How New is the Southern Sudan?

January 28, 2011

It has been a while since I last posted but with the intensity of activity in Sudan and across the ME and North Africa I felt it time to reactivate this blog. Some amendments will need to be made to the profiles of the authors that contribute to this site and maybe the focus of the site may change somewhat to reflect some of the areas of interest in which I am now researching and writing, but this needs to be renegotiated with the remaining contributors. Anyway, watch this space for some changes but in the meantime here’s a brief piece on the emergence of the Southern Sudan.

How New is the Southern Sudan?

There is little doubt that in July of this year a new state will join the international system. This state will be greeted with much fanfare from western sponsors who have robustly supported a process of independence for the Southern Sudan. Before analysing some of the issues that might belie the euphoria surrounding the creation of this state, I’ll make a few preliminary comments that will demonstrate that I am no apologist for either the artificially constructed territories that Africa was saddled with at independence or the successive Khartoum governments that have largely been responsible for years of north-south conflict and national instability that followed the end of formal European colonialism in Africa.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Pervasiveness of Race

July 22, 2009

Whilst the following news story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/21/henry-louis-gates-jr-arrest-harvard) is not directly related to the Middle East I have decided to post it anyway because of a recent debate about racism and as it provides a convenient excuse to revisit the topic on this site. What this short news story suggests is that even though institutional and legally enforced racism is less pervasive today than in previous eras where the slave trade and European colonialism produced racist doctrines premised on the superiority of the white race, there is still a resilience to racial stereotyping and more subtle forms of racism in the US, at least. I would argue that subtle and insidious forms of racism remain pervasive in the modern world more widely than just in the US . The harsh reality is that racism is as pervasive internationally as it was a century or so ago when W.E.B. Du Bois suggested that the issue of race relations would be a defining motif of the twentieth century. The events of the twentieth century have shown us how prescient Du Bois was and how relevant his comments remain as we enter into a new millennium. Today, racial differences (ethnic and religious differences as well) continue to shape the world we live in.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Colonial Past and the Colonial Present (Italy and Lybia)

March 18, 2009

Many Arab and Third World Countries have welcome this unprecenteted step, taken by Italy, to repay Lybia for the Colonial Past (Lybia was under Italian control more or less between 1912 and 1943). The agreement, ratified some days ago, is historical indeed. But Claudia Gazzini, in the article just published by merip.org, illustrates some of the ‘dark sides’. Generally speaking the Colonial Past is rarely debated in Italy, and education and popular culture still spread the myth of a ‘colonialism with a human face’ (colonialismo dal volto umano). Far from this, the Italian occupation of Lybia saw, especially in the Fascist Period (from teh late 1920s to the end), one of the most brutal repression ever even for he bloody history of Colonialism and Imperialism. Italians massacred, deported and displaced over 100,000 Lybians. This is still largely a taboo in Italian history, and only few brave historians, such as Angelo Del Boca, have broken it.

Read the article at:
http://www.merip.org/mero/mero031609.html


BDS VICTORY – UK GOVERNMENT BOYCOTTS ISRAELI DIAMOND MOGUL

March 5, 2009

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

UK Government Boycotts Israeli Tycoon
Lev Leviev over Settlement Construction

Decision a Victory for Coordinated Campaign in Palestine,
US, UK and Israel

New York, NY, March 4 – The government of the United Kingdom has decided to
boycott Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev over his companies’
construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied West
Bank, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz Daily (1) reported today. The decision

by the UK government followed a coordinated advocacy  campaign by human
rights advocates in New York, the UK, Palestine and Israel demanding that
the UK government end plans to rent the new UK Embassy in Tel Aviv from
Leviev’s company Africa-Israel.

The UK’s Tel Aviv Ambassador notified Leviev of the decision by letter,
following a British parliamentary debate, and inquiries with Leviev’s
company Africa-Israel over its activities in the West Bank,  Ha’aretz
reported. According to Ha’aretz, “The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the
details of the story.”
Read the rest of this entry »


Australian Academic Boycott.

February 4, 2009

While the call for a boycott of Israeli academics in Australia is not a new one the following statement is an indication of the renewed vigour for such action in the wake of the Gaza attack. Ali Abunimah explains, in a recent article, that the time is ripe to pressure Israel to end the brutality of its occupation. In this Mission Statement  Australia joins other countries in an “unprecedented expression of support for boycott, divestment and sanctions from major trade unions in Italy, Canada and New Zealand”.

Mission statement: Australian Academic Boycott of Israel

We are an Australian campaign focused specifically on a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.

We do so because we support the call made by Palestinian civil society to join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was delineated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm) in the following statement:

Read the rest of this entry »


George Mitchell and the ‘peace process’.

February 3, 2009

The appointment of Mitchell by the Obama administration as Middle East envoy brings renewed hope of an even-handed approach with regards to a peace settlement. There are, however, several substantial obstacles to overcome.

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos –- like Gaza –- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.

Read the rest of Ali Abunimah’s article here.


A silence that speaks volumes about the injustice

February 2, 2009

Even Israeli jurists have nothing to say:

The 41,000 attorneys in the State of Israel are entrusted with protecting its image as a lawful state, and this large and grand army has once again strayed from its function. There is a deep suspicion throughout the world that Israel carried out a series of war crimes, and the jurists of our country are holding their peace.
….
Do they not know that disproportionately harming a civilian population, supply convoys and medical crews, the use of white phosphorus in the midst of population centers and indiscriminate bombings are considered war crimes? What is their response to their enraged colleagues around the world? Are they convinced that Israel carried out these crimes or not? In both instances, their voice is vital and their silence is abominable.


