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June 2011

Vol 11, No. 6


wo speeches made by a President and a Prime Minister within the short span of three days confirm what we have known all along: the US and Israeli governments have no interest in a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Let us begin with the second speech, delivered by Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to a joint session of the US Congress on 24 May, 2011. Not unexpectedly, Netanyahu adopted an intransigent, belligerent position on all the critical issues that divide Israelis from Palestinians. He reiterated that there will be no return to the 1967 borders. In more precise language, he wants the 500,000 Israeli settlers who now occupy large tracts of the West Bank seized in the 1967 war to remain where they are. This means that in terms of actual land area the Palestinian state of the future will be much less than even the 22 per cent of historical Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza, that many Palestinian and Arab leaders were prepared to accept as a settlement for the sake of peace. The Palestinian state will be nothing more than a Bantustan, a’la apartheid South Africa which is what Netanyahu and

By Chandra Muzaffar

other like-minded Israeli, American and European leaders have wanted all along. Netanyahu was also adamant about Jerusalem remaining “the united capital of Israel” — thus rejecting once again the proposal made by a number of advocates of a two state solution that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. He went on to fabricate a blatant lie about how “Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem” is “the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites”. Apart from the fact that Muslims, and to a limited extent, Christians are hampered and hindered by all sorts of restrictions and obstacles in carrying out their religious duties in the holy city today, Netanyahu forgets the irrefutable truth that it was during long periods of Muslim rule from 638 to 1099 and then again from 1187 to 1916 that Jerusalem was a hospitable home to the three Abrahamic faiths. This also exposes the hollowness of the argument that Netanyahu and others have made on other occasions that Jerusalem has always been a “Jewish City”. The Israeli Prime Minister also


THE SPIRIT OF RACHEL CORRIE.....It is a pity that it took The Spirit of Rachel Corrie more than two weeks

to dock at El Arish port in Egypt........................Page 2

NAKBA 2011: HAS THE ARAB UPRISING MADE A DIFFERENCE?.....Palestinians observed another day of Nakba or catastrophe on May 15. ................Page 3

insisted in his usual arrogant manner that Palestinian refugees should not be allowed to return to their native land -— the historical Palestine that Israel has taken over since 1948. In other words, they cannot exercise their inalienable right under international law. “If they so choose” Netanyahu asserted, they could settle in the new Palestinian state, or more accurately, in Bantustan. There were many other outrageous statements in his speech to the US Congress which was received by standing ovations 31 times! He indulged in half-truths about the partition of Palestine in 1947. He gave the erroneous impression that the Palestinians and other Arabs are antagonistic towards the Jewish presence in their neighbourhood when in fact their opposition is directed against the Zionist colonisation of their homeland which has led to their dispossession and oppression. He made the ludicrous claim that the Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arabs who enjoy real democratic rights when everyone knows that it is a crime for them to express a basic human right— their right of selfdetermination. He painted a frightening Turn to next page


REGION AND THE WORLD ............................P 4




UPHEAVAL.............................................................P 7

.Q&A: OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH.................P 8 .THE TRUTH ABOUT TREES................................P 10

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continued from page 1 picture of the danger that a so-called “nuclear armed” Iran poses to the Middle East and the entire world when it is common knowledge that Israel is the only state in the region that possesses a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal. Contrary to the impression created by mainstream media analysts, President Barack Obama’s speech to the AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference 2011 on 22 May, 2011 was very much in line with what Netanyahu said two days later. He not only reiterated his endorsement of Israel as a Jewish State but also provided iron-clad guarantees that the US will enhance Israel’s security. He condemned the democratically elected Hamas as a terrorist organisation and had the temerity to describe the “the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas” as “an enormous obstacle to peace.” In what was certainly music to Israeli ears, he berated Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons programme. He went out of the way to assure Israel that he would oppose any attempt to seek recognition for an independent Palestinian state through the United Nations. Most of all, he emphasised that the

“borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…” He elaborated that it means “that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians— will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on 4 June, 1967.” This is exactly what Netanyahu has been saying— except that he uses much more robust language to articulate his rejection of the internationally recognised 1967 borders as “indefensible.” If Obama differed from Netanyahu it is only in the advice he offered Israel to hasten towards peace with the Palestinians partly because demographic realities were changing, partly because of the Arab Uprising and partly because governments in various parts of the world were getting impatient with the absence of a peace process. But it is advice that lost its significance in Obama’s more determined bid to appear to be in complete tandem with Netanyahu and the powerful Israeli-Zionist lobby in his country. The Obama Netanyahu speeches, coming as they do in the wake of the Arab Uprising and the Fatah-Hamas pact, should convince — if further convincing is needed at all—-the Palestinians, other Arabs and advocates of a just peace

S T A T E M E N T S elsewhere that negotiations with Israel through the US will only result in greater humiliation and loss of dignity for the Palestinians. They should — as they have begun to do— draw inspiration from the Arab Uprising and mobilise the people in the region and from other parts of the world for a massive non-violent struggle for the restoration of the dignity of the Palestinians and other victims of Zionist oppression and US helmed hegemony. There was a hint of this on 15 May , 2011 when Palestinians and other Arabs launched peaceful protests against the Israeli regime from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt in remembrance of the catastrophe (nakba) that has befallen them as a consequence of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Tel Aviv responded to the protests with bullets killing a number of protesters.(Incidentally, Obama, the champion of non-violent protest, made no reference at all to the nakba massacre in his speech). But the brave protesters have vowed to continue the struggle. 26 May, 2011. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia.

