palestine

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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

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So many in the ‘West’ forget that the native Christians of Israel are almost all Palestinians.

The numbers of Christians in the ‘Holy Land’ though is getting smaller all the time. This is not because of tensions with their Muslim neighbors but on account of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine that affects Christian and Muslim alike. The only difference is that Christians tend to find it easier to emigrate.

Father Dave

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti

source: www.haaretz.com…

Palestinians add national meaning to Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

By Amira Hass

A Christian pilgrim holds a Polish national flag as others hold palm fronds during the traditional Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem’s old city, March 24, 2013. Photo by

The traditional Palm Sunday procession, marking the beginning of Easter week for Catholic and Protestant Christians, was tinged with Israeli-Palestinian politics in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Thousands of Christians gathered at noon in the courtyard of the Bethphage Greek Orthodox Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is said to have begun his entrance to Jerusalem five days before his crucifixion. Many carried palm or olive branches as they made their way to the Old City.

In Bethelehem, meanwhile, mostly Palestinian worshipers gathered in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, traditional site of Jesus’ birth, clutching olive branches and bouquets as they sung in praise.

For years the Jerusalem procession was attended mainly by non-Palestinian pilgrims, but in recent years the Christian communities in the West Bank and Gaza have made their presence felt, encouraged to do so by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

This year the Palestinians stressed their presence by carrying placards bearing the name of an Arab community, the distance of the community from Jerusalem and the word “Palestine.” Many waved small Palestinian flags, marching among groups of pilgrims from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy and other countries.

One banner, which caused Hebrew and Arab speakers to smile sadly, was a large replica of an entrance permit ostensibly issued by the Civil Administration that read: “The purpose of the permit: Christian holiday. Valid: March 19-May 11. Name: The Palestinian People. ID number: 1948.”

PLO officials hoped the banner would raise awareness among Christians regarding the difficulties Christian Palestinians typically encounter when wishing to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem.

According to the PLO officials, in many communities only half the requests by some of the 50,000 Palestinian Christians were approved, at most.

The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, however, said it rejected, on security grounds, only 192 of the 19,000 requests it received.

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It seems that the American President, in his attempt to please everybody in Israel/Palestine, is pleasing no one.

Israelis remain unconvinced that the weakened US military will be able to provide any real support should there be a real outbreak of hostilities with Iran. The Palestinians remain unconvinced that Obama is willing to apply any leverage to see a ‘two-state solution’ come into being.

Father Dave

source: www.haaretz.com…

Palestinians still waiting for Obama to prove commitment to two state-solution

Many Palestinian lives and much political capital could have been saved over the last four years if President Obama had shown the determination to facilitate two-state solution negotiations. Now, rather than calling for the resumption of a meaningless ‘peace process,’ we Palestinians expect real action on the ground.

By Nabeel Sha’ath | Mar.20, 2013

Unfortunately, after that landmark speech, President Obama appeared to give up on his goal. This meant going back to business as usual: Putting pressure on an occupied people and rewarding the occupying power. In the past four years, Israel has added almost 50,000 settlers to the Occupied State of Palestine, almost 3000 attacks have been conducted by settler terrorists and over 1000 Palestinians have been killed. We could have saved lives and political capital if President Obama had shown the determination to create the right environment for meaningful decisions leading to a two-state solution.Four years ago, Mr. Obama was elected President of the United States of America. He won the hearts of Palestinians and other peoples of the world with his principled positions, vision and courage. Later on, he stood up in Cairo and gave us hope. His moral convictions showed us that he understood our quest for freedom, justice and peace. His strong statements, especially his request that Israel cease all settlement activity, gave us hope that the U.S. could help us to achieve these ideals in reality. Both Palestinians and Israelis who believe in a two-state solution saw President Obama as a real opportunity for change.

We have tried every possible venue to get closer to peace, but we have been always met with Israeli intransigence and a lack of commitment to implement its obligations. It’s been Israel’s unilateral actions, mainly settlement construction and the imposition of an apartheid regime, that have undermined the entire goal of the peace process to a point that leave very few people optimistic.

Israeli unilateralism turned the peace process into a smoke-screen to cover its systematic policy of colonization. Today, in the Occupied State of Palestine, we have homes that are being demolished and families evicted by an occupying power at the same time that the number of settlers went up almost three times since the beginning of the peace process, with a total of over half a million settlers today.

What has allowed Israel to get away with its severe violations? It is an unprecedented culture of impunity that keeps treating Israel as a state beyond the law. But it is also the fact that rather than peace, Israel’s goal is to increase colonization as much as possible. The two-state solution is not part of the agenda of Israel’s government and that’s a primary reason why negotiations failed.

When last year we went to the United Nations we aimed to revive hope. This courageous and rightful step meant, for Palestine, a reaffirmation of our rights in a non-violent manner. Recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border meant also to create a positive initiative to open a meaningful political horizon by salvaging the internationally endorsed two-state solution.

We felt that after twenty years of Israeli violations to every single agreement, it was time for the international community to participate in the resolution of the conflict, whilst aiming to respect and honor the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is in this spirit that we have committed as well to respect all our obligations, international treaties and international law in general.

But instead of welcoming this step, Israel led an unprecedented campaign of colonization with over 11,500 settlement units approved within a very few months following the UN vote. This act isn’t only a war crime, but it is also in open defiance of the stated U.S. policy regarding Israeli settlements. Acts like this, including approving hundreds of settlement units during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, are Israeli messages to the U.S. and the rest of the world that it is not interested in peace: So far, Mr. Netanyahu has been able to get away with it.

