Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scots join boycott of Israel

Received this in my inbox:

Scotland today joined Ireland and South Africa when the Scottish Trade Union Congress, representing every Scottish trade union, voted overwhelmingly to commit to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This is the third example of a national trade union federation committing to BDS and is a clear indication that, while Israel can kill Palestinians with impunity and Western support, it has lost the battle for world public opinion. It is now seen to be a state born out of ethnic cleansing and still expanding through the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Speaker after speaker expressed intense anger at Israel’s butchery of 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza over the New Year, as well as the much longer history of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The vote followed a visit to Israel/Palestine by an STUC Delegation in March which heard from a wide range of trade union and other bodies and returned with a unanimous recommendation that the parent body adopt BDS.

The STUC move to a position of BDS followed debate on the Delegation report with affiliated unions as well as consultations across Scotland. There were written and oral submissions from Zionist as well as human rights bodies.

The commitment to BDS was made despite aggressive lobbying by Zionist groups, including an absurd warning that a commitment to active support for Palestinian human rights would lead to attacks on Scottish Jews, and the parachuting into Scotland of the Histadrut’s Head of Communications from Israel.

The STUC’s new position is a dramatic breakthrough which has the potential to greatly accelerate the boycott campaign already underway in Scotland against, for example, Israeli companies and sporting or cultural visits. The Scottish Government earlier in the year yielded to public concerns and cancelled a trade delegation to Israel.

It will also make easier the task of building a mass boycott campaign across the land surface of Scotland, in every town and small community, in every supermarket and every sporting and cultural event.

Israel’s New Year mountain of corpses in Gaza, together with its frequent murder of unarmed civilians across Palestine was only the latest in a long series of Israeli massacres. We may be unable to stop the next one, but our job of building the sort of mass BDS campaign that can confront Israeli violence with a countervailing force has just become easier. An aroused world opinion is increasingly ready to ensure that all don’t die in vain.

We can only offer hope to the hard-pressed Palestinians that their freedom is coming, however long Israel and its allies work to delay it.

The STUC press release can be read here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Durban II: The West can't face the truth vis-a-vis Israel

As expected, the Durban II UN conference against racism descended into chaos.

The West made it clear from the beginning that it would not tolerate criticism, albeit legitimate, of Israel.

Half of the Western governments didn't show up (including the US, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands), and the other half (Britain and France) simply walked out when Ahmedinejad began his talk.

The Western media has toed the line of their governments, and are in uproar over the Iranian president's comments.

But what did Ahmedijenad actually say?

Quotes of Ahmedijenad's speech from the Washington Post:

- Israel is a "paragom of racism" founded on "the pretext of Jewish sufferings during World War II." (nothing wrong about that)

- He criticised the UN Security Council's five permanent powers by stating that "such powerful countries condemn racism in words, but by their deeds they ridicule and violate all laws and humanitarian values." (pretty accurate so far)

-"Following World War II, they [Israel] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question" of the Holocaust. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world, in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racists, in Palestine." (again, nothing incorrect here)

- In regards to Zionism, he said: "their domination to the extent that nothing can be done against their will. So long as Zionist domination continues, many countries, governments and nations will never be able to enjoy freedom, independence and security. As long as they are at the helm of power, justice will never prevail in the world and human dignity will continue to be offended and trampled upon. It is time the ideal of Zionism, which is the paragon of racism, be broken." (true, how else has Israel been able to avoid international scrutiny for six decades?)

Ahmedinejad didn't deviate from the obvious, didn't descend into anti-Jewish vitriol, nor did he racially attack Jews. So why the furore?

Hundreds of thousands worldwide protested against Israel's racism in Western capitals throughout the Gaza war. Yet, Western governments continue to remain blind and deaf to Israel's racist policies.

The fact that the West has chosen to plug its ears demonstrates not only its hypocritical selectivity in regards to Israel and the Middle East, but speaks volumes of the distance that exists between the West and the Arab/Islamic world.

