A Thoughtful Contribution Towards the Liberation of the Druze from the Zionist Hegemony in Academia: A Review of Kais Firro’s Book “Druze in the Time of Inattention”

Date: 
January 28, 2020

الكتابة عن تاريخ دروز فلسطين وما حل بهم منذ الانتداب البريطاني حتى الآن مهمة شائكة وشاقة، لحساسية الموضوع ولما اعتراه من غموض وما حواه من مغالطات ولتأثره الشديد بالموقفين السياسي والمذهبي، ولا مبالغة إن قلنا بأن تناوله أكاديمياً ليس سهلاً، فهو بحاجة إلى قدر عالٍ من الشجاعة الشخصية، والثقافة العالية، وامتلاك لأدوات البحث التاريخي، والنزوع نحو الموضوعية والصرامة العلمية.

أهمية الكتاب

لا شك في أن تناول المؤرخ الفلسطيني الراحل قيس فِرّو لهذا العنوان “دروز في زمن الغفلة من المحراث الفلسطيني إلى البندقية الإسرائيلية” منحه زخماً كبيراً خصوصاً وأن تاريخ دروز فلسطين هو في صلب مشروعه التأريخي منذ أن نصحه به الراحل ألبرت حوراني، وقد زاد من أهمية الكتاب أنه نحته من منظور معرفي ونظري متجاوز للرواية الصهيونية التي نسجها المؤرخون الصهاينة بناءً على الأرشيفات الصهيونية وعكسوا فيها رؤية كوادر الحركة الصهيونية في عهد الانتداب وبنوا سردية تاريخية للعلاقة “طبقاً لحاضرها المتصور عندهم”( ص1)، وظلت روايتهم مهيمنة حتى وقت قريب.

وهذا المنظور هو جزء من حالة وعي فلسطينية شقت طريقها رغم النكبات وراكمت معرفة تاريخية أهَّلتها لفهم أعمق للقضية الفلسطينية وللمساهمة في بناء سردية تاريخية مغايرة، وقد بدا هذا واضحاً في خلاصات الكتاب، سواءً في استنتاجه بأن الدروز وقعوا ضحية سياسات الحركة الصهيونية التي نجحت نسبياً في “ترويض وتهجين القيادات الدرزية وشرائح من الطائفة” (ص 366)، مستغلة عزلتهم في قرى جبلية، وضحالة تصوراتهم للمشروع الصهيوني، وغفلتهم وشعورهم بالخوف من المستقبل، أو في إثباته أنه لم يكن هنالك في الواقع “حلف دم” بين الدروز ودولة الاحتلال، وأن هذا الشعار ما هو إلا أداة في يد المؤسسة الرسمية الإسرائيلية تدفع بها الدروز للتشبث بالولاء لها، ويستخدمها بعض الدروز لحثها على “رد الجميل لهم” (ص 5)، أو تأكيده بأن دولة الاحتلال تعاملت مع الدروز في الشأن الاقتصادي بالطريقة نفسها التي تعاملت بها مع باقي الفلسطينيين في الداخل المحتل، وأن دمج الدروز في الجيش والمؤسسة الأمنية لم يحمهم من سياسات مصادرة أراضيهم، وتهميش بلداتهم، وأن المجهود الصهيوني لم يمنع من ظهور حالة رفض درزية لحمل البندقية الإسرائيلية وتهجين الهوية.

في المنهج التاريخي والتعامل مع المصادر  

حوى الكتاب بعضاً من خلاصات فِرّو حول منهجية الكتابة التاريخية، منها أن المؤرخ ليس بمقدوره أن يعيد كتابة الماضي ولا “كشف الماضي من خلال مصادره، بل يستطيع كشف المصادر فحسب”، ومع ذلك فهو لا يكتب سردية أدبية متخيلة، لأنَّه يعتمد أساساً “على مصادر تحمل في طياتها قرائن تدل على حدوث أحداث قام بها أناس حقيقيون، عاشوا في الماضي” (ص 192)، وهذه القرائن التاريخية” لا يصبح لها معنى في الكتابة التاريخية إلا بعد تدخل المؤرخين وتفعيلهم منهجيات معينة في تأويلها” ( ص1)، كما حوى تصوراته حول الأرشفة عموماً والأرشيفات الصهيونية بشكل خاص، فالأرشفة عنده “عملية انتقائية محكومة باهتمامات ورغبات فريق مشتغل فيها، وهي، بالتالي، لا تنقل الأحداث كما جرت في الماضي، بل تنقل أوصاف أحداث” (ص 1)، والأرشيفات الإسرائيلية “أوصاف أحداث، تمتزج فيها نوازع واهتمامات واصفيها المتأثرين بالسياقات السياسية والثقافية التي عملت فيها الحركة الصهيونية على تحقيق أهدافها الاستيطانية” (ص 2).

