18 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

18 July 2014

We are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic news of the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board.

Our deepest condolences go to the relatives and loved ones of the passengers and crew who perished in this horrific mid-air disaster. In particular to the families of our 43 Malaysians who have lost their lives, we share their sorrow and bereavement and pray for strength to get through this tragedy.

While it has been reported that the Boeing 777-200ER MAS jetliner was shot down by a surface to air missile over the conflict zone in Ukraine, it has not been established who is responsible.

Regardless of that, we condemn this act of terrorism and urge the international authorities to conduct a full and independent investigation and to bring to justice the perpetrators of this mass murder.

Meanwhile, we call on MAS and our Malaysian authorities to do their utmost in handling the disaster and in particular to be utterly sensitive to the feelings and totally responsive to the needs of the families and loved ones.

This is yet another national tragedy and our moment of deep grief and sorrow.

Anwar Ibrahim
Opposition Leader, Malaysian Parliament
Ketua Umum, Parti Keadilan Rakyat

Kami merasa terkejut dan dukacita dengan perkhabaran tragis tentang nahas Malaysian Airlines MH17 daripada Amsterdam ke Kuala Lumpur yang membawa 298 penumpang.

Ucapan takziah kami buat ahli keluarga para penumpang dan krew penerbangan yang terlibat dalam nahas udara ini. Khusus buat ahli keluarga 43 rakyat Malaysia yang dilaporkan terkorban, kami turut berkongsi kesedihan yang dirasai dan terus berdoa agar mereka tabah untuk menghadapi tragedi ini.

Sementara pesawat Boeing 777-200ER MAS berkenaan dilaporkan telah ditembak dengan peluru berpandu di zon konflik di Ukraine, pihak yang bertanggungjawab masih belum dikenalpasti.

Rentetan itu, kami mengecam sekeras-kerasnya tindakan keganasan seumpama ini dan menggesa pihak berwajib antarabangsa untuk mengendalikan siasatan bebas dan memyeluruh serta membawa anasir yanh bertanggungjawab ke atas insiden ini.

Dalam masa yang sama, kami menyeru agar MAS dan pihak berkuasa Malaysia dapat melakukan yang terbaik dalam mengendalikan bencana ini demi menjaga sensitiviti serta responsif sepenuhnya ke atas keperluan keluarga mangsa yang terlibat.

Nyata sekali, ini sebuah lagi tragedi nasional yang mengundang kesedihan kita seluruhnya.

Anwar Ibrahim
Ketua Pembangkang, Parlimen Malaysia
Ketua Umum, Parti Keadilan Rakyat

17 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Shah Alam. 16/7/2014

17 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Speech by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Economic Agenda Forum & Iftar on July 16, 2014 at the Mentri Besar Selangor’s Official Residence

Versi Bahasa Melayu

English Version

17 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Speech by Anwar Ibrahim at the Economic Agenda Forum & Iftar on July 16, 2014 at the Menteri Besar Selangor’s Official Residence

In the run up to the last general elections, the rakyat were treated to a barrage of proposed economic reforms that looked good on paper and even more impressive through media campaigns which cost millions of ringgit of the tax payers’ money. All kinds of promises and pledges were made.

However, among the first actions taken by the government immediately after the general elections was to raise the price of petrol and sugar. Since then, it’s been one after another round of price increases while the promised reforms turned out to be mere sound bites.

In our case, despite winning the popular vote of 52%, we were denied our legitimate right to rule. But our conviction for change has not dissipated, our hope still very much alive and our will still firm and resolute.

Today, let me share with you our road map to a new economic agenda for Malaysia as we go forward towards 2018.

Rising cost of living, mounting household debt
The problem of inflation causes hardship to the people. When the rate of growth in monthly incomes for the working people lags behind the rate of inflation, hardship follows.

Many are finding it hard to make ends meet. Many have to look for other sources of income. Even more have to resort to borrowing. Household debt builds up. At 86.6% percent of the GDP, our household debt is one of the highest in the world.There is indeed a clear and present danger of the rising tide of household debt inundating us.

Widening gap between rich and poor
The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger. At a high Gini coefficient of around 0.46, the top 20% of households own more than half of the Gross National Income while the bottom 40% own less than one sixth.

Just two days ago, the nation was presented with a set of numbers that purported to show how well we are doing in terms of our overall economy: as compared to last year, it seems, our growth is more robust, foreign investment is doing well, we are more competitive at the international level and the process towards a high income economy is on track.

But let us set the record straight.

Foreign owned debt and overheating
Our GDP for 2013 stood at USD 312.44 billion or close to RM 1trillion (RM 999.8bn). According to BNM, as at November, 2013, almost 45% of our local sovereign bond market is foreign held.

Our economy is exhibiting classic signs of overheating, including credit growth that is racing ahead of GDP growth and incomes and a currency that has seen sustained appreciation notwithstanding recent volatility.

Govt debt to GDP ratio is at 54.8%, inching closer to the 55% ceiling, household debt is at an all time high of around 86.6% GDP and corporate debt is approaching 96% of GDP.

The reality is that many workers may have jobs and incomes today but may lose them all in a year or two or even a few months. We do not have a comprehensive social safety net. This breeds unrest and an overall lack of economic confidence.

We saw how such a situation blew up in the face of unbridled American free market capitalism in the wake of the 2007 sub-prime crisis. We have witnessed the riots in Greece and Spain and other European cities essentially as a result of the hardship of workers losing their jobs. And do not forget that it happened in spite of a better social safety net than ours.

