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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.

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.

Interesting and eye opening.

Gilad Atzmon: Israeli Economy For Beginners

We learn from the press and  political analysts that, against all odds and in spite of the global financial turmoil,  Israel’s economy is booming. Some even suggest that Israel is one of  the strongest economies around.

‘How come?’ you may ask; besides maybe avocado, oranges, and some Dead Sea beauty products, none of us has actually ever seen an Israeli product on the shelves. They don’t make cars; nor do they make electric or electronic appliances, and they hardly manufacture any consumer goods. Israel claims to be advanced in high-tech technologies but somehow, the only Israeli advanced software ever to settle within our computers have been their Sabra Trojan Horses.  In the land they grabbed by force from the indigenous Palestinians, they are yet to find any lucrative minerals or oil.

So what is it? How is it that Israel is impervious to the global financial disaster? How can Israel be so rich?

Israel may be rich because, according to the Guardian, “out  of the seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish.” During the last two decades, many Russian  oligarchs  have acquired  Israeli citizenship. They also secured their dirty money by investing in the kosher financial haven; Wikileaks has revealed lately that “sources in the (Israeli) police estimate that Russian organised crime (Russian Mafia) has laundered as much as US $10 billion through Israeli holdings.”[1]

Israel’s economy is booming because mega swindlers such as Bernie Madoff  have been channeling their money via Zionists and Israeli institutions for decades.[2]

Israel is ‘doing well’ because it is the leading trader in blood  diamonds. Far from being surprising, Israel is also the fourth biggest weapon dealer on this planet. Clearly, blood diamonds and guns are proving to be a great match.

As if this is not enough, Israel is also prosperous because, every so often, it is caught engaged in organ trafficking and organ  harvesting.

In short, Israel is doing better than other countries because it runs one of the dirtiest- non -ethical economies in the world. In spite of the Zionists’ initial promise to bring about a civilised ethical Jew, Israel has, instead, managed to develop an outstanding level of institutional  dismissal of international law and  universal values. It operates as a safe haven for money made in some horrendous global criminal activities. And it employs one of the world’s strongest army to defend the wealth of just a few of the wealthiest Jews around.

Increasingly, Israel seems to be nothing more than a humongous  money laundering haven for Jewish oligarchs, swindlers, weapons dealers, organ traffickers, organised crime and blood diamond traders.

Such a realization can  certainly explain why Israel is totally impervious to social equality within its borders.

Poor Israelis

Since Israel defines itself as the Jewish state, one may expect the Jewish people to be the first to benefit from their country’s booming economy. This seems to be not at all the case. In spite of the economy’s strength, Israel’s record on social justice is appalling. In the Jewish state 18 families control 60% of the equity value of all companies in the land. The Jewish State is shockingly cruel to its poor. As far as the gap between rich and poor is concerned, Israel is listed right at the top of the scale.

The meaning of all of that is pretty devastating; though Israel operates as an ethno-centric  racially orientated, tribal setting, it is proving to be totally careless of the members of its own tribe — In fact, in the Jewish state, a few million Jews are serving the darkest possible interests, the fruits of which, are to be enjoyed by just a very few rich  villains.

Smoke Screen

But there is a deeper and far more devastating meaning implicit within it all.  If my reading of the Israeli economy is correct, and Israel is indeed a monstrous cash haven for the dirtiest money around,  then the Israeli Palestinian conflict is , at least, from the Israeli-elite’s perspective ,  nothing but a smoke screen.

I hope that my readers and friends will forgive me for saying it —  I hope that I will  forgive myself for saying it — But it seems to me that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel’s horrendous crimes against the Palestinian people, actually serves to divert attention away from Israel’s complicity in some colossal and global crimes against vast populations around the world.  Instead of addressing the above relentless greed-driven attempt to grab wealth on the expense of the rest of humanity, we are all focusing on a single territorial conflict, that actually brings to light just one devastating criminal side of the Jewish national project.

It is more than likely that the vast majority of Israelis also fail to detect the deceitful role of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The Israelis are indoctrinated to look at every possible issue from a national security perspective. They have failed to realise that along the intensive militarization of their society, their Jewish state has become a money laundering haven and a refuge for villains from all over the world.

But here is some bad news for Israel and its corrupted elite.  It is just a question of time before the Russians, Americans, Africans, Europeans, all of humanity, begin to grasp it all — We are all Palestinians and we all share one enemy.

I would even take it further, and argue that it is possible that, not before too long — some  deprived Jews and Israelis will also begin to realise how deceptive and  sinister  Israel and Zionism truly are.

