The Nether-World

March 28, 2007

Diplomacy, Dishmomacy

Filed under: israel, Palestine, US Politics — netherworld @ 7:51 am

It is no great secret that Condoleezza Rice isn’t exactly the most successful of diplomats – especially when it comes to trying to solve the torturous Israel/Palestine conflict. Her obvious bias towards Israel means that more often than not she returns empty-handed from her numerous jaunts to the region. Her latest escapade was no exception. The difference this time, however, is that now Condi is being rebuffed not just by the Palestinians, who she can’t seem to convince to recognise the state that is continually stealing their land, but also by the Israelis, who don’t seem to be able to accept any form of compromise.

An Israeli journalist I spoke to was dismissive as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left Jerusalem this morning.

“Diplomacy, dishmomacy,” were his actual words.

This was Ms Rice’s seventh visit to the region over the last few months.

A lot of talk, little to show for it, is the accepted wisdom amongst most Israelis and Palestinians.

Hmmm, not a very promising start is it? Worse still, Israel has refused Condi’s offer to act as a negotiator between it and the Palestinians in what The Daily Telegraph calls a humiliating snub.

Condoleezza Rice received a humiliating snub from Israel yesterday when it refused her offer to act as negotiator between its government and the Palestinian authorities.

The US secretary of state, who was attempting to start final status talks on the creation of a Palestinian state during a visit to Jerusalem, was forced to postpone a press conference planned on Monday evening after tense talks with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.

Well if Israel won’t trust its best friend to conduct negotiations, it does beg the question: who will it trust? One thing Condoleezza did manage to take away from her visit is a commitment for Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert to meet once a fortnight to discuss security issues which may later lead to discussions about the formation of a Palestinian state. A positive development no doubt, but slim pickings for America which desperately needs a success story in the region to detract attention from its appalling failure in Iraq and to get support for its attack on Iran.

Needless to say, Arab leaders were less than impressed with Condoleezza’s appeal to them to ‘reach out to Israel‘. The idea here is that all the Arab countries recognise Israel and normalise relations with it without Israel being compelled to make any reciprocal moves. If she thought that was going to work then she really must be very naive to assume that Arabs would be so gullible as to fall for that trick. After all, Israel won’t even recognise the new unity government in Palestine. America on the other hand, seems at last to be realising that the unity government is at least a promising compromise and, though it won’t deal directly with it, is offering some support (to Abbas anyway). Perhaps this is the cause of the tension between Condi and Olmert.

All this diplomacy comes, of course, on the eve of an important summit among Arab leaders in Riyadh. The focus of this summit is to revive the peace plan proposed by the Saudis in 2002 in which all the 22 countries in the Arab League would recognise Israel and normalise relations with it in return for Israel withdrawing back to the borders it had prior to the 1967 war. This would make it possible for the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. When this plan was first proposed, it was immediately rejected by the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The timing of the original proposal was unfortunate as the Palestinian second intifada was raging and suicide bombings were taking place in Israel. Also this was only a year after 9/11 and at the height of the build up to the Iraq war (Saddam Hussein was one of the Arab League members prepared to recognise Israel). Relations between Saudi Arabia and America had soured somewhat and the plan was seen as an attempt to improve things.

“I wanted to find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don’t reject or despise them,” Abdullah said at the time. “But the Arab people do reject what their leadership is now doing to the Palestinians, which is inhumane and oppressive. And I thought of this as a possible signal to the Israeli people.”

The political climate in the region now is just as tense (if not more so) but the dynamics are different. Iran is seen as the big threat now and powerful Sunni states like Saudi Arabia don’t wish to see Shia Iranian influence spread into Palestine. Israel and Saudi Arabia share this fear of Iran as does the USA, of course. It was Saudi Arabia which managed to broker the deal between Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. Perhaps this is a good time to revive this five year-old peace plan. The big question of course is what will Israel’s reaction to it be? So far, Ehud Olmert’s response hasn’t been the outright rejection of his predecessor. He has said there are “positive elements” in it worth pursuing. But this is hardly the ringing endorsement needed to carry the plan forward. This is the sort of language we frequently hear from Ehud Olmert. Israel has reservations about withdrawing from all the illegally captured territory which would obviously mean dismantling the illegal settlements (even Shimon Peres, Israel’s deputy prime minister has said that the presence of Jewish settlers inside the West Bank city of Hebron has created an “unbearable situation“). It also objects to Arab East Jerusalem being part of a Palestinian state and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. In other words, the only part of the plan it likes is the recognition of Israel by the Arab states and normalisation of relations. But the problem isn’t going away and appeasing Israel’s territorial desires hasn’t eased the situation at all.

In the absence of any other workable plan, this one might be a reasonable starting point. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Saud al-Faisal has made it quite clear that this is the only way for Israel to have peace with its neighbours.

“What we have the power to do in the Arab world, we think we have done,” he said. “So now it is up to the other side because if you want peace, it is not enough for one side only to want it. Both sides must want it equally.”


“If Israel refuses, that means it doesn’t want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war,” he said.


“Other Arab countries have recognised Israel and what has that achieved?

“The largest Arab country, Egypt, recognised Israel and what was the result? Not one iota of change happened in the attitude of Israel towards peace.”

Well, quite! Getting Israel to accept this plan will be hard and we can expect that it will do everything it can to avoid making any concessions. In that respect, it is unlikely that the summit will produce anything tangible. But hopefully more people are realising that endlessly appeasing Israel hasn’t worked and still isn’t working and maybe it might be time to try something new – actually applying pressure to Israel. That can be done quite easily by cutting the the huge aid packages it gets from the USA (something that seems unlikely at the moment considering the power of AIPAC). There should be more than the one lone voice in the Knesset calling for a boycott of Israel. And with news that Israel is supplying tear gas to Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe and after by the way British diplomatic staff have been treated by the regime, that position might gain some support, after all Palestinians have to put up with far worse. Olmert’s position isn’t that strong.