Detractors have said that we should not complain about highway projects such as KIDEX if we want better transport. But they are missing the point. KIDEX is not the best answer to the people’s need for good and cheap public transport. There is moral culpability here in both the Federal and State governments when in the face of a rising chorus of opposition from the people, they choose not to hear but instead ride roughshod over their pleas.

To further promote a pro-Rakyat administration, we will fix a time line for government bodies that own highway concessions to transfer them to the government so that tolls will be abolished.
There must be public consultation on major development projects before giving concessions or conditional approvals or exercising powers under the Land Acquisition Act.

There must be transparency in the process and documents should be allowed for public viewing.
There must be a proper balance between development needs and the intrinsic needs of the people. For example, failure to respect Native Customary Rights would only stir conflict and lead to injustice as we have witnessed in several major instances in Sarawak. Nevertheless, we laud the recent landmark court decisions in favour of the people.

Prescription for going forward

Inclusive growth
We will pursue a growth strategy coupled with equality of opportunity, supported by three policy pillars:

1. Sustained growth to create productive jobs for a wide section of the population;
2. Social inclusion to equalize access to opportunity; and
3. Social safety nets to mitigate vulnerability and risks and prevent extreme poverty.

Labour market reforms
To address the time bomb of the rising household debt, we must raise the incomes of the labouring poor through a mix of measures centering on labour market reforms, allowing legitimate unions to rise, changing the public-private sector mix in the provision of social goods and services, improvements in the quality of education and good governance.

We are locked in at the low value-added, high volume and low wage stage of the value-added chain in manufacturing and services. The dependence on migrant workers discourages entrepreneurs to shift to more capital and knowledge-intensive methods of production. This has to stop.

A minimum wage that provides for a decent living standard for the workers must be enforced. During the transition, assistance in the form of financial grants and productivity boosting measures may have to be given to small firms that have difficulty in implementing the minimum wage.

GST a weapon of injustice
Regressive tax measures such as GST are morally wrong. The greatest negative impact of the GST is not that it will be taxing all consumers as such but in doing so, the greatest burden of the rise in prices will fall on the middle 40%. On the other hand, the top 20% of income earners will experience the least impact as a proportion of their income.

Without effective creation of employment opportunities that improve both productivity and take-home incomes, the bottom 40% will struggle to graduate to the middle, and the heavily-squeezed middle will struggle to foot the new tax bill.

Crony capitalism and subsidy rationalisation
Subsidy rationalisation is not morally wrong in itself, but if subsidies are cut whilst cronies are awarded with overvalued highway concessions, allowed to monopolise key industries, or given fat contracts without competitive tender – then it is unjust and oppressive.

Why should the poor and the middle class have to tighten their belts while the rich loosen theirs? Occcasional BR1M payments are not enough to help families escape the low-income trap. It only perpetuates the rakyat in a state of economic vulnerability and dependency on government handouts.

In our strategy, however, this injustice and oppression will be removed for we will maintain subsidies for the poor and ensure that those for the rich and powerful will be withdrawn.

Promote inclusive growth
To promote inclusive growth, sectors currently under crony domination need to be opened up. This should be a managed process that allows new entrepreneurs to introduce greater competition while being fair to the employees of existing industries.

Secondly, emphasis should be given to opportunities for low-income households to take up job opportunities. Re-skilling programmes can be further implemented. There should be better guarantee of employee rights and women, in particular, should not be penalised in terms of wages.

Thirdly, collective bargaining should be protected. Government, employers and employees all have to work together to reduce inequality at a pace acceptable to all. Fair and transparent dialogue within a clear framework is the basis for this.

Fourthly, to support inclusive growth,BNM should introduce a counter-cyclical monetary policy that would reduce volatility and increase the ability of poor households to accumulate productive assets.

Social justice agenda

Health care
In our social justice agenda, our humane economy will place priorty on better and more accessible health care. We see the mushrooming of private hospitals particularly in the urban areas while the needs of the poor are often neglected.

Privatization of health care must be stopped. Instead there should be good and better state provision of health care services. A universal health care program encompassing all aspects such as public access, palliative and curative medicine and the infrastructure development of public hospitals and clinics must be introduced.

Housing for the poor
In the case of housing, a National Housing Development Board should be set up. Build affordable houses for workers and even executives in the industrial and services sub-sectors. Given the scarcity of land in many urban areas, this board should consider constructing affordable houses and to provide free transport to the central business districts.

Democratisation of access to education
The mushrooming of private schools and international schools catering mostly only to the rich is a trend that runs counter to the democratization of access to quality education. It is contrary to the basic principles of social mobility. There must be funding for educational institutions at all levels and for academic, technical and vocational streams in order to expand access to Malaysians of all walks of life. Free and quality education is a fundamental liberty.

Strengthening domestic economic resilience
We need to implement more small-scale public infrastructural projects that can be outsourced to small time contractors. Their technical and financial capacities can be enhanced. Such small-scale projects have a larger multiplier effect as they are less dependent on imports for their supplies of inputs.

Women and youth
There is a need for support systems to retain women in the work force and greater efforts to increase their participation. This includes better, possibly subsidised childcare and elderly care services, flexible work arrangements, and family friendly employment policies.

The youth make up about 60 per cent of the total unemployed, with those in the 20-24 age group being the largest proportion at 40%. What we need urgently are social programmes and skills training for their empowerment to reduce their sense of marginalisation and alienation.

In the coming years, we will enhance our pro-rakyat approach as outlined above while pursuing the best practices in governance with specific growth oriented and pro-rakyat steps to be introduced at all levels.

Thank you.

16 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

The Nation

By demonizing the Palestinian leadership, the Israeli prime minister raised expectations for a decisive victory and opened the door for attacks from the right.

