October 2012 Archives

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Father Roy writes:   A “moment of truth” is approaching.  The highlights in this article are mine.   Peace, Roy

Chief Palestinian negotiator says PLO is determined to change the status quo, UN will be “a moment of truth.

Palestinian leaders plan to shake up the 19-year-old peace process and proceed with a United Nations statehood bid next month over US objections, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

It’s a moment of truth,” Erakat said in an interview at his West Bank office in Ramallah.We’re determined to change the status quo.”

The move to upgrade the Palestine Liberation Organization’s status to that of a “non-member state” in the UN General Assembly comes a year after the failed effort to obtain full membership through the Security Council, a step the Obama administration blocked.

By forcing the statehood issue Palestinians risk jeopardizing international aid that accounts for about 14 percent of gross domestic product and inviting retaliatory measures from Israel, which captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinian bid to upgrade its observer status at the UN is likely to pass the General Assembly, where the US has no veto as it does in the Security Council, Erakat said.

If the vote succeeds, “Palestine will become a nation under occupation,” Erakat said. “The moment we get this, every single thing Israel does in east Jerusalem or the West Bank will become null and void.”

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, told campaign donors that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to “remain an unsolved problem” and that the Palestinians are uninterested in peace. Romney made the comments at a closed fundraiser in May and they became public when a video of the event was posted September 18 by Mother Jones magazine.

Upgrading their status in the General Assembly would enable the Palestinians to join other UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court, where they could ask for Israel to be tried for war crimes, Erakat said.

“Israel’s main worry is the ICC,” said Erakat, who declined to specify whether they would proceed with the action. “They don’t want me to have a sword on their neck.”

Israeli leaders are concerned that a Palestinian victory at the General Assembly will bring a “new onslaught” against the Jewish state, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a telephone interview when asked about Erakat’s comments.

“It will accomplish nothing except for poisoning the atmosphere so that it will be impossible to resume negotiations,” he said.

If the two-state solution fails, Erakat says Israel will find itself by 2018 in control of a single “apartheid” state in which Palestinians outnumber the Jewish population.

Mr. Netanyahu can’t maintain the status quo,” he said. “We aren’t going anywhere.”

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Well said, Alan Hart! His conclusion is particularly telling – “What a tragedy it is that American presidents can only speak the truth when they are out of office.”

We had the same experience here in Australia. Malcom Frazer left an ambiguous legacy as Prime Minister, but what a forthright and prophetic figure he became in retirement!

I suppose the reason for all this is self-evident. It isn’t until our political leaders leave office that they come off the payroll of the major corporations.

Father Dave

Come Back President Carter!

By Alan Hart

October 25, 2012

The third and final debate between President Obama and challenger Romney was so lacking in real and relevant substance about foreign affairs that I had to struggle, several times, to resist the temptation to turn it off and go back to bed.

Romney’s message to America’s voters seemed to be something very like, “On foreign policy I’m not the ignorant, belligerent guy I had to pretend to be in order to secure my party’s nomination.”

Obama’s message seemed to be something like, “Just as his sums don’t add up on the domestic front, my opponent really doesn’t know what he’s talking about on foreign policy matters. As for myself, in a second term I’ll try to do better.” (And was there, reading between the lines, an indication that he thinks he is on course in a second term for fixing the nuclear problem with Iran by negotiations?)

A question that would have been put to Obama by a really good moderator who understands how American actions are fuelling the fire of violent Islamic fundamentalism is this: “Mr. President, are you not concerned that the targeted assassinations by drones which you personally authorize are counter-productive because they are killing so many innocents, men, women and children?”

On Romney’s performance in general I thought the editorial in the New York Times was more or less spot on. Its verdict included the following:

“Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded completely lost. That’s because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. During the debate, on issue after issue, Mr. Romney sounded as if he had read the boldfaced headings in a briefing book – or a freshman global history textbook – and had not gone much further than that. Twice during the first half-hour, he mentioned that Al Qaeda-affiliated groups were active in northern Mali. Was that in the morning’s briefing book?” (I would be very surprised if Romney knows where Mali is).

The editorial concluded:

“Mr. Romney’s closing statement summed it all up. He said almost nothing about foreign policy. He moved back to his comfort zone: cheerfully delivered disinformation about domestic policy.”

The truth telling about the most critical and dangerous problem in the Middle East and arguably the whole world (the Israel-Palestine conflict) was left to former President Carter.

While Obama and Romney were making their final preparations for their final debate, Carter was in Israel. (He was there with the former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, on behalf of the Elders, a group of ten of the “great and good” convened by Nelson Mandela in 2007. It seeks to promote human rights and world peace by, “speaking difficult truths and tackling taboos.”)

