Crimes against humanity in Gaza


August 6, 2014

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.–Dennis Kucinich

Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a ‘buffer zone’ – or a bigger plan?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

It’s time to step back and ask if we want to support Israel if it wants to eject all Palestinians from their land

by Dennis Kucinich

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

GazaAmerican Taxpayers Should NOT be paying for this!

American taxpayers should not be paying for this. And the western world should stop rejecting serious inquiries about Israel’s moral inconsistencies, or allow it to benefit from cognitive dissonance and information overload amid the current crisis in Gaza.

There is a land grab going on. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has shrunk Gaza’s habitable land mass by 44%, with an edict establishing a 3km (1.8-mile) buffer zone, a “no-go” zone for Palestinians – and that’s quite significant, because a good part of Gaza is only 3 to 4 miles wide. Over 250,000 Palestinians within this zone must leave their homes, or be bombed. As their territorial space collapses, 1.8m Gazans now living in 147 square miles will be compressed into 82 square miles.

Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.

With Gaza’s land mass shrinking due to Israeli military action, it’s about time someone asked: What is the end game? Three weeks ago, Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, called for Gaza to “become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

Land GrabbingIs this not Land Grabbing?

Israel has a housing crisis? After the “no-go” buffer zone is evacuated, there will be 21,951 Palestinians per square mile in Gaza, while Israel’s population density stands at 964 persons per square mile.

Deputy Speaker Feiglin wants the Palestinians in Gaza to lose all of their land. One must not assume that Mr Feiglin or his Likud faction speak for the main government actors like Prime Minister Netanyahu. After all, Knesset politics are complex and divergent. But since Gaza has just lost control of that 44% of its land, it may also be time to ask: does the establishment of that 3km zone represent the unfolding of a larger plan? Is that the end game?

At the very point where an aroused public becomes aghast at the slaughter of Gazans, the western world becomes inured to the violence, hypnotized by the media’s cadence of body counts. The intolerable becomes normalized, and later ignored as old news. Which would seem a perfect time to leave in place the 3km zone – for security purposes, of course – and then advance the proposal that Palestinians crammed into the remaining 56% of Gaza simply … leave.

I assume the IDF acts with deliberation, under orders from the Netanyahu government. And I think the extraordinary and illegal forced relocation of over 250,000 Palestinians from 44% of Gazan land is a crime against humanity under the guise of establishing a “buffer zone” for security purposes.

Look at the region’s maps from recent history. Look at the steady erosion of Palestinian land and the acquisition of land by Israel, and you can understand that the present attack on Gaza is not about solely about Hamas. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s rockets. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s tunnels. It’s about land. It isn’t about kidnappings. It is about land. It isn’t even about meeting a housing crisis in Israel. It is about grabbing land from the Palestinians in Gaza and the natural resources that go with the land, upon the occasion of Israel’s military invasion of Gaza.

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.

Israel’s Colonialism Must End


August 5, 2014

OPINION

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/opinion/ali-jarbawi-israels-colonialism-must-end.html?ref=opinion

Israel’s Colonialism Must End

Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tend to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.

PalestineIn the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.And it is not limited to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Although Israel withdrew its settlers and army from Gaza in 2005, it is still recognized by the United Nations as an occupying power, due to its complete control of Gaza’s airspace, sea access and of almost all of its land borders.

Over the years, Israel has used all forms of pressure to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their national rights and gaining independence. It hasn’t been enough for Israelis to believe their own claims about Palestinians; they have sought incessantly to impose this narrative on the world and to have it adopted by their Western allies.

Unsurprisingly, all of this has led to complete shamelessness in mainstream Israeli rhetoric about Palestinians. After all, if one is not held accountable, then one has the freedom to think — and do — what one wants. With no internal or external checks, one can act with impunity.

The Israeli left is a relic, all but extinct, and the extremist right is entrenched in the Israeli political establishment. Attacking the Palestinians has become officially sanctioned policy, embedded in Israeli public consciousness and politely ignored in Western political circles.

There is now an extremist, racist ideological current in Israel that not only justifies the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip, but actually encourages the use of enormous and disproportionate violence against civilians, which has led to the extermination of entire families.

Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, recently called on the Israeli army to attack and occupy Gaza, paying no heed to anything but the safety of Israeli soldiers. He then demanded that Gaza be annexed to Israel, and asked the army to use all means at its disposal to “conquer” Gaza, by which he meant that obedient Palestinians would be allowed to stay, while the rest — the majority — should be exiled to the Sinai Peninsula. This cannot be understood as anything less than a call for ethnic cleansing.

Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member for the Jewish Home Party, a member of the governing coalition, called on the Israeli army to destroy the homes of terrorist “snakes,” and to murder their mothers as well, so that they would not be able to bring “little snakes” into the world.

And Mordechai Kedar, a Professor at Bar Ilan University, publicly suggested that raping the mothers and sisters of “terrorists” might deter further terrorism. The university did not take any measures against him.

Such statements are no longer isolated incidents, but reflective of the general sentiment within a country where chants of “Kill the Arabs” are increasingly common. It is no longer an aberration to hear these opinions expressed in public, or by politicians and academics. What is unexpected — and unacceptable — is that such statements are not met with any sort of condemnation in official Western circles that claim to oppose racism and extremism.

The rise in Israeli racism and extremism against Palestinians would not have happened without the unconditional support that Israel receives from its allies, most significantly the United States. Israel cannot continue to be the exception to the rule of international law and human rights. The international community must hold it accountable for its rhetoric and its actions, and begin to treat it like all other countries. It should not be allowed to continue to enjoy its state of exceptionalism and to use this to wreak destruction on the Palestinian people.

After 47 years of occupation, two decades of stalled peace talks and almost eight years of a strangulating siege of the Gaza Strip, the international community must demand that Israel clearly state what it intends to do with its occupation of the Palestinian people. Since the Palestinians are not the occupiers, but rather those living under occupation, this question cannot be asked of them.

If Israel wants to continue its occupation and hinder Palestinians’ path to freedom and independence, then it should be aware that the Palestinian people will continue to resist with all the means at their disposal. If Israel intends to end the occupation, then it will find that the Palestinians are more than ready for an agreement.

What the Palestinians are enduring today in Gaza should be a clarion call for the entire world to end the bloodshed. But it will take more than a cease-fire. It will take peace. And peace cannot happen without an end to the occupation.

Ali Jarbawi is a political scientist at Birzeit University and a former Minister of the Palestinian Authority. This article was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.

US Unconditional Aid to IsraelUS-Israel Partnership

NOTE: It is no secret that the unconditional backing of the United States—in providing funds, weapons, and vetoes at the United Nations—is one of the primary factors behind the impunity with which Israel and its colonial policy violate international law. That backing is also a considerable obstacle to serious negotiations between the Israeli regime and the colonial functionaries like Hamas who it loves to hate, but whose presence are also essential to its continued hegemony in Gaza.

http://californiamwananchi.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-alliance-unhinged.html

Gaza:Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law


August 4, 2014

Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law (Part 1- 08-03-14)

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

Syed Hamid AlbarWE are witnessing before our very eyes the most blatant violation of international humanitarian law being executed by the state of Israel.

Somehow, there is so much complacency on the part of the international community, as if the loss of Palestinian lives is just another insignificant footnote in the chronicles of international affairs. It is allowed to continue without abatement and consequence because the state committing the offence is Israel; the only member state of the United Nations created by the UN.

The promise of the state of Palestine remains unfulfilled. There is so much of a guilt mindset towards Israel amongst Western countries, particularly the P5 Western members, for the sins and atrocities committed in the holocaust. It gives them comfortable justification that the Palestinians should pay for the wrongs they have done.

Generally, we have not heard any condemnation or statement of disapproval against Israel for the killing of children, women and other innocent civilians in the name of self-defence. In the diplomatic parlance of the UN, this is another example of the excessive use of force by Israel. These inhumane acts of violence seem to be acceptable when executed by Israel.

R2P (Chapter VII of UN Charter) cannot be applied in the instant case as its going to be vetoed or there will be a threat for it to be vetoed. The United States, for example, in recent years has used its veto regularly to protect the Israeli government from international criticism or any attempt to restrain its military from exercising its so-called right to self defence.

Gaza2Israel–Inhumanity Personified

The usage of veto by any member of the P5, according to critics, has rendered the role of the UN or Security Council (SC) to maintain global peace and security on issues of serious breaches of human rights, international law or even genocide, ineffective. Contrary to the desire of some members, the Human Rights Council convened a meeting to receive the report on the Israeli military actions in Gaza. The report findings showed there is evidence that the Israeli military action in Gaza amounted to crime against humanity. The report and recommendation of the Human Rights Council was for these to be further investigated.

However, the international media, mainly from mainstream Western media, in its eagerness to defend Israel can be considered guilty of spreading biased or slanted commentaries in favour of Israel.

All of us are against terrorism and acts of violence should not be used against civilian populations. Here, the social media has provided a more fair and balanced reporting of the episodes and tragedies as they are sourced from independent non-governmental organisations and people on the ground whom are without any vested interests.

In this way, it would be difficult to mislead the world again. We are told in international politics there is a need to factor in geopolitical and national interest considerations as propounded by Machiavelli and, in the modern day, by Hans Morgenthau realist approach.

In the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian/Israeli and Arab/Israeli conflicts, this stance is amply demonstrated. The UN, at this crucial time even when it has the legal and moral obligation to bring peace and security, could not do so. Even when the Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire, no one is listening as it does not possess the political influence to force Israel to comply. Strange though it may sound to ordinary citizens of the world, but that is the reality.

The truism is, the international community is aware of the serious breaches of international law and yet, it stood by to watch the Israeli regime continue with their operations, notwithstanding the clear proof by the UN that 75 per cent of those killed by Israeli actions are non-combatants — the civilian population of Gaza.

Of course, we observed differential treatment in dealing with the Arab Spring. Israeli military actions had used the precarious ground of the right to self-defence to provide legitimacy for their continued aerial bombing and incursion into Gaza.

