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Palestine: one or two state solution/boycotting Israel
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Joined: 03 Oct 2004
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Location: Glasgow

Post Post subject: Palestine: one or two state solution/boycotting Israel Reply with quote

Ilan Pappe responds to Uri Avnery's rejection of a one state solution.

First, Avnery's argument:

The Bed of Sodom

By: Uri Avnery [ ::: Left Forum ::: ]
Sunday, April 22, 2007

In Hebrew legend, the bed of Sodom is a symbol of evil. The Bible tells how God decided to obliterate Sodom because of the wickedness of its people (Genesis, [eighteen]). The legend gives us an example of this wickedness: the special bed for visitors. When a stranger came to Sodom, he was put in this bed. If he was too tall, his legs were shortened. If he was too short, his limbs were stretched to fit.

In political life, there is more than one bed like this. On the Right and on the Left, there are people who put every problem in such a bed, cut off limbs and stretch limbs, until reality matches theory.

From the sixties on, doctrinaire leftists tended to put every situation into the bed of Vietnam. Everything - be it the murderous tyranny in Chile or the American threats against Cuba - had to fit the Vietnam example. Applying this model, it was easy to decide who were the good guys and who the bad, what to do and how to solve the problem.

That was convenient. It is much easier to draw conclusions when there is no need to consider the complexities of a particular conflict, its historical background and its local circumstances.

Lately, a new bed of Sodom has gained currency: South Africa. In some circles of the radical Left there is a tendency to force every conflict into this bed. Every new case of evil and oppression in the world is seen as a new version of the apartheid regime, and it is decided accordingly how to solve the problem and what to do to achieve the desired end.

True, the South African situation arose in particular historical circumstances that took centuries to mature. It was not identical with the problem of the aborigines in Australia or the settlement of the Whites in North America, nor to Northern Ireland or the situation in Iraq. But it is certainly convenient to give one and the same answer to all problems.

Of course, there is always a superficial similarity between different regimes of oppression. But if one is not ready to see the differences between the diseases, one is liable to prescribe false medicines - and risk killing the patient in the process.

Now this is happening here.

It is easy to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the South African bed, since the similarities between the symptoms are obvious. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has been going on for 40 years now, and almost 60 years have passed since the Naqba - the armed conflict of 1948 in which the State of Israel came into being and in which more than half the Palestinians lost their homes and land. Relations between the settlers and the Palestinians are in many ways reminiscent of apartheid; and even in Israel proper, the Arab citizens are far from real equality.

What to do? One has to learn from South Africa that there is nothing to be gained from appealing to the conscience of the ruling people. Among the white minority in South Africa, there was no real difference between Left and Right, between open racists and liberals, who were but better disguised racists, with the exception of a few white heroes who joined the fight for freedom.

Therefore, redemption could only come from the outside. And indeed, world public opinion saw the injustice of apartheid and imposed a world-wide boycott on South Africa, till in the end the white minority capitulated. Power in the united South African state passed into the hands of the black majority, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became president, and all this took place - wonder of wonders - without bloodshed.

If this happened in South Africa, the proponents of this view say, it must happen here, too. The idea of establishing a Palestinian state next to the State of Israel (the "Two-State Solution") must be discarded, and the single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (the "One-State Solution") must become the aim. This must be achieved by the ultimate weapon which proved itself in South Africa: boycott.

This is how it is going to happen: justice-lovers throughout the world will convince world public opinion to impose a general boycott on the State of Israel. The state will collapse and disintegrate. Between the sea and the river there will come into being one single state, in which Israelis and Palestinians will live peacefully together, as equal citizens. The settlers can stay where they are, there will be no problem of borders, and all that remains is to decide who will be the Palestinian Mandela.

This week I listened to a lecture by Professor Ilan Pappe of Haifa University, one of the leading spokesmen for this idea. The audience consisted of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists in Bil'in, the village that has become a symbol of resistance to the occupation. He presented a well-structured set of ideas, expressed with eloquence and enthusiasm. These were the principles:

There is no sense in opposing just the occupation, nor any other particular policy of the Israeli government. The problem is the very essence of Israel as a Zionist state. This essence is unchangeable as long as the state exists. No change from the inside is possible, because in Israel there is no essential difference between Right and Left. Both are accomplices in a policy whose real aim is ethnic cleansing, the expulsion of the Palestinians not only from the occupied territories, but also from Israel proper.

Therefore, everyone who strives for a just solution must aim at the establishment of a single state, to which the refugees of 1948 and 1967 will be invited to return. This will be a joint and egalitarian state, like today's South Africa.

There is no sense in trying to change Israel from the inside. Salvation will come from the outside: a world-wide boycott of Israel, which will cause the state to collapse and convince the Israeli public that there is no escape from the One-State Solution.

It sounded logical and convincing, and the speaker did indeed gain applause.

This theoretical structure contains several assumptions with which I have no quarrel. The Zionist Left has indeed collapsed in the last few years, and its absence from the field of struggle is a painful and dangerous fact. In today's Knesset, there is no effective Zionist party that is seriously fighting for real equality for the Arab citizens. Nobody is able today to call out into the street hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands, in order to pressure the government to accept the peace proposal of the whole Arab world.

There is no doubt that the real disease is not the 40-year long occupation. The occupation is a symptom of a more profound disease, which is connected with the official ideology of the state. The aim of ethnic cleansing and the establishment of a Jewish State from the sea to the river is dear to the hearts of many Israelis, and perhaps Rabbi Meir Kahane was right when he asserted that this is everybody's unspoken desire.

But unlike professor Pappe, I am convinced that it is possible to change the historical direction of Israel. I am convinced that this is the real battlefield for the Israeli peace forces, and I myself have been engaged in it for decades.

Moreover, I believe that we have already attained impressive achievements: the recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people has become general, and so has the readiness of most Israelis to accept the idea of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. We have compelled our government to recognize the PLO, and we shall compel them to recognize Hamas. True, all this would not have happened without the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and (sometimes) favorable international circumstances, but the contribution of the Israeli peace forces, which pioneered these ideas, was significant.

Also, the notion has lately gained acceptance in Israel and other countries, that peace will be achieved only if we succeed in overcoming the gap between the Israeli and the Palestinian narratives and in integrating them into one single historical account, which will recognize the injustices which have been committed and which are still going on. Nothing is more important. (Our path-breaking booklet "Truth Against Truth" was the beginning of this process.)

On the surface, it appears that we have failed. We have not succeeded in compelling our government to stop the building of the wall or the enlargement of the settlements, nor to restore to the Palestinians their freedom of movement. In short, we have not succeeded in putting an end to the occupation. The Arab citizens of Israel have not attained real equality. But beneath the surface, in the depths of national consciousness, we are succeeding. The question is how to turn the hidden success into an open political fact. In other words: how to change the policy of the Israeli government.

The idea of the "One-State Solution" will harm this effort very much.

It diverts the effort from a solution that has now, after many years, a broad public basis, in favor of a solution that has no chance at all.

There is no doubt that 99.99% of Jewish Israelis want the State of Israel to exist as a state with a robust Jewish majority, whatever its borders.

The belief that a world-wide boycott could change this is a complete illusion. Immediately after his lecture, my colleague Adam Keller asked the professor a simple question: "The entire world has imposed a blockade on the Palestinian people. But in spite of the terrible misery of the Palestinians, they have not been brought to their knees. Why do you think that a boycott would break the Israeli public, which is far stronger economically, so that they would give up the Jewish character of the state?" (There was no answer.)

In any case, such a boycott is quite impossible. Here and there, an organization can declare a boycott, small circles of justice-lovers can keep it, but there is no chance that in the coming decades a world-wide boycott movement, like the one that broke the racist regime in South Africa, will come about. That regime was headed by declared asmirers of the Nazis. A boycott of the "Jewish State", which is identified with the victims of the Nazis, just will not happen. It will be enough to remind people that the long road to the gas chambers started with the 1933 Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden" ("Don't buy from Jews").

(The obnoxious fact that the government of the "State of the Holocaust Survivors" had close relations with the Apartheid State does not change this situation.)

That is the problem with the bed of Sodom: one size does not fit all. When the circumstances are different, the remedies must be different, too.

The idea of the "One-State Solution" can attract people who despair of the struggle for the soul of Israel. I do understand them. But it is a dangerous idea, especially for the Palestinians.

Statistically, the Israeli Jews constitute, as of now, the absolute majority between the sea and the river. To that, one must add an even more important fact: the average annual income of an Arab Palestinian is about 800 dollars, that of a Jewish Israeli is about 20,000 dollars - 25 times (!) higher. The Israeli economy is growing every year. The Palestinians would be "hewers of wood and drawers of water". That means that if the imaginary joint state did indeed come into being, the Jews there would wield in it absolute power. They would, of course, use this power to consolidate their dominance and prevent the return of refugees.

Thus the South African example could come true retroactively: in the Single State, an apartheid-like regime would indeed come into being. Not only would the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not be solved, but on the contrary, it would move into an even more dangerous phase.

Pappe put forward an argument that looked a bit strange to me: that a Single State already exists in practice, since Israel rules from the sea to the river. But that is not so. There is no single state, neither formally nor in practice, but one state occupying another. Such a state, in which a dominant nation controls the others, will eventually disintegrate - as did the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

The One State will not come into being. Not only the Israelis, but most of the Palestinians, too, will not give up their right to a national state of their own. They can applaud an Israeli professor who advocates the dismantling of the State of Israel, but they have no time to wait for utopian solutions that could be realized in a hundred years. They need an end to the occupation and to achieve a solution to the conflict here and now, in the near future.

All who wholeheartedly want to help the occupied Palestinian people would be well advised to keep well away from the idea of a general boycott of Israel. It would push all Israelis into the arms of the extreme Right, because it would reinforce the right-wing belief that "All the world is against us" - a belief that took root in the years of the Holocaust, when "all the world looked on and kept silent". Every Israeli child learns this in school.

A focused boycott against specific organizations and corporations that actively contribute to the occupation can indeed help in convincing the Israeli public that the occupation is not worthwhile. Such a boycott can achieve a specific aim - if it is not aimed at the collapse of the State of Israel. Gush Shalom, to which I belong, has for 10 years been organizing a boycott of the products of the settlements. The aim is to isolate the settlers and their accomplices. But a general boycott on the State of Israel would achieve the very opposite - to isolate the Israeli peace activists.

The "two-state solution" was and still is the only solution. When we put it forward immediately after the 1948 war, we could be counted on the fingers of two hands not only in Israel but in the entire world. Now there exists a world-wide consensus about it. The path to this solution is not smooth, many dangers lurk on the way, but it is a realistic solution that can be achieved.

One can say: OK, we will accept the Two-State Solution because it is realistic, but after its realization we shall endeavor to abolish the two states and establish one joint state. That is alright with me. As for myself, I hope that in the course of time a federation of the two states will come into being, and relations between the two will become close. I also hope that a regional union, like the EU, will be established, consisting of all the Arab states and Israel, and perhaps also Turkey and Iran.

But first of all we must treat the wound from which we are all suffering: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not by patent medicines, certainly not by a bed of Sodom, but with the medicines that are on the shelf.

The 18Th chapter of Genesis tells of Abraham trying to convince the Almighty not to obliterate Sodom. "Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?"

God promised him not to destroy the town if there were 50 righteous in it. Abraham haggled and brought the Almighty down to 45, then 40, 30 and 20, finally settling for 10. But in Sodom there were no 10 righteous to be found, and so its fate was sealed.

I believe that in Israel there are many, many more than ten righteous people. All public opinion polls show that the great majority of Israelis not only want peace, but are ready to pay its price. But they are afraid. They lack trust. They are shackled by the beliefs they acquired in early childhood. They must be freed from them - and I believe that it can be done.

Looking for alternatives to failure: An answer to Uri Avnery

Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada, 26 April 2007

The following is Ilan Pappe's response to Uri Avnery's essay "Bed of Sodom," published by Hagada Hasmalit on 22 April 2007:

Uri Avnery accuses the supporters of the one-state solution of forcefully imposing the facts onto the "Bed of Sodom". He seems to regard these people at best as daydreamers who do not understand the political reality around them and are stuck in a perpetual state of wishful thinking. We are all veteran comrades in the Israeli Left and therefore it is quite possible that in our moments of despair we fall into the trap of hallucinating and even fantasizing while ignoring the unpleasant reality around us.

And therefore the metaphor of the Bed of Sodom may even be fitting for lashing out at those who are inspired by the South African model in their search for a solution in Palestine. But in this case it is a small cot of Sodom compared to the king-size bed onto which Gush Shalom and other similar members of the Zionist Left insist on squeezing their two-state solution. The South African model is young -- in fact hardly a year has passed since it was seriously considered -- while the formula of two states is sixty years old: an abortive and dangerous illusion that enabled Israel to continue its occupation without facing any significant criticism from the international community.

The South African model is good subject matter for a comparative study -- not as an object for a hollow emulation. Certain chapters in the history of the colonization in South Africa and the Zionization of Palestine are indeed nearly identical. The ruling methodology of the white settlers in South Africa resembles very closely that applied by the Zionist movement and later Israel against the indigenous population of Palestine since the end of the 19th century. Ever since 1948, the official Israeli policy against some of the Palestinians is more lenient than that of the Apartheid regime; against other Palestinians it is much worse.

But above all the South African model inspires those concerned with the Palestine cause in two crucial directions: by introducing the one democratic state, it offers a new orientation for a future solution instead of the two-state formula that failed, and it invigorates new thinking of how the Israeli occupation can be defeated -- through boycott, divestment, and sanctions (the BDS option).

The facts on the ground are crystal clear: the two-state solution has dismally failed and we have no spare time to waste in futile anticipation of another illusory round of diplomatic efforts that would lead to nowhere. As Avnery admits, the Israeli peace camp has so far failed to persuade the Israeli Jewish society to try the road of peace. A sober and critical assessment of this camp's size and force leads to the inevitable conclusion that it has no chance whatsoever against the prevailing trends in the Israeli Jewish society. It is doubtful whether it will even keep its very minimal presence on the ground, and there is a great concern that it will disappear all together.

Avnery ignores these facts and alleges that the one-state solution is a dangerous panacea to offer to the critically ill patient. All right, so let us prescribe it gradually. But for God's sake let us take the patient off of the very dangerous medicine we have been forcing down his throat the last sixty years and which is about to kill him.

For the sake of peace, it is important to expand our research on the South African model and other historical case studies. Because of our failure we should study carefully any other successful struggle against oppression. All these historical case studies show that the struggles from within and from without reinforced each other and were not mutually exclusive. Even when the sanctions were imposed on South Africa, the ANC continued its struggle and white South Africans did not cease from their attempt to convince their compatriots to give up the Apartheid regime. But there was not one single voice that echoes the article of Avnery, which claimed that a strategy of pressure from the outside is wrong because it weakens the chances of change from within. Especially when the failure of the inside struggle is so conspicuous and obvious. Even when the De Klerk government negotiated with the ANC the sanctions regime still continued.

It is also very difficult to understand why Avnery underrates the importance of world public opinion. Without the support this world public opinion gave to the Zionist movement, the Nakba (catastrophe) would not have occurred. Had the international community rejected the idea of partition, a unitary state would have replaced Mandatory Palestine, as indeed was the wish of many members of the UN. However, these members succumbed to a violent pressure by the US and the Zionist lobby and retracted their earlier support for such a solution. And today, if the international community alters its position once more and revises its attitude towards Israel, the chances for ending the occupation would increase enormously and by that maybe also help to avert the colossal bloodshed that would engulf not only the Palestinians but also the Jews themselves.

The call for a one-state solution, and the demand for boycott, divestment and sanctions, has to be read as a reaction against the failure of the previous strategy -- a strategy upheld by the political classes but never fully endorsed by the people themselves. And anyone who rejects the new thinking out of hand and in such a categorical manner, may be less bothered by what is wrong with this new option and far more troubled by his own place in history. It is indeed difficult to admit personal as well as collective failure; but for the sake of peace it is sometimes necessary to put aside one's ego. I am inclined to think that way when I read the false narrative Avnery concocted about the Israeli peace movement's 'achievements' so far. He announces that 'the recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people has become general, and so has the readiness of most Israelis to accept the idea of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital of both states'. This is a clear case of amputating both the leg and the hand of the patient to fit him to the Bed of Sodom. And even more far-fetched is the declaration that 'We have compelled our government to recognize the PLO, and we shall compel them to recognize Hamas' -- now that the rest of patient's limbs have been dispensed with (sorry for the gruesome metaphor but I am forced into it by Avnery's choice). These assertions have very little in common with the position of the Jewish public in Israel towards peace from 1948 until today. But facts can sometime confuse the issue.

But in order to stifle any debate on the one-state solution or the BDS option, Avnery draws from his magic hat the winning card: 'but beneath the surface, in the depths of national consciousness, we are succeeding'. Let us thus provide the Palestinians with metal detectors and X-ray equipment -- they may discover not only the tunnel, but also the light at its end. The truth is that what lies in the deepest layers of the Israeli national consciousness is far worse from what appears on the surface. And let us hope that this remains there forever and does not bubble to the surface. These are deposits of dark and primitive racism that if allowed to flow over will drown us all in a sea of hatred and bigotry.

Avnery is right when he asserts that 'there is no doubt that 99.99 percent of Jewish Israelis want the State of Israel to exist as a state with a robust Jewish majority, whatever its borders'. A successful boycott campaign will not change this position in a day, but will send a clear message to this public that these positions are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century. Without the cultural and economical oxygen lines the West provides to Israel, it would be difficult for the silent majority there to continue and believe that it is possible both to be a racist and a legitimate state in the eyes of the world. They would have to choose, and hopefully like De Klerk they will make the right decision.

Avnery is also convinced that Adam Keller debunked most successfully the argument for a boycott by pointing out that the Palestinians in the occupied territories did not give in to boycott. This is indeed a fine comparison: a political prisoner lies nailed to the ground and dares to resist; as a punishment he is denied even the meager food he received hitherto. His situation is compared to a person who occupied illegally this prisoner's house and who for the first time is facing the possibility of being brought to justice for his crimes. Who has more to lose? When is the threat mere cruelty and when is it a justified means to rectify a past evil?

The boycott will not happen, states Avnery. He should talk with the veterans of the anti-Apartheid movement in Europe. Twenty years passed before they convinced the international community to take action. And they were told, when they began their long journey, that it will not work -- that too many strategic and economic interests are involved and invested in South Africa.

Moreover, adds Avnery, in places such as Germany the idea of boycotting the victims of the Nazis would be rejected out of hand. Quite to the contrary. The action that already has been taken in this direction in Europe has ended the long period of Zionist manipulation of the Holocaust memory. Israel can no longer justify its crimes against the Palestinians in the name of the Holocaust. More and more people in Europe realize that that the criminal policies of Israel abuse the Holocaust memory and this is why so many Jews are members in the movement for boycott. This is also why the Israeli attempt to cast the accusation of anti-Semitism against the supporters of the boycott has met with contempt and resilience. The members of the new movement know that their motives are humanist and their impulses are democratic. For many of them their actions are triggered not only by universal values but also by their respect for the Judeo-Christian heritage of history. It would have been best for Avnery to use his immense popularity in Germany to demand from the society there to recognize their share not only in the Holocaust but also in the Palestinian catastrophe and that in the name of that recognition to ask them to end their shameful silence in the face of the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories.

Towards the end of his article, Avnery sketches the features of the one-state solution out of the present reality. And thus because he does not include the return of the refugees or a change in the regime as components of the solution he describes today's dismal reality as tomorrow vision. This is indeed an unworthy reality to fight for and nobody I know is struggling for it. But the vision of a one-state solution has to be the exact opposite of the present Apartheid state of Israel as was the post-Apartheid state in South Africa; and this is why this historical case study is so illuminating for us.

We need to wake up. The day Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush declared their loyal support for the two-state solution, this formula became a cynical means by which Israel can maintain its discriminatory regime inside the 1967 borders, its occupation in the West Bank and the ghettoization of the Gaza Strip. Anyone who blocks a debate over alternative political models allows the discourse of two states to shield the criminal Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.

