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Historic step: UNSC votes to end Israeli settlements in Palestine

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The process of establishing a soverign Palestine state is being supported by UN vote for defacto Palestine and the UN agencies doing all possible help for the Palestinians to move forward to get Palestine by legal means. Now a historic action by UNSC has legally binding Israel for the consequences of its illegal settlements in Palestine and asked Israel to remove all settlements illegal in Palatine- impediments for credible talks and for peace.

UNSC can vote resolution only if no veto member disagrees on it and that has happened now. USA has abstained from voting in order to clear way for the resolution to sail through. Israel stand isolated legally, internationally.

Despite unusual diplomatic maneuvering involving President-elect Donald Trump, Israel, and Egypt on December 22, the United Nations Security Council passed a historic resolution on December 23 Friday demanding an end to Israeli settlements. As a positive step, the USA abstained, effectively allowing the measure to be approved- the first ever positive step b y the superpower in years ever since Israel was forced into Palestine and made a full UN member in 1948.

UN resolution that’s become such a controversial issue the last couple of days only asks Israel to adhere to international law. The draft resolution demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, and says the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.

Egypt withdrew the original resolution on 22 December afternoon, reportedly “under pressure” from both President Barack Obama and President elect Trump —who tweeted on the matter Thursday morning. —and Israel. Had this move worked, it could have punted the measure to the incoming Trump government, which is seen as more friendly to Israel than that of President Barack Obama—especially after Trump’s nomination last week of conservative hardliner David Friedman to serve as US ambassador to Israel. It was expected Trump would choose a pro-Palestine diplomat to be sent to Tel Aviv to bring about credible peace between Palestine and Israel, an arrogantly positioned and occupier of Palestinian territories with US backing.

But the Security Council members New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal stepped in and the vote took place after all on Friday afternoon.

The US abstention, which was expected as the Obama government has given up pro-Israeli stance for the time being, was described as a relatively rare step by Washington, which usually uses it UN veto to shield Israel from such action, and as a parting shot by US President Obama who has had an acrimonious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and who has made settlements a major target of peace efforts that have proven ultimately futile.”

In response to the vote, pro-peace organization the Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson declared: “There is an increasing understanding among US political leaders, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law. The US abstention from this resolution is a welcome sign in that regard.”

However, she added, “with President-elect Trump urging a veto of even this mild resolution, as well as his nomination of an extreme right-wing Ambassador to Israel, we are deeply concerned by increasing US support for Israeli incitement, annexation, and control under his administration and will redouble our efforts to organize resistance to policies based in Islamophobia, racism, and disregard for even the most basic rights of Palestinians.”

Earlier, Trump wasn’t the only one who called on the USA to veto the measure; a number of hardcore Zionist US senators serving Israeli interests in Mideast on Friday joined him by issuing aggressive statements to that effect, making loud that the money they receive from Israel is worth the trouble

And interestingly Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee, threatened to reduce US to the United Nations” if the body moves forward with the ill-conceived resolution to upset Israeli straggly to expand illegal settlements in Palestine

Relations between Israel and Palestine have been wrecked for decades, as Palestinians have been seeking diplomatic recognition for their independent state of Palestine on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which is also partially occupied by Israel, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel brutally occupies Palestine territories and attacks Gaza strips, now targeting women and children. UN is just watching the Israeli terror shows as Palestinians continue to bleed and yet they are called the terrorists by leading US Zionists like Madam Clinton. Peace has not been the motto of Obama as he intensified the wars launched by roguish Bushdom leaders on the pretext of 9/11.

When Israel attacks Gaza Strip, killing even children or cancels the talks with Palestinians, USA admires and supports Israel mainly because US leaders do not seek peace or regional normalcy anywhere in the world, especially in energy rich Middle East. The most recent round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians was initiated by the United States in mid-2013 but ended in an impasse almost a year later. USA plays mischief in the name of diplomacy with Palestine and world. President Obama, like his predecessors had done before him, just could not push the arrogant Israeli regime to come to terms with reality and agree for peaceful resolution of the Mideast conflict that makes the world vulnerable to tensions and wars.

