Just International

Israeli Settler Colonialism Is At An End

By Ilan Pappe

Professor Ilan Pappe spoke at IHRC’s annual Genocide Memorial Day in London, UK on 21st January 2024, on the need to understand that the genocide of Palestinians we are currently witnessing, as brutal as it is, is also the demise of the so-called Jewish state.  We need to be ready to imagine a new world beyond it.

The idea that Zionism is settler colonialism is not new. Palestinian scholars in the 1960s working in Beirut in the PLO Research Centre had already understood that what they were facing in Palestine was not a classical colonial project.  They did not frame Israel as just a British colony or an American one, but regarded it as a phenomenon that existed in other parts of the world; defined as settler colonialism.  It is interesting that for 20 to 30 years the notion of Zionism as settler colonialism disappeared from the political and academic discourse.  It came back when scholars in other parts of the world, notably South Africa, Australia and North America agreed that Zionism is a similar phenomenon to the movement of Europeans who created the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  This idea helps us to understand much better the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine since the late 19th century until today, and it gives us an idea of what to expect in the future.

I think this particular idea in the 1990s, that connected so clearly the actions of European settlers especially in places such as North America and Australia, with the actions of the settlers who came to Palestine in the late 19th century elucidated clearly the intentions of the Jewish settlers who colonised Palestine and the nature of the local Palestinian resistance to that colonisation. The settlers followed the most important logic adopted by settler colonial movements and that is that in order to create a successful settler colonial community outside of Europe you have to eliminate the natives in the country you have settled. This means that the indigenous resistance to this logic was a struggle against elimination, and not just liberation. This is important when one thinks about the operation of the Hamas and other Palestinian resistance operations ever since 1948.

The settlers themselves as the case of many of the Europeans who came to North America, Central America or Australia, were refugees and victims of persecution. Some of them were less unfortunate and were just seeking better life and opportunities. But most of them were outcasts in Europe and were looking to create a Europe in another place, a new Europe, instead of the Europe that didn’t want them.  In most cases, they chose a place where someone else already lived, the indigenous people. And thus the most important core group among them was that of their leaders and ideologues who provided religious and cultural justifications for the colonisation of someone else’s land. One can add to this, the need to rely on an Empire to begin the colonisation and maintain it, even if at the time the settlers rebelled against the empire that helped them and demanded and achieved independence, which in many cases they obtained and then renewed their alliance with empire. The Anglo-Zionist relationship that turned into an Anglo-Israeli alliance is a case in point.

The idea that you can remove by force the people of the land that you want, is probably more understandable – not justified – against the backdrop of the 16th, 17th and 18th  centuries – because it went together with full endorsement for imperialism and colonialism. It was fed by the common dehumanisation of the other non-Western, non-European people. If you dehumanise people you can more easily remove them.  What was so unique about Zionism as a settler colonial movement is that it appeared on the international arena at a time where people all around the world had begun to have second thoughts about the rights of removing indigenous people, of eliminating the natives and therefore we can understand the effort and the energy invested by the Zionists and later the state of Israel in trying to cover up the real aim of a settler colonial movement such as Zionism, which was the elimination of the native.

But today in Gaza they are eliminating the native population in front of our eyes, so how come they have almost given up 75 years of attempting to hide their eliminatory policies?  In order to understand that we have to appreciate the transformation in the nature of Zionism in Palestine over the years.

At the early stages of the Zionist settler colonialist project, its leaders carried out their eliminatory policies with a genuine attempt to square the circle by claiming that it was possible to build a democracy and at the same time to eliminate the native population. There was a strong desire to belong to the community of civilised nations and it was assumed by the leaders, in particular after the Holocaust, that the eliminatory policies will not exclude Israel from that association.

In order to square this circle, the leadership insisted that their eliminatory actions against the Palestinians were a ‘retaliation’ or ‘response’ against Palestinian actions.  But very soon, when this leadership wanted to move into more substantial actions of elimination, they deserted the false pretext of ‘retaliation’ and just stopped justifying what they did.

In this respect, there is a correlation between the way the ethnic cleansing in 1948 developed and in the operations of the Israelis in Gaza today.   In 1948, the leadership justified to itself every massacre committed, including the infamous massacre of Deir Yassine on 9th April, as the reaction to a Palestinian action: it could have been throwing stones at the bus or attacking a Jewish settlement, but it had to be presented domestically and externally as something that doesn’t come out of the blue, as self-defence. Indeed, that is why the Israeli army is called “Israeli Defence Forces”.  But because it is a settler colonial project it cannot rely all the time on ‘retaliation’.

The Zionist forces began the ethnic cleansing during the Nakba in February 1948, for a month all these operations were presented as retaliation to the Palestinian opposition to the UN partition plan of November 1947. On 10th March 1948, the Zionist leadership ceased talking about retaliation and adopted a master plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.  From March 1948 to the end of 1948 the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that led to the expulsion of half of Palestine’s population, the destruction of half of its villages and the de-Arabisation of most of its towns, was done as part of a systematic and intentional master plan of ethnic cleansing.

Similarly, after the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in June 1967, whenever Israel wanted to change fundamentally the reality or engage in a full scale ethnic cleansing operation, it dispensed with the need of justification.

We are witnessing a similar pattern today. At first the actions were presented as retaliation to operation Tufun al-Aqsa, but now it is the war named “sword of war” aiming to return Gaza under direct Israeli control, but ethnically cleansing its people through a campaign of genocide.

The big question is why politicians, journalists, and academics in the west fell into the same trap they had fallen into in 1948? How can they still today buy into this idea that Israel is defending itself in the Gaza Strip?  That it is reacting to the actions of 7th October?

Or maybe they are not falling into the trap.  They might know that what Israel is doing in Gaza is using 7th October as a pretext.

Either way, so far, the Israelis claim to a pretext every time they assault the Palestinians, has helped the state to sustain the immunity shield that allowed it to pursue its criminal policies without fear of any meaningful reaction from the international community.  The pretext helped to accentuate the image of Israel as part of the democratic and western world, and hence beyond any condemnation and sanctions.  This whole discourse of defence and retaliation is important for the immunity shield that Israel enjoys from governments in the Global North.

But as in 1948, today too, Israel as its operation lingers on, they dispense with the pretext, and this is when even their greatest supports find it difficult to endorse its policies. The

magnitude of the destruction, the massive killings in Gaza, the genocide, are on such a level that Israelis find it more and more difficult to persuade even themselves that what they are doing is actually self-defence or reaction.  Thus, it is possible that in the future more and more people would find it difficult to accept this Israeli explanation for the genocide in Gaza.

For most people it is clear that what is required is a context and not a pretext. Historically and ideologically, it is very clear that 7th October is used as a pretext to complete what the Zionist movement was unable to complete in 1948.

In 1948 the settler colonial movement of Zionism used a particular set of historical circumstances that I have written about in detail in my book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, in order to expel half of Palestine’s population.  As mentioned, in the process they destroyed half of the Palestinian villages, demolished most of the Palestinian towns, and yet half of the Palestinians remained inside Palestine.  The Palestinians who became refugees outside the boundaries of Palestine continued the resistance of the Palestinians and therefore the settler colonial ideal of eliminating the native was not fulfilled and incrementally Israel used all its power from 1948 to today to continue with the elimination of the native.