Ahmedinejad's comments have been echoed on the Arab street since Israel's inception. Hezballah and Hamas have extraordinary popularity in the Arab world for a reason. The Palestinian cause arouses high emotion in the Arab street for a reason ... Israel's racist policies and apartheid treatment of Palestinians.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami came to Australia a few weeks ago urging the West to treat the developing world as equal. No dialogue of civilisations can take place, he said, whilst one civilisation subjects the other to inferior status. The Western walkout on Iran's speech at Durban II indicates that the Western superior complex still prevails. The West continues to snub the sentiments of injustice and anger felt by the Arab and Muslim world. The walkout is but an example of that continuation.

The West didn't storm out of Durban II due to Iran, it did so because it doesn't want to hear the truth. Western governments are surrounded by the brutal facts of the Middle East, but will continue to shelve such facts in support of Israel's apartheid regime. The West is just as culpable of the Palestinian suffering as Israel.

As far as truth goes, Iran's president couldn't be closer to it. Whilst the West flaps its wings about human rights and racism, when the crunch comes its interests come first. At present, the Zionist influence in the Western world has curbed their interests towards Tel Aviv. That takes precedence over every human right, particularly that of an Arab.

Shame, shame, shame indeed.

An excellent article on this in Australia's The Age by Professor John Langmore, the president of the UN Association in Australia:

Opponents have been claiming recently that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been invited to give a keynote address to the conference. It is true that, like all heads of member states, he has been invited to attend and, as a head of state, will be entitled to speak in the opening plenary session as will any other heads of state who attend. But he has received no courtesy beyond that given to every head of state or government.

The opponents of the conference have been highly organised. The Australian Government has received hundreds of letters opposing participation. The media too have been inundated with criticism of the meeting. As often happens in such situations, the supporters have been much less well organised, which gives the impression that staying away would have less political cost than attending.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Egypt's Hizballah paranoia

Things aren't looking too rosy for old Hosni Mubarak.

Once the gem of the Arab world, Mubarak has turned the great Egypt into an embarrassment.

Boasting a large population, and receiving more than US$2billion in US aid on an annual basis, Egypt should be leading the Arabs on every level. But it isn't.

The vast majority live below the poverty line, and are hungry and restless. Falling into line with most Arab dictators, Mubarak has splashed his extraordinary wealth on resorts, villas, palaces and an extensive security service that is effectively keeping 80 million Egyptians from storming the Presidential Palace.

The infrastructure is crumbling, and to cut even further at the heart of Egyptian pride, the country's natural gas deposits are being sold to arch rival Israel at a lower-than-market rate. Freedom is nonexistent, torture and kidnappings are rampant, and the Egyptian people are struggling to put food on their plates. The country's middle class has dwindled.

To compare with another Arab dictator, such as Saddam Hussein, Mubarak is among the worst. For all his shortcomings, Saddam invested in the country's infrastructure, and had developed Iraq long before Dubai's first skyscraper. The Iraqi tyrant also ensured a healthy middle class kept the economy afloat, most of which currently reside in Syria and Jordan awaiting their return. Of course, Saddam wasn't perfect, his treatment of Shi'ites and Kurds was abhorrent, but Iraq was, economically to say the least, a healthy state before his wild adventures brought the world crashing down upon him. Certainly, Iraq's growing wealth, economically and militarily, was worrisome for all around it. Fortunately for Iraq's alarmed neighbours, Israel had a buddy named the US, who successfully lured Saddam into Kuwait and destroyed him.

Mubarak, on the other hand, has showed no interest in developing Egypt's economy nor investing in its people.

On the regional level, Egypt has gone from discreetly co-operating with Israel to taking public photo shots with Israeli leaders. Its public support of Israel against Lebanon in 2006, and again against the Palestinians earlier in the year riled the Arab public. Hizballah, Syria and Iran took advantage, and made sure every angry finger in the Arab and Muslim world was pointed squarely at Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and other angry dissenters in the country, took to the streets and joined the chorus of condemnation of Egypt's suffocation of Gaza.

Mubarak, suddenly, felt paranoid. I noted in a lengthy feature piece during the Gaza War that public condemnation between Arab leaders is rare. Hizballah's criticism of Mubarak during the war not only highlighted a change in dynamics, but also signalled a dangerous intent ... Iran's eyes are on Egypt. Well, at least that's what Mubarak currently fears.

