August 1, 2010

Boycott Israel 1 by Carlos Latuff

Robert Fisk: Israel has crept into the EU without anyone noticing: The Independent

Saturday, 31 July 2010
There was a Nato-Israeli exercise in progress. Well, that’s OK then. Now imagine the death of five Hamas fighters in a helicopter crash in Romania this week. We’d still be investigating this extraordinary phenomenon. Now mark you, I’m not comparing Israel and Hamas. Israel is the country that justifiably slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza 19 months ago – more than 300 of them children – while the vicious, blood-sucking and terrorist Hamas killed 13 Israelis (three of them soldiers who actually shot each other by mistake).

But there is one parallel. Judge Richard Goldstone, the eminent Jewish South African judge, decided in his 575-page UN inquiry into the Gaza bloodbath that both sides had committed war crimes – he was, of course, quite rightly called “evil” by all kinds of justifiably outraged supporters of Israel in the US, his excellent report rejected by seven EU governments – and so a question presents itself. What is Nato doing when it plays war games with an army accused of war crimes?

Or, more to the point, what on earth is the EU doing when it cosies up to the Israelis? In a remarkable, detailed – if slightly over-infuriated – book to be published in November, the indefatigable David Cronin is going to present a microscopic analysis of “our” relations with Israel. I have just finished reading the manuscript. It leaves me breathless. As he says in his preface, “Israel has developed such strong political and economic ties to the EU over the past decade that it has become a member state of the union in all but name.” Indeed, it was Javier Solana, the grubby top dog of the EU’s foreign policy (formerly Nato secretary general), who actually said last year that “Israel, allow me to say, is a member of the European Union without being a member of the institution”.

Pardon me? Did we know this? Did we vote for this? Who allowed this to happen? Does David Cameron – now so forcefully marketing Turkish entry to the EU – agree with this? Probably yes, since he goes on calling himself a “friend of Israel” after that country produced an excellent set of forged British passports for its murderers in Dubai. As Cronin says, “the EU’s cowardice towards Israel is in stark contrast to the robust position it has taken when major atrocities have occurred in other conflicts”. After the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, for example, the EU tasked an independent mission to find out if international law had been flouted, and demanded an international inquiry into human rights abuses after Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers. Cronin does not duck Europe’s responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and agrees that there will always be a “moral duty” on our governments to ensure it never happens again – though I did notice that Cameron forgot to mention the 1915 Armenian Holocaust when he was sucking up to the Turks this week.

But that’s not quite the point. In 1999, Britain’s arms sales to Israel – a country occupying the West Bank (and Gaza, too) and building illegal colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land – were worth £11.5m; within two years, this had almost doubled to £22.5m. This included small arms, grenade-making kits and equipment for fighter jets and tanks. There were a few refusals after Israel used modified Centurion tanks against the Palestinians in 2002, but in 2006, the year in which Israel slaughtered another 1,300 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, in another crusade against Hizbollah’s “world terror”, Britain granted over 200 weapons licences.

Some British equipment, of course, heads for Israel via the US. In 2002, Britain gave “head-up displays” manufactured by BAE Systems for Lockheed Martin which promptly installed them in F-16 fighter-bombers destined for Israel. The EU did not object. In the same year, it should be added, the British admitted to training 13 members of the Israeli military. US planes transporting weapons to Israel at the time of the 2006 Lebanon war were refuelled at British airports (and, alas, it appears at Irish airports too). In the first three months of 2008, we gave licenses for another £20m of weapons for Israel – just in time for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. Apache helicopters used against Palestinians, says Cronin, contain parts made by SPS Aerostructures in Nottinghamshire, Smiths Industries in Cheltenham, Page Aerospace in Middlesex and Meggit Avionics in Hampshire.

Need I go on? Israel, by the way, has been praised for its “logistics” help to Nato in Afghanistan – where we are annually killing even more Afghans than the Israelis usually kill Palestinians – which is not surprising since Israel military boss Gabi Ashkenazi has visited Nato headquarters in Brussels to argue for closer ties with Nato. And Cronin convincingly argues an extraordinary – almost obscenely beautiful – financial arrangement in “Palestine”. The EU funds millions of pounds’ worth of projects in Gaza. These are regularly destroyed by Israel’s American-made weaponry. So it goes like this. European taxpayers fork out for the projects. US taxpayers fork out for the weapons which Israel uses to destroy them. Then EU taxpayers fork out for the whole lot to be rebuilt. And then US taxpayers… Well, you’ve got the point. Israel, by the way, already has an “individual co-operation programme” with Nato, locking Israel into Nato’s computer networks.