The elimination of the native from the beginning to the end includes not just a military operation, by which you would occupy a place, massacre people or expel them.  Elimination needs to be justified or become an inertia and the way to do it is constant dehumanization of those you intend to eliminate.  You cannot massively kill people or genocide another human being unless you dehumanise them.  Thus, dehumanisation of the Palestinians is an explicit and an implicit message conveyed to the Israeli Jews through their educational system, their socialisation system in the army, the media and the political discourse. This message has to be conveyed and maintained if the elimination is to be completed.

So we are witnessing a particular cruel new attempt to complete the elimination. And yet, it is not all hopeless. In fact, ironically, this particular inhuman destruction of Gaza exposes the failure of the settler colonial project of Zionism. This may sound absurd, because I’m describing a conflict between a small resistance movement, the Palestinian liberation movement and a powerful state with a military machine and an ideological infrastructure that is focused solely on the destruction of the indigenous people of Palestine people. This liberation movement does not have a strong alliance behind it, while the state it faces, enjoys a powerful alliance behind it – from the United States to multinational corporations, military industry security firms, mainstream media and mainstream academia – we’re talking about something that almost sounds hopeless and depressing because you have this international immunity for the policies of elimination that begin from the early stages of Zionism until today.  It will seem probably the worst chapter of the Israeli attempt to push forward eliminatory policies to a new kind of level into a much more concentrated effort of killing thousands of people in a short period of time as they have never dared to do before.

So how can it be also a moment of hope? First of all, this kind of a political entity, a state, that has to maintain the dehumanisation of the Palestinians in order to justify their elimination is a very shaky basis if we look into the more distant future.

This structural weakness was already apparent before 7th October and part of this weakness is the fact that if you take out the elimination project, there is a very little that unites the group of people who define themselves as the Jewish nation in Israel.

If you exclude the need to fight and eliminate the Palestinians, you are left with two warring Jewish camps, which we saw actually fighting on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem up to 6th October 2023.  Huge demonstrations between secular Jews, those who describe themselves as secular Jews – mostly of European origin – believing that it’s possible to create a democratic pluralistic state while maintaining the occupation and the apartheid towards the Palestinians inside Israel, were confronting  a messianic new kind of Zionism that developed in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, what I called elsewhere the state of Judea, which suddenly appeared in our midst, believing they now have a way of creating a kind of a Zionist theocracy with no consideration for democracy, and believing that this is the only vision for a future Jewish state.

There is nothing in common between these two visions apart from one thing: both camps don’t care about the Palestinians, both camps believe that the survival of Israel depends on the continuation of the elimination policies towards the Palestinians.  This is not going to hold water.  This is going to disintegrate and implode from within because you cannot in the 21st century keep together a state and a society on the basis that their shared sense of belonging is being part of an eliminatory genocidal project.  It can work for some definitely, but it cannot work for everyone.

We have seen already the indication for that before 7th October, how Israelis who have opportunities in other parts of the world due to their dual nationality, professions and their financial abilities, are thinking seriously of relocating both their money and themselves outside of the state of Israel.  What you will be left with is a society that is economically weak, that is led by this kind of fusion of messianic Zionism with racism and eliminatory policies towards the Palestinians.  Yes, the balance of power at first would be on the side of the elimination, not with the victims of the elimination, but the balance of power is not just local, the balance of power is regional and international, and the more oppressive the eliminatory policies are (and it’s terrible to say but it’s true) the less they are able to be covered up as a ‘response’ or ‘retaliation’ and the more they are seen as a brutal genocide policy. Thus, it is less likely that the immunity that Israel enjoys today would continue in the future.

So, I really think that at this very dark moment what we are experiencing – and it is a dark moment because the elimination of the Palestinians has moved to a new level, is unprecedented. In terms of the discourse employed by Israel, and the intensity and the purpose of the eliminatory policies – there wasn’t such a period in history, this is a new phase of the brutality against the Palestinians.  Even the Nakba, which was an unimaginable catastrophe does not compare to what we are seeing now and what we are going to see in the next few months.  We are in my mind in the first three months of a period of two years that will witness the worst kind of horrors that Israel can inflict on the Palestinians.

But even in this dark moment we should understand that settler colonial projects that disintegrate are always using the worst kind of means to try and save their project.  This happened in South Africa and South Vietnam.  I am not saying this as a wishful thinking, and I am not saying this as a political activist: I am saying this as a scholar of Israel and Palestine with all the confidence of my scholarly qualifications. On the basis of sober professional examination, I am stating that we are witnessing the end of the Zionist project, there’s no doubt about it.

This historical project has come to an end and it is a violent end  – such projects usually collapse violently and thus it is a very dangerous moment for the victims of this project, and the victims are always the Palestinians along with Jews, because Jews are also victims of the Zionism. Thus, the process of collapse is not just a moment of hope it is also the dawn that will break after the darkness, and it is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Collapse like this however produces a void. The void appears suddenly; it is a like a wall that is slowly eroded by cracks in it but then it collapses in one short moment. And one has to be ready for such collapses, for the disappearance of a state or a disintegration of a settler colonial project. We saw what happened in the Arab world, when the chaos of the void, was not filled by any constructive and alternative project; in such a case the chaos continues.

One thing is clear, whoever thinks about the alternative to the Zionist state should not look for Europe or the West for models that would replace the collapsing state. There are much better models which are local and are legacies from the recent and more distant pasts of the Mashraq (the eastern Mediterranean) and the Arab world as a whole. The long Ottoman period has such models and legacies that can help us taking ideas from the past to look into the future.

These models can help us build a very different kind of society that respects collective identities as well as individual rights, and is built from scratch as a new kind of model that benefits from learning from the mistakes of decolonialisation in many parts of the world, including in the Arab world and Africa. This hopefully will create a different kind of political entity that would have a huge and positive impact on the Arab world as a whole.

The article was originally published by the Islamic Human Rights Commission

Ilan Pappé is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor of history at the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies.

17 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

There Is No Place for the Palestinians of Gaza to Go

By Vijay Prashad

On February 9, 2024, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his army would advance into Rafah, the last remaining city in Gaza not occupied by the Israelis. Most of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza had fled to its southern border with Egypt after being told by the Israelis on October 13, 2023, that the north had to be abandoned and that the south would be a “safe zone.” As the Palestinians from the north, particularly from Gaza City, began their march south—often on foot—they were attacked by Israeli forces, who gave them no safe passage. The Israelis said that anything south of Wadi Gaza, which divides the narrow strip, would be safe, but then as the Palestinians moved into Deir-al-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah, they found the Israeli jets following them and the Israeli troops coming after them. Now, Netanyahu has said that his forces will enter Rafah to combat Hamas. On February 11, Netanyahu told NBC news that Israeli would provide “safe passage for the civilian population” and that there would be no “catastrophe.”

Catastrophe

The use of the word “catastrophe” is significant. This is the accepted English translation of the word “nakba,” used since 1948 to describe the forced removal that year of half of the Palestinian population from their homes. Netanyahu’s use of the term comes after high officials of the Israeli government have already spoken of a “Gaza Nakba” or a “Second Nakba.” These phrases formed part of South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 29, 2023, alleging that they are part of the “expressions of genocidal intent against the Palestinian people by Israeli state officials.” A month later, the ICJ said that there was “plausible” evidence of genocide being conducted in Gaza, highlighting the words of the Israelis officials. One official, the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “I have released all restraints” (quoted both by the South African complaint and in the ICJ’s order).

