Palestine/Israel Apartheid News: 5/10/11: The Irrelevance of J Street

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeak News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 165

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell



Headlines for May 11, 2011

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 165

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell


The Irrelevance of J Street

from Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place by Richard Silverstein

jeremy ben amiJeremy Ben Ami: losing political relevance

Jeremy Ben Ami was interviewed by Reuters about his views of Bibi Netanyahu’s upcoming visit and speech to the U.S. Congress, and the upcoming General Assembly meeting at which the PA will lobby for the recognition of a Palestinian state.  Ben-Ami’s views continue to show why my past fervor for J Street has been considerably dimmed.  J Street, like the Israeli and U.S. governments, takes a dim view of Palestinian statehood.  They’re in favor of it theoretically, you understand.  Just not in practice. So when a real chance to declare a Palestinian state comes along, its thumbs down.

So what is Ben Ami’s antidote to a General Assembly-recognized Palestinian state?

…The only way to effectively delay the plan and reduce tensions stoked by surrounding Arab uprisings was for Netanyahu to chart a clear path to a two-state deal.

…”We are urging, from our perspective, that the prime minister’s initiative should be a serious plan…”

Ben-Ami said Netanyahu ought to present a deal along lines agreed in past years of negotiations, including proposed land swaps in exchange for settlement blocs Israel would keep.

“Put a proposal on the table that meets a bar of credibility, not a provisional state on 30 or 40 percent of the land, but a real state, and let them decide if they’re serious about peace or not,” Ben-Ami said.

That’s all well and good.  But really, Jeremy, how likely is it that Bibi is going to present anything like what you suggest?  Can we get real here?  Pretending that Bibi is a statesman or has even a minute possibility of being one is a total waste of everyone’s time.  Would you like to believe that Bibi could do such a thing?  Do you want to believe that Israel could be a serious, responsible partner for peace?  Sure, we all do.  But the difference between what J Street wants Bibi to be and what he is is so great that mouthing platitudes as Ben-Ami has done, makes himself and whatever movement or constituency he represents look foolish and ineffectual.

Right now, there is only one serious game in town: the General Assembly proposal and the Fatah-Hamas unity deal.  Yes, it may break down.  But if you compare what Abbas has on the table with what Bibi has on the table, there’s no comparison.  The first offer bears hope, the second bears nothing.

The J Street leaders finally words on the Palestinian proposals once again shows his Pollyanna qualities in stark outline:

Ben-Ami said UN endorsement of a Palestinian state without Israeli agreement on borders could engender violence as the conflict continues.

“Frustration will be higher,” Ben-Ami said. Such sentiment “leads to explosions and all you need is one match on the tinder and we’re very worried about what that leads to.”

You mean creating a Palestinian state would add yet another match on the tinder than the ones Israel has thrown repeatedly over the past few decades?  I also find it interesting that a constructive Palestinian approach that doesn’t call for killing anyone or stealing anyone’s land is labelled by Ben Ami as incendiary; but an Israeli approach that offers nothing but more blood and more conflagration is somehow different and less worthy of condemnation.

Get real, Jeremy.  You’re so divorced from any conceivable reality it makes you and J Street into almost a laughingstock.  You may retain your donors and your constituency, but you’ve lost all political relevance.  Which isn’t surprising considering that your sponsors in the Obama administration have lost theirs as well as far as Israel-Palestine policy is concerned.

Related posts:

  1. J Street and the Death of Liberal Zionism At first glance, it may appear downright curmudgeonly to speak…

Deutsche Bahn

“Deutsche Bahn, the German railway operator, has pulled out of an Israeli project that cuts through the occupied Palestinian West Bank, after pressure from activists and Berlin.  The move marks a victory for pro-Palestinian groups and their so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which tries to use economic pressure on Israel to help the Palestinian cause.


Israel’s Covert Policy of Ethnic Cleansing

Woody Guthrie memorably wrote that “some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.”  Similarly, some ethnic cleansing happens by force and out in the open a la Serbia’s displacement of Croats and Kosovars during the Yugoslav wars, and some happens with the stroke of a pen.  Witness the IDF’s expulsion between 1967 and 1994 of 140,000 Palestinians from their homeland by trumped up regulations that artificially denied residency if they did not return promptly to their homes from travel, study or work abroad.

Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994, the legal advisor for the Judea and Samaria Justice Ministry’s office admits, in a new document obtained by Haaretz. The document was written after the Center for the Defense of the Individual filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

The document states that the procedure was used on Palestinian residents of the West Bank who traveled abroad between 1967 and 1994. From the occupation of the West Bank until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians who wished to travel abroad via Jordan were ordered to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

They exchanged their ID cards for a card allowing them to cross. The card was valid for three years and could be renewed three times, each time adding another year.

If a Palestinian did not return within six months of the card’s expiration, thier documents would be sent to the regional census supervisor. Residents who failed to return on time were registered as NLRs – no longer residents. The document makes no mention of any warning or information that the Palestinians received about the process.

Interestingly, even the IDF’s chief administrative officer in the Territories during this period didn’t know of its existence.  That’s how much of a secret it was.  If you wonder why…clearly the IDF knew it was violating international law.

This procedure is still in place for East Jerusalem residents who lose their residency if they stay abroad longer than seven years.  Moked, the NGO which uncovered this dreadful wrong, also notes that an unknown number of Gazans similarly have lost their residency rights.  That number is still considered a secret by the IDF.

So let’s be clear about a few things and call them by their rightful name.  This is ethnic cleansing.  It is “nice” ethnic cleansing because no one gets killed and no one is physically driven from their home in the dead of night as happened in other historic instances of such crimes.  In that sense, it’s a quite tidy and effective tactic to decrease the Palestinian population.  It violates nternational law and will not stand in the long-term.

Now, Israel will have to add to those entitled to return not only tens (or more) thousands of Nakba returnees, but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Territories.  And those 140,000 have grown by leaps and bounds because their children have been deprived as well of their patrimony.

This is a quiet crime that must be undone.

Related posts:

  1. Seattle Conference: Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Failure of U.S. Policy I am organizing a conference this week here in Seattle…
  2. ‘Because of Their Sins We Expelled Them From Their Land’ Because of our sins we were exiled from our land….
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Kidnapped of two brothers and an in-law in Bil’in

Photo By Rani Burnat
E-mail Photo By Rani Burnat

On 10th of May 2011, at 8.30 in the evening the army entered the village of Bil’in through the gate in the Eastern Wall. The soldiers shot lightening grenades before heading into the village. Two jeeps went to the house of Abdul Fattah Burnat, while a third jeep was observed waiting by the Wall. The soldiers entered and raided Abdul’s house, and arrested two of his sons; Ahmed Burnat (18), Mohammed Burnat (23). Abdul’s visiting brother in law Ahmed Mansour Beitillu (32), who is a resident of the nearby village of Kharbata Bani Harith was also arrested. The raid lasted for about half an hour. The three were then taken in the jeeps to the Wall. According to their lawyer Lymor Goldstein their footsteps were measured, apparently to see if they had been near the Wall. All three were released later the same night.

Israeli (in)justice

“An Israeli military judge extended the remand of a 15-year-old Palestinian on Sunday despite suspicions that the boy was badly beaten by soldiers. The reason for the extension was that the court was closed for Memorial Day and Independence Day.”

Palestinian writer detained without charge by Israeli authorities

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
From Amnesty International, May 10:

Israeli authorities should release or charge a Palestinian writer and academic held for almost three weeks in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today.

read more


Al-Aseifar and Susya, May 7, 2011

from The Only Democracy? by David Shulman

Two things strike you immediately, closely followed by a familiar third. The first is the sheer brazenness of the theft—or, rather, of the thief, who stands before you jeering, smug, sure of his power, eager to hurt. He has already taken some 95% of your family’s land, and now he bullies his way into the tiny patch that is left in order to harass you and humiliate you further, for this evidently gives him joy. Then there is the pure racism, purer perhaps than what one sees anywhere else in the world today. The thief regards you as barely human, an object capable only of feeling pain, though he needs you as his victim, for without you he is incomplete, profoundly frustrated, lonely, unfulfilled. Thus the settler in his Shabbat white, a huge knitted skullcap on his head, takes a pebble and holds it out on his fingertips to a Palestinian woman from Susya as he clucks his tongue at her, beckoning her, teasing her, as one would a dog, then tosses the pebble at her in contempt, as one throws a dog a biscuit, and he laughs. I saw him do it this morning in Susya, and I wasn’t the only witness.

