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Posts Tagged ‘palestinian west bank’

Top Five Reasons Israel is Losing the Public Relations Battle

July 12th, 2012 Comments off

Right wing Israeli officials are concerned about attempts to ‘delegitimize” Israel, and fund former officials and intellectuals to attempt to combat this perceived trend. But it seems obvious that Israel is gradually sinking in the perception of the outside world, and there are concrete reasons for this change. Most of them derive from the train wreck that is Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Israeli blockade on the civilians of the Gaza Strip. Others derive from the hawkishness of the Likud government and its Kadima predecessor. They have nothing to do with anti-Israel sentiments or hatred of Jews. No one is condemning the municipality of Haifa or the administration of Tel Aviv. The criticisms are criticisms of aggressive expansionism and a trigger-happy government. The criticisms are getting louder and more mainstream, with potentially deleterious effects on Israel’s economy as time goes on.

1. Giving the finger to any ‘peace process. Israeli land theft in the Palestinian West Bank has reached epic proportions under PM Binyamin Netanyahu, with settlement populations surging 18%. The right wing in Israel is so isolated from the real world that they have begun claiming that the Palestinian territories are not even occupied. They claim that the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist forces them to occupy Palestine (in fact, the PLO recognized Israel as part of the Oslo accords, after which the Israelis screwed the Palestinians over royally). They distort history and say the most ridiculous things, such as that the League of Nations Mandate awarded to Britain in the 1920s allows them to now steal Palestinian land and water without recompensing them! The brazenness and zombie-like relentlessness of this march onto other people’s land has provoked an increasingly influential international boycott movement, targeting the ‘settler-industrial complex’ that preys on the hapless Palestinians under Israel’s control. That is why the Church of England recently endorsed a World Council of Churches-inspired program that brings people to the Occupied Territories to see for themselves what Occupation is doing to the stateless and rights-less Palestinians. The resolution was a major defeat for the Likud, right wing branches of Zionism. Likewise, the US Presbyterian Church very nearly adopted a resolution to disinvest from companies perceived as enabling the Israeli land grab in the West Bank. As it was, they urged positive investment to help the Palestinian victims of Israeli injustice. These votes are straws in the wind. As Israel moves formally to incorporate the West Bank into itself, it must offer citizenship to the Palestinians on the land it covets, or else it would perpetuate the new Apartheid.

2. Hypocrisy: Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu keeps threatening to launch a war on Iran and urging my country to sacrifice its young men, to stop Iran from continuing to enrich uranium (Iran says the enrichment is for peaceful energy purposes and there is no good evidence to the contrary). But Israel itself not only enriched uranium, it made 400 nuclear bombs. There are allegations by an Israeli and American journalist that Israel’s Mossad spy agency has murdered a series of Iranian scientists. (If Iran were alleged to have done something similar at Dimona in Israel, all hell would have broken loose). And, it now turns out that Binyamin Netanyahu was involved in a spy ring that smuggled nuclear triggers out of the United States to Israel. Israel is alleged routinely to threaten to use its nuclear weapons if it doesn’t get its way, deploying a sort of nuclear blackmail. It is very hard to see why Iran’s population should be reduced to a fourth world standard of living by international sanctions for doing much, much less than israel has done, or why Netanyahu should be able to smuggle US high tech out of this country with impunity.

3. Disregard for the rule of law: The Israeli practice of kidnapping Palestinians at will and holding them indefinitely without trial is abhorrent to all civilized persons. (They call it ‘administrative detention in Tel Aviv.) If a Palestinian is suspected of having actually committed a crime, then it should be possible to present evidence for it and to try the person. Israel took the Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak into custody three years ago, and only just released him under severe international pressure. The Israelis say he is an Islamic Jihad terrorist, but clearly have no good evidence for this charge or they would have tried him. Instead, they just put him away, apparently forever. He went on a hunger strike that endangered his life, and provoked widespread protests from the soccer playing lobby. But Sarsak’s plight also elicited a condemnation from the Austrian senate (Bundesrat). Israeli complaints that criticizing ‘administrative detention’ is ‘anti-Semitic’ and that after all Syria is doing something much worse are absolutely painful to hear. It is playground ethics: ‘he hit me first,’ ‘you just don’t like me,’ ‘why punish me when other kids have done really bad things?’ The Israelis would benefit from a reading of the Universal declaration of Human Rights and of the US Bill of Rights on issues such as a fair and speedy trial for everyone arrested, and from an acquaintance with the basic international law of Occupations, which rules out most of their practices toward the Palestinians. Note that when the Bush administration attempted to make Guantanamo a legal black hole, the US Supreme Court struck it down.