President elect Trump is expected to choose peace in order to wind down all terror wars. Hence his views on Palestine gains importance. Following the presidential poll, US President-elect Donald Trump assured the global community of the serious approach of USA in changing political atmosphere and said he wants to put an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and thereby bring to the Mideast region. “That’s the ultimate deal,” Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, referring to the complex conflict as the “war that never ends.” Just one day after winning the election, Trump has asked hawkish Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with him in the USA.

Trump noted that any deal should be directly negotiated between Israel and Palestine, but that his government would play a “significant role” in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” according to the Times of Israel.

In an interview with “Israel Today”, a free daily owned by Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson, Trump said he believed his government can play “a significant role” in helping the Middle East parties reach an agreement. Netanyahu, however, had ordered his Cabinet and lawmakers to avoid speaking to the media about the election while the incoming US administration formulates its policies and told his Cabinet on November 13, 2016 that he would soon be meeting Trump.

A senior Israeli Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett on November 14, 2016 said the election of Donald Trump has helped create an opportunity for Israel to abandon its stated commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The remarks by Bennett reflect sentiment in the nationalist Israeli right wing that Trump’s election many Zionists believe could usher in a new era of relations with the United States.

While these two capitalist countries are close allies, relations were sometimes tense between US President Barack Obama and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu because of their vastly different world views.

Bennett last week welcomed Trump’s election, predicting that “the special relationship” with the US would grow stronger and noting that the Republican campaign platform had no mention of a Palestinian state. In fact many in USA and Israel are happy that Trump has chosen a hard core Zionist as US envoy for Israel. They believe for Trump “The era of a Palestinian state is over”.

Bennett leads the Jewish Home party, a coalition partner that is affiliated with the West Bank settler movement. He is one of the most influential voices in Israeli politics, and both his party and most members of Netanyahu’s Likud oppose Palestinian statehood on either religious or security grounds. Bennett has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and granting the Palestinians in other parts expanded autonomy, with new roads, office parks and economic opportunities, with Israel retaining overall security control.

Israel and its media kept themselves away from Is US elections, not siding with Trump. . Speaking to foreign reporters on November 14, 2016, Bennett was more cautious, citing an order by Netanyahu for his Cabinet not to talk about the election in public. But he made it clear that Trump will push his government to rethink its commitment to Palestinian independence. Bennett said that the combination of the changes in the USA, in Europe that the region provides Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything. “It’s no secret that I think that the notion of setting up a Palestine in the heart of Israel is a profound mistake. I believe that we have to bring alternative new ideas instead of the Palestinian state approach”.

Now the Cabinet Minister Ofir Akunis, a close Netanyahu associate, called for a renewed wave of settlement construction. But such sentiments may have been premature.

This explains the Zionist petrified mindset with regard to Palestine state and Palestinians. For two decades, the international community has been pushing for a negotiated peace deal that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Though Bennett said he did not know whether Trump would support that view, he said it is critical that Israel now clearly define its own vision. After many years, the Israeli government has to decide what we want”. Bennett’s comments were also an indicator of the pressure Netanyahu could soon face to abandon his commitment to the “two-state solution” favored by President Obama, President elect Trump and the international community.

The thinking was that Israel’s continued occupation of millions of Palestinians would create a demographic time bomb, threatening Israel’s status as a democracy with a Jewish majority.

After opposing Palestinian independence for most of his career, Netanyahu, like his predecessors had done, reluctantly endorsed the idea shortly after Obama took office in 2009. Critics, including Obama, have said that continued Israeli settlements on occupied territories have undercut the goal, and the Obama government has at times questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to seeking peace.

Though never supported Trump’s campaign, Israeli hard-liners welcomed Trump’s election late, noting the support for Israel in his campaign platform and the many pro-Israel officials who advised him during his campaign. Their spirits were further boosted after a Trump adviser, Jason Greenblatt, told an Israeli radio station that his boss does not think the West Bank settlements are an “obstacle to peace.”

