Monday, March 31, 2014

A Palestinian has been killed every 4.2 days in 2014

Fourteen-year-old Yusef a-Shawamreh, who the IDF killed one week ago in the southern West Bank, was not vandalizing the separation barrier when he was killed, but was crossing it to pick plants on his family’s agricultural land, B’Tselem reported Wednesday following its own investigation.

According to the report, a-Shawamreh was shot when he and two friends, Zahi a-Shawamreh, 13, and al-Muntaser Beallah a-Dardun, 18, were going through a wide gap in the fence that has existed for at least two years; it is safe to say the IDF has known about the gap in the fence. The two surviving youths told B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash that they heard three or four shots as they got off the road, fired with no advance warning.

This contradicts the IDF’s version of the story, which claims that soldiers saw the youths vandalizing the fence, began procedures to arrest a suspect — which means shouting warnings and then firing in the air – and then shot a-Shawamreh after he and his friends allegedly did not heed the warnings. B’Tselem also reported that although the soldiers provided first aid to a-Shawamreh, a military ambulance took 30 minutes to reach the site of the shooting, despite the fact that there is a military base only two kilometers away. What’s worse, the soldiers were apparently on a proactive ambush mission in broad daylight and should have been aware that Palestinians regularly cross that part of the fence to pick gundelia, a thistle-like edible plant annually harvested at this time of year.
The gap in the barrier through which the three crossed. (Photo by Itamar Barak/B'Tselem)

The gap in the barrier through which the three crossed. (Photo by Itamar Barak/B’Tselem)

This section of the barrier is located well within the West Bank, some 200 meters east of the Green Line, not far from the a-Shawamreh’s home in the south Hebron Hills village of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa. The a-Shawamrehs own farmland that is now located on the other side the barrier, and that land is where the three youths were heading to gather plants.

In a statement, B’Tselem said: “By justifying the use of lethal fire in broad daylight at youths who posed no danger to any other persons, the above [IDF] statement conveys a cynical lack of concern for the life of a Palestinian teenager.” The Military Police Criminal Investigations Department (MPCID) has launched an investigation into the incident.

Including a-Shawamreh, the IDF has killed 19 Palestinians in the first 81 days of 2014 — an average of one every 4.26 days.

Eleven were killed in Gaza, about half of them civilians who posed no threat whatsoever, except that they were close to the border fence; others were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in response to fire into Israel. The eight killed in the West Bank include the Jordanian-Palestinian judge shot and killed at the Allenby Crossing, the circumstances of which remain obscure and conflicting. (It certainly doesn’t help that the security cameras were peculiarly not working that day.)

While the circumstances of each killing vary to a degree, the numbers are startling. They tell the story of a military framework all too capable of taking lives all too often.

Racism Sin Vergüenza in the Venezuelan Counter-Revolution

Sin Verguenza (Shameless) note: to see the cartoons refered to go to"

Arlene Eisen
March 27, 2014

Corporate media both here and in Venezuela have largely succeeded in putting a democratic face on the racist, essentially fascist, movement in the streets of Venezuela. Traditionally anti-racist coalitions have ignored Venezuela. It is time we stand in solidarity with the majority of people in Venezuela.

Racism in San Bernadino, it reads "Against the moneky, the blacks and the poor - PJ (Justice First Party)", La Voz del Rio/,

It’s late morning in Caracas. February 12. From the restaurant inside the hotel around the corner from Plaza Venezuela we can hear chanting, but it’s too muffled to understand. Are they yelling “Maduro Salida” or “Maduro/burro Salida”[1] or something else? From the window, we can see people, almost all smiling white people, streaming down the street to join the first huge anti-government demonstration that signaled the onset of the current outrages in Venezuela.

Olga, the restaurant’s manager, has tan skin, died blond hair and brown eyes. She is one of the 42% of Venezuelans who self-identified as white in the latest Census.[2] From behind the counter, she usually greets people without a smile. She barks orders to the Indigenous woman in the kitchen. Today she is laughing as she glances at a cartoon in one of Caracas’ many virulently anti-government newspapers. I ask her if there are any interesting stories in the paper. She shrugs but the question unleashes a tirade about how she hates Chavismo.

“Why?” I try to sound neutral.

Olga explains that Chavismo has brought the “riff raff, brutes, thugs and criminals into the city.” She is emphatic. “Caracas is now flooded with uncultured animals who make life miserable for civilized people.” She concludes, “Afterall, look at the crime, the insecurity, the murders!” It’s likely that Olga is one of the many Venezuelans influenced by cartoons like this one by Kiko Rodriguez. It is one of the more repulsive depictions of Chavez that not only expresses time-worn racist contempt for people of African descent, but it also foments fear and hatred.

The title is “Miko Mandante”, meaning “Ape Commander” to mock the affectionate title “Mi Comandante” used by masses of Venezuelan people.[3]

During her rant, Olga never mentioned the race of Venezuela’s poor, or the extreme poor, who in 2003 were 30% of the population and by 2011 were only 6.8%.[4] Chavismo’s accomplishments, especially in reducing poverty, are significant because of the near total correlation between class and race in Venezuela. That is, nearly all the wealthy and bourgeois people are phenotypically European, while nearly all those in poverty who live in the countryside or shacks on the sides of hills in the city are Black and Brown. Demonization, animalization and criminalization of people of African and Indigenous descent are themes both deeply embedded and flagrantly visible in the culture and institutions of Venezuelan society. White supremacy endures in Venezuela often resembling the United States and other settler colonial countries founded on conquest and slavery. [5]

Revolution against Racism

While the roots of white supremacy run deep, the Bolivarian Revolution has seriously improved the lives of Venezuela’s majority—who are people of color. [6] Unlike the days of Venezuela’s dictatorships who served Standard Oil and the U.S. State Department, since 2001, voter registration is 97%. An array of legal tools—including Land Reform, a new Constitution written by a Constituent Assembly, the Organic Law Against Racial Discrimination—chip away at discrimination and promote mass participation in government, and in the various communes, councils, collectives and cooperatives. These are the structures of peoples’ power—including some 30,000 communal councils[7]--designed to ensure that once-marginalized people become the protagonists of their futures and nurture their dignity.

A significant share of the country’s patrimony, income from oil, is no longer siphoned off to the U.S. or to the old white Venezuelan elite. Between 1997 and 2011 the portion of Venezuela’s wealth going to the richest 20% decreased from 53% to 44%[8]-- a statistic that indicates more about the elite’s loss of power than impoverishment. At the end of 2013, the Guardian reported that the poverty rate had dropped by 20% , the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest in the world.[9] Oil revenues pay for new homes for the poor, schools where every primary student gets a free laptop, new universities with open admission, health clinics, and jobs. It also funds programs against domestic violence and transgenic seeds and a host of other campaigns for social justice.

Venezuela’s oil money also has financed infrastructure designed to end the physical isolation and marginalization of African Descendants and Indigenous people. Set your search engine to “MetroCable San Agustín” to find photos and details of how Chavez’ revolutionary government spent $300 million to build a futuristic funicular. It eliminates hours of climbing on foot up and down treacherous mountain sides to reach jobs, schools, health clinics and other vital destinations. For tens of thousands of shack dwellers of San Agustin—most of whom are African descendants– MetroCable and new housing construction on the hill demonstrate that the Bolivarian revolution will incorporate them.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s first President with African and Indigenous ancestors, spoke proudly about his thick lips and kinky hair. His refusal to follow the traditional path for Venezuela’s “morenos” towards enblanquemiento[10] continues to evoke endless mockery and contempt from the white and white-influenced establishment. Rayma, a well-known cartoonist who is featured daily in El Universal, published on July 18, 2013, another cartoon designed to evoke the same contempt and hatred as the one by Kiko Rodriguez shown above.

She too wins mass circulation and international prizes for her racist caricatures. The Cartoonists for Peace, Sampsonia Way, Humanitarian News and most significantly Freedom House have supported her. A visit to the Freedom House website informs the public that the organization has an annual budget of $46 million, some of which comes from the U.S. State Department. Its Board of Directors includes a number with close ties to the State Department, USAID, AIPAC, Morgan Stanley and other imperialist entities.[11]

In spite of the mockery, Chavez’ embrace of Venezuelans’ African and Indigenous heritage included more than symbolism. He practiced solidarity with Black and Brown people on a world scale by leading an anti-imperialist struggle for self-determination of Southern nations. He also provided material aid with no strings attached to Black and Indigenous people in the United States, Haiti and Columbia and many other countries. For example, in 2011, a joint Cuban-Venezuelan project saw the opening of the first high school in Western Sahara's refugee camps. More recently, Venezuela and Cuba extended Miracle Mission International to the West Bank, Palestine to provide free eye surgery.[12]

The Counter-Revolution—Four Dimensions of Racism

In Venezuela, the revolutionary struggle to end white supremacy and for self-determination is a slow slog, complicated by two forces: One, the white elites, backed by U.S. imperialism, and many of the middle class who support them, cling tenaciously to their power and privilege. Two, the denial by whites, “morenos”[13], and nearly everyone else that racism persists. As a result, galvanizing a mass movement against white supremacy has been difficult. On the other hand, the current counter-revolutionary movement in the streets has become the darling of the corporate press both inside and outside Venezuela. None of the coverage mentions that the racism pervading this movement could rival that found in the Ku Klux Klan or any other of the white supremacist formations that pepper U.S. history. Yet racism is one of the main engines and expression of the counter-revolution.

