Friday, November 21, 2014
Gaza bombings rock Palestinian reconciliation
By Nicola Nasser*
It is ironic that the annual commemoration of the death of Yasser Arafat should turn into an occasion for rekindling the flames of internal strife. This was clearly the aim of last week’s bombings that targeted the homes of Fatah leaders in
, as well as the
podium for the commemorative ceremonies of Arafat, who strove to make
Palestinian national unity one of the pillars of his political legacy. Gaza
How desperately those concerned need to be inspired by the political legacy of that great president.
During a visit to demonstrate solidarity with the West Bank
of Al-Mughayyar, where settlers, under
the protective eye of occupation soldiers, set fire to a mosque, Director of
the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Kamel Abu Aliya remarked that his
ministry have documented 20 similar attacks on mosques in the West
Bank since 2011.
In targeting mosques, the occupation is clearly targeting major symbols of national and popular unity. Mosques, by definition, gather people together rather than drive them apart. Inside the mosque all the factions of the national struggle that are at odds with each other assemble as one with their fellow men, in solid ranks with a single heart.
The occupation has never foregone any means at its disposal to drive a wedge into the Palestinian national ranks. This has not changed. So it is ironic that the bombings would become an occasion to present the occupation with the gift of factional polarisation and a war of words, at a time when the factions most need to be united, and that they would serve to turn the national compass away from Jerusalem, on which Arafat had set his national compass until his dying breath.
But here is another important point. Both sides of the dispute — Fatah and Hamas — have condemned the attacks, denied all charges of responsibility and insist on the need to conduct an investigation into bombings as quickly as possible.
If these two factions can agree on these points, what would keep them from agreeing to form a joint fact-finding committee that would include representatives from all other factions (most notably the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front) and independent figures from civil society that would be committed to publishing its findings in fulfilment of the right of the Palestinian people to know the truth?
Moreover, why couldn’t the creation of a joint committee such as this become a new mechanism for enhancing national reconciliation and ending acrimonious exchanges before they spiral out of control?
In this regard, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that he is not interested in “an investigation by them” — referring to Hamas, of course — but does not propose an alternative investigatory mechanism, he is not helping efforts to unearth the truth, which his people are more eager to learn than the two factions whose protracted dispute has exhausted their people.
But the most appalling irony resides in their aversion to turning the finger of accusation in the direction of the ultimate beneficiary from all this — namely, the Israeli occupation authority and its state. A focus on that beneficiary would suffice, in and of itself, to contain the dangerous repercussions of the bombings on national unity and, simultaneously, to expose the truth about the existence of parties who fear their interests would be jeopardised by the end of the rift in both the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip.
These parties are exploited, knowingly or not, by the occupation, and collectively they form a “fifth column” that works to obstruct the process of national reconciliation in order to safeguard their interests.
But even if those who carried out the bomb attacks were Palestinian this does not obscure the identity of the first and foremost beneficiary. This, moreover, comes at a time when the occupation is escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people under occupation.
It is increasing its forces in the
intensifying its repressive measures and moving to augment its budget for
settlement expansion. More significantly, the Israeli government recently
approved a bill of law to extend the laws of the Israeli state to the Jewish
colonies in the West Bank, as is the case in East
Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In other words,
we are effectively speaking of another Israeli annexation bid.
The history of dissension and strife is repeating itself. A statement by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) urges Fatah and Hamas to exercise restraint and to remain alert to the conspiracies that are being woven against the Palestinian people.
It cautions the two factions against falling into the Israeli trap of igniting Palestinian discord and urges them to give competent agencies and relevant political authorities sufficient time to unearth the threads of the crime.
Yet this statement, which applies perfectly to the current situation, was issued by the PFLP in July 2008 after four Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigade members were killed in a bombing on
beach. At the time, Hamas accused Fatah and the Fatah charged Hamas with
carrying out an “internal purge.” Gaza
Nothing appears to have changed, apart from the fact that today Fatah accuses Hamas of planting the bombs and the latter responds that the attack was related to an internal conflict inside Fatah. In both cases, the occupation power and its government come out innocent!
That rush to judgment and finger pointing before the smoke has cleared is suspicious and raises questions regarding the political motives behind such reactions. One is reminded of a similar case of accusations that were hurled after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri in 2005.
Before his blood had dried some fingers in
pointed to Syria, even
though it was palpably evident that
could not have been behind the crime as it was fully aware that it could only
be harmed by the consequences. Damascus
The same applies to Hamas today. After its long political experience it would realise that it could only stand to lose from the
The hands that carried out the bombings in
might be Palestinian and even Fatah or Hamas hands, but those who issued the
orders could not have been Palestinian decision-makers. Anyone familiar with
the history of Palestinian assassinations knows this. Gaza
The perpetrators may have been motivated by personal interests but the consequences cannot possibly serve Palestinian interests, factional or otherwise. They can only serve the occupation authority and its state, especially as the victim is certainly the Palestinian people and their national unity.
