From the interview:
Is the BDS movement alienating Israelis?
Resistance to oppression always alienates the oppressors it’s a rule in any resistance to colonial oppression throughout history and the colonial community is never fond of it, of this resistance. They would like us to be complacent slaves who just take injustice as fate and just live with it, move on. Well we won’t move on we’ll continue resisting and it will continue bothering them because it promises to deprive them of their colonial privilege and no one is happy to give up, simply, their colonial privilege as you know very well in Britan. It has to be pulled out from the colonial masters that you can no longer be our colonial masters . We want to live in full equality and have full rights. So yes the great majority of Iraelis are alienated by BDS of course and they ban together as some journalist call ‘they circle the wagons’ so to speak ..and this tribalism has become really extreme and fascism is is growing in Israel as many many leading acedemics and artists in israel are saying so yes we know but this happens at the beginning this feeling that everyone is banning together and the minority is dissenting.
This suppression reflects that they’re really scarred and when people feel scared they do ban together until the price becomes much higher and then you’ll see cracks in this wall of silence in Israel and wall of complicity in Israel where almost all Israelis are complicit almost all…all cultural institutions, all academic institutions all economic institutions everyone is complicit with very few exceptions. But we’ve seen it before, we’ve seen it in South Africa we’ve seen it with the British colonial rule, French colonial rule, we’ve seen it before when the publics do not pay a price they say ‘well we’re enjoying the fruits of colonialism and apartheid and oppression why can’t we continue?’…….enjoying the benefits of billions and billions of dollars of your (British) tax money, American tax money, German tax money that’s subsidizing it’s occupation and apartheid so why should it stop oppressing us? Why should it question? Why should people question ending occupation and the oppression? Only when the price goes higher as we’re doing and that’s why BDS is truly alarming to the establishment, to the colonial establishment in Israel. It promises to threaten their hegemony and their privilege and once that happens we’ll see the dissent. That’s what happened in South Africa and we’ve studied South Africa experience very closely, very very closely…..from that experience we’ve learned if we keep at it with moral consistency with continuous pressure the system will start cracking and then we’ll see a lot of dissent.
Five years ago a rabbi stood up and asks Barghouti why he wasn’t honest about the BDS demands of ending inequality and having full equality for Palestinians in Israel. He asked him “Why don’t you just say it, that you want to destroy Israel?”
I specifically copied this segment of the interview because Barghouti’s response clearly speaks to the intentions of the BDS movement.
Let me understand what you just said, so i told him “your saying ending inequality would destroy Israel what does that say about Israel? Has ending inequality destroyed South Africa? Ending apartheid destroy South Africa? Has ending segregation in the US destroyed the United States, southern states that had an apartheid system? We did not call it apartheid then but it was an apartheid system. Since when does ending inequality destroy anything? It destroys inequality, it destroys apartheid, it destroys injustice. That’s what we’re deligitimizing in Israel, it’s occupation, it’s apartheid, it’s denial of our basic rights, it’s ethnic cleansing. Yes, we’re proud to be deligitimizing israel’s oppression, Israel violations of international law. That does not call for ending the existence of any person or any group or anything, it does not target people as people, it targets a system of oppression so that all people can live in equality and justice.”
INDEX (stories follow)
This is interesting. Pat Caddell lately published a poll of American Jewish attitudes that suggests that while foreign policy is not their first concern politically, they are very conservative on Israel/Palestine. Then liberal bloggers at the Washington Post sandbagged the poll’s methodology, as Commentary reports, because the poll sure seems sloppy, also the liberals don’t want to believe that Jews are abandoning Obama:
The poll — which found that only 42 percent of Jewish Americans would vote for Obama in 2012 – stirred controversy because it was released at a time when Obama has been trying to downplay the perception he’s losing Jewish support….
[one] major criticism [is that the poll] allegedly had a skewed sample…. only 65 percent of their poll respondents said they voted for Obama in 2008, which conflicts with the exit polling data claiming 79 percent of Jews voted for him. Caddell said the sample’s demographics were solid, but it’s common for many people not to admit voting for a president when he becomes less popular.
I am with Commentary on this one. I think American Jews are very conservative on Israel/Palestine stuff. We can differ on how conservative– an earlier poll said that 58 percent were against dividing Jerusalem, this one says 73 percent– but intolerance is intolerance; and again I say, the lack of a Palestinian state, 63 years after it was promised to ’em, is an American Jewish achievement.
From the poll:
A.An overwhelming majority (81% to 8%) disapproves of the U.N. voting to declare a Palestinian state that refuses to renounce terrorists and is linked to terrorist organizations. [i.e., they’re against Hamas-Fatah reconciliation].
B.Four in five (81%) are against Israel being forced to return to its pre-1967 borders, which were susceptible to attack.
C.Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel. Only 8% thinks the United States should force Israel to give parts of Jerusalem, including Christian and Jewish holy sites, to the Palestinian Authority.
