August 19, 2010

Cyprus to Lebanon: We will turn back Gaza-bound aid ship: Haaretz

Cyprus Lebanon envoy says ship will not be allowed to dock; crew, passengers will be deported to their country of origin.
A Lebanese ship carrying aid and women activists hoping to break Israel’s Gaza blockade will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, organizers said Thursday.
The ship cannot travel directly to Gaza from Lebanon because Beirut is still technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country – in this case, Cyprus – before heading for the blockaded Palestinian territory.

Lebanese Gaza-bound aid ship 'Julia' awaiting green light to set sail. Photo by: AP

But on Thursday, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon told The Associated Press that the boat, the Mariam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus.

“We decided that such a ship will not be allowed to enter Cyprus and if such a Gaza-bound ship docks in a Cypriot port the crew and the passengers will be deported to their country of origin,” Kyriacos Kouros said.

Kouros said Cyprus has a moral and legal responsibility to those allowed into its waters, and that a blockade-busting ship could endanger lives along with regional peace and stability.

But organizer Samar al-Hajj was undeterred Thursday, and said the ship, named after the Virgin Mary, will set out with between up to 75 female activists on a mission to deliver cancer medication, books and toys.

“We are not children who can be told to stay home,” al-Hajj told the AP after a chaotic news conference outside the port in Tripoli, where security forces prevented the group from speaking to the media from the ship.

Sending blockade-busting ships has become a highly charged issue since Israeli naval commandos boarded a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships on May 31, killing nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists.

Israel says its troops opened fire after coming under attack by activists wielding clubs, axes and metal rods. The activists said they were defending their ship after it was attacked by Israeli soldiers in international waters.

The raid sparked an international outcry and forced Israel to ease its blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel, along with Egypt, imposed the embargo in June 2007 after Hamas militants took control of the area.

Israel has lifted virtually all restrictions on food, medicine and consumer goods, but still maintains its naval blockade, saying that Hamas could sneak weapons into Gaza.

Asked whether sending the Mariam is a provocation given that medicine is now allowed into Gaza, al-Hajj said the ship was symbolic with the aim of lifting the blockade entirely.

The Israeli army would not say whether it would intercept the vessel, saying only it is monitoring the situation and preparing accordingly.

Daniel Zonshine, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel has no objections to delivering humanitarian aid, but that any shipments must be coordinated through Israel.

Al-Hajj said Lebanon’s president, prime minister and parliament speaker did not respond to her requests to meet, which appeared to signal the government’s lack of support for the venture.

EDITOR: Saving Zionism at any price…

Times are hard. Gadi Taub, not exactly on the left, is trying hard to save Zionism from itself… This is no more than whistling in the dark. Zionism is going through the convulsions of its terminal crisis, and many doctors are prescribing bitter pills…

Postpone peace for later: YNet

Op-ed: To save Zionism, we can make do with unilateral withdrawal, long-term truce
Gadi Taub
Israel feels paralyzed. Many people around here understand that the status quo is an express route to Zionism’s demise. We slowly sink into the bi-national swamp, and if we fail to partition the land Israel shall end up sinking in it.

However, it appears that there is no way to partition the land. Israelis’ faith in partition in the framework of a peace deal had been greatly eroded, and that’s no wonder. The Palestinians are unwilling to forego their demand for what they refer to as “the right of return” (in practice, international law recognizes no such right) – this means there will be no deal.

However, Israelis’ faith in unilateral partition is also eroding, in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal experience. Yet this erosion is unjustified: A unilateral move does not have to look like the Gaza withdrawal. Indeed, even a Gaza-style pullout from Judea and Samaria is better than the continuation of the status quo, yet many people believe it would be impossible to evacuate about 70,000 people for anything that is short of comprehensive peace.

So how can we nonetheless partition the land without peace? If you will it, it is certainly no dream. Moreover, even if we do not have a partner for peace, we may have a partner for a unilateral move. The Palestinians are working on their own unilateral maneuver – Salam Fayyad’s pledge to declare independence unilaterally may serve as a complementary move to an Israeli withdrawal, yet even that is not a must.

Seemingly, the key here is to detach the question of partition from the issue of evacuation: There is no need to turn the evacuation into a condition for partition.

