father dave

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Here’s a far more sober analysis of the US President’s visit to Israel/Palestine.

Sam Bahour is no fool, and neither is he a pessimist. As a Palestinian American though, he inevitably feels pain every time he hears Obama speak of the US’s unconditional support for Israel.

Why shouldn’t American support of Israel have conditions and require that certain humanitarian standards be met, as is the case with every other country on the planet? Why indeed?

Father Dave

Sam Bahour

Sam Bahour

source: www.vindy.com…

Obama fails in the Mideast

As I watched President Barack Obama’s helicopter pass above my home, just before landing at the Palestinian Presidential Compound next to Ramallah, I just shook my head in disappointment, first as an American, then as a Palestinian. I thought: “Another U.S. president, on another high fanfare visit, carrying the same, failed political messages.”

It was difficult to follow Obama’s visit on TV. In normal practice when dignitaries come to town, Israel disrupts the satellite signals that feed our televisions. Nevertheless, I was able to tune in to a single Arabic channel, broadcast from Lebanon, that was unaffected by this.

Peeling away all the protocols, red carpets, formalities and artificial photo opportunities, I focused on what was coined “the policy speech.” President Obama gave it in Israel at a conference center to an audience of Israeli students. The president crafted a message directly to Israeli citizens, bypassing the right-wing Israeli prime minister who, until today, continues to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements, despite America’s and the world’s disapproval.

Clear message

The message to Israel was clear: there is no better ally to Israel than the U.S. He went on and on about how Israel will always be backed by the U.S., no matter what. Militarism won the day.

To Palestinians, and the majority of the world, that message no longer makes sense. Why support Israel as a military occupier that continues to build Jewish-only settlements? Why support Israel when it (as the U.S. State Department has documented) structurally discriminates against non-Jews, both Christian and Muslim, inside Israel? Why support Israel when it refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes? In short, if Israel has become a rogue state and is moving (as Israeli leaders have acknowledged) toward a form of apartheid, why should the U.S. be there to fund it, arm it, use its veto to protect it from the United Nations, diplomatically cover for it, and do business with it?

Given that Israel is costing U.S. taxpayers over $3 billion annually and has put the U.S. in a weaker position in the Middle East because of its intransigence, it is past due that every American demand of their government to withdraw its resources and political clout from entities that are moving the region away from peace, instead of closer to it.

Larger message

Just before Air Force One landed at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, President Obama’s limousine, the armored vehicle known as “The Beast,” broke down after being wrongly filled with diesel instead of gasoline. A new one was flown in and no disruptions to the schedule occurred. Nevertheless, perhaps this limousine ordeal carried a larger message: whether “The Beast” or a global superpower, it is crucial that issues are filled with accurate and appropriate substances, otherwise, sooner rather than later, they will start with a sputter and end with a total breakdown.

The U.S. has filled the peace process, for the last 20 years, with Israeli-designed falsehoods, only to bring us to a total breakdown today. I was hoping (but not holding my breath) that President Obama would shift gears on this trip and come with a message to the Israelis that the world’s superpower is now going to fill the process with accountability. That did not happen, and will not, until average Americans say, “Enough is enough.”

Sam Bahour describes himself as a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown living in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine.

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A powerful and pointed article from my friend, Miko Peled.

As the son of one an Israeli general, Miko knows the culture and people of Israel well. As an American citizen, he also understands American realpolitik.

Father Dave

Miko Peled and Father Dave in September 2011

Miko Peled and me in September 2011

source: electronicintifada.net…

Obama won’t bring peace to Palestine

Miko Peled 19 March 2013

If US President Barack Obama wanted to move the Palestine/Israel issue along, he would need to demand that Israel free thousands of political prisoners it holds in violation of international law, end its violations of Palestinian human rights, lift the siege on Gaza or at the very least end the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians.

However, because the fear that retribution by Israel’s lobby will be swift and painful, none of these things will be said — much less demanded — even though they are well-documented and widely known. And so, President Obama’s planned trip to Israel will not offer any solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, politically, a toxic wasteland that no US president in his right mind would want to clean up. It has become a vicious cycle of deceit and double standards, and it will contaminate any US politician who tries to clean it up. One may trust that President Obama, being fully aware of this, will avoid getting involved with this issue in his second term, just as he did in his first term.

Even if he does visit the West Bank city of Ramallah during his planned visit, there can be little doubt that Barack Obama will continue to stand behind Israel and place his real efforts elsewhere. It’s the cost of doing business.

Blank check

The official US stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it needs to be resolved within the framework of a two-state solution but without the US pressuring the parties to reach a resolution. The pressures placed upon politicians in the US by the Israel lobby have created a reality in which criticizing Israel constitutes political suicide.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, the Torquemada of the Israel lobby, stated recently on the satirical television program The Colbert Report that: “there are not many issues for which there is bipartisan support, the support for Israel is a true bipartisan issue” (“Obama’s Israel trip – Michael Oren,” 5 March 2013).

