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What happens when citizens lose faith in government?

Tolstoy thought unhappy families were unique in their unhappiness.

But when it comes to countries, these days the world’s gloomy ones have a lot in common. From Fukushima to Athens, and from Washington to Wenzhou, China, the collective refrain is that government doesn’t work.

“2011 will be the year of distrust in government,” said Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm.

For the past decade, Mr. Edelman has conducted a global survey of which institutions we have confidence in and which ones are in the doghouse. In 2010, the villains were in the private sector — from BP, to Toyota, to Goldman Sachs, corporations and their executives were the ones behaving badly.

But this year, Mr. Edelman said, we are losing faith in the state: “From the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, to the government’s response to the earthquake in Japan, from the high-speed rail crash in China, to the debt ceiling fight in Washington, people around the world are losing faith in their governments.”

Even the Arab Spring, Mr. Edelman mused, was an extreme expression of the same breakdown in the people’s support for those who rule them.

After that, though, the global parallels start to break down. In our kitchens, on Facebook, and in our public squares, a lot of us, in a lot of places, are talking about how we long to kick the bastards out. But how we act on that angry impulse varies widely. Figuring out when and how our private anger translates into public action, and of what kind, is one of the big questions in the world today.

One answer comes from Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian political scientist. One of Mr. Krastev’s special interests is in the resilience of authoritarian regimes in the 21st century. To understand why they endure, Mr. Krastev has turned to the thinking of the economist Albert O. Hirschman, who was born in Berlin in 1915 and eventually became one of America’s seminal thinkers.

In 1970, while at Harvard, Mr. Hirschman wrote an influential meditation on how people respond to the decline of firms, organizations and states. He concluded that there are two options: exit — stop shopping at the store, quit your job, leave your country; and voice — speak to the manager, complain to your boss, or join the political opposition.

For Mr. Krastev, this idea — the trade-off between exit and voice — is the key to understanding what he describes as the “perverse” stability of Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia. For all the prime minister’s bare-chested public displays of machismo, his version of authoritarianism, in Mr. Krastev’s view, is “vegetarian.”

“It is fair to say that most Russians today are freer than in any other period of their history,” he wrote in an essay published this spring. But Mr. Krastev argues that it is precisely this “user-friendly” character of Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism that makes Russia stable. That is because Russia’s relatively porous dictatorship effectively encourages those people who dislike the regime most, and have the most capacity to resist it, to leave the country. They choose exit rather than voice, and the result is the death of political opposition: “Leaving the country in which they live is easier than reforming it.”

Nowadays, the Chinese find little to emulate in Russia. That includes flavors of authoritarianism: Theirs is the more carnivorous variety, including locking up dissidents, rather than encouraging them to leave, and censoring the Internet, rather than allowing the intelligentsia to be free but ignored.

Mr. Krastev’s thinking suggests a perverse possibility — that Mr. Putin’s slacker authoritarianism, while less able to deliver effective governance than the stricter Chinese version, may actually prove to be more enduring. The recent outburst of public rage in China over the high-speed rail crash is one piece of supporting evidence.

Mr. Hirschman came up with his theory of exit and voice in the United States, and he believed that exit had been accorded “an extraordinarily privileged position in the American political tradition.” That was partly because the United States was populated by exiters and their descendants — immigrants who chose to leave home rather than reform it — and partly because for much of American history the frontier made it possible to choose exit without even leaving the country.

For Americans, that sort of internal exit is no longer an option. Whatever you may think of the political agenda of the Tea Party, or of its wealthy supporters and media facilitators, it is at heart an ardent grass-roots movement whose angry and engaged participants have chosen voice over exit or apathy.

But when you look at what they are using that voice to advocate, you may decide that Mr. Hirschman was right after all about the American national romance with exit. The Tea Party’s engaged citizens aren’t so much trying to reform government as to get rid of it — the only possible version of exit when the frontier is gone and you already live in the best country on earth.

There is something, as Mr. Hirschman understood, particularly American about that impulse. But it may also be rooted in a theory about how to reform government that has been popular on both sides of the Atlantic in recent decades. That is the idea that creating competing, private-sector-operated alternatives to the public sector is a good way to force the state to raise its game. The charter school movement in the United States is one example. Prime Minister David Cameron’s advocacy of the Big Society is another.

Looked at through Mr. Hirschman’s lens, however, these private providers of formerly state services may have quite a different effect. If they allow the best and the most disgruntled citizens to exit the state, they might make the state-supplied option worse, rather than better. As Mr. Hirschman argued: “This may be the reason public enterprise … has strangely been at its weakest in sectors such as transportation and education where it is subjected to competition: The presence of a ready and satisfactory substitute for the services public enterprise offers merely deprives it of a precious feedback mechanism that operates at its best when the customers are securely locked in.”

The 21st century is the era of mass travel, open borders, instant communication and the affluent citizen-consumer. Russian oligarchs aren’t the only ones who can exit — a lot of us can. It is no wonder so many of us distrust our governments. But in this age of exit, do we have much chance of reforming them?


News + opinion :

 Friend of mine Just told me (He is Tunisian”one of the protesters”) ,that the People start gathering in Kasaba Square , and the Policemen are more than the number of protesters and they have orders to shot at them, I Think tomorrow will be a big day in Tunisia + i don’t think that it will stop tomorrow.

It Looks that there is a division in the government or it’s another deceive.

