The Second Holocaust Was Averted at Brooklyn College BDS Forum February 8, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: academic freedom, alan dershowitz, anti-semitism, bds, boycott israel, brooklyn college, david harris-gershon, israel occupation, michael bloomberg, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, second holocaust
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February 8, 2013
Crossposted on Tikkun Daily
Last night, Brooklyn College hosted a forum on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – a non-violent initiative targeting Israel’s suppression of basic political rights for Palestinians, particularly those occupied in the West Bank.
In the weeks preceding the forum, Brooklyn College was under intense pressure to cancel the event, pressure spearheaded by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who curiously chose to argue against the concept of academic freedom by claiming the forum would be a “propaganda hate orgy” and should not be allowed.
New York City Council members soon followed, threatening to cut off funding to the college if the event proceeded, with Assemblyman Alan Maisel stating, “We’re talking about the potential for a Second Holocaust here.“
Thankfully, champions of academic freedom stepped in to push back against such bombastic claims, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bluntly told the City Council:
“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”
Eventually, political pressure against the event relented and it went on as planned, an event at which UC Berkley professor Judith Butler eloquently explained the BDS movement:
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is, in fact, a non-violent movement; it seeks to use established legal means to achieve its goals; and it is, interestingly enough, the largest Palestinian civic movement at this time. That means that the largest Palestinian civic movement is a non-violent one that justifies its actions through recourse to international law. Further, I want to underscore that this is also a movement whose stated core principles include the opposition to every form of racism, including both state-sponsored racism and anti-Semitism.
Butler also explored and, ultimately, expertly rejected accusations that the BDS movement was inherently anti-Semitic:
But still, it is left to us to ask, why would a non-violent movement to achieve basic political rights for Palestinians be understood as anti-Semitic? Surely, there is nothing about the basic rights themselves that constitute a problem. They include equal rights of citizenship for current inhabitants; the end to the occupation, and the rights of unlawfully displaced persons to return to their lands and gain restitution for their losses…why would a collective struggle to use economic and cultural forms of power to compel the enforcement of international laws be considered anti-Semitic? It would be odd to say that they are anti-Semitic to honor internationally recognized rights to equality, to be free of occupation and to have unlawfully appropriated land and property restored. I know that this last principle makes many people uneasy, but there are several ways of conceptualizing how the right of return might be exercised lawfully such that it does not entail further dispossession.
If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered to be anti-Semitic, if any number of internationals who have joined thus struggle from various parts of the world are also considered anti-Semitic and if Palestinians seeking rights of political self-determination are so accused as well, then it would appear that no oppositional move that can take place without risking the accusation of anti-Semitism. That accusation becomes a way of discrediting a bid for self-determination, at which point we have to ask what political purpose the radical mis-use of that accusation has assumed in the stifling of a movement for political self-determination.
Omar Barghouti, founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, spoke in more populist tones, but was clear in reiterating that the BDS movement rejects all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism, and is focused on one thing: ending the dehumanization of Palestinians and delivering to them dignity, basic human rights and political self-determination.
In the end, the event was peaceful, cordial and level-headed. A far cry from the small group of protesters outside who yelled that the next slaughter of the Jews was beginning at Brooklyn College.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
New Facts on the Ground January 15, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: 20 tents, abby zimet, bab al-shams, bab alshams, e1, facts on the ground, israel, Palestine, palestine genocide, Palestinians, roger hollander, west bank
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by Abby Zimet
The (illegal) Israeli eviction of the 20 tents and 200 Palestinians of Bab al-Shams in the West Bank’s disputed “E1″ is not the end of the story, most observers say, but the beginning of a smart new form of popular resistance that turns the Israeli penchant for citing “facts on the ground” against itself. Photos, Twitter, and more on Israeli lawlessness, what the village means to the author of the original “Bab al-Shams,” what it means to many others.
“Bab Alshams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab Alshams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Alshams is the gate to our return…For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land.”
as a Canadian Jew i feel almost sick to my stomach seeing this photograph of humanity vs. the arrogant injustice of Israeli power.
Indeed, serenidade. i know a reserve soldier in the IDF (i’ve never been to Israel) who has over the years gone thru changes and now, as a photojournalist covering peaceful Palestinian protests in the West Bank, gets teargassed by Israeli soldiers and border police. Contrary to their own regulations, the soldiers and police shoot straight at photojournalists. This man i know has meanwhile been making Palestinian friends, and has realized that it is only when we connect with the “other” that we can see that s/he is the same as ourselves.
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Tags: alice walker, Alice Walker Protest, apartheid, Books News, color purple, Color Purple Hebrew, desmond tutu, human rights, International law, israel, israel boycott, Palestinians, roger hollander, russell tribunal
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Alice Walker is protesting Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians by refusing permission for an Israeli publisher to translate her most famous book, “The Color Purple.”
The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. It deals with the inhuman treatment of a poor black girl in the American South.
The American author sent a letter to the publisher, Yediot Books, a copy of which was published with her permission on the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The New York Times confirmed with Walker’s agent that the letter was genuine.
In her letter, she thanked the publisher for the request, but then slammed their country’s treatment of their neighbors, referring to a citizen’s tribunal made up of human rights activists, including Walker, that last year investigated Israel’s alleged violations of international law.
As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating. I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long.
She went on to mention that she successfully lobbied against the distribution of the movie adaptation of her book, directed by Steven Spielberg, in a South Africa that at the time still maintained the system of apartheid.
She ended her letter, “In faith that a just future can be fashioned from small acts, Alice Walker.“
However, New York-based website the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that“It was not clear when Yediot Books, an imprint of the daily Yediot Achronot newspaper, made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.“
President Obama Procrastinates As Israel Edges Ever Closer to Igniting a Middle East Firestorm February 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gaza, hillary clinton, idf, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel iran, israel military, israel settlements, Joe Lieberman, michael payne, Middle East, netanyahu, npt, Obama, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, war
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Michael Payne, www.opednews.com, February 20, 2012
The Middle East has been a boiling cauldron for decades with Israel at the center. And now this region is heating up again as not a day goes by when we do not hear the drums of war being beaten by Israel, with a threatening counter response coming from Iran. But as this situation grows more and more volatile, the U.S. and President Obama should be taking steps to prevent an eruption that could set the Middle East on fire; nothing of the sort is happening.
