January 2013 Archives

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Father Roy writes:

Many Americans hope to see practical “changes” during President Obama’s second administration.  Chuck Hagel, Obama’s choice of Secretary of Defense, has been accused of having “isolationist ideas”. 

Does Chuck really have isolationist ideas?  Is it possible that we’re being misinformed or misled?  The following article was published in today’s Jerusalem Post.  The highlights are mine.  

Peace, Roy

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

source: www.jpost.com…

Iran hopeful in Hagel nomination; Israel ‘concerned’

Iranian foreign ministry hopes new defense secretary will lead to “changes;” Knesset speaker says Israel concerned, but not afraid.

Iran’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it hoped the appointment of Chuck Hagel as the next US defense secretary would lead to “practical changes” in Washington’s foreign policy. At the same time, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Israel should be “concerned, but not afraid of [Chuck] Hagel’s isolationist ideas.”

“We hope there will be practical changes in American foreign policy and that Washington becomes respectful of the rights of nations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference, Iran’s IRIB news website reported. He was answering a question about Hagel’s views on Israel and US sanctions on Iran.

Hagel is expected to face a tough confirmation fight amid accusations that he has anti-Israel views and has previously urged direct nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.

Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday said Israel should be “concerned, but not afraid of [Chuck] Hagel’s isolationist ideas.”

Responding to US President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Republican senator for the Pentagon post on Monday, Rivlin said Hagel’s nomination does not just affect Israel alone, “but the global strategic balance of power. Heigel’s isolationist policies will reflect on changing policies in America that will also have an impact on Israel.”

Rivlin stated Hagel’s approach should be “of concern to Israel, but not scare her,” adding that Israel must know how to handle the move without isolating herself from the stronghold of American security.

To further quell recent concern over Hagel’s appointment, Rivlin added “one person does not a policy make,” stating that the individual appointment will in no way endanger the strategic relationship between Israel and the US.

On a similar note, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave a positive view of Chuck Hagel’s nomination as US defense secretary, though some commentators in the Jewish state expressed worries that the choice could open a new fissure in bedrock ties with Washington.

US President Barack Obama named the former Republican senator for the Pentagon post on Monday, setting the stage for a confirmation battle with critics who question his commitment to Israel in its struggle with Iran and other regional adversaries.

But Ayalon, a former envoy to the United States, told Yedioth Ahronoth in comments published on Tuesday: “I have met him (Hagel) many times, and he certainly regards Israel as a true and natural US ally.”

Meanwhile, a right-wing pro-Israel group has taken Hagel’s name on a website, stepping up the campaign against his nomination.

The site, which went live last week with www.chuckhagel.com… is funded by The Emergency Committee for Israel, a non-profit organization running campaigns on the positions of political candidates in America.

The website raises questions regarding Hagel’s ability to serve as defense secretary, highlighting statements seen as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.

The daily Israel Hayom on Tuesday quoted an unnamed government official as saying the choice of Hagel was “very bad news,” adding: “Clearly it won’t be easy with him.” The official, reflecting the belief of several Israeli analysts that Obama would continue to set the tone for bilateral relations, suggested that having Hagel in the Pentagon would allow the second-term president “to play ‘good cop'” with Netanyahu.

Many Republicans contend that Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, at times opposed Israel’s interests. He voted several times against US sanctions on Iran, in whose nuclear program Israel sees a mortal threat, and made disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a “Jewish lobby” in Washington.

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The following article illustrates just how powerless Mahmoud Abbas’ government really is! Abbas has insisted on renaming all PA Authority stationary and official letterhead with the proud title ‘State of Palestine’, but when Israel says it won’t honour passports that carry the new title or logo, Abbas immediately backs down.

Who am I to judge, but in his ongoing attempts to ‘cooperate’ with the occupying forces, Abbas consistently achieves nothing for his people. Perhaps images broadcast around the world of tens of thousands of Palestinians unable to move through checkpoints would have seen the issue quickly decided in Abbas’ favour? Even so, who am I to judge?

Father Dave

source: www.algemeiner.com…

Israel Rejects Possible Use of “State of Palestine” Passports

Israel has warned Palestinian Authority officials that it will not honor passports with the “State of Palestine” printed on it. The Palestinian Authority has responded by saying that it will not rush to print passports or identification cards bearing the name “State of Palestine” due to concerns that such a move will prevent Palestinian Arab movement through Israeli crossings.

“As far as the Israelis are concerned, we are not going to overload the wagon of our people by putting ‘State of Palestine’ on passports,” PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday. “They (Israelis) will not allow them to travel.”

Erekat said the new emblem will be used in correspondence with countries that have recognized a state of Palestine.

