November 1, 2010

EDITOR: Peace talks? What Peace talks?

Readers of international media may be forgiven for thinking that Israel and the conflict dropped off the map. From ‘intensive’ peace talk- about-talks, we have moved to total silence, and the great ship launched by President Obama, that nice man with really slick phrases, seem to have drowned without trace. Of course, this was always the most likely outcome, as this website has told you at the time, but the collaboration of international media with sinking the ship and keeping quiet about it is, to say the least, embarassing.

So it is interesting that it is the Labour Party in Israel that has noticed that the Good Ship Peace Talks is no longer sailing, and they seem quite unconfused about the reasons for it sinking…

Israel’s coalition government threatened by walk out: The Guardian

Labour party will walk out of Israel’s coalition government unless negotiations with the Palestinians get under way
Israel’s Labour party will walk out of the rightwing-dominated coalition government unless serious negotiations with the Palestinians get under way in the coming weeks, according to cabinet minister Avishay Braverman, an expected challenger to Ehud Barak for his party’s leadership.

“We need to move as soon as possible. The only way to guarantee the state of the Jewish people is to move boldly after the US election,” Braverman, the minister for minorities, said in an interview.

If Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu missed the opportunity, “Labor will not be in the coalition government. If there are the beginnings of serious negotiations, Labor stays; if not, Labor leaves.”

He also urged Barack Obama to apply himself to the issue of a Middle East peace settlement with renewed determination after Tuesday’smidterm elections. “The world needs a strong president of the US,” he said.

Labor’s departure from Netanyahu’s government could trigger its collapse unless the centre-right Kadima party could be persuaded to join. But Kadima has said it would not enter a coalition which included the rightwing Yisrael Beiteinu party led by foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

“Netanyahu has to make a very tough choice, but leadership is about tough choices, making tough decisions,” said Braverman. “For Netanyahu the game is now. He has to choose between sustaining political equilibrium to survive, or changing it to make history … It’s an act of bravery.”

Braverman said he had proposed, to both Netanyahu and Barak, an extension to the freeze on settlement construction for a further four to five months to give time for negotiations. The basis of talks should be the 2002 Arab peace initiative, he said – principally:

• Accepting the 1967 borders with land swaps to compensate for Israel retaining the major settlement blocs in the West Bank. Residents of settlements that would become part of Palestine would get full compensation to relocate, and “for a few thousand zealots, we’d have to apply the law”.

• Agreement on Palestinian refugees with the “total consent” of Israel and Palestine. “There would be some union of families but it won’t alter the equilibrium.”

• Jerusalem: “it can be solved”, he said without offering details.

A deal on this basis would result in “normalisation with the Arab countries and an end to the conflict”. The aim was a state of the Jewish people, with equality for all its people, and ensuring a Jewish majority for “hundreds of years”.

Netanyahu, he said, “intellectually understands everything” but must stop appeasing Lieberman, who was harming Israel’s reputation in the world and damaging the state. “I don’t know a country in the world where the foreign minister speaks against [government policy]. He should not be in the government.”

Braverman declined to confirm that he would challenge Barak for the leadership of the Labor party next year, although his name has been widely touted. But he criticised his party, which has haemorrhaged support in recent years, saying it was in the “worst position ever” and needed strong leadership and fundamental change.

“My belief is that the Labor party should not any more be the party of marginal changes … I believe in creating a party of major changes or it will become irrelevant. It can be transformed.” It must be a party of the centre, he said.

Fellow minister Isaac Herzog has already declared he intends to challenge Barak for the Labour leadership, and there are likely to be other candidates. Braverman reiterated his opposition to Netanyahu’s proposal that new citizens of Israel should swear a “loyalty oath” to Israel as a Jewish state, describing it as “stupid suggestion.” It was meaningless, he said. “Why raise this issue? To antagonise Arabs, to appease Lieberman.”

Netanyahu has yet to prove his commitment to peace: Haaretz Editorial

Two months after Washington, the PM is still using excuses to justify political inactivity, all the while playing the blame game with the Palestinians.
Today marks two months since the Washington Summit, during which the resumption of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians was announced. Expectations for the success of the process were low, but the pathetic result has surprised even the pessimists. The refusal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze has led the Palestinians to manifest their threat to pull out of the talks. Netanyahu also rejected the U.S. president’s proposal to extend the freeze for an additional 60 days in return for American security and diplomatic guarantees to Israel.

