Obama to Israel: Take whatever you want

In his latest speech, Obama’s thinly veiled rhetoric proves he will do anything to satisfy his pro-Israel voter base.
 23 May 2011
For years, American presidents taken a weak stance on illegal Israeli settlement construction, but none have come so close as Obama to actually legitimising them 

In 2008, Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, pandered to pro-Israeli voters and Israel by promising in a speech addressed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that Jerusalem would forever remain “the undivided capital of Israel”.

Three years later, Obama is on another pre-campaign trail in order to improve his chances for re-election in 2012. As part of this campaign, he has made a new round of half-hearted attempts to revive the stalled “peace process” completely under Israel’s terms.

In his latest speech addressed to AIPAC, Obama promised Israel everything short of allegiance by reaffirming America’s commitment to Israel’s political and security goals. His speech denied the right of Palestinians to declare a nation and he even vowed to block any peaceful Palestinian efforts to claim their legal rights at international organisations.

Obama’s lip service to Palestinian “self-determination” is nothing more than vacuous rhetoric – as he clearly implied that Israeli interests, especially its security, remain the top priority for American foreign policy in the region.

He mechanically repeated his commitment to the vision of a two-state solution – establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. However, as expected, he left the borders and terms of the creation of such state subject to Israel’s “security interests”.

His reference to resuming peace negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders (also known as the Green Line) means neither a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories nor the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on all of the land within the Green Line, including East Jerusalem.

There is a significant difference in negotiations “lingo” and even legal language between saying that the establishment of a Palestinian state “will be based on” 1967 borders as opposed to saying it “will be established on” the 1967 borders.

The first leaves ample room for Israel to continue occupying and even annexing vast settlement blocs (and perhaps even all of the illegal, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) for “security reasons”.

Take whatever you can

Just in case his pro-Israel support base misunderstood the thinly veiled statements from his Middle East speech last Friday, Obama made sure to clarify to his definitively pro-Israeli view that there is no going back to the true 1967 borders:

“[The statement] means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 196… It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic reality.”

In clearer words, the president is effectively, although not explicitly, equating the presence of Palestinians on their own land with the illegal presence of Israeli settlers living on land confiscated forty-four years ago from the Palestinians.

Basically, despite the fact that settlers live on that land illegally under international law, because they are physically there, the land becomes theirs.

This confirms the belief of many in the region that the construction of Israeli settlements and of the Separation Wall inside the 1967 borders is Israel’s way of slowly completing a de facto annexation of Palestinian land.

This latest of Obama’s statements may be the closest the president has come to legitimising illegal Israeli settlements.

Obama’s message to Israel appeared to confirm that he is ready to keep former president George Bush’s 2005 promise that Israel would be able to keep their largest settlements blocs as a result of any negotiated solution for the conflict.

In other words, Obama’s idea of Palestinian self-determination is for Palestinians to accept whatever Israel decides.

In his AIPAC speech, and the previous speech addressed to the Middle East, Obama seemed to have either  been out of touch with, or to have simply ignored, the changes brought about by the Arab Spring. For while he argued that Israel should understand that the Arab Spring has altered the political balance in the region, and that Israel should understand it now has to make peace not with corruptible Arab leaders, but with the Arab people themselves.

So much for hope and change

In fact, when it comes to the Palestinian cause, Obama is speaking and acting as if the Arab Spring has not taken place. He has to remember that even America’s most loyal Arab allies in the region could not openly support the American-Israeli formula for peace with the Palestinians. So, why then would it be acceptable to millions of pro-Palestinian Arabs?

The Arab Spring may have affected the semantics of American discourse on Palestinian rights but it has not created anything close to a real shift in American policies.

Once again, Obama has succumbed to political blackmail by Netanyahu – whose main goal of raising objections to the peace process is to make sure that Israel continues undisturbed with its expansionist polices, and not because of any real fear from the president’s weak demands.

Yes, there is no doubt that Netanyahu wants to see any reference to 1967 borders dropped from the discourse, because Israel is currently busy drawing its own militarily imposed future borders, he could not have misunderstood Obama’s clearly pro-Israeli statements.

As the American president pointed out in his speech, he has made good on his declaration of “full commitment” to Israeli interests and security needs: “That’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies.”

“And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.”

Obama has not only been consistent in maintaining full US support for Israel but has also articulated a new, more decisive stance which explicitly confirms the long-standing American policy of blocking any peaceful Palestinian efforts through international law and the United Nations.