Talk about procrastination, talk about vacillation; the Middle East could explode at any given time but all we see coming from this White House is more delay, indecision, together with contradictory and confusing statements. During a critical time when we should hear this president issuing warnings about the great dangers of an approaching massive confrontation between Israel and Iran, he repeats that “all options remain on the table.”
It is absolutely amazing how Israel can completely dominate the world of news reporting to such an extent and for such an extended period of time. We hear a steady stream of reports indicating that Israel is getting closer and closer to an attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities. What we don’t hear from this pathetic national media is factual information from U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), both of which have indicated that there is no concrete evidence of the development of a nuclear bomb. This media blindly and passively supported the fabricated agenda that illegally initiated the Iraq War and now it is doing the same thing all over again. This is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.
Without a doubt, the situation in Iran needs to be closely monitored by both U.S. intelligence agencies and the UN and Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear device. That is what these agencies are set up to do. The way that this is being grossly mishandled by Israel, the U.S. and Iran, with threats and counter threats and no real attempts at mutual dialogue to diffuse the situation is totally counter-productive; it does nothing but fuel the tensions and distrust.
How can such a very small nation be the most powerful nation in the Middle East? Well, simply because it also happens to possess a nuclear arsenal that is estimated to be the sixth largest in the world. Israel has repeatedly refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, it consistently refuses to acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons when the whole world knows that it does.
Even while Israel sets its sights on Iran, it also continues to follow an aggressive, militant agenda on several other fronts. There has been more and more talk that Israel is planning yet another military attack on Gaza. An article by Yaakov Katz in the January 16 edition of the Jerusalem Post reported that “IDF preparing for major Gaza action within months.” Also that “The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible large Gaza operation that could occur within the next few months.”
In addition to that report, here’s another example of the extent of Israel’s cruel agenda against their Palestinian “neighbors”: “Israel plans to demolish Palestinian solar panels and wind turbines.” There is an “Area C” in the West Bank where solar panels and wind turbines were installed in 16 Palestinian communities and are now providing about 1500 people with electricity. This was a part of a foreign aid program by European and other countries, a great humanitarian gesture.
Now Israel is preparing to demolish the solar panels and turbines, claiming that the structures were installed without proper authority from the appropriate Israeli administrative agency. Are there no limits to the venom that Israel directs against these people who must struggle to secure the necessities of life? Even when other nations try to help the Palestinians acquire electricity for their homes, Israel will have none of it.
The Israeli government apparently will not stop until the Palestinians are entirely flushed out of the country. It continues to infringe on the shrinking territories of the Palestinians by building new settlements. It suppresses their movement by penning them up in Gaza and surrounds them with walls in other areas. It is astounding how our government in Washington continues to accuse China and other nations of human rights violations but, when it comes to these continuous flagrant violations by Israel, it remains completely silent.
Though Israel continues to beat the drums of war many military analysts and Middle East experts believe that it knows that it cannot successfully attack and destroy the Iranian underground facilities without the direct involvement and support of the United States. Those close to this situation are quite certain that if Iran is attacked by Israel or a combination of Israel and the U.S., that massive retaliation from Tehran, aided by Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and other allies will wreak havoc in the Middle East, severely damaging Israel’s cities as well as U.S. military installations.
This deadly confrontation has already gone too far; Israel must be reigned in before it goes off the deep end and launches an attack on Iran; the only country that is capable of doing it is, of course, the U.S. The only logical and rational way to accomplish this is for the U.S. to tell Israel in no uncertain terms that it will not take part in such an attack and Israel will be left alone if it chooses that course. In other words, the U.S. has to assume control of this situation and deal unilaterally with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
But in doing this Mr. Obama knows that there are many members of Congress, and some in his administration, who strongly support Israel and its potential attack on Iran. Hillary Clinton, the diplomatically challenged Secretary of State, and Senator Joe Lieberman, the premier war hawk in Congress, both back Israel to the hilt; it can do no wrong in their eyes no matter how egregious its military actions have been against the people of Palestine or against peaceful humanitarian flotillas that have tried to deliver essential medical and other supplies to the beleaguered city of Gaza.
Israel, as is the case with Mrs. Clinton, has shown it is totally incapable of any form of real diplomacy or negotiations; force is the only way that it knows to deal with others in the Middle East region. So it’s now time for President Obama to step into this highly dangerous situation and tell Israel and its militant Prime Minister Netanyahu that enough is enough and that this planned attack on Iran must not be pursued.
Mr. Obama must totally reject the many warmongers in Washington and act like the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize that he is, stop fiddling around, stop saying that “all options are on the table” and arrange for the beginning of mutual negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over this contentious issue. Israel would have to be entirely excluded from these negotiations for very obvious reasons. Negotiations should be designed to create some viable way to allow Iran to develop a nuclear energy program such as many other countries have and also to include a foolproof mechanism to prevent any diversion of enriched uranium into a program to develop a nuclear bomb. This could be done with any number of other countries taking part in the process.
The world keeps watching this same movie with the same actors and a plot that never changes — featuring Israel with its itchy finger on the trigger, ready to fire. How much longer will America let Israel set the agenda, dictate the policy, call the shots, and dominate our Middle East foreign policy? In recent times more and more articles are being written about America’s decline; could there be any better example of that decline than the total subservience of this nation and its government to the nation of Israel?
This scenario becomes even more tenuous when we consider that there are powerful countries who have said that they will stand by Iran if the situation reaches a massive military confrontation; these countries that could support Iran in various ways include Russia, China, India and Pakistan; Venezuela, Brazil and other South American countries do not side with the U.S. on this issue. A recent meeting between the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran make it clear that these three nations are cementing an already close relationship and that’s not good news for the U.S.
The question that should be put to this president is this: is he willing to let this situation get entirely out of control, all because he is afraid of Israel’s great influence and control over this Congress and his fear that it will cost him reelection in 2012? Well, if that’s the case and he fails to act decisively at this most critical time, then he will be personally responsible if the Middle East is set ablaze by the reckless, irresponsible actions of Israel.
Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist who writes articles about social, economic and political matters as well as American foreign policy. He is a U.S. Army veteran. His major goal is to convince Americans that our perpetual wars must end before they bankrupt our nation. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and websites around the world.
Lies We Still Tell Ourselves about 9/11 September 3, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11.