1. Destroying progress made by African Descendants and Indigenous People

The counter-revolutionary movement[14] that has been in the streets since early February has demonstrated that one of its main objectives is to restore unbridled white privilege to Venezuela. Cartoons, editorials, posters, graffiti continuously blame Venezuela’s economic problems—both real and distorted—on the government’s “squandering” the nation’s oil resources on the “rabble” both inside and outside Venezuela. Roberto Weil published this cartoon in one of Caracas’ major dailies, Tal Cual on March 8.

It not only falsely implies that masses of Venezuelans are starving. It also implies that the government prioritizes arming “criminals” on motorcycles and corrupt army officers over feeding people. It encapsulates the narrative of the counter-revolutionary forces in the battle for the minds of most Venezuelan people who currently reject their message. More importantly, it manufactures a “justification” for more decisive U.S. intervention.

Here’s a photoshopped depiction retweeted with #SOSVenezuela that recycles the trope of incompetent animals in government positions who are manipulated by crafty (white) Cuban leaders out to steal Venezuela’s wealth.

Repeatedly, the privately-owned anti-government media has reflected and reenforced disregard and contempt for Venezuela’s Black and Brown people. For example, two years ago, the major daily, Tal Qual, ran a cartoon, again by Roberto Weil.

The man with the beret, presumably a Chavista, declares, “Enough of white supremacy, now we have Afrodescendant water.” The cartoon ridicules and trivializes the campaign against white supremacy led by the Network of Afrodescendants in Venezuela and supported by the government. It also mocks and undermines public support for the government’s program of bringing clean water to the barrios that previously had none.

Congressman Modesto Ruiz[15], an African Descendant, was one of the main authors of the Law against Racial Discrimination. He, as well as members of African Descendant civil society organizations and other officials urged that Weil and Tal Qual’s publisher be charged in court with violating the law. Yet, to date, the newspaper continues with it’s virulent anti-government drumbeat and Weil proceeds as one of Venezuela’s most widely reproduced cartoonists. His twitter account claims 155,000 followers and floods the twitter sphere with militant support for Maria Corina Machado (a right-wing extremist leader reminiscent of Sarah Palin) and the rest of the extremists promoting anti-government lies, racism and violence.[16]

2. Anti-communism, Xenophobia and Racism in an anti-Cuban Stew

Graffiti, the twitter sphere, television and print media perpetuate a concoction of racist, anti-communist and xenophobic lies that Black Cubans have invaded Venezuela to consolidate Raul Castro’s control over the Venezuelan government and economy. Posters at right-wing demonstrations and photos of Black people in military uniform are retweeted thousands of times to arouse and manipulate fear of Black people, especially foreign (Cuban) Black people. On March 16, 2014, a woman named Alexandra Misel tweeted this photo with the caption, “Are these pure Afrodescendants from Barlovento (region of Venezuela with high concentration of African Descendants) or are they from Havana?”

The next day, March 17, she tweeted the same photo, but with a new, more alarmist caption, “Invading troops dressed like National Guard.”

Then, on March 23 a tweeter with the name “Alexgonzalezlu” pasted Misel’s photo to another one that manipulates white people’s fear of Black (Cuban) people attacking “our white youth.” This image is reminiscent of the notorious trope of the white damsel in distress, threatened with rape by a Black man.

For centuries, fear of Black men as rapists and Black people as killers has been stoked time and time again to rationalize lynching, racist repression and other genocidal campaigns.

The photos below of mock lynchings by anti-government thugs follow in this horribly familiar white supremacist tradition. They were taken in the heart of the wealthy Chacao municipality of Caracas and posted March 5, 2014 by

Maria Corina Machado fans these flames by repeating the lament that Venezuelans have lost their dignity to the “Cuban occupation.” They must be expelled.

It is also important to note that white supremacist attempts to motivate and mobilize the overthrow of a legal government are far from consistent. They manipulate fear by raising the specter of the Black Cuban invaders. But if that trope isn’t enough, they also call on the traditional slave masters’ narrative of the “lazy” Black man, who is “good for nothing and might as well be dead.” On March 16, the caption on this unidentified photo was tweeted by politicon@politicono

It claimed, “The main activity of Cubans in their towns is hanging out.”

From the comments under these tweets, it is obvious that these Venezuelan white supremacists have no way of distinguishing an African descendant who is Cuban from one who is Venezuelan. Although they sometimes claim their violent, possibly genocidal intentions, are aimed at Cubans, their practice of decapitating motorcyclists and shooting their Bolivarian “enemies” indicates that the same racism that fuels anti-Cuban threats is also harnessed to galvanize their fascist putchist terror campaign against Chavistas.

3. Criminalizing African Descendants, Indigenous People and their Organizations

White peoples’ criminalization and fear of Black and Brown people date back to the first rebellions by Indigenous and enslaved people in the 1500’s. For the last decades, African Descendants and Indigenous people have been invisible to the viewers of privately-owned TV stations, except when they appear as servants or criminals. The Bolivarian government disbanded local police forces that used to racially profile, murder and harass African Descendants. Yet a struggle against some racial profiling continues, including that which is a product of endo-racism among African Descendants. The Bolivarian government has also taken steps to reform prisons and establish alternatives to incarceration and mobilize local communities to prevent crime.[17] However, from the echo chamber of Venezuela’s privately-owned media and the U.S. corporate press, we hear that fear of crime and the government’s “inaction” in the face of crime motivates thousands of people to demand that Maduro resign. Given the virulence of racism in Venezuela, it is likely that many people, especially middle class whites, will continue to link crime (and laziness) with Blackness. The prolific alexgonzalezlu, tweeted this photo on March 11 to dramatize the man’s supposed criminality and laziness.

In addition, today’s counter-revolutionary narrative manipulates racist white and middle class fear by directing it against the “colectivos”. They claim that Chavista grassroots collectives—the organizations that provide a space and structure for previously marginalized people to lead and participate in political education, cultural work and sports—are actually paramilitary arms of the “Maduro Dictatorship.” This racist myth accomplishes two counter-revolutionary objectives. First, it undermines a revolutionary institution, the communal council, that, for the first time, gives people of color a voice in politics and how resources will be spent. The second counter-revolutionary objective inverts reality. It blames the “colectivos” for intimidation and violence, rather than the middle class youth who build and maintain barricades, vandalize public property and universities and kill those who try to cross or dismantle barricades.[18]

4. Distortion and Glorification of Gochismo

During the 1930’s, when white Venezuelan intellectuals promoted a white supremacist ideology that led to exclusion of all but European immigrants, they pointed to the Andes and Mérida as “The grand reservoir of the white race for the Republic.” [19] For some, Gocho identity as hard-working mountaineers emerged in direct contrast to the perceived laziness of coastal slaves and their pride was never fully separate from caste superiority. In the 20th century, seven of Venezuela’s presidents (including dictators) came from the Gocho region.[20] The epitome of these white supremacist presidents was nicknamed “El Gocho”. He was Carlos Andres Pérez who imposed the 1989 neo-liberal program that forced 70% of Venezuelans into poverty and the subsequent insurrection that eventually brought Chavez to power.

To clarify: all residents of the Andean states of Mérida and Tachira are sometimes referred to as Gochos. However, the counter-revolutionary Gochos are concentrated in the cities of San Cristobal and Mérida while rural residents form the majority of the states’ voters and have elected Chavista governors.

Yet images of macho white people, outfitted with makeshift rifles, pistols, Molotov cocktails, slingshots and other military equipment fill the screens of thousands of tweeters. The captions brag. For example, under a photo of a muscular, military-styled white man wearing pants from a uniform and a white t-shirt and holding an automatic rifle, the caption reads, “Get back, I am Gocho” (#S.O.S.Venezuela@Alexgonzalezlu, Feb 23) Others feature flaming bulky barricades with captions like, “Caracas copying the Gocho model.”And “Release the Gocho inside you.”

Ciccariello implies that the superiority complex of the mythic Gochos fuels the putchist actions we see today at the barricades in Mérida and Tachira. It is also likely that right-wing extremists like Maria Corina Machado have hyped the violent courage of the Gochos for their own political purposes. At rallies and press conferences, she never fails to associate herself with the heroism of the Gochos of San Cristobal and Merida—the first barricaders and most persistently violent of the counter-revolutionary movement. Her poster features her wearing a signature white t-shirt claiming “we are all Tachira”. It labels her, “The Lady of Iron”—the woman who aims to overthrow the government and expel all Cubans from Venezuela so that real (white) Venezuelans may recover their dignity.[21]

Solidarity with African Descendants, Indigenous People and the Bolivarian Revolution

One resident of the working class zone of El Valle in southern Caracas told Ciccariello that those who burn barricades live “in the tall apartment blocks that line the main avenue and think they are better than the barrio.” They act with total disregard for the lives of poor and working class Black and Brown people by charging tolls at barricades, making it impossible for people to travel to work, school, hospital and by destroying public facilities that poor people rely on.