It looks as if Israel has been given carte blanche to use excessive force when the state was never in real danger of being overrun or even threatened by the Palestinians. The international community currently construes the bombings of power stations, mosques, schools and civilians as legitimate.

gaza-under-attack_pictures_2012_free_gaza_gaza_4_by_palsun1

The fact that Gaza is the biggest open prison operated by Israel, and that they are in illegal occupation of Palestinian land, are not mentioned at all by the mainstream international media. By any standard, it is difficult to comprehend how the killing of civilians by Israel can be justifiable. Under the circumstances, the world will watch further carnage and destruction from the current military actions by Israel.

In order to confuse and deceive the world, stories are being churned out to blame Hamas for using civilians as human shields. For those who know or understand Gaza, they will realise that this small strip is densely populated and the population has nowhere to run when all borders are closed. It should be expected that any firing of missiles and aerial bombing are bound to hit the ordinary civilian population.

The argument given then is, deaths are inevitable collateral damage. This was the same logic used by former United States President George Bush in his war against international terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. The dissemination of misinformation and misguided perceptions by the international media was believable in the past, but today, with the advances in information technology and the increasing role of the social media, governments find difficulty to hide the truth from domestic and international scrutiny.

Before our very eyes, we see the exact nature of the collective punishment being inflicted as clear as daylight. These vivid images and portrayals being fed to the world, are indicative of how standards of international law of the civilised world have failed to be observed.

Israel seems to be given the right to do what it likes with impunity. This can be said to be the case since the state was created in 1948. Of course, this position all began with The Balfour Declaration of 1918, which started all the pains and sufferings of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel.

Israel, since the 1967 War, is the occupier of land that belonged to the Palestinian as stated even by the UN resolution. The sad part of the tragic Palestinian opera is that, nothing is done to stop it. Powerful nations usually allow for expansion of territories in a conflict on the basis of reality on the ground. This is another example that indicated the failure of the UN to enforce the Charter against the state of Israel.

With all these happenings, what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said seems to be logical and reasonable. The reality is Israel can be said to be even more powerful than the SC without the necessity of being a permanent member. This argument is supported by the fact; she could do what her might thinks is right. Equally, it could dictate the most powerful nations to do what is in the best interest of Israel. In this context then, it would not be wrong to say Israel is controlling the world.

There is no need for the Jewish lobby to get jittery or condemn anybody for making the conclusion based on what is happening on the ground. This has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic. This labeling of anti- Semitism is most abused and is an attempt to instil fear on those who may have adverse comments to make on Israel’s military conduct.

The writer considers this strategy by Israel as amounting to coercion against persons or organisations from exercising their right to free speech.

PART 2: UN Apathy gives Israel a free rein in GAZA

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia (04-08-14)

http://www.nst.com.my

NOT even for the sake of justice or humanity can any state or power be willing to act or speak against Israel for her failure to uphold international law. There are those who are idealistic that talk about the strength of numbers of the Muslim world or even call on the United Nations to take action consistent with its Charter. There is even talk by some members of the UN about the expulsion of Israel from the world body.

The truth is that even at the height of apartheid in South Africa in 1974, when a resolution was moved under Article 6 of the UN Charter to expel that country from the UN, it could not be passed as it was blocked by France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In short, Article 6 of the UN Charter is only good on paper because that article can be constrained by Article 5, where on issues pertaining to peace and security, the absolute power lies in the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council or SC), where any member can exercise the right to veto.

For these reasons, those who opposed the veto power of the victors of the Second World War, wanted it to be abolished to reflect the current geopolitical situation. Many of the provisions in the UN Charter are subject to the Security Council (SC) and the Permanent 5 (P5) (The United States, China, France, Britain and Russia) are an integral part of the system.

Ban_Ki-moon_A Powerless UN Secretary-General

We can be talking about the right to expel any member of the UN for blatant breaches of the Charter under Article 6, but Article 5 requires agreement of the SC and the P5. According to the records of the UN, out of the last 10 vetoes in the SC, eight of them had been exercised by the US and out of these, seven were because of resolutions’ criticism of Israel in some form or another.

The question is whether international politics and national interests recognise the elements of morality, ethical values and norms or even justice. The quick answer is: politics of big powers only recognise interests. Why should the world allow Israel to do anything it likes? Is there an unwritten understanding of the UN and the international community that Israel can do anything it wants with the legitimacy given by the right of self-defence?

Ideally, Israel must be treated like other members of the international community and thus made fully accountable for its actions. In short, they should be subject to investigation and their leaders can be brought to justice if they commit criminal acts contrary to international law. However, this can never happen.

Fueling all fightersAmerica’s Humanitarian Aid to Israel

Compare the military might of Israel and Palestine under occupation. The people, being walled up and with blockades imposed, have in reality made them no better than being prisoners on their own land. In other words, they are denied their basic human rights by Israel. Why is the world not dealing with these human rights issues? There are many reports by the UN and the Human Rights Council on the conduct of Israel in the occupied territory but these are reports that will be kept in the archives and cannot be acted upon.

There has been no action taken against Israel for possession of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The question often asked in the Muslim world is what kind of balance can we expect in this new global order? The entire Arab world is in turmoil with the interference of foreign powers to establish so called freedom and democracy.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya are now controlled by different dissenting and warring groups, bent on using violence to achieve their objectives.

Palestinians are struggling for their right to statehood. However, what was previously acceptable in the struggle for statehood and independence before 9/11, as acts of violence have now been categorised as terrorism.

Malaysia argues that acts of terrorism should not be limited to acts of non-state actors alone but should also include those committed by states. We cry and feel the pain suffered by the Palestinians for the last 60 years by an occupying force that shows no mercy. This is not because we are biased or prejudiced but that the Palestinians deserve to be given the right to have their own state.

The international community had agreed to a two state solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. Even the Muslim countries that did not accept the existence of Israel have now changed their position and see the current impasse can only be settled politically and not militarily.

The Israelis had not delivered on their part of the bargain. The arrogance of the Netanyahu government is glaring in full view for us to witness. The Muslim world cannot avoid but feel disillusioned with the mass killing of civilians especially women and children. Due to these senseless killings of innocent civilians the world and the whole of the Palestinian population are united against the Israeli military action.

The peace and security promised to the world today has become a dream or more accurately a nightmare, as we witness conflicts that have taken an ugly face. This is the time for the US to show her willingness to lead the world for the cause of justice and humanity and for peace and security.

The world should not return to the Cold-War period. If we want to see a world that lauds cooperation and competition that is fair and sustainable, it must be built together. There will be contradictions along the way but not open conflicts for destruction. We should applaud the decision of the South African government to sever diplomatic relations with Israel to register its unhappiness with the Israeli incursion and bombing of Gaza. Nearer to us at home, we should also applaud Indonesia for taking similar action against Israel.

israel-a-killing-machineAmerican Support enables Israel to violate International Law

All Malaysians should give their undivided support to their leaders for their ever-courageous stand on the cause of humanity and justice for the Palestinians. The actions of Israel in Palestine particularly in Gaza, now prove that Israel was never willing to resolve the Palestinian issue. The intention of the Zionist movement is to create a Greater Israel, chase out every Palestinian from their homeland, and settle them in different Arab countries.

Malaysia has been consistent and right based on what Israel has done thus far. We understand the Holocaust and the killings of the Jews by the Nazis was a horrible crime of genocide but this should not prevent us from condemning what is happening in Gaza.

In 2004 the writer represented Malaysia and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and addressed the panel of judges at the International Court of Justice in the case of the Israeli Security Wall.In February 2004, the ICJ considered the Israeli argument cannot rely on the right of self-defence or as state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall.

The court asserted that the construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law. Therefore the construction of the wall, the blockade of Palestinian territories and assassinations committed by Israel cannot be considered as a just cause.

Every civilised member of the international community should not ignore the continued occupation and apartheid policy of Israel as described in the book written by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The statement by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Jews ruled the world, should not be misconstrued. This is his opinion and it’s up to us to be judgmental about it. Many scholars had written on the strength of the Jewish lobby in influencing US foreign policy. Whether its true or not true is for others to decide. How the media, electronic and print, had depicted events and victims are before the world to see.

Malaysia has been consistent with its position and views. The writer, when he was the Foreign Minister, met two Israeli foreign ministers at their request. When they asked why Malaysia could not have diplomatic relations with Israel or even some informal relationship with Israel like other Arab or Muslim countries, the answer the writer gave was: we would wait for a political solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Malaysia thought then, by agreeing to the two state solution, it would finally ensure peace and security in the region; since she did not consider that this problem could be solved militarily.

My Take on GAZA: The Israeli-Hamas Conflict


August 3, 2014

My Take on GAZA: The Israeli-Hamas Conflict

by Din Merican

Israeli Protest

I am tempted to offer my views of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict after reading a lot of comments by Malaysians on Facebook. There are basically two groups exchanging tirades against each other, one using Israel propaganda to justify military actions taken by the Israeli Government against the Hamas and the people of Gaza, and the other group criticising Israeli’s use of overwhelming force against the people of Gaza who have been pushed into a corner with no option but to defend themselves against the Israeli aggression.

dinmericanWhat is disturbing is that this debate is along Muslim-Malay versus the other non-Muslim Malaysian lines. The impression I feel that this is a kind of a proxy fight between Muslims (UMNO) and Non-Muslims in our country. This is an unhelpful development since it is a reflection of the state of political discourse  and the rising racial tensions in Malaysia. We cannot even have a decent debate without resort to racial slurs, feminist remarks, and uncouth language. Our politicians should take the blame for playing race and religion.

In war, we will never know who is right and who is wrong, thanks to psy war. In truth, war never solves problems. In fact, war creates scars to the human psyche. Observers can debate, while people in war situations suffer the loss of their loved ones, the old, the sick, women and children and property. For peace, we must learn to respect human dignity.

The conflict between Israel and the Hamas is complex and has a long history of hatred and mistrust among the Israelis and Palestinians, fueled by big power rivalry, with the United States unashamedly taking the side of Israel, while trying to play the honest broker to the broader Palestinian Question. The truth is that the US President and the US Congress cannot stop military aid to Israel. In fact, it is in the self interest of the United States (access to oil and gas resources) to maintain a strong Israel while allowing the Arab World to remain weak and divided between Sunnis and Shia. Look at Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq and client states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The role of Iran in the Sunni-Shia divide too cannot be ignored.

