2013 Brings No Change to US Policy On Israel-Palestine

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

When it comes to the tedious dance between the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the more things change, the

Shimon Peres, John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in May 2013

Shimon Peres, John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in May 2013

more they stay the same. As 2013 draws to a close, we have another proof of that cliché.

As 2013 dawned, President Barack Obama began his second term, and Benjamin Netanyahu — whose horse in the US race, Mitt Romney, had lost decisively — was winning re-election but embarking on a very difficult set of talks to cobble together a governing coalition in Israel. As there always is with a second-term US president, there was some speculation that Obama might decide to damn the torpedoes of domestic politics and put some moderate pressure on Israel to compromise. Despite some illusions, by the end of the year it became clear that this wasn’t happening.

A little less than a year ago, John Kerry was named Secretary of State and vowed not only to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians but to bring them to a conclusion. Few believed he could get the two sides talking again, but Kerry managed it and thereby breathed a bit of life into Washington groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now who have staked their existence to the fading hope of a two-state solution. But even fewer objective observers believed Kerry could actually fulfill the second part of his pledge, and as 2013 comes to an end, all the evidence points to the vindication of that pessimistic view. Continue reading

The Reprehensible Use of Mandela’s Legacy to Support Oppression

One of the greatest and most repulsive of tactics employed by repressive regimes and bigoted ideologues is the co-opting of the

Mandela's image on a bad held by a San Francisco protester against Israel's assault on Gaza in 2009. [Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, published under a Creative Commons license]

Mandela’s image on a bad held by a San Francisco protester against Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009.
[Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, published under a Creative Commons license]

legacies of great figures in the fight for justice and freedom. It never fails to happen, and it is never anything less than morally reprehensible. Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of it since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and equally unsurprising, Israel has been among the leaders in this practice.

Now, let me be clear, Israel is not unique in this regard. Indeed, the lunatic right wing in the United States which has been so influential in destroying US politics and the US economy, which has led the US into disastrous wars that have wreaked havoc on the globe but which, thankfully, is at least losing the social battles in the United States has raised this practice almost to an art form. Consider the recent statement of GOP congressional candidate from Illinois, Ian Bayne, comparing the anti-LGBT, racist and …well, the list of bigotries is too long, statements of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson to the actions of none other than Rosa Parks:

“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians…What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.” Continue reading

Hopeless: A Review of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel

This review was published by Inter Press Service, under the title, “How Israel Sank into the Quagmire of Apartheidgoliath

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 2013 (IPS) – When one writes a book about Israel, one must expect that it will be analysed not for its quality but for its ideological bent.

The critique will generally be based on whether or not the work is “balanced,” which usually means whether the reviewer feels their own point of view was given a fair hearing in the book. On this basis, Max Blumenthal’s new book, “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”, was doomed to failure before it was ever published.

But that expectation, which seems so especially prevalent for any book about Israel, is bound to fail because Blumenthal’s book is not an attempt to ask what Israel is. Rather, it is an effort by a journalist to answer the question of why Israel is what it is today.

The bulk of Blumenthal’s research was done simply by being in Israel and talking to the people there. He offers us a series of snapshots that don’t reveal new and hidden facts about the issues that made headlines in Israel, and often beyond, during his four years of research for this book.

Rather, they sum up and coalesce into a picture of an Israel drifting increasingly to the right, descending into fascism and with an opposition that is increasingly being boxed in and weakened. Continue reading

Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj

It is with a heavy heart that I report here of the passing of Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj. His loss is a blow to all of us, and most of all to the

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj

Palestinians living in Gaza.

Dr. el-Sarraj did groundbreaking work on the long term traumatic effects of occupation. Yet he never wavered in his belief that Israelis and Palestinians could live together in a brighter future.

Here is how he described the occupation:

“Among other thing, it means:

  • an identity number and permit to live as a resident which will be lost if one leaves the country for more than three months;
  • a traveling document which specifies that the holder is of an undefined nationality;
  • being called twice a year by intelligence for routing investigation and persuasion to work as an informer on “your brothers and sister,”
  • leaving your home in the refugee camp in Gaza at 3 a.m.,going through road-blocks and checkpoints to do the work that others won’t and returning home in the evening to collapse in bed for few hours before getting up for the following day;
  • losing repect from one own children when they see their father spat at and beaten before their own eyes;
  • seeing the (name of the) Prophet being spat on by Israeli settlers in Hebron.

