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Archive for March, 2011

Palestine and the Rolling Revolutions

Posted by uscsjp on March 21, 2011

Arab pride reborn through revolution
Yasmeen El Khoudary writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 28 February 2011

“…Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, thank you for rejuvenating my Arab identity. Thank you for finally showing me what its like to be a proud Arab. Thank you for allowing me to raise my Arab head high. Thank you for making me entrust you with my noble cause. Thank you for making me brag about my Egyptian great-grandmother. Thank you for helping me understand the late Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish’s poem ‘Identity Card: Record! I am an Arab!’ Thank you for ridding the world of Tamer Hosny and preparing it for the rebirth of Umm Kulthum….”

 

–Al Jazeera, 28 February, 2011

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11832.shtml

Also from EI: Gaza rally draws a diverse crowd calling for unity
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 19 March 2011


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11867.shtml

And from Al Jazeera:

The globalisation of revolution

Revolutions are caused by human agency; not telecommunications technologies, scholar argues.

Tarak Barkawi Last Modified: 21 Mar 2011 14:41

“To listen to the hype about social networking websites and the Egyptian revolution, one would think it was Silicon Valley and not the Egyptian people who overthrew Mubarak.

Via its technologies, the West imagines itself to have been the real agent in the uprising. Since the internet developed out of a US Defense Department research project, it could be said the Pentagon did it, along with Egyptian youth imitating wired hipsters from London and Los Angeles.

Most narratives of globalisation are fantastically Eurocentric, stories of Western white men burdened with responsibility for interconnecting the world, by colonising it, providing it with economic theories and finance, and inventing communications technologies. Of course globalisation is about flows of people as well, about diasporas and cultural fusion.

But neither version is particularly useful for organising resistance to the local dictatorship. In any case, the internet was turned off at decisive moments in the Egyptian uprising, and it was ordinary Egyptians, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, who toppled the regime, not the hybrid youth of the global professional classes.

Nothing new about globalisation

Are there other tales of globalisation, perhaps those told by rebels and guerrillas?

Globalisation is also coming to awareness of the situations of other peoples, such as those similarly oppressed by local and faraway powers. Of particular interest are those moments when these peoples rise up, when they devise forms of revolt and struggle. Defeats provide lessons, and victories give hope. These revolutions need not be on satellite TV to effect their instruction. Revolutionaries in France and Haiti in the 1790s received news of one another”s activities by the regular packet ship that plied between Jamaica and London.

Sailors, slaves, and workers circulating in the Atlantic between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries shared and improved upon their repertoires of revolt and resistance, bringing the good news to ports from Rio to Boston, Bristol to Havana.

When Indians rose in revolt in 1857, Frederick Engels analysed their mistakes – like the Libyan rebels today, they were too eager to stand and fight against a better organised opponent. Engles publicised the uprising in a series of newspaper articles that ultimately inspired Mao Tse-tung’s theories of guerrilla warfare, which went on to circulate as well-thumbed texts in the pockets of Vietnamese, Cuban, Algerian and other revolutionaries (and of those who sought to defeat them).

Before Mao, Chinese nationalists and intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century staged operas about the dismemberment of Poland and looked to the Boers, the Filipinos and others fighting imperialist oppressors, all in order to think through their own situation.

This is the globalisation of revolution, and these are the histories within which the Tunisian example belongs, the example that so inspired the Egyptian people. News of it might as well have arrived in Egypt by caravan as by fiber optic cable, it would still have been electric, the very idea that the solitary stand of a fruit seller could bring down the big men. The agency was human, the act political.

But these are also histories of despair, self-immolation and tragedy. Few peoples have resisted as have the Vietnamese, but at what cost, and for the reward of delayed re-entry into the capitalist world system. It is a blessing that the voice of the Algerian revolution, Frantz Fanon, who hailed from Martinique, is not alive to see the state of Algeria today.

