January 2, 2011

Cut ties with Israel NOW! by Carlos Latuff

The year of truth: Haaretz

At midnight, when the French champagne is flowing like water, perhaps we will understand that next year will be the last year we can still save something, and be grateful the truth came out.

By Gideon Levy

This was (also ) a good year – the year of truth. The year that concludes tonight with a kiss was the year the Israeli masquerade party ended, the year the costumes were torn off and the truth came out. The true face was revealed. This was the year we finally came out of the closet – no more saccharine phrases and hollow talk about justice and equality, no more flowery and superficial words about peace and two states. This year the truth was heard in public, echoing loud and clear from one end of the country to the other, worrisome and depressing.

No one is talking anymore about peace; we even put the “peace process” in quotes this year, to make fun of it, as it deserves. All that’s left of peace this year is U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. And nothing remains of the prime minister’s two-state vision or the majority in the surveys: This year the Israeli government said no, even to a temporary freeze on settlement construction, and the Israelis said nothing.

After this year of truth, no one will be able to claim seriously that Israel seeks peace with the Palestinians, or with the Syrians, who spoke peace but were left unanswered. All the excuses have lost their value – Palestinian terror has halted and there is at least half a partner who is more moderate than any other. Still, we’re sticking to our positions. The truth shouts out: The Israelis don’t really want peace, they prefer real estate.

The inner workings of Israeli society have also been unmasked. The appearance of a tolerant, democratic and egalitarian society has been suddenly replaced by an authentic portrait, one that is terrifyingly nationalist and racist. Rabbis and their wives, mayors and parliamentarians all sang together in a discordant choir: no to Arabs and no to foreigners. In the years preceding this year of truth, racists still used to be excommunicated.

In this year of truth we said unabashedly that Meir Kahane was right. Almost half of Israelis oppose renting apartments to Arabs; more than half favor an oath of allegiance to the state; rabbis’ wives join their husbands in calling on the modest daughters of Israel not to go out with Arabs; a Knesset member says that those who smuggle in “infiltrators,” as migrant workers and war refugees were termed this year, should be shot in the head; and one of his colleagues blames the Russians for Israelis’ drinking habits.

Meanwhile, we proposed a law calling for foreigners who criticize Israel to be expelled if they visit here, a Jaffa school principal does not allow his students to speak Arabic, an activist against the occupation was jailed for taking part in a cycling protest, and a Bedouin-rights activist was jailed for an even longer period for the offense of having an illegal garage.

This is the plethora of reports about a day in the life of the country in the latter part of this cursed year. Such reports were thrown in our faces almost daily. The foreigner is spreading diseases and crime, and the Arab student wants to disinherit us with the price of a two-room rented apartment. We also held campaigns of intimidation and sowing fear of the different and the other that would not have shamed the most dubious regimes of the past. We had disgraceful demonstrations against refugees and Arabs, with the encouragement of part of the establishment and silence from the others, out of which one tune can be heard – a tune of arrogance and nationalism.

This was also the year of Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, no longer a wolf in sheep’s clothing but a neighborhood bully who doesn’t care about the consequences. An attempt to defuse the crisis with Turkey and then, boom! – a blow to the head. Instead of the never-ending peace speeches by President Shimon Peres, this year the foreign minister repeatedly slapped the entire world in the face for us. Not only Kahane was right; Lieberman was too. He speaks the truth, the truth of Israel.

There is nothing like sunshine for disinfecting, so this was a relatively good year. Perhaps precisely this flood of dubious nationalist feelings from the depths of the soul, which had been latent for years, will at long last stir this slumbering nation to action. Perhaps after this year, the minority that thinks differently will finally open its eyes. Maybe when the flames are closing in around us all, we will understand that this is not the society we want to live in. And maybe the world will understand who is involved.

Tonight at midnight, when the French champagne is flowing like water and the French kisses are bestowed on the mouths of our beloveds, perhaps we will begin to understand that next year will be fateful. It will be the last year we can still save something. If a miracle occurs and this does indeed happen, we will be grateful for the year that has passed, the year of truth for Israel.

Israeli forces kill female protester in Bil’in: IOA

1 JANUARY 2011
YouTube – 1 Jan 2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=FErDPdMzWjY

Over a thousand protesters responded to the Bil’in Popular Committee’s call to march on the Wall in the village today, in what they announced to be “the last day of the Wall”. Two protesters were hospitalized for their injuries.

Over a thousand people heeded to the call issued by the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements today, and joined the weekly demonstration. Despite the siege laid on the village by the Israeli army, activists – Palestinians, Israelis and internationals – swarmed the hills and valleys surrounding Bil’in by the hundreds and managed to join those already in the village.

Among those giving speeches before the demonstration were local leaders, as well as Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who voiced his support for Bil’in and the popular struggle. The march then proceeded towards the Wall, where it was barraged with tear-gas on sight.

