Saturday, 29 May 2010

USS Liberty: American Servicemen Expendable; Don’t Embarrass “Israel”


In two hours, 34 American sailors died. Another 172 were injured. (USS Liberty)

By Tammy Obeidallah

Within the United States, there has been a growing awareness of Palestinian suffering. This has been manifested in the many demonstrations held during Israel’s assault on Gaza from December 2008-January 2009. The boycott of Israeli goods is gaining speed, as well as the campaign to recognize the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid.

Yet there is one tragic and shameful event in particular which serves to discourage Palestinian rights activists. If so-called “patriotic” Americans viciously suppress the concerns of veterans and their families by covering up the murder of their own sailors, what hope is there to recognize the voices of oft-maligned Arabs half a world away?

June 8 will mark the 43rd anniversary of the heaviest attack on an American ship that inflicted the highest number of casualties since World War II. The USS Liberty was an intelligence vessel, patrolling international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The day was clear and sunny; the ship flying the American flag, as was standard. Suddenly and simultaneously, out of that clear azure sky and sea came a two-pronged attack by Israeli air and naval forces. Napalm, gunfire and missiles rained hell on Liberty’s crew for two hours while Israeli torpedo boats closed in.

In that two hours, 34 American sailors died. Another 172 were injured.

The Liberty crew managed to send an SOS, heard by nearby U.S. Sixth Fleet aircraft carriers. Fighter planes launched immediately, however turned back on orders from President Johnson. Naval personnel listening to radio relays heard Johnson say “I don’t care if the ship sinks, I’m not going to embarrass an ally.”

Israel claimed it was a case of “mistaken identity,” in other words, “friendly fire.” Israel’s ludicrous explanation was that pilots thought the USS Liberty was El Quseir, an Egyptian vessel having 1/4 of Liberty’s displacement and half the beam. El Quseir was 180 feet shorter and very differently configured. The Liberty had her name clearly written in English, while the Egyptian ship would have displayed Arabic script.

There are several motives for Israel’s deliberate attack: to prevent the USS Liberty from transmitting intelligence pertaining to massacres by Israeli troops which were taking place in the Golan Heights and that the 1967 War did indeed result from a pre-emptive strike by Israel. The attack could have been used to draw the U.S. into the 1967 War as well. Most of the Liberty’s survivors believe that Israel’s goal was to sink the ship and kill everyone aboard. Had there been no survivors, the attack could have been pinned on an Arab country.

Ward Boston, Jr., himself a U.S. Navy veteran, was the chief legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry investigating the USS Liberty attack. In an editorial published by The San Diego Union Tribune, Boston stated then President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara ordered the Navy Court of Inquiry to conclude the attack was accidental. Furthermore, the late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the Court of Inquiry’s president, was given only one week to gather evidence for the investigation, although a proper inquiry would have taken six months.

“We boarded the crippled ship at sea and interviewed survivors. The evidence was clear. We both believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” Boston wrote. “I saw the bullet-riddled American flag that had been raised by the crew after their first flag had been shot down completely.”

For the official record, Admiral Kidd was ordered to rewrite part of the Court’s findings, including striking Lt. Lloyd Painter’s testimony in which he stated three life rafts filled with seriously wounded sailors were gunned down at close range by Israeli torpedo boats.

Survivors of the USS Liberty attack, their families and the families of those killed have demanded a fair congressional inquiry, to no avail. To this day, survivors have never been allowed to testify publicly. Nor have intelligence officers who received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders ordering pilots to sink “the American ship.”

The cover-up did not stop at the official report: it extended to commemorations honoring USS Liberty survivors and crew members’ memorials alike. The USS Liberty’s Commander, William L. McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor in a quiet ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, not in the customary White House setting.

In 1987, the town of Grafton, Wisconsin proposed naming a new $1 million library–to be built with private donations and an $83,000 federal contribution– The USS Liberty Memorial Library. Days later, Jewish community leaders decried the proposal as “anti-Semitic.” An angry letter from a local rabbi, Gideon Goldenholz, stated the name was “insulting to Jews.” Not surprisingly, the $83,000 federal money was put on hold. Even the priest at Grafton’s Catholic Church came out in opposition to the name, stating “The USS Liberty has become a symbol of hate.” The Milwaukee Jewish Council attempted to block the name and there were several picketers at the groundbreaking ceremony. The USS Liberty Memorial Library was finally dedicated in 1989 after two years of battling well-organized opposition.

Shortly after the library’s completion, Congressman Andy Jacobs (D-IN) inserted an essay entitled “The USS Liberty, 1967-89,” written by former Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-CA) into the Congressional Record. McCloskey pointed out that the dedication of the memorial with the names of the 34 dead was the first public recognition of their service in the 22 years since the attack.

The greatest sacrilege, however, is that these 34 crew members’ tombstones are engraved “…died in the Eastern Mediterranean,” rather than “killed in action.”

There is little hope of real policy change in a country where citizens would denigrate their own veterans, both living and dead, in order to protect a state where perpetrating war crimes is commonplace.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Free Gaza Movement flotilla vs Israeli government spin

Live From Occupied Palestine

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, the Free Gaza Movement's flotilla of 9 ships, with 700 activists from 40 countries is making its way to Gaza in attempt to break Israel's illegal siege and to bring 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

In response, Israel has announced that it will stop the boats and has gone on a PR propaganda blitz arguing that the aid is not needed because there is supposedly no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Al Jazeera, however, has challenged this claim with an excellent report from reporter, Sherine Tadros (see video below).

As part of its media propaganda blitz, the Israeli government has also claimed that Cyprus "banned" the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) flotilla from landing in Cyprus. Reports in the Cypriot media have made it clear that this is not true and simply just more Israeli government spin.

The Cyprus Mail (see: ) on Wednedsay published an article on the flotilla, which reveals the FGM had no plans to dock in Cyprus and therefore did not ask permission to dock. The article makes it clear that the Cypriot government has not banned the FGM flotilla.

According to the Cyprus Mail:

"This is the ninth aid trip conducted by FGM. However, unlike previous journeys when the ships would meet in Larnaca, today they will meet international waters before they attempt to breach the blockade.Asked why they are not docking in Cyprus, Greta Berlin, FGM Spokeswoman said they had not received permission, as the Cypriot Government is following international law and maritime regulations, which state that ships can only go between legal international ports. The Cyprus Government has been wonderful, helping us the previous eight times, but it is not fair to ask Cyprus to deal with this by itself. They are being leaned on by Israel and the US."

"A senior source within Cyprus' Foreign Ministry agreed that they would be following all the rules and international maritime regulations. However, he said that he was not aware of any request being made by the organisers of the flotilla.
"It is up to the organisers, and they have decided not to visit Cyprus. But if any such request had been put forward, the decision will take place according to international and maritime law, and any rules that exist."

Another story circulating in the Israeli media is that the FGM also refused a request from the father of Gilad Shalit to take a letter to him. The FGM movement has stated this is a blatant lie.

In a media release about Israel's disinformation campaign, the FGM states: (see: )

"Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit's father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit's family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners"

I have included the full text of the FGM media release regarding Israel's disinformation campaign below.

The Free Gaza Movement flotilla is due to arrive in Gazan waters on Saturday (Palestinian time).

Israeli anti-occupation activists are planning to hold a solidarity action on Saturday in support of the FGM flotilla to oppose their government stance and to support the call for breaking the siege and for the FGM flotilla movement to be allowed safe passage. International actions around the world are also taking place in support of the flotilla and the people of Gaza.

The FGM will be updating supporters and the media with what is happening with the flotilla. You can follow their updates at:

Solidarity with the Free Gaza Movement and the people of Gaza! End the Siege Now!

in solidarity, Kim

Al Jazeera


Israel's Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Written by Free Gaza team | 28 May 2010
Posted in News

For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. This weekend, 9 civilian boats carrying 700 human rights workers from 40 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid will attempt to do just that: break through the Israel's illegal military blockade on the Gaza Strip in non-violent direct action. In response, the Israeli government has threatened to send out 'half' of its Naval forces to violently stop our flotilla, and they have engaged in a deceitful campaign of misinformation regarding our mission.

Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International's Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli's siege on Gaza has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law."[1]

Israel claims that its blockade is directed simply at the Hamas government in Gaza, and is limited to so-called 'security' items. Yet When U.S. Senator John Kerry visited Gaza last year, he was shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade included staple food items such as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.[2] Furthermore, Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, has documented numerous official Israeli government statements that the blockade is intended to put 'pressure' on Gaza's population, and collective punishment of civilians is an illegal act under international law.[3]

Israel claims that if we wish to send aid to Gaza, all we need do is go through 'official channels,' give the aid to them and they will deliver it. This statement is both ridiculous and offensive. Their blockade, their 'official channels,' is what is directly causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place.

According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "Palestinians in Gaza are being actually 'starved to death,' receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime... an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings."[4]

Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit's father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit's family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.[6]

Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need. These claims only demonstrate how degenerate the political discourse in Israel has become.

Activists from the Freedom flotilla

Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August—September 2005, Israel maintains “effective control” over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations.[7] Among Israel’s most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” (G IV, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (G IV, art. 33).

Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals, to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel’s policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster. The dire situation that currently exists in Gaza is therefore a result of deliberate policies by Israel designed to punish the people of Gaza. In order to address the calamitous conditions imposed upon the people, one must work to change the policies causing the crisis. The United Nations has referred to Israel’s near hermetic closure of Gaza as “collective punishment,”[8] strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All nations signatory to the Convention have an obligation to ensure respect for its provisions.[9]

Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of nonviolent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.

One of the ships from the Freedom Flotilla in port.


