RIP Shimon Peres: Last Great Israeli leader to believe in 2 State solution

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

I met an emperor once, but have only met a couple of presidents. Shimon Peres (1923-2016) was one. I met him briefly in the Green Room when doing an interview with Charlie Rose.

The Polish-born Peres made his best impression on me with his support for the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995. Had this peace process succeeded, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might have been settled once and for all, with incredibly positive benefits for Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Israel and the United States. One key argument for terrorism against the US, that it is helping crush the stateless Palestinians, would have evaporated.

I know all the critiques of Oslo– that it essentially made the PLO into a policeman providing security to Israel. But it did also aim to halt and reverse the colonization process on Occupied Palestinian territory, and in my view the Palestinians were more likely to succeed if they had any kind of a state. Peres was willing to give them that. The stateless do not even have the right to have rights.

Make no mistake, Peres was a hard line Israeli nationalist, and had viewed Palestinian nationalism as a dire enemy. He had helped get arms for the Jewish community to prosecute the 1947-48 war, during which Israel won its independence but ethnically cleansed some 740,000 Palestinians. He later served as minister of defense. He played a sinister role in proliferating nuclear arms to Israel.

But he was also a dedicated Socialist and at one point headed the Socialist International, and that stance gave him an appreciation of the need for human rights for all human beings.

After the first Palestinian uprising or Intifada of 1987-1991, he and Yitzhak Rabin became convinced that it was implausible for Israel permanently to annex Palestinian land while keeping Palestinians themselves stateless. Peres was then foreign minister, and it took guts for him to meet with his old enemy, Yasir Arafat, to prepare for a peace process.

I remember an interview Peres gave at that time, in which he ascribed his willingness to try to achieve an epochal change in the stagnant Mideast situation. He said he had read a lot of Buddhist thought, and it came to him that nothing is permanent. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he thought, is ephemeral. It would come to an end. He implied that he concluded that it might as well end sooner than later.

That’s about the coolest thing a sitting politician has ever said.

Again, I’m not naive. He could be paternalistic toward the Palestinians and chauvinist about Israel, and, indeed, pushed Israeli propaganda in the US relentlessly. But it is hard to fault a man for being a dedicated patriot. When push came to shove, he put everything on the line to try to make peace. He was viciously attacked and lambasted as a traitor and a fool by the Israeli right wing, which has now taken complete control of the government.

His friend and colleague, Yitzhak Rabin, who as prime minister signed off on the Oslo Accords, was brutally murdered by the Israeli far Right, and the Israeli Right in general bears responsibility, what with all its talk of treason (traitors are executed, no?). Peres risked the same fate.

Binyamin Netanyahu thought peace with the Palestinians and giving up the West Bank were stupid ideas and he vowed to annihilate the Oslo Accords so as to assure the future of Israeli colonization of Palestinian land. He ran against Peres for the position of prime minister and won. He succeeded in his plot to derail the peace process.

In 2013, when Peres was ceremonial president and Netanyahu was prime minister, Peres broke protocol to criticize Netanyahu for continuing to say he couldn’t make peace because he had no Palestinian partner. He said that he’d known Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for 30 years and knew that he was a peace partner. There is no Israeli left of any stature who would talk like that today.

Peres was the last decent man to rise high in Israeli politics. His removal from the scene leaves the management of the Israeli government to racists, warmongers, war criminals, ethnic cleansers, militant colonizers, and generally arrogant pricks and insufferable douchebags. They are smartly marching us toward a dangerous blow-up that Peres would have averted if they hadn’t marginalized him.


Related video:

AP: ” Former Israeli President Shimon Peres Dead at 93″

The Presidential Debate that did not really Happen

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Regular readers will know that in my view the 2016 presidential election did not happen.

Likewise, the first debate between the two candidates did not take place. There was no debate as the word is usually understood, where the two take turns setting out policy positions. A debate on policy would have involved staking out positions on what to do about Syria, or about ISIL in Iraq. Sec. Clinton did occasionally attempt to mention a policy (apparently the Kurds are somehow central to her plans) but was promptly interrupted by a hectoring Trump attempting to bring back the viewers to the character he was scripting.

He interrupted her 26 times in 25 minutes. For the first 20 minutes moderator Lester Holt, a Republican, was AWOL. He let Trump repeatedly cut Clinton off, badger her, and even take over Holt’s putative role, of asking her questions. If there is one rule of debates, it is that one debater is not allowed to ask the other the questions.

Trump also wove his alternative reality. In that world, he ceased his racist birtherism as soon as President Obama produced his long form birth certificate, and did the president a favor in making him publish it (something never required of any white president [i.e. from any of them]).

