September 4, 2011

EDITOR: The hysteria is building up in order to derail the social protest in Israel

A week of great developments: The UN report on the attack on the Mavi Marmara – a whitewash id ever there was one – the Turkish government demoting Israeli links to an insignificant level altogether, the ‘Million March’ of the protest movement has produced 450,000 demonstrators against the excesses of Netanyahu’s regime – all in all, not a boring weekend…

In the meantime, Netanyahu and his henchmen try to ratchet up the hysteria for the 20th of September, when the Generall assembly is due to vote on the recognition of Palestine. In preparation, the IDF is arming the settlers to the teeth and training them all like never before. To what extent are these people civilians? To what extent can they be resisted without arms? September can be a dramatic turning point – I believe that the settlers and many Israeli politicians are preparing Nakba 2.0 – a mass expulsion of Palestinians from areas they wish empty – the Jerusalem area is an obvious candidate  for this – and using the regional uncertainties and divisions in the Arab world, they plan to use Palestinian mass demonstrations as an excuse for deportations.

Can I prove it? Is a proof necessary, really? To assume the worst is the safest mechanism of survival where Israel is concerned. It is floating in the air, in the Israeli public sphere of hysteria, racism and xenophobia which rules Israel now. It also is the result of a realisation that they need to do something about borders with Palestine, and ‘facts on the ground’ was always their popular choice, from ‘dunam after dunam’ to the apartheid wall. September is unsettling them exactly because of the assumptions about borders which lurk behind it.

Now, you could argue that this is one reason for the Palestinians not to use arms, so as not to give the IDF and the settlers ‘an excuse’. I do not find this argument persuasive – the IDF and the settlers will choose their excuse by themselves, and will not depend on Palestinian actions, obviously. They are most likely to produce the excuse themselves, anyway.

To deny this reality seems to me to abandon Palestine to another Nakba. I feel that only by the careful and well judged use of resistance tactics, can a second Nakba be avoided. Palestinians cannot and should not be left to the mercy of the IDF and the settlers, as the international ‘community’ will do exactly nothing at the the point which will be decisive. We unfortunately cannot rely on them for saving Palestine from another disaster.

While Israel was never more successful financially, it has built itself into a disastrous corner – on the September vote, it will find itself with few friends, indeed. Losing Turkey as an ally is also a heavy blow, and now it has its own citizens against this bizarre governemnt as well – no a success story. Of course, this is the most dangerous time, when they feel threatened they may well go for desparate moves; all this makes the next month intoa very dangerous time in the Middle East.

On top of all this, the news that that famous war-monger, Tony Blair, is planning meetings with leaders in the region, is probably a sign of the times, and of how desperate they have become… Sounds like Netanyahu is using his last card to stop the UN debate!

Report: Turkey seeking strategic alliance with Egypt: Haaretz

Erdogan to visit Egypt on September 12 to discuss strengthening military and diplomatic ties; move comes as Israel-Turkey diplomatic crisis deepens.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan is set to visit Egypt next week in order to discuss a strategic cooperation agreement between the two countries, the Egyptian daily Al-Shorouq reported on Sunday.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet with the Egyptian prime minister and the head of the Egyptian military council on September 12 to discuss increased diplomatic and military cooperation, and overall improvement of ties between Turkey and Egypt.
The two are due to sign a strategic cooperation agreement concerning military, diplomatic, and economic issues.

The moves comes as the crisis in Israel-Turkey relations deepened after the UN-commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid was leaked to the New York Times, foiling a last-ditch effort to patch up relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, following the expulsion of the Israeli envoy from Turkey, Egyptians called on their government to follow in Turkey’s footsteps, Al Jazeera reported on Sunday, and expel the Israeli envoy in Cairo, as well as alter the Camp David Accords to allow more Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

On Friday morning, Turkey announced a series of measures against Israel, beginning with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the downgrading of bilateral relations to the level of second secretary.

Another step announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu could lead to a military confrontation with Israel. “Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying Friday. The paper reported that Turkey’s navy would escort civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and would guarantee free navigation in the zone between Israel and Cyprus.

Over the weekend senior Turkish officials claimed that Israeli government figures engineered the leak as part of what they termed an Israeli disinformation campaign being waged in connection to the UN report. The Turkish sources believe that Israeli cabinet members who oppose issuing an apology to Turkey, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, or even officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau, leaked the report to the Times in order to prevent any additional postponement of its publication.

IsraMachina Animation: YouTube

A delightful animation film by Michael Roznov, from Sapir College in Israel

Tony Blair to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders in peace push: Guardian

Tony Blair to seek path back to peace talks in effort to avert collision over Palestinian bid to win UN recognition of statehood

Tony Blair has been the Middle East quartet’s special envoy for four years. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Tony Blair is expected to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders this week in an attempt to find a path back to peace negotiations and avert a potential diplomatic collision over a Palestinian bid to win UN recognition of their statehood.

The former British prime minister has reportedly been entrusted with the task of finding a formula to restart talks that would be acceptable to the members of the Middle East quartet – the US, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – as well as to both sides in the conflict.

