Saturday 18 August 2012

Salman Abu Sitta: The Palestinian History Weapon

Palestinians walk outside the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem during the third Friday prayers of Islam's holy month of Ramadan on 3 August 2012. (Photo: AFP - Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Published Sunday, August 5, 2012

“The war runs along several fronts, not only militarily, but it [is] also a battle over the minds of people…We are not trying to obliterate any other history – we are trying to say that we will not allow you [Israel] to erase ours,” Salman Abu Sitta explains in a soft, confident voice.

Resistance, especially through non-violence, has always been part of the Palestinian struggle against Zionist colonization.

In the midst of this struggle, Abu Sitta has spent most of his life fashioning an arsenal of unconventional weapons to ensure that the land of Palestine and its people are never forgotten.

Over the course of half a century, Abu Sitta has collected historical maps, documents, eyewitness accounts, hard data, and much more in order to categorically disprove much of Israel's claims to Palestine. Tapping into his knowledge of engineering, Abu Sitta has also outlined a plan for the Palestinian population to – legally and physically – return to the homes they were expelled from since 1948.

Abu Sitta was born to a prominent family in Beersheba in 1938. When he was ten, his family was among the first wave of refugees that flowed into Gaza, as the Zionist forces initiated their campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine. He was then sent to the prestigious al-Saidiya secondary school in Cairo, graduating at top rank in all of Egypt. He continued his education at Cairo University in the Faculty of Engineering, followed by a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of London. It was in London that he began amassing maps and documents related to every inch of Palestine, embarking on a journey that would encompass the rest of his life.

In the ensuing decades, he was a member of the Palestinian National Council, worked as a researcher on refugee affairs, and authored hundreds of papers on the rights of Palestinian refugees, as well as five books, including the 700-page magnum opus that is the Atlas of Palestine 1917-1966. Recently, he founded the Palestine Land Society (PLS) to which he commits most of his energy. Due to his lifelong work, particularly his unwavering commitment to the Right of Return, Abu Sitta is considered an icon and a treasure trove of information on Palestine.

Palestine: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing
AUB, Beirut January 14,2010 - Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Palestine: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing by Salman Abu Sitta. A practical plan to implement the Right of Return.
He spoke with Al-Akhbar at his modest office, hidden within an old commercial building in downtown Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Yazan al-Saadi:What is PLS and what does it do?
Salman Abu Sitta: PLS, as our website clearly shows, is dedicated to the documentation of Palestine in terms of its land and its people, [which] involves the transformation of Palestine from pre-World War I until today, meaning the start, growth, and expansion of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine and what it did to the land, the people, and the records of the land and people.
YS: Why is PLS necessary? What makes it unique compared to other groups for Palestine?
SAS: If I were living in Palestine before World War I, I would see no need for [the organization] because people knew Palestine was their homeland and they lived in it. Therefore, there was no need for a confirmation of their identity and it would be taken for granted. However, with the advent of the Zionist project, it became very clear – now more than ever before – that it has three objectives, which are combined in a very unique colonial enterprise.
First, to take over the land of Palestine, and – as we know from the literature and subsequent events – also parts of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Secondly, [the aim] is to get rid of the people. First, in 1948 through a series of massacres – almost 77 massacres and atrocities – and then by expulsion of the remaining population.

The third objective, which is known but rarely combated, is to erase the memory and history of Palestinians in Palestine. This has many justifications in the view of the Zionists. First, it seeks to prove the myth that Palestine is a 'land without people.’ Secondly, it shows to themselves and the very gullible West that they have a legitimate case in Palestine, arguing that they were the owners of the country some 2,000 years ago, which by all accounts is incorrect historically, and that they are justified in returning to 'an empty land.’

The Palestine Nakba: The past is now
[David] Ben-Gurion started a new war against Palestinians immediately after signing the Armistice Agreement with Syria on July 20, 1949. He collected about two dozen Israeli Old Testament and Torah experts, geographers, surveyors, and so on and asked them to erase all Palestinians names and replace them with new Hebrew ones, preferably with some historical touch. So they did, and it took them ten years. The Israeli maps of the 1950s were nothing more than the British survey of Palestine maps overwritten in Hebrew. From 1960 onwards, the survey of Israel department started to issue maps devoid of all these original Palestinian names, and replaced with Hebrew ones.

This was to implant in the minds of Israelis, especially the younger generation, that this is ‘Israel’ and that these are original Hebrew names. When you ask young Israelis today about the names, they believe it was always like that. They do not know that beneath lay a Palestinian village.

Our Cultural Heritage
The main objective of creating PLS is to restore Palestinian heritage, which was erased by Israelis. It is a small secret, indirect challenge to Ben-Gurion, who once said, “The old will die and the young will forget.” Well, the old will die of course but not before they told their children about their land. Before, when the old man told his son about the land, it was descriptive, it was poetic. Now, we [PLS] give them a physical map.

YS: You started documenting the history of Palestine from the age of 30. How effective is this type of resistance?

