Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, hanan ashrawi, israel, israel lobby, israeli occupation, jewish settlements, jim lobe, netanyahu, obama politics, Palestine, palestine statehood, roger hollander, west bank
Published on Sunday, September 25, 2011 by Inter Press Service
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON — The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could not be more pleased.
Not only did the allegedly most “anti-Israel” president ever repeat, for the nth time, that “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable,” but also made crystal clear that Washington will veto any Palestinian application to the U.N. Security Council for statehood in his speech this week to the U.N. General Assembly.
Not once did he refer to Jewish “settlements” on Palestinian lands; nor did he even use the word “occupied” – or any declension of that word – to describe those lands and their people in an address that was largely, if ironically, devoted to celebrating this year’s Arab struggles to end autocratic rule in their region.
Nor was there a word about the plight of the still-besieged population of Gaza, or about the “1967 borders” as being the basis for any eventual two-state solution, a formula to which Netanyahu and his U.S. allies vehemently objected much to the consternation and exasperation of the White House only four months ago.
Indeed, President Barack Hussein Obama, as his right-wing and Islamophobic critics like to call him, said nothing to which even the most right-wing faction of Netanyahu’s government could object.
“I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands,” enthused Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right – some say proto-fascist – Yisrael Beiteinu party, while Netanyahu himself called Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly “a badge of honor”.
“Listening to him, you would think it was the Palestinians who occupy Israel,” Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian stateswoman, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, noting what even the New York Times suggested seemed to be the “hypocritical” nature of Obama’s enthusiasm for Arab democracy movements.
“He presented a double standard when he disassociated the Arabs’ fight for their freedom in the region from the Palestinian freedom fighters, who deal with the occupation for 63 years,” she said.
“What we heard is precisely why we are going to the U.N.,” she added, sounding a theme that has been taken up all week by many Middle East specialists: By siding so ostentatiously with Netanyahu and against the Palestinian bid for statehood, Obama has forfeited Washington’s 20-year exclusivity as broker of the clearly broken “peace process” between the two parties – a point made implicitly by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member state.
“Witnessing Netanyahu’s stubborn rejectionism and President Obama’s inability to move the ball forward, President Sarkozy appears to be acting on Obama’s prediction last May at AIPAC (the annual meeting of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – that … if there is no credible peace process, then others, including Europeans, will lose patience, and pursue alternatives to direct negotiations, including at the U.N.,” according to Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator now based at the New America Foundation here.
Such alternatives will likely become more urgent, he noted, as a result of the “post-Arab Awakening era, one in which Arab democracy will be less tolerant of Palestinian disenfranchisement than Arab autocracy ever was.”
So why did Obama, who, speaking at the same podium exactly one year ago, set a deadline of this week for an agreement on Palestinian statehood, capitulate so abjectly to Netanyahu and the Israeli right?
While his administration’s defenders claim it has everything to do with keeping the “peace process” alive and minimizing the chances of a new round of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, the answer is politics, or, more precisely, the perceived power of the AIPAC-led “Israel Lobby” in an election year.
“Once again, the transformational Obama has been sold out by the political Obama,” wrote David Rothkopf, a national security expert at the Carnegie Endowment, on his foreignpolicy.com blog early in the week.
Given his fading approval ratings and an economy that shows no signs of substantial improvement any time soon, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill appear increasingly panicked over their re- election prospects in November 2012.
They will do nothing that risks alienating key constituencies, particularly Jewish voters in a couple of key “swing states”, but most especially Jewish donors who account for an estimated between 40 and 50 percent of all contributions to national Democratic campaigns.
Since the beginning of this year, but particularly since Netanyahu’s May visit where he was rapturously received at the AIPAC conference, his Republican – and some Democratic – allies have deliberately and repeatedly promoted the notion that Obama’s alleged pressure on Israel to freeze settlements and take other steps to advance the “peace process” was souring Jews, nearly 80 percent of whom voted for Obama in 2008, on the president and his party.
When, on the eve of this week’s U.N. meeting, a Tea Party Republican, who was endorsed by former Democratic Mayor Edward Koch to protest Obama’s allegedly anti-Israel policies, defeated a Jewish Democrat in a heavily Jewish New York City Congressional district that Democrats had held for nearly 90 years, that meme was transformed into conventional wisdom, thus setting the stage for Obama’s speech – or surrender – this week before the General Assembly.
In fact, however, only seven percent of the mostly Orthodox Jewish voters in that election said Obama’s policies toward Israel affected their vote, according to exit polls.
And, while there has indeed been a substantial erosion in Jewish approval of Obama’s performance, it has not been disproportionate to the loss of confidence in his leadership by the public at large, according to a recent Gallup poll.
That survey, undertaken from Aug. 1 to Sep. 15, found that a 54- percent majority of Jewish respondents still approve of Obama, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41 percent approval rating, and similar to the average 14-point gap between Jews and the general public seen throughout his term in office.
“It’s really about donors, not about votes, except perhaps in Florida (where Jews make up about five percent of the electorate),” according to M.J. Rosenberg, a veteran Israel analyst at Media Matters who worked for years at AIPAC and on Capitol Hill where AIPAC wields its greatest influence.
