Monday, June 6, 2011

Can equality exist in the Jewish state?

As right-wingers dominate the Knesset, Arab citizens of Israel say institutional discrimination is getting worse.
Arab citizens of Israel face discrimination in employment, education, and housing opportunities [GALLO/GETTY]

In 2005, following the arrest of several high profile Arab politicians and lobbyists living in Israel, the Shin Bet security agency made a statement justifying their actions: "The security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law."
The statement highlighted a fundamental tension between democratic freedom in Israel, and the need to maintain its Jewish character. Thwarting harm to that character has been extrapolated to require controls on Israel's Arab minority in many departments of society, from education to the right of dissent. The need to ensure Jewish demographic and institutional domination has prompted a raft of controversial policies and practises.
The conflict is most revealing at the level of political representation. Israel can point to the presence of 14 Arab Knesset members out of 120 as evidence of its civil rights credentials. Proportionally this is a reasonably fair reflection of a minority that accounts for 18 per cent of Israel's population; given that the Arab community habitually votes in lower numbers.
In practise, the mandate to represent Arab concerns dictates that they work against - rather than with - the rest of parliament. Knesset Member Haneen Zouabi of the Balad party is open about her role being fundamentally oppositional. "I was elected to speak for those who voted for me, not to reinforce the Zionist consensus," she says. "My role is to represent injustice and to make it more visible." Zouabi has long argued against the legitimacy of a Jewish state for allowing "institutionalised discrimination", instead favouring "a bi-national state not based on ethnicity".
She has suffered for her beliefs. After participating in the 2010 Gaza flotilla, aimed at breaking the Israeli siege, a seven to one majority voted to strip her of parliamentary privileges. Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon called for her to be tried for treason, and there were attempts to disqualify her party from elections. The hostility was so great that Zouabi was forced to travel with an armed escort. A year later she remains a pariah in parliament, branded a traitor and a terrorist-sympathiser.

Exiling civil rights
Others have suffered more. Azmi Bishara, also of the Balad party, was the leading voice of the Arab civil rights campaign. Despite attempts to disqualify him, Bishara became the first Arab citizen to run for the office of Prime Minister. Throughout his career Bishara faced numerous investigations from the Shin Bet. He was forced to resign in 2007, and went into exile abroad, in the wake of spurious charges of espionage.
Such attacks on Arab politicians are not exceptional, and some have been more serious than political expulsion. A 2002 report from the Human Rights Association of Nazareth documented nine cases of Arab Knesset Members being assaulted by security services over the preceding two years, seven of whom were hospitalised. In addition, the state had opened 25 criminal investigations against Arab Knesset Members over the same time period.
In recent years, the Jewish majority in the Knesset have been pushing for a decisive end to the debate over the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was able to pass a bill last year requiring non-Jewish immigrants to take a loyalty oath to a Jewish state, and is seeking to make the oath mandatory for all Knesset members.
The most significant effect of the oath is to enhance Jewish demographic supremacy. It places a fresh barrier in the path of Palestinian refugees' historic right of return, as enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, effectively terminating their claims to former homes.
By contrast, the Law of Return grants any Jew the right to make their homes in Israel without challenge. The law is supplemented by aggressive marketing campaigns in the US and other nations with large Jewish populations, often through emotive appeals to religious solidarity. Naturalising diaspora Jews has been made a formality and is often granted within 48 hours, even to those with tenuous claims to Jewish ancestry or citizens from hostile nations. Financial incentives are also offered; as of 2007, Iranian Jews making Aliyah, the so-called "return" to Israel, are entitled to a payment of $5000.

On deaf ears: Obama's message to Israel

US president's inability to influence dichotomy or halt illegal settlements further stifles the peace process.

By: Robert Grenier

Late May's extraordinary sequence of speeches and meetings involving US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - and the commentary surrounding it from official circles in both countries - did not make for an edifying interlude. The week beginning May 19 will not be remembered for displays of farsighted statecraft, or high moral courage. What we saw instead was brash, unapologetic chauvinism from Netanyahu, an outright refusal of moral leadership from Obama, and acts of political cowardice and opportunism from the US Congress outrageous even by the low standards of that frequently ignominious body.
But that is not to say that the week's display was not useful. On the contrary, much of importance was accomplished. Now, more clearly than ever, we can see the future. For if there were any questions remaining about the current nature and direction of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, May's events have put an end to them. Zionism is far from dead, and will surely survive, at least in altered form. But a fundamental change in the nature of the Israeli state has become inevitable.
To understand why, we should start with President Obama. It may seem mystifying in one so intelligent and insightful, but when, at the beginning of his administration, Obama set about to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute once and for all, he really had no idea what he was getting into. To this most logical, detached, and rational of men, the solution to the dispute must have seemed obvious. The salient issues had been reviewed endlessly for decades by all the parties. The key components of an agreement were well known. All he needed to do to get the negotiating process properly underway, he believed, was to address one key impediment: Israeli settlement policy.

Settlements halt negotiations
Obama understood that continued settlement was ultimately self-destructive for Israel. Pursued to its logical conclusion, it would obviate any possible two-state solution. Indeed, Israeli settlement policy had already long since obviated a two-state solution by the time Obama was elected, but let's leave that aside. Even if one engaged in a willful suspension of disbelief, to suppose that the Israeli prime minister and his party were really willing to give up their dream of substantially consolidating a "Greater Israel", continued settlement building would only perpetuate an endlessly seductive motivation for tactical delay, as more "facts" were created on the ground. And the longer Israeli delay and obfuscation persisted, the more Palestinian willingness and political cover to engage in the process would be undermined, reinforcing the popular Palestinian conviction that the point of any process was to mute their resistance and play them for dupes, in an effort to gain time for their complete dispossession.

AIPAC: The unrivalled lobby

The Israel lobby's power in Washington is so strong that both Democrats and Republicans fear challenging its agenda.

By: Not surprisingly, my recent piece on an ugly 1988 experience with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Israeli government, and late New York Times newspaper columnist William Safire elicited some controversy. I knew it would.
There aren't that many first-person accounts of encounters with the lobby (for obvious reasons) so my recollections of how it went down on Capitol Hill fill a vacuum. Hopefully, there will be more such accounts as those of us who dealt with the lobby in the 1980s move into a position (career-wise or financially) where we feel free to talk and write about it without any fear of retribution.
If I were 35, there is no way that I would challenge an institution which has a long history of preventing its critics from advancing professionally. I am not that brave - although the terrain is finally changing for the better thanks to the internet.
One problem in making analogies between the lobby today and in the 1970s and 1980s is that it was infinitely less aggressive and right-wing then than it is now.
In my description of an event that took place in 1988, I refer to AIPAC's then-executive drector, Thomas Dine. Dine, who today is close to the more liberal Jewish lobby group J Street, came to the AIPAC lobby from Ted Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign. He had worked previously for several Democratic senators and, in his twenties, in the LBJ White House. By contrast, AIPAC's current executive director, Howard Kohr, is a conservative Republican who was hired largely because of his personal and political closeness to Newt Gingrich. In the Israeli context, Dine was Labor and Kohr is Likud.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Still Searching for a Middle East Strategy

Protests Planned for this Weekend Highlight the Stakes

SOURCE: AP/Charles Dharapak
President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011. Although the two weeks since this address is not enough time to outline all of the implementation mechanisms outlined in the address, the lack of clear signs about who is charged with leading the implementation of a new Middle East policy is worrisome.

