29 Jul 2010

The UN in the Israel-Palestine struggle

Trans-Arab Research Institute, January 2001

The United Nations was both venue and player in the complicated international diplomacy that led to the partition of Palestine in 1947 and creation of the state of Israel in 1948. By the end of that year the UN General Assembly had passed Resolution 194, affirming the right of Palestinian refugees from the 1947-48 war to return to their homes and to receive compensation for their losses. When Israel joined the UN the following year, its membership (resolution 273) was contingent on its acceptance of the obligations imposed by earlier resolutions, including 194.

But from the start, once Israel was created and on its way to stability, the UN was largely excluded from the politics of the issue. UN peacekeepers were stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border, and UNRWA, the UN Refugee Works Agency was established to provide for the refugees until such time as they would return home, but there was little involvement of the UN as an institution in political decision-making. That process was largely dominated by the Security Council’s powerful permanent members -- and by the time of the 1967 war, the US, France, Britain and the Soviet Union were in charge.

In 1966 the US had begun providing Israel with new, advanced planes and missiles. Describing the new US strategy in the Middle East, James Feron wrote in the New York Times (11 June 1966), that the "United States has come to the conclusion that it must rely on a local power -- the deterrent of a friendly power -- as a first line to stave off America's direct involvement. Israel feels she fits this definition." The Cold War had come to the Middle East, and the UN was out of the loop.

Over the next months tensions increased between Israel and each of the surrounding Arab states. In April 1967 there were artillery exchanges between Israel and Syria. The US Sixth Fleet remained on maneuvers off the Syrian coast. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser symbolically asked the UN to move its observers, then inside Egyptian territory, to the Israeli border. The UN told him he could not ask for UN troop movement, his choice was only to demand complete removal of the UN troops, or to leave them where they were. Under pressure from other Arab governments, and unwilling to back down, Nasser demanded the withdrawal of all UN troops from Egypt. On May 23 Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The rhetoric escalated, and in early June Israel attacked Egypt, destroying virtually all of Cairo’s air force on the ground.

By the end of the Six Day War, the remaining parts of Palestine, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, plus the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai were occupied. Two hundred fifty thousand more Palestinians were forced into exile, and a million more were now under Israeli military occupation. After 1967 US willingness to rely on Israel vastly expanded, and relations with the Arabs would be secondary to the emerging US-Israeli alliance.

What role did the UN play after the 1976 war?

But a different international consensus took shape in the UN following the June war and Israel's subsequent occupations. Resolution 242 began with a statement emphasizing "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security." While referring to the Palestinians only in the context of refugees, rather than reaffirming their national rights, the resolution unequivocally called for "the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." The resolution was drafted largely by the four powers of the Security Council -- the limited reference to Palestinian rights was a reflection of US influence on the process. And for another two years or so, the same powers operated within the UN to shape the direction --and the limits -- of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

For years following the 1967 war, the UN voted over and over in favor of an international peace conference, under the auspices of the UN, with all parties to the conflict (including the Palestine Liberation Organization which emerged as a serious force after 1967) to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict once and for all. But the US always voted no. By about 1969, Britain and France, the former colonial powers of the Middle East but now colonial has-beens, had largely ceded influence to the Cold War’s main contenders, the US and the Soviet Union. In the UN context, it was increasingly only Moscow and Washington who played a role in orchestrating and limiting the diplomacy.

After the death of Nasser in September 1970, Egypt's new president, Anwar al-Sadat, began strong peace overtures to the US, believing only Washington could pressure Israel to return the occupied Sinai. By the summer of 1972, Sadat went even further: he expelled the 15,000 Soviet military advisers from Egypt, providing Washington with an unmistakable signal of Cairo's intentions.

But it proved insufficient to break through. Egyptian diplomats, even after the dramatic Soviet expulsion, received an icy reception in Washington. Sadat began to believe that only a limited war could create the necessary pressure for an Israeli-Egyptian settlement.

The strategic significance of the Middle East was increasing already, as US defeat in Viet Nam loomed. In May 1973 King Feisal of Saudi Arabia made clear to President Nixon and to Henry Kissinger that the Saudis needed Arab allies to help defend US interests in OPEC, and that he could not find such allies as long as the US backed Israeli occupation of Arab lands. US oil companies agreed. US control of Middle East oil provided not only enormous profits but important US leverage over Western Europe and Japan, for whom the US served as guarantor of oil access. Kissinger, a longtime associate of the Rockefeller family of oil barons, agreed that changes were needed, but was unwilling to risk a major collision with Congress by suddenly pressuring Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

As it turned out, the Egyptian and Syrian leaders were just then beginning plans for what they thought would be a limited war designed to create just the sort of crisis that could lead to more serious changes in political alliances and on the ground. On October 6, 1973, Egyptian troops launched a surprise attack across the Suez Canal into the Israeli-occupied Sinai, while Syrian troops stormed the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Arab members of OPEC announced a 25% cut in oil production, and an embargo on oil shipments to the US

How did the 1973 Arab-Israeli war threaten world peace?
Why didn't the UN play a more significant role in it?

The Soviet Union, which maintained relations with Egypt despite Sadat's expulsion of its advisors, sent word to Nixon and Kissinger that Moscow not permit the destruction of the Egyptian military. The threat of a US-Soviet confrontation, on top of the oil embargo, was too much for Washington. On October 22 the US and Soviet Union jointly sponsored a ceasefire call and a plan for US-Soviet sponsored peace talks in the UN Security Council, and Washington pressured a reluctant Israel to sign on.

The jointly-sponsored US-Soviet talks in Geneva collapsed almost as soon as they started, which led to Henry Kissinger’s famous "shuttle diplomacy" based on organizing separate agreements between Israel and each Arab government. The UN was left out of the loop again.

But Kissinger’s negotiations ignored the Palestinians. One result was a major escalation in international support for and recognition of the PLO, culminating in Yasir Arafat's appearance in November 1974 at the UN General Assembly. The UN voted 105 to 4 to recognize the Palestinians’ right to self- determination, and to grant the PLO observer status within the UN itself. Only Israel and the US, along with US-dependent Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, voted against the resolution. It was a major defeat for US policy.

In September 1975 the US brokered an agreement between Egypt and Israel. Israel promised to return part of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt, while Egypt signed a non-aggression pledge. But implementation of the accords stalled. On November 19, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat moved to break the stalemate. In an historic visit, the first by any Arab leader, he travelled to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Knesset. The US soon moved to take control of the diplomacy, leaving the UN behind.

In the summer of 1978, President Jimmy Carter summoned the two leaders to his retreat in Maryland. Sequestered for 13 days, Begin and Sadat finally emerged with the Camp David Accords. Both sides, and the US, hoped other Arab countries would follow suit, and accept US-brokered bilateral agreements with Israel. But almost all the Arab states and the Palestinians continued to hold out for comprehensive regional negotiations under UN auspices.

Why didn't the UN take over the negotiation process?

And the US position isolated it from its own allies. In June 1980 the nine- member European common market issued its Venice Declaration. It reaffirmed the commitment to Israeli security, but went on to support the principle of Palestinian self-determination, condemn Israeli settlement policy, and call for PLO involvement in the peace process. Washington reiterated its opposition to dealing with the PLO, and Europe retreated from active Middle East diplomacy.

In 1978, when Israel first invaded Lebanon, the UN Security Council passed resolution 425, calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal. But Israel remained in violation of that resolution, through the anti-PLO invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the 18-year occupation, until its unilateral withdrawal in the spring of 2000.

Where was the UN during the Oslo process?

Throughout the late 1980s and into the 90s, Israel-Palestine diplomacy lay squarely at Washington’s door. The UN remained excluded, with the exception of a series of condemnations of various specific violations of international law and UN resolutions inherent in Israel’s actions as an occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By 1994, after the Oslo Declaration of Principles had been signed, then-Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright wrote in a letter to the General Assembly that the US goal for that year was to make existing UN resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict irrelevant, since bilateral negotiations were underway.

In 1996 Israel’s "Operation Grapes of Wrath" in Lebanon included the bombing of a United Nations refugee center in Lebanon, killing 106 civilians sheltering there and wounding several UN peacekeepers. The release of a UN report, which the US had worked hard to keep secret, proving Israeli knowledge of the center, caused enormous international anger towards Israel in UN circles.

But as the Oslo "peace process" wound on in inconclusive fits and starts, the UN remained sidelined. Other international actors – notably the European Union and Japan, were encouraged by the US to pay billions of dollars towards the costs of Oslo’s infrastructure, but were similarly excluded from political decision-making.

What was the 2000 Camp David summit all about?
Why didn't the UN convene talks instead?

By the summer of 2000, Oslo’s five year "interim period" had stretched to seven. No progress was in sight on the major issues (a Palestinian state and its borders, Jerusalem, settlers, refugees) and little progress had been made on the "easy" issues that were supposed to be resolved already (release of prisoners, connecting roads, the Gaza air and seaports, water, security arrangements, etc.).

