I’ve reprinted below the entirety of Avraham Burg’s article, “Israel’s Fading Democracy’ that appeared recently in the New York Times. It is an important article, not because it says anything new and radical, but because of who Avraham Burg is, and because he’s published this damning critique in such a prestigious journal!
For those of us who are young enough to have only known Israel as an oppressor and never as the oppressed, it is an important article too, for it reminds us that the State of Israel was never supposed to have turned out like this. There was a time when, for many people, Israel was the stuff that dreams were made of! Unfortunately the dream is long gone, and the best we can hope for now is an end to the nightmare!
WHEN an American presidential candidate visits Israel and his key message is to encourage us to pursue a misguided war with Iran, declaring it “a solemn duty and a moral imperative” for America to stand with our warmongering prime minister, we know that something profound and basic has changed in the relationship between Israel and the United States.
My generation, born in the ’50s, grew up with the deep, almost religious belief that the two countries shared basic values and principles. Back then, Americans and Israelis talked about democracy, human rights, respect for other nations and human solidarity. It was an age of dreamers and builders who sought to create a new world, one without prejudice, racism or discrimination.
Listening to today’s political discourse, one can’t help but notice the radical change in tone. My children have watched their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, kowtow to a fundamentalist coalition in Israel. They are convinced that what ties Israel and America today is not a covenant of humanistic values but rather a new set of mutual interests: war, bombs, threats, fear and trauma. How did this happen? Where is that righteous America? Whatever happened to the good old Israel?
Mr. Netanyahu’s great political “achievement” has been to make Israel a partisan issue and push American Jews into a corner. He has forced them to make political decisions based on calculations that go against what they perceive to be American interests. The emotional extortion compels Jews to pressure the Obama administration, a government with which they actually share values and worldviews, when those who love Israel should be doing the opposite: helping the American government to intervene and save Israel from itself.
Israel arose as a secular, social democratic country inspired by Western European democracies. With time, however, its core values have become entirely different. Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations. Its capitalism has erased much of the social solidarity of the past, with the exception of a few remaining vestiges of a welfare state. Israel defines itself as a “Jewish and democratic state.” However, because Israel has never created a system of checks and balances between these two sources of authority, they are closer than ever to a terrible clash.
In the early years of statehood, the meaning of the term “Jewish” was national and secular. In the eyes of Israel’s founding fathers, to be a Jew was exactly like being an Italian, Frenchman or American. Over the years, this elusive concept has changed; today, the meaning of “Jewish” in Israel is mainly ethnic and religious. With the elevation of religious solidarity over and above democratic authority, Israel has become more fundamentalist and less modern, more separatist and less open to the outside world. I see the transformation in my own family. My father, one of the founders of the state of Israel and of the National Religious Party, was an enlightened rabbi and philosopher. Many of the younger generation are far less open, however; some are ultra-Orthodox or ultranationalist settlers.
This extremism was not the purpose of creating a Jewish state. Immigrants from all over the world dreamed of a government that would be humane and safe for Jews. The founders believed that democracy was the only way to regulate the interests of many contradictory voices. Jewish culture, consolidated through Halakha, the religious Jewish legal tradition, created a civilization that has devoted itself to an unending conversation among different viewpoints and the coexistence of contradictory attitudes toward the fulfillment of the good.
The modern combination between democracy and Judaism was supposed to give birth to a spectacular, pluralistic kaleidoscope. The state would be a great, robust democracy that would protect Jews against persecution and victimhood. Jewish culture, on the other hand, with its uncompromising moral standards, would guard against our becoming persecutors and victimizers of others.
BUT something went wrong in the operating system of Jewish democracy. We never gave much thought to the PalestinianIsraeli citizens within the Jewish-democratic equation. We also never tried to separate the synagogue and the state. If anything, we did the opposite. Moreover, we never predicted the evil effects of brutally controlling another people against their will. Today, all the things that we neglected have returned and are chasing us like evil spirits.
The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their freedom of worship and expression.
If this trend continues, all vestiges of democracy will one day disappear, and Israel will become just another Middle Eastern theocracy. It will not be possible to define Israel as a democracy when a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — controlling millions of people without political rights or basic legal standing.
