Thursday, 17 December 2009

US IGNORE SIGNIFICANT TALIBAN OFFER

US silent on Taliban's al-Qaeda offer















By Gareth Porter
Asia Times Online

WASHINGTON - The Barack Obama administration is refusing to
acknowledge an offer by the leadership of the Taliban in
early December to give "legal guarantees" that they will
not allow Afghanistan to be used for attacks on other
countries.

The administration's silence on the offer, despite a public
statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing
skepticism about any Taliban offer to separate itself from
al-Qaeda, effectively leaves the door open to negotiating a
deal with the Taliban based on such a proposal.

The Taliban, however, have chosen to interpret the Obama
administration's position as one of rejection of their
offer.

The Taliban offer, included in a statement dated December 4
and e-mailed to news organizations the following day, said the
organization had "no agenda of meddling in the internal
affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal
guarantees if foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan".

The statement did not mention al-Qaeda by name or elaborate
on what was meant by "legal guarantees" against such
"meddling", but it was an obvious response to past US
insistence that the US war in Afghanistan is necessary to
prevent al-Qaeda from having a safe haven in Afghanistan
once again.

It suggested that the Taliban were interested in
negotiating an agreement with the United States involving a
public Taliban renunciation of ties with al-Qaeda, along
with some undefined arrangements to enforce a ban on
al-Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan in return for a
commitment to a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops
from the country.

Despite repeated queries by Inter Press Service to the
State Department spokesman, P J Crowley, and to the
National Security Council's press office over the past week
about whether either Clinton or Obama had been informed
about the Taliban offer, neither office has responded to
the question.

Anand Gopal of The Wall Street Journal, whose December 5
story on the Taliban message was the only one to report
that initiative, asked a US official earlier that day about
the offer to provide "legal guarantees".

The official, who had not been aware of the Taliban offer,
responded with what was evidently previously prepared
policy guidance casting doubt on the willingness of the
Taliban to give up its ties with al-Qaeda. "This is the
same group that refused to give up bin Laden, even though
they could have saved their country from war," said the
official. "They wouldn't break with terrorists then, so why
would we take them seriously now?"

The following day, asked by ABC News This Week host George
Stephanopoulos about possible negotiations with "high
level" Taliban leaders, Clinton said, "We don't know yet."

But then she made the same argument the unnamed US official
had made to Gopal on Saturday. "[W]e asked [Taliban leader]
Mullah Omar to give up bin Laden before he went into
Afghanistan after 9/11," Clinton said, "and he wouldn't do
it. I don't know why we think he would have changed by
now."

In the same ABC interview, Defense Secretary Robert Gates
suggested that the Taliban would not be willing to
negotiate on US terms until after their "momentum" had been
stopped.

"I think that the likelihood of the leadership of the
Taliban, or senior leaders, being willing to accept the
conditions Secretary Clinton just talked about," Gates
said, "depends in the first instance on reversing their
momentum right now, and putting them in a position where
they suddenly begin to realize that they're likely to
lose."

In a statement issued two days after the Clinton-Gates
appearance on ABC, the Taliban leadership, which now calls
itself "Mujahideen", posted another statement saying that
what they called their "proposal" had been rejected by the
United States.

The statement said, in part, "Washington turns down the
constructive proposal of the leadership of Mujahideen," and
repeated its pledge to "ensure that the next government of
the Mujahideen will not meddle in the internal affairs of
other countries including the neighbors if the foreign
troops pull out of Afghanistan."

The fact that both the State Department and the NSC are now
maintaining silence on the offer rather than repeating the
Clinton-Gates expression of skepticism strongly suggests
that the White House does not want to close the door
publicly to negotiations with the Taliban linking troop
withdrawal to renunciation of ties with al-Qaeda, among
other issues.

Last month, a US diplomat in Kabul made an even more
explicit link between US troop withdrawal and a severing by
the Taliban of their ties with al-Qaeda.

In an article published on November 11, Philadelphia
Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin, who was then visiting
Kabul, quoted an unnamed US official as saying, "If the
Taliban made clear to us that they have broken with
al-Qaeda and that their own objectives were nonviolent and
political - however abhorrent to us - we wouldn't be
keeping 68,000-plus troops here."

That statement reflected an obvious willingness to
entertain a negotiated settlement under which US troops
would be withdrawn and the Taliban would break with
al-Qaeda.

A significant faction within the Obama administration has
sought to portray those who suggest that the Taliban might
part ways with al-Qaeda as deliberately deceiving the West.

Bruce Riedel, of the Brookings Institution, who headed the
administration's policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan
last spring, recently said, "A lot of smoke is being thrown
up to confuse people."

But even the hardliner Riedel concedes that the Pakistani
Taliban's attacks on the Pakistani military and
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) threaten the close
relationship between the Afghan Taliban and ISI. The
Pakistani Taliban continues to be closely allied with
al-Qaeda.

The Taliban began indicating their openness to negotiations
with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization in September 2007. But they began to hint
publicly at their willingness to separate itself from
al-Qaeda in return for a troop withdrawal only three months
ago.

Mullah Omar's message for Eid al-Fitr in mid-September
assured "all countries" that a Taliban state "will not
extend its hand to jeopardize others, as it itself does not
allow others to jeopardize us ... Our goal is to gain
independence of the country and establish a just Islamic
system there."

But the insurgent leadership has also emphasized that
negotiations will depend on the US willingness to withdraw
troops. In anticipation of Obama's announcement of a new US
troop surge in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar issued a 3,000-word
statement on November 25 which said, "The people of
Afghanistan will not agree to negotiations which prolongs
and legitimizes the invader's military presence in our
beloved country."

"The invading Americans want Mujahideen to surrender under
the pretext of negotiation," it said.

That implied that the Taliban would negotiate if the US did
not insist on the acceptance of a US military presence in
the country. The day after the Taliban proposal to
Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a public
plea to the United States to engage in direct negotiations
with the Taliban leadership.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Karzai said
there is an "urgent need" for negotiations with the
Taliban, and made it clear that the Obama administration
had opposed such talks. Karzai did not say explicitly that
he wanted the United States to be at the table for such
talks, but said, "Alone, we can't do it."

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist
specializing in US national security policy. The paperback
edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance
of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in
2006.

(Inter Press Service)

Monday, 21 September 2009

HAMAS LEADER INTERVIEWED BY FORMER LONDON MAYOR - KEN LIVINGSTONE



Exclusive: Hamas leader interview
Ken Livingstone

Published 17 September 2009
New Statesman

In a world exclusive, Ken Livingstone discusses religion,
violence and the chances for peace with the Hamas leader
Khaled Meshal

The key to peace in the Middle East is restoration of
international law and the recognition of the right of both
Palestinians and Israeli Jews to live in peace and security
side by side. As President Obama says, there is no peace
process today. Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu,
continues to extend illegal settlements in the West Bank
and East Jerusalem and maintain a near-complete blockade of
Gaza. Palestinians fire ineffectual rockets into Israel.
Israel regularly attacks Palestinian territories with
modern weapons.

No major conflict can be resolved without each side talking
to the other. That was the case in South Africa, Ireland
and countless other situations where people said they would
never talk to their opponents. I was vilified in the
Eighties for saying that, to resolve the Irish conflict,
you had to talk to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

In the Middle East, peace can only be achieved through
discussion between the elected representatives of both the
Israelis and the Palestinians - and that means Hamas, which
won a big majority in the last Palestinian parliamentary
election, as well as Fatah. This does not mean that I agree
with the views of Hamas, Fatah or the government of Israel.
Far from it: I do not. For example, I think a number of
passages in the original Hamas charter are unacceptable and
should be repudiated. Many observers believe that this is
also the view of some in Hamas.

Yet, for too many people, Hamas as an organisation remains
opaque. What they know about it is derived from a hostile
media; it has no face. Most would probably think its leader
is some disturbed Osama Bin Laden figure. In fact,
al-Qaeda's supporters in Gaza are so hostile to Hamas that
they have declared war on it.

For these reasons, I thought it important to interview the
de facto leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, who lives in exile
in Syria. Not every issue is clear. But at the beginning of
any peace process, what matters most is engagement.
Dialogue is necessary to get to clarity and mutual
understanding. Sinn Fein did not answer every question at
the beginning and neither does Binyamin Netanyahu today.
The answers from Meshal come at a time of heightened
tensions and renewed death threats against him, adding to
the permanent danger of assassination bids not only by the
Israelis, but also al-Qaeda supporters in the region.

I hope this interview will help to make the case for the
dialogue that is needed, which I believe is inevitable. It
is simply a question of how much suffering there will be,
on both sides, before we get there.

