Newspaper clippings from the online newspapers of Trinidad and Tobago: 2003 -
Trinidad & Tobago Express | 2003
EDITORIAL: Middle East mutual slaughter
As we continue to be wearied and numbed by violence, the acceptance of which now seems to be headed toward entrenchment in our culture, we cannot help but note that in spite of this there are other parts of the world that are in far worse condition where slaughter of the innocent is the order of the day.
Indeed, in much the same way that many, including politicians, appear to accept divisions and our apparent developmental pathway, that emerging in the Middle East appears to be headed to a tragic hardening of mutual slaughter. The tragedy of this, as so often happens in history, is that the innocent pay with their lives. We are naturally at one with the wider citizenry who are appalled by the continuing violence here and elsewhere.
Is there any citizen of our country who is not moved by the slaughter of the family of one of the antagonists, including an infant? And the picture is indelibly painted of the modern technology of the helicopter gunship versus a moving car, not unlike the early phases of the conquest of Europe some sixty years ago. Panzers against people and the slaughter of innocents.
To many we suppose that it is relatively easy to pick sides. One picture is that of the extremist Palestinians murdering the innocent Israelis. Another might be that of brave nationalists defending the homeland against occupying forces. But reality is never that simple and there are many contributory influences coming from history and even from domestic politics of countries well beyond the region that have caused the seemingly insoluble problem of the Middle East.
Less than one hundred years ago Palestine formed part of the Turkish Empire then allied with Germany. The population of Palestine was predominantly Muslim Arabs, outnumbering the minorities of Christian Arabs and Jews by about ten to one. The last group was predominantly city dwelling and in spite of cultural differences there was a certain degree of social harmony.
But later events of history, especially the Holocaust of the Jews by the German dictatorship, were to have pronounced influences leading to the present situation. The failure particularly by the United Kingdom and its Empire, as well as the United States of America to save European Jewry by exclusion or restrition of immigration led to the establishment of the modern state of Israel, with the displacement of Palestinians from their lands and cities. Guilty conscience may have played a role.
The United Kingdom is not entirely blameless as it both agreed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland as early as 1917, at the same time as it was encouraging the Arab revolt with a promise of a Palestinian state. And a strong lobby and many billions of US aid over the years to one side of the conflict have only hardened the divisions, not only in modern Israel but the wider region.
But history should be our teacher, and even through we are a small country there is much going for us. In spite of contrary views, we consider the diversity of our peoples can in fact be a strong and enriching unifying force in nation building. We have had periods of violence and instability in the past.
As violence in the country grows each day it does not take much imagination to picture the situation that may emerge in twenty or thirty years, and we emphasise the words—may emerge. It is within the powers of leadership to fall back a few paces, examine themselves and their behaviour rationally, and put the interests of nation before self. A simple spark of irrationality is all that is necessary to direct the process of societal development to an extended period of disorder, in which the innocent will surely suffer. We must also never accept collateral damage of any kind as a norm of our society.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, September 29th 2004
...T&T offers to patrol region.
TRINIDAD and Tobago has offered to have its Coast Guard patrol the entire Eastern Caribbean, as far as Antigua, if the United States was prepared to fund it.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning told the Centre for Strategic International Studies here in Washington DC that Government had made the offer to the Americans as part of its efforts to ensure that drug traffickers do not take advantage of the weak Caribbean economies to set up base in the region.
Manning said; "We have told them that we are prepared to do our part by patrolling the entire Eastern Caribbean but to fund that would be out of the reach of Trinidad and Tobago and so, if they are prepared to fund it, we are prepared to do it."
The Prime Minister said the fact was that with the decision to construct an Intra-Caribbean Gas Pipeline, Trinidad and Tobago's Coast Guard would have to patrol parts of the Eastern Caribbean to protect the pipeline and already steps were being taken to strengthen the Coast Guard including increases in manpower and in the acquisition of additional patrol boats.
Manning told the Washington policy advisers that Trinidad and Tobago had installed a radar it had bought from Israel and had put in a repeater in the Cedros area and from that the security forces were able to see certain things which had alarmed them.
He said as a result both the Guardia Nacional and the Coast Guard had taken action in that part of the country and had the drug lords on the run.
Trinidad Guardian | Sunday April 24th 2005
Who can't hear will feel! By Sasha Mohammed
Licks for criminals, fighter boats and helicopters to combat the drug trade in the Southern Caribbean and a trip to Israel are the hallmarks of Government’s latest anti-crime plan, which was unveiled by Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
He made the announcement to a crowd of PNM party supporters at a meeting in Tunapuna on Friday night.
This came after a public outcry for action following Thursday’s daring midday murder in Port-of-Spain, where gangsters pursued and fatally shot 25-year-old gangster Oba Jones on Brian Lara Promenade, mere metres from a police post.
So far, there have been 104 murders and 18 kidnappings for the year.
Addressing the problem of repeat criminal offenders, mostly young males, in the penal system, Manning said his Government was intent on putting a “deterrent” in place— beating them.
This, because “young fellas in particular” often believed that in prison they “have it easy...with three square meals a day” and no death penalty, he said.
“There is no deterrent, and the Government is determined to change that,” Manning said.
“Cabinet will consider very shortly a proposal for the reintroduction of corporal punishment in T&T.
“They must get strokes, and after, they eh go want none.
“So if we have to change the laws in T&T to ensure corporal punishment is carried out, I assure you we will do that.
“Who can’t hear will feel!”
Manning did not specify exactly what he had in mind.
He said Government would introduce training and work programmes aimed at criminals who wanted to rehabilitate.
“If you don’t take the carrot, you getting the stick,” Manning added.
He said some crimes were politically motivated, “based on “things (that) come to my attention.”
Manning, who is also chairman of the National Security Council, said the drug trade remained the biggest problem facing this country, and the cause of most of its crimes.
He spoke at length of anti-drug measures which included Government spending millions of dollars in hi-tech equipment for T&T, St Vincent and Grenada, the two countries proposed to form part of a political union with T&T sometime in the future.
Manning said T&T’s location made it a primary transshipment point for the narcotics trade, and Government intended to make its sea borders virtually impenetrable.
“I will give T&T the assurance that if we have to lock down Tobago, Chaguanas, Cedros, we will do so (to) pursue criminals relentlessly,” he said.
Manning said a two-step plan to do so involved putting a radar system at ten different locations.
He said two of these sites were already up and running and the rest would be fully operational by the end of July.
Each site costs US$.5 million, he added.
Manning said the second step involved the purchase of four armed offshore vessels, 70-90 metres long, “with helicopter capacity,” for the waters off Cedros and the Gulf of Paria.
“The National Security Council has just agreed to purchase two at US$6.1 million each and we anticipate that in about six months that helicopter operation will be in fully in place,” he said.
Manning said he was reviewing a proposal to purchase from Israel a boat “armed to the teeth.”
“Later this year I will accept an invitation from the Government of Israel,” he said.
Manning accused the Opposition UNC of fostering racial tensions.
Acknowledging that the PNM “draws its bulk of support from the African people,” he said, “If it is that sections of the national community feel alienated, it is not a point of view that the PNM will ignore, and now we are saying there is an opportunity, in the reform of the country’s Constitution, to put a system in place that whatever the outcome of a political election is, no group feels alienated.”
He said this system included giving local government bodies more autonomy.
“So if you win at local government level you will have control of the country. It is a challenge. We require constitutional reform and we don’t expect support from the UNC,” Manning said.
Science Minister Colm Imbert, Works Minister Franklin Khan, Social Services Minister Christine Kangaloo and Education Minister Hazel Manning also spoke.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, November 18th 2005
Manning leaves for Israel. By Richard Lord
Prime Minister Patrick Manning departs for Israel today where he will hold bilateral discussions with the heads of Government and crime talks with the Israeli defence and security officials.
A release from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that on the official visit to Israel from November 20-24 Manning will meet with the President of the State of Israel Moshe Katsav and the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
On November 25, Manning will depart Israel to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOG) meeting in Valleta, Malta.
He will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift.
CHOGM 2005 will take place at the end of a year which has seen more natural disasters than any other in living memory, as well as the continued terrorist activity in all regions of the world, and on the eve of the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting on the DOHA Development Round Of The World Trade Organisation (WHO), stated the release.
"This is an event from which this country is likely to derive significant political, economic, social and cultural benefits," the release continued.
On November 29, on his return from Malta, Manning will deliver an address on developments in Trinidad and Tobago's energy sector to members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, a world renowned think tank based in London.
On that same day, Manning will officially re-open the recently refurbished Chancery building of the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, November 23rd 2005
PM talks politics, energy with Israeli president.
PRIME MINISTER Patrick Manning was updated on the current political situation in Israel yesterday by President of that country Moshe Katsav.
The two leaders met at the official residence of the Israeli President yesterday.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister at Whitehall, Port of Spain said Manning was also informed of the new constitutional options available for the people of Israel at this time. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who met with Manning on Monday, had asked the President the day before to dissolve Parliament for elections in March next year.
Meanwhile, Manning told Katsav of this country's energy sector, specifically about ammonia and methanol exports.
Manning also told the Israeli leader that the two countries had similarities, many religious persuasions and ethnicities.
Manning planted a tree in Grove Nations, Israel and also visited an organic farm outside Nazareth.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, November 28th 2005
NAR criticises PM for visit to Israel By Anna-Lisa Paul
Prime Minister Patrick Manning has been criticised by the National Alliance for Reconstruction for what it yesterday described as his "reckless adventurism in foreign policy" when he visited Israel.
The NAR has charged that Manning placed the country and its citizens in a potentially dangerous situation with respect to the long-standing conflict in that region.
Speaking at the first National Council meeting at the party's headquarters since the installation of its new political leader, NAR's communications officer Darryl Narinejit claimed Manning's rationalisation for his visit that it involved talks about reducing crime was untrue.
Narinejit claimed it was a "radical departure from the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the long-standing conflict in that region".
Narinejit suggested that Government might "be bringing citizens of Trinidad and Tobago into an escalating involvement with the dangerous politics of that region...an involvement that would exacerbate rather than lessen our national security concerns".
Advising Manning "to stay out of the dangerous politics of that region or at least think carefully about his foreign policy positions", Narinejit questioned the extent to which Manning was prepared to go to distance himself from past relationships.
NAR's political leader Dr Carson Charles said it was very important for Manning to steer clear of foreign policy positions as the country was small and a cosmopolitan state.
"You cannot be weak as a prime minister and shift from one hand to the next hand...today you have these friends and tomorrow...they are your enemies. You cannot do these things in foreign policy," Charles said.
Evidence of Government's desperation on the crime issue was signalled by the Government and Opposition's crime debate which Charles suggested was "just an excuse to buy some time", and "provide excuses to the public as to what they were doing behind the scenes".
Even as citizens continued to kill each other, Charles said the great crime debate was a "farce and an attempt to buy time," both by Government and the Opposition.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Tuesday, November 29th 2005
Think before dealing with Israel, Mr PM.
During Patrick Manning's recent visit to Israel he claimed to be a friend of Israel. This would normally not be a contentious statement to make, however with Israel it carries with it a number of dubious associations.
For example, as a friend of Israel how does Mr Manning view the illegal occupation of land Israel invaded back in 1967? And what of the many breaches of international and human rights laws that Israel has committed?
And how does Mr Manning view Israel's frequent refusal to abide by UN resolutions, especially with respect to the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights (recently, of course, Israel has pulled out of Gaza, but even so the withdrawal is not complete since the Palestinians do not have overall control of their border, sea waters and airspace)?
And what of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians? Is Mr Manning aware of the apartheid-like way Israel deals with many aspects of the Palestinians' lives, inhibiting them from improving their lives in ways Jewish Israelis take for granted? For example is he aware that Palestinians seeking planning applications for their dwellings face a far more stringent procedure than Jewish Israelis, very rarely having their applications granted whilst Jewish Israelis face few problems and rarely have their applications turned down?
Palestinians in the occupied territories frequently have their land confiscated for spurious reasons, their olive tree plantations destroyed to make way for further illegal Israeli developments. Palestinians are not allowed to travel on many roads, denied access to a number of beaches, have poor, often open sewage and water service-the water supply often turned off to meet neighbouring Jewish Israeli demands with swimming pools etc-are not allowed to travel freely.
In the occupied land Jewish Israelis are allowed to vote but Palestinians are not. How does Mr Manning view this apartheid-like behaviour of his friend?
The Arab peoples of the Middle East see a clear double standard in the way the US and UK governments have enforced laws against Saddam's Iraq but are not prepared to do the same with Sharon's Israel.
Does Mr Manning really want to be in business, buying weapons from such a rogue state? Surely, Mr Manning can find other friends in the world with less dubious baggage, whom he can do the same business with. In the interests of Trinidad and Tobago and world peace, let's hope so.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, November 30th 2005
PM's Israeli trip in right direction.
I believe that the NAR is stuck in a time warp of some sort. Mr Manning's visit to Israel is a step in the right direction. The Israelis have shown themselves to be a resilient, determined people with the ability to survive in a very tough "neighbourhood".
If the NAR is afraid of facing up with extremism then they do not have what it takes to lead this nation. Maybe the NAR should take a few lessons on political survival from the Israelis.
A R Singh
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Thursday, December 1st 2005
Unfair attack on Israelis.
I am writing this letter in response to a letter dated Tuesday November 29 headlined, "Think before dealing with Israel, Mr PM''. The writer expressed concern over Mr Manning's apparent friendship with the Israelis.
He went on further to describe Israel as an apartheid state and a violator of Palestinians' rights.
My question to him and those who share his sentiments are-
- Is an apartheid state a democracy?
- Does an apartheid state court-martial its soldiers when they use brute force on its enemies?
- Does an apartheid state hospitalise a would-be suicide bomber whose bomb malfunctioned, injuring only himself?
Finally, I invite that writer to research the history of the 1967 Yom Kippur war. If the Palestinians/Arabs would cease their attacks on Israel the Israelis will have no need to occupy their land!
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, December 2nd 2005
PM checks out high-tech weapons on Israel trip. By Anna Ramdass
Prime Minister Patrick Manning went to Israel to look at high-tech security weapons and equipment that can be used in this country in the continued fight against crime.
"We looked at helicopters, we looked at boats, we looked at whatever else the authorities had available that we thought would have been at interest to us," Manning said at yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference at Whitehall in Port of Spain. He however said that nothing was discussed with respect to purchasing any of the equipment.
"Nothing was discussed, we looked at what was available ... the next step we will continue to examine our own security requirement and determine what additional we need over and above what we have already decided to purchase," he said.
He said the Government was at present in the process of purchasing three offshore patrol vessels, six fast powerboats and four armed helicopters.
He explained that Israel is a country that supplies a lot of the security equipment to this country, including the assault rifle used by the armed forces and the radar system.
Manning said an air vehicle and a radar system are already in place and "we are looking to see what else is necessary".
He said he visited a couple of companies to see what they had to offer in terms of the security of this country, looking at it specifically "with respect to the issue of crime and the concern of the national community and the Government over enhanced levels of security for the people of Trinidad and Tobago".
He said he visited an air military institution to examine the equipment that was available and also what they (Israeli forces) use.
Manning, however, declined to go into details as these were security related matters.
The Opposition, including UNC political leader Winston Dookeran, last Friday criticised the Prime Minister's visit to Israel in Parliament.
Dookeran had said that there was too much secrecy surrounding the trip.
Responding to this yesterday, Manning said the criticism from the Opposition came as no surprise to him.
He said his meetings went on as scheduled and he was also able to meet with Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.
He said he understands that Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday has received the package of legislation as was discussed in their crime talks and "we will give them about a week to study it and then we will seek further face-to-face discussions".
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, December 4th 2005
Israelis on firm ground.
The Daily Express Letter of the Day on November 29 was a wonderful description of what is happening in the Middle East, but it failed to be neutral by the use of terms such as "illegal occupation" of certain territories. I am here to explain that those were not illegally occupied by the Israelis. They were captured after the Six Day War in 1967.
The Arabs, Egyptians, Jordanians and the Syrians decided among themselves to wage a war against Israel; at the end of the war all these countries suffered not only massive military losses, but lost most of their territories and fled these areas, against the smallest of the nations in the world - Israel. Those are the lands these people are trying to get back.
When you win a game or a war whatever prize that comes out of it is not Illegally acquired; it is the reward for your victory. Please correct the error and let history be history. Do not try to taint history because of your aversion to a particular nation.
If you insist that those are illegally occupied territories, then what is the point of winning a game or a boxing fight and getting the prize? Those prizes should then be called illegally acquired prizes.
Hepzi Leon Soon
Trinidad &Tobago Express | Wednesday, December 7th 2005
Israelis can help with security, farming.
PM Manning's trip to Israel has generated some interest and appears to have potential for some positive developments.
What are the Israelis good at? The quick answers that spring to mind are:-
- The ability, second to none, to protect their borders.
- Agricultural expertise, with the apparent ability to make orchards out of desert land.
The Government should be commended for what appears to be diplomatic and other moves to tap into Israeli expertise in these areas, and one hopes that soon we will learn of deliberate follow-up action including visits from Israeli experts to help T&T seal its coastline against the scourge of illicit drugs and guns. I guess the huge radar dish recently installed at Chupara Point on the North Coast is testimony to this!
The other huge opportunity is agriculture. The single largest contributor to the current high inflation rate is the increase in the prices of locally grown food. Mr PM, move with deliberate dispatch to take advantage of your trip and encourage the use of Israeli help in this vital area, but not only for large farm projects. What about the ex-Caroni workers who can now be encouraged to farm the land recently allocated to them? T&T could become the primary food producer in the Eastern Caribbean.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, January 4th 2006
No Israeli crime-fighting helicopters
Cabinet has not taken a decision to buy attack helicopters from Israel in the fight against crime, a highly placed Government source said yesterday.
The source said however that Government has agreed to buy an armed helicopter at one-tenth of the cost of the Israeli crime fighting machine.
It was reported at the weekend that an Israeli attack helicopter cost US$60 million.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, July 16th 2006
When retribution comes, don't cry for Israel. By Raffique Shah
HARDLY a voice is raised in protest. Not a tear is shed by those who would otherwise howl "bloody murder" when one Israeli is killed by a Palestinian. Those who wanted to crucify Iran's President Ahmadinejad for his statement that the state of Israel should not be allowed to exist are silent as the Zionist warmongers inflict terror and wanton destruction in the Gaza, on the West Bank, and now in sovereign Lebanon. But when retribution comes, as it must, we are sure to hear them scream from every which country about "those sub-human terrorists".
This has never been a just world, and I imagine it never will be. One American life has always been worth 1,000 or more of lesser mortals. In days of old, one British life had similar, disproportionate value: if African slaves so much as hurt one "massa", scores of their brethren would pay with their lives, but not before they were tortured in the most horrible manner. Today, what we are witnessing as Israel wields the Zionist hammer on its hapless neighbours is apartheid with full fury, military might that is always right, and a world, including Arab and Islamic countries, that will heartlessly turn their eyes in another direction, not to add, in the case of Muslims, their cheeks to be slapped and bludgeoned repeatedly.
For those who may not have noticed the carnage, ever since Ehud Olmert succeeded the ailing Ariel Sharon, and Hamas won the elections in Palestine, Israel has become ten times as murderous as it has ever been. To dwell a little on Hamas, bear in mind that it was George Bush who called for democracy across the world (as I write, he has gone off to visit Russia with the same message to President Putin).
When free elections were held in Palestine and Hamas defeated the PLO to take power, Israel immediately withheld huge sums of money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government. As if that was not bad enough, it proceeded to bomb at will wherever it pleased in the tiny, impoverished state. Its air force killed an entire family that was picnicking on a beach off the Red Sea. It repeatedly murdered civilians across the Gaza and the West Bank under the guise that it was targeting "terrorists".
Lashing back the only way they know, some elements among the Palestinians burrowed under the border, attacked a military outpost, killed a few Israeli soldiers, and captured one. Well, as Trinis would say, who tell them to do that? Olmert immediately massed tanks on the border and started shelling "terrorist" targets in Palestine. His forces then invaded and besides killing an untold number of civilians, children included, proceeded to arrest half of Hamas's Cabinet. Israel arrogated unto itself the right to dismember another country's government. A parallel would- be Hugo Chavez sending his forces into Port of Spain and besides flattening most of the city, making off with Prime Minister Manning and half of his Cabinet.
To add jet fuel to a fire that is sure to engulf the entire Mid-East, this rogue state deployed its forces to isolate Lebanon, bomb the country's only airport, lay siege to its main harbour.
As I write, the carnage in Lebanon continues: scores of civilians, including entire families, are being murdered at will, and Olmert tells the visiting Japanese Prime Minister: "Those responsible for the attack (three Israeli soldiers captured thus far) will pay a high and painful price." The EU issues a feeble statement, criticising (not condemning) the "disproportionate use of force". Bush says: "Israel has a right to defend its territory against terrorists." The Arab world is silent. Even Iran stays quiet, although I suspect in the latter instance, this is deliberate.
Of course Israel, heavily funded by the US, has the most powerful military in the Mid-East, nuclear arsenal included. But its terrorist leaders (and I write with authority here) seem to have learnt little from their own history, their scriptures. Remember the story of David and Goliath?
Ahhhh! Even superpowers have to account to a higher authority for their unbridled cruelty to human beings. And not even their military might will save them when retribution strikes. They don't know from which direction it will come. They are looking at Iran and Ahmadinejad. But the biblical David did not have the might of Goliath: he did not need it. When his people were threatened by an inordinately stronger enemy, he took the giant out with a slingshot.
So while Bush and Olmert and all the warmongers look to Iran, they may well be surprised at the direction from which their demise comes, this Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. History has shown that whenever power becomes a tool of repression, of absolute inhumanity, all-conquering empires implode. Israel-and America-may never learn from history, just as Rome didn't, or Hitler. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to being consumed by its lessons.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, July 21st 2006
Disproportionate force by Israel. By Gwynne Dyer
The Europeans have rediscovered their backbones. "The EU condemns the loss of lives caused by disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces and the humanitarian crisis it has aggravated,'' said Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency. The Swiss were even blunter, condemning what Israel is doing as "collective punishment,'' which is contrary to the Geneva conventions.
It won't change anything on the ground, and both the EU and Switzerland can expect the usual torrent of abuse from American sources for daring to criticise Israel. But Israel's actions in the past two weeks, since an attack on a military outpost left two Israeli soldiers dead and one a prisoner in the hands of Palestinian militants, have clearly "violated the principle of proportionality,'' as the Swiss put it.
Corporal Gilad Shalit, the soldier who was taken hostage, is no more to blame for the mess he inherited than any other 19-year-old Israeli or Palestinian, and he certainly does not deserve to die. But it is hard to see how blowing up the Gaza Strip's main power generating station, or arresting eight cabinet ministers and 34 legislators of the democratically elected government of the occupied Palestinian territories in simultaneous night raids on their homes, furthers the cause of Cpl Shalit's freedom. There is no sense of proportion here.
Israeli columnist Gideon Levy, writing in the newspaper Ha'aretz, put it best. "It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament. A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation."
The Israeli government is run by men and women with decades of experience at navigating the shoal waters of Middle Eastern politics-people who think strategically, and who fully understand the complex relationship between an elected Palestinian government that doesn't carry out terrorist attacks, and related but semi-autonomous militant organisations that do. They understand it because it was part of Israeli history, too.
Sixty years ago, when the Jews of British-ruled Palestine were an unrecognised proto-state under foreign military occupation, they had respectable political and military organisations like the Jewish Agency and the Haganah (the militia self-defence force that ultimately became the Israeli Defence Forces). They also had brutal terrorist organisations like Irgun and the Stern Gang, who killed both British soldiers and the Palestinians who had a rival claim to the land without compunction. The legitimate organisations did not control the illegitimate ones, but there were constant contacts between them.
The Palestinian Authority's relations with the current crop of terrorist outfits is very similar. Hamas, the militant Islamic party that won the Palestinian elections last January and subsequently formed a government, has observed a self-imposed ceasefire with Israel for more than a year. Its "military wing,'' a largely separate organisation, has not, nor have various other radical groups whose main goal is to discredit mainstream Palestinian organisations that want a negotiated settlement with Israel.
Israel's past offers enough parallels that its government should and probably does understand that it has a choice: to ignore the extremists and talk about some kind of peace deal with the mainstream -or to use the extremists as an excuse not to talk to the mainstream either. It has chosen the latter option, and the current, vastly disproportionate Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are the evidence for it.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has big plans for imposing a "peace settlement'' and new frontiers on the Palestinians - frontiers that will keep all the bigger Jewish settlement blocks (plus all of Jerusalem, of course) within Israel. International political correctness requires that he negotiate this with the Palestinians, but he knows perfectly well that they could never agree to such a terrible deal. Why should they? So he must find a way of demonstrating that negotiations are impossible.
Olmert knows (even if Washington doesn't) that destroying the Hamas government will not bring the "moderates'' back to power. It will just create a power vacuum in the occupied territories that will be filled by all kinds of crazies with guns. Ideal circumstances for carrying out Olmert's plans, wouldn't you say?
- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Monday, August 7 2006
Are we going to allow genocide?
THE EDITOR: Are we once again seeing the true face of “God’s chosen people”? And are so-called civilised nations going to stand by and allow mayhem, murder and genocide to be perpetrated by “God’s chosen people” on the citizens of Palestine and Lebanon?
The Israelis have complained that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have breached UN Security Resolution 1559 and this gives them the right to start a reign of terror on thousands of innocent civilians and mercilessly destroy the city of Lebanon.
As I recall from my university days Israel has been the subject of dozens of UN Security Resolutions which have either been vetoed by either US co-conspirators or ignored by that state.
It did not take much research to locate the resolutions that came up before the United Nations between 1972 and 2006 and were vetoed by the USA. Please check out the number of resolutions that touched and concerned Israel.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Thursday, November 23 2006
VMCOTT buys $130M Israeli radar By Sean Douglas
UNC Senator Wade Mark wants to know why the Vehicle Maintenance Company of Trinidad and Tobago (VMCOTT) has semi-secretly purchased a $130 million radar surveillance system and other equipment from Israel for the Ministry of National Security.
The deal was unearthed yesterday in a sitting of the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee (PAEC) chaired by Mark which questioned VMCOTT’s acting CEO Joel Brown and fleet manager Ken Bissoon.
Mark said documents supplied by VMCOTT to the PAEC have raised questions about the purchases from two Israeli firms — Elta Systems Limited and Ectel Limited. “We asked you to provide us with invoices and specifications for the specialist hardware and software equipment purchased with loans that you have already specified for us and whether these transactions were subject to tender. You said it was sole selective tendering,” he said.
Mark thanked Brown for supplying invoices to the PAEC as regards loans for US$9.8 million (TT$60 million) and US$12 million (TT$72 million), a total of about TT$130 million, used for the controversial purchases.
“I looked through the invoices you have provided to this committee and I wondered if they were specially manufactured.”
Mark said not only were details sketchy in the import documentation, but that VMCOTT’s acting CEO, Joel Brown, now seemed in the dark.
“The Vehicle Maintenance Company of Trinidad and Tobago is spending over $130 million of taxpayers’ money to import from Israel ‘specialist hardware and software’ and we asked the question, ‘give us some specifications’, and you know what your response was ‘go and talk to the Ministry of National Security.’”
Holding up an Ectel Limited invoice, Mark scoffed in disbelief at its vagueness, saying, “This is how they supply invoices?!”.
Mark VMCOTT must account to the PAEC.
“We are not asking if it’s spying equipment — that’s another matter. We want to know the specifications of the material you imported because you might be involved in unlawful activities.”