Soon we may feel the same about Nelson Mandela, the conscience of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, as his country sinks into the hands of a venal elite. China prospers, but has abandoned its revolution, its people paying a greater price for Mao’s strategies in peace than they ever did in war.

Post-revolution struggle

It is no joke that revolutionaries face their greatest challenges after the revolution, and usually fail to meet them with sufficient humanity. Having broken from the international order in their struggles for freedom, revolutionary countries have proved unable to negotiate a re-entry into that order on terms that allow them to flourish, while remaining true to their principles.

The question now is what kind of example will Egypt provide, to its Arab sisters and brothers, and to present and future struggles for justice, liberty and democracy the world over. The democratic forces of Egypt must look to other countries to think through their complex struggles, against old regime elements at home, for a political and economic order that promises opportunity and justice, and for a foreign policy that balances realism with values.

In doing so, Egyptians would do well to cease looking to the tired countries of Europe or to the United States for recognition and inspiration, and instead turn their attention to the other powers of the global South who face the same dilemmas, powers like Brazil, India, Turkey and Indonesia.

Having dealt a mortal blow to the American-centreed order in the Middle East, Egypt must still find its way in the one world we all share, and regain its place as a great non-Western power.

Tarak Barkawi is a senior lecturer in War Studies at the Centre of International Studies in the University of Cambridge. He also authored the book Globalization and War (Rowman and Littlefield). He has held fellowships at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University; the Department of War Studies, King’s College London; the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University; and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University.”

Al Jazeera, 21 March, 2011


http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/2011320131934568573.html

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M.J. Rosenberg: Israel’s Eroding Consensus

Posted by uscsjp on March 21, 2011

“David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, is arguably the most influential Jewish American journalist. 

Now 50, Remnick became editor at 37 after an impressive career covering the collapse of the Soviet Union for the Washington Post. His book about that incredible period, Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, won a Pulitzer in 1994.

Remnick believes that fear is misplaced and that Obama should think big despite the pressure from the donors and White House aides mired in the status quo.

Over the years he has written about Israel and the Palestinians with some regularity. Although he claims no special expertise in the area (other than being a strongly identifying Jew), his editor’s “comments” indicate that he knows the issue well.

In fact, his pieces are usually far more sophisticated than the news and opinion pieces that the supposed experts regularly produce for the prestige newspapers and journals.

Over Remnick’s past 13 years as editor of The New Yorker, his attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have evolved. In the early years, Remnick’s views were decidedly mainstream.

Though no Likudnik, he did give Israel the benefit of the doubt in most situations. Back then, he clearly believed that although Israel often blundered, even badly, it still was sincerely seeking peace. Of course, holding those views was significantly easier a decade or two ago than it is today.

Today those views seem only to be held by either true believers (the “Israel can do no wrong” crowd) or politicians determined to ingratiate themselves with donors whose politics can be summed up as “Israel First”.

There aren’t a whole lot of those donors but it doesn’t take very many to intimidate politicians. And intimidated they are.

But established journalists like Remnick don’t have to be intimidated (although ingratiating oneself with rich and powerful people is not an unknown phenomenon among writers).

Trailblazers

Today Remnick is treading the path blazed last year by Peter Beinart, another influential Jewish American writer who had been editor of The New Republic at 24.

A year ago, Beinart broke with the AIPAC crowd with a blockbuster piece in The New York Review of Books explaining how the combination of right-wing Israeli policies and the mindless chauvinism of AIPAC and its allies had succeeded in alienating young Jews from Israel.

Beinart’s piece enraged the pro-Israel establishment, although it knew, from its own surveys, that identification with Israel is strongest among those in their 80s and then drops precipitously among the now-ageing “baby boomers” and their kids. (One Ivy Leaguer recently told me that even J Street is a hard sell among Jewish kids. As for AIPAC, forget about it. In fact, any passion for Israel at all makes you pretty much an outlier.)

A year later, David Remnick has crossed Beinart’s Rubicon. In a “Talk of the Town” essay in his magazine, Remnick definitively asserts that it is time for the United States to put a comprehensive peace plan (exchanging the territories for peace) on the table and to push it to fruition.