Small organized groups of protesters then spread across the Wall to try and implement the popular committee’s announcement that he last day of the decade will indeed also be the last day of the Wall on Bil’in’s land. An overwhelming number of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers spread along the path of the Wall, but were not able to stop demonstrators equipped with bolt-cutters from breaching through the Wall in three places.

In one place, the protesters actually managed to carry a rather significant chunk of the Wall back to the village.

One protester was hit in the face with a tear-gas projectile shot directly at him, and required hospitalization. Another female protester suffered such degree of asphyxiation from the tear-gas that she had to be evacuated to the Ramallah ICU, where she is still under observation.

The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements announced:

Press Release
January 1, 2011

Israeli Forces Kill Female Protester in Bil’in

Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah who was also killed during a peaceful protest in Bil’in on April 17th, 2010.

Doctors at the Ramallah hospital fought for Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life all night at the Ramallah Hospital, but were unable to save her life. Abu Rahmah suffered from severe asphyxiation caused by tear-gas inhalation yesterday in Bil’in, and was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital unconscious. She was diagnosed as suffering from poisoning caused by the active ingredient in the tear-gas, and did not respond to treatment.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bil’in activist, Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was shot dead with a high velocity tear-gas projectile during a demonstration in the village on April 17th, 2009.

Israel investigates tear gas death of Palestinian protester
Jawaher Abu Rahmeh inhaled tear gas fired by soldiers at weekly protest in Bilin against Israel’s West Bank barrier

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Associated Press
guardian.co.uk,     Sunday 2 January 2011 12.04 GMT
Article history

Mourners carry the body of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh in a funeral procession in Bilin. Photograph: Majdi Mohammed/AP
The Israeli military has launched an investigation into the death of a Palestinian woman who was overcome by tear gas fired by soldiers at a West Bank protest.

In an unrelated incident today, a Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank after trying to attack Israeli troops at a checkpoint, Palestinian and Israeli security officials said.

Contradictory accounts were given of the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death. Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, 36, inhaled the gas at the weekly demonstration in Bilin against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier.

Tear gas is meant to be a non-lethal crowd control method and is used routinely by Israeli troops at protests. Doctors say the gas can kill on rare occasions if a victim has a pre-existing condition.

Mohammed Abu Rahmeh, a relative of the woman, said she had suffered from asthma since she was a child. Rateb Abu Rahmeh, a doctor and a spokesman for the Bilin protesters, said she had a “weak immune system”. However, her parents said she was healthy and did not have asthma.

Dr Mohammed Eideh, who treated Abu Rahmeh in Ramallah, said she died of “respiratory failure and then cardiac arrest” caused by inhalation of tear gas. He said he did not know whether she had a pre-existing condition.

Another doctor said she was initially released from hospital, later collapsed, was readmitted and then died. Eideh said she had not been released.

Michael Sfard, the Israeli lawyer representing the woman’s family, said troops used “incredible quantities of gas” at the protest, a weekly event that often deteriorates into violent clashes between protesters and soldiers.

Abu Rahmeh’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, was killed at a similar demonstration in 2009 after being hit by an Israeli tear gas canister, becoming the 17th Palestinian to die at barrier protests since 2004.

The military described Friday’s protest as a “violent and illegal riot” and released photographs it identified as being from the demonstration showing Palestinian youths using slingshots and a firebomb against troops. The military said it was investigating Abu Rahmeh’s death but had not been allowed to see the Palestinian medical reports.

Several hundred Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest over the woman’s death, Haaretz reported.

In the incident at the West Bank checkpoint today, a Palestinian worker in his 20s attacked soldiers with a glass bottle after he was denied permission to cross, Palestinian security officials said. The Israeli military said the man approached troops with a broken bottle and ignored calls to stop before he was shot.

EDITOR: New tear gas used is lethal

Yet another Israeli ‘investigation’ which will find no one has done anything wrong… in the meantime, they use this lethal gas on peaceful protests with impunity.

Israel investigates tear gas death of Palestinian protester: The Guardian

Jawaher Abu Rahmeh inhaled tear gas fired by soldiers at weekly protest in Bilin against Israel’s West Bank barrier

Mourners carry the body of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh in a funeral procession in Bilin. Photograph: Majdi Mohammed/AP
The Israeli military has launched an investigation into the death of a Palestinian woman who was overcome by tear gas fired by soldiers at a West Bank protest.

In an unrelated incident today, a Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank after trying to attack Israeli troops at a checkpoint, Palestinian and Israeli security officials said.

Contradictory accounts were given of the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death. Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, 36, inhaled the gas at the weekly demonstration in Bilin against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier.

Tear gas is meant to be a non-lethal crowd control method and is used routinely by Israeli troops at protests. Doctors say the gas can kill on rare occasions if a victim has a pre-existing condition.

Mohammed Abu Rahmeh, a relative of the woman, said she had suffered from asthma since she was a child. Rateb Abu Rahmeh, a doctor and a spokesman for the Bilin protesters, said she had a “weak immune system”. However, her parents said she was healthy and did not have asthma.

