After winning early elections + forming coalition, Netanyahu vows to fight… the calls for boycott

Israel’s re-elected Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has announced he’s dedicating some 100 million shekels to “to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS)”, as YNet reported here. According to the YNet report, Netanyahu will give his Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan “10 new positions for employees who will deal solely with the boycott and de-legitimization activities against Israel”.

Haaretz’ veteran “Twilight Zone” correspondent Gideon Levy wrote today in Haaretz: “What are you defending? What are you fighting for? … As usual, there are questions that are not even asked. Soul-searching, after all, is a clear sign of weakness. And so an explanation has been invented that absolves us of responsibility: The boycott fell out of the sky, an unavoidable force majeure of Israel hatred, and the only way to fight it is to fight right back at them”…

Levy added:

    “Israel is now defending the preservation of the status quo. It is fighting against the whole world to preserve its advanced school of brutality and cruelty, in which it is educating generations of young people to act brutishly toward human beings, old people and children, to tyrannize them, to bark at them, to crush and humiliate them, only because they are Palestinians. Israel is defending the continuation of apartheid in the occupied territories, in which two peoples live, one of them without any rights…

    Continue reading After winning early elections + forming coalition, Netanyahu vows to fight… the calls for boycott

The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Well, it was very angry — but also a bit of a let down, this long-awaited and much-touted speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly, just before 7 pm in Ramallah or Jerusalem [but still part of the “morning” at the UN HQ/NY this Friday].

Describing the months of American-led negotiations brokered by a team assembled by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas mimicked Israeli critics by saying:

“…as usual, the Israeli government did not miss the opportunity to undermine the chance for peace”…

The full text of Abbas’ speech can be consulted here.

He did not use the word “Judaization” — but he used words that describe what Palestinians mean when they do use the term:

“Throughout the months of negotiations, settlement construction, land confiscations, home demolitions, killing and arrest campaigns, and forced displacement in the West Bank continued unabated and the unjust blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened. The occupation’s campaign specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on A1-Aqsa Mosque, threatening grave consequences. At the same time, racist and armed gangs of settlers persisted with their crimes against the Palestinian people, the land, mosques, churches, properties and olive trees”…

Continue reading The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Getting Real: A Jewish debate

“Daniel Gordis has it backwards”

Mark Baker [writing in The Daily Beast], in an argument worth following, has taken on Daniel Gordis [who addressed American Jewish leaders via an article published in Haaretz] — over the responsibility for the current situation:

Mark Baker wrote here that “For a long time, Daniel Gordis has been telling us to get real. He has written numerous books about getting used to a war without end, and has joined a growing chorus of commentators who preach despair against hope, realism in place of reconciliation…”

And here is Gordis’ latest piece of writing in Haaretz — the article that Baker is takgin issue with:

“The dangerous myopia of American Jewish leaders”

The progressive Jewish leadership calls for peace while Hamas calls for hatred.  When will these Jewish leaders stop denying reality and start grappling with the dangers in the real world in which Israel has to try to survive?  By Daniel Gordis:
“From coast to coast, as Progressive American rabbis continue to call for peace, they are inadvertently revealing their tragic inability to acknowledge that the world in which they once formulated their positions on Israel has changed almost beyond recognition…” This is posted here.

In his reply [“Daniel Gordis Has It Backwards”], published by The Daily Beast, Mark Baker wrote:

“But what is this realism that our leaders are supposed to acknowledge before bettering the world? Is it the realism that builds on road-maps or biblical maps? Is it the realism that punishes Palestinians for supporting a U.N. resolution that recognizes Israel alongside Palestine? … Or are we supposed to accept the realism that pits itself against peace by acquiescing to an infantile building game of settlement blocs?

“Is it the realism that will extend a temporary occupation into a never-ending system of control and discrimination? Is it this realism that allows us to accommodate ourselves to the fruits of occupation—the burning of olive groves and mosques, the culture of holy harassment that has come to typify day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria [n.b. – the West Bank]?

“Such cynical realism demands that Palestinians forget their losses, while we fetishize our memories. It makes Palestinian West Bankers dependent on Israeli utilities and then punishes them by withholding revenues. It means destroying Bedouin villages in the place where Jews civilize the desert. It commands us to assassinate their leaders until there is no partner left for peace.

Continue reading Getting Real: A Jewish debate

The Levy Report: the West Bank is not occupied, settlements are not illegal

A bombshell. One that probably should have been expected. But it still came by surprise.

