Monday, January 31, 2011

Laila Lalami: Tunisia Rising, China blocks 'Egypt'

As I wrote this I listenied to superb reporting from Cairo, by Sharif Abdel
Kouddous, Democracy Now's senior reporter, an Egyption native, 30
years old. After almost 30 minutes of reporting and discussing with
Amy Goodman, they're joined by a history prof, a political analyst, and
finally an 80 yr. old Cairo feminist. A very spcial cast, not to be missed.
Listen at 9 pdt on kpfk 90.7 fm, other radio and tv sta. Check Dem.Now
websits. =Ed

Tunisia Rising

By Laila Lalami
The Nation: February 7 edition

In conventional thinking about the Middle East, perhaps the most persistent
cliché is "moderate Arab country." The label seems to apply indiscriminately
to monarchies and republics, ancient dictatorships and newly installed ones,
from the Atlantic Coast to the Persian Gulf, so long as the country in
question is of some use to the United States. And, almost always, it crops
up in articles and policy papers vaunting the need for America to support
these countries, bulwarks against growing Islamic extremism in the Arab

A perfect example is Tunisia. Just three summers ago, Christopher Hitchens
delivered a 2,000-word ode to the North African nation in Vanity Fair,
describing it as an "enclave of development" menaced by "the harsh
extremists of a desert religion." This is a country with good economic
growth, a country where polygamy was outlawed in 1956, a country with high
levels of education, a country with perfect sandy beaches. And, Hitchens
wrote, it "makes delicious wine and even exports it to France."

Never mind that the president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, in power for
twenty-three years, was regularly winning elections with 90 percent of the
vote. Never mind that his wife, Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser, had a
stake in almost all of the country's businesses. Never mind that the
unemployment rate among college graduates was reportedly as high as 20
percent. Never mind that there was a police officer for every forty adults
and that the Internet was censored. In January all these things added up,
making the ouster of Ben Ali seem not only possible but probable, and later

The Tunisian uprising began on December 17, when Mohammed Bouazizi-a college
graduate eking out a living selling vegetables whose unlicensed cart was
confiscated by the police-set himself on fire, an act of desperation that
inspired the country's thousands of unemployed graduates to take to the
streets in protest. Despite severe police repression-arrests, beatings and
murders-the protests continued for several weeks, spreading from Bouazizi's
hometown of Sidi Bouzid to the rest of the country and culminating on
January 14, when Ben Ali and his family fled the country.

What is striking about the Tunisian revolution is how little attention it
received in the mainstream American press. The Washington Post mentioned the
protests for the first time on January 5, two and a half weeks into the
unrest, when it ran a wire report about the burial of Bouazizi. Time ran its
first piece about the protests later yet, on January 12. Even those who,
like Thomas Friedman, specialize in diagnosing the ills of the "Arab street"
did not show much interest.

When the mainstream press finally paid attention, it was often to explain
the success of the Tunisian revolution in terms of technology. "Tunisian
Protests Fueled by Social Media Networks," read one typical headline, from
CNN. Was it Twitter, which allowed activists to communicate swiftly and
widely with one another? Was it YouTube, where videos of protesters and
police abuse were posted? Or was it WikiLeaks, whose cables revealed that
Ben Ali and his entourage were mind-bogglingly corrupt? But Twitter seemed
to be most helpful in keeping those of us outside the country informed,
since few in the Western media were reporting the story; YouTube was
censored in the country; and WikiLeaks didn't reveal anything that the
Tunisian people did not already know.

In contrast, the Iran uprising of 2009 captured much of the American media's
attention. The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan posted videos, tweets and
eyewitness accounts during the weekend following the Iranian elections.
William Kristol took to the pages of the Washington Post to applaud the
brave protesters. In The Weekly Standard Michael Goldfarb urged the
president to speak up for the Iranians on the street. Although Twitter,
YouTube and Facebook were used widely to disseminate information,
Ahmadinejad remained in power, highlighting the limits both of social
networks and foreign media in affecting internal developments.

The Tunisian revolution occurred thanks primarily to the men and women who
protested despite the intimidation, beatings, tear gas and bullets. The
death of Bouazizi, the refusal of Gen. Rachid Ammar to obey Ben Ali's orders
to shoot, the arrest of dissident Hamma Hammami and the solidarity of trade
unions and professionals with college students-all these factors played an
incremental role in keeping the momentum going. In this modern revolution,
the protesters had access to Internet tools that made it easier for them to
get the word out, but those tools on their own could not topple a dictator.

The initial lack of interest by the American press in the Tunisian protests
may have something to do with the fact that there was no Islamic angle: the
Tunisians were not trying to oust an Islamic regime, nor were they
supporters of a religious ideology. In other words, this particular struggle
for freedom was not couched in simple terms that are familiar to the Western
media-Islam, bad; America, good-so it took a while for our commentariat to

While Tunisia, the poster child of a "moderate Arab country," was in revolt
against tyranny, the French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie,
suggested to the Assemblée Nationale that, as part of the cooperation
between the two countries, French troops could be sent to help stamp out the
protests. The minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, said that calling
Tunisia a dictatorship was an exaggeration. Yet after Ben Ali was ousted,
President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly refused him entry into France. In a
final irony, the dictator who had been praised in the West as a bulwark
against Islamic extremism ran off to Saudi Arabia for safe haven.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was on a tour of Gulf
countries, lectured Arab states about the need for democratic reforms but
scrupulously refrained from mentioning the Tunisian protests. The only
official statement from President Obama came after Ben Ali had been ousted.
Perhaps the Obama administration remained quiet because it had learned from
its experience with Iran that it is best to let internal matters play out.
Or perhaps it was a stunned silence at the realization that all the
conventional thinking about the Arab world is wrong and that a popular
revolution against tyranny can occur without American involvement.

The reverberations of the Tunisian revolution were felt almost immediately,
when Muammar el-Qaddafi scolded Tunisians that they should have had the
patience to wait for Ben Ali to step down in 2014 and warned them about
civil chaos. Of course, this was a warning to the Libyan people, who might
feel inspired to topple their own tyrant. In Mauritania and Egypt-yes, two
other "moderate Arab countries"-copycat self-immolations are creating
deepening worry. And in Jordan the government has hurriedly put together a
plan to lower the price of fuel and basic commodities.

It is too early to tell whether Mohamed Ghannouchi's interim government will
be democratic. The appointment of the activist Slim Amamou as state
secretary for youth and sports seems inspired, but the inclusion of several
Ben Ali allies, particularly at the Interior Ministry, does not make for an
auspicious start. Nor does the exclusion of parties banned under Ben Ali.
The Tunisian people do not yet seem content with the government that is
shaping up, and there are reports of continuing protests. The revolution is
not over. In fact, it may have just begun.

The Tunisian people are expecting justice for those who died, free and fair
elections, and a new political order. But the three biggest lessons of their
uprising have already been delivered far and wide. To the Arab dictators:
you are not invincible. To the West: you are not needed. And to the Arab
people: you are not powerless.


From: "Sid Shniad" <>

Egypt not trending in China

Alljazeera: 29 January 2011

Beijing blocks searches for "Egypt" from microblogging site following
protests there.*

China has blocked the word "Egypt'' from the country's wildly popular
Twitter-like service, while coverage of the political turmoil has been
tightly restricted in state media.

China's ruling Communist Party is sensitive to any potential source of
social unrest.

A search for "Egypt'' on the Sina microblogging service brings up a message
saying, "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search
results are not shown".

The service has more than 50 million users.

News on the Egypt protests has been limited to a few paragraphs and photos
buried inside major news websites, but China Central Television had a report
on its midday broadcast.

China's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment Saturday
on the events in Egypt.

Associated Press
Rad-Green mailing list

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Alan Woods: Revolution in Egypt – Power is on the street

Hi. I got this from the Los Angeles Alternative Media Network [LAAMN],
which began a decade ago, out of the protests in Seattle. It seems to be
an open forum, automatically passing on what's sent to it, including the
daily messages I send you. I note this as I try to enlist subscribers of
all political persuasion, including those who may be uncomfortable with
the word 'marxist.' I ask them to get over it; this material is the most
comprehensive I've seen, expanding on what's in today's NY Times.
And please don't identify me as whatever. I am what you see, daily.

ps: It turns out Democracy Now's senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous
is a Cairo native. He just relo'd home and is reporting, daily. Tune in.

From: "Cort Greene" <>
Subject: [LAAMN] Alan Woods/Revolution in Egypt – Power is on the street
Sent: Saturday, January 29, 2011 3:58 PM

In 1916 Lenin wrote these lines:

"Whoever expects a pure social revolution will never live to see it. Such a
person pays lip service to revolution without understanding what revolution

Revolution in Egypt – Power is on the street


by Alan Woods
*London, Saturday, 29 January 2011*

Day five of the revolution and the movement continues to grow in size and
intensity. Last night's curfew was ignored, and today there are more people
on the streets than yesterday. A new curfew was called for four o'clock
Egyptian time, but this is no more effective than the previous one. Even
before the curfew came into effect, larger numbers of protestors were
gathering on the streets.