في نقد الخطاب الصهيوني حول الدروز

عدَّ فِرّو يتسحاق بن تسفي، أول من صاغ الخطاب الصهيوني الإعلامي والأكاديمي حول الدروز، ناحتاً مقولاته التأسيسية: أن الدروز تاريخياً “يحبون اليهود” وأنهم جماعة تشبه “الأمة اليهودية” في كونهم أقلية وعانوا من الاضطهاد، وأن لديهم  قدرة على التكيف باستخدام التقية التي يعتبرها الصهاينة “الأداة المعرفية التي تفسر قدرتهم على التكيف في الدولة الصهيونية وإظهار ولائهم لها” ( ص 11)، وقد ناقش فرّو هذه المقولات بالرجوع إلى النصوص التي اعتمدت عليها، وأثبت هشاشة هذه المقولات، وانتقائيتها، وعجزها عن تفسير تاريخ الدروز وعلاقاتهم بمحيطهم، في المقابل أكد بأن تاريخ الدروز المعاصر شهد بروز نخب تبنت هويات جماعية عابرة للطوائف، ونادت بإسلامية المذهب الدرزي وأصل الدروز العربي وانتمائهم إلى الوطنية السورية، أمَّا دروز فلسطين فظلوا، برأي فِرّو، ملتصقين بهويتهم الطائفية قبل نكبة سنة 1948 وبعدها، وذلك لأن القرى الدرزية في فلسطين كانت معزولة في الجبال، ولم تشهد “تغيرات اقتصادية واجتماعية تساعد على ظهور شريحة متعلمة قادرة على استيعاب مفاهيم وطنية وقومية” وبسبب جهود الحركة الصهيونية في أوساطها.

الدروز في أجندة الحركة الصهيونية.. التاريخ العملي

قامت الاستراتيجية الصهيونية تجاه الدروز على عقد اتفاق صهيوني درزي، يتضمن مساعدة دروز فلسطين ضد أي اعتداء عليهم، وتحييدهم في الصراع على فلسطين، وإنشاء علاقات مع قياداتهم في حوران ولبنان، وكسب ود دروز الجبل من أجل فتح أسواق جديدة للبضائع الصهيونية والاستيلاء على أراضي دروز فلسطين وطردهم من فلسطين. وبحسب فرو فإنَّ يتسحاق بن تسفي كان له الدور الرئيس في صياغة هذه الاستراتيجية، وكان لبعض كوادر الحركة الصهيونية دور في تنفيذها مثل آبا حوشي سكرتير نقابة الهستدروت في حيفا، ويوسف نحماني مدير مكتب الصندوق القومي اليهودي (هكيرن هكييمت) في طبريا، إضافة لبعض المتعاونين الدروز مثل يوسف العيسمي وحسن أبو ركن ولبيب أبو ركن وصالح خنيفيس وغيرهم.

توقف فِرّو عند بعض التفاصيل العملية للجهد الصهيوني، فشكك فيما جاء في الأرشيفات الصهيونية حول علاقات الصهاينة بسلطان باشا الأطرش، إذ رجَّح عدم دراية الأطرش بحقيقة آبا حوشي وتحركات العيسمي، وأظهر كيفية استغلال الصهاينة بعض الأحداث ذات الطابع الطائفي لجر الدروز إلى مربعهم، بتهويلها وتسويق أنفسهم باعتبارهم مساعدين للطائفة الدرزية، وأَثَر الوجود الصهيوني في خلق تجاذبات بين العائلات الدرزية، ومحاولات الحركة الصهيونية تحييد الدروز عن المشاركة في ثورة 1936. وبيّن ظروف تبلور خطة ترحيل دروز فلسطين، والقائمين عليها، والمراحل التي مرت بها، وأكد ظهورها سنة 1937، وأنها من بنات أفكار الحركة الصهيونية ولم يكن سلطان باشا الأطرش على علم بها ولا وافق عليها، كما زعم تقرير لآبا حوشي، وقد استدل على ذلك بموقف سلطان باشا الأطرش المساند للقضية الفلسطينية، وبكون التقرير رواية يتيمة لا يوجد ما يسندها واختلقها صاحبها لإقناع قادة الحركة الصهيونية بجدوى تحركاته، ورأى بأن الحرب العالمية الثانية وتداعياتها كانت سبباً رئيساً في تعطيل الخطة، بالإضافة إلى معارضة وجهاء الدروز لها، فتحولت أولويات الصهاينة إلى تشجيع الانتماء الطائفي عند الدروز وفصلهم عن المسلمين، وربط مصالحهم الاقتصادية بالاقتصاد الصهيوني، مع الاستمرار في الاستيلاء على أراضيهم.

الدروز وحرب سنة  1948… التأريخ الاسترجاعي

عاين فِرّو الدور الدرزي في حرب عام 48، ولاحظ الجهد الصهيوني في تحييد الدروز واستمالتهم، ومحاولات الحركة الوطنية استقطابهم ودفعهم للمشاركة في الحرب، ثم توسع في نقاش دور فوج جبل العرب في الحرب وبعض المجموعات الدرزية الأخرى، مع التركيز على معركة هوشة والكساير وسقوط شفاعمرو، وصحح بعض المعلومات الواردة في كتابات بعض المؤرخين، وقدم تفسيراً للتحولات التي حدثت في الموقف الدرزي نهاية الحرب باتجاه مساندة المجهود الصهيوني. 

