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.”

Palestinian Police Attacked Demonstrators

Today, January 9, 2009, thousands of demonstrators protested against the Israeli war crimes in Gaza and chanted against the Israeli and Egypt governments. The demonstrators were free to chant what ever they wanted demo_jan-355and to raise any flag and slogan they want. Everywhere in the world. We did not hear that the police used violence against demonstrators, attacked or beat them. In Vienna I saw the police were smiling and helping the demonstrators to be safe, and judging by their expressions they were as disgusted of the bestial crimes of Israel as the demonstrators. They closed the main street before transportation, so the demonstrators feel safe and free. The demonstrators chanted in front of Parliament, and in front of the houses of the President and the Chancellor.
The only immoral behavior of the police was seen in Palestine, in Ramallah and Hebron demo_jan-323under the Palestinian Authority. Prime minister Salam Fayyad and his cabinet of traitors, the dogs representing the CIA and Israel and their police attacked the demonstrators and injured dozens of them. In Ramallah, the PA police clashed with demonstrators who dared to raise some green flags and chant slogans supporting Hamas. The Palestinian police attacked the demonstrators and beat them with cudgels and barred them from chanting against the Israeli occupation.

In Hebron, the Palestinian police used violence against the demonstrators and forced them to cancel their demonstration against the Israeli war crimes in Gaza using brutal violence and tear gas. Dozens were injured as a result of the violent excesses of the police. The victims were transferred for the medical treatment to various hospitals.

Ayman Daraghma, a Legislative Council member  of Hamas said that the Palestinian demo_jan-480demonstration in Hebron was an expression of solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip who face the daily death, horror, ethnic cleansing  of the Israeli war criminals. Daragma said that the Palestinian police prevented the demonstrators from raise the green flag which belongs to Hamas, and clashed violently with them. He added that the Palestinian situation in Gaza is horrible and that it is necessary to promote national unity. The PA police told the people that it was forbidden to demonstrate in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. The violence against the demonstrators was coordinated between the PA and Israel.

After the Palestinian police attacked the demonstrators and injured many of them, the demonstrators moved to the old city under the Israeli police control to express their anger against the murder of Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli military faced the demonstrators with illegal rubber bullets, tear gas and live bullets, causing some injuries among the demonstrators.


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WATCH: U.S. House passes landslide vote backing Israel in fight against Hamas

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” by a majority of 390-5.

Watch comments from Jewish senators:

“When these events occur, there’s almost a knee-jerk reaction of Congress that endorses 1,000 percent what Israel is doing,” said Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat and Lebanese-American who has voted against some of the measures and did so again on Friday.

“Israel is our ally…. It always has been, with which I perfectly agree. But I don’t believe in allowing that to blind us to what is in our best interests, or giving knee-jerk approval to anything Israel does. We don’t do that with any other ally,” he told Reuters.

Harry Reid, who leads the Democratic majority in the Senate, gave voice to the depth of the relationship when he said on Thursday, “Our resolution reflects the will of the State of Israel and the will of the American people.”

The Senate measure offered “unwavering commitment” to Israel.

Pentagon denies arms shipment to Israel linked to Gaza fighting

What this Israeli report fails to mention is that, under agreement with the United States, Israel can use pre-positioned US weapons and spare parts as a supply of last resort, just as it did in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon.  Part of the blanket of cluster bombs that is still killing people today came from these US stockpiles.  The US prevented the international authorities from stopping Israeli aggression in 2006, just as it is now, to buy time for Israel to expend its arsenal upon the heads of Palestinian women and children.  The American warlords may believe that they can create new realities in the Middle East, but they cannot change God’s perceptions of the crimes we are committing and abetting.  Israel and America will one day reap what they have sown.  This means that our children will pay the price for what we are doing to the children of Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, etc.

Pentagon denies arms shipment to Israel linked

to Gaza fighting

The U.S. military has sought to hire a merchant ship to deliver ammunition to Israel this month, tender documents show, but the Pentagon said the shipment was not linked to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

A Pentagon spokesman said the ammunition was for a U.S. stockpile in Israel. The U.S. military pre-positions stockpiles in some countries in case it needs supplies at short notice.

In the tender documents, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said he would not comment on shipping routes for security reasons but confirmed a shipment of ammunition to Israel was planned.