D.Two-thirds (64%) think that if the Palestinian Authority were given their own state in the West Bank, part of Jerusalem, and Gaza, they would continue their campaign of terror to destroy Israel. Only 16% thinks they would live peacefully with Israel.
E. An overwhelming majority (88% to 5) agrees with the position that before the Palestinian Authority is given their own country, they must first recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
F.American Jewish voters are strongly favorable to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (65% favorable to 20% unfavorable).
A sorrow and a pity. That the New York Times and CBS are not Every Day banging the tocsin of freedom, that august American media institutions do not have the character or ability to say what Haaretz reminds us, Israel/Palestine is Jim Crow. Yael Sternhell, writing a piece that should be on the front page of the Times. And writing it lonely: For Israeli society is against Sternhell in her call for support of Palestinian freedom. I’m told this is a landmark piece inside Israel, Sternhell is a former news anchor and the daughter of Zeev Sternhell.
We, the Jews who live in Israel, participate each day, each hour, in the denial of basic rights to Palestinian citizens, in the perpetuation of the settlements and the occupation. We’re in a similar position to that of many whites in the United States in the 1960s.
Most of us find it hard to support the Palestinian struggle for independence, whether out of laziness, indifference or a basic loathing of those we’ve been told all our lives are a necessary enemy. Most of us find it hard to stand up to the story told by the government and most of the media that the Palestinian declaration of independence is a disaster for Israel, exactly as most whites in the South saw the granting of voting rights to blacks as the end of civilization.
Most of us find it hard to believe that it’s possible to live together in peace, just as those whites in Alabama found it hard to imagine life in a free society in which members of all races have the same rights.
from Mondoweiss by The Free Gaza Movement
The following letter was delivered to the Greek Government on July 12, 2011 making it clear that the people of Gaza seek freedom and respect for their human rights, including their right to lead a dignified life, not charity. Seemingly deaf to their call, yesterday a spokesman for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Delavekouras, repeated the Greek Government’s “generous offer” to deliver limited humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza – instead of helping them gain the freedom that is rightfully theirs.
We, members of Palestinian civil society in Gaza, have been watching the actions your government has taken to block Freedom Flotilla 2 from setting sail towards the biggest open air prison – the Gaza Strip – to challenge Israel’s criminal blockade. Israel’s closure of Gaza has deprived us of things that most people take for granted, first and foremost, our freedom of movement. We are not allowed to pursue adequate health care or educational opportunities because we cannot travel freely. We are cut off from our families in other parts of the occupied territory and abroad; and we are not allowed to invite people to visit us in Gaza. Now, you have imported this restriction on the people whose main mission is to stand in solidarity with us.
The people of Gaza are not only in need of humanitarian aid because we are prevented from building our economy. We are not allowed to import raw materials or to export; our fishermen and farmers get shot at when attempting to fish or to harvest their crops. As a result of deliberate Israeli policy, 80% of our people have become food aid dependent, our infrastructure is in shambles, and our children cannot imagine a day when they will know freedom.
Your offer to deliver the cargo of the Freedom Flotilla entrenches the notion that humanitarian aid will solve our problems and is a weak attempt to disguise your complicity in Israel’s blockade.
We are so sorry not to accept your charity. The organizers and participants of the Freedom Flotilla recognize that our plight is not about humanitarian aid; it is about our human rights. They carry with them something more important than aid; they carry hope, love, solidarity and respect. Your offer to collude with our oppressors to deliver aid to us is totally REJECTED.
While it is clear that you have been under enormous political pressure to comply with the will of the Israeli regime, to collaborate with Israel in violating international law and legitimizing the siege, we refuse to accept your breadcrumbs. We crave freedom, dignity and the ability to make choices in our daily lives. We urge you to immediately reconsider and to let the Freedom Flotilla sail.
Finally we recognize the historical relations between our people and your country’s support for our legitimate rights. With this history in mind and your previous acknowledgment of the freedoms denied to us, we are calling on you to allow the freedom flotilla boats to leave for Gaza, thus challenging Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO)
Representing over 60 non-governmental organizations in Gaza
Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza
General Society for Rehabilitation
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Middle East Children’s Alliance – Gaza office
Alshomoa Club for Women
General Union for Public Services Workers
General Union for Health Services Workers
General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
General Union for Agricultural Workers
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
General Union of Palestinian Women
Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Union of Health Work Committees
Union of Synergies-Women Unit
Union of Women’s Work Committees
Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime
Palestine Sailing Federation
Fishing and Marine Sports Association
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students’ Union
For further information go to: freegaza.org
from Mondoweiss by Rena Zuabi
On July 11, the Knesset passed the “Bill for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott – 2011” in a 47 to 38 vote.1
While this critical political development has been unsurprisingly ignored in most of the mainstream media, a number of prominent online news sources have pointed to the serious implications such legislation holds for what remains of the already grievous state of democratic freedom in Israeli civil society. Absent from much of this analysis however is the broader and more fundamental question:
Does the Israeli government even want peace?