The third thing is the system that protects the thief and ensures that no harm will come to him and that he will never be punished, for the system is built upon his theft.

None of this is new, only somehow starker, more palpable, yet hardly credible, on this perfect spring morning in south Hebron. Drops of bitter-sweet dusty rain fell in Jerusalem as I left home, but here in Susya we witness a shocking choreography of cloud and sun, and the air lingers on my tongue and the light caresses my eyes and the wind is here, too, to welcome us back. The stubborn barley is a bit higher than it was when I was here three weeks ago. It is 9:00, and there is no time to lose. We rush from the van over the hill to the olive grove in the wadi; a donkey brays. Past the trees, up the slope, on Palestinian land, a group of ten or twelve settlers is enacting a brutal ritual of mockery, singing, snarling, making obscene gestures, sneering at the Palestinians who stand in disarray just below them. The leader—the one of the dog-gesture—literally dances in and out of the Palestinian clusters, daring them to stop him, taunting them, and from time to time he lashes out at them with his fists, pushes, shoves, pounds at them, demonstrating his absolute superiority, relishing this moment of his power and the precious opportunity to insult. The three soldiers who have clambered down the hill from the settlement cannot stop him, nor do they seem very eager to do so. They struggle vainly to separate the settlers from their victims, but this is not a static setting; the settlers push ever more deeply into the tiny Palestinian enclave, and movement swirls and spills out over the hill, an alternative, ugly human choreography to match that of clouds and sun above as we ebb and flow in arcs and circles, trying to shield the Palestinians from their attackers, and the soldiers bark their futile threats and orders, and soon we’re already half a mile north of the olive grove where we began and the settlers are closing in now on the sheepfold and the tents and the access road, still very much in control.

More soldiers—Border Police—arrive. They begin, as usual, by arresting, more or less at random, an elderly Palestinian gentleman, whom they spirit away to a makeshift holding area among the trees. By now a second Ta’ayush contingent has arrived, a large group. Amiel strides straight into the battle zone and, within seconds, is arrested and handcuffed; as always, he is calm, self-possessed, and unafraid, but the Border Police officer tells him he is resisting arrest and will suffer the consequences. Why, one wonders, should the officer want to lie? No one touches the rampaging settlers.

So it goes for a long time, maybe two hours or so of dashing madly over the hills to head off one settler attack after another, and then the settlers send their large herd of sheep to graze, where else, in the Palestinian fields and the soldiers force them back uphill, and a vast line of settlers from Susya, women, children, men, some armed with machine guns, emerge for their Shabbat stroll through the lands of their Palestinian neighbors with four or five army command-cars to protect them—as if the Palestinians and not these settlers were the threat to peace and quiet on this bright windy morning. “They always want to make trouble, and the soldiers go with them,” says a dignified Palestinian shepherd, watching this long column in disgust as he holds high the upper row of a make-shift barbed-wire fence so we can pass through. It’s been some time since I’ve run so far and so fast over these rocks.

We’ve got it all down in high-quality digital films. Someday, I think, not yet but someday, some of the criminals will yet pay for their crimes. Their time will come.

When at last it’s over and we’re no longer needed, we split into two groups. One crosses the road to what’s left of the Jbur family’s encampment, which the Civil Administration demolished on Thursday. Yesterday the family itself was driven out with stun grenades and tear gas and blows—one woman was wounded in the leg. I won’t repeat the whole story, which I’ve described before. But I take this demolition as a personal affront, since among other acts of violent destruction the army obliterated a large well that I helped dig out from the stones and dirt left by its previous demolition. We worked for hours that day, and it looked like the well would eventually be serviceable again. My back hurt for weeks. There’s nothing left there now. The Civil Administration prides itself on its efficiency.

