ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Tulloch is a British university lecturer who is best known as a survivor of the July 7, 2005 London Bombings. Continue reading “7/7 Survivor: Why we should not bomb Syria”
Qatar is emerging for the second time in a decade as the only Arab state without a peace treaty and diplomatic relations to have invested in Israel. Qatar’s latest investment in Israeli Palestinian soccer comes against a backdrop of a war of words between the two countries over the Gulf state’s support for Hamas, the Islamist militia that controls the war-wracked Gaza Strip. Yet, Qatar’s relationship with Hamas makes it alongside Turkey the only country that can talk directly to the group as part of international efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.
A Qatari agreement to donate $4.6 million to two Israeli Palestinian soccer clubs, Bnei Sakhnin, a team based in Galilee that historically stands for Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, and Maccabi Ahi Nazareth FC, a squad that historically was part of the centrist wing of the Zionist movement, was negotiated prior to the eruption three weeks ago of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
In a move that is likely to provoke Israeli right-wing and nationalist ire, Qatar this week paid Bnei Sakhnin, which was the foremost Palestinian team to include Jewish players in its squad, its first instalment of the donation. Mazen Gnayem, the mayor of Sakhnin, a Palestinian town in the Lower Galilee, and former Bnei Sakhnin chairman, told Israeli business newspaper Globes that Qatar had transferred $500,000. Right wing and nationalist ire is likely to feed on the fact that Bnei Sakhnin recently lost Eliran Danin, its last Jewish player. Maccabi Nazareth however continues to have both Palestinian and Jewish players.
Shimon Peres, who last week stepped down as Israel’s president and is widely seen as a dove when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace, accused Qatar this week of being “the world’s largest funder of terror.” Mr. Peres charged that “Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians. Their funding of terror must stop. If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy,” he told Ban-Ki Moon during the United Nations Secretary General’s visit to Jerusalem in a failed bid to achieve a Gaza ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s former security advisor Major General (res) Yaakov Amidror said the United States had earlier stopped the Amman-based, Palestinian-owned Arab Bank from transferring Qatari funds for the payment of 43,000 public sector workers in Gaza who haven’t received salaries for month. Gen Amidror told The Times of Israel that Qatari funding of Hamas’ military operations continued nevertheless unabated.
Israeli economy minister Naftaniel Bennett meanwhile called on world soccer body FIFA to deprive Qatar, which is home to Hamas leader Khaled Mishal, of its right to host the 2022 World Cup because of its funding of what he described as radical Islamic terror. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan demanded that the Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera network be taken off the air due to its “extremely severe incitement against the State of Israel as well as enthusiastic support for Hamas and its terrorist actions.” Earlier, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the network despite the fact that Israeli spokesman, including his ministry’s spokesman, Yigal Palmor, appear regularly on Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera was this week forced to evacuate its Gaza office after it came under fire. The network’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari, accused members of the Israeli Cabinet in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio of incitement and putting its crews at risk.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiyah, who has played a key role in the ceasefire negotiations, hit back at Israel, saying that ”Qatar does not support Hamas, Qatar supports the Palestinians.” In an interview with CNN, Mr. Al Attiyah accused Israel of systematically sabotaging peace efforts over the past year. He lashed out at Messrs Lieberman and Bennett, saying they “practice terrorism… Israel never leveraged on the pragmatic approach of Hamas. Mr. Al Attiyah noted that Hamas had agreed to participate in Palestinian elections in 2006 encouraged by the fact that then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had asked Qatar to support the group’s move. “They decided to practice democracy,” the minister said.
The Israeli war of words on Qatar is designed to further isolate Hamas, which has found little sympathy among Arab government in its latest round of fighting with Israel, leaving the Gulf state as its main Arab backer. By discrediting Qatar hopes to support Egyptian mediation efforts in the knowledge that Cairo’s relations with Hamas are troubled because it views the group as an extension of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Former Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became in 2012 the first Arab head of state to visit Hamas-controlled Gaza. Mr. Al Attiyah said residential housing and hospitals that were being built in Gaza prior to the Israeli assault with $500 million pledged by Sheikh Hamad had been constructed by contractors associated with Hamas’ rival, Al Fatah, the group that forms the backbone of the West Bank’s Palestine Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. He said the funds for Gaza were being channelled through Arab Bank and the Palestine Authority rather than Hamas.
