Archive for August, 2006

In Lebanon, France Converging to Pre-mandate Policy

August 31, 2006

Again, Arabs to Fish in a ‘Dead Sea’

August 24, 2006

By Nicola Nasser* 

Undeterred by any historic experience, the Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on July 15 seemed intent not to desist from fishing in the “dead sea” of the United Nations and decided to send a delegation to a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council in mid-September with the aim of launching a new Middle East peace process. 

More of the successive failed “peace processes” as a management practice during intervals between wars is no more convincing to Arab populace as an alternative to real peace-making. 

The United Nations has proved a dead-end for making peace in the Middle East. The latest U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council on July 13 to abort a PLO-initiated and Arab-drafted resolution should be a fresh reminder that the U.N. will lead to nowhere. 

Similarly the U.S.-sponsored “peace processes” have proved another dead end if a comprehensive regional peace was the goal. The Madrid Conference process in 1991 was declared “dead” in mid July by none other than the Arab League chief Amr Mousa, six years after declaring its death by the comatose former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. 

The United Nations is widely perceived among Arabs as a tool of war and not as a peace maker in the region, despite its meagre contributions to alleviate the huge humanitarian tragedies of its regional policies and the fire fighting missions of its “peacekeepers” in Sinai, Golan Heights and south Lebanon. 

The perception of the Arab leaders is no different; hence their move towards the international body raises high brows because it contradicts their latest history as well as their political alliances. 

First Egypt, then the PLO and later Jordan each sought a settlement of their respective conflicts with Israel through secret bilateral or trilateral channels, via the U.S. sponsorship and outside the U.N. forums, despite the occasional symbolic presence of the U.N. now and then. The results were blessed either officially or pragmatically by the Arab League. 

The move raises high brows because nothing has basically changed neither in the Arab League political orientation and alliances nor in the United Nations. On the contrary the trend on both sides is being reinforced: The alliances are further cemented and the ranks have become closer under the pressures of the U.S. war on terror while the U.N. decision-making is further hijacked by the U.S. 

The Arab League move towards the U.N. would only serve to mislead both the regional and world peace-loving public opinion to believe that a new peace process could be in the offing. 

Moreover, a reactivated peace process is no more promising to the peoples of the war-ravaged region. 

Reactivation of another doomed “peace process” may serve the internal stability and the external security of incumbent Arab governments, but only in the short run. In the long run only real peace making could secure the official as well as the popular aspirations for peace, liberation, stability, security and development. 

For the Israeli Occupying Power the peace processes were the most desirable to prolong its grip on and expand its grab of the occupied Arab land in Palestine, Golan Heights and southern Lebanon. 

Several facts should deter the regional Arab body to refrain from such a move and there is no harm in briefly recalling both modern and latest history. 

The last 100-year old historical experience has instilled in the pan-Arab memory, especially among the Palestinian Arabs, the very well documented fact that the U.N. and its predecessor, the League of Nations, were always used by the colonial powers, old and new, as a tool to impose foreign hegemony in the region. 


The British and the French colonial powers had used the League of Nations to deprive the Arabs of achieving their goals from their revolt against their Ottoman Muslim brethren early in the twentieth century by legalizing the foreign mandates on their entire divided pan-Arab homeland. 

Those same powers together with their post WWII American leader used the U.N. to pass the resolution that divided Palestine between the indigenous Arab majority and the minority of Jewish immigrants fleeing the European pogroms and holocaust, thus sowing the seeds of so far six regional wars and an ever bleeding wound of human misery. 

Recently the U.N. was used as a cover to launch the U.S.-British war on Iraq in 2003 and to prolong the Israeli war on Lebanon in July. 

The Arab League seems intent on not being frustrated by the chronic inability of the United Nations Security Council to act, a fact that over 58 years has sent “the wrong message” to the Israeli “occupying Power and fuelled the culture of impunity that had allowed Israel not to be held accountable for its actions,” according to the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Riyad H. Mansour. 

The U.N. could not be accused of being short on pro-Arab resolutions. More than 70 resolutions were adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council during the past 58 years. Thirty more could have been adopted were they not vetoed by the United States. 

The crux of the Arab problem with the U.N. was and still is the U.S. diplomatic shield protecting Israel, which condemned more than 100 pro-Arab resolutions as either vetoed or non-applicable. 

The new Arab League move towards the U.N. promises neither to neutralize the U.S. veto nor to support any possible pro-Arab resolution with chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to make it applicable. It only promises more of an old practice that would similarly be null and void both in form and content. 

Why then the Arab League is going to the U.N.? 

How can any observer explain such a move except as a manoeuvring to appease an ever-growing popular disillusion with the status quo of “no peace and no war” by testing what has already been repeatedly tested as a non-starter for peace in the Middle East. 

Under the pressures of the latest Israeli war on Lebanon, the U.S-led war on Iraq and the 58-year old U.S.-backed Israeli war on the Palestinian people, the Arab League governments are trying to contain the ensuing possible internal threats and regional turbulence by resorting to the old tactic of creating a “peace process” as an alternative to an overdue real peace-making, to create an illusion of moving away from a desperate status quo instead of changing it. 

The old-new manoeuvre would only play in the hands of the U.S. and Israeli initiators and beneficiaries of the status quo. 