SAS: Actually, I was younger. I started doing this when I went to England for my PhD and there were so many references available about Palestine. After Oslo, I devoted more time to this and less time to my business. [By then] I had already accumulated a lot of documents, maps, photographs, old books, new books. At the moment, we probably have a total of around 10,000 items.

In general, knowledge about the Right of Return, what it means, whether it is an alternative to compensation, or if compensation is complementary to the Right of Return, and the question of where to return has had widespread application. This was furthered by two things.

First, many of our young generation are much more educated than their parents, so they research and enquire. They have this curiosity about their homeland, which comes from good education.

Secondly, this curiosity and this knowledge can be transmitted widely through the Internet. There is an aggregation of all these thoughts and ideas. When something happens like the war and destruction of Gaza or the destruction of Jenin camp, people can respond now and say, “Ha! We know why this happens on a day-to-day basis.” And they can dig back in history.

For example, there is this site called Palestine Remembered, which we did not create but cooperate with very closely. It has hundreds of thousands of young people who look for their village and even found relatives from their village.

Additionally, I made a map of Palestine, a poster showing all the depopulated villages that was reprinted – up to one and a half million copies in different countries.

We also did the Daleel Haq al-Awda (The Right of Return Guide), which only last month had five thousand copies printed in refugee camps throughout Jordan. Before that it was printed and distributed in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon. Young people are eager to know, and we feed them that information.

One thing that was surprising for me after so many years of doing the Atlas of Palestine, which shows 50,000 place names, was that we don't really need to argue about Balfour or show title deeds to our land to prove that we exist. We simply needed to show the historical maps of Palestine.

The 50,000 names are the alphabet of the social history of Palestinians. Every single name has been crafted by the people themselves in their daily lives, which shows that there was a vibrant society over thousands and thousands of years. All these names were not created by a committee like Ben-Gurion's.

We are now working on a map of Palestine dated from 1596, taken from the tax register that was created for Palestine only a few years after the Ottoman rule began over the area. We tried to find whether these names in the sixteenth century relate to the names we have today or had until the Nakba [the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians]. So far, 90 percent of the names are the same. Those that are not, were changed in a very elementary way.

Even deeper in history, we found a book by the Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, in which he wrote in the year 313AD about the localities in Palestine. This book was written in old Greek and Latin, but luckily it was translated into English about five years ago. I have analyzed that book and plotted the names of these localities as they were in the year 313 and compared them with our atlas. Again, all these names are the same, with slight variations in spelling. It is remarkable that these villages existed for at least two thousand years.

The tragic part of the story is that we identified 139 names of these old villages that were destroyed by Israel in 1948. No one moved a finger when 139 villages, which existed at least [as far back as] the time of Jesus Christ, were destroyed systematically.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Israelis realized that destroying Palestinian villages blindly was not a good thing. So they created the Israel Archaeological Society for the express purpose of going to these villages before their destruction to keep any item of use in carving and creating a Jewish history in Palestine and to destroy the rest. Not only Ottoman and Arab, but also Byzantine and Roman.
This destruction was deliberate and planned to remove any history other than a Jewish one, and to create a false history. We heard no outcry about this loss to human heritage from UNESCO or Western quarters, which regularly wave the banner of civilization.
The war runs along several fronts, not only militarily but also a battle over the minds of people. The Israelis want to create in the minds of Jews first and others second that they have a legitimate history and geography in Palestine. We try to say that this is not the case. We are on the defensive. We are not trying to obliterate any other history – we are trying to say that we will not allow you [Israel] to erase ours.
YS: During the course of working on this full-time since the 1990s, how successful has this work been and what changes have you seen?
SAS: To say we are completely successful is an exaggeration because we are not only fighting against Israeli influence in the West but also against the Crusaders’ heritage claims over Palestine. There are ideas in the West regarding Palestine that have been frozen since the Crusader times: “These are the Saracens, they have taken our Jerusalem. They are savages and we are the civilized ones.”
The Israelis built their strategy on top of the Crusaders’ image of Palestine. Hence they crafted the oxymoronic idea of a Judeo-Christian heritage. It’s quite funny; it’s like a Capitalist-Communist alliance.
I definitely think there has been progress. I can see it in a number of things. For example, our atlas is available in universities in Western Europe and the United States. Almost every week, I get questions from a PhD student or a research organization. We are also accredited by the UN and they distribute our maps as credible documents.
Among the elite and among those who are interested, we made inroads. Of course, with the elite, there are groups such as universities and research centers that are anti-Palestinian and those people are keen to get our publications, as well. So far, none of them, including Benny Morris, disputed much of the facts we have published. They only questioned our motives for doing so, which is fine by me.