Qatar played an important role earlier this year in bridging the seven-year old rift between Fatah and Hamas which led to an agreement to form a national unity government that would be backed by both groups but would not include Hamas representatives. The formation of that government prompted Mr. Netanyahu to break off US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israel’s assault on Gaza is believed to be in part intended to undermine the government and put Mr. Abbas back in the driver’s seat, an effort that has so far backfired.
Qatar first invested in Israeli soccer when it funded in 2006 the construction of the Doha Stadium in Sakhnin to the tune of $6 million, the first ever official investment in Israel itself by an Arab state that has yet to recognize Israel. The funding came after Bnei Sakhnin, Israel’s most successful Israeli Palestinian club, won the 2004 State Cup. The team’s captain, Abbas Suan, became a national hero in 2006 when he scored a key goal in Israel’s World Cup qualifier against Ireland.
A week later Mr. Abbas was greeted in the stadium of Jerusalem by supporters of Beitar Jerusalem, Israel’s most anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim club, with chants of “Suan, You Don’t Represent Us” and “We hate all Arabs.”
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.
UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of India’s bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward.
The split into Pakistan and Bangladesh was perhaps inevitable. It began in late 1970, after Pakistan’s first national elections. To the shock of West Pakistanis, an easterner, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a sweeping victory, and was poised to lead the country. His Awami League wanted greater rights for Bengalis. But the army chiefs and politicians in Islamabad would not countenance his taking office. They arrested him and the army began repressing eastern protesters.
Bengalis flocked to join the rebel forces who were fighting for independence. West Pakistani soldiers stationed in the east, plus a few local supporters, began targeting students, writers, politicians; especially the Hindu minority. Soldiers massacred civilians, burned villages and sent millions fleeing to India. Eventually some 10m became refugees, mostly Hindus. At least 300,000 people were killed; some say the death toll was over 1m.
Seen from America, where Richard Nixon was president, the war was a domestic Pakistani affair. India’s leader, Indira Gandhi, claimed otherwise. She called the floods of refugees a humanitarian disaster that threatened regional stability. She wanted international action, demanding that America tell Pakistan’s leaders to stop the killing. Nixon, urged by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, refused.
In “The Blood Telegram” Gary Bass, a Princeton academic (who once wrote for The Economist), sets out to assess America’s handling of the war. He argues that the killings amounted to a genocide: Hindus, as a distinct minority, were chosen for annihilation and expulsion. He asks why Nixon continued actively to support the Pakistani leaders who were behind it.
At the behest of Mr Kissinger, Nixon sent military planes and other materiel to Pakistan, even though he knew this broke American law. He deployed an American naval task force to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India, which had begun helping rebels in East Pakistan. Most extreme, he secretly asked China to send troops to India’s borders. He did so accepting a risk of Soviet retaliation, even that nuclear bombs might be “lobbed” around in response.
Nixon and Mr Kissinger stood with Pakistan, even as they knew of the extent of the slaughter. Their own diplomats told them about it. The centrepiece of Mr Bass’s gripping and well-researched book is the story of how America’s most senior diplomat in East Pakistan, Archer Blood, the consul-general in Dhaka, sent regular, detailed and accurate reports of the bloodshed. Early on he stated that a “selective genocide” was under way.
Blood and his colleagues protested that America should not support Pakistan’s rulers. Then, 20 of them sent a dissenting telegram (the “Blood telegram” of the book’s title) condemning America’s policy. It was an extreme and idealistic step for a diplomat, whose career was soon cut short. Though the telegram did not change American policy, it rates as an historic document. Such open dissent is extremely rare.