It was in that context that President Clinton convened the two sides, again at Camp David, for intensive talks focused directly on the "final status" issues. Shortly after Camp David’s collapse, Ariel Sharon’s provocative walk on the Temple Mount and the killing of several Palestinian demonstrators there the next day, the second intifada began.

But this time, some of the diplomacy began to look just a bit different. There was the hint, though only a hint, that Washington’s iron grip on the diplomatic motion in the region had begun to slip. There was a growing sense, in the region and internationally, that the US could no longer maintain its historically absolute control over Middle East negotiations. Other forces -- regional and international -- are suddenly thrust into center-stage.

As the Intifada escalated, the Arab League summit convened in Cairo on October 21st and 22nd. For the first time in a decade, and in a clear effort to show the US that Gulf War-era divisions paled before the current crisis in Palestine, the Iraq president was invited to participate. (Saddam Hussein didn’t come himself, of course, but he sent his vice-president in his stead.) The final communique limned the fine line the Arab leaders walked. On the one hand, enormous mass protests were erupting in all their capitals (and at least initially allowed to go on, likely in the hopes the anti-Israel focus would deflect potential anti-regime trajectories) targeting US and, where present, Israeli institutions. Yet virtually all of those regimes remain fundamentally dependent, either financially (such as Egypt) or militarily (such as Saudi, Kuwait, etc.) on the US Egypt and Jordan, of course, are bound by peace treaty to Israel, and Amman signed a new Free Trade Agreement with Washington on 24 October, at the height of the crisis.

The language was fiery, but the statement broke little new ground. It pledged full support to the Palestinians, and raised the possibility of calling for the Security Council to initiate an international war crimes tribunal in response to Israel’s massacres. It called on Arab states to halt further normalization efforts with Israel, but did not include Jordan and Egypt, the two with significant diplomatic and economic ties, in that call. Beyond the rhetoric, the summit’s main accomplishment was the creation of a Saudi-led effort to provide up to $2 billion to the Palestinians, partly to support the families of Intifada casualties, and partly to help defend the Arab and Muslim character of Jerusalem.

Who were all those non-Palestinians and non-Israelis hovering aorund the recent diplomatic moves?

And beyond the Arab world, perhaps the most visible sign of the shifting relations was the physical presence of a host of international leaders in and around Israel and Palestine during the early period of the al-Aqsa Intifada. What would ordinarily have been a scene overrun with Americans -- Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross racing from Gaza to Jerusalem, Madeleine Albright raising the stakes with high-level shuttle diplomacy, President Clinton dangling White House meetings as bait for eager summiteers -- was suddenly crowded with French President and rotating European Union chief Jacques Chirac, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the special envoy of the EU Javier Solana, all jostling for position. And suddenly UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was not only on the scene, but serving as the at least titular center of negotiations during the weeks leading up to the Sharm al-Sheikh "ceasefire summit".

The Americans were still in charge, of course. Ambassador Indyk was given a reprieve from his no-access-to-classified-documents-until-you-learn-to- behave scolding. Albright and Clinton both weighed in on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. And more significantly, the participation of other parties, Annan in particular, was harshly constrained by unmistakable US fiat. The UN chief had already had to "earn" Israel’s at least grudging acceptance. It was largely attributed to Annan’s role at certifying Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon (despite an unresolved conflict over where to draw the border in the Shaba Farms area), and his behind-the-scenes efforts to convince the European countries to accept Israel, long an outcast from the UN’s regional groups, as a member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in the General Assembly. Membership in such a group is a prerequisite for Security Council consideration and other UN perks. When it came to Annan’s participation as a new mediator, Israel’s UN Ambassador Yehuda Lancry acknowledged "It’s a new dynamic. I can’t say he has a formal track alongside the US sponsorship. But he is very appreciated." (AP, 12 Oct.)

Why did the US suddenly ease its once-absolute rejection of any other player having a role?

More significant than Israel’s reluctant acquiescence, however, was the diminishing set of options available to the US to deal with the crisis. The fury of the Arab street increased pressure on Washington’s Arab allies; they showed new, if symbolic, independence by flying plane after plane into Baghdad to challenge the US-led sanctions regime. Even the long-compliant Palestinian Authority refused, at first, to meekly accept the US demand to at least go through the motions of attempting to quash Intifada Two. And crucially, unlike the pre-cable years of the first Intifada, the ubiquity of CNN- and Jazeera-driven footage (despite biased commentary the images, especially in the early stages, were unmistakable) made starkly evident the vast disparity of power between the two sides. Those factors all combined to limit the effectiveness of ordinary US efforts, especially those of an almost- lame duck administration. And when the three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped along the Lebanon border, Washington’s choices narrowed even further. It was at that point that Kofi Annan appeared on the scene.

It remains uncertain whether the UN secretary-general’s personal role will be broadened to create a new, UN-centered peace effort to replace the long- failed Oslo process. Certainly key limits on Annan’s role are already visible; his early efforts focused on persuading the Palestinians to accept the US- Israeli terms for a "cease-fire," including giving up their demand for a UN- based international commission of inquiry. On one occasion Annan even referred to hoping for an end to the escalating violence so that "normalcy will be restored," implying, presumably unintentionally, that Palestinian life under military occupation was somehow "normal" if no shooting was going on. (NY Times, 21 Oct.)

What would a UN initiative look like?

But the emerging constraints on unilateral US diplomacy, and a matched set of UN resolutions in the Security Council, the General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Commission, do herald a potential opportunity to return to the longstanding UN consensus: an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations, based on all the relevant UN resolutions. That would mean a new peace process based not only on 242’s call for an exchange of territory for peace, but as well on the panoply of resolutions including 194, mandating Palestinian refugees’ right to return and compensation, those identifying East Jerusalem as occupied territory, defining settlements as illegal, etc.

Raising that optimistic possibility does not assume such a campaign will be easy. In October 2000, Tel Aviv insisted that any UN fact-finding commission would be nothing but a "kangaroo court," and that it would accept only separate Israeli and Palestinian investigations under overall US authority, a position ultimately agreed to by the PA. When 14 out of 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to condemn Israel’s excessive force against civilians, it was the US alone that abstained. US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke threatened to veto any further resolution, stating that the virtually unanimous current resolution had taken the UN "out of the running" to play a role in negotiations.

A special session of the UN’s High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva in October passed a strong resolution condemning the "grave and massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel", and calling for an international "human rights inquiry commission." Washington launched an enormous lobbying campaign that resulted in a close vote, with Washington’s European allies opposing the resolution and even some non-aligned countries abstaining. When the General Assembly convened, US diplomats again went into high gear to dampen the language of the resolution. But at the end of the day, the resolution still condemned Israel’s "excessive use of force," and with 92 countries in favor, only the US, Israel, and four tiny island states fully in thrall to the US voted no. (US pressure did result in a large number of abstentions; nonetheless the vote was clearly lopsided in favor of the Palestinians.)

US efforts to sideline international law and bypass the UN are not new. Especially since 1993 and the canonization of the Oslo process, the "bilateral" Israeli-Palestinian talks under US sponsorship have defined the limits of acceptable diplomacy, even acceptable discussion, on the Israel- Palestine crisis. Anything outside that narrowly constrained box was dismissed as irrelevant, anachronistic, or dangerous. Peace means Oslo, Oslo means peace: a pax oslo is the region’s component of a global pax americana.

How did Washington keep the UN out all those years?

To maintain absolute control over the diplomatic process required Washington’s assertion of raw unilateral power, since it meant sabotaging existing international understandings. Since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, those understandings included the nearly unanimous international consensus on how to resolve the crisis: an international conference based on international law and United Nations resolutions. But since 1967 Israel disagreed, and the US backed Israel’s rejection.

The US, while referring to resolution 242 as the ostensible basis of its own "peace process," kept Israel-Palestine diplomacy under its own control. Washington claimed the role of the "honest broker" while proudly asserting its continuity as Israel’s major financial, diplomatic and military backer. The actual requirements of international law (like Israel’s obligations under the Geneva as an occupying power to protect civilians and to prohibit settling Israeli citizens in occupied territory) and existing UN resolutions were sidelined in favor of US-brokered "even-handed" talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the run-up to the 1991 Madrid talks, the US-Israeli Memorandum of Understanding stated explicitly that the UN would be allowed no role. In Oslo’s 1993 Declaration of Principles, the UN was ignored. By 1994, when the first post-Oslo General Assembly convened, then-US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright announced in her annual letter to Assembly members that dissolving the Palestine-related consensus was on top of her agenda. According to her letter, "contentious resolutions that accentuate political differences without promoting solutions should be consolidated (the various UNRWA resolutions), improved (the Golan resolution) or eliminated (the Israeli nuclear armament resolution and the self-determination resolution)." (Letter, August 8, 1994.) The piece de resistance was the demand that "resolution language referring to 'final status' issues should be dropped, since these issues are now under negotiations by the parties themselves. These include refugees, settlements, territorial sovereignty and the status of Jerusalem." (Emphasis added.) This was, of course, precisely the moment at which those same final status issues were taken off the negotiating table for five, eventually a full seven years. In 1999 when over 100 signatories of the Geneva Conventions met to assess Israeli compliance with the Conventions, the meeting lasted only ten minutes in order, according to the Oslo-infatuated PLO delegation, to "avert friction" with Israel’s new Labor-led government. The failed summer 2000 Camp David summit, of course, had ignored the UN altogether.

