Monthly Archives: May 2011

Congress Becomes a Mob of Mindless, Cheering Sycophants

By James M. Wall Scenes like the one above evoked veteran Jewish activist Uri Avnery to write this harsh description in his weekly Israeli-based column, Gush-Shalom: It was all rather disgusting. No one has said it better, nor with greater passion. … Continue reading

Posted in Middle East Politics, Politics and Elections | 16 Comments

Obama Speech Mired in Zionist Rhetoric

By James M. Wall Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu returned to Washington this weekend for his annual love fest with AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is holding its annual Policy Committee meeting Sunday through Tuesday. President Obama … Continue reading

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“I Got Vision and the Rest of the World Wears Bifocals”

JTC, “the global new service of the Jewish people”, described the Nakba Day events as a “breach” of Israel’s northern border”. Hamad Almakt/Flash 90

Cote De Pablo

Uriel Heilman writing from Tel Aviv, touches on the familiar theme of hyperbolic paranoia in that breach.

http://bit.ly/kWpCEh
“If a single phrase could capture the sentiment that motivated thousands of Arabs to try to cross Israel’s borders on Sunday to “retake Palestine” from the Jews, it would be this: Yes, we can.”

That can-do attitude had toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and threatened dictators from Tripoli to Damascus. So why not apply it toward Israel? If Arab leaders weren’t willing to send their armies to storm the Zionist state, the Arab protesters figured, well then, they’d just do it themselves.

The charge toward Israel’s borders from Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank led to the most violent day in Israel in months, with about a dozen protesters reportedly killed by Israeli fire — some on foreign soil — and a suspected terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that left one Israeli civilian dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Sunday that Israel would do what it needed to defend itself.

“Let nobody be mistaken, we are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty,” he said.

Coming on Nakba day – the annual date Arabs mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth on May 15, 1948 – the protests signaled that the Arab Spring, which until now has spared Israel, may be arriving at the borders of the Jewish state. Among Palestinians, calls for a third Palestinian intifada are rising – at least on Facebook.

“The whole Arab world is roiling around the Nakba,” Professor Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, told JTA. “Add to that that youngsters think they can make a difference. They decided that instead of just shouting and demonstrating, they’d go across the border.”

For Israel, the breach of the Syria-Israel border came as something of a surprise. It marked the first major violence along the border since the May 1974 disengagement agreement that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In the Golan Heights, hundreds of Arabs from Syria reported to be Palestinians surged through a part of the border known as the Shouting Hill, so named because Druze relatives on opposite sides of the boundary use it to shout to each other by bullhorn. The few Israeli troops stationed in the area tried to keep the marchers at bay. Shots were fired; as many as four people were reported killed.

As scores surged across the border and into the Druze town of Majdal Shams — near one of the only parts of the border not covered by mines because it occasionally serves as an international crossing point — the Israel Defense Forces dispatched reinforcements and set up checkpoints around the town to catch infiltrators. The infiltrators who were caught were sent back to Syria.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops stationed along the international boundary with Lebanon used live fire to keep back thousands of protesters from Lebanon. At least 10 people were reported killed, some by Lebanese army fire, according to the IDF.

In Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinian demonstrators attacked Israeli checkpoints, and Israeli soldiers responded mostly with tear gas. Demonstrators in Egypt and Jordan also sought to force their way into Israel, but they were held back by local troops.

Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, called on residents of northern Israel to prepare to take up arms to defend the homeland, warning on Israel Radio: “Sixty-three years on, the War of Independence of the State of Israel is not over.”

http://bit.ly/irdGNw
President Obama will address this year’s AIPAC conference.
Obama’s decision to keynote the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference, rumored for days, was confirmed Monday by Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, to reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One. AIPAC confirmed the news.

The Associated Press quoted Carney as saying that Obama will not outline policy in his speech but instead will focus on the “deep bond” with Israel.

Obama is scheduled to meet Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also will address AIPAC. The day before the meeting, Obama is slated to deliver a policy speech on Arab democracy.

http://huff.to/keWdgh

MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights — Mobilized by calls on Facebook, thousands of Arab protesters marched on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, sparking clashes that left at least 15 people dead in an annual Palestinian mourning ritual marking the anniversary of Israel’s birth.

