‘Israel to confiscate West Bank land’

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands.”

The Israeli regime has announced plans to illegally confiscate about 100 acres of Palestinian land in east of the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Press TVreports.

The orders were issued to Palestinian municipalities in the villages of Awarta and Rujaib in order to annex the land for an Israeli settlement.

The head of the village council said that the move was part of Israel’s ongoing policy of Palestinian land confiscation and Israel has managed to bypass the law by claiming the land for military purposes.

“The act of confiscating the land for the settlers is an ongoing occurrence. We received the military order from the commander of the Israeli military. Their excuse was that it was for military purposes in order to bypass the international law and instead adhere to their military law,” said Salem Awad, president of the Local Council.

The village of Awarta has been under siege and subjected to constant military raids by the Israeli army for 18 months.

The villagers were also subjected to collective punishments following the brutal murder of a settler family from a nearby settlement in March 2011, which led to the arrest of two Palestinian teenagers, although, no evidence has of yet proven them guilty.

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Syria’s chemical weapons program was built to counter Israel

  • Animal carcasses lie on the ground, killed by what residents said was a chemical weapon attack on Tuesday, in Khan al-Assal area near the northern city of Aleppo, March 23, 2013. REUTERS/George Ourfalian
(Reuters) – Syria, defeated by Israel in three wars and afraid its arch enemy had gained a nuclear arsenal, began in earnest to build a covert chemical weapons program three decades ago, aided by its neighbors, allies and European chemical wholesalers.

Damascus lacked the technology and scientific capacity to set up a program on its own, but with backing from foreign allies it amassed what is believed to be one of the deadliest stockpiles of nerve agent in the world, Western military experts said.

Syria was quite heavily reliant on outside help at the outset of its chemical weapons program, but the understanding now is that they have a domestic chemical weapons production capability,” said Amy Smithson of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, an expert on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

As Syria’s civil war enters its third year with 80,000 dead, chemical weapons are reported to have been used by the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and there are also fears they could fall into the hands of militants seeking to destabilize the region.

As a result of the wars of 1967, 1973 and 1982, Syria sought to counter Israel’s military superiority.

Non-conventional weapons have already been used in the region. The late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons such as mustard gas and other nerve agents during the 1980s, including the killing of 5,000 Kurds in Halabja, during the war with Iran.

Syria’s ally Iran is accused by the West of seeking to develop an atomic bomb, which it denies, while Israel refuses to confirm or deny whether it has nuclear weapons.

“Syria had to have something to stack up against Israel,” Smithson told Reuters.

United Nations human rights investigators said on Tuesday they had “reasonable grounds” to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons had been used in Syria. They had received allegations that government forces and rebels had used the banned weapons, but most testimony related to their use by the government.

Syria is one of only seven countries not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to completely destroying their stockpiles.

Syria does not generally comment on its chemical weapons, but in July last year it acknowledged for the first time that it had them. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference the army would not use chemical weapons to crush the rebels but could use them against foreign forces.


While it is relatively easy to produce small amounts of chemicals, scaling up to megaton quantities of precursors needed for weapons of mass destruction requires long-term, industrial-grade processing facilities with advanced equipment.

The first technology and delivery systems were most probably obtained from the Soviet Union and pre-revolution Egypt, military experts believe, while chemical precursors came from European companies.

To boost its own capabilities, Damascus set up the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), an agency with a civilian figure head that was run by military intelligence.

It is “the best-equipped research center in Syria, possessing better technical capacity and equipment than the four Syrian universities,” the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a leading non-proliferation group, wrote last month.

The SSRC, attacked by rebels earlier this year, oversees chemical weapons facilities in Dumayr, Khan Abou, Shamat, and Firaqlus, according to the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies. It set up facilities for blister agent, sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas, the Center said.

The agency is now headed by one of Assad’s top advisers, national security chief Ali Mamlouk, said Brigadier General Mustafa al Sheikh, a Syrian army defector.

“The man overseeing the chemical weapons in general is Ali Mamlouk, but effective control of the weapons is becoming fragmented,” Sheikh, who served for almost two decades in chemical weapons units, told Reuters from an undisclosed location in northern Syria. “Assad himself has lost overall command and control.”

Mamlouk, on a list of Syrians targeted by EU sanctions since 2011, was promoted last year to head national security after its chief was killed in a bombing in Damascus. Considered to be a member of Assad’s inner circle, Mamlouk is one of two Syrian officers indicted last August in Beirut for allegedly plotting to incite sectarian violence in Lebanon. Efforts to reach Mamlouk for comment were unsuccessful.