Brown said he had given all VMCOTT’s available information.
“The more detailed information, I have not been able to find that on VMCOTT’s books or in VMCOTT’s files, and hence we referred that the best place to be able to identify that kind of specification would be the Ministry of National Security.”
Mark replied, “This is $130 million of taxpayers’ money, and we don’t have a clue as a Public Accounts Enterprises Committee as to the nature and specifications of what you imported. We need answers.”
Mark queried VMCOTT’s accountability.
“All they sent to you is an invoice, ‘number one — specialist hardware and software’. You in turn instruct the First Citizens Bank to issue millions of dollars on this basis?!”.
Mark asked Brown if he had inspected and cleared the shipment on the docks.
Brown said VMCOTT had placed the purchase order in 2003 before he and his current management team had taken office and he did not know the details. He said the Ministry of National Security would have given more details to the suppliers.
Independent Senator Mary King asked if Brown had sought details of the transaction upon assuming office as acting CEO. He said no.
King asked if upon assuming office Brown had questioned the rationale of the Ministry of National Security for routing its purchase through VMCOTT. Brown said no. He told King VMCOTT got no procurement fee.
King queried the invoice, saying, “The ‘job number’ is vacant, the number of ‘pieces’ is vacant, the kind of pieces tells us it’s a carton, that’s all the information you paid this money out on?!”
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, November 29 2006
Panday misread history. By George Alleyne
It was the forcing of the resettlement of Jews on Palestine in 1947, the establishing of the State of Israel by the United Nations in May of 1949, in Palestine, and the Jewish military-backed expulsion of Palestinians from lands their forebears had called home for generations which had triggered the hostilities haunting Palestine and the Palestinians to this day.
It was not a question of forcing “mixed communities” on Palestinians by the Israelis that caused the bloodshed, as former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday declared recently in commenting on Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s announcement of the establishment of mixed communities in former Caroni (1975) Limited sugar estates in Central Trinidad. Instead, Panday’s argument has no relevance to the comment by Manning on mixed communities. Equally, it bears no relevance to the sad, lingering Arab-Israeli confrontation over Palestine.
In addition, what relevance is there to the Administration’s implied intent of encouraging the settlement of Trinidad and Tobago taxpayers of varying economic, social and cultural backgrounds on lands managed by Government for the taxpayers, with the beneficiaries, presumably, being Trinidadians and Tobagonians? The beneficiaries would, and not without reason, include members of religious groups such a Muslim, Hindus and Christians; by age — the elderly, middle-aged and the young; by ethnicity — persons of Carib, Chinese, Indian, Jewish, Pakistani, English, French, Sierra Leonese, Nigerian, Spanish, Arawak and Gambian descent; by economic grouping — lower income, middle income and the defining can go on.
Unlike the resettlement of Jews in Palestine, who by nationality were Germans, French, Polish, Russian, American and Italian, among others, no one can readily state that persons of Carib and Arawak descent, whose ancestors may have left here when Spanish colonisers invaded Trinidad are planning to return en masse to reclaim ancestral lands by force! Should this take place, however, there would be understandable resistance. In much the same manner, I am certain, that there would be resistance to any attempt by former slaves, indentureds and colonisers seeking to resettle by force of arms in ancestral homes in, say, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, India, France, Spain, Pakistan, England, Gambia, Bangladesh or China.
There has been no public reference nor inference by Prime Minister Manning, nor his Housing Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, nor the Public Administration and Information Minister, Dr Lenny Saith, of housing in Central Trinidad by force any Trinidadians and Tobagonians, whatever their religious, ethnic, age or economic group. I wish to make clear that I am not saying that former Prime Minister Panday said that Government contemplated the use of force. What he did state, however, was; “You do not force mixed communities upon people, as the Israelis have found out on the West Bank, where they try to force one community upon another, as it ended up in bloodshed.” Please read my lips.
Let us examine the background to the Arab-Israeli confrontation. Almost immediately after World War I, the United Kingdom received a mandate from the then League of Nations to administer the affairs of Palestine, which up to then had been a part of the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire. Turkey, as readers will recall, had been one of the nations defeated by the Allies in World War I, and it was sharing or carving up time for the victors.
Meanwhile, European Jews, whose forbears had long left their ancestral lands had become increasingly uneasy following the rise in Germany, in 1931-1933, of Adolf Hitler and his Fascist National Socialist Party and their strident anti-Jewish propaganda and physical, indeed brutal attacks on Jews. In addition, in several other European countries, including Russia, anti-Semitism was on the rise. In this uncomfortable setting many Jews began to look toward Palestine and the establishment theme of a Zionist State. In 1937, the United Kingdom proposed to the League of Nations the participating of Palestine into what it projected would be an Arab-Jewish State. Two years later, in 1939, it put to the League that its (the UK’s) mandate be dismantled and an independent Palestine be established ten years later with limited Jewish immigration in the intervening period. I ask the reader to bear with me.
The immigration initiative which set limited targets for (the immigration of) Jews, required, in the run up to 1949, Arab agreement. Britain has not been called perfidious Albion for nothing. In November of 1947, however, the United Nations, which had replaced the League of Nations, introduced its well known partition plan. Thousands of Jews, most of them armed with sophisticated weapons entered Palestine, uninvited, and without legal authorisation. In late 1948, the United Kingdom yielded her Palestine mandate to the United Nations, and less than a year later, in May 1949, pulled out her military and naval forces.
The Jews immediately established the State of Israel, complete with a Constitution, and in the same month of the British withdrawal, (May, 1949) presto presto was admitted to the United Nations. It was this series of events and not mixed communities, Patrick Manning style, that had led to the bloodshed to which Panday has referred. The Zionists had won and Arab nationalism would suffer another in a series of major setbacks over the years. I wish to make clear to the reader that nothing I have written should be construed to mean that I am opposed to the existence of Israel as a State. It was merely to set the record straight.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, December 8th 2006
$100m off-budget Israeli deal. By Anna Ramdass
Government used the Vehicle and Maintenance Company of Trinidad and Tobago (VMCOTT) to purchase more than $100 million in equipment from Israel as that money was not in the budget and therefore had to be sourced off the books.
This was disclosed yesterday by acting Permanent Secretary in the National Security Ministry, Jennifer Boucard-Blake, at the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee meeting into VMCOTT at the Red House, Port of Spain yesterday.
Opposition Senator and chairman of the committee, Wade Mark, asked representatives of the National Security Ministry why million dollar equipment was purchased through VMCOTT for their ministry.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Glen Roach as well as Acting Superintendent of police John Clevant Felix were present.
Mark had questioned acting VMCOTT CEO Joel Browne on the matter at the previous PAEC meeting and he was unable to give answers.
Boucard-Blake admitted yesterday that the equipment which include a high-tech radar was procured from two Israeli companies through sole selected tendering.
She said that a decision was taken in 2002 based on the requirements of the technical staff of the National Security Ministry and a note was submitted to Prime Minister Patrick Manning who is head of the National Security Council.
She said the note was approved by the Council and ratified following which there was a consultation with the Finance Ministry .
Boucard-Blake said a confidentiality clause in the agreement made it necessary to have the information at VMCOTT "couched in a particular way in accordance with the confidentiality clause".
Independent Senator Mark King questioned why didn't the National Security Ministry do its own procurement instead of going through VMCOTT.
"I am not sure," responded Boucard-Blake who added that in terms of the financial transaction it was necessary to engage VMCOTT.
"You still don't know why they chose VMCOTT, they don't have the money, it came from the Ministry of Finance....what will be the rational for using VMCOTT?" King asked.
"I don't have that information at hand," responded Boucard-Blake who also said that VMCOTT was used on a prior occasion to procure vehicles so she presumed that it was on this precedent the company was used.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, June 23 2007
Three Middle East wars.
THE EDITOR: King Abdullah of Jordan suggested recently that the world could witness three civil wars in the Middle East and as circumstances unfold he appears to be right on target.
First, we have the Iraqi civil war initiated by the “US led” illegal and brutal invasion of Iraq and the indiscriminate slaughter of several thousands innocent Iraqis. America, because of its rampant ethic discrimination, mentions only the deaths of those “poor” American soldiers whom Rosie O’Donnell, the American talk show host, has described as the true terrorists.
Secondly, we are witnessing the civil war between the Hamas government and the Fatah faction in Palestine. Even though the Hamas faction won the election fairly, squarely and democratically, the hypocritical dissembling US-Israeli conspiracy supported by cowardly members of the European Union refused to recognise a democratically elected government and started a campaign of boycotts and other terror tactics designed to reduce Palestinians to beggars and vagrants.
Now that Fatah has occupied the West Bank, the Americans, Israelis and cowardly EU nations will pour money into that illegal regime in the West Bank while the Hamas government in Gaza is likely to face Dafur type starvation conditions. Yet the rest of the world looks on at this horrific situation and does nothing.
The third area of civil conflict in the Middle-East is the Lebanese/Hezbollah/Palestinian refugees conflict in Lebanon. The hands of the US/Israeli conspiracy is clearly apparent if one reads the newspaper reports coming out of that part of the world.
With three civil wars festering in the area Israel is free to cause more havoc either covertly or overtly and America is there to encourage and protect.
What is even more sinister is the approach of the majority of American politicians who repeatedly put the security of Israel before the security of the United States of America. If you pay close attention to the speeches of American politicians (in the media especially in the pre 2008 election run up) you will hear that sentiment expressed time and time again and many of those politicians are not even Jewish, given their surnames and origins eg Irish, British, Italian.
Even though Chairman Hu must also be aware, in true Chinese fashion, he remains observant but quiet for the time being.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Tuesday, September 18th 2007
Resa Gooding - Israel, my adopted home. By Kimberly Castillo
RESA GOODING's love for different cultures and languages has taken her from the relatively sleepy town of St Joseph to half way around the world in Israel.
Israel is the world's only Jewish state. Jerusalem is the nation's capital and the seat of government.
Gooding's move to Israel six months ago has been a life changing experience, especially for the 27-year-old who is a Roman Catholic. She wakes up every morning and is reminded of the places where Christ walked.
"Israel is a very beautiful place, after all it's the Holy Land right? There are so many places of interest to see and being a Roman Catholic it's especially exciting to see places like Jerusalem, the Lake of Galilee and the Jordan River come to life for you.
"You can never describe the feelings that you have when you actually trace the footsteps of the persons you only heard about in Church or when reading the Bible. It is truly exceptional and like the pilgrimage Muslims make to Mecca, I think every Christian needs to make this journey once in a lifetime."
A view of the controversial Golan heights which borders Syria
At 25, Gooding obtained her BSc in Economics at UWI Mona, Jamaica. Upon returning to Trinidad, she spent one year working with the nonprofit organisation "The National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) as the assistant to the President of the organisation. Gooding worked several other jobs after that but she felt that something was still missing.
"I still could not find my niche so I decided this is the best time to do what I always wanted to do - travel, learn new languages and experience different cultures."
Gooding always felt that for her own personal development, she needed to live outside of Trinidad for some time. China was her first choice, but an Israeli friend encouraged her to try Israel.
"And so here I am living my dream"
Initially, Gooding's parents was not exactly thrilled about their daughter's move to Israel.
Israel has been in conflict with several neighbouring Arab countries which has resulted in several wars and years of violence.
"My family has been supportive of my decision because I guess they understand me and know that I always wanted to do this. So they aren't taking it too badly now. I always tell them it's not as bad as it sounds and in some respects, it is safer than Trinidad is right now."
But adjusting to life in Israel didn't come easily for Gooding.
"At the beginning it was difficult to adjust to the new culture, the new food and especially living among 5 1/2 million Jews when I am not a Jew. It was difficult understanding their culture which is based mostly on their religion and their history as a people.
"For instance, their weekend is Friday and Saturday and not Saturday and Sunday because Saturday is their Sabbath. Hence, the work week is from Sunday to Thursday for most people and even sometimes a half day on Friday, so you really have one day for the weekend. But you think a weekend is a weekend like Trinidad? Of course not because they observe their sabbath very seriously so everything that is not located in Tel Aviv is closed. So sometimes it could get pretty boring if you are accustomed to a lively weekend like in Trinidad."
Gooding however hasn't allowed those "idiosyncrasies" as she called them to bother her, every new day is another learning experience for her.
"I have begun to appreciate the place and its people for more than what they seem to be. So I am trying to open myself a bit more to the experiences that I could have and understand what makes the country what it is today. After all, this is what I wanted, right? A new experience other than the seemingly good life I led in Trinidad."
Appreciating Israel for its rich abundant history and culture has also meant embracing the language. Arabic, Hebrew and English are spoken in Israel, but the mother tongue is Hebrew. Gooding studies Hebrew intensely everyday from 8am-1pm.
Gooding also tries to keep alive her Caribbean roots in the middle east. She works part time with a tour company organising tourist groups between Israel and the Caribbean.
"I am trying to expose the Israeli community to the Caribbean since its everyone's dream in Israel to be in the Caribbean one day although they really have no idea what it is like. So I'm now doing some promotional brochures for the company about some of the islands in the Caribbean as well as I hope to eventually have some groups from the Caribbean visit Israel as well"
Being so far away from home, Gooding misses her family and friends the most. Liming in Israel is not the same as in Trinidad - Gooding says this is due to the differences in culture as well as in personal taste. She also misses roti as she knows it.
"The closest there is to roti here is something called "Iraqi Pita bread" which is traditionally an Arab food but there is no good curry to accompany it."
But Gooding was not just educated in the customs and traditions of Israel, she also gained a greater understanding of the Holocaust. In Israel, tremendous respect is given to victims of the Holocaust.
One of the most memorable experiences Gooding had just weeks after she moved to Israel was visiting a Holocaust memorial.
Israel commemorates the Holocaust memorial day which is held in May.
Gooding was moved to tears upon meeting a survivor of the Holocaust whose relatives were not so fortunate.
"I felt so sad to know that she was the only member of her family left. She has no mother, no brothers or sisters, no aunts or uncles, no cousins, not one of her relatives survived."
Gooding hopes to see an improved Trinidad and Tobago the next time she visits.
"The population of Israel is approximately seven million people and they don't experience not even ten per cent of the high levels of crime that we do in Trinidad. Every evening I take my daily walking exercise in my neighbourhood around 8pm and I always tell my friends I am amazed I can do this. Reason being in Trinidad, I had a self imposed curfew just to reduce the possibilities of being a victim of any crime and I lived in St Joseph which I think is a relatively safe town."
She believes that Trinidad and Tobago has what it takes to achieve developed country
"Trinidad and Tobago has so much potential and if we harness our strengths in the right direction, we would be able to achieve our desired first-world status that we are aiming so much for."
No matter where Gooding makes her home, she has stayed true to her roots and will always be the Trini-girl with a vast imagination and drive to experience the world and all it has to offer.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Monday, December 31, 2007
Jumpstart for Palestine? By Marion O'Callaghan
“There are violences that are almost invisible,” the Editorial of Le Monde, December 18 stated. “The economic strangulation of the Palestinian territories by the Israel army is one of these. The checkpoints throughout the West Bank and the boycott imposed on Gaza in the name of “security” has resulted, during the last seven years, in a recession like no other recession.”
Le Monde was writing after the Funding Conference for the Palestinian territories held in Paris on December 17. This conference was one of the few practical results of the meeting at Annapolis (USA) on November 27. “The Palestinians,” Le Monde’s editorial continued, “have the sad record of being per head of population the most aided in the world...” This aid, which provides the salary of one out of every three Palestinians, remains a “crisis aid” unable to bring about either economic or political stability and progress. Rather, not only is there a high incidence of poverty in the Palestinian territories.
There has been an increasing gap between Palestinians of the West Bank and under Fatah, and Palestinians in Gaza, under Hamas and subject to the brunt of the boycott measures. The Paris funding conference raised 7.4 billion dollars to be used during three years.
The present Israel-Palestine crisis began with the elections for the Palestinian National Assembly. For the first time Arafat’s Fatah – the principal Liberation Movement – lost control of the Assembly. Fatah held the Presidency – on the death of Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas had been chosen by Fatah and the choice ratified by the Palestinians. But Fatah did not do as well in the local elections which followed. It lost the National Elections after a bruising campaign during which the Israeli Government allowed jailed Fatah militants to campaign for Fatah from Israeli prisons.
It was Hamas, the Islamist Party, which gained control of the National Assembly and a member of whom was therefore reluctantly called by Abbas to form the new government. Commentators, who had followed events in Palestinian areas, had reported on the increasing disillusionment in a Fatah seen by many Palestinians as corrupt, some of its officials as living the high life, and, in any event, unable to deliver.
This “unable to deliver” was particularly important. Until the death of Arafat the continuing and severe criticism of Arafat by Israel and by the USA gave the impression that there was a personal battle between at the time Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.
Mahmoud Abbas has been welcomed by George Bush as “someone we could do business with.” But the Jewish settlements continued to expand and new ones to be established – each settlement decreasing the land available to Palestinians, diverting the water so precious in this desertic country, and adding to the area criss-crossed by Israeli troops. True, Israel had withdrawn from the narrow strip of a land that was Gaza. But it had left Gaza easily isolated, separated from the other major Palestinian area: the West Bank, and with its economy total dependent on the good will of Israel. Mahmoud Abbas had not delivered.
Some commentators underlined that neither had Yasser Arafat been able to capitalise on the Oslo Conference. This had set up the Palestinian Authority, announced a Peace Route and then seemed impotent before the reluctance of Israel to withdraw behind the 1967 boundaries and before Israel encouragement of new settler colonies. Arafat’s reply was to launch the second Intifada. This too failed. All that it did was to increase sympathy for an Israel where families out on an excursion or celebrating a festival could be blown to pieces in a suicide attack.
Worse was the determination of Israel to erect a wall to keep out terrorists, said the Israeli Authorities; to grab more Palestinian lands, said the Palestinians. And so they voted for Hamas.
Hamas’ policy towards Israel seemed simple: no surrender, no recognition of Israel. In other words back to the Palestinian position that had obtained until Oslo. Indeed the refusal of Hamas to recognise the obligations that had been part of the Oslo agreements, increased Hamas standing among Palestinians divided even in Fatah, over Yasser Arafat’s Oslo agreement. The problem was that Hamas had burst onto the Israeli scene with the blowing up of a bus. It had not accepted the Oslo ceasefire – its suicide bombers had simply continued.
Worse, it made no secret of its links to Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon. The Hezbollah not only had links with both Syria and Iran. It had, during the 1980s, carried out a campaign of the kidnapping and massacres of Americans, Frenchmen and members of a UN team camped in the Lebanon. And it was widely believed within Lebanon that the ultimate goal of Hezbollah was the destruction of Lebanon as a joint Christian-Muslim Druze State, and its incorporation into a Greater Syria.
The impact of Hamas cannot be disassociated with events beyond Israel-Palestine and including Lebanon, Syria and Iran. It is these links which in part explain the opposition to Hamas on the part of the European Union and the USA and partly explains the 7.4 billion dollars US.
On the Terrorist List
Hamas is on the Terrorist List not only of Israel but of the USA and of the European Union. Its entry into government automatically brought with it sanctions from all three. Israel is the point of tax collections for the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli sanctions included the retention of these taxes, which are one of the major sources of the Palestinian Authority’s income. Both the USA and the European Authority immediately ceased all aid to the Palestinian Authority and all aid to refugees which it was felt could fall into the hands of Hamas.
The result was dramatic. The Palestinian Authority was unable to pay the salaries of its doctors, teachers, police, army, its employees. Hamas attempted to fill the gap through additional contributions from Arab States. The problem was both the reluctance of these States to run into conflict with the USA and the European Union, and the near impossibility of arranging bank transfers that could bypass the boycott. There was the otherwise hilarious situation of high-level Hamas members smuggling in briefcases of cash in order to give some money to striking Palestinian Civil Servants. The kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, this sequestration somewhere in Gaza did not help. It only brought in the Israeli Army. On the other hand, the kidnapping by the Hezbollah did change the balance of forces in the Middle East.
It would be wrong to see Israel as beaten in the war between herself and Hezbollah. Israel proved that it could destroy not only Sidon and Tyre relatively close to her border. She destroyed the infrastructure of most of Beirut, declenching the greatest migration of the Lebanese middle-class that had happened throughout the Israel-Palestinian conflict. However the majority of those who fled were Christian Lebanese or members of the much smaller Lebanese-Muslim middle class. Hezbollah dominance was therefore increased raising the spectre of a Hezbollah Lebanon on Israel’s borders. But it was the internal opposition to Israeli Government’s policy which was most serious for the Israeli Government. For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, influential Army Generals let it be known that the invasion of Lebanon was badly planned and bound to lead to military disaster.
A spreading conflict
As time went on, the conflict between Hamas and Fatah became imbricated in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. As the Iraqi situation continued, the USA was increasingly pressured by its allies in the Middle East: Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to do something about a Palestinian situation which tempted Al Qaeda into their countries, led to a growing axis between Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and through Shi’ite Iran with radical Shi’ite dissidents within Iraq.
In Gaza, as the situation there deteriorated, as Gaza like Bethlehem became only a prison, Hamas staged a coup d’état, eliminating the power of Fatah altogether. Abbas and his major colleagues retreated to a West Bank now cut off from Gaza. There in Gaza in 2006, over 35 percent of the population was unemployed. The important employment within Israel had dropped from 25 percent to 12 percent. Worse, Israel was now employing Romanians and Poles.
And the USA? The fear of an Iran poised to displace what was now a fragmented Iraq, made it increasingly urgent for both the European Union and a George Bush who had shown little interest in the Palestinian question for most of his time at the White House, to find a solution.
The solution was there. It was worked out by peacemakers in both Israel and among Palestinians, before Yasser Arafat’s death. It had found favour with Shimon Peres, the old socialist politician now President of Israel. The problem remained a Fatah unable to rule and a Hamas which seemed impossible to destroy.
And so the nomination of Tony Blair as a special envoy, the recommencement of talks and a 7.4 billion dollar US - given to Fatah to the exclusion of Hamas.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Friday, March 14 2008
Anything for that Green card.
THE EDITOR: Every time I see a picture of Israeli tanks and other armoured vehicles and soldiers moving into the Palestinian territory, a feeling of utter disgust wells up inside me and I keep wondering why are so many countries around the world, who also happen to be members of the UN, permitting this Palestine holocaust (a term used by Palestinian President Abbas and many others to continue.
Every time the Israelis/Hews want to go on a turkey shoot they move from Palestinian lands, occupied and stolen from the Palestinians, to lands inhabited by Palestinians. To many it appears that the Israelis are intent on the complete destruction of the Palestinians, and of course the United States of America has no objection to this as they too practised genocide against the Native Americans and committed crimes against humanity, against the Africans and to some extent the Mexicans whose lands they stole.
As for many of us in Trinidad, we salute and sing praises to God’s chosen children of Israel and will do anything for an American Green Card. America and Israel will eventually pay for their sins. We in Trinidad are paying for our sick love of things American with a rising and out of control crime rate. Is it not time we start acting with some maturity?
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Tuesday, March 30th 2010
Netanyahu's options. By Gwynne Dyer
By the time Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu left Washington last Wednesday night, after postponing his departure twice, there was general agreement in the American media that his visit had been disastrous. Congress gave him its uncritical support, of course, but his meeting with President Barack Obama went into overtime and ended without a photo op, a joint statement, or even a public handshake.
At the same time, the British government was warning its citizens that they risk having their passports cloned if they travel to Israel. Twelve members of the Israeli hit-team that murdered Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January used passports that had been cloned by Israeli officials at Ben Gurion airport from genuine British passports.
’Such misuse of British passports is intolerable,’’ said Foreign Secretary David Miliband. ’The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury.’’ He then ordered the expulsion of the head of the intelligence services at the Israeli embassy in London.
The French and German governments may do the same thing, for the Israeli assassins in Dubai used French and German passports too. But none of that will bother most Israelis, since they already see the Europeans as hypocritical and disloyal. ’I don’t want to offend dogs on this issue, since some dogs are utterly loyal,’ said Aryeh Eldad, leader of the far-right HaTikva Party. ’Who are [the British] to judge us on the war on terror?’’
But falling out with the loyal American dogs is a different matter entirely. Israel depends very heavily on the United States for weapons, financial aid and diplomatic backing, and now Netanyahu finds himself in a contest of wills with Barack Obama.
His problems with Washington became acute with the announcement, during Vice-President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel earlier this month, that 1,600 more homes for Jews would be built in occupied East Jerusalem. It was an ’insult to the US,’ said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as it deliberately sabotaged American attempts to restart peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
That, at any rate, is Washington’s interpretation of the event, and it certainly does resemble Netanyahu’s tactics during his previous stint as prime minister in 1996-1999. His goal has always been to expand Israeli settlement and control in the occupied territories and ward off any peace deal that hinders that process. So now that he finds himself in a direct confrontation with the White House, what are his remaining options?
One, obviously, is simply to give in and stop expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, while peace talks with the Palestinians proceed. That would cause the immediate collapse of the far-right coalition government Netanyahu now leads, but an alternative coalition including the centrist Kadima Party would not be hard to construct.
The main obstacle to that option is Netanyahu himself. Despite his reputation as a slippery character, he has always been rock-solid on the issue of land, particularly with regard to Jerusalem. ’Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital,’’ he said in Washington last week - and for him, that includes the eastern part of Jerusalem that Israel conquered in 1967 and subsequently ’annexed.’
International law does not allow that, and other countries do not recognise it. More than 40 years after the ’annexation,’ not one foreign embassy has moved up from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Netanyahu has nailed his colours to the mast on this subject, so unless Obama gives in the Israeli-American split will continue.
What other options does Netanyahu have? He can just wait for the wind to change in Washington. The mid-term Congressional elections get closer by the month, and Democratic members of Congress who fear that the powerful pro-Israeli lobby will subsidise the campaigns of their opponents will be begging Obama to let Netanyahu have his way.
It would be humiliating for the White House, but it’s almost traditional for American presidents to be humbled by Israel and they all survived the experience. And if, by some chance, Obama sticks to his guns and the confrontation really becomes a political liability for Netanyahu, he can always change the subject entirely by attacking Iran.
That is what he’d really like to do anyway. Whenever possible, he changes the subject from the thorny question of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the more comfortable topic of Iran’s alleged drive for nuclear weapons. This is an area in which Israeli and American views are very close (which is not to say that they are necessarily accurate).
Changing the subject in that way would require unilateral Israeli air strikes against Iran, and lots of them. Washington would be privately furious that Israel had embroiled it in a dangerous confrontation, but publicly it would have to back Israel’s play. So perhaps we should hope that Obama backs down at some earlier stage in the proceedings.
After all, it’s not as if the Israeli-Palestinian ’proximity talks’ that this confrontation is all about were actually going to produce anything useful.
- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, April 12th 2010
Nuclear summits. By Gwynne Dyer
The international agenda is jammed with high-level meetings on nuclear weapons: a UN-Russian treaty on cutting strategic nuclear weapons last week, a Washington mini-summit on non-proliferation this week, and a full-dress review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) next month. It’s tempting to believe that we are making real progress in getting rid of the things, but I wouldn’t get my hopes too high.
The ’New Start’ treaty between Washington and Moscow sounds impressive, committing the two powers to reducing their ’deployed strategic nuclear weapons’ to 1,550 each. That’s a 30 percent cut on what the two powers last agreed, in their 2002 treaty-but it’s not as impressive as it seems, because most of their nuclear weapons are not ’deployed strategic’ ones.
