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    Israël - Palestina Info: Background Articles & Opinions

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    Background Articles & Opinions Renewing the Direct Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (INSS)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 29 August @ 04:42:14 GMT+1 (1301 maal gelezen)

    Renewing the Direct Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
    INSS Insight No. 203, August 26, 2010
    Brom, Shlomo

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be renewed on September 2, 2010 in Washington. The talks will be launched in the presence of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, and President Obama; also invited to the inaugural meeting are President Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Quartet emissary Tony Blair. After the initial meeting, the sides will proceed to direct talks, in the United States or in this region, and continue with active American involvement. A similar announcement was also issued by the Quartet.

    The renewal of the talks was made possible following heavy pressure leveled by the United States on Abbas to concede his three conditions for renewing the talks. The first was that the talks be conducted according to principles determined in advance relating to the territorial component of the agreement. Abbas demanded that it be agreed in advance that the solution be based on the 1967 borders with the exception of some limited land swaps. The second condition was predetermining a negotiations schedule, and the third condition was that Israel extend the construction freeze in the settlements after it expires on September 26.

    The announcements by Clinton and the Quartet were meant in part to make it easier for Abbas to agree to renew the talks by mitigating the political cost he will have to pay to the Palestinian public in light of what is seen as capitulation to American and Israeli pressure. However, from Abbas' perspective it is doubtful that the announcements will have their desired effect. He has already been attacked on the internal Palestinian front for his "surrender," and even within Fatah, his own party, his decision is not enjoying much support.

    It is unclear whether the US administration made any promises to the Palestinians to ensure the start of the talks, and if they did, what they were. Clinton's announcement contained two elements of importance to Abbas, though these were formulated in a non-committal way. The first referred to the timetable, namely, the hope that the talks would reach a conclusion within one year. The second referred to active American involvement in the talks. There were reports in the Arab media – so far unsubstantiated – that President Obama has given the Palestinians guarantees that the territorial solution would be based on the 1967 borders and include limited land swaps for territory identical in size. It was likewise reported that the Americans would be prepared to present bridging proposals reflecting Palestinian considerations. It is also possible that the Americans promised Abbas that if he agreed to direct talks, they would be able to persuade Netanyahu to continue the construction freeze de facto, even without a public declaration to that effect.

    All sides share low expectations about the talks' prospects of success, even if the US American administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu thought the announcement merited some optimistic statements, including Netanyahu's declaration that the Palestinians will be surprised by his proposals. This remark hints at greater willingness on his part to meet them part way.

    Already at the outset there will be a number of hurdles that the sides will have to overcome to prevent an early breakdown of the talks. The first hurdle is agreement on the order of the agenda. While the Palestinians have agreed to the American suggestion to begin by discussing security and territory in tandem, Netanyahu has demanded that the talks start by discussing security and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. He conditions the discussion of other issues on agreement in these areas. Yet if Netanyahu indeed insists on this demand, the talks will likely be nipped in the bud, with the United States siding with the Palestinians over this.

    The second hurdle is the construction freeze. The Palestinians have made it entirely clear that renewed construction in the settlements will end the talks. The United States will likely attempt to reach an understanding with Israel over continuing the construction freeze, barring in the settlements close to the Green Line, including the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. However, continuing to expand the settlements in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem will almost certainly end the talks. Similarly, it is unclear if the Palestinians will accept a compromise that would allow construction in even some of the locations. It may be that given the current political situation, the most convenient scenario for Abbas is one in which he ends the talks because of construction in the settlements. In that case, the decision to renew the talks will only have temporarily postponed the crisis that was already expected to erupt in September.

    On the face of it, starting the talks without preconditions was a political victory for Netanyahu, who managed to twist Abbas' arm while ensuring the unity of his coalition. The Labor Party cannot threaten to leave because of the political stalemate, and he has not made any concessions that are liable to annoy his coalition partners on the right. The question is whether this is not in fact a Pyrrhic victory. Israel dragged a weakened, humiliated partner into the negotiations, which weakens this partner politically and denies it legitimacy in the Palestinian public. A weak negotiator is incapable of reaching compromises over sensitive issues. In addition, Netanyahu's opening positions are presumably far removed from the positions presented by then- Prime Minister Olmert to the Palestinians. As such, the gaps between the stances of the two sides are now greater than they were a year and a half ago. Hence, even if the talks do not break down immediately, the probability that Israel and the Palestinians will be able to bridge the gaps between them within a year seems highly far-fetched.

    If so, the three parties – Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States – will have to consider other options as well. The Palestinians will again consider the option of a unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state with international backing. It may also be that in the given situation, the only realistic step would be to return to the Roadmap route and consider an interim solution of establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders. At the same time, the negotiations over a permanent settlement would continue, based on the assumption that arriving at a permanent agreement would require a longer period of time and might also depend on political changes on both sides.

    An additional question touches on the role of the United States in the direct talks. On the one hand, the distrust between Israel and the Palestinians requires active American involvement, particularly viable bridging proposals. On the other hand, precisely because of the distrust and the assessment of both sides that the talks are destined to fail, there is a danger that the American presence will encourage both sides to talk to the Americans rather to one another. In this case, the goal of the two sides would be primarily to convince the Americans that the expected failure should be attributed to the other side. Thus, the American team involved in the talks will have to navigate very carefully in order to avoid contributing to their failure.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Study shows Dutch newspaper's bias against Israel (Ratna Pelle)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 10 March @ 05:03:05 GMT+1 (1213 maal gelezen)

    Study shows Dutch newspaper's bias against Israel24.01. 2010
    Original content copyright by the author

    NRC Handelsblad
    is one of the leading quality newspapers in the Netherlands, and thus a logical subject for a study of bias in reporting about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I conducted such a study in 2008 and 2009, in collaboration with the WAAR foundation, a group of volunteers who are alarmed by the anti-Israel bias in Dutch media in recent years. I picked two time periods to monitor: the winter of 2007-2008 and last year's Gaza War and its aftermath.

    Last September I published the findings on the Internet in Dutch, after the newspaper itself declined to comment on the study. Recently I added an English summary of the study. See: Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Dutch Media: A study of NRC Handelsblad.

    The main question investigated was whether NRC Handelsblad reported in an evenhanded and impartial way about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Did it give attention to all relevant facts and views on the conflict, without pushing the reader in a particular direction? Another important question was how NRC's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict relates to its own journalistic principles.

    The two time periods examined included 203 articles dealing with the conflict. These articles were evaluated on the basis of several criteria:

    * Whose perspective is given in the article?
    * Which people are cited or interviewed?
    * Are both sides heard?
    * Are events and actions put into a broader context?
    * Are claims substantiated?
    * Do reporters bring their own opinions into the article?
    * Is the wording neutral or shaded?
    * Does the article contain factual errors?
    * Are headlines or illustrations suggestive or misleading?
    * Which sources were used?

    These criteria were used to systematically grade articles as neutral or biased. The grading system ranked articles according to three degrees of bias --- somewhat, moderate, or strong --- and also differentiated between material that favored one side and that which worked to the detriment of the other side.

    The study found that only 33 percent of NRC Handelsblad news articles, 14 percent of background articles and 10 percent of opinion pieces dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict maintained a posture of neutrality, while 66 percent of news articles, 84 percent of background articles and 86 percent of opinion pieces examined showed bias in favor of the Palestinians or to the detriment of Israel. Only 2 articles in NRC Handelsblad - less than 1 percent of the total studied - leaned in Israel's favor.

    NRC Handelsblad is not religiously or ideologically bound and says in its own charter that it promotes a diversity of opinions and is wary of every form of authority. The newspaper, however, turned out to be very biased in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It reserved more space for Palestinian views, treated Palestinian sources differently and used them more frequently, and published only op-eds from the pro-Palestinian side. Often the reporter or journalist gave his personal view in news articles.

    In its own op-eds NRC Handelsblad made clear that it blamed Israel for the siege of the Gaza Strip, for the continuation of building over the green line, for the failing of the peace process, for Israel being to aggressive towards the Palestinians, and during the Gaza War for excessive violence and collective punishment of the Palestinian population. Also, it argued that Hamas had become more pragmatic and that the boycott of Hamas turned out to be counterproductive.

    All these views could also be found in the news articles, in the choice of people being interviewed and the questions being asked, and in the op-eds by others that it published. NRC Handelsblad also published many unsubstantiated reports and accusations by Palestinians about Israeli misbehavior and cruelty, without quoting anyone from the Israeli side. Palestinian violence and incitement were ignored almost completely.

    In background articles, the NRC correspondent in Israel explained about Israel's successful and sophisticated PR war, and how it was also winning this war from the helpless Palestinians. One article quoted Economist correspondent Gideon Lichfield as writing in Haaretz that Israeli hasbara is so well-developed that its spokespeople could talk the hind legs off a donkey and then persuade it to dance the hora. (January 8, 2009, "Een oorlog verslaan ver van het front".) The reporter wrote about Israeli press kits with addresses and information about all the Qassam victims and spokespeople who walked around and offered the foreign journalists their help in perfect English. This was during the Gaza War, and he was probably referring to the hill near Sderot where journalists gathered and complained because they were not allowed into the Gaza Strip. Of course, the fact that they were not allowed into Gaza was also an important subject in such articles and it was claimed that journalists were only able to see the Israeli side for that reason. In reality, readers of newspapers and viewers of television in the Netherlands had plenty of footage and information from Gaza, from Palestinian cameramen and reporters and from journalists from Al Jazeera who were already in Gaza before it was closed to journalists.

    NRC Handelsblad had only a single article during the Gaza War in which one man from Ashdod briefly told that he had barely escaped death as a rocket fell near his home. About half of the article was devoted to Israeli critics of the Gaza War. There was not a single report from Sderot, not during the Gaza War and not in the other period I monitored. Of course, the newspaper never had an article about Palestinian PR efforts, about how Palestinians manipulate the news by staging things, about their sometimes exaggerated stories about massacres and atrocities. It was, in short, good against evil, the all-powerful Israel against the poor helpless Palestinians, David against Goliath.

    Other newspapers and news programs in the Netherlands show a similar one-sidedness. Especially during the Gaza War, they mostly showed the Palestinian perspective, and information from Palestinian sources was used more frequently and presented as more truthfully than information from Israeli sources, except of course when the Israeli sources were critical to Israel. Israeli and Jewish critics of Israel are very popular with Dutch media, and tiny critical or even anti-Zionist organizations get a lot of media exposure in comparison to the larger and more mainstream Jewish organizations.

    Comparing Israel to the Nazis and describing Gaza as the Warsaw ghetto and the like has become rather mainstream in the Netherlands recently, encouraged by columnists and high-profile critics including left-wing politicians and activists. Zionism is supposedly based on the same ideology of racial purity and superiority as Nazism proclaimed, and the Zionists were from the outset out to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians. It is a view which has become increasingly normal and acceptable to voice in Western Europe.

    The Dutch WAAR foundation and the Israel-based Israel Facts monitor group together published a report on the coverage of the Gaza War by the main Dutch evening news show, the NOS Journaal. More such studies will probably be carried out in the coming year to show that it is not just a problem of one particular newspaper or news program, but a general tendency.

    Despite the pro-Palestinian bias of the media in the Netherlands, many people still think the media show more understanding for Israel's side, as they did in the (distant) past. A few years ago, Joris Luyendijk, a former Dutch Middle-East correspondent, wrote a book about his experiences, which became a bestseller. He also reproduced (and reinforced) the myth that the Israeli PR is so successful and 'sneaky' and the Palestinians are the poor oppressed victims on all counts. He has been a much-seen guest in talk shows, and he wrote many op-eds about the Middle East. With these studies of the NOS news show and NRC Handelsblad we aimed to show that Luyendijk and likeminded people are mistaken, and the situation is actually the other way around, and we hope to get a discussion started about the role and responsibilities of the media regarding the conflict.

    The media coverage on Israel and the Palestinians is not without consequences. People have become much more sympathetic to the Palestinians. It has become normal to view Israel as an aggressive or even rogue state that oppresses a defenseless people. Moreover, anti-Semitic feelings and utterances have grown, especially during the Gaza War and other conflicts. Jews feel increasingly unsafe, particularly in or near neighborhoods with a large population of Moroccan descent. During the Gaza War there have been several anti-Semitic incidents, and there have been demonstrations were angry young Dutch Moroccans shouted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans. Their extreme views on the conflict are not corrected in our media and schools, and there is a tendency to show more and more understanding for their anger and their viewpoint.

    Not all of these developments are due to the media of course, but they do play a role in the increasing polarization regarding the Middle East conflict. Anti-Zionists in particular have become more vocal and more extreme in their views and their verbal attacks on sympathizers of Israel. This is illustrated by the enormous amount of anti-Semitic reactions in talkbacks on the internet, not in the last place on the websites of quality newspapers like NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant. It is not possible to read just one such 'discussion' without finding Nazi comparisons and rantings that an all-powerful Jewish lobby controls the world, that Israel was only created because of the Holocaust and that the Palestinians are paying for our sins. Jews have become the perpetrators and the Palestinians have become the new Jews. It is hard to blame such talkbackers for writing things not too different from what is written in op-eds by renowned historians like Thomas von der Dunk.

    Unfortunately, the reports on the coverage of the NOS and NRC have both been ignored by the mainstream media, and only pro-Israel websites and blogs have written about them. The media are extremely reluctant to write about critical studies about other media. Also, as an anti-Zionist view is trendy and viewed as new, refreshing and breaking taboos, it is much harder to get your point across when you disagree with that view than when you go with it like Luyendijk did and many with him.

    Ratna Pelle

    (This post was revised 09.03.2010 - Thanks to Ami, Joe and Wouter for corrections.)

    The English language summary is at: Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Dutch Media: A study of NRC Handelsblad
    The complete Dutch study is at: Krantenonderzoek NRC Handelsblad berichtgeving Israëlisch-Palestijns Conflict

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    Background Articles & Opinions Mohammed al-Dura - Israel's greatest PR failure (Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 30 January @ 12:51:05 GMT+1 (909 maal gelezen)

    Haaretz / Last update - 09:01 24/01/2010 
    Mohammed al-Dura - Israel's greatest PR failure
    By Reuven Pedatzur

    The photograph of Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura crouching behind a cement-filled barrel in a fruitless effort to avoid being hit by the bullets of Israeli soldiers became a symbol of the cruelty and brutality of Israel. It established the image of the Israel Defense Forces as a bloodthirsty army, operating on the basis of unacceptable norms. At the end of the 55-second footage aired by the France 2 television station, reporter Charles Enderlin declared that "Mohammed is dead," opening "the floodgates to a torrent of vengeance," as Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff wrote in their book "The Seventh War."

    Mohammed al-Dura became a martyr, a symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people against a ruthless occupier. Postage stamps bearing an image of the father and son were issued throughout the Arab world, and streets were named after the boy.

    The story of Mohammed al-Dura was a tremendous propaganda victory for the Palestinians. But it was also Israel's biggest public relations failure, and it is unclear why. There is plenty of evidence showing that the story about the boy's death was a show skillfully orchestrated by the Palestinians.

    What is troubling in this affair is that official Israel ignored the testimonies and investigations that began piling up immediately after the incident. The documentary by the German journalist Esther Shapira, and the investigation by French businessman Philippe Karsenty, raise suspicions that Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma who shot the footage that was delivered to France 2 meddled with the story. And many others were party to this effort.

    The cameraman's testimony is full of contradictions. He says that "the soldiers shot the two in cold blood for 45 minutes." However, if the IDF soldiers wanted to hit Mohammed and his father in "cold blood" they could have killed them in less than a minute. Regarding the question of how many bullets were fired toward the two, Abu Rahma said "at least 400." The wall at the site of the incident clearly shows eight holes.

    Karsenty managed to acquire the raw footage of Abu Rahma, including the 10 seconds of film after Enderlin declares that "Mohammed is dead," which shows the child raising his hand and peering toward the camera. Nowhere in the footage are bullets seen hitting the bodies of father and son, even though the father claims he was hit by 12 bullets and his son by three. No blood was found at the site of the incident.

    Mohammed al-Dura was buried in a funeral attended by masses. However, the child who was buried was brought to Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip at 10 A.M., according to the testimony of a doctor who admitted him. The shots at the Netzarim junction began only at 2 P.M., and Mohammed was taken away from the site at 3 P.M. In the photographs shown by a Gaza pathologist, a child who had been hit by bullets is seen, but his injuries are not the sort that Jamal spoke of. While the father says that Mohammed was hit in his right leg, the boy at Shifa was hit in his left leg. A biometric identification expert compared the photograph of the child who was buried and the child at the Netzarim junction, and found that they are different.

    The father, Jamal, claims that 12 bullets hit his body, and he proudly shows off the scars on his arms. However, Shapira found Dr. Yehuda David, who says that he operated on him six years before the incident and that the scars are the result of knife wounds.

    Nonetheless, official Israel is silent. A golden opportunity to challenge the credibility of the Palestinian version on one of the most formative events in the history of the conflict is being missed, and it is hard to understand why. The IDF, more than once, has sinned in the excessive use of military force, which leads to the death of innocents. But when it turns out that in the Dura affair IDF soldiers did not hit a child and his father, those responsible for public relations at the IDF are silent, as is the Foreign Ministry. Thus Israel relinquishes the media front to the Palestinians, who are taking advantage of it with sophistication while using television stations that sympathize with their cause such as France 2.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Why are Americans so Pro-Israel? (Jeff Jacoby)
    Geplaatst door abby op Friday 25 December @ 00:18:26 GMT+1 (981 maal gelezen)

    by Jeff Jacoby

    Four reasons that put Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world.

    Why are Americans so pro-Israel?

    Of all the ways in which the United States marches to the beat of its own drummer, few are more striking than the American people's consistent and deep-rooted support for the Jewish state. In a recent nationwide survey, the Gallup organization asked Americans: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" For the fourth year in a row, 59 percent - nearly 6 in 10 - said their sympathies were with Israel, while just 18 percent sided with the Palestinians. When respondents were asked for their opinion of various countries, 63 percent said they had a favorable view of Israel (21 percent said very favorable), compared with just 15 percent who thought highly of the Palestinian Authority.

    Conversely, only 29 percent of Americans told Gallup that their opinion of Israel was negative, even as a whopping 73 percent expressed a negative attitude toward the Palestinians.

    This overwhelmingly positive feeling for Israel is normal for the United States, but it puts Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world. At the United Nations, for example, nothing is more routine than the castigation of Israel. Similarly, any time Israel is forced to use its military power in self-defense, it comes under the harsh glare of the international media, which subject it to a scrutiny far more unforgiving than any other country receives. It was only a few years ago that a poll commissioned by the European Union found that a plurality of Europeans regarded Israel as the greatest threat to world peace - more menacing than even North Korea or Iran.

    So what makes Americans different?

    Foreign policy "realists" could certainly suggest reasons why close friendship with Israel is not in America's interest, beginning with the fact that most of the world doesn't share it. There are 300 million or more Arabs in the world, and they sit atop a vast share of the world's oil supply. Why endanger American access to that oil by maintaining such close ties to a nation with only 6 million people and no petroleum to export? Why risk incurring the wrath of Islamic terrorists by supporting Israel, a nation most of them detest? Surely it would make more sense - so a "realist" might argue - for Americans to distance themselves from the world's lone Jewish state, and tilt instead toward the much greater number of nations and governments that are hostile to Israel.

    Yet most Americans instinctively reject such advice. The national consensus in support of Israel is longstanding and durable, and it isn't grounded in economics, energy policy, or a quest for diplomatic popularity. Nor, as some conspiracy-minded critics have claimed, is it because a "Zionist lobby" in Washington routinely hijacks US foreign policy, manipulating America into serving Israel's ends.

    The roots of America's bond with Israel lie elsewhere.

    First, Americans stand with Israel because in it they recognize a liberal democracy much like their own: a nation in which elections are lively, fair, and democratic; in which freedom of speech and the press are core values; in which the political rights of minorities are respected; and in which a commitment to civil liberties and justice is woven into the very fabric of society.

    Second, Americans know that Israel is a stable ally in one of the world's most critical and volatile regions. Its intelligence service is perhaps the world's finest, its military is the best in the Middle East, and its painfully acquired expertise in counterterrorism is invaluable - all the more so as we wage our own war against jihadi terrorists.

    Third, Americans sympathize with Israel because they understand that the enemies of Israel state hate the United States as well. The suicide bombers who revel in the death of innocent Jews, the fanatics who chant "Death to Israel," the Iranian- and Syrian-backed forces that launch rockets from Gaza or Lebanon with the aim of shedding Israeli blood - they are steeped in the same murderous ideology as Osama bin Laden and the Islamists who slaughtered so many Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

    And fourth, there is a deep religious bond between American Christians and the Jewish people, a bond that stretches back to the earliest era of American history. More than a century before the Revolutionary War, the Puritan leader Increase Mather taught his followers to anticipate the day when the Jews would return to their homeland and establish "the most glorious nation in the whole world." In 1819, former President John Adams wrote of his wish to see "the Jews again in Judea an independent nation." Today, tens of millions of American evangelicals passionately support - even love - the Jewish state, and consider it nothing less than their duty as Christians to stand with Israel and her people.

    Why are Americans so pro-Israel? For reasons practical and idealistic, religious and strategic. They are linked by the kinship of common values - an affinity of strength and decency that reflects the best of both nations, and sets them apart from the other nations of the world.

    This article originally appeared in the MetroWest Jewish Reporter

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    Background Articles & Opinions Why a Peace Agreement with the PLO has not been Reached (Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 17 December @ 00:54:29 GMT+1 (1889 maal gelezen)

    Why a Peace Agreement with the PLO has not been Reached
    Ze’ev B. Begin
    [Translation by Israel GPO]
    Published (in Hebrew) in Haaretz – 5 Dec 2009

    "To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them," wrote former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (The Washington Post, 17.7.2009). "It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions."
    The main elements of Olmert's proposal, as understood by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mahzan) were: acceptance of the principle of the "right of return" for Palestinian Arab refugees and resettling thousands of them in Israel; Israel’s withdrawal from 98 percent of the territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza; and a land swap for the remaining two percent (Washington Post, 29.5.09). In addition, Olmert proposed a "safe passage" between Gaza and Judea; acceptance of the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State; and relinquishing Israel's sovereignty on the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the City of David while proposing a joint administration of these sites by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the PLO, the United States and Israel (The Australian, 28.11.09).
    What this means is that at the end of 2008 Mahmoud Abbas rejected a concrete proposal for the establishment of a state in all of Samaria, Judea and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem. The failure of the recent negotiations, following the failure of the previous round of negotiations in 2000, demands an explanation.

    As a first attempt to explain the recent failure, it was suggested, mainly in Israel, that the belated nature of the offer and the weakness of the Olmert government at the time the offer was made led the PLO to reject it. PLO leaders, however, at no point questioned the prime minister's authority to negotiate with them, just as they did not question the authority of Ehud Barak in 2000, after he lost his parliamentary majority. The PLO leaders suggested more substantial explanations for the most recent failure.
    Saeb Erekat asserted that Jerusalem had been left unsolved (Al Jazeera, 27.3.09; translations from Arabic are by the Middle East Media Research Institute, and appear on its Web site). He later claimed that the problem had been Israel's refusal to acknowledge PLO sovereignty in the entire area up to the 1967 lines before attempting a detailed demarcation of the border (Al Dustour, 25.6.09). Recently, Mahmoud Abbas stated that it was the number of refugees who would be allowed to return to Israel that had remained in dispute (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 10.11.09). However, of all these, the most precise and thorough explanation for the failure of the negotiations is to be found in the simple words of Abbas: "The gaps were wide" (The Washington Post, 29.5.09). Obviously, to narrow the gaps after all the concessions Israel offered, the      PLO still demands more.
    This means that the explanation for the rejection of Israel's far-reaching proposals is a profound one, and is to be found in the adherence of the PLO leadership to the traditional, extremist positions of the movement. While it has been argued that these positions are no longer valid, they were in fact recently reaffirmed by the sixth Fatah conference in Bethlehem, convened in August 2009.
    Resolutions of the Fatah Conference
    The principal ideological resolution of the conference reads: "The goals, principles and methods, as they are written in Chapter One of the [Fatah] charter, are the basic point of departure for our movement, and are part of the ideological and political identity of our people." The Charter is posted on the official Fatah Web site, and includes, in Chapter One, Article 19: "Armed struggle is a strategy, not a tactic. The armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a crucial element in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated."
    The practical translation of this declaration is reflected in the conference's resolution on the issue of refugees: "Efforts must be made to implement the right of return and restitution for refugees, and they are entitled to have their property restored. Likewise, the refugee problem should [be handled] uniformly, with no differentiation based on the refugees' location, including the refugees within the 1948 areas [pre-'67 Israel]."  Before the Conference, Saeb Erekat explained that "there is restitution for each article: not return or restitution but return and restitution," (Al Dustour, 25.6.09).
    The suggestion in some circles, that the PLO will eventually give up on the "right of return" but will only announce this at the very last moment, is not supported by facts on the ground: the very last moment has already passed twice - in  2000 and in 2009.
    This unequivocal position regarding the “right of return” is well tied to another resolution of the Fatah conference: "There must be absolute opposition, from which there will be no withdrawal, to recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish state,' in order to protect the refugees' rights and the rights of our people on the other side of the Green Line [i.e., Arab citizens of Israel]." This statement is a direct echo of the announcements by Fatah leaders made several months prior to the conference. Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) said: "It's not fair to demand that we recognize [Israel] as the state of the Jewish People because that means an evacuation of the Arabs from Israel and a predetermination of refugees' future, before the negotiations are over. Our refusal is adamant," (Haaretz, 26.5.09). Abbas explained that the PLO refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, since it would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees within Israel (Washington Post, 29.5.09).
    However, the source of Fatah's opposition to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is deeper than that. It arises from the reaffirmation of the term "Zionist entity," meaning that the ideology of the movement is still based on the assertion that Judaism is not a nationality, but only a religion, which has no right to a sovereign state. Hence, recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people contradicts the profound ideology of Fatah, as explained by Erekat before the Fatah conference: "Whoever asks you to recognize the Jewish State asks you to fill a form requesting to join the Zionist movement. This movement maintains [the idea] that religion is nationality," (al Dustour, 25.6.09).
    Hence, what we see is a solid ideology: "The liberation of Palestine" will come in the wake of the return of the refugees to Israel and the "elimination of the Zionist presence," and no decision contradicting this plan, such as acceptance of Israel as a "Jewish state", can be allowed. Whether such a plan can be realistically implemented in the near future is unimportant. Declaring it is aimed mainly at the movement activists, in order to keep them politically alert with a clear understanding of the common goal. Experience shows that Fatah resolutions and declarations by its leaders should be regarded seriously, and the competition for public opinion support between Fatah and Hamas increases Fatah's commitment to its stated policy.
    In August 2009, attempting to improve its image, Fatah could have refrained from any discussion of its Charter, or could have adapted it to current political conditions by eliminating its extremist sections. However, by preferring a blatant reaffirmation of the Charter, the conference demonstrated the importance that its delegates attribute to adherence to their original goal. Abbas, who has been recently threatening to resign, did not try to prevent the acceptance of the extremist resolutions at the conference through a similar threat, and has not expressed any
     reservations about them.
    We can therefore assume that the updated platform of Fatah indeed defines the impossible Fatah conditions for an agreement with Israel. Fatah does not really accept the "two-state solution" and does not view an independent state within the 1967 lines as its final goal. This explains well the series of events since 1993: the Fatah leadership violently violated the Oslo Accords, it failed to reach an agreement with Israel in 2000 despite far-reaching concessions offered by Prime Minister Barak, and it turned down Prime Minister Olmert's proposals in 2008. This is in accord with the fact that in 2008, when the Israeli delegation asked the PLO delegation whether a final agreement with Israel would include an article declaring the end of conflict and an end to further demands, the reply was in the negative.
    Refraining from reaching an agreement with Israel has served the PLO well, as explained by Erekat: "At first they told us that we would run hospitals and schools, later they were willing to give us 66 percent, at Camp David they reached 90 percent and today they have reached 100 percent. Why then should we hurry, after all the injustice caused to us?" (Al-Dustour, 25.6.09).
    Those who urge Israel to reach an agreement with the PLO "now" should explain what they suggest doing if negotiations are resumed, as the PLO is demanding, at precisely the point where they left off in 2008. There is no indication that the PLO agrees now to terms it declined a year ago, and hence it is clear that in this situation the PLO will make additional demands. Those who prod us should suggest what else Israel is expected to concede? I have not heard an answer to this question, except for mutterings "but we have to try." As long as Fatah does not fundamentally change its platform, there will be no Zionist faction in Israel that is capable of reaching a final-status agreement with it.
    Reality must not be artificially beautified. This is indeed a regrettable situation, but we cannot allow it to cause despair. As was the case 100 years ago, our future in our land does not depend on the ill-will of our neighbors' leadership. It is in our hands. We have proven that.
    The writer is a minister in PM Netanyahu's cabinet.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Presenting my peace plan to Barack Obama (Ray Hanania)
    Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 08 December @ 18:38:35 GMT+1 (2104 maal gelezen)

    Presenting my peace plan to Barack Obama
    Dec. 1, 2009

    I'm no dummy. I know that the Jews don't run the media and the Arabs have no clout. So who do I present my peace platform to where it might find some "legs" to make it happen? The White House, of course.

    As you know, I'm running for "president of Palestine." Not that I can win, of course, but I know I have better ideas on peace than any of those who can be elected president. The White House has pretty much run the Middle East conflict since the beginning, not always on the same side. If the White House wants to make a difference and push both Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, it can.

    So how do I get my plan to the one guy who can make a difference, President Barack Obama? Since announcing my candidacy and the Yalla Peace Party and platform, I've been contemplating that challenge. I figured that feat to be harder than compromising on Jerusalem. And I almost gave up until I read last week that a guy and his wife managed to walk right up to the president of the United States without having to worry about little things like "security clearances" and "background checks."

    To top it off, the guy, Tareq Salahi, is an Arab, though we all know that just because you have an Arab name doesn't mean you are actually Arab. The president's middle name is Hussein, and while he has a lot of admirers on the far Right who insist he is an Arab (and a few other choice four-letter-words that I won't repeat here), he's not an Arab.

    Still, Obama's the guy I have to reach to make peace happen. I could use my connections to Obama. He is a distant cousin 53 times removed, who I refer to in colloquial Arabic as khiyya, or cousin.

    OR I could just follow the Salahi lead and walk right past all the president's security to shake his hand, First Lady Michelle Obama's hand, the hand of some Indian dude who the black-tie party was called to honor, and even get to share a few laughs with Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

    Who's laughing now? Just walked right in. Past the security gate. Past the Secret Service. Past the bodyguards.

    I always assumed that anyone who just walked up to the president uninvited would get tackled to the ground faster than a Chicago Bears quarterback. And that's fast, as many of you sports fanatics who are interested in America football (real football, not that fake kicking-stuff thing) know.

    But apparently, any Arab can just walk into the White House and see the president. That's the message the conservative Right, led by its new fearless leader (actually old former leader) Dick Cheney, is peddling.

    I'm Arab, or so I am told. So I had better get in there to see the president before Cheney gets into office, because Cheney won't just have me tackled to the ground. He'll use me as target practice for a new battalion of Blackwater and Halliburton contractors.

    Salahi's wife is one of those socialites. Hot looking, with blond hair. Nordic. My wife is hot-looking, too. Blond hair, European Jewish. Which reminds me, if I'm elected president, Palestine and Israel would both share something huge. They'd both have Jewish first ladies.

    My wife thinks I'm nuts, or meshuganeh in Yiddish. Magnoon in Arabic. If I'm elected president of Palestine, where am I going to get the gefilte fish? It's a big issue in my house, although I told her that she'd still be able to eat all those "Jewish" foods like mensiff, tabouleh, felafel and humous. Hey, I have to be strategic about my marriage - of course it's not called a marriage when a Jew and a Palestinian marry. It's called an "occupation."

    Still, she thinks my plans are the most imaginative presented so far. I'm just hoping President Obama has an imagination just like mine. He needs something, with all his big plans from health care to the Middle East in disarray.

    She did point out, though, that Salahi may have ruined it for me. "You ululate 'Allahu akbar' once in his presence and the Secret Service will be swarming all over you." I just shrugged and sighed, insha'allah! Like all Arabs do.

    Does Obama say that, I wonder? If I do make it past the security, I wouldn't just shake his hand. I'd give him a fist bump. And then hand him my plans for the "settler-refugee exchange program" - the heart of my campaign efforts.

    The plan is simple, really. For every Israeli settler that Israel keeps as part of the peace process, Israel has to take back one Palestinian refugee. There are some 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, including around east Jerusalem.

    Israel can take back all or none, depending on how many settlements it wants to keep.

    That's a lot of reasons to maybe trade in a few more settlements than they have been planning on, in exchange for real peace.

    For the Palestinian refugees, it just might be the answer, too. They've been held hostage by politics for years, living in destitution and despair for generations since the war started more than 62 years ago.

    In the end, in my plan, everyone gets a new life, Palestinian and Israeli. And that's all we can hope for in a two-state solution.

    I think Obama could like that idea.

    Of course, if it fails, maybe I can follow the lead of the Salahis and get my own reality TV show. A comedy. Along the lines of Survivor.

    The writer is really running for president of Palestine. His Web page is www.YallaPeace.com.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Ehud Olmert still dreams of peace (The Australian)
    Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 08 December @ 18:28:41 GMT+1 (827 maal gelezen)

    Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor
    The Australian - November 28, 2009 12:00AM

    EHUD Olmert is a giant of contemporary Middle East politics. As Israel's prime minister he made war - twice - in Lebanon in 2006, and in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. He's also tried to make peace, offering the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, the most extensive concessions any Israeli leader has ever brought to the table in the search for a settlement.

    Now Olmert's out of office, not because he lost an election but because he is fighting corruption charges in the courts. Previous such charges against him came to nothing and Olmert has always asserted his innocence.

    In Sydney this week, I conducted, perhaps, the longest interview and discussion Olmert has undertaken with any media since leaving office in March after more than three years as prime minister.

    Dressed in jeans and black T-shirt with a Red Bull logo, Olmert looked pretty chipper for a balding lawyer with a modest paunch in his early 60s who'd just flown 24 hours from Israel.

    For 90 minutes in the boardroom of Sydney's Park Hyatt, and then over a relaxed lunch with his wife, Aliza, at Circular Quay, Olmert talked with remarkable frankness about the military campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon, the historic peace deal he offered the Palestinians, President Barack Obama's Middle East policy and the options for action against Iran.

    Olmert's role in history is a big one. If he clears his name of the corruption charges he could come back to the centre of Israeli life, as previous prime ministers - like Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu, now PM for the second time - and Labour's Ehud Barak, who both staged comebacks.

    Olmert is straightforward and direct, and sometimes surprising, in his assessments of the global leaders he dealt with. He believes, for example, that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is a genuine partner in the peace process.

    Olmert says of Abbas: "I think he's genuine in his desire to achieve a Palestinian state, and he recognises the right of Israel to exist. And, while I can't speak for him, even if he can't say it publicly and formally, he recognises that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people."

    This judgment by Olmert is critical because it means he still believes the peace process has a chance, while Abbas remains the Palestinians' leader. And it's not as if Olmert, who spent most of his life in the centre-right Likud party and was once the hardest of hardliners, is unwilling to pass a harsh judgment on a Palestinian leader.

    I ask Olmert to compare the failure of Abbas to conclude a peace agreement with him, with the opportunity Yasser Arafat passed up at Camp David in 2000. It is one of the few times Olmert cuts off a question with a declarative response: "The two are not alike. Yasser Arafat never wanted to make peace with Israel. Yasser Arafat was a murderer and a terrorist and remained so until the last day of his life. Abu Mazen (the name by which Israelis and others in the region commonly refer to Abbas) wants peace."

    So, too, Olmert says, does Netanyahu. Olmert followed Ariel Sharon out of Likud to form the Kadima party, based on the idea that Israel would unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and later the West Bank. It withdrew from Gaza but withdrawal from the West Bank became untenable in light of the missile attacks on Israel from Gaza.

    Sharon was felled by a stroke and Olmert took over as acting PM in January 2006, later won an election in his own right and remained PM until the end of March this year. Netanyahu became leader of Likud and consistently attacked Sharon and Olmert from the Right, for offering too many concessions to the Palestinians.

    But Olmert says Netanyahu is not an obstacle to peace: "The Prime Minister (Netanyahu) is dedicated to peace, he is concerned with peace. Naturally - he is also worried about security."

    Olmert is similarly positive about Obama, implicitly rebuking those Israelis who see Obama as hostile to Israel's security interests: "I'm entirely free of any suspicions or complaints about the Obama administration. I think the Obama administration is very friendly to Israel. I know a lot of the people in the administration and they are committed to Israel. Many people in this administration are intimately acquainted with all the facts of the Middle East - Hillary Clinton, Dennis Ross, Rahm Emmanuel, Jim Jones."

    Olmert, like many Israelis, was critical of Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo: "I was not happy with this speech. There should not even be a tacit comparison of the Holocaust with the Palestinian situation. This mistake was not corrected by Obama later visiting Buchenwald (the site of a Nazi extermination camp during World War II). However, this does not mean that Obama is an enemy of the Israeli people, just that he made a mistake. I hope he realises he made a mistake."

