Thembisa Fakude – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 25 May 2021 03:16:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Stop comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa; it is worse Tue, 25 May 2021 04:03:59 +0000 ( Middle East Monitor ) – It is common these days to compare the institutional racism in Israel, and its occupation of Palestine, to Apartheid South Africa. Up to a point, it’s a reasonable comparison. Up to a point. For all its horrors and brutality, the apartheid regime in South Africa never used fighter jets and artillery to bomb the oppressed people living in the townships. Israel has, and continues to do so.

Indeed, this has now become almost routine, and thus “acceptable” to the international community, allowing Israel to act with impunity. The effects are appalling.

According to the Minister of Housing and Public Works in Gaza, Naji Sarhan, 1,800 housing units were completely destroyed by Israel during its latest onslaught against civilians in the blockaded territory, including five residential tower blocks in the middle of Gaza City, a densely-populated area. Almost 17,000 more homes were partially damaged and more than 120,000 Palestinians were thus forcibly displaced from their homes.

Civil infrastructure was targeted deliberately by Israel. Just over seventy government buildings were destroyed, including the police headquarters and other public service facilities. At least 66 schools were damaged by the Israeli bombardment; three mosques were completely destroyed; 40 other mosques and a church were damaged.

The Israelis gave little or no warning that strikes were about to take place, leaving the sick and elderly no time to evacuate their homes. The New York Times reported that an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in Deir Al-Balah last Wednesday evening killed a married couple and their 2-year-old daughter, and wounded many others. The woman killed was pregnant and her husband was disabled. How were they a threat to the nuclear-armed state of Israel?

This destruction of human life and property happened in just 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It ended — for now — with a ceasefire which came into force at 2 am last Friday.

Most Palestinian activists and commentators seek to avoid saying or doing anything that could lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. Racism of all kinds is abhorrent, so they are right to do so. However, finding the correct terminology to describe and define the Palestine-Israel conflict is often difficult. Some of the results of this search for a suitable lexicon are so ridiculous, though, that they could end up compromising the Palestinian struggle to end the Israeli occupation.

I witnessed a debate recently about whether it was appropriate to refer to Israel’s government as a “regime”. It was surprising how many people on the political left were against the use of the term. One dictionary defines “regime” as “a government, especially an authoritarian one.” That, I would have thought, is entirely applicable to Israel where political and military leaders target women, children, the disabled, and the elderly with their bombs and missiles. Not once; not twice; but repeatedly over 11 days and nights on what was the latest of many occasions. Israel masquerades as a democratic state with a ruling regime of the most brutal kind. Not only does it display open contempt for international law, but it also imposes a military occupation upon and terrorises the Palestinians.

The state combines fascism, racism, far-right extremism, apartheid, and racial supremacy in its modus operandi. I understand completely the rationale behind describing Israel as an apartheid state, I really do; it makes perfect sense to most people to compare the Israeli regime to the worst that has ever existed.

However, such a comparison actually reduces the severity of the cruelty that Israel continues to inflict upon the Palestinians, which is unprecedented. Reasonable people around the world, therefore, should seek an alternative yet still an apt description. This could be important if and when the matter is debated at the UN Security Council where the existence of vetoes wielded by Israel’s no-questions-asked supporters in Washington, Paris, and London means that arguments, and thus Security Council Resolutions, depend more on who supports you than what you can prove. The council has Israel’s back.

So there can be disagreements about whether or not Israel is a regime. The definition of apartheid ia not appropriate for the occupation state, and here’s why: Apartheid South Africa was a brutal regime that discriminated against its “non-white” citizens; indeed, many were given “citizenship” of Bantustans created by Pretoria to remove “non-whites” from its own population. It was internationally condemned and there were dozens of critical UN resolutions.

This aerial view shows the dilapidated Kliptown train station in Soweto, on March 16, 2021 [MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images]

I was born and raised in Soweto, arguably one of the areas in South Africa impacted the most by apartheid. Soweto was an apartheid laboratory; it epitomised the worst excesses of the apartheid regime.

What we have witnessed in the past couple of weeks in Gaza, however, was never seen in Soweto, even at the height of apartheid. I have been to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, and have spent time in Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East, including Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. The human rights abuses, inhuman living conditions, military checkpoints, settler-only roads, and even different car registration places making it easier to shoot and otherwise harass Palestinians were never seen in apartheid, South Africa. Importantly, neither Soweto nor any other “Black” township was ever bombed from land, air, and sea as Gaza has been.

