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Saturday, June 27, 2009

While You Live Your Troubles Are Many

Tired of injustice, tired of the schemes, kinda disgusted, so what does it mean?

Uri Avnery:

I DO NOT underrate, of course, the significance of the chief of the Likud uttering the two words: “Palestinian state”.

Words carry political weight. Once released into the world, they have a life of their own. Unlike dogs, they cannot be called back.

In a popular Israeli love song, the boy asks the girl: “When you say no, what do you mean?” One could well ask: When Netanyahu says yes, what does he mean?

But even if the words “Palestinian state” passed his lips only under duress, and when Netanyahu has no intention at all of turning them into reality, it is still important that the head of the government and the chief of the Likud was compelled to utter them. The idea of the Palestinian state has now become a part of the national consensus, and only a handful of ultra-rightists reject it directly. But this is only the beginning. The main struggle will be about turning the idea into reality.
He is ready, so he says, to conduct negotiations with the “Palestinian community”, and that, of course, “without preconditions”. Meaning: without Palestinian preconditions. On Netanyahu’s part, there are plenty of preconditions, every one of which is designed to make certain that no Palestinian, no Arab and indeed no Muslim will agree to enter negotiations.

Condition 1: The Arabs have to recognize Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” (and not just “a Jewish state”, as many in the media erroneously reported.) As Hosny Mubarak has already answered: No Arab will accept this, because it would mean that 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel are cut off from the state, and because it would deny in advance the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees...

Condition 2: The Palestinian Authority must first of all establish its rule over the Gaza Strip. How? After all, the Israeli government prevents travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and no Palestinian force can pass from one to the other. And the solution of the problem by establishing a Palestinian unity government is also ruled out: Netanyahu flatly declared that there would be no negotiations with a Palestinian leadership that includes “terrorists who want to annihilate us” – his way of referring to Hamas.

Condition 3: The Palestinian state will be demilitarized. This is not a new idea. All peace plans that have been put forward up to now speak about security arrangements that would protect Israel from Palestinian attacks and Palestine from Israeli attacks. But that is not what Netanyahu has in mind: he did not speak about mutuality, but about domination. Israel would control the air space and the border crossings of the Palestinian state, turning it into a kind of giant Gaza Strip...

Condition 4: Undivided Jerusalem will remain under Israeli rule. This was not proposed as an opening gambit for negotiations but presented as a final decision. That by itself ensures that no Palestinian, nor any Arab or even any Muslim, could accept the proposal...

Condition 5: Between Israel and the Palestinian state there will be “defensible borders”. These are code-words for extensive annexations by Israel...

Condition 6: The refugee problem will be solved “outside the territory of Israel”. Meaning: not a single refugee will be allowed to return. True, all realistic people agree that there can be no return of millions of refugees. According to the Arab peace initiative, the solution must be “mutually agreed” – which means that Israel has to agree to any solution. The assumption is that the two parties will agree on the return of a symbolic number. This is a highly charged and sensitive matter, which must be treated with prudence and the utmost sensitivity. Netanyahu does the opposite: his provocative statement, devoid of all empathy, is clearly designed to bring about an automatic refusal.

Condition 7: No settlement freeze. The “normal life” of the settlers will continue. Meaning: the building activity for the “natural increase” will go on. This illustrates the saying of Michael Tarazy, a legal advisor to the PLO: “We are negotiating about sharing a pizza, and in the meantime Israel is eating it.”

All this was in the speech. No less interesting is what was not in it. For example, the words: Road Map. Annapolis. Palestine. The Arab peace plan. Occupation. Palestinian Sovereignty. Opening of the Gaza Strip border crossings. Golan Heights. And, even more important: there was not a hint of respect for the enemy who must be turned into a friend, in the words of the ancient Jewish saying.

Peek in the shadow, come into the light, you tell me I'm wrong, then you better prove you're right.

Letter from Hamas to Obama (delivered by Code Pink):

We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations. We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.

However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.

With such confusions, don't it make you wanna scream?

