a gift of the Nile, then the Nile is a gift of Ethiopia,” Ethiopians shoot back with growing confidence.

And they have a point. More than 85 percent of the waters originate in Ethiopia, which relies on foreign aid for survival and sees hydropower dams as a potential cash cow and central to its plans to become one of Africa’s only power exporters.

But Egypt is not for turning. Almost totally dependent on the Nile for its agricultural output (a third of its economy) and already worried about climate change, it is determined to hold onto its 55.5 billion cubic metres of water a year, a seemingly unfair share of the Nile’s total flow of 84 billion cubic metres.

The Egyptians point out that they don’t benefit from rains like the upstream countries. Everybody, it seems, has valid points. Nobody is budging. Now some regional analysts are even saying the row could turn into the world’s first major water war and similar thoughts are being expressed in cafes from Cairo all the way upriver to Dar es Salaam.

So what next? The nine countries are due to meet again in Nairobi sometime between September and November. But where is the way forward? Who will blink first? And who really should? Could this bickering turn violent?

Egypt haunts Saudi Arabia again | Soumaya Ghannoushi | Comment is free | The Guardian

Egypt haunts Saudi Arabia again

By propping up the Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia is reverting to its old anti-revolutionary role

    Saudi border guards

    Saudi border guards demonstrate their skills during a graduation ceremony near Riyadh last month. Photograph: Fahad Shadeed/REUTERS

    Little did Riyadh know that the most severe strategic blow to its regional influence would come not from Tehran, or Tehran’s agents in Baghdad – but Cairo, its closest Arab friend. The ousting of Mubarak did not only mean the loss of a strong ally, but the collapse of the old balance of power. The region could no longer be divided on a Riyadh-Cairo v Tehran-Damascus axis. Revolutions have struck in both camps: in “moderate” Egypt and Tunisia, as in “hardline” Damascus and Tripoli. The principal challenge for the Saudi regime is no longer the influence of Syria, Iran or Hezbollah, but the contagion of revolutions.

    The Saudis had dispatched troops to the small kingdom of Bahrain to suppress a revolt against the Sunni rule of the Khalifas. And when the Yemeni revolution erupted, they moved to bolster Ali Abdullah Saleh’s reign, pumping millions into his coffers to buy off tribal allegiances, and providing his army with equipment, intelligence and logistical support. Although Riyadh’s rulers despise Saleh for dragging them into a messy conflict with the Houthis at their southern border in 2009, they have stood by him. But as the revolution raged on, winning the support of most tribes and causing wide defections in the army, the Saudi regime had no choice but to let go of its man in Sana’a – as long as this is perceived not as the fruit of popular pressure, but a smooth power transition within the framework of its own Gulf Co-operation Council proposal. With Saleh’s forced exit after Friday’s attack on his presidential compound, Riyadh is again seeking to wrest the initiative from the street and act as the chief powerbroker in Yemen.

    Although it has striven for years to isolate Syria from Tehran, it is not too keen on seeing its old enemy collapse under the blows of protesters either – and is now working to protect the Assad regime. King Abdullah has even phoned President Assad to offer “solidarity with Syria against conspiracies targeting its stability and security”.

    Saudi Arabia is sparing no expense to contain existing revolutions and suppress potential ones. In spite of its fear of post-revolutionary Egypt, it has recently granted it $4bn in aid to appease its generals; $20bn has been lavished on Bahrain and Oman – another kingdom beset by popular unrest – with $400m donated to Jordan.

    To Riyadh, Arab revolutions set a dangerous precedent for the subjects of monarchies, and must, therefore, be averted at all cost. This is the backdrop for Saudi Arabia’s invitation to Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf Co-operation Council, an organisation that ought to be rebranded as the Club of Arab Despotic Monarchies. Jordan, known for its powerful security apparatus, could act as a useful buffer against revolutionary penetration from Levantine Syria. As for Morocco – whose membership invitation has baffled many, located as it is at the far end of the Arab hemisphere – its principal virtue is its 35 million population, which may compensate for the loss of Riyadh’s old heavyweight ally, Egypt.

    Monarchy is one characteristic shared by Jordan and Morocco. Economic need is another. Their fragile economies, crippled by debt and corruption, constitute an advantage in the eyes of Saudi strategists, rendering them more amenable to bribery and manipulation.

