israel and palestine

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Australia is hardly a key player in the struggle for Palestinian freedom and dignity, and yet the battle to silence proponents of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign against the government of Israel (BDS) is as virulent here as anywhere in the world!

As Dr Lynch of Sydney University discovered, invoking the BDS opens a Pandora’s box of media fury, and images of the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism are invoked in order to demonize BDS proponents! It will be a happy day when the BDS campaign is assessed on its own merits but I don’t see that happening any time soon!

Father Dave

Dr Jake Lynch

Dr Jake Lynch

source: www.onlineopinion.com…

BDS campaign questions academics’ courage

By Stuart Rees

At the end of last year, The Australian newspaper spent days deriding Dr. Jake Lynch, Director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies whose governing Council supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the government of Israel. Consistent with his colleagues’ stance, Lynch refused to host an Israeli Professor, Don Avnon from Hebrew University, in his efforts to spend time at Sydney University examining civics teaching. Lynch’s principled refusal was positive about Avnon’s search but explained why he could not support the Israeli academic’s request.

This controversy raises two issues concerning professionals’ standards and responsibilities. The first concerns what passes for journalism. The second highlights the responsibilities of all academics in regard to human rights.

In attacking Dr. Lynch, journalists for The Australian demonised supporters of BDS and described the opponents of the campaign as full of sweetness and light. Such polarisation encouraged attacks from the blogosphere and from conservative politicians, such as Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, whom the newspaper knew they could rely on to endorse any view that defended Israeli policies.

Instead of the attack technique, the journalists could have analysed the BDS campaign and the extent of its support across Europe, North America and Africa. They could have explained that the rationale behind the boycott of academic institutions involves the complicity of a nation in the occupation of Palestine, in the continued siege of Gaza, the stealing by settlers of Palestinian lands and the decades of containment in camps of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Complicity also involves privileged institutions, such as universities. However meritorious certain individual academics might be, the non-cooperation policy makes for no exceptions and some Israeli academics fully understand and accept that principle. To do otherwise is to pretend that Israel remains a normal country despite policies towards Palestinians . The BDS challenges claims about such normality.

That allegedly progressive Israeli academics are penalised by this boycott is part of the controversy. But the literature suggests that most Israeli academics are concerned with their own careers and turn a blind eye to the cruel policies of their State.

A more important point is that scholars such as Professor Avnon, work in privileged organisations, are free to travel and can enhance their prestige by attending other universities around the globe. By contrast, Palestinian academics and students have few resources, experience only containment and few chances to study overseas. The Israel High Court has even forbidden Gaza students from studying in West Bank universities.

In addition to the ‘ we always know’, ‘ we like to vilify’ techniques of some journalists from The Australian, questions also need to be raised about the responsibilities of Australian academics. It is misleading to perceive the controversy concerning Sydney University’s Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies as only about the supposed Lynch/ Avnon affair.

Many academics are interested in human rights, teach such a subject and even obtain human rights oriented research funds. But unless they make the link between theory and practice, they are, in the prophetic words of the American social scientist Robert Lynd, ‘Lecturing on navigation while the ship is going down.’

In the face of continuous human rights abuses affecting Palestinians, the time comes for citizens to find other ways to address these issues. The BDS movement provides one of the hopeful ‘other ways’.

For the rest of this article: www.onlineopinion.com…

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It seems that the Cairo meeting has borne some fruit! According to the article reprinted below, plans for a new unity government are now well underway, with a firm timetable for the reunification process to be delivered before the end of the month!

This is not good news for Israel which has pursued a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy of the two Palestinian factions since Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006. Ironically though, as the article also shows, it has been the recent actions of Israel – both the recent attack on Gaza and the new settlement initiatives in the West Bank – that have been the driving force behind the reconciliation!

Father Dave

source: www.plenglish.com…

Unitary Agreement Comes into Force in Palestine

Ramallah, Jan 18 (Prensa Latina) The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Hamas organization will bring a timetable for reunification into force later this month, according to announcements today from the media involved in the talks that concluded yesterday between both parties. In the meeting, held in Cairo on Thursday, delegates from the two movements coordinated the mechanisms and dates to enforce Palestinian reconciliation, declared a spokesman by telephone from Cairo.