Netanyahu has reverted to the well-known behavior of using excuses to justify political inactivity, all the while playing the blame game with the Palestinians. His refusal to extend the freeze he justified as “preserving his credibility” and blamed it on coalition pressures. He claimed that “building in Judea and Samaria will not affect the peace map,” as if the settlements were not meant to establish facts which will foil the division of the land. His public proposal of a temporary freeze in exchange for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State appears to be a populist maneuver, and as expected, was rejected.

Netanyahu is in no rush. He is waiting for the mid-term elections in the United States tomorrow, and then to the passing of the budget in Israel. Meanwhile, he will continue wasting time with empty calls to the Palestinians to return to the negotiations, without putting forth any political initiative or showing willingness for compromise, while continuing construction beyond the Green Line. His decision to reject Barack Obama’s proposal suggests that he is preparing for a confrontation with the U.S. administration in which he will try to rally to his side the President’s rivals in Congress. His stance has already led to significant disagreement with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is among the most important supporters of Israel in the international community.

At the Washington Summit, Netanyahu declared that he came to make peace and not to quarrel, because “in the blame game you win but you also lose”. He is now obliged to prove himself. Instead of looking for successful excuses Netanyahu needs to freeze settlement construction and enter serious discussions on the core issues, with the borders topping the list, in an effort to reach a settlement. Otherwise, even if he wins the blame game, Israel will be the one who will lose.

Change of course: The Guardian, Letters

Friday 29 October 2010

Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 27 October) is a good man fallen among Zionists. He believes in a Jewish state. He also believes in a Palestinian state. The two beliefs are irreconcilable. His perspective on the conflict is 20 years out of date. Israel now stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. In one area of that state, the Palestinians, the indigenous people, are treated as unwelcome immigrants and a demographic threat, and hedged in by discriminatory practices; in the other, they are locked into ghettos by walls, checkpoints, settlements and roads they are barred from using. In that context, the so-called peace process is nothing but a cover for entrenching the status quo. In any case, the mandate – and the credibility – of President Abbas ran out long ago. Freedland’s tangled arguments show only that, when it comes to resolving the conflict, Zionist thinking has nothing to contribute. Obama is not the only one who needs “to change course”.

Leon Rosselson

Wembley, Middlesex

EDITOR: Even better reason to boycott Israeli academia…

Those academics collaborating with Israel by going there to give presentations and deliver papers, are risking more than just their human-rights reputation, it seems…

American professor invited to Israel ‘humiliated’ by El Al security personnel: Haaretz

Heather Bradshaw, a neuroscience professor invited to a conference at Hebrew University, says she was asked to remove clothing, board the aircraft with no luggage.

An American professor who was invited to a conference in Israel claims she was humiliated by Israeli security personnel at London’s Luton airport on Thursday.

Professor Heather Bradshaw, who researches neuroscience at Indiana University, was at Cambridge University when she was invited to Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a conference.

“Our guest arrived at Luton airport on Thursday in order to fly to Israel using [Israeli airline] El Al, and she was shocked to discover that straight away, the security personnel treated her as a terror suspect,” said Haifa University professor Arik Rimmerman who submitted a complaint to El Al in her name.

“She presented numerous documents indicating the purpose of her visit and her passport – which shows she has already been to Israel several times,” said Rimmerman. “The security personnel treated her and the documents she presented with utter disrespect.”

Bradshaw told Haaretz that no one told her what she was suspected of and she wasn’t explained anything. She said that security took her to a separate room and confiscated all of her belongings. She told Haaretz that she sat and waited as every few minutes a different security official came in to question her about the items in her suitcase – which were mostly books.

After the questioning, she underwent a physical examination in which she was asked to remove her bra. The exam lasted nearly an hour, and at the end of it, she was reprimanded for holding up the flight.

Bradshaw was not allowed to bring any carry-on luggage on to the flight and was only permitted her passport and three credit cards.