“…The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate”, he promised the gathering of the staunchest and most influential supporters of Israel.

By siding with Israel against the Palestinian Authority’s plan to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, the US has in effect declared war on all Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority and activists alike.

He will unabashedly thwart any efforts to pursue legal and peaceful means of challenging the continued Israeli colonisation of their land.

But by labeling such campaigns aimed at recognition of a Palestinian state as an attempt “to delegitimise” Israel, the president is inadvertently recognising that those Israeli policies themselves lack legitimacy.

A rights based discourse?

Furthermore, while Obama’s assertion that UN recognition alone cannot create a Palestinian state is technically true, it will restore the topic within a legal rights discourse – which would not be defined by Israel’s security concerns as it has in the past.

Such UN recognition, of course, would work towards the establishment a Palestinian state defined by the 1967 borders – meaning that all Israeli settlements within that border would have to be evacuated. Without this, it would only legitimise and perpetuate the American-Israeli negotiations formula.

But Obama has not taken any risks in order to promote peace.

He fears foiling decades of American policies that have aimed to veto any UN resolution pertaining to Israeli crimes and, starting a new discourse about the conflict that would be rights-based.

It was no surprise either when Obama declared the reconciliation agreement between Fateh and Hamas, signed earlier this month, to be an “obstacle” to peace in the region. After all, in his purely pro-Israeli mindset, any attempt at Palestinian unity – regardless of how feeble – does not serve Israeli interest and its tried and true “divide and conquer” method has prevented any real progress for years.

Obama’s repeated refrain about Hamas being an unacceptable peace partner, sounds not only like a broken record, but also like a lame excuse for Israeli extremism and intransigence.

If he wants to know who the true unacceptable partners for peace are, all he has to do is get an English transcript of discussions from the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and read how members from the political right call Arabs “animals” and make all manner of racist slurs against Palestinians.

But if Obama is willing to encourage Israeli policies such as ‘land transfers’, which aim to displace whole Palestinian communities and refers to them as mere “demographic changes”, then why would he care about racist rhetoric and threats by right-wing Israelis?

In his latest speeches, Obama did not refer once to the events that took place on the May 15 ‘Nakba Day’ protests. During these peaceful demonstrations, the Israeli military responded in a predictable way, in the only way they know – by firing indiscriminately on unarmed protesters. By the end of the shooting spree, more than 20 people were killed at the Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Obama’s speech is his exaggerated attempt to adopt the Israeli narrative and by default, his complete denial of Palestinian national rights.

In the end of his speech, Obama’s claim that Israel’s history could be characterised by a struggle for freedom (a repeat from his 2008 AIPAC speech) says it all:

The American president refuses to see Israeli oppression and repression. He refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for freedom – because if he did, he just might hurt his chances at winning a second term as US president.

(www.aljazeera.com / 12.02.2012)

Two American activists, including ISM founder, arrested in Bahrain

Huwaida Arraf (left) and husband and co-founder of ISM Adam Shapiro.

DUBAI: Two American activists were arrested in Bahrain on Saturday during pro-reform protests against the monarchy.

According to witnesses on the ground in Manama, Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – a nonviolence civil disobedience group in Palestine – was seen taken by police from a march in the capital.

She had been attempting to reach the focal point of protests at the Pearl roundabout.

Radhika Sainath, an American-Indian activist, was also detained during the same march.

Arraf, who chairs the Free Gaza Movement, and Sainath, had both arrived in Bahrain in recent days along with other western activists to express their support for pro-reform protesters on the first anniversary of the start of the Bahrain uprising, on February 14, 2011.

Bahraini authorities confirmed their arrest, saying the two would be deported “for applying for tourist visas under false pretenses.”

“Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath arrived in Bahrain in the last few days and obtained tourist visas upon arrival at the airport,” the government said in a statement.

“However, once in Bahrain, they declared their intentions to join demonstrations in order to report on them. Arraf and Sainath were picked up at an illegal demonstration in Manama this afternoon.”

A website that the activists had set up under the name witnessbahrain.org to report their observations was also blocked by the authorities.

During Saturday’s demonstrations, police fired tear-gas and sound-grenades in an attempt to clear the protesters from the market area.

According to the opposition, more then 60 people have been killed since the protests broke out last year. The death toll includes at least four people who have died in police custody.

(bikyamasr.com / 12.02.2012)

SYRIA: WHO IS RIGHT, WHO IS WRONG?

