Tag Archives: As’ad Abu Khalil

The Egyptian intifada and what it may mean for Israel/Palestine

The Egyptian uprising against the Mubarak regime is historic and important in its own right.  But it may also lead to significant changes in the region that could be positive for the Palestinian cause.  Israel is worried about a reliable ally being toppled next door.

The Mubarak dictatorship is a core pillar of the U.S./Israeli order in the Middle East, an order that completely ignores the wishes and aspirations of people on the ground.  The U.S. and Israel are scared of the new order that is to come.

As As’ad Abu Khalil notes at his blog, “the Israeli strategy in the Middle East has been firmly set on the continuity of the Sadat-Mubarak dictatorship.”  Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 removed a military threat to Israel and secured millions of U.S. dollars and military support for the Egyptian dictatorship.  The Mubarak regime got carte blanche for its repressive rule.

Currently, there is extensive cooperation between Egypt and Israel.  Cables obtained by WikiLeaks, and published by Counterpunch, reveal that the Israeli military coordinated bombing runs with the Egyptian military during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza and closed the Rafah border when told in advance that Israel’s ground invasion was to begin.  WikiLeaks’ documents shed further light on Egypt currently building a wall meant to choke off smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

The fall of the Mubarak regime, which is what the youth revolt currently sweeping Egypt is calling for, could mean a number of things related to the siege of Gaza, continued efforts to crush Hamas and the political situation Israel finds itself in.

All told, what happens in Egypt will not stay in Egypt.  It will have ripple effects across the Middle East, and especially in Israel/Palestine.


‘The Palestine Cables’: WikiLeaks expose European chill on Israel after Cast Lead, and Lebanese advice on defeating Hezbollah

I’ve begun writing a weekly column over at the Nation Institute’s Mondoweiss, where I’ll be looking at what the WikiLeaks State Department cables say about Israel/Palestine.  This is the first installment in “The Palestine Cables”:

The revelations from the classified State Department cables being published by WikiLeaks and news organizations keep coming, and there’s no shortage of items concerning Israel/Palestine.

The cables have included interesting revelations about European countries’ relations with Israel–and how much the Goldstone report has mattered, thought not enough–as well as what seems to be a Lebanese official passing on advice to the Israeli government on how to defeat Hezbollah in a new conflict.

One cable, dated September 5, 2006 and sent from the U.S. embassy in Dublin, reports that the Irish government “has informally begun to place constraints on U.S. operations at the facility, mainly in response to public sensitivities
over U.S. actions in the Middle East.”  Specifically, the cable states that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs decided to “forbid U.S. military transits carrying munitions to Israel” because of “the Irish public’s overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions in Lebanon.”

Another cable dated October 29, 2009 from the U.S. embassy in France reports that, days before France and Israel were set to hold a “strategic dialogue,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and suggested that Israel “establish an independent investigation into the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza conflict.”  Sarkozy said that “such a step would decrease pressure on Israel and its allies stemming from the Goldstone Report, but Netanyahu responded briskly: ‘No way.'”  In addition, the cable notes that “European countries stopped selling Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) parts to Israel” after the 2008-09 assault on Gaza, although France had continued to sell UAV parts to Israel.

There was also the November 10, 2009 suggestion–two weeks out from when Israel first “froze” settlements–from Germany that the U.S. force Israel to agree to a settlement freeze or else risk the U.S. withdrawing pledges to block U.N. Security Council votes on the Goldstone report.  The U.S. said no, calling the proposal “counterproductive.”

Compared to the U.S.’s routine practice of groveling before Israel, the European countries’ attitude towards Israel seems remarkable.  But that’s not the full story–Europe remains deeply complicit in the Israeli occupation.

I reached out to David Cronin, the author of the soon-to-be-released book Europe’s Alliance with Israel:  Aiding the Occupation, to get his reaction to the WikiLeaks revelations about Europe-Israel relations:

It is correct that the Dublin government has felt an obligation to respond to the widespread public revulsion in Ireland at Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinian people, as well as Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon. It is also true that Micheal Martin, the Irish foreign minister, has been more critical of Israel than any of his counterparts in the EU.

Yet his criticisms have been largely tokenistic. When evidence emerged that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had used counterfeit passports so that its agents could pose as Irish citizens when assassinating a leading member of Hamas in January, Ireland expelled an Israeli diplomat from the country. The Irish government had an opportunity to make its displeasure known in more strident terms in May, when Israel’s application to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was under discussion. Yet Ireland took no concrete steps to block Israel’s membership of this elite capitalist club, a move that was rightly seen as a major diplomatic and political victory for the Israeli government…

France and Germany both have governments that have acted as an apologist for Israel on many occasions in recent years. Indications or reports that they have been unhappy with some aspects of the occupation do not alter this general picture. Neither France nor was prepared to support the Goldstone report, which documented how Israel had committed crimes against humanity in Gaza in 2008 and 2009. (Germany voted against the report at the United Nations last year, while France abstained).

To a significant degree, the EU’s foreign policy is determined by its largest member states. All four of its largest countries – France, Germany, Britain and Italy – have right-leaning governments that consistently defend Israel, albeit with the occasional expression of concern when Israel is perceived to have gone “too far” (e.g. with the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla). It is almost as if these governments are competing with each other to see which one can be the most pro-Israel.

