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What is Ehud Olmert up to?

For a man who contributed NOTHING to the Israel/Palestine ‘peace process’ during his term in office, it seems a bit rich of him to come out now criticizing Netanyahu for not taking peace seriously!

Having said that, what Olmert says is entirely correct. Now is an opportune moment for Israel, with no real enemies threatening her, to help establish a viable Palestinian state that will ensure Israel’s own long-term survival in the region.

Perhaps, like so many ex-presidents and ex-prime ministers, Olmert is finding his true voice after leaving office. Or perhaps this is part of a hair-brained scheme to regain power? Either way, I hope the Israeli public take what he says seriously.

Father Dave

Olmert with Rice and Abbas in 2007

Olmert with Rice and Abbas in 2007

source: www.vnews.com…

Olmert Believes Peace Is Possible; Former Israeli Prime Minister Speaks at Dartmouth College

Hanover — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted Tuesday that peace between Israel and Palestine, based on two autonomous states, holds the key to long-term peace in the Middle East.

I n a speech before an overflow crowd at Dartmouth College’s Cook Auditorium, Olmert also endorsed current efforts of the Obama administration and its Western allies to seek some accommodations with Iran over its nuclear capabilities, despite serious objections by current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“An agreement between Israel and Palestine is the one thing that can help provide the backwind for a wider peace process in the Middle East,” Olmert said. “Israeli leaders need to get rid of this cloud and help deprived people of Palestine attain fundamental human rights. This is in the best long-term interest of Israel. Can it be done? I have no doubt.”

That statement triggered applause from the audience, although at the end of the speech about a dozen young people chanted protests before leaving the hall. Outside, they handed out leaflets stating that their protest was a “die-in” against Israel military operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip when Olmert was prime minister between 2006 and 2009.

Olmert, 68, looking trim in a dark suit and red tie, displayed an experienced politician’s métier with flashes of humor and forceful right jabs at the air. He argued that, strategically, Israel is perhaps now in the best position to explore a serious peace initiative with the Palestinians.

Asked in an earlier luncheon with students why Israel seems reluctant to explore peace with the Palestinians, Olmert blamed what he termed a “failure of leadership” by Netanyahu.

“He believes in something very different from me,” he said. “He wants to keep the status quo forever and that is not tactical. Plus he is unable to compromise because 18 out of 20 members of the Likud (Israel’s major center-right party) would not support him.”

Olmert explained his differences with Netanyahu over the Iran negotiations.

“President Obama is trying to find out whether they (the new regime in Iran) are serious or not,” he said. “If not, we will find out. Until then, we owe it to the stability of entire world to find out if Iran is serious.”

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This is an encouraging sign, though the author of this article obviously doesn’t see things that way!

For far too long Evangelicals worldwide have been proclaiming that:

  1. The formation of the modern State of Israel was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and that
  2. Israel’s victory over her enemies is somehow requisite to Christ’s return!

Frankly, these beliefs should be recognised as heresy, as they inevitably lead believers to condone immorality – sanctioning violence on the part of the State of Israel in the mistaken belief that this will somehow serve Christ’s cause!

I’ve written more on the poor theology of Christian Zionism here. It is encouraging that wisdom is finally prevailing.

Father Dave

Rick Warren - one of the new breed of Evangelical leaders supporting Palestine

Rick Warren – one of the new breed of Evangelicals supporting Palestine

source: www.wnd.com…

LOOK WHO’S SWITCHING SIDES IN ISRAELI-ARAB CONFLICT

‘Christian support will completely flip … in next generation’

An interview with an American Christian commentator published by Israeli media this week reveals just how far the evangelical church has moved into the “Palestinian camp” when it comes to the Middle East conflict.

For decades, Israel’s most stalwart supporters were to be found among evangelical Christians, the bulk of whom saw the rebirth of the Jewish state as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and evidence of God’s faithfulness.

But a new generation of evangelical leaders are “committed to spreading the Palestinian version of the conflict,” said Jim Fletcher, a long-time Christian publisher, in an interview published to Israel National News. “These pro-Palestinian leaders currently control the narrative within the church.”

According to Fletcher, there is a “massive effort … in the heart of the American evangelical church to lure its members to the Palestinian side.” As a result of that effort, it is now “severely mistaken to think that all evangelicals are pro-Israel.”

Among those evangelical leaders one should be wary of are Willow Creek Pastor Lynne Hybels, Saddleback Community Church Pastor Rick Warren, Dr. Gary Burge of Wheaton College and Christian publisher Cameron Strang.

Hybels and Burge were speakers at last year’s Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, where local and foreign evangelical leaders painted modern Israel as a nation wholly disconnected from its biblical roots and prophecies pertaining to it.