STATEMENTS THE SPIRIT OF RACHEL CORRIE It is a pity that it took The Spirit of Rachel Corrie more than two weeks to dock at El Arish port in Egypt. It does not reflect well upon the Egyptian authorities. The humanitarian aid that the Malaysian owned cargo ship has been carrying, namely, 7.5 kilometres of pipes will help to restore the devastated sewerage system in Palestinian Gaza. The pipes are stored at a warehouse at the port. They will be delivered to Gaza by land. The repair and restoration of the sewerage system is essential for the rebuilding of Gaza’s infrastructure destroyed by Israel’s brutal assault upon

the strip in December 2008 and January 2009. It is hoped that the Egyptian authorities will expedite the delivery of this aid to Gaza. The peace activists on The Spirit of Rachel Corrie, a number of whom are Malaysians, had initially tried to break the Israeli siege of Gaza and deliver the aid material directly to the people of Gaza. It is significant that their ship, sponsored by Malaysia’s Perdana Global Peace Foundation(PGPF), managed to enter Palestinian waters but was forced to turn back after an Israeli navy patrol boat fired warning shots over its bow. It was then that the ship turned around and entered Egyptian waters.

By almost breaking the siege in spite of the aggressive stance of the Israeli navy, and by remaining steadfast in their mission in the face of the initially uncooperative attitude of the Egyptian authorities, the peace activists on The Spirit of Rachel Corrie have displayed tremendous courage, perseverance and determination. JUST, all Malaysians, and indeed peace advocates everywhere salute them! Chandra Muzaffar. (The above statement was first made on 24 May 2011 and amended on the 2nd of June to incorporate the latest developments.)

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NAKBA 2011: HAS THE ARAB UPRISING MADE A DIFFERENCE? Palestinians observed another day of Nakba or catastrophe on 15 May. This was the 63rd anniversary of the day when Israelis robbed them of their homeland with the assistance of world powers. But this time it was different – this time they were commemorating in the context of an unprecedented Arab uprising around the geographical boundaries of Palestine. In theory, the Palestinian Nakba this time should have been much more passionate than earlier years mainly because the Palestinian cause which epitomizes the denial of human rights and human dignity has attracted much more attention worldwide. The flotilla episode and the murder of Turkish activists that ensued in June 2010 had brought to the fore the terrible injustice that had befallen the Palestinians and other Arab victims of Israeli belligerence and arrogance. On their part, the Palestinians and other advocates of justice for the Palestinians definitely wanted to make a difference this time and they declared that they would march to Jerusalem on 15 May. But social network sites such as facebook declined to cooperate. Interestingly, Arab dictators also tried to subvert the protest marches by cracking down on internet servers but social service oriented internet services promptly came to the rescue with channels for freedom of expression. Now the question is: why did the internet social network services cooperate with the uprising in various Arab countries but declined to do the same in the case of Palestine? One possible answer from the Western perspective would be that the protesters in the Arab uprisings are fighting decades of dictatorial rule and they deserve support, while Israel is a democracy and already accommodates differences of opinion and, therefore, does not deserve to be targeted in this manner. However, if this is the answer to the question, one must examine the recent history of this region.

Israel celebrates 14 May , 1948 as its day of independence; but what is independence for Israel turned out to be the day of catastrophe or Nakba for Palestinians. Without some understanding of history this question will always remain a mystery. The territory was occupied by the British during the First World War with the help of some local tribesmen. In almost three decades of British rule the ground was prepared for the establishment of the state of Israel by importing European Jews to Palestine. And this could not have been possible without the direct support of the British administrators in the area. Yet Israel celebrates the date as the day of independence from the British. As for the indigenous Palestinian population, they lost everything – their land, their citizenship rights, their basic human rights, their dignity. About 760,000 (now this dispossessed population has grown to 4.7 million) were thrown out of their homeland. For these Palestinians this was a catastrophe. However the Israeli propaganda machinery, which includes both the popular media and academic writings, has successfully projected Israel as a legitimate entity in the usurped territory during the last 63 years. How could the stateless Palestinians scattered around their homeland forget their immediate past history? On this day of Nakba the Palestinians and their allies and supporters marched in their thousands to the borders of Egypt, Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Dozens were killed and hundreds were injured, many seriously, by Israeli bullets. A number of protesters were shot in the head or chest. Among the non-Palestinians that joined the Nakba day protest were Malaysian and other volunteers on the ship, The Spirit of Rachel Corrie .Sponsored by Malaysia’s Perdana Global Peace Foundation, the ship with 7 Malaysians, 2 Irish, 2 Indians and one Canadian,

attempted to reach Gaza. But the ship was attacked by Israeli troops in international waters and forced to move to Egyptian waters. Yet, in general, one must admit that this year’s Nakba commemoration has been more credible than earlier years. Writing for Foreign Policy Journal (16 May, 2011) Richard Falk, an international law professor and UN Rapporteur for Occupied Palestinian territories, noted that, “One of the many signs of the growing worldwide movement in support of the Palestinian struggle for their rights under international law and elemental morality is the increased awareness of the Nakba.” In our opinion this is the only way available to international civil society for ensuring justice for the people of Palestine. There is a need to create awareness about injustices that have been committed in the past and then correct them on the basis of universal values of human dignity and human rights. This is a responsibility of the whole of humanity – Palestinians alone can’t achieve this – and international civil society must do this for its own sake and for the sake of universal, sustainable peace. On this occasion the international community should also remember two non-Palestinian champions who gave up their lives for the sake of universal peace and justice: they are Count Bernadotte (1895-1948) of Sweden who was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist (later prime minister) Yitzhak Shamir, and Rachel Corrie (1979-2003) of the United States who was bulldozed by Israeli troops.

Dr. Abdullah al-Ahsan Vice President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. 18 May 2011.