But after months of clashes, rising numbers of Palestinian dead, a military occupation and siege tighter than ever, the best hope for a comprehensive and just peace remains a return to UN resolutions, international law, international protection and a new peace process under UN supervision. The incoming Bush administration, particularly its oil industry-linked foreign policy team of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell, has made clear that its Middle East priority will be oil and rebuilding ties with the despotic governments of the Arab Gulf. That bodes badly for Iraq, with a likely effort to escalate the on-going unilateral bombing raids and tighten the already crippling economic sanctions.

But despite such dangerously provocative movements, there may be a moment of hope on the Israel-Palestine front for a new kind of diplomacy. With attention turned towards Iraq, perhaps the Bush administration will be less hostile to the possibility of a European, or UN initiative to restart floundering Israel-Palestine negotiations. Having Secretary-General Kofi Annan, or even the EU’s security coordinator Javier Solana or Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos (who chaired the last-effort-before-the-Israeli-elections negotiations in Taba) in charge of negotiations instead of unilateralist US diplomats would certainly raise at least a glimmer of such hope. Only in such a venue is there any possibility that not only the disparity of power, but the disparity of legitimacy between the two sides, might finally be addressed.

27 Jul 2010

Paramilitary terror ignored and promoted by the Colombian state

By Arturo Rosales, in Caracas.
Axis of Logic, Sunday, Jul 25, 2010

Many Axis of Logic readers have probably heard about the guerrillas and paramilitary bands in Colombia. Drug running, murder of civilians and labor leaders, terror of the civilian population and more recently the “parapolitics” scandal are the daily bread in large swathes of Colombia.

Members of the Senate and Congress (mostly from the party of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe) were arrested for having links with paramilitary groups and cocaine smuggling. These groups, their intimidation of voters and proceeds from cocaine guaranteed the election of the para-politicans to their public offices.

The three videos which appear below, entitled “10 Years”, will give the US reader an accurate idea of modern day Colombia – especially if you are numbered among the poor in urban areas or living in the countryside.

Now you can ask yourselves what the US government is doing sending more than US$7.5 billion to what can only be classified as a “rogue state” since 2000 in the context of Plan Colombia. Is this the way drug running is addressed in the eyes of the State Department?

You can also ask yourself if even the “crimes” they allege against Hugo Chavez can be compared to the human rights horror in Colombia? Please ask yourself why such emphasis is laid on Venezuela in the corporate media when some of the worst human rights abuses are happening right next door? Why do Colombian crimes against humanity go unreported, swept under the carpet by a complicit media owned by the rich oligarchs in nearly every country of the world?

Here is a link to the National Security Archive file on outgoing President Uribe due to leave the Colombian presidency on August 7th. It was released in August 2004 and so you may also want to ask yourselves why this man has been so entrusted and loved by the US military and the State Department? There are two reasons he is not continuing with a 3rd term as president of Colombia.

1. Because his reputation finally became daily news throughout the world and like most U.S. puppet presidents, he lived out his usefulness to Washington. They replaced him with his mirror image, Colombia’s Defense Minister under Uribe, José Manuel Santos. As Defense Minister, Santos presided over the murders of thousands by Colombian death squads.

2. Because the Supreme Court in Colombia, knowing his crimes and his threats against the judiciary, denied him his demand to run for a third term.

Here in Latin America, I am certainly not alone in my desire to see Alvaro Uribe one day sharing a similar fate to that of Manuel Noriega. The US does not have allies – just interests. The US throws away spent allies as a john does with his condom after finishing with his prostitute.

The people in the United States have to a large extent been silent on the wars their government has been against people of the earth. There is no more time or space for silence. In the end, silence is complicity. "The Silent" in the United States may one day be described as "Washington's Willing Executioners". In the end, what is the value of your life? Life is too short to leave it having done nothing for peace and justice. Our own humanity compels us to call upon all our brothers and sisters in North America to stand up against the atrocities being committed by your government in Colombia and many other countries of the world.

Colombia:10 Years

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x35p5SVXFn8&feature=player_embedded#!

Colombia:10 Years

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GurxzZvumn8&feature=player_embedded

Colombia:10 Years

Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAf0SMBPl3Y&feature=player_embedded

26 Jul 2010

Netanyahu: how I destroyed the Oslo peace process

by Jonathan Cook / July 22nd 2010

There is one video Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, must be praying never gets posted on YouTube with English subtitles. To date, the 10-minute segment has been broadcast only in Hebrew, on Israel’s Channel 10.

Its contents, however, threaten to gravely embarrass not only Netanyahu but also the US administration of Barack Obama.

The film was shot, apparently without Netanyahu’s knowledge, nine years ago, when the government of Ariel Sharon had started re-invading the main cities of the West Bank to crush Palestinian resistance in the early stages of the second intifada.

At the time Netanyahu had taken a short break from politics but was soon to join Sharon’s government as finance minister.

On a visit to the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank to pay condolences to the family of a man killed in a Palestinian shooting attack, he makes a series of unguarded admissions about his first period as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999.

Seated on a sofa in the house, he tells the family that he deceived the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, into believing he was helping implement the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, by making minor withdrawals from the West Bank while actually entrenching the occupation. He boasts that he thereby destroyed the Oslo process.

He dismisses the US as “easily moved to the right direction” and calls high levels of popular American support for Israel "absurd."

He also suggests that, far from being defensive, Israel’s harsh military repression of the Palestinian uprising was designed chiefly to crush the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat so that it could be made more pliable for Israeli diktats.

All of these claims have obvious parallels with the current situation, when Netanyahu is again Israel’s prime minister facing off with a White House trying to draw him into a peace process that runs counter to his political agenda.

As before, he has ostensibly made public concessions to the US administration -- chiefly by agreeing in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state, consenting to indirect talks with the leadership in Ramallah, and implementing a temporary freeze on settlement building.

But he has also enlisted the powerful pro-Israel lobby to exert pressure on the White House, which appears to have relented on its most important stipulations.

The contemptuous view of Washington Netanyahu demonstrates in the film will confirm the suspicions of many observers -- including Palestinian leaders -- that his current professions of good faith should not be taken seriously.

Critics have already pointed out that his gestures have been extracted only after heavy arm-twisting from the US administration.

More significantly, he has so far avoided engaging meaningfully in the limited talks the White House is promoting with the Palestinians while the pace of settlement building in the West Bank has been barely affected by the 10-month freeze, due to end in September.

In the meantime, planning officials have repeatedly approved large new housing projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that have undercut the negotiations and will make the establishment of a Palestinian state -- viable or otherwise -- far less likely.

Writing in the liberal Haaretz newspaper, the columnist Gideon Levy called the video "outrageous." He said it proved that Netanyahu was a "con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes." He added that the prime minister had not reformed in the intervening period: “Such a crooked way of thinking does not change over the years.”

In the film, Netanyahu says Israel must inflict “blows [on the Palestinians] that are so painful the price will be too heavy to be borne … A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority, to bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing”.

When asked if the US will object, he responds: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved to the right direction … They won’t get in our way … 80 percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

He then recounts how he dealt with Clinton, whom he refers to as "extremely pro-Palestinian." “I wasn’t afraid to manoeuvre there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton.”

His approach to White House demands to withdraw from Palestinian territory under the Oslo accords, he says, drew on his grandfather’s philosophy: “It would be better to give two percent than to give 100 percent.”

He therefore signed the 1997 agreement to pull the Israeli army back from much of Hebron, the last Palestinian city under direct occupation, as a way to avoid conceding more territory.

“The trick,” he says, “is not to be there [in the occupied Palestinian territories] and be broken; the trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.”

The “trick” that stopped further withdrawals, Netanyahu adds, was to redefine what parts of the occupied territories counted as a “specified military site” under the Oslo accords. He wanted the White House to approve in writing the classification of the Jordan Valley, a large area of the West Bank, as such a military site.

“Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give [them] the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came … did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accords.”

Last week, after meeting Obama in Washington, the Israeli prime minister gave an interview to Fox News in which he appeared to be in no hurry to make concessions: “Can we have a negotiated peace? Yes. Can it be implemented by 2012? I think it’s going to take longer than that,” he said.

There must be at least a very strong suspicion that Netanyahu is as firmly committed today as he was then to destroying any chance of peace with the Palestinians.

