A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana was recently described by the Politico website as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. Her blogs were a thorn in the side of both the establishment and underworld figures that hold sway in Europe’s smallest member state.
Her most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.
Justice to Caruana! NO to bias inquiry on her murder!
Caruana, you will be missed. Thank you for accomplishing your mission of journalist.
Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu have just pulled one more political stunt, by announcing their decision to leave UNESCO.
The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organization, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.
UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too. In recent years, Tel Aviv has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in the Palestinian occupied territories, including Jerusalem.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her disappointment: “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under Attack. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism.”
Threrefore, UNESCO has been living without USA & Israel's contributions since 2011, thanks to Barack Obama. The official withdrawal, which Under UNESO rules will become effective as of the end of December 2018, is nothing but much ado about nothing.
Further to the matter, after four days of secret balloting to pick a new UNESCO chief, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari qualified for the Friday runoff.
France’s Audrey Azoulay and Egypt’s Moushira Khattab were tied in second. One will be eliminated after another vote by 58-member Executive Council on Friday. If the two finalists end level, they draw lots.
The election has exposed the deep rivalries between Qatar and Egypt that has its roots in the crisis engulfing Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors which have severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Doha.
As to all that's going on in UNESCO in favour of Palestine, there is a brilliant man behind the scenes: Elias Sanbar. Born in Haifa, then Palestine, in 1947, Elias is one of the most distingueshed Arab intellectuals today. And after Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish's death, THE most influential Palestinian intellectual alive. His activities encompas literature, law, history, translation, journalism and diplomacy. He was in Oslo with Yasser Arafat.
Over four décades Elias has brought a significant contribution to an improved understanding of Palestine.
In 1981, he co-founded (with Leila Shahid - PA representative in France until Arafat's death; the Russel Tribunal was established in response to her call and Ken Coates') in Paris one of the most respected publications about Palestine anywhere - La Revue d'études palestiniennes, of which he was the editor-in-chief for 25 years. It was closed in 2008.
In 1982, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze interviewed Elias. They examined the importance of the journal and the existence of the people and land of Palestine. Disgracefully, 35 years later, these discussions are still desparingly relevant to today's injustice. Check the following excerpt:
(Deleuze: Many articles in the Revue d'Etudes Palestiniennes recall and analyze in a new way the procedures by which the Palestinians have been driven out of their territories. This is very important because the Palestinians are not in the situation of colonized peoples but of evacuees, of people driven out. You insist, in the book you are writing, on the comparison with the American Indians. There are two very different movements within capitalism. Now it is a matter of taking a people on their own territory and making them work, exploiting them, in order to accumulate a surplus: that's what is ordinarily called a colony. Now, on the contrary, it is a matter of emptying a territory of its people in order to make a leap forward, even if it means making them into a workforce elsewhere. The history of Zionism and Israel, like that of America, happened that second way: how to make an empty space, how to throw out a people?"
Sanbar: "I think that in 1948 our country was not merely occupied but was somehow "disappeared." That's certainly the way that the Jewish settlers, who at that moment became "Israelis," had to live the thing.
The Zionist movement mobilized the Jewish community in Palestine not with the idea that the Palestinians were going to leave one day, but with the idea that the country was "empty." Of course there were certain people who, arriving there, noticed the opposite and wrote about it! But the bulk of this community functioned vis-à-vis the people with whom it physically rubbed shoulders every day as if those people were not there. And this blindness was not physical, no one was deceived in the slightest degree, but everyone knew that these people present today were "on the point of disappearance," everyone also realized that in order for this disappearance to succeed, it had to function from the start as if it had already taken place, which is to say by never "seeing" the existence of the other who was indisputably present all the same. In order to succeed, the emptiness of the terrain must be based in an evacuation of the "other" from the settlers' own heads.
In order to arrive there, the Zionist movement consistently played upon a racist vision which made Judaism the very basis of the expulsion, of the rejection of the other. This was decisively aided by the persecutions in Europe which, led by other racists, allowed them to find a confirmation of their own approach.
