Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of 2009 - Message from Other Voice in Sderot

Concluding the year with a voice of sanity from good friends in Sderot.
Shalom - Salam

*** Their Lives = Our Lives ***

We, residents of the Sderot/surrounding Gaza region, wish to live with peace and quiet.
Our neighbors in Gaza, wish to live with peace in quiet.
Life for them = Life for us!
We, members of Other Voice, call for an end to the siege, an end to the collective punishment, that is harming innocent people. We call for the co-creation of good neighborly relations, that are built on mutual respect and non violence.
Life for us = Life for them!
Visit our website - - and share your support for ending the siege on Gaza.
Please forward this message to your email contacts

אנו, תושבי האזור, רוצים לחיות בשלום ובשקט.
שכנינו בעזה רוצים לחיות בשלום ובשקט.
חיים להם = חיים לנו!
אנו, חברי 'קול אחר', קוראים להסרת המצור על עזה ולהפסקת הענישה הקולקטיבית הפוגעת באזרחים חפים מפשע. אנו קוראים לבנייה משותפת של יחסי שכנות תקינים, המבוססים על כבוד הדדי ואי אלימות.
חיים לנו = חיים להם!!
תבקרו באתר שלנו - - והביעו תמיכה בהסרת המצור.
אנא - תשלחו מייל זה הלאה לרשימות התפוצות שלכם!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gaza I know (Reposting Nancy Murray)

I have nothing to add - just pain and sorrow.
O yes, and shame.
Our church has this ongoing Christmas tree decoration throughout Advent. I went and placed Gaza on the tree. We, the noble "we" of the intelligent and powerful human beings, regularly decide that some people are a little less than people, a little less deserving of rights than others. Once the Blacks. Another time, another place, the Jews. Many times the "Natives." Today - Gazans, by all means.
Salam, ya salam!

For most Americans, the Gaza Strip is, at best, unknown territory. At worst, it is a hostile land whose "terrorist infrastructure" must be dismantled, no matter what the cost to its million and a half residents.

The Gaza I have been visiting for the past twenty-one years bears little relation to the dehumanizing imagery to which it has been reduced by the mainstream media. The Gaza I know is home to friends and strangers who are as welcoming and humane as they are resilient and determined to achieve their freedom. They have maintained their humanity despite enduring a brutal forty-two-year-old Israeli occupation that has cost them the destruction of their homes, land, economy and future and the loss of more than 4,000 lives since the dawn of the twenty-first century.

For the past two and a half years, this spit of sand--just twenty-five miles long and a few miles wide--has been virtually a closed prison. Since June 2007 Israel's blockade has prevented the entry of all but a handful of basic items, and the exit of patients who urgently need medical treatment and students with scholarships to study abroad. Then, a year ago, came the "shock and awe" of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead," intended as a knockout blow not just to the crude rockets fired from Gaza but to its life-sustaining infrastructure and the will of its people to resist.

A month ago, I finally obtained permission from the Israeli military to cross into Gaza to visit therapy programs for traumatized children. Half of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million inhabitants are children, and many have not emotionally recovered from Israel's military attacks.

And how could they? They are still living in the ruins of war. Blasted buildings tilt dangerously over streets. Unexploded ordnance lurks beneath concrete rubble. Israel, with the blessing of the United States, has prevented reconstruction materials and heavy machinery from entering the Gaza Strip - and just about everything else.

Aid agencies have at the ready the equipment needed to fix the destroyed sewage and waste water systems - but it is not permitted to enter. And so each day up to 80 million liters of untreated sewage spill into the Mediterranean and leach into the aquifer. Thousands of babies have "blue baby syndrome" and risk dying of nitrate poisoning; fish are dead; and the long sandy beaches--which had been the sole place of recreation in one of the most densely crowded places on earth --are now off limits.

The hundreds of dangerous, hand-hewn tunnels into Egypt through which Gazans haul bottled water, food and other supplies are at present a lifeline. So it is with a sinking heart that I read that Egypt, at the urging of Israel and the United States, is installing metal sheets under the ground to "curb smuggling."

I wonder how the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, John Ging, is digesting this latest calamitous news. When I met with him in November he told me that hope for tomorrow is just about gone. "We have run out of words to describe how bad it is here. Things are moving rapidly in the wrong direction. The best help we can get is to lift the siege and to begin to deal with human beings on a humane and legal basis."

In late December, to mark the first anniversary of Israel's war, some 1,200 internationals from forty-two countries will be doing what they can to get things moving in the right direction. They intend to enter Gaza from Egypt to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. Marchers include an 85-year-old American Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, the acclaimed writer Alice Walker, civil rights movement veterans, Ronnie Kasrils, a leader of the South African liberation struggle and a substantial delegation from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Invoking the spirit of Gandhi's Salt March and the Civil Rights Movement, these internationals of conscience will encounter the Gaza I know - the vibrant civil society of children, students and teachers, refugee groups and women's organizations, doctors and therapists, farmers and fishermen, musicians and dancers who are planning a tremendous welcome.

Together they will take part in cultural and solidarity activities. Then, on New Year's Eve, they will call for an end to the blockade in a massive march toward the Erez Crossing with Israel, as Israeli solidarity marchers converge on the other side.

Simultaneously, around the globe there will be "end the siege" actions demanding that the prison doors be opened. The lives of Gaza's babies hang in the balance.

Nancy Murray - The Nation 12/21/2009

To find out more, go to Gaza Freedom March.
Later this month thousands of international solidarity activists will take part in the Gaza Freedom March to end Israel's blockade. They deserve your support.

Nancy Murray is president of the Gaza Mental Health Foundation and a member of the international steering committee of the Gaza Freedom March.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Understanding East Jerusalem Policies of Israel

I wrote about a year ago (see here) that security was not the #1 concern of Israel. To understand Israel's policies, you need to first consider its demographic and then its geographic ambitions, which trump everything. Everything.

The video embedded below is well worth watching - it's a 20 minute documentary explaining the "Green Rule" of the municipality of Jerusalem--a totally out-of-thin air law, which allows to keep the pressure on Palestinians and force them out of their land. Sometimes indirectly, sometimes directly by way of home demolition.

In the meantime, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports today that:
House demolitions and displacement affecting East Jerusalem continue to be of concern. Israeli settler organizations intensify their efforts to take control of land and property in East Jerusalem and establish a sustained presence in Palestinian neighbourhoods. The Jerusalem municipality approve the construction of 900 new housing units in Gilo settlement. In Gaza, as winter approaches there is increasing concern for the families whose homes were destroyed or damaged as a result of the ?Cast Lead? military offensive. The continuing blockade has resulted in negligible reconstruction and repair, as essential materials continue to be denied entry: thousands of families continue to live in homes without window panes or solar panels due to the ban on the import of glass.
Watch the video and pass it forward.

ps: thanks to David and Nassim for pointing out the material in this entry.

Green Zone from Nimrod Zin on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jeff Halper - a great Israeli and great man - on Palestinian Statehood

This article by Jeff Halper, from the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Go to this link, or read below.

And check out the Palestinian-Israeli youth on the music video I posted yesterday.