In his article http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/63563/, George Friedman said, “[W]e have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?

For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous “three nos” at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the “no recognition” and “no peace” agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.

For Hamas, at least — and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank — the only solution is Israel’s elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent…

For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War’s purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can’t go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.”

I share Tariq Ali’s view http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/disgrace/ that “[T]here is no military solution in the region. Israel is a nuclear state and has the sixth largest army in the world (so talk of parity with Hamas – moral, political or military – is grotesque). It is threatened by itself, not by an outside force. The only solution left is the creation of a single state with equal rights for all and till this is achieved the only way to help the Palestinians in the medium-term is via the BDS campaign. It is not enough, I know, but it is the very least we can do.”

http://inpec.in/2011/10/26/oil-and-the-arabian-peninsula-blessing-or-curse/

Gaming Israel and Palestine


August 3, 2014

Gaming Israel and Palestine

G.FriedmanBy George Friedman

We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

War Without a Military Outcome

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?

For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous “three nos” at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the “no recognition” and “no peace” agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.

For Hamas, at least — and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank — the only solution is Israel’s elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent.

Under these circumstances, the Gaza war is in some sense a matter of housekeeping. For Hamas, the point of the operation is demonstrating it can fire rockets at Israel. These rockets are inaccurate, but the important thing is that they were smuggled into Gaza at all, since this suggests more dangerous weapons eventually will be smuggled in to the Palestinian territory. At the same time, Hamas is demonstrating that it remains able to incur casualties while continuing to fight.

For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War’s purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can’t go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.

We thus see periodic violence of various types, none of which will be intended or expected to achieve any significant political outcome. Wars here have become a series of bloodstained gestures. There are some limited ends to achieve, such as closing Palestinian tunnels and demonstrating Palestinian capabilities that force Israel into an expensive defensive posture. But Hamas will not be defeated, and Israel will make no concessions.

Sovereignty and Viability Problems

The question therefore is not what the point of all this is — although that is a fascinating subject — but where all this ends. All things human end. Previous longstanding conflicts, such as those between France and England, ended or at least changed shape. Israel and Palestine accordingly will resolve their conflict in due course.

Many believe the creation of a Palestinian state will be the solution, and those who believe this often have trouble understanding why this self-evidently sensible solution has not been implemented. The reason is the proposed solution is not nearly as sensible as it might appear to some.

Issues of viability and sovereignty surround any discussion of a Palestinian state. Geography raises questions about the viability of any Palestinian polity. Palestine has two population centers, Gaza and the West Bank, which are detached from one another. One population center, Gaza, is an enormously crowded, narrow salient. Its ability to develop a sustainable economy is limited. The West Bank has more possibilities, but even it would be subordinate to a dynamic Israel. If the Palestinian workforce is drawn into the Israeli economy, both territories will become adjuncts to Israel. Within its current borders, a viable Palestine is impossible to imagine.

From the Israeli point of view, creating a Palestine along something resembling the 1967 lines (leaving aside the question of Jerusalem) would give the Palestinians superb targets, namely, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Given its history, Israel is unlikely to take that risk unless it had the right to oversee security in the West Bank in some way. That in turn would undermine Palestinian sovereignty.

As you play out the possibilities in any two-state solution, you run into the problem that any solution one side demanded would be unbearable to the other. Geography simply won’t permit two sovereign states. In this sense, the extremists on both sides are more realistic than the moderates. But that reality encounters other problems.

Israel’s High-Water Mark

Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. Neither of these prospects is likely. Israel’s economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are weak and divided. None of Israel’s neighbors pose any threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel’s position is difficult to improve.

Israel can’t radically shift its demography. But several evolutions in the region could move against Israel. Egypt could change governments, renounce its treaty, rearm and re-enter the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah could use its experience in Syria to open a front in Lebanon. Syria could get an Islamic State-led government and threaten the Golan Heights. Islamists could overthrow Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy and pose a threat to the east. Turkey could evolve into a radical Islamic government and send forces to challenge Israel. A cultural revolution could take place in the Arab world that would challenge Israel’s economic superiority, and therefore its ability to wage war. Iran could smuggle missiles into Gaza, and so on.

There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel’s already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel — some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable.

It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. But Israel does not think that it can reach accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security, a view based on a realistic reading of geography. Therefore, Israel sees little purpose in making concessions to the Palestinians despite its relative position of strength.

In these circumstances, the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats. From this perspective, the Israeli strategy on settlements makes sense. If there will be no talks, and Israel must maintain its overwhelming advantage, creating strategic depth in the West Bank is sensible; it would be less sensible if there were a possibility of a peace treaty. Israel must also inflict a temporary defeat on any actively hostile Palestinian force from time to time to set them back several years and to demonstrate Israeli capabilities for psychological purposes.

The Palestinian position meanwhile must be to maintain its political cohesion and wait, using its position to try to drive wedges between Israel and its foreign patrons, particularly the United States, but understanding that the only change in the status quo will come from changes outside the Israeli-Palestinian complex. The primary Palestinian problem will be to maintain itself as a distinct entity with sufficient power to resist an Israeli assault for some time. Any peace treaty would weaken the Palestinians by pulling them into the Israeli orbit and splitting them up. By refusing a peace treaty, they remain distinct, if divided. That guarantees they will be there when circumstances change.

Fifty Years Out

Israel’s major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.

Time is not on Israel’s side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. That normally would be an argument for entering negotiations, but the Palestinians will not negotiate a deal that would leave them weak and divided, and any deal that Israel could live with would do just that.

What we are seeing in Gaza is merely housekeeping, that is, each side trying to maintain its position. The Palestinians need to maintain solidarity for the long haul. The Israelis need to hold their strategic superiority as long as they can. But nothing lasts forever, and over time, the relative strength of Israel will decline. Meanwhile, the relative strength of the Palestinians may increase, though this isn’t certain.

Looking at the relative risks, making a high-risk deal with the Palestinians would seem prudent in the long run. But nations do not make decisions on such abstract calculations. Israel will bet on its ability to stay strong. From a political standpoint, it has no choice. The Palestinians will bet on the long game. They have no choice. And in the meantime, blood will periodically flow.

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/gaming-israel-and-palestine#ixzz39GnidByO

Gaza: how International Law could work to punish war crimes


August 3, 2014

Gaza: how International Law could work to punish war crimes

by Geoffrey Robertson

The Guardian, Friday 1 August 2014 14.44 BST

The security council will be vetoed, but now that Palestine is a state there’s another route to justice

G. Robertson QCFor three weeks, the world has watched war crimes apparently committed by both sides in Gaza: lethal attacks on schools and hospitals, rockets aimed at civilians, tunnels chillingly lined with syringes and ropes; and the dead and dying children. Now the call goes out from politicians and the UN secretary general for “accountability” and “justice”. That should mean a proper forensic investigation with criminal charges against commanders if the evidence warrants, heard in an international criminal court. It is important to understand why this could happen and why it probably will not – and why British diplomats have connived in making Gaza a legal black hole.

There is, after all, an international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague, with a prosecutor equipped to investigate and charge the crimes that seem to be occurring in the conflict. But her power to act arises only in two relevant circumstances: first by a reference from the UN security council, which is sure to be blocked by at least one of the five permanent members – by the US (always protective of Israel), by Russia (afraid of where a criminal investigation of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 might lead), by China (obsessed with state sovereignty), and even by Britain and France.

Then there is the alternative basis for empowering the ICC prosecutor: a state that has signed up to the ICC treaty may require the prosecutor to investigate international crimes committed on its territory or by its people. Israel has refused to ratify the treaty, thereby depriving itself of a means to hold Hamas to account for its rocket attacks.

gaza-under-attack_pictures_2012_free_gaza_gaza_4_by_palsun1

But can the state of Palestine ratify the treaty? In 2009, it attempted to invoke an ICC investigation over Operation Cast Lead, but the prosecutor refused to accept it was a “state”. However, in November 2012, the UN general assembly accorded Palestine the status of statehood – as a non-member observer state, but a state nonetheless. It has since been permitted to become a state party to 13 international treaties. Will it now accede to the ICC treaty and invite the prosecutor to investigate war crimes in Gaza since 2012?

It may. But it has not done so until now because of the pressure brought to bear on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas – mostly from the US but also from Britain and France, whose diplomats claim any prosecutions of either party for war crimes would undermine peace negotiations. This is nonsense, as all but diplomats must by now realise. Their efforts over past decades have come to naught and the hatred reignited by the present war will scupper peace for the foreseeable future unless some form of justice process is permitted to begin.

There is no alternative. The UN human rights council promises to set up an independent investigation but, after its Goldstone inquiry into the 2008-09 Gaza war Operation Cast Lead castigated both sides, Goldstone himself retracted the central finding – that Israel had a policy of targeting civilians. There were no prosecutions of Hamas commanders, and although Israel investigated allegations against 400 soldiers, just two were brought to trial and the only prison sentence – of seven months – was imposed on a soldier for stealing a credit card.

The advantage of an ICC referral is that it would provide a strong incentive to both sides to punish their own criminals, effectively to forestall their indictment at The Hague. Bringing military leaders and the politicians who approve their conduct within the “command responsibility” net will be a disincentive to committing further crimes. By spelling out particulars of the charges, indictments would clarify that, for example, deliberately storing rockets in or near a school or hospital is a war crime, as is a decision to bomb that school or hospital in the knowledge that civilians are taking shelter there. Of course, trials can only be held when alleged perpetrators are caught but this can happen, even to heads of state.

There is also the need for new precedents in the law of war to limit the behaviour of modern army behemoths. The most wicked use of military might – Operation Searchlight – conducted by depraved Pakistani generals in Dhaka in 1971 has gone unpunished although a few of its perpetrators are still alive. Everyone (and particularly the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond) is talking about “the law of proportionality”, but few understand it.