Netanyahu saying that there would be no “catastrophe” after over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and after two million of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced is puzzling. Since the ICJ’s order, the Israeli army has killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians. The Israeli army has already begun to assault Rafah, a city with a population density now at 22,000 people per square kilometer. In response to the Israeli announcement that it would enter Rafah city, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)—one of the few groups operating in the southern part of Gaza—said that such an invasion “could collapse the humanitarian response.” The NRC assessed nine of the shelters in Rafah, which are housing 27,400 civilians and found that the residents have no drinking water. Because the shelters are operating at 150 percent capacity, hundreds of the Palestinians are living on the street. In each of the areas that the NRC studied, they found the Palestinian refugees in the grip of hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, smallpox, lice, and influenza. Because of the collapse of this humanitarian response from the NRC, and from the United Nations—whose agency UNRWA has lost its funding and is under attack by the Israelis—the situation will deteriorate further.

Safe Passage

Netanyahu says that his government will provide “safe passage” to the Palestinians. These words have been heard by the Palestinians since mid-October when they were told to keep going south to prevent being killed by the Israeli bombing. Nobody believes anything that Netanyahu says. A Palestinian health worker, Saleem, told me that he cannot imagine any place of safety within Gaza. He came to Rafah’s al-Zohour neighborhood from Khan Younis, walking with his family, desperate to get out of the range of the Israeli guns. “Where do we go now?” he asks me. “We cannot enter Egypt. The border is closed. So, we cannot go south. We cannot go into Israel, because that is impossible. Are we to go north, back to Khan Younis and Gaza City?”

Saleem remembers that when he arrived in al-Zohour, the Israelis targeted the home of Dr. Omar Mohammed Harb, killing 22 Palestinians (among them five children). The house was flattened. The name of Dr. Omar Mohammed Harb stayed with me because I recalled that two years ago his daughter Abeer was to be married to Ismail Abdel-Hameed Dweik. An Israeli air strike on the Shouhada refugee camp killed Ismail. Abeer was killed in the strike on her father’s house, which had been a refuge for those fleeing from the north. Saleem moved into that area of Rafah. Now he is unsettled. “Where to go?” he asks.

Domicide

On January 29, 2024, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal wrote a strong essay in the New York Times called “Domicide: the Mass Destruction of Homes Should be a Crime Against Humanity.” Accompanying his article was a photo essay by Yaqeen Baker, whose house was destroyed in Jabalia (northern Gaza) by Israeli bombardment. “The destruction of homes in Gaza,” Baker wrote, “has become commonplace, and so has the sentiment, ‘The important thing is that you’re safe—everything else can be replaced.’” That is an assessment shared across Gaza amongst those who are still alive. But, as Dr. Rajagopal says, the scale of the destruction of housing in Gaza should not be taken for granted. It is a form of “domicide,” a crime against humanity.

The Israeli attack on Gaza, Dr. Rajagopal writes, is “far worse than what we saw in Dresden and Rotterdam during World War II, where about 25,000 homes were destroyed in each city.” In Gaza, he says, more than 70,000 housing units have been totally destroyed, and 290,000 partially damaged. In these three months of Israeli fire, he notes, “a shocking 60 to 70 percent of structures in Gaza, and up to 84 percent of structures in northern Gaza, have been damaged or destroyed.” Due to this domicide, there is no place for the Palestinians in Rafah to go if they go north. Their homes have been destroyed. “This crushing of Gaza as a place,” reflects Dr. Rajagopal, “erases the past, present, and future of many Palestinians.” This statement by Dr. Rajagopal is a recognition of the unfolding genocide in Gaza.

As I speak with Saleem the sound of the Israeli advance can be heard in the distance. “I don’t know when we can speak next,” he says. “I don’t know where I will be.”

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter.

14 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

US gives Israel blank check to massacre civilians in Rafah

By Andre Damon

In multiple statements over the past 24 hours, US officials have made clear that they will take no action against Israel no matter how many civilians it massacres in its planned assault on Rafah, where one million displaced people are sheltering. These statements effectively give Israel a blank check to commit unrestrained war crimes in its assault on the city.

On Monday, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was asked whether the United States will reduce its military aid to Israel if it assaults Rafah without taking into consideration “what happens to civilians.”

To this, Kirby replied, “We will continue to support Israel. They have a right to defend themselves against Hamas, and we will continue to make sure they have the tools and capabilities to do that.”

To drive this point home, Politico reported on Tuesday, based on statements by three US officials, that “The Biden administration is not planning to punish Israel if it launches a military campaign in Rafah without ensuring civilian safety.”

Politico continued, “No reprimand plans are in the works, meaning Israeli forces could enter the city and harm civilians without facing American consequences.”

Over one million Palestinians have been forced into Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, as a result of Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear on Sunday that Israel intends to proceed with a full-scale military assault on Rafah, pledging “final victory.”

On Sunday, Biden declared, “The major military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering there.”

The statements by Kirby and the officials who spoke on background to Politico made it clear that this declaration is meaningless, and that the United States will endorse Israeli actions no matter how many people it massacres.

In a testament to how brazenly American imperialism is endorsing the genocide, Kirby was asked again on Tuesday, “What happens if Israel does not provide this plan and moves into Rafah?”

Kirby dismissed the question as a “game,” declaring, “I’m not going to get into a hypothetical game.”

The question is, however, neither a game nor hypothetical. Israel is killing between 100 and 200 people every single day in Gaza, and the death toll stands above 35,000. These victims were killed by US bombs, launched with US logistical support, and given political cover by the Biden administration.

The open support for Israel’s genocidal actions is all the more striking given statements by figures within the US political establishment that Israel is committing war crimes.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen accused Israel of committing a war crime by withholding food from the population of Gaza. “Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food. … That is a war crime. It is a textbook war crime. And that makes those who orchestrate it war criminals.” This did not stop Van Hollen from voting for a bill that includes billions in additional funding for Israel.

If these words apply to the Netanyahu government, they apply with even greater force to the Biden administration.

Israel continued to pound Rafah with airstrikes on Tuesday, killing dozens of people in the city even before the planned full-scale invasion. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 133 people were killed between Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that a “potential full-fledged military incursion into Rafah—where some 1.5 million Palestinians are crammed into a tiny area—is terrifying, given the prospect that an extremely high number of civilians, again mostly children and women, will likely be killed and injured.”

On Tuesday, the World Food Program said in a statement that its efforts to feed starving people in Gaza were “constantly hampered” by the Israeli government. “WFP is deeply concerned about an expanded military offensive in Rafah, where over a million people are crammed into a tiny area. WFP has expanded our distribution points, but efforts to reach people in need throughout Gaza are constantly hampered,” it added. “There is nowhere safe.”

United Nations humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths warned that the looming offensive against Rafah would be a “slaughter,” declaring, “Today, I am sounding the alarm once again: Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza. They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door.”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), meanwhile, confirmed that it received a request by South Africa to intervene to stop the assault on Rafah. In its filing, South Africa “calls upon the Court to consider as a matter of the greatest urgency whether the developing circumstances in Rafah require that it exercise its power to prevent further imminent breach of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Last month, the ICJ ruled that Israel could “plausibly” be committing genocide in Gaza. But in the wake of the ruling, Israel, with the support of the US, has only intensified its bombing of civilians, summary mass executions and deliberate starvation of the population of Gaza.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces targeted Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Ismail Abu Omar, seriously injuring him and photojournalist Ahmed Matar. In a statement, Al Jazeera wrote that the attack is “a full-fledged crime added to Israel’s crimes against journalists, and a new part in the series of the deliberate targeting of Al Jazeera’sjournalists and correspondents in Palestine.”