This is not true.

In Trump’s alternate reality, he never said that climate change is a Chinese-promoted hoax. But of course he had said it.


In a double piece of illusionism, of course, Trump continues to deny that climate change is an issue, even though he denied having denied it in public to a hundred million people. That is why the debate did not really take place.

Trump also maintained that cutting taxes in half on the rich would produce economic growth, jobs and shrink the deficit. It would of course cause the deficit to balloon by trillions and reduce employment by increasing the gini coefficient.

But of course Ronald Reagan made the same pledges, and Republicans during the Great Depression had said the same thing, demonstrating how an alternative reality of falsehoods had dominated our political illusions for decades before Trump took control of this machine.

Trump said he was just endorsed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is a Federal agency and does not endorse candidates. The press was reduced to scrounging around trying to figure out if there was actually any endorsement in any way connected to ICE, as a way of “explaining what he really meant.” But this activity assumes that there is a reality to the Trump candidacy. There is not. It doesn’t matter whether ICE endorsed him. He said it did and that is all that counts. Trump’s reality is like the bad pirated copies of movies (sometimes shot sideways or missing half the screen) that are purveyed in New York’s China Town. They aren’t really even copies of the original but something pretending to be a copy, so as to cheat greedy tourists out of a few dollars.

Trump again asserted that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, which he did not. Pressing him on this issue and on his racist birtherism were Lester Holt’s two finest moments.

Trump again said that the US should have taken Iraq’s oil and that that would have forestalled the rise of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). But Daesh did not originally arise because of oil money support, and it is mainly in Syria that it captured some refineries. Daesh arose to rid Iraq of US occupation. It didn’t need a lot of funding. It had ex-Baath ex-officers in its ranks who knew where Saddam Hussein’s old weapons stockpiles were.

Daesh or ISIL did not arise because the US failed to steal Iraqi petroleum.

Then Trump repeated his claim that if Obama had left 10,000 troops in Iraq in 2011 and after, Daesh would never have arisen. But the US military occupation of Iraq was what provoked al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which became the ‘Islamic State of Iraq.” Some 10,000 US troops couldn’t prevent that development if 160,000 could not, during the Bush occupation.

The things Trump said bore no relation to reality.

So the debate did not take place.

It was not a debate so much as an opportunity to display his ability to weave an alternate reality for his acolytes.


Related video:

The Young Turks:
Presidential Debate | Who Won?”

Posted in Featured,Iraq | 13 Responses | Print |

Syria, Russia push to take East Aleppo pocket as airstrikes kill 66, wound 200

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Only a week after seeming to agree to a ceasefire, Russia and the Syrian regime in Damascus appear to have decided to throw caution to the winds and simply wipe out the pocket of rebel resistance in East Aleppo.

If the regime has all of Aleppo, all of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Latakia, then it has Syria. Poor, rural, thinly populated provinces such as Idlib (held by al-Qaeda and its allies) and Raqqa & Deir al-Zor (held by Daesh/ISIL) just don’t count. They can make trouble from the margins, sort of the way FARK in Colombia did for decades, but they can’t win.

The military blog Sic Semper Tyrranis is convinced that the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace forces can win the war outright. If they mean by winning what I just said– taking and holding all the major urban population centers– then yes. If they mean taking back control over the whole country, then no. Damascus just doesn’t have the troops to take back the rural Sunni areas, and nor can it prevent them from attacking regime forces. Moreover, it is unlikely that Damascus will ever really get control back of the Kurdish regions of the northeast, where the YPG is backed by the Pentagon– and that is 10 percent of Syria’s population and an important agricultural area.

So the regime can have 70% of Syria population-wise, perhaps, though in a fragile way that leaves much of the population open to violence. (Colombia in the days of high FARK activity was among the more violent societies in the world).

Still, taking back all of Aleppo and seeing Daesh strangled to the east by the Kurds and by a newly effective Turkish barricade would be an enormous victory for Damascus.

Unfortunately, precisely because the Syrian Arab Army is woefully understaffed, the methods the regime is using against East Aleppo are extremely brutal.

The Syrian Arab Army took the strategic Palestinian refugee camp, Handarat, near East Aleppo, late last week, but al-Qaeda and its allies say they have recovered it. Some of the bombing was in support of the Syrian army’s attempt to make that advance.

Damascus has put the civilian population under a siege for the last 20 days, and no supplies have come in for weeks. Food staples are running low and so are essential medicines, for the 200,000 to 300,000 who live in East Aleppo. This weekend, the Syrian Air Force intensively bombed civilian neighborhoods, allegedly joined by Russian Aerospace fighter-jets. (That’s what Moscow now calls their air force, and since they can get to space but the US no longer can, I guess they have dibs on it.)