Ken Livingstone: Could you explain a little about your
childhood and the experiences that shaped your development
into the person you are today?

Khaled Meshal: I was born in the West Bank village of
Silwad near Ramallah in 1956. In my early age, I learned
from my father how he was part of the Palestinian
revolution against the British mandate in Palestine in the
Thirties and how he fought, alongside other Palestinians
using primitive weapons, against the well-equipped and
trained Zionist gangs attacking Palestinian villages in
1948.

I lived in Silwad for 11 years until the 1967 war, when I
was forced with my family, like hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians, to leave home and settle in Jordan. That was
a shocking experience I will never forget.

KL: What happened to you after the war?

KM: Soon afterwards, I left Jordan for Kuwait, where my
father had already been working and living since before
1967. After completing my primary education in 1970, I
joined the prestigious Abdullah al-Salim Secondary School.
In the early Seventies, it was a hub of intense political
and ideological activity.

During my second year at al-Salim school, I joined the
Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun). Upon finishing
my fourth year successfully I secured admission to Kuwait
University, where I studied for a BSc degree in physics.

Kuwait University had an active branch of the General Union
of Palestinian Students (GUPS), which had been under the
absolute control of the Fatah movement. I and my fellow
Islamists decided, in 1977, to join GUPS, which we had
previously shunned, and contest its leadership election.
However, working from within GUPS proved impossible; we
felt constantly impeded and realised we Islamists would
never be given a chance. By 1980, two years after I
graduated, my juniors decided to leave GUPS and form their
own Palestinian association on campus.

Many of the students had become disillusioned with the
Palestinian leadership, who seemed intent on settling for
much less than what they had grown up dreaming of, namely
the complete liberation of Palestine and the return of all
the refugees to their homes.

KL: What is the situation in Gaza today?

KM: Gaza today is under siege. Crossings are closed most of
the time and for months victims of the Israeli war on Gaza
have been denied ­access to construction materials to
rebuild their destroyed homes. Schools, hospitals and homes
in many parts of the Gaza Strip are in need of rebuilding.
Tens of thousands of people remain homeless. As winter
approaches, the conditions of these victims will only get
worse in the cold and rain. One and a half million people
are held hostage in one of the biggest prisons in the
history of humanity. They are unable to travel freely out
of the Strip, whether for medical treatment, for education
or for other needs. What we have in Gaza is a disaster and
a crime against humanity perpetrated by the Israelis. The
world community, through its silence and indifference,
colludes in this crime.

KL: Why do you think Israel is still imposing the siege on
Gaza?

KM: The Israelis claim that the siege is for security
reasons. The real intention is to pressure Hamas by
punishing the entire population. The sanctions were put in
place soon after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in
January 2006. While security is one of their concerns, it
is not the main motivation. The primary objective is to
provoke a coup against the results of the democratic
elections that brought Hamas to power. The Israelis and
their allies seek to impose failure on Hamas by persecuting
the people. This is a hideous and immoral endeavour. Today,
the siege continues despite the fact that we have, for the
past six months, observed a ceasefire. Last year, a truce
was observed from June to December 2008. Yet the siege was
never lifted, and the sanctions remained in place.
Undermining Hamas is the main objective of the siege. The
Israelis hope to turn the people of Gaza against Hamas by
increasing the suffering of the entire population of the
Strip.

KL: How many supporters of Hamas and elected
representatives of Hamas are there in prison in Israel?
Have they all been charged and convicted of crimes?

KM: Out of a total of 12,000 Palestinian captives in
Israeli detention, around 4,000 are Hamas members. These
include scores of ministers and parliamentarians
(Palestinian Legislative Council members). Around ten have
recently been released, but about 40 PLC members remain in
detention. Some have been given sentences, but many are
held in what the Israelis call administrative detention.
The only crime these people are accused of is their
association with Hamas's parliamentary group. Exercising
one's democratic right is considered a crime by Israel. All
these Palestinians are brought before an Israeli system of
justice that has nothing to do with justice. The Israeli
judiciary is an instrument of the occupation. In Israel,
there are two systems of justice: one applies to Israelis
and another applies to the Palestinians. This is an
apartheid regime.

KL: What part, if any, do other states and insti­tutions,
such as the US, the EU, Britain, Egypt, or the Palestinian
Authority, play in the blockade of Gaza?

KM: The blockade of Gaza would never have succeeded had it
not been for the collusion of regional and international
powers.

KL: How do you think the blockade can be lifted?

KM: In order for the blockade to be lifted, the rule of
international law must be respected. The basic human rights
of the Palestinians and their right to live in dignity and
free from persecution would have to be acknowledged. There
has to be an international will to serve justice and uphold
the basic principles of international human rights law. The
international community would have to free itself from the
shackles of Israeli pressure, speak the truth and act
accordingly.

KL: Israel says that the bombing and invasion of Gaza last
year was in response to repeated breaking of the ceasefire
by Hamas and the firing of rockets into southern Israel. Is
this the case?

KM: The Israelis are not telling the truth. We ­entered
into a truce deal with Israel from 19 June to 19 December
2008. Yet the blockade was not lifted. The deal entailed a
bilateral ceasefire, lifting the blockade and opening the
crossings. We fully abided by the ceasefire while Israel
only partially observed it, and towards the end of the term
it resumed hostilities. Throughout that ­period, Israel
maintained the siege and only intermittently opened some of
the crossings, ­allowing no more than 10 per cent of the
basic needs of the Gazan population to get through. Israel
killed the potential for renewing the truce because it
deliberately and repeatedly violated it.

I have always informed my western visitors, including the
former US president Jimmy Carter, that the moment Hamas is
offered a truce that includes lifting the blockade and
opening the crossings, Hamas will adopt a positive stance.
So far, no one has made us any such offer. As far as we are
concerned, the blockade amounts to a declaration of war
that warrants self-defence.

KL: What are the ideology and goals of Hamas?

KM: Our people have been the victims of a colonial project
called Israel. For years, we have suffered various forms of
repression. Half of our people have been dispossessed and
are denied the right to return to their homes, and half
live under an occupation regime that violates their basic
human rights. Hamas struggles for an end to occupation and
for the restoration of our people's rights, including their
right to return home.

KL: What is your view of the cause of the conflict between
the state of Israel and the Palestinians?

KM: The conflict is the outcome of aggression and
occupation. Our struggle against the Israelis is not
because they are Jewish, but because they invaded our
homeland and dispossessed us. We do not accept that because
the Jews were once persecuted in Europe they have the right
to take our land and throw us out. The injustices suffered
by the Jews in Europe were horrible and criminal, but were
not perpetrated by the Palestinians or the Arabs or the
Muslims. So, why should we be punished for the sins of
others or be made to pay for their crimes?

KL: Do you believe that Israel intends to continue to
expand its borders?

KM: Israel does not, officially, have stated borders. When
Israel was created in our homeland 62 years ago, its
founders dreamed of a "Greater Israel" that extended from
the Nile to the Euphrates. Expansionism manifested itself
on different occasions: in 1956, in 1967 and later on in
the occupation of parts of Lebanon in the Eighties. Arab
weakness, Israeli military superiority, the support given
to Israel by the western powers, and the massacres it was
prepared to commit against unarmed civilians in Palestine,
Egypt and Lebanon, enabled it to expand from time to time.
Although expansionism still lurks in the minds of many
Israelis, it would seem that this is no longer a practical
option. Lebanese and Palestinian resistance has forced
Israel to withdraw unilaterally from lands it had
previously occupied through war and aggression. While in
the past Israel was able to defeat several Arab armies,
today it faces formidable resistance that will not only
check its expansionism but also, in time, force it to
relinquish more of the land that it illegally occupies.

KL: What are your principal goals? Is Hamas primarily a
political or a religious organisation?

KM: Hamas is a national liberation movement. We do not see
a contradiction between our Islamic identity and our
political mission. While we engage the occupiers through
resistance and struggle to achieve our people's rights, we
are proud of our religious identity that derives from
Islam. Unlike the experience of the Europeans with
Christianity, Islam does not provide for, demand or
recognise an ecclesiastical authority. It simply provides a
set of broad guidelines whose detailed interpretations are
subject to and the product of human endeavour (ijtihad).

KL: Are you committed to the destruction of Israel?

KM: What is really happening is the destruction of the
Palestinian people by Israel; it is the one that occupies
our land and exiles us, kills us, incarcerates us and
persecutes our people. We are the victims, Israel is the
oppressor, and not vice versa.

KL: Why does Hamas support military force in this conflict?