Dr Mohammed Eideh, who treated Abu Rahmeh in Ramallah, said she died of “respiratory failure and then cardiac arrest” caused by inhalation of tear gas. He said he did not know whether she had a pre-existing condition.

Another doctor said she was initially released from hospital, later collapsed, was readmitted and then died. Eideh said she had not been released.

Michael Sfard, the Israeli lawyer representing the woman’s family, said troops used “incredible quantities of gas” at the protest, a weekly event that often deteriorates into violent clashes between protesters and soldiers.

Abu Rahmeh’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, was killed at a similar demonstration in 2009 after being hit by an Israeli tear gas canister, becoming the 17th Palestinian to die at barrier protests since 2004.

The military described Friday’s protest as a “violent and illegal riot” and released photographs it identified as being from the demonstration showing Palestinian youths using slingshots and a firebomb against troops. The military said it was investigating Abu Rahmeh’s death but had not been allowed to see the Palestinian medical reports.

Several hundred Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest over the woman’s death, Haaretz reported.

In the incident at the West Bank checkpoint today, a Palestinian worker in his 20s attacked soldiers with a glass bottle after he was denied permission to cross, Palestinian security officials said. The Israeli military said the man approached troops with a broken bottle and ignored calls to stop before he was shot.

EDITOR: New Voices from Gaza

While the provenance of the manifesto below and the actual membership behind it are left somewhat of a mystery, if indeed those voices are of genuine Gazans, (rather than of some agency in Israel, for example) them it is of great inbterest. Time will tell if this manifesto is genuine.

Gazan youth issue manifesto to vent their anger with all sides in the conflict: The Obserrver

An anonymous group of students has created a document to express their frustration born of Hamas’s violent crackdowns on ‘western decadence’, the destruction wreaked by Israel’s attacks and the political games played by Fatah and the UN
Ana Carbajosa
The Observer,     Sunday 2 January 2011

A Gazan group of young people have issued a manifesto to vent their anger about the situation in Palestine. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters
The meeting takes place in a bare room in a block of flats in the centre of Gaza City. No photographs, no real names – those are the conditions.

This is the first time that a group of young Palestinian cyber-activists has agreed to meet a journalist since launching what it calls Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change. It is an incendiary document – written with courage and furious energy – that has captivated thousands of people who have come across it online, and the young university students are visibly excited, but also scared. “Not only are our lives in danger; we are also putting our families at risk,” says one of them, who calls himself Abu George.

Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change is an extraordinary, impassioned cyber-scream in which young men and women from Gaza – where more than half the 1.5 million population is under 18 – make it clear that they’ve had enough. “Fuck Hamas…” begins the text. “Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!”

It goes on to detail the daily humiliations and frustrations that constitute everyday life in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian slice of land that Israel and Egypt have virtually sealed off from the world since Hamas was elected to power in 2006.

“Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed,” reads the extraordinary document. “We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even can’t think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!”

The text ends with a triple demand: “We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?”

On Facebook, the group calls itself Gaza Youth Breaks Out. When the cyber-activists wrote the manifesto three weeks ago, they gave themselves a year to gather enough support before thinking about further steps. But their text has travelled around the world at an unexpected speed and has harvested thousands of supporters, many of them human rights activists, who say they are ready to help.

Now, the authors are dealing with the impact of a document that could be a turning point in the life of the Strip. “We did not expect this to be so big,” one of them admits. Eight people – three women and five men – wrote the text. They are normal students, from the more secular elements of Gazan society. All declare themselves to be non-political and disgusted with the tensions and rivalries that divide Palestinians between Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and Fatah, the more secular party which governs the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank. “Politics is bollocks, it is screwing our lives up,” said one member of the group. “Politicians only care about money and about their supporters. The Israelis are the only ones benefiting from the division.”

Two of the group have been detained by the Gazan authorities several times, accused among other crimes of “immoral” behaviour. They say that they have been abused in jail and claim that physical and psychological punishment is commonplace in Gaza’s detention centres.

Another one obtained a scholarship to attend a workshop at an American university, but he says Israel did not issue a permit that would allow him to leave the Strip.

“We are supposed to be the engine of change in this society, but our voices are muted. In the press, at university, there is no room in our society to talk freely, out of the frame, without putting yourself and your family at risk,” says one, who wants to be called Abu Yazan. He adds: “In Gaza, you feel watched at school, in the streets, everywhere. You can be thrown into jail at any time. [Hamas] will threaten you with ruining your family reputation and that would be it.”

These youngsters do not represent anybody except themselves, but their call for change has resonated strongly, not only abroad but also inside Gaza. Their Facebook page already has thousands of friends – including, they say, many from the Strip.

The causes of frustration are legion. The Israeli blockade forbids Gazans to travel in and out of the Strip without a permit, which is difficult to obtain. For Gazan students who wish to study abroad, the most difficult part is not being accepted at a foreign university or getting a scholarship, but simply being able to travel.

