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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Benny Morris on Palestinian Refugees and the political solution

From Dove to Hawk
A prominent Israeli historian explains why, after decades of research about the Jewish state, he now holds out little hope for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians .
Benny Morris
Special Guest Columnist
Updated: 6:23 PM ET May 8, 2008

I remember the moment when the Palestinian diaspora began to interest me, professionally. It was in Rashidiye Camp, outside Tyre, in June 1982, just after the Is­rael Defense Forces had scythed through on their way north to oust the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Lebanon. A journalist at the time, I picked my way through the devastated buildings. Most of the men had fled or been detained or killed by the Israelis, but I was struck by a group of old women hunched over a tabun, an outdoor oven, making pita bread far from their homeland. A few weeks later a stash of documents produced in 1948 by the Palmah—the strike force of the Haganah, the main Zionist underground in Palestine—was opened for me, revealing why and how many of these people had been displaced as Israel was born.
My historical account of that event, published a few years later, was greeted with some acclaim by Palestinians and their sympathizers—and much shock by Is­raelis, who had been brought up to believe, or to pretend to believe, that the Palestini­ans had fled their homes four decades earli­er because of orders or advice from their leaders. In certain places, at certain times, there had been such advice and orders, of course. But there had also been Israeli ex­pulsions, as well as the chaos of British withdrawal and economic hardship and anxiety about an uncharted future under Jewish rule. In most places it was the flail and fear of onrushing hostilities that had set some 700,000 Arabs on the roads.

Myself and several other young Israeli historians were dubbed revisionists and commonly assumed to be doves. But what brought me to my conclusions about 1948 were the facts, not my political views. Con­trary to current historiographic discourse I believe there is such a thing as the Truth—what, why and how things happened—and I've always sought it in my research. If I've since come to a much bleaker opinion about the possibility of reconciliation be­tween Jews and Palestinians—many would now call me a hawk—it is also because of that research.

During the 1990s, as the Oslo peace process gained momentum, I was cautious­ly optimistic about the prospects for peace. But at the same time I was scouring the just opened archives of the Haganah and the IDF. Studying the roots of the Arab-Is­raeli conflict—in particular the pronounce­ments and positions of the Palestinian leadership from the 1920s on—left me chilled. Their rejection of any compromise, whether a partition of Palestine between its Jewish and Arab inhabitants or the cre­ation of a binational state with political parity between the two communities, was deep-seated, consensual and consistent.

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestinian na­tional movement during the 1930s and 1940s, insisted throughout on a single Muslim Arab state in all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab "street" chanted "Idbah al-Yahud" (slaughter the Jews) both during the 1936-1939 revolt against the British and in 1947, when Arab militias launched a campaign to destroy the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. Husseini led both campaigns.

So when Yasir Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's two-state proposals at Camp David in July 2000, and then President Clinton's sweetened offer the follow­ing December, my surprise was not exces­sive. Nor was I astounded by the spectacle of masses of suicide bombers launched, with Arafat's blessing, against Israel's shop­ping malls, buses and restaurants in the second intifada, which erupted in Septem­ber 2000. Each suicide bomber seemed to be a microcosm of what Palestine's Arabs had in mind for Israel as a whole. Arafat's rejectionism and, after his death, the election of Hamas to dominance in the Pales­tinian national movement, persuaded me that no two-state solution was in the offing and that the Palestinians, as a people, were bent, as they had been throughout their history, on "recovering" all of Palestine.

I found that current events had echoes in the historical record, and vice versa. The founding charter of Hamas repeatedly refers to the victory of Saladin over the me­dieval crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and compares the crusaders to the Zionists. In researching my new history of the 1948 war, I was struck by the fact that this analo­gy, usually overlooked or ignored by previ­ous historians, suffused the statements and thinking of Palestinian leaders and the leaders of the surrounding Arab states dur­ing the countdown to, and the course of, the war. A few days before Arab armies struck at Jewish forces in Palestine, Abd al-Rahman Azzam, secretary general of the Arab League, told the British minister in Transjordan their aim was to "sweep the Jews into the sea."

If the documents I studied 20 years ago painted Palestinians tragically, as the underdog, this record did the opposite. It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn't merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a "worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine" and de­clared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.

This history has deepened and reinforced my pessimism, itself bred by the fail­ure of Oslo. Those currently riding high in the region—figures like Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—are true believers who are convinced it is Allah's command and every Muslim's duty to extirpate the "Zionist entity" from the sacred soil of the Middle East. For all its economic, political, scientific and cultural achievements and military prowess, Israel, at 60, remains profoundly insecure -- for there can be no real security for the Jewish state, surrounded by a surg­ing sea of Muslims, in the absence of peace.

Morris's most recent book on Israeli history is the recently pub­lished "1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's war on despair

Melanie Phillips | May 10, 2008
WHAT would Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, have said if, on the day that he declared the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, he had known that six decades thence Israel would be encircled by its enemies, hopelessly outnumbered and fighting for its existence?
He would surely have said: so what's new?
This week, on May 8, Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of that declaration. With every decade that it clocks up, people ask the same question: will Israel still be there for the next one? It is indeed astonishing that it has not only survived but is flourishing. Its situation as a permanently embattled nation is unique. On the day after Ben-Gurion declared its independence, six Arab armies invaded and tried to wipe it out. With the present exception of Egypt and Jordan, the Arab and Muslim world has been trying ever since.
Israel is the only country whose creation was approved by the UN, yet it is the only one whose legitimacy is called into question. It is the only country that the world requires to compromise with its Palestinian Arab attackers and accede to their demands, even while they are firing rockets at its schools and houses and blowing up its citizens. It is the only country that continues to provide electricity and basic services to those attackers and routinely treats thousands of Palestinians in its hospitals, even those who have Israeli blood on their hands. Yet it also is the only country that, in the court of public opinion, is condemned for behaving disproportionately when it uses targeted military means to defend itself and is accused of causing the very Nazi or apartheid atrocities of which it is itself the victim.
At present, the situation looks particularly ominous. Israel is menaced on several fronts by Iran which, racing to develop a nuclear weapon, is threatening a new genocide of the Jews while denying the last one. In Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian-sponsored army Hezbollah, which is once again armed with thousands of rockets, says the next attack on Israel is not a matter of if but when.
Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Iranian-backed Hamas, which is pledged to wipe out Israel and every Jew, has built a well-trained standing army of at least 20,000 men and a huge arsenal of weapons smuggled in from Egypt, and relentlessly attacks Israel with rockets and bombs.
It is widely expected that, once Independence Day is over and President George W. Bush has returned home from his celebratory visit, Israel will finally mount a substantial incursion into Gaza to deal with Hamas. If it does, Western opinion, which largely ignores Israeli victimisation, can be guaranteed to cry "atrocity" once again.
And just as before, Hamas will deliberately place women and children in the line of fire to maximise civilian casualties to further inflame that opinion.
For Israel finds itself trapped by a pincer movement of military and psychological attack from not only the Arab and Muslim world but also the West. And Britain, whose intelligentsia has swallowed wholesale Arab and Muslim lies, is the Western leader of those baying for Israel's head. Thanks to the poison spread by the British media, the universities, non-government organisations and the churches, Israel has been systematically demonised and delegitimised.
Few are aware, for example, how Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately position terrorists and weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, using women and children as human shields. While British headlines scream at Israel for causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, few are aware that Hamas has been stealing fuel supplies intended for Gaza's population and blowing up the crossing points to provoke Israel into closing them, to escalate the conflict and inflame the world.
Even fewer are aware that many of the most inflammatory images from the region are fabricated, since Hamas and Hezbollah routinely stage ostensible atrocities or artificially exaggerate incidents using doctored footage, courtesy of British journalists who are threatened with murder or kidnap if they fail to toe the line.
More fundamentally, the obsessional demonisation of Israel is based on a false set of beliefs taken straight from Arab propaganda: that, as a result of Holocaust guilt, Israel was created when a load of European Jews with no claim to the land were dumped on Palestine, driving out its rightful Arab Muslim inhabitants. Ben-Gurion would be surprised to find, for example, that today Israel is regarded as illegally occupying the West Bank (and, until 2005, Gaza). Along with modern Israel, this was part of the territory of Palestine within which in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the task of re-establishing the Jewish national home because of the unique claim by the Jews, the only people for whom it had been their nation state, hundreds of years before the Arabs invaded it.
In other words, far from Israel being Palestinian land, the Jews are entitled to claim it under international law, which also gives it the right to hold on to it in self-defence.
Yet so-called progressive opinion not only denies law and history but demands (as do the Palestinians) the ethnic cleansing of every last Jewish settler from a putative Palestinian state (just as half Israel's population was created by Jews driven out of their ancient homes in Arab lands).
So much for anti-racism.
The denial and inversion of such facts has singled out Israel for vilification applied to no other country. Scapegoated for crimes of which it is in fact the victim, Israel has become the Jew of the Western world. This is a victory for the Arabs in the new type of war in which they are engaged. Asymmetric warfare, whose principal battlefield is the mind, uses ostensibly powerless people (the Palestinians) who are in fact backed by powerful state actors (Iran). Such an inversion of strong and weak and the systematic use of deception are vital to the principal strategic goal of asymmetric warfare: to confuse and demoralise its victims and suborn world opinion to its cause.
Even Israel itself has weakened under this. For it has an intelligentsia that is no longer confident of the nation's right to its own Jewish identity. This has created a dangerous vacuum. In Israeli universities, revisionist historians have told corrosive lies about their country's history, portraying it as having been born in sin. In the schools, children have not been taught Jewish history and parrot Arab disinformation instead.
The country's sense of national purpose has been further weakened by the 2006 Lebanon war, which punctured public belief in Israel's military invincibility, and by the ongoing crisis of political leadership caused by a political system that is endemically corrupt and excludes the brightest and the best from public office.
The result of all this is that, at present, both the Israeli Left and Right are consumed by a morbid despair.
The Left thinks Israel is doomed to war in perpetuity because there is no prospect of a Palestinian state, which it remains convinced is the prerequisite for peace, despite this being contrary to all history, evidence and logic.
The Right, on the other hand, thinks that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is Israel's Neville Chamberlain, about to declare peace in our time by giving away half of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and thus delivering Israel to the wolves of Arab annihilation.
But both are surely missing the bigger picture. First, despite entering its seventh decade of living under existential siege, Israel is prospering. Its economy is booming, it leads the world in hi-tech and property prices in Tel Aviv rival those in London. Second, having stared over the edge of the cultural abyss, it has started to realise the danger. It is beginning to turn education around, with a new awareness dawning among high school principals of the need to teach Jewish history, identity and values. And although unprecedented numbers of mainly secular Israelis choose to live abroad, there are rapidly growing numbers of the religiously orthodox who know exactly what they are fighting for and are prepared to die for it, as do most middle-of-the-road Israeli citizens.
The same, however, can't be said of the Palestinian Arabs, who are simply falling apart. The rise of Hamas, the progressive Islamisation and terrorisation of Palestinian society, and the continued corruption and factional fighting within Fatah are all taking their toll. Increasingly, Palestinians are packing up and leaving.
It is they, rather than the Israelis, who are in despair. Their sense of national identity - always artificial - lies finally shattered by the death cult that acts in their name. After all, with even supposedly secular Fatah being steadily Islamised, why would any Palestinian in his right mind want to live in a repressive Islamic republic, which Palestine would without doubt become, where dissidents are thrown from the tops of tall buildings?
And here lies the paradox that offers the best hope for Israel's future: the Islamism that so menaces it may finally unlock the door to peace. This is because Islamism and Iran threaten not just Israel but the moderate Arab world too. Accordingly, the last thing those Arabs want is an Iranian-backed, Islamised state of Palestine. Egypt and Jordan simply cannot afford to have Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood on their doorsteps in a Hamas-dominated Gaza or West Bank. They rely on Israel to prevent it. But, increasingly, talk of some kind of Jordan-Egypt-Palestinian confederation is in the air.
As analyst Jonathan Spyer has noted, Jordan's recent decision to connect Jericho to the Jordanian electricity grid is an example of its increasing involvement in the West Bank. And behind the scenes the more realistic Palestinians have grasped that their best chance of having any future at all lies in just such a confederation. Such an outcome would have history on its side. Some readers may feel the need to lie down after reading the rest of this sentence, but Jordan is historically the state of Arab Palestine. This was the original two-state solution back in 1921, when Winston Churchill unilaterally gave away three-quarters of the original territory of Palestine to the Hashemite dynasty, creating what is now Jordan, with the remainder supposed to go to the Jews.
But this chance of an end to the dispute is being undermined by the self-serving meddling of the US which, like Europe, falsely casts the Arab war against Israel as a boundary dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and is trying to force the agreed outline of a Palestinian state by the time Bush leaves office.
It is even pressuring Israel to accept Hamas's truce - by which Hamas means a period when Israel doesn't attack it so it can equip itself for war undisturbed - so that on his visit to Israel this week Bush can pretend that Middle East peace in our time is imminent. But this is a virtual reality peace process, since even the ostensibly moderate Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has said that he will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state. So what's to discuss?
Despite its sham nature, however, this appeasement process has had two baleful consequences. It has caused Olmert, under pressure from the US, the Israeli media and powerful Israeli oligarchs who want the economic advantages of peace at any price, to destroy checkpoints, release prisoners and float the possibility of territorial concessions, all of which promote and incite further Arab violence. And it has caused Jordan to put its confederation idea on ice. Thus the meddling US is destroying the best option for the Middle East to resolve its core dispute, that it is left to sort it out by itself.
Indeed, much of the responsibility for these six decades of conflict lie with a Western world that, from 1921 onwards, has chosen to appease Arab violence while shedding crocodile tears over its Jewish victims.
But the future of Israel is the future of the West. If the front line in Israel were to go down, the West would be next. Given its internal appeasement of Islamism, however, the West may go down anyway. At least Israel knows it has to fight to survive. As a result, in 60 years it will still be there. Can the same be said for Britain or Europe?
The Spectator
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist and author of Londonistan.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Force is the only Language that Hezbollah knows and understands

Force is the only Language that Hezbollah knows and understands
By: Elias Bejjani