"The street is not being organized by the parties, it is not being organized
by the state. It is not controlled by anybody." (Al Jazeera)

Following the events hour by hour I recalled the following incident from the
French Revolution. On the 14th of July 1789, shortly after the fall of the
Bastille, the French king Louis XVI asked the Duke of
Rochefoucauld-Liancourt: "Is this a revolt?" To which the Duke delivered the
immortal reply: "*Non Sire*, *c'est une révolution* !" - No, sir, it's a

In Egypt we are witnessing a revolution in full swing. After five days of
colossal struggles, this fact has penetrated even the most obtuse skulls.
The popular revolt is spreading by the hour. It is like a mighty river that
overflows its banks and sweeps away all barriers that were erected to
contain it.

Overnight all police have disappeared from the streets of the capital. Tanks
and armoured personnel carriers are on the streets of Cairo, where fires
from the previous day's violence are still smouldering. Mobile phone
services have been restored in the city, but the internet remains down.

Meanwhile, the death toll has reportedly risen to 53 since the January 28
protest. In Suez, where at least twenty people have been killed, the bodies
of the martyrs were carried through the streets as the people shouted
revolutionary slogans. In Cairo the political prisoners have taken control
of a jail. In Giza the people have burnt the police station and are
attacking the police. Burning police vehicles have become a common sight on
Egyptian streets. In one case, a group of protesters tried to push an
armoured vehicle into the River Nile.

After the withdrawal of the police there have been many reports of looting.
The people suspect that this has been deliberately organized by the regime
in order to create the impression of anarchy and chaos. It is clear that the
prisons have been opened to let out the criminal elements who have been
armed for this purpose. Egyptian television has shown scenes of destruction
of precious artefacts in the historic Cairo museum.

It is an open secret that this is a manoeuvre to destroy the revolution. The
large numbers of armed police who yesterday were shooting at unarmed
demonstrators are now nowhere to be seen as armed lumpenproletarians go on
the rampage. Several of the looters who were caught by protestors turned
out to be undercover policemen.

In response neighbourhood committees have been set up in Suez and Alexandria
to keep order and prevent looting. In some places the committees are even
directing the traffic. There is an urgent need to generalise the committees
and to arm the people. We must remember the slogan of the French Revolution:
"Mort aux voleurs!" (Death to thieves!)
Mubarak's speech

"Power tends to corrupt," the saying goes; "Absolute power corrupts
absolutely." The President is suffering from the same delusions of grandeur
that affected the mental capacities of every Roman emperor and Russian tsar
in the past. Last night's speech of President Mubarak, far from calming the
situation, has thrown petrol on the flames.

[image: January 29. Photo: Philip Rizk]

The people's message is loud and clear. But the President does not hear it.
He is blind and deaf and has lost the use of reason. A man who has got used
to being surrounded by a camarilla of servile courtiers hanging on his every
word loses all contact with reality. He begins to believe in his own
omnipotence. The border line between reality and fantasy is blurred. Such a
state of mind is akin to madness.

Watching Mubarak speak, one had the impression of a man who has lost all
contact with reality and is playing out his own fantasies. He promises that
everything will be better from now on, if only the people will trust him. He
will dismiss his government and he will graciously appoint another one. He
will make the necessary changes. But he will not tolerate chaos and
disorder. Anyone who disobeys can expect no mercy.

This is the voice of the Father of the People, the harsh but benevolent
Pharaoh who decides every question for the benefit of his children. But the
people of Egypt are not little children and have no need of a Pharaoh who
has to send his army onto the streets to keep them obedient.

The government has duly resigned and a "new" government has been appointed
(by Mubarak). The prime minister will be Racheed Mohamad Racheed - a
millionaire and the former minister of investment, commerce, and industry.
Rachid is identified with the so-called "neoliberal" reforms that have
contributed to the hardship of the masses: high and rising prices,
unemployment and poverty.

This appointment is sufficient to reveal the precise physiognomy of the
"new" government. It is a provocation to the people on the streets. Since
then Omar Suleiman, the 74-year old head of the state intelligence services
has been named vice-president. Since Suleiman is one of Mubarak's main
stooges, this is an even more blatant provocation to the masses. It shows
how far out of touch with reality Mubarak is.

If the President's speech was intended to calm things down, it had the
opposite effect. Last night BBC television spoke on the telephone to a man
who had been on the streets all day: "I intended to go to bed for a few
hours and then continue demonstrating tomorrow, but after I heard Mubarak's
speech I immediately phoned all my relations to come out and demonstrate,
and I went back on the streets."
The "Islamist menace"

The western media is constantly repeating the idea that the Moslem
Brotherhood is behind the protests, and that they are the only alternative
to Mubarak. This is false. The fact is that, just like all the other
political parties, the Moslem Brotherhood has been completely caught
unawares by this movement. Initially they did not even support it, and their
role in organizing the protests has been minimal.

The Muslim Brotherhood recently subtly changed its message ahead of the
latest protests. The deputy leader Mahmoud Izzat spoke encouragingly of the
protests: "People are demanding freedom, the dissolution of this invalid
parliament. From the beginning this is what the young people have been
shouting and we are with them," Mr Izzat told the al-Jazeera news channel.
And he went on to criticise "the excessive force" of the security services.

However, the Brotherhood did not organize the protests and on the
demonstrations one sees very few bearded fundamentalists. The majority of
the activists are young, many of them students, but there are also many
unemployed youth from the slums of Cairo and Alexandria. They are not
fighting for the introduction of Sharia law but for freedom and jobs. .

The fact of the matter is that these reactionaries did not want this
revolutionary movement and are mortally afraid of it. The people who
streamed out of the mosques to demonstrate on the streets of Suez after
Friday prayers did so in spite of the fact that the imam told them not to
participate in the protests. The reactionary role of the fundamentalists is
shown by the influential Islamist al-Qaradawi who, according to AlJazeera,
"urges people not to attack state institutions."

The Brotherhood Itself is split and has declined. Hossam el-Hamalawy told Al

"The Brotherhood has been suffering from divisions since the outbreak of the
al-Aqsa intifada. Its involvement in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement
when it came to confronting the regime was abysmal. Basically, whenever
their leadership makes a compromise with the regime, especially the most
recent leadership of the current supreme guide, it has demoralised its base
cadres. I know personally many young brothers who left the group. Some of
them have joined other groups or remained independent. As the current street
movement grows and the lower leadership gets involved, there will be more
divisions because the higher leadership can't justify why they're not part
of the new uprising."

International repercussions

If the government and all the political parties have been taken by surprise,
this is still more the case with western governments. Having denied any
possibility of an upheaval in Egypt only one week ago, the leaders of the
western world in Washington now stand with their mouths open.

Obama and Hilary Clinton seem to be having difficulty keeping up with the
situation. Their public declarations show that they have not yet grasped the
realities on the ground. They express sympathy with the protestors but are
still in favour of maintaining a friendly dialogue with the government that
is shooting and gassing them. This desire to ride both horses at the same
time may be understandable, but it is a little difficult to do when both
horses are running in opposite directions.

President Obama, as everybody knows, specializes in facing all directions at
once. But his chief speciality is in saying nothing but saying it very
nicely. He advises Egypt to introduce democracy and provide its citizens
with work and a decent living standard. But neither he nor any of his
predecessors had any problem about collaborating with Hosni Mubarak,
although they knew he was a tyrant and a dictator. Only now, when the masses
are on the point of overthrowing him, do they suddenly begin to sing the
praises of democracy.

Obama's request for more jobs and improved living standards in Egypt sounds
particularly hollow. It was the United States that was behind the economic
"reforms" of 1991. That pushed Egypt into the kind of "liberalism" that
resulted in huge inequality, obscene wealth for a few and poverty and
unemployment for the vast majority. More than anything else that is what has
created the present explosive situation in Egypt. In this context, Obama's
advice is the worst kind of cynicism.

Washington's concern is not motivated by humanitarian or democratic
considerations. It is motivated by self-interest. Egypt is the most
important Arab country in the Middle East. By comparison, Tunisia is a small
and relatively marginal country. But historically whatever happens in Egypt
tends to communicate itself to the entire region. That is why all the Arab
ruling cliques are worried and that is why Washington is worried.

They are right to worry. But the Israeli ruling circles are even more
worried. Mubarak was a useful tool of Israeli foreign policy. As a
"moderate" (that is, a western stooge) he helped to keep up the illusion of
a fraudulent "peace process" which kept the Palestinian masses in check
while the Israelis consolidated their positions. He propped up the equally
"moderate" Abbas and the other leaders of the PLO, who have betrayed the
aspirations of the Palestinian people. He supported the so-called war on

He was thus very useful to both the Americans and the Israelis. His services
were well rewarded. The USA subsidized his regime to the tune of around $5
billion a year. Egypt is the fourth largest recipient of American aid, after
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel. Most of this money went on arms
expenditure, a fact that will have been painfully brought home to the
protestors when they read the labels on tear gas canisters with the words
"Made in the USA" written on them. These messages from Washington speak to
the protestors with far greater eloquence than the speeches of Mr. Obama.

