Reform the Security Council before it destroys the United Nations

Reform the Security Council before it destroys the

United Nations

If any doubt remained that the United Nations is in need of drastic reform, it has to have been evaporated by the Security Council’s “activities” since the beginning of Israel’s brutal offensive against the Gaza Strip on December 27. During this time, the council has failed utterly to act in a manner befitting the urgency due a civilian bloodbath, repeatedly delaying action aimed at ending the crisis and initially producing a weak “statement” when a firm resolution was obviously required. Representatives of various member states have alternately sulked and dithered, leaked nasty comments about one another to the media, threatened to walk out, and even sought additional delays. And after a decidedly watery resolution finally was arrived at late Thursday night in New York, both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leadership dismissed it within hours.

For an organization whose resolutions are known to languish for decades awaiting implementation, wasting a couple of weeks might not have seemed extreme. For the parents of infants dying under Israeli bombs in Gaza, however, every second should have counted, if only to reassure the survivors that someone, somewhere, was working to end their ordeal. And in the end, all they got was a cease-fire call that sounded more like a suggestion than a demand, particularly since the United States – the council’s most powerful member and Israel’s most important ally – abstained on the matter, clearly signaling a green light for the carnage to continue.

The UN was not established so that the strong could oppress the weak at their leisure, safe in the knowledge that the community of nations would do nothing but wash its hands of the affair by issuing a hollow pronouncement made even emptier by the efforts of at least two permanent Security Council members – the US and France – to impose an Israel-friendly “solution” by working outside the body to blackmail the people of Gaza into giving in “or else.” The Security Council cannot do its job if it cannot or will not either take intelligent and ethical decisions or enforce them. As things stand, it has become little more than an official witness designated to count the bodies – and it can’t even do that because the Americans would surely veto anything that provided statistical documentation of the massacre that their allies are perpetrating in Gaza.

If the UN’s senior body cannot be comprehensively reformed, the entire organization will eventually lose all credibility and possibly go the way of its defunct predecessor, the League of Nations. All member states should ponder the aftermath of that episode – and ask who would want to repeat it.

Ankara cool towards Palestine troops

Ankara cool towards Palestine troops

Palestinian security officers loyal to Hamas take up positions along the Egypt-Gaza border near the Gaza strip town of Rafah.

Ankara has given the cold shoulder to the notion of deploying international forces around Gaza to maintain calm in the region and the idea that deployment of troops from Indonesia, Qatar and Turkey would be helpful in building confidence for the force.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organiza-tion (PLO) closely associated with Pales-tinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Qatar-based Al Jazeera news on Monday that the idea of deploying an international force in Gaza was discussed during a four-way summit held in Egypt last week with participation of Abbas as well as Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan.

Abbas is pushing for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force on the Gaza border and is seeking the support of the United States and the European Union for such a measure. The idea entails placing international forces around Gaza and not inside the Gaza Strip, a top Palestinian official earlier confirmed to The Media Line, a news portal on Middle East issues.

Rabbo said Monday that they wanted this international force to be formed by troops from countries like Indonesia, Qatar and Turkey. Earlier, he also said such forces would be deployed mostly on the Rafah border with Egypt and in the north of Gaza, around Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, which are near the Erez crossing with Israel.

“It is not possible for Ankara to determine a position or make a statement about an idea which has not yet even been opened for discussion among the international community. Sending troops to Palestine even as part of a peacekeeping force like it did in Lebanon by joining UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] is not on Turkey’s agenda, even at a level of thought for consideration,” a Turkish diplomat, speaking under customary condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman on Monday.

Another official, also speaking under condition of anonymity, said such deployment of an international force was “de facto encouraging division of Palestine.”

“This idea has been floated apparently without considering its consequences,” the official added.

Palestinian Ambassador Nabil Maarouf told Today’s Zaman on Monday that the decision for sending foreign troops to Gaza should be made at the international level. Yet he also added that Palestine would prefer Turkish troops’ contribution to such force if asked. “There is a Palestinian demand for an international force to protect Palestinian people. This decision should be made on the international level. But if you ask me if Palestine prefers Turkish troops, yes, of course we do,” Maarouf said.

“Mr. Abbas already asked Mr. [Abdullah] Gül to send Turkish troops to Palestine, even before this idea of sending foreign troops to Gaza was on the agenda. This means that we clearly prefer Turkish troops,” Maarouf reiterated, referring to a telephone conversation which took place last month between Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül and Abbas following Abbas’ move to sack the Hamas-led government.

