israel and palestine articles

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Jonathon Cook always rights with insight, and I agree entirely that these peace talks are an exercise in futility. Even so, I’m not entirely convinced that he’s accounted for the enthusiasm of the  Palestinians in the process.

If, as Cook suggests, both sides know full well that the whole exercise is ultimately futile (at least in terms of any peace process) why are the Palestinians involved? I can appreciate that it’s a politically opportune move for Netanyahu but does Abbas really think he is going to enhance his reputation by participating in another round of fruitless talks? There are still some missing pieces in this puzzle!

Father Dave

Jonathon Cook

Jonathon Cook

www.kashmirtimes.com…

The flawed logic of Israel-Palestine talks

By Jonathan Cook

It may not have reached the level of fevered expectation unleashed by that famous handshake between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the White House lawn in 1993, but the sense of hope inspired by the long-awaited revival of peace talks is both tangible and deeply misplaced.The talks, which it was agreed this week will begin in earnest in the region in mid-August, are taking place not because either Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Palestnian president, Mahmoud Abbas, believe a deal is in reach. The two sides are talking each to avoid being blamed for embarrassing John Kerry, the US secretary of state.

The mistaken mood of “change is in the air” was illustrated last week by a much-touted poll showing that 55 per cent of Israelis would vote for an agreement if presented with it, with 25 per cent opposed. Overlooked was the fact that many more Israelis – 70 per cent – believe an agreement cannot be reached, while 60 per cent say the reason is that Netanyahu will never partition the land.

Palestinians are no more sanguine. A recent poll revealed a measly 8 per cent had any degree of trust in the US as mediator.

But if ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are either despondent or uninterested, their leaders and many observers are talking up the chances of a breakthrough.

In part, this optimism is underpinned by the European Union’s unexpected and largely symbolic decision recently to penalise the settlements. From next year, the EU is supposed to deny funding to Israeli institutions in the occupied territories.

This is a bitter pill for Israel to swallow, and it is already seeking to punish Europe. Last weekend it emerged that the Israeli military was denying EU staff access to Gaza, and blocking European projects in Area C, the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank exclusively controlled by Israel.

But while Europe’s move has infuriated Israel, it looks suspiciously like it paved Netanyahu’s way to the negotiating table.

Israel and its supporters have long cultivated the idea that strong-arm tactics, such as boycotts and sanctions, only serve to push the Israeli public and politicians further to the right. This has been the US and Europe’s rationale for treating Israel with kid gloves since the Oslo process began two decades ago.

And yet the EU’s anti-settlement initiative suggests the opposite to be true. Both Netanyahu and Abbas hurried into the talks in the wake of the EU announcement – and for much the same reason.

For Netanyahu, Europe’s move was a stick he wielded to frighten into compliance those to his right in the government. He could argue persuasively that continuing Israeli intransigence on talks would only intensify the country’s isolation – the substance of his opaque references to “Israel’s strategic interests”.

Israel has much more to fear from the Palestinians outside the confines of a bogus peace process. There is the threat of the Palestinians building the momentum for further sanctions from bodies like the EU, or of their again taking their case for statehood to the United Nations, or of their referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for war crimes.

For Abbas, the same EU decision was a carrot used to disarm critics who have been warning that the revival of futile negotiations will damage the Palestinian national cause. Claiming the Europeans had forced Israel on to the backfoot, Abbas could argue that the moment had finally arrived to negotiate.

Uncharacteristically, the US has not appeared overly troubled by Israel’s patent displeasure at the sudden stiffening of EU resolve. Or as a senior US official told the Israeli media: “The Europeans are giving us the time and allowing us to try and get the talks going.”

But while the US, Europe, Netanyahu and even Abbas will gain some breathing space from months of empty talk about peace, there is no sign that the pressure bringing Israel to the table will continue once it is seated.

The most worrying indication that the US is heading down the same failed path is the announcement of Martin Indyk’s return as mediator. Indyk, a long-time Israel lobbyist, has been intimately tied to previous diplomatic failures.

In addition, the negotiators themselves are the same compromised figures who have been down this route before. The Palestine Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011, revealed that in earlier talks Palestinian negotiatior Saeb Erekat had dared to give away far more than observers had ever imagined possible, while even these generous concessions had failed to satisfy Israel’s Tzipi Livni.

There is also something puzzling about a peace process driven by a nine-month timetable rather than the logic of the negotiations. A possible motivation for the White House’s desire to drag out the talks was suggested by an official on Wednesday: the US desperately wants to avoid the “train wreck” of the Palestinians returning to the UN.

Another barometer for judging the chances of a breakthrough are the relaxed smiles of Netanyahu’s far-right ministers, who are clearly undisturbed by thoughts that the settlements are in imminent jeopardy.

In fact, quite the reverse. Israel has announced it will build 1,000 settler homes over the coming months, in addition to continuing private construction. A train line linking the settlements to Israeli towns, making them even more accessible and attractive, has also been unveiled.