This Israel would be much more Jewish in the narrowest sense of the word, but such a nondemocratic Israel, hostile to its neighbors and isolated from the free world, wouldn’t be able to survive for long.
But there is another option: an iconic conflict could also present an iconic solution. As in Northern Ireland or South Africa, where citizens no longer spill one another’s blood, it will eventually become clear that many Israelis are not willing to live in an ethnic democracy, not willing to give up on the chance to live in peace, not willing to be passive patriots of a country that expels or purifies itself of its minorities, who are the original inhabitants of the land.
Only on that day, after much anguish, boycotts and perhaps even bloodshed, will we understand that the only way for us to agree when we disagree is a true, vigorous democracy. A democracy based on a progressive, civil constitution; a democracy that enforces the distinction between ethnicity and citizenship, between synagogue and state; a democracy that upholds the values of freedom and equality, on the basis of which every single person living under Israel’s legitimate and internationally recognized sovereignty will receive the same rights and protections.
A long-overdue constitution could create a state that belongs to all her citizens and in which the government behaves with fairness and equality toward all persons without prejudice based on religion, race or gender. Those are the principles on which Israel was founded and the values that bound Israel and America together in the past. I believe that creating two neighboring states for two peoples that respect one another would be the best solution. However, if our shortsighted leaders miss this opportunity, the same fair and equal principles should be applied to one state for both peoples.
When a true Israeli democracy is established, our prime minister will go to Capitol Hill and win applause from both sides of the aisle. Every time the prime minister says “peace” the world will actually believe him, and when he talks about justice and equality people will feel that these are synonyms for Judaism and Israelis.
And for all the cynics who are smiling sarcastically as they read these lines, I can only say to Americans, “Yes, we still can,” and to Israelis, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset, is the author of “The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes” and the chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewal of Democracy.
Father Roy writes: Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com…. Peace, Roy
"The most dangerous man in the world"
Netanyahu v Obama
By Alan Hart
There is, Burston wrote, something new in the air, something Netanyahu does not like. What is it? “American conservatives have begun to think out loud that Barack Obama will win in November.”
In my opinion there’s a better than evens chance that in the course of a second Obama term, America would put its own best interests first, which would mean an end to unconditional American support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong. (As is often the case, the Gentile me and Gideon Levy are on the same page. The headline over one of his recent articles in Ha-aretz was It’s only a matter of time before U.S. tires of Israel).
There are three main reasons why I have that opinion.
The first is my belief that Obama hates being a prisoner of the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress. (I think that Max Hastings, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and a well respected military historian, was spot on when he wrote the following in a recent article for the Daily Mail. “Privately, Obama yearns to come down hard n Netanyahu, whom he dislikes intensely. But the U.S. President does not dare to do this when his own re-election may hinge on the three per cent of American voters who are Jewish.”)
The second, and much more to the real point, is that behind closed doors there are now many in the top levels of America’s military, intelligence and foreign policy establishments who are aware that an Israel which has no interest in peace with the Palestinians, and is led by men who want war with Iran, is an Israel that is much more of a liability than an asset for the U.S. There is also awareness in the top levels of America’s military, intelligence and foreign policy establishments that Netanyahu decided to play the Iran threat card in order to divert attention away from Israel’s on-going consolidation of its occupation of the West Bank and, in short, to have Palestine taken off the American foreign policy agenda.
The third is the insight given to me by former President Carter when my wife and I met with him and Rosalyn after they had said goodbye to the White House. “Any American president has only two windows of opportunity to break or try to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress on matters to do with Israel Palestine.”
The first window is during the first nine months of a president’s first term because after that the soliciting of funds for the mid-term elections begins. Presidents don’t have to worry on their own account about funds for mid-term elections, but with their approach no president can do or say anything that would offend the Zionist lobby and cost his party seats in Congress. The second window of opportunity is the last year of his second term if he has one. In that year, because he can’t run for a third term, no president has a personal need for election campaign funds or organised votes. (I imagine that incoming President Obama, briefed by Carter or not, was fully aware of these limited windows of opportunity and that was why he tried in his first nine months to get a freeze on Israel’s illegal settlement activity).