Obviously it is “disproportionate” if 1,400 (mainly civilians) are killed on one side, as against 50 soldiers on the other. But in law the issue is defined as whether “collateral damage” to civilians by an attack on a military target (for example a school where rockets are stored) is “excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”. This allows commanders to think they can get away with shelling the school because the destruction of the rockets gives their side a concrete advantage. A court conviction would bring home to them that no “military advantage” can ever justify the mass murder of children.

That is why David Cameron and Hammond, if they really want “something to be done”, should reverse British policy and encourage the Palestinian Authority to join the ICC with a request to investigate Gaza. There will be objections from Israel and perhaps from Hamas (its war crimes would be investigated too) but these can, I think, be surmounted. The sooner ICC investigators can begin collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses the better.

International law is clear on the question of Israel and Palestine: “Israel is entitled to exist, to be recognised and to security, and the Palestinian people are entitled to their territory, to exercise self-determination and to their own state” (Justice Roslyn Higgins’ pithy and correct summary). But international diplomacy has failed to bring this about and the current crisis makes the poet Auden’s weary point: “I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

At a time when, yet again, both sides appear to be breaching the Geneva conventions and failing to observe the minimum standards of humanity, the ICC offers the only prospect of any accountability. It should be given the opportunity to define and delimit the defence of “military necessity” that is being claimed by both sides. War law must bring home to any political or military leader who considers taking an action that will foreseeably or inevitably involve the deaths of civilians that they must not merely be sure of military advantage: they must be certain of an acquittal when placed in the dock of an international criminal court.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/01/gaza-international-law-war-crimes-security-council

Japan is an unpredictable power


August 2, 2014

Japan is an unpredictable power

By BA HAMZAH

Japan is an unpredictable power. Sorrowful in defeat in WW 11, it promised never to bear arms againAbe-Najib. However, this is about to change if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has his way. Since becoming the PM for second time in 2012, Abe-san has reneged on the solemn promise Japan made after its surrender in 1945. Abe-san has become the most determined leader to tear the 1947 Peace Constitution and put Japan on a war footing again.

At US $49 billion, Japan’s defence expenditure for 2013 saw an increase of 3 per cent over 2012, the highest in 22 years. Using the same pretexts that the Japanese Imperial Army used to wage wars in late 1930s & 1940s, Abe -san may succeed with his military build-up plan. Japan has a well-equipped standing conventional military ( a.k.a Self Defense Forces) of 225,000 personnel.

A hostile security environment (read China), access to markets, freedom of navigation and national pride are often cited as justification for a stronger military power. Japan’s real motivation is to prepare for the day when the US could no longer provide the military umbrella. Japan became a much-respected nation long after it lost the war.

Japan was a feared nation during the war because it was brutal in victory; it was hated for its brutality and for refusing to formally apologise for its belligerent past. For example, it has refused to acknowledge the role of comfort women, angering the Koreans. The Chinese are upset because Japan continues to deny that the “Rape of Nanking” incident did take place in 1937 and the administration of the Diaoyu/ Senkakus islands, contrary to the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

As the third largest world economy, (some say still second), Japan has achieved what no other nation has, including the victors of WW 11, the UK or France. Japan was able to become a strong economic power, NOT because (as asserted by some) the US has undertaken to rewrite its defence expenditure; but, primarily because it has clever, hardworking and innovative people. In short, unlike the United States, Japan (also Germany) has become an influential global power without the normal power trappings associated with the military. A rare achievement in a capitalist system ! By renouncing this geo-business model to bear arms, Japan may gamble its political future.

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu who wrote the treatise “The Art of War” who would have been proud of modern day Japanese leaders for embracing his strategic thoughts may now be troubled by Abe-san’s militarisation programme.

In fact, the geo-business model Japan adopted since 1947 has been the envy of many. By staying clear of political entanglements, Japan was able to focus on rebuilding its nation, rising from the ruins of war to what it is today. While Japan is free to be “a normal nation” again, by removing the constitutional constraint (Article 9), it faces an uncertain future as history may repeat itself. A re-armed Japan is set to become a new hegemon but a threat to the region and the world.

The world will be a much safer place without a hegemon with a shady past.Today, as businessmen, Japanese are welcome almost everywhere. Although they are tough trade negotiators (evident in the current Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations with the US), who rarely transfer freely their technology to host countries, they are perceived as friendly and courteous.

The nagging question is: why swap a proven geo-business model for M 16 and AK 47 that failed to sustain its Greater Asia co- Prosperity political dream in the 1940s. Why swap Honda, Toshiba, Hitachi, Suzuki, Nissan, for example, for the much-feared drones and missiles? Can the AK 47, drones, submarines and missiles give the Japanese people the same peace, prosperity and security they have enjoyed for almost seven decades, a quarter of a century from today?

Doubtful as it is, Japan seems to be reacting to some geo-political uncertainties in the region by reinventing itself in a traditional fashion, like a novice, when it should continue to rely on its proven geo-business model. With an eye for geography, the answer to a more assertive China is not to spend more on military hardware (Japan is currently world’s fifth largest defense spender) but to invest more on non- traditional ( i.e., diplomatic, cultural and economic) means by forging closer relationship with wary neighbours like China, Russia and South Korea.

Tokyo’s recent overtures towards the ASEAN countries and Australia, for example, will not bear fruits if Japan were to bear arms again and becomes a military threat to the region. As victims of its aggression in WW 11 their support cannot be presumed.

John KerrryBy selling or transferring used military assets, Japan may temporarily bolster the confidence of Vietnam and the Philippines currently at odds with China in the South China Sea. With the worsening of the US-Russia relations in Europe, following the crisis in the Crimea, for example, the strategic consequences of Japan’s subtle containment policy of the Middle Kingdom can be far reaching. When push comes to shove, in my view, the US may likely jettison its policy of “pivoting” to the Far East to focus on Europe. The Americans will not abandon Europe for Asia.

Palestine radicalising Muslim Youth


July 27, 2014

COMMENT: The Obama Administration’s Middle East Policy has failed, and faileddinmerican miserably mainly because it continues to aid and support Israel’s illegal land grabbing activities, and condone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s  expansionist policies by military means to secure its borders. President Obama, a stooge of corporate interests and the Jewish lobby, refuses to realise that Israel–and the United States is a willing partner– is helping to radicalise Muslim Youths around the world to support the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people in the defense of their homeland. 

 “Solve the Palestinian issue — and half the battle is won. Or go on intimidating them at Israel’s own peril”, says my friend, Johan Jaafar and I agree. Anti-US sentiment is spreading fast throughout the Muslim world. The problems in Libya where the US must  now shut down its embassy, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Arab world are clear and irrefutable evidence of US myopia and  its unwillingness to deal with the root causes of unrest and instability in Palestine. Its policy of favoring Israel while advocating a two state solution is, therefore, hypocrisy  at best.

I have posted a number of articles on the Palestinian Question on this blog and have not received any comments from my American friends and readers on US Middle East policy. That is disappointing. I hope it is not a sign that Americans in general are disinterested observers of Israeli brutality and arrogance of power in Gaza and other parts of Palestine. A bully who is heavily dependent on American taxpayers for funding its military ambitions and housing is actually a coward. The Palestinians are a strong people with well honed survival skills, and can take on the Israeli Defense Forces, if they are well equipped. The Hezbollah in Lebanon have shown that Israel is not invincible. –Din Merican

Palestine radicalising Muslim Youth

by Tan Sri Johan Jaafar@www,nst.com.my (07-26-14)

PALESTINE is the single most important factor for the radicalisation of Muslim youth. We all know that. So, too, the leaders of the United States and Israel. For the last six decades, the Palestinian issue has been widely cited as the catalyst of the anger, anxiety and disgust among Muslims. Many among the young — some of them well-educated — embraced militancy.

Johan JaafarThe Muslim world watches with trepidation and a sense of hopelessness as Israel attacks what’s left of the little stretches of land called Palestine year after year. Life has been miserable for the occupants. Death is always hovering in the shadows. They live in an open-air prison ready for bombardment by the Israeli security forces, any time, and with the flimsiest of excuses. And it normally comes at the most difficult and challenging month — Ramadan.

This year’s Ramadan is no exception. The Israelis certainly know how to intimidate and inflict maximum insult on the Muslim world. There are few occasions when one hears Muslims the world over speak in the same voice. Palestine rallies Muslims unlike any other issue. And despite differing interests, Israel is the source of their anger. And of course, its No. 1 protector, the United States.

GazaGaza–Target of Israeli Bombing

The US has not lifted a finger to castigate the Israelis for the recent attacks. We have heard President Barack Obama say the right things about Islam and Muslims but yet to see him doing the right thing for Palestine. There are more than 800 deaths and thousands injured so far. The US has been mumbling about the right of Israel to defend itself. What about the horrendous images of carnage and devastation in Palestine? And the fact that the prime minister of Israel accusing Hamas for using “telegenically dead Palestinians” as a PR exercise?

I have seen the anger many times over. I was in Peshawar in the spring of 1989, where millions of Afghan refugees lingered in camps after the Russian invasion 10 years before that. President Mohammad Najibullah’s position was precarious. The mujahideen were emboldened. In Kunar Province and near Jalalabad I saw renewed determination to win the civil war. And they won.

A rag-tag army in kameez shalwar and sandals humiliating the second biggest army in the world? It happened. Afghanistan was a turning point in insurgency. Some of the mujahideen groups were well-funded, in part by the US. I met young commanders trained by the most organised Afghan faction, the Hisbi Islami at the so-called “Jihad University” in Peshawar. They were ready to face the world, anywhere, anytime.

Young Muslims from the world over came to support and die for a worthy cause. Afghanistan was a good enough, just cause. It was people’s struggle — qiam omumi, not unlike the intifada of the Palestinians. Fighting the Russians and later Najibullah’s forces was a noble thing to do. But 9/11 changed all that. With a stroke of a pen, they all became terrorists.