The fifth column that benefits from Palestinian division and that feels threatened by its end is still searching for opportunities to sabotage Palestinian national reconciliation. It must have seen the
bombings as a perfect opportunity to fan the flames of discord, offering a
service free of charge to the occupation (presuming the best possible
intentions under that situation), or not free of charge (presuming the worst). Gaza
It does not take much effort to reach the above conclusion. However, building on it by containing the unpatriotic repercussions of the attacks requires great thought and effort in order to prevent outbursts of factional acrimony or to keep them contained in order to safeguard national reconciliation from collapse.
This is essential to ensure that the reconstruction of Gaza moves forward, to sustain the national unity government and to return the focus to solidifying national ranks in the face of the occupation’s ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people, their security and wellbeing and their sanctities, and behind the political battle that the Palestinian presidency is waging in the international arena.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (firstname.lastname@example.org). This article was translated from Arabic and first published by Al-Ahram Weekly on November 20, 2014.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
The endgame of the US ‘Islamic State’ strategy
By Nicola Nasser*
Dismantling what the former US President George W. Bush once described as the Syria – Iran component of the “axis of evil,” or interrupting in Iraq the geographical contiguity of what King Abdullah II of Jordan once described as the “Shiite crescent,” was and remains the strategic goal of the US – Israeli allies in the Middle East unless they succeed first in “changing the regime” in either Damascus or Tehran.
Israel and their regional
allies have been on the record that the final target of their “regime change”
campaign in the Middle East was to dismantle the Syria
With the obvious failure of Plan A to dismantle the self- proclaimed anti-Israel and anti - US Syrian – Iranian “Resistance Axis” by a forcible “regime change” in Damascus, a US – led regional alliance has turned recently to its Plan B to interrupt in Iraq the geographical contiguity of that axis.
This is the endgame of President Barak Obama’s strategy, which he declared on last September 10 as ostensibly against the Islamic State (IS).
This would at least halt for the foreseeable future all the signed and projected trilateral or bilateral Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian pipeline networks to carry oil and gas from
Iran and Iraq
to the Syrian coast at the Mediterranean.
“The growing involvement of Sunni Salafi s in
Iraq (since 2003), among the rebels in Syria (since 2011), and in Lebanon has created a ‘ Salafi Crescent’ … from Diyala [in
eastern Iraq] to ,” he wrote. Beirut
“A positive outcome” of this
Salafi Crescent “will be the decline in
Iranian influence in the region,”
Conspiracy theories aside, the eventual outcome is a sectarian Sunni military and political wedge driven into the Iraqi geographical connection of the Iran-Syria alliance in a triangle bordering Turkey in the north, Iran in the east, Jordan in the west and Saudi Arabia in the south and extending from north eastern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala which borders Iran.
Iraqi Kurdistan is already effectively an independent state and cut off from the central government in Baghdad, but separating Iran and Syria as well and supported by the same US – led anti – IS coalition.
Amid the misinformation and disinformation, the fact is that the IS threat is being used as a smokescreen to confuse and blur this reality.
The IS was conceived and delivered in an American womb. The
– drafted and enforced current constitution produced the sectarian government
that is still trying to rule in .
Sectarian cleansing and exclusion of Sunnis could not but inevitably create its
The IS was the illegitimate fetus born and nurtured inside the uterus of the US - engineered political process based on a constitution legalizing a federal system based in turn on sectarian and ethnic sharing of power and wealth.
This horrible illegitimate creature is the “legacy” of the US war on Iraq, which was “conceived” in the “sin” of the US invasion of the country in 2003, in the words of the president of the Arab American Institute, James J. Zogbi, writing in the Jordan Times on last June 16.
US Senator John McCain, quoted by The Atlantic on last June 23, thanked “God,” the “Saudis and Prince Bandar” and “our Qatari friends” for creating the “monster.”
The pro-Iran government of former Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki was squeezed by the IS military advances to “request” the US help, which Washington preconditioned on the removal of al-Maliki to which Iran succumbed. The IS gave Obama’s IS strategy its first success.
However, al-Maliki’s replacement by Haider al-Abadi in August has changed nothing so far in the sectarian component of the Iraqi government and army. The US support of Iraq under his premiership boils down only to supporting continued sectarianism in the country, which is the incubator of the survival of its IS antithesis.
Moreover, the destruction of the Iraqi state infrastructure, especially the dismantling of
national army and security agencies and the Iraqi Baath party that held them
intact, following the US
invasion, has created a power vacuum which neither the occupation
forces nor the sectarian Shiite militias could fill. The IS was not powerful
per se. They just stepped in on a no-man land. US
Similarly, some four years of a US – led “regime change” effort, which was initially spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood and which is still financed, armed and logistically facilitated by the US regional allies in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia as well as by allied western intelligence services, has created another power vacuum in Syria, especially on border areas and in particular in the northern and eastern areas bordering Turkey and Iraq.
“We have been fighting alongside al Qaeda, fighting alongside
ISIS is now emboldened and in two
countries. But here's the anomaly. We're with ISIS in .