By Brian Katulis

More than five months into the popular uprisings spreading across the Middle East, the Obama administration lacks a coherent regional strategy for dealing with the multifaceted challenges coming out of the Middle East these days. The planned protests targeting Israel this weekend and linked to the anniversary of the 1967 war—protests calculated to keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the headlines across the region and the world—highlight the stakes at play in shaping a coherent U.S. pro-democracy message for the Middle East.
Last month, regimes such as Syria cynically exploited similar protests as a distraction from the internal unrest and opposition to the government there. But at the same time, those protests were part of the genuine popular discontent with the lack of progress on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Alas, the Obama administration remains in a reactive, crisis management mode to all of these dynamics. This is mostly due to the nature of the challenges on multiple fronts—each day presents a new crisis, such as the violence spiraling further out of control in Yemen today. But remaining stuck in this tactical mode is also a result of the lack of a clear structure to follow though on the framework and principles President Obama outlined in his recent Middle East speech in an integrated fashion. Certainly, two weeks is not enough time to outline all of the implementation mechanisms outlined in Obama’s ambitious speech, but the lack of clear signs about who is charged with leading the implementation of a new Middle East policy is worrisome.
What’s more, the record of the administration’s follow through on previous high-profile speeches, such as the 2009 Cairo speech and the 2010 U.N. General Assembly speech, are cause for additional concern.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Israelis prepare to emigrate and Palestinians to Return?

The number of Israelis thinking of leaving Palestine is climbing rapidly according to researchers, while many more, with actual millennial roots but victims of ethnic cleansing, prepare to exercise their right of Return.

by Franklin Lamb

Is this how the Zionist project might end?
Perhaps historians or cultural anthropologists surveying the course of human events can identify for us a land, in addition to Palestine, where such a large percentage of a recently arrived colonial population prepared to exercise their right to depart, while many more, with actual millennial roots but victims of ethnic cleansing, prepare to exercise their right of Return.
One of the many ironies inherent in the 19th century Zionist colonial enterprise in Palestine is the fact that this increasingly fraying project was billed for most of the 20th century as a haven in the Middle East for “returning” persecuted European Jews.  But today, in the 21st century, it is Europe that is increasingly being viewed by a large number of the illegal occupiers of Palestinian land as the much desired haven for returning Middle Eastern Jews.

To paraphrase Jewish journalist Gideon Levy:
“If our forefathers dreamt of an Israeli passport to escape from Europe, there are many among us who are now dreaming of a second passport to escape to Europe.”
Several studies in Israel and one conducted by AIPAC and another by the Jewish National  Fund in Germany show that perhaps as many as half of the Jews living in Israel  will consider leaving Palestine in the next few years if current political and social trends continue.  A 2008 survey by the Jerusalem-based Menachem Begin Heritage Center found that 59% of Israelis had approached or intended to approach a foreign embassy to inquire about or apply for citizenship and a passport. Today it is estimated that the figure is approaching 70%.
The number of Israelis thinking of leaving Palestine is climbing rapidly according to researchers at Bar-Ilan University who conducted a study published recently in Eretz Acheret, (“A Different Place”)   an Israeli NGO that claims to promote cultural dialogue.  What the Bar-Ilan study found is that more than 100,000 Israelis already hold a German passport, and this figure increases by more than 7,000 every year along an accelerating trajectory. According to German officials, more than 70,000 such passports have been granted since 2000.

In addition to Germany, there are more than one million Israelis with other foreign passports at the ready in case life in Israel deteriorates.  One of the most appealing countries for Israelis contemplating emigration, as well as perhaps the most welcoming, is the United States. Currently more than 500,000 Israelis hold US passports with close to a quarter million pending applications.

During the recent meetings in Washington DC between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s delegation and Israel’s US agents, assurances were reportedly given by AIPAC officials that if and when it becomes necessary, the US government will expeditiously issue American passports to any and all Israeli Jews seeking them.
Israeli Arabs need not apply.

AIPAC also represented to their Israeli interrogators that the US Congress could be trusted to approve funding for arriving Israeli Jews “to be allocated substantial cash resettlement grants to ease transition into their new country.”
Apart from the Israeli Jews who may be thinking of getting an “insurance passport” for a Diaspora land, there is a similar percentage of Jews worldwide who aren’t going to make aliyah. According to Jonathan Rynhold, a Bar Ilan professor specializing on U.S.-Israel relations, Jews may be safer in Teheran than Ashkelon these days—until Israel or the USA starts bombing Iran.
Interviews with some of those who either helped conduct the above noted studies or have knowledge of them, identify several factors that explain the Israeli rush for foreign passports, some rather surprising, given the ultra-nationalist Israeli culture.
The common denominator is unease and anxiety, both personal and national, with the second passport considered a kind of insurance policy “for the rainy days visible on the horizon,” as one researcher from Eretz Acheret explained.

June 6 marks 44 years of occupation, a crime against humanity by any standard.

by Stephen Lendman / My Catbird Seat

On March 7, Palestinian Prisoners Society head Qadura Fares presented a paper to the UN International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, addressing the plight of political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention facilities, saying:
Palestine “has been under criminal occupation for 44 years. During that time, (Israel) committed the worst crimes against humanity, violating every international instrument. The occupier has killed tens of thousands of our struggling people, most of them defenseless civilians. There have been over 800,000 instances of imprisonment. Tens of thousands of people have been injured,” 30% left with permanent disabilities.
Moreover, thousands of homes, crops, and other property have been destroyed. “All this has been done in full view of the world.” Even Israeli rabbis “legitimized the slaughter of Palestinian babies (claiming they’ll) grow up to become enemies.”
Citing many other lawless examples, Fares asked for UN help to end “the occupation and (let Palestinians) live in freedom in an independent sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital.”

June 6 marks 44 years of occupation, a crime against humanity by any standard. Yet world leaders ignore it, denying Palestinians equity, justice, and freedom, putting a lie to those endorsing democracy. Israel long ago spurned it, especially for anyone not Jewish.
In 1948, in fact, its war without mercy depopulated villages and cities, massacred innocent victims, committed rapes and other atrocities, destroyed Palestinian homes and other property, and prevented them from returning after seizing 78% of historic Palestine.
During its Six-Day War, it took the rest, claiming self-defense against neighbors it attacked preemptively during its long-planned aggression it knew it could win and did easily.