وخلُص إلى أن بعض الكتابات التاريخية حول دور الدروز في الحرب تأثرت برؤية تاريخية استرجاعية محكومة بمآلات الأحداث وبغفلة عن المصادر، ومأخوذة بالدعاية الصهيونية التي أظهرت الدروز في صف الصهاينة في الحرب، كما في كتابات عارف العارف الذي أهمل مشاركة فوج جبل العرب في معركة هوشة والكساير، وغالب أبو مصلح الذي قلل من مشاركة الشيخ جبر داهش معدي فيها، وإيلان بابيه الذي اعتبرها معركة وهمية وأكد انضمام جميع فوج جبل العرب للجيش الإسرائيلي.

أما الأسباب الرئيسة للانقلاب في الموقف الدرزي، فيعيدها فِرّو إلى نتائج المعارك والخسارة الفادحة التي مني بها العرب والفلسطينيون، ولعامل اقتصادي تمثل في “قلق دروز دالية الكرمل وعسفيا وشفاعمرو ويركا على مصير محاصيلهم من القمح والشعير في السهول الواقعة بين جبل الكرمل والجليل الأسفل، فبدأوا بالضغط على وهاب كي ينزل عن شجرة كبريائه ويسعى للتفاهم مع القوات الصهيونية” (ص 168).

 دروز ما بعد النكبة

رأى فرو أن السياسة الصهيونية تجاه الدروز في مرحلة ما بعد النكبة قامت على التعامل معهم بقانون العصا لمن عصى والجزرة لمن أطاع، والاستغلال السياسي لحاجاتهم، والتلاعب بحقوقهم، والعبث بالتوازنات العائلية، وقد اعتمد ساسة الاحتلال في حزب العمل “على الطريقة الزبائنية، منحت أصحاب القرار في الحزب، باعتبارهم رعاة ( patrons)، القدرة على تجنيد رؤساء العائلات في القرى  باعتبارهم زبائن ( clients)، همهم الأول الاستفادة من جزرات السلطة” ص (255-256)، واتخذت العلاقة الزبائنية شكلاً هرمياً، يترأسه أصحاب القرار في حزب العمل، ووسطه زبائنهم من القيادات الدرزية التقليدية، وقاعدته قرويون (ص 258)، وقد استفاد قسم من هؤلاء الوسطاء من التطور الاقتصادي ومن الامتيازات الممنوحة لهم بوصفهم وسطاء. ويخلص فرو إلى أن غياب دور المعلمين أو النخب المثقفة في الوسط الدرزي ساهم في تكريس هذه السياسة.

أشار فرو إلى نماذج من هذه السياسة، منها ما جرى في قرية عسفيا من مصادرة ممتلكات البعض، في تعبير عن سياسة العصا، ومنح آخرين امتيازات، في تعبير عن سياسة الجزرة، ومنها ما تعلق بالموقف من بعض الرموز الدينية الدرزية، مثل محاولة بعض أصحاب القرار في المؤسسة الأمنية الإسرائيلية  سحب شرعية الزعامة الروحية من الشيخ أمين طريف”  وإقامة “هيئة عامة، تكون بمثابة قيادة جماعية تحل محل الرئاسة الروحية التقليدية” (ص 249).

وركزت السياسة الصهيونية على صهر الدروز في المؤسسة العسكرية الصهيونية، من خلال تجنيدهم في وحدة الأقليات في الجيش الإسرائيلي منذ سنة 1948، ثم إدخالهم في الأجهزة الأمنية من شرطة ومصلحة سجون وغيرها. وقد توصل فرو إلى أن فرض التجنيد الإجباري على الدروز كان قراراً صهيونياً ولم يكن بطلب من الدروز أنفسهم، وبأن القرار جوبه بمعارضة واسعة كان في مقدمتها الشيخ أمين طريف الذي هدد المنضمين للجيش الإسرائيلي بالحرمان الديني، والامتناع عن المصادقة على الزواج وقد استخدم الرافضون للتجنيد عدة وسائل منها الاجتماعات العامة، وتقديم العرائض، ورفع دعاوى قانونية وغيرها.

وقد أظهر بأن نجاح عمليات التجنيد في الوسط الدرزي لم تؤدِ إلى حماية أراضي الدروز فقد خسروا ما نسبته 68% من الأراضي، وهي “أعلى من نسبة مجمل خسارة القرى العربية الأخرى من الأرض والتي وصلت إلى نحو 60% حتى بداية القرن الحالي” (ص 319).

خاتمة

 لم يتعامل فِرّو مع دروز فلسطين باعتبارهم أبطالاً ولا خونة، وإنما حاول فهم ما جرى لهم، واضعاً تصوره عن تاريخهم في إطار الصراع في فلسطين ومحطاته المتعددة. لقد أزال كثيراً من الغموض حول مشاركتهم في النضال ضد المشروع الصهيوني منذ ثورة سنة 1936، واعترف بانكساراتهم وخيباتهم، وركن في كل ذلك إلى تاريخه الطويل في العمل الأكاديمي المتخصص، وخبرته الواسعة في التعامل مع المصادر، ولا نبالغ إن قلنا أنه قدم مساهمة رصينة على طريق تحرير تاريخ الدروز من هيمنة الأكاديمية الصهيونية.    