Maarouf also confirmed that Abbas was not able to receive a response to his demand from Gül then.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have already rejected the notion of deploying international forces around Gaza to maintain calm in the region.

Ismail Haniyya, the prime minister for the former Hamas-dominated government, said such a force was unacceptable and Izz a-Din al-Qassam, an armed group belonging to Hamas, said any such presence would be regarded as an occupation force and would be subject to attacks.

Khalid Al-Batsh, a leader of the Islamic Jihad, said the movement rejected the call for any international forces in the Gaza Strip. “Their presence will damage the Palestinian cause and the resistance of the Palestinian people,” he said at the time.

The Israeli Factor in the Rise of Hamas

The Israeli Factor in the Rise of Hamas

written by
Osman Bahadir Dincer

The recent events in the Middle East have been watched by sensitive people around the world approximately for two weeks. Yet, the decision makers, who could not understand it is impossible to reach a solution by only condemning, are only watching the ‘state terrorism’. Israel is still going its own way by ignoring the others, carrying out its own specific executions by using its and the US’s ‘legitimate’ special methods as usual. Not only the UN, the EU and the US, but also most of the Arab leaders are silent. The reasons behind the attacks and the possible outcomes have been discussed by the experts all around the world as well as in Turkey.

In this essay, rather than trying to analyze the recent events, I would like to call your attention to a different topic. I would like to say something about Hamas and Israel by going back to late 1980s.

There are many factors leading to the rise of radicalism in the Middle East in general and in Palestine in particular. Yet, it is a fact that Israel was another factor conducing radicalism to spread especially in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Though Israel could not achieve its aims in the long run, it supported Islamism, in other words, Hamas and like-minded groups during their first years, in order to counterbalance the nationalist and secular movements.

Israel was not taking Islamism and Islamist organizations into account seriously in the early years of Islamism. Even in coming years, Israel viewed them as counter-forces against the secular nationalist groups. Since in the Cold War period, in which the competition of ideologies was at peak level, the impact of Marxist ideologies in the Palestinian groups was remarkably high enough, for Israel, creating cleavages in PLO could be achieved by endorsing such Islamist groups. Besides, some Christian Arabs were supporting PLO. It was expected that as the Islamist discourses increased in the Palestinian cause, the support and the influence of Marxists, other secularists and the Christian Arabs in the Palestinian cause would decline.

In this general framework, it is a truth that to a certain extent Israel supported and helped Hamas which was considered as an alternative force against El Fatah. On January 11, 1993, it was written in Al Arab that the person who allowed Hamas to be organized in Gaza was the Israeli military governor of Gaza and also it was claimed in the same newspaper that the main aim was to divide PLO by helping to found Hamas. This is not surprising. Not only Israel but also the USA supported, encouraged and tolerated the developments of Islamist radicals to a certain degree in the sake of their own interests. Israeli leaders did this in order to divide the Palestinian society and to attenuate the PLO. In this sense, they allowed Hamas to be founded and to organize demonstrations and to raise money. In other words, Hamas emerged by the help of Israel as an alternative to the classical Arafat nationalism to lessen the Arafat’s power in the Palestinian struggle. Foundation of Hamas as a militant Islamist organization provided an alternative ground against the secular and nationalist structure of the PLO. The direct impact of Israel on the formation of Hamas could be evaluated so. Yet, from a different point of view, the indirect effect of Israel in the improvement of Hamas is also an incontestable reality.

Indirect Impact of Israel in the Rise of Hamas

Particularly, since the beginning of Al Aksa Intifadah in 2000, the increasing number of civilian deaths in the Israeli attacks has been severely slashed by many circles. For instance, the President of Palestinian Authority, Mahmut Abbas, just after the Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip in June 2006, stated that “Israel is conducting state terrorism”. In this sense, if we remember the days in June 2006, it can be easily conceived that the logic, the perceptions and the methods of Israel have not been changed.

Hamas, which is on the list of the terrorist organizations of the world, also heads the groups which criticize Israel claiming that Israel has been carrying out state terrorism. Halid Meshal, the exiled leader of Hamas, accused Israel of being a terrorist state, just after the unsuccessful assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997. He answered the questions of the newspaper AL Khaleej in October 15, 1997. Let me give one question and one answer from that interview:

Q: … Many suicide bombers attacked to civilian buses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. What do you say about these?