Israeli PM Netanyahu: I "stopped" Oslo peace process - ENGLISH SUBTITLES

In this video, leaked and aired on Channel 10 News in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen speaking candidly back in 2001 at a constituent's home about the Oslo Accords, the peace process, Bill Clinton, and the United States.

Source: Ma'an News Agency

Al-Qaeda in the Sahel: yet another Yankee Red Herring with deadly consequences for its addresses

by Jeremy Keenan

The Saharan Front of the "Global War on Terror" was planned between the US and the Algerian government in 2002 and launched a year later [GALLO/GETTY]

In November 2009, Richard Barrett of the UN's al-Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team said that while attacks by al-Qaeda and its operatives were decreasing in many parts of the world, the situation was worsening in North Africa. He was referring specifically to the Sahel region of southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

While the UN statement fits the catastrophic image being portrayed of the Sahara-Sahel region by the US, European and other Western interests, the truth is not only very different, but even more serious in that both the launch of the Saharan-Sahelian front in the 'global war on terror' (GWOT) and the subsequent establishment of al-Qaeda in the region have been fabricated.

These two deceptions have one key feature in common, namely that they were both implemented by Algeria's secret military intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), with the knowledge and complicity of the US.

I will explain each in turn.

Militarising Africa

A Saharan front in the GWOT was planned by the US and Algeria in 2002 and launched in early 2003.

The pivotal incident that justified the launch of the new front was the abduction in February-March 2003 of 32 tourists in the Algerian Sahara, ostensibly by Islamic extremists of Algeria's Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) under the leadership of Amari Saifi (aka El Para). However, it transpired that El Para was an agent of Algeria's DRS and his false flag operation had been undertaken with the complicity of the US department of defence.

The idea of creating false flag incidents to justify military intervention is not new in US history. In 1962, for example, the US joint chiefs of staff drew up and approved plans, codenamed Operation Northwoods, that called for CIA and other operatives to commit acts of terrorism on innocent civilians in US cities and elsewhere, thus giving the appearance of a Communist Cuban terror campaign in Miami, other Florida cities and even Washington that would create public support for a war against Fidel Castro's Cuba. The plan was ultimately rejected by President Kennedy.

Forty years later, in the summer of 2002, a very similar plan was presented to Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, by his Defence Science Board (DSB). The Defence Science Board recommended the creation of a 'Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)', a covert organisation that would carry out secret missions to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to "counterattack" by US forces, along with other operations which, through the US military penetration of terrorist groups and the recruitment of local peoples, would dupe them into conducting "combat operations, or even terrorist activities". The first 'pilot' test of the P2OG was El Para's operation in Algeria.

I explained how and why this complex relationship between the US and Algerian security services developed in my book, The Dark Sahara. But to explain it in a nutshell: for the US, the presence of terrorism, fabricated or real, in the Sahara-Sahel region would legitimise the launch of a new front in the GWOT in Africa. This, in turn, and as explained subsequently by numerous US government officials, would justify the 'militarisation' of Africa (seen in the authorisation of AFRICOM in 2006 and its establishment in 2008) and the securement for the US of African oil resources.

For Algeria, its new relationship with the US would hopefully enable the procurement of modern high-tech military equipment for Algeria's run-down military and a return from pariah status (after its Dirty War of the 1990s) to international acceptability as Washington's key ally in the GWOT.

The Saharan front

Within two months of El Para's hostage-takings, the US' top military commander in Europe (with responsibility for Africa), General James Jones spoke of "large ungoverned areas across Africa that are clearly the new routes of narco trafficking, terrorist training and hotbeds of instability".

Even before the hostages had been released, the administration of George Bush had designated the Sahara as a new front in the GWOT. Bush referred to El Para as 'bin Laden's man in the Sahel', while Jones' deputy commander described the Sahara as a "swamp of terror", a "terrorist infestation", which "we need to drain". The US military even produced a series of maps designating the Sahara-Sahel as a 'Terror Zone'.

In January 2004, Bush's Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) saw US troops, special forces and 'contractors' being deployed into Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. In 2005, the PSI was expanded through the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) to include Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, thus linking two of Africa's main oil and gas-producing regions, Algeria and Nigeria, into a military security arrangement whose architecture was American.

With no 'real' terrorism in the region, the US, through the region's repressive regimes, sought to provoke what it called 'putative terrorists'. Algerian police, acting as agents provocateurs, provoked riots in the city of Tamanrasset; in Niger, a trumped up murder charge against a Tuareg minister was designed to trigger a Tuareg rebellion, while in May 2006, the DRS, accompanied by some 100 US special forces, flown covertly from Stuttgart to Tamanrasset, crossed into northern Mali to support a short-lived Tuareg rebellion.

Increasing political instability and insecurity, generated primarily by this fabricated front in the GWOT, the increasing repression of US-backed regimes and the associated damage to local economies and livelihoods, led to the outbreak of Tuareg rebellions in Niger in February 2007 and in Mali a few months later.

The problem for the US was that the Tuareg rebellions were proof that political unrest in the Sahel, contrary to Washington's disinformation, had nothing to do with Islamic extremism, but was the outcome of the US' own duplicitous policy in the region - what Americans call 'blow-back'.

Hostage-taking has been used to justify launching the Saharan front [AFP/SITE]

All in a name

However, US embarrassment at the Tuareg rebellions was spared by the concurrent re-emergence in the region of the name 'al-Qaeda'. In January 2007, two weeks before the start of the Niger rebellion in Niger, the GSPC, which had been insignificant in the region since El Para's operation, changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

AQIM is structured into three 'components': the 'real' AQIM, AQIM cells that have been created by the DRS and AQIM cells that have been infiltrated by the DRS.

In the case of AQIM in the Sahara-Sahel, now known as al-Qaeda in the Sahel (AQIS) or the 'Sahara Emirate' ('Imarat Essahra'), it is difficult to distinguish between the latter two. Of the AQIS's alleged leaders, Abdelhamid abou Zaïd, Yahia Djouadi (and their many aliases) and Mokhtar ben Mokhtar (MBM) all have linkages to the DRS. Abdelhamid abou Zaïd is closely associated with the DRS, being El Para's 'number two' in the 2003 operation; Djouadi was also a member of El Para's team, while MBM has a more 'freelance' relationship with the DRS.

In short, the AQIS is the latest manifestation of the DRS' successful creation and infiltration of Islamic 'terrorist' groups, in much the same way that the GIA leadership was infiltrated by DRS agents Djamel Zitouni and Antar Zouabri in the 1990s. In the case of the GIA's successor, the GSPC founder Hassan Hattab now lives under the protection of the DRS.

Since 2008, 15 westerners have been taken hostage either directly by the AQIS or by local criminals, and then handed over to the AQIS. Most have finished up in the hands of Abdelhamid abou Zaïd. One of these, a Briton, was killed; three are still in captivity, while the remainder have been released, allegedly for ransom payments.

Much publicity has recently been given by Western intelligence services and the media to the assumed link between trans-Saharan trafficking of cocaine, flown into Sahel states, especially Mali, from South America, and AQIS. While a complex network does exist between the drugs traffickers and AQIS, Western intelligence services have failed to point out in their briefings, reports and 'leaks' to the media that the leaders of both AQIS and the drug trafficking operations are either agents of or closely linked to the highest levels of state security in the countries concerned, namely Algeria's DRS and Mali's state security.

American, British and other Western intelligence services are all aware of the way in which the DRS has effectively constructed the AQIM/AQIS in the Sahara-Sahel, but have failed to take action against it. This is because AQIS, far from being a threat to the West, is more of an adjunct to the West's overall strategies in the region. It provides the US with further justification for AFRICOM while providing European powers, notably France whose nuclear industry is powered by the Sahel's uranium, with the justification to intervene militarily in the resource-rich corridor of the Sahel. And, of course, the 'threat' of al-Qaeda so close to Europe, provides European countries, such as the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, with justification for their immigration, security and 'counter-terrorism' policies.

Self-fulfilling prophecy?

The key player, however, in this duplicitous strategy is probably no longer the US, but the Algerian DRS. Since 2006, the DRS has been operating increasingly independently of its US and European counterparts. It is also dangerously riven by internal divisions, as reflected in Algeria's current political crisis.

The key focus of any further analysis should therefore be directed primarily at Algeria. Through its DRS, Algeria is now operating increasingly autonomously in presenting itself to the US and Europe as the indispensable ally of the West. This is, however, a very dangerous game.

On the one hand, the DRS, through its infiltration and control of AQIS, is maintaining a sufficient threat in the region to justify its military expansion - on behalf of both the West and its own hegemonic designs in the region. On the other hand, some elements within the Algerian regime are opposed to such a strategy and the possibility of Western intervention in the region.

At the same time, the DRS' control of the 'Sahara Emirate' is by no means absolute. As an increasing number of young Muslims in Mauritania, Mali and elsewhere look to the 'Emirate' to provide a solution to their own repressed lives, a purposeful ideology and even adventure, there is a very real threat that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and take on a life of its own.