Blair met Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, last week and has further meetings scheduled for this week.

The US is accelerating efforts to forestall the Palestinians’ bid to win recognition of their state, according to a report in the New York Times. Barack Obama is anxious to avoid a situation where the US has to veto such an attempt, thus risking the anger of the Arab world. The US has made it clear it will wield its veto if the issue comes to a vote at the security council.

Blair is said to be pushing for a consensus around the key issues of borders and acknowledging Israel as a “Jewish state”. However, Israeli officials are unhappy with Obama’s speech in May in which he spoke of a Palestinian state “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps”, saying this should not be the starting point of talks.

The Palestinians reject formally acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state as it disregards the 20% of the population that is Palestinian and undermines the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

Both sides have little confidence in the other’s expressed willingness to return to negotiations. There are also difference of opinion within the quartet that may prove difficult to bridge.

Blair has a long track record of negotiating between the Israelis and Palestinians built up over four years as the quartet’s special envoy. According to Daniel Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Israel, the US administration needed a high-profile political figure to push the parties towards negotiations.

“There is a bit of outsourcing going on to someone like Tony Blair just to see if he can make something work,” he told Reuters. “If he can, the administration will glom on to it and if he can’t the administration has not soiled its nest.”

World will likely support Turkey’s moves against Israel: Haaretz

Supporting legal actions against Israel by families of the raid victims in Turkish and international courts, and appealing to International Court of Justice against the blockade of Gaza could have far-reaching effects.
By Zvi Bar’el
The expulsion of Israel’s ambassador from Ankara and downgrading of diplomatic ties to the level of second secretary could turn out to be the lightest of the sanctions Turkey intends to impose on Israel. Supporting legal actions against Israel by families of the victims of the 2010 naval commando raid of the Mavi Marmara, in both Turkish and international courts, and appealing to the International Court of Justice against the blockade of the Gaza Strip could prove to be much more powerful. The former could affect the foreign travel plans of Israeli officers and decision makers, while the latter would move the Gaza issue from the local arena, where Israel maintains a relative advantage, to the international stage, which has not as yet interfered in Israeli policy vis-a-vis Gaza.

Turkey is judged likely to gain international support for its actions against Israel, in light of its climb in status in the global community in recent weeks. Contributing to Ankara’s rising star are its harsh criticism of the Assad regime in Syria, despite heavy pressure from Iran; its cooperation with Libya’s provisional government, and its support of the revolution in Egypt. Turkey’s consent to the deployment of early warning radar, part of a NATO missile-defense system whose undeclared purpose is to protect Europe from Iranian missiles, is particularly important in this regard. The decision signals Turkish commitment to its alliance with NATO in general and to the United States in particular, deflecting the “accusation” that Ankara is turning away from the West and toward the East – that is, toward Tehran. It is Israel that may have to pay a price for Turkey’s growing ties with the West and Ankara’s decision to refuse Russia’s entreaties to reject the radar deployment on its territory.

But Turkey’s demand that Israel apologize, compensate the victims and lift the Gaza blockade is rooted primarily in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s obligation to his electorate. It has become a common, uniting, national denominator, an integral part of Turkey’s national prestige and its domestic policy.

The concept of national prestige has also trapped Israel, which on at least two occasions rejected a skillfully crafted apology to Turkey due to the objections of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Turkey is not an enemy state. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu emphasized that Ankara’s actions are a result of the policies of the Netanyahu government and are not intended to hurt the Israeli or Jewish people. He called on the Israeli government to amend its mistakes, which he said were not constructive to the remarkable friendship between Turkey and the Jewish people.

Davutoglu’s remarks in effect are a declaration that Turkey sees the sanctions as a means of changing Israeli policy rather than as a policy or strategy in themselves. They place all the options for action in Israeli hands and emphasize Turkey’s desire to maintain relations with Israel despite the enormous disagreement between the states.

Egyptians yesterday celebrated the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey. In a headline, Al-Masry Al-Youm termed the action a “lesson that Turkey taught Egypt” – an allusion to what Cairo should have done in the wake of last month’s attack near Eilat. To keep relations with Egypt from deteriorating further, Jerusalem must put aside its “national prestige” and apologize for killing five Egyptian soldiers while responding to the terror attack near the Egyptian border.

Israeli protests: 430,000 take to streetsto demand social justice: Guardian

Up to 300,000 take part in Tel Aviv, 50,000 in Jerusalem and 40,000 in Haifa in Israel’s biggest ever demonstration
Harriet Sherwood in Tel Aviv

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday night in Israel’s biggest ever demonstration to demand social justice, a lower cost of living and a clear government response to the concerns of an increasingly squeezed middle class.

About 430,000 people took part in marches and rallies across the country, according to police. The biggest march was in Tel Aviv, where up to 300,000 took part. There was an unprecedented 50,000-strong protest in Jerusalem, and 40,000 marched in Haifa. There were smaller protests in dozens of other towns and cities.

It had been billed as the “march of the million” but organisers said a turnout matching the 300,000-strong demonstrations four weeks ago would be a triumph. Israel’s population is 7.7 million.