He writes that the Obama administration obviously knows this, but is simply afraid of the implications for “domestic politics”. Remnick believes that fear is misplaced and that Obama should think big despite the pressure from the donors and White House aides mired in the status quo.

For decades, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other such right-leaning groups have played an outsized role in American politics, pressuring members of congress and presidents with their capacity to raise money and swing elections.

But democratic presidents in particular should recognize that these groups are hardly representative and should be met head on.

Obama won seventy-eight per cent of the Jewish vote; he is more likely to lose some of that vote if he reverses his position on, say, abortion than if he tries to organise international opinion on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

However, some senior members of the administration have internalised the political restraints that they believe they are under, and cannot think beyond them. Some, like Dennis Ross, who has served five presidents, can think only in incremental terms.

This is strong stuff, especially when it comes from David Remnick. But it isn’t all.

Netanyahu’s ‘chilling’ influence

A sizeable chunk of the piece is devoted to Remnick’s explanation of why it is silly to expect prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to abandon his decades-long commitment to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The thinking goes that:

Just as Nixon set aside decades of Cold War ideology and red-baiting in the interests of practical global politics, Netanyahu would transcend his own history, and his party’s, to end the suffering of a dispossessed people and regain Israel’s moral standing.

Not going to happen, writes Remnick. He believes that the reason is the influence of Netanyahu’s 101-year-old father, Benzion Netanyahu. Remnick tells of a meeting he had with the prime minister’s father, writing that the elder Netanyahu “invited me to his house for lunch, and I am not sure that I have ever heard more outrageously reactionary table talk. The disdain for Arabs, for Israeli liberals, for any Americans to the left of the neoconservatives was chilling.”

Add to that a “coalition government that includes anti-democratic, even proto-fascistic ministers, such as Avigdor Lieberman,” and it is clear that Obama’s sweet talk has not a chance of accomplishing anything.

And that is why Obama has to act decisively and without waiting for permission from AIPAC, Dennis Ross, or the Democratic party’s fundraisers.

The importance of an Obama plan is not that Netanyahu accept it right away; the Palestinian leadership, which is weak and suffers from its own issues of legitimacy, might not embrace it immediately, either.

Rather, it is important as a way for the United States to assert that it stands not with the supporters of Greater Israel but with what the writer Bernard Avishai calls “Global Israel”, the constituencies that accept the moral necessity of a Palestinian state and understand the dire cost of Israeli isolation.

Remnick concludes that it is time for the United States to stop telling the Israelis what they want to hear, and start telling them what almost all policy-makers actually believe.

A friend in need…

If America is to be a useful friend, it owes clarity to Israel, no less than Israel and the world owe justice – and a nation – to the Palestinian people.

A few years ago, there is no chance that either David Remnick or Peter Beinart would be saying these things. And a few years before that they wouldn’t even be advocating a Palestinian state at all. And before that it wasn’t even safe to talk about a discrete Palestinian people.

But it’s all changing for two reasons. First, at long last, it is common and uncontroversial knowledge that the Palestinian people have suffered mightily at the hands of Israel, with the support of the United States.

Second, it has become abundantly clear that Israel’s isolation is increasing at such a rapid rate (Turkey and Egypt distancing themselves from Israel in a single year) that the continuation of the occupation (and the conflict that emanates from it) threatens the existence of Israel itself.

That is why there will be more Remnicks and more Beinarts. Not because influential Americans like them are indifferent to Israel’s survival. But because they aren’t.

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network.

The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action NetworkAlMJ”

–Al Jazeera, 21 March, 2011


http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201131784045745152.html#

 

Also from Al Jazeera: 

Israel’s falafel food fight

A project examining the ‘Israelisation’ of falafel raises some questions about the boycott movement.
Sousan Hammad Last Modified: 12 Mar 2011 11:17 GMT
 

 

Posted in Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Abunimah: Toward Palestine’s ‘Mubarak moment’

Posted by uscsjp on March 4, 2011

The slow collapse of Palestinian collective leadership institutions in recent years has reached a crisis amid the ongoing Arab revolutions, the revelations in the Palestine Papers, and the absence of any credible peace process.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction has attempted to respond to this crisis by calling elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the PA presidency.