While this is unlikely, the West would be better advised to question why Algeria is making so much publicity about raising troop levels in the region to the absurd figure of 75,000 by 2012. Who is the enemy they will fight? The DRS currently puts the number of named suspected terrorists (including its own agents) in the Sahel at only 108, while the less well informed CIA estimates 300 to 400.

The answer is not in the threat posed by al-Qaeda, but in the far more dangerous political crisis emerging within Algeria itself.

Jeremy Keenan is a professorial research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, and author of The Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Yanks Angry about Wikileaks

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks is once again at the centre of attention as it makes public more than 90,000 secret records of incidents and intelligence reports from the US military about its ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Three major news publications which have been shown the documents say they include unreported killings of Afghan civilians.

The huge cache of classified papers is described as one of the biggest leaks in US military history.

21 Jul 2010

Gerald Scarfe - Long Drawn-Out Trip, Sketches from Los Angeles (excerpts including "missing scene")

Clips from Gerald Scarfe's first and very rare animated film. The film was shown once in its entirety by the BBC in 1973 and Scarfe has a video copy of it! These clips are from the 1987 BBC documentary "Scarfe on Scarfe".

More recently BBC4 showed an edited version as part of their "Animation Nation" series. The missing part was the "Super Dollar" section shown here from 0:20 to 2:10.

New wave of repression targets opponents of Honduran coup

The US and Canadian governments have praised the January 27 elections in Honduras as a major step forward toward a return to democracy and national reconciliation. Yet the reality on the ground under the newly elected government of Porfirio Lobo is one of continuing repression and selective assassinations of those who dared to oppose the June 28, 2009 military coup.

According to the Committee for the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), at least 40 anti-coup activists have been murdered since the coup. Some of the atrocities that have been committed since the election include the following:

On February 3, 29-year-old Vanessa Zepeda Alonzo, an active member of the Resistance and member of the Social Security Employees Union, was found dead in Tegucigalpa. According to eyewitnesses, her body was thrown out of a car.

On February 15, Julio Funez Benitez, another member of the Resistance and active member of SITRASANAA, the water and sewage workers union, was shot outside his home in Olancho by unknown gunmen traveling on a motorcycle.

On March 17, Francisco Castillo was assassinated. He was a colleague of Father Andres Tamayo, a well known Catholic priest, environmental activist and outspoken member of the Resistance. Castillo had previously worked for prominent Honduran businessman and coup supporter Miguel Facusse before resigning from his position after the coup.

On March 23, social science teacher Jose Manuel Flores was shot by armed men wearing ski masks at the high school where he taught and in front of his students. Flores was also a prominent member of the Resistance.

Murder of the children of activists

Many of those killed had previously reported being harassed and threatened because of their work in the Resistance. Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has noted a disturbing trend in which "it appears that sons and daughters of leaders of the Resistance Front are being killed, kidnapped, attacked, and threatened as a strategy to silence the activists." Two examples cited are:

On February 17, seventeen year old Dara Gudiel was found hanged in the city of Danlí, Paraíso. Dara Gudiel was the daughter of journalist Enrique Gudiel, who runs a radio program called Siempre al Frente con el Frente (Always Outfront with the Front), which broadcasts information about the Resistance. Days before her death, Dara Gudiel had been released from a kidnapping.

On February 24, Claudia Maritza Brizuela, thirty six years old, was killed in her home in San Pedro Sula. She was the daughter of union and community leader Pedro Brizuela, who participates actively in the Resistance. Two unknown individuals shot her on her doorstep in front of her children, ages two and eight.

Murder of journalists

Human rights groups have also condemned the murder and threats to journalists, with five reporters killed in the first three months of the year making Honduras "one of the riskiest countries in the entire region in which to practice journalism" according to the IACHR.

According to Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, these attacks are "generating a climate of fear that is likely to have a chilling effect on the Honduran media."

For example, on March 14, Nahún Palacios was shot repeatedly while driving his car. Palacios was news director for Aguan Television, Channel 5, and had covered the resistance protests extensively, as well as other politically sensitive issues such as the ongoing agrarian conflict in the Aguan. His house had been raided and his equipment seized by the military. He had also had precautionary measures granted for him by the IAHRC which ordered the State of Honduras to protect him, though he continued to report receiving threats up until his death.

Radio Progreso, a community radio in El Progreso and one of the few uncensored, independent sources of information in Honduras since the coup, has complained of numerous threats made against its staff for their role in disseminating the work of the Resistance. Father Ismael 'Melo' Moreno, a Jesuit Priest and Director of the Reflection, Research and Communication Team (ERIC, by its Spanish acronym) which houses Radio Progreso, has had to go into hiding after receiving death threats related to his involvement in the case of a women who was sexually assaulted by police during an anti-coup demonstration in August.

Conflict in the Aguan

The Lobo administration is also receiving widespread international criticism for the increasing militarization in the Aguan, the Northern Coastal region of Honduras where a long-ranging agrarian conflict has recently resurfaced.

Over ten years ago, thousands of campesinos (small farmers) were forced off their cooperatively held lands by state authorities who claimed that the lands had been purchased by three wealthy businessmen.

The Aguan United Campesino Movement, (MUCA), which was formed to represent the campesinos' interests, filed lawsuits and organized land occupations in order to pressure the government to negotiate. Just before his ouster, an agreement had been reached under president Zelaya to begin investigating the situation in the Aguan. However, the de facto government installed by the coup halted this process. In December 2009, MUCA responded by resuming the land occupations.

Tensions grew as eviction orders and arrest warrants were issued to the campesinos, often without following the proper legal procedures. On April 10, 3,000 military and police were reportedly deployed to the zone just days before negotiations were scheduled to resume, raising fears that if the campesinos rejected the government proposal, they could be forcibly evicted and violence could ensue.

Although a preliminary agreement between MUCA and the Honduran government was reached on April 14, and a commitment made to withdraw the police and military, the situation remains tense.

At least four members of MUCA have been murdered since the dispute broke out again in December 2009. And, according to a UN communiqué released in October from the working group on the use of mercenaries, landowners have hired as many as 40 Colombian ex-paramilitaries to allegedly "protect their property." According to MUCA, the mercenaries have been used to carry out a campaign of fear and intimidation against its members.

Business as usual?

Despite the climate of violence and impunity in Honduras, the Lobo administration is moving ahead with plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, one of the terms of the San Jose - Tegucigalpa Accord.

According to the 'Human Rights Platform', a coalition of the Honduran human rights organizations, the conditions do not exist for a Truth Commission to carry out its mandate, given the on-going violence against members of the Resistance, the government's failure to address the problem, as well as the fact that state officials linked to human rights violations have not been removed from office. The Platform also points out that the Truth Commission does not meet international standards, including prior consultation with victims and their civil society representatives.

Nevertheless, the US and Canadian governments have endorsed both the Lobo administration and the Truth Commission process, despite the serious concerns raised by Honduran civil society organizations.

In March, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the "crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion" and "without violence." Clinton praised Lobo for having "moved quickly to implement many of the recommendations from the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord," including the "establishment of the Truth Commission."

Canada also supports the Truth Commission. Canadian diplomat Michael Kergin has been appointed to the five-member Commission, which will be headed by former Guatemalan vice president Eduardo Stein. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent congratulated Kergin on his appointment, stating, "Canada strongly supports the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission is essential to advancing the process of national reconciliation and dialogue across all sectors in Honduras."

On March 17, a letter was sent to the US Congress from 40 US human rights, peace, and faith-based organizations questioning the official US position and urging them to take a second look at what is happening in Honduras.

Resistance continues

Despite the repression, the resistance movement shows no sign of retreating. The National Popular Resistance Front, the umbrella organization which has brought together students, women's groups, campesinos, indigenous peoples, LBGT activists, and Afro-Hondurans, has committees in villages, towns and urban neighbourhoods throughout the country.

The Resistance is beginning to gather signatures on a petition in support of their plan to hold a Popular National Assembly on June 28, the one year anniversary of the coup. It has also announced plans to transform itself into a political party before the next presidential elections in 2013, with its demand for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution front and center in its platform.

This article was provided by the Maquila Solidarity Network http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/

Shock wave and bubble: the untruth about the Cheonan

by Hilary Keenan / July 18th 2010

Only a small coterie in the USA and South Korea know for sure what really happened to the South Korean warship. But, unreported in the Western media, the 'proof' that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea has been thoroughly discredited...

20 Jul 2010

Israel’s accession to the OECD: another failure of human rights in the international community

By Seyfeddin Kara [Middle East Monitor] 15 June 2010

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), one of the most prestigious economic clubs in the world, was founded in 1961.
It currently has 31 member states, most of them EU countries and other developed countries, including the USA. The OECD maintains 60 percent of the world's wealth. The existence of the organization is a controversial issue as the concept originated in 1948 with the aim of overseeing the distribution of the post-World War II Marshall Plan. It has been argued that the US, having shown its military might to the world by defeating the powerful German army in Europe and dropping nuclear bombs on Japan, then progressed to the economic phase of its drive towards world hegemony through the introduction of the Marshall Plan. US economic domination over Western Europe and pro-American peripheral countries was the aim.