Meshal: … we are not pointing our weapons to civilians. Our men are not going out to the streets to kill civilians. But, the Zionist enemy has been pressuring on us to use any way of war. Let me give an example: More than 300 thousand Jewish settlers have been living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. All of them are armed people. They have been killing our children and civilians. We have been struggling to survive under economic siege. More than five thousand Palestinian teenagers are under torture in Israeli prisons. No medicine! Health and education services are not enough. In such a situation, how come you say that we are attacking civilians? The world should look at the Israel first. They are the real terrorists. (This statement was made nearly ten years ago, but, the parallelism between the recent statements with this one is obvious.)

At this point, Palestinians are not the only people castigating Israel. There are also many Israelis who have been dissatisfied and despondent by the Israeli attacks for many years. Moreover, international public opinion has been stating that Israel has been making mistakes. Especially, the Israeli military tactics and the operations carried out according to these tactics have been perceived within the concept of state terrorism by many circles. The Jewish Sociologist, Dr. Lev Grinberg, from Ben Gurion University, was just one of the people assessing the Israeli aggression as terrorism. Dr. Grinberg, also argued that whereas the USA perceived the Israeli ‘state terrorism’ as self-defense, it considered the individual operations carried out by Palestinians as terrorism. According to him, the nuance between these operations is that the Israeli attacks are led by the Israeli leaders themselves (Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Ben Elizer, Shimon Peres, Shaul Mofaz), yet, the Palestinian activities are not led by Arafat himself. In other words, individual operations are carried out without the knowledge of Arafat. In addition, there was another important figure who was also criticizing Israel. One of the former Israeli Ministers of Education, Shulamit Aloni, made a statement for the newspaper Kul Al Arab, in July 29 2005 arguing that Israel had been committing war crimes and Ariel Sharon should have been put in appearance in the court. She also claimed that Israel had been committing crimes against humanity and Israel has become worse than Palestine in terms of its terrorist operations. Moreover, she evaluated that although Israel has one of the most powerful armies of the Middle East, it has been still playing the role of victim, and unfortunately, this has been confirmed by the USA which is also unacceptable. For her, Israel has been following the way of Mussolini.

Steve Bell, The Guardian 3/23/2004

Through the military operations carried out in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and during the assassinations directed to the Palestinian leaders, Israeli Defense Forces has been causing many civilian casualties and deaths, which have been severely inveighed and considered as violation of human rights. For instance, in 1982, Israel mounted a full scale assault to Arafat in Beirut where as a result of the collapse of the building 200 civilian lost their lives. Just after this tragedy, Arafat was based in Tunis, and here again, as a result of another assault, 73 people were killed in 1985.

Actually, the illegal activities operated by the Jewish guerillas during the pre-state Palestine have been still perpetuated by the help of modern tools. There are many illegal activities: open and shut, outlawed attacks and the assaults, which are launched as unintentional mistaken operations, are among those illegal activities. A Jewish Journalist Richard Ben Cramer, holding a Pulitzer award, tells the whole real story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his book How Israel Lost. He talks about many illegal realities on the ground one by one, for instance, he mentions the inflictions on the check-points in occupied territories and the illegal assassinations of the Palestinian leaders before the eyes of the world. In this regard, in my point of view, being humiliated and insulted by the Israeli soldiers is also a kind of psychological attack. Cutting the tax revenues of the Palestinians by Israel and the restrictions at the borders could also be evaluated within the framework of state terrorism. First of all, the assassinations of Hamas leaders in 2004 have been assessed as terrorist activities which were actually, according to Israel, carried out as anti-terror operations. For instance, the assaults, without a court decision, against the Palestinian leaders, who are claimed to be terrorists by Israel, were described as war crimes by the Human Rights Committee of the Israeli Bar Association in 2001.

The mutual terrorist attacks make people paranoid in both sides, especially in the Israeli side. The security controls at the borders and the security cautions, not only in airports or terminals but also in cafes and bars, are good signs of this paranoiac culture. In fact, it means that if you attack, you get afraid! In other words, Israel has been suffering due to its own seeds of violence which have been cultivated for more than sixty years. The Israeli occupation, which has been leading severe social and economic conditions, causing terrorism and human rights violations, has aggravated the nationalist and religious extremism to very dangerous levels in the occupied territories.

At this point, looking at Prof. Alon Ben Meir’s book, The Last Option, would be useful. Dr. Ben Meir argues that the main concern of the Israel is how to protect itself from violence. However, for him, the main problem is the failure and the uselessness of the precautions (the operations carried out to arrest the militants in Palestine, building of the wall, check points, and the reoccupation of some places under the control of PA) taken by the Israeli governments to resolve these rightful concerns. These sorts of precautions, unfortunately, are bound to raise the desperation and the anxiety among the Palestinians instead of diminishing the suicide attacks. These ‘so called’ preventions lead more violence and deepen the tension instead of ending the conflict. Consequently, all these things help the radicals in both sides inadvertently.