What worries me now is that after Oslo, the young generation, the children who threw stones during the First Intifada, are removed from the direct knowledge of Palestine. Why? Their parents are not fedayeen anymore; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is in disarray, and the American and Israeli pressure on the academic curriculum made it difficult to teach about Palestine in schools – this is most notable in Jordan and the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas.
I think PLS should now direct our efforts toward education. In this regard, I am very pleased that we made an important breakthrough. After several discussions, UNRWA agreed to receive a gift of 700 copies of the atlas from us for each of the 700 schools they administer. I only hope that UNRWA school teachers will make much use of the atlas.
YS: How did the idea for Atlas of Palestine start?
Atlas_largeSAS: It started as a culmination of efforts to render Ben-Gurion's plan useless and we combined our wealth of information into one book. I think the atlas is probably one of the few references that combines all this information in one volume. We did not invent anything; we only compiled information from so many countries, so many sources, so many periods and put them together.
In Part One of the atlas, we conducted an analysis of the information and what it means. In this regard, the compendium by Mustapha Dabbagh, Biladuna Filisteen (Palestine, Our Country), is an extremely valuable reference. Waleed Khalidi, the well-known Palestinian historian, produced a volume called, All That Remains, which was another good source for us.
YS: Was there any involvement by other Palestinian groups or political organizations like Hamas, Fatah or the PLO?
SAS: I wish that the answer was yes; I regret that the answer is no.
YS: Even presently?
SAS: Hamas is interested in the product, but nobody had a role in creating it. Fatah had a scant interest. I regret that nobody helped – not from a political point of view, which we do not want, but from a financial point of view. We received no financial help except from a couple of concerned individuals in small amounts. But I received a lot of volunteer efforts from young and interested people.
The sad thing about people who claim seats in the PLO today is that even after the product [the atlas] was finished, they never bothered to buy copies. They looked at it, some people knew about it, and some asked to be gifted, but no one made a large-scale effort to buy and distribute it to schools.
YS: What are the legal implications of this atlas?
SAS: The implications are, and could be, even more immense. I have a few cases to share.

First, a young man in the negotiation department of the PLO was given the task of finding where the Armistice Line was along the West Bank in the Latrun area. He wrote to me, saying that he did not find a better source than the atlas and we gave him all further information we had. He did not do so as a representative of an official body, but as a private individual doing research, so we helped.
The other example involved ALECSO (The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization), which had a problem with Israel in regards to Tel al-Qadi, who wanted to register it as an Israeli heritage site with UNESCO. We produced a report about the geography of the place and its history. I do not know if this report was the only instrument, but apparently it gave UNESCO cause to hesitate and they rejected Israel's request. That was a victory – perhaps an indirect victory.
Another example involved the UN seeking to record the losses and damages from the Apartheid Wall on villages in Palestine. I contacted a small unit in Ramallah, within the Palestinian Authority (PA), and I discovered that they had no information on this topic. Therefore, we supplied them with the details of these villages, the land area, and how they are affected by the wall. They were very pleased with it. Yet, they could not find other ways to benefit from the information, nor were they willing to approach us officially at the highest level to make an agreement with us.
YS: Why is that so?
SAS: I will let you be witness to a case that just occurred yesterday [July 23]. I discovered that the UN has an organization called the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). It is a world consortium of experts on place names across the world. They will hold a conference in New York from July 31 until August 11 and member states are represented in this event to standardize place names.

I wrote to the vice-chairman about Palestine, saying we have 50,000 names produced. He was amazed and said that this should have been introduced by the Palestinian delegate and asked us why we did not get in touch with the responsible representative. So we contacted the ministry of planning who in turn stated that they were interested in working with us, and we asked them to have the minister contact us in order to establish a formal agreement with PLS to know who should do what.

The person I contacted seemed like a nice person, but she is trying her best in a desert and no one is helping her. I told her I need some formal agreement defining our role with the ministry. Moreover, their interest, because they are under the paw of the Israeli occupation, was only in the West Bank. All our work deals with the lost part of Palestine and they were not interested.

I wanted her to take two copies of the Atlas, one Arabic and one English, and put them in the exhibition in New York for the experts to see.

Now, I want you to be a witness to see if this has happened.

Abu Sitta picks up the phone and calls the ministry.

Our problems mainly come from us. Even the victim is responsible for fighting back. I do not blame the thief; I blame the house owner for not locking the door.

A secretary answers and says that the representative is at home and proceeds to give Abu Sitta the representative's cell phone number. He dials it, the representative responds and says she needs to consult her superiors.

This is a problem I have all the time. I need to have access to international fora, officially. I cannot. I believe we should represent Palestine in the proper way in these international fora. Until we have a new elected Palestinian National Council (PNC) with new leadership, this is not going to happen.

YS: Do you think there should be a reform or an update to the PNC?

SAS: Absolutely. All our work has led to two conclusions. One, to educate and inform our people about their rights, which has been successful in several areas and is not yet completed. Two, [we must] empower these people to defend their rights. Empowerment is missing at the moment.

The Right of Return movement, on which we have worked very hard to establish with others, is now generally well-understood and alive in the minds of the people, but you need legal power to represent it. That can only occur if a new PNC is democratically elected to represent eleven million people from which new leadership will emerge, and this leadership must be in every international fora.