All in all, it’s good to have such a stout ally as Israel on our side, even if its army is a rabble and some of its men war criminals. Come to that, why don’t we ask Hizbollah to join Nato as well – just imagine how its guerrilla tactics would benefit our chaps in Helmand. And since Israel’s Apache helicopters often kill Lebanese civilians – a whole ambulance of women and children in 1996, for example, blown to pieces by a Boeing Hellfire AGM 114C air-to-ground missile – let’s hope the Lebanese can still send a friendly greeting to the people of Nottinghamshire, Middlesex, Hampshire and, of course, Cheltenham.

Erekat to Haaretz: New proposal more generous than deal we offered Olmert: Haaretz

Chief PA negotiator says peace proposal is more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Mahmoud Abbas to former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The Palestinian Authority has submitted a far-reaching peace proposal to the Obama administration that is more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Mahmoud Abbas to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, the chief PA negotiator told Haaretz on Saturday.
“I presented Senator George Mitchell with a series of official documents,” Erekat said, referring to the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East. “We gave him maps and papers that clearly state our positions on all the final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security. Thus far we have not received any answer from the Israeli side.”

When asked if the Palestinian positions were similar to those presented during talks with Olmert, Erekat replied: “It’s more than that. I cannot go into details on what exactly was proposed, but Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] offered more in these documents than what he proposed to Olmert in the past. Abu Mazen took bigger steps to reach peace.”

Earlier this year Erekat distributed a document to European diplomats saying the PA had offered Olmert a swap that would let Israel annex 1.9 percent of the West Bank. The document also claimed that the PA had expressed a willingness to accept an Israeli proposal to allow 15,000 Palestinian refugees to return to the country every year over 10 years.

International media outlets reported earlier this year that the PA had agreed to land swaps equaling 2.3 percent, while another report said it had accepted a swap of 3.8 percent. Erekat confirmed to Haaretz that the Palestinians have become more flexible on this issue.

He denied reports in the Arab media over the weekend that the Obama administration had threatened sanctions against the PA – perhaps even the severing of ties – if Abbas did not agree to enter direct talks with Israel over a final-status agreement.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker and a member of the PLO central committee, told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Washington “applied tremendous pressures on the Palestinian Authority so that it would move to direct talks.”

Ashrawi said the United States threatened to downgrade or even sever ties with Ramallah.

Another Arab language newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported that Obama had sent a special communique to Abbas last month that said Washington would not work to extend the Israeli construction freeze in West Bank settlements if the Palestinian leader continued to oppose direct negotiations. According to the report, Obama made clear to Abbas that the United States would reject any Palestinian efforts to appeal to the Security Council in lieu of direct talks with Israel.

During an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Thursday, Abbas said he had been subject to intense pressure to agree to direct talks. Erekat confirmed that many Arab leaders sought to persuade the Palestinian leader to reconsider his position, but he denied any suggestions that Washington had threatened the PA.

“[The communique] stated that if the Palestinians do not enter direct discussions, reaching a two-state solution will be even more difficult and the Americans’ ability to help in that regard will be even more limited,” Erekat said. “There were no threats.”

Erekat also denied a report by Israel Radio that Haim Ramon, a former minister and lawmaker from the opposition Kadima party, had urged the PA not to enter into direct negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I am astounded at times to see how low these stories can go,” Erekat said. “Ramon didn’t tell me to enter direct talks or not to enter them. Such a thing never happened, and no Israeli will tell us anything along those lines.”

Erekat also denied that Ramon had been sent at the behest of President Shimon Peres. “Do not drag us into your internal politics,” he added.

“Shimon himself tells me every time we meet, ‘Go into direct talks,'” Erekat said. “I meet with many Israelis but I do not accept instructions from them or from Ramon.”

Peres is scheduled to depart for Cairo Sunday for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak. The two leaders will discuss the latest efforts to renew direct talks between Israel and the PA.