Carter dared to say, in Israel, that there could be no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not interested in a two-state solution. And he described the situation as “worse now than it’s ever been for the Palestinians” because of the expanding settlements and lack of prospects for change. He described himself as “grieved, disgusted and angry,” because the two-state solution “is in its death throes.” That, he added, was “a tragic new development that the world is kind of ignoring.”

I presume he meant the world of leaders not peoples; and by obvious implication President Obama was, in Carter’s view, among those who were ignoring what was happening in Israel-Palestine. He said, “The U.S. government policy the last two to three years has basically been a rapid withdrawal from any kind of controversy.” He added: “Every president has been a very powerful factor here in advocating this two-state solution. That is now not apparent.”

What a tragedy it is that American presidents can only speak the truth when they are out of office.

Alan Hart has been engaged with events in the Middle East and their global consequences and terrifying implications – the possibility of a Clash of Civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic, and, along the way, another great turning against the Jews – for nearly 40 years… Alan is author of “Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews” – www.alanhart.net…

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As ever, reading Uri Avnery gives me hope that all is not lost in the quest for justice and peace in the Middle East – not quite.

One line from this essay that I will certainly quote again is Avnery’s analysis of Islamophobia (a statement he says he has made before but somehow I had missed it up till now):

“Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.”

As to the debate between Obama and Romney, Avnery sees it as a façade, but what else could it be? How can anyone be expected to have a serious discussion on Foreign Policy when the whole debate is designed as a vote-winning exercise? Having said that, even if the statements of the two wanna-be’s does not reflect their true understanding of international politics, it does reflect their understanding of how their voters see the rest of the world. That in itself should be enough to make us all worried.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

October 27, 2012

Drought in Texas

EVERYBODY IN Israel knows this story. When Levy Eshkol was Prime Minister, his assistants rushed up to him in panic: “Levy, there is a drought!”

“In Texas?” Eshkol asked anxiously.

“No, in Israel!” they said.

“Then it doesn’t matter,” Eshkol assured them. “We can always get all the wheat we need from the Americans.”

That was some 50 years ago. Since than, nothing much has changed. The elections in the US in 11 days are more important to us than our own elections in three months.

I HAD to stay awake till 3 am again to watch the final presidential debate live. I was afraid that I would doze off, but I did not. On the contrary.

When two chess players are engaged in a game, there is often a person – we call him a “kibitzer” – standing behind one of them, trying to give him unsolicited advice. During the debates, I do the same. In my imagination, I stand behind Barack Obama and think about the right answer to Romney, before Obama himself opens his mouth.

I must admit that on some occasions during this debate, his answers were much better than mine. For example, I did not think up a stinging reply to Romney’s contention that the US now has less warships then it had a hundred years ago. Obama’s dry reply – that the US army now has fewer horses, too – was sheer genius. The more so since he could not have prepared it. Who could have foreseen such a dumb remark?

Also, when Romney slammed Obama for skipping Israel on his first Middle East tour as president. How to counter such a factual challenge – especially with thousands of Jewish pensioners in Florida listening to every word?

Obama hit the right note. Remarking that Romney had visited with an entourage of donors and fund-raisers (without naming Sheldon Adelson and the other Jewish donors), he reminded us that as a candidate he went instead to Yad Vashem, to see for himself the evil done to the Jews. Touche.

On a few occasions, I thought I had a better answer. For example, when Romney tried to explain away his comment that Russia was the most important “geo-political foe” of the US, I would have reacted with “Excuse my ignorance, governor, but what does ‘geo-political’ mean?” In his context, it was a highfalutin but meaningless phrase.

(“Geo-politics” is not just a juxtaposition of geography and politics. It is a world-view propagated by the German professor Hans Haushofer and others and adopted by Adolf Hitler as a rationale for his plan to create Lebensraum for Germans by annihilating or driving out the population of Eastern Europe.)

I would have talked much more about the wars, Nixon’s Vietnam, the two Bushes’ Iraq, the second Bush’s Afghanistan. I noticed that Obama did not mention that he had been against the Iraq war right from the beginning. He must have been advised not to. 

ONE DID not have to be an expert to notice that Romney did not present original ideas of his own. He parroted Obama’s positions, changing a few words here and there.

Earlier in the campaign, during the primaries, it did not look like that. Clamoring for the votes of the right-wing base, he was about to bomb Iran, provoke China, battle Islamists of all shades, perhaps resurrect Osama Bin Laden in order to kill him again. Nothing of the sort this time. Only a meek “I agree with the President”.

