Monday, March 28, 2011

La Via Campesina: Respect!

Support the Arab peoples in struggle
No to the bombardment of Libya!

From Tunisia and Egypt, to the Yemen and Syria, passing through Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the people are rising up en masse to bring down authoritarian dictatorial regimes. For more than a month now, hundreds of thousands of Libyans peacefully have been taking to the streets  calling for the end of the Ghadafi regime.

The Ghadafi was deaf to these calls and opted for the worst case scenario. The responsibility for the deaths and the blood shed in Libya lies on his shoulders. By choosing to bombard villages and massacre civilian populations, the regime itself has provided the opportunity Western Imperialism has been waiting for to try to regain the upper hand in the region. 

Today, France, the United States, Canada and Great Britain are engaged in an operation to invade Libya After weeks of watching the Libyan people being massacred and carefully avoiding organizing the international pressure that would have been necessary to escape the deadlock, they now pass themselves off as the saviors.
The first bombardments of Libyan infrastructure in Tripoli and elsewhere have already begun. The Western bombers will continue until they can either prepare an occupation of Libya under the banner of the UN, or, even better, choose and impose the members of the opposition who will be most favorable to Western interests.
This military operation in Libya, also serves as a distraction,  as the repression continues in the Yemen, Bahrain and beyond.   

Via Campesina calls for the will of the people to be respected.
Via Campesina calls for an immediate halt to Western military intervention.
Via Campesina calls on everyone to mobilize for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Libya. 

La Via Campesina Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Born in 1993, La Via Campesina now gathers about 150 organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

In support of the Libyan revolution-against imperial intervention

A proclamation in support of the Libyan revolution and against imperial military intervention. Published in Al Safir in Lebanon and Al Dustur in Egypt. I am one of the signatories. Note the negative reaction of many Egyptian readers. 

The plot sickens

Yesterday Ali Abunima (avinunu) tweeted this: "Arab revolutions ought to be means to *reduce* not *increase* imperial intervention, penetration in the region". Today, Angry Arab wrote this about the counter-revolutionary wave running through the Arab world

"I will write about how this nasty counter-revolution began.  I believe that Saudi Arabia (with tacit Israeli support) decided to abort and hijack the Arab uprisings.  This happened right after the fall of Mubarak, when the relations between Saudi Arabia and US worsened due to Saudi displeasure with US behavior (as if the US did not do all it could do to save Mubarak).  But then the US came on board and the two are now clearly partners as they have been all along. Yesterday, I heard on Aljazeera a most bizarre "report": it said that a US/EU delegation is in Yemen to help in the "peaceful" transition of power in Yemen. In Yemen, for potato's sake, where the US was instrumental in the construction of the military-intelligence regime there.  The close relationship between Prince Saud Faysal and Tantawi are the other elements in the sinister plot.  The US and Saudi Arabia (with Israel not far behind) will basically try to guarantee that the new regimes are as bad if not even worse than the ancien regimes.  Witness them try to bring Rif`at Al-Asad and `Abdul-Halim Khaddam with other reactionary elements from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to power.  Now the task become opposition to all regimes and to their replacements with puppets of Saudi Arabia.  The good news is this: no matter what they arrange, fear is removed and the tight security control will be loosened forever."
So the Empire has gone on to Plan Z and is deploying it using various means: Saudi military intervention in Bahrain (US intervention by proxy to protect its naval bases), direct imperial intervention in Libya to ensure the next regime will be malleable (read "subservient"), political manipulations in Tunisia and Egypt, the corruption of the Yemeni uprising with the entry en-force of Ali Muhsin on the stage and suddenly becoming a leader of the uprising, ready to take power from Ali Abdallah Saleh with US blessings (I wrote earlier about this unsavory character, his ambitions and his Saudi links), and lately in Syria where the US-Saudi hands are clear and apparent. This is going to pose a serious dilemma to Syrian comrades and true revolutionaries. I personally endorse Angry Arab's position: opposition to regimes and to their replacement with US puppets.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Big deal

Just heard on AJEnglish 4 young Egyptian entrepreneurs organized to import beef from Sudan. Apparently they struck a deal with 14,000 small livestock farmers. Two questions: 1. does this qualify as "land grab" and 2. How do you strike a deal with 14,000 people?

"Nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory"

The rights of all people to live in freedom and dignity is inalienable, non-negotiable and not open to compromise. A freely and democratically endorsed social contract frames the limits of freedom. Society represented by an appropriate governing body strive to provide people's rights at the highest and most equitable level. These rights include fair and just access to food, employment, resources including land and water, a clean and pleasant environment, education, shelter, transport, clothing and others. The notion of freedom is tricky here. Let me just say that it is NOT the same "freedom" that comes on the back of US aircraft carriers, and NOT the one that comes accompanied with loads of oil money to be distributed during election, and NOT the one that is hammered into the heads of people with megaloads of media messages. True freedom cannot coexist with inequality, fear, need and discrimination, and it cannot be dissociated from education, awareness and equity. Thus the role of government is also to constantly readjust the balance of power in favor of the weakest. Wealth redistribution is part of this process.

These principles form the core of the Leftist thought I adhere to. They cannot coexist with dictatorial rule of any sort, be it the dictatorship of power or the dictatorship of money or the horrific chimera of neo-liberalism that is the mixture of both. Our moral, ethical and human duty is to oppose and confront these regimes and to support all comrades who are fighting their war of liberation.