The removal of Mubarak will therefore remove one of the most important
elements on US foreign policy in the Middle East. It will further undermine
the "moderate" (pro-American) Arab regimes. Already the mass protests are
growing in Jordan and Yemen. Others will follow. Saudi Arabia itself is not

The imperialists look on aghast. Overnight all their schemes are coming
undone. Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative British Foreign Secretary,
when asked for his view of the situation on BBC television, said: "Well,
this has been prepared for a long time. Whatever government comes to power
in Egypt will not be pro-western. But there is not a lot we can do about
The army

[image: January 29, people on tanks. Photo: Philip Rizk]

The army is now all that separates Mubarak from the abysm. How will the army
react? The army has now replaced the police on the streets. The relationship
between the soldiers and the protestors is uneasy and contradictory. In some
cases there is fraternization. In other cases, there have been clashes with

In order to put an end to the revolt, it would be necessary to kill
thousands of protesters. But it is impossible to kill them all. And there is
no guarantee that troops would be prepared to obey the order to fire on
unarmed demonstrators. The army officers know that one bloody incident would
be sufficient to break the army in pieces. It seems very unlikely that they
would be prepared to take the risk. Today the BBC website speculated about
the army's role:

"Broadly speaking, Egyptians respect their army, which is still seen as a
patriotic bulwark against their neighbour Israel, with whom they went to war
in 1967 and 1973.

"But the black-clad riot police, the Central Security Force (Amn
al-Markazi), belongs to the interior ministry, and has been in the forefront
of much of the violent confrontations with protesters.

"Poorly paid and mostly illiterate, they number around 330,000 when combined
with the Border Force. They themselves rioted over low pay in the early
years of President Mubarak's rule and had to be brought under control by the

"The army has a similar strength - around 340,000 - and is under the command
of Gen Mohammad Tantawi, who has close ties with the US (he has just been
visiting the Pentagon).

"When Mr Mubarak ordered the army onto the streets of Cairo and other cities
late on Friday, his aim was to back up the riot police who have been heavily
outnumbered by the protesters.

"But many of them are hoping the army will take their side or, at the very
least, act as a restraining force on the police who have been acting with
excessive brutality throughout this protest.

"Hence the cheers that greeted the columns of army vehicles as they drove
through Cairo on Friday night.

"Up until now, President Mubarak has enjoyed the support of the armed

"He was, after all, a career air force officer suddenly catapulted to the
presidency when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.

"But if these protests continue and intensify there are bound to be senior
voices within the military tempted to urge him to stand down."

The days of the Mubarak regime are numbered, and this must be clear to the
army chiefs who must think of their own future. Even if security forces
manage to put down protests today, how will they put down the ones that
happen next week, or next month or next year? Power is in effect lying in
the street, waiting for somebody to pick it up. But who will do so? If a
party like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky were present, the
conquest of power by the working class would be on the order of the day. The
problem is that such a party does not yet exist

In the absence of a revolutionary party and leadership, the present
situation can end in deadlock. In such situations the state itself, in the
shape of the army, tends to raise itself above society and become the
arbiter between the classes. In Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries
there is a long history of such things, beginning with Abdel Nasser. It is
possible that a section of the army leaders will decide to dump Mubarak.

The mass movement is strong enough to overthrow the old regime. But as yet
it lacks the necessary level of organization and leadership to constitute
itself as a new power. Consequently, the revolution will be a protracted
affair, which must go through a series of stages before the workers are in a
position to take power into their hands. There will be a series of
transitional governments, each more unstable than the last. But on a
capitalist basis none of the fundamental problems can be solved.

However, the fall of Mubarak will open the flood gates. The working class
has been awakened to struggle. For the last four years there has been a wave
of labour strikes in Egypt. The workers will take advantage of democracy to
press their class demands. The struggle for democracy will open the way for
the fight for socialism.

*London 29th January*

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fisk: Egypt's Day of Reckoning, Rally Today in L.A.

I urge you to go on the web to NY and today's main article
"Egypt Protests Continue as Military Stands By."  The LA Times is way
behind.  Vast changes in the Middle East have begun.  -Ed
Subject: SAT JAN 29th: Stand in Solidarity with the Egyptian People - LA

***Help spread the word*** NOTE: Over 500 people have RSVP'd YES to Facebook invite to LA Rally

LA Stands in Solidarity with the
Egyptian People
Protest at the Consulate General of Egypt
Demand the release of political prisoners

Outside Egyptian Consulate
@ Wilshire / Highland

WHEN: Sat, Jan 29th, Noon-1:30 PM

Inspired by the successful ouster of the tyrant of Tunisia and the continued
mobilizations in that country for justice,the Egyptian people have organized
massive marches and rallies throughout their country for the past 3 days,
fighting off vicious police attacks and mass arrests to call for the ouster
of the hated Mubarak regime. They have shown they will not give up - even in
the face of guns, tear gas and other weapons supplied and paid for by the U.S.

Hundreds of activists have been jailed and we demand their immediate
release. A free Egypt is the key to justice throughout the Arab world.
Come stand in solidarity with the brave people of Egypt!l
Contact, or call 213-309-2713 to endorse and support the rally.
FACEBOOK INVITE:!/event.php?eid=136377153093178

You can also call the Egyptian Consulate General to demand a release of the
TEL: (323) 933-9700
     (323) 933-9757
FAX: (323)933-9725


Egypt's Day of Reckoning

Mubarak regime may not survive new protests as flames of anger spread
through Middle East
by Robert Fisk
The Independent/UK : January 28, 2011

A day of prayer or a day of rage? All Egypt was waiting for the Muslim
Sabbath today - not to mention Egypt's fearful allies - as the country's
ageing President clings to power after nights of violence that have shaken
America's faith in the stability of the Mubarak regime.

Five men have so far been killed and almost 1,000 others have been
imprisoned, police have beaten women and for the first time an office of the
ruling National Democratic Party was set on fire. Rumours are as dangerous
as tear gas here. A Cairo daily has been claiming that one of President
Hosni Mubarak's top advisers has fled to London with 97 suitcases of cash,
but other reports speak of an enraged President shouting at senior police
officers for not dealing more harshly with demonstrators.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition leader and Nobel prize-winning former UN
official, flew back to Egypt last night but no one believes - except perhaps
the Americans - that he can become a focus for the protest movements that
have sprung up across the country.

Already there have been signs that those tired of Mubarak's corrupt and
undemocratic rule have been trying to persuade the ill-paid policemen
patrolling Cairo to join them. "Brothers! Brothers! How much do they pay
you?" one of the crowds began shouting at the cops in Cairo. But no one is
negotiating - there is nothing to negotiate except the departure of Mubarak,
and the Egyptian government says and does nothing, which is pretty much what
it has been doing for the past three decades.

People talk of revolution but there is no one to replace Mubarak's men - he
never appointed a vice-president - and one Egyptian journalist yesterday
told me he had even found some friends who feel sorry for the isolated,
lonely President. Mubarak is 82 and even hinted he would stand for president
again - to the outrage of millions of Egyptians.

The barren, horrible truth, however, is that save for its brutal police
force and its ominously docile army - which, by the way, does not look
favourably upon Mubarak's son Gamal - the government is powerless. This is
revolution by Twitter and revolution by Facebook, and technology long ago
took away the dismal rules of censorship.

Mubarak's men seem to have lost all sense of initiative. Their party
newspapers are filled with self-delusion, pushing the massive demonstrations
to the foot of front pages as if this will keep the crowds from the
streets - as if, indeed, by belittling the story, the demonstrations never

But you don't need to read the papers to see what has gone wrong. The filth
and the slums, the open sewers and the corruption of every government
official, the bulging prisons, the laughable elections, the whole vast,
sclerotic edifice of power has at last brought Egyptians on to their

Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, spotted something important at the
recent summit of Arab leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
"Tunisia is not far from us," he said. "The Arab men are broken." But are
they? One old friend told me a frightening story about a poor Egyptian who
said he had no interest in moving the corrupt leadership from their desert
gated communities. "At least we now know where they live," he said. There
are more than 80 million people in Egypt, 30 per cent of them under 20. And
they are no longer afraid.

And a kind of Egyptian nationalism - rather than Islamism - is making itself
felt at the demonstrations. January 25 is National Police Day - to honour
the police force who died fighting British troops in Ishmaelia - and the
government clucked its tongue at the crowds, telling them they were
disgracing their martyrs. No, shouted the crowds, those policemen who died
at Ishmaelia were brave men, not represented by their descendants in uniform

This is not an unclever government, though. There is a kind of shrewdness in
the gradual freeing of the press and television of this ramshackle
pseudo-democracy. Egyptians had been given just enough air to breathe, to
keep them quiet, to enjoy their docility in this vast farming land. Farmers
are not revolutionaries, but when the millions thronged to the great cities,
to the slums and collapsing houses and universities, which gave them degrees
and no jobs, something must have happened.