When she arrived in Israel, she expected someone from the airline to wait for her and update her regarding her luggage and belongings that were left behind, but no one knew anything, Bradshaw told Haaretz. She said she felt helpless and was holding back tears.

Moreover, Bradshaw’s Israeli colleagues said that the flight attendant that was tending to her reproached her for coming to Israel without anything and without the proper permit for her luggage.

Bradshaw said it was the fourth time she had traveled to Israel and that this was the first time she was treated this way by security personnel. She told Haaretz that she had no idea why they decided to treat her differently this time.

El Al airline responded to the case by saying that “the airline acts according to the instructions of the defense authorities.”

Israel bans Palestinian PM from East Jerusalem event: Haaretz

Public Security Minister Aharonovitch issues warrant forbidding the participation of Palestinian PM Fayyad in ceremony marking PA-sponsored school renovations.
Israel is banning Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad from attending a Palestinian Authority-sponsored event in East Jerusalem, Haaretz learned on Monday.
Last week, Haaretz reported that the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to prevent the planned visit with the organization’s website saying it was “committed to protecting human rights in Israel, ensuring sound government, and preserving the national integrity of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Fayyad was scheduled to make an appearance on Tuesday at two East Jerusalem schools to mark the PA-sponsored renovation of 15 educational institutions in the city. The reception and ceremony was to take place in the Dahyat al-Salam neighborhood.

On Monday, however, Jerusalem policemen arrived at the Dahyat al-Salam reception hall, handing over a warrant signed by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, according to which PA-sponsored events were forbidden on Israeli soil.

In the warrant, the Yisrael Beiteinu minister stated that “under the powers vested in me by section 3 of the law, I order the prevention of such an event from taking place in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel…as well as order anyone related to the event to prevent it from taking place.”

Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that the Jerusalem policemen told the owner of the Dahyat al-Salam hall that his place of business would be closed for a year if he went ahead with the event.

In response to Aharonovitch’s warrant, Fayyad’s office assured the event would indeed take place, only outside of the said Dahyat al-Salam hall.

According to the published schedule, the Palestinian PM is to arrive at Dahyat al-Salam at 10:00 A.M, later continuing to a another school at the Dahyat al-Barid neighborhood, situated just north of Neve Yaakov.

While both schools are located north of the West Bank separation fence, on he “Palestinian side,” they are considered part of the Jerusalem municipality, with the PA-sponsored renovations being the second such effort in recent weeks.

Recently, the PA had also sponsored the renovation of East Jerusalem roads after residents claimed repeated appeals to the Jerusalem municipality were left unanswered.

The left-leaning NGO Ir Amim said in response to the warrant that “the Palestinain Authority would not have invested in the renovation of schools and roads if it wasn’t for the neglect by the State of Israel.”

“It is regrettable that the Israeli government insists to continue its hostile attitude toward the Palestinian Authority, even at the price of collapsing East Jerusalem into poverty and neglect,” Ir Amim said.

“No chance for two states”: Interview with Knesset member Haneen Zoabi: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah,  31 October 2010

There is now “no chance” for a two-state solution in Palestine. So said Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in an interview with The Electronic Intifada (EI) on 29 October in Chicago (video).

“The reality goes more toward the one state solution,” Zoabi said, “whether a democratic one-state solution, or a binational one-state solution.”

Elected in 2009, Zoabi represents the National Democratic Alliance, and is the first woman to be elected on the list of an Arab party in Israel.

“We are struggling for a normal state,” Zoabi explained, “which is a state for all of its citizens, [in] which the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews can have full equality. I recognize religious, cultural and national group rights for the Israelis, but inside a democratic and neutral state.”

Zoabi spoke to EI just before she addressed 120 students, faculty and community members in an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Chicago. During her lecture, and in the interview with EI, Zoabi described the systematic legal, social and cultural discrimination Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens face. Zoabi said she strongly opposes Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state” as this would legitimize and deepen these forms of discrimination.

Zoabi was among dozens of Palestinian citizens injured by Israeli police just two days before her interview with EI. On 27 October, Israeli extremists affiliated with the outlawed Kach movement, founded by the late Meir Kahane, marched through Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian city within Israel. Kahane believed that all Palestinians should be expelled from Israel and the occupied territories. Zoabi described how police attacked Palestinian demonstrators and protected the Israeli extremists.