KM: Military force is an option that our people resort to
because nothing else works. Israel's conduct and the
collusion of the international community, whether through
silence or indifference or actual embroilment, vindicate
armed resistance. We would love to see this conflict
resolved peacefully. If occupation were to come to an end
and our people enabled to exercise self-determination in
their homeland, there would then be no need for any use of
force. The reality is that nearly 20 years of peaceful
negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis have
not restored any of our rights. On the contrary, we have
incurred more suffering and more losses as a result of the
one-sided compromises made by the Palestinian negotiating
party.

Since the PLO entered into the Oslo peace deal with Israel
in 1993, more Palestinian land in the West Bank has been
expropriated by the Israelis to build more illegal Jewish
settlements, expand existing ones or construct highways for
the exclusive use of Israelis living in these settlements.
The apartheid wall that the Israelis erected along the West
Bank has consumed large areas of the land that was supposed
to be returned to the Palestinians according to the peace
deal.

The apartheid wall and hundreds of checkpoints turned the
West Bank into isolated enclaves like cells in a large
prison, which makes life intolerable.

Jerusalem is constantly tampered with in order to alter its
landscape and identity, and hundreds of Palestinian homes
have been destroyed inside the city and around it, making
thousands of Palestinians homeless in their own homeland.
Instead of releasing Palestinian prisoners, the Israelis
have arrested an additional 5,000 Palestinians since the
Annapolis peace conference in 2007 - actions that testify
to the fact they simply aren't interested in peace at all.

KL: Does Hamas engage in military activity outside
Palestine?

KM: No; since its establishment 22 years ago, Hamas has
confined its field of military operation to occupied
Palestine.

KL: Do you wish to establish an Islamic state in Palestine
in which all other religions are subordinate?

KM: Our priority as a national liberation movement is to
end the Israeli occupation of our homeland. Once our people
are free in their land and enjoy the right to
self-determination, they alone have the final say on what
system of governance they wish to live under. It is our
firm belief that Islam cannot be imposed on the people. We
shall campaign, in a fully democratic process, for an
Islamic agenda. If that is what the people opt for, then
that is their choice. We believe that Islam is the best
source of guidance and the best guarantor for the rights of
Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

KL: Does Hamas impose Islamic dress in Gaza? For example,
is it compulsory in Gaza for women to wear the hijab, niqab
or burqa?

KM: No. Intellectually, Hamas derives its vision from the
people's culture and religion. Islam is our religion and is
the basic constituent of our culture. We do not deny other
Palestinians the right to have different visions. We do not
impose on the people any aspects of religion or social
conduct. Features of religion in Gaza society are genuine
and spontaneous; they have not been imposed by any
authority other than the faith and conviction of the
observant.

KL: It is suggested that the division in the Palestinian
people between the West Bank and Gaza and between Fatah and
Hamas, which obviously weakens their position, came about
because Hamas seized power by force in Gaza. Is this true
and how do you explain this division?

KM: Undoubtedly, division does weaken the Palestinians and
harms their cause. However, the division is caused not by
Hamas, but by the insistence of certain international and
regional parties on reversing the results of Palestinian
democracy. It dismayed them that Hamas was elected by the
Palestinian people.

The division is compounded by the existence of a
Palestinian party that seeks empowerment from those same
regional and international parties, including the US and
Israel, that wish to see Hamas out of the arena. Soon after
its victory in the election of January 2006, every effort
was exerted to undermine the ability of Hamas to govern.

When these efforts failed, General Keith Dayton, of the
United States army, who currently serves as US security
co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was
despatched to Gaza to plot a coup against the Hamas-led
national unity government that came out of the Mecca
agreement of 2007. The plot prompted Hamas in Gaza to act
in self-defence in the events of June 2007. The claim that
Hamas carried out a coup is baseless because Hamas was
leading the democratically elected government. All it did
was act against those who were plotting a coup against it
under the command and guidance of General Dayton.

KL: Do those of other political or religious views such as
Fatah enjoy democratic freedoms in Gaza? What is the
situation of Hamas members in the West Bank territories
controlled by Fatah?

KM: Some Palestinian factions have been inspired by Arab
nationalism, others by Marxism or Leninism, and others by
liberalism. While we strongly believe that these ideas are
alien to our people and have failed to meet their
aspirations, we insist that the people are the final
arbiter on whom they wish to lead them and by which system
they desire to be governed. Thus, democracy is our best
option for settling our internal Palestinian differences.
Whatever the people choose will have to be respected.

We endeavour to the best of our ability to protect the
human rights and civil liberties of the affiliates of Fatah
and all the other factions within the Gaza Strip. In
contrast, the Palestinians in the West Bank under Israeli
occupation and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah
continue to be denied their basic rights. General Dayton is
in the West Bank supervising the ­severe and brutal
crackdown on Hamas and other Palestinian groups. More than
1,000 political prisoners, including students, university
professors and professionals in all fields are hunted down,
detained and tortured, sometimes to death, by the US-,
British- and EU-trained and -sponsored Palestinian
Authority's security force.

KL: Do you believe it is possible to reunite the
Palestinian people? If so, how do you think this could be
done and within what kind of timescale?

KM: It is possible to reunite the Palestinians. In order
for this to happen two things are needed. First, foreign
interventions and demands must stop. The Palestinian people
should be left to deal with their own differences without
external pressure. Second, all Palestinian parties must
respect the rules of the democratic game and submit to the
results of its process.

KL: Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel is frequently cited
as an insuperable obstacle to negotiations and a peace
settlement.

KM: This issue is only used as a pretext. Israel does not
recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, yet this is
not raised as an obstacle to Israel being internationally
recognised nor to it being allowed to take part in talks.
The reality is that Israel is the one that occupies the
land and possesses superior power. Rather than ask the
Palestinians, who are the victims, it is Israel, who is the
oppressor, who should be asked to recognise the rights of
the Palestinians.

In the past, Yasser Arafat recognised Israel but failed to
achieve much. Today, Mahmoud Abbas recognises Israel, but
we have yet to see any of the promised dividends of the
peace process.

Israel concedes only under pressure. In the absence of any
tangible pressure on Israel by the Arabs or by the
international community, no settlement will succeed.

KL: Do you have a "road map" of interim steps which could
realistically lead to a peaceful settlement of the
conflict? Do you think Jews, Muslims and Christians can one
day live together in peace in the Holy Land?

KM: We do, in Hamas, believe that a realistic peaceful
settlement to the conflict will have to begin with a
ceasefire agreement between the two sides based on a full
withdrawal of Israel from all the territories occupied in
1967. Israeli intransigence and the lack of will to act on
the part of the international community are what ­impede
this settlement. We believe that only once our people are
free and back in their land will they be able to determine
the future of the conflict.

It should be reiterated here that we do not resist the
Israelis because they are Jews. As a matter of principle,
we do not have problems with the Jews or the Christians,
but do have a problem with those who attack us and oppress
us. For many centuries, Christians, Jews and Muslims
coexisted peacefully in this part of the world. Our society
never witnessed the sort of racism and genocide that Europe
saw until recently against "the other". These issues
started in Eur­ope. Colonialism was imposed on this region
by Europe, and Israel was the product of the oppression of
the Jews in Europe and not of any such problem that existed
in the Muslim land.

KL: What role do you think that other countries and
organisations, in particular the US, EU and Britain, are
currently playing in the Israel/ Palestine conflict and the
divisions between the Palestinians?

KM: The role played by all these has thus far been
negative. The attitude towards Israeli crimes against our
people has been either silence or collusion. The policies
and positions adopted by these parties have contributed to
the Palestinian division or augmented it. On the one hand,
conditions are stipulated that have the effect of
torpedoing unity talks and reconciliation efforts. On the
other hand, some of these international parties are
directly embroiled in suppressing our people in the West
Bank. The US and the EU provide funding, training and
guidance to build a Palestinian security apparatus
specialised in the persecution of critics of the
Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

We have particularly been concerned about reports that the
British government, directly as well as indirectly by means
of security firms and the services of retired army, police
and in­telligence officers, is fully involved in the
programme led by General Dayton against Hamas in the West
Bank.

KL: What should countries such as the US and Britain do to
assist a peaceful settlement?

KM: They should simply uphold international law - the
occupation is illegal, the annexation of East Jerusalem is
illegal, the settlements are illegal, the apartheid wall is
illegal, and the siege of Gaza is illegal. Yet nothing is
done.

KL: What relations does Hamas wish to have with the rest of
the world, and, for example, with Britain?