Peres is expected to urge Mubarak to continue to press Abbas to begin direct discussions with Israel. He is expected to say Israel is serious in its intentions to advance the peace process.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza kill Hamas commander: The Guardian

Eleven others wounded as warplanes target five sites across terrirory in biggest attack since three-week offensive in 2009

A man carries a wounded young Palestinian to al-Shifa hospital after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed a Hamas commander and wounded 11 other people.

Warplanes fired missiles at five targets across Gaza, including Gaza City, last night for the first time since Israel’s three-week offensive in the territory ended 18 months ago.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory, said the man killed was Issa Batran, 42, a commander of its military wing in central Gaza and a rocket maker. Eight of its supporters and three civilians were also injured.

The air raids came after a Palestinian rocket attack struck the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on Friday, causing no casualties but damaging buildings and cars in the city.

The city’s mayor said the attack was the most serious since the end of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive that left around 1,400 Palestinians dead, in January last year. Renegade militant groups have fired dozens of rockets and mortars into southern Israel since then, although most of those attack have been ineffective, with rockets mostly landing in open fields.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, earlier said he took the rocket attack on Ashkelon, which lies seven miles north of Gaza, “very seriously”. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The cross-border violence has raised concerns of further escalation.

A Hamas spokesman said the group would avenge Batran’s killing.

“Hamas will not be quiet over the blood of its martyrs,” said Hamad al-Rakabi. “Israel is opening all the gates of fire. This blood will cascade into rage and fire.”

The targets hit in last night’s air strike included a military training camp in Gaza City, smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border and Batran’s shack, on the outskirts of the Nusseirat refugee camp, according to Hamas security officials.

Lieberman for prime minister: Haaretz

With Lieberman as prime minister, extremism would no longer need to hide. The right would be a genuine right – fascist, racist, supporting the transfer of Arabs and giving the peace process no chance.
By Zvi Bar’el
As long as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not agree to hold direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s situation was excellent. The refusenik was on the other side, as usual. The fact that Israel has refused to commit to the 1967 borders and agree to extend the freeze on settlement construction, while continuing to build in East Jerusalem, did not change Abbas’ status as a refusenik.

But Abbas is not refusing to hold direct talks, he is only refusing to accept what Netanyahu told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos: Continuing the settlement freeze after September 26 is impossible from a political point of view and will break up the government, as will Abbas’ other demands, which Netanyahu described as “unrealistic.” So with whom exactly does Netanyahu want Abbas to hold direct talks? With a phantom prime minister? With the man afraid of his own coalition’s shadow?

On Thursday the Arab League’s Monitoring Committee decided to “permit” Abbas to hold direct negotiations. Everything, of course, based on terms Abbas has set. Nothing has changed in principle – neither the position of the Arab League nor of Abbas. What has changed is the commitment that Abbas received from Washington, the kind that will let the Arab League give a green light to direct negotiations.

The result is that the negotiations with the Palestinians are being conducted over Netanyahu’s head, on the Washington-Ramallah-Cairo-Riyadh axis. While Netanyahu is promising not to extend the settlement freeze as he approves the continued “Judaization” of Jerusalem, someone is holding genuine negotiations. While Netanyahu is dealing with the details of the show – direct or indirect negotiations – Washington and its allies are dealing with the content.

When the prime minister finds it hard to comprehend the change in the position of Abbas and the Arab League, when he says he can’t meet the conditions because of coalition problems, we can question why this government should continue. Why not go to elections and try to establish a new Israeli leadership that can really lead?

The answer so oft repeated is that elections will produce an extreme right-wing government and halt the peace process. Really? And what kind of government is currently in power? Is it really the coalition that is threatening to bring down the government if its head makes a move toward the Palestinians? Isn’t it the people furthest to the right, the more nationalist, who are setting this government’s character and policy?

Anyone who believes in Netanyahu’s good intentions cannot ignore that he has become a front – not to say a cartoon – that the extreme right is hiding behind. This impressive man, who speaks English so well, is at the receiving end of blows, not the real warmongers. Anyone who does not believe Netanyahu believes that it’s a show and that there is no difference between Lieberman’s right-wing and Bibi’s right-wing. In both cases, this prime minister cannot achieve peace and will not advance the negotiations, and because of him relations between Israel and the United States may collapse.