What Bibi Didn’t Say in His Congress Speech

Netanyahu speech to the American Congress

“I intend to speak the unvarnished truth because now more than ever what we need is
peace” Netanyahu said before he twisted the truth in his speech to the American Congress.
“Demographic changes … this is may be the most concrete point Netanyahu has come to mention in his whole speech and could very well be the name of the Israeli next game of forestalling any possible agreements in the Mideast talks”

by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Netanyahu speech to the American Congress

Something about Netanyahu’s eloquent speech lately to a joint meeting of Congress, which has been interrupted by 29 standing ovations, sounded familiar to me. I don’t mean Netanyahu’s words but the response of his high caliber audience; it seems as if I have seen it before.

As an Egyptian who is not so keen on following much of the American congressional sessions, if any, still this extraordinary joint session of the American Congress with all that public display of candid acquiescence to everything Bibi said, or even thought, reminded me of the similarly eloquent speeches Mubarak used to deliver at the Egyptian parliament for well over 30 years of sordid dictatorship.
And also as an Egyptian I could attest to the fact that the televised sessions of the former president speeches to the Egyptian parliament members ranked high, not on the most viewed political videos but on the funniest ones.
For 30 long years Mubarak has been ranting about his relentless efforts to build a strong democracy where freedoms and the rule of law would be respected where in fact he was sincerely engaged in doing the exact opposite. But still his full house audience of apparently attentive parliamentarians kept on showing their frantic applause and repeated standing ovations to every one of his deceiving talks.
Of course Mubarak has been lying all along and he knew it and may be enjoyed it too, but what about those flocks of parliamentarians and politicians, how could we explain their attitude? Were they lied to, intimated or just hypnotized by the power of the presidential office?
The post- Mubarak probes proved beyond any reasonable doubt that 90% of those then incumbent high statesmen knew for a fact that Mubarak was the scum of the earth and they cheered for him only in gratitude for letting them keep their jobs and for the slim chance they would join in for a tiny slice of the ripped off cake. Oh yes, and the remaining 10% were just plain fools who just happened to hop in for the ride.

A Shameless Secretary General versus Freedom Flotilla 2

It is expected that at the end of June, Freedom Flotilla 2 will set sail for Gaza carrying various forms of humanitarian aid, including medical, educaional, and construction materials. This second flotilla will consist of 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara sailing from Istanbul, but also vessels departing from several European countries, and carrying as many as 1500 humanitarian activists as passengers. If these plans are carried out, as seems likely, it means that the second flotilla will be about double the size of the first that was so violently and unlawfully intercepted by Israeli commandos in international waters on May 31, 2010, resulting in nine deaths on the Turkish lead ship.

            Since that shocking incident of a year ago the Arab Spring is transforming the regional atmosphere, but it has not ended the blockade of Gaza, or the suffering inflicted on the Gazan population over the four-year period of coerced confinement. Such imprisonment of an occupied people has been punctuated by periodic violence, including the sustained all out Israeli attack for three weeks at the end of 2008 during which even women, children, and the disabled were not allowed to leave the deadly killing fields of Gaza. It is an extraordinary narrative of Israeli cruelty and deafening international silence, a silence broken only by the brave civil society initiatives in recent years that brought both invaluable symbolic relief in the form of empathy and human solidarity, as well as token amounts of substantive assistance in the form of much needed food and medicine. It is true that the new Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing a few days ago (but not fully or unconditionally), allowing several hundred Gazans to leave or return to Gaza on a daily basis. At best, this opening even if sustained provides only partial relief. Rafah is not currently equipped to handle goods, and is available only to people and so the blockade of imports and exports continues in force, and may even be intensified as Israel vents its anger over the Fatah/Hamas unity agreement.

            As the Greek coordinator of Freedom Flotilla 2, Vangelis Pisias, has expressed the motivation of this new effort to break the blockade: “We will not allow Israel to set up open prisons and concentration camps.”  Connecting  this Gazan ordeal to the wider regional struggles,” Pisias added, “Palestine is in our heart and could be the symbol of a new era in the region.” Such sentiments reinforce the renewal of Palestinian militancy as exhibited in the recent Nabka and Naksa demonstrations.

Solution should be imposed on Israe

A peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue, based on the UN resolutions, should be imposed on Israel, a European analyst said on Wednesday.
“A just and peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue, based on UN resolutions, should be imposed on Israel as Middle East peace negotiations failed and proved to be pointless,” said professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the Institute of EU Security Studies in a lecture organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.
Professor Vasconcelos stressed the existing consensus concerning Palestine in the European Union, developed since the Venice Declaration of 1980, is that its resolution lies essentially in the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
“Asking the United Nations Security Council to recognise a Palestinian state may not solve the problem, but it will pressure Israel amid floundering efforts to revive peace negotiations,” he said.
Professor Vasconcelos was speaking after Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, listed a set of conditions the Palestinians immediately called “a declaration of war”.
Netanyahu insisted on a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reiterated his rejection of the borders that existed before Israel began its occupation of the West Bank 44 years ago, and declared that Israel must maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Palestinians have repeatedly declared their desire to negotiate a two-state solution where Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, with borders based on the Jun. 4, 1967 lines with agreed and equivalent land swaps, and full sovereignty over the West Bank, of which the Jordan Valley is a large part.

When Tahrir Square comes to Israel

By Philip Stephens

Ingram Pinn illustration
The temptation is to shrug one’s shoulders. Efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict have hit another impasse. What’s new? We have been here for a generation. The world still turns. The Americans can try again after next year’s presidential election. What’s new is the Arab spring.
Anyone who saw Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the American Congress can be forgiven their fatalism. Israel’s prime minister will never negotiate seriously with the Palestinians. As a former Israeli diplomat said of Mr Netanyahu’s speech: “Everything is changing, but he is determined that everything remains the same.”
This time the world is unlikely to wait. Events are leaving Israel behind. The Arab uprisings are remaking the geopolitics of the Middle East. The Palestinians will seek international affirmation of their statehood when the United Nations General Assembly convenes in September.
Mr Netanyahu sees in this great upheaval another reason not to compromise. Israel’s friends have drawn the opposite conclusion. Barack Obama has made explicit the longstanding assumption that Israel’s 1967 borders, albeit with some exchanges of land, are the starting point for an agreement.
European governments – led by Britain and France – want the US president to go further by spelling out the other essential parameters for two states. There is nothing new in the substance here. There is a belief that the international community should now give its formal imprimatur to the basic structure of an accord.
As things stand, most European governments are inclined to back the Palestinians at the General Assembly. They don’t have much of a choice if a unified Palestinian government eschews violence. Yet there is also an evident risk that a UN vote could be a prelude for a third intifada.
Not so long ago Israel was relatively secure in its own region. Turkey and Egypt were allies of a sort – pillars of stability in any event in a region menaced by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Now Mr Netanyahu has broken with Ankara and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak has gone. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad – an enemy, but at least a predictable one – may be next.
The democratic wave is lapping against Israel’s borders. The old order had it that Arab tyrants could be beaten on the battlefield, or squared, or sometimes both. It’s harder to suppress a democratic awakening. The nightmare for Mr Netanyahu is a peaceful uprising joined, as it was briefly last month, by protesters from Syria and Jordan. How will Israel respond if Palestinians borrow the tactics of Tahrir Square? The days are gone when tear gas was an answer.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