But that is now history.

Trump’s unpredictability has raised concerns that he might change his attitudes once in office. For instance, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he would like to help broker a solution to the conflict “for humanity’s sake”.

All sensible people and powers around the globe hope that the Trump regime will not give vent to his unexplainable hatred for Muslims in depriving the Palestinian people – who have been driven forcefully away by USA-UK-Jewish people from their motherland more than seven decades back in 1948 to carve out an illegal Israel – in realizing their genuine rights of a free Palestine state.

UNSC vote to end to Israeli settlements in Palestine is indeed a historic step to further easy the movement for establishing Palestine as a full UN member sooner than later.

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Middle East

China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian that Beijing would firmly support a resumption of negotiations on a nuclear pact [China Media Group-CCTV via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the city of Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province.  Both of them discussed a gamut of issues pertaining to the Iran-China relationship, as well as the security situation in the Middle East.

A summary of the meeting published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the point, that Foreign Ministers of Iran and China agreed on the need for  strengthening bilateral cooperation in a number of areas under the umbrella of the 25 year Agreement known as ‘Comprehensive Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China’. This agreement had been signed between both countries in March 2021 during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani, but the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the launch of the agreement on January 14, 2022.

During the meeting between Wang Yi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian there was a realization of the fact, that cooperation between both countries needed to be enhanced not only in areas like energy and infrastructure (the focus of the 25 year comprehensive cooperation was on infrastructure and energy), but also in other spheres like education, people to people contacts, medicine and agriculture. Iran also praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and said that it firmly supported the One China policy.

The timing of this visit is interesting, Iran is in talks with other signatories (including China) to the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal 2015 for the revival of the 2015 agreement. While Iran has asked for removal of economic sanctions which were imposed by the US after it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, the US has said that time is running out, and it is important for Iran to return to full compliance to the 2015 agreement.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview said

‘Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’

The US Secretary of State also indicated, that if the negotiations were not successful, then US would explore other options along with other allies.

During the course of the meeting on January 14, 2022 Wang Yi is supposed to have told his Chinese counterpart, that while China supported negotiations for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal 2015, the onus for revival was on the US since it had withdrawn in 2018.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to China was also significant, because Foreign Ministers of four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — and Secretary General of GCC,  Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf were in China from January 10-14, 2022 with the aim of expanding bilateral ties – especially with regard to energy cooperation and trade. According to many analysts, the visit of GCC officials to China was driven not just by economic factors, but also the growing proximity between Iran and Beijing.

In conclusion, China is important for Iran from an economic perspective. Iran has repeatedly stated, that if US does not remove the economic sanctions it had imposed in 2018, it will focus on strengthening economic links with China (significantly, China has been purchasing oil from Iran over the past three years in spite of the sanctions imposed by the US. The Ebrahim Raisi administration has repeatedly referred to an ‘Asia centric’ policy which prioritises ties with China.

Beijing is seeking to enhance its clout in the Middle East as US ties with certain members of the GCC, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a clear downward spiral in recent months (US has been uncomfortable with the use of China’s 5G technology by UAE and the growing security linkages between Beijing and Saudi Arabia). One of the major economic reasons for the GCC gravitating towards China is Washington’s thrust on reducing its dependence upon GCC for fulfilling its oil needs. Beijing can utilize its good ties with Iran and GCC and play a role in improving links between both.

The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is likely to become more complex, and while there is not an iota of doubt, that the US influence in the Middle East is likely to remain intact, China is fast catching up.

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Egypt vis-à-vis the UAE: Who is Driving Whom?

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Image source: atalayar.com

“Being a big fish in a small pond is better than being a little fish in a large pond” is a maxim that aptly summarizes Egyptian regional foreign policy over the past few decades. However, the blow dealt to the Egyptian State in the course of the 2011 uprising continues to distort its domestic and regional politics and it has also prompted the United Arab Emirates to become heavily engaged in Middle East politics, resulting in the waning of Egypt’s dominant role in the region!

