Palestinian

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This latest scandal concerns some comments allegedly made by former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as reported by former Knesset member Einat Wilf. Personally, I find Wilf’s comments more astonishing than those attributed to Straw!

According to Wilf, during a debate in British Parliament, Straw cited two major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace:

  1. The “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US
  2. Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wilf’s astonished response was ““I nearly fell off my rickety British chair” and “I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

It’s not clear whether Wilf considers both of the statements attributed to Straw to be equally crazy. Or perhaps it’s not criticism of AIPAC or Germany as such that she considers self-evidently baseless but simply the idea that Israel could be responsible for the impasse?

Certainly Wilf seems to think that her explanation for the conflict – “Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own” – should be accepted without the need for further discussion!

Father Dave

Jack Straw

Jack Straw

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Ex-UK FM: ‘Unlimited’ Jewish funds control US policy, block Mideast peace

Jack Straw unleashes anti-Semitic diatribe at forum held in House of Commons, according to former MK Einat Wilf

Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reportedly said during a debate in the British parliament that “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control American policy in the Middle East.

The comments were made last week during the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons, according to former Knesset member Einat Wilf.

Wilf was participating in the debate and posted what she said were Straw’s comments on herFacebook page.

Straw said, according to Wilf, that the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors are the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US, as well as Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wrote Wilf: “I nearly fell off my rickety British chair today when former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke at the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons. Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem.

“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

Wilf told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday that “It was appalling to listen to Britain’s former foreign secretary. His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind.” She added: “We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

Wilf, a member of Knesset from 2010 to 2013 (Labor, and then the breakaway Independence party), said she repeatedly stressed in the debate that the root of the conflict lay in the Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept Israel’s sovereign legitimacy as a Jewish state. “Throughout the debate I reiterated that the origin of the conflict was the Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own, and that as long as that willingness is absent there will be no true solution.”

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Pope Francis visiting Ramallah – now that would be a step in the right direction, and a far more promising development for Palestine than any number of farcical peace talks.

The reality is that the Israeli government is entirely comfortable with the status quo. Netanyahu has no reason to seriously consider any state for the Palestinian people. Keeping up appearances as a peace maker is important of course, but nothing substantial is going to happen until real pressure is placed on the Israeli government from outside of Israel’s borders, and the Pope is in precisely the right position to exert the necessary leverage!

Of course the Vatican has a very poor history when it comes to siding with the oppressed and the vulnerable. Even so, all he early indicators suggest that this new Pope may be the change that the church has been waiting for!

Who knows? If Pope Francis can get as far as Ramallah, perhaps he’ll venture into Gaza?!

Father Dave

Pope Francis

source: www.catholicnews.com…

Palestinian president hopes to use pen from pope to sign peace treaty

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.”

Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.”

The exchange took place Oct. 17 in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.

Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, “because you obviously have many things to sign,” which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.

A Vatican statement about Abbas’ meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, “The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” was a topic in both conversations.

“The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict,” it said. “Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace” and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.

The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis’ possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas’ delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.

In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Oct. 16 that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Oct. 23 and meet the pope during the same trip.

The Vatican statement on Abbas’ meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that “dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.”

The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating “several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.

if you can’t view this video, click here.

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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.

read the rest of this article here

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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.

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