So my answer to Burston’s headline question is yes, Netanyahu could very well be in trouble if Obama wins a second term.
A good indication of Netanyahu’s fear of a second term Obama is, I think, the mountain of money his seriously wealthy supporters in America are investing in the effort to get a Republican into the White House who will allow Netanyahu and the Zionist lobby to pull his strings.
Question: Given that he does not want Obama to have a second term, what now are Netanyahu’s options?
I can see three possibles.
One is to watch and wait and hope that there will be a downturn in the American economy between now and November that will assist a Republican presidential candidate to defeat Obama.
Another is to launch a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear sites (never mind that Iran’s leaders have not taken a decision to go nuclear for weapons and possibly never will unless Iran is attacked).
Question: How might initiating a war with Iran assist Netanyahu to put Obama in real trouble?
One short answer is that the probable regional and global fall-out of an Israeli attack on Iran, including soaring oil prices, could bring what is being presented as a slow but sure recovery of the American economy to a swift halt. And that, most likely, would be enough to guarantee Obama’s defeat in November. (In an analysis for The National Interest, an American bi-monthly foreign policy journal, Paul Pillar, a former, very senior CIA analyst and today a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies, noted that the welfare of American consumers and workers is “not high” on the list of decision-making criteria for Netanyahu and his government).
There is, however, one thing that could cause Netanyahu not to go with this option. Quite apart from the fact that Israel’s past and present intelligence and military chiefs are divided on the wisdom of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, the polls are showing that a majority of Israeli Jews are opposed to Israel going it alone with an attack on Iran. They’re in favour of Iran being attacked but only if America becomes engaged and takes the lead.
And that brings us to a possible third option for Netanyahu. It is to commission a Mossad false flag operation – an attack on a vital American interest or interests for which Iran could be and would be framed.
The Zionist lobby, Obama’s Republican rivals and much if not all of the American mainstream media would promote this falsehood as fact, and that could leave Obama with no choice but to commit American military power. If he did not, his Republican challenger or challengers, assisted by the Zionist lobby and most if not all of the American mainstream media would accuse him of failing to protect America’s security interests and betraying Israel. And that, given the ignorance of American public opinion, would almost certainly be enough to guarantee Obama’s defeat.
For his own part Obama absolutely does not want war another war. He’s frightened, as he should be, of the possible/probable consequences.
Quite apart from the possible/probable economic consequences (including soaring gasoline prices in America), Obama understands completely that U.S. engagement in a new and broader regional war will ignite more anti-Americanism and play into the hands of Arab and other Muslim radicals and extremists, perhaps to the point of assisting them to become the dominant political power in the region. And that, were it to happen, would be potentially catastrophic for America’s best interests in the Arab and wider Muslim world. (Netanyahu would, of course, be quietly pleased because his Israel needs enemies).
So far as I am aware there is no well informed commentator who is prepared to make an explicit prediction about what Netanyahu will do – whether he will or will not order a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran in the closing stages of the American election. If I had to bet my life on it, I’d say he won’t; but there’s a real danger that his anti-Iran rhetoric, described in a recent Ha’aretz editorial as “a combination of wretchedness and megalomania”, may create an unstoppable momentum for war.
As my readers know, I regard Ha’aretz as the most honest newspaper in the world on the subject of what is really happening in Israel. Its view of Netanyahu was on display in a recent editorial headlined Israel must not lend itself to Netanyahu’s vulgar rhetoric on Iran. I think the whole editorial ought to be required reading not only for those who want to replace Obama as president but for all American voters. Here is the text of it (with my emphasis added).
Anyone who cares about Israel’s future could not help but feel a chill upon hearing Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech at the AIPAC conference – if not because of the gravity of the existential threat it described, then because of its sheer vulgarity and bad taste. The prime minister, as if he were no more than a surfer leaving feedback on a website, did not hesitate to crassly compare Israel today to the situation of European Jewry during the Holocaust. And to spice up his speech with one of those visual gimmicks he so loves, he even pulled out a photostat of correspondence in order to imply a comparison between U.S. President Barack Obama’s cautious approach toward attacking Iran and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s refusal to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz.