She arrived in Chicago on Thursday evening, 28 October, directly from Israel with bandages on the back of her neck and lower back, where she had been struck by projectiles fired at close range. She said Israeli police used a kind of weapon which she had not seen before, which caused an intense burning sensation, and showed EI the welts beneath the bandage on her neck.

In May, Zoabi participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was aboard the Mavi Marmara when the ship was attacked by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine activists were killed and dozens injured in the Israeli attack.

Zoabi strongly criticized Israel’s official inquiry into the incident. Although a member of Israel’s parliament and an eyewitness, Zoabi has not been asked to testify before the inquiry — called the Turkel Committee — but has attended its sessions with other witnesses. She told EI of the open bias and political statements of the committee members, stating “They do not look for the facts. They are just looking for a way to justify the Israeli attack.”

Asked about the prospects for the current US-brokered “peace process,” Zoabi said Israeli society and parliament “doesn’t feel the need for peace. They don’t perceive occupation as a problem. They don’t perceive the siege as a problem. They don’t perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don’t pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza].”

While Palestinians suffer intensely, Israel, Zoabi said, viewed its relationship with the Palestinians primarily as a “security problem,” which it has largely resolved through the siege of Gaza, the separation wall in the West Bank, and by “security coordination” with the Palestinian Authority.

Zoabi spoke about the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation and other human rights abuses against Palestinians, and to respect international law.

While she said the effect of BDS within Israel was still marginal, “this kind of campaign has the power raise the debate inside the Israeli society and inside the Knesset.” Israel, she said, “is so sensitive to international criticism and a situation of isolation.”

Even if BDS did not yet have much impact on Israel’s economy, it “can send a political message to the Israelis that we cannot just continue with the occupation, and continue with the siege and with oppressing the Palestinian people without the Israeli society paying a price.”

During her visit to the United States, Zoabi addressed the US Palestinian Community Network’s second Popular Conference for Arabs and Palestinians in the US and is scheduled to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area before returning home.

The head of the Forum for the Land of Israel, Noci Eyal, applauded the move to block Fayyad’s participation, saying the organization was happy “that our appeal regarding this issue was accepted by the minister.”

“Now it must be checked how the PA was allowed to renovate schools in the capital, and whether it is taking other illegal steps,” Eyal said, adding that the PA “mustn’t be allowed to intervene in the renovation of roads and public structures – it is against the law and an injury to Israel’s sovereignty.”

“No chance for two states”: Interview with Knesset member Haneen Zoabi: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah,  31 October 2010
There is now “no chance” for a two-state solution in Palestine. So said Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in an interview with The Electronic Intifada (EI) on 29 October in Chicago (video on link above).

“The reality goes more toward the one state solution,” Zoabi said, “whether a democratic one-state solution, or a binational one-state solution.”

Elected in 2009, Zoabi represents the National Democratic Alliance, and is the first woman to be elected on the list of an Arab party in Israel.

“We are struggling for a normal state,” Zoabi explained, “which is a state for all of its citizens, [in] which the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews can have full equality. I recognize religious, cultural and national group rights for the Israelis, but inside a democratic and neutral state.”

Zoabi spoke to EI just before she addressed 120 students, faculty and community members in an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Chicago. During her lecture, and in the interview with EI, Zoabi described the systematic legal, social and cultural discrimination Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens face. Zoabi said she strongly opposes Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state” as this would legitimize and deepen these forms of discrimination.

Zoabi was among dozens of Palestinian citizens injured by Israeli police just two days before her interview with EI. On 27 October, Israeli extremists affiliated with the outlawed Kach movement, founded by the late Meir Kahane, marched through Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian city within Israel. Kahane believed that all Palestinians should be expelled from Israel and the occupied territories. Zoabi described how police attacked Palestinian demonstrators and protected the Israeli extremists.

She arrived in Chicago on Thursday evening, 28 October, directly from Israel with bandages on the back of her neck and lower back, where she had been struck by projectiles fired at close range. She said Israeli police used a kind of weapon which she had not seen before, which caused an intense burning sensation, and showed EI the welts beneath the bandage on her neck.