On Sunday, the bombardment of East Aleppo by jets and helicopter gunships is said to have killed 66 persons and wounded some 200. While the Arab press says all of these were women and children, I presume some were guerrillas targeted for elimination by Damascus and Moscow, and that the rest were what the military calls collateral damage– i.e. innocent bystanders savagely murdered from the sky. The neighborhoods targeted were al-Halak, Bustan al-Basha, al-Ard al-Hamra’, Tariq al-Bab, al-Muyassar, al-Mashhad, al-Salihin, al-Qatarji, and al-Ansari.

Arab sources say that since the ceasefire collapsed on Sept. 19, 378 are dead and 1407 wounded.

The siege and the air campaign are surely softening up measures. At some point the Syrian army, supported by Hizbullah and by a new wave of Iraqi Shiite volunteers, will have to invade East Aleppo and take territory. From what we are seeing, it will be a horrible thing, with tens of thousands of new refugees created and a large civilian death toll.

But it will also make the regime unstoppable. Three and a half years ago, the rebels thought they could take Homs and cut Damascus off from resupply by cutting the road to the key Mediterranean port of Latakia. Hizbullah intervened and the rebels were defeated in Homs. Then two years ago, the al-Qaeda-led forces swept into Idlib and thought they might be able to just take the port of Latakia, after which they could starve out the southern capital of Damascus. But last fall Russia intervened and pushed them out of Latakia province, and built up the Tartous base outside Latakia, making the point that Moscow won’t let it fall. So the Salafi forces are bottled up in Idlib and have not prospect of breaking out or challenging the regime in any serious way. Now the FSA may be about to lose East Aleppo. The rebel position in the north is being eroded. And as we speak there is no plausible way for it to overthrow the Syrian government in any time scale that matters.

What is likely is that the rebels can keep enough rural territory to prove a thorn in the regime’s side for years to come, and peace is still distant. And even if the regime really could win, remember that it has killed tens of thousands and is not forgiving. The bloodshed won’t stop soon.


Related video:

Euronews: “Syrian government planes bombard Aleppo as diplomacy degenerates”

Posted in Featured,Syria | 11 Responses | Print |

The last Time Summer was this Hot, Human beings hadn’t yet Left Africa

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Summer of 2016 was not only hotter than any summer on record, i.e. since 1880. We have enough proxies for global average temperature to know that it was hotter than any summer since at least 1016, when Genoa launched a campaign against Muslim Sardinia and Norway not only got a new king but it mattered in global affairs. But that “at least” is a trick. Eminent climate scientist Michael Mann says there is “tentative but compelling evidence” that it was hotter this past summer than it has been at any point in 100,000 years. In 100,000 before present, the great human migration out of Africa of 60,000 years B.P. had not yet occurred. (A few small bands went to the Middle East in the 90,000s B.P. but they promptly died out, leaving the world to the Neanderthals for another 40,000 years). Homo sapiens sapiens– the “wise, wise humans” were still just hanging out in Kenya and South Africa, hunting gazelle and making stone tools.

This year for the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide has stayed above 400 parts per million. The last time CO2 was that high was some 3.6 to 2.2. million years ago! And during that period late Pliocene and early Pleistocene) the temperature was much warmer than today and we had much higher seas. If we’re again at 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2, why are we colder than in the late Pliocene? Because we have put up the extra 130 ppm in only 200 years, faster than ever in the history of the universe, and the earth hasn’t caught up yet. Oceans are very cold and very slow-moving. But given them some time and they do heat up. The extra 130 parts per million of CO2 is like a nuclear time bomb that has already been set and is ticking away. It will make things really hot over time. And at present there is no known inexpensive way to wash the CO2 back out of the atmosphere. The oceans and igneous rock will do that over 100,000 years but by then we could be both cooked and drowned.

Arctic ice levels this year were the second-lowest in recorded history.

And here’s what is scary about this summer’s unusual warmth.. Human beings evolved into existence sometime in the past 120,000 to 200,000 years, during an era when it was relatively cold. For much of our existence we were living through an ice age (that helped us get around when some of us left Africa for China and Ireland, since during ice ages the seas fall and open up new land bridges). Average atmospheric carbon dioxide was 260 to 270 parts per million. Can we survive the new conditions, which will make some kinds of agriculture much harder and may produce megastorms? We like living on the coast and fishing but the coasts will be covered in water and 50% of the fish will die from extra acidity in the ocean cause by absorbing carbon dioxide.

In other words, it is not clear that we can survive big temperature increases like 6 and 10 degrees C.