The two countries currently have over 8,000 other nuclear warheads ’awaiting dismantlement’, plus an unknown number of ’tactical’ warheads that are operationally available. They admit to having about 2,500, but those numbers are completely unverified and probably much lower than reality. Unofficial estimates suggest that Russia and the US really have at least 10,000 tactical nukes.
Add at least a thousand Chinese, British, French, Indian, Pakistani and Israeli nuclear warheads (plus a couple of North Korean ones that sort of work), and there are probably around 25,000 nuclear warheads on the planet. That’s fewer than there were at the height of the Cold War, but it’s still around one nuclear weapon for every 250,000 people on the planet.
With the right targeting pattern, therefore, you could still kill or maim almost everybody on the planet with the existing stock of nuclear weapons. In practice, of course, they are targeted at particular countries that should expect a much denser concentration of explosions in case of war. And the New Start treaty will eventually reduce that global total of nuclear weapons by only about seven per cent.
Besides, the US Senate will probably not ratify the treaty. It takes a two-thirds Senate majority-67 votes out of a hundred-to ratify a treaty, but all 41 Republican senators have already said that they will not support New Start. Their pretext is a non-binding statement in the treaty that recognises a link between ’offensive’ missiles and ballistic missile defence, but in practice it’s just Republican strategy to block every White House initiative.
President Barack Obama’s commitment to a world that is ultimately free from nuclear weapons seems genuine, but his real strategy right now is not focussed on the weapons of the existing nuclear weapons powers. What he really wants to do is strengthen the anti-proliferation regime, and for that he needed some symbolic movement towards nuclear disarmament from the US and Russia.
The problem with the NPT from the start was that the non-nuclear powers kept their promise not to develop nuclear weapons, while the great powers that already had them did not keep their parallel promise to get rid of them. After forty years of that, there is an understandable impatience among the non-nuclear majority, and New Start is the best piece of symbolism that Obama can come up with. It may not be enough.
Obama clearly hoped that the Washington summit of 47 countries this week would provide him with extra leverage at the major review conference on the NPT next month in New York. He could use it to bring pressure on Iran, a signatory of the NPT that he suspects of working secretly on nuclear weapons-but it turned out that other countries wanted to bring up Israeli nuclear weapons too.
Only four countries in the world have not signed and ratified the NPT. Three of them, India, Pakistan and North Korea, have openly developed and tested nuclear weapons. The fourth, Israel, refuses to confirm or deny that it has nuclear weapons, but it is generally reckoned to have at least 200 of them, plus a variety of delivery vehicles.
For almost fifty years Israel has got away with this ’creative ambiguity’, but it was inevitable that it would be pressed to come clean if any other Middle Eastern country started working on nuclear weapons. The sheer hypocrisy of turning a blind eye to Israel’s nukes while condemning a country like Iran for allegedly seeking them too would become unsustainable. And so it has.
Egypt and Turkey are leading a campaign to have the Middle East declared a nuclear weapons-free zone. Their real concern is Iran’s putative nukes, but it is politically impossible for them to criticise Iran’s ambitions while ignoring the reality of Israeli nuclear weapons, so they decided to bring them up in Washington.
As soon as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu realised that was going to happen, he cancelled his plan to attend the conference and sent his deputy, Dan Meridor, to take the flak instead.
Netanyahu is already in a bitter confrontation with Obama over Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It would not help to have Netanyahu stone-walling on Israeli nuclear policy at the Washington meeting and personally sabotaging Obama’s attempt to strengthen the NPT treaty. Better to have a subordinate do it instead.
So no dramatic progress soon on non-proliferation, but Obama’s initiative has not yet failed. Subjects that have been taboo for decades are being openly discussed, and real progress on non-proliferation is becoming a possibility.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, May 7th 2008
Two takes on terrorism. By Gwynne Dyer
"Terrorism,'' like "fascism," is one of those words that people routinely apply to almost any behaviour they disapprove of. We had a particularly impressive spread of meanings on display last week.
At one extreme, the US State Department released its annual "Country Reports on Terrorism," a Congressionally mandated survey of all the incidents that the United States officially regards as terrorism. There were, it said, 14,499 such attacks last year. (That's 71 down from the previous year, so there is hope.)
At the other extreme, the RevJeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor and current nemesis, when asked to justify his earlier remark that the 9/11 attacks on the United States were "America's chickens coming home to roost,'' helpfully explained that the US had dropped atomic bombs on Japan and "supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans,'' so what did Americans expect?
"You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you,'' Wright elucidated. "These are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles.'' So it was presumably God who selected a bunch of Saudi Arabians and Egyptians to punish the United States for its misdeeds against Japanese, Palestinians and South Africans.
Mass slaughter of the innocent as a tool of divine justice is a familiar concept in the Bible (Jericho, Sodom and Gomorrah, the seven plagues of Egypt, etc.), and it would have held equal appeal for the 19 Arab fanatics aboard those hijacked aircraft on 9/11. The ancient Hebrews were quite partial to divine terrorism, too, since it served their purposes so well.
But divine terrorism doesn't really qualify under the State Department's definition, since God, even when he perpetrates "premeditated, politically motivated violence...against non-combatant targets,'' is not acting as a "sub-national group or clandestine agent.'' He is more of a sovereign Power in his own right. This puts Him in the same category as sovereign states, whose actions, however violent and even illegal, cannot by definition be described as "terrorism.'' If you don't believe me, ask the State Department.
So much for Jeremiah Wright's attempt to define the American use of nuclear weapons against Japan as terrorism. It was terrible and terrifying, and it was intended to terrorise the Japanese people into surrender, but it was not terrorism. Neither are Israeli actions against the Palestinians, even when ten or 20 Palestinians are dying for every Israel victim of Palestinian terrorism, and a high proportion of the dead Palestinians are innocent civilians. Israel is a state, so by definition what it does cannot be terrorism.
Now that that's clear, let's move on to what the US State Department does define as terrorism. The first thing that strikes you, reading the "Country Reports on Terrorism,'' is that 6,212 of "the terrorist attacks,'' over two-fifths of all the 14,499 that it records for last year, were in Iraq. Might that be connected in some way with the fact that Iraq was invaded by the United States five years ago and for all practical purposes remains under US military occupation?
Algerian rebels used similar tactics against French imperial rule, including numerous brutal attacks on innocent civilians. So did the Mau Mau guerillas against their British colonial masters in Kenya, and the Viet Cong against the American presence in South Vietnam, and other people fighting against foreign occupation or domestic oppression in dozens of other countries. Their tactics were regularly condemned by their targets, but nobody tried to pretend that the world was facing a wave of irrational and inexplicable violence called "terrorism.''
Yet that is precisely the assumption that underlies the State Department's annual reports on "terrorism," and indeed the Bush administration's entire "war on terror.'' Or rather, it is the perspective through which the report's authors want the rest of the world to see the troubles in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on, for they cannot be so naive that they truly believe the link between the presence of US occupation troops and a high level of terrorist attacks is purely coincidental.
You can see the same perspective at work in the distinction that is made between Israeli attacks on Palestinians (the legitimate actions of a sovereign state) and Palestinian attacks on Israelis (terrorism). Thus US support for Israel is also legitimate, while Iranian support for Palestinian militants makes Iran the "most active state sponsor of terrorism.''
Others play this game too - notably the Russians in Chechnya - but it is really an American innovation. Leading neo-conservative Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defence Policy Board, famously declared in 2002 that "terrorism must be de-contextualised,'' but the process was already well underway in practice. And so, deprived of context, terrorism sits there as a uniquely wicked and inexplicable phenomenon, while legitimate states and armies can get on with the business of killing people in legitimate wars.
Jeremiah Wright is a narcissistic and embittered man who says many stupid and untrue things (like accusing the US government of spreading HIV/AIDS among the African-American population), but you can see why he got a little confused on the terrorism issue.
- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Thursday May 15 2008
Israel, an attractive market for local entrepreneurs. By Aabida Allaham
A NATION torn by war, Israel is now being hailed as one of the most promising markets for local and regional business entrepreneurs.
"Israel is one of the best economies that a potential investor from the Caribbean or Latin America should explore," according to Resa Gooding, a Trinidad-born economist living in Israel.
"The economy is in a boom even though they don't produce oil and the conditions for investment are just right."
As Israel celebrates 60 years of independence, it can now boast of having a market economy that is technologically advanced and in possession of a highly skilled and educated workforce.
"Israel's economy is very strong and will continue to have average growth rates between four to five per cent per year," she added "the Israeli Shekel is now one of 17 currencies being traded on the currency market making it available in 80 countries around the world."
As a result of this, Gooding said that Israel was currently seeking trading partners around the globe.
Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturing Association's (TTMA) representative, Marc Sandy said that once you put aside the fact that the country was war torn, trading with them was a very good idea.
"The TTMA position is one that is in favour of widening market access, both for import from and export to Israel," he added, "once these trade relations can be conducted independent of the regional / international political activity that surrounds the country."
According to Gooding, even though Israel is very poor in natural resources, it has managed to host several successful industrial sectors including metal products, biomedical equipment and a substantial sector for diamond cutting and polishing.
Israel has therefore signed Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, the United States, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Jordan and Egypt. In addition to these agreements, she added that it became the first non-Latin American country to sign free trade agreements with Mercosur.
While in Israel, Gooding hopes that she can establish an Israeli consulate in Trinidad, whereby import/export transactions can take place with ease.
According to the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute (IEICI), Israeli companies have earned the reputation for creating cutting edge technology, which has placed them in a new light with other global markets, consequently being nicknamed "silicone valley" by Bill Gates.
As a result, Advanced Vision Technology, the leading Israeli developer and manufacturer of automatic inspection systems for web applications along with its subsidiary, Graphic Microsystems Incorporated, provider of closed-loop colour control, remote ink control and colour management solutions will be launching new solutions for a variety of printing applications as part of their joint presence at Drupa 2008, which will run from May 29 to June 11 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Apart from being a world leader in software development for firms such as Microsoft, Google and Intel, it also possesses a fast developing packaging and plastics industry. The IEICI said that this industry comprises of 120 companies backed by a workforce of over 20,000 employees who together exported a total of US$222 million annually.
Kriyaa Balramsingh, an economist at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, geographic proximity might prove to be a hindrance.
"There are no direct air links or shipping routes so I cannot say if there will be any trade agreements in the foreseeable future," he added. "In the absence of trade agreements, companies will have to pay all applicable tariffs."
However, Christian Moutett of VEMCO limited said trading with Israel was like trading with any other country.
"If their products and services are of good quality and they have competitive pricing, I don't see distance being an issue," he added. "We currently trade with Israel to bring in medical supplies such as syringes for one of our subsidiary companies, Smith Robinson."
As far as security is concerned, Gooding told the Business Express that despite Israel's tumultuous relations with nearby Arab states, the nation's security is extremely vigilant and the country has managed to significantly reduce the number of incidents since 2005.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Tuesday August 5th 2008
The politics of indecision. By Gwynne Dyer
"I am proud to be a citizen of a country where the prime minister can be investigated like an ordinary citizen,'' said Ehud Olmert on July 30, announcing that he would resign as prime minister in September to defend himself against corruption allegations. He should be even prouder: three of Israel's last four prime ministers were under investigation for corruption when they left office.
To be fair, it was a stroke, not the corruption charges he was facing, that finally drove Ariel Sharon from office, and Binyamin Netanyahu subsequently beat the charges against him after being forced out as prime minister. Politics in Israel is a blood sport, and only the strong survive.
Not one of the country's last five prime ministers has managed to serve out a full term of office.
What happens next is hard to predict. Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, and Shaul Mofaz, former army chief of staff and now transportation minister, are the leading candidates to succeed Olmert as leader of the Kadima party, but even if the succession struggle does not split Kadima and wreck the ruling coalition, an election is probably no further away than the spring of 2009. The likely winner of that election is Bibi Netanyahu, who is once again the leader of the right-wing Likud party.
Indeed, the main thing that has kept Ehud Olmert in office for the past two years, despite the disastrous miscalculation of his 2006 war against Lebanon, has been the fear on the centre and left of Israeli politics that the only alternative was a return to power by Netanyahu. And that, in turn, is a reflection of the great division that paralyses Israeli politics: between those who think the "demographic danger'' requires major compromises on territory, and those who do not.
The demographic danger is that Israeli Jews will end up as a minority within the territory ruled by Israel. It is almost a reality already: the 600,000 Jews who lived in Israel when it was founded in 1948 have grown to six million, but despite the huge number of Palestinians who fled to surrounding countries in the various wars, a higher birth rate means that there will soon also be six million Arabs living in territory under Israeli control. And then there will be seven million, and then eight million...
Only a little over a million Palestinian Arabs still live within Israel's 1948 borders and actually have Israeli citizenship, but the rest are not far away, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which have been under Israeli control for more than 40 years. If Israel does not find a way of turning those territories into a separate Palestinian state, then sooner or later they will shift from supporting the "two-state solution'' to demanding the one-state solution.
Olmert was absolutely clear: if this single political space persists, and the Palestinians become the majority population within it, they will stop asking for their own state. They will just demand the vote - and Israel will have to choose between granting them their demand and ceasing to be a Jewish state, or rejecting it and ceasing to be a democracy.
That dilemma has been implicit ever since the Israeli conquests of 1967. It is now explicit and imminent. In fact, it is already the position of the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip. So Olmert wanted to make a deal that gave the Palestinians their own state, in order to preserve an Israel that was both Jewish and democratic.
He never even came close, partly because the Palestinians are now deeply ambivalent about the two-state solution, but mainly because the Israeli electorate has never been able to choose between the two options.
Too many Israelis want to hang onto the territories and preserve a Jewish democracy, and do not accept that those goals are incompatible. Binyamin Netanyahu was their standard-bearer in the late 1990s, deliberately sabotaging the Oslo accords when he was prime minister, and he still is today.
Olmert, for all his faults, backed the two-state option. Netanyahu does not, although he says whatever is necessary to placate Washington, and he will probably be back in power within a year. The long paralysis in Israeli politics will continue.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, August 11 2008
The case for reparations. By William Lucie-Smith
Emancipation Day has come and gone and there were a few muted calls for reparations for the crime of slavery which have fallen on largely deaf ears. While the vast majority of the world will accept that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were crimes against humanity this same majority are willing to ignore the claims for reparations.
A placard held by a participant in the Emancipation Day celebrations referred to the reparations paid by Germany to Israel for the holocaust. This example of reparations gives us a good idea of the problems faced in arriving at equitable reparations for slavery. In 1952 the German Chancellor (Konrad Adenauer) negotiated with the state of Israel and agreed to compensation for property looted by Nazis and for the expense of relocation of 500,000 holocaust survivors who had gone to Israel as refugees.
The Israeli premier (David Ben Gurion) was pleased to settle (despite strong opposition) because the new state of Israel needed the compensation. He stated, "There are two approaches. One is the Ghetto Jew's approach and the other is of an Independent people. I don't want to run after a German and spit in his face I want to sit here and build here "
The compensation of three billion marks paid over 14 years was vital to the development of Israel. Subsequently in 1999 a further fund was set up to assist holocaust survivors in difficulty that was underwritten by companies (mostly German like BMW, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank). Many individual initiatives have been taken to recover assets that could be traced.
Today, just over 60 years from the holocaust and 56 years since the settlement, Germany is Israel's largest trading partner. In March 2008 Germany held a cabinet meeting in Israel and Chancellor Angela Merkel signed off on a number of joint projects in education, defence and the environment. Merkel also publicly referred to Germany's "Holocaust shame" in a speech to the Knesset in March 2008 and reaffirmed Germany's staunch support for the state of Israel. Many young Germans, however, now see the holocaust as ancient history and believe they are in no way responsible for the crimes of their grandparents.
The reparations for the holocaust are instructive. Other than personal litigation only bilateral agreements between nations could resolve the issue. No cash was paid to individuals except as could be won by litigation about stolen assets. The reparation agreement followed swiftly after the crime, and was agreed to by a repentant and guilty German nation itself in economic turmoil. The subsequent reconciliation over less than a generation is extraordinary and rivals the achievements of Nelson Mandela in post-apartheid South Africa.
Reparations for slavery can easily be dismissed if looked at in a simplistic way. Emancipation was over 170 years ago and it is not simple to prove exactly who suffered loss and who was responsible. Because I was born white does not make me responsible for the crime of slavery.
Among the world's highest earners it is no surprise that many are black. Oprah Winfrey does not need to collect money for being the descendant of a slave. Indeed she has made films (The Color Purple) to educate about the history of the post-slavery era and reinvested her own wealth in helping educate the underprivileged young women of South Africa. A descendant of slaves, she is contributing to reparations.
Trinidad's leading proponent of reparations was the late Anglican Canon Kwame Mohlabani, who said reparations "did not mean paying large sums of money to the relatives of slaves. It meant the provision of goods, services and monuments to the African communities."
The understanding of the slave trade and emancipation are essential to understanding West Indian history. Dr Eric Williams's iconic work, Capitalism and Slavery, demonstrates that there is no question that economic wealth was built on the slave trade and that it was a crime against humanity. It is perhaps ironic that the descendants of former slaves in North America and the Caribbean are largely better educated and have a higher standard of living than those who remained free in Africa.
The Caribbean as a whole must continue to seek reparations not just for slavery but also for the economic impact of colonialism. These reparations can take the form of preferential trade agreements and economic aid to the underprivileged. These reparations
should be seen in the light of the obligation of the privileged and wealthy to assist the disadvantaged towards a better future. That is no longer about black or white or individual liability. It is about collective responsibility of colonial nations and the responsibility of the US government for discrimination (Jim Crow laws).
The principle is about economic justice and equal opportunity. Affirmative action is an obligation for all of us because we must all be held collectively responsible for reparations and assisting the underprivileged.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, November 9 2008
Obama must attack Israel's apartheid. By Raffique Shah
PALESTINE. Afghanistan. Iraq. Cuba. These countries form the pillars on which President-elect Barack Obama, if he is to achieve his stated aim of a peaceful world, must rebuild America's image abroad. I deliberately chose the order I did because I am convinced that for as long as three million Palestinians remain enslaved in an apartheid system worse than what prevailed in South Africa, there can be no peace in Iraq or anywhere else in the world.
I have also chosen to focus first on America's foreign policy rather than its more urgent economic dilemma. The domestic mess that George Bush has saddled his successor with must be of prime concern to Obama. But the new president can call on hundreds of highly competent American patriots, even some foreign experts, to help him wrestle with this monster.
America's foreign policy priorities are more complex, and, I suggest, of equal importance. Based on statements he made during the campaign, clearly Obama sees extricating America from Iraq as his most urgent challenge. Most Americans want out of that hellhole that is partly responsible for their economic woes. For some time now, top military officers have advised there is no way either to consolidate America's occupation of Iraq, or to hand it over to a strong central government.
The fact is the Bush Gang-Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, to name the top three-took America into two unjustified, unnecessary, costly wars. They have lied, conspired and sacrificed young American lives like the heartless beasts they are. They have murdered millions of Iraqis, tens of thousands of Afghans. They destroyed Iraq, a once thriving country, even if its ruler, Saddam, was a son-of-a-bitch. On the campaign trail Obama vowed to withdraw from Iraq but focus on Afghanistan and bin Laden.
That would be a grave error. Because the source of the problem in almost all these theatres of war and the root of Islamic "terrorism", lie in Palestine. America must come to terms with the reality that there are three million of these people condemned to living in the most atrocious conditions, many for generations, because of Zionist inhumanity. Another five-or-so million live in the Diaspora in neighbouring Arab states, while many more have migrated to distant lands.
Their daily struggle for bare existence seems to escape our minds as we focus on Darfur, the Congo and scores of other trouble spots. The Zionists (very distinct from Jews in general), have imposed apartheid in and around Israel. America has kept Israel's war machine well oiled. By proxy, America is supporting one of the last bastions of this kind of rabid and brutal racism. Obama should be able to identify with that: if he can't, just ask Jesse Jackson or Nelson Mandela.
A few months ago a delegation from the ANC in South Africa visited the West Bank and Gaza. In their report, they said they were shocked at the inhumane conditions under which millions of Palestinians lived. "It is worse than anything we ever experienced in South Africa, under the apartheid system," one of them said. We did not need the ANC to tell us that. But the world-and this includes many wealthy Arab countries-has ignored this problem for far too long.
It is not why bin Laden became what he is today: that has its genesis in another American misadventure, back in the 1980s, during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. But what followed with 9/11 and the globalisation of "terrorism" in many countries across the world, can be traced to the "Palestinian question". Bear in mind the Palestinians are not all Muslims: among them are Druze and Christians. There is no distinction when Israel brings its massive firepower to bear on them. As recent as last week many were killed, Israel's usual excuse being they went after "a militant hideout".
Obama must ask himself why is it whenever the Israelis or American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan target "militants", it's always ordinary people, especially children, who suffer most? Every time a drone strikes in Pakistan, it flattens schools or parts of villages with no regard for the lives of ordinary people. How can America win friends when it engages in genocide, when you kill people because of their race or religion?
These inhumane acts against different people who have only one thing in common-Islam as their religion-are what spawn more bin Ladens. If there is peace in that part of the world, there would be little reason for fundamentalist Muslims to attack "enemies", perceived or real. Al Qaeda would have fewer recruits seeking vengeance if apartheid is dismantled.
On the night Obama won the US presidential election, people across the world saw in his victory hope for a better world. Among them must have been Palestinian women and children, victims of the Darfur genocide as well as the thousands fleeing for their lives in the Congo. He cannot afford to disappoint the wretched of the earth. Sure, he needs to "fix America first". But coming after a disaster named Bush, his challenge is to repair America's image across the world.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, November 26 2008
Listening in...'Phone calls, e-mails of high-profile citizens monitored for past two years'.
THE country's top politicians, business people, trade unionists, journalists, social activists and legal practitioners have been monitored-via high-tech equipment bought from Israel-for the past two years by a national security agency for political purposes, according to an investigation by TV6 News.
The current TV6 series, titled Spy Games... They're Listening, which has been aired nightly since last week, and continues until Friday, has so far named some of the politicians, lawyers and activists who have been monitored.
The station says its information came from high-level national security officials who are involved in the monitoring operations, and have spoken on the strict condition of anonymity.
According to TV6, the equipment that does this monitoring is called Trilogue.
It is a high-tech system that records telephone and e-mail communications by word recognition, where a computer is programmed to record conversations which mention specific words.
It was purchased by the Vehicles Maintenance Company of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005 from Israeli company Ektel Ltd, which is a sub-company of America's Verint Systems Ltd, which sells high-tech wiretapping systems strictly to government and law enforcement agencies throughout the world.
The TV6 report claims this equipment cost taxpayers $60 million and has since been used by a top secret agency in the National Security Ministry-the Office of Strategic Services-and the Special Anti-Crime Unit, to monitor the private conversations of several high-profile citizens.
Some of these people have spoken to TV6 on record, saying they were aware that they were being monitored, and in some instances, told so by senior members of the ruling party.
This information, TV6 claims, goes to the Prime Minister and National Security Minister. The station quotes Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC, and Law Association president Martin Daly, SC, as saying that Prime Minister Patrick Manning confirmed that the monitoring is taking place, when he said during the Budget debate in September that he had commissioned a National Security agency to monitor Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar after he received reports that she had a contact in the Integrity Commission.
The attorneys have also claimed the monitoring, and SAUTT, are illegal.
TV6 News said the Prime Minister, National Security Minister and SAUTT were asked to comment on their information. None denied that monitoring was taking place, it said.
The Prime Minister has not responded.
The National Security Minister has said, via his Media Advisor Irene Medina, that "it would be highly irresponsible for the Ministry of National Security to discuss publicly and in detail the operations of national security agencies in this country".
And SAUTT has said: "Criminal intelligence-gathering plays an important role in the fight against crime. SAUTT seeks to gain criminal intelligence which can assist it in targeting specific serious crimes.
"SAUTT is an intelligence-led organisation, but our resources are used to target criminals and solve crime. They are not used to spy on law-abiding citizens. SAUTT has never, and will never, spy on parliamentarians or the innocent citizens of Trinidad and Tobago."
TV6 News continues its series for the rest of the week, examining the legal ramifications of the alleged Government-sponsored monitoring.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, November 30 2008
Express Editorial: That right to privacy.
The fact that American intelligence has kept a file on former prime minister Tony Blair, even after these close allies had an agreement not do so, should not surprise anyone. If in the interest of national security President Bush decides that e-mail and other electronic communications of citizens and residents be monitored, spying on close allies can be no big thing. Espionage in its various forms has been part of human history.
All countries have their interests and to protect these interests, be they internal or external, intelligence gathering is the norm. Of course, in totalitarian states intelligence becomes of paramount importance to keep track of internal dissident forces. We have only to remember the Gestapo of Nazi Germany. But even in the functioning democracies state intelligence authorities may gather intelligence on its citizens as well as those in other countries and have been known to carry out actions against others on orders from or with the approval of governments.
But no one can really argue that there must be no surveillance or intelligence gathering. At its more civilised practice, embassies constantly gather general intelligence about their host countries routinely reporting to their governments. At its secretive best all sorts of intelligence is gathered passively or actively.
In the developed world there are mechanisms to protect citizens against abuse. In one it may be through judicial oversight. In others it may be through ministerial oversight according to established procedures. But here we have a serious problem. Our Constitution gives every citizen "the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life". Yet we are told that millions have been spent on Israeli information gathering technology that has been deployed. We are even told by Prime Minister Patrick Manning that he has had an intelligence agency investigate MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar's alleged access to confidential information from the Integrity Commission.
Now the issue is not whether the country should not have an intelligence agency, but that there are ground rules applied supported by law. We are sure that most citizens will in the interest of good order in our society support effective intelligence, especially in criminal and terrorist matters. On the other hand we expect that many will shudder at the prospect of an intelligence agency with seemingly unlimited powers under the direction of the Prime Minister or other ministers who will hide behind the blanket of national security.
There is a perception that phone tapping is prevalent. What we find disturbing is that two Senior Counsel have stated clearly that there is no law in the country that permits phone tapping. If phone tapping is practised Cabinet is breaching the law and violating constitutional rights of citizens.
Only law and judicial oversight will suffice.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, December 14 2008
Anti-smuggling spy gear missing. By Richard Charan Investigative Desk
Surveillance equipment meant to find smugglers bringing guns, drugs and people from South America has been dismantled and removed from its lookout point in Cedros.
The radar, which is part of Prime Minister Patrick Manning's much lauded 360-degree coastal defence system, was first reported as being broken, back in February.
Last week, the Sunday Express confirmed reports from police sources in Cedros that the equipment had gone missing.
The installation was manned round the clock by Coast Guard officers monitoring screens which showed the movement of vessels in the Gulf of Paria, the Serpent's Mouth, and on Trinidad's south coast.
The system was hooked up to feed images to intelligence officers working within the Office of the Prime Minister at a location in Port of Spain.
The existence of the department has never been publicly acknowledged.
Citing national security concerns, Coast Guard officials have consistently declined to give information about the equipment.
The Coast Guard's communications officer, Lt Kirk Jean Baptiste, asked that a written request for information be made to Coast Guard Commanding Officer Jewan Ramoutar. The Sunday Express sent the request on Friday and has not received a reply up to yesterday.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning said last Thursday that national security would improve when the State acquires new assets. The State has paid down on three offshore patrol vessels which are being built in England at a cost of more than $2 billion.
The vessels are to be delivered in 2011.
The unprotected bays and coves on Trinidad's south-western Peninsula are considered a major point of entry for all things illegal.
Within the past month, five fishermen have reported attacks in the waters off Icacos Point by Spanish-speaking pirates who seemed to be working with the help of locals.