The other group, which I join, heads for the Abu Kbeita fields on the slopes under a small khirbeh called al-Aseifar. This is another long and tortuous story. We are close to the Green Line—and, indeed, the main checkpoint on the road, recently privatized, is several kilometers north of the border, as if Palestinian lands lying to the south had already been annexed to Israel. What this means in practice is that the Abu Kbeita family, among others, have been turned into Illegal Aliens (shabachim) while residing in their own homes. They’re not the only ones to suffer this fate, heavy with consequences for daily survival; but in addition, they have to deal with a settler, Danny, who claims that the Abu Kbeita fields, leased from the original owner, Hawamdi, in Samu’a, belong to him. He is wrong: the case went to the Supreme Court, which decided in 1991 in favor of the Palestinians. None of this has stopped the settlers, including those from Beit Yatir just across the main road, from trying to drive Mahmud Abu Kbeita and his three brothers off the land. These settlers, like so many others in south Hebron, are often violent; they have stoned the Abu Kbeitas when they felt like it, broken the arm of Osama, one of Mahmud’s sons, and even penetrated into the family house in al-Aseifar where, according to some testimonies, they drove a large knife or other weapon right through the wall.

Here’s a lesson in reality in the south Hebron hills. In November the family plowed the main field and sowed it with barley and wheat. In December settlers came and plowed over the fledgling shoots. The family sowed again, and now it is harvest time—but two weeks ago the settlers invited the police to arrest Mahmud on some trumped-up charge, and the police acceded with alacrity to this request. He spent 24 hours in one of the ugliest lock-ups in the country, handcuffed and footcuffed much of the time. When they finally brought him before a judge, the latter could find no evidence of any possible violation that could be attributed to this man, but the judge fined him anyway with a 5000-shekel “bond”– a huge sum of money for a Palestinian family of small-scale farmers– and also ruled that he could not approach his fields for 14 days. If you have ever met a farmer, you know what this means.

Mahmud is that rarest of beings, a really good man. You know this from the first instant you meet him. Decency and goodness and good cheer radiate from him, and from his sons as well. He tells me the sorry story without acrimony but with a kind of aching bewilderment. “I don’t understand the judge. He could find nothing against me, but still he ruled that I have to pay and have to stay away from my fields. Where is the law? Why should it lie? And how can Danny the settler stand in front of me and lie to my face? I thought I’d go crazy in the jail; I’m a farmer, I am always outside in the fields and the open air, not confined and chained. After 24 hours, your whole body aches. Then they bring you to the court and keep you there, handcuffed, for a whole day with nothing to eat or drink, nothing, your bones hurt, and when you finally come before the judge you can’t find the words. I and my family own 350 dunams, all the way up to and beyond the checkpoint, and I lease this field from Hawamdi and have all the documents to prove it; the Supreme Court also confirmed this, but the settlers still harass us day by day. I submitted a complaint to the police, and you know what happened? Nothing at all. But today you are here, and this is as life should be, Arabs and Jews working together as friends.”

And indeed we are working hard: after a short lesson from Isma’il, another gentle, good-natured son, in the ancient mysteries of ripe barley and wheat, we crouch in the fields and pull the stalks from the caked brown earth with our fingers, brush off the clods sticking to the roots, and pile our treasures here and there in the field in small, slowly swelling heaps. I don’t remember the last time I harvested the spring wheat crop, like in the Book of Ruth, but I remember well the unearthly joy of it, which can, in my view, heal all sorrows of the soul (as I guess it did for Ruth). I’m not sure I can tell the barley from the wheat, even after Isma’il’s lesson, but clearly both somehow manage to emerge, in bright greens and yellows, out of this unpromising, desiccated soil. When I’m not bending over the stalks, I steal glances at the hills and the Yatir forest and the not-so-distant desert, a landscape that ravishes the heart– perhaps, I think to myself, the most beautiful I’ve seen in the world. They bring us tea and fresh bread and white cheese made this morning and the salty hard yellow cheese of this region that lasts forever, and after a while they invite us to feast on fariki: you take the green, freshly-harvested wheat and roast it in fire, there in the field, then you crack it open and let it rest on your tongue, still hot and pungent, before your swallow. There’s nothing like it, take my word.