At the moment, the PLO's situation is pathetic because, after Oslo, there has been an attempt to dilute it and replace it with the PA. Thanks to the Israeli occupation, the PA has become a sub-contractor. The whole Palestinian world is agitated because those people in Ramallah do not represent us and they do not even represent those in the West Bank because their term has expired.

Even then, the West Bank population are only 18 percent of Palestinians. What about the other 82 percent that are not represented? Seven million refugees, they are bigger in size than Jordan, than Lebanon, and they have no official representation. Therefore, it is imperative that a PNC be elected even though it has problems of proper representation in some areas. But it will still be better than what we have now.

YS: Is there work being done for that aim?

SAS: A lot. We, at another organization called the Right of Return Congress, held a conference in London as early as 2003 and in Beirut in 2007. Now we have piles and piles of correspondence and communications with everyone concerned. But at the moment this is a hostage of national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

I think this [national reconciliation] is a farce, because Hamas and Fatah do not represent more than two to three percent of Palestinians.

Secondly, a national reconciliation between them will only divide the cake between them and not among others.

Thirdly, if we have a PNC, national reconciliation will become irrelevant because it will become a subject to be resolved by one of the local committees within the PNC and not at the doorsteps of Arab intelligence services.

We [PLS] are trying to fill the gaps. There is a complete absence of official Palestinian representation in defending our cases in every respect, even geography and other things like that. Why did ALESCO come to us to help with Tel al-Qadi? Because there is no one else.

YS: Currently, you have an expansion of the Israeli colonial project, an acceleration of its repression, the PLO is in tatters, Hamas and Fatah are at each others' throats, neighboring Arab countries are under the thralls of uprisings and major changes, and significant shifts to power dynamics. Considering all these factors, how viable is the Right of Return and what is its future?

SAS: All the elements you mentioned are preparation for things to come. All of them indicate, on the face of it, that the Right of Return is a very far from implementation. Paradoxically, this situation, which you described very clearly, brings the Right of Return closer.

With the weakness of Arab governments [and] with the absence of true representation of Palestinians in the PLO, the Israeli regime has gone wild. It actually removed every mask from its face. It became openly racist; its rabbis are decreeing that they should kill Palestinian children; it expels people from Jerusalem.

All this means is that the true nature of Israel, which we as Palestinian have been telling the world about since 1948, has now become clearer by virtue of Israeli government actions and statements – to the extent that American Jews are saying this is too much, or at least are trying to make it seem palatable in some way.

Also, Israel is eating up the West Bank. They are making it into a multitude of Gazas or concentration camps. The Palestinians today in Palestine, within all areas from 1948 to the West Bank, are comparable to the number of Jews, if you exclude 400,000 non-Jews living in Israel. I do not want to play the numbers game because even if the Palestinians were 10 percent, this is no reason for annihilating them. But the large numbers make the case clearer.

My feeling is that our case in representing Israel as it is has become much easier, because the people who give us the evidence are the Israelis themselves. Therefore, when you say you want freedom, people will listen. Most of the world are aware of our situation. The West, where the Israeli lobby derives its strength, will change over time.

To move the meaning of injustice from removing the Apartheid Wall or removing the occupation to a new situation of “I want to live in my home” becomes possible or understandable.

[While] most of the world are against the occupation of the West Bank, there are very few who can connect this to the same principle of justice of returning home. I do not necessarily care if its one or a hundred states, but I do care about the basic human right in which everyone should be able to live in their home. I do not want to fall into that trap of one state or nothing. I usually ask people who call for one state: Do you want everyone to live in their homes freely or not? That is what we should strive for. We are closer to implementing the Right of Return in ways that the Israelis did not intend for.

The plan for a New World Order stumbles on geopolitical realities

Imad Fawzi ShueibiFor four centuries, political leaders have tried to create an international order that governs relationships between nations and prevents wars. While the principle of state sovereignty has yielded results, intergovernmental organizations have mainly reflected the prevailing balance of power. As for the ambitious U.S. New World Order, it is being shattered by new geopolitical realities.
Voltaire Network | Damascus (Syria)


The slow formation of an international order

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Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully (1559-1641)
The idea of ​​a world or international order appeared in the seventeenth century, although the phrase "world order" has been introduced only recently in political discourse. It was discussed whenever an opportunity presented itself to organize and sustain peace.
It was in 1603 that King Henri IV of France had his minister, the Duc de Sully, develop a first draft. The objective was to constitute a Christian republic including all the peoples of Europe. It would have ensured the preservation of nationalities and religions and been responsible for resolving problems between them.

The Grand Design stipulated the redefinition of state boundaries to balance their power, the creation of a European confederation of 15 with a supranational Council with the power of arbitration and an army capable of protecting the confederacy against the Turks.

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However that dream was interrupted by the assassination of Henri IV and resurfaced only at the end of the wars launched by Louis XIV. The Abbot of Saint-Pierre published his Project for perpetual peace among the Christian rulers.

The plan, which was presented to the Congress of Utrecht (1713), consisted in adopting in full all the decisions taken at that conference as the basis for the determination of the borders between the belligerent countries, and the establishment of a league of European nations (International Federation) whose mission was to prevent conflicts.

