Saturday, December 23

Corruption Comparisons between Israel and South Africa

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely”. The famous axiom repeated ad nauseam when referring to corrupt governments and parliamentarians who have promised their electorate better days during their election campaigns. The moment they are swept into power something happens and they lose their sensitivity towards the people they govern. Apart from that, many parliamentarians use their influence to make shady deals with private entrepreneurs who do not always operate within the framework of the law in the hope of becoming wealthy at the tax payers’ expense.

Many Israel-bashers compare Israel to apartheid South Africa under white minority rule. This shows ignorance of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians and the comparison is totally absurd and false. I have written about that in a previous article on this blog.

However, there is a similarity between some of Israel’s Knesset members and South Africa’s ANC members. They use their coveted positions of power to gain more influence and become richer by using public funds for their own financial advancement. This problem is widespread in the Palestinian Authority as well. This was the reason for Hamas victory in the elections nearly a year ago. However this is not the purpose of this article.

When the African National Congress won in the first democratic elections in April 1994, most South Africans were happy and ecstatic. The evil apartheid system ended and for the first time the majority of South Africans could look forward to a bright future without racism based on skin colour.

It did not take long for the euphoria to disappear. The reality of building a new South Africa with its many problems including massive poverty had to be addressed. Violent crime increased at a horrifying rate. The AIDS problem had reached epidemic proportions. Housing shortages, drugs amongst the youth and massive unemployment became the order of the day. Affirmative action was introduced and this did not result in the best people for the right job. It turned into an “apartheid fiasco in reverse” where once again skin colour became an issue. This time the blacks were given preference for certain jobs. This resulted in many people leaving the country of their birth – hopefully for better pastures overseas.
The ANC members of parliament had become very wealthy. They paid lip service to improving the economic problems of the poor that had elected them into power. These politicians did nothing except enrich themselves by joining “the gravy train” (elected politicians gorging on luxuries, since someone else foots the bill).
Apart from that, many ANC parliamentarians became corrupt and became involved in scandals of all kinds including sex scandals.

The vice-President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was accused of rape and corruption. He is in a similar predicament as Israel’s President Moshe Katzav, who also has a load of sex harassment investigations pending against him. Zuma and Katzav are strange bedfellows indeed! Here is a similarity between the Israeli and South African leadership! The difference is that Zuma was relieved of his post while Katzav remains president because he has not been charged in a court of law. The Attorney-General of Israel, Mani Mazuz, has not yet decided when to charge Katzav in court. The African National Congress chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, has been expelled from the party with immediate effect for sexual harassment.

According to IOL (South Africa’s Independent on Line) of 17th December 2006 stated:

“How encouraging that for once the government is sending a clear message: Sexual harassment is not on! Public servants who behave in a disgraceful manner (as in getting drunk and arriving late at state functions), and disregard the law (as in drunk driving and speeding), or blatantly exploit their position of trust and power (as in giving away tenders to their family and cronies) should be publicly shamed and serve a fitting prison term (not in the lap of luxury!). Then a clear message is being sent to the whole of South Africa that crime and corruption is not something one should strive to get away with but something of which to be ashamed!”

South Africa is one up on Israel here! Both countries have governments that do not do justice to their people. Both Israeli and South Africans elect governments that are coalitions of corrupt syndicates. According to The Jurist – Legal News and Research of 17th December 2006:

Lawyers for a business associate of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma [party profile] filed an appeal Monday with the South African Constitutional Court [official website] asking that the corruption conviction [JURIST report] of Schabir Shaik be overturned. Shaik was convicted of paying Zuma for political favors in a case which has left Zuma's name tarnished as a potential presidential candidate. The South African Supreme Court of Appeals [official website] last month upheld the conviction [JURIST report], finding that enough evidence existed to support the case and the 15-year jail term handed down to Shaik. His lawyers missed the December 15 deadline [SABC report] to file an appeal, but a court official said that Monday's filing included an explanation for missing the deadline. South African President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] from his position last year after Shaik was initially found guilty. Zuma has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run against Mbeki in the 2009 presidential election. In June, the African National Congress [party website] reinstated Zuma to his deputy president position within the party after he was acquitted on rape charges [JURIST reports]. In September, a high court judge tossed the corruption charges brought against Zuma himself [JURIST report], saying prosecutors had failed to follow proper procedures, though the charges may be brought again in the future. Reuters has more. SABC News has local coverage”.