Enlist world to the cause
Firstly, Israel can finally pass an evacuation-compensation law for the West Bank. We can assume that such law would drastically minimize the scope of the settlement problem.

Secondly, Israel can declare that “Zionists of land” – as opposed to “Zionists of state” – are permitted to stay at their place of residence and forego their Israeli citizenship. They can continue to live there under Palestinian rule. After all, a large Arab minority lives in Israel, so it’s not unthinkable to have a small Jewish minority living in Palestine. If necessary, we’ll come to rescue them and bring them back home. For that, we have the Law of Return. They would be able to return and get their Israeli citizenship back whenever they want.

Thirdly, also as opposed to the Gaza model, the withdrawal itself can be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority in an orderly and gradual manner. An orderly handover of power is a clear interest for Fatah. They too saw the results of the unilateral Gaza withdrawal and the murder of their people by Hamas; they fear Hamas more than they fear us, and rightfully so.

Fourthly, as opposed to Sharon’s solo style, this time around we can undertake the move under international auspices. The United States, European Union, United Nations, and the Russians – and possibly even the Arab League – can certainly enlist for the cause of ending the occupation, and even grant economic guarantees and possibly military ones too, in the form of an international force.

Red lines that meet nowhere
An unpleasant fact of life in this conflict is that its full resolution hinges on resolving questions of justice that appear absolute to both sides, on top of deeply held convictions and aspirations on both sides.

Hence, the negotiating positions adopted by both parties are characterized by absolute “No’s” and by red lines that meet nowhere.

However, should these questions of eternal justice be separated from the practical problems, we would be able to start with partitioning the land and postpone the end of the conflict to another time.

We’ll be able to deal with questions of justice in the future, and also modify the borders if necessary; for the time being, we shall make do with a ceasefire that would be premised on common interests rather than mutual love.

Most importantly, two nation-states shall prevail, and Zionism will not keep rushing towards the abyss.

IDF soldiers arrested over alleged mistreatment of Palestinian detainees: Haaretz

5 Nahal Haredi soldiers suspected of taking their photographs alongside bound detainees, as well as two cases of drug use.
Five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were arrested by military police Thursday, following suspicions of mistreatment of Palestinians detainees, which included taking improper photographs.
The soldiers, members of the Nahal Haredi combat unit, were arrested following information received by their battalion commander, which claimed that two of the five soldiers were involved in drug use, while the rest are suspected of taking photographs of themselves alongside cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainees using their cellphones.

Four of the five IDF soldiers were remanded by military police by four days, with the fifth due to appear before a remand hearing on Friday.

The arrest came after earlier this week a storm erupted over the Facebook images of a former IDF soldier, Eden Abergil, who had taken photographs of herself alongside bound Palestinian detainees.

Photographs uploaded by Abergil and labeled “IDF – the best time of my life,” depicted her smiling next to Palestinian prisoners with their hands bound and their eyes covered.

A comment attached to one of the photos of the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men and posted by one of Abergil’s friends read “That looks really sexy for you,” with Abergil’s response reading: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”

On Thursday, a comment allegedly added by Abergil to her Facebook page saying that she would “gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them.”

“In war there are no rules,” Abergil allegedly wrote on the wall of her profile page on the social network Facebook.

Reacting to Abergil’s initial upload of the controversial images, the IDF spokesman issued its response Thursdays, saying “on the face of it the behavior exhibited by the soldier is base and crude.”

‘I would gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them’: Haaretz

In new bid to defend publishing controversial images, former IDF soldier Eden Abergil writes on Facebook ‘In war there are no rules.’
Eden Abergil, the former Israel Defense Forces soldier who has been criticized for publishing controversial images on Facebook, allegedly wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday that she would “gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them.”
“In war there are no rules,” Abergil allegedly wrote on the wall of her profile page on the social network Facebook.
Photographs uploaded by Abergil from Ashdod and labeled “IDF – the best time of my life,” depicted her smiling next to Palestinian prisoners with their hands bound and their eyes covered.

A comment attached to one of the photos of the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men and posted by one of Abergil’s friends read “That looks really sexy for you,” with Abergil’s response reading: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”
Since the photos were published by blogger Ido Keinan earlier this week, dozens of people have uploaded images on to their own Facebook pages depicting similar situations.

