Friday, July 13, 2007

Any Truth to These Charges?

Recognising Israel’s past record and current policy

Michael Jansen
The Jordan Times - Thursday - July 12, 2007

Theodor Herzl, the founding father of the Jewish state, was not deceived by the Zionist slogan which held that Palestine was a land without people for a people without a land. He was well aware that the land the Zionists coveted had a population of native Palestinians and, in 1895, recommended that they be expelled to the border of the Jewish state “surreptitiously”.
This is precisely the policy Israel adopted towards the Palestinians once it became clear that it could not carry out the sort of overt ethnic cleansing widely practised by Israeli armed forces after the passage of the UN partition plan in November 1947 and in the aftermath of the June 1967 war.

Present covert cleansing means include Israel’s strategic settlements, military bases, walls, roads and green zones established in the West Bank. These provide for creeping Israeli annexation of the land Palestinians demand for their state.

Last week, Peace Now’s settlement watch group revealed how annexation is accomplished. The state has expropriated large tracts of land for the 164 settlements, outposts and industrial zones planted in the West Bank. But since the state refused to reveal the boundaries of the seized areas until last year, the extent of Israel’s colonisation was unknown. Settlers in 92 per cent of the colonies, who have built only on 9 per cent of the land under their jurisdiction and make use of only 12 per cent, have, with state approval, expanded onto land which either belongs to Palestinians or is public land which should not, under the 1993 Oslo accord, be taken by Israel.
Once the settlers’ extended claims are recognised by the so-called Israeli Civil Administration, the area is closed to Palestinians who are either forced to relocate or are barred from living or building in or even transiting the area. Palestinians are pushed out gradually while Israelis expand their holdings. Ultimately, the Palestinians will have to leave the West Bank when they no longer have enough land to sustain their communities.

Colonisation of the land is not the sole means employed by Israel to cleanse Palestinians. Peace Now also reported that Israel’s 547 roadblocks, checkpoints and barriers are being used to make it so difficult for Palestinians to function that they will be forced to depart. They are cut off from farmland, employment, markets for produce and products, schools, hospitals and the administrative centre in Ramallah.

While Peace Now says that Israel could do without many of its obstructions in the West Bank, the military argues that removing them would harm Israeli security, the argument Israel commonly relies on to deny Palestinian — and international — demands.

Israel is also decimating the leadership of the community by arresting or killing key figures and using administrative measures to deport Jerusalemites to the West Bank and Palestinians with foreign passports to the countries that issued these documents.

Since the Zionists adopted Herzl’s recommendation generations ago, Israel is in no hurry to accomplish the total cleansing of geographical Palestine. But no one should have any illusions about its intention to create an entirely Jewish state in virtually the whole of Palestine. Means to achieve this were spelled out in 1919 and the 1930s, well before the UN mandated the partition of Palestine and Israel launched its war of establishment.

Cleansing did not begin when Israel was proclaimed, on May 15, 1948, but in early December 1947, when the Haganah and the Irgun and Stern gangs began their over campaign to cleanse Palestinians from the areas allocated to the Jewish state by the UN. While this process has been described by Israeli scholars Simha Flappan and Benny Morris, they have been surpassed by Ilan Pappe in his book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, published by Oneworld this year.
Pappe, who had access to documents, letters and official files of the perpetrators led by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, exposes the detailed planning that went into the wholesale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian urbanites and villagers.

Cleansing was essential for the Zionists because in 1947 only 5.7 per cent of the land of Palestine was owned by Jews, who constituted only one-third of the total population of the country. Furthermore, Jews preferred to dwell in cities rather than the countryside where Palestinians predominated on the land.

In spite of their sparse demographic spread, the Zionists, who were highly influential then as now, demanded 80 per cent of the country. But they received only 56 per cent and their claim to all of Jerusalem was rejected. Furthermore, in the Jewish state there were to be 499,000 Jews and 438,000 Palestinians, while in the 42 per cent Arab state there were to be 818,000 Palestinians and 10,000 Jews. Jerusalem was to be an enclave under international jurisdiction with a population of 200,000, equally divided between Jews and Palestinians.

Pappe summed up the situation once the partition resolution was passed: “As theoreticians of ethnic cleansing acknowledged later, where an ideology of exclusivity is adopted in a highly charged ethnic reality, there can be only one result: ethnic cleansing.”