"We are proud of the Tunisians - they have shown Egyptians how to have
pride," another Egyptian colleague said yesterday. "They were inspiring but
the regime here was smarter than Ben Ali in Tunisia. It provided a veneer of
opposition by not arresting all the Muslim Brotherhood, then by telling the
Americans that the great fear should be Islamism, that Mubarak was all that
stood between them and 'terror' - a message the US has been in a mood to
hear for the past 10 years."

There are various clues that the authorities in Cairo realised something was
afoot. Several Egyptians have told me that on 24 January, security men were
taking down pictures of Gamal Mubarak from the slums - lest they provoke the
crowds. But the vast number of arrests, the police street beatings - of
women as well as men - and the near-collapse of the Egyptian stock market
bear the marks of panic rather than cunning.

And one of the problems has been created by the regime itself; it has
systematically got rid of anyone with charisma, thrown them out of the
country, politically emasculating any real opposition by imprisoning many of
them. The Americans and the EU are telling the regime to listen to the
people - but who are these people, who are their leaders? This is not an
Islamic uprising - though it could become one - but, save for the usual talk
of Muslim Brotherhood participation in the demonstrations, it is just one
mass of Egyptians stifled by decades of failure and humiliation.

But all the Americans seem able to offer Mubarak is a suggestion of
reforms - something Egyptians have heard many times before. It's not the
first time that violence has come to Egypt's streets, of course. In 1977,
there were mass food riots - I was in Cairo at the time and there were many
angry, starving people - but the Sadat government managed to control the
people by lowering food prices and by imprisonment and torture. There have
been police mutinies before - one ruthlessly suppressed by Mubarak himself.
But this is something new.

Interestingly, there seems no animosity towards foreigners. Many journalists
have been protected by the crowds and - despite America's lamentable support
for the Middle East's dictators - there has not so far been a single US flag
burned. That shows you what's new. Perhaps a people have grown up - only to
discover that their ageing government are all children.

Internet and text messages fail in 'facebook revolution'

Egyptian authorities last night disrupted internet services and mobile-phone
text messaging in efforts to stop protesters keeping in touch on social
networking sites. The measure was taken as members of an elite
counter-terrorism police unit were ordered to take up positions in key
locations around Cairo in preparation for a wave of mass rallies today.

Among the places where they are stationed is Tahrir Square, where one of the
biggest demonstrations took place. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other
social networking sites have played a vital role in Egypt's protest
movement, just as they did in Tunisia, enabling demonstrators to keep in
touch and to organise rallies.

Who could succeed Hosni Mubarak?

Gamal Mubarak

Protesters on the streets of Egypt aren't just rallying against the
30-year-reign of President Hosni Mubarak, they are also taking aim at his
son Gamal Mubarak, 47, an urbane former investment banker who has scaled the
political ladder, prompting speculation that he is being groomed for his
father's post.

The youngest son of Mr Mubarak and his half-Welsh wife, Suzanne, Gamal was
educated at the elite American University in Cairo, going on to work for the
Bank of America.

He entered politics about a decade ago, quickly moving up to become head of
the political secretariat of his father's National Democratic Party (NDP).
He was heavily involved in the economic liberalisation of Egypt, which
pleased investors but provoked the ire of protesters, who blame the policies
for lining the pockets of the rich while the poor suffered.

Although he has always denied having an eye on his father's throne, a
mysterious campaign sprung up last year, with posters plastered across Cairo
calling for Gamal to stand for president in elections scheduled for later
this year. His 82-year-old father has not yet declared his candidacy.

Certainly the protesters appeared unhappy with the chosen son, chanting
"Gamal, tell your father Egyptians hate you" and tearing up his picture.

Mohamed ElBaradei

Protests in Egypt today will be different from the others that have swept
the Middle East in recent weeks in one important way. Mohamed ElBaradei,
former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), landed at
Cairo airport last night to lead rallies against Hosni Mubarak's rule.

The 68-year-old was born in the Egyptian capital, from where he launched a
legal career. He joined the IAEA in the 1980s, becoming head of the UN body
in 1997.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq thrust Mr ElBaradei into the public consciousness.
He demurred on the US rationale for attacking Saddam Hussein, describing the
war as "a glaring example of how, in many cases, the use of force
exacerbates the problem rather than solving it". The award, jointly with the
IAEA, of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize further rankled with the Bush

He has long been urged to challenge the 82-year-old President, but hitherto
has bided his time, insisting first on electoral reform, but his
participation in today's protests indicate he is ready. Recent speeches,
including recently at Harvard, when he joked that he was "looking for a job"
have done nothing to dissuade his supporters, but at 68 his presidency would
surely be only a short-term fix to Egypt's problems.

© 2011 The Independent
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He
is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for
Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fisk: A new truth dawns on the Arab world, Saturday Demonstration

I meant to send this when it came out, but it was the day after the State of
the Union speech, and the arab world began erupting. I sent reports on
the latter and analyses of the speech and its ramifications. I'm glad I
waited. It's a good-as-possible analysis of the situation, with enormous
implications for the world, by Robert Fisk, the Edward R. Murrow of the
area. Then, a just-received call to protest the brutality of the repression
going on right now, throughout Egypt. It's for a demonstration tomorrow
at the Egyption Consulate in Los Angeles. -Ed

A new truth dawns on the Arab world

Leaked Palestinian files have put a region in revolutionary mood

By Robert Fisk:
The 26 January, 2011

The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration. The
Palestinian "Authority" - one has to put this word in quotation marks - was
prepared, and is prepared to give up the "right of return" of perhaps seven
million refugees to what is now Israel for a "state" that may be only 10 per
cent (at most) of British mandate Palestine.

And as these dreadful papers are revealed, the Egyptian people are calling
for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a
prime minister who will supply the Hezbollah. Rarely has the Arab world seen
anything like this.

To start with the Palestine Papers, it is clear that the representatives of
the Palestinian people were ready to destroy any hope of the refugees going

It will be - and is - an outrage for the Palestinians to learn how their
representatives have turned their backs on them. There is no way in which,
in the light of the Palestine Papers, these people can believe in their own

They have seen on film and on paper that they will not go back. But across
the Arab world - and this does not mean the Muslim world - there is now an
understanding of truth that there has not been before.

It is not possible any more, for the people of the Arab world to lie to each
other. The lies are finished. The words of their leaders - which are,
unfortunately, our own words - have finished. It is we who have led them
into this demise. It is we who have told them these lies. And we cannot
recreate them any more.

In Egypt, we British loved democracy. We encouraged democracy in Egypt -
until the Egyptians decided that they wanted an end to the monarchy. Then we
put them in prison. Then we wanted more democracy. It was the same old
story. Just as we wanted Palestinians to enjoy democracy, providing they
voted for the right people, we wanted the Egyptians to love our democratic
life. Now, in Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese "democracy" must take its
place. And we don't like it.

We want the Lebanese, of course, to support the people who we love, the
Sunni Muslim supporters of Rafiq Hariri, whose assassination - we rightly
believe - was orchestrated by the Syrians. And now we have, on the streets
of Beirut, the burning of cars and the violence against government.

And so where are we going? Could it be, perhaps, that the Arab world is
going to choose its own leaders? Could it be that we are going to see a new
Arab world which is not controlled by the West? When Tunisia announced that
it was free, Mrs Hillary Clinton was silent. It was the crackpot President
of Iran who said that he was happy to see a free country. Why was this?

In Egypt, the future of Hosni Mubarak looks ever more distressing. His son,
may well be his chosen successor. But there is only one Caliphate in the
Muslim world, and that is Syria. Hosni's son is not the man who Egyptians
want. He is a lightweight businessman who may - or may not - be able to
rescue Egypt from its own corruption.

Hosni Mubarak's security commander, a certain Mr Suleiman who is very ill,
may not be the man. And all the while, across the Middle East, we are
waiting to see the downfall of America's friends. In Egypt, Mr Mubarak must
be wondering where he flies to. In Lebanon, America's friends are
collapsing. This is the end of the Democrats' world in the Arab Middle East.
We do not know what comes next. Perhaps only history can answer this

Like Robert Fisk on The Independent on Facebook for updates
f/ 3, 258 people like this (as of 6 AM, January 27)


***please forward widely***

Los Angeles Stands in Solidarity with the Egyptian People
Protest at the Consulate General of Egypt
Demand the release of political prisoners
Sat, Jan 29th, Noon-1:30 PM

Inspired by the successful ouster of the tyrant of Tunisia and the continued
mobilizations in that country for justice,the Egyptian people have organized
massive marches and rallies throughout their country for the past 3 days,
fighting off vicious police attacks and mass arrests to call for the ouster
of the hated Mubarak regime. They have shown they will not give up - even in
the face of guns, tear gas and other weapons supplied and paid for by the
United States.

Hundreds of activists have been jailed and we demand their immediate
A free Egypt is the key to justice throughout the Arab world.
Come stand in solidarity with the brave people of Egypt!l
Contact, or call 213-309-2713 to endorse and support the

You can also call the Egyptian Consulate General to demand a release of the
TEL: (323) 933-9700
(323) 933-9757
FAX: (323)933-9725

Egypt's Day of Rage Goes On. Is the World Watching?

