March 21, 2010

Palestinian Sisyphus, by Khalil Bendib

EDITOR: Israeli methods differ little from those used by Nazi soldiers

Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh has been an incredible source of news on incidents in the West Bank, and on the incredible brutalities meted out to Palestinians daily, and going unreported and uncommented by the western press and media. Every day, hundreds of such local events take place, where illegal occupation impact human life of all Palestinians with the brutality so normalised now by the IOF. Not a single Israeli will be able to stand up in a future session of the ICC and claim they had no idea what was done in the OPT, and yet, they go along with it, they partake in, they defend it in the media, and they attack us for exposing it. The next two clips, one from January, and the second from last week, are both examples of the deep degradation to which Israeli society has fallen. There is NO WAY this society will cleans itself, will see the criminality of its own methods, and will stop this. Only the whole international community, as was the case in South Africa, can do this, and we must mobilise to stop the war criminals now! Thank you, dear Prof. Qumsiyeh, for your courage in the face of those brutes. We stand with you!

Soldiers attack Palestinian family, arrest Shepherd, January 7th 2010

On the morning of Thursday 7 January 2010, Israeli soldiers attacked and injured Palestinian shepherds from the Musa Rabai family, as they grazed their sheep in Humra valley, near the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Five members of the family were hospitalized. Before leaving the area, the soldiers arrested one of the shepherds, Musab Musa Rabai. Raba’i was interrogated and tortured for four hours.

Undercover police in Jerusalem protests: Lia Tarachansky

Riots took place all over East Jerusalem this week in protest of settlers threatening to force their way into the Al Aqsa Mosque. As a result, Israeli security forces shut down major areas of the Old City, including the mosque compound to Muslim men under 50. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke to Toufic Haddad, journalist and author of Between the Lines: Israel the Palestinians, and the U.S. “war on terror” about the real reason for these protests. Haddad explains that Israeli colonization over East Jerusalem led to home demolitions, confiscations, and the flourishing of settlements all over the Palestinian Territories. Because these protests are supported by the government, Palestinian protests are systemically repressed, leading to mass arrests, injuries, and sometimes death.
Alternative tactics, such as undercover police often lead to the tensions which are expected to rise as the Jerusalem Municipal Police approved
another right-wing settler protest for Sunday through the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Actions in Jerusalem against military closures and settler provocations are met with police repression

EDITOR: Meanwhile, on the farm, the pigs are still running the show…

For those who naively believed all the noise, and thought that Netanyahu is a reformed character, or that Obama and his henchmen/women really mean what they say, just read the evidence from the horse’s mouth. Whatever he tells the Americans one day, he contradicts the day after when speaking in Hebrew to the local press:

Netanyahu: Building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv: Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that all Israeli governments have maintained the same policy on building in East Jerusalem, and that he has informed the United States administration of that in writing.
“Construction in Jerusalem is like construction in Tel Aviv and we have clarified that for the American government,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu added that he informed the Obama administration that the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians must address concerns from both sides but that “in order for agreements to be reached, there must be serious and direct talks.”
Netanyahu also said that Israeli policy regarding construction in Jerusalem has remained unchanged.
However, Netanyahu has bowed to U.S. demands and promised the Obama administration that Israel will make several goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians ahead of his trip to Washington Sunday night.

For the first time since Operation Cast Lead, Israel has agreed to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu has also agreed to discuss all core issues during the proximity talks, with the condition of reaching final conclusions only in direct talks with the PA.
Netanyahu responded to Washington’s demands during his telephone call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday night. Clinton said on Friday that Netanyahu’s response “was useful and productive, and we’re continuing our discussions with him and his government”.

The prime minister refused to revoke a decision to build 1,600 Jewish homes in Ramat Shlomo in east Jerusalem – the cause of a diplomatic row errupted during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden two weeks ago – or freeze construction beyond the Green Line in the city. He did, promise a better oversight system to prevent such embarrassing incidents in the future, however.
Senior officials in Jerusalem said that the prime minister’s gestures enabling the UN to transport construction materials to Gaza to rebuild sewerage systems, a flour mill and 150 apartments in Khan Yunis.

Netanyahu also agreed to release hundreds of Fatah-affiliated prisoners as a gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, a move which the defense establishment believes could prompt the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
The prime minister is scheduled to leave for Washington Sunday night with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni and Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau will also attend the convention.

Netanyahu is slated to address the convention tomorrow at 7 P.M. Israel time before then meeting Clinton, who is also to speak at the AIPAC gathering.
No meeting has been set yet between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, but over the weekend Israeli officials were scrambling to arrange one, which they hop will take place at the White House on Tuesday .
Israel’s Washington envoy Michael Oren said on Saturday that outsiders cannot force peace on the Middle East, and any final settlement will have to be initiated by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

In an interview with U.S. television station PBS, Oren said Israel was not interested in having the White House present its own peace plan. Any attempt by the United States to impose a peace deal would be like “forcing somebody to fall in love,” Oren said.
Asked if Israel wanted Washington to present its own peace plan, Oren said: “No. I think peace has to be made between two people sitting across a table. America can help facilitate that interaction.”

Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday after visiting settlements in the West Bank that Israeli building anywhere on occupied land – including in east Jerusalem – is illegal and must end.
“The world has condemned Israel’s settlement plans in East Jerusalem,” Ban told a news conference after his brief tour. “Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.”

Bibi’s Bluster: NEWSWEEK

The Israeli Prime Minister says his nation’s security is his top priority. Too bad he’s undermining it.
By Fareed Zakaria

In international relations, whenever you hear the term “confidence-building measures,” you can be sure that someone is trying to kick a can down the road. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has now promised to offer such measures to the Palestinians. He has also urged that everyone “calm down” about the diplomatic row between his government and the United States.

But this crisis hasn’t been caused by just one event—the announcement, while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, to approve new Jewish housing units in East Jerusalem. It caps a year of increasingly strained relations between Washington and Tel Aviv. And while he’s apologized for the ill-timed announcement, Netanyahu remains unyielding. In fact, the Israeli press has reported plans to build not merely the 1,600 units announced last week, but 50,000. “We will act according to the vital interests of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said last week.

What are those vital interests? If you have listened to Bibi Netanyahu over the past few years, it’s clear what tops the list—Iran. In fact, the prime minister has described the Iranian threat as an existential one for Israel, and a grave one for the world. He sees combating it as the central challenge of our times. “We are faced with security challenges that no other country faces, and our need to provide a response to these is critical, and we are answering the call,” Netanyahu told his Likud faction in May 2009. “These are not regular times. The danger is hurtling toward us. My job is first and foremost to ensure the future of the state of Israel.”

But after watching Netanyahu’s government over the past year, I have concluded that he is actually not serious about the Iranian threat. If tackling the rise of Iran were his paramount concern, would he have allowed a collapse in relations with the United States, the country whose military, political, and economic help is indispensable in confronting this challenge? If taking on Iran were his central preoccupation, wouldn’t he have subordinated petty domestic considerations and done everything to bolster ties with the United States? Bibi likes to think of himself as Winston Churchill, warning the world of a gathering storm. But he should bear in mind that Churchill’s single obsession during the late 1930s was to strengthen his alliance with the United States, whatever the costs, concessions, and compromises he had to make.