We're on the same side of the war. So, those who want to get involved to
stop ISIS in Syria Iraq are allied
with ISIS in .
That is the real contradiction to this whole policy,” he said. Syria
The former 16 - year member of the US Congress and two - time US presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, writing in the http://www.huffingtonpost.com on last September 24, summed it up: The IS “was born of Western intervention in Iraq and covert action in Syria.”
‘Trojan horse’ US
The IS could have considered playing the role of a US “Frankenstein,” but in fact it is serving as the US “Trojan horse” into Syria and Iraq. Fighting the IS was the
tactic, not the
On record, Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that “the best way of fighting ISIS and terrorism in the region is to help and strengthen the Iraqi and Syrian governments, which have been engaged in a serious struggle” against the IS. But this would not serve the endgame of Obama’s strategy, which targets both governments instead.
Beneficiaries of the IS “Trojan horse” leave no doubts about the credibility of the Syrian, Iranian and Russian doubts about the real endgame of the US – led declared war on the IS.
The United States was able finally to bring about its long awaited and promoted “front of moderates” against Iran and Syria into an active and “air-striking” alliance, ostensibly against the IS.
In Iraq, the IS served the US strategy in wrestling back the so called “political process” from the Iranian influence by proxy of the former premier al – Maliki. Depriving al – Maliki of a third term had proved that there is no unified
– backed “Shia house” in .
has its own influence inside that “house.” US
Installing a US Iraqi satellite was the strategic goal of the
US – led invasion and
in 2003. Instead, according to Doug Bandow,
writing in Forbes on last October 14, “Bush’s legacy was a corrupt, authoritarian, and sectarian state,
friendly with Iran and Syria, Washington’s prime adversaries in the Middle
East. Even worse was the emergence of the Islamic State.” Iraq
This counterproductive outcome of the US invasion, which saw Iran wielding the reigns of power in Baghdad and edging Iraq closer to Syria and Iran during the eight years of al-Maliki’s premiership, turned the red lights on in the White House and the capitals of its regional allies.
Al-Maliki, whom Bush had designated as “our guy” in
administration facilitated his premiership in 2006, turned against his mentors. Baghdad
closer to the Syrian and Iranian poles of the “axis of evil.” Consequently he
opposed western or Israeli military attack on Iraq , at least from or via the
Iraqi territory. In Iran Syria,
he opposed a regime change in Damascus, rejected
direct military “foreign intervention” and indirect proxy intervention and
insisted that a “political solution” is the only way forward in ’s western
Arab neighbor. Iraq
Worse still was his opening Iraq up to rival Chinese and Russian hydrocarbon investments, turning Iraq a part of an Iran-Iraq-Syria oil and gas pipeline network and buying weapons from the Russian Federation.
Al- Maliki had to go. He was backed by
to assume his second term as prime minister in spite of the , which
backed the winner of the 2010 elections for the post, Ayad Allawi. The US had its
revenge in the 2014 elections. Al-Maliki won the elections, but was denied a
third term thanks to US pressure. US
The IS was the
instrument to exert that pressure. US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to US Baghdad on last June 23 warned that was facing
“an existential threat.” Iraq
It was a
brinkmanship diplomacy to force al-Maliki to choose between two bad options:
Either to accept a de facto secession of western and northern Iraq on the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan or accept
conditional military support. Al-Maliki rejected both options, but he had paid
the price already. US
The turning point came with the fall of
second largest city of
to the IS on last June 10. Iraqi Kurdistan inclusive, the northern and
western Mosul Iraq, including most
of the crossing points into Syria
and Jordan in the west, were
clinched out of the control of Baghdad, i.e.
some two thirds of the area of .
Al-Maliki was left to fight this sectarian Sunni
insurgency by his sectarian Iran-backed Shiite government. This
was a non-starter and was only to exacerbate the already deteriorating
Al- Maliki and
Iran were made to
understand that no US
support was forthcoming to reign in the IS until he quits and a less pro-Iran
and a more “inclusive” government is formed in . Iraq
The creation of the IS as the sectarian Sunni alternative against
Iran’s ruling allies
in Baghdad and Damascus
was and is still the
tactic towards its strategic endgame. Until the time the US strategy succeeds
in wrestling Baghdad from Iran influence back into its fold as a separating
wedge between Iran and Syria, the IS will continue to serve US strategy and so
far Obama’s strategy is working. US
“America is using ISIS in three ways: to attack its enemies in the Middle East, to serve as a pretext for U.S. military intervention abroad, and at home to foment a manufactured domestic threat, used to justify the unprecedented expansion of invasive domestic surveillance,” Garikai Chengu, a research scholar at Harvard University, wrote in http://www.counterpunch.org/ on last September 19.
As a doctrine, since the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate early in the twentieth century, western powers did their best to keep Arabs separated from their strategic depth in their immediate Islamic proximity. The
Syria – alliance continues to
challenge this doctrine. Iran
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (email@example.com).