We struggle not only to overthrow regimes, but also to build new states on the basis of the core principles enunciated above: equity, social justice, democracy with freedom, people's rights and balance of power. This is the essence of our struggle against Arab dictatorships and against the zionist colonial project in Palestine. The ultimate purpose is to construct a state, not just to destroy a regime. We should keep this in focus during the protests, uprisings, rebellions and revolutions we engage in. We should also strive to get widespread popular endorsement for these principles so that they become everyone's principles and not just those of a concerned elite.

I say this (obviously) because of what is going on in the Arab countries. In Tunisia and in Egypt, the people of the Tahreer squares were able to topple the heads of the regimes. They are now facing the challenge of constructing a new, just state. This is proving more difficult than expected, especially as the forces of reaction are fully and powerfully deployed and they won't let go that easily. Just look at Libya.

In Egypt, people have recently voted in what has been called the first ever clean referendum. The choice was between amending the constitution (or patching it up, as many have put it) or rejecting the amendments and designing a totally new constitution that would reflect the expectations of the Tahreer squares. There was a strong vote in favor of the amendments, which is what the two largest organized parties in the country wanted: the muslim brotherhood and, I am told, the remnants of the ancient regime.

I endorse the position of the Tahreer square revolutionaries, especially those belonging to the Left, who want to build a new Egyptian nation on strong grounds. The referendum may benefit from being read in light of Walden Bello's recent analysis of the Arab uprisings in which he says:

To many who participated in the popular democratic revolts that swept the Philippines and Latin America in the 1980s and Eastern Europe in 1989, the euphoria of people power was short-lived, giving way, as events unfolded, to concern, disappointment, then cynicism. The critical juncture occurred when the managers of the political transition transformed the raw power of direct democracy that overthrew dictatorships into representative electoral democracy to simplify the mechanics of democratic governance. 
Some of the classical theorists of democracy were troubled by this transition.  Rousseau distrusted representative democracy because he sensed it would replace the “General Interest” or “General Will” of the people with what he called the “Corporate Will” of their elected representatives. Marx and Engels were famously contemptuous of representative democracy because, in their view, it simply concealed the ruling economic interests of the bourgeoisie behind the fig leaf of parliamentary politics.  Perhaps most critical was the political sociologist Robert Michels, who saw elections evolve from being a method by which the people replaced their leaders to a mechanism through which leaders manipulated people to acquire permanent power.  Michels went on to assert that representative democracies could not escape the “iron law of oligarchy.”
I am not sure what could have been done earlier in Egypt, but it looks to me that regrouping behind the simple (and powerful) slogan of "bringing down the regime" just does not deliver sufficiently when the regime's head is removed but the regime itself remains in place, including, especially, its army, its security forces and its economic framework. The appointment of Essam Sharaf as Egyptian prime minister was hailed as a victory for Tahreer square. This is where he went to get his credentials. Among the first things he did was to reassure investors that Egypt will remain committed to "free" economy (and we all know what kind of freedom this is: the freedom to exploit people and accumulate wealth) and that gas export to Israel will resume soon. I cannot really call this a great revolutionary success. But I am not sure Charaf could have done much else given the cards he was handled. This is why we need to make sure we change the context. But this will come if we can work on building the unions and gathering our strengths and organizing ourselves.

It is of course to early to judge the outcomes of the Arab uprisings, but it is not too early to set the ideas wheel in motion. To build a new world, we need ideas. These ideas need to be explicated and disseminated and broadly endorsed by the people. The post-modernist approach of simple messages passed to individuals through internet networks and social media may be effective in mobilizing for mass protests. Its weakness shows when it is time to construct. I fully subscribe to Amilcar Cabral's words that: "every practice produces a theory, and that if it is true that a revolution can fail even though it be based on perfectly conceived theories, nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory". And for action, nothing beats the Fabian approach: "Organize, Educate, Agitate". If ones start with agitation, then we may end up with motion and no progress.

A similar analysis could be drawn for Tunisia, I am sure, where there are reports of increasing class polarization, accompanied with statements such as "Ghannouchi (ex prime minister) was Jeffrey Feltman's appointee, and Essebsi (new PM) is Clinton's appointee".

Lebanon has been experiencing its own waves of protests that aim at "bringing down the sectarian regime". While not comparable in size with the manifestations of support for the sectarian leadership on both sides of the March divide, they are gathering impetus and have grown from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands. Interestingly, some people who were seen at the sectarian demonstration of March 13, 2011, and others who are known supporters of the sectarian March 8 forces, have also been participating in these antisectarian demonstrations. Blame it on Lebanese schizophrenia.

I fully endorse the antisectarian demand and believe that the Lebanese sectarian system is a means of control and manipulation through fear, and that it runs against all the principles enunciated at the beginning of this post. I am unsure, however, that stand-alone antisectarianism is sufficient as a revolutionary theory for constructing a new, just, fair and equitable state in Lebanon. Neo-liberalism is essentially non sectarian, and here is where a big part of the problem lies. Neither does being non-sectarian really imply any position vis a vis the zionist colonial project, nor does it defend worker's rights. And so on and so forth. Anti sectarianism is essential, but this cannot be the only title of the struggle.

I have read some of the documentation sent to me by comrades who are in the "bringing down the sectarian regime" struggle. I endorse their views, and the documents I have received make mention (albeit a bit timidly) of the need for social justice. But I have also read interviews with other participants who shout loudly that this is NOT an ideological struggle, and that the aim is to live better, to be able to have civil marriage in Lebanon and not have to go to Cyprus for that, and other similar requests.

