February 2013 Archives

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Uri Avnery has not only a sharp mind but that special wisdom that comes from a lifetime of involvement in Israeli politics.

Here Avnery addresses the elusive question of whether the US government really has any commitment to a Middle East peace process, along with the broader (and more elusive) question that lies behind it: ‘why do Israeli interests play such a significant role in the machinations of the US government?’

I was hoping that Avnery was going to give a simple answer to this latter question such as would allow us to look for a simple remedy. But political realities are rarely straightforward, and the relationship between Israel and the US is as complex as it is dark.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

source: gush-shalom.org…

Peace and Watermelons

by Uri Avnery

ONE OF the most interesting and prolonged private debates I have had in my life was with the brilliant Dr. Nahum Goldmann. The subject: American peace initiatives.

It was an unequal debate, of course. Goldmann was my elder by 28 years. While I was a mere editor of an Israeli news magazine, he was an international figure, President of the World Zionist Organization and the World Jewish Congress.

In the mid ’50s, when I was looking for a personality who could possibly contest David Ben-Gurion’s stranglehold on the prime minister’s office, I thought of Goldmann. He had the necessary stature and was liked by moderate Zionists. No less important, he had a clear set of opinions. From the first day of the State of Israel, he had proposed that Israel become a “Middle Eastern Switzerland”, neutral between the US and the Soviet Union. For him, peace with the Arabs was absolutely essential for the future of Israel.

I visited him in a luxury suite in Jerusalem’s classy Kind David hotel. He was wearing a silken dressing gown, and when I made my offer, he responded: “Look, Uri, I like the good life. Luxury hotels, good food and beautiful women. If I challenged Ben-Gurion, all these would disappear. His people would vilify me as they do you. Why would I risk all that?”

We also started a discussion that ended only with his death, some 27 years later. He was convinced that the US wanted peace between us and the Arabs, and that a major American peace effort was just around the corner. This was not simply an abstract hope. He assured me that he had just met with the highest policy-makers and had it from the highest authority. Straight from the American horse’s mouth, so to say.

Goldman was also an inveterate name-dropper. He regularly met with most major American, Soviet and other political personalities, and never failed to mention this in his conversation. So, being assured by the incumbent US presidents, ministers and ambassadors that the US was just about to impose peace on Israelis and Arabs, he told me just you wait. You’ll see.

THIS BELIEF in an American Imposed Peace has haunted the Israeli peace movement for decades. In advance of the coming visit of President Obama to Israel next month, it is raising its weary head once more.

Now, finally, it is going to happen. At the beginning of his second term, Barak Obama will shed the hesitations, fears and incompetence that marked his first. AIPAC will not be able to terrorize him anymore. A new, strong and resolute Obama will emerge and knock all the heads together. The leaders will be strongarmed into peace.

This is a very typical and very convenient conviction. It relieves us of the duty to do anything unpopular or daring ourselves. It is also very comforting. The Zionist Left is feeble and lifeless? Maybe, but we have an ally who will do the job. Like the little kid who threatens the bully with his powerful big brother.

This hope has been shattered again and again and again. US presidents came and went, each with his entourage of Jewish advisors, White House and State Department officials and ambassadors. And nothing happened.

Of course, there have been American peace initiatives galore. From Nixon’s “Rogers plan”, through Carter’s Camp David agreement about Palestinian self-government to Clinton’s Parameters and Bush’s Road Map there were plenty of them, each one more convincing than the last. And then came the Obama, the new man, energetic and resolute, and imposed on Binyamin Netanyahu a stop of the settlement enterprise for several months, and…well, nothing.

No peace initiative and no watermelons, as we say in Hebrew (borrowed from the Arabs). Watermelons have a short season.

SLOWLY BUT surely, even Goldmann began to despair of the mirage of US intervention.

In our conversations we tried to crack the code of this enigma. Why, for God’s sake, did the Americans not do what logic dictated? Why didn’t they put pressure on our government? Why didn’t they make an offer that our leaders couldn’t refuse? In short, why no effective peace initiative?

It could not be in the American national interest to follow a policy that made it a hate-object of the masses throughout the entire Arab and most of the Muslim world. Didn’t the Americans understand that they were undermining their clients in every Arab country – as these rulers never tired of telling them at every meeting?

The most obvious reason was the growing power of the pro-Israel lobby, from the early 50s on. AIPAC alone has now more than 200 employees in seven offices throughout the US. Almost everyone in Washington DC lives in deadly fear of it. The Lobby can dethrone any senator or congressman who arouses its anger. Look at what is happening right now to Chuck Hagel, who dared to say the unthinkable: “I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!”

The two professors, Mearsheimer and Walt, dared to say it: the pro-Israeli lobby controls American policy.

But this theory is not completely satisfying. What about the spying affair around Jonathan Pollard, who stays in prison for life in spite of immense Israeli pressure to release him?

Can a world power really be induced by a small foreign country and a powerful domestic lobby to act for decades against its basic national interest?

ANOTHER FACTOR often mentioned is the power of the arms industry.

When I was young, no one was more despised than the Merchants of Death. These days are long past. Countries – including Israel – pride themselves on selling arms to the most despicable regimes.

