Monthly Archives: June 2011

Before two states

Cross-posted on Engage.

In two weeks Sudan will become two states. Its last ever president, Omar Al-Bashir will continue to dodge an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court. Tonight China (not an ICC signatory) is his host.

Meanwhile the disputed oil-rich border territory of Abyei represents an economic reason for north-south conflict. Yesterday the South Kordufan village of Kurchi was reported to have been strafed with rockets from Khartoum in the north, killing 16 including a three-year-old and a baby, and seriously injuring 32. This is one of many ongoing attacks, and the number of internally displaced people is currently estimated at around 80,000. Today the UNSC voted to deploy 4000 Ethiopian peace-keeping troops.

There is more to the Abyei conflict than oil. Khartoum is targeting people on ethnic and political grounds, but there are some who defy these categories. A Sudan analyst interviewed on BBC Radio 4′s The World Tonight views the conflict as between those who want to impose Khartoum’s sharia law and those – Nuba SPLA, a northern opposition group of Muslims and Christians together – who are fighting for basic economic and social rights in a pluralistic, religiously tolerant society, resisting the fundamentalist policies of Khartoum.

The analyst also expressed deep regret at the “depressingly little” international attention paid to this conflict:

“This struggle is particularly important because it is offering one of the few alternatives to division between north and south, between Christian and Muslim, or black and Arab, so the lack of international support is really shocking at this stage, even if we put aside the immediate suffering of innocent people.”

Sudan will split on 9th July.

Green Party members – vote in the Conference prioritisation ballot

Green Party members should vote in the Sheffield Conference Autumn 2011 Conference motion prioritisation ballot:

  1. Log in at http://my.greenparty.org.uk/.
  2. Consult the First Agenda.
  3. Then vote in the priorisation ballot.

Deadline: 23:59 on July 15th.

Update 22nd July – an eccentric motion against the Jewish National Fund aiming to “denounce the JNF as alien to the environmental movement” came bottom of its group – 10th of 10 in Section D (organisational and other motions). This means that it will be discussed last if at all. It would, of course, be inappropriate to pass such a very singular motion, so far from being based in generalisable principles.

Members can view the order on the Members site. Lots of good stuff coming up at conference.

Challenge

Here’s a 2004 New Internationalist piece by Asma Agbarieh, a political organiser based in Jaffa. She writes against antisemitism and against antisemitism as moral justification for acts of oppression by the Israeli government. The piece is full of historically-grounded insight and never blames the victims, Palestinian or Israeli:

“Because Israel purports to represent Jews in general, the hatred it arouses is readily extended to Jews in general. Yet not so long ago, we should remember, the attitude on the Palestinian street was different. Through the period of the first Intifada, most Palestinians were careful to distinguish between Zionists and Jews, because they related to the conflict as a political one as opposed to a religious or racist one.”

Following up on Asma Agbarieh (now Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka) brought me to Challenge magazine, a 17 year-old Tel Aviv-based periodical of socialist perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where I found this from the Israeli workers’ party, Da’am – The 1967 lines or apartheid – yes to the democratic Arab revolution! alongside Asma’s own class analysis:

“We believe that apart from the fence that separates Jews and Arabs, there is a very different kind of fence. This new fence positions on one side all workers of the world, the victims of neoliberal economics: Arabs, Jews, Americans, Greeks, Spaniards, Egyptians, Iranians, Indians, Chinese and more. On the other side stand the wealthy of all nations, backed by their governments, who exploit, oppress, and make profits. Here is a large space for action, because the forces that unify are stronger than those that divide.

The task is not easy. The hatred is abysmal, and each side clings to its narrative. Such division is influenced by the atmosphere of religious and nationalist extremism in both camps. But the common denominator is bigger. The Jewish worker is beginning to grasp the fact that he or she is being transformed into an “Arab”—that is, one who has no privileges in the Jewish State, which itself has become a State for the Rich. This new reality confronts Jewish workers with a major challenge: Will they go on risking their lives in Israel’s wars—for the sake of sixteen families?

But there is also a challenge for Arab workers. Will they realize at last that the national-religious agenda leads to ruin, and that the only way out is to find their class partners on the other side?”

And this from Michal Schwartz on racism against Israel’s African asylum seekers, again with analysis relevant to any wealthy country which seizes upon cheap labour (though the final sentence about legitimacy is a shame).

There is plenty of analysis on why Oslo failed.

Based on the pieces I have read, Challenge doesn’t essentialise, demonise, or single out. Its arguments penetrate and are based in principles which extend. Jews, Israelis, Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs and others reading Challenge may respond strongly, but that response will be on political grounds rather than because their identity has been attacked. For this reason Challenge’s trenchant criticisms stand out from the dross about Israel and Palestine we wade through on a daily basis, and deserve to be widely read by those interested in a better Middle East.

Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history?

Further to two earlier pieces on wiping countries off maps, here’s an animated timeline of the Middle East’s many empires from 3000 to 2006 BCE at Maps of War. Among other things, it illustrates that for most of the region’s states, independence from European colonialism occurred between the 1920s and early ’60s.