May 10/08

The recent on-going bloody terrorism riots that Hezbollah has inflicted on Lebanon and its peaceful people since last Wednesday, tragically shows that this country today is confronting challenges of a magnitude unseen since the end of its civil war in 1990.
Hezbollah's military criminal acts against the Lebanese civilians, and its armed rebellion coup d'état against the country's legitimate Government were not, in fact, a surprise to those well-informed observers and political activists who have been closely monitoring this Iranian armed militia since it was founded in Lebanon by the Iranian mullahs (Shiites clergymen) in 1982. It is worth mentioning that Hezbollah's main mission is to export, advocate for, force and spread the Khomeini's religious ideology and its revolution to all the Middle East countries.
Hezbollah is not a Lebanese party by any criteria, but a foreign army in Lebanon no more no less. Its decision-making process, financing, ideology, training, supplies and weapons all come from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters and leadership. It is well documented by many neutral informed resources that Iran annually pays Hezbollah more than three billion dollars.
Hezbollah's Iranian mission and objectives have never ever been a secret at any time. They are public and well known to each and every Lebanese, while Hezbollah boasts with their divinity every day. Simply this group and as planned by its masters the Iranian mullahs has been from day one working on all levels, and by all means, to topple the Lebanese democratic, peaceful, consensual, multicultural, free and liberal regime in a bid to replace it by a religious state, replicate to that forced on the Iranian people.
Hezbollah, who has an actual state inside the Lebanese Central state, fully controls more than 40% of Lebanon's territories in Beirut, the South and Bekaa. His state was erected during the Stalinist Syrian occupation era to Lebanon (1976-2005). Iran with Syrian helped Hezbollah to control the Shiites Lebanese community and in fact to take its members as hostages of intimidation and oppression. The Lebanese people in general and the Shiites Lebanese community in particular had no say whatsoever in this matter. Syria forced Hezbollah on the Shiites and on the rest of the Lebanese communities through murder, kidnapping, terrorization and violence.
When the Syrian Army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005 after thirty years of nasty occupation, Hezbollah replaced Syria's occupational and criminal role. Since than it has been purposefully crippling the country and not allowing its democratic process to take place. Numerous pro-Lebanon - anti Syrian MP's. Journalists, officials, army officers and intellectuals including ex PM Raffic Hariri were assassinated by Hezbollah and Syria. The country's Parliament was closed by force and the MP's have been unable to elect a president. In 2006 Hezbollah instigated a devastating war with Israel that costed the country more than1500 victims and about 30 billion dollars in loses.
Hezbollah refuses to disarm and has kept the central Lebanese government and its authority on all levels out side its closed cantons. It has its own army (60 thousand well armed and well trained men), it runs its own schools, jails, hospital, social services, construction companies, communication network, transportation, foreign relations, etc.  It does not recognize the central government and has withdrawn its ministers from it in a bid to stop the Hariri International Tribunal and protect the Syrian regime and its leaders whom many believe are behind the Hariri assassination.
In simple mathematics we can assume that one state has to cancel the other. It is either the Lebanese Central government that will prevail and Hezbollah's state inside the state will disintegrate or visa versa. Hezbollah backed by both Axis of evil countries Iran and Syria is systematically working on destroying the Lebanese state and toppling all its institution, the parliament. the cabinet, the presidency, the judiciary, the armed forces etc. Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are viciously planning to take control of the whole country.
Hezbollah Party wants to keep by force its own communication network and appoint his own loyal men in all government key positions and specially the security ones. In this context its present on going bloody riots took place after its leadership falsely accused the country's cabinet of declaring a war against the Shiites community because the government is questioning the party's communication illegal network and has decided to transfer the country's airport security chief who was helping Hezbollah to keep an on going surveillance over the Beirut International airport through very advanced cameras planted secretly and without the government's knowledge.
Hezbollah's General Secretary, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is threatening to severe the hands and cut the necks of any one who dares to approach his party's weapons. Nasrallah tagged his weapons as holy and sacred and tied its fate to the Holy Quran and Jihad.
Hezbollah is endeavoring to force on the Lebanese an education of Jihadism (war against Israel, USA and the infidels), in conjunction with the Iranian mullah's religious ideology (Welaet Al Fakeh Islamic governing concept), the same ideology that is forced on the Iranian people.

Simply Hezbollah is not a resistance group as it alleges, but a mere Iranian-Syrian terrorism army stationed in Lebanon. It bloody global and regional terrorism record is extremely notorious and there is no way in the world that this terrorist armed party will peacefully or willingly give up its state inside the state. (Hezbollah launched suicide attacks on Western targets and took Westerners hostage in Beirut in the 1980s. The most spectacular attack was a suicide bombing that destroyed the U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 servicemen. One of the groups, Islamic Jihad, was thought to be led by Imad Moughniyah, who was Hezbollah's military commander when he was assassinated on February 13 in Syria).

Hezbollah was supposed to disarm like all other Lebanese militias after the "Taef accord" in 1990, but the Syrian occupation hindered this procedure and imposed it as a resistance armed organization through force and terror and not through consensus.

The whole world should be put on notice, and understand that losing Lebanon for Hezbollah will create a fundamentalist monster that will devour the middle East countries one after the other. Meanwhile Hezbollah's actual and serious danger will not be limited to the Middle East, but will definitely target all the free world countries.
Based on all the above, we call on the UN, USA, European countries, Canada, Australia, the Arab states and the rest of all the free world countries to help Lebanon and its government in disarming Hezbollah by all means including the military one before it takes over Lebanon and becomes a serious threat for peace and stability not only in the Middle East, but in the entire world.

In the face of this organized and intentional evil deadlock that Lebanon and its people are facing alone, we call on the Free World democratic countries, the moderate Arab countries, the United Nations and the Arab League to step in militarily under UN Security Council Chapter Seven mandate and  take over Lebanon for a rehabilitation interval as was the situation in Afghanistan, East Timor, Kosovo and some African countries. It will be even more effective and deterrent if NATO forces can assume this mission and not the UN.
The solid and proved fact that no one in the entire world should ignore is that Hezbollah, like the rest of the regional and global terrorist groups understands and bows to one language only. This language that they master and understand is a combination of force, deterrence and decisiveness. Hopefully the world will be able to communicate with Hezbollah with the only language that it knows and understands.


Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website


Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign accedited to "anti-Racism" conference

The second anti-Racism conference may be no better than the first.
Pro-divestment group gains access to racism conference 

By Michael J. Jordan  Published: 05/06/2008 

GENEVA (JTA) -- When Iran effectively blocked a Canadian pro-Israel group from joining preparations for a major anti-racism forum last week, it drew headlines. But it was the quiet accreditation of a Palestinian group that in the end raised more eyebrows.

With the 2009 World Conference Against Racism one year away, United Nations officials and Western diplomats have vowed to prevent a repeat of the 2001 forum in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by aggressively pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.
Canada, the United States and Israel already have expressed their doubts, however, indicating they will boycott the world's largest anti-racism forum in 2009, just as they boycotted the two-week "preparatory conference" in this Swiss city.

With questions still swirling around the location of next year's conference, how serious the discussions will be and if any other nations will join in boycotting the event, U.N. diplomats in Geneva last week supplied critics with more grist.
They accredited the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, an umbrella group that uses the controversial security barrier dividing Israel from parts of the West Bank as the hook to promote boycott, divestment and sanctions -- known as "BDS" -- against Israel.

Felice Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, said the lack of resistance by the U.N. secretariat and Western nations over the accreditation was "baffling" and "inexplicable," given that in Durban, the then-U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, rejected any comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

"Misuse of the terms 'genocide' and 'apartheid' with reference to Israel" is a "big part of what discredited Durban," said Gaer, who was in Durban in 2001 and in Geneva last week at the preparatory conference.

Beyond the accreditation, preparations that were light on substance but heavy on process -- and marked by modest attendance and long lunch breaks -- hinted that while Israel likely will be targeted, it will not be the singular focus of 2009.

Rather, the Islamic world's cause celebre seems to be defamation of religion -- or blasphemy -- and other anti-Western jabs such as post 9/11 racial profiling, anti-terrorism measures and Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, African member-states and "African descendant" groups are using the forum to pursue their own beef with the West, renewing calls for reparations arising from slavery.

Still, the Middle East conflict reared its head in various forms last week, the least publicized of which was the accreditation of the anti-apartheid network.

One watchdog, Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of NGO Monitor, said he watched the U.N. session via Webcast from his base in Jerusalem and saw a rerun of 2001 unfolding.

"Once such a radical Palestinian group is let in, there's no longer hope for a civilized discussion of racism and discrimination," Steinberg said. "Then the only logical decision is to boycott the whole process, to discredit the 2009 conference so it doesn't carry the legitimacy that the 2001 event had."
Indeed, as the planned gathering approaches, the boycott question likely will continue to simmer among Jewish groups.

If last week's events in Geneva are any indication, the United Nations is taking some steps to avoid a "Durban II."

For example, whereas at the South African event anti-Israel, even anti-Jewish vitriol, spilled onto the streets -- sometimes beneath meeting tents -- it now seems all but certain that the 2009 gathering will be somewhere on U.N. grounds, probably Geneva or New York.

This is important, activists say, not only because of certain U.N. rules and protocol, but also because security would likely keep troublemakers out or intervene quickly if it erupts inside.

The other key component is that 2009 is unlikely to include a "NGO Forum" to run parallel with the intergovernmental meeting.

It was the NGO Forum in Durban that embraced the harshest anti-Israel language. But this time, with U.N. officials and Western nations apprehensive about an NGO reprise that would undermine the whole venture, funding for such a gathering reportedly is scarce.

"I'm not going to say there aren't going to problems, meaning I'm sure there will be bad language spoken -- anti-Israel, anti-Western, anti-U.S. -- yet that's nothing unusual, as it happens in the U.N. every day," said Suzette Bronkhorst, the director of projects at the Magenta Foundation, a Dutch anti-racism organization. "But it won't be nearly as bad as Durban."

Magenta, the Blaustein Institute, Human Rights First and 93 other civil-society signatories presented U.N. diplomats with five "core principles" last week, urging them to reject any effort to "foment hateful stereotyping in the name of human rights" and "uphold language and behavior that unites rather than divides."

Despite criticism, NGOs are still seen as a necessary dimension of the process.

For example, only some 39 U.N. member-states responded to a questionnaire describing their internal problems with racism or discrimination. One-quarter denied the existence of any sort of domestic discrimination, racial or otherwise, including countries explicitly criticized in the past, such as Iran.

"Like any addict, they refuse to admit they have a problem," said Anne Bayefsky, a Canadian law professor and U.N. critic.

During two weeks in Geneva, diplomats often seemed free to sing their country's praises. NGO voices, in contrast, could hold governments accountable for their words and actions.

While NGOs had their separate forum in Durban, this time they likely will be integrated within the governmental process. Presumably they will have to request permission to address the forum, as in other U.N. forums, and be limited to five minutes.

Shimon Samuels, the international liaison director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he approached the NGO groups present last week -- some historically hostile toward Israel -- to call on "our sister anti-racist organizations to protest with us any hijacking or agitations" at the event.

Asked by JTA if he expects these organizations to heed his call, Samuels replied, "I don't think they will." He said he expects the Jewish state to again be the target of "demonization and delegitimization" in 2009.

Still, Samuels said he wouldn't boycott the event.

"If you abandon the battlefield," he said, "you leave a vacuum to be filled by your enemies."

As preparations continue, in particular ironing out the "substance" of the 2009 event, the attention now turns to the Europeans to see where, or if, they draw a line.

A Slovenian diplomat speaking on behalf of the European Union had warned of the "unacceptable anti-Semitism" at Durban, "excessive polarization" and "singling out" a "specific geographic situation."

Yet the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign was accepted without comment.

"The E.U. has some internal documents," one Western diplomat told JTA earlier in the week, "and our red lines are very clearly defined."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Today's LA Times marks the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's independence with a report extolling the virtues of the so-called "one-state solution."

It's no secret that advocates of the two-state solution are worried that the prospects for such an outcome are being eroded - as the LA Times piece makes abundantly clear, with quotes from, among others, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Condoleeza Rice.

However, to argue that there needs to be a renewed effort in underscoring the credibility of a two-state solution is one thing; to ditch it in favor of the "one-state" option is something else entirely.

Here is the nub of the problem with the LA Times piece. If this article was your first exposure to the "one-state" idea, you would come away thinking that it's eminently reasonable. That rather than being the preserve of genocidaires and antisemites like the Iranian theocrats, Hamas and Hezbollah, the "one-state solution" truly belongs to visionary democrats.

In the abstract, there is, of course, nothing wrong with states pooling their sovereignty or even merging with each other. Indeed, a principle rather like this has driven Europe's political development since the Second World War. Israel, moreover, offers a democratic beacon in a region blighted by tyranny, corruption and reactionary ideas. In the LA Times piece, Sari Nusseibeh suggests "that many Palestinians would feel more at home in a democracy shared with Israelis than in a Palestinian state run by Hamas."

Nusseibeh qualifies this statement by insisting that such an arrangement would need "to come about by consent." But it is nigh impossible to imagine any circumstances whereby such a proposal would secure the agreement of Israelis.

To begin with, it would mean abandoning the ideal of a Jewish state. Someone like Tony Judt would argue that there is no cost in abandoning an "anachronism"; I would respond that there is nothing anachronistic about Israel. if the European Union is the model for the one-staters, they would do well to remember that the member states of the EU are precisely that - member states. These states have not been asked to abandon their independence and their identity, nor have they been compelled to do so. Conversely, Israel is not being asked to join a regional community of states; it is being told to dissolve itself, and to do so in a neighborhood which exhorts the slogan "Kill the Jews!" with alarming frequency.

Moreover, those who would demand that Israel dissolve itself are hardly duplicating the notion of equal legitimacy which underlies the EU. To the contrary, they regard Israel as a colonial usurper, born in "original sin" - a citadel of "neo-Jews', in the words of a recent inchoate rant published on the one-statist website, Counterpunch.

For such people, a single state is an opportunity for Israeli Jews to atone for the historic crime of forming their own state, rather than an instrument for them to live with their neighbours as equals.