Why Palestinians Might Declare Statehood
by Jeff Halper

OK, so the Palestinian Authority will not unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state. In fact, the whole issue seems a misunderstanding. Concerned that the US has backtracked on a two state solution based on the 1967 borders and that Israel was getting the world used to the “fact” that the settlements and the Wall, rather than ’67 borders, now defined the parameters of a future Palestinian state (on only 15% of historic Palestine), the PA simply wanted the Security Council to reaffirm that principle. “What should we do while the Israeli government is busy with fait accompli actions,” asked Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, “but to turn to the Security Council to preserve the option of two states? We want the Security Council to declare that the two-state solution is the only option and that it would recognize the state of Palestine on the '67 borders and to live side by side with the State of Israel.” The PA hoped, perhaps even expected, that the US would go along. Through an escalation of rhetoric this simple clarification became the basis of speculation, against the background of President Mahmoud Abbas’s threatened resignation, that the Palestinians would attempt to force the hand of the international community and announce the establishment of their state.

But what if it did happen? What if Abbas would actually announce the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, ask the nations of the world to recognize it and then apply for admission to the UN?

The Palestinians are caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the steadily tightening noose that is the Israeli occupation. Israel’s concentration of settlers in strategic blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank destroy any Palestinian territorial contiguity, and do so even if Israel removes the dozens of tiny settlements within the densely populated Palestinian “cantons.” Those settlement blocs have already been incorporated into Israel proper through the construction of some twenty-nine major Israeli highways, meaning that Israel has expanded organically from the 1967 Green Line to the border with Jordan. Even if the Separation Barrier is dismantled, the entire country has been fundamentally reconfigured; there is simply no more room for a coherent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state. And the suffering grows progressively worse. Hostile, callous Israeli soldiers continue to man hundreds of checkpoints throughout the Occupied Territories – checkpoints that, when incorporated into the Wall, take the form of massive terminals in which tens of thousands of men, women and children are subjected to long hours of waiting and humiliating treatment. The pace of house demolitions increases daily; 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel in the Occupied Territories since 1967, while Israeli courts have forced at least another 10,000 homeowners to demolish their own homes under threats of unbearable fines. The Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, the heart of Palestinian religious, cultural, political and economic life, is rapidly disappearing under a concentrated policy of settlement, expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes and land expropriation intended, as Israel declares explicitly, to “judaize” the city. Without a meaningful Palestinian presence in Jerusalem there is no possibility of peace; indeed, no possibility to reconciliation between the West, which is seen as enabling Israeli expansion, and the entire Muslim world.

The hard place is the unlikelihood that negotiations with Israel, supported by the US and a compliant Europe, will go anywhere. The Oslo Process, which lasted seven years (1993-2000), saw Israel’s settlement population double to 400,000, while Palestinians found themselves imprisoned in Areas A and B – some 70 islands on but 40% of the West Bank – and that largest prison of all, Gaza. Oslo was followed by the Road Map which was followed by the Annapolis Process,” all leading to the present impasse in which the Obama Administration has announced it has no plan. “Peace process” or not, negotiations or not, stalemate or not, Israel has never been prohibited from continuing to establish “facts on the ground” intended to foreclose a truly sovereign Palestinian state.

For the most part the Palestinian people have resisted. Two intifadas (four if you include the 1936-39 revolt against British immigration policies and the inability of the Palestinian majority to make its voice heard, and the 1948 war), plus ongoing armed struggle and thousands of non-violent actions from rebuilding demolished homes to the Beit Sahour tax strike. Occasionally the Palestinian leadership took a bold initiative, as when it succeeded in bringing Israel’s construction of the Separation Barrier before the International Court of Justice and, subsequently, the UN General Assembly, where it was condemned by both bodies. The current campaign of boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) against key Israeli pillars of the Occupation and companies profiting from it represents yet another pro-active initiative of Palestinian civil society.

And then there’s the idea of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, which the Palestinian Authority has floated, intentionally or not, over the past few weeks. It’s not a new idea. The PLO declared Palestinian independence back in 1988, but without reference to borders such a move had little effect. During Oslo, a frustrated Arafat again threatened to unilaterally declare Palestinian sovereignty, but was dissuaded by Israel and the US. What would make another attempt more significant? Several things:

· Rather than a general declaration of independence, the Palestinian Authority would declare a Palestinian state within specified borders, those of 1967 (the 1949 armistice line), which have already been recognized de facto over the years, from UN resolution 242 to the Road Map. Specifying the borders is what would differentiate this initiative from previous declarations based on principle of independence but without territorial claims, the latter supported even by Israel since it relieves it of pressures to end the Occupation by giving the Palestinians symbolic sovereignty.

The reasoning behind such an initiative is clear: to reverse both the balance of power and the dynamics of the negotiations. Because it occupies Palestinian territory, Israel is able to negotiate from a position of strength, while the Palestinians, with no leverage whatsoever, have no way to pressure Israel to meaningfully withdraw. Appeals to international law, which would have leveled the playing field, were nullified after the US, de facto supporting Israel’s claim that there is no occupation, classified the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as disputed territories. Instead of requiring Israel to relinquish its illegal settlements and other forms of control, this policy forces the Palestinians to negotiate every settlement, road and centimeter of land, unable in the end to compel Israel to make any concessions it does not want to make. By seeking international recognition of the Palestinian state within recognized borders, including membership in the UN, the Palestinians seek, finally, to end the Occupation while transforming Israel’s presence from that of an occupying power to one of an invader whose unilateral military and settlement activities, as well as its extension of its legal and planning systems into Palestine, constitute nothing less than an intolerable violation of Palestinian national sovereignty.

· If the Palestinians’ declared their state within the boundaries accepted by the international community since 1967, it would be doing so not unilaterally but by agreement with the member states of the UN. The hope would be to secure American agreement, despite frantic Israeli attempts to head off such an initiative, after which the European countries would fall into place. The vast majority of countries in the rest of the world would at any rate recognize the Palestinian state.

Predictably, the US has rejected the rumored (or floated) initiative. The State Department lost no time issuing a statement that “It is our strong belief and conviction that the best means to achieve the common goal of a contiguous and viable Palestine is through negotiations between the parties.” Two senators who happened to be in Israel, Kaufman and Lieberman, let it be known that the US would veto any such resolution in the Security Council. The EU immediately fell into lock-step, with the Swedish Foreign Minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, declaring that “conditions are not yet ripe” for such a move. Still, the Palestinians could decide to abandon – or at least balance – their long-standing American-centric approach to achieving self-determination by turning to the broader international community. Abbas is exploring such an option among the Arab, Muslim, Latin American, African and Asian blocs of nations. If the Security Council is unwilling to entertain such an initiative, the Palestinians, with broad-based international support, could turn to the UN General Assembly, which is empowered by a two-thirds majority to call a special emergency session and pass a resolution of approving the move, thus by-passing the US veto.

