January 2013 Archives

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According to the report from Gulf News posted below, the UAE has donated fifty million dollars to Gaza. Apparently the donation has been specifically targeted for the building of a city for released prisoners!

Is this a sign of where the Arab world is moving? The UAE has given its support to the Hamas government in Gaza and by-passed Mahmoud Abbas and his government in the West Bank. Meanwhile, according to this report from Al Jazeera, Abbas has again threatened to disband his Ramallah-based administration if Israeli settlement-expansion continues.

Once again it seems that the militant route taken by Hamas is paying dividends while cooperative path taken by Abbas leads only to a dead end. This does not portend well for Israel or for the world at large.

Father Dave

source: gulfnews.com…

UAE donates $50 million to Palestine

Gaza: The UAE has donated $50 million to build the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan city in Gaza strip for released Palestinian prisoners.

The donation was announced by Yousuf Sabhi Al Ghariz, Minister of Public Works and Housing in Gaza’s government.

Al Ghariz praised the prominent and massive role played by the UAE in supporting the Palestinian people, as well as its support and solidarity for Palestine’s justified cause.

He extended his heartfelt thanks to the UAE President, government, and people for the donation.

 

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Wise words from James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

Certainly the US has run its course as a broker for peace in Israel/Palestine, and only seems interested in fueling the conflict in Syria! The question Zogby doesn’t address though is whether the leaders of the Arab states are really interested in doing anything different? 

The UAE’s recent donation to Gaza is a good sign, and yet the leaders of the Arab states have had a generation and more in which to do something for the Palestinian people and have, for the most part, sat on their hands! And how much interest have Syria’s neighbors shown in bringing the warring factions to the table? They would be happy to see regime change and a consequent weakening of the regional power of Iran, but leaving Syria to burn accomplishes the same end with less effort!

Even so, the scent of the Arab Spring is still in the air and the citizens of the Arab world are tired of having their voices ignored. There may not be broad popular consensus on Syria but popular feeling with regards to the Palestinian situation is unambiguous! Perhaps 2013 will be the year that the Arab states finally take a stand for reconciliation and peace!

Father Dave

James Zogby

James Zogby

source: weekly.ahram.org…

Arabs can act for Syria and Palestine

Before it’s too late, the Arabs must think with more forward vision about the capacities in their hands to press for positive regional change, writes James Zogby

During the next few months, the Arab world will have its hands full with problems requiring urgent attention. Chief among them are the ongoing crises in Syria and Palestine, both of which are fast approaching their respective “points of no return”. Instead of acting as spectators, enablers or waiting for the United Nations or the United States to provide solutions, there are practical steps through collective Arab action that might make a real difference.

The continuing tragedy of Syria will be front and centre for months to come, with both regime and opposition appearing determined to continue their “dance until death”. UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s dire warnings should be heeded. If no political solution is found, the situation will only worsen. With the regime increasingly desperate and brutal, and the opposition better armed but lacking control of some of its elements, the future promises only an accelerated casualty rate and a deepening of sectarian animosity.

Brahimi has tabled a plan that proposes a political process that transitions the government away from single party domination. The Russians have been given the responsibility for bringing the regime to the table. Key Arab states should assume the parallel responsibility of pressing the opposition to agree to a peaceful transition.

To date, opposition leaders have refused to consider any form of negotiations or compromise with the regime. While their anger at, and distrust of, the Al-Assad government is understandable, holding out for a decisive win is neither responsible nor a politically sound strategy. Given the reality of a divided Syrian polity, compromise and a transitional approach to change appear to be the wisest path forward.

The solution envisioned by Brahimi won’t provide a clear-cut victory for any side, but it will end the bloodletting and pave the way for a political solution that can bring real change and an end to authoritarian rule by the Al-Assad family. Arab states have leverage here since they are funding, arming and supporting the opposition. Instead of merely enabling more conflict, Arab states should use the leverage they have with their allies in Syria to take the lead in ending the killing and destruction, before the country collapses, fragments and/or the violence spills across the border destabilising an already fragile region.

