Cost of Israel to Americans
BY now many Americans are aware that Israel, with a population of only 5.8 million people, is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, and that Israel’s aid plus US aid to Egypt’s 65 million people for keeping the peace with Israel has, for many years, consumed more than half of the US bilateral foreign aid budget worldwide.
What few Americans understand, however, is the steep price they pay in many other fields for the US-Israeli relationship, which in turn is a product of the influence of Israel’s powerful US lobby on American domestic politics and has nothing to do with US strategic interests, US national interests, or even with traditional American support for self-determination, human rights, and fair play overseas.
The Israel-US relationship has cost a significant number of American lives. The incidents in which hundreds of US service personnel, diplomats, and civilians were killed in the Middle East have been reported in the media. But the media seldom revisits these events, and scrupulously avoids analyzing why they occurred or compiling the cumulative toll of American deaths resulting from our Israel-centred Middle East policies.
First is the financial cost of Israel to US taxpayers. Between 1949 and 1998, the US gave to Israel, with a self-declared population of 5.8 million people, more foreign aid than it gave to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, all of the countries of Latin America, and all of the countries of the Caribbean combined — with a total population of 1,054,000,000.
In the 1997 fiscal year, for example, Israel received $3 billion from the foreign aid budget, at least $525 million from other US budgets, and $2 billion in federal loan guarantees. So the 1997 total of US grants and loan guarantees to Israel was $5.5 billion. That’s $15,068,493 per day, 365 days a year. If you add its foreign aid grants and loans, plus the approximate totals of grants to Israel from other parts of the US federal budget, Israel has received since 1949 a grand total of $84.8 billion, excluding the $10 billion in US government loan guarantees it has drawn to date.
And if you calculate what the US has had to pay in interest to borrow this money to give to Israel, the cost of Israel to US taxpayers rises to $134.8 billion, not adjusted for inflation. Put another way, the nearly $14,630 every one of 5.8 million Israelis had received from the US government by October 31, 1997, cost American taxpayers $23,241 per Israeli. That’s $116,205 for every Israeli family of five. These figures do not include any of the indirect financial costs of Israel to the United States, which cannot be tallied.
One example is the cost to US manufacturers of the Arab boycott, surely in the billions of dollars by now. Another example is the cost to US consumers of the price of petroleum, which surged to such heights that it set off a worldwide recession during the Arab oil boycott imposed in reaction to US support of Israel in the 1973 war.
Other examples are a portion of the costs of maintaining large US Sixth Fleet naval forces in the Mediterranean, primarily to protect Israel, and military air units at the Aviano base in Italy. Many years ago, the late Under-secretary of State George Ball estimated the true financial cost of Israel to the United States at $11 billion a year.
Even our European and Asian allies have joined in deploring the perpetual American tilt towards Israel. In a recent vote on a UN General Assembly resolution calling upon Israel to curb further encroachments on Palestinian lands by Jewish settlers, only the US and Micronesia voted against it. Of the 185 UN member nations, all of the others, without exception, supported the resolution or abstained. Yet Americans seem oblivious to such examples of how their Israel-centred Middle East policies are isolating the US in the world.
Next is the cost of Israel to the American domestic political system. In December 1997, The Fortune magazine asked professional lobbyists to select the most powerful special interest group in the US. They chose the American Association of Retired Persons, which lobbies on behalf of all Americans over 60.
In the second place, however, was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s official Washington, D.C. lobby, with a $15 million budget — the sources of which AIPAC refuses to disclose — and 150 employees. AIPAC, in turn, can draw upon the resources of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a roof group set up to coordinate the efforts on behalf of Israel of some 52 national Jewish organizations.
Among those organizations are groups such as B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL), with a $45 million budget, and Hadassah, the Zionist women’s group, which spends more than AIPAC and sends thousands of Americans every year to Israel on Israeli government-supervized visits.
Both AIPAC and the ADL maintain secret “opposition research” departments which compile files on politicians, journalists, academics and organizations, and circulate this information through local Jewish community councils to pro-Israel groups and activists in order to damage the reputations of those who dare to speak out and thus have been blackballed as “enemies of Israel.” In the case of ADL, police raids on the organization’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices established that much of the information they had compiled was erroneous, and thus slanderous, and some also was illegally obtained.
