Category Archives: Middle East

In Defence of Hamas and Hezbollah

One of the persistent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn is to portray him as anti-semitic and a friend of terrorists. He has met all kinds of apparently nasty people and has defended both Hamas and Hezbollah. These two organisations are still regarded by the establishment as terrorist organisations. However Jeremy Corbyn is quite right to speak up on their behalf. Their designation as terrorists is meaningless. It is also worth noting that they are very different organisations, working in different countries. They do have some things in common though. The leadership of both tends to be very socially conservative and strict in religious observance. Many of their followers will also fall into this category, but by no means all. For both Hamas and Hezbollah are also providers of social, welfare, health and education services.  But above all both are primarily resistance movements. Which means, like all resistance movements in history, they will when necessary, resist with arms. And this is what the British, American and Israeli establishments most dislike about them.

There are significant differences between the two organisations. Hamas operates solely in Palestine. Like most Palestinians its members are predominantly Sunni Moslems. It was formed to offer a more steadfast resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. An occupation which is illegal under international law and contrary to almost all UN resolutions. Despite this Israel continues to steal Palestinian land. What remains of Palestine in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is effectively an open air prison. Israel controls just about everything, including the right to travel, both within Palestine and without. Unlike Fatah, which sold away almost all of the Palestinians’ cards with the Oslo agreements, agreements that Israel has never honoured, Hamas refuses to willingly accept Israeli demands for yet more subservience.

For this refusal to accept permanent second class rights in their homeland, Israel has repeatedly tried to obliterate Hamas as a movement, with regular invasions of Gaza and incursions into the West Bank. Israel clearly does not care that in waging war on Hamas their military murders thousands of innocent Palestinians, with their massive reservoir of jet fighter planes, tanks and warships. These Israeli wars are nothing less than the slaughter of innocents. Yet it is Hamas that gets called the terrorist. Welcome to the double speak of the western world!

Hezbollah on the other hand is a purely Lebanese movement. Unlike Hamas, Hezbollah is primarily a Shia Moslem movement. It was formed to represent, protect and advocate for the rights of the Shia minority in Lebanon. The Lebanon is a multi religious country with three main communities. Historically the Maronite Christians have been at the apex of Lebanese society and have dominated the offices of the state and the economy. Second in importance came the Sunni Moslem community, with the Shia more or less at the bottom of the heap. They were among the poorest and least represented people in Lebanon. However over the past decades the Shia have grown in numbers and by many unofficial estimates, due to the lack of any official census, the Shia may well be the largest community in the country. Alas for them they still remain third in the pecking order for state and government positions.

As well as representing and advocating for their own religious community, Hezbollah has always been at the forefront of resistance to Israeli aggression and occupation. It seems to be somehow forgotten but Israel has a nasty record of invasion and occupation of Lebanon. The south of the county has borne the brunt of these illegal invasions and occupations. And the south of Lebanon is where most of the Shia community resides. So it was not surprise that it was Shia groups, the largest and most important of which was Hezbollah, which led the resistance and fight back against Israel. Yet once again as with Palestine the aggressor, Israel gets off with barely a slap on the wrist from the west, while the victims, Hezbollah, get tarred as terrorists.

Absent further Israeli invasions of Lebanon, Hezbollah is most unlikely to get involved in any action against Israel. Its prime concern is the welfare and rights of the Shia community in Lebanon. As such they deserve our support and understanding. As does Hamas. As the main standard bearers of resistance to Israeli aggression, which goes on unabated, and mostly unreported in the west, Hamas will remain in the sights of the Israeli military. We should not be surprised if they from time to time choose to respond in kind.

In both Lebanon and Palestine the real aggressors and promoters of terror is israel and its unrelenting determination to absorb all of Palestine. Time for Justice for Palestine.

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In defence of Hamas

It can be all too easy, wrapped up as many of us are in the warm glow of the Commonwealth Games and the referendum campaign, to ignore the terrible slaughter that is continuing in Gaza. For weeks now the Israelis have been pounding that tiny enclave with all kinds of bombs and missiles. That brave, moral army of Israel has by now succeeded in killing over 1,600 Palestinians, nearly all of them civilians, including women and children. Not quite sure what the legal definition of terrorism is, but this kind of wholesale slaughter must come pretty close to it. Yet our governments and most of our media still praise Israel for its restraint and its self-defence.