So when Egypt's intelligence successfully captured Hizballah operatives, it was quick to point out Iran's grand scheme to subject Arab Sunnis to Shi'ite domination as a justification for its alliance with the country most Arab Sunnis hate ... Israel.

But Arab operators are everywhere in the Middle East, including those of non-state actors. Fatah, for example, was caught out spying on Saudi Arabia and Jordan on behalf of the US when Hamas took over its police compound in the Gaza counter-coup. It would be fair to say that Hizballah has been operating networks in fellow Arab countries for years, and most Arab regimes are aware of it.

Hizballah even has operatives in Israel, which prove useful during times of conflict when these cells provide the Shia movement with intelligence on IDF positions. Certainly, that was the case in 2006.

Egypt's capture of Hizballah operatives, and its public parade, is more a PR stunt to take the heat off its back re Gaza. Nasrallah didn't seem too concerned when he confirmed the capture over the weekend, calmly stating that Hizballah was providing arms to Hamas, has been doing so for a while, and will continue to do so.

However, the need of Egypt to parade this capture speaks volumes of its paranoia and insecurity. Mubarak knows he sits atop a boiling Egyptian bubble waiting to burst. He fears an Iranian-style and provoked revolution. No doubt, the Egyptian people are capable of it and are perhaps pondering means to depose of their highly detested leader.

Mubarak also knows that his succession plan to pass the presidency to his son, Gamal Mubarak, is a vulnerable point that can be exposed by his foes, domestic and regional. His succession plans have caused much anger in Egypt, and a persisting fear that Mubarak's rivals may attempt a coup are mounting.

The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt stated during the Gaza War that they have no issue with Iran proselytising Shi'ite Islam. In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition movement, has now cemented its links with Iran.

Is Hizballah trying to destablise Egypt? No, I don't think so, and I believe the Egyptians know that too. What bothers Mubarak, however, is that Hizballah can destabilise Egypt, and have the team already placed on Mubarak's turf, awaiting the orders.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Fallujah

America's most brutal massacre in Iraq. This week five years ago, US forces launched a massive operation in Fallujah. US troops made no distinction between non-combatant and combatant. The result? 600 dead civilians.

The atrocities committed by US forces can be swept under the rug by Western media, but the name of Fallujah will receive the same immortality in the Arab world as Deir Yassin, Sabra and Chatila, Qana and Gaza.

Just another massacre to add to the list, and another reason for Arabs to hate America.

This from Al Jazeera:

Laith Mushtaq was one of only two non-embedded cameramen working throughout the April 2004 'battle for Fallujah' in which 600 civilians died.

Five years on, he recounts the events he witnessed and filmed."What you saw on your TV sets at home reflects only ten per cent of the reality. Also, if you watch those pictures at home, you can change the channel.

But we were in the middle. We smell. We feel, see, and touch everything. We could touch the bodies, but we couldn't change the channel. We were the channel.

When I think of Fallujah, I think of the smell. The smell was driving me crazy. In a dead body, there is a kind of liquid. Yellow liquid. The smell is disgusting, really. It sticks in your nose. You cannot eat anymore.

And you can't get the pictures off your mind, because every day you see the same: Explosion, death, explosion, death, death.

After work, you sit down and notice there are pieces of flesh on your shoes and blood on your trousers. But you don't have time to ask why.

In April 2004, I remember I was in the Baghdad office and my boss said: "We have information that the Americans will attack Fallujah. We need a crew to go inside Fallujah immediately. Who can go there?"

I said: "Yes. Me. I can go there." I didn't hesitate at all.

Filming was a 'duty'

I knew the price to pay was high. Maybe my life. But if I'm afraid to die, then I shouldn't hold a camera in any dangerous place. I know some day I will die. Tomorrow. Next month. Next year. Or in ten years. I don't know.

But the point is that maybe I will die in my bed. Or maybe I will die doing something good.

Fallujah was my duty. I had to show the truth to people outside of Iraq.

By truth, I mean what really happened in the streets. Not a political message, just what I could see with my own eyes. Because some people were talking about Fallujah and said "there is nothing happening," or "the people are okay" and "everything is stable".

It would be great if everything had been stable. I would be happy if nothing had happened. I would shoot it and show it, with pleasure. But the reality was very different.