Cedros police said they have never received any call alerting them to offshore attacks and the incident happened without the knowledge of Coast Guard officers, who are based at Bonasse Village, Cedros.
Two Coast Guard interceptor vessels are stationed at the Cedros base.
In October 2007, the radar on the San Fernando Hill was removed for repairs, after malfunctioning for several months. There are also problems with the installation in Moruga.
National Security Minister Martin Joseph has said that the breakdown on one installation does not compromise the capability of the system, purchased from Israel.
Few knew of the equipment until 2006 when it was revealed in Parliament that the government had used the Vehicle and Maintenance Company of Trinidad and Tobago (VMCOTT) to buy the devices, known as the Advanced Coastal Surveillance radar (ACSR).
It has the capability to detect submarine periscopes and airborne targets in all weather, from a command centre on a colour screen showing the outline of the country's coastline.
The equipment was purchased after a 2001 visit to Israel by Prime Minister Manning to meet with then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, December 31 2008
Turning a blind eye on Gaza's crisis.
Looking at a map of Israel, it's really surprising how the native Palestinians have been corralled in such a small sliver of land (around the size of Trinidad) called Gaza.
The recent bombings have been horrendous. Why isn't anyone in Trinidad and Tobago raising an alarm? Is it that killing Muslims is equivalent to killing terrorists, so it's okay? A total of 1,148 Palestinians dead or wounded in retaliation for five Israelis killed can never be justified in my opinion.
Is anyone in Trinidad and Tobago concerned? What's the Government's position? There are major international catastrophes taking place and local ones also. Be aware and get involved and let's make a small difference!
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, January 2nd 2009
Battlefield Gaza. By Gwynne Dyer
Yosef Sheinin, the chief rabbi of Ashdod, was understandably distraught at the funeral of Irit Shetreet, one of four Israelis to be killed by Palestinian rockets since Israel launched its bombing campaign against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Sunday. However, he was wrong to say that her death was "the latest manifestation of 3,000 years of anti-Jewish hatred." The hatred is real, but its sources are a good deal closer both in time and in space.
Western media coverage of current affairs rarely goes into the origins of those affairs: even what happened last year or ten years ago is treated as ancient history. So the fury and despair of the million and a half residents of the Gaza Strip can easily seem incomprehensible- the "bottomless hatred of wild beasts," as Sheinin put it. Why do these Palestinians fire murderous rockets at innocent civilians in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, even Beersheva?
Because that's where they come from. Only about a fifth of the Gaza Strip's population is descended from people who lived in that barren stretch of land before 1948. The rest are people, or the children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren of people, who were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war, or simply fled in fear and were not allowed to go home again afterwards. Their former homes were mostly in the south of former Palestine, in places like Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva.
This does not give them the right to launch rockets at the people who now live in those towns, of course, any more than Israel has the right to use its massive air power to pound the crowded Gaza Strip. But it does provide some context for what is happening now-and indeed, happens every year or so. This struggle is still about what it has always been about: the land. And the fact that Israel is killing a hundred Palestinians for every dead Israeli does not mean that the Israelis are winning.
Ehud Olmert, Israel's interim prime minister, and Tzipi Livni, his successor as head of the Kadima party, and Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party and her principal rival for the prime ministership in next month's Israeli election, all know that. They are all old enough to have watched Israel try to bash the Palestinians into submission half a dozen times before, and they know it does not work. But that is strategy, and this is politics.
For Israel's political leaders, this is mainly about looking tough in front of an electorate that just wants someone to "do something" about the Palestinians and their rockets. Nothing much can be done, short of a peace settlement generous enough to reconcile them to the loss of their land, but Israeli politicians have to look like they are trying. Hundreds of people are dying in the Gaza Strip to provide that show.
The Hamas leaders are equally cynical, since they know that every civilian death, and even every militant's death, helps to build popular support for their organisation. The dead are pawns, and the game is politics.
No wonder there is such lack of enthusiasm elsewhere for spending much effort on trying to persuade the two sides to agree to a ceasefire.
They will stop when they have achieved their (purely tactical and short-term) political goals.
There is a more profound issue behind all this, which is Israel's right to exist versus the right of the Palestinians to their homeland, but we shouldn't get carried away with the unique moral dimension of all that.
It's just one more conquerors-versus-previous-inhabitants conflict, like the European settlers versus the Indians in the Americas in the eighteenth century-or, for that matter, the Israelites versus the Canaanites three thousand years ago.
Those earlier conflicts were all settled by force, but the world has changed and force doesn't work so well any more. Israel has the power to hammer the Palestinians endlessly, but they don't give up and go away.
They cannot, and neither can the Israelis. Neither side can eliminate the other, as has been amply and repeatedly demonstrated.
That doesn't necessarily mean that this conflict will ultimately be settled by peaceful negotiation and compromise. It may mean that there will be no solution of any sort for the foreseeable future, just an endless series of bloody, indecisive clashes like the present one. Happy New Year.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, January 4th 2009
Express Editorial: Elusive Peace.
THE deadly offensive launched by Israel in the complicated Gaza region on December 27 has once again exposed the complex set of factors which make a comprehensive peace in this region next to impossible.
It has virtually put paid to the last-ditch efforts of the Bush administration in the United States to significantly advance the process one last time before its term ends. This will take place with the inauguration and the transfer of power to the new President, Barack Obama, on January 20.
As his tenure comes to a close, US President George W. Bush is making one last push for peace, with the outgoing Secretary of State making numerous international trips towards this end.
Dr Condoleezza Rice has therefore to be among the large number of world leaders disappointed by the outcome, with the decision of the government in Tel Aviv to take the action it has.
From the first five days of this offensive, Israel is reported to have carried out some 500 sorties against its targets, aiming at the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas, which has itself been launching missile attacks against Israeli targets.
This, the Israeli government has said, is what led to this latest offensive, insisting that its mission was not to target civilians and non-combatants in the process. International human rights observers in the region have reported death and destruction of civilians in the process, however.
During an offensive on New Year's Day, for example, Israel reported that it had killed Nizar Rayan, a 52-year-old member of the Hamas leadership. But two of Rayan's four wives and four of his 12 children were also said to have been killed in the air strike on a building in which they were residing, according to Palestinian health officials.
With his supporters vowing that Rayan's blood would not have been spilled in vain, they were daring the Israelis to launch a ground offensive which had been on hold, and face the possible consequences.
Up to the end of the week, the Israeli government was refusing to accept calls for it to effect a cease-fire, without commitment to its own call for international observers to monitor it.
Dozens of civilians have been killed, and hundreds more distressed in the process of this latest battle between Israeli and Hamas. Just over two years ago, it was a similar situation involving Israel's strike against the Lebanese Hezbollah, again for what it said was military aggression against its territory and its people.
The loss of innocent lives, the disruption in the lives of those whose homes are damaged or destroyed and the suffering inflicted upon others who are injured in the process will always add to the complications, making the peace objective all the more elusive. - See Pages 5 and 21
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, January 4th 2009
Israel courting doomsday. By Raffique Shah
SOME 40 years or so ago, in the heady days of Black Power and the global fight for basic human and civil rights by non-Whites, I saw all White people as oppressors. I was a young firebrand, who, in the universal spirit of my revolutionary hero Cuban Che Guevara, was ready to fight against injustices wherever they existed. I actually lived out part of my utopian dream by taking up arms against "the establishment", a feat many of my contemporaries also dreamed of, but never experienced.
In the sobering post-prison years-I was still not 30 years old-when my sponge-like brain absorbed information that I gathered from many sources. Besides being a voracious reader, I talked extensively with people whose wisdom I learned to value. It was during that period I recognised the folly of judging people by the colour of their skins, by their ethnicity. More important, I learned to distinguish between Jews and Zionists.
The woman who changed this warped perspective of mine was renowned economist Kari Levitt, herself a Jewess. I attended a conference in Montreal, Canada when she took me under her wings, in a manner of speaking. We spent many hours discussing everything under the sun. She disabused my mind of many radical concepts I held, pointing out that some of my ideas bordered on anarchism. I remain thankful to Kari, and to others, too many to name, who shaped my post-mutiny thinking without denuding me of my revolutionary spirit. The latter I shall carry to my grave, proudly so, I need add.
I have related my metamorphosis for good reason. A Jew who, I think, lives in Trinidad, has written several letters attacking my stance on Israel whenever I have had reason to write on that country's murderous excesses. He hides behind anonymity: I do not. I write the way I see things, and I expect people to disagree with me, to engage me in debate. Indeed, given some issues I have addressed, I knew I risked bodily harm, even death. That prospect does not deter me. I firmly believe in fate.
It is against this background that I write about the Zionist massacre in the Gaza that was underway as 2008 made way for 2009. Those who justify Israel's attempt to strangle the Palestinians, to deny them the right to exist in a sovereign state, quote from the Bible, from ancient texts, and they brand all Palestinians terrorists. In other words, Israel is fulfilling a holy mission by obliterating these "pests" from the face of the earth. Some claim Hamas has been pounding Israel with rockets, hence Israel's right to retaliate with maximum force.
Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian (UK) last week, made the point that in seven years of conflict, 14 Israelis were killed by Hamas' rocket-fire while an estimated 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments. He added, "Among those killed in the first wave of strikes were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old." Milne did not add the mosques, the university, ordinary houses.
In the face of such facts, those who defend Israel's atrocities, nay, genocide, sound very much like people who blame the victims, not the rapists, for this ghastly crime (and these include many Islamists, I should add). Hamas won a free and fair election to govern all of Palestine, but has been denied that right by Fatah, by Israel, by the US and its allies. Democracy does not count for these hypocrites. Israel cut off electricity and water from Gaza, denied Hamas the right to money collected on its behalf, and during the six-month ceasefire, murdered Palestinians by the scores.
This time around, though, Israel has gone a sand dune too far. For the first time in this 60-year conflict, Israel's Arab neighbours are saying, "Enough is more than enough". Last Wednesday most Arab countries that are pro-West, cancelled all Old Year's night parties, and called instead for a "sombre solidarity" with the Palestinians. Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo on the same day. Hezbollah, which put a serious licking on Israel in 2006, has been suspiciously silent, as has Iran.
The tide is turning against Israel's bloody hegemony in the Middle East. Its foray into Gaza will undoubtedly kill hundreds of innocent people, many of whose lives were a living death long before the bombs struck. But the resilient fighters from Hamas would have carefully planned for such eventuality and will live to fight another day. The massacre will also anger millions of Muslims, with many young zealots joining the radical ranks of suicide bombers. The mullahs and their madrassas will be happy for Israel's recruitment bugle-call. Acts of terrorism against Zionists, those who support them, and even innocents, will intensify rather than diminish.
Maybe the Zionists always had a death wish, always saw their obliteration from Earth as being inevitable. They are now courting their extinction to fulfill some archaic biblical prediction, a doomsday scenario. What a way to start the New Year..
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, January 5th 2009
Scary time for Trini in Israel. By Kimberly Castillo
AS events in the Middle East take one dramatic turn after the next, a Trinidadian living in Israel has promised her concerned family that she will return to Trinidad should the crisis worsen.
Resa Gooding-Eshed, 28, is originally from St Joseph but now lives with her Israeli husband, Shlomy Eshed in Tel Aviv, one hour and 15 minutes from Gaza.
"I have promised my family that if the situation gets worse I will return home and my husband has agreed to this plan as well as he understands that this is not my war and it can get difficult being here if you are not accustomed to such things - my husband and many others will willingly join the fight if it is needed of them," Gooding-Eshed told the Express in an interview.
Gooding-Eshed is the marketing co-ordinator for a creative agency which does advertising products for many international clients while her husband works with the secret service.
On Saturday night, according to media reports, Israeli troops began moving into the Hamas-controlled territory of Gaza. The troops had been massed along the border since the Israel Defence Forces began bombardment of Gaza on December 27.
"I have been following the BBC closely, I think the average person would be extremely concerned having a child in a situation like that, but I have been speaking with Resa every day and for the time being she is comfortable," Gooding-Eshed's mother, Reva Gooding, told the Express in a phone interview yesterday.
A couple of weeks ago, Gooding-Eshed escaped danger when a rocket landed in the town of Sderot where she had been visiting just as the fragile cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas ended.
Along with other Israelis, Gooding-Eshed said she was subjected to stringent security measures wherever she went on a daily basis, but for now she said she still goes about her daily routine as normal. She said: "I get worried and take extra precautions when I go out alone".
Gooding-Eshed added that a major concern for herself and others living in Israel was the very real threat of suicide attacks which Hamas has vowed to resume.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, January 7th 2009
Caricom's strange silence. By Rickey Singh
UNLESS our Caribbean community has lost its passion for raising a moral voice at times of conflicts that result in horrific human tragedies, then it should speedily end its deafening silence on the current war between Israel and Gaza, now in its 12th day.
From across the global community, governments and representative organisations have been speaking out against this current war that's rooted in an ancient territorial conflict in which excessive, disproportionate force by Israel is clearly in evidence.
Those who prefer peace to conflict are hoping that a temporary truce could give the intense diplomatic efforts underway a chance to come forward with an acceptable compromise for both sides.
But why the failure of Caricom governments, here and elsewhere, to let their citizens know something of their thinking as the death toll mounts in Gaza and no prospects for an end to the blood-letting in sight? What is really preventing the 15-member Caricom from speaking collectively on this latest crisis in a crisis-ridden region of the Middle East?
I cannot forget the inspirational reminder of that elder statesman among advocates of regional economic and political integration, William Demas, that neither the limitations of size nor resources should stand in the way of the Caribbean speaking out in defence of sovereignty and in favour of peace and morality in public affairs.
If our Caricom governments are too busy, too preoccupied with other important matters to publicly express the concerns I have no doubt they share over the immense loss of lives and horrible destruction clearly evident in the Gaza region, then why the silence of leaders of representative trade unions, religions, cultural and other organisations of our region?
In this context, I was encouraged to read yesterday's editorial in the Barbados Daily Nation that lamented the public silence on the Israel-Gaza war which has already claimed the lives of over 530 Gaza residents and another estimated 3,000 wounded - among the victims being children and women - in addition to no less than a dozen Israeli dead and scores injured.
I share below the following excerpt from the Nation's editorial as we keep hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough at the level of the UN Security Council:
"It is a crisis,'' noted the Nation's editorial, "of recurring human tragedies in that region of the Middle East as the United Nations Security Council continues to suffer from a paralysis of spirit to even influence a temporary ceasefire in the face of an ongoing equivocation by the outgoing George Bush administration in favour of Israel's rationale for victory over "Hamas terrorists'' in Gaza.
"Just some 70 square kilometres more in size than Barbados, but filled with a population of some one and a half million people, Gaza has long been caricatured as an "open prison'' by human rights advocates.
"There is no doubt whatsoever of Israel's firm control of Gaza, at all check points, as well as about its military might in evidence from the sea, the air and on land. The government in Israel keeps repeating that it is not about to reoccupy Gaza or to overthrow its government, only to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets into its territory.
"From regions across the world - Europe, North and Latin America, Africa and Asia'' the editorial states, "governments, political parties, non-government organisations have been speaking out against Israel's resort to "excessive force'' and refusal to engage in a ceasefire to give diplomacy a chance to seek a resolution that relates to Hamas' rockets into Israel and Israel's tightening squeeze on life in Gaza.
"In contrast, in our Caribbean community, there remains a deafening silence as if this region's comparative small size and lack of military and economic resources are deterrents to expressing a moral voice against the conflicts and in support of a peace with justice.
"Current official attitude in Caricom is reminiscent of what it was in both the horrific African tragedies of Darfur and Zimbabwe when the community waited so very late to come forward with even a muted condemnation....''
It is my humble view that a Caribbean community, whose governments like to remind us about our inter-connected world and our moral obligations in the quest for freedom and justice, must do what other regions are doing - share with the people where they stand on the brutal Israel-Gaza conflict.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, January 7th 2009
When time is no healer. By Robert Best
[Courtesy Barbados Nation]
AT the start of every new year it is certain that many people will see it as an opportunity to deal with certain matters in a more positive manner, especially if it is felt that earlier vacillation had gotten them nowhere. Experience has shown that while time might be regarded as a healer, it is not always helpful in improving bad situations.
One reason for this is that the problem being faced might not be one that will change with the passage of time, but can only improve with a change of attitude, sometimes on all sides. Until those involved come to this understanding all that time does is add to their frustrations.
It is always important that where a change in approach or attitude is being adopted by even one party, or one of the protagonists involved, it must be obvious to many others involved that this is the case. This is so even in war.
For example, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been going on for decades with the Israelis claiming that all they want is to live in peace with the Palestinians; while the Palestinians cannot forget that they were displaced from land they once occupied and the Israelis restored to what was theirs earlier. They would want to have Israel wiped out. These children of Abraham have found it impossible to live in peace. And when they explain why they have been doing what they do to one another for generations, on each side there is some sense.
The Israelis would say they were occupiers of the land the Palestinians say was theirs long before the Palestinians occupied it. The Palestinians would counter that they were rudely and deliberately displaced or removed from the same land, so it could be reoccupied by the Israelis. Therein lies an old grudge. And so the beat goes on.
What certainly adds to the frustration of the Palestinians is that the Israelis definitely have more clout and garner more support from the nations of the world, for one reason or another. So they do not see the rest of the world really taking their cause seriously.
So while they would in their frustration launch hundreds of rockets into Israel and kill a few Jews, when the better armed Israelis hit back, the Palestinians are killed in their hundreds, with the Israelis taking care to point out that ethnic cleansing is not their desire. They only want to protect themselves and live in peace.
So this conflict drags on with no sign of ending. What results is that now and then these two nations take a break between the hostilities and then return to their deadly business.
It does not make sense. But then how many wars ever do.
For certain, neither side can jump off the planet, and so, however long the conflict lasts they will still have to live as neighbours, though not loving each other as themselves. Whenever they flare up the rest of the world stands by to call for restraint or a truce. After hundreds of lives have been lost, they find it possible to restrain themselves. It is a conflict that does not make sense.
The Palestinians do not have the military hardware to wipe out the Israelis. They must know this. The Israelis know they have the military means to wipe out the Palestinians, but they know the rest of the world, especially the Arabs, will not just stand by and let this happen. The implications, to say the least, would be far-reaching, dragging many others into the conflict, who at the moment are just looking on, giving moral support, or stoking the fire with arms supplies.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for all sides to offer up their prayers before setting out to kill "the enemy" . . . all God's children.
Courtesy Barbados Nation
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | January 9th, 2009
The world is a war zone. By Attillah Springer
I imagine the people of Gaza must be glad to know that people care. That even as bombs rain down on their homes, even as they bury their children, there are people out in the world who condemn this madness, who add their voices to a global outcry against Israel's criminally stupid attack on Gaza. I feel a great sense of belonging outside Downing Street watching young Muslim women and old white lefties, and keffiah clad cool sorts hurl shoes over the police. There are thousands there. Tens of thousands. Still coming up along Embankment, past Big Ben, up Whitehall and pouring into the heart of Babylondon.
The protestors chant a bitter sweet call and response Israel: Terrorist, George Bush: Terrorist, Gordon Brown: Terrorist. It is like the sweetest music to my ears and because it is nearly Carnival I am tempted to start put my hands in the air and put down and shake my defiant boomsie in the face of those who are silent on Israel’s genocidal mission. I imagine the people of Gaza must feel reassured that so many thousands of people around the world have taken to their streets demanding an end to the madness. I also imagine they are too busy trying to survive to give a damn about us standing out there being captured on film by the police photographers.
There is a smell of fuel in the air and before I know it five or six Asian youths have set fire to a replica of the Israeli flag. There is so much anger in their eyes I have to look away. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live a life punctuated by war. But standing in Trafalgar Square I am struck by the silence of all those thousands of people, listening to the various speakers, sharing food, leaning on placards, shivering in the cold. It’s not often these days that I feel proud to be a human. Less often than feeling like I belong. It is a constant sort of confusion for me that humans can just be so downright mean to each other. When people come together to lend their voices to bring an end to the suffering of others, surely this is a much more powerful thing than sitting at home watching it all unfold on the television, mumbling your complaints into your living room.
I imagine that these mass outpourings of love and rage only ever happen when humanity comes under such threat that those of us who still hold on to some, have to find ways to manifest it. Annie Lennox calls down shame and damnation on the Israeli government as Somali men perform ablutions before their prayers, right there on the Strand, in the shadow of Lord Nelson’s column. It is too cold to do anything but stand there, shifting weight from one leg to another. Feeling angry that all I can do is stand there, in the cold, holding a placard. It is too cold to talk but just being there is warmth enough. Not just because demonstrations are to activists what ecstasy pills are to ravers. And as I reflect on the niceness of the feeling of being part of something, I remember the bitter taste in the back of my throat when so-called leaders accused people like me of being an outsider for taking an interest in what was going on in Chatham with plans to build an Alcoa aluminum smelter.
How Trinidad is a place where we have become as obsessed as our so-called leaders with carefully demarcated territories that must be controlled by the various competing patriarchies. About how difficult it is for us to express solidarity with each other, far less to care about what’s going on outside of our immediate community. I suppose this is the case everywhere. Apathy thrives. Later I meet up with a bredrin from Iceland who tells me amazing stories about a whole country coming to the brink of collapse and how this has completely galvanized even the most complacent of the middle class to take to the streets, to take over town halls and cinemas to meet and confront their leaders who dare not treat them with the kind of contempt that is readily available for us here.
Too fantastic to imagine that this will ever happen in sweet and sour T. Too ridiculous to imagine that Trinidadians will ever care about anything enough to take to the streets in their thousands. Apathy thrives, unless perhaps your wallet or your life is affected. The world is a war zone whether blood is being shed or not. And those who want peace or security cannot resist the urge to try and fight for it.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Friday, January 9 2009
Cuba is good example for TT.
THE EDITOR: The strange thing about people who criticise Cuba is that they can’t help but acknowledge the duplicity of the United States in its relations with that country. Yet they blame the Cubans for what they perceive as the flaws in the society. It is a typical case of blaming the victim.
They recognise that the US disdained Castro’s appeal for help after the fall of Batista but they blame Cuba for going to Russia. They cannot deny that the US, through the CIA, and a multiplicity of proxies, made innumerable attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, but they decry the fact that the Cuban people do not know where he lives. The US funded, armed and trained the expatriate Cubans who were involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion, but Cuba is somehow to blame for that as well. It was US money that was being spent to distribute pamphlets criticising Castro, to jam the Cuban radio stations and to broadcast anti-Cuban propaganda. For years the Cuban people endured the open malice of the United States — let no one go away believing that the hands of the US government are clean in its dealings with Cuba. Just as it is not in Israel’s dealing with the Palestinians.
No other country in the world has faced so much harassment, invasions of its airspace, interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its leaders, and even criminal terrorism (the bombing of the Cubana Airlines plane near Barbados, the perpetrator of which is still living in comfort in the US).
Perhaps some Cubans would abandon their country for the rampant materialism of the US — how many Trinidadians have done so? But the vast majority are quite happy with the simple lifestyle that guarantees them free quality education, free quality healthcare, housing of an acceptable standard and an adequate amount of food to ensure that every Cuban is reasonably well-fed.
Of course it could be better, where in the world can one find perfection? But given the minimum standards that the Cuban government tries to give all its people, they have done extremely well. It is standard that Trinidad and Tobago would do well to emulate.
Catholic News | Sunday, January 11 2009
Editorial: To do right in Gaza.
After a relatively quiet Christmas Day in Bethlehem, the peace was shattered in the Middle East five days before the start of the New Year. That the events of past days could have taken place is disturbing indication of the state of world affairs.
After 12 days of fighting, Israeli rockets have killed close to 700 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials. A significant number of the dead and wounded comprise women and children. One report said 25 percent of those killed were children. The list of casualties on the Israeli side has been comparably small.
The history of Israeli-Palestinian relations may be complex but the issues surrounding this most recent assault are simple enough. Israel says it has had to react because of the daily rocket fire to which it has been subjected by the Palestinian paramilitary organisation Hamas from within the boundaries of Gaza. The aim of their offensive: to lessen the ability of Hamas to send its rockets into south Israel.
But, clearly, both sides are wrong. Hamas is wrong to be carrying out an assault that has put the lives of Israeli people at risk on a daily basis. Hamas also broke an agreement for a six-month ceasefire. But it is wrong for Israel to retaliate in the way that it has, to know that innocent people will be caught in the crossfire but to go ahead nevertheless. The action is immoral as it is shortsighted. The destruction in Gaza can easily lead to further destruction.
The anguish of one pastor in a Catholic parish in Gaza City is evident: “What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening . . . We are living like animals in Gaza. We cry and nobody hears us. I am asking God for mercy and pray that the light of Christianity continues to shine in Gaza.”
Left In The Cold
Israel has stated its reasons for the aggression. The question for the rest of the free world is: how can you allow Israel to act in this way? It seems clear that Israel has acted in the way that it has because it can. It has the firepower and it has the support – tacit and otherwise – of other nations. Again the basics here are simple. One does not bring good out of evil by using evil means. Pope Benedict XVI, in yet another appeal for peace in the Middle East, said last week “war and hatred are not the solution to problems”.
The need in this situation is for people to do the right thing, for leaders to act responsibly and justly. When leaders do not do the right thing, their actions can have far-reaching repercussions.
The conflict in Gaza is only one example of leaders failing to do the right thing. Last week, too, several countries in Europe were left in the cold because of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies. A significant amount of gas meant for central Europe passes through Ukraine.
Archbishop Edward Gilbert remarked in his New Year’s sermon: “How delicate the values that make sense for our society are!” Peace is one of those values. It has to be protected.
The first days of 2009 may be ominous, but it is possible for people to do the right thing. It means, for all, taking seriously the values of Jesus who, on this feast of his baptism, John the Baptist proclaims as “one mightier than I” (Mark 1:7). He enters the waters of the Jordan and his presence among us is sealed.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Sunday, January 11 2009
The horrors of Gaza. By David Abdullah
I add my own voice to the very many who expressed sadness on the tragic death of young Giselle Salandy. She was a truly outstanding sportswoman and role model for the young people of this nation and deserves all the tributes offered following her passing. To her family, friends and members of her management team, my sincere condolences.
Today I want to focus on another tragedy, one that is having, and will continue for very many years, to have consequences not just for those directly involved, but for the entire world. I am referring to the latest Israeli onslaught against the Palestinians. It is totally unacceptable for the Israelis to be killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children, by their indiscriminate bombing of Gaza and military invasion of that territory and I condemn it.
The entire world is seeing the results of the Israeli military attacks, which have included attacks on a United Nations school as well as on a UN humanitarian convoy. If UN personnel, engaged as they are on missions of peace and humanitarianism, are the targets of the Israeli military, you can well imagine the horrors being experienced by ordinary Palestinians.
Let us be totally clear about the Palestinian issue. In 1948, following the Second World War and no doubt with much guilt about the holocaust, the west — led by Britain and the US — decided that the state of Palestine should no longer exist and that there should be created in its stead the state of Israel.
In one fell swoop, therefore, millions of Palestinians were made not only homeless, but stateless.
This is a 60-year-old problem that is yet to be resolved. Most Palestinians in the last six decades have had to live in refugees camps, having become refugees in their own country!
What is more is that after the June 1967 “six-day” war, Israel occupied lands (annexed is a better term) that were part of Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza were part of these annexed lands.
As different from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991 which led to the “Gulf War” with US attacks on Iraq, the annexation of lands by Israel was condoned by the Western powers. Only many years afterwards in a partial peace effort did Israel “give up” the West Bank (minus Jerusalem) and Gaza to the Palestinians.