For months now, Syria is haunted by tragedy. Civilians have been tortured and killed by the armed forces; government repression has reached unbearable levels and appears unstoppable. The world is watching and the foreign powers—Russia and China on one side; the United States, the Arab and European countries on the other—are unable to find a solution or to agree on a way to put an end to the killings. The UN is helpless and the world looks on passively: hundreds of Syrians have been killed and the repression continues.

Anyone who dares to speak out, to write about the issue, is sure to be attacked by both sides. For some, to call for the end of Bashar al-Assad’s regime means support for America and Israel against the Muslims (especially the Shiites), the Iranians and ultimately the Palestinians. On internet and on the social networks, the attacks are extremely vehement and harsh: to support the divided opposition is considered a sign of dangerous political naivety at best and an act of high treason at worst. ‘Our enemies are supporting the protesters’ they claim, ‘so we should support the enemies of our enemies’. Hence, the only choice is to take the regime’s side. But in politics as well as on questions of human rights, the enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends.

It is quite obvious that the Americans, the Europeans and the Israelis have changed their position (they wanted first a reform within the regime): now they are demanding that Bashar al Assad to step down. It is no less obvious that they are in touch with opposition groups and leaders in an attempt to secure their interests in the region. The Western powers and Israel are not passive spectators; they are trying to remain in control whereas the Russian and Chinese are working to attain a more effective presence in the Middle East on several fronts.

All this is common knowledge; the shape of the new emerging Middle East is a matter of great concern in the light of recent events in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and the constant pressure on Iran, where the potential of an attack is quite high. It would be dangerously shortsighted to accept at face value the kindly and humanistic intentions of the US or China, of the European countries, of Israel and Russia towards the Arab peoples in general and the Syrians in particular. Their lives have value only in terms of the economic and geostrategic interests they represent: nothing more, nothing less.

This much having been acknowledged, is the only remaining solution to remain silent and to support Bashar’s regime? He and his father were and are dictators who ordered the killings of thousands of civilians while torturing their opponents without mercy. These are facts; no sound heart and mind could support such tyrants and cruel despots. The tyranny should come to an end; Bashar al Assad should be arrested and judged. His record is dire, the work of a madman.

This is not a call for foreign intervention; few have been fooled by the Libyan operation of securing oil before people. The self-styled ‘international community’ should take a clear stand and put pressure on the regime to stop the repression—an unlikely outcome, it is true. In reality, it is the task of the opposition forces to arrive at a minimum agreement and to organize a strong united front that would lead the country towards pluralism, democracy and freedom: surely the most pressing and difficult challenge the Syrians face today. There can be no other way to convince the world that there exists a true democratic alternative to the tyrannical current regime. This means working with a broad spectrum of supporters and partners in America, Europe, the Arab world and Asia. In the long run it will be their ability to chart a course in today’s multi-polar world order that would secure them strong multilateral support for their legitimate resistance.

Today, such a perspective seems far away. The competing opposition councils together with the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and an activist Turkish foreign policy seem to be operating according to the old parameters against which no solution seems to possible. The future is bleak.

In Homs, Hama and throughout Syria, civilians are being killed every day; people are humiliated and tortured. The regime’s guilt cries out, as does our silence. Our tears cannot be enough if our only support is to watch TV, and cry. Our hearts may weep, but our courage has failed us.

(www.tariqramadan.com / 12.02.2012)

News from Syria 12.02.2012

15,000 Elite Iranian Special-ops Allegedly ‘head’ to Syria

What is the difference between #Hitler and #Bashar? Only one:#Hitler was a genius, #Bashar is a F***ing idiot. #Syria #SyriaBleeds

Syria – Assad Artillery Attack on Baba Amr Continues – Mosque Under Assault 12-Feb-12

Syria – Mass Army Defections in Rastan – 12-Feb-12 Hundreds Defect Daily – Homs region

#SignsURMoukhabarat when we send you a challenging Tweet and you respond. #Syria #SyriaBleeds

#Arbeen #Damascus #Syria – 12th feb 2012 anti government demonstration this evening in the Arbeen area of Damascus

Be proactive NOT reactive. #Syria #SyriaBleeds #AssadWillHang

When #Alawite s chant and curse #Hama then it is clear what the#Syria n regime is made out of. #Syria #MiddleAgesMentality#SyriaBleeds

