There’s a lot of excitement in the air right now about the apparent resuscitation of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, with new talks scheduled to begin at any moment!
Former US President, Jimmy Carter, and ‘The Elders’ praised John Kerry for his “tireless commitment to bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after five years of stalemate” while Christian Zionists blasted the US President for actions that they see as compromising the safety of the state of Israel!
It seems to me that Amira Hass is one of the few who really grasps the situation, even if hers is a truth that nobody wants to hear. The ‘peace talks’ haven’t got a chance! If they serve any purpose at all it will only be to enhance Netanyahu’s political career by portraying him as a willing negotiator.
After the peace talks fail
A Palestinian generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren’t ready for a fair agreement.
By Amira Hass
Don’t worry, in this round of talks with the Palestinians, Israel will again miss the opportunity to change and be changed – just as the Rabin-Peres government and the Barak government missed their opportunities. Discussions over a referendum ignore the essence: Any future worth living for the Jewish community in this part of the Middle East depends on the ability and will of that community to free itself from the ethnocracy (“democracy for Jews only”) that it has built here for nearly seven decades. For this we desperately need the Palestinians.
But military and economic superiority is blinding us. We are sure that they need us and that we have pushed them into such a weak position that we can extricate a yes from them regarding what they have been saying no to for 20 years; that is, much less than the 1967 borders.
The negotiations expected now, with the very non-neutral American participation (if we even get to that after the pre-negotiation phase), will not produce independence for the Palestinians. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition problems can’t be blamed for that. It’s the Israelis who are not yet ready to demand that their leaders work toward a peace agreement, because they’re still enjoying the occupation too much.
It’s not for nothing that we have been blessed with 6,800 weapons exporters, the title of the sixth largest weapons exporter in the world, and first or second place among countries selling unmanned aircraft, which were upgraded by trying them out on the Lebanese and mainly the Gazans. Even if few of our people are involved in the manufacture and export of weapons and in the defense industry in general, that’s a minority with an extensive influence and a great deal of economic power that shapes politics and produces messianic and technocratic rationalizations.
The European Union’s directives on noncooperation with the settlements and companies linked to them have come at least 15 years late. As early as the 1990s it was clear to Europe that the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza contradicted its interpretation of the Oslo Accords, but that didn’t prevent it from spoiling Israel with favorable trade agreements. Neither these agreements nor massive support for the Palestinian Authority (that is, compensation for damage done by Israeli rule and its restrictions on movement), gave Europe real political clout in Israel’s eyes and in the corridors of the negotiations. And then a determined first step by Europe rehabilitated its political standing.
The Palestinians have made clear that if the Europeans back down on these directives, as Israel has demanded and the United States wants, they will stop the talks (when they start). But the directives’ main psychological impact will dissipate without quick implementation. When and if implemented, the results will not be felt immediately in Israel, and even then, they will be felt only gradually. That is, it will take time before more and more Israelis realize that the occupation isn’t worth it. That will be enough time for us to continue feeling that we’re stronger than the Palestinians.
But depending on the Palestinians’ weakness is an optical illusion of the arrogant. True, the PLO’s leadership is fossilized and controlled by one individual who rarely consults and rarely takes his people’s opinions into consideration. But even he can’t accept what the Netanyahu-Bennett-Lapid government plans to offer. True, Palestinian society is more fractured geographically and politically than it was 20 years ago, but it has great stamina, which the Israelis lack.
The PA and the Hamas government are groaning under the financial burdens of economies under siege. The social and economic rifts have deepened and an atmosphere of depoliticization has taken over. But beneath the surface there are new developments. Initiatives are afoot to turn the Palestinian people – in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the diaspora – into one deciding body. Ideas are being seriously discussed for methods of struggle outside negotiations. A generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren’t ready for a fair agreement. And when we, the Israelis, wake up and beg for an agreement, it might be too late.
This sort of ‘final solution’ language should have no place in public discourse – let alone in Israel!
The only thing harder to stomach than Lieberman’s racist invective is the deafening silence of the international community.
How can anyone take any ‘peace process’ seriously when characters like Lierberman are at the helm?
Lieberman: Israel needs to conquer and thoroughly cleanse Gaza Strip
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest political ally has called for Israel to carry out a “thorough cleansing” of the Gaza Strip as a tenuous ceasefire between its Hamas rulers and the Jewish state frayed.
Speaking on Israel Radio, the far-right former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called for Israel to reconquer the crowded coastal enclave to avoid “finding ourselves in two years with Hamas having aircraft and hundreds of missiles that will reach beyond Tel Aviv”.
His comments came as the Israeli Air Force attacked targets in the Gaza Strip after six rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel into the early hours of Monday morning. No one was injured. It was the first ceasefire breach since April.