Israeli control of Gaza and the West Bank is evident in its economic stranglehold of and military actions against these two parts of what is supposed to be a “Palestinian homeland”.
Thus, in the lead up to and on occasions in the very recent past, Israel has blockaded Gaza by shutting off water and electricity to the more than one million people living there.
Food supplies have been cut off; US and other aid was stopped; Israel has erected a so-called security wall thus making the movement of Palestinians from their homes into Israel to work extremely difficult and also denying them access to their farm lands.
We must also recall how Israel attacked Yamallah in the West Bank where then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had his headquarters, bombing the entire area and the building that served as the seat of the Palestinian “government” — the Palestinian Authority.
That action was meant to get Arafat and the Authority to rein in the more militant organisations fighting for complete Palestinian independence. These militants were engaged in suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other so-called terrorist actions.
In the end, the emasculation of Arafat — he was humiliated in front of the entire world as the cameras of international news media showed him holed up in darkness waiting on the final Israeli assault — sent the message to Palestinians that Arafat’s strategy of a negotiated settlement with Israel, with the US as brokers, just would not work. Instead of restraining the more militant movements, it fuelled their growth.
We thus saw the Hamas movement not only increasing in popularity, but actually contesting an election against the Fatah movement (which was led by Arafat until his death).
With Arafat no longer around to give Fatah extra legitimacy, Hamas won the January 2006 parliamentary elections and then ensued a major power struggle between the two.
Fatah held the presidency of the Authority in the person of Mahmoud Abbas, while Hamas controlled the Parliament.
In the end, Hamas took full control of Gaza with Fatah in the West Bank.
In the same way that the attacks on Fatah led to Palestinians becoming more desperate and therefore strengthening Hamas, the present Israeli actions resulting in so many civilian deaths will certainly strengthen not only Hamas but all those who are committed to the destruction of Israel as a state.
We are therefore likely to see, over time, more suicide bombings and such actions. And who can truly blame them?
Denied their homeland; frustrated in their democratic choice of government; prevented from any meaningful economic development and then seeing their homes, schools, infrastructure and businesses destroyed, their wives, mothers and siblings and children killed by bombs in numbers that exceed many hundreds of times the loss of Israeli lives, one can well understand the Palestinian response.
How US President-elect Barack Obama deals with this historical injustice will be a litmus test of his presidency.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, January 11th 2009
Israel in overtime. By Wayne Brown
He will soon be the most powerful man in the world. So it's understandable that, mere days into Israel's massive attack on defenceless Gaza, US media pressure began building on Barack Obama to declare his position. But-apart from stonewalling about there being 'only one US president at a time'-the President-Elect remained silent.
Frustrated, the media turned to Obama's Secretary of State pick, Hillary Clinton, long known as a pro-Israel hawk. (During the primaries, candidate Clinton had unburdened herself of some excited talk about 'obliterating' Iran.)
But-surprise!-Mrs Clinton, clearly warned by Obama's people, fended off the questions with the same mantra: one US president at a time.
The Obama administration-in-waiting was being out of step: leading US politicians and commentators had been falling over each other in their rush to denounce, not Israel's high tech murder of Palestinian civilians, but Hamas' puny defiance-never mind that Palestinian deaths were outnumbering Israeli deaths by a ratio of 100-to-1 (the ratio, incidentally, that has held for the past three years, during which Palestinians killed by Israeli forces have included 222 children).
Just as they'd done with Israel's failed invasion of Lebanon in 2006, GW Bush and Condoleeza Rice, the lost black woman who has aimlessly wandered the world on Bush's behalf these past years, repeatedly blocked a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire. Senate Leader Harry Reid thundered that 'this terrorist organisation, Hamas, has got to be put away.'
All this, while Arab television screens and the worldwide Web were filling up with photos of dead or disfigured Palestinian children.
Outside of the US, Britain and Israel itself, it's sobering to imagine the rage of the watching world at such essentially racist uncaring and bigotry.
The US media pressed on, almost taunting Obama. The 'one president at a time' mantra hadn't, they observed, stopped him from calling for a ceasefire in South Ossetia in August, or from denouncing the 'hateful ideology' of the Mumbai terrorists.
Still the President-Elect remained silent.
Finally, when Israeli mortars killed 40 Palestinian civilians who had huddled for safety in a United Nations Gaza school, Obama allowed that 'the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me.' But that was all.
Baulked, some settled for recalling Obama's remarks last July in the Israeli town of Sderot. 'If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that,' he'd told reporters. (Indeed, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak quoted Obama's statement two weeks ago in justifying his country's attack on Gaza.)
But others remained suspicious.
One voice that claimed to have no problem interpreting the President-Elect's silence was Ayman al-Zawahiri's. Already on record as denouncing Obama as a 'house negro' elected to do the bidding of his white masters (for al-Zawahiri knows a threat to his organisation when he sees one), al-Qaeda's No 2 last week called the Israeli invasion of Gaza, 'Obama's gift to Israel'.
This hardly explained, however, why the Israelis clearly timed their barbaric business to get it over with before Obama becomes president. And it represented, surely, either a canny or a politically naÃ¯ve misreading of Obama's silence.
No one can begin to understand the often irrational and self-damaging distortions in US foreign policy towards the Middle East without recognising the immense power of the Zionist lobby in US politics. For simply sharing a platform with Yasir Arafat's wife back in 1999 while the latter made some militant remarks about Israel, Hillary Clinton had her New York Senate bid imperiled. And, fully a year before Jeremiah Wright, Obama's brand-new primary campaign hit a major bump when, on the eve of an Aipac conference, the candidate suggested that 'Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.'
That was only too obvious to most of the world. But sundry American Jewish leaders called Obama's remark 'odious' and 'offensive'.
The most interesting critique was that it was 'inexperienced': Obama, it implied, ought to know that no one gets nominated, far less elected, in US presidential politics who shows the least empathy for the wretched plight of the oppressed Palestinians.
Obama spent much of the rest of his campaign duly affirming his support for Israel (when he wasn't being taunted by Hillary Clinton to 'both denounce and reject' Louis Farrakhan, who'd infamously called Judaism a 'gutter religion').
Now that he's about to be president, however, it's Obama's real view of the world that matters. And Zawahiri, but for his own agenda, could easily have deduced that, since Obama could only have helped himself politically at home by supporting Israel's invasion of Gaza, his silence ought really to be worrying the Zionist lobby, rather than the Palestinians and their supporters.
Now, to be clear, there are many Jews both inside and outside of Israel who have long been repelled by Israel's expansionist agenda and brutal policies. In The Guardian of January 7, eg, Avi Shlaim, an Oxford professor who served in the Israeli army and 'has never questioned the state's legitimacy', was unsparingly critical of Israel's provocative actions towards Gaza before and during the recent ceasefire.
Wrote Shlaim: 'Gaza is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip, in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities.
'Officially, 49.1 per cent of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border.'
At time of writing, it's being reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for an independent war crimes investigation in Gaza after reports that Israeli forces shelled a house full of Palestinian civilians, killing 30 people.
After eight years of GW Bush's catastrophic presidency, Obama will be coming to power in a world more disordered and endangered, including by the spectre of global economic meltdown, than any president in living memory has had to face. His most immediate challenge is of course the US economy, sinking almost daily as an impotent world watches (and awaits its effect on them).
But 'the Palestinian issue' is at the heart of the wider world's flashpoints. And, given America's knee-jerk support for Israeli aggression, Obama will need the diplomatic genius of a Toussaint L'Overture if he is to intervene in it in a way that is, quite simply, humane and fair-and that doesn't leave him crippled in office for doing so.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Sunday, January 11 2009
All the world needs now is peace.
THE EDITOR: The current impasse and impacts of the horrific war-mongering by certain countries, should lead us to realise that war serves no greater purpose than to cause harm and destruction by a few men who view erroneously that it is their fundamental right to do so.
The world rejects this view: we desire peace. Yet karma tells us that where harm is caused there must be reparation…this is where universal justice is not only indisputable but must be made manifest.
We must therefore work together towards the collective good, for so many lives have been lost to hate, bigotry, fundamentalism, fear, greed and apathy.
Times are not changing, they’ve changed. Karma is here and what we do this year and the next will determine our destiny (a bloody, extinct one, or a life-fulfilling harmonious relationship with our planet).
These are serious days. Fortunately, there are more and more of us who already know what must be done to bring about peace (and it will not be through the use of military/weapons/arms) — but sincere, social action and mental willpower.
Higher energies always trump lower ones. So, while we are concerned about the Israel-Palestine impasse, the horrors in Dafur and elsewhere, we will continue to let our lights shine, but actually work at political, social and certainly economical levels.
Israel (more specifically the few persons/caucuses who are pro-war) and other countries which emphasise on might and hate, will do well to follow our example — because whether they like it or not change is here — and guess what? We’re (the majority) opting for peace.
Won’t you evolve with us?
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Monday, January 12 2009
Israel’s act of war.
THE EDITOR: The bombardment being unleashed by the Israelis against the Palestinians is an act of war which is little short of criminal, and deserves the condemnation of the entire world. This virtual genocide is being waged with the full support and agreement of the US Government, which continues to pretend that the Israelis are a beleaguered people. No attempt was made by the US to get the Israelis to lift the criminal blockade of the Gaza Strip, which brought starvation and misery to an entire people, to force them to reject their democratically-elected government. When the suffering caused by this blockade became too much to bear, with babies and children dying of hunger and lack of medicine, the Palestinians struck in the only way they could as a sign of their desperation.
Thwarted as the Palestinians were by the blockade on the Egyptian side, and the virtual isolation erected by Israel warships in the Mediterranean, they saw this as the only means of drawing international attention to their plight. No electricity, no water, no sewage disposal, no food, on a strip of land that is essentially desert and largely inhospitable — few counties outside the African continent are subjected by another country to such inhumane conditions.
Israel will know no peace so long as they inflict on the Palestinians the same tribulations that were imposed on them in the past.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Tuesday, January 13 2009
US condoning violence in Gaza.
THE EDITOR: The Israeli army is doing the bidding of its government and killing the Palestinians in Gaza with their sophisticated weapons. Any response by the Palestinians is incomparable and according to the latest BBC report neither side is willing to stand down.
The report stated “Fourteen out of 15 Security Council members backed a resolution on the Gaza crisis, with the US abstaining.”
The message the world is receiving from the US abstention is that they support the Israeli offensive and they care nothing for the Palestinians who are dying by the hundreds. They care nothing for the human beings, young and old that are dying for lack of medical care and from starvation. They care nothing for the families whose lives have been destroyed by the Israeli blockade.
By their abstention the US is allowing the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza to escalate.
Voices around the world including US citizens (not all Americans support the policies of their government) are calling for an end to this tragedy. And to those voices I add mine in their call for peace to prevail and an end to the violence.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 14 2009
True patriots can make a difference.
THE EDITOR: Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, we need immediately to rise up as a generation of patriots! We are faced with a leadership crisis from the household to the classroom to the boardroom to Parliament. Every citizen reading this can identify a failing manager, listless supervisor or someone in authority shirking his or her responsibilities. We can do better and we must!
In any new constitution being developed we should insist on term limits for our Prime Minister. This would ensure that the holder of this office is aware of its mortality. Subsequently, the arrogance of our leaders and their slackened approach to affecting substantial improvements to our country would be curtailed. The Prime Minister would then be pressed to be concerned about his/her legacy and understand that he/she has one chance to get it right.
We need to foster leadership, courage and activism in our youths, especially in our bright young undergraduates. UWI St Augustine should not be a place where young people are silent on national issues. Our students should be agitating for national, if not global causes. It would appear that our universities are not producing leaders, just workers.
I admire the citizens anywhere in the world, be it USA, Venezuela, Israel and Iran, who stand up for right action and justice in their states. They believe it is their place in the world to speak out, stand up and be counted. We in TT have become too used to corruption and injustice in high places like the Licensing Office, the Police Service, our courts, our hospitals — and shaking our heads in dismay.
Everyone in TT is complaining but few are willing to stand up and be counted. We need to decide if the lawless and undisciplined TT is a place in which we wish to continue to live!
We are past the point where gated communities can provide the illusion of security. So each citizen who is interested in changing TT must make a stand. In our homes, communities, schools, places of worship, and workplaces we must get about the business of setting things right. Only true patriots can make a difference now.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, January 14 2009
Palestinian massacre an ode to Bush.
THE EDITOR: I remember George Bush’s State of the Nation address eight years ago: “If you are not with us you are with the terrorists.”
Many have gone on board through plain fear since then, sending in troops in spite of what their varied populace said. That has brought us two wars and more deaths of innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine than we care to keep count of.
Why, we repress any emotion over it by accepting the western media’s description of them as “insurgents”, “terrorists”, “Al Qaeda”, and “Hamas”, etc. We swallow propaganda that suggests it is okay to bomb ordinary citizens because “Hamas are using them as a shield.”
Some are being taken to the Hague for war crimes in Darfur, for instance, for not using rhetoric suggesting they were against the assault. Yet, through the same propaganda, we accept statements from top American officials that Israel will not stop the bombing “until Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into southern Israel” is eradicated.
Is this not support for the genocide, coming at a time when one expects remorse for the innocent people killed?
We must realise that the Palestinians (Hamas, et al) at best have hand-held weapons with limited reach. Severe border restrictions are placed on them. Israel, on the other hand, have heavy artillery with long reach, plus air-raid capabilities backed by a confidence derived from Palestine’s absence of surface-to-air defence.
That a country can advance through your country by air and land is clear indication that you are defenceless. That it is not “fighting”; it is a massacre. Hamas have nothing but rockets and a big mouth which the western media uses to their demise.
This major assault, no doubt an ode to George Bush who aims to see Palestine crippled before he leaves office, has little to do with threats over not extending the truce, digging tunnels or firing rockets across the border.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, January 14th 2009
Gaza - worse than a crime. By Gwynne Dyer
"Israel is not going to show restraint,'' Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the Washington Post on Saturday, after the United States abstained on Friday's UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. All last week the speculation grew that Washington was going to defy its Israeli ally for once and vote for the resolution, but literally as the delegates sat down in the Council chamber the phone call came from President Bush ordering Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain.
So nothing will stop Israel from hammering the Gaza Strip as hard as it likes - and the situation is unlikely to change with the inauguration of Barack Obama later this month, because he has no intention of squandering his abundant but finite political capital on a quixotic attempt to bring peace to the Middle East. He will spend it instead on goals that have some chance of being achieved, and he will be right to do so.
Yet the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip will almost certainly end within the next two weeks. International revulsion at the carnage among Palestinian civilians will play a certain role. Any big loss of life among Israeli soldiers, or the capture of even one or two soldiers, would turn Israeli public opinion against the war overnight. And the clincher is that the Israeli election is on February 10.
The war is being fought now largely to shift the opinion polls in favour of the ruling parties before the election. However, it must be over, and somehow look like a success, before Israelis actually vote. Good luck.
The war against Hamas in Gaza looks more and more like the three-week Israeli war against Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006, which could hardly be called a success. It will last about as long. It will kill about as many Arabs, probably a thousand or so. And it will end with Hamas, like Hizbollah, still able to fire rockets at Israel.
This means that Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader who was already leading in the opinion polls, is almost certain to form the next Israeli government. He is the ultimate rejectionist, the man who successfully sabotaged the Oslo Accords and effectively killed the "peace process'' during his last term as prime minister in 1996-99. He rejects the very idea of a "two-state solution'' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu is a glib ideologue who does not understand strategy and sees no reason for Israel to seek peace with its neighbours if the price is giving the Palestinians back their pre-1967 borders. In the long run, therefore, the war is more of a disaster for the Israelis than it is for the Palestinians.
Israel currently enjoys three huge strategic advantages. It has the strongest army in the region by far, backed by the only modern economy and the only technologically competent population. It has an absolute monopoly on nuclear weapons within the region. And it has the unstinting, unquestioning support of the world's only superpower. But none of these advantages is forever, and Israel needs to make peace with its neighbours while it still possesses them.
The existing Arab regimes are willing to make peace with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, mainly because they fear the further radicalisation of their own populations, and perhaps even violent revolution, if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to fester. But the Arabs as a whole have all the time in the world: sooner or later the wheel will turn and Israel will become vulnerable. If it has not integrated into the region by then, it will be in mortal peril.
It is pointless to make moral judgements about this war, and foolish to use the body count as an indicator of virtue or blame.
That is quite true: Hamas would do exactly the same to Israelis if it could. The prospect of a 70-to-one kill ratio makes Israel much readier to use military force than if it had to sacrifice one Israeli life for every Palestinian it killed, but the kill ratio tells us nothing about either the morality or the utility of the war.
It is the usefulness of this war, not its morality, that Israel should be questioning. Unless Israel re-occupies the Gaza Strip permanently - which nobody wants to do, because it would mean a constant stream of Israeli military casualties - then once the army pulls back Hamas will re-emerge, stronger than ever. The Arab regimes that might make peace with Israel will be further undermined, and Israel gets Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
As was said after the execution of the Duc d'Enghien on Napoleon's orders, the Gaza operation "is worse than a crime. It is a mistake.''
- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, January 17 2009
Americans should hold head in shame.
THE EDITOR: I am impressed with the daily coverage of Al Jazeera (English Edition) which can be viewed by downloading Livestation.com. Of course, both sites are free.
What impresses me most about Al Jazeera is the professionalism of its journalists/presenters and their unbiased views. Both sides of any conflict and especially the Gaza Massacre are interviewed by well renowned TV hosts/presenters like Sir David Frost.
New viewers will also notice that there are on this station, journalists from around the world including many former BBC personnel.
While the Israelis refuse to allow international journalists to enter into the Gaza strip during these operations, Al Jazeera has reporters in Gaza who document on a daily basis the use of white phosphorus powder and other weapons of mass destruction being used against children, women and other innocent Gazans who have no place to hide from Israeli terror.
After the conflict has ended the world must continue to call for an international investigation into the many alleged war crimes committed by the Israelis.
Americans should hold their heads in shame for being so biased and prejudiced in this one-sided conflict.
I still believe that God/Allah and other deities are looking on at this horrendous situation and I am sure they are not amused.
Trinidad & Tobago Express |Saturday, January 17th 2009
Muslims gather today to pray for Gaza. By Aabida Allaham
TODAY, members of the Muslim community will be gathering from 1 p.m. at the Aranjuez Savannah, to raise their voices in prayer in response to the "genocide" taking place in the Gaza Strip.
Imtiaz Mohammed, chairman of the ad-hoc group, Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago, which comprises Islamic organisations and the majority of the Islamic community, said yesterday they had united for the sole purpose of sending a message to the diplomatic community.
"We have decided to unite with one voice against the genocide and massacre that is taking place in Palestine at the hands of Israel for the past 21 days, because the genocide has been launched against all the people of Palestine and not just Hamas," Imtiaz told the reporters at the Islamic Resource Centre in Kelly Village, Caroni.
As of January 16, reports have indicated that 13 Israelis (including three civilians) and 1,132 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The Palestinian fatalities include 311 children and 100 women.
Imtiaz said it was unfortunate that they had responded so late, but called on those who can to put a stop to it.
Asked whether the group would be assisting the country, Ali said they were working on it.
However, the group has indicated that they will be engaging in follow up action, such as distribution of letters to the Prime Minister Patrick Manning and other diplomats.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Tuesday, January 20 2009
Obama will not help Israel.
THE EDITOR: It is clear that most of the worldwide endorsements that Barack Obama received for the US Presidency were mainly because of the blackness that oozes out of his skin.
I had never heard anyone in Trinidad mention the name Barack Obama before the US Presidential race. He was and still is an unknown to Trinidadians, and yet many Trinidadians blindly jumped on the Obama train because he had their preferred colour code. Fascinatingly, these Trinidadians have the hypocritical audacity to talk about white racism.
I need to know only one thing about Barack Obama in order to make an assessment of him, and that one thing was divinely revealed to me by God himself. This one thing I am referring to is his heart towards the people of Israel.
God revealed to me that Barack Obama is Anti-Semitic; which is to be anti-Israel. This is a very dangerous position to hold, and there are serious consequences to such a position. Any nation, person, people, tongue, group, or organisation that is against Israel is against God. A friend of Israel is a friend of God, and an enemy of Israel is an enemy of God. I believe that with Obama at the helm, the world will eventually see US policies and stances that will not favour Israel, and this will have more serious consequences for the United States.
God’s covenant with Israel is an everlasting covenant, and he clearly says that he who touches Israel touches the apple of his eye. He also said “I will bless them that bless Israel, and I will curse them that curse Israel”. He refers to Israel as “His people” and “His Heritage”. They are highly esteemed by God himself. He demonstrated his love and favour towards Israel when he said I Love Jacob (Israel) and “hate” Esau.
Despite all opinions, perceptions, and State positions of this people called Israel, the brazen fact of life is that they are a covenanted people with the Sovereign God, and Israel should be regarded, respected and treated as such. Israel should be allowed to fall only into the hand of God himself, so that he alone will treat with them as he sees fit, because of his covenant with them. The covenant of God is an unbroken, eternal reality that will not be changed. Any person or nation or people who is a participant to hurt Israel; whether it be by hatred, by endorsing her enemies, by military conflict, by words, by deeds, by financial support against her, or any such thing, are setting themselves up for serious chastisement at the hand of God. God has made this absolutely clear, and the nations that will suffer this fate are already foretold in scriptures.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Tuesday, January 20 2009
Al Jazeera just as biased.
THE EDITOR: I respond to “Americans should hold head in shame”’, in your online edition of January 17. I respect the opinion of the writer but seriously question his assertion that Al Jazeera is unbiased and fair in reporting. All media show bias, even in the West, in America and in Trinidad. Al Jazeera is an Islamic propaganda agent operating under the guise of bringing balance to the unfair reporting of the Western press. It’s as simple as that.
They do pay well and could attract some good reporters, even from the British who are generally anti-Israel and always pro-Palestinian (check BBC). In a time of martial law, Israel is within its rights to put limits on field reports. Do not forget that Israel is responsible for Gaza, the land, the sea and the sky. And Hamas has deeply embedded and biased reporters ready to reach the ears as yours and of other sympathisers.
The writer calls for an international investigation into “alleged war crimes committed by Israel.” I wonder whether his information came through Al Jazeera reports. Listen up folks! This matter has been investigated over and over again, and has been before the UN for decades. There are resolutions and yet there is war. Is something wrong here? Do you want more investigation still? What you want is to find Israel guilty. You do not seek truth, facts and reasons; you seek revenge. The same Brit you feel is professional is from the nation that created this problem 60 years ago. I’ ll say this, find out who provoked whom and who has a legal right to defend itself against terrorism. Find out who is the legal government of Israel and who is the legal government of Palestine.
Hamas is nothing but a terrorist group, bent on the destruction of Israel. Look, one day soon Chavez will want to terrorise TT to show the USA a thing or two.
What would be your thoughts then? And soon, Israel will have to strike Iran, with the full support of developed nations. Do you also have feelings on that? Check Al Jazeera because they have a really good biased view on the latter.
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | January 21st, 2009
Police fail Hindus. By Sat Maharaj
On August 4, 2007, the famous Temple in the Sea in Waterloo was desecrated and the national population was shocked by this display of religious intolerance in the most heinous manner. Murtis were destroyed and attempts were made to burn the temple down. One year after, the national community has not heard any disclosures by the police that they are any closer in capturing the culprits. Ironically, one year to the day on August 4, 2008, a Cunupia mandir was desecrated in what appears to be a commemorative desecration—done in a similar manner to the Waterloo mandir.
We must remind the national community of the events of these attacks and how they traumatised the Hindu community national-ly.
Vandals desecrated the landmark Sewdass Sadhu Hindu Temple by the Sea in Waterloo, Carapichaima, smashing murtis, piling up the pieces in the centre of the temple and attempting to burn them.
The vandals also destroyed carpets, electrical wiring, lights, glass windows and concrete pillars. The destruction took place on Friday night after the building was secured by a caretaker.
Following the attacks the Maha Sabha and individual Hindus contributed replacement marble murtis to the mandir. It was hoped that the attacks on the mandirs would have caused the police to detect and eventually arrest the person or people connected with the attacks. Importantly, in both incidents eye-witnesses reported the suspected perpetrators fleeing the scene shouting fundamentalist slogans. This may suggest that these two attacks may be connected to people with an agenda to violently disrupt our existing religious harmony. An executive member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Inc wrote the Commissioner of Police on the matter in August last, expressing the urgency of the issue.
On November 21, 2008, a response from the office of the Commissioner of Police was received indicating the status of the investigation.
The letter read:
“I am to inform that numerous persons were interviewed in an attempt to capture and arrest the alleged offenders but this proved futile. “Statements were recorded but no useful information was obtained. Investigations are continuing pending further developments.”
It is indeed ironic that while the Police Service has failed to secure and apprehend anyone connected with the attacks on the mandirs, police officers found the time to monitor members of the Opposition and other members of the public including a member of the Maha Sabha executive. Tapping of private/religious telephone lines is both illegal and morally offensive.
On November 26, 2008, according to an investigation by TV6 News, the nation was informed that the country’s top politicians, business people, trade unionists, journalists, social activists and legal practitioners have been monitored—via high-tech equipment bought from Israel—for the past two years by a national security agency. This illegal tapping could only be for political advantage since the police still remain clueless about the spate of violent crimes in the nation.
In response to the TV6 investigative series titled “Spy Games,” the National Security Minister has said, via his media adviser Irene Medina, that “it would be highly irresponsible for the Ministry of National Security to discuss publicly and in detail the operations of national security agencies in this country.” The Maha Sabha wonders aloud how can the ministry and police have the time and effort to monitor and spy on law-abiding citizens while criminals appear to act with impunity in the nation. Are these criminals part of the “community leaders” that were “wined and dined” by the Prime Minister? Are these criminals employed by day by the many of the State’s make-work social programmes?
Are these some of the reasons why the police have consistently low detection and conviction rates while the criminals have high records of success? The Maha Sabha asks the question: how much have we spent in the last six years to improve our crime-fighting abilities and what have been the results? Have we received value for our money? We have paid millions to Scotland Yard officers and Prof Stephen Mastrofski Chair, Department of Administration of Justice, George Mason University, to assist us to improve our crime-fighting abilities but what have been the results? Stephen D Mastrofski observes in “Meeting the Challenges of Police governance in Trinidad and Tobago”:
“Trinidad and Tobago’s governance problems issue from its colonial heritage and conflicts between cultural groups in the society. The old system of governance created the appearance of governance, but dysfunctional results… But success ultimately requires major changes in the habits of all governing entities, changes that only committed leadership in government, the police and party politics can ensure.”
Satnarayan Maharaj is the secretary general of theSanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | January 21st, 2009
Caribbean ‘Wish List'’ for Obama administration. By Norman Girvan
There has been much media discussion about what the Caribbean should expect, or hope to secure, from the Obama Administration. My own wish list of priorities for the new administration falls under five headings: Gaza, Transnational Crime, Economic Development, Haiti, and Cuba.
* Sponsor an initiative for an independent international investigation into the allegations that Israel committed serious war crimes in Gaza. These allegations have come from several credible sources including United Nations officials, the International Red Cross, and human rights organisations within Israel itself.
An independent investigation backed by the US would send a clear signal that those who commit such crimes cannot expect comfort and succour from the US and would be a significant step towards the restoration of the US moral authority in the world. It should not be necessary to explain to anyone why we in the Caribbean should care about what has been happening in Gaza. One only has to watch the news.
2. Security and transnational crime—the region’s number one problem
* Suspend the programme of deportation of criminal aliens from the US to the Caribbean, and initiate discussions with the region on a mutually agreed method of handling such deportations that is consistent with the monitoring and absorptive capabilities of the receiving countries.