Apart from this utopia, and more important at the time, there were the Peace Treaties of Westphalia, signed in 1648. They intervened at the end of a Thirty Years’ War, conducted under religious banners, resulting in an accumulation of hatred and in the destruction of 40% of the population.

The negotiations lasted four years (1644-1648). Ultimately, they enshrined the principle of equality in negotiations between all parties in conflict, whether Catholic or Protestant, republican or monarchical.
The Treaty of Westphalia laid down four fundamental principles:

- 1. The absolute sovereignty of the nation-state, and the fundamental right to political self-determination.
- 2. Legal equality between nation-states. The smallest state is, therefore, equal to the largest, regardless of its weakness or its strength, its wealth or poverty.
- 3. Compliance with treaties, and the emergence of binding international law.
- 4. Non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

Certainly these general principles do not determine an absolute sovereignty, but there never was such a thing. However they did delegitimize any action likely to abolish the sovereignty of a state.

Political philosophers have all supported these projects. Rousseau strongly called for the constitution of a single state contract involving all European countries. Kant published Towards Perpetual Peace in 1875. For him, peace was a legal construct that required the codification of a general law applicable to all States. Bentham, the English utilitarian, stigmatized secret diplomacy in that it placed itself above the law. He also called for creating an international public opinion able to force governments to comply with international resolutions and submit to arbitration.
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Signing of one of the Treaties of Westphalia


The creation of international regulatory institutions

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Clement-Wenceslas de Metternich (1773-1859)
The idea of ​​an international order has progressed steadily, always based on the rules of sovereignty adopted by the Westphalia Treaties. It gave birth to the Holy Alliance proposed by Tsar Alexander I in 1815, as well as to the Concert of Europe proposed by the Austrian Chancellor Metternich in the nineteenth century to prevent "revolution" which means chaos in the rational political language.

It was from this moment that states began to hold summits to solve problems outside of war, favouring arbitration and diplomacy.
It was with this objective in mind that the League of Nations (LoN) was founded after the First World War. It emerged as a mere manifestation of the dominant power relations serving the victors. Its moral values ​​were relative. Thus, despite its stated goal of resolving disputes between nations by arbitration rather than war, it declared itself competent to supervise underdeveloped peoples or politically, economically or administratively colonized peoples pending their own self-determination. This naturally led to the legitimization of mandates. In assuming this position, the League of Nations embodied the colonial reality.

The artificiality of this organization was revealed when it found itself unable to cope with serious international events like the conquest of Manchuria by Japan, that of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the annexation of Corfu (Greece) by Italy, etc..
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The League of Nations meeting in Geneva
Although the idea of ​​the League, conceived by Leon Bourgeois, had been promoted by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Washington never joined. Challenged, Japan and Germany withdrew. In this way, the institution proved worthless.

The successor to the LoN, the United Nations, was a reflection of the Atlantic Charter, signed by the United States and the United Kingdom, on August 4, 1941, and the Moscow Declaration, adopted by the Allies on October 30 1943, announcing the creation of "an organizational structure based on the principle of sovereign equality of all peace-loving States." The project was developed at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference held in Washington from August 21 to October 7, 1944.

The principles of the Atlantic Charter were approved during the Yalta Conference (February 4-12, 1945), before being enshrined in the San Francisco Conference (June 25 and 26, 1945) .

The ideology of globalization was thus embodied in the UN which, upon its creation, claimed to establish a system of collective security for all, including States that were not members. In reality, the UN isn’t any more a contractual society of equals than the League was, but rather a reflection of momentary power relations in favour of the victors of the day.

That said, the whole world bowed to the will of the UN.
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The United Nations Security Council
This organization, which claimed to be world-wide, was in practice only the expression of the desire for domination by the victorious powers to the detriment of the world’s peoples whose will was not taken into account.

This geopolitical reality was confirmed upon the creation of the Security Council consisting of five major powers (the victors) as permanent members, and other members, not permanent, but elected on a geographical basis, resulting in the under-representation of Africa and Asia.

The failure of this system appeared during the Cold War. The conflict between the two superpowers was imposed upon small nations who supported all the consequences at the local and regional levels.
This structuring of roles was evident in the functioning of the UN whether with respect to applications for membership or for the treatment of conflicts, as was seen with regard to Palestine, Korea, the nationalization of Iranian oil, the Suez Canal crisis, the Israeli occupation, Lebanon etc..

The UN was created by proclaiming "faith in fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, to create the necessary conditions under which justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law". However, the veto system has deprived other nations of the right to be involved equally.

Ultimately, international institutions have always shown the balance of power far from any idea of ​​justice in the philosophical or moral senses.

The Security Council is a global directory (a continuation of the one installed by Metternich). It reserves the ability to impose resolutions only by the Allied victors of World War II, not by those who seek peace.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was crucial to change the international system.


The reshaping of international relations by the U.S.