“Support for Israel” means a blank check. Understandably, Oren takes pride in this because it is an accomplishment for which his inquisition-style lobby has worked tirelessly. So much so, that the only vote on this issue that is acceptable in Washington is a vote that is aligned with Israel.

Reckless and destructive

The price of doing business in US politics is to applaud, encourage and pay for Israel to do whatever it wants, regardless how reckless and destructive it may be, and to ignore the plight of the Palestinians. This was true before the last Israeli elections, and now with the results of the Israeli elections clearly showing that Israelis have no interest in resolving the Palestinian issue, the president would have to go against Israeli electorate as well as the Israel lobby in the US, and all this to accomplish something no American president would even dare to articulate: peace and justice for Palestinians.

The naïve hope that Obama’s second term in office will be different than his first on this issue is just that, naïve. A just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question will not come from an American president, nor will it come from an Israeli prime minister. The resolution of the conflict will come as a result of the fall of the Zionist state, not unlike the fall of theapartheid regime in South Africa.

No substance at all

As student groups, churches, trade unions, civil society organizations and the movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel increase their pressure, Western governments who are now complicit in Israel’s crimes will inevitably be forced to halt their support for Israel.

This, along with the ongoing pressure from popular Palestinian resistance, disobedience and defiance of the laws that allow the Zionist occupation of Palestine to function, will bring about a democracy in Palestine, in place of the Zionist state.

But this will not come about of its own accord. People who care about Palestinians and Israelis and who care about justice and peace need to act vigorously and demand a democracy with full equal rights in Palestine/Israel. As for the president’s planned visit, we may expect, and we will surely see no substance at all.

Miko Peled is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

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This is an excellent essay by Joseph Levine – a professor of Philosophy and  a Jew.

Levine raises a question generally considered to be off-limits to right-thinking people – ‘Does Israel have a right to exist?’  To even raise the question is generally considered to be Antisemitic, but Levine questions this.

His case is well argued, as you’d expect from a philosophy professor, but the important thing is not to agree with him but to recognise that the questions he raises are legitimate subjects for debate!

Father Dave

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Prof. Joseph Levine, University of Massachusetts (image: University website www.umass.edu…)

source: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/09/on-questioning-the-jewish-state/

On Questioning the Jewish State

I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.” Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it. The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.

Over the years I came to question this consensus and to see that the general fealty to it has seriously constrained open debate on the issue, one of vital importance not just to the people directly involved — Israelis and Palestinians — but to the conduct of our own foreign policy and, more important, to the safety of the world at large. My view is that one really ought to question Israel’s right to exist and that doing so does not manifest anti-Semitism. The first step in questioning the principle, however, is to figure out what it means.

One problem with talking about this question calmly and rationally is that the phrase “right to exist” sounds awfully close to “right to life,” so denying Israel its right to exist sounds awfully close to permitting the extermination of its people. In light of the history of Jewish persecution, and the fact that Israel was created immediately after and largely as a consequence of the Holocaust, it isn’t surprising that the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” should have this emotional impact. But as even those who insist on the principle will admit, they aren’t claiming merely the impermissibility of exterminating Israelis. So what is this “right” that many uphold as so basic that to question it reflects anti-Semitism and yet is one that I claim ought to be questioned?

The key to the interpretation is found in the crucial four words that are often tacked on to the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” — namely, “… as a Jewish state.” As I understand it, the principle that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state has three parts: first, that Jews, as a collective, constitute a people in the sense that they possess a right to self-determination; second, that a people’s right to self-determination entails the right to erect a state of their own, a state that is their particular people’s state; and finally, that for the Jewish people the geographical area of the former Mandatory Palestine, their ancestral homeland, is the proper place for them to exercise this right to self-determination.

The claim then is that anyone who denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is guilty of anti-Semitism because they are refusing to grant Jews the same rights as other peoples possess. If indeed this were true, if Jews were being singled out in the way many allege, I would agree that it manifests anti-Jewish bias. But the charge that denying Jews a right to a Jewish state amounts to treating the Jewish people differently from other peoples cannot be sustained.

To begin, since the principle has three parts, it follows that it can be challenged in (at least) three different ways: either deny that Jews constitute “a people” in the relevant sense, deny that the right to self-determination really involves what advocates of the principle claim it does, or deny that Jews have the requisite claim on the geographical area in question.

In fact, I think there is a basis to challenge all three, but for present purposes I will focus on the question of whether a people’s right to self-determination entails their right to a state of their own, and set aside whether Jews count as a people and whether Jews have a claim on that particular land. I do so partly for reasons of space, but mainly because these questions have largely (though not completely) lost their importance.