Olmert currently commands what may be the lowest approval rating for any democratic leader in world history: a measly 2%. Mired in corruption scandals and about to face the verdict of a commission of inquiry into the debacle of last summer’s war in Lebanon, Olmert finds his premiership stalled and in a ditch. “He needs an initiative and this could be it,” says one Israeli government official of the Saudi plan.

The former head of Israeli military intelligence, Shlomo Gazit, wrote an open letter to the Saudi regime in which he suggested bypassing Olmert and appealing over his head to the Israeli people directly.

Follow the path taken by Anwar Sadat of Egypt 30 years ago, Gazit urged: come to Jerusalem and call for immediate negotiations. Public opinion will rally and “no government in Israel will be able to reject that kind of initiative,” he wrote.

As Jonathan Freedland says in the article, calling Israel’s bluff over its stated desire for peace might just be a good idea.

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March 24, 2007

Thi Iranian Crisis

Filed under: Iran, israel, UN — netherworld @ 10:15 pm

In previous reporting about the crisis with Iran, I mentioned that with all the naval power being used to by the West to pressure the regime, there was an increased possibility of an incident taking place that could escalate into something more serious. Sooner or later, the provocations and intimidations being used both rhetorically and physically were going to bear fruit. It looks like this is what is happening with the reports we are hearing of 15 British sailors being captured by Iran.

A degree of caution is needed in talking about this latest incident as we do not have all the facts yet. But already there are more than one way of looking at this story. We could just accept the majority of media reports that stress that the British sailors were *not* in Iranian waters and were captured as part of a planned effort by the Iranians in order to use them as bargaining chips in the nuclear issue negotiated at the UN Security Council (more on that shortly). Or we could be open to the possibility at least that the sailors either did accidentally ‘stray’ into Iranian waters and were legitimately arrested for it. There is also the possibility that the intentions of the sailors were more sinister. At the moment there is no way of knowing the truth and so it’s probably wise to reserve judgement for the moment and restrict ourselves to speculation.

On thing I think we can take for granted is that any ‘confessions‘ made by the sailors while in Iranian custody can be taken with a pinch of salt. Both Britain and Iran are claiming they have evidence that proves the sailors were where each side says they were (either in Iraqi or Iranian waters respectively). Until this evidence is examined and made public no real determination as to who is right can be made. The last time this happened, back in 2004, it seems that the British personnel were indeed in Iranian waters and though this story is being repeated in the media, the point that British military were not where they were supposed to be on that occasion is not being stressed.

There is another fact that we can take for granted. With British personnel in Iranian custody, it will be much easier to turn public opinion against Iran and justify any future attack on that country. In this respect this incident is a propaganda coup for those who want a conflict with Iran. And if Iran thought that capturing British sailors would help them in this respect then it may well have shot itself in the foot. So far the Iranians have been fairly competent in their diplomacy and military actions, so it seems a little strange that they would resort to such a clumsy tactic now unless they thought they were genuinely defending their territory. However, the provocations on the Iranian regime have escalated sharply over the last three years with the American neo-cons, and, of course, Israel salivating at the prospect of another war.

As well as the British and American naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, there is also the ‘surge’ of American troops in the region and the deployment of Patriot missile batteries. And, of course, the extreme provocation of Iran with the recent kidnap of Iranian diplomats or consular staff by the Americans. This alone may be seen by the Iranians as a justification for its actions.

We cannot detach this incident from the activities at the UN Security Council which has just unanimously passed a new resolution against Iran over its alleged (but unproven) nuclear weapons program. This resolution means a tougher sanctions regime on Iran and strangely, expresses the hope that it will lead to further negotiations. I’d argue that this resolution will have the opposite effect and negotiations will be more difficult to achieve, particularly when America is so reluctant to negotiate (or do anything which doesn’t meet with Israel’s approval). Some of the ambassadors at the UN tried to argue for a nuclear free Middle East but were unable to get their message articulated in concrete terms. It seems that the main powers do not want a nuclear free Middle East but instead one where there is a single nuclear armed power which can impose its will over its neighbours. For this reason the new resolution is unfair and one should question just what pressures were put on the countries that had reservations about this misuse of international law by the powerful. Iran was predictably unimpressed by the new sanctions but shows no inclination to bend to the will of America, Britain and Israel the UN. Before long Iran will feel compelled to use its biggest asset as a weapon – oil. If Iran decides that the world needs a reminder of how dependent it is on oil and cuts the flow of it through the Strait of Hormuz then prices will soar and war will be inevitable. Just to show how sensitive the oil market is, look what happened to oil prices when 15 British sailors were captured.

On the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War, no one should need reminding of the the dangers of pre-emptively attacking an unpleasant regime.

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February 12, 2007

The Coming War On Iran

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, israel, Protest, US Politics — netherworld @ 10:42 am

I have been trying to avoid writing about Iran for the last week or so; partly in order to focus on other issues and partly because it is such an awful and depressing situation that it’s easy to become obsessed with it. However, the drumbeat of war is getting louder so it’s time for an update.

On February 24 there will be another demonstration in London against the Iraq war and the looming war in Iran. In my next post I’ll provide details, but this is roundup is to show why we need to protest. It’s been nearly four years since the invasion of Iraq and all the lies we were told in the build up to it. History is now repeating itself. Just as Iraq was demonised with disinformation, so Iran is today. America insists it is not planning for a war with Iran, however all the signs point to the contrary. In fact former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy believes World War III has already begun. It seems that Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the former chief of staff of the Russian Army, was right when he said that there would be an attack “within weeks” predicting that it would start in April:

“we will see the informational warfare machine start working. The public opinion is already under pressure. There will be a growing anti-Iranian militaristic hysteria, new information leaks, disinformation, etc.”

Lo and behold, what do we see now?

The United States is moving closer to war with Iran by accusing the “highest levels” of the Iranian government of supplying sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed 170 US troops and wounded 620.

The allegations against Iran are similar in tone and credibility to those made four years ago by the US government about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion of 2003.

Senior US defence officials in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed the bombs were manufactured in Iran and smuggled across the border to Shia militants in Iraq. The weapons, identified as “explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs) are said to be capable of destroying an Abrams tank.