KM: Hamas defends a just cause. For this purpose, it
desires to open up to the world. The movement seeks to
establish good relations and to conduct constructive
dialogue with all those concerned with Palestine.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

VOICES FOR ENGAGING HAMAS GROW IN WEST

There can be no Middle East settlement without Hamas

By throwing their weight behind repression
on the West
Bank, the US and Britain are
only making a viable peace
less likely

Seumas Milne
guardian.co.uk
Wednesday
29 July 2009



Barely six months into Barack Obama's presidency and public
tensions between the US and Israel, unthinkable for most of
the past two decades, have already spilled over into open
recriminations. Israel will not take orders or accept
"edicts" from Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
has declared, while reportedly branding two of Obama's most
senior aides – Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod – as
"self-hating Jews".

A posse of Obama emissaries has now been dispatched to
Jerusalem to smooth Israeli feathers with talk of a
"discussion among friends". In the face of intense Israeli
resistance, Obama's demand for a "complete freeze" on
Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories
is now expected to become a fudge about 2,500 more homes
currently under construction.

But all the signs are that Washington is determined to use
pressure to halt settlement expansion, combined with some
gestures of Arab "normalisation" with Israel, to create the
conditions for restarting peace talks later this year.
Assuming that those negotiations flounder, as in the past,
the administration is then expected to produce a peace plan
of its own – perhaps based around a provisional West Bank
state, with the most contentious issues of Jerusalem and
refugees once again postponed till a later date.

If that's the direction of travel, it's not a recipe for
lasting peace but for further conflict. For all the welcome
US shift from its blank-cheque policy towards its closest
Middle Eastern ally, Obama's attempt to balance a freeze on
illegal Israeli settlements in illegally occupied territory
with the kind of diplomatic concessions the Arab world has
always held back for a final peace agreement is a pretty
lopsided kind of exchange.

For Palestinians on the ground, even more urgent than a
halt to settlement expansion is effective pressure on
Israel to take its heel off their windpipe: to lift the
life-choking checkpoints, halt the construction of the
land-grabbing wall, and end the continuing siege of the
Gaza Strip, which has left tens of thousands of people
living in rubble since the destruction and slaughter
unleashed on them in January.

But more fundamentally still, from the point of view of any
lasting settlement, is the continuing veto by the US on
talks with the Palestinians' elected representatives, who
won the closest thing to free elections possible under
military occupation three years ago. Obama acknowledged
support for Hamas in his Cairo speech last month, but
insisted the movement could only "play a role" if it signed
up to conditions he knows it will not accept.

Since Israel's onslaught on Gaza, Hamas has resumed its
earlier ceasefire: last month, only two rockets were fired
into Israel from the strip. And the Hamas leader, Khalid
Mish'al, has reiterated its commitment to an indefinite end
to hostilities in exchange for full withdrawal from the
territories occupied in 1967 and recognition of the
refugees' right to return.

It should be clear enough that no settlement is going to
succeed unless it commands broad support or acquiescence on
both sides: most obviously from the Palestinians, the
victims of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and occupation,
many of whom have little to lose. Recognising that basic
reality, Britain's parliamentary foreign affairs committee
called on the government at the weekend to end its ban on
talking to Hamas – echoing influential voices in the US and
Israel itself.

But the only deal envisaged by the US is one with the
unpopular Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president expired
last January. As the Democratic chairman of the Senate
foreign relations committee, John Kerry, put it recently:
"Hamas has already won one election – we cannot allow them
to win another."

And far from supporting the Palestinian national unity
necessary to make any peace agreement stick, America and
its allies are doing everything possible to deepen the
split between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement. In fact,
the US, Britain and the EU make support for the Palestinian
Authority (PA) dependent on a continuing security crackdown
against Hamas activists in the West Bank – justified as
fighting terrorism – which makes reconciliation between the
two Palestinian parties ever more far-fetched.

As a result, more than 1,000 political prisoners are
reported by human rights groups to be held without trial in
PA jails, while extrajudicial killings, torture and raids
on Hamas-linked social institutions have become routine by
security forces trained and funded by the US and the EU.
And heading the effort to build up Abbas's forces that
carry out these operations is US Lieutenant-General Keith
Dayton – increasingly regarded as the real power in the
West Bank – supported by British officials and the Foreign
Office-sponsored security firm Libra Advisory Group, fresh
from working for the occupation forces in Iraq.

Needless to say, all the governments and security outfits
concerned reject any link with torture and insist their
training is aimed at overcoming human rights violations –
while Hamas has retaliated with its own arrests and abuses
against Fatah members in Gaza. And the destructive impact
of the mobilisation of the PA as an instrument for policing
the Israeli occupation isn't only felt in the split between
Fatah and Hamas, but within Fatah itself, which is holding
its first congress for 20 years next week.

The aim of Abbas, under US and EU guidance, is to complete
the transformation of Fatah from a national liberation
movement into the governing party of a state that doesn't
exist. Money and gerrrymandering are likely to see off
internal opposition, such as from the grassroots West Bank
Fatah leader Hussam Khader, who calls for unity with Hamas
and a twin strategy of resistance and negotiation.

"We expect nothing from Obama," Khader told me yesterday.
Even if Abbas were to sign up to the half-baked collection
of walled-in West Bank bantustans masquerading as an
independent state that currently seems the most the US
might be ready to squeeze out of Israel, he would not be
able to sustain or legitimise it. Until the US feels it
necessary to use its leverage with Israel to deliver
something closer to a genuinely just settlement, the
prospect must be of renewed violence, with ever greater
global consequences.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

BRITISH MPs STATE: NO PROGRESS WITHOUT HAMAS

UK MPs urge talks with Hamas

Brown's government says it is open to talks with
Hezbollah,
but not with Hamas

Al-Jazeera

British legislators have urged the government to talk to
moderates within Hamas, saying the West's policy of
shunning the Palestinian group was showing little sign of
success.

Russia is the only member of the Quartet of Middle East
peace brokers, which also comprises the United States, the
United Nations and the European Union, talking to Hamas.

The British parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said in
a report on Sunday it stood by a recommendation it first
made two years ago that the government should engage
politically with moderate elements within Hamas, which
rules the Gaza Strip.

"We conclude that there continue to be few signs that the
current policy of non-engagement is achieving the Quartet's
stated objectives," the committee said.

"We further conclude that the credible peace process for
which the Quartet hopes, as part of its strategy for
undercutting Hamas, is likely to be difficult to achieve
without greater co-operation from Hamas itself."

Incentives

The committee, made up of MPs from all the main political
parties, said it was dismayed that, six months after the
end of fighting in Gaza, there was still no ceasefire
agreement between Israel and Hamas.

There had been little change to several issues that
contributed to the conflict, it said.

"We conclude that this situation makes for an ongoing risk
of insecurity and a renewed escalation of violence," it
said.

The committee said it was concerned the Quartet was failing
to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its
position.

It said Britain should talk to Hamas moderates as a way of
encouraging the group to meet the Quartet principles.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government changed policy in
March by saying it was open to talks with the political
wing of Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah, but it remains
opposed to talking to Hamas.

Israel invaded Gaza on December 27, 2008 and fighting
continued until January 18, 2009, killing more than 1,000
people.

BRITISH MPs STATE: NO PROGRESS WITHOUT HAMAS

UK MPs urge talks with Hamas

Brown's government says it is open to talks with
Hezbollah,
but not with Hamas

Al-Jazeera

British legislators have urged the government to talk to
moderates within Hamas, saying the West's policy of
shunning the Palestinian group was showing little sign of
success.

Russia is the only member of the Quartet of Middle East
peace brokers, which also comprises the United States, the
United Nations and the European Union, talking to Hamas.

The British parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said in
a report on Sunday it stood by a recommendation it first
made two years ago that the government should engage
politically with moderate elements within Hamas, which
rules the Gaza Strip.

"We conclude that there continue to be few signs that the
current policy of non-engagement is achieving the Quartet's
stated objectives," the committee said.

"We further conclude that the credible peace process for
which the Quartet hopes, as part of its strategy for
undercutting Hamas, is likely to be difficult to achieve
without greater co-operation from Hamas itself."

Incentives

The committee, made up of MPs from all the main political
parties, said it was dismayed that, six months after the
end of fighting in Gaza, there was still no ceasefire
agreement between Israel and Hamas.

There had been little change to several issues that
contributed to the conflict, it said.

"We conclude that this situation makes for an ongoing risk
of insecurity and a renewed escalation of violence," it
said.

The committee said it was concerned the Quartet was failing
to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its
position.

It said Britain should talk to Hamas moderates as a way of
encouraging the group to meet the Quartet principles.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government changed policy in
March by saying it was open to talks with the political
wing of Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah, but it remains
opposed to talking to Hamas.

Israel invaded Gaza on December 27, 2008 and fighting
continued until January 18, 2009, killing more than 1,000
people.

