The brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is released after more than 16 years in prison for complicity in the murder.
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The brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is released after more than 16 years in prison for complicity in the murder.
The unrepentant brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was released from prison Friday after serving 16½ years for complicity in a murder that stunned Israel and according to some destroyed an opportunity for peace.
Ben White writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment:
It has just come out that the Israeli military has earmarked ten percent of the land in the Occupied West bank for Israeli settlements. In addition, the Israeli government is moving forward with an outrageous plan that will mean the expulsion of tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in the Negev desert. The context is the warning issued by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a 2010 government meeting that a Negev “without a Jewish majority” would pose “a palpable threat”.
You won’t be told about this by television news, your elected representatives, or the US State Department (in fact, when asked about the Negev displacement plan they dismissed it as an “internal Israeli matter”). But this is the inconvenient truth that prompted the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to recently issue what according to one expert was the most cutting “condemnation of a legal system of segregation since apartheid South Africa”. That is why Land Day, beginning with the struggle for the land, is now marked all over the world as the movement for decolonisation and equality in Palestine/Israel gains momentum.
March 30 is marked by Palestinians as Land Day, but many in the West are unaware of the origins and significance of this annual protest. It is an opportunity to shed some light on the significant issues marginalised by the mainstream discussion about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
The first Land Day was held by Palestinian citizens of Israel (so-called ‘Israeli Arabs’) in 1976, as part of opposition to the expropriation of land by the state. Marked by a general strike and mass demonstrations, the response was brutal repression: six Palestinians were shot dead, as the Israeli government mobilised armoured vehicles and tanks to patrol villages in the Galilee.
In the aftermath, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet “unanimously commended the security forces for their ‘restraint’ in handling the strike and the ensuing disturbances”. It was a justified response, apparently, to what Prof. Oren Yiftachel described as “a head-on challenge to the Judaization project”.
The land expropriations that led to Land Day were one example of how, in the words of Israeli legal advocacy group Adalah, the state “confiscated massive amounts of land from Palestinian citizens” after 1948. Estimates are that by the late 1970s, the average Arab community had lost between two thirds and three quarters of its land.
This is one facet of a discriminatory regime that goes to the heart of the question of Palestine: a history of ethnic cleansing, confiscation, alienation, and manipulated planning – all in order to maintain a system that privileges one group over another.
As former Israeli PM Menachem Begin’s adviser on Arab affairs put it: “If we needed this land, we confiscated it from the Arabs. We had to create a Jewish state in this country, and we did.” The facts bear out this honest appraisal. In 1948-53, 95 percent of new Jewish communities were established on ‘absentee’ property – that is, belonging to Palestinian refugees prevented from returning.
Yet a number of Palestinians remained, and particularly in the Galilee and the Negev in the south, the Israeli state was concerned about the ‘demographic battle’. This discourse (and the policies shaped by it) continues through to the present day: the current Housing Minister spoke in 2009 of it being a “national duty” to “prevent the spread” of Palestinian citizens in the Galilee.
The policies referred to by author Oren Yiftachel as ‘Judaization’ signify the attempt to boost the Jewish population of an area seen as having ‘too many’ non-Jews. One example was the establishment of mitzpim (Hebrew: ‘look out’) communities in the 1970s and ‘80s, in the Galilee. The goal of the initiative, in the words of a Jewish Agency planner, was to “prevent Arabs from ‘taking over’ government lands, keep Arab villages from attaining territorial continuity and attract a ‘strong’ population to the Galilee’.”
Israel’s systematic ethnic discrimination means the manipulation of regional authority boundaries and the planning regime. Misgav Regional Council, established in the 1980s, is an illustrative example. Given “a highly irregular geographical shape, in order to include most Jewish settlements and exclude most Arab villages”, the result has been to reinforce “patterns of functional and social segregation in the region”. In other words, Misgav is “not a regional plan in the ordinary sense” but “a strategic plan…to preserve state lands”.
Remember – this is all inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the supposed ‘democratic’ Israel loved by liberal Zionists who restrict their criticisms to West Bank settlements. But what do liberals say about admission committees that operate in around 70 percent of all communities in Israel, a key tool in the exclusion of Palestinian citizens and the maintenance of Jewish control over rural land? These committees are now supported by legislation in around 40 percent of communities; supporter of the law MK David Rotem said that he believed Jews and Arabs could be “separate but equal”.
This is the reality for Palestinian citizens that Israel and its advocacy groups don’t want to talk about, preferring false platitudes about ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. These policies are what unite the experiences of Palestinians in both the pre-67 borders and in the West Bank.
Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer. Ben’s articles are available on his website and he tweets at @benabyad
Ben White’s new book is “Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy”, available at Amazon.
“…Israeli security orthodoxy has long been built on two related premises: first, that Arab and Muslim hostility toward Israel is both inexorable and irrational — so neither withdrawal nor peace is likely to offer Israelis major security dividends — and second, that foreign powers and international institutions cannot be trusted to protect Israel.