In a smart piece of analysis in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Anshel Pfeffer, no fan of the Obama administration, writes, “When senior ministers or generals list Israel’s defense priorities, there is always one point on which there exists total consensus: The alliance with the United States as the nation’s greatest strategic asset, way above anything else. It is more crucial than the professionalism of the Israel Defense Forces, than the peace treaty with Egypt and even than the secret doomsday weapons that we may or may not have squirreled away somewhere…But [Netanyahu] has succeeded in one short year in power to plunge Israel’s essential relationship with the United States to unheard of depths.”

Iran’s rise has also placed Israel in the unusual position of being on the same strategic side as the major Arab states, as well as the United States. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are all deeply worried about the hegemonic ambitions of Iran, particularly if it obtains nuclear weapons. A core Israeli objective should be to strengthen this tacit alliance. What the moderate Arab states ask for, again and again, publicly and privately, is that Israel make some progress—even if only for appearances’ sake—on the peace process. The single biggest challenge for these countries is that Iran has appropriated the Palestinian cause, which makes it difficult for, say, the Egyptian government to take a public stand that is hostile to Tehran. Lowering the temperature on this issue would benefit the Arab states, strengthen their will to stand up against Iran, and contribute directly to Israeli security.

EDITOR: A call to end pretense and posturing by the US

Avi Shlaim, rarely speaking, but never one to mince words, is giving the lie to US noisy nonsense about how they are getting Netanyahu to do their bidding. Will the US follow his advice? Fat chance. Obama knows that Netanyahu controls more Congressmen on Capitol Hill than he does himself, through the nebulous machinery of AIPAC and other, less visible means. Obama has not got it in him, I believe, to face Israel down over this.

Avi Shlaim: Cut off the cash and Israel might behave: The Independent

President Netanyahu is undermining US interests. The sooner President Obama makes his support conditional, the better
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Israelis are not renowned for their good manners, but their treatment of Vice-President Joe Biden during his recent visit to their country went beyond chutzpah. Biden is one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Washington, and the purpose of his visit was to prepare the ground for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. An official announcement that Israel planned to build 1,600 new Jewish settler homes in East Jerusalem scuppered the talks, alienated the Palestinians, and infuriated Biden. It was a colossal blunder that is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the special relationship between the two countries.

America subsidises Israel to the tune of $3bn (around £2bn) a year. America is Israel’s principal arms supplier, enabling it to retain the technological edge over all its enemies, near and far. In the diplomatic arena too, America extends to Israel virtually unqualified support, including the use of the veto in the UN Security Council to defeat resolutions critical of Israel. America condemns Iran for its nuclear ambitions, while turning a blind eye to Israel’s possession of a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

This unparalleled generosity towards a junior partner is largely the result of sentimental attachment and shared values. Israel used to present itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. But its own actions have shredded this image to pieces. It is now well on the way to becoming a pariah state. During the Cold War, Israel also used to promote itself as a “strategic asset” in helping to check Soviet advances in the Middle East. But since the end of the Cold War, Israel has become more of a liability than an asset.

America’s most vital interests lie in the Persian Gulf; to ensure access to oil, the US needs Arab goodwill. Here Israel is a major liability, as a result of its occupation of Palestinian land and its brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.

There is a broad international consensus in favour of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and America is part of this consensus. A previous Democratic administration provided the most realistic blueprint for such a solution. On 23 December 2000, four weeks before leaving the White House, Bill Clinton unveiled his proposals. He called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state over the whole of the Gaza Strip and 94 to 96 per cent of the West Bank, with a capital city in East Jerusalem. Both sides rejected this peace plan.

In May 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, the Quartet – America, Russia, the UN, and European Union – issued the “Road Map”, which envisaged the emergence of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. This time, the Palestinians accepted the plan with alacrity, whereas Israel tabled 14 reservations that amounted to a rejection. In August 2005, Israel carried out a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza but, far from being a contribution to the Road Map, this was the prelude to further colonisation of the West Bank.

Ever since 1967, Israel has rarely missed a chance to miss an opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians. Its determination to hold on to the West Bank and East Jerusalem translates into rigid diplomatic intransigence. Settlement expansion has been a constant feature of Israeli policy under all governments since 1967, regardless of their political colour. Settlement expansion, however, can only proceed by confiscating more and more Palestinian land. The basic problem is that land-grabbing and peacemaking cannot proceed together: it is one or the other.

The official American position since 1967, except under George W Bush, held that Jewish settlements on occupied Arab land are illegal and a major obstacle to peace. The Obama administration upholds this position. One can make the argument that maintaining the occupation of the West Bank is in Israel’s interest, though I utterly reject this argument. But it cannot be argued that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank serves the American national interest. Should America subordinate its own interests to those of its land-hungry ally? A growing number of Americans think not – and some are prepared to say so publicly.

General David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, told the Senate armed services committee last week that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a root cause of instability in the Middle East and Asia, and that it “foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of US favouritism for Israel”. In private, Joe Biden told the Israelis that their intransigence was undermining America’s credibility with Arab and Muslim nations and endangering American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Small wonder that the announcement of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem provoked such intense anger at all levels of the Obama administration. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology related only to the timing and not to the substance of the announcement. Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, demanded the cancellation of the housing project, a substantial confidence-building measure towards the Palestinians, and a pledge to negotiate on all the core issues of the dispute, including the borders of a Palestinian state. Senator George Mitchell’s visit to Israel was postponed.

President Obama correctly identified a total settlement freeze as an essential precondition for restarting the stalled peace talks between Palestinians and Israel, but he allowed Netanyahu to fob him off with a vague promise to exercise restraint for 10 months in building on the West Bank. The promise, however, did not apply to the 3,000 housing units that had already been approved or to East Jerusalem, which Israel had annexed following the June 1967 Six-Day War.

Netanyahu knows that the Palestinians will refuse to resume peace talks unless there is a complete freeze on Jewish house construction there. But he is an aggressive right-wing Jewish nationalist and proponent of the doctrine of permanent conflict. It is because of him and his ultra-nationalist coalition partners that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Obama has backed down once, but he is determined to face Netanyahu down this time. His best bet is to use economic leverage to force Netanyahu into meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state solution. Even if the current crisis is resolved and the peace talks are resumed, they will go nowhere slowly unless President Obama makes American money and arms to Israel conditional on its heeding American advice.

Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, is author of ‘Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations’

EDITOR: Meanwhile, on the Farm II

The Israeli papers are full of such ‘small’ reports, biased as they are. Those never make it into the western media, but give a real insight into the level of repression, and the numerous murders committed by IOF soldiers, and the blatant lies needed to continue the occupation on a daily basis. Not only are the soldiers committing murders war criminals, but so is the army spokesperson covering up the crimes.

Palestinians riot following death of 2 protestors: Ynet

Some 100 people clash with security forces near Gush Etzion settlement of Tekoa. They hurl stones at security forces, who use crowd dispersal means against them

The funeral of Mohammed Qadus, 16, who was shot dead Saturday by the Israel Defense Forces during a violent protest near Nablus, will be held Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, the IDF continues to investigate the circumstances of his death and of the death of another protester, Osayed Qadus, 20. The military claims – contrary to the Palestinians – that the two were not hit with live fire. In the meantime, violent clashes have reignited throughout the West Bank.

