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Palestinians not required to ride in the back of the bus—they are not allowed to ride the bus at all

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Israel has moved to a level of racism and segregation worse than the early 20th century American South—much worse, considering the level of attacks and deaths in Gaza. And we are funding that regime:

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From the link:

“Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”

- John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

* Source: The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” written by Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, dated April 11, 2014.

According to this report, the Obama Administration gave $3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Israel for the Fiscal Year 2014. In addition, the U.S contributed $504 million to the joint U.S.-Israel Missile Defense Program during FY 2014. If we include that number, American taxpayers give Israel $9.9 million per day.

Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package FY 2009 to FY 2018. In 2012, the U.S. began giving Israel $3.1 billion a year (or an average of $8.5 million a day) and promised to provide that amount every year through FY 2018.

Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid (see how other nations compare). According to the CRS report, the President’s request for Israel for FY 2015 will encompass approximately 55% of total U.S. foreign military financing worldwide. According to the CRS report, “[a]nnual FMF grants to Israel represent 23% to 25% of the overall Israeli defense budget.”

Contrary to ordinary U.S. policy, Israel has been and continues to be allowed to use approximately 25% of this military aid to purchase equipment from Israeli manufacturers. According to CRS, “no other recipient of U.S. military assistance has been granted this benefit.” Thanks in part to this indirect U.S. subsidy, Israel’s arms industry has become one of the strongest in the world. “Between 2001 and 2008, it was the 7th largest arms supplier to the world with sales worth a total of 9.9 billion.”

The United States also contributes funds for a joint U.S.-Israeli Missile Defense Program designed to thwart short-range missiles and rockets fired by non-state actors (such as Hamas and Hezbollah) as well as mid- and longer-range ballistic missiles (this refers to Iran and/or Syria’s asenals). Arrow II, Arrow III, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome refer to different projects under the umbrella of this Missile Defense program. In 2014, the U.S. spent $504 million on this and plans to spend $272.7 million in 2015.

By all accounts the United States has given more money to Israel than to any other country. The Congressional Research Service’s conservative estimate of total cumulative US aid to Israel (not adjusted for inflation) from 1949 through 2014 is $121 billion.

An October 2013 Washington Report article “A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $130 Billion,” by Shirl McArthur, puts the cumulative total even higher.

According to McArthur, “[T]he indirect or consequential costs to the American taxpayer as a result of Washington’s blind support for Israel exceed by many times the amount of direct U.S. aid to Israel. Some of these ‘indirect or consequential’ costs would include the costs to U.S. manufacturers of the Arab boycott, the costs to U.S. companies and consumers of the Arab oil embargo and consequent soaring oil prices as a result of U.S. support for Israel in the 1973 war, and the costs of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions on Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria. (For a discussion of these larger costs, see ‘The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion,’ by the late Thomas R. Stauffer, June 2003 Washington Report, p. 20.)”

** Source: The Congressional Research Service’s Report “U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians”, written by Jim Zanotti, Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs, dated September 30, 2013.

According to the report, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2014 at 12:05 pm

Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” “coward”

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In the Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg, who has served in the IDF and is a strong proponent of Israel, writes a blistering profile of Bibi Netanyahu:

The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively “unbreakable” bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it’s ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.

The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet. Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has “written off” the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached. For their part, Obama administration officials express, in the words of one official, a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.

Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)  But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.” I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. From time to time, current and former administration officials have described Netanyahu as a national leader who acts as though he is mayor of Jerusalem, which is to say, a no-vision small-timer who worries mainly about pleasing the hardest core of his political constituency. (President Obama, in interviews with me, has alluded to Netanyahu’s lack of political courage.)

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2014 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

US response to the killing of American children depends on the identity of the killers

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Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept:

Last Wednesday in Jerusalem, a three-month-old American baby was killed, and eight other people injured, when a car plowed into a crowded sidewalk; the driver, a 20-year-old Palestinian named Abed a-Rahman a-Shaludi, was killed by police when he tried to flee the scene. The family of the driver insisted it was an accident, but Israeli officials immediately called it a “terrorist act.” Some Israelis speculated that it was in retaliation for the killing in the West Bank of a 5-year-old Palestinian girl days earlier by an Israeli settler who ran his car into her (and another Palestinian girl, seriously injured) and then fled the scene (Palestinian officials denounced that incident as “terrorism”).

