Reckoning nears for the US and Israel

Reckoning nears for the US and Israel

By Rami G. Khouri

The moment of reckoning in US-Israeli relations is approaching much more quickly than could have been anticipated months ago, due to two related developments: the hard-line position of the new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the obvious, but undeclared, linkages between progress in US-Iranian relations and progress in Arab-Israeli peace-making.

The friction between the American and Israeli positions on how to proceed in Arab-Israeli peace-making was on stark display in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem on Thursday. The US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell re-stated the

American commitment to a two-state solution, while Israel’s prime minister, as well as the interior and foreign ministers, took positions clearly designed to sidetrack any serious negotiations.

The fascinating new diplomatic landscape that seems to be emerging sees the United States and the Palestinians firmly seeking a two-state solution, while the Israelis occupy rather different terrain. Israel now emphasizes four priorities: ending the mini-rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip, dealing with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, improving the economy of the occupied Palestinian territories, and securing Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a first step toward any peace talks.

This occurs at a time when, according to Israeli press reports by respected writers like Shimon Shiffer in the daily Yedioth Aharonot, the Obama administration is quickly losing patience with Israel’s position and has expressed a determination to conclude an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement on the basis of two adjacent states by the end of Obama’s first term. Washington reportedly is quietly signaling its displeasure with the Netanyahu stance.

It is too early to tell whether we are witnessing the early stages of the US slowly taking back control of its wider Middle East policies from Israel and pro-Israel extremists in the US Congress, lobbies and think tanks who hijacked it in recent decades. It would be exciting and historic indeed for the US to pursue Middle East policies that foster American national interests, while responding rationally to the legitimate interests of the Israelis, Arabs, Iranians and Turks who live in the Middle East.

Israel’s evasive tactics are not new. Most Israeli governments in the past 40 years have adopted positions generally seeking to postpone Israel’s coming to grips with three critical realities: ending colonization of, and withdrawing from, all the Arab lands occupied in 1967; accepting the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and Palestine; and agreeing to a negotiated, mutually-acceptable resolution of the 1947-1948 Palestinian refugees issue that is based on relevant UN resolutions and refugee law.

The last four American administrations failed to push Israel to negotiate seriously on these issues. The cost of such a reckless policy has become too high for the US to accept indefinitely, it seems. Total American acquiescence to hard-line Israeli positions has pushed most of the 400 million or so people in the Middle East to rise up defiantly and angrily against the US and Israel. The result has been a Middle East widely ravaged by wars, rebellions, terrorism, occupation, resistance and increasing desperation – manifested in inter-linked conflicts and ideological confrontations in half a dozen distinct arenas.

The US has taken a courageous initiative in revising its policy of pressure, threats and boycotts towards Iran and Syria, and that policy will have more chances of succeeding if Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli peace talks proceed in parallel. A critical first step in that direction remains securing Israeli acceptance of equal and simultaneous rights for Palestinians and Israelis – rather than the failed policy of demanding a priori Arab recognition of core Israeli demands on security and statehood, before Arab rights can be discussed or Israeli colonization reversed.

This is the pivotal peace-making principle on which the US and Israel have yet to clarify their positions. Washington’s rhetoric accepts this, but its policy on the ground has been different. The Israelis seem opposed to it in rhetoric and practice. The Arabs – after decades of refusing to do so – support peaceful negotiations to allow Israelis and Arabs to achieve their national rights in a parallel way. This is the moment for the Arab world, and Palestinians in particular, to reaffirm more clearly than ever their willingness to live in peace with a majority-Jewish Israeli state that treats all its citizens equally, ends colonization policies, withdraws from lands occupied in 1967, and coexists with a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

George Mitchell’s mediating task is clear, and he certainly has the experience and the skills needed to succeed. What remains unclear is where his own American government stands on these issues. We may soon find out.

Rami G. Khouri is publishes bi-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.



The world will never be able to discuss, let alone solve, any thorny issues, such as racism and who started which conflict, as long as the Western powers fight to maintain their exclusive license to lie and terrorize the people of the world in a racist war against Islam and dark-skinned people.  If the “Jewish state” and its apartheid laws and policies cannot proceed to ethnically cleanse Palestine without criticism, then the project to create a world dictatorship cannot succeed.  Ahmedinejad was speaking the truth.  The truth is always outrageous to people who prefer to believe in lies.

UN racism conference: 8 nations to boycott meeting in Geneva

Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand join U.S., Australia, Canada, Israel and Italy in boycott.

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Walkout at Iran leader’s speech

Diplomats walk out of the summit and protesters heckle Iran’s leader

Diplomats have walked out of a speech by the Iranian president at a UN anti-racism conference after he described Israel as a “racist government”.

Two protesters, wearing coloured wigs, briefly disrupted the beginning of the speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but he continued speaking.

Shortly afterwards a stream of Western delegates walked out when he attacked the creation of the state of Israel.

France, which had warned of a walkout, described it as “hate speech”.

Some of those who stayed clapped as Mr Ahmadinejad continued his speech.

