Palestinian

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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 scrapes the bottom of the barrel!

You’d have thought that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) would have had their hands full already – maintaining the Occupation, making night-time raids, detaining people without trail, demolishing houses, etc., etc. But this just goes way to far! How can anybody attack a puppet show?!

In truth, it’s only a tiny incident when seen in the context of the greater Occupation, Even so, let’s not let this one pass without comment! It simply isn’t right to target a harmless children’s show!

Father Dave

source: www.globalpost.com…

Israel orders Palestinian puppet show closed

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater.

JERUSALEM — Children’s paintings of flowers and butterflies are up on this East Jerusalem theater’s walls, and the venue is colorfully garlanded.

Everything is in place for the opening of its annual puppet festival today — except the El-Hakawati theater has been ordered closed by Israeli authorities.

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater. Police spokesman Luba Samri told AFP the puppet festival’s activities “were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”

The venue’s director Mohammed Halayiqa has filed an appeal that will be heard at Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing that an event cannot be cancelled because the PA funds it.

He says Norway, a longtime supporter of Palestinian cultural events, actually provided the resources for the puppet festival, through the offices of a local cultural fund.

“I am completely shocked,” Halayiqa told GlobalPost, after the ministry summoned him to receive the closure notice.

El-Hakawati is a central cultural venue in East Jerusalem, where the majority of the city’s Palestinian population lives.

Two months ago, it hosted the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, funded by French, Swiss, British, and Palestinian donors.

Israeli and Palestinian activists say they are planning a protest Thursday.

“It just breaks your heart,” Tzaphira Stern-Assal, an Israeli activist with the left wing Meretz party, said in front of the theater today. She is helping organizing the protests tomorrow.

Apparently the authorities decided “too many people gathering here would pose a risk to the state,” she sarcastically quipped.

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Mohammed Assaf is more than an entertainer! He is the hope for the future!

Palestinian youth, it seems, are taking their future into their own hands. They have been betrayed by their elders – smeared in corruption and bogged down in factional in-fighting. Young Palestinians are finding their own voice, and no voice is more outstanding than that of Mohammed Assaf.

As noted in the Daily Star article, the political heavyweights have each tried to cliaim Assaf for themselves. Mahmoud Abbas has named him “National Goodwill Ambassador”, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their “UNRWA Youth Ambassador”. 

But Mohammed Assaf seems quite capable of speaking for himself, and he is certainly a breath of fresh air in the stale and dying ‘peace process’ of Israel/Palestine.

Father Dave

source: www.dailystar.com…

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of jubilant Palestinians celebrated into the early hours of Sunday after a 23-year-old Gazan singer won the Arab Idol talent show, which has captivated millions across the Middle East since March. The meteoric rise of Gaza’s Mohammad Assaf to snatch the top prize in the pan-Arab singing contest sparked an unprecedented outpouring of joy across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, unifying an often divided public.

Assaf’s victory in the finals, held in Beirut and shown live on TV across the Arab world, marked the first such success for a Palestinian entertainer.

“Mohammad Assaf is the Arab Idol!” declared the presenter of the show, which is modeled on the British hit show Pop Idol. Confetti rained down on the cheering audience.

The handsome, tuxedo-clad vocalist immediately dedicated his win to “the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from [the Israeli] occupation.”

He wins a professional recording contract and a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crowned him a national goodwill ambassador, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their UNRWA Youth Ambassador.

read the rest of this article here.

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This is a potentially exciting development in the struggle for Palestinian liberation. It seems that the young and tech-savvy in Palestine have decided that they’ve had enough of corrupt officials who really don’t seem to care about their people’s interests.

Inspired by their Egyptian counterparts, the youth of Palestine are rising up, using the weapon they are most familiar with: Facebook!

Father Dave

Facebook

source: www.albawaba.com…

Gaza rises: Palestine to stage its own Egyptian-style rebellion

After Egypt, a Palestinian version of the “Tamarrud,” or Rebellion, campaign, will launch this week to protest the Palestinian Authority, the division between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli occupation.

The organizers of the “Ya Filastini Tamarrud!” or “Palestinians Rebel!” campaign come from occupied Palestine and beyond. What motivates them is “the disregard shown by the governments in the West Bank and Gaza for the dignity of the Palestinian people.”

The rebels will first launch their campaign on Facebook then seek to collect signatures from Palestinians around the world at a later time.

Safaa Srour, member of the Tamarrud campaign, told Al-Akhbar, “Both governments in the West Bank and Gaza are engaged in policies that are detrimental to the Palestinian people. This pushed us to take the initiative and launch our campaign to rise up against all political hindrances that obstruct the battle with the occupation.”

The borders that separate Palestinians and the diaspora mean that the campaigners cannot assemble in one specific place. In the end, they found no other solution but social networking services to promote the campaign.

Farouk Arar, another member of the campaign, said, “We do not want our initiative to be limited to occupied Palestine. Rebellion must be taken up by every Palestinian. The campaign should not be a temporary phenomenon that sometimes waxes and sometimes wanes.”

