Posts Tagged ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t)

April 29, 2010

In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”

By Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch.com, April 27, 2010

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange.  For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement.  In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

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No Partner for Peace: Our American Problem

November 7, 2009

By Jeff Halper, ZNet, November 7, 2009
Source: MRZine

Jeff Halper’s ZSpace Page

It was as if some official, perhaps one of President Obama’s “czars,” like the Czar for Demolishing American Credibility, had orchestrated a systematic campaign to isolate the US from the rest of the world, make it a political laughingstock and, finally, render it a second-rate power capable of throwing around tremendous military weight but absolutely incapable of leading us to a better future.  The Israel-Palestine conflict, while not the world’s bloodiest, constitutes, for many people of the world, a unique gauge of American interests and intentions.  So consider the messages this string of actions sent out to the world:

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Real Peace — Or A Mirage?

July 28, 2009

The Dreyfuss ReportRobert Dreyfuss, The Nation, July 27, 2009

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One way to keep Bibi Netanyahu from making trouble is to keep him so busy meeting US envoys and diplomats that he doesn’t have time for anything else. That appears to be President Obama’s strategy this week, since Netanyahu will be meeting with a veritable avalanche of Americans, including: George Mitchell, the US special envoy; Jim Jones, Obama’s national security adviser; Robert Gates, the holdover secretary of defense who is showing no signs that he intends to go away; and Dennis Ross, the neocon-linked NSC official whose actual job remains ever vague.

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The west widens the Fatah-Hamas split

July 28, 2009

Palestinian unity is essential for any peace deal – but the US, Britain and the EU are playing a central role in preventing it

It should be obvious that no settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict is going to stick unless it commands broad support or acceptance on both sides. That is especially true of the Palestinians, who have shown time and again that they will never accept the denial of their national and human rights. The necessity of dealing with all representative Palestinian leaders was recognised by Britain’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee yesterday, which called on the government to end its ban on contacts with Hamas.

But despite the parade of top American officials visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to drum up business for a new peace conference, the US, Britain and European Union continue to play a central role in preventing the Palestinian national unity that is essential if any deal is going to have a chance of succeeding. Far from helping to overcome the split between Fatah and Hamas, the US, Israel and their allies in practice do everything they can to promote and widen it.

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What Kind of Two-State Solution?

June 15, 2009
Agence Global, June 15, 2009
by Immanuel Wallerstein,   Commentary No. 259, J

Now that President Obama has put his weight so openly and publicly behind the concept of a two-state “solution” for the Israel-Palestine controversy/struggle, such a “solution” may well be achieved in the coming years. The reason is simple. Stated abstractly, such a solution has overwhelming support in world political opinion. Polls show a majority of Jewish Israelis favor it, as do a majority of Jews elsewhere in the world. Support among Arab leaders is strong and wide. Even Hamas indicates it is willing to accept the concept of two states on the basis of an indefinite “truce” in the struggle. Some “truces” in the modern world have lasted four centuries. And more recently, there has been “truces” on the Korean peninsula and in Kashmir for more than a half-century. Some “truces” seem pretty permanent.

What seems to be left out of the discussion these days is what does the expression “two states” mean? Quite diverse definitions exist. We should remember that the last real negotiations, those between Yasir Arafat and Ehud Barak in 2000, foundered at the last minute at Taba over diverse definitions.

What are the issues in these contrary definitions? There are at least six different issues which the mere slogan of “two states” hides. The first issue is the definition of sovereignty. The Palestinians of course think that sovereign means sovereign – a state with the same powers as any other sovereign state. Even those Israeli political leaders who have accepted the terminology of two states have been thinking of a limited version of sovereignty. For example, what kind of military apparatus would such the Palestinian state have? Would it control completely overflight permissions? Would it have unlimited control of its borders?

The second issue is of course the borders of such a state. Both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas feel that accepting the 1967 borders is already an enormous concession on their part. They certainly do not expect to obtain anything less. But such borders of course do not include the post-1967 Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, nor east Jerusalem. Tiny adjustments in these borders might be acceptable. But tiny means truly tiny.