“At the end of the day, the Palestinian Authority won’t cause trouble for its people,” Nour Odeh, a spokeswoman for Abbas’ government, said, according to Israel Hayom.

Last week PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed a decree to officially change the name of the PA to “State of Palestine” following its status upgrade at the United Nations in November.

Palestinian Authority diplomatic missions around the world have been told to use the new names, including those in countries that did not vote “yes” at the General Assembly, said Omar Awadallah, a PA Foreign Ministry official.

According to Israel Hayom, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed the name change as pointless but declined comment on whether Israel would retaliate in any way. “Instead of looking for gimmicks, Palestinians should negotiate with Israel to bring about the end of the conflict,” he said. “That will lead to a situation of two states for two peoples.”

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Father Labib writes: Here is the final communiqué issued by the Bishops’ from US, Canada and Europe who attended the 2013’s Holy Land Coordination at the end of their visit in the Holy Land.

source: al-bushra-updates.blogspot.com…

Final Communiqué Issued by the Bishops Attending the Holy Land Coordination

"Our Faith was Enriched by the Strength and Fortitude of the People we Met"

JERUSALEM, January 10, 2013 (Zenit.org…).

Since the Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination gathered in January 2012, the people in this region have lived through dark and dramatic events: conflict in Gaza and southern Israel; civil war in Syria, which has resulted in huge numbers of refugees pouring into other countries and putting an enormous strain on their resources; and increasing polarisation within Israel and Palestine. These developments have caused profound anxiety for all in this region, for the Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and particularly for the dwindling Christian population.

This year we met Christian communities in Gaza, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Madaba and Zarqa. In the Cremisan Valley we heard about legal struggles to protect local people’s lands and religious institutions from the encroachment of the Security Barrier (“the wall”). We promise to continue urging our respective governments to act to prevent this injustice. We heard moving testimony from religious women involved in the care of migrant workers, trafficked persons and prisoners.

Our faith was enriched by the strength and fortitude of the people we met: those with whom we shared in a vibrant celebration of Mass in Zarqa in Jordan; those who care for the vulnerable, like the refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing terror and violence; those struggling in the face of oppression and insecurity across the countries that make up the Holy Land. We are inspired to promote a just peace and call upon Christian communities in our home countries and people of goodwill everywhere to support the work undertaken in this region to build a better future. Good examples are two agencies we visited: Catholic Relief Services in Gaza and the Caritas refugee programme in Jordan.

We are also called to recognise and tell others how faith in God brings light into the lives of people in the Holy Land. One of the ways in which this happens is the Church’s commitment to education, a tangible investment in the future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the University of Bethlehem, where we were struck by the stories from students, and the American University of Madaba in Jordan. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI called upon staff and students in the region to be builders of a just and peaceful society composed of peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds.

With the local Bishops, we encourage practical support for the vulnerable, the formation of young people and every effort for the promotion of peace. We encourage Christians to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land where they will experience the same warm hospitality we received. We shall work hard to persuade our respective governments to recognise the root causes of suffering in this land and to step up their efforts for a just peace. We echo the call Pope Benedict made recently in his speech to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps: “Following Palestine’s recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful co-existence within the framework of two sovereign states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace, not one of division”.

In the words of one of the Psalms, which we prayed together each day: “for the peace of Jerusalem pray” (Psalm 122, v.6).

Signatories to the Final communiqué:

Archbishop Richard Smith – Edmonton, Canada

Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives – Urgell and Andorra, Spain

Bishop Gerald Kicanas – Tucson, USA

Bishop Stephan Ackermann – Trier, Germany

Bishop Michel Dubost – Evry, France

Bishop William Kenney – ComECE Representative

Bishop Peter Bürcher – Reykjavik, Nordic Bishops’ Conference

Bishop Declan Lang – Clifton, England and Wales.

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Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom, weighs in on the issue of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for US Secretary of Defense.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Welcome, Chuck

I FIND Chuck Hagel eminently likeable. I am not quite certain why.

Perhaps it’s his war record. He was decorated for valor in the Vietnam War (which I detested). He was a mere sergeant. Since I was a mere corporal in our 1948 war, I find it elating to see a non-commissioned officer become Minister of Defense.

Like so many veterans who have seen war from close up (myself included), he has become an enemy of war. Wonderful.

NOW Hagel is violently attacked by all the neocon warmongers, almost none of whom has ever heard a bullet whistle in the wars to which they sent others, and the combined political regiments of the American Jewish establishment.

His main sin seems to be that he objects to war against Iran. To be against an attack on Iran means to be anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, indeed to wish for the destruction of Israel if not all Jews. Never mind that almost all present and past chiefs of the Israeli army and intelligence community object to an attack on Iran, too. But Binyamin Netanyahu knows better.