The Security Council cannot be by-passed completely; its approval is necessary before a state can become a member of the UN. But even a symbolic call from the majority of members in the General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and its urging the members of the Security Council to admit such a state into the UN would send a strong message to the Americans and their European clients. Unfortunately, the Palestinians’ declaration of statehood, in conformity to international agreements though it may be, conflicts with the concerns of other Security Council members regarding restive peoples in their own countries. Russia, which opposed the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, faces similar actions in Chechnya, South Ossetia and elsewhere. China has a similar problem with the Uigars; France with Corsica; Britain (perhaps) with Wales and Scotland; Turkey with the Kurds; and so on. The US, which did support the Kosovars unilateral action and thus has no grounds to deny the Palestinians, nevertheless faces the perpetual challenge of Puerto Rican independence, not to mention the struggles of insurgents throughout the world. And yet, having the issue of Palestinian statehood come up before the Security Council – potential sponsors from among the rotating members might be Libya, Burkina Faso or Uganda – would spur a useful debate and help focus on the responsibility of Israel, the US and Europe for disappearing Palestinian rights. And, again and again, the Palestinians have to drive home forcibly and repeatedly that their declaration of statehood stands in complete conformity to the internationally agreed upon end-game of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. It is defiant only in the sense of their asserting their right to self-determination after years of being let down by the international community and having nowhere else to go.

· Most important, such a Palestinian initiative would force a solution to their conflict with the Israelis. If it were to be accepted, years of drawn-out pseudo-negotiations and the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis could be avoided. It would also go a long way towards redeeming Obama’s Cairo address and, as is likely, would facilitate better relations with the Muslim world which would open new possibilities in regards to withdrawing militarily and achieving accommodation and stability. If the US agreed, of course, Europe, and perhaps Russia and China, would fall into place.

It should be remembered that in a two-state solution represented by the Palestinian declaration, Israel would remain on 78% of historic Palestine, despite the Jews becoming a minority population with the return of even some of the refugees – a pretty generous Palestinian compromise. Hamas rejected Abbas’s initiative by stating: If you want to declare a state, do so from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Yet, if a Palestinian state would actually emerge on all the Occupied Territories, it is likely that Hamas could not stand in the way of popular support for it – including in the refugee camps. The state that then arises would have sovereignty over its borders with Egypt and Jordan and the ability to enter into foreign alliances. It would possess a coherent territory, control of its natural resources (including water, its airspace and the communications sphere), a viable economy (especially given the inclusion of the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as tourist venues) and East Jerusalem as its political, religious and cultural capital and the ability to repatriate refugees. None of these things will the Palestinians get in negotiations with Israel. Given an agreed upon quid pro quo such as a shared Jerusalem, an extra-territorial passage between the West Bank and Gaza and a qualitative exchange of territory, the Palestinians may cede to Israel certain symbolic sites: a special status in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the historic core of the Etzion Bloc, making such a settlement more palatable to them. While the remaining settlements would become part of Palestine, though the Palestinians would earn points if they invited the settlers to stay and live in integrated communities.

A unilateral declaration, if refused by the US with no prospect of genuine negotiations aimed at a Palestinian state in all the occupied territory within a strict time-line, would signal the definitive end of the two-state solution. At that point the Palestinians could unite on a program of a one-state solution, be it a democratic state of equal citizens or, more workable, a bi-national state. Crucial to this shift would be a vigorous Palestinian campaign showing that it was Israel that created a bi-national situation through its settlement project and Israel that eliminated the two-state solution, which the PLO had accepted way back in 1988. If Israel implements the steps it has threatened in response to a Palestinian declaration of independence – in particular the annexation of Area C, some 60% of the West Bank containing the settlements – the apartheid situation that emerges is clear and unacceptable even to the US and Europe. Israel has thereby torn the veil from the de facto apartheid that already exists and which Israel seeks to perpetuate. By its own hand Israel has reconfirmed the bi-national reality of Palestine/Israel and driven the stake into the heart of the two-state solution.

For all the risks it involves, a declaration of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders – which would garner recognition from the vast majority of states in the world – would seem a win-win proposition. At least it would break the vessels of an impotent, ineffective and less than honest American-led “peace process” that is going nowhere – indeed, can’t go anywhere because it requires a level of assertiveness on Israel, perhaps even the imposition of a solution, that is completely lacking in either the American or European governments. It would also galvanize the civil society forces abroad, initiating a kind of ultimate BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) campaign. Given the failure of the Palestinian Authority to effectively communicate its case, a unilateral declaration would thrust the underlying issues of the conflict – and Israel’s responsibility in particular – into the limelight, generating the sort of discussion in the media and elsewhere that is sorely needed.

All this, of course, is a highly unlikely scenario, though given Abbas’s anger and frustration at the American’s failure to stop Israeli settlement building (as I write this the Israeli government has just announced the construction of 900 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo), it is not altogether inconceivable. Although indicative of mounting Palestinian desperation, not all Palestinians support such a move. Hamas has rejected it, saying the Occupation must end before a state is declared. Palestinian policy-makers fear that the declaration, if it is seen as merely symbolic, could lock the Palestinians into a position where Israel could claim they now have self-determination but without the ability to actually claim their borders – a limbo reminiscent of the “state without borders” formulation of stage 2 of the Road Map, seen as a mortal danger by Palestinians. And supporters of the one-state solution, primarily in the Palestinian Diaspora but increasingly in the camps and the Occupied Territories themselves, have already moved on. But something must be done, and given the failure of the international community to either protect the Palestinians or reign in Israel, I, for one, am at a loss to suggest alternatives that address the urgency of a way out of Israel’s growingly genocidal occupation.

(Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at .)
Jeff Halper (born 1946 in Minnesota[1]) is a professor of anthropology,[2] author, lecturer, political activist, and co-founder and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). In 1997, Halper co-founded ICAHD to challenge and resist the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied territories, and to organize Israelis, Palestinians and international volunteers to jointly rebuild demolished Palestinian homes. He has created a new mode of Israeli peace activity based on nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience to the Occupied Territories.[1] Dr. Halper was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee for his work "to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence" and "to build equality between their people by recognizing and celebrating their common humanity."

Halper is the author of several books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is a frequent writer and speaker about Israeli politics, focusing mainly on nonviolent strategies to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflic.

Picture source:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the [Darfur] Ranch, it's Rape and Death as Usual

I'm talking about Darfur today. By the time I have my evening drink, I assume dozens of women will have been raped, mutilated or killed. And a few more before my morning coffee. And we will do nothing, not Obama, not Sarkozy, not Gordon Brown, not Putin, and not Jintao Hu. Why?

Absence of choice is a choice. And the choices we made yesterday constrain those we can make today.

Yesterday, the US chose to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Its troops are wearing thin and tired.
Perhaps understandably, the EU continues to fail to choose a coherent foreign policy and corresponding allocation of resources. It remains a fairly impotent giant.

That was yesterday.
What about today?

China has decided to carry its weight on the international scene and be present in Africa. It has decided there is good business to be made with Sudan. And it has decided not to get into the moralizing business with other nations--a very welcome move by despots, dictators and skunks everywhere.
I don't blame the UN--it's like blaming the puppet instead of the puppet master.
I'm not sure I want to talk about Egypt, but if my neighbor was raping women and banging their heads on my wall, I might want to call 911 - what about you Mr Moubarak? Guess there's no money to be made there. It's not like letting Palestinians bribe you for a chance to get out of Gaza.

So, women will be raped, men will be killed and children will become soldiers in Darfur.

Let's face it--it's not that the US is in charge of everything, it's that it has this little thing it is so proud of: leadership. That's a fact. An evolving fact, but still a reality.

And today the US is even less well placed to push action against Darfur (some in the Obamesque administration have raised that flag high at some point), because its credibility as a source of Rule of Law Principles, Human Rights, and basic morality is in the dumps. Particularly when it comes to the Muslim world.

Of course there's been Abu Ghraib and there is still Guantanamo. But the main thing is the obvious (to anyone watching) hypocrisy of the US policy toward Palestine. As long as the US chooses to remain blind and complicit to ethnic cleansing -- I'm calling a spade a spade, as I'm in a bad mood -- it has a credibility of zilch with the Muslim world. Consequently, we're not about to send the 82nd airborne and deliver President Bashir to the International Court of Justice (which the US does not recognize anyway).

We--all of us--live with the choices made yesterday. And we will live with those made today. I think it will affect us, even if it's not our daughter, sister, mother, or wife being raped out there.

Read the column from Michael Gerson in the Post today.
Don't let it ruin tonight's drink.


Photo source and story:
------- Losing the Fight in Darfur ---------

The genocide in Darfur is no longer a trendy, breathless global cause. But the women of Darfur haven't gotten the message.

On May 15, a woman near the Al Hamadiya camp in Zalingei was collecting firewood. Three armed men in khaki uniforms raped her, stabbed her in the leg, inflicted genital injuries and left her bleeding. She spent 45 days in the hospital. In 2003, the same woman was raped and shot while fleeing her village.

Her story is in a recent, exhaustive, chilling report on Sudan written by a panel of experts at the United Nations. A U.N. official told me, "We have not talked to a single woman [in Darfur] who has not stated that sexual violence is their first concern." The panel documented sexual assaults against pregnant women and 12-year-old girls. Prosecutions are nonexistent. Local officials are indifferent.

The Darfur revealed in the report is a heavily armed state of nature. Uniformed troops, Janjaweed militias and rebel groups all abuse civilians. The Sudanese government routinely violates the Darfur arms embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2004, unloading weapons, according to the U.N. official, "openly, in front of you." Arms and ammunition manufactured by Chinese companies can be found everywhere. Child soldiers are recruited. Political dissent is repressed.

This is not, at present, the active phase of Darfur's genocide, involving mass attacks on civilians. Instead, it is the evidence of a genocide that has succeeded. The Sudanese regime achieved its policy aims -- targeting disfavored ethnic groups, destroying their way of life and forcing millions into camps. And now it is threatening to forcibly relocate these victims in 2010 -- a plan of Stalinist scale and brutality.

Global attention has been diverted by the complexity of the conflict, the unsympathetic nature of Darfur's fractious rebels and the threat of renewed war between Sudan's north and south -- a war that would overwhelm the region.

But the suffering in Darfur is also being actively hidden from view. In March, the Sudanese regime expelled several international relief organizations, including those dealing with sexual violence. This cut an important pipeline of humanitarian information to the outside world -- which was precisely the goal. Sudan's regime is pulling a curtain across Darfur that may also be a shroud.

The Obama administration's lengthy review of U.S. Sudan policy culminated in October with more of a whimper than a bang. The administration presented Sudan with a choice between two roads: one path of cooperation, engagement and incentives; the other of defiance, isolation and disincentives. But neither carrots nor sticks were specified. And the administration seems divided on how the engagement of Sudan -- lifting sanctions, moving toward more normal relations -- should proceed. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice wants such benefits to follow major concessions by Sudan's government. Scott Gration, the special envoy to Sudan, would distribute carrots liberally and preemptively.

But all this has been tried before. The Sudanese regime receives small threats with insolence. It views minor American concessions as signs of weakness.

The administration's Sudan policy was produced by an exhaustive, interdepartmental process in which no one won or lost completely. As a part of the previous administration, I saw this kind of process at work -- and it is incapable of producing boldness.

Yet boldness -- much larger carrots and much larger sticks -- is needed. The ultimate carrot would be to offer Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir -- currently under international indictment for war crimes -- the legitimacy he seeks, in exchange for the peaceful independence of south Sudan and unconditional cooperation in Darfur. This would be distasteful. But it might be worth repressing our gag reflex to gain permanent, irreversible limitations on the power of Sudan's regime to do harm.

This approach, however, could not succeed without serious consequences for its rejection -- economic, political and military pressure, by a coalition of willing nations. No bureaucratic process would produce such ambitious options. Only a president and his secretary of state can insist on boldness.

Absent that insistence, America's Sudan policy is in a holding pattern, waiting for the next crisis to refocus global attention. Meanwhile, women are raped, with impunity. Weapons are illegally imported, with impunity. Civilians are attacked, with impunity. And at some point, impunity becomes permission.

The world looks at Darfur and responds, in effect: We can live with that. There are many in Darfur, however, who will not live.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Netanyahu: 5 - Obama: 0

Points very well made by Robert Dreyfuss following Palestinian President Abbas announcement that he wouldn't run for another term. Except one thing, where I disagree with Dreyfuss: I firmly believe that it is possible to negotiate with Hamas. I do not deny that, as many groups in the region including states, Hamas has made terrorism a tool in its arsenal. The point is they are open to negotiations -- history proves this. At least as much as you can negotiate with the Israeli government. [See for example the comments on Hamas of Brother Andrew, a leading and global Christian (even Evangelical!) activist, or by Uri Avnery (former Israeli MP).]

Dreyfuss and I at least agree on the utter waste of a Secretary of State that is Hilary Clinton (that was my last entry).

Column from Dreyfuss pasted below.


****** Obama Fails in Middle East ******
Robert Dreyfuss

The announcement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he will not run for reelection is the exclamation point on the utter collapse of the Obama adminstration's Middle East policy. Launched to great expectations -- the appointment of George Mitchell, Obama's Cairo declaration that the plight of the Palestinians is intolerable -- it is now in complete disarray. It is, without doubt, the first major defeat for Obama's hope-and-change foreign policy.

Here's how it unraveled. First, Obama began a test of strength with Israel over that country's policy of illegal settlements, an expansion of its occupation of the West Bank driven by extremist, right-wing settlers who are fanatical, Bible-believing cultists who think that Israel has some God-given right to that territory. The settler-kooks -- indeed, one of their past leaders was named Rabbi Kook -- are supported by ultra-hardliners in Israel's security establishment, who see the West Bank as strategic depth in Israel's defense posture. What happened after Obama told Israel it had to stop settlements? Nothing. Score: Netanyahu 1, Obama 0.

Next, the Obama adminstration capitulated, refusing to insist on any penalty for Israel's defiant intransigence. Not even a hint of any retaliation by the United States to enforce what it had called the path to a peace deal. No talk of reducing US aid to Israel, or cutting back on US-Israeli military cooperation, or anything. Score: Netanyahu 2, Obama 0.