We think moreover that Zionism has imprisoned the Jews, it's taking them captive with this vision I just described. I'm saying that it's taking them captive and not that it took them captive at a given time. I say this because once the holocaust passed, the approach evolved, it was transformed into a pseudo-"eternal principle" that says the Jews are always and everywhere "the Other" of the societies in which they live.
But there is no people, no community which could claim- and happily for them- perpetually to occupy this position of the rejected and accursed "other."
Today, the other in the Middle East is the Arab, the Palestinian. And the height of hypocrisy and cynicism is the demand, made by Western powers upon this "other" whose disappearance is constantly the order of the day, for guarantees. But we are the ones who need guarantees against the madness of the Israeli military leaders".)
Despite this, the PLO, our one and only representative, has presented its solution to the conflict: the democratic state of Palestine, a state which would tear down the existing walls separating all the inhabitants, whoever they may be.
Gilles Deleuze and Elias Sanbar had an enlightening conversation, which is only possible between two brilliant minds.
Furthermore, Elias' translations into French of the work of Mahmoud Arwish is a major contribution to the dissemination of Palestinian culture. He also co-authored Le rescapé et exilé (The Survivor and the Exiled) with holoccaust survival Stéphane Hessel, a book that has considerable international impact.
Since 2012, Elias Sanbar has been Palestine's Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.
It was with almost unseemly haste that Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions, announced that they had reached a preliminary unity agreement in Cairo on 12 October, after two days of negotiations.
The deal has been greeted with some fanfare in Ramallah and in Gaza, where crowds took to the Streets to celebrate the announcement, optimistic that the agreement could bring real change for the impoverished coastal strip that could prevent a long-predicted, full-blown humanitarian disaster.
But real obstacles remain, and any optimism that a breakthrough has been achieved must be guarded.
This is not the first agreement that has been struck in the 10 years since 2007, when Hamas ousted Fatah forces from Gaza. In fact there have been four, all of which eventually dissipated in mutual recriminations: Mecca (2007), Cairo (2011), Doha (2012) and Gaza & Cairo (2014). There were also the Sanaa declaration in 2008 and the Cairo accord in 2012.
Some of the issues that prevented previous disagreements from being resolved have been addressed this time. Pay for some 40,000 civil servants hired after Hamas ousted Fatah forces and the PA paid former civil servants to stay home was one such sticking point. Under the agreement announced yesterday, the PA has agreed to pay half of what their salary would be, equivalent to what they are being paid now, pending vetting of their qualifications.
Some 3,000 Fatah security officers are to join Gaza’s police as a first step for the PA to take control over Gaza. Moreover, the Palestinian presidential guard is to take up responsibility for crossings from Gaza to both Israel and Egypt, the latter at Rafah to be supervised by an EU border agency, EUBAM.
But there has been no resolution as to what to do with Hamas’ military wing, estimated at some 25,000 strong. In the past week, Abbas has called on Hamas to lay down its arms, a demand that is unlikely to be met. That in turn means that Fatah security control over Gaza, at least in the short term, will be mostly cosmetic.
There is also no agreement on any overall political program, an issue that could prove problematic should the most important player in this equation, Israel, dig in its heels.
“Israel will examine developments on the ground and act accordingly,” Tel Aviv government stated in response, warning that any reconciliation agreement must include compliance with Quartet conditions, spelled out under the 2003 roadmap plan for peace, which include a recognition of Israel’s “right to exist” and an end to armed resistance.
While Hamas’ new charter paved the way for de facto recognition of Israel, calling the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1949 armistice lines and the return of refugees a “national consensus,” it “rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
Moreover, armed resistance to a military occupation is enshrined Under international law and also asserted by Hamas as the “strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Hamas might well implement a long-term ceasefire – which it effectively has since 2014 – but that is likely the furthest Hamas is prepared to go, and it is not clear whether this will be enough for Israel.
On the other side, Egypt has its own agenda, of course.
Cairo has played a key role and has a number of interests at stake. Cairo wants to enlist Hamas in its efforts to quell a Sinai insurgency that has proven resilient to draconian military measures.
Deploying the army in the Sinai Peninsula is taking valuable resources away from a military that is also engaged in Libya – whose civil war, now in its sixth year, is regarded as a direct national security threat by Cairo. It is proving a drag on an economy whose recent growth has been largely driven by public investment and which has seen its important tourism sector falter as the number of visitors to the country plummeted.