Tags: 9/11, 9/11 commission, 9/11 motive, 9/11 report, 9/ll saddam, arab-israeli conflict, Iraq invasion, israeli occupation, israeli-palestinian, kenneth pollack, leon panetta, Middle East, mohamed atta, Muslims, netanyahu, Palestinians, robert fisk, roger hollander, wmds
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Published on Saturday, September 3, 2011 by The Independent/UK
Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears?
By their books, ye shall know them.
I’m talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as “boys”, almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.
Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there?
American publishers first went to war in 2001 with massive photo-memorial volumes. Their titles spoke for themselves: Above Hallowed Ground, So Others Might Live, Strong of Heart, What We Saw, The Final Frontier, A Fury for God, The Shadow of Swords… Seeing this stuff piled on newsstands across America, who could doubt that the US was going to go to war? And long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, another pile of tomes arrived to justify the war after the war. Most prominent among them was ex-CIA spook Kenneth Pollack’s The Threatening Storm – and didn’t we all remember Churchill’s The Gathering Storm? – which, needless to say, compared the forthcoming battle against Saddam with the crisis faced by Britain and France in 1938.
There were two themes to this work by Pollack – “one of the world’s leading experts on Iraq,” the blurb told readers, among whom was Fareed Zakaria (“one of the most important books on American foreign policy in years,” he drivelled) – the first of which was a detailed account of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction; none of which, as we know, actually existed. The second theme was the opportunity to sever the “linkage” between “the Iraq issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict”.
The Palestinians, deprived of the support of powerful Iraq, went the narrative, would be further weakened in their struggle against Israeli occupation. Pollack referred to the Palestinians’ “vicious terrorist campaign” – but without any criticism of Israel. He wrote of “weekly terrorist attacks followed by Israeli responses (sic)”, the standard Israeli version of events. America’s bias towards Israel was no more than an Arab “belief”. Well, at least the egregious Pollack had worked out, in however slovenly a fashion, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had something to do with 9/11, even if Saddam had not.
In the years since, of course, we’ve been deluged with a rich literature of post-9/11 trauma, from the eloquent The Looming Tower of Lawrence Wright to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose supporters have told us that the plane wreckage outside the Pentagon was dropped by a C-130, that the jets that hit the World Trade Centre were remotely guided, that United 93 was shot down by a US missile, etc. Given the secretive, obtuse and sometimes dishonest account presented by the White House – not to mention the initial hoodwinking of the official 9/11 commission staff – I am not surprised that millions of Americans believe some of this, let alone the biggest government lie: that Saddam was behind 9/11. Leon Panetta, the CIA’s newly appointed autocrat, repeated this same lie in Baghdad only this year.
There have been movies, too. Flight 93 re-imagined what may (or may not) have happened aboard the plane which fell into a Pennsylvania wood. Another told a highly romanticised story, in which the New York authorities oddly managed to prevent almost all filming on the actual streets of the city. And now we’re being deluged with TV specials, all of which have accepted the lie that 9/11 did actually change the world – it was the Bush/Blair repetition of this dangerous notion that allowed their thugs to indulge in murderous invasions and torture – without for a moment asking why the press and television went along with the idea. So far, not one of these programmes has mentioned the word “Israel” – and Brian Lapping’s Thursday night ITV offering mentioned “Iraq” once, without explaining the degree to which 11 September 2001 provided the excuse for this 2003 war crime. How many died on 9/11? Almost 3,000. How many died in the Iraq war? Who cares?
Publication of the official 9/11 report – in 2004, but read the new edition of 2011 – is indeed worth study, if only for the realities it does present, although its opening sentences read more like those of a novel than of a government inquiry. “Tuesday … dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States… For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta…” Were these guys, I ask myself, interns at Time magazine?
But I’m drawn to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan whose The Eleventh Day confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. “All the evidence … indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level,” they write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on “the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel”. Palestine, the authors state, “was certainly the principal political grievance … driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg”.
The motivation for the attacks was “ducked” even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this “issue” – cliché code word for “problem” – and its two most senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: “This was sensitive ground …Commissioners who argued that al-Qa’ida was motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… In their view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa’ida’s opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy.” And there you have it.
So what happened? The commissioners, Summers and Swan state, “settled on vague language that circumvented the issue of motive”. There’s a hint in the official report – but only in a footnote which, of course, few read. In other words, we still haven’t told the truth about the crime which – we are supposed to believe – “changed the world for ever”. Mind you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I’m really not surprised.
When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him, the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most important and “sensitive” question of 9/11: why?
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.
Washington Okays Attack on Unarmed U.S. Ship June 30, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: alice walker, audacity of hope, free gaza, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, gaza strip, hillary clinton, International law, israel, israeli military, non-violent resistance, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, stephen zunes
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The Obama administration appears to have given a green light to an Israeli attack on an unarmed flotilla carrying peace and human rights activists — including a vessel with 50 Americans on board — bound for the besieged Gaza Strip. At a press conference on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Campaign by saying it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”
Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against ships which are clearly no threat. Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.
The risk of an Israeli attack on the flotilla is real. Israeli commandoes illegally assaulted a similar flotilla in international waters on May 31 of last year, killing nine people on board one of the vessels, including Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old U.S. citizen. Scores of others, including a number of Americans, were brutally beaten and more than a dozen others were shot but survived their wounds. According to a UN investigation, based on eyewitness testimony and analysis by a forensic pathologist and ballistic expert, Dogan was initially shot while filming the assault and then murdered while lying face down with a bullet shot at close range in the back of the head. The United States was the only one of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council to vote against the adoption of the report. The Obama administration never filed a complaint with the Israeli government, demonstrating its willingness to allow the armed forces of U.S. allies to murder U.S. citizens on the high seas.
As indicated by Clinton’s statement of last week, the administration appears to be willing to let it happen again.
Last year, 329 out of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter that referred to Israel’s attack that killed Dogan and the others as an act of “self-defense” which they “strongly support.” A Senate letter — signed by 87 out of 100 senators — went on record “fully” supporting what it called “Israel’s right to self-defense,” claiming that the effort to relieve critical shortages of food and medicine in the besieged Gaza Strip was simply part of a “clever tactical and diplomatic ploy” by “Israel’s opponents” to “challenge its international standing.”
But not everyone in Congress believes the assaulting and killing human rights activists on the high seas is legitimate. Last week, on June 24, six members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary Clinton requesting that she “do everything in her power to work with the Israeli government to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens on board.” As of this writing, they have not received a response.