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The details vary but the incident is clear. On 17 December, 2010 a 26-year old man selling fruits and vegetables in the small town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia had his weighing scale confiscated and his cart tipped because he did not have a permit and no money to bribe. In the process he was allegedly beaten up and spat on by a female municipal worker and her colleagues. Mohamed Bouazizi ran to the Governor’s office to lodge a complaint and demand his weighing scale back. The Governor refused to see him. In despair and rage the jobless Bouazizi secured a can of gasoline, then doused and set himself alight. In doing so he set the whole Arab crescent alight. Within the space of months unrest spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and several other Arab countries. Presidents and kings whose decades-old grip on power appeared to be solid and unshakeable suddenly became vulnerable. In Tunisia and Egypt President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 24 years and 42 years respectively, were forced to flee. Libya is engulfed in bloody civil war. Bahrain, Yemen and Syria are the scene of massive and prolonged popular protests, as well as violent repression. Elsewhere demonstrations have been smaller in scale, but serious enough to force the autocratic governments to respond with a mix of force, hastily arranged hand-outs and promises of political reform. What the world is witnessing is a political tsunami of truly historic proportions. Events are still unfolding and the degree of political change that will occur in the region is not yet clear. It will take years before the dust settles on

the current ferment in the Arab crescent. Some countries may move forward on democracy while others remain mired in autocratic rule. Even countries like Tunisia and Egypt, where progress is apparently being made, could regress. The long-time presidents are gone but the structure they led remains largely intact. Everywhere the old order may take some time to dismantle and replace.

But politics is unlikely to be ever the same after the tsunami recedes. It will not be surprising if in the years ahead the Arab world becomes significantly more democratic and representative though segments of authoritarian monarchic and republican rule persist for some time to come. The days of autocratic rule, not only in the Arab crescent but elsewhere on the planet as well, are numbered. Modern technology, the media and economics will ensure the demise of the control systems on which all authoritarian systems depend. The universal yearning to be heard and to be governed only by those you choose, will be difficult to deny. The turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa caught almost everyone by surprise. This should not have been the case. The Arab crescent was a powder keg ready to explode. The Arab world has been cursed as well as blessed. It has witnessed the heights of splendour as well as the depths of despair. Home to ancient civilisations, mighty empires and

the world’s great monotheistic faiths, blessed by the world’s most geostrategic location and the largest reserves of black gold, the crescent has also seen bloody wars, invasions from outside and treachery by foreign powers. None incidentally, have been more deceitful and treacherous than the British and the French and the Italians who carved up the region; yet today they pontificate and are the most morally indignant and vociferous about what is happening in their former colonies. It is as if they are entitled to some sort of post-imperial paternalism. The Arab crescent, despite its many wealthy countries and communities, is also probably the most backward region in the world in terms of human development. Though Kuwait, Qatar and UAE are gauged by the UNDP as in the Very High category of human development, others are far down the scale. Yemen is ranked 140th in the world and Sudan 150th. Illiteracy rates are between a staggering one-quarter and one-half of the population in several Arab League countries. One in four youths in rich Saudi Arabia are unemployed, and unemployment rates are as high as 70 per cent in some parts of the Maghreb. One in three Yemeni and every fifth Egyptian live on less than US$2 a day. Women are the great undeveloped and untapped human capital resource of the region despite their emancipation in some Gulf countries. Corruption, nepotism and discrimination are prevalent in much of the region, and the deficit in democracy and good governance is probably the highest in the Arab crescent compared to other regions. Much of economic stewardship also lay in expatriate hands, and in the richer countries many Arabs live on the dole and on hand-outs while continued next page

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continued from page 4 the work is farmed out to the legions of foreign labour. Against this backdrop and rising food prices the youth are credited with sparking the revolution and making the so-called ‘Arab spring’ happen. Many were educated yet unemployed. They were keenly aware through the media and literature of the prosperity, freedom and liberty that many enjoyed in the developed world. They were also Internet- and mobile text-savvy, and well equipped to mobilise and voice dissent. In Egypt at least it was the young educated, both middle class and affluent, which first took to the streets before they were joined by the others. The region was thus politically, economically and socially ripe for revolution and rebellion. Yet, as I said, the rise of the people against governments in the Arab crescent that began with the self-immolation of a single jobless vegetable seller in Tunisia in 17 December, caught nearly everyone by surprise. It is interesting to reflect on why we were surprised. Perhaps we believed too much in stereotypes and established wisdom, and especially the narratives bred in the West. Arabs are supposed to be respectful of authority. Arab communities are thus essentially tribal and the people submit to authoritarian tribal leaders easily. The democratic tradition is not strong in Arab society, and democracy is not supposed to dwell high on the list of Arab aspirations. Arab anger is directed more at Israel than at their own leaders, and Sunni Arabs are more apprehensive of Iran and the Shiites than they are of their own rulers. Restrictions on the media, dissent and public demonstrations are manifestly strong in virtually all Arab states. And the subsidies and various forms of assistance and allowances distributed by the ruling elite in oil-rich states helped blunt the edge of dissatisfaction and resentment. In the West, given its strategic interests and bias, many saw regional political and security dynamics as being

essentially driven by the Arab-Israeli conflict and the presumed threat from Iran, and not by domestic Arab social and political dissatisfaction. 9/11 skewed American and Western perceptions even more. The paramount threat became “militant Islam”, “Islamic terrorism”, “jihadists”, Osama bin Laden and the AlQaeda and of course, tragically, Iraq and Afghanistan. The West was completely unprepared for the revolution, confident in the longevity of the autocratic rulers they coddled and the military and other assistance they gave to countries like Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, U.A.E. and Qatar. To me the surprise lies not so much in the uprisings but in their timing and more importantly, how they spread so quickly across so many Arab states. Who knows, would the Arab world be in turmoil now if the municipal woman and her colleagues in the town of Sidi Bouzid had not confiscated Mohamed Bouazizi’s weighing scale, or had she not allegedly slapped and spat on him, or if the municipal officials had entertained Bouazizi’s complaints regarding the incident rather than turned him away, causing him to set himself alight in despair? This is sometimes the stuff of which history is made. When the vegetable seller torched himself he set the Arab world on fire. He released pent-up furies and passions for democracy, justice and dignity that challenged the ruling elite and brought down mighty rulers. In the process he also sharpened the conflict between Sunni rulers and Shiite citizens and heightened tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbours. There is also another side to the story, the ‘dark’ side if one may call it that. This is the role of neighbouring Arab states and foreign hands in the Arab uprisings. The former European colonial powers and later the United States and Israel have of course long intervened and tried to influence policy and shape the course of events in the region. The current Arab uprisings though, appear to have been spontaneous domestic phenomena with little if any