Abergil responded on Facebook to an image in which a women was pasted instead of the Palestinian prisoners in the original images, saying that it was not funny and that she would not let anyone ruin her “perfect life.”

“I can’t allow Arab lovers to ruin the perfect life I lead,” she allegedly wrote. “I am not sorry and I don’t regret it.”

“I am in favor of a Jewish-Zionist State,” she added. “I defend what has been rightfully mine for ages,” she wrote.

During an Army Radio interview on Tuesday, Abergil repeatedly said that it had never occurred to her that “the picture would be problematic,” asking interviewer Ilana Dayan whether the media asked for detainees permission when they film them.

Referring to the possibility that the images could injure Israel’s image in the international arena, Abergil said: “We will always be attacked. Whatever we do, we will always be attacked.”

On Monday, the IDF spokesman issued its response to the photographs, saying that “on the face of it the behavior exhibited by the soldier is base and crude.”

The head of the Public Committee Against Torture, Ishai Menuchin, also commented, saying that “these terrible photographs reflect a norm in the way Palestinians are viewed, as an object and not as humans. It is an attitude that ignores their feelings as humans and their individual rights.”

Everything should be taught: Haaretz

An academic institution does not belong to the state, but to all of mankind.
By Menachem Mautner

The Institute for Zionist Strategies sent a position paper to the heads of Israel’s universities that examines the degree to which campus activity is Zionist in orientation. Allow me to propose a response.

Your position paper is based on an underlying assumption that is unacceptable to me, one which posits that the level of support for Zionism is the standard by which to judge a university. The university does not belong to the state, nor does it belong to the Zionist movement that created the state. It belongs to mankind, and it pursues three primary goals: generating academic knowledge that is likely to provide human beings with intellectual enrichment and a better understanding of the human condition; preserving the academic knowledge of the past; and disseminating knowledge to mankind.

The university is an institution that the liberal state must fund without taking any interest in the content of the research it produces or the material it teaches, even if this content is unsavory in the eyes of the state’s leaders or even contradicts the foundations on which the state was established. The only criterion by which content should be judged in a university is the humanist one – namely, whether the content is intended to advance the welfare of mankind.

Allow me to discuss the content produced by universities – a question more difficult than another often raised in this context, that of the opinions faculty members express as citizens.

In a university, it is permissible to write, and even to teach, that in the 19th century, the Jewish people had better options than establishing a national movement that aspired to political sovereignty; that at the present moment in history, Israel needs to bring an end to the Zionist worldview that lies at the foundation of its existence; that the founding of Israel dealt a harsh blow to Arab inhabitants of the Land of Israel; that Israel needs to cease viewing itself as a Jewish and democratic state and begin characterizing itself as a state of all its citizens; that Israel needs to be a binational state; or that Israel needs to be incorporated into a Middle Eastern federation.

It is permissible to write and teach all these things, on condition that these ideas are founded upon concern for the welfare of Israel’s citizens and their spiritual enrichment; and on condition that they meet the standards of the university’s relevant research paradigms.

Content that does not meet the humanist criterion has no place in a university. Material that does not meet the standards of the relevant academic paradigms also has no place in a university, but that is because it constitutes shoddy academic work. Universities have institutions that are tasked with ensuring that academic work complies with the relevant academic paradigms and is done at an appropriate academic level.

Based on your mode of thinking, it would be possible to demand that the university teach only material that serves the immediate and practical interests of the state. Such an approach would place departments like business management, law, engineering and medicine at the center of the university. Such an approach would turn the university into a technical school.

Yet the university should give pride of place to the humanities, social science and natural science, fields where knowledge is sought for its own sake, without any considerations of how that knowledge might be put to immediate use. And once this material is produced by a university, it is no longer available solely to the citizens of Israel, but to all human beings the world over.

At the basis of your position paper lies the assumption that the State of Israel has one task: the exercise of political sovereignty and the nurturing of national culture. I disagree. The state is a tool for advancing a diverse set of human interests.

Aside from a national culture, human beings also need effective health services, quality education, housing, art and culture. Thus Israel does not only need to be a Zionist state; it must be a state that works to promote all the different types of well-being its citizens need. The production and dissemination of enriching academic knowledge is one of them.

You must cease judging the universities by the criteria of Zionism. The question of what specific content should be infused into Zionism today is an important one. I suggest that you focus on that instead.