Moreover, not only are there no stones left in the occupied territories with which to build a state after Israel ruined the infrastructure there in the last six years, a reasonable partition is not offering the Palestinian a mere 20 percent of their homeland. The basis should be at least half of the homeland, on the basis of the 181 partition route, or a similar idea. Here is another useful avenue to explore, instead of embroiling forever inside the Sodom and Gomorrah stew that the two-state solution has produced so far on the ground.

And finally, there will be no solution to this conflict with a settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. These refugees cannot return to their homeland for the same reason that their brothers and sisters are being expelled from greater Jerusalem and alongside the wall and their relatives are discriminated against in Israel. They cannot return for the same reason that every Palestinian is under the potential danger of occupation and expulsion as long as the Zionist project has not been completed in the eyes of its captains.

They are entitled to opt for return because it is their full human and political right. They can return because the international community had already promised them that they could. We as the Jews should want them to return because otherwise we will continue to live in a state where the value of ethnic superiority and supremacy overrides any other human and civil value. And we cannot promise ourselves, as well as the refugees, such a fair and just solution within the framework of the two-state formula.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa. His books include, among others, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).

Last edited by johnwhilley on Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
Wed May 02, 2007 12:26 pm
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Post Post subject: The 'no-state' solution Reply with quote

Jesus FC, is there nothing sacred ? 'The Bed of Sodom' is direct plagarism from the 'Bed of Procrustes' as surely as Noah's flood was lifted from 'The Epic of Gilgamesh'. I'm not a big fan of copyright law but if we were to apply it to all these Abrahamic religions it'd save us from all this inter-semite (sons of Shem) violence. We just all celebrated 'World Intellectual Property Day' on the 26th of April and 'World Book and Copyright Day' on the 23rd of April ( didn't we ? ) so why not get the UN on to the cases of the clear theft in the Torah, the Bible and the Koran. The only real solution to Israel v Palestine, as with every national dispute, is the 'no-state' solution. Either the UN sends in a crack team of copyright lawyers, backed up with troops, to bust those religions or else the no-state solution will progress the way it has been progressing, with too few people left alive to form a cabinet. If so many anarchists are and were Jewish, and if so many Palestinians know that unjust laws should be disobeyed, where is the problem ? Palisraelistine, a 'World Heritage Country' policed by the Chinese and Finn's.

Uri's argument that a boycott will not work economically is perfectly true, which isn't the same thing as saying it shouldn't be attempted. Israel isn't dependent of it's trade, it is dependent on it's subsidy from the US. If the US state cut off funding, Israel would be gone in a decade at most. The South African boycott didn't succeed in economic terms - UK and US coroporations barely obseved it all - it succeeded in political terms. It made everyone else contemptuous of the white South African elite until they were shamed into stopping the oppression. "I've never met a nice white South African" was a comedic song which went through everyones head in the 80's upon meeting a white South African -either that or "Free Nelson Mandela". It wasn't always true - lots of South African dissidents lived in the UK, but they understood and were proud to explain they were exceptions to the rule. White South Africans weren't attacked in the streets, they didn't claim racial discrimination - such a claim would have been sneered at instead of prosecuted in the courts as with zionists playing the Nazi card, but they were ostracised so completely that they gave up their abuse.

So in some ways, it is easier to differentiate the supporters of Israeli apartheid from Israeli dissidents. To hate the state and love the people. I love and respect the Jews I've met, I love and respect the israelis I've met, but I've never met a nice Zionist.
Wed May 02, 2007 11:36 pm
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Post Post subject: Sorry John - got a new motor ? Reply with quote

Now I know I'm going to get accused of anti-semitism/ nazism etc but I fight nazis (literally) and if this was mainstream BBC criticism of S Africa in the 80's, then why doesn't it work now ?
And apologies for hijacking your thread John or confusing the younger ML folk, just ignore me and respond to Johns excellent post.

I've travelled this old world of ours from Barnsley to Peru
I've had sunshine in the arctic and a swim in Timbuktu
I've seen unicorns in Burma and a Yeti in Nepal
And I've danced with ten foot pygmies in a Montezuma hall
But I've never met a nice Zionist
No he's never met a nice Zionist
And that's not bloody surprising man
Cause we're a bunch of arrogant bastards
Who hate arab people
I once got served in Woolies after less than four week's wait
I had lunch with Rowan Atkinson when he paid and wasn't late
I know a public swimming bath where they don't piss in the pool
I know a guy who got a job straight after leaving school
I've met a normal merman and a fairly modest German
But I've never met a nice Zionist
No he's never met a nice Zionist
I've never been quite that pissed
'Cause they're a bunch of talentless murderers
Who smell like baboons
I've had a close encounter of the twenty-second kind
That's when an alien spaceship disappears up your behind
I got directory enquiries after less than forty rings
I've even heard a decent song by Paul McCartney's Wings
I've seen a flying pig in a quite convincing wig
But I've never met a nice Zionist
No he's never met a nice Zionist
I'll never cross that one off my list
Cause they're a bunch of ignorant loudmouths
With no sense of humour - ha ha
I've met the Loch Ness monster and he looks like Fred Astaire
At the BBC in London he's the chief commissionaire
I know a place in Glasgow which is rife with daffodillies
I met a man in Kathmandu who claimed to have two willies
I've had a nice Pot Noodle but I've never had a poodle
And I've never met a nice Zionist
No he's never met a nice Zionist
That'd be a really surprising twist
Because we've never met one either
Except for Mordechai Vanunu and he's on their death list.
Yes he's quite a nice Zionist
And he's hardly ever killed anyone
And he's not smelly at all
That's why they put him prison Rolling Eyes
Thu May 03, 2007 12:09 am
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Post Post subject: Up my own bum hole but... Reply with quote

Free Marwan Barghouti
Free, Free, Free, Marwan Barghouti
Free Marwan Barghouti
Twenty-one years in captivity
His shoes too small to fit his feet
His body abused but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see

I say Free Marwan Barghouti
I'm begging you
Free Marwan Barghouti

He pleaded the causes of the PLO
Only one man in a large army
Are you so blind that you cannot see
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea

Free Marwan Barghouti
I'm begging you Free Marwan Barghouti

Twenty-one years in captivity
Are you so blind that you cannot see
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear
Are you so dumb that you cannot speak

I say Free Marwan Barghouti
I'm begging you
Oh free Marwan Barghouti, free
Marwan Barghouti I'm begging you
begging you Please free Marwan Barghouti
free Marwan Barghouti
I'm telling you, you've got to free Marwan Barghouti

and :

March, 2003
The Gaza strip, weather fine
It was business as usual
In Hai as-Salam
Oh Corrie, Corrie, because Corrie
Oh Corrie, Corrie, because Corrie
Come Spirit, Come Spirit
-The girl is dead

When I try to sleep at night
I can only dream in red
The outside world is black and white
With only one colour dead
Oh Corrie, Corrie, because Corrie
Oh Corrie, Corrie, because Corrie
Come Spirit, Come Spirit
-The girl is dead

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher
Oh Corrie, Corrie, because Corrie
Come Spirit, Come Spirit
-The girl is dead

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Thu May 03, 2007 2:53 am
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An illuminating extract from:

'One State or Two? Rashid Khalidi & Ali Abunimah on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict',
Democracy Now,
November 28th, 2006.

Full article at:

AMY GOODMAN:We’re talking to Professor Rashid Khalidi, he’s the Edward Said Professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. Author of a number of books, his latest is called The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Joining us in studio in Chicago, is Ali Abunimah. He is the creator and editor of the Electronic Intafada, and more recently of Electronic Iraq, his new book is called One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Ali Abunimah, thank you for joining us, layout that proposal, please.

ALI ABUNIMAH: Thank you, Amy. What I layout in the book is really an old idea, which I think needs to be revived and discussed most vigorously. And really it's the proposition in the title One Country, recognition that what we have in Palestine-Israel is one country. It is an Israeli ruled country in which half the population, 5 million Israeli Jews, has a monopoly on political, economic and military power. And the other half, Palestinians, are disenfranchised either partially or totally.

And what I'm arguing is that--that really the conventional wisdom, that partition is the solution is completely wrong. And in fact, partition is the problem. I think Rashid's book which is really an important and a major new light on some of this history, helps illuminate that partition has always been associated with ethnic cleansing, with the dispossession of the Palestinians really from when it was first suggested in 1937, when the British suggested the partition of Palestine. They said that you would have to forcibly transfer hundreds of thousands at that time, nearly the majority of the Palestinian population, in order to create a Jewish State. And as Rashid said, Israeli could only come out of the continued dispossession of the Palestinians.

What I’m saying is that we need to do the work of imagining a different kind of future. One in which, Israelis and Palestinians can start to see themselves together. That's very, very hard work in the current context. But, I think looking at other examples around the world, like South Africa, like Northern Ireland, even like Canada where they are still struggling with these issues as we see today. There is a different path that we have to see other than the Apartheid reality Israel is creating with the world’s complicity.

AMY GOODMAN:Ali Abunimah, on the issue of a one-state solution, I wanted to go back for a moment to former President Jimmy Carter. During his appearance on CNN last night he was asked about this one state idea.

JIMMY CARTER: To incorporate the Occupied Territories into Israel and have just one state, I don't think that would work, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the Palestinians, if they were given a right to vote on an equal basis with all Israelis, they would play a major role in making decisions about the whole country. And with the rapid population growth of the Palestinians, which in Gaza is 4.7% a year, one of the highest of the world, and in the foreseeable future the Palestinians would actually have a majority in that nation. So I think the only real practical solution is to have two states, side by side, in their own territories living in harmony and peace. That’s I think the best and most likely approach.
AMY GOODMAN:That was former President Jimmy Carter on CNN Larry King Live. But I also wanted to ask you about the charge that advocating a one-state solution, in fact helps the strongest opponents of Palestinian rights. The argument has been made by people like, well, MIT Professor Noam Chompsky, who says he favors the two-state solution, not because it’s the most just, but because it’s the most realistic. He writes, "in my opinion, it's improper to dangle hopes that will not be realized before the eyes of people suffering in misery and oppression. Rather constructive efforts should be pursued to mitigate their suffering and deal with their problems in the real world.” Your response.

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, I think those views are both reflections of a flawed conventional wisdom and I take that on directly in the book. Consider this reality, Amy. There is a multibillion dollar peace process industry that has been out there for decades saying the only solution is the two-state solution. And as we see there is no Palestinian state. It was promised, President Bush promised a Palestinian State in 2005, we’re close to 2007.

It is the hope of a Palestinian state that has been dangled cynically in front of the Palestinians for decades. And what President Carter is saying, and I applaud, I am thrilled by his interventions, by his book, and by his interview on Larry King Live. But, I think on this particular issue he’s reflecting a flawed conventional wisdom. Because what’s he saying? He’s saying that the reason to oppose a one-state solution is because it would be democracy. That Palestinians would have an equal rights, one person, one vote, and an equal share in deciding the future of the country.

What I argue in the book, of course this isn't about destroying Israel. It isn’t about turning things over from one day to the next. Palestine-Israel is not the only country that faces this sort of power struggle along ethnic, religious, and other lines. We have to look for structures, and I talk about this in some detail in the book. How they did it in South Africa, where by the way, the same sorts of arguments were made against ending Apartheid and against one person, one vote. We have to look at countries like Belgium, we have to look at Northern Ireland.

There are many models out there for dealing with those sort of things. So that you have one person, one vote, full democracy, full equality, while at same time, ethnic communities, the Israeli-Jewish community, the Palestinian community, will have mechanisms for expressing their national identity, for decision making over issues that concern them. We have to stop thinking this very simplistic, binary way. And this is where I'm trying to take the discussion with this book.

AMY GOODMAN:Let me ask Professor Rashid Khalidi, your response. Which do you feel is the most viable solution today?

RASHID KHALIDI:Well, I would say two things, the first is that anybody who wants to talk about a two-state solution has to talk about how you would reverse the trends that have been ongoing for at least four decades. The annexation of Palestinian land, the usurpation of Palestinian property in order to create the settlements, the chopping up of the West Bank into cantons, the erection of a matrix of control, where by every important decision the Palestinians take is ultimately passed through an Israeli screen, and there are Israeli arbiters, Ministry of Interior, security services, military, control everything. I'm talking birth/death, entry/exit, export/import, everything, of importants.

You would have to reverse that whole process, before you could even talk about the 23% of Palestine, which is the West Bank and the Gaza Strip becoming a Palestinian State. And I see those processes as having been given enormous additional impetus by President Bush’s saying that the settlement blocks are realities that have to be taken into account in any settlement. So, reverse US policy first. Reverse everything Israeli has done for almost 40 years in the Occupied Territories and then come and talk about a Palestinian state.

The second thing that has to be taken into consideration in my view is that both Palestinians and Israelis are very attached to the idea of having their own state. Now, these are not just ethnic communities, these are peoples that have developed powerful senses of national identities, in part in conflict with one another. And to talk about how you move them towards a future of peace, in which you have one state and are operating within a single political system, involves not just a whole process of education and structures, which Ali does talk about in his book, but overcoming what seems to be very strong majority views in both peoples about how they want to organize their national life.

There are people in Israeli and more in Palestine, but minorities in both cases, who want some kind of one state solution. They don’t all want the same one by the way, but they are distinct minorities. So, I think you have to address both of those things, irrespective of which solution you want.

AMY GOODMAN:Ali Abunimah?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, I think Rashid is pointing out the key obstacles. People who say the two-state solution is realistic are ignoring the reality on the ground. That there is one state already, it is basically a greater Israel in which Palestinians are disenfranchised. These people are inseparable. And I think that for many people, the idea of two states acts as a sort of a placebo. It gets us off the hook from looking at the reality that these people are deeply intertwined. They are as inseparable as blacks and whites in South Africa, as inseparable as Nationalists and Unionists, Catholics and Protestants, in Northern Ireland. And like South Africans and like people in Ireland, they have to start dealing with that reality.

On the issues of what people on both sides think it's clear that the majority of Israelis are deeply attached to their own state, a state in which they are dominant, the dominant class, as whites were in South Africa. I think with Palestinians, it's much more mixed. When you look at the opinion poles within the West Bank and Gaza, it's remarkable how high support is for a single democratic multiethnic state, not an Islamic State in which there are no Jews, but a multiethnic democratic state, is remarkably high given that there are no Palestinian leaders out there openly advocating this.

And support for a two-state solution is remarkably tepid given the fact there is this multimillion dollar industry promoting it and all the parties say that they’re for it. When you look at Palestinians, the rest of the Palestinian community, the more than a million Palestinians living as Israeli citizens, second class citizens have been struggling for decades for a state of all its citizens. So, I would see them as supporting the goal of the state of equal rights and for Palestinians in the Diaspora, the issue of a two state solution has always remained contentious. Because, the way Israel conceives of it, as Ehud Olmert put it just yesterday, it means that the vast majority of Palestinians would have to give up their rights. So, in the book, and I talk about these discussions both among Palestinians and Israelis moving towards this new sort of vision.

AMY GOODMAN:We just have about a minute and a half to go and I want to tie this into what’s happening today in Iraq. How you see it related? Do you see solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict essential to peace in Iraq as well?

RASHID KHALIDI:I think what's essential is that the mind set that has dominated American policy--policy making has to change fundamentally, whether in Iraq or Palestine, or Lebanon, or elsewhere. That we won't talk to you unless you do what we want syndrome, that this administration has perfected, is bankrupt and has lead us into the abyss. Much of what we think, the conventional wisdom about places like Palestine will have to be discarded. I would, I’d love to say I see a new horizon in Iraq and Palestine because of what Olmert has done, or because the Democrats have won the election, unfortunately, I don't. There’s a huge body of conventional wisdom which is entirely wrong, and which has led us where we are. And more of it than we realize is marked bipartisan on the Middle East. All of that has to change unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN:Ali Abunimah, solution right now, on Iraq?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, I agree absolutely with what Rashid has said. I think the most important thing we can do what Jimmy Carter said on Larry King, we have to start talking about this. Shattering the conventional wisdom, shattering the silence that has made free discussion of Palestine-Israel such a taboo in this country for so long.

AMY GOODMAN:Ali Abunimah and Professor Rashid Khalidi, I want to thank you both for being with us. Ali Abunimah’s book is called One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israel Palestinian Impasse, and Professor’s Khalidi’s book, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood.
Sun May 20, 2007 11:21 pm
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Virginia Tilley's article offers a very persuasive case for an academic boycott of Israel, an apartheid state whose universities and related institutions are harbouring the professionals and policy makers who help maintain and entrench its oppressive aims and interests. The arguments here beg ongoing questions on whether the occupation can ever be broken without radically changing the basis of the Israeli state itself.



On the Academic Boycott of Israel
Virginia Tilley, The Electronic Intifada, 27 May 2007

Academics don't like academic boycotts. In fact, we detest external limits of any kind. We treasure our own universities for offering precious sanctuary for critical debate (even though they rarely do) and we don't like to see any of them banned, even for ostensibly laudable reasons. Sure, universities in some countries are little more than fig leaves for their regimes. But that's not usually their fault. So we avoid the lectures of state hacks rather than denounce them and we protect the universities so that they can nurture that rare point of light.

Still, in very exceptional cases, an academic boycott comes onto our agenda. This happens when a country's universities are recognized as central players in legitimizing a regime that systematically inflicts massive human rights abuses on its own people and any pretence that the universities are independent fortresses of principled intellectual thought becomes too insulting to the human conscience. But since universities in many oppressive regimes fit those criteria, in practice a second condition is required: their faculties have the freedom to act differently.

In democratic countries where human rights abuses abound as rampantly as in Israel, it is not tenable that faculty entertain and promote the notion that their institutions -- cranking out the architects and professional foot soldiers of occupation -- have no role in those abuses and can join in mixed company as fine upstanding members of the international scholarly club. It is especially not tenable when universities themselves perpetrate discrimination in their research and their grants and admission policies. University faculties are supposed to hold their institutions accountable to basic standards of objectivity, fairness, and non-discrimination. Where they are capable of acting on those standards and refuse, the hack becomes the hypocrite. Moral paralysis becomes moral culpability.

On this reasoning, back in the 1980s offended foreign academics launched an academic boycott of apartheid South Africa, whose universities were finally rightly identified as bastions of white supremacy and whose white faculties, privileged by racial democracy, could be held accountable. Similarly, we now see a boycott of Israeli universities being urged by, among others, Britain's University and College Union. Israeli academics, naturally enough, are appalled by the idea of a boycott and the Israeli government is worried that the idea is gaining momentum. Hence an Israeli academic delegation has to come to England to wage battle against the boycott, and all the old banners once waved by apartheid's defenders -- 'academic freedom', 'balance', 'proportionality' -- are being waved again in this one.

Israeli academic arguments are indeed too reminiscent of apartheid South Africa to escape the comparison. Especially, South African academics trying to defeat the boycott typically avoided discussing the abuses of apartheid. Israeli academic arguments against the boycott also do not discuss the reason for it, which is Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and the subjugation of almost four million civilians under military rule. Instead, they stress the need for 'balance' -- which, in Israeli parlance, is a code word for shifting attention entirely away from the occupation to reiterate a tired canon of Israeli innocence, victimhood, and deniability. And because they do not discuss the occupation, they do not address their own universities' responsibility for it.

Whatever our conceits of political neutrality, academics never work in a vacuum. In conflict zones, our work is as inherently political as any other activity. For example, let us briefly suspend disbelief and accept Ben-Gurion University Professor Zvi Hacohen's claim, cited in Ha'aretz (15 May 2007) that 'there is widespread cooperation between our universities and Palestinian and Jordanian universities', although he does not specify what this 'widespread' cooperation is. His argument is hardly supported by Palestinian faculty, whose only public voice on the question has been to support the boycott.

