Blog Archive

Blog Archive – January, 2011

Palestinian Woes

January 29, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The "Palestine Papers": can the Palestinian leadership overcome this latest scandal? For a group of men who have achieved almost nothing towards the goal of a peace settlement with Israel, while more Palestinian land is stolen, more of their citizens murdered, jailed, driven to poverty, there should not be too much distress over the recent revelations.  

Palestinians interviewed about the disclosure of files said to represent their years of (unsuccessful) negotiations with Israelis and Americans claim they are not surprised by the details. They maintain they have known of their leaders’ incompetence as well as their hypocrisy. And they see the results in their daily lives. They have experienced only losses as negotiations proceeded from one site to another, under one sponsor or another. The emperor has no clothes.

Attempts by Palestinian Authority members to defend themselves in the media regarding the validity of the “papers” leaked by Al-Jazeera TV have been vigorous. They are fighting back, not against their American and Israeli co-conspirators however. They are attacking the prestigious Al-Jazeera network who they claim falsified or manipulated the facts. For me the revelations in these papers are damaging for all the parties involved—The US, Israel and Palestine. Yet, somehow only the Palestinian leaders are being put on the spot, exposed as disingenuous traitors. It is a sorry situation. And it leaves supporters across the world in a dilemma.  

And where does it leave the Palestinian people? To whom do they turn to lead them out of the morass? They did not vote these men to represent them. Rather when elections for a new president proved futile and inconclusive two years ago, Washington and the Europeans sanctioned the continuation in office of Mahmoud Abbas and his group, claiming they were the only Palestinians able to negotiate. (There was fear that a true election would bring Hamas to the West Bank leadership.) They reward these old men; they sanction them as representatives of the Palestinian people. And the futile negotiations and receptions go on.  

Unable to exercise a true election in the West Bank, perhaps it’s residents now have to follow the example of their Tunisian and Egyptians brothers and sisters. It’s ironic since the street resistance of Palestinians against Israeli occupation has always been a beacon for them.  

[ Palestinian Woes ]

Palestine: Moving Ahead Without The USA

January 22, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Chile and Paraguay recently announced their recognition of Palestinian statehood. This marks an increasing trend of individual states to respond to a new Palestinian initiative and bypass US policy.  

The Palestinians have long acted as if any chance of achieving sovereignty depended on close involvement and leadership from Washington—regardless of a standard Israeli rejectionist position. The passive approach by Palestinians proved futile. Today a new strategy may yield better chance of real progress on Palestinians’ goal of independence.

Gaining recognition from the international community country by country has further implications. It reveals the isolation of the US and the impotency of the (US dominated) UN; their sponsorship may not be as essential as many once believed.   

Naturally recognition of Palestinian statehood by individual states does not please Israel. But what does?   

Is the Palestinian leadership representing the West Bank finally on a realistic path? Let’s forget for the moment that Mahmoud Abbas is but an interim president; he rules without a mandate from the recent Palestinian election. Despite this he is the internationally recognized leader and is trying to use this to try a new approach. Neither the US nor Israel endorse his actions yet, his negotiations with states across the world demonstrate an initiative and confidence many had not expected of Abbas.  

Surely the growing endorsements from across the world of the Palestinian initiative are also a way of world governments to reject the American position. That in itself is valuable. It demonstrates a growing confidence of world leaders to send a message to Washington: ‘you are not the global leader; we refuse to acquiesce to your demands.  Eight South American countries and now Russian president Medvedev, on a visit to the West Bank  has affirmed his country’s 1988 position, namely recognition of a Palestinian state. Many forget that after the Madrid Talks , well before the Oslo Peace Accord,  statehood received widespread endorsement from nations across the world.  

Today, no less than 109 nations have endorsed the principle. Who are the world’s rouge states? 

[ Palestine: Moving Ahead Without The USA ]

Who Will Follow Tunisia?