Pappe said Ben Gurion both accepted the UN plan and worked to overcome its limitations on the Jewish state by expelling Palestinians who were in the way of his vision for a state in at least 78 per cent of Palestine. He and his colleagues in the secret controlling body called “the Consultancy” also had territorial ambitions in the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon.
While attacks on Palestinian towns, villages and urban neighbourhoods began in December 1947, it was not until March 10, 1947, that the Consultancy adopted the master plan, code named Dalet, for the cleansing of Palestine. By the end of April, 250,000 Palestinians had been uprooted in the first phase of the operation, subsequent phases proceeded according to schedule until in the 78 per cent state Ben Gurion achieved during the 1947-49 war, there were only 140,000 Palestinians remaining.

Thousands were killed and a total of 750,000 were driven from their homes by the Haganah and paramilitaries. They murdered hostile Palestinians, staged numerous massacres and blew up or bulldozed Palestinian cities, towns and villages as soon as they were cleared, eliminating more than 500. The expellees flooded into the West Bank, Gaza and neighbouring states, negating the belated efforts of the armies of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan to reverse the cleansing process. Only Jordan’s Arab Legion was partially successful when it hung onto East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But when Israel conquered these areas and Gaza in 1967, more cleansing took place and another 250,000 were expelled, most into Jordan.

Adding insult to grave injury, Israel has successfully denied responsibility for the expulsions, claiming falsely that the Arab governments had ordered the Palestinians to leave so that they would clear the battlefield for military action. This was a lie waiting to be exposed. But Pappe, like his truth-telling predecessors, has no illusions about the impact of his book on those determined to deny Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and those who know the truth but do not intend to act on it.

Unless world public opinion recognises Israel’s past record and current policy of surreptitious cleansing, this will also contribute to the achievement of the Zionist goal of a wholly Jewish state in the whole of Palestine, and perhaps beyond.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Accurate Assessment for NOW

From Challenge 104, July-August 2007 editorial

Palestine in Suicide

Roni Ben Efrat

JUNE 5, 2007 marked forty years of Israeli Occupation. Five days later Hamas began its conquest of Gaza, and on June 14, PA President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah formally dissolved the unity government. After forty years, Israel has finally succeeded in breaking the Palestinian national project.

Defeating the Fatah apparatus of Muhammad Dahlan, the Hamas fighters committed war crimes, aimed at warning other potential nests of opposition. The surviving Dahlan loyalists escaped from the Strip with Israel's assistance. Israelis take a grim satisfaction in the new Palestinian tragedy, but in this they remain as short-sighted as ever: their country's national/colonial enterprise cannot long survive without a viable Palestinian counterpart that accepts its legitimacy.

One outcome of the violence is that Abbas—also known as Abu Mazen—has performed his own disengagement from Gaza. He voices no interest, for now at least, in finding common ground with Hamas. Another outcome is clarity of line: after the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, Palestinian discourse became blurred, with Hamas adopting nationalist language and Fatah religious. Now the ruler of the West Bank is Fatah, anchored in the secular, Israeli, pro-American camp, while the ruler of Gaza is Hamas—militant, anti-American, Islamist, isolated from the Western world.

The wider Arab context is divided as follows: Egypt and Jordan support Abu Mazen alone. Qatar too recognizes his legitimacy, but not as exclusive; the Hamas government, it says, is also legitimate. Saudi Arabia, which recently ushered Hamas and Fatah into the Mecca Agreement, supports Abu Mazen but believes that the two sides must return to the table.

From Oslo to Mecca
Few recall that toward the end of the first Intifada—when the PLO was at a low point—Israel's initial concept was to set up a Palestinian state in Gaza, over which Yasser Arafat would preside. The idea was to deck it with the symbols of sovereignty: the Palestinians would settle for that, it was thought. Under the same concept, the Oslo Accords never specified the territory that the Palestinians would receive in the West Bank, or the fate of Jerusalem and the settlements. In the course of the second-stage talks, Yasser Arafat managed to nail down the unity of the West Bank and Gaza. He even got control of the major Palestinian cities.

The Oslo process had been hampered all along by the opposition of Hamas (which refused to take part in the parliamentary elections of 1996). Hamas never accepted the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an Oslo creation. It did all it could to stop the process. Its suicide attacks, which began in 1994 after Muslims were massacred in Hebron, made the whole PA untrustworthy in Israeli eyes. Israel demanded that Arafat clamp down, but he could not do so completely. An all-out fight against Hamas would have alienated other Palestinians, who were already criticizing the PA for its corruption and impotence.