I understand the necessity of having a broad based concept in order to gather people around an activity, but isn't who you gather just as important and relevant? Down with sectarianism, of course. But down with plutocracies too. And down with the power of money. And down with the control of the rich. None of these are sectarian, the rich do not believe in sects: go to Faqra and see how they freely mingle and intermarry to keep the fortune well locked in. And what is the position of the antisectarian group on Palestine? Is our struggle against the zionist project negotiable? It is not for me, in the same way as the struggle against any other dictatorship is non-negotiable.

This brings us to the uprisings in Syria. The Syrian opposition is very varied and includes true revolutionaries and nationalists and social justice activists. But there are also elements that are corrupt. Angry Arab has it right here:

"Just like in the Iranian opposition, there are elements--elements, not all--in the Syrian opposition.  They operate through the criminal and corrupt Rif`at Asad (who in turn works for Saudi Arabia) and through the Muslim Brotherhood.  Note that Saudi propaganda claimed that there were members of Hizbullah involved in repression in Iran, just as they now claim that there are members of Hizbullah in Syria, as the repressive regimes require the assistance of few Hizbullah fighters.  This is a clear Saudi agenda, just as Israel claimed in the July Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were found dead in South Lebanon--and Saudi media of course "reported" that with zest.  Syrian opposition is very rich and varied, and it is important that Saudi Arabia does not hijack it as it did in Libya."
This does not detract from the fact that the Assad regime is a dictatorship where corruption is rampant, and which is moving increasingly towards a neo-liberal economy. We should thus offer full support to the true revolutionaries of Syria. Any other position will be in breach of our core principles.

Back to Lebanon, the position of some of the March 14 people and leadership on the protests in Syria is revealing. It can be summarized as follows:

"Once the Syrian regime falls (and note that they are unconcerned about the human costs or about what happens to Syria, there could be mayhem for all they care) the flow of weapons to the Lebanese Resistance will cease. Then Israel will attack Lebanon, and the Resistance would use all its stocks, and it will lose and be destroyed and this will be the end of the Resistance and of Hizbullah and we will be powerful again and we will make peace with Israel and live the life"

But what do you expect from those same people who are being exposed day after day by wikileaks for their racism and their support to the Israelis during the 2006 onslaught on Lebanon?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Aid factor in de-development

"However, the aid industry is a key factor in Palestinian de-development. Discourses of "aid," "development" and "reconstruction" shield Israel's ongoing occupation and colonial project. A full third of the Palestinian Authority budget is aid-subsidized. In addition to funding a distorted Palestinian political system, the aid industry directly removes from Israel the burden of responsibility for the destruction of Palestinian lives, livelihoods and infrastructure. In doing so, it allows Israel to focus its resources and efforts on the acceleration of Palestinian poverty, the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of Jerusalem and the destruction of Gaza."

Samer Abdelnour in Electronic Intifada

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who'se teaching who now?

"Student activists who organised last year's demonstrations say there will be a rolling programme of sit-ins and protests on the day and have called on people to occupy the central London square turning "Trafalgar into Tahrir" – a reference to the gathering point in Cairo that was at the heart of the revolution in Egypt earlier this year." (Thanks Karim)

What next? Google Enforcement?

Google Ideas, the new "think/do tank" led by former State Department official Jared Cohen, is organizing a 3-day event in Dublin in late June in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations, where Cohen is also a fellow. The event will bring together about 50 former extremists who used to be members of inner city street gangs, white power groups, Muslim fundamentalist groups, and other violent youth organizations. Over 200 experts from academia, civil society groups, tech companies, victims' groups, and private corporations will also join." (Thanks Karim)

They feel the pain

Israel gathers intelligence about western BDS and delegitimization leftist groups. Remember they had warned us about it. They called it: sabotage network catalysts.

ي خطوة ذات دلالة، أعلن في إسرائيل أن شعبة الاستخبارات العسكرية «أمان» بدأت في الأشهر الأخيرة جمع المعلومات عن منظمات اليسار العالمية والمنظمات الغربية التي تعمل على خلق حالة من نزع الشرعية عن الدولة. 

Petroaltruism: Selfless military intervention in oil-rich countries

I just made up this word. Check the article below on the humanitarian motives of the West in Libya. 

"And what would be the purpose of regime change? It is possible the economic benefits of lucrative oil and gas contracts for Western companies, and securing energy supplies for Europe from a source that would be convenient both for ease of supply and for defending, provide sufficient motivation. I would, however, posit another geostrategic benefit that would be of more direct interest to the United States: a strategic insurance policy with regard to the now-uncertain trajectory of Egyptian politics. In the meantime, since geostrategic opportunities can flow in more than one direction, Egypt would benefit, as all states would, from having a powerful influence on the politics of a direct neighbour; indeed, there have been apparently confirmed reports the Egyptian military has been supplying arms (in violation of an official arms embargo on Libya), and unconfirmed reports of Egyptian special forces support, to the Benghazi-based rebels (see the Wall Street Journal and IISS discussion online, from 55:32, respectively)." (Thanks Karim)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Power and potatoes

“We’re still operating in Lebanon in the absence of agricultural policy,” said Zurayk. “And an absence of policy serves the powerful because it means there are no protections for the less powerful.”

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Structural Adjustment via Democracy

"Even as traditional elites hijacked the resurgent parliamentary systems, the United States and the multilateral agencies subverted them to push through austerity programs that the authoritarian regimes they previously supported had no longer been able to impose on recalcitrant citizenries. It soon became clear that Washington and the multilateral agencies wanted the new democratic regimes to use their legitimacy to impose repressive economic adjustment programs and debt management policies.  In Argentina, for instance, the international financial institutions pressured the post-dictatorship government of Raul Alfonsin to abandon neo-Keynesian policies, implement tax reforms, liberalize trade, and privatize enterprises. When the government quailed, the World Bank suspended disbursements of a structural adjustment loan to bring it into line."

