For Palestinians, there is no Obama-Netanyahu rift

 by Ali Abunimah, in Huffington Post,  02/28/2015

Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one. (Chuck Kennedy / White House Photo)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the United States Congress next week has led to much talk of a rift between the Israeli prime minister and the US president, and even between their two countries.

Tuesday, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said the growing partisanship regarding Israel is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Citing protocol of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election, President Barack Obama will shun his Israeli counterpart in Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden will stay away from the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu appears.

The dispute has taken on rancorous partisan tones with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers vowing to boycott the speech. They charge that Netanyahu’s goal is to undermine the president’s diplomacy with Iran, and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to defy and humiliate the White House.

Yet all those objecting to the speech, whether in the United States, or Netanyahu’s rivals at home, where he faces an election next month, protest that their concern is to guarantee US-Israeli relations on whose strength the very future of Israel is said to hang.

But what all this sound and fury misses is that for the Palestinians, there is no meaningful Obama-Netanyahu rift. Indeed US-Israeli relations have never been stronger, nor more damaging to the prospects for peace and justice and for the very survival of the Palestinian people.

Just look at the recent record. Last December, the Palestinian Authority put forward a tepid resolution in the UN Security Council that did little more than repeat long-standing US policy on the outlines of a two-state solution. Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power marshaled all her resources to defeat it.

She claimed that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced” and took “no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The next day, after disappointed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Obama’s State Department declared itself “deeply troubled,” accusing Palestinians of an “escalatory step” that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Power said the Palestinian move “really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

These words are perverse. Israel’s 51-day long attack on Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead didn’t “damage the atmosphere” as far as the Obama administration was concerned, but any Palestinian effort to use international bodies in pursuit of justice and accountability is tantamount to an act of war.

I challenge Power to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack, or to the thousands who will live with lifelong injuries.

Neither the ambassador nor her president has commented on the findings of Amnesty International, which said that Israel “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.

Last summer’s war was something even Hamas leaders tried to avoid. After it began, armed Palestinian groups declared that their goal was a ceasefire accompanied by a lifting of the eight-year siege that has devastated Gaza’s economy and isolated its 1.8 million people from the rest of humanity.

Since the war, promises that the siege would be lifted have been broken. Billions pledged in reconstruction aid have failed to materialize. As a result, cash-strapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has suspended repairs on Gaza homes.

Israel’s view tends to be unquestioningly echoed by US officials and media: that Palestinians are at fault for the repeated surges of violence.

Yet even senior Israeli leaders and officers have often acknowledged that Palestinian armed groups, especially Hamas, have meticulously stuck to ceasefire agreements, as they are doing currently.

Despite this, the US put no pressure on Israel to end the years-long blockade.

As a result, the lesson Palestinians have repeatedly learned is that whether they fight or stay quiet, Israel will be allowed to do as it pleases. It can besiege and slaughter them in Gaza, seize and colonize their land in the West Bank, deprive them of their most fundamental rights, and Obama will have Israel’s back.

Just because Obama, Netanyahu and their partisan followers may be peeved at each other does not change the basic dynamic of full US support for Israel’s occupation of millions of Palestinians, the continuation of which guarantees ongoing suffering with regional repercussions.

Sure enough, despite the supposed rift, the US is proceeding with the sale of more of the most advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

That’s why Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

It is long past time for the American people and their representatives to challenge Israel on its seemingly permanent subjugation of the Palestinians.

This post was first published by The Huffington Post.

US demands that Kenya submit to ICC

[The USA, which has refused to join the International Criminal Court or otherwise submit to international judicial accountability, nevertheless demands that other countries submit to the authority of the ICC.  And the ICC has this year been making arrangements for the US military (i.e., AFRICOM) to enforce ICC subpoenas and warrants for the arrest of Africans.  This article expresses this arrogant and imperialist double standard.  We post this article only because it is revealing of international power relations and the political relativity of judicial standards. — Frontlines ed.]

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The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: U.S. Urges Country to Cooperate Fully With ICC

by Kevin J Kelley

23 January 2012

The Obama administration has called for “accountability on the 2007-2008 post-election violence” following the confirmation of charges of four Kenyans by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged the Kenyan government, the people of Kenya and the four cited individuals to continue to cooperate fully with the ICC proceedings.