Osman Bahadir Dincer

Middle East Expert – USAK

Putin blames ‘criminal’ Ukraine for gas crisis

Is Ukraine/Europe gas flow the new “Georgia crisis”? Is this another American power play to create conflict with Russia?  How many conflicts can Bush/Cheney pump-up before handing the keys of the war machine over to Obama?

[SEE:  Russian Gas Cuts: US-Afghanistan Connection?]

Putin blames ‘criminal’ Ukraine for gas crisis

Mr Putin chastised the Western media. “If I read the Western and US press it isn’t objective. It paints an absolutely partial picture: ‘Russia turns off the gas.’ Well, we didn’t turn off the gas,” Mr Putin said. Gazprom had done everything it could to reach agreement with its Ukrainian counterpart, only for the Ukrainians to walk out of negotiations. It had offered Kiev $US250 ($353) per 100 cubic metres of gas for 2009 – even though Russia was paying $US340 for gas from central Asia, he said.

Nato warning for Russia over ‘political’ gas crisis

Frantic efforts to restore gas supplies to millions of European consumers failed yesterday after Russia refused to turn the pipeline back on in its showdown with Ukraine.

A senior US diplomat warned that Nato might have to intervene to help alliance members such as Bulgaria and Romania if the crisis drags on. “There is a commercial dispute at the heart of this, but this also has political overtones [becasue] we have seen Russia over time using such events to gain political leverage,” Kurt Volker, the US Ambassador to Nato, said.

“If this persists, I think Nato will have to think how to assist allies who suffer.”

Gaza victims’ burns increase concern over phosphorus

Gaza victims’ burns increase concern over


An Israeli soldier carries a shell as artillery fires towards the Gaza Strip

Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza, despite official denials by the Israel Defence Forces.

There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law.

The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen, and is being used by the Israeli gunners to create a smoke screen on the ground.

The rounds, which explode into a shower of burning white streaks, were first identified by The Times at the weekend when they were fired over Gaza at the start of Israel’s ground offensive. Artillery experts said that the Israeli troops would be in trouble if they were banned from using WP because it is the simplest way of creating smoke to protect them from enemy fire.

There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: “The burns are very unusual. They don’t look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can’t seem to control.”

Victims with embedded WP particles in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.Nafez Abu Shaban, the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, said: “I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see.”

When The Times reported on Monday that the Israeli troops appeared to be firing WP shells to create a thick smoke camouflage for units advancing into Gaza, an IDF spokesman denied the use of phosphorus and said that Israel was using only the weapons that were allowed under international law.

Rows of the pale blue M825A1 WP shells were photographed on January 4 on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border. Another picture showed the same munitions stacked up behind an Israeli self-propelled howitzer.

Confronted with the latest evidence, an IDF spokeswoman insisted that the M825A1 shell was not a WP type. “This is what we call a quiet shell – it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it,” she said.

“We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It’s not for killing people,” she said.

Asked what shell was being used to create the smokescreen effect seen so clearly on television images, she said: “We’re using what other armies use and we’re not using any weapons that are banned under international law.”

Neil Gibson, technical adviser to Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, insisted that the M825A1 was a WP round. “The M825A1 is an improved model. The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed [by a high-explosive charge], start to burn within four to five seconds. They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smoke screen produced is extremely effective,” he said.

The shell is not defined as an incendiary weapon by the Third Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons because its principal use is to produce smoke to protect troops. However, Marc Galasco, of Human Rights Watch, said: “Recognising the significant incidental incendiary effect that white phosphorus creates, there is great concern that Israel is failing to take all feasible steps to avoid civilian loss of life and property by using WP in densely populated urban areas. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting WP projectiles at relatively low levels, seemingly to maximise its incendiary effect.”

He added, however, that Human Rights Watch had no evidence that Israel was using incendiaries as weapons.

British and American artillery units have stocks of white phosphorus munitions but they are banned as anti-personnel weapons. “These munitions are not unlawful as their purpose is to provide obscuration and not cause injury by burning,” a Ministry of Defence source said.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian war surgery specialist working in Gaza, told The Times that he had seen injuries believed to have resulted from Israel’s use of a new “dense inert metal explosive” that caused “extreme explosions”. He said: “Those inside the perimeter of this weapon’s power zone will be torn completely apart. We have seen numerous amputations that we suspect have been caused by this.”