Last week, the former much-lauded chief of the Shin Bet painted a frightening picture of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak at a security meeting to discuss the bombing of Iran some time ago. The two were in high spirits, puffing on cigars and drinking whiskey, much to the disgust of the assembled security chiefs. In Israel, cigars are considered an ostentatious luxury and drinking at work is taboo.

Netanyahu’s spin-doctors retorted that Winston Churchill, too, was a brandy drinker and smoked cigars. Seems that spirits and cigars are not enough to make a Churchill.

Actually, I think that the appointment of Hagel may come as a relief to Netanyahu. After years of depicting the Iranian nuclear bomb as the end of the world, or at least of Israel, the bomb is mysteriously absent from Netanyahu’s election campaign. Hagel’s appointment may allow Netanyahu to climb down from this tree altogether.

But the catalogue of Hagel’s crimes is much more extensive.

Many years ago he called the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington (would you believe it?) the “Jewish lobby”. Until then, it was understood that AIPAC is mainly composed of Buddhists and financed by Arab billionaires like Abu Sheldon and Abel al-Adelson.

HOWEVER, HAGEL’S most heinous sin is not often mentioned. While serving as the Republican senator for Nebraska, he once uttered the unspeakable words: “I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!”

That is really the crux of the matter.

US senators are nearly all Israeli senators. Ditto for US congressmen. Hardly any of them would dare to criticize the Israeli government on any issue, negligible as it may be. Criticizing Israel is political suicide. Not only does the Jewish lobby use its huge resources to get loyal pro-Israelis elected and re-elected, but it openly employs these resources to unseat the few elected officials who dare to criticize Israel. They almost always succeed.

In the present election campaign, the Likud is showing again and again (and again) the scene of Netanyahu addressing the US congress. The senators and congressmen are seen wildly applauding after every single sentence, jumping up and down like children in gymnastics class. The text of the clip says: “When Netanyahu speaks, the world listens!”

(A curiosity: right after this shameful scene, the clip shows Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. Since the applause there was sparse – hardly anyone, other than Avigdor Lieberman and the other members of the Israeli delegation in the half-empty hall did applaud – the editors of the clip used a little trick: they took the applause from the US Congress and transferred it to the UN Assembly hall.)

Somebody sent me a satirical piece saying that if Hagel’s appointment is not cancelled by the US Senate, Israel will have to use its veto power to block it. In such a case, the senate would have to muster a 90% majority to overcome the veto. If this fails, President Obama would have to choose another Defense Secretary from a list of three names provided by Netanyahu.

Jokes aside, the Israeli defense establishment is not worried by the Hagel appointment. They seem to know him as quite receptive to Israeli requests. Several Israeli generals have already come to his defense.

THIS WHOLE episode might be considered trivial, or even funny, were it not for the question: Why did President Obama put forward this controversial figure in the first place?

An obvious answer is: Revenge. Obama is a master of controlling his emotions. During all the months of Netanyahu supporting Mitt Romney, Obama did not react. But his anger must have been building up inside.

Now the time has come. Appointing Hagel and openly humiliating the pro-Israel lobby was one way. More of this can be expected to come. Any slight nudge from America is bound to be felt by Israel as a heavy blow.

By the way, this blow could be used by the opposition parties here to to expose Netanyahu’s rank incompetence. Supporting Romney was plain stupid. All the more so as Netanyahu, who was raised in the US, depicts himself as an expert on US affairs. But no party dares to raise this subject in our election campaign, for fear of being considered less than super-patriotic.

I don’t expect President Obama to change the US treatment of Israel in the near future, beyond some small punitive acts like this one. But when we raise our eyes towards the horizon, the picture looks different.

There is already a marked difference between Obama I and Obama II. When he was elected the first time, he chose Chas Freeman, a highly respected diplomat, to head the National Security Council. The pro-Israel lobby raised a storm, and the appointment was withdrawn. Obama then preferred public humiliation to a confrontation with the lobby. How different this time!

This change may well become more marked in Obama’s second term and far beyond. The lobby’s stranglehold on Washington DC is loosening, slightly, slowly, but significantly.

Why?

I believe that one of the reasons is that the perception of the American Jewish community is changing. American politicians are beginning to realize that Jewish voters are far from unanimously behind the lobby. American Jewish “leaders”, almost all of them self-appointed and representing nobody but a small clique of professional representatives, as well as the Israeli embassy and some right-wing billionaires, do not control the Jewish vote.

This became clear when Netanyahu supported Romney. The great majority of Jewish voters continued to support Obama and the Democratic Party.