    Riyadh has been watching anxiously as demands for reform escalate. In Jordan, demonstrations have even spread into the tribal south, the regime’s traditional support base. A broad alliance of Islamists and leftists has formed after the resignation of two ministers over a graft case. As the alliance’s leader, Ahmad Obeidat, put it: “Tyranny and corruption are Jordan’s main problems. Fighting corruption starts with reforming the regime itself.”

    The same state of political mobilisation characterises Morocco – north Africa’s only kingdom. The February 20 youth movement has held weekly demonstrations for constitutional reform. Human rights groups report a mass arrest campaign, and regular torture. Police brutality is such that Kamal al-Ammari, a pro-democracy activist, was beaten to death at a pro-democracy rally last week in the southern city of Safa.

    By trying to fortify these monarchies, Saudi Arabia is seeking not only to protect them, but preserve itself. The domino effect – one republic after another consumed by revolution – must not be allowed to strike a monarchy. The message is clear: revolutions are a strictly republican phenomenon to which kingdoms are immune. But the goal is to keep reform at bay too. There can be no talk of constitutional monarchies.

    Although the Saudi regime is preoccupied by the Iranian threat, its eye is now focused on Egypt and the Arab revolutions, existing and potential. There is nothing that it dreads more than a return to the 1950s and 60s scenario of Cairo spearheading a revolutionary Arab world against pro-American conservative kingdoms. Riyadh is in the process of reproducing the 1955 Baghdad pact, forged in confrontation with Nasser and his revolutionary officers and bringing together the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Jordan (both unofficially), Pahlavi Iran and royal Iraq, as well as Turkey and Pakistan. Some of the players have been replaced, and nationalism has made way for Islamism, but the structure of the strategic game is the same.

    And so is its mightiest weapon: money. In a battle where internal fears coincide with external interests, Riyadh is resuming its old role as the vanguard of a cold war against change.

I am having lots of problem with Mr. Cole these days , his blind support of Obama is really something  Iwas not expecting from a man like him. But when it comes to Israel, he has very good and intelligent observations.

 

 

What lies Behind Netanyahu’s Bluster on ’1967 Borders’

Posted on 05/24/2011 by Juan

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s high dudgeon over the world community’s demand that Israel return more or less to ’1967 borders’ plays to two audiences, his domestic constituency among far rightwing ‘Greater Israel’ parties intent on usurping Palestinian land, and his American constituency among the third or so of US Jews who oppose trading land for peace.

For the rest of us in the US, being yoked to Netanyahu’s angry expansionism is like being forced to date Charlie Sheen. It won’t do our own reputation any good, and it won’t rescue him from his self-destructiveness.

The ’1967′ borders are actually those that obtained before Israel launched its 1967 ‘Six-Day War’ on Syria, Jordan and Egypt. (There is no doubt that Israel launched this war, and that its aggressiveness with Syria in the previous six months contributed mightily to the tensions that led to it.)

The reason Israel has to go back to 1967 borders is that the annexation of territory from a neighbor through warfare is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty to which Israel and the United States are both signatories. ‘Greater Israel’ apologists attempt to get out of this difficulty by saying that countries used to conquer land away from their neighbors all the time. This is a bogus argument, since countries used to do a lot of things, including sponsor the slave trade; Britain even insisted on China allowing the sale of opium in the early 19th century. The world changed when World War II ended and the countries of the world established the United Nations to forestall any recrudescence of Axis techniques of conquest and rule. If Israel does not believe in the UN Charter, it should renounce its UN membership.

It is not just the UN Charter. The Hague Agreement of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 forbid a power occupying enemy territory in war time from annexing it or in any way changing the life ways of its people.

Another bogus argument the Greater Israel expansionists trot out is that the UN Charter only forbids the acquisition of territory from other countries, and the Palestinians did not have a country, and so they are fair game. This argument is morally despicable, since the Israelis made the Palestinians stateless, thwarting the intention of the League of Nations that Palestine become a state; and now they are using the abjectness and statelessness as an argument that Palestinians can be stolen from at will. But the argument is also incorrect. Both the League of Nations and the UN made it perfectly clear that they intended that the Palestinians have a state in the future, so in preventing this from happening the Israelis are defying international law. The 1947 UN Partition Plan, the legitimacy of which the Israeli government says it recognizes, awarded Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians. So it is not true that these territories are no-man’s land or that there is no legal framework for their people’s existence, such that anyone could enslave them or expropriate them at will.