In May, Zoabi participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was aboard the Mavi Marmara when the ship was attacked by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine activists were killed and dozens injured in the Israeli attack.

Zoabi strongly criticized Israel’s official inquiry into the incident. Although a member of Israel’s parliament and an eyewitness, Zoabi has not been asked to testify before the inquiry — called the Turkel Committee — but has attended its sessions with other witnesses. She told EI of the open bias and political statements of the committee members, stating “They do not look for the facts. They are just looking for a way to justify the Israeli attack.”

Asked about the prospects for the current US-brokered “peace process,” Zoabi said Israeli society and parliament “doesn’t feel the need for peace. They don’t perceive occupation as a problem. They don’t perceive the siege as a problem. They don’t perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don’t pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza].”

While Palestinians suffer intensely, Israel, Zoabi said, viewed its relationship with the Palestinians primarily as a “security problem,” which it has largely resolved through the siege of Gaza, the separation wall in the West Bank, and by “security coordination” with the Palestinian Authority.

Zoabi spoke about the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation and other human rights abuses against Palestinians, and to respect international law.

While she said the effect of BDS within Israel was still marginal, “this kind of campaign has the power raise the debate inside the Israeli society and inside the Knesset.” Israel, she said, “is so sensitive to international criticism and a situation of isolation.”

Even if BDS did not yet have much impact on Israel’s economy, it “can send a political message to the Israelis that we cannot just continue with the occupation, and continue with the siege and with oppressing the Palestinian people without the Israeli society paying a price.”

During her visit to the United States, Zoabi addressed the US Palestinian Community Network’s second Popular Conference for Arabs and Palestinians in the US and is scheduled to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area before returning home.

Does Israel want peace or to play the blame game?: Haaretz

Is the government of Israel engaged in the negotiation process to reach peace, or is Israel engaged in this process to advance a public relations campaign and buy time to continue its colonial enterprise on our occupied territory?

By Nabil Sha’ath

Let us be clear: Palestinians long ago recognized Israel and its right to exist in peace and security. Twenty-two years ago, to be precise. The peace process that began 17 years ago has repeatedly reaffirmed Palestinian recognition of Israel and its right to exist over 78 percent of our historic homeland.

The internationally recognized obstacle to peace is the ongoing Israeli occupation. The problem is Israel’s imposition of a “solution” that violates every single aspect of sovereignty while blaming us for not consenting to live in humiliation and subjugation.

Netanyahu’s strategy is clear: He refuses to engage in serious negotiations with us on borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, while he simultaneously peddles his own positions in public. During three months of proximity talks and our most recent direct meetings, we presented our positions for every permanent status issue, but we never received a single Israeli proposal. Now, all of what was negotiated over 22 years is being ignored as we hear Israel’s new preconditions loud and clear through the world’s media.

Netanyahu’s most recent proposal is a clear example of his strategy: a two-month partial settlement “moratorium” in exchange for an official Palestinian declaration that Israel is a Jewish state. In other words, he demands for the Palestinian leadership to undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In two months, one might reasonably wager that he will ask us to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel in return for another dubious moratorium. Perhaps two months after that he will ask us to recognize the biblical rights of the Jewish people to “Judea and Samaria,” as he prefers to refer to occupied Palestinian territory. Within six months, Israel might have everything it so greedily covets and the two-state solution will be history.

Instead of preparing the Israeli public for peace based on a two-state solution, Netanyahu has been preparing the world for a new blame game. Instead of preparing Israeli society to have an open and shared Jerusalem as the capital of two states, he insists that only Israel will have sovereignty over the whole city. Instead of discussing security arrangements for the Jordan Valley, including the presence of international forces, he insists on continued Israeli military presence. Instead of fully freezing Israel’s illegal colonial settlement building on our land, he continues to support his “Zionist brothers and sisters” living in “Judea and Samaria.”

