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"Hello everybody. Thank you so much for coming out tonight to welcome me home. It feels so good to be back in Tampa. I cannot even put it in words. I can’t wait to go back to play with my friends and go fishing. I got through these past two weeks because I know you were all thinking of me, praying for me and sending me messages to support me.
"There’s one main thing that I wanted to say, which is that you will only know my story because I’m an American. But I hope you will also remember my cousin, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir. He was just a kid like me and this whole thing started because he was killed. I know he must have been terrified like I was. I was in a new place and suddenly attacked by masked police. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The physical pain in those first hours was really rough. And I’m only fifteen but I’ll never think about freedom in the same way as I did two [weeks] ago.
"I wanted to ask you all to please remember my cousin Mohammed and the thirty-six kids that died in Gaza over the past several days. They have names like mine. I hope the violence will stop for their sake. No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way.
"I’m so glad to be back home again and healing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. I feel really good. I feel great."
In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.
In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO. After failing to persuade her of Israel's complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die. Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.
William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."
Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.
President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.
The view that the people you are abusing don't mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.
Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all.
ABC News' Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she'd shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.
Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.
If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied. We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts. Or we must blame someone else for it. Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.
But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.
Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel's ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive. But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States' weaponry, provided under the euphemism of "aid," that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.
Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:
"In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.
"Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel's illegal occupation.
"We are united in our belief that:
"The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.
"Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end."
By Stephen Zunes
The murder of three Israeli youth by unknown Palestinians and the less-publicized but equally tragic murder of three Palestinian youth by Israelis, along with Israeli bombing of urban areas in Gaza and the arrest and detention of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces, serves as a reminder that Israeli-Palestinian peace is still a long way off.
And the Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border —encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers — would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new Palestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.
The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that "both sides" had shown a lack of will to compromise.
An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper, confirmed numerous other reports that the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.
A host of Democratic and Republican former officials — including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs — went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government's hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.
Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel's ethno-religious identity as well.
No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel. Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but — given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab — it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.
Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration's demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians — despite their agreement to virtually every other issue — for the failure of the peace process.
The Obama administration had been strongly pressured by Congressional supporters of the Israel's right-wing government, including area Congress members Sam Farr and Anne Eshoo, who supported a resolution calling on the president to push the Palestinians to recognize Israel explicitly "as a Jewish state." Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan effort is growing in the Congress to blame the failure of the peace talks exclusively on the Palestinians and to force the administration to cut all ties with the Palestine Authority.
Unless and until the Obama administration decides to end its unconditional backing for Israel's right-wing government and instead support Israeli and Palestinian moderates, there will be no hope for peace.
Stephen Zunes, a Santa Cruz resident, writes for PeaceVoice, is a professor of Politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.
As this is being written, Israel is once again bombing the Gaza Strip. There are a few key points that the U.S. government, and the populace, seem to constantly overlook:
· Palestine has no army, navy or air force.
· All of the borders of the Gaza Strip are controlled by Israel. Only goods and people that Israel allows can cross those borders, and the restrictions are extreme.
· In the West Bank, occupied by Israel illegally in the eyes of the international community, Israel-controlled internal check points make the simple task of going to the market an hours-long ordeal.
By Dave Lindorff
The rat, among mammals, is one of the most successful animals on the planet. Cunning, ruthless, competitive and above all adaptable -- it is able to change its habits quickly as needed to accommodate the situation it finds itself in.
When it comes to foreign policy, the US government is filled with rats.
The media is reporting that three teenagers living in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine are missing, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, on evidence he has not chosen to share, that they have been kidnapped by Hamas. In response, he has unleashed a new level of terrorism against Palestinians living in the West Bank, with mass arrests and a new level of harassment that is shocking even for his IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists.
At this point the whereabouts of the three missing people is unknown; how and why they left, whether or not there is a criminal component and, if so, who is responsible, are also unknown. One hopes they are found safely. However, the outrage that Israel and the United States is demonstrating by this event is somewhat puzzling at best, and wildly hypocritical at worst.
The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.
It appears that the weak, spineless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may finally have realized that his place in history is not going to be assured by functioning only as the puppet of the U.S. and Israel. As the latest round of so-called peace talks, sponsored by the U.S. which has no interest in any real negotiations between Israel and Palestine, has crashed and burned, Mr. Abbas has applied to join fifteen international treaties and conventions, with others expected. All this, it is said, is merely a lead-up to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could then investigate and charge Israel with war crimes.
On Sunday, April 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on U.S. television, denouncing progress made in reconciliation talks between Fatah, which ostensibly controls the West Bank, and Hamas, the democratically-elected government in the Gaza Strip.
According to CNN: “Netanyahu said he and Secretary of State John Kerry recently applauded that some progress was being made toward a peace agreement. ‘And then the next day, we were both shocked, there's no other word, we were absolutely stupefied that President Abbas embraced the terrorist organization Hamas that seeks Israel's destruction,’ he said on ‘Face the Nation.’”