The fact is that today millions of Jews live in Israel and, ancestral homeland or not, this is their home now. As for whether Jews constitute a people, this is a vexed question given the lack of consensus in general about what it takes for any particular group of people to count as “a people.” The notion of “a people” can be interpreted in different ways, with different consequences for the rights that they possess. My point is that even if we grant Jews their peoplehood and their right to live in that land, there is still no consequent right to a Jewish state.

However, I do think that it’s worth noting the historical irony in insisting that it is anti-Semitic to deny that Jews constitute a people. The 18th and 19th centuries were the period of Jewish “emancipation” in Western Europe, when the ghetto walls were torn down and Jews were granted the full rights of citizenship in the states within which they resided. The anti-Semitic forces in those days, those opposing emancipation, were associated not with denying Jewish peoplehood but with emphatically insisting on it! The idea was that since Jews constituted a nation of their own, they could not be loyal citizens of any European state. The liberals who strongly opposed anti-Semitism insisted that Jews could both practice their religion and uphold their cultural traditions while maintaining full citizenship in the various nation-states in which they resided.

But, as I said, let’s grant that Jews are a people. Well, if they are, and if with the status of a people comes the right to self-determination, why wouldn’t they have a right to live under a Jewish state in their homeland? The simple answer is because many non-Jews (rightfully) live there too. But this needs unpacking.

First, it’s important to note, as mentioned above, that the term “a people” can be used in different ways, and sometimes they get confused. In particular, there is a distinction to be made between a people in the ethnic sense and a people in the civic sense. Though there is no general consensus on this, a group counts as a people in the ethnic sense by virtue of common language, common culture, common history and attachment to a common territory. One can easily see why Jews, scattered across the globe, speaking many different languages and defined largely by religion, present a difficult case. But, as I said above, for my purposes it doesn’t really matter, and I will just assume the Jewish people qualify.

The other sense is the civic one, which applies to a people by virtue of their common citizenship in a nation-state or, alternatively, by virtue of their common residence within relatively defined geographic borders. So whereas there is both an ethnic and a civic sense to be made of the term “French people,” the term “Jewish people” has only an ethnic sense. This can easily be seen by noting that the Jewish people is not the same group as the Israeli people. About 20 percent of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish Palestinians, while the vast majority of the Jewish people are not citizens of Israel and do not live within any particular geographic area. “Israeli people,” on the other hand, has only a civic sense. (Of course often the term “Israelis” is used as if it applies only to Jewish Israelis, but this is part of the problem. More on this below.)

So, when we consider whether or not a people has a right to a state of their own, are we speaking of a people in the ethnic sense or the civic one? I contend that insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense.

After all, what is it for a people to have a state “of their own”? Here’s a rough characterization: the formal institutions and legal framework of the state serves to express, encourage and favor that people’s identity. The distinctive position of that people would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc. If the people being favored in this way are just the state’s citizens, it is not a problem. (Of course those who are supercosmopolitan, denying any legitimacy to the borders of nation-states, will disagree. But they aren’t a party to this debate.)

But if the people who “own” the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people’s right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall. Of course Jews have a right to self-determination in this sense as well — this is what emancipation was all about. But so do non-Jewish peoples living in the same state.

Any state that “belongs” to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group.

If the institutions of a state favor one ethnic group among its citizenry in this way, then only the members of that group will feel themselves fully a part of the life of the state. True equality, therefore, is only realizable in a state that is based on civic peoplehood. As formulated by both Jewish- and Palestinian-Israeli activists on this issue, a truly democratic state that fully respects the self-determination rights of everyone under its sovereignty must be a “state of all its citizens.”

This fundamental point exposes the fallacy behind the common analogy, drawn by defenders of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, between Israel’s right to be Jewish and France’s right to be French. The appropriate analogy would instead be between France’s right to be French (in the civic sense) and Israel’s right to be Israeli.

I conclude, then, that the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic. But the harm doesn’t stop with the inherently undemocratic character of the state. For if an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land’s other inhabitants. This will force the ethnic nation controlling the state to resort to further undemocratic means to maintain their hegemony. Three strategies to deal with resistance are common: expulsion, occupation and institutional marginalization. Interestingly, all three strategies have been employed by the Zionist movement: expulsion in 1948 (and, to a lesser extent, in 1967), occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and institution of a complex web of laws that prevent Israel’s Palestinian citizens from mounting an internal challenge to the Jewish character of the state. (The recent outrage in Israel over a proposed exclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties from the governing coalition, for example, failed to note that no Arab political party has ever been invited to join the government.) In other words, the wrong of ethnic hegemony within the state leads to the further wrong of repression against the Other within its midst.

There is an unavoidable conflict between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. I want to emphasize that there’s nothing anti-Semitic in pointing this out, and it’s time the question was discussed openly on its merits, without the charge of anti-Semitism hovering in the background.

