Thursday, August 10, 2006


Lebanon War Resonates in Iraq

By Nicola Nasser*

The Israeli war on Lebanon has shaken the sectarian pillar of the U.S.-Israeli regional plans, especially in the Iraqi launching pad of the U.S.-promoted “New Middle East,” where major ethnic and sectarian minorities are being incited against their historical peaceful co-existence with the cultural Pan-Arab and Islamic heritage of the Arab majority as well as against each other.

The reverberations in Iraq of the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon have been so widespread and deep to shutter a three-year old political orientation of the Iraqis towards doing away with their Pan-Arab identity and isolating their country from its geopolitical Arab and Islamic incubator, in a massive sectarian brainwashing that has pushed Iraqis to the brink of an all out civil war.

Sectarian as well as Pan-Arab solidarity took hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into the streets “with yellow Hezbollah banners above their heads and U.S. and Israeli flags beneath their feet.” (1)

The solidarity mass protests forced the Iraqi pro-U.S. ruling elite to publicly criticize the U.S.-backed war amid widespread anti-U.S. sentiment, led to accuse the Semite-to-the-bones Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of being an “anti-Semite” during his recent visit to Washington, and mobilized U.S.-led Iraqi forces to raid leaders of the anti-U.S. and Israeli protests in Baghdad.

The U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon has resonated into cracks in the Iraqi political status quo:

First it shook the sectarian base of power of the ruling elites and questioned their pro-U.S. affiliation. The hundreds of thousands who poured onto the streets of the Shiite holy cities of Basra, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra as well as Baghdad were Iraqi Shiite Muslims whose majority was misled by their leading political hopefuls to distance themselves from the national resistance to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.

Second it showed a divide within this sectarian base of power between an Arab-oriented and an Iranian-influenced sectarian leaderships. The divide had in fact bloodily surfaced in the early stages of the U.S.-British invasion in fierce battles in the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq. The political instinct for survival led the rebellious Arab-oriented Shiite leadership to accept being incorporated into the so-called “political process,” thus rendering its anti-occupation slogans less credible, not to say hollow.

Third the war on Lebanon led to a hard-to-conceal diverging views, at least in public, between the U.S. occupying power and the Iraqi government, which the Americans are doing their best to secure in Baghdad.

When Al-Maliki addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on July 26 he condemned Israel's offensive, refused to condemn Hizbollah or to agree it was a “terrorist” organization, although many members tried to embarrass him, leading Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean to call him an “anti-Semite.”

Similarly President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi made comments critical of the “horrible massacres carried out by Israeli aggression.” (2)

Obviously the three of them were accommodating the public anti-U.S. sentiment to retain some political credibility, although there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the sectarian credentials of al-Maliki and Abdul-Mahdi to identify with a Shiite group like Hizbollah, in spite of the contradictory political agendas and alliances.

Accordingly the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could not be fooled into a public dispute with them, played down their public rhetoric, and confirmed that the Iraqi prime minister and government remained assets “on the right side in the war on terror.” (3)

Before al-Maliki’s speech Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told U.S. lawmakers that Iraq had joined some other Arab League nations in criticizing Hizbollah's attacks on Israel.

Fourth the Iraqi mass protests have the potential to ignite a mass political movement against the US occupation, already bogged down in Iraq by the “armed resistance.”

However the “cracks” cannot be exaggerated and leaders on both sides of the divide remain hostage to their sectarian loyalties, thus ruling out any imminent outbreak with their alliances that could make a difference in the Iraqi national resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

The “Shiite” Hizbollah identifies more with the reportedly “Sunni” Iraqi national resistance and its Palestinian counterpart than with the reportedly “Shiite” collaboration with the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

It was noteworthy that since Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive on his country the Hizbollah leader who has turned into a popular Pan-Arab icon, Hasan Nassrullah, has lashed out at and ruled out any future “American” government in Lebanon, indirectly slamming the pro-American government in Iraq. Earlier he had publicly hailed the Iraqi resistance without directly criticizing the collusion of his co-religious “brothers.”

The Iraqi sectarian-led mass protests were politically hollow because they were not reinforced by either anti-occupation political or concrete moves on the ground.

It was ironic to listen to the thousands of protesters sincerely chanting anti-American slogans and announcing their willingness “to go and fight in Lebanon” while the troops of the “American enemy” were a few meters away guarding against the protests spelling out of control against them and their Iraqi allies.