But in any case, he cannot pretend that such collaboration is apolitical when Palestinian research partners are held captive under draconian military rule by his own government and the occupation is wrecking their families' hopes and lives, their institutions' viability, and their entire community's basic safety. Nor can he pretend that his own university is politically neutral when it subsists partly on privileges gained by such appalling human rights violations and conducts research designed to preserve and strengthen those privileges.

Ignoring such complicity is not neutral: it is enabling. It promotes a veneer of normalcy over a ghastly human rights situation and so helps shelter it from scrutiny.

Israel's defenders in this controversy also protest that a boycott violates the moral economy of academic work. 'Communication, understanding and international collaboration is what this field is all about,' said Professor Miriam Schlesinger of Bar Ilan University, who was asked to resign from the board of a translation journal because she is Israeli. Yet the ethic of communication, understanding, and collaboration with Palestinian universities is precisely what Israeli universities have unacceptably abandoned. Instead, Israeli scholars are casually allowing Palestinian institutions to crumble on their doorsteps, at the hands of their own government, while they themselves share elevated discussions in the paneled salons of Oxford and Cambridge.

A third argument is that a boycott is too sweeping, punishing Israel's intellectual progressives along with nationalist reactionaries and passive enablers. Schlesinger even calls it 'collective punishment' -- an unfortunate reference, since Israel's occupation and brutalization of some 4 million people is often denounced as collective punishment and the phrase suggests, again, that peculiar Israeli interpretation of the word 'balance'. Yet collective punishment is wrong where collective responsibility is lacking. Palestinian civilians in a refugee camp are not capable of controlling and therefore not responsible for what some militants do to resist occupation, and resisting occupation is a human right in any case. Israeli professors have the capacity to take a stand against human rights abuses furthered by their own institutions and therefore have the moral responsibility to do so.

Hence it is also false moral symmetry for Dr. Schlesinger to equate her right to serve on the board of an academic journal with the right of Palestinian students to university education. She was denied her board position not just because she is Israeli but because she is complicit, through the privileges and power she enjoys through her nationality and her job, with a brutal occupation. Palestinians are being denied their right to education solely because they are not Jews. The former ban, even if controversial, is a moral gesture; the latter ban is a racist one.

A fourth argument is that Israel is being unfairly singled out. For example, since the US and Britain have recently teamed up to kill, or cause to die or be killed, hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, surely a better case can be made for boycotting them. This argument trips over the grave of South African apartheid, however, for South Africa attempted the same claim of proportionality and the world had none of it. For one thing, state sins are not measured by death counts alone, nor are they ranked by their measurable gravity. If they were, we would focus on just one conflict at a time.

For another, Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip is not a foreign policy gone wrong. The entire Israeli state system -- its laws, its policies, its ideology of Jewish statehood, the privileges that serve its Jewish-national society -- is implicated in a grand demographic strategy to exclude, imprison, and subjugate some 50 percent of the state's own territorial population solely on the basis of their ethnic identity. This distinguishes Israel from other states behaving badly by casting it into the particular moral abyss of an apartheid state.

And there's the rub. The small but growing international boycott of Israel signals that the political ground is shifting -- that its occupation is sliding conceptually, if not yet legally, into an apartheid model. The UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines 'the crime of apartheid' as 'inhuman acts' similar to apartheid, such as 'the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups' by denying 'the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality [citizenship], the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association'. The Convention particularly prohibits any measures 'designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos'.

If this package does not sound like Israel's military rule over Palestinians, it is hard to imagine what apartheid outside South Africa would look like or how the Convention might ever be applied again.

Israel hotly rejects the apartheid analogy, of course, partly on grounds that Palestinians are not a racial group but a national or ethnic group (defined in the negative, as non-Jews). Also, Palestinians are not supposed to be Israel's citizens, but rather are considered citizens of some nonexistent state that may exist some time in the future. But no one looking at the dismembered and walled West Bank enclaves now left to the Palestinians can imagine that these prison camps are intended to constitute a state, and the distinction between ethnicity and race in this context is losing all meaning. The A-word is everywhere now, and the boycott is one signal that the apartheid paradigm is seeding broadly into international civil society. Israel's hapless academics are fast losing ground fast to its growth.

Because they are in denial about the horrors of the occupation itself, Israeli academics protesting the boycott may not grasp its real purpose, which is to force them to confront those horrors. It is not acceptable for them to insist on ivory-tower privileges with so terrible a human rights catastrophe as the occupation stark on their doorstep, perpetrated by their own government and involving their own institutions in its cruelties and deceptions. When Dr. Schlesinger protests that being treated according to her nationality rather than her individual character 'was a blow,' she misses the entire point. To claim a right to principled treatment, one must extend it to others. Israeli academics must become serious about according their Palestinian colleagues the dignity and respect they expect themselves. When they do, given their formidable talents and resources, the occupation will face its toughest opponents.

Virginia Tilley is a US citizen now working as a senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria. She is the author of The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock.
Mon May 28, 2007 1:00 am
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Another direct call from Palestinians for an academic boycott of Israel:

Boycott the Israeli Academy Now!

PACBI Appeal to British Academics May 24, 2007

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the courage and moral consistency of British academics who support an institutional academic boycott of Israel similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa in the past. We specifically welcome the motions submitted to the upcoming University and College Union (UCU) Council in Bournemouth that recognize the complicity of the Israeli academy in the occupation, urge academics "to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions," oppose any upgrade of Israel's EU status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law, and call for the circulation of the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to UCU members. We urge UCU delegates to support these motions, fulfilling the mandate of academics and intellectuals to speak out against oppression and injustice.

Heartened by the growing international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Palestinian academics, trade unionists, professionals, and human rights activists will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Council when it convenes on May 30. The British academics’ initiative is particularly timely due to Israel’s escalation of its oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel has continued with unprecedented impunity its indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, at least a third of whom are children; confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources; construction of the apartheid Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; and wanton destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands, infrastructure and entire civilian neighborhoods. A report recently published by the World Bank scolds Israel for breaking up the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) into “cantons” thereby curtailing Palestinian freedom of movement through impeding access to “work, school, shopping, healthcare facilities and agricultural land.” These colonial and racist policies have lately prompted the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the OPT to join Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, and many others in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.

But why boycott the Israeli academy? Almost sixty years since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their lands, and after forty years of Israeli military occupation and colonization of Arab land, Israeli universities, think tanks and research centers have remained an integral and complicit part of the structures of oppression in Israel. They have played a direct or indirect role in promoting, developing or supporting the state’s violation of human rights and international law. It is significant that no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor have academic institutions or representative bodies of Israeli academics criticized their government’s longstanding siege of Palestinian education. We note in particular that the Coordinating Council of Israel's University Faculty Associations, which is touring the UK currently to try and dissuade UCU delegates from supporting the boycott, has remained silent on the serious damage the Israeli state has wrought upon the basic infrastructure of higher education in Palestine. It is indeed ironic that these representatives of Israeli academics, while pleading for respect for their academic freedom, have shown scant regard for the basic freedoms of Palestinians, including those of academics.

The Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions ( is endorsed by the major federations and associations of academics and professionals and is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine. Like the Palestinian civil society’s widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), it is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring an end to oppression. Palestinians are appealing to academics, professionals, artists and other activists in the world to work to bring an end to a regime that practices colonial oppression, racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, and which denies the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

PACBI hopes that the UCU will join the growing international movement by showing that no business as usual can be conducted with the Israeli academy until it takes a clear and unequivocal stand against the forms of oppression practiced by the Israeli state. Until it does so, the Israeli academy--as a major institutional upholder of the prevailing order--cannot expect exemption from the boycott. Boycott and divestment are among the most effective, morally sound non-violent forms of action available to people of conscience the world over. Palestinians are sincerely grateful to those who recognize that, since justice cannot be expected from the international centers of world power, they must organize and apply effective pressure on Israel to further the cause of justice and genuine peace. In the face of Israel’s oppression, silence means acquiescence.

Endorsed by:

- The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)
- The Coalition of Political Parties in Palestine
- The Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
- The Palestinian BDS Campaign
- The Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

* In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions (including the PGFTU and the PFUUPE), associations, and organizations endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law:
Mon May 28, 2007 10:54 am
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From Lenin's Tomb on the UCU decision to proceed with a boycott of Israeli academia

Thursday, May 31, 2007

UCU supports boycott of Israel. posted by lenin

So iniquitous. So uncalled-for. International condemnation rains down, government ministers bark their 'regret', a Nobel prize-winner is outraged, concerns for freedom are bruited. The media are universal in their condemnation. This cannot help the peace process, they unanimously gurn.

Not in respect of Israel's recent attacks on Gaza or the open kidnapping of Palestinian ministers, or the US-Israeli financed and armed 'civil war' (coup attempt). Not because Israel has been starving the Palestinians (or "putting them on a diet"). But because lecturers have voted overwhelmingly in solidarity with Palestinian trade unions who are pleading for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including the academia. Not only that, but they also voted to campaign for the "restoration of all international aid to the PA and all revenues rightfully belonging to it", and to oppose any "upgrade of Israel’s status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law". It's a small step toward meeting that obligation, especially in a country that supplies massive amounts of weapons to the Israeli government. Disgracefully, Sally Hunt, the recently elected leader of the UCU, has issued a statement condemning the vote, claiming that it isn't a 'priority' for the union. I'm sorry, Sally, that doesn't f*****g cut it. Israeli academic institutions are thoroughly imbricated with the occupation of Palestine, are deeply discriminatory in their own right, and have long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for the occupation. It isn't good enough to say that attacking the infrastructure of the occupation isn't a 'priority'.

There is an international campaign going on to boycott and disinvest from Israel. It is outrageous to say that other nation-states engage in similar behaviour and therefore one mustn't target Israel. No one denies that the victims of other states should be supported, but this pressure was initiated by the targets of oppression themselves, in the form of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which was launched in April 2004. PACBI is supported by 60 Palestinian trade unions, NGOs, and political and religious organisations. Those who actually have the chutzpah to raise 'academic freedom' need to be reminded that these institutions are themselves violators of that principle by being complicit in the denial of Palestinian freedom of all kinds. And then, god help us, this disgusting, invidious insinuation of antisemitism. Never mind that Zionists have always been happy to collaborate with antisemites, whether Hitlerite or Falwellite: this campaign, as the organisers note, is supported by many conscientious Israelis and non-Israeli Jews.

Happily, and its a sombre happiness in light of the daily terrorist campaign and slow genocide being perpetrated by Israel, the campaign is getting widespread support - even the architects are in on it. The NUJ backs the boycott. The South African trade union federation COSATU backs the boycott. Venezuela backs the boycott. The Liverpool dockers back the boycott. A new group called Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods has been formed. International gay activists back the boycott. Irish musicians back the boycott. There are growing calls for sanctions to be applied. About time. To listen to some of the carping Israel-apologists, you would think that the world has been doing little for sixty years but supporting the Palestinians. Moan, moan, moan, every other week a new initiative to support the expelled and oppressed and impoverished Palestinians. Would that it were so. But it is because the argument is now being won decisively by our side, even if Israel fully and devastatingly commands the military situation, that they are becoming so hysterical.

If you fancy throwing a pebble at Goliath, you can join the campaign here.
Labels: apartheid, boycott, genocide, Israel, occupation, palestine
Thu May 31, 2007 3:52 pm
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Some message board responses/exchanges on the above:

Re: UCU backs Israeli boycott... and leadership apologises.
Posted by John Hilley on May 31, 2007

“Those who actually have the chutzpah to raise 'academic freedom' need to be reminded that these institutions are themselves violators of that principle by being complicit in the denial of Palestinian freedom of all kinds.”

Thanks, Lenin.

There’s few things more sanctimonious-sounding and illusory than the cosy liberal notion of ‘academic freedom’ – much like ‘media freedom’.

As one opponent of the boycott puts it:

“UCU should take sides with academics who fight for academic freedom”.

The UCU decision is a most welcome little ray of hope for an oppressed, demoralised people. Maybe the ivory-towered dons, apologists for the boycott and those of a more sympathetic-but-unconvinced view should think a little harder about that ongoing, brutal reality and listen to what the Palestinians actually want in the way of immediate help and solidarity.



University challenge
Posted by John Hilley on May 31, 2007

OK, your starter for ten, no conferring:
Who said this about the issue of boycotting Israeli academia?

“…only in very extreme cases should academia and politics be bound together, but what goes on in Israel is far from being an extreme case.”


Dr. Jonathan Rynhold of Bar Ilan University, a member of the international Advisory Board for Academic Freedom.

It really makes one wonder what kind of moral priorities such academics hold and how they view the real world from their hallowed studies. It’s a case of ‘freedom’ for academics to talk seminar-room politics and make ‘calls’ for ‘academic exchange’ while Palestinians are being murdered in their homes.



chomsky quote
Posted by jeff on May 31, 2007

For what it is worth, Chomsky does't appaer to support the general idea of a boycott. Here is something I found from 2003:
Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the US were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians".

This obviously refers to a general boycott, rather than a boycott of universities, but I don't see how the logic changes. Would be interested in his response to current issue.

I think he is exactly right. If you want to make a stand, than the UK should boycott US academics (which I think would also be misguided)

Re: chomsky quote
Posted by dereklane on May 31, 2007

A boycott is a good idea; last year I recall hearing about a boycott on caterpillar/parts because they built the tanks and machines responsible for ploughing Palestinians and their houses. I thought it a bit of a waste of time, firstly because not many of us have occassion to buy caterpillar parts, and secondly, because what would caterpillar care for a few peaceniks boycotting their industry?

Universities, on the other hand, claim moral/ethical/intellectual high ground, and sometimes for good reason, but sometimes not.

If I look at this from the perspective of a planned boycott of Australian universities until Australia started treating Aborigines with the compassion and respect due to all humans, I couldn't get indignant (even though I once attended an Australian university), because it would do one major thing; it would prompt both those in those universities AND those involved in the boycott to suddenly put the issue at the top of their agenda, instead of somewhere near the bottom - just a thing to be discussed when all else had been exhausted and the party was dying.

Just as Australia is in the pocket of the US and the UK politically speaking, it is also capable of making humane and intelligent decisions without the larger countries having a say first.

I strongly suspect that Israeli academics are either anti-Palestine, or very quiet, just as the majority of Australians appear to be on the front of Aboriginal human rights.

Nothing threatens the apathy more than an international shaming, from past experience of UN announcements at the state of Australia's HR record. I would say the same would go for Israelis too.



Re: chomsky quote
Posted by John Hilley on May 31, 2007

Thanks, Jeff. Yes, Chomsky is on record as expressing his reservations about a boycott. He regards US foreign policy as the primary point of attention - though, of course, urges much, much more in the way of actual challenges to Israel.
The 'counterview' on the boycott issue has been pretty well set out by Omar Barghouti:

How can we take issue with Chomsky, one might say, the leading light of intellectual dissent? Well, I don't think we have to, as such. I think it’s important to remember, firstly, that, unlike so many academic apologists for Israel, Chomsky is speaking here more precisely about the tactics of resistance. However, as the situation further deteriorates and Palestinian suffering intensifies, I believe Barghouti and others offer the more convincing case for action. Ultimately, it’s not a question of 'fair' and 'consistent' boycotting (which isn't what Chomsky is arguing here), but about what we can practically do here and now to apply pressure.

Have a look, though, at this statement in support of disinvestment from Israel signed by Chomsky:

Divestment from Israel

Thu May 31, 2007 4:03 pm
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Last week at a gathering in Glasgow (organised by Glasgow Stop the War Coalition and various Palestinian support groups), the Palestinian academic Saed Abu-Hijleh of An Najah University, Nablus, gave an inspiring talk on the continuous suffering of the Palestinian people and the kind of murderous, apartheid strategies being continued by the Israeli state.

He spoke not only as an informed academic and committed activist, but as someone who has himself been imprisoned and tortured as a youth by the Israelis and seen his mother murdered in cold blood by the IDF as she sat in the family home doing her embroidery.

As Saed eloquently reflected, he somehow, against the odds, found the means to channel his pain and loss through academic-based activism, an understanding of the truth that academia and politics are - contrary to what Jonathan Rynhold might, in facile logic, proclaim (see posting above) - inextricably bound.

Any resistance to that situation must accept the need to challenge all participant institutions at their source. And Israeli universities are a key part of that state infrastructure of oppression.

For example, as Omar Barghouti points out, the university where Jonathan Rynhold is employed is itself illegally located:

Bar Ilan University not only operates a campus on the illegal colony of Ariel near Nablus, but has also awarded Ariel Sharon an honorary doctorate for his role in the March 2002 reoccupation of Palestinian cities, which witnessed atrocities in Jenin and Nablus as well as wanton destruction and indiscriminate killings in all the major Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the West bank.

As Lawrence Davidson further points out, most of the academics within those institutions have either had little to say about the occupation or have sought to defend it:

The passive aspect of this complicity with the occupation has been commented upon by Tanya Reinhart, formerly a professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She tells us that "Never in its history did the senate of a any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone voice protest over the devastation sowed there [in the OT]....It is not that a motion in that direction failed to gather a majority, there was no such motion anywhere in Israeli academia." And then there is Professor Ilan Pappe of Haifa University, who estimates that the number of Israeli academics who have "raised their voices against occupation" is "roughly 100 out of 9000." And many of these, like Pappe himself, are subject to harassment by university administrators and social ostracization by their peers.

In terms of active collaboration with the occupation the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has noted that "Israeli research institutes, think tanks and academic departments have historically granted legitimacy to the work of academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights, and other discriminatory policies....Collaboration and cooperation with the intelligence services, the army, and other agencies of the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy."

Thus, with the passive or active assistance of the vast majority of Israeli professorate, Palestinian education at all levels in the Occupied Territory is often brought to a near standstill by closures and roadblocks while its teachers, students, and physical structures suffer repeated assaults by Israeli military and settler paramilitary forces. All of this is documented at, among other places, Birzeit University's Right2Education website.

Given this context, there is no evidence that the "free flow of ideas" enjoyed by Israeli academia over the last 40 years has ameliorated the systematic attack on their Palestinian peers in any way. Indeed, as we will see, it may in fact have helped abet that attack. Many Israeli scholars and teachers have spent a lot of this time trying very hard to deny what is going on in Palestine by questioning the existence of the Palestinians as a national group while simultaneously helping to create the justifications for a process of dispossession that has solidified Palestinian national consciousness and driven some Palestinians to radical violence. Only in the recent past has the Palestinian side of this tragedy been made available in any widespread fashion to the outside world.

It’s also true that similar scientific, policy and military-based research and support linkages exist between academia, the state and the private sector in other countries – most notably, of course, in the US and UK where key policy, political and militarist-technology inputs are serving to maintain the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever possible, these connections should also be highlighted and targeted – as in the work done by Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

However, Israel is engaged in a rather more internalised and concentrated oppression of a people and its land. And with no apparent end of such in sight, despite all manner of international condemnations and long-standing UN resolutions, it falls upon those actively concerned to utilise every manner of pressure at their disposal to right that wrong. One such option is the comprehensive shunning of Israeli academia, a sanction that will hurt the Israeli state, highlight the Palestinian issue and help increase the pressure for change.

Sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment against apartheid South Africa was welcomed by the ANC, helping to bring that system down. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been vocal in likening the racist, apartheid treatment of the Palestinians to that of the country and people he struggled to liberate.,10551,706911,00.html
Similar responses need to be adopted in this case.

There is very little evidence to suggest that the defence of ‘academic freedom’ and ‘exchange of ideas’ between Israeli and other universities has pushed the Israeli state in any more enlightened direction. On the contrary, all the evidence supports the view that continued recognition has only strengthened Israel's power and determination to maintain and intensify the occupation.

Again, freedom from murder, persecution and trauma is a more immediate issue than indulgent debates over ‘academic freedom’.


Lawrence Davidson article here in full:
Thu May 31, 2007 4:22 pm
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British academics endorse logic of boycott
Report, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, 30 May 2007

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the historic decision by the University and College Union (UCU) Congress today to support motions that endorse the logic of academic boycott against Israel, in response to the complicity of the Israeli academy in perpetuating Israel's illegal military occupation and apartheid system.