Now Hamas can surely be criticized for many things, including political naivete and of course terrorism.  One could say the same for a long string of Israeli governments.

Israel created Hamas:

Thanks to the Mossad, Israel's "Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks", the Hamas was allowed to reinforce its presence in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, Arafat's Fatah Movement for National Liberation as well as the Palestinian Left were subjected to the most brutal form of repression and intimidation

Let us not forget that it was Israel, which in fact created Hamas. According to Zeev Sternell, historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, "Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push the Islamists against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)".

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Barak authorizes construction of 300 new homes in West Bank:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank, defying U.S. calls for a halt to settlement growth.

Activists for Bimkom association, which works for justice and human rights in planning and knows a thing or two about the situation in the territories, have discovered that Barak recently authorized the Civil Administration to submit a plan for the construction of 300 housing units in the unauthorized outpost of Givat Habrecha, near the community of Talmon.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The new construction is located around 13 kilometers east of the Green Line, on the "Palestinian" side of the separation barrier. According to the Sasson Report, this outpost was built without government approval and without a master plan and damaged private Palestinian property.

Your bash abusin' victimize within the scheme.

Construction of Israeli settlements to create "reality on the ground" has been a constant obstacle to peace.  For every complaint about terrorism, you can find plenty of examples of settlement construction that destroys lives even more widely and effectively.

New Jewish Settlements in Jerusalem Destroying Fragile Oslo Accords:

The recent Israeli decision to build more settlements on Arab land in occupied Jerusalem has again threatened to destroy the fragile peace in the holy land. While Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s effort to renegotiate on Hebron nearly ended the Oslo accords early this year, and the opening of a tunnel resulted in a three-day mini-war in September, the growing confrontation over Arab Jerusalem is much more serious. It not only unites all Palestinians, but also the entire Arab and Muslim worlds.

Israel’s most recent plan to alter the status of Arab Jerusalem is to build 6,500 housing units in the Har Homa housing project in a heavily wooded Arab area captured in 1967. The plan is eventually to expand the settlement to cut off Bethlehem from Palestinian villages in south Jerusalem.

“It is not only a violation of international law, but also violates the Oslo accords,” explains Fathi Ghanem, a human rights worker in Ramallah. “It was agreed upon in Oslo that there will be no unilateral measures taken until the final status negotiations are completed. We have not even started these talks yet.” Final status negotiations were postponed until mid-March of this year after being delayed following the bus bombs in April 1996, and the election of a right-wing government in Israel on May 31 of that year.

You try to cope with every lie they scrutinize.

When I was leaving Israel, I was questioned about some "pro-Palestinian" literature I was carrying.  "Why no books about terrorist attacks?"  Of course this becomes a chicken-and-egg problem, or an eye-for-an-eye problem.

The biggest issue I see is not terrorism or settlement building.  It's a refusal to empathize and a steadfast determination to date the beginning of the troubles to a particular event that is significant to your cause, your feelings, your injury.  We could go back to Herzl's Zionist utopia, or Sykes-Picot, or the Shoah, or 1948, or 1967, or 1993, or rocket attacks that causes an invasion and subsequent humanitarian crisis...

I would be inclined submit that Goliath has a less tenable moral position than David, though that isn't really a helpful framing either when you get down to it.  I would also be inclined to note that orders of magnitude more Palestinians were killed in the latest micro-war than Israelis, but scorekeeping is controversial and not a humane exercise.

Stop pressurin' me, make me wanna scream.

It seems that the extreme Palestinian position is not just to hold out for the Right of Return, but to insist on the status quo ante.  It's a pipe dream that ironically is part of what caused the Six Day War that set back their cause.

On the flip side, you've got the extreme Israeli desire to preserve the status quo in terms of the "peace process" fiction to buy time as they continue seizing territory.  To do this they must cling desperately to the "a land without a people for a people without a land" myth, play the Holocaust card too many times, and use the same evil methods in degree that were used against them, all in contravention of Hillel's simple teaching.

Tired of you tellin' the story your way, it's causin' confusion, you think it's okay.