Abbas hopes that elections could restore legitimacy to his leadership. Hamas has rejected such elections in the absence of a reconciliation agreement ending the division that resulted from Fatah’s refusal (along with Israel and the PA’s western sponsors, especially the United States) to accept the result of the last election in 2006, which Hamas decisively won.

But even if such an election were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it does not resolve the crisis of collective leadership faced by the entire Palestinian people, some ten million distributed between those living in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, inside Israel, and the worldwide diaspora.

A house divided

There are numerous reasons to oppose new PA elections, even if Hamas and Fatah were to sort out their differences. The experience since 2006 demonstrates that democracy, governance and normal politics are impossible under Israel’s brutal military occupation.

The Palestinian body politic was divided not into two broad political streams offering competing visions, as in other electoral democracies, but one stream that is aligned with, supported by and dependent on the occupation and its foreign sponsors, and another that remains committed, at least nominally, to resistance. These are contradictions that cannot be resolved through elections.

The Ramallah PA under Abbas today functions as an arm of the Israeli occupation, while Hamas, its cadres jailed, tortured and repressed in the West Bank by Israel and Abbas’ forces, is besieged in Gaza where it tries to govern. Meanwhile, Hamas has offered no coherent political vision to get Palestinians out of their impasse and its rule in Gaza has increasingly begun to resemble that of its Fatah counterparts in the West Bank.

The PA was created by agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel under the Oslo Accords. The September 13, 1993 “Declaration of Principles” signed by the parties states that:

“The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the “Council”), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.”

Under the agreement, PA elections would “constitute a significant interim preparatory step toward the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements”.

Small mandate

Thus, the PA was only ever intended to be temporary, transitional, and its mandate limited to a mere fraction of the Palestinian people, those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords specifically limited the PA’s powers to functions delegated to it by Israel under the agreement.

Therefore, elections for the PLC will not resolve the issue of representation, for the Palestinian people as a whole. Most would not have a vote. As in previous elections, Israel would likely intervene, particularly in East Jerusalem to attempt to prevent even some Palestinians under occupation from voting.

Given all these conditions, a newly elected PLC would only serve to further entrench divisions among Palestinians while also creating the illusion that Palestinian self-governance exists — and can thrive — under Israeli occupation.

A decade and a half after its creation, the Palestinian Authority has proved not to be a step toward the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” but rather a significant obstacle in the way of achieving them.

The PA offers no genuine self-government or protection for Palestinians under occupation, who continue to be victimized, killed, maimed and besieged by Israel with impunity while Israel confiscates and colonizes their land.

The PA never was and cannot be a stand-in for real collective leadership for the Palestinian people as a whole, and PA elections are not a substitute for self-determination.

Dissolving the PA

With the complete collapse of the “peace process” — the final push given by the Palestine Papers — it is time for the PA to have its Mubarak moment. When the Egyptian tyrant finally left office on February 11, he handed power over to the armed forces.

The PA should dissolve itself in a similar manner by announcing that the responsibilities delegated to it by Israel are being handed back to the occupying power, which must fulfill its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

This would not be a surrender. Rather, it would be a recognition of reality and an act of resistance on the part of Palestinians who would collectively refuse to continue to assist the occupier in occupying them. By removing the fig leaf of “self-governance” masking and protecting from scrutiny Israel’s colonial and military tyranny, the end of the PA would expose Israeli apartheid for all the world to see.

The same message would also go to the European Union and the United States who have been directly subsidizing Israel’s occupation and colonization through the ruse of “aid” to the Palestinians and training for security forces that act as Israeli proxies. If the European Union wishes to continue funding Israel’s occupation, it ought to have the integrity to do it openly and not use Palestinians or the peace process as a front.

