Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion2015-03-03T07:39:49Z Juan Cole <![CDATA[4 Things more Dangerous to Israel than Iran’s civilian Nuclear Enrichment]]> 2015-03-03T07:35:09Z 2015-03-03T07:13:13Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s strident and continual harping on the alleged dangers of Iran to Israel’s security. Netanyahu has raised this issue repeatedly over the past 20 years, often predicting that Iran was as little as a year away from having a nuclear warhead. Decades later, it does not, and Israel is still there. Many observers believe that Netanyahu is performing as a magician does, trying to make the audience take its eye over the real sleight of hand by pointing in the direction of a distraction.

There are, in fact, more pressing dangers to Israel than Iran’s nuclear reactors,

Extensive and years-long investigations of Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program by the International Atomic Energy Agency have never revealed any evidence that Iran has a parallel nuclear weapons program. Only a couple of years ago, the Israeli defense minister was publicly admitting that Iran had not made a decision to weaponize its nuclear program.

Iran is just doing what Japan, South Korea, Germany, Ukraine, Sweden and Spain have done– develop nuclear reactors to generate electricity. By doing so, Iran can save its oil and natural gas for export to earn foreign exchange instead of eating its own seed corn. None of the countries just mentioned, who have their own nuclear energy programs, has a nuclear bomb, and no one is particularly worried about them getting one. As the former Israeli defense minister admitted, Iran would have to kick out the UN inspectors before it could turn its civilian enrichment facilities toward bomb-making. No country under active UN inspection has ever developed a nuclear weapon.

Here are genuine dangers to Israel, about which Netanyahu won’t be saying anything today:

1. Israel’s continued program of flooding its own citizens into the Occupied Palestinian West Bank is a serious war crime for which the country may yet be charged at the International Criminal Court. The illegal colonization of the West Bank sets the Muslim world, of 1.5 billion persons, against Israel. The Muslim world won’t be weak and ineffectual forever, and Netanyahu is undermining Israel’s future by constantly increasing the number of Israeli squatters on Palestinian land.

2. Israel’s continued de facto opposition to Palestinian statehood leaves Palestinians stateless and without the rights of citizenship, or indeed, any basic human rights– to their own property, to freedom of movement to hospitals or shopping, to water and other resources, to peaceable assembly and protest– in short, to basic human rights. This holding of the Palestinians as stateless chattel even as their landed property is being taken from them has deeply alienated European states and civil society from Tel Aviv. Sweden has recognized Palestine, and the French and Italian parliaments have called for such recognition on a short timetable. A third of Israeli trade is with Europe, and Israel depends deeply on scientific and technical exchanges with Europe, which could gradually be closed off as boycotts and sanctions spread.

3. Israel now has al-Qaeda on its border in the Golan Heights. The rebel Jabhat al-Nusra or Support Front, which holds the Golan, has declared allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda central. Mr. Netanyahu does not seem perturbed by this development, even though al-Qaeda is a brutal and highly destructive terrorist group that killed nearly 3,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. In fact, the Israeli military has targeted the enemy of the Support Front in Golan, Lebanon’s Hizbullah, but hasn’t hit al-Qaeda with air strikes. If al-Qaeda is holding territory and it is bordering Israel, I’d say that is a security issue. Iran is very far away and has no plausible means of attacking Israel, and even in the unlikely scenario where it developed a bomb, would no more be able to use it than the Soviets were able to use theirs against the US. In fact, Israel is massively well armed by the US and has its own nuclear arsenal, and isn’t really threatened by a guerrilla group like the Support Front, just as it isn’t really threatened by Iran. What Netanyahu wants is continued Israeli hegemony, which Iran’s nuclear enrichment program threatens symbolically.

4. Syria and Israel share a long common border. Syria is in civil war and governmental collapse, and half of Syrians have been displaced from their homes, four million abroad. The potential for radicalization here is enormous, as the rise of ISIL demonstrates. Yet Israel has done nothing, repeat nothing, to ISIL. An organization that France and Britain see as an existential threat to Europe has elicited only yawns in Israel’s Ministry of Defense. If Syrian civil and ISIL aren’t a threat to Israeli security, it is hard to think of what could be.