Our media tends to tell mostly the Israeli narrative.  Palestinians are terrorists, the entire Arab world wants to destroy tiny little Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, etc.

Turn that around for a moment and consider why Palestinians might see Israel as just a wee bit evil.  While our delegation's main focus was the immediate humanitarian problem in Gaza, which is completely physically isolated from the rest of world like a gulag, ghetto, prison, the situation in the West Bank is insidious in its normalization.  Really, it's like a collection of Gazas, little communities that have by design almost no connection to each other thanks to the Israelis' separation wall and system of roads.

The Wall you've seen.  It's twice as high and four times as long as the notorious Berlin Wall.  With 600+ checkpoints, the Israelis control movement throughout Palestine, making it difficult to maintain livelihoods, educate children, obtain medical treatment, and all the other things we take for granted.

The roads are also part of the Israeli matrix of control.  An excerpt from Palestine Inside Out (one of the books that caught my Israeli interrogator's eye):

The West Bank road network is one of the Israel army's most effective closure mechanisms.  For Palestinians, roads have come to represent and embody paralysis rather than movement.  Roads, like the wall itself, have come to mark one of the limits of their existence.

There are two independent road networks in the West Bank: one for the use of Jewish settlers and the other for indigenous Palestinians.  The 1,000 miles of roads designated for the use of Jewish settlers are wide, well paved, well lit; they allow uninterrupted movement between Israel and the far-flung network of settlements deep inside the West bank...West Bank Palestinians are now blocked from much of what once had been their primary road network by a system of closures and checkpoints...The army has cleared about 200 feet on either side of these roads as additional "sanitary margins," where Palestinians cannot build, tend, cultivate, or grow anything.

Although one aim of the Israeli bypass roads in the West Bank is to facilitate movement among the Israeli settlements and between the settlements and Israel, they also have the effect of interrupting Palestinian movement...As the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman points out, the Israeli road scheme emphasizes the profound contradictions of Israeli policy in the West Bank, where, as he puts it, two separate geographies inhabit the same space.  The Jewish parts of the West Bank, he explains, are seamlessly incorporated into Israel...The Palestinian parts of the West Bank, on the other hand, are fractured and broken and fragmented into shards of territory cut off from each other.

Keep changin' the rules, while you're playin' the game.

These facts on the ground led Julien Bousac to envision the West Bank as an archipelago.  We certainly saw this at work in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour (bottom of the map detail to the left), and especially in Bil'in (west of Ramallah).  We actually rode in our bus on the nice Israeli roads from Jerusalem up to a point near Bil'in, then had to get out and walk down past IDF obstacles (where the army dispatched a jeep with a squad of soldiers to query/harass us) to pick up taxis on the Palestinian road below Bi'lin.

We had lots of people tell us we were naive, we didn't understand the issues or history, that the situation is complex, etc.  That's usually what you hear when somebody is suffering from extreme cognitive dissonance and their position is a house of cards.

From where I sit, there is a simple solution to the problem if Israel is really committed to peace (and that's a mighty big if in light of correspondent inference theory).  It might have some complex consequences and will still entail suffering, but is there no suffering in war and its aftermath?  The question is how to de-escalate the violence and build a real foundation for peace and justice.

So, dear Mr Netanyahu: end the occupation.

I can't take it much longer, I think I might go insane.

That's not to say Hamas and Fatah and the Palestinian people aren't in the position to do things to create peace.  Obviously some are doing that in places like Na'alin and Bil'in.  And even Hamas, as naive as they can be, realize that they have to change their behavior and stance.

For instance, when Medea pointed out to them that having a charter which states they want to destroy Israel is detrimental to their cause, they finally went, "oh, yeah, we should change that.  Of course, Hamas is in no real position to destroy Israel, but Israel uses that as justificiation for their oppression.

With such collusions, don't it make you wanna scream.

There are 7,000,000 Palestinian refugees.  Many live in neighboring countries.  Many live in Occupied Palestine.  Many live in Israel.

