Al Ahram: Azmi Bishara vs Abbas; Joseph Massad’s outstanding take on Obama; LRB on Gaza

Azmi Bishara is scathing on Abbas. Perhaps Fatah will also declare him treasonous and try to lock him up. “That [Palestine solidarity] movement supports the people in Gaza, for example, whereas the Palestinian officials in question stand on the other side of the blockade, working to obstruct any efforts that might give an advantage to their Palestinian political adversaries.” Bishara is also rightly dismissive of the “the governments of the “moderate axis””. He concludes:

They are financially corrupt, they coordinate with the occupation power over security, they set up a repressive governing entity with a militia to beat the very notion of “solidarity” out of people’s heads, and they take part in a cruel economic blockade against a huge portion of their fellow Palestinians. They are, indeed, acting in the very nature and spirit of an international order that lies about war crimes. There is no use even trying to get through to people like that because they will tell you that they were there and they see themselves as having matured and they see you as naïve. They belong to a generation that had a liberation movement, but they infected it with their own decay before it could lead to a state. In this they have proven unrivalled.

Massad’s take on Obama’s Nobel Prize is the best response yet:

For his continued wars against Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Iraqis, his support for the overthrow of democracy in Honduras, his abetting dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim worlds (which his government finances, arms, and trains in torture methods), his planning for a possible invasion of Iran, and his enthusiastic support for the racist Israeli settler colony (and its colonial wars and occupations against Palestinians), President Barak Obama received the Nobel “Peace” Prize. This comes as no surprise, as Obama joins a long list of recipients of this sham of a prize, who are distinguished for similar “peaceful” pursuits. These include terrorists like Menachem Begin, war criminals like Henry Kissinger, ethnic-cleansing colonial generals like Yitzhak Rabin, dictators like Anwar Sadat, corrupt politicians like Yasser Arafat, and imperial presidents like Jimmy Carter. Granting this overambitious power-hungry man the recognition of the Nobel committee is therefore most apt.

This is excellent. Yet Massad goes on:

Obama’s most recent pursuit of peace has been to force the corrupt Palestinian Authority to discard the United Nations-issued Goldstone Report which detailed the war crimes committed by Israel in its murderous war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza ten months ago. Indeed, the first Black American President has just enjoined the Palestinians and Arab and Muslim countries from the pulpit of the United Nations to recognize Israel’s right to be a racist “Jewish State.” One wonders what the American reaction would be if Palestinian and Arab leaders would call on Obama and on African Americans to recognize the right of the United States to be a white state.

This is the same Obama whose hubris was of such caliber that when he gave his infamous speech in Cairo several months ago he did not grieve the tens of thousands of Arab, including Egyptian, civilians killed by Israel’s six decade-long wars and massacres against them; nor did he show solidarity with the millions of Arabs who were rendered refugees (including one million Egyptians during the War of Attrition) by Israel’s barbaric bombings. Instead, Obama chose to give Arabs a lesson in European Jewish history and enjoined them to appreciate the holocaust committed by European Christians against European Jews and not the ongoing Nakba committed by European Jewish colonial settlers against Arabs. He has even forbidden Palestinians or other Arabs from ever attempting to destroy Israel’s racist structures to end its racist rule. Indeed, Obama threatened Arabs that any attempt by them to destroy the racist basis of the Jewish state would be seen as tantamount to a holocaust. One wonders if he thinks ending segregation in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa were tantamount to the extermination of white people! This is also the same Obama who, in order to fend off the accusation of being Muslim, told us during his electoral campaign that not only was he a Christian, but that he prays to Jesus every night and that the blood of Jesus Christ will redeem him.