Yesterday, a soldier in the Israeli military shot and killed a 14-year-old boy in the West Bank who was participating in a protest against the 5-decade Israeli occupation. The boy, Orwah Hammad . . ., was a U.S. citizen as well as a Palestinian; he was born in New Orleans and moved with his family to the West Bank when he was 6. The IDF claimed he was throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and that another man was preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail, and that this justified the live ammunition they fired.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement about the two incidents.Here’s the one it issued about last week’s Jerusalem incident where the Palestinian driver killed the American baby, issued on the very day the incident took place (i.e., prior to any investigation):

Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.

Here’s the markedly different statement the State Department issued last night about the fatal shooting by an Israeli soldier of the 14-year-old American boy:

Death of a U.S. Minor in Silwad

The United States expresses its deepest condolences to the family of a U.S. citizen minor who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces during clashes in Silwad on October 24. Officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance. We call for a speedy and transparent investigation, and will remain closely engaged with the local authorities, who have the lead on this investigation. We continue to urge all parties to help restore calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of the tragic recent incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

There is certainly nothing wrong with waiting for the results of an investigation before making definite statements, but that’s not what the State Department did in the Jerusalem incident, which was instantly labelled a “despicable” act of “terror.” Moreover, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 October 2014 at 2:08 pm

The momentum to recognize a Palestinian State is unstoppable

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Farhang Johanpour writes at Informed Comment:

Once again, the British Parliament has led the way with an epoch-making decision. On Monday 13 October 2014, British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing Palestine as a state. With 274 to 12 votes they passed a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Conservative Party’s whips advised the party’s MPs to stay away from the vote. As a result, nearly 90 per cent of the ruling Conservative Party members were absent from the vote. (1)

The Israeli government lobbied actively against the motion. The Zionist Federation of Great Britain, the oldest Zionist federation in the world, launched a campaign calling on British Jews to write letters to their MPs, urging them to oppose the motion. The more mainstream Jewish organizations also joined the campaign.

On the other hand, a number of Jewish MPs spoke eloquently in favour of the motion. The veteran Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, supporting the motion, accused Israel of “harming the image of Judaism” and contributing to anti-Semitism. In fact, the motion would not have made it to the floor of the House without the support of the Jewish leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.

Most of those who spoke in favour of the motion were emphatic about Israel’s right to exist, but they felt that it was time to give the Palestinians the same rights that the Israelis enjoy.

Nearly a hundred years ago, on 2 November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a short statement that has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration, which set in motion the events that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

It read: . . .

Continue reading. It’s a lengthy post that includes much valuable historical background that provides some insight into how the situation became so wretched.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Extremely interesting and informative post on tribalism and counter-insurgency

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David Moore has a good post at Informed Comment:

The rise of ISIL, as well as the resurgence of the Taliban, has brought numerous “experts” out to offer analyses on the best way to combat these developments. The consensus is to bomb and arm (or re-arm Sunni) groups to fight ISIL. Since I have written a book on insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare in the First and Second Indochina Wars, I feel qualified to point out that my research shows we are on the wrong path for defeating ISIS, the Taliban, or any other insurgency in the future. (The book is based on my 1982 Master’s thesis in anthropology.)

My interest in unconventional warfare stemmed from my service in Vietnam, along with interest and education in the ancient Middle East and anthropology (a multi-disciplinary approach here is important: the first documented counter-insurgency dates to around 1,500 BC, between the Hittite Empire and Kaska tribesmen). Tribesmen have been recruited in history by diverse empires such as Babylonia, Rome and France, a practice that led to some disastrous outcomes for all three. This led me to write an anthropological case study of the effects of insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare on the various tribal groups of Vietnam, from the French involvement to the American. I later published it as “Tribal Soldiers of Vietnam: the Effects of Unconventional Warfare on Tribal Populations.”