Those slogans could have been more credible had just a few of the protesters dared to demand their leaders to overcome their sectarian loyalties and join their Sunni compatriots in resisting the foreign occupation.

Al-Sadr Has a Role in-waiting

For example the Sadrist movement, the main leading force behind the protests, could have gained national credibility by at least quitting its five cabinet posts and the 30 seats it holds in the Iraqi parliament, which prop up al-Maliki government, whose spokesmen are day and night hailing the Americans as the liberators, allies and friends of the Iraqi people, thus prolonging the occupation.

The silent voice of the Sunni-led Iraqi national resistance was much more louder in its solidarity with the Shiite-led Lebanese resistance than the deafening shouts of the protesters.

The disillusion is on the rise.

“The government formed after the fall of the (Saddam Hussein-led Baath) regime hasn’t been able to do anything, just make many promises. And people are fed up with the promises,” said Sheikh Bashir al Najafi, a senior Shiite leader. “One day we will not be able to stop a popular revolution.” (4)

Similarly Amman al Janafi, a 39-year-old dentist from Najaf, criticized Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for urging Shiites to vote for the U.S.-engineered Iraqi constitution and participate in the last elections. “The failure of the Islamist political parties broke the trust between the Marjaiyyah [the Shiite Leader’s Council] and the people. Even if Ayatollah Sistani himself were nominated in the next elections, I would not vote for the slate.” (5)

The Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr is very well positioned to play a historic role should he overcome his sectarian loyalties and his personal anti-Baath vengeance to give priority to the national resistance to foreign occupation. It is a reason for high eyebrows that he advocated “armed struggle” against Saddam Hussein, but is opting for “peaceful” and “democratic” opposition to the occupying power.

Only such an option would reinforce real national unity, pave the way for real national reconciliation, abort the U.S.-British sectarian plans to disintegrate Iraq, shorten the plight of the Iraqi people and bring the overdue peace sooner than later by withdrawing the so-called Shiite smokescreen for perpetuating the foreign occupation.

Moreover, it will unmask foreign exploitation of the Shiite tradition inside Iraq and consequently relax the regional sectarian tension outside Iraq, a tension fomented by various foreign provocateurs.

Such an option is also a political survival outlet for al-Sadr, who is obviously targeted not only by his sectarian rivals but more importantly by the occupying powers.

In a report leaked to the media recently, outgoing British ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, warned that “preventing [al-Sadr’s] Jaish al-Mahdi from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority.”

Could Sayed Moqtada free himself from a sectarian captivity to deliver and survive? Only time will tell.

However, the apparent contradiction between the words and deeds of the sectarian anti-occupation rhetoric would in no time leave the sectarian leaders without any popular base of power, given the growing disillusion, the continued occupation of Iraq, a stateless government besieged in Baghdad’s Green Zone, the ever-deteriorating security situation, a looming sectarian civil war, the growing disillusion of the public with the U.S.-installed order of life, the widespread abject poverty, the mushrooming corruption, the absence of basic public services, the suspended national sovereignty, and the ever growing national resistance.

The salvation of Iraq and the Iraqis is national and Pan-Arab, because the Arabs remain the vital heart of Islam, regardless of sect. Islam’s messenger and prophet was Arab. Arabic was the language of Islam’s message. Arabs disseminated Islam in the four directions of the globe and remain the custodians of the message of peace. If skeptics doubt these facts of history, they should at least consult the geopolitics.

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).


(1) Los Angeles Times on August 5, 2006.
(2) Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
(3) Rice on American television’s “Meet the Press” program.
(4) Comments to journalists from McClatchy Newspapers on August 1.
(5) Los Angeles Times on August 5, 2006.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


PLO-U.S. Connection: Time to Make or Break

By Nicola Nasser*
July 14, 2006

Several indicators have shown recently how fragile has been the “connection” between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the United States. And because Washington could deliver but won’t and the Palestinian people could not be held forever hostage to waiting for the American Godot, time seems ripe to make or break this futile connection.

To the disappointment of the PLO leaders the “connection” never developed to a full-fledged unconditional mutual recognition by Washington, let alone to normal diplomatic relations between equals.

Of course breaking this futile connection would be good news for the PLO’s protagonist, Israel, which sought its best to prevent this connection while it was still a burgeoning bud, but failed and would for sure be overjoyed to see its U.S. strategic ally push back the PLO to its pre-1987 label of a “terrorist” organization, unless this connection remains reigning in the PLO as a hostage to the waiting for the American Godot.

