Refugees and Zionist propaganda

Agence France Press (AFP) reported the following today:

A draft law stipulating that any Middle East peace treaty must mention compensation for Jews forced to leave Arab states has passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The draft bill, presented by a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, a member of the government coalition, passed the preliminary vote 49 to 5 last week, said spokesman Giora Pordes.

The draft, which the Maariv daily called “a curious and provocative bill,” still has to pass three more votes before it becomes law.

It calls for the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab states to be raised whenever the question of Palestinian refugees comes up in Middle East negotiations…

Agence France Press (AFP) reported the following today:

A draft law stipulating that any Middle East peace treaty must mention compensation for Jews forced to leave Arab states has passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament, a spokesman said on Wednesday.The draft bill, presented by a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, a member of the government coalition, passed the preliminary vote 49 to 5 last week, said spokesman Giora Pordes.

The draft, which the Maariv daily called “a curious and provocative bill,” still has to pass three more votes before it becomes law.

It calls for the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab states to be raised whenever the question of Palestinian refugees comes up in Middle East negotiations.

“The government should raise the issue about payment of compensation to Jewish refugees for the loss of their property and about granting to Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Arab countries a status similar to that of Arab refugees who lost their property when the state (of Israel) was created,” the proposed law states.

Shas had initially wanted a tougher bill stating compensations for Jewish refugees must be agreed before any further peace negotiations are held. The paragraph, which would have made it virtually impossible to reach a peace accord, was eventually removed so the government could support the text…

‘Israel mulls draft law tying peace, Jewish refugee issue’, AFP, 11 November 2009

The following is an extract from the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of my book, ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide‘:

People talk about the Palestinian refugees, but weren’t a similar number of Jewish refugees kicked out of Arab countries and welcomed by Israel? Couldn’t this be seen as a ‘fair swap’?

The creation of the state of Israel led to two substantial population movements in the Middle East. Between 700,000 to 800,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes, and forbidden from returning by the new Jewish state, while from 1948 through to the 1970s, around 850,000 Jews left Arab countries, with the majority moving to Israel. But the rough equality in scale is just about the only similarity.

Continue reading “Refugees and Zionist propaganda”

Leaving Waziristan

A force of 28,000 Pakistani army personnel is at the moment conducting an operation in South Waziristan. The operation was preceded by months of aerial bombing, and as the following Al Jazeera reports show the human cost in terms of lives lost, and displacement is high. A BBC crew earlier found the refugees so outraged with the Pakistani military’s operation that they were chanting slogans in support of Hakimullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and other TTP leaders.

Thousands flee Pakistan conflict – 22 Oct 09

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Visitors and Hosts in Pakistan

Kathy Kelly
Kathy Kelly (portrait by Robert Shetterly)

The brave and tireless Kathy Kelly who founded Voices in the Wilderness to campaign against the genocidal UN-US sanctions on Iraq is presently touring the Pakistani conflict zones.Yesterday we published her moving report from the Shah Mansoor refugee camp in Swabi. Today she sent us two of her earlier dispatches which we have published below. All her future dispatches from the region will also be appearing on PULSE.

9 June 2009, Waziristan — In Jayne Anne Phillips’ Lark and Termite, the skies over Korea, in 1950, are described in this way:

“The planes always come…like planets on rotation. A timed bloodletting, with different excuses.”

The most recent plane to attack the Pakistani village of Khaisor (according to a Waziristan resident who asked me to withhold his name) came twenty days ago, on May 20th, 2009.  A U.S. drone airplane fired a missile at the village at 4:30 AM, killing 14 women and children and 2 elders, wounding eleven.

Continue reading “Visitors and Hosts in Pakistan”

Down and Out in Shah Mansoor

Refugees await uncertain fate in IDP camps
Refugees await uncertain fate in IDP camps

The tireless and wonderful Kathy Kelly is visiting refugee camps in Pakistan with Dan Pearson. Here is her first dispatch (Mahmood Mamdani recently told me that apparently Arundhati Roy is also in Swat these days):

In Pakistan’s Swabi district, a bumpy road leads to Shah Mansoor, a small village surrounded by farmland. Just outside the village, uniform size tents are set up in hundreds of rows. The sun bores down on the Shah Mansoor camp which has become a temporary home to thousands of displaced Pakistanis from the Swat area. In the stifling heat, the camp’s residents sit idly, day after day, uncertain about their future. They spoke with heated certainty, though, about their grievances.As soon as we stepped out of the car, men and children approached us. They had all arrived from Mingora, the main city of Swat, 15 days prior. One young man, a student, told us that bombing and shelling had increased in their area, but, due to a government imposed curfew, they weren’t allowed to leave their homes. Suddenly, the Pakistani Army warned them to leave within four hours or they would be killed. With the curfew lifted long enough for them to get out of Mingora, they joined a mass exodus of people and walked for three days before reaching this camp.