In this way a vicious circle developed that has been with us ever since. Israel said, and continues to say, that it cannot make concessions toward a peace agreement unless the PA first dismantles the terror apparatus; the PA answered, and continues to answer, that it cannot gain the popular support it would need to dismantle Hamas unless it first can show achievements in the peace process. Within the stalemate created by the circle, Hamas gained legitimacy. Its new status became evident during the second Intifada, which erupted, we recall, after the Camp David talks of July 2000 broke down. Why did they break down? Because the Palestinians—under closure while Israel thrived and the settlements swelled around them—had by then lost faith in both Israel and Arafat. The PA president no longer had a domestic or pan-Arab mandate to sign an agreement with Israel.

It was the militant wing of Fatah, the Tanzim ("Organization"), that started the second Intifada. The Tanzim did so without a national strategy. The revolt was motivated largely by resentment, aimed not so much at Israel as at Arafat's PA. (The Tanzim members had been marginalized—edged out of the better PA jobs—by Arafat's cronies from Tunis.) Two further factors then joined the uprising. One was Arafat himself, scrambling to keep his leadership. The second was Hamas, which welcomed the collapse of Oslo. None of these contributed a strategy. The national question was merely sidetracked into an arena of blood. Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigades, competing with Hamas for the hearts of the people, adopted the tactic of suicide attacks. The practice of atrocity became a habit. We have just now witnessed its boomerang in Gaza.

The Second Intifada ground to a halt after three major actions by Israel: (1) Operation Defensive Shield, which destroyed Fatah's military apparatus in the West Bank; (2) assassinations of the top Hamas leaders; and (3) unilateral disengagement from the Strip, which Hamas viewed as its own victory. For various reasons (one was the ease with which Israel had picked off its leaders) Hamas decided to turn toward politics. The decision, we shall see, had implications it failed to think through. Hamas entered the elections of January 2006, winning 74 seats in parliament, compared to 45 for Fatah (23 for other parties).

The landslide plunged Hamas into a dilemma. On the one hand, it had entered elections whose framework and legitimacy derived from the Oslo Accords. But those Accords are based on Palestinian recognition of Israel—a thing Hamas refuses to do.

The party was in a peculiar position. Because Palestine was a state-in-the-making, there was hardly anything to govern: rather, the main task of government would be to engage in a political process leading to statehood. Those who had voted for Hamas expected and wanted it to engage in that process. Disgusted with Fatah corruption, they believed that Hamas would do better. To engage in the process, however, Hamas would have to negotiate, and negotiate it could not.

The impossibility of its position weakened Hamas. Meanwhile, the Western world imposed a boycott on the PA, and four million Palestinians found themselves under economic siege.

In response, Hamas attempted to wear two faces. There was the moderate governing party that tried to use Fatah as a mediator with the West. Second, there remained the rigidly fundamentalist movement, whose leaders went East in search of money for salaries, bringing it back—literally—in suitcases.

The predicament of Hamas opened the crack through which Fatah (especially Dahlan's forces in Gaza, supported by the US) could return to the fray. Fatah had never accepted the decision of the people (just as Hamas, earlier, had never reconciled itself to Arafat). The Mecca Accord, signed in February 2007, was an attempt to paper over very basic differences. Behind the new unity government stood two shadow regimes, one belonging to Fatah, which included the military wing of Dahlan, and the other belonging to Hamas, which fired Qassam rockets from Gaza into southern Israel.

Where are you going, Palestine?

After being ousted from Gaza, Abu Mazen—in his fourth presidential year—made the decision that the US and Israel had long demanded: he dissolved the Hamas government.

On a superficial view, Abu Mazen killed two birds with one stone: he ended the boycott on the PA in the West Bank and he isolated Hamas. On a deeper view, however, the national project (and he is among its last surviving founders) has been smashed to bits.

Suppose Israel were to make a separate peace with Abu Mazen? This would solve nothing, because there would still be none with Hamas, which has forces in the West Bank. The split between Hamas and Fatah has provided Israel with excuses not to withdraw, not to dismantle settlements and not to permit the rise of a Palestinian state. It can say: "How can we cede land to Abu Mazen, knowing that Hamas could use it for launching rockets toward Tel Aviv or the airport? Our army must remain in the West Bank to keep Hamas from taking that too—and to defend Abu Mazen!"