Related video:

Newsbeat Social: “U.S. Sees Some of the Hottest Summer Nights on Record”

Number of US Troops in Iraq Heading toward 6,000

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US plans to send another 500 troops to Iraq to help with the massive Mosul campaign, which will involve the Iraqi army and its allies, the Kurdistan paramilitary Peshmerga, hard line Shiite militias, and Sunni Arab tribal levies. US troops will not engage in war-fighting at the front, but will help call in air strikes on Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) targets and provide tactical advice and training. Some of them are stationed at a newly recaptured airbase, Qayara, just south of Mosul.

The exact number of US troops in Iraq is hard to calculate, since units are transferred in and out with some frequency, but the number is heading for 6,000. All US troops had been withdrawn from the country at the end of 2011 because the Iraqi parliament would not grant them immunity from prosecution if they killed Iraqi civilians in the course of carrying out joint operations with the Iraqi Army.

After the fall of 40% of Iraq to Daesh in 2014, all of a sudden the Baghdad political elite had no trouble at all with the return of US troops to the country and I can only imagine that iron clad guarantees have been given behind the scenes that US troops have de facto legal immunity or extraterritoriality. (The hard line Shiite militias such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades and the League of the Holy Family have in fact menaced US troops orally, but these threats appear to be empty. Ironically, the US has occasionally given them air support in the fight against Daesh, as at Amerili two years ago).

The question is when US troops can again leave Iraq? Will it be after the fall of Mosul? Or will Iraq need years of “stabilization” in the aftermath, according to Washington? (This kind of talk is so ironic since the US destabilized Iraq in the first place). If we look over at the 15-year war in Afghanistan, where there is no prospect of victory and where there are still thousands of US troops (some of them still do some war-fighting from time to time), it might be an omen for what we can expect in Iraq.

The only difference is that I think Iran will be pretty eager to see US troops leave after Daesh is defeated (at the moment Iran and the US are de facto allies in Iraq), and it has many levers of power with the Shiite elite in the Iraqi government.

US tactical cooperation with Iran and the Shiite militias could have been turned into a diplomatic deepening, but apparently it is just too embarrassing for Washington and Tehran to admit. And so, likely, down the line the US will get pulled right back into Iraq, because it refuses to recognize the real power dynamics there at the level of policy rather than just of tactics.

Related video:

Wochit News: “500 U.S. Troops May be Sent to Iraq”

Colonial Slow Genocide: Palestinian Leader Abbas asks Britain for “Balfour” Apology

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, is asking Britain for an apology for its having in 1917 issued the infamous “Balfour Declaration.” He won’t get one. The difference between the North Atlantic countries and the rest of the world is that the former are still committed to some key colonial arrangements made at the height of imperialism, which are perceived still to benefit the “West” in its grand strategy. Virtually no one in the rest of the world actively supports (as do the US and the UK) the continued expropriation of the Palestinians except the North Atlantic crowd, who perceive Israel as their human air craft carrier menacing the Middle East. (I know that the US and the UK occasionally make tut tut noises about Israeli squatter settlements on Palestinian land; these noises cannot be taken seriously given the billions in aid and other backing they proffer Tel Aviv).

On the occasion of this entirely justified demand by Palestine, I’ll share a couple of my posts that delve into the significance of that declaration, which led to settler-colonialism in the British Mandate of Palestine and to the current Apartheid state in Israel-Palestine and the statelessness and oppression at the hands of Israelis of millions of Palestinians. This extended colonialism is unparalleled in the whole world: no other colonial power now existing is keeping millions stateless and without the right to have rights. And let me point out that British authorities were told by the European Powers after Versailles that the Balfour Declaration was *not* the basis for a legal claim of Zionist Jews to Palestine and that, moreover, British high officials agreed with this objection. That is, the legislative history does not even support the conventional Zionist interpretation of Balfour to begin with. See Lord Curzon’s memo below:

” . . . I [had] mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.

Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light. (PS, the map as a hard copy mapcard is available from Sabeel.)

The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I (the Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia).

But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into mere colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.

The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was:

“Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.”

That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).

The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ’empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population). As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.

In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word ‘Filistin’ was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4% of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.

The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.

The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6% of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the US had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.

The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.

The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).

There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ ‘original sin’ was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.

The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.

