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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.

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I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.

Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!

Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.

Father Dave

Warrren Clark

Warrren Clark

source: www.cmep.org…

The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never

The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims  – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.

I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.

Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem.  While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.

Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed.  While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal.  However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.

Skepticism

There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached.   Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used  to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached.  The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.

To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.

For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.

The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.

read the rest of this article here.

 

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This is an extraordinary article from Nadezhda Kevorkova, and the first that I have read that champions Syria as upholder of Palestinian rights!

According to the Palestinians interviewed in Damascus, Assad is being punished for upholding the Palestinian right of return! This is hardly likely to be the full picture but if it does contain even a grain of truth it does raise the question as to why Khaled Mashaal is throwing his weight behind the Syrian rebels from his base in Qatar!

Something here doesn’t add up!

Father Dave

source: rt.com…

Syria is a battle for Palestine

One of the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command is located in a basement in central Damascus.

All secrecy measures are there: one cannot drive through the area; hidden guerillas everywhere, and several dozen CCTV cameras. This is the Palestinian group whose headquarters and weapons were seized in December last year by the Syrian militants in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria near Damascus.

Several people are sitting in a small room.  These are: member of the PFLP GC Political Bureau Anwar Raja, editor in chief of the Palestinian Forward magazine, Tahsin Al Hаlabi, and about five other companions who come and go while we speak.

Anwar Raja was born in Jaffa. He was ten when the Palestinians were thrown out of the Holy Land. He experienced all the tribulations of the Palestinian struggle firsthand. And Tahsin Al Hаlabi was only 10 months old when his family had to leave their home.

‘I was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison for the right to see my home. During my time in Nablus prison I learned English, French, German, and Italian. And I speak Hebrew better than settlers in Israel’, he laughs.

‘In order to free him from captivity, we seized three Israeli soldiers’, recalls Anwar Raja.

The PFLP is the pioneer of all forms of the Palestinian struggle. The organization was founded in the 1960s, and it’s always relied for its support on refugee camps. They split with Yasser Arafat because they dismissed any negotiations, agreements or concessions with Israel. Starting from the 1960s, the PFPL managed to establish an expansive international front of struggle for Palestine, reaching out to groups like RAF and the Japanese Red Army. They were the ones who, long before HAMAS, would send out kamikazes on no-return missions. They invented what’s now widely known as suicide bombers. They were also the first ones to hijack Israeli passenger airplanes and Israeli servicemen to swap them for prisoners.

In Syria, most Palestinian training camps and bases belong to the Popular Front. They have always been the key arms suppliers to Palestine and Lebanon as they had networks and long-term experience of underground operations. They’re fundamentally against elections and party lists as they believe these are just irrelevant games while they remember that 7 million Palestinians remain refugees.

Until December 2012, the main PFPL GC headquarters was located in the Yarmouk camp, Damascus, and so was their main arms dump, which was seized by Syrian rebels. Yarmouk was the first Palestinian camp from which the Syrian militants threw out 150,000 Palestinian refugees.

The over 700,000 Palestinians living in Syria are the key target of political and military struggle. According to the PFPL, what’s happening today in Syria is meant to draw them into the conflict, to purge Syria of them, and to downplay the Palestinian issue.

‘Assad punished for refusing to turn away from Palestinians’

‘A very difficult time began for us. All these events will have major implications for Palestine’, says Anwar Raja.

He is really hopeful that Syria can withstand it, and that this is the only way for Palestinians to consolidate their positions. In his opinion, the conflict didn’t start two years ago. It had been predetermined by Syria’s fundamental position on the Palestinian issue. All countries of the region turned away from Palestinians and bargained with the US and Israel, whether explicitly or implicitly. Syria was the only one that didn’t give in, he believes.

‘By 2002 the Israeli flags were raised over all the Arabic capital cities except for Syria’, Anwar Raja comments.

‘The key demand of the Palestinians is the return of the Palestinian refugees. Israel will never agree to it as this would bring its end closer. In 2002, the so-called Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut declared the ‘land for peace’ principle. At that time, only Libya and Assad required introducing the return of the refugees clause’, reminds Anwar Raja.