To be read in light of the outcome of the Egyptian referendum on the constitution.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The deeper meanings of sovereignty

"But there is more to food sovereignty than freedom from imports. In richer countries, food purchases make up a relatively small percent of household budgets. Here in the United States, we spend an average of only seven percent of our budgets on food, although that number rises in poor urban neighborhoods.

In Tunisia and Egypt, however, the average person spends more than a third of their household budget on food, and thus more people feel food price hikes daily in the pits of their stomachs.

As in most countries, Egyptians used to grow what they ate domestically. Today, Egypt is one of the world’s largest wheat importers bringing in over half the wheat it consumes from elsewhere. As a result, ordinary Egyptians are now extremely vulnerable to catastrophic global weather events and manipulative trading by speculators on commodity futures markets. Wheat prices are spiking in part because of recent droughts in China and flooding in Australia. The food markets in poorer nations feel the consequences of these price hikes immediately."

A chronicle of capitalism

A very interesting critique of capitalism, not least because it was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. What's going on? Has it been infiltrated ?

"As a result, although today's capitalism is in many ways a much-transformed version of its 19th-century self, this transformation has not brought an abatement of the systemic problems diagnosed by its critics in that century. It presents them, instead, in new forms. In fact, the crisis looming before us is likely to be, if anything, more terrible than the Great Depressions of 1873-93 and 1929-39. The continuing industrialization of agriculture and urbanization of population—by 2010, it is estimated, more than half the earth's inhabitants lived in cities—has made more and more people dependent upon the market to supply them with food and other necessities of life. The existence on or over the edge of survival experienced today by the urban masses of Cairo, Dhaka, São Paulo, and Mexico City will be echoed in the capitalistically advanced nations, as unemployment and government-dictated austerity afflict more and more people, not just in the developed world's Rust Belts but in New York, Los Angeles, London, Madrid, and Prague." (Thanks Deborah)

إنّ التخوين مع 14 آذار بات واجباً وطنيّاً: الاخبار أسعد أبو خليل

Normalizing potato

In this video, a researcher from the zionist entity confirms that Lebanese scientists collaborate with the enemy in defiance of the Lebanese boycott law. He describes the situation between Israeli and Lebanese scientists "like peace". This video was posted just two years after Israel's onslaught on Lebanon. Shame! (Thanks Tamara)

Libya: the Empire pacifies its provinces

March 19 2011. Let's mark this day carefully: This is when the imperial alliance, its vassals and its lackeys (and I include the UN here) has engaged itself militarily in the Arab World in the 21st century. The Imperial Alliance is using remote overpower, an approach developed and tested by Israel, which has been using the Arab World as a testing field for Imperial weaponry since its creation.

With cruise missiles and aerial raids, the Imperial Alliance is targeting the brigades of Libya's torturer, Qaddhafi and has destroyed or paralyzed most of the Libyan air power, according to the US communiques. The Alliance is trying to present this move, which came with Arab League and UN cover, as an act of humanity aimed at the protection of civilians and as an intervention is support of democracy in the Arab World.

Let no one be fooled, these people know no humanity, nor should we want their selective humaneness.

In 2006, This same alliance has watched Lebanon being destroyed at the hands of the zionist air force for 33 days (and I'm only giving an example), while it provided weapons, support and encouragement to the aggressors. They called the massacre of our people "birth pangs" of the New Middle East. And when we defeated the zionist forces, they hid behind the UN to send brigades of their soldiers to South Lebanon to protect the zionist entity, as Angela Merkel delicately put it.

Nor does the attack of Qaddhafi's forces come as a contribution to the democratic Arab Revolutions. The Alliance only likes democracy when it serves its interests. Gaza has been under a murderous siege for 6 years, with the blessings of that same alliance, because the outcomes of the democratic process in Gaza was not to its liking.

And please let us not forget the fact that the Alliance itself has rehabilitated the tyrant Qaddhafi and made of this fool a philosopher and a deep thinker. France, the first power to strike Libya yesterday, has enjoyed the sight of his tent in the middle of one of its garden.

What the Alliance is seeking is control, of course. Control over oil and markets in the Libya that will emerge. Control over African immigration to Europe across the Mediterranean. Control over the politics of Libya. Essentially, the Empire is pacifying its provinces. So please, spare us the moral high grounds.

We should remain dedicated to the Arab Revolution and fully supportive of the Libyan revolution. We should organize alongside the Libyan people in support of their struggle against Qaddhafi and for social justice. But we should be fully aware that calling in the Empire carries a very high price.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Imperial Counter-Revolution

"The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda." (Thanks Daniel)

