CrossTalk: Just when there was hope the Syrian international proxy war could be coming to an end, Israel inserted itself into the conflict in a big way. Airstrikes against Syrian targets have not only witnessed Damascus forcefully react, but also has Moscow demanding explanations. CrossTalking with Ramzy Baroud, Dan Arbell, and Martin Jay.
Mere days after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, American Zionists moved quickly to ensure that Israeli interests were fully guarded by the new administration.
The Zionist Organization of America wasted no time, hobnobbing with notorious racists, also known for their anti-Jewish agendas. ZOA’s annual gala on November 20 hosted none other than Steve Bannon, a leader in the so-called alt-right, otherwise known as white supremacy in the United States.
Under his leadership, Breitbart, seen as a major platform for the alt-right, fuelled anti-Semitism (needless to say, racisms of all shades) argued Alex Amend and Jonathan Morgan in AlterNet.
Watching top Israeli officials and leaders of the Jewish community in the US hosting – ever so enthusiastically – Bannon at ZOA’s annual gala appeared perplexing to some. Others casually explained it as the nature of politics, as Israel needs its US alliance even if it meant accommodating anti-Semites.
But it is hardly that simple.
Bannon’s ties with Zionists go back well before the rather surprising Trump election victory. In fact, Israel has never had a problem with true anti-Semites. Instead, it merely rebranded any criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as anti-Semitism.
By conflating the term, the Zionists managed to largely silence all debate on Israel in the US, and despite stubborn attempts to break Israel’s stronghold on Zionist control over the Palestine and Middle East narrative in US media, government and society as a whole, Israel continues to maintain the upper hand, as it has for decades.
Speaking in the White House’s East Room on February 15, in a joint press conference with President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cordially thanked Trump for his hospitality, then uttered these words: “Israel has no better ally than the United States. And I want to assure you, the United States has no better ally than Israel.”
But it was only half true. The US has indeed been a stalwart supporter of Israel, offering it over $3.1bn in financial assistance each year for the last a few decades, an amount that dramatically increased under President Barack Obama to $3.8 bn. In addition to hundreds of millions more in all kinds of financial, military assistance and “loans” that went mostly unaccounted for.
However, Netanyahu lied. His country has not been an equally strong ally to the US; in fact, Israel has been a liability. Let alone the various serious episodes of Israeli spying on Washington and bartering US secrets and technologies with Russia and China, Israel has been the cause of instability in the Middle East region.
By Jaclynn Ashly and Reem Alqam – Bethlehem (Maan)
Israel’s infamous separation wall in the occupied West Bank, while cutting off Palestinians from their lands and religious sites, isolating communities, and eroding the livelihood of scores of Palestinians along its route, has become an unlikely breeding ground for tourism.
Adjacent to the graffiti-stained separation wall in the city of Bethlehem, which is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, and next door to the Aida refugee camp, elusive UK artist Banksy now welcomes guests to his latest project: the Walled Off Hotel.
In a message written in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, a plaque posted at the entrance to the hotel-cum-art museum tells its guests not to “choose sides” in the conflict. In describing the separation barrier, deemed illegal by International Court of Justice, the statement says: “The wall is a lie. It sells the idea that there is a simple divide between the people here, but there isn’t.”
But according to Palestinian-American journalist and author Ramzy Baroud, Bethlehem’s isolation from Jerusalem through Israel’s separation wall and two massive illegal settlements — with a third on its way — is far from “a lie,” and has taken a tangible toll on the city’s economy, which once boasted a thriving tourism industry thanks to its many historical and religious sites.
“This tragic reality left Bethlehem, one of the most endeared Palestinian cities, struggling for survival, and reduced it in many instances to utilize its very subjugation as a method of generating income,” Baroud told Ma’an.
Baroud, meanwhile, commented that certain aspects of the hotel were deeply offensive to Palestinians. Referring to one painting hung in a $265-per-night suite that lightheartedly depicts an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian protester, Baroud said that it was “deeply insulting” and “belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years.”
In a landmark study released in March 2015, the Washington-based group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, showed that the US self-styled “war on terror” has killed anywhere between 1.3 million to two million Muslims in the first 10 years since the September 11 attacks.
Award-winning investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, concluded that at least four million Muslims have been killed by the US since 1990.
This does not take into account all the killings that have taken place in the last two years.
Yet, we are meant to ignore all of this, to pretend that the issue is merely that of a racist, obnoxious president and that the pinnacle of American violence against Muslims can be reduced to a 90-day travel ban on seven Muslim countries.
Subscribing to this mischaracterisation does not only reflect ignorance, but also complete disregard for the millions of innocent lives that have been lost so that the US may get another chance at preserving its vastly dwindling empire.