In the case of AIPAC, this is not the organization’s most controversial activity. In the 1970s members of AIPAC’s national board of directors set out to form deceptively named local political action committees (PACs) which could coordinate their efforts in supporting candidates in federal elections. To date, at least 126 pro-Israel PACs have been registered, and no fewer than 50 PACs, like AIPAC, can give a candidate who is facing a tough opponent and who has voted according to AIPAC recommendations up to half a million dollars. That’s enough money to buy all the television time needed to get elected in most parts of the country.
What is totally unique about AIPAC’s network of political action committees is that they all have deceptive names. So just as no other special interest can put so much hard money into any candidate’s election campaign as can the Israel lobby, no other special interest has gone to such elaborate lengths to hide its tracks.
Some of America’s wisest and most distinguished public servants have been kept from higher office by the blackballing of the Israel lobby. One such leader was George Ball, who served the Kennedy administration as under-secretary of state and the Johnson administration as US ambassador to the United Nations. Given his unmatched brilliance in forecasting international developments, there is no doubt that he would have become secretary of state had he not publicly expressed the scepticism about the US relationship with Israel which most Americans involved in foreign affairs privately feel.
In membership meetings which journalists are not allowed to attend, AIPAC presidents have boasted that the organization was responsible for the defeats of two of history’s most distinguished chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Democrat J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Republican Charles Percy of Illinois. The list of other senators and House members for whose election defeats AIPAC takes credit is too long to recount.
Finally, there is the cost of Israel in American lives. References to the attack by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats on the USS Liberty in which 34 Americans were killed and 171 wounded on the fourth day of the Six Day War of June 1967 often are met by disbelief. Very few Americans seem to have heard of the attack on the ship operated by the US Navy for the National Security Agency to monitor Israel and Arab military communications during the fighting.
Major losses of American lives at the hands of Arab forces opposing Israel are better known. These include the loss of 141 US service personnel in the bombing of the US marine barracks in Beirut in 1984. They also include the loss of several US diplomats and local employees of the US government in two bombings of the American embassy in Beirut.
Other such events include the bombing of the US embassy in Kuwait, the taking of American hostages in Beirut of whom three were killed, the deaths of Americans in a series of Middle East-related skyjackings, the deaths of 19 US service personnel in the bombing of the Al Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and the 1997 assassination of four American accountants working for US oil company in Karachi.
Claims that there are positive aspects of the US-Israeli relationship seldom stand up to scrutiny. During the Reagan administration it was labelled for the first time a “strategic relationship” conferring benefits on the US as well as on Israel. The idea that Israel — smaller in both area and population than Hong Kong — can offer the United States benefits sufficient to offset the hostility that relationship arouses among 250 million Arabs living in a 4,000-mile strategic swath of territory stretching from Morocco to Oman is ludicrous.
It becomes even more ludicrous when one realizes that the relationship also has alienated another 750 million Muslims who, together with the Arabs, control more than 60 per cent of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves. Apologists for Israel also describe the US-Israeli cooperation in weapons development. The fact is that the one or two successful joint weapons programmes have been largely US-financed, while for their part the Israelis have repeatedly sold to rogue nations US weapons turned over at no cost to Israel.
It is a sad but proven fact that the Israeli government also has obtained secret US military technology which Israel has sold to other countries. For example, after the US sent Patriot missile defence batteries on an emergency basis to help defend Israel during the Gulf war, the Israelis seem to have sold the Patriot missile technology to China, according to the US State Department’s inspector-general. As a result, Washington has been forced to develop a whole new generation of missile technology able to penetrate the defences China has developed as a result of the Israeli treachery.
Perhaps the most shocking is the little-known fact that by now 90 per cent of the land in Israel proper is held under restrictive covenants barring non-Jews, even those with Israeli citizenship, from owning the land or from earning a living on it. Unfortunately, the land held under such covenants is increasing, not decreasing. It would be difficult, therefore, to find two countries more profoundly different in their approaches to basic questions of citizenship and civil and human rights as are the United States and Israel.
The writer is a former US diplomat and is currently executive editor of the magazine Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Still on the brink
“Tensions are a little bit down,” said Richard Armitage, US deputy secretary of state on Friday, after days of consultation with the leaders of Pakistan and India in an effort to prevent a potentially nuclear war between the two.
India’s foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, said his country was “very much committed to moving on the path of peace because there is no alternative,” and Pakistan’s military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, said that he could not imagine using nuclear weapons. So can we all change the channel now?
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is now doing the rounds of Islamabad and New Delhi in Armitage’s footsteps, doesn’t think so. “There is nothing that has changed the situation to any degree favourably,” he said when told of the soothing words that had been produced to keep Washington’s emissary happy — and he is, alas, quite right. The war has not been cancelled.