Critics have also argued that the aid provided by the Marshall Plan did not find its way to the people in need, but rather served to strengthen the position of pro-American governments who squandered millions of dollars and thus corrupted the entire European political structure. Some of the aid was also used by European countries, such as France and the Netherlands, for example, to support their colonial presence in South East Asia.

The OECD claims that it "brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy" in order "to help governments and society reap the full benefits of globalisation, while tackling the economic, social and governance challenges that can accompany it." Its values are stated as "respect for human rights... commitment to democracy [and] the principles of the United Nations".

Although the OECD has long been criticized for its commitment to US hegemony in the economic arena, it has never been blatant about breaching its own fundamental principles as well as international law; until now.

On the 10th May 2010, the members of the organization voted for the accession of Israel, which has been seeking to join the OECD for 20 years. Due to Israel's egregious human rights records and belligerence towards the Palestinians and neighbouring countries, the OECD had previously denied Israel admission to the exclusive club. That all changed on the 27th May when ministers of the member states concluded the process to have Israel as a member along with Slovenia and Estonia.

There is no immediate benefit for Israel through its OECD membership apart from a morale boost, but there will be long-term advantages for the Israeli economy. It is very likely, for example, that as a result of the accession, Israel's credit rating will be upgraded, making it easier for Israeli companies to raise funds and obtain grants. The timing of the accession to the OECD is especially significant for Israel as it comes at a time when the Jewish state has started to feel the heat of the international economic boycott campaign and its human rights abuses are under intense scrutiny.

Naturally, the accession delighted Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. He said in a radio interview, "[OECD membership] is a historic success... because it gives legitimacy to Israel as an advanced and developed country." Unfortunately, membership of the OECD not only gives legitimacy to Israel's economic prospects, it also gives a sense of legitimacy to its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and Syria's Golan Heights, and the Jewish settlements therein. It has also given legitimacy to the dual system – called apartheid by many – operated by the Israeli government which discriminates against the Palestinians and Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens.

A barrister and renowned expert on international law, Guy S. Goodwin-Gill from Oxford University, presented his legal opinion before the OECD in an attempt to warn of the dreadful repercussions of Israel's admission to the organisation. He averred that Israel's accession "raises serious legal concern for all states party to" major international conventions: the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, Regulation of 1907 and, of course, customary international law governing occupation. In addition, Mr Goodwin-Gill warned that the member states should take into consideration the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The OECD took no heed of the warnings of Mr Goodwin-Gill and many activists and NGOs around the world which campaigned against Israel's admission.

Israel's economic statistics submitted to the OECD included the economic activity of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights and excluded the Palestinian population. This undoubtedly contravened EU policies as these settlements are illegal under international law.

Further, prior to the announcement of Israel's accession, a leaked report from the Alternative Information Centre documented that the OECD had asked Israel either to include the Palestinians and the settlers in the West Bank, or exclude both groups. The same request was made for the Golan Heights. However, according to the same document this issue was not considered an obstacle for Israel to become a member of the OECD. The proposed solution allowed Israel to submit the requested data one year after joining the OECD. This means that as a full member Israel will now have the power to veto the demands of the OECD and thus avoid submitting updated figures about the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Shir Hever, a Jerusalem-based economist, exposed the political legerdemain that the OECD and Israel performed in the accession process. He disclosed that the OECD omitted the four million Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation and accepted Israel's population as seven million. Both the OECD and Israel wanted to lower the population figures by omitting the Palestinians, so that the disproportionate distribution of wealth would not be an obstacle for Israel's accession, which according to BBC has the highest poverty level among member states.

The Geneva Convention binds Israel to have responsibility for the economic well-being of four million Palestinians who live under occupation but Israel denies Palestinians their rights as occupied subjects. By allowing Israel to join the OECD, the international community is basically giving legitimacy to Israeli atrocities and discrimination against the Palestinians.

In its assessment of Israel's socio-economic situation the OECD acknowledged that Israeli laws are essentially discriminatory; there are currently thirty such laws that give privileges to Jews over non-Jews. These laws alone should have been enough to disqualify Israel from OECD membership as they breach the core values of the organisation and its supposed "respect human rights" and "commitment to democracy".

Finally, as has been affirmed by the Russell Tribunal (International War Crimes), European law forbids European countries from recognizing the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. However, by granting membership to the OECD, the member states have given credence to the economically apartheid regime. Also, by acknowledging indirectly the illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, they in fact are complicit in Israeli war crimes documented in the UN's Goldstone Report.

OECD member states, especially the EU countries, which have always championed human rights and democracy, have now committed a grave breach of international law as well as the core principles of the organisation. This has revealed once more their hypocrisy and vulnerability toward pressure from the US-Israel alliance.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey was the only OECD member state to protest against Israel's admission. Although, the Turkish government yielded to vigorous US pressure and did not actually veto Israel, it had the courage to voice the concerns of the Palestinians just before the voting took place at the OECD meeting. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan read out his country's official OECD statement personally to the members of the Islamic Human Rights Commission-led delegation of which I was part, in a meeting at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.

The statement included the demand that "Israel must adhere to the principles of the OECD and bring an end to the violation of the international law. Therefore, as it is stated in UN resolution 1860, Israel must immediately stop the siege of Gaza and the tragic human rights abuses of the Palestinians. The settlement policy of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is unacceptable for us. Israel must immediately halt these activities and any other policies that may disrupt the wellbeing and harmony of the Palestinians... In this regard, we want to emphasize that the acceptance of Israel into the OECD should not be considered as a legitimization of the occupation." [sic]

It was obvious from Mr Erdogan's words that there was tremendous pressure coming from the US and European countries that Turkey was not yet ready or able to ignore. However, it was also apparent that there was no substantial counter-pressure or support from the Muslim world that would have convinced him that the time to stand up to the US had arrived.

© 2007 Global BDS Movement

Row rages over defining who is a Jew

By Adam Mynott
BBC News, Jerusalem
Who is a Jew? The full answer has always had somewhat blurred edges...
There are differing interpretations of who is and who is not a Jew
Birthright, ethnicity, conversion to Judaism and religious practice have all contributed, but doubt and confusion have persisted for generations.
In Israel uncertainty has excluded more than a quarter of million people, who think they are Jewish, from full membership.

These are Jews from the former Soviet Union who flooded to Israel in the last century.

They arrived thinking they were Jews but found, when they came to get married, or buried in consecrated Jewish soil, that senior rabbis in Israel said they were not.


Rivka, whose family emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel when she was a small girl, has fallen in love with a young Jewish man and wants to marry him.

They approached the synagogue to arrange their marriage and Rivka was horrified to be told by the rabbi that she might not qualify to get married because she was possibly not a Jew.

"My mother's Jewish, my grandmother was a Jew, so was my great-grandmother. Who are these people to decide who is a Jew and who is not? Israel, isn't it the home for all the Jews in the world?" Rivka argued.

That is certainly the unambiguous message that Israel has sent out, but many people who have moved to their "home" have found that doubt over their Jewish status persists.

Rivka has been told that she must either provide comprehensive evidence of her claim to be a Jew, including finding a photograph of her great-grandmother, or she must undergo "full conversion" before she can marry as a Jew.


Full conversion will involve living as an orthodox Jew for 18 months.

She will have to eat only kosher food, dress modestly and observe the Sabbath in full (no travel, no work, no touching of pens or pencils, even no use of electricity).

During last year's election campaign, the political party Israel Beitenu, which derives a lot of its support from Soviet emigres, promised the electorate it would sort out the conversion problem.

The Israel Beitenu parliamentarian David Rotem is sponsoring a bill which will allow lower-level rabbis to authorise conversion.

He hopes this will "free up" the conversion process.

"We have a problem with about 400,000 people who came to Israel who, according to Jewish law, are not Jewish," he says.

"They are part of the state of Israel; they join the army, they live here, they contribute to the economy. I am trying to make it easier for them to convert."


Israel Beitenu is a member of the ruling coalition and to get the bill through the Knesset it has sought support from ultra-orthodox parties in the alliance.

Their condition has been to give the final authority on conversion to the rabbinate, the highest, orthodox Jewish order in the country.

If the bill goes through, for the first time legal authority on who is and who is not a Jew will reside with the most senior rabbis in Israel.

The rabbinate is understandably delighted, but Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the chief Rabbi of Haifa and one of the country's leading religious figures, says that orthodox rabbis have always had the de facto authority to determine who is Jewish.

This has horrified the huge and influential Jewish diaspora, particularly Jews living in the US - about half of the Jews in the world - because they see that the implications of this bill are limitless. All Jewish births, marriages and deaths - the right to decide who is Jewish - will reside with a small group of ultra-orthodox rabbis in Israel.