مشغول.. وحياتك

مشغول.. وحياتك
رامي زريق
أخيراً، نقلت لنا الصحافة أخباراً عن طرد عشرات العمال من شركة «كوكا كولا» في لبنان، وعن إعادة توظيفهم عمالاً مياومين أو استبدالهم بعمال وافدين يسهل إرضاخهم لشروط مجحفة. أما المبرر الذي قدّمته الشركة، فهو تقلّص الأرباح، رغم توافر أنباء عن شراء الشركة لسيارات جديدة. يمثّل هذا النهج في التعاطي مع العمال حجر الزاوية في مقاربة العقيدة النيولبرالية والرأسمالية للاقتصاد، إذ تنظر للعمال بوصفهم وسيلة من وسائل الإنتاج الخاضعة لقانون السوق. وهذا يدفع الفقراء إلى التنافس في ما بينهم على فرص العمل، كما يؤدي الى خفض أجورهم وإلى توفير المزيد من الأرباح للمستثمرين. ويصبح ذلك ممكناً بعد تحجيم دور الدولة ورفع القيود عن القطاع الخاص الذي يعمد إلى تقليص دور النقابات وبالتالي إلغاء حقوق العمال. ليست هذه المقاربة محصورة بشركة «كوكا كولا»، بل أصبحت روتينية في كل المؤسسات، محلية كانت أو عالمية، حتى تلك التي تقدم نفسها على أنها مؤسسات ذات منفعة عامة، مثل الجامعات، وبعض المنظمات الأهلية. ويعود سبب هذا الواقع الى التبنّي الأعمى لمبادئ النيولبرالية التي اجتاحت المجتمعات العالمية محمولة على أجنحة الأمبراطورية الأميركية وأعوانها. إن حماية حقوق العمال وتطوير قوانين العمل وتطبيقها هي المهمة الأساسية لوزارة العمل في أي بلد. أما في لبنان، فيبدو أن وزير العمل بطرس حرب كان مشغولاً باقتراح القوانين الطائفية والعنصرية لملكية الأراضي. وقد يُعدّ هذا الاهتمام الطائفي ـــــ العقاري تطوراً، للأمانة، مقارنة بإنجازاته خلال عدوان «إسرائيل» على لبنان عام 2006 التي فضحتها أخيراً وثائق ويكيليكس، على ذمّة الراوي جيفري فيلتمان!

The Arab Uprisings: Leadership, Violence and Ideologies

The approval by the UN security council of the no-fly zone over Libya comes at the time when the rebels are fighting an uneven battle in defense of the liberated areas in the East as in the West of the country. The no-fly zone was requested by the Arab League which has not yet met a foreign intervention in the Arab World it did not like. The Libyan revolution is now exactly where the forces of reaction, both Arab and Western, wanted it to be: between a foreign intervention by a savior to whom it will remain indebted, and between being crushed and slaughtered by Qadhafi. This needn't be like that, but the Arab countries have just been sitting and watching it happen, while some Arab regimes have even encouraged it.

It is not that military intervention between Arab countries are unheard of. They have happened before, and continue to happen as we speak, with the Saudi forces in Bahrain killing peaceful protestors and taking over the control of the country. The Saudis also intervened directly in the battles between the Yemeni regime and the Hawthi rebels in 2010. The Syrians intervened in Lebanon in 1976, in the middle of a war of liberation, which was about to end with the defeat of the conservative forces. The issue is that Arab regimes will only intervene physically in support of reactionary forces: Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon. This is what their interests dictate, this is what the Imperial master will allow. But why do we not, as Arab people, join the Libyan struggle? This remains to be answered.

In Egypt, the people is voting tomorrow on the amendments to the constitution. This is a very symbolic referendum (only yes or no votes), as it will be the first free election in Egypt, and the turn-out is expected to be very high. The Muslim Brotherhood, and apparently the ancient regime are in favor of the amendments, while a lot of the liberals and radicals and "intellectuals" want a completely new constitution. Yet, among the"no" voters, there are very rich capitalists who benefited and supported the old regime such as Naguib Sawiris, who has shared interests with Israeli companies. There are also Muslim TV preachers (for lack of a better word) such as Amro Khaled. It is going to be wait and see.

The thing with Egypt is that we may soon come to a time when a strong and powerful ideology will be needed in order to bring things together. The "leaderless revolution" and the new model of self-assembling networks have been tremendously successful, because, as Rashid Khalidi put it in a recent talk in Beirut, "the mukhabarat went looking for leaders to arrest and they found none". This approach, which has clearly been very effective and has offered a new perspective on how to organize, has been showered with praise and admiration. But it appears to me that this grassroot action has been accompanied with an absence of an ideological framework. Some will say this need not be like that, and that these leaderless networks are compatible with the adoption of an ideological framework. I am not so sure.

Some groups that have taken part in the Egyptian Uprising definitely have an ideology: the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the leftist groups. Even the ancient regime could be said to have developed its own self serving ideology, based on neoliberal thought adapted to dictatorship. But I am talking about the grass-root movements, those same movement that have mobilized hundreds of thousands, and which would like to be seen as leaderless. I was doing some research on neoliberal thought a couple of days ago and I stumbled on this old but still very relevant article by Susan George in which she says:

Let me stress how important it is to understand that this vast neo-liberal experiment we are all being forced to live under has been created by people with a purpose. Once you grasp this, once you understand that neo-liberalism is not a force like gravity but a totally artificial construct, you can also understand that what some people have created, other people can change. But they cannot change it without recognising the importance of ideas. I'm all for grassroots projects, but I also warn that these will collapse if the overall ideological climate is hostile to their goals.
Somehow, I feel that "The people want to bring down the regime" is not sufficient as an idea. What the uprisings have achieved is great. No, it is huge. It is magnificent. The people who have organized and conducted the uprising have deconstructed the regimes and are able to hold the state accountable. But we need to build a state, a just state that serves its citizen. We need economic policies, food policies, waste policies, energy policies, education, health, water, and many many others. How do we achieve that without being anchored into ideas still eludes me.

The other issue that has been nagging me is the over-emphasis on the alleged non-violent nature of the uprisings. I have said in a previous post that they were not non-violent: how can you call a thousand dead in Egypt alone non-violent? How can you call what Mohammad Bou Azizi did to himself non violent? Of course, the Libyan madman and the Saudis quickly proved my point: there is violence in there, and violence is being directed towards the most disempowered.