To be sure, Israel’s leaders have at times questioned the continuing relevance of these premises. Indeed, when seeking the Knesset’s support for the Oslo agreement in 1993, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared, “No longer are we necessarily ‘a people that dwells alone,’ and no longer is it true that ‘the whole world is against us.'”
Over the last decade, however, widespread disillusionment with the Oslo process, and the sense that their unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip served to embolden, rather than placate, enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, have led many Israelis to conclude that genuine peace is an elusive dream. Moreover, they cite the perceived failure of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Gaza to prevent rocket attacks on Israel as evidence that when the going gets tough, Israelis can rely only on themselves for security. Presented with this bleak security picture, many Israelis see the retention of West Bank territory — i.e., the concept of defensible borders — as not only politically desirable but also a strategic necessity.
Israelis have learned the wrong lessons from the wars of the last decade. Although defensible borders would preserve Israel’s latitude to act independently in the short run, it would undermine, rather than promote, its long-term security. Israel’s refusal to relinquish territory occupied in 1967 would give its enemies increased motivation to attack — and bolster the perceived legitimacy of violence among Arabs disillusioned with the international community’s failure to make good on the promise to deliver land for peace. And it would only marginally limit the capacity of Israel’s enemies to inflict damage: Israel’s efforts to shift its population away from its crowded coastline, along with steady advances in the range of missiles and rockets possessed by militant groups and nearby states, will leave Israelis vulnerable regardless of where the state’s borders are drawn. And as the international community presses further toward accountability for war crimes, Israel will find it increasingly costly, legally and politically, to use overwhelming military force to deter attacks. …”
Palestinian authorities on Thursday protested the resolution passed by the US congress on Wednesday condemning movement toward a unilateral declaration by Palestinians of a Palestinian state. The congressional resolution was actually fairly weak, showing the tensions between the US and the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu, since it did call for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state, something Netanyahu privately opposes. Still, as usual, the US Congress is an outlier in world affairs on the Palestine issue, typically adopting stances that are often to the right of Israel’s own more liberal parties. Even Israeli military personnel have complained bitterly about having been dragooned into being a harsh occupying force in the West Bank. And, of course, the US Congress is increasingly irrelevant, since it is implicitly abetting Israeli footdragging and continued illegal colonization of the West Bank.
The Congressional resolution came as a result of lobbying by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an umbrella group that directs PAC money to congressional campaigns and has been known to viciously punish any congressman who defies it by throwing money instead to his or her opponent in the next election. Since the constituents of most congressmen don’t really care what happens in the Mideast, many just take the money and sign the AIPAC-crafted resolution. This AIPAC move comes in response to the Palestine Authority’s own internationalization of its diplomatic push on the Netanyahu government to move forward in good faith with the implementation of the Oslo peace accords, which were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and which envisaged Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu condemned Rabin’s signing of those accords, pledged to derail them, and has spent his political career ever since playing spoiler and ensuring that Palestinians continue to live under occupation or blockade and to have blighted lives. Netanyahu’s constituents include Israelis eager to foster colonies on Palestinian territory, either for religious or economic reasons.
The other side of the coin came Thursday when it was announced that Norway has upgraded the representation of the Palestine Authority in Oslo to that of an embassy, more or less declaring Palestine a state in the eyes of the Norwegian government. That is, the PA representative in Oslo is now categorized as an ambassador. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere announced at a meeting with Palestine Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad, “We should all cling to the vision of 2011 being the year when we can see a new state on the world stage: the Palestinian state.” Stoere stressed the need for improvements in Palestine Authority security forces and procedures, educational infrastructure, and in governance: “For that to happen, institutions need to be solid, governance needs to be transparent, security, schools, all these elements need to come in place.”
Norway’s action came after Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay finally joined about 100 other nations that have, over the years, recognized a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. The Palestine Authority is encouraging this move to international recognition, as a bargaining ploy with the Israeli authorities. Recognition by Norway, Brazil and Argentina is practically fairly useless as long as the brutal Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and the Israeli strangulation of the Gaza economy via illegal blockade, continues.
The goal here may be to have a European Union recognition of the state of Palestine, and then go to the United Nations Security Council with a resolution establishing a Palestinian state by a date certain. Typically the United States has blocked such resolutions in the past (the five permanent members of the Security Council have veto powers). But it is not impossible that the Obama administration, angered by being rebuffed in its diplomacy with Netanyahu, might abstain, allowing the rest of the UNSC to pass the resolution. For the PA to rack up virtual unanimity in the world on this issue would give momentum to a UN resolution. Moreover, Israel would be at risk of financial and legal repercussions if it defied the UNSC (such defiance was after all the legal basis put forward by the Bush administration for its war on Baathist Iraq).