Mr Bass does a good job of explaining Nixon’s wilful support of Pakistan. Using newly released recordings of White House conversations between the president and Mr Kissinger, he sets out with admirable clarity what else was at stake. In part it was personal. Nixon, a man of few friends, was notably fond of Pakistan’s military ruler, Yahya Khan, a gruff, dim-witted, whisky-drinking general. Nixon compared the Pakistani favourably to Abraham Lincoln. By contrast he despised India’s wheedling civilian politicians, reserving a particular dislike for Gandhi, whom in private he frequently called a “bitch” and “witch”.
More important, Pakistan was a loyal cold-war ally, whereas India was seen as leaning towards the Soviet Union. Crucially, Mr Kissinger early in 1971 was using Pakistan as an essential secret conduit to China. He flew via Islamabad to Beijing to arrange for Nixon to make his own trip to see Mao Zedong. Better relations with China would allow America to wind down the war in Vietnam.
Ultimately, Mr Kissinger did much to set America’s course. He argued that America should pay no heed to domestic horrors in Pakistan, saying “you can’t go to war over refugees”, and warned that India was a greater threat to international order. Indian “bastards”, he agreed with Nixon, needed a “mass famine” to cut them down to size.
Mr Bass depicts Mr Kissinger as increasingly erratic, perhaps overworked, as East Pakistan’s secession became inevitable. He is quoted calling the conflict “our Rhineland” (in reference to the start of the second world war) and warning that India would “rape Pakistan”.
Mr Kissinger adopts a magisterial tone in the one chapter he devoted to the India-Pakistan crisis in his 1979 work, “The White House Years”. He refused to speak to Mr Bass for this book, and glosses over the Blood telegram in his memoirs, never explaining why he ignored the entreaties of the diplomats on the ground. That is a pity, because America’s response to the war has reverberated over the years.
The 1971 war poisoned regional affairs for decades. It ended when India’s army intervened, having supported East Pakistan’s rebels for months, and crushed the Pakistani forces within days. Pakistan was humiliated, yet no Pakistani soldier has been held to account for the mass slaughter that provoked the war. Pakistanis by and large prefer not to discuss it. The war did convince them that India might next try to break up the remaining western rump of their country, perhaps by supporting Baluchi separatists on the border with Afghanistan. A sharp mutual suspicion still lingers between the neighbours, helping ensure that Pakistan’s army dominates—and damages—the country still.
Nor did the war do much for India. Eventually the refugees went home, but relations with Bangladesh soon soured. At home Gandhi became suddenly more popular. But she then descended into authoritarianism, even suspending democracy. Inside Bangladesh the war remains a live political issue as alleged collaborators in the conflict (all opposition leaders) are being tried by a flawed, local war-crimes tribunal. This week, one defendant was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court.
Could things have been different if America, having listened to Blood, had pressed Pakistan not to slaughter its own people in 1971? Mr Bass does not speculate directly. Yet if a peaceful secession of Bangladesh had been possible, many lives would have been saved and a source of deep division in a troubled region would have been removed.
Tariq Ali, in this exclusive interview, seamlessly switches from contemporary historian to scholar-at-large to polemicist to raconteur, as he tackles many of the impinging issues of our times. By SASHI KUMAR, Frontline
He was in southern India after nearly 30 years. He had come to Kerala to deliver the Chinta Ravindran Memorial Lecture at Thrissur. My friend, the well-known writer Paul Zacharia and I were showing him the sights and we had just been to the site of the archaeological dig at Pattanam near Kodungalloor where he saw the unearthed pottery and artefacts that were reconstructing the fascinating story of an early society in these parts, already in maritime contact with West Asian ports and ancient Rome. From there we proceeded to the nearby Cheraman juma masjid, considered the first mosque in India, and perhaps the second in the world, dating back to A.D. 629. There was only a little evidence of that ancient patrimony left; the quaint old native structure had been all but pulled down some 50 years back and a more commodious, more standardised edifice built around it. All that was left were some pillars, a section of a doorway, another of a beamed ceiling and a crumbling staircase leading up to the attic, all in wood. But a photograph of the structure, as it was in 1905, hung on the wall.