When #Alawite elders preach to exterminate 20 Million #Sunni s then there is something wrong with the #Syria n regime. #SyriaBleeds

#Damascus Artouz Military units that were stationed in Kawkab Hill at the missile base descent to the outskirts of Dahra

#Syria ns: We need to brace ourselves; it will be a long devastating and costly struggle but we will prevail at the end. #Syria#SyriaBleeds

many #mukbarat regime police captured in #homs today many crying at the crimes they had commited in the name of the criminal#basharassad

#Syria ns: We need to brre ourselves; it will be a long devastating and costly struggle but we will prevail at the end. #Syria#SyriaBleeds

We really feel very sorry for those misdirected pro-regime Christians who are being used as scapegoats by #Bashar#Syria#SyriaBleeds

Hamas calls for defending the Aqsa mosque

 

Hamas warned the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) of persisting in its attempts to storm the Aqsa mosque and protecting Jewish settlers, describing the Aqsa as a “red line”.

 

The movement said in a statement on Sunday that any tampering with the Aqsa mosque would be tantamount to declaring war on all Arabs and Muslims.

Hamas hailed the Palestinians in 1948 occupied Palestine and in Jerusalem who stood up to the Israeli storming attempt, urging the Palestinian people to stand united to protect the Aqsa mosque.

Hamas asked the Arab and Muslim masses to assume their responsibilities and to back the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites.

The Israeli occupation forces have been encircling the Old City of Jerusalem since Saturday morning to pave the way for Jewish fanatics to storm the holy site on Sunday, an attempt which was foiled by Palestinians stationing in the holy compound.

Meanwhile, the league of Palestine scholars appealed to the Islamic Umma to hurry to the rescue of the holy site, the third holiest shrine in Islam.

Dr. Salem Salama, the head of the league, told a press conference on Sunday that the Muslims worldwide should not remain arms folded in face of Israeli desecration of the holy site.

He urged Jerusalemites and Palestinians in 1948 occupied Palestine not to let the Aqsa mosque empty at any time by day or night and to remain stationed there 24 hours a day.

(arabnyheter.com / 12.02.2012)

Syrië wijst nieuwe resolutie van Liga en VN af

 

 

Tegenstanders van het regime van Assad hijsen een Syrische vlag in Kairo tijdens de bijeenkomst van de Arabische Liga.

De Syrische regering wijst de nieuwe resolutie af die vandaag in Kairo door de Arabische Liga is vastgelegd. Hierin staat dat deeconomische sancties tegen het land flink worden aangescherpt.

In de resolutie wordt de oppositie van Syrië gesteund, en krijgt het land flinke economische sancties opgelegd. Uit een verklaring uit Damascus blijkt dat de overheid het plan “volledig afwijst”, zo meldt persbureau Reuters vanavond.

Oproep tot nieuwe vredesmissie

Naast de sancties heeft de Liga bekend gemaakt dat het de Verenigde Naties oproept om een vredesmissie naar Syrië te sturen. De waarnemersmissie van de Liga is definitief stopgezet, zo bleek uit de bijeenkomst. De ministers van Buitenlandse Zaken waren de hele middag in beraad over de missie. De Liga schortte de missie in Syrië vorige maand op vanwege het bloedige geweld in het land.

Tijdens de vergadering is eveneens besloten dat alle diplomatieke banden die landen uit de Liga nu nog met Syrië hebben worden verbroken. Het doel van de Liga en de VN is om een vredige overdracht van de macht in het land, waar sinds de grootschalige burgeropstand duizenden mensen zijn omgekomen.

Omdat een resolutie binnen de VN-landen door een veto van Rusland en China is tegengehouden, is er gesproken over een nieuwe contactgroep met de naam ‘Vrienden van Syrië’. Deze nieuwe groep komt wil later deze maand bijeen komen om dichter bij een overdracht van de macht in het land te ondersteunen. Tunesië wil ministers uit betrokken landen als de Verenigde Staten en Europese en Arabische landen ontvangen op 24 februari om plannen uit te werken.

Hoofd van waarnemersmissie opgestapt

Het Sudanese hoofd van de waarnemersmissie in Syrië van de Arabische Liga, generaal Mustafa al-Dabi, heeft zijn taken eerder vandaag neergelegd. Hiervoor is nog geen specifieke reden bekend gemaakt.

(www.nrc.nl / 12.02.2012)

Rights activists in Paris plan trip to occupied Palestine

Human rights activists from across Europe have gathered in France to make preliminary arrangements for a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories in April, Press TVreports.