Gaza City - Gaza
At 3:45 AM Gaza time on April 29th, the night guard on board Gaza's Ark received a call to leave the boat because it was going to be attacked.
The guard left, but when nothing happened, he returned after 5 minutes. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the boat causing extensive damage.
The boat sank part way and is now sitting on the shallow sea floor. The guard was not injured but was taken to hospital for tests.
Mahfouz Kabariti, Gaza’s Ark Project Manager, says: “The extent and nature of the damage are currently being investigated. We will provide an update when available.”
"Gaza’s Ark and all our partners in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are considering our next move in response to this cowardly act of terrorism, but our position remains clear: Neither this nor any other attack will stop our efforts to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends," adds David Heap of Gaza's Ark Steering Committee.
"Freedom Flotilla boats have been sabotaged before. This attack comes as we were almost ready to sail. You can sink a boat but you can't sink a movement," concludes Ehab Lotayef, another member of the Steering Committee.
Support Palestinians call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign until Palestinian Human Rights are recognized by Israel.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, called on the International community to be brave and support B.D.S. Campaign until the Israeli Government recognizes Palestinian Human Rights.
Mairead Maguire said:
‘The Palestinian narrative is a story of a prolonged occupation by Israel based on policies of Apartheid and racism, ongoing building on Palestinian land of Israeli settlements, house demolitions, and the continued denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, of which Israel is its jailer as it holds the keys and totally controls all aspects of life of the people of Gaza. One and a half million people in Gaza, mostly under 2l years of age, continue in the words of Israeli Professor and Academic, Jeff Halper, to be ‘warehoused’ by Israel with all rights being violated by Israel. The Gaza port has been closed for over 40 years, their airport destroyed and crossing into West Bank blocked. The people of Gaza do not have the basic right to travel into the West Bank to visit relatives without passes from Israel, and students in Gaza are forbidden to travel to study outside Gaza. These conditions mean that Gaza is still under occupation. The Israel policies of divide and rule, keeping Gaza and West Bank cut off from each other, ensures that neither human contact or real peace negotiations can take place, (as is evidenced by the fact that at the current Peace Talks presided over by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Gaza palestinians (in which 40% of Palestinians live) are not represented at the negotiating table.)
South African visitors to Palestine have described the situation of blockade, occupation, as far worse than anything they experienced under the South African Apartheid era.
Why has this desperate injustice perpetrated upon the Palestinians by Israeli Government Policies been allowed to go on for over 60 years, in spite of United Nations over 60 resolutions, calling on Israel to uphold International law, but continuing to be ignored by Israel?
When anyone in International community is brave enough to articulate the facts of Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people they are bullied, threatened and accused of anti-Semitism. This insidious practice by Israeli Government and its policy supporters has been very effective in silencing critique or debate on Israeli/US military and financial supported foreign policy, but also causes self-censorship by many concerned for their political and professional careers, or trading profits. However, the Palestinian people take hope from those who are brave enough to take a stand, such as the Irish Trade Union Movement, Stephen Hawkins, Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and a growing international movement of support.
We all know the Jewish Narrative, particularly the story of the holocaust, but our sadness for this one of humanities greatest acts of inhumanity, should not stop us from speaking out on Israel’s current policy of a ‘silent genocide’ of the Palestinian people, and currently today of the people in Gaza.
The denial by Israel of Palestinian basic freedoms is not a natural humanitarian tragedy, it is an Israeli Government policy, in which many Governments, Media, Corporations, and Companies (such as Hewlett Packard and G4S who profit from the illegal occupation) are all complicit if not by supporting Israeli Government through funding, trading,etc., then by their silence.
But, there is much we can all do. The greatest hope we can give Palestinian people is to tell the Palestinian narrative, even at the risk of being called anti-Semitic. This will give legitimacy to the Palestinian people and in time will force Israel to choose peace not land, as it has done for so long. The Palestinian people have asked the International community to support their nonviolent BDS campaign (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and I applaud the recent actions of the Irish Academics in responding to this Appeal, and calling for a Boycott of Israel Universities, as indeed they are part of the system which upholds Apartheid and occupation by Israel.
Professor Falk, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine, who in his 6 years has often been refused entry into Palestinian territory, by Israel authorities, has recommended that UN member states should impose a ban on imports of products from Israeli settlements. I hope many will follow his advice.
As a well supported International BDS campaign helped end Apartheid in South Africa, the Palestinian people believe, as do growing sections of the International Civil Community, that a similar International campaign will help end Israel’s denial of Palestinians human rights, freedom and peace.
NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE
28th February, 2014
By Winslow Myers
While John Kerry admirably shuttles around like the Energizer Bunny in search of Middle East peace, is there anything new to say about the intractable tension between Israelis on the one hand and predominantly Muslim peoples, especially the Palestinians, on the other?
One layer of the unspoken is Israel’s implicit status as a nuclear power. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama draw red lines in the sand concerning the threat of Iranian nukes, but say little about the only viable long-term solution: a negotiated and verified nuclear-free zone in the Eastern Mediterranean—even better, a planet-wide nuclear-free zone. Nuclear war anywhere on earth has become more unthinkable as it has become more possible.