Netanyahu sometimes seems like he is holding a debating competition with himself. Every speech is the “speech of his life” and must overshadow its predecessor, while afterward, as if they were rehashing a sporting event, he and his aides gleefully count the number of standing ovations, especially from his American listeners. And in order to wring an ovation from the end of every sentence, it seems as if all means are legitimate: kitsch (trash) and death, threats and vows, warnings and rebukes of the entire world.
This time, too, it’s not quite clear what he wanted to obtain via this inane rhetoric – a combination of wretchedness and megalomania – aside from applause. Did he want pity? To prick the conscience of the world? To terrify himself, or perhaps to inflame the Churchillian fantasy in which he lives? But one thing is clear: Aside from the fact that he deepened our feelings of victimhood, insulted the American president and narrowed the options for diplomacy, Netanyahu did not improve Israel’s situation one jot by this speech, just as he hasn’t by any of his others.
Netanyahu isn’t the first Israeli prime minister, especially from the right, to harp on the trauma of the Holocaust. But in contrast to Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, who at the moment of truth also displayed diplomatic and leadership abilities, Netanyahu was and remains essentially a PR man: someone for whom words and rhetoric replace reality. The spine-chilling fear is that one day, all of us – himself included, despite his caution and hesitation – will discover too late that we have become hostages to his Churchillian speech, but without a Churchillian victory.
I’ll conclude with my own favourite story about Netanyahu.
Way back in 1984 I had an appointment for lunch in New York with the Englishman I most admire, Brian (later knighted) Urquhart. He was an Undersecretary General of the UN with the responsibility for conflict management. He served four Secretary Generals and was, in fact, the world’s number one trouble-shooter. Because of his matchless grasp of international affairs and his integrity, he was respected by leaders on both sides of all the conflicts he managed. And he never pulled his punches in behind-closed doors exchanges with leaders. On one private occasion Prime Minister Begin said he should not talk with Arafat. Urquhart looked Begin in the eye and said: “Mr. Prime Minister, I am the servant of the international community, don’t you dare to tell me who I can and cannot talk to!”
When Brian arrived for lunch, he said as he was sitting down, “I’ve just met the most dangerous man in the world.”
I asked who it was.
Brian replied: “He’s just presented his credentials as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com…
Sonja Karkar – editor of australiansforpalestine.com… – writes:
As 2012 begins in earnest, Ilan Pappe’s words are certainly worth reflecting on. For too long have our leaders particularly, but also much of the public, been held in thrall by the dramatic Israel tableau – biblical entitlement, land redemption, the light of the world – without any regard for the real human drama going on behind the pastiche of concocted stories. Only very recently have the cracks begun to show a very ugly side to the Jewish narrative of longing for Zion and another people’s narrative that has been deliberately hidden and demonised. Aside from the gross injustice Israel’s creation had perpetrated on the indigenous Palestinian population and society of the time and which its subsequent actions have never attempted to make right, Israel’s apartheid character is being exposed
every day, and with it the quest for Jewish supremacy. It is impossible to ignore when even Israel’s politicians are quite blatant about their intentions to make all of the land – historic Palestine – exclusively Jewish.
For more than 60 years, most Palestinians have been living as prisoners and pariahs in their own land or as stateless people caught frozen in time in the refugee camps still clinging to their inalienable right to return home. Others in the Diaspora may have been more fortunate, but it does not make
the pain of loss, indignity and separation any less. If Israel hoped to see the Palestinian identity ground into the soil of their homeland or wither away waiting to return, it is beginning to realise that no matter what atrocities or hardships it imposes on the Palestinians, these long-maligned people are not about to go quietly into the sunset. Millions of Palestinian men, women and children have not forgotten, will not forget and remain steadfast in their determination to get justice. Finally, public
opinion is seeing Israel for what it is, but timidity and intimidation still prevent a good number from speaking out and holding Israel accountable. Too many of our politicians, journalists and other public figures fear that their positions, ambitions and good standing will be compromised if they criticise Israel, so they “cower” says Ilan Pappe. Turning public sentiment into political action is the challenge we face today. It is not impossible.
working for justice in Palestine
by Ilan Pappe
The Electronic Intifada
9 February 2012
If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one
of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic
shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against
Israeli policies on the ground.