A report from a committee appointed by the current Israeli government, and headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, has just said, basically that the West Bank is not occupied.

As Israeli Attorney Michael Sfard wrote in an explanation in Haaretz today [the Levy Report is not available in English] that: “The West Bank is not occupied, it announced, but rather ‘a territory designated as the national home of the Jewish people… which the governments of Israel… chose not to annex but to approach pragmatically to allow peace negotiations’. And why is that? Because the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the committee tells us, and the British Mandate, designated the territory for the Jewish state. There, in 1922, ended legal history, as far as the committee is concerned…It dismisses the Partition Resolution of 1947, that established the principle of founding two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with the strange statement that it was ‘a plan that did not gain purchase in international law’. The committee does not even bother to mention dozens of statements and declarations by almost all the countries in the world and the many international bodies that actually do recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. Nor does it mention the advisory opinion of the International Court in Hague. The same goes for all of the experts on international law, who in a rare consensus, agree that this is a clear case of occupation. The report does not try to contend with the enormous existing discourse, it tries to silence it”. This commentary by Michael Sfard is published here.

Part of the Israeli argument that the West Bank [and Gaza] are disputed rather than occupied rests on the constructed argument of “no prior legitimate sovereign” — that is, the Jordanian and Egyptian armies [and a few others] moved in on 14-15 May 1948, after Israel’s proclamation of independence. They moved into an area vacated by the British without any arrangement in place for its continued governance or administration. This area where Jordanian and Egyptian and other Arab troops showed up had been part of the League of Nations Mandate that was administered by Britain after they threw the remaining Ottoman military out in 1918, and the Mandate finally officially conferred to Britain at British insistence in 1923. So, the Israeli argument goes, since there was no legitimate prior sovereign, the territory was without a ruler for a few hours, and cannot be considered occupied.

The upshot of the Israeli argument that this territory is disputed and that the Jewish people have a claim which will have to be settled in negotiations. But meanwhile, Israeli civilian law will continue to apply to the areas that Israel chooses, and at least until the present moment Israeli military law applies to the Palestinians living there.

So, while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak rules the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu rules the Israeli settlers…and the Israeli Army that protects them.

Another part of the argument in the Levy Report apparently rests on the argument that Israel’s military actions in the June 1967 war were part of a “defensive war” — an argument that scholars increasingly challenge. In the Egyptian submission to the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on The Wall in July 2009, the Egyptian government argues that Israel was the initiator of this war. Egypt’s removal of UN peacekeeping observers from the Sinai and its closures of the Strait of Tiran, which Israel cites as provocation initiating the 1967 war, are instead viewed by these scholars as acts of aggression that fall short of acts of war, and therefore do not justify the launch of military operations in response.

The rest of our analysis — partial though it is — of this report which proposes to enshrine the present awful reality in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers live as free and protected Israeli citizens under the protection of law, but where Palestinians are subject to overwhelming, arbitrary, disruptive and cruel military rule, can be read on our sister blog, UN-Truth, here.