AIPAC, a Not-So-Benign Night Flower

By Janet McMahon

One could be forgiven for thinking that the last three letters of AIPAC stand for “political action committee.” But since the American Israel Public Affairs Committee does not itself make campaign contributions to political candidates, technically it is not a PAC.  Curiously, however, the 30-odd “unaffiliated” pro-Israel PACs, most with deceptively innocuous names, all seem to give to the same candidates—almost as if there were a guiding intelligence behind their contributions. In the eyes of the Federal Election Commission, AIPAC is a “membership organization” rather than a political committee. This means that, unlike actual PACs, AIPAC is not required to file public reports on its income and expenditures.
Not for nothing, however, did Fortune magazine once name it the second most powerful lobby in Washington. So it’s easy to understand why, like a night flower that blooms in the dark and dies with the light of day, this particular organization which advances the interests of a foreign government has fought long and hard to ensure that its funding sources and expenditures are not exposed to public scrutiny.

Despite its best efforts, however, unwanted light does occasionally shine on AIPAC’s activities. Most dramatically, perhaps, two of its top operatives, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, were indicted on espionage charges in 2005. Four years later federal prosecutors dropped the charges when it became clear that Judge T.S. Ellis’ numerous rulings in favor of the defendants would require the release of sensitive government documents. Rosen then sued his former employer for defamation, claiming that AIPAC routinely dealt in classified information and that he was in no way a rogue employee, as AIPAC had claimed.

A related case of unwanted publicity involved former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who was overheard on a 2006 NSA wiretap talking to someone described by CQ’s Jeff Stein as a “suspected Israeli agent”—thought to be Haim Saban, a major AIPAC contributor. “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,” Saban described himself to The New York Times. During the course of their conversation Harman agreed to lobby the Justice Department to reduce the charges against Rosen and Weissman; in exchange, Saban would pressure then-House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee following the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were expected to, and did, win. (Harman, who ultimately was not appointed chair, recently left Capitol Hill to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a few blocks away, the Brookings Institution houses the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Israel admits it covertly canceled residency status of 140,000 Palestinians

Document obtained by Haaretz reveals that between 1967 and 1994 many Palestinians traveling abroad were stripped of residency status, allegedly without warning. 

By Akiva Eldar

Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994, the legal advisor for the Judea and Samaria Justice Ministry's office admits, in a new document obtained by Haaretz. The document was written after the Center for the Defense of the Individual filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law.
The document states that the procedure was used on Palestinian residents of the West Bank who traveled abroad between 1967 and 1994. From the occupation of the West Bank until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians who wished to travel abroad via Jordan were ordered to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.
They exchanged their ID cards for a card allowing them to cross. The card was valid for three years and could be renewed three times, each time adding another year.
If a Palestinian did not return within six months of the card's expiration, thier documents would be sent to the regional census supervisor. Residents who failed to return on time were registered as NLRs - no longer residents. The document makes no mention of any warning or information that the Palestinians received about the process.
Palestinians could still return in the first six months after their cards expired, or appeal to an exemptions committee.
The Center for the Defense of the Individual said yesterday it knew that a clear procedure was in place, but the details and the number of Palestinians denied their right to return remained classified. A former head of the Civil Administration in the 1990s was surprised to hear of the procedure when contacted by Haaretz.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Danny Rothschild, who served as coordinator of government activities in the territories from 1991 to 1995, said he was completely unaware of the procedure, even though it was in use during his term. "If even I wasn't told of the procedure, one may infer that neither were residents of the occupied territories," he said.
The Central Bureau of Statistics says the West Bank's Palestinian population amounted to 1.05 million in 1994, which means the population would have been greater by about 14 percent if it weren't for the procedure.
By contrast, Palestinians who immigrated from the West Bank after the Palestinian Authority was set up retained residency rights even if they did not return for years.
Today, a similar procedure is still in place for residents of East Jerusalem who hold Israeli ID cards; they lose their right to return if they have been abroad for seven years.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Egypt Activists Plan 15 May March To Gaza

Buses will depart from Cairo’s Tahrir Square at noon on 14 May and then meet up with more protesters in Suez.

– Ali Abdel Mohsen

In the wake of youth-led uprisings across the Arab world, several international activist groups are calling for a “march of millions” into Gaza. The march is scheduled for 15 May, the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel – commonly referred to in Arabic as the Nakba, or catastrophe.
The march seems to have resulted from simultaneous calls for a large initiative to mark the anniversary made by several unrelated international activist groups, including some inside the Palestinian territories. Since its announcement, the initiative has been described by various online groups as “The 2011 March of Return,” “The Palestinian Refugees’ Revolution,” and, in some cases, “The Third Palestinian Intifada.”
The number of similar groups, both online and on the ground, multiplied shortly after Facebook, at the request of the Israeli government, shut down one of the earliest Palestinian-based pages calling for the march.
In Egypt, the movement is being organized by a coalition of groups, including the seasoned pro-democracy movement Kefaya, a new pro-Palestinian group called Kollana Makawma (or We are All the Resistance) and two contingents of hardcore football enthusiasts, or Ultras.
Buses will depart from Cairo’s Tahrir Square at noon on 14 May and then meet up with more protesters in Suez. Planners say they hope to reach Gaza by the evening, march on the border crossing, and participate in the marches and protests inside the Palestinian territory scheduled for the following morning.
Though many of the logistics of the trip remain unclear, activists say they are not concerned about the feasibility.
Besides the march, protests are also scheduled to be held outside the Israeli embassy.
Egyptian activists are using the opportunity to push for local demands regarding Israel as well. “Through this initiative, we are calling for the cessation of gas exports to Israel and the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Egyptian jails,” explains Salma Shukrallah, an Egyptian and founding member of the Kollana Makawma movement, which is helping spearhead the local campaign.
Other demands agreed upon by the coalition of participating Egyptian groups include the permanent reopening of the Rafah border, the normalization of Egypt-Gaza trade relations, and the cancellation of the QIZ (Qualifying Industrial Zones) agreement between Egypt and Israel.

First and foremost among their demands, and one shared by all international groups participating in the march, is the “assertion of the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their homeland,” as stated on the press statement by the Egyptian coalition.

“The former [Egyptian] regime was largely responsible for driving and enforcing the sanctions on Gaza, even when international agreements called on Egypt to keep the Rafah border open,” said Halim Heneish, a founding member of the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom.