After six months of mobilisation and much tough talk, it has become nearly impossible for either Musharraf or his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, to offer the other side enough concessions to let them both walk away from the confrontation. Each man is so vulnerable politically that he will do nothing that would let his domestic enemies accuse him of betraying the ‘national honour’, even if the alternative is a nuclear holocaust. And it may be exactly that.
It’s a safe bet that the war will not start while Rumsfeld is still in the region, but after that things could happen very fast. If India is going to attack Pakistan at all, then technology, strategy and even climate argue for an early and massive Indian attack, quite possibly within the next two weeks.
It is India that would start the fighting, partly because it is the aggrieved party, suffering from frequent terrorist attacks in the disputed province of Kashmir that it blames on Pakistan, and partly because it is just the stronger party. Pakistan sometimes does highly provocative things, but it would never deliberately start a war with a neighbour whose armed forces are at least twice as big. It has fought three wars with India, and lost three times.
Why would India be in a hurry? A major factor is that many Indian senior officers believe that Pakistan has not yet married its nuclear weapons up to its new family of solid-fuel missiles.
Right now, they suspect, Pakistan’s only nuclear delivery system may be vulnerable aircraft that might be destroyed on the ground by a massive Indian surprise attack.
Pakistan’s very high-profile flight-testing of all three missiles in late May was not a provocation, therefore, but an attempt to convince India that its missiles were already operational. The tests really proved nothing, however, since the question is really whether the country’s nuclear warheads have already been engineered to mate with the missiles.
If not, then this summer is India’s last window of opportunity to fight and win a war that might finally settle the Kashmir dispute in its favour. If India is going to gamble on that, then it should launch its attack before the monsoon arrives in two or three weeks’ time and makes off-road movement practically impossible for heavy vehicles.
The Indian planners assume that they would have at least 72 hours of conventional warfare before the progressive collapse of Pakistan’s conventional defences forced their weaker opponent to start using his nuclear weapons. Their ideal strategy, therefore, involves a massive grab of territory in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir (including the main passes that the terrorists use to infiltrate into the Indian side) and then a unilateral ceasefire, followed shortly afterwards by the onset of the monsoon.
Would India’s generals actually launch this attack in cold blood? Would Prime Minister Vajpayee actually order them to do so? Almost certainly not — but the wild card is the Islamist terrorists whose attacks have provided the reason, or at least the pretext, for the Indian government’s current mobilisation against Pakistan. Musharraf’s intelligence services certainly helped them in the past, but now they are playing a largely independent hand.
The Islamist militants are apocalyptic enough in their thinking, or simply ignorant enough about the realities of nuclear war, that they are not deterred by the risk of a nuclear exchange. —Copyright
The FBI changes its ways
EVEN though J. Edgar Hoover is turning over in his grave, the FBI is changing its ways. The priority now is terrorism, and crime may be on the back burner.
This is what could happen.
“Is this the FBI?”
“It’s not Pizza Hut.”
“I have a tip for you. I just saw John Dillinger, the notorious bank robber, enter a movie with a redhead. He looked armed and dangerous.”
“We don’t do bank robbers anymore. Did you notice if he had any explosives in his shoes?”
“He might have. I just wanted to alert you.”
“Look, mister. If we had to tie up our agents with bank-robbing cases, we’d never find out where Osama bin Laden is hanging out. Call back in a couple of weeks and if Dillinger is still with the redhead, let us know.”
“Is this the FBI?”
“All our lines are busy. Please wait for the next available agent. Your call is very important to us and will be taped for our files.”
Twenty-five minutes later someone answers the phone.
“FBI. I can’t talk to you about drugs because we’ve reduced our drug department to two undercover agents in Mexico.”
“This is Senator Boogle. One of my constituents was appointed to the Global Warming Committee last year, and he still hasn’t been cleared by the FBI.”
“We don’t have time to clear people in the government. He will have to wait his turn like everybody else.”
“How long will that be?”
“If he’s lucky, we should finish our paperwork by 2005.”
The phone rings again. “Mr. Hanssen, the traitor, is unable to come to the phone. He is either in solitary or being squeezed dry by our agents.”
Next call. “Have you given any executives at Enron lie detector tests, since they have certainly committed criminal acts?”
“The FBI has gone out of the white collar crime business.”
“Suppose I told you some of their people are terrorists?”
“No kidding? We’ll get on their case right away.”
“Am I speaking to the Federal Bureau of Investigation?”