I ask this question because ultimately, the direct consequences of the “Anti-Boycott Bill” represent a larger and more frightening trend in Israeli politics – one that aims to belligerently muzzle the Israeli left on issues pertaining to the Palestinian question. Of course the “left” in Israel stands as a shrinking, yet diverse and non-homogenous segment of Israeli politics. Within it however, are a number of progressives and activists whose demands for accountability and justice within their government are inaudible behind the walls of the Knesset. In fact, their demands are drowned out – drowned out by an emerging radical right in Israel, championed by MK Avidgor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beitenu – Israel is Our Home.
The “Anti-Boycott Bill” implies far more than the obvious curtailment of basic civil liberties in Israel. It very clearly illustrates that the Knesset and the Israeli government view non-violent resistance to the Occupation as criminal. Their message to Palestinians rings clear: accept our control over your land and water, accept restrictions on your freedom of movement, accept the denial of your right to education, accept the arbitrary imprisonment of your family members, accept the destruction of your homes and villages.
And do not resist – even peacefully. If you do, you can face the state in an Israeli court.
The Israeli government will not only continue to intractably support the illegal occupation, annexation, and seizure of Palestinian land – but it will force both citizens and non-citizens within its borders to look on in silence.
Peace is not in the cards for the Israeli government. It has not been for a long time. The Anti-Boycott Bill is one of many pieces of legislation presented to the Knesset in recent years that further illustrates the state’s intransigent stance towards the Palestinian people’s basic rights. If the ability to non-violently resist such policies is now illegal in the State of Israel – what peace does the Israeli government speak of?
Rena Zuabi holds a BA in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from UC San Diego. Her research focuses on political and legal geography in Israel/Palestine.
from Mondoweiss by Hama Waqum
PopoutI am writing this exactly twelve hours after I was attacked by an Israeli warship, off the Gaza coast.
As a member of the Civil Peace Service, I board the Oliva boat around twice a week to monitor Gazan fishermen’s human rights. But today, it wasn’t just the fishermen who were targeted.
We approached a cluster of hasaka fishing boats that were being attacked with water cannons at midday on July 13. As we got closer all I could focus on was the officer manning the machine gun, covered from head to toe with black, which struck me as very medieval, if you know what I mean.
Our boat, along with the fishing vessels, was around two miles out to sea, well within the three-mile fishing limit imposed by Israel. We saw marines congregate on deck to watch as the water cannon was angled slowly but deliberately towards us. To my delight they struggled against the wind initially, but eventually managed to angle round us as we fumbled with the water-logged engine. I took one look at the jet being generated vertically and knew what was coming. Sure enough, pellets of water began to rain down on us with stinging force. Then I, camera in one hand, felt the jet stream slap my face directly, staying there for several seconds, before the boat was yanked away by the fishermen around us. I was flung backwards and words I never utter escaped my lips. Struggling to stay up, I forced myself to take it on the chin. Literally. As the assault continued, they repeatedly aimed at my face and each time my nose, eyes and mouth filled with seawater. At one point I even saw a naval officer indicate to the marine controlling the cannon to aim for me. He gleefully obliged.
Israeli naval water cannons are able reach high into the air; even when fired vertically they can reach about four times the height of the gunboat. This warship was about 10 metres away. Imagine someone boxing your face. Imagine that their fist is larger than a bowling ball. Now imagine that punch lasting for ten minutes. This is what it felt like.
For ten minutes we were pursued as we tried to escape the gunboat. There were several fishing boats around us and, if there is a silver lining, it is that our presence distracted the Navy from attacking them.
Our boat began to fill with water and we struggled, along with the fishing boats around us to return to shore. Even as we picked up speed, the gunboat honed in on us, with relentless attack after attack. Eventually at just over one mile off the Gaza shore, the gunboat lagged behind and we were on the home straight.
We were completely drenched through. Our captain had to order us to corners of the boat, worried it was about to capsize or sink from all the water with which it had been filled. My body started to buzz and I’m surprised I didn’t electrocute everyone with the static that was building in my bloodstream. The fishermen were safe, we escaped and I felt like we had won. Even though rinsing my mouth with the salinated Gazan water to make wudu that evening brought my brain right back to gargling waterjets on the Oliva boat, the footage is gold dust and we refused to cower from their water-taunting and domination.
Although the attack was challenging for those of us who experienced it, it is essential to remember that this an everyday occurrence for Gazan fishermen. Earlier that very day, the boat of one fisherman was shot at repeatedly. There were too many bullet holes in the bow of his boat for me to count. His netting cables were shot through and he lost his catch. I’m sure he must have been fishing for grenades or something, right? Whereas I returned to shore simply with a stinging face and drenched clothes, when fishermen are attacked, they are unable to make their living. For the one attack on CPS Gaza, there have been tens if not hundreds of attacks on fishing boats.
International observers of Gaza are being targeted evermore frequently, as witnessed with the sabotage and interception of the 2nd flotilla fleet. Such attacks prevent those who have easier access to the world beyond the siege from witnessing attacks on Gazan civilians. These are the actions of a nation that has something to hide.