Saturday’s demonstrations followed 50 days of protests that have rattled political leaders and led commentators and analysts to ask whether a new social movement would transform Israeli domestic politics for the next generation.

The movement, which has the support of about 90% of the population according to opinion polls, began when a small group of activists erected tents in Tel Aviv’s prosperous Rothschild Boulevard in protest at high rents and house prices.

Tent cities mushroomed across the country and protesters rallied behind the slogan: “The people demand social justice.” Among the issues raised were the cost of housing, transport, childcare, food and fuel; the low salaries paid to many professionals, including doctors and teachers; tax reform; and welfare payments. The government established a committee led by the economics professor Manuel Trajtenberg to examine the protesters’ demands, which is due to report later this month.

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv on Saturday night blew whistles and banged drums as they marched in a carnival atmosphere to a large square for a rally. Residents hung banners from balconies and cheered as they passed.

“We are the new Israelis,” the student leader Itzik Shmuli told the rally. “And the new Israelis want only one simple thing: to live with dignity in this country.”

He added: “Tonight we make history again. The people are supporting a protest started by the young people and, a week after the protest was proclaimed over, we are on the verge of breaking another record. From now on the government knows that at any given moment Israelis can return to the streets and must therefore deliver the goods.”

Daphni Leef, one of the organisers of the original tent protest, said: “This summer is the great summer of the new Israeli hope born of despair, alienation and impossible gaps … The Israeli society has reached its red line, and has gotten up and said: ‘No more.’ This is the miracle of the summer of 2011.”

Under a homemade banner saying “Walk like an Egyptian”, Ruti Hertz, 34, a journalist, said that until this summer people had been privately ashamed of their inability to make ends meet. “Each person was lonely in their situation, thinking it’s my own problem.” That had changed with the protests.

She said that she and her teacher husband, Roi, were living on the same income as when they met 10 years ago. “We don’t ask for much, just to be able to finish the month without taking from our parents.”

Roi’s monthly take-home pay of 5,500 shekels (£940) went on nursery fees for their two young daughters, she said.

Vered Cohen Nitsan, a primary school teacher from Netanya, said she had joined the march “to protest, to support the people of my country and [because] I wish my children will have an easier life in the future”.

She added: “For years, you think you just have to work harder and struggle. And now people start to talk to one another and you see it’s not your personal problem.”

At a rally in Haifa, Shahin Nasser, an Israeli-Arab, said: “Today we are changing the rules of the game. No more coexistence based on hummus and fava beans. What is happening here is true coexistence, when Arabs and Jews march together shoulder to shoulder calling for social justice and peace. We’ve had it.”

The protests have been criticised by some on the left for not paying more attention to the discrimination suffered by Israeli-Arabs, who make up 20% of Israel’s population, or Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Weekly demonstrations, whose turnout had been steadily building, were suspended for two weeks after an attack by militants near the Egyptian-Israeli border in which eight Israelis were killed. Some commentators suggested that the movement had lost its momentum.

Protest organisers said the tent cities would be dismantled but the movement would continue with other actions. Many tent-dwellers had already left as the Israeli summer holidays ended.


Turkey is not the enemy: Haaretz Editorial

Israel should express regret, as it should have done before the report was issued, pay compensation and restore relations. That is a small price to pay for such a strategic asset as relations with Turkey.

The UN report on last year’s flotilla to Gaza is a masterpiece of good intentions. The investigative committee made an enormous effort to distribute blame in a balanced way. They expertly explained how it happened that nine Turkish civilians were tragically killed in the Israel Defense Forces’ operation, and placed responsibility on both Turkey and Israel.

But the pages of the Palmer Report also scream of stupidity, arrogance, and diplomatic and military failures. While the report states that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does not contravene international law, it avoids a determination as to whether such a blockade is the most efficient and moral means of fighting. The IDF action was defined as “excessive and unreasonable” use of force, and that the loss of life was “unacceptable.” As for Turkey, the report said it had not done enough to prevent the flotilla from setting out, and the flotilla activists had acted “recklessly.” The report recommended that Israel pay compensation to the families of the dead and issue an appropriate statement of regret. The flotilla affair – not the report – have brought relations between Turkey and Israel to such a nadir that they now see each other as hostile countries. The glorious past and deep kinship between the two peoples has crumbled to dust, and they now both intend to strike each other with the report. Each has begun to express its objections to the report, and to point out slivers of justification that will work in its favor. But these will not be able to defrost the glacial state of relations, which froze even deeper with Turkey’s decision to expel Israel’s ambassador, downgrade diplomatic relations to the level of second secretary and suspend military contracts. Israel, the number of whose allies in the world and the region is dwindling, must not refuse to accept responsibility, replacing an essential ally with worthless prestige.

Turkey’s sharp, albeit hasty response, still leaves room for Israeli diplomatic reason. Israel should express regret, as it should have done before the report was issued, pay compensation and restore relations. That is a small price to pay for such a strategic asset as relations with Turkey.