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Leo Strauss (1899-1973)
It is at this time that the disciples of Leo Strauss triumphed in the U.S. with the help of neoconservative journalists. In their view, society is divided into three castes: the wise, the lords and the people. The wise alone possess the truth and reveal only part of it to some politicians (the lords), while the people should submit to their decisions. They have continued to promote their ideas and call for the repeal of the principles of the Treaty of Westphalia, namely respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. To enforce Western hegemony, they invoke a "right of humanitarian intervention" and a "responsibility to protect" incumbent upon the wise, executed by the lords, and imposed on the people. Revising the language of the Second World War, they also call for the replacing of "Resistance" by negotiations.

In 1999, the calls of the neoconservatives were relayed to several Western countries including the UK and France. Tony Blair presented the attack on Kosovo by NATO as the first humanitarian war in history. In a speech in Chicago, he argued that the UK did not seek to defend its own self-interest, but rather to promote universal values. His statement was hailed both by Henry Kissinger and by Javier Solana (who was then Secretary General of NATO and not yet of the EU). Soon after, the UN appointed Bernard Kouchner as administrator of Kosovo.
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Tony Blair sets out his doctrine (Chicago, April 22, 1999)
There is no significant difference between the theory of the Straussians and the Nazis. In Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler was already stigmatizing the principle of state sovereignty asserted by the Treaty of Westphalia.

In economic terms, this vision has already triumphed with the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Since their inception, these institutions have sought to interfere in the economic, budgetary and financial policies of states, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Some Arab states have been victims of their advice on economic liberalization, privatization of the public sector and sell-off of natural resources.
Washington hesitated over what to do after the demise of the USSR. Gradually the U.S. has established itself as the sole superpower, as "hyper-power" in the words of Hubert Vedrine. Thereafter, the UN system inherited from the Second World War was regarded as passé by the US. Not content to ignore the UN, the US ceased to fulfill its financial obligations, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has refused to join the International Criminal Tribunal and has humiliated Unesco repeatedly.

Concepts from the Second World War were swept away by the attacks of September 11, 2001. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, issued by President George W. Bush on September 20, 2002, proclaimed a new law: "pre-emptive action against rogue states."

The U.S. strategy was accompanied by a conceptual upheaval.

- The notion of resistance, after the French Resistance to Nazi occupation, was de-legitimized in favour of a requirement for conflict resolution through negotiation, independently of the inalienable rights of the parties. Similarly, the concept of terrorism – never defined in international law - was used to de-legitimize any armed group in conflict with a State, whatever the causes of this conflict.
- Repealing the laws of war, Washington has revived the days of "targeted assassinations" abandoned after the Vietnam war and practiced by Israel for over a decade. According to their lawyers, these are not strictly speaking "assassinations", but "murders in self-defence", even though there is no need to protect oneself, nor any relation between the threat and the reaction, nor proportionality in the response.
- Humanitarian intervention, or responsibility to protect, has been placed above the sovereignty of states.
- Finally, the notion of rogue states has emerged.
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Bernard Lewis (1916 -)
These states are defined by four criteria which are largely within the realm of speculation and presumption of guilt:
- Their leaders oppress their people and loot their belongings.
- They do not respect international law and constitute a permanent threat to their neighbours.
- They support terrorism.
- They hate the United States and its democratic principles.

A decade after the disappearance of the USSR, the U.S. launched its remodelling of international relations. Concerning the Middle East, the neoconservative philosopher Bernard Lewis and his disciple, Fouad Ajami, set out the main objectives: to put an end to Arab nationalism by striking at the tyrannical regimes that have cemented their tribal, sectarian, and religious mosaics. The destruction and dismemberment of the states of this region would lead to "constructive chaos", an uncontrollable situation in which any social cohesion dissolves and where man is returned to the brute state. These societies then return to a pre-national, or even pre-historical condition from which spring ethnically homogeneous microstates that are, by necessity, dependent on the United States. A leading Straussian, Richard Perle, assured that the wars in Iraq and Lebanon would be followed by others in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and would culminate triumphantly in Egypt.


Three stages

In any case, the construction of the New World Order has gone through several stages.

1. 1991-2002 was a phase of uncertainty. Washington hesitated to assert itself as the sole superpower and to unilaterally decide the fate of the world. Although this period spanned over a decade, it represents only one brief moment in history.

2. In the years 2003-2006, Washington tried to apply at any cost the theory of "constructive chaos " to extend its hegemony. It fought two wars, one with its own troops in Iraq, the other by proxy in Lebanon. The Israeli defeat in 2006 temporarily interrupted this project. Russia and China twice employed their veto in the Security Council (relating to Myanmar and Zimbabwe) as if to timidly demonstrate their return on the international stage.

3. In the period from 2006 to today, the unipolar system has given way to a non-polar world. Power is widely dispersed. China, EU, India, Russia and the United States alone account for over half of the inhabitants of the world, they hold 75% of global GDP and account for 80% of world military spending. This fact justifies to some extent a multipolar functioning because of persistent competition between these poles.