    But he has some advice for Obama on the search for an Arab-Israeli peace: "I don't quite understand the American approach. Every new president believes they have to start from square one. If they're lucky they last for eight years, and by the end there is almost peace. But the new administration then starts anew, because they always know best."
    Olmert believes Obama made a mistake by focusing initially on a demand for an Israeli building freeze in West Bank Jewish settlements: "I think the tactic of starting to argue about a building here or there is a tactical mistake and I expect the Americans to change their approach."

    So what should the Americans do? "Instead of starting at the beginning, they should start at the end."

    Here, Olmert approaches the most significant aspect of his prime ministership. He waged a war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006, and since then Hezbollah has not fired rockets against Israel. He waged a brutal operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip at the start of this year, and since then the Hamas rockets have mostly fallen silent. And the Israeli economy, despite everything, did well in the last few years.

    But Olmert's term in office is best remembered for the extensive negotiations, and final peace offer that he undertook with Abbas.
    Olmert explains this position to me in unprecedented detail. His offer to Abbas represents a historic watershed and poses a serious question. Can the Palestinian leadership ever accept any offer that an Israeli prime minister could ever reasonably make?

    It is important to get Olmert's full account of this offer on the record: "From the end of 2006 until the end of 2008 I think I met with Abu Mazen more often than any Israeli leader has ever met any Arab leader. I met him more than 35 times. They were intense, serious negotiations."

    These negotiations took place on two tracks, Olmert says. One was the meetings with the two leaders and their senior colleagues and aides (among them Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Olmert's side). But Olmert would also have private, one-on-one meetings with Abbas.

    "On the 16th of September, 2008, I presented him (Abbas) with a comprehensive plan. It was based on the following principles.

    One, there would be a territorial solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides. Israel will claim part of the West Bank where there have been demographic changes over the last 40 years."

    This approach by Olmert would have allowed Israel to keep the biggest Jewish settlement blocks which are mainly now suburbs of Jerusalem, but would certainly have entailed other settlers having to leave Palestinian territory and relocate to Israel.

    In total, Olmert says, this would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4 per cent of Palestinian territory in the West Bank: "It might be a fraction more, it might be a fraction less, but in total it would be about 6.4 per cent. Israel would claim all the Jewish areas of Jerusalem. All the lands that before 1967 were buffer zones between the two populations would have been split in half. In return there would be a swap of land (to the Palestinians) from Israel as it existed before 1967.
    "I showed Abu Mazen how this would work to maintain the contiguity of the Palestinian state. I also proposed a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza. It would have been a tunnel fully controlled by the Palestinians but not under Palestinian sovereignty, otherwise it would have cut the state of Israel in two.

    "No 2 was the issue of Jerusalem. This was a very sensitive, very painful, soul-searching process. While I firmly believed that historically, and emotionally, Jerusalem was always the capital of the Jewish people, I was ready that the city should be shared. Jewish neighbourhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty, Arab neighbourhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state.

    "Then there was the question of the holy basin within Jerusalem, the sites that are holy to Jews and Muslims, but not only to them, to Christians as well. I would never agree to an exclusive Muslim sovereignty over areas that are religiously important to Jews and Christians. So there would be an area of no sovereignty, which would be jointly administered by five nations, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian state, Israel and the United States.

    "Third was the issue of Palestinian refugees." This issue has often been a seeming deal-breaker. The Palestinians insist that all Palestinians who left Israel - at or near the time of its founding - and all their spouses and descendants, should be able to return to live in Israel proper. This could be more than a million people. Olmert, like other Israeli prime ministers, could never agree to this: "I think Abu Mazen understood there was no chance Israel would become the homeland of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian state was to be the homeland of the Palestinian people. So the question was how the claimed attachment of the Palestinian refugees to their original places could be recognised without bringing them in. I told him I would never agree to a right of return. Instead, we would agree on a humanitarian basis to accept a certain number every year for five years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. I said to him 1000 per year. I think the Americans were entirely with me.

    "In addition, we talked about creating an international fund that would compensate Palestinians for their suffering. I was the first Israeli prime minister to speak of Palestinian suffering and to say that we are not indifferent to that suffering.

    "And four, there were security issues." Olmert says he showed Abbas a map, which embodied all these plans. Abbas wanted to take the map away. Olmert agreed, so long as they both signed the map. It was, from Olmert's point of view, a final offer, not a basis for future negotiation. But Abbas could not commit. Instead, he said he would come with experts the next day.

    "He (Abbas) promised me the next day his adviser would come. But the next day Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today, let's make it next week. I never saw him again."

    Olmert believes that, like Camp David a decade earlier, this was an enormous opportunity lost: "I said `this is the offer. Sign it and we can immediately get support from America, from Europe, from all over the world'. I told him (Abbas) he'd never get anything like this again from an Israeli leader for 50 years. I said to him, `do you want to keep floating forever - like an astronaut in space - or do you want a state?'
    "To this day we should ask Abu Mazen to respond to this plan. If they (the Palestinians) say no, there's no point negotiating."

    Olmert is right to paint this offer as embodying the most extensive concessions, and the best deal, ever offered to the Palestinians by an Israeli leader. But his very experience with this offer raises several questions. Could he have delivered its terms if the Palestinians had accepted it? Perhaps international momentum would have enabled him to do so, and, in fact, Olmert's Kadima party did remarkably well in the election which followed his prime ministership. Could any Israeli government today realistically make such an offer? The answer would seem to be no.

    And most important, if the Palestinian leadership cannot accept that offer, can they accept any realistic offer? Do they have the machinery to run a state? Is their society too dysfunctional and filled with anti-Semitic propaganda to live in peace next to the Jewish state? Could they ever deliver on any security guarantees?

    I put these questions to Olmert and his response to them is perhaps the most lukewarm part of our interview: "It's certainly a legitimate concern, since I never received a positive response from them. I think it's up to them (the Palestinians) to prove the point. I hope they will rise to this."

    Olmert still believes the Palestinians should respond to the deal he offered them. If they did so, this would open the way to peace, but only if Palestinian society is reconciled to living in peace next to Israel as it really exists.

    Olmert is robust in defence of other parts of his legacy. The war he led in 2006 against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon was widely criticised within Israel itself as being poorly executed. Not surprisingly, this is a view Olmert rejects: "The war in Lebanon ended with a unanimous UN resolution which allowed Israel to stay in the south of Lebanon until an international force took over from us. Since then, there has been not one military attack on Israel from Hezbollah. For more than three years now the northern border has been totally quiet and the northern part of Israel is flourishing as never before.

    "The military operation in Lebanon was the most successful military operation in recent Israeli history. Many in Israel don't recognise that."
    He claims a similar success in the military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has also resulted in a vast decline of rocket attacks on Israel. He sees a grotesque double standard in the world's criticism of what he portrays as Israel's efforts at self-defence: "When they were firing rockets at us from the north or the south, their purpose was only one thing, to kill Israeli civilians. Nobody (at the UN) was so devastated by this that they set up a special commission to investigate it. Everyone comes to us and says non-involved people (innocent civilians) were killed in Gaza. I regret it very much. But I had to protect a million people who were under attack. Every prime minister . . . has the responsibility to provide security for his people."

    Not surprisingly, Olmert rejects the Goldstone report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza root and branch: "To write a report that focuses only on Israel's response to terror against innocent civilians was a moral indignity by Goldstone."

    Olmert went quite a long way towards achieving a peace deal with Syria, but could not conclude it before he left office: "If Bashir Assad (Syria's President) wants the Golan Heights, I made it clear what the requirements would be for Israel."

    Part of those requirements, Olmert says, would be "breaking off military co-operation with Iran that is harmful to Israel's security. Breaking off that military co-operation is important, but I don't expect Syria to break diplomatic relations with any country."

    Olmert believes that the Syria track is perhaps the only peace process open to Israel in the immediate future, and that the time has come for direct Israel-Syria negotiations.

    But if Syria is willing to make peace, I ask Olmert, how come it was building, with North Korean help, a nuclear reactor which Israel, under Olmert, bombed to obliteration? "I am saying nothing about that."

    One matter where Olmert is a little critical of Obama is the ever present issue for all Israelis, Iran: "There is no doubt that Iran is planning to have a non-conventional capacity. Why would any country fight with the whole world over a civilian nuclear program if they have no plan of developing a nuclear bomb?

    "They (the Iranians) are enriching uranium and hope to have enough fissile material for a few bombs. At the same time they are developing delivery systems with a range of 3000km. Once they have enough fissile material it will be impossible to stop them.

    "When the President of Iran talks about removing Israel from the face of the Earth and is building nuclear bombs with a range of 3000km, you have to be worried.

    "Israel is very active about this, but we feel the leadership on this issue should be taken by the Americans, and also by the Russians, Chinese, Germans and French.

    "I was not happy with Obama's decision to have a dialogue with Iran. This dialogue will be used for only one purpose, to buy time for Iran.
    " My advice would be to set a rigid timetable for this dialogue. This will not be easy as the Iranians are not dumb. Secondly, prepare your fallback position now. Don't start to prepare it when the talks fail.

    "My view is that the Chinese and Russians are not in favour of a nuclear Iran. The problem is how to co-ordinate action. This is the responsibility of President Obama. The Americans want to lead the world, they must lead the world. Europe certainly now wants tough action.

    "It is not a simple choice between acquiescence in the face of Iranian nuclear weapons or a comprehensive military attack on Iran. There are a lot of other effective options."

    And what are some of these options? "I'm not prepared to discuss them publicly."

    Olmert's life and political persona have seen radical transformations, from ultra-hawk to offering historical compromise. He was mayor of Jerusalem for 10 years, was finance minister, has been at the heart of intense political and military struggles.

    He is visiting Australia in connection with the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, which has its second session next week. Olmert has been a frequent visitor to Australia, and compares Sydney to Tel Aviv.

    "Growing up in Israel, how can I not be an optimist? When you remember what Israel was 50 years ago and you see Israel now, one of the most successful countries in the world, stable, democratic, with an enormously stable economy despite everything that has happened in the global economy in the last few years, how can I not be an optimist?"

    His final injunction seems simple enough in theory, but is immeasurably difficult in practice: "We need to be powerful enough to defeat all our enemies, and generous enough so that they will understand that peace is more attractive than any alternative their extremists can offer."

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    Background Articles & Opinions A Palestinian peace plan Israelis can live with (Bradley Burston)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 30 November @ 01:33:23 GMT+1 (965 maal gelezen)

    A Palestinian peace plan Israelis can live with 
    By Bradley Burston

    Ray Hanania is a compassionate and, in fact, delightful person, with rare insight into the aspirations and failings of Palestinians and Israelis. In the eyes of many, that alone ought to disqualify him from consideration as a leader in the Holy Land.

    Add to that, the fact that the acclaimed journalist also happens to be a first-generation Palestinian-American married to a Jewish woman, as well as a stand-up comedian who has appeared alongside Jewish comics, and the self-destructively polarized electorate of the Holy Land will need to expend not a whiff of thought in dismissing him out of hand.

    Which all makes his candidacy for the president of Palestine, and the Mideast peace proposal that is his platform, all the more compelling. He is realistic about his chances ("No, I don't expect to win"). But the Hanania plan embodies the radicalism of the truly moderate, and deserves much more than cursory consideration.

    Consider his proposal for one of the thorniest municipal quandaries in the West Bank. Jews who wish to live in Hebron in a future state of Palestine, should be allowed to do so, he writes, "and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel."

    What Hanania is proposing is a two state solution that addresses not only quantifiable issues, but underlying emotional grievances, and the anguish in the histories of both sides. Cynics, and, in particular, the extremists among them, will reject it out of hand as simplistic and artificially balanced. But if peace is ever to be made in the Holy Land, it will be made despite extremists and not by them.

    The following is the text of Hanania's outline. I have taken the liberty of numbering the clauses, with an eye toward facilitating discussion:

    1. I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel's "Jewish" character and Israelis should recognize Palestine's "non-Jewish" character.

    2. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas' participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a "final" peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.

    3. I can support some settlements remaining - given the reality of 42 years of time passing - in a dunam-for-dunam land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunams with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunams in exchange.

    4. Jerusalem should be a shared city and Palestinians should have an official presence in East Jerusalem. The Old City should be shared by both permitting open access to the city to all with a joint Palestinian-Israeli police presence.

    5. Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.

    6. I also think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict.

    7. I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled.

    8. I think the Wall should be torn down, or relocated to the new borders. I have no problem separating the two nations for a short duration to help rebuild confidence between our two people.

    9. All political parties, Palestinian and Israelis, should eliminate languages denying each other's existence, and all maps should be reprinted so that Israeli maps finally show Palestine and Palestinian maps finally show Israel.

    10. A subway system should be built linking the West Bank portion of the Palestine state to the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestine State. Palestine should be permitted to build a seaport access to strengthen its industry, and an airport to permit flights and too and from the Arab and Israeli world.

    11. I would urge the Arab World to renew their offer to normalize relations with Israel if Israel agrees to support the creation of a Palestinian State.

    12. And I would ask both countries to establish embassies in each other's country to address other problems.

    13. While non-Jewish Palestinians would continue to live in Israel as citizens, Jews who wish to live in settlements surrendered by Israel could become Palestinian citizens and they should be recognized and treated equally.

    14. If Jews want to live in Hebron, they should be allowed to live in Hebron and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel. In fact, major Palestinian populations in Israel could be annexed into Palestine (like settlements).

    15. Another concept is to have non-Jews living in Israel continue to live there but only vote in Palestinian elections, while Jews living in Palestine would only vote in Israeli elections. A special citizenship protection committee could be created to explore how to protect the rights of minorities in each state.

    16. Israel and Palestine should create joint-governing and security agencies working with the United States to monitor the peace, and establish an agency to pursue criminal acts of violence.

    As in every potentially workable peace proposal, Hanania's plan has something in it to upset and disappoint everyone. But its underlying principle of compromise based on mutual respect and compassion, its openness to the needs and wounds of two victimized peoples, and its suggestion that grassroots sentiment for peace can succeed where leaders have so consistently failed, are surely as worthy of serious consideration, as anything currently on the table.

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    Background Articles & Opinions The crime of being a Zionist (Karl Pfeifer)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 30 November @ 01:19:31 GMT+1 (760 maal gelezen)

    The crime of being a Zionist
    By Karl Pfeifer

    I am an 81-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. Strange things happened to me last week in Germany.

    A journalist, I had been invited by a student organization at Bielefeld University and College to give a lecture on "Racism and Anti-Semitism in Hungary." My host was the left-wing anti-fascist group Antifa AG at the Bielefeld campus, located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

    My lecture was scheduled to take place on November 19 at a youth center that serves as the home of a number of left-wing organizations. The event had been announced in late October, but two days before I was to appear, at a meeting of people who frequent the center, several raised an objection about my speaking there. They said they had received information that during Israel's War of Independence, when I served in the Palmach (the pre-state elite strike force of the Haganah), I had participated in a massacre in a Palestinian village. They went so far as to allege that I myself had actively participated in the killing.

    Those accusing me did not name the place where this alleged massacre was committed, or provide any other details, and even acknowledged that their information was incomplete. But when pushed for corroboration, they settled the matter by explaining that "Pfeifer is a Zionist." At the same time, in an apparent - and bizarre - attempt to appear even-handed, those in attendance resolved that they also would not be willing to host someone who had been a member of the militant Palestinian organization Black September in the 1970s.

    Of course, no one at the youth center asked me to respond to the accusations before they decided to rescind the invitation. Nor have any of them been willing to answer the questions of German journalists who learned about the incident regarding just why they excluded me. I only learned about what happened because it was reported to someone in Antifa by two of its members who had been present at the decisive meeting.

    Fortunately, my hosts were able to organize an alternate space with limited notice, and I gave my lecture in the end. My subject was Hungary, where a recent resurgence of racist acts and statements can be observed. This includes the murder of eight Roma (Gypsies) in racial attacks during the past two years, and the shocking anti-Jewish verbal attacks in the right-wing media there and on YouTube.

    As for me, I did indeed serve in the Palmach and the Israel Defense Forces from 1946 until 1950, after arriving in Mandatory Palestine in 1943. And although I left Israel in 1950, I am proud of my service as a soldier there, when we were defending ourselves against aggression and fighting for the right to have our own state. I did not participate in any massacres, but I know that improper acts were carried out by both sides in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, as happens during wartime.

    But the comparison of the Palmach with Black September, which carried out murderous acts of terrorism against civilians in the name of the Palestinian struggle, is an outrageous and ignorant one.

    To accuse someone of having participated in a "massacre" - in this case, with no details and no proof - is an act of projection that is unfortunately not unusual in certain European circles. The best-known and by far the most widespread example of projection of guilt is the defamation of Israelis as the "Nazis of today." This is one of the most objectionable forms of anti-Semitism in the era after Auschwitz. As far as I can tell, my real crime apparently is being a "Zionist," which I can only understand as being guilty of being a Jew who defended himself and who favors the existence of a Jewish and democratic state. In Germany, I had the feeling that I was being judged by those arrogant anti-Semites not on the basis of what I have done or am doing, but for what I am.

    Karl Pfeifer is a Vienna-based journalist.

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    Background Articles & Opinions The IDF ethics code and the Goldstone Illusion (The New Republic)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 12 November @ 03:07:43 GMT+1 (818 maal gelezen)

    Published on The New Republic ( http://www.tnr.com )


    The Goldstone Illusion
    What the U.N. report gets wrong about Gaza--and war.
    ·         Moshe Halbertal
    ·         November 6, 2009 | 12:00 am


    In 2000, I was asked by the Israel Defense Forces to join a group of philosophers, lawyers, and generals for the purpose of drafting the army’s ethics code. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the analysis of the moral issues that Israel faces in its war on terrorism. I have spent many hours in discussions with soldiers and officers in order to better grasp the dilemmas that they tackle in the field, and in an attempt to help facilitate the internalization of the code of ethics in war. It was no wonder that, when the Goldstone Report on the Gaza war was published, I was keen to read it, with some hope of getting a perspective on Israeli successes or failures in this effort to comprehend war, and to fight it, morally. Unlike many who responded to the report, in praise or in blame, I gave this immensely long document a careful reading.

    Let us begin with a sense of the moral stakes. Since the early 1990s, the nature of the military conflict facing Israel has been dramatically shifting. What was mainly a clash between states and armies has turned into a clash between a state and paramilitary terror organizations, Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. This new form of struggle is now called “asymmetrical war.” It is defined by an attempt on the part of those groups to erase two basic features of war: the front and the uniform. Hamas militants fight without military uniforms, in ordinary and undistinguishing civilian garb, taking shelter among their own civilian population; and they attack Israeli civilians wherever they are, intentionally and indiscriminately. During the Gaza operation, for example, some Hamas militants embedded in the civilian population did not carry weapons while moving from one position to another. Arms and ammunition had been pre-positioned for them and stored in different houses.

    In addressing this vexing issue, the Goldstone Report uses a rather strange formulation: “While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members of the Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from the civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from the attack.” The reader of such a sentence might well wonder what its author means. Did Hamas militants not wear their uniforms because they were inconveniently at the laundry? What other reasons for wearing civilian clothes could they have had, if not for deliberately sheltering themselves among the civilians?

    As for the new “front” in asymmetrical warfare, we read in another passage, which is typical of the report’s overall biased tone, that, “On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission finds that there are indications that Palestinian armed groups launched rockets from urban areas. The Mission has not been able to obtain any direct evidence that this was done with the specific intent of shielding the rocket launchers from counterstrikes by the Israeli armed forces.” What reason could there possibly be for launching rockets from urban centers, if not shielding those rockets from counterattack? And what is the moral distinction that is purportedly being established here?

    By disguising themselves as civilians and by attacking civilians with no uniforms and with no front, these paramilitary terrorist organizations attempt nothing less than to erase the distinction between combatants and noncombatants on both sides of the struggle. Suicide bombers exploded themselves on buses and in restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Dimona, Eilat, and many other places. Qassam rockets and Katyushas were fired randomly at various Israeli civilian centers, as far as their range allowed. So the war had no defined place and was waged by unidentified murderers. It justifiably felt like a change in the very nature of warfare. The goal of this momentous transformation was to create a war of all against all and everywhere. It aimed at shifting the Israeli population from a healthy sense of cautious fear attached to a particular place-a border, a security zone--to a generalized panic that has no location. Everywhere and everyone is now regarded as dangerous. This is not paranoia. It has a basis in a new reality, and is the outcome of a new strategic paradigm.

    Faced with this unprecedented and deeply perplexing situation, two extreme positions have emerged in Israel. The radical left claims that, since such a struggle necessarily involves the killing of innocent civilians, there is no justifiable way of fighting it. Soldiers ought to refuse to engage in such a war, and the government has only one option, which is to end the occupation. This view is wrong, since Israel has the right and the obligation to protect its citizens, and without providing real security, it will fail also to achieve peace and to put an end to the occupation. The radical right claims that, since Hamas and Hezbollah initiated the targeting of Israeli civilians, and since they take refuge among their own civilians, the responsibility for harming Palestinian civilians during Israel’s attempt to defend itself falls upon the Palestinians exclusively. This approach is also wrong. The killing of our civilians does not justify the killing of their civilians. Civilians do not lose their right to life when they are used as shields by Hamas and Hezbollah. In fighting the militants, Israel must do as much as it possibly can do to avoid and minimize harm to civilian life and property.

    The aim of the IDF ethics code is to strike a coherent and morally plausible position that provides Israel with the effective tools to protect its citizens and win the war while also setting the proper moral limits that have to be met while legitimately securing its citizens. In debating the code, I heard many times that it imposes constraints upon Israeli action that would limit the capacity of the army to win the battle and to provide security. In fact, the moral constraints and the strategic goals are mutually reinforcing. Radical groups such as Hamas start their struggle with little support from their population, which tends to be more moderate. They increase their base of support cynically, by murdering Israeli civilians and thereby goading Israel into an overreaction (this is not to deny, of course, that Israel can choose not to overreact) in a way that ends up causing suffering to the Palestinian civilians among whom the militants take shelter. The death and the suffering of the civilian Palestinian population, in the short run, is a part of the Hamas strategy, since it increases the sympathy of the population with the movement’s aims. An Israeli overreaction also leads to the shattering of Israel’s moral legitimacy in its own struggle. In a democratic society with a citizen’s army, any erosion of the ethical foundation of its soldiers and its citizens is of immense political and strategic consequence.

    And so, Israel’s goal in its struggle with Hamas and Hezbollah is to reverse their attempt to strengthen themselves politically by means of their morally bankrupt strategy. Rather than being drawn into a war of all against all and everywhere, Israel has sought to isolate the militants from their environment: to mark them and “clothe” them with a uniform, and to force them to a definite front. The moral restraints in this case are of great strategic value. I am convinced, for this reason, that targeted killing, especially of the militants’ leadership, is an effective and legitimate endeavor. It is for this same reason that I believe that Israel’s siege of Gaza, and its harsh effect upon general civilian life, is morally problematic and strategically counterproductive.


    In accordance with the just war tradition in Western history and philosophy, three principles are articulated in the IDF code concerning moral behavior in war. The first is the principle of necessity. It requires that force be used solely for the purposes of accomplishing the mission. If, for example, a soldier has to break down the door of a home in order to search for a suspected terrorist, he has no right to smash the TV set on his way in: Such gratuitous use of force has no relation to the mission. This is a straightforward principle, professionally and morally, though its implementation might be complicated if the mission is not well-articulated or if there are serious arguments about what kind of force is necessary to accomplish a given mission. In ordinary war, the collapse of the enemy’s army is a more or less clear event; but in an asymmetrical war, victory is never final--the mission seems not so much to end as to shift; and so it may be difficult to apply the necessity principle.

    The second principle articulated in the code is the principle of distinction. It is an absolute prohibition on the intentional targeting of noncombatants. The intentional killing of innocent civilians is prohibited even in cases where such a policy might be effective in stopping terrorism. At the height of the violence in 2002, some suggested that the only deterrence against suicide bombers who wish to die anyway is the killing of their families. But such a policy is blatantly murderous, and it is prohibited. An Israeli soldier is prohibited from intentionally targeting noncombatants, and, in the event that he is given such an order, he must refuse it. He is obligated to engage in fighting only those who threaten his fellow soldiers and civilians.

    The implementation of the principle of distinction is also very difficult in an asymmetrical war. Since the enemy does not appear in uniform and there is no specified zone that can be described as the battlefield, the question of who is a combatant becomes crucial. In the process of identifying combatants, a whole causal chain must be established and marked as a legitimate target. This “food chain” of terrorism is made up of people whose intentional actions, one after the other, will end up threatening Israeli civilians or soldiers. This chain includes the one who plans the attack, the one who recruits the bomber, the one who prepares the bomb, the driver of the car that transports the bomber to his or her target, and so on. It is clear that such an attempt gives rise to difficult cases, and even the most scrupulous effort will leave some room for doubt. What about the financer of the bombing, for example?

    It is also clear that applying the international law of war to this new battlefield is fraught with problems. Consider a painful issue that comes up in the Goldstone Report--the matter of the Gaza police force. In the first minutes of the war, Israel targeted Hamas police, killing dozens. There is no question that, in an ordinary war, a police force that is dedicated to keeping the civilian peace is not a military target. The report therefore blames Israel for an intentional targeting of noncombatants. But such a charge is only valid concerning a war against a state with a clear and defined military institution, one that therefore practices a clear division of labor between the police and the army. What happens in semi-states that do not have an institutionalized army, whose armed forces are a militia loyal to the movement or party that seized power? In such situations, the police force might be just a way of putting combatants on the payroll of the state, while basically assigning them clear military roles. Israeli intelligence claims that it has clear proof that this was the case in Gaza. This is certainly something that Israel will have to clarify. But it is clear to me that Goldstone’s accusation that targeting of the police forces automatically constitutes an attack on noncombatants represents a gross misunderstanding of the nature of such a conflict.

    The third principle,the most difficult of all, is the principle of proportionality, or the principle of avoidance. Its subject is the situation in which, while targeting combatants, it is foreseeable that noncombatants will be killed collaterally. In such a case, a proportionality test has to be enacted, according to which the foreseeable collateral death of civilians will be proportionate to the military advantage that will be achieved by eliminating the target. If an enemy sniper is situated on a roof, and 60 civilians live under the roof, and the only way to kill the sniper is to bomb the roof, which is to say, bomb the house, such bombing is prohibited. The military advantage in eliminating the sniper is disproportionate to the probable cost of civilian life.

    In discussing the proportionality constraint, there emerges a natural pressure to provide an exact criterion for measuring the proper ratio between collateral deaths and military advantage. I must admit that I do not know the formula for such a precise calculation, and I do not believe that a clear-cut numerical rule can be established. Different people have different intuitions about strategic value and moral cost. And yet, the Israeli army has traditions and precedents that can be relied upon. In 2002, for example, Israel bombed the Gazan home of Salah Shehadeh, who was one of the main Hamas operatives responsible for the deaths of many Israeli civilians. Fourteen innocent people were killed along with Shehadeh. The Israeli chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, claimed that the collateral deaths were not only unintentional, they were not even foreseeable. The innocent people who were killed lived in shacks in the backyard of the building, which, in aerial photographs, looked like storage units. Yaalon claimed that, had Israel known about this collateral harm, it would not have bombed Shehadeh’s hiding place. It had already aborted such an operation a few times because of concern with foreseeable civilian death. I believe that such care is right. It is better to err on the side of over-cautiousness concerning collateral damage.

    Besides the difficulties that are raised by the proportionality test, there is a far greater and more momentous issue at stake in the principle of avoidance. The IDF code states that soldiers have to do their utmost to avoid the harming of civilians. This principle states that it is not enough not to intend to kill civilians while attacking legitimate targets. A deliberate effort has to be made not to harm them. If such an active, positive effort to avoid civilian harm is not taken, in what serious way can the claim be made that the foreseeable death was unintended? After all, the death occurred, and could have been expected to occur. So the proper ammunition has to be chosen to minimize innocent deaths; and, if another opportunity is expected to arise for eliminating the target, the operation must be aborted or delayed. Civilians have to be warned ahead of time to move from the area of operation if this is possible, and units have to be well aware that they must operate with caution, even after warning has been given, since not all civilians are quick to move. A leaflet dropped from the sky warning of an attack does not matter to the people--the sick, the old, the poor--who are not immediately mobile.

    In line with such principles, the Israeli Air Force developed the following tactic. Since Hamas hides its headquarters and ammunition storage facilities inside civilian residential areas, the Israeli army calls the residents’ telephones or cell phones, asking them to move immediately out of the house because an attack is imminent. But Hamas, in reaction to such calls, brings the innocent residents up to the roof, so as to protect the target from an attack, knowing that, as a rule, the Israeli army films the target with an unmanned drone and will avoid attacking the civilians on the roof. In response to this tactic, Israel developed a missile that hits the roof without causing any actual harm in order to show the seriousness of its intention. The procedure, called “roof-knocking,” causes the civilians to move away before the deadly attack.

    It is rather a strange point in the Goldstone Report that this practice, which goes a long way to protect civilians, is actually criticized. Concerning such a practice, the report states that, “if this was meant as a warning shot, it has to be deemed reckless in the extreme.” The truth is that this is an admirable and costly effort to avoid civilian collateral harm. As is true with many of its criticisms, the report does not state what the alternative should be. What should Israel do in such a case? Attack the house without calling on its residents to move, or attack it while they are gathered on the roof? Or maybe avoid attacks altogether, allowing the enemy to take effective shelter among civilians?

    In the deliberations about the Israeli army’s code of military conduct, a crucial question emerged in connection with the requirement that efforts be made to avoid harming civilians. For such efforts surely must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians. As far as I know, such an expectation is not demanded in international law--but it is demanded in Israel’s military code, and this has always been its tradition. In Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, for example, Israeli army units faced a tough battle in the Jenin refugee camp. The army refused to opt for the easy military solution--aerial bombardment of the camp--because it would have resulted in many civilian deaths, and it elected instead to engage in house-to-house combat, losing 23 soldiers in the battle. This norm of taking risks with soldiers’ lives in order to avoid civilian deaths came under criticism in Israel, but I believe that it is right. Innocent civilian lives are important enough to obligate such risks. And, if commanders are told that they do not have to assume such risk, then they will shoot at any suspicious person, which will result in widespread killing.

    Yet the application of such norms in battle raises difficult moral quandaries. One of them comes up in the Goldstone Report. When the operation started, Hamas militants mostly avoided face-to-face battles with Israeli soldiers. They withdrew into the civilian heartland and fired mortar rockets from within their own population, targeting Israeli units. Mortar locations can be detected by radar, but the crew can move the mortar to a new location in a few minutes, and then fire from there. It is therefore impossible to target these mortars and their crews with a helicopter or in any other way that would provide a direct visual of the target and use accurate ammunition: Such means simply take too much time to deploy. The only option is to fire back with mortars that can be quickly and accurately directed at the coordinates of the mortars on the other side.

    The problem with such a tactic is that such mortars are of 120 millimeter caliber and the radius of their hit is 50 meters. This means that collateral damage to civilians might occur while hitting the legitimate target. Of course, the commanding officer can choose not to fire back and put his soldiers at risk from the next rounds of mortar shots. It is important also to note that, when returning fire, the commanding officer cannot know whether there are civilians in that radius and how many of them are there. In “fog of war” conditions, and under pressure to react, such information is not available.

    The Goldstone Report claims that the shooting of mortars caused disproportionate collateral harm, which is, of course, an empirical matter; but it is important to understand that this can be known only after the fact. So what to do? My own view is that, if the fire that the unit is taking is not accurate, and if the commander can move his own unit to another location, he should do so rather then fire back and endanger civilians. But this is a very difficult choice, and sometimes this choice might not be available. It is wrong to give the commanding officer a blank check to shoot anytime his soldiers are at probable risk--but he must be given the means of protecting them as well. The Goldstone Report is very critical about the firing of the Israeli mortars, but it does not take seriously into account the problems that such a situation imposes.

    It is my impression that the Israeli army in Gaza did not provide clear guidance on the matter of whether soldiers have to assume risk. Some units took risks in the Gaza in order to avoid the collateral killing of civilians, while some units accepted the policy of no risk to soldiers. This does not amount to a war crime, but it is a wrong policy. It also might be a cause of unnecessary civilian deaths: It could inspire a reason for a misguided order to shoot whoever crosses a certain line on the map in proximity to an Israeli unit. Given the fact that anyone in the battle zone could be a militant, and that warnings were given, such an order might make sense--and yet, the order should refer to someone who seems to pose a threat rather than to anyone who crosses the line, since fear and confusion might cause innocent civilians to move too close to the line and even to cross it.

    These are not simple issues. They are also not political issues. They are the occasions of deep moral struggle, because they are matters of life and death. If you are looking for an understanding of these issues, or for guidance about them, in the Goldstone Report, you will not find it.


    In discussing the code of ethical conduct with Israeli officers, many times I encounter the following complaint: “Do you want to say that, before I open fire, I have to go through all these moral dilemmas and calculations? It will be completely paralyzing. Nobody can fight a war in such a straitjacket!” My answer to them is that the whole point of training is about performing well under pressure without succumbing to paralysis. This is the case with battlefields that have nothing to do with moral concerns. Do I attack from the right or from the left? How do I respond to this new tactic, or to that? And so on. This is why moral considerations have to be an essential part of military training. If there is no time for moral reflection in battle, then moral reflection must be accomplished before battle, and drilled into the soldiers who will have to answer for their actions after battle.

    Besides the great difficulty of adjusting the norms of warfare--the principles of necessity, distinction, proportionality, and avoidance--to a non-traditional battlefield without uniforms and without a front, there is still another pedagogical challenge. In a traditional war, the difficult moral choices are made by the political elites and the high command, such as whether to bomb Dresden or to destroy Hiroshima. But in this new kind of micro-war, every soldier is a kind of commanding officer, a full moral and strategic agent. Every soldier must decide whether the individual standing before him in jeans and sneakers is a combatant or not. What sorts of risks must a soldier assume in order to avoid killing civilians while targeting a seeming combatant? The challenge is to make these rules part of the inner world of each soldier, and this takes more than just formulating the norms and the rules properly. It is for this reason that I looked to the Goldstone Report to learn whether these norms were in fact applied, and in what way Israeli soldiers did or did not succeed in internalizing and acting upon them.

    The commission that wrote the report could have performed a great service if it had concentrated on gathering the testimonies from Gaza and assessing them critically, while acknowledging (as it failed to do) that they are partial and incomplete. This would have forced Israel to investigate various matters, provide answers, and take appropriate measures. (I do not imagine Hamas engaging in such an investigation of its own crimes. This is yet another asymmetry.) But instead the commission opted to add to its findings three unnecessary elements: the context of the history that led to the war; its assessment of Israel’s strategic goals; and long sections on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Why should a committee with a mandate to inquire into the operation in Gaza deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large?

    The honest reader of these sections cannot avoid the impression that their objective is to prepare a general indictment of Israel as a predatory state that is geared toward violating human rights all the time. It will naturally follow from such a premise that the Gaza operation was yet another instance of Israel’s general wicked behavior. These long sections are the weakest, the most biased, and the most outrageous in this long document. They are nothing if not political. In Goldstone’s account of the history that led to the war, for example, Hamas is basically described as a legitimate party that had the bad luck to clash with Israel. The bloody history of the movement--which, since the beginning of the Oslo accords, was determined to do everything in its power, including the massacre of civilians, to defeat the peace process--is not mentioned.

    The Israeli reader who actually experienced the events at the time remembers vividly that Hamas terrorists murdered Israeli men, women, and children all over Israel while a peace process was underway. Hamas was doing all this in accordance with its religious ideology, which is committed to the destruction of Israel and is fueled by Iranian military and financial support. In the supposed context that the report analyzes, there is no mention of Hamas’s role and its ideology as reflected in its extraordinary charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocidal killing of Jews. In its attempt to stop Hamas’s vicious attacks on Israel’s citizens, Israel built a long fence--an obstacle to prevent a suicide bomber in Kalkilya from rolling out of bed and driving to the heart of Kfar Saba and Netanya in five or ten minutes. (The distances between life and death are really that short.) The Goldstone Report mentions the fence, of course--but as a great violation of human rights, as motivated sheerly by predatory desires.

    Hamas was responsible in many ways for torpedoing the next opportunity for ending Israel’s occupation. After the collapse of the Oslo agreement, Ariel Sharon, then the prime minister, decided to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, in the belief that there was no reliable partner on the Palestinian side and that Israel had to start putting an end to its control of the Palestinian population. Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s successor, was elected on a platform that committed him to unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. But the implementation of this policy of continued Israeli withdrawal was cut short by the unrelenting shelling of Israeli cities and villages from recently vacated Gaza. Such ongoing attacks made Israelis rightly concerned that an evacuation of the West Bank would expose Israel’s population centers to such attacks, and the possibility of unilateral evacuation from the West Bank collapsed.

