Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow
Slavoj Zizek and David Horowitz are the guests for the second episode of Julian Assange’s interview show, “The World Tomorrow”. “Intellectual superstar” Slavoj Zizek is a philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural commentator. David Horowitz is a renowned stalwart of hardline conservative American political thought and an unrepentant Zionist.
The tone of the conversation between Zizek, Horowitz and Assange alternated between combative, personal and good-humoured. The topics covered jumped backwards and forwards at a wildfire pace, to include Palestinians and Nazis, Joseph Stalin and Barack Obama, the decline of Europe and the tension between liberty and equality, amongst many others.
Yesterday, after an absence of five years, Deir Yassin was once again remembered.
Deir Yassin Remembered is an organisation which exists only to remember the massacre of Deir Yassin of April 9th 1948. I became familiar with DYR in the early 2000s. I performed at a few DYR commemorations and each and every time I was overwhelmed. It wasn’t only the emotional intensity of the commemorations but also only at DYR events could one see the true commitment and devotion of the Palestinian community.
It is no secret that the one people who are rarely seen at Palestinian solidarity gatherings are Palestinians. They are hardly ever involved with the PSC or any other organization, but Deir Yassin Remembered is different. A DYR commemoration is no mere solidarity event – it is about Palestinians and only about Palestinians - their past, their present and their enduring suffering.
Yesterday, as on previous occasions leading members of the UK Palestinian community gathered together to light candles for their parents, brothers and sisters, murdered by the Irgun and Stern Gang at Deir Yassin. Present, was the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Manual Hassassian and the entire Palestinian Delegation. Dr. Hassassian is a remarkable speaker who, while welcoming those gathered, managed to draw meaningful historical interpretations from the massacre. The fact is that in the Holy Land nothing has changed – the racially driven plan to evict the true people of that land is still in place and practiced 24/7 by the Israeli government.
DYR, together with the Palestinian Delegation flew over from Palestine, Abu Ashraf, a survivor of Deir Yassin. Abu Ashraf was eight years old when he saw his family and friends slaughtered by my grandfather’s beloved Irgun. But strangely, although it was my grandfather who was the Irgun commander and therefore primarily implicated in the atrocity, as I listened to Abu Ashraf and his story, it was of my dad that I thought.
Abu Ashraf and my dad were born in the same year, on the same land and under the same sun. When he was eight years old, Abu Ashraf’s life – present and future – was cruelly shattered. His home was destroyed, his family and friends were murdered and since then, he has lived as a refugee. Forty years later his own son was also butchered by the IDF while the rest of his kids ended up in Israeli prisons.
My father, on the other hand, though living under the same blue sky and growing up on Abu Ashraf’s land, was a free man. He travelled the world, he studied, he saw his parents grow old and was able to care for them – and his son, yours’ truly, is alive and kicking. My father is a free man while Abu Ashraf is a prisoner.
Can Abu Ashraf and my dad ever be friends? I know they can. But can my people make friends with Palestine or Palestinians? Well, my people are not as friendly as I would like them to be, so of that I am not so sure.
For years Deir Yassin Remembered was silent. In 2005-6 the organisation was wounded by a massive AZZ (anti-Zionist Zionists) campaign. Some Jewish so-called ‘anti-Zionists’ were disturbed by DYR’s equation of Deir Yassin with Jewish suffering and the Shoa. But to me it all made perfect sense. After all, Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial, built on the confiscated land of Ein Kerem, lies just 1400 meters from, and is in clear sight of, the village of Deir Yassin.
So, for a time the UK Jewish anti–Zionist community managed to slow down DYR’s activity, but it seems this precious organisation has bounced right back – and, as is so often the case with adversity bravely faced, DYR has re-emerged stronger than before. We owe thanks to this organization and to the support of the Palestinian Delegation and its Cultural Attache Mouhamed Masharqa.
But sadly, there were some people missing last night. The PSC leadership, though invited, were not in the room and I learned that the PSC leadership attempted to boycott, and even destroy the commemoration by mounting pressure on the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) to withdraw its support to the event. Now, what with the UK BDS movement, more active against fellow Palestinians than ever it was againstIsrael, there does seem to be an awful lot of boycotting going on in the Palestine solidarity movement.
Of course, this is no big surprise to me. In recent years and under the leadership of Sarah Colborne, the PSC London head office transformed itself into a true Zionist outlet taking its orders from rabid Zionist and openly Islamophobic Harry’s Place and desperately looking for ever new ways to please the Jewish Chronicle. Completely subservient to the sectarian AZZ command, the PSC recently expelled from its ranks some of its leading long-standing activists because they didn’t comply with the Jewish political line and, for the same reasons, has even gone as far as expelling Palestinians.
The PSC is now irrelevant but with the rapidly growing popularity of deLiberation and the clear success of yesterday’s Deir Yassin commemoration, I believe it is only a matter of time, it may even be mere days, before a new solidarity voice will be heard in this Kingdom.
New Nadir Reached in Sinai
The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation announced on April 23, 2012, that they are “terminating the Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement” with Israel since the East Mediterranean Gas Company failed its payments. The East Mediterranean Gas Company is an Israeli-Egyptian joint company that operates the El Arish–Ashkelon submarine pipeline, which transfers gas from Egypt to Israel. The Israelis deny the claim. Though the event has clear political repercussions, it matters little since at the time of the announcement Egypt can’t supply gas even if it wanted. Since Mubarak’s regime was ousted in early 2011, the Arab Gas Pipeline—see map below—has been attacked roughly once a month. Following an Explosion in Sinai early this year, the entire pipeline is inoperable. Egyptian and Israeli authorities openly blame the attacks on Islamists opposed to peace with Israel and Bedouins complaining of discrimination against by the Egyptian government. The pipeline used to supply 40% of the gas consumed by Israel, but Israel is not worried about that since the recently discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean Sea (see Greece Joins Gas Alliance) more than compensate for the loss of the Egyptian gas. Israel is worried because Egypt is—for the first time—openly breaching the peace treaty between the nations.