Sheikh said the arsenal is now in the hands of chemical weapons-trained loyalists of Assad’s Alawite clan, a Shi’ite offshoot sect, and is being used for limited attacks that have killed dozens of rebels.

“Most of the chemical weapons have been transported to Alawite areas in Latakia and near the coast, where the regime has the capability to fire them using fairly accurate medium range surface-to-surface missiles,” Sheikh said.

Some chemical munitions remain in bases around Damascus, and have been deployed with artillery shells. “It is a matter of time before fairly large warheads are used,” he said.

A U.S. official, asked about Sheikh’s comments, told Reuters: “This is one concerning scenario we’re taking a close look at.”

Reports of use of chemical weapons in the battlefield have become more frequent in recent weeks. A U.N. team of inspectors has been denied access and has been unable to verify the claims.


The bulk of chemical and biological weapons production technology came from “large chemical brokerage houses in Holland, Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany,” said Globalsecurity, a security information provider.

In the early 1980s, Syria mostly imported French pharmaceuticals, some of them so-called “dual use” chemicals, which could also be used for chemical weapons, it said.

A wide range of industrial chemicals with legal applications, such as in agriculture, are also precursors for chemical weapons. The most important precursors for sarin, the nerve agent believed to have been used in recent fighting in Syria, are methylphosphonyl difluoride and isopropanol.

None of the reports cited named specific companies as suppliers. Syria has said it intended to use the chemicals for agriculture.

Securing raw chemicals on the international market became more difficult in 1985, when suspect sales were restricted by the Australia Group, a 40-nation body that seeks to curb chemical or biological weapons through export controls.

Some experts say Damascus obtained supplies from Russia and Iran instead, but Syria may also have turned to a network of illegal traders using front companies to sell to Iran and Iraq.

Former Russian general Anatoly Kuntsevich was suspected of smuggling precursor chemicals to VX gas to Syria, according to Globalsecurity. He died in 2002.

While questions remain about the origins of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, an evaluation by the U.S. government in March leaves little doubt about the threat it poses.

“Syria’s overall chemical weapons program is large, complex, and geographically dispersed, with sites for storage, production, and preparation,” the Director of National Intelligence wrote.

It “has the potential to inflict mass casualties, and we assess that an increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate, might be prepared to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people.”

(Source / 04.06.2013)

De echo van het leven

By Marianna Laarif

Een man en zijn zoon lopen door het bos. Plotseling struikelt de jongen en omdat hij een scherpe pijn voelt, roept hij “aaahhh”. Verrast hoort hij een stem vanuit de bergen roepen: “aaahhh”.

Nieuwsgierig roept de jongen: “Wie ben jij?”
Het enige antwoord dat hij terugkrijgt is: “Wie ben jij?”
Hij wordt kwaad en roept: “lafaard!”, waarop de stem roept: “lafaard!”

De jongen kijkt zijn vader aan en vraagt wat er gebeurt. De man antwoordt: “Let maar eens op” en roept vervolgens: “Ik bewonder jou.”
De stem antwoordt: “Ik bewonder jou!”
De man roept: “Jij bent prachtig!”
De stem antwoordt: “Jij bent prachtig!”

De vader legt daarop uit: “De mensen noemen dit een echo, maar eigenlijk is het ‘het leven’. Het leven geeft je altijd terug wat jij geeft. Het leven is een spiegel van jouw handelingen. Als je meer liefde wil, geef dan meer liefde. Wil je dat mensen begripvol en respectvol met je omgaan? Geef ze dan begrip en respect. Dit gaat op voor alle aspecten van het leven. Wat je geeft wordt weerspiegeld in wat je terugkrijgt van het leven.”

West Bank doctors to start open strike Wednesday

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Doctors in public hospitals across the West Bank will go on open strike on Wednesday, their union said Monday.

Only doctors on duty in wards will work while all others, including specialists, will stay home, the doctors union said in a statement.

The union called on all members of its general assembly to join a sit-in protest at the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Doctors are protesting that the Palestinian Authority has not implemented all parts of an agreement it reached with the union.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Jerusalem Between Zionists Theft and PLO Ignorance

There is a big difference between what zionist israel did to capture the occupied Jerusalem in 1967 and what the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), reborn as the “National Authority”, did to Jerusalem, the Palestinian people and our legitimate national rights.