Some 100 Palestinians are clashing with security forces near Tekoa, which is in Gush Etzion. The rioters are throwing stones are the forces, who are using crowd dispersal methods to break up the group.
Sources in the defense establishment presume the protesters are rioting over the death of the two young Palestinians on Saturday during clashes with soldiers near Nablus. The security forces are deployed with heavy reinforcements in light of concerns for disturbances.
The IDF is continuing its investigation of Saturday’s incidents, in which two Palestinian protesters were killed.
Military officials say that troops did not use live ammunition during the confrontation, but Nablus doctor Mahmoud Qaadan, who treated Qadus at Rapidia hospital, told Ynet that the findings were conclusive: “We had an entry and exit of a bullet. We do not have a bullet, but these types of injuries with entry and exit wounds are only created by live ammunition and not by rubber-coated bullets.”

Angle of shooting to be inspected
The Central Command at this point does not intend to change its rules of engagement regarding the use of rubber bullets while dispersing a crowd, even after the sobering result of Saturday’s protest near Nablus. The IDF’s basic assumption that no live ammunition was used remains in place.
The investigation, being led by Shomron Regiment Commander Col. Itzik Bar is focusing on the manner in which the rubber bullets resulted in the injury of the two young men. As part of the investigation, the angle of shooting and the location of the military forces relative to the location of the Palestinian rioters will be examined in order to determine whether either of these two factors made the shooting fatal.
Military sources noted that there is no reason as of now to alter the rules for using rubber bullets during clashes of this sort as long as it remains unknown whether the current rules of engagement were a factor in the two young Palestinians’ death.

IDF sources said that if it is found that the rubber bullets are what resulted in their deaths that rubber bullets will no longer be used as crowd dispersal mechanisms during protests in which the other side is throwing stones.

“In the tense atmosphere throughout the West Bank, disturbances and protests must be taken care of in a manner that will not ignite the area and will not cause more damage than benefit,” said an officer who served in the past in the Central Command and is familiar with the subject.
“The instructions we receive and pass on to the commands are, on the one hand, are to face the rioters and not to allow them to cross certain red lines, and, on the other hand, to be very cautious in applying force. After all, it is very easy for us to use many means. This is not the objective. We need to act with a lot of thought on how to decrease the flames while using the fewest means.”
The officer and other sources noted that they are not fully acquainted with all the details of Saturday’s events, but said that the final result of the protest proves that not everything was handled as it is supposed to be.

“Regardless of the sensitive political situation, such an event must be approached with great caution, and the significance of every action must be considered,” the officer said. “Clearly nothing was done out of malice, but we can clearly see that something went awry and needs to be checked thoroughly.”
The IDF Spokesperson Unit called the protest “a dangerous provocation” and reiterated that no live ammunition was used.
“Before firing rubber bullets, tear gas was used. The rioters were injured by the rubber bullets that were fired at the crowd in accordance with protocol,” said the IDF Spokesperson Unit. It also noted that intensive talks were held with Palestinian officials in the Nablus region prior to the incident in order to prevent friction.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan: I will mourn on Nakba Day: IOA

Posted by admin on Mar 20th, 2010 and filed under FEATURED COMMENTARIES, Others. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
By Nurit Peled-Elhanan – distributed by email, 18 March 2010

I will mourn on Nakba Day. I will mourn for vanished Palestine most of which I never knew. I will mourn for the holy land that is losing its
humanity, its landscape, its beauty and its children on the altar of racism and evil. I will mourn for the Jewish youngsters who invade and desecrate the homes of families in Sheikh Jarrah, throw the inhabitants into the street, and then sing and dance in memory of Baruch Goldstein, the infamous murderer of Palestinian children, while the owners of the desecrated houses with their children and old people are sleeping in the rain, on the street, opposite their own homes. I will mourn for the soldiers and police who protect those wicked Jewish orthodox invaders without any pangs of conscience. I will mourn for the lands of Bil’in and Ni’lin and for the heroes of Bil’in and Ni’lin, many of whom are children aged 10 and 12, who fearlessly stand up for their right to live in dignity on the land of their fathers.

I will mourn for the human rights that have been buried for a long time now in this country, for the blood that is dispensable with impunity,
for the killings committed with blessings, for the mendacious Zionist myth on which I was educated and for the crushed Palestinian narrative that is forbidden to express itself but the truth of which has returned and the green shoots of which are poking out through the weeds and the racist laws.

I will mourn for the former Minister of Education, Livnat, who defended the law against mourning on Nakba day saying: “If they have nothing to mourn over they will have no reason to rebel,” Words worthy of the worst of our adversaries and the most wicked of colonialists.
I will mourn for all of us who do not know what to do in the face of a law that is pure ruthlessness, one of dozens of racist laws that are in the
process of assuming places of honour – if not all the places – in the statute-books of the democratic Jewish State. I will mourn for the democracy in this country, half of whose subjects live in conditions that are forbidden even for beasts in other democratic countries.

I will mourn for the children. Those who have died. Those who will die tomorrow. Those who can no longer live here, and those who are living here like monsterous golems that have turned on their creators,whose identity is shaped by fear, evil, racism, the twisted love of a land that is not theirs, hatred for all that is not in their image and an insatiable appetite for killing.
I will mourn on Nakba Day. And also on the day that precedes it which we call Remembrance Day and which is nothing but a day dedicated to the cult of dead flesh, at the end of which everyone goes out and grills another kind of dead flesh on open flames, sings, dances, overeats and gets drunk.

I will mourn for our Independence Day that is nothing but a celebration of the triumph of closure and subjugation.
All these things I will mourn on Nakba Day. I will join the millions of dispossessed, downtrodden and humiliated who have not given up on the future and who still believe there is a chance, who stand as witnesses and as firebrands of the true human spirit. I will mourn on Nakba Day in order to be worthy of them, so that my children will know which side I am on, and so that they too can believe there is a chance for hope and a future in which justice will prevail.

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the  Sakharov Human Rights Prize laureate, member of Bereaved Families for Peace, and a co-initiator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine

EDITOR:Partners in Crime

On the eve of the Washington visit, Netanyahu reminds Obama of their next war and his role in it. Obama, once he initiates this illegal new war, may become the first person to face war crimes charges, who also holds the Nobel Peace Prize. Israel is now reminding the US of the ‘more serious’ agenda, and comes to get its means to attack Iran, as well as the tacit agreement to the attack. Don’t say you have not been told…

Report: Netanyahu to ask Obama for weapons to strike Iran: Haaretz

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will use a visit to Washington this week to press the U.S. to release advanced weapons needed for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, the Sunday Times reported.
Ahead of his departure Sunday night, Netanyahu bowed to U.S. demands and promised the administration of U.S President Barack Obama that Israel will make several goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians.

For the first time since Operation Cast Lead, Israel has agreed to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu has also agreed to discuss all core issues during the proximity talks, with the condition of reaching final conclusions only in direct talks with the PA.
But according to the London weekly, Netanyahu will also seek returns for the concessions, asking Israel’s closest ally to provide the IAF with sophisticated ‘bunker-buster’ bombs needed to break through to Iran’s nuclear enrichment installations, many of which are buried underground.