Earlier in the week, the State Department issued a public statement to discourage Americans from taking part in the second Gaza flotilla because they might be attacked by Israeli forces. Yet thus far neither the State Department nor the White House has issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. Indeed, on Friday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland implied that the United States would blame those taking part in the flotilla rather than the rightist Israeli government should anything happen to them. Like those in the early 1960s who claimed civil rights protesters were responsible for the attacks by white racist mobs because they had “provoked them,” Nuland stated, “Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.” Again, The Obama administration didn’t offer even one word encouraging caution or restraint by the Israeli government, nor did it mention that the International Red Cross and other advocates of international humanitarian law recognize that the Israeli blockade is illegal.
Who’s On Board
Passengers of the U.S. boat, christened The Audacity of Hope, include celebrated novelist Alice Walker, holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, veteran foreign service officer and retired lieutenant colonel Ann Wright, Israeli-American linguistics professor Hagit Borer, and prominent peace and human rights activists like Medea Benjamin, Robert Naiman, Steve Fake, and Kathy Kelly. Ten other boats are carrying hundreds of other civilians from dozens of other countries, along with nearly three thousand tons of aid. Those on board include members of national parliaments and other prominent political figures, writers, artists, clergy from various faith traditions, journalists, and athletes.
Fifteen ships have previously sailed or attempted to sail to Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Campaign. None was found to contain any weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes. The current flotilla organizers have stated that their cargoes are “open to international inspection.” Despite this, however, the Obama State Department insists that the Israelis have the right to intercept the ships due to the “vital importance to Israel’s security of ensuring that all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials.”
Though the flotilla organizers have made clear that the U.S. boat is only carrying letters of support for the people of Gaza, the State Department has also threatened participants with “fines and incarceration” if they attempt to provide “material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas.”
As with many actions supporting Palestinian rights, the coalition of groups endorsing the flotilla includes pro-Palestinian groups as well as peace, human rights, religious, pacifist and liberal organizations, including Progressive Democrats of America, Pax Christi, Peace Action, Nonviolence International, Jewish Voice for Peace, War Resisters League, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Despite this, Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, has claimed that organizers of the flotilla have “clear terrorist ties” and has called upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute U.S. citizens involved with the flotilla and ban foreign participants from ever entering the United States.
Largely as a result of last year’s flotilla, Israel has somewhat relaxed its draconian siege on the territory, which had resulted in a major public health crisis. The State Department has gone to some lengths to praise Israel for allowing some construction material into the Gaza Strip to make possible the rebuilding of some of the thousands of homes, businesses and public facilities destroyed in Israel’s devastating U.S.-backed 2008-2009 military offensive, which resulted in the deaths of over 800 civilians. At no point, however, has the Obama administration ever criticized Israel for destroying those civilian structures in the first place.
As with many potentially confrontational nonviolent direct actions, there are genuine differences within the peace and human rights community regarding the timing, the nature, and other aspects of the forthcoming flotilla. However, the response to the Obama administration’s position on the flotilla has been overwhelmingly negative. Many among his progressive base, already disappointed at his failure to take a tougher line against the rightist Israeli government as well as his reluctance to embrace human rights and international law as a basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace, feel increasingly alienated from the president.
More significantly, the Obama administration’s response may signal a return to the Reagan administration’s policies of defending the killing of U.S. human rights workers in order to discourage grassroots acts of international solidarity, as when Reagan officials sought to blame the victims and exonerate the perpetrators for the murder of four American churchwomen by the El Salvadoran junta and the murder of American engineer Ben Linder by the Nicaraguan Contras. Perhaps the Obama administration hopes that giving a green light to an Israeli attack on the U.S. ship and other vessels in the flotilla will serve as a warning. Perhaps they hope that Americans volunteering for groups like Peace Brigades International, Witness for Peace, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Christian Peacemaker Teams, International Solidarity Movement, and other groups operating in conflict zones like Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Nepal, Indonesia and elsewhere will think twice, knowing that the U.S. government will not live up to its obligations to try to protect nonviolent U.S. activists from violence perpetrated by allied governments.
Indeed, nothing frightens a militaristic state more than the power of nonviolent action.
Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco and serves as a contributing editor of Tikkun. His most recent book, co-authored with Jacob Mundy, is Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010.)
Tags: alice walker, andres goodman, audacity of hope, Civil Rights, freedom flotilla, gandhi, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, israeli blockade, israeli military, james chaney, michael schwerner, mississippi freedom, Palestine, Palestinians, palistinian children, roger hollander
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Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker is on board an
international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli
Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even
though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived
already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me
that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s
understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the
young. How are they to learn, otherwise?
Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people
of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will
consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked
the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if
they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of
the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?
is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed
Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire.
The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead
lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.
this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying
off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the
side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially
indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for
help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection
to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.
got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few “good ol’ boys’” of Neshoba
County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a
young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our
boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney,
Schwerner flag in my own heart.
what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president’s latest
speech on Israel and Palestine, and
whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing
ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?
see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it
will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must
never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in
speeches that circle the globe.
adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the
Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the
American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child,
etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to
cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.
once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as
staunch a defender of black people’s human rights as anyone I’d ever met: how
did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force
shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that
thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin
Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and
grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that
had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.
was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended
after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he
was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one
day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran
off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.
black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after
the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them,
they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it
respectfully back on his head.
is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without
delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It
will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have
been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.
is why I sail.
Tags: audacity of hope, collective punishment, dr. king, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, gaza freedom, gaza strip, geneva convention, hamas, israel, israeli military, mavi marmara, medea benjamin, mlk, Palestine, palestinian refugees, Palestinians, roger hollander
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“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him,” said Dr. Martin Luther King as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These words will guide me and other passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine boats scheduled to set sail for Gaza on June 25 from various Mediterranean ports. While the Israelis try to label us provocateurs, terrorists and Hamas supporters, we are simply nonviolent advocates following the teachings of Dr. King. We refuse to sit at the docks of history and watch the people of Gaza suffer.
The U.S. boat, which will carry 50 Americans, is called The Audacity of Hope. It is named after Obama’s bestselling political autobiography in which he lauds our collective audacity of striving to become a better nation. But I prefer to think of our boat as part of Dr. King’s legacy. He, too, talked about audacity, about his audacious faith in the future. “I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him,” Dr. King said.