We were exhausted, tormented and brutalized.”

Dr. el-Sarraj was committed to non-violence, despite his unwavering criticism and documentation of the abuses and horrifying effects of the occuaption. Though he never wavered in his criticism of the occupation and identifying it as the root of so much hardship, he was also able to maintain his vision of Israelis as not evil, but flawed humans like everyone else. In the midst of Israel’s devastating onslaught on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead of 2008-09, he wrote: ”

Brute force and carnage in Gaza on the scale of today is a dangerous omen. Israel must restrain its military might and face up to the consequences of dragging the region into such a serious and intensified path of violence. Palestinians must stop all forms of violence and unite in the pursuit of peace and justice.”

Dr. el-Sarraj will be sorely missed. When there are more like him throughout Israel as well as Palestine, there will be real hope.

The New AIPAC: Win Some, Lose Some

The year of 2013 saw three major defeats in three different ways for AIPAC, the so-called “pro-Israel” lobby group heretofore AIPAC-620x350thought invincible by some (it is important to note that the policies they push for are not pro-Israel, but harm Israelis a great deal, albeit far less than the Palestinians). The push to bomb Syria was a fight they only reluctantly got into, but it was a resounding defeat. Though it previously seemed like an impending victory, AIPAC’s opposition to diplomacy with Iran also seems to be heading toward a major defeat.

And this week, Congress went on hiatus leaving the United States–Israel Strategic Partnership Acts of 2013 — in both the House of Representatives and the Senate — floundering in committee. The acts appear likely to disappear when Congress reconvenes, although they could still be revived in 2014 before new elections. These bills represent strong evidence that AIPAC is becoming a victim of its own hubris, pushing hard on an issue they never had much chance of winning. Continue reading

Hate Through Music

Ami Kaufman at +972 Magazine appropriately trashes the settler propagandist and pseudo-entertainer Orit Arfa in this article. But it is important that people see the “videos” she produced. It is a chronicle of hate. If you watch it be prepared–Arfa can’t even sing on key in much of it, and cannot sing well at any point. The music is childish and if you listen too long it will surely give you a headache. But put up with the assault on your senses and aesthetic sensibilities for long enough to recognize that Kaufman puts it very  well when he writes: “And inshallah, as Orit hopes, the Jews won’t stop. Because the more you do these things, the more the world sees what assholes live here.”

Kaufman’s words refer both to the horrifying trash Arfa produces, with a level of hate, propaganda and insane nationalism that would have made Nazi filmmakers proud, and the militarism, anti-peace activities and basic racism that Arfa promotes. These videos say better than any sensible article ever could just how far some Israelis have fallen into pure fascism. See Kaufman’s piece here.

Why Israeli-Palestinian Talks Will Fail, Again

This article originally appeared at LobeLog

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the outset of a meeting focused on the Middle East peace process in Bethlehem, West Bank, on November 6, 2013. US Dept. of State/Public Domain

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the outset of a meeting focused on the Middle East peace process in Bethlehem, West Bank, on November 6, 2013. US Dept. of State/Public Domain

 

There is an odd sort of atmosphere today around the soon-to-fail Israel-Palestine talks. A dramatic gesture by the United States, presenting its own security plans to both Israel and the Palestinians, has engendered mostly yawns. Yet the events of recent days have clarified the likely results of these talks, despite the ongoing secrecy around them.

Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently proposed that Israel agree to abandon the Jordan Valley (constituting some 20% of the West Bank and situated in Area C, which falls under complete Israeli control under the current arrangement) in stages over an extended period of time and subject to the “good behavior” of the Palestinians. The current plan seems to be that Israeli forces would remain in the Jordan Valley for ten years while Palestinian forces are “trained.”

Not surprisingly, the Palestinians, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas disapprove of this idea. But they do so in lukewarm terms, not wanting to offend Kerry, with the hope that when the April deadline for the current round of talks rolls around that the Palestinian side will not, as it was in 2000, be portrayed as the party who refused peace. Still, as former US President Jimmy Carter once told me, a continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is unacceptable to the Palestinians. Indeed, it is impossible to say that an occupation has ended when the occupying army is still there. That should be obvious. Continue reading