Friday, May 6, 2011

Israel's Future

Dear Friend,
Yes, 20-25% of Israeli citizens are what are called "Palestinian Israelis". Second class, but living in Israel. They were original inhabitants of the land and were given permission to become citizens of the land. Suspected by Israelis of siding with Palestinians; suspected by Palestinians of siding with Israelis. Not a comfortable existence.

It is not often that the issue is spelled out simply and clearly. But Ahmed Moor is one of those persons.He gives his assessment of what is happening in Israel and where the future is leading. This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle a few days ago. Thanks to the Palestinian Center for making it available.

From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article by Ahmed Moor was published by the San Francisco Chronicle on 4 May 2011.

"Israel's Future"
By Ahmed Moor

In an April 27 op-ed, Rabbi Doug Kahn accurately quoted me as having written that "ending the occupation doesn't mean anything if it doesn't mean upending the Jewish State itself." He did not take the line out of context, nor did he misrepresent what I intended to say; democracy in Palestine/Israel and the realization of full human and political rights there for Palestinians means the end of Jewish privilege in my birth country.

The conversation around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is wrapped in a myth: That the Palestinians will one day have a viable state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. The reality is that there will be no viable Palestinian state, ever. There are three main reasons for that:

First, the process of ethnic cleansing that created Israel and made my grandparents refugees in 1948 has not stopped. Israel continues to ethnically cleanse the West Bank and East Jerusalem of Palestinians to implant Jews in their place. There are now more than 500,000 Jewish colonists living in the midst of 3.5 million Palestinians. No one is going to remove these settlers from the lands their state has stolen for them.

Second, Israel relies on Palestinian water to survive. The Jewish state controls the mountain and coastal aquifers that sit under Palestinian land. Relinquishing control of those resources is not an option for any Israeli leader.

Finally, the Jordan Valley is too strategically important from a military perspective for Israel to withdraw from it. Israeli army regulars will always have a presence there. The Jordan Valley sits in the West Bank, which means that the Israeli army will always be in the West Bank.

There are more realities that bear on the question of whether the Jewish state will continue to exist.

Twenty-five percent of Israelis (not counting refugees like me in the Occupied Territories who don't have an Israeli passport or citizenship) are not Jewish. America is more Christian than Israel is Jewish. There are fewer African Americans proportionally in America than there are Palestinians in Israel. And all of those non-Jewish Israelis are having more children than the Jewish ones are.

In Israel, they call this the "demographic problem." I don't know how they propose to solve their demographic problem.

Today, there is numerical parity between Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land. And since we Palestinians do not accept the argument that it was necessary to ethnically cleanse Palestine to establish a Jewish state, we are inconveniently calling for our rights.

The late Tony Judt described the Jewish state as an anachronism. Perhaps if Israel had been established in 1848 the indigenous population -- the Palestinians -- would have faded from view. But history had a different plan for the world's last colony.

Many of us in Palestine/Israel, including many non-Zionist Jews, are working toward real democracy in the country. I am confident that we will succeed in creating a race-blind society. Perhaps Rabbi Kahn will help us achieve our humanist goal.

Ahmed Moor is a graduate student in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Abreast of Fast-Moving Developments!

I'm sending two important messages. One from Jimmy Carter (I think he's right on).
The other is from Haaretz. Bibi (the Israeli PM) claims Palestinians have to choose either "peace" or "Hamas" (can't have both). But the real choice is this: Israel must choose between "peace" and a "racist state" (according to Sefi Rachlevsky). JRK (with thanks to our man on the ground, Doug Dicks).

Support the Palestinian unity government
By Jimmy Carter
Wednesday - May 4, 2011
The Washington Post

This is a decisive moment. Under the auspices of the Egyptian government, Palestine’s two major political movements — Fatah and Hamas — are signing a reconciliation agreement on Wednesday that will permit both to contest elections for the presidency and legislature within a year. If the United States and the international community support this effort, they can help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel. If they remain aloof or undermine the agreement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory may deteriorate with a new round of violence against Israel. Support for the interim government is critical, and the United States needs to take the lead.

This accord should be viewed as a Palestinian contribution to the “Arab awakening,” as well as a deep wish to heal internal divisions. Both sides understand that their goal of an independent Palestinian state cannot be achieved if they remain divided. The agreement also signals the growing importance of an emerging Egyptian democracy. Acting as an honest broker, the interim Egyptian government coaxed both sides to agreement by merging the October 2009 Cairo Accord that Fatah signed with additions that respond to Hamas’s reservations.