So far, the vast majority of Venezuelan people—especially African Descendants and Indigenous people, have rejected both the politics and strategy of the counter-revolutionary movement. It is not just that the anti-government forces are “out of touch”. They do not hide their racist agenda. A Bloomberg News article reported a bus driver’s observation, “It’s rich people trying to get back lost economic perks. The slums won’t join them.”[22]

But lack of popular support has never stopped the United States from intervening on the side of cooperative right-wing elites and white supremacists. The prevailing mass deception perpetrated by corporate media both here and in Venezuela has been much too effective. In the U.S., they have largely succeeded in putting a democratic face on the racist, essentially fascist, movement in the streets of Venezuela. Traditionally anti-racist coalitions have ignored Venezuela. It is time we stand in solidarity with the majority of people in Venezuela and voice strong opposition to U.S. –sponsored coups or any intervention on the side of the counter-revolution.

Thanks to Nelmir Guzman.

[1] This is a call for the current President to leave or resign. The anti-government media and counter-revolutionaries frequently mock President Maduro’s supposed lack of education and refer to him as a donkey.

[2] The Census found that 3.5% of the country’s 27,227,930 people self-identified as Black or Afrodescendant; 2.7% as Indigenous and 49.9% as “Moreno”. On the other hand, Professor Jesus Chucho Garcia, a founding leader of Venezuela’s movement of Afrodescendants and former Ambassador to Angola insists that at least 30% or 8 million people are Afrodescendants and the number may reach as high as 60%.

[3] The cartoonist, Kiko Rodriguez, left his birthplace in Cuba for Ecuador in 2000. He won the First Annual Latin American Illustration Competition with this cartoon, which was widely circulated in the private press of Venezuela and other countries. This award is a step towards lucrative acceptance into the New York Art World.

[4] Data on reduction in poverty rates, unemployment, infant mortality and inequality and increase in education, access to clean water is summarized by Derek Ide in

[5] Here’s a sample of research on white supremacy and racism in Venezuela. Jesús María Herrera Salas. “The Political Economy of Racism in Venezuela” Latin American Perspectives. Vol 32. No. 2(March 2005) pp. 72-91 For a detailed discussion of how the foreign oil corporations, especially Standard Oil, manipulated and exacerbated racism in Venezuela beginning in 1918, see Miguel Tinker Salas. The Enduring Legacy: Oil Culture and Society in Venezuela. 2009. Durham: Duke University Press. 2009. Beatriz Aiffil, anthropology professor and spokesperson for African Descendants discussed the racism of the fascist right in Venezuela before the current upheavals. See Also, feminist scholars have written about endo-racism among Venezuelan women. See Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols. “Descent Girls with Good Hair: Beauty, Morality and Race in Venezuela.” Feminist Theory. Vol.14 #2 (Aug. 2013) pp. 171-185. And Lauren Gulbas. “Embodying Racism: Race, Rhinoplasty and Self Esteem in Venezuela.” Journal of Qualitative Health Research. Vol. 23 #3 (March 2013) pp. 326-335

[6] . See, for example, for a statistical overview of the economy and on accomplishments of the health care system;


[8] Derek Ide.

[9] . Mark Weisbrot. “Sorry Venezuela Haters: This Economy is not the Greece of Latin America” See also, for details on reduction of extreme poverty.

[10] The process of whitening the Venezuelan race.

[11] For years, Rayma has received support from pro-US organizations who are convinced that the “Chavez Dictatorship threatens her life.” Yet, she endures, thrives and continues to publish viciously racist cartoons. For Amnesty International’s support of Rayma, go to


[13] . Literally, brown or dark-skinned people—a category that makes African descendants, Indigenous people and their descendants invisible. Everyone is a “mestizo”, according to Venezuela’s hegemonic narrative and assumed equal as long as they accept European standards of beauty, behavior and value.

[14] . Author’s note: After reading VA’s article by James Petras and the interview with Raul Capote, I have decided not to use the term “opposition” to identify the forces attempting an illegal coup to oust the Maduro government and overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution. It grants them too much legitimacy.

[15] For an interview with Modesto Ruiz about the racism of this cartoon, see “African Descendants and Racism in Venezuelan Private Media” initially published in Ciudad Caracas, March 28, 2012 and translated by Tamara Pearson in

[16] Weil’s racist attacks have made him famous. He worked with US Embassy in Caracas to memorialize Daniel Pearl

[17] From author’s interview with Amilcar Carvagal, Director of the Office for Culture and Solidarity, BRV Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs. Feb 5, 2014.

[18] Clodovaldo Hernandez. “Colectivos are Synonymous with Organization, Not Violence”. March 18,2014, translated and reprinted by Venezuela Analysis at

[19] Miguel Tinker Salas p. 2725 of 6242 in Kindle Edition.

[20] George Ciccariello-Maher. “Venezuelan Jacobins” 3/14/2014.

[21] . Maria Corina Machado is a daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Venezuela. She was involved in the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez and received money from the National Endowment for Democracy to run an anti-Chavez petition campaign. She was elected to the National Assembly in 2010 and on March 25, 2014, the Assembly voted to strip her of her immunity. Her arrest appears imminent. There are many recordings of her speeches that encourage violence to force the resignation of Maduro and she violated official government policy in her speech at the recent OAS meeting.

[22] Anatoly Kurmanaev and Corina Pons. “Middle Class Protesting Venezuela Shortages Drive Poor to Maduro.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Obama’s Iraqi Fairy Tale

from ICH

By Sheldon Richman

March 29, 2014 "Information Clearing House - "FFF"- I promised myself that I would no longer comment on what Barack Obama has to say, because it’s just not worth the time and effort. Obama’s public remarks are comprehensible only if you keep one thing in mind: he, like other politicians, thinks most people are morons.

I am so appalled by what Obama said in Europe the other day, however, that I must break my promise. In his speech he said, regarding events in Crimea, that

Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

It is hard to believe that a presidential speechwriter could manage to pack so many lies into so few sentences. But the speechwriter could only compose the sentences. Obama chose to deliver them, and for that, he should be indicted for gross deception with malice aforethought. (Need I say this is not unique to Obama? Virtually all politicians are demagogues. Obama’s distinguishing trait is his smoothness.)

Let us count the lies.

The Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well.

Note he did not say “honest debate,” for how honest can a debate be when the government fills the mostly willing media with lies about WMD and suggestions that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attacks on 9/11? Every top member of the Bush administration having anything to do with “national security” lied to the public at one time or another. People who questioned the “slam-dunk” intelligence were dismissed as pusillanimous or soft on Saddam. If that counts as open debate, then there is no difference between the Bush administration and any outright autocratic regime.

America sought to work within the international system.

Really? In terms of international law, Bush was not allowed to launch a war against Iraq, which had threatened no one, until he secured another resolution from the Security Council (the 18th or 2nd, depending on how you count). That resolution was proposed but then withdrawn when Bush realized it would be vetoed. So he ignored the UN rules, which prohibit launching a war unless it’s in self-defense or authorized by the Security Council, and invaded on his own say-so, after Congress rubberstamped his discretionary “authorization for the use of military force.” Yes, he dragged some other governments’ forces along for cover, the so-called Coalition of the Willing, 3 members of which — out of 48 — actually sent some troops. (The Bush administration was good at coming up with Orwellian names for things.)

We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain.

No, they didn’t, but in many respects the Bush administration sure tried. America’s savvy rulers long ago realized that old-style empire building was passé. Subjugated populations wouldn’t stand for it, and that raised the already considerable costs of empire maintenance. So a new, softer imperialism was born. No more annexations. No more UN mandates or protectorates. No more de jure colonies. But this says nothing about de facto control, which was the Bush regime’s objective in Iraq from Day One.

The presumptuous whiz-kid bureaucrats sent in after Saddam fell were armed with plans to remake Iraq right down to its traffic lights and flag. The oil resources were to be “privatized” and parceled out to crony American companies. (Remember the promises that oil revenues would pay for the costly war? Didn’t happen.)

Billions of dollars ostensibly spent to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by American bombers (beginning in 1991) ended up lining the pockets of contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors (ad infinitum) — with little to show for it. Iraqis to this day suffer from inadequate public services like water, electricity, sewerage, and medical care.

The Bush administration also expected to have some three dozen permanent military bases (with lots of American firms granted lucrative business concessions), and an embassy the size of the Vatican.

Few of these plans came to fruition — but only because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was Iran’s handpicked candidate for prime minister, wouldn’t permit it. To be sure, the U.S. government did not gain territory or grab resources — but not for lack of trying.

We ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

The war indeed ended in 2011. But let’s not forget that before (most of) the troops left, Obama begged al-Maliki to let U.S. forces stay beyond the deadline set in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Al-Maliki — who didn’t need the United States when he had Iran in his corner — demanded conditions so unacceptable to Obama that most forces were withdrawn as scheduled. (SOFA was signed by Bush, but that doesn’t stop Obama from claiming credit for “ending the war.”) The U.S. government continues to finance, arm, and train al-Maliki’s military, which represses the minority Sunni population.