In recent months the situation between Israel and Egypt is deteriorating rapidly. The Egyptian government is concerned about the violence in its heartland and cannot provide enough police forces to the increasingly violent Sinai Peninsula. The peace treaty with Israel forbids Egypt to place army units in Sinai. Yet, in recent months the Egyptians authorities asked permission from Israel to let military units to enter Sinai and attempt to control the ongoing mayhem. Until now, Israel always complied, but the Egyptian army failed to reinstate order. These were the first signs the situation changed. Now, the refusal of the Egyptian to supply gas—officially on economic grounds—adds to it a clear breach of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty economic annex. Egyptian public opinion opposes Israel. Recently, a new Israeli Embassy in Cairo was Announced, after the previous one was attacked and destroyed last September. In recent weeks, the Egyptian media and parliament have criticized Coptic Christians and the Grand Mufti of al-Azhar for visiting Jerusalem. Above everything else, former president Hosni Mubarak is facing criminal charges for his role in the 20-year gas supply agreement, which was signed in 2005. Egyptian officials have said the gas was initially sold to EMG at $1.25 per British thermal unit (BTU). In 2008, the price was increased to $4 per BTU, while countries like Turkey, Greece and Italy paid between $7 and $10. In such a way, the poor Egyptian people were subsidizing the rich Israelis. When the former president faces trial for the shameful deal he backed, it is unlikely that the deal would be respected.
Also Israel is taking clear steps against Egypt. In Rising Ottoman, I reported on the Israeli National Security Council travel warnings for summer 2012. Among others, it recommended Israeli citizens to avoid visiting Tunisia (Djerba Island is the site of a religious festival), Egypt (especially the Sinai Peninsula), and Turkey. The three were popular destinations for Israelis seeking summer shelters; the resorts of the latter could host up to a million Israelis in a good season. Yet, three days before the Egyptians announced the agreement termination the Israeli government urged its citizens to leave Sinai, after it had apparently learned of Egypt’s intention to suspend gas supplies. The Israel step is a clear retaliation. “We want to understand this as a trade dispute… to turn a business dispute into a diplomatic dispute would be a mistake,” said the controversial Israeli minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, after the Egyptian announcement. Thus, Israel is retaliating by hitting the Egyptian tourism industry. Moreover, later this year Israel will finish building a new fortified fence between the countries. The fence is mighty, much taller and solid than the old fence separating Israel from Syria. After all, Bashar Assad is quite friendly towards Israel (see Lebanon Beats Syria).
In this reality, the USA was unlikely to remain unscathed. On the same day the commercial agreement with Israel was terminated, the Egyptian government refused to license eight US civil society groups. The groups included the election-monitoring Carter Centre, Seeds of Peace, Coptic Orphans, the Latter-day Saints Association and other organizations. The Egyptian Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry rejected the applications because the organizations’ activities violated “the state’s sovereignty on its lands.”
The upheaval runs deeper. One of the main issues nowadays in Egypt is the list of approved candidates for the presidential elections that are about to take place on May 2012. In their last move, the generals running Egypt announced today (April 24) that they have approved a law amendment that would bar senior officials from the Mubarak era from running for president. The amended law bars from the presidency those who served in senior positions in government and the ruling National Democratic Party under President Hosni Mubarak in the last decade. It seems this step was intended mainly to block Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister last year. Omar Suleiman—Mubarak’s former vice-president and spy chief—has already been disqualified, along with two Islamists. The last could have been seen as a balancing step while the Muslim Brotherhood—probably the largest political force in Egypt—kept saying until March 2012 that it would not place a candidate for the presidential elections. Yet, this has changed. At the beginning of this month, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat al-Shater was named the Brotherhood’s official. Mr. al-Shater is a millionaire businessman, and the Islamist movement’s chief financier. The group will use its extensive grassroots network of members to get the vote out for Mr. Shater and is already trying to convince other conservative parties to give him their backing too. Despite campaigning being not officially allowed until after list of candidates is published, the picture shows the campaign is already on. As of now, he is the leading candidate.
Next month, we may witness a new Egypt. A former ally of Israel would then face a hostile border with the Zionist state. A mighty fence separating the two would be near completion. The gas deal would be a thing of the past, its agonizing details to be finally settled by an international court. Maybe a new coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood would need to deal with a popular request to put the Peace Treaty with Israel to test by holding a general referendum on it. Wild winds whirl Sinai’s sands.
An interesting debate regarding the future and effectiveness of the BDS movement. Omar Baddar carrries the BDS party line and emphasises cohesion of the Palestinian struggle, yet they seek paradoxically to disavow Gilad Atzmon for being critical of Jewish Power and culture that they say they wish to change. Puzzling indeed.
What goals has the BDS movement achieved so far? Does it aim for a constructive solution to the conflict? How should Israel react to it? Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky agree that the goal of the movement is to destroy Israel – how valid is this judgment? Can the movement reinvent itself and win support from those who criticize it today? CrossTalking with Gilad Atzmon, Eric Walberg and Omar Baddar.