But nothing compares to Palestine. The simmering anger against Israel is beyond reproach. Palestine is the rallying cry against injustice. In his piece (NST, July 23) Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar asked what is it about the Palestinians that they have become the victims of so many injustices and tragedies? “No other people have had their land taken away and given to whom they did absolutely no wrong,” said the piece. READ: http://www.nst.com.my/node/16334

PalestinePalestinian Resistance

Israel has the right to exist but not at the expense of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have suffered enough. They are now sandwiched between high fences and a belligerent neighbour, and is a pawn in a geopolitical play. For millions of young Palestinians, they only know anger, misery and death.

Solve the Palestinian issue — and half the battle is won. Or go on intimidating them at Israel’s own peril. True, Israel has a superior army to suppress the population but they can’t go beyond the demands of human decency for another 60 years. If there is one race that understands the meaning of extermination, survival and injustices, it has to be the Israelis. Yet, they tend to forget their own history when they deal with the Palestinians. The US will face a daunting task to explain to the Muslim world why they are not really pushing for a final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is only anger and revenge to motivate the Palestinians for now, and the resolve to overcome the odds. They are hardened by years of suffering and fighting. They will endure the pain many more years to come. And many more young Muslims will be radicalised. Will the world just watch the anger that reverberates beyond the borders of Palestine?

Support Tabung Kemanusiaan Palestin Media Prima Bhd in collaboration with Mercy Malaysia and Perdana Global Peace Foundation. Donate generously.

 

 

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17


July 22, 2014

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17

Close to 500 people flooded the roads near the embassies of Russia, Ukraine and also the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur today in a BN-organised demonstration to seek justice for the victims of the MH17 tragedy. Clad in black t-shirts which read “Justice 4 MH17″, the protestors also included members of several NGOs including right-wing NGO Perkasa, reports Malaysiakini.

Lest we forget about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Israeli aggression. There must be justice for them too. We criticize Russia but we forget that the United States is supporting Israel and US weapons are being deployed in Gaza. Russia in turn supports the Bashir Al–Assad regime. What is the difference? It is the big power game of using proxies to fight their wars. Please listen to Chris Hedges in this video (below).–Din Merican

MH17: Options available for Malaysia


July 22, 2014

MH17: Options available for Malaysia

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

MH17 Crash Site 3

MOUNTING evidence points to Ukrainian separatist and Russian responsibility in the shooting down of MH17. And, in­­deed, video shots as clear as daylight show the Russian-supported rebels stealing and looting at the wreckage, tampering with and era­sing eviden­ce of the grisly deed, carrying away the black box – and unconscionably carting away and refusing to hand over the dead bo­dies for identification and decent burial.

Given our inability to strike back hard, the options Malaysia has in response to the downing of MH17 are limited to diplomatic and legal measures. To make these measures effective, the plan of action must be well prepared: form an alliance of victim nations and pursue the perpetrators vigorously.

The options Malaysia has, given limited power and influence, will be subjected to international geopolitical considerations and the vagaries of international legal process. How­ever, it does not mean we are po­wer­less to do anything except to confine ourselves to big, loud statements.

We can seek the support of kindred spirits to bring to justice the perpetrators who downed MH17 with the BUK (SA-11) surface-to-air missile. An alliance of victim na­­­-tions, comprising countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, should be formed. States willing to support the investigation into the horrible act of terror, even if it was a mistake, should be engaged.

This alliance should be collecting its own evidence from now. It actions should not wait for an international investigation which looks unlikely to be unimpeded. The United Nations can condemn and call for an international investigation. These resolutions, as we know, are more often than not disregarded.

MH17 Crash Site 4

Free access to the area where the wreckage and mutilated bodies are strewn has been denied. Evidence from the crashed plane has been re­­moved. Even if the black box would only register the explosion when the aircraft was struck and even if the BUK missile self-destructs on impact, there are voice and communications recordings which would be relevant. So why has the black box been taken away?

At the same time, people in the rebel-held territory of the Ukraine have looted the wreckage, the common crime of thievery following a heinous crime against humanity.

All these acts – from the firing of the missile to the removal of evidence to the denial of access to the looting – violate clear rules of international law. Even if it cannot be positively identified who fired the missile and rebels who have trespassed the law will not be released, the available evidence points the finger at Russia.

Russia provides the arms. Russia protects the rebels. Russia helps them violate international law and the sanctity of the victims. Russia calls the shots.The intercepted conversations, first on the firing of the missile and its aftermath and next on the remo­val of evidence and bodies at Russian behest should be tested for their authenticity.

When confirmed, it is good evidence to go by in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice. American intelligence reports now show the trajectory of the missile and, subsequently, the transportation of remaining missiles back into Russian territory.

The Chicago convention of the International Civil Aviation Organi­sation (ICAO) provides clear rules on the conduct of investigation, on the safety of civil air flight and against the tampering of evidence.

The Ukrainian government, although it does not control the expanse of territory where the aircraft came down, has been making numerous statements about the removal of evidence and rebel use with Russian aid of the BUK missiles, which had downed at least two of its military aircraft. It should hand over what evidence it has.

In the case where Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 was shot down on September 1, 1983 by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor jet, the ICAO condemned the attack. The United States Federal Avia­­­tion Authority revoked the li­cence of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot to fly to and from the US, a denial that was not lifted until April 29, 1986.

Similar sanctions should be considered by ICAO, the US and other countries in the case of MH17 amidst the mounting evidence pointing at Russia and the consequences of its actions. There should be no fear to act against a country in the horrible wrong, which might otherwise not just get away with it but would conspire to violate further international norms of behaviour.

Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back to the Soviet Union days of lies and deceit, threat and bluster, coupled with his own megalomania. Putin is a bully, a thug world leaders find extremely difficult to deal with. At a meeting with Angela Merkel in 2007, his Labrador Koni was allowed in to unnerve the German Chancel­lor, who was bitten by a dog in the early years of her life.

The black arts operate at the Kremlin. It is little wonder that thuggish behaviour at the centre sends signals for drunken gangsterism among rebels Putin supports.

With KAL007, the Soviet Union suppressed evidence which was not released until eight years later, following the collapse of the communist regime. Now there is another re­gime seeking to resurrect that control of people, territories and information with no regard for the rights and lives of others. This is unacceptable.

Whatever evidence is available should be examined for the pursuit of civil damages for the acts of violation and denial. A group led by the Dutch, who suffered the most number of deaths in this act of terror, should be set up to pursue this line of action. Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation in the industry has been severely but unjustly damaged, should join in this effort to extract some measure of recompense.

More importantly, Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

It can then join forces with states such as the Netherlands and Austra­lia, who are signatories, to institute legal action against individuals and agencies in the Ukraine and Russia, who are also signatories.

Let’s be realistic. After the initial shock-horror reactions, states will return to tending to their own affairs to serve their own national interests and, in time, will not be so incensed by murderous violation of international safety, violation of laws, and acts of brazen and drunken thuggery.

Even now, despite his most welcome strong support and call for ASEAN solidarity with Malaysia, Pre­sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot be expected to put Indonesian interests second. Indeed his spokesman said Indonesian relations with Russia were excellent and there was no reason to disturb them.

The Chinese ambassador at the UN advised caution and not jumping to conclusions, as the Security Coun­cil issued a statement last Friday con­­­­demning the attack on MH17 and called, in hope more than expectation, for full, thorough and independent investiga­tion.

It would have been a diffe­rent statement if most of the passengers had been Chinese, or Chinese inte­rests were damaged and at risk. This is the way of the world. Malaysia must look after its own interests.

When it is stated we want to bring the perpetrators to justice, we must be clear on how we might get there. We should be clear about the avenues open to us and about states sharing a common interest who can be persuaded to act with us. We should determine our options and how we might realise them.

We owe it (how often this is said) to the victims and to our national airline which has suffered so much, maybe fatally this time, to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must show these are not mere words that are uttered lightly. We have the duty to protect our citizens and to ensure safe passage of our vessels in accordance with international law and practices.

The downing of MH17 is a tragedy of horrific proportions. We grieve. But we must also do something about it to get at the evil perpetrators. It is a matter of national interest and honour.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid is Visiting Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also chairman of CARI and Bank Muamalat. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone, asks Tony Gosling


July 20, 2014

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone where 10 aircraft have been shot down?

by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:06
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Put yourself in the position of a certain passenger boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight at Amsterdam for the twelve hour trip to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning.

Given a previous Malaysian flight’s mysterious disappearance it’s likely he was not the only boarding passenger who was a little nervous when he joked on social media, “If we disappear, this is what the plane looks like.”

Settling down on the flight then watching the moving map display on the seat in front, you might perhaps see the word ‘Ukraine’ edge its way across from the right of the screen. Would you not be a little uneasy in the knowledge that quite a lot of planes have been blown out of the skies there recently? That there’s a war on?

Check out David Cenciotti’s ‘Aviationist’ blog and you’ll see that 10 aircraft have been shot down in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Five MI-24 Hind and two MI-8 Hip helicopters, as well as military transport planes, one AN-2 and an AN-30. On July 8, the latest transporter, an Il-76 was shot down at Lugansk when the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine closed their airspace indefinitely to civilian aircraft. But why did the air traffic control regulators keep directing planes over eastern Ukrainian territory at higher altitudes?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but on any of hundreds of flights over Ukraine in the past month I might even have been tempted to tug the sleeve of one of the cabin staff. Asking them brusquely to get reassurance from the captain straight away that we would not be passing through the very airspace where so many planes had so recently been brought down.

So what was the plane doing there?

Malaysian Airlines was quick to point out that the Ukraine war zone had been declared ‘safe’ for them to fly over by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Was this the same authority that was party to closing Europe and the North Atlantic for almost a week for Eyjafjallajökull’s ‘volcanic ash cloud’ drifting out of Iceland? Canceling the flights of around 10 million passengers? Yet they fail to close a war zone where they know ground-to-air missiles are flying around?

I do hope ICAO Regional Director Luis Fonseca de Almeida will apologize in person to all the victims’ families before he resigns and hands himself in for questioning. Of course, this is not the only arm of the UN and other parts of global governance to be failing, crippled, and where the people appointed to run it seem to be pliable stooges rather than independent-minded enough to be up to the job? Let’s hope too that the Malaysian authorities will heed the voices in their professions warning against relying too much on help from international bodies which may be used against them.