* Take effective action against the flow of illegal arms and ammunition into Caribbean jurisdictions.
* Provide substantial technical, material and logistical support for the effort to establish an integrated Caricom security system to combat the incursion of transnational criminal networks into the region.
3. Economic development
* Support for a regional economic development programme to be undertaken by Caricom and the CDB, focusing on physical infrastructure and energy.
* Commit to trade arrangements with the USA that are supportive of regional economic development. In the first instance this means maintaining existing non-reciprocal trade preferences extended to the Caribbean region under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the Caribbean Basin Trade Promotion Act.
* Support a challenge from Caricom countries to the Most Favoured Nation clause and other anti-development features of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union; imposed under threat of trade sanctions in 2008.
* Undertake full and unconditional cancellation of Haiti’s bilateral debt to the US, and use US influence with other bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank, to do the same.
* Restore temporary protected persons status to undocumented Haitians in the US, which provides them with the opportunity to make a case against forcible repatriation.
* Initiate an international partnership for Haitian reconstruction and development to be agreed jointly with the Haitian Government and civil society, based on Haiti’s circumstances, needs and priorities as defined and articulated by Haitians themselves.
* Lift the US trade and economic embargo against Cuba and initiate a dialogue with the Government of Cuba on the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
Norman Girvan is the professorial research fellow
at the UWI Graduate Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine. He has been secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Thursday, January 22 2009
Israel and the USA. By Marina Salandy Brown
Many people have probably noticed that if Ehud Barak, chief architect of the Gaza offensive, wins the Israeli election on February 10 we would have two of the key irritants in world peace, the USA and Israel, with leaders bearing strangely similar Semitic names. Interestingly, one of them will also have a name that sounds remarkably like the arch enemy of the USA, Osama (bin Laden). What does this portend? Some would have us believe that President Obama is a Muslim by instinct and by paternal inheritance, but I would argue that he is a very rationale politician and a pragmatist too and his name may place a particular burden on his resolving the 60-year old Middle East crisis but success is going to be very difficult to achieve.
So far the signs have not given much away but I was disappointed to see a brief news clip in which Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, used the same old hackneyed words in relation to the boiling cauldron of Middle East hatred. It is abundantly clear that such a thing as “lasting peace” is impossible in the region unless a completely different approach is taken by all concerned, especially the USA. Consider for a start the extent of US financial support for Israel, the recipient of most US aid internationally. According to Israel Money, the Bush administration’s 2008 budget gave Israel US$2.4 billion. “...Civilian aid has been steadily decreased over the course of the past ten years, going from US$1.2 million to being completely cancelled (in 2008). At the same time military aid to Israel has increased from US$1.8 billion to US$2.4 billion”. Egypt, who signed a peace accord with Israel in 1974, received “the second largest aid package... US$1.3 billion in military aid as well as US$415 million in civilian aid. Jordan…US$264 million in economic aid as well as US$200 million in military aid. Aid to the Palestinian Authority has been frozen following Hamas’ victory in the (2006) elections. Despite this President Bush has asked Congress to authorise the transfer of US$63.6 million in aid to the Palestinians, to be appropriated by the United States Agency for International Development.”
It is clear the US does not regard Palestine as a state, so that when Palestinians chose their own government in fair and free democratic elections their choice was rejected by the USA which has led, in part, to the struggle between the old PLO faction and Hamas that has weakened Palestinian progress. Which is just what suits the US who has remained obsessed with the Cold War idea, although not borne out in fact, of Israel being the only US ally in a sea of communist-backed foes. Israel is reputed to have over 400 nuclear warheads and refused UN weapons inspections, attracting no US sanctions. In addition, the US has vetoed over 30 UN resolutions on Israel, which has violated dozens of others. The destruction and loss of life in the Gaza “war”, which would probably have ended by today, has been disgustingly one-sided yet tacitly approved by the USA. And not to mention the rights of the situation where the US seems tolerant of the fact that the Jewish state occupies much Palestinian land, illegally.
Apart from the Israeli state’s violations, everywhere I went in Israel I saw Jewish settlers encroaching upon Palestinian territory. They even want to live in Gaza, so determined they are to reclaim what the scriptures supposedly say was once theirs. But that was millennia ago. Imagine the rightness of Spain reclaiming Trinidad after 500 years, let alone 2000. Ehud Barak has proven he’s keen to try putting an end to the well-armed illegal settlers, many of whom feel outside of the Jewish state and have turned their wrath on the Israeli authorities. I met many Israelis who reject those elements and I would guess this schism is deepening in Israeli society and will pose a threat to whatever deal could be struck for Israeli-Palestinian relations. Unplacated fundamentalist religious fervour in Israel is only one factor in the need for a new approach.
Then there’s Egypt, strategically hugely important. I am uncertain the government will be able to continue to suppress those opposed to peace with Israel who would be enraged by the Gaza campaign which has brought Egyptian public opinion into play through Egypt’s control of border crossings. A friend observed that Hosni Mubarak presidency is 28 years old and a new generation will come to power soon that has not lived the history and may not enjoy the same legitimacy. Without a stable Egypt the Middle East crisis would intensify. And, add Iran and Iraq into the mix. Barack will have to win over the powerful US Jewish lobby and prise newer approaches out of Barak and Hillary.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Friday, January 23 2009
Palestine government was legally elected.
THE EDITOR: In response to Mr Grant Adams whose letter appeared on January 15 2009, I wish to point out that the government in Gaza was duly elected in 2006 and is not an “illegal” one. For edification please read ericmargolis.com. Mr Margolis is a foreign correspondent on Middle East affairs and is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. Dr Terry Lacey’s How Hamas was elected may also be of interest.
Mr Adams your family’s situation, as described in your letter, was a terrible one. I think your father did the best thing by moving your family out of harm’s way. After all isn’t the life and safety of the family more important than land?
I agree injustice must never be condoned and accepted but violence is surely not always the only option. Once begun, as in the case of this latest encounter between the Palestin-ians in Gaza and the Israelis, it is difficult to stop.
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | January 27th 2009
A list of wishes or a list of biases?
As a long-time visitor to and friend of T&T, I was appalled by the “Caribbean wish list for Obama administration” written by Norman Girvan (January 22). Two segments of that list stand out as gruesome in their distortion of the truth and insulting in their implications of American interests.
Girvan’s ability to work his pro-Arab bias into a Caribbean list borders on the sublime. How about investigating slavery in Saudi Arabia, or mass murder in the Sudan? But no, he seems to ask the US to support UN investigations of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Huh? How about Hamas’s actions that brought this terrible tragedy on the heads of their own people in Gaza?
If I do a Google search for Girvan’s calls for investigation of Hamas for raining rockets and mortars for more that five years on the cities of southern Israel, will I find anything? I doubt it. Can he but contemplate the actions of the T&T military if, for example, Grenada were to bomb Port-of-Spain 30 times a day for five years? Come now, Girvan, let’s get some perspective here, or does your bias prevent that?
And to make the facts even more devastating, right within the same issue of the Guardian is the photo and article “Smuggling back on.” The piece shows, in fact seems to laud, that the smuggling of rockets and grenades into Gaza from Egypt has started again. These are the actions that drove the Israelis to exert their right of self-defence and attempt to wipe out the Hamas murderers. If the Gazans wish to be neighbours, they must be good neighbours or suffer the consequences of their actions. After all, Hamas was a chosen government, its murderous goals well known and publicised. All Israel says is “sic semper tyrannus” (thus ever to tyrants). Israel strikes back and the Hamas cry-babies marshal their network of journalists like Girvan to bellyache. What gives here?
If Hamas attacks Israel, how wonderful. Israel strikes back? How awful. What baloney. The second issue relates to a change in the US stance in relation to Cuba. Indeed, US policy on Cuba is outdated and a relic of the past. But so is the Cuban dictatorship. Fidel: 50 years in power because they all love him so much. Come now. And his brother takes over the dynasty. No free elections, no freedom for anything.
Cuba remains the most oppressed and suppressed society in the Americas. Long after even China saw the inherent conflicts and stupidity of their communist ideology, the Castros cling to power under the guise of protecting the people. From what? From the truth, for one. Well from watching CNN, for another. The Cuban people, alone in the Americas, could not openly watch the inauguration of President Obama. They couldn’t even pick it up on the Internet. Cuba is a closed, dictatorial society hiding under the cloak of power to the people. As in the Soviet Union and in China, the people will eventually claim their freedoms.
The USA’s attempt to assist that by applying steady economic pressure on the Castro dynasty should be lauded by free people, not derided as by Girvan. My suggestion is that Cuba opens its airwaves and World Wide Web so its people can see and hear of the discussions that Girvan suggests take place. If truth and freedom just leak into Cuba, the Castro dynasty will soon collapse of its own dead weight. Relations with the US will surely improve overnight.
Samuel Goldman has been a technology businessman for over 40 years and is managing director of a software products group
WHILE IT IS EASY FOR ME TO
Submitted by Grant Adams on 28 January 2009 - 12:24pm.
While it is easy for me to see and understand Mr. Goldman's points of view, and even to agree with them, I believe that his letter is a harsh response to Mr. Girvan's. Of course, I used similar arguments in commenting about another letter on the same topic in the local media, and I hope I was gentler in presenting my case. Mr. Goldman was angry, vehement and adamant, a not too polite stance when rebutting the evident biases of Mr. Girvan. But then too, the latter became famous and noted, and served, so he has to have an educated point of view. Any pro-Arab bias is unfortunate, and serves to weaken serious arguments that advance an opinion, which may or may not be otherwise biased. But Mr. Girvan has an agenda to advance, and in a way, in his list, he is preaching to the choir in Trinidad. On the other hand, Mr. Goldman's response has to be taken seriously.
The thing to know is that Hamas has run the Government of Palestine outta town, and has usurped the national government locally in Gaza, and internationally too. Who could support this? Then they start a war by bombing Israel. Who would support that? The US says it is okay for Israel to respond to the rockets. The Cuban situation is one of a Dictator and his cohorts denying people their rights to democracy. It's that simple. Americans and other nationals of the Caribbean do not escape to Cuba in flotillas. Why? Communism is a failed anachronistic experiment and Castro is its relic. The Jurassic Age continues in Cuba.
Go easy Mr. Goldman. No one could solve the Mid-East crises (pl.). Israel has a right to exist regardless of the mistakes of the British in handling its Mandate after the last World War. In future, Israel will respond dramatically to Iran/Syria, and temporarily relax tension for about 10 years. Then, it will start again, and again. War without end.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday, February 2 2009
Peace to Gaza? By Marion O'Callaghan
George Mitchell was in Cairo and in Jerusalem a week after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. George Mitchell’s message was clear. That it was spelt out not in Cairo but in Jerusalem marked the seriousness of it. Briefly, high on the President’s agenda was the stabilisation of the Middle East. Crucial to that stabilisation was the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question.
In Jerusalem two demonstrations greeted Mr Mitchell. One was of Jewish settlers. “A Palestinian State is dead”, read their banners. The other was of members of the Israeli organisation Peace Now. Their banner oriented George Mitchell’s attention to the problem of settlers: there had been more new settlers in 2008 than there had been in 2007. If George Mitchell wished tangible proof that his mission to the area eight years ago was a failure there it was. His demand then was for the end of the arrival of new Jewish settlers. His was not a new demand. This had been the demand of the UN General Council. It was there in the Oslo agreement. Nothing happened. New Jewish settlers arrived swelling the population of older settlements, starting new ones, further encroaching on Palestinian land.
George Mitchell’s mission eight years ago had to do with who was to blame for the launching of the Second Intifada on September 29 2000. He had faithfully repeated the Israeli version of events and as faithfully repeated the Palestine version of events. It gained him the criticism of Israelis accustomed to Americans who were more sympathetic to the Israeli point of view and dismissive of the Palestinian’s. But it also gained him a reputation of impartiality. The impartiality was there in the recommendations. These were what George Mitchell suggested were needed if the peace initiative was to be relaunched. He recommended that the Palestinian Authorities act to stop any violence against Israel: it was the first demand of the Israelis. He recommended that the Israeli army stop firing on unarmed demonstrators as had happened at the beginning of this Intifada. He recommended that Israel stop all colonisation. The report remained, like many others of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, filed away.
The choice of George Mitchell
Few expected that Barack Obama would choose George Mitchell as his emissary in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. True, Mitchell was not altogether a stranger to the area: his parents were Christian Lebanese immigrants to the USA. However it was generally supposed that Barack Obama would choose either Dennis Ross or Daniel Kurtzer. The choice of either would be within the consensus politics of Obama’s choices so far. Dennis Ross had been the emissary of George Bush and then of Bill Clinton. Close to the pro-Israeli lobbies in the USA, it was he who had prepared Bill Clinton’s Camp David initiative. The initiative had not only failed. It had left much Arab bitterness over the allocation of blame to Yasser Arafat rather than to the insufficiencies — some used stronger words — of preparation. Dennis Ross would have been Israel’s first choice as American emissary but Daniel Kurtzer, also close to the pro-Israeli lobbies, would have been a good second choice. That Obama on this issue broke with both the Bush Senior tradition, with the Clinton tradition, and wet outside of the pro-Israeli lobby, signalled that he was serious.
There was another reason to believe that President Obama was serious: it was George Mitchell who had negotiated the Northern Ireland Peace Settlement between the Protestant establishment and its Paramilitaries on one side, and the IRA on the other.
The first task that George Mitchell has set himself is stabilising the Israeli and the Hamas ceasefires in Gaza. For George Mitchell if the ceasefire is to hold it must achieve both the end of smuggling (the Israeli demand) and, at the same time, the opening up of all the passes into Gaza permitting Gaza both to import goods and to export her produce (the Hamas demand). George Mitchell does not see these as final arrangements. Rather they are the necessary steps if the peace initiative is to be revived.
Operation Cast Lead
Immediately after announcing a “unilateral” ceasefire, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehoud Olmert declared that Israel had now not only achieved its objectives. The obvious answer was to stop rockets being fired into Southern Israel. These rockets, whose beginning would seem to have coincided with the Second Intifada eight years ago, had stopped and started, stopped and started, according to events “on the ground”. The rockets killed few Israelis but the “few” was enough to continually disrupt life in the towns nearest to the border with Gaza. One sympathised with Israel’s desire to stop the rockets. But if this was the reason for “Cast Lead”, as the Israeli bombarding of Gaza was called, then “Cast Lead” had failed: hardly had Olmert pronounced success, than there were the rockets being fired again.
Was the reason to destroy the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza? Israel blamed these tunnels for the guns and rockets getting into Gaza. These tunnels were the reply to the total boycott of Gaza. This had been operated by Israel since the success of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Through the tunnels came food, gasoline, spare parts or medicine. At the ceasefire, the Israeli army admitted that only about half of the tunnels, approximately 500, had been destroyed. The Chief of Shin Bet (Israeli National Security) admitted that Hamas could reconstruct the destroyed tunnels in a few months and continue to smuggle in arms. Indeed only a few days after the ceasefire, television shots showed tunnels being rapidly repaired and the lucrative trade in goods restarted between Egyptians on the border and inhabitants of Gaza.
Was the goal to find and release Corporal Gilad Shalit? He was the young Israeli soldier kidnapped and held in captivity somewhere in Gaza since June 2006. But there is still no news of Gilad Shalit. The carpet bombing of areas of Gaza had been justified as “destroying Hamas”. But Hamas was in no way destroyed. Rather the very imbalance between a Hamas depending on smuggled guns and rockets on the one hand, and the military might of Israel on the other, increased sympathy for Hamas and called attention to the situation in Gaza. Was there another goal, one that was unstated?
Offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood
Care had been taken to present the Israeli attack on Gaza, as having the support of a united Israel. Certainly there was Israeli unity against the Hamas rockets. There was also a general dislike of a Hamas which was Islamic Fundamentalist and responsible for many of the past suicide bombings. There was, however, increasingly the uncomfortable realisation that Hamas was one Israeli initiative against Arafat’s Fatah, gone horribly wrong. Hamas — under another name — was an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. It had started as an Islamic organisation which challenged the secularism of Fatah. This was at a time when Ariel Sharon had encouraged the extreme Right of Lebanese Christian militia. These carved out a “Christian” zone in the area of Lebanon nearest to Israel. It was then widely believed that Sharon’s recipe for the end of conflict in the area, was the establishment of three confessional States: Christina; Muslim under the hegemony of Israel; the Jewish State. Certainly Sharon financed this beginning of Hamas. This finance was to undertake social charity and religious work among the Palestinians. It is this work which permitted the Hamas to gain a foothold among the Palestin-ians. The first Intifada ended that. That Intifada, with the sight of Palestinian teenagers attacking Israeli tanks with stones, underlined the incapacity of Arafat’s Fatah to either obtain peace or to wage a war. Hamas was launched.
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | February 5th, 2009
Explain why Israel targeted civilians.
Perhaps letter writer Samuel Goldman (“A list of wishes or a list of biases?”), in his defence of recent Israeli aggression in Gaza, would care to explain why Israel targeted so many civilian and UN facilities. Israel killed over 1,000 innocent people, many of them women and children, in response to a handful of Israeli casualties who were hit by Hamas rockets. The Israeli invasion was thus out of all proportion to the Hamas attacks. By using a sledgehammer to crack a nut Israel has punished the whole population for the actions of a few, a move guaranteed to increase the general support of Palestinians for their elected Hamas government.
Israel’s supporters abroad (with the exception of Goldman, it seems) have been alienated by her indiscriminate massacre of everyone who got in her way, and the risk of further conflict in the Middle East has been considerably increased. Israel destroyed homes, mosques a UN school and a UN food warehouse (with illegal white phosphorus) and failed to carry out her obligations under international law to help the Arab civilians trapped in the areas she occupied. Let Goldman remember that in the story of David and Goliath (Palestine and Israel) it was David who won in the end.
Goldman continues his theme of defending the strong against the weak by repeating various US charges against Cuba. Perhaps he wishes to see a return to the “good old days” when Havana was a Mafia playground full of casinos and brothels. Cubans are now the most healthy and the most literate people in the hemisphere. They have created a viable alternative economic system that has reduced crime and poverty, in spite of the US trade blockade and the loss of their Russian ally. No wonder so many other Latin American governments look to Cuba for help and advice.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, February 8th 2009
Maccabi Tel Aviv sign T&T's Sealy
Trinidad and Tobago striker Scott Sealy is now playing football in Israel.
The former San Jose Earthquakes player recently signed with Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Sealy has already played his first game and is credited with setting up a goal.
The 27-year-old Sealy had a productive career in the MLS, first with the Kansas City Wizards from 2005-2008. During that time he made 96 appearances for the club, scoring 30 goals.
In July of last year, he was traded to San Jose for an undisclosed amount of allocation money, but never really settled down, making 14 appearances the rest of the season, scoring just two goals.
Deciding to explore options abroad, Sealy signed with Tel Aviv and debuted for them last week in their match against Maccabi Haifi, which ended 1-1.
He assisted on Tel Aviv's goal, a game-tying tally by Maor Buzaglo in the 83rd minute.
Sealy, a Wake Forest University graduate, made 24 appearances for the T&T national team since 2004, scoring two international goals.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Monday, February 9 2009
Israel votes tomorrow By Marion O'Callaghan
Tomorrow, February 10, will be Election Day in Israel. Polls a week ago showed the ruling Kaduma Party and its smaller allies, including the Labour Party, losing to Likud and its potential allies of the Far Right.
These potential allies are not only Orthodox and Conservative Jewish Parties. Sign of the times, they now include an ethnic party of mainly Russian Jewish settlers. The division between Kaduma and Likud stems from a conflict within Likud. This, Ariel Sharon’s own party, split over Sharon’s proposed removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza and Gaza’s return to Palestinians. It was Benjamin Nétanyahou who had led the Likud opposition to Ariel Sharon’s Gaza proposal. Sharon in reply formed Kaduma, taking with him those from the Right and from the Centre Left who remained convinced that Sharon, who had led Israel for so long, was probably right on the Gaza pull out.
Théo Klein, lawyer and former President of CRIF, the French Jewish Council, in an important and sensitive article records that “A few days before his accession to power, Ariel Sharon declared to me — I recognise this to my great satisfaction — that there is not a military solution to the conflict. There is only a political solution.” Sharon struck unconscious by a stroke, remains in a near vegetative state. The holding together of Kaduma, the follow through of the Gaza pull out, was left to Ehud Olmert. But Olmert lacked the respect of the military which Ariel Sharon had gained over the decades of fighting in every one of Israel’s wars. And Olmert’s personal life was mired in gossip. Worse, the Israeli incursion into Lebanon had, for the first time, put in question the invincibility of Israel’s Defence Force.
As worrying was the Gad missile which, fired by Hamas, had hit Ashdad forty kilometres north of Gaza. It killed the only Israeli woman to die in the war, but it was symbolically more than this. In the conflict between Sharon and Nétanyahou, the latter had prophesied that Gaza would be used to shell Ashdad. Electoral advertisements for Likud reminded Israeli voters that Nétanyahou had predicted this in 2005 and that it had come tragically to pass. It is not surprising that with this election coming up, people were tempted by Nétanyahou and Likud. These promise that the illegal settlers of Palestinian lands would not be forcibly removed. In other words, they would stay.
A Jewish State
The problem was that Israelis were in a bind not primarily because of Gaza, but because of the Israeli victory of 1967. Before 1967, Israelis had lived with the myth of inheriting an empty land from which Palestinians had fled of their own accord. This turned out to be largely untrue: many Palestinians were chased out. A People without land for a land without People,” was one of those glib sayings that hid the complexity of the situation. It did however permit the first waves of idealistic Zionists with their distinctive communal Kibbutz, to coexist with later, more clearly “settler” waves. The reality of an anti-Semitism which could erupt anywhere, pogroms which could decimate, uproot and render stateless Jewish communities, provided the basis for Israel long before the State came into being sixty years ago: its existence depended on its Jewishness. In other words, Jews were to remain a clear majority in the Jewish State. This ethno-religious definition of a State was not initially Jewish. Rather it was the definition utilised to divide the Balkans in the wake of the disintegration of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The war of 1967 ended the Jewish majority in a land which now included a Palestinian population already larger than the Jewish population, with a high birthrate, and with a large Palestinian refugee population in camps in the Middle East. The question of a Palestinian State was therefore prompted not only by the Palestinians desire to have their own State but by the very continued existence of Israel as a Jewish State. There was another possibility: Increased Jewish immigration and the increased confiscation of Palestinian lands. Whatever of lip service to a Palestinian State, it was to immigration that the Israeli government turned.
It was settlements on what was recognised by UN resolutions as Palestinian lands occupied by Israel, that were the first target of the Second Intifada. With it Yasser Arafat hoped to force Israel back to the negotiation table reopening the Oslo debate after the debacle of Camp David. Yasser Arafat’s agreement with the terms of Oslo split his Fatah party. Those who refused Oslo argued that while it in essence disarmed Fatah and obtained the recognition of Israel, it provided no mechanism for enforcing Israel’s compliance with regard to settlements and withdrawal of the pre-1967 boundaries. The Palestinian Authority, they argued, was only an expensive mirage. Among those who refused Oslo were some of Yasser Arafat’s most trusted men. They remained in Tunis or dispersed across the Middle East and Europe. It was left to Hamas to refuse the Oslo agreement and with it the ending of armed conflict and the recognition of Israel. The Hamas position on this last was strengthened by including it in the Party’s constitution. The demands of Israel; of the “Quarter”, ie the four countries, the USA, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, who attempt to put in place a Peace solution; and the European Union, are that Hamas accept Oslo and its implications. It is this which is meant by Hamas accepting “former agreements” before it can be brought into negotiations. And it is this which accounts for Hamas’ continuing refusal.
It was however the settlements which fragilised Fatah. It was these which made any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict difficult to implement. Zeev Sternhell, the Israeli historian, underlined that “no one has any real project to put an end to the colonisation. All the politicians say the same thing...” As early as 2005, an official report on these wildcat colonies recognised that most of them had been erected illegally and on privately owned Palestinian lands. Construction was also to ensure that no agreement with the Palestinians could include part of Jerusalem. Illegal settler buildings on the eastern periphery of Jerusalem encircle the city, creating a Greater Jerusalem and making it impossible for Palestinians to have Eastern Jerusalem as their capital. An attempt — opposed by the Americans — to create a junction between the settlement of Maale Aduim and Jerusalem would, if it succeeds, cut the West Bank in half ending all possibility of a viable Palestinian State. Even as the war went on in Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas called attention to the settlements as the most serious issue facing Palestinians and threatening peace. In vain. What Gaza had illustrated was that Mahmoud Abbas was powerless.
At the beginning of the Gaza war sympathy was, in general, with Israel. As the extent of the bombardment emerged this initial sympathy gave way to horror. It turned out that Hamas’ biggest weapon was the overkill of the Israeli defence forces and their sophisticated weaponry. That Israel had forbidden foreign journalists entering Gaza during the war, impressed on these the vulnerability of a Gaza blockaded by Israel. By the time of the cease-fire, the call for a political solution was not only members of the Israeli movement “Peace Now.” It emerged that the US of Bush and Condoleeza Rice did not always see eye to eye with Israel.
The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, called for a Palestinian Government of National Unity as the organ for negotiations. It was a way of including Hamas. Speaking from Damascus, a Hamas leader, in a rare conciliatory tone, brushed off the question of the recognition of Israel. “It is not the State of Israel that is our problem,” he remarked, “it is that Palestinians have no State.”
Theo Klein’s article, mentioned above, not only sharply criticises Hamas. It points to the fact that there has never been a debate in Israel’s external relations, nor on Israel’s eventual boundaries, nor on the status of non-jews in a larger Israel. Rather questions were governed only by Israel’s internal politics. It is this, he argues, which has fragilised Fatah, opened the way for Hamas and limited Israel’s role in what is her own region, the Middle East.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, February 13th 2009
$3.25 million raised for Gaza By Aabida Allaham
AFTER 12 days of intense fund raising, Muslims and concerned people of Trinidad and Tobago were able to gather $3.25 million to send to Gaza, in the troubled Middle East.
The money, which was given to Human Concern International (HCI)-a non-profit, non-political, non governmental organisation whose head office is located in Canada-at a formal ceremony in the Mandela Hall, at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, will be used to purchase medicine, food and other basic necessities.
According to chairman of the ad hoc group, Imtiaz Mohammed, Muslims and non-Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago felt the pain of Palestine people and decided to do something so they could get some of their basic needs satisfied.
"We have seen photographs...and videos of men, woman and children covered in blood and their wounds wide open and being in unbearable pain (and we could not let that go on)," he added.
The people who live on the disputed strip of land bordering Israel have been complaining of constant unprovoked attacks by Israeli forces but Israel says it acted in self defence. Mohammed said he was hopeful that American President Barack Obama will reach out to the Muslim world, to correct the wrong done to the Palestinians by the Israelites.
Meanwhile, chairman of HCI, Farooqui Baksh, who was present at the ceremony, said the sum was the single largest amount of money ever given to it.
He added that while other NGOs would take a percentage-and normally would only take 4 per cent for administration- it intended to use every single cent on the people in Gaza.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Saturday, February 14th 2009
Tel Aviv, Tehran and Washington By Basil Ince
Elections in functioning democracies mean something. They provide the voters with an opportunity to approve or disapprove of what the in-party has or has not accomplished during its tenure of office. The voters decide if there should be a mandate for change or whether the ship of state should adhere to its course. Voting behaviour is relevant in both domestic and foreign policy; but here we examine the impact of elections on foreign policy in Israel, Iran and the United States.