Inside the Strip, things do not get much better. Israeli shelling which follows the launching of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants is part of their everyday life. Power cuts and ruinous sanitary conditions are among the side-effects of the embargo suffered by Gaza’s inhabitants.

With high unemployment in the Strip and little access to other job markets after graduation, many feel that they have reached a dead end. Some keep studying and accumulating degrees and foreign languages, which they learn via the internet, hoping for better days to come. Others kill their time smoking hookahs with their friends day after day. There is an increasing number who rely on drugs to cope with their conflict traumas and frustrations.

Going out, meeting friends in cafés – let alone clubs or discotheques – or attending cultural events has become an increasingly complicated task as Hamas cracks down on western “decadence”.

In Gaza there are no theatres and few concerts aside from the Islamic musical performances organised by the Hamas authorities. In the places where young men and women are allowed to meet, considered an “oasis” by the less conservative youth, the police are quick to interrogate mixed couples suspected of not being married or engaged.

The “last straw” for the writers of the Gaza manifesto came a month ago, when Hamas closed Sharek, an internationally financed organisation offering training and summer activities for thousands of adolescents and young people. Sharek had also became a hang-out place for the more liberal-minded in Gaza. Human Rights Watch recently issued a statement condemning its closure. “Hamas authorities in Gaza should allow an organisation that helps children and youth to reopen, and penalise officials who have harassed its workers,” it said.

According to Ihab Al Ghusain, a spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, the problems highlighted by Gaza’s disaffected youth are sometimes the result of over-zealous officials. “There are no laws prohibiting men and women sitting together in public places in Gaza,” he said. “But some policemen at their own initiative interrogate the couples. Those policemen should be punished.”

He says that proof of the government’s commitment to Gaza’s young generation is that it has declared 2011 the Year for the Youth. But the authors of the youth manifesto are unlikely to be persuaded by such symbolic initiatives. The group is currently investing most of its time and energy in debating new strategies to pursue a web-based platform for change. The new year may yet become one for the youth of the Strip, but perhaps not in the way Hamas intended.

The Manifesto

“Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

“We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in…

“We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

“There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

“We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the Earth. During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.

“ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?

Paranoid vicious circles: Haaretz

As Netanyahu continues to explain criticism against Israel’s settlement policy as a conspiracy to delegitimatize Israel, hatred turns on a real or imagined enemy – Israeli Arabs.

By Carlo Strenger

The rise of racism and xenophobia in Israel has been a favorite topic among pundits over the last few weeks, and for good reason, because the phenomenon is worrying. The causes have been well-analyzed: the fragmentation of Israeli society, the lack of a common culture and ethos, and of course Israel’s growing international isolation.

This is the type of situation in which right-wing movements flourish: They take the confusion engendered by complex factors, and they resolve the problem by creating a conspiracy theory that explains everything.

When faced with an intractable problem, right-wing politicians single out an easily identifiable group to be the scapegoat. This is the essence of what psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion called paranoid leadership.

This has been true for all societies, and we Jews should know this well. Anti-Semitism rose steeply in the 13th century because of the bubonic plague. At the time, people didn’t understand the real reason behind the deaths: a rise in urbanization. So they developed conspiracy theories, for example that Jews had poisoned water wells.

Similarly, in the 1920s Germans felt humiliated by the Versailles treaty, and their already weak economy could not withstand the onslaught of the Great Depression. As a result, the theory that a Jewish conspiracy had brought down Germany became ever more popular.

In Israel, there are currently two main variations on the theme of conspiracy. Netanyahu’s main story line is that Israel is being delegitimized and that its very existence is called into question. He keeps repeating that the global criticism of Israel has nothing to do with the settlements, nor with the stalled peace process. Since the world doesn’t accept Israel’s existence, it doesn’t matter what Israel does: it will be isolated and under criticism.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai are focusing on Arabs as a fifth column. Each in his own way keeps arguing that Israel is under threat from the inside and from the outside. Since the outside threat cannot be addressed directly, they focus on Israel’s Arabs, arguing that they are threatening Israel’s existence.

For our purposes it is irrelevant whether Netanyahu, Lieberman and Yishai believe their own stories, and what their precise interests are in propagating them. We are interested in the effect of right-wing tactics. The mechanism of explaining everything through conspiracy has one immediate psychological effect: It channels a vague anxiety into hatred focused on a real or imagined enemy.

It creates the temporary semblance of more unity through its mythology: “Our society is in danger, there is an external enemy, and we now need to stick together and fight that enemy.”

In the long run, this type of myth exacerbates the real problems: Netanyahu’s line that the Palestinians and Iranians are the obstacles to peace convinces very few outside Israel. It also doesn’t help that Netanyahu keeps a foreign minister whom most commentators and diplomats (of course never officially ) see as an Israeli Milosevic.

The result is that the international community no longer sees Israel as a partner for peace talks, whereas it does see the Palestinians as constructive; hence the notion that Israel needs to be pressured into a peace agreement is gathering momentum.