A State of Palestine would backfire on its own people: Guardian

I agree with Netanyahu. There’s nothing to be gained from the United Nations recognising this segmented fantasy state
Mehdi Hasan
Palestinians carry a wounded protester after Israeli troops opened fire during a march in the Gaza Strip in May this year. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/Getty Images
Rejoice! On 20 September, the United Nations will welcome a new member: the “State of Palestine”. Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials believe they have secured the support of enough countries to pass a resolution in the UN general assembly recognising a Palestinian state. There is, however, little to celebrate. For the first time in my life, I find myself in agreement with Binyamin Netanyahu. The loathsome Israeli prime minister is opposed to the Palestinian bid for statehood – and so, reluctantly, am I. But for very different reasons to “Bibi”.

The Palestinians are walking into a trap of their own making. With the so-called “peace process” going nowhere, and with the number of Israeli settlements on the rise, the UN vote is an act of desperation, not strength, on the part of the Palestinian leadership. The risks are high; the benefits few and far between.

Proponents of statehood hide behind a series of spurious arguments. Some argue that statehood will give Palestinians a greater voice. Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president whose electoral mandate expired more than two years ago, has said that “when the recognition of our state on the 1967 borders happens, we will become a state under occupation, and then we would be able to go to the UN [with demands]”.

Yet Abbas also happens to be chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The PLO, in its capacity as “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, has had observer status at the UN since 1974 and been allowed to participate in security council debates since 1976. So Abbas can already raise whatever issue he likes at the UN. Why has he not, for instance, gone back to the international court of justice, which has previously declared Israeli settlements to be “illegal and an obstacle to peace”, for further rulings? Why has he not pushed for a security council debate on the Goldstone report, which accused the Israelis of committing war crimes in Gaza?

Such initiatives would do more to advance the decades-long Palestinian struggle for freedom than a change in nameplates at the UN building in New York. That Abbas has failed to use the powers he possesses speaks volumes about his own weakness; it does not strengthen the case for a make-believe Palestinian state.

Then there are those who believe statehood would offer the Palestinians a legal shield against Israeli aggression. PA official Nabil Shaath has said that if a Palestinian state were to gain UN recognition, the Israelis would then “be in daily violation of the rights of a fellow member state and diplomatic and legal consequences could follow, all of which would be painful for Israel”. Who is he kidding? Consider the experiences of Lebanon and Syria. The former had its southern strip occupied by Israel for 22 years, from 1978 to 2000; the latter lost the Golan Heights to the Jewish state in 1967. Did “statehood” protect Lebanon from Israeli assault? Has membership of the UN general assembly helped Syria regain the Golan Heights?

There is also a lazy assumption that if the Israelis are opposed to Palestinian statehood, then it must be the correct course of action. However, some of the shrewdest members of Israel’s foreign policy elite take a different line to Netanyahu. Gidi Grinstein, a member of Ehud Barak’s negotiating team at Camp David in 2000, has bluntly spelled out the strategic benefits of Palestinian statehood… for the Jewish state. “A declaration of a Palestinian state in September includes the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough as well as significant advantages for Israel,” he wrote in Haaretz in May. “The establishment of such a state will help anchor the principle of two states for two peoples, shape the permanent situation with Israel controlling the security assets and the new state’s surroundings, and diminish the refugee problem by marginalising UNRWA [the United Nations relief and works agency] and limiting refugee status.”

This issue of refugees is crucial. In recent years, much ink has been spilled on the divide between Palestinians in the Fatah-led West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. But the real divide is between Palestinians living in the occupied territories and Palestinian refugees living abroad. The majority of the world’s nine million or so Palestinians live outside the West Bank and Gaza, with three out of four members on the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, representing the diaspora.

Yet a hard-hitting, seven-page legal opinion on the consequences of Palestinian statehood, published recently by Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of international law at Oxford University, concluded that “the interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation” and the refugees in the diaspora risk losing “their entitlement to equal representation” and “their ability to vocalise their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of return”.

Why? According to Goodwin-Gill, the PLO’s UN status would be transferred to the new state of Palestine after the vote on 20 September: a state confined to mere segments of the West Bank and perhaps Gaza; a state which most Palestinian refugees would have little or no connection to; a state which, lest we forget, does not actually exist. To have a PA-led fantasy state representing only West Bank and Gaza residents replace the PLO – representing all Palestinians – as Israel’s chief interlocutor would be a disaster.

Numerous Palestinian representatives and civil-society groups have expressed their concerns. Karma Nabulsi, the Oxford academic and former PLO official, says that by “losing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative at the UN, our people immediately lose our claim as refugees to be part of our official representation”. The Palestinian American journalist and blogger Ali Abunimah has dismissed the UN bid as a “charade”.

It is difficult to disagree with him. Will “statehood”, after all, stop the relentless colonisation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlers? Will membership of the UN general assembly stop the targeted assassinations of Palestinians? Will it result in the closure of a single checkpoint or the release of a single detainee?

The truth is that, whether or not Abbas succeeds in his bid for statehood, the life of the ordinary Palestinian on the ground in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem or, indeed, Gaza City, will change not a jot. The residents of the occupied territories will continue to be killed and maimed. The members of the Palestinian diaspora, meanwhile, could find themselves voiceless; a people disenfranchised and delegitimised.