Regarding the peace process, Kerry has previously warned that there is “a year, a year-and-a-half, or two years and it’s over”. But what would “over” actually entail?

For one thing, someone will have to be blamed and all past evidence suggests that the someone in question will be the Palestinians. For another, Netanyahu will be able to argue that, just as Kerry feared, the peace process is dead. No Palestinian leadership, he will claim, will ever be capable of making peace.

That may prove a tempting moment for Israel to carry out the much-longed-for annexation of Area C, the bulk of the West Bank and the site of the settlements. With as few as 100,000 Palestinians left in Area C after decades of ethnic cleansing, Israel can offer them citizenship without threatening the state’s hallowed Jewishness.

Not only would such a move satisfy Netanyahu’s hunger for more Palestinian land, but it would solve another problem, this time for Europe and the US. They would no longer have to fret about boycotting the settlements; annexation would mean there were no more settlements to oppose.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net…

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Secretary Kerry’s determination to get the Palestinian-Israeli issues finally resolved seems to be making Netanyahu increasingly nervous.  President Obama has sent General Martin Dempsey’s to Israel because there are concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. General Dempsey is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post once held by Colin Powell.  What will Dempsey and Bibi be talking about today? 

US Senator John McCain has called General Dempsey’s warning against attack on Syria ‘disingenuous’.  (AIPAC, CUFI, Lindsey Graham and the NEOCONs stand in agreement with Senator McCain.)  The general public’s attention is solidly fixated on the sexual shenanigans of three American Jews (Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bob Filner) whose stories are much more titillating than Dempsey’s.  Nevertheless, please read the following news report carefully.  The highlights are mine. 

President Obama needs the support of America’s peacemakers now more than ever before.  Contact the White House.   

Peace, Roy  

Father Roy

Father Roy

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Top US general visiting Israel amid Iran, Syria worries

Martin Dempsey to meet Israeli leaders from Sunday evening; Netanyahu warns that new Iranian president won’t change policy

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be the guest of Israel’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Dempsey’s visit, first reported on by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth, comes amid concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. On Sunday, Iran was inaugurating new president Hasan Rouhani, touted by some as a relative moderate who may attempt to open a window to the West. Netanyahu, however, told his cabinet Sunday morning that the new leader would continue the policies of his hardline predecessor.

With at least some Hezbollah forces tied down in the fighting in Syria, and the organization experiencing political blowback in Lebanon for its support of the Assad regime, the US may be concerned that Israeli leaders believe the cost of an Iran strike — especially in terms of rocket strikes on Israeli cities from across the border — has dropped significantly, according to the report.

In July, Netanyahu told NBC’s “Face the Nation” that Iran was getting “closer and closer to the bomb,” and that “they’re edging up to the red line.”

Netanyahu said, “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate — that is, within a few weeks.”

“I won’t wait until it’s too late,” Netanyahu vowed at the time.

A report by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security last week said that Iran could break out to a nuclear bomb by mid-2014 if it went ahead with a plan to install thousands of new centrifuges. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful.

Last August, Dempsey demonstrated the gap between the Israeli and American sense of urgency over the Iranian nuclear program when he told a press conference in London that an Israeli strike would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”

He said that intelligence was inconclusive when it came to Iran’s intentions. An American-led international sanctions regime “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely,” he added.

Just hours ahead of Dempsey’s visit, Netanyahu upped his rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear program, citing Rouhani’s anti-Israel oratory as proof of his hawkish views.

“Two days ago, the president of Iran said that ‘Israel is a wound in the Muslim body.’ The president of Iran might have changed, but the regime’s intentions did not,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “Iran intends to develop nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons in order to annihilate the State of Israel, and that’s a danger not only for us or the Middle East, but for the whole world. We are all responsible for preventing it.”

Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be reiterating his previously withdrawn criticism of an inaccurate translation of a Friday speech by Rouhani.

According to Iran’s semi-official ISNA and Mehr news agencies and Western wire services, Rouhani had said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”

Netanyahu’s original response said that Rouhani had “revealed his true face sooner than expected.” It added, “This statement should awaken the world from the illusion some have taken to entertaining since the elections in Iran. The president was replaced but the goal of the regime remained obtaining nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the safety of the world. A country which threatens to destroy Israel must not have weapons of mass destruction.”

But other sources quoted Rouhani differently, and ISNA retracted its original report. “In any case, in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny,” Rouhani said, according to a New York Times translation.

Late Friday, Netanyahu’s office removed tweets criticizing Rouhani’s statement, and told the BBC that the prime minister had been responding to “a Reuters report with an erroneous translation.”

Netanyahu has consistently warned that the new Iranian president was merely putting on a “more hospitable face,” and that he has no power or intention to change the Iranian regime’s nuclear policy. Last month, he called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Last Sunday, Netanyahu charged that Iran was going ahead with its nuclear program: “A month has passed since the elections in Iran, and Iran is going full steam ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, given Iran’s progress, it’s crucial to strengthen economic sanctions against Iran and to provide a credible military option.”

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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.