A R T I C L E S foreign involvement initially. Nevertheless, some neighbouring Arab states as well as Western powers very soon became involved especially in Libya. There is active and overt as well as covert military and material support for the movements resisting the Gaddafi government under the umbrella of UNSC Resolution 1973 that authorised the ‘nofly zone’. That this resolution to protect civilians is being blatantly abused to kill Gaddafi or effect regime change is only too clear. Saudi Arabia headed a GCC military contingent into neighbouring Bahrain, another US ally, to support the government there. There is no doubt too that Iran has more than a passing interest in Shiite communities in the countries of the region. As ever in such situations conspiracy theories abound and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction and substance from allegation. One last point before we consider the strategic implications of the turmoil in the Arab crescent. The global media and many experts and observers in the West and elsewhere portray what is happening in the Arab crescent today as essentially a movement for democracy led by the young empowered by the Internet, Twitter and Facebook. Arab governments are described as repressive regimes that oppress their people, deny them basic human rights and are uncaring of their welfare. Gaddafi in particular has been described as a vile and delusional dictator. It is good versus bad, democracy versus dictatorship. This narrative, especially fond with CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera and in the West, is not far from the truth, but it masks at least three important facts. In many Arab states the conflict is as much tribal and sectarian as it is about a push for democracy. In Libya it is a tribal war pitting Gaddafi’s Qadhadfa tribe and its allies including the largest tribe, the Warfalla, against other tribes. In Bahrain it is the minority Sunni government versus a majority Shi’a population that is also quite continued next page

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continued from page 5 affluent. The Sunni/Shi’a cleavage is a prominent fault line running through the tensions and the turmoil in many of the countries of the region. A second important fact is that the almost ideological obsession with democracy in some quarters has led to the disproportionate demonization of the other. The best example is Col. Muammar Gaddafi. He no doubt dealt harshly with those who challenged him. He also ruffled many fellow Arab feathers, besides being a bitter foe of Israel and its friends in the Arab world. But little is said of the good things he also did for his country and his people, like the free and generous public housing he provided, or the Great Manmade River project which delivers 6,500,000 cubic metres of water from underneath the Sahara Desert to the cities of northern Libya every day. Or the fact that Libya enjoyed a growth rate of no less than 10.6 percent in 2009. The third important fact is the role of the global media, especially CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. They have a profound impact on shaping values and perceptions, and in ennobling dissent and some would say, in selective targeting. Saudi Arabia for instance, is let off very easily, as is Qatar, the home of Al Jazeera. Both are absolute monarchies closely allied with the US and the West. I also do not think that it would be an exaggeration to say that the three media played a significant role in facilitating the spread of the democratic wave in the region. THE STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS

The Arab crescent is in a state of flux. It will not be possible to assess the full strategic impact on the region and the wider world until the situation stabilises. The implications are almost certain to vary as the situation unfolds. For the present though, we can highlight the following: 1. A profound shift towards political transformation is taking place in the Arab region. If the eventual result in many of the Arab states is greater democracy and better governance it would bring about a sea change to Arab and Muslim dignity

and well-being. At the same time Arab and Muslim image, which is already changing for the better as a consequence of the uprisings, will rise in the eyes of the world. The Arab region will no longer be noted for its serious democracy and governance deficits. In this regard, may I add that good governance (which includes good political governance) is far more important than mere democratic change. The process of transformation however will be long and difficult in many countries, as for any other developing region of the world. Among other things, radical change to education systems, economic policies and political and administrative systems may be required. One cannot also discount worst case scenarios. These include extended domestic strife and instability, inter-state conflict and fragmentation or partitioning of countries like Libya. 2. The on-going movements for political change have put to rest at least two myths about the Arab and Muslim world. One is that Arab culture or Islamic teachings are incompatible with democracy; an off-shoot of this is the flawed notion of a ‘clash of civilisations’ between the West and the Muslim world. The other is that the ‘Arab street’, itself a pejorative phrase, is prone to violent extremism and incapable of moderate and peaceful protest. On the first, it should have been quite clear that the examples of Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey are enough to rubbish the argument that Muslim societies are incompatible with democracy. Yet the perception to the contrary continues to persist. Unless some Arab states at least are able to eventually transition to democracy, the perception will remain. The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt which were largely peaceful even in the face of provocation from security forces have put paid to the second myth. Nothing in the streets of Tunisia or Cairo can compare with the bloody excesses that accompanied democratic change before in so-called civilised countries like France and the United Kingdom. Yet it

A R T I C L E S must also be noted that demonstrations have turned violent in some countries. In most cases they have been a response to extreme suppression measures rather than a natural proclivity to violent agitation on the part of the demonstrators and dissidents.