The activists arrived in the French capital, Paris, on Saturday and they are planning to travel to Palestine to meet with civil society organizations.

Mick Napier, the chairman of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Press TV that every year Israel’s reputation “sinks even further” due to the crimes that the Tel Aviv regime commits and the opinion polls “confirm that this is continuing to happen.”

Last year, European airlines blacklisted most of the activists and denied them entry into the occupied Palestinian territories.

“If the airlines again try to prevent us from boarding, they will be saying that they are auxiliary guards for the Israeli siege of Palestine. That will be not a good position for them to be in, because that will leave them open to political and legal activities here in Europe,” Napier said.

Israeli authorities claim they must control every person coming into the occupied Palestinian territories for “security reasons.”

The latest humanitarian campaign on the occupied Palestinian territories comes days after a group of human rights activists participating in the Miles of Smiles aid convoy arrived in the besieged Gaza Strip on February 6.

On June 19, 2011, a European aid convoy with 53 pro-Palestinian activists and about 30 tons of medical supplies also traveled to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

Israel remains in full control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings of Gaza. The Tel Aviv regime also continues its illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank.

(www.presstv.ir / 12.02.2012)

Palestine joins international conservation union

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestine has been accepted as a full member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Palestine Wildlife Society said on Sunday.

Executive Director Imad al-Atrash said the Bethlehem-based group was notified of Palestine’s entry to the global body, founded in 1948 as the world’s first international environmental organization.

Since the group joined the West Asia Union of Wildlife Societies in 2006, it has worked together with the PA agriculture and tourism ministries to set a strategy to protect Palestine’s nature, he said.

Palestine has been working to join international agencies since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for a full seat at the United Nations on Sept. 23, 2011.

The bid stumbled at the Security Council, but UN cultural agency UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member on Oct. 31.

(www.maannews.net /12.02.2012)

Police: Tourists blocked from Jerusalem holy sites after leaflets call for disturbances

Jerusalem (CNN) — Israeli authorities temporarily blocked Jews and foreign tourists from entering some of Jerusalem’s most visited holy sites Sunday after leaflets called for causing disturbances there, police said.

The plaza known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary was temporarily closed after leaflets called on the public to “purify the site from enemies of Israel.”

“The decision was made following a security assessment after leaflets were distributed in Jerusalem calling upon people to cause disturbances on the Temple Mount,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told CNN.

The leaflets, distributed in Jerusalem and published on the Israeli news site Ynet, featured right-wing activist and Likud member Moshe Feiglin.

Police stopped Feiglin and several men from entering the site Sunday morning.

Rosenfeld said Muslim worshippers were still allowed to enter the al-Aqsa mosque, which is considered the third holiest site in Islam.

Jews consider the Temple Mount to be the holiest site in Jerusalem.

Authorities were expected to reassess the security situation later in the day.

Feiglin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, won 24% of the votes in the party’s primary elections earlier this month.

(edition.cnn.com / 12.02.2012)

IOF soldiers break the legs of Palestinian minor

 

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The international organization for the defense of children has said that the Israeli occupation soldiers savagely beat up a Palestinian child after breaking both his legs.

The organization quoted the 16-year-old boy Mahmoud Qatna as saying that he was heading to an area near the separation wall in his village Beit Sorik along with a number of his friends when the soldiers surprised them.

He said that the soldiers arrested him along with two of his friends, threw him on his stomach on the ground and started beating him savagely, adding that before that he was hit with a rubber bullet in his left leg fired by those soldiers.

Qatna said that he was screaming out of pain and told the soldiers that his leg had broken but they did not heed his screams and continued to beat him.

He said that the soldiers took him to an asphalted road where he was beaten anew then he was carried to a roadblock where he was held blindfolded and handcuffed under the rain for half an hour.

The boy said that he was taken to an army base where an interrogator questioned him about going to the wall, adding that the questioning took place at midnight. He said that the interrogator accused him of throwing stones at the soldiers, which he absolutely denied.

Qatna said he was then taken to Ofer jail then to hospital the next morning where the doctors discovered that both his legs were broken and where he was served food and allowed to the bathroom for the first time since his arrest.

Qatna was returned to Ofer jail where he was beaten on the way back then held for 16 days during which he was taken to court five times. In the fifth hearing he was released on bail pending trial.

(www.palestine-info.co.uk / 12.02.2012)