Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ziad Asali: Against oppression

Against oppression

Sir-- The recent uprisings in the Arab world, including some regime changes, call for a meaningful reassessment of current policy. One would expect the usual demands for democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and regularly scheduled elections as well as a heightened commitment to the people of the region, that their rights and aspirations will be reflected in this new vision.

The common theme which remains constant among the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and the demonstrations in other Arab countries is neither ideology, religion, foreign policy, nor simple economic deprivation. Instead, that unifying thread is poor governance and its attendant oppression and corruption flagrantly practised by the leaders and their families and cohorts. For decades average citizens have been deprived of dignity and access to the rule of law while the kleptocratic dictators and their inner circle remained above the law. The scope of their corruption ranges from huge commissions on contracts to the more damaging naked form in which the regular citizen is dispossessed, humiliated and abused to such a degree that self-immolation became a viable option as a means of expression.

These leaders, their wives, and their sons established a claim on the present and future ownership of their countries and resources. What we have witnessed is not a Facebook revolution or a Twitter revolt. These have been uprisings against unjust governments which have oppressed their people with impunity. Television and social media have indeed facilitated the organisation and the spread of information, but they did not ignite the human will to revolt. Injustice and indignity did that.

In pursuit of stability, the United States and the West, have tolerated, if not actively supported, tyrants and crooks. Young people of the Middle East have spoken, with dignity and in peace, as they shed their blood to earn freedom for themselves and their countries. They are seeking a future of stability and democracy and are prepared to pay for it. They want accountability and expect transparency; we should listen and must help.

The promise for help and expressions of support from the US administration are insufficient. The time has come for words backed by deeds. Because the people of these incipient democracies have rushed into their streets to demand freedom, now is the time to secure it by providing real accountability and transparency. The system of American, Western and international laws which has been mobilised to fight terrorism globally must be directed against officials who kill, or order the murder of, civilians. These laws must be invoked against corrupt individuals who steal their people's resources, rather than used to create safe havens for the loot in Western financial institutions and investments. The complicity must stop. Western global resources are now threatened by the corruption Western governments have ignored. This corruption has driven societies, and not just individuals, to radicalisation. The mullahs and radical ideologues have a convenient argument at their disposal to incite people whose rights and dignity have been trampled.

US and international legal, economic and financial institutions must mobilise to combat corruption if we are to gain the trust and support of the people who suffer at the hands of their thieving tyrants. The resulting economic benefit and enhanced security for us and also for the whole world will be immeasurable. Yes, it is absolutely our business to demand accountability. Radicalised and disenfranchised people and societies pose a threat to our national security interest. The legal systems, here and abroad, have to support the rights of individuals under the watch of serious, probing and sustained media attention in order to widen the circle of rights for other citizens. The recklessness and impunity which allow tyrants to murder and scare their own people demands accountability and must be faced with the gravity they deserve. Standing by the Arab people in their quest for freedom will help dispel the prevailing narrative that we partner with the regimes of oppression. The departure of Mubarak and Bin Ali are steps in the right direction. A genuine commitment to upholding accountability would open the doors to democracy and stability.

Corruption is a threat to national security and not just a financial crime. We should not be the world's policeman, nor should we be the dictator's patron.

Ziad Asali

American Task Force on Palestine

Washington DC USA

Tell Congress to Support Funding for Palestinian Refugees | Churches for Middle East Peace

Tell Congress to Support Funding for Palestinian Refugees | Churches for Middle East Peace

As a voter here in the United States you can help bring Palestinian voices to the halls of Congress. This Thursday in the House of Representatives the U.S. funding contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will likely come under tough scrutiny and could even be dramatically cut.

UNRWA facilities provide hope and help stave-off despair for 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, sustaining a capable and healthy Palestinian society that will be a good neighbor to Israel when peace comes.

The U.S. contribution is UNRWA’s largest and has been so for the past 60 years. There is no alternative source of funding for this essential work. Any reduction or elimination in funding for this vital program would be dangerous and destabilizing for both Palestinians and Israelis, and a blow to U.S. credibility and influence in the region at a time of rising unrest in the Middle East.

Tell your members of Congress today to preserve funding for UNRWA and the millions of refugees that is serves!

Click Here to Take Action Now!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Regional upheaval may facilitate peace now for Palestine By Marwan Muasher and Javier Solana

Regional upheaval may facilitate peace now for Palestine
By Marwan Muasher and Javier Solana
Friday, March 18, 2011

As revolutionary change sweeps across the Arab world, it is easy to think that now is not the time to push for peace between Israel and Palestine. Until the dust settles on the new Middle East, the old road maps seem dated, and conventional wisdom holds that to expect that progress toward a peace agreement can take place in the context of regional upheavals is an example of wishful thinking.

But the opposite is true. Even with so many failed efforts in the past, there is a clear window of opportunity for the United States and Israel to urgently push for a lasting settlement.

Everyone needs to start thinking differently about developments in the Middle East. The international community’s old approach was to prioritize stability over democracy and pursue Israeli-Arab peace on a completely separate diplomatic track. This policy proved to be a failure. Placing stability ahead of democracy brought neither stability nor democracy, and isolated peace efforts went nowhere.

If the United States and other world powers want to make headway on their three key objectives – stability, political reform, and peace – they need to understand how the three are linked and then pursue all of them simultaneously and holistically. Picking and choosing which challenges to address or care about only increases the risk that they will become intractable problems instead.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Arab Woman You Don't See...