Coordination covers restarting the work of the Central Electoral Commission in the Gaza Strip by the 30th, at the very latest, said the report, while adding that in parallel, talks will be resumed on forming a nonpartisan transition government before the elections to the municipal councils.

Another initiative includes a session of the provincial leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, for a return to the group by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs Gaza.

The details from the report contradicted previous reports in the sense that delegations had been unable to reach agreements.

The renewed Palestinian conciliatory boost emerged late in November, during the three-week peak of Israeli naval, air and land attacks on Gaza Strip that killed more than 180 civilians, half of them women and children and wounded about 2,000, according to reliable calculations.

It also coincides with permission granted by the Israeli government to build over 6,000 homes for Jewish immigrants in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the seizure of tax revenues of the ANP by the Israeli government, in retaliation for raising Palestinian status at the U.N. to the level of non-member State.

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There is a new star on the horizon of the Israeli political landscape. His name is Naftali Bennett and he represents the new ultra-right that is dissatisfied with all attempts to placate the Palestinians and those internationals who oppose his vision of the future Israel.

The snippet below is from a long interview published in The New Yorker and it gives us a fairly comprehensive and chilling picture of the man.

I have to admire his honesty. He doesn’t play games when he says, “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state. No more negotiations, “no more illusions.”

Is this the future of Israeli politics. If so, Naftali Bennett is surely the harbinger of death!

Father Dave

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett – the harbinger of death? (photo – Wikimedia Commons)

source: www.newyorker.com…

The Party Faithful

The settlers move to annex the West Bank—and Israeli politics.

by David Remnick
January 21, 2013

At a makeshift theatre in the port of Tel Aviv, hundreds of young immigrants from Melbourne, the Five Towns, and other points in the Anglophone diaspora gathered recently to hear from the newest phenomenon in Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett. A forty-year-old settlement leader, software entrepreneur, and ex-Army commando, Bennett promises to build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs of the coastal plain. This is something new in the history of the Jewish state. Bennett is a man of the far right, but he is eager to advertise his cosmopolitan bona fides. Although he was the director general of the Yesha Council, the main political body of the settler movement, he does not actually live in a settlement. He lives in Ra’anana, a small city north of Tel Aviv that is full of programmers and executives. He is as quick to make reference to an episode of “Seinfeld” as he is to the Torah portion of the week. He constantly updates his Facebook page. A dozen years ago, he moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to seek his fortune in high tech, and his wife, Gilat, went to work as a pastry chef at chic restaurants like Aureole, Amuse, and Bouley Bakery. Her crème brûlée, he declares proudly, “restored the faith of the Times food critic in the virtues of crème brûlée.”

Closer to his ideological core is an unswerving conviction that the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem might as well relinquish their hopes for a sovereign state. The Green Line, which demarcates the occupied territories from Israel proper, “has no meaning,” he says, and only a friyer, a sucker, would think otherwise. As one of his slick campaign ads says, “There are certain things that most of us understand will never happen: ‘The Sopranos’ are not coming back for another season . . . and there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians.” If Bennett becomes Prime Minister someday—and his ambition is as plump and glaring as a harvest moon—he intends to annex most of the West Bank and let Arab cities like Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin be “self-governing” but “under Israeli security.”

“I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he says of the Palestinians. No more negotiations, “no more illusions.” Let them eat crème brûlée.

read the rest of the article here: www.newyorker.com…

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It seems that Netanyahu runs the risk of winning the battle but losing the war!

While the Israeli PM’s violent attack on Gaza and his announcement of new settlement activity in the West Bank may be ensuring him victory at the upcoming Israeli election, the rest of the world seems to be increasingly isolating Israel and putting their weight (and their money) behind the Palestinians!

Meanwhile, according to some commentators in the US, Barack Obama’s disdain for Netanyahu is becoming increasingly obvious!