Human rights volunteers will continue to monitor violations, regardless of what the Israeli Navy fires at us, not only because we aren’t doing anything wrong, but because we know, and I mean this graciously, we are doing what is right and is what no authority is willing to do: ensuring that when fishermen are shot and attacked, somebody is there to witness and document it. Not everyone is able to get to Gaza, so hopefully the video footage and this account will help to bring Gaza to you.
Update – The Civil Peace Service – Gaza sent out the following press release this morning:
For the second consecutive day, the CPSGAZA human rights monitoring boat came under sustained attack by Israeli naval forces, and was threatened for the first time with lethal force.
Civil Peace Service Gaza is an international third party non-violent initiative to monitor potential human rights violations in Gazan territorial waters.
Restrictions on the fishing zone are of considerable significance to Palestinian livelihood. Initially 20 nautical miles, it is presently often enforced between 1.5 – 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010). The marine ‘buffer zone’ restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza’s fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.
During the Oslo Accords, specifically under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for fishing access. In 2002 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12 nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon. In June 2006, following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the crossing of Kerem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), the navy imposed a complete sea blockade for several months. When the complete blockade was finally lifted, Palestinian fishermen found that a 6 nautical mile limit was being enforced. When Hamas gained political control of the Gaza Strip, the limit was reduced to 3 nautical miles. During the massive assault on the Strip in 2008-2009, a complete blockade was again declared. After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army began imposing a 1.5 – 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010).
The fishing community is often similarly targeted as the farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gazan coast by Israeli gunboats.
The fishermen have been devastated, directly affecting an estimated 65,000 people and reducing the catch by 90%. The coastal areas are now grossly over-fished and 2/3 of fishermen have left the industry since 2000 (PCHR: 2009). Recent statistics of the General Union of Fishing Workers indicate that the direct losses since the second Intifada in September 2000 were estimated at a million dollars and the indirect losses were estimated at 13.25 million dollars during the same period. The 2009 fishing catch amounted to a total of 1,525 metric tones, only 53 percent of the amount during 2008 (2,845 metric tones) and 41 percent of the amount in 1999 (3,650 metric tones), when the fishermen of Gaza could still fish up to ten nautical miles from the coast. Current figures indicate that during 2010 the decline in the fishing catch continues. This has caused an absurd arrangement to become standard practice. The fisherman sail out not to fish, but to buy fish off of Egyptian boats and then sell this fish in Gaza. According to the Fishermen’s Union, a monthly average of 105 tons of fish has been entering Gaza through the tunnels since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR 2009).
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). “The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip.” Oct. 2010.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. “A report on: Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Fishers in the Gaza Strip.” August 2009.
Hama Waqum is a volunteer for CPS Gaza, she writes in a personal capacity and tweets at @WelshinGaza.
Israel’s leading business publication, Globes, has a piece interviewing business leaders on the impact of the anti-boycott law. Below is an excerpt from the discussion with Bruno Landsberg, the founder of a cleaning products company called Sano, who seems affiliated with Peace Now. From the interview:
Does the boycott alarm you?
“I’m truly worried, because if they impose a boycott on certain products, after that they will boycott me too. I’m talking about a boycott overseas, which can’t be pleasant for an export-oriented country. We have to realize that we are not alone in this world. Laws won’t help. You have to understand why they are imposing a boycott, the causes of it.”
The reason is the occupation.
That’s what I’m talking about. We have to cure this by treating the cause of the boycott. I don’t like any boycott from whatever direction it comes, but this law is like a fire cupping cure for the dead. Will we pass a law about everything that’s against us? It can be enforced in Israel, but what will we do overseas?”
Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer believes that the new law has achieved the opposite of its intended effect, and has succeeded in rallying leftists to the cause. “The immediate result of the law,” he says, “is that now more people are boycotting products of the settlements than ever before.
“Awareness of the boycott and the perception of its legitimacy have risen. The reason for that, among other things, is people’s desire to say ‘this law is unacceptable to us.’ Not everyone who will refuse to buy products from the settlements tomorrow will do so because of this or that stance on the territories, but out of an attempt to protest against this law.”
Up to now, Peace Now has never supported a boycott.
“We have never encouraged people to buy products from the territories, but we have never taken a step such as we have taken in the past few days. Not even as individuals. I personally try not to buy products from the settlements, but I have never seen anything dramatic in that. Now, after the law has passed, I am much, much more forceful about it. Not because I think that that will stop the occupation, but because I think that that has to be the public response to laws like these.”
Has the law boomeranged?
“As far as the Israeli public is concerned, the boycott of products from the settlements has never had the legitimacy it has today. The law has created legitimacy for it among much more moderate people in Israel and around the world.”