How US “charities” break tax laws to fund Israeli settlements: The Electronic Intifada

Mike Coogan,  3 September 2011

In spite of US government statements about its displeasure with the expansion of Israeli settlements, US based organizations are abusing the 501(C)3 section of US tax codes to provide billions in subsidies to do exactly that.

In addition to providing $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel, Americans are subsidizing the construction of Israel’s illegal settlements. (Anne Paq / ActiveStills )

There are hundreds of these tax-exempt, so-called charities funneling money to illegal Israeli settlements, often with the names no more creative than “American Friends of name an Israeli settlement.”

One such organization, American Friends of Ariel Inc., paints a picture of how these US based front groups collect tax-deductible donations, and use them to build and expand illegal Israeli settlements, and in some cases, purchase weapons for the settlers within them. In many cases, including that of American Friends of Ariel Inc., the organization does not make substantial efforts to disguise the fact that the US based tax exempt entity is nothing more than a shell organization being used to transfer money abroad.

For example, the president of American Friends of Ariel, Ron Nachman, also happens to be the longtime mayor of Ariel. The sole programmatic function of American Friends of Ariel is to transfer funds to a non-exempt organization based in Ariel called the Ariel Development Fund, also controlled by Nachman, which describes itself simply as the “fundraising arm of the city of Ariel.” Under Ron Nachman’s leadership, American Friends of Ariel transferred more than $5 million to the Ariel Development Fund over the last several years.

It is worth noting that much of the funding for American Friends of Ariel has come from Christian Zionist groups, and in general, these groups have played an increasingly dominant role in the financial and political support for the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.

Devastating impact
The work of American Friends of Ariel Inc., and the many tax-exempt organizations like it, is having a devastating impact on local Palestinian communities. A recent report by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, covered by the Ma’an News Agency, described the “alarming trends of forced displacement of Palestinians in Area C” as a result of settlement expansion, and found that “more demolitions have taken place so far in 2011 than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined” (“UN: Marked increase in forced displacement of Palestinians,” 21 July 2011).

In addition to the gross human rights violations inherent in illegal Israeli settlement expansion, US taxpayers simply cannot afford to build homes and walls in illegal Israeli settlements while record numbers of Americans are losing their homes, and unmet domestic needs in the US are at an all time high.

American Friends of Ariel, and the vast number of organizations like it, not only violate Palestinian human rights, they violate US laws. American Friends of Ariel Inc. flouts US laws in two ways.

The first has to do with the structure of the organization, and the fact that most of these tax exempt 501(c)3 organizations are simply shells that transfer money to non-exempt organizations abroad, and the second deals with the exempt purposes set forth by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department.

The rule concerning the use of tax exempt entities as conduit organizations is clear, and states that “the code would be nullified if contributions inevitably committed to a foreign organization were held to be deductible solely because, in the course of transmittal to a foreign organization, they came to rest momentarily in a qualifying domestic organization” (Section 170(c)(2)(A)). That is exactly the case with American Friends of Ariel Inc., and hundreds of organizations like it, a fact which is abundantly clear upon review of their publicly available 990 tax forms.

Exacerbating poverty and neighborhood tensions
The second major legal violation occurs because these organizations fundamentally violate the purpose for which charities can be organized, namely to provide “relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”

Illegal Israeli settlements, mostly built on expropriated land and operated with stolen resources, exacerbate poverty and systematically create an underprivileged class of people. Race-based colonies inherently increase neighborhood tensions, and they effectively annex occupied Palestinian land through a system of apartheid infrastructure that has been detrimental to Palestinian communities across the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The raison d’etre of illegal Israeli settlements is rooted in institutionalized discrimination, and therefore technically violates IRS regulations on a daily basis in the same way that Bob Jones University violated those same regulations barring discrimination (Bob Jones University v United States).

In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that the IRS had the authority to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because they openly discriminated against interracially married individuals. The court ruled that such behavior was “wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption,” and clarified by stating that “whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy.” Fundamental human rights like equality are not confined by jurisdiction, and organizations operating abroad are similarly bound to respect and uphold them.

The numerous and flagrant violations of the tax-exempt purposes set forth by the IRS and Treasury department should be reason enough to revoke the tax-exempt status of these organizations. It is hard to imagine the US playing any constructive role as an “honest broker” when in addition to providing $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel, Americans are also being forced to subsidize the construction and expansion of the same illegal settlements that our government is politely telling Israel are very unhelpful.

Because of the US government’s unwillingness to equally enforce the law, or use the proverbial stick instead of just carrots, money that would otherwise be going into our national treasury to pay down the debt or build affordable housing in the US, is instead being used to construct and defend Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank.

Mike Coogan is a member of Virginians for Middle East Peace.

