The Third Intifada Is Inevitable

EARLIER this month, at a private meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his security advisers, a group of Middle East experts and former intelligence officers warned that a third Palestinian intifada was imminent. The immediate catalyst, they said, could be another mosque vandalized by Jewish settlers, like the one burned on Tuesday, or the construction of new settlement housing. Whatever the fuse, the underlying source of ferment in the West Bank is a consensus that the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has reached a dead end.

Mr. Abbas’s political strategy was premised on the notion that security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government would make Israel feel safer and remove its primary justification for continuing to occupy the West Bank, thereby clearing the way for a Palestinian state. Ironically, owing to the success of his efforts, many Israelis have had the luxury of forgetting that there is an occupation at all.

Thanks to the American- and European-financed peace that Mr. Abbas’s government has been keeping in the West Bank, Israelis have come to believe they can eat their cake and have it, too. A majority of citizens polled earlier this year said their state could remain Jewish and democratic without relinquishing any of the West Bank. Years of peace and quiet in Tel Aviv allowed hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take to the streets last summer to protest the high price of cottage cheese, rent and day care without uttering a word about Palestinians in the West Bank. The issue has ceased to be one of Israel’s primary security concerns. Mr. Netanyahu would have to be either politically suicidal or exceptionally forward-thinking to abandon a status quo with which a vast majority appears satisfied.

By contrast, Palestinians today see their leadership banging its head against a wall, hoping against reason that a bit more good behavior will bring about an independent state. As a result, longstanding debates over how to achieve national liberation — by comforting Israel or confronting it — have now been resolved. Palestinians of all political stripes are no longer arguing about whether to make Israel’s occupation more costly, but how.

During the 1990s, Mr. Abbas was one of the key architects of the Oslo peace process, which envisioned a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank leading to a permanent peace agreement (though not necessarily to a Palestinian state). Today, he is perhaps its last remaining believer. He has been forced to pay lip service to the demands of those who advocate confrontation by issuing repeated pledges to confront Israel — by dismantling the Palestinian Authority or refusing to negotiate unless Israel freezes settlement construction — only to renege on each one.

As the gap between the Palestinian president’s words and actions has grown, so has the distance of his policies from public sentiment, leading to his government’s turn to greater repression: torturing political opponents, blocking Web sites and arresting journalists and bloggers critical of Mr. Abbas. Even Mr. Abbas’s close advisers confide that he is at risk of becoming another Antoine Lahad, the leader of Israel’s proxy force during its occupation of southern Lebanon. The chief steward of Mr. Abbas’s policies, the unelected prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has acknowledged, “I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost.” And Mr. Abbas himself has admitted that the peace process is “jammed” and that his government had merely helped create “a good situation” for Israel, which, enjoying years of unprecedented cooperation with Palestinian forces in the West Bank, lacks incentives to agree to any change.

But these days, Palestinian security forces have little reason to believe their efforts are advancing national goals, and Israel can’t assume that the Palestinian Authority will provide security indefinitely. Last month, as gunfire returned to the streets of Jenin, and 1,600 Palestinian prisoners entered the fourth week of a hunger strike, Mr. Abbas said: “I cannot control the situation. I am afraid, God forbid, that the security system here will collapse.” That sentiment echoed remarks by Yuval Diskin, the recently retired head of Israel’s internal security agency: “When the concentration of gas fumes in the air is so high,” he said, “the question is only when the spark will come to light it.”

The root cause of this instability is that Palestinians have lost all hope that Israel will grant them a state. Each attempt to exert what little leverage Palestinians possess has been thwarted or has proved ineffective. Boycotts of settlement jobs and products haven’t gained mass support, and would not stop settlement growth even if they did. The Palestinians could have pushed for a vote last September in the United Nations General Assembly — a move that frightened Israel and America because of its implications for Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court. Mr. Abbas abandoned that effort in favor of a petition for statehood at the Security Council, which was always guaranteed to fail, and then deftly sold his capitulation as defiance.

These failures have left Palestinians who hope to make present conditions untenable for Israel with only two options: popular protest and armed resistance. The first option faces enormous obstacles because of political divisions between Hamas in Gaza and Mr. Abbas’s Fatah in the West Bank. Each faction regards mass mobilization as a potential first step to its overthrow, as well as a means of empowering a new generation of leaders at the expense of existing ones.

If mass demonstrations erupted in the West Bank, Israel would ask Palestinian security forces to stop any protests near soldiers or settlers, forcing them to choose between potentially firing on Palestinian demonstrators or ending security cooperation with Israel, which Mr. Abbas refuses to do. As he knows and fears, mass protests could quickly become militarized by either side. For that reason, his government has offered little more than rhetorical support for the small weekly protests so beloved by foreign activists and the Western press, and has actively prevented demonstrators from approaching any Jewish settlements.

The second option is armed confrontation. Although there is widespread apathy among Palestinians, and hundreds of thousands are financially dependent on the Palestinian Authority’s continued existence, a substantial number would welcome the prospect of an escalation, especially many supporters of Hamas, who argue that violence has been the most effective tactic in forcing Israel and the international community to act.

THEY believe that rocks, Molotov cocktails and mass protests pushed Israel to sign the Oslo Accords in 1993; that deadly strikes against Israeli troops in Lebanon led Israel to withdraw in 2000; that the bloodshed of the second intifada pressured George W. Bush to declare his support for Palestinian statehood and prodded the international community to produce the Arab Peace Initiative, the Geneva Initiative, and the Road Map for Middle East Peace. They are also convinced that arms pressured Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, to evacuate settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005. That pullout also had the effect of freezing the peace process, supplying “the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary,” as a Sharon adviser put it, “so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

For more militant Palestinian leaders, who never believed in the peace process, the lesson was clear: “Not an inch of Palestinian land will be liberated,” Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, told me, “while Israelis feel that controlling it exacts few costs.” Matti Steinberg, a former senior adviser to Israeli security chiefs, described Mr. Abbas as the most obliging, nonviolent Palestinian leader Israel has encountered and warned of taking him for granted. “The Israeli center is caught in a vicious cycle,” he said. “It argues that it cannot make peace while there is violence, and when there is no violence it sees little reason to make peace.”

History may credit Mr. Abbas with reigning over the more virtuous phase of this cycle, but he has likely laid the groundwork for the uglier one. Hamas, meanwhile, has already moved on. “Israelis had a golden opportunity to sign an agreement with Abbas,” Hamas’s health minister, Basem Naim, told me in Gaza last November. “But the chance has already passed. They will not get it again.”

By: NATHAN THRALL, a Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Advertisements

Irony of Life

Most ‘First Class’ students
get technical seats, some become Doctors and some Engineers and even brilliant scientists.

* The ‘Second Class’ pass,
and then get MBA, become Administrators and control the ‘First Class’.

* The ‘Third Class’ pass,
enter politics and become Ministers and control both.

* Last, but not the least, The ‘Failures’
join the underworld and control the politicians as most of them are ex-criminals.

And those who do not attend any school,
become Swamis and Gurus and Peers and everyone goes to them.

Some Who are Born Muslim

Some who say that they were born – – – Into the Islamic fold
Allow the binding fear of God – – – To gradually lose its hold.
They early learn to fast and pray – – – And recite the Holy Book,
They make the Hajj and pay Zakat – – – And swine they will not cook.
So after this they proudly say – – – That they are Muslims true

And venture forth to western lands – – – Where Muslim men are few.
Their eyes and minds are then amazed – – – At everything they see,
And soon their hearts admire the men – – – Who cause such things to be.
But those men seek to make this world – – – Their haven of delight,
And therefore they create their own – – – Standards of wrong and right.

So when a Muslim looks to them – – – As models for all men,
Unwittingly he begins to slip – – – – – – Gradually into sin.
At first, perhaps, he misses a prayer – – – Or rushes one on through.
Then, busily pursuing the western ways – – – Perhaps he misses two.
He reads the Book a little less – – – And less he gives the poor;

The challenge to raise his standard of life – – – Now means a little more.
Perhaps he’ll even being to gamble – – – Or taste some wine or beer,
His acts distinguish him not from those – – – Who have no Godly fear.
The path he follows gradually leads – – – The way the worldly seek,
And his religion becomes a task – – – To practice once a week.
What! Six days he gives himself – – – And God he gives but one!
But still he claims to be a Muslim – – – ‘Cause he’s a Muslim’s son.

He who serves his own desires – – – But one place will he dwell;
God shall seize him by the neck – – – And throw him into Hell!
Your father’s nor your mother’s faith – – – Will save you from the Fire,
If you consider this world to be – – – Your innermost desire.
But wait! Wherever you are, your life – – – Can surely be turned around,
And the God you placed upon your tongue – – – Can in your heart be found.

Conversion not only occurs with those – – – Who do not know the way,
It occurs also with those well-versed – – – Who gradually go astray.
Forget, therefore, how you were born – – – God judges not your birth.
By the purity of your heart at death – – – Will He determine your worth.
Those who say that they were born – – – Into the Islamic fold,
Like others, they must submit themselves – – – As clay for God to mould.

By neQiniso Abdullah

A passionate Islamic worker in Texas who died in March, 2001
(from his book of Poetry “In Praise of Allah”)

Cheer Up

“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” (Mary Wilson Little)

“If you live long enough, you’ll see that every victory turns into a defeat.” (Simone de Beavoir)

“As peace is the end of the war, so to be idle is the ultimate purpose of the busy.” (Samuel Johnson)

“Cheer up, the worst has yet to come.” (Philander Johnson)

A Cruel and Unusual Record

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

By: JIMMY CARTER
Published in N Y TIMES on June 16, 2011
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.