Israeli officials, meanwhile, have threatened to expand the geographic scope of the war. On Tuesday, the Israeli military carried out strikes in southern Lebanon. Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that there is “a realistic possibility” that the Israeli army will have “to return the northern residents to their homes forcefully,” implying a broader military offensive against Lebanon.

He added, “This means creating a different security situation by force, and that could lead to anything … we can reach anywhere we decide to go in Lebanon and beyond that.”

14 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

What Israel has achieved

By Jim Miles

There have been many achievements by Israel in the last four months of their genocidal attacks on Gaza.  After reading and watching many websites the following achievements are notable.

First is the uniting of the Arab community against the occupation, settlement, and ethnic cleansing/genocide of the Palestinian people.   The people of the street are forcing their respective governments to align with Hamas and Gaza, and now that the last refuge in Rafah is threatened with military slaughter, there is increased risk/momentum towards a wider regional war.

Another big achievement, bigger perhaps in a global perspective, is the highlighting of the U.S.’ racist and militaristic policy in supporting the genocide.  For decades the U.S. has doled out (sure, think of it as welfare for the Zionist settlers) billions of dollars a year, and are now proposing many billions of dollars more in support, most of which goes to the military.  Beyond that the U.S. donates huge quantities of military equipment and ordinance in order to sustain the bloody cleansing, money the U.S. taxpayer could well use at home.

But beyond the U.S., it is the global community being shown in much detail through modern media that the U.S. cares nothing at all about the lives of women, children, and men being able to live their lives in peace and security.  The Middle East has lived this for decades, even before 9/11, and now the world can see it all at its best attempts to retain its global hegemony through “supreme spectrum dominance” – the mantra of the U.S. establishment.

Freedom and democracy?  Hogwash, malarkey, balderdash and many terms I refuse to print – it is all about dominance and control through the U.S. military for the sake of the U.S. oligarchy.

The military in itself is shown to be rather ineffective (along with the highly touted IOF) as the navy sits offshore, threatening the Houthis while the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb are avoided by many global marine shippers. Sure they can bomb the sand dunes and villages of an already much assaulted region, but against the irregular forces of the Houthis, they are very much sitting ducks should the war escalate.

A similarly large achievement for Israeli Zionists has been to highlight for the world its hatred and racism for all people other than those anointed by self-proclamation to be the only possessors of the land.

The pictures of detainees, stripped, bound, and held under illegal conditions are bad enough, but the pictures of wounded and murdered children and women, killed without remorse – more than likely with psychopathic glee – churn the stomach and fray the nerves.  The recently highlighted murder of Hind Raja speaks volumes about the cruelty of the IOF presenting itself far outside the bounds of anything moral.  The attempted humiliation of another Palestinian, Hamza Abu Halima – now given the moniker of the “Lion of Gaza” – clearly shows the pride, defiance and sumud of the Palestinian people against an immoral, self-righteous, intolerant Zionist fanaticism.

I shudder to think what further achievements might come from Israel’s aggression in the Middle East.  With over thirty thousand killed and missing, and the millions of displaced Palestinians now huddled near the Egyptian border, what kind of slaughter have they conceived next?

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is their ultimate goal, to be achieved by murder and slaughter and/or by push and shove across international borders.  Allow that this “achievement” will be marked by failure before too much more damage has been achieved.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator

13 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

With a green light from Biden, Israel commencing Rafah massacre

By Andre Damon

Israel launched a massive aerial bombardment of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, on Sunday night into Monday morning, killing over 100 people. As the sun came up, the world was horrified by images of the mangled bodies of children, in a chilling demonstration of what is to come in the weeks ahead.

Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to carry out a full-scale military onslaught against the besieged city, declaring, “Our goal … is total victory.” For the Israeli regime, “total victory” means killing as many Palestinians as possible and driving the rest from their homes.

Over one million people—almost half of the population of the Gaza Strip—are crowded into Rafah, with most living in squalid tents without clean water, food or sewerage systems. With the hospital system having collapsed, disease is running rampant, and famine is growing. Four out of five of the world’s hungriest people currently reside in Gaza, according to the United Nations.

The full-scale assault on Rafah will further swell the death toll in Gaza, where over four months of nonstop Israeli bombardment and deliberate mass summary executions have killed over 35,000 people.

The overnight massacre took place just one day after US President Joe Biden gave the administration’s approval for the offensive on Rafah, replacing the assertion that an offensive “cannot proceed” with the declaration that the offensive requires a “plan” for the evacuation of Rafah.

Biden “reaffirmed our shared goal to see Hamas defeated and to ensure the long-term security of Israel and its people,” according to the readout of a call between Biden and Netanyahu published by the White House.

Following a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday, Biden repeated this empty condition, while referring to “our military operation in Rafah” in one of his “mistakes” that reveals the essential truth.

It is indeed “our military operation”—that is, an operation carried out by Israel but with the coordination of American imperialism. Biden could just as correctly call it “our genocide.”

The “plan,” worked out between Israel and the United States, appears to have taken shape, with the Wall Street Journal reporting, “The Israeli evacuation proposal includes establishing 15 campsites of around 25,000 tents each across the southwestern part of the Gaza Strip, Egyptian officials said.”

The tent cities would be funded by the United States and its allies in the Middle East, the Journal wrote, and would be operated by Egypt, headed by the dictator El-Sisi.

In other words, with the direct complicity, funding and participation of the United States, one million sick, hungry and exhausted people will be marched across the desert and crammed into tent cities.

Significantly, when asked whether the United Nations will participate in the “evacuation” of Rafah, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declared, “We will not be party to forced displacement of people,” adding, “As it is, there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza.”

The clear implication is that the United States is precisely a party to this “forced displacement”—i.e., genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The events of the past 24 hours have made clear the extent to which US imperialism is directly implicated in the Gaza genocide. Israel undertakes no major actions without the approval of the Biden administration, which is not only funding and arming but politically directing the mass murder of Gaza’s population.

Biden’s reaffirmation of his support for the genocide is particularly striking given the major escalation of the US political crisis over the weekend, amid a collapse of support for the US president over his role in the Gaza massacre.

Last week, the New York Times published a report of a meeting by Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, who told a group of Arab American politicians in Dearborn, Michigan, that the administration has carried out a series of “missteps” in its open-ended support for Israel.

According to the Times, Finer said, “We have left a very damaging impression based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration, and the country value the lives of Palestinians.”

He added, “I do not have any confidence in this current government of Israel” and admitted that Israeli politicians compared “residents of Gaza to animals,” with no criticism by US officials. He added, “We did not sufficiently indicate that we totally rejected and disagreed with those sorts of sentiments.”

Biden’s actions, however, speak louder than Finer’s words. The systematic public dehumanization of the Palestinian people by the White House flows precisely out of the Biden administration’s support for Netanyahu’s massacre in Gaza. The same goes for the hand-wringing by imperialist politicians in France, Germany and the EU, who have criticized certain aspects of Israel’s policy while in fact backing and financing the genocide.

The Biden administration sees support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza as a critical element of its Middle East strategy. American imperialism seized on the events of October 7 to carry out a long-planned military offensive throughout the Middle East, which has already led to the bombing of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and leads ultimately toward a direct clash with Iran.

The conflict with Iran is itself part of a global struggle for world domination against Russia and China, in what the Biden administration has called the “decisive decade” that will set “the terms of geopolitical competition between the major powers.”

Biden, speaking for the predatory interests of American capitalism supported by both the Democrats and Republicans, is driven by far deeper necessities of American imperialism, which sees war as a means to shore up the United States’ global hegemony and the viability of the US dollar.