Fishing again in a dead sea would only create a vacuum that is increasingly being filled by “resistance movements” wherever the state is absent, as is the cases of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, or would threaten the role of the state wherever this role is being eroded by inaction on the ground to change the no more bearable status quo. 

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Again, Arabs to Fish in a ‘Dead Sea’

August 24, 2006

Palestinian Self-defeating Unilateralism

August 17, 2006

By Nicola Nasser* With the Palestinian – Israeli peace process dormant, deadlocked and declared “dead” and at least two thirds of the Palestinians living in exile hosted and influenced by regional powers, the Palestinian leadership is facing an overdue review of its self-defeating unilateral approach to change course towards a multilateral, or better a collective, Arab approach to resolving the conflict with Israel. Adapting to an Israeli intransigent insistence on bilateral tracks of negotiations with the Arab League states, whether in armistice or peace talks, the Palestinian leadership followed the Arab example and adopted a unilateral approach to dealing with Israel, in an historical trend that deprived it from valuable negotiating assets and absolved those states from what the Arab masses, the Palestinians inclusive, perceive as Pan-Arab obligations. The Arab League states, which fought the emerging Jewish state in Palestine in unison, at least theoretically, in 1948 signed the armistice agreements individually and were individually forced into separate peace negotiations after their humiliating military defeat in 1967. The individual unilateral approach to the conflict with Israel was divisive to the Arab ranks, gave Israel a free hand to target Arabs individually without any hope for any unified Arab back-up, held the Palestinian people hostage to the Israeli colonial occupation, and doomed any regional comprehensive solution to the Arab – Israeli conflict. However the Palestinian unilateral approach has been the most destructive because it was used as the raison d’tere for the other Arabs to break the ranks in unilateral dealings with Israel. The Palestinian leadership went unilateral to launch an “armed struggle” against Israel at a time when the Arab states were at their most vulnerable militarily and had done with their pre-1967 “Arab Joint Defense Pact” as well as with any military solution for the “liberation of Palestine.” The move however succeeded in bringing the Palestinian people back to the regional political map, a development that Israel failed to avert after years of negating their existence in the “land without people” as its founding fathers used to claim. However the Palestinian historical window of opportunity to unilaterally exist and act had narrowed quickly and was short-lived as soon as the Arab states recovered from their defeat, not only to resume their endeavors to liberate their occupied lands militarily (Egypt and Syria in 1973) but also to pursue “peace options” to achieve the same goal. The Arab and the Palestinian unilateralism was an Israeli strategic goal from the beginning and has always played into the hands of the Israeli strategists who played each and every people of the Arabs against the other to condemn all of them as losers. The Palestinian unilateral approach was repeatedly self-justified by a declared pledge to defend the “Palestinian independent decision-making” vis-à-vis individual or collective Arab calls for coordination politically and defensively. It has cost the Palestinian people a lot of bloodshed and a distracting political wrangling with Arab states, amid wide spread criticism that the Palestinian justification is only a pretext to go it alone with the Israelis, an accusation that has come true with the Oslo accords, which infuriated the direct neighbors. Hence the Jordanian and Egyptian unilateral approaches that led to peace treaties with the Jewish state were in fact blessed by a Palestinian green light and in turn joined Israel in preserving and reinforcing the Palestinian unilateralism. Both treaties have turned the two strategically-decisive Arab allies into mediators in the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, in spite of their denials and assertions to the contrary. Trapped for too long in a self-inflicted captivity to a counterproductive U.S. strategy to be able to reconsider an alternative strategic option and using as a misleading pretext the self-defeating and self-deceiving motto of the “independent national decision-making,” the Palestinian leadership for example has kept its distance from even the least suspicion of being linked in any way to Israel’s latest war on Lebanon, lest it is labeled a party to the U.S.-termed “axis of terror.” The Palestinian leadership has been pacified and tamed to be part and parcel of the Arab officialdom, which is very well versed with the U.S. politics and minutes of the American strategies, tactics and demands, but stone-deaf to the daily pulse of their people. For example on the same day the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were declaring that no links exist between the case of the Israeli soldier captured by Palestinians and the two soldiers captured by Hizbullah, spokesmen for more than 10.000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails were appealing to Sayyed Hassan Nassrullah to include their beloved ones in any deal with Israel. And while Abbas was telling reporters that the Palestinian and Lebanese conflicts with Israel were two separate “paths,” the defunct peace process that was declared “dead” by none other than the Arab League chief Amr Mousa led to Palestinian despair that is leading to calls to do away with the Oslo accords and the Israeli-reoccupied autonomous Palestinian Authority. Palestinian popular identification with anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. Arab resistance, whether in Lebanon or Iraq, has reached an all-time high. A poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting group and released August 8, found that Hizbullah had the support of 97 percent of Palestinians, compared with three percent who said they were opposed to the group. The Palestinian leadership in total disregard of their people’s pulse strictly adhered  to disengagement from a Hizbullah-led resistance to the U.S.-backed Israeli 33-day bombardment of Lebanon, betting on an Israeli overwhelming victory, thus missing an opportunity to end Israel’s six-year old war on the Palestinian people and free some of their detainees in the Israeli jails. The families of the Jordanian POWs in Israeli jails are still lamenting their government’s similar decision to disengage from a Hizbullah-Israeli deal two years ago. By linking to the Lebanese wagon heading for the United Nations Security Council the Palestinian leadership could have made up for failing to clinch a UN resolution to stop the Israeli war on the Palestinian Authority, government and people, thanks to the U.S. veto, and for failing to convene an Arab League summit to help stop the Israeli onslaught and break the eight-month military, economic, financial and diplomatic siege imposed on the Palestinian people early in 2006. When the Arab League foreign ministers managed to meet on Lebanon in Beirut about two weeks ago they were relieved to avoid linking the Palestinian and Lebanese tracks in their move towards the UN Security Council. Time also is not on the Palestinians’ side to give them hope that their salvation is on the horizon, let alone being imminent. The campaign for the upcoming U.S. elections has already begun and Israelis have become experts in exploiting this waste of time of inactive U.S. foreign diplomacy as much as Arab officialdom have become experts in waiting for the U.S. diplomacy to become active again. However the Palestinians still have one opening out of their captivity: Linking to the Syrian peace option, at least to be in harmony with their recent repeated calls for an international conference to work out a comprehensive regional solution. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining the U.S. – termed Syrian-Iranian “axis of terror,” nor a break with their peace allies in Egypt and Jordan. The Syrian option could be developed into an Arab peace front including Egypt and Jordan to pursue peace with Israel collectively, backed politically by the Arab League and the majority of the United Nations members and defensively by the resistance movements to the ongoing Israeli military adventures that have been for years pushing a sustainable and lasting peace out of the regional outreach. This option could create a united Arab peace front, in an overdue response to an old demand by the sympathizing world community. Such an Arab collective approach to a comprehensive regional peace was tested by the late Saudi Arabian king Fahad early in the eighties of the last century to be updated and upgraded by a Saudi initiative that was adopted by the Arab League summit meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2002, an effort that was swiftly and vehemently aborted by the Israeli and U.S. strategic allies. The U.S. has historically vetoed the United Nations out of the Arab-Israeli conflict and blocked the implementation of dozens of UN resolutions to resolve it. Outside the UN resolutions, the successive U.S. administrations and their western allies have proposed more than two dozens of the so-called “peace plans” since Israel was conditionally admitted to the U.N. in 1949, all of them dealt with and accepted by the Arabs including the Palestinians, but all were aborted by Israel because none of them obliged it to commit to the UN resolutions and international law. The U.S.-only approach has not delivered, but prolonged the Palestinian plight. A third option should be sought, not to rule the United States out of the regional peace-making, but to involve it, help it balance its regional policy to be evenhanded, weigh in to make peace instead of its 60-year old policy of just managing a peace process in the region. 

