palestinian territories

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No surprises here. Despite an easing of restrictions on imports into Gaza, the goods Israel permits to enter the world’s largest open-air prison are still well below what is required for the sustenance of a full human life.

Moreover, the virtual ban on exports means unemployment rates – hovering at around 30% – continue to be the worst in the world. Add to this the impact of Israel’s bombing of the civilian infrastructure and it comes as no surprise that poverty levels in Palestine are amongst the worst in the world.

Father Dave

source: gulfnews.com…

Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.

“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.

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This is an insightful article by Huffinton Posts’ Robert Naiman. One can put a positive spin on Obama’s visit and speeches. While he didn’t promise to do anything to help the ‘peace process’ along, he didn’t seem to want to hinder it either – something that the Israeli government has relied on the US to do through successive administrations!

Indeed Obama would be doing the world a great service if he allowed some of Israel’s Arab and international neighbors to take a more intentional role in solving the Israel/Palestine debacle, and we all know that he has no personal desire to prop up Benjamin Netanyahu!

Father Dave

source: www.huffingtonpost.com…

Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech With Gaza’s Ark

There’s a half-empty way and a half-full way of looking at President Obama’s Jerusalem speech about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

The half-empty way of looking at it is: this was Obama’s white flag of surrender. To everyone around the world who for decades has been assuming that at the end of the day, the president of the United States would lead the way to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama was saying:

Don’t look at me. Just because the United States is the principal military, diplomatic, and economic protector of the Israeli government, doesn’t mean that I, as the president of the United States, will do anything about the military occupation of millions of Palestinian human beings. Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, and Congress — which defers to AIPAC — doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words — not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that — but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me.

The half-full way of looking at it is this: it was a great speech. If you “price in,” as the markets say, acceptance that the U.S. government isn’t going to lead on this, it was a great motivational speech. President Obama made a very compelling case that someone else should do something.

The interesting thing is that whether you see it as a great motivational speech or a white flag of surrender, the practical consequences for the public are largely the same: the initiative for justice is going to have to come from somewhere else. The best that we can probably expect from Obama is that if the initiative for justice comes from somewhere else, he won’t get in the way, or won’t get in the way very much. While that is much less than we are entitled to expect, it is much more than the Netanyahu government and its supporters want. They demand that President Obama do everything he can to get in the way of justice. So, if he doesn’t get in the way of justice, or only does so halfheartedly, he’ll be helping us more than they want.

Some people look to Europe. If Europe got serious about curtailing imports from Israel if the occupation doesn’t end, that’s something the Israeli business elite would take seriously, and they would put pressure on the Israeli government to compromise, rather than lose their export income. It’s striking to contrast how Europe is treating its trade with Israel to how it is treating its trade with Iran. In the case of Israel, Europe is toying with the idea of seriously curtailing imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the case of Iran, Europe has shut down virtually all trade, including trade in lifesaving medicines, in violation of international humanitarian law. Giving Israel a little more of the Iran treatment could go a long way. In addition, Europe could support membership for Palestine at the International Criminal Court, and then could support legal action against the settlements and land confiscation at the ICC. So, Europe certainly has a lot of room to get serious about ending the occupation.

Some people look to the Arab Spring. Since 1979, the Camp David Treaty as implemented has been a pillar of the occupation. As many Egyptians see it, it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Under the treaty, the Israeli military was supposed to withdraw from the West Bank. But of course, that never happened. What happened instead is that for 30 years the Mubarak regime traded compliance with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians for U.S. agreement to look the other way while the Egyptian government beat the Egyptian people. Now Egypt has a democratically-elected government. What if that government made ending the occupation a political and diplomatic priority?

read the rest of this article here

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Father Roy writes: This article is honest.  May Professor Elkana rest in peace.  May light perpetual shine upon his soul.   Peace, Roy

source: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/9737917/Professor-Yehuda-Elkana.html…

Yehuda Elkana

Yehuda Elkana

Professor Yehuda Elkana

Professor Yehuda Elkana, who has died aged 78, was a historian and philosopher of science and a controversial critic of the “Holocaust industry” and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Elkana was a survivor of Auschwitz, so when, in 1988, he published an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on “The Need to Forget”, few could question his credentials.

He recalled that he had been transported to Auschwitz as a boy of 10 and, after the camp was liberated, spent some time in a Russian “liberation camp”, where he encountered Germans, Austrians, Croats, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Russians, as well as fellow Jews. Later he concluded that “there was not much difference in the conduct of many of the people I encountered … It was clear to me that what happened in Germany could happen anywhere and to any people.”