How very timely! Note the “speaking on condition of anonymity“. Perhaps they are not as certain as we are being led to believe by some media outlets.
Juan Cole, American professor of Modern Middle East History has a little more detail. He debunks the New York Times article which claims that:

In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.

Sounds quite authorative and convincing doesn’t it? However Juan cole says:

This claim is one hundred percent wrong. Because 25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites in those three months. Day after day, the casualty reports specify al-Anbar Province or Diyala or Salahuddin or Babil, or Baghdad districts such as al-Dura, Ghaziliyah, Amiriyah, etc.–and the enemy fighting is clearly Sunni Arab guerrillas. And, Iran is not giving high tech weapons to Baathists and Salafi Shiite-killers. It is true that some casualties were in “East Baghdad” and that Baghdad is beginning to rival al-Anbar as a cemetery for US troops:

Hmmm, the assertions aren’t quite so convincing now are they? As always, it’s the timing of these claims that are suspect. As America makes these claims and denies provoking Iran, a third Navy carrier group is about to follow the second carrier group already steaming toward the Persian Gulf. At the same time as this news emerges, we hear that Israel has been testing a missile system as a “message to Iran“. And this is of course after numerous Israeli threats and an alleged attempt to drop nuclear bombs on Iran.

Iran in the meantime still maintains that its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it poses no threat to Israel. Of course America, Britain and Israel refuse to believe the Iranian claim. As John Pilger points out:

Unlike Israel and the United States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it was an original signatory and has allowed routine inspections under its legal obligations – until gratuitous, punitive measures were added in 2003, at the behest of Washington. No report by the International Atomic Energy Agency has ever cited Iran for diverting its civilian nuclear programme to military use. The IAEA has said that for most of the past three years its inspectors have been able to “go anywhere and see anything”. They inspected the nuclear installations at Isfahan and Natanz on 10 and 12 January and will return on 2 to 6 February. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El-Baradei says that an attack on Iran will have “catastrophic consequences” and only encourage the regime to become a nuclear power.

Compare this threatening behaviour with the complete lack of concern about Israeli plans to build a nuclear power station despite having an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a reputation for flaunting international law as well as a habit of bombing its neighbours and ethnically cleansing the illegally held land it has conquered. As Pilger mentions, Israel has not signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has and wants to stay within the rules.

Iran is not defenceless; it too has been testing missiles and it has a formidable military bolstered by a state of the art air defence system purchased from Russia. On top of this, it can create havoc in Iraq and Lebanon and also destabilise oil supplies by blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes. But it is unknown whether it can see off an American/Israeli attack. A war, if it happens, will be conducted largely from the air. If there is to be any invasion, it would be in the small area known as Khuzestan where 90 percent of Iran’s oil comes from (ironically this was the area Saddam Hussein tried to invade with American backing).

The calls for attacking Iran are, of course, coming from the neo con part of the Bush administration personified by Dick Cheney and advised by the American Enterprise Institute. The plan is to taunt Iran into doing something which would give America an excuse to respond. It is assumed that an attack on Iran would disguise the total failure of the Iraq mission. The Bush administration is now planning for the inevitable failure of the ill-advised “surge”. This bare faced aggression has prompted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (of all people) to make some very critical statements about America.

“What is a unipolar world? No matter how we beautify this term it means one single centre of power, one single centre of force and one single master…

“It has nothing in common with democracy because that is the opinion of the majority taking into account the minority opinion…

“People are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don’t want to learn it themselves.”

Needless to say, his statements have sparked a war of words between Washington and Moscow. Putin might be a fine one to talk about democracy and abuse of power but that doesn’t make what he said about America any less true.

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February 8, 2007

Melanie Phillips And Her Vitriol Against Independent Jewish Voices

Filed under: Iran, israel, Lebanon, Media, Palestine — netherworld @ 5:23 pm

When I heard the news that a group of Jews had got together to speak out against Israeli aggression and to disassociate themselves from the right-wing Zionists claiming to speak for them, I breathed a sigh of relief at this very positive development. Finally some prominent Jewish voices are speaking out loudly enough to be heard above the surrounding din of extremism. I read the articles about Independent Jewish Voices and watched the recent Newsnight programme which featured rabbi David Goldberg and the poisonous Melanie Phillips.

It wasn’t much of a debate I’m afraid. Rabbi Goldberg is far too cultured and genteel to deal with a foaming-at-the-mouth wingnut like Melanie Phillips. Too long a pause in his considered replies would be exploited by the rabid bitch. Even so Melanie was fairly restrained on TV. I don’t know what possessed me to look, but I stumbled upon her webpage and found everything she meant to say… and it really is sickening. It just had to be fisked. So at risk of bringing on another attack by GIYUS, Israel’s little army of cyber soldiers who I’ve seen off before, here goes:

*Deep Breath*

February 8, 2007

Jews for genocide

On Monday night, I debated on BBC TV’s Newsnight with Rabbi David Goldberg, one of the signatories of a group styling itself ‘Independent Jewish Voices’, an unlovely collection of congenital Israel-bashers, many of whom are unfortunately prominent in British public life and are lionised by the rest of the intelligentsia who share the same venomous prejudice.

What does it tell you Melanie, that a number of prominent Jews are prepared to finally speak out against Israeli injustices after remaining silent for so long? They were lionised by the population long before they broke their silence and their prominence in public life is due to their talents in their different professions. When it comes to “venomous prejudice”, do you ever read any of the garbage you write? This latest offering of yours for example has more “venomous prejudice” than I’ve seen in an article for a long time.

Their main beef is that the Board of Deputies of British Jews dares to defend Israel in the name of the Jewish community. It has no right to do so, it seems, because it does not speak for them. Hello? The Board of Deputies?? Are they kidding? The Board is almost entirely silent on the subject.

No Melanie, their main beef seems to be (as Tom from Blairwatch says) that Jewish opinion in the UK and US is being efficiently corralled by PR into narrow support for the Israeli extreme right and their neo-con buddies in the UK and US. They want to speak for themselves, get it?