Friday, October 03, 2014
Palestinian-U.S. relations head for stormy times
By Nicola Nasser*
Washington’s response to the speech that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered at the UN General Assembly last September 26 confirms that the bilateral Palestinian-U.S. relations are heading for stormy times.
The U.S., which opposed Abbas’ plan to seek a UN Security Council resolution to end the Israeli occupation within a defined timeframe, not only cautioned him against proceeding with any such plan but also issued an official statement condemning the language he used to express the Palestinian people’s opposition to the continued occupation and the ongoing war crimes that Israel is perpetrating in the territories it occupied in 1967.
“Abbas’ speech today included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement on last September 27, which criticised Abbas’ speech as “provocative,” “counterproductive” and undermines “efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”
Clearly, Abbas bent before the onslaught of the winds of American rejection. He “submitted” his plan to the General Assembly but he did not ask to bring it to a vote in order to secure an international resolution that would strengthen his hand when he submitted it to the Security Council. It is also noteworthy that while he called for a deadline to end the occupation he omitted the three-year timeframe that he had previously stipulated.
There is no serious Palestinian opposition to Abbas’ plan to internationalise the search for a political solution to the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation of
West Bank and .
It would be extremely difficult to come up with a Palestinian who would argue
against replacing Gaza
sponsorship with UN sponsorship of the process of reaching a negotiated
settlement with the Israeli occupying power. Indeed, this direction is
supported by a near unanimity of Palestinian opinion, including among resistance
factions that have given Abbas a chance to put his strategy to a last test
without obstructing his manoeuvrability. US
But Abbas’ plan signifies that he has thrown in the towel on his reliance on
sponsorship, which in turn means confrontation with . Clearly, he will not succeed in
neutralising the Washington U.S. by
merely bowing before its opposition to his plan or by asking for approval.
Certainly, he should not hold out any hope that U.S. will not use its veto to defeat
his proposed resolution in the UN Security Council. Nor will he placate the Washington by
deferring Palestinian applications to join international treaties and organisations,
such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of
All the indications are that the U.S. will campaign against the Abbas plan and continue to insist on brokering a solution that it has been unable to produce during the more than two decades in which it monopolised the sponsoring the negotiating process with the Israeli occupying power.
On September 23, 88 US senators signed a letter urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to take prevent “negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Senator Rand Paul refused to sign this letter. He wants Washington to cut off “all aid to the Palestinian Authority until the conditions in Senator Paul’s Stand with Israel Act are met,” according to his e-mail statement to The Washington Post that day.
Warning Abbas “that
willingness to cooperate with him will continue to depend on his willingness to
return to the negotiating table with the Government of Israel and avoid
unilateral measures,” the senators were keen to sustain the usual U.S. “carrot-and-stick” policy, in this case by “enabling the Palestinian
Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in .” This was their
bribe to him. Gaza
But any policy of confrontation with the
U.S. means that Abbas must reject all bribes,
which would inevitably come at the cost of sacrificing the Palestinian
In addition, in a confrontation of that sort, Abbas would risk losing Arab support in view of the Arab consensus to ally with — or at least not oppose — the
in the war it has declared against ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and ). Therefore, the resistance
and Palestinian national unity will be the only foundation on which President
Abbas can rely in the confrontation. Syria
In this context, the Arab League’s declared support for the Abbas’ plan lacks credibility and cannot be relied on when it comes to confronting the
In fact, in the event of a confrontation, the likelihood is that this support
would dwindle and fade and turn into an American tool to pressure the PA
presidency into bowing to U.S.
This confrontation is foreshadowed by preliminary chapters of the same, especially since 2011 when the
defeated the Palestinian drive to obtain UN recognition of as a member state. The following
year, the Palestine U.S. was not able
to prevent the UN from recognising
as a non-member observer state. But Palestinian memory has not forgotten how
the Palestine U.S. undermined
Palestinian accomplishments, such as the International Court of Justice
recommendation regarding the separating wall designed to annex another chunk of
the West Bank, and the Goldstein Report. The
Palestinians remember very well how the U.S. obstructed dozens of international
resolutions in support of Palestinian rights and how it continuously prevented
the international community from sponsoring any just negotiating process that
might end Washington’s own monopoly over what it fraudulently calls the “peace
process,” in which the U.S. has never been an honest broker.
The US-Palestinian confrontation was inevitable, even if much delayed. Palestinian leaders from both the resistance and the negotiating factions always tried to avert it. The Palestinians never chose confrontation; successive
administrations however were constantly bent on forcing it on the Palestinian
If President Abbas, who for decades placed his faith in U.S. good will, has finally reached the conclusion that it is futile to continue to depend on the U.S. and that now is the time to stand up to Washington and turn to the international community to sponsor his negotiating strategy. His decision will receive the unanimous support of the Palestinian people. However, if he backs down, he will undergo the most important test of his political career, as he will come face-to-face with the people’s judgment of the credibility of his strategic choices, which have never obtained a national or popular consensus.