And what if Lieberman wins the elections? First of all we will be rid of his bluffing, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. With Lieberman as prime minister, the process could turn out faster. Pressure from the United States would be less hesitant, and the public response less ambivalent. With Lieberman as prime minister, extremism would no longer need to hide. The right would be a genuine right – fascist, racist, supporting the transfer of Arabs and giving the peace process no chance.

But then the left will somehow be able to revive, because anyone who is not from Habayit Hayehudi or Yisrael Beiteinu will be able to set up his own hostel and not be a guest at the shack set up by the right. People today in the center will not be shy about embracing their leftist leanings.

Anyone who fears elections wants to continue living a lie in which the extreme right does not dictate policy, in which Abbas, Haim Ramon or Shimon Peres are the enemies of peace, and in which salvation is possible only with direct talks. Idiocy. Until we have leaders who understand how dangerous the slope is on which Israel is racing, the slope will not disappear. Sometimes, when it’s impossible to stop the fall, it’s best to speed it up.

Don’t deny our rights: open letter to Mahmoud Abbas: The Electronic Intifada

open letter, various undersigned, 29 July 2010

The following open letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose elected mandate expired in July 2009 and who has remained in power under controversial emergency laws, was issued on 22 July 2010:

We are Palestinians of diverse perspectives and affiliations — scholars, intellectuals, artists, activists, trade unionists, human rights advocates and civil society leaders, inside historic Palestine and in exile — who are united in our commitment to the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all Palestinians, particularly our inalienable right to self-determination. This universally sanctioned right encompasses, at a minimum, freedom from occupation and colonization in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: “I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel,” a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is tantamount to a surrender of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in equality in their own homeland, in which they have steadfastly remained despite the apartheid regime imposed on them for decades. It also concedes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people. Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please.

We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.

Initial Signatories:

Saleh Abdel-Jawad, Assoc. Prof. of History, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh, poet and academic (Jerusalem); Naseer Aruri, Prof. Emeritus, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth); Mourid Barghouti, poet and author (Ramallah/Cairo); Omar Barghouti, commentator and human rights activist (Jerusalem); Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle (Seattle); George Bisharat, Prof., UC Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco); Haidar Eid, academic and boycott, divestment and sanctions activist (Gaza); Samera Esmeir, Assist. Prof. of Rhetoric, Univ. of California, Berkeley (Haifa); Wael Hallaq, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate (Washington, DC); Jamil Hilal, sociologist and author (Ramallah); Islah Jad, Assist. Prof. of Gender & Development, Birzeit Univ. (Ramallah); Hatem Kanaaneh, medical doctor and author (Sakhnin); Ghada Karmi, author and Fellow, Exeter University (Exeter); Nur Masalha, Prof. of Religion and Politics, St. Mary’s Univ. College (London); Joseph Massad, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Jean Said Makdisi, author (Beirut); Saree Makdisi, Prof., University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles); Zakaria Muhammad, novelist (Ramallah); Karma Nabulsi, Fellow in Politics, University of Oxford (Oxford); Eyad Sarraj, psychiatrist (Gaza)

(alphabetical order – institutions for identification only)

Endorsers:

Mohammed Abu Abdu, Pal. Student Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) (Gaza); Bashir Abu-Manneh, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Mohsen Abu Ramadan, civil society activist and independent political commentator (Gaza); Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society (London); Abdefattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League, Jerusalem – General Director of Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society, (Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem); Majeed Al-Barghouthi, poet and writer (Amman); Musa Al-Hindi, Coord. Comm. member, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN); Hala Al-Yamani, Assist. Prof., Bethlehem University (Bethlehem); Lubna Arikat, community activist (San Diego); Huwaida Arraf, attorney and human rights activist, New York; Khaled Barakat, writer and activist, Vancouver; Nasser Barghouti, human rights activist (San Diego); Diana Buttu, lawyer (Ramallah); Yasmeen Daher, lecturer at Birzeit University and human rights activist (Jaffa); Seif Da’na, Prof. of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Parkside (Parkside); Lamis J. Deek, attorney and human rights advocate (New York); Noura Erakat, human rights attorney (Washington, DC); Leila Farsakh, Assoc. Prof., University of Massachusetts (Boston); Jess Ghannam, Prof., University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco); Lubna Hammad, lawyer and human rights activist, Adalah-NY (New York); Rema Hammami, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Nizar Hasan, filmmaker (Nazareth); Zaha Hassan, civil rights attorney and human rights advocate (Oregon); Kamel Hawwash, Assoc. Prof. in Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham (Birmingham); Monadel Herzallah, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), San Francisco; May Jayyusi, Exec. Director of Muwatin, Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (Ramallah); Ray Jureidini, sociologist, Cairo; Jamal Kanj, author, (Nahr el Bared refugee camp); Osamah Khalil, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley); Suleiman Mansour, visual artist (Jerusalem); Dina Matar, academic, SOAS – University of London (London); Moammar Mashni, Co-Founder, Australians for Palestine (Melbourne); Mazen Masri, lawyer and human rights activist (Toronto); Fouad Moughrabi, Prof. and Head of Dept. of Political Science, Univ. of Tennessee (Chattanooga); Rana Nashashibi, activist, Coalition for Jerusalem (Jerusalem); Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Barrister, Palestine Legal Aid Fund (London); Mahmoud Oriqat, Engineer (San Diego); Mazin Qumsiyeh, Prof. (Bethlehem); Ahmad Sadi, Academic (Galilee); Grace Said, activist (Washington, DC); Dalal Yassine, lawyer and human rights advocate (Beirut); Raja Zaatry, journalist (Haifa); Elia Zureik, Prof. Emeritus of Sociology, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)

Ramon was right: Haaretz

We have a new “traitor.” Please welcome Haim Ramon. How horrible: Ramon thinks the Palestinians shouldn’t negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu.
By Gideon Levy
We have a new “traitor.” Please welcome Haim Ramon. How horrible: Ramon thinks the Palestinians shouldn’t negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu. He understands, like many others, that these negotiations have no chance, no hope. He may even think they can do damage. And he said so to a Palestinian friend in a private conversation. What’s the matter? If Ramon would have written it in a newspaper article, or said it in an interview, that would have been OK? So what’s the problem with whispering it in the ear of Saeb Erekat?

The only problem is that Ramon didn’t whisper it quietly enough. The walls have ears at the American Colony Hotel. Once again Ramon has gotten into trouble with wiretaps, and the rest is history – or actually hysteria.

Private conversations are private conversations, and what is whispered in them is nobody’s business. Eavesdroppers and tattlers are less commendable than the whisperers. It can only be hoped that the Shin Bet security service was not involved in the eavesdropping and especially in the leaking. That is why the commotion that erupted over the weekend is another storm in a teacup, which is again intended to obscure the real issue.

And the real issue, as many of Ramon’s critics, especially the loudmouths from his party, know full well, is that Ramon was right: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must not join the masquerade known as direct negotiations with the current prime minister. Not only will it not advance anything, it could cause harm to Abbas, the Palestinians, to peace and also to Israel. Another failure in the longest and most futile peace process in history, as we have learned, could lead to another round of bloodshed. That is why the distance between Ramon’s words and treason is precisely the distance between Netanyahu and the chance for peace. The real traitor is the prime minister, who is trying to con everyone: the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Americans.

A prime minister who says, as published in Haaretz, that a continued freeze on building in the settlements “is politically impossible” because it will lead to the breakup of his coalition government, is a prime minister who is derelict in his duty. Didn’t Netanyahu commit in his Bar-Ilan University speech to two states? If he admits that he can’t get his government to back a move so minuscule, so preliminary, so self-evident as a building freeze, as a step to carrying out his commitment, why do we need his government? It would be better if it fell. If he still stays in office, he is betraying his mission and his commitment.

No, Abbas must not lend a hand to this illusion. The issue is not only his shaky position, which would be further undermined if he joins the talks – a development that would run counter to Israel’s interest. The issue is also not just another round of nothing, more time wasted on nothing. The issue is cooperation with an Israeli diversion tactic which is meant to lull the entire world.

Netanyahu and his government, most of whose members don’t believe even for a minute in the chances of the peace process – and some have said so explicitly – want to deceive everyone and gain time and quiet so they can bolster the settlements even more. How else can the opposition to extending the freeze be interpreted? Why build if you intend to evacuate? And why do you think Netanyahu is so eager to hold direct talks, courting Abbas with sweet-talk, if not to please the Americans? If there are negotiations, there won’t be international pressure. Quiet, we’re in discussions, settlement can go on uninterrupted. That is why futile negotiations are dangerous negotiations.

