Posts Tagged ‘arafat’

The Secret with Iran: The 30-Year Covert Struggle for Control of a “Rogue” State

by Ronen Bergman

Translated by Ronnie Hope

Oneworld (2009)

Book Review

This is a very depressing book. The “secret war” referred to is the covert war Israeli intelligence has fought with Iran over the last [40] years. Most of The Secret War with Iran is an endless chronology of lawless tit-for-tat revenge killings, car bombings, kidnappings and extrajudicial assassinations Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah* impose on one another.

While most of the narrative seems historically accurate, the author’s clear pro-Zionist bias results in a number of troubling inconsistencies. Examples include persistent claims about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons arsenal – despite verification by US intelligence (see Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program) that their nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003; a clear attempt to minimize the role of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in generating and perpetuating Middle East violence; repeated claims that Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the CIA) was the key player in the birth of Al Qaeda; and an erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein expelled UN nuclear inspectors in 1998 (Bill Clinton had them recalled so he could bomb Iraq – see Clinton’s Worst Crimes).

Despite these weaknesses, the book provides valuable insight about the Israeli origin of Iran bashing recently taken up by Trump and the Republican Congress. The book also contains important historical background on Ruhollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian revolution to overthrow the ruthless CIA-backed Shah. Prior to reading this book, I was unaware of the role Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) played in training Iran’s Revolutionary Guards nor the role of Iran in training, arming and funding Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia group operating on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

After 1948 when the new state of Israel forcibly evicted millions of Palestinians from their lands, a sizeable proportion fled to southern Lebanon where they’re housed in refuge camps to this day. It was these camps that gave rise to the PLO.

After their UN-mandated expulsion from Lebanon in 1987, many PLO fighter returned to Palestine – where they launched the first Intifada.


*Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political party and milita group based in Lebanon. They enjoy strong support from Lebanon’s civilian population owing to their programs offering health, education and social services the Lebanese government is too poor to provide.

What Killed Arafat?

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

For me, the principal importance of this documentary series is that it exposes whitewashing by the western media of the death of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat.

I vaguely recall the 2012 BBC report on the Palestinian Authority decision to exhume Arafat’s body, based on evidence of polonium poisoning in his personal effects. After watching this two-part documentary, I now realize the western reporting was total disinformation.

Among the most important facts the film brings out:

  • The Palestinian Authority, believing from the outset that Arafat had been poisoned, begged the Bush administration to prevail on Israel to provide them an antidote. Years earlier they forced Israel to give them an antidote after bodyguards captured the Mossad agent who poisoned the leader of Hamas.
  • It was Al Jazeera itself that undertook, at the behest of his widow, a forensic investigation into Arafat’s death. They approached the Swiss University Center for Legal Medicine, whose scientists discovered high levels of radioactive polonium 210 in his hospital clothing.
  • It was the Palestinian Authority, rather than Arafat’s widow as reported in the western media, that refused to agree to an autopsy. This procedure is routine under French law (Arafat died in a Paris hospital) when the cause of death is unknown.
  • Arafat didn’t die of a stroke, as reported in western media. He died of Diffuse Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), a condition of whole body clotting triggered by a catastrophic medical condition such as leukemia, cancer, infection, HIV or poisoning.

At the time Arafat developed his mystery illness, he was living under siege in a two room apartment surrounded by ruble in bombed out Ramallah. The Israeli government had leveled the Palestinian Authority complex as part of a regime change exercise undertaken jointly by the Bush administration and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Arafat was in excellent health when he suddenly became violently ill (after a meal) with a mystery illness of four weeks duration. His French doctors tested him for a number of known poisonings. The possibility of polonium poisoning didn’t occur to anyone until it was used to assassinate Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Part I

Part 2

hamas

Hamas

by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell

(2010 Polity Press)

Note: the corporate media is omitting important historical context in their current reporting on the recent creation of a “Unity” government uniting the West Bank and Gaza. Two of the most important omissions include the role of the Israeli government in fostering the rise of Hamas and the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections – over all of Palestine, not just Gaza. The Israel and the US refused to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government, installed a puppet government run by Mahmoud Abbas (as they have done recently in Ukraine) and launched a CIA-led 18 month military coup to install Abbas’s illegitimate Fatah government in Gaza. Hamas successfully repelled the coup.

Hamas is about the militant Palestinian group which was democratically elected to run the Palestinian Authority in 2006. The book clearly documents the role Israel played in promoting the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Palestine.

According to Milton-Edwards and Farrell, Israel’s motives in backing the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine were identical to those of the US in Afghanistan and Anwar Sadat in Egypt. In all cases, the goal of supporting the Islamic fundamentalism was to counter the secular Arab leftists and nationalists who controlled most Middle Eastern states prior to 1967. The US and its allies had enormous concerns that that the leaders in power would form a single Arab economic or political block that would thwart US corporate and strategic interests.