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Palestinians See Trump-Netanyahu Apartheid Plan as “Steal of the Century”

President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met to plan the release of Trump’s apartheid plan. The plan does nothing to address the fact that Palestinians are under Israeli military rule and are being deprived of basic human rights.

The Decline of International Law: Reflections of a True Believer

by Richard Falk

This piece is crossposted from the personal blog of JWE Board member Richard Falk.

[Prefatory Note from R. Falk: This post was initially published on January 27, 2020 in a Turkish online publication, Fikir Turu, and is slightly modified below.]

The Decline of International Law

There is widespread agreement that international law is experiencing a sharp decline in relevance when it comes to foreign policy, especially in the eye of the public. At first glance, this seems surprising. The digital age and economic globalization require more than ever a reliable regulatory framework to enable international transactions of many types. The growing complexity and networked style of international relations would lead most observers to anticipate an increased role for international law, and in many spheres of transnational activity, this has happened. In this respect, the public is somewhat misled when it generalizes its impression of decline to the whole of international law.

The impression of decline derives from high profile issues of governments acting without regard for international law, especially in the area of peace and security. A recent such example is the drone killing of a leading Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, while on an apparent diplomatic visit to Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi Prime Minister. More revealing, perhaps, is the seeming international disregard of flagrant war crimes by the Assad Government during the civil strife that has brought such mass suffering to the Syrian people since 2011. Also, the genocidal massacres of the Rohingya people in Myanmar or the military coup staged by General Sisi in 2013 against the elected Egyptian government of Mohamed Morsi raised few cries of official protest about such flagrantly unlawful behavior. Even the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year, while bringing tears to the eyes of many, brought no meaningful international response to such an outlandish state crime.  

The Trump presidency has reinforced this impression of decline, bordering on irrelevance, by its unilateralism in foreign policy—the 2018 move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in violation of the UN consensus that the future of the city be determined by negotiations; the legalization of Israeli settlements in the West Bank despite their clear violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and prior Washington policy, the disruptive withdrawal from the from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) and the Paris Climate Agreement finalized the following year. Overall, global issues that are reported on by the media strengthens this impression that international law is not respected by many governments, and nothing adverse happens to them as a consequence.

Yet there is more to international law than this negative impression leads us to believe. The entire fabric of the modern world is dependent on a generally respected international law framework. Without this framework every standard activity from tourism to diplomacy to trade and communications, as well as maritime and commercial air safety, would produce chaos on a grand scale. The reality is that we take most of the international law dimensions of the modern world for granted, never think about it, or if we do, we are grateful for bringing this kind of order into our everyday activities. On a larger scale governments and businesses plan many large-scale long-term operations on the assumption that international law guidelines can be relied upon. In other words, in many spheres of international life, international law is dependable, and is mutually beneficial both for ordinary people and for powerful actors.

Yet, the impression of decline is real when it comes to peace and security, human rights, and cooperative global problem-solving for such challenges as climate change and migration. It was not always quite this way. The United States, in particular, but many important countries believed in extending the rule of law as far as possible in international arenas. There was a widespread belief about World War II that a law-governed world order was essential to avoid the disastrous recurrence of major warfare and another economic collapse of the magnitude that brought on the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unregulated nationalism was seen as a severe threat to a peaceful and prosperous future for humanity, including those states with a geopolitical agenda. Even the development of a human rights architecture within the UN embodied the liberal faith that adherence to a common set of legally grounded values, as qualified by civilizational diversity, would be of benefit to the whole of humanity.

Yet, there were always major limitations to what could be achieved by a law-oriented approach to world order. Even the UN was framed in such a way that it exempted the most powerful, and generally the most dangerous states, from an obligation to comply with international law, including even the UN Charter. This exemption was signaled to the world by making the five dominant governments in 1945 permanent members of the UN Security Council, and more consequential, conferring on them a right of veto, which was a way of making international law inapplicable whenever it was really needed to curb the behavior of these large states and their smaller friends who could always be shielded from legal obligations. Such shielding has been long done most spectacularly by the United States in relation to Israel. The best takeaway is that for geopolitical political actors, international law is a matter of convenience, not obligation.

There are also issues bearing on the effectiveness of international law that arise from the decentralized nature of world order. States even in the aftermath of a great war that caused widespread forebodings about the future were never willing to entrust the UN with enforcement capabilities. What enforcement occurred was the work of geopolitics, the willingness of large states to intervene for the sake of preventing severe criminality, itself usually instances of dubious legality. Arguably, this was what happened in 1999 when NATO acted to prevent Serbian criminality in Kosovo or when international sanctions were imposed by various countries on South Africa to bring apartheid to an end can be used as examples of extending international law in the face of state sovereignty and through circumventing a geopolitical veto. Yet depending on geopolitics to uphold international law is generally not a good idea. Geopolitical motivations are self-interested, strategically contoured, and ideologically driven, with the language of international law, democracy, and human rights often used as a cover to soften criticism. Over the decades, American sanctions were imposed on Cuba because of its Marxist orientation toward governance while countries with far worse human rights records, such as Guatemala or Chile under Pinochet, were not punished because they were allies. In other contexts, such as the struggle of the people of Tibet, Chechnya, and Kashmir, the costs of confronting China, Russia, and India were deemed impractical, with costs far too high to justify intervention, and to the extent concerns were expressed, it was done by way of hostile propaganda in which the moral message was submerged beneath clouds of partisanship.