“The delivery of ammunition is to a pre-positioned U.S. munitions stockpile in Israel in accordance with a congressionally authorized 1990 agreement between the U.S. and Israel,” Ryder said.

“This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza.”

The shipment originated in the United States, Ryder said. He provided no further details on the intended cargo.

A “hazardous material” designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators but gives no other details.

The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than Jan. 25 and the second at the end of the month.

The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December.

A German shipping firm which won that tender confirmed the order when contacted by Reuters but declined to comment further.

In September, the U.S. Congress approved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster missiles to Israel. The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world.

Israel once again strikes a blow against peace

Israel once again strikes a blow against peace

Published: Jan 8, 2009 08:52AM

Opinion: Editorials & Letters: Story

I was distressed to read the Jan. 6 guest viewpoint by Craig Weinerman on behalf of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Lane County absolving Israel of the devastation it is wreaking upon the Palestinians of Gaza.

What a stark contrast to the recent message in The Register-Guard from all the rabbis in Lane County and their supporters. They advocated an assertive approach by President-elect Obama to help create peace and a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In 2006, the United States and the Western world promoted free and democratic elections in Palestine. I am not a supporter of Hamas, but the result of these elections was the installation of Hamas as the legitimate government of Gaza. Hamas’ success was in large part due to the subversion of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by Israel’s obstruction of the peace process.

Israel and the United States refused to abide by the results of that democratic process and created a strangling boycott and blockade of Gaza, with catastrophic results for the civilian population. Israel and the United States refused to deal or negotiate with Hamas in any peace negotiations. The Bush doctrine trumped the yet-to-be enacted Obama doctrine of negotiating with one’s enemies in order to create peace.

Hamas agreed to a six-month truce and asked for the removal of the blockade, with the goal of creating a long-term truce and complete stoppage of rocket attacks. Israel, with the concurrence of the Bush regime, refused to negotiate and to remove the blockade that has created intolerable living conditions for the people of Gaza.

That is the background to the situation prior to the current Israeli onslaught.

The United States has provided a $3 billion annual subsidy to Israel since its creation 60 years ago. Moreover, the consistent U.S. government position has been that Israel can do no wrong.

With such carte blanche, the Israeli government has been able to brazenly attack Lebanon in 2006 and kill more than 1,000 Lebanese people, most of them innocent civilians. It also destroyed much of the economic infrastructure of all of Lebanon under the guise of attacking Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

The same strategy is being followed against the Palestinians in Gaza. It is immoral and illegal, according to international law, for anyone to kill innocent civilians and to impose collective retribution.

It has also been proven in Lebanon, and will be proven in Gaza, that such tactics simply do not work. Just as Hezbollah thrived after the attack on Lebanon, Hamas will thrive no matter what destruction Israel inflicts on Gaza.

The short-term euphoria of Israel and its supporters in thinking they have destroyed Hamas will dissipate in the near future when a return to the status quo takes place.

The real victims are the innocent civilians, including many women and children, who pay with their lives for the shortsighted military occupation by a lopsidedly superior Israeli military force.

I wonder what the reaction would be in the United States if these Palestinian civilian victims were Jews instead of Arabs. I also wonder how many recruits al-Qaeda has added to its numbers from the Muslim masses viewing the deaths of innocents on worldwide television.

Is this the road to creating democracy and stability in the Middle East? Are U.S. and Western values and interests being served by these wars that Israel continues to pursue undeterred? In trying to obliterate Hamas Israel will instead silence and weaken Hamas’ opponents such as Abbas.

Just as in Iraq, these issues need political solutions and not military ones. Let us hope that the Obama administration will pursue diplomacy and dialogue instead of war in addressing Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the future.

Munir Katul of Eugene is a retired physician. He was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, before being displaced to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1948. He later immigrated to the United States. He has participated in many public forums on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Conditioning Gaza: preparing to deploy international forces in Palestine?

Conditioning Gaza: preparing to deploy

international forces in Palestine?

January 07, 2009

The Israeli attack on Gaza is likely timed to coincide with the February elections in Israel and this month’s inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama in anticipation of launching a comprehensive Middle East peace plan. The ultimate goal of the Gaza invasion is to create the conditions to introduce international troops into Palestine. Part of the purpose is to prop up the regime of President Mahmoud Abbas and allow the Palestinian leader to extend his mandate across all of Palestine. By calling for international military support, Abbas is seeking to end both the violence and the Israeli occupation at once. The hope is that he will re-establish his legitimacy and provide the grounds for a two-state solution as prescribed in President George Bush’s 2002 UN Security Council Resolution 1397, “of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders,” a proposition openly rejected by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, and Likud, the Israeli right-wing party.