In my book, I note that the French discovered in the First Indochina War they were not only fighting the “typical” or “historical” insurgency, i.e. guerrilla war, but a much more complex form of warfare combining politics with unconventional warfare. The signature aspect of this new insurgency, which the French considered the key aspect of modern insurgency, was labeled “parallel hierarchies.” Simply put, the insurgency establishes an effective parallel government and social services, mimicking the ineffective government offices in contested tribal areas. The French ultimately published in 1957 a landmark—but much ignored—study in the magazine Revue Militaire d’Information devoted entirely to the parallel hierarchies.

One way I described the two competing forms of warfare was through the formula RW = (GW + PW), meaning revolutionary (insurgency) warfare was a close combination of guerrilla warfare married to political warfare. The North Vietnamese set up efficient parallel services of courts, social services, military, etc. I wrote the formula for Western counter-insurgency as COIN = (GW) + (PW). Lacking an effective central government and incorruptible bureaucrats, not to mention lacking the will to create one, the quick Western fix was to hire local warlords while leaving their often brutal mechanism for control intact. These warlords supplied their own version of “anti-communism,” telling Western military and political leaders what they wanted to hear while pursuing their own agendas, oftentimes counterproductive by driving their victims into the insurgency.
The expedient use by the US military of warlord armies to fight these insurgents, in my opinion, was a foreseeable catastrophe.

The explosion of armed gangs extorting villages and individuals in Iraq and Afghanistan was not a surprise for anyone familiar with counter-insurgency in Vietnam. As I showed in my book, the growth of armed groups demanding “protection,” “taxes,” etc., is directly related to the standard recruiting and training practices of Western militaries.

Conversely, using the communist model employing parallel hierarchies, insurgencies co-opt and absorb through politics. Politics and religion can overcome tribalism, but US counter-insurgency doctrine (especially in the Middle East) has only further entrenched tribal animosities, sectarianism and chaos. As I showed in my book, left to their own devices, tribal minorities may unite for a united political end, such as independence. . .

Continue reading.

At the link you’ll find not only the rest of the post, but also a video of a panel discussion of tribal societies and tribalism in Pakiston.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:00 pm

Moving slowly toward peace: Israeli Squatters Sabotage Palestinian Wells in Jordan Valley

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I realize that Israel has the right to defend itself, but it also seems to believe that it has the right to chop down Palestinian orchards, beat up Palestinian women, and wreck Palestinian wells. Of course, the Israelis doing this because they want to steal the Palestinians’ land and homes and that is most easily done if they can drive away or kill the Palestinians. So they set to it, as they have for years and years. A news report at Informed Comment:

Dozens of Israeli settlers damaged wells belonging to Palestinians in the Khirbet Samra area of the Jordan Valley, a local official said Wednesday.

Aref Daraghma, the head of a local village council, told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli settlers who gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot damaged more than seven wells in the al-Malah area of Khirbet Samra.

The covers of the wells were damaged, and parts of some of the wells were “destroyed,” Daraghma said.

He said the settlers’ actions were meant to pressure Palestinian residents to leave the area.

The Jordan Valley is within the 61 percent of the occupied West Bank it is under full Israeli military control as “Area C.”

Area C comprises the only contiguous piece of land connecting 227 Palestinian residential communities in areas A and B as well as about 150,000 Palestinian residents.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

Every year there are dozens of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, but such crimes are rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

It is not religion that is wrecking the Muslim world

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Take a look at what else is going on. Religion is often used as a kind of tarpaulin: it covers a bunch of disparate things, presenting only itself to view. Best to look under the tarp. Sean McElwee writes in Salon:

Earlier this month, the perennial debate about religion and atheism was stirred up again by the combustible combination of Bill Maher, Ben Affleck and Sam Harris. And, while much ink has already been spilled dissecting the debate and its implications from nearly every conceivable angle, much of that coverage has been problematic, to say the least.

At the core of this debate is the extent to which the religion of Islam is responsible for the violence of ISIS, and other atrocities often committed in the name of god. But the problem with such debates, as I’ve argued previously, is that they mistake cause and effect. Religious belief is ultimately historically contingent: Religious beliefs, like cultural beliefs, are shaped by the material circumstances that give rise to them.

