May 17, 2009

Israel PM ‘may back two states’: BBC

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be prepared to endorse a peace process leading to an independent Palestinian state, his defence minister has said.
Ehud Barak, a long-time rival now part of Israel’s governing coalition, spoke ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s first meeting with US President Obama in Washington. He told Israeli TV a regional deal could be struck within three years. Mr Netanyahu has so far been unwilling to discuss a two-state solution, saying only he wants a “fresh approach”. He recently made his first visits out of Israel since taking office, travelling to Egypt and Jordan during the past week. A two-state solution based on independent Palestinian statehood is a goal strongly backed by the US and by Jordan and Egypt, Israel’s only allies among Arab states.
‘Fresh approach’
President Obama is expected to push Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue when they meet for talks at the White House on Monday.
Mr Barak, the Labour leader, says his long-time rival is ready to take a pragmatic approach to peace negotiations. “Netanyahu will tell Obama: We’re willing to engage in a process whose end is a regional peace accord,” he told Channel 2 TV. He stopped short of saying that Mr Netanyahu would back a two-state solution while in Washington in the coming week, but suggested an independent Palestinian state could emerge from a revived peace process.

Have we not been here before? Like two hundred times… well, it worked until now, so it will work this time as well. They will say anything in order to be allowed to continue stealing Palestine.

Aide: Obama, Netanyahu to focus on Iran threat: Ha’aretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama will discuss the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a close aide to the Israeli premier said Sunday.“This is an existential matter,” said National Security Council head Uzi Arad. “Iran is constantly advancing toward a nuclear capability, and joint efforts with the [Obama] administration to prevent this will be at the center of the discussion.” Arad’s comments came shortly after Netanyahu arrived on Sunday in Washington, where he was scheduled to meet with Obama on Monday and propose that joint teams draft a new road map for the Palestinian peace process and a new strategy on Iran. There is no subject more important to Israel, and the administration knows this,” Arad added. “There is a sense of urgency and that time is against us. No one will dictate to the other, but the subject is urgent from our point of view, and the Americans understand the timeframe very well.” Obama has said he cannot tell Israel not to fear Iran’s nuclear ambitions, in comments published Saturday ahead of the meeting with Netanyahu.

On the matter of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Arad said it was possible that there would be differences of approach between the sides. “There are many hurdles on the road to living side by side in peace with the Palestinians,” Arad said, citing the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Islamic Hamas militants in June 2007.”That is the presence of a huge terrorist infrastructure that was put in place, established precisely at the time when Israel evacuated Gaza and allowed the Palestinians to rule themselves,” he said.But he added that the “practical approach” that guides both sides will be that which determines the results of the meeting. Netanyahu was to meet later Sunday with Israel’s outgoing envoy to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, and with leaders of the AIPAC lobby.

‘Netanyahu unlikely to declare support for Palestinian state’

An aide to the prime minister said earlier Sunday that Netanyahu is unlikely to declare support for the establishment of a Palestinian state when he meets with Obama at the White House. His proposal for a new road map marks a bid to soften edgy relations with Washington surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the meeting with Obama, Netanyahu intends to emphasize his intention to resume the peace talks with the Palestinians soon, but with the participation of the moderate Arab states. Establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the moderate Arab states could significantly advance the peace process with the Palestinians, he will say. Obama is expected to support this concept, but will ask Netanyahu to start out with a gesture toward the Palestinians and to halt all construction in the West Bank settlements. Obama will also ask Netanyahu to declare Israel’s support for the “two states for two nations” principle. A senior Jerusalem source said Saturday that the visit was intended to present only preliminary positions. “At the next stage the teams will try to reduce the differences between the sides and examine ways of advancing the peace process and strategic matters,” the source said. Netanyahu’s aides said the preparation talks before the meeting were effective and no conflict was expected at the dialogue with Obama. President Shimon Peres spoke to Netanyahu a few times last week and impressed on him the importance of avoiding an overt confrontation with Obama at any cost. This could have disastrous implications on Israel’s national security, Peres said.

Netanyahu will ask Obama to tighten the coordination between the two administrations in defense and state affairs, and to set up communication channels and joint work teams on the Iranian and Palestinian issues, a source in the prime minister’s bureau said. Contrary to the remarks made by Netanyahu’s aide, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday that the prime minister was ready to declare his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I believe Netanyahu is ready for a process whose end is two states for two peoples,” Barak, who is also chairman of the Labor party, told Channel 2 shortly before Netanyahu left for Washington. “Even Netanyahu understands that the ultimate end of the process is two peoples living side by side in peace and security,” he said. However, an aide of the prime minister’s said Netanyahu is unlikely to display flexibility on the “two states for two nations” principle. He will tell Obama that any agreement would oblige the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation-state.