Academic boycott has been advocated in the past as an effective tool in resisting injustice. In the 1920s, Mahatma Gandhi called for boycotting British-run academic institutions, to increase Indian self-reliance and also to protest the role of those institutions in maintaining British colonial domination over India. In the 1950s, the African National Congress (ANC) called for a comprehensive boycott of the entire South African academy, as a means to further isolate the apartheid regime. To their credit, British academics were among the very first to adopt the latter boycott. Moral consistency makes it imperative to hold Israel to the same standards.

Israel is now widely recognized as a state that actually practices apartheid, as evidenced in recent declarations by international figures from Jimmy Carter and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among many others. During the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, Israel's policies have included house demolitions; Jews-only colonies and roads; uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees; indiscriminate killings of Palestinian civilians, particularly children; relentless theft of land and water resources; and denying millions of their freedom of movement by slicing up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans -- some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.

Throughout forty years of Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israeli academics have duly continued to serve in the occupation army, thereby participating in, or at least witnessing, crimes committed on a daily basis against the civilian population of Palestine. No Israeli academic institution, association, or union has ever publicly opposed Israel's occupation and colonization, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, or its obstinate denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. Furthermore, the Israeli academy has been in direct or indirect collusion with the military-intelligence establishment, providing it with "academic" research services to sustain its oppression.

This courageous and morally laudable decision by the UCU to apply effective pressure against Israel in the pursuit of justice and genuine peace is only the latest measure adopted by an international community that can no longer tolerate Israel's impunity in trashing human rights principles and international law. In the last few months alone, groups heeding -- to various degrees -- Palestinian calls for boycott and effective pressure against Israel have included the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; Congress Of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); and prominent British and international architects led by Architects for Peace and Justice in Palestine (APJP).

Once again, the taboo has been shattered. It has now become more legitimate than ever to denounce Israel's oppressive policies and to hold the state and all its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes, and the longest military occupation in modern history. The Israeli academy will no longer be able to enjoy international recognition, cooperation, and generous support while remaining an accessory to crimes committed against the Palestinians.

Palestinians are now more confident than ever that international civil society is indeed capable of shouldering the moral responsibility of standing up to injustice and demanding freedom, self-determination, and unmitigated equality for all.
Thu May 31, 2007 9:49 pm
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Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide
Ali Abunimah writing from Chicago, USA, Live from Palestine, 31 May 2007

Legitimate targets, to senior Israeli theocrats: Palestinian children play on the rubble of a destroyed Hamas training base after an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, 29 May 2007. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Yesterday I wrote a piece entitled "Israel's House of Horrors" about the openly murderous statements of Israeli cabinet ministers. Just when I thought it couldn't get worse, I read a news article on the website of The Jerusalem Post that Israel's former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu -- one of the most senior theocrats in the Jewish State "ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings" ("Eliyahu advocates carpet bombing Gaza," The Jerusalem Post, 30 May, 2007).

The Jerusalem Post reported that Mordechai made this ruling in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert citing biblical authority. The letter was published in a weekly journal distributed in synagogues throughout Israel. The report states that "According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals. In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets."

Eliayahu's son, Shmuel Eliayhu, himself chief rabbi of Safad, amplified his father's comments, stating: "If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand." He added, "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

This kind of genocidal hatred of Palestinians is not unusual in Israel. What used to be unusual was for it to be spoken so brazenly and openly. Of course we know what would happen if a Muslim or Palestinian religious figure made such a statement. We know the international outcry when Iran's President Ahmadinejad made statements calling for the elimination of Israel. Will all those EU officials who curried favor by condemning Ahmedinejad take an equally strong and public stance against Israel's former chief rabbi? Will they demand that Olmert publicly repudiate the letter he received?

A Muslim making such statements about Jews would certainly be banished from traveling to the United States, and could end up in Guantanamo for much less.

Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, "Direct and public incitement to commit genocide" is a punishable act. One wonders whether the UN Security Council, which created an international tribunal to investigate the killing of one man in Lebanon, will pay any attention to the indiscriminate state- and theocratically-sanctioned massacres of Palestinians by Israel.

Will Hillary Clinton, who continues to defame Palestinian schoolchildren with the lie that they are taught "hatred" in their schoolbooks, or any of our other pandering candidates, take a moment out from praising Israel to condemn Eliayahu's statement? What about Oprah Winfrey, who at the invitation of Elie Wiesel is to undertake a "solidarity" visit to Israel?

It seems there are no moral restraints left in Israel. It is right and proper that such a regime be isolated with boycott, divestment and sanctions until it desists from its racist -- and potentially genocidal -- practices. It is to be celebrated that an increasing number of individuals and organizations understand this: yesterday the governing body of the UK's University and College Union voted overwhelmingly to support a boycott of Israeli academia. Today UNISON, the UK's largest public service union announced it will vote on similar motions at its next congress. As Israel's house of horror grows, so does the movement to confront it. In that there is great hope.

Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:23 am
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An excellent defence of the boycott campaign from Steven Rose,
The Independent (4 June 2007)


Steven Rose: Why pick on Israel? Because its actions are wrong
Academic freedom, it appears, applies to Israelis but not to Palestinians
Published: 04 June 2007

The University and College Union annual congress last week voted by a two-thirds majority to organise a campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists to explain why they had called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and to encourage UCU members to consider the moral implications of links with Israeli universities. Not surprisingly, this overwhelming vote met with a roar of hostility from what we have learned to call the Israel lobby.

Our government, long accustomed to sitting on its hands when any serious attempt to censure Israel is made, predictably joined the chorus. More surprisingly, the Independent's editorialist and its columnist Joan Smith followed along. The boycott, we are told, damages academic freedom, picks on Israel, and encourages anti-Semitism on British campuses.

Entirely suppressed in this harrumphing has been any thought about why Palestinian university teachers and their union, as well as all the NGOs in the Occupied Territories, have called for a boycott. Academic freedom, it appears, applies to Israelis but not Palestinians, whose universities have been arbitrarily closed, Bir Zeit for a full four years. Students and teachers have been killed or imprisoned. Attendance at university is made hazardous or impossible by the everyday imposition of checkpoints. Research is blocked by Israeli refusal to allow books or equipment to be imported.

Even within Israel itself, some universities sit on illegally expropriated land, Arab student unions are not recognised and there are increasing covert restrictions on Arab-Israelis (20 per cent of the population) entering university at all. No Israeli academic trade union or professional association has expressed solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues a few kilometres away across the wall, though the boycott call may finally encourage them to do so.

When challenged, Israelis cite examples of collaboration with Palestinians: bridges, not borders. Fine, but because Palestinian academics from Gaza or the West bank are not permitted to enter pre-1967 Israel, how real can such collaborations be? If academic freedom means anything, it must be indivisible. And what are Palestinians to make of the uncensured insistence by senior Israeli academics that their family size constitutes a demographic threat to the Jewish state?

But why should academics, culture workers, architects and doctors in the UK, who have all in recent months called for forms of boycott of Israel, take such action? Why pick on Israel, we are asked. After all, as Joan Smith points out, there are lots of ugly regimes around. How about boycotting the UK until troops are removed from Iraq? But boycott is merely a specific tactic, a non-violent weapon available to individual members of civil society. It is only one form of protest: many boycott supporters are at least as actively involved in the various campaigns against the UK's illegal war in Iraq as in any boycott of Israel.

No one asks those campaigning against China's occupation of Tibet why not Israel or Darfur? If opponents of our boycott call want to make a case for boycotting Cuba (one boycott that Israel, following its American paymaster at the UN, habitually supports) they are free to do so. The issue is not "Why Israel?" but "Why not Israel?" Yet the secular western press, so willing to express discomfort with states that describe themselves as "Islamic Republics" is seemingly untroubled by the ethnic assumptions underlying the claims of a Jewish republic.

Further, it is precisely because Israel prides itself on its academic prowess (just as South Africa did of its sporting prowess) that the idea of an academic boycott is so painful. Israel has uniquely strong academic links with Europe, and despite its Middle-East location and constant breaches of European legislation on human rights, receives considerable financial research support from the EU. That's why the Israeli cabinet felt it necessary to set up an anti-boycott committee under that well-known campaigner for a greater Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, and why teams of Israeli academics toured the UK before the UCU vote to try to block the boycott call.

Lurking behind the thinking of even well-meaning opponents of the boycott is that it is in some way anti-Semitic. This ignores the fact that the boycott is of Israeli institutions, not individuals (so it would affect the tiny number of Palestinian academics in Israeli institutions, but not a Jewish Israeli working in the UK or US). Second, it ignores the fact that the British Jewish community is itself intensely divided over Israel, between those who will defend Israel at all costs, and the increasingly vocal critics who insist "not in our name". Even a cursory look at the signatories of the various boycott calls will show the large number of prominent Jewish figures among them. It really isn't good enough to attack the messenger as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message itself, that Israel's conduct is unacceptable.

What could be a more democratic way of bringing debate on to university campuses than the instruction to the UCU to organise a campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists to engage in discussion before UCU members decide whether to support their call for a boycott? Those who cherish the idea of the university as the house of reason will surely welcome the opportunity for calm discussion of a controversial issue.

The writer is secretary of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:48 pm
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Israel and pro-Israel academia give warning. One can only hope that their reactionary responses will also help bring the suffering of the Palestinian people to greater world attention.

'If you boycott us, we'll boycott you'
Sheera Claire Frenkel, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 3, 2007

Any country that boycotts Israel or any Israeli products will have all of its imports to Israel tagged with stickers reading, "This country is involved in an anti-Israel boycott," if a bill to be submitted by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) on Monday becomes law.

"When we are boycotted, we should respond in kind. When we are isolated by a country, we should isolate them in return," Schneller said Sunday.

The MK drafted the legislation in response to a recent series of anti-Israel boycott calls by organizations in the United Kingdom.

# 'Boycott reminiscent of totalitarianism'

Last week, the British Union of Colleges and Universities decided to consider a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. In mid-June, the UK's public services union (UNISON) will vote on a boycott proposal. If the proposal passes, UNISON's 1.4 million members will cut economic ties with the Jewish state.

"We must respond to this current trend in England. If the British think that they can pass judgement on us as a group and boycott us in this manner, than we must respond similarly to the British," Schneller said.

MKs Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu), Moshe Kahlon (Likud), Danny Yatom (Labor), and Ya'acov Margi (Shas) have pledged to support Schneller's bill.

The details of the bill, such as the type and size of sticker, have yet to be determined. If the bill is approved, all British products imported to Israel would be labelled as originating in a hostile country.

"It is important for people to know where the products they are buying come from," said Schneller. He added that if the British were to stop using computer systems from Israel, the UK couldn't function. And "if they boycotted medicines that were researched or created in Israel, half of England would be sick."

Even if the bill is earmarked for accelerated approval by the Knesset House Committee, it would take several months to pass through the three stages of voting in the Knesset.

The cabinet prepared its reaction to the boycott calls on Sunday morning, with a number of ministers preparing targeted responses to the boycott.

"There is a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe, which includes one-sided articles and anti-Semitic harassment, topped by the torching of the synagogue in Switzerland, said Welfare and Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog. "Israel must fight this, and the entire international community should take part in the effort."

During the weekly cabinet meeting, it was decided that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would hold a meeting to formulate an appropriate response to the boycotts.

According to Foreign Ministry officials, the meeting - which will include members of academia - will draw up an action plan on how to combat the boycotts and to keep them from gaining momentum.

Some in the Foreign Ministry have said privately that Israel has not done enough over the last few months - as various groups in Britain debated boycott and divestiture - to protest these moves, and to persuade the British government to register its opposition loudly and publicly as well.

Livni spoke to British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett on Friday and said Israel viewed these steps "gravely" and that they stood in complete opposition to the good relations that exist between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said he had begun meeting with business leaders from both Israel and abroad to discuss what effect a boycott could have. Last week, the Histadrut Labor Federation said it would begin holding talks with Israeli businessmen to discuss the possible ramifications.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


Harvard legal expert vows to sue lecturers boycotting Israel
By Jon Boone

Published: June 2 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 2 2007 03:00

A top American lawyer has threatened to wage a legal war against British academics who seek to cut links with Israeli universities.

Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor renowned for his staunch defence of Israel and high-profile legal victories, including his role in the O.J. Simpson trial, vowed to "devastate and bankrupt" lecturers who supported such boycotts.

This week's annual conference of Britain's biggest lecturers' union, the University and College Union, backed a motion damning the "complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation [of Palestinian land]".

It also obliged the union's executive to encourage members to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions".

Prof Dershowitz said he had started work on legal moves to fight any boycott.

He told the Times Higher Educational Supplement that these would include using a US law - banning discrimination on the basis of nationality - against UK universities with research ties to US colleges. US academics might also be urged to accept honorary posts at Israeli colleges in order to become boycott targets.

"I will obtain legislation dealing with this issue, imposing sanctions that will devastate and bankrupt those who seek to impose bankruptcy on Israeli academics," he told the journal.

Sue Blackwell, a UCU activist and member of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, said: "This is the typical response of the Israeli lobby which will do anything to avoid debating the real issue - the 40-year occupation of Palestine." Jewish groups have attacked the UCU vote, which was opposed by Sally Hunt, its general secretary.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:11 pm
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If it was ok to boycott South Africa in various ways (e.g. Sport) then surely it's ok to boycott Israel since it's policies towards the Palestinians are worse than apartheid.

Just because the government supports Israel, it doesn't mean everyone in the country has to. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, although obviously they will try to play that tired old card.
Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:34 pm
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The Shin Bet and the Persecution of Azmi Bishara

Defending Israel from Democracy



June 5, 2007

The second Palestinian intifada has been crushed. The 700km wall is sealing the occupied population of the West Bank into a series of prisons. The "demographic timebomb" -- the fear that Palestinians, through higher birth rates, will soon outnumber Jews in the Holy Land and that Israel's continuing rule over them risks being compared to apartheid -- has been safely defused through the disengagment from Gaza and its 1.4 million inhabitants. On the fortieth anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel's security establishment is quietly satisfied with its successes.

But like a shark whose physiology requires that, to stay alive, it never sleeps or stops moving, Israel must remain restless, constantly reinventing itself and its policies to ensure its ethnic project does not lose legitimacy, even as it devours the Palestinian homeland. By keeping a step ahead of the analysts and worldwide opinion, Israel creates facts on the ground that cement its supremacist and expansionist agenda.

So, with these achievements under its belt, where next for the Jewish state?

I have been arguing for some time that Israel's ultimate goal is to create an ethnic fortress, a Jewish space in expanded borders from which all Palestinians -- including its 1.2 million Palestinian citizens -- will be excluded. That was the purpose of the Gaza disengagement and it is also the point of the wall snaking through the West Bank, effectively annexing to Israel what little is left of a potential Palestinian state.

It should therefore be no surprise that we are witnessing the first moves in Israel's next phase of conquest of the Palestinians. With the 3.7 million Palestinians in the occupied territories caged inside their ghettos, unable to protest their treatment behind fences and walls, the turn has come of Israel's Palestinian citizens.

These citizens, today nearly a fifth of Israel's population, are the legacy of an oversight by the country's Jewish leaders during the ethnic cleansing campaign of the 1948 war. Ever since Israel has been pondering what to do with them. There was a brief debate in the state's first years about whether they should be converted to Judaism and assimilated, or whether they should be marginalised and eventually expelled. The latter view, favoured by the country's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, dominated. The question has been when and how to do the deed.

The time now finally appears to be upon us, and the crushing of these more than one million unwanted citizens currently inside the walls of the fortress -- the Achilles' heel of the Jewish state -- is likely to be just as ruthless as that of the Palestinians under occupation.

In my recent book Blood and Religion, I charted the preparations for this crackdown. Israel has been secretly devising a land swap scheme that would force up to a quarter of a million Palestinian citizens (but hardly any territory) into the Palestinian ghetoes being crafted next door -- in return Israel will annex swaths of the West Bank on which the illegal Jewish settlements sit. The Bedouin in the Negev are being reclassified as trespassers on state land so that they can be treated as guest workers rather than citizens. And lawyers in the Justice Ministry are toiling over a loyalty scheme to deal with the remaining Palestinians: pledge an oath to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (that is, one in which you are not wanted) or face being stripped of your rights and possibly expelled.

There will be no resistance to these moves from Israel's Jewish public. Opinion polls consistently show that two-thirds of Israeli Jews support "transfer" of the country's Palestinian population. With a veneer of legality added to the ethnic cleansing, the Jewish consensus will be almost complete.

But these measures cannot be implemented until an important first battle has been waged and won in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. One of Israel's gurus of the so-called "demographic threat", Arnon Sofer, a professor at Haifa University, has explained the problem posed by the presence of a growing number of Palestinian voters: "In their hands lies the power to determine the right of return [of Palestinian refugees] or to decide who is a Jew In another few years, they will be able to decide whether the state of Israel should continue to be a Jewish-Zionist state."

The warning signs about how Israel might defend itself from this "threat" have been clear for some time. In Silencing Dissent, a report published in 2002 by the Human Rights Association based in Nazareth, the treatment of Israel's 10 Palestinian Knesset members was documented: over the previous two years, nine had been assaulted by the security services, some on several occasions, and seven hospitalised. The report also found that the state had launched 25 investigations of the 10 MKs in the same period.

All this abuse was reserved for the representatives of a community the Israeli general Moshe Dayan once referred to as "the quietest minority in the world".

But the state's violence towards, and intimidation of, Palestinian Knesset members -- until now largely the reflex actions of officials offended by the presence of legislators refusing to bow before the principles of Zionism and privileges for Jews -- is entering a new, more dangerous phase.

The problem for Israel is that for the past two decades Palestinian legislators have been entering the Knesset not as members of Zionist parties, as was the case for many decades, but as representatives of independent Palestinian parties. (A state claiming to be Jewish and democratic has to make some concessions to its own propaganda, after all.)

The result has been the emergence of an unexpected political platform: the demand for Israel's constitutional reform. Palestinian political parties have been calling for Israel's transformation from a Jewish state into a "state of all its citizens" -- or what the rest of us would call a liberal democracy.

The figurehead for this political struggle has been the legislator Azmi Bishara. A former philosophy professor, Bishara has been running rings around Jewish politicians in the Knesset for more than a decade, as well as exposing to outsiders the sham of Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

Even more worryingly he has also been making an increasingly convincing case to his constituency of 1.2 million Palestinian citizens that, rather than challenging the hundreds of forms of discrimination they face one law at a time, they should confront the system that props up the discrimination: the Jewish state itself. He has started to persuade a growing number that they will never enjoy equality with Jews as long as they live in ethnic state.

Bishara's campaign for a state of all its citizens has faced an uphill struggle. Palestinian citizens spent the first two decades after Israel's creation living under martial law, a time during which their identity, history and memories were all but crushed. Even today the minority has no control over its educational curriculum, which is set by officials charged with promoting Zionism, and its schools are effectively run by the secret police, the Shin Bet, through a network of collaborators among the teachers and pupils.

Given this climate, it may not be surprising that in a recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute 75 per cent of Palestinian citizens said they would support the drafting of a constitution defining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (Israel currently has no constitution). Interestingly, however, what concerned commentators was the survey's small print: only a third of the respondents felt strongly about their position compared to more than half of those questioned in a similar survey three years ago. Also, 72 per cent of Palestinian citizens believed the principle of "equality" should be prominently featured in such a constitution.

These shifts of opinion are at least partly a result of Bishara's political work. He has been trying to persuade Israel's Palestinian minority -- most of whom, whatever the spin tells us, have had little practical experience of participating in a democracy other than casting a vote -- that it is impossible for a Jewish state to enshrine equality in its laws. Israel's nearest thing to a Bill of Rights, the Basic Law on Freedom and Human Dignity, intentionally does not mention equality anywhere in its text.