The United Arab Emirates is truly an aspirational, entrepreneurial nation! In fact, the word “entrepreneurship” could have been invented to define the flourishing city of Dubai. The UAE has often declared that as a small nation, it needs to establish alliances to pursue its regional political agenda while Egypt is universally recognized for its regional leadership, has one of the best regional military forces, and has always charmed the Arab world with its soft power. Nonetheless, collaboration between the two nations would not necessarily give rise to an entrepreneurial supremacy force! 

Egypt and the UAE share a common enemy: political Islamists. Yet each nation has its own distinct dynamic and the size of the political Islamist element in each of the two countries is different. The UAE is a politically stable nation and an economic pioneer with a small population – a combination of factors that naturally immunize the nation against the spread of political Islamists across the region. In contrast, Egypt’s economic difficulties, overpopulation, intensifying political repression, along with its high illiteracy rate, constitute an accumulation of elements that serves to intensify the magnitude of the secreted, deep-rooted, Egyptian political Islamists.

The alliance formed between the two nations following the inauguration of Egypt’s President Al Sisi was based on UAE money and Egyptian power. It supported and helped expand the domestic political power of a number of unsubstantiated Arab politicians, such as Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied and the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan. The common denominator among these politicians is that they are all fundamentally opposed to political Islamists.

Although distancing political Islamists from ruling their nations may constitute a temporary success, it certainly is not enough to strengthen the power of the alliance’s affiliates. The absence of true democracy, intensified repression by Arab rulers and the natural evolution of Arab citizens towards freedom will, for better or for worse, lead to the re-emergence of political Islamists. Meanwhile, Emirati wealth will always attract Arab hustlers ready to offer illusory political promises to cash in the money.   

The UAE has generously injected substantial amounts of money into the Egyptian economy and consequently the Egyptian State has exclusively privileged Emirati enterprises with numerous business opportunities, yet the UAE has not helped Egypt with the most critical regional threat it is confronting: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi’s exaggerated fascination with UAE modernization has prompted him to duplicate many Emirati projects – building the tallest tower in Africa is one example.

The UAE’s regional foreign policy that hinges upon exploiting its wealth to confront the political Islamist threat is neither comprehensible nor viable. The Emirates, in essence, doesn’t have the capacity to be a regional political player, even given the overriding of Egypt’s waning power. Meanwhile, Al Sisi has been working to depoliticize Egypt completely, perceiving Egypt as an encumbrance rather than a resource-rich nation – a policy that has resulted in narrowing Egypt’s economic and political aspirations, limiting them to the constant seeking of financial aid from wealthy neighbors.

The regional mediating role that Egypt used to play prior to the Arab uprising has been taken over by European nations such France, Germany and Italy, in addition of course to the essential and ongoing role of the United States. Profound bureaucracy and rampant corruption will always keep Egypt from becoming a second UAE! Irrespective of which nation is in the driver’s seat, this partnership has proven to be unsuccessful. Egypt is definitely better off withdrawing from the alliance, even at the expense of forgoing Emirati financial support.

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Kurdish Education in Turkey: A Joint Responsibility

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Turkish elites often see Kurds as posing a mortal threat to their homeland’s territorial integrity. Kurdish elites often harbor pan-Kurdish dreams of their own.

Modern Turkish nationalism based its identity on statist secularism practiced by Muslims who are Turks. The secularist paradigm of a “Turkish Nation” struggled hard with accommodating Christians (Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians) and Kurdish-speaking Muslims. Kurdish coreligionists were expected to become Turks, i.e., to abandon their cultural heritage for the “greater good” of a homogenous Turkish nation.

This cultural-identity conundrum led to a century-long violent conflict, but also to genuine efforts by many Kurds and Turks to reach a common vision that would accommodate both Turkey’s territorial integrity and Kurdish cultural rights.

The rise to power of Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 appeared to imply a watershed, bringing about a measure of cultural liberalization toward the Kurds. More Islam seemed at first to signal less nationalistic chauvinism.