Continue reading “Down and Out in Shah Mansoor”

In Pakistan, an exodus that is beyond biblical

Saima is one of 37 refugees now sharing the house of a stranger. Their host, Rizwan Ali, 59, says: 'It would be easier to die than to ask displaced people to leave for the camps'
Saima is one of 37 refugees now sharing the house of a stranger. Their host, Rizwan Ali, 59, says: 'It would be easier to die than to ask displaced people to leave for the camps'

‘Locals sell all they have to help millions displaced by battles with the Taliban’, Andrew Buncombe reports. This is in stark contrast to how Punjab and Sindh reacted. Both have restricted entry of refugees into their territory. In the latter MQM organized two strikes, the first one with the support of the ruling PPP, and Pakhtun property was destroyed, two people burnt alive. It is already generating resentment in the NWFP with more and more coming to see this as a war on the Pukhtuns, as Rustum Shah Mohmand argues here. The response of the non-Pakhtun provinces to the refugee crises has done little to disabuse them. Meanwhile this displaced mass of humanity survives on the generosity of the type described in the caption above. I avoid indulging in any type of group chauvinism but for once, I’m proud of my people.

The language was already biblical; now the scale of what is happening matches it. The exodus of people forced from their homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and elsewhere in the country’s north-west may be as high as 2.4 million, aid officials say. Around the world, only a handful of war-spoiled countries – Sudan, Iraq, Colombia – have larger numbers of internal refugees. The speed of the displacement at its height – up to 85,000 people a day – was matched only during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This is now one of the biggest sudden refugee crises the world has ever seen.

Continue reading “In Pakistan, an exodus that is beyond biblical”

Crises that loom beyond the military action

Refugees line up for water at an IDP camp
Refugees line up for water at an IDP camp

The fragile colonial construct named Pakistan is risking its own long term survival through its myopic policy in Malakand. The difficulties faced by the refugees from Swat are well known. But according to Rahimullah Yusufzai the reugees are now also the victims of ugly ethnic chauvinism. The far-right Sindhi nationalist Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (which has renamed itself Muttahida Qaumi Movement in order to mask its narrow factional interests) have organized two major strikes against their migration into Sindh in search of sanctuary. The violence that accompanied the strikes saw Pakhtun property being torched by Sindhi-Muhajir mobs, and one 50 year old woman being burnt alive. The MQM is part of the ruling coalition (led by the fuedal Sindhi dominated PPP of Bhutto/Zardari) and according to Yusufzai the actions have more than the tacit support of the government since the PPP-led provincial government has been sending back many refugees from the border town of Kashmore. Poignantly, Yusufzai adds:

The ruling PPP cannot absolve itself of the blame for blocking the trucks and buses bringing the IDPs to Sindh at the border town of Kashmore and for insisting that they go back to their native NWFP or stay in not-yet-ready tented camps there in the middle of nowhere. It was an insensitive act that added insult to injury and contributed to the pain suffered by the IDPs and felt by all Pakhtuns. More pain was inflicted on the Pakhtun psyche by certain PPP leaders, including its blundering spokesperson Fauzia Wahab, when the IDPs were equated to the Afghan refugees. If this isn’t a slip of tongue, then it obviously means that many politicians and also other likeminded people from different walks of life in Punjab and Sindh have come to believe that the Afghan refugees too are primarily Pakhtuns and all of them need to be kept out of Pakistan’s two biggest provinces to avoid harm…The PML-N despite its praiseworthy relief work in support of the IDPs also damaged its growing reputation as a party sympathetic to the cause of smaller provinces by hesitating to allow setting up of IDPs camps in Punjab…The apathy of some of the Sindh- and Punjab-based political forces to the woes of the IDPs looks all the more glaring when one compares it to the unparalleled generosity shown by the common people all over the country.

Yusufzai contrasts this with the generosity shown the refugees in Mardan and Swabi, and ask why the refugees — 80 percent of whom are actually living with families and well-wishers — should be ‘a matter of concern for NWFP and the Pakhtuns only. ‘If that is the case, then one should be worried about the damage this attitude is causing to the concept of nationhood in the federation of Pakistan.’