Yet these structural problems of world order are also not the whole story. World history, which seemed in the struggles against fascism and colonialism and, later, in the collapse of the Soviet Union, to be heading toward greater reliance on international law, the UN, human rights, and the belief that only constitutional democracies were legitimate, but something happened to reverse these trends. What has happened in the 21st century is the rise of authoritarian leadership in virtually every important country on the planet, often by anti-democratic governing processes, but more surprisingly, by electoral choices in functioning constitutional systems such as India, Brazil, Philippines, and the United States, among others. The trend is global, which suggests structural dimensions, but each national narrative reflects particular conditions. Some explanations have stressed populist backlashes against neoliberal globalization and the impact of many dimensions of inequality it has brought about or the related effort to strengthen feelings of national identity and community in the face of migrants or the homogenizing impacts of transnational franchise capitalism. The cumulative effect of these developments is to elevate even the most arbitrary authority of the national leadership beyond any notion of accountability to international rules and institutions, making the perception of decline real, alarming, fostering a nihilistic mood at the very historic moment when constructive cooperative action is desperately needed. Added to these negative features of the present reality,  current prospects for reversing this decline are not favorable seem virtually non-existent.

Yet we can take a small comfort in the radical uncertainly of the future in which what is anticipated rarely happens. Less visible contradictory forces are present, mostly below the surface, making despair inappropriate, and calling on all of us to act on and struggle for the future we seek. It is this uncertainty that alone allows us, even mandates us, to be hopeful about the future, and to act as citizen pilgrims seeking a better future for humanity.

The post The Decline of International Law: Reflections of a True Believer appeared first on Just World Educational.

Historiography of the Nakba: New Research Trends

لماذا الرواية الفلسطينية عن نكبة 1948 غير مكتملة، على الرغم من أن الفلسطينيين أصحاب حق؟ سؤال كثيراً ما طُرح لدى المقارنة مع الرواية الإسرائيلية المحبوكة جيداً، في حين أن “حقائقها” مصطنعة ومحالة على الأسطورة الدينية. ولا يخفف من وطأة ضعف الرواية الفلسطينية محاولة بعض المؤرخين الجدد البحث في التاريخ الشفوي لسدّ ثغرة غياب المصادر الأرشيفية، على أن هذه المحاولات إذا رُفدت بوثائق تاريخية، ربما تعيد كتابة نص الرواية الفلسطينية.

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Date: 
January 27, 2020
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News Language: 
Arabic

Why Trump’s Mideast splash is causing barely a ripple in Arab world

The Palestinian cause has been the lifeblood of Arab leaders, inspired countless poems and songs, been the subject of entire school textbooks, and was a factor in three regional wars.

It once united peoples from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula more than even the Arabic language itself.

Yet as the Trump administration is set to unveil a one-sided peace deal potentially legitimizing the Israeli annexation of lands Arabs across the region once vowed to die for, something has happened to Arab support for Palestinian nationalism.

A change in calculations and priorities by Arab leaders, coupled with the wariness with which young Arabs view their own governments, has muddled the message on Palestinian statehood.

Just as startling as the suddenness of announcing President Donald Trump’s long-promised peace plan, the details of which he is expected to release Tuesday, is the collective shoulder shrug in the Arab world.

Gulf Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have emerged over the past decade as the leading political and economic forces in the region, have been silent. So too Egypt, whose battles for Palestinian statehood in the 1960s and ’70s defined its post-independence identity.

Perhaps tellingly, as Palestinians braced over the weekend, the two largest regional satellite networks, Qatar’s Al Jazeera and the Saudi Al Arabiya, focused their coverage on the Jeff Bezos phone hacking scandal – with Qatar pushing the story implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Al Arabiya exonerating him.

Shift in the Gulf

It is part of a trend as Gulf states, which once offered their own peace initiative in 2002, are now more consumed with maintaining their autocratic rule at home and countering any potential democratic Arab movements abroad. In so doing, Gulf leaders are putting aside a Palestinian cause they have deemed energy-intensive and low-reward.

Another factor is their rivalry with Iran, strategically aligning them with Israel and making them ever more dependent on the Trump administration and even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself.

Gulf insiders say leaders have stayed silent to keep a “neutral stance” – not throwing their full weight to pressure Palestinians to accept an unpopular deal, while not vocally denouncing unilateral announcements by Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu.

Yet Gulf leaders insist they are not abandoning the Palestinians, just humoring the Trump administration.

“Gulf countries just want to smile and nod for Mr. Trump and walk away, hoping that the administration forgets about the whole peace deal in a couple of days,” says one Gulf insider close to decision-makers.

Observers point to the failure of the Trump administration’s peace efforts to produce tangible results, including the much-ballyhooed, first-phase Bahrain economic peace conference last June, which fizzled without a single project pledged.