“The surrender we’ve been watching lately is all about the money,” he said.
“What AIPAC and other key groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee do successfully is to convince both the White House and Congress that every dollar that comes from someone Jewish is about Israel, when, in fact, most Jewish donors are contributing because of a host of liberal causes they believe in – from social security and gay marriage to the environment,” he told IPS.
“But I’m sure that President Obama believes that his financial support from the Jewish community is heavily contingent on his backing for Netanyahu,” according to Rosenberg. “And right now, everything he does is motivated by his desire for a second term.”
© 2011 Jim Lobe
Jim Lobe has served as Washington DC correspondent and chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS), an international news agency specializing in coverage of issues and events of interest to developing countries, from 1980 to 1985, and again from 1989 to the present.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gaza, idf, israel, israeli occupation, J Street, jvp, knesset, Middle East, nakba, nonviolence, Palestine, Palestinians, peace, pro-Israel, roger hollander, west bank
Jewish Voice for Peace
Any act of violence, especially one against civilians, marks a profound failure of human imagination and causes a deep and abiding trauma for all involved. In mourning the nine lives lost in Gaza and the one life lost in Jerusalem this week, we reject the pattern of condemning the deaths of Israelis while ignoring the deaths of Palestinians. We do not discriminate. One life lost is one life too many–whether Palestinian or Israeli.
Within the context of 44 years of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, in the past two years (January 31, 2009 to January 31, 2011, starting just after Operation Cast Lead), over a thousand Palestinians have been made homeless by home demolitions, hundreds have been unlawfully detained, and over 150 men, women and children have been killed by the IDF and settlers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.(1) Many acres of Palestinian land have been taken and orchards uprooted by armed settlers. Countless hours have been lost at checkpoints, often fruitlessly, while Palestinians attempted to get medical care, jobs, and access to education. One and a half million Gazans have been living with a limited food supply, lack of electricity and dangerously toxic sewage.
This is occupation: daily, persistent acts of structural violence. All in the service of a government that constantly expands illegal Israeli settlements on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.
These acts don’t reach our headlines because they are so habitual, so we learn not to see them. But Palestinians live them and their profound consequences everyday, and we must keep that in mind, even as we ponder the terrible events of the past few weeks:(2)
These terrible acts of violence remind us that to end the Israeli occupation our best hope is supporting the inspiring nonviolent Palestinian movement for change, in the form of unarmed protests every Friday in places like Bil’in, Ni’lin, Sheikh Jarrah, and the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is a movement that respects life, that is part and parcel of the nonviolent democratic people’s movements we have been inspired by throughout the Arab world, that welcomes the solidarity and support of Israeli and international believers in equality and universal human rights.And it is a movement that may well do what no other government to date has done– pressure Israel to be accountable to international law and therefore help create conditions for truly meaningful negotiations.
Because it is so powerful, it is no surprise that the right to engage in nonviolent resistance, a foundational component of any functioning democracy, is under attack in Israel. Human rights activists are being detained or imprisoned. Bills to criminalize the BDS movement, or harass human rights organizations, are working their way through the Knesset.
This is a movement that fundamentally subverts the logic of armies, revenge-fueled “price tags”, and armed struggle.
Just this week:
- The very act of publicly commemorating the Nakba, a crucial nonviolent act of Palestinian remembrance, was essentially criminalized in Israel by the Knesset.(4)The Knesset also passed a law allowing small communities in the Galilee and Negev to discriminate against anyone wanting to reside there who does not fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” character.(5)
- The Knesset also held hearings to assess whether the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street was sufficiently pro-Israel.(6)
- The IDF announced a new military intelligence-gathering unit solely dedicated to monitoring international left-wing peace and human rights groups that the army sees as a threat to Israel. The department will work closely with government ministries.(7)
- Dozens of Israeli soldiers raided the home of Bassem Tamimi, Head of the nonviolent Nabi Saleh Popular Committee , and beat his wife and daughter while arresting him presumably on charges of “incitement” and “organizing illegal demonstrations.”(8)
As the Israeli government increasingly deploys anti-democratic measures and military repression, we at Jewish Voice for Peace are redoubling our efforts to support the best hope- a nonviolent Palestinian-led resistance movement in which we all work together to nurture life, justice and equality. We invite you to join the movement.
(1) B’tselem: Fatalities after operation “Cast Lead”
(2) The Guardian, March 23: Israeli-Palestinian tensions: a timeline
(3) Alternative Information Center, March 23: Israel’s Military Escalation in Gaza
(4) Jerusalem Post, March 23: Nakba Bill passes Knesset in third reading
(5) +972 Magazine, March 22: Knesset passes segregation bill
(6) New York Times, March 24: U.S. Group Stirs Debate On Being “Pro-Israel”
(7) Ha’aretz, March 21: Military Intelligence monitoring foreign left-wing organizations
and +972 Magazine, March 22: Military Intelligence monitors “de-legitimization”
(8) Popular Struggle, March 24, 2011: Israeli Soldiers arrest Bassem Tamimi, Coordinator of Nabi Saleh Popular Committee