Those in Israel must not be forgotten.  Right now they are third class citizens and require justice.  To me, ending the occupation means not just giving back land for a Palestinian state, but ending unjust and immoral policies of home seizures and demolitions everywhere.  That also includes, then, not building new settlements or expanding existing ones, since that not only hurts Palestinians, but will necessarily harm Israelis who will ultimately be evacuated under a real peace agreement.

Ecclesiastes 9:14-18: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man...Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

When we visited East Jerusalem we saw the Shufat refugee camp and toured Sheikh Jarrah (not shown, but right around Mt Scopus in the middle of this UN map) and Silwan.  In Silwan, a neighborhood further south, many Palestinian homes are marked for demolition.  Just the other day Palestinians successfully resisted attempts by Jewish settlers to occupy a home in Sheikh Jarrah--I suspect this will be short-lived, as eventually the police and army come to evict the residents, but they continue to bravely resist these thefts.

If you knew all that I knew, my poor Jerusalem.

Whilie I was in Palestine and Israel, such stories brought to mind a scene in Schindler's List, where Jews are being forced into the Krakow ghetto while Oskar Schindler takes ownership of a home recently lived in by an expelled family.  While I was searching YouTube to see if anybody had successfully violated copyright with that scene (I tried, but they caught on), I found a video called That Was My House.

The song laments the expulsion by Israel of Jews from Gush Katif, a collection of settlements in Gaza.  Now those houses "belong to terrorists and not G_d's people."  My first reaction was to mentally remind those people that they stole somebody else's land to build there in the first place, and now maybe they could understand how losing one's home can make one a bit angry.

Of course in their narrative, this is just something "happening again" to them, always the victim.  Nothing I can say will change that mindset, any more than my trying to convince Palestinian stone throwers they should stop will have an effect.  And I empathize with both sides.

That's why I appreciate efforts by people like Jason Alexander.  The only way the injured parties will be able to make peace is by extending the empathy they have for themselves to the others, and that will require bridge building.  They need to meet each other, treat with each other, and see the other as humans with the same capacity for sadness, happiness and understanding.

This goes for Americans, too.

To conquer death, you only have to die.

Nassar Ibrahim told us something represented by graffiti on the Wall: to exist is to resist.  He also admonished us to work for justice at home.

That's important even if not directly related to the Palestinian cause because creating a more just and peaceful society here in America will better prepare us to help do so in Palestine, not to mention give us better moral standing from which we can pressure our ally Israel.

I'm heartened a bit to see that the US really is trying to push Israel from the abyss.  And that Arabs are getting behind Obama's nascent peace efforts.  And that Israel is making somewhat tangible moves.

Working with nonviolent Palestinian actionists and Israelis dedicated to peace also gives me hope.  They're going to be more instrumental in finding a solution than George Mitchell, Barack Obama or Binyamin Netanyahu.


June 27, 2009 in Pax Americana, Viva Palestina | Permalink


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Well done. I need to come back and re read this several times over.

Posted by: Uncle Blodge | Jun 27, 2009 11:48:19 AM

For instance, when Medea pointed out to them that having a charter which states they want to destroy Israel is detrimental to their cause, they finally went, "oh, yeah, we should change that. Of course, Hamas is in no real position to destroy Israel, but Israel uses that as justificiation for their oppression.

First of all, kudos to the simplest of "solutions", Medea Benjamin succeeds where most don't or won't in engaging Hamas. It's amazing how we ridicule the 'War on Terror' [spits], but demonizing a whole people as terrorists is not uncommon among liberals and progressives. It would seem that mocking efforts or just finding fault with efforts by CP and other citizen network's attempts to begin the process of peace is preferable to sullying most people's beautiful minds with the real problems 5000 miles away.

And again, with Code Pink wearing their pink, chanting, singing, and bringing unabashed light to a subject, as you write, that is, at best, a one-sided narrative from our media, we again must reduce, reuse and recycle the tired, pathetic notion that these women and clowns are setting the movement back or just plain wrong.

Would that we all had ovaries as big as Medea and Code Pink.

Posted by: e | Jun 27, 2009 12:17:25 PM

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