[1] Amnesty International, Annual Human Rights Report (26 May 2010);

[2] "The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security," The Independent (2 March 2009)

[3] "Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation," Gisha (January 2010)

[4] "Carter calls Gaza blockade 'a crime and atrocity," Haaretz (17 April 2008),

[5] "Gaza aid convoy refuses to deliver package to Gilad Shalit," Haaretz (27 May 2010)
[6] "Comprehensive Report on Status of Palestinian Political Prisoners," Sumoud (June 2004); Palestinian Children Political Prisoners, Addameer,

[7] Article 42 of the Hague Regulations stipulates, a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and that the occupation extends “to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.” Similarly, in the Hostage Case, the Nuremburg Tribunal held that, “the test for application of the legal regime of occupation is not whether the occupying power fails to exercise effective control over the territory, but whether it has the ability to exercise such power.” Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, continue to be subject to Israeli control. For example, Israel controls Gaza’s air space, territorial waters, and all border crossings. Palestinians in Gaza require Israel’s consent to travel to and from Gaza, to take their goods to Palestinian and foreign markets, to acquire food and medicine, and to access water and electricity. Without Israel’s permission, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot perform such basic functions of government as providing social, health, security and utility services, developing the Palestinian economy and allocating resources.

[8] John Holmes, Briefing to the U Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 27 January 2009.

[9] Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article I stating, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.” See also, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I. C. J. Reports 2004, p. 136 at 138;
Posted by Kim at 6:02 AM 
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian


From I4P


The Zionist propaganda war against the Flotilla has begun. As we know, Israeli announced recently it will attempt to battle the PR war over the flotilla to Gaza by using Government approved hasbara messages and media stunts, along with their armies of online flying monkeys to spread the disinformation. To make people forget about the 1400 people they murdered in Gaza, 400 of which were children like this:

So, just this morning I found this vile little piece of work. DON’T CLICK ON THIS read it all first please. A brand new website has sprung up and notice it is using the name of a legitimate existing humanitarian organisation, e.g. “The Free Gaza Movement Flotilla” The bogus site was only just registered on 27th May 2010, to spread disinformation on the Flotilla and to spread lies about Gaza. See here:

Registrar: GODADDY.COM, INC.
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientRenewProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 27-may-2010
Creation Date: 27-may-2010
Expiration Date: 27-may-2011

This site will be one of many to come. But PLEASE DON’T FEED THE TROLLS by clicking on the link, We don’t want to increase their Google ranking by clicking on it like I ultimately did this morning. I’ve placed it here in this post so you won’t be fooled should you come across it. So let me tell you what happens when you click that link; there is no site at the link, it’s just an immediate redirect to a youtube channel owned by some French Zionist arsehole; who has an extensive list of friends, including the IDF, AIPAC and many more lovely people. The page you land on is a vile video that at first looks like it could be a humanitarian appeal to help the Gazan Civilians, but within a few seconds you see what it really is, a nasty piece of pro-Israel Zionist work. Filled with “photos” claiming to be Gaza markets overflowing with food. But one needs to ask the question, just when did the IDF walk down the street of a market in Gaza City with people smiling at them and waving? When did the IDF supposedly film this nonsense!! My take is that they are video clips and photos of the West Bank, NOT Gaza. And the video goes on to paint Gaza as you would expect from Zionist murdering scum who did this. The video contains a collection of photos that obviously came for a great many years of conflict, some are possibly staged and definitely many years old, especially the photos of “destruction” inside Israel, which, of course is all blamed on Hamas, trouble is, Hamas is not that old, hasn’t been around but a couple of years. Truth is that Israel has been attacked for years by numerous other groups and factions, many within Israel itself, yet this massive collection of photos are all pinned on Hamas and their tiny wee firecracker rockets. Here’s a photo more truthful about the damage Hamas rockets cause:

So,FIGHT BACK WITH THE TRUTH!! and to all you creative Pro-Palestinian humanitarian people who make youtube movies, here is a challenge for you, get going and make a truthful video that refutes these lies, show the world what the Zionists are trying to hide, trying to gloss over, trying to lie, here is the link to the video, be SURE to give it a "Thumbs Down" rating!!

Posted by I4P Writers Group at 1:10 PM  
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Azam Tamimi Interviews Avi Shlaim

Avi Shlaim جسور | مع

alhiwarchannel — May 29, 2010 — برنامج جسور يستضيف الكاتب اليهودي العراقي آفي شاليم
تاريخ البث 22.05.10
مقدم البرنامج: عزام التميمي
Jusoor with Avi Shlaim

Palestine Video - A Palestine Vlog
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Obama, Israel Denounce UN Nuclear Document; Iran Praises it

Batoul Wehbe

29/05/2010 Again and again the US emerges to behave in a double standard and selective manner by disguising Israel’s nuclear weapons program while on the other hand accuses Iran of preparing to manufacture a nuclear bomb. At a UN conference on Friday US President Barack Obama welcomed a nuclear non-proliferation deal reached at the UN conference but "strongly" opposed singling out Israel over talks for a Mideast atomic weapon-free zone.

The agreement reached at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference "includes balanced and practical steps that will advance non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which are critical pillars of the global non-proliferation regime," Obama said in a statement.

The US president expressed concern however with the document's most controversial issue, a commitment to hold a regional conference in 2012 that would aim to create a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons. "The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment," he said. "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security."

Obama's national security advisor, General James L. Jones, also issued a statement to the same effect. "The United States will not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel’s national security," he said. "We will not accept any approach that singles out Israel or sets unrealistic expectations. The United States’ long-standing position on Middle East peace and security remains unchanged, including its unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security."

Jones added that Washington had reservations about the declaration because it names “Israel” while ignoring Iran. "The United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document," he said. "The failure of the resolution to mention Iran, a nation in longstanding violation of the NPT and UN Security Council Resolutions which poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region and to the integrity of the NPT, is also deplorable."

Iran is a signature of the NPT treaty and is cooperating with the IAEA, while Israel is not. The 28-page Final Declaration was approved by consensus on the last day of the month-long conference, convened every five years to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old NPT.

Under its action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014. The declaration also calls on Israel to submit its nuclear facilities to inspection by the UN, a clause the US sought to avoid, but it apparently withdrew objections in order to get the final draft approved.

Israel on Saturday denounced what it called the “hypocrisy” of a UN nuclear non-proliferation deal on the Middle East. "This accord has the hallmark of hypocrisy. Only Israel is mentioned, while the text is silent about other countries like India, Pakistan and North Korea, which have nuclear arms, or even more seriously, Iran, which is seeking to obtain them," a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "The fact that no reference is made to Iran is even more shocking, given that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has disclosed more and more information in recent months on the military character of Iranian nuclear projects," the official added.


Iran's representative to the UN atomic watchdog on Saturday hailed the UN document calling on Israel to open its so far undeclared atomic facilities to international inspection. Iran's IAEA representative Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who attended the conference at the United Nations, welcomed the move. "It is a step forward in creating a world without atomic weapons," Soltanieh told the official IRNA news agency.

Israel has been maintaining an ambiguous policy over its own atomic arsenal by neither denying nor admitting its existence. Soltanieh told IRNA that the United States, despite opposing the NPT text on Israel, will have to fall in line with other countries. "The US reservation is symbolic and it is obliged to go along with the world's request, which is that Israel must join the NPT and open its installations to IAEA inspectors," he said.


However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that nations criticizing an Iranian nuclear fuel-swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey should eliminate their own nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Erdogan made the comments just hours after saying that the West was "envious" of Brazil and Turkey's achievement in getting Iran to agree to the deal. "Those who speak to this issue should eliminate nuclear weapons from their own country and they should bear the good news to all mankind by doing that," Erdogan said while attending a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters in Rio the fuel swap deal contains all the elements that the US and other nations were seeking in similar agreement last year. "The agreement contains all that which was proposed by the Group of Vienna, especially by Russia, the United States and France, and now we need time to see if it will bear results." "The world needs a peaceful Middle East," he said.

Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said world powers cannot use their nuclear weapons to bully other nations into giving up efforts to obtain peaceful nuclear energy. In a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia, Mottaki said, "Today, the world public opinion and the international community do not accept double standards and selective dealings."

Mottaki highlighted Iran's role as one of the founders of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and one of those contributing to the "nuke-free Middle East" initiative. The minister reiterated that Iran's stance was one of "nuclear energy for all, nuclear arms for none" — the slogan introduced by Tehran at an international nuclear disarmament conference hosted by the Islamic Republic.

"Those who have used nuclear arms against humanity and are now threatening other nations with such weapons have no right to prohibit others from exercising their inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy," Mottaki added.

The Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov, for his part, hailed Iran's recent move to issue a trilateral nuclear fuel swap declaration with Brazil and Turkey. He described the May 17 declaration as a positive effort toward achieving a reasonable solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.


In the meantime, senior U.S. officials were working hard this week on criticizing and undermining the much successful swap deal.

"The underlying problem is that Iran continues to enrich uranium, and that is what it is obliged to suspend under three (UN Security) Council resolutions," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In our view the joint declaration falls short of what's necessary. But regardless of this ... proposal, it is important that we proceed to New York to adopt the resolution."

The U.S. officials said the proposed deal was “too little too late and could not buy more time for Iran.” But the senior U.S. officials made clear the new fuel proposal will in no way slow the Washington-led drive to slap new UN sanctions in Iran, with the resolution expected to move to the full Security Council within weeks. "That was in essence grasping at straws, that somehow this would help resolve the issue," a second official said.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Jeff Halper: Israel keeps Palestinians a centimeter above the line of starvation

 RT Top Stories

Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank are an attempt to break Palestinians’ resistance, says author and activist Jeff Halper.

“It is simply not true that there is no humanitarian crisis. Actually two-thirds of the people of Gaza live in what the World Health Organization calls food insecurity,” Halper said. "More than 10 percent of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Goods like bananas, chocolate, beans and fresh meat are prohibited in Gaza. Each person in Gaza gets about half of the required calories for a normal life.”
“There are great problems with babies, iron deficiency with pregnant women. This is a controlled experiment in how to keep people hungry, to punish them, to keep them just a centimeter above the line of starvation,” the activist said.
“The thing behind it – and it’s true of the West Bank as well – that Israel is trying to impose a permanent occupation. Everything that Israel is doing is attempt to break the resistance and the will of Palestinian people, so in the end they give up and accept whatever Israel wants. But that is not succeeding,” he added.

Palestine Video - A Palestine Vlog
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Fatah pledges to quell any form of resistance in the West Bank

[ 28/05/2010 - 12:22 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Fatah dominated PA authority in the West Bank has pledged to quell any form of armed resistance in the West Bank, urging the Israeli occupation authorities to give broader authority in the areas under its control.

According to the minutes of a meeting between PA and Israeli occupation officers, a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, PA officers pledged to suppress the resistance in the West Bank at all cost.