Provoking war: Al Ahram Weekly

Israeli attacks on Gaza and the Lebanese border in recent weeks, together with increasing repression in the West Bank, may suggest a larger offensive is in the offing, writes Stephen Lendman*
Perhaps suggesting the planning of a larger-scale offensive, violent Israeli attacks have hit Gaza, the West Bank and the Israeli-Lebanese border recently, these being the first at the latter flashpoint since the summer 2006 war.

Like Operation Cast Lead in the 2008 Gaza war, it was Israeli aggression — violent, lawless and unrelenting, a scorched-earth blitzkrieg inflicting vast destruction, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage, killing over 1,000 Lebanese, injuring thousands more, and displacing around a million others (about one-fourth of the country’s four million- strong population), including over 300,000 children fleeing north for their lives — that characterised the 2006 war.

Yet, in the end, Hizbullah handed Israel a humiliating defeat. Perhaps revenge is now being planned.

On 4 August, the Ma’an News Agency reported that Israeli and Lebanese troops had clashed, killing four Lebanese citizens, including three soldiers. One Israeli soldier was also killed. Reports said the violence had erupted after Israeli soldiers had crossed the border, trying to uproot a tree to install a surveillance camera and equipment in a chain of events that left five dead. An Israeli Defence Force (IDF) spokesman said that Israeli soldiers had not entered Lebanon, but had been operating between the UN-administered Blue Line and Israel’s border fence.

This was contradicted by Lebanese accounts, which described Israeli soldiers in the area removing trees to install surveillance equipment. Israel called this “routine maintenance”. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri condemned what he called Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty, and Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri called for a complaint against Israel to be filed with the UN Security Council.

Israel may yet file its own complaint in response, its Foreign Ministry saying that, “Israel sees the firing on an IDF force which acted in coordination with UNIFEL [the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] in the border region as a blunt violation of Resolution 1701.” For his part, Al-Hariri wants the UN to demand that Israel implement Resolution 1701, which calls for the demilitarisation of the area within the Blue Line where UNIFEL troops are stationed.

However, throughout its history Israel has spurned all UN resolutions criticising its actions and policies.

On 3 August, commentator Jack Khoury headlined an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz with the words, “Nasrallah: Hizbullah will respond if Israel attacks Lebanon’s army”, writing in the piece that followed that in a speech marking four years since the end of the 2006 war, the Hizbullah leader had said that, “anywhere where the Lebanese army is assaulted, and there’s a place for the resistance and it is capable of doing so, the resistance will not stand silent, quiet or restrained.”

“Israel’s aggression against Lebanon has not stopped, and what happened today only proves that. Since the ceasefire until today, Israel has blatantly violated [the UN Security Council Resolution] more than 7,000 times, and no one has lifted a finger, not even the Security Council.”

Nasrallah praised the Lebanese army and said that Hizbullah has been on a high state of alert during the incident. “I was personally in contact with [Hizbullah] commanders in the area, and I asked them not to act before receiving a direct order. We announced that we would not initiate any activity as long as we had not received authorisation from the highest command of the Lebanese army.”

On 5 August, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy, in an article headlined “Only we’re allowed”, wrote that “after Tuesday’s border clash, Israel will continue to ignore UNIFEL and the Lebanese army… Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. The scandalous fact is that they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty.”

In Gaza, Levy wrote, a “fence is a fence”. Getting near it is enough to get killed. In the West Bank, nearly the entire apartheid wall ignores the Green Line, and Palestinians are forbidden to cross it. In Lebanon, however, things are different. There, Israel makes its own rules, ignoring “fences” and crossing the border illegally and invading Lebanese air space, at times aggressively.

“We’re allowed” to be there, Levy wrote. The Palestinians “aren’t allowed” to resist. “We’re allowed” to enter Lebanon. “They’re forbidden” to react. If they do, “Lebanon must be taught a lesson, and we will teach it. And what about us? We don’t have any lessons to learn. We’ll continue to ignore UNIFEL,” UN resolutions and the rule of law, as well as “the Lebanese army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country’s sovereignty.”