And since when were many of these signatories part of the British Jewish community anyway? Although some do identify themselves with it, many of them maintain either the most tangential or even no connection with the community or with Judaism whatever. It embarrasses them. The only time they ever identify themselves as Jews is in order to vilify the Jewish nation state, when — grotesquely — they use their ethnic Jewish identity to armour-plate themselves against the charge of Jew-hatred by wrapping themselves in the mantle of Jewish victimisation.

So because their views don’t coincide with yours, suddenly they are not Jews, is that right? Have you explained that to any of the rabbis who have signed up to Independent Jewish Voices. You didn’t do that on Newsnight when you ‘debated’ with rabbi David Goldberg. I’m sure he would be very surprised to learn that he doesn’t identify himself as a Jew. Are you aware that there is a difference between ‘Jew‘ and ‘Zionist‘? Apparently not.

And here they are again indeed posing as Jewish martyrs. Their complaint is that the Jewish establishment is trying to silence them in their heroic attempt to tell the truth about Israel, in which cause it is they who speak with the authentic voice of Jewish conscience. This is just surreal. These signatories are never out of the media with their revolting rants against Israel. Editors fawn respectfully over their every utterance. They dominate the discussion.

I don’t think ‘martyrs‘ is quite the right word is it? Is that what they call themselves? They speak with their own consciences. The media is not a monolith, some media outlets spout the same garbage you do (although usually with less of the “venomous prejudice” which you use). If their views seem to prevail, it might just possibly mean that they are right and you are wrong. Have you thought of that? No, of course not.

On the contrary, their intention is to silence others. The Board of Deputies — made of representatives who are elected by synagogues and other communal organisations and which therefore speaks for the mainstream British Jewish community — is not even to be allowed by these goons to say anything about Israel because, on the rare occasions when it does so, it dares to defend it. The voice of the Jewish mainstream is to be silenced — because they disagree with it.

You’re putting the cart before the horse again Melanie. It is not them who are trying to silence others. The stifling of debate is done by nasty bullies like GIYUS, the on-line army of cyber soldiers sponsored by the Israeli government to shut down any debate which might expose Israel’s crimes. If you are criticising Independent Jewish Voices for getting together to put forward a counter argument, how come you make no mention at all of GIYUS who behave in a manner far more in keeping with your unsubstantiated racist rants.

The essence of the signatories’ complaint, however, is even more offensive. They object to people saying rude things about them in response to what they say about Israel. They just can’t stand the criticism — and so want to silence their critics. They think freedom of speech means they are free to speak, but others are not free to speak about what they say. They think if the defenders of Israel call them names — ‘antisemites’, ‘betrayers’, ‘self-haters’ — this is stopping them from exercising their freedom of speech; but when they themselves call the defenders of Israel names — ‘the far right’, ‘sanitisers of war crimes’ or just ‘insane’ —they are merely stating demonstrable truths.

Sorry, who is it that can’t stand criticism and tries to silence their critics? Is anyone preventing you from speaking? No, I thought not. Are you denying that critics of Israel are called ‘anti-Semites’ and if they happen to be Jewish are called ‘betrayers’ or ‘self-haters’? You imply as much in your third paragraph. You really don’t read the crap you write do you? Either that or you have the memory of a goldfish. As for the labels used against the rabid rantings from your side of the ‘debate’, ‘the far right’, ‘sanitisers of war crimes’ and ‘insane’, well they seem perfectly apt to me, particularly the latter.

Enough of their ludicrous and self-serving bleating. What they say about Israel is loathsome, and fully deserves the maximum opprobrium. On Newsnight, Goldberg trotted out the usual canard that mainstream Jews object to any criticism of Israel. Not true. What his lot serve up is not criticism. It is instead a monstrous campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation based on systematic lies, libels and distortions which presents Israel, the historic victim of almost sixty years of Arab and Muslim aggression and ethnic cleansing from the Jews’ historic homeland, as the aggressors, regional bullies and oppressors of the innocent. Thus these people not only scapegoat the Israeli victims of aggression, but sanitise their killers and thus encourage them still further in their murderous project.

Can we also have an end to your ‘self-serving bleating’ please? What is loathsome is the attempt to justify mass murder of civilians, ethnic cleansing, starvation, house demolitions, assassinations, annexation of land and theft. I notice in your ravings that you fail to address those issues other than the anodyne lie that it’s all self defence. I can see the pattern now in your diatribe; you accuse your opponents of the very crimes Israel is guilty of. Hence saying that Israel is the “historic victim of almost sixty years of Arab and Muslim aggression and ethnic cleansing from the Jews“. Before 1948 there was no Israel, and the inhabitants of that land (the Palestinians) have been, and are still being driven out by people who are for the most part from eastern Europe. Melanie, it’s you who is spouting the canard, and only the people who regularly consume your drivel would believe it.

The group’s founding declaration is: ‘Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people.’ But the rights of the Palestinians are being infringed for one reason only: that they are intent upon destroying Israel and murdering its citizens. Israel’s legitimate self-defence in this war of annihilation being waged against it is thus represented here entirely falsely as aggression. That of course is the trick of Palestinian propaganda, which has appropriated the history of Jewish victimisation and turned it on its head, casting the Palestinians as the new Jews and the Israelis as the Nazis — a vile inversion which has been swallowed in its entirety by the signatories to this declaration and by many others on the left.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves. If Israelis have the right to defend themselves against resistance, then the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation and indiscriminate slaughter. Both sides of this conflict are guilty of atrocities, Israeli atrocities are on a much vaster scale however. They might not be on the same scale as those of the Nazis but there certainly seems to be a strong whiff of Nazism in Israel’s behaviour. What else would you call it when one of the world’s best equipped and well trained armies uses its might against a people armed with rocks, Kalashnikovs, RPGs and primitive rockets little better than fireworks, and who are so desperate that some of them are willing to blow themselves (and civilians) up. You cannot deny that Israel is the stronger force and uses that force inappropriately contrary to international law.