Our intrepid group has its moral compass aimed at the way things ought to be. Our cargo is not humanitarian aid, as some of the other ships are carrying, but thousands of letters from the U.S. people, letters of compassion, solidarity and hope written to people living in the Gaza Strip. We travel with what Dr. King called “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
We focus on Gaza because since 2007 the Israeli government has enforced a crippling blockade on its 1.5 million residents. Inflicting collective punishment on civilians is morally wrong and is a gross violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the world’s democracies do nothing to stop Israel’s extraordinarily cruel behavior, and in fact did nothing for 22 days in 2009 while the Israel military unleashed a tidal wave of carnage that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. They continue to sit by while the people of Gaza remain isolated and unable to secure access to building materials and basic living supplies, and while Israeli soldiers shoot at Gaza’s farmers trying to till their land along the border and attack fisherman trying to make a living in waters off their shore. And in the case of the United States, our government is not simply sitting by, but supporting the Israeli military with $3 billion in military aid a year.
The Palestinians’ plea for help has been ignored by world governments, but it has pricked the conscience of civil society. Caravans have crisscrossed Europe and Africa, carrying tons of aid. Boats have braved Israeli war ships and tried to dock in Gaza’s ports. Over 1,000 people joined the Gaza Freedom March, an attempt to break the siege that was brutally stopped by Egyptian police during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
In May, 2010, seven ships and nearly 700 passengers carrying humanitarian aid tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade. The Israeli military violently intercepted the ships, killing nine passengers aboard the Turkish boat, including a 19-year-old American citizen. The rest of passengers were roughed up, arrested, thrown in Israeli prisons, and deported.
For a brief moment, this tragedy in international waters focused the world spotlight on Gaza. Israel said it would ease the draconian siege, allowing more goods to enter the beleaguered strip. But just this month, the health authorities in Gaza proclaimed a state of emergency due to an acute shortage of vital medicines and also this month, a report from the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, found unemployment in Gaza at a staggering 45.2 percent, among the highest in the world. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the number of abject poor living on just over one dollar a day has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed in 2007. “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution,” Gunness said.
Hopes inside Gaza were buoyed by the Egyptian revolution. A groundswell of grassroots solidarity by Egyptians pushed the new government to announce that it would open its border with Gaza. But that promise remains elusive, asthousands are still blocked from crossing, and all imports and exports must still pass through the Israeli side. Israel remains the warden for the world’s largest open-air prison. It continues to decide what goods can enter, what exports can come out, and which people can get exit visas. It continues to control Gaza’s electricity, water supply, airspace and access to the Mediterranean.
Although the Israelis know that our boats will not carry arms and we, the passengers, are committed to nonviolence, they have nonetheless vowed to stop us with a dizzying array of force—water cannons, commandos, border police, snipers, and attack dogs from the military’s canine unit.
Equally astonishing is the U.S. government’s reaction. Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls the Freedom Ride of our era,” the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions “irresponsible and provocative” and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.
This pressure is having an impact. At the urging of the Turkish government, our flagship, the Mavi Marmara, the same ship that was so violently attacked last year, recently announced that it will not be joining the flotilla. The Mavi Marmara was going to carry 500 people; its absence cuts our numbers in half. And there may be more ships forced to drop out.
All this bullying, however, only strengthens our resolve. We may be fewer boats, we may have fewer passengers, we may be threatened with violence, but we will sail. And if the Israelis intercept our boats, we call on people around the world to gather at Israeli embassies and consulates to express their outrage.
Like the inexorable rhythm of the ocean, the Palestinians will continue to lap at the shores of injustice. They will keep coming back, wave after wave, demanding the right to rebuild their tattered communities, the right to live in dignity. Shoring them up will be the international community, including activists like us who join their nonviolent resistance. The real question is: How long will the Israelis, with U.S. backing, continue to swim against the tide?
Medea Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.
Who Cares in the Middle East What Obama Says? May 30, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: 1967 borders, algeria, arab revolts, arab revolutions, arab spring, bahrain, bouteflika, egypt, gaza, hamas, intifada, Iran, israel, israeli settlements, jewish state, jordan, kurds, libya, Mahmoud Abbas, Middle East, netanyahu, Obama, Palestine, palestine papers, palestinian statehood, Palestinians, qatar, robert fisk, roger hollander, saudi arabia, Syria, tunisia, turkey, yemen
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Roger’s note: I don’t think you will find a better commentary on the situation in the Middle East than what follows. Robert Fisk, who has lived in and written about the Middle East for decades, is an amazing journalist, unfortunately a rare breed (at least in North America).
This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.President Obama at Middle East peace talks in Washington last year with Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah. (EPA)
President Obama at Middle East peace talks in Washington last year with Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah. (EPA)
While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America’s new role in the region. It was pathetic. “What is this ‘role’ thing?” an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. “Do they still believe we care about what they think?”
And it is true. Obama’s failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab “spring”, save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain’s cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.
Turkey is furious with Assad because he twice promised to speak of reform and democratic elections – and then failed to honour his word. The Turkish government has twice flown delegations to Damascus and, according to the Turks, Assad lied to the foreign minister on the second visit, baldly insisting that he would recall his brother Maher’s legions from the streets of Syrian cities. He failed to do so. The torturers continue their work.
Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a “safe area” for Syrian refugees inside Assad’s caliphate. The Turks are prepared to advance well beyond the Syrian border town of Al Qamishli – perhaps half way to Deir el-Zour (the old desert killing fields of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, though speak it not) – to provide a “safe haven” for those fleeing the slaughter in Syria’s cities.
The Qataris are meanwhile trying to prevent Algeria from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks and armoured vehicles – this was one of the reasons why the Emir of Qatar, the wisest bird in the Arabian Gulf, visited the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, last week. Qatar is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi; its planes are flying over Libya from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside the city of Misrata in western Libya; but if Algerian armour is indeed being handed over to Gaddafi to replace the material that has been destroyed in air strikes, it would account for the ridiculously slow progress which the Nato campaign is making against Gaddafi.