Continued - Right to Exist

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel and the Arabs at 60

In Still Fighting the Same War , Jonathan Tobin puts into perspective Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic article about Israel, in the light of Benny Morris's new book about 1948:
As for the tragedy of Palestinian refugees, though he has no illusions about the desirability for many Israelis of having fewer Arabs in the territory under their control, Morris comes straight to the point about the responsibility for their suffering.
"The refugee problem was created by the war — which the Arabs had launched," he asserts.
And, for all of his reputation as a critic of Israel, Morris also points out something in his conclusion that even the Israeli government is often reluctant to say: that there were two sets of refugees created by the war since nearly as many Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries as Arabs who fled from Israel.
Sixty years after winning a brutal war in which there was plenty of nastiness on both sides, the problem for Israel remains the same. Despite Israel's willingness to make peace and share the land, the Arabs are still refusing to do so whether, as Imam Mudeiris says, the Jews are nice are not.
"1948 has haunted, and still haunts, the Arab world on the deepest levels of the collective identity, ego and pride. The war was a humiliation from which that world has yet to recover," Morris writes.
Despite peace process and some treaties, he understands that still "the Arab world — the man in the street, the intellectual in his perch, the soldier in his dugout — refused to recognize or accept what had come to pass. It was a cosmic injustice."
The "jihadi impulse" is, more than ever, the dominant motive in Islamic life and nothing the Israelis can do or say will change that. All they can do is what they did in 1948, win and survive, and hope that their enemies will eventually have a change of heart.
But, as Morris notes in his final paragraph, the challenge from Iran and its terrorist allies leaves us still understanding that "whether 1948 was a passing fancy or has permanently etched the region remains to be seen."
What worries me, is the constant attention being paid to what the "the goyim" say. As Ben-Gurion pointed out, what matters is what we do!
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Winds of change: Left solidarity with Israel

Two articles quietly announce what might be the beginnings of an important change in European attitudes to Israel and Zionism. Both deal with announcements of solidarity with Israel and Zionism by Gregor Gysi, co-chairman of the German Linkspartei. See German Leftists Declare Solidarity with Israel (Z-Word) and Reexamined Lives (Jerusalem Post). Z-Word tells us:

Gysi harshly criticized the historic position of the PDS - the direct descendant of the communist party which ran the totalitarian East German state and now one of the constituent elements of Linkspartei - for its faithful reflection of Moscow's line of implacable hostility towards Israel.

"The leadership of the DDR (German Democratic Republic) did not only lack understanding of Israel's security interests," said Gysi. "It also did not understand the specific responsibility towards Jews that emerged from the eternal warning of the Shoah." Gysi also counselled against classic left-wing anti-Zionism. "The concept of imperialism does not apply to Israel," he said. Israeli democracy, he added, "is a really great achievement, that deserves admiration."
In an op-ed published in the daily Tageszeitung, journalist Stefan Reinecke described the importance of Gysi''s speech: "Maybe more important than the criticism of the traditional leftist opposition to Israel is the commitment to the raison d'etat itself. This is a concept Linkspartei…have always avoided. Gysi interprets this concept not as authoritarian, but as rational - and the course is clear. If the party recognizes Israel as part of the German raison d'etat, it shows that it has finally accepted the western value system."
An editorial published in the daily Tagesspiegel also underscored the significance of the speech: "The speech…brings to an end a chapter in the party's history: its often unclear position on the terror of extremist Palestinians. Not so long ago, during a visit in Teheran, Oskar Lafontaine tried to curry favour with the rulers of Iran, who are hostile to Israel. Hopefully, Gysi has set standards within his party that Lafontaine cannot pretend to ignore."

The Jerusalem Post article notes:

Gysi broke ranks with the pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab foreign policy of his party, and his groundbreaking speech in which he castigated anti-Israeli sentiments within the party may help to trigger a long-overdue discussion covering left-wing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. A BBC poll released in early April found 64 percent of Germans view Israel as having a negative influence in the world. While the number declined from 77% in a 2007 BBC poll, the new result, along with Spain (64%), represents the highest percentage of anti-Israeli feelings within the European Union. Contempt for Israel is not merely a current fad in Germany, but a politically and socially accepted view. The Left party has made considerable headway in winning new voters and, according to a recent poll, is supported by 12% of Germany's public.

The Left party is the third new manifestation of the GDR Socialist Unity Party (SED) in post-unification Germany. The SED renamed itself the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in 1990 and then joined with a small leftist West German party, resulting in the Left Party/PDS in 2006. The disdain for Israel is a leftover vestige of the SED, which controlled the East German state and refused to recognize the State of Israel between 1949 and 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall led to its demise.

Gysi asserts that Israel's existence ought to be defined by the Left as part of Germany's "national interest." That is strong stuff for a party whose co-chairman, Oskar Lafontaine, has no reservations about a nuclear Iran.

From the above, we catch a hint that the anti-Zionism of the "new new left" may be really no more than left-over Soviet anti-Semitism in some cases. It would be nice to believe this is finally changing. Meanwhile, however, Gysi may be more or less isolated in his views.

Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Deaths in Gaza - whose fault?

Yaakov Lozowick, whose book "Right to Exist" sums up most of the Israeli point of view, has this to say about media coverage of the killing of the family in Gaza.

Dead Children in Gaza

Yesterday morning a young Palestinian mother and four of her children were killed in the northern Gaza strip during an Israeli incursion. That's undisputed, and tragic.

From there on, truth is captive to ideology.

The NYT offers the best of the descriptions in this quick roundup. The tone is set in the very first sentence:
A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed in northern Gaza on Monday during an Israeli operation against militants there, and a dispute quickly arose over exactly how they had died.

Faced with five dead innocents, does it really matter? Well, yes, it does. Which is why many news outlets are more sparing with the attempt to tell the truth, and more eager to let you know which side you're expected to side with.

If you read far enough into the report offered by the BBC you'll eventually find parts of the Israeli version in the 16th paragraph. The first section offers the Palestinian version as fact:

At least seven Palestinians, including a mother and her four young children, have been killed during an Israeli raid in northern Gaza, medics say.

The family members were killed when a missile hit their home in Beit Hanoun. In separate incidents, a militant and a farmer were killed.

And it also offers one sentence from an Israeli source, but as corroboration of the Palestinian version:

The Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked a group of gunmen who had fired at an army patrol in the area.

The Independent initially simply used Reuters:

Israeli fire hit a house in the Gaza Strip today while a family was eating breakfast, killing six Palestinians, including four children and their mother, residents and medical officials said.

Later, the paper had their own man write a report, and he was a bit more balanced, slightly contradicting the report that was still up on their own website, and still is. In this report the Palestinian version comes first, but the Israeli one does appear in the second paragraph:

A mother and four of her young children under seven were killed in their home yesterday by what Palestinian sources said were Israeli missiles which landed at their door during an armoured incursion into northern Gaza.

The Israeli military said it had been targeting nearby gunmen and suggested the deaths had been caused when explosives it said were being carried by two militants blew up. The children were about to eat breakfast when they were killed.

The Guardian, ever reliable if you like anti-Israeli reportage, waited a day before posting a report, so they had time to gather information and think it through. Their report has 10 paragraphs; the Israeli version appears in paragraph 9.

The United Nations posted a response of the Secretary General on its website. It's better than the Guardian, if that's comforting. The title and first two paragraphs call directly upon Israel to mend its way, but the third does address Palestinian misdemeanors.
Condemning today's loss of civilian life in the Gaza Strip – including the "tragic" deaths of a mother and four of her children – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Israel to exercise maximum care and restraint.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban reminded the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) "of its responsibility to protect civilians under international humanitarian law during its military operations."

The Secretary-General spoke out against the continuing attacks and rockets fired by Hamas today against Israel, calling on it and other militant groups to end such acts of terrorism. He also noted that they should not use Gaza as a base of operations.

Most blatant of all, however, was the response of some Arab members of Israel's Knesset. They compared the IDF to Nazis.
On the day an elected Jewish member of an Arab parliament can criticize the crimes of his state, you'll know the Messiah is just around the corner. But to be more realistic: in the day any freely elected Arab member of an Arab parliament harshly criticizes the crimes of his state, you'll be able to start dreaming of peace.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Israeli-American alliance

Israel is America's closest ally, but is America a close ally of Israel? The best friend of a friendless person might not be a very good friend.
Israel Is Now America's Closest Ally
May 7, 2008; Page A19
President George W. Bush will soon make his second visit to Israel in less than six months, this time to celebrate the country's 60th anniversary. The candidates for the presidency, Republican and Democratic alike, have all traveled to Israel and affirmed their commitment to its security. So have hundreds of congressmen.
American engineers, meanwhile, are collaborating with their Israeli counterparts in developing advanced defense systems. American soldiers are learning antiterrorist techniques from the Israeli army.

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the American flag is rarely (if ever) burned in protest – indeed, some Israelis fly that flag on their own independence day. And avenues in major American cities are named for Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir. Arguably, there is no alliance in the world today more durable and multifaceted than that between the United States and Israel.
Yet the bonds between the two countries were not always so strong. For much of Israel's history, America was a distant and not always friendly power.
Consider the period before Israel's founding in 1948, during the British Mandate over Palestine. Though many Americans, Christians as well as Jews, were committed to building the Jewish national home, their government's policy was strictly hands-off. Palestine, in Washington's view, was exclusively Britain's concern, and the Arab-Jewish conflict was a British headache.
Accordingly, the Roosevelt administration raised no objection to Britain's 1939 decision to end Jewish immigration into Palestine, sealing off European Jewry's last escape route from Nazism. The U.S. indifference to Zionism deepened during World War II, when America feared alienating its British allies and angering the Arabs, whose oil had become vital to the war effort. Deferring to British and Arab demands, America confined hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors in displaced-persons camps in Europe rather than let them emigrate to Palestine.
America's ambivalence toward Zionism persisted after the war, as the battle against Nazism gave way to the anticommunist struggle. While a sizeable majority of Americans welcomed Israel's creation in May 1948, policy makers in Washington feared that such support would trigger an Arab oil boycott of the West and the Soviet take-over of Europe. Secretary of State George Marshall even warned the president, Harry Truman, that he would not back him for re-election if he recognized the newborn state. An ardent Baptist whose best friend was a Jew, Truman ignored these warnings and made the U.S. the first nation to accord de facto recognition to Israel. But buckling to State and Defense Department pressures, Truman also imposed an arms embargo on Israel during its desperate war of independence. Later, he arm-twisted Israeli leaders to relinquish land to the Arabs and to readmit Palestinian refugees.
Pressure for territorial concessions escalated under Truman's successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who also vetoed weapons sales to Israel. His secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, dismissed Israel as "the millstone around our necks," and threatened it with sanctions during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Israel is home to the Middle East's largest memorial to John F. Kennedy, but Kennedy similarly refused to sell tanks and planes to Israel, and warned that America's relationship with the Jewish state would be "seriously jeopardized" by Israel's nuclear program. Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to invite an Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, to Washington – 16 years after Israel's birth – but he then balked at Eshkol's request for American help against the Arab armies assembling for war in June 1967. "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go it alone," Johnson replied, implying that the U.S. would not stand beside Israel militarily.
The Six-Day War nevertheless inaugurated a dramatic change in America's attitude toward Israel. Israel's astonishing victory in that conflict instantly transformed the "millstone" into an American asset, a hardy fellow democracy and Cold War ally. Nixon regarded Israel as "the best Soviet stopper in the Mideast," and furnished the weaponry Israel needed to prevail in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter both ran on platforms highly favorable to Israel, and dedicated themselves to the search for Israel-Arab peace. By the end of the 1970s, an inchoate U.S.-Israeli alliance had emerged, sealed by the existence of a potent pro-Israel lobby in Washington and the extension to Israel of billions of dollars of American aid.
But the relationship was hardly friction-free. Israel's reluctance to forfeit territories captured in 1967, and its efforts to settle them, became a perennial source of tension. Presidents Ford and Carter threatened to withhold assistance from Israel unless it made territorial concessions. President George H.W. Bush denied Israel loan guarantees for resettling Russian immigrants in the West Bank. Israel's security policies also jolted the alliance – Ronald Reagan condemned Israel's bombardment of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 as well as its siege of Beirut the following year. Americans, in turn, irritated the Israelis with their transfer of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia and their opposition to Israeli arms sales to China.
Such rifts have grown increasingly infrequent, however, and today there are few visible fissures in the U.S.-Israeli front. Yet America has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital – imagine if Israel refused to recognize Washington. Powerful interest groups lobby against Israel in Washington while much of American academia and influential segments of the media are staunchly opposed to any association with Israel.
How does the alliance surmount these challenges?
One reason, certainly, is values – the respect for civic rights and the rule of law that is shared by the world's most powerful republic and the Middle East's only stable democracy. There is also Israel's determination to fight terror, and its willingness to share its antiterror expertise. Most fundamentally, though, is the amity between the two countries' peoples. The admiration which the U.S. inspires among Israelis is overwhelmingly reciprocated by Americans, more than 70% of whom, according to recent polls, favor robust ties with the Jewish state.
No doubt further upheavals await the alliance in the future – as Iran approaches nuclear capability, for example. Israel may act more muscularly than some American leaders might warrant. The impending change of U.S. administration will also have an effect. But such vicissitudes are unlikely to cause a major schism in what has proven to be one of history's most resilient, ardent and atypical partnerships.
Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," now available in paperback from Norton.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas "lull" - much ado about nothing?

The Egyptian negotiated "lull" negotiated with Hamas is a bad deal for Israel:
Hamas regards the lull as " a tactic, a stage in the resistance, and nothing more ." The lull was enabled by the balance of power created by the Palestinian terrorist organizations ("the resistance"), which does not permit Israel to subdue the Gaza Strip.
The lull would not bring about the end of arms smuggling and travel to Iran for training in terror tactics. On the contrary, the aim of the lull is to open the borders of Gaza entirely:
iii) Hamas is aware that Israeli agreement to the lull is conditional on the
cessation of smuggling [arms] into the Gaza Strip and manufacturing [them in
the Gaza Strip] . Mahmoud al-Zahar claimed that regarding smuggling, Omar
Suleiman explained to Israel that responsibility for stopping the smuggling
was in the hands of Israel and Egypt [and by implication, not in the hands
of Hamas]. As to the manufacture of weapons, according to Mahmoud al-Zahar,
"that cannot be supervised" [ by implication, the lull in the fighting does
not include any commitment on the part of Hamas to stop manufacturing and
smuggling weapons ].

iv) Khaled Mashal threatened escalated terrorism against Israel if the lull
(on Hamas terms) were not accepted : "If the blockade continues, the Gaza
Strip will erupt in the face of anyone who blockades it, except for Egypt ."
Other senior Hamas figures also repeatedly stated that the lull was a means
to break through the blockade of the Gaza Strip and if it did not prove
itself, Hamas would act forcefully against Israel . Hamas spokesman Sami Abu
Zuhri threatened that if Israel dragged its feet regarding the proposed
lull, "there will most likely be an unprecedented escalation" (Al-Sharq
Al-Awsat, May 4).

The escalation in terrorism would presumably give Israel the excuse it needed to invade Gaza.
Ami Isseroff
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
May 6, 2008

The Egyptian initiative for a lull in the fighting
(updated to May 5, 2008 )


1. The Egyptian initiative for a lull in the fighting in the Gaza Strip has
gone into high gear. An agreement on principle was reached between Egypt and
Hamas regarding a six-month lull, " Gaza first," during which Egypt would
work to extend it to the West Bank . So far, a description of the agreement
has been revealed by the media but no authoritative written version has been

2. On April 29 and 30 representatives of 12 Palestinian organizations
operating in the Gaza Strip met with the head of Egyptian intelligence in
Cairo . After the meetings Egypt announced that they had agreed to the
progressively implemented lull. Egyptian and Palestinian sources noted that
the ball was now in Israel 's court .