The corruption in high places in South Africa is incredible. The appointment of cronies is rife in the ANC.

The situation in Israel is not very different. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister also has appointed cronies in the past. Here we have two states that show more similarities in corruption than what differentiates them in lacking accountability to the electorate that voted them into power. There is money laundering oligarchs from the ex-Soviet Union who have arrived in Israel. Reports of their influence in the ruling political party in Israel abound.

According to an article in Counterpunch on 1st January 2006, The Spoils of War by James Brooks, Israel’s corruption was inevitable. This article gives an account of what had been going on under the Likud Government before Olmert became Prime Minister when his Kadima Party won by a very slender margin in the March 2006 elections. Since then corruption remains the name of the game but with different players.

The Israeli electorate is divided. The electoral system of proportional representation will always result in voting patterns that will never allow any party to win an absolute majority. In order to govern, the party that gains the most support hurriedly forms coalitions of strange political party hacks from opposite sides of the political spectrum. The moderate left of centre Labour Party joined up with the centre Kadima Party under Ehud Olmert who invited the arch-racist Avigdor Lieberman’s Beitenu right wing party to join his coalition. The religious parties usually hold the balance of power and further create instability by their partisan demands. Their membership in any coalition demands a large price. So, if one is a serious voter one will always end up with a despicable coalition that one does not want. Suddenly all parties forget their principles in order to gain seats in the Knesset so that they can enjoy the benefits of government and self-aggrandizement. Sensitivity for the electorate disappears only to raise its head before the next elections.

Some examples of corruption and abuse of political power in Israel are:

  1. President Moshe Katzav refuses to resign despite the fact that he faces accusations of sexual harassment from eight women including a rape charge that was dropped. This resulted in the odd creation of half a president meaning that some of his official duties such as granting pardons for criminals have been curtailed. A rather strange Israeli invention created to bypass impeachment!

  1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz refuse to resign because of the mistakes made in the conduct of the Lebanese War in July 2006. They accepted responsibility for their failure. They agreed to the appointment of an examining committee, which lacks the confidence of the majority of the public rather than an independent judicial commission.

  1. The Chief-of-Staff, Dan Halutz refuses to step down from his post despite heavy criticism for his conduct of the war.

  1. The chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Military Affairs Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, is indicted for fraud and perjury. Yet he remains a Knesset Member.

  1. The Minister of Justice, Chaim Ramon, is standing trial for French kissing a twenty-one year old female soldier. At least, to his credit he has resigned from his post until the end of his trial.

The corruption occurring in ANC-led South Africa and Israel are similar. It illustrates the insensitivity of the legislators for the rule of law in their respective countries. It is also a threat to democracy in both countries.

Connections (protektsia), nepotism, pulling of strings and burocracy as a result, are widespread in both countries. Both countries operate in syndicates that prevent people from getting appointments unless they have good contacts with people in the hierarchy of government.

The behavioral patterns of many Israelis in public places are poor. Queue jumping by working in combinot (groups of friends, relatives or business associates who form groups or syndicates to further their own interests at the expense off others) is common place. Reckless driving that shows complete lack of consideration for others is the order of the day. Apologists for Israel always say that “this is excusable because Israel is at war with her neighbours that causes stress in the population”. This is no justification for bad, inconsiderate behaviour!

The combinot syndrome is prevalent in the work place as well and very often prevents people from advancing in their jobs – salary wise or other.

These various practices resulting in corruption and bribery as well as dishonesty in government will endanger both young democracies. Both countries will receive the status of “banana republics” eventually.

Saturday, December 16

Hamas P.M. Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Intrafraternal Strife

It is clear that Hamas P.M Ismail Haniyeh traveled to many Arab countries including Iran with a shopping list. The US, EU and possibly the UN as well (although there are doubts because of the make up of the Security Council, and its anti-Israel voting trends) view Hamas as a terrorist organization. This has resulted in boycotting of funds to the Palestinian Authority. Palestine has become a boiling pot of frustration under the impotent, indecisive leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas. The path of least resistance to gain much needed funds leads to Mahmoud Ahmadinajad’s Iran. P.M. Haniyeh knows that and he arrived with a shopping list.