The rights of Israel

Israel's "lawfare" against the Palestinian people is rooted in a ficticious narrative of having a "right" to exist.

Israel's entire basis for beginning negotiations lies in the false premise that it has a "right" to exist

 The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, now entering their twentieth year had been hailed from the start as historic, having inaugurated a "peace process" that would resolve what is commonly referred to as the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict". For the Palestinians and the international community, represented by the United Nations and the myriad resolutions its Security Council and General Assembly issued since 1948, what was to be negotiated were the colonisation of land, the occupation of territory and population, and the laws that stipulate ethnic and religious discrimination in Israel, which, among other things, bar Palestinian refugees from returning to their land and confiscate their property. In their struggle against these Israeli practises, Palestinian leaders, whether in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or the diaspora, have always invoked these rights based on international law and UN resolutions, which Israel has consistently refused to implement or abide by since 1948. Thus for the Palestinians, armed by the UN and international law, the negotiations were precisely aimed to end colonisation, occupation, and discrimination.
On the other hand, one of the strongest and persistent arguments that the Zionist movement and Israel have deployed since 1948 in defence of the establishment of Israel and its subsequent policies is the invocation of the rights of Israel, which are not based on international law or UN resolutions. This is a crucial distinction to be made between the Palestinian and Israeli claims to possession of "rights." While the Palestinians invoke rights that are internationally recognised, Israel invokes rights that are solely recognised at the national level by the Israeli state itself. For Zionism, this was a novel mode of argumentation as, in deploying it, Israel invokes not only juridical principles but also moral ones.
In this realm, Israel has argued over the years that Jews have a right to establish a state in Palestine, that they have a right to establish a "Jewish" state in Palestine, that this state has a "right to exist," and that it has a "right to defend itself", which includes its subsidiary right to be the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons, that it has the "right" to inherit all the biblical land that the Jewish God promised it, and a "right" to enact laws that are racially and religiously discriminatory in order to preserve the Jewish character of the state, otherwise articulated in the more recent formula of "a Jewish and democratic state". Israel has also insisted that its enemies, including the Palestinian people, whom it dispossesses, colonises, occupies, and discriminates against, must recognise all these rights, foremost among them its "right to exist as a Jewish state", as a condition for and a precursor to peace.

Rights are non-negotiable
Israel began to invoke this right with vehemence in the last decade after the Palestine Liberation Organisation had satisfied its earlier demand in the 1970s and 80s that the Palestinians recognise its "right to exist". In international law, countries are recognised as existing de facto and de jure, but there is no notion that any country has a "right to exist", let alone that other countries should recognise such a right. Nonetheless, the modification by Israel of its claim that others had to recognise its "right to exist" to their having to recognise "its right to exist as Jewish state" is pushed most forcefully at present, as it goes to the heart of the matter of what the Zionist project has been all about since its inception, and addresses itself to the extant discrepancy between Israel's own understanding of its rights to realise these Zionist aims and the international community's differing understanding of them. This is a crucial matter, as all these rights that Israel claims to possess, but which are not recognised internationally, translate into its rights to colonise Palestinian land, to occupy it, and to discriminate against the non-Jewish Palestinian people.
Israel insists that these rights are not negotiable and that what it is negotiating about is something entirely different, namely that its enemies must accept all its claimed rights unequivocally as a basis to establish peace in the region and end the state of war. However, the rights that Israel claims for itself are central to what the Palestinians and the international community argue is under negotiation namely, colonisation, occupation, and racial and religious discrimination. But these three practises, as Israel has made amply clear, are protected as self-arrogated rights and are not up for negotiations. Indeed they are central to the realisation of Israel's very definition. To negotiate over them would mean to nullify the notion of a "Jewish State". As this is the case, then what does Israel think the negotiations between it and the Palestinians have been all about since the Madrid peace conference inaugurated them in 1991? Let me revisit the history of these claims in order to understand Israel's point of view and make clear what the basis of the negotiations are.

Israel's rights and the historical record
The Zionist movement has often argued that establishing a Jewish State for world Jewry was a moral and historical necessity that must be protected and enshrined in law, something it tirelessly pursued over the decades. However, this did not mean that its foundational texts proceeded from this juridical or moral principle. Indeed in his two foundational texts, The State of the Jews and Old-New Land, Theodor Herzl, the "father" of Zionism, never invoked the notion of Jewish "rights" to argue for a state of and for the Jews, whether in Palestine or Argentina, the other location he proposed. Herzl did speak of a "solution" to the Jewish Question but not of a "right". And neither did the first Zionist Congress Herzl convened in 1897 and the Basel Program it issued, which did not cite such a "right". This also applies to the three international foundational texts that Zionism worked hard to bring about. The first such text, the Balfour Declaration, issued on 2 November 1917 by the British government, rather than use the language of rights used the language of affect, promising that the British government "views with favour" the establishment in Palestine of a "Jewish national home", and that its declaration was a "declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations". This was followed by the Mandate for Palestine, issued in 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations, which based itself on the Balfour Declaration, and also did not recognise any Jewish rights to a state or even to Palestine. What it did recognise was "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" as "the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country", again asserting like the Balfour Declaration before it, that this should not prejudice the "rights" of non-Jews. The third and more major text, the November 1947 Partition Plan resolution issued by the UN General Assembly proceeded from a moral preamble, namely, that the General Assembly considered "that the present situation in Palestine is one which is likely to impair the general welfare and friendly relations among nations" and hence the need to provide a "solution" to the "problem of Palestine".

Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem continues to be weakened by Israeli settlements: UN

Israeli measures and policies are prioritizing the settler population of East Jerusalem at the expense of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, said a new UN report released Monday.

"The Palestinian presence is being undermined by measures in East Jerusalem," Raymond Dolphin, who is the humanitarian affairs officer of OCHA, said here at a press conference.

The report, entitled "East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns, " documents the humanitarian impact of Israeli policies on the estimated 270,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, which risk undermining the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem in the long term.

According to the report, East Jerusalem, which traditionally was a hub of Palestinian healthcare, education, social, economic and religious activity, has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Dolphin said that current problems include residency rights in East Jerusalem since Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not regarded as citizens. "Thousands had their residency revoked since 1967," he said, adding that according to sources up to 1,000 children are not registered in East Jerusalem.

Some 35 percent of the land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for the construction and expansion of settlements and only 13 percent of the land in East Jerusalem is planned for Palestinians, according to the report. "It leaves them no option but to build illegal but if they build illegal they risk having their house demolished," Dolphin said.

More than 2,000 homes have been demolished since 1967, according to Dolphin.

"Contrast that with the thousands of housing for settlers that have been constructed in East Jerusalem," Dolphin said.

Maxwell Gaylard, who is the UN humanitarian and resident coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said that " despite these difficulties, East Jerusalem continues to be the center of life for Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian territory."

"Access by Palestinians to the city from throughout the Palestinian territory is essential to maintain Palestinian life in East Jerusalem," Gaylard said.