Furthermore, notwithstanding the privileges that white South Africans enjoyed, a sizeable number of them stood up against apartheid. Many refused to serve in the apartheid army, opting instead to leave the country and live abroad. Although there is a small number of dissenting Israelis, the majority support the occupation and the state’s military offensives against the people in Gaza and are thus complicit in the atrocities and oppression. According to the Guardian, during Israel’s 2014 offensive, support among Israeli Jews was overwhelming throughout its 24 days, with opinion polls showing that 95 per cent of respondents believed the assault was justified.

As bad as the regime in my home country undoubtedly was, “apartheid” isn’t actually a strong enough term to describe Israel. We should stop comparing the rogue state to Apartheid South Africa because it is much, much worse. We need to find another label, and quickly.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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BBC – Palestinian community mourns 7 children killed in Gaza airstrike – BBC News

Trump is Using Saudi Arabia to Prop up his Big Oil Donors, and that should Worry Us Sun, 19 Apr 2020 04:02:46 +0000 ( Middle East Monitor ) – When Saudi Arabia approached members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its affiliates recently to cut oil production in an attempt to cushion the impact of the falling oil prices as a result of Covid-19, Russia rejected the proposal. The subsequent spat between Moscow and Riyadh saw the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates increase oil production in an effort to punish Russia. This increase has led to record low prices in the industry, with the price per barrel plunging to an 18-year low of less than $28.

Notwithstanding the possible loss of revenue as a result of increased oil production, Russia — a significant oil producer in its own right — stood its ground, much to the annoyance of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who threatened to increase the Kingdom’s oil production further if Russia failed to yield. Why did Russia reject the Saudi proposal which was intended to benefit all oil producers, not just Saudi Arabia?

While the reduction in volume would certainly have helped OPEC countries recoup lost profits, particularly the smaller oil producers, Russia’s concern was that cuts could mean a possible loss of market share, with US producers filling the gap. Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s plan was seen by Russia as an attempt to assist Donald Trump to meet his economic and political challenges in the US. Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill are fully aware of the problem: the fortunes of many of the president’s wealthy supporters in the industry are on the line, as are the jobs of workers concentrated heavily in red states like Texas, North Dakota and Louisiana.

Since the US is not a member of OPEC, it would have not been bound by the terms of the proposed Saudi deal but would have benefited from the shortfall in global oil supply and agreed price. The change in course would give American companies room to reduce production gradually on their own terms, without government or regulatory mandates, as they invest far less in exploration and production.

The increase in oil supply and subsequent drop in price have been good for those countries that import it, giving them a chance to build up their stockpiles, which will most likely have an impact on the demand of oil in the foreseeable future. However, for oil producing countries, especially the smaller producers, the situation has been a disaster. Many have failed to diversify their economies over the years and are still dependent on oil exports. As such, the continuing instability in oil production has forced many to slash national spending. Saudi Arabia, the most influential of OPEC’s 12 member states, actually needs oil to be at $106 a barrel in order to break even after the costs of its generous welfare programmes and energy subsidies are taken into account. The Kingdom will be forced to plunder its financial reserves to fund its bloated budget if the price of oil plummets further.

A deal was finally brokered which enabled Russia and Saudi Arabia to get back to the negotiation table. Consequently, members of the OPEC cartel and its allies have agreed to withhold almost 10m barrels a day from next month, not least because the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the demand for fossil fuels.

The lesson to be learnt from this experience is that the client-state relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US under President Donald Trump is dangerous for world stability. The re-election of Trump in November will almost certainly mean the continuation of the status quo, which should be a major concern.

Saudi Arabia has still not accounted for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and has at best treated those demanding justice for Khashoggi and his family with disdain. Furthermore, a couple of days ago, Saudi activist Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti was killed in a hail of bullets at his home in Al-Khraybah, in the north-west of the Kingdom. He was a member of the powerful Al-Huwaitat tribe spread across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula.

The tribe’s presence in the region for more than 800 years predates the Saudi Kingdom by many centuries. Al-Hwaiti has been protesting against what he regarded as his forcible removal from his ancestral land to allow the Saudi authorities to develop a mega city known as NEOM in the province of Tabuk. The city is expected to be a hub for new housing, business, science research and other industry. It is a pet project of Bin Salman which has been described as “crazy”.