    In the last ten years, Israel has withdrawn unilaterally from south Lebanon and Gaza. In both cases, the vacuum was filled by militant Islamic movements religiously committed to the destruction of Israel. Anyone who supports a peaceful two-state solution must ponder the role of Hamas in destroying such a prospect--and yet, quite astonishingly, nothing of this is mentioned in the Goldstone Report. It also avoids mentioning the legitimate concern of Israel about the ongoing rearmament of Hamas in Gaza, which supplies them with more lethal long-range missiles to wreak destruction on Israeli population centers. The commission should not have dealt with the context leading to the war; it should have concentrated on its mandate, which concerned only the Gaza operation. By setting its findings about the Gaza war in a greatly distorted description of the larger historical context, it makes it difficult for Israelis--even of the left, where I include myself--to take its findings seriously.

    Then there is the report’s conclusion concerning Israel’s larger aims in the Gaza war. It claims that Israel’s objective in Gaza was a direct and intentional attack on civilian infrastructure and lives: “In reviewing the above incidents the mission found in every case that the Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians.” In another statement, intentional destruction of property and attacks against civilians are lumped together: “Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy.” Now, there is a huge moral difference between the accusation that Israel did not do enough to minimize collateral civilian death and the claim that Israel targeted civilians intentionally. It might well be that Israel should have done more than it did to minimize collateral deaths--it is a harsh enough claim, and it deserves a thorough examination. But the claim that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a policy of war is false and slanderous.

    There are different accounts of the numbers of civilian deaths in Gaza, and of the ratio between civilian and militant deaths. B’Tselem, the reliable Israeli human rights organization, carefully examined names and lists of people who were killed and came up with the following ratio: Out of the 1,387 people killed in Gaza, for every militant that was killed, three civilians were killed. This ratio--1:3--holds if you include the police force among the civilians; but if you consider the police force as combatants, the ratio comes out to 2:3. There are 1.5 million people in Gaza and around 10,000 Hamas militants, so the ratio of militants to civilians is 1:150. If Israel targeted civilians intentionally, how on earth did it reduce such a ratio to 1:3 or 2:3?

    The commission never asks that question, or an even more obvious one. In operating under such conditions--Gaza is an extremely densely populated area--is such a ratio a sign of reckless shooting and targeting? One way to think about this is to compare it with what other civilized armies achieve in the same sort of warfare. I do not have the exact numbers of the ratio of civilian to militant deaths in NATO’s war in Afghanistan, but I doubt that it has achieved such a ratio. Is it ten civilians to one combatant, or maybe 20 civilians to one combatant? From various accounts in the press, it certainly seems worse. The number of collateral deaths that are reported concerning the campaign to kill Baitullah Mehsud, one of the main Pakistani militant operatives, is also alarming: In 16 missile strikes in the various failed attempts at killing him, and in the one that eventually killed him (at his father-in-law’s house, in the company of his family), between 207 and 321 people were killed. If such were the numbers in Israel in a case of targeted killing, its press and even its public opinion would have been in an uproar.

    Besides the 500 civilians who were killed in the bombing of Serbia, how many militants were killed? The inaccurate high-altitude bombings in Serbia, carried out in a manner so as to protect NATO pilots, caused mainly civilian deaths. What would have been the ratio of deaths if NATO forces were fighting not in faraway Afghanistan, but while protecting European citizens from ongoing shelling next to its borders? And there are still more chilling comparisons. If accurate numbers were available from the wars by Russia in Chechnya, the ratio would have been far more devastating to the civilian population. Needless to say, the behavior of the Russian army in Chechnya should hardly serve as a standard for moral scrupulousness--but I cannot avoid adducing this example after reading that Russia voted in the United Nations for the adoption of the U.N. report on Gaza. (The other human rights luminaries who voted for the Goldstone Report include China and Pakistan.) So what would be a justified proportionality? The Goldstone Report never says. But we may safely conclude that, if the legal and moral standard is current European and American behavior in war, then Israel has done pretty well.


    So a good deal of the outrage that has greeted the Goldstone Report is perfectly justified. And yet its sections devoted to the Gaza war do make claims and cite testimonies that no honest Israeli can ignore. They demand a thorough investigation, and I will enumerate them in their order of severity.

    The worst testimonies are of civilian deaths, some of which sound like cold-blooded murders. In the report, such cases amount to a few individual incidents, and they call for criminal investigation of particular soldiers. Was there indeed a killing at close range of a mother and her three daughters carrying white flags? Then there are a few cases of alleged civilian deaths that are the result of the reckless use of firepower. The most disturbing of them is the testimony about the Al Samouni neighborhood in Gaza City, in which 21 members of a family were killed in an attack on a house. The place and the names are given in the report, and Israel will have to provide answers. Was it a mistake? Were some of the family members Hamas fighters? Did someone shoot at the soldiers from the house? Or was this an act of unjustified homicide?

    The testimonies in the Goldstone Report are Palestinian testimonies. They were collected in Gaza, where the watchful eye of Hamas authorities always looms, rendering them vulnerable and partial. Israel chose not to cooperate with the commission, and so the Israeli version of events is not here. It was a mistake on Israel’s part not to participate in the inquiry--though, after reading the report, I am more sympathetic to Israel’s reluctance. This commission that describes its mission as fact-finding treats the missing Israeli testimonies as if they are Israel’s problem, rather than a methodological and empirical shortcoming in the report itself. Whatever one thinks about Israel’s refusal to cooperate, the Goldstone Report is still only 452 pages of mostly Palestinian testimony, and this grave limitation must be acknowledged.

    Yet the allegations have now been made, and Israeli answers must be given. The next issue that Israel will have to deal with is the use of what the report calls “human shields,” which seems to have been an Israeli practice on some occasions. In justifying such a practice, Israeli commanders claim that they forced Palestinian civilians to go to certain homes to warn other civilians before attacking the houses. This might be justified, but the testimonies sound different. They sound as if Israeli soldiers were using civilians to gather information. After attacking a certain building, a civilian was allegedly forced to go and check whether the Hamas militants were dead or not. This is a troubling testimony. Was this done, or not? If it was done, then it is in violation of Israel’s own Supreme Court ruling on the matter of human shields.

    Other testimonies pertain to the destruction of civilian property. One of the most disturbing is the report of the flattening with bulldozers of the chicken farm at Zeytoun, in which 31,000 chickens were killed. Such destruction, like other reported destructions of agricultural and industrial facilities, does not seem to serve any purpose. The accusation concerning the destruction of civilian property pertains as well to the large-scale destruction of homes. According to the commission, aerial photographs show that, of the total number of homes that were destroyed in two of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, about half were destroyed in the last three days of the operation. If so, then such destruction cannot be justified as in the heat of the battle. It was done to leave a brutal scar as proof of the Israeli presence, as immoral and illegal instruments of deterrence. If this were the case, then reparations should be made to the families whose homes were destroyed.

    Next in order of severity comes the bombing of civilian infrastructure. According to the report, the Israeli Air Force bombed the flour mill, the water wells, and the sewage pipes in Gaza. It is possible that the flour mill was strategically located and was used as a perch for snipers or as a launching facility for Qassam rockets fired in the war. This would be the only justification for such a bombing. Israel should now provide its version of these events. If indeed these facilities were attacked as part of a premeditated policy, then this was wrong, and Israel should say so.

    I do not see much substance in the complaint against Israel’s bombing of the Hamas parliament and other offices while they were empty. A persuasive case can be made that an organization such as Hamas does not have a division of labor between its military and civilian functions. The report’s long section on the attack on the prison in Gaza also seems to me a mistaken accusation. The commission notes that only one guard was killed in the bombing, but it blames Israel for endangering the prisoners in attacking a target that has no military use. It did not occur to the commission that Israel attacked the prison to allow Fatah prisoners to escape harsh treatment at the hands of Hamas. (The commission is well-aware that this was the population of the prison.) Some of them did escape, and some were subsequently shot by Hamas militants.

    The Goldstone Report as a whole is a terrible document. It is biased and unfair. It offers no help in sorting out the real issues. What methods can Israel--and other countries in similar situations--legitimately apply in the defense of their citizens? To create standards of morality in war that leave a state without the means of legitimate self-protection is politically foolish and morally problematic; but real answers to these real problems cannot be found in the Goldstone Report. What should Israel do when Hezbollah’s more lethal and accurate missiles strike the center of Tel Aviv, causing hundreds of civilian deaths? It is a well-known fact that these missiles are in Hezbollah’s possession, and, when they are fired, it will be from populated villages in Lebanon.

    It is important, for this reason, that Israel respond to the U.N. report by clarifying the principles that it operated upon in Gaza, thus exposing the limits and the prejudices of the report. A mere denunciation of the report will not suffice. Israel must establish an independent investigation into the concrete allegations that the report makes. By clearing up these issues, by refuting what can be refuted, and by admitting wrongs when wrongs were done, Israel can establish the legitimacy of its self-defense in the next round, as well as honestly deal with its own failures.

    Moshe Halbertal is a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University and the Gruss Professor at New York University School of Law.

    Source URL: http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion

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    Background Articles & Opinions Hussein Ibish on the Fantasy World of One-Staters (The Atlantic)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 07 November @ 04:35:36 GMT+1 (783 maal gelezen)

    Hussein Ibish on the Fantasy World of One-Staters

    The Atlantic
    Jeffrey Goldberg
    November 3, 2009 - 12:00am

    Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, which is the leading American group advocating for an independent Palestine alongside Israel, has a new book out, "What's Wrong With the One-State Agenda?" which does a comprehensive job of demolishing the arguments made by those who think that Israel should be eliminated and replaced by a single state of Jews and Palestinians. He has performed an important service with this book by noting one overwhelming truth about this debate: Virtually no one in Israel wants a single-state between the river and the sea. It's useful to remember this salient fact when listening to the ostensibly reality-based arguments of the one-staters.

    I spoke to Ibish about his arguments last week, shortly after he spoke at the J Street conference. Here is an edited version of our conversation:

    Jeffrey Goldberg: What were your impressions of the conference?

    Hussein Ibish: It was impressive as a first step. My impression is that there's still quite a bit of message-cohesion and message-formulation to be done. It seemed to me to be an insufficiently coherent group of people. The range of people was so large.

    JG: You mean on the Zionist spectrum?

    HI:  I mean people ranging from the sort of centrist-center left, all the way to post-Zionists, anti-Zionists, who were there, too. It's not ultimately a group that's going to form, I think, a functional coalition. Right now, they're finding their feet. This is normal, it's inevitable -- but at a certain point, I think they have to clarify what they are, who their constituency is, what they stand for, who they are, who they're not. They've been more successful in creating a space for themselves as a new voice that is compelling, but at other moments it's looked like where they were simply positioning themselves as the alternative to AIPAC. And my sense of things is that, initially, that they would look too much to their rivals. But sooner rather than later, they're going to have to just move on and start to define themselves in a much more coherent and pro-active way, not just in contrast to the traditional Jewish organizations but also to distinguish themselves from people in the Jewish community whose criticism of Israel makes them anathema to the mainstream of the community. They can't go there and I think they've tried not to go there.

    JG: You can't be Zionist and non-Zionist at the same time, in other words.

    HI: Exactly. I think it's essential for them. For us, it's not important.

    JG: Well, isn't it important to have a pro-Israel, pro-two-state organization in Washington that's credibly Jewish?

    HI: It is. But I believe that all of the mainstream organizations are moving in that direction. I think begrudgingly, without enthusiasm, I think they're all getting there, because I think ultimately the only organization that I can think of that is absolutely opposed to a two-state agreement are on the far right, the Zionist Organization of America, which is in favor of the occupation without reservations and, on the left, Jewish Voices for Peace, which is a one-state group all the way and without reservation. It seems to me everybody else occupies some space in the middle without being one-staters and without being flag-waving pro-settlers.

    Now, the question is, from our point of view, what's really important is that the Jewish community have a range of dynamic organizations that are effective in advocating for peace based on two states, number one. And number two, that we can work with everybody who is in favor of a two-state solution without any other preconditions. I mean, we don't want to get involved in intra-Jewish rivalries. We want to work with everyone who wants peace based on two states. It's as simple as that. We don't have a huge stake in where J Street ultimately positions itself, but I will say this: The more mainstream it can become, the more powerful and important it will be. I think they should be as mainstream as possible, they should avoid the impression they sometimes give that they're perhaps not being sensitive to fears about Israel's security. There's a real appetite for a more robust, more aggressively pro-peace organization in the Jewish community. But from our perspective, the only people we don't want to talk to are the one-staters and the pro-occupation groups.
    JG: But the one-staters are a very marginal group. I think one of the interesting things you do in your book is show very coolly, calmly, the essential ridiculousness of one-state advocacy based on the simple fact that in order to have a successful one-state plan, you need Israeli Jews to want it, and today, not even one percent of Israeli Jews want it.

    HI: You could put all of them in a small auditorium.

    JG: I don't think you need an auditorium. Talk about these guys, the Tony Judts --

    HI: I don't want to be too hard on Judt. Judt put out this argument and then he immediately admitted that it was utopian, that it wasn't serious and he was just doing a thought experiment. And since then, he basically has more or less withdrawn from the conversation Judt has not been a person who suggests that this is a realistic plan and a serious proposal for the future.

    There are two fundamental flaws with pro-Palestinian strategic thinking that focuses on the idea of abandoning two states and going for a single state. The first is the question of feasibility, and it's hard to argue with that. Obviously anyone who is familiar with this sees the difficulty, and I would be the first to say that success is not assured by any means. Even a two-state agreement looks, at the moment, like something of a long shot. The difference between the two-state solution and everything else is that yes, it's a long shot, but it would work. And if we could conceivably get it, if we did get it, it would solve the conflict.

    The fundamental argument that the one-staters seem to be making, which is that we can't possibly get Israel to end the occupation and relinquish their control of the 22 percent of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) but we will inevitably succeed in getting them to relinquish one hundred percent of the territory under their control. This is a problem of logic. The second thing is that once you've realized this, obviously what you've done is set yourself the task of convincing Jewish Israelis to voluntarily do this.  The idea of coercing the Israelis into this through military force is absurd, and it could only really be done through voluntary persuasion. What the one-staters argue, actually, is that they don't have to do that. What they're going to do, they say, is bring the Israelis to their knees.

    JG: South Africa style?
    HI: Well, South Africa style, except we don't have a South Africa equation here.

    JG: But they believe they do.

    HI: They believe that through the application of what they call BDS - Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions - globally that they can crush the will of the Israelis and break the Zionist movement. To me, even if you believe that boycotts were plausible, which I don't, certainly I don't think the American government and institutions and corporations would participate.

    JG: You have to move from the American consensus that supports supplying Israel with the best weaponry to not just a military cutoff but a complete cutoff and boycott. It's very hard to picture.

    HI: Anyone who thinks that is plausible in the foreseeable future doesn't understand the nature of the American relationship with Israel. The commitment of the U.S., not just the government but American society, is to the survival and security of the Israeli state. And then there's another aspect, which is the extent to which Israeli institutions, organizations and corporations are interwoven at a very fundamental level with many of those in the U.S.

    JG: Right, Intel and Google --

    HI: I'm talking about corporate, governmental, intelligence, military, industrial, scientific ties. The point is that you can only take talk of boycott and sanctions seriously if you really don't understand any of this. And if you don't understand any of this, then you're living in a fantasy world. So here's the thing: Obviously the only real task for one-staters is to convince Jewish Israelis to agree to their solution. But instead of trying to do that, they engage in the most hyperbolic discourse about the badness of Zionism, the badness of Jewish Israelis, the rightness and primacy of not just a Palestinian narrative, but the most strident traditional Palestinian narrative, and the most tendentious Palestinian narrative, the one that places lame for the conflict entirely on the side of the Israelis, that casts Israel as the usurper and what they call in one-state circles now the "temporary racist usurping entity."  These are the ones, by the way, who won't talk about my book. There's a refusal to acknowledge or read my book. I've nicknamed my book "the temporary racist usurping book."

    These people are trapped in the language of the Fifties and Sixties. You're talking about a worldview is anachronistic in the most fundamental sense. It doesn't recognize any of the changes that have taken place since then. For example, the strategic situation that's emerged in the Middle East, where the Arab states and the Arabs generally have a lot of other things to worry about other than Israel. This is a world in which a lot of Gulf states are extremely concerned about Iraq, and where there are Arab states -- Jordan and Egypt -- that have treaties with Israel, where Syria has a motive to be civil with Israel that is unpleasant but completely stable, and where it's a very different environment than simply the Arabs and Israelis are enemies. The other thing that they've missed completely, and this is sort of the amazing thing, is the total transformation in American official policy toward the Palestinians over the past 20 years. Twenty-one years ago, there was no contact ever between the U.S. and the PLO. No contact, zero, and no Palestinian statehood is the consensus American foreign policy and it is a national security priority under Obama. People in the House, key positions like the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, Gary Ackerman, Nita Lowey on Appropriations - all of them Jewish American members of Congress, stalwart supporters of Israel, and all of them committed to peace based on two states. And all of them, by the way, who were on the host committee of the American Task Force on Palestine gala last week.

    JG: You've reached the Promised Land.

    HI: Except that we haven't achieved the results.

    JG: Yes, there's that. But you're on the road.

    HI: Exactly. The transformation in American attitudes is almost mind-boggling, an official American attitude on ending the occupation, which has been the traditional goal of the Palestinians. And at this very moment, a group of Palestinians turns around and says, 'Sorry, not good enough, we want it all. Not only is a single Palestinian state not achievable, it's not desirable, it's not acceptable, it's not enough, we want it all.'

    JG: Who are the leaders of the movement?

    HI: People like Ali Abunimah, Joseph Massad, Ghada Karmi, Omar Barghouti.

    JG: And you think they're succumbing to fantastic dreams. This is the traditional criticism of Palestinian politics over the past sixty years, that it's very hard to separate out the dreams from--

    It goes back further than sixty years. It's an article of Palestinian nationalist faith that is almost one hundred years old, which is that demography is destiny, demography is power. This notion that if we just sit here, on the land, have children, are steadfast and don't agree to anything, then political power ultimately will flow to us. In the twenties, they believed if we do that, then, just by virtue of our presence in the land, our numbers, our demography, Israel will never be established. After Israel was established, it was just, "Well if we're steadfast and we don't agree, then Israel will be reversed." Then it was, "Well if we just do this, then independence will come in the occupied territories." Now the latest version is if we're just steadfast, we can create a South Africa-like model and we will reverse the war of 1948 at the ballot.

    JG: But I have to tell you that for people like me, this is a real worry. This goes with the argument that the settlements are the vanguard of one-statism.

    HI: Now there is some truth to this. I think it's useful for people like (Ehud) Olmert or people like yourself to point out that with the occupation going the way it is, there won't be a Palestinian state, and then Israel will be in a situation where it is neither meaningfully Jewish nor meaningfully democratic. I think you could claim that already, if you talk about the de facto Israeli state rather than Israel in its normally perceived borders, that is already the case and it will be increasingly so. Now here's the thing: The alternative, though, is not going to be a single state in the foreseeable future. It's possible we could get there, but it won't be a solution, it will be an outcome. There's a big difference. An outcome of a horrible, brutal, bloody civil conflict that drags on for generations, because even though this demographic issue and the legitimacy issues are crises for Israel, I don't think they result in the dissolution of the Israeli state

    JG: In other words, most Israeli Jews would rather have a Jewish state than a democratic state.

    HI: Yes, it's obvious. And I think that what you would get is a protracted civil war that is essentially an intensification of the civil war we've had. So I do say the single state is a potential eventuality, but it would be the outcome of a horrible scenario. Look, the idea that if the current round of talks breaks down and Obama gives up and the U.S. gives up and we all give up, then the alternative is a Gandhian non-violent struggle of sanctions and boycotts that will somehow bring Israel to its knees, that is not the way it's going to go. We know the way it's going to go.

    JG: Each intifada is more violent than the last.

    HI: And more religious. You'll end up with two sets of bearded fanatics on both sides fighting over holy places and God. It will be a complete disaster. And I think the Israelis will end up ultimately dealing with forces not only beyond its borders, but beyond its comprehension in the long run. This has the possibility of turning into not an ethno-national war but a religious war between the Muslims and the Jews over the holy places with the whole concept of Palestine gone and the Jewish population of Israel in a very unenviable situation, protected in the end only by its nuclear weapons. It's a nightmare.

    JG: So you have three scenarios. One, the one-state solution: Somehow the Jews and the Arabs decide, even though their narratives completely contradict each other, that we'll be like Belgium, where we don't have to really like each other but we'll be fine. The second alternative is the one you described of basically endless war. The third is the two-state solution. But, sorry to say it, we don't seem that close right now. You have an Israeli government who seems extremely hesitant to pull down any settlements, you have a Hamas government in Gaza, just for starters.

    HI: What you do with Hamas, in my view, is you make the situation such that Hamas has to choose, and you do this by creating progress and by creating momentum - and there are two ways of creating momentum. One is diplomatically, which right now, seems difficult. The other is through the Fayyad plan, which is state building in the occupied territories. That would have a very powerful effect. It is extremely important that we use that idea as a means of gaining momentum, that the Israelis do not block it, that the U.S. protect it politically, and that the Arabs, Europeans and the Israelis support it technically and financially. This is a way of really moving forward in a manner that is complimentary and not contradictory to the diplomatic process, and I think people who suggest that this is some kind of capitulation or some kind of collaboration are dead wrong. This is a very powerful way of effectively resisting the occupation without doing anything violent. Israelis may fool themselves into thinking that this is just economic peace, but it's not; it's Palestinians preparing for independence.

    Now with regard to Hamas, I definitely don't think it would be wise for the West to open up dialogue with Hamas under the present circumstances. I think that would simply reward them and it would benefit them in their competition with the PLO and there's a stark choice that Palestinians are facing between two strategies: an Islamist violent strategy and a secular nationalist negotiation strategy. I think it's very important to bolster the second and to make the first appear what it actually is: Non-functional.

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    Background Articles & Opinions
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 19:51:04 GMT+1 (810 maal gelezen)

    Rabbi Eric Yoffie • Op-Ed
    Published: 30 October 2009
    Editor’s note: The Jewish Standard published an abridged version of the Oct. 26 address by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president, Union for Reform Judaism, to the J Street conference. The complete text follows:

    I am grateful for the invitation to be with you at J Street’s first national conference. The growth of J Street has been extraordinary in every way. I offer my congratulations to Jeremy Ben-Ami and his associates, and I welcome the opportunity to address you and share my views.
    Let us begin with a simple question: What is a pro-Israel organization?
    I suggest that pro-Israel organizations are those that possess two characteristics.

    First, they are organizations that support the idea that Israel must be a Jewish and democratic state. By “Jewish state” I mean a state with a stable Jewish majority, and by “democratic state” I mean a state that grants full political and civil rights to all who dwell permanently within its borders.

    Pro-Israel organizations know that the creation and support of a Jewish and democratic state is the central value of Zionism-indeed, it is the very reason that Zionism came into being. And absent a two-state solution, there will be no such state. I am astounded that those who resist a two-state solution, who speak the language of permanent occupation, and who even refuse to reject expulsion of Arabs from Israel or the territories will be considered by some as pro-Israel, while advocates of a two-state solution will not.

    Second, pro-Israel groups are those that stand in abiding solidarity with the State of Israel. To me this means seeing Israel as a cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing. It means feeling blessed to live at this moment when Israel has returned to history and the Jewish people have achieved real power and mastered the gun. It means recognizing that Jewish life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core. To be sure, it means telling the truth about Israel and speaking honestly to Israel’s leaders; solidarity with Israel never means just singing Hatikvah. But it is also to battle Israel’s enemies on the right and the left, to reject the trap of false moral equivalence, and to never, ever, express contempt for the State and its people. And it is to avoid like the plague the self-haters in the Jewish community who defend the rights of every group except their own.

    I suggest that we need a broad, sensible, and inclusive definition of what it means to be pro-Israel, built on the two pillars that I have proposed. And let us beware of those who insist, in effect, that the only way to be pro-Israel is to be “just like me.”

    A few words on Gaza-since it was an exchange that J Street and I had on Gaza that generated so much attention earlier this year.
    After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas spent three years launching rockets and missiles into southern Israel-continuing attacks that had begun years earlier. These rockets traumatized children, terrorized the population, drove people from the cities, and brought normal life to a halt. At one point, the population of Sderot dropped from 24,000 to 10,000. Every playground in Sderot had a bomb shelter, and 75% of the children there suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome-which meant, simply, that they were in shock, and that even six- or seven-year olds slept in their parents’ rooms and frequently wet their beds. For years, Israel worked to generate support from the international community to stop the attacks, but diplomats clucked their tongues and did nothing. And for years, Israeli citizens in the south hated their own government almost as much as they hated Hamas, because, in their eyes, their government had abandoned them.

    Yes, the situation was complicated; there were other factors at work-there always are. And once the war began, the people of Gaza suffered profoundly-which deeply saddens us all. Nonetheless, the reality that I have described is what led to the war. How many years would American parents sit by while their children were reduced to zombies, afraid, every morning, to walk out their front doors? How many rockets would need to land in your backyard before you demanded that your government act, and act decisively? We all know, in fact, that there is not a single American parent who would tolerate for a single week what Israeli parents tolerated for years.

    If I have a complaint against the government of Israel, it is that I wonder if it should not have acted sooner in Gaza. There are those who think that targeted military action, undertaken earlier, might have been effective and might have reduced the terrible death toll of innocents that ultimately ensued. In any case, I want to be clear: I supported Israel’s military action in Gaza then, and looking back, I reaffirm that support now. And I oppose negotiations with Hamas — which is rejectionist, religiously fanatic, and anti-Semitic — until such a time as it meets those conditions set forth by both the United States and by the Quartet.

    This is not the time for a full discussion of the Goldstone report, which in my view was fatally flawed. There are many questions that one might legitimately ask about Israel’s conduct of the war: Why was it necessary for Israeli forces to use so much firepower? How do you carry out a war against a terrorist organization that attacks your citizens and hides amid a civilian population? What risks are Israeli soldiers obligated to take, beyond those inherent in combat, to prevent harm to civilians? The Israelis that I know are asking these questions; it is right for them to do so, and it is right for the government of Israel to deal with these issues.

    But the Goldstone report chose not to focus on these questions. Its central assertion is that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians, intentionally causing their deaths. This is a stunning and outrageous charge. I reject it, the people of Israel reject it, and — most important — it is not supported by the facts. This is not a thoughtful judicial report attempting to make difficult moral judgments. It is a political report based largely on unverifiable Palestinian claims that is meant to be used as a sledgehammer to bludgeon Israel.

    If you doubt this, read the report. Its reasoning is shaky in some places and more often absurd. The accusations against Palestinians are expressed in language that is understated and restrained, while the accusations against Israel are expressed in wording that is sweeping, bold, and absolute. And upon closer inspection, many of these charges include phrases such as “it seems that,” “it would appear,” and “we have no definite proof but...” In an interview in the Forward, Goldstone acknowledged that nothing in the report could be used as proof in a court of law and that it contained no actual “evidence” of wrongdoing by Israel. Among the public that heard about this report and the diplomatic community that seized upon it, I doubt if one person in a hundred is aware of what we are now told is the report’s limited scope. Didn’t Justice Goldstone have an obligation to make this clear from the beginning? And this too: you cannot be a moral agent if you serve an immoral master, and Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself for working under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
    It will be important for Israel to continue with the investigations that it has already begun. Still, I suspect and I fear that the damage has already been done. This report, no matter how compelling the refutations that follow, will become a staple of U.N. gatherings and international meetings. It will be used to incite against Israel and to portray every Israeli leader connected with the military as a war criminal. It will become an instrument to inflame Palestinian extremism. And it will be invoked every time that Israel defends itself against attacks on its civilian centers. In short, it has made the work of peace much harder than it already was.

    I would like to turn now to the settlement issue, which has received so much attention this year. Regrettably, in my view, the public discussion has not been enlightening; it has obscured far more than it has revealed.

    The simple fact, absent from so much of this discussion, is that there are two kinds of settlements: those east of the security fence and those west of the security fence. Those west of the fence are in three major blocks, and in a sense are the extended suburbs of Jerusalem. Virtually all of those who support a two-state solution have recognized that these blocks will be part of Israel in any conceivable settlement, with the Palestinians being offered a land swap as compensation. If the settlement borders were to be defined by mutual agreement, there is no reason why additional buildings in these blocks should pose a problem for any of the parties.

    East of the fence are the settlements around Hebron and between Nablus and Ramallah-what I would call the “ideological settlements.” Approximately 100,000 settlers live in these areas-twice the number that lived there in the 1990s-and there is no way that a viable, contiguous Palestinian state can come into being unless they are removed. As I have said, without a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, there is no way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic. And as you know, support for a two-state solution is the policy of the government of the United States and both of its major political parties, not to mention the policy of those governments in Europe and the international community that remain friendly to Israel and committed to her security. It is also the policy of the State of Israel.

    But here is the problem: it is not clear that those 100,000 settlers can ever be removed. I have friends in Israel on both the right and the left who generally agree on nothing but who agree on this. It is too late, they say. It is simply not credible to believe that any Israeli government would be willing or capable to remove so many settlers from their West Bank homes.

    I reject their thesis, because to accept it is to give up on the idea of a Jewish and democratic Israel. But I worry that even if it is not too late, time is fast running out.

    The American government and the international community have accepted the Israeli occupation on the assumption that it is temporary. But after 40 years, that is a hard claim to make, especially when the number of settlers in what would be the heart of a Palestinian state continues to grow. And once it becomes clear that the conditions for a Palestinian state simply do not exist, Israel will face demands for a “one-state solution” based on the principle of “one-man-one-vote.” And this, of course, is not a solution at all, because a single-state solution will soon yield a Palestinian majority. And Zionism did not come into being, I suggest, so that the Jews could be a minority in somebody else’s state.

    Yes, I know, there are those who proclaim that Israel will simply defy the world. It will retain the settlements and Israeli rule, and the world be damned. I am among those who believe that it cannot and will not, and to suggest otherwise is to misread both what is happening in the world and the extent of Israel’s power. And even if it could, how many of us would want a Jewish state with unrecognized borders that contains a large, hostile minority deprived of basic civil and political rights?

    And for those who say that the “one-state solution” is a scare tactic and an exaggeration, I say: wake up. Look around. It is already happening, right now. And not only among certain Palestinian factions, but on our own campuses here in America. And I do not refer to campus anti-Semites and Israel haters, who will despise us no matter what. I refer to reasonable and moderate groups who are looking at the facts on the ground and are beginning to say: “We have tried for 40 years. A two-state solution would be best but it just isn’t possible. Let’s see if we can find a democratic framework to accommodate everyone.”

    Too many American Jewish groups have their heads in the sand on these matters. They talk to each other or to themselves, but not to their own children on campus. They embrace those elements of the American religious right that endorse settlement as a religious principle without realizing that the influence of these groups is not growing but declining. But those of us who do the actual work of making Israel’s case with religious groups, communal groups, and local leaders know full well the damage that the settlement issue causes in grassroots America.

    You can convince Americans of the miracle of Israel’s founding and the justice of her struggle against terror and rejection.

    You can convince them that it makes demographic and political sense for Israel to trade settlements near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority in return for land elsewhere in Israel.

    But you cannot convince Americans that it makes sense for an Israel that supports a Palestinian state to maintain a large settler population in the heart of the West Bank where that state must come into being. The simple fact is that it makes no sense at all, and Americans, being a sensible people, know that.

    Too much of the American Jewish community responds to this problem by saying things that convince no one.

    Settlements are not the issue, they say. I agree that they may not be the issue, but they are certainly an issue-and one that threatens the Zionist enterprise and that we ignore at our peril.

    Jews should be able to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel, they say. I agree, if those Jews are prepared to live under Palestinian sovereignty. But the overwhelming majority of settlers are not willing to live in a Palestinian state-which means that what they are really calling for is permanent occupation.

    Israel has shown that it can withdraw settlers, they say. In theory true, but the withdrawal from the “ideological settlements” would be ten times larger than all of the withdrawals carried out in the past, each of which was profoundly traumatic for the people of Israel. Historical experience is more of an argument against the possibility of such a withdrawal than it is in favor.

    American Jewish leadership is right now focused on the threat of Iran. I share their fears, and I favor the immediate imposition of tough economic sanctions-multilateral if possible, unilateral if not. In my view, our government is right to affirm that sanctions are the preferred response, but that no options should be taken off the table. This is not the time for a full discussion of this matter, but I will say that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, some Arab states will quietly drift into Iran’s orbit, while others will move quickly to acquire nuclear weapons of their own. In these circumstances, any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace will evaporate.

    Time is not the ally of peace in this situation, and inaction is not an option. The stakes for Israel are much too high. I am therefore puzzled by those on the left who appear content to allow the situation to continue as it is. They seem far more prepared to tell us what should not be done than what should be done to deal with this grave threat to Israel’s very existence.

    But for those on the right, my question is: if you fear that you will wake up in two, three, or four years and confront a radical Iranian state brandishing nuclear bombs, why do you not fear that you will wake up in two, three, or four years and confront an emerging consensus — not only from our enemies but also from our friends — that a two-state solution must give way to a one-state solution? The latter possibility is no less likely and in some ways no less dangerous than the first.

    Given the dangers posed by settlements in the heart of the West Bank, and the slow but inexorable increase in the number of their residents, it is not enough to propose that Israel should build no additional settlements there. What I would hope to see is an Israeli Prime Minister who will look these settlers in the eye and say: you will have to leave your homes because the settlement map contradicts any conceivable two-state solution map. What I would hope for is a government of Israel that will offer generous incentives for them to leave so that the process can begin now. And if need be, let military installations be put in place to deal with security issues that may arise from the settlers’ departure.

    We should not demonize the settlers. They have done what Israeli governments, of both the right and left, have permitted — and in some cases encouraged — them to do. With strong government leadership, I believe that most will be prepared to relocate. But to those who will not-those who embrace an ugly fundamentalism and misread the Torah for their own purposes-we must be prepared to say: Maspeek. Enough. We must put an end to the appeasement of those whose messianic dreams have too long held Israel hostage. We do not accept that a small group of fanatic holy men, probably numbering no more than a few thousand, know what God wants for us, and we must not put the destiny of the Jewish people in their hands.

    And what of the Palestinians and the Arab world? Are they ready for peace?

    There are those in our community who are certain that they are, and there are those who are certain that they are not. I come down firmly in the “I don’t know” category.

    Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate man, committed to creating a state for the Palestinian people. He has promoted economic reform, brought a measure of stability to the Palestinian street, and been effective in curbing the threat of terror. On the other hand, Mr. Abbas is politically weak; we do not know if he can impose his will on the chaotic politics of Palestine — a politics that is too often hate-filled and bloody-minded. The Arab states, meanwhile, have done far less than they might have to move us in the direction of peace. The Saudis put forward a peace plan but then made it a “take it or leave it” deal, refusing to negotiate with Israel in any way.

    It is also true that the Right of Return remains an absolute article of faith for the entire Arab world. I do not see this issue as incidental but as a major stumbling block. The Jewish people will not accept, in principle or practice, the return of refugees to the territory of a Jewish state. Furthermore, the demand for such a return raises fundamental questions about Arab intentions. Why exactly do you demand that millions of people return to a state that is utterly foreign to them in nationality and culture — not to mention that we are talking about a return to houses and land that in fact no longer exist? Some of my friends on the left, knowing the intensity of Arab feeling on this matter, believe that the best way to resolve the issue is through studied ambiguity; let’s devise a formulation, they say, that is sufficiently vague that all sides can claim victory. But such an approach would be a disaster and would be rejected by any government of Israel. Absent an unambiguous agreement to resolve all issues, including this one, and to end the conflict once and for all, peace will not be achieved. Reaching an agreement on these terms, therefore, needs to be our explicit goal.

    So yes, I am troubled by the positions of Arab and Palestinian leaders. I do not know if they are ready for an agreement, or what can be reasonably expected of them. While I am convinced that the great majority of the Palestinian people yearn for peace and an end to bloodshed, they have not been well served by those who speak in their name.

    But none of this is an argument for maintaining or expanding ideological settlements. If it is true that peace is not possible at this moment, this is not a reason to advocate policies that will make it impossible for there ever to be peace.

    And it is certainly not an argument against the President of the United States doing all that he can to promote an agreement. Precisely because the prospects for peace are uncertain, it is more important than ever for the Administration to search out every possibility for moving forward. The President has been right to reach out to Palestinians, the Arab world, and the Muslim world. He, Secretary Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell know that Middle East peace requires an American presence and that nothing happens unless the United States is involved. And they are absolutely correct that the status quo does not serve Israel’s interests.

    And this too: despite the somewhat grim picture that I have painted of Palestinian politics, there are, of course, Palestinian leaders who seek dignity and peace for both sides in this conflict. And if these moderates are not strengthened, the only party left will be Hamas. Therefore, reaching out to the moderates and strengthening their hand is a vital and pressing interest of the government of the United States.
    And if, despite everything, a true peace remains beyond reach, then what?

    My hope is that the government of Israel, with the support of the American Jewish community, will do everything that it can to maintain the support of the American government and the American people.
    My hope is that the government of Israel, with the support of the American Jewish community, will do everything necessary to demonstrate her commitment to a two-state solution and a Jewish and democratic Israel.