Also rarely spoken—lest howls of anti-Semitism ensue—is an uncomfortable question: why do we frown upon the lack of separation of church and state in many Muslim countries, while Israel gets a pass in privileging a particular constellation of religion and ethnicity?
The historical rationale for the birth of the Jewish state could not be more reasonable. In the context of Jewish history over thousands of years climaxing in the Holocaust, no one could argue with Jewish fears of extinction and their need for a secure homeland.
Though all parties in the region ought to know from long experience how futile war, terror, obstruction, and discriminatory harshness are as tools to suppress the universal impulse toward justice, each keeps trying one or another unworkable method, making the success of Mr. Kerry’s quixotic mission all the more crucial.
The present Israeli government derives its identity in large measure from fear of what it is against, and so it has encouraged injustices like the settlements that it would never tolerate were it a victim of similar treatment.
Obviously this is not to say that the anti-Semites of the Arab world are innocent. And it is unfair to compare the civil rights Israel has afforded non-Jews with the civil rights much of the Muslim world affords women and non-believers. Israel does not order the execution of those who abandon Judaism. However much it may wish to be even-handed, it sees its own Muslim population growing. If this population enjoyed full citizenship Israeli could eventually become a de facto Muslim state. So it waters down Muslim civil rights to preserve its identity.
As we express our hope that Arab countries (and even the U.S. itself) evolve toward a more inclusive and tolerant politics, it is worth asking if the maintenance of Israel as a Jewish state become counter-productive to its own long-term security? It is not that Zionism is racism, in the crude Arab formulation, but that Zionism has been transcended by the notion of a state relatively untethered to any one religion.
If the identity of Israel were re-established on the basis of equal rights for all ethnicities, ancient fears might begin to dissolve from within. The corrosive “us-and-them” dynamic could be undermined in a way that left Jews safer—just as Jews, while a minority in the United States, are surely as safe there, if not more so, as they are in Israel.
For Israel to become a fully secular state, the international community would have to guarantee the security of Jews, whether inside or outside Israel, a task that for understandable reasons Israel has always zealously reserved for itself. Abdication of self-determined security is, to say the least, unlikely. Tragically however, maintaining a Jewish state will increasingly tie its citizens in knots as they are forced to choose between Jewish identity and full democracy.
Jews and Palestinians for the most part do not know each other as people, and the predictable theatrics of their leaders do nothing to help reconciliation. The entry point into a shared future beyond war is the face-to-face engagement of ordinary citizens at the heart level. It is people moving one by one from unfamiliarity, ignorance, and fear, toward familiarity, empathy, and enough trust to allow the heart to message the brain that it's safe to get creative together.
The moral basis of the secular state, the tolerance and compassion that flows from the acknowledgement of universal rights, is ironically a major premise of the Jewish ethical tradition. An unbeliever once asked Rabbi Hillel if he could sum up the Torah while standing on one foot. The simple answer was “What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah and the rest is but commentary.
One of the many gifts world civilization owes the Jews is this confidence in an ethical universality that transcends specific sects and ethnicities. If I identify as a Jew but also as citizen of secular democracy, I am better able to interact with Palestinians according to our common identity as humans. Finding ourselves in this shared human context, we will stand a measurably better chance of resolving our differences. To the extent that Jews allow themselves that larger identification with the “other,” they may not only come closer to fulfilling the ethical promise of their heritage, but also may find the security that has eluded them since the founding of the Jewish state. How poignant that after thousands of years of their culture contributing so much to the world, this idea should still feel so risky. Godspeed, Mr. Kerry.
Winslow Myers, author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” writes on global issues forPeaceVoiceand serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.
Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine
Let us, for a moment, take a look at a part of the world where suffering is rampant. Here are some of the conditions the residents there experience:
- Very limited potable water.
- Electricity for six hours a day, at a maximum.
- Children have to walk through areas destroyed by terrorist bombings to get to school. Many schools have been destroyed.
- Unemployment is in the double-digits. It rose to 32.5% over the second quarter.
- Food is lacking; few people have sufficient to eat, due to import restrictions.
Young authors of fiction from Gaza, some of whom say they are finding Palestine on the internet while unable to see it exist in reality, have just published a collection of stories, written in English, marking the five-year anniversary of the 23 days from December 27, 2008, until Obama's inauguration, during which Israel bombed the people of Gaza far more heavily than usual. They're publishing a new excerpt of the book each of these 23 days on their FaceBook page. You can talk with them in an upcoming Google Hangout.
For five years, the world -- just like Obama -- has overwhelmingly been "looking forward" when it comes to crimes committed by nations aligned with the U.S. government. But the crimes in Gaza then and now, and in other countries, have been exposed to unprecedented "looking present" through immediate real-time blogging available to those actively looking, even in the places responsible for the far-away terrorism-too-big-to-call-by-that-name. If everyone turned off their television and searched on a computer for news about their own country as reported in other countries, injustice, rather than our natural environment, would be endangered.
