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What Israel Is Afraid of After the Egyptian Uprising

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By: Peter Beinart

We’re almost two weeks into the revolution in Egypt and the American media keeps asking the question that my extended family asks during all world events: Is it good for Israel? Ask a Jewish question, get a Jewish answer, by which I mean, another question: What’s good for Israel?

Obviously, a theocracy that abrogated Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would be bad for Israel, period. But that is unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood is not al Qaeda: It abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process, which has earned it scorn among Bin Laden types. Nor is the Brotherhood akin to the regime in Iran: When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to appropriate the Egyptian protests last week, the Brotherhood shot him down, declaring that it “regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” and insisting that “The Egyptian people’s revolution includes Muslims, Christians and [is] from all sects and political” tendencies. In the words of George Washington University’s Nathan Brown, an expert on Brotherhood movements across the Middle East, “These parties definitely reject the Iranian model…Their slogan is, ‘We seek participation, not domination.’ The idea of creating an Islamic state does not seem to be anywhere near their agenda.”

Could this all be an elaborate ruse? Might the Brotherhood act differently if it gained absolute power? Sure, but it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that happens. For one thing, the best estimates, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stephen Cook, are that the Brotherhood would win perhaps 20 percent of the vote in a free election, which means it would have to govern in coalition. What’s more, the Egyptian officer corps, which avowedly opposes an Islamic state, will likely wield power behind the scenes in any future government. And while the Brotherhood takes an ambiguous position on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel–it opposes it but says it will abide by the will of the Egyptian people-the Egyptian army has little interest in returning to war footing with a vastly stronger Israel. Already, Mohammed ElBaradei, the closest thing the Egyptian protest movement has to a leader, has called the peace treaty with Israel “rock solid.”

But Egypt doesn’t have to abrogate the peace treaty to cause the Israeli government problems. Ever since 2006, when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history, Egypt, Israel and the United States have colluded to enforce a blockade meant to undermine the group’s control of the Gaza Strip. A more accountable Egyptian government might no longer do that, partly because Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, but mostly because a policy of impoverishing the people of Gaza has little appeal among Egyptian voters. It’s easy to imagine a newly democratic government of Egypt adopting a policy akin to the one adopted by the newly democratic government of Turkey. The Turkish government hasn’t severed ties with Israel, but it does harshly criticize Israel’s policies, especially in Gaza, partly because Turkey’s ruling party has Islamist tendencies, but mostly because that is what the Turkish people want.

More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence.

Which bring us back to the question: Is this bad for Israel? Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC certainly think so, since they believe that what’s best for Israel is for its government to be free to pursue its current policies with as little external criticism as possible. I disagree. For several years now, Israel has pursued a policy designed, according to Israeli officials, to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse.” (The quote comes courtesy of the recent Wikileaks document dump). The impact on the Gazan people has been horrendous, but Hamas is doing fine, for the same basic reason that Fidel Castro has done fine for the last 60 years: The blockade allows Hamas to completely control Gaza’s economy and blame its own repression and mismanagement on the American-Zionist bogeyman. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad govern in the West Bank without the democratic legitimacy they would likely need to sell a peace treaty to the Palestinian people.

All of which is to say: a shift in U.S. and Israeli policy towards Hamas is long overdue. The organization has been basically observing a de-facto cease-fire for two years now, and in the last year its two top leaders, Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniya, have both said Hamas would accept a two-state deal if the Palestinian people endorse it in a referendum. That doesn’t mean Hamas isn’t vile in many ways, but it does mean that Israel and America are better off allowing the Palestinians to create a democratically legitimate, national unity government that includes Hamas than continuing their current, immoral, failed policy. If a more democratic Egyptian government makes that policy harder to sustain, it may be doing Israel a favor.

The Middle East’s tectonic plates are shifting. For a long time, countries like Turkey and Egypt were ruled by men more interested in pleasing the United States than their own people, and as a result, they shielded Israel from their people’s anger. Now more of that anger will find its way into the corridors of power. The Israeli and American Jewish right will see this as further evidence that all the world hates Jews, and that Israel has no choice but to turn further in on itself. But that would be a terrible mistake. More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence. The Turkish government, after all, has maintained diplomatic ties with Israel even as it excoriates Israel’s policies in Gaza. ElBaradei this week reaffirmed Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel even as he negotiates the formation of a government that could well challenge Israel’s policy in Gaza.