"I’m Really Worried and disappointed cause i believe that nothing will change despite all People’s efforts , they want People to think that the reforms is actually happening which is a lie."

(Source: wavesfadingwords)

Tom Dale: Nato’s real plan for Libya…

What is Nato doing in Libya? Drive through any town in rebel-held Libya and the slogans from the early days of Nato’s offensive are plain to see. “Thank you USA, Britain, France”, “Thank you Nato”. The graffiti is a reminder of the moment when airstrikes prevented Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks from overrunning the rebellion in Benghazi. But three months later that sentiment is evaporating. Last month, at a rebel outpost in the Nafusa mountains, in western Libya, this was very much in evidence. Gaddafi has been shelling the town of Nalut for weeks, and rebels on the mountain tops can see the launchers in plain view. They say they pass the co-ordinates to Nato, but these are rarely used.

According to them, on one occasion a Nato jet was actually overhead while a launcher fired, but did nothing. A rebel commander asked: “What is Nato doing about the shelling from Gaddafi? A girl was orphaned here because Nato isn’t helping. It’s all talk and no action, the revolutionaries have lost confidence in Nato, it’s clear that they are serving their own interests.”

On the eastern front there are similar sentiments. However, while confusion or outrage are common, there has been little acknowledgement that they are reactions to a definite Nato strategy. As the Economist puts it, the Nato powers hope that “the rebels will not capture Tripoli after a headlong advance from the east”. Instead, they want to see the regime implode: and that hope corresponds to a strategy of pressure on Gaddafi’s command apparatus, rather than the tanks that are preventing the rebel advance. That is the reason for the present deadlock. According to the Economist, the reason for this is the “risks of retribution being inflicted on Gaddafi loyalists” in a rebel advance. But is it plausible that Nato’s primary motivation is to minimise the loss of life?

There are reasons to be sceptical. For a start, while there have been human rights abuses on the rebel side, these have not amounted to mass killings. Rebel fighters tend to see Gaddafi’s soldiers as having been duped, and civilians in cities such as Tripoli as too cowed to rise up.

Most even see opposing soldiers as “Libyan brothers”. Nato’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has said: “I don’t think rebels will attack civilians.” Furthermore, the prolonged conflict is costing more casualties on both sides every day, as rebel fighters with little more than small arms seek to push back an army of tanks and artillery. Nato strikes in Tripoli, while aimed at military targets, inevitably put civilians at risk, and Gaddafi’s authority has already lasted longer than Nato anticipated.

But why would the western powers prefer a coup by Gaddafi’s inner circle to victory by the rebel army? Such a coup would imply a negotiated settlement between the elements of the old regime still around Gaddafi, and the rebel leadership – which itself incorporates many ex-regime figures. Western governments want stability and influence, and they see the figures of the old regime, minus the Gaddafi family, as the best guarantors of that. Meanwhile, the deadlock is producing tensions. On 20 June rebels cut the oil pipeline from the southern wells to Zawiya, although Nato had asked them not to do so. On 29 June it emerged that the French government has been unilaterally smuggling weapons, including “light tanks”, to rebels in the west. France has a disagreement with its coalition partners over how to bring Gaddafi down, and may be looking to build direct influence with the rebels.

In the first third of June, 46% of Nato strikes were in or near Tripoli, despite the lack of fighting there, while in the latter third that figure fell to 17%. After 20 June the number of strikes per day outside Tripoli nearly trebled. This suggests some sort of reorientation towards the rebels in the field, perhaps as a response to Gaddafi’s surprising resilience. Nonetheless, that resilience is not infinite. When he does go, the future of Libya will be the contested terrain of the forces that have deposed him.

That includes the different western powers, and the refugees from the old regime. Each of them is tussling for influence now, and Nato’s strategy is one expression of that tussle.

… … … 

(Source: Guardian)

Opinion: The Oslo Accords are all but dead …

Settlement expansion persists as Israel’s right-wing government continues to ignore the terms agreed to in the accords close to two decades ago.

By Akiva Eldar

In October 1991 he came with U.S. President George H.W. Bush to the Madrid Conference, which squandered the fruits of the Gulf War victory. In September 1993 he celebrated, with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the birth of the battered Oslo Accords. In early 1997 he managed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign the Hebron Accord, which left tens of thousands of Palestinians to the mercy of the students of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. In late 1998 he was among those who gave birth to the Wye River Memorandum, which died in infancy. In 2000 he was a senior partner to the reverberating failure of American diplomacy in Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And here he is again, this time as U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy responsible for prolonging the death throes of the terminally ill patient known as the peace process.

Before Dennis Ross’ comeback, our acquaintance managed to write a new book (together with David Makovsky ) called “Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”

It would be tough to find a bigger expert than Ross on the myths and illusions related to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For years he has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people - in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

If they give up on the UN vote, Ross argues, then Netanyahu will be so kind as to negotiate a final-status agreement with them. Has anyone heard anything recently about a construction freeze in the settlements?

Ross is trying to peddle the illusion that the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will abandon the strategy of eradicating the Oslo approach in favor of fulfilling the hated agreement. In an effort to save his latest boss from choosing between recognizing a Palestinian state at the risk of clashing with the Jewish community and voting against recognition at the risk of damaging U.S. standing in the Arab world, Ross is trying to drag the Palestinians back into the “peace process” trap.