Moving to Israel after the war, Elkana experienced profound unease with the way in which the Holocaust was being manipulated by governments of Right and Left to craft an atavistic Jewish national identity. He became convinced that the motives behind Israel’s uncompromising approach to the Palestinians was “a profound existential ‘angst’ fed by a particular interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust and the readiness to believe that the whole world is against us, and that we are the eternal victim”.

In a later interview he observed that parties on the Right of Israeli politics had used trips to Auschwitz to impart the lesson to young people that “this is what happens when Jews are not strong”, thereby justifying a repressive approach to the Palestinians. In this belief he saw the “paradoxical victory of Hitler”, whose appeal to the German people had also been based on the central idea of victimhood.

Two Jewish nations had emerged from Auschwitz, he observed: “a minority who assert: ‘this must never happen again’; and a frightened majority who assert, ‘this must never happen to us again.’” While all societies needed a collective mythology (and Elkana was critical of those in Germany who want to “close the chapter” of the Holocaust), “any philosophy of life nurtured solely or mostly by the Holocaust leads to disastrous consequences”.

In a later interview Elkana spelt out his fears for where this philosophy was leading Israel: “We are heading toward turning 100 million Arabs into a terrorist army against us: the whole Arab world! The United States wants to support rational, moderate Arabs. And rational, moderate Arabs will tolerate Israel’s occupation of Arab land less and less. So what is there to look forward to if we go on this way?’’

Yehuda Elkana was born to Hungarian-Jewish parents at Subotica, in what was then Yugoslavia, on June 16 1934. His father, an engineer, was a Zionist who travelled to Palestine in that year as a fencer and head of the Yugoslav delegation to the Maccabiah Games (an international Jewish athletic event held in defiance of the British Mandate authorities). “He wanted to remain in Palestine,” Elkana recalled. “Mother refused and the fool listened.”

In 1944 the family moved to Szeged in Hungary where, later that year, they were rounded up and transported to Auschwitz. They survived by sheer accident. As they were being lined up for the gas chambers, SS guards pulled them out of the line and sent them in a train with other Jews to clean up Allied bomb damage in Austrian cities. They made it to Israel in 1948.

The 14-year-old Yehuda joined a kibbutz and won a scholarship to the Herzliya High School in Tel Aviv, where he developed an interest in the philosophy and history of science. After studying Mathematics and Physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he took a PhD in the Philosophy of Science at Brandeis University in the United States and taught at Harvard for a year. His doctoral dissertation would form the basis for a book, The Discovery of the Conservation of Energy (1974).

He returned to Israel as chairman of the department of the history and philosophy of science at the Hebrew University.

From 1969 to 1993 Elkana was founder-director of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, which works to reduce tensions among the different groups in Israeli society and challenge taboos. He was proud of the fact that the Institute was a place where people could come and listen to Wagner and Strauss. At the same time he also ran, at Tel Aviv University, the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, which he co-founded in 1983. From 1995 he was Professor of Theory of Science at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich.

In 1999 Elkana was appointed president and rector of the Central European University in Budapest, which had been founded by the international financier George Soros in 1991 with the aim of educating a new cadre of regional leaders to help usher in democratic transitions across the old Soviet bloc. Under Elkana’s leadership the university was transformed from a regional experiment in post-communist education into a major graduate institution of the social sciences and humanities.

The author of many books, including Essays on the Cognitive and Political Organisation of Science (1994), Elkana was also a permanent fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin and co-founder and editor of the journal Science in Context. He spent a year as fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University and was a visiting fellow at All Souls, Oxford, in 1977-78.

After retiring in 2009 he went on to oversee an international programme aimed at reforming undergraduate curricula. He was the co-author, with Hannes Klopper, of The University in the 21st Century: Teaching at the Dawn of the Digital Age (2011).

In 1960 he married Yehudit Keren, who became a prominent Israeli peace campaigner. She survives him with their two daughters and two sons.

Professor Yehuda Elkana, born June 16 1934, died September 21 2012

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It is a common spectacle nowadays – someone highly respected speaks out and confronts the cultural and religious establishment and suddenly they have no friends but are being targeted by all their peers and roundly condemned from all sides (the name ‘Richard Goldstone’ comes to mind)!

What is encouraging is to see Richard Falk standing his ground and receiving some degree of recognition for his courage.

Father Dave

Ricahrd Falk

Richard Falk

source: In defence of UN Palestine rapporteur Richard Falk  

In defence of UN Palestine rapporteur Richard Falk

By Lawrence Davidson

Richard Falk is the present United Nations special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories. His job is to monitor the human rights situation in the territories, with particular reference to international law, and report back to both the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. He is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and well qualified for his UN post.

