- Parliament’s vote underlines Israel’s deepening isolation
- Palestinian state hinges on US approval, Noam Chomsky tells UN
- Anwar in prison, death knell for Pakatan?
- Dr Ali Mazrui – A Towering Intellectual
Posted: 15 Oct 2014 01:47 AM PDT
The world is no longer shutting its eyes to the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s obstructionism and violence
In the end, the result was emphatic. After three and a half hours of debate, MPs voted to recognise the state of Palestine by 274 votes to 12.
To be sure, the vote was non-binding and has no effect – for now – on government policy, as Israel's dwindling number of hardcore supporters will point out. And Israeli officials will affect unconcern, claiming that the emoting of MPs in a second-rate ex-imperialist power with delusions of grandeur means nothing.
Don't believe a word of it. As reports of last-minute lobbying from Jerusalem make clear, Israel knows it cannot afford to ignore this result – for two reasons. First, it provides a stark barometer reading of opinion in much of the Western world, where Israel craves respect and acceptance. Second, as a damning verdict on Israel's recent policies from an influential global power, the vote will contribute to its deepening international isolation and prompt other countries to press against the occupation.
If you need proof of just how friendless Israel's hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country's natural allies. Arch-Tories such as Nicholas Soames (whose grandfather Winston Churchill is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political hero) spoke eloquently in favour of Palestinian statehood. And Richard Ottoway, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said that despite having been "a friend of Israel long before I became a Tory", its recent policies had "outraged me more than anything else in my political life", concluding: "If Israel is losing the support of people like me, it is losing a lot of people."
Not a single MP on either set of benches dared to express support for Israeli policies such as this summer's devastating assault on Gaza or the ever-expanding settlement project (which experts warn may be about to destroy any chance of dividing Jerusalem between the two sides as part of a future peace deal). And Israel was criticised in terms that until recent years were considered taboo: Labour MP Andy Slaughter's comparison of the West Bank occupation to South African apartheid drew only murmurs of assent around the chamber. Even most of those who expressed misgivings about the motion preferred to follow the Tory leadership and abstain rather than openly oppose it.
But – with Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made his determination to resist Palestinian statehood clear, as well as a gaggle of ministers with even more hardline views – what practical effect can Parliament's decision have on the brute facts of the conflict?
Israel's government and its supporters are trying to have it both ways, calling the motion irrelevant while claiming simultaneously it will damage the "peace process". But, as several MPs pointed out last night, the peace process is a chimera – and even John Kerry's recent efforts to impose an unfair "solution" on the Palestinians were, as the US secretary of state openly stated, largely stymied by a diehard Israeli government opposed to any compromise whatsoever.
That's why, in the absence of any prospect of meaningful talks between the two sides, international pressure, combined with nonviolent ground-level resistance from Palestinians, may well be the only hope of bringing the century-old dispute to a resolution. And as a permanent UN security council member, a close ally of the United States, and a leading EU power the UK has more ability than most to add to the groundswell of global opposition to Israel's rampant occupation policies.
Of course, Israel will not be swayed by any mere act of parliament: ending the occupation would likely require sustained economic and diplomatic pressure from the international community. But, as an article in the Economist has pointed out, the campaign for sanctions against Israel is gathering steam. Last night's vote will add weight to claims that Israel must change its ways or one day face harsh consequences.
No doubt Israel's increasingly reality-detached government will, for now, succeed in shutting its ears to the voices calling for a halt to its obstructionism and violence. But, as the House of Commons showed last night, the world is no longer shutting its eyes.
Posted: 15 Oct 2014 01:43 AM PDT
Leading American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky commended the British parliamentary vote to recognise the Palestinian Territories as a state on Wednesday but stressed that the US held the keys to a Palestinian state.
"The vote in the British parliament is an illustration of the kind of action that can add to the growing effort that can pressure the influential states in the world," he told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday.
While only symbolic – British Prime Minister David Cameron abstained from the vote and it will have no official effect on policy – Chomsky said that the overwhelming show of support for a Palestinian state among British lawmakers reflected a wider will among Europeans, "and to some extent, Americans," to distance themselves from "the very explicitly criminal actions Israel is taking" in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Chomsky, a fierce critic of US foreign policy and Israeli actions in the Palestinian Territories, also praised a recent decision by Sweden to recognise Palestine as a state – making it the first country in Western Europe to do so – and acknowledged comments made by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday, in which he indicated the prospect of a vote in Paris on the same subject.
“What we want is not something symbolic, but something that is useful for peace,” Fabius said.
Russia said on Sunday that it planned to back Palestine's UN Security Council resolution, announced by President Mahmoud Abbas in September, which sets a two-year deadline for the implementation of a two-state system, including the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Some 130 countries worldwide already recognise the Palestinian Territories as a nation state, despite American and Israeli disapproval.
In 2012, 138 of 147 countries at the UN General Assembly voted to accord Palestine "non member observer state" status at the UN. The US was one of eight that voted against the motion.
'Palestinians should look to South Africans'
Chomsky stressed that despite a shift in perspective in Europe, a resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would remain out of reach until the United States was "ready to accept that settlement".
"There will be great efforts to prevent [a settlement] on the part of the US and its close allies – Canada and Australia," he said. "There will be one roadblock after another".
Responding to questions by FRANCE 24, Chomsky said that in order to change the mindset in Washington, he believes the Palestinian leadership should focus on addressing the American public. "I think there will be no significant progress in this conflict until pressure from the American population induces the government to take a different stance," he said.