Unfortunately, President Obama is not able to visit Palestine for more than a few hours. On March 21st, he will meet with President Abbas. He will be respectfully welcomed by our President and our people. We understand that he wants to listen, read and see for himself.

It would have been a great opportunity for President Obama to visit more of Palestine and see the current reality twenty years after the beginning of the peace process. Starting by the fact that we would have love to welcome him at Orient House, the closed PLO headquarters in Occupied East Jerusalem. He would also see segregated roads, just one example of one of the worst combinations possible: Apartheid under a belligerent occupation.

Next week marks the beginning of Holy Week for millions of Christians around the world. In Palestine, the oldest Christian community will be separated from their spiritual heart, Jerusalem, by Israeli checkpoints, walls and fences aimed at consolidating the illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem. President Obama is welcome to see this reality and understand that the window of opportunity is closing. We don’t need another twenty years of negotiations to change this reality. We need tough and courageous decisions before it is too late.

Racial segregation, including those enforced on public transportation, was a dark period in U.S. history. This is happening today in Palestine, a symptom of how severe the current situation is. Rather than calling for resumption of a meaningless “peace process,” we expect real action on the ground. Such action should lead to ending the Israeli government’s impunity as well as to take the political steps needed. The future of millions of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the rest of the peoples of the region as a whole depends on the U.S. administration’s will to push for justice and peace.

For decades Palestinians have been waiting for a miracle. Maybe President Obama’s visit to the Holy Land can provide us with one. Maybe the bells of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will ring once he visits this Friday announcing clear goals and actions to bring an end to decades of occupation, segregation and colonization. This is the road to justice, security and peace.

Dr. Nabeel Shaath is the Fatah Foreign Relations Commissioner and former Palestinian foreign minister. He was a member of the Madrid Peace Delegation and later was involved in negotiations with Israel that led to the signing of the Oslo Agreements. From 1993-1995, he served as the head of the Palestinian negotiation team, participating in the talks at Camp David (2000) and Taba (2001). He has also represented Palestine at the World Economic Forum.

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I remember a boxing promoter paying one of his fighters after a long, hard fight. He paid him only half of what they’d agreed upon. The fighter said “why are you doing this?” The promoter replied “because I can”.

I’m guessing that this is exactly the same reason why Israeli authorities are blocking Nour Joudah from returning to her school in Ramallah. They’re doing it because they can!

One suspects that Mr Obama is too busy ‘vowing his undying support’ for Israel  (see this articleto take notice of the plight of one young Palestinian American. 

One can only hope.  The full text of Nour Joudah’s letter to Obama is below.

Father Dave

Nour Joudah with some of her class in Ramallah

source: http://mondoweiss.net/2013/03/american-palestine-policies.html

American teacher denied entry to Palestine calls on Obama to address Israel’s Jim Crow policies

For the second time in two months, Israeli authorities have prevented Nour Joudah, a Palestinian-American teacher, 25, from returning to her job at Ramallah Friends School in Palestine. After spending the Christmas holiday in Jordan, Nour was denied entry by Israeli authorities who demanded to know the name of every Palestinian she had associated with during her earlier service. The heartrending case has gotten scarce attention from US politicians and media. Joudah sent this letter to the president yesterday. Her friends shared it with us.

March 18, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to you as a young Palestinian-American woman who was denied entry by Israeli officials twice in the last two months. My only wrongdoing was trying to return to my job at a USAID-supported school in the West Bank city of Ramallah. As you visit Israel and occupied Palestine this week, you should know that countless American citizens have been shut out.

I have been a teacher at Ramallah Friends School, an American-owned Quaker school, since August 2012. After earning a master’s degree from Georgetown University last year, I decided to step back from collegiate academia, and instead contribute by teaching high school youth before completing my Ph.D. However, after spending the Christmas holiday in Jordan, Israeli authorities denied me entry despite having a valid one-year multiple-entry Israeli visa. Shocked, I was sent back to Jordan, separated from my belongings in Ramallah and 90 energetic students who suddenly had no teacher for the second semester.

Determined to return, I hired an Israeli lawyer and contacted my representatives in Congress. They put me in touch with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, which advised me to try to enter Israel again. Taking their advice, I bought a ticket and landed at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on February 25. I was confident because the embassy was advising me and I was carrying a supportive letter from a member of Congress. But I guess I was naïve. I was questioned for eight hours, held in a detention center overnight and deported to Jordan on the first flight out of Israel the next morning. This is the type of treatment law-abiding American citizens often receive at the Israeli border. Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. The State Department warns that Americans of Arab or Muslim descent may experience “significant difficulties” entering Israel or the West Bank. The Arab American Institute has documented hundreds of these cases, including Americans being asked humiliating questions, detained for hours, denied entry or strip-searched. Israeli authorities even mistreated an African-American U.S. Congresswoman before they realized who she was.

I was raised in Tennessee, and grew up with stories of a Jim Crow past. The parallels of discrimination are ever-present in this type of treatment. Mr. President, what is your administration doing to stop this discrimination against U.S. citizens? I have received essentially no help from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. When you meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu this week, I urge you to ask him why an ally and the largest recipient of U.S. aid treats American citizens this way. When you visit Ramallah, you’ll be just a few blocks away from my students, to whom I cannot return. Instead of another closed-door meeting, I urge you to consider addressing them, many of whom are dual citizens, and their interrupted right to an education.

Sincerely,

Nour Joudah