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From Jerusalem to Kabul: An outbreak of crises

By Pierre Barbancey, translated by Françoise

Translated Thursday 12 January 2006, by Françoise

From Jerusalem to Kabul: An outbreak of crises
Middle East - Strong-arm tactics of the superpowers used to “pacify” the region have failed dramatically.

“I have thought long and hard about 2006, and my hopes are obviously for peace in the world. I will continue to work as hard as I can to lay the foundations for peace.” It is with this historical phrase, uttered when visiting wounded soldiers at a medical facility in San Antonio, that George W. Bush started the New Year. This is a far stretch from the triumphant discourse about the virtues of the “Great Middle East” (regrouping in a single entity all of the Muslim countries between Morocco and Pakistan), which would supposedly bring democracy and prosperity to the people of this region. Even our colleague at Le Monde, who was bidding not long ago for consideration of the American project, (i.e.; shouldn’t we use dictates, even force to impose progress?) almost never mentions it anymore. This is because many events have since then occurred which highlight the futility of this strategy, even if it remains currently official, per the postings on one of the State Department sites: MEPI - Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Kick the anthill
An overview of the region, otherwise, shows that far from pacified, tensions have been revived by the policy that the Bush administration has waged. That is, relations have never been so tense between Syria and Lebanon; Karzai power in Afghanistan is anything but stable; Irak is like quicksand; and in Iran, the most rigid and conservative faction of the Islamic Republic is now in power (see articles below). As Pascal Boniface, Director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations has pointed out: “The Americans have advocated a ‘Kick the anthill’ model, including war. The outcomes applied to Irak now appear largely negative. Opponents of this strategy believe that while it is possible to support an outside democratic movement, the latter must arise out of an internal process”. This is such a truism that Diaa Rachwane, an Egyptian researcher, reminds us that in every country of the “Great Middle East” where elections have been held, Islamic parties have progressed in a phenomenal manner, from Morocco to Pakistan through Egypt, Irak and also Palestine.

The United States, just like one part of Europe, still refuses to consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a central issue, and cause of instability, in the Middle and Far East. Yet this is the case. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the oldest one of the region. It remains as a relic of past British colonialism, and of Israeli colonialism today. It is also used by Islamic movements who would like the conflict to be re-interpreted as a religious one, and as a stake for owning Jerusalem. As for the current powers, they are using this conflict as an alibi - without actually doing anything - in view of hiding their allegiance to the United State. A quick survey of current events is telling enough.

The campaign for parliamentary elections, on January 25, was launched yesterday in the Palestinian territories. In Gaza, tensions are still high following incidents that occurred during the past few days (see L’Humanité January 3, 2006). El Fatah - who has set aside all differences in view of presenting a single election list headed by Marwan Barghouti (sentenced to life imprisonment and jailed in Israeli) - has launched its campaign with a meeting at the foot of Yasser Arafat’s grave, the historical founder and leader of the movement, in the Mugataa courtyard, Headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. As for Hamas, they organized a meeting in front the home of the movement’s founder, Sheikh Yassine, shot by the Israelis in 2004. Other candidates, such as the Independent Hanane Achrawi, or the communist Fadwa Khader, were to launch their campaigns symbolically in East Jerusalem, at the risk of confronting Israeli law and order, who have banned Palestinian election campaigns from the Arab section of Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel.

Annexation of Jerusalem

Even if a couple dozen observers have been dispatched by the European Union, on Monday, to monitor election campaigns in the main cities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no pressure has been exerted by the European Union, much less by the United States, to allow Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote. And this supports Sharon’s annexation of Jerusalem. An annexation that has been officially denounced by European diplomats in office, although the Secretaries of State of the European Union refused to publish this information (See L’Humanité December 28, 2005). The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, warned on Monday that he would cancel parliamentary elections if the Palestinians in Jerusalem were prohibited from participation by Israel. On the same day, the Israeli police dispersed an El Fatah election meeting in East Jerusalem, considering it “illegal”.

Pierre Barbancey

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