And here is the concluding document for this discussion:

I posted Tuesday on the legal implications of the League of Nations’ recognition of Palestine as a “Class A” Mandate, i.e. a former Ottoman territory nearly ready for national independence, to which the mandatory authority (i.e. Britain) was to lend ‘administrative assistance’ in its attainment of independence. I received some strange mail from fanatics afterward, insisting that the British Mandate of Palestine was not recognized as a Class A Mandate. A scholar also wrote me to point out that unlike the case with Iraq and Syria, the British brought the Balfour Declaration into the Mandate document. The latter is true, but not relevant to my point, since the League of Nations interpreted the language of the declaration differently than did the Zionists. Others complained that the map starts in the mid-1920s after the British had already hived off Transjordan. But so what? If Class A Mandates were almost ready for independence, why couldn’t some portion of them be granted independence first? The French also split the Mandate of Syria into two parts, Syria and Lebanon. What has that got to do with anything?

The legal history does not bear out any of these objections to my argument. The following British archival document makes it very clear that the British were forced by France and Italy not to disregard the interests of the over 90% of their mandate that was Palestinian, and that London revised its Mandate document under pressure as a result. The League of Nations created and granted the Mandate, contrary to what Balfour kept sputtering (he was not even in office 1922-1924). What the victorious Powers and the League of Nations wanted has to be part of the interpretation of the Mandate’s charge. The League of Nations wanted the British Mandate of Palestine to serve the Palestinians in accordance with their status as “Class A.” It envisaged a Palestinian state. Indeed, Sir Herbert Samuel, the first governor of the British Mandate of Palestine, urged that the “future government of Palestine” be required to repay any loans raised during the Mandate for its development. So they envisaged a future government of Palestine, which they assumed would be overwhelmingly Palestinian.

As for the language about a Jewish homeland, by that was not meant a territorial state on Palestinian land. Curzon is clear that although the Powers at the Versailles conferences after WW I recognized a Jewish connection to Palestine and the Balfour Declaration, “this was far from constituting anything in the nature of a legal claim . . .” He also reports that the Powers said that “while Mr. Balfour’s Declaration had provided for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, this was not the same thing as the reconstitution of Palestine as a Jewish National Home–an extension of the phrase for which there was no justification . . .”

So here is the Memorandum of Lord Curzon, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, concerning League of Nations “Class A” Mandates in November 30, 1920. British National Archives, Catalogue Reference: CAB/24/115. Crown copyright. (Note that I am not reproducing the entire document, leaving out some discussion of arrangements in Iraq):



A FINAL decision about Mandates A is required. The Assembly of the League of Nations is concerned about their submission to the Council, and will probably not allow the gathering at Geneva to come to an end without a decision being taken on the point.

It is understood that the Council of the League is likely to hold a meeting while at Geneva to consider these Mandates, and it has been informed that they will be submitted without further delay. The Mandates concerned are those for Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The French Mandate for Syria is drawn on the same lines as ours for Mesopotamia, though not actually identical with it. There is nothing in it to which we desire to object.

The Mandate for Mesopotamia has passed through several stages, tending in each case to further simplification. It has been shown to, and approved by, the French and Italian Governments, to whom we were under a pledge at San Remo to submit it In its last printed form this Mandate was approved by the Cabinet a few weeks ago . . .

As regards the Palestine Mandate, this Mandate also has passed through several revises. When it was first shown to the French Government it at once excited their vehement criticisms on the ground of its almost exclusively Zionist complexion and of the manner in which the interests and rights of the Arab majority (amounting to about nine-tenths of the population) were ignored. The Italian Government expressed similar apprehensions. It was felt that this would constitute a very serious, and possibly a fatal, objection when the Mandate came ultimately before the Council of the League. The Mandate, therefore, was largely rewritten, and finally received their assent. It was also considered by an Inter-Departmental Conference here, in which the Foreign Office, Board of Trade, War Office and India Office were represented, and which passed the final draft.

In the course of these discussions strong objection was taken to a statement which had been inserted in the Preamble of the first draft to the following effect:— ” Recognising the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute Palestine as their National Home.”

367 [4996]

It was pointed out (1) that, while the Powers had unquestionably recognised the historical connection of the Jews with Palestine by their formal acceptance of the Balfour Declaration and their textual incorporation of it in the Turkish Peace Treaty drafted at San Remo, this was far from constituting anything in the nature of a legal claim, and that the use of such words might be, and was, indeed, certain to be, used as the basis of all sorts of political claims by the Zionists for the control of Palestinian administration in the future, and ;2) that, while Mr. Balfour’s Declaration had provided for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, this was not the same thing as the reconstitution of Palestine as a Jewish National Home–an extension of the phrase for which there was no justification, and which was certain to be employed in the future as the basis for claims of the character to which I have referred. On the other hand, the Zionists pleaded for the insertion of some such phrase in the preamble, on the ground that it would make all the difference to the money that they aspired to raise in foreign, countries for the development of Palestine. Mr. Balfour, who interested himself keenly in their case, admitted, however, the force of the above contentions, and, on the eve of leaving for Geneva, suggested an alternative form of words which I am prepared to recommend.