[1] For more information about global organized crime connections with Likud or other major Israeli political parties. Please follow this link http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/topic.php?tid=147

[2] Also, it is rumoured that, prior to its collapse, Lehman Brothers transferred 400 billion dollars to Israeli banks. I am not in a position to substantiate any of these theories — but I would strongly suggest that it is of some urgency to find out how truthful these accusations are.

Wikileaks: Economic Reasons Behind the Siege on Gaza

Wikileaks: Economic Reasons Behind the Siege on Gaza

Thursday, 10 February 2011 17:20 Shir Hever, JNews
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The ripple effects of the Wikileaks documents are still being felt, but until recently Israeli officials continued to boast that the documents were ‘good for Israel’.


As opposed to the way the Palestinian Authority (PA) was portrayed in leaked cables, leading to scandalous revelations, for a while Israel suffered no such scandal from the documents pertaining to its conduct. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even came out in support of the leak of the papers, suggesting that the documents can do no harm to Israel’s foreign policy.

He spoke too soon. More recent cables have provided unflattering revelations about Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip, quoting Israeli officials spelling out their attempts to keep the Gaza Strip on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. They have also described howcorruption is rife at the checkpoints through which goods are brought into Gaza.

Yet this information failed to shock. It was already well-known and widely reported by UNbodies, NGOs, scholars and journalists.

One cable, however, does contain some new information and has so far received no coverage at all.

The cable, titled “Shin Bet Talks Gaza Economics,” was written by David R. Burnett, Economic Counselor in the US embassy in Tel Aviv. It describes a briefing given to Embassy officials by senior members of the Israeli Shin Bet*, on how Israel uses the banking system in Gaza to increase the political influence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza, by attempting to starve the Hamas government of cash.

The Shin Bet informed the US embassy that banks in Gaza know that they must neither allow Hamas members to open bank accounts nor have salaries deposited into existing accounts. If the banks disobey, they will lose their stamp of approval from the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), a branch of the PA that is under constant pressure by Israel and the US to prevent any dealings with Hamas members. The Shin Bet expressed satisfaction that the Gaza banking system has indeed been cowed into submission.

Meanwhile, the PA is allowed to continue to pay wages to its employees in the Gaza Strip, thus creating a privileged class in Gaza with reliable income as long as they do not cooperate with the Hamas de-facto government.

While the Shin Bet officers gave no evidence that Hamas uses its budget for terrorism, they did give an interesting breakdown of Hamas’s overall budget. However, considering that this is a Shin Bet estimate, one should take the following figures with a grain of salt.

According to the leaked cable, Gaza’s de-facto Hamas government spends an estimated budget of US$290 million annually, on a population of approximately 1.5 million residents.

The PA’s budget is four times bigger, at approximately US$1.24 billion in 2010. The PAprovides services to about 2.4 million residents in the West Bank, as well as covering some of the costs of certain services for Gaza’s residents.

The Shin Bet estimates that Hamas uses US$40 million (13.8% of its budget) for military and security needs, and invests the remainder in administration and civilian projects.

Israel, by comparison, ran a budget of US$96 billion in 2010 (for a population of 7.6 million), and spent 18.6% of it on military and security purposes – so that, ironically, even according to Shin Bet estimates, Israel spends proportionately more on its military than Hamas spends.

The report further elaborates that the circulation of Israeli Shekels (NIS) in Gaza is increasing, while foreign currency supplies are dwindling. This is clearly a direct result of thealmost total ban on exports from Gaza (although Gazan merchants may still import certain products) – yet the Shin Bet kept silent regarding the reason for the shortage in foreign currency.

One wonders why Israeli officials feel more threatened by, say, vegetable exports from the Gaza Strip than by imports of materials into Gaza. What possible security justification can there be to keep Gazans from earning their living by exporting products?

The Shin Bet’s argument – and that of the Israeli government – seems to be that Israel should keep Gaza’s standard of living low, because Hamas somehow gains popularity when Palestinians are able to make a decent living.

However, the Shin Bet did acknowledge in their briefing that Israel’s policy is to maintain the predominance of the Israeli currency in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). This admission can perhaps shed light on another, undeclared reason for the ban on exports.

This document demonstrates that the Israeli government is in fact strangling the Gazan economy in order to turn Gaza into a captive market for Israeli products and maintain demand for the Israeli shekel – all in the name of “fighting terrorism.” It also demonstrates that the international community – and especially the US – have allowed this policy to continue.

* The Shin Bet or Shabak, officially called the Israel Security Agency (previously the General Security Service) is Israel’s secret police, and is directly subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Shir Hever is an Israeli economist and commentator who researches the economic aspects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.