The horrors unfolding in Gaza offer humanity a glimpse of the brutality with which imperialism will conduct a full-scale war against Iran, Russia, China or all three.

The past four months of unending and escalating brutality and barbarism against the Palestinian people has demonstrated the futility of appealing to any section of the political establishment of the imperialist countries. Nor can workers and youth rely on the United Nations, which, whatever its statements condemning Israel’s actions, is entirely subordinate to the imperialist and capitalist powers.

It is the international working class that must be mobilized to stop the impending assault on Rafah and the genocide itself. This includes the escalation of global protests, combined with strike action by dockworkers, transportation workers and other sections of the working class to stop the funneling of arms and supplies to Israel and shut down production.

This must be connected to the building of a socialist leadership in the working class in every country. The genocide in Gaza is imperialist barbarism in its most brutal form. Just as the fight against the genocide is necessarily a fight against imperialism, the fight against imperialism is necessarily a fight against capitalism, for the conquest of power by the working class and the socialist reorganization of economic life on a world scale.

13 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

Israel’s Campaign to Defund and Dismantle UNRWA Continues Beyond the Gaza Strip into Jerusalem

The Israeli campaign against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has escalated to taking measures to replace the Agency in the Gaza Strip and evict it from Jerusalem. As an UN mandated agency that acts in accordance with States’ international responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees, Israeli actions that hinder or disrupt its mandate constitute complete disregard of international will and law. Additionally, these actions are the precursor to eliminating the issue of Palestinian refugees, whose rights to return, property restitution and compensation (reparations) have been denied by Israel since 1948.

The UNRWA is an international agency with a permanent mandate until such time as UNGA Resolution 194 of 1948 and UNSC Resolution 237 of 1967 are put into effect. Israeli attempts to delegitimize and defund UNRWA, banning its work in Jerusalem, and obstructing and replacing its operations in the Gaza Strip, are part of its larger goal to completely dismantle UNRWA and eliminate the Palestinian refugee issue. These actions are in violation of international law, both with respect to UNRWA’s mandate, the international legal status of Jerusalem, and the obligation to provide reparations to Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons. Further, the deliberate obstruction of UNRWA services in the Gaza Strip by Israel constitutes a violation of its obligation to prevent Genocide.

The so-called ‘Constitution and Judicial Committee’ in the Israeli Knesset approved on 11 February a new draft law to evict the UNRWA from Jerusalem. The draft law was passed to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, in preparation for a first reading vote, as the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee in the Knesset will discuss this bill on 20 February. In 2018, the then Jerusalem mayor and Likud member, Nir Barkat, presented a similar bill to replace UNRWA services with municipal provisions. In cooperation with other Knesset members, he has submitted the bill again, hoping to take advantage of the current Israeli defamation campaign against UNRWA, which has led 16 states fully or partially suspending their funding. Additionally, last week Barkat organized demonstrations against UNRWA in front of its offices in Jerusalem, which were attended by representatives from the right-wing Zionist group Im Tirzu and the Tikva Forum. Former Foreign Ministry official Noga Arbell also spoke on stage, after releasing a video calling for the “destruction” of UNRWA at the Knesset.

On 12 February, the Construction and Housing Minister, Yitzhak Goldknopf, issued an immediate directive for the eviction of UNRWA from Jerusalem, specifically targeting the discontinuation of UNRWA’s office operations in Sheikh Jarrah and in Kufr ‘Aqab, along with halting further lease agreements.

Israeli campaigns to demonize, disable, defund, restrict and transfer UNRWA’s responsibilities are not new. They are a component of Israel’s colonial-apartheid regime, which aims at ongoing forced displacement and transfer of Palestinians, and liquidating the issue of the 9.17 million Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons through the dismantlement of UNRWA.

Similar calls to expel UNRWA from Jerusalem were made following Trump’s so called “Deal of the Century” and his decision to end American funding for the agency in 2019. Amongst other issues, the Trump Deal contains provisions to cater to Israel’s strategy to end the Palestinian refugee issue through serious breaches of international law. The Biden administration restored funding to UNRWA in July 2021, but included conditions that impose securitization measures on the UN mandated humanitarian agency.

The USA was one of the first states to suspend its funds in response to Israel’s newest unfounded allegations against the Agency. Additionally, a newly proposed Republican bill called “Stop Support for UNRWA Act” is to be presented to Congress, and if passed, it would bar the USA from ever making any voluntary or assessed contributions to the Agency – in other words, permanently defund UNRWA. The defunding of UNRWA constitutes political blackmail by weaponizing humanitarian aid and deepens states’ involvement in the Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The targeting of the UNRWA’s presence and services in Jerusalem will have negative impact on the 375,000 Palestinians that reside there, but more importantly, it aims to end international presence in Jerusalem. For the Palestinian people, its presence is not just symbolic; rather, it has significant strategic political and legal ramifications. The international presence of UNRWA is a strong challenge to and firm rejection of the Israeli occupation, its sovereignty over the city, and its recognition of Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel.

Accordingly, to preserve UNRWA’s presence in Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip, BADIL calls on:

  1. The UN Secretary General to reaffirm the entitlement of UNRWA to protection under the UN system, and states’ duty to fulfill their obligation to respect, support and facilitate UNRWA’s mandate, staff and facilities.
  2. The UN General Assembly to clearly condemn and declare the illegality of Israel’s measures aiming at delegitimizing the UNRWA presence in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip and obstructing its operations;
  3. The UNRWA’s international and local staff to maintain its presence and services in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip;
  4. States to reject the elimination or replacement of UNRWA’s presence and services in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and to continue and increase their financial contributions to UNRWA.

14 February 2024

Source: www.badil.org

Khan v the generals

By Junaid S. Ahmad

Pakistan’s election lived up to some expectations, but didn’t live up to other expectations. What was predicted was that there would vote rigging and outright fraud as a central feature of the Pakistani generals’ plan, and there was. What was not anticipated was that former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the PTI (Movement for Justice), would win the most parliamentary seats of any single party. It was a miraculous outcome, given the horrendous levels of repression of the PTI, and the efforts by the military establishment to prevent the party from even contesting in the election.

What we know now is that the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, following its violence and terror campaign against the population after Khan was ousted in April 2022, is the proverbial emperor with no clothes. It stands exposed not only for its reign of terror, corruption and fraud, but also for its incompetence by failing to deliver the election results desired by domestic and foreign power centres.

In many ways, perhaps the most analogous relatively recent event was the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election. The Israelis, the Americans and the Gulf monarchies wanted to give legitimacy to their chosen occupation sub-contractor, the collaborationist and hopelessly corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA) largely controlled by Hamas rival Fatah. These forces believed that they had invested enough financial and political capital to enable Fatah candidates to win an “election under occupation”. To their great surprise — and to the surprise of Hamas, to be fair — the Islamic Resistance Movement won.

“Similarly, the military and political elites in Pakistan had guaranteed themselves and their patrons in Washington that the election in Pakistan was a done deal.

This narrative claimed that the appeal of the PTI had diminished, and any remaining popularity of Khan and his political party would be offset by the investment of tens of millions of dollars to buy off the military high command, politicians in all of the provinces and, crucially, the judges of the provincial high courts, as well as the Supreme Court.

The generals said that they had plan B, and if needed, plan C, ready in case plan A did not work. Plan A was the simple ousting of Khan from power in April 2022. It was thought that this would eradicate the “Khan virus”. To the surprise of many, including Khan himself, a massive, unprecedented outpouring of support erupted spontaneously, with rallies taking place in cities and towns in every province of the country.