Friday, 15 May 2009

NEW CONFLICTS FORUM MAGAZINE OUT NOW

http://conflictsforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/culturesofresistancelogo.gifCultures of Resistance

Volume One | Issue Two [PDF]


From the Margins to the Centre From the Margins to the Centre:

An Irish Republican Narrative of Resistance - Raymond McCartney

A Discourse of Demonisation - Seyed Mohammad Marandi

Introducing a New Political Discourse - Alastair Crooke

Moving Forward in South Africa - Ambassador Mohamed Dangor

Hearing the Call - Adli Jacobs

Anti-Apartheid Islam - Na’eem Jeenah

Mscnceptns of Islm - Sheikh Chafiq Jaredah


Resistance & Freedom - Raafat Murra

Friday, 8 May 2009

SADDAM'S SPEECH THAT STARTED THE WAR AGAINST IRAQ


This speech was delivered by Saddam Hussein to the Amman Summitt
meeting on Feb. 24, 1990. Present were the heads of state of the key Arab allies of the United States: the president of Egypt and the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The president of Syria was also present. In its sweeping proposals for Arab unity against U.S.-Israeli domination, it was a blunt challenge to imperialism. It is this speech that was the flash point of the U.S.-U.N. aggression, not the Kuwait crisis which was engineered in response. (David Hungerford)




Since it is difficult in a meeting such as this to deal with all that
is negative or positive in international developments during 1989 and
prior to then, and during the period from the beginning of 1990, you
might share my opinion that discussions should deal with the most
urgent and important of these issues and within the limits of time
allowed us.

Among the most important developments since the international
conflict in World War II has been the fact that some countries which
used to enjoy broad international influence, such as France and
Britain, have declined, while the influence and impact of two
countries expanded until they became the two superpowers among the
countries of the world--I mean the United States and the Soviet
Union. Of course, with these results, two axes have developed: the
Western axis under the leadership of the United States, with its
known capitalist approach and its imperialist policy; and the East
bloc under the leadership of the Soviet Union and its communist
philosophy.

Among the results of World War II: The Zionist state has become a
reality, and the original owners of the land, the Palestinians, have
become refugees. While the imperialist Western world helped the
expansionist scheme and aggression of the Zionist entity in 1967, the
communist bloc sided with the Arabs in the concept of balance of
interests in the context of the global competition between the two
blocs, and sought to secure footholds for the East Bloc against the
Western interests in the Arab homeland. The East bloc, led by the
USSR, supported the Arabs' basic rights, including their rights in
the Arab-Zionist conflict. The global policy continued on the basis
of the existence of two poles that were balanced in term of force.
They are the two superpowers, the United States and the USSR.

And suddenly, the situation changed in a dramatic way. The USSR
turned to tackle its domestic problems after relinquishing the
process of continuous conflict and its slogans. The USSR shifted from
the balanced position with the United States in a practical manner,
although it has not acknowledged this officially so far. The USSR
went to nurse the wounds that were inflicted on it as a result of the
principles and mistaken policy it followed for such a long time, and
as a result of the wave of change it embarked on, which began to
depart from the charted course. It has become clear to everyone that
the United States has emerged in a superior position in international
politics. This superiority will be demonstrated in the United States
readiness to play such a role more than in the predicted guarantees
for its continuation.

We believe that the world can fill the vacuum resulting from the
recent changes and find a new balance in the global arena by
developing new perspectives and reducing or adding to this or that
force. The forces that laid the ground for filling the vacuum and for
the emergence of the two superpowers, the United States and the USSR,
after World War II at the expense of France, Britain, and Germany can
develop new forces, which we expect will be in Europe or Japan.
America will lose its power just as quickly as it gained it by
frightening Europe, Japan, and other countries through the continuous
hinting at the danger of the USSR and communism. The United States
will lose its power as the fierce competition for gaining the upper
hand between the two superpowers and their allies recedes.

However, we believe that the United States will continue to depart
from the restrictions that govern the rest of [the] world throughout
the next five years until new forces of balance are formed. Moreover,
the undisciplined and irresponsible behavior will engender hostility
and grudges if it embarks on rejected stupidities....

We all remember, as does the whole world, the circumstances under
which the United States deployed and bolstered its fleets in the
Gulf. Most important of these circumstances: The war that was raging
between Iraq and Iran; Iranian aggression had extended to other
Arabian Gulf countries, most notably the sisterly state of Kuwait. At
the time, beyond the conflicting views regarding the presence of
foreign fleets in Arab territorial waters and foreign bases on their
territory and their repercussions for pan-Arab security, that
excessive deployment was somehow comprehensible. But now, and against
the background of the recent world developments and the cessation of
hostilities between Iraq and Iran, and with Kuwait no longer being
the target of Iranian aggression, the Arabian Gulf states, including
Iraq, and even the entire Arabs would have liked the Americans to
state their intention to withdraw their fleets.

Had they said that under the same circumstances and causes they would
have returned to the Gulf, it might have been understandable also.
But U.S. officials are making such statements as if to show that
their immediate and longer-term presence in Gulf waters and, maybe,
on some of its territory, is not bound to a time frame. These suspect
policies give Arabs reason to feel suspicious of U.S. policies and
intentions as to whether it is officially and actually interested in
a termination of the Iraq-lran war and thus in contributing to much
needed regional stability.

The other side is the immigration of Soviet Jews to the occupied
Palestinian land. How can we explain the Americans' support and
backing for Jewish immigration to the occupied Arab territories,
except that the United States does not want peace as it claims and
declares. If it really and actually wants peace, the United States
would not have encouraged Israel and the aggressive trends in it to
adopt such policies, which enhance Israel's capability to commit
aggression and carry out expansion.

We the Arabs, proceeding from a long-standing friendship with the
Soviet Union, did not expect that the Soviets would give in to this
U.S. pressure in such a way that it would lead to these grave
consequences for the Arabs and their pan-Arab security. As we tackle
these challenges, it would be just as compromising to the destiny and
cause of the Arabs to feel fear as it would be to be lax in our
evaluating and working out a reaction to them. Therefore, there is no
place among the ranks of good Arabs for the fainthearted who would
argue that as a superpower, the United States will be the decisive
factor, and others have no choice but to submit. At the same time,
there is no place in our midst for those who fail to take note of
recent developments that have added to U.S. strength, thus prompting
it to the possible commission of follies against the interests and
national security of the Arabs--either directly or by fanning and
encouraging conflicts detrimental to the Arabs, irrespective of their
source. We are only making the point that the Arabs seek peace and
justice throughout the world and want to forge relations of
friendship with those who show respect to what friendship is all
about--be it the United States or any other nation. It is only
natural that the Arabs take a realistic approach to the new posture
and power of the United States that has led the Soviet Union to
abandon its erstwhile position of influence. However, America must
respect the Arabs and respect their rights, and should not interfere
in their internal affairs under any cover....

Against the backdrop of the vital issue related to the substance of
national Arab security, the question arises as to what we the Arabs
have to do.... It has been proven that Arabs are capable of being
influential when they make a decision and set their minds to it for
actual application purposes. We have much evidence of how effective
they can be; for example, the joint Iraqi-Saudi resolution of August
6,1980, and the warning the two countries issued together that
embassies must not be moved to Jerusalem, one of whose direct results
in less than a month--the duration of the warning--was not only that
the concerned countries did not transfer their embassies to
Jerusalem, but also that embassies that had already long been
transferred to the city returned to Tel Aviv.

The reason the United States stays in the Gulf is that the Gulf has
become the most important spot in the region and perhaps the whole
world due to developments in international policy, the oil market,
and increasing demands from the United States, Europe, Japan, Eastern
Europe, and perhaps the Soviet Union, for this product. The country
that will have the greatest influence in the region through the Arab
Gulf and its oil will maintain its superiority as a superpower
without an equal to compete with it. This means that if the Gulf
people, along with all Arabs, are not careful, the Arab Gulf region
will be governed by the United States's will. If the Arabs are not
alerted and the weakness persists, the situation could develop to the
extent desired by the United States; that is, it would fix the amount
of oil and gas produced in each country and sold to this or that
country in the world. Prices would also be fixed in line with a
special perspective benefitting U.S. interests and ignoring the
interests of others.

If this possibility is there and it is convincing, those who are
convinced by it must conclude that peace in the Middle East is remote
from the United States point of view because U.S. strategy, according
to this analysis, needs an aggressive Israel, not a peaceful one.
Peace between Iraq and Iran could be far off as long as Iran does not
react favorably from an aware and responsible position and with the
peace initiatives proposed by Iraq. The region could witness
inter-Arab wars or controlled wars between the Arabs and some of
their neighbors, if tangible results are not achieved on the basis of
the principles of noninterference in others' internal affairs and
nonuse of military force in inter-Arab relations.