Instead of trying to prop up a dying autocratic order, what Israel desperately needs is to begin competing for Middle Eastern public opinion, something American power and Arab tyranny have kept it from having to do. And really competing means reassessing policies like the Gaza blockade, which create deep-and understandable-rage in Cairo and Istanbul without making Israel safer. It is ironic that Israel, the Middle East’s most vibrant democracy, seems so uncomfortable in a democratizing Middle East. But at root, that discomfort stems from Israel’s own profoundly anti-democratic policies in the West Bank and Gaza. In an increasingly democratic, increasingly post-American Middle East, the costs of those policies will only continue to rise. Israel must somehow find the will to change them, while it can still do so on its own terms, not only because of what is happening in Tahrir Square, but because the next Tahrir Square could be in Ramallah or East Jerusalem. After all, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar recently noted, Palestinian kids use Facebook too.

Mumbai police silent on Headley’s role in 26/11 attacks

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If Mumbai Police is to be believed, American-born terrorist David Headley, who has confessed to conducting a recce of all 26/11 targets in the city, may have played no role in the carnage. The assessment by the Mumbai Police is reflected in its appeal before the Bombay High Court in which its elite Crime Branch is silent on the role of the Pakistan-origin LeT terrorist while contesting the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin in the November 26, 2008 attack that left 166 people dead.

While the Ministry of Home Affairs burnt midnight oil over getting access to Headley after his role in the brazen attack emerged, the focus of Mumbai Police through its Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal D Nikam was that the terrorists intruded into the country’s financial capital with the help of hand-written maps drawn by Ansari.

Headley is at present in a jail in Chicago in the US.

Headley, who was recruited by Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group, has confessed to the US authorities and India’s National Investigating Agency (NIA) in front of a magistrate about his role in carrying out the survey of the locations attacked by the terrorists on 26/11.

“When they (police) are seized of the issue of 26/11, it was incumbent upon them to bring forward all criminals concerning the crime and their respective roles played therein before the court of trial and appeal so that truth prevails and no scope for misunderstanding occur,” defence counsel for Ansari, R B Mokashi, said in Mumbai.

Headley’s arrest and subsequent revelations had left Mumbai Police red-faced and punctured their theory of criminal conspiracy involving only Ansari and Sabauddin.

The two had, however, been discharged by the Special Judge M L Tahaliyani saying that better maps were available on Internet.

“As per the judicial confession of Ajmal Kasab, Lashker had explained the targets with the help of video shootings and map. It is clear from the plea bargain of David Headley that he was entrusted the work of taking video of targets,” Nikam said and maintained that the maps were prepared by Ansari and Sabauddin.

“One such map was found in the pocket of deceased terrorist Abu Ismail and the hand writing on it is proved to be of Ansari,” Nikam claimed.

A response was also sought from Joint Commissioner of Mumbai’s Crime Branch Himanshu Roy to comment on role played by Headley in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. However, there was no immediate response from him.

Black day for us, says survivor

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NEW DELHI: Activists and survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have slammed Monday’s verdict in the case against eight former Union Carbide India executives as “meaningless” at best, and a deadly “insult” at worst. Many warned that it signals an indifference to justice when corporate bigwigs are involved.


ENDURING THE PAINSurvivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy staging a demonstration outside the court in Bhopal on Monday.

“This is a black day for us,” said Abdul Jabbar, a survivor who now heads the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan. He vowed that the verdict would be appealed in the High Court. But with the system taking quarter of a century to deliver its first verdict in the criminal case, both the survivors and the guilty could be dead by the time justice is served, he said.

“They have reduced the world’s worst industrial disaster into a traffic accident,” said Satinath Sarangi, an activist with the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, commenting on the lightness of the sentence. Since the Supreme Court had diluted the charges from “culpable homicide” to “death by negligence” in 1996, this was the maximum sentence possible.

Activist Nityanand Jayaraman said the CBI’s “mishandling of the case” would be “tantamount to dereliction of duty,” and that even if the CBI did not appeal the verdict, the people would do so.

“There is a strong sense of betrayal, but also of foreboding. The government is sending a signal to investors that they can come here, run their companies however they please with a minimum of regulation, and if something goes wrong, at worst, they will get a rap on their knuckles.”

Noting that the government kept Bhopal citizens out of the courtroom as a preventive measure, activist Rachna Dhingra said: “It was the people who were treated like criminals. The real criminals were escorted in by police, they were treated like VIPs and now they have walked free. The government considers the lives of some people more expendable than others.”

“The government is saying there will be no punishment for big foreign companies,” said Mr. Jabbar, who warned that the Nuclear Liability Bill was an indication of the same attitude.

Rethink Nuclear Liability Bill: BJP

Opposition political parties took up his refrain. “There is a lesson in this,” said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad, who said the government should appeal the verdict.

“After this bitter experience, the government should rethink its plans for the Nuclear Liability Bill.”

CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat agreed. “If the justice system is so weak, as proven by this verdict, then it is horrifying to think what will happen if there is a nuclear accident,” she said.

Probe infirmities in CBI, says Brinda

The government should look into the infirmities in the CBI which led to such a diluted verdict, and appeal in the higher court, she added.

British special forces caught dressed as Arab ‘terrorists’

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Paksiasat.com

British soldiers have been caught posing as Arabs and shooting Iraqis in the occupied city of Basra in southern Iraq. A group of them was caught yesterday by Iraqi police. They were driving an Iraqi car, wearing Arab clothing, and carrying weapons and explosives.

The Iraqi police were patrolling the area looking for suspected “terrorists” or “insurgents”, and they noticed that the men were acting suspiciously. Suddenly, without warning, the suspicious men started shooting at people, but the new Iraqi security forces managed to capture some of them before they could escape. Obviously, if these men had not been caught, the mass media would now be reporting the incident as just another attempt by evil “terrorists” to create civil war in Iraq.

There have been a number of incidents in this area and throughout Iraq in which police and civilians have been targeted and killed by “terrorists” or “insurgents”. But this is the first time that any of those responsible have been caught in the act, and it is now clear that at least some of them are working directly for the occupying forces, as many Iraqis have openly suspected all along.

A few days ago, in a statement unreported in the corporate mass media, Iran’s most senior military official specifically linked the instability in Iraq with agents of the US and its allies: “we have information that the insecurity has its roots in the activities of American and Israeli spies.”

The post-war violence in Iraq is always been blamed on “Islamic extremists” or “rival ethnic factions”. Yet in the history of the country, nothing like this has ever happened before. The problems began precisely when the US and UK seized control.

The Iraqi police arrested the men and put them in prison. Unfortunately the police never had a chance to question the men and find out exactly what they were doing, because within minutes the UK sent in six tanks and an elite SAS unit to break their terrorists out of jail.

During the illegal prison break Iraqi officials were held at gunpoint, much of the jail was demolished, and all of the other criminals and insurgents were set free. The US and UK do not hesitate to use violence and terror to achieve their objectives, no matter what the consequences.

The official explanation for the illegal jail break is that somebody thought the British men might be taken away by a gang of Iraqi resistance fighters and never seen again. This is blatantly nonsense, of course, because the entire prison was entirely surrounded by British tanks and troops. With the full force of the British military at hand, the terrorists were rescued quickly and easily.

As further details emerge, the Western media increasingly presents conflicting reports about the nature and sequence of events, and the official British sources cited without question in mainstream news coverage are indicative of a classic disinformation exercise.

When local people saw what was happening the area began to erupt with angry anti-British protests.

SOURCE

The Guardian, “British tanks storm Basra jail to free undercover soldiers”, front page, 20 September 2005.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1573933,00.html
British tanks storm Basra jail to free undercover soldiers
British troops used tanks last night to break down the walls of a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and free two undercover British soldiers who were seized earlier in the day by local police.
An official from the Iraqi interior ministry said half a dozen tanks had broken down the walls of the jail and troops had then stormed it to free the two British soldiers. The governor of Basra last night condemned the “barbaric aggression” of British forces in storming the jail.
Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail, said dozens of Iraqi prisoners also fled in the confusion.

In a day of dramatic incidents in the heart of the British-controlled area of Iraq, the two undercover soldiers – almost certainly special forces – were held by Iraqi security forces after clashes that reportedly left two people dead and threatened to escalate into a diplomatic incident between London and Baghdad.
The soldiers, who were said to have been wearing Arab headdress, were accused of firing at Iraqi police when stopped at a road block.

Muhammad al-Abadi, an official in the Basra governorate, told journalists the two undercover soldiers had looked suspicious to police. “A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them.”

Criminals’ bodies paraded in Gujranwala after encounter

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* SSP says Asif Waddo and Kala Gujjar were wanted in more than 25 cases of robbery, murder and kidnapping

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Two suspected criminals, wanted by the Punjab Police in murders of seven policemen and three children, were killed in an encounter in Gujranwala, a private TV channel reported on Tuesday.

According to police sources, a police constable was also killed during a gunbattle between police and the accused. The bodies of the accused were later paraded through city bazaars, a sight that was witnessed by hundreds of people, who showered the policemen with petals.

Later, addressing a news conference, Gujranwala Senior Superintendent of Police Tariq Malik said the accused – Asif alias Waddo and Hashim alias Kala Gujjar – were wanted by the police in more than 25 cases of robberies, murders, kidnapping for ransom and other crimes. They had become a symbol of terror across the province, he added.

Acting on a tip-off, SP Afzal Butt raided a house in Khanewal, where Asif and Hashim were hiding. The suspected criminals fired at the policemen, who returned fire and killed the two men. Constable Yasin Butt was also killed in the exchange of fire.

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March 10, 2010 at 7:09 am