Rabbis in the diaspora will lose their religious authority at the stroke of a pen.

'Crossed the line'

Jerry Silverman, the head of the Jewish Federation, which represents Jews in the US, says: "This is a very, very divisive piece of legislation that crosses the line. This is something that we cannot, and will not, sit back and see happen."

He and others in the Jewish diaspora are furiously lobbying the Israeli government and warning of the effects that the proposed bill might have.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is opposed to the legislation and will try to block it, but he relies on the support of Israel Beitenu in the coalition.

The point that Jerry Silverman and others make is that when Jews were persecuted, Jews from around the world rallied to give support whether orthodox or not.

At a time when Israel needs support from friends, the last thing Israel wants to do is alienate these friends.

"This is not the time for us to be in a divided corner, especially in the US. We want to be absolutely supportive of the state of Israel but a bill like this will create some real divides," Mr Silverman says.

Related Stories: Israel pressure to reform ultra-orthodox schools http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10369998

19 Jul 2010

The Economic Crisis, US Progressivism, and West European Socialism and Social Democracy

by Norman Birnbaum on 16.07.2010 • Categorized [by the Social Europe Journal] as Social Democracy, Volume 5 Issue 1

It occasionally is rewarding to think of ideal solutions to current crises rather than of outcomes dictated by evident and immediate constraints. It is rewarding because it invariably teaches us humility about our current political capacities – and because, even in that lesson, we may find new ways of looking at our situation.

I designate as progressivism the US equivalent of European social democracy. I do so for historical reasons. The term emerged at the beginning of the last century to express the self identification of leaders, movements, thinkers who sought to substitute for the brutality of American industrial capitalism a considerable amount of regulation, and the provision of public goods. Progressivism drew upon Social Catholicism and Social Protestantism, upon large borrowings from European socialist ideas, brought to the US by immigrants, upon American traditions of social reform going back to the Abolitionist movement, upon even older residues of American politics having to do with local self-governance and extreme distrust of economic and political elites. The term progressive reminds us of the self-identification of the United States as a vanguard nation, engaged in the unfinished task of enlarging the autonomy of its citizens. Progressivism joined in a coalition, not without its internal contradictions, Christians and secularists, farmers and workers, older Americans and newer immigrants, often led by what the historian Richard Hofstadter termed “men of the Word,” the educated, distrustful of the culture and power of money.

The political history of the twentieth century, and indeed of the first decade of the present one, is the story of the life, and at times near death, of these ideas and their transformation under Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Projects as diverse as the first Roosevelt’s New Nationalism, Wilson’s New Freedom, the second Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society drew upon progressivism for moral continuity. Carter’s and Clinton’s Democratic Presidencies are understandable as compromises with the considerable resistance the tradition of progressive reform engendered—especially when its beneficiaries had acquired, thanks to the reforms, the sense of having become shareholders in the established order.

It is too early, of course, to draw conclusions about Obama’s Presidency. Still, it is possible to begin to situate him historically, to consider his responses to the crises he inherited, and to draw some inferences as to the continuing vitality of the tradition of which he is the somewhat ambivalent heir.

Viewed in the long term, that tradition rather than being adapted to conditions which are different, has been attenuated—with nothing much to replace it except manouvering, sometimes adept even elegant, sometimes crude, but rarely in the service of a long term national project. It is interesting that Obama has presented his two major legislative efforts, on behalf of health care reform and financial re-regulation, as responses to crises rather than in the language of social reconstruction. One understands why: the intellectual and social bases of progressivism have been constricted, and its proponents exhibit defensive anxiety rather than aggressive optimism.

Obama has smaller Congressional majorities than the Democratic reform Presidents working in the progressive tradition. Those majorities are divided and we can reckon at the most half of the Democrats as consistent adherents of reforms which would reinforce the capacity of the state to control the market, a number which halves again when the issue of redistribution is raised. Obama formed his government as the economic and financial crisis of 2008 induced (or allowed) the Bush government to use public funding for major grants to the larger banks and investment houses. The Secretary of the Treasury was Henry Paulson, who had been Chairman of Goldman Sachs – which, in the end was able to escape major damage as its clients and trading partners (especially the fragile insurance giant, AIG) were saved by state funding. His successor was Timothy Geithner, who as Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York was notable for his close collaboration with the financial industry. Bernake, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, was unstinting in his own deployment of the resources of the central bank—which became a buyer of last resort of federal bonds, maintained historically low rates of interest, and functioned as creditor of last resort when ordinary banking seemed likely to stop. In the background, Robert Rubin (another former Goldman Sachs Chair) who had been Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, urged the President to follow the advice of Bernake and Geithner. The President’s coordinator of economic policy was Rubin’s successor in the last year of the Clinton administration, Lawrence Summers and Paul Volcker, who had been Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Carter was a very active advisor too.

This grouping (figures like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman were not consulted) did not, obviously, hesitate about using Federal resources to rescue the financial industry.

None proposed to use the temporary de facto nationalisation of the industry to enlarge the permanent role of the state in banking (the proposals for re-regulation about to be passed by the Congress came later) – or to set limits on the size of single firms and the scope of their operations. They did initiate an immediate economic stimulus program, which the Congress agreed to in the light of rapidly increasing unemployment and the obvious economic distress of many – but the program was, measured against immediate economic needs, rather small, and Obama has been unable to obtain a larger rather than a much smaller sequel. No doubt, the bank rescue measures made for the resumption of a certain amount of normal banking (with credit for smaller firms remaining extremely restricted.) No doubt, too, the economic stimulus package kept unemployment from leaping higher, but at the moment if it is officially at between nine and ten percent, it is realistically at least fifteen percent. The rate of recovery is very, very slow – which has not prevented, on account of Democratic defections, the Congress from failing to renew unemployment benefits for over a million displaced workers (the Democrats in the House of Representatives who blocked the renewal fear being accused in the fall electoral campaign of reckless spending) despite Presidential urging.

The measures passed in 2009 upon Obama’s taking office had some remarkable public repercussions. For one, a considerable undercurrent of mixed resentments made its way, noisily, to the surface. Ordinary citizens complained that their money was being used to rescue the banks and the bankers, whose high rewards were especially criticised. Since much of the crisis had to do with bank speculation in sub-prime mortgages, a large number of householders directed their rage downward as well as upward. Mortgages had been given (at the instigation of the redistributionist Democrats, argued the Republicans) to the financially improvident or impoverished, who were neither competent nor worthy of trust. To these complaints were added more enduring anxieties about deficit spending, fears of national bankruptcy concretised in predictions that neither the Medicare program of health insurance for those over sixty-five or the universal contributory pensions, Social Security, would remain sustainable. Obama attempted to meet this by appointing a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with a mandate to examine the situation and propose long-term solutions. An initial effort to remove it entirely from public scrutiny by making its recommendations mandatory on the Congress was rejected. The composition of the commission, however, combines conventionality and mediocrity, for the most part, in a higher or lower synthesis. Its Republican co-chair, the former Senator Simpson, has already distinguished himself by declaring that only ‘the lesser people’ worry about Social Security. Astonishingly for a nation which spends at least four times more on its military than China and Russia combined, the military budget has been specifically exempted from the Commission’s mandate. The American version of Keynesianism does not consist of building pyramids, it entails ordering any number of useless weapons systems for armed forces perennially unprepared for their missions.

Obama might have met the crisis, upon taking office, with something like the New Deal Works Progress Administration, and other projects, which restarted the economy and renewed and expanded the nation’s infra-structure. The deficits in Medicare and Social Security could be met by making the rate and incidence of contributions fully progressive. Instead, he presented a near opaque project for health care reform which became the focal point of opposition to his Presidency and the Democrats. The plan mandated insurance for every citizen. It left the insurance industry to provide it, and in return for providing it with some forty million new customers, made it impossible for the industry to limit its coverage to the healthy. The President was conspicuously reticent about supporting a public insurance option (which he had promised when campaigning for election) and those seeking it in the Congress had insufficient votes to pass it. The legislation is complex, will be taking effect by stages, and as it was presented aroused enormous anxieties and hostilities in considerable segments of the public. Most citizens do not grasp the complexities of the new system, and a majority have been persuaded by the Republicans (and Democratic opponents of the change) that they are sure to end up worse off than under their present arrangements.

Obama did not present the project as an extension of the principles of solidarity embodied in Medicare and Social Security, but as a measure of economic rationalisation which would reduce the deficit. Public discussion of it revealed abysmal levels of public ignorance—including ignorance of the fact that Medicare, which is very popular, is a government system with a single payer arrangement.