Mr Lieberman suggested that neither the eight-day aerial campaign Israel launched in November with the stated goal of halting rockets from Gaza, nor the devastating Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 in which more than 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died, had proven effective at quelling the violence.
“Without willingness to take things to their conclusion we merely increase the threats,” he said, adding that Hamas “has no intention of coming to terms with the Jewish presence in the land of Israel and therefore what is needed is to seriously consider conquering the Strip and carry out a thorough cleansing.” Mr Lieberman was number two on Mr Netanyahu’s electoral list during elections last January, and currently holds the post of chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee. Mr Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on Mr Lieberman’s statements. Yair Lapid, the centrist Finance minister, said the remarks were “irresponsible”.
After the rocket fire, Israeli warplanes pounded what the military said were arms storage facilities and a rocket launch site in the Strip. There were no injuries from either the rockets or the air strikes. Israel ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings between Gaza and Israel, a step condemned as a “collective punishment” by Jaber Wishah, a spokesman for the Gaza City-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Israeli army officials believe the rockets were fired by the Islamic Jihad group, a small militant faction currently at loggerheads with Hamas. But Israel said Hamas, which has controlled the Strip since seizing power there in 2007, bears overall responsibility.
Meanwhile, police said vandals slashed the tyres of 21 cars in the Arab Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem in the latest of a wave of anti-Arab crimes by suspected Jewish extremists who have struck three times in and around Jerusalem in the past 10 days. Palestinian residents said the government was not doing enough to stop the vandalism. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police are treating the matter as a “high priority”.
This is a potentially exciting development in the struggle for Palestinian liberation. It seems that the young and tech-savvy in Palestine have decided that they’ve had enough of corrupt officials who really don’t seem to care about their people’s interests.
Inspired by their Egyptian counterparts, the youth of Palestine are rising up, using the weapon they are most familiar with: Facebook!
Gaza rises: Palestine to stage its own Egyptian-style rebellion
After Egypt, a Palestinian version of the “Tamarrud,” or Rebellion, campaign, will launch this week to protest the Palestinian Authority, the division between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli occupation.
The organizers of the “Ya Filastini Tamarrud!” or “Palestinians Rebel!” campaign come from occupied Palestine and beyond. What motivates them is “the disregard shown by the governments in the West Bank and Gaza for the dignity of the Palestinian people.”
The rebels will first launch their campaign on Facebook then seek to collect signatures from Palestinians around the world at a later time.
Safaa Srour, member of the Tamarrud campaign, told Al-Akhbar, “Both governments in the West Bank and Gaza are engaged in policies that are detrimental to the Palestinian people. This pushed us to take the initiative and launch our campaign to rise up against all political hindrances that obstruct the battle with the occupation.”
The borders that separate Palestinians and the diaspora mean that the campaigners cannot assemble in one specific place. In the end, they found no other solution but social networking services to promote the campaign.
Farouk Arar, another member of the campaign, said, “We do not want our initiative to be limited to occupied Palestine. Rebellion must be taken up by every Palestinian. The campaign should not be a temporary phenomenon that sometimes waxes and sometimes wanes.”
Tamarrud, according to Arar, aspires to end division and revive Palestinians’ awareness of their historical rights and duties to expel the occupation and put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s claims to legitimacy. Arar also said that the campaign seeks to organize action on the ground with broad participation, but away from the traditional political factions.
Arar believes that the online campaign will focus on those with Internet access first, and at a later stage, the campaign will initiate a petition that will cover all Palestinian communities, including in the diaspora.
The Israeli government is loathe for this sort of news to get out, as it threatens one of the key demographics amongst the state’s supporters – ie. American Evangelicals!
In my conversations with Christians in the US I find that most are not even aware of the existence of Palestinian Christians! All Palestinians are assumed to be Muslims (and are accordingly suspected of terrorism).
Palestinian Christian presence in Palestine endangered as a result of the occupation
There is an on-going conspiracy against the Christian presence in the Palestinian territories, said Hanna Issa Hadithah, an activist who supports the Christian presence in Palestine.
“The [Israeli] authorities bear primary responsibility for emptying the land of the Christ of Christians,” Hanna Issa said in an interview held in Ramallah.
Issa, who also heads the Muslim-Christian committee for supporting Al Quds and sanctity, added that there are currently 4300 Christians in Jerusalem only. However, the number of Christians in Jerusalem has almost halved in the past decade.
“The number of the Christians that remained in the Gaza Strip is now 1230 and 40,000 in the Occupied West Bank,” he added.
According to official statistics, Christians constitute less than 1 per cent of the Palestinian population in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza).
Issa said that in the year 630, Christians made up 90 per cent of the population, “and now they constitute less than 1 per cent of the Palestinians residing in Palestine due to forced displacement by the Occupation, the economic situation and inducements by some missionary Zionist Christians.