Continue reading “The New World Disorder”
The country’s independence war created divisions that persist to this day, in politics, religion and the media.
In 1971, Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan and fought a bloody war to establish itself as a fledgling nation. More than four decades on, a country born out of troubles and bloodshed is experiencing growing pains. A war crimes tribunal that was meant to bring closure has instead brought old wounds back to haunt a new generation. At the heart of the story is the country’s main opposition party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.
For the past four weeks, thousands of Bangladeshis have occupied Shahbag Square to call for the harshest possible sentences – including the death penalty – for senior Jamaat leaders, figures who supported Pakistan against the pro-independence movement 40 years ago. It has not helped that one of Bangladesh’s most important newspapers has propagated the idea that the protesters are atheists who are against Islam. Violence has also been a problem with several dozens killed until now and prospects for a speedy resolution extremely slim.
With both the Shahbag protesters and supporters of the Jamaat demanding a voice to tell their version of Bangladesh’s past, how does the national media present a narrative to take the country into the future? Much of the current debate is also happening on social media with bloggers being targeted for their views.
In this week’s News Divide we examine the role and place of the media in the Shahbag protests. Helping us to gain a deeper understanding are the photographer and writer Shahidul Alam, Sabir Mustafa of the BBC Bengali Service and Abbas Faiz from Amnesty International.
Related link: Bangladesh’s War Wounds
Even the pit stop in Dhaka is threatened by Jamaat’s hartal tomorrow. I am hoping it will be even more of a flop than previous ones. Those of you who missed the interview in BBC (1:09 into the programme where I talk about Shahbagh). Look out for the oped in New York Times on Friday and the interview on Listening Post in Al Jazeera on Saturday.
Here are some pictures taken on my way back:
It’s a hard life. On the rare occasions when I get bumped up to business class.
My plane waiting at the boarding gate
Sunny afternoon in Salzburg
“This channel is no longer available on Time Warner Cable,” read an on-screen message where Current TV used to be found. Continue reading “Time Warner Cable Drops Current TV Upon Sale To Al Jazeera”
The Manager – Production is responsible for managing the technical production and execution of high-end creative content for the Network and its clients. They will manage a team of editors/compositors/3D designers and composers in providing a full suite of post-production facilities for the Creative Division.
Key Responsibilities and Accountabilities
Develop high-end animated content for a diverse range of purposes, both internally and externally of the channel. Produce work for Promotions, Programmes, and News.
Responsible for the day to day running of projects and harmonious project executions supervising and side-by-side with the Executive Producer ? Art Production and Executive Producer ? Music. Continue reading “Job Offer: Manager – Production: Al Jazeera”
by rahnuma ahmed
I’d thought of writing about Monsanto this week — the US-based biotech giant which is being sued by five million Brazilian farmers for 7.7 billion dollars for its seed-patenting, rightly dubbed “GM genocide” — but the press statement from Amnesty International USA, which had slipped into my inbox caught my eye.
Headlined, “Urgent: From Syria’s Frontlines“, it spoke of an Amnesty report to be released this week which has uncovered “widespread new evidence of heinous war crimes committed by the Syrian government armed forces and militias.” Amnesty’s ?investigations of the Houla and Dara massacres, claims the release, provides “unequivocal evidence that the Syrian army is responsible for gross violations of human rights on a massive scale.”
Only Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces and militias? Only the Syrian army? No mention of atrocities committed by the rebel forces? Of the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s admission that al-Qaeda is supporting the armed insurrection in Syria? Which, as Paul Joseph Watson points out, is consistent with reports that these same terrorists had helped to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and had been airlifted to Syria by NATO forces? That al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has publicly lent support to Syrian rebel forces? (“Clinton: Al Qaeda, U.S., Helping Syrian Rebels,” Global Research, March 2, 2012). Continue reading “AMNESTY USA ON SYRIAN GOVERNMENT'S WAR CRIMES: The whole truth?”