Israel and the West accuse Iran of using its enrichment program to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies.
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, is believed to have refused previous Israeli requests for the GBU-28 bombs, as well as for upgraded refuelling tanker aircraft that would enable a long-range airstrike on Iran.
But Netanyahu may have a tough task before him in persuading Obama to arm Israel for a strike and current U.S. strategy appears to favor a diplomatic, rather than a military, solution to the Iran’s dispute with the West.

On Sunday Obama used the occasion of the Persian New Year to send a video message to Iranians in which he renewed last year’s American offer of engagement to end the nuclear standoff.
So far, Western attempts to lure Iran into a compromise have met with little success, however, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rejected offers to enrich his country’s uranium abroad.

Reports on Saturday that United States was transporting 387 of the high-tech bunker-busting bombs to its air base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean appeared to indicate that despite his diplomatic efforts, Obama has not ruled out an American strike in Iran.

PM defiant before US trip: Al Jazeera TV

While in the West Bank, Ban was shown an Israeli settlement, illegal under international law [AFP]
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has declared his government will not restrict building in occupied East Jerusalem, despite US condemnation of the recent announcement of 1,600 new housing units.

Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that he would make Israel’s position on Jerusalem clear during this week’s visit to Washington.
“Our policy on Jerusalem is the same policy followed by all Israeli governments for the last 42 years, and it has not changed,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv.”
Netanyahu heads to the US capital on Sunday night to address the influential lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and meet with Barack Obama, the US president.
His visit comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Washington over the settlement announcement, made as Joe Biden, the US vice-president, visited Israel.
The expansion plan was seen as an insult to the US and frayed Israel’s usually strong ties with Washington.

Diplomatic activity
The Palestinians pulled out of planned so-called “proximity” talks after Israeli officials announced that the housing units would be built. They have demanded that all construction be stopped before they will return to negotiations.
In the aftermath there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity as major international powers have struggled to restart a peace process stalled for more than a year.
George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, met Netanyahu on Sunday, to present him with the official invitation to meet Obama on Tuesday and push for indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
He maintained pressure for renewed Israeli commitment to peace talks with the Palestinians, but also reassured Israel that the two countries enjoy an “unshakeable bond”.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent, said: “What we’re witnessing is really concerted efforts on the part of the international community to get some sort of peace process going again.
“It’s been stagnant; it’s been moribund for almost a year and a half now.”
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, was also in the region on Sunday, criticising Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip during a visit to the Hamas-controlled territory.
Ban said that Israel’s policy of closing off the territory is not sustainable and causes “unacceptable suffering”.

Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Hamas movement took full control of the coastal enclave in June 2007.
Ban told Gazans that “we stand with you” as he visited an area damaged by Israel’s offensive 14 months ago.
Ban said families were living under “unacceptable, unsustainable conditions”.
He saidd that it was “distressing” for him to see houses still damaged, with no reconstruction possible under the blockade.
The blockade has prevented the United Nations from completing housing projects, however, Ban pledged to continue providing aid to Gazans.
“My message to people of Gaza is this: the United Nations will stand with you through this ordeal,” he said.
He also called for a prisoner exchange involving Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilat Shilad who was captured in 2006.

‘Illegal’ settlements
The UN secretary-general’s visit to Gaza followed a trip to the West Bank the previous day, where he reiterated demands that Israel end settlement building in Palestinian territory.

The flurry of diplomatic activity comes amid violence on the ground in the West Bank [AFP]
“Let us be clear, all settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and this must stop,” Ban said, speaking at a joint news conference with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister.
Ban emphasised the commitment of the so-called international Quartet of Middle East negotiators – comprised of the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US – to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The Quartet has sent a clear and strong message: we are strongly supporting your efforts to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state,” Ban said.
He also met Israeli officials, including Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, as part of his trip.
But the moves on the diplomatic stage were overshadowed by violence on the ground in the West Bank.
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestiniansin the territory after they tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint, the Israeli military said.
The deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians killed in the past two days in the West Bank.

On Saturday Ahmadinejad issued his own, more combative New Year’s address to Iranians, in which he said that Iran would resit Western pressure even more determinedly in the coming year.
“Enemies have tried to weaken our country but they have failed and in the coming year we will stand even more firmly against them than before,” he said.

EDITOR: Good News for incurable optimists

If you believe that, you will indeed believe anything… Israel has been spawning this junk for the last 43 years, and this is indeed what enables and allows the occupation to continue – fickle journalists, just out of Journalism 101, who give credence to lies.

Binyamin Netanyahu holds out olive branch to Palestinians ahead of US trip: The Observer

Israeli prime minister bows to US demands and suspends construction of settler homes in east Jerusalem
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has bowed to American demands to suspend the construction of settlement homes in east Jerusalem ahead of his departure today for a visit to Washington DC, it was reported last night.
He has not agreed to stop building in east Jerusalem but yesterday’s move is one of a number of goodwill gestures made towards the Palestinian Authority in the wake of US calls for steps to help kick-start the stalled Middle East peace process, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Other gestures from Netanyahu are said to include promises to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel’s military offensive last winter and to discuss the core issues: Palestinian refugees, borders, Jerusalem, security arrangements, water and settlements.
The Israeli leader is also said to have agreed to an “oversight system” to prevent a repeat of the embarrassing incident that occurred during a visit by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, two weeks ago, when plans to build 1,600 new settlement homes in Ramat Shlomo, in east Jerusalem, were announced.
Sources in Jerusalem said Netanyahu would keep the plan “on hold”, at least until a construction freeze in the West Bank comes to an end in September. The path to a resumption of talks with the Palestinians was opened on Friday after Netanyahu agreed to US demands over the peace process following a week of pressure from the Obama administration.

In a telephone call to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who was in Moscow for talks on the Middle East, Netanyahu agreed to various demands. At that stage he did not announce, as the US had demanded, a freeze on the construction of homes in Ramat Shlomo, the key point at issue. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has been visiting the Middle East to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Netanyahu is due to travel to the US today to attend a conference in Washington organised by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPC), a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israeli policies.
Netanyahu is expected to hold talks with Clinton, who will also speak at the conference, and may meet President Obama at the White House.

The ties that bind America to Israel are beginning to fray and break: The Observer

The US finally seems to be losing patience now that Netanyahu’s behaviour is endangering its troops
Chris McGreal,  21 March 2010

Are they worried, or what?

Talk about Israel to all but its most severe critics in America and whatever they say it’s likely to be underpinned by an assumption that the US is the Jewish state’s best friend. Doubts may emerge about Gaza and settlements but any criticism is invariably wrapped in the assumption that the US has Israel’s interests, particularly its security, at heart. It’s not surprising given that American politicians pledge their loyalty to the Jewish state over and over, and mean it.

They see things differently in Jerusalem. In a country permeated by fear and insecurity, Israelis define the rest of the world not by loyalties but by varying degrees of distrust. You can hear it among residents of Jewish settlements deep in the occupied territories and in the cafes of liberal Tel Aviv: angst over the perception of a new wave of antisemitism gripping Europe, the incomprehension over foreign condemnation of Israel’s crimes in Gaza, the common agreement that the United Nations is a conspiracy against the Jewish state.