This, in turn, is used in Netanyahu’s story line that the world is delegitimizing Israel’s existence. Internally the situation is exacerbated as well. Israel’s Arabs feel more and more alienated by the hatred propagated by seculars like Lieberman and the anti-Arab rabbis.

This closes the vicious circle of paranoia: Anxiety is translated into hatred and suspicion, which disrupts communication with the outside world and internal groups designated as enemies. This leads to further isolation, which in turn raises anxiety even further.

The right of course has no incentive to stop this vicious circle. The higher the anxiety, the more votes it will reap.

Where this will vicious circle end? At this point it is very difficult to see what forces inside Israel could change the paranoid, isolationist state of mind. Politicians are pressured into conforming to right wing demands to fall in line in the face of impending doom, and are desperately afraid to be seen as traitors if they point out that there might be more cooperative modes of action.

Historically, escalation from the right leads to implosion before sanity is regained. This was true for Italy and Germany as it was for Serbia. In these cases, the wakeup call to sanity was triggered by a lost war. In the case of South Africa the international community generated ever higher pressure, until the regime understood that it was no longer tenable.

Not long ago it seemed that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imposed from the outside would be a catastrophe. Given the alternative, it is sadly ironic that international pressure toward change is now the lesser of two evils.

Obama and Israel: The pessimistic perspective: TheHill

By Avi Shlaim
The American-Israeli special relationship is a classic example of the tail that wags the dog. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds. The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. It is worse than a sham. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its relentlessly expansionist agenda on the West Bank.

The asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians militates against a just settlement of the conflict. A just settlement means a two-state solution, the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with a capital city in East Jerusalem. Only America can push Israel into such a settlement. It has the leverage but it has not exercised it. America gives Israel money, arms, and advice. Israel takes the money, takes the arms, and ignores the advice.

Barack Obama’s election was widely expected to usher in a more even-handed policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Cairo speech of 4 June 2009, Obama expressed support for ‘the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own’. Obama is a spell-binding orator. However, to use an American phrase, he is better at talking the talk than at walking the walk. The rhetoric has changed but subservience to Israel remains the order of the day.

Obama, to be fair, did recognize at the outset that the expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is the main obstacle to progress. He therefore insisted on a complete settlement freeze. Obama had three showdowns with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this critical issue but he backed down each time. Why did the most powerful man in the world allow himself to be defeated and humiliated by his junior partner? The answer must lie, to a large extent, in the persistent power of the Israel lobby in the United States.

The direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched by Secretary Clinton in Washington on 2 September were an exercise in futility. There is an Arabic saying that something that starts crooked remains crooked. These peace talks started in a crooked way because they did not meet the most basic Palestinian requirement: a complete freeze on settlement activity. All that Netanyahu grudgingly agreed to was a partial settlement freeze for a period of ten months. The ban did not apply to the 3,000 housing units on the West Bank that had already been approved or to East Jerusalem, which Israel had illegally annexed following the June 1967 War. When the picayune ban expired on 27 September, Netanyahu refused to extend it.

To entice Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze by 60 days only, Obama offered him a long-term security agreement, a squadron of F-35 fighter jets worth $3 billion, and the use of the American veto on the UN Security Council to defeat any resolution that is not to Israel’s liking. Israel was also given the option of buying another squadron of F-35s – Buy one, get one free! The hardliners in Netanyahu’s coalition forced him to reject this amazingly generous offer. Some people are never satisfied.

The conclusion is inescapable: Netanyahu is not a genuine partner for the Palestinians on the road to peace. Land-grabbing and peace-making simply do not go together and Israel’s right-wing government has opted for the former. Netanyahu is like a man who, while negotiating the division of a pizza, continues to eat it. Obama’s position is pusillanimous and, for a superpower, indescribably feeble. Instead of leaning on the stronger party, he presses the weaker party to make more and more concessions. Under these conditions, the prospects of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are close to zero. With Obama in charge of the so-called peace process, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, only more illegal settlements, and consequently more strife, more violence, more bloodshed, and ultimately a third intifada.

The damage that Israel causes to American interests is incalculable. During the Cold War Israel was a strategic asset for America. Today it is a political, diplomatic, and strategic liability. The neoconservatives never tire of telling us that the American and the Israeli national interests are identical. Anyone who believes that would believe anything. An argument can be made that the occupation of the West Bank serves the Israeli national interest, though I would dispute that. However, the argument that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank serves the American national interest is simply preposterous. As CENTROM commander, General David Petraeus, told Congress, Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is jeopardizing U.S. standing in the entire region. And as Vice President Joe Biden reportedly told Netanyahu: ‘What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace’.

Yet Israel continues to get away literally with murder. The basic problem is that Israel is a domestic issue in the US, not a foreign policy one. The pattern is the same under both Republican and Democratic administrations. At the first hint of pressure on Israel from the White House, the lobby wheels out the heavy guns on Capitol Hill to knock it out. Congress is sometimes described as Israeli-occupied territory. With such an ineffectual president in the White House, it is likely to take longer to liberate Congress than to liberate the Palestinian territories.