The choice of confrontation also entails the need to press forward in creating and setting into motion the mechanisms for implementing the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, as well as the need to respond quickly to the overwhelming Palestinian demand to apply for the membership of international treaties and organisations.
But above all, it requires safeguarding the resistance in all its forms and developing it in quantity and quality until its scope is expanded to embrace all the Palestinian people, wherever they may be. Confrontation means refusing to allow Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam to be assassinated twice!
Even if the inconceivable occurred and the U.S. acknowledged the will of the international community in support of Palestinian rights, refrained from using its influence to stop Abbas’ plan and even refrained from wielding its veto in the UN Security Council, there remains the perpetual risk that the UN resolution would amount to no more than a paper victory to add to the pile of Palestinian paper victories, since any such political victory requires a national force to translate it into a reality on the ground in the occupied territories.
If the Palestinian presidency does not respond to these needs and demands, which receive the full support of the Palestinian people, he will find himself once again singing outside the his national flock.
Regardless of whether or not there is a confrontation with the
these needs and demands are national requirements that must be promoted,
enhanced and developed, because they are indispensable if Palestinian popular
will is to succeed in liberating its land and translating “paper” victories
into real victories on the ground. U.S.
The Palestinians have learned an important lesson from their enemy. The Palestinian national movement has dozens of international resolutions in its favour. This is something the Zionist movement never possessed throughout its history, apart from that one non-binding partition resolution, 181, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1947. But this one resolution the Zionists had translated into reality on the ground and then expanded on it through the exercise of overwhelming military force. This is the power that Palestinians are being prevented from possessing today, just as has been the case in the past.
May God bless late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser who always said that what has been taken away by force can only be regained by force. History has proven him right and events have shown that the course the Arabs and Palestinians took after he died — which headed in the opposite direction to his — was gravely wrong, indeed sinful.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on October 3, 2014.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Donors will fail Gaza again
By Nicola Nasser*
On 12 October,
is due to host a conference, sponsored and chaired by Egypt and Norway,
of international and Arab donors for the reconstruction of . This is their ostensible aim. But the
reasons that the donors cited for not fulfilling earlier pledges, made in Paris
in 2007 and Sharm El-Sheikh in 2009, still exist. Gaza
This means that the donors who attend the upcoming
conference will probably make the same pledges they made at the two previous
conferences and then once again fail to fulfil them. Cairo
Meanwhile, the Palestinian people under blockade in
Fulfilment of the donors’ old/new pledges is still contingent politically on the imposition of the status quo in the West Bank on
Even should these conditions be met, the donors’ fulfilment of their pledges will remain contingent on the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) continued commitment to negotiations as its sole strategy, and to the agreements that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
All the evidence indicates that the PLO and the PA have spearheaded the battle to impose the donors’ conditions on their behalf. Beneath the rubric of “legitimacy”, “the national project” and “the single central authority” that “alone holds the powers to make decisions on war and peace,” the PLO and PA have demonstrated that they are ready to abide by the donors’ political conditions.
The irony is that
has never met the conditions it compelled the donors to impose, not just in
order to proceed with the reconstruction of , but also on the PA in general. Gaza
Currently, the occupation authorities are threatening to dissolve the Palestinian national reconciliation government if it does not assert its full authority over
However, all the evidence also indicates that the resistance is there to stay in
The only possible way to read all of the foregoing, and other facts, is that the reconstruction of Gaza under such conditions and circumstances will be deferred until further notice and that deferring reconstruction and linking it to a process of cloning the West Bank model in Gaza is actually a strategy that paves the way for yet another invasion of Gaza.
It is also a fact that reconstruction needs in
A recent report by the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) estimates that it will cost around $8 billion to rebuild what was destroyed during the last Israeli attack on
Clearly, the reconstruction of Gaza requires a new Palestinian strategy, one that draws a line between the grants donors offer and their political conditions, and that rejects once and for all any Palestinian commitment to those degrading conditions that, as the years since the so-called “peace process” began have proven, have brought more destruction than construction, and have served as the chief incubator of Palestinian divisions and not brought even a minimum degree of national benefit.
At the same time, any new government that emerges from a national partnership must embrace resistance against the occupation. The current national reconciliation government, with its six-month term and its principle tasks of preparing for presidential and legislative elections, is by definition an interim government and is not qualified to shoulder heavy and long-term burdens such as the reconstruction of Gaza and securing the end of the blockade.
Both of these tasks are humanitarian and national goals that are higher than any political or factional disputes. Yet the Palestinian presidency’s determination to toe the line with the donors’ conditions, which make no distinction between humanitarian needs and political ends, is a strategy that fails to discriminate between national needs and factional interests. It is a strategy that protracts the humanitarian disaster in
Unfortunately, the need to separate politics — factional or otherwise — from the humanitarian issue does not appear to be on the agenda of either foreign and Arab donors, or of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in spite of the letter he sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on 30 July declaring Gaza a “disaster zone” in the grips of a “dangerous humanitarian crisis.”