In all of this, the US emerges as the least distrusted country by far (Britain commands a much lower level of confidence). Israelis recognise that they have long counted on Washington to pay a good chunk of their military budget and provide diplomatic cover for the illegalities of occupation.But that is a far cry from trust, and what there was has been severely eroded since Barack Obama came to power as America catches up with the idea that Israeli government policies do not automatically equate with what is in Israel’s interests or the promotion of peace.

That distinction has finally burst forth with the crisis over settlement building in East Jerusalem, exposing how far American political thinking has already shifted and the depth of Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s failure to understand it. To the alarm of some Israeli leaders, what they regarded as a minor diplomatic blunder in announcing yet more ethnically exclusive housing in East Jerusalem has resulted not only in unusually forceful criticism from Washington, but the disturbing and unprecedented assertion by the White House that Israeli policies are jeopardising American interests and even endangering the lives of US soldier fighting in the Middle East. In days, the Israeli government has seen itself repositioned from valuable US ally in the war on terror to where it really belongs – as the primary obstacle to peace.

It was always striking to watch the smugness with which Israeli politicians sold Americans the idea that the only issue in considering the conflict with the Palestinians was what Ariel Sharon called, with deeply rolling Rs, the “tehrroar”. The ever-expanding Jewish settlements, the annexing of land, expulsion of Palestinians, the killings of Arab children, the crimes of occupation, were discarded as an irrelevance. No one in George Bush’s White House cared to challenge Sharon on that.

In Israel, ordinary people almost seemed programmed to repeat the wearying mantra that all the Jewish state ever wanted was peace but that all it ever got in return was blood and killing. That was a comfortable position for Israelis who, all too understandably at the height of the suicide bombings, found it difficult to reflect on why Palestinians might be blowing themselves up. But the myth of the relentless search for peace was important to the efforts of Sharon and Netanyahu to ensure that Americans did not call them on policies that deliberately or not – mostly deliberately – sabotaged its ever-diminishing prospects. Nowhere was this more clear than over the ever growing settlements.

Israel’s apologists would have the world believe that the construction of homes solely for Jews in the occupied territories had no impact on the peace process and that the issue would be resolved in final status talks. But settlement construction is a litmus test of Israeli government intent because it is constantly changing the picture on the ground. The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has more doubled since the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993. How is it possible to see that as anything but an attempt to preempt an agreement on Palestine’s borders?

Watching Israel’s barrier carve its way through Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem and the West Bank, its real intent was all too evident. The clues lay in the twists and turns that separated Palestinian villages from land then delivered up to Jewish settlers. As the barrier went up, there was barely a peep of protest from Washington.

But the ground has also shifted in America. The unconditional support for the Jewish state has been eroding in critical areas. Nowhere is that clearer than among American Jews, many of whom stayed quiet for so long out of loyalty to the country of Israel and Zionism, even as they grew increasingly disturbed at what was being done in their name by the militarists in Jerusalem.

In Washington, a group of Jews broke the taboo against criticising Israeli policy and launched J Street, an organisation that believes Israel’s security lies in a just peace with the Palestinians. Founded by Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser to Bill Clinton with Israeli parents, it drew the backing of an array of community leaders, activists and academics. It reflects the doubts held by a significant proportion of American Jews about Jerusalem’s militarist policies and, in particular, the deep-rooted obsession with settlements. Those doubts were heard and shared in the White House. The government in Jerusalem has been slow to grasp the significance of J Street because for so long many American Jews declined to voice their doubts out of loyalty. Buoyed by the certainty that it was irrelevant, Netanyahu dismissed the group as anti-Israeli and his foreign ministry snubbed a delegation of visiting members of the US congress sponsored by the Jewish organisation.

It was a mistake because it only confirmed in the minds of some in Congress and the administration that Israel will only move when pushed.

Recent events have confirmed that view as Netanyahu finally begins to understand the consequences of his mistake and climbs down, agreeing to a series of American demands aimed at kick-starting negotiations and putting the latest settlement plans on hold. It’s a start, but Netanyahu is not a courageous leader nor an honest one. He pays lip service to a peace agreement but, like Sharon, spent the 1990s sabotaging attempts to reach agreements with the Palestinians and denouncing Israeli leaders who sought peace as traitors or worse. Netanyahu has still to commit himself to a genuinely independent Palestinian state. He will not do the right thing for the right reason.

Some in the US administration are straining at the leash to finally take him on and show him the way after continual humiliation of the US president. The question is whether Obama himself is now finally up for the fight.

‘Current Knesset is the most racist in Israeli history’: Haaretz

By Jack Khoury and Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz – 21 March 2010
The current Knesset is the most racist Israeli parliament since the country’s founding, according to a report published Sunday by the Coalition Against Racism and the Mossawa Center, which works to promote equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
According to the report, published to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the number of laws that discriminate against Arab citizens proposed in the current Knesset bypassed all previous years, increasing by 75 percent.
“There has never been a Knesset as active in proposing discriminating and racist legislation against the country’s Arab citizens,” said the report’s authors Lizi Sagi and Nidal Othman.
The report alleges that the proposed legislation seeks to de-legitimize Israel’s Arab citizens by decreasing their civil rights. The report’s data show that in 2008 there were 11 bills defined as racist presented to the Knesset while in 2009 there were 12 such bills.
In 2010, the report’s authors claim, there were no less than 21 bills proposed that included discriminatory elements against the country’s Arab citizens.
The report alleges that the proposed legislation seeks to de-legitimize Israel’s Arab citizens by decreasing their civil rights. The report’s data show that in 2008 there were 11 bills defined as racist presented to the Knesset while in 2009 there were 12 such bills.
In 2010, the report’s authors claim, there were no less than 21 bills proposed that included discriminatory elements against the country’s Arab citizens.
Moreover, the report says, MKs who hold right-wing views implement them unhindered via proposed legislation. In many cases, MKs attempt to propose laws that would bypass Israeli law as written by the Supreme Court in order to reach coalition agreements. Bills that are illegal often undergo cosmetic changes and then get passed, the report said.
It added that some coalition members openly attempt to harm Arab citizens’ rights, try to separate Israeli Jews and Arabs and even call for the expulsion of the country’s Arab population.
In addition, the report claims, Israel discriminates against its Arab population by offering benefits to citizens who serve in the army or do national service.
Among the proposed legislation mentioned in the report is a bill that would jail for a year anyone who publishes or says something that would “bring contempt upon or discomfort to the country.” That proposed bill was passed in a first reading in the Knesset.
Another bill mentioned, authored by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, would change all street names in Israel to “Hebrew names.” Other bills the report includes are those that relate to who can purchase land and the so-called Nakba bill, which would ban state funding for events marking Israel’s independence as a day of mourning, and that was also passed in a first reading last week and is undergoing minor changes.
Meanwhile, another report published Sunday said that only 16 out of thousands of government employees in the Negev are from the Bedouin, Arab or Circassian communities, despite a government decision that by 2012 at least 10 percent of national employees be from minority populations.
The report published by the Negev Coexistence Forum studies the condition of the Bedouin population in the Negev, which is estimated at 200,000.

EDITOR: Another tzadik tourist comes to Gaza

If Mr. Ban is indeed so ‘distressed’ to witness the Gaza blockade, why did he do all he could to help Israel continue this illegal act? The mind boggles, reading those mealy-mouthed platitudes.