Dissolving the PA may cause some hardship and uncertainty for the tens of thousands of Palestinians and their dependents, who rely on salaries paid by the European Union via the PA. But the Palestinian people as a whole — the millions who have been victimised and marginalised by Oslo — would stand to benefit much more.

Handing the PA’s delegated powers back to the occupier would free Palestinians to focus on reconstituting their collective body politic and implementing strategies to really liberate themselves from Israeli colonial rule.

New leadership

What can a real collective Palestinian leadership look like? Undoubtedly this is a tough challenge. Many older Palestinians recall fondly the heyday of the PLO. The PLO still exists, of course, but its organs have long since lost any legitimacy or representative function. They are now mere rubber stamps in the hands of Abbas and his narrow circle.

Could the PLO be reconstituted as a truly representative body by, say, electing a new Palestine National Council (PNC) — the PLO’s “parliament in exile”? Although the PNC was supposed to be elected by the Palestinian people, in reality that has never happened — in part due to the practical difficulty of actually holding elections across the Palestinian diaspora. Members were always appointed through negotiations among the various political factions and the PNC included seats for independents and representatives from student, women’s and other organizations affiliated with the PLO.

One of the key points of disagreement between Fatah and Hamas has been reform of the PLO in which Hamas would become a member and receive a proportional number of seats on the organization’s various governing bodies. But even if this happened, it would not be the same as having Palestinians choose their representatives directly.

Yet if Arab countries which host large Palestinian refugee populations undergo democratic transformations, new possibilities for Palestinian politics will open up.

In recent years, “out of country voting” facilities were provided for large Iraqi and Afghan refugee and exile populations for elections sponsored by the powers occupying those countries. In theory, it would be possible to hold elections for all Palestinians, perhaps under UN auspices — including the huge Palestinian diaspora in the Americas and Europe.

The trouble is that any such elections would probably need to rely on the goodwill and cooperation of an “international community” (the US and its allies), which has been implacably opposed to allowing Palestinians to choose their own leaders.

Would the energy and expense of running a transnational Palestinian bureaucracy be worth it? Would these new bodies be vulnerable to the sorts of subversion, cooptation, and corruption that turned the original PLO from a national liberation movement into its current sad status where it has been hijacked by a collaborationist clique?

I do not have definitive answers to these questions, but they strike me as the ones Palestinians ought now to be debating.

Inspirational boycott

In light of the Arab revolutions that were leaderless, another intriguing possibility is that at this stage Palestinians should not worry about creating representative bodies.

Instead, they should focus on powerful, decentralized resistance, particularly boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) internationally, and the popular struggle within historic Palestine.

The BDS movement does have a collective leadership in the form of the Boycott National Committee (BNC). However, this is not a leadership that issues orders and instructions Palestinians or solidarity organisations around the world. Rather, it sets an agenda reflecting a broad Palestinian consensus, and campaigns for others to work according to this agenda, largely through moral suasion.

The agenda encompasses the needs and rights of all Palestinians: ending the occupation and colonisation of all Arab territories occupied in 1967; ending all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens in Israel; and respecting, promoting and implementing the rights of Palestinian refugees.

The BDS campaign is powerful and growing because it is decentralized and those around the world working for the boycott of Israel — following the precedent of apartheid South Africa — are doing so independently. There is no central body for Israel and its allies to sabotage and attack.

This might be the model to follow: let us continue to build up our strength through campaigning, civil resistance and activism. Two months ago, few could have imagined that the decades old regimes of Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak would fall — but fall they did under the weight of massive, broad-based popular protests. Indeed, such movements hold much greater promise to end Israel’s apartheid regime and produce a genuine, representative and democratic Palestinian leadership than the kinds of cumbersome institutions created by the Oslo Accords. The end of the peace process is only the beginning.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, a policy advisor with the Palestinian Policy Network, and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011224141158174266.html#

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Analysis, Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »