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.

Elrig


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] . http://www.china.org.cn/international/2009-09/23/content_18581227.htm

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.

Elrig
Picture source: http://www.imemc.org/attachments/apr2009/1240593059westbank_internationals_soldiers.jpg
*****
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!?

Shalom.

Elrig

****** 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: http://www.thewe.cc/weplanet/news/middle_east/palestine/i_refuse.htm