Hamas has proven a willing partner, even as it rejects Egyptian accusations that it has actively abetted Sinai militants. Security forces in Gaza have begun clearing a buffer zone in Rafah, along Gaza’s boundary with Egypt, to prevent arms and people smuggling. Hamas has also arrested Salafi activists in Gaza and become a target itself for militants, most recently in a suicide bombing last August in the boundary area with Egypt that killed one of its officers.
But Sinai is not Cairo’s only priority. Egypt is trying to improve its regional standing, undermined by the turmoil and bloodshed of the 2011 revolution and 2013 military coup. A successful unity agreement will be a significant diplomatic victory for Cairo. That, in turn, may convince Washington – where the US Congress is withholdingsome $95 million in aid and delaying a further $195 million over Egypt’s human rights record, including abuse accusations in Sinai – that Cairo remains a crucial player in the region, and therefore an important partner for US interests, a status it enjoyed for decades until the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
Easing the blockade
Fundamental to the success of any agreement will be to what extent Egypt is willing to ease the blockade on Gaza. Without an opening for goods and people there is no reason for Hamas to compromise and no benefit for Gaza.
Only then can the US$5.4 billion pledged by foreign governments to rebuild the battered coastal strip after Israel’s 2014 assault begin to make a difference.
Cairo seems serious. Not only is it the only way to ensure Hamas cooperates on Sinai, Cairo’s efforts to bring Fatah and Hamas together were partly an attempt to secure PA cover for such an opening. An earlier agreement with Muhammad Dahlan, the erstwhile Gaza security chief, sworn enemy of Hamas and longstanding Abbas rival, would not have provided this cover, but would likely have functioned as leverage over Fatah in negotiations. The last thing Abbas would have wanted was for Dahlan to re-enter Palestinian politics through Gaza and Hamas, Egypt and the UAE, which promised to bankroll that deal.
Israel might well balk at this. Its blockade has prevented reconstruction of the hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings its military damaged or destroyed over three deadly assaults, and rendered essential utilities at near-collapse, leaving Gaza at the risk of a humanitarian disaster that the UN has warned could leave the strip uninhabitable in three years.
Egypt’s dictator Abdulfattah al-Sisi has proven willing to go his own way on several issues in pursuit of what he sees as his country’s interests.
He broke with Riyadh over Syria in 2015, even though Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries were important financial backers in the years after al-Sisi ousted the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi in 2013. And he has reached out to Moscow, as relations with the US soured under Barack Obama.
Nevertheless, Cairo will only go so far to defy Israel and much will depend on what happens on the ground. Hamas is likely to go the extra mile to ensure that the agreement sticks. It has been weakened by the loss of its most important sponsor when Gulf countries moved to isolate Qatar, and has seen Gaza suffer not only three devastating Israeli military assaults, but sanctions imposed by the PA in Ramallah.
Abbas, meanwhile, has little to show for his presidency. Stubbornly committed to a peace process of which he was a primary architect but which has brought little but new Israeli settlements in occupied territory, the octogenarian leader is likely on his last furlong. A successful unity agreement might just set him up for one last stab at negotiations. It also ensures that Dahlan is kept out of the equation a little while longer.
But while the weakness of both sides provides some common ground, mutual confidence remains low. And where Hamas is isolated, Abbas’s PA is largely dependant on funding from the US and EU, giving both undue leverage.
Not only do both consider Hamas a terrorist organization, the current US administration, for all its talk of brokering an ultimate deal, has said or done nothing so far that has veered significantly or even slightly from Washington’s proIsrael orthodoxy.
And even if all those potential stumbling blocks can be cleared, any progress toward lasting reconciliation can at any moment be canceled by Israel.
A warning this week by a top Israeli general that escalation would likely result from “provocative actions” by Hamas fighters aiming laser pointers at Israeli soldiers – surely the military equivalent of a bar room drunk’s “you looking at me?” taunt – shows just how easily that could happen.
And Tel Aviv is craving to see bombs dropping on Gaza sooner than later.
Inside Story: Can a deal between Palestinian rivals survive?