Avi Shlaim is a Fellow of St Antony’s College Oxford and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso).

Rabbis’ wives: Don’t date Arabs: YNet

New letter signed by rabbis’ wives appeals to women urging them to stay away from Arabs. ‘As soon as they have in you in their grasp – everything becomes different. Attention will be replaced with curses, physical abuse and humiliation,’ letter states

After the rabbis’ letter called on Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs comes their wives’ turn: Twenty-seven prominent rabbis’ wives signed a letter distributed by the ‘Lehava’ organization calling on Jewish women not to date Arabs, work in places where Arabs are employed or volunteer for National Service with them.
Overseas Response
US rabbis speak out against rabbis’ letter / Akiva Novick
Close to 500 religious leaders from all spectrums of Judaism sign petition opposing land sale, rental discrimination
Full Story

The letter’s instigators say that its goal is to prevent assimilation and romantic relationships between Jewish women and Arab men.

The letter’s signatories include: Daughter-in-law of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, wife of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, Nitzhiya Yosef, Rabbanit Esther Lior – the wife of Rabbi Lior from Kiryat Arba, Rabbanit Shlomit Melamed – the wife of Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El, Rabbanit Esther Levanon – the wife of Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh, Rabbanit Starena Druckman – wife of Rabbi Meir Druckman of Kiryat Motzkin and others.

The letter stated that “there are quite a few Arab workers who use Hebrew names. Yusuf becomes Yossi, Samir becomes Sami and Abed becomes Ami. They seek your proximity, try to appeal to you and give you all the attention you could ask for, they actually know how be polite and act making you believe they really care…but their behavior is only temporary.

“As soon as they have in you in their grasp, in their village, under their complete control – everything becomes different. Your life will never be the same, and the attention you sought will be replaced with curses, physical abuse and humiliation.”

The letter further stated, “Your grandmothers never dreamed that one of their decedents would, by one act, remove future generations from the Jewish people. For you, for future generations, and so that you will never have to endure the terrible suffering, we appeal to you, begging, pleading, praying: Don’t date them, don’t work where they work and don’t perform National Service with them.”

‘Not Racism’
Bentzi Gopstein, a senior member of Lehava and a student of Rabbi Kahane, told Ynet: “It is important to explain that the problem is religious, not racist. If my son were to decide to marry an Arab woman who converted, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. My problem is the assimilation that the phenomenon causes.”

The Lehava organization was established a year ago and works as a parent organization for many groups operating against inter-marriage between Jews and Arabs. Its roots can be found in Rabbi Kahane’s organization ‘Yad LeAchayot’.

The organization’s members classify it as an a-political organization and say that its activities are mainly informative: “Our focus is information and prevention. We hold conventions where we show films and present lectures about the phenomenon that has been gathering momentum and is extremely problematic mainly in places like Jerusalem, Safed, Bat Yam and Beersheba.

WikiLeaks: Israel preparing for ‘large scale war’: Al Ahram Weekly

AFP, Sunday 2 Jan 2011
Israel’s army chief told a US Congress delegation in late 2009 he was preparing for a large war in the Middle East, probably against Hamas or Hezbollah
“I am preparing the Israeli army for a large scale war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite,” Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi was quoted as saying in a cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

The document, dated November 15, 2009, was quoted Sunday in Norwegian by Oslo-based daily Aftenposten, which said it had obtained WikiLeaks’ entire cache of 251,187 leaked US embassy cables.

“The rocket threat against Israel is more serious than ever. That is why Israel is putting such emphasis on rocket defence,” Ashkenazi told the US delegation led by Democrat Ike Skelton, the cable showed.

The army chief lamented that Iran has some 300 Shihab rockets that can reach Israel and stressed that the Jewish state would have only between 10 and 12 minutes warning in case of an attack. However, it was Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon that posed the most acute threat, he cautioned.

According to the quoted cable, Hezbollah is thought to have more than 40,000 rockets, many of which are believed capable of reaching deep into Israel.

US officials meanwhile reportedly estimate the militant group has acquired an arsenal of around 50,000 rockets.

A 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese, many of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers. And in his comments made nearly a year after Israel on December 27, 2008 launched the deadly Gaza war, Ashkenazi said “Israel is on a collision course also with Hamas, which rules Gaza.”

“Hamas will have the possibility to bombard Tel Aviv, with Israel’s highest population concentration,” he was quoted as saying.

The Gaza war — a response to hundreds of rockets fired into the Jewish State — killed some 1,400 mainly civilian Palestinians and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers. It ended on January 18, 2009.
Israel had been harshly criticised for putting civilians at risk during fighting in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

However, in the cable leaked Sunday Ashkenazi is quoted saying Israel next time will not accept “any restrictions on warfare in populated areas,” and insisted the army had never intentionally attacked civilian targets.