3. In our assessment, Hamas is interested in the lull reached with Egypt ,
which meets most of its demands. It views the lull, which includes opening
the Gaza Strip crossings on Hamas terms and an improvement in the economic
situation, as a means of strengthening and stabilizing its control of the
Gaza Strip. Hamas is also of the opinion that the time-out achieved by the
lull will enable it to accelerate its military buildup in preparation for a
future confrontation with Israel and will improve its standing among
Palestinians, in the Arab and Muslim world (especially vis-à-vis Egypt ) and
even in the international arena.

4. Hamas expects to pay a price for the advantages it receives from the
lull, especially a cessation of rocket fire for a limited and perhaps to
stop other terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip. 1 In addition, Hamas had
to drop its initial demand for a lull that would include the Judea and
Samaria as well as the Gaza Strip, and when dealing with the Egyptians had
to agree to a progressively implemented lull. A cessation of the attacks,
even temporarily, and not including Judea and Samaria in the agreement may
harm Hamas's image as a movement of jihad fighters, give rise to internal
criticism and increase the basic tensions between its governmental
responsibilities on the one hand and its radical Islamic ideology and
terrorist strategy on the other.

5. Initially, the lull is expected to be applied to the Gaza Strip and
enable the Israeli security forces to continue their counterterrorist
activities in Judea and Samaria . That is the agreement's weak spot, because
Israel 's success in its preventive activities in Judea and Samaria is
liable to provoke the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip into
responding, which would violate the lull, as has happened in the past. The
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has already stated that it accepted the lull, but
reserved the right to respond to Israeli "aggression" in the West Bank .

6. The lull initiative was motivated by Egyptian efforts at negotiation . In
our assessment, there are a number of reasons the Egyptians are interested
in promoting the agreement, which will end the escalation in the Gaza Strip
and ease the tensions:

i) To prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point at which Israel
initiates a broad military operation in the Gaza Strip;

ii) To find an arrangement which will enable the opening of the Rafah
Crossing and ease the humanitarian distress of the Gazans;

iii) To provide a response to the internal pressure exerted by the Muslim
Brotherhood, which identifies with Hamas;

iv) To increase Egyptian influence on the radical Islamic entity in the Gaza
Strip, which it views as a threat to Egyptian national security (the
potential danger of the Gaza Strip for Egypt has been well illustrated
during the time since Hamas took it over).

7. This Bulletin examines the following aspects of the initiative for a lull
in the fighting:
i) Updated overview of the Palestinian-Egyptian contacts regarding the lull;
ii) Appendix I : The definition of the Arabic term tahadhiya , a lull in the
fighting, and the difference between it and hudna , a temporary truce.
iii) Appendix II : Previous tahadiya and hudna agreements during the current
Israeli-Palestinian confrontation ("the second intifada") and how they
Updated overview of the Palestinian-Egyptian contacts regarding the lull

8. The Egyptian initiative for a lull in the fighting recently accelerated,
and an unwritten agreement was reached in principle between Egypt and Hamas
for a progressively implemented lull (" Gaza first"). A press conference was
held after senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar met with Omar Suleiman, head
of Egyptian General Intelligence on April 24, and the main points of the
agreement were announced by Mahmoud al-Zahar (Radio Sawt Al-Aqsa, April 25):
i) Hamas agreed to a six-month lull in the Gaza Strip , during which time
Egypt would work to extend it to the West Bank .
ii) The lull had to be mutual and simultaneous , and include the " lifting
of the blockade " and the opening of the crossings, including the Rafah
Crossing. The crossings would be opened as the lull went into effect.
Mahmoud al-Zahar said that an agreement had been reached [between Egypt and
Hamas] regarding the principles and commitments involved in reopening the
Rafah Crossing.

iii) The other Palestinian organizations had to agree to the lull within a
"national agreement." Omar Suleiman would invite their representatives to
Egypt to discuss the issue.

iv) Once the other organizations had agreed, Omar Suleiman would initiate
contacts with Israel to achieve its agreement to the lull and to set up a
time table for its implementation. Israel and Egypt would immediately take
steps to prepare public opinion for the lull and to provide the Gaza Strip
with basic supplies, especially fuel.

v) Egypt will ask the president of the Palestinian Authority for his
agreement to open the crossings. Mahmoud al-Zahar noted that Hamas was close
to an agreement with the PA regarding how the Rafah Crossing would be

vi) The release of Gilad Shalit would be delayed until after the lull went
into effect. Mahmoud al-Zahar said that the main obstacle was Israel 's
refusal to release terrorists who had been sentenced to long terms.

9. Khaled Mashal , head of Hamas's political bureau in Damascus , and
Mahmoud al-Zahar recently explained their concept of the lull in the
fighting (Khaled Mashal to Al-Jazeera TV on April 27; and Mahmoud al-Zahar
at the Islamic University in Gaza City , broadcast by Al-Aqsa TV on April
i) It was Israel that asked for the lull and Hamas is prepared to accept it
from a position of strength . The movement has changed its initial stance
following consultations between the "internal" and "external" leadership,
and has agreed that the lull would begin in the Gaza Strip and later be
extended to the West Bank . Hamas regards the lull as " a tactic, a stage in
the resistance, and nothing more ." The lull was enabled by the balance of
power created by the Palestinian terrorist organizations ("the resistance"),
which does not permit Israel to subdue the Gaza Strip.
ii) Hamas opposes the Israeli control of the Rafah and other crossings, and
claims that the crossings agreement of 2005 is no longer valid. Hamas will
accept joint Egyptian, Hamas , PA and European supervision of the Rafah
Crossing (on the condition that the Europeans arrive through Egypt , not
Israel , and that they have no authority to decide if the crossing is open
or closed). Israel will have no say regarding the opening or closing of the
crossings and Hamas will not back down on that issue.
iii) Hamas is aware that Israeli agreement to the lull is conditional on the
cessation of smuggling [arms] into the Gaza Strip and manufacturing [them in
the Gaza Strip] . Mahmoud al-Zahar claimed that regarding smuggling, Omar
Suleiman explained to Israel that responsibility for stopping the smuggling
was in the hands of Israel and Egypt [and by implication, not in the hands
of Hamas]. As to the manufacture of weapons, according to Mahmoud al-Zahar,
"that cannot be supervised" [ by implication, the lull in the fighting does
not include any commitment on the part of Hamas to stop manufacturing and
smuggling weapons ].
iv) Khaled Mashal threatened escalated terrorism against Israel if the lull
(on Hamas terms) were not accepted : "If the blockade continues, the Gaza
Strip will erupt in the face of anyone who blockades it, except for Egypt ."
Other senior Hamas figures also repeatedly stated that the lull was a means
to break through the blockade of the Gaza Strip and if it did not prove
itself, Hamas would act forcefully against Israel . Hamas spokesman Sami Abu
Zuhri threatened that if Israel dragged its feet regarding the proposed
lull, "there will most likely be an unprecedented escalation" (Al-Sharq
Al-Awsat, May 4).
Contacts between Egypt and the PA

10. After the April 27 meeting with Egyptian president Mubarak at Sharm
el-Sheikh, PA chairman Abu Mazen expressed his support for the initiative.
He said that the PA unreservedly supported the Egyptian efforts to achieve a
lull because it might ease the suffering of the Palestinian people and lead
to the opening of the Gaza Strip crossings (Wafa News Agency, April 27).
Contacts between Egypt and the other Palestinian organizations

11. On April 29 and 30 representatives of 12 Palestinian organizations,
including terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, held a series
of meetings with Omar Suleiman. The Egyptian announcement summarizing the
meetings stated that the organizations had adopted "the Egyptian concept" of
the lull. According to the announcement, the plan for the progressively
implemented lull was part of an overall plan to lift the blockade of the
Gaza Strip, to end the internal Palestinian rift and to gradually return to
the status quo ante. According to Egyptian, Palestinian and Hamas sources,
the ball was now in Israel 's court (Pal-today Website, Agence France
Presse, Palestine-info Website, April 30).

12. The position of the PIJ , as expressed by senior members of the
organization, should be noted: Deputy secretary-general Ziyad Nahleh said
that the organization supported a full lull which included the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank , and added that his organization would not present an
obstacle to the proposed lull and would relate to it positively. However, he
said that "if Israel carries out a crime of assassination in the West Bank
the movement will preserve its right to respond" (Ma'an News Agency, April
29). Abu Imad al-Rifai , a senior member of the organization, said that his
organization accepted Hamas's suggestion regarding the lull but that it
preserved the right to respond to any Israeli "aggression" in the West Bank
(Reuters Cairo, April 29).

Appendix I

The definition of the Arabic term tahadhiya , a lull in the fighting, and
the difference between it and hudna , a temporary truce
1. Tahadiya in Arabic means "lull in the fighting," that is, lowering the
intensity of a confrontation through a mutual commitment to stop the
fighting, which does not necessarily include the complete cessation of all
military activities (such as collecting intelligence, procuring arms, etc.).
It can be translated "as a quiescent period in the fighting," even though
the media often mistranslate it as "truce."
2. Tahadiya is a modern, secular term adopted by the Palestinians and used
exclusively in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has no
religious Islamic validity and in practical terms means an agreement between
two rival sides, sometimes with the intervention of a third party, not
necessarily as part of negotiations or a written agreement (such as a
gentlemen's agreement, or an understanding). Thus it is less binding than a
hudna , a truce, which is an Islamic term. For that reason Hamas preferred
to use the term tahadiya both in relation to the current contacts with Egypt
and to the Cairo Agreement of 2005 (See below). That is because a tahadiya
does not commit Hamas to recognizing Israel and permits it to carry out
military activities except for engaging in actual fighting .
3. The term hudna, on the other hand, is taken from Islamic tradition, and
means an agreement or contract which entails the cessation of all fighting
for a specific period of time and under conditions which have been agreed
upon. The classic example of a hudna in Islamic history was the treaty of
Hudaybiyyah between the prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca
signed in 628 A .D. When Muhammad realized that his forces were inferior he
agreed to a cessation in the fighting and signed a hudna . Two years later
he conquered Mecca .
4. According to Muslim tradition, under certain circumstances Muslim
leadership is permitted to announce a hudna during a war against infidels.
The hudna is usually brokered and signed when the Muslim leadership is
convinced that it serves its interests, since according to the evaluation of
the prevailing circumstances the Muslims will not be able to win. Over time,
the evaluation may change. Thus, basically the hudna is limited in time ,
but the Muslim side can violate it should it so choose or extend the time
limit if it serves Muslim interests. For that reason the hudna is considered
a tactical move integral to fighting the enemy until in due time he is
overcome .
5. The hudna 's objective is a temporary cease fire to improve the Muslim
positions for a new round of fighting and to improve their resources. In
that sense it serves as a stage in jihad and does not express either
willingness or a genuine, fundamental commitment to solve a conflict or even
preserve a truce.

Appendix II

Previous tahadiya and hudna agreements during the current
Israeli-Palestinian confrontation ("the second intifada") and how they ended

1. During the past eight years of the second intifada the idea of a hudna
has been raised a number of times. In 2002- 2003 a number of attempts were
made, some of them negotiated by Egypt , to have the Palestinian terrorist
organizations agree to a temporary ceasefire with Israel . However, they
were never realized. The first hudna which was actually implemented began in
June 2003 with the election of Abu Mazen as PA prime minister. After his
election Hamas and the PIJ announced they were prepared to suspend their
attacks against Israel for three months. On June 29, 2003, three separate
declarations were made: by Hamas and the PIJ, by Fatah and by the PLO.
2. The hudna achieved by the Abu Mazen administration was short lived and
lasted less than two months , from June 26, 2003, the end of the Taba
Conference, until August 19. During the hudna the amount of terrorist
attacks decreased but they did not stop entirely, and there were also
suicide bombing attacks . At the same time, Israel continued it
counterterrorist activities against terrorist operatives, who were
considered ticking bombs. Nevertheless, during the hudna there was a short
lull and there were fewer Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks.
3. Political efforts were made during the hudna to implement the road map
and to rehabilitate the security cooperation between Israel and the PA. The
efforts did not bear fruit. For all intents and purposes, the hudna
collapsed on August 19, 2003, with a suicide bombing attack on a Jerusalem
bus which took the lives of 23 Israeli civilians. Following the attack
Israel renewed its targeted killings of terrorist operatives and initiated a
series of counterterrorist activities in Hebron (August-November 2003).
The Cairo Agreement (March 2005)
4. After the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004 his successor, Abu
Mazen, reached an agreement with Hamas regarding the cessation of its
terrorist campaign against Israel . In view of the collapse of the previous
hudna , and because of Hamas's key position in the new political situation,
it was agreed that the term hudna would not be used and would be replaced by
tahadiya , which was regarded as less binding .
5. On March 15, 2005, a series of discussions began in Cairo , mediated by
Egypt , between the Palestinian terrorist organizations. They ended with the
Cairo Agreement, according to which the organizations agreed to a lull in
the fighting with Israel alongside internal Palestinian understandings. It
was agreed that elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council and the
local authorities would be held and the election systems were agreed upon in
a way that satisfied Hamas. It was also agreed that a committee would be
formed to integrate "all Palestinian forces and factions" within the PLO,
which was recognized as "the only legitimate representative of the
Palestinian people."
6. The lull agreed on in Cairo was also not fully implemented. During the
second half of 2005 it was eroded, especially by the smaller Palestinian
terrorist organizations, which ignored it and continued carrying out
terrorist attacks. Hamas kept to a restrained policy of attacks, and the PA
was incapable of enforcing its authority on the smaller terrorist
organizations. Thus they continued attacking during the lull, although to a
lesser extent. The most prominent organization at the time was PIJ which
continued carrying out sporadic suicide bombing attacks, although they were
fewer in number (the reason for the decrease in the number of suicide
bombing attacks, at the time and after the end of the lull, was primarily
the IDF's effective counterterrorist activities and the erection of the
security fence .)
7. The temporary decrease in the number of terrorist attacks enabled Israel
to carry out its plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip. It also gave
Hamas a breathing space, which it exploited by increasing its influence in
the internal Palestinian arena after the Israeli disengagement. Hamas's
victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006
marked the full utilization of the political advantages of the lull and
signaled the loss of its motivation to continue it, even partially. At the
end of 2005, after nine months, the lull was officially ended when both
Hamas and the PIJ officially announced that they were no longer bound by it.


1 Hamas spokesmen were fuzzy about that point, relating only to an end to
rocket fire without discussing other types of attacks.

