AIPAC acolytes demand Palestine aid cutoff

AIPAC is proposing that $500m of aid to Palestine be cut; a policy analyst
highlights the problematic contradictions.

AIPAC acolytes in the House of Representatives are now demanding that the United
States cut off aid to the Palestinians. The reason: Palestinians have sought redress for their grievances against Israel by turning to the United Nations rather than continuing fruitless negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

According to Haaretz, two influential members of Congress actually marched to the United Nations to tell the Palestinians “no soup for you”.

Rep. Gary Ackerman [D-NY], member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, stressed that “There may need to be a total cutoff of all aid to the
Palestinians for pursuing this course of action which is very dangerous and ill advised.”

“They should think twice, reverse course and get back to the negotiating table where Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu awaits them,” he concluded.

Ackerman was accompanied by Rep. Nita Lowey (NY), the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that handles foreign aid. Again, Haaretz:

Congresswoman Nita Lowey called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ actions a
counter-productive publicity stunt, saying he is not interested in peace. “They
[the Palestinians] have not been forced into this position, and the circumstances are not beyond their control. They have chosen to discontinue negotiations with Israel and pursue a counter-productive publicity stunt.” she said. […]

Lowey suggested Abbas’ actions warrant a strong US response. “His action cross a line and should lead to a reevaluation of US assistance for the Palestinian Authority,” she said.

Cutting aid

The Palestinians currently receive $500m from the United States, which the PA uses
for a host of programmes, including increasing it capacity to fight terrorism, paying government salaries, feeding its people and providing medical care. The following US government chart shows precisely how the aid we provide is spent (needless to say, every dime comes under an exhaustive US government audit).

But Ackerman, Lowey and a host of their Democratic colleagues want to cut off the
money. (Obviously, most Republicans do too, but since they oppose most foreign
aid in general they are guilty only of the sin of greed, not hypocrisy.)

It hardly needs saying that the Democrats who want to punish the Palestinian people
for ignoring our request that they not go to the United Nations have never threatened to cut our $3.5bn in aid to Israel by even a dollar.

Israel has rejected repeated US requests that it freeze settlements, ease the Gaza
blockade and stop the abuse of Palestinians by settlers all without Congress murmuring a word of protest.

Even when General David Petraeus and former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates warned that Israeli policies jeopardised US interests (including our military personnel) in the region, Israel simply looked away and kept doing whatever it was doing. Congress most certainly didn’t consider reducing aid; in fact, every budget proposal before Congress today exempts aid for Israel even while virtually all programmes that benefit
Americans are on the cutting block.

But now Ackerman, Lowey and the rest want to eliminate aid to the Palestinians
because are taking their case to the UN. Please!

Yes, the Palestinians are turning to the United Nations to achieve statehood, but
Netanyahu has ignored repeated demands by the Obama administration to take
action to facilitate negotiations. (Netanyahu’s intransigence is the reason behind Abbas’ UN push.) You didn’t see Ackerman, Lowey and company criticise that, let alone suggest (heaven forbid) that aid to Israel be cut by even a nickel. In fact, both Ackerman and Lowey oppose linking aid to Israel to Israel’s behaviour. Ever. (This is AIPAC rule number one: No linkage.)

Here is the craziest part of the Ackerman/Lowey initiative. Not only is the aid cut
opposed by Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, it is also opposed by the government of Israel. In fact, Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Foreign Ministry issued a report
on September 18, which said:

Israel calls for ongoing international support for the PA budget and development projects
that will contribute to the growth of a vibrant private sector, which will provide the PA an expanded base for generating internal revenue.

Israel maintains bilateral dialogues with the PA on a variety of matters, aiming to
support the upgrade of Palestinian infrastructure in these areas, including: financial and customs services, water and sewage infrastructure, the legal system and the rule of law, the agriculture sector, and the electricity network. […]

These measures have been accompanied by intensified security coordination between the authorities on both sides, seeking greater security and improved institutional capacity. Israeli-Palestinian security coordination and the continuous relative security created have provided the necessary environment for business development and economic growth.