All this has to do with the meaning given to violence by the spin doctors of the modern world. When the powerful are violent, no one notices. But somehow, the victims and the oppressed are expected to use only non-violent means to face violence. Does anyone notice the absurdity of this proposition? When Israel bombs Gaza and assassinates people, this is merely a small item in the news. Can you imagine the headlines in the Western press if rockets were launched from Gaza? For decades now, western liberals have been urging us to come up with a Palestinian Gandhi, while their states use their tax money to arm Israel. And many among the oppressed, wanting to ingratiate themselves with the West and to appear civilized, hold a similar discourse and get in return a pat on the head, while the heads of their compatriots get blown to pieces by the bombs of the powerful.

The Lebanese Resistance, of course, showed a different perspective. It defeated Israel twice on the battlefield. This created a disequilibrium in the construction of violence as provided to us by the West through media and other forms of cultural imperialism. The failed attempts to disarm the Resistance must be seen in this light: the need by Imperial forces to reinstate the understanding of violence as a tool of the powerful only, an idea that was imposed over the past decades. And in this process, the Empire seeks servants who will help it implement its plan, because they can gain crumbs that wil be left to them to pick. Anyone who remains unconvinced is invited to consult the wikileaks of the July 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon, and to focus specifically on the positions of the March 14 poles, and how they do not hide their support of the Israeli agenda. What has been leaked is hugely important, but this needs a post of its own.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The limits to the revolution

Big news in the Arab World today. Big news everywhere: in Egypt where the Youth of the Revolution have rejected the amendments to the constitution and want a new constitution drafted from scratch. Kudos to them, also because they refused to meet with Hillary Clinton as they disapprove of the US's policies in the region (that's mildly put). And Egypt has not yet resumed pumping gas to Israel, a move that few believe is due to "technical difficulties".

News from Lebanon too, where, in the wake of the demonstration of the March 14 coalition that took place last Sunday, and in which they openly confirmed their anti-Resistance stance, people are asking: "what next?" Al Akhbar has started to publish the wikileaks of the July 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, and they don't show March 14 under a very good light, especially when the French ambassador confirmed that the coalition wanted Israel to do the dirty work and terminate Hezbollah and the Resistance, and when then prime minister Sanioura appeared to have Israel's interests at heart. By and large, the wikileaks have been damning for the March 14...

Big news also from Yemen where, in spite of the US support for the regime of Ali Abdallah Saleh (and the US attempts to penetrate and sway the opposition) there are more protests and more defections from the army, and the regime is blatantly showing its brutal side.

But the biggest news comes from Bahrain, where Saudi and UAE troops have entered with tanks and personnel in order to suport the regime. This is a big story, because it shows exactly the limits of the tolerance of the imperial forces to the Arab Revolutions: the oil interests must NOT be touched. This could also explain the lamentable coverage of the Bahraini events by the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera, which is having a field day in Libya, as it had in Tunisia and Egypt. So, while the Empire has learned to live with the changes in some parts of the Arab World, and is attempting to hijack them by influencing the interim regimes and some of the middle class, it has zero-tolerance for similar drives for democracy in the Gulf.

Libya is still struggling, and is in a deadlock. The forces of Qaddhafi will attempt to regain control, and will use all the means at their disposal. The rebels are armed but they lack organization, experience and training, and these take time to develop. Meanwhile, all the Arab League could come up with was a request to however wants to hear, to impose a no-fly zone. The Empire looks as if it is pussyfooting at the idea of a military intervention. Do not be fooled. It just wants to make sure that the next regime will be subservient before it intervenes from a distance. No need for a Desert Storm here: it is too far from the Gulf. The plan is probably" let them stew and come to us on their knees, we will then install the regime we want".

Why can't Arab countries intervene in support of the rebels in Libya? Well for one, both Tunisia to the west and Egypt to the east are still operating with the ancient regime mentality, as the revolutions have not yet been completed. Two, they won't be allowed by the Empire and its European acolytes. In this case, how to oppose the plans of the Empire? I can't help thinking of the International Brigades in the Spanish civil war. 

Uprisings and cost of food

This survey by GlobeScan deduces that last summer the Egyptians were more focused on cost of living than on democracy.

"Food prices, rather than free speech, appears to be the problem that most preoccupies Egyptians.
GlobeScan found last summer that Egyptians were more likely to have talked about rising food and energy prices than any other global problem over the last month (see map), and that Egypt was alongside Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico in seeing food and energy prices as among the top three most important global issues. In contrast, Egyptians ranked human rights abuses only as the ninth most serious global problem. " (Thanks Muna)

This insistance on making food rather than freedom the main driver for Arab uprising is annoying to say the least. So people get together and chit chat about their daily problems, the cost of living, and that makes them a people who only responds to their stomachs. Elsewhere of course, people get together around a coffee and talk about quantum mechanics. And don't you love it that in the US, people casually discuss the state of the global economy? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

For posterity

I post this for posterity: The largest poster (building-tall) in yesterday's March 13 celebration of Lebanese sovereignty was that of the Saudi king. (from assafir)