The nebula of a non-polar world

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Overall, these powers must face challenges from both above (the regional and global organizations) and below (the militias, NGOs, multinational corporations). Power is everywhere and nowhere, in several hands, in several places.

Beyond the six major world powers, there are numerous regional powers. In Latin America, there is the case of Brazil, more or less Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela; in Africa: Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt; in the Middle East, there are Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. There is Pakistan in Southeast Asia; Australia, Indonesia and South Korea in East Asia and the Western Pacific.

Many intergovernmental organisations belong on this list of forces: the IMF, the World Bank, the WHO and the UN as such; regional organizations like the African Union, the Arab League, ASEAN, EU, ALBA, etc.. not to mention clubs such as OPEC.

Certain states within nation states should be included, such as California or Uttar Pradesh [India’s most populous State], and even cities like New York or Shanghai.

There are also multinational companies, including energy and finance firms; and global media like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN as well as militias like Hezbollah, the Mahdi Army or the Taliban. Political parties must be factored in, as well as religious institutions and movements, terrorist organizations, drug cartels, NGOs and foundations. The list is endless.
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World Economic Forum (Davos)
The United States remains the main concentration of power. Its annual military expenditures are estimated at over $ 500 billion. This figure may reach 700 billion if we take into account the cost of on-going operations, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. With their annual GDP estimated at 14 trillion dollars, they are ranked first in the world economy.

However, the reality of U.S. power should not mask its decline both in absolute terms and relative to other states. As noted by Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the progression of countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE reaches $ 1 trillion per year. This is of course due to the energy market. Given the exploding demand from China and India, this amount will continue to grow. The weak dollar against the pound sterling and the euro will not only result in a depreciation of its value against Asian currencies, but a possible transformation of the oil market that will pay for itself with a basket of currencies or in euros.

And when the dollar is no longer the currency of oil trade, the U.S. economy will find itself vulnerable to inflation and currency crises.

Two basic mechanisms have supported the non-polar world:

- A number of financial flows have found their way outside legal channels and without the knowledge of governments. This suggests that globalization weakens the influence of major powers.
- These flows have been widely used by the oil states to secretly fund non-state actors.

Therefore, in a non-polar world, being the strongest state in the world does not guarantee the monopoly of force. All kinds of groups or individuals can accumulate influence.

According to Professor Hedley Bull, international relations have always been a mixture of order and chaos. According to his theory, the non-polar system left to itself becomes more complex. And that’s what has happened.

In 2011, the exacerbation of tensions over Libya showed that the non-polar system was no longer viable. Two competing orientations have emerged.

The first is US centred. It aims to build a new world order corresponding to Washington’s strategy. It involves the abolition of state sovereignty as established since the Peace of Westphalia and its replacement by foreign interference rhetorically justified as humanitarian intervention, in reality a Trojan horse for the “American Way of Life”.
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Brazil + Russia + India + China = BRIC
The second, supported by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS economies, is Sino-Russian. It calls for the maintenance of the principles of the Treaty of Westphalia, with a forward look. The idea is to determine the new rules of the game based around two nuclei, which rotate around a number of poles.
Clearly, control of resources, including renewable energy, is the ideal gateway to the creation of a new system, whose emergence has been blocked since 1991.

It is also clear that control of gas and transportation routes is at the centre of the conflict over Syria. Undoubtedly, the polarization of the powers on this topic goes beyond internal causes, and surpasses the issue of access to warm waters, or the logistical interests of the Russian naval base in Tartus.


The energy imperative

The battle over energy was the big story for Dick Cheney. He conducted it from 2000 to 2008 in clear confrontation with China and Russia. Since then this policy has been pursued by Barack Obama.
For Cheney, energy demand is growing faster than supply, which ultimately leads to a shortage. Maintaining U.S. dominance thus depends primarily on control of the remaining reserves of oil and gas. In addition, more generally, if current international relations are structured by the geopolitics of oil, it is the supply of a state that determines its rise or his fall. Hence his four-point plan:

- Encourage, whatever the cost, any local production by vassals in order to reduce the dependency of the United States vis-à-vis unfriendly suppliers and increase Washington’s freedom of action.
- Control oil exports from the Arab Gulf states, not to monopolize them, but to use them as leverage against both clients and other suppliers.
- Control shipping lanes in Asia, that is to say, the supply lines of China and Japan not only in oil but also in raw materials.
- Encourage the diversification of energy sources used in Europe in order to reduce European dependence vis-à-vis Russian gas and the political influence thereby derived by Moscow.
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Dick Cheney (1941 - )
Moreover, the Americans have set energy independence as their prime target. That was the gist of the policy developed by Dick Cheney after extensive consultations with the energy giants in May 2001. It requires a diversification of sources: local oil, domestic gas and coal, hydro and nuclear power. And it is also achieved through a strengthening of trade with friendly countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.

The secondary objective is to control the flow of oil in the Arabian Gulf. This was the main reason for triggering Desert Storm (1991), then the invasion of Iraq (2003).