UN chief pledges support for Gaza: BBC

Mr Ban was ‘distressed’ at the lack of repair to damaged buildings
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has pledged continued backing for Gazans living under a blockade, during a visit to reinvigorate the peace process.
He told Gazans that “we stand with you” as he visited a neighbourhood damaged by the Israeli offensive 14 months ago.
His visit to the region comes amid tension over Israel’s plans to build more settlements in East Jerusalem.
Building materials are restricted under the blockade by Israel and Egypt, preventing rebuilding.
Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007.
Speaking in Gaza, Mr Ban said families were living under “unacceptable, unsustainable conditions”.
Mr Ban said it was “distressing” for him to see damage to housing remaining, with no reconstruction possible under the blockade.
The blockade has prevented the UN from completing housing projects, but Mr Ban pledged to continue providing aid to Gazans,
“My message to people of Gaza is this: the United Nations will stand with you through this ordeal,” he said.
‘Path of non-violence’
Among a list of criticisms of Israel’s policy, Mr Ban said the blockade was counter-productive as it prevented legitimate commerce and encouraged smuggling and extremism.
Mr Ban urged all Gazans to “choose the path of non-violence, Palestinian unity and international legitimacy”.
He also called for a prisoner exchange involving Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilat Shilad who was captured by militants in 2006.
His two-day visit is aimed at restarting the peace process, and comes just ahead of a visit by US special representative George Mitchell on Sunday to try to get indirect talks going between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The international community last week strongly condemned Israel’s announcement of planning permission for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to travel to Washington, where he is expected to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and possibly President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, violence in the West Bank continued on Saturday, with a Palestinian teenager shot dead and another badly hurt in clashes with Israeli troops near the city of Nablus, Palestinian medical officials said.
The Israeli military says its forces were responding to what it called a “violent riot” by Palestinian youths who were throwing stones at Israeli settlers, the BBC’s West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison reports.
But it says no live bullets were fired, only tear gas and rubber bullets.

Israelis are behaving like spoiled rich brats: Haaretz

By Udi Aloni
The terrifying specter of non-violent resistance to the occupation and the apartheid regime is hovering over the State of Israel, and all the state’s dignitaries have been recruited to battle it.
This non-violent resistance operates both in areas under Israel’s reign of control, in the form of a popular struggle on both sides of the green line, and across the globe, through the Israeli and international affirmative response to the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel, until it ends the occupation and grants full equality to people from both nations living under its rule.

As an act of solidarity with the subjugated Palestinian people, a group of Jewish Israelis has decided to join those Palestinians who have chosen the non-violent struggle for civic and national justice.
This act has given politically conscientious Jewish Israelis a golden opportunity to join a campaign against their own government without forsaking their own people. Indeed, this act leads the way towards a broader joint struggle with the oppressed people, through a rebuilding of our fundamental human values, enabling us to do away with the friend/foe dichotomy, which lies at the root of Israeli racism and anxiety.

One should hope that this non-violent resistance, led by a popular Palestinian leadership, will evolve into a binational Palestinian-Jewish front for an equitable and egalitarian political solution.

Right-wing groups and government organs have joined forces with all their might at the face of this new adversary who has risen up to challenge the decades-long racist theft of land from one ethnic group and its transfer into the hands of another. This is not surprising.

It is the hysterical reaction coming from so-called “leftist” circles which ought to be considered more surprising. Those “liberals” prefer to march, shamed and humiliated, alongside the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman triangle, than associate themselves with enlightened Palestinians.

From their viewpoint, violating a Tel Avivian’s right to listen to Elton John in concert here is equivalent to, and possibly worse than, violating a Palestinian farmer’s right to cultivate his land. They accuse the “radicals” of opposing dialogue, though the support for the non-violent struggle and the boycott campaign is precisely what has breathed new life into the cooperation between action groups from both nations.
The call issued to rock musicians not to perform in Israel, which has elicited angry responses in Israel, is aimed at thwarting the normalization of occupation and apartheid, a normalization reflected in the insouciant everyday life of the city of Tel Aviv.

The majority of Jewish Israelis are complicit in the perpetuation of the current state of affairs. When growing groups of conscientious people refuse to play the game of building a fictitious democratic sand castle on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Israeli Jew behaves like a spoiled rich brat, who would rather destroy his own castle than see natives share his world and his dreams.

As long as the Jewish settler who is sitting on the plundered land of Bil’in, and the contractor from uptown Tel Aviv who is making a fortune from building on that land, are free to go to the Pixies concert, while the original inhabitants of Bil’in are prevented from doing so, simply because they are Arab – the concert should be regarded as an apartheid concert.

Neither establishment-drafted artists nor the President of the Israel’s Supreme Court can erase this sign of infamy from the collective face of Israeli society. Only those modest, yet determined, groups of individuals who have joined the non-violent Palestinian struggle can succeed in this. On that day, instead of smearing them as “irrelevant”, “puritan”, “condescending” and “self-hating”, the following statement will apply to them: never was so much owed by so many to so few

Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem: more episodes – Must view!

Episode 16A

Episode 16B
On Day 16 Ashira was supposed to attend the inauguration of a street in Ramallah in the name of Rachel Corrie and which Rachel’s parents were attending. But Ashira got stuck in the middle of clashes in Jerusalem with her Palestine TV cameraman, Khalil. Her Sleepless in Gaza crew was waiting for her at the Ramallah event and could not make it down to Jerusalem due to the complete closure on the city. They took this footage that we are making available to you! watch Rachel’s mother speak.

Episode 17
Day 17: Ashira joins Jalal outside Al Maskoobieh, the holding prison where Jerusalemites are kept until their trial, and which is in front of the court house. Jalal’s best friend was wrongfully arrested the day before and along side other bystanders arrested is expected to be released by the court. Meet parents of deta…inees including a father of a detainee arrested in yesterday’s film and those released; very touching! Betty in Gaza joins a demonstration demanding unity of Gaza and the West Bank and supporting Jerusalem.

Episode 18
Day 18: Ashira who had heard a lot about Colonel Bahieh, a military physiotherapist, used the excuse of Diana’s knee troubles to chat up the veteran surviver of Sabra and Chatilla camps massacre. Ashira badly wanted to meet the doctor to discuss her hair. In Gaza Nagham goes to visit people in desperation after their h…omes were destroyed and asked about their plans for lunch: Molokhia!

Episode 19
Day 19: Join Salam, the 18 year old girl from Ni’lin who had filmed an Israeli military commander shoot a detainee at close range and her 16 year old brother Arafat who was arrested in revenge for making Salam’s footage public . Ashira visit them at their home and joins on the stone throwing round near the Wall which was declared a closed military zone for the nxt 3 months!

Army explanation ‘simply impossible': Ma’an News

Published today (updated) 21/03/2010 13:49

”]Bethlehem – Ma’an – Live ammunition killed two 16-year-old Palestinian boys in the northern West Bank over the weekend, despite the Israeli military’s denials, medical officials and human rights advocates said Sunday.

Useid Qadus died of a gunshot wound to the head, medics at Nablus’ Rafidiya Hospital told Ma’an, after a military incursion into his village as the army attempted to suppress a demonstration. Muhammad Qadus died of chest wounds sustained in the same incident.