Gershon Baskin: It's the OCCUPATION

Gershon Baskin, co-Chairman with Palestinian Hanna Siniora of the Israeli-Palestinian media center, who has also become a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, wrote this week that “At the outset of Oslo, the world, including the Arab world (and also including the supporters of peace in Israel and in Palestine), actually believed that the peace process was about ending the occupation, peace between two states living side-by-side, building cross-boundary cooperation in every field possible, ending violence and ending the conflict. During those optimistic days, several countries without diplomatic relations with Israel established them, and several Arab countries even allowed it to open commercial interests offices in their countries. Some Arab countries even opened their own representative offices in Israel. This was possible because they believed the Oslo peace process would bring an end to the occupation. They had good reason to believe that. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995 stated clearly: ‘The two sides agree that West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council in a phased manner, to be completed within 18 months from the date of the inauguration of the council’. The agreement further stated: ‘Redeployments of Israeli military forces to specified military locations will commence after the inauguration of the council and will be gradually implemented’. The interpretation of these sections was that prior to the beginning of permanent status agreements Israel would have withdrawn from more than 90 percent of the West Bank. The US and the Palestinian calculated then that the land area connected to permanent status negotiations, meaning the settlements, accounted for 2%-5% of the West Bank (counting the built-up areas of the settlements with a radius of about 100 meters from the last home in each settlement). The ‘specified military locations’ was estimated to account for about 2% of the West Bank. When Binyamin Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, a ‘conflict’ of interpretation developed between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. At that time I saw a document produced by the legal department of the Foreign Ministry explaining that the new interpretation of the Prime Minister’s Office was incorrect. It stated the following: According to the Prime Minister’s office, the settlement areas in question are based on the statutory planning maps of the civil administration and not on the built-up areas. Those zoning maps provide the settlements with about 40% of the West Bank. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s office stated that instead of ‘specified military locations’ the real intention was ‘security zones’ – meaning that the entire Jordan Valley is a security zone, all of the areas around settlements are security zones, the bypass roads to settlements are security zones, and so are all of the lands adjacent to the Green Line. In other words, 60% of the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands, and in the negotiations with the Palestinians Israel would retain well above 10% of the West Bank, and if possible more. This, according to the Palestinians and even the US, was a major breach of the agreement and it was one of the significant reasons for the failure of the entire process. At that point, the process ceased to being about ending the occupation … Ariel Sharon always believed, as did other Likud leaders,that the settlements would be the best way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. It turns out that they were probably right. Many today even question the very viability of a Palestinian state because of the settlements. Yet the entire international community … believes that a Palestinian state must be established on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders. There is no other solution to the conflict. Instead of dealing with that reality, the government is trying to pressure the US and the EU to transform the peace process into a regional peace process. Netanyahu, Barak and other members of the government think that if they agree to a three-month settlement freeze, not including Jerusalem, the world will consent. The EU and the US in private meetings with Netanyahu and in public statements have insisted that Israel must focus on the settlement issue and not on tricks to avoid making the difficult decisions. All settlement building must stop”…

But, what is actually happening?

The One-State "threat": a new manifesto?

Is this the boogey-man strategy? Or is it an interesting new effort to mobilize a people that had been nearly paralzyed into lethargic and despairing submission? There’s still a lot of the same old rhetoric — is that really necessary?.

It is clear, however, that all the efforts (some more and some less successful) undertaken during the Second Intifida to reassure the Israelis, to soothe their anxieties and understand their psychological mind-set and their (directly and indirectly-expressed) security concerns has not changed one damn thing. The situation has only gotten worse and worse.

Sam Bahour, American-Palestinian businessman and activist living in Ramallah, sent this information in a message today with attached document by e-mail today. Here are some excerpts:

MESSAGE:

“Palestinians have been historically outmaneuvered, politically neutralized, and made totally dependent on international handouts. Or have they? A newly released Palestinian strategy document which outlines strategic political options gives witness to a renewed breath of fresh air in the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence…[M]any of the world’s power brokers are convinced that the Palestinians are successfully being forced into submission and acceptance of the colossal injustices that have been carried out against them [after 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of a brutal Israeli military occupation].

“Leading the choir is the U.S. and its Israeli ally, along with several undemocratic Arab regimes. On the political front, they continue to take great pride in a never-ending ‘peace process’ that has created a peace industry in Palestine, all underwritten by taxpayers from around the world. This peace process has no intention of realizing peace with justice, but rather looks to fragment Palestinians’ national aspirations into bite-sized pieces with state-like trappings — the antithesis of a state with real sovereignty, let alone self-determination.

“On the security front, they claim that the Palestinian Authority (referring to the unelected government of Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah) is excelling by installing a heavy-handed security regime, frighteningly reminiscent of the undemocratic, police-state Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and the entire batch of oil-rich Gulf states, which the U.S. has propped up for decades. Driven by US General Keith Dayton and sanctioned by the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, this security-heavy thrust of activity appears to many observers to be nothing more than another outsourcing option for an Israeli version of its own “security” needs.

On the economic front, they point to grand plans to establish a handful of industrial mega- zones, the majority being located on the unilaterally-defined (illegal) Israeli border between the West Bank and Israel. These industrial zones are meant to absorb the over 150,000 Palestinian laborers that Israel has prohibited from working in Israel. Moreover, as I was recently told by an Israeli promoting these industrial zones, for every job created in such a zone, three will be created for Palestinians outside the industrial zones — thus, in essence, creating an entire artificial economy built around Palestinian and foreign-owned, but Israeli- controlled economic bubbles.

“The 1.5 million Palestinians trapped by Israel in the world’s largest open air prison, Gaza, are not even a part of the discussion.

“In short, the approach of the international community is one of creating a dynamic whereby Palestinians co-exist, not with their Israeli neighbors, but rather with the system of Israeli military occupation, or put simply, sugar coating the status quo which benefits Israel.

“What the international community fails to mention is that the dynamic on the ground is explosive.