The telling of truer-than-news stories by these young Gazans has the potential to reach many more minds, and to set an example that just might scare off the next "humanitarian war" no matter where it's targeted. If victims of military benevolence can have their stories read by people who matter, or who could matter if they acted, and if those stories inevitably effect understanding of the obvious-but-always-denied fact that they are like we, that those people are people just like these people, that something has "brought out their humanity," then the shock and awe might have to move from its fictional location in the streets of non-humans' cities to a real existence in the offices of Lockheed Martin.
The stories in this book are of childhood and family, love and loss, soccer and toothaches. As with any story, people are placed in particularly special circumstances. A visit to the doctor is a visit to someone making decisions of triage: Will your father be sent to a specialist to be saved, or will this baby who has a better chance at living be sent instead? Two farmers, a Gazan and an Israeli unknowingly stand just inches or feet away from each other, separated by an impenetrable wall. A Gazan and an Israeli are perhaps attracted to each other, but blocked by a wall that needs no physical presence. A child is listening to a bedtime story when a missile strikes the house. Who will live? And who will be traumatized? Or was everyone pre-traumatized already?
"I spent that night thinking of Thaer's home, of the distant life in Mama's eyes. I kept wondering what's more torturous: the awful buzz of the drone outside or the sounds of some tough questions inside. I guess I eventually slept with no answer, thanking the drone for not giving my inner uproar any chance to abate."
Children in Gaza know the names of books, of toys, of movies, of trees, and of deadly flying aircraft. Some of the latter are called "Apaches," named after a people marched, and imprisoned, and slaughtered by the U.S. military, people kept in camps that inspired the Nazis', whose camps in turn inspired what the nation of Israel now does to non-Jewish African immigrants. How long will it be before little children in China are pointing to the sky in fear of a swarm of "Gazas"?
These stories are of people and of land, and of efforts to understand other people on the land. Understanding is a challenge:
"If a Palestinian bulldozer were ever invented (Haha, I know!) and I were given the chance to be in an orchard, in Haifa for instance, I would never uproot a tree an Israeli planted. No Palestinian would. To Palestinians, the tree is sacred, and so is the Land bearing it."
Gazans try to imagine what goes on in the minds of Israeli soldiers, particularly those soldiers who have killed their family members. One story tells the tale of an Israeli soldier's regret (or what we like to clinically and cleanly call PTSD), and of the soldier's wife's efforts to ease his pain:
"Honey, you were doing your job to follow orders. It's alright."
These words come as kind words of comfort, spoken to a man beyond the point of being able to hear them. And at the same time they come as an articulation of an ongoing horror of immense proportions. The contrast of these multiple meanings might make us all stop and question what we hear too often without thinking. Here in the United States, for example, any soldier in uniform gets on any airplane first and is thanked for his or her "service." Surely not thanking someone for their service would be impolite. But those who flip the switch on our prisons' electric chairs aren't thanked. Those who risk their lives to put out fires are not thanked. Only those who kill in war, even as their largest current killing operation -- in Afghanistan -- has the support of 17% in the U.S. and polling around the globe finds a consensus that the United States is the leading threat to peace on earth.
The stories from Gaza are not essays. They do not address the inevitable "What about the Gazans' own violence?" One need not misunderstand the nature of the occupation, the slow genocide, the international injustice, the vastly disproportionate violence and suffering imposed on one side of this so-called conflict in order to believe that "What about the Gazans' own violence?" is a reasonable question. Nor need one be a Gazan or an inexcusably arrogant and unsympathetic fool to have the right to disagree with the usual answer. The stories come with an introduction from the editor in which he expresses support for this well-known concept: "by any means necessary." I prefer this phrasing: "by any means effective." Means that most easily express rage are sometimes misinterpreted as necessary, while means that have the best chance of succeeding are rejected for not having a greater chance than they do.
The stories themselves don't actually take up that debate. Rather they depict the struggle merely to survive, the bravery that we may in fact all need everywhere if the earth's climate goes the way scientists expect. These young people from Gaza may become leaders in a movement to create peace and justice before madness and disaster-imperialism overtake the comfortable and the forgotten alike. I wonder if, and hope, they know the Afghan Peace Volunteers, and the people of No Dal Molin in Italy, and of Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, and I hope they will join a new worldwide movement to end war that will be launching next year.
By Casey Stinemetz
By Jeff Cohen
As I prepared for a grueling fact-finding trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank (occupied for 46 years), Secretary of State Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to resume peace talks without preconditions.
On the day my delegation flew to the region, Israel announced that it had approved still more housing for Israeli settlers: "Israel has issued tenders for the construction of nearly 1,200 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank," reported London's Financial Times, "defying U.S. and Palestinian opposition to expansion of Jewish settlements three days before the scheduled start of peace talks."
It's the same old depressing story, with Israel showing little interest in making peace.