"As popular demands progress to political and social transition in the MENA region, it is of critical importance that the women who have played such an important role not be relegated to secondary status yet again. They must not simply be forced to exchange an old for a new set of oppressions. Any reforms must continue the progress toward full human rights for women that our region so desperately needs, not only for the women's sake. It is vital that MENA countries more urgently recognize that the status of women is the key determinant to the development of their societies. In turn, the international community can play a critical role in helping to build bridges that can further integrate women both locally and globally." Queen Noor of Jordan, International humanitarian activist, on the anniversary of International Women's Day 2011

My letter to the Economist RE Israel's Jewish identity. The state we're in

RE: Israel's Jewish identity. The state we're in

Dear Sir,

Religion should be a personal choice- not a government mandate. As an American, firmly believing that real democracy and true justice and equality depend on firmly respecting universal basic human rights- regardless of race, religion and gender, I am utterly horrified by Israel's bigoted refusal to respect the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands. Let Israel define its own Jewishness however it wants as long as Israel is not harming or harassing non-Jews: Forcing non-Jewish Palestinians into exile and/or poverty is clearly wrong- we should not even need UN Resolutions to point that out.

That said- I also think Palestinians world wide should be investing in the creation of a separate secular Palestinian state to live in peace and security alongside the nation state called Israel. No refugee should be forced to live in new Palestine, but every refugee should be free and empowered to make it their permanent home in hopes of helping to build a beautiful new real Palestine with a healthy economy and a peaceful progressive future for all the people.

Anne Selden Annab

Why Settlements must Go By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Date posted: March 14, 2011
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

At Qalandiya checkpoint on March 12, the cars were backed up to kingdom come. Inside where pedestrians are made to walk through, no less than 200 people slowly pushed their way towards the turnstiles in an attempt to get an inch closer to the Israeli soldiers on the other side of the bullet proof windows. The snail-like pace of the peeved soldiers in checking IDs, travel permits, fingerprints and children’s birth certificates served only to exasperate the Palestinians who had been standing there for hours waiting for nothing more than to go home.

While the situation at Qalandiya is always unpleasant, on this day it was particularly awful. Israel had a specific bone to pick with the Palestinians, being the masters of collective punishment that they are. On this day, someone had broken into a home in a West Bank settlement and stabbed to death five members of the same family, children included. For Israel, all Palestinians would have to pay.

The killings shocked not one, but two nations. Palestinians were appalled by it because children and their parents were slain literally in their beds. Israel of course went straight into revenge mode, even though the perpetrator or perpetrators have yet to be apprehended. The assumption, of course, is that Palestinian “terrorists” were responsible, and although a shady group claiming to be Palestinian initially took responsibility for the killings, there is nothing to substantiate the claim.

There is no question as to whether we should all reject such wanton murder. The answer is unequivocally yes. Not only was the method of choice inhumane but the act itself strips the perpetrator of his humanity as well. Any people, even those struggling against the most brutal of oppressions, must preserve their own humanity in order to nurture sound and healthy generations to come.

But this is a lesson that must be learned not only by Palestinians. On the contrary, Israel has everything to learn from the lesson of honoring others’ humanity in order to preserve their own. The Israeli government’s initial response to the Itamar killings was to approve the construction of 500 housing units deep in the heart of the West Bank, in settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land. The settlements themselves scream of injustice for the Palestinians, and the settlers who live in them are a constant source of terror and oppression for the Palestinians around them.

Condemnation is appropriate in regards to the Itamar killings. As citizens of the world, we should demand nothing less from ourselves. However, this is not where condemnations should stop or indeed where they even started. Settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are a source of violence merely by existence. Land confiscation and home demolitions, the system of segregation and militarization that overwhelm Palestinians living in the vicinity of these colonies are violence of a different but equal form. And given the violent nature with which settlements were created it is only natural that its inhabitants would follow suit.

Countless Palestinians have been killed at the hands of Jewish settlers. In the northern West Bank where Itamar is located, settlers routinely cut down Palestinian olive trees, burn cars and orchards and beat and shoot at Palestinians they claim are “trespassing” on Jewish land.

The entire world community including the United States agrees that settlements are illegal and an obstruction to any fair and lasting peace deal. The presence of settlers on occupied Palestinian land is a provocation in and of itself and deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Israel’s government, which is ultimately responsible for the sustainability of these colonies, also deserves denunciation for purposely shunning international law and intentionally denying Palestinian rights.

Furthermore, Palestinians are always made to pay a heavy price. It makes no difference whether President Mahmoud Abbas called the Itamar attack “despicable”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still blamed the Palestinian Authority for spreading incitement. Meanwhile, new structures will go up in the already imposing settlements, Palestinians in the villages around Itamar will continue to endure Israeli army raids, curfews and arrests and all Palestinians will feel the brunt of Israel’s Machiavellian-style philosophy, which is that the security and the safety of its citizens justifies all means to reach that end.

Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

MIFTAH: The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MIRAL: De Niro and Penn back Palestinian film at UN

Tue Mar 15, 12:58 am ET

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Sean Penn and Robert De Niro joined stars who appeared at the UN headquarters for the US premiere of a contested movie on the Middle East conflict that Israel tried to get cancelled.

Penn, De Niro, Josh Brolin and Steve Buscemi on Monday turned out to support award-winning American-Jewish director Julian Schnabel at the premiere of "Miral," the story of two Palestinian women after the creation of Israel in 1948.... READ MORE

'Miral' Theatrical Trailer (2:02)