We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and
cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting
according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.
This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I
encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the
cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the
more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under
intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.
A catalogue of complicity
Of course there were US President Barack Obama’s  pandering appearances
in front of AIPAC,  the Israeli lobby, and his administration’s continued
silence and inaction in face of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank,
siege and killings in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins  in the
Naqab  and new legislation discriminating against Palestinians in
The complicity continued with the shameful retreat of Judge Richard
Goldstone  from his rather tame report on the Gaza massacre  — which
began three years ago today. And then there was the decision of European
governments, especially Greece,  to disallow campaigns of human aid and
solidarity from reaching Gaza by sea.
On the margins of all of this were prosecutions in France  against
activists calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)  and a
few u-turns by some groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in
Europe caving in under pressure and retracting an earlier decision to cede
connections with Israel.
Learning firsthand how pro-Israel intimidation works
In recent years, I have learned firsthand how intimidation of this kind
works. In November 2009 the mayor of Munich was scared to death by a Zionist
lobby group and cancelled my lecture there. More recently, the Austrian
foreign ministry withdrew its funding for an event in which I participated,
and finally it was my own university, the University of Exeter, once a haven
of security in my eyes, becoming frigid when a bunch of Zionist hooligans
claimed I was a fabricator and a self-hating Jew.
Every year since I moved there, Zionist organizations in the UK and the US
have asked the university to investigate my work and were brushed aside.
This year a similar appeal was taken, momentarily one should say, seriously.
One hopes this was just a temporary lapse; but you never know with an
academic institution (bravery is not one of their hallmarks).
Standing up to pressure
But there were examples of courage — local and global — as well: the student
union of the University of Surrey under heavy pressure to cancel my talk
 did not give in and allowed the event to take place.
The Episcopal Bishops Committee on Israel/Palestine in Seattle faced the
wrath of many of the city’s synagogues and the Israeli Consul General in San
Francisco, Akiva Tor,  for arranging an event with me in September 2011
in Seattle’s Town Hall, but bravely brushed aside this campaign of
intimidation. The usual charges of “anti-Semitism” did not work there — they
never do where people refuse to be intimidated.
The outgoing year was also the one in which Turkey  imposed military and
diplomatic sanctions on Israel in response to the latter’s refusal to take
responsibility for the attack on the Mavi Marmara . Turkey’s action was
in marked contrast to the European and international habit of sufficing with
toothless statements at best, and never imposing a real price on Israel for
Do not cave in to intimidation
I do not wish to underestimate the task ahead of us. Only recently did we
learn how much money is channeled to this machinery of intimidation whose
sole purpose is to silence criticism on Israel. Last year, the Jewish
Federations of North America  and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
 — leading pro-Israel lobby groups — allocated $6 million to be spent
over three years to fight BDS campaigns and smear the Palestine solidarity
movement. This is not the only such initiative under way.
But are these forces as powerful as they seem to be in the eyes of very
respectable institutions such as universities, community centers, churches,
media outlets and, of course, politicians?
What you learn is that once you cower, you become prey to continued and
relentless bashing until you sing the Israeli national anthem. If once you
do not cave in, you discover that as time goes by, the ability of Zionist
lobbies of intimidation around the world to affect you gradually diminishes.
Reducing the influence of the United States
Undoubtedly the centers of power that fuel this culture of intimidation lie
to a great extent in the United States, which brings me to the second item
on my 2012 wish list: an end to the American dominance in the affairs of
Israelis and Palestinians. I know this influence cannot be easily curbed.
But the issue of timidity and intimidation belong to an American sphere of
activity where things can, and should be, different. There will be no peace
process or even Pax Americana in Palestine if the Palestinians, under
whatever leadership, would agree to allow Washington to play such a central
role. It is not as if US policy-makers can threaten the Palestinians that
without their involvement there will be no peace process.