Continued (Permanent Link)


By Barry Rubin
On Israel's 60th birthday, the most important thing to remember is that this country was created to give a full and good life for its people. High politics, boundaries, settlements, wars, and disputes of every kind, these all have their place. Yet there is a daily reality of a place with its own language, culture, and society.
When I think of Israel, it is no abstraction but the people of my neighbourhood, an air force officer and a chef, a museum official and a pianist, a real estate agent and an editor, an artist and a plumber. Some are religious and others secular. By now, the places of origin of many have dimmed. What is the Israeli child of Jewish ancestors who once came from that land 2,000 years ago but whose parents were born in Hungary and Yemen; of Syria and Poland by way of Argentina; of Holland and Morocco? 
Israel is both a continuation of 4000 years of Jewish history and a distinctive development from 120 years of Zionism, plus 60 years of statehood. It has taken in influences from all over the world, including the most modern, usually giving them a twist of its own. It is simultaneously Mediterranean and Eastern European and Middle Eastern and more in a mixture all of its own that has become a cohesive national ethos.
Sometimes these things are unique syntheses, as when the children of Holocaust survivors--one from Greece, the other from Poland —come together to make a remarkable rock album on the Holocaust. At other times, they seem mere copies of Western fads. Yet if you view the Israeli versions of shows about surviving in wilderness, rival chefs, or competing singers, each have been coloured by Israeliness.
Israel is a country which is relatively secular but the rhythm of its year is shaped by Purim, Passover, and Yom Kippur. You may go to the beach on a holy day but you still are living in the context of that occasion's purpose.
It's true that the old comradeship of decades ago has declined, as have the institutions created to build the state. And nothing more symbolizes Israeli daily life than the driver behind you setting off his horn to beat the speed of light from the changing traffic signal. Yet civility, too, is creeping in gradually.
In Israel, the national sport is nominally football or basketball but always seems to be complaining. Yet when polls are taken about one's assessment of life, the positives go through the roof. Other countries have national birds and flowers. Israel has a national enzyme: adrenaline.  Addictive, life in Israel sometimes threatens to burn one out but makes it hard to be away.
Adaptive, hi-tech and science have replaced oranges and flowers as the export product, yet the fruit and vegetables are still marvellous. 
With all of its problems—at times because of its problems—it is a great place to live.
A thousand years ago, Chasdai Ibn Shaprut, a Jewish court minister of medieval Moorish Spain, wrote: "Dishonoured and humiliated by our dispersion, we have to listen in silence to those who say: every nation has its own land and you alone possess not even the shadow of a country on this earth."
But if there really was a place, Shaprut said, "where harassed Israel can rule itself, where it is subject to nobody…I would not hesitate to forsake all honours, resign my high office…and travel over mountains and plains, over land and water," to reach it.
Far more recently, Nahum Lenkin, one of the few who escaped with his life in 1942 from my grandparents' home town of Dolginov, Poland, recalled how parents there often "went without food so they could pay the tuition for their children" to go to the town's Zionist school. "They made these sacrifices because the school provided young people their first preparation to one day go as pioneers to Eretz Israel, the land of the workers, and the renewed land." Almost all the survivors, and their children, live in Israel.
As it says in Hatikvah, "the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost: To be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem."
Well, folks, here it is at last.
Now if that sounds abstract or corny to you, take a walk around my neighbourhood and meet the people. They aren't thinking about millennia, utopia, debating the peace process, or obsessing what the British media say about them as they go about their daily lives.
I know our society could have been, and could be today, far better. Don't get me started on the teacher's strike or the low calibre of politicians. Perhaps it would be closer to utopia if so much blood and treasure didn't have to go into self-defence.
Still, we love this country, even if the ability to complain and criticize is one aspect of that sheer pleasure of living in Israel.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).
To read and subscribe free to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit

Continued (Permanent Link)

Why he is a Zionist and Why I am a Zionist

Below, Gil Troy explains why he is a Zionist. That is OK for him I guess, but my Zionism is much simpler. I am a Zionist for the same reason that Americans are American patriots. I am a Jew, probably whether I like it or not. Therefore it is natural for me to support the national movement of the Jews, Zionism. But I would support Zionism even if I were not a Jew. I am also a liberal, and therefore I support national liberation movements and self determination for all peoples, including Irish, Italians, Kurds and Tibetans. Weren't we taught that these are all just causes in high school social studies?
Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and has the same "rights" as the national movements of the Irish, the Greeks, the Italians, the Czechs and others. Zionism should not need any special pleading. Israel is a great country, but even lousy countries have a right to exist. The Jews have made many contributions that enrich the world of science and philosophy, but even peoples whose members never won a single Nobel prize have a right to live free in their own countries.   
I don't understand some of the things Gil Troy is saying:
I am a Zionist because in Israel we have learned that a country without a vision is like a person without a soul; a big-tent Zionism can inculcate values, fight corruption, reaffirm national unity, and restore a sense of mission.
I am for big tent Zionism, but that is not the reason I am a Zionist.
And I don't understand this:
 a secular Jew BUT also a Zionist.
Professor Troy - David Ben-Gurion was a secular Jew and also a Zionist, and so were most of my relatives and most of the people who founded the state of Israel. Religious Jews are mostly Johnny - come-latelies to Zionsm. A very few stood with our ancestors in the early days.  My great grandfather was a religious Jew, BUT he was also a Zionist.
Ami Isseroff

Center Field: Why I am a Zionist
gil troy , THE JERUSALEM POST  May. 6, 2008
Today, too many friends and foes define Israel, and Zionism, by the Arab world's hostility. Doing so misses Israel's everyday miracles, the millions who live and learn, laugh and play, in the Middle East's only functional democracy. Doing so ignores the achievements of Zionism, a gutsy, visionary movement which rescued a shattered people by reuniting a scattered people. Doing so neglects the transformative potential of Zionism, which could inspire new generations of Israeli and Diaspora Jews to find personal redemption by redeeming their old-new communal homeland.
Tragically, Zionism is embattled. Arabs have demonized Zionism as the modern bogeyman, and many have clumped Zionists, along with Americans and most Westerners, as the Great Satans. In Israel, trendy post-Zionists denigrate the state which showers them with privilege, while in the Diaspora a few Jewish anti-Zionists loudly curry favor with the Jewish state's enemies.
Jews should reaffirm their faith in Zionism; the world should appreciate its many accomplishments. Zionists must not allow their enemies to define and slander the movement. No nationalism is pure, no movement is perfect, no state ideal. But today Zionism remains legitimate, inspiring, and relevant, to me and most Jews. Zionism offers an identity anchor in a world of dizzying choices - and a road map toward national renewal. A century ago, Zionism revived pride in the label "Jew"; today, Jews must revive pride in the label "Zionist."
I AM a Zionist because I am a Jew - and without recognizing Judaism's national component, I cannot explain its unique character. Judaism is a world religion bound to one homeland, shaping a people whose holy days revolve around the Israeli agricultural calendar, ritualize theological concepts, and relive historic events. Only in Israel can a Jew fully live in Jewish space and by Jewish time.
I am a Zionist because I share the past, present, and future of my people, the Jewish people. Our nerve endings are uniquely intertwined. When one of us suffers, we share the pain; when many of us advance communal ideals together, we - and the world - benefit.
I am a Zionist because I know my history - and after being exiled from their homeland more than 1900 years ago, the defenseless, wandering Jews endured repeated persecutions from both Christians and Muslims - centuries before this anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust.
I am a Zionist because Jews never forgot their ties to their homeland, their love for Jerusalem. Even when they established autonomous self-governing structures in Babylonia, in Europe, in North Africa, these governments in exile yearned to return home.
I am a Zionist because those ideological ties nourished and were nurtured by the plucky minority of Jews who remained in the land of Israel, sustaining continued Jewish settlement throughout the exile.
I am a Zionist because in modern times the promise of Emancipation and Enlightenment was a double-edged sword, often only offering acceptance for Jews in Europe after they assimilated, yet never fully respecting them if they did assimilate.
I am a Zionist because in establishing the sovereign state of Israel in 1948, the Jews reconstituted in modern Western terms a relationship with a land they had been attached to for millennia, since Biblical times - just as Japan or India established modern states from ancient civilizations.
I am a Zionist because in building that state, the Jews returned to history and embraced normalcy, a condition which gave them power, with all its benefits, responsibilities, and dilemmas.
I am a Zionist because I celebrate Israel's existence. Like any thoughtful patriot, though I might criticize particular government policies I dislike - I do not delegitimize the state itself.
I am a Zionist because I live in the real world of nation-states. I see that Zionism is no more or less "racist" than any other nationalism, be it American, Armenian, Canadian, or Czech. All express the eternal human need for some internal cohesion, some tribalism, some solidarity among some historic grouping of individuals, and not others.
I am a Zionist because we have learned from North American multiculturalism that pride in one's heritage as a Jew, an Italian, a Greek, can provide essential, time-tested anchors in our me-me-me, my-my-my, more-more-more, now-now-now world.
I am a Zionist because in Israel we have learned that a country without a vision is like a person without a soul; a big-tent Zionism can inculcate values, fight corruption, reaffirm national unity, and restore a sense of mission.
I AM a Zionist because in our world of post-modern multi-dimensional identities, we don't have to be "either-ors", we can be "ands and buts" - a Zionist AND an American patriot; a secular Jew BUT also a Zionist. Just as some people living in Israel reject Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, Jews in the Diaspora can embrace it. To those who ask "How can you be a Zionist if you don't make aliya," I reply, "How will anyone make aliya without first being a Zionist?"
I am a Zionist because I am a democrat. The marriage of democracy and nationalism has produced great liberal democracies, including Israel, despite its democracy being tested under severe conditions.
I am a Zionist because I am an idealist. Just as a century ago, the notion of a viable, independent, sovereign Jewish state was an impossible dream - yet worth fighting for - so, too, today, the notion of a thriving, independent, sovereign Jewish state living in true peace with its neighbors appears to be an impossible dream - yet worth seeking.
I am a Zionist because I am a romantic. The story of the Jews rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing themselves, was one of the 20th century's greatest epics, just as the narrative of the Jews maintaining their homeland, reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and serving as a light to others, a model nation state, could be one of this century's marvels.
Yes, it sometimes sounds far-fetched. But, as Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said in an idle boast that has become a cliche: "If you will it, it is no dream."
The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. This is an updated version of an essay he first wrote for Independence Day in 2001.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO and pro-Hezbollah Lebanese Christians join forces against refugee rights

Everyone agrees that the conditions of life for Arab Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are terrible. In Jordan, Palestinians are citizens. In Syria, they have all the rights of citizens, including the right to work, to health care and education, though they cannot vote. In Lebanon, they have nothing. They live in miserable camps with unpaved roads and no sewage, sixty years after fleeing Israel.
The reason for this misery has nothing to do with Zionism. It has everything to do with the PLO and Lebanese politicians. According to Naharnet, Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun has joined with PLO representative Abbas Zaki in rejecting a proposal to grant naturalization to Palestinian refugees. Quoting Naharnet:
Palestine Liberation Organization Representative Abbas Zaki on Tuesday agreed with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun on "Lebanese-Palestinian practical approaches" to reject the naturalization of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Zaki, talking to reporters after meeting Aoun at the latter's residence in Rabiyeh, said both Palestinians and Lebanese would "upgrade the support for the right of the Palestinians to return" to their homeland.

Palestinians in Lebanon and the PLO are not involved in domestic political affiliations and "we are only guests … awaiting our return to Palestine," Zaki said.
This is part of the systematic policy of undermining the fundamental human rights of Palestinian Arab refugees that has been followed consistently by Arab Palestinian and Arab state leadership since 1948 (see Palestine Nakba - the obvious mystery). The denial of refugee rights is part of a consistent policy to perpetuate the tragedy of 1948, which the Arabs call the  Palestine Nakba.
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

1948, Israel, and the Palestinians-

This article is a bit disappointing. Karsh tells us his narrative is based on newly declassified sources, but gives no references, and everything he tells us here has been said before.
Efraim Karsh Commentary. May 2008

Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The "one-state solution," as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the "original sin" of Israel's founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) "on the ruins of Arab Palestine" and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian "refugee problem" forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel's alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950's, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation, and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel's revisionist "new historians," and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel's "original sin," grudgingly stipulated that there was no "design" to displace the Palestinian Arabs.

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel's early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the "new historians," paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.



Far from being the hapless objects of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who from the early 1920's onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival. This campaign culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine. Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the UN resolution, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.

The simple fact is that the Zionist movement had always been amenable to the existence in the future Jewish state of a substantial Arab minority that would participate on an equal footing "throughout all sectors of the country's public life." The words are those of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the branch of Zionism that was the forebear of today's Likud party. In a famous 1923 article, Jabotinsky voiced his readiness "to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone."

Eleven years later, Jabotinsky presided over the drafting of a constitution for Jewish Palestine. According to its provisions, Arabs and Jews were to share both the prerogatives and the duties of statehood, including most notably military and civil service. Hebrew and Arabic were to enjoy the same legal standing, and "in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice-versa."

If this was the position of the more "militant" faction of the Jewish national movement, mainstream Zionism not only took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the future Jewish state but went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence. In January 1919, Chaim Weizmann, then the upcoming leader of the Zionist movement, reached a peace-and-cooperation agreement with the Hashemite emir Faisal ibn Hussein, the effective leader of the nascent pan-Arab movement. From then until the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels. These included Abdullah ibn Hussein, Faisal's elder brother and founder of the emirate of Transjordan (later the kingdom of Jordan), incumbent and former prime ministers in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, senior advisers of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia), and Palestinian Arab elites of all hues.

As late as September 15, 1947, two months before the passing of the UN partition resolution, two senior Zionist envoys were still seeking to convince Abdel Rahman Azzam, the Arab League's secretary-general, that the Palestine conflict "was uselessly absorbing the best energies of the Arab League," and that both Arabs and Jews would greatly benefit "from active policies of cooperation and development." Behind this proposition lay an age-old Zionist hope: that the material progress resulting from Jewish settlement of Palestine would ease the path for the local Arab populace to become permanently reconciled, if not positively well disposed, to the project of Jewish national self-determination. As David Ben-Gurion, soon to become Israel's first prime minister, argued in December 1947:

If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, . . . if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social, and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.



On the face of it, Ben-Gurion's hope rested on reasonable grounds. An inflow of Jewish immigrants and capital after World War I had revived Palestine's hitherto static condition and raised the standard of living of its Arab inhabitants well above that in the neighboring Arab states. The expansion of Arab industry and agriculture, especially in the field of citrus growing, was largely financed by the capital thus obtained, and Jewish know-how did much to improve Arab cultivation. In the two decades between the world wars, Arab-owned citrus plantations grew sixfold, as did vegetable-growing lands, while the number of olive groves quadrupled.