4. Punitive Policies toward non-combatants The Israeli blockade on the civilian population of Gaza is evil, creepy and illegal in international law. That is why the international community is pushing back. For instance, UNESCO is establishing a science chair at a university in Gaza. Israel is the Occupying authority in Gaza, and is therefore bound by the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of its subjects. Some 40% of Palestinian families there are refugees from what is now Israel, expelled by militant members of the Yishuv in 1948, and many of them still live in camps. The blockade has reduced some 56% of them to food insecurity. Israel surrounds the Strip, and destroyed its airport and sea port, preventing it from exporting most of what it makes and produces, and limiting imports. The little territory of 1.6 million Palestinians suffers severe health as well as mental health damage from these Israeli policies. No Israeli official can explain what future the residents of Gaza might have that is not a kind of Israel-imposed hell. (And no, they aren’t generic ‘Arabs’ who will melt into the great sea of other ‘Arabs’ as the more racist Israelis might hope.) Israeli relations with Turkey, long excellent, have been deeply harmed by the blockade and Israel’s attack on a civilian Turkish aid ship that tried to get supplies to the non-combatant population there. Israel refuses to apologize for killing nine aid workers, including an American citizen.

5. Violations of international law: Israel’s occupation forces it into a whole range of illegal and reprehensible behaviors. This is nothing to do with Jews or Israel, it is to do with occupations. The Israelis have been arresting minors, sentencing them to harsh terms and fines, and treating them much differently than they would Jewish minors guilty of the same offenses. The British Foreign Office has just condemned these practices.

Israeli policies are no more off limits to criticism than are Argentinian or Indonesian ones, despite what the country’s remarkably thin-skinned and intolerant partisans often allege. And, when the chorus of criticism is coming from Anglicans, Presbyterians, the UK Foreign Office, the Austrian Senate, and UNESCCO, that is a pretty wide set of world institutions not easily pigeon-holed as mere bigots. Maybe it is time for the Israeli government to reconsider the self-destructive course it is on, which likely will lead to the end of the state some decades hence, as Israeli President Shimon Peres is frantically warning.

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Will Egypt’s Mursi challenge US-Israeli Mideast Policy?

June 25th, 2012 Comments off

Mohammad Mursi, the new president of Egypt, probably will not be allowed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with which he must co-habit to make Egyptian foreign policy, or at least to make it unilaterally. But over time, he may be able to have an effect at the margins. Indeed, we may have to speak of the president’s policy as distinct from the SCAF policy, rather than of “Egyptian” policy. Much depends on whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can restore the dissolved parliament, or can do as well in a second round of parliamentary elections as they did in the first. Much depends on the president’s exact powers in the as yet unwritten new constitution. Much depends on whether Mursi is forced to run again for his office in 6 months, as the military appears to want, and whether he can win again then.

But assuming that he can remain in his office for a four-year term and gathers about himself further institutional power, what would Mursi’s win mean for the Middle East?

Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East has for decades involved the following:

1. Knee-jerk support for Israel and for all major Israeli policy initiatives, including wars on states such as Lebanon with which the US otherwise has friendly relations.

2. Acquiescence in imposing statelessness and/or refugee status on the Palestinians, and cooperation in crushing any Palestinian resistance to their sad fate. This means no significant US obstacle to Israeli creeping theft of the Palestinian West Bank, and active collusion in the inhumane and illegal Israeli blockade of civilians in Gaza. The policy is seen as necessary to safeguard Israel from historical claims by Palestinians to Palestine, from which most families were ethnically cleansed by militant Zionist forces in 1948.

3. Implicit support for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil monarchies, to ensure that petroleum is exported unimpeded and at the lowest prices possible. Although the US imports relatively little Middle East oil itself, the commodity is pivotal for US allies such as Japan and Europe.

4. Supply of security to the Gulf and to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, important channels through which the oil and other trade flows.

5. Application of severe and crippling sanctions on Rejectionist states that effectively support the Palestinians against Israel, attempt to reclaim Middle Eastern resources from imperial hegemony, pose obstacles to US corporations investing in their countries, or just speak nastily of the US. Now that Iraq’s legs have been broken for a generation or more, the current target is Iran.