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).


Lebanon War Resonates in Iraq

August 9, 2006


By Nicola Nasser* 

The Israeli war on Lebanon has shaken the sectarian pillar of the U.S.-Israeli regional plans, especially in the Iraqi launching pad of the U.S.-promoted “New Middle East,” where major ethnic and sectarian minorities are being incited against their historical peaceful co-existence with the cultural Pan-Arab and Islamic heritage of the Arab majority as well as against each other. 

The reverberations in Iraq of the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon have been so widespread and deep to shutter a three-year old political orientation of the Iraqis towards doing away with their Pan-Arab identity and isolating their country from its geopolitical Arab and Islamic incubator, in a massive sectarian brainwashing that has pushed Iraqis to the brink of an all out civil war. 

Sectarian as well as Pan-Arab solidarity took hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into the streets “with yellow Hezbollah banners above their heads and U.S. and Israeli flags beneath their feet.” (1) 

The solidarity mass protests forced the Iraqi pro-U.S. ruling elite to publicly criticize the U.S.-backed war amid widespread anti-U.S. sentiment, led to accuse the Semite-to-the-bones Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of being an “anti-Semite” during his recent visit to Washington, and mobilized U.S.-led Iraqi forces to raid leaders of the anti-U.S. and Israeli protests in Baghdad. 

The U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon has resonated into cracks in the Iraqi political status quo: 

First it shook the sectarian base of power of the ruling elites and questioned their pro-U.S. affiliation. The hundreds of thousands who poured onto the streets of the Shiite holy cities of Basra, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra as well as Baghdad were Iraqi Shiite Muslims whose majority was misled by their leading political hopefuls to distance themselves from the national resistance to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country. 

Second it showed a divide within this sectarian base of power between an Arab-oriented and an Iranian-influenced sectarian leaderships. The divide had in fact bloodily surfaced in the early stages of the U.S.-British invasion in fierce battles in the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq. The political instinct for survival led the rebellious Arab-oriented Shiite leadership to accept being incorporated into the so-called “political process,” thus rendering its anti-occupation slogans less credible, not to say hollow. 

Third the war on Lebanon led to a hard-to-conceal diverging views, at least in public, between the U.S. occupying power and the Iraqi government, which the Americans are doing their best to secure in Baghdad. 

When Al-Maliki addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on July 26 he condemned Israel’s offensive, refused to condemn Hizbollah or to agree it was a “terrorist” organization, although many members tried to embarrass him, leading Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean to call him an “anti-Semite.” 

Similarly President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi made comments critical of the “horrible massacres carried out by Israeli aggression.” (2) 


Obviously the three of them were accommodating the public anti-U.S. sentiment to retain some political credibility, although there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the sectarian credentials of al-Maliki and Abdul-Mahdi to identify with a Shiite group like Hizbollah, in spite of the contradictory political agendas and alliances. 