    And if I had to propose a political strategy for these purposes, it would be the following: let the government of the United States and the government of Israel embrace the proposal put forward by David Makovsky and others to arrive at an understanding with the Palestinians on the final borders of the Jewish and Palestinian states. Such an agreement would be far short of an actual peace, but its advantages would be many: it would send a message to the world, reaffirming the principles of a two-state solution; it would provide a political horizon for Abbas and hope for the Palestinian people; it would enable Israel to build in the settlement blocks close to Jerusalem and would prepare the ground for evacuating settlers in the heartland of the West Bank; and it would strengthen Israel’s internal unity and her position in America and the world.

    If Israel and the United States were to agree on these borders, even if the Palestinians did not, it would shift the focus back to the obligation of the Palestinians to come to terms with a Jewish homeland. Let Israel make the offer, and let the Palestinians choose between peace and fanaticism. A comprehensive peace is surely preferable, but a “borders first” strategy may be the next best alternative.

    Let me conclude by reminding you that even in these difficult times, there are reasons for optimism.

    First, the Prime Minister of Israel has affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution, creating a new reality on the Israeli right. Extremist voices in Israel are perhaps less prominent than they once were. And most Israelis, while skeptical of Arab intentions, remain sensible, pragmatic, and supportive of a two-state approach.

    Second, the President of the United States has decided, wisely, to engage the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace now, and not to wait until the end of his term. While the Administration has stumbled a few times along the way, it has given high priority to its search for an agreement, and has understood that the status quo is unacceptable and dangerous to Israel’s security and well-being. And while I may not agree with all of J Street’s positions, your commitment to and advocacy for the two-state solution, the peace process, and the issues surrounding settlements are an important contribution to both American politics and American Jewish politics.

    And third, the Iranian threat, as deeply troubling as it is, creates a convergence of interests between Israel and her Arab neighbors, and offers a small window of opportunity that, we hope, all parties will be wise enough to exploit.

    So yes, we need to affirm our optimism and our hope. We need to remember that Israel’s fate rests not only in the hands of Israel’s citizens, but in the hands of the Jewish people. We need to join, as untiring partners, in the building of Zion. And we need as well to ask for God’s guidance, and to pray that peace and redemption will come to Israel’s borders and that harmony will hallow Jerusalem’s gates — bi’meheira u’viyameinu, speedily, and in our day.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast (HRW founder Robert L. Bernstein)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 19:30:43 GMT+1 (930 maal gelezen)

    Op-Ed Contributor Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast
    Published: October 19, 2009

    AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

    At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them - through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.
    That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag - and the millions in China’s laogai, or labor camps.

    When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

    Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world - many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

    Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

    Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

    The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.

    But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

    Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.


    Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998.

    A version of this article appeared in print on October 20, 2009, on page A31 of the New York edition.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Goldstone: If This Was a Court Of Law, There Would Have Been Nothing Proven
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 19:04:05 GMT+1 (1237 maal gelezen)

    Goldstone: ‘If This Was a Court Of Law, There Would Have Been Nothing Proven.’

    At Odds:
    Richard Goldstone, in his New York office, says his report on Gaza presents only tentative findings. But the document makes bold allegations that haven’t been scrutinized.

    By Gal Beckerman
    Published October 07, 2009, issue of October 16, 2009.

    The incident detailed in paragraphs 713 through 716 of the Goldstone Report, if accurate, was a moment of indiscriminate terror.

    A hundred members of the extended al-Samouni family are gathered together in one house, ordered there by Israeli soldiers patrolling their Gaza neighborhood of Zeytoun as part of Operation Cast Lead. Five men step out of the house to collect firewood. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a missile strikes them, fired, possibly, from an Apache helicopter. Two or three more missiles follow, this time aimed directly at the house. In all, 21 family members are killed, among them many women and small children. When the surviving al-Samounis attempt to leave and make their way to Gaza City, they are told by an Israeli soldier to return to the house, to "go back to death."

    A few pages later, in paragraphs 822 through 826, there’s another scene of seemingly unprovoked violence. In a mosque on the outskirts of Jabilyah, somewhere between 200 and 300 men and women are gathered for the evening prayer. An explosion rips the front door off its hinges and flings it all the way across the room. A missile has struck the mosque’s entrance, killing 15 people, some kneeling mid-prayer. A boy sitting by the door has his leg blown off.

    The details are hard to turn away from, but they have, in fact, been largely ignored. Instead, the heated conversation about the Goldstone Report, the United Nations fact-finding mission led by Richard Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist and a South African Jew, has revolved mostly around political questions - charges of imbalance, lack of context and a history of anti-Israel bias on the part of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which gave Goldstone his charge.

    Goldstone’s findings themselves have, meanwhile, been left largely unexamined. The 36 specific incidents he focuses on in his report paint a disturbing picture of an Israeli army purposefully targeting unarmed civilians. But the facts of the report are built mostly on testimonies of Palestinian eyewitnesses, which have received little scrutiny or verification. Critics also call attention to parts of the commission’s work that they say was sloppily done, without sufficient cross-examination and double checking of information. Alternative interpretations of the incidents described are not considered, let alone fully explored.

    Israel’s decision to refuse to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission as it was doing its work - a decision questioned even by some critics of the report - doubtless played a role in this. Tellingly, in an interview with the Forward on October 2, Goldstone himself acknowledged the tentative nature of his findings.

    “Ours wasn’t an investigation, it was a fact-finding mission,” he said, sitting in his Midtown Manhattan office at Fordham University Law School, where he is currently visiting faculty. “We made that clear.”

    Goldstone defended the report’s reliance on eyewitness accounts, noting his mission had cross-checked those accounts against each other and sought corroboration from photos, satellite photos, contemporaneous reports, forensic evidence and the mission’s own inspections of the sites in question.

    For all that gathered information, though, he said, “We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”

    Goldstone emphasized that his conclusion that war crimes had been committed was always intended as conditional. He still hopes that independent investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinians will use the allegations as, he said, “a useful road map.”

    He recalled his work as chief prosecutor for the international war crimes tribunal in Yugoslavia in 1994. When he began working, Goldstone was presented with a report commissioned by the U.N. Security Council based on what he said was a fact-finding mission similar to his own in Gaza.

    “We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all,” Goldstone said. “But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report. If there was an independent investigation in Israel, then I think the facts and allegations referred to in our report would be a useful road map.”

    Nevertheless, the report itself is replete with bold and declarative legal conclusions seemingly at odds with the cautious and conditional explanations of its author. The report repeatedly refers, without qualification, to specific violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention committed by Israel and other breaches of international law. Citing particular cases, the report determines unequivocally that Israel “violated the prohibition under customary international law” against targeting civilians. These violations, it declares, “constitute a grave breach” of the convention.

    It is this rush to judgment based on what critics believe to be unsubstantiated allegations that has angered some who have delved into the details.

    “If the accusations are true they are very serious,” said Avi Bell, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University. “But they are still just accusations. That doesn’t make them true in and of themselves. That’s where the fact-finding should begin, not where it should end.”

    Goldstone said he believed Israel did have a “responsibility” to respond in some way to the incessant Hamas missiles from Gaza. It was the form this response took that, he said, “amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes.”

    The report’s brief against Israel can be broken down into two broad categories. For the first, it uses satellite maps, eyewitness accounts and on-the-ground inspection to illustrate many instances in which large civilian infrastructure sites in Gaza were targeted and destroyed - food storage centers, water supply sources, agricultural land, sewage plants, as well as police stations and the legislative building in Gaza City. The only explanation for this kind of targeting, said Goldstone, is to collectively punish the population. Indeed, most legal experts agree that targeting such non-military sites is a war crime. But in its own published report on Cast Lead, issued in July, Israel openly acknowledges hitting these non-military targets, characterizing them instead as part of the “Hamas terrorist infrastructure,” and therefore legitimate objects for attack.

    It is the second category of charges in the report that many Israelis condemn furiously as a kind of blood libel, contesting not only Goldstone’s legal conclusions about what happened, but also that the events in question happened at all.

    Goldstone asserts that the Israeli army, in a few detailed instances, specifically targeted unarmed, non-combatants on the ground in conditions where no fighting was taking place. If true, these would be serious breaches of Israel’s own “Law of Armed Conflict.” Unlike the destruction of infrastructure, Israel has repeatedly emphasized in public that under no circumstances does it condone shooting of civilians. While not disclosing details, the Israeli army has said that it is looking into 100 complaints related to the Gaza operation and is currently conducting 13 criminal investigations.

    In a section entitled, “Deliberate Attacks Against the Civilian Population,” Goldstone’s report examines 11 incidents, including the al-Samouni family deaths and the strike against the al-Maqadmah mosque in Jabaliyah. Both have also been cited repeatedly by Goldstone in his public comments as particularly egregious examples of what he termed Israel’s criminal conduct during the war.

    In the al-Samouni case, the report lists its sources of information. Five members of the family were interviewed, as well as a few neighbors. The mission also interviewed Palestinian Red Crescent personnel who said they sought but were denied permission by the Israeli Army to come to the aid of those wounded. Mission members visited the site of the house that was hit in the attack. Goldstone described sitting with the family among the debris of their destroyed house. Material from other NGOS - it doesn’t distinguish which ones - were also reviewed. The mission also examined photos that appeared to verify the deaths of the 21 men, women and children the witnesses said died.

    But for the most part, the actual details of the events that took place on the morning of January 5, 2009, resulting in the 21 deaths, were pieced together from eyewitness testimony.

    Israel responded dismissively to initial reports of the Army’s attack on the home of Wa’el al-Samouni. On January 9, Israeli Army spokesman Jacob Dallal denied that the army gathered any large group of people into the house or that any attack had taken place on any house in the neighborhood at all. It is a statement the army has never amended.

    Despite this declaration, the Goldstone report shows photos of Wa’el al-Samouni’s home, taken on January 18, when the surviving family members were finally able to return. The photos “show feet and legs sticking out from under the rubble and sand, and rescuers pulling out the bodies of women, men and children,” the report notes. The house, and most other houses in the neighborhood had been demolished, the report adds.

    Some have challenged the report’s version. These critics raise questions as to whether the Samounis’ neighborhood was fully pacified when the Israeli Army shelled the house, as the report contends. Jonathan Halevi, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel army, submitted material to the commission citing accounts of combat by Palestinian armed groups that he argued disproved many assertions made in the report.

    The Goldstone report made use of Halevi’s material, finding that they actually supported Goldstone’s own findings. But Halevi faulted Goldstone for failing to look into similar material freely available elsewhere on-line.

    In the material Halevi sent to the commission about the Samouni incident, he focused exclusively on the military activity of Hamas in the area at the time in question. He found there was none and Goldstone cited this in the report as evidence that fighting had ended. But Halevi said that other information - specifically, the Web sites of other militant groups - would have made it clear that another militia, Islamic Jihad, was operating in the area on the morning in question.

    “From the report you can get the impression that Israel operated in the Gaza Strip in a vacuum, which means there was almost no resistance,” said Halevi, who was an adviser to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is currently a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

    Halevi has studied the names of those killed in the incursion and matched them with lists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants listed on websites for the two groups. He contends that not only was fighting ongoing near the al-Samouni’s house, but that some of the men in the al-Samouni family were actually connected with Islamic Jihad and that the attack might not have been as unprovoked and indiscriminate as presented in the report. If the Palestinian witnesses had been cross-examined to establish their credibility, Halevi said, a more complex picture might have emerged.

    Others have raised more general concerns about the reliance on eyewitness testimony.

    “People don’t see what they think they see,” said Bell, the Bar Ilan law professor. “They don’t remember what they think they remember. That’s in the best of circumstances when they are trying to give you accurate information. In this case, what you have are witnesses that, for the most part, are living under a totalitarian government and subject to systematic intimidation. And also, they are living in a long time war zone where they have extreme hostility to the other side.”

    Goldstone has referred to the mosque incident as a case where there is no other possible interpretation for what could have occurred other than a deliberate targeting of civilians. Besides the eyewitness accounts, the mission visited the mosque and conducted a forensic investigation. In his talk with the Forward, Goldstone emphasized what set apart this attack as a war crime.

    “Assuming that weapons were stored in the mosque, it would not be a war crime to bomb it at night,” Goldstone said. “It would be a war crime to bomb it during the day when 350 people are praying.”

    As with the al-Samouni house, Israel denied at the time that an attack on the mosque had taken place at all.

    But critics have also questioned whether the clear cut version of the attack that appears in the report is the whole story. According to Halevi’s research, as well as the investigative work of an anonymous blogger called “Elder of Ziyon” - both of whom crosschecked websites for Islamic Jihad and Hamas - among the 15 dead were six men who they contend were members of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s paramilitary wing.

    Because the blast hit just outside the mosque, Halevi posits that it was perhaps a drone attack aimed at a group of militants meeting nearby. Because the mosque had unexpectedly combined its sunset and evening prayers that day, as the report itself describes, the Israelis might have come to the false conclusion that the mosque itself was empty, he speculated.

    The report does not entertain such other possibilities or address the coincidence that so many of the dead were, according to Halevi, militants, by Hamas’ own listing. At the end of the section on the mosque attack, the report arrives at its conclusion: Based on accounts “from multiple witnesses” as well as viewing the site, Israel violated international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    Goldstone maintains that the burden is now on Israel to counter these findings through its own probe.

    “If I was advising Israel, I would say have open investigations,” he told the Forward. “In that way, you can put an end to this. It’s in the interest of all the people of Israel that if any of our allegations are established and if they’re criminal, there should be prosecutions. And if they’re false, that should be established. And I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

    Goldstone rejected the credibility of the army’s secret investigation of itself. He noted that none of the Palestinian witnesses he had met reported having been contacted by the army to hear their account. Instead, he offered the example of the Israeli investigation into the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, commissioned by Menachem Begin, as a model to emulate.

    The United States has so far blocked action against Israel in the United Nations regarding the Goldstone Report - even convincing Palestinians to drop their push in the U.N. Human Rights Council to reach a Security Council resolution. The matter has been postponed until March of next year. But lately, the United States has also been publicly urging Israel to conduct an independent and open investigation.

    As a democracy, said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly on October 5, “Israel ha[s] the kind of institutions that could address these allegations. And, of course, we urged Israel to address these very serious allegations.”

    Contact Gal Beckerman at beckerman@forward.com

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    Background Articles & Opinions How Goldstone prevented a real Gaza investigation (Benjamin Pogrund)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 04 October @ 00:30:40 GMT+1 (971 maal gelezen)

    How Goldstone prevented a real Gaza investigation

    After every military operation there should be an investigation, and in well ordered societies, all military actions should be subject to civilian judicial review. This is not the norm, but it should be. In Israel, there are occasionally such reviews, and probably the Gaza operation warranted one. Unfortuanately, Judge Goldstone made such a review of the Gaza operation impossible. After a blood libel it is hard to convince Jews to investigate whether kosher slaughter is humane, and after a "pound of flesh nearest the heart" verdict nobody is going to listen to a call to investigate irregularities in banking practices. It is unclear why Judge Goldstone chose to lead a lynch mob against Israel and to legitimize the Hamas, but in doing so he guaranteed that his hypocritical call for an investigation will fall on deaf ears. He has made matters worse, because he has the effrontery to ignore all counter-evidence, and then to write in Op-Eds that the IDF didn't refute a single one of his claims. If the coals of hell are brought down on his head, it is little enough considering the damage he has done.

    Ami Isseroff


    By Benjamin Pogrund

    At least three times in his life, Richard Goldstone has gone against prevailing wisdom in taking on challenging jobs. Two were in apartheid South Africa - and he was brilliantly successful in both. The third, his Gaza inquiry, has brought down the coals of hell upon his head.

    During the first three decades of apartheid, many judges were appointed because of their loyalty to the Afrikaner government. One result was a decline in the quality and status of South African courts. In response, the government sought to appoint some liberal lawyers of quality. Most, however, were reluctant to join the bench because it meant applying apartheid laws.

    Some accepted: Goldstone, who made his name as a barrister in nonpolitical commercial cases, became a Supreme Court judge in 1980. The next year, far from merely applying the law, he handed down a judgment that struck at the heart of a basic apartheid law - the Group Areas Act, which had split the entire country into different areas where people of different races were respectively compelled to live and work, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people of color.
    Goldstone ruled in favor of an Asian woman appealing against eviction from her home, and said she first had to be provided with alternative accommodation. His startling judgment ended such evictions.

    His second challenging job came in 1991. Apartheid was winding down and the country was beset by violence, in which thousands were killed. A mysterious "Third Force" of government agents was rumored to be behind the killings. President F.W. de Klerk asked Goldstone to head a commission to investigate the terrible violence. Goldstone accepted - and ran it like no other commission before: Over three years, he issued 47 reports, revealing horrendous details about murder squads set up and funded by the government.

    Gaza has been Goldstone's latest challenge. He again accepted a mandate from a poisoned source: the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. I have no doubt that he acted with the best of intentions, as he has his entire life, first in South Africa and then in the world, to ensure justice be done. But I also believe that this time, his decision is open to question.

    First, Goldstone underestimated the Human Rights Council's malevolence toward Israel. Most members harbor deep hatred for Israel, and wish for no less than its destruction. Goldstone should have been warned off by the refusal of several people before him to accept the job, including former Irish president Mary Robinson.

    Second, he accepted the council's mandate, even though it had declared in advance that Israel was guilty of war crimes in Gaza. It is not enough that the council's chairman later said the mandate could include Hamas: Apart from the fact that this statement does not bind the council, his findings on Hamas will mean little or nothing in practice because the organization is not a recognized government and is beyond international action. Israel is the council's target and Goldstone has delivered it. His report has more strength because he is a Jew and enjoys international status.

    Third, rejecting objections, he allowed Prof. Christine Chinkin to remain a member of his four-person commission even though, back in January, she had already publicly found Israel guilty, referring to its "prima facie war crimes" in Gaza. Goldstone thus seriously, even fatally, undermined the commission's credibility, and in doing so raised questions about his own good sense.

    Fourth, the nearly 600-page report includes many pages of descriptions and allegations of Israeli oppression at home and on the West Bank. That is valid if the intention is to provide a context for Israel's actions in Gaza. But then it must be done properly, with careful research and assessments for a fair presentation of the mix of history, religion, culture and politics that make up the complex situation, including both good and bad. The report does not show that knowledge and understanding; instead, time and again, it's Israel that is bad, bad, bad.

    Fifth, the report follows the usual line pursued by members of the council and Israel's other enemies - treating Israel as though it were a unique source of evil instead of examining Gaza in the light of experience elsewhere, in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, where the military has taken on terrorists in a civilian setting.
    Richard Goldstone is now under savage attack from many in the Jewish world. Right-wingers have gone berserk, with outpourings of hysterical condemnation. More measured criticism has come from Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, who said there were "very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report," and U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, who criticized the report for its "cookie-cutter conclusions" about Israel's actions, while it limited its comments on "the deplorable actions of Hamas to generalized remarks."

    But Kelly also urged Israel to further investigate IDF actions in Gaza. And that indeed is what Israel should do. I believed last December and still do that Israel was justified in going into Gaza. But I remain uncertain and uncomfortable about exactly what Israel did and why it did it. Was white phosphorous used over civilian areas? If so, why? What about the early killing of scores of policemen? What about reports that rescue parties were blocked from reaching the wounded, civilians carrying white flags were killed while fleeing and human shields were used? Why were journalists kept out?

    The IDF says emphatically that it behaved correctly, but it is not enough for it to investigate itself. An independent investigation is needed - and the obvious person to head it is former Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who would give it strength and status, at home and abroad. Israelis need it for their own moral peace of mind, or if wrong was done, to recognize and to address it. Israel needs to be certain that it can tell Goldstone and other critics that their accusations are skewed and unjustified.

    Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African journalist, first reported on Richard Goldstone 48 years ago.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Michael Oren still 'enjoying every minute' as Israel's envoy to U.S. (Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 04 October @ 00:17:03 GMT+1 (796 maal gelezen)

    Haaretz 27/09/2009

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - His office in the embassy - with the picture of Israel's president hanging above the desk, a statuette of appreciation from the Nahal Brigade behind it and a long row of books - is probably not too different from the offices of ambassadors the world over. But the tasks confronted by Israel's top diplomat to the United States, Michael Oren, are entirely different. Since taking over the job in May, he hasn't had a moment of peace and quiet. Nonetheless, he says, "There are no dramas," adding that, "There's not much time to sleep either, but I'm enjoying every minute."

    He landed in Washington in the midst of a conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. After Netanyahu's announcement that he was going to give approval to continuing construction in the settlements, and the White House's response, in which it made clear that the U.S. administration found that unacceptable, the new ambassador needed all his powers of persuasion to explain that there is no crisis in relations between Israel and the United States. "The White House did not condemn the decision, it expressed regret, and the announcement ended with a constructive statement." He also wants to emphasize that he was not "called in for a clarification" at the U.S. State Department, but came "for a friendly and polite conversation."

    "There was tension, but we understand their internal complexities and they understand ours. There may be a fear of an erosion in the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military advantage, which had already begun during the Bush administration, but America renewed the guarantees, and we also reached an understanding about the Arrow missile [defense system]."
    Michael Oren is not among the prime minister's close circle of friends. But the fact that he is a historian and was, until recently, a research fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem (a research and educational institute with a neoconservative orientation that is funded by Sheldon Adelson and Ron Lauder, among others), his American origin and his frequent appearances in the foreign media served as an excellent calling card for him. His appointment as ambassador "did not surprise me," admits Oren. "Netanyahu was looking for someone who is familiar with the U.S., who would know how to decipher and explain the Israeli situation to the Americans and the American situation to the Israelis. There's a new administration here, which relies partly on the support of sectors with which we had no connections in the past - the African-American and Hispanic communities - and it has a new worldview, in which Israel's place is different.

    "But anyone who thinks that the Americans have lost direction doesn't remember what happened here in the 1970s. They say that America is tired after two wars in the Middle East? I remember it being tired after Vietnam."

    How do you turn a historian without previous diplomatic experience into an ambassador?

    "You throw him into the water. I worked in the past in the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, and that's an advantage. But you also learn and stay up to date. A week ago, for example, I logged on to Twitter, I answered the questions of YouTube users."

    An Egyptian newspaper has already dubbed Oren "the most dangerous man in Washington," because of his ramified connections in the American administration. In Congress he is sometimes mistakenly introduced as "our ambassador in Israel." Oren is modest: "Although I'm not the first ambassador of American origin, it helps a lot even to be familiar with American speech, which is full of expressions from sports that every American knows. And yet, when they described me in Israel as 'an American Jewish scholar,' I was quite insulted. I've earned my Israeliness, I did everything to be considered as Israeli as possible, whether on the kibbutz or as a combat soldier in the army. And still, my children are totally Israeli - whereas I'm half American."

    Oren, who for many years served as a commentator on American TV channels, now finds himself in the crossfire. In an interview on CNN, when Oren was asked about the possibility of an Israeli attack against Iran, the interviewer, Fareed Zakaria, interrupted his reply (in which he said that Israel supports U.S. efforts to open a dialogue with Iran) and said: "You don't mean that." Oren is not angry. "I can only ask of a journalist that the question be fair and to the point, and every question Fareed asked was to the point, even if not simple," he says.

    In the fairly recent past, you supported unilateral withdrawal. How do you now explain that the territories belong to Israel and that the United States demand that Israel freeze construction in the settlements is unacceptable?

    "In the past I was a writer, a researcher, a commentator. I could say whatever I pleased. Today I represent a government, a country. I don't ask people in the Obama administration how things they wrote five years ago accord with Obama's agenda. Anyone who is called to the flag stops being a private individual. But to this day I have not encountered a question about the government's position with which I had a serious problem.

    "I received quite a lot of criticism when I said that there's no crisis in Israel-U.S. relations. But as a historian, I know that a crisis is what there was in 1956, when [president Dwight D.] Eisenhower threatened to impose sanctions on Israel in order to force it to withdraw from Sinai. Recently a senior senator asked to see me about a complaint he had received about a proposal to remove some sign in Arabic in the Jerusalem area. I reminded him that if you travel 20 miles south of Washington, you can see a sign that says, 'Manassas, Virginia.' There's no sign for the previous name of the place, 'Bull Run,' because in the Civil War there were two tough battles there that were won by the South, and the state of Virginia insisted that the name Bull Run be removed from the signs. I said to him: 'Here too there are battles over signs because of what happened 150 years ago.'"

    'The only Jewish boy'
    Oren's family immigrated to the United States from Ukraine. His grandmother, he says, spoke Yiddish all her life. Oren was born in 1955 as Michael Bornstein and grew up in New Jersey. His father had served as an officer in the U.S. Army, and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, and in the Korean War. The family belonged to a Conservative synagogue, and Oren studied in an after-school Hebrew school. He says that, "during that period I was unable to learn Hebrew. I even did my bar mitzvah in a transliteration into English .... I was a restless child and I didn't have good grades, so I was channeled into a class for kids who were on the fast track to the gas station or to prison. In 10th grade, one of my teachers noticed that I could write and got me out of that class. I had to relearn basic things, but in the end I attended good universities." Oren received his B.A. at Columbia University, and a master's in international affairs there, and went on to complete a doctorate in Near East studies at Princeton. In recent years he served as a visiting professor at both Harvard and Yale Universities.
    In high school, Oren experimented with scriptwriting, and even won a contest, but, he says, "from an early age I knew that I would immigrate to Israel. I was the only Jewish boy in a Catholic neighborhood, and in the 1960s, anti-Semitism was almost a daily experience for me. Once they shattered the windows of our house, another time they wrote hate slogans. I was quite an outsider because of my Judaism and I had fistfights with the Catholic children in the neighborhood. And maybe I actually went to Israel because of the picture of Yossi Ben Hanan at the Suez Canal with a Kalashnikov above his head on the cover of Life magazine after the Six-Day War."

    When Oren was 15, he came as a volunteer to Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. After college, he spent a year working as an adviser in the Israeli delegation to the UN during the tenure of Yehuda Blum, and only in 1979 did he immigrate to Israel, at which point he changed his last name to Oren and enlisted in the Paratroops. "That was a wonderful period," he recalls. "I arrived, and within a month a peace agreement with Egypt was signed. The atmosphere in Israel was great. We also won the European basketball championship."

    Oren's first war was the Lebanon War. "I was in a unit that was caught in a Syrian ambush on the second day of the war. My direct commander was killed, almost everyone was wounded, the unit fell apart, and I joined a Paratroops force that went up to Sidon. Part of the story that's described in 'Waltz With Bashir' - it's simply seeing my experiences on the screen. But the film has a political message that is hard for me to accept, to the effect that the Palestinians are innocent, whereas they are part of the conflict. In the summer of 1982, I got married, and the next day I returned to Beirut."

    When he was discharged from the army, Oren was asked to be an emissary in the Soviet Union, operating as a liaison to Jews who were refused permission to immigrate to Israel. Those were the last days of general secretary Leonid Brezhnev (who died in November 1982), and Oren and the other emissaries were considered a subversive factor and were the targets of KGB surveillance. At every meeting with Jews, he says, "we knew that there was a possibility that we wouldn't return. In one city we arrived at such a meeting and when we entered the courtyard, behind the trees the KGB men were waiting in ambush. We didn't see them immediately, but the commander of the organization there saw the ambush from the third-floor window and she ran downstairs and attacked their commander. A tiny girl of 16 simply threw herself on him and began shouting in Russian, 'Help, help!' and all the windows opened. She said, 'What, will you beat me up too?' and they turned around and left. We entered and we knew that we had about 10 minutes until they returned. And in fact, after 10 minutes, the KGB people almost broke down the door, entered and shouted in Russian. They arrested us. We began to go downstairs. And the people from the underground stood on the third floor staircase and sang 'Hatikvah' as we were led off in arrest."

    Oren gave up his American citizenship only this year, for the sake of the appointment; earlier he returned for periods of study and work in the United States. He completed his doctoral studies in 1986 at Princeton, where his eldest son was born. Upon his return to Israel he hoped to be appointed an adviser in the government, but that happened only in 1992 when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed him director of inter-religious affairs. "Rabin had a wonderful trick," he recalls. "I would come to see him with a delegation of senators, for example, and he would say: 'Ask me any question.' And then he would give a 20-minute answer - exactly the same answer, no matter what the question was."

    When he retired from reserve duty in the Paratroops, Oren was asked to be the IDF spokesman in English during Operation Cast Lead. Oren says that he personally has never regretted the decision to immigrate to Israel, not even when his sister-in-law, a teacher from the United States who had come for a sabbatical in Israel, was killed in a terror attack in 1995, and not when his eldest son, Yoav, was wounded in the second intifada. He says that his children support the decision, too.
    In Oren's varied resume, there is also a period when he served as the CEO of a high-tech firm. "A friend of mine needed someone with an academic degree in his company," he explains. "That was when the high-tech bubble burst and every day a director resigned or collapsed, until I found myself in the job of CEO." The firm was sold in the end, at a good time for him, because then the Shalem Center opened in Jerusalem and he was accepted as a research fellow there. That's when he wrote what became his best-selling book about the Six-Day War. Just then, in the mid-1990s, the archives were opened in Israel and in other countries, says Oren. "I was the first to access these documents, and I also got to archives in Jordan, Syria and Russia."

    The book, "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" (Oxford, 2002), was very successful. Oren says he wrote the book, "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," which was published in 2007, under the influence of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, in order to help the Americans bridge the gap in their minds between the romantic image of the Arabs as keffiyeh-wearing camel riders and those who crashed into the World Trade Center with commercial airplanes.

    Oren admits that in spite of the success of his history books, he had quite a few disappointments as well. "I have a file at home as thick as a phone directory with all the rejection letters I've received. From the age of 12, I used to write one poem a day, and at the age of 13, I wanted to publish a book of poems. When they rejected me I took it very hard, I cried. Had I known at the time how many rejection letters I would eventually receive, maybe I would have stopped writing."

    In his present job, it's not clear if and when he'll have an opportunity to write. "I glanced at the schedule for the coming year and I didn't see any vacations. In the U.S. there's a tradition of vacation for leaders, in Israel it's less common. The ambassador also customarily joins American leaders on their visits to Israel. Condoleezza Rice [the former U.S. secretary of state], for example, visited our region 26 times."
    Oren doesn't believe that another intifada will break out, because "Palestinian society is tired, and on the West Bank the economic situation has improved, too," he says. He prefers to speak about peace from the viewpoint of the historian: "I know that you don't make peace from one day to the next, but there are also surprises in history. What happened in France and England, which fought one another for 1,000 years? In 1967 when IDF soldiers fought in the streets of Jerusalem, I don't think that anyone imagined that we would be able to board a bus and travel to Amman. We're living in an era of accelerated processes, with events taking place in short periods of time."

    Iran, of course, is one of the most pressing issues the ambassador must deal with, as well as the talks that the Americans and other major powers are planning to conduct with the Islamic regime beginning next month. The date, claims Oren, is insignificant, but Iranian capability to assemble a nuclear bomb, is of great significance. "The moment they have a launching system and a mass of uranium, even at a low level of enrichment, the moment the Iranian leadership decides to go with the program, they can do it quite quickly, in one fell swoop. The U.S. administration promised us that if the Iranians don't give a clear answer to the American proposal, they are committed to going ahead with the sanctions."

    Are the Americans questioning you regarding the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran?

    "Have you ever asked how hotdogs are made?" he laughs. "There are things that it's better not to ask."

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    Background Articles & Opinions Netanyahu's UN Speech on Gaza, Iran and the United Nations
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 04 October @ 00:08:39 GMT+1 (1227 maal gelezen)

    PM Netanyahu's Speech at the UN General Assembly


    Mr. President,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years-old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland.

    I stand here today as the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state, and I speak to you on behalf of my country and my people.

    The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.  It was charged with preventing the recurrence of such horrendous events.  Nothing has undermined that central mission more than the systematic assault on the truth.

    Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants.  Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

    Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee.  There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people.  The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

    Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews.   Is this a lie?

    A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  Those plans are signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself.  Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered.  Is this too a lie?

    This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp.  Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?

    One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration.  Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own.  My wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis.  Is that also a lie?
    Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium.  To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you.  You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

    But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

    A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace!  What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

    Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews.  You're wrong.  History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

    This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.

    In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others.  Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.

    The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization.  It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death. The primitivism of the 9th century ought to be no match for the progress of the 21st century.  The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day.

    Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future.  And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope.   The pace of progress is growing exponentially.  It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer, and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the internet.

    What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated, and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come.

    We will crack the genetic code.  We will cure the incurable.  We will lengthen our lives.  We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and clean up the planet.

    I am proud that my country Israel is at the forefront of these advances - by leading innovations in science and technology, medicine and biology, agriculture and water, energy and the environment.  These innovations the world over offer humanity a sunlit future of unimagined promise.

    But if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time.   And like the belated victory over the Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom will prevail only after a horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from mankind.

    That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

    Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge?  Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

    Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood?

    Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious sponsors and practitioners of terrorism?

    Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?

    The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime.  People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do the thousands who have been protesting outside this hall.   Will the United Nations stand by their side?

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging.

    Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims.  That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

    For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities.   Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.

    We heard nothing - absolutely nothing - from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one.

    In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza.  It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis.

    We didn't get peace.  Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv.   Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

    You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent.

    Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond.  But how should we have responded?

    Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population.  It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

    During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties.   Israel chose to respond differently.  Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

    That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances.

    Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas.  We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

    Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way.   Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn?

    A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

    By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals.  What a perversion of truth!  What a perversion of justice!

    Delegates of the United Nations,
    Will you accept this farce?    Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

    If this body does not reject this report, it would send a message to terrorists everywhere: Terror pays; if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas, you will win immunity.

    And in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace. Here's why.  When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop.  Others believed that at the very least, Israel would have international legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defense.

    What legitimacy?  What self-defense?

    The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defense now accuses us -my people, my country - of war crimes? And for what?  For acting responsibly in self-defense.  What a travesty!

    Israel justly defended itself against terror.  This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments.   Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?

    We must know the answer to that question now.   Now and not later.  Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow.

    Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    All of Israel wants peace.   Any time an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace.   We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat.  We made peace with Jordan led by King Hussein.

    And if the Palestinians truly want peace, I and my government, and the people of Israel, will make peace.  But we want a genuine peace, a defensible peace, a permanent peace.

    In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples - a Jewish state and an Arab state.  The Jews accepted that resolution.  The Arabs rejected it.   We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years:  Say yes to a Jewish state.

    Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people.   The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel.   This is the land of our forefathers.

    Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.  They shall learn war no more."   These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city - in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem.   We are not strangers to this land.  It is our homeland.

    As deeply connected as we are to this land, we recognize that the Palestinians also live there and want a home of their own.   We want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace, prosperity and dignity.

    But we must have security.  The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except those handful of powers that could endanger Israel.

    That is why a Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized.  We don't want another Gaza, another Iranian backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from Tel Aviv.

    We want peace.

    I believe such a peace can be achieved.  But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order.

    The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

    Over seventy years ago, Winston Churchill lamented what he called the "confirmed unteachability of mankind," the unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them.

    Churchill bemoaned what he called the "want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong."

    I speak here today in the hope that Churchill's assessment of the "unteachability of mankind" is for once proven wrong. I speak here today in the hope that we can learn from history -- that we can prevent danger in time.

    In the spirit of the timeless words spoken to Joshua over 3,000 years ago, let us be strong and of good courage.  Let us confront this peril, secure our future and, God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come.

    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
    Website: www.imra.org.il

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    Background Articles & Opinions UN must hold Obama to same standard as Israel (Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 03 October @ 23:52:54 GMT+1 (2574 maal gelezen)

    Last update - 18:52 17/09/2009 

    UN must hold Obama to same standard as Israel
    By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent

    Some two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan. It was a German officer who'd asked the U.S. air force to attack the tankers in the middle of the night, in a populated area. The attack was successful - the two tankers were hit, went up in flames and were destroyed. But the overwhelming American-German air attack killed some 70 people. Some of those brought to hospitals were severely injured - with mutilated faces, burned hands and charred bodies.

    It is not clear to this day if most of those who burned to death were Taliban warriors, as NATO first claimed, or innocent civilians who wanted to bring home a bit of oil. One way or another, it's clear that the United States and Germany are responsible for an extremely brutal attack. Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway also bear responsibility for the massacre as NATO members.

    If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics - which do not discriminate between one sort of killing and another - then it should investigate this villainous assault. If the United States, Germany and NATO refuse to cooperate with investigators, the UN should consider transferring the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It is possible that at the end of the process it would be necessary to put U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway on trial for their role in committing a severe war crime that did not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

    Obama would probably be the principal defendant in this case. He was the one who believed in the war in Afghanistan and intensified it. As U.S. commander-in-chief, he bears direct responsibility not only for the deaths of those who were burned with the tankers, but the death of many hundreds of innocent Afghan civilians.

    If there are is such a thing as an international community, international law and universal ethics, they must seriously consider putting Obama on trial for his responsibility for severe war crimes.

    Absurd? Yes, it's absurd. No sane person in the world believes that the United States, Russia or China could be subjected to purist international law. The United States has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The United States was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible War on Terror. Russia committed blood-curdling war crimes in Chechnya, while China deprives its citizens of basic rights and is conducting a wicked occupation in Tibet. They are not asked to pay for this because everyone understands that you don't mess with superpowers.

    But not only superpowers are immune. Saudi Arabia practices an open, declared policy of discrimination against women and the international community does not see. Sri Lanka is crushing the Tamil national movement, causing a ghastly humanitarian disaster, and the international community does not hear. Turkey is brutally oppressing the Kurdish minority, and the international community does not speak.