January 15, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Few cannot be exhilarated and admiring of the revolution in Tunisia? First it’s a rare success in popular struggles against a powerful military machine. Second the protests seem entirely non-violent. Third, we regularly hear warnings about the ‘Arab street’ exploding; time and time again, despite predictions, it never happens, leaving citizens with their impotency affirmed. The power of the establishment seems unshakable. 

Tunisia today proves the exception. The reasons are not difficult to see and comprehend. Yet, the real outcome remains unclear. Twenty-three years of absolute rule mean a power structure and attendant elite is in place; the flight of the president does not displace that. Not yet. So a major task remains for the public—to cleanse the system to remove a structure of co-conspirators, or at least put in place reliable representatives who can and will remove or weaken entrenched interests. Can that be done?  

Then there is the military, doubtless powerful and well-rewarded for keeping the power structure stable all these years. At the same time, it may have been Tunisia’s military leadership that informed President Ben Ali that they could no longer support him. Doubtless they remain in place. So another major issues is: how will a balance be established between any new leadership and this force? 

As for neighboring countries, one does not have to share a border with Tunisia to know what is possible.

Across the world, we see examples of successful people’s movements. Many of those, if not instigated by western powers, especially the US, France and Britain, have been strongly supported by outside interests. France and the US remained silent about the uprising against Ben Ali up to time of his departure.  During years of public discontent, the Tunisian power structure earned the goodwill of these powers. Indeed, Tunisia has established itself as a favored tourist haven—a stable, picturesque Mediterranean seaside to relax in.  

Together with the recommendations of tourists, Tunisia enjoyed foreign support for its security arrangements, for its rigorous cleaning of any militant dissent, Islamic or otherwise. Islamic terrorism provides a convenient label around which to secure western support to rout any political opposition.

Meanwhile the army and security services are assured of purchases of up-to-date weaponry from its supporters. At the same time the economy is dependent on tourism and a few exports like date and olives. Tunisia’s economy had become completely dependent on foreign arrangements, and with the spread of privatization, a new elite became satisfied beneficiaries, creating greater disparity between rich and poor. 

Most European commentators overlook the cozy relationship these leaders have with Western powers. So rather than asking what will happen to neighboring countries, we need to examine the nature of relations between Washington and Paris with their leaders. Ask: what are we supporting when we schedule a holiday to wander through quaint bazaars and be served cocktails on the beach; those easy holidays usually nicely obscuring any awareness of the way the country was governed.  Calibri">

Africom: the US military has for years been looking for a home for AFRICOM, an Africa-based US military presence. The rationale: growing threats of terrorist bases in the vast largely unpopulated areas across north and west Africa. Regular suggestions of terrorists operating in these areas pressure regional governments to permit American protection. Thus far, no country has accepted; in fact, most of them rigorously resist the invitation. This is a major issue for the US and must be kept in mind in any assessment of geopolitical dynamics of the region. 

[ Who Will Follow Tunisia? ]

Shooting for Democracy: Abroad? No, at Home.

January 09, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

During the past 2 weeks, international media have focused on tensions in two African countries: Ivory Coast and Sudan. In both, democracy was being tested in elections with western powers, particularly USA  and England, unambiguously supporting the challengers.

Western media’s intensity of support for an independent South Sudan is especially evident. At the same time, in both cases, we are warned to expect civil strife. Then last night democracy was being tested at home. 

Apart from the sense of tragedy and sadness, it’s all rather embarrassing, don’t you think? The democracy Americans are so proud of, the democracy it seeks to export worldwide suddenly finds its elected officials targets of gunmen. At no time of course is there any suggestion of ‘terrorism’ here, or that the nation is under threat from internal forces.  

Arizona’s mass murder follows news only a few days ago of a gunman murdering a school principal and wounding a second school official in another quiet American community. Surely these too common incidents reflect deep flaws in our democracy. It goes beyond gun control or troubled individuals.

Our dynamic and capable news organizations might better serve the American public, in deep the world, if they indulged less in anticipated turmoil abroad and focused on home grown challenged to democracy. 

[ Shooting for Democracy: Abroad? No, at Home. ]

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