Accordingly the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could not be fooled into a public dispute with them, played down their public rhetoric, and confirmed that the Iraqi prime minister and government remained assets “on the right side in the war on terror.” (3) 

Before al-Maliki’s speech Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told U.S. lawmakers that Iraq had joined some other Arab League nations in criticizing Hizbollah’s attacks on Israel. 

Fourth the Iraqi mass protests have the potential to ignite a mass political movement against the US occupation, already bogged down in Iraq by the “armed resistance.” 

However the “cracks” cannot be exaggerated and leaders on both sides of the divide remain hostage to their sectarian loyalties, thus ruling out any imminent outbreak with their alliances that could make a difference in the Iraqi national resistance to the U.S.-led occupation. 

The “Shiite” Hizbollah identifies more with the reportedly “Sunni” Iraqi national resistance and its Palestinian counterpart than with the reportedly “Shiite” collaboration with the U.S. occupation of Iraq. 

It was noteworthy that since Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive on his country the Hizbollah leader who has turned into a popular Pan-Arab icon, Hasan Nassrullah, has lashed out at and ruled out any future “American” government in Lebanon, indirectly slamming the pro-American government in Iraq. Earlier he had publicly hailed the Iraqi resistance without directly criticizing the collusion of his co-religious “brothers.” 

The Iraqi sectarian-led mass protests were politically hollow because they were not reinforced by either anti-occupation political or concrete moves on the ground. 

It was ironic to listen to the thousands of protesters sincerely chanting anti-American slogans and announcing their willingness “to go and fight in Lebanon” while the troops of the “American enemy” were a few meters away guarding against the protests spelling out of control against them and their Iraqi allies. 

Those slogans could have been more credible had just a few of the protesters dared to demand their leaders to overcome their sectarian loyalties and join their Sunni compatriots in resisting the foreign occupation. 

Al-Sadr Has a Role in-waiting 

For example the Sadrist movement, the main leading force behind the protests, could have gained national credibility by at least quitting its five cabinet posts and the 30 seats it holds in the Iraqi parliament, which prop up al-Maliki government, whose spokesmen are day and night hailing the Americans as the liberators, allies and friends of the Iraqi people, thus prolonging the occupation. 

The silent voice of the Sunni-led Iraqi national resistance was much more louder in its solidarity with the Shiite-led Lebanese resistance than the deafening shouts of the protesters. 

The disillusion is on the rise. 

“The government formed after the fall of the (Saddam Hussein-led Baath) regime hasn’t been able to do anything, just make many promises. And people are fed up with the promises,” said Sheikh Bashir al Najafi, a senior Shiite leader. “One day we will not be able to stop a popular revolution.” (4) 

Similarly Amman al Janafi, a 39-year-old dentist from Najaf, criticized Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for urging Shiites to vote for the U.S.-engineered Iraqi constitution and participate in the last elections. “The failure of the Islamist political parties broke the trust between the Marjaiyyah [the Shiite Leader’s Council] and the people. Even if Ayatollah Sistani himself were nominated in the next elections, I would not vote for the slate.” (5) 

The Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr is very well positioned to play a historic role should he overcome his sectarian loyalties and his personal anti-Baath vengeance to give priority to the national resistance to foreign occupation. It is a reason for high eyebrows that he advocated “armed struggle” against Saddam Hussein, but is opting for “peaceful” and “democratic” opposition to the occupying power. 

Only such an option would reinforce real national unity, pave the way for real national reconciliation, abort the U.S.-British sectarian plans to disintegrate Iraq, shorten the plight of the Iraqi people and bring the overdue peace sooner than later by withdrawing the so-called Shiite smokescreen for perpetuating the foreign occupation. 

Moreover, it will unmask foreign exploitation of the Shiite tradition inside Iraq and consequently relax the regional sectarian tension outside Iraq, a tension fomented by various foreign provocateurs. 

Such an option is also a political survival outlet for al-Sadr, who is obviously targeted not only by his sectarian rivals but more importantly by the occupying powers. 

In a report leaked to the media recently, outgoing British ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, warned that “preventing [al-Sadr’s] Jaish al-Mahdi from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority.” 

Could Sayed Moqtada free himself from a sectarian captivity to deliver and survive? Only time will tell. 

However, the apparent contradiction between the words and deeds of the sectarian anti-occupation rhetoric would in no time leave the sectarian leaders without any popular base of power, given the growing disillusion, the continued occupation of Iraq, a stateless government besieged in Baghdad’s Green Zone, the ever-deteriorating security situation, a looming sectarian civil war, the growing disillusion of the public with the U.S.-installed order of life, the widespread abject poverty, the mushrooming corruption, the absence of basic public services, the suspended national sovereignty, and the ever growing national resistance. 

The salvation of Iraq and the Iraqis is national and Pan-Arab, because the Arabs remain the vital heart of Islam, regardless of sect. Islam’s messenger and prophet was Arab. Arabic was the language of Islam’s message. Arabs disseminated Islam in the four directions of the globe and remain the custodians of the message of peace. If skeptics doubt these facts of history, they should at least consult the geopolitics. 

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC). 