    Only in matters involving Israel, do international law and justice suddenly discover that they have teeth. Only when Israel is involved is the judgment administered out of context. Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.

    Over the course of the military offensive in Gaza, Israel used excessive firepower and this must not recur. Severe incidents took place during the operation which must be investigated. But the inquiry must be carried out by us, and among ourselves. As long as Judge Richard Goldstone doesn't probe the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka or Turkey, just as he probed Israel, he is not a moral figure. A law is a law only when it applies to everyone and does not discriminate, as Goldstone did.

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    Background Articles & Opinions
    Geplaatst door abby op Friday 28 August @ 21:33:47 GMT+1 (1165 maal gelezen)

    Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
    August 3, 2009

    Hamas is conducting a “smile spin” for the West, particularly the United States. Its main objectives are to ease its political isolation, improve its position vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority and get funds to rebuild the Gaza Strip. For the Palestinians, it stresses that its fundamental anti-Israeli pro-terrorism strategy remains unchanged. 

    1. In recent months Hamas has conducted a smile spin aimed at the West, particularly the United States . Hamas spokesmen in the Gaza Strip and Damascus , led by Khaled Mashaal , chairman of the Hamas political bureau, have been using softened rhetoric when referring to Hamas positions on various issues relating to its political connections with the West and Hamas' conflict with Israel .

    2. As part of the spin, prominent were two interviews, one given by Khaled Mashaal's interview to the Wall Street Journal , and the other given by Ahmed Yousef, deputy foreign minister in the Hamas de-facto administration, to the British Economist (See the appendices for details). Part of the spin have been the repeated requests made by senior Hamas figures to the West for open diplomatic channels. They also make prominent references to the cessation of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and represent it as being in the interests of the Palestinian people, reiterating that Hamas is not an obstacle to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital, and state that Hamas is also ready to cooperate with the international community in a peace process leading to the establishment of such a state.

    3. However, when speaking to the Palestinians , Hamas spokesmen continue using their routine extremist rhetoric , which clearly expresses Hamas' ideology. They reiterate Hamas' adherence to the strategy of “resistance” [i.e., terrorism] as the main way to “liberate Palestine,” refuse to recognize the State of Israel and insist uncompromisingly on the return of the Palestinian refugees within any agreement, even what Hamas would consider an interim arrangement for the establishment of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders. To inculcate the principle, the Hamas de-facto administration in the Gaza Strip recently organized a conference of representatives of educational and cultural institutions and intellectuals designed to reinforce the so-called “culture of resistance” which centers around adherence to the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism], opposition to peace negotiations and the rejection of Western values foreign to Islam and the Palestinian people.

    4. Hamas' smile spin and rabble-rousing rhetoric are fundamentally two sides of the same coin . They reflect the basic tension between Hamas' adherence to its radical Islamic ideology and the pragmatic considerations resulting from the administrative responsibilities of the movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and is responsible for the welfare of 1.5 million Palestinians. Ideologically and strategically , Hamas remains committed to the final objective of the destruction of the State of Israel and refuses to abandon or even modify its 1988 charter, the basic document which expounds the movement's radical Islamic worldview. However, at the same time, practically speaking Hamas does not reject temporary lulls in terrorist attacks for various longer or shorter periods of time, with or without formal agreements, when it deems the interests of the Gazan population of or the movement require it.1 Politically speaking Hamas aspires to open dialogue channels with the international community and to gain the greatest amount of political and economic benefit possible with relation to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, without changing its basic positions .

    Appendix I

    Examples of Hamas' smile spin

    1. Khaled Mashaal , chairman of the Hamas political bureau, was recently interviewed in Damascus by the Wall Street Journal . According to the paper, the wall was decorated with pictures of Hamas leaders who had been deemed shaheeds and a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque. The main points of the interview were the following ( Wall Street Journal , July 31):

    i) The Hamas movement and its military-terrorist wing would be willing to agree to an immediate reciprocal ceasefire with Israel , as well as a prisoner exchange that would trade Hamas fighters for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

    ii) Hamas and other Palestinian organizations would be ready to cooperate with any American, international or regional effort to find a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflic t, end the so-called “Israeli occupation” and allow the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.” He said Hamas expected President Obama and his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to present a broader outline for conducting Middle East peace talks .

    iii) Hamas would be willing to “stand by and respect” a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders as part of a broader agreement with Israel . That would be on condition that Israel agreed to the “right of return” of millions of Palestinian refugees and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    iv) Hamas would not be an obstacle to peace . “We,” he said, “along with other Palestinian factions in consensus agreed upon accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. This is the national program. This is our program. This is a position we stand by and respect.”

    2. Ahmed Yousef , deputy foreign minister of the Hamas de-facto administration and advisor to Ismail Haniya on foreign affairs, was interviewed on July 30 by the British Economist . The main points of the interview were the following:

    i) “Hamas is very close on recognition of Israel … We show all sorts of ideological flexibility on this… ” Ahmed Yousef added that did not mean Hamas could unequivocally accept the three conditions the Quartet. According to the paper, Yousef seemed “ almost desperate to stretch the semantic elastic to satisfy the doubters .”

    ii) Hamas “honored” all the PLO's previous agreements with Israel , including recognition, provided the other side [i.e., Israel ] “abides by all its reciprocal promises.”

    iii) He refused to commit to completely abandoning violence (as the Quartet demands) but said Hamas would extend the it's “unilateral ceasefire” if the other side [i.e., Israel ] agreed. He later suggested that the two sides could agree to an immediate ceasefire for a year, to build on today's “period of quietness.”

    iv) Asked about recognition of Israel , he said, “[T]he issue is not Israel 's right to exist. We know Israel is there. It's not a matter of recognition.” The distinction, he said, was semantic, between recognition and acceptance .

    v) Praising the June 4, 2009 speech given in Cairo by President Obama , he said, “In general it was excellent. I do believe he's sincere.” However, he wondered if Obama would yield to pressure from the fundamentalist Christians in America and the Jewish lobby. “We wait for facts on the ground,” on said.

    vi) Yousef had a series of demands on Israel and the United States . He said that Israel had to “lift the cruel siege” of the Gaza Strip and stop building in the West Bank settlements Bank, and that there had to be an exchange of prisoners between Israel and the Palestinians. President Obama also had to “boost the Egyptians to go ahead with national reconciliation between the Palestinians.”

    vii) Should the Palestinian people choose the two-state solution, he said, “Hamas would not object,” , although it would prefer a single state for “all the Abrahamic faiths, maybe a Holy Land federation. We leave it to the next generation to decide what kind [of arrangement].”

    viii) Ahmed Yousef tried to minimize the importance of the Hamas charter while refusing to change it , saying, “...we don't use it. Why should be change it when we never use it?” [ Note : In speaking before Palestinian target audiences, Ahmed Yousef denied some of the things he was quoted as saying. See Appendix II.]

    3. Hamas recently allowed New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner to enter the Gaza Strip and interview Hamas activists and local residents. One of them was senior Hamas figure Ayman Taha , who said the following: “Armed resistance is still important and legitimate, but we have a new emphasis on cultural resistance…2 The current situation required a stoppage of rockets. After the war, the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break” ( The New York Times , July 24, 2009).

    4. In a Friday sermon given at a mosque in Khan Yunis, Ismail Haniya , head of the Hamas de-facto administration, said that Hamas was prepared to adopt the concept of “ liberation in stages .” That is, Hamas would not object to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and whose capital was Jerusalem . However, he said that that did not mean ceding the rest of the land or recognizing of the State of Israel, rather it was a strategic option to ending the “occupation.” He added that the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism] was also a strategic option which the Palestinians would continue adhering to (Al-Aqsa TV, July 24, 2009).

    5. Ahmed Yousef, deputy foreign minister in the Hamas de-facto administration , said that Hamas would not object to negotiations based on the option of the establishment of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders. He said that there were international elements interested in having Hamas participate in conferences discussing the Palestinian cause. He also said that Hamas continued knocking on America 's door and sending it messages through various channels ( Al-Shorouk , July 23, 2009).

    6. Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip , said that international elements had come to realize that Hamas was a factor whose importance could not be minimized, and that no move could be made in the Middle East without Hamas participation. However, he refused to distinguish between “moderate” and “extremist” element in Hamas, saying that Hamas had one position to which all its members were committed (QudsPress website, July 26, 2009).

    7. Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas de-facto administration , said that Hamas welcomed the opportunity for a dialogue with the international community (BBC, July 26, 2009). Musa Abu Marzuq , deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus , said that any serious dialogue [with Hamas] had to be held without preconditions (BBC, July 26, 2009).

    8. On May 4 Khaled Mashaal was interviewed by The New York Times . Excerpts from the interview follow:

    i) Early in the interview Khaled Mashaal announced to the American administration and the include that Hamas would “be part of the solution, period.” He said that President Obama had taken a positive tone, different from his predecessor, but complained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used “language that reflects the old administration policies.”

    ii) He said that there was only one enemy in the region, Israel (whose existence he refused to recognize). He said that no good had come to Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas from recognizing Israel , but as far as the two-state solution went, he said that “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce . This includes East Jerusalem , the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” When asked what he meant by “long term,” he replied “ten years.”

    iii) Asked why Hamas was no longer firing rockets into Israeli territory, he answered that “ Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians' interest . After all, the firing is a method, not a goal. Resistance is legitimate right, but practicing such a right comes under an evaluation by the movement's leaders.” 3

    9. Hamas' response to President Obama's Cairo speech was conciliatory. On May 3, Ahmed Yousef , deputy foreign minister of the Hamas de-facto administration, sent a letter to Obama during his stay in Cairo , and its contents were posted on the website of an American women's pacifist organization called Code Pink, whose representatives have visited the Gaza Strip. In our assessment it is unclear whether the letter was actually delivered to Obama. It said that Hamas welcomed the president's visit and his initiative to bridge differences with the Arab world. It represented the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as one of the causes of the continued tension between the United States and the Arab-Muslim world, and again called on President Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell to visit the Gaza Strip , where “the death and destruction...suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers' money.” The letter also called on the United States to lift the “siege” of the Gaza Strip and halt all settlement building and expansion. Hamas, it said, was committed to seeking a “just resolution” to the conflict which did not contradict the international community and “enlightened opinion” as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and “leading human rights organizations.” Hamas, it said, was “prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.” 4

    Appendix II

    Statements made by Hamas activists expressing Hamas' fundamental extremist positions

    1. “Clarifying” his remarks for Palestinians following the publication of the article in the Economist , Ahmed Yousef denied having said that Hamas was close to recognizing Israel . He said that the Economist had either not understood what he said or had misquoted him when the interview was translated into English . He added that nothing in international law required the Palestinians to recognizing Israel , and that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel 's right to Palestinian land . The international community, he noted, should work to restore Palestinian rights: “an occupied people cannot be required to recognize those who stole its land, rather, the Zionists must recognize the rights of the Palestinian people” (Hamas's Palestine-Info website, August 2, 2009).

    2. On July 28, 2009, a ceremony was held in the Al-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City in honor of the families of the shaheeds and wounded of Operation Cast Lead. Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar gave a speech which also mentioned Hamas' position toward Israel , saying the following (July 29, 2009): 5

    i) Hamas adheres to the position that the [Palestinian] state must contain all the territory of “ Palestine .”

    ii) Today no one demands that Hamas recognize Israel . Those who demanded it in the past currently maintain contacts with Hamas, some of them covertly, after they became convinced that Hamas could not recognize Israel .

    iii) “We are certain that what comes after the liberation of Palestine will not be only a state. After the liberation of Palestine a large revolution will reach everywhere ...Anyone who thinks that today we are only paying the price for the liberation of Palestine is mistaken. The firm stance of Gaza is only the opening of all the doors , especially when that country, ‘ Israel ,' ceases to exist.”

    3. Sheikh Hamad al-Bitawi , a Hamas activist in Nablus , a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council with a rich past in incitement against Israel and the Palestinian Authority, recently called for a renewal of Palestinian terrorism. Interviewed by the Hamas-affiliated Al-Bayan Center website on July 30, he said that “the Al-Aqsa mosque is a trust on the shoulders of all Arabs, but we, the Palestinians, have a great responsibility. As our people began the intifada in 2000, we must begin another one, and the Arab nations must rise up in support of the Al-Aqsa mosque .” He called upon all the group to act “for the liberation of Jerusalem ,” saying that “ Jerusalem and Palestine will only be liberated by jihad and not by negotiations .”

    4. Even as Hamas continues its smile spin for the West, it also works within the Gaza Strip, especially among the younger generation, to strengthen the perception of violence and opposition to negotiations with Israel . On July 20, 2009, the Palestinian ministry of culture initiated a conference to strengthen “the culture of resistance.” It was attended by Gazan intellectuals and representatives from educational and cultural institutions. Speeches were made about the need to promote a “culture of resistance” based on the example of the shaheeds who died during the terrorist campaign, the ideology of jihad and Islam, and on resistance to the “culture of surrender, defeat and normalization.” Gazan intellectual were asked by Dr. Abd al-Khaliq Ala'f, who headed the preparatory committee, to form a “cultural front” which would oppose the “sale of the Palestinian homeland” through “negotiations for an empty, deceptive peace” (Website of the ministry of culture in the Hamas de-facto administration and the Hamas' daily Felesteen , July 21, 2009).

    5. The conference paid special attention to the Palestinian educational system and curriculum , which Hamas controls, to inculcate new generations of Palestinian youth with radical Islamic ideology filled with hatred for Israel and the West, ready to participate in armed violence. The head of the conference's scientific committee, Dr. Nabil Abu Ali , said that the ministry of education had to adapt itself to Palestinian reality, reexamine the curricula and reinforce extra-curricular activities to raise ideological adherence to the “resistance.” He said that it was the task of the universities, schools and cultural institutions to found a “culture of resistance” by forming a worldview “ free of Western ideas which are foreign to our religion and people .” On the second day of the conference Dr. Khalil Hamad , director of the curriculum department of the ministry of education and culture, chaired a meeting which examined working papers dealing with education for “strengthening the culture of resistance.” Dr. Nafiz al-Ja'd one of the committee members, said there was a need to develop a Palestinian curriculum “ which would raise a resistance generation .” When the conference ended a series of recommendation was made, one of which was “to strengthen the culture of resistance in the Palestinian curricula and in extra-curricular activities...) (Website of the ministry of culture in the Hamas de-facto administration and the Hamas' daily Felesteen , July 21, 2009). Jabaliya .

    6. Fathi Hamad , Hamas interior minister, interviewed by the Chinese News Agency on July 13, reiterated Hamas' basic, traditional positions. He said that only the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism] would make the “Zionist enemy” leave “occupied Palestine .” Hamas, he said, “ cannot cede one inch of the historical land of Palestine because it belongs to the Muslim endowment ” [a principle which appears in the Hamas charter]. He added that the organizations in the Gaza Strip were getting ready for the next round of the confrontation with Israel by training their operatives in guerilla warfare, digging tunnels, and increasing the production of rockets.

    7. On May 7, 2009, a memorial conference was held at the Rashad al-Shawa cultural center in Gaza City for Sayid Siyam and Nizar Rayyan, who were killed during Operation Cast Lead. Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau, gave a speech in Damascus broadcast live at the conference. It was attended by the leadership of the Hamas police in the Gaza Strip, which is an integral part of Hamas' military-security infrastructure. Mashaal said that no one [i.e., the Palestinian Authority] had the right to conduct negotiations concerning the “rights” and “principles” of the Palestinian people. He represented Sayid Siyam and Nizar Rayyan as role models for jihad fighters, and stressed that the “resistance” [i.e. terrorism] was Hamas' strategic option for the “liberation” [i.e., the “liberation of Palestine”] and for the “restoration” of the Palestinians' “rights,” and that Hamas would make no concession regarding the “resistance” it led [i.e., terrorism]. As to the issue of smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip, he said that “the resistance is the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and no one has the right to prevent the Gaza Strip from arming itself or to choke it to prevent weapons from reaching it” (Hamas's Palestine-Info website and Al-Aqsa TV, May 7, and other Palestinian media).

    8. Ismail Haniya , head of the Hamas de-facto administration, said Hamas reserved the option of “resistance” [i.e., terrorism] to establish a Palestinian state . He said the his administration was trying to conduct the daily lives of the Gazans without taking the risk of ceding their “rights,” while continuing to support the “resistance project” (Hamas' Al-Ra'i , July 13, 2009).

    1 That was shown by the cessation of rocket fire during the last months, intended to give Hamas a break during which it could rebuild the Gaza Strip, increase its control over the population, and reconstruct the military-terrorist networks damaged during Operation Cast Lead.

    2 For the meaning of the term, “cultural resistance,” which is actually “a culture of resistance,” see Appendix II.

    3 The day after the interview was published Khaled Mashaal claimed that the reasons he gave for the current cessation of rocket fire had not been understood properly . He said that he had meant to say that the decision whether or not to fire rockets depended on Hamas' strategic evaluation, which was a product of many factors. He said that Israel (“the Zionist entity”) was always the “aggressor” and that the rocket fire was Palestinian “self defense,” and carried out after consideration of the circumstances of the lives of the Palestinian people (Hamas's Palestine-Info website, May 5, 2009). For further information see our May 11, 2009 bulletin “Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al has recently addressed the issue of rocket fire and of terrorism (“resistance”)” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e072.pdf .

    4 http://www.codepinkalert.org.

    5 The quotations are from the website to QudsPress, and inter-Arab news agency. They were deleted from Hamas websites such as Palestine-info.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Gaza War: Reviewing Amnesty International's Report on Operation Cast Lead
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 15 August @ 03:34:16 GMT+1 (890 maal gelezen)

    Gaza War: Reviewing Amnesty International's Report on Operation Cast Lead15.08. 2009
    Original content copyright by the author
    Zionism & Israel Center http://zionism-israel.com

    Over the last half year the United Nations and a number of NGOs have been conducting investigations into the Israeli "Operation Cast Lead" a.k.a. the Gaza War, which lasted from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. Several reports have been published and at least one more is forthcoming, from the UN investigation committee headed by Richard Goldstone.

    The focus of these reports is basically whether Israel in the course of its military operation in the Gaza Strip has committed war crimes. Though most reports also criticize Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza to some extend, the blame is mostly put on Israel for using disproportionate force and for targeting Palestinian civilians as well as fighters.

    On 2 July Amnesty International published the most comprehensive report to date, titled "Israel/Gaza - Operation 'Cast Lead': 22 Days of Death and Destruction". It suffers from a number of flaws, like neglecting the context of the war and the nature of the Hamas regime in Gaza, an uncritical approach to Palestinian witnesses and sources, selective use of Israeli sources and disregard for sources which contradict the opinions of the investigators, and a disputable view of ambiguous international laws and conventions. The most obvious of its flaws will be briefly discussed here. A more extensive review of the report by us can be found at: "Gaza War: A Review of Amnesty International's Report on Operation Cast Lead".

    Neglecting the context of the war and the nature of the Hamas regime

    The report ignores the causes and the context of Operation Cast Lead, making Israel look as if it attacked and devastated the Gaza Strip without warning or reason. In the years before Operation Cast Lead nearly ten thousand rockets and mortar shells were fired on Israel for this purpose, all potentially lethal and aimed at civilian targets. Hamas did not extend the cease-fire and had broken it many times in the previous month. It had used the time to smuggle vast amounts of weapons into Gaza, including Katyusha rockets with a range of over 40 kilometers. It was gaining the capacity to target major Israeli population areas and has repeatedly shown the willingness to do so. Amnesty should have provided this context.

    No attention is paid to the nature and the goals of the Hamas. You cannot understand the conflict if you are unaware of Hamas's goal to liberate 'all of Palestine' by force and found an Islamic state there. Article 7 of the Hamas charter cites a Hadith calling for the killing of the Jews before the Day of Judgment will come. Hamas leader Nizar Rayan, who was killed by an Israeli air strike on January 1, called Jews a 'cursed people' who were transformed by Allah into apes and pigs and who are continually punished by Allah for their sins. Suicide terrorists and others who kill innocent Israeli civilians are hailed as martyrs by Hamas, and Palestinians are being incited against Jews and Israel. Young children are being taught that killing Jews and becoming martyrs is the highest achievable goal. Hamas celebrates the killing of Israeli civilians and aims at killing as many Jews as possible, as it openly proclaims. Hamas wants to scare all Jews away with rockets and terror attacks, and make all towns within Israel's borders ('settlements' in Hamas terminology) unlivable, as it has said repeatedly.

    The report also neglects the role of Iran and the international setting. Hamas is being financed and trained by Iran and coordinates important decisions with Iran. Syria too supports Hamas and harbors its headquarters in Damascus. Israel was not merely fighting a small local movement but also a client of enemy states.

    Uncritical approach to Palestinian sources, selective use of Israeli sources and disregard for sources which contradict the opinions of the investigators

    The report is mainly based on testimonies by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which are sometimes heart-rending. The researchers conclude from this series of incidents that Israel deliberately and consciously brought death and destruction upon the population, as a deterrent or collective punishment. Palestinian and some Israeli sources are selectively used and others ignored, even when freely available in the media and on the internet. Tragic stories of Palestinian victims are contrasted with selective quotes from Israeli soldiers and sources which put them in a malicious light. Soldiers are quoted who said they were ordered to fight aggressively and shoot first, ask questions later, and some disgusting graffiti which soldiers left behind in Palestinian homes are repeatedly cited. Many other stories and quotes from Israeli soldiers can be found on the Internet, which paint a much more diverse picture, telling about doing everything possible to avoid harming innocents. In fact 120 IDF officers had been given the task of coordinating humanitarian aid and helping Gazan civilians in need.

    The Amnesty report however leaves no room for nuance and seems to put the blame on Israel beforehand. Cited official Israeli statements are immediately contradicted in harsh terms and dismissed as unreliable. On the other hand, statements made by Gazans the investigators spoke with and reports from Palestinian human rights groups are believed almost without question. However, Amnesty ignores Palestinian eye-witness accounts from the media, footage and photos on the Internet about how Hamas used the population as human shields, misused ambulances, hid weapons and explosives in houses, mosques and public buildings, and enrolled children in its struggle. It also ignores statements by Hamas fighters and leaders about its goals and strategy, for instance bragging about crushing the 'Zionist enemy' or boasting about using human shields. The report selects only those sources which support its main thesis that Israel is to blame for a large scale destruction and killing of innocents which serves no justifiable military goal. Meanwhile Amnesty seems mild in its judgment of the Hamas. While condemning Palestinian rockets because they are indiscriminate, it claims lack of evidence for Hamas deliberately using civilians as human shields.

    The report shows little understanding for the difficulties in fighting a guerrilla army that is hardly visible and can be everywhere and nowhere. War in a densely populated area is characterized as a challenge for both parties, and Israel is basically blamed for starting it and picking this dangerous battlefield.

    According to Amnesty International, aside from 5,000 people wounded, a total of 1,400 Palestinians were killed during Israel's operation, 900 of whom were civilians. Amnesty based its numbers mostly on Palestinian sources. In addition to about 300 children, Amnesty regards all 115 women, all 85 Palestinians over the age of 50, most of the 240 Hamas police officers killed and another 200 unarmed civilians as civilian casualties, adding up to about 900 civilian deaths. Amnesty's definition of a civilian is rather broad. For instance, police officers are part of the Hamas control apparatus in the Gaza Strip and its military infrastructure, and many were also involved in armed groups like the Al Qassam Brigades. The entire armed branch of Hamas, including the diverse security and guerrilla forces, should be considered a legitimate target in a war, as are its political control apparatus, propaganda institutions and infrastructure.
    As a matter of fact Hamas censured the media for reporting about the death of Hamas fighters, so the number of reported deaths from Hamas' side may be lower than the real number of their casualties.

    Disputable view of ambiguous international laws and conventions

    Amnesty International states that Israel neglected the rules of proportionality and distinction in international humanitarian law, and that the goals of military actions were not in proportion to the expected damage or risks of civilian deaths. Israel is also being accused of making little distinction between military and civilian targets. The first accusation is almost impossible to check in retrospect, certainly not without knowing the Israeli strategy and military considerations, which could only be determined by consulting Israeli military leaders.

    By ignoring the causes of the war, the fact that Hamas is steadily building its military capacity and becoming a growing threat to Israeli civilians, and that Hamas is supported and sponsored by Iran, Amnesty showed that it disregards the Israeli position and military interests, and did not consider them in its judgment of the way the military campaign was conducted. The charge that Israel did not make a distinction between military and civilian targets is contradicted by the diverse Israeli efforts to spare civilian lives. Many more civilians would have been killed in the densely populated Gaza Strip if Israel had not made these efforts to warn civilians, to use expensive high precision weapons, to gather intelligence on Hamas targets months ahead of operation Cast Lead, and to initiate daily ceasefires.

    Israel knows full well that a high number of civilian casualties rapidly increases international - and internal - pressure to prematurely end its campaign, and that its maneuver space is very limited. Israel has no choice but to weigh international opinion and support because of the constant international and media focus on its actions. The obvious military goal for Cast Lead was to strike a major blow to the Hamas, not to the civilian population of Gaza.

    According to Amnesty International Israel is still occupying the Gaza Strip, because it controls the borders, airspace and territorial waters. Earlier Israeli incursions into Gaza are also cited as evidence that Israel can still be considered the occupying power. Nevertheless Amnesty in its report quotes the definition of occupied territory in the Hague Regulations, as being territory "actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." How can Israel keep order and provide for enough food for the population, when Hamas de facto controls the area, runs its government facilities and distributes the goods?
    Israel's control of most of the borders and the airspace above Gaza constitutes a (partial) siege or blockade, not an occupation. Defining the Gaza Strip as occupied by Israel enables Amnesty to condemn Israel for failing to take care for the well being of the population in the Gaza Strip, while the Strip is in fact governed by Hamas, Israel's sworn enemy.

    The actual status of the Gaza Strip is unclear and is assessed variously by experts in international law. The absurd situation exists that Israel is delivering water, energy and humanitarian aid to an area governed by a hostile entity. The inhabitants of Gaza are caught in between the Hamas regime and Israel's measures to weaken and undermine it. A regime that, as a matter of fact, was chosen by the population in fairly democratic elections. Amnesty reduces this complex situation to a simple story in which Israel carries all responsibilities.

    Recommendations and conclusions

    Among the recommendations in the report is an arms embargo against both parties until they abide by international law as perceived by Amnesty. Israel should adjust its military rules and combat instructions so that incidents like the ones described in the report can no longer happen, and both parties and the international community should put perpetrators of war crimes on trail. While Israeli military policies and practices should be evaluated carefully and criminal conduct needs to be punished, it is not the place of the international community to pass such judgment where a legitimate, sovereign and democratic state is concerned.

    Amnesty International proposes requirements for Israeli battle conduct which make it close to impossible to win a war against Hamas, demanding from Israel a rigid interpretation of international law which disqualifies most Hamas targets as legitimate targets. Meanwhile recommendations regarding Hamas are not likely to have any impact, as Hamas and its sponsors already refuse to meet the international demands placed on it, such as recognizing Israel and ending terrorism, and it receives its weaponry through illegal smuggling and self fabrication.
    Israel on the other hand could face diplomatic, political, economic and security repercussions from a proposed arms embargo, as its military is dependant on trade and imports, and it has other enemies in the region it needs to defend itself against, like Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

    It is unfortunate that an organization as renowned as Amnesty International, which engages in defending human rights worldwide, publishes a report as biased and unfair as the one discussed here. Evidently awful things happened in Gaza, and Israeli forces did not always observe the internationally established rules of combat. The scale on which this occurred, the question of Israel's motives, and the role of Hamas are issues that have not been properly addressed by Amnesty International.

    Ratna Pelle and Wouter Brassé, the Netherlands
    August 15, 2009

    As a response to allegations made against the IDF, the Israeli government has published a paper dealing with a number of issues. See: "The Operation in Gaza - Factual and Legal Aspects".

    Original content is Copyright by the author 2009. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000707.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Foreigners Cannot Understand Israelis' Vulnerability (David Grossman interview)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 15 August @ 03:26:56 GMT+1 (863 maal gelezen)

    Der Spiegel / Aug. 10, 2009
    'Foreigners Cannot Understand the Israelis' Vulnerability'

    In a SPIEGEL interview, novelist David Grossman discusses the vicious cycle of fear and violence in Israel, the inability of foreigners to understand the Israelis' sense of vulnerability and lack of confidence in the country's future. He also expresses skepticism about Benjamin Netanyahu's belief in peace.

    SPIEGEL: Mr. Grossman, you're a very political person, but you have avoided the Israeli-Arab conflict in your most recent books. Why?

    Grossman: I felt that there was no way to write anything about this conflict without falling into the trap of clichés. There was no real argument anymore. Everything had been said, by the left and by the right. I didn't want these clichés in my literature. More than that I felt that because so much of our energy goes into the conflict we don't have energy to deal with the real existential things of life: being a father, being a mother, being a partner. For 10 years I preferred to write about these topics in my novels, because for me they are more important.

    SPIEGEL: Is it at all possible to escape the depressing reality of the Israeli-Arab conflict?

    Grossman: It is possible for so many Israelis. In a strange way you can live in this place and yet be totally detached from what happens. You can live a very comfortable life here. You do not feel the occupation, you do not see the Palestinians -- even if you live in the occupied territories like the settlers. We have paved, in reality and in our hearts, so many ways in order to detour and not confront ourselves with this reality.

    SPIEGEL: Why then did you return to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in your new novel?

    Grossman: For me it was impossible to fade out the reality of the conflict forever. I wanted to find a way to integrate politics and my inner life. When I started, I felt I must try to find a way to integrate the outer sphere of reality with the private world -- to show how the brutal reality penetrates the most intimate spaces.

    SPIEGEL: The book is a very pessimistic one. At one point Ora, the main character, says of Israel: "I know that this country doesn't have a chance at all." Is that also your feeling?

    Grossman: For me it is not a book about despair. It's a book about life with all its facets, about the relationship between people and the founding of a family. One of the strongest movements for me in the book is how Ora rediscovers her youth love Ofer and how she gets him out of a decades-old depression just by the power of her love.

    SPIEGEL: At the same time, Ora's son Ofer appears to fall in the war.

    Grossman: I don't write this explicitly, I leave the ending open. But it's a very realistic fear, for every parent here in Israel.

    SPIEGEL: Your second son Uri was killed during the Lebanon war in 2006. Is this book a kind of autobiography?

    Grossman: Everything I write is autobiographical, even if I don't know it when I start writing. However, I started writing it three years and three months before my son Uri died in the war. Uri knew about the book and when he came home from the army for the weekends, we used to discuss what I was writing about. Every time, he asked me what new things I had done to my characters in the meantime.

    SPIEGEL: Did you change the manuscript after his death?

    Grossman: No, the main thing is not what happened to me. The main theme is the acuteness of life here in Israel. And even if a catastrophe like the death of a son does not befall you, one feels this immediate effect of political events on one's own personality. Many deny this reality, they simply ignore it. But at some point you are caught up by reality --  at the latest when your boys reach puberty, and the shadow of the army starts to fall on them. An international TV program once interviewed a young Israeli couple and asked how many children they wanted to have. The beautiful bride said immediately: "Three." And the interviewer asked: "Why three?" And she said with a smile: "So that if one of them is killed in a war or in terror we shall still have two left."

    SPIEGEL: You, too, were a father of three, before your son Uri died.

    Grossman: We did not have three children out of this calculation, but I must admit that this thought had crossed my mind when we started having children. The option of personal catastrophe is connected to the special fate of this country. As I fear for my children, all my life I lived with this fear of what happens if a catastrophe occurs in Israel. The question of whether we shall exist here in the future, whether we will still live here within a few decades time, prevails subconsciously in the mind of most Israelis. We are living with difficult and partly violent neighbors, most of whom don't want us here. Some of them even threaten to eradicate us. I take them very seriously.

    SPIEGEL: You describe a feeling which people in Europe and the United States don't usually know.

    Grossman: From the outside Israel looks like a bully-militant fist. Foreigners cannot really understand the vulnerability of people here and their lack of confidence in the fact that Israel will still exist in a few decades. I read that Germany plans the construction of its roads several decades in advance, and that sounds perfectly normal. But no sane Israeli would make such long-term plans. If I do it, I feel a kind of pain in my heart as if I violated a taboo by allowing myself quantities of future that are too great.

    SPIEGEL: In your book, there is a generation gap: While Ora, the mother, dreams of peace, Ofer wants to be a soldier and go to war.

    Grossman: Yes, but as a young woman Ora was also part of this military machine. From my experience, many young people going out of the army suddenly start to see the reality as so much more complicated. Being in the army at this age has very little to do with political affiliation. This is why armies are built of young people: You can easily manipulate them.

    SPIEGEL: So the enthusiasm Ofer and his comrades feel is not a new phenomenon?

    Grossman: It existed from the very beginning. This ceremony of taking your son to the army is part of the Israeli identity: Because of our situation here, we are programmed from birth to be warriors. However, after Ora brings her son to his army unit, she asks herself: How come I am more loyal to the army and to the state than to my child? She starts to rebel, flees to the north of Israel, in order not to be at home when they want to deliver the news of her son's death. She simply refuses to collaborate with this machinery of death.

    SPIEGEL: In the Gaza war against the Islamistic Hamas at the beginning of the year, the Israeli side only suffered very few victims. Was that because of the Israeli army's brutal conduct?

    Grossman: The whole situation of the occupation legitimizes brutality. I remember the testimony of a soldier who was in Gaza in the first intifada who said, "The moment I crossed the borderline I started to feel like God. There was nothing that could have stopped me." It is an irresistable temptation.

    SPIEGEL: Especially when a war like this is religiously legitimized by the chief military rabbi.

    Grossman: Young people, especially, are susceptible to this. On the other hand you must remember that for four years there was rocket shooting from the Gaza Strip. There was ongoing provocation. Israel had withdrawn its soldiers and settlers from Gaza. The Palestinians could have used this partial sovereignty in order to build up their land. Instead Hamas decided to bombard Israel.

    SPIEGEL: You are known as a leftist peace activist, but you are starting to sound like the average mainstream Israeli politician.

    Grossman: Not at all. I thought it was a mistake of Ariel Sharon to withdraw from Gaza unilaterally instead of coordinating it with the moderate Palestinians. The unilateral withdrawal empowered the narrative of Hamas, which says that Israel understands only power. On the other hand already on the third day of the war, I wrote an article for the front page of Haaretz calling for an immediate stop to the Israeli attacks. I wrote that we Israelis must, for once, try to act against the lethal logic of violence.

    SPIEGEL: But you were not against a military operation in general?

    Grossman: All my life I have tried to prevent the use of military power, but I also insist on Israel's right as a sovereign state to defend itself when attacked. It is strange that Israel is the only country that is immediately criticized when it retaliates after years of rocket terror.

    SPIEGEL: Perhaps because the scope and strength of this reaction were disproportionate?

    Grossman: The world denies our right to retaliate in principle. At the same time, the government in Jerusalem conducts a war which leads to many civilian victims. It is a tragedy that we believe we have to constantly decide between total pacifism and monstrous violence. My hope is that we shall find an adequate language for the complex situation between us and the Palestinians.

    SPIEGEL: The liberal-left Meretz party you support only received three seats in Knesset during the last election. Do you sometimes feel a bit lonely as a member of the Israeli peace movement?

    Grossman: It is right that we currently don't have too many people (in parliament). Our ideas are not very popular at the moment. It is very hard to talk to Israelis about chances of peaceful co-existence.

    SPIEGEL: Why?

    Grossman: From the perspective of most Israelis our government tried to make peace in 2000 at Camp David, but the Palestinians betrayed us. Israelis failed to see their part in this mistake. I think both sides were not mature enough for peace. They came to this peace as they come to war.

    SPIEGEL: Many Israelis consider President Barack Obama to be as naïve as Bill Clinton was back then at Camp David.

    Grossman: We need a mediator from the outside. I think Obama is much better equipped than his predecessor, George W. Bush, because of his multi-focal look at reality. I wish Obama would stand up for his vision. I wish he would impose on us the solution that we all know it is inevitable.

    SPIEGEL: Two states for two people -- even a right-wing prime minister like Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be accepting this model now.

    Grossman: Basically the left has succeeded. The majority of Israelis now accepts the two-state solution, a concept people like Amos Oz, me and others have advocated for almost 40 years. But I am skeptical about Netanyahu. Before his speech at the Bar-Ilan-University ...

    SPIEGEL: ... where he for the first time accepted the idea of a Palestinian state ...

    Grossman: ... he invited me for a talk. My impression is that he does not really believe in the option of peace between us and the Palestinians. He will do everything in order to create an illusion of a peace process but will not fulfill it. His speech was merely paying lip service to the Americans.

    SPIEGEL: Many Israelis have become very cynical over the years. But you haven't?

    Grossman: If you become cynical, you later become apathic and then you will not really do anything to change the situation. It may sound terribly old-fashioned, but I believe in the good powers in people. We Israelis have lived for more than 60 years in a reality of fear and violence, of animosity and hatred. If there is a leader who will enable us to explore these good parts within us, Israel could be a much better place to live.

    SPIEGEL: In the book, Ofer whispers into his mother's ear when he leaves for the war: "If something happens to me, you have to leave this country. You will having nothing left to lose." Have you ever considered emigrating?