In a surprising turn of events, hundreds of Palestinians and supporters poured across the Syrian frontier and staged riots, drawing Israeli accusations that Damascus, and its ally Iran, orchestrated the unrest to shift attention from an uprising back home. It was a rare incursion from the usually tightly controlled Syrian side and could upset the delicate balance between the two longtime foes. . . . .

Palestinians were marking the “nakba,” or “catastrophe” – the term they use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war that followed Israel’s founding on May 15, 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted. Today, the surviving refugees and their descendants number several million people.

Butch Cassidy: [to Sundance] Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs Mark Harmon
Anthony DiNozzo Michael Weatherly
by Alan Hart, writing in Veterans’ Today http://bit.ly/jrWjwK

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a master of Zionist double-speak and deception, is about to undertake the most important assignment of his life. Because of its continuing occupation and oppression of the Palestinians (not to mention on-going property and land grabs), Israel is becoming a pariah state so far as a growing number of the citizens of nations are concerned.

The main purpose of Netanyahu’s forthcoming trip to America is to launch a public relations campaign to rebrand Israel in the hope of stopping the rot of its growing isolation.

Newsweek:
In a recent interview with Newsweek, one senior Israeli official said Mitchell often would say one thing about the direction the U.S. was taking with the two sides, only to be contradicted by Dennis Ross, Clinton’s special adviser to the region. The official, who did not want to be quoted by name, said it seemed as if Mitchell had abdicated his role completely in recent months. Indeed, Mitchell’s frequent visits to Israel and the West Bank slowed to a trickle; his last visit to the region was in December. http://bit.ly/

Daniel Levy on Mitchell http://bit.ly/leONJn

Bibi will try to rebrand Israel http://bit.ly/jrWjwK

Gideon Levy ethnic cleansing Ha’aretz http://bit.ly/lQ38ZN

Neve Gordon Israel’s repressive new laws http://bit.ly/lULaxJ

Phillip Weiss on Mitchell http://bit.ly/j8mbV0

Hamas a political entity http://bit.ly/lZSQSw Continue reading

Posted in Middle East Politics

“If You Build It, the (Palestinian) State Will Come”

Beirut

“REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.
This is
one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages , too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.
Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.
Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” God admonished them, “And you are singing?”
These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.

onathan Cook, writes on May 5, from Nazareth, Israel, for CounterPunch http://bit.ly/insQG7

Israeli officials have expressed alarm at a succession of moves by the interim Egyptian government that they fear signal an impending crisis in relations with Cairo.

The widening rift was underscored yesterday when leaders of the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact in the Egyptian capital. Egypt’s secret role in brokering the agreement last week caught both Israel and the United States by surprise.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”.

Several other developments have added to Israeli concerns about its relations with Egypt, including signs that Cairo hopes to renew ties with Iran and renegotiate a long-standing contract to supply Israel with natural gas.

More worrying still to Israeli officials are reported plans by Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, closed for the past four years as part of a Western-backed blockade of the enclave designed to weaken Hamas, the ruling Islamist group there.

Egypt is working out details to permanently open the border, an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. The blockade would effectively come to an end as a result.

http://bit.ly/k7PpLL

As the former head of the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Legal Department has argued:

“If you do something for long enough the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries . . . . International law progresses through violations.”

A colleague of his has extended this notion by pointing out that:

“The more often Western states apply principles that originated in Israel to their own non-traditional conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, then the greater the chance these principles have of becoming a valuable part of international law.”

These references to Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the extent to which the United States, once the principal champion of a rule-bound international order, has followed Israel in replacing legal principles with expediency as the central regulator of its interaction with foreign peoples. The expediently amoral doctrine of preemptive war is such an Israeli transplant in the American neo-conservative psyche. Neither it nor other deliberate assaults on the rule of law have been met with concerted resistance from Palestinians, Arabs, or anyone else, including the American Bar Association. The steady displacement of traditional American values – indeed, the core doctrines of western civilization – with ideas designed to free the state of inconvenient moral constraints has debased the honor and prestige of our country as well as Israel.

. . . . .