(1) Los Angeles Times on August 5, 2006.(2) Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi.(3) Rice on American television’s “Meet the Press” program.(4) Comments to journalists from McClatchy Newspapers on August 1.(5) Los Angeles Times on August 5, 2006.

Context of Israeli Wars in Lebanon, Palestine: Back to Roots

August 9, 2006

By Nicola Nasser*

The ongoing Israeli wars on Arabs in Palestine and Lebanon are just the latest rounds of the cycle of violence that has raged in and around Palestine since 1917, and are vivid and bloody evidence that imposition of political realities by military means won’t last and that “Whoever takes by the sword, by the sword will be taken.”

In November 2000, Ariel Sharon told some 100,000 Israelis in Jerusalem that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) had not exercised its full potential in confronting the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) and promised to end the “policy of military restraint” if they elected him prime minister, which they did a few months later.

More force, Sharon pledged to Israelis, will succeed where mere force failed.

Six years later his successor Ehud Olmert is still trying to sell the same idea that there is a measure of force that has not yet been used but which, when unleashed, will deal what Olmert called the “winning blow.”

Unfortunately Olmert’s memory failed him to remember even yesterday’s history: Were not the 1967 and 1982 blitzes into Gaza Strip and Lebanon an exercise of the Israeli “winning blow” theory? Were not Israel’s twin unilateral military redeployments from both Arab territories as well as his plan to unilaterally redeploy in the West Bank a concrete evidence of its failure?

Or Olmert was blinded by the fact that both redeployments from Lebanon and Gaza have backfired in a way that threatened Israel’s major and long-planned redeployment in the West Bank, and led the military-based Jewish state back to its roots: force, war and living by the sword as the only guarantee of being, existence and survival?

By the sword Israel came to being. In less than a century it devastated its environ with six major wars.

The aim was to impose by the sword a political realty and to clinch by sword the victims’ recognition of its legitimacy. But since its founding in 1948, Israel has never been able to achieve this overarching goal – despite important advances, such as the peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 and the Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since 1993.

The war of terrorism that Zionism led since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, backed by the British empire, implanted the Zionist paramilitary gangs as “settlers” in the midst of the Palestinian Arab peasantry.

The war of expulsion and expansion in 1947-48 uprooted, displaced and forced less than a million Palestinians out of their ancestral homeland, disrupting more than five thousand years of uninterrupted existence.

The 1956 pre-emptive war against Egypt tried but failed to nub in the bud the emergence of an independent Arab force.

The expansionist war of 1967 led to the military occupation of vast areas of Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian and Egyptian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights.

The Zionist-led Jewish state fought the 1973 war, preceded by a three-year war of attrition with Egypt, to defend its 1967 conquests in Egypt and Syria.

The 1982 invasion of Lebanon led to occupation in the south that was unilaterally and unconditionally withdrawn under the pressure of the Lebanese resistance in 2000.

In intervals dozens of military operations were launched by Israel against its neighbors.

In all its conquests Israel secured an overwhelming superiority in quality and quantity of men and arms in each and every one of its wars.

Jews’ Safe Haven

By the sword Israel was created against the will of the indigenous native Palestinian Arabs and in the midst of their brethren who have throughout thousands of years co-existed, as a very normal fact of life, with their Jewish compatriots before and after Islam.

The pan-Arab homeland was the only safe haven in which Jews sought refuge when they were persecuted and oppressed whether they were fleeing the Spanish inspection courts, the pogroms in Russia or the Nazi holocaust, thanks in particular to Islamic states and Islam, the national religion of Arabs and their message of peace to the world, which, out of religious belief and by choice, treated Jews as an integral part of their society.

Islam is a pluralistic religion that views Judaism and Christianity as an integral part of its monotheistic dogma. The Jewish religious minority has prospered in each and every Arab and Muslim metropolitan, protected, like their Christian brethren, by Islam.

However, Zionism has turned this historical tradition up-side-down and the European racism and oppression concluded that enforcing a “Jewish homeland” on the Arabs and Muslims would relieve them from their “Jewish Question” and serve their colonial interests in the Arab world at the same time.

To make a long story brief, a Jewish minority of less than five percent of the population of Palestinian Arabs early in the twentieth century and a fraction percent of the total Arab population of the pan-Arab homeland could not have developed a “homeland” in Palestine, which later became the state of Israel, without resort to sheer, brutal and terrorist force to enforce it.

Straightening ‘Jew’s Spine’

Zionists proclaimed it was “necessary to straighten the spine of the Jew, long curved before his oppressors and long bent beneath the weight of the volumes of the Talmud. Implicit in this process of liberation was an increased reliance on the use of force. Nihilism and contempt for life, … generated an upsurge of terrorism whose specter haunts the world to this day,” wrote Professor of History at the University of Montreal, Yakov M. Rabkin, in the Jewish Tikkun magazine in 2005.

“The millennia-long pacifist and moralizing tradition of Judaism became eroded under the impact of the Palestinian question,” he added, indicating however that, “Force, and its use, is no stranger to the Torah … But far from glorifying war, rabbinic Judaism … took great pains to identify obedience to God, and not military prowess, as the principal factor in the victories mentioned in the Bible. All that changed in the nineteenth century, however, when Russian Jewish secular nationalists began embracing the bloody past of the people of Israel as a means to ensure a safer future.”