In Gaza meanwhile, six days of Israeli air strikes left several people dead and dozens wounded. In addition, IDF shellfire killed one Palestinian and wounded two or more others. The attacks are the latest in a series of provocations that have occurred without warning.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported the air strikes, one against Hamas member Eissa Al-Batran at the Al-Boreij Refugee Camp, the other against the Gaza City Airport, targeting security vehicles near the presidential compound. Neighbouring homes and buildings were damaged and local residents terrified. At the same time, tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border were attacked, though no casualties were reported.

Near the Erez crossing Israeli snipers shot three workers collecting materials from rubble stockpiles without provocation. Israel maintains a 67-km2 “no-go zone” in this agricultural area, regularly shooting Palestinians who enter, including farmers on their own land.

The PCHR called the attacks “part of a series of Israeli war crimes that reflect Israel’s disregard for the lives of Palestinians.”

On 2 August, a massive explosion rocked Gaza’s Deir Al-Balah Refugee Camp, injuring 58, including 13 children and nine women, one suffering a miscarriage as a result of the blast. It also destroyed seven houses and damaged 30 others. The Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, issued a statement on 3 August, which confirmed “that what happened resulted from a Zionist security operation intended to assassinate field leaders” from the Brigades.

Eyewitnesses said bombs placed in a house belonging to senior Hamas official Alaa Al-Danaf had exploded, contradicting initial reports that Israeli missile strikes had caused the blast in which Al-Danaf himself was unhurt. The PCHR also launched a “serious and comprehensive investigation” in order to determine what had taken place at Deir Al-Balah, with Israeli involvement being suspected as days of air strikes had preceded the blast.

On 4 August, in part of a series of daily attacks, an Israeli air strike killed one Palestinian and wounded another east of Khan Younis, reminding residents of Operation Cast Lead as they again saw the dead and wounded all about them, together with the destruction caused by the attacks, all part of Israel’s traumatisation campaign.

Before the latest attacks, Haaretz reported rockets having been fired at Israel’s southern port city of Eilat. No casualties were reported. Another rocket struck Aqaba in Jordan, killing one civilian and wounding four others. Israel blamed Hamas, but Jordanian security forces claimed that the rocket had come from the Sinai in Egypt, or southern Jordan, and not Gaza. Hamas strongly denied any involvement.

Since Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009, Hamas has maintained a unilateral ceasefire even as Israel has repeatedly violated it, with its air and ground attacks being countered by Palestinian resistance factions unaffiliated with Hamas firing one or more Grad-type rockets and hitting an area around Ashkelon in Israel. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

On 1 August, the Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, condemned the Israeli attacks, warned of the risk of a new escalation, and asked the international community to intervene “to ensure that civilians and their property are protected in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Among the regular incursions and repression carried out by Israel on the West Bank, the PCHR has reported that Israel has continued to impose restrictions on free movement throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including access to the city. Currently, 630 permanently manned and unmanned checkpoints are maintained, with 60-80 “flying” (temporary) ones being erected each week.

Moreover, the construction of the annexation wall continues, nearly all of it on confiscated Palestinian land, or around 12 per cent of the West Bank when completed. At least 65 per cent of the roads leading to 18 Palestinian communities are closed or fully controlled by Israeli forces, and around 500km of roads are restricted. One third or more of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is inaccessible to Palestinians without hard-to-get permits.

Peaceful demonstrators are regularly assaulted, arrested, and at times killed. Over the course of one week, Israeli forces conducted 25 incursions into West Bank communities and five others in Gaza.

The West Bank incursions included entry into the village of Al-Mazraa Al-Gharbiya near Ramallah, the village of Anata near Jerusalem, the village of Jayous near Qalqilya. the Al-Fawar Refugee Camp near Hebron, the villages of Allar and Baqa Al-Sharqiya near Tulkarm, the villages of Dura, Ethna, Bani Naim, Sair, Nouba and Beit Oula near Hebron, the town of Salfit, the village of Al-Shawawra near Bethlehem, the village of Al-Zawia near Salfit, the villages of Anabta and Kufor Al-Labad near Tulkarm, the city of Tulkarm, the city of Qalqilya, the suburb of Shwaika near Tulkarm, and the villages of Jalbourn and Deir Abu Daif near Jenin.

On 5 August, the Al-Frahen area near Khan Younis in central Gaza was attacked with bulldozers and tanks, which fired on farmers and other civilians. No injuries were reported.