One day, I think it was April 9, 2004, someone with a loudspeaker in Fallujah's main mosque said: "The Americans will open a gate and women and children can go out."

As soon as he had finished, all the women and children of Fallujah tried to find a car to leave the city but when they were in the streets, the US forces opened fire.

There's a picture that I cannot forget. An old woman with three children, I saw her on the street and took a picture of her and the children.

She said: "We don't have any men here, can anyone help us?" Many of the men from Fallujah worked in Baghdad, once the city was sealed off they could not get back to their wives and children.

So, some men helped her, I decided to film the scene and then I sat down to smoke.

Ten minutes later, an ambulance came down the road. I ran to follow the ambulance and when they opened the door, I saw the same woman and her children - but they were in pieces.

I still remember the nurses couldn't carry the woman because she was in too many pieces, people were jumping back when they saw it. Then, one nurse shouted: "Hey, she looks like your mother."

In the Iraqi language that means: "She could be your mother, so treat her like you'd treat your mom." Everyone stood up and tried to carry a piece because they needed to get her out quickly, because the ambulance was needed for other people.

We were standing in front of the main hospital, but we would have needed 12 cameramen in order to cover all that happened that day.

There were five, six ambulances coming and going with dead and injured people. When I filmed people inside the hospital, there were so many outside. When I filmed outside, there were so many inside.

Me and all of the Al Jazeera crew, we felt paralysed. It was bigger than us. We were only two cameramen and two reporters. It's not enough.

Reporters, editors in Doha and Baghdad, the people of Fallujah, all of them kept calling for us to film what was happening, and the ambulances just kept coming and going.

We heard people screaming inside the hospital, because they did not have any drugs left. They had to cut legs without anything at all.

At some point, I couldn't move anymore. I sat down on the street and kept smoking. I couldn't move. I see what's happening around me, but I can't move. Khallas [enough]. I didn't have any energy left.

Corpse-strewn streets

But then you remember the heroes of Fallujah that nobody talks about.

Like this old man. He had a pick-up truck and every day, he drove through the streets and listened to the people who told him there is a dead body in this or that street, but nobody can go there because there's a sniper.

Then he went there, stopped his car, and on his knees, he'd crawl to the body and carry it to his pick-up car. One day he brought five bodies.

Some of them had died more than a week ago, but no one had dared to carry them away. Some, the dogs had started eating them.

While I was inside Fallujah, I knew that every single move of my camera is not for me. It's for the people inside. And the people outside who should know what happened. It's like an SOS.

The Americans said our pictures stirred up hatred against them. But what I did was only showing what their army did on the ground.

I don't hate them, I don't want vengeance, I just wish they had understood what they were doing.

And sometimes I wish my mind was more like a computer that you can reformat. Or that you can go to hospital and get pieces of your memory removed.

In Fallujah, there were moments when I held my camera beside a dead body and I felt I haven't got a heart anymore. Because of the dose of war that I've seen. It was something like an overdose.

Not just for me inside, also for my family in Baghdad.

The month that I spent in Fallujah, my mom was watching TV all the time, because she knew her son was there and she knew those were the pictures that he had shot. Sometimes we couldn't talk for a couple of days.

One day, she heard on the news that the Americans would try to reach the middle of the city. She couldn't bear it anymore. She went to the Al Jazeera office in Baghdad and cried: "Give me my son back!"

I was embarrassed, but my mother is, well, a mother.

Around the same time, in the evening, we got a phone call from the general manager of Al Jazeera. He wanted to talk to every member of the crew. The driver. Me. Everyone.

He said: "Thank you very much, we appreciate what you're doing." And then he said: "If you want to leave Fallujah, we'll send someone and will try to get you out of there."

We all refused. Everyone wanted to stay.

Why should we be better than the women and children of Fallujah? No one had called them to ask whether they wanted to leave."

In a written statement given to Al Jazeera, Lieutenant Colonel Curtis L Hill, public affairs director for the multi-national force in the west of Iraq, denied US-led forces fired on "unarmed civilians" .

"Coalition forces were there to capture the terrorists responsible for the death of four American contractors. They would not have fired on unarmed civilians attempting to leave the city," he said.

Specifically asked if a ceasefire had been called on April 9, he said troops had "halted the advance although I believe the date was 11 April".