Ironically however severing this futile connection would also be good news to the majority of the Palestinian people who have lost faith in their leadership’s betting on the “good will” and the “good offices” of the successive U.S. administrations, which an ever growing number of them has come to identify not only as the military, financial, diplomatic and the super power patron of the Israeli occupying power, but as the partner to the Israeli occupation.

Both the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation since 1967, who have been suffering and witnessing their existence and their land slowly but systemically eroded, and those who have braved it out in their miserable and rotten refugee camps in exile since 1948 could no longer trust their leadership’s betting on the U.S. vague, evasive, and un-kept promises.

And it was natural reaction as well as legitimate endeavor for them to begin looking for alternatives, both to their leadership and to the U.S. connection after more than half a century of yelling their injustice to the deaf ears of the U.S.-led western allies of their Israeli tormentor.

The Hamas’ landslide victory in the January 25 legislative elections could only be seen within this context, as a deafening NO to the status quo and an outcry for political change internally and externally. It was the first explicitly outspoken proof and rebellious rejection of the futile PLO-U.S. connection.

The warning came about one and a half year earlier. No less than the veteran peace advocate, chairman of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative, which is widely lambasted by Palestinian active factions despite the un-public nod given to it by the former and present leaders of the PLO, late Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and the member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo, wrote on April 18, 2004:

“The change of US policy in the Middle East that took place on April 14th (2004) following the meeting between (U.S.) President Bush and (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon has the potential to destroy the whole foundation of the Middle East peace process.”

Abed Rabbo, a close confident and adviser to both Arafat and Abbas, was referring to the “letter of guarantees” Bush wrote to Sharon, in which he “adopted fundamental Israeli demands that undermine international law, prejudice permanent status issues and potentially pre-empt a negotiated settlement,” and which gives “a boost to the expansionist policy” of Israel and “deal a mortal blow to the Quartet Roadmap.

Abed Rabbo’s warning, which in fact was representative of the PLO leadership, fell on deaf U.S. ears. The Palestinians condemned Bush’s April 14 letter as the “Second Balfor Declaration,” which has proved ever since to be an Israeli-U.S. strategy and the basis of Israel’s current unilateral approach to dictate by force a solution to the Palestinians.

This approach is dooming the PLO leadership, the PLO-U.S. connection, whatever left of the so-called peace process and the Oslo accords.

The Palestinian civilians under occupation are now paying the price of this approach with their blood, crushed by the overpowering Israeli war machine.

The deafening silence of the Bush Administration on the daily Palestinian loss of life since the Israel’s “Operation Summer Rains” was launched on June 27, except for some shy remarks about the Israeli “disproportionate” use of force, is pressuring the PLO-U.S. connection to the breaking point.

Obstructing an Arab-drafted resolution for the past two weeks because “we don't see at this point any utility in council action at all,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told U.N. Security Council “that a prerequisite for ending this conflict is that the governments of Syria and Iran end their role …”

Bolton's "prerequisite" offers a justification for the Bush Administration to delay indefinitely any resumption of America's once-powerful role in Middle East peacemaking.

This U.S. passive indifference to Palestinian woes has no other explanation than Washington has already written off the PLO, or at least has decided to do off with it unless the PLO subscribes to coordinating with Israel’s unilateralism, which would in fact be its political death certificate.

For too long now the Palestinian leadership has held its decision-making hostage to the “good offices” and “good will” of the U.S., with tragic consequences for the Palestinian people and catastrophic results on the ground.

Symbolic of this hostage-connection is the status of the PLO's office in the U.S., which is renewed by a presidential order on a semi-annual basis and which Bush has recently temporarily downgraded, then reinstated.

In a recent memorandum for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush said he was imposing a “downgrade in status of the PLO Office in the United States (for) non-compliance by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority with certain commitments.”

What are those “certain commitments”? They are very well known to the Palestinian public for they have been in place for too long as preconditions dictated to the Palestinian leadership, any leadership.

When this leadership rejected them it was denied any US-connection and recognition and the occupied Palestinian territories were held hostage to the Israeli occupation.

When it complied its decision-making was held hostage to U.S. un-kept promises.

The US still hasn’t delivered. It could, but it won’t.

Moreover it is using involvement or disengagement to protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli atrocities and the ongoing policy of creating more facts on the Palestinian ground as a tool to squeeze the PLO into accepting more Israeli-made but US offered “concessions.”