In all of these incursions excessive force was used. Streets were patrolled, homes invaded and searched and their contents damaged or destroyed, arrests made, and civilians shot. One death was reported, together with reports of other civilians being injured. Such events happen regularly throughout the occupied territories in violation of international law, which Israel has neither recognised nor obeyed for over six decades, targeting the people it is supposed to safeguard.

For these reasons the PCHR and other human rights organisations want the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil “their legal and moral responsibility [to] ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, [and to] take effective steps” to demand compliance.

This must happen with or without the High Contracting Parties’ support as pressure builds, but it will happen neither easily nor quickly.

* The writer is a research associate of the Centre for Research on Globalisation.

We are all Zuabi: Haaretz

Efforts to expel from the Knesset the Arabs who are representing their voters, in addition to racist laws the current Knesset is promoting, are liable to turn Israel into a new model of apartheid state.
By Zuheir Andreus
During the visit by leaders of the Palestinian community to Libya a few months ago, MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) stood out in particular – the only woman in the “Arabs of 1948″ delegation invited to visit Muammar Gadhafi. When we met with Gadhafi in his tent in the town of Sert, this remarkable woman showed courage that is rare in these parts.

The leader preached to us and advised us to practice one of the tenets of Islam – marry four women and bring many children into the world to fight the Israelis. Zuabi, who is known for her struggle for the rights of Palestinian women in Israel, did not hesitate and pointed out to Gadhafi that his philosophy was not acceptable to her because it oppresses women. The tent went silent. It’s not customary to interrupt the leader, we had been told in the briefing before the meeting. Gadhafi listened and simply went on with his speech.

This story proves that Zuabi is cut from tough and unyielding cloth – an uncompromising fighter for her party’s principles both domestically and abroad.

It’s only natural the targeted assassination campaign led by members of the Knesset, which transcends party lines and opinions and is aimed at expelling Zuabi from the Knesset, would gain momentum. Zuabi, like most Arab MKs, is a nuisance to the various racists, and the delegitimization campaign against her is an inseparable part of the official efforts, with a tailwind from the obsequious Hebrew-language press, to declare Balad illegal.

The remnants of what is called “Israeli democracy” are getting lost in the name of protecting the Jewish State of Israel. It’s the Israelis’ right to think what they want, but it’s our obligation to defend our principles, even if this entails a high individual and collective price. The Palestinians in Israel will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians, the authentic owners of the land here, are an inseparable part of the Arab nation. They were here before Israel, they are not transients and they are certainly not guests in their native land.

The efforts to expel from the Knesset the Arabs who are representing their voters, in addition to the racist laws the current Knesset has promoted, are liable to turn Israel into a new model of apartheid state, like the despicable one that once reigned in South Africa.

Most of the anger toward Zuabi stems from her participation in the flotilla to the Gaza Strip. But in a properly run country they would have opened an investigation not against her but against the “anonymous individuals” who set up a Facebook group calling for her execution. Moreover, the Israelis must understand that Zuabi took part in the flotilla for breaking the blockade of Gaza because she believes that no law in the world gives an occupier the right, moral or otherwise, to put 1.5 million people in prison because of a soldier captured by the Palestinian resistance forces.

On the flotilla she represented the Palestinians in Israel, not only herself and her party. The Palestinians’ Higher Monitoring Committee, the only body that faithfully represents them, chose her to represent more than a million Palestinians in Israel. So the campaign against her is a campaign against all the Palestinians in the Jewish state – hence the danger in it.

Astonishingly, Israel’s knights of human rights are not speaking out, which is dangerous for both Israeli and Palestinian society in this country. If you support expelling Zuabi from the Knesset, we are sending you a razor-sharp message: We are all Zuabi.

The writer is editor of the Arabic newspaper Ma-Alhadat, published in Tamra in the Lower Galilee.

Mosque and myth: Al Ahram Weekly

Caught between Washington and his own people, the PA president has no meaningful room for manoeuvre, writes Khaled Amayreh from the West Bank
The prevailing disputation over the right of Muslim Americans to build a community centre and mosque a short distance from the site of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks has garnered plenty of headlines in the past few days. The controversy calls for an honest reappraisal of the precise position of Muslim Americans in the United States. The altercation has polarised US public opinion and raised tension in the Arab and Muslim world.