“Yes.” “I just saw Bonnie and Clyde.”
“They were taking flying lessons in Minneapolis.”
“Everybody takes flying lessons in Minneapolis.”
The changeover in the Bureau is proceeding faster than anyone thought it would. The phones are being manned at all times. One of the most interesting changes is that the FBI has taken the CIA off its most wanted list. One of the major ones is that the FBI is accepting calls from whistleblowers. This is something J. Edgar Hoover would never have agreed to.—Dawn/Tribune Media Services
Budget: hopes and fears
AS the budget for the fiscal year 2003 is to be presented, the hopes and fears of different sections of people increase. The poor are hoping there may be more employment opportunities through the fiscal and monetary measures proposed and more loans for the self-employed.
The middle income groups are hoping the threshold for income tax for the salaried group will go up from the low fifty thousand rupees in view of the accumulated inflation of years together. Even if the inflation in the current year has increased by only 2.5 per cent, which is held as the lowest in our recent history by Finance minister Shaukat Aziz, it represents an increase over the accumulated inflation of decades and not a drop in that inflation rate. The fact is that there is a very large gap between prevailing price levels and the wage rates for the lower income groups.
On the other side the high salary groups are fearing that their expensive and varied prerequisites might be brought under full taxation and their net real income reduced. They are the groups who are largely insulated from inflation even when it was very high by providing the costly prerequisites free of cost to them.
Meanwhile the Finance minister is under pressure to increase the defence allocation which in the current year was budgeted at one hundred and thirty-one billion and is reported to have increased by fifteen billion.
The allocation for next year was not specified after the meeting of the National Economic Council which determined the various expenditure targets.
But the financial constraints have forced the NEC to reduce the allocation of the Public Sector Development Plan to one hundred and thirty four billion from one hundred and thirty-three billion as determined earlier by the Annual Plan Coordination Committee. This is only marginally higher than the rupees one hundred and twenty-seven billion earmarked for development expenditure for the current year.
This is the most disappointing feature of the NEC decision presided over by President Pervez Musharraf. The country ought to spend much more for development next year to accelerate the slow pace of development, expand the infrastructure for rapid industrialization and to create large employment opportunities in a country where massive unemployment is the number one social and economic problem. But the NEC was told the development budget has to be reduced, as the CBR will not be able to fulfil its revenue targets next year and that meant a cut in the outlay proposed by the Annual Plan Coordination Committee.
What is certain is that the import duties will be cut by five per cent to achieve the average tariff rate of twenty-five per cent as agreed with the IMF. This has its implications for the domestic industry, which is faced by the problem of higher import duties for raw materials and lower duties for manufactured goods, which favoured imported goods.
But how much of the relief given by the five per cent cut in tariff will be neutralized by the increase in sales tax or further spread of sales tax to new areas remains to be seen. There are fears of imposition of sales tax on edible oil and Vanaspati and on electricity. But the finance minister says there will be no heavy tax on edible oil, only marginal adjustments.
The fifteen-per cent GST on electricity is a major issue in a period of rising electricity rates as well as the repeated break-down in power in addition to the planned load shedding. The solution to the power lies in cutting down the heavy theft and wastage of power and reducing the losses of WAPDA and KESC. If instead the electricity producers resorted to higher rates there will be larger theft of electricity often with the collusion of the staff of KESC and WAPDA.
The year is ending with a GDP growth of 3.6 per cent as against the target of four per cent which is a pretty creditable performance in the post-September 11 period. This includes a 1.4 per cent growth in the agricultural sector despite a drought in southern Pakistan and industrial growth of 4.4 per cent over last year’s, including 4.4 per cent in the large scale manufacturing sector which has been crawling for quite some years now.
As a result the exports in the current year are for nine billion dollars which though short of the ten billion is a good performance in a world hit by recession. After the post-September 11 economic crisis, the country has been able to achieve a two billion dollar current account surplus which is a rare happening in Pakistan and the home remittances have taken a big leap and may be 2.2 billion dollars at the end of the year against under one billion dollars last year.
The country in view of its anti-terrorist stance after September 11 has gained considerably in the economic sector while getting hurt in the political sector. The foreign exchange reserve inclusive of private holdings has risen to 5.6 billion dollars and the month may end with the six million dollar reserve. Simultaneously the external debt has come down from rupees thirty-eight billion to rupees thirty-six billion.
Many of these favourable factors are the outcome of September 11 which has placed Pakistan in the front line in the campaign against terrorism. But the Finance minister holds that the fiscal and monetary reforms introduced by him has helped a great deal in setting the country on the right economic course.