This will not be easy — compromise never is, and success cannot be guaranteed. But it is the least horrible outcome to a terrible two-year long war that with time can only get worse and most certainly will not get better. Compromise will require leadership that, at this time, only Arabs can provide.

Another area where the region’s leadership must play an active and supportive role is in the effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Palestinian situation was near tragic four years ago and has not improved since. The Palestinian house remains in disarray, with leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza both physically and ideologically divided. Gaza, under the control of Hamas, continues to be strangled by an oppressive embargo. The West Bank itself is being slowly strangled by never-ending settlement growth, hundreds of intrusive and humiliating checkpoints, and an oppressive wall/barrier snaking in and out of Palestinian lands.

The failed paths chosen by Palestine’s two leaderships, though contradictory, are both flawed; Hamas has made a religion of “resistance” which has won nothing but death and hardship for Palestinians, insecurity in Israel and reinforcement for hardline Israeli policies. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to diplomacy and negotiations, while commendable, has become pointless, since negotiating without leverage (and without control over the constituency for which they are negotiating) becomes an empty exercise.

Meanwhile, the hardline Israeli government, hell bent on conquest, continues to act with impunity — expanding settlements and tormenting Palestinians under their control. The far right in Israel has come to define Israeli politics, while the “peace camp” has floundered.

If this dynamic remains unchecked, in short order one of two outcomes may occur: either Israel will complete its plan for the physical domination of the West Bank and the total transformation of Jerusalem — making separation into two states impossible; or there will be renewed violence with devastating consequences for the Palestinian people.

Our recent polling in Israel and among Palestinians both in the occupied lands and refugees in Jordan and Lebanon establishes that peace remains possible. The two publics, though divided on many issues, show important points convergence. What is required is a vision that can move opinion and leadership. These will not come from the US or Israel, and cannot come from the Palestinians. But leading Arab states can provide leadership that could alter the dynamic and change opinion.

The first priority must be to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, and the establishment of an effective and unified Palestinian government that can command both popular support and the respect of the international community. This will require more than a redux of the Mecca Accords. Up until now, Arab reconciliation efforts have focussed exclusively on political matters, with hollow threats of sanctions for the party that interfered with implementation. Instead of threats, the Arab leadership ought to create incentives for acceptance.

Clearly what both the West Bank and Gaza desperately need are job creation, infrastructure and capacity-building projects, as well as immediate relief. The Arabs already participate in international efforts to subsidise the Palestinian Authority budget and individual Arab states finance projects in both Palestinian territories. But these funds given this way merely serve to underwrite the two divided Palestinian leaderships, maintaining the unacceptable status quo. To move the reconciliation process forward, I would propose the creation of a massive multi-billion dollar “Peace and Reconciliation Incentive Fund” that would provide immediate relief and job-creating investment once the parties have agreed to, and taken steps to implement, a unity plan. The bottom line purpose of the fund would be to support the Palestinian people and to create the incentive and pressure for their divided leaderships to agree on a new government that, with Arab backing, is ready and able to make peace.

In addition, the Arab League, instead of merely reaffirming their 2002 and 2007 peace plan, would do well to enlarge upon it by putting, as it were, “meat on the bones”. They could, for example, spell out in greater detail for Israelis the types of investment and/or trade incentives that would accompany final peace and/or normalisation. And they could even create a staged sequencing (for example, with the signing of an Israeli-Palestinian framework, stage one will occur; with removal of settlements and checkpoints in compliance with agreement, stage two will occur, etc). Our polling shows that the Arab Peace Initiative has strong support among Palestinians and has the potential to positively change Israeli opinion. Spelling out, therefore, the benefits and vision that accompany final peace could be of benefit. If Arab leaders were then to “go on the road” selling their plan to world public opinion, it would have a tremendous impact in advancing peace and transforming the views of Arabs.

Promoting a peaceful transition in Syria, Palestinian reconciliation, and a comprehensive Middle East peace will not be easy. Demonstrating leadership, making a difference and changing the trajectory of history never is.