“Over the past several months, I participated together with a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life — men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora. We were a group that is a microcosm that reflects the dynamics of the Palestinian society. We could not all meet in one room anywhere in the world because the reality (of travel restrictions) that Israel has created does not permit it, nevertheless we continue to plan and to act. Our mission is to open a discussion on where we go from here: What are the Palestinians’ strategic options to end the Israeli occupation, if any?

“After several workshops in Palestine and abroad and a continuous online debate we have produced the first iteration of “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.” The document is posted at www.palestinestrategygroup.ps and reflects an alternative to an official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick (cement) wall.

“Palestinian society is a dynamic, thinking society which has been so battered and demeaned by Israel and its supporters that many folk, including many Palestinians themselves, will be surprised that the Palestinians have any options whatsoever. One thing is for sure: No matter how long the illegal Israeli occupation continues, do not expect the Palestinians to wake up one morning and accept that they are somehow less human than any other free person in this world. The Palestinian people have given everyone – including their own traditional leadership – plenty of time to end this humiliating and brutal occupation. When all else fails, Palestinians will reclaim the initiative, and will continue to do so over and over, until this occupation is consigned to the trash bin of history, along with all the war criminals who allowed it to persist for so many years”.

Sam Bahour lives in occupied Palestine and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians.” He may be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.

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EXCERPTS FROM THE STRATEGY DOCUMENT:

“The central proposal in this Report is that Israel’s strategic calculations are wrong. Israeli strategic planners overestimate their own strength and underestimate the strategic opportunities open to Palestinians. There are four main perceived alternatives to a negotiated agreement that are attractive to Israel and therefore prevent Israel from reaching a final settlement on the terms offered.

First, the default option of prolonging negotiations indefinitely by pretending that ‘progress has been made’ and that suspensions are temporary as during the past twenty years, with ongoing encroachments and military incursions, few burdens, and considerable financial and other benefits from continuing occupation.

Second, a pseudo provisional ‘two state agreement’ with a strengthened but severely constrained PA masquerading as a Palestinian government while Israel disaggregates and picks off the ‘historic issues’ and retains permanent control.

Third, a unilateral separation dictated by Israel.

Fourth, a control of the occupied territories by Egypt and Jordan.

But these four alternatives are unacceptable to Palestinians. They do not take Palestinian national aspirations seriously. Indeed, they aim to undermine Palestinians’ national identity and rights altogether. So, if Israel refuses to negotiate seriously for a genuine two-state outcome, Palestinians can and will block all four of them by switching to an alternative strategy made up of a combination of four linked
reorientations to be undertaken singly or together.

First, the definitive closing down of the 1988 negotiation option so long abused by Israel. This blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives to a genuine negotiated agreement.

Second, the reconstitution of the Palestinian Authority so that it will not serve future Israeli interests by legitimising indefinite occupation and protecting Israel from bearing its full burden of the costs of occupation (it may become a Palestinian Resistance Authority). This also blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives, and also helps to block the third.

Third, the elevation of ‘smart’ resistance over negotiation as the main means of implementation for Palestinians, together with a reassertion of national unity through reform of the PLO, the empowerment of Palestinians, and the orchestrated eliciting of regional and international third party support. The central aim will be to maximise the cost of continuing occupation for Israel, and to make the whole prospect of unilateral separation unworkable.

Fourth, the shift from a two state outcome to a (bi-national or unitary democratic) single state outcome as Palestinians’ preferred strategic goal. This reopens a challenge to the existence of the State of Israel in its present form, but in an entirely new and more effective way than was the case before 1988.

Is this what Israel wants? Israel cannot prevent Palestinians from a strategic reorientation along these lines. Does Israel really want to force Palestinians to take these steps?

The result of a reorientation of Palestinian strategy will clearly be much worse for Israel than the negotiation of a genuine two state outcome on the basis of the existing 1988 offer. Although many Palestinians may still prefer a genuine negotiated two state solution, a failure of the present Annapolis initiative will greatly strengthen those who argue against this. Most Palestinians are then likely to be convinced that a negotiated agreement is no longer possible. What is undoubtedly the case is that a reversal of the 1988 offer and the adoption of an alternative strategy is much preferable for Palestinians to any of the four preferred Israeli alternatives to a negotiated agreement. So, if current negotiations fail, Palestinians will be driven to replace the 1988 offer by a new strategy, not just rhetorically but in reality. The negotiated two state outcome will then be definitively cancelled. Palestinians will ensure that Israel is seen to be responsible for the closure of their 20 year offer. Israel will have lost an historic and non-recurrent opportunity to end the conflict and to secure its own future survival on the best terms available for Israel.