Launching military campaigns in Israel is easy: the public idolizes the army and tends to support whatever measures it takes, and the parliamentary opposition rallies behind the government at such moments. Indeed, Benjamin Netanyahu’s second campaign in Gaza as prime minister—and the third the country has launched in less than five years—was true to form, enjoying nearly unanimous support in Israel, despite heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side and the disruption to daily life caused by hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas, including at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Israel’s international airport.

As the military campaign enters its second week, with more than 1,500 tons of explosives already dropped on the heavily populated Strip, an end game in Gaza is nowhere in sight. Egypt has offered a cease-fire similar to the one reached after the November 2012 military campaign, and a fragile truce might indeed emerge, but none of the core issues in Gaza will be addressed—leading most observers to conclude that the clock is already ticking toward the next escalation.

Unlike operation Cast Lead in 2008–09, Operation Protective Edge didn’t open with a “shock and awe” strike, which took the lives of hundreds in just the first few days, but rather escalated gradually, giving the sense that Israel would have rather avoided this round, if only Hamas ceased to fire rockets on Israeli towns.

Yet there is a wider context that should be considered: following the kidnapping of three Israeli teens on June 12, the government arrested hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank, most of them from the political leadership who had nothing to do with the attack (which in all likelihood was carried out by rogue freelancers). Dozens of prisoners who had been released in the prisoner exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit were detained again, as a purely punitive measure and without any evidence that they had returned to militant activities.

Since the accord between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Israel has also prevented the transfer of funds that pay the salaries of public officials in Gaza. In fact, when UN envoy Robert Serry sought an arrangement with Israeli officials that would allow the salaries to be transferred, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to expel Serry for “aiding Hamas.” And, not least, Israel had stepped up its own military activities in Gaza before the latest escalation, claiming the lives of several militants and at least one boy, who was injured on June 11 and died three days later.

The denial of funds, along with the closing of the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza by the new regime in Cairo, which is overtly hostile to Hamas, has caused a political and economic crisis in the Strip, and thus left Hamas—whose main political currency is its image of “resistance”—with little reason to avoid escalation.

These facts, which have been largely ignored by the Israeli media, do not justify Hamas’s tactics, which deliberately target civilians in clear violation of international law. They suggest, however, the existence of alternative courses of action that Israel could have taken in the weeks preceding the current crisis. But the Israeli government has refused for years to address the fundamental problems in Gaza—the siege and its separation from the rest of the Palestinian population in Israel and the West Bank being the most obvious ones. The Hamas-PA accord actually presented Jerusalem with an opportunity to deal with Hamas politically; instead, Israel decided to cut ties with the newly formed government and even demanded that the international community follow suit.

Hamas entered this round of violence considerably weakened, having lost its allies in Cairo and having seen many of the tunnels under the Egyptian border destroyed, and its rocket attacks allowed Israel to portray its military campaign to the West as a legitimate self-defense measure. This very same freedom of maneuver, however, reveals the limits of Israeli strategy—or, some would argue, the lack of a strategy at all. Israeli could easily conquer Gaza, but it doesn’t want to hold it, and what might seem like the ultimate Israeli goal—the destruction of Hamas—doesn’t make much sense, since it’s pretty clear that the ensuing anarchy would not serve Israel’s interests. Far more extreme groups are waiting at the gate.

If Israel does end the war now, Prime Minister Netanyahu will face attacks from his political base on the right and among the settlers. The hard right, with its echo chamber in the media, already senses an opportunity. Amos Regev, the editor of the pro-Netanyahu daily Yisrael Hayom, called in an editorial for bombing Gaza “back to the stone age.” Avigdor Lieberman went as far as saying that Israel should seize direct control of the Strip again, and on the eve of the military operation he broke his political pact with Netanyahu and the Likud, though he remains a part of the government. In a cabinet vote on Tuesday morning, settler leader Naftali Bennett opposed the Egyptian offer, and so did Lieberman. “The assumption is that whatever happens in this war, Netanyahu loses ground,” an adviser to a senior Israeli politician told me this week, before details of the cease-fire offer were known.

Netanyahu can only blame himself for his political troubles. By demonizing the Palestinian leadership—Abbas just the same as Hamas—he raised expectations in the Israeli public for a decisive victory and opened the door for attacks from the right. His refusal to commit to a meaningful political process with the Palestinians, along with his insistence on maintaining the status quo through military superiority alone, will pretty much guarantee that this cycle of violent escalations continues in years to come.

16 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Our media ingrains warped terminology that bolsters the effort to portray Israel as a victim. Here are a few examples.

“Gaza is an independent state.”
It is not. It and the West Bank are a single territorial unit composed of two parts. According to the international community’s decisions, a state shall be established in these two parts, which are still under Israeli occupation, as are the Palestinians who live there.

Gaza and the West Bank have the same international area code — 970. (The separate code is an empty gesture left over from the Oslo period. The Palestinian phone system is a branch of the Israeli one. When the Shin Bet security service calls a house in Gaza to announce that the air force is going to bomb that house, the Shin Bet doesn’t have to dial 970).

With his colonialist guile and skills he acquired from Mapai, the precursor to Labor, Ariel Sharon removed the settlers from the Gaza Strip. Via another form of domination, he tried to cut the enclave off for good from the West Bank. The effective control of the sea, air, borders and much of Gaza remains in Israel’s hands.

And yes, Hamas and Fatah, motivated by their factional struggle, have significantly contributed to the disconnect between the two parts. With its propaganda, Hamas has bolstered the illusion of Gaza’s “independence.”