This “dangerous humanitarian crisis” is the product of forms of collective punishment that were inflicted against the people of
The collective punishments that have been and continue to be visited on
To insist that Gaza’s reconstruction be linked to the reinstatement of the “full” authority of the Palestinian presidency and the PA over Gaza, and to the donors’ political conditions which, in fact, are the conditions of the occupying power, is merely another way to say that the reconstruction of Gaza should be linked to the imposition of Fatah’s factional agenda on Gaza.
It also means that civilians in Gaza are to be collectively punished for the factional disputes that Fatah has with Hamas, in which case it becomes very difficult to avoid pointing fingers of accusation at Palestinian complicity in the ongoing collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and more difficult yet to defend any possible Palestinian contribution to the perpetration of such a war crime.
As long as the current situation persists, reconstruction of
It is not too late to opt for the national alternative, which is still available given good intentions, to save the people of
This alternative entails following through on implementation of the mechanisms for national reconciliation, activating the unified command framework for the PLO, agreeing on a new Palestinian strategy based on the principles of partnership and resistance, and creating a new national unity government committed to this strategy and qualified to shoulder such enormous tasks as the reconstruction of Gaza and lifting the blockade.
All of the foregoing requires no more than honest introspection, the prevalence of national conscience, and political free will.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (email@example.com).
This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on September 19, 2014.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Palestinian reconciliation at crossroads
By Nicola Nasser*
President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement, which he commands, have unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the resistance. If pressure from the Palestinian public fails to stop the campaign, Abbas may achieve politically what
failed to achieve militarily: forcing the Palestinian presidency to choose
“peace with ”
over national reconciliation. Israel
It appears that President Abbas has, indeed, prioritised “peace with
He has devised plans for resuming negotiations, and is still banking on
American support for such talks. This is the only explanation for the current
anti-Hamas media campaign. Israel
Abbas sent his negotiators — Saeb Erekat, Majed Faraj and Maen Erekat — to Washington, where they met with US Secretary of State John Kerry a week ago last Wednesday. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki described the more than two-hour meeting as “constructive”. Abbas then prepared to obtain an Arab mandate, which seems guaranteed in advance, for his plans from the 142nd session of the Arab foreign ministers conference, held in
Ambassador to the UN Samantha
Power poured cold water over the Palestinian Authority (PA) president’s bid to
obtain US backing for his plan, which he intends to put before the UN Security
Council and UN General Assembly. The proposal would end the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and US
within three years, during which period negotiations would resume within three
months with the occupying power over its borders with the Palestinian state. Gaza
“We don’t think there are shortcuts or unilateral measures that can be taken at the United Nations or anyplace else that will bring about the outcome that the Palestinian people most seek,” Power said in a press conference last week. “To think that you can come to
and secure what
needs to be worked out on the ground is not realistic.” New York
This clearly translates into an unequivocal US “No.” The Palestinian president’s new plan has run up against the same American wall that Palestinian negotiators have faced since negotiations were adopted as a strategic approach. The Zionist route remains the only way these negotiators can access the White House and the UN Security Council.
There can be only one explanation for this plan. It is in fulfilment of a Palestinian promise not to resist the occupation and to offer the occupying power the opportunity to agree to yet another futile round of negotiations. Such negotiations will give
the time it needs to turn
the Givaot colony into a major settler city on the 4,000 dunams of Palestinian
land that it has just seized by declaring it “state land”. Israel
The purpose of this appropriation is to separate the
Hebron and South Bethlehem
governorates in the West Bank. It is also a
means to deflect international humanitarian pressure in reaction to Israeli war
crimes in Gaza, to evade Israel’s obligations to the truce agreement with
the resistance in ,
and to fuel internal Palestinian tensions until they reignite once more. Gaza
It was not Hamas or the resistance that described Abbas’s new plan as a “spurious process”. It was independent Palestinian figures who expressed their views in a statement read out by Mamdouh Al-Akr, general commissioner of the Independent Organisation of Human Rights, on 2 September in Ramallah. They called for an urgent meeting of the unified leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in accordance with the
Activating the unified leadership framework of the PLO will put President Abbas’s call for a “single Palestinian central authority”, uniquely empowered to “determine matters of war and peace”, into its concrete national context. Only this context can confer legitimacy on a Palestinian leadership that does not derive its authority from resisting the occupation in all forms.
Moreover, the currently missing “electoral legitimacy” is no longer sufficient in and of itself to allow Palestinian decisions on war and peace to remain in the hands of a leadership that is the product of elections that were held with the approval of the occupation power and in the framework of agreements signed with it.
The Palestinian presidency has dropped the available option of resistance from the lexicon of its negotiating strategy, let alone the option of war, which is not available. The PA, in coordination with the occupation’s security apparatus, has become “the security proxy for the occupying power, rather than an instrument to end the occupation and establish the state,” as Palestinian analyst Hani Al-Masri wrote on 26 August.
As a result, the occupying power, alone, holds the keys to the decision of war, which it continues to repeat, and to the decision of peace, which it still refuses to take.