These are the real security threats Israel faces, which are in the present. Netanyahu does not want to do the right thing with regard to the Palestinians, and he is unconcerned by the Syrian developments because he holds the incorrect theory that Israel is better off if the Arabs are busy with one another. Israelis of European background often seem blithely unaware that they are smack dab in the Middle East and that its troubles are their troubles. A normal state like Iran, which has fair order and a return address should it attack Israel, is much less a security concern than the 4 unpredictable issues above.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: Protesters clash with Israeli troops near West Bank separation barrier

contributors <![CDATA[Palestine to take Israel to Int’l Criminal Court for War Crimes]]> 2015-03-03T01:10:56Z 2015-03-03T05:37:19Z RT | –

A Palestinian man stands at his makeshift shelter near the ruins of his house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer, on a rainy day east of Gaza City February 19, 2015. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

Palestine’s first complaint against Israel’s alleged war crimes will be filed at the International Criminal Court in April, according to a senior Palestinian official. The issue will reportedly be related to the 2014 war in Gaza.

“One of the first important steps will be filing a complaint against Israel at the ICC on April 1 over the [2014] Gaza war and settlement activity,” Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) told AP on Monday.

The Palestinians will be able to take legal action at the court based in The Hague, Netherlands, after the nation moved to join the international authority formally in January. According to the court’s procedures, “the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1.”

Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon expressed his country’s refusal to react to the declaration, describing it as “speculative and hypothetical,” as quoted by AP. The Israeli administration has for decades consistently opposed Palestine’s legal power to sue Israel for war crimes.

After Palestine’s move to join the ICC was confirmed by the UN in January, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country “will not let Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers be dragged” to The Hague. Following the announcement in January, Israel froze the transfer of half a billion shekels ($125 million) in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority.

The ICC, with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, announced a preliminary examination into Israel’s 2014 actions in Gaza. Around 2,200 Palestinians were killed in that conflict, with over 60 percent of the victims being civilians. Israel’s losses included 66 soldiers and 6 civilians, according to an investigation, carried out by AP earlier this month.

After Palestine officially joins the Court in April, it also plans to sue Israel over its policy of settlement building on land occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. Under international law, all Israeli construction on land seized during the war is considered illegal.

Via RT


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews from last month: “ICC opens inquiry into Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

contributors <![CDATA[Gaza’s sole power plant to close as funding runs out]]> 2015-03-03T05:47:10Z 2015-03-03T05:29:31Z GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza’s only power plant is due to shut down by the end of this week as donor funding for fuel in the coastal territory has run out, officials said.

The energy and natural resource authority told Ma’an that the power plant had been using a Qatari grant to pay for diesel fuel to maintain operations.

Gaza’s sole power station, which was damaged during the war, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and is only able to supply the enclave with six hours of power per day.

In July, Amnesty International said that there could be no justification for “targeting a civilian structure that provides crucial services to so many civilians.”

“The strike on the power plant, which cut off electricity and running water to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents and numerous hospitals has catastrophic humanitarian implications and is very likely to amount to a war crime,” Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said.

Gaza has been forced into dependence on Israeli electricity as a result of the siege, which has crippled domestic production and repair capabilities.

Via Ma’an News Agency


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Gaza: Why is no-one rebuilding it? BBC News

contributors <![CDATA[The problem with Iraq’s offensive against the Islamic State]]> 2015-03-03T02:48:49Z 2015-03-03T05:28:42Z BAGHDAD (IRIN) – As the Iraqi army and affiliated militias sweep into northern Iraq to try to re-take the city of Tikrit from so-called Islamic State (IS), the local civilians are fearful they may be punished for the crimes of the Islamist militants.

A force of around 30,000 made up of army soldiers and government-backed Shia militias today moved to reclaim the city, 150 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, which fell to the predominantly Sunni militant group – previously known as ISIS – last June.

Ghanim Al-Ajeeli, a Sunni tribal sheikh from the Albu Ajeel village north of Tikrit which has up to 20,000 residents, said he feared being held responsible for the actions of IS.

“We are very concerned by this operation,” he told IRIN. “The [Shia] militias will eliminate the entire tribe of Albu Ajeel. They won’t leave a single house.”

He said his and other families were fleeing to the Tuz district ahead of the assault reaching the area.

Followers of Islam fall under two main sects: Sunni and Shia.

Since taking over swaths of territory in northern and western Iraq in June last year, Sunni IS has routinely brutally attacked Shia civilians, as well as Christians and other ethnic minorities. It has also targeted Sunnis who oppose it.

Human rights groups have accused Shia militias of routinely abducting and killing Sunni civilians in recent months.

Many of the militias have long existed in Iraq, but have risen in power and prominence after the Iraqi army retreated and allowed IS to claim nearly a third of the country. Militia members, numbering tens of thousands, often wear military uniforms and are allegedly supported by the government but operate without any official oversight.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said he worried this trend would be aggravated during the assault on Tikrit. “We are very, very concerned on the basis of what has been going in the past few months,” he said.

Unless the militias can be brought under control, he added, the military should carry out the offensive alone.