On Newsnight, Goldberg stunningly dismissed the hundreds of rockets that have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Israel’s disengagement from that territory as being of no consequence. Thus this self-styled champion of human rights simply refuses even to acknowledge Jewish victimisation, while professing concern only for those who are trying to wipe the Jews out. This man is supposed to be a rabbi? This is not morality, but pathology.

Goldberg didn’t dismiss the hundreds of rockets fired fired from Gaza into Israel, he merely pointed out (or tried to) that the rockets fired pale in comparison to the thousands of shells fired into Gaza. The rockets do occasionally kill and maim. Israeli shells and missiles create a much, much higher death toll. I challenge you to deny that. It is you Melanie, who dismisses the obvious imbalance and disproportionality here. By drawing attention to this fact, rabbi Goldberg was fulfilling his duty as a religious leader and human rights activist.

What has been the Palestinian response to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza? An unending barrage of rockets on Israeli towns and the building of tunnels and import of weaponry in order to unleash even greater death and destruction upon Israel. What has been Israel’s response to Palestinian aggression? Israeli hospitals are currently treating more and more Palestinians injured in the clashes between Fatah and Hamas — people who have been trying to kill Israelis and are now being given medical care in Israeli hospitals on equal terms with Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Just who is upholding human rights here, and who is trying to extinguish them?

Israel never really left Gaza. Oh, yes the settlers were removed (and some of them relocated to the West Bank thus exacerbating that situation) but the borders were sealed with no easy way for Palestinians to travel, or trade. They have no access to the sea or air. They are in effect, imprisoned in a giant overcrowded concentration camp and subject to regular Israeli bombardment which for the IDF must be like shooting fish in a barrel. If poor defenceless Israel wasn’t maiming Palestinians, they wouldn’t need to be treated in Israeli hospitals. It should go without saying that if Palestinians had their own well equipped and properly staffed hospitals, they wouldn’t need Israeli ones either, but Israel wouldn’t allow that. That would be too much like independence wouldn’t it? No, far better to show how humane and upholding of human rights Israel is by treating the Palestinians that have been blown to pieces by Israel in Israeli hospitals.

The phenomenon of this Jewish fifth column for Arab and Muslim terror is now doing serious damage to the struggle for survival not just by Israel but by the west in general. Two writers have recently produced withering critiques of these people and the harm they are doing: Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, and Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, whose article has horrified American liberal Jews who refuse to acknowledge their own faces in Caliban’s mirror.

I find it incredible that you would accuse Jews who object to the wanton violence of Israel as a fifth column. Have you looked up the meaning of that term Melanie? Here it is:

A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy’s military and political aims.

Now, does that term fit for a group of Jews concerned with Israeli atrocities? I would argue not. In fact if you drop the ‘clandestine’ the term would be fit much better to organisations like AIPAC in the USA or Labour Friends of Israel, Conservative Friends of Israel or Lib Dem Friends of Israel. The clue (seeing as you don’t have one) is “invading enemy’s military and political aims“. Who is doing the invading Melanie? And under the pretense of it being self defence… hmmm what does that remind me of?

One of the most painful aspects of all of the Jewish tragedy is that, throughout the unending history of Jewish persecution — from the medieval Christian converts to Marx and beyond —Jews have figured, for a variety of reasons, as prominent accomplices of those who wished to destroy the Jewish people. These signatories are firmly in that lamentable tradition. And since today’s principal battleground is — as the Islamists well understand but we in the west do not — the battleground of ideas, the contribution of these Israel-bashing Jewish intellectuals to the cause of those who hate Jews, the west and human rights is immense.

No one is denying that Jews have suffered terribly in the past because of European barbarism throughout the ages. It’s a series of shameful episodes in our History. But speaking of History, look at how well Jews and the Muslims you so obviously hate got on in the past. Why should Muslims have to pay for European crimes. If you need a direction to point that huge chip on your shoulder, European Christians would be a more logical target. The current problems between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East stem largely from the theft of Muslim land, aided and abetted once again by European colonial powers. The suffering of Jews in the past does not give some of them the right to commit similar crimes now.

When Daniel Pipes was recently drowned out by Islamists at the University of California-Irvine, this (via LGF) was what they were saying:

They have no future. And it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth.[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!] Justice will be restored then. Those people who are there legitimately … the people there will, will rule. There will be no injustice any more there. So just keep on doing what we’re doing. Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out, and we deflate their morale, and this is the best we can do right now….[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!]

Fine, go ahead and quote some angry nutcases in a crowd and try to imply that this is the view of all Muslims if you must. As I said earlier, the only people you’ll convince are the idiots who devour your trashy vitriol with such gusto. Even in the passage you quote are words which defeat your ‘argument’. “Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out…” Wow, Melanie, who’s afraid of free speech now?

At a time when Iran is threatening to nuke Israel into kingdom come, the words of the prophet come to mind: your destroyers are among you.

So Iran is threatening to nuke Israel is it? Are you sure? Would you be so kind as to find me the relevant quote which shows that intention? It wouldn’t be this would it? Oh you really are gullible aren’t you Melanie? Whilst on the subject of nuking people, perhaps you would like to explain this:

A recent strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.

Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran.

What’s it to be Melanie, blanket denial or a claim of “self defence”? We’ve heard plenty of Israeli denials before, followed by admissions of “mistakes”.

Having struggled though all that appalling crap I now need to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

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January 21, 2007

Spot The Obstacle to Peace

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 9:54 am

Amidst all the turmoil in the Middle East, there are some attempts being made in certain diplomatic circles to try and stabilise the region. One country however seems to be doing its level best to scupper these small efforts. No prizes for guessing who it is.

DUBAI (AFP) – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is urging the United States to talk with Syria, claiming in an interview that Damascus “supports” Iraq in fighting the insurgency.

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria on Saturday condemned insurgent attacks on the U.S.-backed Iraqi army and security forces, describing them as “terrorism”, in another shift in the Damascus government’s position toward its neighbour.

BERLIN (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has reiterated Washington’s opposition to talking to Syria or Iran to get their help in easing unrest in Iraq.