By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis -- as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics -- fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.
The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as "making the desert bloom" and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective -- along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.
This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.
From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel -- and its many allies in the United States -- to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.
Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”
A Swiss forensic team has found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium.
A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital's Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.
According to Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Swiss team discovered levels of polonium at least 18 times higher than normal in Arafat's ribs, pelvis and in the soil that absorbed his remains.
"We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination," Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat, told Reuters in Paris.
"This has confirmed all our doubts," said Suha Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. "It is scientifically proved that he didn't die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed."
She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies.
The Israeli government, however, dismissed the Swiss report, saying that the "findings are not conclusive."
"Even if they did find traces of polonium that could indicate poisoning, there's no evidence of how that poisoning occurred," The Guardian quoted Palmor as saying. "Before the Palestinian Authority jumps to conclusions, there are many questions still to be answered."
"Israel is not involved in any way," he said. "There's no way the Palestinians can stick this on us. It's unreasonable and unsupported by facts. We will see yet another round of accusations, but there's no proof."
The Guardian also quoted Dov Weissglass, who is a former aide to Ariel Sharon, the prime minister at the time of Arafat's death. Weissglass denied any Israeli involvement in the death of the Palestinian leader.
Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist retained by Al Jazeera to interpret the results of the Swiss tests, said the findings from Arafat's body confirmed last year's results from traces of bodily fluids on his underwear, toothbrush and clothing.
"In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning," Barclay told Reuters. "The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death.
"What we have got is the smoking gun - the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice."
The Swiss scientists' report, posted in full on Al Jazeera's website, was more cautious. It concluded: "Taking into account the analytical limitations aforementioned, mostly time lapse since death and the nature and quality of the specimens, the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210."
The same radioactive substance was slipped into a cup of tea in a London hotel to kill defecting Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder.
The British government refused to hold a public inquiry into his death after ministers withheld some material which could have shed light on Russia's suspected involvement.
Barclay said the type of polonium discovered in Arafat's body must have been manufactured in a nuclear reactor.
While many countries could have been the source, someone in Arafat's immediate entourage must have slipped a miniscule dose of the deadly isotope probably as a powder into his drink, food, eye drops or toothpaste, he said.
Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.
Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life.
The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle.
An investigation by Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.
That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.
The head of the Russian forensics institute, Vladimir Uiba, was quoted by the Interfax news agency last month as saying no trace of polonium had been found on the body specimens examined in Moscow, but his Federal Medico-Biological Agency later denied he had made any official comment on its findings.
The French pathologists have not reported their conclusions publicly, nor have their findings been shared with Suha Arafat's legal team. A spokeswoman for the French prosecutor's office said the investigating magistrates had received no expert reports so far.
One of her lawyers said the Swiss institute's report, commissioned by Al Jazeera, would be translated from English into French and handed over to the three magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre who are investigating the case.
Arafat fell ill in October 2004, displaying symptoms of acute gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting. At first Palestinian officials said he was suffering from influenza.
He was flown to Paris in a French government plane but fell into a coma shortly after his arrival at the Percy military hospital in the suburb of Clamart, where he died on Nov. 11.
The official cause of death was a massive stroke but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.
Barclay said no one would have thought to look for polonium as a possible poison until the Litvinenko case, which occurred two years after Arafat's death.
Some experts have questioned whether Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning, pointing to a brief recovery during his illness that they said was not consistent with radioactive exposure. They also noted he did not lose all his hair. But Barclay said neither fact was inconsistent with the findings.
Since polonium loses 50 percent of its radioactivity every four months, the traces in Arafat's corpse would have faded so far as to have become untraceable if the tests had been conducted a couple of years later, the scientist said.
"A tiny amount of polonium the size of a flake of dandruff would be enough to kill 50 people if it was dissolved in water and they drank it," he added.
The Al Jazeera investigation was spearheaded by investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former U.S. Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and was suspicious of the manner of his death.
Hani al-Hassan, a former aide, said in 2003 that he had witnessed 13 assassination attempts on Arafat's life, dating back to his years on the run as PLO leader. Arafat claimed to have survived 40 attempts on his life.
Arafat narrowly escaped an Israeli air strike on his headquarters in Tunisia in 1985. He had just gone out jogging when the bombers attacked, killing 73 people.
He escaped another attempt on his life when Israeli warplanes came close to killing him during the 182 invasion of Beirut when they hit one of the buildings they suspected he was using as his headquarters but he was not there. In December 2001, Arafat was rushed to safety just before Israeli helicopters bombarded his compound in Ramallah with rockets.
The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) condemns the politically-motivated attack on Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian community leader arrested in her Chicago home on October 22, by agents of the Department of Homeland Security.
Odeh is charged with immigration fraud. Allegedly, in her application for citizenship, she didn’t mention that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court that detains Palestinians without charge, and that does not recognize the rights of Palestinians to due process. Rasmea Odeh withstood vicious torture by Israeli authorities while imprisoned in Palestine in the 70s. She is one of the millions of Palestinians who have not given up organizing for their rights of liberation, equality, and return. It is shameful that the US government is now attempting to imprison her once again.