The US supplies us with huge quantities of the most sophisticated weapons.  True, a lot of these come to us as a gift – but that doesn’t change the picture. The arms producers are paid by the US government as a kind of New Deal public works project supported enthusiastically even (and especially) by the Republicans.  After the arms are supplied to Israel, some Arab countries see themselves compelled to order huge quantities for themselves, for which they pay through the nose. See: Saudi Arabia.

This theory, which was once very popular, does not really satisfy either. No single industry is powerful enough to compel a nation to act against its own general interests for half a century.

THEN THERE is the “Common History” thing. The US and Israel are so much alike, aren’t they? They have both displaced another people, and live on denial. Is there much difference between the Native-American naqba and the Palestinian one? Between the American and Zionist pioneers who struck roots in the wilderness and built a new nation? Do they not both base themselves on the same Old Testament and believe that God has given them their land (whether they believe in God or not)?

Do our settlers, who are creating a new Wild East in the occupied territories, not imitate the Wild West of American movies? A few days ago, Israel TV showed one Avri Ran, who declares himself “sovereign” of the West Bank, terrorizing both Palestinians and settlers, grabbing land irrespective of to whom it belongs, telling the army where to go and what to do, openly despising the Israeli and all other governments, and becoming a multi-millionaire in the process. Hollywood at its best.

But all this applies also to Australia (with whom we are quarreling at the moment), Canada, New Zealand and South American nations. Yet we don’t have this kind of relationship with them.

Noam Chomsky, the brilliant linguistician, has another answer: Israel is just a lackey of American imperialism, serving its interest in this region. A kind of unsinkable aircraft-carrier. I don’t quite see it that way. Israeli was not involved in the US action in Iraq, for example. If the American dog is wagging the Israeli tail, just as surely, the tail is wagging the dog.

NEITHER GOLDMANN nor I found a satisfactory answer to this riddle.

Eight months before his death, I received from him, quite unexpectedly, a surprising letter. Written in German (which we never spoke) on his stationery, it was a kind of apology: I had been right all along, no American peace initiative was to be expected, the rationale remained inexplicable.

The letter bears the date of January 30, 1982, five months before Ariel Sharon’s bloody invasion of Lebanon, which was approved in advance by Alexander Haig, the then Secretary of State, and presumably by President Reagan too.

The letter was a response to an article I had written some days before in the magazine I edited, Haolam Hazeh, in which I asked: “Do the Americans really want peace?”

Goldmann wrote: “I, too, have already sometimes asked myself this question. Though one should not underestimate the lack of statesmanlike wisdom of American foreign policy makers … I could write a whole book proving that America seriously wants peace, and another book showing that they do not want peace.”

He mentioned America’s fear of Soviet penetration of the Middle East, and their belief that peace is impossible without Russian participation. He also disclosed that a Russian diplomat had told him that there had been an American-Russian agreement to convene a peace conference in Geneva, but that Moshe Dayan had called upon the American Jews to sabotage it. The Russians were very angry.

Sprinkling names along the way, he summed up: “Without being quite sure, I would say at the moment that there is a combination of American diplomatic incompetence on one hand, a fear of Russian involvement in a peace on the other hand, added to the domestic fear of the pro-Israeli lobby, (which includes) not only the Jews but also (non-Jews) like Senator (Henry “Scoop”) Jackson and others. (All these) seem to be the reasons for the complete lack of understanding and results of the American Middle East policy, for which Israel will pay heavily in the future.”

EXCEPT FOR the decline of Russian influence, every word is valid today, 31 years later, on the eve of the Obama visit.

Again many Israelis and Palestinians hope for an American peace initiative, which will put pressure on both sides. Again the President denies any such intent. Again the results of the visit will probably be disappointment and despair.

Just now, there are no watermelons on the market. Nor a real US peace initiative.

read more of Uri Avnery’s wisdom: gush-shalom.org…

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Father Roy writes:   The fact is that the Golan Heights belongs to Syria.  What will President Obama say?  What will the International Community say?  What will the US Congress say?  The highlights in this article are mine.   Peace, Roy

Father Roy

Father Roy

source: news.antiwar.com…

Israel Okays Cheney-Murdoch Firm to Drill in Occupied Golan

Ends Multi-Decade Ban on Oil Drilling in Golan Heights

by Jason Ditz

In what is certain to be an enormously controversial decision, the Israeli government has issued a permit to the Genie Energy company to begin drilling for oil in the occupied Golan Heights, despite it still be internationally recognized as part of Syria.

Genie Energy International’s President is retired Israeli General Effi Eitam, a former Likud Housing Minister and MP who has repeatedly called for Israel to “cleanse” the occupied territories of all Arabs, and predicting in a New Yorker interview that eventually “we will have to kill them all.”

Before his successful political career Eitam was investigated for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, after men under his command testified he ordered them to “break the bones” of Palestinian civilians. He was reprimanded after one of the beaten men died.

Genie is well politically connected beyond Eitam, with a special Strategic Advisory Board that includes former Vice President Dick Cheney, News Corporation Head Rupert Murdoch, and several other high profile figures.

Israel “annexed” the Golan Heights in 1981, 14 years after the occupation began, but that is not recognized by any other nation. Israel had refused to grant any oil permits for 20 years, as negotiations were ongoing which were liable to return Golan to Syria as part of a peace deal.

Genie’s experts say they believe a large amount of oil is available under the heights, and that it is in “relatively tight formations.” Energy Minister Uzi Landau allowed the first bids for Golan permits last year, and this gives Genie an “exclusive” license for nearly 400 square kilometers of Syrian territory.

The decision to allow drilling seems certain to start an international incident since it will have major ramifications on any future peace settlement between Israel and Syria

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This is a significant breakthrough! According to this article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, both Fatah and Hamas are agreed upon the need for a non-violent intifada.

In point of fact, Palestinians have been using non-violent means to pursue their goals for the greater part of their struggle, despite popular perceptions to the contrary – protests, hunger strikes, boycotts, etc. Even so, this is the first time though that both Palestinian factions have publicly agreed on this as a matter of policy.

Father Dave

source: www.jpost.com…

Abbas and Mashaal agree on peaceful intifada

By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

PA president says he hopes US would play larger role in peace talks, adds Washington can’t ignore UN upgrade of PA status.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at PLO meeting in West Bank, January 29, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokma

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said over the weekend that he was in favor of a peaceful and popular resistance and that he and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal have reached agreement on the need for a peaceful intifada.

The two met in Cairo during a recent conference of Islamic countries.

Speaking during an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Abbas said that he fully supported demonstrations against the security barrier and settlements, as well as Palestinian attempts to establish outposts in the West Bank, but stressed his opposition to violent measures.

“Armed resistance is banned,” he stressed. “This is a law and it is forbidden. It is also forbidden in the Gaza Strip.”

Abbas said that even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported his call for peaceful protests.

The PA president said that the PA security forces in the West Bank have been arresting Palestinians who smuggle weapons from Israel.

“They smuggle weapons from Israel, including M-16 rifles and explosives,” he claimed. “These weapons could destroy my country. What am I going to do with all these Israeli weapons?” Turning to the prospect of negotiations with Israel, Abbas said that he did not expect a new government to change Jerusalem’s policy toward the peace process.

Abbas said he still did not know when US President Barack Obama would visit the region.

However, Obama’s visit to the region was a “significant indication that could revive the peace process, which has been completely frozen over the past four years,” he said.

The PA president said that the US would not be able to ignore the recent UN vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians’ status to non-member state.

“America can’t say now that it does not recognize the UN vote,” Abbas said.

The Palestinians, he added, do not expect any change in the Israeli government’s policy in wake of last month’s general elections.

Abbas said that the Arab Spring has distracted attention from the Palestinian issue. Nevertheless he said, there was still a chance to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Commenting on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to entrust MK Tzipi Livni, head of The Tzipi Livni Party, with the task of negotiating with the Palestinians, Abbas said: “The question is whether he [Netanyahu] personally believes in the peace process? I hope that things have changed now. I also hope that the US will play a larger role than before.”

Abbas claimed that Netanyahu, unlike his predecessor, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, had refused over the past four years to discuss final-status issues with the Palestinians.

Abbas said he dispatched a Palestinian delegation to Washington to exchange views with US administration officials ahead of Obama’s planned visit to the region. He said the delegation would hold talks in Washington about the settlements and about Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Abbas said the Palestinians wanted the Americans to know that these were their demands for the resumption of the peace talks with Israel

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I’ve extracted this list from the ‘This Week in Palestine’ report on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center website for the week ending February 22nd, 2013.

The list reminds us that each week and every week in Palestine concerned citizens hold non-violent protests and, each week and every week, these non-violent protests are met with intimidation and violence on the part of the IDF.

Father Dave

source: www.indybay.org…

The Nonviolence Report

Protests this week were organized at the villages of Bil’in Ni’lin and al Nabi Saleh in central West Bank, as well as Al Ma’ssara village and Hebron old city in southern West Bank in addition to Kufur Kadum, in the north. IMEMC’s Salam Qumsiyeh with the story:

Protests this week were organized in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel.

In southern West Bank Israeli troops attacked the protesters in Hebron old city and in al Ma’ssara protesters near Bethlehem with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Palestinians were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In al Ma’ssara village troops attacked the protest before it even left the village. In Hebron the prostest were organized in Al Shuhada’ Street in the old city part.

The Israeli army closed the street and cased Palestinians working there to shot their shops to provide what they call security for settlers living in illegal settlement near the street.

In central West Bank, Israeli soldiers also attacked the anti wall protesters organized on Friday at the villages of Bil’in Ni’lin and al Nabi Saleh. Israeli troops used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to suppress the three protests as well.

The villagers and their international and Israeli supporters managed to reach the wall in Bil’in and Ni’lin villages. But al Nabi Saleh protesters were attacked by Israeli soldiers at the village entrance.

Elsewhere, in the northern West Bank village of Kufer Kadum, Israeli soldiers attacked the anti wall and settlements protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. According to residents many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.