A great peace comes over me. For just a moment I let go of the questions that torment me: how can anyone, man or woman, steal such a field and then stand before the true owner and lie shamelessly to his face? I’m 62 years old and I don’t understand, will clearly never understand. I can imagine greed, in all its cruelty and obsession, can even find it in myself, but that brazen lie, eye to eye, troubles me—that and the ruthless assault on the goodness that the earth offers those who care for it. Anyway I’ve been thinking about truth and its intrinsic worth, and the value of the moral act, even if it goes unnoticed. It is so easy to say in a wishful, or hopeful, romantic way that truth—speaking truth– will necessarily leave a mark on the world. Is there a deeper, tougher way to think about it? I indulge the romantic notion, no question. And yet to stand up to the lie, even for a moment, even on the simplest and lowliest level, surely heals some small abrasion in the body of a wounded world. Israel today is ruled by lies, beginning with most everything the Prime Minister says and moving down the scale through his ministers and members of his cabinet to infect large parts of the press and the army and the courts and thence to the soldiers who man the checkpoints and the policeman who arrested Mahmud and the Border Police who arrested Amiel today, on and on downwards all the way to a Hell entirely of our own making. Yet I know indubitably from my own body that an act of truth can cut like a knife and that in the end it will not be wasted. This I have learned in south Hebron.

When it is time to leave we gather up the stalks and sheaves and load them onto a tall cart coupled to a tractor that Isma’il has driven down the hill. There is enough, Mahmud says, to feed the animals for over a week, and some will be left over. And there is still a vast piece of the field waiting to be harvested: maybe next week. You take the sheaves in your arms and hold them to your chest, and then there is the sudden, wild movement when you fling them upward into the cart and let them go, like the wild movement that may happen soon when Palestine flings itself free.


Burchill wrong shock!

from Jews sans frontieres by Levi9909
Here’s a letter in today’s Independent protesting Julie Burchill’s “absurd analogy” between a boycott of Israel and the nazis anti-Jewish boycott:

Julie Burchill (5 May) makes an offensive, unfounded and absurd analogy when she accuses human-rights campaigners picketing Ahava of “carrying on Hitler’s work”.

The “little Ahava shop” in Covent Garden promises “beauty secrets from the Dead Sea”. The real secrets it keeps are an ugly truth – its products come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in occupied Palestinian territory, and are produced in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Israeli settlements on Palestinian land were declared illegal in a 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Ahava seeks to profit from violations of international law and receives Israeli government subsidies for its role in whitewashing Israeli oppression. That two years of pickets and direct action have forced a landlord to refuse to renew Ahava’s lease and to end their relationship with this criminal enterprise should be celebrated and be seen as part of the broader movement for Palestinian rights.
Israel systematically denies Palestinians their basic rights and the international community has failed to hold it accountable. In response, Palestinian civil society calls for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. Heeding this call, electronica band Faithless, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and scores of other artists have vowed not to play in Israel. Tower Hamlets council recently passed a policy excluding Veolia, a company that runs infrastructure projects for Israel’s illegal settlements, from bidding on future service provision contracts in the borough.
Boycotts helped to end apartheid in South Africa and have an important role to play if we are to bring an end to Israeli apartheid.
Bruce Levy BDS London;
Deborah Fink Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods;
Sarah Colborne, Tim Hicks
Palestine Solidarity Campaign;
Pete Jones International Solidarity Movement London; Michael Kalmanovitz
International Jewish anti-Zionist Network,
London n7

There’s another letter criticising Burchill for helping the case for the growth of Tesco, but that’s another story.

This entry was posted in Apartheid, Background & Analysis, Events, Human Rights, Israel, Zionism. Bookmark the permalink.

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