Friday, April 29, 2011


Last month it was noised abroad that Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, was to visit Gaza. Then a Jewish settler family was found murdered in the West Bank and the ensuing 'hue and cry' in West Bank villages put an end to the visit. The notion of Abbas sitting down with HAMAs seemed still-born.

But the Arab spring was in full swing and whatever powers there were in a newly 'de-Mubaraked' Egypt  invited the feuding sides to meet together without the standard Egyptian 'interests' (viz Mubarak's agreements with Israel) involved. The result, announced to-day, was another plan to unite the two main 'factions' of the PA into one political entity. HAMAS and FATAH  are uniting their forces to move the Palestinian agenda forward.

So what's new this time? There have been such 'plans' before.

True, there have been a number of attempts to re-engage the two halves of the palestinian polity, often at the behest of the Arab League. The league members have their own agenda and support of the Palestinian cause is, for many of them, mostly mouth action. Previous plans involved paying HAMAS for caving-in to FATAH. The latter being vaguely palatable to Israel as a 'peace partner' and acceptable to the western powers as 'reformed terrorists'. Obviously had HAMAS seen any benefit to joining the moribund rump of the PLO, it would have done that. But one of the main causal reasons for HAMAS is the loss of 'belly-fire' in the resistance, and the co-option of Arafat's movement to align with Israel's main supporters. Not to mention the fact that 'virtual zero' for Palestinians was thoroughly explored in a very protracted series of peace 'lunches', while the Zionists colonized the West Bank..

HAMAS, having fought off FATAH twice, was in  no mood to join the 'losers', even though such action isolated and severely punished Gaza. It is perhaps this stalwart defence of their principles that is bringing the West Bank Arabs to the realization that, if there is no substantial change, the 'screwing' they've been getting will continue indefinitely.

Among agreement on 5 points is one to organize and hold an election in Gaza and the West Bank. This is vital. The last parliamentary election saw a Hamas government elected, and then arrested by the Israeli military. HAMAS took over administration of GAZA. Fatah held its strongholds in the West bank by rounding-up and jailing HAMAS proponents. HAMAS reciprocated after intercepting a US arms shipment bound for FATAH supporters in Gaza and chased the party activists out. The next election will allow ballot box comment on a raft of changes  from new settlements to the Wall.  I'd bet FATAH's day is done. 

Of course the greatest reaction to this announcement came from Israel. The three biggest news sources were full of commentary and interpretation of the event. The Jewish blogosphere lit up with dire warnings that destruction had taken wing, the existential threat was being realized. There were demands for the UN to outlaw everything in Palestine and impose sanctions - definitely to ignore any calls for Palestinian statehood or study of Mr. Goldstone's original report - which still stands as written. The Israeli 'security' cabinet was meeting to discuss the ramifications.

Among the immediate actions being demanded is the withdrawal of US support for the Palestinian Authority which is, once again, being described, by 'Israelis', both 'foreign and domestic', as a "terrorist state". Israel calls upon the world not to recognize the 'new' Palestinian government. After an election this might be a more problematic. Israel might be well-advised to use the wallet of the USA to try to get a better settlement now, rather than risking a worse one at some time up the road.

It goes without saying that, unless she's obviously attacked, 'punching out' the neighborhood, again, as a diversion, is a counter-productive non-starter. But it isn't off the table, nu?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Priministerial Aide

Off and running and right into a tree,  the 'Harper Government' of Canada comes wallowing out of the blocks and right into another cabinet-style embarassment.

About a month back newspapers were carrying a story that the Assembly of First Nations had asked police to investigate the possible malfeasance of one Bruce Carson, who, at that time, was putting himself across to them as someone with inside connections to the Tory government. He had involved himself in the sale of some water filtration equipment and  was 'hyping' the deal with news that water quality was becoming a government 'priority' for first nations reserves and that he could access government money for equipment and training. He was also engaged in erroneously 'hyping' a particular filtration system to Indian band councils as being 'approved by the government and the AFN'. He might have failed to mention that his girlfriend, working for the company involved, stood to pick-up a 20 percent commission on sales. 


Turns out that his girlfriend is a reformed Ottawa area 'escort' and former teen prostitute. Bruce had , apparently taken her 'under his wing', helped her get out of 'the life'. Helped her land  a job. They had also become engaged and moved into a new house together. But that's the interesting part of the story. Since the story broke there are, so far, only trace elements of her previous existence on the internet.
                                                                                   The 'pied a terre'

The rest of the story is more mundane.