Agreement should be reached over clear and widespread pan-Arab
cooperation programs among Arab countries in the economic, political,
and educational fields, as well as other fields. Love and peace of
mind will take the place of suspicion, doubt, mistrust, and giving in
to information and speculation propagated by rumor-mongers, such as
prejudiced Westerners and some rootless Arabs.

Brothers, the weakness of a big body lies in its bulkiness. All
strong men have their Achilles' hell. Therefore, irrespective of our
known stand on terror and terrorists, we saw that the United States
as a superpower departed Lebanon immediately when some Marines were
killed, the very men who are considered to be the most prominent
symbol of its arrogance. The whole U.S. administration would have
been called into question had the forces that conquered Panama
continued to be engaged by the Panamanian armed forces. The United
States has been defeated in some combat arenas for all the forces it
possesses, and it has displayed signs of fatigue, frustration, and
hesitation when committing aggression on other peoples' rights and
acting from motives of arrogance and hegemony. This is a natural
outcome for those who commit aggression on other peoples' rights.
Israel, once dubbed the invincible country, has been defeated by some
of the Arabs. The resistance put up by Palestinian and Lebanese
militia against Israeli invasion forces in 1982 and before that the
heroic Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973 have had a more
telling psychological and actual impact than all Arab threats.
Further, the threat to use Arab oil in 1973 during the October war
proved more effective than all political attempts to protest or to
beg at the gates of American decision-making centers. The stones in
occupied Palestine now turn into a virtual and potentially fatal
bullet if additional requirements are made available. It is the best
proof of what is possible and indeed gives us cause to hold our heads
high.

Just as Israel controls interests to put pressure on the United
States administration, hundreds of billions invested by Arabs in the
United States and the West may be similarly deployed. Indeed, for
instance, some of these investments may be diverted to the USSR and
East European countries. It may prove even more profitable than
investment in the West, which has grown saturated with its national
resources. Such a course of action may yield inestimable benefits for
the Arabs and their national causes. Our purported weakness does not
lie in our ideological and hereditary characteristics. Contemporary
experience has shown our nation to be distinguished and excellent,
just as our nation's history over the centuries has shown this to be
the case. Our purported weakness lies in a lack of mutual trust among
ourselves, our failure to concentrate on the components of our
strength, and our failure to focus on our weaknesses with a view to
righting them. Let our motto be: All of us are strong as long as we
are united, and all of us are weak as long as we are divided.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

WEST HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT DEFIANT RESISTANCE IN LEBANON




















[pictured: Samir Al-Kuntar, Lebanese prisoner freed after the 2006 Israeli aggression against Lebanon]


A new order emerges in Lebanon


By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times Online

DAMASCUS - Last week, one of America's top allies in
Lebanon, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, caused a row when he
made remarks - off the record - criticizing his allies in
the pro-Western March 14 Coalition. Among other things,
Jumblatt scoffed at his patron Saad al-Hariri, the head of
the largest bloc in the Lebanese parliament, for having
tried - and failed - to combat Hezbollah on the streets of
Beirut last May.

Then, Hariri's armed men were round up and disarmed in a
matter of minutes by the well-trained Hezbollah fighters.
"We have seen the Sunnis in the field, huh!" he said,
adding, "They didn't last for more than 15 minutes!”
Jumblatt quickly apologized - but the damage was already
done.

Shortly afterwards, when landing in Beirut, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton did not meet the Druze warlord - who
had often played host to her predecessor Condoleezza Rice,
and been received previously at the Oval Office by George W
Bush.

Jumblatt is a symbol of a loud anti-Syrian and
anti-Hezbollah stance in Lebanon. The fact that he has lost
faith in his own allies - who have bankrolled him for years
- and was snubbed by Clinton, are testimony to how much
things have changed in Lebanon. This is the same man after
all who called for regime change in Damascus, and betted on
American and Israeli forces to disarm Hezbollah in 2006.

Jumblatt is a political animal, however, who knows how to
get off a ship before it sinks. The US is simply no longer
interested in battle, either with Damascus or with
Hezbollah. On the contrary, it is trying to find common
ground with the Syrians to solve a basket of problems in
the region, like Iran's nuclear file, Palestinian
reconciliation and the future of Hezbollah.

If March 14 continues to challenge Syria, it should not
except much support from the Barack Obama administration.
That is why, according to some observers, Jumblatt might be
toying with the idea of a u-turn - which from where the
Syrians see it, is close to impossible, given the
aggressive stance he took against Damascus during the
difficult years in Syrian-American relations.

Why would the US continue to support March 14 if it is
cooperating fully with the Syrians? March 14 was useful,
after all, during the war against Syria in 2005-2008
-mainly to punish the Syrians for having worked against US
interests in Iraq.

Jumblatt realizes that for all practical purposes, its only
a matter of time until the United States begins dialogue
with two arch-enemies of the former Bush White House -Hamas
in Palestine and Hezbollah. Delaying his own rapprochement
with Hezbollah would harm nobody but him.

During the recent Summit of the Americas, Obama said that
he would respect the "legitimacy" of all democratically
elected governments, even if the US "might not be happy"
with the results of any elections. He added that the US
“condemns any efforts at a violent overthrow of
democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in
the hemisphere”. Talks with Hamas have already begun in
Europe and it is only a matter of time until they are
expanded to include Hezbollah.

Earlier this year, Britain announced that it would commence
political dialogue with Hezbollah, much to the displeasure
of March 14. In early April, British parliamentarians came
to Damascus and met with Hamas political chief Khaled
Meshaal. Certain American political figures, like former
president Jimmy Carter, also met with the Hamas chief in
Syria last December.

According to a January 9 article in The Guardian, "sources
close to the [Obama] transition team" will change course
via Hamas, and "initiate low-level clandestine approaches".
For that to be done, not only would there be a need for a
change in US mentality - both in the media level, on the
street and in American officialdom - but it would also
require changing a 2006 Congressional law banning any kind
of assistance to the Islamic group.

Recently, however, Paul Volker, a senior economic advisor
to Obama, was among those who authored a letter calling for
a more rational approach to dealing with Hamas. Martin
Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel, who is close to
Clinton, recently wrote that any peace deal without Hamas
was destined to fail.

Additionally, former British prime minister Tony Blair in
his capacity as international envoy for the Middle East
warned of the dangers of continuing to ignore the Gaza
Strip, which effectively is under the command of Hamas. He
was quoted saying, "I think it is important to find a way
to engage Hamas in dialogue."

Richard Hass, a diplomat under both president George H W
Bush and George W Bush, who was earmarked to become Obama's
Middle East envoy, also supports low-level contacts with
Hamas. James A Baker, former secretary of state now based
at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston, was
quoted in Newsweek as saying that Obama must involve Hamas
in any peace process in the Middle East. Baker said, "You
cannot negotiate peace with only half the Palestinian
polity at the table."

Richard W Murphy, a veteran American diplomat and former
ambassador to Syria, added, "I don't think it will happen
quickly but I think it is inevitable. Hamas is, in my
opinion, a legitimate representative of part of the
Palestinian community."

Taking all of that into account, many raised questions
about Clinton's weekend visit to Beirut ahead of
parliamentary elections in June, which are expected to
bring about a smashing victory for Hezbollah. Already,
France has said that it will not boycott any Lebanese
government, even if it is packed with members of the
Islamic group.

With loud voices coming out of Washington calling for
engagement with Hezbollah, Obama promising to respect any
election, Britain taking the lead in dialogue with
non-state players, and the Syrians back in the
international arena, times are not good for leftovers of
the Bush era in the Middle East.

Decision-makers around the world have reasoned that not
talking to Hezbollah or Hamas will not make them disappear.
On the contrary, it will only lead them to radicalize.

Looking back at the Hamas tenure in government, everybody
realizes that the Bush administration missed a golden
opportunity when the Palestinian group said that it was
willing to accept a long-term truce with Israel, and abide
by the borders of 1967. Israel couldn't get them to disarm
by force, clearly demonstrated by the results of the
December 2008 war on Gaza.

The United Nations couldn't disarm them, nor could
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or the United States. The
same applies to Hezbollah, which emerged victorious from
the war of 2006. Obama, a practical leader by all accounts,
realizes that if these groups are voted into power, it
would be sheer hypocrisy not to deal with them and repeat
what was committed by Bush.