Of course, it all depends on whether Bouteflika really controls his army – or whether the Algerian “pouvoir”, which includes plenty of secretive and corrupt generals, are doing the deals. Algerian equipment is superior to Gaddafi’s and thus for every tank he loses, Ghaddafi might be getting an improved model to replace it. Below Tunisia, Algeria and Libya share a 750-mile desert frontier, an easy access route for weapons to pass across the border.
But the Qataris are also attracting Assad’s venom. Al Jazeera’s concentration on the Syrian uprising – its graphic images of the dead and wounded far more devastating than anything our soft western television news shows would dare broadcast – has Syrian state television nightly spitting at the Emir and at the state of Qatar. The Syrian government has now suspended up to £4 billion of Qatari investment projects, including one belonging to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company.
Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria’s “martyrs” have now exceeded the victims of Mubarak’s death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama’s policy towards the Middle East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study. He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America’s interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new “elite” force to protect the kingdom’s oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama’s fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family’s atrocity-prone regime to survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the “stability” of the Syrian dictatorship to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US president says he wants to see in the region?
One of the vainest elements of American foreign policy towards the Middle East is the foundational idea that the Arabs are somehow more stupid than the rest of us, certainly than the Israelis, more out of touch with reality than the West, that they don’t understand their own history. Thus they have to be preached at, lectured, and cajoled by La Clinton and her ilk – much as their dictators did and do, father figures guiding their children through life. But Arabs are far more literate than they were a generation ago; millions speak perfect English and can understand all too well the political weakness and irrelevance in the president’s words. Listening to Obama’s 45-minute speech this month – the “kick off’ to four whole days of weasel words and puffery by the man who tried to reach out to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago, and then did nothing – one might have thought that the American President had initiated the Arab revolts, rather than sat on the sidelines in fear.
There was an interesting linguistic collapse in the president’s language over those critical four days. On Thursday 19 May, he referred to the continuation of Israeli “settlements”. A day later, Netanyahu was lecturing him on “certain demographic changes that have taken place on the ground”. Then when Obama addressed the American Aipac lobby group (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the Sunday, he had cravenly adopted Netanyahu’s own preposterous expression. Now he, too, spoke of “new demographic realities on the ground.” Who would believe that he was talking about internationally illegal Jewish colonies built on land stolen from Arabs in one of the biggest property heists in the history of “Palestine”? Delay in peace-making will undermine Israeli security, Obama announced – apparently unaware that Netanyahu’s project is to go on delaying and delaying and delaying until there is no land left for the “viable” Palestinian state which the United States and the European Union supposedly wish to see.
Then we had the endless waffle about the 1967 borders. Netanyahu called them “defenceless” (though they seemed to have been pretty defendable for the 18 years prior to the Six Day War) and Obama – oblivious to the fact that Israel must be the only country in the world to have an eastern land frontier but doesn’t know where it is – then says he was misunderstood when he talked about 1967. It doesn’t matter what he says. George W Bush caved in years ago when he gave Ariel Sharon a letter which stated America’s acceptance of “already existing major Israeli population centres” beyond the 1967 lines. To those Arabs prepared to listen to Obama’s spineless oration, this was a grovel too far. They simply could not understand the reaction of Netanyahu’s address to Congress. How could American politicians rise and applaud Netanyahu 55 times – 55 times – with more enthusiasm than one of the rubber parliaments of Assad, Saleh and the rest?
And what on earth did the Great Speechifier mean when he said that “every country has the right to self-defence” but that Palestine would be “demilitarised”? What he meant was that Israel could go on attacking the Palestinians (as in 2009, for example, when Obama was treacherously silent) while the Palestinians would have to take what was coming to them if they did not behave according to the rules – because they would have no weapons to defend themselves. As for Netanyahu, the Palestinians must choose between unity with Hamas or peace with Israel. All of which was very odd. When there was no unity, Netanyahu told us all that he had no Palestinian interlocutor because the Palestinians were disunited. Yet when they unite, they are disqualified from peace talks.
Of course, cynicism grows the longer you live in the Middle East. I recall, for example, travelling to Gaza in the early 1980s when Yasser Arafat was running his PLO statelet in Beirut. Anxious to destroy Arafat’s prestige in the occupied territories, the Israeli government decided to give its support to an Islamist group in Gaza called Hamas. In fact, I actually saw with my own eyes the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command negotiating with bearded Hamas officials, giving them permission to build more mosques. It’s only fair to say, of course, that we were also busy at the time, encouraging a certain Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But the Israelis did not give up on Hamas. They later held another meeting with the organisation in the West Bank; the story was on the front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day. But there wasn’t a whimper from the Americans.
Then another moment that I can recall over the long years. Hamas and Islamic Jihad members – all Palestinians – were, in the early 1990s, thrown across the Israeli border into southern Lebanon where they spent more than a year camping on a freezing mountainside. I would visit them from time to time and on one occasion mentioned that I would be travelling to Israel next day. Immediately, one of the Hamas men ran to his tent and returned with a notebook. He then proceeded to give me the home telephone numbers of three senior Israeli politicians – two of whom are still prominent today – and, when I reached Jerusalem and called the numbers, they all turned out to be correct. In other words, the Israeli government had been in personal and direct contact with Hamas.
But now the narrative has been twisted out of all recognition. Hamas are the super-terrorists, the “al-Qa’ida” representatives in the unified Palestinian leadership, the men of evil who will ensure that no peace ever takes place between Palestinians and Israeli. If only this were true, the real al-Qa’ida would be more than happy to take responsibility. But it is not true. In the same context, Obama stated that the Palestinians would have to answer questions about Hamas. But why should they? What Obama and Netanyahu think about Hamas is now irrelevant to them. Obama warns the Palestinians not to ask for statehood at the United Nations in September. But why on earth not? If the people of Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Libya and Syria – we are all waiting for the next revolution (Jordan? Bahrain again? Morocco?) – can fight for freedom and dignity, why shouldn’t the Palestinians? Lectured for decades on the need for non-violent protest, the Palestinians elect to go to the UN with their cry for legitimacy – only to be slapped down by Obama.