 Carson, a former lawyer who was disbarred and spent some time in jail for a small fraud, has been a denizen of Tory caves in Ottawa since Harper came to power. He has had a number of functions tangential to government, acting as an aide and advisor. One of his more interesting appointments was as  the policy chief on the Afghanistan deployment of Canada's Armed forces. Carson's job, at that time, was to receive and review daily reports from Afghanistan, to prepare a briefing digest for the Prime Minister and to advise on policy ramifications. It is said that he had 'secret' level security clearance, but reports from the military operation that he received must have been at a higher level than that, considering that one of the 'biggies' he handled was the matter of possible war crimes charged by returning military personnel. How a convicted fraudster managed to attain such status, is a question on which the Harper Government seems to be doing the 'cabinet shuffle'. They've blamed an anonymous clerk and, of late,  said the outgoing 'Staff' of the Mounties did it - but he denies that. It's looking more like nobody vetted Mr. Carson at all. And this gaffe won't be solved by tossing another aide under the dumptruck. It's even better than the 'Minister of War' dropping his brief at his girlfriend's house, for Harpo, himself, gave Bruce his jobs.

In the interim, Carson has had to step down from his latest appontment as the executive Director of the Canadian School of Energy and Environment. The CSEE is a government creation, a multi-institutional panel to collect studies on energy and the environment. A viable alternative to actually doing anything about energy and the environment, no doubt. Carson took that job late in 2008.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Goldstone Redux

Some 20 months ago Justice Goldstone, at the behest of the UN HRC, presented the report of his committee on 'Operation Cast Lead'. In the ensuing time its formal presentation to that body and to the General assembly has been stonewalled. That is probably, in retrospect, a good thing, for Justice Goldstone has had, we are told, a notable change of heart in regard to his report.

 In an opinion piece in yesterday's Washington Post the good justice claims that had he known then, what he has learned since, that report would be significantly different.

The elucidation he cites is, essentially, that the IDF has proceeded to investigate its peccadilloes while HAMAS has not. Ergo the IDF perspective - that they would not deliberately target civilians, becomes, for him, the lingua franca in which the report should have been written. He goes on to describe how, in at least two investigations that have actually been concluded - somebody, an officer in one case ( up on a charge for careless interpretation of some drone imagery that gave rise to the destruction of a house and the family in it) has been charged. Although the charge has been laid, the case has yet to make its way through an IDF court. And, probably, with the same results that saw numerous military incidents described as 'mistakes made in the heat of battle'. Another investigation saw an enlisted man convicted of theft of a credit card he was careless enough to use to buy some treats for himself when he got back to base.

The good Justice doesn't have much to say about the 'battle' which saw 7 IDF soldiers killed - 5 in friendly -fire incidents,  as opposed to 1100 fairly-definable civilians and 300 fairly-identifiable HAMAS fighters. The 'battle' would seem to have been quite one-sided. So much for a  'measured response'. There were other glaring incidents, reported by the Red Cross and UN observers, that have not yet been investigated - like the shooting of an ambulance crew trying to evacuate wounded, and the use of WP munitions on a UN school known to be used as a refuge. Justice Goldstone is convinced it was all done with the best of intentions. Hamas, he's equally as sure, now shares their part of the blame all alone. Actually they share all the blame, for although he doesn't say it, they 'made' the IDF 'have' to do it.

I'm inclined to think that this is an exercise to draw the world's attrention to the story of the Fogel family - mentioned, as it is, in his newpaper piece, and its getting 'lost' amid the news about Libya two weeks ago. The western press may have not played the 'massacre' as well as it might have been, but the electronic 'hebrew blog-o-sphere' certainly 'did it up right'. The Justice would have to be a Haman of sorts, to side with such monsters. In fact he's getting still such a reaction from some of his co-religionists for writing  that report (and encouraging such killers) at all. The other half of the crowd is calling to the 'World Pilate' in New York to 'wash its hands' of the report entirely and wondering if 'prestige' levels will improve enough for another 'free hand' in Gaza.

I'm inclined to think another poke at Gaza  is the ultimate point.  The recent murder of the Fogels put the blocks to another attempt to 'mend fences' between the West Bank and Gaza. 'Abu Mazen's' little foray to the camps had to be delayed so he could lend a hand in the 'razzas' the IDF pulled-off to 'round up the usual suspects'. So far none have been charged. A shipping container of weapons was confiscated from a Turkish ship sailing to Egypt. A number of rockets and a fairly large array of mortar bombs and  tubes were displayed for the public. One of the results was an uptick on fence security at Gaza with a spate of bombing and shooting incidents along the perimeter, and the launching of an increased number of retaliatory rockets and mortars. Noises being made last week, when a rocket actually hit a house, were reaching the "intolerable" level and the 'price', Cast Lead 2,  was being tossed around.

Mr Netanyahu is doing his darnedest to restrain the 'war dogs' in his cabinet, but even his 'patience' is worn thin.It wouldn't take much to unleash  another live-fire exercise on the Gazans. Maybe Mr. Goldstone, by recanting his report on the last one, has set the stage for the next one. Ironic, sort of.