The third issue is  internal democracy  in Israel. Will non-Jewish Israelis continue to have fewer rights than Jewish Israelis? This is a central and very little discussed question.

The fourth issue is whether the two states will be defined as secular states or religious states. Will the Palestinian state be a Muslim state? Will Israel continue to be a Jewish state?

The fifth issue is the so-called right of return. Israel was founded on the unlimited right of return of any Jew who wishes to come to Israel. The Arabs who fled from Israel (or were forced out) demand a right of return. This has been the knottiest issue in the entire historic debate. It is a question of both demography and land. The Palestinians might accept a merely symbolic gesture on this question, if all other issues were resolved in ways they considered appropriate.

Finally, of course, there is the question of what would happen with the existing Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. It is conceivable that the Palestinians might say that some of them could remain where they are. But it seems hardly likely that the settlers would agree to stay in a Palestinian state, or would willingly accept evacuation to Israel.

Now what has Obama done? He has taken a strong position on two questions the present ultra-right Israeli government refuses to accept: no further expansion of any kind of the existing settlements and a commitment to a two-state solution. This is unquestionably positive and courageous in the context of U.S. internal politics.

However, it risks being dangerous in terms of any real solution. For consider the following possibility. Under severe twisting of the arm of Israeli Prime Minister Netanhayu by Obama, Netanyahu concedes both points, and reshuffles his cabinet in the light of this shift in position. Will he then not turn around and say to Obama that now the Palestinians must make comparable concessions? But he would not really be talking about “controlling violence” by the Palestinian Authority – the usual Israeli governmental mantra. He will mean concessions on all the issues I have listed above – on none of which any Palestinian leadership can today make any significant further concession.

Obama’s courageous gestures will then turn out to be a mode of distraction from the real underlying issues.

Taking Off the Blinders in the U.S.

March 28, 2009

By A.M. Khan | ZNet, March 28. 2009

A.M. Khan’s ZSpace Page


“There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country.”

–David Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of Israel and the first Prime Minister

Now that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is off the front page and the Gazans are left to deal with the aftermath outside of world media attention, it makes sense to step back and review how the Israel-Palestine conflict is depicted in U.S. mainstream media. This depiction shapes how the U.S. public views the recent events in Gaza. It also shapes how the public understands what constitutes a just resolution to the conflict.

The nature of U.S. mainstream media coverage of events in Gaza and of the Israel-Palestine conflict renders Americans grossly misinformed. U.S. media representations are largely absent of historical context and omit the fact that for decades Israel has committed human rights violations against the Palestinian people and occupied their land. The media lens in mainstream U.S. coverage (print and television) obscures core issues and creates a false framework of the conflict. In the U.S., the Israel-Palestine conflict is framed as “a cycle of violence” between two adversaries of equal power engaged since millennia in a conflict based on religious and ethnic difference.  Not a single element of this frame is true.

Myth Number 1: The conflict has been ongoing since millennia.

The conflict is less than 100 years old. Before 1900, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in the Holy Land mostly peacefully in a quiet agrarian society. While some European Jews immigrated in the late 1800’s to what was then Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine, their numbers were small. In 1917, as World War I was coming to a close, the British government became the colonial power in control of historic Palestine (the area known today as Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip). With the 1917 “Balfour Declaration” the British made clear their support for a Jewish state in Palestine. After 1917, immigration of European Jews to Palestine escalated, increasing each year as time wore on. Many of these new immigrants were in flight from anti-Semitism in Europe.

As the Nazis came to power in Germany in the early 1930’s and began their oppression and later genocide of European Jews, the numbers of European Jewish immigrants to Palestine increased dramatically. Through these early decades of the 20th century, between the British commitment to creating a Jewish state in Palestine and as more European Jews flooded in, tensions between the European newcomers and the native Palestinian Arabs began and increased over time. After the genocide and near annihilation of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II, the movement to make a Jewish homeland in Historic Palestine found understandable sympathy. The fly in the ointment was the fact that another people already lived in that land.