The idea for an international military intervention was first proposed by Martin Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel under presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush 43, in a 2003 Foreign Affairs article, “A Trusteeship for Palestine?” The main idea is to replace the Israeli occupation with an international force that would train and guide the Palestinians into self-rule, while ensuring the security of both Israel and Palestine.

Indyk reiterated the plan in the summer of 2007 soon after Hamas took over Gaza. In a follow up to the Foreign Affairs article, he proposes the international force “partner” with the Palestinian Authority – rather than replace it as he had initially proposed – in an effort to extend control over all of Palestine, including Gaza. He argues that Hamas’ control of Gaza does not undermine the trusteeship’s long-term goal, but provides an opportunity to isolate Hamas (Fatah did stand down the majority of its troops), suffocate it (through the siege), and then dismantle it (following an invasion, which we are tragically witnessing today).

Here’s Indyk: “Ultimately, if the ineffectual Qassam rockets that continue to fall on Israeli towns and kibbutzim become more deadly, that job [dismantling Hamas in Gaza] may well have to be done by the Israeli Defense Forces. But once the job is accomplished, with high casualties on both sides, Israel will not want to stay one minute more than necessary. That is when an international force will be essential to help Abbas, as the democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority, retake control there.”

Indyk recently co-published a policy paper with Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, reiterating the same agenda. In “Beyond Iraq: A New US Strategy for the Middle East” Haass and Indyk prescribe a general Middle East agenda for Obama, including propping up a nascent Palestinian state. “[T]he new president should lay the groundwork for deploying international forces,” they recommend, “as part of a final-status agreement, to partner with the Palestinian forces until they can police their own territory.”

Indyk’s influence is worth noting. He has very close ties with Israeli Defense Minister and Labor Party chief Ehud Barak, dating from his time as US ambassador and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs when Barak served as Israel’s prime minister. Later, Barak became a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think-tank that Indyk co-founded. Indyk is also considered one of Secretary of State-designate Hilary Clinton’s main advisers on the region, and, according to the New York Times, is slated to be her special envoy to the Middle East. Following a tour of Israel in 2007, Indyk suggests that Barak, the newly appointed defense minister, would invade Gaza to allow the placement of international troops:

“[The invasion] may well wait until Barak is in the saddle, so as to have more public confidence in the decisions of the cabinet … If something else doesn’t intervene to stop the rocket fire, the Israelis will go in but they’re not going to go in before they have some strategy in place, and even an understanding in place, which would lead to the insertion of international forces after they’ve gone in and cleaned out the refugee camps and the cities.”

The plan appears to have been endorsed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser. Brzezinski has been influential in Obama’s formulation of a realist foreign policy as one of his top advisers. Indeed, the president-elect is considered to be one of Brzezinski’s proteges, who include both Joseph Biden, Obama’s running mate, and Robert Gates, the incumbent secretary of defense with whom Brzezinski co-chaired a Council on Foreign Relations task force on Iran. In “The Choice: Global Domination Or Global Leadership” (2004), Brzezinski imagines NATO troops “along the Israeli-Palestinian frontier” as part of a comprehensive solution.

In a November 2008 Washington Post advisory, “Middle East Priorities For January 21,” Brzezinski, with Brent Scowcroft, Bush 41’s former national security adviser, further insist that the path to Middle Eastern stability requires the deployment of NATO in Palestine: “Something more might be needed to deal with Israeli security concerns about turning over territory to a Palestinian government incapable of securing Israel against terrorist activity. That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.”

Besides Indyk and Brzezinski, one of the main proponents of the international deployment is retired General James Jones, Obama’s pick as national security adviser. Dan Klaidman, in this week’s Newsweek is confident “Obama might well go for this,” since Jones actually “developed the idea while serving as Condoleezza Rice’s envoy for Palestinian-Israeli security issues.”

In his weekly radio address on Friday, President George Bush called for “monitoring mechanisms” to ensure a long term solution for Gaza. At the same time, Gordon Duguid, the acting spokesman for the State Department, declared that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is “vigorously engaged” with international leaders toward finding a “sustainable and durable cease-fire” to the Gaza crisis.