All the very serious people continue the refrain – Israel has the right to defend itself. But hardly any bother to ask, self-defence against what? The standard Israeli response if ever asked, is self-defence against Hamas. And of course Hamas is always qualified as a terrorist organization. And Israelis then plead, who in their right mind would negotiate with a terrorist organization?  Well just about every government in the world as it happens. Including the Israeli, when it suits them, which is very rare, to be true.

But is Hamas a terrorist organization? A little bit of history here. Hamas is a Palestinian organization. It is not just limited to Gaza. Indeed Hamas won a majority at the last Palestinian parliamentary election across the whole of Palestine, including the West Bank. This was in 2006. Israel responded to this democratic election by refusing to recognize the new government and instead launched a series of raids in Gaza and the West Bank and arrested 33 of newly elected Hamas MPs. The USA and the EU supported Israel in this and imposed sanctions on Palestine.  As a result Hamas was effectively restricted to Gaza. However Hamas remains popular across Palestine.

Secondly, Hamas is primarily a religious organization and was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. As part of its religious work, Hamas provides most of the social, health, welfare, cultural and educational services in Gaza. This in large part explains its continuing popularity. Hamas workers are also regarded as generally honest and free of corruption.

Thirdly, Hamas is a resistance organization. This of course is the bit that Israel does not like one little bit. The USA, the UK and the EU also do not like all this resistance. While Israel has the absolute right to self-defence, this right it seems does not apply to Palestinians. Palestinians obviously have no rights, only duties. And that duty above all is to know their place and to do everything to please and appease Israel. However, no matter what the Palestinians do in terms of recognising Israel, maintaining the peace, Israel never finds this enough. In the West Bank for example, Fatah has done just about everything that Israel has asked of it, yet this has not stopped the Occupation and its continuing encroachment into the West Bank. Appeasing Israel brings no rewards, only further humiliation and loss of territory. Resistance, it would seem, is the only option remaining to Palestinians.

Resistance of course does not have to be violent. Gandhi in India led a non violent resistance to British rule. But let us be clear, resistance to Occupation is natural and enshrined in International Law. People living under occupation are entitled to resist, using any and all means at their disposal. This includes military resistance, using home made rockets and anything else at hand. People who resist occupation are always regarded as terrorists by the occupiers. The British have centuries of experience of this. Most of the now independent countries currently participating in the friendly Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, were once upon a time led by resistance fighters whom the British were quite happy to condemn as terrorists. Even when it was not directly involved, Britain was more than willing to regard just about all resistance fighters as terrorists. Remember Nelson Mandela anyone – that well known terrorist who was part of the military wing of the ANC and who never renounced the right of Black South Africans to use violence as part of their struggle for freedom.

In many countries in Europe, the popular memory of the 2nd World War is heavily dominated by recollection of the various resistance or partisan movements that engaged in some very bloody actions against their German occupiers. At the time the Germans regarded these actions as terrorism and enacted even bloodier reprisals, often against the civilian population. Now these resistance fighters are national heroes.

Palestine now is no different. Palestinians are living under a brutal occupation which continues to confiscate their land and which controls almost all aspects of their lives.  Palestinians have the right to resistance this occupation. They have the right to use whatever means they deem appropriate and at hand. Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a legitimate resistance movement and we should support all those who bravely resist the Israeli occupation, including Hamas. Just take a look at the numbers of civilians who have been killed and maimed during this recent onslaught and work out who is indulging in a bit of terrorism.

It is important to remember that not all Israelis or all Jewish people support the current Israeli onslaught. Here is a very good example of reporting and analysis from Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist, who points out to his fellow Israelis just what this fighting is all about – Freedom for Palestine. Finally here is a beautiful poem, based on the Jewish Lamentations, written by Rabbi Brant Rosen. Remember, if you want peace, work for justice.