At the Democratic Party National Convention (DNC) last July, former President Bill Clinton took the stage to articulate a retort to the Republican party convention’s hate-fest of Muslims, blacks, Latinos and everyone else who did not subscribe to their skewed view of the world.
ButClinton’s words were a mere liberal spin on the same chauvinistic, racist and exclusionist culture that drives the political discourse of the right. “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together; we want you,” Clinton said, before a large audience, which roared in cheerful applause.
Nothing is as dehumanizing for Muslims as to feel that their inclusion, their citizenship and their humanity is conditioned by a set of condescending rules, articulated by the white, Christian elite.
What Clinton has wished to forget is that an estimated third of the slaves who built his country were, in fact, Muslims – shackled and dragged against their will to assemble the US, field by field and brick by brick.
Newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump is about to reverse an historical course that has been in the making for 100 years.
The inexperienced, demagogic politician hardly understands the danger that lies in his decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If he goes through with this, he is likely to unleash an episode of chaos in an already volatile region.
The move, which is now reportedly in the “beginning stages”, is not a mere symbolic one, as some naively reported in Western mainstream media. True, American foreign policy has been centered mostly on military power, rarely historical fact.
But Trump, known for his thoughtlessness and impulsive nature, is threatening to eradicate even the little common sense that governed US foreign policy conduct in the Middle East.
If the new president moves forward with his plan, unsympathetic to Palestinian pleas and international warnings, he is likely to regret the unanticipated consequences of his action …
Ramzy Baroud: Non-Resident Scholar, Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara.
Specialization: Interdisciplinary Research Hub Affiliation(s): Governance & Human Rights Hub
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, media consultant, author and internationally-syndicated columnist. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Palestine Studies from the European Centre for Palestinian Studies at the University of Exeter, UK. His books include Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion; The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle; and My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.
Baroud is the current President of the Seattle-based educational charity, The People’s Media Project and has served in both editorial and research positions in various organizations and media companies in the Middle East and Europe.
Baroud’s research employs research techniques that are most common within the genre of people’s history (or ‘history from below’), which attempts to shape historical narratives from the perspectives of ‘ordinary’ people, as opposed to those in positions of prominence. Having used the genre of ‘people’s history’ in previous books and writings, Baroud wishes to extend it in his current research regarding the plight of Palestinian refugees in Syria before and during the present war.
Ramzy Baroud: I received this photo and message regarding the launch of the Malayalam edition of my book MY FATHER WAS A FREEDOM FIGHTER in Doha, Qatar yesterday. I am very grateful to all the people who made this happen, and I am sorry I was not able to be there with you at the event. Much love and respect to all .. Ramzy Baroud
“Dr Ataullah (left), a Qatar-based plastic surgeon from Gaza, releasing the Malayalam translation of “My Father was a Freedom Fighter”, written by eminent author and journalist Ramzy Baroud, in Doha, on November 12, by handing a copy to Prof P V Saeed Muhammad. Also seen are Dr Auswaf Ahsan (behind), Editor, Other Books, and P K Niaz (far right), Senior Journalist at The Peninsula newspaper, Qatar, who translated the book.”
November 13, 2016Comments Off on Malayalam Edition of Ramzy Baroud’s Latest Book Launched in Doha, QatarRead More
Ninety-nine years since Balfour’s “promise”, Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.
By Ramzy Baroud
When I was a child growing up in a Gaza refugee camp, I looked forward to November 2. On that day, every year, thousands of students and camp residents would descend upon the main square of the camp, carrying Palestinian flags and placards, to denounce the Balfour Declaration.
Truthfully, my giddiness then was motivated largely by the fact that schools would inevitably shut down and, following a brief but bloody confrontation with the Israeli army, I would go home early to the loving embrace of my mother, where I would eat a snack and watch cartoons.
At the time, I had no idea who Balfour actually was, and how his “declaration” all those years ago had altered the destiny of my family and, by extension, my life and the lives of my children as well.
All I knew was that he was a bad person and, because of his terrible deed, we subsisted in a refugee camp, encircled by a violent army and by an ever-expanding graveyard filled with “martyrs”.
Decades later, destiny would lead me to visit the Whittingehame Church, a small parish in which Arthur James Balfour is now buried.
While my parents and grandparents are buried in a refugee camp, an ever-shrinking space under a perpetual siege and immeasurable hardship, Balfour’s resting place is an oasis of peace and calmness. The empty meadow all around the church is large enough to host all the refugees in my camp.
“Non ci sarà mai una Palestina libera se prima i palestinesi non libereranno se stessi dalla repressione delle divisioni e del fazionalismo”: il punto di vista dell’analista palestinese Ramzy Baroud sulle ultime elezioni locali (rimandate).