Hi. Today, Friday, will continue Egypt's Days of Rage, with a million
expected to march. As the time difference is around 6 hours earlier, in
Egypt, lots of information should be around the evening news channels
here. As Rachel Maddow showed lots of actual footage and a couple of
interviews on Thursday's show, we can expect decent coverage tonight,
Friday, 6 PM PDT, 9PM EDT, MSNBC. I may post something on Saturday.

Democracy Now just reported that thousands of people have already
been arrested, including some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and
Mohammed ElBaradai, Nobel Prize winner and former head of the UN's
Nuckear Regulatory Agency. He'd just yesterday returned to support
the uprising. Hundreds of thousands have already taken to the streets
throughout Egypt. Alll this just before this evening's marches begin.

Egypt's Day of Rage Goes On. Is the World Watching?

The scale of protests in Egypt has shaken a regime that has long relied on
citizens' passivity to retain power

by Amira Nowaira
The Guardian/UK: Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tens of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators took to the streets on 25
January, young and old, Muslim and Christian, rich and poor, educated and
not so-educated. They all chanted "Long live Egypt", "Life, liberty and
human dignity" and "Down with the Mubarak regime".

The day marked for the celebration of Police Day was dubbed the Day of Rage.
The protests, which continued through a second day in almost every part of
the country, are showing no signs of abating on the third day, with a
million-strong march scheduled for Friday. These demonstrations are sending
shivers down the spine not only of the regime but of its friends and allies
as well.

The scale of the protests came as a blow to all those who have been betting
that a sleeping dragon will continue its slumber. For three decades now,
Egyptians have been kept on a tight leash, fed more with promises than with
bread. They were cajoled into compliance by a media that has the interests
of the regime at heart and a religious establishment that owes its
allegiance and existence to the state, but were often threatened into
submission by the force of the baton if they refused to comply.

Egyptian grievances are numerous. They have seen neither the fruits of peace
nor of the huge economic growth that Egypt is reported to be making in
international economic indices. What they experience on a daily basis is
endless queuing for inedible bread and suffocating traffic congestion as the
police force is increasingly burdened with the task of protecting the regime
and its men.

There were also demonstrations last month calling for a minimum monthly wage
of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (roughly £130). Too much, said the government. It
could only promise to institute a minimum wage of 400LE (£43). This is
hardly surprising from a government made up of businesspeople who no doubt
have a vested interest in keeping wages as low as possible. The spokesmen of
the regime shamelessly argued that it was a fair wage to expect.

For some years now, the Mubarak regime has been heading for disaster. With
rampant unemployment, soaring prices and a 30-year long state of emergency,
its popularity has dropped to an all-time low. But more importantly, it has
repeatedly shown its total disregard for public opinion, a disregard that
would have amounted to political suicide under any other system.

An obvious example is the rigged parliamentary elections of November 2010,
which were perhaps the worst in Egypt's history. The ruling National
Democratic party had the audacity to announce that these elections were one
of the fairest in Egypt's history. Ahmed Ezz, the
iron-tycoon-turned-politician and one of the new guard at the NDP, who is
known to have masterminded the electoral operation, triumphantly announced
the results. He stated that the landslide victory that secured 98% of the
parliamentary seats for the ruling party was the result of its popularity on
the streets and the fruit of the hard work of its members.

The initial call for the Day of Rage was made by young Facebook activists
inspired by the success of Tunisians in overthrowing Ben Ali. The Facebook
invitation for the protests received 95,000 positive responses. Other forces
and opposition groups later responded to the call, including the Muslim
Brotherhood, whose participation has so far been quite low-key.

For the first time in decades, Egyptian protesters went out in unprecedented
numbers across the whole country with one slogan: "People want the regime to
fall". They made their demands clear. Mubarak should step down, the illegal
parliament be dissolved and emergency law be suspended. The call was for the
whole country to rally and unite, and there were no religious chants or

The reaction of the regime to the protests so far has been pathetically
inadequate. It shows that this regime is still in denial. While Mubarak kept
his silence, the interior ministry took on the task of communicating with
the people, in the only way it knows how to. As it cracked down on
demonstrators, it issued statements, banning any further protests and
repeating the same old excuses. It blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for what it
called riots on the streets and blamed their members for infiltrating the
crowds in order to wreak havoc. This is supposed to do the trick of scaring
the world about the propsect of an imminent Islamist takeover of Egypt - a
fear that the regime has painstakingly been fostering. The interior ministry
also blamed the ill-defined but frequently invoked "foreign hands" that are
always bent on fomenting trouble and inciting people against their loving
and God-fearing rulers.

State-controlled newspapers have also shown that their reports are approved,
if not written, by the security apparatus. People were shocked to see the
headlines of the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper on 26 January, after a day of
massive protests in different Egyptian cities: "Widespread protests and
disturbances in Lebanon". Egyptian state television was no better. While the
streets were teeming with protests, it offered its usual mix of cookery
programmes and soap operas. The demonstrations were, no doubt, happening in
another country.

The reaction of Arab and international media has also been disappointing.
Throughout the first day, there was a near-total disregard of the events
happening on Egypt's streets. Al-Jazeera, which always follows important
events as they happen, covered the demonstrations rather mutedly at the
beginning, while concentrating on Lebanon. When it finally got round to
covering the events, the coverage was poor in comparison with Tunisia.
Western media, including CNN and the BBC, gave Egypt very limited space.

The so-called free world that prides itself on championing the causes of
liberty and democracy seemed rather bewildered at what was happening and
official statements took time to appear, if they did at all. The American
and European governments' endorsement of the Mubarak government meant that
they systematically turned a blind eye to its violation of human rights and
its repression of dissidents. All Barack Obama could say in his comment on
Egyptian elections was to say that he was concerned at the situation. He
expressed no shock, condemnation or blame for the blatant violations of the
most basic of democratic principles.

Hillary Clinton has reiterated her belief in the stability of the regime and
has asked all parties concerned for restraint. She was probably too busy to
follow the news closely. Otherwise she would have learned that peaceful
demonstrators were attacked with rubber bullets, electric batons and tear
gas, all incidentally made in the US. This is not to mention the new
invention by the Egyptian security apparatus, which was reported to have
used sewage water in dispersing demonstrators. But to give Clinton her due,
she has politely asked Egyptian authorities to unblock Facebook and Twitter,
which they did for a couple of hours.

The young people who have succeeded in rallying people around a common cause
are out on the streets, reinventing themselves and the whole country. Their
voices are loud and clear. The regime is now forced to listen. And the whole
world will have to take heed.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media

Amira Nowaira obtained her PhD in English from Birmingham University. She is
former chairperson of the department of English at Alexandria University and
is currently professor of English literature in the same department

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tomgram: Juan Cole, American Policy on the Brink

The resistance in Egypt has vastly expanded since this essay was
written. Perhaps the most critical and hopeful aspect of the uprising is
its secular nature. Until now, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood
has been the only significant opposition to the Mubarak regime. They
do not support the students and workers in the streets as there are no
religious demands advocated. Now, there is restiveness within their
own organization, many younger members demanding support for the
struggle. This is mirrored in Tunisia, as we know, but also in Yemen,
Algeria, Jordan and much of the Arab middle east. It is not, repeat NOT
a Muslim revolt, but more akin to what's happened in Latin America,
focussing on poverty, government corruption and civil rights. It may fail,
of course, but this is the first area-wide revolt since their independence
from European imperialist control, half a century ago.

I just heard a M.E. reporter on kpfk saying the Brotherhood has ordered
their members into the streets to join the protest, already organized for
after Friday's prayers. Something's happening, Mr. Jones, so stay tuned.


From: TomDispatch
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 7:30 AM

Tomgram: American Policy on the Brink, and
Juan Cole: The Corruption Game: January 25, 2011

"The problem: Washington's foreign-policy planners seem to be out of ideas,
literally brain-dead, just as the world is visibly in flux."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently took a four-day tour of the
Middle East, at each stop telling various allies and enemies, in classic
American fashion, what they must do. And yet as she spoke, events in
Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, and even Egypt seemed to spin ever more out of
American control. Meanwhile, the regime in Tunisia, one of the autocratic
and repressive states Washington has been supporting for years even as it
prattles on about "democracy" and "human rights," began to crumble.

In Doha, Qatar, in front of an elite audience peppered with officials from
the region, Clinton suddenly issued a warning to Arab leaders that people
had "grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order" and
that "in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand."
With Tunisia boiling over and food riots in Algeria and Jordan, she insisted
that it was time for America's allies to mend their ways and open themselves
to "reform." A New York Times report, typical of coverage here, described
her talk as a "scalding critique" which also "suggested a frustration that
the Obama administration's message to the Arab world had not gotten

And there, of course, was the rub. After all, since Barack Obama entered
the Oval Office in January 2009, U.S. foreign policy has essentially been in
late-second-term-Bush mode and largely on autopilot, led by a holdover
Secretary of Defense and a Secretary of State who might well have been
chosen by John McCain, had he won the presidency. Look at Clinton's address
again and, beyond a reasonably accurate description of some regional
problems (and that frustration), only the vaguest of bromides are on offer.