Let us hope that the Palestinians are not tempted to give up on the UN vote in favor of the appearance of negotiations, which will serve to further prolong settlement expansion under the cover of the Oslo Accords. All we need is to recall the statement by Netanyahu, in which he was recorded telling settlers in Ofra in 2001 that he had previously extorted from the Americans a commitment that he would be the one to determine what qualifies as the “defined military sites” in the territories that will remain under Israeli control.

Netanyahu said that from his perspective the entire Jordan Valley qualifies. “Why is this important?” he asked. “Because from that moment I put a halt to the Oslo Accords.”

As for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Palestinians need to trap him with his own words; he had previously threatened that if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state, Israel will annul the Oslo Accords.

If I were in Abbas’ place, I would tell Dennis Ross that he should tell his president to forget about negotiations without recognition in writing from Netanyahu stating that the permanent borders will be based on the 1967 lines with agreed-upon changes and committing to a total freeze of settlement construction during negotiations and a set timetable for withdrawal from the territories.

You don’t want Oslo? Fine, we don’t need it. No more “Palestinian Authority”; no more Area A, B or C (a division that has in effect created a Land of the Settlers on 60 percent of the territory ); no more “peace process.”

Restore military rule in the West Bank. At the same time, you can reoccupy Gaza and go back to Gush Katif.

According to the Oslo Accords, the final-status agreement was supposed to have been decided upon 13 years ago - meaning that we would be celebrating its bar mitzvah this year. On September 13, the accords themselves will be turning 18, the number signifying life in the Jewish mystical tradition. The time has come to put the Oslo Accords out of their misery.

… … …
Haaretz…

Just an Opinion ..

we are lying to our selves ,and those revolutionaries and revolutions are another why to say loudly that we are doing something “which is nothing but loud Voices on the streets” , there always will dictators and government injustice starting with the one that beginning in Libya ,People are Dying for nothing they have Nothing to lose because they already lost everything ,it’s true that all current govt’s should end ,no doubt, they took enough of our future “if there’s any” but the result or if i could say the consequences are not promising at all , and it seems like each and every one of the society wants the nation to go with only his own opinion there is no greater interest of what is best for the future generation ,we are making the same mistakes over and over again with arrogance and selfishness ,it’s like nobody learn from history ,Yes every generation must have a “Revolution” but we don’t have to make the next generation to Suffer From the same things that our Grandfathers makes us Suffer From , they will have a revolution that’s for sure but we should Guarantee that their Revolution will be For Something Greater, Focusing on the Problem and forgetting individuality is what going to built a Future Without Governments and Capitalists Greed ,i’m not saying that the whole world should adopt the same View or Such thing But we have to know the Problem or i should say ” Stop ignoring it and participate on it’s Growth” it’s just going to make things worse ,we should not waste our lives under the shadow of the injustice ….

(Source: wavesfadingwords)

Tara Murray: These attacks are illegal – until Obama declares war ..

There exists no legal justification for Barack Obama’s use of drones in Pakistan and other states where there is no declared war. Yet his Administration, in an effort to justify its behaviour, has argued that because the US is at war with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and associated forces it may “use … lethal force, to defend itself” and it is “not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.”

This absurd rationalisation mimics the self-serving arguments behind the discredited US detention and interrogation policies at places including Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and in CIA black sites across eastern Europe. The Administration has also failed to address crucial legal issues, most notably including who exactly may be targeted by the drones and what is the precise scope of the conflict. Instead, the Obama Administration has attempted to ward off the human rights community by keeping the drone programme shrouded in secrecy.

Philip Alston, as UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, has condemned the “continuing refusal … to provide the international community with the information that would satisfy its obligations in relation to transparency and accountability” and cautioned that the US role as “the most enthusiastic and prolific proponent of targeted killings” would result in “grave damage … to the legal framework that the international community has so painstakingly constructed to protect the right to life.”

But the Administration cannot keep the law at bay for much longer. Reprieve has partnered with Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar to bring civil and criminal litigation for families of drone victims. If the illegality fails to prick President Obama’s conscience, the emergence of evidence in various courts just might.

—-

(Source: independent.co.uk)

The Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood is making significance progress among certain international political circles, but it is still lacking the necessary coordination and cohesion to bear the desired results.
President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have succeeded in detonating the familiar anti-Palestinian arsenal that Israel’s public relations teams have employed against Palestinian aspirations.
The rejection by the Palestinian leadership of any form of military resistance, and the focus on building the infrastructure of a state rather than cursing the Israelis, has placed Israel in a difficult position internationally.
However, it is unlikely that Palestinian statehood can be achieved simply by following this course of action.
It is sad to admit, but US President Barack Obama is right about one thing: Going to the United Nations General Assembly and extracting a majority vote will not, by itself, end the Israeli occupation.
A UN vote, however, could be key to statehood if it is part of a wider strategy. But as this moment no such coherent and well-coordinated strategy exists.
What should such a strategy look like?
Naturally, seeking national liberation requires a united domestic front. The most prominent Palestinian factions have taken an important step in this direction by signing the reconciliation accords in Cairo in May, but it doesn’t appear that there is serious, continuous and concerted effort to unify the Palestinian people.
Certainly there is no indication that the present effort is one that can unify, politically and strategically, to the point where Palestinians will be willing to make difficult decisions requiring sacrifice in order to end the Israeli occupation.
If Palestinians can agree on the current political process and receive UN recognition in September, a question needs to be asked of the Palestinian leadership about its strategy on “the day after a UN vote.”
What are the plans on the ground in Palestine to implement an international license to statehood? Are the Palestinians in the occupied territories and around the world being mobilized to take concrete steps to turn this “UN license” into a real sovereign state?
Once the Israelis accept the international will for Palestinian statehood and voluntarily exit occupied land, the Palestinian leadership must be ready to take steps to realize statehood on the ground.
The Palestinian Authority will need to disengage from Israel at all levels. Does the Palestinian Authority have alternative plans once this disengagement takes place? Has the PA coordinated with nearby Arab countries to provide for goods and services once this disengagement takes place? Are the Palestinians prepared to bear the pains of such an undertaking?
During the first First Intifada, victory gardens were encouraged as Palestinians were trying to become self-sufficient while rejecting goods coming from Israel. A plan must be designed to “liberate” zones listed as area C, which Israel has direct administrative and security control over. This discriminatory division of Palestinian lands into areas A, B and C should be declared null and void once the Oslo Accords become obsolete with the upcoming UN decision. Maybe the PA should issue land deeds and give them out to any Palestinian willing to live, farm and stay put on lands that Israel continues to occupy.
No such preparation is taking place.
And what about security disengagement? Has the issue of breaking up security coordination been studied? What are the alternative scenarios? Will Abbas give orders to the security forces to defend the newly declared borders of a recognized state?
Much more effort is also needed regionally. Will countries and peoples in the region be asked to help Palestine realize their statehood? Will Jordan and Egypt be asked to help provide essentials, such as fuel, electricity and basic food products? How will such materials be made available? Will the Palestinian leaders ask these neighboring Arab countries to secure the borders?
Finally, what is the international strategy? The PA has been producing relatively good results in some countries, but this is being done almost entirely without strong and constant coordination with solidarity movements. Once Israel refuses the UN declaration of Palestinian statehood, these movements will be crucial to applying a crippling boycott and divestment campaign. The experience of the boycott of the apartheid South African regime after the UN vote needs to be replicated internationally.
Israel and its supporters might be able to pressure governments, and the US Congress, but are unable to stop the vast civil society, people-based international support that needs to be garnered.
The realization of Palestinian statehood needs a holistic internal, regional and international strategy. Such a strategy will require leadership, national unity and sacrifice.
 Daoud Kuttab - And what about statehood?(Ma’an News)

Old Article: America’s Last Taboo.. By :Professor : Edward Said …#Palestine .

The events of the past weeks in Palestine have been a near-total triumph for Zionism in the United States. Political and public discourse has so definitively transformed Israel into the victim during the recent clashes that, even though over 200 Palestinian lives were lost and 6,000 casualties have been reported, there is unanimity that ‘Palestinian violence’ has disrupted the smooth and orderly flow of the ‘peace process’. There is now a small litany of phrases that every editorial commentator either repeats verbatim or relies on as an unspoken assumption: these have been engraved in ears, minds and memories as a guide for the perplexed. I can recite most of them by heart: Barak offered more concessions at Camp David than any Israeli Prime Minister before him (90 per cent of the territories and partial sovereignty over East Jerusalem); Arafat was cowardly and lacked the necessary courage to accept Israeli offers to end the conflict; Palestinian violence has threatened the existence of Israel-all sorts of variations on this, including anti-semitism, suicidal rage to get on television, sacrificing children as martyrs; an ancient ‘hatred’ of the Jews burns in the West Bank and Gaza, where the PLO incites attacks against them by releasing terrorists and producing schoolbooks that deny Israel’s existence.

The general picture is that Israel is so surrounded by rock-throwing barbarians that even the missiles, tanks and helicopter gunships used to ‘defend’ Israelis from them are warding off what is essentially an invasive force. Clinton’s injunctions, dutifully parroted by Albright, that Palestinians must ‘pull back’, give us to understand that it is Palestinians who are encroaching on Israeli territory, not the other way round. In the US media, Zionization is so thorough that not a single map has been published or shown on television that would risk revealing to Americans the network of Israeli garrisons, settlements, routes and barricades which crisscross Gaza and the West Bank. Blotted out completely is the system of Areas A, B and C, which perpetuates military occupation of 40 per cent of Gaza and 60 per cent of the West Bank, in keeping with the Oslo ‘accords’. The censorship of geography, in this most geographical of conflicts, creates an imaginative void-once deliberately fostered, but now more or less automatic-in which all images of the conflict are decontextualized. The result is not just the preposterous belief that a Palestinian attack on Israel is under way, but a dehumanization of Palestinians to the level of beasts virtually without sentience or motive. Little wonder, then, that the figures of dead and wounded regularly omit any mention of nationality-as if suffering were shared equally by the ‘warring parties’. Nothing is said of house demolitions, land expropriations, illegal arrests, beatings and torture. Forgotten are the ethnic cleansing of 1948; the massacres of Qibya, Kafr Qassem, Sabra and Shatila; the defiance of UN resolutions and flouting of the Geneva Convention; the decades of military invigilation and discrimination against the Arab population within Israel. Ariel Sharon is at best ‘provocative’, by no stretch of the imagination a war criminal; Ehud Barak is always a statesman, never the assassin of Beirut and Tunis. Terrorism is invariably on the Palestinian, defence on the Israeli, side of the moral ledger.