Telling unsettling truths

Professor Falk was appointed in 2008 to a six year term in his present position. That means he has been telling the unsettling truth about Israeli behaviour for four years now, with another two to go. Repeatedly, he has documented Israeli violations of international law and its relentless disregard for Palestinian human rights. For instance:

  • In 2008 he documented the “desperate plight of civilians in Gaza”;
  • In 2009 he described Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip as a “war crime of the greatest magnitude”;
  • In 2010 he documented Israel’s array of apartheid policies;
  • In 2011 he documented Israeli policies in Jerusalem and labelled them “ethnic cleansing”; and
  • In this latest report for the year 2012, he has concentrated on two subjects:

– Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners which, he concludes, is so bad as to warrant investigation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It should be noted that Israel does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ. However, condemnation by this organization would, within the context of growing awareness of Zionist crimes, help further educate public opinion.

– Falk documents the assistance given to Israel’s expansion of colonies on the Palestinian West Bank by a number of multinational corporations, including Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar Inc. This assistance may be profitable, but it is also manifestly illegal. The chief executives and board members of these companies stand in violation of international laws, including provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Since no nation, nor the UN itself, seems ready to prosecute them, Professor Falk has recommended a boycott of the guilty firms “in an effort to take infractions of international law seriously”.

Reactions

In a sane world this work would make Richard Falk a universally acclaimed defender of justice. But ours is not a sane world. And so you get the following sort of responses from both Israel and its supporters:

Karaen Peretz, the spokeswomen for the Israeli Mission at the United Nations, found Professor Falk’s latest report “grossly biased”. This is a sort of response used by someone who cannot dispute the evidence and so must resort to attacking the character of the one presenting the evidence. Peretz also asserted that “Israel is deeply committed to advancing human rights and firmly believes that this cause will be better served without Falk and his distasteful sideshow. While he spends pages attacking Israel, Falk fails to mention even once the horrific human rights violations and ongoing terrorist attacks by Hamas.”

Actually, this is not true. Back in 2008 Falk requested that his mandate from the UN Human Rights Council be extended to cover infringements of human rights by Palestinian governments just so he would not be seen as partisan. Subsequently, Mahmoud Abbas’s pseudo Palestinian Authority called for Falk’s resignation. In this job, you just can’t win.

In any case, Falk’s documenting of Israel’s crimes puts the lie to Peretz’s claim that Israel is “deeply committed to advancing human rights” and that documentation cannot be dismissed as a “sideshow”. Relative to 64 years of ethnic cleansing, it is the militarily insignificant missiles out of Gaza that are the “sideshow”. And, can we honestly assume that Ms Peretz’s attitude towards Professor Falk would turn for the better if in this report he had mentioned Hamas “even once”?

Then there is United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. She echoed Peretz by describing Falk as being “highly biased”. Well, what sort of attitude is one suppose to have toward overwhelming evidence persisting over many years? Isn’t one supposed to be “biased” in favour of such evidence? To ignore it doesn’t make you balanced or fair. It makes you either corrupt or in a deep state of denial.

Ms Rice goes on to say that “Mr Falk’s recommendations do nothing to further a peaceful settlement … and indeed poison the environment for peace”. These are pretty strong words, but if considered critically they make little sense.

First of all, Falk’s mandate requires him to reveal the facts about human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. It makes no reference to “furthering a peaceful settlement”. That is what the US government claims to be doing. And its record in this regard is pitiful.

Second, just why should conclusively documenting practices that may well be standing in the way of a settlement, be equated with “poisoning the environment for peace”? That doesn’t add up at all.

There are many other spokespeople who have reacted negatively to Falk’s latest report, ranging from the Canada’s foreign affairs minister to representatives of the companies caught on the wrong side of the law. And, remarkably, they all sing the same song: Falk is biased, ad nauseum. They can do no better because they cannot refute the professor”s evidence. Thus, all of these well positioned, well paid representatives of nations and multinational businesses are reduced to sounding like lawyers defending the mafia.

Conclusion

Professor Falk’s experience should serve as a warning to both those who would, on the one hand, make a career out of being a spokespersons for governments or companies, and on the other, those who would dedicate themselves to “speaking truth to power”. Taking on the role of the former is the equivalent of selling your soul to leadership whose sense of right and wrong goes no further than their own local interests. Taking on the role of the latter is to face seemingly endless frustration for, as Noam Chomsky once noted, power already knows the truth and doesn’t care one jot for it.

Yet, for those who would travel down this latter road, Richard Falk is as good a role model as can be found. Having dedicated himself to the role of truth teller he is to be commended for his devotion to justice and sheer durability. He is a hero who, hopefully, will have his praises sung long after Ms Peretz and Ms Rice are deservedly forgotten.