Meanwhile, Israel still controls the population registry for Gaza and the West Bank. Every Palestinian newborn in Gaza or the West Bank must be registered with the Israeli Interior Ministry (via the Coordination and Liaison Administration) to be able to obtain an ID card at age 16.

The information typed into the cards is also in Hebrew. Have you ever heard of an independent state whose people must register in the “neighboring” (occupying and attacking) state — otherwise they won’t have documents and won’t officially exist?

When experts like Giora Eiland, a retired general who helped plan the Gaza disengagement, say Gaza is an independent state that’s attacking us, they’re trying to expunge the context of this round of bloodshed. That’s a pretty easy task. Israelis have already done this.

Both sides (Hamas and Israel) say they are firing in self-defense. We know that war is a continuation of politics by other means. Israel’s policy is clear (if not to consumers of Israeli media): Cut Gaza off even more, thwart any possibility of Palestinian unity and divert attention from the accelerating colonialist drive in the West Bank.

And Hamas? It wants to boost its standing as a resistance movement after the blows it took as a governing movement. Maybe it really thinks it can change the Palestinian leadership’s entire strategy vis-a-vis the Israeli occupation. Maybe it wants the world (and the Arab states) to awaken from its slumber.

Still, with all due respect to Clausewitz, rational calculations are not the only explanation. Let’s not forget the missile envy — whose is bigger, longer, more impressive and reaches farther? The boys play with their toys and we’ve gotten used to calling it policy.

“Israel has shown restraint.”
Where does one begin to calculate restraint? Why not start with the fishermen who have been shot at, wounded and sometimes killed by the Israeli navy, even though the 2012 understandings talked about expanding the fishing zone?

Why not with the farmers and metal scavengers near the separation barrier who have no other income and are shot at and sometimes wounded and killed by soldiers? Or the demolition of Palestinian houses supposedly for administrative reasons in the West Bank and Jerusalem?

Don’t we call this restraint because this is violence that the Israeli media arrogantly overlooks? And why don’t we hear about the Palestinian restraint after Nadim Nawara and Mohammed Abu Dhaher were killed by Israeli soldiers at the Ofer checkpoint? “Restraint” is another term that expunges contexts and bolsters the sense of victimhood of the world’s fourth-mightiest military power.

“Israel supplies water, electricity, food and medicine to Gaza.”
It does not. It sells 120 megawatts of electricity at full price, at most a third of demand. The bill is deducted from the customs fees that Israel collects for goods passing through its ports destined for the occupied territories. Food and medicine that Palestinian traders buy at full price enter Gaza through the crossings under Israel’s control.

According to the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, in 2012, 1.3 billion shekels ($379 million) worth of Israeli products were purchased in the Gaza Strip. So Gaza is also a captive market for Israel.

As for water, Israel has imposed an autarchic water economy on Gaza; that is, Gazans must make do with rainwater and groundwater that collects in its territory. Israel, which imposes a water quota on the Palestinians, does not let them share the West Bank’s water sources with Gaza.

As a result, demand outstrips supply and there is over-pumping. Seawater seeps into the groundwater, as does sewage from decrepit pipelines. Ninety-five percent of Gaza’s water is not fit for drinking. And based on past agreements, Israel sells 5 million cubic meters of water to Gaza (a drop in the ocean).

“Israel only pinpoints legitimate targets.”
The houses of junior and senior Hamas members are being bombed — with and without children there — and the army says these are legitimate targets? Is there a Jewish home in Israel that does not shelter a commander who has helped plan or wage an offensive? Or a soldier who hasn’t shot at or will shoot at a Palestinian?

“Hamas uses the population as human shields.”
If I’m not mistaken, the Defense Ministry is in the heart of Tel Aviv, as is the army’s main “war room.” And what about the military training base at Glilot, near the big mall? And the Shin Bet headquarters in Jerusalem, on the edge of a residential neighborhood?

And how far is our “sewing factory” in Dimona from residential areas? Why is it all right for us and not for them? Just because they don’t have the phallic ability to bomb these places?

16 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

The Independent

There are moral red lines. Why do we keep crossing them?

I only knew Gaza from the stories.  It was the military zone for which the Givate Brigade was responsible, but we all knew the stories about how they managed to kill several militants in one ambush. Honestly, we were a bit jealous. I was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at the end of the Second Intifada into a special operations unit of the paratrooper brigade. From the start of my service I knew that Nablus and Jenin would be the areas for which we were responsible. Child’s play, seemingly, compared to the stories that came out of Gaza – but my child’s play. I’ll never forget the first time that I was shot at, the first Palestinian corpse I ever saw, and the fear and adrenaline during my first military operation.

My first mission involved the seizure of a Palestinian home. I had never before had the opportunity to be inside a Palestinian home, and my squad was surprised for a moment by the fact that within the home lived an entire family – spanning three generations. We woke everyone up, and took over the house. We put everyone in one room – women, men, children, and the elderly. One of the guys was stationed at the door to ensure that they didn’t get out. In the meantime, we took care of our business. I remember asking myself: what do they think about all of this? What would I do if soldiers broke into my home? But I immediately repressed these questions and carried on with the mission. As time passed, fear turned into boredom, adrenaline stabilized, and my doubts about the extent of the operational logic and its justification would return to gnaw at me. But the next day there were already new operations. This was our daily routine, and as a result, the next time I didn’t really think about how the family whose home we entered felt. My personal red moral line blurred very quickly. Every time I would tell myself – this is still okay. But it’s in the nature of red lines to move along an imaginary scale. I wasn’t bothered when we destroyed entire homes during search operations, and when my squad accidentally shot an innocent woman, and we quickly buried the incident and moved on. Today I know that my ability to distinguish whether a particular action crosses the line, didn’t really exist back then.