Analysis: Why UN statehood for Palestine is pointless: Express Tribune

By Gloria Caleb
September 3, 2011
Out on the streets of Beirut and particularly in and around the crowded Palestinian refugee camps in the last week of July, one frequently saw Palestinians chanting slogans and waving their national flag. No matter what the occasion, these gatherings always reiterate Palestinian people’s right to return to their homeland from which they were expelled six decades ago on the creation of Israel.
With the same goal in mind, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) will present its case of recognition as a state of a broken up rump Palestine  – bits and pieces of Palestine that remain on the West Bank – to the United Nations next month.
But for many, returning home still seems like a far-fetched ideal.
At the Viva Palestina Arabia conference at the American University of Beirut, there was little enthusiasm among the Palestinians for the idea of a UN membership for rump Palestine.
Far from helping it, the PA’s bid for UN recognition has worsened its political crisis. Palestinians point out that it is meaningless for towns, villages and refugee camps surrounded by Israeli walls to be presented as a sovereign state.
Dr Ghada Karmi, a leading Palestinian activist and writer, has for decades been an ardent supporter of a civil revolt as opposed to armed resistance. She, however, was severely critical of the insistence of PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group on talks with Israel. “They (Fatah) have closed all doors,” said Karmi, 74, while referring to the president’s position that negotiations are the only means to a solution. “Once your enemy knows that carrying out [futile] talks is all you are capable of, he won’t care. You can talk for as long as you like and they (the Israelis) will build settlement upon settlement,” she added.
Among the most prominent sceptics of the idea of a premature state is Leila Khaled, a leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Khaled, 67, who herself is a refugee from Palestine, is an icon for Palestinians since her hijacking of a TWA airliner in 1969. “People who support negotiations, must identify whom the Palestinians must negotiate with,” she said at the Viva Palestina event. For her the United States’ repeated use of its veto power in favour of Israel is the main reason for the stalled progress on the road to a solution of the Middle East dispute.
The US insistence on a mediatory role between the two parties is inconsistent with its policies in the Middle East which are hostile to Arabs. Armed intervention in the name of democracy in Iraq and support to the Western-backed Libyan rebels makes Palestinians understandably wary of the prospect of Americans being interlocutors in negotiations with Israel.
Palestinians generally view the move for UN-sanctioned statehood as a desperate move by the PA president as a safeguard against a popular uprising similar to the Arab Spring.
(Read: Youm-Al-Quds: Protesters demand America, UN to stop playing double game in Palestine)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.

Language becomes a political weapon in Israel: Al Jazeera English

A plan to downgrade Arabic’s status as an official language underscores broader tensions within Israel.
Mya Guarnieri
Arabic is the mother tongue of 20 per cent of Israel’s citizens [Reuters]

Speaking to the US congress in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu boasted that his country is a beacon of freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, that it is the only place where Arabs “enjoy real democratic rights”.

It’s true that Palestinian citizens of Israel have some democratic rights, like the vote. But, as Netanyahu told congress: the “path of liberty is not paved by elections alone.” And the summer months have seen an acceleration of worrisome anti-democratic trends.

First, the Knesset passed the anti-boycott law, a move that was widely condemned as a strike against free speech and democracy. Even some of Israel’s staunchest supporters expressed concern.

Now lawmakers have introduced a bill that proposes to change the definition of Israel as “Jewish and democratic” to “the national home of the Jewish people”.

If passed, the legislation would become part of Israel’s Basic Laws, which are used as a working constitution.

Whenever a conflict between democracy and Jewish values arises, the new definition of Israel would allow courts and legislators to favour the latter. According to Haaretz, the proposed bill will also make halacha, Jewish religious law, “a source of inspiration to the legislature and the courts”. And, in the spirit of favouring the Jewish character of the state over a state for all its citizens, the legislation would also downgrade Arabic from an official language to one with “special status”.

Arabic is the mother tongue of 20 per cent of Israel’s citizens. It has been an official language of the land since 1924, when the British mandate set three: English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Linguistic marginalisation
When the state of Israel was established in 1948, English was struck from the books. While Arabic remained an official language, it has always gotten second class treatment- as have the citizens who speak it.

Many government forms – including those for Social Security and National Insurance – come in Hebrew only. Arabic-speakers are under-represented in the public sector. So if a Palestinian citizen has weak Hebrew, he or she may be deprived of services or benefits they are legally entitled to and desperately need.

The results are sometimes devastating.

In Lod, for example, 25 per cent of the population is Arab. But out of the city’s 50 social workers, only two speak Arabic and both are part time employees. After a rash of domestic violence left three Arab women from Lod dead, NGOs questioned the state’s commitment to protecting Palestinian citizens.

Could the deaths have been prevented by better access to resources?
Samah Salaime-Egbariya, the director of Arab Women in the Centre, points out the murder rate is lower in places where Arabic-speakers can get help. Speaking to Haaretz, she remarked, “In Jaffa, for example, there are more than a few problems, including violence and drugs – but why is it that no women have been murdered in Jaffa in the last 10 years? Because there’s cooperation there, and resources have been allocated by both the city and the Social Affairs Ministry.”