The debate on health insurance brought to the surface a complex of hatred of the new President which is difficult to analyse in view of its several layers. Clearly, the new Presidential majority (as well as the President’s mixed racial identity and his unusual international biography) disturbed a large group of citizens. They dislike having to share power with Afro-Americans and Latinos, and much of their repugnance for immigration is a consequence of their fear of being out numbered, sooner rather than later, in their own country. They expressed their sense of dispossession by accepting a series of falsehoods. One is that the President was not born in Hawaii but in Kenya, and is therefore ineligible for the Presidency. His birth certificate is deemed to have been forged. Another is that he is a covert Muslim. For many, it follows that he is working for the destruction of the US. The theme of strangeness connects with another: he is viewed as so much an advocate of state intervention in the economy that he can be termed a ‘socialist’.

Those who consider the President an unacceptable and alien figure, who in effect do not accept the legitimacy of his election, may amount to as many as a third of the electorate.

They include the ageing, overweight and white figures who clothe themselves in the costumes of the epoch of the American Revolution and proclaim that they belong to a “Tea Party” (the term used by the colonial subjects of the Crown who threw imported tea into Boston harbour rather than pay taxes upon it.) Quite apart from anxieties of ethnic and racial dispossession, what unites these persons is a strong sense of alienation from “government” and a very explicit rejection of taxes. They are frequently quite ignorant of their actual circumstances (they are often citizens of states which are net beneficiaries of the allocation of Federal funds) and are certainly negative about ideas of social solidarity and common responsibility. Consistency is not their strongest point. Many in the states now struggling with the consequences of the oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico voted against the President because he, allegedly, favoured extensive powers for the state – but they have rent the heavens with criticism of the Federal government for not doing more to assist them. Nearly all of the President’s antagonists exempt military spending (no small part of it wasted) from their strictures on government expenditure. Almost none have a picture of the economy which would encourage them to think in terms of the total allocation of resources over time. Their thinking in terms of simple categories makes them incapable of systematic analysis of the economy. No doubt, they often voice vulgar versions of the views of a certain number of academic economists.

It is striking that the conflict over health care reform legislation seemed to evoke more public interest and involvement than the argument, about to be concluded, on the Democratic proposal to re-regulate the financial industry. Arcane details and complex institutional arrangements do not lend themselves to the pathological simplifications evident in the health care debate (with its charges that the President favoured ‘death panels’.) Moreover, the banks and the financial services industry enjoy no large public trust: however inchoately, an American majority is suspicious of banks and bankers. The argument of the banks, that a return to the regulatory regime abolished under the Clinton presidency would hamper economic recovery by discouraging investment, has little public credibility: the (accurate) public impression is that the banks are not making investment easier. Moreover, although the banks and investment houses have been fighting the new legislation clause by clause, and line by line, they have concentrated their efforts on direct dealings with the legislators – by bribery (electoral contributions) and pressures (threats to mobilise opinion at local levels, in the legislators’ own districts and states). The economists and lawyers who work for the legislators (or in the government departments) are subject to other pressures. If cooperative now, they can be employed later by the industry at four to ten times their governmental salaries. That applies to the legislators themselves, who upon leaving office, frequently become lobbyists for the industries they once, as members of legislative committees, nominally controlled.

To a large extent, the industry has clearly decided to accept re-regulation in principle and then to seek to blunt its impact in practise, by reducing the scope of the legislation – or allowing important aspects of the new regime to be decided by regulators who can be influenced case by case. That is, the industry has accepted that it is not popular, and seeks to defend itself by stealth rather than open combat.

Meanwhile, the refusal of the Congress to vote for a large second installment of economic stimulus threatens the social fabric of the nation. That is a matter not only of the scourge of unemployment, or the fact that about one of every four homeowners may be economically incapable of continuing their mortgage payments. Federal payments to the states to supplement or replace their falling tax revenues are conspicuous by their absence. That means, across the nation, that normal governmental services ordinarily provided by the Federal states cannot continue. The list includes education at all levels, fire and police work, much health care, the maintenance of material infra-structure like water and sewage services, and of course, roads, as well as public transport systems.

It is possible that a Democratic victory (which means the retention even of reduced majorities in the two houses of the Congress) in the November elections will enable the President to convince the Congress to provide an ample and appropriate second stimulus package. That is possible, but not probable. More likely, in the probable event of a Democratic victory, we will see a continuation of the present alternation of advance and immobility. Lenin’s ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ has a contemporary American counterpart: ‘one step forward, one sideways’.

The distressed condition of the party of progress in the US is a result of several major and closely connected trends. One is the fragmentation of the party into a multiplicity of groups working for specific causes, certainly aspects of the construction of a more egalitarian, enlightened and rational society, but without an immediately compelling or visible common denominator. Access to health care, educational opportunity, environmental regulation, freedom from ethnic, racial, religious discrimination, the rights of homosexuals and women compete for attention and energy with larger issues of economic redistribution and security. The question of rights for immigrants merge into larger problems of the nation’s role in the world: aid to development and all the costs of an interventionist military policy. It was simpler when the agenda was mainly comprised of matters of economic justice, organised around extending the scope of the state to contain and reverse the most exploitative and socially destructive consequences of the primacy of the market. The single most effective agency for that struggle was the trade union movement, which had a determining role in the Democratic Party from 1936 to 1968. The decline of the unions (thirty percent of the labor force in 1968, somewhat more than ten percent now) is, then, the single most effective cause of the ideological and political vacuity of the Democrats.

With the union presence in everyday life so diminished, there is no effective educational agency to counter the incessant message of the media: capitalism in its American version is here to stay. One of the more obsessive fantasies of the American right is that schools, and even more post-secondary education, have been seized by cadres of radical administrators and teachers, intent on undermining traditional American values. These are depicted as combining deep deference to authority with obdurate individualism. The readiness of large numbers of citizens to believe the most lurid lies about our President, their ignorance of not only the world beyond our borders but much of American society, suggest that there is something defective about our educational system. It does not appear to include a surfeit of cultural and intellectual nuance. Meanwhile, much of the media landscape has been occupied by ambitious strivers for whom journalistic careers are high roads to economic and social status. The newer generations have little in common with those who, in the period of Franklin Roosevelt, did what they could to voice class antagonism to their own employers, decidedly hostile to the New Deal.

There is no evidence, meanwhile, that the widespread diffusion of internet commentary and news has resulted in a new wave of social criticism, a pluralisation of the perspectives of the medium. Communities of the like minded have formed, a pseudo-democratisation of culture, in which aesthetic and moral standards as well as serious criteria of truth have dissolved, is in process and it is impossible to be optimistic about a good end.

These events take place against the background of an increasingly diverse and divided society. Fourteen percent of the population are foreign born, and in many areas of the country immigration has replaced or rivals racial differentiation as a catalyst of prejudice. The obvious function of immigrant labor in reducing wages renders a common political front of segments of the labor force separated by culture, by type of employment, and by education and occupational skills very difficult. Some unions have had some success in organising immigrant labor in the lower levels of the labor force, but a white working class often suspicious of “big government” and redistribution is not ready to practise long-term solidarity.

In these circumstances, a pervasive process of depoliticisation dominates consciousness, interrupted by sporadic bouts of pseudo-politicisation. The trivialisation and personalisation of the media, the restriction of critical thought to the educated enclaves of society, combine with the disintegration of the forms of political mobilisation quite present even a generation ago. Only fifty-seven percent of the eligible electorate voted in the Presidential election of 2008 and in the November Congressional elections a very large decline in participation is likely. It is unclear that Obama can use his standing with large sectors of his original coalition (especially the Latinos and Afro-Americans and unionists, who failed to vote in the election for Kennedy’s Senatorial successor in Massachusetts) to induce them to turn out again in the numbers which made his election as President possible. Perhaps matters would be different had he pursued a clearer course with respect to issues of redistribution and social benefits. That was precluded, not least, by his own technocratic set of mind and in that sense, he is an heir of the Third Way.

It may be too early to write of an American disaster, but it is clear that we have a stalemate. Presidential and Congressional majorities differ, and what the social majority may be in a highly conflicted nation alters from day to day, issue to issue. What is striking are certain parallels with Europe, despite the grotesque spectacle of Obama urging on the other heads of government that they continue expansionary spending.

The parallels lie in the depoliticisation of citizenries, in the loss of a distinctive reform project which intends the ultimate transformation of large segments of social existence, in the grovelling refusal of the socialist and social democratic and social Christian parties to challenge the arrogance and open manipulativeness of capital. They are to be found in the emergence of new problems, like the control of science and technology, the co-existence of cultures, environment, immigration, for which received American progressive and European socialist and social democratic traditions have no answers, the more so as their resigned acceptance of the predominance of the market is so intellectually passive. It lies, too, in the inner differentiation of the capitalist societies which have made simple models of class division inapplicable. The possibility that a new idea of citizenship could be consolidated to overcome these differences remains, but little has been done to achieve it. Above all the inner attenuation of the idea of solidarity has denuded the progressives in the US and our comrades in Europe of a moral project.

It would be absurd to attribute all or even a major part of this to an Asian challenge. We would do well to ask ourselves why, in so many ways, neither the US or western Europe can claim to have social models which others are compelled to follow.