Jordan bans entry of Israeli settlements’ products

"AMMAN –– The government has banned the entry of Israeli goods manufactured in Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
In a circular, signed by Minister of Industry and Trade Hani Mulki on March 2 to the Jordan Customs Department (JCD), the government listed the names of 220 Israeli companies and factories that operate fully or partially in the illegal settlements.
The circular, posted on JCD website, asked the department to take necessary measures to prevent the products of these firms from entering the Jordanian market.
The decision was taken after the Arab League mission in Germany sent a document to the diplomatic missions of Arab countries in Berlin listing the names of Israeli firms and factories operating in settlements, which the league described as a clear and deliberate violation of international laws and resolutions." (Thanks Muna)

2.1 مليار مبيعات الغذاء في لبنان

2.1 مليار مبيعات الغذاء في لبنان
يبلغ حجم سوق منتجات الغذاء في لبنان نحو 2.11 مليار دولار، وتسيطر المتاجر الكبيرة على 85.32% من مبيعاته التي يتوقع أن تزيد إلى 3 مليارات دولار في 2013
تشير الإحصاءات الصادرة عن «بزنس مونيتور إنترناشيونال» إلى أن مبيعات منتجات الأغذية، زادت في المتاجر الكبيرة بمعدّل 12.3% بين الأعوام 2007 و2010، لكن هذا الأمر لم يمثّل إغراءً للشركات العالمية بالدخول إلى هذا القطاع في لبنان، باستثناء مركز السلطان (الكويتية)، بسبب ارتباط القطاع بالعوامل السياسية.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Zionist Colonial Project: Environmental Conservation as a Racist Tool

"Hakma's family also settled in Rahat, but moved back to al-Araqib 12 years ago after hearing that the Israel Land Administration intended to plant a forest there, which would be a de facto revocation of their claims to the land. Indeed, according to the plans the Jewish National Fund is carrying out on behalf of the Land Administration, the village is a "recreational area" designated for "forestation."
But the government's professed plans seem to be more about politics than forestation. In March 2010, Israel's then-agriculture minister told the parliament that the Jewish National Fund was planting forests around al-Araqib "in order to safeguard national lands." In January 2011, the Israel Land Administration's development director said to Israeli news media that the agency "has begun preparing the ground for planting to guard the land." When it first demolished al-Araqib in July 2010, the Israeli government uprooted 850 of the villagers' olive trees, an administration spokeswoman told Human Rights Watch. All the while, Israel could easily plant forests in vast areas of the Negev where Bedouins have no land claims without erasing Bedouin links to their land.
Indeed, the day before the government first demolished al-Araqib, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the real motive, warning in a government meeting that "if we allow for a region without a Jewish majority" in the Negev, that would pose "a palpable threat" to Israel."

Syria neoliberalising

"Samir Aita, a Syrian economist, said the state needed to step up development projects, but it was focusing on promoting business monopolies and "rent seeking" activities such as real estate, as was the case also in Tunisia and Egypt.
"Everyone wanted to emulate the 'Dubai model' of free trade and real estate zones...forgetting that they have a population that needs jobs and for whom the growth should be directed. Look what has happened to them," Aita wrote in a paper published on the Syria Comment website." (Thanks Tamara)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Research and Publications from the Arab World

The article linked to below shows an analysis of research and academic publications in the Middle East.

Bread and revolutions

This is a podcast of my interview with Brian Crump on New Zealand National Radio. We started off with wheat in the fertile crescent and ended up with a call for challenging the global economic order. I didn't think they would air it.

There you go

"Wheat headed for the biggest weekly drop in more than two years in Chicago after the U.S. unexpectedly raised its global supply estimate. Rice and corn also declined on forecasts for bigger supplies."

Food sovereignty in Lebanon

This is food sovereignty as seen by USAID: High tech high capital farming out of soil to increase exports of highly perishable crops. And look who gets the funding: Foundations belonging to some of the richest people in Lebanon???? Aren't they also predominantly March 14 (Safadi recently shifted to the Mikati camp) (Thanks Rania)

"U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly inaugurated the five-year, $12 million Developing Hydroponics to Access International Markets (DHAIM) program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The DHAIM program will help establish hydroponic production of high-value fruit, vegetables and flowers in Lebanon with the long-term goal of improving earnings and livelihoods of rural Lebanese producers in this sector.

The launch event included the signing of sub-agreements between ACDI/VOCA, the primary implementing partner, and seven local sub-partners for the implementation of DHAIM activities: Arcenciel, Hariri Foundation, Rene Moawad Foundation, Safadi Foundation, and the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Sidon, Tripoli, and Zahle. 

DHAIM uses a value chain approach to enhance Lebanon's greenhouse sector producing lettuce, capsicum, strawberry, tomato, cucumber, and floriculture.

It will target approximately 1000 greenhouse owner representing over one third of the greenhouse producers of these crops in Lebanon, and is expected to increase related exports by at least 50 percent."

«لأ» تضمر «نعم»

Photo from Assafir

«لأ» تضمر «نعم»