Even the handful of real peace seekers in Israel must not support such a process. Under the cover of such talks the chances for peace will grow even dimmer. And this can and should be said everywhere: in the newspaper, in the party, and it should be whispered in every attentive ear.

But in the new McCarthyist, witch-hunting Israel, that is forbidden. Instead of holding Netanyahu’s deceit up to shame, the whisperer is shamed. Instead of being impressed by the fact that there are still Israeli politicians who take the trouble to maintain ties with the Palestinian leadership, they are furiously set upon, as if Ramon disclosed state secrets to an enemy who is not an enemy. And instead of the reason for the scandal being the time that is lost, the focus is on a conversation between friends in an East Jerusalem hotel.

So here, not in a whisper and not in a hotel, I humbly add my voice to Ramon’s: Abbas, don’t go there.

Is Israel singled out – and why?: The Other Israel

By Adam Keller
August 1, 2010
Googling for “Israel singled out” + “anti-Semitism” would immediately get you many thousands of results. All over the world, supporters of the policies enacted by the government of Israel are busily churning out article after article, repeating with minor variations the same message – Israel is being unfairly singled out, harshly criticized for the kind of acts which others are allowed to get away with, and the motive is anti-Semitism.

In a way, this is a second line of defense. There had been a time when this kind of people took the line that Israel can do no wrong. That it is an utterly wonderful place, little short of an utopia, a vibrant democracy and the only one in the Middle East, the home of tireless and dauntless pioneers who made the desert bloom. But this way of looking at things had become increasingly difficult to sustain. There have been too many unsavory TV footages of Israeli soldiers broadcast into every home around the globe, too many nasty revelations, quite a few of them by Israel’s own dissident citizens…

It is far easier to freely admit that Israel is not blameless, that some of its actions and policies do deserve criticism – but as a matter of fact, “everybody does it”. Many others all over the world also violate human rights and/or international law, others discriminate against ethnic or religious minorities, others launch military offensives which claim the lives of innocent civilians. Muslims, it is quite true, have been killed by other Muslims as well as by Israel. So, why pick on Israel, specifically? Why, if not out of anti-Semitism? “Anti-Israelism is the New anti-Semitism”, period.

True, as far as formal international diplomacy is concerned, it is easy to show that – if Israel is singled out at all – it is singled out for a rather lenient treatment.

Should Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir land in any European country, he is bound to be arrested by the local police and extradited to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to stand trial for the misdeeds of his army, and of militias backed by his army; in Darfur. Binyamin Netanyahu need fear nothing of the kind. When private groups attempted to start criminal proceedings against Israeli civil or military officials, the governments of Belgium and Spain enacted legislation to make this impossible, and the British government is about to follow suit.

Iran is facing increasingly tough international sanctions – and increasingly vocal threats of war – for its attempts to produce a nuclear bomb. Israel faced nothing of the kind for its own highly successful enterprise in the same field. (Instead, the Government of Germany provided to Israel, free of charge, several submarines so modified that nuclear-tipped missiles could be installed on them and create a “second-strike capacity”.

Many countries violate human rights in one way or another – but few have the consistent backing a Permanent Member in the UN Security Council. Most proposed resolutions condemning acts by the government of Israel get aborted by the US veto. And even when a resolution gets past this barrier (invariably, after having been considerably watered down), the Government of Israel can (and often does) ignore it brazenly and with complete impunity. Non-compliance by Israel would never entail a second Security Council Resolution, and a third and fourth and a fifth each tougher than its predecessor – such as heralded the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and eventually the end of Saddam’s own life.

Still, even if baseless when directed at diplomats and ministers and heads of state, the charge of “singling out Israel” cannot be dismissed out of hand when much of civil society in the world today is concerned. It is a fact – which can be easily proven statistically – that there are intellectuals and university lecturers who write more articles condemning Israeli actions than they write against comparable actions in other countries. It is an easily proven fact that a considerable number of activist groups, and student organizations, and militant trade unionists, and a host of others, are busy passing sharply worded resolutions, and holding protests, and sometimes calling for a boycott against Israel – while falling short of acting as vehemently against each and every culpable country around the world.