Instead of respecting the negotiation process by fulfilling previous Israeli obligations, he attempts to shift the world’s focus away from Israel’s blatant transgressions of international law by insisting that the Palestinian leadership must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is an illogical and unreasonable Israeli precondition that was never mentioned by Israel before 2004, including at Wye River where Netanyahu led the Israeli delegation, and that has never been demanded by Israel from any other state, including other Arab states with which it concluded peace agreements.

Palestinian demands are clear: a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel separated by the 1967 border, with Jerusalem as an open and shared capital of two states and freedom of access to all its holy sites. We also demand that Israel acknowledges its responsibility for the creation and perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue, and work with us toward finding a just resolution to this issue. In exchange, we offer full recognition of the State of Israel by 57 Arab and Muslim countries, an offer made eight years ago through the Arab Peace Initiative.

If Israel’s leadership is not content with Palestinian recognition of Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine and diplomatic relations with 57 of its neighbors, then we must ask ourselves: Is the government of Israel engaged in the negotiation process to reach peace, or is Israel engaged in this process to advance a public relations campaign and buy time to continue its colonial enterprise on our occupied territory?

The writer, a former Palestinian foreign minister, is chief of international relations for Fatah and a member of the Palestinian negotiating team.

Settlers Flood Palestinian Village With Sewage: Palestine Monitor

24 October 2010
Beit Ummar is just one of hundreds of villages in Palestine under constant harassment from Israeli settlers. They have suffered the loss of their land, limited access to their own water supply, rocks smashing their windows, midnight arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and daily Israeli military aggression. The most recent insult: settlers’ feaces covering the vineyards of Beit Ummar.
Twelve vital acres of farmland lie underneath thousands of litres of raw sewage leaked from the nearby illegal settlement of Gush Etzion. The settlement stores its sewage in a reservoir, where it is filtered to extract non-potable “grey” water for agricultural purposes. The leftover, concentrated toxic sludge was released on October 18, downhill directly onto Palestinian farmland. The stench is overpowering, the grape harvests ruined, and the residents of Beit Ummar are tired.

“Even if the Israelis never dump sewage again,” said Beit Ummar Public Committee volunteer Raied Aboyyash, “the land would need to be cleaned with a chemical solvent and the top meter of polluted dirt removed, and then new dirt brought in.”

Grape vines dangle in sewage water, the plants and fowled soil (Photo Brynn Utela)

This is the fourth time this year the settlement has pumped sewage from their storage reservoir into Beit Ummar, destroying crops and effectively depriving the farmers of thousands of shekels in lost harvest. Following settler threats after the weekly Saturday demonstration against the annexation wall in the village, last Monday sewage again surged onto the farmland. The previous week eight peaceful protesters were arrested, held down and pepper-sprayed.

One of the arrested, a twenty-four-year old student named Eiad Alalame, was sentenced to six months in jail and fined 4,000 shekels, charged with demonstrating illegally. Earlier this month, Israeli Defense Forces raided eleven Beit Ummar Public Committee volunteers’ houses at 2 am, breaking furniture and threatening arrests if the peaceful protests continue. Israeli occupation forces continues to terrorize local volunteers and activists: early yesterday morning on October 23, two additional pre-dawn raids forced family members of Beit Ummar villagers into the streets.

The villagers of Beit Ummar rented a bulldozer on the afternoon of October 18 and dug a large reservoir to contain the sewage water and prevent the waste from spreading and causing further damage. The next morning, the settlers of Gush Etzion descended into the Palestinian farmland, and forced the rented bulldozer into the middle of the toxic pond. Villagers then rented a crane to extract the bulldozer from the sludge, and climbed into the toxic muck in order to salvage their costly equipment.

The villagers rented a bulldozer to create a containment reservoir for the toxic sludge, trying to prevent further damage (Photo Palestine Solidarity Project)

The sludge contains bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can cause serious illness and death. Microbes from raw sewage can enter the body through the nose, mouth, or open cuts. Even more daunting for Beit Ummar’s future is the likelihood of groundwater contamination – the area is already plagued by drought and suffering from Israeli control of precious water resources.