Ever since September 28 there have been an average of anywhere between one and three opinion articles a day in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. With the exception of perhaps three pieces written with sympathy for the Palestinians in the Los Angeles Times, and two — one by an Israeli lawyer, Allegra Pacheco; the other by a Jordanian liberal who favours Oslo - in the New York Times, every such article-including the regular columns of Thomas Friedman, William Safire, Charles Krauthammer et al. — has vociferously supported Israel and denounced Palestinian violence, Islamic fundamentalism and Arafat’s backsliding from the ‘peace process’. The authors of this relentless tide of propaganda have been former US military officers and diplomats, Israeli functionaries and apologists, regional experts and think-tank specialists, lobbyists and front men for Tel Aviv. The unspoken premise of this total blanketing of the mainstream press is that no Palestinian or Arab position on Israeli police terror, settler-colonialism, or military occupation is worth hearing from. In fine, American Zionism has made any serious public discussion of the past or future of Israel-by far the largest recipient ever of US foreign aid-a taboo. To call this quite literally the last taboo in American public life would not be an exaggeration. Abortion, homosexuality, the death penalty, even the sacrosanct military budget can be discussed with some freedom. The extermination of native Americans can be admitted, the morality of Hiroshima attacked, the national flag publicly committed to the flames. But the systematic continuity of Israel’s 52-year-old oppression and maltreatment of the Palestinians is virtually unmentionable, a narrative that has no permission to appear.

American fanatics

What explains this state of affairs? The answer lies in the power of Zionist organizations in American politics, whose role throughout the ‘peace process’ has never been sufficiently addressed-a neglect which is absolutely astonishing, given that the policy of the PLO has been in essence to throw our fate as a people into the lap of the United States, without any strategic awareness of how American policy is dominated by a small minority whose views about the Middle East are in some ways more extreme than those of Likud itself. A personal example can illustrate this contrast. Some time ago the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz sent over a leading columnist, Ari Shavit, to spend several days talking with me. A good summary of this long conversation appeared as a question-and-answer interview in the August 18 issue of the newspaper’s supplement, basically uncut and uncensored. I expressed myself candidly, emphasizing the expulsions and killings of 1948, the right of the refugees to return, and the record of Israel as an occupying power since 1967. My views were presented just as I voiced them, without the slightest editorializing by Shavit, whose questions were always courteous and un-confrontational. A week later, Ha’aretz published a reply by Meron Benvenisti, ex-deputy Mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek. At a personal level, it was full of insults and slander against me and my family. But Benvenisti never denied that there was a Palestinian people, or that we were driven out in 1948. Certainly, he said, we conquered you — why should we feel guilty? I responded to Benvenisti a week later, reminding Israeli readers that Benvenisti was responsible for the destruction of Harit al Magharibah in 1967, in which several hundred Palestinians lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers, and probably knew about the killing of several of them. But I did not have to remind Benvenisti or the readers of Ha’aretz that, as a people, we existed and could at least urge our right of return. That was taken for granted.

What is not so widely realized is that neither interview nor exchange could have appeared in any American newspaper, let alone any Jewish-American journal; and if, per impossibile, there had been such an interview, the questions would have been crude hectoring of the sort: why have you been involved in terrorism? why will you not recognize Israel? why was the Mufti of Jerusalem a Nazi? and so on. Whereas a Zionist like Benvenisti, no matter how much he may detest me, would never deny that there exists a Palestinian people which was forced to leave in 1948, a typical American Zionist would maintain that no conquest took place or, as Joan Peters alleged in a now all but forgotten prize-winning book of 1984, From Time Immemorial, that there were no Palestinians with a life in Palestine before 1948. Every Israeli knows perfectly well that all of Israel was once Palestine, that — as Moshe Dayan said openly in 1976 — every Israeli town or village once had an Arab name. American Zionist discourse is never capable of the same honesty. It must ceaselessly maunder about Israeli democracy making the desert bloom, completely avoiding the essential facts about 1948 which every Israeli knows in his or her bones. So removed from realities are American-Jewish supporters of Israel, so caught between ideological guilt — after all, what does it mean to be a Zionist, and not emigrate to Israel? — and sociological swagger — is this not the most successful community in US history: supplying Secretary of State, Defence, Treasury, and successive heads of the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration? — that what often emerges is a frightening cocktail of vicarious violence against Arabs, the result of having no sustained direct contact with them, unlike Israeli Jews.

For all too many American Zionists, Palestinians are not real beings, but demonized fantasms — fearsome embodiments of terrorism and anti-semitism. A former student of mine, a product of the finest education available in the United States, recently wrote me a letter to ask why, as a Palestinian, I let a Nazi like the Mufti of Jerusalem still determine my political agenda. ‘Before Haj Amin,’ he informed me, ‘Jerusalem wasn’t important to Arabs. Because he was so evil he made it an important issue for Arabs just in order to frustrate Zionist aspirations, which always held Jerusalem to be important’. This is not the logic of someone who has lived with or has any personal experience of Arabs. It is no accident that Zionism, nurtured in the United States, has generated the most fanatical aberrations of all in Israel itself. Not for nothing were Dr Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians quietly praying in the Hebron mosque, and Rabbi Meir Kahane, Americans. Far from being disavowed by their followers, both are revered to this day. Many of the most zealous far-right settlers in the West Bank or Gaza, clamouring that ‘the land of Israel’ is theirs, hating and ignoring the Palestinian inhabitants all around them, also come from the States. To see them strutting contemptuously through the streets of Hebron as if the Arab city were already theirs is a frightening sight.