As for who’s responsible, it’s unlikely the shooting down was a random ‘pot shot’ by Ukrainian separatists who would have nothing to gain and only further isolate themselves by such an act. There are also doubts as to whether they have access to this sort of weapon system, more advanced than any that appears to have been used so far. Which is presumably why ICAO and Malaysian Airlines thought 30,000-foot high airliners were safe from shoulder-launched missiles.

Appearing on BBC TV’s Newsnight, weapon systems expert Doug Richardson said the relatively high altitude airliners fly at offers “no protection” from what he believes was probably a former Soviet ‘Buk’ missile, developed in the 1970s, that did the dirty deed.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Shot across bows of Russian presidential jet?

Then there is the proximity of the MH17 shoot-down to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who happened to be flying home, west to east, from Brazil. Russia’s equivalent to Air Force One, the Ilyushin-96 ‘Board One’ was roughly half-an-hour’s flying time, about 200 miles (320km), behind the Malaysian plane as it passed near Warsaw just before the doomed jet entered Ukrainian airspace, which the presidential jet avoided.

As the Western powers’ anti-Russian sanctions are failing to bite and the Kiev government they back is losing on the ground, this may indicate a NATO motive for the attack. If so this sort of audacious act may also be an early test of loyalties by the West’s power elite of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. The message being, “Watch that you don’t get any troublesome ideas of making your own minds up on the matter.”

The timing of the attack is intriguing too, being the day after a historic agreement Putin signed, along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to create a BRICS World Development Bank.  Quite possibly the greatest challenge since Bretton Woods in 1944, to the dubious monopoly of the World Bank, was indeed signed on Wednesday by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

For those that muse on the obsessive nature of those that spend their lives pursuing ever more money until the day they die, there is a shocking recent history of nations and their leaders coming to a sticky end that dare to oppose the global monopoly of the petrodollar, and that of the enforcers at the World Bank and IMF.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein didn’t know what fate lay ahead when he announced in November 2000 that he was taking the first steps toward setting up a bourse, or oil exchange, which traded in euro rather than dollars. Two-and-a-half years later, weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist had been ‘found’ in his country and the bombs were raining down, Saddam and his fellow countrymen was illegally invaded under orders from Messrs. Bush and Blair and the nation plunged into the sort of chaotic hell which is now spreading like a plague around the Middle East and from which one wonders if it will ever emerge.

Similarly when debt-free Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and his shuttle diplomacy had secured agreement from enough African leaders to announce the creation of an African reserve currency, the African gold dinar, he found his country up in front of the United Nations Security Council on a fabricated charge of ‘bombing his own people’. On May 1, 2011, the weekend of William & Kate’s royal wedding in London, one of Gaddafi’s sons and three of his grandsons were blown to pieces in an airstrike and NATO began to bomb the country – blessed with the lowest infant mortality rate on the African continent – back to the Stone Age.

Although no ground troops were allowed by the UN, mercenaries were sent in, and on October 21, Gaddafi was finally executed with a bayonet up his backside. National governments in the West these days really do seem to have become an irrelevant side show when the power of the military dances to the tune of the unrestrained mega-resourced muscle of the IMF and its friends.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Why Malaysian Airlines?

‘To lose one plane may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.’ Though it might seem trite to borrow from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’, is it really pure coincidence that both this and the March ‘disappearance’ of MH370 have been with unfortunate Malaysian jets? Neither appears to have been an ‘accident’, so could both be acts of aggression, acts of war against Malaysia? If so why, and by whom?

Malaysia is a genuinely independent nation torn between East and West. Like Ukraine and so many other medium-sized independent countries, Malaysia is finding it very difficult to stay independent. As the world inches towards what many believe may become an enormous world war, brought on by the collapse of capitalism, it is becoming increasingly impossible for small and medium-sized nations to remain independent. So yes, there is likely to be pressure on the Malaysian leadership to make alliances and this, perhaps, could simply be an attempt to intimidate, to force their hand.

It’s comforting to repeat that nobody wants an economic collapse and nobody wants a world war, but it wouldn’t be the first time that ruling elites have deployed these two chestnuts as a ‘double whammy’. Making a fortune out of a crash is easy when you can see it coming and, as well as being an archaic ‘human sacrifice’ to the old gods, war is the best way to distract everybody who might be thinking of locking you up. For anyone who dares to look, the evidence is there that the US decided to step up the projection of their already ruinous military power at the time of the 9/11 attacks, probably as a reaction to the waning power of the dollar.

As Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War and of the US chapter of Veterans For Peace, said when interviewed for Venezuelan State Television, “There are no rules, this is World War III. The rule book went out the window on September 11th.[2001].”

As a regular attendee at US Marine Corps intelligence briefings Jimmy was in a position to know rather more than the West’s public, media or politicians do about how far down the mission line covert policies of the White House and Pentagon have crept.

And here’s the rub. Malaysia are one of the world’s feircest opponents of the phoney ‘war on terror’, former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman even convening a tribunal in 2011 to try Bush and Blair for war crimes. Endorsed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad the tribunal found: “Unlawful use of force threatens the world to return to a state of lawlessness. The acts of the accused were unlawful.” Malaysia has done what the UN and The Hague’s International Criminal Court dare not.

European and North American countries have realized too late in the day that only by keeping stiff exchange controls can they stay sovereign nations. Without them international finance capital will move in with infinite resources to destroy everything that stands in its way, from media to parliaments, nothing can withstand them. Even the courts now are finally about to be co-opted into the service of the tax evading transnational corporations should the secretly-negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) be signed later this year.

The courts will then be theirs to overturn any parliamentary decision the corporations don’t like, and they have been saving up lots and lots of cash to pay the very best lawyers in the world, to make sure they win.

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

No shortage of people who’ll shoot down an airliner for you

With the privatization of war in the West, points out UK charity War On Want, “repeated human rights abuses” are being “perpetrated by mercenaries, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians and torture. Unaccountable and unregulated, these companies are complicit in human rights abuses across the world, putting profit before people and fanning the flames of war.”

So if you want somebody to fight a nuclear war, conduct a massacre, or shoot down an airliner for you nowadays you can buy those services on the free market. The proliferation of private military companies since 9/11 suits the military industrial complex very nicely, thank you.

But how has the world come to the point where such companies have state protection and business is, quite literally, booming?

The problem again, is the global banking giants who have been shown in court, time and time again, to be hand in glove with the intelligence services and international drug cartels. Whether it’s Iran Contra with drugs flying one way and guns the other, or HSBC’s piffling $2 billion fine in 2012 for money laundering, they are not just criminals who are above the law, they are now shaping it in their own private interest.

It is not just the Asian, Pacific and South American power blocs they seek to control who will be watching them, but their own people, those they depend on to survive. With every evil act they think they’ve got away with, they are painting themselves into a corner as the Trans-Atlantic edifice they are trying to control crumbles beneath them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy


July 20, 2014

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy

 

MH17

 
COMMENT: by John Ling@www.malaysiakini.com

“In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?”–John Ling

When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, he had done so on the back of a campaign that promised hope and change. Among other things, he urged a ‘reset’ in relations with Russia.

This would be the cornerstone of his new administration – a radical approach in ‘soft diplomacy’. One designed to defuse tensions with America’s former adversary and pave the way for warmer ties. This was a monumental undertaking, but with a young and vibrant president now in the White House, it looked like it might actually have a chance of succeeding.

In Geneva in March 2009, we witnessed what appeared to be an initial thawing in relations between America and Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with the cameras of the world looking on, she presented him with a big red button made out of plastic.

The word ‘reset’ was prominently stenciled on it, accompanied by a Russian translation. However, in an unfortunate gaffe – perhaps an omen of things to come – Clinton’s aides had messed up the Cyrillic words on the button.

Instead of ‘perezagruzka’, which would have been the correct translation, the one that was used instead was ‘peregruzka’, which meant ‘overcharged’. It was an embarrassing mistake, but Lavrov appeared to be a good sport, laughing off the error.

Good start short-lived

Around the same time, President Obama noted that Vladimir Putin (below) had recently stepped down as President of Russia, and in his place, Dmitri Medvedev had ascended to the highest office in the land. Like Obama, Medvedev was a former academic and of a similar age.

Naturally enough, Obama perceived the new Russian President to be a transformational figure, and it was in that spirit that he wrote a secret letter and instructed a trusted aide to hand‑deliver it to Moscow. In the letter, Obama expressed a willingness to make American concessions in return for Russian goodwill.

In an age of wireless communication, this unorthodox approach was a throwback to simpler times. Nothing short of remarkable. In Malaysian culture, we might call this ‘giving face’.

In July 2009, Obama, encouraged by Medvedev’s optimistic reply, flew into Moscow for his first official visit to the nation. The two leaders met in congenial fashion. They seemed like a natural fit for each other. And a grinning Obama took the opportunity to solidify America’s commitment to a reset in relations with Russia. All in all, it looked like an unqualified triumph for hope and change. Not bad for a president who had been in office for barely six months.

Russian reset in tatters

Five years on, however, Obama’s Russian reset is in tatters, and the world we find ourselves in now is a far cry from that buoyant period. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has regained presidential power, and he is currently pursuing an agenda of ultra-nationalist expansion. A former KGB officer in his youth, he has spent a lifetime perfecting the black arts of murder and intimidation.

As a result, Russia today has become a nightmarish country. It’s a place where free speech is crushed,MH17 Crash site 2 political dissidents are assassinated, and government‑sanctioned thugs roam the streets, attacking everyone from homosexuals to foreign students.

Putin has placed the whole of Russia under his iron will, and he is now driven to expand its influence abroad. Soft diplomacy is not what runs in this man’s veins. Rather, he craves the aggressive projection of power, Soviet‑style. The invasion by proxy of Eastern Ukraine and the senseless shoot‑down of Flight MH17 serves as a testament to his vision.