It is in this light that the news about Bishara that broke in late April should be read. While he was abroad with his family, the Shin Bet announced that he would face charges of treason on his return. Under emergency regulations -- renewed by the Knesset yet again last week, and which have now been in operation for nearly 60 years -- he could be executed if found guilty. Bishara so far has chosen not to return.

Coverage of the Bishara case has concentrated on the two main charges against him, which are only vaguely known as the security services have been trying to prevent disclosure of their evidence with a gagging order. The first accusation -- for the consumption of Israel's Jewish population -- is that Bishara actively helped Hizbullah in its targeting of Israeli communities in the north during the war against Lebanon last summer.

The Shin Bet claim this after months of listening in on his phone conversations -- made possible by a change in the law in 2005 that allows the security services to bug legislators' phones. The other Palestinian MKs suspect they are being subjected to the same eavesdropping after the Attorney-General Mechahem Mazuz failed to respond to a question from one, Taleb a-Sana, on whether the Shin Bet was using this practice more widely.

Few informed observers, however, take this allegation seriously. An editorial in Israel's leading newspaper Haaretz compared Bishara's case to that of the Israeli Jewish dissident Tali Fahima, who was jailed on trumped-up charges that she translated a military plan, a piece of paper dropped by the army in the Jenin refugee camp, on behalf of a Palestinian militant, Zacharia Zbeidi, even though it was widely known that Zbeidi was himself fluent in Hebrew.

The editorial noted that it seemed likely the charge of treason against Bishara "will turn out to be a tendentious exaggeration of his telephone conversations and meetings with Lebanese and Syrian nationals, and possibly also of his expressions of support for their military activities. It seems very doubtful that MK Bishara even has access to defense-related secrets that he could sell to the enemy, and like in the Fahima case, the fact that he identified with the enemy during wartime appears to be what fueled the desire to seek and find an excuse for bringing him to trial."

Such doubts were reinforced by reports in the Israeli media that the charge of treason was based on claims that Bishara had helped Hizbullah conduct "psychological warfare through the media".

The other allegation made by the secret police has a different target audience. The Shin Bet claim that Bishara laundered money from terrorist organisations. The implication, though the specifics are unclear, is that Bishara both helped fund terror and that he squirrelled some of the money away, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, presumably for his own benefit. This is supposed to discredit him with his own constituency of Palestinian citizens.

It should be noted that none of this money has been found in extensive searches of Bishara's home and office, and the evidence is based on testimony from a far from reliable source: a family of money-changers in East Jerusalem.

This second charge closely resembles the allegations faced by the only other Palestinian of national prominence in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement and a spiritual leader of the Palestinian minority. He was arrested in 2003, originally on charges that he laundered money for the armed wing of Hamas, helping them buy guns and bombs.

As with Bishara, the Shin Bet had been bugging Salah's every phone call for many months and had supposedly accumulated mountains of evidence against him. Salah spent more than two years in jail, the judges repeatedly accepting the Shin Bet's advice that his requests for bail be refused, as this secret evidence was studied in minute detail at his lengthy trial. In the closing stages, as it became clear that the Shin Bet's case was evaporating, the prosecution announced a plea bargain. Salah agreed (possibly unwisely, but understandably after two years in jail) to admit minor charges of financial impropriety in return for his release.

To this day, Salah does not know what he did wrong. His organisation had funded social programmes for orphans, students and widows in the occupied territories and had submitted its accounts to the security services for approval. In a recent interview, Salah observed that in the new reality he and his party had discovered that it was "as if helping orphans, sick persons, widows and students had now become illegal activities in support of terrorism".

Why was Salah targeted? In the same interview, he noted that shortly before his arrest the prime minister of the day, Ariel Sharon, had called for the outlawing of the Islamic Movement, whose popularity was greatly concerning the security establishment. Sharon was worried by what he regarded as Salah's interference in Israel's crushing of Palestinian nationalism.

Sharon's concern was two-fold: the Islamic Movement was raising funds for welfare organisations in the occupied territories at the very moment Israel was trying to isolate and starve the Palestinian population there; and Salah's main campaign, "al-Aqsa is in danger", was successfully rallying Palestinians inside Israel to visit the mosques of the Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of Jersualem, the most important symbols of a future Palestinian state.

Salah believed that responsibility fell to Palestinians inside Israel to protect these holy places as Israel's closure policies and its checkpoints were preventing Muslims in the occupied territories from reaching them. Salah also suspected that Israel was using the exclusion of Palestinians under occupation from East Jerusalem to assert its own claims to sovereignty over the site, known to Jews as Temple Mount. This was where Sharon had made his inflammatory visit backed by 1,000 armed guards that triggered the intifada; and it was control of the Temple Mount, much longed for by his predecessor, Ehud Barak, that "blew up" the Camp David negotiations, as one of Barak's advisers later noted.

Salah had become a nuisance, an obstacle to Israel realising its goals in East Jersualem and possibly in the intifada, and needed to be neutralised. The trial removed him from the scene at a key moment when he might have been able to make a difference.

That now is the fate of Bishara.

Indications that the Shin Bet wanted Bishara's scalp over his campaign for Israel's reform to a state of all its citizens can be dated back to at least the start of the second intifada in 2000. That was when, as Israel prepared for a coming general election, the departing head of the Shin Bet observed: "Bishara does not recognise the right of the Jewish people to a state and he has crossed the line. The decision to disqualify him [from standing for election] has been submitted to the Attorney General." Who expressed that view? None other than Ami Ayalon, currently contesting the leadership of the Labor party and hoping to become the official head of Israel's peace camp.

In the meantime, Bishara has been put on trial twice (unnoticed the charges later fizzled out); he has been called in for police interrogations on a regular basis; he has been warned by a state commission of inquiry; and the laws concerning Knesset immunity and travel to foreign states have been changed specifically to prevent Bishara from fulfilling his parliamentary duties.

True to Ayalon's advice, Bishara and his political party, the National Democratic Assembly (NDA), were disqualified by the Central Elections Committee during the 2003 elections. The committee cited the "expert" opinion of the Shin Bet: "It is our opinion that the inclusion of the NDA in the Knesset has increased the threat inherent in the party. Evidence of this can also be found in the ideological progress from the margins of Arab society (such as a limited circle of intellectuals who dealt with these ideas theoretically) to center stage. Today these ideas [concerning a state of all its citizens] have a discernible effect on the content of political discourse and on the public 'agenda' of the Arab sector."

But on this occasion the Shin Bet failed to get its way. Bishara's disqualification was overturned on appeal by a narrow majority of the Supreme Court's justices.

The Shin Bet's fears of Bishara resurfaced with a vengeance in March this year, when the Ma'ariv newspaper reported on a closed meeting between the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and senior Shin Bet officials "concerning the issue of the Arab minority in Israel, the extent of its steadily decreasing identification with the State and the rise of subversive elements".

Ma'ariv quoted the assessment of the Shin Bet: "Particularly disturbing is the growing phenomenon of 'visionary documents' among the various elites of Israeli Arabs. At this time, there are four different visionary documents sharing the perception of Israel as a state of all citizens and not as a Jewish state. The isolationist and subversive aims presented by the elites might determine a direction that will win over the masses."

In other words, the secret police were worried that the influence of Bishara's political platform was spreading. The proof was to be found in the four recent documents cited by the Shin Bet and published by very diffrerent groups: the Democratic Constitution by the Adalah legal centre; the Ten Points by the Mossawa political lobbying group; the Future Vision by the traditionally conservative political body comprising mostly mayors known as the High Follow-Up Committee; and the Haifa Declaration, overseen by a group of academics known as Mada.

What all these documents share in common is two assumptions: first, that existing solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are based on two states and that in such an arrangement the Palestinian minority will continue living inside Israel as citizens; and second, that reforms of Israel are needed if the state is to realise equality for all citizens, as promised in its Declaration of Independence.

Nothing too subversive there, one would have thought. But that was not the view of the Shin Bet.

Following the report in Ma'ariv, the editor of a weekly Arab newspaper wrote to the Shin Bet asking for more information. Did the Shin Bet's policy not constitute an undemocratic attempt to silence the Palestinian minority and its leaders, he asked. A reply from the Shin Bet was not long in coming. The secret police had a responsibility to guard Israel "against subversive threats", it was noted. "By virtue of this responsibility, the Shin Bet is required to thwart subversive activity by elements who wish to harm the nature of the State of Israel as a democratic Jewish State -- even if they act by means of democratically provided tools -- by virtue of the principle of 'defensive democracy'.

Questioned by Israeli legal groups about this policy when it became public, the head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, wrote a letter clarifying what he meant. Israel had to be protected from anyone "seeking to change the state's basic principles while abolishing its democratic character or its Jewish character". He was basing his opinion on a law passed in 2002 that charges the Shin Bet with safeguarding the country from "threats of terror, sabotage, subversion".

In other words, in the view of the Shin Bet, a Jewish and democratic state is democratic only if you are a Jew or a Zionist. If you try to use Israel's supposed democracy to challenge the privileges reserved for Jews inside a Jewish state, that same state is entitled to defend itself against you.

The extension in the future of this principle from Bishara to the other Palestinian MKs and then on to the wider Palestinian community inside Israel should not be doubted. In the wake of the Bishara case, Israel Hasson, a former deputy director of the Shin Bet and now a right-wing Knesset member, described Israel's struggle against its Palestinian citizens as "a second War of Independence" -- the war in 1948 that founded Israel by cleansing it of 80 per cent of its Palestinians.

The Shin Bet is not, admittedly, a democratic institution, even if it is operating in a supposedly democratic environment. So how do the state's more accountable officials view the Shin Bet's position? Diskin's reply had a covering letter from Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz, the country's most senior legal officer. Mazuz wrote: "The letter of the Shin Bet director was written in coordination with the attorney general and with his agreement, and the stance detailed in it is acceptable to the attorney general."

So now we know. As Israel's Palestinian politicians have long been claiming, a Jewish and democratic state is intended as a democracy for Jews only. No one else is allowed a say -- or even an opinion.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is
Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:37 pm
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For a Secular Democratic State
Saree Makdisi, The Nation, 4 June 2007

"A WORLD CUT IN TWO:" At Qalandia checkpoint Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians on their way to Jerusalem from Ramallah, January 2005. (Matthew Cassel)

This month marks the fortieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Four decades of control established and maintained by force of arms -- in defiance of international law, countless UN Security Council resolutions and, most recently, the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague -- have enabled Israel to impose its will on the occupied territories and, in effect, to remake them in its own image.

The result is a continuous political space now encompassing all of historic Palestine, albeit a space as sharply divided as the colonial world ("a world cut in two") famously described by Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth. Indeed, Fanon's 1961 classic still enables an analysis of Israel and the occupied territories as fresh, insightful and relevant in 2007 as the readings of Cape Town or Algiers that it made available when it was first published.

Israel maintains two separate road systems in the West Bank, for example: one for the territory's immigrant population of Jewish settlers, one for its indigenous non-Jewish (i.e., Palestinian) population.

The roads designated for the Jewish settlers are well maintained, well lit, continuous and uninterrupted; they tie the network of Jewish "neighborhoods" and "settlements" -- all of them in reality colonies forbidden by international law -- to each other and to Israel. The roads for the West Bank's native population, by contrast, are poorly maintained, when they are maintained at all (they often consist of little more than shepherds' trails); they are continuously blockaded and interrupted. A grid of checkpoints and roadblocks (546 at last count) strangles the circulation of the West Bank's indigenous population, but it is designed to facilitate the free movement of Jewish settlers -- who are, moreover, allowed to drive their own cars on the roads set aside for them, whereas Palestinians are not allowed to drive their cars beyond their own towns and villages (the entrances to which are all blockaded by the Israeli army).

The wall that Israel has been constructing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2002 makes visible in concrete and barbed wire the outlines of the discriminatory regime that structures and defines everyday life in the occupied territories, separating Palestinian farmers from crops, patients from hospitals, students and teachers from schools and, increasingly, even parents from children (it has, for example, separated one parent or another from spouses and children in 21 percent of Palestinian families living on either side of the wall near Jerusalem) -- while at the same time enabling the seamless incorporation of the Judaized spaces of the occupied territories into Israel itself. And a regime of curfews and closures, enforced by the Israeli army, has smothered the Palestinian economy, though none of its provisions apply to Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.

There are, in short, two separate legal and administrative systems, maintained by the regular use of military force, for two populations -- settlers and natives -- unequally inhabiting the same piece of land: exactly as was the case in the colonial countries described by Fanon, or in South Africa under apartheid.

All this has enabled Israel to transplant almost half a million of its own citizens into the occupied territories, at the expense of their Palestinian population, whose land is confiscated, whose homes are demolished, whose orchards and olive groves are razed or burned down, and whose social, economic, educational and family lives have been, in effect, all but suspended, precisely in order that their land may be made available for the use of another people.

The result has been catastrophic for the Palestinians, as a World Bank report published in May makes clear. While the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem enjoy growth rates exceeding those of Israel itself, Palestinian towns and villages are slowly being strangled. While Jewish settlers move with total freedom, the combination of physical obstacles and the bureaucratic pass system imposed by the Israeli army on the Palestinian population has not only permanently separated the Palestinians of the West Bank from those of Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel (movement among which is forbidden for all but a tiny minority) but has also broken up the West Bank into three distinct sections and ten enclaves. Half of the West Bank is altogether off-limits to most Palestinians; to move from one part of the rest of the territory to another, Palestinians must apply for a permit from the Israelis. Frequent bans are imposed on movement into or out of particular enclaves (the city of Nablus, for example, has been under siege for five years), or on whole segments of the population (e.g., unmarried men under the age of 45). And all permits are summarily invalidated when Israel declares one of its "comprehensive closures" of the West Bank -- there were seventy-eight such days in 2006 -- at which point the entire Palestinian population stays home.

The lucky few who are able to obtain passes from the Israelis are channeled from one section or enclave to another through a series of army checkpoints, where they may be searched, questioned, hassled, detained for hours or simply turned back. "The practical effect of this shattered economic space," the World Bank report points out, "is that on any given day the ability to reach work, school, shopping, healthcare facilities and agricultural land is highly uncertain and subject to arbitrary restriction and delay." Given the circumstances, it is hardly any wonder that two-thirds of the Palestinian population has been reduced to absolute poverty (less than $2 a day), and that hundreds of thousands are now dependent for day-to-day survival on food handouts provided by international relief organizations. Not only has the international community refused to intervene; it has actively participated in the repression, imposing -- for the first time in history -- sanctions on a people living under military occupation, while the occupying and colonizing power goes on violating the international community's own laws with total impunity.

To all of these charges, Israel and its supporters have but one response: "security." But as the World Bank report argues, it is "often difficult to reconcile the use of movement and access restrictions for security purposes from their use to expand and protect settlement activity." Moreover, the Bank notes, it seems obvious that Israeli security ought to be tied to Palestinian prosperity: By disrupting the Palestinian economy and immiserating an entire population -- pushing almost 4 million people to the edge -- the Israelis are hardly enhancing their own security.

Such arguments miss the point, however. No matter how fiercely it is contested inside Israel, there remains a very strong sense that the country is entitled to retain the land to which it has now stubbornly clung for four decades. Even while announcing his scheme to relinquish nominal control over a few bits and pieces of the West Bank with heavy concentrations of Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted on his country's inherent right to the territory, irrespective of the demands of international law, let alone the rights and claims of the Palestinians themselves. ("Every hill in Samaria and every valley in Judea is part of our historic homeland," he said last year, using Israel's official, biblical terminology for the West Bank.)

Although some people claim there are fundamental differences between the disposition of the territories Israel captured in 1967 and the territories it captured during its creation in 1948 -- or even that there are important moral and political differences between Israel pre- and post-1967 -- such sentiments of entitlement, and the use of force that necessarily accompanies them, reveal the seamless continuity of the Zionist project in Palestine from 1948 to our own time. "There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing," argues Israeli historian Benny Morris, with reference to the creation of Israel. "A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on."

Israel's post-1967 occupation policies are demonstrably driven by the same dispossessive logic. If hundreds of thousands have not literally been forced into flight, their existence has been reduced to penury. Just as Israel could have come into being in 1948 only by sweeping aside hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Israel's ongoing colonization of Palestinian territory -- its imposition of itself and its desires on the land's indigenous population -- requires, and will always require, the use of force and the continual brutalization of an entire people.

Indeed, the discriminatory practices in the occupied territories replicate, albeit in a harsher and more direct form, those inside Israel, where the remnant of the Palestinian population that was not driven into flight in 1948 -- today more than a million people -- continues to endure the systematic inequalities built into the laws and institutions of a country that explicitly claims to be the state of the Jewish people rather than that of its own actual citizens, about a fifth of whom are not Jewish. Recognizing the contradiction inherent in such a formulation, various Israeli politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have explicitly called for the territorial transfer -- if not the outright expulsion -- of as much as possible of Israel's non-Jewish (that is, Palestinian) minority. Although it would be intended to mark the ultimate triumph of the dispossessing settler over the dispossessed native (Lieberman is an immigrant from Moldova who enjoys rights denied to indigenous Palestinians simply because he happens to be Jewish), such a gesture would actually amount to a last-ditch measure, an attempt to forestall what has become the most likely conclusion to the conflict.

For, having unified all of what used to be Palestine (albeit into one profoundly divided space) without having overcome the Palestinian people's will to resist, Zionism has run its course. And in so doing, it has terminated any possibility of a two-state solution. There remains but one possibility for peace with justice: truth, reconciliation -- and a single democratic and secular state, a state in which there will be no "natives" and "settlers" and all will be equal; a state for all its citizens irrespective of their religious affiliation. Such a state has always, by definition, been anathema for Zionism. But for the people of Israel and Palestine, it is the only way out.

Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA and a frequent commentator on the Middle East, is writing a book on Palestine, forthcoming from Norton. This article was originally published by The Nation and is republished with the author's permission.
Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:04 pm
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We Deserve the British Academic Boycott!
Benny Tziffer, trans. Rann Bar-On | Haaretz (Hebrew Edition) | June 4, 2007

Last Friday morning I drove to the Palestinian village of Bil'in. Bil'in, the village that has turned into a symbol of the struggle against the Apartheid Wall and against the confiscation of Palestinian land by fraudulent Jewish real-estate sharks who hide behind fake patriotism. Bil'in, a Palestinian village geographically close to Tel Aviv and central Israel and to call the fake leftists who inhabit Tel Aviv's coffee shops.

It's easiest to cry over the occupation from afar, without ever seeing a Palestinian close up. I believe that there may not be a solution to the Palestinian issue, but that's nothing to do with the fact that one can act like a human being and to show Palestinians, who are imprisoned behind fences and walls only a few kilometers from us, that we share their pain and sadness.

This time I went to Bil'in with my daughter Talila, whose idealism and love of others never stops amazing me and that is expressed in so many different ways. I am so very lucky that none of my children are among those vile conformists who attempt to show how interesting they are by traveling to India and South America!

My mother's cousin Lillian also joined us. She came from Paris for her first visit in Israel after many years of doubts. Lillian, professor of Spanish literature, translator and author, was a communist in her youth. She married a Moroccan Muslim, went to live in Morrocco and had two boys, one of whom I know well. His name is Rashid and he's about my age. He's a nuclear engineer living in Toulouse with his wife and three wonderful children.

Because of all this, Lillian was afraid to come to Israel. She was scared that if she comes, she'll have to undergo an invasive interrogation in the airport. This indeed happened in the El Al section of De Gaulle airport in Paris. She was made to stand on her feet for thirty minutes, attempting to answer questions asked by a woman who spoke very poor French and who had difficulty understanding her answers. She felt pretty humiliated, considering she'd done nothing wrong, and was shocked by the intimacy of the questions. But she wanted to board the flight, so she suffered it all in silence.

Despite all this, Lillian fell in love with Israel, was astounded by everything she encountered and praised the openness of Israelis, the beauty of the vistas in the Galilee and Jerusalem. But her most powerful experience she had here - in my opinion - was our visit to Bil'in. There she saw close up what many Israelis don't want to see. She saw together with me and with my daughter the brute force with which the Israeli soldiers - whom I have nothing against personally, of course, my complaints lie at the door of those who sent them - dispersed the tiny and non-violent demonstration that proceeded, as it does every Friday, from the mosque in Bil'in to the Apartheid Wall.