3. If the current ferment results in democratic change across much of the Arab world Israel will likely be the great loser. It will lose the support and collusion of the governments in Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have a peace treaty with Israel, for the population in these two countries and elsewhere in the region are staunchly opposed to illegal Israeli occupation and excesses in occupied territories The Rafa crossing is already being opened though the peace treaty remains. A unity agreement has been forged between Hamas and Fatah under the auspices of Cairo, something unthinkable in the Mubarak days. This has incensed Israel. Israel will also be severely impacted by the rise of Shia and Iranian influence in the region. Tel Aviv will at the minimum have to review its policy towards the Palestinian issue and the peace process and become more accommodative and less intransigent. A desirable outcome would be a just and lasting resolution to the conflict with Palestine sooner rather than later. In the meantime however, while the gaze of the world is upon the turmoil in the Arab crescent, Israel is expanding its illegal settlements and is talking and acting tough. It will no doubt try to sabotage the unity deal as much as possible. 4. US strategic interests and influence will also be greatly affected so continued next page


continued from page 6 long as it fails to re-align its pro-Israeli policy and become a genuinely honest broker. Its bases on Arab soil and its military presence in the region will also be negatively impacted. However if America is able to become an impartial and honest broker and contribute to a just solution to the Palestinian problem, it will continue to have good friends in the Arab world. US soft power is considerable, and its ability to assist Arab states to strengthen their economies with the support of its European allies will benefit US interests significantly. Arab concerns about the ascendancy of Iranian power and influence in the region will also enable the United States to forge close links with Arab countries and sustain a measure of military presence and influence. The strategic importance of the Mediterranean and the Gulf to the US, oil and America’s own democratic impulses will move the US to forge amicable links with a democratised Arab region. The current close ties that exist between the US and Vietnam despite their past bloody conflict give some indication of the possibilities available for the United

States. 5. The Iran/Arab and Shi’a/Sunni contest for power is likely to increase in the region. Their positions however are likely to coalesce more closely on the Israeli issue. The Iran/Arab conflict is ripe ground for exploitation by third parties. 6. A direct consequence to Malaysia of the crisis in the Middle East is that we woke up today to find we now have to pay RM2.90 for a litre of Ron 97. The instability and uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa have played havoc with oil prices. Brent Crude Oil exceeded US$125 per barrel a few weeks ago but has since fallen to US$117 per barrel in the US yesterday. The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific released by UN ESCAP yesterday assessed that rising oil and food prices could threaten economic growth and retain as much as 43 million more people in poverty in the Asia Pacific region. Regional growth could decline up to one per cent. As usual, the poor as well as the poorer countries will suffer the most. CONCLUDING REMARKS

Let there be no mistake. The world’s





tallest building rises majestically from an Arab city. Some of the most affluent and highly educated and skilled people are Arab. Some Arab countries are ranked higher in the UNDP Human Development Report than even some European nations. But the Arab crescent as a whole suffers from multiple deficits and is one of the more backward regions of the world. The events of the last four to five months seem to indicate that the Arab world is in the cusp of possibly momentous change. If most of the Arab nations take this historic opportunity to move in the right direction politically, economically and socially we will see one of the great transformations in human history. 350 million people will reap the rewards in human dignity, peace and prosperity. If this happens that vegetable seller in the small town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia would not have died in vain. (Tan Sri )Jawhar Hassan, is Chairman of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia. The speech was delivered in Ipoh, Malaysia on the 6th of May 2011. The views expressed are his personal opinion. Jawhar is also a member of JUST. Source:


By Neil MacFarquhar

Saudi Arabia is flexing its financial and diplomatic might across the Middle East in a wide-ranging bid to contain the tide of change, shield other monarchies from popular discontent and avert the overthrow of any more leaders struggling to calm turbulent nations. From Egypt, where the Saudis dispensed $4 billion in aid last week to shore up the ruling military council, to Yemen, where it is trying to ease out the president, to the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, which it has invited to join a union of Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia is scrambling to forestall more radical change and block Iran’s influence. The kingdom is aggressively emphasizing the relative stability of monarchies, part of an effort to avert any drastic shift from the authoritarian model, which would generate uncomfortable

questions about the pace of political and social change at home. Saudi Arabia’s proposal to include Jordan and Morocco in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council — which authorized the Saudis to send in troops to quell a largely Shiite Muslim rebellion in the Sunni Muslim monarchy of Bahrain — is intended to create a kind of “Club of Kings.” The idea is to signal to Shiite Iran that the Sunni Arab monarchs will defend their interests, analysts said. “We’re sending a message that monarchies are not where this is happening,” Prince Waleed bin Talal alSaud, a businessman and high-profile member of the habitually reticent royal family, told the editorial board of The New York Times last week, referring to the unrest. “We are not trying to get our way by force, but to safeguard our interests.”

The range of the Saudi intervention is extraordinary as the unrest pushes Riyadh’s hand to forge what some commentators, in Egypt and elsewhere, brand a “counterrevolution.” Some Saudi and foreign analysts find the term too sweeping for the steps the Saudis have actually taken, though they appear unparalleled in the region and beyond as the kingdom reaches out to ally with non-Arab Muslim states as well. “I am sure that the Saudis do not like this revolutionary wave — they were really scared,” said Khalid Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst and columnist. “But they are realistic here.” In Egypt, where the revolution has already toppled a close Saudi ally in Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis are dispensing aid and mending ties in part continued next page