In fact history has proved that there was no peace process — in the sense of
a genuine movement toward the restoration of Palestinian rights — precisely
because of American involvement. Outside mediation may be necessary for the
cause of reconciliation in Palestine. But does it have to be American?
If elite politics are needed — along with other forces and movements — to
facilitate a change on the ground, such a role should come from other places
in the world and not just from the United States.
One would hope that the recent rapprochement between Hamas  and Fatah
 — and the new attempt to base the issue of Palestinian representation
on a wider and more just basis — will lead to a clear Palestinian position
that would expose the fallacy that peace can only be achieved with the
Americans as its brokers.
Dwarfing the US role will disarm American Zionist bodies and those who
emulate them in Europe and Israel of their power of intimidation.
Letting the other America play a role
This will also enable the other America, that of the civil society, the
Occupy Wall Street movement,  the progressive campuses, the courageous
churches, African-Americans marginalized by mainstream politics, Native
Americans and millions of other decent Americans who never fell captive to
elite propaganda about Israel and Palestine, to take a far more central role
in “American involvement” in Palestine.
That would benefit America as much as it will benefit justice and peace in
Palestine. But this long road to redeeming all of us who want to see justice
begins by asking academics, journalists and politicians in the West to show
a modicum of steadfastness and courage in the face of those who want to
intimidate us. Their bark is far fiercer than their bite.
The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and
Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of
ORIGINAL LINK: electronicintifada.net…
With all the appalling anti-Palestinian rhetoric coming from Republican Presidential candidates at the moment, it’s worth remembering that they are not the only politicians in the world to have shunned this struggling community.
30 Years after Sabra-Shatilla Massacre Lebanese Politicians Still Block Palestinian Rights
We all know it is not just American and Lebanese politicians who use Palestinian refugees as political footballs during electoral campaigns. But they are currently the two most egregious apart from most Zionist politicians in temporarily occupied Palestine.
In the US, it would not be a difficult task to find even more revolting and groveling intellectual "half-men" to borrow a phrase from Syria’s beleaguered President Bashar Assad than Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich during their recent "debate" in Jacksonville Florida.
While a high percentage of Republican Jewish voters will go to the polls in this winner take all primary, Mitt and Newt are also pondering their national fundraising networks as they gratuitously misrepresented history and betrayed their claimed religious and moral beliefs.
Romney repeated his screed that President Obama "threw Israel under the bus" by following international law, seven UN Security Council Resolution and World opinion by designating the pre-1967 borders as the starting point for peace talks. He also complained that America’s President "disrespected" Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu when Obama spoke recently at the UN and mentioned in passing illegal Israeli settlement building but did not discuss retaliatory rockets being fired from Gaza into occupied Palestinian territory.
Genuflecting just as obsequiously to the Zionist lobby, Gingrich insisted to Florida voters once again that "Palestinians are an ‘invented people who historically were considered Jordanians and Syrians." No one in the audience was so impolite as to remind the claimed student of history that Jordan did not even exist until created by the pro-Zionist British occupiers of Palestine, well into the 20th Century, while Palestinians have lived in Palestine for more than 3000 years. While more than 95% of Zionist colonists have zero historical links to Palestine and their genealogical roots are in Europe, Russia and elsewhere, despite the fact that millions have invaded Palestine seeking free land and US government funded cash and housing handouts. Morally and legally these colonists have no right to even one grain of sand in Palestine.
Newt again promised his audience that on his first day as President, he will for sure issue an Executive Order moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another violation of International law.
Florida’s nearly 640,000 Jews are just 3.4 percent of Florida’s population. But because they vote in extraordinarily high numbers, they are 6 to 8 percent of Florida’s general election turnout but not of course when it comes to Republican primaries. Yet one recent poll estimates that 52% of the state’s registered Jewish voters would support a Republican presidential ticket such is their mistrust of Obama and what he might do in a second term with respect to occupied Palestine.