What we see today in Palestine and Lebanon is the blood-stained application of a Zionist doctrine known as the “Iron Wall” philosophy, pioneered in the 1920s by Zeev Jabotinsky, the founder of a far right school of Zionism, which argued that Zionists should use overwhelming force to defeat their Arab foe.

Israeli historian and Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim in his book, The Iron Wall, showed that nearly every Israeli leader has signed up to this murderous doctrine. Ehud Olmert is no exception as he is taking two peoples hostage and destroying their infrastructure allegedly for the release of three soldiers captured in combat.

The Iron Wall policy based on deterrence is being exercised in Gaza and Lebanon lest the Arab enemy come to a conclusion that Israel’s deterrence has been eroded.

Root Rules

Deterrence has all along been a root-rule of the imposed Israeli reality.

Living by the sword implies unilateralism, which was another root-rule from the start. Without going it alone Zionism could not have negotiated it into a state, as it was and is still against all logic and common sense to secure the approval of Palestinian Arabs of accepting the negation of their very existence.

Terrorism was another root-rule to impose the will of a military minority on a civilian majority. History has very well documented the terrorist acts of the Jewish Zionist gangs that developed later into the Zionist paramilitary forces and now the Israeli “Defense” Forces, which have developed the gang terrorism into a state-of-the-art state terrorism.

An offshoot rule was the Israeli doctrine of absolute security, massive retaliation and collective punishment.

These are the roots to which the state of Israel turns to whenever it needs to secure a new round of military expansion or to impose a fresh political reality on the conquered population or the invaded neighbors.

Israel’s warmongering is not a result of an absence of policy, but on the contrary the result of a premeditated strategy.

The end result is a regional superpower, “ghettoed” by choice into a small physical space and bloody, ill-defined borders.

A regional superpower with that kind of advantage could not and cannot sit idle unless disarmed.

However, even winning all the wars and killing tens of thousands of Arabs never seems to settle anything for Israel.

Although over decades those root-rules have proved counterproductive to Israel’s own security as well as to the larger stability of the region, Israel’s two-pronged war today in Lebanon and Palestine unfortunately repeats an historical pattern that conforms with its cyclical pattern of warfare with its Arab subjects and neighbors to impose its grandiose objective of a Pax Israelica.

So far Israel failed. Latest history indicates it will never succeed. Peace cannot be unilaterally imposed by the sword.

After a long and tragic experience Arabs are overdue to respond in kind, unless the world community spares them the agony by committing Israel to the rules of international law and resolutions.

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English language Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).

Alienating the Beating Heart of Middle East

August 9, 2006

By Nicola Nasser*

The United States is seeking a “new Middle East” by alienating the Syrian beating heart of the strategic region. Washington wants Syria to cooperate as near as in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon and as far as in Iran but is sending her messages and messengers all around the region except to Damascus.

This Wednesday the U.S. sponsored in Rome an international conference on Syria’s next door war-ravaged Lebanese neighbour to which were invited regional countries that have no common borders with Lebanon and nations as far as Russia, but not Syria the most burnt and threatened by the Lebanese raging fire.

While confirming this week that the “time has come for the new Middle East,” the United States seemed to shoot herself in the legs when it bypassed Damascus as the right address to any credible approach to the Syrian heartland of the region, leaving observers with the conclusion that Syria is not cooperating and accordingly it has to be forced into cooperation.

And while carrying this mission herself in the eastern Iraqi front, the U.S. delegated the job in the western front to her Israeli regional proxy, which occupies a strategic part of Syria.

True the war decision-making is made in Israel, but Syria holds the key to the regional peace-making as well as to any sustainable regional re-mapping in the immediate vicinity of major U.S. strategic concerns, namely the security of oil and Israel.

The relative stability the region enjoyed during the past three decades and the twin Jordanian and Egyptian peace treaties with Israel were only made possible thanks to the Saudi-Egyptian-Syrian troika of which Syria constituted a cornerstone.

Several factors, mostly U.S.-linked, have placed this Syrian cornerstone in jeopardy. The most decisive factor was and is the U.S. determined campaign to change the regional political regimes, starting from the immediate neighbours of Syria in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, explicitly indicating that the end target is changing the Syrian regime itself, as a prerequisite for heralding the “New Middle East.’

President George W. Bush has sent his invading troops into Iraq, gave a green light for the Israeli war machine to bombard the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, spearheaded a regional propaganda campaign to adopt the Iraqi-model of the U.S.-sponsored democracy towards Syria, and put his Secretary of State on a shuttle plane to send a message to Damascus: Make the choice and subscribe to our “New Middle East.”

But why didn’t Bush send his message and messengers direct to the Syrian capital? Is Bush naïve not to? Absolutely he is not.

Bush is very well aware that Syria had received the U.S. message early and long enough to loose trust in it and to conclude from a bitter experience that Washington was not serious to be even-handed and remained biased in the Arab – Israeli conflict, that its promises to bring about peace were phoney and hollow, and that it was only interested in reinforcing the U.S. – Israeli hegemony in the region.

The U.S. message was sent to Damascus thirty-six years ago, received positively, led to a lengthy honey moon in the bilateral ties, and could have lasted longer had not Washington had second thoughts when it led the invasion of Iraq early in March 2002, sowing deeper doubts in the U.S. real intentions and complicating further an already complicated regional situation.