Furthermore, this movement interprets Yeshua’s own teachings in a more humanistic light in order to use them against Israel.

“In the Palestinian narrative, emotion is predominant. The emphasis is on ‘land confiscations, checkpoints, detentions, beatings.’ What they call the ‘apartheid wall’ is also mentioned frequently,” explained Fletcher.

But, perhaps most disconcerting, is the lack of a strong response from those who still love Israel and see her for what she truly is, warts and all.

“To my knowledge, there are no broad-based evangelical leaders in the U.S. who will speak out about this problem, which is developing into an epidemic,” said Fletcher, warning in conclusion that “the way things are going, support will completely flip from Israel to the Palestinians in the next generation.”

For those of us sitting in Israel, there is another worrying effect: more and more Israelis are starting to feel that, once again, they cannot trust or rely on Christians.

The mere fact that this interview was published on a religious Israeli media website demonstrates that Israeli Jews see the strong wall of Christian support eroding, and as a result the bonds that were built up over the past century are beginning to unravel

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It is encouraging to hear about this new reporters’ guidebook – one that makes the bold attempt to help journalists be more objective in their reporting of Israel-Palestine. It is encouraging at least because it recognises that the words we use are often laden with values and judgements of the kind that journalists are generally keen to avoid. Even so, to suggest that a mere substitutions of sensitive terms will in some way improve media coverage in the Middle East is patently absurd!

Certainly using the term ‘Security Fence’ rather than ‘Apartheid Wall’ to describe the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank shows clearly which side the writer is on. Even so, the construction and deconstruction of political narratives is far more complex than any simple change in vocabulary. 

To write in any detail about the suffering of the Palestinian people is in itself an act that subverts the dominant narrative. And even if writers were able to discuss the violence with clinical objectivity, this would not suggest impartiality by any means! Evil scientists have performed monstrous experiments on living beings, and that fact that they can describe their results in purely scientific terms actually reinforces the horror of their acts!

What we need is not ‘objective’ reporting (whatever that is) but reporting where the agenda is not concealed. For me personally, my sympathies are with the Palestinians, and I say that unashamedly. For me to refer to the ‘Apartheid Wall’ as anything else would be dishonest!

Father Dave

at a protest in Karmei Tsur

What is the politically correct term for this? (photo: Palestinian Solidarity Project)

source: www.thedailybeast.com…

A new reporter’s guidebook released on October 23 aims to balance media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a field that often spirals into semantic mudslinging at the cost of clear news coverage.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) published Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict after a year of joint work between six anonymous Israeli and Palestinian media veterans. The two sides worked on separate content submissions, which IPI then combined through several months of back-and-forth editing.

The glossary comprises some 150 terms ranging from “terrorist” to “martyr.” Each word or expression is presented in English, Arabic and Hebrew, with an explanation of why it might be sensitive to Israeli and/or Palestinian audiences. Most entries include a suggested alternative term.

For example, the guide explains why “Apartheid wall” and “security wall/fence” are respectively offensive to Israelis and Palestinians, recommending that journalists use “separation barrier” instead. Many of the entries also address unnecessary adjectives, asking that reporters drop the modifiers from terms like “innocent civilians” and “peaceful demonstration.”

Instead of “Judea and Samaria,” “eternal capital of the Palestinian people” or “united capital of Israel,” the guide recommends geographically specific terms like the West Bank, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem.  “Israel” is recommended over both “Zionist entity” and “Jewish state.” The former is tendentious because it is perceived to deny Israeli statehood, the guide says, while the latter ignores Arab history predating the State of Israel and implies that non-Jewish Israelis are not fully part of the state.

Other terms are less obvious. “Middle East expert” is problematic, the guide says, because ideologues and activists are often referred to as experts without disclosure of their partisan views.

“This tactic is used to magnify and repeat the views that certain journalist or media wish to promote. It is dishonest and is partly to blame for the fact that audience stereotypes and viewpoints are repeatedly reinforced instead of being challenged,” the guide says. “It creates an echo-chamber effect, in which pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian readers, viewers, and listeners believe that only their frame of reference is reasonable and enlightened, while the other side is hateful, prejudiced, and extreme.”

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It is one of the tragedies of the Occupation that Palestinian resistance has always been portrayed as being the work of terrorists. The truth is that most acts of Palestinian resistance have been non-violent. Even the first and second Intifada started as non-violent protests until they were met with great violence from the occupying power.

The following article is from Jeff Cohen compares the Palestinian struggle to the American Civil Rights struggle of the 60’s, and the parallels are significant. The article was published on the Tikkun Daily – one of the sites associated with progressive Rabbi, Michael Lerner.

Palestinian Flags

source: www.tikkun.org…

Non-Violent Palestinian Resistance: Echoes of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement

by Jeff Cohen

As I prepared for a grueling fact-finding trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank (occupied for 46 years), Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to resume peace talks without preconditions.