Here’s some other examples that I referred to obliquely in a previous post.

Israeli officials have confirmed that the Foreign Ministry knew about a series of peace talks that have taken place in Europe between Syrians and an Israeli team headed by a former senior diplomat. The teams discussed Israel handing back the Golan Heights, which it has occupied since the Six Day War in 1967, to Syria under a formula providing for President Bashar Assad to stop giving support to Hamas and Hizbollah and to distance his regime from Iran.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House denied media reports that Israelis and Syrians reached understandings for a peace treaty in secret unofficial talks over the past two years.

Oh, and there’s this.

Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

And these are just examples of what has been happening on various diplomatic fronts. Only a lunatic would want the various wars in the Middle East to continue, only a lunatic could think that a disastrous policy can be put right by repeating it, and only a lunatic would want to start yet another war in the region. Unfortunately, a lunatic is running the United States of America.

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January 20, 2007

Did Israel Try To Carry Out Its Plan To Nuke Iran?

Filed under: Bush, Iran, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 8:40 am

I posed the title of this post as a question because I have no idea if this is true or not and I don’t know how to verify it. It seems so outrageous that I can hardly believe it but with everything else going on around Iran at the moment and the recently revealed Israeli plans for a nuclear attack on Iran (since denied), maybe there is some truth in this.

Israeli Nuclear Strike On Iran Turned Back

A recent strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.

Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran.

Israeli nuclear strikes are not unprecedented. Soon after Desert Storm, U.S. Navy pilots told this reporter in Kuwait how in late 1990 Israel made good on its pledge to respond in kind to WMD attacks by launching nuclear-armed aircraft against Baghdad following a lethal assault on Tel Aviv by Scud missiles tipped with chemical warheads. That air strike was called off when the Americans refused to provide the vital IFF codes needed to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace.
Read on

As I said, I can’t verify the source and I don’t know much about American and Israeli military protocols, but it’s certainly a scary article. There are however plenty of other reports about Iran which suggest that war could break out very soon indeed.

Tensions between the USA and Iran have been mounting alarmingly since the recent kidnapping of Iranian diplomats and consular workers and the raid on a consular office in northern Iraq. Some of this has been widely reported, the sending of another American aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley refusing rule out the possibility of US forces striking across the border or the Russian delivery of state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missiles to Iran for example. Other news items are appearing on less well known news sources. For example, in recent days, there have been reports that Iran shot down an American pilotless spy drone. America has also denied that there was an Iranian missile strike on a US warship in the Gulf.

Whether these stories are true or not, one thing seems certain and that is that the crisis is escalating to a point where any small incident could kick off a huge conflict. In other words a war could soon be unstoppable even if America and Iran did try to row back, something neither party is showing any signs of doing. There have been several reports saying that America will have all its pieces in place some time in February and that there is a plan to attack Iran from the sea as early as April this year.

KUWAIT CITY: Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add. Recent statements emanating from the United States indicate the Bush administration’s new strategy for Iraq doesn’t’t include any proposal to make a compromise or negotiate with Syria or Iran. A reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice and other assistants in the White House where they discussed the plan to attack Iran in minute detail.

When you couple news like this with news of America’s rejection of Iranian concessions as far back as 2003, and ofAmerica’s dismissal of the widespread reports of possible peace talks between Israel and Syria which would do much to ease the tensions in the region, you have to wonder what bush is planning. It looks like the planned attacks are not going to be “surgical strikes” as was previously suggested, but a whole scale war which would devastate the region.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. contingency planning for military action against
Iran’s nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former U.S. intelligence analyst said on Friday.

“I’ve seen some of the planning … You’re not talking about a surgical strike,” said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.

“You’re talking about a war against Iran” that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

When you put all these different reports together, a very frightening picture emerges. What we are hearing far less of are diplomatic moves in the UN or effective restraining of Bush and his insane neo con agenda from the Democrat dominated Congress. The US Congress seems like the only force able to prevent the coming devastation, but have the saner voices in both parties got the strength, courage and will to do what is necessary?

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January 15, 2007

Another Roundup of Middle East Turmoil

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Palestine, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 8:24 am

Condoleezza Rice’s latest trip to the Middle East cannot be described a peace-making mission. The motives for her trip appear to be to drum up support for the destabilisation force Bush is sending to Iraq, and to poison the minds of Arab leaders even more against Iran in preparation for what is looking ever more likely to be another Middle East war. However, some Arab leaders have had the temerity to impose conditions on the USA in exchange for their support. The price is US engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And so once again Condoleezza has to pretend that she wants to see a Palestinian state and is able to win meaningful concessions from the Israelis.

“I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement,” she said after talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

So far she has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Today she will meet Ehud Olmert and then go on to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to promote war. It won’t escape the attention of these Arab leaders that she has absolutely nothing new to offer. What she will try to gain is unconditional support for more chaos in Iraq and new Chaos in Iran and beyond by telling them that all this is in their interest.

In advance of her visit, the secretary of state said she was not bringing new proposals but would be listening, talking and looking for creative solutions.

At a press conference she had to deny that USA was too distracted by concerns about Iraq and Iran to have effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state… and if there is anything that I can do and that the president can do to finally realise that day, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”

The answer to that of course is that the Bush administration is so pro-Israel and controlled by Zionist lobby groups like AIPAC that it cannot possibly be considered as a fair arbiter in any negotiations and is responsible along with Israel for the appalling conditions in which the Palestinians are forced to live. America has had plenty of opportunities to restrain the worst excesses of Israel and has failed to do so every time.

Still, Condi should be able to drum up enough support for Bush’s nefarious plans in the region. Iran is disliked and feared by many Arab countries, and by spreading the fear of Iranian influence over Iraq (even though it was America’s invasion that created this problem) as well as pretending that sending another 20,000 troops into the quagmire will somehow make the situation more secure for the region she’ll probably get enough support to give a veneer of legitimacy to her plans. Bush needs this support because it certainly doesn’t exist back home where even the Republicans are in open revolt over the “surge” plans.