This is not a sudden development. For years now, American Jews – especially young Jews – have distanced themselves from the Zionist establishment. Becoming more and more disillusioned with official Israeli policy, alienated by the occupation, disgusted with the pictures of Israeli soldiers beating up helpless Palestinians, they have quietly dropped away. Quietly, because they fear an anti-Semitic backlash. Jews are indoctrinated from early childhood that “we Jews have to stick together” in face of the anti-Semites.

Only a few brave American Jews are ready to openly – though ever so timidly – criticize Israel. But US politics are slowly adjusting to the fact that much of the lobby’s strength is bluff, and that most American Jews don’t let Israel determine their voting pattern.

AMERICANS MUST be a race of angels – how else to explain the incredible patience with which they suffer the fact that in a vital sphere of US interests, American policy is dictated by a foreign country?

For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Sometimes I wonder if in meetings of American and Israeli diplomats, they don’t sometimes drop into Yiddish.

I have warned many times that this can’t go on forever. Sooner or later real anti-Semites – a disgusting breed – will exploit this situation to gain legitimacy. The hubris of AIPAC bears poisonous fruit.

Since Israel is dependent on US support in almost every sphere – from the UN Security Council to the battlefields of future wars – this is a real existential danger.

Perhaps the lobby is becoming alert to this danger. In the present affair, their voice is remarkably subdued. They don’t want to stand out.

THE SADDEST part of the story is that all these false “friends of Israel” in the US Congress and media are not really embracing “Israel”. They are embracing the Israeli right-wing, including the extreme and even fascist right-wing. They are, thereby, helping the right-wing to tighten their control over our country.

American policy plays a major role in the agony of the Israeli peace camp, which is so manifest in the present election campaign. Just one example: the huge settlement effort now in process, which makes the two-state peace solution more and more difficult to implement, is financed by American Jews who funnel their donations through tax-free organizations. Thus the US government in practice finances the settlements, which it officially condemns as illegal.

Since the 19th century, newspapers have got used to abbreviating their reports by saying “France protests” and “Germany declares” when they mean “the French government protests” and “the German government declares”. Thus the media today write that “Israel” promotes the settlements, when in actual fact it is the Israeli government which does so. Several respected recent polls prove that most Israelis want peace based on the two-state solution, which is undermined by our government on a daily basis.

BACK TO Senator Hagel: the Israeli government and the “friends of Israel” will do anything to undermine his appointment.

Speaking for myself, I hope that his appointment will herald a new American policy – a policy of support for a sober, rational, liberal, secular, democratic Israel, striving for peace with the Palestinian people.

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org……………

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This looks like Israel’s worst nightmare! A coming together of the two Palestinian factions would be bad enough, but having it happen courtesy of Mohamed Morsi – President of Egypt and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood – adds insult to injury!

Israel’s strategy has been to control the compliant Fatah government and to exclude and wage war against the defiant Hamas faction. What will they do though against a Fatah-Hamas coalition? Moreover, if the coalition has Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood behind it, it can count on extensive support from across the Muslim world!

Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be in any mood for conciliatory dialogue, so what happens next? The stage seems to be being set for a violent showdown! We must pray that sanity prevails.

Father Dave

Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi

source: www.asianews.it/news-en/Cairo,-reconciliation-efforts-re-launched-between-Fatah-and-Hamas-26821.html…

Cairo, reconciliation efforts re-launched between Fatah and Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) and Khaled Meshaal (Hamas) will meet tomorrow in Cairo for a series of talks led by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The meeting follows the recent protests in the West Bank Hamas and Fatah in Gaza.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, will meet tomorrow in Cairo to discuss reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions. The announcement was made by Yasser Ali, presidential spokesman for Mohamed Morsi. Before the historic face to face talks, the two leaders will have a series of separate talks with Egyptian President.

The meeting tomorrow comes after the major protests of Hamas in the West Bank and Fatah in Gaza between December and January. They were the first since the violent division between the two movements began in 2007 and culminated in the expulsion of their representatives from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

According to Azzam Al-Ahmed, head of the reconciliation program of al-Fatah, Abbas intends to break the current stalemate in the negotiations to end the political division between the two factions.

The mandate of Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority expired in 2009. Currently he holds the position of interim president. The presidential elections for the renewal of the Palestinian Authority were to be held January 24, 2010, but fell through because of the split with Hamas.

The talks between Fatah and Hamas resumed in 2011 with a conference in Cairo that was meant to lead the territories in presidential and legislative elections in 2012. However, due to political differences the agreement was never implemented. At the beginning of 2012, Meshaal and Abbas met in Doha to resume negotiations and sign a new reconciliation program for the election of an interim president who would have authority over the government pending elections. On this occasion, Hamas accused its own leader Meshaal of taking unilateral decisions and rejected the deal.