In 1948 the state of Israel was established by these European Jewish immigrants, adherents of an ideology called “Zionism.” There were different opinions among Zionist leaders as to how to deal with the native Palestinian Arabs. Some advocated peaceful co-existence and others advocated dispossession and expulsion. There were also positions in between. In the end, the more regressive positions prevailed. In their writings, Zionist leaders like David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, were explicit and unapologetic about their aim to expel the native Palestinian Arabs and take their land.

The 1948 nation building of Israel was premised on dispossession of the natives, including a premeditated campaign of ethnic cleansing and massacre. In 1948, Zionist military forces expelled about 750,000 Palestinians from 78% of Historic Palestine into the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and exile abroad. After statehood, these Zionist forces became the Israeli army. In 1967, again through military means, Israel took control of the remaining 22% of historic Palestine (i.e., the West Bank and Gaza Strip). The Palestinians driven into the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1948 (as well as those already there) came under Israeli military occupation in 1967, where they remain today 41 years later. Thus, in 1948 Israel proper was created on 78% of historic Palestine and since 1967 Israel has occupied the remaining 22% of historic Palestine.

Myth Number 2: The conflict is a cycle of violence between adversaries of similar power

The Israel-Palestine conflict is between two parties vastly unequal in power. Israel, the nuclear-armed occupier, has the fourth most powerful army in the world and cutting edge military weaponry. The Palestinians, an occupied and stateless people, are largely unarmed. The Palestinians have no army, no air force, no planes, no tanks, no gunships, and no nuclear weapons. This is why we see pictures of Palestinians throwing stones at tanks. If you possessed anything more powerful, would a stone really be your weapon of choice against a tank?

Myth Number 3: The conflict is based on religious and ethnic differences

The Israel-Palestine conflict is about possession and control of a small piece of land approximately the size of New Jersey. Israel believes itself entitled to all of the land because in the Bible God promised all of historic Palestine to the Jews. Since 1967, in violation of international law, Israel has moved 500,000 of its citizens into the West Bank. These settlers are connected to Israel through Israeli-only roads that crisscross the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to use these roads and must take circuitous routes on older roads in order to go around Israeli settlements, often adding hours to their journeys.

Regarding the “peace process,” Israel’s talk of making peace has been a rhetorical screen. Behind this screen each and every Israeli government since 1967,whether its flavor was left, right, or center, has continued the campaign begun in 1948, of land grab, human rights violations, and imprisonment of the Palestinians into multiple separate enclaves within the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1967 every Israeli government has continued a national construction project (based on a plan created in the late 1960’s by Labor Minister Yigal Allon)to separate, isolate, and enclose every Palestinian city and most towns and villages by surrounding them with Israeli settlements. Today, that project is essentially complete. In addition to the settlement building, Israel’s construction of the Wall (86% of which is in the West Bank rather than along the 1967 border) and ongoing annexation of land and water resources have created facts on the ground establishing Israel’s dominance over all of historic Palestine. Today, Israel’s mission of total dominance is near completion.

In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (as representative of the Palestinian people) agreed to recognize Israel, forego claim to 100% of historic Palestine, and accept a nation on 22% of their original land (i.e., on the West Bank and Gaza Strip). Israel has never agreed to this. Israel has made clear that it wants a future Palestinian state to be a version of 80% of 22% of 100%. Such a “state” would be a non-contiguous series of disconnected cantons. Israel’s Wall cuts deep into the West Bank and incorporates into Israel West Bank settlements and aquifers. This is the desert after all, and water is treasure. The Wall and settlements segment the West Bank and make a contiguous Palestinian state unlikely, if not impossible. Israel also wants control over exit and entry from that 80% of 22% of 100%. An analogy for this: imagine that in each of the rooms of your house you can do as you wish but that someone with guns controls all the hallways between the rooms. Is this a viable structure for life?