According to eyewitnesses, Qadus was shot with live ammunition as soldiers invaded Iraq Burin, a village south of Nablus, after residents demonstrated to protest settler harassment and restrictions of access to their lands.
Israel’s army has maintained that its forces used rubber-coated bullets to disperse a violent riot, following a Ma’an inquiry into allegations that both boys sustained injuries consistent with live ammunition.
“Contrary to what was published, live fire was not used. The Palestinians were hurt by rubber bullets used during the incident,” an Israeli military spokesman told Ma’an on Saturday and reiterated on Sunday, citing an initial inquiry.
But medical findings appeared to corroborate testimony by witnesses, a senior Palestinian Authority official, and emergency responders that, regardless of the circumstances, rubber-coated bullets could not have caused the injuries in question.

An X-ray of Useid’s head, taken as doctors in Nablus prepared for what would be a futile emergency surgery at Rafidiya Hospital, appears to show a live bullet lodged in his skull, rather than the roundish rubber-coated bullets used by the army.
“It’s very clear this isn’t a rubber bullet,” said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli rights advocate who co-founded Anarchists Against the Wall.
“The IDF uses two types of rubber bullets; one is shaped like a ball and the other is cylindrical,” Pollak told Ma’an. “The object lodged in Useid’s skull is shaped like a prism, pointed at the end. It’s a bullet.”

In any case, Pollak said postmortem photographs of Muhammad offered even more damning evidence of the use of live ammunition.
Pollak said the body had an entry wound in the chest and an exit wound in the back. Such an injury could not have possibly been caused by anything but live fire, he said.
“Less lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank,” he said. “No rubber bullet in the world would move through a 16-year-old’s torso like that.”

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which first obtained the X-ray late Saturday night, concurred.
“Rubber-coated steel bullets will not enter and exit the body in that way. It’s very clear these injuries would not have been caused by any kind of crowd-control measure,” said B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli.
“The army’s explanation is simply impossible and not consistent with the evidence,” Michaeli told Ma’an.

B’Tselem plans to issue a formal request that the army’s military advocate general conduct a criminal investigation into the incident, both the alleged use of live fire and the apparent distribution of false information to the relevant investigative bodies.
For its part, the Israeli military has vowed to open an internal investigation. The commander of the Shomron regional brigade, Itzik Yar, will head the effort, an army spokesman said.

In the meantime, the military is sticking to its original explanation.
“IDF soldiers arrived at the scene to prevent a clash between the Palestinian rioters and Jewish civilians, and were violently attacked by the the Palestinians, who violently hurled rocks at the force,” the spokesman said.
“Soldiers responded with riot-dispersal means, which included the use of rubber bullets in accordance with procedures,” he added. “It should be noted that gas canisters were used prior to rubber bullets.”

Bashir Abu-Manneh: Notes on Israel’s Triumph to Disaster: ZMag

By Bashir Abu-Manneh, ZNet – 20 March 2010
Who will stop Israel in its relentless expropriation of Palestine and from triumphing to disaster? Isaac Deutscher, from whom I borrow my title, believed that the occupation of 1967 would have catastrophic consequences for Israel. It wouldn’t end well, he feared.[1] Israel’s expansion and colonial contempt would only produce more enemies, and its triumph would become its condition of defeat. Looking at Israel’s daily aggressions in the West Bank and Gaza (and inside Israel itself, for that matter), Deutscher’s warning can no longer be ignored today. If Israel has banked on its victory and has convinced itself that its position today is irreversible, then there’s no guaranteeing that the Arabs it holds in so much contempt will always remain defeated and disorganized. No state can predict the future or preempt all human capacities and possibilities. The only thing that Israel can be sure of is that the more it brutalizes and kills and oppresses and strangulates Palestinians, the more Palestinians and other Arabs will be convinced that its future is bleak. Deutscher’s warning should be on every Israeli and peace-loving minds today. What Israel does every day will simply not pass.
The left is not in the business of advocating catastrophes. Deutscher’s intention was the complete opposite in fact: he was trying to stop an impending disaster from happening. Like Walter Benjamin, he wanted ‘to activate the emergency brake’ on the human race’s moving train rather than watch it plunge into the abyss.[2] So Deutscher’s warning should really be a question: who will stop Israel from triumphing to disaster? Who can end the insult, injury, and humiliations that Israel daily inflicts on Palestinians and Arabs through its occupation and bring freedom and justice closer? There are many false messiahs these days, and only one redemptive force. Let’s begin with the false ones.
The US won’t stop Israel, clearly. Not when Israel continues to play such a significant role in guaranteeing its regional interests (by crushing radicals and nationalists). And not when Israel continues to be the US’s most reliable and stable ally in this volatile region (the Israeli public actually wants closer US/Israel ties, unlike Turkey’s or Saudi’s or Egypt’s or Jordan’s publics). Since Kissinger, the US has done nothing but support Israel’s deepening colonial expansion in occupied Palestine: diplomatic, financial, and military. For reasonable people, the US is as much a problem for Palestinians as Israel is. For unreasonable ones, they look towards the US for ‘even-handedness’ and ‘brokering peace’, as if it hasn’t already picked sides at least 40 years ago. Changing the US relationship with Israel is changing US interests in the region: there’s no way round it. No begging, no beseeching, and no ‘change we can believe in’ will achieve that. Only real change: of politics and interests. The right question to pose is not whether the US will put pressure on Israel. But: how can we get the US out of the Middle East? One million Arab dead in Iraq is one million too many. And five million internally and externally displaced is five million too many. Wars and occupations don’t bring peace and security.
What about the Palestinian national movement? Can it stop Israel? The PA elite has basically co-opted Fatah politically and severely curtailed and diminished its field of independent political maneuver. Fatah has no strategy or plan to get Palestinians out of the current crisis.[3] Abbas and Fayyad’s legitimacy in the eyes of the ‘international community’ (the US and its EU backers) is the result of partnering with the occupation not ending it. There is, so to speak, no secular Palestinian national movement any longer. One elite figure after another in the PA competes in finding ways to ‘develop’, ‘build institutions’, and uplift Palestine without tackling the root cause of the problem for millions of Palestinians: the occupation regime itself. These fantasy schemes ignore hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, hundreds of kilometers of annexation Wall, hundreds of weekly Israeli army raids and arrests, 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners, and daily obstructions, humiliations, and reductions of human life. America actively supports this status quo, not only by injecting funds both directly and indirectly (through the EU and its Arab allies). But also militarily: by training Palestinian forces in terrorizing and torturing their own and crushing their will to resist (how can the PA honestly call for the boycott of Israeli settlement products when it daily does Israel’s bidding in the West Bank?). Funds buy off elite complicity and security training and coordination with Israel crushes Hamas and Islamic Jihad and imprisons hundreds of their men and women every month. Every day Abbas and his dependents speak against a third intifada and obstruct mass rage against Israel. If the third intifada ever comes, it will have to face not only Israel’s brutal army but its own internal Palestinian enemies as well: President Abbas and General Dayton’s foreign-trained colonial enforcers.
To work against the occupation is, as the Israeli insult goes, ‘to go to Gaza’. Gaza stands as a good example for the Palestinians in the West Bank of what democracy and resistance look like: siege, suffocation, mass unemployment, slow death, and collective punishment. And: mass killing and mass destruction, as the war on Gaza last year testifies. The US and Israel have given Palestinians two options. You either collaborate in administering the occupation (and crush resistance and popular protest by force and terror) or you suffer the harsh consequences of armed struggle. Even Hamas has learnt this very costly lesson and is now actively preventing more radical jihadi groups from firing primitive Qassam rockets into Israel. Will Hamas see Palestinians out of the occupation? The sober answer is: no it won’t. It hasn’t yet managed to lift Israel’s cruel siege on Gaza, imprisoning 1.5 million Palestinians. Hamas is now in complete control of an imprisoned population which lacks basic human freedoms and rights of travel, employment, security, and education. It even adds Palestinian insult to Israeli injury by coercively enforcing hijab (as it tried to force it on women lawyers in court recently) and by prohibiting male hairdressers from cutting women’s hair in Gaza. As if women’s oppression is a requisite to Palestinian liberation! In addition, the political leverage Hamas has in the Arab world amounts to very little. Having adopted Fatah’s nationalist policy of ‘non-interference in Arab regimes’, Hamas finds itself (like its previous secular predecessor) trying to secure Palestinian rights in an incredibly hostile Arab-regime environment; one which is not only dependent on the US but is also allied with it against free democratic representation and Islamic radicalism. Hamas beseeches Egypt to ease the siege and open Rafah, while Egypt uses its control of Rafah and the deep underground wall it is building, which will cut off Gaza’s last remaining lifeline, in order to force Hamas to accept the US conditions for Palestinian reconciliation (renouncing violence and recognizing previous agreements). Before reconciling with Fatah, Hamas needs, as far as the Egyptians, are concerned, to become Fatah. So Hamas calls Palestinians in the West Bank out for a ‘third intifada’, but to no visible effect. Palestinians come out, as this week, when Israeli provocation is completely intolerable or when they feel they can achieve something. After the defeat of two intifadas, Palestinians are understandably very wary of another intifada failing.
What Palestinians as a collective decide to do is ultimately the most important question. Only they can stop Israel. Most Palestinians are fed up with Palestinian political factionalism and PA corruption and subservience. They see no real way out through reconciliation or unity, though they still want it: the divisions seem too deep and the US is too much of an obstacle. They also recognize that armed resistance has failed against one of the most powerful and brutal armies in the world. Israel unleashed itself on Gaza for 22 days as the world watched and did nothing. Why play the game of force when the balance of power is rigged against you to such a disproportionate extent? The closest Palestinians got to challenging and undermining the Israeli occupation is in the unarmed mass resistance of the first intifada. This remains the most effective way to defeating Israel politically and to achieving Palestinian rights. It is hard to predict the future, but many believe that a popular uprising will eventually come. Will the coming rebellion be spontaneous and risk dissipating or will it be organized effectively, prioritizing mass self-mobilization over armed confrontation? Will the PA and Israel be able to crush it by force and coercion (by freezing the wages on which 140,000 PA employees and their families in the WB and Gaza depend), or will Israel finally succeed in pushing Palestinians towards civil war?
Not much is clear yet. But one thing is certain: international public opinion would welcome a mass Palestinian revolt. Voices for boycott and sanctions against Israeli apartheid would grow. Voices to lift the siege on Gaza would strengthen. And Israel would again confirm itself in popular world opinion as a pariah state. Will that cause a crack in its own flawed self-image? One hopes so. Will Israelis come to see themselves for what they really are: brutal, self-indulgent occupiers who are holding a whole people hostage? They may well do. There are certainly some beleaguered Israeli anti-occupation groups who are in desperate need for supporters and sympathizers. It would be nice to see them welcomed in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv rather than harassed by the general public, arrested by the police, and generally bullied and humiliated.
If the Arab peoples move as well, and if their spontaneous support is organized and mobilized to greater effect, then the US presence in the region can also be weakened. And that is no small thing. Arab hearts still lie in Palestine. It can still move a whole nation like no other cause in the region. Though the present looks bleak, collective acts of resistance can still create vast possibilities.
1. Isaac Deutscher, “On the Israeli-Arab War,” New Left Review, I/44 (July-August 1967), 30-45: “I am convinced that the latest, all-too-easy triumph of Israeli arms will be seen one day, in a not very remote future, to have been a disaster in the first instance for Israel itself” (30). And: “The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase: ‘Man kann sich totsiegen!‘ ‘You can rush yourself victoriously into your grave.’ This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow” (39).
2. Quoted in Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ (London: Verso, 2005), pp. 66-7.
3. International Crisis Group, Palestine: Salvaging Fatah, Middle East Report no. 91 (12 November 2009).