A HRW report released last month documented Shia militias taking revenge on civilians they deemed to have been favourable to IS. In Muqdadiyya, area of Diyala province 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, militias allegedly set homes on fire after claiming the area.

“We have documented a pattern of abuses by Shia militias taking the law into their own hands and exacting revenge on Sunni communities. This has been going on throughout the last year,” Donatella Rovera, of Amnesty International, told IRIN. “We are concerned that as this military operations gather pace, obviously there are going to be more abuses.”

Fears of a revenge attack are particularly strong in Tikrit after the so-called Speicher massacre. Last summer, IS allegedly killed more than 1,000 predominantly Shia soldiers after it captured the Speicher military base in Tikrit.

“They have accused us of the Speicher massacre which we never committed,” Al-Ajeeli said. “We ask the central government and local government to intervene immediately to stop … those who are hungry for revenge on innocents.”

Both Iraqi President Haidar al-Abadi, himself a Shia, and senior Shia leader Ayatollah Sistani have made speeches in recent days urging militias to act with restraint and respect civilians.

Referring to the militias as “popular mobilisation,” al-Abadi said in a speech last night that he was “proud of our society’s cohesion as well as the unity of the army, police and the popular mobilisation to expel IS.”

Since Iraq’s civil strife in 2006-8, politicians on all sides have increased their use of militia-fueled violence to further their political ends.

Shortly after coming to power last summer, al-Abadi pledged to bring the militias under control and incorporate them into the government security services, also promising to prosecute those who had committed crimes. 

But Stork argued Abadi had yet to seriously challenge the power of the militias: there have been no confirmed cases of militia leaders being punished by the legal system.

“We welcome those statements by the Ayatollah and prime minister and hope they will have the desired effect but so far we haven’t seen that,” Stork told IRIN. “The government needs to show it is serious by holding some of the commanders to account and bringing them to justice… We need to see some deterrent.”

Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee and a member of the political party led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, denied there was any lack of discipline among militias.

“The security forces and popular mobilisation are making a great advance in the battle against IS… We assure the people that our security forces and popular mobilisation were founded to protect them not to hurt [them].”

“We have educated our fighters to protect innocents’ lives and belongings and not to hurt them,” he went on. “It’s our priority to protect them.”

But it is no compensation to Ajeeli, who fears potential massacres. “I think they will commit crimes to be written in Iraq’s history for hundreds of years”.

Via IRIN: Humanitarian News and Analysis


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wall Street Journal: “Iraq Moves to Reclaim Tikrit From Islamic State”

contributors <![CDATA[“Kiss Me!” Bibi Tells Boehner: Bibi and Boehner as Mario and the Magician]]> 2015-03-03T07:39:49Z 2015-03-03T05:24:31Z By Raouf J. Halaby | (LeMonde Diplomatique) –

Published in 1929, German author Thomas Mann’s novella Mario and the Magician is not only Mann’s evocatively compelling and poignantly potent comment on the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, but it is also a character template for successive egotistically sycophantic megalomaniacs enamored with their delusional self-importance and the besotted aggrandizement of their nationalistic jingoism. Collectively, these tyrants share one pathologically fixated obsession: They love to give speeches to imagined adoring and captive audiences.

Bibi Netanyahu is a Case in point.

Set in late 1920’s Torre de Venere (Tower of Venus), an Italian seaside resort, Mann chooses a northern European (German) bourgeois mouthpiece to create a fictional prose work in which the dramatic action, akin to a two-act play, unfolds in two major extended scenes.

In the first scene of the novella the narrator/mouthpiece introduces the reader to his family’s holiday experience/s in the warm Mediterranean clime, an environment that is very alien to him and to his family. The reader is immediately alerted to the narrator’s chauvinistic, effete, and condescending attitude towards Italians, a breed the narrator considers culturally (and perhaps intellectually) inferior to his. These same sentiments vis a vis Italians, Greeks, Semites, Turks, North Africans, the Roma people, and Muslims, to name but a few, are to this day expressed by all too numerous hate groups, political parties, and government officials across northern Europe.

The setting for the second part of the novella is a large audience-packed auditorium of mostly Italians, including the German narrator, his wife, and children. Mann utilizes the narrator’s ocular and mental perspectives to frame the events by focusing on Cavaliere Cipolla , a deformed, hunchbacked magician-hypnotist who is the master of ceremonies and the audience’s center of attention. What Cipolla lacked in appearance he compensated for with his oratorical skills that manipulated his audience into a spellbinding sorcerous silence and pervasive adoration. To compensate for his inferiority complex, Cipolla’s bombastic braggadocio and his ability to use his mental powers are laced with nationalistic themes woven in a superficially propagandist and masterfully crafted diabolical rhetoric. An impresario par excellence, Cippola entrances his audience with nationalistic themes that summon up the grandeur of Augustan Rome and its centuries of ancient Imperial rule, and thus evokes approving responses from his audience.