The accord commits both sides to consensus appointments of an election commission and electoral court. I have observed three elections in the Palestinian territory, and these institutions have already administered elections that all international observers found to be free, fair, honest and free of violence.

The two parties also pledge to appoint a unity government of technocrats — i.e., neither Fatah nor Hamas. Security will be overseen by a committee set up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and Egypt will assist.

Why should the United States and the international community support the agreement? First, it respects Palestinian rights and democracy. In 2006, Hamas won the legislative election, but the “Quartet” — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — rejected it and withheld aid, and the unity government collapsed. Competition between the two factions turned vicious, and each side has arrested the other’s activists. Instead of exacerbating differences between the two parties, the international community should help them resolve disagreements through electoral and legislative processes.

Second, with international support, the accord could lead to a durable cease-fire. Israel and the United States are concerned that Hamas could use a unity government to launch attacks against Israel. I have visited the Israeli border town of Sderot and share their concern. I urged Hamas’s leaders to stop launching rockets, and they attempted to negotiate a lasting mutual cease-fire. The United States and other Quartet members should assist Hamas and Israel’s search for a cease-fire.

Third, the accord could be a vehicle to press for a final peace agreement for two states. Abu Mazen will be able to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians. And with Quartet support, a unity government can negotiate with Israel an exchange of prisoners for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a settlement freeze. In my talks with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, he said Hamas would accept a two-state agreement that is approved in a Palestinian referendum. Such an agreement could provide mutual recognition — Israel would recognize an independent Palestinian state and Palestine would recognize Israel. In other words, an agreement will include Hamas’s recognition of Israel.

Suspicions of Hamas stem from its charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction. I find the charter repugnant. Yet it is worth remembering that Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization while its charter had similar provisions. It took five more years before the PLO Charter was altered.

Many Israelis say that as long as the Palestinians are divided, there is no partner for peace. But at the same time, they refuse to accept a unity government. In Cairo this week, the Palestinians are choosing unity. It is a fragile unity, but the Quartet should work with them to make it secure and peaceful enough to jump-start final-status negotiations with Israel.

The writer was the 39th president of the United States. He founded the not-for-profit Carter Center, which seeks to advance peace and health worldwide.

Israel must choose between peace and a racist state
Netanyahu needs to face a simple, clear-cut question: Do you want a democratic state based on the 1967 borders, or not?
By Sefi Rachlevsky
Ha'aretz -- Wednesday - May 4, 2011

The slogan that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power was "making a secure peace." That is no accident. "Peace" has maintained the right-wing government to a much greater extent than the right-wing government has maintained peace.
The reason for this is simple. When "peace" is at issue, the domestic debate is diverted to the image of the "other," the one with whom peace should or should not be made. From there, the road is short in Israel to governmental scorn for the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and for assertions, like those of Netanyahu, that Hamas is a continuation of the Nazis.

But the cyclical Israeli calendar, which moves from "Holocaust" to "Independence," reminds us of what ought to have been self-evident. There is one question that must precede the question of "peace" - a question that constitutes the essence of independence and formed the basis of the Zionist revolution: What does Israel want?

Not for nothing is that question ignored by the government. For when you ask what Israel wants, the requisite answer is clear: a state based on the borders in which it achieved independence, known today as the 1967 borders; a democratic state in which all are equal, as described in the Declaration of Independence.

This answer is dangerous to the right, because most Israelis still support it and it is also accepted internationally. Moreover, it has potency in any situation, even when all eyes are made to look outward, on relations between Fatah and Hamas. If Defense Minister Ehud Barak is right that Hamas capitulated to Fatah, the way is open for a successful implementation of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines. And if the opposite is true, an Israel that has chosen a democratic state in the 1967 borders has a wealth of available options that would enable it to look out for itself with widespread international support.

But the question of what Israel wants has a second possible answer: Israel wants a racist messianic state, one in which Jews are citizens and non-Jews are subjects. This second answer is not fantastic. In essence, this has been the Israeli reality for 44 years already. In the territories, and also in Jerusalem, Jews are citizens and non-Jews aren't. Just this week, the science minister (! ) presented an award to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu at a ceremony in which the latter advocated cleansing Safed of Arabs.

Barak, an adherent of the method of verbal misdirection used to enable special-forces operations, dragged "the Third Way" out of storage to be the platform of his Atzmaut party. But Barak knows better than anyone that there is no third way. In special operations, in business and in policy alike, the decision is simple and clear: yes or no. Either Israel wants a state based on the promises of its Declaration of Independence, or it doesn't.