Paragraph 3 of the Preamble would then conclude as follows (vide the words italicised in the Draft-;

” and whereas recognition lias thereby (i.e., by the Treaty of Sevres) been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and to the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country.”

Simultaneously the Zionists pressed for the concession of preferential rights for themselves in respect of public works, &c, in Article 11.

It was felt unanimously, and was agreed by Mr. Balfour, that there was no ground for making this concession, which ought to be refused. . .

During the last few hours a telegram has been received from Sir H. Samuel, urging that, in order to facilitate the raising of loans by the Palestine Administration, which will otherwise be impossible, words should be added to Article 27, providing that on the termination of the Mandate, the future Government of Palestine shall fully honour the financial obligations incurred by the Palestinian Administration during the period of the Mandate. This appears to be a quite reasonable demand, and I have accordingly added words (italicised at the end of Article 27) in order to meet it. With this explanation, therefore, I hope that the Mandates in the form now submitted may be formally passed and forwarded to the Council of the League.

C. OF K. November 30, 1920.

Why the Boeing & Airbus Sales to Iran are a Big Effing Deal

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the real power center for the American government, has issued licenses to Airbus and Boeing allowing them to sell commercial airliners to Iran.

President Obama ordered the licenses, defying the Republican-controlled Congress, which doesn’t want any easing of the US economic boycott on Iran.

Vice President Joe Biden called the signing of Obamacare a “big effing deal” but did not use the euphemism. These purchases are also a huge deal

First, it is highly unethical to make it difficult for Iran to buy civilian aircraft. Iran’s fleet is positively ancient and only 162 of its 250 planes are able to fly, with the rest grounded for lack of spare parts. The US embargo on this sector is endangering civilian noncombatants every day and it is therefore a war crime. Americans opposing these transactions should be ashamed of themselves. Women and children fly on those planes, and only a pervert and a coward wants to kill innocent children.

Second, it is crazy to give away the Iranian market (nearly 80 million people and an oil state which is very rich) to e.g. European manufacturers. American workers need good-paying jobs, and selling airplanes to Iran will generate them.

Third, Boeing just became a major lobbyist for the JCPOA, the deal with Iran signed by President Obama. That deal had not had a great many supporters inside the US, after decades during which Iran and the US have demonized one another. The JCPOA is much more likely to survive and be deepened if at least some big corporations come to support it (it makes them money).

BBC Monitoring translated Mehr news agency, Tehran, in Persian 1601 gmt 20 Sep 16; as saying that Iran’s Naft Airlines actually already has received its first Boeing 737 plane.

“Following the nuclear agreement, we signed a contract with Boeing to buy four 737 jets. One of those purchased aircraft was delivered to Naft Airlines two days ago,” Nourollah Rezai Niaraki, the CEO of Naft Airlines, told the semi-official Mehr news agency . . .

Following last year’s landmark nuclear agreement and the subsequent lifting of sanctions on its economy, Iran bought 118 Airbus and 80 Boeing jets to modernise its ageing fleet.

Iran actually will only buy 112 Airbus planes because originally it was also purchasing six big heavy airliners that weren’t suited to the Iranian market. Some observers wondered if the 6 cancellations were the result of American pressure, but Iranian officials denied that that is the reason. BBC Monitoring translates,

“Asghar Fakhrieh Kashani, a deputy roads and urban development minister, told the semi-official Young Journalists’ Club (YJC) the decision had been made due to the large size of the six airliners. “We did not pull out because of the Americans sabotaging [the deal]. The real reason was that airliners did not technically comply with our demands. These six jets are very heavy and used for long-distance journeys.” – (Iranian Young Journalists’ Club website, Tehran, in Persian 0750 gmt 20 Sep 16.)

The Iran deal has been a disappointment to the Iranian public because it hasn’t actually produced many new economic benefits for Tehran. These aircraft purchases are likely the beginning of a whole new set of relationships.

The thicker the trade networks between countries the less they can afford to go to war with one another. So that’s why this is a big effing deal.

Related video:

Press TV: “Airbus receives first US license to sell planes to Iran”

Top Six US Problems worse than Terrorism

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Every time a person of Middle Eastern heritage who ought to have been committed to an insane asylum but wasn’t (because rich people who don’t want to pay taxes successfully lobbied to get rid of insane asylums) commits violence, our press and politicians hit the panic button. This is so even though you are more likely to die falling in your bathtub than of terrorism.