He compared the Palestinian deadlock with that of other "third-world nationalist movements," citing Vietnam, East Timor and South Africa. "They all understood the significance of developing solidarity and support among the American population to the extent that they can influence the modification of policy," he said.
Chomsky, who was described by the New York Times in 1979 as the "most important intellectual alive," was arrested and briefly jailed in 1967 during a major anti-Vietnam war demonstration.
US to blame for Islamic State?
Questioned on the Islamic State militants' looming invasion of the Syrian town of Kobani, Chomsky called on Turkey to recognise its importance in saving the border town "from destruction at the hands of ISIS," which he said could be a major massacre with enormous consequences. "Turkey's role is critical in this," he said.
Chomsky also criticised the US for its "sledgehammer" effect on Iraq's sectarian balance during the war started in 2003, implying Washington's responsibility in creating conditions that spawned the so-called Islamic State group.
Returning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he attacked what he called the “anglosphere”.
“If you look at the international scene, the strongest support for Israeli policies has been among the offshoots of Britain: the US, Australia and Canada,” he said.
"These are settler colonial societies, societies where the English colonists came and virtually exterminated the indigenous population. Why might this be related to support for Israel? It's not hard to figure out."
Chomsky said that the countries had not come to terms with their "extermination of the indigenous populations".
But with growing support for Palestinian rights even in the UK and among other western European nations, Chomsky warned that the US, Canada and Australia would not be able to “divorce themselves from the world”.
Posted: 14 Oct 2014 08:55 PM PDT
In the aftermath of the Selangor menteri besar crisis, which left the opposition coalition on the brink of collapse, DAP's grandmaster Lim Kit Siang had called for the top leaders to meet in an attempt to bridge the chasms.
However, there has been no news of such a meeting. Perhaps it was done under the media radar, but even so, information was bound to leak out.
Even before the dust could settle on the Selangor imbroglio, Pakatan Rakyat parties were once again at loggerheads over the Oktoberfest beer festival.
And now with Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal with regard to his sodomy conviction slated for Oct 28 and Oct 29 at the Federal Court, the burning question is whether Pakatan would survive if the opposition leader is sent to prison.
Prior to Anwar spearheading the opposition bloc, the notion that DAP and PAS, with their diametrically opposed ideologies, being partners in a coalition would have been dismissed as a political fairy tale.
But Anwar achieved the impossible.
And despite the glaring differences, he managed to keep the two parties on the same vessel, thus giving hope to opposition supporters that Pakatan is truly a viable option to replace BN.
In his absence, it is difficult to imagine any other leader in the Pakatan framework being able to fill his shoes and keep the coalition intact.
In 2001, when Anwar was serving his prison sentence over his first sodomy conviction, DAP had quit the then Barisan Alternatif after locking horns with PAS.
Umno’s strategy for Pakatan implosion
Perhaps Anwar’s political rivals also sense this.
There is no point in waging a battle against Pakatan as a whole. The most effective strategy would be to chop off the head vis-a-vis incarcerate Anwar.
And perhaps this is the reason behind Anwar’s case being expedited.
By removing him, BN is banking on Pakatan imploding due to the irreconcilable differences between PAS and DAP.
In its attempt to pry open the opposition, Umno has already launched a campaign to constantly remind PAS that it is being shoved about in Pakatan.
Umno websites are replete with articles of party leaders accusing PAS of deviating from its struggle.
Even former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) jumped on the bandwagon, recalling how PAS had once condemned Umno for working with non-Muslims but was now doing the same.
He also warned that PAS was treading a perilous path by forging political cooperation with a powerful non-Muslim entity, DAP.
Lest we forget, there are also some powerful factions in PAS, especially among the conservative circles, who believe that to safeguard Islam and the position of Malays, the Islamic party must join hands with Umno.
On the other hand, Anwar’s incarceration could become a rallying point to unite the fractious opposition parties and consolidate their union.
Hence locking up Anwar might backfire on Umno.
There are some who believe that he is more dangerous behind bars, heralded as a symbol by his supporters for the struggle against oppression and tyranny.
It remains to be seen whether the hope and aspiration of the 52 percent of Malaysians who voted for Pakatan in the last general election would be crushed by the gavel of the apex court.
Posted: 14 Oct 2014 08:43 PM PDT
Dr Ali Mazrui – A Towering Intellectual
Dr Ali Mazrui, a towering figure in the academic world and one of the foremost intellectuals from Africa, died on Sunday 13th October at the age of 81.
He was also a dear friend with whom I had the honour and privilege of knowing since the early days of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Washington. I have particularly fond memories of long discussions with this giant of an intellectual during my fellowship at Georgetown University – after my release from incarceration in Sungai Buloh. My family and I are also greatly indebted to him for his principled stance on the injustice of it all and I treasure the missives sent to me.
I first got to know of Dr Ali Mazrui when I was an undergraduate studying sociology at Universiti Malaya. He was such a prolific writer that it's hard to keep up but two of his earliest are etched in my memory: Towards a Pax Africana (from his Oxford PhD dissertation) and Violence and Thought. Another one not to be missed is Cultural Forces in World Politics.
In terms of ideology, he rejected both Communism and Capitalism preferring instead to propound his own form of liberalism with its epicentre in Africa.
May God shower mercy on his soul, accept all his good deeds and bless him with eternal peace.
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