“What has happened since Bahrain? Absolutely nothing; it was a bunch of nice Power Point presentations,” says Daoud Kuttab, an Amman-based Palestinian analyst and writer.

“One reason we are not seeing a larger Arab response is that people don’t think the Americans are serious about anything. They think all of this is a show and election-year politics because Trump wants Bibi in office,” says Mr. Kuttab, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname. “But you have to be careful, because today’s politics can become policy.”

Palestinian apathy

The reaction has also been muted in the Palestinian territories themselves, where Mr. Trump has boasted that doomsayers’ warnings of violence or instability did not materialize after he moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Palestinians are not shocked by the ‘Deal of the Century’ or the slow creep of annexation because they are living with it and have seen these types of policies in action for decades,” says Yara Hawari, senior fellow at the Al Shabaka Palestinian Policy Network in the West Bank.

Popular Palestinian action has also been limited by the violence previous protests have been met with, most recently in the Gaza Strip.

“We have very clear examples of what happens when Palestinians do mobilize – with Gaza being the most recent manifestation of this – which is violent suppression. It is a very high cost,” Ms. Hawari says.

Politically, the largest political actors, Fatah and Hamas, have been divided, while support for each movement has dwindled.

Activists and residents say there has been encroaching autocratic rule by each group in the West Bank and Gaza that has been intolerant to criticism, muzzled the press, and cracked down on any political opposition.

Human Rights Watch has reported Palestinian Authority security services arresting dozens of journalists, protesters, and even private citizens for “writing a critical article or Facebook post” or “belonging to the wrong student group.”

“Palestinians must focus on political reconciliation among themselves and demand a legitimate leadership that goes back to the discourse of liberation,” says Ms. Hawari.

The post Why Trump’s Mideast splash is causing barely a ripple in Arab world appeared first on Al-Shabaka.

Palestinian activists seek climate justice under occupation

“People talk about climate a lot here,” said Awdah Hathaleen, an activist from the West Bank. “They’re scared. When we hear there is a winter storm coming, we don’t sleep. When there is wind, our houses shake.”

Hathaleen told Al-Monitor that in recent years climate change has exacerbated the situation in the West Bank. “We get hotter summers and colder winters. Every year it gets worse and worse,” he added.

Hathaleen lives in Umm al-Khair, a Bedouin village in the south Hebron Hills that was established in 1948, with 160 people currently living there. The village lies next to Carmel, an Israeli settlement built in 1982, separated from Umm al-Khair by a fence. “A lot of houses here are tents because of the occupation and we are not allowed to fix them for winter,” Hathaleen said. Snow used to come every five years, he noted, but it is increasingly frequent and last time there was a big snowfall, eight tents collapsed.

Umm al-Khair is located in Area C, which is under Israeli control and represents about 60% of West Bank lands.

Asked whether Israel allows them to build houses, Hathaleen said, “If we do anything, they [Israeli authorities] will give us a stop working order or demolition order immediately.”

The hotter summers pose new threats for the village, too. “There is no water network allowed here,” he said. “We get seven hours a week to collect water.” Members of the community suffer increasingly from a lack of water and so does the environment around them, Hathaleen noted. “Trees don’t have enough water and they die. The village is attacked by the weather, we have no green.”

According to a paper published last year by Palestine’s Environment Quality Authority, Palestine can expect to be one degree Celcius hotter in five years, and up to 4 degrees hotter by 2090. The authority also estimates that rainfall could decrease by up to 90% by 2090.

“This will reflect negatively on all aspects of life in Palestine, including health, water, biodiversity, agriculture and energy,” Othman Sharkas, a geography professor at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told Al-Monitor. The authority’s report anticipates extreme water shortages, desertification and an increase in public health issues stemming from dehydration and cholera outbreaks.

“Despite the effects of climate change being broadly similar across the region, the Palestinians are more vulnerable, and this is directly to do with the political situation,” Zena Agha, a researcher at Al-Shabaka research center, told Al-Monitor. The Israeli occupation is the biggest nonenvironmental threat facing the Palestinians, and one that compounds the environmental situation, Agha said.

“Restrictions on the free movement of people and goods, the apartheid wall [the wall separating Israel from the West Bank], land grabs, settlement expansion and settler violence, and poor governance all threaten Palestinian food and water security, which increases climate change vulnerability,” she noted.

Agha pointed out the peculiar role of the Palestinian Authority (PA) — the governing body in the West Bank — in relation to climate change. “It has no sovereign jurisdiction over natural resources or large swathes of territory and wields no independent political will over how to mitigate climate risks,” she said. “Yet bizarrely, it is tasked with addressing climate change.”

The post Palestinian activists seek climate justice under occupation appeared first on Al-Shabaka.

Barometer: US-Iran war prospects

by Helena Cobban

This piece is crossposted from the Just World News blog of JWE President Helena Cobban

Three weeks after the United States’ January 3 assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, how likely is the eruption of a US-Iran shooting war, what paths might lead to it, and what factors might brake or reverse the trend towards war?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how, despite the extremely sharp escalation in tensions that immediately followed Soleimani’s killing, five days afterwards it became clear that Washington and Tehran had stepped back– for now– from the brink of cataclysmic outright war. Principally, that outcome was the result of Tehran’s carefully calibrated crisis management. Iran’s response to Soleimani’s killing was an almost (though not wholly) symbolic attack on the US base at Ain al-Asad in Western Iraq… and Tehran gave Washington enough advance warning to allow US personnel on the base to get to their bunkers, thus avoiding any serious US casualties.