Borders prevent much, from Roma’s lucky roads, to elephants’ ability to reach water, to the nomadic herders whose pictures I saw at the Royal Geographical Society last February, suddenly fenced in by the establishment of Iraq.

But everybody seems to have one these days.

Prisoners of Hamas

Human Rights Watch posts a letter to Hamas from Amnesty, B’Tselem, Gisha, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza and others as the imprisonment of snatched 24 year old French-Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, without trial or access to his family approaches its 5th anniversary.

We hear much less about 26 year old Mohamed Abu Muailek, member of a Fatah unit who refused to fire rockets into Israel from the Gaza strip. This unfortunate and courageous man is a dissident on the terms of both Fatah and Hamas, and is unlikely to become a bargaining chip in any negotiations for prisoners’ release:

“They will say that I am a collaborator, and I don’t care much…because these are the basics of a real Muslim: to tell the truth and be a peaceful man—whether it kills him or gives him more life.”

Or BBC journalist Paul Martin, who went to testify on Abu Muailek’s behalf when he was eventually arrested as he feared. Martin himself was arrested on the spot and imprisoned for 26 days threatened with a death sentence. Abu Muailek’s trial is set to conclude in July. Collaboration is one of the most shameful crimes you could be charged with in Gaza. He is held incommunicado, is reported to have been tortured, faces possible execution, and Amnesty are following his case with concern.

Paul Martin’s film, Rocket Man Under Fire, is below. I recommend watching it in full. It is claustrophobic and its perspective of the containment of Gaza as something which, as well as effectively imprisoning all Gazans, also enables Hamas’ net to close around dissidents, is rare and valuable.

As Paul Martin observes, the Arab Spring has not reached Gaza. The only visitors who need not be afraid there are those who do not challenge Hamas.

Peter Tatchell responds to an accusation of “stirring up antisemitic rhetoric”

Peter has released a statement [pdf format] opposing the organization of a LGBTI conference in Israel.

The statement is long and convoluted and should be read in full. It includes some valid points and others which need to be discussed, but this is beyond the point of this post.

The conclusion, title, and only action point of the statement is simple and clear: “No LGBTI conference in Israel”, i.e. Peter effectively calls for the boycott of events organized by Israeli civil society HR organizations.

The JC reports that Jack Gilbert, the former president of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, said: “These statements are deeply flawed and are bound to stir up antisemitic rhetoric.” See the full quote in the JC article where Jack Gilbert argues this opinion.

Peter Tatchell response should also be read in full in the same article. What is remarkable about this response is that it totally ignores the actual points made by Jack Gilbert. Instead, Peter praises his record of opposing antisemitism (which is not questioned) and notes that he has criticised other governments of the region in the same statement (which is true but irrelevant in this specific instance).

Peter argues that organizing a LGBTI conference in Israel could stirr up homophobia, yet does not see why people are concerned that boycotting events organised by Israeli civil society organizations in Israel may stirr up antisemitism.

Update 1 (correction): Islamophobia has been replaced by homophobia in the last sentence; see comment by Alasdair below.

Update 2: The third and last sentences have been slightly modified to address concerns express by Alasdair that I was not fair to Peter (see my comment at 2011/06/27 at 8:02 pm)

Caroline Lucas challenges Palestine Solidarity Campaign on pre-Israel map

Caroline Lucas has joined the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s growing number of critics.

The Jewish Chronicle reports:

“A statement issued by her office said: “It has been brought to my attention that the PSC logo appears to reflect 1917, pre-creation of Israel, borders and as such could be open to interpretation by some as implying non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist. I am following this up with the director of the PSC since I am quite sure that PSC does indeed recognise Israel’s right to exist, and it is unhelpful and damaging if any other impression is given.”

This is welcome, as MP for Hove Pavilion and long-time Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporter, she stands some chance of influencing them.

But it is also confusing. The Green Party targets Israel, and only Israel, with an eliminationist boycott policy. The terms which Israel must meet before the Green Party will lift this boycott policy also “as such could be open to interpretation by some as implying non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist”. They require Israel to dismantle its defences against murderous religious and secular nationalists who have been targeting Jewish civilians since before Israel came into existence.

Then there is the matter of up to 10 million people designated Palestinian refugees by the UN, descendants of the 800,000 who were displaced when the incipient Israel was attacked by its neighbours in 1948-9 (fewer than 460,000 of whom are still living). These Palestinian refugees were denied citizenship in many of the lands which received them (Jordan being an exception), where they served as political pawns. The Taba Accords allow the right of return to those born in Israel, with some affordance for family reunification. The Green Party’s boycott resolution demands that all 10 million are granted Israeli citizenship or compensated.

Pull that stunt at home and you wouldn’t get elected. People would correctly assume you intended to do away with the country. So why try it with Israel?

But it is good that Caroline Lucas is insisting on delineating a Palestinian state. Because the PSC aren’t the only ones with an interest in making it disappear.

More on the weird world of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

Caroline Lucas will have her work cut out.