The intentional humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

January 21, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion in the press, not to mention on this board, about the Israel’s motivations in Operation Cast Lead. Many will claim that Olmert, Barak and Livini’s main aim was to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel and threatening its population. “Security for Israel” and “Israel has a right to defend itself” are the most often repeated mantras from Israeli officials, their sympathisers and allies. Others on this blog, including myself, have made a case that this war was not about the rockets given that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had worked effectively and put an end to hostile fire across the border. Other secondary Israeli motivations include its upcoming elections in February, the outgoing US President Bush and the need for the IDF to restore its reputation after it failed to defeat Hezbollah in 2006.

This 22 day war produced a staggering number of dead civilians – over 1300 – and scores more wounded (estimates range between 4000-5000). Just like the thousand-plus Lebanese civilians who died in 2006, Gaza’s dead have also been reduced to a sad consequence of the war. Casualties are to be expected during such periods of hostility and if they are not intentional then it is somewhat excusable. Following this logic means Israel is, yet again, immune from condemnation and, worse still, from being held to account for its war crimes. Again I have elsewhere argued, following Mirko Bagaric, that the only thing that matters in war are the consequences. This includes the dead civilians even if they are accidently caught in the cross-fire.

Israel and its supporters would like the world to believe that the 1300 dead Gazans are the unavoidable costs of the war. This, however, is not the case. It seems, as Ben White writes in The Guardian, that Israel did deliberately target civilians as part of its war strategy. He writes:

There is . . . no shortage of evidence available that points to rather different Israeli aims [for the war other than Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence] . . . Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to – in the best colonial style – teach the natives a lesson.

White goes on list “three alternative purposes” behind the operation in Gaza which move beyond the generic explanations. His three findings are summarised below:

1. The first aim is to humiliate and weaken Hamas. On the one hand, this seems obvious, but contrary to how the goal is often understood, this is not primarily to protect the Israeli public – as pointed out previously, ceasefires and negotiations are far more likely to deliver security for Israeli citizens – but rather it is a political goal. Hamas had withstood isolation, a siege, mass arrests, and an attempted western-backed coup. Moreover, cracks were appearing in the international community’s resolve to parrot Israel’s line on Hamas. The group, with its resilience and ability to deliver on negotiated ceasefires, was threatening the chance to make a deal with the Ramallah “moderates” [i.e. Abbas and the PA].

Read the rest of this entry »


What is in store for Gaza’s population now?

January 20, 2009

Ahdaf Soueif’s article “The Palestinians say: ‘This is a war of extermination’ ” details some of the most horrific scenes the people of Gaza faced in the last three weeks. The stories Soueif records are not new – indeed, despite what Israeli officials have tried to tell the world, images from Gaza substantiate what can be found in the article. In Egypt at the general hospital at el-Arish she asks a Gazan man who he has accompanied there:

“I’m here with my nephew. He’s 19. Shrapnel in his head. He was sitting with his friends. He’s a student. Architecture. The helicopter dropped a bomb and seven of the group were killed and six were injured. They found a boy’s hand on a 3rd floor balcony.”

And Soueif goes on to write:

They [the Palestinians] describe bombs which break into 16 parts, each part splintering into 116 fragments, the white phosphorus which water cannot put out; which seems to die and then flares up again.

No one I spoke to has any doubt that the Israelis are committing war crimes. According to the medics here, to reports from doctors inside the Gaza Strip and to Palestinian eye-witnesses, more than 95% of the dead and injured are civilians. Many more will probably be found when the siege is lifted and the rubble is cleared. The doctors speak of a disproportionate number of head injuries – specifically of shrapnel lodged in the brain.

They also speak of the extensive burns of white phosphorus. These injuries are, as they put it, ‘incompatible with life’. They are also receiving large numbers of amputees. This is because the damage done to the bone by explosive bullets is so extensive that the only way the doctors in Gaza can save lives is by amputating.

Beyond this, and since writing her article, Soueif has uncovered the beginnings of another Israeli initiative which involves, under the auspices of humanitarian urgency, the permanent transfer of Palestinians from Gaza. Sonja Karkar, from the organization Woman for Palestine, outlines the following: Read the rest of this entry »


And the media cheers on …..

January 9, 2009

The following article by Saree Makdisi deals with the bias against Palestinians in various media outlets in the US and, perhaps more interestingly, discusses the troubling racism that underpins Israel’s actions in Gaza – from the blockade to the siege. Two notable sections include

1. ‘Listen to the words of Professor Arnon Sofer, the government consultant who did so much to help plan the isolation and imprisonment of Gaza, in a interview with the Jerusalem Post in 2004: “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Sofer predicted. “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure on the border is going to be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” Sofer admitted only one worry with all the killing, which will, he says, be the necessary outcome of a policy that he himself helped to invent. “The only thing that concerns me,” he says, “is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.” ’

2. ‘Starting the attacks on a Saturday was a “stroke of brilliance,” the Guardian’s Seamus Milne quotes the country’s biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot as saying; “the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed.” The daily Ma’ariv agreed: “We left them in shock and awe.” ’

The full article can be found in Counterpunch