So, the military elites began the charge sheet against Khan to get him embroiled in one court case after another: plan B. That failed to work, and Khan’s popularity continued to soar. Incessant reassurances were meted out from former Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa to Washington and the House of Sharif, the family in control of one of the two dominant dynastic political parties, the PML(N). Bajwa claimed that the situation was under control and that his successor, General Asim Munir, would finish the job. Bajwa was lucky. All he agreed to was to remove Khan from power, and he delivered. He was detested, but he was able to leave the political scene after a few months. Munir was not so fortunate.

Plan C needed to be activated. Public sentiment was turning so antagonistic towards the military top brass for their unashamed targeting of Khan that the “final solution” had to be implemented: assassination. Two attempts, one of which injured Khan in the shin, were unsuccessful.

There really was no plan D, and so one was concocted quickly. Khan faced the most absurd but very serious charges of terrorism and treason, and was imprisoned in complete isolation. He was charged with leaking state secrets in the now infamous “cypher-gate” case, with the allegation that he spoke recklessly about a top-secret diplomatic cable sent to the foreign ministry by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. The cable stated, in no uncertain terms, Washington’s desire that Khan be removed from power.

Both the military elite as well as, sadly, many in the intellectual class, mocked Khan and his supporters for over a year for this “conspiracy theory” and for inventing this “fictional” cypher. Only when the The Intercept confirmed the veracity of the contents of the diplomatic cable as Khan had described them, did Munir and other senior army officers not only concede that such a cypher does exist, but that Khan would now face charges of treason for revealing its contents. This leak by the former prime minister constituted a grave threat to “national security”. In reality, it presented a palpable unmasking of the collusion of the US foreign policy establishment, Pakistani generals and Pakistani kleptocrats of the two major political parties — the House of Sharif and the House of Bhutto-Zardari – in wanting to depose the democratically-elected Khan from power.

Once the hastily assembled plan D was put in motion, the idea was that it would lead seamlessly to plan E, the ruthless repression of the PTI, so that by the time of this election there would be nothing left of Khan and his party. What the election results last week demonstrated, however, is that even though Khan’s party members could not run on their party ticket and had to run as independents, there is huge popular support for the PTI.

There doesn’t seem to be a plan F, considering the frantic responses of the army chief and the head of the intelligence agencies, or the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Munir is no longer concerned with his big picture “obligations”. He has been reduced to trying to save himself. The only party that he is trying to please at this point is the one footing the bill: the House of Sharif. The general is now arguably the most hated Chief of Staff in Pakistan’s history, and there has been no shortage of competition for that title.

What about Washington’s planners? How are they reacting? One senior State Department official commented very bluntly: “These imbeciles can’t even crush a political novice like Khan. They command one of the largest armed forces in the world, nuclear armed. What is all that for?”

The US foreign policy establishment, after the ouster of Khan, had outsourced the job of managing the old “Af-Pak” (Afghanistan-Pakistan) theatre of the “Global War on Terror” to the Pentagon. Washington believed that its Cold War framework of dealing with the generals would produce a “stable” and pliant Pakistan. There is no entity as irate at the incompetence of the Pakistani military high command as the US Department of Defence, to which both Bajwa and Munir promised the moon. Actually, though, State Department officials are equally incensed since they were tasked to prevaricate for almost two years to conceal Washington’s role, as well as that of Pakistani generals, in this entire scenario.

The State Department had denied any knowledge of the cypher, but that position began to change after the Intercept’s publication of the contents of that damning diplomatic cable. At that point, it was not so much about asserting the non-existence of the cypher, but underscoring how such communication between two governments was nothing abnormal. Washington was willing to give Islamabad a few more months to fix everything by holding faux elections that would quash Khan and his party once and for all.

And now, it seems clear that the US foreign policy establishment is looking for vengeance, and keen on punishing the generals who promised to produce an unashamedly subservient Pakistani political establishment. This is why there has been such an explosion of harsh criticism of the Pakistani army from the State Department and numerous members of Congress.

There were, undoubtedly, members of Congress, such as Representative Ilhan Omar, who wanted to express their displeasure much earlier. But they also acquiesced to their Democratic Party leadership in the White House and in Congress, who hung on by a thread to the idea that “stability” would be brought about by the traditional political and military elites. The White House maintained unceasingly that “our guys” in Islamabad would facilitate a smooth and relatively quiet transition to the post-Khan period, without ringing any international alarm bells.

Of course, now it’s become patently obvious that Washington is revising its stance radically, one that effectively tells Pakistan’s generals, “You had your chance, you failed, and now you’re making things worse.” America’s 180-degree turnaround is an attempt to salvage some respect, or at least some tolerance, from the people of Pakistan who know full well Washington’s role in the regime change operation. The generals have put Washington in a deeply embarrassing situation.

However, Washington apparatchiks may be unfair in their treatment of their clients in khaki in Pakistan. The former do not realise that it’s the political has-beens who the generals can control, not the relative new boys on the block like Khan. The old political bigwigs know the rules of the game — proper balance between the enrichment of both the political and military elites — and abide by them. The newbies are too recalcitrant to even learn those rules properly, let alone abide by them. In sum, Washington now considers General Munir a dreadful liability, after only his first year as Chief of Staff, unlike General Pervez Musharraf, who provided Washington with “stability in Pakistan” for eight years until he also became a liability in 2007.

In this entire saga, what’s been truly disappointing is the role of the Pakistani media. The country’s leading and, deservedly, most respected periodical, Dawn, suddenly began to churn out columns praising the democratic “defiance” of the people in this election. It’s a shame that the people’s defiance was not covered over the past twenty months, when apparently it was simply an expression of a cult-following, and the totalitarian and conspicuously undemocratic repression was not worth reporting. The resistance of the Pakistani people could have certainly benefited from some coverage then. Now, such voices in the media are commonplace. It’s rather sad how the Pakistani media seems to be taking its cues from the US State Department about when to cover/report, and when not to. Dawn columnists had many months to praise the democratic will of the people, but did not.

At this point, the divisions within the military officer corps have become evident. Munir and others in the top brass realise how dangerous it is to give the wrong orders to junior officers and soldiers. How many times will the Pakistani armed forces be commanded to open fire, imprison, torture and disappear their population on a massive scale? The crimes of the military establishment in the provinces of Balochistan and KPK have been bad enough.

For almost two years now, the brutal suppression by the army was meant to instil paralysing trepidation in the population. But just as the people of Gaza, of Palestine, of West Asia, have overcome a psychological sense of fear of Israel, so too have the people of Pakistan lost any fear of their national security state and its violent shenanigans. This is a major development.

Whatever political configuration emerges after the election, one thing is certain: this round has been a resounding victory for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, smiling in his wretched jail cell, as well as the people of Pakistan, regardless of their political affiliation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

13 February 2024

Source: middleeastmonitor.com

Fundamentalists Have the Upper Hand in the Upcoming Parliamentary Elections in Iran

By Akbar E Torbat

Iran’s Parliamentary elections is scheduled to be held on March 1, 2024. The elections will be for the twelfth term of the 290 seats of the Islamic Consultative Majles (House of Representatives). The elections for the Assembly of Leadership Experts, which is an entirely clerical body, will also be held at the same time.

Following the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the deterioration of the economic situation, and the emergence of protests in Iran in 2017, many people refrained from participating in the elections due to the disappointment of reforms and the lack of improvement in economic conditions. After the death of Mahsa Amini in the autumn of 2022, opposition to the regime intensified due to nationwide protests over women’s rights to oppose the enforcement of hijab law. The crackdown of the protestors resulted in hundreds of deaths and many injuries, and several thousands were arrested by security forces.