Tamarrud, according to Arar, aspires to end division and revive Palestinians’ awareness of their historical rights and duties to expel the occupation and put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s claims to legitimacy. Arar also said that the campaign seeks to organize action on the ground with broad participation, but away from the traditional political factions.

Arar believes that the online campaign will focus on those with Internet access first, and at a later stage, the campaign will initiate a petition that will cover all Palestinian communities, including in the diaspora.

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Another excellent piece of analytical work from Jonathon Cook – unraveling the rhetoric to reveal the stone-cold logic behind John Kerry’s latest proposal for ‘economic peace’ for Israel/Palestine.

By focusing on economic development, Kerry directs attention away from the real issue – the Occupation! At the same time, if the Palestinian leadership balks at the proposal for economic aid they will be held responsible (once again) for scuttling the peace process. It’s a genuine lose-lose situation for the Palestinians.

Father Dave

Jonathon Cook

Jonathon Cook

source: mondoweiss.net…

Kerry’s plan – Palestinians to be cast as fall guys . . . again

by Jonathon Cook

Under heavy pressure from the US, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”.

Ordinary Palestinians, in Netanyahu’s view, can be pacified with crumbs from the master’s table: fewer checkpoints, extra jobs and trading opportunities, and a gradual, if limited, improvement in living standards. All of this buys time for Israel to expand the settlements, cementing its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses. It appears to be adopting Netanyahu’s model of “economic peace”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, flanked by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, revealed an economic programme for getting peace talks on track.

Some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business people were on board, he said, and would invest heavily in the Palestinian economy in a venture that was “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since the Oslo accords”.

No more details were forthcoming, except that it will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007.

He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.

Kerry’s claims for his programme were grand yet vague. Some $4 billion in private investment over three years would boost the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent; agricultural production and tourism would triple; unemployment fall by two-thirds; wages rise by 40 per cent; and 100,000 homes would be built.

But the proposal left few impressed, and for good reason.

Kerry is simply repackaging the task Blair was entrusted with six years ago. His job has been to develop the Palestinian economy and build up Palestinian institutions in preparation for eventual statehood, so far to little effect.

As David Horovitz, editor of the right wing Times of Israel newspaper, scoffed: “If there was $4 billion to be had in private investment in the Palestinian economy, you can rest assured that Tony Blair would have found it.”

Or seen another way, the Palestinian economy’s problem is not a lack of investment; it is a lack of viable opportunities for investment.
Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace, radio frequencies, water and other natural resources, not even over the currency or internal movement of goods and people. Everything depends on Israel’s good will. And few investors will be prepared to bet on that. Israel has repeatedly shown itself more than ready to crush the PA’s finances by, for example, withholding Palestinian tax revenues it collects and is mandated to pass on.

Blair’s role has been heavily criticised because his narrow focus on economic development has not only failed to foster a climate conducive to talks but has served as cover for Israel and Washington’s inaction on Palestinian statehood. Instead of rethinking Blair’s failed mandate, Kerry appears set on perpetuating and expanding it.

Abdallah Abdallah, a senior Fatah official, summed up the Palestinian response: “We are not animals that only want food. We are a people struggling for freedom”.

Israel, meanwhile, is only too ready to push Kerry down this hopeless path.

From Israel’s perspective, the US plan usefully distracts attention from the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab states’ renewed offer last month of full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Netanyahu, worried the offer might corner him into serious talks, has responded with stony silence. At the same time, Yair Lapid, the supposedly centrist finance minister who was originally promoted by the West as a peacemaker, has squashed the idea of a deal with the Palestinians as unrealistic. He told the New York Times last month that he supported expanding the settlements.

Israel, it seems, hopes that the Palestinian Authority, now permanently mired in financial crisis, can be arm-twisted with promises of billions of dollars in sweeteners. According to Palestinian sources, Abbas is facing intense pressure from the US, with the Kerry plan intended to leverage him into dropping his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth before negotiations restart.

Israel is keen to win that concession. Despite reports that Netanyahu has quietly promised the Americans he will avoid embarrassing them for the next few weeks with announcements of settlement building, a rash of projects is in the pipeline.

At the weekend, media reports disclosed a plan for 300 new homes in East Jerusalem, while nearly 800 more are to be released for sale. Several settlement outposts established without authorisation from the Israeli government are expected to be made legal retrospectively, including hundreds of homes in Eli, near Ramallah.

Reuters reported yesterday that Kerry expects a decision on restarting peace talks within two weeks – or, his officials say, he will walk away from the peace process. He told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee the same day: “If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”

For Netanyahu, such threats are hollow. If the US absents itself from the conflict, Israel will simply be left with a freer hand to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land.

Even though much more is at stake for the Palestinians, the PA has so far been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan. It has stated it will not make “political concessions in exchange for economic benefits” – a diplomatic way of saying it will not be bribed to sell out on statehood.

But the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.

This is win-win for Netanyahu, and another moment of disastrous slippage in the diplomatic process for the Palestinians.