The document also revealed that the PA representatives appealed for the Israelis not to carryout any incursions in the areas falling under PA control in order not to "embarrass" them before the Palestinian public, and urged them to leave the mission of wiping out the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank to the PA security forces operating there.

During the meeting, the Israelis blamed the PA security forces for not doing enough against the Zakat committees in the West Bank, a matter the PA security forces pledged to handle, the document revealed.

The Israelis also asked the Fatah leaders to explain to them terms used by the Fatah authority like "popular resistance", "violence", and the "Israeli incursions", to which, the Fatah leaders replied that the term "Israeli incursions" is used for IOF troops entering into areas classified as "A", which is under the PA control.

Moreover, the Fatah leaders assured their Israeli counterparts that the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank were sincere in silencing any voice calling for or encouraging the resistance against the occupation, and that such policy was clear and firm instructions from the highest PA political echelon.

In return, the Israelis promised to remove a number of barriers in the streets of the West Bank, allow more trucks carrying stones into the West Bank, and allowing Palestinians of the 1948-occupied lands to enter the west Bank through any checkpoint.

The PA officials also requested the Israelis not to humiliate the Palestinian citizens while traveling abroad or passing Israeli checkpoints.

Hundreds of Palestinian resistance fighters were arrested by the forces of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and placed in jail without charges, the majority of them underwent torture, and many others had passed away under torture in Abbas's jails.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Will IJAN Challenge Jewish Power?

PeaceMonger, Commenting on Nahida's great piece, wrote:

On IJAN, please see "Will IJAN Challenge Jewish Power?" on the Palestine Think Tank. Nahida, what happened to your article from last year on Palestine Think Tank?
4:45 AM, May 29, 2010

The Article was posted at  PTT without the name of the wtiter, hopefully I found it at peacemonger's site.
The Writer of the article is Heny Herskovitz, who placed a great comment on Nahida's piece.

Henry Herskovitz said...

Great writing, with the possible exception that you've granted IJAN more than it deserves. The last point of their "unity" is all about protecting jewish sensibilities. It reads: "Rejection of alliances with anti-Jewish racists, white supremacist and Nazi holocaust deniers in our Palestinian solidarity work."

As you've said beautifully, "The road to Palestine does not pass either through Nazi-Germany or through Auschwitz for that matter."

So why is IJAN so concerned with blocking the voice of holocaust revisionists from their group? Because they too are intent on protecting jewish sensibilities, and to date have yet to challenge jewish power in the US. If jews form groups to offer solidarity with Palestinians and label themselves as jews (e.g. IJAN), yet DO NOT challenge their own community, they should get out of the business.

Thank you, nahida. You rock!
3:54 PM, May 28, 2010

Will IJAN Challenge Jewish Power?

Below is the analysis of Henry Herskovitz (with Michelle J. Kinnucan) of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends to a recent op-ed by Rebecca Tumposky on the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN).

There are many problems with IJAN, which lead me to doubt the purposes of the group. I first question whether they are a Palestinian solidarity group or yet another group that seeks to shield and preserve Jewish power both in Palestine and in the U.S.

In this writer's opinion, Jews - if they are acting in a group that represents Jews in the peace movement - should first and foremost challenge what Akiva Eldar and J. J. Goldberg, among others, call the "Jewish lobby" - the powerful people and institutions (and their rank-and-file supporters) who dominate the US discourse and policy regarding Jews and Israel. Often, these are the very people behind the charge of "self-hating Jews" (and for non-Jews, "anti-Semites") about whom Rebecca Tumposky, national organizer with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, complains. Yet, nowhere in her article does Ms. Tumposky show a disposition to directly do that.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that three originators of IJAN who live in southeast Michigan, including "Invincible," declined the invitation to stand vigil with us at our Global Vigil Day in 2007 or at any other time. They refused to expose and challenge Beth Israel Congregation--a local institutional bastion of open, unabashed Jewish support for Israel--when they had the opportunity. And yes, I'm the first to admit that standing in front of a synagogue is not the only way to challenge Jewish power, but at the same time ask where does IJAN directly challenge this power using another tactic?

In Tumposky's op-ed she says IJAN "seeks to challenge the violence and injustice of Israeli apartheid" but she and IJAN are US-based. So, where is her mention, let alone challenge, of the Jewish supremacism/power that allows Jews - less than two percent of the US population - to so effectively steer US policy and resources into underwriting Jewish apartheid in Palestine?

Right out of the box, she shows her hand - Tumposky's and IJAN's opposition to apartheid is rooted not in universalistic notions of justice and human rights but in Jewish chauvinism/exceptionalism. Thus, they appeal to Jews on the grounds of "our varied traditions of social justice." And Tumposky wants to make sure - absolutely certain - that fighting anti-Semitism is prioritized in any work on freeing Palestine from the genocide brought on by the Jewish state. Thus, she writes, "We challenge anti-Jewish prejudice while standing in solidarity with organizations that support Palestinian liberation and historic justice ..." In short, IJAN enters the Palestinian solidarity movement with an explicit agenda of highlighting, if not foregrounding, the concerns of Jews, the very people who enjoy Jewish privilege here and in Israel.

Her opposition to Zionism is carefully couched as a subset of opposing colonialism and imperialism, in general: "We share a commitment to participation in struggles against colonialism and imperialism. We therefore oppose Zionism ... IJAN, in fact, opposes all imperialist aggression". She refuses to take notice of the peculiar situation of Zionism - Jewish imperialism - in that Jews lacked a nation-state of their own and, thus, Zionists commandeered other countries, namely Britain and the US, to realize their goals.

Tumposky beats up one or two carefully placed straw men along the way: "We will say it again and again, despite accusations of being 'self-hating Jews': Zionism is not Judaism and the Jewish community." Just who is it that equates Zionism with "Judaism and the Jewish community"? And why is this point so essential for "anti-Zionists" like the IJAN folks? What would Tumposky say to the 757 rabbis - "the largest number of rabbis whose signatures are attached to a public pronouncement in all Jewish history" - who in 1942 stated that Zionism is an "Affirmation of Judaism" and "Anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is a departure from the Jewish religion"?

She also plays a Left Zionist game when she attempts to distinguish the 'types' of Zionism, claiming that "the Zionism we oppose is not a longstanding cultural or religious expression". She conveniently ignores the fact that when push came to shove, all the Zionists - Left, Right and Center - gave their blessings to destroying Palestine.

In the first chapter of his book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman Finkelstein challenged the myth that any of the Zionist tendencies (Labor, Religious, etc.) were ever benign. In short, the only thing about Zionism that really matters is that it "is a form of racism and racial discrimination," as the UN General Assembly correctly identified in 1975.

Tumposky's definition of Zionism is also problematic - "the 19th century ideology that led European Jews to work with imperialist powers to displace and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people, which continues today." It is folly to imply that Jews were passive objects of that "ideology". Zionism was created, implemented, and popularized by Jews. Are readers supposed to believe that it was the imperialist powers that Jews only "worked with" that committed this crime? Isn't it more accurate to say that Jews led these imperialist powers by the nose - as they still do today - to have non-Jews die for the Jewish state?

When she writes "Israel and its U.S. lobby helped pushed us toward the Iraq war and are exerting similar pressure to attack Iran", readers need to be cognizant of what she omits - EVERY major constituent group of the organized Jewish community pressed for war on Iraq, and there's a list of at least two dozen Jewish individuals - in powerful government or media positions - who also pressed strongly for war.

Tumposky touts "Jewish visions of collective liberation and traditions of social justice", but doesn't give us any proof that this tradition ever existed, other than in the minds of Jews who want their image spit-shined, if not outright falsified. More than 300 years ago, Benedictus de Spinoza, who is often upheld as a great Jewish intellectual, observed that Jews had in fact nothing to commend themselves as superior to others, had acted in such a way as to "incur the hatred of all", and that this hatred was the glue that bound Jews together. Other than, perhaps, a few years during the Civil Rights struggle (and Benjamin Ginsberg casts doubt on even this), Jews collectively have acted in concert NOT for universal well-being, but for the benefit of Jews. IJAN does not seem to be an exception.

Distinguishing IJAN from AIPAC, J-Street and Tikkun, might make good reading, but doesn't let them off the hook. Once again, I'm reminded of Paul Eisen's words: "The crime against the Palestinian people is being committed by a Jewish state with Jewish soldiers using weapons displaying Jewish religious symbols, and with the full support and complicity of the overwhelming mass of organized Jews worldwide. But to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do." It seems obvious to me that IJAN and similar organizations exist, in no small part, to prevent the naming of Jews as responsible for the Jewish-led genocide against the Palestinian people.
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// posted by PeaceMonger @ 2/27/2010 03:16:00 PM

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The Israel Lobby's Big Problem: People Aren't Afraid to Criticize Israel Anymore

Right-wingers in Jerusalem keep getting more and more outrageous. But the political climate in Washington can no longer be predicted, much less taken for granted.

March 27, 2010  |  
I just ran across a couple of noteworthy quotes from members of AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful organization in the much-dreaded “Israel lobby” — which began its annual meeting in Washington on Monday:
“We were never exposed to anti-semitism, but we heard about anti-Israel campaigns in colleges, and next year we are going to college, and we want to have the tools to deal with that,” said a high school senior, one of some 1300 students and youth at the meeting, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Note how effortlessly this kid moves from “anti-semitism” to “anti-Israel.” That’s how AIPAC has always recruited youth: Take Americans who have never experienced anti-semitism personally and make them believe that, even if they haven’t seen any enemies, those enemies are out there, lurking everywhere, disguised as “critics of Israel,” just waiting to pounce on poor, unsuspecting Jews.

But times are changing. Even AIPAC no longer tries to keep up the old fiction that criticizing Israel is, in and of itself, an anti-semitic act. There are too many Israeli Jews, who are obviously loyal to their nation, criticizing their government for that old canard to stick.

So now the right-wingers have come up with a more sophisticated version:  “Soft” critics of Israel are OK — those who don’t go too far in their criticism — but “hard” critics of Israel are obviously anti-semites. And of course AIPAC and its right-wing partners in Israel gets to decide what counts as going too far.