What happened to me is happening to the IDF and to Israeli society at large. During Operation Cast Lead I had been a civilian active with Breaking the Silence for over a year, but I was still shocked by the incidents I heard had occurred there. I remember a friend who had taken part in Cast Lead. He returned shaken by the fact that homes of “Hamas members” were deemed legitimate targets for bombing without any relation to the risk they posed to our soldiers in the field. That was the first time he had encountered such orders during his military service. This is what he testified:

“In the morning we identified four men, aged 25 – 40, with keffiyehs, standing outside the house talking. It was suspect. We reported it to intelligence, specifying the house they were about to enter. Intelligence passed this on to the Shabak (Israeli Security Agency) who reported that this was known as a Hamas activist’s house. This is automatically acted upon. I don’t remember what we used – whether it was a helicopter or something else, but the house was bombed while these guys were inside. A woman ran out of the house holding a child, and escaped southward. That is to say, there had been innocent people inside.”

The same red line that was crossed during Operation Cast Lead has become the starting line for Operation Protective Edge. Homes of “Hamas members” were added to the IDF’s long list of potential targets in the Gaza Strip.

The politicians that send us to perform these tasks don’t even pretend to promise hope for a better future. Just further use of force and violence. Our doubts about logic and justice don’t even interest us anymore, as our red moral lines are constantly moving in the face of our reality – much like mine during my military service. 150 killed in Gaza in the first six days of the operation, the vast majority of whom were civilians, and a quarter of whom were children. Millions of Israeli and Palestinian people live in existential fear that a rocket or a missile will fall on their heads. The end of one bout of violence merely sets an alarm for the next.

The red line at which we stopped during Operation Cast Lead (2009), is the same line from which we commenced Operation Pillar of Defense (2011). The point at which we stopped during Pillar of Defense is the same place from which we’ve started Protective Edge. What will our next red line be? And when will we cross that one too? Only we can answer that question. It depends on us, and what we allow others to do in our name.

Avner Gvaryahu served in the IDF as a sergeant in special forces from November 2004-November, 2007

14 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Abby Martin remarks on the latest violence in Palestine, including Israeli airstrikes on civilian targets in Gaza.

14 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Media Roots

The humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel’s latest killing spree in Gaza should weigh heavily on the conscience of US citizens, given that Israel remains the largest recipient of US foreign aid, to the tune of 3 billion dollars a year.

According to Reuters, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has now dropped bombs on over 1,000 targets across what has been deemed the world’s largest open-air prison. Scenes of extreme suffering and loss abound, like that in the town of Khan Younis, where a house filled with civilians was bombed, or the missile that leveled Gaza’s police headquarters, killing 18 members of one family.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) observed “Israeli warplanes launched 39 airstrikes targeting houses, agricultural plots, open areas, a charity and a bank in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis.” Furthermore, “Israeli tanks and gunboats … fired dozens of shells at agricultural and open areas,” killing “9 Palestinian civilians, including 2 women …” PCHR also documents that 149 houses in Gaza have been “targeted and destroyed.”

These outbursts of state terror are so periodic and unceasing, it’s difficult to express the gravity of the situation. Much like the previous large-scale Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2012 called ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’, ‘Operation Protective Edge’ has unleashed horrifying levels of violence against Palestinian civilians. Doctors on the ground are now reporting that Israel is using weapons against Gazans which have beenbanned under international law, “[causing] major damage to [their] bodies, especially the limbs.” Responding to this gruesome development, Palestinian Health Ministry Undersecretary Youssef Abo al-Rish condemned  ”Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons” as “a blatant violation of human rights and international agreements.”

Compounded with the devastating human toll this savagery has spawned is a media narrative that all but ensures it will continue. Both television and print media repeatedly cast Israel as merely “defending itself” or “retaliating” against Hamas rockets. Writing in the Boston Globe, Chairman of the Anti Defamation League Jeff Robbins notes “Those who have been fortunate enough not to have endured rockets aimed at their homes can be counted upon to issue the familiar incantations about Israeli ‘collective punishment,’ dodging as always the question of what, precisely, Israel is supposed to do about attacks against its civilians if not to try to prevent them.”

Ignored in this callous dismissal of Israeli war crimes is the fact that the people of Gaza are under a foreign military occupation in violation of international humanitarian law and multiple UN Security Council Resolutions. That this brutal occupation may be the source of the rocketing is untouched in the corporate press. Instead, American audiences are presented with a de-contextualized narrative of a cycle of violence from both sides, accompanied, almost invariably, by vague and insincere demands for a de-escalation of the conflict.

If the vast disparity in firepower between Hamas and the IDF doesn’t illustrate the specious framing, then the death toll certainly does. Since the beginning of Israel’s assault, 170 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,120 have been injured according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Based on figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “70 percent of Gaza fatalities are civilians,” and of that number, “30 percent are children.” Conversely, zero Israelis have been killed. Nonetheless, the western authors of this mass slaughter are unrestrained in their exuberance, foremost the “leader of the free world.”

In his July 8 Op-Ed in Haaretz, President Obama celebrated the growing “security relationship” between the US and Israel, a bond that is “stronger than ever.” Perhaps the “strength” of this bond can be measured in the overwhelming silence and distortion that has greeted this latest chapter in the Palestinian people’s long record of national humiliation. So when ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer misidentifies Palestinian civilians devastated by IAF airstrikes as Israelis, a simple one minute apology to American viewers (not to the people of Gaza) suffices.