So who supports cutting off aid?  Who is behind the Ackerman/Lowey effort?

Enter acolytes

The answer is easy: AIPAC. It is supporting Senate and House resolutions that urge aid cutoffs and other punitive measures against the Palestinians. Not for the first time, AIPAC’s cutouts in Congress are taking their cues from the lobby, not from their own government or even the Israelis. So much for their supposed devotion to Israel. After all, if it were Israel they were worried about (and not keeping AIPAC and its donors happy in an election year) they would follow Israel’s lead, not AIPAC’s.

Of course, these usually progressive members of Congress don’t believe a word they
are saying. Ackerman, in particular, is so emphatically dovish in private that I laugh every time I read some hawkish statement from his office. And Lowey is pretty dovish herself. It’s just that they have AIPAC breathing down their necks and it’s AIPAC that directs the donors.

Of course, none of this is surprising, though it is nausea-inducing. Aren’t the
Palestinians people? Don’t they have rights? And don’t those rights include the right of self-determination in their own land, occupied for 44 years? Don’t they have a say?

According to our Congress, they don’t.

Here is what Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the Palestinian delegation to the UN,
told the The Independent:

Mr. Shtayyeh suggested that the congressional block on the funds … was particularly embarrassing for the US because even Israel was continuing, so far, to remit customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. He told the Maan news agency that the block had been imposed six weeks ago but he thought it was unlikely to be sustained. He added: “It is unbelievable that any parliament imposes sanctions on a people just because that people seeks self-determination and independence.”

Sad to say, it’s not unbelievable. It is just the way the American legislature operates because US legislators’ primary, if not only, goal is financing their reelection campaigns. The Israeli-Palestinian issue, as played out in Washington by the president and Congress, is always about winning the next election. The good news is that as public opinion shifts (and it is shifting) donor attitudes will shift, too. Time is not on AIPAC’s side.

It reminds me of what the lobby likes to say about the Saudis: “What will they do when the oil runs out?” What will AIPAC do when a new generation moves to the fore and the money is directed elsewhere?

( / 10.10.2011)

Iraq, siding with Iran, sends essential aid to Syria’s Assad

More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.

Iraq’s stance has dealt an embarrassing setback to the Obama administration, which has sought to enlist Muslim allies in its campaign to isolate Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. While other Arab states have downgraded ties with Assad, Iraq has moved in the opposite direction, hosting official visits by Syrians, signing pacts to expand business ties and offering political support.

After Iraq sent conflicting signals about its support for Assad last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke firmly against regime change in Syria in an interview broadcast on Iraqi television Sept. 30. “We believe that Syria will be able to overcome its crisis through reforms,” Maliki said, rejecting U.S. calls for the Syrian leader to step down. His words echoed those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who weeks earlier proposed that Syrians should “implement the necessary reforms by themselves.”

On other issues as well, the Maliki government in recent months has hewed closer to
Iran’s stance — Iraq, for example, has supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology and advocated U.N. membership for Palestinians — as the U.S. military races to complete its troop withdrawal over the coming months.

Few policy objectives are more important to Iran than preserving the pro-Tehran regime in Syria, longtime Middle East observers say.

“This is Iran’s influence, because preserving the Assad regime is very much in Iran’s national interest,” said David Pollock, a former adviser on Middle East policy for the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. “Iran needs Iraq’s help
trying to save their ally in Damascus.”

U.S. officials acknowledged disappointment with Iraq over its dealings with Assad, while noting that other Middle East countries also have been reluctant to abandon Assad at a time when the outcome of the uprising remains uncertain.

“The Iraqis should be more helpful, absolutely,” said a senior administration official involved in Middle East diplomacy.

Some of the proposed financial deals with Syria, however, “turn out to be a lot of talk,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss sensitive issues.