    Grossman: After what happened to us, of course my wife and I asked ourselves how different it could have been if had we left 25 years ago. I have received many offers to work abroad. Israel is the only place on earth where I am not a stranger. I regard it as a privilege to take part in the creating of this country. In the Mishna ...

    SPIEGEL: ... a commentary of the Hebrew Bible ...

    Grossman: ... there is a phrase saying the one who has experienced a miracle does not necessarily recognize it as a miracle. I recognize the miracle: We Jews do have a state.

    SPIEGEL: Mr. Grossman, we thank you for this interview.

    Interview conducted by Martin Doerry and Christoph Schult.
    David Grossman, along with Amos Oz, is considered to be Israel's most important author. His books have been translated into 22 languages. In 1983, with the publication of "The Smile of the Lamb," he became the first novelist to describe the remorse of a soldier deployed in the occupied Palestinian territories. In articles and speeches, Grossman, 55, has also repeatedly called for an end to the spiral of violence, most recently during the Gaza war earlier this year. His new novel, "Until the End of the Land," about a mother's worries over her son, who has just announced he will volunteer to participate in a military operation against Palestinian terrorists. She travels across northern Israel and relives the story of her son's life. The book, to be released in Germany by Hanser Verlag in August, will be published soon in the United States by Knopf and in Britain by Jonathan Cape.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Why Israel's left has disappeared (Carlo Strenger - Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 15 August @ 03:16:49 GMT+1 (871 maal gelezen)

    Why Israel's left has disappeared
    By Carlo Strenger

    Israel's left has disappeared; it has nearly no parliamentary representation and remarkably little public presence. At first glance, this is a paradox, because the left's program has, in many ways, won, as Yossi Sarid said when he left the Knesset for good. The idea of a Palestinian state, anathema in Israeli society a few decades ago, is now accepted by the mainstream.

    The left has dissipated because it has failed to provide a realistic picture of the conflict with the Palestinians. Its ideological foundation was based on a simple prediction: If we offer the Palestinians a state in the territories occupied in 1967, there will be "peace now."

    Then things started to go wrong. After the Oslo process began, the newly formed Palestinian Authority educated its children with violently anti-Israeli and often straightforwardly anti-Semitic textbooks. The suicide bombings of 1996 were not prevented by Arafat (some say they were supported). What brought the left down completely were the failures of Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001, as well as the onset of the second intifada.
    On the face of it, Israel's left should have said "we were wrong in our predictions. We underestimated the complexity of the situation. We didn't see that the Palestinians were not ready to renounce the right of return and we underestimated how much murderous rage there was against Israel. We still believe that we need to end the occupation as quickly as possible, but we need to face reality."

    Instead of admitting that it had been partially wrong, the left tried to explain away all the facts that didn't square with its theory by putting the onus of responsibility for Palestinian actions exclusively on Israel's policies. The left argued that the bombings in 1996 happened because the Oslo process was too slow and the Palestinians wanted to avenge the targeted killing of Yihye Ayash; Camp David failed because prime minister Ehud Barak's offers were insufficient. The second intifada started because of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000. Hamas came to power because we turned Fatah into collaborators with the Zionists, and so on.

    The Israeli left's thinking is governed by what I call SLES (Standard Left Explanatory System). This intellectual construct gained popularity in Europe and the United States in the 1960s after the demise of European colonialism. The basic principle of SLES is simple: Always support the underdog, particularly when non-Western, and always accuse Western powers, preferably the United States and its allies, for what the underdog does. Anything aggressive or destructive a non-Western group says or does must be explained by Western dominance or oppression. This ranges from the emergence of Al-Qaida, which is blamed on the United States' dropping of its support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan after the Soviets were expelled, to corruption and violence in Africa, which is blamed on the aftereffects of European colonialism.

    SLES is built on very questionable psychology: It assumes that if you are nice to people, all conflicts will disappear. It simply disregards the human desire for dominance, power and a belief system that gives them self-respect. As a result, SLES, under the guise of humanitarianism, assumes that non-Western groups don't have a will of their own; that all they do, feel or want is purely reactive to the West. It is also devoid of respect for non-Western groups: It assumes that they are not responsible for their deeds, and that all they do must be explained by victimization by the West.

    If you listen to the left's explanations of Palestinian behavior, you might easily conclude that Israel is omnipotent and that Palestinians have no self will. In conversations with Palestinians I have heard more than once that they feel that the right wing respects them more than the left because the left always presumes to know what the Palestinians really want.

    I want to make one thing very clear. I completely endorse Yeshayahu Leibowitz's famous saying that he is not sure whether Israel's policies since 1967 are evil stupidity or stupidly evil, and I continue to think that the occupation must end as quickly as possible. But I believe that Israel's stupidity is matched by the Palestinians making every conceivable mistake along the way, and I think the left should give them the respect of holding them responsible for their actions rather than talking about them as if they were abused children, as SLES prescribes.

    Israel's most urgent problem is ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and the left will not gain popularity by turning greener or more socialist. If Israel's left wants to regain some credibility and convince voters that it has a role to play, it needs to give the Israeli public a reasonable picture of reality. And it needs a plan of action that is more intelligent than the right's tactic of trying (unsuccessfully) to explain to the world that the conflict cannot be solved but only managed.

    The writer teaches at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University and is a member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.

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    Background Articles & Opinions West Bank Improvements: Green Shoots in Palestine II (Thomas Friedman)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 15 August @ 03:13:32 GMT+1 (850 maal gelezen)

    Green Shoots in Palestine II
    Published: August 8, 2009

    Ever since the collapse of the Oslo peace accords in 2000, and the horror-show violence that followed, there has been only one thing to say about the West Bank: Nothing ever changes here, except for the worst. That is just not the case anymore — much to my surprise.

    For Palestinians, long trapped between burgeoning Israeli settlements and an Israeli occupation army, subject to lawlessness in their own cities and the fecklessness of their own political leadership, life has clearly started to improve a bit, thanks to a new virtuous cycle: improved Palestinian policing that has led to more Palestinian investment and trade that has led to the Israeli Army dismantling more checkpoints in the West Bank that has led to more Palestinian travel and commerce.

    Because the West Bank today is largely hidden from Israelis by a wall, Israelis are just starting to learn from their own press what is going on there. On July 31, many Israelis were no doubt surprised to read this quote in the Maariv daily from Omar Hashim, deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Nablus, the commercial center of the West Bank: “Traders here are satisfied,” said Hashim. “Their sales are rising. They feel that life is returning to normal. There is a strong sense of optimism.”

    Make no mistake: Palestinians still want the Israeli occupation to end, and their own state to emerge, tomorrow. That is not going to happen. But for the first time since Oslo, there is an economic-security dynamic emerging on the ground in the West Bank that has the potential — the potential — to give the post-Yasir Arafat Palestinians another chance to build the sort of self-governing authority, army and economy that are prerequisites for securing their own independent state. A Palestinian peace partner for Israel may be taking shape again.

    The key to this rebirth was the recruitment, training and deployment of four battalions of new Palestinian National Security Forces — a move spearheaded by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority. Trained in Jordan in a program paid for by the U.S., three of these battalions have fanned out since May 2008 and brought order to the major Palestinian towns: Nablus, Jericho, Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin and Bethlehem.

    These N.S.F. troops, who replaced either Israeli soldiers or Palestinian gangs, have been warmly received by the locals. Recently, N.S.F. forces wiped out a Hamas cell in Qalqilya, and took losses themselves. The death of the Hamas fighters drew nary a peep, but a memorial service for the N.S.F. soldiers killed drew thousands of people. For the first time, I’ve heard top Israeli military officers say these new Palestinian troops are professional and for real.

    The Israeli Army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, has backed that up by taking down roughly two-thirds of the 41 manned checkpoints Israel set up around the West Bank, many since 2000, to stifle Palestinian suicide bombers. Those checkpoints — where Palestinians often had to wait for two hours to just pass from one city to the next and often could not drive their own cars through but had to go from cab to cab — choked Palestinian commerce. Israel is also again letting Israeli Arabs drive their own cars into the West Bank on Saturdays to shop.

    “You can feel the movement,” said Olfat Hammad, the associate director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, who lives in Nablus and works in Ramallah. “It is not a burden anymore to move around to Ramallah for business meetings and social meetings.” Nablus recently opened its first multiplex, “Cinema City,” as well as a multistory furniture mart designed to cater to Israelis. Ramallah’s real estate prices have skyrocketed.

    “I have had a 70 percent increase in sales,” Maariv quoted a Nablus shoe store owner as saying. “People are coming from the villages nearby, and from other cities in the West Bank and from Israel.”

    But men and women do not live by shoe sales alone. The only way the Palestinian leadership running this show can maintain its legitimacy is if it is eventually given political authority, not just policing powers, over the West Bank — or at least a map that indicates they are on a pathway there.

    “Our people need to see we are governing ourselves and are not simply subcontractors for Israeli security,” Prime Minister Fayyad told me. Khalil Shikaki, a leading Palestinian pollster, added that Abbas and Fayyad want “to be seen as building a Palestinian state — not security without a state.” That is why “there has to be political progress alongside the security progress. Without it, it hurts them very much.”

    America must nurture this virtuous cycle: more money to train credible Palestinian troops, more encouragement for Israel’s risk-taking in eliminating checkpoints, more Palestinian economic growth and quicker negotiations on the contours of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Hamas and Gaza can join later. Don’t wait for them. If we build it, they will come.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Analysis: Arab states 'just say no' to normalization (Jerusalem Post)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 15 August @ 03:09:06 GMT+1 (1172 maal gelezen)

    The Jerusalem Post
    Aug 5, 2009 22:19 | Updated Aug 5, 2009 22:29
    Analysis: Arab states 'just say no' to normalization

    The idea of gestures of 'normalization' from Arab states to Israel is a central component in the US administration's plan for reviving the Mideast peace process.

    The notion represents a variant of the Oslo-style approach whereby a series of confidence-building measures will create a climate conducive to the successful conclusion of final-status negotiations. President Barack Obama's approach seeks to expand the circle of confidence-building, so that the Arab states, and not only the Palestinians and Israelis, will be drawn into it.

    According to reports, the US is now in the final stages before the announcement of its new, comprehensive peace plan. In the past week, meanwhile, three Arab states appear to have rejected the possibility of gestures of normalization.

    Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal last Friday openly dismissed the idea of "incrementalism" and "confidence-building measures." Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh took a more ambiguous but still critical stance regarding such measures early this week in a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    Kuwaiti Emir Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, meanwhile, reiterated his country's support for the Arab peace initiative after a meeting with Obama. By failing to give any hint of a forthcoming gesture to Israel, or to express any support for the idea of normalization in principle, the emir appeared to be adding Kuwait to the list of Arab countries who prefer to politely decline the administration's request for assistance.

    So far, the score-card for gestures of normalization from the Arab states to Israel stands at close to zero. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait are all close allies of the US. Yet none have yet been willing to make a positive gesture in Washington's direction on this issue. What lies behind their refusal?

    One explanation for this holds that the administration's pressure on Israel is leading to a hardening of Arab positions. Since Obama demanded a complete freeze on all construction in settlements, it would now be futile to expect Arab gestures of normalization unless Israel first accepts this demand. However, the Arab rejection of incremental measures has not been solely predicated on Israel's refusal of a comprehensive freeze on all construction in West Bank settlements. Rather, the very principle of normalization in the period prior to a final-status accord between Israelis and Palestinians appears to be rejected.

    The rejection of this idea derives from two elements. Firstly, the near-universal, though rarely expressed, belief that the current attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is doomed to failure. Secondly, the distinct lack of urgency felt in Arab capitals regarding this issue.

    Regarding the first issue, the factors that caused the failure of the peace process in the 1990s have not disappeared. They are waiting to trip up any negotiation should final-status talks begin.

    The demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be permitted to make their homes in Israel, the demand for exclusive Muslim sovereignty over the holy places in Jerusalem, the refusal to countenance recognition of Israel as a Jewish state - all these remain part of the non-negotiable core position of the Palestinian national movement. Indeed, in so far as the situation on the ground has changed since 2000, it is for the worse.

    The split in the Palestinian national movement between nationalist Fatah and Islamist Hamas increasingly has the look of permanency about it. And since militancy against Israel remains the currency of legitimacy in Palestinian politics, the effect of this is to induce the ageing Fatah movement to dress itself up in radical array once again.

    This may currently be seen at the Fatah congress in Bethlehem. There is simply no prospect in the foreseeable future of a united Palestinian leadership willing to make the compromises with reality which alone would render a repartition of the country feasible.

    For Arab countries aligned with the US, this situation is not so terrible. They suffer no tangible consequence as a result of it. But the Palestinian issue remains the great mobilizing cause for the populations of the Arab states.

    Since this is the case, Arab regimes do not consider it in their interests to appear to be making concessions to Israel. On the contrary - given that from the Kuwaiti, or Saudi, or even Jordanian point of view there is no urgent practical need to resolve the conflict, the leaders of these countries have an obvious interest in playing to the gallery of their own publics by striking occasional militant poses.

    These poses must not go beyond a certain point, of course. The American protector must not be unduly provoked. But the Obama administration has made abundantly clear that there will be no price to be paid by the Arab states for their refusal to get on the Obama peace wagon.

    As a result, these states may happily continue their comfortable stance of verbal support for the Palestinian cause and refusal to undertake any potentially detrimental gesture of rapprochement toward Israel, while continuing to enjoy the benefits of American patronage.

    The fact is that, as everyone in the region knows, there is no chance of a final-status accord between Israelis and Palestinians any time soon. And the absence of such an accord is very far from being the most urgent problem facing the region. All sides now await the moment that this knowledge finds its way to the US administration.

    The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

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    Background Articles & Opinions The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem (JCPA)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 10 August @ 20:31:09 GMT+1 (889 maal gelezen)

    This is a joint publication with the Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center. 

    Vol. 9, No. 4    27 July 2009

    The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem:
    The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood

    Nadav Shragai

    • The Sheikh Jarrah-Mt. Scopus area - the focus of a dispute between the Obama administration and Israel over building housing units in the Shepherd Hotel compound - has been a mixed Jewish-Arab area for many years. The Jewish population is currently centered in three places: around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (a fourth century BCE high priest), the Israeli government compound in Sheikh Jarrah, and Hadassah Hospital-Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.
    • During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, 78 doctors, nurses and other Jews were murdered on their way to Hadassah Hospital when their convoy was attacked by Arabs as it passed through Sheikh Jarrah. Mt. Scopus was cut off from western Jerusalem and remained a demilitarized Israeli enclave under UN aegis until it was returned to Israel in 1967. The area discussed here has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus.
    • To ensure the continued unity of Jerusalem and to prevent Mt. Scopus from being cut off again, a chain of Israeli neighborhoods were built to link western Jerusalem with Mt. Scopus, and Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital were repaired and enlarged. Today both institutions serve hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab residents of the city.
    • Many observers incorrectly assume that Jerusalem is comprised of two ethnically homogenous halves: Jewish western Jerusalem and Arab eastern Jerusalem. Yet in some areas such as Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik, Jerusalem is a mosaic of peoples who are mixed and cannot be separated or divided according to the old 1949 armistice line.
    • In the eastern part of Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. In short, as certain parts of eastern Jerusalem have become ethnically diverse, it has become impossible to characterize it as a wholly Palestinian area that can easily be split off from the rest of Jerusalem.
    • Private Jewish groups are operating in Sheikh Jarrah seeking to regain possession of property once held by Jews, and to purchase new property. Their objective is to facilitate private Jewish residence in the area in addition to the presence of Israeli governmental institutions. The main points of such activity include the Shepherd Hotel compound, the Mufti's Vineyard, the building of the el-Ma'amuniya school, the Shimon HaTzadik compound, and the Nahlat Shimon neighborhood. In the meantime, foreign investors from Arab states, particularly in the Persian Gulf, are actively seeking to purchase Jerusalem properties on behalf of Palestinian interests.

    Israel's Right to Build in Its Capital

    An Israeli plan to build 20 housing units in the Shepherd Hotel compound in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem has added a new dimension to an already complex dispute between the Obama administration and Israel over continued construction in eastern Jerusalem.1 Washington is insisting that Israel freeze all building in Sheikh Jarrah, as it occasionally has done in the past regarding other areas in the eastern part of the city. Israel, however, refuses to waive the Jewish people's historical and legal right to live in all parts of Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.2 In eastern Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in a mosaic of intertwined neighborhoods.3

    Disagreements between the U.S. and Israel over building in eastern Jerusalem are not new. In the 1970s, the U.S. expressed dissatisfaction with the construction of the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, and in the 1990s it opposed the construction of a large neighborhood on Har Homa and a smaller one in Ma'ale Hazeitim near Ras el-Amud.

    This time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel's right to continue building in its capital is not a matter for negotiation, and is separate from the debate with the U.S. about the extent of building in the West Bank.4 On June 22, 2009, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly had stated, in answer to a question, that the Obama administration's demand that all settlement activity - including natural growth - come to a halt also applied to Jerusalem neighborhoods over the 1949 armistice line.5

    The Tomb and Neighborhood of Shimon HaTzadik6

    The mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus, home for 80 years of Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital. For hundreds of years the Jewish presence in the area centered around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Righteous), one of the last members of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the governing body of the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Commonwealth, after the Babylonian Exile. His full name was Shimon ben Yohanan, the High Priest, who lived during the fourth century BCE, during the time of the Second Temple.7

    According to the Babylonian Talmud, he met with Alexander the Great when the Macedonian Army moved through the Land of Israel during its war with the Persian Empire.8 In that account, Shimon HaTzadik successfully persuades Alexander to not destroy the Second Temple and leave it standing. According to tradition, Shimon HaTzadik and his pupils are buried in a cave near the road that goes from Sheikh Jarrah to Mt. Scopus. He appears as the author of one of the famous verses in Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) which has been incorporated into the Jewish morning prayers: "Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great Assembly. He would say: ‘The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.'"9

    For years Jews have made pilgrimages to his grave to light candles and pray, as documented in many reports by pilgrims and travelers. While the property was owned by Arabs for many years, in 1876 the cave and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees.10 The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.

    Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik.

    Mt. Scopus11

    In 1918 the cornerstone of Hebrew University was laid on Mt. Scopus, north of Sheikh Jarrah, and on April 1, 1925, the opening ceremony was held.12 In 1938 Hadassah Hospital was opened adjacent to the university on Mt. Scopus, with a nursing school and research facilities as well as wards. During the War of Independence, both institutions, which were a source of pride for the Jewish state in the making, were cut off because the access route passed through Sheikh Jarrah. Following the UN partition vote on November 29, 1947, Jewish transportation to Mt. Scopus became a target for attacks by Palestinian Arabs who shot passengers and mined the road.

    On April 13, 1948, a convoy of ambulances, armored buses, trucks loaded with food and medical equipment, and 105 doctors, nurses, medical students, Hebrew University personnel, and guards headed for Mt. Scopus. The convoy was ambushed in the middle of Sheikh Jarrah, the lead vehicle hit a mine, and gangs of armed Arabs attacked. Seventy-eight Jews were murdered, among them 20 women and Dr. Haim Yaski, the hospital director. In the following months the hospital and university ceased to function. After the Six-Day War, when the area was returned to Israel, a memorial was built in their honor in Sheikh Jarrah on the road leading to Mt. Scopus.

    Nahlat Shimon13

    Until 1948, west of the road linking Sheikh Jarrah, the American Colony and Mt. Scopus, was Nahlat Shimon, its name a reminder of its proximity to the cave of Shimon HaTzadik. The neighborhood was founded in 1891 and was home to hundreds of Jewish families. Just before the British Mandate ended in 1948, security in Nahlat Shimon deteriorated drastically and its residents were evacuated to the Israeli side of Jerusalem. The Jordanians took control of the neighborhood and settled Palestinian refugees there.

    Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik and Mt. Scopus, 1948-1967

    Until 1948 Sheikh Jarrah was an aristocratic neighborhood for Jerusalem Arabs and members of the two most important Palestinian families: Nashashibi and Husseini. Among its most famous residents before 1948 was the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Haj Amin al-Husseini, and his family, who lived in the eastern part of Sheikh Jarrah, called the Mufti's Vineyard. He began building himself a large house but was deported by the British and left for Lebanon in October 1937. During the Second World War he supported the Nazis and later lived in Beirut and Cairo.14 His family rented out the house, which was further enlarged and became the Shepherd Hotel.

    After 1948 the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.

    During the nineteen years between the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, Israeli access to Mt. Scopus - which remained an Israeli enclave surrounded by territory under Jordanian control - was governed by a special arrangement which went into effect on July 7, 1948, and by other arrangements made later.15 Once every two weeks a convoy was allowed through from the Israeli side of the Mandelbaum gate with a UN escort, to rotate the Israeli policemen who served on Mt. Scopus. The area was a demilitarized zone containing Hebrew University, Hadassah Hospital, and the village of Isawiya. However, the arrangement was plagued by friction and arguments, diplomatic incidents and bloody events, and it had to be continually bolstered by various mediators and negotiations.16

    After the Six-Day War (June 1967)

    Immediately after Israel defeated the Jordanian army in Jerusalem, the Israeli government began to restore those parts of the city which had been wrested from it nineteen years previously. The city's municipal borders were extended and its area grew to 110,000 dunams (about 27,000 acres), and a Knesset decision brought the entire area under Israeli law. The main considerations of the decision-makers were to take control of the largest possible area with the smallest possible Arab population, to make it impossible to divide the city in the future, and to provide for the security of the city.17 Building Jewish neighborhoods in areas annexed to the city was done in stages, beginning with a bloc of northern neighborhoods to close the gap between Mt. Scopus and the western part of the city as far as the neighborhood of Shmuel HaNavi.18

    On January 11, 1968, an area of 3,345 dunams, or about 830 acres, was expropriated. It included the no man's land which before the war had separated Israel from Jordan, a strip of land on both sides of the road to Ramallah as far as the houses of Sheikh Jarrah, Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, the slopes of Mt. Scopus, and the northern slope of the Mt. of Olives. The territory included 326 plots with 1,500 owners, most of them Arab and a few of them Jews.19 During the following years, Israeli neighborhoods were built in the space between Mt. Scopus and the former border, including Ramat Eshkol, Sanhedria, French Hill, and Maalot Dafna. The Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus came alive and was considerably enlarged. Hadassah Hospital was rebuilt and enlarged as well. Today, the two institutions serve hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs living in Jerusalem, especially in the northern parts of the city.

    To ensure that Mt. Scopus would never again be separated from the rest of Jerusalem, many Israeli government institutions were built in Sheikh Jarrah, where thousands of Israelis work every day, including the national headquarters of the Israel Police. In addition, the Arab population of Jerusalem is served by a major office of the Israel Ministry of Interior as well as by a large medical clinic at this location.

    The Jewish people also returned to the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, which the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs officially designated as a site holy to Judaism.20 Prayers are said there every day, and on special occasions (such as Lag B'Omer) great celebrations are held in honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Religious leaders attend, as do tens of thousands of Jews, who come with their rabbis.

    Three large hotels have been built along the road leading to Sheikh Jarrah, and to the north there is a Hyatt Hotel, all part of the Israeli presence in the area. Many of the hotel and Hadassah Hospital employees are Palestinian Arabs who live in and around Sheikh Jarrah, and many Palestinian Arab students study at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.

    Private Jewish Activity in the Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Area Since the Six-Day War

    Although a Jewish institutional presence has been established in the area in the form of Israeli governmental offices and services, Jewish groups have sought to establish a residential presence as well. This is being done through property and land acquisitions, and by judicial means. To date, this activity has achieved a residential presence of no more than ten families who are living in a small part of the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood from which Jews had been evicted in 1948.

    There are dozens of pending court cases and legal proceedings seeking to remove Arab tenants on the grounds that they have not been paying rent to the rightful owners - the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel, who purchased the land in the second part of the nineteenth century. In some of these cases, eviction notices have been issued, although the Israel Police has delayed the actual evictions due to international pressure.21

    Private Jewish activity in this area focuses on several points: the el-Ma'amuniya school, which after prolonged discussions eventually became the offices of the Israel Ministry of Interior; the Nahlat Shimon neighborhood, whose Jewish residents were driven out in 1948 and where Jews are now seeking to purchase property from Arab residents; the Mufti's Vineyard (expropriated in 1969), which the Israel Lands Administration has handed over to Jewish custody with authorization for agricultural activity; and the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood north of the American Colony Hotel.

    After 1967, control over Jewish-owned property in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood that had been seized by Arabs was transferred from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property. In 1972 the Israeli Custodian released the land back to its owners (the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel). In 1988 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the 28 Arab families living on the premises enjoy the status of "Protected Residents," but that the ownership of the land belongs to the two Jewish organizations.

    Ten years later, in 1998, Jews entered deserted houses in the neighborhood. At the same time, a slow process of evicting Arab families who apparently refused to pay rent to the two Jewish organizations was begun. The Jewish groups involved in the area presented a power of attorney from former Knesset Member Yehezkel Zackay (Labor) and from the heads of the Sephardic Committee permitting them to remain on the site and to rebuild it. Zackay explained that the Arabs there had treated the premises as if it were their own private property, building without authorization, entering houses which were not theirs, and had even tried to destroy the abandoned synagogue located in the middle of the neighborhood. Ehud Olmert, then mayor of Jerusalem, assisted the Jewish activity from behind the scenes. Members of the Shas Sephardic religious political party also sanctioned the Jewish activity. A son of Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef began giving lessons at the small, newly built yeshiva that had begun to operate in the abandoned synagogue.

    In the months that followed, several Arab families were evicted from the neighborhood and were replaced by seven Jewish families. Eviction notices have been issued for dozens of other Arab families in the area, but they have not been implemented due to international pressure.

    An overall plan for the rehabilitation of the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood that had been taken over by the Arabs in 1948 has been filed with the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee. 

    The Shepherd Hotel Compound22

    The Shepherd Hotel lies just to the east of the British Consulate in eastern Jerusalem, and British diplomats were instrumental in inflaming the controversy between the U.S. and Israel over the future of the property. The building, originally built by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was confiscated by the British Mandatory Government after it deported him in the 1930s and was made into a British military outpost. The Jordanians took possession of the structure after 1948 and expanded it. 

    After the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel took over the compound, no one from the Husseini family still lived there, and it had been rented by two Christian brothers. At the beginning of the 1970s, Israel revoked the right of the Husseini family's representative to charge the brothers rent and transfer the money to the family abroad. The brothers received the status of protected tenants and paid rent to the Israeli Executor of Absentee Property. In the mid-1980s, the brothers' widows sold the hotel to a Swiss company backed by Jewish groups.

    Two years later, the compound was bought by American businessman Irving Moskowitz, who has worked for years to redeem property in Jerusalem for Jewish settlement. He leased the hotel to the state, and in the 1990s Israeli Border Police units were stationed there. In recent years the building has stood empty and, using the power of attorney of the owners, on July 2, 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality approved a plan to build 20 housing units at the site and at the same time to preserve part of the compound. A more ambitious plan to build 122 units has been prepared but has not yet been approved.

    The Growth of Mixed Neighborhoods in Jerusalem

    The dispute between the U.S. and Israel over 20 housing units in Sheikh Jarrah has turned the spotlight on the Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik-Mt. Scopus area, which has long been home to a mix of populations and where Jews and Arabs live side by side. However, parallel Arab migration to Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem has received no similar attention.

    In Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem such as Armon HaNatziv, Neve Yaakov, Tzameret HaBira, and Pisgat Zeev, the fringes of the neighborhoods have many Palestinian Arab residents, either through purchase or rental of apartments. In some of the buildings along Rehov HaHavatzelet in the center of the city, a similar change is taking place. Jews and Arabs also live together in the neighborhood of Abu Tor, and there are several streets in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, such as Rehov HaGai, where a similar situation is gradually developing. In short, as certain parts of eastern Jerusalem have become ethnically diverse, it has become impossible to characterize it as a wholly Palestinian area that can easily be split off from the rest of Jerusalem.

    Foreign Investment in Jerusalem: Both Jewish and Arab

    Jews from abroad are not the only ones buying property in Jerusalem. Munib al-Masri, a Palestinian millionaire from Nablus who holds American citizenship, is planning to purchase property 900 meters from the Teddy Kollek Stadium, not far from Jerusalem's Malha shopping mall. His investment company is planning to build 150 housing units next to Beit Safafa, according to company chairman Samir Halayla. Until 1967, Beit Safafa was an Arab village south of Jerusalem divided between Israel and Jordan. After the war it became an area where Jews and Arabs lived together, generally as good neighbors.

    The Gulf States, the PLO, and Palestinian millionaires such as al-Masri and the late Abd al-Majid Shuman have all invested funds to purchase property and support construction for Palestinian Arabs. The Jerusalem Treasury Fund affiliated with the Jerusalem Committee headed by King Hassan of Morocco is also active. The Jerusalem Foundation for Development and Investment was founded in Jordan, and there are several similar funds and foundations in Saudi Arabia.23 Foreign donations from Qatar were also involved in the construction of 58 housing units recently completed in Beit Hanina under the auspices of the Arab teachers' association.

    On July 19, 2009, Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency, reported to the Israeli government on the extensive efforts of the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatuses to prevent Palestinian land from being sold to Jews, especially in eastern Jerusalem.

    Regardless of these ongoing struggles, the State of Israel does not limit or forbid the purchase or sale of property or land within Jerusalem, which is under Israeli law, whether the individuals involved are Jews or Arabs.

    *     *     *


    1. Eastern Jerusalem refers to the areas annexed to the east, north and south of the city that were not under Israeli control prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. For further information, see Nadav Shragai, Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008), p. 12 (Hebrew).

    2. For the arguments on which Israel bases its position, see Dore Gold, "The Diplomatic Battle for Jerusalem," Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2001, pp. 5-10 (Hebrew).

    3. Shragai, pp. 49-53.

    4. Information based on conversations with sources within the Israeli government.

    5. Ian Kelley, U.S. Department of State, "Daily Press Briefing," June 22, 2009, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/125229.htm.

    6. Nadav Shragai, "Simon HaTzadik's New Neighbor," Ha'aretz, April 26, 1999 (Hebrew); conversations with people who were evicted that year. See articles in Ha'aretz about population issues and history during the relevant years.

    7. Mishnah Avot, 1:2. See exigesis.

    8. Babylonian Talmud, Tract Yomah, 69a.

    9. Mishnah Avot, 1:2.  

    10. Shmuel Shamir, in an article about the property of the Sephardic community (Bamaarekhet, August 1968, Hebrew), and A. Yaari, in Shluhi Eretz Israel, enlarged on the history of the purchase.

    11. For further information, see Mordechai Gilat, Mt. Scopus (Smadar Publishers, 1969) (Hebrew).

    12. For further information, see "The University," publication of Hebrew University, the 50th anniversary volume, V. 21, 1975 (Hebrew).

    13. For further information, see Yona Cohen, Gershon the Wise from Nahlat Shimon, (Reuven Maas, 1968) (Hebrew).

    14. For further information about al-Husseini and his support for the Nazis, see Haviv Cnaan, "Who Is Haj Amin al-Husseini?," which appeared in Ha'aretz in March 1970 and was reissued by the information services of the Prime Minister's Office.

    15. For further information, see Gilat, and a summary in Amnon Ramon, ed., The Lexicon of Contemporary Jerusalem (Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2003), p. 235.

    16. Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem, the Torn City, (Weinfeld and Nicholson, 1972), pp. 35-41.

    17. David Kroyanker, Jerusalem, the Struggle for the Structure and Face of the City (Zmora Bitan and Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 1988), p. 58 (Hebrew).

    18. Ibid.

    19. Benvenisti, p. 290.

    20. Shmuel Berkowitz, How Awesome Is This Place (Carta, 2006), p. 73 (Hebrew).

    21. The information on this matter comes from conversations with Jewish activists who resettle Jews in the Shimon HaTzadik area, from visiting the neighborhood, and from following ongoing court cases on this matter.

    22. Danny Rubenstein, "As Long as Nothing Bothers the Hyatt," Ha'aretz, November 18, 1991; Danny Rubenstein, "The Palestinian Economy: a Hotel at the Crossroads," Calcalist, July 20, 2009; personal knowledge of the area.

    23. For further information, see Nadav Shragai, "Jerusalem Is the Solution, Not the Problem," in His Honor the Prime Minister Jerusalem, Moshe Amirav, ed. (Carmel, 2005), p. 57 (Hebrew) (based on Israeli defense documents).

    *     *     *

    Nadav Shragai is the author of Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008); At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); and The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995). He has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz since 1983.

    Source: http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=3056

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    Background Articles & Opinions A Land without a People for a People without a Land (Diana Muir - ME Quarterly)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 July @ 20:11:52 GMT+1 (1016 maal gelezen)

    Where did this phrase come from?

    "A Land without a People for a People without a Land"
    by Diana Muir
    Middle East Quarterly
    Spring 2008, pp. 55-62

    "A land without a people for a people without a land" is one of the most oft-cited phrases in the literature of Zionism—and perhaps also the most problematic. Anti-Zionists cite the phrase as a perfect encapsulation of the fundamental injustice of Zionism: that early Zionists believed Palestine was uninhabited,[1] that they denied—and continue to reject—the existence of a distinct Palestinian culture,[2] and even as evidence that Zionists always planned on an ethnic cleansing of the Arab population.[3] Such assertions are without basis in fact: They both deny awareness on the part of early Zionists of the presence of Arabs in Palestine and exaggerate the coalescence of a Palestinian national identity, which in reality only developed in reaction to Zionist immigration.[4] Nor is it true, as many anti-Zionists still assert, that early Zionists widely employed the phrase.

    Origins of the Phrase

    Many commentators, such as the late Arab literary theorist Edward Said, erroneously attribute the first use of the phrase to Israel Zangwill, a British author, playwright, and poet.[5] In fact, the phrase was coined and propagated by nineteenth-century Christian writers.

    In 1831, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, wrested control of Greater Syria from direct Ottoman control, a political change which led the British Foreign Ministry to send a consul to Jerusalem. This development catalyzed the popular imagination.

    The earliest published use of the phrase appears to have been by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.[6] Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy,[7] remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are "a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people."[8] Keith was aware that the Holy Land was populated because he had traveled to Palestine in 1839 on behalf of the Church of Scotland and returned five years later with his son, George Skene Keith, believed to be the first photographer to visit to the Holy Land.

    In July 1853, British statesman and social reformer Lord Shaftesbury wrote to Foreign Minister George Hamilton Gordon, Lord Palmerston, that Greater Syria was "a country without a nation" in need of "a nation without a country… Is there such a thing? To be sure there is: the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!"[9] Shaftesbury elaborated in his diary that these "vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other. There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country."[10] A subsequent Shaftesbury biography sold well and exposed a wider audience to the phrase.[11]

    The year after Shaftesbury's first use, a writer in a Presbyterian magazine told readers that, "Surely the land without a people, and the people without a land, are intended soon to meet and mutually possess each other"[12] and, in an 1858 essay, yet another Scottish Presbyterian, Horatius Bonar, advocated the "Repatriation of Israel… [in which] we have a people without a country, as well as a country without a people."[13]

    Following an 1881 trip to the Holy Land, American William Eugene Blackstone, another Christian advocate of restoring a Jewish population to Palestine, wrote that this "phase of the question [of what to do with Jews subject to tsarist persecution] presents an astonishing anomaly—a land without a people, and a people without a land."[14]

    Anglicans also favored the concept. In 1884, George Seaton Bowes, a Cambridge University clergyman, advocated the return of Jews to Palestine and also used the phrase, "a land without a people… [for] a people without a land."[15]

    John Lawson Stoddard, a Bostonian from a privileged background, grew rich traveling to faraway lands and then giving stereopticon lectures upon his return. In an 1897 travelogue, he exhorts the Jews, "You are a people without a country; there is a country without a people. Be united. Fulfill the dreams of your old poets and patriarchs. Go back, go back to the land of Abraham."[16]

    By the late nineteenth century, the phrase was in common use in both Great Britain and the United States among Christians interested in returning a Jewish population to Palestine.[17] Christian use of the phrase continued into the first decades of the twentieth century. In 1901, American missionary and, later, Yale professor, Harlan Page Beach wrote approvingly of the idea that the Jews will one day, "In God's good time, inhabit the land of their forefathers; otherwise we can offer no valid explanation of a people without a land and a land without a people."[18] In her 1902 novel, The Zionist, English writer Winifred Graham (1873-1950) has her Jewish hero stand before the Zionist congress and advocate for the return of "the people without a country to the country without a people."[19] Augustus Hopkins Strong, a prominent American Baptist theologian, used the phrase in 1912[20] and, on December 12, 1917, the lead article in The Washington Post, written by a Christian journalist, used the phrase.

    The first use of the phrase by a Zionist did not come until 1901 when Israel Zangwill, probably echoing Shaftesbury's wording, wrote in the New Liberal Review that "Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country."[21]

    Jewish Nationalism in Context
    Although the image of Palestine as a "land without a people" was most commonly advanced by Christian proponents of a Jewish return to Palestine, it would be wrong to ascribe the perception of Palestine as a land without a people only to Christians. In the context of the nineteenth century and the many nationalist movements that captured the Western imagination, the notion of a Jewish restoration in Palestine seemed logical, even without religious motivations. In 1891, William Blackstone sent an open letter, known today as the Blackstone Memorial, to U.S. president Benjamin Harrison: "Why shall not the powers which under the treaty of Berlin, in 1878, gave Bulgaria to the Bulgarians and Servia to the Servians now give Palestine back to the Jews? … These provinces, as well as Roumania, Montenegro, and Greece, were wrested from the Turks and given to their natural owners. Does not Palestine as rightfully belong to the Jews?"[22] Nineteenth-century Westerners associated peoples or nations with territory, and so to be a land without a people did not imply that the land was without people, only that it was without a national political character.