WikiLeaks quotes IDF chief: Iran could hit Israel within 12 minutes: Haaretz

Gabi Ashkenazi told U.S. officials in 2009 that Israel was preparing for war against Hamas, Hezbollah and that rocket threat against Israel is ‘more serious than ever.’

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi reportedly said in 2009 that Israel would have only between 10 and 12 minutes of warning in the event of an Iranian missile attack, AFP on Sunday quoted leaked U.S. cables as saying.

According to the cable authored by the American embassy in Tel Aviv, Lieutenant General Ashkenazi told the American delegation led by Missourian Congressman Ike Skelton that Iran possesses some 300 Shihab rockets that are capable of reaching Israel within minutes, leaving Israel with very little time to mount an effective defense.

Despite the danger that Iran poses to Israel, the cable states that Ashkenazi was more worried about the military capabilities of fighting forces closer to home, specifically Hamas, which controls Gaza, on Israel’s western border, and Hezbollah, which maintains a strong military presence in southern Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border.

According to the French news agency AFP, Ashkenazi’s statements  were published in an article in the Norwegian-language newspaper Aftenposten, which has access to all of the U.S. embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.

Ashkenazi is supposed to have also told the American delegation on November 15, 2009 that Israel was preparing for a large-scale war with Hamas or Hezbollah.

“I am preparing the Israeli army for a large scale war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite,” Ashkenazi said. “The rocket threat against Israel is more serious than ever. That is why Israel is putting such emphasis on rocket defense.”

Ashkenazi said that he believes Hezbollah to possess 40,000 rockets, while U.S. officials put the number at closer to 50,000 rockets. “Hamas will have the possibility to bombard Tel Aviv, with Israel’s highest population concentration,” Ashkenazi reportedly said.

Although approximately 1400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip in December 2008, Ashkenazi vowed that the next round of fighting in Gaza would entail an even greater cost in human life, saying that Israel would not again accept “any restrictions on warfare in populated areas.”

EDITOR: Abbas goes on playing the Israeli game…

Like so many times before, Abbas seems to be on another planet, certainly not the same planet that we, or the rest of the Palestinian people, live on.

Abbas: Israeli-Palestinian peace could be reached in two months: Haaretz

Palestinian leader urges Netanyahu to take new approach to peace process; Netanyahu: I’ll sit for direct talks until agreement achieved.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he believed Israel and the Palestinians could reach a deal within two months, if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to take a new approach in the peace process.

The Palestinian president reiterated that the time had come for decisions, rather than talks, and said that Jerusalem must be the non-negotiable capital of the Palestinian state. Abbas did add, however, that the Palestinians would not make a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Netanyahu said in response to reports of Abbas’ remarks that he was willing to sit with the Palestinian leader for direct negotiations until the two sides reach a peace agreement.

“If Abu Mazen [Abbas] agrees to my offer to meet directly on core and significant issues, we’ll know very quickly if it is possible to reach an agreement,” Netanyahu said.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said that the Palestinians are responsible for the deadlock in peace talks, saying they have been evading negotiations while Israel is striving for peace.

Moreover, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last week attacked the Palestinian Authority, calling it an “illegitimate” body, and said that the Palestinians will always find excuses not to sign a peace deal.

The current round of peace negotiations collapsed in late September, just weeks after they were launched, when Israel ended a slowdown on settlements in the West Bank. By December, the U.S. abandoned trying to persuade Israel to halt the settlements

Palestinian shot by Israelis at West Bank checkpoint: BBC

Palestinian killed in West Bank
A Palestinian man has been shot dead after trying to attack Israeli troops at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli army and Palestinian officials say.

The man, in his 20s, tried to attack troops with a bottle when he was refused permission to pass through the checkpoint, they said.

The incident happened early on Sunday.

On Friday, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling gas fired by Israeli troops at a protest in Bilin.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said the contents of the glass bottle were not known.

“The soldiers apparently felt threatened,” she added.

‘Cover-up’
The lawyer of the woman who died on Friday has accused the military of a cover-up.

“Once again the army is covering up the actions of its men, instead of apologising and conducting a serious inquiry,” Michael Sfard told Israel’s army radio after the military announced an investigation into the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh.

It is not clear how Ms Abu Rahmeh died as tear gas is not meant to be lethal.

Doctors say the gas can kill on rare occasions if a victim has a pre-existing condition.

Although some reports said Ms Abu Rahmeh had suffered from asthma since childhood, her parents are reported to have said she was healthy and did not have the respiratory condition.

Rateb Abu Rahmeh, a doctor and a spokesman for the Bilin protesters, said she had a “weak immune system”, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Dr Mohammed Eideh, who treated Ms Abu Rahmeh in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, said she died of “respiratory failure and then cardiac arrest” caused by tear gas inhalation. He said he did not know if she had a pre-existing condition.