Despite the US sanctions, Iran’s economy has recently thrived thanks to increasing oil revenues, but skyrocketing inflation has deteriorated the standard of living and increased dissatisfaction among the Iranians. Yet, due to the tragic war of genocide in the Gaza Strip by Israel, the Islamic fundamentalists have gained support in Iran, and that may contribute to their victory in the elections. The genocide in Gaza and the Biden administration’s complicity in the war by providing money and weapons to Israel and even directly participating in the war by bombing the “Islamic Resistance Front” forces in the area have strengthened the fundamentalists’ position who oppose relations with the West.

Moreover, Islamic fundamentalists, via their influence in the Guardian Council, have engineered the election by pre-selecting their favorite candidates and have rejected many candidates from other parties. The Guardian Council has declared most reformist and moderate applicants ineligible to participate in the election. That has improved the chance of the candidates from the fundamentalist camp winning in the election. In Iran, theocracy has priority over democracy. Instead of people choosing qualified candidates, the 12-member clerics and Islamist jurists in the Guardian Council choose them. This is a gross violation of democratic principles. As a result, the outcome is a number of candidates that people do not have confidence in and are not qualified to represent the people.

This is the first time that candidates had to pre-register because of a new law that was passed in 2023. The Majles approved the law for the parliamentary elections, which specified a week duration for the applicants to pre-register. Some 48,847 applicants pre-registered to participate as candidates in the elections. The time for checking the candidates’ qualifications was November 4-18, 2023. On November 19, the examination of the applicants’ qualifications was completed. Then, 21,000 of them were approved by the Interior Ministry. Finally, on February 8, 2024, the Guardian Council announced that 14,912 applicants had been selected for the parliamentary elections; about 1,700 were female. The chosen candidates were primarily from factions that have fundamentalist tendencies. Twenty-six members of the current Parliament were disqualified. Among them were representatives who had opposed “hejab and chastity” law and/or “filtering of the Internet.” The disqualification of the critics of the government received widespread reactions in the Iranian media. Many called this issue a continuation of the fundamentalists’ domination over all organs of the government.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, under the leadership of Ali Khamenei, is trying to create legitimacy for itself by maneuvering this show election. The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, has declared that elections are a duty, and anyone who opposes the elections has opposed the Islamic Republic and Islam. Khamenei wants the electors to participate in the elections as a duty and fulfill the regime’s show election without having an intended candidate to vote for. Candidacies are given to individuals who believe in the absolute rule of the Guardianship of Islamic Jurist (Valiant-e Faghih), and their loyalty to the regime has been proven, and/or those who do not cause a serious threat to the clerical rule. Nonetheless, Khamenei is under pressure to free some of his opponents to encourage participation in the elections.

The government claims that many applicants have been approved to participate. However, the qualifications of the candidates are the most important matter, not the quantity of participants. Many highly qualified applicants who do not agree with the system do not participate, or if they participate, they will be rejected outright under such restrictive theocratic procedure. The applicants who oppose the clerical rule are disqualified to run.

At present, there is no popular political party in Iran that is supported by the secular political factions. Most of the parties have been organized by the Islamists in the regime or the former officials of the regime. Islamic Coalition Party has invited people to vote. This fundamentalist party favors economic liberalism. It represents the “religious bazaars” stratum within the political factions in Iran. Among the main political factions, the fundamentalists (Principalists) pursue their electoral activity in the form of two main alliance lists: the Coalition Council and the Unity Council. The Coalition Council (Shoraye Eatelaf) is a fundamentalist alliance that was formed by the Islamic Revolution Forces Front in 2016. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adal, a former speaker of the Parliament, is the head of this council. The Unity Council (Shoraye Vahdat) is another alliance of the fundamentalists that has actively entered the parliamentary elections. Manouchehr Mottaki, a former foreign minister, is the spokesman for the unity council. The Unity Council is critical of the performance of the current 11th Parliament. Both alliances emphasize the need for unity in this election, but in practice, they run for elections independently.

In the reformist’s camp, the Iran Reform Front organization, a coalition of a few reformist parties, is planning to enter the elections.[1]  Other parties have abandoned the regime’s elections. All leftists, nationalists, and major secular parties are currently banned. In the absence of the parties that are banned or have boycotted the elections, the elections will be turned into an internal competition between different spectrums of fundamentalist factions.

The Assembly of Experts Elections

The sixth term election of the Assembly of LeadershipExperts will also be held on March 1 to select new members to serve eight years. The Assembly is composed of 88 Islamic clerics who are responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader and selecting a new leader. This body only meets two times each year. The public directly elects its members from a list of candidates vetted by the Guardian Council. However, the Assembly of Experts’ election is not an actual election since, in some parts of the country, only one candidate is running, which makes it a selection rather than an election. Among notable candidates in this body were former president Hassan Rouhani and his former intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, who are current members, but the Guardian Council rejected their candidacies. Rouhani was rejected as a candidate for the clerical Assembly presumably because of his disastrous concession with Western powers over the 2015 Nuclear deal (JCPOA). President Ebrahim Raisi, who is currently a member of the Assembly of Experts, is expected to run for re-election in Tehran. The Assembly expects to select the future Supreme Leader.

Despite authorities’ efforts to mobilize the public to vote, low turnout is expected in the elections compared to the prior elections. Iranians express deep frustration because of the lack of freedom and the deterioration of the standard of living.

Akbar E. Torbat (atorbat@calstatela.edu) is the author of “Politics of Oil and Nuclear Technology in Iran,” Palgrave Macmillan, (2020), https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030337650 .

11 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

After Rafah What Awaits the Palestinians?

By Dr Marwan Asmar

On the start of the fifth month of the war on Gaza, Israel is nowhere near to controlling the 365-kilometer Strip. While its army previously thought it would dominate the strip in a matter of weeks, today it is still fighting in what is being termed as the Gaza quagmire of defeat, bloodiness and mass loss in human lives and armory.

While it is true, they wreaked merciless havoc on the enclave and displaced up to 1.9 million of a population of 2.3 million, the majority of which were ordered to go south to Rafah, the Israelis, with their guns, planes, tanks, bulldozers and troop carriers, have not as they claimed subdued Gaza.

While the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the Israel army dominated the northern part of Gaza and dismantled the Hamas infrastructure, it soon became clear this was completely untrue with news of fighting and skirmishes dominating the headlines.

The Palestinian resistance, of mainly Hamas’s Izz Aldin Al Qassam and Saraya Al Qodus of Islamic Jihad, are still going strong in Gaza by the admission of the Israelis and the Americans with Washington talking openly about the formidable force being put up, despite the armor of the Israelis that is mostly US-made.

Bloody conflict

This is proving to be a difficult bloody conflict for the Israelis despite their carefully planned war strategy that was laid out and carefully planned in tandem with the 2000 American “advisors” sent to Tel Aviv soon after 7 October. This war strategy involved striking Gaza’s infrastructure from the air, sea and ground troop forces by splitting the region into north, middle and southern sectors.

It was supposed to have operated on a step-by-step basis – completing one step, ie, the north, combing it from Palestinian fighters, going to the middle, and then south to Rafah, the border town with Egypt. The problem today is the Israeli army and warplanes are fighting on all directions and more/or less at the same time.

They have not been able to control areas and/or sectors despite the heavy bombings. What they so far achieved, minus the ending of the military presence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is to kill Palestinians, most of whom are civilians, destroy their homes, and apartment buildings and turn them into internal refugees.