The Israeli government, under international law, is responsible for meeting the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the report noted.

The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks halted in September 2010, due to a dispute over Jewish settlement building. The Palestinians maintained they cannot negotiate with Israel while the construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, goes on.

Source: Xinhua

Third Intifada Underway

Rallies to Kick Israel’s Ambassador out of Egypt
“The Arab world is experiencing an earthquake,” commented Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minster, on the power of popular uprisings sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.
Passing that quick judgment, Netanyahu overlooked the fact that that mighty earthquake was actually taking place next door and that Israel was bound to feel the aftershocks sooner or later.
It is very true that the whole Arab spring with revolutions erupting almost all over the Arab world has nothing to do with Israel as far as motivation is concerned, but that doesn’t mean that Israel is immune from its ripple effect.
Arabs set out on these unprecedented rallies to protest decades of domestic political and economic injustices, but there are more grievances that Arabs share than just lost democracy and freedom of expression, there are more things lost from the Arabs worthy of their solidarity and collective struggle, namely the land of Palestine.
If the Arab people decided to address 60 years of unmet socio-political demands then the Palestinian issue should undoubtedly come on top of that list.
Intifada is the Arabic synonym for an uprising, and whenever intifada is mentioned the image of Palestinians’ struggle and legitimate call for an end to the Israeli occupation and the return to their homeland is instantly summoned up in our mind.
Intifadas come in times of despair, in times when deception and corruption prevail; people go out to the streets to cry out their frustrations as well as their aspirations. They long for a better tomorrow and they try to find light at the end of the tunnel.
Palestinians went on two previous popular intifadas in 1987 and 2000 that were provoked by Israel’s persistent denial to their legitimate demands and by the Zionist evasive policies that somehow manipulated all the fragile agreements reached throughout the more fragile so called peace process.
From the Camp David and Madrid accords, reaching to the Oslo accords, and god knows how many other undeclared accords, Israel has been awarded with the biggest and most delicious chunk of the cake, and Palestinians have been left trying to squeeze themselves into the remaining 20 % of their homeland, down from the 60% they had back in 1948.
After 62 years of struggle and international political deception the Palestinians have winded up living like prisoners in ghetto-like slums besieged by a ruthless blockade on Gaza and by a historically outdated wall barrier encircling the few Palestinian villages left in the west bank.
This is the deplorable status que of the Palestinians; this is the sad story of a people living in exile in their homeland.
If the Arabs in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria have made it very obvious they can’t tolerate to be oppressed or marginalized any more what does that say of their Palestinian brethren who are being systematically driven out of their land in the most abhorrent ethnic cleansing scheme in modern times.

From Tahrir Square to Palestine

Palestinians have not been excluded from the Arab awakening that was dawning on the region; they went out in huge rallies to call for unity of the Palestinian leadership and denounce the divisions that crippled their political capability to manage the Palestinian file competently.
Last March a group of Arab and Palestinian cyber activists created a facebook page that actually called for a third Palestinian intifada on May 15th.
The facebook page has gone viral in a couple of weeks as it attracted thousands of Arabs to the call, and the more visitors clicked into the site confirming their support to the intifada, the more Israel grew restless and nervous about it.
With the start of April, an Israeli cabinet minister, aggressive Zionist lobbying in the United States and the anti-defamation league managed to muscle mark zuckerberg, facebook co-founder, and forced him to pull this notoriously growing third intifada page completely out of the famous social network.
Egyptian protester with a sign that reads in Arabic " leave us Zionists"

Realizing the incredible role the web social media have played out in communicating and mobilizing people in the current Arabic uprisings, Israel, and after finishing off the third intifada page, created its new facebook page in Arabic language. Through this page Israel tried to wash away any memorable trace of the intifada call and set out to promote the Zionist agenda and its own definition of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
After a whole month of aggressive Israeli counter-attack on the third intifada call on the web, Israel was taken by surprise by the announcement of a reconciliation deal in Cairo between Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions and their agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government.
To Israel this has not been only a surprise but also a bad omen for this national unity is what the Palestinian protesters called for in their rallies that coincided with the start of the Arab spring. It was like a prophecy coming true.

Israel's blockade of Gaza is cracking

Sealing coastal territory undermines past diplomacy - and siege is likely to be broken by post-revolution Egypt.

Egypt has announced that it will open its border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, thereby reversing Egypt's collusion with Israel's blockade regime. The interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has described support for the blockade by the previous Egyptian regime as "disgraceful". While Israeli officials have responded to this announcement with alarm, they have limited capacity to undermine the new Egyptian government's prerogative.
Since the capture of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006, the Rafah crossing has been closed to Palestinians in Gaza, except for "extraordinary humanitarian cases". In June 2007, after Hamas' ousting of Fatah, Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza and sealed its five border crossings with the territory. Egypt's closure of Rafah made the siege comprehensive, and effectively cut off the 360sq mile Strip from the rest of the world.
The devastating impact of the blockade on Gaza's 1.5million population, where food aid dependency has risen to 80 per cent,  has been defined as a humanitarian crisis by a broad range of international human rights and humanitarian aid organisations - including Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organisation.
Under the presidency of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt only opened the Rafah border in response to exceptional crises, including during Israel's Winter 2008/2009 offensive against Gaza and in the aftermath of Israel's fatal raid on the humanitarian flotilla in June 2010. Rafah's closure demonstrated Mubarak's shared interest with Israel in undermining Hamas' leadership.
Egypt's post-revolution government is eager to reverse this policy - as evidenced by its successful brokering of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and, shortly thereafter, its announcement that it will end its closure of Rafah. Egypt's decision comports with enduring border-crossing agreements that have been suspended since 2007.

Egypt's decision is a resumption of the status quo ante
According to the Agreement on Movement and Access(AMA), brokered by the US and the European Union to facilitate the transfer of authority for crossings from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority following Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Egypt is authorised to control the Rafah crossing on its side of the border, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Following internecine fighting in 2007, in which Hamas forces were routed from the West Bank but took control of the Gaza Strip, the border crossing agreement, along with Egyptian and EU participation was suspended -but not terminated.

Israel's new laws promote repression

As Arabs across the region struggle for freedom and democracy, Israeli law seems to be headed in the opposite direction.

By :

Bad laws," Edmund Burke once said, "are the worst sort of tyranny."
The millions of people who have been protesting - from Tunis, Egypt and Libya, to Bahrain, Yemen and Syria - appear to have recognised this truism and are demanding the end of emergency law and the drafting of new constitutions that will guarantee the separation of powers, free, fair and regular elections, and basic political, social and economic rights for all citizens.

To put it succinctly, they are fighting to end tyranny.

Within this dramatic context it is also fruitful to look at Israel, which is considered by many as the only democracy in the Middle East and which has, in many ways, been an outlier in the region. One might ask whether Israel or not stands as a beacon of light for those fighting tyranny.