As the evening grinds on, Cipolla, by now armed with a whip, becomes more emboldened; he argues with a Roman gentleman; he banters with an Italian socialite; whip in hand, he lures, manipulates, clutches, and captivates his audience by his ploys and schemes; he brazenly and perversely humiliates his by now docile audience; he elicits a performance (dancing) from a handful of compliant and hypnotized young women. As the restive crowd is steered to a crescendo of hypnotically induced frenzied approbation, Cipolla , employing a raspy voice to further incite the crowd, utilizes his whip as a pointer to zero in on young Mario, a local Torre de Venere waiter. The instant Cipolla’s predatory machinations are about to reach a zenith, Mann aptly describes his repulsive impish physical appearance thusly: “The red rings around his eyes had got larger, they looked as though they were painted on. His thick lips parted.”

Further, Mann tells us that:

… again the giovanotto’s brutal laugh rang out. His eyes were roving about somewhere in the air … he cocked his ear to the sound, then swung his whip backwards [so] that none of his puppets might flag in their zeal. The gesture had nearly cost him his new prey … Cipolla had him [Mario] in his clutch.

In an admixture of Iago-style duplicitous linguistic manipulation on the one hand and a povero me! pobre de mi! (poor me, poor me) groveling on the other, Cipolla taunts Mario about Silvestra, the lad’s paramour, and challenges his manliness by insinuating that “there are misunderstandings in love.” Cipolla [ʧIpɑlȧ] chips away at the hypnotized Mario with innuendos that Silvestra might not be as faithful as the young Mario imagines her to be:

If I were to put myself in her place and choose between the two of you, a tarry lout like that-a codfish [sic.], a sea-urchin [sic.]- and a Mario, a knight of the serviette, who moves among gentlefolk and hands around refreshments with [graceful words], but my heart would speak in no uncertain tones – it knows to who I gave it long ago. It is time that he should see and understand, my chosen one! It is time that you see me and recognize me, Mario, my beloved! Tell me, who am I?

It was so grisly, the way the betrayer made himself irresistible, wreathed and coquetted with crooked shoulder, languished with puffy eyes, and showed his splintered teeth in a sickly smile. And alas, at his beguiling words, what was come of our Mario?”

Now that Mario is on the defensive because his machismo is challenged, he is completely under the impresario’s clutches; the grotesqueness of Cippola’s appearance and his contortionist gyrations culminate in his adeptly utilizing hegemonic psychic mind control. Leading Mario to believe that he was the beautiful Silvestra and in an explicitly predatory and seductively sexual diktat, he forces Mario to kiss him. “ ‘Kiss me!’ said the hunchback. ‘Trust me, I love thee. Kiss me here.’ And with the tip of his index finger, hand, arm, and little finger outspread, he pointed to his cheek, near the mouth. And Mario bent and kissed him.”

Shamed, humiliated, and demeaned at having his masculinity questioned, angry at himself for having succumbed to Cipolla’s mind games, mortified at the crowd’s favorable and admiring responses elicited at his expense, and horrified by Cipolla’s relishing the moment as though it were a sexual conquest, Mario pulls out his derringer and kills the heinous predator.

In the final passage the German narrator assumes the role of an omniscient character and informs the reader that “that was the end. An end of horror, a fatal end. And yet a liberation – for I could not, and I cannot, but find it so!”

There is no doubt that by 1929 Thomas Mann had Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin in mind, and might very well have anticipated Adolf Hitler’s 1933 and Francisco Franco’s 1939 rise to power and the Fascist dictatorships in Germany and Spain, respectively.

Stranger Than Fiction

Just as Cipolla incites his audience with a brazenly smug assurance and is able to manipulate his gullible spectators by bending them to his will, Bibi Netanyahu’s narcissistic aplomb has earned him three invitations to address the Joint Congress of the United States.

The first such opportunity arose in 1996.

After checkmating then President Bill Clinton, cutting him down to size and putting him in his place, on July 10, 1996, Bibi Netanyahu strode, much like a Roman pro consul, to the podium of the most powerful nation on the face of this planet, and delivered a speech in which he lectured America’s representatives about the strong bond between Israel and her subservient cash cow. Received with unprecedented (if not exuberant) warmth, and hailed as a modern day saint by Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich (better known as Mr. “The Palestinians are an invented people “ — while he was kissing up to Adelson’s bank account in his failed 2012 presidential run), Bibi lectured his audience on Iran, terrorism, democracy, shared values and the evils of hate. He was, after all, on the frontline, the savior whose fingers are keeping the dike of terrorism from bursting. And he insinuated to his paymasters that they owed him access to as much gold as Fort Knox should spare.