The problem: Washington's foreign-policy planners seem to be out of ideas,
literally brain-dead, just as the world is visibly in flux. In their
reactions, even in their rhetoric, there is remarkably little new under the
sun, though from Tunisia to India, China to Brazil, our world is changing
before our eyes.

One of the new things on this planet has certainly been WikiLeaks, whose
document dumps were initially greeted by the Obama administration with
stunned puzzlement and then with an instructively blind and repressive fury.
(Forget the fact that the State Department should be thanking its lucky
stars for WikiLeaks' latest document dump. Overshadowed by the Pentagon as
it is, all the ensuing attention gave it a prominence that is increasingly
ill-deserved.) As TomDispatch regular Juan Cole, who runs the invaluable
Informed Comment website and is the author of Engaging the Muslim World,
makes clear, it's not just America's Arab allies who are "sinking into the
sand." These days, for the Obama administration, it's a quagmire world.



The Corruption Game

What the Tunisian Revolution and WikiLeaks Tell Us about American Support
for Corrupt Dictatorships in the Muslim World

By Juan Cole

Here's one obvious lesson of the Tunisian Revolution of 2011: paranoia about
Muslim fundamentalist movements and terrorism is causing Washington to make
bad choices that will ultimately harm American interests and standing
abroad. State Department cable traffic from capitals throughout the Greater
Middle East, made public thanks to WikiLeaks, shows that U.S. policy-makers
have a detailed and profound picture of the depths of corruption and
nepotism that prevail among some "allies" in the region.

The same cable traffic indicates that, in a cynical Great Power calculation,
Washington continues to sacrifice the prospects of the region's youth on the
altar of "security." It is now forgotten that America's biggest foreign
policy headache, the Islamic Republic of Iran, arose in response to American
backing for Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, the despised Shah who destroyed the
Iranian left and centrist political parties, paving the way for the
ayatollahs' takeover in 1979.

State Department cables published via WikiLeaks are remarkably revealing
when it comes to the way Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his
extended family (including his wife Leila's Trabelsi clan) fastened upon the
Tunisian economy and sucked it dry. The riveting descriptions of U.S.
diplomats make the presidential "family" sound like True Blood's vampires
overpowering Bontemps, Louisiana.

To read more:,_american_policy_on_the_brink/

The Big Obscenity, Obama's Push on 'Competitiveness'

The Big Obscenity: A Trillion Dollars a Year to the Richest 1%

(That's seven times more than the budget deficits of all 50 states combined)

by Paul Buchheit January 20, 2011

If you make less than $114,000 a year (90% of us), you've been financially
damaged by the flow of income to the richest 1% of Americans over the past
30 years. Based on Internal Revenue Service figures, if middle- and
upper-middle class families had maintained the same share of American
productivity that they held in 1980, they would be making an average of
$12,500 more per year.

If you make less than $160,000 a year (95% of us), your household value has
decreased, percentage-wise, over the last 25 years. According to noted
researcher Edward Wolff, only the top 5% of American families increased
their percentage of the country's total household net worth from 1983 to

U.S. GDP has quintupled since 1980, and we all contributed to that success.
It's not unreasonable to say that upper-middle class families should have
maintained the same size of their slice of pie.

But if earnings since 1980 were based on this measure of productiveness, the
richest 1% of Americans would be making $1 trillion less per year.

A trillion dollars a year. That's more than we spend on the entire military.

A trillion dollars a year. That's seven times more than the budget deficits
of all 50 states combined. Many states have been forced to cut police forces
and teachers to balance their budgets.

A trillion dollars a year. Yet Congress just voted to continue the Bush tax

The richest 1% ($400,000 or more) didn't work harder than the rest of us.
They profited from stock market gains, shrewdly designed financial
instruments, and tax cuts.

The very wealthy insist that all their income will stimulate the economy.
But low-income earners spend a greater percentage of their overall income on
consumption, while high-income earners save more. Middle-class America has
been led to believe that the growth at the top will eventually produce more
jobs. But many of us have college-educated sons and daughters who can't find
suitable employment. Fortune Magazine reported that the 500 largest U.S.
companies cut a record 821,000 jobs in 2009 while their collective profits
increased to a record $391 billion.

Even the upper class should be concerned about this. As inequality
increases, the majority of Americans will consume less, leading to
conditions not unlike the years before the Great Depression, when the
working class was unable to buy the goods they produced. The rich, with
extra money, speculate in risky investments. The majority of middle-class
Americans, with little money, go deeper into debt. The result is an unstable
economy for all of us.

Who are the people making up the richest 1%? Bankers, CEOs, upper
management, university presidents, Congressmen. They live in their own
world, supporting each other's needs. They can no longer relate to the needs
of average Americans.

Taxing them is not "soaking the rich." The greatest redistribution of income
in history has taken place over the last 30 years, and the victims are
beginning to make a fuss about it.

Paul Buchheit is a faculty member in the School for New Learning at DePaul


And lo, it came to pass.

Obama to Push Bogus 'Competitiveness' Theme in State of the Union Address

"On January 19, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the deal as a
"Bush-style" agreement that fails to protect U.S. jobs from being

by Roger Bybee
In These Times: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Boosting "American competitiveness" and creating jobs through increased
exports will reportedly be the key theme of President Obama's plan for
economic recovery detailed in tonight's State of the Union speech.

This familiar theme, a slickly-disguised appeal to support corporate
globalization, plays upon our reflexive pride in American workmanship. It is
built upon President Obama's empty claim that "we can compete with anybody
in the world," as he put it in a speech in my unemployment-wracked hometown
of Racine, Wis., last July.

What does that really mean? Most of the "foreign competition" that U.S.
workers face actually comes from foreign subsidiaries of US-based
corporations like GE, Ford, GM, Boeing, Microsoft, which operate in places
like China and Mexico to exploit low-wage labor. You've got that right: A
majority of U.S. "trade" consists of intra-firm transfers within the same
corporation. For example, GE sends machinery and parts to Mexico as
"exports" and then "imports" finished products.

Thus the entire competitiveness framework is bogus.

It merely means more NAFTA-style "free trade" agreements that already have
cost millions of jobs and driven down wages. And it sets up a collision
course between the White House and US labor-both the AFL-CIO and Change to
Win federations- over the upcoming vote on the US-South Korea Free Trade
Agreement (KORUS).

On January 19, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the deal as a
"Bush-style" agreement that fails to protect U.S. jobs from being offshored.
He pledged that opposition "will be a major priority" of the AFL-CIO. In a
strongly-worded statement, Change to Win denounced the motives of the
pro-KORUS corporate chorus:

It's crystal clear why the US Chamber is supporting a deal effectively
shipping over 150,000 American jobs overseas: As the nation's chief
cheerleader for outsourcing, the Chamber gets to go to bat for its top
corporate members (the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Boeing and GE,
Chamber members and outsourcers all...) and gets a jump-start on one of its
key goals for 2011: tax breaks for outsourcers.

The "competiveness" framework is essentially a call to pretend that U.S.
workers and U.S. corporations share the same interest in globalization. As
Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman points out,

the interests of nominally "American" corporations and the interests of
the nation, which were never the same, are now less aligned than ever

Take the case of General Electric, whose chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt,
has just been appointed to head [Obama's] advisory board [on
competitiveness]. ...

But with fewer than half its workers based in the United States and less
than half its revenues coming from U.S. operations, G.E.'s fortunes have
very little to do with U.S. prosperity.

In particular, the South Korea deal will be a cruel new blow to American
workers, despite the "increased exports" hype. The Economic Policy Institute
has calculated that the South Korea FTA will cost 159,000 US jobs. Public
Citizen's Global Trade Watch has pointed out numerous U.S. state and local
laws that will be over-ridden by the FTA, and has documented numerous ways
in which the proposed deal falls far short of the United Auto Workers'
standards for the agreement (which the UAW nonetheless mysteriously endorsed
anyway, as noted here, here, and here.)


The juggernaut of corporate campaign donations and their lobbyists lined up
behind the Korea free trade deal cannot be stopped by labor acting inside
the Washington Beltway.

"The labor movement has learned something from the last two years about jobs
and investment: We can't count on the political process here in Washington
to get the job done," declared Trumka.

In Washington, it is as though the estimated 4.9 million job
losses, 43,000 factory closings, and falling U.S. wages flowing from
free trade deals like NAFTA and China's entry into the World Trade
Organization never happened.

Equally unimportant are the opinions of the 86% of Americans who
emphatically agree "that outsourcing of manufacturing to foreign countries
with lower wages was a reason the U.S. economy was struggling and more
people weren't being hired."

So who really matters on the trade issue?

As the New York Times reports, the South Korea deal "is playing well" with
the audience that truly counts, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It's
apparently no problem to the White House that the Chamber hauled in millions
from firms engaged in offshoring US jobs and then turned around and spent
tens of millions in the 2010 mid-terms to defeat Democrats and elect
pro-offshoring Republicans.

However, the drive for the job-destroying KORUS could well be met with a new
grassroots approach, as suggested by Trunka's comment about the limits of
Washington lobbying.

At the same time, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Jr., is promoting a
"Corporate Pledge of Allegiance" that US corporate CEOs will be called upon
to sign. "They've got their $2 trillion in profits, and now we're calling
upon them to create jobs here in the US," he stated on "The Ed Show."

Ideally, the Corporate Pledge strategy could be used at the local level to
visit CEOs across the United States, mobilizing labor's untapped power and
reaching out to the 86% of the public worried about what corporations are
doing to our economy and our futures.

Stay tuned for a major battle over KORUS.

© 2011 In These Times

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 The game is up

This seemingly endless and ugly game of the peace process is now finally

The peace process is a sham. Palestinians must reject their officials and
rebuild their movement

By Karma Nabulsi, Sunday 23 January 2011

It's over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly
revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process,
the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the
villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer
horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and
even implemented Israeli military expansion - while creating an oligarchy to
manage it - might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have
kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the
Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed.

For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated
surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return
for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on
settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew - in spite
of official protests to the contrary - because we feel their destructive
effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and
Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and
political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects.

For the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, official Palestinian policy
over these past decades has been the antithesis of a legitimate, or
representative, or even coherent strategy to obtain our long-denied freedom.
But this sober appreciation of our current state of affairs, accompanied by
the mass protests and civil society campaigns by Palestinian citizens, has
been insufficient, until now, to rid us of it.

The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark
because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process.
Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new
initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or
programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military
occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh
conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause.
Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It
is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic
rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the
Palestinian people.

This claim of representative capacity - and worse, the assertion they were
representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom -
had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they
were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of
these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming
week. Whatever one's political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the
British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim
that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating
an entire people.

Why has this gone on for so long and at such high cost? And why haven't the
Palestinians been able to create the democratic representation so urgently
needed to advance their cause? Israel, along with those who share its
worldview, would assert that the problem lies with the Palestinians
themselves, being part of an Arab political culture that can only breed
either authoritarian governments or terrorists. Yet what these documents
reveal is the extent of undemocratic, authoritarian, colonial and, frankly,
terrifying coercion the US, Britain and other western governments have been
imposing upon Palestinians through this unaccountable leadership.

The unconstrained power of America, the global superpower that has (now on
record and in sickening detail) taken one party's side in this conflict, can
be seen on every page. Everyone is implicated, from the president to the
secretary of state, from the military generals who have created the security
forces to implement these policies to the embassy staff involved in the
daily execution of them. It also shows this policy is an absolute failure,
bringing ruination upon the Palestinians and increasing belligerency from
the completely unfettered, aggressive and erratic Israel, currently
practising a form of apartheid towards the Palestinians it rules through

This uneven balance of power can only be successfully addressed in the same
way every national liberation movement has addressed it in the past: through
the unassailable strength of a popular mandate. Ho Chi Minh sitting down
with the French, or Nelson Mandela negotiating with the apartheid regime
embodied this popular legitimacy, and indeed drew their principles and
negotiating positions from it. The Palestinian leadership's weak and
incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national
representation, and proves useless to boot.

On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians
would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been
what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians.
These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in
public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party
is the least useful method to advance principals and create change.

Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from
their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now
believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily
brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing. It
cuts them off from any useful mobilising methods and techniques that they
might draw upon today - the democratic and collective mechanisms that are
needed more than ever. They have given young people the idea that there is
no virtue in collective organisation, the mechanism by which popular
democratic change is made and preserved.

The increasingly popular view that the Palestinian revolution was a failure
from its inception, always corrupt, driven from above and never from below,
is false - but it has gained credibility through the actions of the current
regime. Its behaviour has nearly erased the record of the contribution made
by tens of thousands of ordinary Palestinian citizens who, through the sheer
force of their devotion to public life, fought for principles and created
real and democratic self-representation under the worst of conditions. It is
our most valuable freedom, and one well worth fighting for: the release of
these devastating documents paves the way for its restoration.

Robert Scheer: Hogwash, Mr. President, The US Threat to Palestinians

Here, Scheer doesn't discuss the the military budger or the wars we are
waging, the trillions of dollars spent, not to mention the millions of lives
affected. More to come, I'm sure. -Ed

Hogwash, Mr. President

Robert Scheer
Truthdig: January 26, 2011

What is the state of the union? You certainly couldn't tell from that
platitudinous hogwash that the president dished out Tuesday evening. I had
expected Barack Obama to be his eloquent self, appealing to our better
nature, but instead he was mealy-mouthed in avoiding the tough choices that
a leader should delineate in a time of trouble. He embraced clean air and a
faster Internet while ignoring the depth of our economic pain and the Wall
Street scoundrels who were responsible-understandably so, since they so
prominently populate the highest reaches of his administration. He had the
effrontery to condemn "a parade of lobbyists" for rigging government after
he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase to be his
new chief of staff.

The speech was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated
mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and a debt that spiraled out
of control while the government wasted trillions making the bankers whole.
Instead the president conveyed the insular optimism of his fat-cat
associates: "We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession
most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back.
Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again." How convenient to
ignore the fact that this bubble of prosperity, which has failed the tens of
millions losing their homes and jobs, was floated by enormous government
indebtedness now forcing deep cuts in social services including state
financial aid for those better-educated students the president claims to be
so concerned about.

His references to education provided a convenient scapegoat for the failure
of the economy, rather than to blame the actions of the Wall Street hustlers
to whom Obama is now sucking up. Yes, it is an obvious good to have
better-educated students to compete with other economies, but that is hardly
the issue of the moment when all of the world's economies are suffering
grievous harm resulting from the irresponsible behavior of the best and the
brightest here at home. It wasn't the students struggling at community
colleges who came up with the financial gimmicks that produced the Great
Recession, but rather the super-whiz-kid graduates of the top business and
law schools.

What nonsense to insist that low public school test scores hobbled our
economy when it was the highest-achieving graduates of our elite colleges
who designed and sold the financial gimmicks that created this crisis.
Indeed, some of the folks who once designed the phony mathematical formulas
underwriting subprime mortgage-based derivatives won Nobel prizes for their
effort. A pioneer in the securitization of mortgage debt, as well as
exporting jobs abroad, was one Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, whom Obama
recently appointed to head his new job creation panel.

That the financial meltdown at the heart of our economic crisis was
"avoidable" and not the result of long-run economic problems related to
education and foreign competition is detailed in a sweeping report by the
Democratic majority on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to be
released as a 576-page book on Thursday. In a preview reported in The New
York Times, the commission concluded: "The greatest tragedy would be to
accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing
could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again."

Just the warning that Obama has ignored by continually appointing the very
people who engineered this crisis, mostly Clinton alums, to reverse its
ongoing dire consequences. As the Times reports: "The decision in 2000 to
shield the exotic financial instruments known as over-the-counter
derivatives from regulation, made during the last year of President Bill
Clinton's term, is called 'a key turning point in the march toward the
financial crisis.' "

Obama appointed as his top economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who as
Clinton's treasury secretary was the key architect of that "turning point,"
Summers protégé Timothy Geithner as his own treasury secretary. The
unanimous finding of the 10 Democrats on the commission is that Geithner,
who had been president of the New York Fed before Obama appointed him,
"could have clamped down" on excesses by Citigroup, the subprime mortgage
leader that Geithner and the Fed bailed out along with other unworthy
banking supplicants.

Profligate behavior that has hobbled the economy while running up an
enormous debt that Obama now uses as an excuse for a five-year freeze on
discretionary domestic spending cuts that small part of the budget that
might actually help ordinary people. Speaking of our legacy of deficit
spending, Obama stated, ". in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that
was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people's
pockets. But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to
confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in."

Why now? It is an absurd demarcation to freeze spending when so many remain
unemployed just because corporate profits, and therefore stock market
valuations, seem firm. Ours is a union divided between those who agree with
Obama that "the worst of the recession is over" and the far larger number in
deep pain that this president is bent on ignoring.


US Threat to Palestinians: Change Leadership And We Cut Funds

Obama administration told Palestinian Authority its leaders must remain in
office if it wants to retain US financial backing

By Seumas Milne and Ian Black

January 24, 2011 "The Guardian" -- The Obama administration has privately
made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in
the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal, let alone any repetition of the
Hamas election victory that briefly gave the Islamists control of the
Palestinian Authority five years ago.

That is despite the fact that the democratic legitimacy of both the
Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and prime
minister, Salam Fayyad, is strongly contested among Palestinians, and there
are no plans for new elections in either the West Bank or Gaza.

"The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu
Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian
Authority," the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as
telling Fayyad in November 2008. Most of the PA's funding comes from the US
and European Union.

Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted
angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new
presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: "Abu Mazen
[Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option - there is no
alternative to him." The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.

