Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Kuwait royal family tries to back of anti-Isreal move

The Kuwait Royal family is trying to face down moves by Kuwait's parliament to pull out of the Arab Initiative for peace with Israel. Though technically illegal (the royals and the cabinet are actually obliged to stand by resolutions with a National Assembly majority) they may get away with it. They are under pressure from the USA not to break ranks with the rest of the Arab World and destroy the only peace process achievement since the heady days of the Jordan-Egypt peace with Israel:

Kuwait keen on Arab consensus on peace initiative: Al-Busairi
Kuwait government spokesman Dr. Mohammad Al-Busairi reaffirmed on Monday the government's commitment to maintaining the Arab consensus on the initiative for peace in the Middle East, reaffirmed at several Arab summits . . . More >>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mavi Marmara Attack- A Barrier To Peace In The Middle East

The Mava Marmara set out from Istanbul for Gaza on 22nd May. It carried $20m worth of aid. As everyone knows, the ship was however attacked, killing 9 of the 500 or more peace activits and injuring dozens more. Israel's continuing disregard for international law, its blockade of Gaza and the construction illegal settlements in East Jerusalem will affect the security of the United States and ally nations as well. It will also be an insurmountable obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

The Gaza Seige - an Iranian viewpoint

This came in from Ayatollah Safavi. It expresses an Iranian perspective on the current crisis over the Gaza blockade:

Freedom Flotilla: A call for an International and Israeli change of policy

By Seyed Safavi & Hanan Nasser

International Peace Studies Centre (IPSC)

The Freedom Flotilla, which headed for the besieged Gaza Strip from Cyprus on Sunday with the aim of breaking the Israeli blockade and delivering 10,000 tonnes of much needed humanitarian aid, was stopped by the killing of at least nine civilian activists on board the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, by Israeli Naval Commandos. The Israeli military’s operation, which was conducted in international waters, received the “full backing” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, caused an outpouring of condemnation from nations and governments across the globe and placed Israeli-Turkish relations at a turning point.

The siege, imposed since 2007, has turned the Gaza Strip into a concentration camp imprisoning its 1,400,000 residents. Amnesty International has said that the Gaza population is “trapped in the Gaza Strip. Their daily lives – in an area of land just 40 kilometers long and 9.5 kilometers wide – are marked by power shortages, little or no running water of poor quality and deteriorating health care. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, and food insecurity both exacerbate and are deepened by the impact of the Israeli blockade”. In addition, the Gazans live in constant fear of Israeli bombings and the threat of yet another Israeli military operation similar to Operation Cast Lead which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians, in which the UN fact finding mission into the operation found “strong evidence that Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in Gaza, including: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction of property.” In its report, known as the Goldstone report, the mission stated: “Israel’s blockade of Gaza amounts to a violation of Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The deliberate actions of the Israeli forces and the declared policies of the Government indicate the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip.”The Freedom Flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement, aimed to “raise awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip” and to send a statement that through peaceful means and through the strong will and action of nations, if not governments, justice can be established and the people of Gaza can be freed.

Israel, which was once again confronted by the international will, not the will of governments but of nations, decided to answer peace with violence and taint a peaceful movement for freedom, justice and preservation of human dignity, with the blood and incarceration of civilian activists.
The action of the Israeli military, which has received the “full backing” of the Israeli prime minister, and is yet to be condemned by Israel’s guardian and patron, the United States, is also a statement, it is a statement of violence, disregard for human life, disregard for international law and the absence of any desire for peace. It is yet another statement that the international legal tools to ensure accountability do not apply to Israel. Israel has been granted immunity by an international community, led by the United States, that has been passive to its policy of “collective punishment” in the Gaza Strip over the past years.

Israel launched Monday’s raid knowing from experience that it will once more be protected by the United States and that it will not face UN Security Council resolutions or sanctions for its breach of international laws.

The Israeli actions have fueled western and Muslim outrage as governments across Europe summoned Israeli ambassadors and demanded clarifications over the incident.
In the Muslim world, the Arab League is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the raid. Muslim governments slammed the attack as “state terrorism” and an “act of piracy” as Egypt summoned the Israeli ambassador and Jordan “handed the Israeli charge d’affaire a protest note”, according to an AFP report. Other Middle Eastern states such as Syria and Lebanon, warned that Israel’s actions “threaten to pull the Middle East into a war whose consequences will not be limited to the region” while Iran stated that the raid is “in contravention of human values, [international] law and justice,” and called for a “decisive resolution” by the security council to stop Israeli crimes; further, Saudi Arabia called on the international community to take action.

