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.