Daily Archives: May 7, 2011

“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

Posted in Middle East Politics | 12 Comments