Netanyahu’s argument for not going back to 1967 borders is that it is inconvenient. He says that the 1967 borders are indefensible. This assertion is a logical fallacy, known as special pleading. You can’t launch a war and annex your neighbor’s territory because you fear that your own presents security challenges. Lots of countries are unhappy with their borders. Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait in 1990 in part because he felt that the British had erred in not giving modern Iraq a deep water port, which made Iraq ‘indefensible’ and put it at an economic disadvantage. Pakistan believes that its failure to secure the headwaters of the Indus Valley rivers in Kashmir in 1947 puts it at a permanent disadvantage vis-a-vis India and makes the country overly vulnerable (‘indefensible’). Netanyahu’s immoral argument that a country just has to take by main force whatever it feels will make it more secure is astonishing and is a standing danger to world peace if it were taken seriously by other countries.

Aljazeera English reports on Netanyahu’s rejection of 1967 borders and anything like them:

International law forbids Israel to colonize the West Bank– not only the UN Charter but also the Geneva Conventions of 1948.

But beyond the specious character of Netanyahu’s rhetoric (according to which it would have been perfectly all right for George W. Bush to annex Iraq to the United States), the fact is that the whole tiff over ’1967 borders’ is a smokescreen for Israeli expansionism. The settler movement could put down settlements in much of the sparsely populated south of Israel proper with no problem. Instead, they insist on taking Palestinian land. They are not colonizing the West Bank only to make it more ‘secure’ (they are making it less so), but rather out of greed, ambition, and expansionism. It is not about defense, it is about offense.

(Courtesy the BBC)

The Likud Party led by Netanyahu does not believe in allowing the Palestinians to have a state, and does not believe in withdrawing from the Occupied Territories. This obstinate stance and commitment to undermining the international rule of law is why there is no point in ‘engaging’ the Likud with ‘ compromises.’ Netanyahu led the charege against the Oslo Peace process pursued by then PM Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s, and when Rabin was assassinated and Netanyahu came briefly to power he did whatever he could to destroy the peace process. He admitted this obstructionism on tape:

Netanyahu rudely lectured President Obama in front of the cameras that the Palestinian desire to see some of the refugees expelled from their homes by the Israelis in 1948 ‘isn’t going to happen’ and he urged Obama to frankly tell the Palestinians that it isn’t going to happen. But he may as well also have instructed Obama to tell the Palestinians that the two state solution is dead.

Israel by now has not only planted colonies all over the West Bank and moved hundreds of thousands of people in, but it has secretly withdrawn residency rights from 140,000 Palestinians. The ‘separation barrier’ removed another 12 percent of Palestinian territory. No one can look at a map of Gaza and the West Bank as they actually exist and see a viable state that could protect the rights of its citizens (the point of a state). Israel keeps announcing new settlements or expansions of existing ones on Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu is saying ‘no’ to peace, ‘no’ to negotiations, ‘no’ to dignity and rights for Palestinians for generations to come.

Ben Franklin said that ‘Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.’ Netanyahu’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will one day regret that he slapped away the hand of help and the good will of Barack Obama in favor of a stubborn and greedy Israeli expansionism.

The most likely outcome of Israel’s present course is a one state solution, achieved over decades, with much heartbreak and violence and ruined lives in the meantime. The Jews of Israel will likely end up like the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. France created Lebanon in 1920 for a then Christian majority, but Christian out-migration and rapid Muslim population growth reduced the Maronites to only about 22 percent of the population today if we count children. Likewise, Israeli Jews have already lost their majority among first-graders in what was Mandate Palestine in favor of Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis. Current demographic trends will likely produce an Israel that is a third Arab by 2030 and that is not even counting the Occupied Territories. The instability in the Arab world and the Greater Middle East, which is growing, could well over time increase Jewish out-migration (out of sheer nervousness) so that it outstrips in-migration of Jews. I can’t see a way for Israel to escape this demographic and geopolitical fate and remain viable as a nation-state. Plans on the Israeli right to denaturalize and expel the 1.5 million Palestinian-Israelis are unrealistic and do not reckon with the likely backlash from the Arab world, which won’t remain weak and abject forever. (We can already see glimmerings of a new, more assertive Egypt).

The course Netanyahu is charting will harm the United States in so many ways they are hard to count. But he is also digging the grave of his own vision of a Jewish state.