Bush has finally been forced to acknowledge that the invasion has made Iraq more unstable, but he still maintains that despite some mistakes he did the right thing.

But pressed on the issue, and told by a Fox News interviewer that Iraq was “much more unstable now, Mr President,”, Mr Bush replied: “Well, no question, decisions have made things unstable.”

He added: “I think history is going to look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.” But toppling Saddam was not a mistake. “We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude and I believe most Iraqis express that.”

Yes, that’s right, he actually thinks Iraqis should be grateful for the murder and mayhem that that has engulfed their country because of the invasion. I don’t know which Iraqis he’s been talking to but 90 percent of them seem to think they were better off under Saddam Hussein.

Not content with wrecking one country, the Bush administration is now working flat out to try and wreck another. The recent incidents in Northern Iraq (authorised by Bush) where Iranian diplomats have been arrested and a consular office raided have increased tensions between the US and Iran. These diplomatic incidents look like being the first moves in an attempt to provoke a conflict. America is now threatening to “deal with” Iran and Syria over their alleged support of insurgents while Iran is demanding the release of its kidnapped diplomats. The White House is emphatically refusing to rule out an attack on Iran.

The attack could take the form of air strikes or cross-border raids, most likely it will be both. The legality of such action hasn’t been discussed; the last time the UN was mentioned vis-à-vis Iran was last month when limited sanctions were imposed. Whether or not the US Congress can prevent its commander in chief make another even more catastrophic foreign policy blunder is unknown, but we have already seen how much respect Bush has for legal processes.

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January 7, 2007

Israeli Plans To Nuke Iran

Filed under: Bliar, Bush, Iran, israel, US Politics — netherworld @ 6:29 am

It’s no great secret that Israel wants Iran to be be attacked – ideally (from Israel’s point of view) by or with the Americans. The pretense for this attack is the fear of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program for which the CIA can find no evidence. There has also been plenty of fear mongering in Israel, America and Britain concerning the mistranslation of some bellicose rhetoric from President Ahmadinejad where he is alleged to have stated that “Israel must be wiped off the map”. The Middle East expert Juan Cole and The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) provide us with more accurate translations:

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, translates the Persian phrase as:

The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).

According to Cole, “Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian” and “He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly:

[T]his regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.

Unsurprisingly, no effort whatsoever has been made to correct this inaccurate translation in the West and the Media still spreads the lie that Ahmadinejad stated that he wanted Israel wiped off the map. As a piece of propaganda this has been extraordinarily effective as it is widely believed and frequently used by politicians in Britain, America and Israel to justify diplomatic and military pressure on Iran. The prevalence of this deliberate misinterpretation can be compared with the scant reporting of this piece of rhetoric from Ehud Olmert a few months ago:

Olmert compares Iran with Nazi Germany

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday compared Iran’s nuclear ambitions and threats against Israel with the policies of Nazi Germany and criticized world leaders who maintain relations with Iran’s president.

I have reported many times recently of my fears of an immanent attack on Iran by either the USA, Israel or, more likely, both countries in concert. Now comes news that Israel is planning a preemptive attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities using tactical nuclear weapons.

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

Needless to say this would be an absolute disaster for the entire region and beyond. Iran would have to respond and America would then come to the aid of Israel using the hardware that it has already put in place in preparation for a war with Iran. Despite the USA being stuck in the Iraq quagmire, it is making no attempt to extricate itself, indeed it is digging itself ever deeper into the hole it has dug. America has rejected the findings of the Iraq Study Group report which advised a phased withdrawal from Iraq and consultations with Iran and Syria. What Bush seems likely to do instead is the complete opposite by pouring more troops into Iraq. Bush has replaced his top commanders in the region who expressed doubts about sending in more troops with people who support his plan.

By replacing General John Abizaid as head of Central Command for the Middle East region with a naval officer, Admiral William Fallon, Bush might be planning for the use of the naval assets he has in place in the Persian Gulf. These warships are likely to be more useful for an attack on Iran than putting down an insurgency in Iraq. It would seem then that the preparations have been made. All that is left is the coming battle in Congress. The Democrats have already said they don’t want more troops sent to Iraq and they have the power now to block further funding for Bush’s war. However, they are unlikely to make such a bold move, and when it comes to Iran, the Democrats seem just as belligerent as the Republicans. By expanding the war in this way, Bush may get the support he wants.

The stage seems to be set now for a wider Middle East conflict that will make the Iraq war look like a school playground squabble. The Sunni/Shia sectarian violence which is tearing Iraq to pieces could easily spread to encompass the surrounding states. Israel has already assumed that the war it lost to Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer will resume and will involve Syria too this time. If that war did resume, then what happens to the UNIFIL peacekeepers currently keeping the two sides apart?
It is looking like 2007 could be a very dangerous year indeed.

What will Britain’s role in all this be? Blair has been ratcheting up the hate on Iran for a while now. But would he really be so stupid as to participate in a nuclear strike on Iran? His actions up to now suggest that he might. It could well be the perfect excuse for him to try and remain in office for longer and continue his failed policies at home and abroad. So much for his “alliance of moderation“.

Of course the main reasons for conflict in Iraq and Iran remain the same. Israel will largely be used to provoke the conflict, something it seems eager to do for reasons of its own (war with Iran will give it the cover it needs to resume its invasion of Lebanon and further incursions into Palestinian territory, as well as a show of strength and a boost to Olmert’s standing). But with a state this dangerous and unprincipled (hello GIYUS), one has to wonder about Israel’s plans to join the EU and NATO. Maybe by engaging in a murderous campaign with the USA, Israel might be thinking that membership to those institutions will be easier. I sincerely hope any overtures to those institutions will be flatly rejected because of its behaviour, but if Israel can fool the world yet again into believing that it is a victim rather than the antagonist it undoubtedly is, the international community (bullied by America) might favour such a move. Either way things are looking worse than ever in the Middle East

Happy new year everyone.