U.S. intelligence officials predict that Syria’s uprising will eventually topple Assad, most
likely after the mounting cost of sanctions causes the business elite to turn against him. But the timeline for change is far from clear.

The Obama administration hailed a decision in August by three Persian Gulf Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain — to recall their ambassadors to Damascus to protest Assad’s violent suppression of anti-government demonstrators. And Turkey
— like Iraq, a major trading partner with Syria — has repeatedly denounced the
crackdown and has established Syrian refu­gee camps and hosted meetings of
opposition groups.

Iraqi leaders also have criticized Assad’s brutality, as, indeed, Iran’s Ahmadinejad has done in public remarks. But Iraqi officials have refused to call for Assad’s ouster, or accept Syrian refugees, or even offer symbolic support for the anti-Assad opposition. Instead, the Iraqis have courted trade delegations and signed pipeline deals with Syria.

“Iraq is sending a lifeline to Assad,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert and author of
“In the Lion’s Den,” a portrait of Syria under the autocrat.

Middle Eastern experts note that Maliki — a Shiite Muslim who lived in exile in Syria
for nearly 15 years — has strategic and sectarian reasons for avoiding a direct
confrontation with Assad. Members of Iraq’s Shiite majority and Syria’s ruling
Alawite Shiite sect share a common worry about Sunni-led insurgencies. Some
Iraqis fear that a violent overthrow of Syrian Alawites will trigger unrest
across the border in Iraq.

But other experts say Iraq’s support for Syria underscores the influence of Iran, which has staked billions of dollars on
ensuring Assad’s survival. Pollock, the former State Department adviser, said
Iraqi leaders fear repercussions from Iran and its Syrian protege as much they
covet increased revenue from trade.

“Iran is certainly important behind the scenes, and the Iraqis know the Iranians are looking over their shoulders,” said Pollock, now a researcher for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

Pollock noted that Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — a firebrand Iraqi Shiite with tens of thousands of devoted followers — has publicly backed Assad, calling him a “brother.” Iraqi leaders know that hostility toward Syria could invite reprisals against politicians and ordinary civilians in Baghdad, or perhaps against the estimated 1 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, he said.

Still, U.S. officials have privately expressed disappointment over Baghdad’s reluctance to take a more forceful stance against Syrian brutality, which millions of Iraqis witness daily on Arab-language cable news networks.

Only in mid-September, after six months of worsening violence, did the Iraqi government issue a statement that appeared to call for Assad’s ouster. In that statement, on Sept. 20, Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Moussawi was quoted as telling New York Times reporters in Baghdad that Iraq had privately urged Assad to step down. “We are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for free expression,” Moussawi was quoted as saying.

But less than 24 hours later, the Iraqi government began to backpedal. The same spokesman, Moussawi, told reporters on Sept. 21 that Iraqi leaders had never called for Assad’s resignation and said he had been misquoted. “It was neither the nature nor the followed discourse of the Iraqi government to intervene in the affairs of other countries,” Moussawi said.

Maliki’s broadcast interview Sept. 30 reflected a further retreat. While calling for an end to violence, the prime minister rejected regime change as destabilizing and said the crisis should be resolved gradually through reforms.

Assad has survived by relying on hard-currency reserves and Iranian loans to maintain
subsidies for Syria’s military and business elites, ensuring their continued loyalty and preventing the further spread of the country’s pro-democracy uprising, which took hold in March.

Faced with international sanctions — including a new European Union ban on oil imports — Syria also has found support from Iraq and other neighbors as it scrambles to refill its hard-currency coffers, now hemorrhaging at a rate estimated at $1 billion a month.

Iraq and Syria, which share historical and cultural ties, have long been trading
partners, and smuggling in border towns has generated immense profits even
during times of war. Scores of private traders regularly ferry tons of diesel fuel and other goods in vans and pickup trucks, specially modified with heavy suspensions that cause their backsides to jut out like monster trucks at a car show.

