Archive for January, 2011
The death of Jawaher Abu-Rahma is a direct result of the occupation’s and the inhumane violence and brutality
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative and the President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society stated that the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma is a direct result of occupation and the means of violence and brutality that is inflicted against the demonstrators participating in peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall and the settlements. It was stated that she suffered from severe respiratory distress which lead to cardiac arrest. The medical teams tirelessly resuscitated her three times, however failed as a result of the severe gas inhalation. Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah who was also killed during a peaceful protest in Bil’in on April 17th, 2010.
Dr. Barghouthi also said that the martyrdom of Jawaher Abu Rahma is not the first case, and that it is extremely dangerous since the gas that is used is highly concentrated and dispersed massively in high proportions in relatively small areas. This ultimately has multiplying effects, which resembles gas to be released in closed rooms which inevitably leads to suffocation, injury, disorders and sometimes death.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi saluted the heroic struggle of Bil’in that is struggling against the apartheid regime. He also commended the Popular Resistance Movement in its struggle against the wall and the settlements. Dr. Barghouthi said, “This Israeli violence will never destroy the will of our people, their valiant resistance, and our determination to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
He also said that the aggression and brutality of the occupation calls for immediate international intervention and pressure in order to impose sanctions and boycott on Israel due to their aggressive actions and violence against Palestinian civilians.
A key resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict is now before the UN Security Council. Largely echoing stated US policy, the resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the creation of a Palestinian state, and demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But even though the resolution echoes US policy, President Obama is under pressure to veto the UN resolution from forces in Washington who want to protect the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Can President Obama say no to this pressure? Yes, he can!
Prominent former US government officials, including Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Ambassador James Dobbins, have written to President Obama, urging him to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations to vote yes on this initiative, noting that it echoes US policy.
It’s not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto U.N. resolutions critical of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, last year, the U.S. promised the Palestinians to “consider allowing UN Security Council condemnation of any significant new Israeli settlement activity,” the Guardian reported.
Some DC conventional wisdom suggests that there is no way politically that President Obama can fail to comply with any demand from the “Israel lobby” to veto the UN resolution.
But there are reasons in this case to doubt whether this conventional wisdom must necessarily be right.
The “Israel lobby” isn’t as internally unified on the question of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank as it is on say, U.S. aid to Israel. A lot of folks who “support Israel” do not support the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, because it is obvious that there is a fundamental contradiction between Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There is a choice to be made: settlement expansion or peace. We cannot have both.
There would be a real cost to a U.S. veto that would be higher today than in the past. There isn’t any credible excuse for a U.S. veto in the Security Council of the U.S.’ own position that can be sold internationally, and particularly in the Middle East, at a time when the U.S. is facing unprecedented challenges on a number of fronts. The arguments that have been used so far in Washington to try to justify a U.S. veto won’t wash internationally. The UN Security Council isn’t an “anti-Israel” venue – a venue where the U.S. has a veto won’t ever be “anti-Israel” in any meaningful sense of the term. Indeed, the key players in the Security Council look a lot like the key players in the “Quartet” that is supposedly overseeing the “peace process” – the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the U.N. And the purpose of the resolution isn’t to dodge negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians; it explicitly embraces them. The purpose is to try to make those negotiations meaningful by effectively imposing a parameter on them that all sides have already agreed to, but that the U.S. has failed to effectively enforce: a freeze on Israeli settlement expansion.
As Time Magazine noted last week, after Tunisia, Arab governments feel under greater pressure from “the Arab street.” This is not a time when the U.S. can rely on Arab governments to protect the U.S. government from contradictions in the U.S. position.
The leak of documents yesterday by Al Jazeera and the Guardian on the U.S.-led “peace process” expose that “process” as currently being a charade which is not leading towards a resolution of the conflict (in case there was anyone who still had any doubts about that.)
Here’s Tzipi Livni, then Israel’s foreign minister, in 2007:
At a west Jerusalem meeting in November 2007, [Livni] told [Ahmed Qureia, then senior Palestinian negotiator] that she believed Palestinians saw settlement building as meaning “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible”; that “the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”.At the end of 2007, though, “it is still the policy of some of the parties but not the government”.