Moldova ... the unwanted democracy

Democracy is the world's greatest political system ... so long as you don't elect Communists or Islamists.

Tucked away in Europe's eastern corner, the tiny former Soviet state of Moldova - destined to reunify with Romania according to many Moldovans - has become a heated strategic battleground between Russia and the US.

Moldova is the only ex-Soviet state to have democratically re-elected a Communist leadership. Indeed, parliamentary elections last week gave a larger than expected victory to the Communist Party, in a state that has been marred by internal strife and poverty since the Soviet breakup.

Russia has thrown its support behind Moldova's Communist leader, Vladimir Voronin, by publicly condemning anti-government protests at the result.

"Spontaneous" protests of 15,000 - organised by local youth political groups such as ThinkMoldova - have accused the Communists of election fraud. Yet EU observers declared the election to be fair, so why all the noise?

Apparently, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as SMS, have been lauded as the reasons why snap protests have erupted. Reuters, for example, has jumped on the youth protesters bandwagon by claiming Russia fears "people power".

But I'm not overly convinced.

Asad Abu Khalil at the Angry Arab blog believes the US is stirring popular protests to destabilise and/or prevent the Communist Party from retaining power, albeit legitimately.

I would brush this off as another conspiracy, but recent history concerning US tactics in regards to leaderships (democratic or otherwise) not to its liking begs me to take a closer look at the Angry Arab's remarks.

Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Hamas ... four examples in recent history where the US has orchestrated, or attempted to in Hamas' case, either popular anti-government 'revolutions' or a down right coup.

In Lebanon's case, it has been reported that the Bush administration via USAID established locally based 'NGOs' in Lebanon, where it was able to channel funds to local groups and politically-oriented NGOs (although we're not meant to know of their political nature) in order to instigate popular resentment against Syrian domination and its proxy Lebanese Government. Rafik al-Hariri's assassination was enough to rile the Lebanese people against Syria, but fact be known the Cedar Revolution of 2005 was no spontaneous response to a prevailing situation, as it was alleged then and is currently alleged in the case of Moldova's snap mass protests.

US-funded groups, operating in clandestine under the convenient banner of 'humanitarianism' and 'NGO' assisted to manifest and organise popular resentment to the status quo. Of course, bitterness towards Syrian domination in Lebanon had lingered in corners of Lebanese society for years, but with US funding and clandestine engagement that underlying bitterness became mobilised into popular action.

But the debate could continue on if we were to question the definition of 'popular'. Is the term popular only credible when it is clear the majority of a nation is shouting in a single voice? If so, can the 'Cedar Revolution' be deemed as popular when its effect was only a polarisation of the country? 1 million protesters indeed came out against Syria and the Karami Government, but just over a year later, 2 million protesters returned to Beirut's streets to protest against the political bloc that led the protests against Syria and subsequently took to the helm after its departure.

The same can be said of Ukraine, where the so-called 'Orange Revolution' has had a similar impact of polarising the public. The Bush administration deployed the same tactics via USAID in Ukraine and Georgia. Hamas is particular, as the US thought it could rely on Fatah (and then Israel) to militarily defeat Hamas. Although the tactics were different with Hamas, the interest remained the same ... the US will work to prevent democratically elected leaderships that fall outside the bracket of the US' global sphere of influence if the strategic value is worthy of interference.

Lebanon was of value to Bush as it was part of his grand new Middle East project. Obama appears to have backed off, and seems willing to accept a likely Hezballah victory in June's elections.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on the other hand are of another concern. Russia is another concern. Obama has signalled an intent to co-operate and improve relations with Moscow, but whether he is prepared to retreat from Bush's efforts to pull Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova out of Russia's sphere of influence remains to be seen.

Further instigation of internal tensions could tear Ukraine and Moldova apart. Georgia has already been torn apart, and Russia's manipulation of divisions within the country as a pretext for war last year sets a dangerous precedent for Ukraine and Moldova, as well as the Americans.

If the Angry Arab's suspicions are true, and it wouldn't surprise me if they were, then it suggests that certain questionable US practices under previous administrations are set to continue (not that I expected US intrusion into the internal affairs of other states to be done away with). The US will continue to pursue its interests regardless of morality, if it can get away with it.