Haniyeh accompanied Ahmadinajad, hand in hand to various meetings, excelling in anti-Israel rhetoric to “continue the armed struggle to wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. The results of Haniyeh's posturings were pledges of $250 million to the Palestinians. The situation in Palestine is disastrous financially. The Palestinian Authority is bankrupt and civil servants can barely remember the last time they received a salary.

The unfortunate result of all this is that many Palestinians blame Israel for this situation. All the bad things happening to the Palestinian People have a blanket reason – the Israeli Occupation. The lack of funds is the fault of Israel and its US supporter. They do not wish come to terms with reality. This reality is the stubborn arrogance of Hamas never to come to terms with Israel’s existence. Hamas is a product of the occupation. This product in the end will be a divisive factor for the Palestinians, resulting in a situation close to civil war and strife between the various Palestinian factions. There are many who will accuse Israel of fomenting the situation in a “divide and rule” policy towards the Palestinians.

As far as Hamas is concerned, Israel is occupied territory since its establishment in 1948. Hamas sees it as imperative on the Palestinians to wage war on Israel to resist the occupation and Israel’s right to exist and never to reach a compromise or negotiate peace. The use of the suicide bomber is an essential part of their strategy to achieve that end. They view the Palestinian bombers as shuhada (martyrs) in their legitimate struggle for freedom from the occupation since 1948 and a Palestinian state based on Sharia (Islamic Law).

This philosophy is suicidal for the Palestinians. It will not help their cause of ever establishing a Palestinian state. Surely logic requires a different outlook! Israel is strong militarily and the time is more than overdue to come to terms with Israel’s existence. The alternative would be further Palestinian suffering and deadlock. How long can Hamas continue on this path of hate and terror? New terrorist cells motivated towards destroying Israel are established at an alarming rate. Their resilience towards a just and lasting peace in the area is phenomenal.

Now there is an outcry and shouts of the humiliation of Haniyeh at the Egyptian –Rafiah border. He had been stopped and the $35 million packed in suitcases that he was carrying was confiscated by Egyptian Forces and handed over to the Arab League. Haniyeh was allowed to enter Gaza without the Iranian money. It would be na├»ve indeed to presume that this money would be used for anything but financing terrorist activity against Israel. One cannot expect Israel to give the green light for Haniya’s entry into Gaza with money targeted for terrorist activity against Israel. If the money were to be used for the improvement of conditions for the Palestinians rather than Iranian and Hamas interests of provocation of terror against innocent people then the money should be allowed into Gaza for this purpose.

The Hamas-Fatah power struggle erupted into violence,as Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh was nearly killed by Fatah fire at the Gaza border. According to a report from Asharq Alawsat 15th December 2006:

Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah opened fired on a Hamas rally in the West Bank on Friday and firefights between the rival groups erupted in Gaza, raising fears of civil war.
The fighting intensified after the ruling Hamas faction accused a Fatah strongman and Abbas's forces of trying to kill Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas vowed to retaliate.In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas's security forces, dressed in riot gear, used clubs and rifles to beat back Hamas demonstrators before shooting broke out.Nearly 20 Hamas supporters were wounded by gunfire, according to hospital sources. Some were in critical condition.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Fatah forces fired at each other on the streets. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.
In a show of force, Hamas had deployed hundreds of heavily armed militants across Gaza City and called on Abbas to remove his presidential guard from the streets.Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan singled out by name Fatah strongman and lawmaker, Mohammed Dahlan, as being behind the shooting attack late on Thursday on Haniyeh's convoy as it was leaving the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.Dahlan said on Al Arabiya television that the accusations "are not worth answering". He blamed Hamas "gangs" for the violence, which has surged since unidentified militants shot dead three young sons of an intelligence official loyal to Abbas outside the boys' Gaza school early this week. "It (Hamas) is pouring oil on the fire ... and bears full responsibility for the escalation that may result," said Abdel-Hakim Awad, a spokesman for Fatah in Gaza”.

It is likely that the Hamas leadership does not intend to use any funds for rehabilitation of the Palestinian people who are in a crisis. Their strength lies in their hate for Israel and the West. If this were not the case, the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict would not reach such a low level of hate and bloodshed. The fantasy world of Hamas and its supporters will pave the road to further disaster for the Palestinian People. Their main strategy is to unite the Palestinian People to the lowest common denominator – hate for the “Zionist Entity” (to use a traditional anti-Israel epithet).