On the one hand, the book of laws under which Israel's citizenry live is - with the exception of a handful of significant laws that privilege Jews over non-Jews - currently very similar to those used in most liberal democracies, where the executive, legislative and judicial powers are separated, there are free, fair and regular elections, and the citizens enjoy basic rights - including freedom of expression and association.

Israel's double standard
However, on the other hand, the Israeli military law used to manage the Palestinians are similar to those deployed in most Arab countries, where there is no real separation of powers and people are in many respects without rights. Even though there has been a Palestinian Authority since the mid-1990s, there is no doubt that sovereignty still lies in Israeli hands.
One accordingly notices that in this so-called free and democratic country, there are in fact two books of laws, one liberal for its own citizenry and the other for Palestinians under its occupation. Hence, Israel looks an awful lot like apartheid or colonialism.

But can Israel's democratic parts serve as a model of emulation for pro-democracy activists in the neighbouring Arab countries?

The answer is mixed - because as Arab citizens across the region struggle against tyranny, in Israel there appears to be an opposite trend, whereby large parts of the citizenry are not only acquiescent but have been supportive of Knesset members who are drafting new legislation to silence public criticism and to delegitimize political rivals, human rights organizations, and the Palestinian minority. The idea is to legally restrict individuals and groups that hold positions at odds with the government's right-wing agenda by presenting them as enemies of the State.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to Avoid Being an Apartheid State

By George S. Hishmeh

The Arab Spring, which has upturned the Arab world like a tsunami, had led many in Israel and their allies in the West, especially the United States, to mistakenly believe that it has muffled for good the Palestinian drive to regain their rights within their  Israeli-usurped homeland.

But as the uprisings continued undeterred in overwhelming some of the key autocratic Arab regimes since last January. in Tunisia and Egypt, for example, the focus of the western media virtually dropped any mention of the 63-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Some Palestinian seemed disheartened.
But an unexpected American poll, conducted in Egypt, turned the tables upside down.  A majority of Egyptians (54 percent), according to an American-led poll, conducted by the respected Pew Research Center and based on face-to-face interviews, wanted to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Only 36 percent voted to keep the agreement, which has been described as "a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region's stability" during the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, now in jail.
The finding, reported The New York Times, "squares with the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that Egyptians feel Israel has not lived up to its commitments in its treatment of the Palestinians.  Interestingly, the poll also found that 39 percent of Egyptians believe the U.S. response to the uprising in their country was negative, compared to only 22 percent who said it was positive.
The second punch that followed was the unexpected announcement in Cairo of reconciliation between the two feuding Palestinian factions, Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamist extremist group which controls the Gaza Strip. The significance of the much-awaited agreement, scheduled to be signed this week, was underlined by a statement from an aide of Abbas who said last month that he was prepared to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid if that was what it takes to forge a Palestinian unity deal.

Israel and, very likely, a number of western powers are not expected to praise this feud-ending agreement in the hope that it may pave the way for immediate resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stolen Children, Stolen Lives

Last week, I wrote about the process by which a Palestinian child becomes an enemy in the eyes of Israeli soldiers. I wrote it from the perspective of a close friend of mine who had recently completed a round of reserve duty in the village of Ni’ilin, where he routinely shot at children with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition. The post generated rich discussion which even my friend, neither a +972 reader nor a leftist, joined. This afternoon, I was sent the following short and powerful documentary investigating the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank

The details revealed by one former solider in the film were particularly unsettling. Listen to his sober description of how the children are detained and left in front of a military post for all in the base to ridicule and sometimes beat. One can understand the emotional stress generated by what he had seen. He describes having to set his emotion aside because the work of harassing children never ended. I can only assume that my friend had similar feelings during his service in Ni’ilin but chose to understand this in a paradigm where Palestinian children are enemies and devoid of childlike qualities. For him, Palestinians children are just Palestinians and Palestinians are simply enemies.
What good can come from this policy towards children? What do the officers and commanders, who order such actions, expect to achieve? Has racism against Palestinians penetrated so deep into Israeli society that we are no longer capable of seeing a child as a child?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Palestinians abandon Oslo

The Palestinian leadership realized the sham of the Oslo Accords, and is moving on

If any proof was necessary to understand Palestinians must leave the old paths and strike their own way, the response of Finance Minister Steinitz to the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah provided it. Steinitz announced (Hebrew) he is withholding transferring of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority – taxes which are collected by Israel for the Palestinians, which it is beholden to provide – as a protest. This isn’t the first time Israel uses this schtick, of stealing Palestinian funds and then holding to ransom; it managed to annoy even George W. Bush.
What does Steinitz say? He says Israel has a veto over Palestinian politics. He says Avigdor Liberman may serve as a foreign minister in Israel, and that Israel’s science minister may award prizes to leading Jewish Brotherhood leader Shmuel Eliahu – but that what is allowed for Israelis, is forbidden for Palestinians. Their government may contain only people acceptable to Israel, or, to use a less pleasant term, whose collaboration is certain, assuming enough pressure is applied.
And where do the leaders of Israel take this authority from? Ask them, and they’ll point to the Oslo Accords. Once you understand that, the Palestinian policy becomes clear: Ending the façade of the “peace process.” In the coming September, they’ll push the Oslo Accords six feet under, and gain recognition of their independence from a large majority of the world.
That this September will mark 18 years to the Oslo Accords is not accident. These documents, in which so much hope was vested, served, when all is said and done, as a regulation tool of the third phase of Israeli occupation, the one following the first Intifada. The accords said not a word about the evacuation of settlements – or, for that matter, about the creation of a Palestinian state. These matters were to be negotiated.
18 years later, the number of settlers in the West Bank more than doubled, and no one seriously considers their evacuation. The government is unwilling and the military is the settlers’ collaborator, providing automatic security services for each outpost. Yesterday, the government informed the Supreme Court (Hebrew) it will not demolish the house of the family of Eliraz Peretz, built on stolen private Palestinian land, because he was killed while fighting the Palestinians as a soldier, and it’s a well known legal precept that the blood of the bandit cleanses the theft retrospectively. While it was at it, the government further informed the courts it will also legalize outposts built on “state lands”, i.e. confiscated Palestinian lands. All of this, of course, happens because the Israeli government is so worried about the fate of the peace process.
The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is also derived, of course, from the earthquake shaking the Arab world. Neither leader wants to finish his days as a Mubarak. The Palestinian public wants unity, and it shall have it, or at least a façade thereof. This is not a good time to piss off your population. The agreement between the factions also speaks about elections, to be held within a year, which will legitimize the newly elected leadership.

Panic from the Houses of Congress and Aipac?

Netanyahu, the conferees were told, wants Congress to flex its muscle with the White House and deliver a strong message to President Obama that his political future is tied to Israel’s.