Given the protracted failure of U.S. diplomacy in the Israel-Palestine arena, Palestinians and others may be forgiven for believing that it is time to entrust peacemaking to other parties who are more objective, less politically constrained and less emotionally biased. Others in Europe and elsewhere have taken alarmed note of the adverse effects of the unending conflict on Israel, on the Palestinians, on Arab politics, on regional stability, on inter-religious relations, on the moral standing of global Jewry and Islam, on Arab and Islamic relations with the West, on international law and organizations and on world order. Media outside the United States have taken progressively more balanced and nuanced note of the human suffering in the Holy Land. Europeans and others now evidence a considerably greater sense of urgency about these problems than Americans have done. The notion that only Americans have the capacity to manage conflict resolution in the Middle East will no longer withstand scrutiny. One recalls the role of Norway in crafting the Oslo Accords. Perhaps, now that the United States has struck out, it’s someone else’s turn at bat.

Ambassador Freeman points the way to what could, should and must happen in 2011.

A new game is clearly beginning. A self-confident, religiously tolerant but secular Turkey has emerged as a major influence on regional affairs and as an inspiration to its democrats. Arab diplomacy is being invigorated by the aftereffects of the revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere. There is mounting pressure on all Arab governments to accord greater deference to popular opinion in both domestic and foreign policy. The Middle East will no longer allow itself to be the diplomatic playground of great powers outside it. There will, however, be new opportunities for interested outside parties to forge diplomatic partnerships with those in the region.

And the attacks on Freeman, in the end, hinged primarily on the question of Israel, something the Democratic senators who helped break the back of the nomination Tuesday made clear.

“His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration,” said Senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. “I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”

Hours before the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, expressed his “regret” at Freeman’s withdrawal, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told Blair he was concerned about “statements that [Freeman]’s made that appear either to be inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China.”

In particular, Freeman has described “Israeli violence against Palestinians” as a key barrier to Mideast peace, and referred to violence in Tibet last year – widely seen in the United States as a revolt against Chinese occupation – as a “race riot.”

Freeman left no doubt about where he places blame in a written statement after his withdrawal.

“The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East,” he wrote.

Sharabi was born in Jaffa, Palestine. He received his undergraduate degree from American University and an MA from t
chairman of the National Intelligence Council
he University of Chicago. He died, at the age of 78 in Beruit.
Wall Writings September 9, 2009: http://bit.ly/kzn1Jd
Another encouraging sign is the program Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad(pictured above) has developed, a lengthy document describing a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, with borders along the 1967 Green Line.

In his Post column, President Carter referred to the Fayyad program. Javier Solana, secretary general of the Council of the European Union, for the United Nations is a strong supporter of the two-state solution:

. . . Solana proposes that the United Nations recognize the pre-1967 border between Israel and Palestine, and deal with the fate of Palestinian refugees and how Jerusalem would be shared.

Palestine would become a full U.N. member and enjoy diplomatic relations with other nations, many of which would be eager to respond. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described to us [the Elders traveling with Carter] his unilateral plan for Palestine to become an independent state.

Fayyad’s program was published under the optimistic title, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” It was described in the Huffington Post by Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttub, as “brilliant”:

Palestinians have finally started to act in a different way. Instead of cursing the occupation, the new strategy is aimed at building up the desired Palestinian state.

The idea is to force the Israelis to the negotiating table rather than beg them to come. The way to do that is to work for a state as if there were negotiations. This idea has been brilliantly developed by the Palestinian prime minister.

Salam Fayyad proposal for the de facto creation of a Palestinian state within two years is a brilliant idea that is hard to ignore or oppose it.

Fayyad’s blueprint includes plans to end the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel, unify the legal system and downsize the government. The idea, submitted by him after weeks of meetings with his ministers and staff, also involves building infrastructure, harnessing natural energy sources and water, and improving housing, education and agriculture.

As a recent London Guardian column puts it: “If you build it, the state will come”.

4 May 2011
The Palestine Center
Washington, DC

Amb Chas Freeman:

I am honored to have been asked to give the annual [Hisham B.] Sharabi [Memorial] Lecture here at the Palestine Center. As all of you know, Dr. Hisham Sharabi helped found this Center, as well as the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. He was a great figure in the study of Arab politics and society. He was also an indefatigable advocate of Palestinian rights. I never met him, but I feel privileged to speak to you today in his memory. My topic is the tragic consequences of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians for them, for their region, for their backers and for the world as a whole. Continue reading

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Why Palestinian Unity is the Only Option that Works for Palestinians

Khalid Mish’al is the head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniya
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Posted in Middle East Politics | 8 Comments