Milton-Edwards and Farrell trace the origins of Hamas to the decision by the Muslim Brotherhood to open offices in Palestine in the 1940s, when it was still under the British Mandate. As a condition of their World War I defeat, the old Ottoman (Turkish) empire was divided up among European powers. In 1947 Britain surrendered control of Palestine, and the UN partitioned it into Jewish and Palestinian Arab states.

Outraged that Palestinian Jews, who represented on 32% of the population were awarded 56% of Palestine, in 1949 Syria, Egypt and Jordan joined with Palestine’s Muslim Brotherhood, in declaring war on Israel.

In the resulting settlement, Palestinian Arabs lost even more territory, forcing 726,000 refugees to flee to neighboring states. Gaza, to the west of Israel, came under Egyptian control. Jordan, to Israel’s east, assumed control of the West Bank. The king of Jordan, an autocratic totalitarian ruler, immediately closed the West Bank offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and placed their members under close police surveillance.

In the 1967 six day war, Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel and were once again defeated. The West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli military occupation, while Israel banned the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and forced Yasar Arafat and other PLO leaders to flee into exile.

Israel Turns a Blind Eye to Mijamma Violence

Prior to 1973, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood saw their primary role as performing charitable works and speaking out against the liberal Westernized culture Palestinian youth brought back when they went to university in Egypt. In 1973 they formed a new organization Al-Mijamma ‘al-Islami (The Islamic Center), under the leadership of a charismatic wheelchair bound cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Mijamma’s ultimate goal was to reclaim Palestinian land and homes Israel had seized in 1947 and 1967. However they felt the first step in building a militant resistance organization was to re-establish Palestine as an Islamic society. Thus their main focus was on islamization, which they approached by teaching, preaching and setting up community institutions to provide food and other social services to impoverished Palestinian families.

Assuming control of the Islamic University of Gaza in 1973, they began harassing and expelling female students who refused to wear Islamic dress, as well as beating up men who spoke out against these activities.

Israel, which governed both the West Bank and Gaza after 1967, turned a blind eye to this lawless violence, as well as providing direct financial to the Islamic Academy in Hebron, where many of Hamas’s military leaders would receive their training. In 1978 Israel went so far as to grant official recognition to Mijamma, allowing it to meet openly and publicly, at a time when all other Palestinian parties were banned as illegal terrorist organizations.

The Birth of Hamas

During the 1987 insurrection or Intifada, Mujamma renamed itself Hamas. Despite their full participation alongside the PLO in the Intifada, Israel continued to allow foreign money to flow freely to Hamas, while they continued to freeze PLO assets. Likewise Israel allowed Hamas to keep their schools open in Gaza, while they force West Bank Palestinian schools to close.

It wasn’t until 1990 that Israel finally cracked down on Hamas, following the murder of two Israeli soldiers. Their leader Sheikh Hassan was arrested, tried and imprisoned. Three years later, Israel illegally (under international law) deported 400 Hamas members, following the kidnapping of an Israeli border guard.

The PLO Endorses Sadam Hussein

Meanwhile the PLO, Hamas’s rival, made the tragic mistake of endorsing Sadam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. This resulted in the suspension of all aid the PLO previously received from wealthy Gulf oil states. Because they were nearly bankrupt with the loss of their Gulf donors, in 1993 the PLO abandoned their pledge to liberate Palestine through armed struggle. This decision to negotiate a peace with Israel made them enormously unpopular with one million Gazan refugees. Still intent on returning to the lands they had lost in Israel, they had no interest whatsoever in creating a Palestinian state.

The response from Hamas was to issue a fatwa (death sentence issued by Islamic religious leaders) against the Fatah-led PLO. Determined to derail the negotiations, they also launched a massive campaign of violence, incorporating or the first time a new tactic known as “martyrdom” (i.e. suicide) bombings. Each martyrdom bombing resulted in a payment of approximately $25,000 to the suicide bomber’s family, financed mainly by Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia.

The Creation of the Palestinian Authority

The 1993 negotiated settlement, known as the Oslo Accords, granted the West Bank and Gaza limited autonomy under Israeli military control. It also created the Palestinian Authority (PA), a shrewd move the US and Israel employed to split and crush the Palestinian resistance. By making the Palestinian leadership the civil authority, they shifted much popular anger away from Israel and towards the PLO.

Arafat and the PLO leadership returned from exile to run the Palestinian Authority (PA). Owing to a continuing embargo by Gulf donors, Arafat had to lay off hundreds of public sector workers and slash social services to prevent a total meltdown of the Palestinian economy. Israel, meanwhile, made Arafat responsible for controlling Hamas militants. His solution was to put thousands of them in prison and torture them. There were numerous reports of prisoners being beaten, forced to shave their beards and sodomized with coke bottles.