The US consulate in Jerusalem reported to Washington in December 2009 that
"despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah remains the only viable
alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future,"
according to a cable released by Wikileaks.

The US government's private determination to use its financial and military
leverage to keep the existing regime in place - while publicly continuing to
maintain that Palestinians are free to choose their own leaders - echoes the
Bush administration's veto on attempts to create a Palestinian national
unity administration after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the summer of

Unlike the PLO, Hamas rejects negotiations, except for a long-term
ceasefire, and refuses to recognise Israel. Supported by Iran and Syria, the
group is classed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU.

The leaked documents quote General Keith Dayton, the US security
co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority who was in charge of
building up PA security forces until last October. He warned Palestinian
leaders in 2007 about rumours that the "Fatah old guard" were undermining
Fayyad, who he confirmed as the linchpin of US strategy in the West Bank.

"As much as President Bush thinks Abu Mazen is important," Dayton told them,
"without Fayyad, the US will lift its hand from the PA and give up on Abu
Mazen." Unlike Abbas, Fayyad - a US-trained economist who formerly worked
for the World Bank and and the IMF - is not a member of the secular Fatah

Abbas was elected president in 2005, but his mandate expired in 2009 and is
no longer recognised by Hamas, among others, as the legitimate Palestinian
leader. Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas after the Hamas
takeover of Gaza but his legitimacy is also strongly contested as his
appointment was never confirmed as required by the PA's parliament.

The Obama administration's determination to keep control of who runs the PA
underlines the continuity of policy from the Bush years. In the runup to the
2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice
was revealed in leaked US official documents to have as good as instructed
Abbas to "collapse" the then joint Fatah-Hamas national unity government.

The dependence of the existing PA and PLO leadership on US support is well
understood by those leaders, as the documents underline. Referring to
Obama's attempt to kickstart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2009, US
state department official David Hale told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb
Erekat: "We need the help of friends like you."

Erekat replied that the US president's "success is my survival".

The US consulate in Jerusalem reported in December 2009: "It is axiomatic
amongst our contacts that Fatah remains the only near-term alternative to
Hamas in Palestinian politics. Despite the toll of corruption and stagnant
peace process, our contacts believe that only Fatah has the national
liberation credentials, breadth of appeal and organisational structure to
mobilise and win a Palestinian election for the foreseeable future ...
Despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah rermains the only viable
alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Palestine Papers

Leaked "Palestine Papers" Underscore Weakness of Palestinian Authority,
Rejectionism of Israel and U.S.

Interviw with Rashid Khalidi:
Democracy Now!: January 24, 2011

AMY GOODMAN: Newly released documents show Palestinian negotiators secretly
agreed to give up large tracts of West Bank land in peace talks with the
Israeli government.

The disclosure is among many contained in what's being called the "Palestine
Papers"-thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more
than a decade of negotiations with Israel. It's being described as the
biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East
conflict. The more than 1,700 files cover a period from 1999 to 2010. They
were obtained by the TV news network Al Jazeera, which began publishing
details of the documents on Sunday.

Among the leaked papers, the offers relating to East Jerusalem are the most
controversial. Minutes from a 2008 meeting indicate Palestinian negotiators
offered to allow Israel's annexation of all but one of the settlements built
illegally in occupied East Jerusalem, without receiving any concessions in

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted as saying, "We are
offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history," using the Hebrew
word for Jerusalem. But Israel apparently rejected the offer. Then-Israeli
foreign minister Tzipi Livni told the Palestinians, quote, "We do not like
this suggestion because it does not meet our demands, and probably it was
not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it."

Al Jazeera says forthcoming documents will reveal new details about
compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and
the right of return, as well as on the PA's security cooperation with Israel
and its correspondence on the U.N. inquiry into the late-2008 attack on the
Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority officials have challenged the documents' veracity.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called their contents, quote, "a pack of lies."

For more, I'm joined from the Democracy Now! studios in New York by Rashid
Khalidi. He is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia
University, the Department of History, and the author of several books,
including Sowing Crisis: American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle
East and Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Khalidi. Can you respond to this trove
of documents that Al Jazeera [inaudible]-

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, this was the first of what is supposed to be four days
of revelations of documents by Al Jazeera and by the British paper The
Guardian. The concentration in the first group seems to have been on
Jerusalem. And the revelations are quite striking. The most important, I
think, is the degree to which not only Palestinian negotiators were
forthcoming, but the degree to which the Israelis were unwilling to accept
concessions. It seriously casts into doubt the idea that Israel would accept
anything but complete capitulation by the Palestinians to absolutely
everything they're demanding on every front. We've heard about Jerusalem.
There is presumably more to come.

But another thing that comes out very strikingly from these documents is the
degree to which the United States is twisting the arm of the Palestinians,
the degree to which American diplomats, whether Hillary Rodham Clinton or
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the previous administration, are
unsympathetic to the Palestinians and are in cahoots, in Aaron David
words, our lawyers for Israel-it's actually worse than Miller, who was
involved in the negotiations for many years, says, from these documents.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about Saeb Erekat saying this is all "a pack of

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, both Al Jazeera and The Guardian have claimed that
they have very carefully investigated the provenance of these documents. I
think time will tell. We have-I have no way of knowing. I think none of us
have any way of knowing exactly where they come from. We are told that many
of them come from the negotiation support unit. Watching Al Jazeera last
night, it was clear to me that they look like they come from within the
Palestinian negotiating team, in terms of letterhead and so forth. Whether
there could be forgeries among them, nobody knows.

But many of these things, I think, fit the outlines of what we all knew,
partly because people on the Israeli side, on the Palestinian side and the
American side have said a great deal about the negotiations, from 1999
certainly through 2008, and the broad lines of these major concessions made
by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the broad lines of the
intransigence of Israel in simply refusing to accept concessions, or rather,
banking concessions and then saying, "Well, now we want more. It's not
enough for you to give up every single settlement in Jerusalem except one;
we want all of them. It's not enough for you to say that you would make
concessions inside the Old City of Jerusalem; we want more, as far as the
Haram-al-Sharif is concerned." The detail is what is the most striking. And
I seriously doubt that, in some cases, somebody went to the trouble of
forging things that showed exactly how this process took place. So, I think
that we're going to find that most of these documents probably are genuine.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Khalidi, what most struck you in these documents
about the communities that the PA was willing to give up?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, in Jerusalem, there are several issues. One is that
the United States, which claims to support the position which is undergirded
by international law, that all settlement-across the Green Line, all
settlement in occupied territories is illegal, is a violation of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, is basically pushing the Palestinians to make concessions
on that principle, arguing that you will not have a deal-I believe this was
Secretary Rice-you will not have a deal unless you give up-I think they were
talking about Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement to the east of Jerusalem, which in
fact, apparently, the Palestinians accepted to give up. The point here is,
this is Palestinian land, private property in many cases, across the Green
Line in territory illegally occupied by Israel and into which Israel has
been exporting its population, in violation, again, of the Fourth Geneva
Convention. That the United States should support a position in violation of
international law might not be terribly shocking, but to see it laid out in
this form, I think, calls into question, at the very least, not just the
good faith of the American negotiators and of the United States in this
process, but the good sense of anyone who would rely on the United States as
an interlocutor or an intermediary with Israel.

Other things that were discussed, such as the Haram-al-Sharif, might be very
shocking to people in the Arab and Muslim worlds, because it appears that
the Palestinian Authority has agreed to some kind of shared sovereignty over
one of the three most holy sites in Islam, a property that is a piece of
territory that's not just sacred but is also the property of the Islamic
Waqf in Jerusalem, and have accepted that a committee of international
actors, none of whom are particularly sympathetic to the Palestinian
side-Arabia, Britain, the United States and so forth, Egypt and so
forth-should somehow have control over this most holy site in all of
Palestine to Muslims. This is pretty shocking.

AMY GOODMAN: And the other report that we have just heard, the Israeli
government being cleared in the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the Gaza aid
flotilla, last May 31st, Professor Khalidi?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, I mean, this is entirely expected. An Israeli
government-appointed commission, rather than an international commission, a
dependent commission appointed by the government, rather than independent of
the Israeli government, has come to a conclusion white-washing the
government that appointed it. I don't see why anybody should be surprised.
It essentially hewed to exactly the lines of the Israeli propaganda
offensive that was launched the very day that this ship was attacked, which
argued that the blockade of essential supplies from Gaza, which is a
violation of international humanitarian law, is legal, that everything that
the Israeli forces that attacked this ship did, including killing nine
Turkish, including one Turkish American, citizens was legal. Essentially,
this thing was written, or could have been written, insofar as what we've
seen so far of it, by the same people who are in charge of Israeli spin
management. It's taken them a number of months to produce it, but the
Israeli government spokesmen could easily have written this. Almost every
key argument in this commission report was put forward by the Israeli
government spokesmen at the outset of this affair.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Khalidi, I want to thank you for being with us.
Professor Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at
Columbia University.

RASHID KHALIDI: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: He's written a number of books, including Sowing Crisis:
American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle East and Iron Cage: The
Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. He is the Edward Said
Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University's Department of History.