Having read all of the “Palestine Papers” which Al-Jazeera revealed, there is no doubt that “Palestine’s” official negotiators will go to any lengths to produce some kind of statelet. Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to write a 600-page book on the “peace process” without once mentioning the word “occupation”, could even cave in over the UN project, fearful of Obama’s warning that it would be an attempt to “isolate” Israel and thus de-legitimise the Israeli state – or “the Jewish state” as the US president now calls it. But Netanyahu is doing more than anyone to delegitimise his own state; indeed, he is looking more and more like the Arab buffoons who have hitherto littered the Middle East. Mubarak saw a “foreign hand” in the Egyptian revolution (Iran, of course). So did the Crown Prince of Bahrain (Iran again). So did Gaddafi (al-Qa’ida, western imperialism, you name it), So did Saleh of Yemen (al-Qa’ida, Mossad and America). So did Assad of Syria (Islamism, probably Mossad, etc). And so does Netanyahu (Iran, naturally enough, Syria, Lebanon, just about anyone you can think of except for Israel itself).
But as this nonsense continues, so the tectonic plates shudder. I doubt very much if the Palestinians will remain silent. If there’s an “intifada” in Syria, why not a Third Intifada in “Palestine”? Not a struggle of suicide bombers but of mass, million-strong protests. If the Israelis have to shoot down a mere few hundred demonstrators who tried – and in some cases succeeded – in crossing the Israeli border almost two weeks ago, what will they do if confronted by thousands or a million. Obama says no Palestinian state must be declared at the UN. But why not? Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? Not even, it seems, the Israelis. The Arab spring will soon become a hot summer and there will be an Arab autumn, too. By then, the Middle East may have changed forever. What America says will matter nothing.
Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Dashes Palestinian Hopes of a Just Mideast Peace Agreement May 25, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: 1967 borders, amy goodman, democracynow, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, gaza, israel, israel apartheid, israel settlements, Middle East, netanyahu, Palestine, palestinian state, Palestinians, two-state solution, west bank
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The future of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains in doubt after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address Tuesday before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu insisted Jerusalem will not be divided and that Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 borders are “indefensible.” He also said Israel must “maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River” and condemned the recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal. Netanyahu’s speech came five days after President Obama called for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps. We speak with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative. “Netanyahu yesterday blocked every possibility for negotiations for a two-state solution,” Barghouti says. “Practically, he took away any possibility for peaceful resolution, because he wanted to impose unilaterally the outcome on every issue… He wants us to live as slaves in a system of apartheid and segregation.”
AMY GOODMAN: The future of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians remain in doubt following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address on Tuesday before a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu insisted Jerusalem will not be divided and that Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 borders are “indefensible.”
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv. Now these areas are densely populated, but they’re geographically quite small. And under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical, strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: Netanyahu also said Israel must, quote, “maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River,” and he condemned the recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal. Netanyahu’s speech came five days after President Obama called for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
Joining us now in Washington, D.C., is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative. He’s the president of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Your response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in this joint address before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Barghouti?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, First of all, let me say that what Mr. Netanyahu did yesterday was a presentation of—or actually, misrepresentation of the facts, a lot of lies. Obviously he believes that if he lies a lot and continues to lie, the lies become facts. He was falsifying history and falsifying facts and misleading people in the United States. When he said that Israel is too small, all he needed to say is to compare it with Palestine. I mean, what we are calling for here in two-state solution is a situation where Israel will be four times the size of Palestine, and still he speaks about it as if it’s a small country, but—and then comparing it with the United States.
In my opinion, Netanyahu yesterday blocked every possibility for negotiations for a two-state solution. Practically, he took away any possibility for peaceful resolution, because he wanted to impose unilaterally—he wanted to impose unilaterally the outcome on every issue—on the issue of Jerusalem, on the issue of borders, on the issue of settlements. And practically, his plan is clear: he wants us to live as slaves in a system of apartheid and segregation, he wants to continue the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, and he wants to block any possibility for a Palestinian statehood or Palestinian freedom.
More than that, I think some of what he said sounded totally delusional. When he spoke about the fact that the only place where Arabs can enjoy freedom and democracy is when they are ruled by Israel, I think this is something like saying that the place where women’s rights are most respected is Afghanistan. It’s totally delusional. He fails to see the fact that his country is practicing apartheid and segregation against the Palestinian population. He failed to see the fact that they have taken away the homes, the lands of the people who live under Israeli control and that Israel is practicing the worst form of violence against peaceful, nonviolent resistance that Palestinians are adopting today in trying to defend their rights for freedom and for dignity.
What is most shameful, in my opinion, really, was the response of the Congress to what Mr. Netanyahu said. In my opinion, the fact that he got 29 standing ovations and so many applause by the Congress people reflects an act of irresponsibility by the Congress, because by supporting such extremists, like Netanyahu, in this manner, by supporting such extreme positions by this Israeli government, which is nothing but a government of settlers that is falsifying history and reality, by doing so, they are practically supporting an act that is aiming at killing any possibility of peace. And that is irresponsible, not only towards Palestinians, not only towards peace; it’s an act of irresponsibility towards even the future of Israelis themselves, because the plan that Netanyahu proposed is nothing but a plan to assassinate and kill any opportunity for peace based on two-state solution. It’s a plan of enslavement of Palestinians. And we, as Palestinians, will never be accepting to be slaves of occupation or apartheid or the system of occupation that Mr. Netanyahu wants to consolidate on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti, I wanted to ask you about the comments that President Obama made last Thursday when he became the first U.S. president to explicitly call for Israelis and Palestinians to seek a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti, your response to President Obama?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, unfortunately, I think Mr. Obama, President Obama, retreated from any of his comments in his speech in front of the AIPAC. And because he got criticized for identifying ’67 borders as the borders between Palestinian state, future state, and Israel, because of that criticism, he went further to describe what swaps mean. And according to him, swaps should take into consideration demographic realities, new demographic realities. But these demographic realities that he speaks about are about settlers, and these settlers are violating international law. And any presence of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory is in violation of international law, in violation of the International Court of Justice resolutions, and as such, could not be considered as facts that should be accepted.
The problem with the issue of swaps is that they could mean taking away any possibility for the viability of the Palestinian state, not only because of the size of these areas that would be swapped, but also because these areas include at least 85 percent of the water resources that Palestinians need in the West Bank. They take away water resources. These settlements blocs, if they are annexed to Israel, will definitely destroy the contiguity of territory in the Palestinian state, and they would destroy any possibility of the viability of the states. That’s why I think what President Obama said in his speech in the State Department is contradictive to what he said in front of the conference of AIPAC.