Any deeper investigation into the dominant narratives of Palestinian villainy that have long characterized US media discourse is forbidden. For example, the New York Times will issue no apology for featuring a front page photograph of a masked Palestinian slinging a stone alongside an article about the brutal lynching of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khadeir. Unlike Sawyer’s “mistake”, misrepresentations of this kind are the norm, and therefore merit no apologies. These images are illustrative of Palestinian menace or an ominous “demographic problem” pensively waiting to destroy an Israeli state–an island of civilization in a “tough neighborhood”–”forced to take action to protect its civilians.” Rhetoric of this kind is highly reminiscent of the US genocide against North America’s indigenous population, which was carried out to “protect” the European colonists from the “terror” of “merciless Indian savages,” as Thomas Jefferson described them in one of his lesser known contributions to “enlightenment” philosophy.

Incidentally, the traditional imperial pretext of “protecting civilians” has been stretched to surreal dimensions under the current offensive. Among the “military” targets selected in this campaign to “protect” Israelis are beach-side cafes, mosques, and rehabilitation centers. The New York Times headlined the attack on the beach-side cafe as follows: Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup (my emphasis). It would be instructive to observe the response within the US if the terrorist attack against innocent civilians at the Boston Marathon was headlined Exploding Pressure Cooker Finds Athletes Poised for Boston Marathon. Needless to say, more than a simple “correction” would be demanded.

Underlying these socially sanctioned exhibitions of dehumanization is a doctrine of state violence which was articulated most powerfully by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion. In a shockingly unambiguous entry in his Independence War Diary he noted “Blowing up a house is not enough. What is necessary is cruel and strong reactions. We need precision in time, place and casualties. If we know the family–[we must] strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action there is no need to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.” Under ‘Operation Protective Edge’, the Israeli military has adhered to this pernicious doctrine with a frightening degree of discipline.

Overshadowing this record of atrocities is the inescapable fact that the United States is complicit in the killing of every innocent Palestinian under Israeli occupation, a reality systematically omitted from conventional narratives. A particularly dramatic illustration of this norm could be perceived in a recent State Dept. press conference. After establishing the dogma that Palestinians had no “right to defend themselves”, State Dept. spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked what Washington would do to pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “rein in” Hamas.

Since Hamas and the PA formed a “unity government”, the journalist protested, Abbas certainly shared “responsibility” for the Hamas rocketing into Israel. Another question could have easily been asked, namely what was the Obama administration going to do to “rein in” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Critical inquiry of this kind is inconceivable in US establishment journalistic circles. Consequently, the leader of the “only democracy in the Middle East” (typical language in imperial societies that lack self-reflection, the US being a dramatic example) can launch missiles at unprotected civilian structures–murdering the elderly, women, and children–and the best headline Human Rights Watch can produce to capture the tragedy is Palestine/Israel: Indiscriminate Palestinian Rocket Attacks. On the IAF airstrikes on houses? They “appear to be” collective punishment.

At a recent Palestine solidarity rally, author and activist Max Blumenthal proclaimed“This is not a conflict. It is a conquest. It is an illegal conquest.” Beyond the highly misleading, and often racist, commentary that prevails in the establishment press, this is arguably the most succinct description of Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinians. Much like the global conquerors in Washington, the regional conquerors in the Israeli government interpret any expression of autonomy by those over whom they rule as not only threatening but criminal. It is through this perverse logic that the systematic subjugation of an entire people is made to look virtuous or, to borrow Benjamin Netanyahu’s words in reference to its threats against Iran, “those in the international community … don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” Throughout history, all oppressive states have imbibed this psychotic worldview, some in more lethal doses than others. One shudders at the thought of future servants of empire retelling this chronology of suffering and the monstrosities they will inevitably conceal in the name of “freedom”.

14 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Middle-East Monitor

You would be forgiven for thinking that the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza strip is an unfortunate necessity for the Zionist state; that Hamas holds full responsibility for the dead and the wounded; and that Israel is merely “responding” to Palestinian aggression, simply defending itself with no interest in escalating the conflict. You would be forgiven because, although it is an inaccurate and biased narrative, it is the only narrative you will hear in the mainstream media.

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, DC, has explained why this is not the only narrative by examining data about all the ceasefire violations on either side since the last Egyptian-brokered deal agreed by Israel and Hamas on 21 November 2012, which brought to an end Israel’s so-called “Operation Pillar of Defence”. The terms of the agreement included “ending all hostilities by Israelis and Palestinians, and facilitating the freedom of movement and transfer of goods within Gaza.”

Within 24 hours, Israel explicitly violated the conditions of the ceasefire when its armed forces shot dead a Palestinian man east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip; 19 others were wounded in the incident.

Meanwhile, Israel’s promise to facilitate freedom of movement and the transfer of goods within Gaza has been reneged upon continuously since the signing of the truce.

This follows a familiar pattern in which a previous ceasefire agreement, brokered by Egypt in 2008, was ended by Israel’s extrajudicial assassinations of Palestinians.

Below is a graph, provided by the Jerusalem Fund, detailing the dynamics of fire over a 54-week period following the last ceasefire. All numbers are taken from UN OCHA. From a quick look at the data on weekly violations throughout the year following the 2012 ceasefire, we can see that Palestinian rocket fire has been infrequent and isolated, almost always occurring “after successive instances of Israeli ceasefire violations.”