Apparently it’s those “hard critics” who mount the “anti-Israel campaigns in colleges,” and they’re the ones this AIPAC high-schooler has learned to be afraid of. Well, AIPAC has to have some anti-semites out there to pursue its double-barreled strategy: Incite fear to rally the troops while justifying everything the Israel government does as necessary for Jewish survival, and therefore morally justified.

But what if American Jews stopped being afraid and stopped justifying outrageous Israel actions, like the recent announcement (while Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting the country) of 1600 new Jewish housing units in the occupied territory of East Jerusalem?

Which brings me to the other noteworthy quote, a rather blunt one from AIPAC attendee Donell Weinkopf of New York:  “I would not say that I am disappointed by the Netanyahu government. But I feel like shit. Israel did something stupid by declaring this construction. … I think that the time has come for Israel to stop biting the hand of a friend.”

Weinkopf probably tracked the incident closely.  So he knows that no one has been able to turn up evidence to refute Israeli Prime Minister’s Bibi Netanyahu’s claim that the announcement, made by a far right cabinet minister, came as a surprise to him. Let’s assume it did. But Weinkopf also knows that Bibi could have reversed the decision and immediately healed any rift with the U.S. Instead, though, he merely offered Biden a meaningless apology for “bad timing” and boasted that the building project would go ahead anyway.

Then Israel’s PM came to Washington, where Weinkopf and all the other AIPAC’ers heard him deliver a seemingly defiant speech.  The journalist who got the two rich quotes at the AIPAC meeting heard it too and described it this way: “Unsurprisingly, his speech included every possible cliche: Death camps, the relentless persecution the Jewish people have suffered throughout history, the powerful bond between the Jews and the land of Israel and, of course, Jerusalem. … Far from being a conciliatory effort, Netanyahu’s speech was riddled with borderline provocation. … He did not present a real vision for peace or compromise.”

And the very next day, as Netanyahu prepared to meet with Obama at the White House, news came of yet another provocation: approval of a new apartment building for Jews in the hotly-contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, a project that has already been criticized by the U.S. government.  It seems likely that the move was intentionally timed by right-wingers to offset any possible image of Netanyahu compromising with Obama.  Bibi “is planting the seeds for the next crisis,” one of his political opponents charged.

However, outright defiance of the U.S. could get Bibi in bad trouble politically at home.  So behind the scenes he is backing down a bit in the face of Obama administration criticism (which was repeated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she addressed the AIPAC gathering).

One Israeli journalist, citing unnamed “analysts,” says that the harsher tone from Washington “stems not from the decision to build in Ramat Shlomo, but because Netanyahu broke an earlier pledge to improve governmental oversight in order to prevent the Interior Ministry coming out with announcements of the kind that sparked this crisis.”

It’s probably no coincidence that, precisely as Netanyahu was spending several hours at the White House, the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee decided to freeze all discussion of expanding Jewish construction in Jerusalem “until further notice”(though the one new building in Sheikh Jarrah will proceed).

And according to Israel’s Interior Ministry, “the prime minister has decided to form a committee of chairmen to improve the coordination between the various government offices over all matters relating to construction and building permits.”  The prime minister had already demanded a list of all plans for large projects in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, including Ramat Shlomo.

No, it’s not any huge breakthrough. But it’s one of those little pieces of evidence that point to Netanyahu’s larger strategy. He talks tough and plays the fear card. Quietly, though, he is giving the Americans at least some of what they want. “I can imagine that there will be little building for Jews in Arab neighborhoods,” a consultant to the Israeli government told the Times, and “on Ramat Shlomo I imagine the prime minister gave assurances that nothing would be built for some years.”  Other Jerusalem insiders disagree, believing that Bibi won’t give way very much at all.

Which way the Israelis go depends largely on how much pushback they get from the Obama administration. That’s still an open question.

However, it’s clear that Israel can no longer count on U.S. support no matter what it does, because the political atmosphere here is changing so fast. There are countless thousands of Donell Weinkopfs throughout the United States, Jews who would not have dreamed of criticizing Israel a few years ago, but are now thinking for themselves rather than offering knee-jerk praise.

Some of them were surely among the respondents to the latest poll of American Jewish opinion. A few of the most striking findings:
  • 82% want the U.S. to “play an active role” in the Israel-Palestine peace process
  • 71% want the U.S. to exert pressure on both sides to make compromises for peace
  • Fully half stick want U.S. involvement even if it means the U.S. exerting pressure on Israel alone to make compromises
  • Asked whether U.S. criticisms of Israel should be made in public, more Jews say “yes” than “no”
  • 69% voted for Obama and 62% still approve of the job he’s doing (far higher than h overall public’s rating of the president)
  • Obama’s favorable rating is 15 points higher than Netanyahu’s.
It’s also worth noting that Israel and Judaism are not very central in the lives of this sampling of American Jews:
  • Asked to name the TWO most important issues facing our country, only 10% put Israel on their short list
  • Well over half said they did not follow the controversy surrounding Biden’s visit to Israel closely or at all
  • Only 23% attend synagogue services more than a few times a year, and only 39% attend activities of other Jewish groups
That does not sound like a community ready to use its political clout to “stand with Israel” no matter what the Jewish state does. It sounds like a community that identifies as American more that as Jewish, is split by internal conflict on the question of Israel (when it bothers to think about that question at all), and may well be open to supporting Obama and his Middle East policies, even when they involve pressure on Israel.
So AIPAC knows that its old fear-based tactics may still work, but not nearly as well as they once did. Netanyahu knows it too. So does Obama. That’s why the rules of U.S. – Israel relations are changing, even if only slightly thus far.

But Obama has his own fears. He and his party face an uphill political fight this year. He cannot know for sure how far he can push the Israelis without triggering a backlash — not only among Jewish voters but among the many Christians who support Israel for their own reasons, and among a general public long conditioned by the media to see Israel as an underdog oppressed by Muslim “evildoers.” Already Republican candidates are burnishing their “pro-Israel” credentials as a way to attack the Democrats.
On the other hand, if Obama does not pressure Israel enough he could trigger a backlash from another powerful quarter: the Pentagon, which is now pushing for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement as a way to ease anger against U.S. troops in the greater Middle East.  Democratic presidents who have never served in the military will go to great lengths to avoid alienating their own military leaders, especially if they hope to make good on a controversial pledge to give gays equality in the military.

More to the point, perhaps, Obama has also publicly pledged to move the Israel-Palestine conflict some significant steps toward resolution.  He cannot do that unless he puts enough pressure on Israel.  Without sufficient pressure, his fears of failure on his boldest foreign policy promise are likely to come true.
Now the president has a chance to send a clear signal.  But no one can say for sure what signal he will send. And that’s precisely what made this week’s AIPAC meeting different from any in recent memory.

Right-wingers in Jerusalem keep getting more and more outrageous. But the political climate in Washington can no longer be predicted, much less taken for granted. So there’s far less reason than before to stand in dread and awe of AIPAC or the “Israel lobby.” There’s far more reason to think that countervailing pressures from the left can make a real difference, giving the administration the safety belt it needs to act decisively. Perhaps that’s what made Donell Weinkopf — and plenty of other AIPAC members, including its top leadership, I suspect — feel like shit.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and American Jews on his blog:
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Ahmadinejad Blasts Medvedev Over UNSC Sanctions;

By Juan Cole
28 May, 2010

The Iranian newspaper Tabnak reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a speech on Wednesday, took a hard line with Russia and also pressured the US to accept the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil on Iranian low enriched uranium (the “Tehran Declaration.”)

Ahmadinejad, speaking in the city of Kerman, said that Iran and Russia had been friends for centuries. He addressed Dimitry Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation, saying that there was some danger if Russia continued on its present path that Iranians would switch, and begin considering Russia a historical enemy. He added, “We are both neighbors, and two neighbors cannot but be friends with one another. But this friendship has prerequisites. The first prerequisite is honoring reciprocal rights, and defense of them, and mutual respect.”

He continued, “Today, explaining the behavior of Medvedev toward the nation of Iran is very difficult for us . . . The people of Iran do not know if the Russians are our friends or are against us.” He advised President Medvedev to speak with more caution and forethought about such a large and capable nation as Iran.

“We must not perceive that our neighbor, on sensitive positions, has taken the side of those [the United States] who have for 30 years with all their might acted with enmity toward the nation of Iran . . . This matter is unacceptable. The Tehran Declaration is the greatest opportunity and there is no longer any pretext.” He said that if, before, the Russians could say that the West was putting pressure and wanted to see Iran take some significant step and make an important announcement, well, it had now done so.

He said, “We are also under pressure. But can we, just because of that pressure, act against the Russian nation?”

He warned, “They must not permit the Iranian nation to begin considering them as being on the level of historical enemies.”

Ahmadinejad went on to warn President Barack Obama of the US that the Tehran Declaration represents a “historic opportunity for him” should he genuinely want “change,” — an opportunity to begin respecting the rights of other nations and to abandon wrong and inhumane policies, treating other countries instead with justice and fairness.

Ahmadinejad’s blunt comments on Russia brought rebukes from that country. According to Interfax, May 26, 2010, as translated by the USG Open Source Center, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the Russian parliament, said he was “disappointed by today’s quite harsh statement by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad about the Russian and US presidents.”
The report continues,

‘ “I am quite disappointed that Mr Ahmadinejad resorted to the megaphone diplomacy method instead of relying on a substantial and constructive conversation on an expert level,” Kosachev told Interfax.
“I leave on the conscience of the Iranian leaders their belief that Russia is supporting forces hostile to Iran, but I would like to emphasize that there are very few counties which sought the observance of all norms of international law with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme as consistently as Russia,” Kosachev said, adding that “Russia has always been and will be committed to this position”.
The Russian MP said he was pleased that the Iranian authorities had finally, although after a long delay, sent the agreement on further enrichment of Iran’s nuclear fuel reached with Turkey and supported by Brazil to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] for assessment. “We can only welcome the fact that the day before yesterday the Iranian authorities sent this document to the IAEA for assessment. However, one cannot but regret that this was not done earlier,” Kosachev said.’
Turkey and Brazil negotiated the agreement announced early last week whereby Iran would send over half of its low enriched uranium to Turkey to be held in escrow and would receive from the international community uranium enriched to 19.75% to run its medical reactor, which produces cancer-fighting isotopes. Both Turkey and Brazil are lobbying for United Nations acceptance of the Tehran Declaration.