At a time when israel is making efforts to move the US, EU and western embassies to Jerusalem as a “capital” for Israel, the “Palestinian Authority”, headed by a self-anointed and illegitimate President, declares its wish to obtain membership in international institutions and the follows steps to obtain recognition as state for Palestine in order to satisfy the wishes of  the American envoy John Kerry, otherwise leader of the “global warming” political movement of political snake oil peddlers, to move to revive a so-called “peace” process, a long since dead sham perpetrated against the Palestinian people by hucksters like Kerry.

ufhs fdvs

While Kerry peddles his snake oil, the only worry of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority is to burden the Palestinian people by signing unfair political and economic agreements and to act as enforcers of same predatory “agreements”, protecting the israeli occupation and its colonies, turning his back on the will of the Palestinian people and our national and inalienable rights in order to be invited to social events and photo-ops Grafti_edited-1featuring Hollywood bimbos and war criminals, to appear in a congress here or a parliament there while shaking hands with discredited and shameless people like Kerry, Peres, Livni etc., smiling because of the Palestinian blood he and his minions have sucked up and the Palestinian land they have stolen or fenced to their zionist friends.

During the anniversary of 65 the Palestinian Nakba, Abbas sent his representatives to wail at the jewish holocaust museums in Poland while at the same time israel seeks to celebrate its illegitimate statehood by convincing the European countries, the USA and other western countries to enact laws in their countries which could allow them to move their embassies to Jerusalem as a “unity capital” to Israel.

The israeli rightist leaf Jerusalem Post today published  an article stating that “American, israeli, European lawmakers will come together on Tuesday in a rare joint event to declare their support for keeping Jerusalem united as Israel’s capital.”


According to the Jerusalem post: “Lawmakers from Israel, the US and Europe will come together on Tuesday in a rare joint event to declare their support for keeping Jerusalem united as Israel’s capital.

The legislators will be connected via a video conference from Jerusalem, Washington and Brussels. The politicians will speak about Jerusalem in honor of Friday’s 46th anniversary of the city’s reunification in 1967.

The Israel Allies Foundation and its branches of pro-Israel caucuses in Congress and the EU Parliament and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus are organizing the event.

Members of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus will be in all three locations for the event. MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) will be in Congress, MK Robert Ilatov will be in the EU Parliament and caucus co-chair Gila Gamliel (Likud) will be marking the event in the Knesset.

The newspaper stated that high-profile parliamentarians and congressmen in Washington, Europe and elsewhere around the world are celebrating together the historical date of the reunification of Jerusalem,” he said, “and at the same time they are trying to do their best to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem through legislation. This is big encouragement for Israel and shows how important the work of the Israel Allies Foundation is as it continues to unite politicians of faith on behalf of Israel.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

US discloses Israel’s top-secret military base outraging Tel-Aviv

An Arrow II battery, a U.S.-backed Israeli missile shield, is seen at Palmachim base, south of Tel Aviv May 29, 2013.(Reuters / Amir Cohen)

An Arrow II battery, a U.S.-backed Israeli missile shield, is seen at Palmachim base, south of Tel Aviv May 29, 2013.
The US government has inadvertently revealed the details of a top-secret Israeli missile base in published bid requests, leaving military officials in Tel-Aviv in the state of shock.

Israel has turned to the US government with its plans to build a state-of-the-art facility to host the new ballistic-missile defense system, the Arrow 3, McClatchy’s Washington Bureau reports.

In accordance with its usual procedure, the US Defense Department has published the details of the $25 million project on a federal business opportunities website so that contractors could bid on it.

Over 1,000 pages of specifications included a thorough description of the future base from the depth of the underground complex to building materials to be used in construction.

The information on the facility at Tel Shahar is classified in Israel, with the local military even refusing to officially confirm its location between the cities of Jerusalem and Ashdod.

“If an enemy of Israel wanted to launch an attack against a facility, this would give him an easy how-to guide. This type of information is closely guarded and its release can jeopardize the entire facility,” an unnamed Israeli military official commented, refusing to say if the plans for the base will be altered as a result of the disclosure.


An Israeli Air Force Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter lands in the Tel Nof air base in central Israel.(Reuters / Baz Ratner)

An Israeli Air Force Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter lands in the Tel Nof air base in central Israel

“This is more than worrying, it’s shocking,” he added.