رامي زريق
كم هي جميلة تلك الانتفاضة التي تتحوّل الى ثورة فتغير نظاماً عميلاً مجحفاً بعدما خلعت الطاغية! فها هم ثوار تونس ومصر يفرضون علاقة جديدة بين الشعب والدولة، ويرفضون التدخل الأجنبي في شؤونهم بالرغم من محاولات هيلاري كلينتون البائسة لخطف إنجازات الثورة عن طريق عملائها المندسّين في الجمعيات التي موّلتها أميركا عبر السنين. وكم هو جميل عطر السيادة الذي يفوح من ميادين التحرير العربية ومن ساحات الجامعات والصحارى والشواطئ حيث تدور معارك تحرير ضارية. كم هي جميلة كلمة “لأ” التي أطلقتها ملايين الحناجر العربية لتعبّر عن رفضها للأنظمة المستبدّة وللقهر والاستغلال والتبعية الاقتصادية والسياسية. إنها تلك الـ“لأ” نفسها التي أطلقها عبد الناصر من الخرطوم ذات يوم والتي أعادها إلينا الثوار العرب: “لا صلح، لا تفاوض، لا اعتراف”.
وكم هو محزن أن نستيقظ على شوارع مدينة لم يكن ينقصها المزيد من التشويه عبر إثقالها بكلمة “لأ” الهجينة التي لا يعرف لها مكان في اللغة العربية. وهي “لأ” تضمر “نعم”: نعم لفتح أبواب الوطن مشرعة أمام العدو والمحتلّ، نعم للهيمنة الأميركية على رقعة الحرية التي يجسّدها لبنان المقاوم، نعم لحماية إسرائيل. كم هو محزن أن نرى سفراء دول أوروبية يعتلون المنابر ليغرقونا بالتأنيب والتهديد المبطّن كأننا أطفال في حضانتهم، ونحن نهز رؤوسنا لهم ونرسم على وجوهنا ابتسامة بلهاء قبل أن نصفّق لهم شاكرين اهتمامهم وتمويلاتهم. كم هو محزن ذلك الوزير السيادي الذي يعدّ بعض القوانين الدولية التي سنّت خصيصاً لذبح المقاومة أرفع شأناً من دستور وطنه!
لكن، ذلك هو لبنان، وطن الحرية والسيادة والاستقلال. إذاً، هيا بنا الى الميدان نحتفل بالثالوث مرة أخرى، فلا أحد يدري ماذا ستأتي به الأيام..
العدد ١٣٦٠ الجمعة ١١ آذار ٢٠١١  بدائل

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week of Resistance to Israeli Colonialism and Apartheid

Week of Resistance to Israeli Apartheid and ولونياليسم - بيروت 2011
The 7th International Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will take place across the globe in March 2011.

Since it was first launched in 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week has become one of the most important global events in the calendar for the Palestinian cause. Last year more than 55 cities world-wide organized events to end Israeli apartheid, including Beirut for the first time. IAW continues to grow as new cities join each year in response to the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.

This year a group of youth activists has been working together to host the Week of Resistance Against Israeli Apartheid and Colonialism in Beirut from March 7th to 13th, 2011. Following the success of last year's first-ever Israeli Apartheid Week in Lebanon, we are excited to be planning a week-long program of events covering a variety of topics concerning Israeli apartheid and colonialism and its devastating affects in Palestine as well as in the Arab world and globally. Given the current revolutionary climate in the Arab world, we look forward to fostering a space for activists and community members to gather and discuss these pertinent issues.

For more on the Beirut program, visit:
For more on the Tripoli program, visit:
For programs of IAW events worldwide, visit:

I'm speaking on workers rights next Sunday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tyrants and buffoons

I'm watching Al Jazeera and the news tape that run at the bottom of the screen say that the FAO reported the highest food price index ever during the month of February 2011. The images from Libya are worrying. I am not worried about the revolution, but about its human cost. As we had all expected, Kadhafi is not going to leave quietly, he will have to be flushed out of his refuge in Tripoli by the armed resistance. This is not like Egypt or Tunisia, where the Western world was awed by the "non-violent" aspect of the uprisings. Here, the people have taken arms and are fighting a war of liberation. Many army brigades have joined the rebels and have given them some training as well as weapons as varied as rocket launchers and anti aircraft guns.

The West doesn't seem to mind this departure from the Ghandian rhetoric it has been preaching to the Palestinians in their struggle against an enemy way more nefarious than the rabid dog of Libya: the Zionist state. Here, the West is supporting the right of people to use violence to obtain their rights, because it thinks it might serve its purpose. Somewhere in the dreams of the Empire there is the possibility that the regime of Kadhafi, which it has nurtured and supported after it became one of its puppets, will give place to a regime that will accept to be subservient to the US and to its Western appendages and give it free control over its oil. Dream on.

But isn't it pathetic to see how everyone is now suddenly waking up to the fact that Kadhafi is a despicable human being and a mad tyrant? Isn't it pathetic to see that the US administration is now wanting to oust him, that the Interpol is circulating accusations against him, how LSE is suddenly rejecting his son's donation and finding out (o surprise!) that his PhD thesis was plagiarized? Does the Empire really think it has any credibility?

I got a bit worried about the noises the US made about a military intervention in Libya. Of course the reasons for such an intervention would be humanitarian: saving the oil without which its economy will collapse, causing distress to millions of people. Some believe that an intervention is warranted, while the Libyan people have been very clear about that: we will do our own revolution, they say. Leave us alone. Whatever it costs us in human and material losses is nothing compared to the price we would have to pay if the US or any surrogate army sets foot on Libyan soil. The freedom fighters in Libya know it very well: there is not a single revolution the US tried to help that has not completely been derailed into becoming a puppet operation serving the US and Israeli agenda. Look what happened to the March 14 movement in Lebanon: under the leadership of its true chief, former US ambassador in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, it now openly serves the Israeli agenda of disarming the Lebanese Resistance. On the scale of "pathetic" the March 14 have reached Everestian heights: while the rest of the Arab World fights to rid itself of hereditary regimes, the mega-demonstration they are planning for March 14 has one central theme: that Saad Hariri must remain prime minister, a seat he has inherited from  his father...What a bunch of time-forgotten buffoons.

Badael بدائل

It has been a while since I have written on my blog. I am busy writing an article, the essence of which is in my badael editorial of this week.