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November 28, 2006

Bush and Blair’s Stable Middle East: Progress or More Despair?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria — netherworld @ 7:57 am

The news coming from the Middle East this week, as well as providing us with the usual overdose of despair, is also showing some faint glimmers of change if not exactly hope in some of the hotspots.

In Palestine the tenuous cease fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding… just, and we are finally hearing some more positive language coming from Olmert which may just be the beginnings of a peace initiative, although it is far too early to say for sure and everyone has seen positive developments quickly collapse into renewed violence. However the cease fire, prisoner exchange and possible talks about a viable Palestinian state are developments which are to be welcomed and encouraged. One has to wonder what initiated this change of heart. Is it a realisation that Israel cannot simply murder its way to a peaceful solution (after several months of relentless attacks, massacres, demolitions and assassinations resulting in over 400 Palestinian deaths, most of them civilian, the rocket attacks continued unabated)? Is it pressure from Washington as Bush prepares to visit the region and needs at least something that will play well with the folks back home (it certainly won’t be from Iraq)? Perhaps both sides are exhausted and need a pause in order to re arm and prepare for another cycle of violence. Possibly it is a mixture of all these things.

In Iraq of course, it is very difficult to see anything positive as the country crumbles further into anarchy. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing watching the US and British governments try to use any wording they can to describe the situation without uttering those fateful words ‘civil war‘. However, civil war is exactly what is happening, or to be more precise, civil wars may be a better term because the country is so fractured now. It’s now obvious to everyone that the Bush/Blair axis does not have the faintest clue what to do about the catastrophe it has created. Talking to Iran and Syria, previously unthinkable, is now very much on the agenda. While Bush and Blair contemplate this very obvious climb down, the Iraqi leader has gone to Iran to plead for help and has received a promise of assistance. Just what form that assistance will take and how effective it will be remains to be seen, however, it is a change and the closest thing to a positive development happening.

In Britain there has been more talk of troop withdrawals, but again the rhetoric displays the bankruptcy of ideas. It has been more or less acknowledged that troops in the region are contributing to the violence, and also acknowledged that withdrawing them is likely to increase the violence in the short term. The decision seems to be to announce a withdrawal of some (possibly most) British troops by the end of next year while admitting that some troops will be in Iraq for many years to come (probably confined to bases and under siege). Hardly a clear strategy. Of course, the remainder of the so-called coalition of the willing will be out of Iraq much sooner. America is not making any such announcement. The USA is still deliberating on whether to send even more troops into the quagmire as if that would improve matters.

Another hotspot in the news again is Lebanon which also looks close to descending into chaos again. Hizbollah’s threat to leave the government unless it was given greater representation could be a body blow to the pro Western administration. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian industry minister has obviously added to the pressure on Lebanon and also Syria, which has been accused of the murder without a shred of evidence. It is interesting that the killing took place just as Syria was making positive noises about coming in from the cold and helping ease the tension in Iraq. For Syria to murder a Lebanese Cabinet Minister at this time is hardly in its best interests, so we have to ask ourselves who would benefit most from the renewed chaos in Lebanon and and more pressure on Syria as well as who is best placed to carry out such an assassination. Hopefully the tension in the Levant will be allowed to calm down in order for all parties to focus on the far more dangerous situation in Iraq.

Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are the three civil wars (potential or already started) that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that we could be facing next year. Not exactly the advance of freedom and hope in the greater Middle East promised by Bush and Blair when they lied their way into the Iraq war and now try to lie their way out of it. But there is also the quagmire in Afghanistan to consider. That conflict is not going well either and America and Britain are having trouble finding other NATO allies to join them in their mission. Far from rushing to join in the fun, NATO countries are looking for a way out of that mess.

While there is very little to get exited about in terms of stability in the region, there is a noticeable change in the air. America’s stranglehold on the Middle East might well be coming to an end. An attack on Iran now looks less likely as the US realises that it needs Iranian cooperation and that Iran seems to be holding the best cards and knows how to play them. Also it will be much harder to attack Iran now that the CIA has said that it has found no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This with the possibility of a peace initiative in Palestine and Iranian and Syrian cooperation in Iraq does give us some reason to hope, however small that hope is.

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November 15, 2006

About Time Too!

Filed under: israel, Palestine, UK Politics — netherworld @ 8:33 am

In the past year, the Government licensed the sale of £23m worth of weaponry to Israel. This is a dramatic increase (almost double) on the previous year. Britain seems to have a nice little business going in selling weapons to despotic regimes.

However, under both EU (and UK) law arms cannot be sold to countries where they might be used for internal repression, international aggression, or contribute to regional instability. See Criterion Two and Criterion 4 of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. So why are we doing it? Well, apparently we have received assurances from Israel that that arms sold to it from the UK would not be used in the occupied territories. Assurances that evidently were not worth the paper they were printed on.

Anyway, it looks as if this cosy business arrangement is about to be disrupted by a Palestinian who is taking the Government to court over the matter.

The government is being taken to court today over the sale of military equipment to Israel including parts for Apache helicopter gunships, laser range finders, and communications equipment.

Saleh Hasan, a Palestinian who lives in Bethlehem, argues that the sales are in breach of the government’s guidelines covering arms exports and are unlawful. The guidelines say exports should be blocked when there is a “clear risk” they “might be used for internal repression”.

Mr Hasan’s lawyers point to comments by Foreign Office minister Kim Howells in the Commons in August that “almost any use of equipment … could be used aggressively, especially in occupied areas”.

They point out that after British military equipment was used in the occupied territories in 2002, Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, said he would no longer take Israeli assurances into account. Mr Howells said that approach “still holds true”.

Michael Fordham QC says in his court challenge on behalf of Mr Saleh that there is also clear evidence of human rights abuses by Israeli forces.

Well, hopefully Mr Hasan will win his case. If he does win, it won’t change facts on the ground, Israel gets most of its weaponry from the USA, but at least Britain will be less complicit in the slaughter of Palestinian civilians. A small victory.

If he looses the case and the UK continues to supply Israel with high-tech weaponry to be used on the civilians of Palestine then that will make a mockery of Tony Blair’s recent rhetoric about solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

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