6. Direct military intervention against groups and states perceived as inconvenient to these goals, whether through land invasions or aerial bombardment and use of drones.

Mursi is at the least inconvenient for the Washington Project in the Middle East.

He certainly will not offer knee-jerk support to Israel the way his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak did (in fact Mubarak was almost certainly being bribed; no one is that obsequious for free). There is no reason to think he will want to be on a war footing with Israel, but his position is likely to resemble that of Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan preserves diplomatic and even commercial relations with Israel while challenging some of its key policies, such as the blockade of Gaza.

The Muslim Brotherhood has said that it will reexamine parts of the Camp David Treaty of 1978-79. But what they appear to mean by that is that the treaty assumed that progress would be made on Palestinian statehood and dignity, whereas Israeli governments used the peace with Egypt as permission to expropriate and half-starve the Palestinians and to invade or attack Lebanon at will.

The Muslim fundamentalist Hamas movement, dominant in the Gaza Strip, hopes that Mursi will finally do something about the plight of the 1.7 million Palestinians there, who suffer severe Israeli controls on imports and especially exports. The blockade extends to many non-military items and Israeli officials have spoken about putting the Palestinians “on a diet,” i.e. making them food insecure to punish them for having voted for Hamas in 2006 and continuing to resist Israeli hegemony. About 40 percent of Gaza’s Palestinians are families expelled from what is now Israel in 1948. Israel does not allow Gaza to have an airport or seaport, interferes with agriculture in 20% of the territory, interferes with Gaza fishing, and is punishing ordinary civilians, most of them children. About 10 percent of Gaza children are malnourished, and over half are food insecure as a result of what Israel has done to them.

Save the Children has recently found that the Israeli blockade is having devastating effects on Gaza’s children (a majority of the Palestinian population), and that clean water is increasingly in low supply. For tl;dr people, see short news article summary.

The blockade of the children of Gaza is a blight on the moral character of the entire world as long as it is permitted to continue. Mursi may or may not be allowed by SCAF to make Palestine policy, but if he can make it, the US Congress (which has been paid off to have an irrational hatred of Palestinian children) is not going to like the results.

Mursi is unlikely to do anything to put in doubt the security of world trade in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Although the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia are rivals because each claims to be the exemplar of the true Islam, he likely will have correct relations with King Abdullah.

But, Mursi is not going to want to cooperate in Washington’s attempt to cripple Iran economically and isolate it militarily. He will have differences with Iran (e.g. over Syria). But he told Iran’s Fars News Agency that he wants to return Egyptian-Iranian relations to ‘normal’:

” Replying to a question about the fate of Iranian-Egyptian relations, Mursi affirmed that ‘We must return to natural relations with Iran, on the basis of the mutual interests of the two states, and expansion of spheres such as coordinating policy and economic cooperation, since that will achieve strategic balance in the region. That is within my program of renascence.”

To the extent that Mursi has anything to say about it (and he may not be allowed to by the generals), Egypt is no longer going to cooperate with some specific programs of the Washington Project, even if he is unlikely to challenge its over-all architecture even if he were able to.

To the extent that Muslim religious parties are typically nativist, hostile to Western dominance, and supportive of the Palestinians, the wave of Muslim religious politics in the region could be bad for Washington. The fundamentalists in turn will take heart from Mursi’s victory, and may get practical support from him. This is true for Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco. Pro-Western monarchies such as Morocco and Jordan with their own Muslim fundamentalist movements will be unhappy with Mursi’s victory.

The silver lining for Washington is that the Middle East is moving away from a politics of dictatorship, repression and resultant terrorism. The burgeoning fundamentalist movements typically have enormous respect for the sanctity of private property and are often eager to promote business. They may not like Israel much, but they aren’t likely to challenge it militarily. Tel Aviv may cease always getting its way, and may have to give up the West Bank and the project of long-term blockade on Gaza. But Israel’s existence or even its military dominance are unlikely to be challenged. And the fundamentalists will be friendly enough with Saudi Arabia such that the Gulf oil won’t be threatened. Mursi and his colleagues will only change things at the margins for US policy, and even then the changes they seek may well be salutary (if they can push Israel into finally ceasing to prey on the Palestinians, they would be doing a big favor to the whole world).