On the day my delegationflew to the region, Israel announced that it had approved still more housing for Israeli settlers: “Israel has issued tenders for the construction of nearly 1,200 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” reported London’sFinancial Times, “defying U.S. and Palestinian opposition to expansion of Jewish settlements three days before the scheduled start of peace talks.”

It’s the same old depressing story, with Israel showing little interest in making peace.

So before I turn to what’s surprising and inspiring in the West Bank, let’s acknowledge the bad news: Palestinians are slowly being squeezed out of their homes, deprived of their water and centuries-old olive groves, humiliated on a daily basis by Israeli settlers and the Israeli state in a relentless violation of their human rights that gets worse as much of the world looks away.

But here’s the good news: Across the West Bank, Israel’s occupation has given rise in recent years to a nonviolent “popular resistance” movement that should be an inspiration to people across the globe. This unarmed resistance has persisted in the face of Israeli state violence (aided by U.S.-supplied weapons and tear gas), lengthy jail sentences for nonviolent protesters and widespread detention and abuse of children.

It was fitting to return to the U.S. on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington because Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of militant nonviolence were invoked by Palestinian activists in virtually every village and town I visited as part of the fact-finding delegation.

Like King, leaders of the Palestinian popular resistance – from intellectuals to grassroots villagers who’d been repeatedly jailed – spoke to us about universal human rights, about a human family in which all deserve equal rights regardless of religion or nationality. “We are against the occupation, not against the Jews,” was the refrain among Palestinian activists. “We have many Jews and Israelis who support us.”

It was indeed inspiring to meet several of the brave Israelis who’ve supported the nonviolent resistance, often putting themselves in the frontline of marches (their jail sentences are tiny compared to what’s dished out to Palestinians). They are admittedly a small minority, thoroughly ostracized within Israel – a society that seems as paranoid and militaristic today as our country during the McCarthyite Fifties.

NABI SALEH: In this village near Ramallah that’s being squeezed by settlers, a leader of the local popular resistance waxed poetic about Israelis who’ve supported their struggle: “After we started the popular resistance in 2009, we saw a different kind of Israeli, our partner. We see them as our cousin – a different view than the Israeli as soldier shooting at us, or the settler stealing, or the jailer shutting the cell on us.” The story of Nabi Saleh was compellingly told in an atypical New York Times Magazine article by Ben Ehrenreich, “Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?”

“It’s not easy to be nonviolent, but no soldier has been killed by a stone,” said activist leader Manal Tamimi. “We want to show the world we are not terrorists. On CNN, Fox News, we’re just terrorists, suicide bombers. I was in the states; you never hear of settlers attacking Palestinians.”

As we were leaving her house, Manal added: “You need to be our messengers because your tax money is killing us. You are our brothers in humanity, but you are part of the killing.”

Like our 1964 civil rights martyrs in Mississippi – Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman – Nabi Saleh reveres its martyrs:Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi.

BIL’IN: If you saw the Oscar-nominated documentary “5 Broken Cameras,” then you know of the seven-year-long, partly-successful battle by the villagers of Bil’in to drive back Israel’s “separation wall” (aka the Apartheid Wall) – which was positioned to confiscate nearly 60 percent of their land, separating farmers from their fields and olive trees. It’s aninspiring story of courageous nonviolence, with international activists (and Israelis) flocking to Bil’in to support the villagers’ resistance.

“Internationals” who live in the West Bank and put their bodies on the line in support of nonviolent Palestinian struggles remind me of the U.S. students and others who “headed south” in the 1960s to support the civil rights movement.

We stayed overnight in the homes of Bil’in residents. Iyad Burnat, the brother of “5 Broken Cameras” director Emad Burnat, talked with us past midnight about the importance of media coverage, international support, and creative, surprise tactics in a successful nonviolent movement (like using their bodies to close an Israeli “settlers-only” road). “In Bil’in we don’t use stones. The Israeli soldiers use that – kids throwing stones – to attack our people.”

Iyad was one of a dozen Palestinians we met who bristled at their lack of mobility now that their communities are ringed by the wall, settlements, checkpoints and Israeli-only highways. “It’s easier for me to get to the U.S. or the U.K. than to Jerusalem, 25 kilometers away.”

Like our Selma martyrs – Jimmy Lee Jackson, Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo – Bil’in has its nonviolent martyrs:Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmah and Jawaher Abu Rahmah.

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Noam Chomsky has to be one of the most brilliant minds of this generation, and his commitment to justice for the Palestinian people is beyond question. Even so, I must confess that I find his pessimism debilitating at times!