For the likes of Alan Dershowitz and Nathan Sharansky and Ben Dror Yemini, this is a clear and sufficient proof of anti-Semitism. The proper course for a genuine upholder and defender of Human Rights should be to compile a full and comprehensive list of all violators (Amnesty International used to be a fairly reliable source for such, except that nowadays Amnesty has also become stained with “singling out Israel”). Then, a rota of pickets should be set up in front of all relevant embassies, with the Israeli one visited for three-quarters of an hour every third Monday, and anyone overstaying this quota by more than ten minutes would stand condemned as an anti-Semite (or a self-hater if a Jew oneself, or a traitor if an Israeli citizen, or all three combined…)

In practice, of course, the government of Israel and its adherents are well aware that public campaigns, to achieve any result, must be focused on a specific issue – which necessarily means that somebody in “singled out”. To cite one prominent example, the eminently successful worldwide campaign of the 1970’s and 1980’s, conducted under the slogan “Let My People Go!” was based on singling out the Soviet Union as against all other countries violating the Human Rights of their citizens; and on singling out Soviet Jews as against all other oppressed Soviet citizens; and singling out Soviet Jews wanting to leave their country as against those wanting to stay and have their rights respected at home; and on singling out Soviet Jews wanting to go to Israel as against those wanting to go somewhere else (the latter were the target of a particularly vituperative campaign…).

The result of all these forms of singling out is that Russian has become Israel’s de-facto second language, with Russian-speakers comprising some 20% of its population (a large part of them not being recognized as Jews, and not being able to get married in Israel – but this is a subject for another article…) An unfocused general campaign , against all forms of injustice everywhere, singling out nobody, would hardly have achieved this (or any) result.

Still, granted that focusing on a specific issue is the indispensable precondition of a successful campaign, the reason why it is particularly Israel which has become the target of such a campaign still needs to be looked at. It is my contention that the singling out of Israel for a special consideration and a treatment different from that given to anybody else is nothing new, nor has it always been directed against Israel. In fact, it has been actively initiated and promoted by Israel itself, or rather by the Zionist movement at the very inception of the project which would culminate in the creation of Israel. Zionism very specifically and explicitly asked the international community to be singled out for a very specific and very unique privilege, which was never ever granted to any other group anywhere else. Namely, the right to claim a land as its “National Home” on the basis of ancestors having lived in this land 2000 years ago.

***

In 1897, when Theodore Herzl and his fellows held the First Zionist Congress in Basle, national movements have already been a regular feature on the international agenda for about a century. Zionism has taken up many of the tenets and practices of European Nationalism – in particular East European Nationalism.

After all, many of the founders of Zionism had started out as patriotic Poles, or patriotic Magyars, or patriotic Germans, people who had wanted nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens of the country where they lived – and who, faced with a painful and humiliating anti-Semitic rejection, recoiled into forming a national movement of their own. And naturally enough, it was modelled on the kind of nationalism they had known. And still, there was a major difference.

It is all too common for national movements to gain widespread international sympathy for the plight of the oppressed ethnic group they seek to represent – and once gaining state power, to engage in discrimination and oppression of other groups. And it is common for national movements to make sweeping territorial claims, often based on the narrative (historical or mythical) of some ancient warrior king. The Biblical King David, whom ardent Zionists cited, was far from the first such.

Still, the essential aim of all other national movements I ever heard of was to get control of a core area where their own ethnic group constituted the whole of the population, or at least an overwhelming majority. None but Zionists had ever put forward a claim for a country in whose entirety its ethnic group constituted at the time less than ten percent of the population, making implementation of its aspirations dependent upon a radical change of the status quo in that country.

Many factors converged to make possible the Zionist success in getting such a claim endorsed by the international community.- utterly unique, and sharply singling out Zionism and Israel from everybody else in the world.

There was a widespread, genuine sympathy for the persecuted Jews and horror at the Russian pogroms in the early days of Zionism, later dwarfed by the Nazi genocide. But side by side with this was the frankly racist wish to “get rid” of what were often portrayed as “the flood of East European Jewish hordes”, – and Zionism seemed to offer a convenient way of getting these “hordes” as far away as possible, out of sight and out of mind for respectable Europeans.