Then, while all this was going on, Obama hinted that he might announce, this fall, something like a comprehensive US plan for the Middle East. Everyone knows what a solution looks like: withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank, dismantling of the settlements, an end to the Gaza embargo, the division of Jerusalem, some swapping of land to account for slight changes in borders (especially around the capital), and a formula to account for the Palestinians' right-of-return, involving financial compensation -- plus security arrangements. But months later, Obama has refused to even hint at his own plan for the region, caving in to Israel's demands that all of that be saved for "negotiations." Score: Netanyahu 3, Obama 0.

Finally, the United States cravenly supported Israel over the Goldstone Report on Gaza, the report that accused Israel (and Hamas) of war crimes during the December-January conflict there. Score: Netanyahu 4, Obama 0.

Secretary of State Clinton then put the final icing on the rotten cake, praising Netanyahu, an extremist, far-right ultra-nationalist, for his decision to expand, not halt, settlements. Clinton's blunder, which shocked and stunned Palestinians and Arab leaders, represented the ultimate cave-in to Netanyahu and Co. Final score: Netanyahu 5, Obama 0.

Reports the New York Times today:

"Mrs. Clinton's visit, which she characterized as a success, sowed anger and confusion among Palestinians and other Arabs after she praised as 'unprecedented' the offer by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to slow down, but not stop, construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank."

One of the Palestinians' most experienced, veteran deal-makers, Nabil Shaath, a Fatah old-timer said of Obama's collapse:

"There was high expectation when he arrived on the scene. Now there is a total retreat, which has destroyed trust instead of building trust."

Abbas may or may not reconsider his decision, and of course the elections that are supposed to take place in January are still in limbo over the inability of Fatah and Hamas to strike a deal. But, by refusing to compel Israel to make a real offer to the Palestinians, the United States has once again shafted Palestinian moderates like Abbas, who can't credibly claim to have won anything for their constituents. In so doing, Obama is fueling the extremists, bomb-makers, and rocket launchers in Hamas, a fundamentalist, Muslim Brotherhood-founded movement that wants no compromise. Heck of a job, Baracky!

Abbas said that he was "surprised" -- bitterly angry and really pissed off, is more accurate, I am sure -- by Clinton's comments on Israel's settlements policy. And Clinton, asked about Abbas' move, delivered an insouciant fuck-you to Abbas: "We talked about his own political future. I look forward to working with President Abbas in any new capacity."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mrs Clinton's Irrelevant Verbiage

So the news are full of Hilary Clinton's diplomatic rally through the Middle East, Israel and Arab capitals. (Here's a quick update if you've missed it.)

Here's a recap in my own words:
  • the Obama administration comes to power after closing its eyes on the Gaza war--the last lethal insult to Arabs of a Bush administration which has never lost an opportunity to ask for more bloodshed.
  • soon thereafter, with very hopeful statements of intent by Obama, a new diplomatic initiative is launched for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • the first step, according to the White House, is a "freeze" on Israeli settlements (aka illegal construction of cities on land conquered from the Palestinians).
THIS is the first if not mistake, certainly disingenuous statement. Why?
(1) You cannot "freeze" settlements: people make babies and more babies demand more space ultimately. So, a freeze has no long term viability.
(2) The problem is that the settlements are illegal, are a form of conquest and dispossession, make the life of Palestinians hell, and their ultimate logic is the elimination of Arabs from the land. Transfer is preferred today. Massacre will be acceptable tomorrow. (See Gaza December 2008 pilot study.) [On this, see an old post of mine. And this one. Why not this one?]

So, freezing the settlements would achieve nothing, and making this the topic of negotiation ensures that time is wasted talking about nothing of significance. In the meantime, houses are demolished, occupation is not challenged, and new outposts and settlements are built.

So, now what happened after that?
  • As planned negotiations have dragged for months, and as stated above they've dragged about nothing of substance or consequence.
  • Finally, after Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Israel, the Netanyahu government essentially said that 'well, maybe, if possible, if the creek don't rise, in some cases, it could be considered to curb the settlement expansion, we'll think about it, don't call us we'll call you.'
  • Clinton immediately had to talk to the media and say that Israel was making "unprecedented" efforts.
  • Now she caught a little heat from Arab governments, and she's jumping through some diplomatic hoops, saying the Obama policy (inconsequential as it is) has not changed, she's even blessed the Palestinian West Bank leadership with also saying they did something "unprecedented" - so there! Everyone is unprecedented - no more complaining!
And that's where we're at.

To the newspapers and TV channels who essentially comment on each others comments, this passes for news. To the American elector who reads local news, this is a page 10 paragraph with words like Clinton and Arab in the same sentence--certainly of low interest--but the note that Israel (yet again) is doing something "unprecedented", so let's hope those ungrateful Palestinians stop complaining for awhile. To the Israeli settler on the hills of Hebron, it's a sign that the expulsion of Arabs must accelerate before "they" all turn against the Jewish manifest destiny of conquest of Erez Yisrael. (Why is it a sign? Because everything is a sign once you have a manifest destiny.) And to the Palestinians, it's just one among a millions times that the West -- yesterday the Brits, today the US, with stellar irrelevancy of the Europeans and marginal contribution of the UN -- just beats around the bush while history is being written violently on the ground.
To the Arab League, Clinton's verbal sucking up might actually be considered as a victory -- after all, no one treats the Palestinians worse than the Egyptians do. (Ok - maybe I exaggerate, maybe on bad days the Israelis do worse than the Egyptians, but not necessarily on their good days.)

So, maybe Mr Obama has a long term hyper-strategic vision and I'm missing it. After all, you can't push for change and be re-elected president of the US. Bush Sr sort of proved that in a way.
Mrs Clinton's commitment to the hard-liners in Israel is nothing new. Perhaps Obama is using her to stay this side of politically-correct on Israel during his first term. Perhaps. From an electoral politics perspective, maybe it makes sense.

But people live, die, revolt, lose their minds or find new hope based on a reality not dictated by the US electoral calendar.
What dictates their reality is called this little thing: "facts on the ground." And faced with these facts, Mrs Clinton's verbiage is fully irrelevant today.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

'Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation'

Nothing to add to this column by Gideon Levy:

Three quotes before giving you the full piece:
Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this.
Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives ... another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.
Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year - Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.

Israel and the US are accomplice in creating self-fulfilling prophecies of death and hopelessness. There is the same value and ethics in their delusion as there is Radical Islam's angry shouts. I, for one, would expect better of the Jewish State and the United States than I would of Islamic Jihad. This just shows I'm biased. And this shows I am sadly wrong.


America, stop sucking up to Israel
Gideon Levy

Barack Obama has been busy - offering the Jewish People blessings for Rosh Hashanah, and recording a flattering video for the President's Conference in Jerusalem and another for Yitzhak Rabin's memorial rally. Only Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah surpasses him in terms of sheer output of recorded remarks.

In all the videos, Obama heaps sticky-sweet praise on Israel, even though he has spent nearly a year fruitlessly lobbying for Israel to be so kind as to do something, anything - even just a temporary freeze on settlement building - to advance the peace process.

The president's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, has also been busy, shuttling between a funeral (for IDF soldier Asaf Ramon, the son of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon) and a memorial (for Rabin, though it was postponed until next week due to rain), in order to find favor with Israelis. Polls have shown that Obama is increasingly unpopular here, with an approval rating of only 6 to 10 percent.