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Israeli Squatters fire with Impunity at Palestinian civilians as Israeli Army watches

May 22nd, 2012 Comments off

The slow civil war in the Palestinian West Bank, occupied illegally by Israel, between the hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters planted there by the Israeli government and the local people who are being displaced, is a daily affair. Armed Israeli squatters encroach on Palestinian water and land daily. In recent days, remarkably, video has begun surfacing of settler shootings of Palestinians, with the complicity of the Israeli army, which typically stands by and watches the slaughter.

Aljazeera reports:

Meanwhile, Israel has been repackaging goods produced by the squatters in the Palestinian West Bank as ‘made in Israel.’ South Africa and Denmark have decided to forbid this practice, raising howls of rage in Tel Aviv.

When South Africans accuse you of Apartheid practices, you have to admit they know whereof they speak.

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Did the Muslim Brotherhood Threaten to Kill “All Jews”?

November 27th, 2011 Comments off

The Muslim Brotherhood and other religious parties in Egypt (including the Salafis and the Gama’a al-Islamiya) held a rally at al-Husayn Square in Cairo last Friday to which a few thousand people came. The big rally was at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and was dominated by secular forces.

This is an Arabic news article about the Muslim religious rally, clearly written by a reporter on the scene. It does not say anything about the speakers or the crowd threatening to kill all Jews, and I don’t believe any such threat was made.

The allegation was made by Eldad Beck, who complained of “Arab hate” at the rally. Beck, who clearly does not know what he is talking about, said that the crowd repeatedly quoted a verse in the Qur’an that spoke of killing all Jews. There is no such verse in the Islamic holy book. The Jewish revelation from God to Abraham and Moses is retold in the Qur’an, which has positive stories of the Children of Israel. The castigation of the Children of Israel in the Qur’an is of the same sort you see in the Hebrew Bible, and often put in the mouth of Moses or another Jewish prophet.

That Beck’s shoddy and wholly inaccurate reporting has been relayed by the Jerusalem Post and a host of other news outlets without question is shameful. If Beck had simply said that the Muslim Brotherhood crowds want Jerusalem back for Islamdom and evinced hostility toward Israelis, he would have been right. But his breathless exaggeration slides over into Islamophobia.

The background to Beck’s reporting and to one of the concerns of the al-Husayn rally is the illegal Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, the addition to the Israeli district of Jerusalem of substantial parts of the Palestinian West Bank, the expulsion of East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes, the settlement of Israelis in and around East Jerusalem, and the threats made by small Jewish fundamentalist groups such as Revava to destroy the Muslim holy sites atop the Temple Mount. Jewish fundamentalists believe that the original Jewish temple was atop the mount, and that it can only be rebuilt there if the Muslim mosque and shrine are torn down. This policy is not that of the Israeli government, which considers the ultra-Orthodox extremists a pain in the neck. But Revava and similar groups have thrown a scare into the Muslim world about the safety of its shrines under Israeli control. Arson at mosques and grabby Israeli policies toward shared shrines have added oil to that flame.

Jerusalem has never been awarded to Israel by any international body. There were hardly any practitioners of the Judaic religion in Palestine between 1000 AD and 1800, since Jews had adopted the other religions. Instead, for some 1300 years Jerusalem was an Islamicly-ruled city, and the Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount makes it the third holiest city for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.

Radical Jewish nationalists often attempt to deconstruct the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem as recent or shallow, and as a mere form of anti-Zionist politics. Actually, the history of Muslim pilgrimage to shrines in geographical Palestine is quite long, and the history of the religion’s intertwining with this region deep. And, the Jewish predominance in what is now Israel and most of its national myths are also recent in respect to the past millennium. But in any case, most contemporary Muslims do indeed consider Jerusalem their third holiest city, and there are 1.5 billion of them, and they are likely to be a third of humankind by 2100, so get used to it. This Orientalist business of Westerners getting to tell them what they believe is very 19th century.

The Israelis conquered Jerusalem in 1967 and many of them consider the whole of it theirs, appealing to romantic nationalist themes to insist that it is the indivisible capital of Israel. This extremist Jewish nationalism and disregard for international law or any negotiated peace process is common also among American Jews and even congressional leaders such as Eric Cantor.