At that point, the threat of an outright shooting war receded considerably. But on January 10, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sharp new economic sanctions on an Iran already reeling under under the effects of existing US sanctions, and Washington has continued to employ other elements of what Max Blumenthal has dubbed “hybrid warfare”– incitement of opposition movements, repeated provocations, information operations, etc– against Iran. For example, in 2018, the DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) budgeted $872, 400 for various, mainly opposition-boosting projects within Iran, and those funds likely became disbursed throughout 2019.

And the military situation inside (and alongside) the Persian/Arabian Gulf and neighboring waterways remains tense. 2019 saw a number of localized attacks and flare-ups in that region in which the US and allied navies have a large on-sea presence and sizeable bases, and in which air-defense systems are often poised on a hair trigger. The most significant of those attacks was September’s “swarming” attack by around two dozen attack drones that put Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil field offline for several weeks. (The effectiveness of that attack powerfully demonstrated to the super-vulnerable Saudis and their GCC neighbors that any shooting war against Iran could bring massive, possibly catastrophic, blowback against themselves. It powerfully buttressed the deterrence Iran was able to project toward the GCC states and thus greatly reduced the incentive those states had to provoke– far less to join– any US attack against Iran. The widely noted accuracy of Iran’s January 8 attack against the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq underlined that message.)

Meanwhile, in Iraq– a key locus of chronic political and paramilitary competition between pro-Iranian and (often US-backed) anti-Iranian factions– that competition has definitely heated up over the past ten days. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatolloah Ali Khamene’i, has insisted that he wants the 5,000-plus US troops who deployed back to Iraq in 2014 to meet and help destroy the ISIS threat there, to leave as soon as possible.

Two days after the Soleimani killing, the Iraqi parliament voted to ask the US troops to leave. US officials insisted that the troops are not leaving; and an intense struggle has erupted in many parts of Iraq over this issue. The largely anti-Iranian protest movement in southern Iraq, that had muted its actions immediately after the Soleimani killing, has now resumed its mobilization. (In 2018, NED  budgeted $2.570 million for activities inside Iraq that included many linked to just such a mobilization.)

US-Iranian “shadow wars” for influence also continue in Syria and Lebanon. Iran has powerful local allies in both those countries who are well embedded in the national governments and whose sway the United States (and Israel) have been working hard to reduce for many years now. A rapid escalation of tensions in either Syria or Lebanon, or in Iraq, could easily spur a rapid eruption of new tensions between the US and Iran itself.

Robert Hunter’s scenarios

So, taking the above into account, what are the current prospects for war or de-escalation between Iran and Washington?

One person who has attempted to answer that question is Amb. Robert E. Hunter, someone who combines the experience he gained when he was director of Middle East and North Africa affairs in Pres. Carter’s White House with the experience he later gained as Pres.Clinton’s Ambassador to NATO. In this recent article, Hunter laid out four possible scenarios for how the dynamic might evolve. (Though later in the piece, he expands one of them into a fifth.)

These are:

  1. Iran’s clerical leadership might be overthrown, a scenario he describes as “possible but not yet likely.”
  2. Iran’s leadership might respond to American pressure “by agreeing to negotiate a new nuclear agreement” that would include other Western objectives beyond what was agreed in the derogated-by-Washington JCPOA. (“This is a tall order… But Iran’s leadership, facing a rising internal, regime-threatening crisis, might be open to at least some” of Washington’s additional demands.)
  3. Washington might, essentially back down significantly by offering to remove “major elements of sanctions, as well as the goal of outside-provoked regime change.”
  4. Iran might now move rapidly toward getting its first nuclear weapon.”

He describes this fourth scenario as carrying the greatest risk, namely that, “Iran’s renewed nuclear work could progress to the point that the U.S. would need to redeem Trump’s pledge that ‘Iran Will Never Have A Nuclear Weapon!’ That means war.” Then, he immediately introduces his fifth scenario: “Another Afghanistan or Iraq.” He writes that,

War would lead to a fifth scenario: “now what?” Nearly 19 years of experience in Afghanistan and 17 years in Iraq should breed caution in Washington and a fundamental calculation of all U.S. regional interests that has so far been lacking. This experience should mandate all efforts possible to get out of the accelerating move toward the fourth scenario. 