continued from page 7 to help head off a good showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming parliamentary elections. The Saudis worry that an empowered Muslim Brotherhood could damage Saudi legitimacy by presenting a model of Islamic law different from the Wahhabi tradition of an absolute monarch. “If another model of Shariah says that you have to resist, this will create a deep difficulty,” said Abdulaziz Algasim, a Saudi lawyer. Saudi officials are also concerned that Egypt’s foreign policy is shifting, with its outreach to the Islamist group Hamas and plans to restore ties with Iran. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, also retains a personal interest in protecting Mr. Mubarak, analysts believe. The Arab Spring began to unravel an alliance of so-called moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were willing to work closely with the United States and promote peace with Israel. American support for the Arab uprisings also strained relations, prompting Saudi Arabia to split from Washington on some issues while questioning its longstanding reliance on the United States to protect its interests. The strained Saudi posture toward Washington was outlined in a recent opinion article by Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi analyst, in The Washington Post that suggested Riyadh was ready to go it alone because the United States had become an “unreliable partner.” But that seems at least partly a display of Saudi pique, since the oil-for-military aid arrangement that has defined relations between the two for the past six

decades is unlikely to be replaced soon. Saudi Arabia is negotiating to buy $60 billion in advanced American weapons, and President Obama, in his speech last week demanding that Middle Eastern autocrats bow to popular demands for democracy, noticeably did not mention Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, sat prominently in the front row. Saudi Arabia is taking each uprising in turn, without relying on a single blueprint. In Bahrain, it resorted to force, sending troops to crush a rebellion by Shiites because it feared the creation of a hostile government — a kind of Shiite Cuba — only about 20 miles from some of its main oil fields, one sympathetic to Iran, if not allied with it. It has deployed diplomacy in other uprisings, and remained on the fence in still others. It is also spending money, pledging $20 billion to help stabilize Bahrain and Oman, which has also faced protests. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia joined the coalition seeking to ease out President Ali Abdullah Saleh because it thinks the opposition might prove a more reliable, less unruly southern neighbor. But Arab diplomats noted that even the smallest Saudi gestures provided Mr. Saleh with excuses to stay, since he interpreted them as support. This month, for example, the Saudis sent in tanker trucks to help abate a gasoline shortage. On Syria, an initial statement of support by King Abdullah for President Bashar al-Assad has been followed by silence, along with occasional calls at Friday Prayer for God to support the protesters. That silence reflects a deep ambivalence, analysts said. The ruling



Saudi family personally dislikes Mr. Assad — resenting his close ties with Iran and seeing Syria’s hand in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a Saudi ally. But they fear his overthrow will unleash sectarian violence without guaranteeing that Iranian influence will be diminished. In Libya, after helping push through an Arab League request for international intervention, Saudi Arabia sat out and left its neighbors, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to join the military coalition supporting the rebels. It has so far kept its distance publicly from Tunisia as well, although it gave refuge to its ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. There are also suspicions that the kingdom is secretly providing money to extremist groups to hold back changes. Saudi officials deny that, although they concede private money may flow. In 1952, after toppling the Egyptian king, Gamal Abdel Nasser worked to destabilize all monarchs, inspiring a regicide in Iraq and eventually the overthrow of King Idris of Libya. Saudi Arabia was locked in confrontation with Egypt throughout the 1960s, and it is determined not to relive that period. “We are back to the 1950s and early 1960s, when the Saudis led the opposition to the revolutions at that time, the revolutions of Arabism,” said Mohammad F. al-Qahtani, a political activist in Riyadh. 27 May, 2011 Neil Graham MacFarquhar has been the United Nations bureau chief of The New York Times since June 2008. Source: The New York Times


Q: Was the operation that was carried out by the US Special Forces against Osama bin Laden resulting in his death at Abbotabad in Pakistan on the night of 1 May an exclusive US operation or was it a joint US-Pak operation? A: Till now the indications are that it was an exclusive US operation. Since it

involved the ingress of the US special forces into Pakistani territory by air in helicopters, it was likely that Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), was informed before the helicopters with the special forces took off from Afghanistan for the raid even though US officials have reportedly

been asserting that Pakistan was informed only after the helicopters had taken off at the end of the operation. When the Bill Clinton Administration launched the Cruise missile strikes on the training camps of Al Qaeda in the Jalalabad area of Afghanistan in 1998 continued next page

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continued from page 8 they followed a similar procedure. Gen Anthony Zinni, the then Commanding Officer of the US Central Command, flew to Islamabad from a US naval ship and informed Gen. Jehangir Karamat, the then COAS, about the impending raid. The US did so to make sure that Pakistan did not interpret that the missile had been launched by India and order a missile strike against India. A similar precaution was likely to have been taken this time too. Moreover, Abbotabad, an important military garrison town, has high air defence cover. It was important to prevent a messy air defence action by Pakistan against the US helicopters if its radars had detected their approach. The entire operation lasted a little over two hours. During this period, one of the helicopters crashed. It was blown up and destroyed by the special forces. A newsletter disseminated by a retired US naval officer says: “Source says actual crash sight was on Kakul Road, Abbottabod, Pakistan just down from the Pakistan Military Academy exercise grounds. See image for road, which was reportedly blocked off by local security after the incident. Folks in the city mentioned on Twitter at the time that the action was very, very close to the PMA.” This would indicate that during the entire operation on the ground, which lasted over 90 minutes if one excludes the time taken by the choppers for their to and fro journey, the Pakistani security forces did not intervene and try to find out what was going on. The local police blocked the stretch of the road where the helicopter had crashed to prevent onlookers rushing there till the Americans had destroyed the chopper. All this clearly shows that the Pakistanis must have had advance knowledge of the operation and had instructions from above not to intervene. Q: Has the US undertaken similar operations deep inside Pakistan before? A: Yes thrice before. Twice in 2002 in Faislabad and Karachi to capture Abu Zubaida and Ramzi Binalshibh respectively and once in 2003 in