I get the feeling that Netanyahu’s upcoming electoral triumph may prove to be something of a Pyrrhic victory.

Father Dave

source: www.globalpost.com…

Saudi Arabia to give $100 million to Palestinian Authority

Saudi Arabia will give the Palestinian government $100 million to help with a budget crisis.

Saudi Arabia will give the Palestinian government in the West Bank $100 million, Reuters reported. The donation comes as President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Arab countries for a $100 monthly “safety net.” He promptly thanked Saudi Arabia, a longtime benefactor.

Abbas has been asking for the money since December, when the Israeli government decided to seize more than $120 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the Guardian reported.

“The state’s budget is facing a large deficit as a result of the docking of Palestinian money by the Israeli government as a punitive step after the UN recognition of Palestine as an observer state,” Abbas  said in a statement.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters last week his government could not pay the salaries of most government employees, the Times of Israel reported. He warned that more than 1.5 million Palestinians could be pushed into poverty. Other Arab states had also pledged to give $100 million to Palestine recently but have failed to follow through.

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As this post from Octavia Nasr’s blog makes clear, this latest example of non-violent resistance at Bab al-Shams has already had a broad international impact!

If the US is indeed essential to Palestinian independence, nothing is likely to change perception of the average American more than televised incidents like Bab al-Shams that inevitably evoke memories of the US Civil Rights movement.

As Nasr rightly observes, Palestinians have an ‘image problem’ internationally. I expect though that non-violent resistance of this nature could change that image very rapidly!

Father Dave

source: blog.octavianasr.com…

Nonviolent road to Palestine

The Palestinian struggle for statehood has been for the most part a violent one. Whether one agrees or disagrees with its violent path and the goals it achieved, it is important to remember that Palestine today is at the verge of becoming once more a part of the international community after seven decades of being denied that right and privilege.

In the west, the mere mention of the words Palestine or Palestinian conjures up images of suicide bombs, hijacking, killing, corruption and violence. This is the result of decades of worldwide Zionist propaganda painting the Palestinians as hardened, dangerous terrorists that should be feared and isolated at any price. This carefully and systematically projected image is often aided and even bolstered by submissive media outlets, repetitive focused messages from fundamentalist Jewish and Israeli quarters, and perhaps more importantly, the violent actions of Palestinians on the ground playing to the above scenario and fueling its message at every chance.

Palestinians as a group, have an “image” problem almost everywhere in the world. The image changes with the landscape and the diversity of every country and every continent. It is however harshest coming from fellow Arabs who adopt the Palestinian cause for their own politics while offer Palestinians absolutely nothing of substance or pragmatism. While Palestinians are viewed favorably in Latin America for example as successful immigrants who contributed greatly to their societies and attained high places in business and government, they continue to be mistreated and abused in refugee camps across the Middle East. The word Palestinian for many Arabs is synonymous of refugee tents soiled by open sewage, rations, poverty, and an unwanted people, underserving of any rights or opportunities. Palestinians are seen in bulk; not as the individuals they are, but as a people in hiatus waiting to return back — as a bundle — to their homeland. Even where Palestinians were fully integrated such as in Jordan, the Palestinian-Jordanian polarization becomes apparent at the first sign of political instability in the kingdom.

As I’ve written many times before, being Palestinian today means so many things to so many people. It is as hard to gauge what Palestinians really want in the middle of an historic Arab awakening, as it is to decipher who actually represents them and who speaks for all of them.

As everyone who works tirelessly to change the image of Palestinians in the world will attest, it is not an easy task. It’s an uphill battle. You cannot undo years of masterminded propaganda in just a few days or a few years. It takes consistency and much goodwill to show the world Palestinians as humans who were robbed of their land under the watchful eye of the “civilized” world. It will take many Gates to The Sun to turn around this negative inhumane image of Palestinians that is deeply etched in the minds of many around the world.

To read the rest of this post, go to blog.octavianasr.com…

Nonviolent road to Palestine