Officials in both countries are cracking down on the black market in favor of legitimate ventures, particularly in the energy field. In early August, as other Arab countries were recalling their ambassadors to Syria, Iraq put on an unusual tour for 100 of Syria’s top government and business leaders. The visitors, led by Syria’s trade minister, were shown factories and refineries and applauded by Iraqis eager to cut deals with their Syrian neighbors.

The week-long visit yielded a new pact designed to boost a soaring bilateral trade that already tops $2 billion a year and will solidify Iraq’s status as Syria’s biggest trading partner. Iraqi Trade Minister Khayrullah Babakir, praising the pact, spoke of a new focus on “empowering the private sector in both countries.” There was no mention of sanctions, or of the Syrian uprising.

( / 10.10.2011)

Egypt court overturns ban on Islamist party

CAIRO (Reuters) — An Egyptian court on Monday overturned a decision barring the formation of a political party by an Islamist group that took up arms against the state in the 1980s and 1990s.

It also overturned a decision barring presidential hopeful Ayman Nour from forming a party, saying both Nour and the Islamist group al-Gam’aa al-Islamiyya “met the conditions stipulated in the parties law,” state news agency MENA said.

The court rulings come ahead of a parliamentary election that starts in November, the first such vote since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power.

The ruling paves the way for more strands of Egyptian society to take part in formal politics as the army tries to steer the country peacefully towards democratic civilian rule.

Egyptian law bans parties based on religion, but groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood have been allowed to form parties because they say they take Islam as a “reference” point and do not seek to impose Islamic sharia law.

The parties committee blocked al-Gama’a al-Islamiya’s party, “Construction and Development”, because it said the party wanted to introduce Islamic law and because one of its founders was convicted of a criminal offense.

The court ruled the party should be allowed because it did not differentiate between members according to religion and because its founders included Muslims and non-Muslims.

One of al-Gama’a al-Islamiya’s founders, Tarek al-Zumar, and his cousin Abboud, were convicted of involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

They were released from jail last March, five weeks after Mubarak was ousted, reflecting the dramatic political change.

The parties committee had also rejected the formation of Ayman Nour’s “New Ghad” (New Tomorrow) party, saying its name was too close to “Al-Ghad” party which Nour had originally founded in 2004 but which has been riven by internal disputes.

Nour ran against Mubarak in 2005 in Egypt’s first and only multi-candidate election. To no one’s surprise, he came a distant second in a vote that was marred by abuses

( / 10.10.2011)

Ashton to call Abbas, Netanyahu in peace talks bid

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) — EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she will call President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday to try to set a date for a restart of stalled peace talks.

Speaking at the close of talks between European Union foreign ministers, Ashton said she would call “to invite them to meet in the coming days.”

Ashton spoke a day after chairing a meeting in Brussels of envoys of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace-brokers — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

On Sunday she issued a statement saying “we discussed what to do next to encourage our Israeli and Palestinian partners to resume substantive negotiations as soon as possible.”

The Quartet tried unsuccessfully to kick start talks between the two sides at a meeting in New York in September.

During talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 23, the Quartet powers called for the PLO and Israel to resume direct peace talks within a month and commit to seeking a deal by the end of 2012.

Israel subsequently called for an immediate return to peace talks under the framework of the Quartet proposal — a statement welcomed by the United States.

But Israel said the plan included no preconditions — an interpretation the PLO quickly rejected.

Abbas is demanding Israel halt building illegal Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Asked at a Luxembourg news conference whether the Quartet had come up with any fresh ideas to bring the two sides to the negotiating table, Ashton said “There is no new magic formula”.

The issues were known, she added, but “the question is the political will to address them.”

“The politics suggest the timing should be now.”

( / 10.10.2011)

Be a Muslim and show it …

We all are Muslims and human beings. If we want to change the world in a better one,  we have to show the whole world that we are indeed Muslims and human beings.