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There I was saying yesterday that the US had run its course as a potential peace-broker in Israel/Palestine. It seems that some of our Christian brethren in the US are more optimistic!

Certainly President Obama has an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to play a positive role in bringing lasting justice and peace to the region but there have been no indications thus far that he is remotely interested, unless we interpret the appointment of Chuck Hagel as signalling the winds of change?

Regardless of whether it makes any difference, all power to these church leaders for taking a stand for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine!

Father Dave

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

US called on to lead in Israel-Palestine peace efforts

By Michelle Bauman

Religious leaders from across the United States asked the Obama administration to make peace efforts between Israel and Palestine a priority over the next four years.

“American political leadership is needed now more than ever to support both Israelis and Palestinians in creating a resilient and just peace,” said representatives of 35 Christian denominations.

In a Jan. 7 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, they warned that allowing the status quo to continue could prolong the conflict and bring greater violence to the region.

“As you embark upon your second term, there is an unprecedented opportunity for your Administration to play a catalytic role in the resolution of this conflict,” they told the president.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, was one of the signatories of the letter. Other signers included representatives of Episcopalian, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran and other religious communities in the United States.

“As faith leaders deeply committed to peace and reconciliation in this land held sacred by so many, we write to ask that you now bring the full energies of your Administration to bear toward facilitating a just, durable, and final negotiated agreement to end the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” they said.

The signatories acknowledged the challenges and cost associated with peace efforts, as well as the opposition faced from those on both sides.

An environment of fear and lack of trust make negotiations difficult, they said, “but another generation cannot wait as prospects for peace grow dimmer.”

Offering prayers that the president may be guided with courage and wisdom, the religious leaders urged the U.S. to place “the full weight of its support behind the long-term well-being of Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Proposals put forward must be feasible and convincingly address their separate national aspirations for security and justice,” they stressed.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have also spoken out on the importance of American leadership in the region.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, joined Bishop Pates in calling for “a high profile envoy” to work for peace and justice in the area.

In a Jan.. 9 letter to President Obama, the two bishops observed that “our nation has a special obligation to exercise vigorous leadership for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Echoing the Holy Father’s calls for peace in the region, they encouraged efforts towards a two-state solution, comprised of “a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.”

The bishops acknowledged that actions by both Palestinians and Israelis “perpetuate an unsustainable status quo” that endangers the entire region.

Recent rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel are “morally unjustifiable uses of indiscriminate force against civilians” that undermine the trust needed for negotiations, they said, while Israeli occupation and expansion in the West Bank “compromise the territorial viability of a future Palestinian state.”

At the same time, they emphasized that the lack of peace is taking “a heavy toll on both Israelis and Palestinians, and especially on the indigenous ancient Christian community of the Holy Land that is emigrating at alarming rates.”

“What is urgently needed is indefatigable and insistent leadership,” the bishops said. “The United States, as a consequence of its relationships and potentially significant influence, is poised, in our estimation, to be the most effective arbiter in this tangled situation that portends enormous risk for the world.”

Pledging their support to the U.S. government’s efforts for peace, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates urged leadership that gives both Israelis and Palestinians “hope for a different future free of the shadows of violence and open to the light of peace.”

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Father Roy writes:

Is it not obvious?  World leaders are cooperating behind the scenes to resolve the issues in the Holy Land.  Notice how the news in the report pasted below relates to this one:  EU ‘to propose’ peace plan after Israel vote.  And notice how both reports relate to this one:  Colin Powell defends Hagel nomination

It’s as tho the International Community is paving the way for President Obama to take decisive action in the peace process.  Diplomatic officials in Israel said they were unaware of any plans.  Netanyahu always has an excuse and accuses Hamas of being the obstacle to negotiations.  See my highlights for confirmation.  

Peace, Roy      

Jordan forming int’l bloc to spur Israeli-Palestinian talks

By JPOST.COM… STAFF

King Abdullah says he is working with European countries to restart long-stalled negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah, adds: "Settlements are eating up all Palestinian lands."

