israel and palestine articles

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I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.

Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!

Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.

Father Dave

Warrren Clark

Warrren Clark

source: www.cmep.org…

The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never

The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims  – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.

I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.

Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem.  While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.

Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed.  While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal.  However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.

Skepticism

There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached.   Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used  to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached.  The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.

To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.

For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.

The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.

read the rest of this article here.

 

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This is a courageous move by veteran journalist, Gideon Levy – a man who has always taken a stand for justice and peace but never previously gone as far as supporting the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against his own country!

Levy is as precise in his reasoning as he is articulate: “As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation … they have no incentive to bring it to an end.” 

That’s always an easier statement to make when you’re an outsider and don’t have to pay the price yourself, but Levy stands with those who will bear the consequences of BDS. Indeed he is a true patriot!

Father Dave

source: www.haaretz.com…

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

The Israeli patriot’s final refuge: boycott

With Israel entering into another round of diplomatic inaction, the call for an economic boycott has become a patriotic requirement.

Anyone who really fears for the future of the country needs to be in favor at this point of boycotting it economically.

A contradiction in terms? We have considered the alternatives. A boycott is the least of all evils, and it could produce historic benefits. It is the least violent of the options and the one least likely to result in bloodshed. It would be painful like the others, but the others would be worse.

On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, it is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change. Its effectiveness has already been proven. More and more Israelis have become concerned recently about the threat of the boycott. When Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warns about it spreading and calls as a result for the diplomatic deadlock to be broken, she provides proof of the need for a boycott. She and others are therefore joining the boycott, divestment and sanction movement. Welcome to the club.

The change won’t come from within. That has been clear for a long time. As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation, or at least don’t make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end. And why should the average resident of Tel Aviv be bothered by what is happening in the West Bank city of Jenin or Rafah in the Gaza Strip? Those places are far away and not particularly interesting. As long as the arrogance and self-victimization continue among the Chosen People, the most chosen in the world, always the only victim, the world’s explicit stance won’t change a thing.

It’s anti-Semitism, we say. The whole world’s against us and we are not the ones responsible for its attitude toward us. And besides that, despite everything, the English singer Cliff Richard came to perform here. Most Israeli public opinion is divorced from reality − the reality in the territories and abroad. And there are those who are seeing to it that this dangerous disconnect is maintained. Along with the dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians and the Arabs, people here are too brainwashed with nationalism to come to their senses.

Change will only come from the outside. No one − this writer included, of course − wants another cycle of bloodshed. A non-violent popular Palestinian uprising is one option, but it is doubtful that will happen anytime soon. And then there’s American diplomatic pressure and the European economic boycott. But the United States won’t apply pressure. If the Obama administration hasn’t done it, no American administration will. And then there’s Europe. Justice Minister Livni said that the discourse in Europe has become ideological. She knows what she’s talking about. She also said that a European boycott would not stop at products made in West Bank settlements.

There’s no reason it should. The distinction between products from the occupation and Israeli products is an artificial creation. It’s not the settlers who are the primary culprits but rather those who cultivate their existence. All of Israel is immersed in the settlement enterprise, so all of Israel must take responsibility for it and pay the price for it. There is no one unaffected by the occupation, including those who fancy looking the other way and steering clear of it. We are all settlers.

Economic boycott was proven effective in South Africa. When the apartheid regime’s business community approached the country’s leadership saying that the prevailing circumstances could not continue, the die was cast. The uprising, the stature of leaders like Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk, the boycott of South African sports and the country’s diplomatic isolation also contributed of course to the fall of the odious regime. But the tone was set by the business community.

And it can happen here too. Israel’s economy will not withstand a boycott. It is true that at the beginning it will enhance the sense of victimhood, isolationism and nationalism, but not in the long run. It could result in a major change in attitude. When the business community approaches the government, the government will listen and also perhaps act. When the damage is to every citizen’s pocketbook, more Israelis will ask themselves, maybe for the first time, what it’s all about and why it’s happening.

It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.

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This is very confusing! 