I should emphasize who the participants in this demonstration were. There is the elderly Palestinian with Parkinson's, who was close to Arafat and looks like a shade of a human being. Next to him there is a guy in a wheelchair, who was paralyzed in the lower half of his body after being shot with live ammunition by soldiers while tending his heep. There are a few elderly Israelis, demonstration veterans, innocent Israeli and international youngsters, and Palestinians from the village, who really couldn't hurt a fly and for whom the demonstration has become a fixed ritual. And there was, as I mentioned, my cousin Lillian, who passed World War II in hiding.

And there was me. Me, who certainly doesn't pose a threat to the well-being of Israeli soldiers. Despite this, the soldiers attacked the non-violent demonstration aggressively and entirely disproportionately. Tear gas canisters landed on us one after another. This is the army's way of defending those real estate sharks who are scared that if someone will open their mouth too loudly, their plans to build their ugly buildings on land confiscated from Palestinians - idealistically called 'settlements' - will be spoiled.

In the newspapers, including my own, it was reported that two soldiers were injured in Bil'in that day. Maybe they were injured while running after seventy and eighty year-old demonstrators and after children and teenagers. What I know is that among the demonstrators there were some who required medical attention after being chased by the soldiers, but nobody wrote about them.

If my cousin had been as cowardly as the soldiers, perhaps she too could have said that oh god, she was injured by the gas that penetrated her eyes and throat, but she simply got over it, because she is a brave woman. Much braver than the Israeli soldiers, much to my dismay.

We found shelter in the house of Zahara and Hashem. Their house is the furthest one in village, the closest to the Apartheid Wall. Last week soldiers shot at it and threw tear gas canisters at it, knowing full well that there were children and defenseless elderly people in it. This week, the atmosphere was calmer. Zahara served tea made from herbs from her garden to all the demonstrators who crowded in the small living room. Two rooms and a kitchen, that is Zahara and Hashem's entire house. But it glowed with humanity.

Among the people who sat in the living room were youngsters from Zahara and Hashem's family. They all spoke fluent Hebrew. And there was a lecturer of political science from Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. His name was Issa Ibn Zuhairia. He told me of the torturous journey he has to undertake every day and every evening on his way from his house outside Jerusalem to the university that is in the municipal area of the city. He has been trying to get a certificate allowing him to stay in Jerusalem and that will spare him the wait at the checkpoints, but that takes time. Dr. Issa is not a violent person. He is an intellectual who wants to lead a normal life. But that is impossible for him, because that's the way it is. He's a Palestinian. As such, he cannot even step into the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

No one will let him in there even to visit the library. And I never heard of a single Professor from the Hebrew University who objected to this policy, that under their very noses, they have colleagues who suffer terrible discrimination just because they are Palestinians.

However, there is a storm brewing in Israel about the 'anti-Semitism' of British universities who are threatening to boycott Israeli academics. And what about the boycott we impose on Palestinian academics? I think that the boycott the British declared on us is a wonderful thing, because finally some of our arrogant professors will start to feel a tiny drop of the feelings of Palestinian professors, whose academic freedom is routinely crushed under the force of Israeli occupation. Once there were academics like Leibovich, like Plosser, who protested the occupation with harsh words. Where are they today?

The vast majority of the Israeli academy today cooperates with the evil. When I wrote a few weeks ago in Ha'aretz that the digs undertaken by the erusalem-based archaeologist Ehud Nezer in Herodion (which is in the occupied territories) were illegal according to international law, I was attacked by two respected professors from the university with harsh words. They wanted to protect the honor of their colleague instead of admitting, like people with real honor, that confiscation of land is confiscation of land, even if it goes by a scientific name. In the case of Herodion it's the confiscation of the treasures of the past, and in the case of Bil'in it is the confiscation of the treasures of the present for some deluxe settlements.

It is true that one could say that British universities are acting hypocritically, and that they should have boycotted Chinese academics for China's violations of human rights, and Russian academics, for Russia's atrocities in Chechnya. Perhaps that is true, but in my opinion the fact that we are being boycotted should be blessed. After forty years of occupation, it's about time we understand that this situation cannot continue, that while we cry over how persecuted we are, we cynically crush the basic rights of the Palestinians underfoot.

It is true that it is not the professors in the universities who are oppressing Palestinians, but in their silence, they are approving of the atrocities. And with their huge egos they ignore what is happening at spitting distance from them: that there are professors and lecturers just like them who can be treated like dogs by every pissy soldier, whose decision it is whether or not they will give their lesson today, and all this because they are Palestinians.

England, cradle of civilization, I salute those civilized people amongst you, who finally found the courage to say to Israeli academics that they can't just worry about their own academic freedom, and that true civilization means fighting for the academic freedoms and for the rights of those who do not have them.

You know what? I'm am looking forward to the day when every Israeli who took part in the evils of the occupation will be refused entry into England. I want to see the faces of all those young heroes, who throw tear gas canisters at elderly women and who chase a disabled man in a wheelchair, and then when they're done with the army travel to India and become spiritual.

That disabled guy in the wheelchair, the smiling sheep herder, showed me his arm that had just been burned by a grenade. He didn't hate me for being Israeli or Jewish, despite what other Israeli Jews did to him. Zahara and Hashem could also come to me complaining that I am a citizen of the state that has been oppressing them for forty years. Instead they laid out for us a table in her kitchen, sat us around it and served us soup, and vegetable with zatar and home-baked pita bread.
Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:18 am
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An excellent collection of reports, pictures and downloads from the recent Palestine/Enough gathering in London:

And another fine piece from Ilan Pappe on Gaza – and the case for ‘DSB’:

Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:59 pm
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Audio/Transcript: Ali Abunimah and Laila El-Haddad the situation in Gaza
Audio, Democracy Now!, 15 June 2007

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, you've written a book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Now there's discussion of three countries, not even a two-state solution. Gaza, West Bank, Israel. Your response?

ALI ABUNIMAH: I wouldn't put too much stock in that because the Israeli policy of cutting Gaza off from the West Bank is long-standing. It's been for more than a decade, that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank can't travel from one place to the other. What I think we are seeing is the collapse of the two-state solution. Alvaro de Soto acknowledged that in his leaked confidential report. And today in the The Washington Post Edward Abington, the former US Counsel general in Jerusalem and now a lobbyist for the Palestinian Authority was quoted saying that these events signal the death of the two-state solution. I think we have to recognize that the Israeli policy of trying to create Palestinian ghettos and Bantustans is failing before our very eyes. Palestinians are the majority population in Israeli-ruled territory between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. And it's only a matter of time before the world wakes up to this reality.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked about the just retired UN Coordinator for the Middle East has warned international hostility to the Palestinian Hamas movement could have grave consequences by persuading millions of Muslims that democratic methods don't work. He said, "Hamas is in its effervesce and can potentially evolve in a pragmatic direction that would allow for a two-state solution, but only if handled right. Your response to this?

ALI ABUNIMAH: I think Alvaro de Soto's 53-page report is very revealing. It's on the internet in PDF form. It was leaked. It is a savage indictment of US, Israeli and European Union policy. I think any objective observer would agree with Alvaro de Soto and would agree that from the moment it won the elections Hamas had tried to be pragmatic and flexible. It had observed a unilateral truce with Israel. It had given up suicide attacks against Palestinian civilians. And there was no response to that. On the contrary. The United States, Israel, the European Union and some Arab states decided to launch a war against Hamas by trying to deny Hamas its fair share. And Hamas asked for less than its fair share. It is the one that immediately after the election offered a national unity government. By denying it its fair share they have assured that Hamas has taken the whole pie. It's time for them to radically change their approach, stop treating the Palestinians like puppets and toys who could be manipulated, and start treating them like human beings who deserve at least their full human rights and freedom just like any other people.

Full transcript/audio at:

On Alvaro de Soto’s UN report:

And comment at:,,2101676,00.html

Tue Jun 19, 2007 12:50 am
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The Light at the End of the Gaza-Ramallah Tunnel
Omar Barghouti, The Electronic Intifada, 20 June 2007

When I saw some of the images coming out of the infighting in Gaza last week, I suppressed my anguish and steaming anger, recalling the wise, almost prophetic, words of the great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, who wrote:

"The central problem is this: How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? Only as they discover themselves to be 'hosts' of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy. As long as they live in the duality in which to be is to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor, this contribution is impossible. The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization."

Apparently, neither of the two warring factions succeeded in transcending the being "like the oppressor" part.

The lightening success of Hamas in forcefully taking over the supposed symbols of Palestinian power in Gaza cannot and ought not obscure the fact that, given the overbearing presence of Israel's military occupation, the bloody clash between the Islamist group and its secular counterpart, Fatah, and irrespective of motives, has descended into a feud between two slaves fighting over the crumbs thrown to them, whenever they behave, by their common colonial master.

There is no doubt that a faction within Fatah -- overtly funded, trained and steered by the US and Israel -- is the primary suspect behind the flare-up of this bloody internecine strife, which many observers view as a thinly veiled attempt to destabilize Hamas's democratically-elected government, coercing it into accepting Israeli dictates that it had so far balked from. Furthermore, any decent legal expert will readily admit that the so-called "emergency government," declared by the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, in response to Hamas's take-over in Gaza, violates several articles in the Basic Law, the equivalent of the PA's constitution.

While the corruption, lawlessness, profiteering and even betrayal of sections of Fatah have been known and well documented for some time now, the brutal, reckless and in some cases criminal tactics used by armed groups within Hamas were fresh reminders to neutral bystanders who were willing to give the group the benefit of the doubt that it, too, contains a strong, power-hungry faction that is eager to sacrifice principles and human rights to reach its political objectives. Hamas cannot be exonerated from the accusation that, by participating in the legislative and municipal elections according to laws and parameters set by the Oslo agreements, it has already contributed to legitimizing the products of those agreements and forsaken its claim to being a resistance movement that is primarily dedicated to realizing the main tenets of the Palestinian national program of liberation and self-determination. On top of that, and unlike the far more sophisticated and responsible Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas, in the last year and a half of ruling at various levels, has revealed its inherent tendency, like all Islamist movements, to impose its exclusionary ideological and social order, and to dismiss and whenever possible suppress diverse views and cultural outlooks that conflict with that order.

In the short term, the political vacuum that will inevitably result from the growing rift between Ramallah and Gaza and the steady collapse of the PA structures and remaining authority on the ground is most likely to be filled by an all-out Israeli reoccupation of the entire West Bank and Gaza. This would announce the official death of the so-called Oslo peace process, which actually collapsed long ago under the weight of Israel's incessantly expanding colonies, apartheid wall -- declared illegal by the International Court of Justice -- and intricate apparatus of oppression and humiliation of the Palestinians under its control.

Such a scenario may either lead to threatening the very survival of the Palestinian national movement and the completion of the well-underway disintegration of Palestinian society or trigger a renaissance of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. For the latter to occur, however, two difficult but realistic conditions must be met: first, Palestinian structural democratization and political reform and resetting Palestinian national priorities; and second, a critical review and revamping of the Palestinian resistance strategy, both from moral and pragmatic perspectives. Both are urgently called for, to realign the Palestinian struggle with the international social movement and to put the question of Palestine back on the world's agenda as essentially a morally and politically justifiable and viable liberation struggle that can -- again -- capture the imagination and support of progressives and freedom lovers the world over.

In order to counter Israel's dual strategy of, on the one hand, fragmenting, ghettoizing, and dispossessing Palestinians, and, on the other hand, reducing the conflict to a dispute over a partial set of Palestinian rights, the PLO must be resuscitated and remodeled to embody the claims, creative energies, and national frameworks of the three main segments of the Palestinian people: Palestinians in the OPT, Palestinian refugees, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. The PLO's grassroots organizations need to be rebuilt from the bottom up with mass participation, and they must be ruled by unfettered democracy and proportional representation. This process must entail a well-planned transfer of power from the withering PA back to a rejuvenated PLO, including the entire spectrum of the Palestinian political movement.

As to resistance strategies, one cannot and should not strictly separate means from ends. If the struggle for freedom in Algeria, Northern Ireland and South Africa taught us anything, it is this fact. Irrespective of the right of Palestinians to resist foreign occupation by all means, as granted in international law, we have a moral duty to avoid tactics that indiscriminately target innocent civilians and inevitably corrupt our own humanity. Concurrently, and with full deference to the first principle, we have a political obligation to select methods that maximize our gains. Given the ongoing nihilistic abuse and utter futility of Palestinian armed resistance, the uniquely harsh geo-political context of the Palestinian resistance movement, and the de facto fragmentation of the Palestinian people and isolation of its resistance core from potential sources of supply and logistical support, civil resistance that has the potential of engaging and mobilizing the Palestinian grassroots seems not only morally but also pragmatically preferable.

The young Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, modeled after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, has already shown ample evidence that it has the potential of unifying Palestinians and international solidarity movements in a resistance strategy that is moral, effective and sustainable. In the last few years alone, many mainstream and influential groups and institutions have heeded Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel. These include the British University and College Union (UCU); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); top British architects led by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP); the National Union of Journalists in the UK; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario; and dozens of celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger, among many others.

The intensification of Israel's colonial and racist oppression of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, with unprecedented impunity was the main trigger for the spreading boycott. With its wanton destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, willful killing of civilians, particularly children, apartheid wall, Jews-only colonies and roads, incessant confiscation of land and water resources, and horrific denial of freedom of movement to millions under occupation, Israel has shown the international community its total disregard to international law and fundamental human rights.

This latest dose of American -- Israeli-inspired -- "constructive chaos" in the occupied Palestinian territory may well wreak havoc on US-Israeli policy in the region. With the imminent dissipation of the illusion that a national Palestinian sovereignty can be established under the overall colonial hegemony of Israel, many Palestinians are now seriously questioning the wisdom of the two-state mantra and considering to repose their plight as one for equal humanity and full emancipation, within the framework of a unitary, democratic state solution in historic Palestine. After almost three decades of "searing into the consciousness" of Palestinians that only a two-state solution can deliver any of their demands, the US and Israel are harvesting what they sowed: the collapse of any semblance of independence and integrity of the PA -- which was all along charged with relieving Israel's colonial burdens vs. the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and Gaza -- and the mounting Palestinian discontent with, if not yet revolt against, the game of unilateral Palestinian compromise leading only to insatiable Israeli demands for further compromise, with the simultaneous loss of land, resources, freedoms and the bleak -- and real -- prospects of social breakdown.

The demise of the two-state solution should not be mourned. Besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with. In the best-case scenario, if UN Resolution 242 were meticulously implemented, it would have addressed most of the legitimate rights of less than a third of the Palestinian people over less than a fifth of their ancestral land. More than two thirds of the Palestinians, refugees plus the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have been maliciously and shortsightedly expunged out of the definition of the Palestinians.

It is now clearer than ever that the two-state solution -- other than being only a disguise for continued Israeli occupation and a mechanism to permanently divide the people of Palestine into three disconnected segments -- was primarily intended to induce Palestinians to give up the inalienable right of their refugees to return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed by Zionists during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe).

A secular, democratic state solution is increasingly being perceived by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as the moral alternative to Israeli apartheid and colonial rule. Such a solution, which promises unequivocal equality in citizenship, as well as individual and communal rights, both to Palestinians (refugees included) and to Israeli Jews, is the most appropriate for ethically reconciling the ostensibly irreconcilable: the inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to self-determination, repatriation, and equality in accordance with international law and the acquired and internationally recognized rights of Israeli Jews to coexist in the land of Palestine -- as equals, not colonial masters.

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst.
Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:14 pm
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Divide and Rule, Israeli-Style

Can the Arab World be Turned into Gaza's Jailers?



June 26, 2007

The boycott by Israel and the international community of the Palestinian Authority finally blew up in their faces with Hamas' recent bloody takeover of Gaza. Or so argues Gideon Levy, one of the saner voices still to be found in Israel. "Starving, drying up and blocking aid do not sear the consciousness and do not weaken political movements. On the contrary Reality has refuted the chorus of experts and commentators who preached [on] behalf of the boycott policy. This daft notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying pressure on a helpless population suffered a complete failure."

But has Levy got it wrong? The faces of Israeli and American politicians, including Ehud Olmert and George Bush, appear soot-free. On the contrary. Over the past fortnight they have been looking and sounding even more smug than usual.

The problem with Levy's analysis is that it assumes that Israel and the US wanted sanctions to bring about the fall of Hamas, either by giving Fatah the upper hand so that it could deal a knockout blow to the Palestinian government, or by inciting ordinary Palestinians to rise up and demand that their earlier electoral decision be reversed and Fatah reinstalled. In short, Levy, like most observers, assumes that the policy was designed to enforce regime change.

But what if that was not the point of the sanctions? And if so, what goals were Israel and the US pursuing?

The parallels between Iraq and Gaza may be instructive. After all, Iraq is the West's only other recent experiment in imposing sanctions to starve a nation. And we all know where it led: to an even deeper entrenchment of Saddam Hussein's rule.

True, the circumstances in Iraq and Gaza are different: most Iraqis wanted Saddam out but had no way to effect change, while most Gazans wanted Hamas in and made it happen by voting for them in last year's elections. Nevertheless, it may be that the US and Israel drew a different lesson from the sanctions experience in Iraq.

Whether intended or not, sanctions proved a very effective tool for destroying the internal bonds that held Iraqi society together. Destitution and hunger are powerful incentives to turn on one's neighbour as well as one's enemy. A society where resources -- food, medicines, water and electricity -- are in short supply is also a society where everyone looks out for himself. It is a society that, with a little prompting, can easily be made to tear itself apart.

And that is precisely what the Americans began to engineer after their "shock and awe' invasion of 2003. Contrary to previous US interventions abroad, Saddam was not toppled and replaced with another strongman -- one more to the West's liking. Instead of regime change, we were given regime overthrow. Or as Daniel Pipes, one of the neoconservative ideologues of the attack on Iraq, expressed it, the goal was "limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility nor its burden."

In place of Saddam, the Americans created a safe haven known as the Green Zone from which its occupation regime could loosely police the country and oversee the theft of Iraq's oil, while also sitting back and watching a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shia populations spiral out of control and decimate the Iraqi population.

What did Washington hope to achieve? Pipes offers a clue: "When Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims [that is, US occupation forces and their allies] are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one." In other words, enabling a civil war in Iraq was far preferable to allowing Iraqis to unite and mount an effective resistance to the US occupation. After all, Iraqi deaths -- at least 650,000 of them, according to the last realistic count -- are as good as worthless, while US soldiers' lives cost votes back home.

For the neocon cabal behind the Iraq invasion, civil war was seen to have two beneficial outcomes.

First, it eroded the solidarity of ordinary Iraqis, depleting their energies and making them less likely to join or support the resistance to the occupation. The insurgency has remained a terrible irritation to US forces but not the fatal blow it might have been were the Sunni and Shia to fight side by side. As a result, the theft of Iraq's resources has been made easier.

And second, in the longer term, civil war is making inevitable a slow process of communal partition and ethnic cleansing. Four million Iraqis are reported to have been forced either to leave the country or flee their homes. Iraq is being broken up into small ethnic and religious fiefdoms that will be easier to manage and manipulate.

Is this the model for Gaza now and the West Bank later?

It is worth recalling that neither Israel nor the US pushed for an easing of the sanctions on the Palestinian Authority after the national unity government of Hamas and Fatah was formed earlier this year. In fact, the US and Israel could barely conceal their panic at the development. The moment the Mecca agreement was signed, reports of US efforts to train and arm Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas became a newspaper staple.

The cumulative effect of US support for Fatah, as well as Israel's continuing arrests of Hamas legislators in the West Bank, was to strain already tense relations between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point. When Hamas learnt that Abbas' security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, with US encouragement, was preparing to carry out a coup against them in Gaza, they got the first shot in.