Of course, the parties to which Livni then referred now are the Israeli government. And for the forseeable future, in the absence of effective outside pressure, “take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state” will continue to be the policy of the Israeli government.
All this is going to put more pressure on the pro-U.S. wing of the Palestinian leadership and the pro-U.S. Arab governments to demonstrate that they have something else going on besides the failed U.S.-led “peace process.” If the door to the UN Security Council is closed to them, that energy is going to go somewhere. It’s likely that alternative venues and channels for that energy are going to be much more disliked by the U.S. than the UN Security Council, where the U.S. holds a veto.
If the U.S. wants to keep governments in the region onside against Iran’s nuclear program, a U.S. veto in the Security Council of the U.S.’ own position on Israeli settlements is not going to help with that. On the contrary: a U.S. veto of its own position on Israeli settlement expansion is going to force U.S. allies in the region to put more distance between themselves and the U.S.
This is not a time when the U.S. can easily afford to take more hits politically in the region. The current U.S. gambit in Lebanon does not seem to be going well at the moment. It may well turn out that, as in the recent past, current efforts by the U.S. to reduce the influence of Hizbullah over the government in Lebanon will backfire by producing a government in Lebanon in which Hizbullah has even more influence than before. If this happens, it will make governments in the region even warier of being perceived as close to the U.S.
If the U.S. vetoes the U.N. resolution, it will signal to the region that the U.S. is incapable of meaningfully supporting international efforts for a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. A U.S. veto will embolden the most reactionary forces in Israel, which have been escalating their efforts to silence Israeli dissent against the occupation.
But if the U.S. supports the resolution, it will signal to the region that the U.S. is no longer determined to stand in the way of international efforts to promote a just resolution.
We have been in a situation like this before. In 2008, the right wing of the “Israel lobby” pushed the U.S. House to pass a resolution that essentially called for a U.S. naval blockade of Iran, which of course would be an act of war, although the resolution did not use those exact words. The DC conventional wisdom said that resolution would go through the House “like a hot knife through butter.” But it did not turn out to be so. When peace groups got activated, and it became an issue outside of the usual circles, many House Democrats took a second look, and decided that a resolution pushing the U.S. towards war with Iran was not just another resolution written by the “Israel lobby” for Congress to sign.
This could be like that. Because the draft UN Security Council resolution echoes stated U.S. policy, because the U.S.-led “peace process” is in a state of total collapse, because U.S. leadership in the region is facing unprecedented challenge, it’s not a no-brainer politically for the U.S. to veto. The international political price of a veto will be high, and the domestic political price for failing to veto is likely to be minimal – if this becomes an issue on which a broader public gets engaged.
This is a historic opportunity for President Obama to show leadership and back up the words of his speech in Cairo with deeds. Urge President Obama to support the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On 25 February 2011 activists and organizations from around the world will join together in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Hebron/ al Khaleel, through local protests that demand for the opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians and an End to the Occupation!
Hebron is a fascinating microcosm of the Israel/Palestine conflict. One obvious example is the case of Shuhada Street.
The city of Hebron is divided into two primary zones: H1 and H2. H1 is primarily under the administration of the Palestinian Authority, though the Israeli army reserves the right to enter at any time without opposition. H2 is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military. H2 is also where a number of Israeli settlements are located. You can see in the map below that the Old City of Hebron, almost entirely Palestinian, is located within H2. I am also currently staying in the Old City. Since it is part of H2, you will come across roaming Israeli army patrols and Israeli checkpoints and watch/sniper towers while walking through the streets.
In the map above, to the left and slightly below the Old City, you will see Al-Shuhada Street. Al-Shuhada Street is strictly off-limits to local Palestinians. For example, today, I was planning on walking down Shuhada Street but my fellow Palestinian photographer was unable to accompany me and went back to our guest house.
Below you will see a photo of Shuhada Street taken from the roof of the CPT house in the Old City.