According to the bid requests, the Arrow 3 system will include six interceptor missiles in vertical launch positions to be placed at the base, with a gantry crane to be erected for further missiles.

High-grade concrete reinforced with steel mesh grids will be used to build the structures encasing the interceptor system, which will have steel blast doors and a system to protect electrical wiring from the pressure during the launch.

The Arrow 3 is a defense system designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s expected to become operational in 2015-16 to tackle possible threats from the nuclear weapon program developed by neighboring Iran.

“We’re thinking mostly about the nuclear threat,”
 Col. Aviram Hasson, who heads the Arrow 3 project, is cited as saying by UPI.com. “We want to reach a situation in which Israel has a ready defense for any threat, present or future.”

Earlier, the head of the bidding process at Israel’s Defense Ministry, Lt. Col. Peleg Zeevi, told Reuters that the project was given to the Americans as the IDF needed “a player that has the knowledge, ability and experience” in the field.

Since 1998, the US had built military facilities worth $500 million for the Israeli army, which, according to Zeevi, was “aware of the security issues that arise in deals with foreign firms.” But it seems that the scale of the disclosure of a top-secret facility was too much to handle for the Israeli officials.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Abbas: We Want Return to Talks

President Mahmoud Abbas wants to return to negotiations “as soon as possible” to achieve peace based on a two-state solution, he said Tuesday.

“We are determined to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to reach a solution for all the unresolved issues between us and Israel and to achieve peace on the basis of the two state solution,” the president said at a news conference in Ramallah with Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed Hassan.

“I have stressed more than once that the Arabic and Islamic world would recognize Israel if it withdraws from the occupied lands, and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital was established,” Abbas said.

The president praised the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is trying to restart the peace process. The head of the PA’s civil affairs department Hussein al-Sheikh said Tuesday that Kerry had asked Abbas for extra time to continue diplomatic efforts to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

“The ball is in the Israeli court,” Abbas told reporters in Ramallah. “Palestinian demands are known by Israel and the US, and now it’s time for Israel to accept them in order to start the negotiations.”

PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said earlier that the Palestinians were making “every possible effort” to help Kerry succeed in bringing the two sides to the table.

“Make no mistake, we are exerting every possible effort for John Kerry’s peace plan to succeed,” Erekat said. “No one benefits more from the success of Kerry’s peace efforts, and no one suffers more from the failure, than the Palestinians,” he said.

New Government ‘in Days’

In his remarks in Ramallah, Abbas also said that his newly-appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah would announce a government “in a few days.”

Hamdallah said Tuesday he would only make minor reshuffles to the PA cabinet as his government is only expected to serve until August, when a unity government is due to be formed according to the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

“We decided not to make major changes to the cabinet as new ministers take two or three months to be oriented,” Hamdallah said in Nablus.

The interim government will be committed to the political agenda of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamdallah said. It will focus on the economy, health and education as well as supporting Palestinian farmers to remain steadfast on their land, the prime minister added.

Meanwhile in Ramallah, the Maldivian president asserted his country’s support for two states as “the best solution to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

Hassan added: “To us this is a very emotional visit, because our people have always stood by the indisputable rights of the Palestinian people.”

The Maldivian president is not scheduled to meet any Israeli officials during his four-day visit to the region.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Israel ‘refusing medical treatment’ to female detainee

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israel’s prison administration is denying medical treatment to a female Palestinian detainee, a human rights center said Tuesday.

Lina al-Jarbouni suffers severe pain in her gallbladder and doctors have said she needs surgery urgently, said Ahmad al-Bitawi of the Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights.

Al-Bitawi, who researches prisoner affairs, said the prison administration has repeatedly refused requests to allow al-Jarbouni to undergo surgery.

Al-Bitawi visited al-Jarbouni in Hasharon prison and said she was unable to eat or sleep and is only being given pain killers. She has lost weight and suffers a constant headache, he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, prisoner Muna Qadan told her lawyer Muhamad al-Abed that all female detainees would go on hunger strike if Israel continued to deny medical treatment to al-Jarbouni.

Al-Jarbouni was detained in 2002 and sentenced to 17 years.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Jane’s: U.S.-Built $25-Million Base for Israel’s Arrow 3 ABM, Built to Counter Iran

jane's defense weekly arrow 3

Jane’s article reveals Sdot Micha as new Arrow 3 base

Last December, Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post that the U.S. government was building a new base for the IDF.  A highly-placed Israeli sourceinformed me that the location of the secret base was Sdot Micha (also known as Tal Shahar), which already houses Israel’s Jericho 3 nuclear missiles.  It is located near Beit Shemesh, 15 miles from Jerusalem.  The source also informed me that the new facility was to be hardened and underground to withstand a nuclear attack.  This means that Israel expects the site to be attacked by Iranian missiles once that country has nuclear capability.

Now, the defense publication Jane’s Defense Weekly says that the new base will house Israeli’s most advanced anti-missile system, the Arrow 3, which has a 1,500 mile range.  It is an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) which is designed to intercept any Iranian missiles that might attack Israel.  The article notes there will be four new launchers each containing six “interceptors.”  Meaning Israel could launch up to 24 Arrow 3′s and use its Arrow 2 arsenal to hit any targets that were missed.

Building this base presumes a development that has, by all accounts, not happened and may never happen: that Iran is developing not just a nuclear weapon, but a delivery system for it that would allow it to attack Israel.

arrow 3Arrow 3 missile launch

The plan is for the Army Corps of Engineer project to be completed by 2014.  The Jane’s article says Israel plans to have the Arrow 3 operational by 2015, which would mean that Israel may believe Iran could have such a missile and weapon by then.  That, of course, is a dubious proposition.  But many Israeli military calculations are built on such dubious assumptions.

The Israeli military is livid that these plans have been published (in truth, they were published last December, so I’m not sure why anyone is stewing now).  In Israel, they would be considered state secrets and kept under lock and key.  Israelis don’t understand that in America, when you plan to spend $100-million, unless you’re the CIA or NSA, you have to do so in a transparent way.  You can’t build ABM bases without anyone knowing.  That’s the difference between a national security state and a real democracy.

Jane’s says the U.S. is anticipating the project will cost up to $25-million.  But Pincus wrote last December the expense would be $100-million.  So either they scaled down this project or this is but one stage of it and more development is expected.  My bet is on the latter and that Israel plans a far more extensive Arrow 3 presence than just this facility.

Today’s Haaretz story (Hebrew here) falsely says the project was hitherto unknown (the English version of the story says that it was never revealed by Israel, which is more accurate).  That ignores Walter Pincus’ reporting on it and mine.  Unfortunately, neither Jane’s nor Haaretz spent any time focussing on the fascinating requirements in the development specs that detail what type of mezzuzah is required including the religious criteria to make it kosher.  Apparently, the IDF doesn’t trust in technology alone to save Israel, but wishes to commend itself to God as well for protection.

The Hebrew (but not English) version of the story notes also that the tender website censored, post-facto, sensitive information found there after the Jane’s story was published.

None of the media stories except mine remarked upon the strangeness of the U.S. government building highly-sensitive military facilities for Israel that could exacerbate regional tensions and conflict.  No doubt, building this facility was part of some deal offered by Obama to get Bibi to agree not to attack Iran.  But the truth is that after Arrow 3 is operational Israel might be moreemboldened to attack if it believed any Iranian response could be met by its ABM fleet.  Which would mean Obama’s best intentions got us into a worse conflict than he ever could have imagined.  The best that can be hoped is that both sides adopt a MAD (mutually-assured destruction) policy which presumes an attack on one will destroy both.  Frankly, I don’t believe the Israelis feel this way even now and they certainly will feel less so after 2015.

NOTE: Sheera Frenkel’s article linked above believes there is a distinction between the $100-million project outlined by Pincus and this $25-million project.  She says the project exposed last December is a new air base near Tel Aviv.  If that’s the case, it may mean my own source confused the two projects, though he got the substance of this project correct when he revealed it last December.

(Source / 04.06.2013)

Interview: Turkish protesters reject neo-liberalism not Islamism

Turkish author and activist Ozan Tekin describes to Ahram Online the dynamics of the ongoing anti-government protests in Turkey and similarities and differences between the Turkish process and the Arab Spring
Ozan Tekin

Turkish activist Ozan Tekin
Ahram Online (AO): Can you give us a picture of how protests were transformed from a four-people stand against park destruction to an outpouring of nation-wide anti-governmental protests? Ozan Tekn (OT): A few dozen activists rushed into Gezi Park when the bulldozers arrived on Tuesday night last week to start cutting trees. The bulldozers retreated later that day and a few thousand people occupied the park. The police started attacking the park in the early hours of the morning to let the bulldozers in again. On third day, this sparked an explosion of protest, and tens of thousands joined the struggle in Taksim Square to keep the park safe and protest against police violence.