Deterrence theory from the perspective of the deterree

Hunter’s article brings to mind a field of study that hasn’t been pursued much in the United States until recently, namely “deterrence theory from the perspective of the deterree.” Because of course, in all the interactions the Iranian government and its close allies have had with their regional (and international) rivals it is not only the GCC countries that have, as noted above, been deterred by the prospects of the Iranian alliance being able to inflict unacceptable damage on them. Israel has also been similarly deterred— especially by Hizbullah, in Lebanon, since 2006. And for at least 17 years now it has been clear that, despite all the swagger and bravado with which US naval vessels roam the Gulf, their leaders have also understood that it is impossible to “win” in an outright shooting war against Iran. That was the lesson brought home by the extensive (though ultimately, rigged) “Millennium Challenge” war-games the U.S. military ran in the Gulf in 2002. Both sides have doubtless worked hard to improve their planning and performance in the years since then. But the capabilities, especially in targeting and in command-and-control of complex operations, that Iran and its allies demonstrated at Abqaiq and Ain al-Asad certainly gave any strategists planning  a future large-scale attack against Iran whole new layers of extremely tough scenarios to worry about.

“A game-changer,” was how MIT’s Prof. Ted Postol summed up the lessons from Abqaiq. And that was before Ain al-Asad.

War risk not gone

Most people around the world breathed a sigh of relief as the intense war-worries that assailed us on January 3 started dissipating rapidly after January 8. But Iran’s 83 million people are still hurting very badly, as a result of the “maximum pressure” sanctions that Pres. Trump has imposed on them. So are Iraq’s 39 million people– from a multiplicity of causes, not least Washington’s policy of deliberating breaking up their country’s capabilities after its invasion in 2003… And Syria’s 17 million people have suffered extremely grave damage from Washington’s feckless, years-long waging of hybrid war against their government. So we cannot yet say that the war between the United States and the Iranian-led alliance has ended. We can say that the US campaign against Iran and its allies has for now has been pushed into forms that are less immediately lethal and disruptive of international peace and security than an outright war would have been.

But sanctions kill! As we should all remember from the tragic history of the sanctions that the US persuaded the UN to maintain against Iraq, 1991-2003. The UN estimated those sanctions killed more than 500,000 Iraqis. Now, Washington wants to enforce an equally tight set of sanctions against Iran and against Syria– and Trump has even threatened to impose tight sanctions against Iraq if the Iraqi government insists on expelling the US military forces and contractors who have been there since 2014.

(We would be remiss if we failed to note that the Israeli government which, along with its many acolytes inside the United States, has been a big driver of many American anti-Iran campaigns over the course of many years, has also pioneered the use of “maximum pressure” sanctions against the two-million population of Gaza throughout the past 13 years, to quite devastating effect.)

What can break the stand-off?

So what can break the current standoff between American and Iranian power? It is highly unlikely that any European powers will play this role. As I see it, the best hope for the kind of leadership in international diplomacy that is needed to break the current logjam is the hope that some combination of Russia, China, and the smaller “BRICS” powers can broker a peace between the parties that will allow all foreign fighting forces to return home and allow the peoples of the region to start to heal their wounds and rebuild countries devastated by war, sanctions, and harsh internal divisions.

Obviously, this will not be easy. The international community has a lot of other issues to worry about, including the various trade wars launched by Pres. Trump, the challenges of negotiating a viable peace (at last!) in Afghanistan, and the continuing threats– including in Iraq and Syria– from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other takfiri forces.

But there are some modest reasons to think that some form of an internationally brokered deal between Washington and Iran might be possible:

  1. The United States is not nearly as commanding a force inside the UN now as it was in the 1990s. Back then, it could often bend the UN to its will, including over the issues of sanctions against Iraq. Now, in contrast, many (though not all) of the current rounds sanctions against Iran and Syria are unilateral US sanctions, that are enforced by Washington through its command of the SWIFT system for international payments. Russia and China have talked about setting up an alternative to SWIFT, and have also been exploring various barter arrangements with Iran.
  2. Russia has demonstrated a sure grasp of the complex diplomatic skill and breadth of understanding of the region’s dynamics that can enable its diplomats to contribute creatively to the required diplomacy. Russia has good working relations with all the relevant actors (except, perhaps, today, with Washington; a situation that needs to change.)
  3. China brings its considerable economic heft to the table, as well as a non-trivial diplomatic presence in this region, which lies at the western end of its own home continent. Beijing has been careful not to over-extend itself in the region. But it has considerable interests in the countries both north and south of the Gulf. In 2016, Pres. Xi Jinping made prestigious visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Last year, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi visited Beijing.
  4. The GCC states, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia, were until recently seen as major forces critical of the JCPOA and urging greater US pressure against Iran. After the attack on Abqaiq, and even more after the tensions stoked by the killing of Qasem Soleimani, that stance seemed to change. Given the power that Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s de-facto leaders exert on decisionmaking in Washington, including through the personal relationships they enjoy with members of the Trump-Kushner clan, it is possible that they might both help persuade the President to back down some from his policy of suffocating “maximum pressure” on Iran and help him find a face-saving way to achieve this…

Thus, as I said above, it is possible that a serious de-escalation between Washington and Tehran might be achieved through smart, engaged international diplomacy. (Note that I don’t even mention any European role in the above list… ) If this does happen, regarding the oft-hyped Iranian nuclear issue, we might see something like a reinstatement of JCPOA. But numerous other issues of contention would need to be resolved as well. Any such negotiated stand-down would involve some pain for all parties. But such is the nature of negotiation.

And the alternative to that would be… ? A continuing, quite horrendous risk of a cataclysmic regional or global war.

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