The most consequential reaction for Israel was that of Israel’s regional ally, Turkey, whose president accused it of practicing “state terrorism” while the Turkish foreign minister warned that the attack could have “irrevocable ramifications” on bilateral ties. In the meantime, the Turkish government said it withdrew its ambassador to Israel and canceled three military maneuvers with Israel. It remains to be seen what steps the Turkish military and government will take in protest to the Israeli actions. Most of the nine activists who were killed were Turkish. However, what is needed is a strong response by Turkey particularly in the pursuit of an independent inquiry into the incident.

European Union ambassadors in a statement “condemned the use of violence” and demanded “an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding it”. It said that the EU “does not accept the continued policy of closure, it is unacceptable and politically counterproductive, we need to urgently achieve a durable solution to the situation in Gaza”.

For its part, the UN Security Council called for an impartial inquiry into the raid after a ten-hour emergency session, which was requested by Turkey and Lebanon. In its statement, the Security Council called for “a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards”. It stressed that “the situation in Gaza is not sustainable” and reiterated the Council’s “grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza”.

In the face of such a storm, Israel defended its actions and adhered to its policy of continuing the siege on Gaza. Netanyahu called the incident “regrettable” but justified the attack as a “clear case of self-defense” awarding his “full support” to the Israeli military.

The first step, which must be taken, is to place pressure on Israel to lift its unproductive siege on Gaza. Further, in line with the international community’s call for an inquiry into the killings on board of the Mavi Marmara, it is of utmost importance that the inquiry is independent, particularly as “Israel’s system of investigation and prosecution of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, in particular of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity, has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards.” (United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict). Such an investigation is particularly important in the context of the Middle East peace process. The immunity extended by the US and her allies to Israel is the greatest barrier to the establishment of just peace in the Middle East.

Such international leniency is demonstrated by Israel’s disregard for international law, its violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolutions, its continued blockade of Gaza, its construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian Territories, its rhetoric of war against its neighbors and its use of violence, as demonstrated once more on Monday.
In light of the international community’s unchanged policy toward Israel, it will not feel compelled to act as a cooperative partner in peace negotiations. Israel’s past and present actions show that it has no interest in peace. None of the Israeli ceasefires, be it in the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories or Lebanon, or withdrawals from occupied territories have been the result of an Israeli desire for peace. They have been a tactic, in which Israel, after using “disproportionate force” against its targets and achieving its military and political objectives, withdraws or calls for a ceasefire in order to recuperate and allow for the public outrage of its actions to subside only to strike once more. Israel’s long-term strategy has been to create a climate of fear and violence in the region marked by periods of calm.

The behavior of Israel is not only the foremost barrier to peace in the Middle East but it directly affects the security of the US and her allies, and the situation faced by American and NATO troops across the Muslim lands. There is need for a shift in the behavior of the West towards Israel, whereby Israel, like any other state is held accountable for its actions by legal tools such as UN Security Council resolutions, sanctions and trade and arms embargoes. This policy shift, which would mark an end to policy of double standards employed by the US and her allies in the Middle East, will directly result in a behavioral change in Israel. In the absence of a policy of impunity for its crimes and breaches, Israel will have to respect its obligations under international humanitarian treaties. This is one of the preconditions for successful peace negotiations, and it is a first step to ensure the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East.

The attack on the Freedom Flotilla was also an attack on citizens of more than a dozen countries including the United States, Britain, Australia, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Algeria, Serbia, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Kuwait and Turkey, as it took place in international waters. The raid offers an opportunity for the international community to move away from the policy of complacency towards Israel. An important result of this policy shift would be the message that it would send to the Muslim world that the rule of law will be applied equally upon all parties in the conflict, and that “change” is more than an empty promise.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The War of Public Opinion

Israel’s attempted diversion of the Flotilla’s was certain to end in tears for Israel, whilst it was a public relations triumph for Hamas. Even though the ships never made it to Gaza, the point of the exercise was to provoke Israel into a military reaction and to discredit her on camera. It was inevitable that the Israelis would stop the “humanitarian” Flotillas heading towards Gaza by sea. The Israelis had offered to transfer the supplies from the Flotilla to Gaza from the port in Ashdod through official channels. However this offer was rejected in favour of a guaranteed confrontation. The outcome has been international condemnation, criticism and further isolation of Israel.

In the first few hours of reporting of this incident, the damage has already been done (Israel is still recovering from the international beating it received from allegations of committing war crimes during the 2009 Gaza offensive). Turkey, traditionally Israel’s strongest Muslim ally, immediately withdrew its ambassador to the country and the UN Security Council has also condemned the raid. More concerning is the impact this raid will have on the renewed proximity talks between Israel and Palestine.

This incident has succeeded in defining the global image of Israel. It has divided Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. Israel’s enemies will argue that Israel prefers bloodshed to reasonable accommodation (allowing the ships to go to Gaza and offload). The concern is that as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will adopt the same thinking.

Given the size of Israel, it is not large enough to withstand extended international isolation. The implications of this raid have profound geopolitical implications, as mentioned above.