Perhaps Chomsky is just a realist and it is me who lives in unrealistic hope for a Palestinian state. Certainly, as he points out in this article, there is nothing going on at present that would suggest that any viable ‘two-state solution’ is around the corner. Even so, I am a man of faith, and believe, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., that while the arc of history is long, “it bends towards justice!”

Father Dave

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

source: www.info…

Israel’s West Bank Plans Will Leave Palestinians Very Little

By Noam Chomsky

August 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House –   The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beginning in Jerusalem proceed within a framework of assumptions that merit careful thought.

One prevailing assumption is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement will be reached, or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state ‘from the sea to the river’,” an outcome posing “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” because of what is termed “the demographic problem,” a future Palestinian majority in the single state.

This particular formulation is by former Israeli Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, but the basic assumptions are near universal in political commentary and scholarship. They are, however, crucially incomplete. There is a third option, the most realistic one: Israel will carry forward its current policies with full U.S. economic, military, and diplomatic support, sprinkled with some mild phrases of disapproval.

The policies are quite clear. Their roots go back to the 1967 war and they have been pursued with particular dedication since the Oslo Accords of September 1993.

The Accords determined that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial entity. Israel and the U.S. moved at once to separate them, which means that any autonomy Palestinians might gain in the West Bank will have no direct access to the outside world.

A second step was to carry forward the creation of a vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem, incorporating it within Israel, as its capital. This is in direct violation of Security Council orders and is a serious blow to any hope for a viable Palestinian entity. A corridor to the east of the new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the settler town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the Oslo Accords, virtually bisecting the West Bank.

Corridors to the north including other settler towns divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control — “Bantustans,” as they were called by one of the main architects of the policy, Ariel Sharon, in a reference to the territory set aside for black South Africans during the apartheid era.

Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the “separation wall” cutting through the West Bank, taking arable land and water resources and Palestinian villages.

Included are the settlement blocs that “will remain part of Israel in any possible future peace agreement,” as stated by Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev as the current negotiations were announced.

The International Court of Justice ruled that all of this is illegal, and the Security Council had already ruled that all of the settlements are illegal. The U.S. joined the world in accepting that conclusion in the early years of the occupation. But under Ronald Reagan, the position was changed to “harmful to peace,” and Barack Obama has weakened it further to “not helpful to peace.”

Israel has also been clearing the Jordan Valley of Palestinians while establishing Jewish settlements, sinking wells, and otherwise preparing for eventual integration of the region within Israel.

That will complete the isolation of any West Bank Palestinian entity. Meanwhile huge infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank, from which Palestinians are barred, carry forward the integration to Israel, and presumably eventual annexation.

The areas that Israel is taking over will be virtually free of Arabs. There will be no new “demographic problem” or civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle, contrary to what many advocates of Palestinian rights anticipate in a single state.

There remain open questions. Notably, pre-Obama, U.S. presidents have prevented Israel from building settlements on the E1 site — a controversial area in the West Bank that Israel hopes to develop — which would complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from Palestinian-controlled area. What will happen here is uncertain.

As the negotiations opened, Israel made its intentions clear by announcing new construction in East Jerusalem and scattered settlements, while also extending its “national priority list” of settlements that receive special subsidies to encourage building and inducements for Jewish settlers.

Obama made his intentions clear by appointing as chief negotiator Martin Indyk, whose background is in the Israeli lobby, a close associate of negotiator and presidential adviser Dennis Ross, whose guiding principle has been that Israel has “needs,” which plainly overcome mere Palestinian wants.

These developments bring to the fore a second common assumption: that Palestinians have been hindering the peace process by imposing preconditions. In reality, the U.S. and Israel impose crucial preconditions. One is that the process must be in the hands of the United States, which is an active participant in the conflict on Israel’s side, not an “honest broker.” A second is that the illegal Israel settlement activities must be allowed to continue.

There is an overwhelming international consensus in support of a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, perhaps with “minor and mutual adjustments” of this 1949 cease-fire line, in the wording of much earlier U.S. policy. The consensus includes the Arab states and the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran). It has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel since 1976, when the U.S. vetoed a resolution to this effect brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

The rejectionist record continues to the present. Washington’s most recent veto of a Security Council resolution on Palestinian territory was in February 2011, a resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy — an end to expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements. And the rejectionist record goes far beyond the Security Council.

Also misleading is the question whether the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would accept a “Palestinian state.” In fact, his administration was the first to countenance this possibility when it came into office in 1996, following Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who rejected this outcome. Netanyahu’s associate David bar-Illan explained that some areas would be left to Palestinians, and if they wanted to call them “a state,” Israel would not object — or they could call them “fried chicken.”

His response reflects the operative attitude of the U.S.-Israel coalition to Palestinian rights.

In the region, there is great skepticism about Washington’s current revival of the “peace process.” It is not hard to see why.