So now Obama knows what he is going to speak about, which is very helpful, I am sure. If you wish to see this genius of a man speaking to the most powerful lobby on earth, view the clip below:

Benjamin Netanyahu video address to AIPAC on May 5, 2009

Liverpool cuts funding for festival that includes ‘anti-Semitic’ play: Ha’aretz

Antisemitism by Latuff
Antisemitism by Latuff

The city of Liverpool decided last week to cut funding for a cultural festival featuring the highly controversial play “Seven Jewish Children.” The move came after the festival’s producers rejected the inclusion of a response piece. Since its February debut, Jewish leaders have condemned “Seven Jewish Children” as anti-Semitic. The play is said to tie the Nazi murder of Jews during the Holocaust with the killing of Palestinians in Gaza by Israel. It also depicts an Israeli’s decision to tell a child not to feel sorry for dead Palestinians. The play by Caryl Churchill – an accomplished English dramatist and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – is scheduled to be performed at the city-funded Writing on the Wall Festival in Liverpool on Tuesday, followed by a fund-raiser for Palestinian causes. The city said it will halt funding for the festival after the organizers rejected to include a response play to “Seven Jewish Children,” entitled “Seven Other Children” by Richard Stirling of Evergreen Theatrical Productions. Stirling’s play uses the same format as Churchill’s, but attempts to “help give more context to the debate,” as he told Haaretz Saturday. This includes references to the decision by Arab nations and ordinary Palestinians to wage war against Israel in 1948 and in 1967.  In explaining the rejection of Stirling’s play, the festival’s development coordinator Madeline Heneghan said: “The program is planned months in advance.” The request was “unrealistic at this point”, she added.  The request to stage “Seven Other Children” came from Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, after a festival spokesman told the Jewish Telegraph that organizations wishing to have a “profile” would be welcome at the event’s “open” evening.  Stirling – who like Churchill is not Jewish – said: “I would’ve preferred my play to run alongside ‘Seven Jewish Children’ rather than having funding cut. I understand there’s too little notice, but in light of the public controversy that ‘Seven Jewish Children’ has aroused, I’d be surprised had the programmers not expected some kind of comeback.”  He also said that by not allowing a response piece, the organizers had adopted an attitude which was “at best incautious and at worst severely one-sided.”

Britain is a free country, and you can say what you wish, of course. It is a pity that your grant is cut,  isn’t it? On second thoughts, you can say anything, as long as it is not critical of Israel.