To give you an example of how strict the travel restrictions for Palestinians using Shuhada Street are, let me give you an example. Let’s say that I am standing with my Palestinian friend at the location above. If we both want to visit the Muslim cemetery, I, being an American (or more importantly, not a Palestinian), can just cross the street. He, on the other hand, has a much longer trip ahead of him. If wants to walk, he will have to walk about 1.5km and enter the cemetery from H1. If he wants to drive to the cemetery, the trip is approximately 12km.
Let me illustrate this even further. Along Shuhada Street, there are many Palestinian homes. Their front doors are located on Shuhada Street. Unfortunately, since Palestinians cannot use this road, they cannot use the front doors of their home. Instead they have to enter from behind in the Old City. The stairs on the roof below are used by a Palestinian family to enter their second or third floor home because they are not allowed to use the front door.
I ALWAYS thought this a specifically Israeli trait: whenever a scandal of national proportions breaks out, we ignore the crucial issues and focus our attention on some secondary detail. This spares us having to face the real problems and making painful decisions.
There are examples galore. The classic one centered on the question: “Who Gave the Order?” When it became known that in 1954 an Israeli spy ring had been ordered to plant bombs in US and British institutions in Egypt, in order to sabotage the effort to improve relations between the West and Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, a huge crisis rocked Israel. Almost nobody asked whether the idea itself had been wise or stupid. Almost nobody asked whether it was really in the best interest of Israel to challenge the new and vigorous Egyptian leader, who was fast becoming the idol of the entire Arab world (and who had already secretly indicated that he could possibly make peace with Israel).
No, the question was solely: Who had given the order? The Minister of Defense, Pinhas Lavon, or the chief of military intelligence, Binyamin Gibli? This question rocked the nation, brought down the government and induced David Ben-Gurion to leave the Labor Party.
Recently, the Turkish flotilla scandal centered around the question: was it a good idea for commandos to slide down ropes onto the ship, or should another form of attack have been adopted? Almost nobody asked: should Gaza have been blockaded in the first place? Wasn’t it smarter to start talking with Hamas? Was it a good idea to attack a Turkish ship on the high sees?
It seems that this particular Israeli way of dealing with problems is infectious. In this respect (too), our neighbors are starting to resemble us.
THE ALJAZEERA TV network followed WikiLeaks’ example this week by publishing a pile of secret Palestinian documents. They paint a detailed picture of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, especially during the time of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, when the gap between the parties became much smaller.
In the Arab world, this caused a huge stir. Even while the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia was still in full swing, and masses of people in Egypt were confronting the Mubarak regime, the Aljazeera leaks stirred up an intense controversy.
But what was the clash about? Not about the position of the Palestinian negotiators, not about the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, its basic assumptions, its pros and cons.
No, in the Israeli way, the main question was: who leaked the documents? Who is lurking in the shadows behind the whistle-blowers? The CIA? The Mossad? What were their sinister motives?
On Aljazeera, the Palestinian leaders were accused of treason and worse. In Ramallah, the Aljazeera offices were attacked by pro-Abbas crowds. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, declared that Aljazeera was actually calling for his murder. He and others denied that they had ever made the concessions indicated in the documents. They seemed to be saying in public that such concessions would amount to betrayal – though they agreed to them in secret.
All this is nonsense. Now that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating positions have been made public – and nobody seriously denied their authenticity – the real discussion should be about their substance.
FOR ANYONE involved in any way with Israeli-Palestinian peace-making, there was nothing really surprising in these disclosures.
On the contrary, they showed that the Palestinian negotiators are adhering strictly to the guidelines laid down by Yasser Arafat.
I know this firsthand, because I had the opportunity to discuss them with Arafat himself. That was in 1992, after the election of Yitzhak Rabin. Rachel and I went to Tunis to meet “Abu Amar”, as he liked to be called. The high point of the visit was a meeting in which, besides Arafat himself, several Palestinian leaders took part – among them Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed-Rabbo.
All were intensely curious about the personality of Rabin, whom I knew well, and questioned me closely about him. My remark that “Rabin is as honest as a politician can be” was greeted with general laughter, most of all from Arafat.