And this was only the warm up.

Years later: even though Obama has been Israel’s best friend, condoning the settlement expansion and giving lip service to these stick it in your eye U.S. taxpayer-funded illegal settlements, and even though Obama has been carrying Netanyahu’s water bucket during the 2008, 2012, 2014 wars on Gaza’s defenseless imprisoned 1.8 million population (more like shooting fish in a water tank); and even though Obama has affirmed Israel’s “right to defend itself” (no such right for the Palestinians); and even though he’s vetoed U.N. resolutions censoring Israel; and even though he voted against Palestinian statehood at the U.N. Security Council; and even though he’s condemned Palestinian attempts to hold Israel accountable for its heinous crimes in an international forum, Bibi Netanyahu has repeatedly humiliated Obama by sticking it to him in the eye, lecturing him like a truant school boy at the White House – in front of the whole world to see. Like the abused spouse, the Mighty Exceptionalist Droner in Chief has been groveling at his abuser’s feet. For being Bibi’s favorite waiter, Obama has nobody to blame but himself.

Netanyahu’s 1996 address was merely a dry run for his May 11, 2011 address to the Joint Congress of the United States. Now that he was anointed King Bibi, here is how the second speech to the U.S. Congress began: “How many House votes would you get for an amendment to allow Israelis to run for prez [sic.]? 300? 350?”

O.K., Cipolla! Chip away, chip ahoy.

Dressed in a fashionable tailor made suit, Bibi, to use his own word, presented a “telegenic” image. And much like Cipolla the magician, he hypnotized 535 subserviently mesmerized elected officials who gave him not a few, but 29 standing ovations to Obama’s 25 ovations during his January 2011 State of the Union Address — to that same body. Does that say anything about morality, payola, and the Congress of the U.S.?

Primed with diagrams and an infantile graphic, on September 27, 2012, Bibi Netanyahu delivered a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in which he urged the world body not to negotiate with Iran. It was the same old povero me we have suffered for centuries motif ; we are an extension of Western civilization; we love democracy; Israel/West good, Iran/Arabs/Muslims/ bad; we are civilized, they are not; we want peace/Palestinians incite; same song, same verse to an international congregation that would not give him the same adulatory standing ovations of servility as the Congress of the U.S. had previously done. Towards the end of his speech Netanyahu held up a stringed balloon-like diagram and stated the following: “This is a bomb. This is a fuse.” As in a Shakespearean tragedy, comic relief is essential.

Which brings us to the most recent Bibi Netanyahu escapade, that delusional love fest with himself, with speeches, with self-aggrandizement, with self-adoration, and with power — all with the same seductive power and sway Cipolla held over his audience, and all for the sake of hanging on to power in the March Israeli elections, yet one more time.

Cipolla-style, “Kiss me!” Bibi told John Boehner. And the latter, trying to stick it to Obama on his homestretch – yet again for a sinister grandstanding finale – eagerly complied.

While Boehner’s Machiavellian schemed invitation (a predatory act in itself) to Netanyahu is intended to flank the Democrats in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections and is the Republicans’ last best shot at humiliating Obama, yet again, it has, albeit timidly, exposed the fault lines in America’s special relationship with Israel. Like the spoilt brat who’s gotten used to getting his way far too long, Bibi is not likely to back down and disinvite himself.

Like Mann’s Italian impresario, Bibi has Cipollatized successive Israeli hard liners and settlers by leading his own people to the abyss. More tragic has been Bibi’s ability to Cipollatize successive U.S. Administrations and Congresses, forcing them to a “[knighthood] of the serviette[hood],” all the time reducing them to a “wreathed and coquetted” garçon-style servitude of waiting on him , Mario style, waiting on his reckless expansionist zeal, and forcing them to kiss him as he pursues his dreams of a greater Israel.

I fear that I know more than a few persons who are relishing B & B’s (Bibi and Boehner) predatory challenge to Obama, to his manhood, to his presidency, and to his legacy. The reality is that the invitation extended to Netanyahu is also a predatory challenge to the dignity of all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. This is also an assault on the American and World Jewish communities, the vast majority of whom are increasingly embarrassed by Netanyahu and his intransigent pomposity.