What was left to Iraq’s people was a catastrophe, as already indicated. Peter Van Buren, a State Department officer who oversaw reconstruction in two eastern Iraqi provinces, calls the Iraq War “the single worst foreign policy decision in American history.” There can hardly be a better example of blind ambition. Take the deadly siege of Fallujah in 2004. Journalist Dahr Jamail writes,

According to the Bush administration at the time, the siege of Fallujah was carried out in the name of fighting something called “terrorism” and yet, from the point of view of the Iraqis I was observing at such close quarters, the terror was strictly American. In fact, it was the Americans who first began the spiraling cycle of violence in Fallujah when U.S. troops from the 82nd Airborne Division killed 17 unarmed demonstrators on April 28th of the previous year outside a school they had occupied and turned into a combat outpost. The protesters had simply wanted the school vacated by the Americans, so their children could use it. But then, as now, those who respond to government-sanctioned violence are regularly written off as “terrorists.” Governments are rarely referred to in the same terms.

The architects of the catastrophe had a plan, and the welfare of Iraqis would not be allowed to get in their way. As Van Buren points out,

All that was needed [the Americans thought] was a quick slash into Iraq to establish a permanent American military presence in the heart of Mesopotamia. Our future garrisons there could obviously oversee things, providing the necessary muscle to swat down any future destabilizing elements. It all made so much sense to the neocon visionaries of the early Bush years. The only thing that Washington couldn’t imagine was this: that the primary destabilizing element would be us.

The invasion unleashed a conflagration of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiites, unseen during Saddam’s tenure and consciously facilitated by the U.S. government. Most Sunnis were cleansed from Baghdad. Countless were killed and maimed; millions more became refugees. The fire burns out of control to this day, fueled by the oppression and corruption of al-Maliki, who’s earned the moniker “the Shia Saddam.” Van Buren writes,

As part of the breakdown, desperate men [in the Bush administration], blindsided by history, turned up the volume on desperate measures: torture, secret gulags, rendition, drone killings, extra-constitutional actions at home. The sleaziest of deals were cut to try to salvage something….

The mind boggles at the sheer evil the Americans, who expected gratitude, did there. The result? Van Buren notes:

Even the usually sunny Department of State advises American travelers to Iraq that US citizens “remain at risk for kidnapping … [as] numerous insurgent groups, including Al Qaida, remain active” and notes that “State Department guidance to US businesses in Iraq advises the use of Protective Security Details.”

That is what has been left to the Iraqi people by the benevolent power of the United States of America. As for the U.S. government’s respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, the Obama administration is pressuring al-Maliki to stop allowing Iraq’s ally Iran to fly through Iraqi airspace to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his civil war. So much for Iraqi sovereignty.

This highlights just one of the many absurd features of U.S. policy (if you can call it that): while Obama helps al-Maliki fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, the United States also helps al-Qaeda affiliates fight Assad in Syria. (For the record, al-Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq before Bush invaded.) Again, the mind boggles.

The upshot is that one need not condone Vladimir Putin’s ham-handedness to see that Obama has no leg to stand on when he contrasts Russia’s essentially bloodless and provoked annexation of Crimea with America’s unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq. Unfortunately, the Americans who committed this cold-blooded mass murder and societal destruction are less likely to face justice than Putin is for his crimes in, say, Chechnya.

(Thanks to Scott Horton for his helpful suggestions.)
Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tragedy or Political Correctness? Ari Shavit and the Confusion of the Zionist Liberal Left

Los Angeles Review of Books

My Promised Land : The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
author: Ari Shavit
publisher: Spiegel & Grau
pub date: 11.19.2013
pp: 464
tags: Politics & Economics
Omri Boehm on My Promised Land : The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
Tragedy or Political Correctness? Ari Shavit and the Confusion of the Zionist Liberal Left
March 27th, 2014

THE ATTENTION LAVISHED on Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel has been, from the first moment, phenomenal; by now, it almost makes more sense to comment on the book’s reception than on the book itself. The New Yorker printed an excerpt from My Promised Land shortly before it came out in November, and The New York Times ran three glowing reviews — within one week — immediately upon the book’s appearance. Thomas Friedman found here “a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel” and suggested that, before their next phone call, “both Barack and Bibi should read it.” According to David Remnick, this was “the most extraordinary book” to be written about Israel since the “sixties.” Shavit has constantly been on best-seller lists in North America, and he recently received the National Jewish Book Award for history.

It is safe to say that one reason behind this enthusiasm was the feeling among liberal intellectuals that Shavit articulates the much-desired alternative to Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Bennett’s right-wing populist government. (“Netanyahu is not the sin,” Shavit told Susie Linfield, “Netanyahu is the punishment.”) The book lays out the history of, and the argument for, sane Zionism: the one supporting both the Jews’ and the Palestinians’ right to their own states; the one that still loves everything that’s beautiful about Israel but hates the occupation. At last, a prominent Israeli voice reminds us that Zionism can be different from AIPAC’s and Sheldon Adelson’s. At last, someone ventures a return to the good old values of the liberal Zionist center-left.

Yet here exactly lies the problem with the book, and with its excited reception. For upon closer examination — just a little more sensitive to inside Israeli reality, just slightly more careful with the meaning of the term “tragedy” — Shavit’s center-left Zionism becomes hard to distinguish from the Zionism of the right. Far from being a conversation changer, this book may be the clearest sign of the fact that the conversation about Israel isn’t changing; that even the Israeli center left doesn’t find a language of its own.


The first signs that left Zionism wouldn’t manage to distinguish itself from the right appeared as early as 1944 when, soon after the annual convention of the Zionist organization of America came to a close in Atlantic City, Hannah Arendt announced what she thought was a “turning point in Zionist history.” The convention had unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the establishment of a “democratic Jewish commonwealth” in “the whole of Palestine, undivided and undiminished.” For Arendt, this was confirmation that the “bitterly repudiated” Revisionist Zionist program — promoting a nationalist right-wing alternative to Ben-Gurion’s mainstream left-liberal Zionism — had finally proved “victorious.” Indeed, unanimous demand of the whole of Palestine seemed to imply that, after “fifty years of Zionist politics,” no genuine difference was left standing between “general,” that is, left-liberal Zionists, and Revisionists, whom Arendt and other Jewish intellectuals feared were fascists.[i]

The Atlantic City resolution was especially offensive because it went further than the earlier Biltmore Program (1942), to which Arendt had already objected. In Biltmore, she wrote, “the Jewish minority” at least granted “minority rights to the Arab majority.” In Atlantic City, by contrast, “the Arabs were simply not mentioned.” This silence was alarming, Arendt thought, a sign that both liberal Zionists and Revisionists were now preparing Palestinians “the choice between voluntary emigration or second-class citizenship” [my emphasis].

Seventy years after Atlantic City, we can say that Arendt was dead wrong about some of the details but dead right about the left’s convergence into the right. Admittedly, right-wing Zionism ended up yielding to the left on the question of Israel’s partition: despite the occupation, even die-hard Revisionists and those true to their legacy — Tzipi Livni is a case in point — are now proponents of territorial compromise. Yet on the deeper, so-called Demographic Problem, what Arendt called the Palestinians’ “voluntary emigration,” Zionist left-liberalism did in fact cede to the revisionist right. This becomes unequivocally clear in My Promised Land, and even clearer from the way it’s been embraced by liberal intellectuals.

The book’s main thesis is that the occupation — deplorable and pernicious as it may be, and Shavit believes it is both — isn’t Israel’s only or even main problem. Two other issues emerge as the country’s deeper existential threats. First, the Demographic Problem — to wit, the fear that even within 1948 borders Arabs are 20 percent of the population of Israel, multiplying too fast for the country to remain both Jewish and democratic. And second, there is the problem of being “blinded by political correctness.” The Tel Avivian elite, Shavit complains, particularly academia, “instilled ad absurdum a rigid political correctness by turning the constructive means of self-criticism into an obsessive deconstructive end of its own.” Through excessive self-criticism, the argument goes, we have lost our national unity and our sense of justification. And, having lost these, we’ve jeopardized our ability to win wars as effectively as we did in the past. (Like many Israelis, Shavit experienced the IDF’s questionable performance in 2006’s second Lebanon War as an existential trauma.) Europeans can perhaps afford the luxury of being politically correct about things, Shavit contends, but Israelis cannot: if Jews wish to survive in the Middle East, they will forever live by their sword and will have to continuously achieve unequivocal military victories.

The book could have been clearer about this, but the threats of demography and of political correctness are intimately linked in Shavit’s thinking. This becomes clear in the subtext of the Lydda chapter, the most often cited, which contains Shavit’s retelling of the massacre and mass expulsion of Palestinians during Israel’s War of Independence. (“By evening, tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs leave Lydda in a long column, marching south […] and disappearing into the East. Zionism obliterates the city of Lydda. Lydda is our black box. In it lies the dark secret of Zionism. […] If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be.”) On a first look, such descriptions seem to contain something new, and a very welcome achievement indeed: they incorporate the Nakba narrative into Israel’s mainstream left-liberal consciousness. So far, serious discussion of the Nakba — “catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the mass displacement of Palestinians from the territories overtaken by Israel in 1948 — has been for the most part repressed by Israeli society, which just couldn’t deal with the tragedy. Thinking of Jewish European survivors violently expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would have confused our own sense of victimhood. Indeed, commemoration of the Nakba is still, under some circumstances, illegal in Israel: this is how Shavit’s retelling of these stories in his The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel can appear to be courageous.