To build a democratic Palestinian regime under the Israeli occupation as a guarantee for Israel’s security was the latest-invented Israeli-US precondition.

The PLO complied. And the Palestinian people are now being collectively punished for their compliance and denied recognition and connection until the newly-elected leadership in its turn complies.

A full-page advertisement in The New York Times, placed by the Council for the National Interest on July 2, called for a “realignment” of the U.S.-Israel relationship and urged the Bush administration to encourage Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries and reconsider U.S. assistance to Israel.

Just on time, not for the administration to be forthcoming because President Bush on April 14, 2004 had opted to move exactly in the opposite direction, but for the PLO to reconsider its leadership’s 20-year old overt connection with the U.S.

The U.S. policy is once more plunging the region into a mess of bloody violence and insecurity and turning it into an incubator-environment for both Israeli state terrorism and a counter individual terror, while in this process cornering the PLO into seeing its leading role eroded by the day, to the joy of the Israeli propagandists who have been promoting the lie that no Palestinian partner exists.

It’s high time for both sides to make or break.

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).


Context of Israeli Wars in Lebanon, Palestine: Back to Roots

"So far Israel failed. Latest history indicates it will never succeed. Peace cannot be unilaterally imposed by the sword."

By Nicola Nasser*
Thursday July 20 2006

The ongoing Israeli wars on Arabs in Palestine and Lebanon are just the latest rounds of the cycle of violence that has raged in and around Palestine since 1917, and are vivid and bloody evidence that imposition of political realities by military means won’t last and that “Whoever takes by the sword, by the sword will be taken."

In November 2000, Ariel Sharon told some 100,000 Israelis in Jerusalem that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) had not exercised its full potential in confronting the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) and promised to end the “policy of military restraint” if they elected him prime minister, which they did a few months later.

More force, Sharon pledged to Israelis, will succeed where mere force failed.

Six years later his successor Ehud Olmert is still trying to sell the same idea that there is a measure of force that has not yet been used but which, when unleashed, will deal what Olmert called the “winning blow.”

Unfortunately Olmert’s memory failed him to remember even yesterday’s history: Were not the 1967 and 1982 blitzes into Gaza Strip and Lebanon an exercise of the Israeli “winning blow” theory? Were not Israel’s twin unilateral military redeployments from both Arab territories as well as his plan to unilaterally redeploy in the West Bank a concrete evidence of its failure?

Or Olmert was blinded by the fact that both redeployments from Lebanon and Gaza have backfired in a way that threatened Israel’s major and long-planned redeployment in the West Bank, and led the military-based Jewish state back to its roots: force, war and living by the sword as the only guarantee of being, existence and survival?

By the sword Israel came to being. In less than a century it devastated its environ with six major wars.

The aim was to impose by the sword a political realty and to clinch by sword the victims’ recognition of its legitimacy. But since its founding in 1948, Israel has never been able to achieve this overarching goal - despite important advances, such as the peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 and the Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since 1993.

The war of terrorism that Zionism led since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, backed by the British empire, implanted the Zionist paramilitary gangs as “settlers” in the midst of the Palestinian Arab peasantry.

The war of expulsion and expansion in 1947-48 uprooted, displaced and forced less than a million Palestinians out of their ancestral homeland, disrupting more than five thousand years of uninterrupted existence.

The 1956 pre-emptive war against Egypt tried but failed to nub in the bud the emergence of an independent Arab force.

The expansionist war of 1967 led to the military occupation of vast areas of Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian and Egyptian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights.

The Zionist-led Jewish state fought the 1973 war, preceded by a three-year war of attrition with Egypt, to defend its 1967 conquests in Egypt and Syria.

The 1982 invasion of Lebanon led to occupation in the south that was unilaterally and unconditionally withdrawn under the pressure of the Lebanese resistance in 2000.

In intervals dozens of military operations were launched by Israel against its neighbors.

In all its conquests Israel secured an overwhelming superiority in quality and quantity of men and arms in each and every one of its wars.

Jews’ Safe Haven

By the sword Israel was created against the will of the indigenous native Palestinian Arabs and in the midst of their brethren who have throughout thousands of years co-existed, as a very normal fact of life, with their Jewish compatriots before and after Islam.

The pan-Arab homeland was the only safe haven in which Jews sought refuge when they were persecuted and oppressed whether they were fleeing the Spanish inspection courts, the pogroms in Russia or the Nazi holocaust, thanks in particular to Islamic states and Islam, the national religion of Arabs and their message of peace to the world, which, out of religious belief and by choice, treated Jews as an integral part of their society.