No less remarkable were the advances in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the Muslim population dropped sharply and life expectancy rose from 37.5 years in 1926-27 to 50 in 1942-44 (compared with 33 in Egypt). The rate of natural increase leapt upward by a third.

That nothing remotely akin to this was taking place in the neighboring British-ruled Arab countries, not to mention India, can be explained only by the decisive Jewish contribution to Mandate Palestine's socioeconomic well-being. The British authorities acknowledged as much in a 1937 report by a commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel:

The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the census returns in 1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase percent in Haifa was 86, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 percent.

Had the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs been left to their own devices, they would most probably have been content to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. This is evidenced by the fact that, throughout the Mandate era, periods of peaceful coexistence far exceeded those of violent eruptions, and the latter were the work of only a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs. Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, however, the hopes and wishes of ordinary people were not taken into account, as they rarely are in authoritarian communities hostile to the notions of civil society or liberal democracy. In the modern world, moreover, it has not been the poor and the oppressed who have led the great revolutions or carried out the worst deeds of violence, but rather militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed classes of society.

So it was with the Palestinians. In the words of the Peel report:

We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary . . . with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine [has] meant the deterioration of the political situation.

In Palestine, ordinary Arabs were persecuted and murdered by their alleged betters for the crime of "selling Palestine" to the Jews. Meanwhile, these same betters were enriching themselves with impunity. The staunch pan-Arabist Awni Abdel Hadi, who vowed to fight "until Palestine is either placed under a free Arab government or becomes a graveyard for all the Jews in the country," facilitated the transfer of 7,500 acres to the Zionist movement, and some of his relatives, all respected political and religious figures, went a step further by selling actual plots of land. So did numerous members of the Husseini family, the foremost Palestinian Arab clan during the Mandate period, including Muhammad Tahir, father of Hajj Amin Husseini, the notorious mufti of Jerusalem.

It was the mufti's concern with solidifying his political position that largely underlay the 1929 carnage in which 133 Jews were massacred and hundreds more were wounded—just as it was the struggle for political preeminence that triggered the most protracted outbreak of Palestinian Arab violence in 1936-39. This was widely portrayed as a nationalist revolt against both the ruling British and the Jewish refugees then streaming into Palestine to escape Nazi persecution. In fact, it was a massive exercise in violence that saw far more Arabs than Jews or Englishmen murdered by Arab gangs, that repressed and abused the general Arab population, and that impelled thousands of Arabs to flee the country in a foretaste of the 1947-48 exodus.

Some Palestinian Arabs, in fact, preferred to fight back against their inciters, often in collaboration with the British authorities and the Hagana, the largest Jewish underground defense organization. Still others sought shelter in Jewish neighborhoods. For despite the paralytic atmosphere of terror and a ruthlessly enforced economic boycott, Arab-Jewish coexistence continued on many practical levels even during such periods of turmoil, and was largely restored after their subsidence.



Against this backdrop, it is hardly to be wondered at that most Palestinians wanted nothing to do with the violent attempt ten years later by the mufti-led Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the effective "government" of the Palestinian Arabs, to subvert the 1947 UN partition resolution. With the memories of 1936-39 still fresh in their minds, many opted to stay out of the fight. In no time, numerous Arab villages (and some urban areas) were negotiating peace agreements with their Jewish neighbors; other localities throughout the country acted similarly without the benefit of a formal agreement.

Nor did ordinary Palestinians shrink from quietly defying their supreme leadership. In his numerous tours around the region, Abdel Qader Husseini, district commander of Jerusalem and the mufti's close relative, found the populace indifferent, if not hostile, to his repeated call to arms. In Hebron, he failed to recruit a single volunteer for the salaried force he sought to form in that city; his efforts in the cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Qalqiliya were hardly more successful. Arab villagers, for their part, proved even less receptive to his demands. In one locale, Beit Safafa, Abdel Qader suffered the ultimate indignity, being driven out by angry residents protesting their village's transformation into a hub of anti-Jewish attacks. Even the few who answered his call did so, by and large, in order to obtain free weapons for their personal protection and then return home.

There was an economic aspect to this peaceableness. The outbreak of hostilities orchestrated by the AHC led to a sharp drop in trade and an accompanying spike in the cost of basic commodities. Many villages, dependent for their livelihood on the Jewish or mixed-population cities, saw no point in supporting the AHC's explicit goal of starving the Jews into submission. Such was the general lack of appetite for war that in early February 1948, more than two months after the AHC initiated its campaign of violence, Ben-Gurion maintained that "the villages, in most part, have remained on the sidelines."

Ben-Gurion's analysis was echoed by the Iraqi general Ismail Safwat, commander-in-chief of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), the volunteer Arab force that did much of the fighting in Palestine in the months preceding Israel's proclamation of independence. Safwat lamented that only 800 of the 5,000 volunteers trained by the ALA had come from Palestine itself, and that most of these had deserted either before completing their training or immediately afterward. Fawzi Qawuqji, the local commander of ALA forces, was no less scathing, having found the Palestinians "unreliable, excitable, and difficult to control, and in organized warfare virtually unemployable."

This view summed up most contemporary perceptions during the fateful six months of fighting after the passing of the partition resolution. Even as these months saw the all but complete disintegration of Palestinian Arab society, nowhere was this described as a systematic dispossession of Arabs by Jews. To the contrary: with the partition resolution widely viewed by Arab leaders as "Zionist in inspiration, Zionist in principle, Zionist in substance, and Zionist in most details" (in the words of the Palestinian academic Walid Khalidi), and with those leaders being brutally candid about their determination to subvert it by force of arms, there was no doubt whatsoever as to which side had instigated the bloodletting.  

Nor did the Arabs attempt to hide their culpability. As the Jews set out to lay the groundwork for their nascent state while simultaneously striving to convince their Arab compatriots that they would be (as Ben-Gurion put it) "equal citizens, equal in everything without any exception," Palestinian Arab leaders pledged that "should partition be implemented, it will be achieved only over the bodies of the Arabs of Palestine, their sons, and their women." Qawuqji vowed "to drive all Jews into the sea." Abdel Qader Husseini stated that "the Palestine problem will only be solved by the sword; all Jews must leave Palestine."



They and their fellow Arab abetters did their utmost to make these threats come true, with every means at their disposal. In addition to regular forces like the ALA, guerrilla and terror groups wreaked havoc, as much among noncombatants as among Jewish fighting units. Shooting, sniping, ambushes, bombings, which in today's world would be condemned as war crimes, were daily events in the lives of civilians. "[I]nnocent and harmless people, going about their daily business," wrote the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Robert Macatee, in December 1947,

are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets, and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them stabbed to death.

As the fighting escalated, Arab civilians suffered as well, and the  occasional atrocity sparked cycles of large-scale violence. Thus, the December 1947 murder of six Arab workers near the Haifa oil refinery by the small Jewish underground group IZL was followed by the immediate slaughter of 39 Jews by their Arab co-workers, just as the killing of some 100 Arabs during the battle for the village of Deir Yasin in April 1948 was "avenged" within days by the killing of 77 Jewish nurses and doctors en route to the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus.

Yet while the Jewish leadership and media described these gruesome events for what they were, at times withholding details so as to avoid panic and keep the door open for Arab-Jewish reconciliation, their Arab counterparts not only inflated the toll to gigantic proportions but invented numerous nonexistent atrocities. The fall of Haifa (April 21-22), for example, gave rise to totally false claims of a large-scale slaughter, which circulated throughout the Middle East and reached Western capitals. Similarly false rumors were spread after the fall of Tiberias (April 18), during the battle for Safed (in early May), and in Jaffa, where in late April the mayor fabricated a massacre of "hundreds of Arab men and women." Accounts of Deir Yasin in the Arab media were especially lurid, featuring supposed hammer-and-sickle tattoos on the arms of IZL fighters and accusations of havoc and rape.

This scare-mongering was undoubtedly aimed at garnering the widest possible sympathy for the Palestinian plight and casting the Jews as brutal predators. But it backfired disastrously by spreading panic within the disoriented Palestinian society. That, in turn, helps explain why, by April 1948, after four months of seeming progress, this phase of the Arab war effort collapsed. (Still in the offing was the second, wider, and more prolonged phase involving the forces of the five Arab nations that invaded Palestine in mid-May.) For not only had most Palestinians declined to join the active hostilities, but vast numbers had taken to the road, leaving their homes either for places elsewhere in the country or fleeing to neighboring Arab lands.



Indeed, many had vacated even before the outbreak of hostilities, and still larger numbers decamped before the war reached their own doorstep. "Arabs are leaving the country with their families in considerable numbers, and there is an exodus from the mixed towns to the rural Arab centers," reported Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner, in December 1947, adding a month later that the "panic of [the] middle class persists and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country."

Echoing these reports, Hagana intelligence sources recounted in mid-December an "evacuation frenzy that has taken hold of entire Arab villages." Before the month was over, many Palestinian Arab cities were bemoaning the severe problems created by the huge influx of villagers and pleading with the AHC to help find a solution to the predicament. Even the Syrian and Lebanese governments were alarmed by this early exodus, demanding that the AHC encourage Palestinian Arabs to stay put and fight.

But no such encouragement was forthcoming, either from the AHC or from anywhere else. In fact, there was a total lack of national cohesion, let alone any sense of shared destiny. Cities and towns acted as if they were self-contained units, attending to their own needs and eschewing the smallest sacrifice on behalf of other localities. Many "national committees" (i.e., local leaderships) forbade the export of food and drink from well-stocked cities to needy outlying towns and villages. Haifa's Arab merchants refused to alleviate a severe shortage of flour in Jenin, while Gaza refused to export eggs and poultry to Jerusalem; in Hebron, armed guards checked all departing cars. At the same time there was extensive smuggling, especially in the mixed-population cities, with Arab foodstuffs going to Jewish neighborhoods and vice-versa.

The lack of communal solidarity was similarly evidenced by the abysmal treatment meted out to the hundreds of thousands of refugees scattered throughout the country. Not only was there no collective effort to relieve their plight, or even a wider empathy beyond one's immediate neighborhood, but many refugees were ill-treated by their temporary hosts and subjected to ridicule and abuse for their supposed cowardice. In the words of one Jewish intelligence report: "The refugees are hated wherever they have arrived."

Even the ultimate war victims—the survivors of Deir Yasin—did not escape their share of indignities. Finding refuge in the neighboring village of Silwan, many were soon at loggerheads with the locals, to the point where on April 14, a mere five days after the tragedy, a Silwan delegation approached the AHC's Jerusalem office demanding that the survivors be transferred elsewhere. No help for their relocation was forthcoming.

Some localities flatly refused to accept refugees at all, for fear of overstraining existing resources. In Acre (Akko), the authorities prevented Arabs fleeing Haifa from disembarking; in Ramallah, the predominantly Christian population organized its own militia—not so much to fight the Jews as to fend off the new Muslim arrivals. Many exploited the plight of the refugees unabashedly, especially by fleecing them for such basic necessities as transportation and accommodation.

Yet still the Palestinians fled their homes, and at an ever growing pace. By early April some 100,000 had gone, though the Jews were still on the defensive and in no position to evict them. (On March 23, fully four months after the outbreak of hostilities, ALA commander-in-chief Safwat noted with some astonishment that the Jews "have so far not attacked a single Arab village unless provoked by it.") By the time of Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, the numbers of Arab refugees had more than trebled. Even then, none of the 170,000-180,000 Arabs fleeing urban centers, and only a handful of the 130,000-160,000 villagers who left their homes, had been forced out by the Jews.

The exceptions occurred in the heat of battle and were uniformly dictated by ad-hoc military considerations—reducing civilian casualties, denying sites to Arab fighters when there were no available Jewish forces to repel them—rather than political design. They were, moreover, matched by efforts to prevent flight and/or to encourage the return of those who fled. To cite only one example, in early April a Jewish delegation comprising top Arab-affairs advisers, local notables, and municipal heads with close contacts with neighboring Arab localities traversed Arab villages in the coastal plain, then emptying at a staggering pace, in an attempt to convince their inhabitants to stay put.



What makes these Jewish efforts all the more impressive is that they took place at a time when huge numbers of Palestinian Arabs were being actively driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or by Arab military forces, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. In the largest and best-known example, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa on the AHC's instructions, despite strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade them to stay. Only days earlier, Tiberias' 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes. In Jaffa, Palestine's largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods.

Tens of thousands of rural villagers were likewise forced out by order of the AHC, local Arab militias, or the ALA. Within weeks of the latter's arrival in Palestine in January 1948, rumors were circulating of secret instructions to Arabs in predominantly Jewish areas to vacate their villages so as to allow their use for military purposes and to reduce the risk of becoming hostage to the Jews.

By February, this phenomenon had expanded to most parts of the country. It gained considerable momentum in April and May as ALA and AHC forces throughout Palestine were being comprehensively routed. On April 18, the Hagana's intelligence branch in Jerusalem reported a fresh general order to remove the women and children from all villages bordering Jewish localities. Twelve days later, its Haifa counterpart reported an ALA command to evacuate all Arab villages between Tel Aviv and Haifa in anticipation of a new general offensive. In early May, as fighting intensified in the eastern Galilee, local Arabs were ordered to transfer all women and children from the Rosh Pina area, while in the Jerusalem sub-district, Transjordan's Arab Legion likewise ordered the emptying of scores of villages.

As for the Palestinian Arab leaders themselves, who had placed their reluctant constituents on a collision course with Zionism in the 1920's and 1930's and had now dragged them helpless into a mortal conflict, they hastened to get themselves out of Palestine and to stay out at the most critical moment. Taking a cue from these higher-ups, local leaders similarly rushed en masse through the door. High Commissioner Cunningham summarized what was happening with quintessential British understatement:

You should know that the collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency of those who should be leading them to leave the country. . . . For instance, in Jaffa the mayor went on four-day leave 12 days ago and has not returned, and half the national committee has left. In Haifa the Arab members of the municipality left some time ago; the two leaders of the Arab Liberation Army left actually during the recent battle. Now the chief Arab magistrate has left. In all parts of the country the effendi class has been evacuating in large numbers over a considerable period and the tempo is increasing.

Arif al-Arif, a prominent Arab politician during the Mandate era and the doyen of Palestinian historians, described the prevailing atmosphere at the time: "Wherever one went throughout the country one heard the same refrain: 'Where are the leaders who should show us the way? Where is the AHC? Why are its members in Egypt at a time when Palestine, their own country, needs them?'"




Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, a Palestinian Arab leader during the 1948 war, would sum up the situation in these words: "The Palestinians had neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees, while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die."

This is true enough of the Jews, but it elides the reason for the refugees' flight and radically distorts the quality of their reception elsewhere. If they met with no sympathy from their brethren at home, the reaction throughout the Arab world was, if anything, harsher still. There were repeated calls for the forcible return of the refugees, or at the very least of young men of military age, many of whom had arrived under the (false) pretense of volunteering for the ALA. As the end of the Mandate loomed nearer, the Lebanese government refused entry visas to Palestinian males between eighteen and fifty and ordered all "healthy and fit men" who had already entered the country to register officially or be considered illegal aliens and face the full weight of the law.

The Syrian government took an even more stringent approach, banning from its territory all Palestinian males between sixteen and fifty. In Egypt, a large number of demonstrators marched to the Arab League's Cairo headquarters and lodged a petition demanding that "every able-bodied Palestinian capable of carrying arms should be forbidden to stay abroad." Such was the extent of Arab resentment toward the Palestinian refugees that the rector of Cairo's al-Azhar institution of religious learning, probably the foremost Islamic authority, felt obliged to issue a ruling that made the sheltering of Palestinian Arab refugees a religious duty.

Contempt for the Palestinians only intensified with time. "Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their country," commented Radio Baghdad on the eve of the pan-Arab invasion of the new-born state of Israel in mid-May. "These are hard words indeed, yet they are true." Lebanon's minister of the interior (and future president) Camille Chamoun was more delicate, intoning that "The people of Palestine, in their previous resistance to imperialists and Zionists, proved they were worthy of independence," but "at this decisive stage of the fighting they have not remained so dignified."

No wonder, then, that so few among the  Palestinian refugees themselves blamed their collapse and dispersal on the Jews. During a fact-finding mission to Gaza in June 1949, Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East office in Cairo and no friend to Israel or the Jews, was surprised to discover that while the refugees

express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves) they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. "We know who our enemies are," they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes. . . . I even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over.



Sixty years after their dispersion, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants remain in the squalid camps where they have been kept by their fellow Arabs for decades, nourished on hate and false hope. Meanwhile, their erstwhile leaders have squandered successive opportunities for statehood.

It is indeed the tragedy of the Palestinians that the two leaders who determined their national development during the 20th century—Hajj Amin Husseini and Yasir Arafat, the latter of whom dominated Palestinian politics since the mid-1960's to his death in November 2004—were megalomaniacal extremists blinded by anti-Jewish hatred and profoundly obsessed with violence. Had the mufti chosen to lead his people to peace and reconciliation with their Jewish neighbors, as he had promised the British officials who appointed him to his high rank in the early 1920's, the Palestinians would have had their independent state over a substantial part of Mandate Palestine by 1948, and would have been spared the traumatic experience of dispersion and exile. Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960's or the early 1970's; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.

Instead, Arafat transformed the territories placed under his control in the 1990's into an effective terror state from where he launched an all-out war (the "al-Aqsa intifada") shortly after being offered an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In the process, he subjected the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to a repressive and corrupt regime in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships and plunged their standard of living to unprecedented depths.

What makes this state of affairs all the more galling is that, far from being unfortunate aberrations, Hajj Amin and Arafat were quintessential representatives of the cynical and self-seeking leaders produced by the Arab political system. Just as the Palestinian leadership during the Mandate had no qualms about inciting its constituents against Zionism and the Jews, while lining its own pockets from the fruits of Jewish entrepreneurship, so PLO officials used the billions of dollars donated by the Arab oil states and, during the Oslo era, by the international community to finance their luxurious style of life while ordinary Palestinians scrambled for a livelihood.

And so it goes. Six decades after the mufti and his henchmen condemned their people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition resolution, their reckless decisions are being reenacted by the latest generation of Palestinian leaders. This applies not only to Hamas, which in January 2006 replaced the PLO at the helm of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but also to the supposedly moderate Palestinian leadership—from President Mahmoud Abbas to Ahmad Qureia (negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords) to Saeb Erekat to prime minister Salam Fayad—which refuses to recognize Israel's very existence as a Jewish state and insists on the full implementation of the "right of return."

And so it goes as well with Western anti-Zionists who in the name of justice (no less) call today not for a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership but for the dismantlement of the Jewish state. Only when these dispositions change can Palestinian Arabs realistically look forward to putting their self-inflicted "catastrophe" behind them.


About the Author

Efraim Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, and the author most recently of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale). Mr. Karsh gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Roger and Susan Hertog in supporting the research on which the present article is based.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Flashback to 1948

Flashback to 1948

By Maurice Ostroff


No sooner had Israel declared independence on May 15, 1948, than five Arab armies invaded the nascent state. Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who had met with Hitler in 1941 and had been involved in recruiting support for Germany among Muslims during WW2 proclaimed, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"

Around 3,500 overseas volunteers came from 43 different countries to assist in Israel's struggle for survival. They were referred to collectively as "Machal", an acronym of the Hebrew equivalent of "volunteers from abroad", (Mitnadvay Chutz La'aretz)"

And now 60 years later I recall the "encouraging" welcome I received on landing in Haifa as a Machal volunteer, with several other ostensibly naïve tourists on June 6, 1948. Some British soldiers and officials were still in Haifa, and we went through British as well as newly appointed Israeli immigration officials. (The British didn't leave completely until mid-June). I fell into conversation with a British major who said, "You're bloody crazy coming here at this time. Don't you know what's going on?" Calmly as possible, I replied that we were on a world tour that included passing through the new Israel. I will never forget how, pointing towards Haifa port, he gloated, "That's where the Arabs are slaughtering the f…. Jews. We're pulling out, but it won't take two weeks before the Jews will beg us to rescue them."

Several Machal groups came to Israel on overcrowded refugee ships. One group sailed in the Dolores, a boat designed to accommodate fifty people, that then carried 149. South African Machal volunteers the late Dr. Alan Price, assisted by Evelyn Bernstein delivered a baby in the captain's cabin and a very touching story developed during Israel's 50th birthday celebrations. With the assistance of Joe Woolf, Dr. Price succeeded in tracing and meeting this "baby", who was then living in Kiryat Bialik

Another interesting sidelight: There were a noticeable number of non-Jewish volunteers in Machal. Among them was a very special character, South African, "Butch" Boettger. When Ben Gurion called on all officers to Hebraise their names, Boettger took the name, Ben Yok and became widely and affectionately known as Butch Ben Yok.

In her book, "The Hand of Mordechai", about Kibbutz Yad Mordechai's resistance to the Egyptian army in May 1948, Margaret Larkin expressed the true character of the conflict. She wrote " In an initial meeting, some of the kibbutz veterans took exception to my reference to their heroism. They warned me against glorifying their deeds; they made me understand that they do not think of the battle as an example of man's courage in the face of great odds - they think of it as a tragedy. They pointed out they became front line soldiers by an accident of geography. They did their duty and killed when they had to, but they are men of peace.., they demanded: tell how we fought but let every page call out for peace",


Continued (Permanent Link)

EU Funding for Israel Bashing

Funding Israel's Detractors
May 6, 2008


In the 60 years of Israeli independence, relations with Europe have gone through phases of cooperation as well as conflict. Some of the recent friction results from hidden European Union funding for anti-Israel "civil society organizations." While supposedly promoting peace and coexistence, these groups often preach division and confrontation. The secrecy of the NGO funding process also stands in sharp contrast to the EU's pious claims of transparency and accountability. There is no central database on NGO funding and many EU officials contacted proved unwilling or unable to provide any information.
Among the recipients are a number of Israeli political groups that focus on allegations of human rights abuses, such as Machsom Watch and B'tselem. They diligently take down every Palestinian complaint at face value and write inflammable reports castigating Israel as the aggressor. They do so by leaving out essential context, such as the constant Palestinian terror attacks that prompt the criticized Israeli policies, including road blocks and incursions, in the first place.
Even more radical are Israeli Arab NGOs, such as Adalah, Mossawa, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), and HaMoked. Their titles and mission statements use the language of human rights and peace and they receive EU money in this guise. But actually they do the opposite. These groups poison any reasonable dialogue by demonizing Israel, for example by drawing parallels to the apartheid regime. Their advocacy for a single state, where Jews would quickly become a minority, is just another way of calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
The EU was also one of the main funders of the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference. Designed to fight racism, it turned into one of the most despicable displays of modern anti-Semitism. The Forum accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and called for "a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state" through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. After leading the Forum, the Palestinian NGO Network became the primary sponsor of the academic boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel. Under the guise of promoting peace and understanding, the EU thus indirectly funds campaigns to ban Israeli academics from international conferences.
In justifying support for groups which oppose the EU's own policies, officials claim that their funding is narrowly confined to specific projects that supposedly don't contradict EU positions. But given the fact that money is fungible, this is a rather weak excuse. Apart from funding Israel's critics, the EU is also surreptitiously trying to manipulate the Israeli democratic process.
The EU's Partnership for Peace program, with an annual budget of over €8 million, lists a number of mysterious recipients, such as the H.L. Education for Peace Ltd. This organization has no Internet site, and a check at the Israeli government registry for non-profit organizations failed to turn up any trace of this group. Our research found that H.L. Education for Peace was a cover for the Geneva Initiative -- a controversial attempt to bypass the Israeli government and negotiate a private peace agreement between former (left-wing) Israeli officials and Fatah members.
Furtively funded by the EU, this NGO bombards Israelis with exhortations to attend rallies and takes out expensive newspaper ads extolling the virtues of the initiative, while attacking the government's policies. It is hard to imagine the EU interfering in such blatant ways in the political process of any other democratic country.
Among the numerous and highly confusing EU funding frameworks for NGOs claiming to promote democracy and peace, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) is both the wealthiest and the most secretive. ECHO's 2006 budget was approximately €700 million, of which over €80 million was allocated to the West Bank and Gaza, including an unspecified amount for NGOs. As elsewhere, there is no public record of which NGOs receive the funds, the projects for which they are allocated, or the evaluation process, if any.
However, many recipients advertise the fact that they receive EU support, thereby increasing legitimacy and visibility. In this way, we uncovered details of funding for groups such as Medical Aid for Palestinians, which received over €1 million in 2004-2006. Its full-page ad published in The Times in January proclaims: "After two years of sanctions, the cutting-off of fuel supplies, repeated military incursions and the closure of its borders, Gaza is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis." There is no mention of terror attacks, corruption, or Hamas.
With the Durban review conference and another round of vitriolic NGO-led attacks against Israel scheduled for 2009, Jerusalem is watching for a change in European policy. Canada, for example, already said that it won't participate in Durban II because it's likely to become another anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate fest. Ottawa has also barred government funding for NGOs participating in the conference.
Both Canada and the U.S. practice full transparency by providing details for their NGO funding. They have strict guidelines designed to prevent grant recipients from using the money for hostile campaigning instead for humanitarian projects. The EU could do worse than follow this example.
Mr. Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and chairman of the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Israelis and Israel

How Israelis feel about Israel. Some of the answers are peculiar. Ariel Sharon is the most admired Israeli. An overweight guy in a permanent coma as a national hero?
Dahaf poll: Israeli Jews 91%:9% Good living in Israel
Dr. Aaron Lerner 5 May  2008

Dahaf poll of 500 adult Israeli Jews conducted for Yediot Ahronot.and published in Yediot Ahronot on 5 May 2008.
Date of survey not reported. Statistical error +/- 4.5 percentage points.

Is it good living in Israel?
Very good 39% Considerably  52% Considerably bad 6% Very bad 3%

Are you embarrassed sometime being an Israeli?
 Frequently 5% Sometimes 25% Never 70%

Of those embarrassed:
Embarrassed mostly by:
The quality of the politicians 32% Violence in society 20% Israeli drivers 15% Racism in society 13% "Arsim" 8%
The "occupation" 5% Lousy TV 1%

If you had the possibility, would you move to live in another country?
10% Certain yes    12% Would consider it in a positive manner   13% Maybe   16% Probably not   48% Certainly not

What is the main thing that you would change in the State?
30% Relationship of the authorities to citizens    18% Relationship between religion and State
16% Israeli culture   15% Relations with our enemies   13% Israeli mentality   02% The weather

What is the main thing that could cause you to leave Israel?
32% Nothing
24% Loss of faith in the future of the State, concern for the fate of my
12% Bad security situation and fear of war
10% Fantastic job offer in another country
08% Religious coercion
05% Large economic crises
05% Government that is against my political beliefs

What was the biggest personal-national crises in your years in Israel?
23% Rabin murder
17% The Disengagement plan
14% Labor Party returns to power in 1992
13% Second Lebanon War
06% Yom Kippur War (1973)
05% Gulf War
05% Second intifada
05% Didn't feel a crises
03% A terror attack
01% The Austerity period
01% First Lebanon War (Pece in the Galilee)

What is the greatest achievement of the State of Israel during its
31% Six Day War
24% Peace agreement with Jordan and Egypt
23% Dimona nuclear reactor
12% Israeli satellite
03% European cup in basketball
01% Winning Eurovision Song Contest
01% Olympic medals

What is the most Israeli thing?
Hatikva 37% Flag 23% Siren on Memorial Day 22%
Singing when the plane lands at Ben Gurion 9% Barbeque 8%

Who is the most representative Israeli male?
Sharon 36% Netanyahu 15% Yair Lapid 11%
Dudu Topaz 7% Ehud Barak 5%
Noam from Survivors 5%  Asi Dayan 2%
Ehud Olmert 2%

Who is the most representative Israeli woman?
Ilana Dayan (reporter) 14% Yardena Arazi 12% Yona Alian 10%
Rita 9% Dalia Itzik 8% Miki Heimowitz(news anchor) 7%
Yonit Levy (news anchor) 6% Penina Rosenblum 6%
Orna Banai 5% Ninette 2%

Who is the least Israeli of the following?
Sheri Arrison 31%  Chaim Saban 10% Netanyahu 9%
Olmert 8% Achinoam Nini 7% Shimon Peres 5% Ehud Barak 5%
Avraham Grant 4%

Which of the following politicians would you most like to see return to life
and activity?
Begin 31% Rabin 27% Ben Gurion 16%
Ze'evi 7% Moshe Dayan 5% Eshkol 3% Weitzman 2%  Raful Eitan 2%

What song would you replace Hatikva with if the decision was made to replace
it (AL:  Song of Ascents - (Shir Hamaalot) Psalms 126 was not included as a
option. For the benefit of readers and in celebration of Israel's
Independence Day the words of that Psalm is repeated after this item. )
31% I have no other country (words below)
31% Jerusalem of Gold
06% Halleluiah
04% Eretz Shenehav (beloved land)
02% Ata Li Eretz
01% Yihye Tov

Where do you most like to hike in the country?
Galilee 28% Golan 27% Jerusalem 22%
Tel Aviv 6% Judean Desert 6% Eilat 3%
Don't hike 3%

Most Israeli author?
Amos Oz 20% A B Yehoshua 12%
Ram Oren 11% Meir Shilo 11% David Grossman 8%
Yigal Mosenson 7% Sami Michael 3%
Shulamit Lapid 3% Eli Amir 2% Shai Agnon 2%

Of the following who would you most like to have live in Israel?
Bill Clinton 30% Barbara Streisand 15% Avni 13% Madonna 10%
Tony Blair 5% Alan Dershowitz 2%

In conclusion what future do you see for the State?
36% Overcome all problems and survive forever
27% Overcome some problems
14% Situation will remain as it is today
14% Things will gradually deteriorate
04% Things will get deteriorate quickly until it is destroyed

Published in Yediot Ahronot on 5 May 2008

A Song of Ascents.Psalms 126
When the LORD brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like unto
them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing;
Then said they among the nations: 'The LORD hath done great things with
The LORD hath done great things with us; we are rejoiced.
Turn our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the dry land.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Though he goeth on his way weeping that beareth the measure of seed,
he shall come home with joy, bearing his sheaves.