However, those that need to learn that states only act in their national interest are the many Lebanese (and Moldovans it seems) who were and continue to be deceived that the US is going to rescue us from our misery. It's not gonna happen!

The truth about devious Dubai

"The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems. This isn't a city, it's a con-job. They lure you in telling you it's one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it's a medieval dictatorship."

Excellent article to be read by Johann Hari.

It appears the global recession is eating away at Dubai's superficial coating. The reality that lies beneath isn't pretty.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hizballah's election pledge a new politik in Lebanon?

With the constitutional deadline to submit election candidates fast approaching, the major political blocs have taken the gloves off and launched their campaigns.

Grande soirees and ceremonies have marked the beginning of a long campaign trail as election billboards and posters spruce up around the country.

What has surprised me about the conduct thus far is that political parties appear to be appropriately engaging in campaign warfare. Of course it is early days yet, but given the recent history and tension between rival political camps, many feared that the deadly inter-factional violence of May 2008 may rear its ugly head come election time this year. Reconciliation and a thaw in relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia/US appears to have hosed down fears of internal strife in Lebanon this year.

As a consequence of the regional detente, the onus of the elections has been placed on ... the Lebanese people. For once, results and positions won't be decided in a foreign capital, but indeed, by the Lebanese themselves. Given the multi-confessionalism of each of the blocs (March 14 contains Sunni, Druze and Christian parties, whilst the Opposition includes Shi'ites, Christians, Druze), major political parties are having to put forward national agendas and policies for the first time.

This is indeed an incredible development that appears to have been overlooked. Whilst the past four turbulent years have been marred by heightened sectarian competition on the surface, an undercurrent of entangled co-operation among the sects and the realisation that no sect can act alone has produced an intertwined political web.

The fact that groups like Hizballah are releasing, for the first time, a national agenda - to remove confessionalism from the political system, introduce proportional voting, combat corruption and lower the voting age to 18 - is evidence that the political dynamics in the country have indeed changed. Hizballah, renowned as a fundamentalist Shia organisation, has spent much of its three-decade existence sticking to its Shia corner, avoiding at all times the central and corrupt Lebanese political process. This led to rivals accusing Hizballah of creating a state-within-a-state. But given recent developments, the Shia party has made a major u-turn and has acknowledged that investing in a central authority (the Lebanese political establishment) is necessary to protect the interests of the Shias. That is, the interests of the Shias are intertwined with the interests of all sects and groups in Lebanon.

Sectarian groups have realised that in order to protect the interests of their community, they must indeed take into consideration the interests of other communities, therefore investing in the state's institutions (such as its political process) is essential. Thus, all parties are campaigning heavily in these elections.

Today, Hizballah is not only fighting for votes in its Shia neighbourhoods, as it has previously done, but fighting battles in the north for Sunni votes, in Mount Lebanon for Christian votes, and in Aley for the Druze votes courtesy of its allies. Therefore, it needs to produce an election platform that not only appeals to the Shi'ites (the resistance card, for example, is no longer the only tool needed), but appeals to all Lebanese. The best way to attract non-Shia voters to a Shia-led political bloc is to drum the ideas of secularism and anti-corruption. Hizballah has been forced to acknowledge the interests of all Lebanese, and have thus attempted to create a national election platform that seeks to unite and benefit all Lebanese. A sectarian party promoting a secular strategy ... the times are a changing.

Lebanese politics now operates in blocs of combined sectarian groups, forcing each party to absorb the other's concerns and formulate a common strategy that inherently is designed for a national audience that surpasses all sectarian boundaries.

Ironically, the turbulence of previous years may have in fact created this new era of combined sectarian interests and co-operation, paving the way for a more united, stable Lebanon down the track. Never before have rival sects in the country been so intertwined, and this is reflected in Hizballah's national agenda. The days where each sect had to fend for their own are gone. What is emerging is an implicit realisation nationwide that all sects share similar interests, and that they must work together within a national framework to ensure their rights are assured.