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More hypocrisy from the West

The recent murderous events in Ukraine and Palestine offer yet again another example of the West’s addiction to hypocrisy. This time it is so blatant as the two events overlap. The shooting down of the Malaysian airplane over Ukrainian territory with the attendant deaths of all those aboard, has unleashed a veritable frenzy of outrage. Outrage primarily directed against Russia and in particular its President, Vladimir Putin. Some newspapers even went so far as to call Mr Putin a terrorist. All within hours of the shooting. Long before any concrete evidence could possibly have emerged. Now it seems that even the USA intelligence service doesn’t hold Russia or Putin responsible for the shooting. As yet nobody knows fully for sure who did fire the rocket or missile. Probably some pro Russian group of Ukrainians. But we still await concrete evidence. Not that the lack of evidence has ever bothered our media or most of the governments in the West. Any excuse for a bit of Russian baiting is game. Both the USA and the EU have called for further sanctions against Russia. While most of the media remain thralled to painting Russia as an insatiable, militaristic, expansionist enemy. The age old fear of Russia is never far below the surface in the UK.

Contrast this fury and hatred of Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin with the equanimity with which the West continues to treat Israel and its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. In the case of Israel and it latest, ongoing bloody massacres of Palestinians in Gaza, there is no doubt whatsoever who is to blame. Mr Netanyahu makes no attempt to hide his ownership of the current air and ground assault on Gaza. On the contrary he likes to boast about it. As with previous Israeli assaults on Gaza, this one is as one-sided as the others. Only Israel possesses the military hardware, planes, tanks, missiles and goodness knows what else. All of it the most up-to-date of its kind in the world. Israel also seems to possess unlimited amounts of these lethal weapons. On the other side the poor Palestinians have nothing much more than home made and pretty ineffectual rockets. This of course explains why so many Palestinians have been killed and severely wounded.  Over 650 people have already been killed by the Israeli forces.  The majority of these will be civilians, including too many children. While this time around Israel has also suffered some casualties, 31 at the latest count, all but two were soldiers. So the imbalance in the death toll, not to mention the destruction of buildings, is immense. The usual Israeli excuse that this is an exercise in self-defence is just more propaganda. There were no Israeli deaths in the years prior to the latest Israeli assault. The excessive response with the overwhelming majority of Palestinian deaths civilians makes a mockery of this claim of self-defence. You don’t need to kill hundreds of civilians to protect your country against home made rockets. Even the Americans admit that Israel’s assault is anything but pinpoint.

Yet, despite all this knowledge about who is doing the killing and who ordered this killing spree, the West seems unwilling to do anything about it. Well the general public in most countries is pretty aware of what is going on and has made their disapproval of Israel known through mass demonstrations. However our leaders, especially in the UK and the USA are as wedded to Israel as ever. Israel in their eyes can never do any wrong.  Russia, which was not directly responsible for one terrible action is subject to pillory, sanctions and an arms embargo, However, Israel, which is directly responsible for the ongoing killing and maiming of hundreds and hundreds of civilians is praised. No sanctions, no arms embargo, not even a mild diplomatic rebuke. Little in the past can equal this brutal and pathetic, if not unexpected, confirmation of the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy at the core of the West. Israel is an uncontrolled war machine, masquerading as a state, a rogue state if ever there was one.  Allowed to unleash its terror on Palestinians solely due to the complicity of the USA and its craven allies in Europe. Now is the time to take a stand for Palestine and the rights of Palestinians for justice.

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Egypt Burns and the West Remains Silent

skynews_897874The continuing violence in Egypt as the military dictatorship tries to eradicate all opposition is a terrible reminder of what can go wrong when democracy is overthrown. The current crisis in Egypt has also once again exposed the bankruptcy and hypocrisy of our Western governments. Where were the ringing denouncements of the military coup? Instead the most we got were some half hearted misgivings. One does not need to like or approve of President Morsi to oppose his violent overthrow. One does not need to like or approve of the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose the banning of their organization. One does not need to support or approve of the Morsi government to oppose what has happened. The claim that the Egyptian economy was badly mismanaged by the Morsi government must ring rather hollow in certain parts of Europe. Just how bad must things get in the likes of Greece, Spain and Portugal for the West to support a military takeover in these countries? Not liking your government is the norm for at least half the population in all countries. Often a large majority dislike or disapprove of their government. I do not have any time for our nasty coalition in Westminster. But no matter how much I abhor the government I do not call for our generals to intervene and lock up David Cameron et al. I, along with my fellow citizens will get our change to vote the buggers out.