He decided to address Israelis by video, but a persuasive speech won't persuade anyone to end the occupation. He simply should have told the Israeli people the truth. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived here last night, will certainly express similar sentiments: "commitment to Israel's security," "strategic alliance," "the need for peace," and so on .

Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don't change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America's automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world's policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 - which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement - then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.

It is true that unlike all the world's other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States begs for a settlement free ze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel's inaction.

When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel's language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.

Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year - Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nouveau livre par Charles Enderlin

Pour information--Charles Enderlin a un nouveau livre (Le Grand Aveuglement) dont l'avant-propos est disponible sur son blog. Cliquer ici pour le lire.

Si vous ne connaissez pas Enderlin, c'est un journaliste, j'allais dire un vrai, qui habite à Jérusalem. Il est français et israélien, et il a publié ou diffusé maintes fois sur la situation et le conflit en Israël et Palestine. Quelqu'un à lire et découvrir. Je recommande en particulier 'Le Rêve Brisé' ('Shattered Dreams' en anglais) et ses multiples reportages TV.

Visitez son blog.
Bonne lecture.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The much defamed but essential Goldstone Report

The US news have barely not covered the Goldstone report [available here], and the Obama administration has played its role in dismissing this essential document. Many progressives have great hope for Mr Obama. Although the Palestinian occupation is a stumbling block for any US politician, especially one already dealing with a very nasty opposition on the home front on top of a financial collapse--we can only hope that true leadership (one that would be deserving of a Peace Prize) will be forthcoming in the future.

In the meantime, here's one news journal -- Bill Moyers -- which actually talked to Goldstone.
Just two things to point out to:
- notice even Moyers starts from the premise that it all starts with rockets shot from Gaza and then "retaliation" from Israel. (Presumably, if there weren't rockets being shot, all would be well in the best possible world.)
- beyond that however, Goldstone comes out as the Honest and Righteous guy that he must be to keep his sanity after the kind of human crimes he's seen throughout the world.

Watch this video: Part 1 and Part 2.

There can't be peace if we call crimes justice.
I say God bless Mr Goldstone. Shalom to you.


ps: thanks to RD for sending the link

ps2: In the meantime - Jon Stewart, the brilliant Jon Stewart had Mustafa Barghouthi and Anna Baltzer on his show. Watch here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A very painful read - after the Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas empty meeting

Uri Avnery does not need editorializing or introduction. He's usually right and here's a painful extract from the article reproduced in full below.
Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed. At least for the time being.
I pray another time will come.


From Gush Shalom - THE DRAMA AND THE FARCE. By Uri Avnery

NO POINT denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.

Obama had demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace between two states – Israel and Palestine.

In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.

THE THREEFOLD summit did indeed take place. But instead of a shining achievement for the new American administration, we witnessed a humbling demonstration of weakness. After Obama was compelled to give up his demand for a settlement freeze, the meeting no longer had any content.

True, Mahmoud Abbas did come, after all. He was dragged there against his will. The poor man was unable to refuse the invitation from Obama, his only support. But he will pay a heavy price for this flight: the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, have seen his weakness. And Obama, who had started his term with a ringing speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, now looks like a broken reed.

The Israeli peace movement has been dealt another painful blow. It had pinned its hopes on the steadfastness of the American president. Obama’s victory and the settlement freeze were to show the Israeli public that the refusal policy of Netanyahu was leading to disaster.

But Netanyahu has won, and in a big way. Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no “sucker” (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people – and to the public at large – that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.

For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed. At least for the time being.

IT IS difficult to understand how Obama allowed himself to get into this embarrassing situation.

Machiavelli taught that one should not challenge a lion unless one is able to kill him. And Netanyahu is not even a lion, just a fox.

Why did Obama insist on the settlement freeze – in itself a very reasonable demand – if he was unable to stand his ground? Or, in other words, if he was unable to impose it on Netanyahu?

Before entering into such a campaign, a statesman must weigh up the array of forces: What power is at my disposal? What forces are confronting me? How determined is the other side? What means am I ready to employ? How far am I prepared to go in using my power?

Obama has a host of able advisors, headed by Rahm Emanuel, whose Israeli origins (and name) were supposed to give him special insights. George Mitchell, a hard-nosed and experienced diplomat, was supposed to provide sober assessments. How did they all fail?

Logic would say that Obama, before entering the fray, should have decided which instruments of pressure to employ. The arsenal is inexhaustible – from a threat by the US not to shield the Israeli government with its veto in the Security Council, to delaying the next shipment of arms. In 1992 James Baker, George Bush Sr’s Secretary of State, threatened to withhold American guarantees for Israel’s loans abroad. That was enough to drag even Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid conference.

It seems that Obama was either unable or unwilling to exert such pressures, even secretly, even behind the scenes. This week he allowed the American navy to conduct major joint war-games with the Israeli Air Force.

Some people hoped that Obama would use the Goldstone report to exert pressure on Netanyahu. Just one hint that the US might not use its veto in the Security Council would have sown panic in Jerusalem. Instead, Washington published a statement on the report, dutifully toeing the Israeli propaganda line.

True, it is hard for the US to condemn war crimes that are so similar to those committed by its own soldiers. If Israeli commanders are put on trial in The Hague, American generals may be next in line. Until now, only the losers in wars were indicted. What will the world come to if those who remain in office are also accused?

THE INESCAPABLE conclusion is that Obama’s defeat is the outcome of a faulty assessment of the situation. His advisors, who are considered seasoned politicians, were wrong about the forces involved.

That has happened already in the crucial health insurance debate. The opposition is far stronger than anticipated by Obama’s people. In order to get out of this mess somehow, Obama needs the support of every senator and congressman he can lay his hands on. That automatically strengthens the position of the pro-Israel lobby, which already has immense influence in Congress.

The last thing that Obama needs at this moment is a declaration of war by AIPAC and Co. Netanyahu, an expert on domestic American politics, scented Obama’s weakness and exploited it.

Obama could do nothing but gnash his teeth and fold up.

That debacle is especially painful at this precise point in time. The impression is rapidly gaining ground that he is indeed an inspiring speaker with an uplifting message, but a weak politician, unable to turn his vision into reality. If this view of him firms up, it may cast a shadow over his whole term.

BUT IS Netanyahu’s policy wise from the Israeli point of view?

This may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Obama will not disappear. He has three and a half years in office before him, and thereafter perhaps four more. That’s a lot of time to plan revenge for someone hurt and humiliated at a delicate moment, at the beginning of his term of office.

One cannot know, of course, what is happening in the depths of Obama’s heart and in the back of his mind. He is an introvert who keeps his cards close to his chest. His many years as a young black man in the United States have probably taught him to keep his feelings to himself.

He may draw the conclusion, in the footsteps of all his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower (except Father Bush during Baker’s short stint as hatchet man): Don’t Mess With Israel. With the help of its partners and servants in the US, it can cause grievous harm to any President.

But he may also draw the opposite conclusion: Wait for the right opportunity, when your standing in the domestic arena is solid, and pay Netanyahu back with interest. If that happens, Netanyahu’s air of victory may turn out to be premature.