It is to the extent in the US that simply pointing out that Jerusalem is a final status issue for negotiation, that Israel’s might does not make right, that Palestinian East Jerusalemites should have civil and human rights, and that Jews haven’t even ruled the city for most of its history is considered beyond the pale in public American discourse. In fact, I will be attacked as having “defended” the horrible things the Muslim Brotherhood crowds said (I haven’t), just because I tried to explain where they were coming from. But no one is attacked for actually supporting Gush Emunim policies in Israel, as Eric Cantor, Daniel Pipes and a host of others do.

In international law as of 1945-1949, territory occupied by military force cannot be unilaterally annexed. Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants cannot be expropriated or expelled, and the occupying authority is not permitted to alter the way of life of the occupied population.

Contrary to international law, Israel is in fact making the lives of East Jerusalem Palestinians miserable and gradually trying to expel them and bring in Israeli settlers (many of them Americans) instead.

So one of the themes of the Muslim Brotherhood rally last Friday was “Jerusalem is ours.” It is an obnoxious theme, since Jerusalem ought to be an international city and shared (the way Chandigarh is shared as a provincial capital by provinces in north India). But that was the theme. Muslim fundamentalists are just as vehement on this issue as Eric Cantor from his side.

Sheikh Mukhtar al-Mahdi was sent to represent the Rector of Al-Azhar Seminary, a key center of learning and authority for the Sunni Muslim world. He said that Jerusalem is a “red line,” and that the time is ripe to defend it, now that Egypt has been liberated by the martyrs of Tahrir Square (i.e. from the Mubarak dictatorship, which was in the back pocket of Israel and the United States).

The crowd appears to have shouted that Muslims should raise their children to fight (muqatalah) the Israelis (in colloquial Arabic, Israelis are referred to as “al-Yahud,” “the Jews.”). The word to “kill” (qatala) is from the same root as the word for “fight” (muqatalah). So presumably Beck heard the former and mistranslated it by the latter.

Note that the sheikh did not say this, but some people shouted it from the crowd, according to journalist Amira Salim. We don’t know who those people were. To phrase it that “the Muslim Brotherhood said” it would be bad journalism.

You could argue that what the crowd actually said is just as bad as what Beck alleged. But connotation and context matter.

Saying that “Jerusalem is ours, the Israelis have captured it and are altering its character and gradually chasing out its Muslims and endangering its Islamic shrines, and that we will fight them for it” is not exactly the same thing as saying “let’s kill all the Jews.”

Then Abdul Rahman al-Birr spoke. He is a professor in the school of jurisprudence at al-Azhar and on the board of the Muslim Brotherhood. He said he wanted to underline how important Jerusalem is for the Muslim Brotherhood, and for Muslims and Arabs generally. He said that if Jewish nationalists (Zionists) imagine that the disarray in the Arab world at the moment might give them an opening to demolish the al-Aqsa Mosque, they are sorely mistaken.

Salim says that people shouted slogans such as that Jerusalem is a prisoner and is calling to us, and if we do not return it who will? And, “We are the youth of [Jan.] 25 [i.e. the Egyptian Revolution]– we will never sell you out, Palestine!”

Among the things some shouted was “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad saya’ud” (“Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the Army of Muhammad shall return.” This is not a verse of the Qur’an. It is just a morally juvenile chant of fanatical Muslim or Palestinian nationalists who reject Israeli dominance. It refers to the Jewish village of Khaybar in Arabia the time of the Prophet Muhammad, which was viewed as treacherous by the Muslims who were being attacked by the Meccan pagans. They subjected Khaybar to a harsh punishment for allegedly siding against the Muslims (adult males were executed). It is a mean-spirited chant and not in accord with the spirit of Islam, which recognizes Jews and Christians as people of the Scripture and makes a place for them in Muslim society (in contrast to European Christianity, which often disallowed Jews and Muslims after 1300).

Bad Muslim relations with some particular tribe of Jews in the early period says nothing about the attitude of Islam to Jews. The Israel-Palestine issue has politicized religion in the Levant. This chant is not “Islamic” or from the Qur’an Lots of Jews rose high in Muslim society and politics in the old days before the colonial project of the British and their Jewish nationalist allies in Palestine.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a kind of Muslim-Arab nationalism, and it has most of the same flaws as hard line Jewish nationalism or Zionism. As we saw in the horrible 20th century, nationalists can start wars over territory that end up slaughtering millions of people.