Policy stranglehold

But the role of these immigrants is insignificant beside that of their sympathizers at home. There the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC-has for years been the most powerful single lobby in Washington. Drawing on a well-organized, well-connected, highly visible and wealthy Jewish population, AIPAC inspires an awed fear and respect across the political spectrum. Who is going to stand up to this Moloch on behalf of the Palestinians, when they can offer nothing, and AIPAC can destroy a congressional career at the drop of a chequebook? In the past, one or two members of Congress did resist AIPAC openly, but the many political action committees controlled by AIPAC made sure they were never re-elected. The only Senator who once remotely tried to oppose AIPAC was James Abourezk of South Dakota, who resigned for his own reasons after a single term. Today, virtually the entire Senate can be marshalled in a matter of hours into signing a letter to the President on Israel’s behalf. No-one exemplifies the sway of AIPAC better than Hillary Clinton, outdoing even the most right-wing Zionists in fervour for Israel in her avid clawing for power in New York, where she went so far as to call for the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the grant of leniency for Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy serving a life sentence in the US.

If such is the material of the legislature, what can be expected of the executive? In a little noticed but revealing episode, the current US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk was abruptly stripped of his security clearance by the State Department, supposedly for a lax use of his laptop which may have disclosed confidential information to ‘unauthorized persons’. For a time he was unable to enter or leave the State Department without an escort, and was forbidden to return to Israel, pending a full investigation. It is not difficult to guess what happened. The originating scandal — naturally, never mentioned in the media — was Indyk’s appointment in the first place. On the very eve of Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993, it was announced that Indyk — an Australian national of Jewish origin, born in London — had been sworn in as an American citizen at the express command of the President-elect, overriding all normal procedures in an act of peremptory executive privilege, to allow him to be parachuted immediately into the National Security Council, with responsibility for the Middle East. What had Indyk been or done to merit such extraordinary favour? He had been head of the Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington think-tank that lobbies for Israel in tandem with AIPAC. Predictably enough, Dennis Ross — a State Department consultant who heads American superintendance of the ‘peace process’-is another former head of the same Institute.

What, then, of civil society? Here the consensus that Israel is a model democracy, forming the one oasis of Western modernity in the political desert of the Middle East, is virtually impregnable. Should there be any sign of its slipping, an array of Zionist organizations, whose role it is to police the public realm for infractions, steps in. Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a respected American liberal cleric, once said that Zionism was the secular religion of the American Jewish community. Many Jewish organizations run hospitals, museums, research institutes for the good of the whole country. Alas, these noble public enterprises coexist with the meanest and most inhumane ones. To take a recent example, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a small but vociferous group of zealots, paid for an advertisement in the New York Times on September 10 which addressed Barak as if he was their employee, reminding him that 6 million American Jews outnumber 5 million Israelis, should he decide to negotiate over Jerusalem. The language of the advertisement was positively minatory, upbraiding Israel’s Prime Minister for contemplating actions anathema to American Jews. The ZOA feels it has the right to intervene in everybody’s business. Its adherents routinely write or telephone the President of my university to ask him to dismiss or censure me for something I have said, as if universities were like kinderagartens and professors to be treated as underage delinquents. Last year they mounted a campaign to dismiss me from my elected post as President of the Modern Language Association, whose 30,000 members were lectured to by the ZOA as so many morons.

In similar vein, right-wing Jewish pundits like Norman Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol-to mention only a few of the more strident propagandists-have not hesitated to express their displeasure at the prospect of any concessions, however faint or bogus, by Israel to the Palestinians. The tone of these self-appointed guardians of Zionism is a combination of brazen arrogance, moral sanctimony, and unctuous hypocrisy. Most sensible Israelis regard them with distaste. To describe their diatribes as curses from the Old Testament would be a slur on the prophets. But their relentless clamour, incessantly criminalizing support for Palestinian resistance against Israel, can rely on an ideological trump card in the United States. For a totalitarian Zionism, any criticism of Israel is proof of the rankest anti-semitism. If you do not refrain, you will be hounded as an anti-semite requiring the severest opprobrium. In the Orwellian logic of American Zionism, it is impermissible to speak of Jewish violence or Jewish terror when it comes to Israel, even though everything done by Israel is done in the name of the Jewish people, by and for a Jewish state. Of course, strictly speaking, this is a misnomer, since nearly a fifth of its population is not Jewish. These are the people the media call ‘Israeli Arabs’, as if they were another species from ‘the Palestinians’. What American reader or viewer would know they are the same people, divided only by decades of brutal Zionist policy, assigning apartheid to the former, occupation and expulsion to the latter?

Hapless pleas

The worst of this implacable machinery of consensus in America, however, is Arab blindness to it. When the PLO opted after the Gulf War to follow the example of Egypt and Jordan, and work as closely as possible with the American government, it made its decision (as had the two Arab states before it) on the basis of vast ignorance and quite extraordinarily mistaken assumptions. The essence of its calculation was expressed to me, shortly after 1967, by a senior Egyptian diplomat: we must surrender, and promise not to struggle any further — we will accept Israel and the determining role of the United States in our future. There is no doubt that continuing to fight as the Arabs had historically done would indeed have led to further defeat and disaster. But neither then nor today was it the case that the only alternative was to throw ourselves onto the mercy of America — saying, in effect, we will no longer resist you, let us join you, but please treat us well. The pathetic hope was that if Arabs cried long enough, ‘We are not your enemies’, they would be welcomed as friends. They forgot the disparity of power that remained. From the viewpoint of the powerful, what difference does it make to your own strategy if an enfeebled adversary gives up and declares, ‘I have nothing further to fight for, take me as your ally, just try to understand me a bit better and perhaps you will then be fairer?’