But the so-called liberal opposition to Morsi in Egypt was not prepared to wait for the next round of elections. I wonder why? Did they think they might lose? At any rate to call for a military overthrow of an elected government is a very dangerous route to embark on. After all if this becomes the game, anyone can play. If President Morsi had attempted to do away with elections or subvert the constitution then there would be a case for his overthrow. But he had not done so and as far as I am aware there is no evidence that he was planning to do so. The current crack down is unlikely to usher in some kind of liberal dawn for Egypt. The previous military regimes were not known for their respect for the law.

In all this it is up to the Egyptians to work out their future. What is in question for us in the West is how do we respond to a military coup against a democratically elected government? The answer it seems is that if we do not approve of the government in question then we do nothing. Even worse, we let it be known that we will co-operate with the military. What kind of message is this? Once again, if further evidence were needed, the West is exposed as a bunch of hypocrites. Preaching democracy and the rule of law and subverting it whenever it suits. The very least the West can do is to withhold all aid to the military regime until Morsi is released. Don’t hold your breath!

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Morsi No More?

Mohammed MorsiThe forced removal of Egypt’s President Morsi by the army and his subsequent arrest has met with mixed responses both in Egypt and in the West. There was clearly a lot of vocal opposition in Egypt to Morsi and the Muslim Botherhood government. But does this justify a military coup? And why has the UK and other Western governments been unwilling to call this a coup? It is hard to imagine that the UK would not condemn for example a military coup in Greece. Yet the situation in Greece is far from stable with strong opposition to the current government. The same could be said of Spain and Portugal. Yet nobody thinks it would be any kind of answer for the military to step in and arrest the government. Is their a whiff of racism here? We in Europe are democrats, while Arabs are not quite up to this yet? This seems to be the basis for most comment in the West. Yet Morsi was democratically elected President in fair and free elections only one year ago. While there is little the West or anyone else can do to stop the Egyptian military from mounting a coup, the West can loudly and roundly condemn such a move. The West could also impose sanctions on the new military government until Morsi is re-instated. But clearly the West did not approve of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. So why bother to help him in his time of need? Much better to stick with our tried and tested friends in the Middle East – those bastions of democracy and liberalism such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. The West does not need to condemn these countries since they are not democratic anyway and this lack of democracy has never bothered Western governments in the past. There could be something healthy about this, if only our governments would admit it openly. Just get rid of the hypocrisy. For all our talk of promoting democracy, the West has never found it easy to accept the results of democratic elections when they result in governments that do not instinctively support the West. In these cases we are quite happy to support and even assist in their removal. Much better a tame and friendly dictator than a vibrant and potentially hostile democracy.

So it is all too predictable that our governments in the West would turn a blind eye to what is clearly a military coup. It is not at all clear just what the millions of protesters hope to get out of this. To repeat the basic fact once again, Morsi was elected President in an open and democratic election. While it is legitimate to protest against this or that policy, it is never legitimate to call for an elected government to be forcibly removed. Last year the various opposition groups had their chance to get organised and present a united front against the Muslim Brotherhood. But here lies the rub. The opposition is far from united, other than opposing Morsi. It is not at all clear that another election, if the military allow one, will produce a different result. What evidence is there that the various deeply divided opposition forces can get together now that Morsi has gone? Which raises the question as to what will happen to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood? Will they be set free and allowed to run candidates in new elections? And if not, what kind of democracy will that be? The whole essence of democracy is that you win at the ballot box, not through the military. This of course assumes that the military allow new elections and allow free and fair elections. Their record on this account is none too promising. If violence and force is what counts two can play at that game. What happens if the Muslim Brotherhood decides to mount an armed struggle against the current government. Given the West’s support for the rebels in Syria, how would our governments react to an armed struggle in the name of restoring an elected President. The omens are not good for Egypt. This is primarily a matter for Egyptians. But it is sad that our government is so unwilling to condemn a military coup against an elected President. This is yet another very bad precedent for us to set.

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