It appears that President Abbas is working against the tide of Palestinian public opinion, as voiced in a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in Ramallah. According to this poll, only 22 per cent of respondents supported a resumption of negotiations, while 53 per cent said they regarded resistance as “the more effective way” to realise the creation of a Palestinian state.
The results of the PCPSR poll contradict all the charges levelled by the president and Fatah against the resistance and Hamas. Of those polled, 79 per cent believe that the resistance emerged victorious from the recent war, while 86 per cent support the defensive use of rockets.
Respondents gave very low ratings to the performance of the Palestinian president, the PA, the national unity government and the PLO, while the approval rating for Hamas was 88 per cent.
What is the substance of this media campaign against Hamas? It ranges from blaming Hamas for prolonging the war and for the consequent loss of lives and material damage, to adopting the Israeli narrative regarding a Hamas-engineered “coup attempt” against the president in the West Bank and the existence of a “shadow government” in
Then there are the charges of keeping Fatah members under “house arrest”, of “opening fire on civilians”, and of “selling emergency relief on the black market.” On top of these come the accusation that Hamas has violated “the law that defines the colours and dimensions of the flag.”
President Abbas’s instructions to create a “committee to hold a dialogue” with Hamas to discuss the “fate of the national unity government,” as announced by Amin Maqboul, secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, does little to encourage optimism. The national unity government, national reconciliation, the
This is because of the confrontation stirred by the systematic smear campaign that President Abbas and the Fatah movement are waging against Hamas and the resistance. The campaign has created a media smokescreen behind which the occupation authority can conceal its foot-dragging in carrying out its obligations under the truce agreement, which will probably be echoed in Israeli procrastination on continuing with truce talks due to be held in Cairo.
It should also be stressed that to accuse the resistance and Hamas of prolonging the war is to exonerate the occupation power of responsibility. The Israeli media was quick to capitalise on this, further proof of the extensive coverage the campaign has received.
Indeed, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev virtually reiterated it verbatim when he said that the Egyptian initiative was on the table from 15 July and that while the Arab League and
The investigatory commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council will most likely cite the president’s charges to strengthen the claims of the occupying power, as these charges would be regarded as “testimony of a witness from the other side.”
Abbas says that while the “final toll” from the most recent war in Gaza was 2,140 dead, “if added to the number of dead in previous wars, and those who died during the period of the Shalit problem, the number would be 10,000 dead and wounded, in addition to the 35,000 homes that were totally or partially destroyed.”
When Abbas says that “it would have been possible” to avert the human and material losses of the recent conflict he is effectively blaming the resistance, not the occupation, for the last war on
The spectre of discord once again hovers over Palestinian unity, with Palestinian opinion divided over a programme of negotiations versus a programme of resistance. This is the breach through which Arab and non-Arab “axes” penetrate into the Palestinian interior, deepening rather than mending Palestinian rifts.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (firstname.lastname@example.org). This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on September 11, 2014.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Iraqi hydrocarbon prize of U.S. invasion in danger
By Nicola Nasser*
Excluding “boots on the ground” and leaving combat missions to local and regional “partners,” President Barak Obama and his administration say the United States keeps “all options on the table” to respond militarily to the terrorists’ threat to “American interests” in Iraq, which are now in “danger.”
Similarly, former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on TV screens and in print has recently urged western governments to “put aside the differences of the past and act now” and to intervene militarily in
the future” because “we do have interests in this.” Iraq
Both men refrained from indicating what are exactly the “American” and “western” interests in
that need military intervention to defend, but the major prize of their
in 2003 was the country’s hydrocarbon assets. There lies their “interests. Iraq
On June 13 however, Obama hinted to a possible major “disruption” in Iraqi oil output and urged “other producers in the Gulf” to be “able to pick up the slack.”
The United States has already moved the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, from the northern Arabian Sea into the Arabian Gulf (Persian according to Iran) “to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” according to Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, on June 14. Media is reporting that
U.S. intelligence units and
air reconnaissance are already operating in . Iraq
The unfolding collapse of the
proxy government in Baghdad has cut short a
process of legalizing the
de-nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in , which became within reach
with the latest electoral victory of the Iraqi prime minister since 2006, Noori
Anti-American armed resistance to the
proxy ruling regime in ,
especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the
status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets, i.e.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki for eight years could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end together with his political ambitions for a third term were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on this June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.
Three days on, with the fighting moving on to the gates of
Baghdad, “the most
important priority for
right now is to secure its capital and oil infrastructure,” a Stratfor analysis
on June 11 concluded. Baghdad
The raging war in
now will determine whether
Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any Iraq U.S. military support to the regime it installed
should be viewed within this context. Meanwhile this national wealth is still
being pillaged as spoils of war. Baghdad
Al-Maliki is not now preoccupied even with maintaining Iraq as OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, but with maintaining a level of oil output sufficient to bring in enough revenues to finance a defensive war that left his capital besieged and his government with southern Iraq only to rule, may be not for too long.