But with the six billion dollar in foreign exchange reserves, the public would expect a larger outlay on public sector development instead of the modest one hundred and thirty-four which is a marginal improvement over the current year’s performance.
But evidently the IMF does not want the budget deficit to increase significantly even on account of a larger development outlay along with higher defence spending. But the provinces are however to receive 2.5 per cent of the sales tax collection for poverty alleviation. With the provinces and the district governments and town councils in the exercise, adequate efforts have to be made to make the best use of the funds.
While the external front has significantly improved, particularly in the area of home remittances, what matters most is what happens in the domestic sector. Heavy investment is needed to set up new industrial unites and replace many of the four thousand sick units. Industrial investment has been too sluggish during the last seven years and that ought to be reversed in a big way now. The finance minister says that the interest rate for commercial loans has come down from fourteen per cent to twelve per cent. It has to come down much further, to six to eight per cent if large scale industrial investment is to take place, production is to rise and the economy is to expand.
The industrialists and farmers who met President Musharraf at the meeting of the Economic Advisory Board complained bitterly of the non-availability of electric connections after they had set up their factories and the farmers complained of non-availability of electric connections for their tube wells. At a time when the government is talking about corporate farming, how can progress be made if power connections are not made available for the basic industries or the farms.
It is easy to talk of one window facilities for investors but when in reality there are too many impediments, industrial progress will be too slow and industrialists who have borrowed heavily from banks to set up their units will find it hard to repay or service their loans in time.
Good decisions taken at the top have to be followed by effective and sustained action at the lower levels, with a bureaucracy ready to be helpful to the investors. This has not been the reality and this situation has to be remedied if industrial investment has to take place on a large scale and produce the desired results.
Global backlash against refugees and migrants
SINCE the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the core refugee protection principles are under serious threat across the globe and the future of millions of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants is uncertain. Governments faced a critical challenge to address legitimate national security concerns without undermining long-enshrined standards for refugee protection and the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.
Security concerns in the wake of the September 11 attacks prompted governments around the world to introduce emergency legislation and tighter immigration controls. In many countries, such measures were introduced in an existing climate of growing hostility and restrictions on the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Several governments introduced measures that seriously eroded their obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and undermined the fundamental right to seek and enjoy asylum, as stipulated in the UDHR. It was ironic that in the year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Refugee Convention, the very same governments responsible for its establishment sought to depart from their obligations under this treaty.
Not only did doors close on Afghan refugees in the neighbouring countries, strict measures were adopted to stop the influx of refugees in their countries. According to UNHCR, Afghan refugees arrived in countries as distant and geographically dispersed as Australia, Cambodia, Cuba, and Iceland in 2000. In 1999 and 2000, the number of Afghans who sought asylum in Europe nearly doubled, with Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom receiving the largest numbers of applications. Fears of a mass influx of Afghan refugees after September 11 prompted several countries to introduce harsh policies.
The United States was one of the first countries to respond to the events of September 11 with emergency anti-terrorism legislation that severely curtailed the rights of non-citizens and permitted their indefinite detention. Despite vigorous protests by human rights, civil liberties, and immigrants’ rights organizations, the “USA Patriot Act” was passed on October 26. The procedures leading to the passage of the anti-terrorism bill were flawed and rushed. Congress was unable to meet and fully consider the legislation as it was amended, meaning that problematic provisions of the legislation were never fully considered and debated by members of Congress.
The legislation granted unprecedented broad powers to the attorney general to “certify” and then detain any non-citizen, including an asylum-seeker, legal permanent resident, or a refugee, who the AG had “reasonable grounds to believe” was engaged in terrorist activities or other activities that endangered national security. A certified immigrant who had been charged with an immigration violation but who could not be deported would remain in custody until the attorney general determined that he or she no longer met the criteria for certification. While a judicial review of the detention would be permitted, there were no meaningful, prompt, or periodic reviews to ensure the detention was warranted.
The overly broad and vague criteria for subjecting a non-citizen to detention could allow the attorney general to certify and detain any non-citizen in the U.S. who had any connection, however tenuous or distant in time, with any group that had ever unlawfully used a weapon to endanger a person. Given the focus of the law enforcement efforts in the wake of September 11, there were concerns that such language created the risk of arbitrary application and could disproportionately impact individuals from certain countries or religious groups, including asylum seekers and refugees. The legislation contravened the prohibition against prolonged, arbitrary, or unlawful detention in international human rights law and UNHCR’s guidelines on the detention of asylum seekers.