This blog post was prompted by a news article in The Daily Star.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lebanese campaign for a boycott of Israel

An academic campaign to boycott Israel has been launched in Lebanon. Although it probably has no impact within the country due to current laws forbidding any association with the Jewish state, its symbolism is particularly important for the Arab and Muslim states that refuse to break ties with the Israelis (Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, North African states for example).

The boycott is also a demonstration to the Palestinian people that whilst Arab regimes appear to have forsaken them, solidarity for their plight remains strong amongst the Arab populous. The statement is as follows, or you can access it directly here:

Statement of Academics in Lebanon

In this latest onslaught against Palestinians, Israel has attacked a university, the Ministry of Education, schools across the Gaza Strip, and several UNRWA schools. Such attacks against learning centers are not unique for Israel. Most particularly since 1975, Israel has infringed upon the right of education for Palestinians by closing universities, schools and kindergartens, and by shelling, shooting at, and raiding hundreds of schools and several universities throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

Nor have these attacks been limited against Palestinians. As academics in Lebanon, we are all too familiar with Israeli onslaughts against educational centers. In its latest assault, in 2006, for example, Israel destroyed over 50 schools throughout Lebanon, and particularly schools designed for the economically disadvantaged in the South.

We thus stand, as academics in Lebanon, in urging our colleagues, regionally and internationally, to oppose this ongoing scholasticide and to support the just demand for academic boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Specifically, we ask our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.

We further call on the enforcement of Lebanese anti-normalization laws with Israel, and thus for the prosecution of individuals and institutions in Lebanon that violate those laws and conduct collaborations, associations or investments in Israel or with Israelis.

We salute the recent statement by the Scottish Committee for the Universities of Palestine calling for a boycott of Israel, the letter signed by 300 Canadian academics to Canadian Prime Minister Harper asking for sanctions against Israel, and the appeal by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee supporting a ban on collaborations between Canadian and Israeli universities.

Academics in Lebanon who have signed on to this petition consist of faculty, lecturers, and graduate students from the University of Balamand, the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, Notre Dame University, Lebanese University, Beirut Arab University, USEK, Lebanese International University and Global University. We call on our colleagues to add their name to this statement calling for full academic boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions, and calling our colleagues, throughout the world, and most particularly those in the Arab world and those claiming to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, to comprehensively and consistently boycott and divest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from normalization in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.

[to submit your signature, email Rania Masri ]

Sawsan Abdulrahim
Sana Abidib
May Abboud
Michel Abou Ghantous
Dahna Abourahme
Mona Abu Rayyan
Mohamad Alameddine
Rayane Alamuddin
Falah Ali
Mahmoud El-Ali
Rayan El-Amine
Karma Bibi
Nabil Dajani
Daniel Drennan
Nabil Fares
Nicolas Gabriel
Aline Germani
Sabah Ghandour
Rima Habib
Samer Habre
Nicolas Haddad
Hratch Hajetian
Roger Hajjar
Sari Hanafi
Sirene Harb
Diala Hawi
Ihad Hedroj
Sami Hermez
Ibrahim El-Hussari
Maha Issa
Samer Jabbour
Paul Jahshan
Fatme Al-Jamil
Maher Jarrar
Rasha Al-Jundi
Tamar Kabakian-Khasholian
Faysal El-Kak
Ghada Kalakesh
Rabih Kamleh
Samar Khalil
Nikola Kosmatopoulos
Michel Majdalani
Jean Said Makdisi
Judy Makhoul
Maya Mansour
Muzna Al-Masri
Rania Masri
Zéna Meskaoui
Cynthia Myntti
Aida Naaman
Omar Nashabe
Hoda Nasrallah
Youssef Nasser
Mike Orr
Hibah Osman
Gillian Piggott
Daniel F. Rivera
Joelle Rizk
Nada Saab
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
Sofia Saadeh
Naim Salem
Nisreen Salti
Helen Samaha-Nuwayhid
Rima Sarraf
Richard Saumarez Smith
Rosemary Sayigh
Kirsten Scheid
Eugene Sensing-Dabbous
Rabih Sultan
Lyna Al Tabbal
Jihad Touma
Hanan Toukan
Nazek Yared
Marian Yazbek
Samar Zebian
Hussein Zeidan
Mohammed Zubeidi
Huda Zurayk
Rami Zurayk

[updated continually]