If there is a silver lining in this embarrassing debacle, it is to be found in the multitude of irate responses across the U.S. When the news of the invitation became public, FOX NEWS’ Chris Wallace (of Jewish background), stated: “I have to say, I’m shocked;” Shepard Smith stated that it was “a deliberate and pretty egregious snub;” NBC’s Chris Jansing called it “an unprecedented breach; ” CNN’s Dana Bash referred to it as “unusual and bizarre;” JStreet called it “a mistake;” White House official Josh Earnest called it “a breach of protocol;” Nancy Pelosi opined that it was “out of order;” Jewish Voices for Peace’s Rebecca Vilkomerson charged that U.S. lawmakers are out of touch; RootsAction pronounced “Talk about chutzpah!” Even loud mouth brazenly brash Chris Mathews, one of Israel’s most ardent supporters and apologists for the Clintons and Obama, expressed his disgust. And many in the American Jewish community, including JStreet, Jewish Voices for Peace, and numerous rabbis have been deeply irked and embarrassed by this charade, calling on their supporters to express their anger, and rightfully so. Even the Israeli Ha’aretz, quoting a US official, orated the following: “we thought we’ve seen everything. But Bibi managed to surprise even us. There are things you simply don’t do He spat in our face publicly and that’s not a way to behave.” Perhaps the most vociferous voice to date appeared on Representative Earl Blumenauer’s (D., Oregon) Facebook. “I will not participate in a calculated attack by speaker of the House of Representatives to undermine the President and his ability to manage foreign policy,” stated he.

Postscript: President Barak Obama has the opportunity to capitalize on the fallout from this “coquetted” sham. He can, in the words of the narrator, put an “end to [the] horror” and declare “a liberation.” He has to, for starters, take off the garçon’s apron in which he and Congress are tightly draped by AIPAC and the Saudis, take ownership of the store, and sign a wise deal with Iran. Second, by bringing an equitable resolution to the Israel/Palestine proverbial thorn in the world’s side, he will be able to deflate much of the anger and frustration that have been the oxygen fueling the senseless and barbaric Islamic madness that has thrived in the region because of ill advised wars from which blowback is an inevitability. For the sake of the children of Israel/Palestine the status quo must be broken. This will also liberate America from AIPAC’s stranglehold. Third, hold the Arab theocrats, dictators, and the tyrannical oil sheiks and other Arab Cipallos accountable for their crimes and press them to honor their people’s aspirations in joining the modern — free world – free of neo liberal exploitation.

Simply put, President Obama should have the moral fortitude to tell Bibi and the Arab thugs the following: “This is a bomb. This is a fuse. We are not going to let you light it.”

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor of English and Art at a private university in Arkansas. He is a writer, a photographer, a sculptor, a peace activist, and an avid gardener.

A slightly shorter version of this essay was published in Le Monde Diplomatique on 2/9/2015


Related video added by Juan Cole:

WotchitGeneralNews: “Netanyahu Declines Invite From Senate Democrats”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[What does Iran think of Netanyahu’s Interference in Talks?]]> 2015-03-02T10:11:07Z 2015-03-02T05:42:10Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

As Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu makes a bid to thwart President Barack Obama’s foreign policy toward Iran, the Iranian press is reacting to the wrench Netanyahu is trying to throw into negotiations over Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. For some odd reason, US mass media are almost never interested in what critics of the US are saying; it is almost as if there is an unwritten rule of American journalism that you don’t allow the ‘enemy’ to have a voice. But I don’t think good journalism on the Iran negotiations can be done if one is only quoting the American side. Iranians, of course, like Americans, are divided on the nuclear negotiations:

Reformers and moderates remain hopeful that Obama will prevail against the far right wing Israeli Likud Party and what Iranians call “extremists” in the US Congress. (It should be a wake-up call for US congressmen when Iranians think they are the extremists).

The hard liners in Iran don’t care, since they do not believe that Obama is negotiating in good faith to begin with. They point out that the US sanctions on Iran are arbitrary and by fiat, and have no basis in international law, and that Iran is being made to bend over backwards to please Washington just to get back to a normal situation. That is, they don’t think Iran is really gaining anything here. Indeed, some want reparations for the damage the US has done the Iranian economy.

According to BBC Monitoring, Piruz Mujtahidzadeh wrote in the moderate newspaper, Iran “The USA and Tel Aviv have strategic relations, and they will not change regardless of any disagreement that may at some points occur between the two sides. Defending Israel’s security and ensuring its survival were an essential principle for the US presidents. The different views that the Obama and Netanyahu have regarding Iran dominate the two countries’ current relations. Despite Netanyahu’s opposition [to Iran’s nuclear deal] … Obama intends to solve Iran’s nuclear programme in the final years of his tenure. Therefore, he will strongly stand against the Congress’s extremist currents who have close ties with Tel Aviv. Hence, Israel’s destructive efforts against Iran will have no impact on the White House’s policy whatsoever.”