Brazilian President Lula da Silva is putting pressure on President Obama to accept the agreement and to back off imposing further sanctions on Iran. Brazil is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council at the moment and its positions have some weight with other non-permanent members.

The USG Open Source Center translated the following news report on Lula’s lobbying of Obama, from the Portuguese press. The article reveals that Obama is insisting that Iran completely cease its uranium enrichment program if it wants to see sanctions lifted and rejoin the international community.
‘ Brazil’s Lula Urges President Obama To Reconsider Iran Sanctions
Report by Denise Chrispim Marin: “Lula Sends Obama Letter To Avoid Sanctions on Iran”
O Estado de Sao Paulo digital
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Text …
Brasilia – In a letter sent by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to his US counterpart Barack Obama, the Brazilian leader cautions that new UN Security Council sanctions on Iran could provoke the loss of the opportunity created by the Tehran Declaration to reach a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Taking the precaution of not using the word “sanction,” Lula insisted on stating in his letter that the declaration elicited support from high-ranking leaders.
Lula sent the above letter in response to one sent to him by Obama late in April in which the US President made it clear that he would not give up its demand for sanctions, unless Iran discontinued its uranium enrichment activities immediately. This warning was not contained in excerpts of the letter leaked to Reuters on Friday.
Lula’s letter suggests between the lines that the United States give a truce to Iran before putting new sanctions to a vote at the UN Security Council. The letter focused on the progress made through the agreement signed by Brazil and Turkey with Iran on 17 May on exchanging slightly enriched uranium with nuclear fuel.
Lula pointed out in his letter that, by signing the Tehran Declaration, the Iranian Government agreed “in writing” to points it had rejected earlier. Lula also emphasized the Iranian decision to notify the agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 24 May within the established deadline.
Lula’s letter to Obama is part of new efforts by the Brazilian Government to prevent a UN draft resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran from being voted and approved. According to the Itamaraty press office, Lula sent similar letters yesterday to Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Within the next few days, Lula will also send letters to Mexican President Felipe Calderon — whose country, like Brazil, is a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council — and to South American leaders. ‘
By the way, Arizona, just a note. Now might not have been an opportune time to anger the Mexicans, if you wanted their support on Iran.

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Over 100 Palestinian Minors Reported Abuse in Israeli Army, Police Custody in 09

28/05/2010 Most Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli occupation army and police are intimidated, abused and maltreated in custody, according to the sworn testimonies of minors who were arrested last year. This happens both before and during interrogation, and several minors have been sexually assaulted.

The Palestinian branch of the non-governmental organization Defense for Children International has asked the United Nations to probe complaints of sexual assaults.

The organization has collected 100 detailed depositions from minors aged 12 to 17 who were arrested last year, immediately after their release. Most of the findings were not a surprise to DCI activists, apart from verbal or physical attacks of a sexual nature committed by soldiers.

Sixty-nine minors complained of being beaten by Israeli soldiers (slaps, kicks, sometimes blows with a rifle stock or club). Nearly all - 97 percent, including children aged 12 to 15 - were held for hours with their hands cuffed, and 92 percent were blindfolded for long periods of time. Twenty-six percent said they were forced to remain in painful positions.

For example, one child said he was bound, blindfolded and placed on the floor of a jeep or vehicle on its way to the prison facility. About half the children said the soldiers who arrested them cursed and threatened them before the interrogation, to make them confess the charges. Or the children were urged to confess with false promises of immediate release.

The children were frequently told that the soldier who beat them was also the interrogator to whom they must confess. Most of them said they were held for many hours before receiving anything to drink or eat.

The DCI says the numerous sworn testimonies attest to a fixed, repeated pattern. It says these practices violate international law and the children's rights.

In addition, causing pain and intimidation to extract a confession from a minor or make him incriminate others is defined as torture.

The relatively surprising findings in the depositions were the complaints of sexual abuse - verbal or physical. Minors usually have difficulty talking about this aspect of their arrest, and the issue came up only during the longer conversations DCI lawyers had with the children.

Four minors reported being sexually assaulted, and 12 said they were threatened with sexual assault. The threat was accompanied by physical violence. Last week, the DCI's Palestinian branch sent the UN official who monitors torture 14 complaints by Palestinian prisoners aged 13 to 16 of sexual assault during detentions from January 2009 to April 2010.

The depositions sent to the UN report direct attacks, including squeezing boys' testicles, pushing a blunt object (a club or rifle stock) between the chair and a child's buttocks, and repeated threats of "I'll screw you if you don't confess you threw stones."

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Mubarak’s Last Breath

On 6 October 1981, President Anwar al-Sadat attended a parade to mark the anniversary of the crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 war with Israel.
It was also an occasion to display the American, British and French aircraft Egypt had recently acquired: symbols of its realignment with the West after more than two decades as a Soviet ally.

Sadat wore a Prussian-style uniform but no bullet-proof vest: it would have ruined the line. Rumours of a plot were in the air, and his vice president, Hosni Mubarak, had warned him not to go.

Sadat brushed this off, but when he stood to receive the salute, he was killed in a hail of grenades and bullets, fired by a group of Islamist soldiers in his own army. ‘I have killed Pharaoh, and I do not fear death,’ the lead assassin, a 24-year-old lieutenant, declared.

Only eight days later a new pharaoh rose in Egypt, and he has been in power ever since. Hosni Mubarak, who stood beside Sadat at the procession, was an improbable successor: a circumspect career soldier whose appointment to the vice presidency in 1975 had come as a shock to political observers.

Born in 1928 in a small village in the Nile River Delta, the son of an inspector in the Ministry of Justice, Mubarak was little known to Egyptians, or even to his colleagues: he was a loner, with no outside interests to speak of, and no taste, or talent, for the rituals of mass politics at which both Nasser and Sadat excelled.

Unlike them he had not been among the Free Officers who seized power in the 1952 coup against the monarchy.

He had, however, loyally served the state and – as commander in chief of the air force – launched the surprise attack in 1973 which allowed ground forces to cross into the Sinai Peninsula. Mubarak admitted his political inexperience when he took office, pledging to ask for advice, and suggesting limited presidential terms. He is now 82, and has ruled Egypt – and presided over its decline – for 29 years.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next year, but he has said he will serve ‘until the last breath in my lungs, and the last beat of my heart’. This is a promise he’s likely to keep.
Egypt has never been a democracy. The military has always dominated its political life. Even during the age of liberal nationalism after the First World War, when it had a lively parliamentary life, popular sovereignty was sharply curtailed by British power. Since the 1952 coup which brought Nasser to power, it has been ruled by military dictatorship, although the establishment of multi-party politics in the late 1970s brought a measure of cosmetic diversification. Still, autocratic though they were, both Nasser and Sadat ensured that what Egypt did mattered.

Nasser’s failures were spectacular: the aborted union with Syria in the United Arab Republic; the disastrous intervention in the civil war in Yemen; the catastrophic 1967 defeat to Israel that resulted in the destruction of three-quarters of Egypt’s air force and the loss of the Sinai; the creation of a vast and inefficient public sector which the state could not afford; the suppression of dissent, indeed of politics itself. But he also carried out land reform, nationalised the Suez Canal, built the Aswan High Dam, and turned Egypt into a major force in the Non-Aligned Movement.

When Nasser spoke, the Arab world listened. Sadat broke with Nasser’s pan-Arab vision, promoting an Egypt-first agenda that ultimately led the country into the arms of the US and Israel. But, like Nasser, he was a statesman of considerable flair and cunning, with a prodigious ability to seize the initiative. By leading Egypt to a partial victory in the 1973 war, he washed away some of the shame of 1967, and eventually secured the restoration of the Sinai. And though his peace with Israel infuriated the Arabs, whom Nasser had electrified, he made Egypt a player in the world.

Under Mubarak, Egypt, the ‘mother of the earth’ (umm idduniya), has seen its influence plummet. Nowhere is the decline of the Sunni Arab world so acutely felt as in Cairo ‘the Victorious’, a mega-city much of which has turned into an enormous slum. The air is so thick with fumes you can hardly breathe, the atmosphere as constricted as the country’s political life.
Frustration, shame, humiliation: it does not take much for Egyptians to call up these feelings. It’s still often said that ‘what happens in Egypt affects the entire Arab world,’ but nothing much has happened there in years.

Egypt has fallen behind Saudi Arabia – not to mention non-Arab countries like Turkey and Iran – in regional leadership. Even tiny Qatar has a more independent foreign policy. Egypt is by far the largest Arab country, with 80 million inhabitants, yet it’s seen by most Arabs – and by the Egyptians themselves – as a client state of the United States and Israel, who depend on Mubarak to ensure regional ‘stability’ in the struggle with the ‘resistance front’ led by Iran.

The liberalisation of Egypt’s economy – launched by Sadat’s Infitah (Open Door) policy in 1974 – has earned Mubarak praise from the World Bank. The 2007 constitution, purged of references to socialism, says that ‘the economy of the Arab Republic of Egypt is founded on the development of the spirit of enterprise.’ Yet Egypt’s market is anything but free: businesses tend to have very close, and mutually profitable, relationships with the state, in which the Mubarak family often participates and takes its cut. Hussein Salem, a hotel magnate, arms dealer and co-owner of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company – an Egyptian-Israeli consortium that recently secured a $2.5 billion contract to sell Egypt’s natural gas to Israel – is thought to be one of Mubarak’s frontmen; the gas began flowing in early 2008, just as Israel was tightening the siege of Gaza.

Despite the promises of the regime – and contrary to the expectations of Egypt’s sponsors in the West – economic liberalisation hasn’t led to much in the way of political liberalisation: in 1992, the year it adopted an IMF stabilisation and structural adjustment package, Egypt began sending civilians to be tried at military tribunals. The Emergency Law, in force since Sadat’s assassination and recently renewed despite Mubarak’s promise to lift it, grants the government extraordinary powers to arrest its opponents without charge and to detain them indefinitely; there are an estimated 17,000 political prisoners, most of them Islamists.