The charges against her carry ten years in prison; in addition, she faces being stripped of her citizenship, and as a result, it’s likely she will be deported when she finishes that sentence.
(For more about Rasmea, read Maureen Murphy’s article on Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/
Odeh’s arrest this week appears to be related to the case of the 23 anti-war activists, including members of UNAC, who were subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2010. The 23 were targeted as organizers of the 2008 anti-war march on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Undercover law enforcement agents spied on the anti-war organizers and their movement allies for two years, sabotaged a 2009 solidarity trip to Palestine, and then the FBI raided their homes and offices, claiming that they had provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations in Palestine and Colombia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas is leading the investigation against the 23, and he was at the courtroom in Chicago, consulting with the assistant U.S. attorney who brought the indictment against Rasmea. Jonas was also the prosecutor in the case of the Holy Land Five, the heads of the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. before 9/11. He was successful in getting prison sentences for as long as 65 years for the five men, who provided charity to children in Gaza.
The case against Rasmea is not about immigration, but an attempt to silence her, to cut short her important community organizing, and to attack the struggle for a free Palestine.
UNAC stands with Rasmea Odeh and against those who would silence and imprison her. This attack is another example of the continuing repression of Palestinians and people who stand in solidarity with them. Homeland Security, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s office are carrying out enforcement of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We ask all those who have stood against the government attack on organizing, to stand with us today to support Rasmea Odeh.
Drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh!
Actions to take in support of Rasmea:
Example script and talking points to use:
Hello, my name is ________ and I am calling from _________.
I am calling to demand that U.S. Attorney McQuade drop the immigration charges against Rasmea Odeh. She is a beloved leader in the community and has worked tirelessly to serve and help empower Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim families throughout the Chicagoland area.
Rasmea is a community icon and was recently awarded an "Outstanding Community Leader" award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her over 40 years of dedication and service to people across the Arab World and the U.S.
These charges are a political attack on her as an individual and on the collective Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities across the U.S.
I stand in unequivocal support of Rasmea and demand that these charges be dropped immediately!
2) Join us to pack the courtroom in mid-November for the first court appearance in Detroit. Stay tuned for the date, time and exact location.
3) Like the “Drop the Charges Against Rasmea Now” Facebook page -
4) Send statements of support and solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org 5) Send us your pictures holding up a sign with the following message: “I am _________ and I support Rasmea” email@example.com You can fill in the blank with any self-identifier: your name, your occupation, or any other description. Some examples are: "I am a stay-at-home dad and I support Rasmea!" "I am a youth organizer and I support Rasmea!" "I am a supporter of Palestinian human rights and I support Rasmea!" Hold the sign up and snap a selfie, then send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put it up as your Facebook/Twitter profile pic, Google Account image, or anything else! Just remember we may use your image in future publications and informational pamphlets that get published online or distributed as hard copies. 6) Stay tuned to www.stopfbi.net for updates on the case. Join UNAC Like UNAC’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/
4) Send statements of support and solidarity to email@example.com
5) Send us your pictures holding up a sign with the following message:
“I am _________ and I support Rasmea” firstname.lastname@example.org
You can fill in the blank with any self-identifier: your name, your occupation, or any other description. Some examples are: "I am a stay-at-home dad and I support Rasmea!" "I am a youth organizer and I support Rasmea!" "I am a supporter of Palestinian human rights and I support Rasmea!"
Hold the sign up and snap a selfie, then send it to email@example.com. Put it up as your Facebook/Twitter profile pic, Google Account image, or anything else! Just remember we may use your image in future publications and informational pamphlets that get published online or distributed as hard copies.
6) Stay tuned to www.stopfbi.net for updates on the case.
Like UNAC’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is in stores now. His 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.
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There are two kinds of countries or societies or places to live. In the first kind, decent, fair, kind, and respectful treatment of every person takes precedent over anyone's preferences for how a culture changes or how much effort is expended trying to slow the change of a culture, or which cultures mix with each other, or which groups intermarry. In this first type of society — admittedly a nonexistent ideal — people identify with humanity and welcome any member of humanity into their group of associates, their neighborhood, and their family. Desire to keep some corner of the globe inhabited by people with a particular skin color or language isn't just slightly outweighed by diligent observance of individuals' rights. Instead, such sectarian or tribal desire doesn't exist. And its absence leaves room for concern over war, environmental destruction, hunger, poor healthcare, illiteracy, and all sorts of problems not involving the exclusion of some people from a group.
In the second kind of society, importance is placed on creating or maintaining a population that is exclusively or predominantly of a particular appearance or background, religion or ethnicity. Such a society strays, mildly or moderately or extremely, from democracy, as its demographic project conflicts with people's rights to immigrate, marry, practice or abandon religion, and speak and behave as they choose. Valuing some types of people over others leads toward anti-democratic positions and leaves a society open to easy manipulation through fear and prejudice, distracting energy away from real problems that might appear harder to solve. In extreme cases, this type of society becomes fascist. Hatred and violence become admirable. Lynchings and apartheid and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and sadistic punishment follow.