Mujtahidzadeh, then, believes that Obama really wants the agreement with Iran as part of his presidential legacy, and that he will find a way to sideline Netanyahu. But being realistic, he doesn’t expect the prime minister’s speech to do lasting damage to the US-Israel relationship.

BBCM writes that Hamed Hoshangi of the reformist I’temad has been following the Obama administration’s hard ball with Netanyahu, translating his op ed: “In an unprecedented attack against the Israeli prime minister on Wednesday [25 February], US Secretary of State John Kerry said: We should not forget that Netanyahu encouraged the then President George Bush to attack Iraq in October 2002. … John Kerry is forced to attack Netanyahu directly amidst the Israeli prime minister’s opposition to Washington’s policy in the Middle East and his opposition to continuation of the [nuclear] talks with Iran given that the possibility of reaching an agreement over [Iran’s] nuclear dossier has entered a serious stage…. It seems that disagreements among a group of US Democrat politicians over Netanyahu’s intense involvement and his attempts to shape a policy for Washington have entered a new dimension, and the powerful Jewish lobby in the USA is facing serious problems with regard to support for Netanyahu.”

Hoshangi thinks that the Israel lobby (it isn’t properly called a Jewish lobby) may well end up being weakened within the Democratic Party by Netanyahu’s antics.

Hasan Hanizadeh of the reformist newspaper Arman wrote about Congressional sabotage of the talks, saying (BBC Monitoring):

“Disputes between the US Congress and White House will definitely affect nuclear talks. On the other hand, the Zionist regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has explicitly stated that this regime will never allow Iran and P5+1 to reach a comprehensive agreement, even if this results in Israeli-US confrontation. Although his remarks include aspects of election propaganda and are made for domestic use, they indicate that there is complete coordination between the Zionist regime and some extremist members of the US Congress … Barack Obama, who is in sharp disagreement with Netanyahu, is also trying to prevent [Israeli party] Likud’s victory through achieving a comprehensive agreement with Iran … If America does not meet its commitments against Iran by the 10th of month of Tir, 31 July, it will certainly be condemned by public opinion, because Iran has met all its commitments.”

Hanizadeh, then, sees a coordination between the far right in Israel and in the US. But he also seems to think that Obama is attempting to interfere in Israeli electoral politics by doing a deal with Iran that will weaken the extreme nationalist Likud Party of Netanyahu. He believes, in any case, that Iran has been entirely forthcoming in the negotiations, and if they do fail, people will blame Obama rather than Tehran.

Likewise, BBCM translates a report of the hard line Risalat , that takes the talks seriously but does not think the Iranian side is asking for enough:

“What has not been considered in [nuclear] talks between Iran and P5+1 member states is the issue of the financial damage that they [the West] inflicted on Iranians and public funds. … Iran should come up with some serious financial issues and calculations [during the talks] and also ask the other side in the talks for compensation for the damage . . .”

In contrast, BBC Monitoring says, the conservative Hemayat wrote yesterday that US sanctions will not be reduced under any circumstances, and that Washington is only pretending to negotiate:

“Sanctions are based and planned on the colonialist ideology and its total removal can only be expected if one of following two conditions is realized. First, Iran’s complete surrender to excessive demands of the enemy; second, the West’s total surrender to Iran! Since neither is possible, this friction is likely to continue. In other words, sanctions have not been imposed to remove them or discuss their abolition. The enemy’s rhetoric and promise on lifting sanctions are nothing but deception.”

Iranian commentary on this issue seems on the whole somewhat hopeful, and shows awareness of the fissures in Washington and the discomfort of many Democrats with the ways in which Netanyahu is attempting to undermine their party’s and their leader’s policies toward Iran. Some think the episode will change US relations with Israel, while others question whether that is really possible. They see the GOP obstructionists in league with Netanyahu as “extremists.”

Related video:

WotchitGeneralNews: “Iran’s Zarif Says Netanyahu Trying to Undermine Nuclear Talks”

contributors <![CDATA[Gaza’s Food Insecurity made even worse by Environmental Damage of Israel’s War, Blockade]]> 2015-03-01T22:54:35Z 2015-03-02T05:27:16Z By Mel Frykberg

BEIT LAHIYA, Northern Gaza Strip (IPS) – Extensive damage to Gaza’s environment as a result of the Israeli blockade and its devastating military campaign against the coastal territory during last year’s war from July to August, is negatively affecting the health of Gazans, especially their food security.

Safa Subha and three-year-old Rahat rely on Oxfam aid for food to fight malnutrition after having been accustomed to living on a diet of bread and tea. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

“We were living on bread and tea and my five children were badly malnourished as my husband and I couldn’t afford proper food,” Safa Subha, 37, from Beit Lahiya told IPS. “My children were suffering from liver problems, anaemia and weak bones. It was only after I received regular food vouchers from Oxfam and was able to purchase eggs and yoghurt that my children are now healthier.”