IMPACT-se, a think tank focusing on peace and tolerance in school education, pointed out in “Two Languages One Country,” a 2019 report that showed liberal elements being introduced in the Turkish curriculum by the AKP government. These “included the introduction of a Kurdish language elective program, the teaching of evolution, expressions of cultural openness, and displays of tolerance toward minorities.”

And while no open debate was permitted, IMPACT-se noted “a slight improvement over past textbooks in recognizing the Kurds, although they are still generally ignored.” Yet, the name “Kurd” is no longer obliterated from the curriculum. Kurdish-language textbooks were authored as part of a wider Turkish-Kurdish rapprochement.

In June 2012, the Turkish government announced for the first time, that a Kurdish elective language course entitled: “Living Languages and Dialects” (Yaşayan Diller ve Lehçeler), would be offered as an elective language for Grades 5–7 for two hours per week.

IMPACT-se studied these textbooks (published in 2014 and 2015 in Kurmanji and Zazaki) in its report  and found that the elective Kurdish-language program strengthens Kurdish culture and identity, while assuming a pan-Kurdish worldview devoid of hate against Turks. Included are Kurdish-historic places in Turkey, Iran and Iraq (but not Syria). The textbooks cover issues such as the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, the Kurdish national holiday of Newroz, with the underlying revolutionary message of uprising against tyranny. Children’s names are exclusively Kurdish. Turks and Turkey are not represented in the elective Kurdish books (but are obviously present across the rest of the curriculum).

The latter is a surprising and counter-intuitive finding. Textbooks published by Turkey’s Ministry of Education focus solely on the Kurdish side, with pan-Kurdish messaging, and no Turkish context. There could be several explanations for this, but the fact remains that Turkish-Kurdish relations are still not present in Turkey’s Kurdish language program.

The overall conclusion of IMPACT-se has been that this program is pioneering and generally excellent. There are some problems, however. One problem is that the elective program is minimalistic and does not meet Kurdish cultural needs. However, the program ignores the Turkish-Kurdish dilemma, hence projecting an inverted mirror image of the Turkish curriculum at large, which ignores the Kurdish question. There is no peace education in either curriculum. Therefore, IMPACT-se recommended enhancing the Kurdish-language program, while adding a healthy dose of pertinent peace education to the curriculum’s Turkish and Kurdish textbooks.

Sadly, the last few years have also seen broader moves by the Turkish government to quash Kurdish cultural and educational freedoms. The armed conflict between separatist groups and the Turkish military resumed in 2015, followed by the 2016 detention of high-ranking officials of the peaceful pro-minority People’s Democratic Party (HDP). By 2020, 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors on the HDP ticket in previous years had been forced out or arrested by security forces.

Simultaneously, elective programs such as Kurdish have been neglected and largely replaced by religious “elective” courses, which are often mandatory. Specifically, elective Kurdish courses are being clamped down or de facto erased in certain schools (despite being originally offered in 28 cities and with an expected enrollment as high as 160,000).

And then there is the question of full education in Kurdish. Article 42 of the Turkish Constitution bans the “teaching of any language other than Turkish as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institution of education.” And yet, Turkish authorities looked the other way between 2013 and 2016, as five fully Kurdish elementary private schools were opened in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Şırnak and Hakkari. The last of these schools, Ferzad Kemanger in Diyarbakır, was closed on October 9, 2016. Apparently these schools conveyed pan-Kurdish messaging (Ferzad Kemanger was an Iranian-Kurdish elementary school teacher. He was wrongly accused of being a terrorist and executed by Tehran in 2010).

There can be no Kurdish heritage without Kurdish languages, making the current situation untenable. Kurdish education should become a priority again.

But this is not enough. A common Turkish-Kurdish vision should be developed. Educationally, a serious effort should be directed toward educating both Turks and Kurds about the other’s identity, culture, shared history, commonalties, conflicts and interactions. 

Two ethnicities sharing one homeland in a volatile region pose a great challenge for both. A careful educational plan can lay the groundwork for peace and prosperity. Kurdish education in Turkey should be considered a joint responsibility leading to a common vision.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect an official position of IMPACT-se.

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