But general wisdom in the US has it that the election of Obama, even if it did not instantiate any change in US imperial policy abroad, has been the best thing that happened to most Americans, or at least to white liberal Americans and all African Americans, at the domestic level. This is a largely mistaken conclusion. Obama in my estimation is the worst thing that happened in recent years to African Americans, who continue to face institutional, structural, economic, cultural, social, and personal discrimination on a daily basis. The racism that informs US domestic policy and causes the poverty of African Americans is not unrelated to the racism that informs US imperial policies that impoverish Egyptians, Palestinians, Hondurans, Iraqis, and Afghanis.

Obama’s election has been best for white liberal Americans whose conscience can be assuaged by pretending that they are not racist at all and that indeed America is no longer a racist place evidenced by the election of a black man to the presidency. The fact that today African Americans are less educated and poorer than they were in the 1960s is immaterial to this self-congratulatory logic. Neither is the fact that there are more African American men today (in relative and absolute numbers) in America’s racist jails than there had been at the height of Apartheid in South Africa. As for Obama’s ongoing policies on education and racialized crime, they of course continue the policies of his white predecessors in pushing for more corporatization of schools and jails and busting teachers unions in the interest of the white business class.

Funnily enough, the dude who wrote about Hamas in NYRB writes about Gaza in LRB.

On 25 August, Israel put an end to Gaza’s single most impressive feat of underground engineering. For the three days the tunnel was operational, traders were able to make use of the first fully functioning road in and out of Gaza since Israel imposed its siege after Hamas’s electoral victory. The tunnel was cavernous, built to last, and had ramps allowing vehicles to drive in and out.

International appeals for lifting the siege fell on deaf ears (though Israel did agree to allow in pasta). In March 2009, donors gathered in the luxury resort of Sharm al-Sheikh across the Egyptian border, and pledged $4.4 billion towards Gaza’s recovery. But when Israel refused to let the aid in, politics got the better of humanitarian concern, and Western governments quietly repocketed their cash.

According to World Bank officials, 80 per cent of Gaza’s imports currently come through the tunnels. Once black-market smuggling had turned into Gaza’s formal trade, Hamas inspectors began to impose controls and licensing fees.

All this activity remains highly vulnerable to continued Egyptian and Israeli pressure and barely compensates for the destruction of Gaza’s manufacturing and agriculture sectors. According to the Gaza government’s figures, Israel destroyed 700 factories and workshops, 1500 shops and 10,000 dunams of farmland.

Hamas offered payouts of 16.5 per cent of their investments, on condition that recipients renounced all legal claims and recourse to clan justice. In an editorial, Mustafa Sawaf, the editor of the Hamas daily Filastin, said investors had been aware of the high level of risk, and should be grateful for even minimal compensation. Dissent was suppressed. Hamas barred Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Radio from airing a debate on the scam, and investors from protesting outside parliament.To silence criticism, it promised an inquiry, which eventually blamed the authorities for lack of regulation. ‘Hamas as the ruling authority bears responsibility for tolerating the scheme,’ a member of Gaza’s parliamentary monitoring committee reported. Elsewhere, the crackdown sparked criticism of Hamas’s role in propagating the scheme and creaming off its profits. Six judges, appointed by Hamas, tendered their resignations (which were declined) after coming under official pressure to release suspects. Major Hamas institutions, including the Islamic University, the movement’s intellectual hub, and its prime welfare association, al-Salah, are said to have lost millions.

All this has fed growing criticism of Hamas for putting its own interests before Gaza’s. While a new entrepreneurial class dines in restaurants, four out of five Gazans, the UN reports, live in poverty; 20,000 war victims are still displaced. Gazans in rural areas continue to scavenge for basics, and mercantile families have begun to collect UN food rations. Short of gas, old men bent double haul bundles of wood. It’s not just the loss of their savings: Gazans complain that their leaders sheltered underground during the war, leaving their people exposed to the shelling.

I don’t think Pelham is reliable on Hamas, and he does not provide substantial evidence, except for the few anecdotes mentioned, but I think we certainly should be vigilant that the lousy Hamas will turn into Fatah which is even worse.


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