The Israeli strategy since the beginning was to force the Palestinian population to start moving from the north, to the center and the south of the country. They were forced to do that by missiles but even here, they didn’t succeed for around 700,000 people still remain in the north of the Strip, right to down to the center of Gaza City and just below the refugee camps of Breij, Maghazi, Nuseirat down Khan Younis and its surrounding areas.

Israeli ground forces didn’t manage to enter Khan Younis because of stiff resistance despite the destruction and debris meted out from the air. They have been battling to enter the city for over two months but have not been able to despite the thousands of troops and tanks allocated for the task. In the end, many of the Israeli battalions and brigades had to draw back to the periphery of the Gaza Strip because of the huge loses in their ranks and which they wouldn’t divulge but carefully controlling their words.

Instead of uniting the Israeli political establishment, the war on Gaza added to their frustration and internal bickering. First, the relatives of the hostages taken by Hamas after 7 October, kept hounding the politicians for a ceasefire. They wanted their relatives to be brought out alive especially with news some of these hostages were being killed because of mass bombings by the Israeli force.

This lead also to bickering in the Israeli war cabinet about the conduct of the war that was personally led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Then, there was the main Israeli cabinet who met to consider with many problems coming out from that direction. There was frustration in the war cabinet about how Netanyahu conducted himself vis-à-vis Defense Minister Gallant and the army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi whose soldiers were on the battlefield getting killed.

There was also a sense of paranoia as Netanyahu installed strict searching procedures of the war cabinet members themselves which created animosity. But then there was their conducted of the war which was strictly monitored by the larger Israeli cabinet, most of whom calling for the ethnic cleaning of Palestinians, reoccupation of Gaza, and the deportation of the people who came to Rafah into neighboring Egypt, into to the Sinai Peninsula.

The idea of deportation of Palestinians has long been seen as a dream of the extreme rightwing member of the Netanyahu cabinet, people like Itamar Bin Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich who saw this a valuable opportunity.

Rafah, where to next?

Is this the end of the road for the displaced Palestinians. Can they be deported under the eyes of the world and to where?

Rafah used to be a city with a population of 280,000. Today, its population quickly jumped to 1.3 million thanks to the Israelis coming to be called “tent city” because of the shabby material hoisted to house the displaced.

Everyone fears for their fate. After all, it is Israeli warplanes which forced them to move down here. The next logical step, unless they are stopped, is to tip them into the Sinai Peninsula, another wave of refugees, this time much worse than the 1948 debacle when Israel was created.

Will the Israelis do that under intense international pressure? There are two countries that can stop them: America and the Egypt. The Americans have long said they are against deportations and they want the creation of a Palestinian state.

But the problem is their opinions and statements have been interpreted as lifeless with no punch, after all they have been Israel’s main military suppliers in this war and their words don’t seem to carry much weight by Netanyahu and Gallant who are more interested in defeating Hamas and getting rid of the Palestinians.

Lastly, it might be up to Egypt to stand strong. It has already said it is against any attempt to change the demographics of the area. In a way, it still controls the entry key to crossing the border and can put its foot down. The problem here, the crossing continues to be under the watchful eye of the Israelis who keep bombing it if they see anything not according to their taste. They have already bombed it four times.

This time, together with the United Nations, the White House and the Egyptians will need to impose an enormous amount to pressure to force the Israelis to backdown.

We wait and see!

Marwan Asmar is a writer based in Amman, Jordan.

10 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

Israel announces plans for ethnic cleansing of Rafah

By Andre Damon

On Friday, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement asserting that the prime minister had ordered the Israeli military to submit a plan for the forced evacuation of the southern town of Rafah, where one million refugees from other areas of Gaza have been driven.

Israel’s attack on Rafah would be a “massive operation,” Netanyahu’s office said.

Given that Israel has ordered the people of Gaza to evacuate effectively all other areas of the region, the clear implication is that the population will be expelled into the Sinai Desert, with or without the permission of Egypt.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN, said Friday that “if the Israeli army … begins the so-called evacuating [of] the people from Rafah, where would they go?

“They’re saying they’re not allowing them to go to the north. They don’t want them to stay in Rafah—it doesn’t require a nuclear physicist to come to the conclusion that there is only one place for them to go, which is the Sinai Peninsula.”

In October, Israel ordered over one million people in northern Gaza to the south, calling it a “safe zone” and assuring them that they would not be bombed there. Then, in November, Israeli forces ordered the evacuation of the city of Khan Younis, forcing civilians in the area to flee south to Rafah. One after another, each of these “safe areas” have been bombed and then attacked by ground troops.

As a result, approximately 86 percent of Gaza’s population—1.7 million out of 2.3 million people—are internally displaced, with the majority of those sheltering in Rafah. The trapped refugees are facing famine and lack access to clean water, hygiene and medical care.

In a statement, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, stated, “We would not in any way support forced displacement, which goes against international law.” This statement effectively declares that the Netanyahu government has expressed intent to carry out ethnic cleansing.

The determination of the Netanyahu government to carry out the forced expulsions of the Palestinians from Rafah has produced hypocritical statements from the imperialist backers of the Israeli genocide. US President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters, said that Netanyahu’s “conduct of the response in Gaza in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.”

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borell stated, “Reports of an Israeli military offensive on Rafah are alarming. … It would have catastrophic consequences, worsening the already dire humanitarian situation and the unbearable civilian toll.”

Regardless of such statements, the United States and European imperialist powers have systematically enabled Israel to carry out the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Gaza, with the United States repeatedly declaring that there are no “red lines” for the number of Palestinians allowed to be killed.

Reuters reported Friday that Egypt has massively expanded the number of military personnel stationed on its borders with Gaza, deploying 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers to the area over the past two weeks.

Ahead of the expected ground offensive, Israeli forces intensified their aerial bombardment of the city.

“There is a sense of growing anxiety, growing panic in Rafah,” Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UNRWA agency, said Friday, adding, “People have no idea where to go.”

Gaza’s Ministry of Health said Friday that 27,947 Palestinians have been killed over the past three months, with thousands more unaccounted for. Between the afternoons of February 8 and 9, 107 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, the ministry said.

Even as Israel presses its assault on Gaza, it is systematically destroying buildings throughout the Gaza Strip, targeting in particular all structures that are near the Israeli border.

In a statement Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk declared, “Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are reportedly destroying all buildings within the Gaza Strip that are within a kilometre of the Israel-Gaza fence, clearing the area with the objective of creating a ‘buffer zone.’ Destructions carried out to create a ‘buffer zone’ for general security purposes do not appear consistent with the narrow ‘military operations’ exception set out in international humanitarian law. Since late October 2023, my Office has recorded widespread destruction and demolition by the IDF of civilian and other infrastructure, including residential buildings, schools, and universities in areas in which fighting is not or no longer taking place.”

The statement added, “Israel has not provided cogent reasons for such extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure.

“Such destruction of homes and other essential civilian infrastructure also entrenches the displacement of communities that were living in these areas prior to the escalation in hostilities and appears to be aimed at or has the effect of rendering the return of civilians to these areas impossible. I remind the authorities that forcible transfer of civilians may constitute a war crime.”

But this is precisely the plan of the Israeli government, operating with the full military and logistical support of the Biden administration and the European governments. Having seized upon the October 7 attacks as a pretext, Israel has moved to implement a long-term plan to render Gaza uninhabitable and either kill or expel its population. The assault on Rafah will mark a new stage in this vast crime.

10 February 2024

Source: countercurrents.org