While the world mourns this horrific tragedy, President Obama, for his part, is looking increasingly haggard. Right‑wing critics have savaged his attempt at soft diplomacy with Russia, calling it naive and idealistic. They claim it never should have been attempted in the first place. The Russians, it would seem, have perceived Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness, and they have since exploited it to the fullest.

Malaysia blissfully ignorant

In Malaysia, most of us have remained blissfully ignorant of the storm that’s been brewing for the past couple of years. Even as Putin’s brand of ultra-nationalist fervour has taken hold, we have chosen to invest in the Russian aerospace, oil and gas industries. We have sent our children to study the Russian health sciences. And even after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, our political leaders did not respond with a note of protest. No one had the gumption to call a spade a spade.

But now, like it or not, we have been drawn into Vladimir Putin’s dysfunctional world order. It’s not what we asked for. It’s certainly not what we wanted. But innocent blood has been spilled; hundreds of civilians have been murdered with no warning.

And to make the atrocity worse, Putin loyalists have interfered with the site of the crash, making a fair and transparent investigation all but impossible. In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?

JOHN LING is a Malaysian‑born author based in New Zealand. You can find out more about him and his work at johnling.net

 

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17


July 20, 2014

MY COMMENTWe have been hit by two tragedies, MH 370 and MH 17 a few days ago,Din Merican both within a space of four months. MH370 is still shrouded in secrecy and  it is a public relations disaster; our leaders and public and security officials handled the foreign media poorly. MH17 was brought down by Russian made missiles in the hands of Ukrainian rebels backed by  Prime Minister Putin’s government. Our political leaders and officials are again in the eyes of media. Let them handle the situation better this time.

Those who are behind this dastardly violence must be brought to account. Our diplomats and those of countries which lost their citizens and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must act in concert to ascertain the facts about the downing of this ill-fated 777 aircraft. At home, the new Transport Minister has to ensure that there are no cover-ups, blame games, excuses, and conflicting or contradictory statements. Please provide facts as they come to light, and do it well and ensure that there are no fumbles.

I am glad that our Prime Minister has allowed debate in our Parliament on MH37. I hope Parliamentarians on both sides of Dewan Rakyat can be rational and constructive in their deliberations so that we can achieve consensus on what we should do to restore national self confidence and pride in our national flag carrier, Malaysian Airlines.

No shouting matches please. Bung Mokhtar types must not be allowed to disrupt the debate or make fools of themselves. In this time of national crisis, UMNO-BN and Pakatan Rakyat must stand together. The debate should result in a plan of action for the government. To nudge the debate along orderly lines, there should be a White Paper to Parliament on MH17 in which the government can present its views on what it has its mind to deal with the aftermath of MH 17.Din Merican

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-18/malaysia-can-t-botch-another-air-tragedy

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

by William Pesek (07-18-14)

There’s nothing funny about Malaysia Airlines losing two Boeing 777s and more than 500 lives in the space of four months. That hasn’t kept the humor mills from churning out dark humor and lighting up cyberspace.

Liow_Tiong_Lai-MH17_PC

Actor Jason Biggs, for example, got in trouble for tweeting: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysia Airlines frequent flier miles?” A passenger supposedly among the 298 people aboard Flight 17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday uploaded a photo of the doomed plane on Facebook just before takeoff in Amsterdam, captioning it: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

That reference, by a man reportedly named Cor Pan, was to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, whose disappearance in March continues to provide fodder for satirists, conspiracy theorists and average airplane passengers with a taste for the absurd. On my own Malaysia Air flight last month, I was struck by all the fatalistic quips around me — conversations I overheard and in those with my fellow passengers. One guy deadpanned: “First time I ever bought flight insurance.”

MH17 CrashThere is, of course, no room for humor after this disaster or the prospect that the money-losing airline might not survive — at least not without a government rescue. This company had already become a macabre punch line, something no business can afford in the Internet and social-media age. It’s one thing to have a perception problem; it’s quite another to have folks around the world swearing never to fly Malaysia Air.

Nor is no margin for mistakes by Malaysia or the airline this time, even though all signs indicate that there is no fault on the part of the carrier. The same can’t be said for the bumbling and opacity that surrounded the unexplained loss of Flight 370. Even if there was no negligence on the part of Malaysia Air this week, the credibility of the probe and the willingness of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government to cooperate with outside investigators — tests it failed with Flight 370 — will be enormously important.

As I have written before, the botched response to Flight 370 was a case study in government incompetence and insularity. After six decades in power, Najib’s party isn’t used to being held accountable by voters, never mind foreign reporters demanding answers. Rather than understand that transparency would enhance its credibility, Malaysia’s government chose to blame the international press for impugning the country’s good name.

The world needs to be patient, of course. If Flight 370’s loss was puzzling, even surreal, Flight 17 is just MH 17plain tragic. It’s doubtful Najib ever expected to be thrown into the middle of Russian-Ukraine-European politics. Although there are still so many unanswered questions — who exactly did the shooting and why? — it’s depressing to feel like we’re revisiting the Cold War of the early 1980s, when Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet.

More frightening is how vulnerable civilian aviation has become. Even if this is the work of pro-Russian rebels, yesterday’s attack comes a month after a deadly assault on a commercial jetliner in Pakistan. One passenger was killed and two flight attendants were injured as at least 12 gunshots hit Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK-756 as it landed in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the first known attack of its kind and raises the risk of copycats. The low-tech nature of such assaults — available to anyone with a gripe, a high-powered rifle and decent marksmanship — is reason for the entire world to worry.

The days ahead will be filled with post-mortems and assigning blame. That includes aviation experts questioning why Malaysia Air took a route over a war zone being avoided by Qantas, Cathay Pacific and several other carriers. The key is for Malaysian authorities to be open, competent and expeditious as the investigation gains momentum. Anything less probably won’t pass muster.

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session


July 19, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com (07-18-14)

MH17 Crash Site2

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has called for an emergency Parliament session on July 23 to condemn the irresponsible acts by those who caused the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine yesterday.

Making an official address to the nation from Angkasapuri, in a telecast that was carried live by government broadcaster RTM, he also announced that the national flag will be flown at half mast from tonight until Monday as a sign of mourning over the loss of life in the incident.

He, however, added that until credible evidence surfaces, there will be no finger-pointing towards any party involved, despite the widespread believe that the flight with 298 passengers and crew onboard was shot down.

He also expressed condolences and deep sympathies to the family and loved ones of the victims on behalf of Putrajaya. “We condemn this despicable and irresponsible act and as Prime Minister I will be calling an emergency Parliament session to debate this motion,” he said of this second tragedy involving a Malaysia Airlines flight in the past four months.

Crying for Loss of Loved OnesMH17- Crying for Loved Ones

Najib said that he had also put forward three demands to United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. “First, we want to ensure that evidence relating to the incident is not tampered with or disturbed; second, we hope for the safety of rescue personnel during the operations to be guaranteed. And third, if the investigation finds that MH17 was indeed shot down, we demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

“I have put forward these three demands to UN chief Ban Ki-moon,” he said at a special address today, adding that Malaysians are facing some very challenging times.

Acknowledging that “we are in the last days of the fasting month”, Najib also called on Muslims, regardless of political affiliation, to come together to pray so that Malaysia will be safe from harm.He also called on other faiths to pray for the same in their own way.
-

Another MH Tragedy: MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine, 295 killed


July 18, 2014

Another MH Tragedy: MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine, 295 killed

by Reuters (July 17, 2014)

graphic_MH17

Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, called Thursday evening for an investigation at the crash site and the unfettered cooperation of local authorities. Noting that Ukrainian officials had reported that the plane was hit by a missile, he said, “Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy.”“No stone will be left unturned,” he added. “If it transpires that the plane was, indeed, shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”–New York Times

A Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.

Raising the stakes in the East-West showdown between Kiev and Moscow, the official blamed “terrorists” using a ground-to-air missile and Ukraine’s prime minister called the downing of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur a “catastrophe”.

A Reuters correspondent saw burning wreckage and bodies on the ground at the village of Grabovo, about 40 km from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels have been active and have claimed to have shot down other aircraft.

“I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang,” one local man at Grabovo told Reuters. “Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke.”

MH17 Crash site 2The Boeing 777 came down near the city of Donetsk, stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook, adding it was “shot down with a Buk anti-aircraft system by terrorists,” the term the Kiev government uses for militants seeking to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia. The dead were 280 passengers and 15 crew.

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed it had lost contact with its flight MH-17 from Amsterdam. “The last known position was over Ukrainian air space,” it said.

A rebel leader said Ukrainian forces shot the airliner down. Ukrainian official said their military was not involved. A general view shows part of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the Donetsk region, near the Ukrainian border with Russia. Interfax-Ukraine quoted another Ukrainian official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 metres, a typical cruising altitude for airliners.

Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet – an accusation that Moscow denied.

The military commander of the rebels, a Russian named Igor Strelkov, had written on his social media page shortly before the report of the airliner being downed that his forces had brought down an Antonov An-26 in the same area. It is a turboprop transport plane of a type used by Ukraine’s forces. – Reuters/www.themalaysianinsider.com

NOTE: MAS Europe’s office disclosed the nationalities of those on board:

- 154 Dutch
– 27 Australians
– 23 Malaysians
– 11 Indonesians
- 6 Britons
– 4 Germans
– 4 Belgians
– 3 from the Philippines
– 1 Canadian

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington


July 7, 2014

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-broke-iraq-three-lessons-washington-10785?page=show

“Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely.

Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transitionAmerica should get out of the business of invasion and occupation.”

Mahbubani2By Kishore Mahbubani*, The National Interest (July 1, 2014)

Colin Powell put it clearly and succinctly:”If you break it, you own it.” America broke Iraq. America owns Iraq. This is how the rest of the world sees it. This is also why the world is mystified by the current Obama-Cheney debate. Both these camps are saying, “You did it.” Actually both the camps should say, “We did it.”