The farmers are left to clean the farmland themselves, with the assistance of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and volunteers. They must also buy new plants. The Palestinian farmers are not provided any reparations or financial assistance by the government for their lost crops, nor are they compensated for the loss of land stolen by the Israelis settlements or blocked behind the wall. Instead, the villagers of Beit Ummar must depend on the help of civil society organisations. The Palestinian Agricultural Committee will help the farmers by providing new plants, but this is pointless without necessary soil replacement and protection from the settlers.

The Israeli military told the Public Committee members of Beit Ummar that they would stop “making problems” for the village if the weekly demonstrations against the construction of the wall were to cease. However, the villagers feel that the continued construction of the wall, which will take away an additional 1,550 acres of land from the village, is a problem in itself. The people of Beit Ummar will continue to protest, facing arrest, fines, and harassment, trudging across their soiled fields.

Debunking pro-Israeli arguments against boycott: The Electronic Intifada

Sami Hermez,  27 October 2010

While the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against apartheid Israel continues to grow, its opponents continue to resort to the same old canards in trying to defend Israel. In a Jerusalem Post article published on 17 October 2010, columnist Hannah Brown gives us a good example of some of the Israeli talking points (“British director Mike Leigh cancels Israel visit”. In her concluding paragraph she writes:

“[The] irony is that Israel is virtually the only country in the world that is being boycotted by the filmmaking community. Iranian filmmakers are lauded the world over and no one accuses them of having any complicity with a government that shoots pro-democracy protesters. Nor do directors who disagree with the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan see a need to skip the New York Film Festival, for example.”

With regards to Iran, the author is misinformed because there already is a boycott of Iran that has been in place by some countries for decades, and has been further upgraded this year. Iran, Brown can be reassured, is already boycotted by much of the world community.

However, for the sake of argument, even had there not been a boycott on Iran there would still be a need to address any grievances we may have with that country through different means. This is primarily because Iran is not being singled out by the world superpower for multi-billion dollar aid packages and other special treatment, nor do its artistic and filmmaking institutions benefit from such treatment and joint international programs.

Still, if an international filmmaker, such as Mike Leigh, feels deep down that his conscience cannot allow him to teach at Iranian institutions that are supporting Iran’s government then he could choose not to teach there. However, I doubt that he will find a unified Iranian position at the popular level advocating for a cultural boycott as a strategy to rid them of Ahmadinejad, as one finds among Palestinians in support of BDS against Israel. This argument is a diversionary tactic by the pro-Israeli boycott opponents to silence criticism of Israel, and we might want to ignore it until we hear of Iranians (not Israelis) calling for a cultural boycott of Iran.

As for the issue of equating the US with Israel, there is much truth, except that the author uses this as a rhetorical ploy because she never intends on boycotting the US or supporting such an act. The author seems to be saying that if there was a boycott of the US then a boycott of Israel would, only then, somehow be ethical. Is Brown then admitting that Israel is in violation of the human rights of Palestinians and is to be boycotted, except that we cannot do so until that time in which we also boycott the US? If people of the world waited for a boycott of the US, South Africa might still be an apartheid state! The crucial point is that Brown’s argument gives credence to a boycott of Israel; it is simply that boycott activists have not gone far enough.

Joined to this is the argument which boycott activists used to hear, and which is now almost forgotten, that Israel is too powerful to boycott, or if you want to boycott Israel then you have to boycott almost all products, for example Intel microchips made in Israel and common in computers all over the world. Those same people now argue that boycott activists should target the US. Rather than focus on more manageable targets and be more pragmatic, as the BDS movement has done, these critics make a pathetic attempt to sidetrack the debate by asking activists to boycott the world’s superpower.

There have been noble attempts by civil society groups, in and outside the US, to boycott the US. However, such boycotts have never truly been consolidated nor have their positions been coherently articulated. More important, the power of the US, the nature of its political system and internal social fabric, and its control of the world through numerous military bases that, on a map, look like a science fiction alien takeover of Earth, demands other strategic and pragmatic considerations. To think of strategies for ending Israeli apartheid and occupation in the same way as US occupation and imperialism is to have a naive understanding of the dynamics of power in both contexts.