Those who speak Israel’s second official language sometimes face problems in the court system, as well. Thanks to a legal battle waged by Adalah, The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Arabic-speakers are entitled to a free translator. However, they do not receive this service automatically and must request it ahead of time. And, some Arabic-speakers remain unaware that they can get this help – I recently sat in on a court hearing during which a Palestinian man struggled to articulate himself in Hebrew.

Discrimination is written into the manual of a major coffee chain, Aroma Tel Aviv, which instructs employees to “speak Hebrew only” when customers are around. On numerous occasions, Palestinian citizens of Israel have found themselves fired from jobs for speaking their mother tongue.

Such incidents reflect Jewish Israelis’ deep discomfort with hearing Arabic. This phenomenon is so widespread and well-known that it was depicted in the Israeli version of The Office. After a Jewish employee worries that Abed, an Arab co-worker, is consorting “with the enemy,” the manager institutes a Hebrew-only policy. In a comic but poignant scene, Abed conducts business negotiations in Hebrew with another Arabic-speaker.

Double standards
Prohibitions against Arabic are sometimes found in Israeli schools. In Yafo, a principal has forbidden Palestinian citizens from speaking their mother tongue. Students of Russian origin, however, are free to converse in their first language.

Sawsan Zaher, an attorney with Adalah, points out that even Arabic-speakers in the Arabic school system face language-related problems.

Earlier this year, the Arab Cultural Association reported that the textbooks used by Palestinian citizens of Israel have over 16,000 grammar and spelling errors. Mistakes appeared in math, history, geography books and those used to teach the Arabic language itself.

This leaves Arab students doubly disadvantaged-they learn a damaged version of their mother tongue and, because most Jewish Israelis don’t speak Arabic, they are forced to speak in a second language, Hebrew.

“International law obliges the state to respect the minority’s language,” Zaher says, adding that Israel’s 1953 public education law also requires the state to acknowledge the language and culture and religion of minorities.

The error-ridden textbooks, then, represent a violation of both international and Israeli law, according to Zaher. “You cannot acknowledge and respect a defective language,” she says.

Because Israel has long neglected Arabic and its speakers, Zaher doesn’t feel that downgrading the language’s status will result in practical changes.

What is alarming is that the legislation is proposed as a Basic Law and Basic Laws will eventually form the constitution of the State of Israel.

“Language is an important indicator to see whether or not a state is acknowledging the minority,” Zaher explains. “You set the status of a language in the constitution. [The proposed bill] would mean that there would be no recognition of Arabs as a national minority and that they would not be able to get suitable protection as according to international law.”

That the legislation was introduced a month before the United Nations vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state is significant, Zaher adds.

“It could be viewed as another attempt to respond to the Palestinian move in September,” she says. “Like, ‘Okay, you want your own state? Then Israel will be the state of the Jewish people and others will be marginalised more and more…”

Recognising a certain group’s language means recognising the existence of the group itself. Conversely, Zaher explains, “If [Israelis] want a state only for the Jewish people, they have to undermine Arabic.”

As this undermining and marginalisation has been going on for years, perhaps the Knesset’s latest move represents a step towards a more honest Israel – one that no longer pretends that being both a Jewish state and a democratic state for all of its citizens is possible.

At least the world will know, at last, what it’s dealing with.

Mya Guarnieri is a writer based in Tel Aviv.
You can follow Mya on Twitter @myaguarnieri

Tent Struggle to Meet Palestinian September: Onedemocracy

Wednesday night (Aug 17) a first meeting of its kind was held by activists who have decided to facilitate an encounter of the ‘tent struggle’ movement and ‘Palestinian September’. The path we have taken might lead to a mass movement of refusal to prefer occupation wars to peace and struggle for social justice. Here is a summary and some conclusions of this meeting.

By Haggai Matar
After stormy weeks filled with encounters, discussions, workshops, discourse and exchange of ideas and opinions in all the protest encampments throughout the country, with Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard encampment leading the way,  this particular discussion was held at a safe distance. Wednesday night at 9 p.m., mats were spread in the northern part of Chen Boulevard (a safe ten minute walk from the end of Rotschild), a loudspeaker placed nearby and a cordless microphone began to make the rounds. The purpose of this discreet-public meeting was to discuss the ramifications of the coming September upon the historic socio-economic struggle taking place in Israel at present.

About eighty people showed up. Most of them young tent dwellers, some of them more experienced older adults. A few of them veterans of leftist activism (political left – after all nearly everyone right now has taken up the economic left ideas), some of them latent lefties, others who have only recently begun to give the subject some thought following conversations in the encampments, and this was their first time at an encounter of this kind. The vast majority present was unfamiliar to me, and that in itself is already positive.

Soon enough it became clear that the consensus in the group is based on not opposing the Palestinian move in September, on non-confidence in the government – that will prefer to resort to crisis and war rather than make peace – and on a priorities scale that places the pursuit of the socio-economic struggle above “security needs” and even strives to expand the discourse of struggle so as to demand social justice on both sides of the ‘green line’. Upon this common basis and interest we agreed to continue meeting in the future – inside the Rothschild encampment (and then also in Yafo-Yafa, Haifa, Beer Sheva-Bir Sab’a, Lod-Lydd), as well as plan joint actions in the coming months.