IF I were asked for advice (not to worry, it won’t happen), I would tell him:

The forging of Israeli-Palestinian peace would mean a historic turnabout, a reversal of a 120 year old trend. That is not an easy operation, not to be undertaken lightly. It is not a matter for diplomats and secretaries. It demands a determined leader with a stout heart and a steady hand. If one is not ready for it, one should not even start.

An American President who wants to undertake such a role must formulate a clear and detailed peace plan, with a strict timetable, and be prepared to invest all his resources and all his political capital in its realization. Among other things, he must be ready to confront, face to face, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

This will not succeed unless public opinion in Israel, Palestine, the Arab world, the United States and the whole world is thoroughly prepared well in advance. It will not succeed without an effective Israeli peace movement, without strong support from US public opinion, especially Jewish-American opinion, without a strong Palestinian leadership and without Arab unity.

At the appropriate moment, the President of the United States must come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli public from the Knesset rostrum, like Anwar Sadat and President Jimmy Carter before him, as well as the Palestinian parliament, like President Bill Clinton.

I don’t know if Obama is the man. Some in the peace camp have already given up on him, which effectively means that they have despaired of peace as such. I am not ready for this. One battle rarely decides a war, and one mistake does not foretell the future. A lost battle can steel the loser, a mistake can teach a valuable lesson.

IN ONE of his essays, Karl Marx said that when history repeats itself: The first time it is as tragedy, the second time it is as farce.

The 2000 threefold summit meeting at Camp David was high drama. Many hopes were pinned on it, success seemed to be within reach, but in the end it collapsed, with the participants blaming each other.

The 2009 Waldorf-Astoria summit was the farce.


Photo source: US President Barack Obama (C) sits with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a trilateral meeting at President Obama's hotel in New York September 22, 2009. [Xinhua] .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Palestine's Peaceful Struggle [Md Khatib]

This text is from The Nation and doesn't need editorializing.
A testimonial of what happens here and now in the beautiful Holy Land.
Have a read.

Picture source:
Palestine's Peaceful Struggle

A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, dozens of Israeli soldiers with painted faces burst violently into my home. If only they had knocked, I would have opened the door. They arrested me. My wife, Lamia, was left alone with our four children. My youngest, 3-year-old Khaled, woke up to the image of Israeli soldiers with painted faces who were taking his father away. He has not stopped crying since. A few nights ago he woke up in terror, sobbing: "Daddy, why did you let the soldiers take me?" That's the way our children sleep--in a constant state of fear.

Many Americans know that the Obama administration has been pushing the Israeli government to accept a freeze on settlement construction. What is not commonly known is that even as Israel negotiates with the United States, it has been taking steps, including my arrest, to crush the growing Palestinian nonviolent movement opposing Israel's construction of settlements and the wall on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

For over five years the residents of Bil'in and other villages have been protesting against Israel's separation wall, which cuts off our village's land for the sake of Israeli settlement expansion. We have even taken the struggle to the courts. The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in July 2004 that the wall, where it has been built inside the West Bank, is illegal under international law, as are all Israeli settlements. In September 2007, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the wall in Bil'in, which separates us from 50 percent of our land, is illegal according to Israeli law. The wall has yet to have moved.

The Israeli army is using more-lethal weapons and greater violence against protesters, and arresting many people, including many protest organizers. In Bil'in alone, twenty-nine residents have been arrested in the past three months. Twelve of them are children. Almost all were arrested during military raids in the middle of the night. Their detention has been extended repeatedly.

But the charges against them are baseless. As one example, I have been charged with stone throwing. I was released on bail with draconian terms only after my lawyers showed the court passport stamps proving that I was abroad at the time of the alleged offense. My friend, Adeeb Abu-Rahme, 37 years old and the father of nine, has been imprisoned for more than six weeks, though the charges against him are just as absurd.

Every Friday in Bil'in, we march to the wall in peaceful protest, along with our Israeli and international partners. Once a year we hold an international conference about the popular nonviolent struggle. Together we learn and gain inspiration. We struggle together to bring down the many walls between people that the occupation is creating. We've repeatedly addressed the Israeli soldiers here, telling them we are not against them as people, but that we oppose their actions as an occupying military force.

Still, nineteen demonstrators have been killed by the Israeli army in these nonviolent demonstrations against the wall. Many have been injured, including Israeli and international activists protesting with us. Here in Bil'in we recently lost our friend Bassem Abu Rahme, who was fatally shot by soldiers in April while he was imploring them to stop shooting at demonstrators.

Several months ago we were warned by Israel's occupation forces that they intended to crush the popular struggle.

Why has the Israeli government decided now to increase the suppression of demonstrations and to break the spirit of protest leaders? Maybe because they realize that the nonviolent struggle is spreading, that more and more villages have created popular committees that are organizing demonstrations. Perhaps the crackdown is a result of their concern and the growing international movement for the boycott of companies and businessmen such as Lev Leviev who are involved in Israel's land grab. Or maybe they fear that the new American government could learn through our demonstrations that Israel's wall is a means to annex land for the growing settlements, and that nonviolent Palestinian protests are being brutally suppressed.

Israel's actions suggest that it is intimidated by people struggling for their rights in a nonviolent manner. The Israeli government seems to believe that Palestinians who struggle while partnering with Israeli activists endanger Israel's occupation and that tearing down human walls is a dangerous act. Perhaps what the state of Israel fears most of all is the hope that people can live together based on justice and equality for all.

Mohammed Khatib is the secretary of Bil'in’s Village Council and a leading member of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hannah Mermelstein on Blatant Racism & Israel's Deepest Fear

Hannah's blog is linked on this page. But I found this July entry well worth re-posting (below). It starts with graffiti and signs you do see throughout the land. It's worth reading through to the concluding paragraph about Israel's deepest fear.

I think Hannah's quite right.

You could argue that those who fight for the right of Palestinians to an equal measure of human dignity and self-determination, through the formation of a Free Palestinian State are probably the only ones actually offering the hope of a viable, moral and secure Israeli State. Right now, Israel is willing to sacrifice morality for a false security to ensure its viability. It's a real quandary, a philosophical dead-end. I mean, trying to build a Jewish state at the expense of morality!?



****** Read below sections pasted from Hannah in Palestine ******
(click on the link to read the full text and more)

“The war is with the Arabs.”

I saw this sign as I was entering Nablus last week, again on my way to Ramallah, and again near Bethlehem. The phrase is printed in Hebrew, presumably by Israeli settlers, on huge signs throughout the West Bank. Israeli racism rarely shocks me anymore, but its blatant display still makes me stop and catch my breath as I translate it into other contexts. Imagine driving through the middle of a predominantly black neighborhood in a US city or town and seeing a humongous sign that says, “The war is with the Blacks.”

I think about security. Israel’s abuse of the word has rendered the concept almost meaningless in the region, but the importance of security on individual and communal levels cannot be underestimated. However, most discussions I see in the media about security ignore the Palestinian people’s right to security. “The war is with the Arabs” is a new sign, as far as I know, but for years in the West Bank I have seen stars of David scrawled on Palestinian shops and homes, and signs like “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” (Kahane was an extremist political leader who promoted ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people; this sign is essentially equivalent to “Hitler was right” in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood). [...]

A Palestinian friend with Israeli citizenship told me he has heard a rumor that a huge piece of land in Jordan is being cleared and built up for the eventual arrival of the Palestinian population of Israel after they are transferred from their homes. “It may be conspiracy theory,” he said, “but I don’t know.”

“I’d like to think that Israel couldn’t get away with that,” I responded.

“Of course they can,” another friend from Lyd said, “and if the conditions are right, they will.”

Imagine living day to day thinking you might be expelled from your country in the near future. Or in Gaza, wondering if you will be killed tomorrow, or if you will ever be able to come in and out of your country at will. Or in the West Bank, if your son will be arrested, or if you will be able to get through the checkpoint in the morning to get to work. Or in Jerusalem, if your residency will be stripped or your house destroyed. [...]

A friend of mine from the West Bank once told me that she never feels safe, so safety is not a consideration for her in making decisions. As much as I may try, I cannot truly imagine this lack of control.

I met a woman in Jerusalem who was displaced from her home by settlers, physically removed from her house by dozens of Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night. Twice a refugee (1948 and 2008), Um Kamel currently lives in a tent near her house that has been destroyed and re-pitched six times in the past six months. This is perhaps the height of insecurity, and yet Um Kamel stays strong and determined. Many in Palestine would call it sumoud, or steadfastness.

This kind of strength is seen remarkably often in Palestine, and indicates a deeper security that comes in part from faith. Faith in God, sometimes, but also faith in each other, in the justice of one’s cause, in the tide of history that has shown that no single occupation in Palestine lasts forever. This, of course, is also Israel’s deepest fear. That no matter how many walls they build, how many people they imprison, how many homes they destroy, how many signs they erase, and how many people they expel, true security will remain elusive, and eventually, Zionism will fail. As many older Palestinian people have said to me, with security, “We have lived through many occupations. This too shall pass.”


Picture source:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Roger Waters on 'The Wall'

Not much new, but worth watching. [Thanks to Nassim for passing this on.]

Part 1:

Part 2:

(I owe my readers an essay, but I'm doing some background reading of Rashid Khalidi before blabbering too much nonsense.)



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Small picture, bit picture, and 'narratives'

While I'm still not back to full speed on keeping this blog up, I invite you to check out the following stories.

First - if you just want a look at what the status quo, an ordinary day, looks like from inside the Palestinian world, have a look at this very short reports of how soldiers treat people at checkpoints. (Not all the time, just when they're having a bad day - and don't forget checkpoints are often totally within the Palestinian territories; they simply serve to hinder freedom of movement. Why? Just because.) Read here. (That was the 'small picture' piece.)

For a 'big picture' analysis, have a read of this column by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in the NYT. (Read here.) I don't totally agree with the title, which sounds like a conclusion--'The two-state solution doesn't solve anything.' I think the two-state solution is a bad but necessary solution. Good fences (i.e. borders, not concrete walls built in your neighbor's backyard) make good neighbors. They won't solve the refugee problem, but they're a first step to stop the delusion that a State calling itself Jewish should, can or will be able to exert total control over a Palestinian population requested to just submit and surrender. This being said, Agha and Malley make some good points about things that go back to 1948 (rather than the border issue which goes back to 1967).

Finally, if you want to watch something that will depress the heck out of you, watch this 9-part documentary about an Israeli Jewish mother who lost her daughter in a suicide attack back in 2002, and about the Palestinian Muslim mother of the teenage girl who carried out the bombing. See video link on my Facebook or go to YouTube.
I don't want to divulge too much about the last part of the documentary, but what got to me was the total impossibility for the women to understand one another given that one narrative totally ignores the life and reality which frames the narrative of the other. I know "narrative" has gained popularity as a word of our post-modern era, but if there's a story and example showing how it plays out, this is one. Funny thing (not 'funny') is that I could replace myself in discussions with people living with each of these two totally irreconcilable frames of reference. It brought me back to a paper, called "You should know better: Expression of empathy and disregard among victims of massive social trauma" and written by some excellent social psychologists in Sderot.* Pain sometimes does not unite victims, it can make us deaf and blind to the pain of others.
(To be clear, just because we all build 'narratives' and in this case both women fail to grasp the possibility opened by the other side, doesn't mean that some narratives are not more grounded in a reality, a somewhat objective reality. By this I mean that, yes - there is a violent occupation going on, and asking people to 'take it easy' as if it wasn't ongoing and getting worse is simply not going to work. You can forget about the occupation if you live in Tel Aviv. You do not have this option in Bethlehem.

As insane, immoral and counter-strategic as suicide bombings have been, you almost feel - for example from the exchanges in the documentary - that there's an attempt at validating them as a way of saying to the world "see, the situation does hurt and it is untenable." The opposite of this is Tony Blair, bobbing around and holding court to try and "reform" Palestinian
pretend-government institutions--"let's pretend you are a real government which could collect its own taxes and make decisions and let's pretend we are improving your governance, and this is what is going to improve the life of your citizens, and let's stop all this fussing about some occupation. Come on! A drone attack last night? Well, walk on the sunny side of life, old chap!"
A kid with C-4 around the belt - that's a story that tends to drown out the 'narrative' of this silly nonsense. It's still crazy. But maybe that's it. It's all crazy.)
Well - I didn't write my essay, but I can still ramble.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience--
Salaam = Shalom.

Julia Chaitin and Shoshana Steinberg. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 7 (2), 197 – 22

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How comfortable is your god with ethnic cleansing?

This kind of profile of Jewish settlers brings me back to an old entry about scenarios that can only lead to death.

If you're still having trouble understanding this conflict at this point, look at a quote (from the NYT article) from Noam Rein, a father of 10, looking at Ramallah, a major Palestinian city which he calls “temporary:
“The Torah says the land of Israel is for the Jewish people. This is just the beginning. We will build 1,000 homes here. The Arabs cannot stay here, not because we hate them, but because this is not their place.”
You agree with that? Then you believe in ethnic cleansing. End of the story. I don't care much whether you support ethnic cleansing because of your beliefs in the Torah, Hashem, Jesus, the Bible, the Quran, Enlightenment, the US Constitution, the Tooth Fairy, or just because you're racist.

You believe in ethnic cleansing? You are part of the evil of this world which I must stand against--even if you're really nice to your pets, even if your grandfather was a victim of no matter what, even if you once met 'someone from a lesser race' and were nice to her, and even if you have a plan for a nicer softer form of ethnic cleansing. It may well be that trauma from the past, personal or collective, has negatively influenced your view of the world. It's also possible that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan was not breastfed enough as a baby. And if there's a way to deal with him and you that is more charitable, God bless the Peacemakers! But let's be clear: you are for ethnic cleansing? Then you are an enemy of your human brothers and sisters, you are the enemy of your neighbor, you are a dangerous person, your actions and your intentions are evil and must be opposed.

I'll add one thing: the god you worship is an ethnic god, a mere idol or figment of your self-centered fears and arrogance.

The issue Mr Obama must deal with is not the freeze of settlements, it's their removal or their integration within a Palestinian state (waiting for settlers to raise their hand to volunteer for that).


Clear here for the NYT article.

Photo: Givat Egoz, near the Neria settlement, was inaugurated as American emissaries visited the region.
Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times