So here are some problems that are demonstrably worse than terrorism:

1. Guns. Between 2001 and 2013, over 400,000 Americans died of gunshot wounds. In the same period, 3,380 died of terrorism. One problem seems orders of magnitude more important than the other, despite the numbers being skewed by the inclusion of the highly unusual mass-casualty event of 9/11. Averaged out, about 282 Americans have died in terrorism per year (it falls to more like 9 if you start in 2002). per year. We are told we have to spend trillions, mobilize police and the military, and give our all to end terrorism.

2. Cigarettes . These nasty nail coffins result in more than 480,000 deaths annually in the USA. But Big Tobacco CEOs are not being threatened with deportation.

3. Suicide: 42,773. Expanded mental health care and ore government-funded suicide crisis centers might help, but no one on Capitol Hill is in a frenzy about this one. Veterans are particularly at risk here. Again, Congress don’t care.

4. Automobile collisions (they aren’t “accidents) killed 38,000 people last year, a big rise. Lots of things could be done to decrease this number radically. For instance you could make automobile keys that drunk people don’t have enough coordination to use. But no one cares enough to do them.

5. War on terror. Nearly 7,000 Americans have died prosecuting the war on terror. My guess is that well over half a million human beings have died in it. There is no evidence that the war in Iraq, e.g. had any effect in reducing terrorism, and there is every reason to think that the invasion vastly expanded the scope of ME war and terrorism.

6. Heat waves kill as many as 1400 Americans each year. Climate change will cause that statistic to rise 20 times over, to 27,000 a year, in the coming decades. That is, over a 50-year period, some 1,350,000 people will die that otherwise would not have. Yet no one is speaking of deporting the CEOs of big hydrocarbon companies.


Related video:

SCOTUS Rejects Philip Morris Appeal In Smoker’s Death

Obama: End terrorism like that in New York by Destroying ISIL in Mosul, Iraq

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Obama met yesterday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi and discussed the coming campaign to take the northern Iraqi city of Mosul away from Daesh, entirely destroying the terrorist organization’s territorial power in Iraq. Obama expects the campaign to be launched before the end of 2016, and said that the world would have to step up with contributions to rebuild Mosul in the aftermath (the only way to ensure that Sunni Arabs continue to reject radicalism and are reintegrated into Iraq is to ensure their economic prosperity and political dignity– something the government of Shiite hard liner Nouri al-Maliki [PM 2006-2014] never realized).

Obama’s vision for Mosul will face challenges. First, the city will be liberated in part by hard line pro-Iranian Shiite militias, whose presence is not welcomed by the Sunni Arab Mosulis, and who have sometimes committed reprisal attacks against Sunni families they see as collaborators. Likewise, Kurdish fighters of the Peshmerga will play a key role, which again may disturb a lot of Sunni Arabs. The Baghdad government of al-Abadi and its army still have to prove to the Sunni Arabs of the north that they are national and not sectarian. Finally, international calls for help face a lot of aid fatigue in the wake of the refugee crisis kicked off by the US invasion and destabilization of Iraq. Getting the G8 to pledge aid for Mosul and actually collecting the pledges are not the same thing.

Al-Bawaba reports that the arrival of hundreds of US troops at the Qayara base south of Mosul, and the focus of Iraqi military commanders on securing the city after the assault, show that the launching of campaign to take Mosul from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) is near.

Yesterday, Daesh attacked Kurdish Peshmerga checkpoints northeast of Mosul but was repelled.

Mosul is the third largest city in Iraq, after the capital of Baghdad and the southern port of Basra. Unlike the other two, it is largely Sunni Arab. It probably still has a million people, down from two million before its population brought Daesh in, in summer 2014, in hopes of escaping the rule of then prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a hard line Shiite. The Mosul uprising against the Baghdad government was not itself fundamentalist in character, even if it allowed Daesh into the city. In a 2012 poll some 75% of Sunni Arab Iraqis said they wanted a separation of religion and state, and most had been shaped by the secularism of the left-leaning Baath Party 1968-2003. The Sunni Arabs of Mosul just had come to see al-Maliki’s rule as oppressive and sectarian, and wanted out from under it.

Some 500,000 Mosul residents immediately escaped once Daesh took over (the Mosul political elite thought they could handle the guerrillas but the latter took over and screwed them). In the past two years my educated guess is that another half million have gotten out (sometimes at the price of turning their property over to Daesh). From accounts of Iraqi journalists who have sneaked in and out, it appears that by now everyone in Mosul is miserable and would welcome the Iraqi army, even if it is being sent by a Shiite prime minister, Haydar al-Abadi.