McDonald’s family restaurants have declined to open a branch in the West Bank settlement known as ‘Ariel’. This means that Maccaa’s is effectively joining the BDS campaign as a protest to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The confusing thing is that McDonald’s used to be on the BDS hit-list!

Apart from alleged incidents of racist behavior towards Arab workers, the issue seems to have been the corporate partnership between McDonald’s head office and the Jewish United Fund (JUF).

According to Viva Palestina (Malaysia), “the JUF works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and,when necessary, responds to counter negative media coverage of Israel” and apparently honoured McDonald’s Corporation during the JUF centennial celebration in 2000 as a first tier corporate partner to the cause of Zionism!

Swimming upstream in this corporate environment though is Omri Padan – owner of the McDonald’s franchise in Israel and one of the founders of ‘Peace Now’ – a group who openly oppose the Palestinian Occupation!

We now have the bizarre situation where Israelis are boycotting the boycotters, so that there is turmoil at both the grass roots and the corporate end of the burger! I’m not sure what to think, but I’ll give myself permission to ponder it further over a Big Mac and fries!

Father Dave

McDonald's joins the BDS?

McBoycott?

www.ynetnews.com…

West Bank Jews: Boycott McDonald’s

After fast food chain opts not to open restaurant in Ariel, settler leader urges Jews to support ‘chains with Zionist values.’ Peace Now lauds franchise owner’s decision

Article by Linda Gradstein

When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, everything, even a hamburger, is political. Israelis who live in areas the county acquired in 1967 are up in arms over McDonald’s decision not to open a branch in the mall that will be built in Ariel over the next year.

In Israel, the McDonald’s franchise is private and is owned by Omri Padan, one of the founders of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes Israeli building in post-1967 areas. There are 170 McDonald’s restaurants in Israel, about 40 of which are kosher. The company’s website claims it is the largest employer of youth in Israel, giving jobs to 3000 teenagers, along with 1000 adults.

Padan declined to give an interview to The Media Line but his office sent a one-line reply.

“This has always been the policy of Dr. Omri Padan,” referring to the decision not to open restaurants in Ariel, the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, or even east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed.

Some in Israel welcomed Padan’s decision.

“In every democratic country everyone has the right to decide where to live and where to open his business,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now told The Media Line. “Padan did not want to take part in ‘settlement’ activity. He thinks the ‘settlements’ are damaging to Israel and we agree.”

Some right-wing leaders disagreed.

Settler leader Yigal Dilmony said that while he doesn’t support boycotts, consumers should vote with their wallets.

“Every citizen who cares about the State of Israel should think before he buys a burger – who is he financing?” Dilmony told The Media Line. “Burger Ranch (a rival local Israeli chain) said they will open in the new mall. Israeli citizens should support those chains with Zionist values.”

Others went even further.

“I urge the public to boycott anyone who boycotts it,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel said. “Only then will they get the message and the boycotts will stop.”

Oppenheimer of Peace Now reacted sharply, saying Padan’s decision is not a boycott.

“Nobody is saying that ‘settlers’ are not allowed to buy McDonald’s,” he said, referring to Israelis who live in post-1967 areas. “You can’t fault him for not building in a place they don’t want to remain part of Israel.”

The dispute erupted as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region for yet another attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinians say that all of the areas that Israel acquired in 1967 must become part of the Palestinian state and all 330,000 Jewish residents there must leave. Israel says it wants to hold onto what it calls “settlement blocs,” including Ariel.

“I think the decision not to open a McDonald’s here is a mistake and hurts a large population,” Ariel mayor Eliezer Shaviro told The Media Line. “Any kind of boycott is a mistake and causes more division.”

Shaviro says residents are trying hard to achieve coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors.

“In our industrial zone we have factories where Israelis and Palestinians work together and Palestinians make five times what they would in Nablus or Ramallah,” he said, referring to two nearby Palestinian towns. “If there is a boycott on Ariel, these factories might have to fire workers, and the Palestinians will join the cycle of violence instead of the ‘cycle of income.'”

It is not the first time that Ariel, which boasts a university of 13,000 students, both Arabs and Jews has been in the news. In 2011, 165 academics said they would not participate in academic functions at Ariel University because it sits on post-1967 land.

A year earlier, dozens of actors said they would not participate in cultural events there.

Israelis are especially sensitive to boycotts as the country has recently been the target. Recently, physicist Steven Hawking pulled out of a conference to protest Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has stepped up activity and dozens of artists, including musician Elvis Costello and actors Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan, have cancelled appearances.

Others have rejected the boycott calls. Barbra Streisand played to tens of thousands of enraptured fans earlier this month, and Alicia Keys appears next month.

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This scrapes the bottom of the barrel!

You’d have thought that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) would have had their hands full already – maintaining the Occupation, making night-time raids, detaining people without trail, demolishing houses, etc., etc. But this just goes way to far! How can anybody attack a puppet show?!

In truth, it’s only a tiny incident when seen in the context of the greater Occupation, Even so, let’s not let this one pass without comment! It simply isn’t right to target a harmless children’s show!

Father Dave

source: www.globalpost.com…

Israel orders Palestinian puppet show closed

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater.

JERUSALEM — Children’s paintings of flowers and butterflies are up on this East Jerusalem theater’s walls, and the venue is colorfully garlanded.

Everything is in place for the opening of its annual puppet festival today — except the El-Hakawati theater has been ordered closed by Israeli authorities.

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater. Police spokesman Luba Samri told AFP the puppet festival’s activities “were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”

The venue’s director Mohammed Halayiqa has filed an appeal that will be heard at Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing that an event cannot be cancelled because the PA funds it.

He says Norway, a longtime supporter of Palestinian cultural events, actually provided the resources for the puppet festival, through the offices of a local cultural fund.

“I am completely shocked,” Halayiqa told GlobalPost, after the ministry summoned him to receive the closure notice.

El-Hakawati is a central cultural venue in East Jerusalem, where the majority of the city’s Palestinian population lives.

Two months ago, it hosted the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, funded by French, Swiss, British, and Palestinian donors.

Israeli and Palestinian activists say they are planning a protest Thursday.

“It just breaks your heart,” Tzaphira Stern-Assal, an Israeli activist with the left wing Meretz party, said in front of the theater today. She is helping organizing the protests tomorrow.

Apparently the authorities decided “too many people gathering here would pose a risk to the state,” she sarcastically quipped.

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Mohammed Assaf is more than an entertainer! He is the hope for the future!

Palestinian youth, it seems, are taking their future into their own hands. They have been betrayed by their elders – smeared in corruption and bogged down in factional in-fighting. Young Palestinians are finding their own voice, and no voice is more outstanding than that of Mohammed Assaf.

As noted in the Daily Star article, the political heavyweights have each tried to cliaim Assaf for themselves. Mahmoud Abbas has named him “National Goodwill Ambassador”, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their “UNRWA Youth Ambassador”. 

But Mohammed Assaf seems quite capable of speaking for himself, and he is certainly a breath of fresh air in the stale and dying ‘peace process’ of Israel/Palestine.

Father Dave

source: www.dailystar.com…

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of jubilant Palestinians celebrated into the early hours of Sunday after a 23-year-old Gazan singer won the Arab Idol talent show, which has captivated millions across the Middle East since March. The meteoric rise of Gaza’s Mohammad Assaf to snatch the top prize in the pan-Arab singing contest sparked an unprecedented outpouring of joy across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, unifying an often divided public.

Assaf’s victory in the finals, held in Beirut and shown live on TV across the Arab world, marked the first such success for a Palestinian entertainer.

“Mohammad Assaf is the Arab Idol!” declared the presenter of the show, which is modeled on the British hit show Pop Idol. Confetti rained down on the cheering audience.

The handsome, tuxedo-clad vocalist immediately dedicated his win to “the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from [the Israeli] occupation.”

He wins a professional recording contract and a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crowned him a national goodwill ambassador, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their UNRWA Youth Ambassador.

read the rest of this article here.