Why? Because he was told that the American people had had enough of the Bush Wars. They don’t want any more. Not in Afghanistan, and certainly not in Iran. Wars cost a lot of money. And people even get killed.

Perhaps Romney decided in advance that it was enough for him to avoid looking like an ignoramus on foreign affairs, since the main battleground was in the economic sphere, where he can hope to look more convincing than Obama. So he played it safe. “I agree with the President…”

THE WHOLE concept of a presidential debate on foreign affairs is, of course, nonsensical.  World affairs are far too complicated, the nuances far too subtle, to be dealt with in this rough way. It would be like performing a kidney operation with an ax.

One could easily get the impression that the world is an American golf course, in which the US can knock the peoples around like balls, and the only question is which player has the more skill and selects the best club. The will of the peoples themselves is quite irrelevant. What are the feelings of the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Egyptians? Who cares?!

I am not sure that most of the American viewers could find Tunis on the map. So it makes no sense to argue about the forces at work there, make distinctions between Salafists and Muslim Brothers, preferring these or those. All in four minutes.

For Romney, obviously, all Muslims are the same. Islamophobia is the order of the day, and Romney openly pandered to it. As I have pointed out before, Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.

Many Jews, of course, especially the elderly in the nursing homes in warm Florida, are relieved to see the Goyim turn on other victims. And since the new victims happen also to be the foes of beloved Israel, all the better. Romney clearly believed that pouring his bile on “Islamists” was the easiest way to garner Jewish votes.

Trying hard to look tougher than Obama, Romney did, after all, come up with an original idea: provide the Syrian insurgents with “heavy arms”. What does that mean? Artillery? Drones? Missiles? And if so, to whom? To the Good Guys, of course. And take care that they do not fall into the hands of the Bad Guys.

What a brilliant idea. But please, who are the Good Guys and who the Baddies? Nobody else seems to know. Least of all the CIA or the Mossad. Dozens of Syrian factions are at work – regional, confessional, ideological. All want to kill Assad. So who will get the cannons?

All this made any serious discussion about the Middle East, now a region of infinite variations and nuances, quite impossible. Obama, who knows a lot more about our problems than his adversary, found it wise to play the simpleton and utter nothing but the most fatuous platitudes. Anything else – for example a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, God forbid, could have offended the dear inhabitants of the one old people’s home which may change the outcome in Florida.

ANY SERIOUS Arab or Israeli should have been insulted by the way our region was treated in this debate by the two men, one of whom will soon be our lord and master.

Israel was mentioned in the debate 34 times – 33 times more than Europe, 30 times more than Latin America, five times more than Afghanistan, four times more than China. Only Iran was mentioned more often – 45 times – but in the context of the danger it poses to Israel.

Israel is our most important ally in the region (or in the world?) We shall defend it to the hilt. We shall provide it with all the arms it needs (plus those it doesn’t need).

Wonderful. Just wonderful. But which Israel, exactly? The Israel of the endless occupation? Of the unlimited expansion of settlements? Of the total denial of Palestinian rights? Of the rain of new anti-democratic laws?

Or a different, liberal and democratic Israel, an Israel of equality for all its citizens, an Israel that pursues peace and recognizes Palestinian statehood?

But not only what was parroted was interesting, but also what was left unsaid. No automatic backing of an Israeli attack on Iran. No war on Iran at all, until hell freezes over. No repetition of Romney’s earlier declaration that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No pardon for the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

And, most importantly: no effort at all to use the immense potential power of the US and its European allies to bring about Israel-Palestine peace, by imposing the Two-State solution that everybody agrees is the only viable settlement. No mention of the Arab peace initiative still offered by 23 Arab countries, Islamists and all.

China, the new emerging world power, was treated with something close to disdain. They must be told how to behave. They must do this or that, stop manipulating their currency, send the jobs back to America.

But why should the Chinese take any notice when China controls the US national debt? No matter, they’ll have to do what America wants. Washington locuta, causa finita. (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed,” as Catholics used to say, way back before the sex scandals.)

UNSERIOUS AS the debate was, it showed up a very serious problem.

The French used to say that war is too serious to leave to the generals. World politics are certainly too serious to leave to the politicians. Politicians are elected by the people – and the people have no idea.

It was obvious that both contenders avoided any specifics that would have demanded even the slightest knowledge from the listeners. 1.5 billion plus Muslims were considered to fall into just two categories – “moderates” and “Islamists”. Israel is one bloc, no differentiation. What do viewers know about 3000 years of Persian civilization? True, Romney knew – rather surprisingly – what or where Mali is. Most viewers surely didn’t. 