Please, with might: Ha’aretz

By Gideon Levy
The headline of this piece may be taken from a Kabbalistic prayer, but it’s not aimed at God; this is rather an earthly plea to the American president. The statesman he will be hosting tomorrow has already shown during his brief tenure that might is the only language he understands. We should hope that Barack Obama will succeed just like the defense minister and the Histadrut labor federation chairman, who twisted Benjamin Netanyahu’s arm in the budget deliberations.
A political U-turn by the prime minister is much more vital to Israel than his impressively sharp economic U-turn. Obama is the final hope: Only if he throws his entire weight into the process will anything in the Middle East start moving. Any American president could have long ago brought about substantial progress, first and foremost ending the intolerable Israeli occupation. But Obama’s predecessors shrank from the task, preferring to yield to the Jewish and Christian lobbies and to engage in masquerades of negotiations leading nowhere.
A whole lot more is expected from Obama: “Change” in the Middle East; “Yes We Can” is also about Israel. This change must encompass two components: Genuinely pressuring Israel – and no, there isn’t any other way – and demanding actions rather than words. We’ve had plenty of the latter, and it doesn’t really matter if Netanyahu utters the words “two states” or if he does not. The real test is Moshe and Mohammed. Only if both of them feel a change can we say a truly different president is now in Washington. Mohammed, any Mohammed living in the occupied territories, should feel his life has become more free and prosperous; Moshe, any Moshe living in Israel, must feel he is withdrawing from being an occupier, after two successive generations. At the end of the day, both Moshe and Mohammed will be grateful to Barack Obama.
It’ll take more than sticky smiles. Netanyahu will be clinging to his usual excuse, the Iranian threat; Obama will have to explain that there is nothing like neutralizing the Arab-Israeli conflict to secure the future of the State of Israel. And this should be the order of the day, too: resolving the Palestinian issue as leverage for negotiating with Iran, even if Netanyahu tries to change the agenda and buy some time. Deep inside, we yearn for an Israeli prime minister who realizes that opportunities are running out and that the alternatives are dangerous, but this hope has long since been abandoned. Israel talks two states while expanding Ma’aleh Adumim; Israel talks peace and sets out on two unneccesary wars.
Which is why, sadly, nothing will happen without pressure, and true pressure can come only from Washington. An American president who is a friend to Israel not only can, but must, apply this pressure; Israel is a protectorate addicted to occupation – and the only way to ditch a habit is the hard way. A bogus friend sponsors the addiction, a true friend gets us into rehab.
Nor is this the time to present the Palestinians with endless demands or preconditions – to acknowledge, to give up, to compromise. They’ve done it plenty over the last two decades: Now is the time for the occupier to end the occupation, immediately, unconditionally, moments before the two-state solution draws its final breath and passes beyond the realm of possibility, if it hasn’t already. Which is why Obama should be standing with a stopwatch, too: Time is running out.
There’s one message that should emerge from Washington: Israel is beginning to act, not to talk but to act, to end the occupation. Freeze the settlements without any lies, dismantle the outposts without tricks, give Palestinians freedoms without feints, and establish a rigid agenda to dismantle the entire settler enterprise. Anything less will be seen as failure, any move less daring will ensure a deadlock that will bring more bloodshed and the eventual establishment of a permanent binational apartheid state.
Does it sound big and pretentious? Well, there’s a big, pretentious president now sitting in Washington. The Arabs have already learned that Israel understands force and force alone; all its limited concessions were carried out after bloodshed, never before. It’s time Washington learns the same lesson: Please, with might, Barack Obama, because there is no other way.

Read the whole artcile on the link below, then look at the letter I sent to the Observer about it, below.

Obama makes his bid for Middle East peace: The Observer,     Sunday 17 May 2009

Tomorrow the Israeli prime minister meets the US president at the White House. The following week Obama will also meet the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders. America has signalled it wants solutions in the Middle East, but are the president’s guests ready to make concessions?
Jason Burke and Ewan MacCaskill in Washington and Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

Late tomorrow morning President Barack Obama will welcome Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, into the Oval Office at the White House. Leave five minutes for the pleasantries, 30 seconds for the coffee to be poured, and 84 and a half minutes will remain to kick-start what is perhaps the most ambitious bid to bring peace to the Middle East for nearly a decade.
Once again, true to his campaign motto of “Yes we can”, Obama is boldly plunging in where others fear to tread. May will see an extraordinary series of meetings for the new president: Netanyahu will be followed to the White House by President Mubarak of Egypt and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority. Other regional allies will be consulted, envoys dispatched, world leaders called and cajoled. And then, in the first week of June, Obama will fly to Egypt, where he will deliver a historic speech aimed not just at outlining his own strategy for bringing peace to the Middle East, but also at reframing America’s entire relationship with the Muslim world, so damaged during recent years.
The contrast with his predecessors could hardly be greater. President Bush was committed to isolating Iran while fighting in Iraq, and gave almost unconditional support to Israel; Obama has elected to engage with Iran, is withdrawing from Iraq, and has signalled a very different approach to Israel. After the radical change that Bush sought in the Middle East comes a new bid to alter the political map of one of the world’s most dangerous and critical strategic zones.
There is a sense of urgency and commitment – and an equal desire to avoid getting bogged down. According to Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Washington is looking for “real results”. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, returned to London from talks with Hillary Clinton, his American counterpart, saying that the administration was “throwing itself into the peace process”. Obama is reported to have plunged into an in-depth study of the history and geography of the issue, reading up on key issues such as Jewish settlements, the Golan Heights, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the security threat to Israel. Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the “quartet” of the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia, is convinced that something important is about to happen; he told the US Senate foreign affairs committee last week that Obama can “reinvigorate the credibility of the road to peace” as he stood in front of a map pointing a laser pen at strategic locations in the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, which could feature in negotiations.