I don’t approve of nationalism, whether Zionism or the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t approve of what the crowd shouted at the Muslim Brotherhood rally. But these sentiments do have a context as a response to Greater Israel expansionism. If the Israelis had followed through on the Oslo peace process, withdrawn from the West Bank, allowed a Palestinian state, and shared Jerusalem with the Palestinians, then the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn’t have an issue here.

You can’t judge the Muslim Brotherhood by what hotheads in a crowd shout out. You have to judge it by its own officials’ pronouncements and actions. The Brotherhood says that if the Egyptian people, which is sovereign, wants to keep the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, it will. (A large majority of Egyptians wants to keep the peace treaty). So the party may be lying, but in its public pronouncements at least, it isn’t acting like wild men.

The Qur’an doesn’t call for all Jews to be killed, and neither did the Muslim Brotherhood last Friday.

It is silly to fight over territory. Tel Aviv is only 20 meters above sea level, and global warming will almost certainly produce a sea level rise of greater than that within two or three centuries, so I wouldn’t get too attached to that territory if I were the Israelis and Palestinians. If we lose a sixth to a third of the world’s land mass to rising oceans, a lot of people are going to be refugees and a lot of land around which myths and tribalism were constructed isn’t going to be there any more. For better or worse, Jerusalem is pretty elevated, so it is going to be around to fight over if a formula for peaceful sharing isn’t found.

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Netanyahu Humiliates Obama, Misrepresents Israeli Policy

May 21st, 2011 Comments off

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to embarrass his host, President Obama, at the White House on Friday, delivering a pedantic attack on him. Netanyahu made many false assertions about Israeli policy toward the Palestinian West Bank being driven solely by security concerns, when it is in fact a vast landgrab of the ‘settler-industrial complex.’ Israel’s colonization of territories occupied from the Palestinians in 1967 is illegal in international law and deeply immoral.

(Courtesy the BBC)

For anyone who wants to know the truth of what is going on, here is some Saturday viewing:

Rebecca Collard reports on “Unequal Development in the West Bank,” examining Israeli government support for illegal Israeli colonies on Palestinian land and constraints on Palestinians’ development:

Here is Collard’s report on the deadly fire zone in Gaza, which is the strip’s bread basket, where Palestinians are in danger of being sniped at by Israelis in their own territory. Half of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed and Israel will not allow them to export what they produce (a crime against humanity) and deeply restricts imports.

And here she reports on Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem while favoring Israeli settlers’ construction:

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Abbas: Israel has Abrogated the Peace Process

October 12th, 2010 Comments off

Palestinians declined to take the bait of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday. Netanyahu offered an extension of the 10-month freeze on new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank in return for a PA acknowledgment of Israel as a “Jewish State.” Obviously, the phrase has some covert significance for the Israeli Right, and perhaps it is intended to bestow on Israel a right to denaturalize and expel Palestinian-Israelis. The phrase may also be intended to forestall any return to Israel of the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from that territory in 1948.

Fatah official Saeb Erekat said he could not understand what Israel’s self-definition had to do with negotiations over the shape of a Palestinian state, and pointed out that the PLO had exchanged letters in 1993 recognizing the state of Israel. (The Palestinians do not understand how the Israelis can negotiate over the West Bank in good faith if they are de facto annexing large swathes of it even as the talks proceed.)

Israeli foreign minister and far-right social engineer Avigdor Lieberman lost his temper Sunday in a meeting with the Spanish and French foreign ministers. He told them to go solve Europe’s own disputes before coming to the Mideast and instructing Israel how to resolve its. Lieberman is then accused in some quarters of having leaked his comments to the press, embarrassing Spain and France. He is said to have pointed to France’s ban on the niqab or full Muslim face veil, and to Switzerland’s ban on minarets as signs of European difficulty in dealing with Muslims.

(Lieberman does not appear to understand the difference between banning the niqab, which is worn by almost no one in Europe, and keeping over 4 million human beings for decades in a condition of statelessness wherein they have no real human or civil rights.)

Lieberman, already angling for title of most corrupt politician in elective office in the world, now appears to be trying for the additional title of Worst Foreign Minister in the history of foreign ministers.

Spain and France, undeterred, continued their fact-finding mission in the region. France’s Bernard Kouchner even admitted that it may be necessary to go to the United Nations for a declaration on a Palestinian state.