To flee this simple truth, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (Likud ) invented what his staffers termed the "teaspoon" policy at the 1991 Madrid Conference: endless negotiating sessions at which mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached. Netanyahu has perfected this method, which enables him to keep stirring sugar into the negotiators' cups forever instead of answering the question of what Israel wants.

But the time for teaspoons has ended. September 2011 is imminent. U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to power on the wings of domestic opposition to racism, has now just scored a victory over racism and messianism abroad. Regardless of whether or not he is personally a fan of Zionism, America's interests and international developments have granted him the ability to help distance Israel from racism and restore its independence.

To do this, it is necessary to end the witch's brew of peace, teaspoons and ambiguity, and bring Netanyahu face to face, both at home and abroad, with this simple, clear-cut question: Do you want a democratic state based on the 1967 borders, or not? There is no other question. But the requisite answer is not a facile breath of air. It requires dismantling the settlements outside Israel's borders, bursting the racist-messianic bubble that is taking over Israel's educational and legal systems, and putting rabbis like Eliyahu on trial instead of granting them awards.

Now is the time to answer that one question, the one that founded Israel 63 years ago: What does Israel want?

Monday, May 2, 2011

James Wall Assesses the Current Situation

Dear Friend of Israelis and Palestinians,
Jim Wall, a long-time observer of our region, brings us an up to the minute assessment of the situation in Isr/Pal.
The US and Israel are no longer the driving forces over there, thank God. Oh, we have clout all right and can continue to try to dictate matters.
But the Arab Spring, Egypt and our support for dictators (non-democrates) is crumbling. Democratic forces have overtaken the US/Isr efforts to dictate "progress" on negotiations. There have been no meaningful negotiations. It's all been window-dressing for continued Israeli domination of the narrative. There has been NO opening to the Palestinian narrative, it's grievances and calls for justice.
But read Wall's synopsis. JRK

Why Palestinian Unity is the Only Option that Works for Palestinians
By James M. Wall

You would not know it from reading/viewing the American media, which parrots whatever Israel’s leaders say, but Bibi Netanyahu is secretly delighted that Fatah and Hamas have reached a unity agreement.

The official line, of course, is that the Israeli prime minister is outraged that the Palestinian Fatah leadership has actually embraced the Hamas leadership. The leaders of the two parties are shown here, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Ha’aretz reported from Jerusalem that, upon hearing of the unity agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid down his marker: “the Palestinian Authority must choose whether it is interested in peace with Israel or reconciliation with Hamas.”

This is an empty option, one that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) knows is empty.

The London Guardian explains what lies behind Fatah’s willingness to finally work for unity with Hamas:

There are three chief reasons why, after four years of bitter and violent conflict between the rivals, Fatah acceded to all of Hamas’s political conditions to form a national unity government.

The first was the publication of the Palestine papers, the secret record of the last fruitless round of talks with Israel. The extent to which Palestinian negotiators were prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate Israel surprised even hardened cynics.

The Palestinian Authority found itself haemorrhaging what little authority it had left. The second was the loss to the Palestinian president, Abu Mazen, of his closest allies in Hosni Mubarak and his henchman Omar Suleiman. While they were still around, Gaza’s back door was locked. But the third reason had little to do with either of the above:

Abu Mazen’s faith in Barack Obama finally snapped. For a man who dedicated his career to the creation of a Palestinian state through negotiation, the turning point came when the US vetoed a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlement-building. In doing so, the US vetoed its own policy.

To make the point, the resolution was drafted out of the actual words Hillary Clinton used to condemn construction. Fatah’s frustration with all this has now taken political form.

Long-time Bibi Watcher James Zogby knows why it was time for Fatah to give up on both Bibi and Barack. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, wrote in Huffington Post:

What is, of course, galling. is the assumption implicit in [Netanhyahu's] framing of the matter, namely, that peace with his government is a real possibility that the Palestinians have now rejected. In reality, the Netanyahu government has shown no interest in moving toward peace — unless on terms they dictate and the Palestinians accept.

While feigning disappointment at this Palestinian move, Netanyahu must privately be delighted. The pressure he was feeling to deliver some “concessions” to the Palestinians in his upcoming speech to the U.S. Congress has now been relieved.

This unity between Fatah and Hamas is inevitable. The problem for the US Congress and Israel is that they cannot face reality. These two soul mates in repression continue to pretend the future belongs to them. They keep making the same mistakes. For example:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to deliver a speech before a joint session of Congress while he is in Washington May 22-24, to address the AIPAC policy conference.

The AIPAC Policy Conference, scheduled for May 22-24 in Washington, is, according to the AIPAC web page, “the pro-Israel community’s preeminent annual gathering”.