He believes that following the invasion of Iraq, Qaddafi rejected any Palestinian support, but that wasn’t enough to save him. Bashar al-Assad didn’t turn away from the Palestinians, and that was the reason that the West directed the wave of militants against Syria and spread out the Islamic propaganda that Assad was the root of all their troubles.

‘And now Israel wants to abolish the Palestinian refugee term through the UN’, says the member of the PFLP Political Bureau.

‘Syria didn’t just allow us to stay here. All of our training camps were in Syria, including the Islamic Jihad. Even HAMAS was exercising here in our camps’, explains Anwar Raja. He reminds that at the PFLP reference, HAMAS was able to settle in Syria. ‘We told Hafez al-Assad that HAMAS were fighters, and he allowed them to come over’.

‘The West and the Arabs insist that the war broke out in Syria because the regime had failed to execute reforms. This is just absurd. Syria held the Palestinian issue on the table. Syria personifies the very idea of the refugees’ right to return. In any other country, the Palestinians are just forbidden to talk about politics’, he believes.

‘Palestinian camps in Syria were attacked. The attackers opened fire, provoked and abducted Palestinians. We told the armed opposition that we would not get involved in the armed struggle in Syria, as we were guests there. The Palestinians formed committees for the sake of the camps security. But George Sabra (the opposition leader) stated on TV that they considered Palestinian camps part of Syria. The militants broke into camps. Yarmouk was ransacked. We asked Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Abbas to talk to the opposition, but they never played the intermediary role,’ says Tahsin Al Hаlabi.

read the rest of this article here: rt.com…

 

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It is extraordinary to watch the tide of world opinion increasingly shifting towards the people of Palestine while, conversely, Israel experiences ever-increasing isolation.

US President Obama’s recent visit to Israel all but confirmed the complete irrelevance of America in any ongoing ‘peace process’. In the meantime, not only neighboring Arab states and European countries but African countries as well line up in support of Palestinian independence.

We might have anticipated that Zimbabwe would be a natural ally to Palestine, having gone through their own struggle for independence from white minority rule. As with South Africa, the parallels with Apartheid are too close to the bone to go unnoticed.

Father Dave

source: allafrica.com…

Zimbabwe: Palestine Commends Zim

Palestine has commended Zimbabwe for its political support in its quest to become an independent state. The Middle East country is under occupation from Israel, which is supported by western countries mainly the United States of America.

Presenting a public lecture at the National Defence College in Harare yesterday, Palestinian ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Hashem Dajani said there was a need to strengthen the relationship between the two countries that started during Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence.

“I want to express our appreciation to President Robert Mugabe, to the people and Government of Zimbabwe for the political support given to our Palestine people in their struggles,” he said.

“The Palestine-Zimbabwe relations of friendship, support and solidarity go back to the days of the struggle for independence and it continues to grow stronger. We share almost the same vision on different issues within the framework of different forums, like the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement global economy and many others.”

Mr Dajani was confident that the Palestinian people would continue fighting to realise “their national objectives, freedom and independence.”

“Your support for us in our national struggle will accelerate realisation of peace and victory and avert our people and the region from new wars and disasters,” he said.

He described Zimbabwe as a “united nation” as evidenced by the recently held constitutional referendum. “To me the referendum was successful and it showed that the people of Zimbabwe, without interference, are united. It is clear that the unity displayed during the referendum will prevail during the elections expected soon,” he said.

He said most Israeli political parties, with unlimited support from the US, had systemically denied the Palestinian people their most basic rights.

“It is Israel that occupies the four million people in the State of Palestine. It is Israel that has condemned more than five million Palestinians to exile,” he said.

“It is Israeli occupation of Palestine that constitutes the main source of violence and instability in the region.Justice seems to have no meaning in the Israeli political lexicon unless it is in relation to Israeli Jewish citizens. This fact can be attested to by I,5 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and yet face institutionalised discrimination within Israel itself and incitement against Palestinians is on the rise.”

read the rest of this article here: http://allafrica.com/stories/201303280899.html

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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