Bashir Abu-Manneh teaches English at Barnard College

ISRAEL: Activists urge musicians not to perform in Israel: LA Times

March 17, 2010
Israelis are already buying tickets, psyched to see a long list of international artists billed to perform in Israel in coming months.  But as Israelis prepare to rock, political campaigners are on a roll and the summer concerts are already striking a sour note.

Peace activists are picking on the Pixies, slated to play Israel in June.  They’ve sent the band an open letter saying “as much as some of us are huge fans and would love to hear your show, we won’t cross the international picket line.” This line isn’t always visible, but it’s there, they write, asking: “Are you prepared to perform in Tel-Aviv while just under your noses millions of human beings are suffering under a cruel Israeli military regime?” The activists, Israeli citizens from a group that supports the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) “from within,” urged the Pixies to refuse to perform in Israel “until there is freedom here.”
The local producers of the Pixies’ concert, headed by premier entertainment producer Shuki Weiss, responded with a letter of their own. Weiss wrote that there was no difference between the Chinese government silencing a show because of explicit lyrics or an Islamic government silencing artists because of revealing clothing and “a political movement trying to express a specific opinion at the expense of music lovers. We believe your call is one for silencing art and we are sad to say we regard this as cultural terror, no less.”

Another group took up the issue with Elton John. This time, it was the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that called on the artist not to contribute to “Israel’s celebration of its occupation and apartheid.” Israel, they wrote, is “luring renowned performers to rebrand itself as an enlightened, cultural country while continuing to dispossess Palestinians.” Reminding John that he played Sun City in 1983, they wrote: “We urge you not to be on the wrong side of history again.”
Many artists come under pressure to leave Israel off their tours. Some resist, like Paul McCartney. Others, such as Leonard Cohen, gave a significant part of the proceeds to the Parents Circle, a peace group of bereaved Palestinian and Israeli parents. The boycott campaign did, however, succeed in scuppering Cohen’s plans to perform in Ramallah. Roger Waters came despite pressure but made his own statement by moving the concert location from Tel-Aviv to Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam, a joint Arab-Jewish community.

Rihanna also is scheduled to perform in Israel. She comes with strings attached — but not political ones. Young Israelis will be awarded tickets only after completing several hours of volunteer work for the community as part of a project with the Israeli sponsor.

And some cancel, like Carlos Santana. Santana — who performed in Israel in the past — dropped Israel for scheduling-overload reasons, it was reported locally. But a U.S. group supporting the cultural boycott of Israel published a letter thanking him for “electing not to perform in the apartheid state.”
Meanwhile, metalheads have been at loggerheads over Metallica too — with a call for a boycott of a different nature. Outraged at high ticket prices, thousands joined a Facebook campaign launched by Israeli fans to boycott the May concert. The boycott was dropped after Metallica intervened and an agreement on more reasonably priced tickets was reached.

Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

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