The ideology of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has undergone marked shifts in recent years, alternating between Milton Friedman and Muhammad, as the occasion demands. Arab unity, as the novelist Sonallah Ibrahim remarks, has been reduced to the ‘unity of foreign commodities consumed by everyone’. Not inappropriately, the most popular military officer on billboards in Egypt isn’t Mubarak but Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The increasing globalisation of the economy, along with its 7.5 per cent growth rates, is something the NDP likes to boast about, but it is seen rather differently by the population: inflation has soared since the currency was floated in 2003, and real unemployment is 26.3 per cent. Mubarak’s reforms haven’t turned Egypt into a ‘tiger on the Nile’, as promised; the economy remains precariously dependent on the price of oil, American aid (more than $62 billion since 1977) and tourism. Egypt still imports more than half the wheat it consumes.

Foreign policy is a particularly anguished subject. While the peace with Israel reached in 1979 by Sadat may make Egypt a ‘moderate’ state in the eyes of Washington, it has left many Egyptians deeply embittered. Mubarak drew a lesson from Sadat’s fate: it was one thing to make a deal with Israel – quite another to make nice. He would honour the peace treaty, but he would not go to Tel Aviv, or engage in ostentatious displays of friendship that would offend Egyptian honour; and he would turn a blind eye to anti-Israel invective in the press, so that opponents of ‘normalisation’ with Tel Aviv could let off steam.

By maintaining an appearance of froideur, Mubarak was able to repair relations with the Arab League and with the Arab states that had cut their ties with Egypt in 1979.

Meanwhile, he has developed a partnership with Israel on trade and ‘security’ that is far more extensive than Sadat could have imagined. Their intelligence services work closely together, and Mubarak has supplied weapons and training to the Palestinian Authority in its war against Hamas. The government is also doing what it can to maintain the siege in Gaza, concerned that if it opens its border crossing, Israel might shut down all its crossing points and try to dump Gaza in Egypt’s lap, which would be particularly unwelcome given that the Hamas rulers in Gaza are allies both of Mubarak’s domestic opponents, the Muslim Brothers, and of his foreign adversaries, Iran and Hizbullah.

Mubarak doesn’t want to be responsible for the welfare of more than a million impoverished Palestinians, or to be blamed by Israel for every Qassam rocket fired at Tsederot. When, in January 2008, Hamas blew up part of the fence at Rafah, and tens of thousands of Gazans crossed the border, some of his fellow countrymen were persuaded by his ‘Egypt First’ argument.

But more of them were outraged when he refused to open the crossing during Israel’s invasion last year.

Many suspect a degree of complicity between Israel and Mubarak against Hamas: the war began less than 48 hours after Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, visited Cairo.

As well as securing the border at Rafah, Egypt is building a wall 18 metres underground, an impenetrable barrier made of super-strength steel. It is reported to be doing this with American assistance, though the US denies it. In any case the entire plan was kept secret until recently, and the Mubarak regime isn’t keen to draw attention to what it euphemistically calls ‘engineering installations’.

The official line is that it’s intended to prevent arms smuggling by Hamas, but the barrier could choke the Gazan economy, which depends on the tunnels. Mubarak, however, insists: ‘We do not accept debate on this issue with anyone.’ Like many of his least popular policies, this one comes with a fatwa from a group of pro-government clerics according to which ‘those who oppose the construction of this wall violate the sharia.’

The Islamisation of Egyptian society deepened after the 1967 war; it became explicit government policy under Sadat, the self-styled ‘believer president’ who supported radical Islamists in his battles with the left, and who made the sharia ‘the principal source’ of law in 1980 – a year before his assassination by an Islamist. Under Mubarak, praying has become as popular as shopping or football and now serves a roughly similar function as a distraction from the innumerable frustrations of Egyptian life. Indeed, Islam as observed by Egyptians is increasingly an Islam that caters to consumerist needs. The popular televangelist Amr Khaled mixes Quranic citations with boosterish advice of a more general kind. This variety of Islam is no threat to the regime, but it has made life far less easy-going. ‘My neighbour used to water his plants in his pyjamas on the balcony, where he’d be joined by his wife in her nightie,’ a friend tells me. ‘They’d drink beer in the open, and then he’d go downstairs for the sunset prayers in the local mosque. Today he’d be killed for this, but at the time he would have seen no contradiction.’

The growing power of the mosques – and the considerable influence the Muslim Brothers exert in poor neighbourhoods – has made Egypt’s Coptic minority increasingly anxious, and they have developed a no less assertive piety of their own. The Copts, whose ancestors were in Egypt before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, account for about 10 per cent of the population. Although many of them are poor – the largely Coptic zabaleen, who pick up most of Cairo’s garbage, are packed into an immense slum in the Moqattan Hills Settlement east of the capital – they are widely seen and resented as economically privileged. (Egypt’s richest family, the Sawiris, who own the enormous conglomerate Orascom and are close to Mubarak, are Copts.) They suffer various forms of discrimination: senior positions in the civil service and the professions tend to be closed to them and churches, unlike mosques, don’t receive subsidies. They find little reassurance in the rhetoric of the Muslim Brothers – whose former General Guide, Mahdi Akef, recently declared that he would prefer a Malaysian Muslim as president to a Christian Egyptian – and fear that if Egypt becomes an Islamic state they will be forced to leave. Fanatics in the Coptic diaspora, some of whom have made common cause with Christian Zionists in the US, have done little to dispel the impression among Muslims that Christians are a Trojan horse of the West.

This climate of distrust has resulted in increasingly frequent spasms of sectarian violence. On Christmas Eve last year, six worshippers in the town of Nag Hammadi were murdered outside a church in a drive-by shooting, apparently in retaliation for the rape of a Muslim girl. Anti-Muslim looting followed and the government was swift to intervene, declaring that the violence wasn’t sectarian but merely traditional score-settling between families. This fooled no one. Not long before, tens of thousands of pigs, on which the zabaleen depend for their livelihood, had been slaughtered by the state, allegedly to prevent swine flu. Many Muslims were secretly relieved, flu or no flu. But even the most secular Christians were horrified by what they saw as a state-sanctioned sectarian assault.

The 1952 revolution, once the central legitimating myth of the regime, is now criticised by most of the population as having destroyed a potentially promising experiment in parliamentary democracy, condemning Egypt to dictatorial rule. Many continue even so to pine for Nasser, with his commitment to ‘Arab socialism’ and non-alignment. Others look back to the classical age of Egyptian liberalism in the last decades of British rule, while still others pray for the return of the caliphate.

Another symptom of this retreat into nostalgia is the growing curiosity about the ethnic minorities – Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Italians – who once helped run Egypt’s economy, and made Cairo and Alexandria remarkably cosmopolitan cities, before they were put under pressure to leave in the mid-1950s. At the time, their exodus, like Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal, was seen as a great coup: evidence of Egypt’s triumph over foreign hegemony. Now it’s seen as the beginning of its economic and cultural decline.

In Heliopolis, a new film by Ahmed Abdallah, a young man doing research on ‘minorities’ in pre-revolutionary Egypt befriends an elderly Jewish woman; in a striking documentary sequence, a group of old people fondly remember a time when local shops were run by Jews and Greeks. If Egyptians long for an irretrievable past, Abdallah suggests, it’s because their future has been put on hold. He leaves little doubt as to the causes. A young couple who are drifting apart wait in one of Cairo’s interminable traffic jams, only to be told by a police officer that they will have to wait a bit longer: the road ahead has been blocked to make way for the president’s motorcade.

Mubarak’s Egypt is often compared to Iran in the last days of the Shah: a middle class squeezed by inflation; anger at the regime’s alliances with the US and Israel; a profound sense of humiliation that is increasingly expressed in Islamic fervour; near universal contempt for the country’s ruling class; a state whose legitimacy has almost entirely eroded.

In 2005, the Egyptian Movement for Change – a coalition of leftists, Nasserists and Islamists better known as Kifaya (‘Enough’) – staged a series of demonstrations in downtown Cairo, where, for the first time, Egyptians dared to criticise Mubarak in public, and to call for him to step down. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have demonstrated: leftists and Islamists calling for an end to the Emergency Law; judges denouncing constitutional amendments that strip them of their right to supervise elections; workers striking for better wages and independent trade unions; poor farmers on land redistributed under Nasser defending themselves against attempts by large landowners – often with the backing of the state, sometimes with the help of armed thugs – to ‘reclaim’ their property.

The spread of these protests, on a scale not seen since the 1970s, when left-wing students mobilised against Sadat’s infitah and his alliance with the West, has led some observers to see this as Egypt’s ‘moment of change’, the subtitle of an informative new anthology on Egyptian social movements.[*]

Yet the protests have failed to coalesce into a broader movement with a clear agenda. And the regime has partly succeeded in neutralising dissent by allowing some freedoms: privately owned opposition newspapers have been legalised and public criticism of Mubarak is allowed. ‘We were given a licence to scream and vent,’ one supporter of Kifaya told me, ‘but what good did it do?’

Most Egyptians have kept their distance from the protests. Since the riots of January 1977, which began after the state raised the price of aysh al-baladi, the dry bread on which most people depend, the Egyptian masses have been silent, even as their living standards have declined. This stoicism is often explained by variations on the theme of national character, or of the pharaonic legacy. The Egyptian, one is often told, is ‘a survivor’, or ‘a flexible conformist’ who just wants a better life, and doesn’t care who is president. Revolts in modern Egypt have been few; even Nasser’s revolution was a top-down affair, a ‘passive revolution’ in which, as his left-wing critic Anouar Abdel-Malek remarked, the role of the much praised masses was merely to provide ‘manpower’.

The inertia of the Egyptian people may well have less to do with temperament, or historical tradition, than with sober calculation. About one in every four Egyptians lives in a shantytown; more than a third of Cairo’s 19 million residents live in areas known as ashwaiyyat, without clean drinking water or proper sewage systems. They are the people you see at places like the Souq al-Goma’a, or ‘Friday market’, a sprawling bazaar set up on railway tracks next to a flyover skirting the City of the Dead, where tens of thousands of Cairenes squat in family mausoleums. The working poor come here to buy household necessities. Anything and everything is for sale: old silverware, tyres, toilets, computer parts, birds, monkeys, vegetables coated in dust and dirt, and rotten fish that’s been buried underground until it gives off an unforgettable smell. There is a saying in Egypt that ‘anyone who hasn’t begged in the time of Mubarak will never beg.’ Those forced to beg tend not to attend demonstrations.