As with his rival Mitt, President Newt’s first foreign trip will be to Israel. With these latter two pledges Newt joins 19 Presidential primary aspirants who since 1967 have made similar promises. Fortunately, for what is left of American Humanitarian values, not one has been elected President.
Lebanese style anti-Palestinian political speech is more sophisticated and subtle, like the Lebanese people themselves, and nearly always devolves to the gut wrenching warning, delivered with a straight face, that "if we allow Palestinian refugees the right to work or to own a home (as required by International Law and currently enjoyed by refugees in 192 other countries) it might encourage them to get lazy and become too comfortable in Lebanon and they might, God save us all, seek naturalization. And this could interfere with the Palestinian refugees internationally guaranteed Right to Return to their homes in occupied Palestine which Lebanese strongly support for their brotherly and sisterly guests.
Lebanese politicians, including every party and religious grouping bar none, except the Druze and the National Syrian Socialist Party, use voter’s fear of naturalization (in American think immigration) to undercut growing human rights pressure for Lebanon to give Palestinians elementary human rights.
A rare exception for a Lebanese politician shocked many here when earlier this month, to his eternal credit and honor, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour became the first Lebanese Cabinet member to make an official visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in six years when he toured south Beirut’s Burj al-Barajneh camp before signing a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). The agreement will enable UNRWA for the first time to work in coordination with the Social Affairs Ministry to provide some services to some of the most vulnerable people in the camps.
The lack of employment opportunities for Palestine refugee prolong and intensify their hardship and poverty. In the five Southern Lebanon camps, according to a recent Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and UN International Labor Organization study, more than 81 per cent of all refugees are living in abject poverty. Young people are particularly affected, with unemployment for Palestinians between 15 and 24 reaching 60%. The employments figures are not must better in the northern camps.
Speaking at the event, Faour called on his fellow politicians to follow his lead and experience firsthand conditions in Lebanon’s 12 Refugee camps. "Whoever wants to rediscover his humanity has to see the living conditions in Palestinian camps in Lebanon" Minister Faour told Lebanon’s Parliament. "We are used to bringing Palestinians to discussions in fancy hotels and then sending them back to the misery in the camps. We decided to invert these traditions by coming to the camps."
Unfortunately Minister Abu Faour undercut some of the positive contribution of his visit by emphasizing to the media "the difficult relationship between Lebanon and the Palestinian population. The Lebanese government has consistently declined to grant rights to Palestinian refugees for fear that it would pave the way to naturalization, which it argues would diminish their right to return to Palestine."
It would be difficult to find one Palestinian in Lebanon, or any advocate of human rights here, who truly believes the Lebanese politicians claimed notion of concern for the sanctity of the Palestinians Right of Return justifies keeping a quarter million human being in the most degrading squalor while outlawing even the right to work or to own a home out of an altruistic concern to keep hallow some of the refugees other international rights. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon reject more than any of the politicians here any form of settlement, naturalization, implantation or tawtin. They have a county just across the southern Lebanese border and their goal, now in its 64th year, is to return without more delay.
Many Palestinians in Lebanon’s camp mention a new energy among their fellow refugees as a result of the continuing, broadening and deepening Arab and Islamic Awakening which erupted one year ago in Tunisia and whose spread continues.
The swelling bud of intifada! is also being observed by foreigners here and as Palestinian camp residents invite Pope Benedict to visit their camps in the Spring during his reported visit to Lebanon, one idea from kids at Ramallah school in Shatila Camp is for the Vicar of Christ to hold a Mass for tens of thousands in the new Cite Sportiff, on the edge this Camp. For it was at this sports center 30 years ago that part two of the Massacre at Sabra-Shatilla was organized by Israeli and Phalange troops on September 18th and for which, like the other 43 hours of uninterrupted slaughter, no one person has ever been held accountable.
It would be an enormously powerful historic event should Pope Benedict fill Cite Sportiff with people of good will, and there are many here like Minister Faour, from all the confessions and political parties, joined by all religious and civil society leaders in Lebanon, and with the Pope’s blessing and admonition for all of us to follow in the path of Mohammad and Jesus and their deciples, that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon might be granted even the most elementary human rights.