Yet these very same viewers must now finally decide who will be the leader of the world’s greatest military power, with a huge impact on everyone else.

Winston Churchill memorably described democracy as “the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

This debate could serve as evidence.

Read more from the great Uri Avnery on his website: gush-shalom.org…

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This letter from an idealistic young man from Galilee speaks for itself.

Image001

October 27, 2012

I’m Omar Saad and I will not be a soldier in your army  

Omar Saad, a young (Druze) Palestinian musician from the Galilee village of al-Mughar has received a summon to the Israeli enlistment army. The Druze citizens of Israel are forced to enlist in the Israeli military, since 1956, when conscription law applied to Druze men (not to other Palestinians). Recent studies show that two thirds of Druze youth would not enlist in the Israeli military if given the choice, read more here. 

Omar is one of the many Druze youth who refuse to serve in the Israeli military, in his letter below (which I translated from Arabic), he says it all: 

To the Israeli Prime Minister, To the “Defense Minister”, 

Subject: refusal to appear for compulsory military recruitment. 

I’m the undersigned, Omar Zahr Eldin Mohammad Saad from the village of Mughar – Galilee, have received a notice to appear in the military recruitment offices on 31.10.2012 to conduct tests according to the conscription law imposed on the Druze community. I would like to make the following points: 

I refuse to appear for tests, because I oppose the law of conscription imposed on my Druze community. I refuse because I am a man of peace and I hate all forms of violence, and the military institution represents for me the peak of physical and psychological violence. 

Since I received the notice to appear for tests, my life has changed, I became more nervous, my thoughts were distracted, I remembered thousands of cruel images, and I couldn’t imagine myself wearing military uniform and participating in the suppression of my Palestinian people or fighting my Arab brothers. I oppose the recruitment to the Israeli military and any other military for conscience and nationalistic reasons. I hate the injustice and oppose the occupation; I hate intolerance and restriction of freedoms. I hate those who detain children, the elderly and women. 

I am a musician, I play the Viola , I have played in many places, I have musician friends from Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Shfa’amr, Eilabun, Rome, Athens, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Oslo, and we all play for freedom, humanity and peace, our weapon is the music and we shall not have any other weapon. I am from a community that was unjustly treated by an unjust law, how can we fight our relatives in Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon? How can I hold arms against my brothers and people in Palestine? How can I be a soldier standing at Qalandia checkpoint or any other checkpoint, after I experienced the injustices at these checkpoints? 

How can I prevent someone from Ramallah to visit his city, Jerusalem? How can I guard the apartheid wall? How can I be a jailer to my own people while I know that the majority of prisoners are freedom prisoners and seekers of rights and freedom? 

I play for joy, for freedom, for a just peace based on halting settlements, the end of the occupation in Palestine, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, the release of all prisoners in prisons and the return of displaced refugees to their homes. 

Many of the youth from my community have done the compulsory service in the army, what have we received? Discrimination in all areas, our villages are the poorest, our lands were confiscated, there are no master plans, and no industrial zones. Percentages of university graduates in our villages of the lowest in the region, the unemployment rates in our villages are the highest. This mandatory law has kept us away from our Arab connection. 

This year, I will finish high school, and I seek to complete my university education. I’m sure you will try to make me concede my human ambition, but I announce it loudly: 

I, Omar Zahr Eldin Mohammad Saad, will not be the fuel to the fire of your war, and will not be a soldier in your army . 

Signature: Omar Saad

souce: abirkopty.wordpress.com…

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It might seem odd that I’ve decided to post a copy of my interview with Mother Agnes here on israelandpalestine.org… when Mother Agnes’ connections are with Homs in Syria. Even so, there are three points of connection between her work and the situation in Israel/Palestine.

Firstly, she is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee. She was born in a Lebanese refugee camp after her father fled Nazareth in 1948.

Secondly, the fate of Israel/Palestine, and indeed all the countries in the region, are tied up with Syrian situation in many and complex ways. If Syria falls to the rebels, or even if Syria is kept constantly unstable through long-term civil war, this inevitably weakens the Shiite triumvirate (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah-Lebanon) very significantly. Many countries  in the region would like to see that alliance crumble. Others feel that this balancing power is the last barrier to total US-Israeli dominance of the Middle East.

Thirdly, and most sinister of all, it’s the same key players maintaining the blood-letting both in Syria and in Israel-Palestine. The US and her Middle Eastern allies are supporting the overthrow of the Syrian government just as they are funding Israel to maintain its subjugation of the Palestinian people.

When will the violence end? Perhaps when more people listen to Mother Agnes and her colleagues, and face the truth as to what is really happening in Syria and across the Middle East.

Father Dave