President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech on Saturday 16th December 2006, in which he condemned Haniyeh's behavior, murder of Palestinian children and he censured the ongoing violence. He also stated that the Qassams destroyed the dream of Gaza progress. He also said that the Hamas-assisted kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit has "cost 500 dead and 4000 wounded and thousands of ruined houses from the resulting war on Gaza." Hamas members boycotted the speech.

The speech reflects Abbas’s frustration with Hamas. He knows that if Hamas carries on with its rejectionist ideas of non-recognition of Israel, reliance and support of terror, the Palestinians will never get much needed financial assistance from the US and the EU. They will be destroying their own people. Abbas never went as far as disbanding the Palestinian Government or calling for new elections in the past. Now he is calling for new elections . Hamas threatens to boycott those elections. It remains to be seen whether Abbas will be strong enough to carry out his decision.

The various factions – the extremist Hamas and moderates of Mahmoud Abbas are now even further from a national unity government than ever before and a movement towards negotiating an end to the conflict is receding even further into the mists. The future for peace between the two sides is grim.

Saturday, December 9

P.M. Ismail Haniyeh's Visit to Iran and its Implications

P.M. of Palestine, Ismail Haniyeh has embarked on a trip to Iran to visit his ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad. The purpose of this visit is obvious. Rather than toning down his anti-Israel rhetoric, he visits a common bedfellow who shares his intense, uncompromising hate for Israel in the hope of getting funds from Iran which are denied Hamas from the EU, the US and the UK. It is well known that Ahmadinajad wishes to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth. The Hamas-ruled coalition in the Palestinian Authority shares the same goal. This leaves President Mahmoud Abbas in the unenviable position of being further weakened in his attempt to form a national unity government which would recognize Israel’s right to exist as one of its planks.

The tactics of Ismail Haniyeh in his hate-filled speech against Israel in Teheran serves to erode President Mahmoud Abbas’s negotiating stance with Israel even further. He has outlined his hate-for-Israel rhetoric so clearly at Teheran University that it makes it almost impossible for any form of reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis. He has further legitimized the armed struggle Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh vowed on Friday 8th December 2006 that his Hamas-led government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the liberation of Jerusalem.

"The world arrogance (US) and Zionists... want us to recognize the usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," Haniyeh told thousands of Friday prayer worshippers in a speech at Tehran University. Haniyeh continued "I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

If this is the attitude of Hamas, it comes as no surprise that he will receive a sympathetic ear from Ahmadinajad. This form of rhetoric encourages further violence. Hamas is leading the Palestinian People down the road to disaster! Israel will see this speech as encouragement for more Hamas, Islamic Jihad terror directed towards Israel’s citizens.

Haniyeh sees Iran as an ally of the Palestinian People. There is none as blind as those who will not see! Iran will never alleviate Palestinian suffering! Iran has one goal –domination of the Middle East, replacing Sunni Islam with an extreme form of Shia Islam that serves Iran’s interests of colonization! The only commonality between Iran and Hamas is their uncompromising hate for the Jewish State and its people. Haniyeh has failed his people miserably. His anti-democratic attitude towards his people by prolonging their suffering because of the occupation is his source of strength. It is a great pity that so much energy is wasted in hate-filled rhetoric instead of adopting a pragmatic attitude towards Israel’s existence. Iran has a nuclear programme which is a threat to the world and this includes all the peoples of the Middle East. Nobody is immune from the nuclear war head!

Hamas has not done anything to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians! They have not embarked on any programme to rehabilitate their people to eventual statehood. They have not encouraged the development of democratic government nor made any movement towards human rights. Many Palestinian civil workers have not received salaries for months. Why? Hamas blames the US and Israel for the crisis of the Palestinian People. In reality they (Hamas) are largely responsible for the situation. The money that arrives is used for terror and not for reconstruction of a future Palestinian state. One cannot have responsible government when it is also involved in terror!