Joseph Levine is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he teaches and writes on philosophy of mind, metaphysics and political philosophy. He is the author of “Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.”

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I am encouraged by this article, not only because it lucidly rebuffs the equating of Palestinian activism with Antisemitism but also because it appeared on a University website (in Connecticut, USA).

It is important that these discussions take place on University campuses, and it is important that free speech be given full reign in these contexts. Students must be encouraged to pursue the truth about Israel/Palestine without being pilloried as racists for doing so!

Father Dave

source: http://www.dailycampus.com/commentary/column-pro-palestine-does-not-mean-anti-semitic-1.3008671#.UUXKhRxTCSo

Pro-Palestine does not mean anti-Semitic

By Omar Allam

The screams of an Israeli Air Force fighter jet ricochet through the barren lands of Gaza, as the sounds of explosions reverberate off the bones of 11 Palestinian children and women, who were charred to death during the air strike.

Almost 50 miles away in Tel Aviv, the Israeli military stated the target was a terrorist militant group in Gaza.

This was reported by the Huffington Post.

These air strikes were another part of the Israeli deterrence policy to create extreme preventive punishment and make any attack or retaliation too costly. U.S. media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza portrayed the war as an “endless conflict between two foreign entities” and claimed that Israel is justifiably “defending itself,” according to The Guardian.

One can only condemn the violence, as it is never the answer to any issue.

Nonetheless, western media has focused so much attention on Israel, and has ignored the Palestinian perspective on the apartheid system in the contested territory, that Americans have associated Palestinians as a terrorists and Palestinian support with anti-Semitism.

But, is someone really anti-Jewish if you criticize Israel?
To answer such a question, one would need to discuss the issue with a follower of the Jewish religion.

Stanley Heller is a semi-retired schoolteacher, and he is also a Jew. Heller, like most people, has no tolerance for Anti-Semitism. It “is a hideous crime; it’s a stupid blind hatred,” Heller said.

As Executive Director of the 30-year-old Middle East Crisis Committee, Heller also is a firm supporter in equality and human rights for all.

He explained that, “Jews were once viewed as inferiors, sub-humans, disturbers of the peace and not only by Nazis, but by lots of people and, ironically, Palestinians are facing the same type of discrimination, today.”

In Israel, there is “an ever-deepening apartheid. … Palestinians are being driven away from their homes. In addition, there is aggressiveness against any type of resistance, violent and non-violent,” Heller said. Palestinians are now confined to walled ghettos.

In Gaza, they’re subjected to a blockade of essential basic necessities, and are facing economic sanctions placed by Israel.

Heller, however, is not the only Jew advocating for basic human rights for Palestinians. There are many Jewish groups pushing for Palestinian human rights such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism, Rabbis for Human Rights, etc.

A cable released by Wikileaks showed that the officials in U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv wrote, “as part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed (…) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

The vidence supporting human right violations against Israel is overwhelming; nonetheless there has been limited coverage over the worsening human rights conditions that Palestinians face.

Adam Antar, founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine, a newly founded organization on campus, stated, “the asymmetrical burden of casualties on the part of the Palestinians is one of the most widely acknowledged injustices across the globe. There is nothing racist about advocating for peace and justice for the Palestinians, who have been targeted simply for their existence and identity. In fact, criticizing Israeli policies supports equality and combats racism.”

The state of Israel has laws dictating the segregation of Palestinians from Israelis pertaining to where they can work, where they can live, to what bus they can get on. Similar laws were created in the post-Civil War era in the U.S. to ensure the denomination of African Americans. The Civil Rights movement is justifiably the story of our greatest American heroes, those who stood up for equality and justice. But when Palestinians try to stand up for the same goals, they are labeled as troublemakers, terrorists, and racists.

So to the question, “is someone really Anti-Jewish if he or she criticizes Israel?” The answer is clearly no.

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This report just in! What is the Israeli government up to? This is outright provocation?

If the IDF is barring access to Al-Aqsa Mosque from Palestinian worshipers, the order must have come directly from the top!  Al-Aqsa (literally ‘the farthest Mosque’) is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the old city of Jerusalem. By barring Muslims from accessing a sacred site, the Israeli government must know that the Palestinians will not stand for this!

Is Netanyahu trying to bring on the third Intifada and have it well underway by the time US President Obama makes his visit? Is this all designed to undermine any attempt by the US to build closer ties with the Palestinian government in Ramallah? 

God knows what the Israeli Prime Minister is up to, but certainly he is playing with fire!

Father Dave

Al Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque

source: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=104583

Israel denies Palestinians access to Al-Aqsa

Israeli police on Monday denied Palestinian worshippers access to Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayer, eye witnesses told The Anadolu Agency.

Israeli police also prevented a number of Palestinian students from entering the mosque compound where they learn how to recite the Quran, Muslims’ holy book.

Israeli officials have yet to make a statement over the incident.