Unleashing the regional Israeli war machine against democratically elected grassroots anti-occupation movements in Palestine and Lebanon, the geopolitical allies of Syria, confirmed the Syrian doubts about the U.S. regional plans.

The US-led invasion of Iraq, the Israeli US-backed periodical invasions of Lebanon and the Israeli 39-year old occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights have all focused Syria in the eye of the Middle East storm and are stretching Syrian strict adherence to the peace option, international law, United Nations legitimacy and diplomatic norms to a breaking point.

However the United States and Israel are unmercifully and persistently mounting pressure on the country in a deliberate effort to break it down and up, unless Damascus completely and unconditionally subscribes to their re-mapping of the Middle East, following the “good example” of Libya.

“We are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one (and) the Syrians have to make a choice … Are they going to be a part of what is clearly a consensus of the major Arab states in the region?” Secretary Condoleezza Rice said on Friday.

Syria did make the “choice” when late President Hafez Assad assumed power in 1970-71, joined the “Arab consensus,” subscribed to peace as a strategic option and officially adopted the U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, risking internal rift in the ruling Baath party.

Assad’s strategic choice led Syria into Lebanon backed by the Arab consensus, the U.S. backing and a grudgingly Israeli green light, which positioned him into a bloody collision course with the Lebanese pan-Arab and leftist allies of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was then condemned by the U.S. and Israel as “the” international “terrorist” organization, at a time when Osama bin Laden was a U.S. ally and Hizbollah and Hamas were not yet born.

Assad’s choice also indulged Syria into a diplomatic honey moon with the U.S. at a time of a bipolar world system, when the former Soviet Union (USSR) was at the helm of the other side of the cold war divide, paved the way for Syrian – Israeli peace talks, and even led Syria to join the U.S.-led military coalition that drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait in 1991, where Syrian and U.S. soldiers fought shoulder-to-shoulder.

However it was a one way U.S. ticket that brought Syria neither closer to peace nor security. More than thirty years were lost for nothing on betting on the U.S. “good will” and “good offices” that were not forthcoming.

The Syrian Golan Heights remained occupied by Israel. The Syrian regime remained targeted for change by U.S. ruling neoconservatives. Syria remained sanctioned as a state sponsoring “terrorism.” U.S. remained weighing in heavily on Syria to succumb to the dictates of the Israeli occupying power for peace as well as the U.S.-Israeli re-mapping plans for the Middle East.

That is the “status quo ante” that Secretary Condoleezza Rice failed to grasp when she refused to “freeze” the status quo ante on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Syria also has repeatedly warned against preserving the status quo ante.

How could any Syrian leadership sit idle watching the geo-military and geo-political bases of its national security undermined to bring the Israeli hostile occupying power to the doorsteps of its metropolitan? How could any country tolerate such an existential threat!

The United States and Israel are contemplating a NATO-led international force at Syria’s doorsteps, and to bring about a pro-U.S. or a puppet regime in Beirut.

Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is driving hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee the atrocities of the Israeli midwife of the “new” sovereign and democratic Lebanon from the west into Syria, which is hardly coping with the ongoing flow of thousands of Iraqi refugees fleeing the birth horrors of another democratic regime that was midwifed by the US-led invasion of its eastern neighbour, in addition to slightly less than half a million Palestinian refugees the country is hosting since the creation of the state of Israel forced them out in 1948.

Syria, however, is strongly holding on to its strategic option of peace and negotiations. The Syrian – Israeli front has for decades remained the only “silent” front, more silent than even both fronts of Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab countries to sign peace treaties with Israel.

On Sunday Syria said it was willing to engage in direct talks with the U.S. to help end the fighting in Lebanon within the framework of a broader peace initiative that would include a return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, swiftly dismissed any talks with Syria, which “doesn’t need dialogue to know what they need to do,” he told Fox News Sunday, adding: “Syria, along with Iran, is really part of the problem.”

 “American officials are very good at vernacular descriptions, but lousy at history and political reality in the Middle East,” Lebanese journalist Rami G. Khouri wrote in The Daily Star on Monday.

The Bush administration’s approach to the “New Middle East” is doomed to failure because it rules out addressing Syrian national strategic concerns and Syria as a regional key player, irrespective of who rules in Damascus.

*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English language Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).

PLO-U.S. Connection: Time to Make or Break

August 6, 2006

By Nicola Nasser* http://www.thepeoplesvoice.orgJuly 14, 2006 

Several indicators have shown recently how fragile has been the “connection” between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the United States. And because Washington could deliver but won’t and the Palestinian people could not be held forever hostage to waiting for the American Godot, time seems ripe to make or break this futile connection. To the disappointment of the PLO leaders the “connection” never developed to a full-fledged unconditional mutual recognition by Washington, let alone to normal diplomatic relations between equals. 

Of course breaking this futile connection would be good news for the PLO’s protagonist, Israel, which sought its best to prevent this connection while it was still a burgeoning bud, but failed and would for sure be overjoyed to see its U.S. strategic ally push back the PLO to its pre-1987 label of a “terrorist” organization, unless this connection remains reigning in the PLO as a hostage to the waiting for the American Godot. Ironically however severing this futile connection would also be good news to the majority of the Palestinian people who have lost faith in their leadership’s betting on the “good will” and the “good offices” of the successive U.S. administrations, which an ever growing number of them has come to identify not only as the military, financial, diplomatic and the super power patron of the Israeli occupying power, but as the partner to the Israeli occupation. 