    What may be odd, viewed from the Arab perspective, is the lens through which Westerners look at the land. In Western eyes, the eastern Mediterranean is permanently overlaid with the outline of a territory called "the Holy Land," or "the Land of Israel." Because Westerners equate lands with peoples, even post-Christian Westerners expect to find a people identified and coterminous with the Holy Land. Muslims, however, neither perceived Palestine as a distinct country, nor Palestinians as a people. In Ottoman times, the Holy Land and its moderately valuable agricultural districts were subject to rule from Beirut or Damascus, where many of the wealthy Arab families who owned land in Palestine lived. During this period, Arabs thought of the Holy Land as an integral part of Syria, Bilad ash-Sham.[23] The Muslim perception of Syria and Palestine as distinct countries developed in the twentieth century.[24] In Arab eyes in the pre-World War I period, all of Bilad ash-Sham, including portions Christians and Jews saw as the Holy Land, was an integral part of Arab domains and not a separate entity.

    Advocates of a Jewish return to Israel, when they thought about the Arab inhabitants at all, assumed the existing Arab population would continue in residence after a Jewish state was established. This outcome appeared workable since all nation-states include ethnic minorities among their citizens.

    Attack on the Slogan
    Opponents of Zionism began to attack the slogan shortly after the Balfour Declaration was issued. In 1918, Ameer Rihami, a Lebanese-American, Christian Arab nationalist, wrote that "I would even say … 'Give the land without a people to the people without a land' if Palestine were really without a people and if the Jews were really without a land." He argued that Jews needed no homeland in Palestine because they enjoyed everywhere else "equal rights and equal opportunity, to say the least."[25] It was an attitude not limited to Arab nationalists. One early twentieth-century academic Arabist wrote, "Their very slogan, 'The land without a people for the people without a land,' was an insult to Arabs of the country."[26] American journalist William McCrackan said, "We used to read in our papers the slogan of Zionism, 'to give back a people to a Land without a People,' while the truth was that Palestine was already well-peopled with a population which was rapidly increasing from natural causes."[27]

    Proponents of a binational state in Palestine employed the phrase when debating mainstream Zionists. Robert Weltsch, editor of the prestigious German Zionist weekly Juedische Rundschau, wrote in August 1925, for example, "We may be a people without a home, but, alas, there is not a country without a people. Palestine has an existing population of 700,000."[28]

    Anti-Israel propagandists seized upon the phrase following the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).[29] In his speech at the United Nations on November 13, 1974, PLO leader Yasir Arafat said, "It pains our people greatly to witness the propagation of the myth that its homeland was a desert until it was made to bloom by the toil of foreign settlers, that it was a land without a people."[30] Likewise, in its November 14, 1988 "Declaration of Independence," the Palestinian National Council accuses "local and international forces" of "attempts to propagate the lie that 'Palestine is a land without a people.'"[31] Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO spokeswoman and former dean of the faculty of arts of Birzeit University, suggests that the phrase shows that Zionists "sought to deny the very existence and humanity of the Palestinians."[32] Salman Abu Sitta, founder and president of the Palestine Land Society, calls the phrase "a wicked lie in order to make the Palestinian people homeless."[33]

    Edward Said cited the phrase to deny Israel's right to exist on the grounds that the Zionist claim to the land was made on the false premise that Palestine was "a land without people."[34] Many Said disciples furthered the argument.[35] Perhaps the best known is Rashid Khalidi, who writes that, "In the early days of the Zionist movement, many of its European supporters—and others—believed that Palestine was empty and sparsely cultivated. This view was widely propagated by some of the movement's leading thinkers and writers, such as Theodore Herzl, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and Max Mandelstamm, with Herzl never even mentioning the Arabs in his famous work, The Jewish State. It was summed up in the widely-propagated Zionist slogan, 'A land without a people for a people without a land.'"[36]

    Khalidi's statement is factually wrong. Rather than check Der Judenstaat, he refers to an academic work that was inaccurate.[37] Herzl mentions the resident population of Palestine, albeit in the context of discussing possible locations for his projected Jewish state. He was prescient in his analysis of the political impact that the inhabitants were likely to have on the Zionist project. Immigration, he explained, "continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened and forces the government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration."[38] To say that Herzl at the time he wrote Der Judenstaat had little interest in the existing population beyond assessing their probable impact on Zionism is fair. To state that he "never even mentioned" the Arabs of Palestine is untrue. Nor did the phrase "land without a people" ever appear in Herzl's books, letters, or diary.[39]

    Khalidi is also guilty of inconsistent methodology in applying rules of grammar. He often uses "a people" in the ordinary manner, as a near-synonym for nation, writing: "The Palestinians are a people with national rights."[40] Or, "This remarkable book recounts how the Palestinians came to be constituted as a people."[41] He justified the terrorism of the second intifada by arguing that the "violence, which has broken out, has been the natural result of a people desiring its independence."[42] Khalidi misunderstands the phrase "a people" only when discussing the phrase "land without a people."[43]

    Many other academics and commentators use the phrase to discredit Zionism. Radical journalist Ronald Bleier, for example, cites it as an example of a "wilderness myth" and likens it to Nazi propaganda.[44] Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Israel polemicist who, until he was denied tenure in 2007, taught at DePaul University in Chicago, also linked the phrase to a wilderness myth.[45] Lawrence Davidson, history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, calls it "ethnic cleansing at the conceptual level."[46] Jacqueline Rose, professor of English at Queen Mary University in London, calls the phrase "a blatant lie."[47] Post-Zionists such as Tom Segev and Joel Beinin, who oppose the Jewish character of Israel, have also used criticism of the slogan to further their arguments,[48] as has revisionist historian Benny Morris.[49] Even some Zionists have been induced by these attacks to misunderstand the phrase. In Commentary, Hillel Halkin suggests that photographers angled an early photo of Tel Aviv "to substantiate Zionist claims that the Jews, 'a people without a land,' were returning to Palestine, 'a land without a people.'"[50]

    A Zionist Slogan?
    In the minds of many of Zionism's detractors, the "land without a people" formulation has become a defining element of Zionism's original sin. But to what extent was that slogan actually employed by the early Zionists? The official Zionist mantra of the era stated that "The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." Zionist groups used a range of other slogans, including "Torah and Labor," "The Land of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel," and "Zionism, Socialism, and Diaspora Emancipation." These, along with "Jewish State," "Back to the soil," "Return to Zion," "Jewish homeland," "A Palestine open to all Jews," and, by far most frequently, "Jewish national home," were widely-propagated Zionist slogans. In a search of seven major American newspapers—the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post[51]—there were more than 3,000 mentions of the phrase "Jewish national home" through 1948. No other Zionist phrase or slogan comes close. In contrast, there are only four mentions of Zangwill's phrasing, "country without a people,"[52] all before 1906. There is no mention of its variants: "land without a people" or "country without a nation." ProQuest's Historical Newspapers database shows one additional use of the phrase before 1972: the 1947 "Text of the Statement before U.N. by Jamal el Husseini on the Arabs' Position on Palestine: Arab Statement Denounces U.N. Proposal for Partitioning Palestine,"[53] in which Husseini charges that "the Zionist organization propagated the slogan 'Give the country without a people to the people without a country.'"

    Despite the claims of Husseini, Said, and Khalidi, it is not evident that this was ever the slogan of any Zionist organization or that it was employed by any of the movement's leading figures. A mere handful of the outpouring of pre-state Zionist articles and books use it.[54] For a phrase that is so widely ascribed to Zionist leaders, it is remarkably hard to find in the historical record.[55]

    Attendees at the 1905 Zionist congress associated the phrase with Zangwill,[56] and it appears to have passed out of use along with the rejection of his proposal to establish the Jewish homeland in British East Africa. In the rare instances where the phrase is found in a post-1905 Jewish source, it is usually as a specific reference to Zangwill[57] although sometimes it appears when a Jewish author quotes a Christian writer.[58]

    Mainstream writers refer to the phrase as something used briefly and years before. In 1914, Chaim Weizmann referred to the phrase as descriptive of attitudes common in the early days of the movement.[59] Israeli writer and historian Amos Elon dated Zionist use of the phrase to 1903 but said it had faded from the lexicon by 1917.[60] The single use of the phrase in The Maccabean, the journal of the Federation of American Zionists, occurred in 1901.[61] By 1922, Christian journalist William Denison McCrackan described the phrase as no longer in use.[62]

    Unless or until evidence comes to light of its wide use by Zionist publications and organizations, the assertion that "a land without a people for a people without a land" was a "widely-propagated Zionist slogan"[63] should be retired.

    A Land without People?
    Rashid Khalidi uses the phrase to charge Zionist leaders with believing that the land was "empty."[64] Edward Said actually alters the wording of the phrase to allege that Zionists thought that Palestine was "a land without people."[65]

    But travelers such as Keith, Blackstone, Stoddard, and Zangwill (who first visited Israel in 1897 and whose own father went to live there) were well aware of the small Arab population, which Blackstone, at least, addressed when he opined that it would not pose an obstacle to Jewish restoration.[66] If some Zionists believed that Israel was literally empty, it is unlikely that they did so after Ahad Ha'Am's 1891 essay, "Truth from Eretz Yisrael," sparked debate over conditions in Palestine.[67]

    Did some Jews imagine the Land of Israel as an abandoned land? Perhaps. But it seems more likely that Jews were capable of knowing on one level that there were enough Arabs in Palestine to stage pogroms in Hebron and Safed in 1834 while still referring to the land as empty. The editors of The Maccabean, for example, estimated in 1901 that there were only 150,000 Arabs in Palestine, perhaps one-third of the true number, and suggested the following year that one-third of the population was already Jewish. They nevertheless characterized Palestine in 1905 as "a good land, but it is an empty land." [68]

    Zionism, with its penniless, powerless enthusiasts and grand plans to restore a Jewish commonwealth, was a movement of wishful thinkers. Herzl's treatment of the topic in The Jewish State was typical.[69] He gives the resident population passing mention and only in the context of discussion of political obstacles that lay in the path to building a Jewish state.

    Arabs, of course, were recognized by Zionists and others as a people deserving of national sovereignty. As Israel Zangwill put it in the wake of World War I, "The Arabs should recognize that the road of renewed national glory lies through Baghdad, Damascus, and Mecca, and all the vast territories freed for them from the Turks and be content … The powers that freed them have surely the right to ask them not to grudge the petty strip [Israel] necessary for the renaissance of a still more downtrodden people."[70]

    Diana Muir is the author of Reflections in Bullough's Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (University Press of New England, 2000).

    [1] Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 101.
    [2] See for example, Hanan Ashrawi, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
    [3] Saree Makdisi, "Said, Palestine, and the Humanism of Liberation," Critical Inquiry, 31 (2005): 443; idem, "An Iron Wall of Colonization," Counterpunch, Jan. 26, 2005.
    [4] Muhammad Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).
    [5] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Times Books, 1979), p. 9.
    [6] Alexander Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Edinburgh: William Whyte and Co., 1843), p. 43. An 1844 review of Keith's book in The United Secession Magazine (Edinburgh), vol. 1, p. 189, highlights the phrase with its most common wording: "a land without a people, and a people without a land."
    [7] Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing, 2005 (originally published in 1826).
    [8] Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, p. 43.
    [9] Cited in Adam M. Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," Middle Eastern Studies, Oct. 1991, p. 543.
    [10] Shaftsbury as cited in Albert Hyamson, "British Projects for the Restoration of Jews to Palestine," American Jewish Historical Society Publications, 1918, no. 26, p. 140.
    [11] Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury (London: Cassell and Co., 1887), p. 487.
    [12] Anonymous review of Van de Velde, C.W.M., Narrative of a Journey through Syrian and Palestine in 1851 and 1852 (Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood and Sons, 1854), in United Presbyterian Magazine, Wm. Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1854, vol. 7, p. 403.
    [13] Horatius Bonar, The Land of Promise: Notes of a Spring Journey from Beersheba to Sidon (New York: R. Carter and Brothers, 1858), excerpted in The Theological and Literary Journal (New York), July 1858-Apr. 1859, p. 149.
    [14] William Blackstone, Palestine for the Jews (Oak Park, Ill.: self-pub., 1891), reprinted in Christian Protagonists for Jewish Restoration (New York: Arno, 1977), p. 17.
    [15] Sermon by C. H. Banning, cited in George Seaton Bowes, Information and Illustration, Helps Gathered from Facts, Figures, Anecdotes, Books, etc., for Sermons, Lectures, and Addresses (London: James Nisbett and Co., 1884), p. 128.
    [16] John L. Stoddard, Lectures: Illustrated and Embellished with Views of the World's Famous Places and People, Being the Identical Discourses Delivered during the Past Eighteen Years under the Title of the Stoddard Lectures, vol. 2. (Boston: Balch Brothers Co., 1897), p. 113.
    [17] See, for example, William Henry Withrow, Religious Progress in the Century (London: Linscott Publishing Company, 1900), p. 184; Gospel in All Lands (New York: Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society, Jan. 1902), pp. 199-200.
    [18] Harlan Page Beach, A Geography and Atlas of Protestant Missions: Their Environment, Forces, Distribution, Methods, Problems, Results, and Prospects at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1901), p. 521.
    [19] Eitan Bar-Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture, 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 236.
    [20] Augustus Hopkins Strong, Miscellanies (Philadelphia: Griffith and Rowland Press, 1912), p. 98.
    [21] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539; Israel Zangwill, "The Return to Palestine," New Liberal Review, Dec. 1901, p. 615.
    [22] Yaakov Ariel, On Behalf of Israel: American Fundamentalist Attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, and Zionism, 1865-1945 (New York: Carlson Publishing, 1991), pp. 70-2.
    [23] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 163.
    [24] Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism, pp. 131-54.
    [25] Ameen Rihani, "The Holy Land: Whose to Have and to Hold?" The Bookman, Jan. 1918, p. 10.
    [26] Norman Dwight Harris, Europe and the East (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926), p. 93.
    [27] William Denison McCrackan, The New Palestine: An Authoritative Account of Palestine since the Great War (Boston: Page Company, 1922), p. 250.
    [28] Martin Buber, A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs, Paul Mendes-Flohr, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 14.
    [29] Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, Palestine between 1914 and 1967 (New York: New World Press, 1967), p. 10; Izzat Tannous, The "Activities" of the Hagana, Irgun, and Stern Gang: As Recorded in British Command Paper No. 6873 (New York: Palestine Liberation Organization, 1968), p. 3.
    [30] Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, eds., The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (New York: Penguin, 2001), pp. 174-5.
    [31] "Palestinian National Council Declaration of Independence," Algiers, Nov. 14, 1988.
    [32] The Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
    [33] Matt Horton, "The Atlas of Palestine 1948," The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Aug. 2005, p. 58.
    [34] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
    [35] For example, Saree Makdisi, "Israel's Fantasy Stands in Way of Peace," The Arab American News (Dearborn), Feb. 5-Feb. 11, 2005; Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), p. 6.
    [36] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
    [37] Khalidi relies on Anita Shapira, Land and Power: The Zionist Recourse to Force, 1881-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 41.
    [38] Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (London: Nutt, 1896); idem, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (New York: Dover, 1988), p. 95.
    [39] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539.
    [40] Rashid Khalidi, "Observations on the Right of Return," Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 1992, p. 30.
    [41] Rashid Khalidi, jacket blurb for Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, The Palestinian People: A History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
    [42] Rashid Khalidi, "To End the Bloodshed," Christian Century, Nov. 22-29, 2000, p. 1206.
    [43] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
    [44] Ronald Bleier, review of "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict," Middle East Policy, Oct. 1999, p. 195.
    [45] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso Books, 1995), p. 95.
    [46] Lawrence Davidson, "Christian Zionism as a Representation of American Manifest Destiny," Critique: Critical Middle East Studies, Summer 2005, p. 161.
    [47] Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 44.
    [48] Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (New York: Owl Books, 2001), p. 493; Joel Beinin, "Political Economy and Public Culture in a State of Constant Conflict: Fifty Years of Jewish Statehood," Jewish Social Studies, July 31, 1998, p. 96.
    [49] Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Vintage, 2001), p. 42.
    [50] Hillel Halkin, "The First Hebrew City," Commentary, Feb. 2007, p. 57.
    [51] ProQuest Historical Newspapers database, accessed Nov. 27, 2007.
    [52] The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1901, May 20, 1903; The Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 22, 1901; The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
    [53] The New York Times, Sept. 30, 1947.
    [54] See Israel Herbert Levinthal, Judaism, An Analysis and An Interpretation (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935), p. 254; Morris Silverman, ed., Sabbath and Festival Prayerbook with a New Translation, Supplementary Readings, and Notes (New York: Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, 1946), p. 324; Max Raisin, A History of the Jews in Modern Times (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1919), p. 356; The Zionist Review, Apr. 1918, p. 231; Leonard Mars, "The Ministry of the Reverend Simon Fyne in Swansea: 1899-1906," Jewish Social Studies, Winter/Spring 1988, p. 92.
    [55] Alan Dowty, The Jewish State, A Century Later (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 267.
    [56] The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
    [57] See "The Restoration of Judea," New York Globe editorial, May 1, 1917, reprinted in Zionism Conquers Public Opinion (New York: Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, 1917), p. 16; Richard James Horation Gottheil, Zionism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1914), p. 139.
    [58] Walter M. Chandler statement, The American War Congress and Zionism: Statements by Members of the American War Congress on the Jewish National Movement (New York: Zionist Organization of America, 1919), p 154.
    [59] Paul Goodman, Chaim Weizmann: A Tribute on His Seventieth Birthday (London: V. Gollancz, 1945), p. 153.
    [60] Amos Elon, The Israelis: Founders and Sons (New York: Holt, Reinhart, Winston, 1971), p. 149.
    [61] Raphael Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, 1898-1948 (Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1991), p. 17.
    [62] McCrackan, The New Palestine, p. 250.
    [63] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity; p. 101.
    [64] Ibid.
    [65] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
    [66] Ariel, On Behalf of Israel, p. 74.
    [67] Alan Dowty, "Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's 'Truth from Eretz Yisrael,' Zionism, and the Arabs," Israel Studies, Fall 2000, pp. 154-81.
    [68] Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 19.
    [69] Shapira, Land and Power, p. 51.
    [70] Israel Zangwill, The Voice of Jerusalem (New York, Macmillan and Company, 1921) p. 110.

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    Background Articles & Opinions Ereqat: Over the Years Israel Has Gradually Withdrawn from Its Positions (MEMRI)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 July @ 20:07:28 GMT+1 (1528 maal gelezen)

    MEMRI: Special Dispatch | No. 2440 | July 13, 2009

    Saeb Ereqat: Over the Years, Israel Has Gradually Withdrawn from Its Positions; Therefore, We Have No Reason to Hurry

    In a June 25, 2009 interview with the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, Palestinian Authority negotiations department head Saeb Ereqat said that the previous Israeli government, under Ehud Olmert, had offered PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas territory equal in size to 100% of the land occupied in 1967, by means of a land swap. Ereqat explained, however, that the PA would not agree to a land swap before Israel recognized the Palestinians' right to sovereignty over all the territory occupied in 1967. He added that there had been a steady erosion in Israel's position over the years, to the point that it had recently offered the Palestinians 100% of the territory; therefore, the Palestinians had no reason to rush into accepting the Israeli proposals. He stressed that the Right of Return and monetary compensation for the refugees were not mutually exclusive, and that the Palestinians would insist on receiving both.

    Addressing the issue of Hamas, he said that nobody was asking it to recognize Israel, but that any government in which Hamas was a partner would have to recognize Israel and the commitments undertaken by the PLO.

    Ereqat stated further that the Palestinians were acting in full coordination with Jordan and keeping it informed of all Israeli proposals  and of their replies to these proposals. Regarding Iran, he said that it did not pose a threat, as was frequently claimed.

    Following are excerpts from the interview:

    "Once [the Palestinians] Establish Sovereignty, We Will Start Exchanging Land"

    "After the [November 2007] Annapolis talks, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas and [then-]Israeli prime minister [Ehud] Olmert held several closed-door meetings. [In fact,] from the [time of the] Annapolis talks until December 2008, there were 288 negotiation sessions by 12 [different] committees.

    "During the last negotiation session, the Israelis presented their position to 'Abbas - and this was perhaps the first time that [Olmert's] proposal was revealed. Under the June 4, 1967 borders, the area of the West Bank and Gaza, including east Jerusalem, is 6,235 square km, and there are also 46 square km of no man's land, which are to be divided according to international law [i.e. equally between Israel and Palestine]. So all in all, our share of the territory is 6,258 square km.

    "Olmert showed 'Abbas a map presenting Israel's position. In the Salfit [area], there is the settlement of Ariel, which [the Israelis] want to excise from the West Bank, and there is another settlement in the Tul Karem area, called Qedumim, which takes up [another] 21 square km of the West Bank. These two settlements also sit over the Western Palestinian aquifer, comprising 400 million cubic meters of water.

    "Another densely populated area that [the Israelis] want [to keep] is the Maale Adumim [area], which is near Jerusalem, 13 km into the West Bank, and a third, called Gush Etzion, is located between Bethlehem and Hebron. Together, the areas that the Israelis want to keep constitute 6.5% of the West Bank, and in return they offered us [areas equivalent in size to] 5.8% in the Israeli territory south of Hebron, west of Bethlehem, and north of Jericho [near] Bet Shean. The remaining 0.7% will be a safe passage [between Gaza and the West Bank], 38 km long and 150 meters wide, connecting the town of Tarqumiya [near] Hebron with Bet Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

    "'Abbas told [Olmert] that, according to the map he had obtained from a friendly country, the [Israeli] settlements that have been built to date occupy 1.2% of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem. He added that he would like to make progress, but [asked], 'How do you expect us to accept the principle of land-swap before we delineate the 1967 borders?' We know that in 1965, Jordan and Saudi Arabia exchanged territories amounting to 29 sq km. [Land swaps were also made between] Jordan and Iraq, the U.S. and Canada, and the U.S. and Mexico. It is an [accepted] practice. However, in order to talk about [land] swap, sovereignty must [first] be established.

    "Olmert wanted first of all to trap us in his net. Without sovereignty, how can we accept the principle of land swap? It's not as if [the minute] we sign a [land swap] agreement, a Palestinian state will be established the same day and Israel will withdraw the same day. Once we establish our sovereignty, we will start exchanging land.

    "But accepting the principle of land swap prior to that would be tantamount to waiving [U.N.] Resolution 242. It would be playing into [Israel's] hands, because [the Israelis] will then say that the 1967 territories and borders are not set in stone. There is no point in discussing a land swap until we have established our sovereignty in practice.

    "'Abbas told Olmert something else [while] I was there. [He said:] 'I am not running a market or a bazaar, and I am not going to open one. There are the occupied territories, and there is Resolution 242, which states that occupation of other people's land is unacceptable. Do you accept this principle?'

    "Many people say that the [Israeli-Palestinian] negotiations of the last 10 or 15 years were useless and yielded nothing, but [that is not true]. In 1994 [i.e. during the Oslo negotiations] the Palestinian side could have capitulated and gained an achievement within one month. [That is,] we could have agreed to undertake the management of the education and health [systems] in the West Bank. [Likewise] Yasser Arafat could have accepted what was offered him at Camp David [in 2000], instead of [letting himself] be besieged in the Muqata'a and then murdered for no reason. President Mahmoud 'Abbas could have accepted [Olmert's] December 2008 proposal, [but he preferred to wait]...

    "We have an absolute right to east Jerusalem. We cannot not listen to the voices that ask who will run Al-Aqsa. We revere and sanctify the Al-Aqsa mosque, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but they are no different from Rafah, Jericho, and the refugee camp of Aqbat Jabr. All these places were occupied by Israel, and I must not distinguish between them. No one should say that Al-Aqsa must be managed by a 'Muslim' or 'Arab,' [rather than by a Palestinian].

    "[Likewise], nobody should agree to Israeli settlers remaining in the Palestinian [state]. We must not compare a Palestinian [whose family] lived in Palestine [long] before Netanyahu or his forefathers arrived, and who is still living there, to a settler who is living on Palestinian soil [and maintaining his presence there through] coercion, oppression and unacceptable [use of] force. We must not talk of land swap before we establish our sovereignty in practice...

    "Those who are willing to hand over Al-Aqsa to the Muslim countries are talking only for themselves, and do not represent the PA president, the PLO, or the PLO negotiation department. Some say that we will [be willing to] grant the settlers citizenship. We reject [this idea] out of hand..."

    The Right of Return and Compensation are Not Mutually Exclusive

    "The problem of the [Palestinian] refugees is not the result of a volcano [eruption], earthquake, or flood. Someone caused it. Before we talk of international law, we must pinpoint the element responsible, and Israel must acknowledge this responsibility.

    "The Palestinian decision makers do not have the right to decide the fate of the refugees; only the refugee himself can decide his own fate. It is not up to the international [community] either. It is the refugee who has the right to choose whether to return to Israel, return to Palestine, or remain where he is - and in all of these cases [he is entitled to] compensation.

    "It is not the Right of Return or compensation; it's the Right of Return and compensation. Should Israel acknowledge its responsibility, and should the world want to resolve the conflict, there would be a need to establish an international mechanism to bear the cost. I estimate that we are talking about $140 billion."

    Israel Is Slowly Softening Its Positions, So Why Should We Hurry?

    "[Some ask] where the negotiations with the Israeli side have brought us. First [the Israelis] said we would [only have the right to] run our own schools and hospitals. Then they consented to give us 66% [of the occupied territories].

    "At Camp David they offered 90%, and [recently] they offered 100%. So why should we hurry, after the all the injustice we have suffered? The agreement will not be stable anyway, unless it is based on international law and on justice."

    Netanyahu's Speech Was One Big "No"

    "Now a new Israeli government has arrived. Netanyahu comes from a home with a [specific] ideological [orientation]. His father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, is a 92-year-old professor who believes that there is a non-Jewish minority in Israel which must be treated with respect by [allowing it] to manage its own affairs in education, health, culture and religion.

    "Netanyahu's speech stayed within the framework of this logic. First of all, he spent an hour dictating terms [to us], and then, in 10 seconds, he demanded that we come and talk to him without preconditions. Furthermore, the claim that he mentioned a Palestinian state is unfounded... Netanyahu was very clear and precise.

    "So when America published a statement saying that the speech had contained positive elements, I called the White House and said to one of the staffers there, 'We seem to have heard two [different] speeches by Netanyahu. The one I heard did not include anything positive. If you heard a different speech, please tell me about it, because [in the one I heard,] Netanyahu... said 'no' to the two-state solution [based on] the 1967 borders, ignored the Arab [Peace] Initiative, and, [in an act of] unprecedented disdain for the Arab leaders, proposed to talk to them about water pipelines and gas pipelines.

    "He also said 'no' to [reaching] a final agreement on [the issues of] Jerusalem, the settlements, the borders and the refugees. He changed the meaning of the word 'negotiation' from 'give and take' to 'take and dictate.' He threw out the Road Map - especially the clause on freezing the settlements, including their natural growth - and rejected Obama's vision. The latter spoke of the future and of a new Middle East, while Netanyahu spoke of the past and of the old Middle East..."

    "Netanyahu will tell [U.S. Envoy George] Mitchell that Israel is willing to agree to anything, but that there are housing units in the settlements that are [already] under construction as well as [construction] tenders that have [already] been issued [and cannot be stopped]. We have told the Americans that 3,290 new housing units are under construction in the settlements, and that tenders have been issued for the construction of 11,000 more, so that about 14,000 housing units will be built during the current [Israeli] administration and the following ones, until the construction is completed. The Americans are bound to fall into this trap.

    "This is why Obama must launch his initiative for reviving the peace [process] as soon as possible, for otherwise the region will be driven into an abyss of violence, chaos, and extremism, and that is a serious problem that must be addressed...

    "Everyone must know that President 'Abbas and the Palestinians will not accept the proposals [of a partial freeze of the settlements], and 'Abbas already made this clear in documents that he sent to Obama."

    Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State Means Joining the Zionist Movement

    "Another issue is [recognizing] Israel as a Jewish state. On May 14, 1948, Truman was asked to sign [a document] recognizing [the establishment of] a 'provisional Jewish state.' After reading it carefully, he crossed out the words 'Jewish state' and in their place penned in the words 'state of Israel' - because asking someone to recognize a Jewish state is tantamount to asking him to join the Zionist movement. This movement believes that religion and nationality are one and the same.

    "There are also other well-known reasons [to avoid recognizing Israel as a Jewish state] - namely, the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the 1948 territories [i.e. Israel's Arab citizens], as well as the Right of Return, etc...  Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and has relations with the entire world. So why doesn't it ask them to recognize [it as a Jewish state]? Why does it ask this only of me?

    The Arab Peace Initiative is Good for the Palestinians

    "Following Netanyahu's speech, it is possible to obtain only one thing from the Arabs - namely, adherence to the Arab Peace Initiative. Here I want to reveal the secret of why we adhere to this initiative. It includes a clause that says: 'Upon Israel's complete withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem and Syria's occupied Arab Golan, [the Arabs] will begin taking steps [of rapprochement] with Israel." [Based on this clause], the Arabs can say to Israel: 'We will not take a single step in your direction before the goal [of a full Israeli withdrawal] is achieved.' This would help us. But there are those who want to torpedo the Arab Peace Initiative."

    The Palestinians Coordinate All Their Actions with Jordan

    "After the Annapolis [summit], President 'Abbas met with Jordanian King 'Abdallah II, and asked him to form a joint [Palestinian-Jordanian political] 'kitchen,' so that every word we exchange with the Israelis would first be perused by the king. [We told him], 'You are our partner. [We share] a border, and [our concerns about] security, water and refugees are [also] Jordanian interests. We will not surprise you. Every proposal we presented to Israel was first of all presented to our sister Jordan, and every proposal we received from Israel was presented to Jordan before we gave our reply, while taking into consideration the joint [Palestinian-Jordanian] interests. Relations between the Palestinians and Jordan have never been better than they are today. Everything that happens in Palestine affects Jordan. Besides, I cannot agree to the deployment of a third-party [military] force on the [Jordanian] border without Jordan's consent, and I cannot take a single step in resolving the refugee problem without ascertaining the fate of the refugees in Jordan - [the country] that hosts the greatest number of refugees..."

    Hamas as a Movement Need Not Recognize Israel

    "Hamas won the elections, but it is not reasonable to say that [just] because it won the elections, the U.N. must now change its charter, its bylaws, its rules, and its resolutions; that the Arab League must withdraw the [Arab Peace] Initiative; and that the PLO must change the humiliating agreements that have been signed.

    "Nobody is asking Hamas to recognize Israel or the two-state [solution]. Nobody has asked Hamas to change even one letter in its [ideological] documents. It is the [PA] government that is required to recognize [Israel]. Resistance is a noble thing, and a sacred duty of anyone under occupation, but there is a great deal of difference between investing in resistance and carrying it out...

    "What is needed at the moment is a Palestinian [national] unity government that will recognize the PLO's commitments, [because] this will enable us to reconstruct Gaza...

    "If [Hamas'] goal is to establish a unified Arab nation state, or a caliphate, we will pursue [these goals] even before [Hamas] does - but first it is necessary to liberate Palestine... If all we want to do fight - no problem, let's bury the peace initiative, clean out the trenches, and do so..."

    Iran Poses No Threat to the Region

    "Is the Arab world really [divided] into a moderate camp and a resistance camp?... We do not see Iran as posing a threat to us. Iran is a country in the region with whom we [sometimes] disagree and [sometimes] agree.

    "I want Iran to stand by the Palestinians and support the Palestinian cause without favoring one side [i.e. Hamas] over the other [i.e. the PLO/Fatah]. But Iran does not pose a threat to the region; that is an invention used by Netanyahu to convince the world.

    "This region cannot tolerate more wars. The peaceful U.S.-Iran dialogue must succeed. I asked [former IAEA director-general] Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei in Vienna how many years it would take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and he said 14 to 16 years. We must change this worn-out record [about the Iranian threat]."
    For assistance, please contact MEMRI at
    The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

    MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

    P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
    Phone: (202) 955-9070
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    Background Articles & Opinions As Hamas Tightens Its Grip (Khaled Abu Toameh)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 July @ 20:02:51 GMT+1 (1207 maal gelezen)


    July 7, 2009 6:30 AM
    by Khaled Abu Toameh
    As Hamas Tightens Its Grip

    As the row between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government over the settlements continues, Hamas is gradually turning the Gaza Strip into a Taliban-style Islamic entity that poses a threat not only to Israel, but also to the Americans, Europeans and moderate Arabs and Muslims.

    Both Hamas and its rivals in the Palestinian Authority appear to be satisfied with the fact that the Obama Administration has turned the issue of the settlements into the major problem, shifting attention from the incompetence and corruption in the West Bank and the emergence of the new Islamic state in the Gaza Strip.

    The high-profile controversy over Israel's policy of building new homes for Jewish settlements has in fact facilitated Hamas's mission.

    Thanks to the Obama Administration's new strategy regarding the Middle East, the entire world now seems to be obsessed with the issue of the settlements as if they were just now being established.

    The foreign media is no longer interested in what's happening in the Gaza Strip. Nor are Western governments and international organizations dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict.

    As far as most decision-makers in the US and Europe are concerned, the "natural growth" of the settlements is much more dangerous that the rise of another radical Islamic state in the Middle East.

    Hamas feels confident to do whatever it wishes in the Gaza Strip because the Obama Administration and its allies in France, Germany and Britain are too busy arguing with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu whether settlers should be permitted to build new homes or not.

    So what if young women in the Gaza Strip are being harassed and arrested by Hamas's "morality police" for laughing in public or leaving their homes without hijabs?

    So what if young Palestinian women are banned from swimming unless they are covered from top to bottom? And so what if women are being banned from entering coffee shops and restaurants and other public places unless they are escorted by male relatives?

    So what if young men are banned from swimming in the sea topless? And so what if Hamas is now operating a secret police whose job is to separate males from females in public places?

    A Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip remarked: "The Americans and Europeans are fighting against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan while Hamas is building a new fundamentalist entity here. The settlements may be an obstacle to peace, but Hamastan will soon become a major threat to stability in the region."

    The Palestinian Authority also appears to be happy about the West's obsessions with the settlements.

    The Palestinian leadership's handling of the issue of the settlements is extremely hypocritical: Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salaam Fayad, insist on boycotting peace talks with Israel in protest against the ongoing construction in the settlements. But the two did not stay away from the talks when former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were also building in the settlements.

    The construction in the settlements has increased since the signing of the Oslo Accords more than 15 years ago, but that did not stop the Palestinian Authority from pursuing the peace talks with Israel.

    Yasser Arafat negotiated with former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon even while the bulldozers were continuing to build new homes in the settlements.

    So what is behind the Palestinian Authority's decision to suspend peace talks with Israel? Have Abbas and Fayad suddenly discovered that the settlements are expanding? The two are waiting for the Obama Administration to deliver.

    Tensions between Obama and Netanyahu have left many Palestinian Authority leaders very happy and hopeful. Their optimism is based on the hope that Obama will force Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, including the eastern part of Jerusalem, and expel all the Jewish settlers from the West Bank.

    Some Palestinian officials in Ramallah seriously believe that Israel will eventually succumb to Obama's demands. As such, they explain, why return to the negotiating table with Israel when the Obama Administration has actually endorsed the Palestinian position and is negotiating with the Netanyahu government on behalf of the Palestinian Authority?

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    Background Articles & Opinions Linkage: The Mother of all Myths (Dennis Ross and David Makovsky)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 July @ 19:46:23 GMT+1 (837 maal gelezen)

    The New York Times July 8, 2009
    'Myths, Illusions, and Peace'
    Linkage: The Mother of all Myths

    Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all the other Middle East conflicts would melt away. This is the argument of "linkage." Neoconservatives have always rejected it, given their skepticism about Arab intentions and their related belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved. While realists have been the most determined purveyors, this myth transcends all others and has had amazing staying power here, internationally, and in the Middle East. In fact, few ideas have been as consistently and forcefully promoted - by laymen, policymakers, and leaders alike.

    One need not look too far for examples of linkage's pervasiveness. Note the words of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in early 2008 when, standing next to George W. Bush at a joint press conference following their talks in the Sinai resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh, he recounted their conversation: "I emphasize that the Palestinian question, of course, is the core of problems and conflict in the Middle East, and it is the entry to contain the crisis and tension in the region, and the best means to face what's going on in the world, our region - I mean by that, the escalation of violence, extremism and terrorism."

    King Abdullah of Jordan made much the same argument during an interview with an American television network in 2006: "I keep saying Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what's going on in Iraq. It is linked to what's going on in Lebanon."

