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.