From another side, Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League summit this weekend at Sirte, Libya, that Israel has unilaterally abrogated the Oslo accords and other understandings it had reached with the Palestine Authority. It has stripped the Authority of much of its power, and makes daily incursions into PA territory.

Abbas raises the possibility that if the negotiations with Netanyahu continue to be frozen, he would go to the UN General Assembly with a plan for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, to be blessed by the UNO.

The problem is that although the UN could give Palestine a seat as a nation, unless the Israeli army were induced to withdraw from the West Bank and to cease blockading Gaza (which is being economically strangled by an illegal and inhumane Israeli ban on civilian exports), the resulting “state” would remain a fantasy.

If NATO would agree to reassign the troops now beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan to Palestine, and would face down any Israeli intransigence, now that would be a plan.

But nothing so dramatic is likely to ensue. Fanatics like Lieberman have taken over Israel and they have no future in a Muslim Middle East that is now growing faster than Israel economically and which is likely to become more and more militarily and scientifically sophisticated. As Obama’s initiative for a two-state solution is thwarted by the Liebermans and Netanyahus, their actions guarantee that Israel’s future in coming decades is bleak. Unfortunately, the attendant trouble generated by that bleakness is likely to fall on the heads of all our children.

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Israeli Settler Runs over Protesting Palestinian Children

October 9th, 2010 Comments off

Aljazeera is reporting on an Israeli settler hit-and-run attack by automobile on two young Palestinian boys in Silwan protesting the expansion of Israeli settlements and theft of Palestinian land there. As horrible as the video is to watch– and one hopes the boys are not gravely injured– it is a remarkable simile for what the settlers are doing to the Palestinians.

For more see this report.

The Jerusalem Fund estimates that there have been on average 2 vehicular attacks per month on Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank during the past year and a half.

Israel conquered and occupied the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 and since the early 1970s has been illegally settling Israeli citizens in this occupied territory. Large swathes of Palestinian land have been usurped, along with water and other resources, and Palestinians under foreign military rule have been left stateless, without citizenship or rights or a say over their own destinies.

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The Orientalism of Israeli Troops Dancing

July 7th, 2010 Comments off

Israeli troops dance to K$sha’s “Tik Tok.”:

Some comments on the semiotics. The piece begins with the Muslim call to prayer in al-Khalil, a Palestinian city in the Palestinian West Bank, which Israelis call Hebron. Some 30,000 Palestinians are being kept in an urban prison for the sake of 600 far-right armed Jewish colonists who have squatted on Palestinian property in the city. Al-Khalil (“Hebron”), like the 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, has been militarily occupied by Israel since 1967. Israeli squatters have stolen private Palestinian land and control 42% of the West Bank, according to B’Tselem. It is illegal in international law for Occupying powers to transfer their own populations into occupied territories or for them to usurp property from the occupied.

The video depicts Hebron as mired in tradition and virtually empty, which mirrors the Israeli Orientalist view of Palestinians more generally. The soldiers are depicted as playful, fun-loving and hyper-modern, gyrating to the music of the most recent blonde valley-girl top 40 phenomenon.

In fact, militarily occupying other people is a sign of backward, 19th-century-style imperialist ideology. The 600 Israeli colonists these troops are supporting include people far more fundamentalist and mired in tradition than most Palestinians.


Israeli settlers, Al-Khalil/Hebron

And struggling for local independence versus globalizing oppression, whether it is BP destroying the Gulf of Mexico, coal companies causing global warming and destroying human habitat, or neo-imperial schemes to steal local resources on the part of global bullies, is actually the avant-garde of the 21st century.


Palestinian youth dancing to Shakira at the Cosmos dance club in the West Bank Courtesy McClatchy

Here is a video of the more usual activities of the Israeli army in al-Khalil: “On Feb. 25, 2010, Palestinian and international activists held a march in Hebron/Al Khalil to demand the opening of Shuhada Street, open to Israelis but closed to Palestinians for the last ten years. Marchers attempted to walk onto Shuhada Street, once a primary street for Palestinian business and markets, but Israeli military prevented them from entering. The man detained in this clip was released late that evening.”