"Ain Li Eretz Aheret" -- I Have No Other Country

[IMRA: Ehud Manor wrote song this in reaction to the war in Lebanon. During
the Oslo years the same song was embraced by opponents of Oslo as an
expression of their commitment to a nation they felt had gone mad. Ehud
Manor died 12 April 2005.]

Words by Ehud Manor

I have no other country
Even if my land is burning
Just a word in Hebrew penetrates my veins
into my soul
Into a hurting body, a starving heart
Here is my home.

I won't be silent, because my country changed its face.
I won't give up on reminding her
And I will sing here in her ears
Until she opens her eyes.

I have no other country
Even if my land is burning
Just a word in Hebrew penetrates my veins
into my soul
Into a hurting body, a starving heart
Here is my home.

I won't be silent, because my country changed its face.
I won't give up on reminding her
And I will sing here in her ears
Until she opens her eyes.

I have no other country
Until she renews her days
Until she opens her eyes.

I have no other country
Even if my land is burning
Just a word in Hebrew penetrates my veins
into my soul
Into a hurting body, a starving heart
Here is my home.

Into a hurting body, a starving heart
Here is my home.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Foreign Paratroopers in Solidarity with Israel

May 5th, 2008


150 Foreign Paratroopers Arrive in Israel for its 60th Celebrations

On Friday and Saturday 150 foreign paratroopers, representing various armies around the world, arrived in Israel. Amongst them, are paratroopers from the US, England, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. The paratroopers arrived in Israel in order to take part in Israel's 60th celebrations and to salute the IDF.

The paratroopers will jump together at the IDF event on Israel Independence Day, May 8th, in which 120 paratroopers will parachute along the beaches of Ashkelon. A rehearsal for this jump will take place on May 5th, at Palmahim beach at 10:00-13:00.

On May 4th, the paratroopers will stay at the IDF Parachuting School. They will formally enter Tel-Nof base at 8:00, where, the senior foreign officers will meet the commander of the parachuting school, Colonel Dror Paltin, and IDF senior officers. Together, the paratroopers will train for the Independence Day event including practices jumps at sea. At 14:30 the Oketz unit will explain their capabilities to the foreign paratroopers. Later on, a ceremony will be held at the IDF Paratroopers Memorial. The ceremony will be military in nature, and the paratroopers will wear their uniforms. The
Greek paratroopers will lay a laurels at the memorial. A Dutch paratrooper, Jesper Nels, the grandchild of Righteous Gentiles, will plant an olive tree next to the memorial. Nels will also meet the family of the man that was saved by his grandfather.

On Memorial Day for the fallen, the foreign paratroopers will participate in memorial ceremonies throughout the country including ceremonies in Ashkelon, Yad-Mordechay, Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem and the Latrun site.

In addition they will visit technological farms and will experience the latest technological advances in development of the Negev in Revivim and Sede-Boqer. They will also take part in a jeep tour in the desert. The paratroopers will visit Jerusalem and will follow in the footsteps of the Jerusalem brigade which fought in the Six Day War.

One of the participants, a paratrooper named Yoni, serving in the French foreign legion is named after Yoni Netanyahu, the renowned commander who was killed in the famous Entebbe operation. He will fulfill his dream and get the chance to wear the IDF's Paratrooper wings.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Methodists reject divestment

The divestment campaign is starting to backfire. The goal of the campaign was to mobilize a large constituency for delegitization of Israel, by isolating Israel in the same way as apartheid South Africa was isolated.
Instead, at least in the saner areas of public action, divestment campaigns mobilized a counter reaction that underlines the vast differences between Israel and apartheid south Africa, and points out the unfair and racist campaign being waged by the divestment camp.
Ami Isseroff

May 5, 2008

Contact: Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq.

Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East

(212) 870-2320

Christians for Fair Witness Applauds United Methodists For Rejecting Divestment

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East applauds the United Methodist Church for rejecting divestment from companies doing business with the state of Israel. Five annual U.S. Methodist conferences and one independent Methodist organization (Methodist Federation for Social Action) submitted divestment petitions for consideration at the United Methodist General Conference which took place in Fort Worth, Texas from April 23 - May 2, 2008. These petitions were all rejected unanimously in Legislative Committee and defeated by General Conference delegates as they voted on a special consent calendar.

Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Pastor of the Palo Alto United Methodist Church, had co-authored a series of letters and mailings to General Conference delegates urging them to vote against divestment. "I had faith that reason and justice would prevail in my denomination, and it did," says Dr. Summers.

Sr. Ruth Lautt, Fair Witness National Director, reports: "I was in Fort Worth for the ten days of the General Conference. We met wonderful United Methodist clergy and lay delegates who rejected the extremist positions of pro-divestment voices and instead were seeking ways to promote peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians."

Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.

National Director

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115

(212) 870-2320


Continued (Permanent Link)

How to solve the Haredi (Ultra-orthodox Jewish) problem

Time for Israel to strike back. The Haredim (ultra-orthodox anit-Zionist Jews) have become more than a quaint nuisance. But they have also given us a means for eliminating them and their kind. They have instituted a boycott against products that have the Israeli flag on them "any other symbol that advocates Zionist idolatry."
Very well. There are "Zionist Symbols" on Israeli money, so the Haredim had better give that up. They can send me all their unkosher money.  There are Zionist symbols on state travel documents. The Israeli (Zionist)  flag should be flying from every school that is paid for or subsidized by the Israeli tax payer. The way is also open for legislation and rabbinical rulings that will ensure that every kosher food item in the world must carry the Israeli flag as a symbol on the package, along with some Zionist slogans such as "If you will it is no legend" and perhaps a picture of Theodor Herzl. We need to put the Zionist flag on our buses, our taxis, our vehicle license plates, our hospitals and ambulances, and on signposts indicating route numbers on every road in Israel.
Israeli designed electronics, Israeli drugs and anything else Israeli should bear the symbol hated by Haredim, attesting to its "non-kosher" origin.
If they want to boycott Israel, let 'em go the whole hog (excuse the expression!).
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thank you for Israel

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Eitan Haber saw fit to honor the 24 scientists and visionaries,  who were instrumental in creating Israel's nuclear deterrent, the forgotten people behind the project:
Ernst David Bergmann, Manes Pratt, Amos De-Shalit, Israel Dostrovsky, Zeev (Venia) Hadari (Pomerantz,) Gideon Yekutieli, Munia Mardor, Binyamin Blumberg, Zvi Zur, Shalhevet Fryer, Yohanan (Zenka) Ratner, Igal Talmi, Dan Tolkovsky, Israel Pelah, Yona Ettinger, David Peleg, Gideon Rechavi, Gideon Frank, Uzi Eilam, Yosef Tulipman, Giora Amir, Avraham Sarusi, Micha Daft, Yitzhak Gurevich.
Many of them are in fact well remembered, and not just for their contributions to the nuclear project. Ernst David Bergmann was the father of Israeli organic chemistry and made vast conributions to peace time research and chemical warfare. Dan Tolkovsky was commander of the Israel air force. Munia Mardor was founder of Rafael, the Israeli weapons development authority.  And of course, in addition to those 24, Shimon Peres and David Ben Gurion played vital roles in establishing the nuclear deterrrent.
But the nuclear project actually involved the dedicated work of thousands of people over many years, and the miracle of Israel is not summed up in a reactor in Dimona and a few (hypothetical) bombs. Yossi Harel, legendary commander of the Exodus and hero of many other exploits died this week, reminding us of our debt to him, and to myriad others like him. We are here because of the heroism and quiet self-sacrifice of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people, from the heros of Gush Etzion and the Negev Beasts of 1948 to the unsung heros in the "strongpoints" of the Suez Canal in 1973, who held their own against the huge Egyptian invasion, to the heros of the unfortunate Second Lebanon war, and the people of Sderot, who quietly go about their business trying to ignore the Qassam rockets of the Hamas.
To all of them, it is fitting that we say, "Thank you for  Israel."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Inside Sari Nusseibeh - or why peace is a Zionist cause

The heart of this interview with Sari Nusseibeh, A Liberal in Jerusalem: The Paradoxes of Sari Nusseibeh:
 The so-called "One State solution," being the direct by-product of a failed Palestinian state, naturally puts into question the moral underpinnings of the Jewish state. To avoid this from happening, the fervent Palestinian nationalist and the equally fervent Israeli Zionist, both as it were riding the same train to the same sacred city of Jerusalem, become allies in advocating for a successful Palestinian state in which individual Palestinians enjoy basic political and economic rights and freedoms on their side of the Green Line, including East Jerusalem.

In this scenario, the Palestinians will get their state - and the sole responsibility to manage it in a rational, transparent, demilitarized, and democratic manner - and the Israelis will be assured that future Palestinians will not put to question the Jewish state through a one-man-one-vote campaign or the insistence on the right of return.

As Nusseibeh told an audience at the Hebrew University shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, when talk of the "clash of civilizations" was in the air: "Our shared future has to provide Israel with a secure guarantee for its existence as a Jewish state, but it has also to provide Palestinians with a secure guarantee for their freedom and independence in their own state. Israelis and Palestinians. If anything, we are strategic allies.

Nobody says all Palestinians believe that, but this essay is worthwhile reading for those who are skeptical of finding a peace partner.

Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli occupation is bad, but not apartheid

 Catastrophic, but not apartheid
 By Benjamin Pogrund 
Twice within 10 days, Israel has been labeled as "apartheid" in Haaretz: in an editorial in support of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's efforts for peace; and in a column by Yossi Sarid, the former Meretz leader. Two authoritative voices, both misinformed.
Both Haaretz and Sarid focused on the territories. Both condemn Israel's nearly 41-year-long occupation. Haaretz ("Our Debt to Jimmy Carter," April 15) said that the "interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid," while Sarid ("Yes, It Is Apartheid," April 25) wrote with great emotion that "what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck - it is apartheid."
Yes, there is no question that our occupation policies and practices can be compared with apartheid. And, equally, with China's control of Tibet. And also, to one degree or another, with any other place in the world where one group of people oppresses another.
Domination and control are the common elements. Roadblocks, licenses and permits for every little matter, arbitrary seizure of land, privileges concerning water use, cheap labor - these and much else are the stock in trade of suppression.
But to apply the apartheid label is wrong, both with regard to the territories (to which Haaretz and Sarid refer), or to Israel within the Green Line (where Arabs suffer discrimination, but to say it's apartheid would be laughable). Why do I say this with such certainty? Because I was a journalist with the Rand Daily Mail newspaper in Johannesburg for 26 years, and my special function was to report and comment on apartheid's evils. And for more than 10 years I have lived in Israel, and have been engaged in dialogue work.
The labeling is wrong because the situations are entirely different. Apartheid in South Africa, from 1948 until 1994, was a unique system of racial separation and discrimination, institutionalized by law and custom in every aspect of everyday life, imposed by the white minority and based on a belief in white racial superiority. Skin color decreed inferior status from birth until death for blacks, Asians and "mixed-race" coloreds. In contrast, West Bank oppression is not based on a predetermined racist ideology. It stems rather from historical factors such as Jordan's attack during the 1967 war and the resulting Israeli conquest of the West Bank. From that, the settlement movement has developed because of a mixture of religious messianism, economic greed and security claims.
Some compare Israel's attempts to carve up the West Bank with South Africa's tribal mini-states, the Bantustans. This is wildly inappropriate. The Bantustans were devised to deny blacks South African citizenship, while continuing to exploit their labor. Blacks were penned in rural "reserves," and were allowed into white South Africa only when needed for specified jobs in factories, offices and homes and on farms. Israel's purpose on the West Bank is the opposite: to keep Palestinians there and to allow only an absolute minimum of them into Israel - and even them, reluctantly. Instead, the country's labor needs are met by importing large numbers of foreign workers.
I am among the majority of Israelis who believe that the occupation and the settlements are catastrophic for both Israelis and Palestinians. I want two states, side by side in peace: That's an agreed-upon separation, not apartheid. I share the dismay and shame of many Israelis about the morass into which the occupation has dragged us - the mutual killings, the infliction of suffering, and the brutalization of both Israelis and Palestinians as perpetrators and victims. I am desperately worried about our betrayal of our moral values and of the lessons of our own persecution down the centuries.
Calling it apartheid, however, is not only wrong but thoughtless - because it ignores what is happening in the world, and especially the imminence of the Durban Review Conference, due to be held next year. That meeting is to be the follow-up to the United Nations anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in August-September 2001. The first part was an international conference of NGOs that went berserk in condemning Israel as "the new apartheid." The aim was simple: If Israel was branded like this, it would be as illegitimate as apartheid South Africa had been, and hence subject to the same severe international sanctions. Moreover, whereas the intention with apartheid South Africa was to force a change in regime, it is obvious that critics of Israel include those who seek the destruction of the state itself.
The conference of governments that followed tangled over similar anti-Israel and anti-Semitic wording. After pressures, it eventually dumped virtually every reference to Israel. A few days later, 9/11 overtook the Durban meetings. Singling out Israel as the fount of original sin in human-rights abuses went to the back burner. Now it is creeping back: The apartheid accusation is being spread in meetings around the world and on Internet sites. It could feature at next year's Review Conference.
Anticipating the worst, Canada has already announced that it will not attend the event. Israel is waiting to see what happens before deciding whether to take part. Apartheid deserves its unique place in human memory. Just as not every tragedy is a holocaust, so not every form of separation or oppressive rule is apartheid.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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