The nation of Israel claims to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. It can't be. Similarly, the United States cannot be a Christian nation or a white nation and a democracy. A poll in Israel in 2012 asked, "Israel is defined as both a Jewish and democratic state. Which is more important to you?" 34% said Jewish, while 22% said democratic, but 42% said that both were equally important. People in that 42% misunderstand the necessity to choose, as they no doubt do choose every day. The same poll asked, "Speakers should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public ... ," and 20% agreed, while another 29% strongly agreed. Hmmm, is that the democracy or the Jewish state talking?
Max Blumenthal's new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is 400 pages of fascistic horrors, a dystopian vision of where the United States or most any other country could go and where Israel has gone. Of course, Israel uses World War II to justify its outrages, just as the United States uses World War II to justify its military presence in 177 other nations. The United States arms Israel and protects it from legal consequences for crimes. U.S. companies and individuals and universities and churches fund and take part in Israel's brutality. U.S. Congress members listen to Israeli war propaganda as attentively as do Knesset members. So, there are perhaps extra reasons for those of us in the U.S. to pay particular attention to Israel's fascistic tendencies.
And what do these consist of? Well, permanent war, permanent crisis, fear-mongering, racism, legal and popularly imposed segregation and harassment. False beliefs about past and current crimes of the Israeli military are so openly willful that Israel has a contest show on television for amateur propagandists. Crimes by soldiers or civilians go unpunished or lightly punished when the victims are non-Jews. These crimes include lynchings, assaults, torture, harassment, humiliation, eviction, home destruction, job discrimination, and constant traumatization. Soldiers always nearby. Drones always buzzing overhead. Artificial sewage called Skunk sprayed through open windows of homes. The star of David painted on homes and businesses destroyed to intimidate non-Jews. Crowds gathered on a hill to watch and cheer for the bombing of Gaza like Washingtonians picnicking in Manassas to watch a civil war slaughter. Israeli soldiers openly describing themselves as fascists. Trials with pre-determined outcomes. Incarceration of masses of people in concentration camps.
Blumenthal's portrait of Israel is a partial one to be sure, but a terrifying one nonetheless. He contrasts the relentless hatred and abuse he documents with brief moments of imagining something else. At a restaurant in Haifa, writes Blumenthal, "seated at a long table in Fatoush's outdoor garden, listening to a mélange of English, Arabic, and Hebrew amid a crowd of Palestinians, Jews, and internationals, it is sometimes possible to imagine the kind of place Israel could be if it ever managed to shed its settler-colonial armor."
That place is not a Jewish democracy or a white democracy or a European democracy. That place is a democracy, and a democracy is a place where you're happy for your son or daughter to get married because they're in love, not because of the ethnicity of their beloved.
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
Today, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations. Much of his talk concerned the current situation in Syria, but he also touched on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Yet even Mr. Obama’s pretty words and soaring oratory were unable to camouflage his extreme pro-Israel bias, as he spouted nonsense that he and his predecessors have all said before. A look at just a few of his statements is informative.
- “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”
This apparently means that, unlike Syria, which isn’t allowed by the U.S. to use chemical weapons, the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is unconditional: Israel can commit the most shocking and brutal human rights violations, and the U.S. will still continue to give it billions of dollars every year.
Obama Ignores Israel's War on Palestine
by Stephen Lendman
Obama intends lawless aggression on Syria. He does so based on lies. At the same time, he ignores the worst of Israeli crimes.
They occur daily during sham peace talks. In late August, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians. They wounded 18 others. Five children were hurt.
By John Grant
Watching the White House squirm over the on-going massacres in Egypt one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or resort to the vaudevillian method and throw rotten vegetables at them.
President Obama's “condemnation” of the Egyptian military’s massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House’s new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn't josh you, that's his name. And trust me, he’s the personification of earnestness.
By Pam Bailey and Medea Benjamin
It unfortunately has become a truism that when Egypt sneezes, Gaza catches a cold. Fearful of the "terrorist elements" automatically associated with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, neighbouring Egypt is quick to shut what amounts to "prison gates" at the first sign of turmoil either inside or outside the densely populated strip. Israel keeps its own crossings into Gaza on permanent lock-down, with permitted traffic a bare trickle, while also prohibiting travel by air and sea.
The current unrest in Egypt is no exception. As the world sits on the edge of its seat, polarised in its debate about whether the ouster of Mohammed Morsi was really a coup and what will happen next, the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are paying the price.
A report on June 11, 2013 from Reuters calls Richard Falk, the United Nations human rights investigator for Palestine, ‘embattled’, apparently because he has once again refused to dance to the U.S.-Israel tune. At a forum of the U.N. Human Rights Council, he called for an inquiry into what he sees as the torture of Palestinians in Israeli custody. The U.S., of course, with its own shocking record of torturing its political prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and who knows where else, boycotted the debate. Israel did the same, accusing the forum of anti-Israel bias.