Ms Nuland said such cooperation would be consistent with the spirit of Kenya’s new constitution, which, she noted, “embraces transparency, accountability and integrity.”

The spokeswoman added in a statement issued in Washington on Monday that the United States stands ready to help Kenya implement the reform process as the nation looks ahead to its first elections under the new constitution.

“We make no judgment as to the guilt of innocence of those who are the subject of today’s confirmation decisions,” Ms Nuland declared. “Under the ICC process,” she noted, “individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

AlJazeera: What’s behind the shifting politics of this “independent” news channel?

Behind the News / Columbia Journalism Review — September 28, 2011

What Wadah Khanfar Did For Al Jazeera…

And what the sudden departure of the network’s managing director might mean for its future

By William Stebbins

From the very first moment I joined Al Jazeera in 2005 to lead the launch of the English channel’s Washington broadcast center, there was talk of the imminent demise of Wadah Khanfar, the managing director of Al Jazeera Arabic. But until last week, when Khanfar abruptly announced his resignation, it seemed that the stronger the rumors were, the higher he climbed.

Many believe that Wikileaks provided the silver bullet that finally brought him down. Leaked diplomatic cables document a series of meetings between Khanfar and US embassy officials in Qatar, raising questions about the extent of US influence on both him and the channel. One especially damning cable from 2005, which has received extensive play in the Arab press, alleges that Khanfar agreed to a US request to remove certain pictures from the Al Jazeera website. Al Jazeera has claimed Khanfar’s resignation was in the works before the cables’ release; he has said he stepped down as the specific mission he agreed upon with the Qatari owners—“to transform Al Jazerra into an international news network,” as he put it in an exit interview—had been accomplished. Whatever the reasons, Al Jazeera has much to thank Khanfar for. He had built it into a global network, and led it to its greatest triumph.

Khanfar was at graduate school in Johannesburg when the original Arabic channel launched in 1996, and first appeared on air as an analyst on African affairs. This evolved into a job as a correspondent based in South Africa. In 2001 he began his ascent, and his career as a problem solver, when he was brought in to replace the Kabul bureau chief, Tayseer Allouni, and repair the damage caused by his perceived proximity to the Taliban. Then, at the height of the 2003 invasion Khanfar moved on to oversee Al Jazeera’s Baghdad operation during one of its most challenging periods.

In 2003, following a scandal not unlike the one that many believe to be the cause of Khanfar’s sudden resignation, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, the original Qatari managing director of the channel, was forced to step down. The Sunday Times published documents discovered in post-war Iraq that alleged ties between al-Ali and Saddam Hussein’s security services. Continue reading

US State Dept’s fidgety, persistent efforts to control Al Jazeera

Saturday, October 1, 2011

QATAR TRIBUNE: THE ‘Open Doors’ (Abwab Maftuha)
campaign launched by the US Embassy in Qatar last year
has paid off in a big way to cater to the personal needs of the
Qataris and in enhancing ties between the US and Qatar,
according to the outgoing US Ambassador to Qatar,
Joseph Evan LeBaron. One motivation:  Qatar sponsors Al Jazeera.

US State Department’s fidgety, persistent need to control Al Jazeera

By ©Brenda Norrell, Censored News
The US State Department’s obsession with Al Jazeera, as exposed by Wikileaks in the US diplomatic cables, is a good read for most anyone, especially journalists. Al Jazeera’s top director has already resigned. Still, four years of cables, 2005-2009, reveal how the United States demanded that Al Jazeera pander to US officials and the US perspective.

Besides Al Jazeera, the diplomatic cables reveal US Embassies obsessed with news reports around the world, from a Vanity Fair article that created US backlash in Germany, to media reports in Bolivia, of Evo Morales’ statements of CIA involvement in a planned assassination of Morales.

But no where is the US more upset about the news than when it comes to Al Jazeera, with a stream of US reports analyzing its coverage and repeated meetings with Al Jazeera’s top newsmakers and board members. The US cables expose the US Ambassadors and US State Department’s persistent, uncontrollable need to control the media. Continue reading