Meanwhile PA security services routinely blackmailed families, with offers to release prisoners in return for bribes of $10,000 or more. All this occurred as Israel was continuing to destroy Palestinian homes and olive trees to build more Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The Second Intifada

In 2000, Palestinian anger at their extreme poverty and repression boiled over in armed insurrection, the second Intifada. In 2002, the Saudis put forward a peace proposal which would have normalized Israel’s relations with the Arab world in return for their withdrawal from the occupied territories. As before Hamas, which still demanded the right of return (to their Israeli homelands) for all exiled Palestinians, tried to derail peace negotiations with a wave of sniper attacks and car and suicide bombings. These were directed against the PLO security services, Jewish settlers in Palestine and civilians inside Israel. Instead of retaliating against Hamas, Israel punished Arafat by sending tanks into the West Bank to bombard his headquarters, commencing a military siege that kept him prisoner until he died in 2004.

Hamas Enters Electoral Politics

Hamas boycotted the January 2005 presidential elections, giving the Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas an easy victory. In May 2005, the Hamas leadership made a controversial decision to pursue direct political power by standing candidates in Gaza and West Bank local body elections. They did so in parallel with militant attacks on Israel. Following Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in August 2005, this included Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli border towns.

Hamas never expected to win the parliamentary elections in January 2006, a success Milton-Edwards and Farrell attribute to widespread disgust, both in the West Bank and Gaza, with Fatah/PLO corruption and inefficiency. Refusing to recognize the Hamas victory, Mahmood Abbas installed his own non-elected parliament in the West Bank. He also refused to relinquish Fatah-controlled security posts to the new Hamas government. Israel, meanwhile, froze funds needed to pay PA officials in Gaza. When Europe and the US also froze Palestinian developmental assistance, Hamas had no choice but to turn to Iran for training, weapons and financial aid.

The Failed CIA Coup

After a brief experiment with a “unity” government, in which Fatah and Hamas ruled jointly, the CIA and Abbas launched an 18 month military coup, determined to dislodge Hamas from power in Gaza. In June 2006, Hamas came out the victor, employing 16,000 fighters to force 70,000 CIA-backed members of Abbas’ Preventive Security Organization to flee Gaza.

Hamas Drops in the Opinion Polls

By June 2008, their popularity waning owning to brutal sanctions and shortages of food, medicine and other necessities, Hamas was in the exact same situation as Fatah in 1993. In desperation they agreed to a temporary ceasefire (ending suicide bombings and Qassam rocket attacks), on condition Israel end their embargo. Hamas honored the ceasefire for six months, despite Israel’s failure to end their economic blockade. In December 2008, Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel. The book ends with a description of Operation Castlead, which Israel launched against Gaza in retaliation. Castlead destroyed or damaged nearly every Palestinian security installation, killed 1,300 Palestinians (including 900 civilians) and destroyed hundreds of homes and business institutions.

***

Beverly Milton-Edwards is Professor in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. Steven Farrell, who has dual British-Irish citizenship, is Middle East Correspondent for The New York Times.

intifada

(More from my research for A Rebel Comes of Age and the role of youth in sparking revolution)

Like the 1976 Soweto uprising, the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987 was instigated by teenagers experiencing a breakdown in family life and parental authority.

From 1967, when Israel first seized the Gaza strip from Egypt, until 1987, Gaza, which has always been much poorer than the West Bank, was little more than a cluster of refugee camps. This meant the only central authority Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, who maintained order. According to a study by EuroMed Youth, this lack of central authority led to the breakdown of parental authority. With a breakdown in civil society, it was only among young people, who freely intermingled in schools, universities and the streets, that intellectual debate could occur. In 1987, Yasar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization were still in exile.

The Breakdown of Parental Authority

Demographic factors played a major role in the empowerment of Palestinian youth in the late eighties. Approximately 65% of Palestinians were under 25 (with short life expectancy older age groups are underrepresented). In 1987, this group had a 37% unemployment rate.

As in Soweto, the breakdown of parental authority was a major factor. Although some Palestinian adults crossed into Israel to work, their wages were extremely low. Many children and teenagers worked as street vendors to contribute to family income. In some households, they were the sole source of support. Watching Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate their parents also tended to undermine their authority.

Children take on the Israel Defense Force

The first Palestinian Intifada started spontaneously when Palestinian children, teenagers and college students rioted in response to the IDF murder of six Palestinian students. Initially Palestinian youth were armed only with rocks, bottles and slingshots. The insurrection quickly spread to the West Bank and was joined by underground Palestinian resistance organizations, such as Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. They taught the youths how to make Molotov cocktails and sophisticated tactics, such as burning tires or constructing barricades to protect themselves from retaliation.

The response by the IDF was massive brutality, with random killings, arbitrary detention and torture of Palestinian children and teenagers. By 1989, 13,000 Palestinian teenagers were in Israeli jails.

The Creation of the Palestinian Authority

The first Intifada ended in 1993. Under the Oslo agreement, Israel agreed to establish the Palestinian Authority, and Yasar Arafat and other PLO leaders returned from exile to run it.

photo credit: Robert Croma via photopin cc

***

Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351