Nevertheless, because of the special relationship between Israel and the US, one can think of the boycott of Israel as a way to boycott a US satellite in the Middle East. By changing the nature of the regime in Israel, ending the occupation and recognizing and promoting the Palestinian right of return, this could begin to reverse US policy elsewhere in the world by exposing the failed policies of the US government. In other words, the special US-Israeli relationship means that the boycott of Israel has the potential to significantly impact US policy elsewhere and shift the balance of power in the region.

It is time for people opposing the boycott to find newer talking points. Better yet, they might do well to simply let go of their morally bankrupt politics. The BDS movement has been, from the beginning, founded on principles of international human rights, freedom and equality. Trying to distract from the main issues of Israeli oppression and occupation by drawing flawed comparisons with other places in the world will hardly convince anyone who has a sense of moral responsibility to the world around them. As in South Africa, Israeli apartheid will end.

Sami Hermez is a PhD candidate of Anthropology at Princeton University. He can be reached at shermez A T Princeton D O T edu.

Israeli soldier jailed over Palestinian prisoner photo: BBC

An Israeli soldier has been jailed after photos emerged of him pointing his gun at a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner, say reports.

A military court found “Corporal S” guilty of abuse and behaviour unbecoming of a soldier and sentenced him on Sunday to five months.

Over the last few months, a number of photographs of Israeli soldiers posing with detainees have emerged.

Corporal S is the first to be jailed for such an offence.

The photos were found on his mobile phone after he was arrested on suspicion of taking drugs, Israeli media reports said on Monday.

Other pictures found on his phone showed two other soldiers in similar poses, who are also now on trial, they said.

In August, photos a former Israeli soldier posted on the social networking site Facebook which showed her posing next to blindfolded Palestinian prisoners sparked an outcry.

And last month, a YouTube video showing a soldier belly-dancing next to a blindfolded female detainee wearing a headscarf also caused outrage.

Palestinian and human rights groups say the images are humiliating and indicative of the attitude of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinian prisoners.

The Israeli military has said such incidents are isolated cases that do not represent the the army as a whole.

PA official: Arab states to attempt UN-forced settlement freeze: Haaretz

Speaking to Ma’an news, chief Palestinian negotiator blasts Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlements, says Mideast peace talks are just one way to solve the conflict.

Egypt is leading a joint Arab initiative geared at forcing Israel to cease its settlement construction by appealing the United Nations, a top Palestinian official told the Ma’an news agency on Monday.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on new West Bank settlement housing that expired on September 26, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying he won’t resume the talks without an extension on the building curbs.

Last week, Abbas hinted that the Palestinians would try to persuade the United States to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, if Israel kept up its refusal to freeze settlements.

“For now, we are focusing on the first option [negotiations],” Abbas said.

Speaking with Ma’an on Monday, the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the aim of the joint Arab initiative proposed by Egypt would be to force an extended settlement freeze on Israel, alluding to the need to find alternatives in the face of deadlocked negotiations.

“When we talk about alternatives, this doesn’t mean failing [in the] talks; we want them to succeed,” Erekat told Maan, adding that “negotiation is a tool that is used to solve problems, not a goal in itself. If Israel made the talks fail, then we will go to the other options.”

According to Ma’an report, the chief Palestinian negotiator said that the PA was also considering asking the United Nations Security Council to bilaterally recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Speaking of the possibility of sustaining the PA, amid fears the Palestinain government could collapse in the face of a terminal peace talks deadlock, Erekat said that “if Netanyahu chooses to keep the situation as it is, then what is the use of that?”

On Sunday, the London based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reported that Egypt had been contacting international and regional authorities in order to examine options regarding an international peace summit.

Egyptian sources told the newspaper that Egypt finds it hard to accept the continued settlement freeze and Israel’s refusal to cooperate and take positive steps on the settlement issue.

“The impasse in the peace process must end in order to sustain the Palestinians’ international rights,” said an Egyptian source.

“An international summit would redefine the fundamentals and the borders of a Palestinian state that would be erected on the territories occupied in June of 1967, with Israeli settlements or without.”

The Egyptian source also told Al-Hayat that “there is no escaping the need to find a suitable alternative that would keep the peace process alive, especially in light of the Israeli government’s extreme rightist views.”

“We will not stand with our hands tied while the Israeli government refuses to cooperate with the Palestinians. We have other options we must examine.”

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