And when Mr. Netanyahu comes up with the plan he proposed, explaining that the Israeli army must remain on the borders, and then explaining that Jerusalem will never be divided again, and explaining that Israel will have to annex all these settlements, then practically we are not talking about a viable Palestinian contiguous state, but about a structure that would be nothing but clusters of bantustans, disconnected from each other and under a system of apartheid controlled by Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: The Israelis are calling it a state, but that means nothing because it has nothing that makes it a real state. It’s just clusters of bantustans. This is the plan that Netanyahu has, and the American president failed to pressure him to change this plan.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the significance of the Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, quitting?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: I believe now, in retrospect, when we see what has happened after his resignation, I think he has resigned because he failed. And he realized that his opinion was not taken into consideration, obviously, especially on issues like settlements. And I feel sorry for him, because he had done a good job with Ireland. Unfortunately, in the case of Palestine, he failed to pressure Israel. Maybe he did not have the support from his own administration to exercise any form of pressure on Israel. Especially that now, when we see this conflict growing, nobody is telling Israel at least stop the building of settlements on the ground, at least stop the facts on the ground. And that’s why I consider that Mr. Mitchell’s resignation is just a reflection of the fact that his mission failed, and probably that his views were not taken into consideration, and that the Israeli lobby is practically imposing the American policy in the Middle East. And that is something very dangerous. Again, I say this is something irresponsible, irresponsible in terms of the future of both Palestinians and Israelis, and irresponsible policy in terms of the future of stability in the Middle East.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti, you were in Cairo, with the coming together of Hamas and Fatah. The U.S. has criticized any group that would ally with Hamas. Your response to that, and the significance of this, how you see this fitting into the destiny of Palestine?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: It is totally un-understandable why they are criticizing the unity agreement between Palestinians. We’ve managed to convince Hamas to accept two-state solution, to accept the compromise of two-state solution. We’ve managed to convince Hamas to abstain from any form of violence and to abstain from any form of military actions and to stick totally with all of us to nonviolent form of resistance. We managed to convince Hamas to authorize President Abbas to represent all Palestinians. Isn’t that what they wanted? If we have managed to convince everybody to adopt nonviolence as a form of struggle for Palestinians, and if we managed to have a unified Palestinian camp that agrees and accepts two-state solution, then why this agreement is rejected?
Let me remind you that Mr. Netanyahu and his government has been saying that they cannot make a deal with President Abbas or move forward with negotiations, because President Abbas could not represent all Palestinians since he could not control Hamas or could not control Gaza. Now, President Abbas is allowed to represent all Palestinians, and Netanyahu is responding by saying, “You have to break up with Hamas, or we will not talk to you.” What does that mean? He’s playing games here. This man is an expert in lying. This man is an expert in falsification. This man, Netanyahu, is an expert in misrepresenting facts.
AMY GOODMAN: Prime Minister Netanyahu, he has—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: And I am so sorry that people don’t see that.
AMY GOODMAN: He has been interviewed repeatedly on the networks in the United States, and he has repeatedly said, “We accept a Palestinian state. They do not accept a Jewish state. That is the problem,” he said. “How do you negotiate with these people?” What is your response to that?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: That’s another big lie, because the problem with the Oslo agreement has been that the Palestinians, represented by the PLO, recognized Israel as a state. They recognized Israel. Israel did not recognize Palestine as a state. Up ’til now, Israel is not recognizing Palestine as a state, because what does it mean to say, “I accept you as a state, but I don’t accept that you have borders, and I don’t accept that you have a capital, and I don’t accept that you have free trade, and I don’t accept that you have free economy”? This is just a false representation of reality. In reality, Palestinians have accepted Israel and have recognized Israel, and in exchange, all Israel did was to recognize PLO as a representative of Palestinians rather than recognizing the Palestinian state as such. If Mr. Netanyahu wants really to recognize the state, he should declare tomorrow that he agrees with what President Obama said, which is that we will have two-state solution on the basis of ’67 borders.
AMY GOODMAN: He said—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: That, he negated.
AMY GOODMAN: Netanyahu said—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: That, he is refusing.
AMY GOODMAN: Netanyahu said, “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’”
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, Mr. Abbas has said repeatedly that he is recognizing Israel. And if we—if Israel is recognized as a Jewish state, then what happens to the one-and-a-half million Palestinians that Netanyahu is claiming have equal rights in Israel? They are not Jewish. This state should be democratic. A democratic state should fulfill the needs of all its people. Do you think—what would happen if somebody comes out and says the United States should be declared as a Catholic state or as a Protestant state? What will happen to the Jewish community in the United States then? In my opinion, each country should be recognized as a democratic state, which means all its citizens have equal rights. And that does not negate the needs of the Jewish population. That does not negate the history of the Jewish people and their suffering. On the contrary. If you want them to last in a good state, that state should be democratic and not based on discrimination and racist differentiation between people, as is the situation today in Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re saying that you accept—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: In Israel today, you have apartheid discrimination against Arabs in Israel who are citizens of Israel. You have another level of discrimination against Palestinians living in Jerusalem, in East Jerusalem, where a Palestinian will not be allowed to marry a woman from a nearby city or village and live with her, because if he moves to live with her, he will lose his citizenship, and he would not be allowed to bring her into Jerusalem because he cannot give her citizenship. That’s a system of racial discrimination.
AMY GOODMAN: So—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: And there is a third level of apartheid which exists in the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, please?
AMY GOODMAN: So, Dr. Barghouti, you’re saying you accept Israel as a state, but not as a Jewish state?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: I am saying that pushing the issue of Jewishness of the state of Israel today is one way of putting the Palestinians again on the defense, while their state is not recognized. What is missing today is not Israel as a state. Israel is already a state. It is already a member of the United Nations. Israel now is the third largest military exporter in the world. It has the fifth largest army in the world. It has 400 nuclear weapons. It is not threatened. The people who are threatened are the Palestinians who are under occupation for 44 years, who have been dispossessed from their land since 63 years, and who don’t have freedom, don’t have democracy, and don’t have self-determination. The country that needs to be recognized today is Palestine. And Netanyahu is doing everything he can to obstruct us from going to the United Nations to ask for implementation of the same resolution that was taken in 1947 that gave Israel its legitimacy and said there should be a Palestinian, which never materialized. He is trying to block that. So, practically, the country, the state that needs to be recognized today is Palestine, because Israel is already recognized.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, I want to thank you for being with us. Dr. Barghouti, speaking to us from Washington, D.C.