Ultimately, the US Congress is correct that only a bilateral Israel-Palestine agreement is probably viable. But the congressional resolution, having been crafted and supported by Israel nationalists, did not ask the question of what would force the Israelis to the bargaining table. They have refused to stop colonizing the West Bank while negotiating with the Palestinian Authority over the disposition of… the West Bank. It is like you take a friend out and share a piece of cheese cake, and you talk with him about whether to split it in two or to give him a little more, and as you are talking with him you notice that he’s eaten the whole piece. The Palestinians, understandably enough, decline to give Israeli aggressive colonization of their territory the fig leaf of a ‘peace process.’
So the ball is in the court of the international community. The Obama administration tried to do the right thing, but has little leverage with Netanyahu. The US Congress, especially the new Republican-dominated lower house, would pass a resolution allowing Netanyahu to dine on Salam Fayad’s liver if Tel Aviv asked them to. The rest of the world is just not going to put up with century of Apartheid policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and will likely begin applying economic and diplomatic sanctions to Israel reminiscent of those once applied to white South Africa (and it should be remembered that the US, especially southern white congressmen, mostly opposed those pressures on South Africa, as well.)
““Taking the unusual step of actively campaigning for the award, Abbas has reportedly sent mediators to persuade the committee to award him the honor and seems to be circumventing the most direct (and much harder) route towards the prize — creating peace. “” and ““According to the sources, Abbas has been using different mediators to convince the Norwegian Nobel Committee to grant him the prestigious award, whose past recipients include former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, US President Barack Obama, late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Shimon Peres.” (thanks “Ibn Rushd”)
G Levy in Haaretz/ here
“The Israeli peace camp didn’t die. It was never born in the first place. While it’s true that since the summer of 1967, several radical and brave political groups have been working against the occupation – all worthy of recognition – a large, influential peace camp has never existed here.It’s true that after the Yom Kippur War, after the first Lebanon War and during the giddy days of Oslo (oh, how giddy those days were), citizens took to the streets, generally when the weather was nice and when the best of Israeli music was being performed at rallies, but few people really said anything decisive or courageous, and fewer still were willing to pay a personal price for their activities. After the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, people lit candles in the square and sang Aviv Geffen songs, but this certainly isn’t what one would call a peace camp.
It is also true that the stance advocated by the so-called Matzpen movement immediately after the Six-Day War has now more or less become the Israeli consensus position – but it is mere words, devoid of content. Nothing meaningful has been done so far to put it into practice. One would have expected more, a lot more, from a democratic society in whose backyard such a prolonged and cruel occupation has existed and whose government has primarily invoked the language of fear, threats and violence.
There have been societies in the past in whose name frightful injustice has been committed, but at least within some of them, genuine, angry and determined left-wing protest took place – of the sort that requires personal risk and courage, and which is not limited to action within the cozy consensus. An occupying society whose town square has been empty for years, with the exception of hollow memorial rallies and poorly attended protests, cannot wash its hands of the situation. Neither democracy nor the peace camp can.
If people didn’t take to the streets in large numbers during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, then there isn’t a genuine peace camp. If people don’t flood the streets now – when dangers lie in wait and opportunity is wasted time after time, and democracy sustains blow after blow on a daily basis and there are no longer sufficient resources to properly defend it, and when the right wing controls the political map and settlers amass more and more power – then there is no genuine left wing.
There is nothing like the debate over the future of the Meretz party to demonstrate the sorry state of the left. This comes in the wake of the strange and ridiculous report last week about the party’s poor showing in the last election, and which gives every possible recommendation. Meretz disappeared because the party fell silent; you don’t need a commission to find that out. But even during its relatively better days, Meretz was not a real peace camp. When Meretz applauded Oslo, it deliberately ignored the fact that the champions of the “historic” peace accords never intended to evacuate even a single settlement over the course of the great “breakthrough” that earned its promoters Nobel peace, yes, peace prizes. This camp also overlooked Israel’s violations of the agreements, its illusions of peace.
Above all, however, the problem was rooted in the left’s impossible adherence to Zionism in its historical sense. In precisely the way there cannot be a democratic and Jewish state in one breath, one has to first define what comes before what – there cannot be a left wing committed to the old-fashioned Zionism that built the state but has run its course. This illusory left wing never managed to ultimately understand the Palestinian problem – which was created in 1948, not 1967 – never understanding that it can’t be solved while ignoring the injustice caused from the beginning. A left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing.
The illusory left never understood the most important point: For the Palestinians, consenting to the 1967 borders along with a solution to the refugee problem, including at least the return of a symbolic number of refugees themselves, are painful concessions. They also represent the only just compromise, without which peace will not be established; but there’s no sense in accusing the Palestinians of wasting an opportunity. Such a proposal, even including the “far-reaching” proposals of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, has never been made to them.
Meretz will surely find some kind of organizational arrangement and will again get half a dozen members elected to the Knesset, on a good day maybe even a dozen. This doesn’t mean much, however. The other left-wing groups, both Jewish and Arab, remain excluded. No one has any use for them, no one thinks about including them, and they are too small to have any influence. So let’s call the child by its real name: The Israeli peace camp is still an unborn baby.”