Even this modest goal is in doubt. Al-Maliki is left with oil exports from the south only, the disruption of which is highly possible any time now.
Worries that fighting would spread to the southern city of
Basra or have already sent oil prices to
nine-month high on Thursday. Baghdad
Legalizing the de-nationalization of Iraqi hydrocarbon industry has thus become more elusive than it has ever been since 2003.
On June 1 forty two years ago the process of the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry kicked off in
. Now Iraq is
an open field for looting its only strategic asset. Iraq
On April 15 last year the CNN, reviewing “The Iraq war, 10 years on,” reported: “Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.”
“Before the 2003 invasion,
domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil
companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly
dominated by foreign firms,” the CNN report concluded, indicating that, “From
ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West's have
set up shop in Iraq .
So have a slew of American oil service companies, , the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming
George W. Bush's running mate in 2000. Iraq
The international rush for the Iraqi “black gold” by trans-national oil and gas corporations is at its height with no national law or competent central authority to regulate it.
Nothing changed since except that the “rush” was accelerating and the de-nationalization process was taking roots, squandering the bloody sacrifices of the Iraqis over eighty two years to uproot the foreign hold on their major strategic asset. The ongoing fighting is threatening to cut this process short.
Tip of iceberg
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in
Iraq has been awarding hydrocarbon contracts to
foreign firms independently without reference to the central government in . Baghdad
Since early 2014, it has been pumping crude to
own independent pipeline built last December. On this June 4, Turkey Turkey
and the KRG announced the signing of a 50-year deal to export Iraqi oil from
Kurdistan via . Turkey
deputy prime minister, threatened legal action against firms that purchased
"smuggled oil" via the Turkish-KRG arrangements; he accused of
“greed” and trying “to lay (its) hands on cheap Iraqi oil. Turkey
The dispute between
on the one hand and Turkey
and the KRG on the other is only the surfacing tip of the iceberg of the “gold rush–style” looting of ’s
national wealth. Iraq
One of the main priorities of al-Maliki all along has been to legalize the de-nationalization and privatization process.
Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, wrote a few months before al-Maliki assumed his first premiership that American and British governments made sure the candidates for prime minister knew what their first priority had to be: To pass a law legalizing the return of the foreign multinationals. This would be the vital biggest prize of the
2003 invasion. U.S.
Al-Maliki is the right man to secure a pro-privatization government in
Thomas L. Friedman described him in the New York Times on this June 4 as “our
guy,” “an American-installed autocrat” and a “big gift” the Baghdad U.S. occupation “left behind in .” Iraq
Various drafts of hydrocarbon privatization laws failed to gain consensus among the proxy sectarian parties to the U.S.-engineered “political process” and the “federal” entities of
U.S.-drafted constitution. Iraq
Al-Maliki’s government endorsed the first draft of a privatization law in February 2007 and on August 28, 2011 endorsed an amended draft which the parliament has yet to adopt.
Iraqi trade unions, amid popular protests, opposed and fought the privatization draft laws. Their offices were raided, computers confiscated, equipment smashed and their leaders arrested and prosecuted. Nonetheless, the parliament could not pass the law.
Al-Maliki government began awarding contracts to international oil and gas giants without a law in place. They are illegal contracts, but valid as long as there is a pro-privatization government in
Former British and
leaders of the invasion of ,
Tony Blair and George Bush junior, were on record to deny that the invasion had
anything to do with oil, but the U.S. President Barak Obama has just refuted
their claim. Iraq
On last May 16, Obama signed an Executive Order to extend the national emergency with respect to
for one year. His predecessor
Bush signed this “order” for the first time on May 22, 2003 “to
deal with the … threat to the national security and foreign policy of the Iraq United States posed by obstacles to the continued
reconstruction of .” Iraq
Details of Bush’s Executive Order (EO) No. 13303 are still kept out of media spotlight. It declared that future legal claims on
wealth constitute “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security
and foreign policy of the .” United
Section 1(b) eliminates all judicial process for “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the
States, or that are or hereafter come within the
possession or control of persons.” United
EO 13303 was rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1483, which protected the U.S.-controlled governmental institutions in
Muttitt wrote in August 2012: “In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation,
finally left .
In their place, Big Oil is now present in force.” Iraq
“Big Oil” is now the only guarantor of the survival of the
U.S. proxy government in , but the survival of “Big Oil” itself
is now threatened by the escalating and rapidly expanding armed opposition. Baghdad
Obama said the “threats” and “obstacles” to U.S, interests in
Iraq have not
changed eleven years after the invasion; has not enacted yet a
hydrocarbon law to legalize the privatization of its oil and gas industry. Iraq
The developments of the last week in
Obama’s renewal of EO 13303. The Iraq U.S. war
is not over and it is not won yet. Hence Obama’s recent extension of the
national emergency with respect to Iraq for one year. Iraq
its restricted independence in 1932, the nationalization of Iraqi oil wealth
was the national and popular battle cry for complete sovereignty. It is now the
battle cry of the armed opposition. Iraq
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. email@example.com.