As Hani Shukrallah, an editor at Al-Shorouk, one of the new independent papers, points out, ‘the regime has pursued a deliberate policy of selective repression based on class.’ Shukrallah, a veteran of the student left of the 1970s, illustrated this by describing an aerial photograph of a Kifaya demonstration in downtown Cairo.

‘You can see three circles: the first is composed of the demonstrators, a few hundred people. Around them is a circle of several thousand police officers, and around the police is the people.

The people are onlookers, spectators. The middle-class professionals in Kifaya can chant slogans like “Down with Mubarak” because they risk, at worst, a beating. But most Egyptians live in a world where anything goes, where they’re treated like barbarians who need to be conquered, and women are molested by the security forces. The average Egyptian can be dragged into a police station and tortured simply because a police officer doesn’t like his face.’ The tortures to which Egyptians are subjected in police stations have been well documented and include electric shocks to the genitals, anal rape with sticks, death threats, suspension in painful positions and ‘reception parties’, where prisoners are forced to crawl naked on the floor while guards whip them to make them move faster.

For those it can’t afford to brutalise, the Mubarak regime has found other means of intimidation. One is the presence of state security in residential neighbourhoods and on university campuses. In Garden City, checkpoints were set up near the British and American Embassies after a demonstration against the invasion of Iraq in 2003; they are now permanent, and locals refer to the area as ‘the Green Zone’. Only a few minutes’ walk from the American Embassy – the second largest in the world, after Baghdad – is the Ministry of the Interior, a forbidding, futurist building. Very little of consequence gets done without the ministry’s agreement: the appointments of university professors, judges and journalists all require approval from the ministry’s security officers; so does anyone who wants to set up an NGO, a school or a television station. The ministry has an army of about two million informers: one Egyptian in every 40. It has become one of the state’s most powerful branches, rivalling the army, since Egypt withdrew from the struggle with Israel and shifted towards suppressing its internal enemies: leftists, human rights activists and, above all, Islamists.

Mubarak’s principal domestic adversary – and perhaps his greatest asset in selling himself to the West, and to a frightened middle class – is the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a schoolteacher, the Brotherhood remains the country’s largest, best organised opposition movement. There have been many strategic shifts over the years but the message hasn’t changed: social justice, clean governance based on Islamic principles, opposition to imperialism, solidarity with Palestine.

Both Nasser and Sadat were fellow-travellers, if not members, in the 1940s. The Brothers initially supported the 1952 coup, but soon fell out with the new government. Denied what they felt should be their share of the spoils, they became Nasser’s fiercest critics, and in 1954 a member of the Brotherhood’s clandestine wing shot at him as he was giving a speech. Nasser famously didn’t flinch, and shortly afterwards ordered the first in a series of crackdowns, in which tens of thousands of Brothers, including the jihadi theorist Sayyid Qutb, were jailed, and often tortured in the so-called mihna, or ‘inquisition’ that followed.

Qutb responded by calling for holy war against the Egyptian state and was hanged in 1966 for plotting its overthrow. The Brotherhood took pains to distance itself from Qutb’s radicalism, and by 1970, when Sadat came to power, had renounced violence: a position it maintained throughout the 1990s, when the security services were waging a dirty war against a radical Islamist insurgency inspired by Qutb’s writings. The Brothers sought to transform Egypt more gradually, by promoting Islamic values, denouncing state corruption, and providing medical and social services to the poor. These services – virtually comprising a state within the state – have been subsidised by Brotherhood-run Islamic banks, and by donations from the pious middle class as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. If the Brotherhood continues to enjoy wide support, it is in large part because of its service to the poor.

Mubarak was never close to the Brothers, but he has had to find a way to live with them, if only because they are too deeply embedded in society – and in the mosques, no-go zones for the state – to be eliminated. Their status is often described as ‘banned yet tolerated’: ‘banned’, because they would pose a serious threat to the regime if they were allowed to participate freely; ‘tolerated’, because they allow Mubarak to present himself as Egypt’s only defence against an Islamist takeover. Thus, under American pressure to open up Egypt’s political system, Mubarak permitted the Brothers to run in the 2005 legislative elections. To the horror of the liberal opposition, and of the Bush administration, they won 88 of the 160 seats they contested, a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament, making them the second most powerful party after Mubarak’s NDP.

Since then, the US has all but dropped its pressure on Mubarak to democratise, and the Brothers have had their wings clipped. They weren’t allowed to run in the 2007 elections for the upper house; the applications of all but two dozen of the 5000 Brothers who sought to run in the 2008 municipal elections were rejected; and thugs were sent in to attack their supporters at polling stations. Hundreds of Brothers have been arrested: high-ranking moderates who have been trying to reform the Brotherhood from within are the preferred target.

The effect has been to strengthen the hand of the hardliners led by the new General Guide, Mohammed Badie, who was imprisoned with Qutb in 1965 – Badie and his acolytes are known as the Group of 1965.

They consolidated their power in January’s internal elections, in which the intellectual reformer Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh lost his seat on the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council. They are disinclined to build alliances with secular forces, frown on overtures to women and Copts, and are not especially troubled by Mubarak’s dictatorship so long as it allows them to preach.

They draw their support from conservative rural members, many of whom have worked in the Gulf and been influenced by Wahabbism, with its emphasis on external signs of piety and mistrust of Western-style democracy. As they see it, the openness advocated by the reformists has left the Brotherhood vulnerable to intrusions by the state, and to the temptations of secular liberalism: secrecy is the only means by which it can survive; and survival, not governing, is the principal aim. Until the day when the state falls into their hands like a rotten fruit, they prefer to avoid confrontation with it, devoting themselves instead to Islamising society (da’wa), and defending Egyptian virtue from such threats as Beyoncé, whose concert at a Red Sea resort they were lobbying to prevent when I was in Cairo last winter. They have been encouraged in this by the state, which has expanded the role of the clerics on television and in education: as Sophie Pommier argues in Egypte, l’envers du décor (2008), it’s a mistake to see the NDP as a ‘secular party whose principles are radically opposed to those of the Muslim Brotherhood’.

The result is an undeclared power-sharing arrangement between Mubarak and the Brotherhood, a cat and mouse game that masks a deeper convergence of interests: both sides, after all, have reason to portray the Brothers as the only real alternative to the regime.

A perfect example of this collusion is the experience of the new Centre Party, Hizb al-Wasat, founded in 1996 by Abul-Ela Madi, a moderate Islamist with strong links to leftists, Nasserists and liberals. Broadly sympathetic to a school of thought Bruce Rutherford describes as ‘Islamic constitutionalism’,[†] which tries to harmonise liberal views on the rule of law and individual rights with Islamic tradition, he is also close to Aboul Fotouh and the reform wing of the Brotherhood. Yet he is no longer a member of the Brotherhood, having concluded that the NDP and the Brothers are ‘the double face of our crisis’. The only way forward, as he saw it, was to create a new party which, though rooted in Islamic values, would ‘separate politics and preaching’ and welcome Copts and women – something he has succeeded in doing, despite attempts by intelligence officers to frighten his Coptic members. He has not succeeded in much else, however. His party has yet to be granted a licence to run in elections, mostly because a multi-confessional, moderately Islamic, democratic party might stand a chance of getting somewhere.

The Ministry of the Interior, accusing him of being a front for the Brothers, claims that the party fails to ‘fulfil a legitimate purpose not met by an existing party’ – never mind that the ‘existing party’ in question, the Brotherhood, is officially banned. A prominent leader of the Brothers was happy to second this: the new party, he said, ‘thinks just like us’.

Having a licence, however, is no guarantee of influence. None of the two dozen registered opposition parties has a popular following, or any chance of achieving one, thanks to restrictions on freedom of assembly imposed by the Emergency Law. As Rif’at al-Said, the leader of the left-wing party Tagammu (two seats out of 454 in the lower house), put it, Egyptian parties are merely ‘groupings of individuals floating on the surface of society’. Their function is to create the illusion of democratic politics, the number of seats they gain depending less on the will of the voters than on the needs of the NDP. Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour is the secretary-general of the New Wafd Party (six seats in the lower house), founded in 1983, which takes its name from the party that led the movement against the British occupation after the First World War, and promotes an updated version of that party’s genteel, constitutional liberalism. Abdel-Nour, a banker from a prominent Coptic family, sighed when I asked him about his party’s activities: ‘Our experience as a party has been catastrophic. It’s true that we now have almost unlimited freedom of the press, but it’s useless because we can’t get a direct relationship to the street. The Muslim Brothers have that connection through the mosque, but we’re not even allowed to hold rallies.’

It’s hard to imagine Abdel-Nour addressing a crowd. A charming, cosmopolitan man, he recalls the era before Nasser’s revolution, when politics was the preserve of elites. He wants to open up the system, but not too much, and not too quickly. Asked whether the ban on the Brothers should be lifted, he sipped his tea and paused. ‘It’s a tricky question,’ he said, playing with a ruler on his desk. ‘Egypt is a country where two religions coexist. You can’t have the Islamic Republic of Egypt – it will never happen. We can’t accept a Muslim party that says a Copt or a woman can’t be president of the republic. And I refuse to be ruled by someone who thinks a Malaysian Muslim is closer to him than a Christian Egyptian. I know some decent people in the Brotherhood, like Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh. You speak to them and you wonder, why aren’t you with us? But I don’t trust them.’

This distrust is shared by many middle-class Egyptians, and it is a major reason why they have been willing to tolerate the Mubarak family for so long. Whether they will accept Mubarak’s son Gamal is another matter: he may be the only person who is more widely disliked in Egypt than his father. A former investment banker who had no political experience when he was appointed to the General Secretariat of the NDP in 2000, he is a symbol of what Mubarakism has wrought: the growing influence of technocrats linked to multinationals; economic liberalisation in the absence of political liberalisation; and corrosive nepotism.

The idea of dynastic succession, or tawrith al-sulta, is particularly insulting to Egypt’s national pride: the country has been a republic since Nasser’s overthrow of King Farouk, and few people are keen on its becoming a ‘republican monarchy with houmus’, in the words of the novelist Khaled Al Khamissi. Born in 1963 and known to friends as ‘Jimmy’, Gamal spent his early adult life in London, working at Bank of America and Medinvest, a private equity firm he helped found, until he was whisked back to Egypt in 1995.