And here is a B’tselem video of what life is like for al-Khalil residents trapped among aggressive Israeli squatters determined to drive them out:

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"…Outre-mer was finally overrun by Muslim armies. But Israel will be destroyed from within"

June 7th, 2010 Comments off

Hate to say that I mostly agree with neoconish Douthat in the NYTimes/ here

“… The first reason was geographic: the Holy Land is easier to conquer than defend, because its topograpy and regional position leave it perpetually vulnerable to invasion. The second was diplomatic: the Crusaders were perpetually falling out with their major neighbors, from Byzantium to Egypt, and the support they enjoyed from Western Europe was too limited to save them from extinction. The third was demographic: the ruling class of Outremer, primarily Frankish knights and their retainers, was a minority in a territory whose inhabitants were largely Eastern Orthodox and Muslim, and they had difficulty achieving the kind of integration that long-term stability required.

A decade ago, before the collapse of the peace process, the Israelis seemed to be faring better than Outremer on all three fronts. Their potent armed forces and nuclear deterrent more than offset the weakness of their geographic position. After decades of isolation, they had forged reasonably stable relationships with many regional powers — including Turkey, Jordan and Egypt — and an enduring bond with the world’s superpower, the United States…..

Ten years later, though, only the military advantage endures. Diplomatically and demographically, Israel increasingly faces the same problems that bedeviled the 12th-century kings of Jerusalem.

In the wake of the Gaza and Lebanon wars, and now the blockade-running fiasco, the Jewish state is as isolated on the world stage as it’s been since the dark Zionism-is-racism years of the 1970s. Meanwhile, its relationship with its Arab citizens is increasingly strained, the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank seems destined to continue indefinitely, and both Arab populations are growing so swiftly that Jews could soon be a minority west of the Jordan River.

Israel can probably live with diplomatic isolation so long as the American public remains staunchly on its side. But it will have a harder time surviving the demographic transformation of its territory. If the Jewish state can’t extricate itself from the West Bank, it may be forced to choose between the quasi-apartheid of a permanent occupation, and the dissolution that would likely follow from giving Palestinians a significant voice in Israel’s politics.

Israel’s critics often make this extrication sound easy. In reality, it promises to involve enormous sacrifices, of land and everyday security alike — whether in the form of extraordinary concessions to a divided Palestinian leadership, or a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank that would be more wrenching than the 2005 retreat from Gaza.

What’s more, either approach would almost certainly invite stepped-up violence from the irreconcilable Palestinian factions and their Iranian and Syrian backers, who will see any retreat as a cue to escalate the struggle….”

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Israeli Settler Terrorists Plan more Mosque Burnings

May 5th, 2010 Comments off

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas charged that a fire that damaged a Palestinian mosque in the Israeli-Occupied Palestinian West Bank was set by Israeli terrorists among militant colonists of the territory. Israeli Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also said he suspected arson.

Hamas, the Muslim fundamentalist party that controls the Gaza Strip, the other territory of the Palestine Authority, said that the terrorist incident demonstrates how unfruitful the negotiations set between Abbas and the Israelis are likely to be.

Haaretz reports that extremist Israeli settlers are planning to set fire in more Palestinian mosques, i.e. planning to engage in further terrorism, as a means of fighting the closure of illegal squatter colonies on the Palestinian West Bank. The Palestinian West Bank is Palestinian territory captured by Israel in 1967. Although in the international law (formulated after WW II to prevent a repetition of the crimes of the Nazis) it is illegal for an occupying Power to import its own citizens into an Occupied territory, the Israeli government has since 1973 been sponsoring large colonies on the West Bank, involving massive theft of Palestinian land and resources, including water.

In addition, vigilante colonists have set up scattered squatter settlements that are considered illegal even in Israeli law. It is those that the government sometimes dismantles, in part because they are amid Palestinian villages and the colonists are difficult to protect.

The Israeli government need not worry too much. The militant Israeli squatters are heavily armed and have a vigilante ethos, and have been attacking Palestinians in their villages and preventing them from harvesting their olive groves that lie near Israeli colonies.

Having often received carte blanche from the authorities to terrorize Palestinians in other ways, they can hardly be blamed for thinking it perfectly natural to now engage in arson against their holy sites.

The Mideast is on tenterhooks. Jordan is terrified that far rightwing Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman will attempt to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians and displace them to Jordan. They also fear that the Jordan river will be dried up by extensive Israeli siphoning. Lebanon is jittery about another attack on Beirut. Iran has pledged to defend Syria if the Israelis attack Damascus, over the alleged transfer to Lebanese Shiite party-militia Hizbullah of SCUD missiles.

Stay tuned.

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