EDITOR: The hoodwinking goes on…

Of course, every time that the ‘peace process’ is stuck, like right after Obama’s ‘attempt’, Israel needs to show that it ‘only wants peace’, so that it is left in peace to complete the colonisation of Palestine, of waht is left of it… Here isa typical; example of the great US media playing lapdog to Israeli propaganda of the crudest type`~;

Israeli PM wants nonstop talks with Palestinians: Seatlepi

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Sunday proposed nonstop, face-to-face talks with the Palestinian president until a peace agreement is reached – offering a possible way to advance talks that have stalled over the construction of Jewish settlements.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal offers the appeal of leaders working together to make history, and it comes in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ latest claim – made over the weekend in South America – that genuine talks could yield a deal within months. But the Palestinians showed little enthusiasm for Netanyahu’s offer.

Reached by The Associated Press in Brazil on Sunday, Abbas reiterated his call for a settlement freeze. “If he does so, we can reach an agreement not in six months, but in two months,” he said.

Abbas’ chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Netanyahu’s offer amounted to little more than an empty declaration. He called on the Israeli leader to spell out a vision of peace, and specifically to commit to a near-complete withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

In his comments Sunday, Netanyahu urged the Palestinians to turn their focus away from settlements and instead work with him on the broader issues needed to reach a final peace deal.

He said he was ready to sit with Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, for “continuous direct one-on-one negotiations until white smoke is wafting,” an allusion to the Vatican’s custom for announcing a new pope.

“If Abu Mazen agrees to my proposal of directly discussing all the core issues, we will know very quickly if we can reach an agreement,” he said.

Netanyahu did not spell out details, but his new approach would be based on the idea that all the outstanding issues would be on the table, as opposed to the Palestinian approach of demanding a settlement freeze and general agreement on borders before talks resume.

President Barack Obama has made Mideast peace a top priority, personally launching the latest round of negotiations at the White House in early September and pledging to forge a deal within a year. But the U.S.-brokered talks broke down just three weeks later with the expiration of a limited Israeli freeze on settlement construction.

Netanyahu grudgingly accepted the principle of a Palestinian right to statehood only two years ago, and the past months’ diplomatic difficulties have deepened the Palestinians’ distrust. Appearing to despair of restarting talks, they have embarked on a parallel track of seeking recognition by world governments for a Palestinian state even without Israeli agreement.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. They say that Israel’s construction in these areas is a sign of bad faith and refuse to renew talks until settlement building is frozen again.

Israel has refused, and U.S. officials have been unable to find a way to get talks moving again. There was no immediate comment from the Americans on Netanyahu’s latest idea, which – in ratcheting up the level and intensity of negotiation – could offer a creative way to sidestep the settlement issue.

The fate of the settlements is critical to any future deal. Some 300,000 settlers now live in the West Bank, in addition to 200,000 Israelis living in east Jerusalem.

Talks would have to also address other difficult issues: final borders between Israel and a future Palestine; the fate of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants; and perhaps most explosive, the competing claims to the holy city of Jerusalem, which Netanyahu has insisted must remain entirely Israeli. The gaps on all these issues are wide – although previous, more liberal Israeli governments did make progress on borders.

Netanyahu said his proposal was a response to Abbas’ claim over the weekend that serious talks could yield an agreement in just two months. Speaking in Brazil, Abbas suggested that Netanyahu adopt the positions of his more dovish predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

“We were close to an agreement,” Abbas said. “The Palestinian position is clear to the Israelis and the Israeli position presented by Olmert is clear to us.”

Olmert has said he offered the Palestinians virtually all of the West Bank and parts of east Jerusalem. The Palestinians did not accept the offer, and negotiations broke down in late 2008. Netanyahu, who leads a more hardline coalition government, has given no indication that he is prepared to make similar concessions.

Eitan Bentsur, a former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and onetime peace negotiator, said direct talks might give the negotiating process a fresh start, but were unlikely to bridge all the deep differences at this stage. “Very soon they will face the core issues that have to be overcome,” he said.

Yossi Beilin, a dovish former Israeli negotiator, said Netanyahu does not have a peace plan, so “such an invitation (to nonstop talks) is hollow.” Beilin told the AP that Netanyahu “is very, very far from the demands of the most pragmatic Palestinian leadership ever.”

Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, complained that during the three weeks of direct talks last September, Netanyahu made no proposals for future arrangements between Israel and Palestine. “It is time for him to present his vision of peace, two states based on the 1967 lines, with minor, mutually agreed land swaps,” Erekat said.

A broad withdrawal offer would likely cause Netanyahu’s government to collapse, though he could seek the support of more liberal parties. The main opposition party, Kadima, is also the largest in parliament, and its leaders have said they would prop up Netanyahu if he made genuine peace moves.

Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the prime minister knows that reaching peace will require “hard choices” from both sides.

“To be successful, it has to be done eye to eye, directly between the leaders of both sides,” he said. “But (Netanyahu) firmly believes this is doable. In fact, there is no other way to peace.”

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