The current administration’s creative yet vague diction is most likely a diplomatic cover to avoid revealing the plan prematurely. Basically, both Hamas and Likud remain opposed to the international forces and a two-state solution. Under pressure, however, Hamas seems to be changing its position. Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, in a New TV interview on Saturday tempered the organization’s outright rejection by suggesting the international force might be accepted if it is deployed in the Occupied West Bank as well as Gaza, with the purpose of protecting the entire Palestinian population and not just the Israelis.

According to a McClatchy report, the talks for an international force are already under way albeit “in their infancy.” Abbas is heading to the UN Security Council along with other Arab and international leaders.

In the meantime Stratfor is reporting that Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and the Middle East envoy of the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia), is heading to the Middle East most likely to build support for the plan. “If Tony Blair is to have any success in his new job as the Quartet’s Middle East envoy,” Indyk brazenly suggests in his 2007 article, “he will need a game plan like this in his pocket and several thousand international forces ready to back him up.”

On the eve of their departure, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, NATO’s secretary general, signaled the alliance’s readiness to “react positively” to stabilizing Palestine by deploying its forces “if a broad peace deal is eventually reached.”

Whether Hamas is routed or Israel faces a stalemate in Gaza, the ground assault will certainly increase the number of casualties and international pressure to end the fighting. Hamas’ tenacity at withstanding the Israeli onslaught may surprise observers, but the fact remains they lack the internal cohesion, field discipline, geographical depth and supply routes that were instrumental in Hizbullah’s 2006 standoff with the Israeli Army.

As the pressure builds, it is also the hope of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima and Barak’s Labor parties not only to improve their gains in the upcoming elections, but also to weaken Likud’s rejection to win a public mandate for the plan. In this light, the bloody outcome of the invasion will most likely improve the conditions for voter acceptance of an international military intervention that promises a lasting end to the conflict.

So it seems Indyk’s agenda, as implemented by Livni and Barak and quietly endorsed by the administration-in-waiting, is well on track with support coming from the Arab world, the US, Europe, the UN, and probably Russia (as part of the Quartet). Neither Syria nor Iran – and by proxy Hizbullah – are interested in undermining their budding relationship with the US, as they have much to gain from a possible rapprochement with Washington.

The remaining obstacle the planners fear is the potential rise of Likud following a debacle in Gaza, or a tragedy similar to the attack on the UN Qana compound that eventually cost Shimon Peres the 1996 elections to Binyamin Netanyahu. For this reason, Washington remains wary of Israeli actions, prodding Livni and Barak to avoid the mistakes of the past (such as the more recent Qana tragedy in 2006) and keep to the prescribed script to ensure a “sustainable and durable” path toward stability.

Hani Asfour is an MIT- and Harvard-trained architect based in the Middle East and writes occasionally on foreign policy. His email address is:

The Gaza onslaught will impact on the Arab world

The Gaza onslaught will impact on the Arab world

By Rami G. Khouri

The immediate consequences of the Israeli assault on Gaza are being felt primarily by the Palestinians in Gaza, but its political shockwaves will be felt throughout the Arab world, in forms that cannot be easily predicted today. The Israeli attempt to inflict patrie-cide – the murder of a people and state – on Gaza emphasizes a series of transformational trends that have been clear throughout the Arab region for the past quarter-century.

The most important trend is the reconfiguration of power, legitimacy and activism in the modern Arab state. As governments in Arab states effectively ignore what is happening in Gaza – to judge by their political immobility – we will continue to witness the thinning impact, control and even legitimacy of many of those regimes. We will also continue to see the rise of non-state actors who become so strong and credible that they should be called parallel states.

Street demonstrations by angry Arabs no longer have political significance because the fear, rage, and desire for action by ordinary men and women throughout the Middle East have been mobilized by a combination of Islamist and tribal movements that now form the center of gravity of Arab political identity – in those expanding spaces that are not dominated by the modern Arab police state.

Hizbullah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Muqtada Sadr’s movement in Iraq and others are some leading examples of this. Hamas in Gaza is probably the most significant, because it is part of the core Palestinian-Israeli conflict that has expanded into a wider Arab-Israeli conflict. The conflict forms a sacred landscape that incorporates Jerusalem, which is holy to all Muslims and Arabs, Christians included; and, in the past two years, Gaza is the only place in the history of the conflict where Palestinians have had a brief opportunity to establish a sovereign statelet of sorts – with their own institutions and security operations, largely free from direct Israeli attacks or controls, or hindrances from fellow Arabs.