AO: What are the reasons behind the discontent with Erdogan’s policies?

OT: The government’s plans to restructure Taksim Square is a part of a broader neo-liberal programme. They want to turn Taksim, the centre of the city, into a place for the upper classes and push ordinary people out. This is a conservative, neo-liberal government and people were increasingly fed up not only with the plans for Taksim Square, imposed with no consultation at all with citizens, but also with the whole spate of neo-liberal policies, the unchecked proliferation of shopping centres, last months’s legislation to ban the sale of alcohol after 10pm, and the frequent heavy-handed use of the police against perfectly democratic protests. Prime Minister Erdogan’s arrogance and heavy-handed attitude also stoked the discontent.

AO: How large is the scope of the protests? Who is taking part in them?

OT: Those who started the resistance at the park were leftists, environmentalist, independent activists, etc. The police’s violence against them triggered a reaction in much wider sections of society. Thousands of independent young activists –many taking part in political activity for the first time– came out onto the streets in anger. All the parties of the left were there. Some trade unions –though perhaps not on a massive scale– joined in as well. The main opposition party (CHP) and other right-wing nationalist/pro-army groups also joined the protests. But their influence was very limited on Friday and Saturday.

AO: What is the so-called ‘Turkish Spring’? What are its broader implications in the region?

OT: Erdogan claims to support the revolutionary movements in the Middle East. But facing a wave of riots on a much smaller scale, his government managed to use brutal police violence for hours against the protesters. This is his hypocrisy – it shows that the Turkish government can in no way be a “model” for the demands of the Egyptian or Syrian masses.

But 50 percent of Turkish society votes for AKP [Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party] because they think it is slowly doing what the movements from below in the Middle East are achieving. Turkey has a long tradition of the army intervening in politics by bloody military takeovers. The generals also plotted to overthrow the AKP government, claiming that it was turning Turkey into “Iran” by imposing sharia law.

Many sections in the AKP’s electoral base want change and support Erdogan because they believe he will deliver that – the army’s exclusion from politics, a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, improvements in social justice. This puts the AKP in a contradictory position –a neo-liberal right-wing agenda on one hand, and many millions voting for a “hope” of freedom on the other. Even at the peak of the protests, Taksim Square was nowhere near Tahrir in terms of numbers, and its political content was much more like “Tahrir against Morsi” than “Tahrir against Mubarak”.

AO: How is Erdogan’s response to the situation impacting the course of the protests? Are more strikes reflecting other grievances being planned?

OT: An AKP spokesman admitted that they had “only achieved to bring together many disparate groups in the streets.” Erdogan’s arrogance and insistence on never stepping back helped the protests to grow bigger. This was the real cause of his first serious defeat in 11 years – the police retreated from Taksim and tens of thousands of people occupied the park to turn it into a festival area. Now the movement’s main aim is to save the park from being destroyed and to oppose the government’s plans to restructure Taksim as a whole.

AO: What about the kind of police brutality used and the fresh demand for the removal of the interior minister?

OT: The interior minister has said that 1,730 people were arrested during the protests. Hundreds were injured by police attacks which were truly brutal, not only in Istanbul but across the country. So the resignation of the interior minister, the governor of Istanbul and the chief of police are important demands.

AO: What about your own experience of the protests? Did you really call Taksim Square Tahrir?

OT: Mass protests on the streets were really very inspiring for two days – Friday and Saturday. The soul of the movement was like that of Tahrir. Many activists were explicitly referring to Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands resisted the police with no fear.

When Gezi Park was won, many ordinary people celebrated and then went back to their homes and work. Then came the growing influence of pro-army nationalists, mostly CHP voters, trying to turn the protest into something that pushes the military to take action against the government. These people are hostile to Kurds and Armenians, oppose the peace negotiations with the Kurds (which is a historic turning point for democracy in Turkey) and call the prime minister “a national traitor”.

In 1997, mass protests led by the left against the “deep state” were used by the military to force the Islamist government of the time to resign. There are some groups who are trying to do that now – their presence is a growing threat for the mass movement. It splits and weakens us. But they have not so far succeeded in hijacking the movement.

This is a serious ideological struggle we need to win. We are against this government not because it is Islamic, but because it is conservative and neo-liberal. It is a legitimate, elected government and therefore we do not want it to be overthrown by unelected armed forces. We want it to be overthrown by the mass movement of the people.

(Source / 04.06.2013)