Such pleas are bound to fall on deaf ears in the American state. All peace arrangements undertaken in the illusion of an ‘alliance’ with the US can only confirm Zionist power. To submit supinely to American designs in the Middle East, as Arabs have done for almost a generation now, will bring neither peace and justice at home, nor equality abroad. Since the mid 1980s I have tried to impress on the PLO leadership, and every Palestinian or Arab I have met, that the quest for a protector in the White House is a complete chimera, since all recent presidents have been devoted to Zionist aims, and that the only way to change US policy is through a mass campaign on behalf of Palestinian human rights, out-flanking the Zionist establishment and going straight to the American people. Uninformed and yet open to appeals for justice as they are, Americans are capable of reacting as they did to the ANC campaign against apartheid, which finally changed the balance of forces inside South Africa. James Zoghby, then an energetic human rights activist, was one of the originators of the idea. Then he threw in his lot with Arafat, the US government and the Democratic Party, and abandoned it totally.

But it was soon clear that the PLO would never adopt this course anyway. There were several reasons for that. A strategy of this kind requires sustained and dedicated political work. It has to be based on democratic grass-roots organization. It can only spring from a movement, not a personal initiative by this or that leader. Last but not least, it demands genuine knowledge of US society, rather than superficial pieties or clichés. The reality is that there exists, inside America, a vast body of opinion which is often bewildered by the lurid rhetoric of Zionism and which would be capable of turning against it, were a mass campaign mobilized in the US itself for Palestinian human, civil and political rights. The tragedy is that the Arabs here have been too weak, too divided, too unorganized and ignorant to mount such a movement. But unless American Zionism is taken on in its homelands, all attempts to parley with the United States or Israel will lead to the same dismal and discrediting outcome.

The Oslo accords could scarcely have shown this more starkly. The Wye and Camp David talks brought home the same truth once again. What has Barak’s ‘unprecedented generosity’ consisted of? The promise of a very limited military withdrawal, made at Wye — from a mere 12 per cent of the occupied territories — has never been kept, and is now forgotten. Instead, the Western media extol Barak’s munificent offer of ‘90 per cent’ of the West Bank to the PLO, in exchange for its abandonment of the Palestinian refugees to their fate. The reality is that Israel has no intention of giving back Greater Jerusalem, which covers over 5 per cent of the choicest West Bank land; or Jewish settlements, which amount to another 15 per cent; not to speak of military roads or areas yet to be determined. The largesse of ‘90 per cent’ refers to what is left after all this is deducted. As for the grand gesture of considering shared authority over Haram al Sharif, the breathtaking dishonesty of the matter is that all of West Jerusalem (principally Arab in 1948) has already been conceded by Arafat, plus most of a vastly expanded East Jerusalem.

The shameful charade of the ‘peace process’ has now, at any rate temporarily, broken down, amid the explosion of popular anger among Palestinians who were supposed to be grateful for it. The stones and slings of young men thoroughly tired of injustice and repression are now offering courageous resistance to a demeaning fate, meted out to them not just by Israeli soldiers, armed by the United States, but by a pact with Zionism designed to coop them up in reservations fit for animals, policed by Arafat’s apparatus with US military and financial aid, and openly collaborating with Shin Bet and the CIA. The function of the Oslo accords is to cage Palestinians in a remnant of their own lands, like inmates in an asylum or prison. What is astonishing is not the popular revolt against this diktat, but that it could ever have been passed off as peace instead of the desolation that it has really been all along. A dithering Palestinian leadership, unable either to retire or to go forward, has been caught on the wrong foot. But the signs are that a new generation will not be content with the miserable, denigrated place accorded them in the Zionist scheme of things, and will go on rebelling until it is finally changed.