But the main part of the meeting was devoted to a review of the key problems of Israeli-Palestinian peace. The borders, Jerusalem, security, the refugees etc, which are now generally referred to as the “core issues”.
Arafat and the others discussed it from the Palestinian point of view. I tried to convey what – in my opinion – Rabin could possible agree to. What emerged was a kind of skeleton peace agreement.
Back in Israel, I met with Rabin at his private home on a Shabbat, in the presence of his assistant Eitan Haber, and tried to tell him what had transpired. Rather to my surprise, Rabin evaded all serious discussion. He was already thinking about Oslo.
A few years later, Gush Shalom published a detailed draft peace agreement. It was based on knowledge of the Palestinian position as disclosed in Tunis. As anyone can see on our website, it was very similar to the recent proposals of the Palestinian side as disclosed in the Aljazeera papers.
THESE ARE roughly as follows:
The borders will be based on the 1967 lines, with some minimal swaps of territory which would join to Israel the big settlements immediately adjacent to the Green Line. These do not include the big settlements that cut deep into the West Bank, cutting the territory into pieces, such as Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel.
All the settlements in what will become the State of Palestine will have to be evacuated. According to the papers, one of the Palestinians opened another option: that the settlers remain where they are and become Palestinian citizens. Tzipi Livni – then Foreign Minister – immediately objected, saying bluntly that all of them would be murdered. I agree that it would not be a good idea – it would cause endless friction, since these settlers sit on Palestinian land, either Palestinian private property or the land reserves of the towns and villages.
About Jerusalem, the solution would be as phrased by President Bill Clinton: What is Arab will go to Palestine, what is Jewish will be joined to Israel. This is a huge Palestinian concession, but a wise one. I was glad that they did not agree to apply this rule to Har Homa, the monstrous settlement built on what was once a beautiful wooded hill, where I spent many days and nights (and almost lost my life) in protests against its construction.
About the refugees, it is clear to any reasonable person that there will not be a mass return of millions, which would turn Israel into something else. This is a very bitter (and unjust) pill for the Palestinians to swallow – but which any Palestinian who really desires a two-state solution must accept. The question is: how many refugees will be allowed back to Israel as a healing gesture? The Palestinians proposed 100,000. Olmert proposed 5,000. That’s a big difference – but once we start to haggle about numbers, a solution can be found.
The Palestinians want an international force to be stationed in the West Bank, safeguarding their own and Israel’s security. I don’t remember if Arafat mentioned this to me, but I am sure that he would have agreed.
This, then, is the Palestinian peace plan – and it has not changed since Arafat came, in late 1973, to the conclusion that the two-state solution was the only viable one. The fact that Olmert and Co. did not jump to accept these terms, instead launching the deadly Cast Lead operation, speaks for itself.
THE ALJAZEERA disclosures are inopportune. Such delicate negotiations are better conducted in secret. The idea that “the people should be part of the negotiations” is naïve. The people should certainly be consulted, but not before a draft agreement lies on the table and they can decide whether they like the whole bundle or not. Before that, disclosures will only whip up a demagogic cacophony of accusations of treason (on both sides), like what is happening now.
For the Israeli peace camp, the disclosures are a blessing. They prove, as Gush Shalom put it yesterday in its weekly statement, that “We have a partner for peace. The Palestinians have no partner for peace.”
Far away from this “Holy Land” – people on a distant island continents away hear about and read about what can barely be believed. A decision was made affecting the Palestinian people by the colonial masters in 1948 to give their land away to a fleeing mass of refugees who themselves had experienced one of the greatest horrors in human history – the Holocaust. In returning to the land their ancestors had fled 2000 years before, they unleashed a similar horror upon a different people – the Palestinians – the new victims of a program of genocide. European and American sponsors hardly were in a position to speak about moral issues to the Jewish immigrants who fled to Palestine and renamed it Israel. To the people – Muslim and Christian Palestinians – this reign of terror was called “The Disaster” – the Nakbah. We can only begin to understand what this means.