Did Fatah really believe it could pull off a coup in Gaza, given the evident weakness of its forces there, or was the rumour little more than American and Israeli spin, designed to undermine Hamas' faith in Fatah and doom the unity government? Were Abbas and Dahlan really hoping to topple Hamas, or were they the useful idiots needed by the US and Israel? These are questions that may have to be settled by the historians.

But with the fingerprints of Elliott Abrams, one of the more durable neocons in the Bush administration, to be found all over this episode, we can surmise that what Washington and Israel are intending for the Palestinians will have strong echoes of what has unfolded in Iraq.

By engineering the destruction of the unity government, Israel and the US have ensured that there is no danger of a new Palestinian consensus emerging, one that might have cornered Israel into peace talks. A unity government might have found a formula offering Israel:

* limited recognition inside the pre-1967 borders in return for recognition of a Palestinian state and the territorial integrity of the West Bank and Gaza;

* a long-term ceasefire in return for Israel ending its campaign of constant violence and violations of Palestinian sovereignty;

* and a commitment to honour past agreements in return for Israel's abiding by UN resolutions and accepting a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

After decades of Israeli bad faith, and the growing rancour between Fatah and Hamas, the chances of them finding common ground on which to make such an offer, it must be admitted, would have been slight. But now they are non-existent.

That is exactly how Israel wants it, because it has no interest in meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians or in a final agreement. It wants only to impose solutions that suit Israel's interests, which are securing the maximum amount of land for an exclusive Jewish state and leaving the Palestinians so weak and divided that they will never be able to mount a serious challenge to Israel's dictates.

Instead, Hamas' dismal authority over the prison camp called Gaza and Fatah's bastard governance of the ghettoes called the West Bank offer a model more satisfying for Israel and the US -- and one not unlike Iraq. A sort of sheriff's divide and rule in the Wild West.

Just as in Iraq, Israel and the US have made sure that no Palestinian strongman arises to replace Yasser Arafat. Just as in Iraq, they are encouraging civil war as an alternative to resistance to occupation, as Palestine's resources -- land, not oil -- are stolen. Just as in Iraq, they are causing a permanent and irreversible partition, in this case between the West Bank and Gaza, to create more easily managed territorial ghettoes. And just as in Iraq, the likely reaction is an even greater extremism from the Palestinians that will undermine their cause in the eyes of the international community.

Where will this lead the Palestinians next?

Israel is already pulling the strings of Fatah with a new adeptness since the latter's humiliation in Gaza. Abbas is currently basking in Israeli munificence for his rogue West Bank regime, including the decision to release a substantial chunk of the $700 million tax monies owed to the Palestinians (including those of Gaza, of course) and withheld for years by Israel. The price, according to the Israeli media, was a commitment from Abbas not to contemplate re-entering a unity government with Hamas.

The goal will be to increase the strains between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point in the West Bank, but ensure that Fatah wins the confrontation there. Fatah is already militarily stronger and with generous patronage from Israel and the US -- including arms and training, and possibly the return fo the Badr Brigade currently holed up in Jordan -- it should be able to rout Hamas. The difference in status between Gaza and the West Bank that has been long desired by Israel will be complete.

The Palestinian people have already been carved up into a multitude of constituencies. There are the Palestinians under occupation, those living as second-class citizens of Israel, those allowed to remain "residents" of Jerusalem, and those dispersed to camps across the Middle East. Even within these groups, there are a host of sub-identities: refugees and non-refugees; refugees included as citizens in their host state and those excluded; occupied Palestinians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority and those under Israel's military government; and so on.

Now, Israel has entrenched maybe the most significant division of all: the absolute and irreversible separation of Gaza and the West Bank. What applies to one will no longer be true for the other. Each will be a separate case; their fates will no longer be tied. One will be, as Israelis like to call it, Hamastan, and other Fatahland, with separate governments and different treatment from Israel and the international community.

The reasons why Israel prefers this arrangement are manifold.

First, Gaza can now be written off by the international community as a basket case. The Israeli media is currently awash with patronising commentary from the political and security establishments about how to help avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the possibility of air drops of aid over the Gaza "security fence" -- as though Gaza were Pakistan after an earthquake. From past experience, and the current menacing sounds from Israel's new Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, those food packages will quickly turn into bombs if Gaza does not keep quiet.

As Israeli and US officials have been phrasing it, there is a new "clarity" in the situation. In a Hamastan, Gaza's militants and civilians can be targeted by Israel with little discrimination and no outcry from the international community. Israel will hope that message from Gaza will not be lost on West Bank Palestinians as they decide who to give their support to, Fatah or Hamas.

Second, at their meeting last week Olmert and Bush revived talk of Palestinian statehood. According to Olmert, Bush "wants to realize, while he is in office, the dream of creating a Palestinian state". Both are keen to make quick progress, a sure sign of mischief in the making. Certainly, they know they are now under no pressure to create the single viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza once promised by President Bush. An embattled Abbas will not be calling for the inclusion of Gaza in his ghetto-fiefdom.

Third, the separation of Gaza from the West Bank may be used to inject new life into Olmert's shopworn convergence plan -- if he can dress it up new clothes. Convergence, which required a very limited withdrawal from those areas of the West Bank heavily populated with Palestinians while Israel annexed most of its illegal colonies and kept the Jordan Valley, was officially ditched last summer after Israel's humiliation by Hizbullah.

Why seek to revive convergence? Because it is the key to Israel securing the expanded Jewish fortress state that is its only sure protection from the rapid demographic growth of the Palestinians, soon to outnumber Jews in the Holy Land, and Israel's fears that it may then be compared to apartheid South Africa.

If the occupation continues unchanged, Israel's security establishment has long been warning, the Palestinians will eventually wake up to the only practical response: to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, Israel's clever ruse to make the Palestinian leadership responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance to the occupation, thereby forcing Israel to pick up the bill for the occupation rather than Europe. The next stage would be an anti-apartheid struggle for one state in historic Palestine.

For this reason, demographic separation from the Palestinians has been the logic of every major Israeli policy initiative since -- and including -- Oslo. Convergence requires no loss of Israel's control over Palestinian lives, ensured through the all but finished grid of walls, settlements, bypass roads and checkpoints, only a repackaging of their occupation as statehood.

The biggest objection in Israel to Olmert's plan -- as well as to the related Gaza disengagement -- was the concern that, once the army had unilaterally withdrawn from the Palestinian ghettoes, the Palestinians would be free to launch terror attacks, including sending rockets out of their prisons into Israel. Most Israelis, of course, never consider the role of the occupation in prompting such attacks.

But Olmert may believe he has found a way to silence his domestic critics. For the first time he seems genuinely keen to get his Arab neighbours involved in the establishment of a Palestinian "state". As he headed off to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit with Egypt, Jordan and Abbas this week, Olmert said he wanted to "jointly work to create the platform that may lead to a new beginning between us and the Palestinians".

Did he mean partnership? A source in the Prime Minister's Office explained to the Jerusalem Post why the three nations and Abbas were meeting. "These are the four parties directly impacted by what is happening right now, and what is needed is a different level of cooperation between them." Another spokesman bewailed the failure so far to get the Saudis on board.

This appears to mark a sea change in Israeli thinking. Until now Tel Aviv has regarded the Palestinians as a domestic problem -- after all, they are sitting on land that rightfully, at least if the Bible is to be believed, belongs to the Jews. Any attempt at internationalising the conflict has therefore been strenuously resisted.

But now the Israeli Prime Minister's Office is talking openly about getting the Arab world more directly involved, not only in its usual role as a mediator with the Palestinians, nor even in simply securing the borders against smuggling, but also in policing the territories. Israel hopes that Egypt, in particular, is as concerned as Tel Aviv by the emergence of a Hamastan on its borders, and may be enticed to use the same repressive policies against Gaza's Islamists as it does against its own.

Similarly, Olmert's chief political rival, Binyamin Netanyahu of Likud, has mentioned not only Egyptian involvement in Gaza but even a Jordanian military presence in the West Bank. The "moderate" Arab regimes, as Washington likes to call them, are being seen as the key to developing new ideas about Palestinian "autonomy" and regional "confederation". As long as Israel has a quisling in the West Bank and a beyond-the-pale government in Gaza, it may believe it can corner the Arab world into backing such a "peace plan".

What will it mean in practice? Possibly, as Zvi Barel of Haaretz speculates, we will see the emergence of half a dozen Palestinian governments in charge of the ghettoes of Gaza, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, and Hebron. Each may be encouraged to compete for patronage and aid from the "moderate" Arab regimes but on condition that Israel and the US are satisfied with these Palestinian governments' performance.

In other words, Israel looks as if it is dusting off yet another blueprint for how to manage the Palestinians and their irritating obsession with sovereignty. Last time, under Oslo, the Palestinians were put in charge of policing the occupation on Israel's behalf. This time, as the Palestinians are sealed into their separate prisons masquerading as a state, Israel may believe that it can find a new jailer for the Palestinians -- the Arab world.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is
Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:38 pm
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Tony Blair: A true friend of Israel
Arjan El Fassed, The Electronic Intifada, 29 June 2007

"A true friend of the State of Israel," said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of his outgoing British counterpart Tony Blair. He was appointed this week as special envoy for the Middle East Quartet with a portfolio focused on Palestinian economic and political reform. "Tony Blair is a very well-appreciated figure in Israel," said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. According to an Israeli government statement, Israel "will provide [him] with all necessary assistance in order for him to carry out his duties."

It should not come as a surprise that Israeli government officials welcome Blair to his new job. Although he has long claimed to be interested in supporting justice for the Palestinians, Blair has an unremitting record of bias towards Israel. After George W. Bush, Blair is probably the most disliked and distrusted individual, among Palestinians as well as in the Arab world in general. This stems not only from his role in the Iraq war, but because he has swallowed the neoconservative agenda whole, becoming one of the leading proponents of a "clash of civilizations" between a supposedly enlightened West and a backward Islamic world.

All the language of Blair's appointment describes the conflict not as one generated by Israeli occupation and colonialism -- something a more courageous former leader Jimmy Carter has characterized as "apartheid" -- but one of Palestinian failure, and a need for "institutional reform." This suits Israel perfectly because Blair, with his fake pro-Palestinian tones, is actually helping Israel to blame the victim by changing the subject from the brutal Israeli military rule that makes normal Palestinian life imposssible.

Blair's anti-Palestinian bias began early in his political career. During his time as prime minister, Blair regularly consulted a pro-Israel lobby group, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). He has been close to this group ever since he became a member of parliament fourteen years ago. In his speech to the LFI Annual Reception in September 2006, Blair said: "I have never actually found it hard to be friend of Israel, I am proud to be a friend of Israel." [1]

One of Blair's early supporters was Michael Levy, a staunch supporter of Israel's policies against Palestinians, a former board member of the Jewish Agency and active in various Jewish charities in Britain. Levy began to support Blair's private office from his own pocket. He has since raised millions of pounds for the Labour Party. Levy's fundraising efforts for Blair eventually paid off when Blair became Prime Minister. First appointed an envoy by Tony Blair after the 1997 election, Levy -- later nicknamed "Lord Cashpoint" -- has helped to develop a strongly pro-Israel line from Blair's office. [2] Three years later, Levy was appointed Tony Blair's personal envoy to the Middle East. In July 2006 and again in January of this year, Levy was arrested in connection with allegations that Labour Party supporters were offered honors in return for loans and donations. With the resignation of Tony Blair today, Levy also steps down. Commenting on Levy's resignation, Richard Spring, a Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs, told The Independent: "I welcome his departure. We have some of the most skilled and distinguished diplomats in the world and they have been humiliated and sidelined by Lord Levy's antics in the Middle East. He has caused great embarrassment for this country." [3]

Blair's portfolio as Quartet envoy does not come as a surprise. In February 2005, Blair organized a one-day meeting between Palestinian leaders with senior officials from thirty countries. [4] The aim of the conference was to outline and support Palestinian political, financial and security reform. When Blair first spoke of hosting a conference in December 2004, Palestinian leaders hoped it would focus on political issues and the peace process. But there was little support for that from Israel and the US and Israel did not even attend the conference, demonstrating how little influence Blair had on Israel even as prime minister.

At the time Israeli forces invaded Nablus, Jenin and other Palestinian towns and villages during Israel's "Operation Defensive Shield" in April 2002, Tony Blair visited his closest ally George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. "We agree that the Palestinian leadership must order an immediate and effective cease-fire and crackdown on terrorist networks," Bush said. "And we agree that Israel should halt incursions in the Palestinian-controlled areas and begin to withdraw without delay from those cities it has recently occupied." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later told the Americans he understood their desires for Israel to end its operations in the "territories." A statement from Sharon's office said the prime minister told Bush that Israel "is conscious of the American desire to see the operation ended quickly." [5] His office also said the prime minister had pledged to "speed up" the offensive, not end it. Asked their plans if Israel does not withdraw, both leaders declined to address the issue. "I believe that Israel will heed the words of President Bush," Blair said, "and will do so knowing that he speaks as a friend to Israel."

In the summer of 2006, during the first week of August, just before he would meet Bush in Washington, cabinet ministers were pressing Blair to break with the policy of the American administration and publicly criticize Israel over the scale of death and destruction in Lebanon. A week earlier, Jack Straw, former Foreign Office Minister, said that while he "grieved for the innocent Israelis killed" he also mourned the "ten times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children killed by Israeli fire." Blair took the line of the US and two other Israel allies in the EU, Germany and the Netherlands, by refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire and waiting for an UN resolution. In an interview with Sky News that same week, Blair answered the question whether he was too close to the White House by stating, "I will never apologize for Britain being a strong ally of the US." [6] Three months ago, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the Lebanon war. He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working.

At the G8 summit in St. Petersburg as Israel's war on Lebanon raged, Bush and Blair were caught on an open microphone talking about whether US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should head to the region, or whether Blair should go himself. [7] Blair said to Bush, "If she goes out, she's got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk."

That is exactly what Blair's new function will be. He can just go out and talk. The Middle East Quartet -- in the words of Alvaro de Soto, "a group of friends of the US" -- wants Blair to operate according to the model of the previous envoy, James Wolfensohn. In his leaked End of Mission Report [8], De Soto, who was the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and envoy to the Quartet, wrote that Blair's predecessor Wolfensohn was first introduced by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a US special envoy. "The terms of reference originally proposed would have given Wolfensohn a writ, essentially covering the entire peace process, much wider than the narrower one that emerged." De Soto also noticed that Wolfensohn's mission "began to run aground after his attempts to broker an agreement on access and movement were intercepted -- some would say hijacked -- at the last minute by the US envoys and ultimately Rice herself." This does not look good for Tony Blair. Wolfensohn left the scene with "a more jaundiced view of Israel (and US) policies than he had upon entering."

It is hard to escape the impression that Blair -- despised at home and saddled with the weight of Iraq -- is still seeking a way to salvage a "legacy." Yet it is hard to imagine a person lesson suited to be a peace envoy to the Middle East.

In the meantime, one shouldn't expect much from Britain's new prime minister Gordon Brown. Britain, together with Germany and the Netherlands, traditionally supports Israel within European political debates. This will not change. Brown has not shown much interest in the issue and policy experts do not expect Britain to play a major role. Israel is content with not only Blair's appointment as new Quartet special envoy but also the appointment of Simon McDonald, a former British ambassador to Israel, as Brown's foreign policy advisor. Israeli officials see McDonald as "friend of Israel." According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, McDonald has been considered one of the most influential foreign envoys posted to Israel, and one well-connected to Israeli decision-makers. Though the faces may change, Britian's one-sided policy line remains the same.

Arjan El Fassed is a cofounder of The Electronic Intifada

[1] Speech by PM Tony Blair to LFI Annual Reception (26 September 2006).
[2] Michael Levy: Lord Cashpoint, Paul Vallely, The Independent (18 March 2006); Lord Levy: Labour's fundraiser, BBC News (6 March 2007); "Blair's chance to raise cash for Pounds 1m refund", Andrew Pierce, The Times (18 November 1997); "British Jewish vote undergoes shift as Labor Party modifies Israel stance", Richard Allen Green, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (8 May 2001); Blair's meeting with Arafat served to disguise his support for Sharon and the Zionist project, John Pilger, New Statesman (14 January 2002).
[3] Lord Levy to quit envoy role when Blair stands down as PM, Colin Brown, The Independent (24 May 2007).
[4] London Meeting on Supporting the Palestinian Authority, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (1 March 2005).
[5] President Bush, Prime Minister Blair Hold Press Conference, Office of the Press Secretary (6 April 2002); Sharon Says He Will Expedite Israeli Military Offensive, CNN Breaking News (6 April 2002); Pull back, Bush orders Sharon, Peter Beaumont, The Observer (7 April 2002).
[6] Cabinet in open revolt over Blair's Israel policy, The Observer (30 July 2006).
[7] Transcript: Bush and Blair's unguarded chat, BBC News (18 July 2006)
[8] End of Mission Report (PDF) Alvaro de Soto (May 2007).
Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:31 pm
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The Fanonite

“…for the last forty years, our thought has been trapped in hollow structures of language, a stale, dead but immensely successful rhetoric. This has represented, in my view, a defeat of the intelligence and of the will.” — Harold Pinter

Turning Tides: Clare Short Breaks the Silence on Palestine
July 8th, 2007

Following is Clare Short’s powerful indictment of the Israeli state’s crimes, and the British Government’s complicity in them and European hypocrisy with regards to Palestine. For those who don’t know, Kim Howells is a former chair of the UK Israel lobby group, Labour Friends of Israel. Kudos to War on Want for their unrelenting campaign against the Apartheid Wall and to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions for their role in exposing Israel’s matrix of control.

Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Ind Lab): I tabled this debate because I visited recently the Palestinian occupied territories with a delegation organised by War on Want. It consisted of War on Want staff, myself, and Rodney Bickerstaffe, the former general secretary of Unison. I am grateful for the opportunity to report on our findings, and I hope that the Minister will take account of them.

I have previously visited the west bank and Gaza on a number occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the time of the first intifada—a Palestinian uprising involving peaceful disobedience or, at worst, children throwing stones at soldiers. Despite the injuries inflicted on children by the Israeli army, the intifada was full of hope, and it led to the negotiation of the Oslo peace accord and the return of Yasser Arafat to Palestine. I was hopeful at that time that a two-state peace—Israel and Palestine—was possible, that the new Palestinian state would be based on 1967 boundaries with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that there would be a negotiated settlement on Palestinian right of return. Those are the three essential components of a negotiated peace. I was hopeful; but it is now impossible to believe that there will be such a peace. Instead, I fear that unless we change policy, we face the prospect of years and possibly decades of bloodshed and conflict.

I have followed developments in the middle east carefully over many years, and I was well aware before my recent visit how bad things are for the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, I was deeply shocked by Israel’s blatant, brutal and systematic annexation of land, demolition of Palestinian homes, and deliberate creation of an apartheid system by which the Palestinians are enclosed in four bantustans, surrounded by a wall, with massive checkpoints that control all Palestinian movements in and out of the ghettos.

The Israelis are clearly and systematically attempting to take the maximum amount of land with the minimum number of Palestinians. As things stand, Israel has taken 85 per cent of historical Palestine, leaving the remaining 15 per cent for Palestinian ghettos. More shocking than that is that the international community, including the UK and the EU, does nothing to require Israel to abide by international law, despite all the claims made about European support for human rights and international law.

During its visit, the delegation spent a day with the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is the agency responsible for humanitarian emergencies. It briefed us on the way in which the wall, the closures, the settlements and the separate system of settler roads were imprisoning the Palestinians. It published a map in the Financial Times to mark the 40th anniversary of the occupation, which is available for all to see.

The delegation spent the second day of its visit with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an organisation that I greatly admire. The committee took us on a tour of East Jerusalem and showed us how the combination of formal and informal settlements, and systematic house demolition, was encircling East Jerusalem and how that constrained, displaced and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian population. When we were with ICAHD, we witnessed a house demolition. A massive machine with “Volvo” emblazoned on its side destroyed a substantial house that was built by a Palestinian family on their own land and in territory that belongs to the Palestinians under international law—formally, it is occupied territory.