Walid Jumblatt - and anti-Hamas figures in Palestine like
President Mahmud Abbas - is among the first to fully grasp
this new attitude in Washington.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

FULLL TEXT OF AHMADINEJAD'S GENEVA SPEECH

This is a rush transcript of the Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad’s remarks at the United Nations Durban Review Conference
on racism in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 20, 2009. Transcribed from
the translation given in the U.N. webcast here

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful… [Protestors in
clown costumes escorted out by security] May he bestow upon his
prophets… Praise be upon Allah, the Almighty, who is just, kind, and
compassionate. May he bestow upon his prophets his blessings and his
grace from Adam to Noah; Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and His last
prophet, Mohammed. Peace be upon them all who are the harbingers of
monotheism, fraternity, love … [Applause] … human dignity and
justice.

Mr. Chairman. I call upon all distinguished guests to forgive these
ignorant people.

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise be upon
Allah, the Almighty, who is just, kind, and compassionate, and praise
and salutations of the Almighty God to the great prophet. May he
bestow upon [us] His blessings, His grace. We thank the Almighty God.
Praise be upon him who is just and who is compassionate. And the
salutations and regards of Allah to his prophets, from Noah to
Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and his last prophet Mohammed. Peace be
upon them all who are the harbingers of monotheism, fraternity, love,
human dignity, and justice.

Mr. Chairman. Honorable Secretary General of the United Nations.
Madam High Commissioner. Ladies and Gentleman. We have gathered here
in the follow up to the Durban conference against racism and racial
discrimination to work out practical mechanisms for our holy and
humanitarian campaigns. Over the last centuries, humanity has gone
through tremendous suffering and pain. In the middle ages, thinkers
and scientists were sentenced to death. It was then followed by a
period of slavery and slave trade, when innocent people in millions
were captivated and separated from their families and loved ones, to
be taken to Europe and America under worse conditions; the dark
period that also experienced occupations, lootings, and massacres of
innocent people.

Many years passed by before nations rose up and fought for their
liberty and freedom, and they paid a high price. They lost millions
of lives to expel the occupiers and proclaim their independence.
However, it did not take long that the coercive powers imposed two
wars in Europe which also plagued a part of Asia and Africa. Those
horrific wars claimed about 100 million lives and left behind massive
devastation. Had lessons been learned from the occupations, horrors,
and crimes of those wars, there would have been a ray of hope for the
future. The victorious powers called themselves the conquerors of the
world while ignoring or downtreading the rights of other nations by
the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a look at the U.N. Security
Council, which is one of the legacies of World War II and World War
I. What was the logic behind their granting themselves the veto
rights? How can such a logic comply with humanitarian or spiritual
values? Could it be in conformity with the recognized principles of
justice, equality before law, love, and human dignity? [Applause] Or
rather, with discrimination, injustice, violation of human rights, or
humiliation of the majority of nations and countries?

That Council is the highest decision-making world body for
safeguarding the international peace and security. How can we expect
the realization of justice and peace when discrimination is legalized
and the origin of law is dominated by coercion and force rather than
by justice and the right?

Coercion and arrogance is the origin of oppression and wars. Although
today many proponents of racism condemn racial discrimination in
their words and in their slogans, a number of powerful countries have
been authorized to decide for other nations based on their own
interests and at their own discretions. And they can easily ridicule
and violate all laws and humanitarian values, as they have done so.

Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make
an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish sufferings. And
they sent migrants from Europe, the United States, and other parts of
the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the
occupied Palestine… [Delegates walk out in protest. Applause] And in
fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe…
Okay, please. Thank you. And in fact in compensation for the dire
consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most
cruel and repressive, racist regime in Palestine. [Applause]

The Security Council helped stabilize this occupation regime and
supported it in the past 60 years, giving them a free hand to
continue their crimes. It is all the more regrettable that a number
of Western governments and the United States have committed
themselves to defend those racist perpetrators of genocide whilst the
awakened conscience and free minded people of the world condemn
aggression, brutalities and bombardments of civilians in Gaza. They
have always been supportive or silent against their crimes. And
before that, they have always been silent with regard to their
crimes.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, what are the root
causes of U.S. attacks against Iraq or invasion of Afghanistan?
[Shouts from audience] What are the root causes of U.S. attacks
against Iraq invasion of Afghanistan? Was the motive behind the
invasion of Iraq anything other than the arrogance of the then U.S.
administration and the mounting pressures on the part of the owner of
wealth and power to expand their sphere of influence, seeking the
interests of giant arms manufacturing companies, affecting a noble
culture with thousands of years of historical background, eliminating
potential and practical traits of Muslim countries against the useful
Zionist regime, or to control and plunder energy resources of the
Iraqi people? Why, indeed almost a million people were killed and
injured and a few more millions were displaced and became homeless.
Why, indeed the Iraqi people have suffered enormous losses amounting
to hundreds of billions of dollars. And why was hundreds of billions
of dollars imposed on the American people and its allies as a result
of these military actions? Wasn’t the military action against Iraq
planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then U.S.
administration in complicity with the arms manufacturing companies
and the owner of the wealth?

The invasion of Afghanistan; restore peace, security, and economic
well being in this country. The United States and its allies not only
have failed to contain [?] in Afghanistan, but also the illicit
cultivation of narcotics multiplied in the course of their presence.
The basic question is: What was the responsibility of the job of the
then U.S. administration and its allies? Did it represent the world?
Have they been mandated by them? Have they been authorized on behalf
of the people of the world to interfere in all parts of the globe?
And of course mostly in our region aren’t these measures a clear
example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination, or infringement upon
the dignity and independence of nations?

Ladies and gentlemen, who are responsible for the current global
economic crisis? Where did the crisis start from? From Africa? From
Asia? Or was it first from the United States, then spreading to
Europe and to their allies? For a long time they imposed inequitable
economic regulations. By their political power on the international
economy they imposed a financial and a monetary system without a
proper international oversight mechanism on nations and governments
that played no role in the repressive trends or policies. They have
not even allowed their people to oversee of monitor their financial
policies. They introduce all laws and regulations in defiance to all
moral values only to protect the interests of the owners of wealth
and power. They further presented a definition of market economy and
competition that denied many of the economic opportunities that could
be available to other countries of the world. They even transferred
their problems to others whilst the wave of crisis lashed back,
plaguing their economies with thousands of billions of dollars in
budget deficits. And today, they are injecting hundreds of billions
of cash from the pockets of their own people into the failing banks
companies and financial institutions making the situation more and
more complicated for the economy and their people. They are simply
thinking about maintaining power and wealth. They couldn’t care any
less about the people of the world and even about their own people.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, racism is rooted in the lack of
knowledge concerning the truth of human existence as the selected
creature of God. It is also the product of his deviation from the
true path of human life and the obligations of mankind in the world
of creation. Failing to consciously worship God, not being able to
think about the philosophy of life or the path to perfection that are
the main ingredients of divine and humanitarian values, have
restricted the horizon of human outlook, making transient and limited
interests a yardstick for his actions.

That is why the cells of the Devil’s power took shape and expanded
its realm of power by depriving others from enjoying equitable and
just opportunities to development. The result has been the making of
an unbridled racism that is posing the most serious threat against
the international peace and has hindered the way for building
peaceful coexistence in the entire world. Undoubtedly, racism is the
symbol of ignorance which has deep roots in history. And it is indeed
a sign of frustration in the development of human society. It is
therefore crucially important to trace the manifestations of racism
in situations or in societies where ignorance or lack of knowledge
prevails in the societies. This increasing general awareness and
understanding towards the philosophy of human existence is the
principle struggle against such manifestations; which is the key to
understanding the truth that humankind centers on the creation of the
universe, and the key to a return to the spiritual and moral values,
and finally the inclination to worship God the Almighty. The
international community must initiate collective moves to raise
awareness in the afflicted societies where the ignorance of racism
still prevails so as to bring to a halt the spread of these malicious
manifestations.

Dear friends, today the human community is facing a kind of racism
which has tarnished the image of humanity in the beginning of the
third millennium. The world Zionism personifies racism that falsely
resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their
hatred and ugly faces. However, it is of great importance to bring
into focus the political goals of some of the world powers and those
who control huge economic resources and interests in the world. They
mobilize all their resources, including their economic and political
influence and world media to render support in vain to the Zionist
regime, and maliciously endeavor to diminish the indignity and
disgrace of this regime. This is not simply a question of ignorance,
and one cannot conquer this ugly phenomenon through cultural
campaigns. Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by
Zionists and their supporters of political and international means
and respect of the will and aspirations of nations. Governments must
be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed at eradicating this
barbaric racism [applause] and to move towards reforming … [applause]
… the current international mechanisms.