This piece was published a week back, but Jack Shenker at the Guardian groks Palestine’s flotilla activism bigtime. From quoting stalwart flotilla activists congregating at a Corfu beach, to the relevance of Palestine to the Arab Spring, to “the wider status quo of power relations in western democracies” Shenker cinches it:
[Ewa Jasiewicz says] “What the flotilla does is actually bring civil society into a space where states have to deal with us. Our actions are exposing the lack of adherence to international law among nation states supporting the siege, and through that we can show that it’s only grassroots movements and people power from below that has an impact on changing policy. We’re exposing the inertia and complicity of governments and really undermining the idea that we’re living in democracies and that’s especially clear in Greece.”
In the midst of the Arab spring, Jasiewicz’s argument – that direct actions like the flotilla serve to delegitimise not only Israel’s occupation of Palestine but also the wider status quo of power relations in western democracies – is an explosive one, particularly in a country like Greece where the elected government is facing a powerful crisis of legitimacy from below.
Many of those involved in the flotilla believe that this year’s revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the ongoing battles being waged against autocratic rulers elsewhere in the Arab world, have fundamentally changed the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well. “People have had their stereotypes of Arabs smashed over the past six months, particularly when you see protesters in Sana’a wearing brightly coloured wigs and children resisting armed police in Cairo you can’t call these people terrorists,” argues Jasiewicz.
“And in TV pictures of these scenes, the Palestinian flag is everywhere. You can’t cut the Palestinian freedom struggle out from the Arab Spring it’s becoming recognised as a pro-democracy movement, and hence more widely accepted.”
The real intention of the flotilla has always been less about physically transporting humanitarian aid and geared more towards political subversion of the Israeli blockade. At this level the challenge was not so much to set sail although one small French craft has reached international waters, the only boat in the flotilla to do so but rather to win the media battle and create an opening for Palestinian voices to be heard.
Don’t miss this great article, read the whole thing.
from Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss
‘The Forward’ has a good editorial saying it’s OK to want to boycott West Bank products. Another dividend of the disgraceful law the Knesset passed making it illegal to advocate boycott– boycott marches forward.
The Forward makes the usual stipulation that you have to love Israel to urge boycott. But what if you don’t love Israel? I don’t. I mean, I get the Jewish part, I think, Jews made it, that’s cool. But Jews made The Goodbye Girl and the song Feelings and the Shabbatei Zvi cult of the 1600s, and I don’t love them. (Get over it). Forward, using clever typography of transparent self-censorship:
We can understand why reasonable people could advocate a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank because those settlements are deemed illegal under international law and because a boycott is a peaceful way of expressing a moral concern— well, if we say something like that, we could be sued and held liable in civil court. …
Unpack this for a moment. We didn’t boycott, we just expressed sympathy in a way that could be seen as advocacy without taking the leap from speech to action. We didn’t target a product manufactured in Tel Aviv or Hadera or within the undisputed borders of Israel…
We simply said that promoting a boycott of goods from the occupied West Bank could be a legitimate form of political protest by those who love Israel and therefore wish to see her survive as a democratic Jewish state with borders that allow for a viable Palestinian state next door.
a boycott can be a legitimate use of non-violent protest to achieve a worthy goal It could also be seen as a noble attempt to effect change.
.Some boycotts are ruthless and discriminatory, true, but in other circumstances,
. A boycott of West Bank products could fall into the first category.
from Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss
Zaid Jilani and Ali Gharib at Think Progress interview Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress, on the Palestinian statehood resolution and the failure of the peace process:
Siegman: [T]the United States has taken the position that the only way to make any progress in this situation is a renewal of the peace process, getting [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas to talk to each other. If there is anything to be learned from years of disappointment and failure, it’s that the so-called peace process is simply a vehicle for Israel to pretend there is some potential for progress even as on the ground they are making it impossible because of their settlement project. There is a basic dishonesty here. The United States, instead of saying, “This is a fraud,” says instead Israel wants to see a two-state solution, and thus provides a cover for Israel to expand its settlements on the ground and make an outcome absolutely impossible.
So it’s in that sense that I’m saying the U.S. is the major obstacle. Because for years the assumption has been that the United States is uniquely in a position to bring about an agreement because of its leverage with Israel. But it turns out the U.S. is captive to Israel’s plans.
As a snapshot, where do you see things? Do you think the Palestinians can get a resolution recognizing their statehood through the U.N.?, The question is: Even if they do get it through, what have they got?
Nothing will change on the ground as a result of the vote at the U.N. The U.N. can’t force Israel to do anything, and the U.S. certainly won’t do so, so why are the Israelis so upset about this? Why are they running around the world asking people to vote against this? Because it’s a vote that affirms a border. That, too, is why Netanyahu went wild when President Obama called for a border based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. He called Obama before his speech and tried to convince him not to say it. That’s unprecedented.
The reason Palestinians are going ahead with this even though they know nothing will change on the ground in the short term is that Israel will be put on notice that the international community endorses a border on the 67 lines with territory swaps.
…Only when the cost gets serious enough will Israel make a deal and set that border. Indeed, the international community has tried to impose a cost, but the United States has prevented it.