Mentre i palestinesi nei Territori occupati si preparano per le elezioni locali, previste per ottobre, le divisioni e il “fazionalismo” stanno raggiungendo il loro punto più alto. (Le elezioni sono state poi posticipate a dicembre come stabilito dalla Suprema Corte Palestinese, proprio a causa delle divisioni tra Hamas e Fatah, NdT).
Le piattaforme politiche palestinesi e i social network sono un caos di propaganda controproducente: i sostenitori di Fatah attaccando i presunti fallimenti di Hamas, e i sostenitori di Hamas fanno esattamente lo stesso.
Quello che invece non viene opportunamente menzionato – per convenienza di entrambi – è che le attività delle municipalità palestinesi sono quasi del tutto irrilevanti nel più vasto schema di cose.
In Cisgiordania i Consigli locali sono governati da uno stretto accordo tra Israele e l’Autorità Palestinese. Escluse pochissime questioni, i Consigli delle città e dei villaggi non possono operare senza un via libera: un’autorizzazione da parte dell’Autorità, a sua volta condizionata al via libera delle autorità di Occupazione israeliane.
Questo sistema è applicato praticamente a tutto: dai servizi di base ai permessi edili o per scavare pozzi. Tutte queste decisioni sono inoltre condizionate agli accordi con i donatori che garantiscono liquidità, che sono a loro volta politicamente indirizzati.
Biasimare un sindaco locale di un piccolo villaggio della Cisgiordania, magari circondato da muri, torrette di controllo e trincee israeliane, ed attaccato quotidianamente da coloni israeliani armati, per aver fallito nell’aver migliorato la vita degli abitanti del villaggi, è ridicolo proprio come sembra.
Le elezioni locali, ad ogni modo, sono anche indirizzate politicamente e in base al fazionalismo. Fatah, che controlla l’Autorità Palestinese, sta prendendo tempo nel tentativo di riacquisire popolarità.
Non avendo più un ruolo predominante nel guidare i palestinesi nella loro richiesta di libertà, Fatah inventa costantemente sistemi per auto-proclamarsi come una forza politica rilevante.
Tuttavia, può farlo solo con il permesso di Israele, dei donatori internazionali e dell’approvazione politica di Stati Uniti e Occidente. Hamas, che potrebbe sostenere alcuni candidati selezionati, ma non può partecipare in modo diretto alle elezioni, è a sua volta sotto attacco. È sottoposta a stretto assedio a Gaza e la sua politica regionale si è rivelata costosa e inaffidabile. Mentre non è corrotta come Fatah – almeno, finanziariamente – è spesso accusata di affermare il suo potere a Gaza attraverso l’uso del favoritismo politico.
Mentre si insiste sull’unità nazionale, è difficile immaginare un’unione di successo tra i due gruppi senza un fondamentale cambio nella struttura di questi partiti e un rinnovamento della loro visione politica in generale.
In Palestina, le fazioni percepiscono la democrazia come una forma di controllo, di potere e di egemonia, non come un contratto sociale finalizzato a promuovere il dialogo e disinnescare i conflitti.
Pertanto, non c’è da meravigliarsi che i sostenitori di due fazioni di Fatah – una leale al presidente dell’Autorità Palestinese Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) e l’altra a Muhammad Dahlan – si siano recentemente scontrati a Gaza. Diversi sono finiti all’ospedale con ferite abbastanza gravi. Naturalmente, un punto principale rimane la guerra del 2007, circa un anno dopo la vittoria di Hamas alle ultime elezioni parlamentari.
La cultura politica di Hamas e Fatah ha fallito nel comprendere che il partito perdente dovrebbe semplicemente ammettere la sconfitta e servire la sua causa all’opposizione, e quello vincente non può assumere il voto come un mandato per la dominazione assoluta della sua fazione.
Altri fattori contribuiscono alla divisione intra-palestinese. Gli Stati Uniti, al servizio di Israele, vorrebbero assicurare il collasso del governo di Hamas e condizionare il loro sostegno a Fatah sulla promessa del rifiuto a qualsiasi governo di unità nazionale (che preveda la presenza di Hamas, NdT). Anche Israele crea gravi problemi, restringendo la libertà di movimento di membri del Parlamento eletti, arrestandoli, e talvolta confinandoli all’esilio nella Striscia di Gaza.
L’Unione Europea e le Nazioni Unite raramente sono state d’aiuto: avrebbero potuto insistere sul rispetto dell’elettorato palestinese, ma sono state schiacciate sotto il peso delle pressioni statunitensi.
Ad ogni modo, è impossibile negare che questi fattori da soli non sarebbero stati sufficienti a frammentare l’unità palestinese, se le fazioni avessero davvero voluto mantenerla.
"Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net."