The brutal killing of Al-Hwaiti and the unnecessary disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia are but two examples of what Bin Salman can get away with under Trump’s protection. His increase of oil production levels at the expense of OPEC members was unprecedented. The Crown Prince was basically willing to gamble with other countries’ national budgets in order to pursue a vendetta against Russia. As with the murder of Khashoggi, Bin Salman has again been allowed to act with impunity, demonstrating the toxicity of the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America. This should be a huge concern for everyone in the Middle East and, indeed, the rest of the world.

Via Middle East Monitor

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Reuters: “OPEC, Russia approve biggest-ever oil cut amid coronavirus pandemic”

Paper Tiger? Iran is Talking Big after US Assassination of Soleimani, but Has Few Options Mon, 06 Jan 2020 05:01:53 +0000 By Thembisa Fakude | @fakudet | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – The most plausible reason why President Trump ordered the assassination of the Iranian general commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, is to shift attention away from the ongoing impeachment process in the US media. Soleimani and the commander of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia in Iraq, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, were killed by a US airstrike in Iraq on 2 January 2020. Soleimani was a senior member of the Iranian government and a trusted member of the internal circle of the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran. The assassination of Soleimani is, therefore, undoubtedly a direct attack on Iran; it is tantamount to killing a ‘national defense minister of a country’. Iran has vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s supreme leader, Khomeini, announced in a statement:

His work and path will not cease, and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs.

The assassination of Soleimani comes at the time where there is widespread dissatisfaction regarding Iran’s involvement in the domestic affairs of Iraq. In November 2019, Iraqi protestors torched Iranian consulates in Najaf and Karbala, in response to “Iran’s meddling in Iraqi politics.” Furthermore, following weeks of protests prime minister of Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is regarded as being close to Iran, was forced to resign at the start of December 2019. The political leadership inside Iraq, including Shia leadership in the country, has since issued rather lukewarm statements following the assassination. Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shia clerics, condemned the killing and called for the “protection of Iraq”.

Muqtada’s statement has been interpreted as a “call not to import foreign feuds to Iraq.” Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, has called for a peaceful resolution of the current situation. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, on the other hand, has proclaimed: “Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide.” The unmatched statements by Shia leadership inside Iraq differ hugely to those of Iran and Hezbollah. The difference is indicative of intra-Shia political differences on Iran in the region. The question is, however, to what extent has this difference emboldened Trump to carry out these assassinations?

Iran has vowed harsh revenge. Yet, will Iran match this rhetoric with action this time? The geographical and logistical odds render it impossible for Iran to attack mainland US. However, Iran could target US’s installations, interests and citizens currently outside the homeland. Iran is most likely to use its proxies in the region, and other parts of the world, in this regard. Hezbollah is perhaps most likely to act, judging by the statement the organisation issued following the assassination of Soleimani. However, Hezbollah will have to make careful political decision before acting. Firstly, there are ongoing protests in Lebanon calling for economic reforms in the country. Any actions against US’s interests in the country and/or Israel, for that matter, could further exacerbate the economic situation in Lebanon. Simply put, Lebanon has no appetite and cannot afford another war at the moment.

Therefore, notwithstanding what Hezbollah has declared, it is unlikely that it will directly respond on behalf of Iran on this occasion. Regarding the Houthis, another known Iranian proxy in the region, they are unlikely to react. The Houthis are in the process of negotiating a political truce and trying to normalise the situation in Yemen, after years of devastating war. They are doubtful to restart another war with the US allies in the region. They have many pressing humanitarian and economic hardships that need immediate attention, over avenging Iran at this point. The reaction is most likely to be carried out by Iran itself, inside Iraq. Iraq is the second largest oil producer in the world.

Therefore, Iran could carry out certain attacks on oil installations inside Iraq, in order to disturb the global oil supply. The attacks on key oil installations could impact on oil prices, and subsequently, the global economy. Iran could also attack soft US targets, such as embassies and US companies in the region. Regarding a possible attack on Israel, it could be the worst decision for Iran. Attacking Israel could only benefit prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently fighting for his political career.

Consequently, Iran has very little retaliating options which could commensurate a figure like Soleimani; the inability to avenge the assassination of Soleimani will indeed prove to be embarrassing for Iran.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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ITV News: “How might Iran seek revenge for US killing of top general Qasem Soleimani? | ITV News”