In October, the U.S. government also announced that for national security reasons it had suspended all resettlement of refugees to the U.S., including Afghan refugees who were waiting to leave Pakistan. In 2000, the U.S. took 90 per cent of the 4,000 Afghan refugees resettled out of Pakistan. The moratorium affected some 20,000 refugees from countries across the world who had been cleared by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for resettlement to the U.S. Refugee organizations criticized the moratorium, arguing that it was unnecessary and only increased the suffering of refugees from war-torn countries like Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Somalia, many of whom had spent years in desperate refugee camps waiting to be resettled.
In a worrying trend throughout Europe, governments linked anti-terrorism measures with the fight against illegal immigration and introduced measures that severely curtailed the rights of refugees and migrants. Spain’s foreign minister, for example, voiced concerns that international terrorists could be smuggled into Spain and said that “[t]he strengthening of the fight against illegal immigration is also a strengthening of the anti-terrorist fight.”
In Hungary, all Afghan asylum seekers were transferred from open reception centres to facilities with heightened security measures. In Greece, Afghan refugees who arrived after the September 11 attacks received a hostile reception as the government refused to allow them to apply for asylum, violating its obligations under the Refugee Convention. In the wake of vociferous international pressure, the government subsequently permitted some refugees to apply for asylum.
In Germany, advocacy groups reported that efforts to include adequate human rights safeguards for refugees in proposed asylum legislation suffered a serious setback in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks with many viewing the new legislation as a necessary measure to strengthen national security. More positively, however, the German government announced in November that it would introduce legislation to reverse its practice of excluding victims of persecution by non-state agents from refugee protection, such as asylum seekers from Somalia, Algeria, and Afghanistan.
After September 11, there were concerns that E.U. efforts to safeguard internal security could result in the exclusion or expulsion of refugees and migrants from member states without adequate safeguards.
Following September 11, British Home Secretary David Blunkett proposed far-reaching measures to restrict entry into the U.K. and strengthen national security. Outlined in a new Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, these proposals were before parliament at the time of writing.
Civil liberties, refugee advocacy, and human rights NGOs were concerned that the bill would permit the unlawful indefinite detention of foreigners suspected of terrorism-related activity without access to effective appeal procedures and deny some asylum seekers individual determination of their asylum claims without recourse. The bill’s broad and overly inclusive definition of terrorism would include any person with “links” to an international terrorist group, suggesting that this could lead to “guilt by association” and the targeting of individuals based on their political, national, ethnic, or religious affiliation. The bill’s provisions seriously undermined the fundamental right to seek asylum and the purpose and intent of the Refugee Convention, and represented a departure from well-established refugee protection standards.
Racist attacks against Afghans and other Muslims living in the U.K. increased dramatically after September 11. These included damage to property, bomb threats against mosques, physical and verbal abuse of Muslim women wearing headscarves, and gang assaults targeting Arab and South Asian men. In one attack an Afghan taxi driver was beaten so severely he was paralyzed from the neck down. Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary Blunkett condemned the attacks and called for tolerance.
Australia faced a barrage of international criticism for its excessively harsh and restrictive immigration and asylum policies. In August, the government turned back a boatload of mainly Afghan asylum seekers who had been rescued at sea by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, from a sinking Indonesian ferry, and refused to let them land on Australian territory. Most of the 438 asylum seekers were eventually sent to the Pacific island state of Nauru; others were sent to New Zealand. Following the September 11 attacks, Defence Minister Peter Reith justified Australia’s actions, arguing that it should reserve the right to refuse entry on security grounds to “unauthorized arrivals”.
Following the Tampa incident and the September 11 attacks on the U.S., the government adopted new and unprecedented immigration legislation in an expedited manner on September 26. Under the legislation, it “excised” various Australian territories, such as Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and the Cocos Islands, from its “migration zone” and refused to consider asylum applications from anyone arriving at those places. Instead, the asylum seekers were transported to other non-Australian Pacific island states while their refugee claims were assessed, or simply sent back to sea. Human rights, refugee, and advocacy organizations charged that by forcing boats of asylum seekers back into international waters, Australia was endangering the lives of asylum seekers, undermining the right to seek asylum, and potentially violating non-refoulement obligations.
The new legislation also required the detention of asylum seekers arriving at an “excised offshore place” without any right to judicial review. Australia’s policy of mandatory detention continued to be widely condemned. Between August and November, Australia turned back several boatloads of asylum seekers.