The PA president, by ditching Hamas, has diminished his bargaining power: he can no longer say to his Western protectors or to Israel, "Excuse me, but I have an internal opposition to contend with, so I cannot accept your terms." What is more, in the absence of honest leadership, the Western money soon to hit the West Bank will likely find its way into private pockets, creating new resentment and strife.

As for Hamas, which had once hoped to conceal its agenda beneath Abu Mazen's table, it is now the sole ruling party in Gaza. It will have to justify the rash operation in which it divided the unity package. It faces 1.4 million hungry citizens. It has no industry, no donor money, no infrastructure, and no international legitimacy. All it can offer is the Qur'an. Hamas will see the support of the people crack. Charity will likely give way to a reign of internal terror, like that which occurred in Iran, Algeria and Afghanistan. If Hamas again seeks unity with Fatah, it will find that it has to bend.

And what about Israel? It frolics in its villa behind walls and checkpoints, but the Palestinian problem never ceases to knock. Israel could not cope with a united Hamas-Fatah front, but it cannot cope with their separation either. It doggedly seeks tactical solutions for a basically strategic problem. Each solution becomes a new impediment, requiring further tactical solutions. An example is the proposal to release Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences; he, it is thought, is the only Fatah leader with the strength and credit to stand against Hamas. But who is Barghouti? He is head of the Tanzim, the group that started the misconceived second Intifada largely for the private motives stated above.

The solution, for Israel, is not to create another collaborator. The solution—despite new excuses to avoid it—remains what it has always been: real Palestinian sovereignty over all the lands conquered in 1967. But such a thing will not happen, cannot happen, unless a different kind of leadership emerges on both sides. The Israelis will have to find leaders who are willing to pay the price of peace. Among the Palestinians, a leadership will have to emerge that resembles neither Hamas nor Fatah. It will have to be both honest and realistic. It will have to put the common people first, the workers and refugees—rather than trying to buy them off with the drug of foreign charity or the promise of an otherworldly paradise. [submitted by JRK]

Monday, July 9, 2007

This is the opening post for the revised FOIP: Friends of Palestinians and Israelis. So I guess we'll have to shorten it to FPI, this, instead of FBI.

My former FOIP, begun in the fall of 2003, has disappeared into ether space, somewhere between Mars and Venus. Boing. It's gone. It all has to do with changing ISP's and changing email addresses. It's even more complicated than that. But I decided to start all over, keeping the same goals in mind.

1) Providing important news and information about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that doesn't get reported (typically) by the media in the United States.

2) Giving voice to persons, agencies, and groups that are making a positive contribution to changing the dynamics, leading away from violent confrontation, to non-violent, bridge-building efforts to move toward resolution of long-standing problems.

3) Doing all in my power to help all parties treat each other with mutual respect, address underlying issues long ignored, bear with one another with understanding and forgiveness, and move towards reconciliation and resolution of long-standing obstacles towards solutions mutually acceptable to all sides.

4) Urging readers to spread important news stories and insights to their world, their circle of friends, local, state and national governmental leaders, so that the US is working toward the above stated objectives.

So, I invite responses and discussion about items posted on this blog. It is a record (for all of us) of posts through the coming months (years?). If you wish to join the FPI distribution list, simply write me asking to be added. This will assure that you receive timely background reports from the 25-30 articles coming to my attention almost everyday from many sources. I choose only the best material and post it here (and to my FPI "friends") only every two or three days.
News articles come from Doug Dicks (the PCUSA liaison in Jordan), the ATFP (American Task Force on Palestine), Palestinian News Network (a daily news summary), Ray Weiss (former RCA missionary in the Middle East), Marlin Vis (RCA mission co-worker in E. Jerusalem, SABEEL (the Palestinian Liberation movement), many Israeli/Palestinian cooperative groups on the ground, Lew Scudder (now retired RCA leader, Arabic scholar, long affiliated with the Middle East Council of Churches), and from my own reading and research.
You are welcome to alert me (and all of us) to other view points that illumine the tortuous route toward a better future for Israelis (security) and Palestinians (their ligitimate aspirations). May the God of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad help us all to keep from killing each other in the name of justice, "God", or honor. John R. Kleinheksel Sr.