Middle East

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 19:00 Yacov Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East
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On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad presented his plan to establish a Palestinian state within two years. He stressed the internal changes that must be made in order to build its legal, economic and social infrastructure.

It is not clear what led Fayyad to present his plan at a time when contacts between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are at their lowest in half a year. It appears that he wants to build his political status on this attempt to flesh out the vision of US President Barack Obama.


Fayyad has no public or party base. In the Palestinian arena he depends mainly on PA President Abu Mazen. He is the Great Palestinian Hope of the Americans, who condition all aid to the PA on Fayyad's being the one to administer the funds. This condition arouses the ire of Fatah members who want to dip their own hands into the public purse.

That is apparently the reason why some old-timers came out against Fayyad's plan, accusing him of going over their heads in declaring a Palestinian state, when they are the ones who have devoted their lives to the cause. Hamas too opposes Fayyad, accusing him of compromising Palestinian principles, above all the refugees' right of return.

 

 
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 19:00 Michael Skinner Editorial Dept - Middle East
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The fact that the Taliban is a party of the peasant classes, but certainly not the only one, is not news in Afghanistan or Pakistan. It is thus interesting that The New York Times (“Taliban Exploit Class Rifts to Gain Ground in Pakistan,” 16 April 2009) is now exploiting the fact the Taliban do represent significant groups of peasants as if this is news.

This indication of a possible reframing of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a class war is significant as the U.S. escalates the intensity and scale of warfare in the region.


My Afghan-Canadian research partner, Hamayon Rastgar, has said many times since we returned from a research trip in Afghanistan that “the West gives the monopoly of anti-imperialism to the Taliban” by crushing and continuing to suppress socialist forces in Afghanistan and by portraying the complex insurgency in the simplistic way Western governments and media do.

Many non-violent resisters as well as various insurgent groups oppose the Taliban, the mujaheddin, and imperialist forces. The complexity of the resistance and insurgent forces remain opaque to most Western analysts. Articles by Afghan intellectuals engaged in non-violent resistance against all the forces of repression – the Taliban, the mujaheddin, and the Western forces – are rarely translated for Western readers. Westerners believe all insurgents are under a Taliban banner. However, as an Afghan Maoist leader told us: “The government credits the Taliban for every insurgent attack; the Taliban like to take the credit; and that works for everyone else at this moment.”
 

 
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 19:00 Yacov Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East
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Barack Obama's first 100 days as US President show what a far cry he is from his predecessor. The changes Obama has wrought in this short period amount to a major divergence from American policy of the last eight years.

The closing of Guantanamo and the absolute ban on torture are important trail markers on the new path the White House has chosen.

Israel's new/old Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, by contrast, has opened his term with a series of proclamations: what Obama is doing in the US may be fine over there, but it doesn't fit us. We shall persist in the Bush policy of political and economic conservatism.


Obama's approach to the Middle East is clear. He will shift the military effort from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He seeks a dialogue with Iran, having declared Bush's sanctions to be ineffective. He sends a delegation to Damascus to discuss the Iraqi situation, with the aim of detaching Syria from the Iranian axis and bringing it into a peace process.
 

 
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 19:00 Anthony Fenton Editorial Dept - Middle East
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As United States President Barack Obama simultaneously escalates and crafts a new strategy for the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led counter-insurgency war and occupation in Afghanistan, critics say that the “surge” will send the country toward an “unmitigated disaster,” the brunt of which will be borne by the civilian population.

Since Obama announced an increase in the U.S. footprint by 17,000 soldiers on February 17, the debate over the escalation of the war in Afghanistan has reached a fever pitch. The topic now garners more headlines than the ongoing war in Iraq.


During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged to escalate the war. In a speech last July, Obama called for “at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan,” and said that “we need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones.”[1]

Although unreported at the time, Obama's campaign pledges were already beginning to be fulfilled by the outgoing Bush administration. While Obama has made frequent references to the U.S.'s having “taken [its] eye off the ball” in Afghanistan, and that his administration will correct the course, he has omitted mentioning that a “quiet surge” had already begun under his predecessor, George W Bush.[2]
 

 
Sunday, 08 March 2009 19:00 Roni Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East
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The results of the elections to Israel's 18th Knesset clearly bolstered the far Right, which won 65 of the parliament's 120 seats. This outcome is partly due to the paralysis that beset Ehud Olmert's government. Almost three years ago he received a mandate to advance the peace process, but he squandered it on two wars.

The lack of progress toward peace has had the effect of strengthening Hamas. It has also encouraged chauvinistic trends in Israel, as expressed in wall-to-wall support for the Gaza War. Israelis turned their backs on the notion that the conflict with the Palestinians must be solved by diplomacy.


Avigdor Lieberman, who heads a party called "Israel Our Home," became the elections' main attraction, advancing from 11 to 15 seats and shoving the venerable Labor Party back into fourth position. His campaign slogan went: "No loyalty, no citizenship!" If he weren't Jewish, Lieberman would be an anti-Semite. Hatred for Arabs was his strongest card, pulling in thousands of the like-minded.

 
Saturday, 10 January 2009 19:00 Shourideh Cherie Molavi Editorial Dept - Middle East
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No matter how the current war plays out, it is certain that Israel has made a big historical mistake in entering Gaza.

On Saturday night, one week after the start of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli ground operation began. Israeli Forces began deploying combat units to surround Hamas' main power base, the declared goal of which is "not to chase after and destroy every last rocket launcher, but rather to break the Hamas' resistance."

Israel believes that the ground incursion into Gaza will significantly damage Hamas' standing army and give its leadership a clear sense of the threat to their rule.


Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was clear from the beginning. "The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza," she said at a meeting of her Kadima party almost a week before the war began. Indeed, the call to remove Hamas is reiterated by most of Israel's prominent political figures.
 

 

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