There is no doubt that you are all aware of the conspiracies of some
powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this
conference. Unfortunately, there has been literature and statements
in support of Zionism and their crimes, and it is the responsibility
of honorable representatives of nations to disclose these campaigns
which run counter to humanitarian values and principles. It should be
recognized that boycotting such a session as an outstanding
international capacity is a true indication of supporting the blatant
example of racism.

In defending human rights it is primarily important to defend the
rights of all nations to participate equally in all important
international decision making processes without the influence of
certain world powers. And secondly it is necessary to restructure the
existing international organizations and their respective
arrangements. Therefore this conference is a testing ground and the
world public opinion today and tomorrow will judge our decisions and
our actions [applause].

Mr. President. Mr President. Ladies and gentlemen. The world is going
through fundamental changes, radical fundamental changes. Power
relations have become so weak and fragile. The sounds of cracks in
the pillars of world oppression can now be heard. Major political and
economic structures are at the brink of collapse. Political and
security crises are on the rise. The worsening crises in the world
economy for which there can be seen no bright prospect, amply
demonstrate the rising tide of far reaching global changes. I have
repeatedly emphasized the need to change the wrong direction in which
the world has been managed today. And I have also warned of the dire
consequences of any delay in this crucial responsibility.

Now, in this [?] and valuable event, I would like to announce here to
all leaders thinkers, and to all nations of the world present in this
meeting and those who have a hunger for peace and economic well
being, that the management, the inequitable and unjust management of
the world, is now at the end of the road. This deadlock was
inevitable since the logic of this imposed management was oppressive.

The logic of collective management of world affairs is based on noble
aspirations which centers on human beings and the supremacy of the
Almighty God. Therefore it defies any policy or plan which goes
against the interest of nations. Victory of the right over the wrong
and establishment of a just world system have been promised by the
Almighty God and his messengers and it has been a shared goal of all
human beings from different societies and generations in the course
of history. Realization of such a future depends upon the knowledge
of the creation and the belief in the hearts of all the faithful
[applause]. The making of a global society is in fact the
accomplishment of a noble held in the establishment of a common
global system that will be run with the participation of all nations
of the world in all major and basic decision making processes and the
definite route to this sublime goal. Scientific and technical
capacities as well as communication technologies have created a
common and wider spread understanding of the world society and has
provided the necessary ground for a common system.

Now it is incumbent upon all intellectuals, thinkers, and policy
makers in the world to carry out their historical responsibility with
firm belief to this definite route, I also want to lay emphasis on
the fact that the western liberalism and capitalism, like communism,
has reached to its end since it has failed to perceive the truth of
the world and human[kind] as it is. It has imposed its own goals and
directions on human beings with no regard for human and divine
values, justice, freedom, love, or brotherhood; has based the living
on the intensive competition securing individual and collective
material interests.

Now we must learn from the past by initiating collective efforts by
dealing with present challenges, and in this connection and in
closing my remarks I wish to draw your kind attention to two
important points. One: It is absolutely possible to improve the
existing situation in the world. However, it must be noted that it
could only be achieved through the cooperation of all countries in
order to get the best out of existing capacities and resources in the
world. My participation in this conference is because of my
conviction of these important issues, as well as to our common
responsibility to defending the rights of nations /vis-a-vis/ the
sinister phenomenon of racism, and being with you, the thinkers of
the world. [Applause]

Two: Mindful of the inefficacy of the current international
political, economic, and security systems on the world scene, it is
necessary to focus on the divine and humanitarian values and by
referring to the true definition of human beings, and based upon
justice and respect for the rights of all people in all parts of the
world, and by acknowledging the past wrongdoings in the past dominant
management of the world undertake collective measures to reform the
existing structures. In this respect, it is crucially important to
reform the structure of the Security Council, including the
elimination of the discriminatory veto right … [applause] … and
change the current world and financial monetary systems. It is
evident that lack of understanding on the urgency for change is
equivalent to the much heavier costs of delay.

Dear friends, be aware that to move in the direction of justice and
human dignity is like the national rapid flow in the current of a
river. Let us not forget the essence of love and affection, the
promised bright future of human beings is a great asset that will
serve our purpose in keeping us together to build a new world and to
make the world a better place full of love fraternity and blessings;
a world devoid of poverty and hatred, [inaudible] the increasing
blessings of God Almighty and the righteous management of the perfect
human being. Let us all join hands in amity in playing our share in
the fulfillment such a decent new world.

I thank you Mr. President, Secretary General, and all distinguished
participants for having the patience to listen to me. Thank you very
much.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

COMMENTARY ON AHMEDINEJAD'S SPEECH AT UN CONFERENCE

Adrian Hamilton:
Walking out on Ahmadinejad was just plain childish

What are we trying to say? That any mention of Israel is now barred?

The Independent
Thursday, 23 April 2009

Isn't it time western diplomats just grew up and stopped
these infantile games over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
All that this play-acting over boycotting of conferences
because of his presence and walking out because of his
words achieves is to flatter his ego, boost his poll
ratings at home and play into the hands of an Israel that
is desperate to prove Iran the gravest threat to its
existence.

True, Iran's President is not the world's most endearing
character. Some of the things he says are certainly
contentious. But he is far from the most offensive leader
on the block at the moment. With Silvio Berlusconi sounding
off about women and sex, and Nicolas Sarkozy sounding off
about everything from the quality of his fellow leaders to
the unsuitability of Muslims to join the civilised nations,
and a Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, giving his views on
gays, Europe could claim its fair share of premiers who
should not be allowed out in public.

Read Ahmadinejad's address at the UN conference on racism
in Geneva this week and there is little to surprise and a
certain amount to be agreed with. His accusations against
the imperial powers for what they did with colonial rule
and the business of slavery is pretty much part of the
school curriculum now. His anger at the way the economic
crisis originated in the West but has hit worst the
innocent of the developing world would find a ready echo
(and did) among most of the delegates.

It was not for this, however, that the countries of Europe
and North America gathered up their skirts and walked out
of Ahmadinejad's peroration. The UK's ambassador to the UN
in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, rather gave the game away when
he said afterwards: "As soon as President Ahmadinejad
started talking about Israel, that was the cue for us to
walk out. We agreed in advance that if there was any such
rhetoric there would be no tolerance for it." The Iranian
leader, he went on to say, was guilty of anti-Semitisim.

Just how you can accuse a man of anti-Semitisim when you
haven't stayed to hear him talk is one of those questions
which the Foreign Office no doubt trains its diplomats to
explain. But what basically was our representative trying
to say here? That any mention of the word Israel is barred
from international discussions? That the mere mention of it
is enough to have the Western governments combine to still
it? In fact, Ahmadinejad's speech was not anti-Semitic, not
in the strict sense of the word. Nowhere in his speech did
he mention his oft-quoted suggestion that Israel be
expunged from the map of the world. At no point did he
mention the word "Jews", only "Zionists", and then
specifically in an Israeli context. Nor did he repeat his
infamous Holocaust denials, although he did reportedly
refer to it slightingly as "ambiguous" in its evidence.

Instead, he launched the time-honoured Middle Eastern
accusation that Israel was an alien country imposed on the
local population by the West, out of its own guilt for the
genocide; that it was supported by a Zionist take-over of
Western politics and that it pursued racist policies
towards the Palestinians. Now you may find these calls
offensive or far-fetched (if there is a Zionist world
conspiracy, it is making a singularly bad job of it) but it
is pretty much the standard view in the Muslim world.
Western support of Israel is seen as a conspiracy, and it
is not just prejudice. There are now books by Western
academics arguing that the pro-Israeli lobby wields an
influence in the US out of all proportion to its numbers.
If the Western walkout in Geneva did nothing else, it
rather proved the point.

Nor is it far-fetched to charge Israel with being a racist
state. As the only country in the world that defines itself
and its immigrants on racial grounds, it could be regarded
as fair comment. And if you doubt that this founding
principle leads Israel into racist attitudes to
non-Israelis, then you only have to read the comments of
its new Foreign Secretary, Avigdor Lieberman, to disabuse
you.

Of course, Ahamadinejad was playing to his home audience.
He is a politician facing re-election at a time when his
domestic economic record makes him vulnerable. Most of the
educated class are fed up with his cavorting on the world
stage while his country goes from wrack to ruin. And, of
course, international conferences of this sort, intended to
spread sweetness and light, are not the most appropriate
forums for such tirades.

But on these issues he does speak for the majority not just
in Iran but in the region. Deny that view a hearing and you
will only increase the resentment and the sense of a
Western world set up against them. Which is precisely what
our oh-so-sanctimonious representatives achieved this week.