Lack of dietary diversity is an issue of concern, particularly for children and pregnant and lactating women, due to the lack of large-scale food assistance programmes and the high prices of fresh food and red meat

“But it is still a struggle as I have to ration out the food and my doctor has warned me to keep giving the children these foods to prevent the malnutrition returning,” said Safa.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in several communities, lack of dietary diversity was highlighted as an issue of concern, particularly for children and pregnant and lactating women, due to the lack of large-scale food assistance programmes and the high prices of fresh food and red meat.

Before the war, Safa’s husband Ashraf worked as a farmer, renting a piece of land on which he grew produce that he then sold.

“My husband used to earn about NIS 300 per week (about 75 dollars) from farming. After the land became too dangerous to farm, because of Israeli military fire and much of it destroyed in Israeli bombings, my husband tried to earn some money renting a taxi,” said Safa.

However, Ashraf’s attempts to support his family as a taxi driver did not provide sufficient income for their survival.

“He can only use the taxi a couple of days a week because it doesn’t belong to him and he often doesn’t have money to buy fuel because it is so expensive and Israel only allows limited amounts of fuel into Gaza because of the blockade,” said Safa.

Kamal Kassam, 43, from Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, has had to rely on Oxfam’s Cash for Work programme to support his wife and five children aged 6 to 12.

During the war the Kassam’s had to flee to a U.N. shelter after the family home was destroyed by Israeli bombs, which also wounded his wife and left one of his daughters severely traumatised, suffering from epilepsy and soiling herself at night.

Kassam’s wife Eman is ill and another daughter needs regular medical treatment for cancer.

The Kassams were provided with a temporary tin caravan to live in by aid organisations but were unable to purchase food or school clothes because they had received housing aid and were therefore “less desperate”.

“I used to work in a factory but lost that job after Israel’s blockade. Before the war I made about NIS 30 (about 7.50 dollars) a day by picking up and delivering goods from my donkey cart,” Kassam told IPS.

But during a night of heavy aerial bombardment, a bomb killed his donkey and destroyed the cart as well as his only way of supporting his family.

Israel’s extensive bombing campaign during the war also destroyed or damaged, infrastructure, including Gaza’s sole power plant and water sanitation projects.

As a result, untreated sewage is pumped out to sea and then floods back into Gaza’s underground water system, contaminating drinking water and crops and leading to outbreaks of disease.

Israeli restrictions on imports, including vital spare parts for the repair of sewerage infrastructure and agricultural equipment such as fertiliser and seedlings, has limited crop production.

Furthermore, the regular targeting of fishermen and farmers, trying to access their land and Gaza’s fishing shoals in Israel’s Access Restricted Areas (ARAs), by Israeli security forces has severely hindered the ability of Gazans to earn a living from farming and fishing.

OCHA identified the most frequent concerns regarding food security and nutrition as “loss of the source of income and livelihoods due to severe damage to agricultural lands; death/loss of animals; inability to access agricultural lands, particularly in the Israeli-imposed three-kilometre buffer zone; and loss of employment.”

Food insecurity in Gaza is not caused by lack of food on the market alone. It is also a crisis of economic access to food because most Gazans cannot afford to buy sufficient quantities of quality food.

“As a result of the lack of economic access to food due to high unemployment and low wages, the majority of the population in Gaza has been pushed into poverty and food insecurity, with no other choice but to rely heavily on assistance to cover their essential needs,” said ‘GAZA Detailed Needs Assessment (DNA) and Recovery Framework: Social Protection Sub-Sector’, a report by the World Bank, European Union, United Nations and the Government of Palestine.

“The repetition of one harsh economic shock after the other has resulted in an erosion of household coping strategies, with 89 percent of households resorting to negative coping mechanisms to meet their food needs (half report purchasing lower quality food and a third have reduced the number of daily meals),” said the DNA report, adding that the situation was expected to worsen in 2015.

Edited by Phil Harris

Licensed from Inter Press Service

contributors <![CDATA[British University SOAS Votes to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions]]> 2015-03-02T00:26:40Z 2015-03-02T05:24:45Z By Alternative Information Center | –

A historic victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was achieved Friday in the referendum on the academic boycott of Israel, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London . . .

… Presently, SOAS has ties with the Hebrew University, which unapologetically joined the “war effort” last summer when the Israeli army murdered over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza. In October 2014, the US weapons-producer Lockheed Martin announced that a cooperation agreement had been signed with Yissum, a technology firm that belongs to the Hebrew University.

Read the whole article at AIC