The Cheney plan focused on controlling waterways: the Strait of Hormuz (through which passes 35% of world trade in oil), or the Straits of Malacca. To date, these waterways are essential to the economic survival of China, Japan, North Korea and even Taiwan. These corridors permit the conveyance of energy and raw materials to industries in Asia and the export of manufactured goods to world markets. By controlling these, Washington guarantees the loyalty of its key Asian allies and restricts the rise of China.

The implementation of these traditional geopolitical goals has led the U.S. to strengthen its naval presence in the Asia-Pacific, and to enter into a network of military alliances with Japan, India and Australia; always with a view to containing China.

Washington has always regarded Russia as a geopolitical competitor. The US exploited every opportunity to reduce Moscow’s power and influence. It particularly feared the increasing dependence of Western Europe on Russian natural gas, which could affect its ability to oppose movements in Eastern Europe and Russia in the Caucasus.

To offer an alternative, Washington has pushed the Europeans to source in the basin of the Caspian Sea by building new pipelines through Georgia and Turkey. The idea was to bypass Russia, with the help of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thus avoiding the use of Gazprom pipelines. Hence the idea of ​​Nabucco.

To enhance the energy independence of his country, Barack Obama has suddenly turned into a nationalist autarkist. He has encouraged the exploitation of oil and gas in the western hemisphere, regardless of the dangers of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, such as the coast of Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico, and regardless of techniques used, such as hydraulic fracking.
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In his speech on the State of the Nation 2012, President Obama proudly declared:

"Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years".

He spoke with particular enthusiasm regarding the extraction of natural gas by fracking of oil shale: "We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years."

In March 2011, Washington increased its imports from Brazil to wean itself off oil from the Middle East.

In fact, Washington has continued to ensure U.S. control of vital sea lanes that extend from the Straits of Hormuz to the South China Sea and has built a network of bases and alliances that encircle China-the emerging global power-in the form of an arc stretching from Japan to South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South East, then India, in the Southwest. All this is crowned by an agreement with Australia to build a military facility in Darwin on the north coast near the South China Sea.

Washington is trying to include India in a coalition of regional countries hostile to China to wrest New Delhi from the grasp of BRICS, a strategy of encircling China which is of very serious concern in Beijing.
JPEG - 47.6 kbStudies have shown an unexpected distribution of global gas reserves. Russia ranks first with 643 trillion cubic feet in western Siberia. In second place, Arabia, including the deposit of Ghawar, with 426 trillion cubic feet. Then, in third place, the Mediterranean with 345 trillion cubic feet of gas to which must be added 5.9 billion barrels of liquid gas, and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.
Regarding the Mediterranean, the essential is found in Syria. The deposit discovered at Qara may reach 400,000 cubic meters per day, which will make the country the fourth largest producer in the region, after Iran, Iraq and Qatar.

The transportation of gas from the Zagros Belt (Iran) to Europe must pass through Iraq and Syria. This has completely upset American projects and has consolidated Russian projects (Nord Stream and South Stream). Syrian gas has escaped Washington which must now fall back on Lebanese gas.

The war goes on ...
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

"Washington puts its money on proxy war"

"...A more recent proxy failure occurred in Iraq. For years after the 2003 invasion, American policymakers uttered a standard mantra: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down". Last year, those Iraqis basically walked off.   
Between 2003 and 2011, the United States pumped tens of billions of dollars into "reconstructing" the country with around $20bn of it going to build the Iraqi security forces. This mega-force of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police was created from scratch to prop up the successors to the government that the United States overthrew. It was trained by and fought with the Americans and their coalition partners, but that all came to an end in December 2011. 
Despite the Obama administration's efforts to base thousands or tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, the Iraqi government spurned Washington's overtures and sent the US military packing.  
Today, the Iraqi government supports the Assad regime in Syria, and has a warm and increasingly close relationship with long-time US enemy Iran. According to Iran's semiofficial Fars News Agency, the two countries have even discussed expanding their military ties... 
Africa may, at present, be the prime location for the development of proxy warfare, American-style, but it's hardly the only locale where the United States is training indigenous forces to aid US foreign policy aims. This year, the Pentagon has also ramped up operations in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean... 
The evidence for this conventional wisdom, however, is lacking. And failures to learn from history in this regard have been ruinous. The training, advising and outfitting of a proxy force in Vietnam drew the United States deeper and deeper into that doomed conflict, leading to tens of thousands of dead Americans and millions of dead Vietnamese. Support for Afghan proxies during their decade-long battle against the Soviet Union led directly to the current disastrous decade-plus American War in Afghanistan.     
Right now, the US is once again training, advising and conducting joint exercises all over the world with proxy war on its mind and the concept of "unintended consequences" nowhere in sight in Washington. Whether today's proxies end up working for or against Washington's interests or even become tomorrow's enemies remains to be seen. But with so much training going on in so many destabilised regions, and so many proxy forces being armed in so many places, the chances of blowback grow greater by the day."

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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Creative Chaos: ‘Outlaws, smugglers US proxies in looting of Syria’

An RT Interview with Ibrahim Alloush

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!