By Franklin Lamb

On April 13, 2011, more than a dozen Israel “First, last and always” US congressional leaders from both houses of Congress held an urgent conference call organized by the pro-Israel Lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac).  Their purpose was to discuss how best to promote Israel during next month’s US visit by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and more importantly how to confront the rapidly changing Middle East political landscape. One consensus was that no one saw it coming and that is was dangerous for Israel.
Among those participating were former Jewish Chairman of powerful committees including Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who headed the Banking Committee; Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ex-chairman of the Commerce and Energy committee; Howard Berman (D-Calif.) ex-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ex-chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee as well as Eric Cantor, House Majority leader, the highest rankling Jewish member of Congress in history.
What AIPAC operatives reportedly told the conferees was that Netanyahu is once again furious with President Obama and outraged by what he sees as a vacillating US Government attitude towards Israeli needs. They were told that the Israeli PM sees real political danger for Israel in the shifting US public opinion in favor of the young sophisticated attractive Arab and Muslims increasingly seen on satellite channels from the region who remind the American public of their own ideals.

Netanyahu, the conferees were told, wants Congress to flex its muscle with the White House and deliver a strong message to President Obama that his political future is tied to Israel’s. Hence the current “America needs Israel more than ever stupid!” campaign wafting from the Israel Lobby across the talk radio airwaves.
In addition, as more Israeli officials are indicted for various domestic crimes, and some harbor fears of arrest for international ones, 68% of the American Jewish community, according to one by poll commissioned last month by Forward, believe the US Israel Lobby is increasingly fossilized with the likes of ADL (Anti-Defamation League) director Abe Foxman’s vindictive infighting among several of the largest Jewish lobby organizations which continue to lose  memberships, especially among the young.

Congressman Eric Cantor lamented that “Israel is badly losing the US College campuses”, despite heavy financial investments the past few years to curb American students growing support for Gaza, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, all dreaded symbols of the growing opposition to the 19th Century Zionist colonial enterprise. Support for Palestine is skyrocketing he claimed. “Until Palestine is freed from Zionist occupation no Arab or Muslim is truly free of Western hegemony,” according to one assistant editor of Harvard University’s student newspaper, the Crimson.
Admitting that the Mossad did not foresee even the Tunisian or Egyptian uprisings some Aipac  staffers, of whom there are more than 100, admit to not knowing how to react to the topics they were presented with for discussion, some of which included:
  • The Egyptian public emphatic insistence that the 1978 Camp David Accords be scrapped and that the Rafah crossing be opened.  The latter has just been announced and the former is expected to be achieved before the end of the year.

  • The change of regimes and the dramatic rise in publicly expressed anti-Israel sentiment and insistence that Israel close its embassy and Egypt withdraw its recognition of the Zionist state.

  • The apparent rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas which has been increasingly demanded by the Palestinians under occupation and in the Diaspora.

  • The fact that the new regime in Cairo is seeking to upgrade its ties with Gaza’s Hamas rulers as well as Iran.

  • With respect to possible PA-Hamas rapprochement, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is trying to reassure Israel before Netanyahu’s visit by announcing this week that “The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace, but to play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
AIPAC, frequently knocks heads with the Israeli embassy in Washington for control of visiting Israeli PM’s and important governments schedules will control what Netanyahu says and does.  AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr recently told a group of visiting Jewish student activists from California that “sometimes there is confusion in this town over just where the Israeli Embassy is located but let me assure you it’s no more than 300 yards from the Capitol Dome on North Capitol Street, NW.”
AIPAC, not the Israeli Embassy will write the final draft of Netanyahu’s speeches including the themes he will emphasize.  According to a Congressional  source with AIPAC connections, Netanyahu’s visit will focus on the following:
  • Bashing Iran to please the White House. However, this mantra will have to compete with   the democratic revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world and which are terrifying not just Netanyahu, but also AIPAC and their hirelings in congress.
  • Warning against the dangers to “the peace process” of any PA-Hamas unity government.
  • Warnings about the threats to Israel from Egypt and popular calls for scrapping of the  1978 Camp David Accords, ending the Egyptian subsidy and supply of 40% of Israel’s natural gas, calls for closing the Israeli Embassy, the dangers of permanently opening the Rafah border crossing “that will allow Hamas to in the words of, an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity to the Washington Post that Gaza’s Hamas rulers had already built up a “dangerous military machine” in northern Sinai which could be further strengthened by opening the border.
  • The tried and tested bromide that “Israel has no peace partner to negotiate with will be used but this too has lost its bite given that the Palestine Papers has shown that the PA for five years habitually caved into Israel demands and are widely viewed as collaborators with Israel in preserving the status quo– so what more could be expected from them? The truth is that Mahmoud Abbas and Salem Fayyad are Netanyahu, Leiberman’s and Barak’s favorite “peace partners.”
  • Netanyahu will hint at and AIPAC will drill in the idea that the Obama administration has been too hard on Israel.
While Netanyahu announced this week that “I will have the opportunity to air the main parts of Israel’s diplomatic and defense policies during my visit in the United States”,informed sources report that his main goal and timing of his visit is to undermind a rumored initiative that President Obama’s team has been working on.

Netanyahu, according to AIPAC, also plans to attack the UN’s plan to admit Palestine  and its offices are preparing a media blitz in an attempt to undermine the U.N. recognition of  Palestine  by arguing that such a General Assembly action would not in reality mean Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem  because of the fact that Israel currently controls those territories. Aipac is arguing that such United Nations recognition of Palestine would only reiterate the principle, previously articulated by the U.N which denies the legitimacy of Israel’s claim to territories acquired by force in the war of June 1967.
In reality, and as AIPAC well knows, UN recognition of Palestine would have a devastating effect on Israel’s legitimacy and would fuel an international campaign to force every colonist out of the West Bank. Given the feelings of virtually all people in the Middle East and North Africa toward Israel this could dramatically undermine the apartheid state. Aipac and Israel’s agents in Congress also ignore the fact that the U.N. is the only the international body that admitted Israel as a member state in May 1949, although the resolution noted a connection between Israel’s recognition and the implementation of resolution 181 of November 1947, which called for partition of what had been British Mandate Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.

The reason that intense angst and even fear stalks the Houses of Congress and Aipac is that Netanyahu will remind his hosts in the coming days that Israel has always called “home” is that some US officials are starting to express treasonous thoughts long kept to themselves.
One seemingly shocking statement was made to a visiting Oregon delegation during a recent visit to Congressional offices by a Member of Congress never known for being publicly critical of Israel.  As reported via email:  “He said recent events suggest that while ( the revolts spreading across the Middle East) are not the immediate  end of the State of Israel, he believes they are harbingers and signal the  ‘beginning of the end of the State of Israel as we have known it. And that will be good for America and humanity.”
“What seems to  have particularly upset him was his own  mentioning to the group was a recent report about a conference of Rabbis in Israel who are demanding the expulsion of non-Jews, especially Palestinians, from occupied Palestine in order to maintain the “ethnical and religious purity of the peoples of Israel.