Rawalpindi to capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM). Q: How did those operations differ from the latest operation to kill OBL? A: The three previous operations were joint US-Pakistan operations with the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) playing the leadership role. The raids were organised on the basis of Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) collected by the US agencies due to the careless use of mobile telephones by the three arrested persons. The latest operation against OBL seems to have been an exclusive US operation with the prior knowledge of Pakistan, but with no Pakistani role in its planning and execution. Since OBL was not using any communication equipment such as mobile telephone, Internet etc in his hide-out, no TECHINT would have been possible. It seems to have been mounted purely on the basis of Human Intelligence (HUMINT). The success of the operation speaks very highly of the improvement in the HUMINT capability of the US agencies. Q: Where could the HUMINT have come from? A: Abbotabad is a Hazara town. The Hazaras are strongly against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban because of the massacre of the Hazaras, many of whom are Shias, in East Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power in Kabul. It is likely that the local Hazara community might have played a role in assisting the US in its OBL hunt. In fact, it is surprising that OBL took shelter in that town despite the strong presence of the Hazaras there. No explanation for this has been forthcoming so far. Q: Is it possible that the ISI might have played a role in the collection of the HUMINT? A: Difficult to answer this question. Q: How come the huge mansion in which OBL was reportedly living did not attract suspicion as it was being constructed in 2005? A: Difficult to explain it unless the mansion had been constructed by a retired senior General of the Army as his farm house and then rented out to OBL’s

A R T I C L E S family with or without the knowledge that it was the family of OBL. Q: For how long must OBL have been living in the mansion? A: According to US media reports, the house had been under watch by the US since August last year. Obama gave the order for the operation on 29 April on the receipt of precise information that OBL was inside the mansion. This would give rise to the possibility that Osama’s family had been living in the mansion at least since last August, that OBL had been visiting them off and on and that Obama gave the order for the operation after receiving information in the last week of April that OBL had come to visit his family. This is what happened in the case of Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who was killed in a Drone strike. His wife and children were living with her father. Baitullah was visiting them off and on. The Americans had reportedly managed to find out the details of the car of Baitullah. One day they received information that Baitullah’s car was parked outside his in-laws’ house. They directed a missile strike at it. Baitullah was among those killed. In the case of OBL, they did not make a missile strike. Instead, they sent a special forces team to kill OBL in a fire-fight. Q: Was there official Pakistani complicity in OBL’s living in Abbotabad? A: The evidence till now is circumstantial and not direct. Why did OBL choose to live in Abbotabad despite the presence of a large number of Hazaras there? The only possible answer is because he felt confident his security would be assured there. He could have got this confidence only if had the support of some sections of the local security agencies and/or the police and also of some local elements of the nonHazara segment of the population. This is more speculative than of any evidentiary value. The direct evidence could come from the interrogation of those arrested alive from the mansion by the US spl forces. Q: What impact this will have on US continued next page




continued from page 9 relations with Pakistan? A: The US already has considerable suspicion that Pakistan has been playing a double game by dragging its feet on the issue of action against Al Qaeda. This suspicion will now be further strengthened. The smoking gun in the form of OBL’s dead body has clearly established that OBL was living in an urban town of Pakistan. Was he living there with the knowledge or collusion of the Pakistani security agencies? There is no smoking gun on this yet. Unless that becoms available, the US would find it difficult to act against the State of Pakistan. The relations will continue as before with ups and downs and with alternating praise for action taken and reprimands for actions not taken. Q: Will the death of OBL be the end of Al Qaeda?

A: No. Since 9/11, Al Qaeda is already a weakened organisation due to repeated Drone strikes on its hide-outs and capture of some of its leaders on the ground in Pakistan. This process of weakening that has been there since 2002 could acquire pace and strength as a result of the death of OBL. Despite this, Al Qaeda, by itself, will remain a potent force for some years to come until it suffers more attrition. Q: Will it have any impact on Obama’s plans to start thinning out troops from Afghanistan? Will it enable or tempt Obama to accelerate the process? A: No. Obama’s decisions relating to Afghanistan will depend on the evolution of the ground situation in Afghanistan and on the proved ability of the Afghan National Army to withstand pressure from the Taliban. Q: What are the dangers of reprisal

attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates? A: High in the Af-Pak region. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda affiliates like the Lashksar-eJhangvi (LEJ) and the Jaish-eMohammad (JEM) will presume that the Pakistani security forces must have cooperated with the US. Acts of suicide terrorism against the Pakistani security forces and US nationals and interests in Pakistan could increase. High against US nationals and interests in other countries. Medium to low in the US homeland. 2 May, 2011

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai

THE TRUTH ABOUT TREES By Julia Mitchell When one thinks of trees and the benefit they have for us as humans, the obvious comes to mind: Trees help reduce the effects of global warming by reducing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. The photosynthetic process provides the trees with nutrients, and humans with the primary element required to sustain life - oxygen. Trees are often referred to as the “lungs of the world.” All of the above is mainstream knowledge. It is the basic information we learn as children in grade school. But what if I told you it’s only the tip of the iceberg? Trees are more than just the “lungs of the world”. Their role on this earth is pervasive, yet so often taken for granted. THE TREE AS A COOPERATIVE

A tree stands tall with its stem and crown. This is visible to you as you admire it. The common mental representation of a tree is made of up of just those ‘above ground’ parts. The parts of the tree that we often do not think about are the humus and detritus collected at the soil surface boundary, and the root and root

associates under our feet. These are equally, if not more, essential to the existence of the tree than the more visibly pronounced parts. In essence, a tree is perpetually standing in its own decomposition. Much of the tree, as it sheds its weight many times over to earth and air, eventually becomes grass, fungus, insect life, birds and mammals. It is the cooperation of these many ‘byproducts’ that make a tree so rich – they exist because of the tree, belong with it and function as part of it. Birds nest, squirrels burrow and eat fungus, and insects prune and assist in decomposing the surplus leaves and activate essential soil bacteria. Animals are messengers to the tree and trees act as a garden for animals. This is a pure example of life depending on life. It is a total being that involves minerals, plants, animals, debris (detritus) and life. All of these elements make up the ‘tree cooperative’. THE TREE AS A PROTECTOR