Abdullah, Abbas walk in West Bank, Dec. 6, 2012 Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Jordan is in the process of consolidating an international coalition to kickstart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the country’s King Abdullah said Sunday in an interview with French publication Le Nouvel Observateur.

"We are working closely with several parties in Europe, including France, to put some effective and workable ideas on the table that would enable the US to engage and play a leading role in the peace process soon after the start of the second term of President [Barack] Obama," Abdullah said in his interview translated into English by The Jordan Times. Abdullah expressed hope that Germany, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE would participate in the efforts.

Negotiations have been virtually non-existent for most of the last four years, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demanding a settlement moratorium as a precondition to talks.

Abdullah said that he was acting in order to take advantage of a "window of opportunity that is closing down on the two-state solution rather quickly." The Jordanian leader cited a confluence of factors which he believes is increasing the likelihood of a peace deal, including: the inauguration of US President Barack Obama, an international community which is increasingly enthusiastic about solving the conflict, the recent successful Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations, and pressures emanating from the Arab Spring. "We do not have four more years to wait for the next US president to work on Middle East peace, particularly that Israeli settlements are eating up all Palestinian lands," Abdullah said.

Commenting on widespread international condemnation of preliminary plans to build 3,000 new housing units in the E1 corridor connecting Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim, Abdullah said the world was united against unilateral Israeli action in the West Bank. The international community displayed a "strong stance against settlements, which we agree are one of the main obstacles to peace, especially in E1 areas," he said.

Netanyahu maintains that construction plans for the E1 area do not preclude the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state, and that his government has repeatedly called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians without precondition.

Turning to Iran, Abdullah said at least some Israeli politicians are "very determined" to bomb the country’s nuclear sites, though he doubted the feasibility of such a move. "The region doesn’t need another conflict, and I hope the Israeli people realize this," he said. The Jordanian king added a call for a "Middle East free of nuclear weapons" – a thinly-veiled demand for Israel to dismantle its own nuclear weapons, which Jerusalem has not admitted to having.

Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said they were unaware of any concrete plans currently underway to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table immediately after Israel’s elections next week.

Netanyahu has said in internal meetings in recent days that he hopes that after the elections it will be possible to re-engage with Abbas without any pre-conditions. He has said, however, that he remains skeptical because Abbas seemed more intent at this time in embracing Hamas, rather than in engaging with Israel.

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It needs to be noted, not only that these sorts of criminal acts go on all the time but that they take place with the blessing of the Israeli court during times of so-called peace!

One can only imagine if the Palestinian police attempted some sort of reciprocal act – trying, for example, to evict Israeli settlers from their colonial outposts in the West Bank. It would be interpreted as a provocation to war!

Father Dave

source: palsolidarity.org…

Palestinian village of Bab Alshams violently evicted

Posted on: January 13, 2013 |

13 January 2013 | PSCC, Occupied Palestine

Although established on privately owned Palestinian lands, Israel forcefully expelled residents of the village in a pre-dawn raid this morning. Six required medical attention.

Shortly before 3 am, hundreds of Israeli policemen and soldiers staged a raid on the newly founded Palestinian village of Bab Alshams (Gate of the Sun), violently evicting its 150 inhabitants. Use of police brutality is even more objectionable in light of the passive resistance offered by the residents. No arrests were made, and all persons detained were released shortly after.

In light of harsh international criticism over the plan to expand the Ma’aleh Edomim settlement, and in an attempt to draw away attention from the case, eviction took place early this morning. Following its arrival at the scene, a massive police force began by removing journalists from the residents’ immediate surroundings and proceeded to drag people away, beating some of them. Six Palestinians later required medical care at the Ramallah Hospital.

Following his release, Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said, “We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Alshams is no more, but during its short days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. Israel continues to act in violation of every imaginable law and human decency. In establishing Bab Alshams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves.”

Read the rest of this article (and see some graphic pictures of the injured) here: palsolidarity.org…