Continue reading “Crises that loom beyond the military action”

The Darfur Debate


This debate between Mahmood Mamdani and John Prendergast took place on April 14, 2009 at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Institute for African Studies, Columbia University. I recently finished Mamdani’s new book Saviors and Survivors, which I will be reviewing for The Electronic Intifada shortly. The book is a tour de force brimming with political, historical, and anthropological insights. I would highly recommend it to anyone with interest in the subject.

(Also see James North’s review of the debate, and this follow up post.)

The Taliban bogeyman

Swabi, Pakistan: Buner refugees travel by road as they flee fighting (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Swabi, Pakistan: Buner refugees travel by road as they flee fighting (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

UNHCR warns that the human exodus from the war-torn Malakand division is turning into the most dramatic displacement since the 1994 crisis in Rwanda. The Guardian reports:

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. “It’s been a long time since there has been a displacement this big,” the UNHCR’s spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. “It could go back to Rwanda.”

Meanwhile, it appears the story has all but disappeared from international media. It had fallen out of the headlines within the first week, now it barely makes the news. The Pakistani english language press (on which most Western ‘experts’ rely) is on most days about as distant from the realities of the North-West frontier as the hacks bloviating in Washington and London. They even have their native Ann Coulter in the execrable Farhat Taj who is given frequent platform to slander anyone who fails to see the virtues of the US regional agenda. In her latest installment she informs readers that there is ‘very little collateral damage’, and that most of the 1,000 dead are ‘confirmed Taliban’. As Gerald Kaufmann would say, these are the words of a Nazi; the woman appears bent on matching the military’s assault on Swat with her own on reality. Continue reading “The Taliban bogeyman”

Caught in the crossfire – the Swat valley’s fleeing families

Farhad Bibi survived the jet attack on her home, but her one-year-old daughter, Hassina, was one of 11 people killed (Declan Walsh)
Farhad Bibi survived the jet attack on her home, but her one-year-old daughter, Hassina, was one of 11 people killed (Declan Walsh)

Declan Walsh seeks out the refugees trapped in a brutal war between Pakistan’s army and the Taliban after an uneasy and short-lived truce.

Army footage shows laser-guided missiles slamming into mountain buildings that explode into a fountain of fragments. Warplanes blast away at Taliban targets in the Swat valley and ground troops push towards the main town, Mingora. When Pakistani forces kill the Taliban, few complain – this is a popular war, for now.

“We are progressing well,” a spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said.

Sometimes, though, they hit the wrong target. Jan Nawab, a slightly-built man with a scraggly beard, stood outside the house where he has taken refuge, and sobbed softly under the weight of the calamity that had befallen him.

Last Monday morning a fighter jet screamed over Matta, a Taliban-overrun district in the heart of Swat. Its first bomb landed on Jan Nawab’s home, where his wife, four children, his sister-in-law and two other children, were sheltering. All were killed.

The plane curled in the sky, two witnesses said, and turned for a second pass. The second explosion crushed his neighbour’s house, where a woman and two children were killed. “Eleven people in total,” he said, in a faltering voice, knotting his fingers. Continue reading “Caught in the crossfire – the Swat valley’s fleeing families”

New kid on the block

Anjum Niaz on the refugee crisis in Pakistan and the indifference/incompetence of the government.

Its name is IDP. It was reborn ten days ago. Baptized by Barack Obama while Asif Ali Zardari held it, the American president showered the newborn with a $1.9 billion cheque. Fearing that Pakistan may throw the baby out with the bathwater, the US Congress vowed to honour the cheque once the sum reached the recipient. With Musharraf government swiping over 12 billion dollars, the whole world knows, including Pakistanis, that our effete elite pocket the money meant for the poor. Flush times are here again. Paisa dey do is the signature tune played by the information minister of NWFP. Daily he begs for money. It doesn’t look nice. What would look nice are footage of his chief minister, governor and a cabal of cabinet colleagues and party loudmouths spreading out in the field.

Let all the fat cats sweat it out in the sweltering sun to visit IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Show us first your humane handling of the crisis, even though it’s gargantuan. Take us each night with a candid camera to a camp. Randomly ask the IDPs how they fare. Demonstrate to us that you’ve resolved their complaints on the spot. You are then worthy of our worship and donations. But according to an Al Jazeera reporter, the grousing has already set in: “We went to an IDP camp today … there were no signs of officials from the provincial government. There has been a lot of talk, but they have not done anything. There is, understandably, reasonable justification for [the civilians’] anger at the government.”

The ANP leader Asfandyar Wali is missing from action. Is he in the cooler climes of London?

Continue reading “New kid on the block”

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