Even so, it would have likely been impossible but for the fact that the land claimed by Zionists was the well-known “Holy Land”, a land whose Biblical past was widely seen as far more important than its present. For centuries, Christian pilgrims had gone there to look for the shades of the past, “to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ”. Often, they regarded present-day inhabitants of the land as an unimportant appendage, shadows fleeting through the ruins of past glory.

Such was the mind-set of Christian Zionism which preceded and heralded the Jewish one. A mind-set which made plausible for this one specific country an idea that would have seemed the strangest of lunacies anywhere else: to turn the clock back two or three thousand years and restore the land to remote descendants of those who lived in it in past millennia. And in turn, the idea became plausible to mainstream opinion makers and decision makers in key Western countries, not all of them devout Christians themselves.

For all that, the Zionist movement never gained an unconditional international endorsement for its demands and aspirations. Throughout his career, Herzl dreamed of gaining for Zionism an International Charter. By considerable effort and quite a bit of luck, later Zionists got two of them – both of crucial importance, but neither providing an unrestricted license to dispossess and displace the people which Zionism found in the land, who would become known as Palestinians.

In the 1917 Balfour Declaration, His Majesty’s Government declared that it would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” – but “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Thirty years later, the United Nations at last explicitly authorized fulfillment of the Zionist dream by the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine – but with an Arab State at its side. In effect, Zionism can be seen to have signed a contract with the international community. Fair treatment of the Palestinians and respect of (at least some of) their rights as the clear condition for the recognition of its own national aspirations.

It took very long before Zionism would be seriously accused of defaulting on its part of this deal. In 1948, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the young Israel was internationally applauded as a plucky David defeating a vicious Goliath. It is hardly remembered that at this time Zionism and the young Israel had been a progressive cause, supported worldwide by much the same kind of people who would nowadays support the Palestinians, and for much the same reason – sympathy for the underdog.

In 1949 Israel was accepted as a member of the UN without being asked to give up the territory which was not assigned to it in the partition plan, and the Palestinian refugees were regarded mainly as a humanitarian problem to be given a humanitarian solution. The Israeli position – that what the Palestinians lost in 1948 was forfeited due to their intransigence – was generally accepted on the international arena (and is in fact still so accepted). It was only after 1967 that Israel started to be seen as a Goliath rather than a David.

It is now 2010 – 113 years after the First Zionist Congress, 93 years after the Balfour Declaration, 63 years after the UN Partition Resolution, 43 years after the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It would be very difficult for even the most brilliant lawyer to seriously assert that the leaders of Zionism and of the State of Israel had kept their part of the deal made with the International Community. By every possible standard, the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities which existed in Palestine in 1917 have been grossly prejudiced, over and over again. The Jewish State in Palestine was created in 1948 and greatly overstepped the boundaries set for it by the United Nations, while the Arab State in Palestine is yet to come.

And thus, to go back to the question posed at the beginning of this article: Is Israel singled out, by international civil society if not (yet?) by international diplomacy? Yes, it is. Is it unfair and biased? To my view, it is not. It is but a quite fair demand upon Israel to pay at least part of a long-overdue debt, and keep their part of a contract which Israel’s Founding Fathers solemnly signed.

Yes, there are many countries whose conduct fully deserves condemnation – but none was given such a unique privilege as the Zionist movement was given, none had made such a binding obligation in return for being given such a privilege, and which it failed to keep.

In recent years the State of Israel has been vociferously criticized for planting settlers in the occupied territories – which it can be argued that China is also doing in Tibet; and for killing civilians in the bombings of Gaza, which it can shown that Americans and Europeans are also doing in Iraq and Afghanistan; and for lethally raiding the Gaza Aid Flotilla, for which some apologists also tried to find various precedents and parallels. Yet Israel is singled out because it, and it alone, is in obvious default of a fundamental obligation, an obligation which was the condition for Israel coming into being in the first place.

The plan which is now on offer – and had been on offer for quite a long time – gives Israel the possibility of settling this debt on quite comfortable conditions. The West Bank and Gaza Strip, which are to be given up and become the State of Palestine, are after all little more than 22% of what was Mandatory Palestine, and by giving them up Israel would be intentionally recognized as having at last discharged its debt and kept its obligation. But continued persistence in refusing to pay the debt – continuing it until the international balance of power has fundamentally changed, some years or decades from now – might put Israel at the risk of what happens to those who fail to pay their debts: going into liquidation.

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