In Lebanon, the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables are fueling tensions.  A March 2008 conversation revealed that “Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told Americans the army would stay out of the way if Israel tried to wipe out Hezbollah,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.  The cables were published by the left-wing Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

In an e-mail, As’ad Abu Khalil, a Middle East analyst who blogs at the Angry Arab, commented that “Al-Murr was basically (like other Arab leaders–although he is no leader) trying to get close to the US by showing his goodwill toward Israel.”

These cables from WikiLeaks follow a growing sense of unease in Lebanon ahead of the expected indictments of Hezbollah members for the 2005 killing of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Hezbollah’s vows to resist the indictments.

For more news and analysis on the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables and Israel/Palestine, see:

Josh Ruebner, the Huffington Post: WikiLeaks: Israel’s Security Concerns Often Clash With U.S. Interests

Ian Black, the GuardianWikiLeaks cables: Sudan warned to block Iranian arms bound for Gaza

Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Saudis proposed Arab force to invade Lebanon

Marc Lynch, Foreign PolicyWhat the WikiLeaks cables really say about Arabs and Iran

Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog:  Top 10 Wikileaks Palestine Nuggets

Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog:  Who Remembered Gaza in Wikileaks?

Stuart Littlewood, the Palestine ChronicleWikileaks: Did Abbas Know about the War on Gaza?

Angry Arab: New York Times Distorts Politics of Lebanese Newspaper

I don’t blog much about events in Lebanon because I haven’t read enough about the country nor have I been there, but I just wanted to highlight an example of the New York Times‘ distorted coverage of the Middle East on an issue other than Israel/Palestine, where their reporting is usually quite bad.

In a piece on the WikiLeaks cables titled, “Leaked Cables Stir Resentment and Shrugs,” New York Times reporter Alan Cowell writes:

And in an age when years of diplomatic cables can be stored on a single flash drive, it appeared that WikiLeaks might not be alone: Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper that supports the Shiite militant and political group Hezbollah, has been posting documents from eight Arab countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.

As’ad Abu Khalil, a Lebanese-born analyst whose coverage of WikiLeaks and its revelations about the Arab world have been indispensable on his Angry Arab blog, says that the Times‘ description of Al Akhbar is far from accurate:

I should expect only ignorance and errors in the New York Times whenever any aspect of the Middle East is brought up.  But the distortion–I strongly believe–is deliberate.  This Al-Akhbar newspaper is a leftist newspaper founded by the leftist Joseph Samahah and led by the leftists Khalid Saghieh and Ibrahim Amin (the latter is a long time communist since his youth).  Its main publisher is a secular businessperson who resides in London (Hasan Khalil).  I have been to the paper numerous times and know many of the reporters and editors and I can honestly say that I know of no Hizbullah member and supporter there.  I know that American journalists find it hard to believe that there are leftists in the Middle East, but they exist and they can produce a newspaper.  I have repeatedly mocked Khumayni, Sistani, and Ahmadinajad in the newspaper.  The paper is on the record for being the only Arab paper to ever support gender and homosexual rights. You think that Hizbullah is that open minded?  Recently, I wrote that Hizbullah deputy-secretary general, Na`im Qasim, specializes in “scaring off children” when he appears on TV.  Now don’t get me wrong, the paper fiercely supports resistance to Israel and thus supports Hizbullah’s stance against Israel.  But the paper never supported Hizbullah ideology or domestic politics.  If anything, it has been critical of them


WikiLeaks: Arab Collaborators With Israel Galore

The WikiLeaks State Department cables have to be giving some Arab leaders who quietly support Israeli aggression headaches. 

Cables published by WikiLeaks on November 28 have clearly shown that Israel collaborates and is pleased with the Palestinian Authority, the junior partner in the occupation of the West Bank.

Today, the excellent Los Angeles Times blog “Babylon and Beyond” has a story highlighting WikiLeaks documents given in advance to a Lebanese media outlet (As’ad Abu Khalil at his excellent Angry Arab blog has more on this):

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told Americans the army would stay out of the way if Israel tried to wipe out Hezbollah, according to a secret March 2008 conversation revealed in a diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks.

[Updated at 7:53 a.m.: The cable originated from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and was sent to the State Department in Washington.]

“Making clear that he was not responsible for passing messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to avoid two things when it comes for Hizbollah,” the cable read.

“One, it must not touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep Hizbollah out of these areas,” the memo read, referring to the southern Lebanese area now patrolled by thousands of international troops.

“Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas,” Murr was cited as saying.

In 2006, Israel waged a devastating war on Lebanon that resulted in “at least 1,109 Lebanese deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians, 4,399 injured, and an estimated 1 million displaced,” according to Human Rights Watch.

The revelations that Murr, a Lebanese Christian, was giving Israel advice via American diplomats on how to defeat the Shi’a Hezbollah movement in an new, upcoming war is sure to raise even more tensions in the country. 

These cables from WikiLeaks follow a growing sense of unease in Lebanon ahead of the expected indictments of Hezbollah members for the 2005 killing of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Hezbollah’s vows to resist the indictments.  There’s also, as always, murmurs of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah.