Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Playing "Favorites" in the Palestinian Civil Conflict Will Not Resolve the Issue

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) June 19, 2007 - Over the last several weeks, the bloody internal struggle in the Palestinian Territory has resulted in a military victory for the forces of Hamas. In Gaza, security forces loyal to the Fatah-led government of President Mahmoud Abbas were overrun by Hamas fighters, with scores of Fatah security officers and government officials forced to flee to Egypt or the West Bank.

The Gaza offices of the Prime Minister and the private home of the late Yasser Arafat were also ransacked.

The fragile coalition government of Hamas and Fatah was also a casualty of the internal war: Mr. Abbas fired his former Hamas-affiliated Prime Minister and replaced him Salam Fayyad.

And, in a reversal of the 15 month U.S. and international boycott of the Palestinian government, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has communicated with Mr. Fayyad to offer both diplomatic support and material assistance to the newly-installed Palestinian government-one that has no official role for the most popular political faction in Gaza and the West Bank. The European Union has also followed suit in an attempt to both disempower, and isolate, Hamas as a political force in Palestine.

In the short run, the end of the diplomatic and foreign assistance boycott against Palestinians could provide some desperately needed humanitarian aid, and possibly, the release of millions of dollars in Palestinian customs revenue withheld by Israel, which constitutes some 60% of the necessary operating budget of the Palestinian Authority. But in the long run, the political-and military-situation in Palestine will only become worse.

Why? Consider that Hamas remains the political choice of a clear majority of Palestinians. This is not necessarily because Hamas is a militant "Islamic" front, but because, in fact, they are seen as an alternative to a Fatah movement widely criticized for both corruption and cronyism. The further isolation of Hamas by Western governments and aid agencies will not likely result in the moderation of the views of the Islamic resistance toward the state of Israel, or the use of armed violence as a tactic of resistance. And there is also a danger that the armed conflict in Gaza will spill over into a more violent civil war in the West Bank.

Moreover, the United States and its European allies may have inadvertently placed the "kiss of death" on the Fatah movement by recognizing and supporting one party in a violent civil conflict without providing assistance for the resolution of the underlying conflict itself.

Lobbing missiles at Israeli border settlements may not be a way to resolve the greater issue of the occupation of Palestinian land. But playing favorites in this war, and denying any legitimacy to the political entity elected to govern the people of Palestine will not advance the legitimate interests of the people either.

We believe that the only way out of this dilemma is for both Hamas and Fatah to declare an end to armed hostilities-both for the sake of political security, and for the sake of the lives of real people in Palestine being murdered in this conflict. Revenge killings and reprisals must also end if the hopes for an independent Palestinian state are to ever be realized.

The United States should also use economic and political power to strategically bring the conflicting parties together. Hamas will not simply fold up their tent and go quietly into the night simply because they are being denied U.S. diplomatic recognition and material support.

It would also behoove America to put more direct pressure on Israel to stop the expansion of settlements and the gross violations of Palestinian human rights that are at the core of the Palestinian resistance.

Hamas could, and should, use the power of its popular political mandate to truly serve the material interests of the Palestinian people through means that exclude internal or external warfare.

If all parties in this conflict would agree to advance an agenda of non-violent coexistence with each other, and a strategic use of nonviolent means to end the occupation of their homeland, they would probably, in the long run, be able to offer the people of Palestine the true gift of freedom-both political freedom, and freedom from fear.

It will, in all probability, be a difficult road ahead for both Fatah and Hamas. But it might very well be the only road that can ultimately lead to an end to the Israeli occupation and, in the final analysis, peace and security for the people of Palestine and the entire Middle East.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Does A New Arms Race Threaten Muslims?

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) June 1, 2007 - Earlier this week, Russian federation President Vladimir Putin announced the development and testing of a new Russian Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This new weapon is designed to penetrate and defeat anti-ballistic missile defense that the United States plans to deploy in former Warsaw Pact nations now within the orbit of NATO.

President Putin, in announcing this development, accused the United States of initiating a new arms race that would once again pit these former Cold-War adversaries in a renewed struggle for global domination.

This new development is certainly alarming for those of us who believed that the nuclear face-off between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had dissolves into improbability. While the two global powers are far from being allies, and while numerous political and economic issues separate Russians and Americans, conventional wisdom assumed that, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990, a strategic arms race, and the likelihood of a shooting war between these old antagonists, was a thing of the past.

Apparently, we were wrong.

Despite numerous rounds of negotiation and nuclear arms reductions, both nations still have thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at each other. The Russians believe, with some justification, that the U.S. plan to place missile defenses in Eastern Europe is a direct threat to their own security. And the Russian response will be to fortify their own nuclear war capability with new weapons designed to overwhelm missile defense systems.

The likelihood of a new strategic arms race is very real. And the impact of this development on the global community, and, especially on Muslim nations, could be quite severe.

There are several reasons why this news should be alarming for Muslims. Aside from the increased likelihood of a nuclear exchange between Russia and America-an potential apocalypse that the world has avoided since 1945-a new arms race would fuel the development and exchange of new missile and nuclear weapons technologies developed by states like North Korea and Iran who want to get into the game with the “big boys”.

The proliferation of these weapons, and their delivery systems, would increase the objective threat of nuclear war between numerous parties in conflict around the globe, or even between state parties and non-state actors.

But there is another danger of an even greater conventional arms race. Because the Russians will need to pay for their new missiles, and that will mean, at least potentially, pushing for even more conventional arms exports throughout the world, and especially in the Muslim world. And remember that, in the nuclear age, more human beings have been killed by Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades that by nuclear bombs.

And even if there is no shooting war between these two superpowers, the economic impact of billions and billions of more dollars and rubles spent on weapons of mass destruction will divert scarce resources from confronting, and defeating, the real weapons of mass destruction in our world: hunger, disease, poverty and hopelessness.

All of these great maladies are alive and well in the Muslim world.

A new arms race helps no one, but it severely threatens all of humankind, and especially those populations most devastated by warfare and poverty. The nuclear-and conventional-merchants of death will push and push for an expansion of their markets to pay for their new and more expensive toys. These weapons are the raw material of war, crime, and genocide all over the planet. The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world will be those most likely to suffer.

Here in the United States, Muslims should use our growing political clout to help reign in the military expansion of the American empire, and call for no new deployment of missiles in Europe that would likely result in a new round of saber-rattling and superpower arms competition between the United States and Russia. Moreover, we should support the demilitarization of the foreign policy of this nation, which constitutes five percent of the human population but accounts for more than 40 percent of the global arms trade.

Neither Russian nor American missiles will feed the devastated population in Darfur or provide water and medicine to the people of Gaza. Our voices and our work should join with the great majority of the people of the world who call for an end to warfare and any renewed threat of an arms race between the two nations that held the world in the grip of threatened nuclear annihilation for more than half a century.