Trees protect us from many elements. Forest edges are the strongest collection of trees and should never be cut down. Trees adapt to withstand high winds by spreading their root mats to rely on

their weight or anchoring their roots deep in rock crevices. They create special wood cells to bear the tension and compression from wind. With the wind come many particles of dust, ice, sand and other small particles. Within a few hundred meters, a forest of trees can remove fine dusts and industrial aerosols. Therefore, trees protect of from wind that could be damaging to our habitats and small air particles that could be damaging to our lungs. THE TREE AS A MODERATOR

Trees moderate temperature due to two distinct processes – evaporation and condensation. Evaporation causes local heat loss during the day which cools the air in hot weather. Condensation causes local heat gain which warms the air at night. Additionally, leaves have twice the specific heat (the heat capacity per unit mass of a body) than soil, meaning plants can be up at 15 degrees warmer than their surrounding environment. In certain climates, trees even act as dehumidifiers by directly absorbing moisture in the air. If dry hot air enters a forest, it is shaded, cooled, and humidified. If cold humid air

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continued from page 10 enters the forest, it is warmed, dehumidified and slow released through the leaves of the trees. As humans, we can strategically place trees and plants to moderate temperature. Reddish and white coloured leaves reflect light (up to 85%). This reflection can be used to cool down areas in warm summer months. Dark green leaves only reflect about 2% of light; the rest is absorbed and radiated as heat. This absorption and radiation of heat can be used to provide heat during cold winter months. The trees moderate extreme temperatures and humidity so it is tolerable enough to accommodate life. Not only do trees moderate temperature, they moderate and conserve incoming energy. Every tree or plant species intercepts raindrops, decreasing the impact of the raindrops to prevent erosion. The leaves catch the rain, some of which is absorbed through them as required, and the remainder is left to return to the air through evaporation. Any rain that falls through the canopy (throughfall) has, on its way down, collected plant cells and nutrients and is much richer than regular rainwater. This throughfall is then directed in patters to peripheral roots, and serve all the needs of growth in that forest. Therefore trees use, collect, enrich and properly direct water so it can be optimized in the forest system naturally with no human intervention. THE TREE AS A CREATOR

Trees play a key role in the creation of soil by producing root pressure and humic acid to breakdown the rock underground. Trees also contribute to the creation of the atmosphere through gaseous exchange (the production of oxygen) and the establishment and maintenance of the water -vapour cycle. Furthermore, trees create precipitation through compression, condensation, evapo-transpiration and melting: Wind blowing at a forest edge will be compressed. This compression causes more water vapour which, in turn, cools the ascending air. This phenomenon, referred to as an “Ekman Spiral”, can produce rainfall in the right conditions.

Therefore, lines of trees impact the air moving over them which can affect the climate and rainfall in the local area. This upward spiral of humid air coming up from the forest carries insects, pollen, and bacteria. These organic particles create the nuclei for rain. Materials given up by vegetation may be a critical factor for rainfall inland from forests. Along coastline, warmer land surface causes cool in-land air flow. When this air is humid, it can fall on

leaves as condensation (droplets of water). In this situation, condensation precipitation can be higher than rainfall precipitation. Examples can be found as rain forest along the coasts of Hawaii, Washington and Oregon as well as the redwood forests of California. A large tree can increase the available surface for condensation due to the large surface area given by leaves. Bigger trees intercept more moist air, thus creating more condensation. Fog also increases the precipitation through condensation over that of clear air. Forests create clouds. Clouds are made through evaporation off the leaves by day and water transpiration as part of life process. Trees can return up to 75% of their water to air – which can be enough to form new rain clouds. The 25% water that is not returned to the air from trees is sent down into the soil and eventually reaches the streams and rivers. Forested areas return ten times as much moisture as bear ground and twice as much as grasslands. It is highly likely that the deforestation of an area is directly related to downwind drought. It is important to note that the forest is continually recycling water to air and rain whilst producing 50% of its own rain.

A R T I C L E S Trees also slow the melting of snow and prevent the snow sublimation directly to air. The benefits of trees are not limited to coast line, but can be seen on any high slope. Even a small belt of trees entraps large quantities of drifting snow, and the release of this snowmelt is a more gradual process. THE TREE AS A TEACHER

Trees indicate local wind direction and intensity and from these indicators we can place windbreaks to reduce heat loss in homes, avoid damage from catastrophic winds and to steer the winds to well-placed wind turbines. They are biologically equipped to protect us from strong winds that could be damaging to our habitats. Trees also teach us about nature – through observing the ‘tree cooperative’, we can identify key behaviours and patterns of animals, bacteria and fungi, insects, water, sun and shade. In conclusion, trees are NOT just here to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen for us to breathe. Their purpose reaches much farther and cannot be ignored. Trees fight drought, prevent soil erosion, stabilize earth, shade us from sun, are key in the conservation of water, provide us with heat, control the effects of wind, provide shelter for animals and encourage biodiversity and nutrients for soil. So, the next time you see a beautiful tree, don’t just thank it for being beautiful; thank it for being on of the most valuable things on this planet. 1 December, 2011 Julia Mitchell is a founder of Southern Alberta Permaculture (SAP), a Lethbridge-based organization seeking to engage its local community through educational opportunities and consulting expertise. Source: ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

CORRECTION: In the May issue of the JUST Commentrary the article “Staying Human : The Heroic Legacy of Vittorio Arrigoni” was inadvertantly attributed to Tom Eley. The article should have been attributed to Ramzy Baroud. We apologise to both the author and readers for our mistake. - Editor

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Just Commentary June 2011