The head of the committee also highlighted that Israel controls the areas where sacred Christian sites are located as well as the routes to these sites; therefore, Christians prefer to emigrate from the area.
Noting that the immigration of Christian Palestinians begun to take on a political nature since the middle of last century, “Israel’s objectives behind the rise of Christian immigration from Palestine is to empty its lands from Christians.” “It aimed at emptying Palestine from its civilizational components and diversity in line with the Israeli policy toward damaging the Palestinian people’s culture and scattering Palestinians around the world.
Issa noted that all Palestinians – Muslim and Christian – have a common culture and live in the same circumstances. “But the immigration of Christians from Palestine requires a serious and responsible pause by relevant political actors.
He noted that the Palestinian Authority has no strategy to confront this decline, and that there is no purely Christian Church in Palestine to follow up on the catastrophe. Churches in Palestine are affiliated with other Christian denominations in other countries, and there is no Christian Church for Palestinian Christians; one which would confront the danger.
He concluded that the Palestinian Authority’s institutions and civil society organisations in Palestine must prevent this emigration and reinforce the presence of this group, “as there is a dire need to find a comprehensive vision for the nation’s issues, and serious work need to be undertaken by Muslims and Christians together in order to confront the various challenges that the Palestine Issue faces.”
The real horror of this sort of abuse is that it is just so everyday. If 14 year-old Mohammad hadn’t been an American we probably would never have heard about this incident.
Shining a light on Israel’s military detention abuses
By George Bisharat, professor, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco
At 2 am on April 5, eight heavily armed Israeli soldiers burst into the home of Mohammad Khaleq, a 14-year-old New Orleans honors student on a family visit to Silwad in the West Bank. Jolting Mohammad and his family awake, the soldiers arrested the youth, tied his hands, and threw him roughly onto the floor of a jeep. Later, Mohammad reports, the soldiers beat him and pushed him down, damaging his orthodontic braces on a rock.
He was shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed and held for 12 hours in Ofra, an Israeli settlement, before being transported to a police station. Two hours of incommunicado interrogation later, the boy admitted to charges of throwing rocks at Israeli cars. He says he confessed after Israeli interrogators promised him that was the only way to see his father.
Mohammad was eventually released after serving 14 days and paying a fine of about $800. His case fits a pattern chillingly familiar to many Palestinian youngsters, and one that is increasingly condemned.
A June 2012 report authored by nine distinguished British lawyers found Israel to be violating legal obligations to Palestinian children under both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In August 2012, an organization of Israeli soldiers called “Breaking the Silence” published testimonies by more than 30 troops describing a reign of terror against Palestinian youths, with beatings, intimidation, humiliation, verbal abuse, night-time arrests and injuries at the hands of Israeli forces. One soldier, while justifying arrests of children, marveled at a “kid who actually lay there on the ground, begging for his life, was actually nine years old… A loaded gun is pointed at him and he has to plead for mercy? This is something that scars him for life.”
Meanwhile, according to a UNICEF study published in February 2013,
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” Approximately 7,000 Palestinian juveniles, including some as young as 12, have been detained by Israeli forces in the last 10 years, and 236 are in Israeli prisons today. Many are convicted of throwing stones – an offense punishable under Israeli military law by up to 20 years imprisonment.
The military court system established by Israel soon after seizing the West Bank in 1967 was found in recent years to have a conviction rate of 99.74 percent. A special military juvenile court established in 2009 has failed to quell concerns over mistreatment of Palestinian youths. Few juveniles receive timely representation, and most admit guilt under coercive interrogation, often involving beatings or threats of sexual assault against them or other family members. Physical abuse of detainees of any age – torture – is absolutely barred under international law.
Ironically, the Jewish settlers commonly targeted by Palestinian stone-throwing youths inhabit settlements that, outside of Israel itself, are almost universally regarded as illegal. Jewish settler violence – including, per a 2013 U.N. report, 383 attacks causing injury to 169 Palestinians and damage to more than 8,000 olive trees – is rarely investigated. When charges are filed against Israelis, they are tried with the full protections of domestic Israeli law.
Sentences have often been lenient. None of this justifies Palestinian stone-throwing, which can be lethal. But a justice system that overlooks violence by Jews while crushing Palestinian defendants, including vulnerable and impressionable youths, will never command legitimacy. Instead it ensures a future generation of Palestinians who will know Israelis primarily through their cruelty.
Mohammad was atypical as a U.S. citizen caught up in Israel’s military detention grinder. Yet his case should be a wake-up call for U.S. citizens. As Israel’s principal military and diplomatic protector in the world today, we neglect our ally’s misdeeds at the peril of being tarnished by association. Abusing children is a hard one to live down.
Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on the Middle East.