Yet, as former editor of antiwar.com John Glaser mentions, “In the diplomacy on Mid-East peace, we invariably hear about Israel’s security concerns, while that of the Palestinians is hardly mentioned.” This is in spite of overwhelming evidence pointing to the constant military aggression inflicted upon the Palestinian population by Israel, an inherent element of both the siege on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Israeli human rights group B’tselem, citing the Israeli Shin Bet, notes that nearly 14,000 projectiles were fired from Gaza from 2005 to 2013. UN OCHA noted that Israel fired about the same number of artillery shells into Gaza in 2006 alone.

In accordance with Glaser’s observation, just 17 of the nearly 120 Israeli ceasefire violations over one year following the 2012 ceasefire were reported on by the New York Times. This extensive under-reporting of Israeli ceasefire violations points to the immunity Israel enjoys in the West, and the incentive this provides Israel to continue to violate ceasefire agreements. Israeli forces can then “fire into Gaza without accountability, provoke a reaction and then claim self-defence.”

Who, if not the West, will hold Israel accountable? A more recent example indicative of a broader truth on western media misrepresentation of Palestine-Israel, can be seen here when Diane Sawyer of ABC News misreports Palestinian victims of Israeli airstrikes as Israelis.

Drawing on visual graphics provided by the Jerusalem Fund displayed below, depicting the relation between Palestinian casualties caused by Israeli fire and Palestinian projectile fire, the organisation makes some important observations:

[...] the various resistance factions in Gaza are restraining themselves and are not responding to every Israeli escalation. However, when extrajudicial assassinations of members of militant factions outside of Hamas like the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) and Islamic Jihad are conducted, the factions then respond as was the case in points 3 and 7.

This leads to the following conclusion: “Israeli policies of extrajudicial assassination which ultimately create high Palestinian casualties and provoke projectiles from Gaza are self-defeating if the goal is to minimize projectile fire.”

Why, then, does Israel continue to carry out extrajudicial assassinations in moments of relative calm such as that of unarmed PFLP member Muataz Washaha in the West Bank university town of Birzeit on 27 February 2014, in which his family’s home was set alight and demolished? More importantly, why are such cases not covered in equal measure to the rare and isolated cases of Palestinian resistance rocket fire which, when they are not intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, do little, if any, damage?

Whilst Hamas’s ceasefire conditions, listed below, were declared publicly on Palestinian television live on 8 July 2014 by an anonymous leader of the Qassam Brigades, they received no coverage in the western media. Subsequently, it came as no surprise when Netanyahu addressed the cabinet 2 days later with a unilateral rejection of any appeals for a ceasefire. When world powers are repeating the now auto-response, “We support Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian fire”, why should Israel bother to address the underlying causes of hostility from militarised factions of the Palestinian resistance?

Hamas ceasefire conditions:

  1. To end aggression against Jerusalem, the West Bank and “Israeli Arabs”.
  2. To release all prisoners agreed upon in the Gil’ad Shalit deal.
  3. To commit to previously agreed upon ceasefire conditions.
  4. To refrain from intervening in the Accord Government and sabotaging Palestinian reconciliation.

Writing earlier this year, Mounayyer predicted accurately the grave consequences of media misrepresentations of the Israel-Palestine conflict, detailing a reality we are currently witnessing:

If another massive Israeli bombardment of Gaza began, Israel would surely use the pretext of “self-defence” to fend off any international criticism and the mainstream media’s failure to cover these cease-fire violations would have provided and supported the Israeli narrative needed to make war.

It is now crucial more than ever that western media acknowledges the critical role it plays in framing the Palestine-Israel conflict in the West and in shaping the trajectory of the conflict on the ground. The findings of the Jerusalem Fund ceasefire violations catalogue, highlight the moral duty that journalists bear to cover both Palestinian and Israeli aggression, and ensure that Israeli violations are given equal exposure. Only then, when Israel feels that there are real consequences for violating ceasefire agreements and international law, will Hamas’s third condition, for Israel to commit to previous agreements, will there be any real hope of peace.

14 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Council on Foreign Relations

Recent political unrest in parts of the Middle East has led many Western analysts to question the compatibility of Islam with democracy, but Indonesia—the world’s most populous Muslim country—is looking to tell a different story, the next chapter of which begins this week.

An important country about which most Americans know little, Indonesia is the world’s third-largest democracy, after India and the United States, and the tenth-largest economy. In recent years, it has enjoyed high growth, low inflation, an extremely low debt-to-GDP ratio, a strong stock market, and record-breaking exports and foreign direct investment.

Indonesia’s economic success has been built on the back of its even more impressive democratic development. In just a few years, after the fall of longtime strongman Suharto in 1998, the country transitioned from a tightly controlled authoritarian system to one of the most vibrant democracies on earth. Through three successive cycles of democratic elections—in 1999, 2004, and 2009—Indonesia has been hailed as a model of an open, moderate, tolerant, multiethnic, and multireligious society.

Presidential elections in Indonesia are among the most free in the world, with a “one man, one vote” system that is not intermediated by an electoral college, as in the United States. Indonesians have embraced this freedom with great fanfare over the past fifteen years. In Indonesia’s first democratic election, in 1999, more than 93 percent of its roughly 150 million voters participated. I had the privilege of monitoring that first election, which was broadly praised as free, fair, nonviolent, and well run, despite the absence of any democratic traditions in the country since the 1950s. While some of the initial euphoria about elections declined in subsequent contests, voter participation has remained above 70 percent in every cycle.

This week, Indonesians are set to test and, hopefully, build on that record as they choose a new president in the most hotly contested race in the country’s history. The race is a nail-biter, with the candidates polling within several points of each other—in some polls, within the margin of error and with a margin smaller than the number of undecided voters. The uncertainty of the outcome has left both the people of Indonesia and its markets on edge.