But especially in this light, it is remarkable that the term itself — Nakba — is carefully avoided throughout the book. No doubt, here was an act of self-censorship on Shavit’s part: an Israeli writing nowadays about 1948 massacres and expulsions of Palestinians cannot coincidentally just forget to use the word. At times, Shavit must have censored his interlocutors, too. For example, when speaking to his Arab friend Mohammed Dahla, the latter describes what is clearly a Nakba memorial ceremony deep in a Galilee forest, and the word still isn’t mentioned. It is highly implausible that Dahla avoided the word; highly unlikely that the word didn’t come up. In this light, Shavit’s aren’t quite the “trustworthy insights” that Franklin Foer recommended when reviewing the book for The New Republic. If American and European readerships were supposed to receive from the book an insider’s glimpse into Israel, they are actually spared one of the most important and hotly debated terms in current Israeli discourse. If Leon Wieseltier genuinely thought this was “the least tendentious book about Israel” he has “ever read,” as he wrote in his front-page piece in The New York Times Book Review, he may have been successfully misled.

Worse, it is in this unwillingness to use the word Nakba that we learn what Shavit has in mind when dismissing political correctness. “If need be,” he asserts, “I’ll stand by the damned” — referring to those Israeli war criminals who are responsible for Lydda. “If it wasn’t for them,” he explains, “the State of Israel would not have been born. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.” Despite appearances, this isn’t a courageous confession of Israel’s existential tragedy. On the contrary: the designed effect of such statements is disarming the tragedy’s impact on Israeli and Zionist consciousness — dismissing its relevance to current Israeli experience as excessive political correctness. It turns out that the book incorporates the Nakba narrative into left Zionist consciousness in the same way it has been incorporated into the consciousness of the right, which never had repression issues with the Nakba in the first place. Indeed, this was precisely Arendt’s point when she warned, in 1944, that liberal Zionism had effectively collapsed into the revisionist right; that both revisionists and liberals were silently offering the Arab majority “voluntary emigration.”

The difference between the left’s relation to history and tragedy is relatively easy to distinguish from that of the right. Being on the left means understanding that a people must change, sometimes radically so, when coming to terms with its past — when coming to experience its history as tragic. By contrast, being on the right means endorsing your people’s history and tragedy as givens — embracing them as inevitable, necessary conditions of what you and your values currently are. Shavit’s The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel does exactly the latter, but the book is being advertised as if it had done the former.


Perhaps the best way to grasp Shavit’s confusion about left-liberalism is to take into account something that Susie Linfield suggested when interviewing him for Guernica. Shavit is “essentially arguing,” Linfield pointed out, “that war crimes can be committed even in the course of a just war.” The war’s justness “is not erased by such crimes; conversely, the criminality — the barbarism — of the acts in question cannot be mitigated by the justness of the cause.” This seems to capture very accurately what Shavit is arguing, only we should get clearer about what he is willing to consider a just war. Shavit presents the Nakba as if it were about survival, but this is misleading — just as misleading as not mentioning the Palestinians in the 1944 Atlantic City Resolution. As Arendt knew then, at stake wasn’t bare survival but ensuring the Jewish majority necessary for a Jewish state that’s also democratic. In other words, the violent mass expulsions of Palestinians endorsed in this book did not simply happen in the course of the war — they were internal to its cause, and thus, in this light, can hardly seem just.

The book has, of course, a ready answer to this, and here lies the critical point: it dismisses such worries as excessive political correctness. Someone had to do the “dirty, filthy work,” because otherwise hundreds of thousands of Arabs would not have left. If one is willing to accept ethnic cleansing as a just cause, the war’s “justness” remains undiminished, and the war crimes committed in its midst are simply necessary dirty work. Logically, this is consistent, but this is the logic of the right — far right even — not something we should recognize as liberal center-left.

Perhaps all countries are born in sin — perhaps we Israelis shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much about our past. But we’re talking about the present, and about the future. The so-called Demographic Problem is haunting Israel’s current politics, education system, and legislation. In the Galilee, for example, where I grew up, the government’s attempt to marginalize the Arab population has been as evident in the last 30 years as the remains of Palestinian villages demolished in 1948. My family moved to the Galilee in the early 1980s, as part of a heavily funded government plan officially called “Yehud ha-Galil” — literally, “Judaizing the Galilee.” Despite being typical Meretz voters — that is, belonging to the country’s most leftist margin — my parents did not feel at the time any problem with a government policy officially relegating the Arab population to second-class status on the basis of race. (Today, unlike most of their neighbors, they do.) Reviewing My Promised Land for Dissent, Jo-Ann Mort argued that instead of “approaching Arab Israelis as a security risk,” Israel’s government now spends “billions of shekels” to better integrate the Arab minority, improving their education system and standards of living. In my experience, however, Israel’s Jewish majority remains as hostile as ever to the idea of an Arab-Jewish integration. Just recently, the Knesset passed a law legitimizing Jewish villagers’ practice of rejecting some candidates who aspire to move in on the basis of their “social unsuitability.” The public controversy surrounding this legislation was, explicitly, about the question whether Arabs should be allowed to live in villages originally established to “Judaize the Galilee.” The large majority of my left-liberal neighbors were vehemently opposed to non-Jews moving in.

Shavit is very conscious of such demographic issues throughout My Promised Land. At one point, interviewing Dahla while driving in the Galilee, Dahla points out: “the idea of being a minority is alien to Islam — it suits Judaism, but it is alien to Islam. […] [T]here is a Jewish majority [in this land] that is actually a minority, and an (Arab) minority that is actually a majority.” Nevertheless, Shavit allows himself to say little if anything at all constructive about this burning issue — arguably, more burning than any other. Such silence is remarkable, especially because it’s coming from an author who has pledged to overcome political correctness by offering his Israeli franc-parler. The reason for keeping quiet seems to be this: when it comes to the present, Shavit’s principles quickly become uncomfortable, politically incorrect, really. If applied to actual politics, Shavit’s supposedly left-liberal principles seem pretty close to Lieberman’s politics of transfer.

Very illuminating here is a recent incident involving Shimon Gapso, a far right politician who is currently the mayor of Upper Nazareth, a small town in the Galilee. Gapso’s election campaign included such slogans as “Upper Nazareth will be Jewish forever,” or, “no more shutting our eyes, no more relying on the law that allows everybody to live wherever they want. This is the time to defend our home!” His main task if elected, Gapso announced, would be “stopping the demographic regress.” Haaretz denounced this as racist propaganda, but then Gapso responded with an op-ed, titled “If you think I'm a racist, then Israel is a racist state,” which Haaretz printed. “If that makes me racist, then I’m a proud offshoot of a glorious dynasty of ‘racists,’” Gapso wrote, referring to Israel’s left-liberal fathers. “The racist Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the Jewish State in the land of Israel, and […] even made sure to […] drive out hundreds of thousands of Arabs who had been living here — all to enable it to be founded with the desired racist character.” Even our “racist national anthem,” Gapso continues, “ignores the existence of the Arab minority — in other words, the people Ben-Gurion did not manage to expel in the 1948 war.” This is interesting in relation to Shavit’s book and its reception: should we embrace Shimon Gapso for incorporating the Nakba narrative into Israeli consciousness? The conclusion of Gapso’s op-ed will sound familiar: Tel Avivians should stop their “hypocrisy and bleeding-heart sanctimoniousness,” the political correctness, he says, “of flaky types disconnected from reality.” If Jews would like to survive in the Middle East as a Jewish majority, they would have to get their hands dirty.

No doubt, Shavit is much nicer than Gapso — by his own standards, he is more politically correct. But Gapso articulates the same insight that Arendt had, back in 1944: when it comes to actual politics, only silence can distinguish romantic liberal Zionism like Shavit’s from overt Liebermanism. Shavit’s My Promised Land, embraced so warmly among left intellectuals, not only accepts a politics like Gapso’s concerning the past, it is willing to stand by this politics explicitly, even at the price of speaking and thinking less clearly about the present. If there is such a thing as left-liberal Zionism, it must speak in clear normative language about Israel’s history and present. It cannot simply dismiss the attempt to respond politically to our tragedy as excessive political correctness.

[i]In 1948, Albert Einstein, who had been invited to become Israel’s first president, co-signed a letter drafted by Arendt denouncing Menachem Begin for his fascist record. The open letter, alerting American Jews to the violent methods of Begin’s Freedom Party, was published in The New York Times.


Omri Boehm is an Israeli citizen who teaches at The New School in New York.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Water Apartheid in Palestine

from Counterpunch
March 26, 2014
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A Crime Against Humanity


This week UN celebrated World Water Day - a day to remember the billion people who are unable to meet their needs for safe, clean water due to drought, poverty and official neglect.

But it’s also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million Palestinians who suffer something different – an artificial water scarcity deliberately created and sustained by Israel’s military occupation, and the private Israeli water company Mekorot.

Increased international pressure brings hope that the tide may be finally turning for Palestinians striving for water justice in the West Bank and Gaza – in particular, recent investment and partnership decisons against Mekarot, which runs Israel’s discriminatory water policy in the West Bank.

Waterless in Gaza and East Jerusalem

The situation in Gaza is especially dire. The tiny, densely populated territory relies entirely on its depleted, saltwater-contaminated and sewage-polluted aquifer, and the water it produces is unfit for consumption. Water has to be bought, expensively, in bottles or from mobile tanks.

Moreover restrictions on fuel imports mean that Gaza’s single power station spends most of its time idle – and so long as it’s not running water and sewage cannot be pumped. So the taps are dry, toilets are blocked, and sewage pollution gets worse.

Not that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have it a lot better. As reported on 17th March, the city suffered a long water cut beginning on 4th March leaving Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat refugee camp – cut off from the rest of the city by the separation wall – with no running water.

The reason is simple – old and inadequate water infrastructure, which there are no plans to improve or renew.

Oslo II Accords – the Palestinians were shafted

For West Bank as a whole the facts speak for themselves. The Oslo II Accords dealt Palestinians a singularly poor hand - limiting the volume of water it could produce, as well as imposing severe restrictions on the development and maintenance of Palestinian water infrastructure.

The Accords allow Palestinans to abstract only 118 million cubic meters (mcm) per year from boreholes, wells, springs and precipitation in the West Bank. But Israel is allowed to take four times as much – 483 mcm per year – from the same Palestinian resources.

So not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic Palestine, but it – via the water company Mekarot – also takes 80% of the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the Palestinians.

Sold down the river

But it gets worse. Oslo II’s draconian restrictions on water development imposed by Israel mean that Palestinians can only actually abstract 87 mcm in the West Bank, of the 118 mcm they are allowed.

The acute water deficit is made up by the supply of piped water from Israel. Mekarot currently sells the Palestinian Water Authority some 60 mcm per year – at full price.

As reported by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz, “in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources”.

While Palestinian water is piped into Israel at no cost, a fraction of it is then piped back again, and paid for. In this way Israel is extracting from Palestinians both their water, and their money.

In some cases Palestinians are forced to pay ten times more for their water than the price in Tel Aviv – as in the village of Sussia on South Mount Hebron, where they have to drive to the nearby town to buy over-priced water (see photo), even though a water main passes directly through the village on its way to an Israeli settlement.

Water plenty, and water famine

According to the UN Human Rights Council, this all translates into a wide disparity between water use by Palestinians and by settlers in the West Bank. Settlers enjoy 400 litres per capita per day (l/c/d) while some Palestinians surive on a little as 10 l/c/d.

All Palestinian populations receive water volumes far below the level recommended by the World Health Organization of 100 – 250 l/c/d. According to the UNHRC:

“Settlements benefit from enough water to run farms and orchards, and for swimming pools and spas, while Palestinians often struggle to access the minimum water requirements.

“Some settlements consume around 400 l/c/d, whereas Palestinian consumption is 73 l/c/d, and as little as 10-20 l/c/d for Bedouin communities which depend on expensive and low quality tanker water.”

These very low levels of water provision fail to meet the water needs of many Palestinian communities – leaving them with often contaminated water, and not enough of it.

While Palestinian water use may just exceed 70 l/c/d in the relatively well served urban centers of the West Bank, it drops much lower in rural areas that have no access to piped water and depend on wells and rainwater collection.

An estimated 113,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have no piped water supply, while hundreds of thousands more have only intermittent supply, especially in the summer.

Additional restrictions

The restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians to access their own resources and develop them have exacerbated the already severe water shortages among Palestinian communities.

Among the restrictions are limits on the size of supply pipe, intended to limit flows as a form of rationing. Typically 30% of the water leaks from Palestinian supply pipes – because Israel refuses to allow their renewal

In ‘Area C’, which covers 60% of the area of the West Bank, Palestinian farmers and communities are not allowed to connect to the water network that serves the growing settlements – and are forbidden even to dig out cisterns.

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law, as set out in the report of the fact finding mission of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Yet the construction of new illegal Israeli settlements and ‘outposts’, and the expansion of existing ones, is proceeding apace – and further reducing the quantity of water allocated to Palestinians.

Your water or your life

As reported by the UN in March 2012, another threat arises from settlers seizing springs by force: “Palestinians have increasingly lost access to water sources in the West Bank as a result of the takeover of springs by Israeli settlers, who have used threats, intimidation and fences to ensure control of water points close to the settlements.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) examined 60 springs on Palestinian land close to Israeli settlements. They found that:

“In 22 of the water sources, Palestinians have been deterred from accessing the springs by acts of intimidation, threats and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers, while in the eight springs under full settler control, Palestinian access has been prevented by physical obstacles, including the fencing of the spring area, and its ‘de facto annexation’ to the settlement.”

Violence and destruction may also come directly from the occupation authorities. “Destruction of water infrastructure, including rainwater cisterns, by Israeli authorities has increased since the beginning of 2010; double in 2012 compared to 2011.

“The denial of water is used to trigger displacement, particularly in areas slated for settlement expansion, especially since these communities are mostly farmers and herders who depend on water for their livelihoods.

“A number of testimonies highlighted that the cutting off from water resources often precedes dispossession of lands for new settlement projects.”

Mekorot – at the heart of Israel’s water apartheid

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water supplied by Israeli water company Mekorot, which took over responsibility for the water resources of the West Bank from the occupying forces in 1982.

Thus it Mekarot which is both the on-the-ground enforcer, and the economic beneficiary, of the West Bank’s ‘water apartheid’.

As the UN Human Rights Council reports: “In the Jordan Valley, deep water drillings by the Israeli national water company Mekorot and the agro-industrial company Mehadrin have caused Palestinian wells and springs to dry up. Eighty per cent of the total water resources drilled in the area is consumed by Israel and the settlements.”

“The lack of availability of Palestinian water resources has led to chronic shortages among Palestinian communities in Area C and a dependence on Mekorot … Mekorot supplies almost half the water consumed by Palestinian communities.

Restricted access

The UNHRC also reported that Palestinians do not have access to the cheaper ‘recycled water’ available to Israeli settlements, and have to buy more expensive drinking water even for irrigation purposes.

This injustice and inequity of access to water supply has always been a source of tension, especially when Palestinian villagers see water pipes leading to Israeli colonies passing through their land without supplying their village with water – as reported above at Sussia.

“The Mission heard of situations where villagers must travel several kilometres to get water when closer water resources serve neighbouring settlements”, reported UNHRC.

And even when they do get water, they receive second class treatment. “In the event of a water shortage, valves supplying Palestinian communities are turned off; this does not happen for settlements.

‘Week of Action Against Mekorot’

Mekorot violates international law and colludes in resource grabbing -including pillaging water resources in Palestine. It supplies this pillaged water to illegal Israeli settlements, and engages in systematic discrimination and denial of water to the Palestinian population.

For this reason Palestinian organizations including PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine have co-organised a ‘Stop Mekorot‘ week of action starting today, on World Water Day.

The campaign aims to intensify pressure on governments and companies to boycott Mekorot and hold the company accountable for its discriminatory water policies and practices in Palestine.

On March 20, the environmental federation Friends of the Earth International announced its support for the campaign against the discriminatory practices of Mekorot – joining the global call on governments, public and private utility companies and investors worldwide to avoid or terminate all contracts and cooperation agreements with Mekorot.

Campaign successes

In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the Netherlands, Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its commitment to international law meant it had to withdraw from a cooperation agreement with Mekorot. According to the company:

“Vitens attaches great importance to integrity and adhering to international laws and regulations. Following consultation with stakeholders, the company came to the realization that it is extremely difficult to continue joint work on projects, as they cannot be separated from the political environment.”

Mekorot suffered another blow this week when authorities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal.

The decision followed a campaign by local trade unions and human rights groups which highlighted Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of Palestinian water resources – and raised the prospect that Mekorot might export its discriminatory water policies to Argentina.

Palestinians must have their rightful share of available resources and be granted full authority to manage them properly. Equitable and wise use of available resources among all people is the only basis for lasting peace in the region.

And until then the deliberate, systematic, purposeful water discrimination and resource theft carried out in Occupied Palestine by the Occupation and Mekorot must be recognised for what they are – crimes against humanity. The perpetrators must be punished accordingly.

Ayman Rabi represents Friends of the Earth Palestine / PENGON, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network – established in 1996 to serve the Palestinian environment by coordinating the scattered efforts of the different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environment.

This article originally appeared in THE ECOLOGIST

Palestinians must resist Israel’s efforts to foment sectarianism


Nadim Nashif
The Electronic Intifada
26 March 2014

Palestinian Christians and Muslims hold a service in solidarity with political prisoners, at the Dominican monastery of Saint-Etienne in eastern occupied Jerusalem, 8 May 2012. (Mahfouz Abu Turk / APA images)

On 24 February, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved a controversial law aimed at de-Arabizing Palestinian Christians. The new law identifies them as a non-Arab minority group.

The initiative is led by the extreme right-wing member of the Knesset (MK) Yariv Levin from the governing Likud party.

Some consider this to be only a small symbolic action but we in Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth, and in wider Palestinian civil society see this action as linked to a much larger and systematic process of “divide and conquer” as well as to attempts to destroy Palestinian identity among Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In a recent interview, Levin laid the difference he perceived between “Christians” and “Muslim Arabs.” He refused to acknowledge Christians as Arab and said “I’m being careful about not calling them Arabs because they aren’t Arab.”

He described Christians as the “natural allies” of Israel and “a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within.”

Levin has pointed to non-existent genetic and ideological differences between Christians and Muslims in an attempt to impose sectarian identities over Palestinian identity. These legislative measures come in conjunction with a recent accelerated recruitment of Christians to military and civil service.
Fragmentation policy

The legislation is part of a larger policy to fragment Palestinian identity.

Levin, supported by the governing Likud party, is advocating the approval of several laws and regulations that aim to distinguish Christians legally and practically.

The Druze underwent similar attempts to separate them from the remainder of the Palestinian community in the 1950s and 1960s.

Druze are an authentic and Arab part of this region. They have been a part of the social structure in the Greater Syria region (Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) since the 10th century following the founding of the Druze religion in Egypt.

Druze, like most other Palestinian communities, traditionally relied primarily on agriculture and the community was severely affected by land confiscations following the founding of Israel in 1948.

Land confiscation limited the options available to maintain a livelihood so the Druze leadership looked to assimilation within the new state.

“Integration” in Israel was not unanimously decided upon by the community, as the Zionist narrative suggests. Rather, it was decided upon by a small number of Druze leaders.

Despite protests in many villages, Druze were conscripted into the Israeli military in 1956 and encouraged to be career soldiers and officers.

In 1957, Druze were recognized as a specific ethnic minority and an individualized school system and curriculum was developed. The curriculum perpetuates Druze identity as a separate nation and not only a religion.

This seems logical for a state which views its own religion as a nation. But it is necessary to emphasize that this is a foreign concept to the Middle East.

Nation-state based identity originated in Europe. Prior to the fall of the Ottoman empire, identity in the Middle East was localized with long histories of inter-religious cooperation in Damascus, Baghdad and Jerusalem — to name only a few.
Annexation, not integration

In these last few years, we have witnessed an increased Druze resistance to military service and Israel has turned its attention to continuing the same process of annexation with the Christians.

Many recent articles have misleadingly said that Christians wish to integrate into Israeli society. Here, I would like to emphasize my usage of “annexation” and not “integration.”

This is because these laws separate Christian identity as different from Palestinian identity. Full integration into Israel for non-Jews is impossible.

It is possible for individuals to benefit from the short-term material rewards of incentivized conscription but this will never result in integration.

For example: in November 2013, several Druze soldiers (hailing from a community who have served mandatory service in the Israeli army for over fifty years) were for a time not allowed to enter the Dimona nuclear reactor because they were not Jewish.

This is not equal citizenship. This is not integration.

In the last two years, Christians have been increasingly targeted for recruitment to the military through incentives such as money and promises of social welfare programs like education and employment.

The legislation recently passed by the Knesset — by 31 to six votes — explicitly distinguishes Christians and Muslims as separate groups.

The bill expands the public advisory council, which consists of representative groups promoting workers rights, from five members to ten.

The council will now include Christian, Muslim, Druze and Circassian representatives, despite the fact that all Arabs suffer from the same difficulties and discrimination in the workforce.

My organization Baladna is part of a coalition of groups — including some political parties — resisting this legislation.
Egregious crimes

Many from the 1948 community (Palestinian citizens of Israel) see that preserving our Palestinian identity is our main struggle. Unfortunately, as in neighboring countries, the Palestinian community has not been immune to the phenomenon of sectarianism.

Sectarianism is further provoked by the “divide and rule” policies of the state which refuse to recognize us as a single Palestinian minority, avoid police intervention in cases of violence against Arabs and consistently discriminates against us in many other ways.

Participating in a military that commits egregious crimes against our own people in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel, will not improve the circumstance of Palestinians. Participating in the military apparatus fractures our identity and contributes to an immoral system that abuses the rights of our own people.

Participation will not even significantly benefit the lives of the individuals who chose to serve. Yes, the incentives may be appealing but do not confer the rights of full citizenship.

The rewards will be temporary and short-lived while the repercussions will be devastating to Palestinian society as a whole. We have already lost our homes and our lands; it is necessary that we maintain our Palestinian identity.

Luckily, we are not alone in our opinion. Very few individuals support so-called “Christian integration” and these individuals are loud and supported by the government and its security services. They certainly do not represent the Palestinian Christian community.

All Palestinians want the full realization of their rights. However, this system in which marginally more rights can be achieved by military service and acceptance of sectarian identity will never result in full rights for any of us.

Nadim Nashif is director of Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Israel’s “Hollywood propaganda” about Gaza-bound missile ship unravels

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 19:29

Missile propaganda. US official tells news agency: ”You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza.”

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in what Haaretz columnist Amir Oren condemned as a display of “Hollywood-style propaganda.”

The media stunt was to advertise what Israel claimed was a shipment of missiles en route from Iran to the Gaza Strip. At the time, many people pointed out that it was hard to understand how large missiles could be smuggled into Gaza, given Israel’s siege by land sea and air, supported by Egypt.

Iran and the Palestinian political and military organization Hamas claimed Israel was lying.

While Oren didn’t question the veracity of Israel’s claim, he did point out its propaganda value.

First, for the prime minister: the media event took place five days after the ship had been supposedly captured, but just after Netanyahu returned from a trip to the United States. Second, as form of pressure on Iran.

The claims also give Israel a pretext for its continued collective punishment of Gaza.

Oren did point out the absurdity of Israel’s indignation that Iran had accused it of lying, given that Israel itself habitually lies: “Israel’s condemnation of Iran as a liar is ridiculous. From David Ben-Gurion’s time to the present, Israel has lied when it believed it had to do so to avoid punishment.”
Story unravels

While there were already plenty of reasons to cast doubt on Israel’s story, Dan Williams of Reuters has a report today headlined: “Doubts surface on Gaza destination of rockets seized by Israel.”

The reports quotes a “US official” saying of the rockets: “You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza.”

Williams writes:

Some US intelligence analysts and Middle East security officials believe that a rocket shipment seized by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea this month was destined for the Egyptian Sinai and not for the Gaza Strip, as Israel says.

A US official and two non-Israeli regional sources said Israel appeared to be insisting on the Gaza destination in order to spare the military-backed interim Egyptian administration embarrassment as it struggles to impose order in the Sinai.

Israel has little compunction about drawing scrutiny to the rocket arsenals of Gaza’s governing Hamas Islamists and other armed Palestinian factions, with whom it has regularly clashed.

“Were the Israelis to say the rockets were going to Sinai, then they would also have had to say who in Sinai was going to receive the rockets,” one source told Reuters, adding that such a statement would draw attention to the insurgents resisting Egypt’s security sweeps in northern Sinai.

Israel says the Syrian-made M302 rockets and other munitions were hidden aboard the Panamanian-flagged Klos C while it docked in Iran. The ship was intercepted on March 5, en route to Sudan – where, Israel says, the arms would have been offloaded and trucked to Gaza through Egypt, a standard trafficking route.

He adds:

An Israeli military officer who took part in planning the naval interdiction told Reuters that, in the month before it happened, “not once did I hear anyone mention anything other than Gaza as the end-point for these weapons.”

A US official said Washington had confirmed the Syrian and Iranian provenance of the rockets and believed they were to have been used against Israel. But half of US intelligence analysts thought Sinai, not Gaza, was the destination, the official said.

“You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza,” the official said, adding that the M302s were not designed to be disassembled for easier smuggling.

The Reuters report says that US analysts believe that mortars aboard the ship may have been bound for Gaza, while other weapons, including large amounts of ammunition, were likely bound for destinations in Africa.

The United States supplies billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Israel each year, which Israel uses to occupy and colonize Palestinians.

However, the United States does not support Palestinians’ right to self-defense and resistance against Israeli occupation and hence views all weapons’ transfers to Palestinian armed groups, regardless of how the weapons are used, as support for “terrorism.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Americans more likely to be killed by police than terrorists

Al Jazeera once again removes Joseph Massad article on Palestine

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 19:03

Massad’s article “The Dahlan Factor” had been among the most viewed on the Al Jazeera English website.

Al Jazeera English has once again removed an article by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad hours after publishing it.

The article, “The Dahlan Factor,” appeared for several hours on the Qatar-based broadcaster’s website this morning at this link, but was later removed without explanation (the full article is republished below).

The article had been extremely popular, appearing in the fifth spot on the website’s “What’s Hot” section.

In May 2013, there was a major scandal when Al Jazeera English censored a previous article by Massad, a regular contributor, due to political interference in the editorial process, after the broadcaster came under intense criticism from Zionists.

Following an uproar over the censoring of Massad, his article “The last of the Semites” was restored.
Removed again

Imad Musa, manager of online for Al Jazeera English, told The Electronic Intifada today that he personally took the decision to remove “The Dahlan Factor” which looked at the increasingly bitter conflict between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on the one hand, and the Palestinian warlord Muhammad Dahlan on the other.

Musa said that Massad’s article “didn’t meet our legal standards at all. It actually had elements of defamation, slander and libel.”

Asked why it had been published in the first place, Musa said, “we do have some loopholes in our editorial workflow. But we’re only human and we make mistakes.”

Musa would not provide specific examples of problems with the article, restating only that “it contained a series of legal problems which are unacceptable to us.”

Musa denied that there had been any complaints from outside Al Jazeera and said that concerns had been raised internally, before he made the final decision to remove the article.

Massad’s response

Massad sent this statement to The Electronic Intifada:

I sent an article to the editor I deal with at Al Jazeera English, Ms. [O.] on Saturday 22 March. She wrote me back within a few hours describing the piece as a “most insightful and timely piece.” She asked me to provide ”a few links here and there to support what you say.”