But America’s ability to provide cover for such Israeli behavior will increasingly diminish. That’s one of the consequences of the Arab Spring. Some of the dictators who have been dancing to the American tune won’t be doing that any longer — which is something that Israelis have to think about as well.
…The reality is that Israeli governments — even before Bibi Netanyahu — have opted for territory over peace. From the very beginning in 1967, Israel’s goal has been to prevent a border being drawn between them and the West Bank. The goal has been to retain permanent control over the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli governments — and especially the current one — believe that peace is not nearly as important as territory….
I think the Palestinians have a shot at getting the Gen Assembly to affirm their right to statehood based on the ’67 borders subject to land swaps. They do have a shot at it even if they do not get as much support from Europeans as they are hoping to get. ..
The anti-boycott law that passed the Knesset this week has been a clarifying moment in several regards. Mairav Zonszein has a good post on +972 about how the law reveals the one-state reality in Israel/Palestine. From her post:
Everyone who is up in arms about the passing of the boycott law this week has been emphasizing the severity of its violation of freedom of expression and dialogue. While this is of course true, what is even more alarming about the law, which has gone largely unmentioned in the press or by organizations opposing it, is what it says about the State’s relation to the territory under its control: The boycott law makes no distinction between Israel and the Occupied Territories and thus is in effect a legalization and normalization of the occupation, the total erasure of the Green Line and the moratorium on the two-state solution (in case this was not already clear).
No one should be alarmed that the boycott law passed because it is merely retroactive legislation for an already existing, de facto reality, just as the government’s recent expropriation of uncultivated Palestinian land was simply a formal approval of the daily reality of the settlement project.
The boycott law, like other laws, such as the Citizenship Loyalty Law that passed last March, as well as other imminent bills and remarks by government committee heads – such as Danny Danon’s recent demand that birthright trips “stop boycotting Judea and Samaria” – is the government’s way of taking advantage of its power to formally cement its hold on the West Bank, and with it the Palestinian people.
If Israel were in any way interested in a two-state solution, it would be legislating laws geared at diminishing Israel’s institutional presence in the West Bank, not further deepening it. Instead of the principles of democracy and the desire to remain a Jewish state dictating its actions in the West Bank, what we see is the discriminatory, militant practices of how Israel runs the West Bank seeping into Israel proper, turning the whole area into one giant mold of apartheid jello.
In Dissent a few weeks back Michael Walzer wrote that no Palestinian leader will give up the right of return of refugees, which means that Palestinians have not accepted Israel’s right to exist with a Jewish majority. Now Jerome Slater has responded saying that there is actually a rich history of Palestinian leaders/negotiators being willing to give up the right of return of refugees– beyond a token amount, say 30,000 refugees– thereby acknowledging what even some of these leaders have called Israel’s “demographic” needs, i.e., to maintain a strong Jewish majority inside Israel.
I know that Slater is a realist. And privately, even Palestinians will say, How many of the refugees are going to return to the land of Israel? So they also are being realistic… And yet I find these discussion unseemly, for a number of reasons having to do with the imbalanced power-politics and spiritual/historical-politics, of the issue. It’s complicated, so I’m going to chip away at this one:
–Politically I can’t see why anyone is dressing up the two-state solution as a reality. It’s not. It’s a failure. The positions Slater cites are largely 8 and 10 years old, or in the Palestinian Papers case, 2008– the product of a group of negotiators who I doubt are representative of Palestinian public opinion. They took these positions before the Israeli assault on Gaza in Dec. 08 catalyzed the international solidarity movement, which has embraced the right of return as a human rights principle, and years before the Arab spring changed many people’s expectations for democracy in the Middle East.
–Some spiritual politics. This post is about privileged American Jews, including me, weighing in on Palestinian rights. And here is liberal professor Eric Alterman, celebrating Sari Nusseibeh’s declaration that he would give up the right of return, and calling it a brave statement. But I need to point out: if you talk to any Palestinian in the Diaspora, they will tell you that they believe in the right of return. They might be romantic, but that’s what they actually say.
Palestinians in the West Bank too. At a time when the vision of human rights is shifting inside the Arab world, and we are dreaming of a fulfillment of liberal democracy in Egypt, why should any liberal in the West be selling out a basic human right– the right to return to your home from which you were thrown out? As James Murdoch says in the Guardian today, they were thrown out of their fucking homes. Isn’t this a fact/right that Jewish liberals ought to acknowledge and embrace?
–Historical/spiritual dimension. The United States acted to recognize Israel in 1948 in some large measure because Harry Truman was moved by the plight of European Jewish refugees in displaced persons camps, 3 years after the war. And in that year, 1948, 700,000 Palestinian refugees were created, and in the decades that followed several U.S. Presidents urged Israel to allow them to return to their homes, which was their right under international law. Israel flouted US concerns. None of these Palestinian refugees were allowed to return to their homes. Their plight was never the basis of international action…. And their rights are still being debated and negotiated away by American political theorist Michael Walzer 63 years later. Isn’t that kind of dispiriting/unseemly?