What holds all this in place and allows it to continue is that Israel has the multibillion dollar per year financial support and diplomatic cover of the most powerful nation in history, the United States. The U.S. has agreed to provide Israel with $30 billion dollars in military aid over the next 10 years and has provided billions upon billions of dollars in aid to Israel in the past. For decades, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid and receives one-third of the total U.S. foreign aid budget. The U.S., a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has also vetoed each and every resolution put forward by the United Nations in response to Israel’s multiple violations of international law. In each of the U.N. votes on these resolutions against Israeli government actions, year after year, the U.S. and Israel (and a few small Pacific Island nations) stand alone against the rest of the international community in siding with Israel against international law and world opinion.

All of the facts above are available from easily accessible public sources. The facts are not in dispute. However, they have been obscured by a web of misinformation that hides the truth. Because the facts are what they are, when Israel is criticized, its proponents, who cannot rely on facts to support their cause, resort to personal attacks and charges of “anti-Semitism.” Their charges of anti-Semitism presuppose that all criticism of Israel as a state actor and all efforts to hold Israel, which is after all a nation state like any other, accountable for its actions are inherently anti-Semitic. When the truth cannot be bent to their narrative, proponents of Israeli government actions, no matter what those actions are, resort to the cudgel of anti-Semitism to silence and censor criticism of the actions of the state of Israel. So far, this method of silencing critics has proven highly effective in the U.S. Publicly criticizing Israel has cost academics their jobs and members of congress political office. These examples keep the rest of us in line as well.

Decades of misinformation and a mythical story (i.e., a land without a people for a people without a land), as well as the daily falsehoods we continue to be fed, can make the situation in Israel-Palestine seem more murky, complicated, and relativistic than it actually is.

When the American colonists were dispossessing the Native Americans, there was violent resistance. A people being dispossessed will resist. They resist because of their dispossession (not because they are crazy, evil, or filled with hate because of their religion). And, of course, violent native resistance hurts the occupier and harms innocents. However, when the occupier casts itself as the victim and says it is acting only in “self-defense” against native “attack”, it has turned logic on its head. Israel’s propaganda campaign over the last 41 years, casting itself as the only and perpetual victim, has been extremely successful in making this bizarre topsy-turvy spin seem logical and correct. It is yet another example of the effectiveness of saying the same thing over and over again until people start believing it is true.

There are many situations in history where two opposing perspectives are not of equal moral weight. The colonial campaign China continues in Tibet, the former British Empire’s actions around the globe, the apartheid system in South Africa, Belgium’s enslavement and killing of 10 million Congolese for natural resources, the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis, the genocide of the Armenians by Turkey all come to mind. The moral equation in Israel-Palestine is as simple and clear.

While discussion of U.S. national interest and geopolitical strategy take up much space in newspapers and conversation among the pundit class, the dimension of morality, the concern with doing the right thing, rarely enters our public discourse. In the end, the situation in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank calls on our moral sense. It calls on our humanity, compassion, and sense of fairness. Our silence and complicity in Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians and its ongoing human rights abuses over decades is a moral lapse of huge proportion.

Americans have a larger stake in this issue than citizens of other countries because we foot the bill to the tune of $8 million a day in aid to Israel. All of us who pay U.S. income taxes funded the recent atrocities in Gaza. We paid to drop white phosphorus on civilians. We paid to level homes, clinics, and schools. We paid to kill children and whole families as they slept in their beds. We are complicit in the bloodbath in Gaza. We are complicit in children starving to death laying next to their dead mothers buried in rubble as the International Red Cross documented in Gaza. We fund acts of state terror in which people watch their beloved daughter, son, father, mother be literally torn apart. We pay for a military machine that maims, kills, and holds captive an unarmed civilian population of men, women, and children, enclosing them in prison-like cantons within the West Bank and Gaza. For decades, we have been paying for the slow annihilation of a society and people who have done absolutely nothing to us.

So what can we do as individual citizens? Call your congresspeople to demand an even-handed U.S. policy in Israel-Palestine. Call the Obama White House to do the same. Learn about the growing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel (modeled on the anti-apartheid campaign against South Africa). Don’t buy Israeli products. Tell your local grocer you won’t shop there until they stop carrying Israeli products. Educate your neighbor. Educate yourself. Watch the documentary film “Occupation 101.” Read “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. Read the writings of Palestinian intellectuals Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi. Go to www.endtheoccupation.org to find a political group in your area working for justice in Israel-Palestine. Most of all, do something. Do not be silent. Do not be complicit.