About three months ago voters in the United States called for a change in the conduct of its foreign policy. This week, although no new government has been formed at the time of writing, it is clear that the results of the Israeli elections portend a hard line policy towards Iran and Palestine. In Iran, where the elections will be held in June, it is yet unclear what the electorate would do given the fact that the former president Mohammad Khatami has decided to challenge the volatile incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In the United States the new president, Barack Obama, promised a foreign policy different from that of his predecessor-the end of unilateralism, adherence to international law, and a willingness to reach out and talk with foes. "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," he intoned. The response from an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman was immediate: "If there is any clenched fist in the world, it is the fist of the USA."
Obama's offer and Iran's response are indicative of the rancour between both countries over the last thirty years. Landmarks of the revolution of 1979 were: the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran by hardline Iranian students; the ousting of the US-backed Shah from office; and the emergence to power of the revolutionary Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini. Next came the debacle of 9/11 after which George W Bush branded Iran as a member of the "axis of evil." And finally in 2005 when Ahmadinejad came to power, he railed against the United States, and defied it and its allies by pursuing Iran's nuclear programme.
Despite the initial Iranian response, last week at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Ahmadinejad changed his tone indicating that he was prepared to open dialogue with the United States which in the past he called "The Great Satan."
The Iranian nation is ready for talks (with the US) but in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect, the leader declared. He cited terrorism, the elimination of nuclear weapons, the restructuring of the UN Security Council, and drug trafficking as items that could form the agenda. The volte face can be explained by the upcoming elections in June and the fact that former president, Mohammad Khatami, has entered the race.
A reformist, who has not done much reform, Khatami favours better relations with the West and is still popular. His entry into the race has forced Ahmadinejad to show that he is not as belligerent as portrayed and would be willing to sit at the table with the Americans.
While the impending Iranian election has been marked by a shift in tone of the incumbent president, the outcome of the election in Israel indicates no apparent change in its policy towards Palestine or Iran. Right wing parties, with the main Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, won 64 seats, while the centre-left Kadima, with its leader Tzipi Livni, acquired 54. The Yisraeli Beiteinu party, led by ultra nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, won 15, and with other minor right wing parties, could be instrumental in forming the next government. Netanyahu's and Lieberman's parties appear to be natural allies.
They oppose the freezing of construction of settlements in the West Bank, ceding East Jerusalem to Palestine, and ceding the Golan Heights to Syria, issues which run counter to the Arab peace initiative. Such a coalition will make no headway with the Palestinians and will make negotiations with the Obama administration well-nigh impossible.
A coalition with Livni at the head will be better for the Palestinians and Obama to treat with, but it would be no walk in the park. On all other issues, save negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, Livni is in sync with Netanyahu, including the disproportionate onslaught on Hamas.
While any Israeli coalition will have its internal problems, the Palestinians have their own split between Hamas, which won the elections in 2006, and the moderate Abbas whose power is on the slide. As a former peace mediator put it, Obama will have to negotiate with "dysfunctional" Israeli and Palestine houses.
Talks with Iran are also laden with problems for Obama who asserted during the election campaign that he would never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. The New York Times reported that an Israeli official sought Bush's approval to fly above Iraq's air space to take out the enrichment plant at Natanz. Bush demurred. Any meeting on the nuclear plant issue is likely to lead to confrontation with the Obama administration. Any conference involving Israel, Iran, and the United States on war and peace whether held in Tel Aviv, Tehran, or Washington will be obviously contentious.
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Monday, February 16 2009
Fear and Hope as Israel votes By Marion O'Callaghan
Avigdor Lieberman has reason to be satisfied: his party, Israel Beitenou (Israel Our Home), is now the third political party of Israel. The Labour Party, once the Party of Golda Meir and of Shimon Perez, has been beaten into fourth place. Lieberman and his party Israel Beitenou is a Party of the Extreme Right. Until recently its membership was largely Russian speaking Jews.
Thirty-three Political Parties contested the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset or Parliament. These seats are allocated according to the percentage of votes a Party gets in the election. There is no division of the country by circumscription. In the last Knesset Kadima got the most seats: 29. In this election they have retained their place as the first Party but with 28 seats and only one seat more than Likud. Who forms the government will depend on who can forge enough alliances to form a majority coalition. It is here that the Extreme Right Israel Beitenou becomes important as Labour with 18 seats was in the former election. If Israel Beitenou has managed to get only the total of the Russian speaking Jewish vote, they would already have 16 percent of the electorate. However it goes, this is likely to be a short-lived government. Some commentators argue that this extreme Proportional Representation splinters the Israel electorate and has militated against any settlement with the Palestinians.
The progress of Israel Beitenou illustrates Israel’s swing to the Right. This swing was noticeable in the reaction to the war in Gaza and noticeable in the election campaign. All of Israel’s major political parties supported the war in Gaza as did in general, the Israeli population. Unlike Israel’s entry into Lebanon in the last Israeli-Hezbollah war, there was no major movement of refusals to fight. There were only a few isolated cases that could be ignored. The debate was over time, ie should Israeli troops have stayed longer in Gaza and finished Hamas as the army and Likud argued or did they stay too long in Gaza?
It was not only a failure to debate the war in Gaza. There was little debate on the economic situation in Israel nor on the growing gap between rich and poor, nor on the dissatisfaction with social services. Part of the reason for this was the part that war news occupied in the interest of Israelis but part was the Israeli preoccupation with encirclement and with Iran. Reactions to the Gaza war abroad increased the sentiment of fear, of being misunderstood by friends and surrounded by enemies: by the Hezbollah to the North, Hamas to the South.
Much of this could be brushed off as paranoia but some of it was not. That Venezuela and Bolivia criticised Israel’s action was one thing. The desecration of the principal Caracas synagogue which followed, and the anti-Jewish slogans painted on the walls of the synagogue, was another. A pro-Palestine march in Paris can be a gesture of political solidarity with Palestinians. But what to think of the Jewish student who happens to be passing by and is beaten up? These incidents could be multiplied a number of times over. Related in Israel, they added to apprehension and added to an exaggerated Israeli nationalism.
More important were reactions in Iran. During the war in Gaza, Iran was mobilised. It was reported that young girls marched carrying dolls to symbolise the children killed in Gaza. The Supreme Guide, the ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a boycott of Israeli products and of companies which did business with Israel. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had before this denied the holocaust and was reported as having called for the liquidation of Israel, now called for an international tribunal “to judge Israel’s war crimes.” In all of this hysteria, the 70,000 Iranian volunteers for the Gaza-Hamas Front were promptly sent back home from Teheran’s airport: Iran would back Hamas as it backed the Hezbollah in Lebanon but it had no intention of directly entering an armed conflict with Israel.
Iran was much more interested in the leadership of Radical Islam. She challenged the moderate Arab countries which had recognised Israel, ie Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. She established closer links with a Turkey now with an Islamist Political Party in power. That was the sense of the trip of the President of the Iranian Parliament to Turkey to plead the cause of Hamas. But it was also the sense of the spat at the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, between the President of Israel and the President of a Turkey once considered neutral over the Palestine-Israel affair. By how much was Iran backing Hamas? Nobody knows.
A proxy war?
Gossip has quoted millions of dollars. Any backing from an Iran with nuclear ambitions could hardly be expected to comfort Israel. Paul Gillespie, writing in the Irish Times (January 10) recalls the speculation that “either the US on its own or Israel with US approval, would attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities before George Bush left office.” Both, according to Gillespie, were “vetoed by Pentagon realists.” This would seem to confirm the news in the Guardian of London (September 2008) that Washington had refused an Israeli request for high penetration anti-bunker bombs which could be used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz. We now know that Israel has already bombed a “suspicious” site in Syria. Gillespie suggests that the bombardment of Gaza was a proxy war with Iran. Certainly it was Iran which was the Israeli preoccupation during the election campaign. On this too Israel’s major parties agreed. During the campaign there was only one difference between them: a Palestinian state. Only Kadima supported a Palestinian state but said little of that as the war in Gaza raged. Indeed it is widely believed that it was this war which saved Kadima from being routed in the elections.
We would be wrong to see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict only through the lens of the Israeli swing to the Right. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and a declared friend of Israel, was quoted as saying in the midst of the Gaza bombing: “We know what to do, let’s do it.” He meant it both for Israel and for his European partners. Whatever was publicly said, there had been ongoing contacts with Hamas through the intermediaries of Egypt, Turkey and Syria.
The first step was ensuring that the present cease fire held. That meant replying to Israel’s demand that the tunnels, which she claimed brought in arms to Hamas, were closed. It also meant responding to Hamas’ demand that all the points of access to Gaza be opened, lifting Israel’s blockade. There was a further demand of Hamas for the freeing of prisoners held by Israel in return for the Israeli soldier Hamas had kidnapped which is being negotiated at present.
On the table are two further proposals. Arab states meeting in Beirut in 2002, offered recognition of Israel and her full integration into the region in return for her withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and the establishment of a Palestinian state. A poll taken just before the recent elections showed only 35 percent of Israelis agreeing to this. There is a complementary proposal from a group of Palestinians and Israelis meeting in Geneva some time before that. This meeting hammered out the way that a viable and continuous Palestinian state could be formed. There was agreement on exchanges of land in return for the “historic” Jewish settlement near to Jerusalem remaining, and agreement on Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Present at the meeting was Shimon Perez, now President of Israel, as well as representatives of Fatah. What has kept these two proposals from being implemented? Briefly the political conflicts within Israel and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas among Palestinians. It is of note that an editorial in Le Monde, one in the Irish Times and unofficial noises from politicians have suggested that negotiations must include Hamas as part of a Unity Palestinian Government if any settlement is to work. This is being negotiated in Egypt at present.
And Israel? First step perhaps, the upcoming elections in Iran. There is one other factor to be added: Barack Obama.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, June 8th 2009
Obama and the two-state solution. By Gwynne Dyer
It was a good speech by any measure, and it will go some way towards lessening the mistrust of the world’s Muslims towards the United States. But when it comes to the core issue that has put Americans and Arabs on different sides of the fence over the past decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will take more than words.
What Barack Obama said in Cairo sounds pretty sensible: ’the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security...And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires.’’ But what was possible 20 years ago is a lot harder now.
Twenty years ago, the ’two-state solution’’ was a dramatic breakthrough. By resurrecting the old United Nations idea of legally partitioning Palestine, it finally offered a way out of the endless confrontation between dispossessed Palestinians and triumphant Israelis that lay at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Twenty years ago, Yasser Arafar, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), had only recently accepted the need to settle for a Palestinian state in the 22 per cent of Palestine that was not incorporated into Israel after the independence war of 1948-49. Israelis were still forbidden by law to talk to the PLO, and there were still several years to run before Israel would officially accept the same goal in the Oslo accords. But it was a time of hope in the Middle East.
The two-state solution was a triumph of realism over ambition, and the proof of its realism was the fact that both sides hated it.
Palestinians had to surrender their hopes of ever recovering their original homeland and settle instead for a divided mini-state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israelis had to give up the dream of a large and secure state stretching from the sea to the Jordan River, and remove the settlements they had scattered all over the occupied Palestinian territories since they had conquered them in the 1967 war.
Both sides felt they were making huge concessions, but making concessions to reality is giving up things that you never really had. The Palestinians never had the slightest hope of recovering their lost homes in what is now Israel either by negotiation or by force. The Israelis could hang onto the West Bank and the Gaza Strip militarily, but only at the cost of ending up with a country that contained more Palestinians than Jews.
So make the deal, and get on with your lives. That was what Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decided to do when they signed the Oslo accords in 1993, and maybe if Rabin had lived that would actually have happened. But Rabin was murdered in 1995 by an Israeli extremist opposed to withdrawal from the occupied territories-and his successor was the same man who re-emerged as prime minister in the recent Israeli elections: Binyamin Netanyahu.
During his first prime ministership in 1996-99, Netanyahu successfully stalled on delivering the steps towards Palestinian independence outlined in the Oslo accords. By the time he left office, both Israelis and Palestinians were becoming disillusioned with the prospect of two states living side by side in peace.
That disillusionment facilitated the rise of the PLO’s great rival, Hamas, which echoes the Israeli right in rejecting the whole two-state idea. Opinion polls still find majority support for the two-state solution among both Israelis and Palestinians, but the majorities have been shrinking for years.
More importantly, both Hamas among the Palestinians and Likud and its more extreme allies in Israel are in a position to sabotage any two-state deal. Hamas directly controls over one-third of the Palestinian population, in the Gaza Strip. Given Israel’s proportional voting system, it is getting harder and harder to construct a coalition government there that does not contain one of the parties that are dedicated to blocking the deal. The two-state solution has been on life-support for years.
Resurrecting it is not impossible, but it will be very hard to do.
However, his private views may have evolved over the years, Netanyahu simply cannot agree to the creation of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the West Bank without destroying his coalition government. Nor can the PLO deliver Hamas’s assent to the two-state solution, and without it the Gaza Strip is not part of the solution.
So if Obama is as serious about promoting this solution as he sounds, his strategy must aim at two intermediate goals: undermining Netanyahu’s coalition in Israel, and subverting Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip.
Both goals require exactly the same policies in Washington: vocal and resolute opposition to any further expansion of Israeli settlements (including ’natural growth’’), and firm, consistent support for a genuinely independent Palestinian state.
Obama has made a good start at the first task, bluntly telling Netanyahu that the secret promises that President George W Bush made to Likud about keeping the settlements all lapsed when the ex-president left office. Now he has to start working on the Palestinian side of the equation. Perhaps his next big speech should be in the West Bank.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, June 14th 2009
World conference on racism. By Andy Johnson
THE UNITED STATES, Israel, Australia and Canada were among countries which boycotted a United Nations conference on racism, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in April, because they said the language for the talks was offensive, including the allegation that it was anti-semitic.
At the conference itself, the decision of the boycotters appeared to have been vindicated when diplomats representing other countries present, walked out of the conference. These countries included British, French and Czech Republic representatives - and their objection was to the remarks which were being delivered by the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejan. Simply put, he was denigrating Israel’s right to exist.
Trinidad and Tobago, however, was among the participating countries which were not offended by the remarks of the Iranian President. Three other Caricom member states attended the conference and held similar positions.
It was important to have been there, this country’s Ambassador in Geneva, Dennis Francis said in an interview on the subject.
Dubbed the Durban Review Conference, the Geneva gathering was a follow up to a predecessor conference in the South African city from which it got the name. It was the latest edition in the UN World Conference against Racism, which has been looking at such issues as Migration and Discrimination, Gender and Racial Discrimination, Racism against Indigenous People and Multi-ethnic States and the Protection of Minority Rights.
Papers generated from the Durban conference and which were circulated for the Geneva review included such topics as The Race Dimensions of Trafficking in Persons-Especially Women and Children, At the Crossroads of Gender and Racial Discrimination and Doctrines of Dispossession-Racism against Indigenous Peoples.
Held in 2001, the Durban conference produced a Declaration and Programme of Action which purported to establish ’concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.’
It said the programme of action embodied the firm commitment of the international community to tackle the issues under its review at national, regional and international levels.
’Recognition that no country can claim to be free of racism, that racism is a global concern and tackling it should be a universal effort is an important achievement,’ the declaration said,
But, Ambassador Francis said after the Geneva gathering, the review meeting took a cue from a considerable body of opinion which said that Durban did not achieve a lot of its stated objectives. There were short-comings, he said, in the approach to addressing the issues as they affected women, children and minorities, and that there needed to be greater emphasis and focus on efforts aimed at ’eradication in the world of racism and discrimination in all its manifestations.’
Trinidad and Tobago has an abiding interest in issues of this sort, he said, ’given our own history’. That history, he elaborated, was fashioned in large measure by what he described as colonialism’s strategy of dividing the races in order to exercise control.
’Given Trinidad and Tobago’s character as a developing country, as a multi-racial country amplified the imperative for taking its seat at this table,’ said Francis.
Governments of Jamaica and Barbados, along with Trinidad and Tobago, have permanent missions in Geneva, all of which were represented at the conference. Guyana sent a delegation to the talks. Agriculture specialist Dr PI Gomes is the Guyanese Ambassador and Head of Mission in Brussels, Belgium.
The Caribbean countries worked, Francis said, under the umbrella of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, agreeing to broad positions on such ’contentious issues’ as Islamaphobia, and opportunities to address the Arab/Israeli issue, partricularly in light the recent situation in Gaza.
’The Caribbean countries were very strong on ways to get the whole idea of reparations with regard to slavery into the discussions,’ he said.
I asked whether Trinidad and Tobago was pressing the issue of reparations. ’I won’t say we are pressing the issue,’ said Francis, ’but we feel there must be some kind of acknowledgement and recognition of the wrongs which were visited upon the victims of slavery, both on the continent and in the diaspora.’
He said a less contentious, less loaded expression than ’perpetrated’ was examined, explaining that it was important to get the language correct in diplomatic dialogue which was what underpinned the conference in the first place.
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, said Francis, were among Caribbean countries which would have had more than a responsibility to be involved in exercises undertaken by the Durban conference.
’We pride ourselves as being one of the most multi-racial, multi-ethnic societies. There is a very complex fabric in Trinidad and Tobago, structured on the basis of a lot of different races and religions,’ he noted.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Monday, June 22nd 2009
Opinion: Pity the Palestinians.
Each party has its own stance and although there may be some modification of positions reflecting leadership changes internally, the overall situation sadly remains the same. Much was expected of President Barack Obama after the George Bush years but as so often happens in democracies leadership becomes constrained by politics.
In opposition one can have one position but in power one has to face the reality and constraints of democratic systems. President Obama has placed great emphasis on resumption of peace talks and the two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine issue. You could see this from his body language when he spoke individually in the White House with Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu. We expect that Netanyahu’s recent statement in agreement with the two-state solution is a response to Obama’s Cairo address to the Muslim world.
But while President Obama and his administration gave a cautious welcome to his agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state the sting was there, not a checkmate but a rather incisive rook-to-bishop move. Netanyahu lays down the condition that the Palestinian state must be demilitarised, even though the country he leads-Israel-is heavily militarised and supposedly possesses nuclear weapons.
He goes even farther in stating that settlements in the captured West Bank will continue, the settlers being pioneers and principled. Obama wanted the settlements stopped. The Palestinians wanted to return to their lands.
It is of course possible that Netanyahu’s position is simply a bargaining manoeuvre and that Israel may make concessions for peace. Already the two Palestinian factions have effectively rejected the proposal for a demilitarised Palestinian state as have other countries of the Middle East. But their position is extremely shaky, with the deep and often violent division between Fatah and Hamas.
One can have sympathy with all the groups, Israelis and Palestinians. The former survived the Holocaust that slaughtered over six million Jews in Europe and in effect formed the state of Israel against all odds. The establishment of Israel displaced Palestinians from their lands. How it will be resolved is uncertain.
We remind readers that the issue is not unique. Ethnic groups forming proto-states or major insurgencies exist elsewhere and have been part of human history over the centuries. The Kurds of Turkey and Iraq, for example, or the Armenians, or the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. Ethnicity binds, but ethnicity can also divide.
Any time we hear of division and discrimination in our tiny nation of immigrant peoples of diverse cultures we should really remind ourselves that there are more factors binding us than dividing us, and that is the greatest plus in our favour as a people. We must always be wary of those who would divide.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, February 3rd 2010
Whose Palestine is it? By Courtenay Bartholomew
Today’s international terrorism has its roots in biblical history and unless we are well-versed in chapters 15-22 of the Book of Genesis, we cannot fully understand what the Israeli-Palestinian problem is all about or be able to appreciate the central question: Whose Palestine is it?
Now, according to the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham’s wife Sarah was childless when the Lord promised him: ’Your heir shall be your flesh and blood.’ However, throughout the whole of eleven years Sarah still remained childless and one day, growing impatient for the birth of the promised son and not understanding the divine delay, she told Abraham to go to her handmaid Hagar so that she may have a child through her. Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant and in those days it was not unusual for a man to have more than one wife nor for a childless wife to give her handmaid to her husband. The wife would then be considered to be the mother of the handmaid’s child.
Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar conceived Ishmael. However, once she conceived, mutual jealousy then led to Hagar’s running away from the house with her son after Sarah dealt harshly with her. It was not until Abraham was 100 years that his legitimate wife Sarah, long past the age when she might have a child, eventually bore him a son Isaac as Yahweh had promised. It is said that the descendants of Ishmael, who grew up in Arabia are the Muslims whereas those of Isaac, who remained in Palestine are today’s Jews. As Israel’s Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said in a 1985 address to the United Nations General Assembly: ’The sons of Abraham will have become quarrelsome, but remain family nonetheless.’ Indeed, it is written that at the death of Abraham, his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah.
As is written in the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh made certain promises to Abraham regarding Ishmael and Isaac: ’And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac’ (Genesis 17:20-21). The Qu’ran, on the other hand, written centuries upon centuries after the Old Testament script, directly contradicts this. From the Muslim point of view, the Jewish revelation in the Old Testament was ’corrupted.’
Islam states that Abraham’s first son was Ishmael and that Isaac was born afterwards as a reward to him for his obedience to God’s command to sacrifice Ishmael on Mount Moriah and not Isaac as the Old Testament states. The Qu’ran insists that Ishmael was the ’son of the promise.’ And so once more, what is the truth?
Now, those Jews who rely on the biblical deed to the land and claim that ’this land is mine,’ take their history from the ancient period of about 4,000 years ago, when Moses and Joshua led the Hebrews to the Promised Land, skipping over the centuries of Muslim conquests and rule that followed. On the other hand, those Arabs who also regard history as their ally, tend to begin with the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century AD, blithely ignoring the Jewish kingdom set up by David that existed there 2,000 years before Muhammad was born.
In his book The Palestinians, Jonathan Dimbleby, the British television reporter, gave a history of the Middle East from a Palestinian point of view. In defence of the plight of the Palestinians, he wrote: ’It is now generally agreed that the conflict in the Middle East is, at root, a territorial dispute between two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Zionist case for Palestine is well known, but the Palestinian case is equally powerful.’
Meanwhile Lance Lambert, writing from a biblical and Israeli point of view in his book The Uniqueness of Israel, defended the Israeli claim to the land. He argued: ’For the Jews it is the country of the patriarchs. It is the country of Moses and Joshua. It is the land where kings ruled from the country of David and Solomon. It is a unique land and is the subject of a divine promise. Indeed, no other land on Earth has ever been promised by God to one particular people.’
However, as David Shipler lamented in his book Arab and Jew: ’I am neither Arab nor Jew. By culture and creed, I should suffer neither pain nor passion over the causes and battles that entangle the two peoples And yet I cannot help caring At times a rush of anger would propel me to the conviction that, in their mutual hatreds, both sides deserve each other. And then at other moments I was enveloped by a sense that both sides were right. But I offer no solutions to the problem. I have no prescriptions for peace ’
What therefore is the solution to the problem? Continual family wars over land? Or will it be Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s ’final solution’ - wiping Israel off the face of the map? If that is attempted, may God help us!
Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Wednesday, February 18 2009
Peace in the Middle East
THE EDITOR: Way back in 1974, I had a dream that I had won the Nobel peace Prize for finding a solution to the Middle East crisis. In that same dream, I was congratulated in person by the first black President of the United States of America.
Well, I have lived to see part of that dream come true but the pressing problem of Middle East peace remains.
Should the Israelis relocate to Alaska or Australia as President Ahmadinejad suggests? That doesn’t sound very plausible. Should there be a separate homeland for the Palestinians existing peacefully side by side with Israel as the late Pope John Paul II suggested? Ah, this seems to be a much better proposal.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Sunday, February 28th 2010
PM: Security cloak for T&T. By Denyse Rennne
Prime Minister Patrick Manning yesterday promised T&T will soon be cloaked in a security blanket, making it difficult for illegal arms, ammunition and drugs to penetrate its maritime boarders.
Manning made the promise in his feature address at yesterday’s commissioning of six fast patrol vessels at Stauble’s Bay, Chaguaramas.
The vessels-CG11 T&T Scarlet Ibis, CG12 T&T Hibiscus, CG13 T&T Humming Bird, CG14 T&T Chaconia, CG 15 T&T Poui and CG16 T&T Teak -now joins the coast guard’s fleet of ten interceptors and four older interceptors. Manning said, currently, T&T faces two major problems, one being the issue of illegal drugs, namely cocaine, and the other the entry of illegal firearms into the country.
Stating that criminal elements have a thriving business from the importation and sale of these illegal items, Manning said fifty to sixty per cent of crime arises from the ’drug and illegal arms trade’.
Referring to the 1985 Scotland Yard Drug Report, Manning said one of the conclusions of the report was that T&T ’is small enough to eradicate the drug trade’.
on show: Newly acquired coast guard fast patrol vessels during a display at yesterday's welcoming ceremony at Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas. -Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK
He said the recently acquired vessels will work hand in hand with the 360-degree radar system, obtained from Israel, to ensure T&T receives adequate coverage. He said already, ten radars were installed throughout T&T and were fully operational, with security agencies studying strategies and determining ways to address issues of detection.
Manning also said three off patrol vessels (OPV) are due to arrive in the country in July, before the end of the year and next year respectively, and will work alongside other security agencies to ensure the security of the country’s borders.
Saying T&T’s sea capabilities will soon be up to strength, he said Government has been assured the required training will be entrusted to those using the vessels.
Manning also spoke about the growth of the illegal drug industry, noting ’drug dealers no longer count money but weigh it’, but said with the acquisition of the vessels, T&T will see a reduction in crime.
’The Government recognises that if we are able to stem the illegal importation of cocaine and other drugs and the illegal importation of arms, we can see a reduction in crime by 50 per cent,’ he said.
The prime minister also thanked National Security Minister Martin Joseph, saying he has persevered despite criticism over the crime scourge in the country.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Chief of Defence Staff Brig Edmund Dillon who said receipt of the vessels will surely transform the protective services, making T&T ’a safe and secure environment for people to work, live and play’.
Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cpt Kent Moore also spoke at the event which was attended by Attorney General John Jeremie, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, and other Government ministers.
Prime Ministers digging holes. By Marina Salandy Brown
One must both have sympathy for and admire individuals who put themselves at the service of their nations. I believe that the vast majority of men and women who aspire to lead their countries really do believe they can make things better, but they always have to deal with the realities of power and maintaining it, and will inevitably and finally make serious enemies and mistakes. It is par for the course.
Often, in response to those realities these people begin to dig their own political graves. We see it happening here before our eyes with our present Prime Minister whom by anybody’s calculation must be considered a very capable and wily politician who will leave an indelible mark on our history. He was very successful in resuscitating his moribund party and despite the odds has manoeuvred himself into an impregnable position. He has seen off the very brightest, the most able of quasi pretenders and has dragged us into a status quo, which many do not desire, through the force of his will, his unswerving vision of where he wants us to be and his skill in achieving it. He has been masterful in creating the means and space in which to realise his personal and national ambitions.
Before the last general elections I remember hearing people ask laughingly whether the nation preferred to be led by a “crook” (Panday) or a “mook” (Manning). It was an invidious choice and many abstained or voted for COP. But the “mook” got his way, seized his chance and has triumphed, catching everyone off guard. And while that is happening the “crook” has got off the hook and is proving that he is, in fact, a “mook,” trying to retard the natural development of the party he started. It should be instructive to our Prime Minister to observe just how effectively natural evolution removed Mr Panday from his perch and try to avoid the same fate.