The fragile cease-fire is still being violated by both sides! This means that international monitoring of the cease-fire is a matter of urgency. While there is a cease-fire, Israeli and Palestinian lives are saved. There is no trust between Israelis and Palestinians. How can there be when Hamas is so intransigent in her attitude towards Israel? Surely the time for the false Hamas sense of self prestige is over! If there was a genuine indication between both sides to mutual recognition and respect and a true desire for peace, negotiations could start and much could be achieved in alleviating Palestinian suffering. Palestinians deserve far better. Everyday lives of innocent Palestinians who suffer from the occupation must be addressed. The road blocks, severe economic hardships, humiliating security checks, delays in receiving medical attention and travel restrictions are all the results of the insensitivity of both sides to reach an agreement. Israel also shares part of the blame for this despicable situation.

The “developing friendship” between Iran and the Palestinians is an illusion. It will create further strife for the Palestinian People. Israel will also view this as adding fat on the fire of hate. When will Hamas adopt a policy of “real politic” and show a true desire for negotiations with Israel? They must cease their fantasy of destroying Israel. While they do not change their attitude they will prolong the suffering of the Palestinian people which in the short term is their strength but in the long term it will prove to be their weakness.

Saturday, December 2

The Hudna as Proposed by Khaled Mashaal of Hamas

While it is desirable and logical that Hamas changes its attitude towards Israel and recognizes Israel’s right to exist so that negotiations could move beyond a cease-fire. There is great difficulty in the Hamas ruling camp coming to terms with Israel’s existence. The most that they are prepared to do is declare a “hudna” within the framework of a cease-fire. It would be ideal to ignore Hamas and appeal to the moderate Palestinians to negotiate with Israel in order to achieve peace and a just two-state solution. Unfortunately, Hamas holds all the bargaining chips in this regard and, as difficult as it is, Israel has to come to terms with negotiating with the Palestinian People’s majority choice – Hamas!

Naturally, Israel will not accept this reality. Is it very pessimistic? Most Israelis will say “Yes!” unanimously. If one examines the Hamas condition of a “hudna” or temporary peace until they have mustered enough strength to declare war on Israel in order to destroy her, it proves that Hamas de facto does recognize Israel’s existence! If Israel did not exist then there would be no need to destroy Israel. They are prepared to sign a “temporary treaty” with Israel. If one signs any treaty, whether temporary or permanent, surely this is recognition of the party with whom the treaty is signed. This is logical.

How does Hamas come to terms with signing a “hudna” with a country that does not exist? Perhaps this question should be addressed to the Hamas leadership. Maybe Khaled Mashaal could answer that. A hint to his de facto recognition of Israel can be found in the link if nothing else. Israel has to find away to come to terms with that for what it is worth and take advantage of it in its negotiating stance.

If we take Hamas at face value, perhaps Israel should find a way to sign a “hudna”, if this is their desire. It does not necessarily have to be to Israel’s disadvantage. The longer the “hudna” lasts, this period could be used for initiating confidence building tactics on both sides. The cease-fire, as fragile as it is, would strengthen. It would give Hamas time to climb down from the “tree of non-recognition of Israel” to a more pragmatic stance of recognition. During this period, there should be total cessation of violence on both sides. This should also be accompanied by international monitoring of both sides to prevent violence and re-arming.

While there is this period of cease-fire, intensive negotiations should begin to find a permanent solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. At the same time, the embargo on the Palestinians should cease and the European Union, Israel and the US should pour in funds to rebuild Palestine and at the same time there should be accountability that these funds will be used for reconstruction, education, health, industries, social services and infra structure. This would result in vast improvement for the Palestinian People economically. If this were not done, the situation would rapidly slide back into violence and bloodshed between the two sides. Improvement of conditions for the Palestinians would be the best method to counter violence. Economic investment in a stable Palestinian state is the best insurance to counteract violence and hate. The longer there is peace and quiet, the better are the chances of a permanent peace and stability for both peoples. The desire and motivation to renew violence would decrease substantially.

There would have to be a system of checks and balances to prevent Hamas and its allies from resorting to terror by serious international monitoring. Once this is achieved, the motivation for violence will decrease and Hamas will recognize Israel’s right to exist as the occupation will cease over a period of time when final stage negotiations begin.

Of course, this will be viewed as dreaming by most people. Nevertheless a start has to be made even if it is the tentative “hudna” which, given time, would become permanent. The alternative will be worse!  

The sticky issues such as the refugees and East Jerusalem would then be discussed as part of a fair deal with which both sides will be able to deal and live.