    Not only Middle Eastern leaders see the Palestinian issue at the heart of all other regional problems. Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, echoed this basic point of view in an essay published in early 2007:

    A Vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict could fundamentally change both the dynamics in the region and the strategic calculus of key leaders. Real progress would push Iran into a more defensive posture. Hezbollah and Hamas would lose their rallying principle. American allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states would be liberated to assist in stabilizing Iraq. And Iraq would finally be seen by all as a key country that had to be set right in the pursuit of regional security.

    Similarly, the Iraq Study Group, cochaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, placed special emphasis on the idea of linkage: "To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East - the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism - are inextricably linked.

    Such bold statements are rarely qualified. In effect, they are guided by a central premise: that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict is prerequisite to addressing the maladies of the Middle East. Solve it, and in doing so conclude all other conflicts. Fail, and instability - even war - will engulf the entire region.

    The major problem with this premise is that it is not true. There have been dozens of conflicts and countless coups in the Middle East since Israel's birth in 1948, and most were completely unrelated to the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, the Iraqi coup of 1958, the Lebanon crisis of 1958, the Yemini civil war of 1962-68 (including subsequent civil wars in the 1980s and '90s), the Iraqi Kurdish revolt of 1974, the Egyptian-Libyan Border War of 1977, the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 (including Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi Shiite revolts of the same year), the Yemeni-Eritrean and Saudi-Yemeni border conflicts of the mid-1990s, and the US-Iraq War, begun in 2003.

    Many of these conflicts were long, bloody, and very costly. The Iran-Iraq War along lasted eight and a half years, cost in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and took between six hundred thousand and one million lives. Yet this conflict, like the others listed above, would have taken place even if the Arab-Israeli conflict had been resolved.

    Since the origins of so many regional tensions and rivalries are not connected to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is hard to see how resolving it would unlock other regional stalemates or sources of instability. Iran, for example, is not pursuing its nuclear ambitions because there is an Arab-Israeli conflict. Sectarian groups in Iraq would not suddenly put aside their internal struggles if the Palestinian issue were resolved. Like so many conflicts in the region, these struggles have their own dynamic.

    In addition, as tragic as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has become, it has not spilled over to destabilize the Middle East. There have been two Palestinian Intifadas, or uprisings, including one that lasted from 2000 to 2005 and claimed the lives of 4,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis - but not a single Arab leader had been toppled or a single regime destabilized as a result. It has remained a local conflict, contained in a small geographical area. Yet the argument of linkage endures to this day, and with powerful promoters. Why does it persist? And why has it been accepted among top policymakers as if it is factually correct?

    Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from "Myths, Illusions, and Peace" by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky.

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    Background Articles & Opinions UNRWA and moral hazard (Middle Eastern Studies)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 08 July @ 00:51:31 GMT+1 (2514 maal gelezen)

    UNRWA and moral hazard
    Author: Fred Gottheil
    DOI: 10.1080/00263200500521263
    Publication Frequency: 6 issues per year
    Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 3 May 2006 , pages 409 - 421

    There's a sobering adage that reads 'No good deed goes unpunished.' Like most adages, it contains both a kernel of truth and more than a kernel of exaggeration. Among the good deeds that invite punishment are those that, although inspired by good purpose, quickly and unexpectedly provoke perverse behaviour on the part of intended beneficiaries that, in the end, not only sabotages the deed but inflicts punishment on its architects and possibly on third parties.

    Examples of 'no good deed goes unpunished' abound in the worlds of politics, law, and economics. The punishment outcomes are described in the economic literature as moral hazard. 1 To economists, moral hazard stems from the willingness of individuals, governments or non-governmental organizations to engage in activities more hazardous than they would otherwise undertake because they are assured that other individuals, governments or non-governmental organizations would assume the potentially negative consequences that may flow from their more hazardous activities.

    International lending institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank provide classic examples of moral hazard generation. They offer loans at favourable rates of interest to developing country governments who know, by practice, that accountability is lax and liability can be shifted to others. Reliance on such shifting excites perverse behaviour on the part of the borrowing governments. In many cases, little attention is paid by them to the worthiness of their investment projects. Hazardous ventures are undertaken that result, not unexpectedly, in failure. And expectedly, the costs associated with the borrowers' inability to meet their obligations are borne not by the borrowers but by the lending institutions. In other words, as critics of the IMF and the World Bank see it, 'no good deed goes unpunished'. 2

    While the economic circumstances associated with IMF-related or World Bank-related moral hazard may seem far removed from any circumstance associated with Middle East refugees, the fact of the matter is that they have much in common. UN, and specifically UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) policy with respect to Middle East refugees generated moral hazard outcomes for over five decades that are structurally similar to those generated by the international lending institutions. Their moral hazard similarities are uncanny. Both trigger perverse incentives and behaviour that sabotage hoped for outcomes. Both generate parasitic stakeholders that add layers to moral hazard. Many of the intended beneficiaries of UNRWA policy - the Middle East refugees - end up as ancillary recipients while other agents - UNRWA staff, Middle East governments, other governments, and NGOs - shape and perpetuate UNRWA policy to their advantage. All this occurs at other people's expense.

    Ray Wilkinson notes in the UN journal Refugees: 'Mass flight is nothing new. From the dawn of history, entire populations have been periodically forced to flee their homes and their countries during times of conflict.' 3 Of course he states the obvious. In the twentieth century, as in centuries before, world wars, regional wars, and civil wars triggered massive human displacements. Virtually no community, country, or continent was immune. Hundred of millions of people assumed refugee status; many were subsequently repatriated and still many more chose or were forced to resettle elsewhere. In the 1940s alone, three unrelated conflicts generated approximately 40 million refugees. How these 1940s refugees came into being, were assisted, and their refugee status finally resolved varied considerably and underscores the uniqueness of the Middle East refugee experience. It also explains why moral hazard emerged in the case of Middle East refugees and not in others.

    During the Second World War, tens of millions of Europeans were uprooted from their homes and homelands. The UN's International Refugee Organization (IRO), the refugee agency created in 1947 to succeed the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), was assigned the task of facilitating their repatriation and resettlement. Refugee status was understood to be a temporary state. 4 It was in the interest of the refugees, of the European governments, and of the IRO that the move toward refugee resolution was made 'with all deliberate speed'. People simply wanted to get on with their lives. By force of circumstance, moral hazard never became an issue.

    Tens of millions of other refugees were created during a multiplicity of regional and civil wars that erupted in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East in the 1940s and early 1950s. The most notable among them were the estimated 12 to 20 million refugees who, following the partition of India in 1947 fled east and west to and from India and newly-created Pakistan. Despite world expressions of concern, the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) appeal to the world community evoked no more than a paltry response. The expiration of their refugee status followed a difficult, but natural course of refugee absorption. Here, too, people simply wanted to get on with their lives.

    These two refugee-creating events, among others in the 1940s, set the backdrop to an analysis of the refugee flow that followed the partitioning of Palestine in 1948. Like the India-Pakistan partition, the Palestinian one erupted in conflict and triggered substantial dislocations of populations. Palestinian Arabs fled from homes and communities within newly created Israel to other parts of Palestine and to adjacent Arab states while Jews fled from their homes and communities within Palestine and from Arab states to Israel. While the causes that precipitated the flow of Arab refugees and their numbers are still hotly debated issues, the fact that over 600,000 Arabs fled Israel and a somewhat smaller number of Jews fled their homes is generally accepted. 5 What was radically different in this Palestinian case was the creation of an international refugee agency focused on a single-country - UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) - to facilitate the resolution of the refugee problem.6

    In truth, these several hundred thousand Palestinian Arab refugees were no different in character and circumstance from the millions of other world refugees torn in conflict from their homes and homelands. Why, then, was an agency created specifically for Palestinian Arabs while all the other refugees in the world were placed under the trust of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR? One reason, suggested by Guy S. Goodwin-Gill and others, was the interjection of Middle East politics. UNHCR was essentially non-political, designed strictly to assist refugees as refugees. Middle East governments and Palestinian elites, on the other hand, had a very distinct political agenda for Palestinian refugees. 7

    With hindsight, had UNRWA been folded into the wider-ranging UNHCR during UNRWA's formative years and Arab Palestinian refugees subjected to the same UNHCR rules and guidelines that were applied by it to all other refugees, the process toward resolution of Arab Palestinian refugee displacement would probably have taken a different course. And perhaps the creation of what was to become UNRWA-based moral hazard might never have arisen. That UNRWA was designed to be temporary was clearly spelled out in its 1951 Report. 8 It expected to withdraw from intervening directly in the lives of Palestinian refugees within a few years after its birth.9 Noteworthy, it appreciated the hazardous outcomes that could obtain with continuing direct involvement. In the first article of its findings, the Report warns that a potential for moral hazard existed unless refugee resolution is pursued with all deliberate speed. In its own words: 'There must be a firm goal of terminating relief operations. Sustained relief operations inevitably contain the germ of human deterioration.'10 This point is re-emphasized in the second article of the findings: 'There is now considerable agreement among governments that refugees cannot continue indefinitely in their present conditions.'11 While UNRWA set no definitive time frame to the process of repatriation and resettlement, it placed ultimate ownership of the Palestinian refugee solution on Middle East governments. It saw its own role as being two-fold: to address the immediate needs of the refugees during its short-lived tenure and during that tenure to arrange for the shift of responsibility from itself to Arab governments. Again, in its words: 'The Agency, as rapidly as feasible, should move out of operations into the role of financial and technical assistance to sovereign governments.'12

    UNRWA's 1951 Report detailed the particulars of a three-year refugee-support programme that would, if not put an end to the problem, then at least provide a 'road map' to its resolution. Among the UNRWA goals were: 'an end to refugee camp life', the granting to refugees 'adequate rights of citizenship and work within individual countries', and an effort to 'facilitate their freedom of movement among countries'. 13 While not discouraging repatriation - in fact the Report specifically noted that 'repatriation and compensation must not be prejudiced by any Agency programme',14 the Report nonetheless focused its attention on what it clearly understood as doable: resettlement. It focused on resettlement largely because UNRWA's primary focus was the well-being of Arab Palestinian refugees. The language of the Report was clear. As with refugees and refugee agencies elsewhere, UNRWA's view was that every effort should be made to encourage Palestinian refugees to get on with their lives.

    It didn't take UNRWA very long before it realized that it hadn't the authority, the muscle, or the will to resolve the refugee problem. The window of opportunity for resettlement closed quickly on UNRWA. At first, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Jordan expressed some willingness to absorb some of the refugees. But nothing of substance materialized. UNRWA-generated large and small-scale works projects in the Arab countries were created for Palestinian refugees with the expectation that these short-run employment opportunities would, in the long run, anchor the refugees into resettlement. While cooperating with UNRWA and accepting these UNRWA-funded projects as part of its own development schemes, none of the host governments - Jordan excepted - was willing to accept refugees as a matter of policy.

    Their resistance to resettlement, at least from their point of view, was well reasoned. The 1949 armistice notwithstanding, Arab governments still did not accept Israel's legitimacy and to agree to resettlement as a resolution to the refugee problem would be tantamount to acknowledging the permanence of Israel. 15 Self preservation was another factor. In the view of the 1954 U.S. Special Study Mission to the Near East: ' … any Arab political leader suggesting an alternative to repatriation in what was formerly Palestine would have been ousted from office and, perhaps, have run the risk of assassination.'16

    Furthermore, some Arab governments feared that absorption of refugees could well undermine their own political stability. The Lebanese government, for example, believed that adding the large number of Palestinian refugees already in Lebanon to its citizen population base - most of whom were Sunni - would undermine Lebanon's delicate political sectarian balance. 17 The Lebanese concern about internal security was not unique. Historian Benny Morris, commenting on the 1948-49 negotiations concerning repatriation and resettlement argued that the Arab states regarded the refugees as a potential Fifth Column.18

    As far as Israel was concerned, its own agenda ruled out any sizeable repatriation. Its attention was focused on the absorption of refugees from Europe and the Middle East. Also, it understood as the Arab states did that the 1949 armistice was simply that: an armistice, not an end to the regional conflict. In its view, Israel's military had to contend not just with the armed forces of the Arab states but with contingents of Palestinian militia. The fact of the matter was that it saw its own existence then as quite precarious. 19 Under these circumstances, anything amounting to repatriation in large numbers was out of the question.20

    These facts on the ground left UNRWA completely checkmated. Its only viable function - albeit, an important one - was to provide direct relief in the form of food rations, shelter and social services. That is to say, the Palestinian refugees' refugee status was, by force of Middle East politics, frozen. What had been an agency designed to assist refugees back to normal life - as was UNHCR's role in every other of the world's refugee cases - became an agency denied that principle charge. The seeds of UNRWA-based moral hazard had been sown.

    Perhaps the most radical response UNRWA could have taken to alleviate its untenable position as a refugee agency was to allow its three-year mandate to expire. 21 After all, denied authority to pursue either repatriation or resettlement, it had lost control over the essential purpose of its mission. By allowing its mandate to lapse, it would have served notice on the Arab governments that, whatever their national and regional political agendas, they had no choice but to cope with the problem of resolving the refugee condition, as other refugee-hosting countries had under UNHCR.22

    Instead, UNRWA reinvented itself. It became strictly a caretaker agency. In its own words: 'UNRWA and UNHCR are both UN agencies mandated by the international community to do specific jobs for refugee populations. UNRWA deals specifically with Palestinian refugees and their unique political situation. One reason for the distinction is that in the main the UNHCR is mandated to offer refugees three options, namely local integration, resettlement in third countries, or return to their home country. These are not feasible for Palestinian refugees as the first two options are unacceptable to the refugees and their host countries and the third is rejected by Israel.' 23

    This UNRWA distinction between itself and UNHCR is not entirely accurate. The government of Jordan offered to resettle its Palestinian refugees by granting them Jordanian citizenship. Many became citizens and many more, for a variety of reasons, declined the offer. The Jordanian exception aside, that UNRWA was compelled to deal with the 'political situation', as UNRWA described it, was indeed unique. No other refugee agency - not UNHCR nor any of the other refugee agencies that preceded it - allowed itself to be ensnarled by and to be defined by the hosting governments' political agendas.

    UNRWA's reinvention as a caretaker agency also influenced the growth patterns of its refugee population and in this respect distinguished itself, once again, from UNHCR. The refugee population that UNHCR serves, at any time, is the number who fled their homelands minus those refugees repatriated or resettled. Because there was virtually no repatriation or resettlement among UNRWA's refugee population, its size includes not only those who fled their homes but also during the course of over a half-century and in considerably larger numbers their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, regardless of where and under what social, political, and economic conditions they live.

    Another distinction between UNRWA and UNHCR on population counts is this: Palestinians who had fled their homes from one location within Palestine to another location within Palestine - say, from a village in what became Israel to a location in the West Bank - are nonetheless defined by UNRWA as refugees, even though they had not fled their homeland. By UNHCR reckoning, they are not refugees. 24

    And counted as well among the Palestinian refugees are descendants of refugees born, raised, and living elsewhere in the Middle East and abroad, who, never having seen the Palestinian homeland, are free nonetheless to return to it and to live there permanently but choose not to do so. Their decision to reject repatriation to the Palestinian homeland had nothing to do with the principles of non-refoulment since persecution of returnees was at no time a perceived threat. 25 They do not satisfy UNHCR's definition of refugee.

    Like almost every other people, Arab Palestinians live just about everywhere. Approximately a quarter million found their way to the American continents, and about the same number resettled in the European Union. Several thousand made Australia their home. Yet the overwhelming majority of the 9.7 million Palestinians in 2003 still lived in the Middle East, 50 per cent of them within the pre-1948 boundaries of British Mandatory Palestine.

    The controversy over initial estimates of Palestinian refugees and of the criteria used to assign refugee status notwithstanding, the data UNRWA accepts and admits as registered Arab Palestinian refugees are shown in Tables 1 and 2.

    Table 1. Registered Palestine refugees in camps and as a percentage of the total registered refugees, 1953-2002YearTotal refugee populationRefugee population in campsRefugee population in camps (%)Total refugee population living in Palestinian homeland (%)Source: Adapted from Report of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, General Assembly Official Records, United Nations, New York, various years.
    *Until 1967, the West bank of Jordan was administered as an integral part of the Jordan field.
    1953870,158300,78534.6*19601,136,487409,22336.0*19701,445,022500,98534.741.019801,863,162613,14932.937.519902,466,516697,70928.337.620003,737,4941,211,48032.437.720023,973,3601,262,86731.837.7Table 2. Registered Palestine refugees by age group: 2000Refugee populationTotal refugee population, %Source: Adapted from Report of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, General Assembly Official Records, United Nations, New York, various years.*Until 1967, the West bank of Jordan was administered as an integral part of the Jordan field.Born after 1996481,87313Born after 19851,363,81824Born after 19752,072,67456Born after 19652,645,21071Born after 19553,022,43481Born pre-1955715,06019
    The totals of Table 1 include Arab Palestinian refugees living in the Palestinian homeland (excluding the million Arab Palestinians living in Israel who are Israeli citizens) who account for close to 40 per cent of the total refugee population. 26 The remaining 60 per cent under UNRWA auspices reside in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Approximately a third of all the refugees live in refugee camps administered by UNRWA, the remaining two thirds live in and around major cities - e.g., Damascus, Beirut, Amman, Jericho - and are also recipients of UNRWA support.

    This refugee population increased by over 450 per cent - averaging more than 3 per cent per year - during the 1953-2002 period of Table 1. During the 12 years, 1990-2002, the population growth increased by an exceptional average annual rate of 4.1 per cent. It is noteworthy that these additions to the refugee population were offspring of refugees who themselves were at least a generation removed from those actually displaced from their homes. See Table 2.

    A rather striking statistic is the 24 per cent of all UNRWA registered refugees that were born since 1985. The oldest of these refugees was born 36 years after the partition of Palestine and the creation of UNRWA, and 33 years after UNRWA had expected its mandate to have been fulfilled. The percentage of all registered refugees born since 1975 increases to 56 per cent of the total. Of these registered refugees, 40 per cent are still living in the Palestinian homeland.

    These characteristics of the UNRWA-registered Arab Palestinian refugee population are the unavoidable consequence of the unmanageable circumstances that befell UNRWA. They also contribute to - and explain - the inevitability of UNRWA-based moral hazard.

    To be strictly a caretaker refugee agency for a specific group of refugees for five years is one thing. To be strictly a caretaker refugee agency for the same group of refugees for over 50 years is quite another matter. In the former case, the refugees recognize that the agency's function is to provide them assistance during their critical period of transition. In the latter case, the refugees come to regard the agency's assistance as a form of permanent entitlement.

    UNRWA's moral hazard problem, it appears, originated precisely because it was made to accept - and accepted - the role of providing long-term permanent entitlements to Arab Palestinian refugees. The result was the creation of a perverse set of incentives among refugees that discouraged many from pursuing viable options to their long-term refugee status. It also encouraged many non-refugees in the region to attempt to register for refugee status or at least to take advantage of the entitlements UNRWA offered. Finally, UNRWA's half-century tenure as a caretaker agency helped create a relatively large and influential bureaucracy that, as stakeholders in the provision of entitlements, pursued self-serving agendas that tended to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee condition rather than its resolution.

    Consider first the moral hazard outcomes that are associated with UNRWA-registered refugees who choose to live in refugee camps. Over the course of their 50-year residence, housing within the camp areas radically improved from canvas tents to permanent structured housing that compared not unfavourably with housing afforded by many non-refugee Arabs living in the host countries. 27 The major difference between housing in refugee camps and housing for many non-refugees in the host countries is that approximately 70 per cent of the refugees living in UNRWA camps owned their own homes,28 and those who didn't paid no rent, no municipal taxes, and had access to free water and sanitation services. The refugees' access to goods that reflect levels of material comfort is shown in Table 3.

    Table 3. Selected durable goods owned, by refugee status, 1997, %Private carRefrigeratorWashing machineSource: L.B. Jacobsen, Finding Means: UNRWA's Financial Crisis and Refugee Living Conditions, FAFO Report 427, Vol.1, 2003, p.73.Non-refugee22.180.872.3Registered refugee17.880.775.5Non-registered refugee21.775.665.6
    Registered refugees - essentially refugee residing in camps - own these 'comfort goods' in surprisingly high percentages that are similar to the percentages owned by non-camp refugees. UNRWA, although not the sole provider of healthcare within the camps, provided still a variety of vital medical services, among them prenatal care, medicine, and vaccination. 29 According to conventional health indicators, the outcome for Palestinian refugees was good and considerably better than most found in developing countries.30 But the most enriching form of entitlement offered to registered refugees by UNRWA was education. Elementary and secondary education in camps generated literacy rates - 80 per cent for men and 72 per cent for women - that were even higher than rates achieved by non-refugees. In fact, rates for Palestinian refugees in Jordan turned out to be more akin to those in Southern Europe than in the Middle East.31

    Without prejudice, consider what kind of incentive schemes these UNRWA-supplied amenities created for refugees. How powerful are the incentives to move out of the refugee camps when real income there - employment income earned either in the camp economy or beyond plus UNRWA entitlements and transfer payments from family members working elsewhere - may match or even exceed the real incomes earned by large subsets of the host countries' populations? Herein lay the seeds of moral hazard. UNRWA's benefactors ended up absorbing the approximately $250 million annual cost - for over 50 years - of financing entitlements that, having once served to assist displaced refugees, now serve to perpetuate through these entitlements a strong disincentive for Palestinian refugees to shed their refugee camp status.

    And because repatriation and resettlement of refugees had been frozen for 50 years, the registered refugee camp population had mushroomed from 300,000 in 1953 to over 1.2 million in 2002 - by 4.6 per cent per year since 1990 - placing enormous pressure on the voluntary-financed UNRWA budgets and forcing UNRWA to seek year-after-year emergency funding from its same funding sources. That is to say, by the force of demography and by the persistence of perverse disincentives, the costs associated with UNRWA-based moral hazard grew year by year while the actual entitlements given to each of the increasing numbers of refugee camp families were necessarily reduced. 32

    Still, the fact that many non-Palestinians in host countries left their villages to find employment, housing, and hoped-for fraudulent registration as a refugee in a Palestinian refugee camp is evidence that the standard of living within the refugee camps was - at least compared to the standards enjoyed by some non-Palestinians in the host economies - anything but inferior. 33 It also implied that to the extent that these non-refugees were successful in gaining access to UNRWA entitlements, another layer of moral hazard - based on another set of disincentives - ended up being borne by both UNRWA and its benefactors.

    The 50-year longevity of these moral hazards had been bolstered from the start by the Palestinian refugee leadership whose political agenda was to preserve the demographic strength of the camps. 34 Arab academics professing to champion the cause of the Palestinian refugees pressed for the same outcome. Hassan Elnajjar, for example, argued that UNRWA played a subversive role by providing refugees with free education and vocational training. He elaborated: 'Palestinian higher education has been observed to have its own disadvantages because of its relationship with emigration. First, it leads to the loss of the highly educated. Second, it depends on alien institutions to train the nation's human resources. Third, it is relevant to the Arab job market, not to the Palestinian needs.'35

    Elnajjar's rather perverse conclusion that UNRWA-supplied education and vocational training are detrimental to the well being of refugees follows only because he - not the refugees who, given choice, chose otherwise - placed greater importance on the political viability of the refugee camp than on refugees securing for themselves a better economic future. He faults UNRWA for having 'contributed to the dispersion of about one third of the refugees in the 1960s and 1970s.' 36

    Whatever effect UNRWA provision of free education had on the refugees' ability and ultimate decision to quit the camps, as Table 1 shows, approximately 70 per cent of UNRWA-registered refugees over the 50-year period 1953-2003 elected to live and work in the open economies of the Middle East. The vast majority of them opted for the non-Israel part of the Palestinian homeland, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and entered those labour markets along with non-UNRWA-supported Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, and Lebanese. That they managed on their own to achieve a standard of living comparable to the standards enjoyed by others in the area is shown in Table 4.

    Table 4. Per capita income: Palestinian, Palestinian camp Refugees, Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, and Egyptian: 1990s
    Per capita income: US$
    % of Palestinian per capita income
    Source: Background Note: Jordan, US Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, US Department of State, November, 2003, p.1; Background Notes: Lebanon, US Bureau of Public Affairs, US Department of State, January 1994, p.1; Background Notes: Egypt, U.S. Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, March, 1995, p.1; Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2002, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., p.833; Israel and The Occupied Territories, The Economist Intelligence Unit, U.K., 1996-7, pp.16 and 61. L.B. Jacobsen, Finding Means: UNRWA's Financial Crisis and Refugee Living Conditions, Fafo Report 427, Vol.1, p.148.
    Palestine Homeland
    (Syrian Refugee Camps)
    (Lebanon Refugee Camps)
    (Jordan Refugee Camps)
    The Table 4 data show that Palestinian economic achievement has been comparatively attractive. With the exception of Jordanians, the Palestinian per capita income living and working in the Palestinian homeland exceeded those of non-refugee Arabs, and in some cases by substantial percentages. That is to say, allowing for sufficient time, economic self-interest - as opposed to political ideology - secured for the Palestinian refugees a relatively tolerable non-refugee standard of life. While UNRWA continues to confer refugee status on the 70 per cent of Palestinians refugees not living in refugee camps, these Palestinians have in fact and by their own choice reintegrated into non-refugee productive environments.

    Were it not, then, for the 30-plus per cent of refugees still in camps, the raison d'tre for an UNRWA would have long ceased to exist. 37 But even the 1.2 million refugees remaining in camps, as Tables 3 and 4 show, have acquired standards of living that rival many of those in the open economies of the Middle East and continue to be conspicuously superior to the standards of living associated with the millions of UNHCR's refugee populations and even the hundreds of millions of non-refugee populations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.38 So what explains the durability of UNRWA?

    Herein, again, lies moral hazard. UNRWA, as an entitlements-generating institution has, over its 50-year tenure, evolved into what Professor Abraham Ashkenasi has called a 'state within a state.' 39 That the 1948 or 'original' Palestinian refugees have long since become a population of diminishing proportions and as such of diminishing concern for UNRWA, or that succeeding generations of UNRWA-defined refugees, to varying degrees, have acquired employment and incomes comparable to their non-Palestinian neighbours seems to be of no account to UNRWA. By all measures of refugee need - compared, for example, to the needs of the millions of refugees in UNHCR's domain - UNRWA had outlived its purpose. But its survival continues, nurtured and assured by a politically adept set of stakeholders - its area staff, its international staff, NGOs, Middle East governments, and others. And this, too, translates into moral hazard. Consider this: in 2001, UNHCR assisted 20 million refugees, UNRWA 4 million. Yet UNHCR's staff totalled 5,000 compared to UNRWA's 23,000 staff. That is to say, UNHCR's refugee-staff ratio was 4,000 compared to UNRWA's 174.

    What is significant about 50 years of UNRWA is not that it was a refugee agency that served the Arab Palestinian refugee population with much affect, but that it continues to do so despite the fact that the majority of Palestinians have reintegrated into the open economies of the Middle East and elsewhere de facto, and that most of those who still remain in refugee camps - after 50 years - do so in the Palestinian homeland. By all accounts, the refugee status of the overwhelming numbers of Palestinian refugees should have expired somewhere along that 50-year range. But it continues. And therein lies the essence of its moral hazard. UNRWA was reinvented to serve political agendas unrelated to its initial and honourable mission. Forced to abandon the pursuit of assisting refugees to get on with their lives - repatriation or resettlement - it became strictly a caretaker agency, dispensing entitlements to refugees who, by UNHCR standards, would not be so defined. All this at enormous cost. Its over $250 million annual budgets represent, minimally, a continuing moral hazard. Even more so is the moral hazard associated with the set of disincentives built into UNRWA - political and monetary - that discourages refugees from seeking economic betterment. In the end, UNRWA cannot accomplish what it set out to do and is blamed for and must pay for what it ends up doing. As the adage reads: 'No good deed goes unpunished.'

    1. Moral hazard is defined in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Economics as 'an effect of economic institutions arranged so that individuals have an incentive to maximize consumption at a social cost to others because they do not bear the full cost of their consumption.' (Guilford, CT: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.), 4th edn., 1991), p.164. Example: The financial security afforded by fire insurance to the insured may affect the insured's behaviour and incentives. Vigilance, a high personal priority before insurance, loses some of its value with insurance. Proper home maintenance, for example, becomes compromised because the insured is protected against the possibility of major financial loss. The consequences are perverse. Although providing financial security to the insured, fire insurance may actually invite a higher incidence of fire damage. Example: In India, a programme paying people a bounty for each rat pelt handed in was intended to exterminate rats. Instead it led to rat farming.
    2. 'All insurance policies, IMF or otherwise, entail some degree of moral hazard. That is in their nature.' A. Haldane and A. Taylor, 'Moral Hazard: how does IMF Lending Affect Debtor and Creditor Incentives?' Financial Stability Review (June, 2003). See also B. Eichengreen, 'Can the Moral Hazard caused by IMF Bailouts be Reduced?' Geneva Reports on the World Economy Special Report 1, (2000).
    3. 'The Changing Face of Protection', Refugees, The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Vol.3, No.132 (2003), p.6.
    4. IRO came to an end in 1952. It was superseded in 1951 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee agency that is neither country nor event specific.
    5. UNWRA's 1950-51 attempt at creating an accurate refugee count failed due to fraud, bribery, intimidation, and lack of cooperation from hosting Arab governments. The census data finally arrived at represented a political compromise between UNRWA and its Arab clients. See B. Schiff, Refugees Unto The Third Generation: UN Aid to Palestinians (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995), pp.22-5.
    6. In Nov. 1948, The UN established The United Nations Relief for Palestinian Refugees (UNRPR) to assist the refugees. UNRPR was replaced by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Dec. 1949.
    7. Goodwin-Gill writes: 'The competence of the High Commissioner in the political issues surrounding the Palestinian question was once thought incompatible with the proclaimed non-political character of UNHCR's work' The Refugee in International Law (Oxford: Claredon Press, 2nd edn, 1996), p.91. Goodwin-Gill's view was shared by others. For example: 'The stark truth is that it has been in the crude political interests of every state in the area to manipulate the status of the refugees in their own interests.' Situation of the Palestinian Refugees,' Report by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, (Rapporteur: Mr. Atkinson), Council of Europe, 1988, p.54. See also A. Ashkenasi, 'The International Institutionalization of a Refugee Problem: The Palestinian and UNRWA,' The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol.12, No.1 (1990), pp.63-4.
    8. 'Assistance to Palestine Refugees: Special Report of the Director and Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East' (Paris: General Assembly, Sixth Session, Supplement No.16A (A/1905/Add.1, 1951).
    9. 'Every effort should be made by the Agency and the governments to arrange for the transfer of relief administration to the governments no later than 1 July 1952.' Ibid., p.2.
    10. Ibid., p.2. My italics.
    11. Ibid., p.2.
    12. Article 10 of its findings, Ibid., p.2. My italics. UNRWA describes what it means by 'as rapidly as possible'. In the first of its seven recommendations it states: 'Every effort should be made by the Agency and the governments to arrange for the transfer of relief administration to the governments not later than 1 July 1952.' Ibid., p.2.
    13. Ibid., p.2. The Report mentions the possibilities of refugee absorption in Jordan and Egypt.
    14. Ibid., p.2. In December 1948 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 (III). Paragraph 11 declares that 'The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.' By mid 1950s, it was clear to Israel that 'living in peace' was not on the Arab agenda and clear to the Arabs that repatriation was not an option Israel was prepared to consider.
    15. '[The Arab governments] regarded repatriation as the 'just' solution and, incidentally, as one that could help undermine the Jewish State, to whose continued existence they all objected.' B. Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p.285.
    16. 'The Arab Refugees and Other Problems in the Near East, Report of the Special Study Mission to the Near East (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1954), p.3. The subsequent assassinations of King Abdullah of TransJordan in 1951 who had expressed a willingness to accept the permanence of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1981 who was the first among Arab leaders to sign a peace treaty with Israel indicated that the Mission's view was not entirely without substance.
    17. United States Committee on Refugees, Country Report: Lebanon (2001), p.1. See also, 'Identity Crisis: Palestinians in Post-War Lebanon', World Refugee Survey (1997), p.37.
    18. Morris, op.cit., p.285.
    19. In Alan Dowty's view: ' … it is hard to identify any significant voluntary repatriation that took place while the causes of the outflow remained unchanged; the problems in returning Tamils to Sri Lanka illustrate the point.' A. Dowty, 'Return or Compensation: The Legal and Political Context of the Palestinian Refugee Issue', World Refugee Survey (1994), p.29. For a similar view with reference to UNHCR and the problems in the Great Lakes region, see J. Crisp, 'Refugees and International Security: An Introduction to Some Key Issues and Policy Challenges,' Paper Prepared for the 4th International Security Forum (Geneva: November, 2000), p.8.
    20. Reacting to U.S. diplomatic pressure, Israel ultimately proposed to accept 100,000 Arab refugees as part of an overall peace settlement. The idea was rejected by the Arab states. Another proposal Israel considered negotiable was the 'Gaza Plan' which would have transferred sovereignty of the Gaza Strip from Egypt to Israel and transferred as well the approximately 250,000 Arab Palestinian refugees living in it. Egypt rejected the proposal. See Morris, particularly chapters 4, 5, and 9.
    21. UNRWA has been functioning on a series of three-year mandates that has been repeatedly renewed by the UN General Assembly since 1949. Its current three-year mandate expired in June, 2005.
    22. The precedents were clear. In Europe following World War 2, no large ethnic groupings of refugees had been repatriated. Following the partition of India, resettlement rather than repatriation of refugees was the norm.
    23. 'Setting The Record Straight.' UNRWA publication, http://www.un.org.unrwa/myths/index.html., p.4. My italics.
    24. UNHCR distinguishes between 'home' and 'homeland,' restricting the designation 'refugee' to people who had actually fled their homeland. Those who fled their homes to other parts of their homeland are defined by UNHCR as 'internally displaced.' Referring to Eritea: 'So long as Eritea remained an Ethopian territory, Eriteans residing in Ethopia that had fled from conflict-torn areas were not refugees because no internationally recognized border had been crossed.' 'Case: Eritera, The 1993 Referendum on Independence from Ethiopia,' (IOM) International Organization for Migration (2003), p.2. This 'home' and 'homeland' distinction is applied as well to Palestinian refugees. Ziad Abu Zayyad, Rashid Khalidi, Salim Tamari, and Abbas Shiblaq distinguish between the 'right of return to home' in principle but not in practice from the 'right of return to homeland' in both principle and practice. See Z. Abu Zayyad, 'The Palestinian Right of Return: A Realistic Approach,' Palestine-Israel Journal 2 (1994), p.77; R. Khalidi, 'Toward a Solution', Palestinian Refugees: Their Problem and Future (Washington: Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 1994); S. Tamari, Palestinian Refugee Negotiations: From Madrid to Oslo II (Washington: Institute For Palestine Studies, 1996); and A. Shiblaq, 'Commentary,' Shaml Newsletter 3, (1996), p.4.
    25. The principle of non-refoulment prohibits the return of an individual to a country where they will be tortured or persecuted.
    26. The Palestinian homeland is a post-1922 designation that refers to the entire region west of the Jordan River.
    27. E. Marx, 'Palestinian Refugee Camps in the West Bank and Gaza', Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.28, No.2 (1992), p.289.
    28. 'Many camp refugees report that they own their own dwellings (between 70 and 90 per cent), although there is no regulatory framework surrounding ownership, buying and selling.' L.B. Jacobsen, Finding Means: UNRWA's Financial Crisis and Refugee Living Conditions, Fafo Report 427, Vol.1 (2003), p.60.
    29. Ibid., pp.156-95.
    30. Ibid., p.160. See also, Marx, op.cit., p.284.
    31. Jacobsen, op.cit., p.85.
    32. See, for example, J. Bennet, 'Agency Aiding Palestinians is Strapped,' New York Times, Feb. 11, 2003.
    33. One estimate put the percentage of non-refugee occupants of housing in the refugee camps of Gaza at 25 per cent. Marx, op.cit., pp.284-8.
    34. A. Plascov, The Palestinian Refugees in Jordan: 1948-1957 (London: Frank Cass, 1981), pp.62-3.
    35. H. Elnajjar, 'Planned Emigration: The Palestinian Case,' International Migration Review, Vol.27, (1993), p.34. My italics. Elia Zureik, reviewing Benjamin Schiff's Refugee Unto the Third Generation: UN Aid to Palestinians makes the same argument: 'Palestinian refugees have at times blamed the organization for working for their resettlement, and training them for jobs which will facilitate their emigration from the occupied territories and absorption in the host countries.' Fofognet Digest, 24-4 March (1996). See also I. Abu Lughod, 'Educating a Community in Exile: The Palestinian Experience,' Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol.2, Issue 3 (1973), p.111.
    36. Ibid., p.34.
    37. Noteworthy, by UNHCR standards, the 70 per cent of Palestinians not living in camps but defined by UNRWA as refugees would not be regarded as refugees.
    38. A multiplicity of UNHCR and U.S. Committee for Refugees periodicals, notably Refugees, UNHCR Global Reports, and World Refugee Survey, as well as research papers, such as USCR's Refugee Reintegration in War-Ravaged Eritea chronicle the racial, religious and gender abuse of its refugee populations as well as the near starvation levels they are forced to endure. The World Bank's Human Development Report (various years) provides country by country human development indices that show living standards for most of Africa considerably below those of Palestinians in refugee camps.
    39. Ashkenasi, op.cit., p.63.

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