There are many other examples but I highlight just two: Mrs Thatcher, who changed the economic and social course of the United Kingdom but who in the end was drummed out of office because she lost touch with ordinary people. That transforming Conservative leader was revered by a young Tony Blair, who later became the leader of the opposing Labour Party and PM. He openly spoke of how Britain’s first female PM had influenced him, but he, too, was later to become persona non grata when he dragged the UK into the Iraq war against advice and public protest. It destroyed the, till then, legacy he had shaped in reforming the Labour Party, modernising it and making it electable again.
It is pure coincidence but worth noting that it is construction that has occasioned a crisis across the other side of the world in the cauldron that is Middle East affairs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is mired in the most difficult time of his political career over Israel’s insistence on building new Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian (Moslem and Christian) land in defiance of its paymaster, the USA, and of world opinion embodied in various UN resolutions.
TT’s internal politics is small fry in comparison with what happens in Israel since that seriously affects international politics and peace but the slight similarities are interesting. Netanyahu is typically Israeli in the sense that he operates on the principle that “not because we are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get us”. This has always made his politics very narrow and mean spirited. I associate him with some of the worst periods of Israeli-Palestinian relations and rang my hands when he was re-elected. Now he is ushering in a period of hostile US-Israeli relations that is unprecedented. His problem, in part, arises from the fact that he has made deals with small-minded, tunnel-visioned, reactionary interest groups who have no sense of human rights, except their own and whose fundamentalist belief in the scriptures has led the world to constant gurgling war.
Our own Mr Manning has worked himself into a situation where he is no longer seen to be on the side of the people, his lofty 2020 development ambition and impressive appearance on the world stage strangely at odds with the outdated monuments that represent development and the unnecessary smallness of his actions. Why did he not resist the temptation to push past someone who stood at the gate of his own home and forbade entry? That was a disrespectful display of his power. And why make it still worse by then claiming that the person is the citizen of another country? Does that deprive him of his rights? “They” might be out to get the Prime Minister but he is proving to be the architect of his own misfortune.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday, April 19 2010
Israeli water company to sign deal with WASA. By Alexander Bruzal
Trinidad and Tobago’s water infrastructure is set to undertake a significant upgrade in the near future as the Israeli-based company Mekorot Water Co. Ltd is currently poised to sign a US $110 million contract deal with the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Mekorot Water Co, a subsidiary of Mekorot Development and Enterprise Ltd, is to be contracted to work together with another Israeli company Yossi Maiman’s Merhav Group, to design, engineer, as well as facilitate procurement and construction which on this “rehabilitation project” said to be financed by WASA, which will also maintain overall responsibility for the development.
On March 23, the Israeli social-economic cabinet granted approval to the companies involvement in the proposed project. These projects reportedly include plans to improve the drinking water supply system, the overall supply management, and upgrading water treatment plants. Mekorot Development and Enterprise is already active in Trinidad. Last September, the company signed a consultancy and training agreement with WASA, and in November an agreement was signed for developing water management and carrier infrastructures.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Thursday, May 20 2010
Americans train Kamla’s bodyguards. By Inerva Arjoon
UNITED National Congress (UNC) chairman Jack Warner yesterday said the security detail for party leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar were trained by foreign security consultants.
Talk has been rife that foreign bodyguards have been accompanying Persad-Bissessar since an alleged $5 million hit on her life.
It had also been bandied about that Israeli body guards may have been hired to protect the UNC political leader.
Warner said he did not know if a foreign security detail has been assigned to Persad-Bissessar but noted that a team of American consultants, who have been here for a month, had trained the party’s local security firm and personnel. He said this was done to protect the political leader.
Warner was speaking during a walkabout in the San Fernando West constituency with COP candidate Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan.
Seepersad-Bachan said former PNM member of Parliament Diane Seukeran has wished her well in her bid to become the new MP.
Seepersad-Bachan said she did the same when Seukeran went up for the seat in 2002 General Election.
“I called her and wished her all the best even though we were on separate parties and now she has done the same for me,” said Seepersad-Bachan, who is also being assisted by another past MP Sadiq Baksh, who was a member of the UNC but has since joined the COP.
Seepersad-Bachan is contesting the seat against the PNM’s Junia Regrello, who was the MP in the last Parliament.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, May 21st 2010
Kamla: Probe rush into $b WASA contract. By Anna Ramdass
Three days before a general election, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has raised an alarm over Government’s rush to enter into a deal which included the award of a $700 million contract to an Israeli company, contracted by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Persad-Bissessar said the deal between WASA and Merhav Mekorot Development (MMD) Trinidad and Tobago Ltd must be probed as the company was only established this year and the terms of the contract were vague.
The local company was formed by Israeli companies Mekorot Development and Enterprise Ltd and the Merhav Group, for the purpose of automating WASA’s water distribution supply.
She called on Prime Minister Patrick Manning to immediately cancel the contract.
She was speaking at a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s office, Charles Street, Port of Spain.
concerned: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, right, displays a document during yesterday's media conference at the Office of the Opposition Leader on Charles Street, Port of Spain. At left is United National Congress chairman Jack Warner. -Photo: ROBERTO CODALLO
Persad-Bissessar explained that Cabinet minutes she obtained show Cabinet agreed to approve the management action plan (MAP) of WASA and authorised WASA to seek two billion dollars in financing in order to meet the obligations under the short-term plan.
She added just last week, an unconfirmed Cabinet minute, dated May 13, 2010, showed Cabinet agreed that Citicorp Merchant Bank be awarded the mandate to arrange and fully underwrite a TT dollar fixed-rate 20-year bullet bond in the sum of $1.35 billion dollars to be issued by WASA.
This money raised is to finance the implementation of an engineering, procurement and construction contract signed between WASA and MMD.
A specialist, she said, examined the documents and raised concerns over why Citicorp Merchant Bank was chosen on the basis of sole selective tendering, or was there an open and transparent tendering procedure for the provision of this service.
’This is important because our expert’s analysis suggests that the cost of borrowing was higher than conventional standards... Why the haste in pursuing this today, four days before a general election and the entry of a new government?’ she asked.
’Who gets the minimum $54 million arranger’s fee and any other commissions?’ she asked.
Persad-Bissessar said Opposition checks have found that MMD is an Israeli company incorporated on January 10, 2010 in Israel, and February 19, 2010 in Trinidad.
She recalled in September 2009, WASA signed an agreement with Mekorot Development and Enterprise Ltd for promoting technical courses, assistance in consulting, managerial and technological assistance...and planning of projects.
In October 2009, she said, a team of officials, including WASA’s chairman Shafeek Sultan Khan, Stacy Dillon (a commissioner of WASA) and Sharon Taylor (general manager of WASA), visited Israel on a tour of Mekorot water facilities, that country’s water distribution company.
She said in January 2010, WASA and the Ministry of Public Utilities engaged the services of MMD, with a letter of undertaking being signed between Merhav two months later (part of the consortium).
’In April 2010, the $700 million contract between WASA and MMD was signed,’ said Persad-Bissessar.
She said the contract (which she obtained) is an open-ended contract, and there was no limit as to what the final cost will be.
Persad-Bissessar expressed concern over a stated requirement for an advance payment of 20 per cent of the contract value in the total sum of $132 million.
She said of this, the first $66 million was required within 15 days of signing the contract, with a further $66 million required within 60 days of signing.
’What is clear from even a cursory examination of this contract is that there is no specific timeline for delivery, no specific quantified or quantifiable target, no independent value engineering and assessment to determine whether we are getting value for money; there are no performance indicators and no benchmarks,’ she said.
She said what was even more ’amazing’ was a clause in the contract which states if there were any breaches, the contractor would only be liable to $66 million.
Persad-Bissessar said the directors are listed in the registration documents at the Companies Registry as Yosef Maimam, Gideon Weinstein and Sabib Sayian, all listed as managers, and all of 10 Abba Even Street, PO Box 12215, Herzliya, 46733, Israel.
’We are giving a multi-million-dollar contract with a multi-million-dollar advance to a company, the directors of which have given their addresses as a post office,’ she said.
She also questioned what exactly this country was getting from this contract, and what became of the multi-million-dollar Genivar Water Master Plan.
’To provide billion-dollar funding for this contract at this time is an act of sheer madness. It is not in the people’s interest; it is not in the national interest. I call further for an investigation into the award of this contract. The trail reeks of conflict of interest and political manipulation,’ she added.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Friday, May 21st 2010
No 'sweetheart deal' with Israeli company, says Sultan Khan. By Aretha Welch
The deal signed by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and Mekorot Development and Enterprise Ltd is not a sweetheart deal but a legitimate contract between this country’s water authority and the Israeli water enterprise, said WASA chairman Shafeek Sultan Khan yesterday.
In a brief telephone interview with the Express, Sultan Khan said the deal was not ’an election rush job’. He said it had been in the works since last year, and WASA had documentary evidence to support this.
The site Global Water Intelligence reported in March that the Israeli Cabinet had given the company Mekorot Development and Enterprise Ltd the go-ahead to sign a US$110 million contract with WASA ’to develop and rehabilitate the islands’ water infrastructure on a turnkey basis.’ The site also said Mekorot would work in collaboration with Israel Merhav Group on the project.
Details of the deal were carried in the local media following an April 21 news conference by WASA.
Sultan Khan said the deal for financing of the project was signed recently, but WASA’s actual contract for the work was signed about a month ago. He insisted the timing had nothing to do with anything, except the fact that ’this is when the deal, which was very complex, was done. I am sure you can appreciate there was a lot that went into it,’ said Khan.
Sultan Khan said the entire country knows WASA has had corruption issues in relation to water being shut off at the source and citizens being forced to buy truck-borne supplies, but he said Mekorot was an expert in automated water distribution and installing systems to automatically run. He said the new system was needed to prevent people from illegally turning off the water supply.
A press release from WASA last night did not clarify if Merhav Mekorot Development (MMD) Trinidad and Tobago Ltd, a locally-incorporated subsidiary, did actually exist and for how long, and why a loan for $1.35 billion was allegedly signed when the actual work only cost US$110 million (estimated $660 million).
The release stated on April 12, WASA signed a contract with Merhav Mekorot Development.
’The scope of works included installation of network monitoring equipment, completion of hydraulic modelling and the replacement of high leaky mains,’ the release stated.
It added the agreement was signed following the conclusion of negotiations between the parties in February 2010. The process to procure these services from Merhav Mekorot Development took almost a year, and all proper procedures have been followed,’ the company stated.
The Express learned late last night that MMD had an office located at Valpark Shopping Plaza in Valsayn, and the country manager’s name was (Mr) Sharon Den.
WASA will hold a news conference at their head office in St Joseph this morning to shed more light on the issue.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Saturday, May 22nd 2010
Duke: WASA Israeli contract an insult. By Anna Ramdass
The Water and Sewerage Authority’s move to enter into a multi-million-dollar contract with an Israeli company for improvement of its system is an insult to workers, says president of the Public Services Association Watson Duke.
He called on WASA employees to not cooperate with the foreign team.
’We say no help at all...we are not supporting this agenda,’ said Duke at a press conference at PSA’s headquarters in Port of Spain yesterday.
He questioned if the contract was another UDeCOTT in the making.
WASA chairman Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan said a contract was developed between WASA and Israeli state company Merhav Mekorot Development (MMD) for the improvement of WASA’s systems under a Management Action Plan (MAP) which is to cost $2 billion over an 18-month period.
Duke said that this was a shame because foreign workers were being brought to the country when WASA workers were able to do the job.
He said WASA workers felt betrayed by this move as they were not consulted on the matter.
WASA’s chief operating officer, Patrice Orleach, at a press conference yesterday said MMD’s services were sought to provide technical assistance such as repairs of leaking mains, installation of scanner systems, distribution of pipes, monitoring of networks and providing equipment and expertise for management of the water system.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Saturday, May 22nd 2010
No $700m deal, says WASA chief. By Anna Ramdass
Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) chairman, Shafeek Sultan-Khan, yesterday denied there was anything untoward about a $700 million contract the State utility intends to enter into with an Israeli company.
Sultan-Khan was speaking at a press conference at WASA’s St Joseph headquarters, where he refuted claims by UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the muilti-million dollar contract with the company was being rushed mere days before Monday’s election. (See Page 10)
Sultan-Khan said this was ’silly season’ and Persad-Bissessar was trying to score political points on a matter that had been in the works for close to a year and not rushed as she claimed.
On Thursday, Persad-Bissessar expressed concern over the award of a $700 million contract to Israeli company Merhav Merkorot Development (MMD), for the advancement and improvement of WASA’s service under a Management Action Plan (MAP). Persad-Bissessar also took issue on CitiCorp Merchant Bank being sought to provide a loan of some $1.36 billion for WASA’s MAP.
Sultan-Khan explained yesterday that MMD, which is a state company in Israel, is legitimate and reputable and was selected because research showed it was the best in the world in water management. He said the company specialises in institutional strengthening and not project management, therefore Merhav-Mekorat Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago was registered in this county earlier this year for this reason.
Addressing Persad-Bissessar’s claim that MMD carries PO Box address, Sultan-Khan said there was nothing fishy about this because this was how addresses in Israel are. He added that although a contract is in place, it is subject to conditionalities, so it was not a done deal.
’Today is Friday, election is Monday, the blunt truth is that the request to stop the deal is again flawed because there is no deal and no deal will happen until the conditionalities are met. So whichever government comes into power, they have to deal with this,’ he said.
Sultan-Khan explained that under the MAP, both foreign and local expertise will be put to work over an 18-month period to ensure that water is supplied to 75 per cent of the population. He said CitiCorp Merchant Bank was approached for financing of the two billion plan because ’all other banks required a guarantee for the full capital and interest. Citi Bank in their proposal only asked for a guarantee of the interest only’.
WASAs CEO, Andrew Smith, said no money has been paid up-front with respect to this contract. He said two million was spent thus far outside of the contract to set up a scanner room.
’The money spent to date is money well spent regardless of what happens in the next two to three days,’ he said.
Sultan-Khan said he was not a member of a political party but stressed that the truth offends and it will offend ’people who sought to make a mountain out of a mole hill’.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, May 22 2010
WASA head: No Israeli deal. By Darcel Choy
THERE is no deal, chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Dr Shafeek Sultan- Khan said yesterday as he responded to UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who urged Prime Minister Patrick Manning on Thursday to halt a $700 million deal between WASA and Israeli consortium Merhave Mekorot Development.
Speaking at a press conference at WASA’s head office, Sultan-Khan said Persad-Bissessar’s claim is flawed. “The blunt truth is the request to stop the deal is again flawed because there is no deal and no deal will happen until the conditionalities are met and there is no way the conditionalities about accessing the money would be met today or until elections,” he said.
He explained where there are sums of money, it has to go in an escrow account...and it becomes a catalyst that makes the contract valid. “That is in fact the money that Cabinet is approving, that is part of the process, this has been before Cabinet going through all the stages. It was announced in February to April long before the election,” Sultan Khan said.
WASA’s Chief Operating Officer, Patrice Orleach explained that the $700 million was for a series of work including engineering, hydraulics and improving the authority’s overall system.
Sultan Khan said that no money has been paid as yet to the company. The only money that has been spent is in the creation of the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control room located at their head office which costs approximately $2 million, which he noted was not part of the contract.
Persad-Bissessar alleged there was haste in signing the deal just days before the election.
“We had different stages of the agreement, we had a Letter of Understanding, we had a draft agreement that had to go through several lawyers in Israel and TT,” he said. Sultan Khan noted that the process has not been completed as it is a work in progress and would not be completed before the election.
Persad-Bissessar also questioned whether an open tender process was used to select Citicorp as bond-issuer, or whether it was done by sole selective tender. “Citibank got the nod because all the other banks required a guarantee from the Government for the full capital and interest. Citibank in their proposal only asked as a conditionality a guarantee of the interest only. There is nothing fishy, they followed the procurement process,” Sultan-Khan explained.
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Wednesday, June 2nd 2010
Smelter, rapid rail in limbo, water taxi to stay. By Raffique Shah
’IT would be foolish of the new government to simply abandon all projects started or even planned by the PNM regime. But we have a mandate from the people to immediately take action on some of their billion-dollar plants and plans. I believe the people voted against the Alutrint smelter at La Brea. They voted against Mr Colm Imbert’s rapid rail. They voted against ex-prime minister Patrick Manning’s offshore Otaheite industrial island.
’I think I can safely say, though, that my colleagues and I, after examining these projects and later consulting with the people, will stop those that will cost taxpayers whopping sums and bring little value, not to add much harm, to the country. But it’s early days yet...we’ll act responsibly...that much I can say.’
Without committing himself, and not wanting to go on record last week, a People’s Partnership source close to the Cabinet spelt out some broad plans to the Business Express.
Noting that these were his personal views, he added: ’On the PNM platform, Mr Manning vowed to expand the country’s heavy industry base. In our case, our leader said, among other references to continuing industrialisation, ’No smelter.’ So I think we shall move in another direction. We are committed to building a sustainable economy from which the majority of people, not just a few, will benefit.’
So what PNM mega-projects are likely to fall to the new government’s axe?
Start with the aluminium smelter.
While the adjacent 240-megawatts electricity generating plant is currently under construction, the US$500 million-plus smelter is yet to get off the ground, stymied by final EMA approvals.
The anti-smelter lobby successfully challenged the EMA’s provisional CEC before the High Court sometime last year.
The People’s Partnership vowed on its platform to change the EMA to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
One source said the new government may opt to continue with the power generation plant.
’It may make sense to proceed with that and integrate it into the national electricity grid. In fact, we could even consider expanding its capacity from 240 megawatts to 400 megawatts. That would compensate for eventual closure of the Port of Spain generating plant that has a capacity of around 320 megawatts, but is obsolete. Instead of constructing a new plant in the capital city, this La Brea plant could meet the country’s immediate and future electricity requirements.’
The Alutrint project has several very powerful and strategically important ’partners’ as part of the joint-venture.
China, for example, has provided the ’soft loan’ capital (US$400 million through its Exim Bank) and the building contractor.
The latter has insisted on using Chinese labour, with minimal jobs for locals.
China is among the emerging global superpowers, and no Trinidad and Tobago government would want to sour relations with Beijing.
Last December, months after Venezuela’s Sural withdrew as an investor in the project, one of Brazil’s leading aluminium companies, Votorantim Metais, signed an MOU with Alutrint to ’take up the slack’.
Brazil is fast emerging as the powerhouse of South America, a country with which we’d want to have good relations.
How the new government would wiggle its way out of the smelter plant without breaching contracts the last PNM government would have signed, and without offending China and Brazil, would be a diplomatic challenge.
The rapid rail, the single most expensive project conceived by the PNM government, seems destined to the dustbin.
Although the last government has already expended some $300 million on preliminary studies and designs, the new People’s Partnership government may prefer to write off that sum rather than pursue a $15 billion-plus project.
The PP seems sold on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternative that is substantially cheaper and, combined with other modes of public transport (like maxi-taxis), will deliver similar commuter service.
But, said our source, the PP is likely to expand the water taxi service that was initiated by the PNM government last year.
Another billion-dollar project that will come under the People’s Partnership microscope is the recently signed contract between Israeli firm Merhav Mekorot and WASA.
New Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned WASA and the PNM against signing any such contract-said to be worth more than $1.3 billion-on the eve of general election.
WASA chairman Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan and PNM spokespeople said the contract was signed after more than a year of negotiations.
Frontline PP people have noted that Mekorot is not the only company in the world with the expertise WASA says it has.
Then there are the many ports being in some stage of planning and construction as the new government takes office.
According to the most recent information from the Ministry of Energy, ’The port will have two berths measuring 100 metres in length and four berths measuring 85 metres.
The NEC also plans to construct a fish landing facility to complement the area’s fishing industry. Facilities for the Coast Guard Southern Command Centre are also to be constructed.
’The contract for the design and construction of the facility was awarded to the joint venture of Grandi Lavori Fincosit Construction Corporation (GLF) and Jan de Nul. The latter will undertake all dredging and reclamation works. The company finalised and submitted the port development design concepts which were reviewed by NEC’s board. The Environmental Impact Assessment was completed by the consultants Coastal Dynamics and submitted to the EMA in September.’
The most controversial of these is the planned port for Claxton Bay. Residents and environmental activists, many of whom are strong supporters of the PP, have protested against this facility (officially called the Point Lisas East and South Port) for more than two years.
The NEC, which is the executing agency for most of these ports and energy-related plants, continues to conduct preparatory work for what was originally intended to be a nine-berth port, now cut to two berths (in the first phase).
Up to a few weeks ago fishermen of the Claxton Bay district protested barges still operating in the area intended for the port.
Since this port is linked directly with the Essar steel mill, and given that the Indian conglomerate seems to have abandoned plans for the mill, the new government may question its viability and its environmental impact on fishing in that part of the Gulf of Paria.
Another mega-project that will most likely be dumped by a PP government is the reclaimed ’island’ off Otaheiti, officially called the Oropouche Bank Off-Shore Reclamation.
This 1,400 hectare island, which Mr Manning promised he would build should his party return to power, will be located 3.5 km from the Otaheiti coastline.
The NEC says: ’This site will allow for large scale cluster of gas based industries. The seaward side is adjacent to natural deep water for development of post-panamax harbour. Design services were invited in 2006 for Development Plans, Dredging and Reclamation Designs, Preliminary Infrastructure Designs, EIA and obtaining of CEC.’ Four years later, the project remains a concept that may never come to fruition under a PP government.
Among other major projects that are likely to be reviewed is the eTeck Tamana Park.
’The concept of the park seems to be good,’ our source said. ’It’s the way eTeck and its associated agencies are run that must come under scrutiny. We are not against development...how can we be? But they must add value to what is already on the ground, they must be executed in a transparent manner, and most important, they must bring no further harm to our people from an environmental standpoint.’
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Friday, June 4 2010
THE EDITOR: International law has again been violated by the Israelites. This nation has continued to send a message to the world giving their citizens a very bad name indeed and a total disregard for the UN. Not being satisfied with the rebuke they received on the unnecessary suffering by attacking Gaza eighteen months ago, the blockade of medicines and essential needs into Gaza, and the further condemnation they received on the murder of a Hamas official in a middle east country. They have now added another wrong deed to the list of their atrocities.
Some day in the future Israel will have to suffer the consequences of all these impulsive cruel episodes. The impression I have of Israel is of a nation with no compassion, regret, and don’t care a hoot who they kill or cause suffering to in their quest to isolate themselves from their Arab neighbours. They have no respect for any international protocol. Their excuses are always the same, ie it was done in defence of their country, which is now wearing thin, and is not really good enough.
They appear to have inherited a persecution complex, and harbour personal resentment, with a desire to perpetually cause conflict, and unnecessary suffering by always wanting to apply some sort of revenge on their neighbours for the holocaust of Jews by the Nazis.
The softly softly approach of America when dealing with Israel’s violations of UN mandates, so far has failed to deter their adverse ventures, and merely prolongs any justified penalties which will bring an end to their continuous bad behaviour.
If now no serious action is taken against Israel in respect of the latest incident, then we have just to wait for another surprising violation of International law.
G. A. MARQUES
Peace or justice first.
THE EDITOR: For 40 years, the continuous attempts at establishing peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict have miserably failed. Why? In 1955, Martin Luther King gave the answer to this question when he responded to accusations of “disturbing the peace” during the Montgomery Bus Boycott by saying, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension but it is the presence of justice.” The next logical question to follow then, is justice being served in the Israel-Palestine issue? And if not, shall we naively expect peace. What was the purpose of the Gaza Freedom flotilla. It was a direct response to the injustice imposed on Gaza by the existence of Israel’s military blockade.
Amnesty International, a well-known human rights group, has described the blockade as a form of collective punishment and a flagrant violation of international law. Furthermore, they described the blockade as suffocating Gaza, as its entire population, 50 percent of which are children, are deprived of basic necessities, such as, food, fuel and medication.
The same has been echoed by several other human rights groups across the world. So what else should the upholders of justice do, bearing in mind the words of Martin Luther King again, when he said, “injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The 600-plus passengers, which included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire along with activists, authors, film- makers, politicians and journalists from Europe, the Middle East, the US and Canada, truly personifies this statement and are indeed the true champions of justice.
I humbly call upon our Attorney General and our champion of justice, Mr Anand Ramlogan, both titles I think he rightly deserves, to join the international community in their outcry for justice in Palestine and to finally put a stop to the peace process soap opera.
I kindly ask the government, to put policies aside and judge this matter based on simple reasoning and on the basic principles of right and wrong, the same way as Gandhi dealt with the British occupation when he said, “I am not anti-English, I am not anti-British, I am not anti-any government, but I am anti-untruth, anti-humbug and anti-injustice.”
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday June 14, 2010
Ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
THE Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in a seemingly intractable dispute over land claimed by Jews as their biblical birthright and by the Palestinians, who seek self-determination.
Despite repeated attempts to end the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, there is no peace settlement in sight.
Neither side has fulfilled the commitments it made under the 2003 roadmap — a phased timetable designed to lead to a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel put together by the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Under that peace blueprint, the Palestinian Authority is to rein in militants, and it has embarked on a US-backed law-and-order campaign in the occupied West Bank. But Hamas, a militant group whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel, is in control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has rejected Western calls to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals. Despite the road map’s call for a halt to Israeli settlement activity, Israel continues to build within settlements in the West Bank and in Arab East Jerusalem.
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Monday, June 14 2010
TRINI FLEES WAR-TORN GAZA STRIP. By AZARD ALI
AFTER living in a bomb shelter for 32 terrifying days, a Trinidadian woman is back in her homeland after fleeing the war-torn Gaza Strip with her Israeli husband and their two children.
Cheryl Asoullina, 42, said she could no longer endure the daily threat of bullets and bomb attacks, so she and her husband, Mark Asoullina, 48, a former soldier are now rebuilding their lives in the relative safety of Trinidad and Tobago. The family arrived in this country three weeks ago.
“I cannot expose my children to that war zone. I cannot raise children for the sole purpose of fighting for a homeland,” said Cheryl who is originally from Macaulay Village, near Claxton Bay, as she spoke about her gruelling experience in Israel.
Cheryl, whose maiden name is Barran, migrated to the United States several years ago. There she met and married Mark Asoullina, a Jew, who took her to his homeland, Israel. He was drafted into the ongoing conflict with Palestine and fought against the Hezbollah in the 2008 eight-week war with Syria.
“I was a soldier in the Israeli army and now I am here in your beautiful country. I’m no longer a soldier, but a graphic artist. There is too much conflict and before we left, me and my family lived in bomb shelter for 32 days,” Asoullina said.
The couple and their children, daughter Nihal, 15, and six-year-old Natan, six, experienced the horrors of war, as they were living close to the West Bank and Gaza. They had several near-death encounters. On many occasions, Nihal had to scamper for safety when bombs exploded close to their home. Asoullina unmasked three suicide-bombers in his career as a soldier — school children ages 11, 13 and 16.
All Israelis must serve in the army as a form of compulsory national service and Cheryl said she could not bear the thought of her children being eventually drafted to fight in the ongoing Israeli- Palestine conflict.
Tensions rose recently, when at least ten pro-Palestinian activists were killed and several others wounded after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The demonstrators were trying to break the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Asoullina strongly believes that Israel wants peace with all the Arab nations.
“Certain Arab nations believe we should not exist, so it appears there is going to be neither victory or defeat,” he said. Cheryl said she could no longer bear the daily scenes of bloodshed, the screams of the injured and the haunting feeling that there would never be peace in the place they called home for 14 years.
The family are currently living at the home of Cheryl’s mother in Claxton Bay where they are enjoying the serenity of village life. Attorney Stephen Boodram is assisting the family with their efforts to settle in Trinidad.