Since then, he has risen rapidly through the ranks of his father’s party; at the 2002 NDP congress, he was promoted to head the Policies Secretariat, a government advisory board made up of several hundred wealthy Egyptians linked to the regime or the Mubarak family, together with intellectuals who style themselves ‘liberal reformers’. Collectively they’re known as ‘Gamal’s cabinet’.

Although both father and son deny that Gamal is being groomed for the presidency, he has been aggressively sold as the face of a new Egypt, in ‘Meet Gamal’ town-hall meetings, on billboards in Cairo, and on television. Now the third-ranking official in the NDP, Gamal has made a number of trips to Washington, fawningly covered by the state-run media, and been praised in the New York Times as an ‘intelligent, handsome policy wonk’. In Sophie Pommier’s words, he ‘preaches reform in an incantatory mode, with slogans about renovation and “new thinking”’ – mainly opening markets and selling off state industries. For the majority of Egyptians getting by on $2 a day, he has shown little understanding, declaring at the height of the financial crisis that there could be no retreat on privatisation.

The need for ‘democracy’ is another favourite slogan among ‘Gamal’s boys’, but the conditions for it, they hasten to add, don’t yet exist. As one of his advisers says, ‘you can’t have democracy without democrats.’

What Gamal Mubarak doesn’t yet have is the support of the military, at least according to Osama al-Ghazali Harb, who quit the Policies Secretariat in 2006 having decided that it was merely a vehicle for the president’s son. He has since established his own party, the well-meaning, ineffectual Democratic Front, so ineffectual indeed that it was immediately given a licence. ‘Gamal’s support comes from people in the business elite,’ al-Ghazali Harb says. ‘They are plotting away, trying to mobilise the support of members of the party and the army. But if his father dies tomorrow they will shut him out. And trust me: Hosni Mubarak won’t leave his position even one hour before he dies.

We’re not in the US. We don’t have vice presidents. Here you’re either in your position or you’re in your grave. And within five or six minutes of his death, you’ll see tanks in the streets.’ This isn’t a prospect that alarms him. ‘The army is the only force that can guarantee that the transition will be peaceful.’ Last year al-Ghazali Harb dared to say what many Egyptians opposed to Gamal were quietly thinking: that the army should take over as soon as Mubarak steps down or dies, so that a new constitution can be drafted, and then, after two or three years, civilian rule restored. When I asked him who would head that transitional government, he didn’t hesitate: ‘Omar Suleiman.’

Suleiman, the head of General Intelligence, is both a lieutenant general in the army and a member of Mubarak’s cabinet. He is the second most powerful man in Egypt, a key player in negotiations between Israel and Hamas and one of the most formidable spymasters in the Middle East. Born in 1935 in Upper Egypt, he belongs to the generation of poor Egyptians who saw their fortunes rise when Nasser came to power. Like Mubarak, he studied at the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow in the 1960s, and received further training at Fort Bragg in the 1980s, after Egypt shifted its alliances. He and Mubarak grew close in the mid-1990s, while fighting the radical Islamist insurgency.

 When a group of Islamists opened fire on Mubarak’s limousine in Addis Adaba in 1995, Suleiman was sitting beside him; they were unhurt because Suleiman had insisted on travelling in an armoured car. His success in crushing the insurgency – and the dossier he compiled on Egyptian jihadists, many of whom joined Bin Laden after their defeat in Egypt – made him a valued partner for the CIA after 9/11. (As did Egypt’s usefulness in ‘extraordinary renditions’. In the words of the CIA agent Robert Baer, ‘If you wanted to make someone disappear – never to return – you sent him to Egypt.’)

Suleiman is a redoubtable figure, but nothing he has said or done suggests a yearning for political reform. Nor is it clear that he is willing take over from Mubarak: according to one rumour, he refused the presidency in early April and the army is now promoting another Mubarak loyalist, Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and current minister of civil aviation. But Al-Ghazali Harb and a growing number of dissidents continue to hope that Suleiman will be the man who saves Egypt from dynastic succession, and helps lay the foundations of civilian rule.

The announcement at the beginning of December last year that Mohamed ElBaradei might run for president as an independent has galvanised advocates of reform. Born in Cairo in 1942, ElBaradei is the son of a liberal lawyer who, as head of the Egyptian Bar Association, campaigned for an independent judiciary under both Nasser and Sadat. He has spent most of his professional life in the West; he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (he donated the proceeds to orphanages in his hometown); and he crossed swords over the inspections in Iraq and Iran with the Bush administration, which tried to force him out of his job. All reasons to respect him. When he flew home from Vienna in February, at the end of his third term at the IAEA, he was greeted at the airport by a thousand supporters. He then met members of the opposition, from Kifaya to the Muslim Brothers, and gave a series of blistering interviews on the state of Egyptian political life. Sounding rather like Obama in 2008, he insisted that he was ‘not a saviour’, that ‘only with the help of the people could he try to change the authoritarian regime in power for the last 50 years’. It’s easy to understand why Egyptians are tempted to see him as a saviour: an outsider, untainted by compromise and unaffiliated with any of Egypt’s political parties, he is someone on whom extravagant hopes can be pinned. Apart from generalities – restoring the rule of law, ensuring social protection for the poor, providing humanitarian aid for Gaza – he has said little about what he would do as president. ‘He remains an unpolitician,’ as the reporter Issandr El Amrani put it.

Still, the unpolitician has travelled throughout Egypt, delivering public speeches in defiance of the Emergency Law. The regime has responded by arresting the publisher of an admiring biography and persuading the authorities in Kuwait to deport 17 Egyptian residents who support him. Vitriolic attacks have come from the press, which has painted him as a pawn of Washington or Tehran (‘parachuted into the country in which he was born’), and from the official opposition parties: Abdel-Nour of the Wafd, for example, recently said that his insistence on running as an independent ‘reflects the kind of fascism that has caused disasters everywhere in the world’. But ElBaradei’s international prestige affords him valuable protection. His candidacy could also make it difficult for Gamal Mubarak to run: the contrast with the ex-director of the IAEA and Nobel laureate would be embarrassing.

The Mubarak regime, however, has many ways to fend ElBaradei off. The 2007 amendments to the constitution allow the president to disband parliament, and strengthen the power of the NDP, while the tightening of eligibility requirements makes it almost impossible for an independent candidate to run: to qualify, ElBaradei would need the backing of at least 250 members of parliament and municipal councils. Even if he were to get their backing, the regime can intimidate voters or rig the results, now that judicial supervision at the polls has been eliminated. ElBaradei has said he won’t run unless the constitution is revised; he has also called for international monitoring of Egypt’s elections. But Mubarak has little incentive to give in to either demand – unless the US government pressures him to do so.

Five or six years ago, it might have. From 2003 to 2005, the Bush administration appeared to be serious about democratic reform in Egypt: the ‘freedom deficit’ was seen as a key reason for the frustration and anger of men such as Mohammed Atta and Ayman Zawahiri – both Egyptians. Condoleezza Rice called for an end to the Emergency Law at the American University of Cairo in 2005 and, in his 2005 State of the Union address, Bush declared that ‘the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy.’ While continuing to avail themselves of Egypt’s services in extraordinary renditions, Bush and Rice embarked on a ‘freedom agenda’: for the first time, Egyptian NGOs which hadn’t been approved by the authorities in Cairo received direct US grants, infuriating Mubarak.

The US was chastened, however, by the Muslim Brothers’ success in the 2005 legislative elections. And that was just the beginning. With Hamas’s election in 2006, resistance and sectarian conflict in Iraq, the spread of Iranian influence, and Hizbullah’s strong performance in the 2006 war with Israel, it was clear that the ‘freedom agenda’ was backfiring in the rest of the region. Suddenly, the promotion of reform in Egypt came to seem imprudent, and Washington remembered why it had always appreciated Mubarak: his co-operation in the Israeli-Palestinian theatre and the war on terror; his hostility to Tehran; the precedence given to US warships seeking expedited passage through the Suez Canal; the willingness to allow American planes to refuel in secret at the West Cairo airbase on their way back to Iraq. By the time the 2007 constitutional amendments were passed, the Bush administration had reversed its course. The amendments, Rice said in Cairo, were ‘disappointing’ but ‘the process of reform is … going to have its ups and downs.’ Then she got to work: Palestine, Iran, Iraq. The political conditions Congress had imposed on $100 million of the $1.3 billion in military aid were waived by Rice, on the grounds that US military ships needed to be able to go through the canal at short notice.

Barack Obama, keen to break with Bush’s messianic talk about spreading democracy, has worked to rebuild trust with the Egyptian government. In his speech in Cairo in June 2009, he spoke of his belief that all people want ‘government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people’, and insisted that ‘we will support them everywhere.’ Yet he has done little more than express mild criticism of Mubarak for extending the Emergency Law, and his administration has reverted to the pre-2004 position of reserving USAID funds for NGOs approved by the Egyptians. Military aid, Robert Gates has made clear, will be provided ‘without conditions’. Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, recently received $260 million in ‘supplementary security assistance’, as well as $50 million for border security, which probably means reinforcing the blockade of Gaza. There is also a brisk traffic in arms: US manufacturers recently announced the sale to Cairo of 24 new F-16 fighter jets and other equipment, worth an estimated $3.2 billion. Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations has published a ‘contingency planning memorandum’ in favour of continued support to the regime, which, as he describes it, ‘has helped create a regional order that makes it relatively inexpensive for the United States to exercise its power’. Less expensive at any rate than it would be in the event of an Islamist takeover that ‘would pose a far greater threat – in magnitude and degree – to US interests than the Iranian revolution’. This seems to be the Obama administration’s implicit wager, too. It’s bad news for ElBaradei and his supporters: bad news for all the Egyptians who fear that they will never know democracy because of the ‘American veto’.
[*] Egypt: The Moment of Change, edited by Rabab El-Mahdi and Philip Marfleet (Zed, 186 pp., £16.99, December 2009, 978 1 84813 021 0).
[†] Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam and Democracy in the Arab World (Princeton, 292 pp., £24.95, December 2008, 978 0 691 13665 3).
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian