Obama’s Cairo speech

In March US President Barack Obama made a direct address to the Iranian people to coincide with the festival of Nowruz, a sensitive and respectful message unheard of in the previous 30 years of non-existent diplomatic relations between the two countries. Now this week sees President Obama begin a tour of the Middle East and Europe in which he will “reach out to the Muslim world” in a speech in Cairo on Thursday. But with the political landscape changing, particularly the frosty relationship between the US President  and new Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, can we expect a similarly progressive message to the wider Muslim world this time around?

In The Nation Robert Dreyfuss argues that for Obama, merely being “a repudiation of George W. Bush’s wrecking-ball approach to the Middle East” will not be enough. In order to make progress, Obama must pick apart the ““Islamofascist” ball of wax” that the ‘war on terror’ falsely suggested. To do so, says Dreyfuss, he must recognize the diverse political spectrum that currently exists across the region and approach future relations accordingly. Continue reading “Obama’s Cairo speech”

Subcontracting the Israeli occupation

Found below is Nora Barrows-Friedman interview with Diana Buttu on Flashpoints Radio.  They examine the recent killing of Hamas activists in the West Bank while providing the context absent from mainstream media such as the BBC – that the PA works for Israel in crushing resistance to the occupation.

Six Palestinians dead in armed clashes between a Hamas resistance group and US-trained Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank, former PLO advisor Diana Buttu talks about how the PA is subcontracting the Israeli occupation and turning against its own people.

Boycotts Work

Omar Barghouti
Omar Barghouti

An interview with Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian researcher, commentator and human rights activist and a leader of the Palestinian BDS campaign:

Ali Mustafa: Why do you characterize Israel as an apartheid state and how is it similar or different than apartheid South Africa?

Omar Barghouti: We don’t have to prove that Israel is identical to apartheid South Africa in order to [justify] the label “apartheid.” Apartheid is a generalized crime according to United Nations conventions and there are certain criteria that may or may not apply to any specific situation — so we judge a situation on its own merits and whether or not it fulfills those conditions of being called an apartheid state. According to the basic conventions of the UN defining the crime of apartheid, Israel satisfies almost all the conditions to be granted the label of apartheid. Other than the clear racial separation in the occupied West Bank between Jews and non-Jews (indigenous Palestinians) — separate roads, separate housing, separate everything — apartheid is also alive and well inside Israel despite appearances [to the contrary]. Unlike South Africa, Israel is more sophisticated; it’s an evolved form of apartheid. South African apartheid was rudimentary, primitive, so to speak — black, white, clear separation, no rights …

Continue reading “Boycotts Work”

The Real Expenses Scandal

George Monbiot

There’s something very odd going on with the British political system when the Chancellor of the Exchequer can lose his job over less than £700 whilst billions are squandered on illegal wars, nuclear missiles, corporate subsidies and bailouts. George Monbiot’s latest piece on Znet uncovers the massive corruption behind the M25 project. It is but one of many examples of the way the political system is designed to ensure the socialisation of risk and privatisation of profit.

It’s a thousand times bigger than the one we’re talking about, so why doesn’t it ignite public anger?
For a moment, my heart leapt. The headline on the front of yesterday’s Daily Mail contained the words travel, scandal, extortionate and £6.2. I imagined, until I read it properly, that it referred to the £6.2bn contract to expand the M25 motorway, which has just been signed. Some hope. “The £6.2m bill: Scandal of how MPs are taking taxpayers for a ride with extortionate travel expenses” referred to a rip-off precisely 1000th of the size of the travel expenses scandal that interests me.

I understand the public anger and fascination about MPs’ expenses, and the burning question of whether you can obtain capital gains tax exemption on your second duck house. But it is microscopic by comparison to the corruption that has been bubbling along merrily for 15 years in the UK, unmolested by the tabloid press.

Continue reading “The Real Expenses Scandal”

Palfest 09: a Participant’s First Response

At the Qalandia checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem. Leila Khaled's head peeks out between the I and O of Hip Hop.
At the Qalandia checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem. Leila Khaled's head peeks out between the I and O of Hip Hop.

I have just returned from a physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting week in Palestine. I was a participant in Palfest 09, the second Palestine Festival of Literature. It was a great honour to be in the company of writers like Michael Palin and Debborah Moggach, and Claire Messud, MJ Vassanji, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Ahdaf Soueif and Jamal Mahjoub, the lawyer for Guantanamo Bay prisoners Ahmad Ghappour, Palestinian poets Suheir Hammad and Nathalie Handal, and all the others. I’ll do a post at some point on everybody there. It was an even greater honour to meet Palestinian academics, students, and people on the streets and in the camps, to witness their incredible resilience and creative intelligence. Something fearless in them slipped into me, and gave me optimism. A people like this can not be kept down indefinitely.

They will stand up, even if I can’t tell how they possibly can. What I saw in Palestine confirmed me in my belief that a two-state solution is impossible, but also made me very pessimistic about the only real solution, the one-state solution – such is the level of Zionist hatred and arrogance, so deeply entrenched is Zionist settlement on the landscape and Zionist assumptions in the minds of Israeli Jews.

Continue reading “Palfest 09: a Participant’s First Response”

Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in West Bank

Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

The weekly UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports really ought to be obligatory reading for anyone wishing to grasp the comprehensive brutality of the Israeli occupation. According to its latest report, the dispossession of Palestinian land and resources, house demolitions, arbitrary IDF raids and detentions, and settler violence are sharply on the rise. “During April four Palestinians, including two boys, were killed by [the Israeli army] and another 145 were injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. The number of Palestinians injured rose by 40 percent compared with the 2008 monthly average,” the report says. A further 391 children (including 6 girls) have been incarcerated by the occupation forces, a 20 percent increase between December 2008 and February 2009.

Commenting on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the report states that “April saw the lowest number of truckloads entering per month into Gaza (2,656) since the beginning of 2009. This number represents an 18% decrease compared to the monthly average during the first quarter of the year (3,228) and only one-quarter the amount of truckloads that entered Gaza in May 2007 (10,921), one month before the Hamas take-over and the beginning of the blockade.”

Here’s Mel Frykberg‘s (IPS) summary of the findings:

RAMALLAH, May 28 (IPS) – “I heard voices, I turned around to look, and saw a group of Israeli settlers assaulting my brother Hammad,” says Abdallah Wahadin, 82, a Palestinian farmer from Beit Ummar near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

“Three of them surrounded me, while a fourth threw a rock at the back of my head. Lots of blood ran down onto my clothes. Other settlers then joined them,” Wahadin told the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Continue reading “Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in West Bank”

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