“It saddens me to think that people don’t understand what building this mosque on hallowed ground really represents,” pontificated Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, infamous running mate of 2008 Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain, and an iconic figure of the war-mongering neoconservatives and discredited Republican far-right.

Another icon of the bellicose right, Newt Gingrich, was quoted in Fox News as lambasting the construction of an Islamic centre “right at the edge of a place where, let’s be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.”

The irony, wrote Anthony DiMaggio, author of Permanent War and who taught Middle East politics at Illinois State University, is that the brouhaha is “a manufactured controversy”. DiMaggio dismissed the fracas a “racist uproar” and denounced the right-wing radio and television campaign in America for framing Islam as “radical, fundamentalist and a threat to national security”.

Worse, US President Barack Obama was denigrated as a “closet Muslim terrorist” for publicly lending support to the construction of the Islamic centre so close as it is to Ground Zero in New York. “Obama is a non-citizen,” his detractors contended. This latter accusation strikes at the very heart of the concept of citizenship rights and national identity.

The complexities of belonging cannot be relegated to the realm of academic treatises. The vast majority of Muslim Americans are law- abiding citizens intent on exercising their right to freely exercise the tenants of their own religion. This particular right lies at the heart of the perceiving identity — including religious identity — as a political problem in a nation that prides itself in the secular dispensation of its constitution and raison d’être.

Moreover, this particular fundamental right is in accordance with the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that has constituted the foundation of American freedom for over 200 years. Be that as it may, religion from the inception of the US has been a major marker of identity.

Gender and race have traditionally been the key prerequisites of identity politics in the US. Since 9/11 religion has become the primary focus of political identity in the US. Shifting criterion for eligibility to a notion of “American belonging” is underway.

An African-American candidate has, theoretically at least, as much a chance of winning a presidential election as an Irish American. The possibility of a Muslim American winning a landslide victory in any presidential election in the near future is slim, to say the least.

The pertinent question is why? According to Moataz Abdel-Fattah, associate professor of Middle East Studies at Central Michigan University, Obama’s comments must be viewed in context of the forthcoming congressional elections. The growing schism between conservatives and liberals in the US undermines the political stability of the country, the world’s superpower. “The impediments to the rights of Muslims in the US tend to be cultural rather than political or legal. The curtailment of the freedoms of Muslims is two-fold. First, the theological bias of the Judeo-Christian tradition prevalent in the US perpetuates the myth that Islam is an exotic religion, alien to the American people and culture and there is a widespread belief that Mohamed is not a prophet,” Abdel-Fattah told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“Moreover, Muslims tend to adopt more conservative lifestyles and rarely intermingle with non-Muslims. This insular aspect of Muslim culture in predominantly non-Muslim America, coupled with taboos on preaching Islam has traditionally worked to isolate Muslims in America and perpetrate stereotypes about Islam.”

Abdel-Fattah, however, noted that one positive side effect of 9/11 was the increased curiosity of ordinary Americans about Islam. “I personally meet hundreds of people who ask me about Islam as a religion and there has been an increase in the number of Muslim faculty members at Michigan University. Indeed, Muslim Studies departments in institutions of higher learning have replaced the Black Studies departments as the new novelty in American academia.”

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the American Muslim community was in disarray. Their reticence was only part of the problem. Into the breach stepped President Obama, the first African-American to hold America’s top job. He was also the first US president whose father was a Muslim and whose sister is a practising Muslim. His middle name is Hussein.

It is not unusual for Americans to speak frankly about their presidents’ foibles. Obama isn’t quite the secular saint of legend. Nor is he a liberal per se. Obama’s defence of building a Muslim community centre in lower Manhattan was applauded as a “brave step”.

It is astonishing to recall how little was known publicly about Islam as a world religion, or about America’s Muslims before 9/11.

Far from undermining the myth of Muslim Americans as fifth columnists, Muslims in America were dismissed as self-serving, conniving and exploitative.

This year, Eid Al-Fitr coincides with the ninth anniversary of 9/11. This brings the story up to date through the post-Bush years when the Obama administration set the tone of the new face of America. An African-American president of partially Muslim familial background led America from the front and championed the rights of the underdog, or so he was celebrated. “We understand that he wants to change the agenda. We also understand the constraints, tremendous pressures and limitations he must labour under,” noted Abdel-Fattah. “Obama’s message that America is not at war with Islam was well-received.”

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