The walkout is a public relations disaster for the United Nations, which had hoped the conference would be a shining example of what the UN is supposed to do best – uniting to combat injustice in the world, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

UN dismay

The walkout by about 40 delegates happened within minutes of the speech starting on Monday.

Imogen Foulkes
Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva
When it became clear what direction the speech was going, they [the ambassadors] walked out to huge cheers from a large number of pro-Israeli groups in the audience who had already tried to disrupt the proceedings.
It is hugely disruptive and very damaging to the United Nations which had really wanted this conference to be an example of what the UN is good at – uniting the international community against injustice and racial discrimination.
It is difficult to see how this conference can get back to that agenda after today’s scenes.

Moments earlier security guards escorted two protesters from the conference hall after one threw an object at the Iranian president and they yelled “racist, racist” as he stood at the podium.

Mr Ahmadinejad, the only major leader to attend the conference, said Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States had been sent to the Middle East after World War II “in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine”.

He continued, through an interpreter: “And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”

French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei said: “As soon as he started to address the question of the Jewish people and Israel, we had no reason to stay in the room,” Associated Press reported.

British ambassador Peter Gooderham, also among those who left, said Mr Ahmadinejad’s comments were “offensive and inflammatory”.

“Such outrageous anti-Semitic remarks should have no place in a UN anti-racism forum,” he said.

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The US, Israel, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and New Zealand had all boycotted the conference being held in Geneva, in protest at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance, and Israel recalled its ambassador to Switzerland.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had warned that French delegates would walk out if the forum was used as a platform to attack Israel.

Speaking after the walkout, he said: “The defence of human rights and the fight against all types of racism are too important for the United Nations not to unite against all forms of hate speech, against all perversion of this message.

“Faced with attitudes like that which the Iranian president has just adopted, no compromise is possible.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed dismay at the boycotts.

TNSM Activists Killed in Fight With TTP


Two TNSM activists killed in clash with Taliban

Monday, April 20, 2009

By our correspondent

KHAR: Activists of the banned Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi on Sunday clashed with militants affiliated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Bajaur Agency, resulting in the killing of two TNSM workers on a day when the Taliban banned the display of arms in the agency.

The activists of the two banned organisations exchanged fire in Maina locality of Mamond tehsil. The reason of the clash and the identity of those killed in the incident could not be ascertained till filing of this report. One activist of the TNSM also sustained injuries in the incident.

The elders of Mamond tribe met soon after the incident and managed a ceasefire between the two warring sides. The hitherto silent spokesman for the TTP Maulvi Omar on the other hand called media persons by telephone from an undisclosed location and said that the Taliban have banned brandishing of arms in Bajaur Agency for the well-being of the people of the region.

In order to ensure the ban on arms’ display, the Taliban have launched a crackdown in Mamond tehsil against those violating the ban and so far 60 people have been captured for carrying arms in public. He said the Taliban have been honouring the peace agreement reached between the government and Mamond tribal elders and they would not allow anybody to disturb the law and order situation in Bajaur.

Maulvi Omar confirmed the incident of armed clash between the TNSM and TTP activists, but said that the matter has been resolved. Meanwhile, leader of the TNSM and elder son of Maulana Sufi Muhammad Rizwan termed the incident as outcome of misunderstanding. He said that the Taliban and TNSM had developed some differences in Mamond tehsil, but the elders of the area have started efforts to resolve their differences.

The common tribal people in the agency have welcomed the Taliban decision to ban display of weapons in the agency, seeing it as a positive step of the militants for durable peace in the region.

It was in February last that the Taliban announced unilateral ceasefire, which was followed by a 28-point peace agreement between the political administration and Mamond tribal elders. The Taliban, though had expressed unawareness about the said agreement, they had announced to honour it so that peace could be restored in the region.

The Bajaur Taliban also asked the internally displaced people to return to their hometowns. A senior Taliban leader told The News that the political administration has assured them that they would rehabilitate the displaced tribal people, reconstruct their houses and pay them compensation for the losses they have suffered due to the military operation.

End judicial system by April 23, demands Sufi

End judicial system by April 23, demands Sufi

By Essa Khankhel

MINGORA: Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad has warned the government to wind up its judicial system within four days and establish the appellate court of Darul Qaza for the Malakand division, or he will re-launch his protest campaign.

Addressing a mammoth public meeting at Grassy Ground here on Sunday, he made it clear that the government must set up Darul Qaza before lower Qazi courts, which, he said, was the first step towards the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in letter and spirit.

TNSM’s Nazim-e-Aala Maulana Safiullah, Sheikh Waliullah Kabalgrami, Maulana Salar Khan, Maulana Samiullah, Maulana Abdul Haq, Maulana Badshah Zeb and Maulana Fayyaz also addressed the meeting.

Unprecedented security arrangements were made for the rally as 300 armed volunteers guarded the venue. In Mingora city, all shops, markets and business centres remained closed, as the TNSM had earlier made an appeal to traders and shopkeepers to keep their business shut to facilitate the participants during the rally.