The military campaign against Daesh, however, will not be prosecuted only by the Iraqi Army, which probably is still too weak to win it (the army collapsed in 2014 and only some units are back up to speed after US training and equipment, especially the special operations counter-terrorism regiment). Al-Abadi has pledged, over the objections of Sunni Arab notables from the north, that Shiite militias will play an significant role in the liberation of Mosul.

Hadi al-Amiri, head of one of the major militias, the Badr Corps, announced yesterday that no foreign land troops would be involved in the battle of Mosul. He admitted, however, that there would be foreign (i.e. mainly American) air support. In part, he was rejecting the idea that Turkish troops might play a role in the assault. The other issue is the Americans. The Badr Corps has a close relationship to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (indeed is its Iraqi offspring) and its members are sensitive to charges of abetting imperialism by fighting shoulder to shoulder alongside US troops.

The US special ops forces at Qayara, however, are not a war-fighting infantry but rather will advise the Iraqi army on tactics once the campaign begins. Al-Amiri may not be happy about this US support role, but he can honestly say that American infantry won’t be part of the assault. He underscored that the Shiite militias will definitely play a central role in the assault on Mosul, alongside the Iraqi Army and the Peshmerga Kurdistan paramilitary. (The involvement of the Kurds in conquering a Sunni Arab city is also a touchy issue, especially since expansionist Kurdish nationalists have in the past vowed to incorporate Mosul into their Kurdistan superprovince of Iraq.)

Iraqi military intelligence has managed to get large numbers of free cell phones to Mosul residents. Its spokesman assured them that Daesh does not have the technical capability to tap these cell phones and cannot know what is said on them. The Baghdad government is urging Mosul residents to call its officials and to convey to the army the vulnerabilities of Daesh inside Mosul.


Related video:

The White House: “President Obama and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi”

5 Signs that Wind Power in the US is suddenly going Massive

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Iowa Utility Board has approved a $3 bn. MidAmerica wind farm project which will be the country’s largest, due to come on line in 2019, and which will generate enough electricity to power 800,000 homes! I looked this up, and there are only about 1.2 million households in Iowa! This one project could power 2/3s of the state’s homes! Of course, you still have commercial uses of power, and then the transportation sector includes 4.3 million registered vehicles, which are almost all fueled by carbon-emitting petroleum. But still, you have to wonder if Iowa will be the first 100% green energy state. (Iowa has the advantage of being a midwest wind corridor; some other areas of the country, like the Deep South, are much less well endowed in this regard– though they have loads of sunlight that they are wasting for lack of solar panels). Already, 31% of Iowa’s electricity is from wind.

Xcel Energy in Colorado and several partners, including the Danish firm Vestas Wind Systems, are planning a $1 bn. wind farm complex that would power 600,000 homes. About ten percent of those funds will be spent on new transmission lines to bring the electricity to Denver and Boulder where it is most needed. Colorado has about 2 million households, so this wind farm would power nearly a third of them.

Dallas may be HQ for a lot of Big Oil concerns, but Texas’s heart increasingly belongs to wind power. Amazon is building a 253 megawatt, hundred-turbine wind farm that will generate enough electricity to power 90,000 homes. Amazon has already built five other wind farms to power the servers behind its cloud computing services, and has in the past year jumped in its energy use from being 25% renewables to 40%! That the big tech companies can be shamed into spending their money this way by Greenpeace is an excellent sign for the future. The more large corporations go green, the more their lobby in Congress will offset that of Big Oil and Big Gas.

Not only is the fuel for wind power free, but the turbines are getting cheaper and cheaper, a trend that experts think will accelerate, as Reneweconomy writes:

“Specifically, the surveyed experts anticipate wind energy cost reductions of at least 24% to 30% by 2030, and 35% to 41% by 2050 due to larger and more efficient wind turbines, lower capital and operating costs, and other advancements.”

Finally, Germany, Denmark and other countries have seen some of the best economies in wind farm construction in the area of offshore turbines. These machines can be larger and the wind out there is stronger. Offshore wind is not even in its infancy in the US, with the Providence, Rhode Island, facility scheduled to begin operation in October. But scientists estimate that there is enough wind power off the shores of California and Hawaii to power 500 million homes! There are only about 125 million households in the United States. The Federal government is now letting bids for a 765 megawatt offshore complex off San Luis Obispo in California. That is nearly 3 times more powerful than the Amazon facility mentioned above. California’s legislature just passed a mandate requiring the state to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2050 (that’s not nearly good enough but I predict that they will reach the goal much earlier than expected).


Related video:

Newsbeat Social: “Amazon to Build Largest Wind Farm Yet”