One knows things are bad in Palestine when even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known for his brutal heavy-handiness against the Palestinians, has to decry what he calls ‘acts of hooliganism’ against them. These behaviors, known as price-tag attacks, are committed against Palestinians and Israeli security forces by Jewish youth living in violation of international law in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The point, apparently, is to extract a ‘price’ for actions taken against their illegal settlements. What actions Israeli security forces are taking, or have taken, were not mentioned.
The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless "peace process" for Palestine, a process valuable for its peaceyness and interminability.
Josh Ruebner's new book, Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama's Middle East Peace Process, could just as easily have been called "Fulfilled Expectations: The Success of Obama's Middle East Peace Process," depending on one's perspective. Its story could be summarized: Obama's performance in this area has been of a piece with his performance in every other. Some people became very hopeful about his rhetoric and then very dejected about his actions.
In this case, among those getting hopeful were Palestinian negotiators. But they didn't just grow depressed and despondent. They felt no obligation to behave like Democratic voters. They swore off the Hopium and went to work on an international approach through the United Nations that has begun to pay off.
Obama began his "peace process" efforts "naively unprepared for the intensity of the pushback from Israel and its supporters in the United States to its demand that Israel freeze settlements," Ruebner writes. But evidence of Obama's mental state is hard to pin down, and I'm not sure of the relevance. Whether Obama began with naive good intentions or the same cynicism that he was, by all accounts, fully immersed in by his second or third year in office, the important point remains the same. As Ruebner explains, Obama employs an all-carrots / no-sticks approach with Israel that is doomed to failure.
In fact, suggesting that the White House cease providing Israel with ever more weaponry and/or cease providing Israel with ever more protection from justice following its crimes is liable to get Ruebner himself denounced as naive, along with the rest of us who think he's right. Obama's fundamental problem is not one of naiveté, but of "seriousness," of upholding the solemn seriousness of willful belief in a respectable but doomed approach. If Obama was surprised that Palestinian negotiators didn't play along with this the way U.S. "journalists" do, that would suggest he had internalized the official point of view. Whether that is naiveté or deep cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder.
Ruebner provides the chronological play-by-play from Obama's first happy shiny moves in office to his familiar flailing about in search of propaganda that would continue to hold up year after year. And Ruebner includes analysis of what activists were up to along the way.
In fact, Ruebner begins with Obama's campaign promises, which -- upon close inspection -- prove, as with every other issue, to have been much closer to the President's abysmal performance than to the glowing image people recall of his early hope-and-changey self. Obama campaigned placing all blame on Palestinians, supporting Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, backing resolutions and legislation in the Senate imposing sanctions on Palestinians as punishment for having held an open election, and supporting Israel during its wars on Lebanon and Gaza. Obama's speeches and his website made his position clear to those inclined to see it. Boycott campaigns against the Israeli government were, according to him, "bigoted."
As with every other area, on peace in Palestine, Obama's disastrous approach could also have been read clearly from his selection of individuals to run his foreign policy team. During the transition period prior to his inauguration, Obama took positions on many foreign policy matters, but when it came to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, he declared himself unable to speak prior to becoming president.
Watching the sequence of events play out post-inauguration is painful. Obama urges an end to Israel's expansion of settlements. Netanyahu suggests that Obama, with all due respect, stick his proposals where the sun don't shine. But Netanyahu backs "statehood" (someday, with no rights or power or independence or actual -- you know -- statehood) for Palestinians, but proceeds to rapidly expand settlements, effectively eliminating territory on which to create any state. Obama announces that victory has come and help is on the way!
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave up on freezing settlements and announced that slowing the pace of the expansion would be an "unprecedented" accomplishment -- a claim that was less credible to people who had lived and suffered through many such claims before. As reward for the same lawless abuses as always, Israel received from the Obama administration more weaponry than ever, and a veto of a resolution at the United Nations opposing more Israeli settlements.
Ruebner rightly concludes:
"Obama's failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter. Obama also foundered because his approach relied solely on providing Israel with carrots. With the trivial exceptions of denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu photo-ops at the White House on a few occasions and reportedly forcing him to wait for several hours before a meeting, Obama never brandished the proverbial stick. But these personal insults did nothing to create incentives for Israel to cease openly and brazenly defying U.S. policy objectives."
Hope is so much more popular than reality. But Ruebner is full of hope. He holds it out there in front of us. All that's required is a little actually useful action:
"[I]f the United States were to pull its backing for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, then Israeli intransigence would melt away in the historical blink of an eye, as it did when President Dwight Eisenhower terminated all U.S. aid programs to Israel after it invaded and occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1956."
How do we get there? Part of the answer, Ruebner persuasively suggests is Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS), a movement that is making great strides, including in changing the public discourse, altering the sorts of things that even U.S. politicians can get away with claiming with a straight face.