Naturally controversies appeared alongside our consensus. Some said we were living de-facto in a single state under a single regime, this must be recognized and we should adapt our solutions accordingly. Others continued to speak in terms of two states. There were those who supported hasbara* activity amidst the Jewish public (* a Hebrew term that combines persuasion and information, i.e. ‘inforsuasion’), promoting the idea that Occupation harms us. Some supported the line of partnership with the Palestinians and the joint message protesting Occupation injustices. There were arguments around the question whether to try and promote talk about September through the encampments’ leadership or on the street. Ideas for action, too, were many and colorful, with various emphases, and some decision will have to be taken eventually as to which of them are to be used. But everyone wanted this to be continued.

The People Already Refuses
So far the summary. What I said in the discussion, for the two minutes that were allotted me, was that the practice of our pursuit must stand on two legs – refusal and partnership.

In New Profile, (a movement of which I am an active member), we have been speaking for years about refusal that transcends the limits of army and combatants – civil refusal. Perhaps now, for the first time in many years, conditions for such mass refusal are ripe.  When we speak of September (or October, whenever the vote in the UN will take place), civil refusal is something that goes beyond the narrow limits of a soldier refusing to disperse a demonstration in the Occupied Territories, or even enter the area of the future Palestinian state, or obey an army deployment order – these are all important, blessed kinds of refusal that should be taken up. But in the context of the huge protest that is flooding and changing Israeli society now, refusal must be broader.

As citizens who have taken to the streets, who have decided in an unprecedented and revolutionary manner that we are tired of placing the threats of military-security discourse above our health-welfare-education-gender-employment-housing-nutrition safety discourse, our greatest task is to hold on to this new line to the very end. We must reject the government’s attempts – those that are forthcoming as well as those that have already begun to appear – to quench this unifying, liberating protest in the name of a segregating “national unity” meant to occupy others and suppress our needs. Simply put: refuse to fold up the tents.

Our other leg, too, begins with refusal: the refusal to accept separation of Jews and Arabs on both sides of the ‘green line’, perhaps in the entire Middle East. We have already seen  —  and I have already written here —  that this struggle is becoming increasingly civil, a Jewish-Arab struggle, a common one. As one of the participants in the meeting last night mentioned, the two greatest protest rallies in northern Israel last Saturday night — in Afula and Haifa — were defined even in the media (a bit behind in understanding this angle because of its permanent bias for the Hebrew-speaking society) as joint demonstrations. In Beer Sheva, as well, a Bedouin woman delivered a speech, representing the unrecognized villages. Everywhere that same common message resounded, beautifully formulated by Raja Za’atari in Haifa: “At the end of the day, a homeless family is a homeless family, and a hungry child is a hungry child, regardless whether he speaks Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic or Russian. At the end of the day, hunger and humiliation, just like wealth, have no homeland and no language… We are saying: it is time to speak of peace and justice in one breath! Today more than ever, it is obvious to everyone that in order to curb talk of justice, this government might begin another war. For in war as in war, the cannons roar and the tents are folded up. Whether or not a war will break out, I am not certain. But one thing I can certainly promise: we shall continue to struggle together – Arabs and Jews – for justice, for peace, for equality, for a better future, for a more just future for both peoples.”

Refusal to accept separation, then, leads to partnership. This is a partnership that is gaining ground within the ‘green line’ and will soon have to begin to cross it. It is a partnership that must become – this instant – the banner of the group that met Wednesday night, as it did at the ‘Tent 1948’ on Rothschild Boulevard and in the joint encampments in Yafo-Yafa, Haifa and elsewhere. If and when a widespread popular uprising will break out in the Occupied Territories, with demonstrations and marches towards the Separation Fences, our role as partners will be to join it, not to suppress it.

A few closing remarks: During last night’s meeting, several voices doubted the possibility of recruiting the entire civil society to such a refusal project. People spoke of  “the people” and “the Left” as if these were two disconnected mutually alienating bodies that will never really be able to act together. Until a month ago, such thinking was not mine but I was able to sense the kind of social siege sensed by whoever experienced it in view of fascist legislation and popular, unrestrained attacks against the Left. Now, however, it becomes unequivocally clear that such ideas have no standing in reality at all.

“The people” referred to in political discourse a month ago was clearly the Jewish people who managed to unite only around wars and nationalist patriotism. Today “the people” is a Jewish-Arab, socialist people, uniting for a vision of justice, equality, welfare state, and struggle against the super-rich and their hold on governments. It is a people that has risen in the morning and decided it has had enough and began to walk. It is walking in the streets of Beit Shean and Arrabe, in Tel Aviv and Haifa, Lod-Lydd and Beer Sheva-Bir Sab’a, Jerusalem-Al Quds and Nazareth-Nasrah, Yahud and Majdal Krum.  It is a people that in fact is already refusing belligerent ‘securitism’ and choosing partnership. Our task now must be easier than before. We no longer try to stop the tide – we try to encourage it to resist the obstacles that will be placed along the way.

Permalink Print