How we can do that? Respect your parents, your wife or husband, your children, your family, but also your neighbors and all the people who live in your street, place or country.

The Holy Qur’an  has told us to respect the people of the Book, meaning not alone Muslims, but also Christians and Jews.  Important for us Muslims too is to respect our
brothers and sisters in Islam; don’t being discussing all day who is the best, who is better or which direction in Islam is better than the other. It don’t care if you are from Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Chine or other country, Muslims are Muslims and we do not have the power or knowledge to say if one Muslim is better than the other or one human being is better than the other. That is only for our Creator at the end of our life.

Don’t give difference  a chance, don’t say you are Shi’a, Sunni  or Salafi; it is not important, we are all Muslims, so act as Muslim: be good for the other, respect the other, don’t chase for money, but be happy with what you have and it could only be better.

Money or materials give you joy for a moment but love and respect will give you joy

A contest for the best Muslim is something a Muslim would not be doing, because we don’t have the power or the knowledge to say who is better. So don’t be in such a
contest. Indeed show the world you are a Muslim and human being, respecting the

@ KhamakarPress

Libië erkent overgangsraad Syrië

De nieuwe machthebbers van Libië zien de Syrische Nationale Raad als de enige legitieme regering van dat land. Dat heeft de Nationale Overgangsraad (NTC) vandaag laten weten.

De Syrische ambassade in Libië wordt gesloten, aldus een NTC-lid.

De Syrische Nationale Raad is een samenwerkingsverband van tegenstanders van het bewind van de Syrische president Bashar al-Assad, die doelwit is van een opstand. De NTC is in Libië aan de macht sinds voormalig leider Muammar Kaddafi door een volksopstand het veld moest ruimen.

( / 10.10.2011)

News – West Bank, 10/10/2011

– Israeli settlers overnight  set fire on 20 Palestinian dunums of olive trees in Orta village, south of Nablus.

– Israeli settlers attacked on Monday Palestinian farmers during their work in the village of Azmut, in the east of Nablus.

– Israeli military bulldozers demolished a house in the village of Al-Jab’a, southwest of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Monday morning

–  Israeli occupation forces overnight abducted   Yousef al-Titi, 16, and Muhammad Jawabreh, 17  from are from al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron

(Facebook / 10.10.2011)

Rosenthal: Libië mag islam als staatsgodsdienst kiezen

De nieuwe machthebbers van Libië mogen zelf bepalen of ze de islam als staatsgodsdienst kiezen. Maar dat laat volgens minister Uri Rosenthal van Buitenlandse Zaken onverlet dat ook Libië zich moet houden aan de Universele Verklaring van de Rechten van de Mens.Hij heeft dat vandaag geschreven aan de Tweede Kamer in reactie op vragen van de ChristenUnie, SGP, PVV en het CDA. Die zijn er niet gerust op dat de zogeheten routekaart naar democratie van de Nationale Overgangsraad (NTC) de islam als de enige religie van Libië noemt en dat de wetgeving geënt moet zijn op de sharia, de islamitische wetgeving.

Nederland blijft de ontwikkelingen in Libië nauwgezet volgen, aldus Rosenthal, ook als het gaat om mogelijke extremistische tendensen. Indien nodig zal ons land daarbij steun zoeken in de Europese Unie of de Verenigde Naties.

Nederland beschouwt de NTC als de legitieme vertegenwoordiging van de Libische staat en het volk in de periode naar een vrij en democratisch Libië. In een concepthandvest van de NTC, dat de routekaart vervangt, staat volgens Rosenthal dat de islam de staatsgodsdienst is en dat de sharia de belangrijkste bron voor wetgeving is. Ook vermelden de opstellers dat de staat garandeert dat niet-moslims vrijheid van godsdienst hebben en dat die zal worden gerespecteerd. Ook wordt discriminatie op grond van godsdienstige overtuiging verboden.

( / 10.10.2011)