–The power-politics dimension is inescapable. For those 60-odd years, Jews have had a law of return under which any Jew anywhere has a right to become a citizen of a land from which 100s of thousands of Palestinians were expelled and to which they were not allowed to return. Jerry Slater, Eric Alterman, Michael Walzer and I have all chosen not to exercise our right of “return,” preferring to live in the liberal democracy in which we were born. So: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians want to go home, were born there but can’t set foot in the place, can’t even visit their own homes. And millions of other Jews who have no living connection to this land–only a connection they find in religious texts– get to move to those homes whenever they like, on a racial/ethnic basis. Isn’t that kind of appalling?
I have to repeat: Who would want to be a party to such talk? Michael Walzer is a justice theorist. He has come up with respected theories of law and justice. I have to ask: Is there any justice in demanding that millions of people who say they want the right to return to their (or their parents’) homes have no right to do so but must accept their dispossession as an accomplished fact and moral virtue? What would that theory of justice say about the Jews who lost family members and property in the Holocaust, and who have been compensated, and more than that,APOLOGIZED TO?
I find this the most stupendous monstrosity of the refugees issue. We Jews were apologized to. We Jews have countless holocaust museums across the United States and the world. Beginning 20 years or so after the fact, the world did its utmost to apologize to the Jews and say Never-again. No, the atrocities of the Nakba don’t approach the horrors of the Holocaust. (Though for those who were massacred, what’s the difference if they were one of 100 or one of 100,000?) But right now the world has done almost nothing to acknowledge the Nakba, and Jewish leaders have done nothing collectively to acknowledge it, even 60 years later.
This dullness won’t last. Walzer and Alterman are trying to run ahead of that awareness. They want to cut a deal to save the Jewish state before people wake up to the tragedy that marked its establishment– a tragedy that Jerry Slater has done as much as anyone to document in the West.
I say, Liberals are better than that. American liberals—we should do as Nixon, Eisenhower, Johnson and Truman said, and stand up for the right of return. The recent Zogby poll says that liberal Americans [Obama supporters] support the right of return by 61 to 13 percent. On the basis of similar consensuses, liberals have argued for abortion rights, women’s rights and gay rights– and changed America! Why throw in the towel on the right of return?
It may be that the injustices of the Nakba are so old that the right of return isn’t fully actionable. It may well be that the refugees are so well situated that few would want to return. It may well be that the Palestinians living in Palestine and even the border states are less attached to the right of return than the Palestinians in the Diaspora. And god knows, Diaspora longings are a bad basis for policy-making.
But I don’t see how a liberal American Jew can be taking the conservative position on these matters, I don’t see where a liberal American Jew gets off talking about “demographics.” And please, save me those arguments, at least until our community has acknowledged the Nakba, and apologized for our part in it…
from Mondoweiss by Lizzy Ratner
It’s official: on Tuesday, the Israeli government gave the Simon Wiesenthal Center the go-ahead to begin digging the foundation of its so-called Museum of Tolerance, a name that would be ironic if Israel’s political discourse hadn’t become so mutilated that words like”tolerance” had simply stopped meaning anything. The museum is set to be built on the site of Jerusalem’s Mamilla cemetery, a storied Muslim burial ground that dates to the 7th Century. Already hundreds of graves have been dug up and desecrated to make room for the angled planes of the Tolerance center, and the museum’s construction crews are now free to build on thousands more.
The news that Israel’s Interior Ministry has approved the museum’s building plans was not unexpected but it is still devastating. It is the final defeat in nearly a decade’s worth of efforts by Palestinians, Israelis, academics, and human rights groups to stop the desecration. Or rather, it is the final nail in the coffin of a desperate bid to save a sacred piece of Palestinian history — before that coffin gets dug up and re-buried, that is.
The historical and religious importance of Mamilla cemetery (originally the Ma’man Allah cemetery) is well documented. Situated half a kilometer west of the Old City’s walls, the cemetery is reputed to contain the remains of some of Jerusalem’s oldest, most celebrated families as well as those of religious leaders, pilgrims, officers and soldiers of Saladin’s army, every-day Jerusalemites, and even companions of the Prophet Muhammad. In its graves lie the secrets and stories of centuries of Palestinian history, most if not all of which managed to survived Persian siege, Christian crusades, Ottoman conquest, and British rule. Indeed, it was only after west Jerusalem was absorbed into Israel in 1948 that the “indignities” began, as Rashid Khalidi explains in an elegant essay recently published in Jadaliyya. (Khalidi’s ancestors are, or at least were, among those buried in the Mamilla Cemetery, and he has been a leader of the Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Jerusalem Cemetery.)