Islam is a pluralistic religion that views Judaism and Christianity as an integral part of its monotheistic dogma. The Jewish religious minority has prospered in each and every Arab and Muslim metropolitan, protected, like their Christian brethren, by Islam.

However, Zionism has turned this historical tradition up-side-down and the European racism and oppression concluded that enforcing a “Jewish homeland” on the Arabs and Muslims would relieve them from their “Jewish Question” and serve their colonial interests in the Arab world at the same time.

To make a long story brief, a Jewish minority of less than five percent of the population of Palestinian Arabs early in the twentieth century and a fraction percent of the total Arab population of the pan-Arab homeland could not have developed a “homeland” in Palestine, which later became the state of Israel, without resort to sheer, brutal and terrorist force to enforce it.

Straightening ‘Jew’s Spine’

Zionists proclaimed it was “necessary to straighten the spine of the Jew, long curved before his oppressors and long bent beneath the weight of the volumes of the Talmud. Implicit in this process of liberation was an increased reliance on the use of force. Nihilism and contempt for life, … generated an upsurge of terrorism whose specter haunts the world to this day,” wrote Professor of History at the University of Montreal, Yakov M. Rabkin, in the Jewish Tikkun magazine in 2005.

“The millennia-long pacifist and moralizing tradition of Judaism became eroded under the impact of the Palestinian question,” he added, indicating however that, “Force, and its use, is no stranger to the Torah … But far from glorifying war, rabbinic Judaism … took great pains to identify obedience to God, and not military prowess, as the principal factor in the victories mentioned in the Bible. All that changed in the nineteenth century, however, when Russian Jewish secular nationalists began embracing the bloody past of the people of Israel as a means to ensure a safer future.”

What we see today in Palestine and Lebanon is the blood-stained application of a Zionist doctrine known as the “Iron Wall” philosophy, pioneered in the 1920s by Zeev Jabotinsky, the founder of a far right school of Zionism, which argued that Zionists should use overwhelming force to defeat their Arab foe.

Israeli historian and Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim in his book, The Iron Wall, showed that nearly every Israeli leader has signed up to this murderous doctrine. Ehud Olmert is no exception as he is taking two peoples hostage and destroying their infrastructure allegedly for the release of three soldiers captured in combat.

The Iron Wall policy based on deterrence is being exercised in Gaza and Lebanon lest the Arab enemy come to a conclusion that Israel’s deterrence has been eroded.

Root Rules

Deterrence has all along been a root-rule of the imposed Israeli reality.

Living by the sword implies unilateralism, which was another root-rule from the start. Without going it alone Zionism could not have negotiated it into a state, as it was and is still against all logic and common sense to secure the approval of Palestinian Arabs of accepting the negation of their very existence.

Terrorism was another root-rule to impose the will of a military minority on a civilian majority. History has very well documented the terrorist acts of the Jewish Zionist gangs that developed later into the Zionist paramilitary forces and now the Israeli “Defense” Forces, which have developed the gang terrorism into a state-of-the-art state terrorism.

An offshoot rule was the Israeli doctrine of absolute security, massive retaliation and collective punishment.

These are the roots to which the state of Israel turns to whenever it needs to secure a new round of military expansion or to impose a fresh political reality on the conquered population or the invaded neighbors.

Israel's warmongering is not a result of an absence of policy, but on the contrary the result of a premeditated strategy.

The end result is a regional superpower, “ghettoed” by choice into a small physical space and bloody, ill-defined borders.

A regional superpower with that kind of advantage could not and cannot sit idle unless disarmed.

However, even winning all the wars and killing tens of thousands of Arabs never seems to settle anything for Israel.

Although over decades those root-rules have proved counterproductive to Israel's own security as well as to the larger stability of the region, Israel's two-pronged war today in Lebanon and Palestine unfortunately repeats an historical pattern that conforms with its cyclical pattern of warfare with its Arab subjects and neighbors to impose its grandiose objective of a Pax Israelica.

So far Israel failed. Latest history indicates it will never succeed. Peace cannot be unilaterally imposed by the sword.

After a long and tragic experience Arabs are overdue to respond in kind, unless the world community spares them the agony by committing Israel to the rules of international law and resolutions.

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran journalist in Kuwait, Jordan and Palestine and the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Center (PMC). He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).




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