Those, such as Maher and Harris, who wish to defend “liberalism” against the tyranny of “religious fanaticism” are attempting to shift the blame from actual historical circumstances to ephemeral ideologies.  Should we blame the rise of ISIS on “religious fanaticism,” or on the failed 2003 invasion of Iraq, the de-Baathification policy, the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the disastrous regime of Nouri al-Maliki? Furthermore, there is a long history of colonial oppression, military aggression and economic hegemony. These complaints, as well as historical grievances relating back to the Crusades, inform the views of radicals like Osama bin Laden.

Further, while the violence of ISIS is put in terms of a “caliphate” and religious symbols, such strategic violence has been deployed in war for centuries. The political scientist Stathis N. Kalyvas has written a rather comprehensive essay on the military tactics of ISIS and how they relate to other guerrilla fighters. He notes,

there is nothing particularly Islamic or jihadi about the organization’s violence. The practices described above have been used by a variety of insurgent (and also incumbent) actors in civil wars across time and space. Therefore, easy cultural interpretations should be challenged. Third, if the Islamic State ought to be characterized, it would be as a revolutionary (or radical) insurgent actor … Revolutionary groups can appropriate a variety of other causes (nationalism, ethnic or sectarian identities), but their revolutionary identity is central and helps make sense of much of their activity.

Similarly, the best way to understand Osama bin Laden is not as a religious radical yearning for virgins in the afterlife, but rather as a political actor repelling what he sees as a colonial incursion. This is the preferred interpretation of Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who spent three years hunting Osama bin Laden. He writes in “Imperial Hubris,”

One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat lies in continuing to believe — at the urging of senior U.S. leaders — that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than for what we do. The Islamic world is not so offended by our democratic system of politics…

He argues that, “What the United States does in formulating and implementing policies affecting the Muslim world, however, is infinitely more inflammatory.” So rather than seeing terrorism as the outgrowth of religion, it stems from, “the Muslim perception that the things they love are being intentionally destroyed by America that engenders Islamist hatred toward the United States …

This leads to the core delusion pushed by the Maher/Harris/Dawkins “New Atheist” team: that religion exists independently of social, political and economic systems, and that religion influences these structures. In fact, the opposite is true: Religion is largely the handmaiden of economic and political power. It is fluid, able to mold to whatever needs are suited to those wielding it.

As Karl Marx writes,

The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

His colleague Friedrich Engels adds in a letter to Franz Mehring,

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.

While these ideas seem radical, there are important real-life examples of the ways in which changes in material structures shift cultural norms (or ideology). Take, for instance, birth control. The advent of birth control (a material change) has dramatically changed our political, cultural and legal superstructure. Women rapidly joined the workforce and elite educational institutions were almost entirely reshaped. As contraception has improved, social norms against sexual promiscuity have declined. Regardless of what religious people believe, their opposition to birth control was rooted in a simple, but now outdated, calculation: Premarital sex used to bear very large costs in the form of children and disease and these costs have been minimized. Jeremy Greenwood has demonstrated persuasively that the sexual revolution has been rooted in profound material changes, which have altered cultural norms.

These days, religions are already shifting to accommodate this sexual change, just as the church has accommodated to largely accept divorce, will sooner than later accommodate to accept gays, and will eventually accept other norms now considered odd. As population growth presses on economic and environmental constraints, stigmas about contraception and abortion will inevitably erode. And yet the religious texts will remain the same; they will simply be interpreted differently. . .

Continue reading. One good point made later:

When Maher criticized all Muslims, he paints with a broad brush manifold people, interpretations, cultures and sects. But what he is crudely attempting to say is that some religious beliefs are responsible for violence in the area of the world he is discussing. Might there be some other source of violence in the region and anger at the United States? Might colonization, imperial interventionism, deprivation, war, murder and widespread theft explain the chaos in the region? Might Sykes-Picot be of some remaining relevance? (Ironically, the “New Atheists” share with Christian conservatives their desire to use history as nothing but an ideological bludgeon.) The militant Islamic ideology, as we have seen, is not unique to the region; such tactics are commonly used by guerrilla groups fighting against overwhelming power. It’s as if Sam Harris and his cohort believe that were we to ignore religion, the Palestinians would be content to live under an occupying force. History suggests otherwise.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2014 at 9:10 am

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