The coming weeks will reveal what is happening in the battles in Gaza, and the political ramifications to follow. What is already obvious, though, is that Gaza represents the first time that Palestinians who controlled their own society have decided to make a stand against Israel’s repeated attempts to kill, occupy, starve, and destroy them as a coherent society.

The picture is not pretty in any of its dimensions – the internal Fatah-Hamas fighting among Palestinians in 2007-2008, the mutual attacks between Hamas and other Palestinians and Israel, the insolvency of the Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the stunning immobility of the Arab governments and leaders, or the world’s complicit inattention to the Israeli attempt to starve and strangulate Gaza’s population in the past two years, since Hamas won the parliamentary elections in January 2006.

Most of this is not new. The one and only truly new phenomenon today is that several thousand armed and trained Palestinians under the command of Hamas and smaller resistance groups have taken a stand in their homeland. They have shown that they are prepared to fight to the death to defend themselves against Israel’s might and America’s explicit support for Israel.

The 60-year-old intensifying Israeli assault on the people and land of Palestine has crossed so many thresholds that it has finally started to elicit reactions from many quarters of the Arab world who refuse to acquiesce in their own continued humiliation, colonization, marginalization, or – in the worst cases such as Gaza today – their own extermination.

A majority of Arabs and others around the world sympathize with Hamas and the Palestinian people – but they are helpless to do anything other than march in solidarity. Most Arab and foreign governments fear movements like Hamas that mobilize masses of citizens, take charge of their own destiny, and openly resist and confront the American-backed power structures around them.

How this war ends will have an enormous impact on trends in the region. If Hamas emerges standing on its feet, with an internationally monitored cease-fire that stops attacks by both sides and also reopens Gaza’s borders to normal economic activity, this will be seen as a victory for Hamas. It will also bolster the popularity of the Hizbullah-Hamas model of armed resistance predicated on the will and capacity to fight a stronger foe.

Israel historically has never been able to come to terms with Palestinian nationalism. It has never seen the Palestinians as people who should enjoy the same quality of life and national rights as Jews, Zionists, and Israelis. In Gaza, we see the first example of assertive Palestinians operating on sovereign Palestinian soil. They have elicited an Israeli attempt at patrie-cide, and widespread popular support throughout the Arab region. Both of those trends will strengthen Islamist-nationalist movements and further degrade some existing Arab state structures.

Gaza is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of perils for Arab states

Gaza is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of perils for Arab states

Everyone with a stake in the Middle East professes to be aware of the mortal threats posed by Israel’s bloody war on the Gaza Strip, but none of those most imperiled seems to recognize that the issues are much larger than the current crisis. Hamas is the purported target of the Israeli offensive, but regardless of who “wins” or “loses” the Arab state system will continue to be highly vulnerable on at least three crucial fronts so long as it fails abjectly to answer myriad concerns among its peoples: Israel will continue in the short term to have its way with its neighbors; non-state actors will continue to gain domestic influence at the expense of hapless governments; and more and more individuals will look outside the Arab world – i.e. to Iran – for succor in the face of divided and therefore inert Arab leadership.

This should not be the case. Hamas and its primary Palestinian rival, Fatah, have begun at last to apply a little wisdom to the squabbles between them that opened up the very gaping holes in Arab solidarity through which Israeli forces have charged into Gaza. But the damage is done: Key regimes like Egypt’s have been humiliated both at home and abroad, non-state groups have actually increased their legitimacy as Arab and Muslim standard-bearers, and Iran has been encouraged to believe that its best bet for settling its own grievances against the West is to keep Arab-Israeli tensions boiling.

Each of Hamas and Fatah should, in fact, be the other’s most trusted ally on any and all issues that touch anywhere beyond the Palestinian house; countries like Egypt and Syria should be working in concert to protect Arab rights; and the Arabs should be partners of the Iranians (and the Turks, among others) to secure the interests of all Muslims. Instead, by permitting needless division on multiple levels, all of these actors have exposed themselves to defeat in detail from both within and without.

Apart from those Israelis who view conflict as a means of imposing their will via the military might conferred on their country by the United States, no one can look on this state of affairs with anything but foreboding. By all means, end the carnage in Gaza – but don’t forget what started it.