A.M. Khan is an Indian American psychologist by day and an activist and beginning documentary filmmaker by night. She welcomes correspondence on her work and can reached at: amkhan601@gmail.com.

The future is one nation

September 27, 2008

The two-state approach in the Middle East has failed. There is a fairer, more durable solution

Imagine the scene: the United Nations general assembly meets to discuss a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Unlike previous resolutions, which have been based on a Jewish state in most of historic Palestine with Palestinians relegated to the remnants, this one calls for a new state, covering what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, whose present and former inhabitants are equal under the law. Such a resolution has, in fact, already been drafted and discussions have begun to place it on the agenda at the UN.

The one-state solution is now part of mainstream discourse. Increasingly, Palestinians – and some Israelis – support it as the only alternative to a Palestinian state subordinate to Israel. One-state groups have sprung up and conferences and studies are under way.

A UN resolution is the logical next step, underlining the issue’s global importance and exposing the inequity and dishonesty of the two-state solution, to replace it with something fairer and more durable. It would be encapsulated in the following clauses, part of the draft UN resolution for a one-state solution, which has been under discussion for six months. Its principal authors are my fellow Palestinian Karl Sabbagh and myself:

“The general assembly notes the failure of recent efforts made by regional and international parties to resolve the conflict through the creation of two states; Recalling the recent history of the former [Palestine] Mandate territory as a land where Arabs and Jews shared equal rights of habitation; Reviewing Israel’s non-compliance with UN Resolution 194, requiring Israel to repatriate the Palestinian refugees, and its illegal conduct in the occupied territories.

“Calls upon representatives of Israel and Palestine to agree on behalf of their peoples to share the land between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan … by setting up a state which is democratic and secular, in which the rights of all people living within its borders to freedom of worship, security, and equality under the law are enshrined in a new constitution, to replace the separate forms of government that apply currently in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

The two-state adherents will not approve. David Miliband at the Labour party conference this week continued to argue for a two-state solution. Tomorrow in New York, Mahmoud Abbas will petition George Bush for the same thing. Both are on a hiding to nothing.

The pace of Israeli colonisation, unimpeded since 1967, redoubled after the Oslo accords, demonstrating Israel’s aversion to a two-state solution. By 2007, the West Bank Jewish settler population had reached 282,000. In East Jerusalem, it rose to 200,000, massively Judaising the city and precluding it as a Palestinian capital. Today the West Bank is a jigsaw of settlements, bypass roads and barriers, making an independent state impossible. Gaza is a besieged enclave. In 2006 the UN special rapporteur in the Palestinian territories concluded that “a two-state solution is unattainable”. Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker, told the Israeli daily Haaretz in June that “time was running out for the two-state solution”.

Scores of others have articulated the same view. The peace process predicated on the two-state solution is stagnant, and a momentum has started towards the obvious alternative, a unitary state. This month a new forum, encompassing Palestinian personalities from the occupied territories and outside, has published a petition in the Arabic daily Al-Hayat to halt negotiations, annex the territories to Israel and demand equal rights in one state. This echoes many recent Palestinian demands to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and start an anti-apartheid campaign for equal rights.

The UN high commissioner for human rights has referred us to Robert Serry, the UN official responsible for the peace process, who stated that UN policy must conform to the Palestinian formal position, the two-state solution. A change in that position is not unthinkable. For our resolution to be discussed at the UN, a member state would have to present it, and several are privately known to support our aims.

A unitary state is inevitable. Establishing an exclusive state defined along ethnic-religious lines and excluding its previous inhabitants was unjust and ultimately unsustainable. No political acrobatics will alter this. The sooner the UN, which unwisely created Israel in the first place, takes charge of the consequences, the better it will be for Palestinians, for Israelis and for the region as a whole.

· Ghada Karmi is research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University g.karmi@exeter.ac.uk


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