Given various Israeli state agencies’ appropriation of religious holdings such as Mamilla, it goes without saying that such sites could not be protected, preserved or restored by the appropriate religious authorities. This is despite the fact that these authorities hold unassailable legal title to these properties, a title that the discriminatory legal system of the Israeli state does not recognize. Thus before sections of the cemetery were earlier turned into a parking lot, a park, or other profane purposes starting in the 1960s, they had been allowed to deteriorate significantly. This is what is currently happening to the remaining untouched area at the eastern end of the cemetery where numerous gravestones can still be seen. With the Muslim religious authorities forbidden from tending it, this remnant of the cemetery has become overgrown. Vandals have knocked down gravestones. The area came to be known as a seedy, disreputable, and dangerous place at night. The Jerusalem Municipality has repeatedly used earth-movers and other heavy equipment to remove both ancient grave markers and more recent ones restored by families or by private associations. The most recent episode of this sort took place on the night of June 25-26, 2011, when about 100 gravestones were destroyed by bulldozers.
I have now read these words several times, and each time I’ve been reminded — overpoweringly — of a pilgrimage I made two years ago to one of the only remaining Jewish cemeteries in Bialystok, Poland, birthplace of my grandfather and dozens of other relatives. The cemetery was deserted the day we visited and in bad disrepair. Of the original 40,000-50,000 headstones, all but 5,000 t0 7,000 had been destroyed or repurposed — which is to say, uprooted, stolen, and turned into building fodder for streets, homes, and other random objects of daily living. Of those that remained, many had been toppled, and several bore the fresh, spray-painted markings of swastikas. Litter from picnics strafed the grounds.
Compared to the death camps and mass graves we’d visited the previous days, the desecrated Bialystok cemetery barely rated on the horror scale. And yet, there was something in the desecration, so common in those parts of the world as to be almost de rigueur, that suggested a level of intolerance so profound that the only option was complete erasure. It wasn’t enough that a whole people and population had disappeared, they had to be redacted from history.
And now, of course, Israel is engaged in the same dance of intolerance, and once again we are reminded that the victim has become the victimizer, the desecrated has become the desecrator. And the vibrant history of a vital people is in danger of being lost. Which is, of course, the intent.
from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a statement July 15 confirming the occupied status of East Jerusalem. “UNESCO wishes to reiterate that, contrary to recent claims, there has been no change in UNESCO’s position on Jerusalem,” the statement reads. “In line with overall UN policy, East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in permanent status negotiations.” The statement notes that the Old City of Jerusalem is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger. “UNESCO continues to work to ensure respect for the outstanding universal value of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem.” UNESCO had been criticized recently after it emerged that the organization’s website listed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite the international—and United Nations—consensus that the Eastern part of the city is under military occupation. (Ma’an News Agency, July 15)
from Mondoweiss by R. Taylor
The episode of the ‘flytilla’ and the treatment meted out to those who managed to reach Ben Gurion airport brought to mind the experience of someone I first met 3 years ago.
H is from a western country and before her retirement she had a long career as a nurse. She is a firm Christian and her views on Israel/Palestine would probably have placed her very close to the Christian Zionist camp.
I met her through a mutual friend when she was visiting Bethlehem. She told me she was working, as a volunteer, in a home for elderly Holocaust survivors, somewhere in northern Israel. It was clear she had little sympathy for the Palestinian cause although it was also clear that she is a person of compassion for anyone in need.
A year later, to my surprise, I bumped into her again in Bethlehem.
She explained that her work in Israel had come to an end after more than two years and that she had decided to move to Bethlehem so she could work, again without pay, with people with learning difficulties. I decided not ask whether the move to the West Bank had altered her views.
Towards the end of 2010 I was invited to dinner with her and our mutual friend. When I arrived she appeared quite distressed. She told me why.
After three months in Bethlehem she had to return to her home country. She wanted to see friends and family and, of course, her 3 month Israeli visa had expired. After spending some months at home she booked a flight with El Al to Tel Aviv.
Before she was able to board the plane she was questioned by Israeli security. Naively she was honest about her intentions – she was travelling to Bethlehem where she would be continuing her work with needy Palestinians. This was not a good idea. The result was a body search and a barrage of questions. But was she was eventually allowed to board.
At Ben Gurion she again told her story, even showing commendations from her former place of work in Israel. The questioners were unhappy but allowed her to enter the country. The problem for her was that when she inspected her passport she saw that her visa was for one week only. She protested but was told she must apply in person to the Interior ministry for an extension.
After a day or so in Bethlehem she made her way to the ministry in Jerusalem. After a long wait she was eventually interviewed by an unsmiling young woman. H explained her situation and requested a three month visa. Again she brought out the letters from the care home in Israel. The young official was hostile and unmoved by her commitment to Holocaust survivors. Her response went something like this; “It does not matter to me that you worked in Israel. You are now working for the enemy. If it was up to me you would not be allowed to stay in my country for even one more day. Your application will not be successful.”
H was devastated. Her dilemma was thus; should she stay in Bethlehem and become an ‘illegal’ once her visa expired or should she just go home never to return?
I have not seen nor heard from her since that night and don’t know what she decided to do. But I do know that one more supporter of Israel has had her eyes opened.