Both the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation since 1967, who have been suffering and witnessing their existence and their land slowly but systemically eroded, and those who have braved it out in their miserable and rotten refugee camps in exile since 1948 could no longer trust their leadership’s betting on the U.S. vague, evasive, and un-kept promises. And it was natural reaction as well as legitimate endeavor for them to begin looking for alternatives, both to their leadership and to the U.S. connection after more than half a century of yelling their injustice to the deaf ears of the U.S.-led western allies of their Israeli tormentor. 

The Hamas’ landslide victory in the January 25 legislative elections could only be seen within this context, as a deafening NO to the status quo and an outcry for political change internally and externally. It was the first explicitly outspoken proof and rebellious rejection of the futile PLO-U.S. connection. The warning came about one and a half year earlier. No less than the veteran peace advocate, chairman of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative, which is widely lambasted by Palestinian active factions despite the un-public nod given to it by the former and present leaders of the PLO, late Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and the member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo, wrote on April 18, 2004: 

“The change of US policy in the Middle East that took place on April 14th (2004) following the meeting between (U.S.) President Bush and (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon has the potential to destroy the whole foundation of the Middle East peace process.” Abed Rabbo, a close confident and adviser to both Arafat and Abbas, was referring to the “letter of guarantees” Bush wrote to Sharon, in which he “adopted fundamental Israeli demands that undermine international law, prejudice permanent status issues and potentially pre-empt a negotiated settlement,” and which gives “a boost to the expansionist policy” of Israel and “deal a mortal blow to the Quartet Roadmap. 

Abed Rabbo’s warning, which in fact was representative of the PLO leadership, fell on deaf U.S. ears. The Palestinians condemned Bush’s April 14 letter as the “Second Balfor Declaration,” which has proved ever since to be an Israeli-U.S. strategy and the basis of Israel’s current unilateral approach to dictate by force a solution to the Palestinians. This approach is dooming the PLO leadership, the PLO-U.S. connection, whatever left of the so-called peace process and the Oslo accords. 

The Palestinian civilians under occupation are now paying the price of this approach with their blood, crushed by the overpowering Israeli war machine. The deafening silence of the Bush Administration on the daily Palestinian loss of life since the Israel’s “Operation Summer Rains” was launched on June 27, except for some shy remarks about the Israeli “disproportionate” use of force, is pressuring the PLO-U.S. connection to the breaking point. 

Obstructing an Arab-drafted resolution for the past two weeks because “we don’t see at this point any utility in council action at all,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told U.N. Security Council “that a prerequisite for ending this conflict is that the governments of Syria and Iran end their role …” Bolton’s “prerequisite” offers a justification for the Bush Administration to delay indefinitely any resumption of America’s once-powerful role in Middle East peacemaking. 

This U.S. passive indifference to Palestinian woes has no other explanation than Washington has already written off the PLO, or at least has decided to do off with it unless the PLO subscribes to coordinating with Israel’s unilateralism, which would in fact be its political death certificate. For too long now the Palestinian leadership has held its decision-making hostage to the “good offices” and “good will” of the U.S., with tragic consequences for the Palestinian people and catastrophic results on the ground. 

Symbolic of this hostage-connection is the status of the PLO’s office in the U.S., which is renewed by a presidential order on a semi-annual basis and which Bush has recently temporarily downgraded, then reinstated. In a recent memorandum for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush said he was imposing a “downgrade in status of the PLO Office in the United States (for) non-compliance by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority with certain commitments.” 

What are those “certain commitments”? They are very well known to the Palestinian public for they have been in place for too long as preconditions dictated to the Palestinian leadership, any leadership. When this leadership rejected them it was denied any US-connection and recognition and the occupied Palestinian territories were held hostage to the Israeli occupation. 

When it complied its decision-making was held hostage to U.S. un-kept promises. The US still hasn’t delivered. It could, but it won’t. 

Moreover it is using involvement or disengagement to protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli atrocities and the ongoing policy of creating more facts on the Palestinian ground as a tool to squeeze the PLO into accepting more Israeli-made but US offered “concessions.” To build a democratic Palestinian regime under the Israeli occupation as a guarantee for Israel’s security was the latest-invented Israeli-US precondition. 

The PLO complied. And the Palestinian people are now being collectively punished for their compliance and denied recognition and connection until the newly-elected leadership in its turn complies. A full-page advertisement in The New York Times, placed by the Council for the National Interest on July 2, called for a “realignment” of the U.S.-Israel relationship and urged the Bush administration to encourage Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries and reconsider U.S. assistance to Israel. 

Just on time, not for the administration to be forthcoming because President Bush on April 14, 2004 had opted to move exactly in the opposite direction, but for the PLO to reconsider its leadership’s 20-year old overt connection with the U.S.  The U.S. policy is once more plunging the region into a mess of bloody violence and insecurity and turning it into an incubator-environment for both Israeli state terrorism and a counter individual terror, while in this process cornering the PLO into seeing its leading role eroded by the day, to the joy of the Israeli propagandists who have been promoting the lie that no Palestinian partner exists. It’s high time for both sides to make or break. *Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC), 

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August 6, 2006

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