MJ Rosenberg, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow, Media Matters Action Network, writes in Huffington Post:

The Israeli response to news that Palestinian factions had achieved a unity agreement was predictably irritating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derided the agreement in stark terms, saying that the Palestinians had a choice of either “Peace with Israel or peace with Hamas”.

The narrative that Israel is pushing is that Fatah’s embrace of Hamas will eliminate any chance for peace. It is a false narrative. Rosenberg explains why the union of Fatah and Hamas is the only option available to the Palestinians.

Certainly, the Palestinians cannot look to the Netanyahu government to endorse any plan that is not totally dictated by Israel. Rosenberg puts it this way: “Israel has shown no interest in moving toward peace — unless on terms they dictate and the Palestinians accept.”

Rosenberg predicts that the US Congress will fall quickly into the Bibi narrative: Condemn the Palestinians and withhold aid until they stop all this “unity” foolishness.

The problem with this old scenario, which has worked to keep the Palestinians in bondage since 1948, is that things have changed since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. Change in the Middle East is coming, slowly in some areas, more quickly in others. Some change will be violent; other changes will be relatively peaceful.

When Egypt ousted a brutal dictator, Israel lost a “reliable” neighbor to the south, a neighbor who played a major role in oppressing its fellow Arabs in Palestine. The Egyptian-Gaza border will now be opened, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Egypt’s foreign minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday [April 28] that preparations were underway to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis.

A unified Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government is no guarantee that Israel will retreat behind the 1967 border, tear down that obscene wall, and give up its military control of the Palestinian people. Such a radical reversal of the current reality will take time. But one thing is certain: The Arab Spring has unleashed a demand for freedom and self-government that has been dormant for far too long.

This demand for freedom extends from Ramallah to Rafah, from Cairo to Jerusalem. No AIPAC Policy Conference and no cheers for Bibi in the US Congress can hold back this demand for freedom.

Philip Weiss, who co-edits, along with Adam Horowitz, the indispensable Mondoweiss web site, sounded like a Protestant evangelist with this Word on how slow his fellow Jewish journalists have been to grasp the reality of Israel’s role as an inspiration for the Arab Spring:

My theme today is denial, specifically as it involves the Arab revolutions: the failure of American media figures and Jewish leaders to recognize the huge spiritual-political effect of the Arab spring and the inevitability of that spirit coming to bear on the dire human-rights situation in Palestine.

As Issandr El Amrani said the other night at the 92d Street Y, this revolution has the promise of the French revolution, and to seek to diminish it or to caricature it (the Muslim Brotherhood is going to take over Jordan, Yossi Klein Halevi warned at the American Jewish Committee today) is a terrible mistake.

And this denial is most profound inside American liberal Jewish life, in the failure of liberals to understand, Of course Palestinians will also want their spring. And they must have it.

I will give you two instances of this denial. The first was Terry Gross interviewing Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker on Fresh Air the other day, all about the Arab revolutions and Egypt and Obama’s foreign policy. And you will see from the transcript that Israel was mentioned only once, and tangentially.

The conceit of this nearly-hour-long exchange was the idea, Well these Arab countries are finally going to try to be democratic, harrumph, and Obama must lend his hand.

With no awareness at all that (a), American support for Israel has militated against Arab democracy and the idea of Arab self-determination forever, and (b), that the thirst for democracy in the Middle East portends revolutionary change in one of the most repressive societies in the world, the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

If that is not preaching, then, gentle reader, you don’t know preaching.

Finally, Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, and a frequent contributor to the London Guardian, traces the recent history that led up to the Arab Spring, the upheaval that inspired such evangelistic zeal from Weiss.

His language is less evangelistic, and more poetic, uplifting and insightful:

The patchwork political landscape of the Arab world – the client monarchies, degenerated nationalist dictatorships and the imperial petrol stations known as the Gulf states – was the outcome of an intensive experience of Anglo-French colonialism.

This was followed, after the second world war, by a complex process of imperial transition to the United States. The result was a radical anti colonial Arab nationalism and Zionist expansionism within the wider framework of the cold war.

When the cold war ended, Washington took charge of the region, initially through local potentates then through military bases and direct occupation. Democracy never entered the frame, enabling the Israelis to boast that they alone were an oasis of light in the heart of Arab darkness.

Darkness in this context, however, is a relative term. The Arab people who have walked in darkness in the colonial period, have begun to see the light. No amount of Israeli deception, nor of US congressional blindness, will change the fact that the Arab Spring has revealed a future to the Arab people in which bondage is no longer tolerated.