Maulana Sufi Muhammad urged the government to appoint Tehsil and district Qazis in the seven districts of the Malakand division and Kohistan district of Hazara division within a month. Failure to do so, he warned, would bring his followers on the streets. He said a system of justice based on Shariah was the only way out of the present unrest.

“If our demands were not met within the set deadline, then we will not be held responsible for any violence in the area,” the TNSM chief warned. He said all the criminal and civil cases would be heard and decided in the Qazi courts. He added that the judgment given by the Qazi courts could not be challenged in the provincial high courts or the Supreme Court.

“I consider Western democracy as a system imposed on us by the infidels. Islam does not allow democracy or elections,” he opined, adding that he would never accept the system of justice of the non-Muslims.

Sufi Mohammad said the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation would restore peace in the Malakand division, particularly Swat. He said the Taliban militants had promised to lay down arms after the enforcement of the Nizam-e-Adl.

Govt staged fake protest against drone attacks: Fazl

Govt staged fake protest against drone attacks: Fazl

LAHORE: Chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman Monday said the government staged only fake protest against drone strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan and it failed to satisfy the people in this regard.

Addressing a press conference here, Fazl urged the role of democratic institutions for pulling the country out of the internal crisis and added that legislation be made in light of the recommendations given by Islamic Ideology Council.

He stressed need for implementation on unanimously passed resolution of the Parliament.

JUI Chief said Maulana Sufi Muhammad has limited knowledge of democracy and that the latter failed to define it in the light of the Constitution from which we take basic guidance.

“MQM is opposing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in line with foreign agenda,” he maintained.

Pandemonium rocks Senate over NAR-2009

Pandemonium rocks Senate over NAR-2009

ISLAMABAD: The Upper House witnessed on Monday pandemonium amid heated exchange of words and sloganeering on the promulgation of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (NAR-2009) in Malakand and Swat.

The session began with chairman Senate, Farooq H. Naek in chair. The situation got tense when Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Babar Awan presented the Nizam-e-Adl regulation in the Upper House. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Senator and Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Babar Khan Ghauri requested the chairman to pass ruling over an statement of TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad in which he had termed the Parliament ‘unlawful’ under the Shariah.

Ghauri said that Sufi had violated the sanctity of the judiciary and parliament by giving such statement and the parliament should take strict note of his remarks. Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House Waseem Sajjad said that there was no need to present the NAR-2009 in the parliament after the president endorsed the regulation.

To a question, Babar Awan said that NAR-2009 had been drafted under the constitution and law. Later, the Senate chairman reserved the ruling on Nizam-e-Adl Regulation.

Comforting the Torturers

CIA seal in lobby of HQ in Langley, Virginia - photo 14 April

Mr Obama will talk about the importance of the CIA’s mission

US President Barack Obama is to visit the CIA, in a bid to reassure staff stung by the release of memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques.

The visit follows comments by a former CIA chief who said the memos would limit its ability to pursue terrorists.

Mr Obama released the memos last week but said CIA staff would not be prosecuted for the methods, which critics say are torture.

It has been revealed that two al-Qaeda suspects were waterboarded 266 times.

Quoting one of the memos, The New York Times said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed planner of the 9/11 attacks, was subjected to the technique, which simulates drowning, 183 times.

The method was used on another suspect, Abu Zubaydah, at least 83 times.

BBC defence and security correspondent Rob Watson says this contrasts starkly with previous accounts given by US intelligence sources that implied both men told all after only the briefest exposure to the technique.

The new information could hardly have emerged at a more sensitive time for President Obama, our correspondent says.

Though highly critical during his election campaign of the CIA’s methods, he adds, since coming to office Mr Obama has been anxious to boost morale at the agency and to draw a line under the controversies of its recent past.

CIA ‘still exposed’

Mr Obama is expected to deliver a public message on “the importance of the CIA’s mission” when he visits the organisation’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Michael Hayden
The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer – it really did work
Gen Michael Hayden
Former CIA chief

He will also hold private meetings with staff. Correspondents say he will seek to renew assurances made last week that agents and officials who authorised or carried out harsh interrogation methods will not be prosecuted.

The former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, who ran the agency under President George W Bush, said CIA staff might still be open to congressional probes or civil actions by those subjected to the methods.

“There will be more revelations. There will be more commissions. There will be more investigations,” he told Fox News network on Sunday,

“And this to an agency … that is at war and is on the front lines of defending America.”

Gen Hayden added that the release of the memos would make it more difficult to get useful information from suspected terrorists.

“I think that teaching our enemies our outer limits, by taking techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine, more difficult for CIA officers to defend the nation,” he said.

A detainee being escorted at Guantanamo Bay prison camp

Mr Obama banned the controversial techniques in his first week in office

He also denied that such methods were ineffective.

“The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work,” he said.

Other methods mentioned in the memos include week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of painful positions.

Mr Obama on Thursday said he would not prosecute under anti-torture laws CIA personnel who relied in good faith on Bush administration legal opinions issued after the 11 September attacks.

But he has been criticised by human rights organisations and UN officials, who say charges are necessary to prevent future abuses and to hold people accountable.