The tragedy about this divisive debate is that America is missing a great opportunity to reflect on a big and fundamental question: why is America so bad at the simple task of invading and occupying countries? Surely, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most botched operations of its kind. America spent $4 trillion, lost thousands of American lives and millions of Iraqi lives, and at the end of the day, achieved nothing. Since the failure was so catastrophic, why not at least try to learn some valuable lessons from it? There are at least three lessons that scream for attention.

Dick-Cheney-and-Barack-Ob-001Cheney-Obama Debate a Lost Cause–Iraq in a Mess

The first lesson is the folly of good intentions. Let’s be clear about one thing: >Americans are not evil people.They do not conquer countries to rape, pillage and loot. Instead, they conquer countries to help the people. President George W. Bush’s goal was to set up a stable, functioning Iraqi democracy, not to set up an American colony in perpetuity. The British colonial rulers of Iraq in the early twentieth century would have been totally mystified by these good intentions. And they would have been even more flummoxed by the methods used to achieve these good intentions. For example, the British would preserve local institutions, not destroy them.

The last successful American occupation was the occupation of Japan. MacArthur wisely preserved Japanese institutions-including Emperor Hirohito, despite his role in the war. By contrast, America destroyed both Saddam’s army and his Ba’ath party at the beginning, thereby condemning the occupation to failure. Some Americans believed they could manage Iraq because American governance was inherently superior.

Bremer with bootsPaul Bremer (wearing his big boots) assumed he could rule Iraq effortlessly with his big boots, without ever being aware that his big boots were culturally offensive. This American trait of supreme self-confidence in running other societies is not new. When I lived in Phnom Penh in 1973-74 forty years ago, I witnessed firsthand how a young, inexperienced American diplomat would walk into the offices of the Cambodian Economic Minister and give him daily instructions from Washington, DC on how to run the Cambodian economy.

What was the result of this? The Cambodian leaders felt powerless to govern their own society. There is a paradox here. One strength of American culture is that it empowers people. But when America takes over another society, it disempowers it. This happened in Iraq, too. So after the disastrous management of Cambodia and South Vietnam and of Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely. Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transition.

The second lesson is to avoid over reliance on the American military.Obama said it well:”Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.” Future historians of the American century will spend a lot of time scratching their leads over a difficult conundrum: how did the relatively peaceful people of America become so trigger-happy in their external adventures?

The simple lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan and of Cambodia and South Vietnam is that guns alone do not work. This is why the recent American debate about Syria is so bewildering. Both sides were debating one question-to bomb or not to bomb Syria? But bombing would have solved nothing. And it was equally unwise for America to make a unilateral announcement on August 18, 2011 that “Assad must go”. Almost three years later, he is still in office.

All debates in America inevitably become black and white. Assad is black. His opponents must be white. Therefore, kill the bad guys-this appears to be the only solution. In many parts of the Middle East the choice is between black and black (or, more accurately, between various shades of grey). To bring “peace”, America will have to learn to deal with and shake hands with people who are not American boy scouts.

All this leads to the obvious third lesson: strengthen American diplomacy. Let me start with one painful fact obvious to many in the rest of the world: American diplomacy has deteriorated. In my thirty-three-year career with the Singapore Foreign Service from 1971-2004, I witnessed this firsthand. The reasons for deterioration are obvious. Organizations attract young talent when they can promise the best jobs at the end of their hardworking and dedicated careers. But if all that a young American diplomat can aspire to after three decades of service is to be the Ambassador to Ouagadougou or Kabul (with London and Paris being completely out of the equation), why stay on?

One counterargument I have heard is that the strong American private sector makes up for the weak public sector. A weak State Department, for example, is compensated by strong think tanks. This is true, but it creates a deeper mystery: how can America have the best strategic think tanks and strategic thinkers and yet have the worst strategic thinking in invading and occupying other countries? So this is the time for Americans to have the obvious epiphany: America should get out of the business of invasion and occupation. Four decades of failure have provided enough evidence to prove that the American people are far too good to do this job.

*Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, which was listed by the Financial Times in its ‘Books of the Year’ list, 2013.

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner


July 4, 2014

RSIS Commentaries

RSIS presents the following commentary China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner by B.A.Hamzah.  Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at RSIS Publication@ntu.edu.sg.

No. 122/2014 dated 1 July 2014

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner

By B.A.Hamzah

Synopsis

Malaysia owns James Shoal, a submerged feature that is within its continental shelf. Being one thousand nautical miles from Hainan, James Shoal is outside the continental shelf of China; it is also outside the continental shelf of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.

Commentary

James Shoal

JAMES SHOAL, a feature that is permanently 22 metres (66 feet) under water in the South China Sea, should not have attracted public attention regionally but for geopolitics and ignorance of international law. Malaysians have been alarmed by recent reports of vessels of the People’s Republic of China Liberation Army (Navy), gathering and celebrating above the feature on more than one occasion.

China cannot appropriate any submerged features that are not part of its continental shelf and in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). James Shoal is more than 1,000 nautical miles (nm) from Hainan, well outside China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and not part of its continental shelf.

James Shoal and International Law

The whole affair could have been quietly resolved if the PLA Navy commanders acknowledged the international law governing a permanently submerged feature, embedded to the continental shelf of a coastal state. Unlike islands, rocks and low-tide elevations, permanently submerged features, cannot generate any maritime zone under international law.

Islands are entitled to a belt of territorial sea, continental shelf and EEZ. Low-tide Elevations (LTEs), on the other hand, belong to the state in whose territorial sea they are located. LTEs can be used to draw the state’s baseline if they are located within its 12 nm territorial sea.

Map 2--James ShoalMap showing the limit of proposed extended continental shelf of Vietnam and Malaysia jointly submitted to the United Nations Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) in May 2009.

International law defines continental shelf as a natural extension of a country’s landmass to a distance of 200 nm (maximum 350 nm). Drawn from the mainland or any of its islands in the South China Sea, the continental shelf of China is well short of James Shoal. Similarly, contrary to some suggestions, James Shoal is also not part of the extended continental shelf of Vietnam, the Philippines or Taiwan.

In May 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia put up a Joint submission on the Extended Continental Shelf to the UN Committee on the Limit of Continental Shelf (CLCS) whereby Vietnam acknowledged that James Shoal is not part of its extended continental shelf.

James Shoal is 500 nm from Pagasa Island in the Spratlys that the Philippines has occupied since 1971. The Shoal is more than 400 nm from Itu Aba, an island that Taiwan has occupied since 1956. James Shoal is also outside Brunei’s extended maritime zone which the 2009 Letter of Exchange Brunei had with Malaysia attested to. In 1969, Malaysia and Indonesia signed a Treaty on the continental shelf, off Tanjung Datu, Sarawak, which has placed James Shoal on the Malaysian side.

Contiguity not an issue

Map--James Shoal2Map showing limits of EEZ in the Spratlys

James Shoal, located 63 nm from the nearest base point (Batuan Likau) on Sarawak coast, is embedded in the continental shelf of Malaysia and within its EEZ. Although the feature is nearer to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur’s ownership of James Shoal is not premised on geographical contiguity but on customary international law. In the Island of Palmas (or Miangas) (United States v. The Netherlands), Arbitral Award, 1928 Judge Huber stated, “it is impossible to show the existence of a rule of positive international law” on contiguity to “the effect that islands situated outside territorial waters should belong to the state”.

China claims James Shoal is within the disputed nine-dash line boundary which China has drawn, incorporating close to ninety percent of the South China Sea, and overlapping with the maritime domains of five other states (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) as well as Taiwan.

Some experts believe China did not even know of the existence of James Shoal as a submerged feature when it drew the controversial nine-dash line maritime boundary over it in 1947/1948. After all, China was not the first state to conduct any physical survey of the maritime area. Besides, there is no evidence that China discovered and administered the feature.

The British discovered James Shoal

The British discovered the Shoal and its two nearby features (Parsons’ Shoal and Lydie Shoal) in the early 19th Century via many of its surveys. James Shoal first appeared on the British Admiralty Chart in the 1870s; China renamed the feature (as Tseng Mu Reef) circa 1947/1948 (1912 in some documents), when it published the nine-dash line.

The only possibility for China to “acquire” the feature, according to some experts, is via cut- and-paste method. While the international law recognises five traditional methods of territorial acquisition, the cut- and- paste method is not one of them.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (Malaysia and China subscribe to both Treaties) stipulate, “The rights of a costal state over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or in any express proclamation”. In other words, Malaysia does not have to do anything under UNCLOS to own the submerged feature that is embedded on its continental shelf.

Malaysia’s extensive activities on James Shoal

This notwithstanding, Malaysia has effectively asserted its jurisdiction over its continental shelf including the areas in and around James Shoal, Parson’s Shoal and the Lydie Shoal. As in nearby Laconia shoals, where currently a large chunk of Malaysia’s hydrocarbon resources comes from, the entire area has been explored for gas and oil.

The activities of the Malaysian authorities, which are extensive, peaceful, continuous and public in nature, include the construction and maintenance of a light-buoy on nearby Parsons Shoal on a 24/7 basis; daily patrolling and policing of the area by the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency; and undertaking economic activities like exploration for and production of hydrocarbon resources on a sustained basis.

Under international law, such display of peaceful and continuous activities over a long period is tantamount to establishing a titre de souverain (acts of the sovereign). This legal principle is critical in determining ownership of disputed islands, rocks and low tide elevations and by inference, submerged features on continental shelf.

Map 3-James Shoal Enlarged Map showing the location of James Shoal (Beting Serupai), Lydie Shoal (Beting Tugau) and Parson’s Shoal (Beting Mukah) (drawn by Vivian Forbes, 2014).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Arbitration have applied this principle on numerous occasions. Two recent ICJ Cases on territorial disputes, decided on this principle, involved Malaysia with Indonesia (Case concerning sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan) and Indonesia (2002) and Malaysia with Singapore (Case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca and Pulau Batu Putih (2008).

In sum, the activities of the Malaysian authorities (effectivité to some) are by themselves sufficient to demonstrate that Malaysia is the bona fide owner of James Shoal.

BA Hamzah is a lecturer at the Department of Strategic Studies, National Defence University, Malaysia. He contributed this specially to RSIS Commentaries.