I promptly did so and sent her back the article with a number of links. She was also helpful by sending me one link that she thought I would find helpful. I did. I sent her a final copy of the article on Sunday 23 March.

She informed me that “We are having it up tomorrow.” This morning when I woke up, she had sent me a copyedited version with some queries and editorial suggestions. I approved them all. There was a suggestion that I remove one paragraph on Egyptian billionaire and head of Orascom Communications Naguib Sawires as “out of topic” but I refused and explained how it is linked to the Egyptian role in the matter at hand.

The article ran at about 9:30 AM EST but at 10:32 AM I received a phone call from Imad Musa who asked me to provide a reference about a claim regarding Sawires and asked me to change the language about the accusations made by Dahlan and Abbas against one another regarding the murder of Arafat.

I agreed to both suggestions, and sent him a link to the Sawires part. He wrote back saying that he prefers not to use the Sawires claim. Then I discovered that the article was removed after 1:50 PM. I wrote him immediately inquiring about it but he did not answer. I received an email from [O.] at 2:03 PM informing me that the piece had been removed for legal reasons even though the legal question had never come up before and I provided the links to all the claims that I made and for which they asked me to provide links.

Asked if he feared that today’s removal of Massad’s article without any public explanation would again appear as censorship, Al Jazeera’s Musa said he didn’t and that Al Jazeera acted with complete “transparency.”

Musa was also in charge of Al Jazeera English’s website when Massad’s article was censored last May.

The Israeli and US betting on the Dahlan horse will only increase the resolve of the Palestinians and their supporters.

Last updated: 24 Mar 2014 14:52

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

This article was updated to clarify some of the comments made by the author.

The recent resurrection of Mohammad Dahlanby several Arab governments, Israel and the US is a most important development for the future of the Palestinian cause, Palestinian Authority (PA)-Israel negotiations, and Hamas-ruled Gaza. Dahlan is viewed, by many Palestinians, as the most corrupt official in the history of the Palestinian national movement (and there are many contenders for that title).

Dahlan, it would be recalled, was the PA man in charge of Gaza after the Oslo Accords were signed, where he commanded 20,000 Palestinian security personnel who were answerable to the CIA and to Israeli intelligence. His forces would torture Hamas members in PA dungeons throughout the 1990s.

His corruption, at the time, was such that he allegedly diverted over 40 percent of taxes levied against the Palestinians to his personal account in what became known as the Karni Crossing Scandal in 1997.

Dahlan, who has been accused repeatedly by both Hamas and Fatah of being an agent of US, Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian intelligence, would attempt to stage a US-organised coup against the democratically elected Hamas government in 2007 in Gaza, an attempt that backfired on him and ended with his eviction from the Strip (I had forewarned about the coup several months before it occurred).

A simultaneous coup led by Abbas and his Israeli- and US-backed security forces in the West Bank was successful in dislodging the elected Hamas from power. Dahlan retreated to that mainstay of US and Israeli power, namely the PA-controlled West Bank, where he began to hatch new plots with his multiple patrons to undermine not only Hamas but also Abbas, whose position he begrudged and coveted.

Indeed the Americans and the European Union (the latter on US orders) began to pressure Abbas to appoint Dahlan as his deputy, making it clear that they would like to see Dahlan succeed Abbas. Abbas resisted the pressure and refused.

In the meantime, Dahlan, has been accused by Hamas and the PA of allegedly plotting several assassination attempts that targeted several Palestinian officials, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyah and Fatah ministers in the PA. Accusations that he persistently denied. His involvement in the 2010 Mossad assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai included having two of his Palestinian death squad hit men (later arrested by Dubai authorities) assist in the operation, a charge he also denied. His personal wealth was conservatively estimated in 2005 by an Israeli think tank at $120m.

Once Dahlan’s schemes became too obvious to ignore, Abbas stripped him of power and chased him out of the Ramallah Green Zone in 2010. He moved to Mubarak’s Egypt and later, following the ouster of Mubarak, to Dubai (and on occasion Europe) where he remained until his more recent resurrection by the heirs of Mubarak who now sit on Egypt’s throne.
A man for all patrons

Dahlan’s power lies in his ability to serve the agenda of multiple patrons. For the Israelis, he is a ruthless, corrupt power-grubbing man who would do their bidding obediently were he to come to power in Gaza or the West Bank. Both the Americans and the Israelis see him as especially willing to sign on an American-sponsored Netanyahu deal without equivocation.

For the Egyptians and the Gulf monarchies (and he is said to be a business partner with a Gulf ruler), he would look after their interests and obey their orders by eliminating any resistance to a US-imposed Palestinian final surrender to Israel and by eliminating Hamas once and for all.

For the Egyptian coup leaders, whose coup replicated Dahlan’s 2007 Gaza coup, except successfully, he could rid them of Hamas, which they see as an extension of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and render their relations with Israel even closer than they already are. Dahlan’s most important role, however, is the one that the Americans need him for, namely, to replace Abbas should the latter fail to sign on to the final surrender that Barack Obama and John Kerry have been cooking at the behest of Netanyahu in the past few months.

Just as George Bush Jr and Bill Clinton terminated the services of Arafat after the latter proved unable to sign off on the final Palestinian surrender demanded of him at Camp David in the summer of 2000 (an inability that would arguably cost him his life at the hands of Abbas or Dahlan - depending on which of the two you talk to - acting at the behest of the Israelis, and very likely the Americans), Obama will terminate the services of Abbas should he fail to sign the US-sponsored surrender. Indeed, even if Abbas does sign such a deal, as he is approaching his 80th birthday, Dahlan will be needed and ready to take over after his death.

It is in this context that Egyptian army top brass recently visited Israel for a whole week while the Egyptian private TV station Dream (owned by a Mubarak businessman ally, Ahmad Bahgat) aired an interview with Dahlan in which he attacked Abbas, in yet another effort to delegitimise the latter.

Dahlan was offered the support of the rightwing Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris (infamous for his cutting off cellular phone lines in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 on the orders of Mubarak’s security apparatus), who sang Dahlan’s praises (as well as those of Mohammad Rashid, aka Khaled Salam, a former Arafat aide and another allegedly corrupt embezzling fugitive) as one of the most honest businessmen he ever worked with and then proceeded to denounce Abbas as a “liar”.

Indeed Sawiris, who has previously had business investments in Israel, went as far as claiming that had Palestine had “three men” like Dahlan, “it would have been liberated by now”.

Meanwhile, after months of closure of the borders with Gaza and harassment of Palestinians in Egypt by the heirs of Mubarak, the daughter of late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Huda, who, like the rest of her siblings, had already paid abject public obeisance to the coup leader, published a letter to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyah, accusing him and Hamas of terrorism targeting Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.

Moreover, with the elimination of Syria as a refuge for the exiled Hamas leaders, the Saudis and the UAE are tightening the grip on Qatar, the new base for the exiled Hamas leadership and the sponsor of the MB. They are also hoping that some of the concessions Iran would pay for its new modus vivendi with the US would include abandoning support for Hamas.
The takeover plan

As an Egyptian court has recently joined Israel and the US in banning Hamas from the country and considering it a terrorist organisation and as the Israelis have threatened openly this week that an invasion of Gaza will be necessary, the plan for a Dahlan take-over is hatching slowly but surely. This is viewed as such a threat that Abbas dispatched his supporters and cronies to the streets of Ramallah to prove to the Americans and the Israelis that he still commands much support in the West Bank.

The competition between Abbas and Dahlan is essentially one where each of them wants to prove that he can be more servile to Israeli, US, Egyptian, and Gulf interests while maintaining legitimacy and full control of the Palestinian population.

The details of the plot are not clear. They could involve an invasion of Gaza from the Egyptian and the Israeli sides (and Egyptian officials have already threatened to carry out such an invasion a few weeks ago), a coup of sorts in the West Bank, and even assassinations of Haniyyah and/or Abbas.

All bets are off at the moment, as Abbas, like Arafat before him, is offering complete obedience to US and Israeli diktat and will go much farther than Arafat did, but he understands too well that he would lose all legitimacy and control were he to sign the final humiliating surrender that the US and Israel are insisting on. Dahlan of course will have no such worries.

As for Hamas, which, unlike the MB, is a resistance movement and not a political party, it cannot be rounded up or crushed so easily, and the entry of Dahlan into Gaza, let alone the West Bank, will usher in a civil war that could likely end in his defeat yet again, short of a full Israeli invasion of Gaza to return him to power (Dahlan has also been accused by the PA of collaborating with the Israelis in their 2008 invasion of Gaza and has recently been accused in aiding the ongoing counter-revolution in Egypt).

The same scenario would be repeated in the West Bank.

The future of the Palestinian people is in danger and the enemies of the Palestinians surround them inside and outside Palestine. The Obama-Israeli-Egyptian-Gulf plans for liquidating their cause and their rights continue afoot.

However, just like past corrupt Palestinian leaders were unsuccessful in liquidating the rights of the Palestinians and their cause, the Israeli and US betting on the Dahlan horse will only increase the resolve of the Palestinian people and their supporters that Palestinian resistance will only cease after the final liquidation of Israeli state racism and colonialism in all its manifestations throughout historic Palestine.

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.