This is the first time that the incumbent is term-limited. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has served two five-year terms and cannot run again due to constitutional reforms. His party, moreover, did not win enough seats in the April legislative elections to field a candidate for the presidential race. For the first time in Indonesian history, the party in power is not fielding a candidate for the top job.

This election is also the first head-to-head contest, with the popular governor of Jakarta, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, running against the charismatic former commander of the Indonesian special forces and former Suharto son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto. In all previous election cycles, three or more contenders have vied for the presidency.

The race has forced the candidates to make clear distinctions between each other and led the other parties that won seats in the incoming legislature to quickly choose sides. With four of the five Islam-based parties supporting Prabowo, his coalition is perceived as more Islamic, while the coalition backing Jokowi is perceived as more secular and nationalist.

This divide dates back to the founding of the Indonesian state, when leaders of the struggle against the Dutch colonial power were writing a constitution in preparation for their declaration of independence. One of the primary debates among the independence leaders was whether the new state should be Islamic or essentially secular, but rooted in God. Those in favor of the latter won the day, arguing that the archipelago’s ethnic and religious diversity demanded an open paradigm that defined the state as broadly as possible.

There is some overlap between the two coalitions, with the secular-nationalist Golkar party backing Prabowo, and the Islam-based National Awakening Party (PKB) backing the Jakarta governor, for example. But the relatively defined character of each coalition has given Indonesian voters a clearer choice than in past elections and should be healthy for the consolidation of the country’s democracy.

The personalities of the two candidates could not be further apart. Jokowi is a largely untested, understated, and untainted “man of the people,” beloved for his integrity and inclusiveness by Indonesia’s poor and lower middle class. Prabowo is a self-styled strongman with compelling oratory skills and a record of military experience that appeals to the upper-middle and upper classes, which yearn for strong leadership after a decade under Yudhoyono. Prabowo has been dogged by allegations of human rights abuses during his military career, including the torture and disappearance of protesters during the turmoil that brought down his father-in-law and violent suppression of dissent in hot spots like West Papua and East Timor, a former province that is now an independent state. Indonesians, however, have famously short memories, and with more than half the country under the age of thirty, few voters either know or care much about Prabowo’s dark past.

In recent months, Prabowo has closed the gap with the Jakarta governor, who was leading by as many as 30 percentage points. While this heated competition is in many ways a good thing for Indonesian democracy, it has also unleashed a dark side of Indonesian politics, with a raft of smear campaigns, largely against Jokowi, flooding social media—Indonesia has the second-largest Facebook community in the world, after the United States—and tabloids. They have accused Jokowi of being everything from Chinese and non-Muslim to a communist. While none are true, the ferocity and relentlessness with which these charges have circulated have hurt the governor in a country that is still overwhelmingly Muslim and anticommunist.

More importantly, these campaigns have brought race and religion to the fore in an ugly and highly divisive manner, a real concern for a country of such diversity and one that has a history of ethnic and religious violence. Indeed, the role of media in this campaign has been more controversial than at any time in the past, with outlets owned by businessmen aligned with one ticket or the other providing highly partisan coverage and undermining Indonesia’s reputation for a free, independent, and neutral press.

This race is not only the tightest in Indonesia’s democratic history; it’s also widely seen as the dirtiest, raising fears of a close outcome—perhaps with a margin of less than 2 percent—that could get bogged down in court challenges and even give way to violence. Passions are running high across the country. Some reports suggest that minorities are afraid to vote and that a climate of intimidation exists in some of the most contested areas.

Indonesia has achieved great things over the course of its fifteen-year experiment with democracy, but the ugliness of this race reminds us that such progress cannot be taken for granted. At a time when political restructuring in the Middle East continues to challenge the notion that Islam and democracy can coexist, and when pluralism and tolerance are under attack around the world, Indonesians hope to rise above these provocations and cement the country’s place as a vibrant Muslim-majority democracy.

12 July 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Further to our earlier denunciations of the atrocities; we reiterate our condemnation of the latest massacre of more than 100 Palestinians including women and children in the Gaza by the Israeli regime of Netanyahu and call on the international community to collectively put pressure to stop the atrocities.

It is clear that the Israeli regime is exploiting the killing of the three Israeli youths as a pretext to attack Gaza and start a chain of violence and bloodshed so as to destabilize the unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

In his desperate attempts at destroying the prospect of a united Palestinian state in the near future, Netanyahu is prepared to drag the Israeli people to the brink of outright war.

No doubt, he is committing these acts of violence with impunity, emboldened by the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union will condemn these crimes, let alone intervene to stop them.

In this regard, the Western powers have once again displayed hypocrisy in their muted response to the atrocities. This is a disgraceful abdication of moral responsibility and exposes their double standards to the cause of democracy, freedom and justice.

Even more tragic is the fact that Muslim countries, except possibly Turkey and Iran, appear to be powerless in the face of these unmitigated acts of violence and cruelty while so-called jihadists are keener on killing fellow Muslims and proclaiming a caliphate than helping their downtrodden Palestinian kin.

Meanwhile, the Western media continue to report the latest rounds of violence in its usual skewered manner by its constant reference to Hamas firing of missiles into Israel so as to justify Israel’s utterly disproportionate retaliation.

The media and Western leaders continue to downplay if not entirely ignore the fundamental issue of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel’s blatant disregard of UN Resolution 242 in their barefaced drive for territorial aggrandisement.

Indeed, the current round of murdering and wounding of hundreds of innocent Palestinians is but yet another episode of the continuing saga of brutality, ruthlessness, inhumanity, and injustice committed against them by the Israelis.

Anwar Ibrahim
Member of Parliament,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader

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