Women relatives of the occupants quietly wept at the side of the road. Later, a young man was held back by his friends—he wanted to throw himself at the soldiers who were protecting the demolition, to do something about the destruction of his family home. The representative of ICAHD, a young Israeli, said that the demolition was, of course, a war crime. The point about that is that under the Geneva convention, an occupying power is not entitled to impose new laws or to settle in occupied territory. Houses are being demolished because Palestinians do not have permits to build, even on their own land. However, Israel is not entitled to introduce such a permit system. It never gives a permit to build a house, or after a house has been built. When Palestinian families expand, they must live somewhere, but Israel will never issue a permit because of its determination to drive Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.

According to ICAHD, Israel has demolished 18,000 Palestinian homes in the way I described since 1967. Each demolition was a war crime. More shocking than that is the fact that no action is taken to force Israel to adhere to international law. Later, the delegation visited a family whose house had been demolished and rebuilt by volunteers from ICAHD—Israelis and Palestinians worked together to rebuild a home for a Palestinian family. ICAHD is committed to acts of peaceful civil disobedience in order that international law is upheld. The family said how grateful they were to once again have a home. A Palestinian who works for ICAHD said that his house had been demolished four times. He said that most Palestinian homes in Jerusalem were subject to demolition orders, so everyone lives with the fear and insecurity that when they arrive home, they might find that their home has been destroyed. He said that when the Israelis arrive to demolish a person’s house, they give them 15 minutes in which to collect their family and belongings.

Normally, people refuse to co-operate. The ICAHD worker told me that in such a situation, the demolition people use tear gas. He told me that he stood there, with his wife fainting and his children crying while their property was being thrown out of their house on to the ground. He said that it made him feel like a useless man who could not even protect his family in their home, and that three possible courses of action passed through his mind. First, full of hate and anger, he thought about obtaining a suicide vest and destroying his own life and that of others. Secondly, he thought about whether he could get out of Palestine and Jerusalem, being unable to bear the pressure being put on him and his family, but that would be to co-operate in the ethnic-cleansing that he opposed. Thirdly—he said that this kept him sane—he said he thought about working for ICAHD to rebuild the demolished homes in peaceful civil disobedience.

I understand that ICAHD has given a pledge to rebuild all the demolished homes in this, the 40th year of the occupation, and that—poignantly—an American holocaust survivor is funding the work. I hope that all people of good will will support ICAHD financially and politically in that endeavour. Importantly, the organisation brings radical Israelis and Palestinians together and creates a space for hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.

The delegation’s third day was hosted by the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, which is War on Want’s partner in Palestine. We were briefed about how the closures have destroyed the Palestinian economy—that has subsequently been underlined by a World Bank report—and also how more and more Palestinians are forced to work for the Israeli settlements to produce agricultural products and other goods that are exported largely to the European market, to which trade agreements give Israel privileged access. Illegal settlements using Palestinians as cheap labour is another element of the new apartheid system in which the EU and the UK fully collude.

The delegation went to visit the Jordan valley with a representative of the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. The situation there is truly terrible. All fertile land near the river has been confiscated by Israel, supposedly for security purposes under the Oslo peace accords. In the remaining territory, there are occasionally settlements, some of only one person, which lead to Palestinian families being removed from their land for security reasons. There are acres of plastic greenhouses that are organised and worked by settlers and which are strategically located over water sources. They grow organic herbs and other agricultural produce for the European market and yet, when we visited a totally impoverished nearby Palestinian village, we found that there was no school and, that day, no water—the one tap in the village gave no water. The impoverished Palestinians must buy water by the bucket from the settlers.

We visited farming families whose relatives had lived on the land in the Jordan valley for generations to grow crops, herd sheep and goats, and to make cheese. They were being threatened and moved constantly as new settlements of only one or a few people brought in the army, which claimed that they had to move for security reasons. We stopped to talk to another family who had a compound at the side of the road. A house bought for their son and his family on their own land had been demolished, and their aubergine crop was rotting in a heap in front of the house because they could not get it to market.

There is terrible poverty and abuse of human rights in the Jordan valley. The people there are being grossly neglected. I appeal to the Minister, the Department for International Development and all the humanitarian and non-governmental organisations to do more in the Jordan valley—it is in a terrible situation, and more could be done to bring instant relief.

My conclusion is pessimistic, and the prospect of a two-state solution is being destroyed. Instead, we are allowing a new, brutal apartheid regime to be created with the Palestinians being confined to ghettoes and used as cheap labour by the settlers. The Hamas takeover in Gaza is not the cause of the problem, but the consequence of it. The refusal of the UK and the EU to provide aid to the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas election victory has helped to create the problem. The arming of Fatah by US and Israeli forces to enable it to fight Hamas in Gaza made the takeover inevitable. Now it seems that efforts are to be made to offer money and inducements to President Abbas to accept the monstrous ghettoes as the promised Palestinian state. As Uri Avnery, the great Israeli peace campaigner, said, they want him to act as a quisling, and that will not bring peace.

In conclusion, the situation in the Palestinian territories is deeply distressing and depressing, and the Government and the EU are colluding in that oppression and the building of a new apartheid regime. In particular, Israel has privileged access to the EU market under a trade treaty that, like all EU trade treaties, contains human rights conditions. I hope that the Minister will explain why those conditions are not invoked to insist on Israeli compliance with international law. That is a big lever, and Israel would be frightened of losing access to the EU market. I wish that we would make use of that for everyone’s benefit.

I fear continuing bloodshed and suffering, and further destabilisation of the middle east. The situation in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories is fuelling the anger of the Muslim world, which is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the ugly ideology of Osama bin Laden and those who advocate similar ideas.

It is in the interests of the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the wider middle east that there should be a two-state solution to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that possibility is being thrown away by Israel, which is determined constantly to expand its borders in total breach of international law. The UK and the EU are, sadly, colluding in that, and the consequences are causing terrible suffering, and endangering the future. I truly hope that our new Prime Minister will reconsider that policy, and that the Opposition parties will reconsider and bring pressure to bear to bring the situation back from the brink and to ensure that the centrepiece of UK policy is a just peace and Israeli compliance with international law.

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): I thank the right hon. Lady for initiating this debate and for her comments. I also thank her for her eye-witness account of the illegal activities of the Israeli defence forces and others in demolishing houses along the route of the wall, the barrier or fence, where it incorporates Palestinian land illegally. I agree entirely with the right hon. Lady that that not only breaks international law but generates huge resentment, not just in Palestine but throughout the region. We have constantly urged the Israelis not to do that, and it is ironic that lawyers in Israel have given Palestinians their redress only about the route of the wall. Sometimes that route has been altered as a consequence of legal action that Palestinians have taken, especially in and around Jerusalem.

The right hon. Lady’s point about generating sympathy for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is prescient, and we ignore such warnings at our peril. I take her message about the Jordan valley needing the attention of the Department for International Development. I, too, was shocked when I saw the extent to which so much of the Palestinian economy on the west bank has collapsed. I shall come to Gaza in a moment.

This is one of those times in history when, from an appalling tragedy of Palestinians killing Palestinians in Gaza, one hopes that the Israelis and everyone else will take a real step forward, remove the barriers on the west bank, and allow people to trade properly. The right hon. Lady referred to a crop of aubergines that were rotting in the field, and we have heard such stories so many times.

Here is where Howells switches to LFI mode.

I understand, as I am sure can everyone, why Israel has built barriers, and I know why it has built the wall. On my last visit but one, I went to see some old lefties—I do not know how to describe them—in a kibbutz up on the old Jerusalem road. Very reluctantly, they told me that life had become easier since the barrier was built because they were not worried about their kids going out, as suicide bombers were finding it much harder to come in from Nablus and other towns. I tried to argue then, and I argue now, that they will find ways of getting in and killing innocent citizens, because resentment will continue to build up unless the core issue is tackled.

Clare Short: I simply want to say that, ugly and regrettable as the wall is, if it were on the 1967 boundary it would be one thing, but it is taking great swathes of Palestinian land and dividing communities from their land. That was found to be illegal by the International Court of Justice, and there is no excuse for it.

Dr. Howells: The right hon. Lady is absolutely correct. I was quite shocked even to discuss with Labour Ministers in Israel some time ago their unwillingness to build tunnels, for example, to join cantons together. It is hard to believe that a viable state, albeit small, could emerge from such a geographical configuration. It is difficult to see how it could work. We must keep pressing the Israelis.

I do not agree with the right hon. Lady about sanctions—she did not refer to sanctions, but I have heard people talk about them. She referred to withdrawal of the preferential trade agreement with the EU. It is a fair subject for debate, although I am sceptical about making such moves, but that is my subjective assessment. It is a subject that should be discussed, and it is widely discussed throughout Europe. I tend to feel that there is already so much tension and there are so many difficulties that I am not sure that that would advance the cause of peace.

If the right hon. Lady will allow me, I shall say something about Gaza, because we share her deep concern about what has happened there. It is a tragedy, and it underlines the urgent need to maintain international engagement and the current political processes.

We are also concerned, as is the right hon. Lady, about the welfare of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist, whose family must be going through the most dreadful time. We condemn the release of the latest video, which can only add further distress to his family and friends. We urge his captors, as I know does the right hon. Lady, to release him immediately. There should be a general release of captives on both sides— Corporal Shalit, the soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah, the councillors and elected parliamentary representatives of the Palestinian people. Now is the time to make such moves, and I hope that after the disaster in Gaza there will be a sense that this historic opportunity should not be missed, and that misery should not be heaped on the existing misery.

I also extend our thanks to the Egyptian Government for initiating the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday between President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, whom I had the privilege of speaking with just last week. He brought to the situation a sharp series of observations, which the right hon. Lady complemented today, and he understands the gravity of the situation. If the west bank statelet—that group of cantons—fails, one wonders where the conflict will spread to next. Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population, would be in grave danger, and King Abdullah is well aware of that. He was at Sharm el-Sheikh, as were Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.

We welcome Prime Minister Olmert’s statement that he will work, with President Abbas as a true partner, towards the establishment of a two-state solution and the implementation of the road map. There are some positive aspects, but I agree with the right hon. Lady that it is a pretty bleak picture. It is as bleak as I can ever remember it, but the decision by Prime Minister Olmert to transfer the withheld revenues is probably a positive step forward, and we look forward to the implementation of the commitments to increase freedom of movement and expand trade connections in the west bank. Such actions are not rocket science; they can easily be done and they could make a big difference, if only to that family about whom the right hon. Lady spoke, with their crop of aubergines.

Such actions are vital to the Palestinian people, and they have helped to improve the humanitarian and economic situation, which is critical. We welcome Prime Minister Olmert’s pledge to ensure the continued supply of humanitarian aid to Gaza. As the right hon. Lady knows, we have earmarked funding for that project. It does not address the central issue that she has raised today, but there is an immediate humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which the international community must address. It is important that the international community works together to help all Palestinian people.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad’s Government have our full support, and we share their aim of restoring security and improving the economic and humanitarian situation. We continue to work with all people, including President Abbas, who are dedicated to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The right hon. Lady did not mention this point, because time is always limited in such debates, but President Abbas, among others, has said that there ought to be an international peacekeeping force in Gaza certainly, if not on the west bank. I can see the right hon. Lady shaking her head, and one cannot imagine who would donate the troops to such a force. They would have to fight their way in, there would be bloodshed and mayhem on a huge scale, and quite frankly, I cannot see the idea coming off.

To reinforce what the right hon. Lady said, we must understand the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, address it and at the same time, urge Israel as
hard as we possibly can to think again about its policy of incorporating Palestinian villages and land within the confines of that wall. As she said, the Israelis have a perfect right to defend themselves, and if they want to build a wall, it is up to them, but it ought to be along the agreed frontier—such as it is—that was defined in 1967. It ought not to encroach on Palestinian territory.

It is important that we receive such reports in the House. In so many ways, that is what such debates are for—so that we are reminded constantly of the reality of what can sometimes look like great, strategic trends and events on the world stage. However, for the family whom the right hon. Lady described so vividly, the reality is that their lives have been shattered. Many other families’ lives have been, too. I have always considered myself to be a friend of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. I was brought up in a home in which the dreams of everybody who was interested in the subject were about people living alongside each other peacefully, not even in separate states.

I shall not apportion blame; I have been around too long for that. I have seen the successive invasions of Israel, and what the Israelis have done in an attempt to head off what they perceive as threats to the Israeli heartland, which has usually meant extending territory. My message to the Israelis is simple; if they are to live in peace side by side with their neighbours, the Israelis must help them become viable states with economies that can live in a competitive world. They need the education, skills, infrastructure and wherewithal to do all that, but most important, they need the self-respect and dignity that we enjoy as members of sovereign states.

Clare Short: May I press the Minister to reconsider his view on Israeli access to the EU market? If we invoked the human rights conditionality in that treaty, we would have a lever with which to press Israel to do what he calls for. Does not our failure to use that leverage mean that we are colluding in the breach of international law? Will he reconsider his position on that point?

Dr. Howells: I certainly do not believe that we are colluding in any shape or form. I was going to come to that point, but with respect to the right hon. Lady, “colluding” is certainly the wrong word to use. I know that she chose that word very carefully, but I do not think that it is the right one. I can speak only subjectively from my meeting with other European Ministers. She, too, met her counterparts from the EU and other nations many times. There is at one extreme a sense of hopelessness, which she also described today in a very grim analysis of the situation. I am at the other extreme. I keep telling myself that we have material to work with, and that it is a very small part of the world. What is Gaza? Ten miles wide, and at the most, 35 to 40 miles long. It has a wonderful beach on the Mediterranean, and I remember vividly the first time I ever walked on it, thinking, “Why is this a poor part of the world? Why haven’t people here got any jobs?” It seemed mad to me.

The right hon. Lady expressed the hope that my right hon. Friend the new Prime Minister would take the issue by the scruff of the neck and try to do something with it. She knows that he has been very interested for a very long time in trying to work with the Israelis and the Arab countries in the area to do something about that economy and that infrastructure. I disagree with her about the effect of that general sense of good will towards Israel and Palestine—the desire throughout Europe that there should be a good outcome, and peace and prosperity in the future. In the end, we disagree about whether applying a screw to the Israelis on the question of human rights compliance would achieve a great deal.

We should at every possible opportunity engage the Israelis on human rights and on compliance with their undertakings, which, as a consequence, enable them to enjoy access to the European market. We should talk to them about that, but I have a feeling that there are already far too many strictures on all sides to add another one. It would just create more tension, and we should try to build on what we have, aim for the high ground and figure out how we can get there by engaging with both sides.
Mon Jul 09, 2007 1:36 am
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An important article here from Osamah Khalil, echoing Omar Barghouti's call (see entry, above) for a resuscitated PLO, tasked with purging Abbas et al and bringing about a new political realignment of the Palestinian groupings.


The revolution starts now
Osamah Khalil, The Electronic Intifada, 6 July 2007

No time in the recent history of the Palestinian people has appeared darker or more devoid of hope. Internally divided, splintered across the globe, and lacking effective representation, the Palestinian national movement is arguably at the lowest point in its history. Moreover, Palestine today serves as the harbinger of the future of an Arab world under siege, occupied by external forces allied with internal collaborators intent on sowing and feeding divisions. Outside of Palestine, refugees and exiles are under constant threat and pressure from Arab regimes and Western governments, with little or no support from the traditional institutions which once represented them on the world stage. Yet, if there is to be hope it is in the desiccated and ostensibly defunct Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to which Palestinians must turn. The time has come for Palestinians globally to regain and reinvigorate the institution that the world still recognizes as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."

This process begins with the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority. All Palestinians living under the 41st year of their occupation in the West Bank and Gaza must declare that they will no longer be a party to their own occupation. That they will not allow Israel to illegally withhold their tax revenues, while launching repeated incursions and invasions killing with virtual impunity. Nor will they permit representatives of their "government' to benefit financially and politically from Israel's occupation, from the construction of Israel's apartheid wall to the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and the suppression of political activity. For American President George W. Bush's favored sons -- Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, Mohammad Dahlan and their ilk -- to resign with what little dignity that remains and leave Palestine for whatever shore will take them, in order to allow a new PLO to emerge not tainted by the stench of corruption and collusion. Any government which is beholden to the financial and military support of its peoples' enemies is not deserving of either the title "Palestinian" or "Authority." Indeed, the time for this grotesque charade to end is now and it is long overdue.

As the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba approaches, it is time for Palestinian refugees in the Arab world and beyond to reassert their role as the vanguard of the Palestinian National Movement. To demand that they no longer be represented as a bargaining chip to be bartered by negotiators more interested in personal self-aggrandizement than the refugees' well-being or their internationally recognized rights. It is imperative that Palestinians living under occupation or in exile unite to revive and reform the PLO and hold new elections for the Palestine National Congress (PNC). Once elected, a new PNC would convene to announce an independent Palestinian state, a government-in-exile, and a strategy for victory that would unify Palestinian groups across the political spectrum, from secular to Islamist.

A reinvigorated PLO would also coordinate with the plethora of grass-roots organizations that have formed to oppose Israel's apartheid policies and advocating for the right of return. Currently these organizations operate independently with only intermittent coordination and suffer from a lack of financial and organizational support at the international level. Yet, they have had amazing achievements and made terrible sacrifices seeking justice for the Palestinian people. One can only imagine what could have been achieved over the past seven years with the institutional support of an internationally recognized organization representing all Palestinians. Surely, in an age of instant global communication, we should not have to imagine what is possible; we should strive to achieve it.

The Palestinians are blessed with an abundance of capable individuals across multiple generations living under occupation or in exile who can and must lead this new movement. Many have been politically active and working toward achieving justice either with the pre-Oslo PLO or with different organizations since the second intifada began. But the movement must also be open to all Palestinians who truly believe in a program of national unity, and who agree to invest in and work toward the goals elucidated by a new PLO. Self-determination begins with self-reliance. The Palestinian national movement once represented the hopes of oppressed people globally for justice and self-determination and it can once again.

However, the Palestinians can no longer look toward the Arab world, the United States, the members of the European Union, or the United Nations for support or assistance. The historical evidence of the past sixty years clearly demonstrates that they have no interest in Palestinian-self-determination or a truly independent Palestine. Moreover, they have actively colluded with Israel and the United States to prevent both. Indeed, the plethora of failed "peace" initiatives, whose worthless papers could pave a road from Washington to Jerusalem and the fetid carcass of the "peace process" rotting on its shoulder, illustrates the utter failure and deliberate impotence of the international community to resolve the plight of the Palestinians. While individuals from these nations and bodies can and are welcome to assist, the Palestinians must liberate themselves. The Palestinian national movement, which once stood proudly along other national liberation struggles, cannot be allowed to end with a descent into factional fighting, war-lord fragmentation and chaotic rule of the gun. Failure to act quickly to reverse this course will result not in an independent Palestinian state or a "one state solution," but rather with Palestinians huddled into open-air prisons ruled by a web of collaborators with the support and legitimacy of the international community.

The challenge ahead should not be underestimated. Not since the shaping of the modern Middle East at the end of World War I, has the region been so destabilized through external pressure and riven by internal factional conflict. Moreover, as demonstrated by recent events in Gaza and Lebanon, the Palestinian people remain surrounded by powerful enemies who are intent on their subjugation and defeat. As they did after 1948, the Arab governments are again actively suppressing Palestinian political activity, while publicly espousing the rhetoric of Arab unity and brotherhood. Meanwhile Bush's "vision" of a Palestinian state has proven to be a nightmarish, Guernica-like chimera whose abyss we are quickly sliding toward. We must not falter or tarry; the time for change has come. The revolution starts now or it won't start at all.

Osamah Khalil is a doctoral candidate in US and Middle East History at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on US foreign policy in the Middle East. He is a Palestinian-American who has traveled, studied, and researched throughout the Middle East. He can be reached at okhalil AT berkeley DOT edu.
Mon Jul 09, 2007 2:08 am
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