By Edward W. Said - November 2002…




When French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe visited the occupied Palestinian territories last week, a group of young Palestinians were given a chance to speak to him in Ramallah.
After asking Juppe whether he himself would participate in resisting any foreign occupation of France, they turned to the issue of Palestinian politics, above all addressing the matter of how negotiations are being conducted.
One young Palestinian even questioned the PLO’s present configuration and its role as the reference point for the Palestinians. Without proper and genuine elections of a new Palestine National Council, the young person argued, the PLO cannot be allowed to represent the Palestinians.
Many Palestinians are talking publicly about the need to create new political parties different in structure, ideology and working procedures from the present set of nationalist or Islamic factions.
This kind of skepticism about existing political configurations is not unique to Palestine. It can be argued that the absence of genuine independent pluralism in various political groupings has been the major problem facing the Arab world.
With the exception of ruling parties (which usually exercise a monopoly in their countries) party politics are not well practiced in the Arab world. Executive powers act against independent political parties and their activists, causing a dictatorship of the ruling parties. This makes reform much more difficult.
A look at the reform movements in Syria and Yemen, for example, highlights the difficulties encountered when a pluralistic society is not represented by genuinely independent political parties. Ironically, in both Syria and Yemen, as well as in many other Arab countries, there are many political parties but they are totally isolated and ineffective. Either they are created by the ruling party (as in Syria) to give the appearance of pluralism or they are kept under tight control by the executive branch through various forms of restriction.
While the above applies to so-called Arab republics, the situation in some reform-minded monarchies is also in need of serious development.
For years, the one-person, one-vote system in Jordan has been the single most powerful legislative instrument that encouraged tribalism and in effect curtailed the development of effective political parties. Even the changes proposed by the National Dialogue Committee will do little to enhance the development of strong political parties in Jordan.
For example, out of the 130 proposed parliamentary seats, only 15 will be chosen on a national slate. However, voters will be allowed to pick and choose individual party members from these national lists. Furthermore, the proposed elections law stipulates that no district in the Kingdom will be left without a candidate chosen from the national list. Such restrictions will further reinforce tribal and local candidates on account of national political parties.
Similar policies and electoral procedures have been enacted to limit the creation of a pluralistic political system. Multiparty rule seems a long way from seeing the light in Arab countries despite the success of the Arab Spring.
While those in power are working tirelessly to ensure that new electoral policies reinforce the status quo, young people in the Arab world who have been credited with creating the revolution seem unable to cause deep changes. Part of the handicap is simply their ignorance of how political procedures can be used to either support one group or deny another group the chance of reaching democratic goals. There is a lot of spin accompanying various political plans that are being marketed as encouraging democratic engagement.
To remedy this problem, some civil society activists have begun to educate themselves and their community in such political procedures and their consequences. One Tunisian NGO has begun a widespread campaign to raise political awareness amongst Tunisians. Much more is needed.
Whilst the need for a legal environment supporting the creation of pluralistic Arab societies is indispensable, much more work is needed in other areas. Again, in Egypt, many political activists are calling for the delay of elections until the new generation of young political activists can get its act together. They are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been around for many years and is relatively well organized, can make wide gains in any quick elections.
Young people, on the other hand, who have proved quite capable of organizing hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the reform demonstrations, are told that they should be able to use the same talent and tools to produce the votes needed to bring down any bad candidates or to elect candidates of their choosing.
Finally, electoral politics also requires creativity in designing alliances and networks of citizens who have shared values and goals. Such political horse-trading might also prove very difficult to some of the inexperienced young people who are now the leaders of the Arab revolts.
While the next months will be crucial to understanding the nuances that will make or destroy the young democratic movements in the Arab world, some issues will require wisdom and experience, and not just energy and creativity. Whether the changes that are enacted will be enough is still unclear, but as long as the new system has an internal mechanism that allows continuous change , any temporary mistake can be corrected in the future. However, if the reforms that are carried out are only a one-off deal, then one has a lot to worry about.
A pluralistic multiparty system continues to be the best guarantee that the voices of Arab citizens will be respected and that change will be allowed to see the light, whether in a temporary process or in the long term.
Daoud Kuttab - Pluralism and the Arab spring (Ma’an News)

In 1980, Assad’s father, Hafez, faced an armed uprising in the central city of Hama, which was put down by the Special Forces of Hafez’s brother Rifaat – who is currently living, for the benefit of war crimes investigators, in central London – at a cost of up to 20,000 lives. But the armed revolt today is now spreading across all of Syria, a far-mightier crisis and one infinitely more difficult to suppress. No wonder Syrian state television has been showing the funerals of up to 120 members of the security services from just one location, the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour….”

"The few al-Qa’ida cells in the Arab world may wish this to be true, but the Arab revolt is about the one phenomenon in the Middle East uncontaminated by "Islamism". Only the Israelis and the Americans may be tempted to believe otherwise.
Al Jazeera television yesterday aired extraordinary footage of a junior Syrian officer calling upon his comrades to refuse to continue massacring civilians in Syria. Identified as Lt Abdul-Razak Tlas, from the town of Rastan, he said he had joined the army “to fight the Israeli enemy”, but found himself witnessing a massacre of his own people in the town of Sanamein. “After what we’ve seen from crimes in Deraa and all over Syria, I am unable to continue with the Syrian Arab army,” he announced. “I urge the army, and I say: ‘Is the army here to steal and protect the Assad family?’ I call upon all honourable officers to tell their soldiers about the real picture, use your conscience… if you are not honourable, stay with Assad.”…

…”For well over a month, I have been watching Syrian television’s nightly news and at least half the broadcasts have included funerals of dead soldiers. Now Syria itself declares that 120 have been killed in one incident, an incredible loss for an army that was supposed to instill horror into the minds of the country’s protesters. But then the supposedly invincible Syrian army often showed itself woefully unable to suppress Lebanese militias during the country’s 1975-90 civil war. An entire battalion of Syrian Special Forces troops was driven out of east Beirut, for example, by a ragtag group of Christian militias who would have been crushed by any serious professional army.
If you wish to destroy unarmed civilians, you shoot them down in the street and then shoot down the funeral mourners and then shoot down the mourners of the dead mourners – which is exactly what Assad’s gunmen have been doing – but when the resistors shoot back, the Syrian army has shown a quite different response: torture for their prisoners and fear in the face of the enemy.
But if the armed insurrection takes hold, then it is also the 11 per cent Alawi community – once the frontier force of the French mandate against the Sunnis and now the prop of Assad against the poorer Sunnis – which is at threat. So appalled is the Assad regime at its enemies that it has been encouraging Palestinians to try to cross the frontier wire on Israeli-occupied Golan. The Israelis say this is to divert world attention from the massacres in Syria – and they are absolutely right.
The Damascus government’s Tishrin newspaper has been suggesting that 600,000 Palestinians may soon try to “go home” to the lands of Palestine from which the Israelis drove them in 1948, a nightmare the Israelis would prefer not to think about – but not as great a nightmare as that now facing the people and their oppressors in Syria itself.

Robert Fisk- The people vs The President

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