Letter to the editor of The Observer

Invisible Palestine

Dear Editor,
In an impressive tour de force in the Observer (“Obama makes his bid for Middle East peace”, Sunday, May 17th) over a centre spread of two pages, the editors have managed the impossible: How to speak of a conflict, without mentioning one of the sides… With much research, they have managed to quote the following Israelis and Zionists: Netanyahu, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Efraim Inbar, Tamara Cofman, Ehud Barak, Eitan Haber, and some unnamed right wing activists, as well as the organisation Gush Shalom.
Apart from those, quoted were David Miliband and Tony Blair, two unfailing supporters of the Israeli line, King Abdullah, a staunch Washington supporter, Toby Dodge, and Mark Fitzpatrick, both pushing the Israeli line, trying to persuade us that the real problems are in Iran…
The observant reader (surely all readers of The Observer…) might have picked up a little problem here – while everyone seems to come forward and explain the Israeli position, there is a total of zero speakers on the Palestinian side; this bizarre and unprofessional type of reporting is far from unusual. I wish it was. It is typical of UK liberal papers, well as those representing a right wing agenda.  Loading the dice by totally denying a voice for Palestine does not even seem to be a problem, to a point that the naïve reader might justifiably imagine that the real conflict in the Middle East is between Israel’s PM, Netanyahu, and US President Obama! If those reporters always speak to Israeli and Zionist speakers, live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, avoid Palestine and Palestinians like the plague, is it surprising that their reporting is shallow and one-sided? Is it surprising that the conflict is still going strong, after decades of brutal occupation, when we are listening only to the powerful occupier, but deny a voice to those under occupation?

Prof. Haim Bresheeth

Healing Israeli Apartheid, not its Victims?: PACBI

PACBI — Ramallah, Occupied Palestine, 16 May 2009
Last month, prominent academics from the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, BRICUP, urged you not to perform in Israel, arguing: “If you had just emerged from three weeks of unfettered bombing from land, sea and air, with no place to hide and no place to run, your hospitals overwhelmed, sewage running in the streets and white phosphorous burning up your children, what would the news that the great Canadian musician Leonard Cohen had decided to play for your tormentors say to you?” Citing a line in your famous poem, Questions for Shomrim, where you exclaim, “And will my people build a new Dachau and call it love, security, Jewish culture,” a recent letter by mostly Israeli activists who support the cultural boycott against Israel urged you not to cooperate with “continued Israeli defiance of justice and morality.”
Today, after exhausting all attempts to convince you to apply your avowed humanistic principles in a morally consistent way by refusing to entertain Israeli apartheid and whitewash its still-fresh crimes, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on all supporters of a just peace in our region to shun your concerts and CDs and to protest your appearances everywhere. We consider your performance in Israel a form of complicity in its grave violations of international law and trampling on human rights principles.
Your planned gig in Israel would come merely months after its bloody military assault against the occupied Gaza Strip which left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and 5380 injured. The 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees who were expelled from their homes by Zionist forces in 1948, were subjected to three weeks of relentless Israeli state terror, whereby Israeli warplanes systematically targeted civilian areas, reducing whole neighborhoods and vital civilian infrastructure to rubble and partially destroying Gaza’s leading university and scores of schools, including several run by the UN, where civilians were taking shelter. This criminal assault comes after 18 months of an ongoing, crippling Israeli siege of Gaza which has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to describe it as “a prelude to genocide”. International human rights organizations and UN organizations are now calling for a war crimes investigation into Israel’s military assault on Gaza.
For the last 41 years, Israel’s army has been occupying the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Despite the “peace process” which began 16 years ago, Israel routinely violates the Palestinians’ most fundamental human rights with impunity, as documented by local and international human rights organizations. Israel extra-judicially kills Palestinian leaders and activists; keeps over 11,000 Palestinians imprisoned, including numerous members of parliament; subjects all Palestinians under occupation to daily humiliation, intimidation and military violence; and continues to construct its colonial Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague in 2004.
You claim that your performance in Israel will somehow have a healing effect. Your message of healing cannot be more misdirected – those who need healing and solidarity the most are the Palestinian victims of Israel apartheid and colonial rule who are struggling to end oppression and injustice and to establish a just peace. By violating the Palestinian boycott against Israel you would bring back the ugly memory of artists who violated the boycott against apartheid South Africa and insisted to perform at Sun City, drawing condemnation and revulsion by people of conscience the world over.
As far back as 1984, Enuga S. Reddy, Director of the UN Centre Against Apartheid, responded to criticism that the cultural boycott of South Africa infringed the freedom of expression, saying:
“It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms … to the African majority … should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime.”

Entertaining any apartheid regime is morally wrong. No true humanist should disagree.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)