The first strategic task is the detailed working out of a fundamental reorientation of Palestinian strategy along the lines outlined above, including the new preferred strategic path, and the full range of means of implementation. All of this is commented upon in the main body of the Report. This task must be undertaken in all seriousness and on the assumption that present negotiations will fail. Even if only used as a strategic threat in order to force Israel to negotiate seriously, the intention must still be to implement the new strategy should negotiations fail. An empty threat is strategically no threat. A mere bluff does not work. So it is now an urgent priority for Palestinians to agree and work out in detail their alternative to a negotiated agreement and to communicate this as soon as possible and as forcefully as possible to Israel. This must be the immediate focus of unified national strategic planning that includes all Palestinians, from different backgrounds, generations, genders, and political affiliations, both those living in the occupied territories and those living elsewhere.

The second strategic task is to make sure that Israel understands the terms on which the 1988 offer is still held open by Palestinians and is clear about what Palestinians can and will do should these terms not be met. Has a national movement ever made a concession on a similar scale to that made by Palestinians in 1988? In negotiations Israelis repeatedly say ‘we do all the giving and the Palestinians do all the taking’. This is the opposite of the truth. Palestinians continue to demand no more than 22% of their historic land. It is Israel that has done all the taking through continuous government-backed settler encroachment on this remaining 22%. The second strategic task for Palestinians, therefore, is to spell out the minimum terms acceptable for negotiating a fully independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and to explain clearly why this is by far the best offer that Israel will ever get, including guarantees for Israel’s future security from neighbouring Arab states. Palestinians will set out a clear timetable for judging whether this has been attained or is attainable. It is Palestinians who will judge ‘success’, and it is Palestinians who will decide how long to persist in negotiations and when the moment has come to change strategy entirely.

The third strategic task is to ensure that it is the Palestinian discourse that frames international discussion of the Palestinian future. This is elucidated in the Report. The aim is to make clear to regional and international third parties that in all this it is not Palestinians who are lacking in commitment to a negotiated outcome, but Israel. Palestinians have persisted for twenty years with their historic offer of 1988. Israel has refused to honour it. That is why Israeli protestations are no longer credible to Palestinians. Israel has given Palestinians no option but to look elsewhere for fulfilment of their national aspirations. Israel bears full responsibility should negotiations fail.

In conclusion, it needs to be understood clearly that we Palestinians will never allow Israel to continue its encroachments and domination under the pretence of insincere negotiations, nor to go on imagining falsely that there are better alternatives available to Israel. Israel will have to decide whether to accept the time-limited negotiation offer that is evidently in its own best interest, or not. And we Palestinians will then act accordingly at a time and in a way of our own choosing.

It is now up to us as Palestinians to regain the strategic initiative and to take control of our own national destiny. Israel, regional partners, and international actors, must understand definitively that Palestinians will not be divided in their strategic objectives, and that the Palestinian people, steadfast and determined, will never give up their national struggle…”

This document can be read in full here.

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MEANWHILE, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING ABOUT IN ISRAEL TODAY?

Here is the daily SUMMARY OF EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS, compiled and sent by email from the Government Press Office … the gap between this and the Palestinian document appears very great:

“Yediot Ahronot accuses Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of behaving irresponsibly in the negotiations with the Palestinians given that his is a lame-duck administration. [n.b. – this seems to suggest Olmert must not make any concessions…]

Ma’ariv suggests that the, ‘peace activists,’ like those who recently sailed into the Gaza Strip, ‘bubble over with hatred, preach boycotts and miss no opportunity to justify our most murderous enemies.’ The editors add that, ‘Those whom our objective media has coronated with the crown of peace are aggressive, war-mongering enemies, people who have nothing to do with peace and tranquility.'”

Yisrael Hayom surveys the history of the peace process and asserts that, ‘The fact is that the withdrawals have not succeeded, not because this or that detail has not been honored but because of the discovery raised by the Palestinians’ conduct since the Oslo accords – they do not want peace.’ The editors believe that too many Israelis hold to the concepts that, ‘We need only to find a partner and there will be peace or that in order to assure the continuity of the Jewish state, we must sign peace agreements as quickly as possible.’ The paper warns that, ‘Re-entering the Jewish ghetto inside the 1967 borders will crumble Israeli society, deepen hatred and – mainly – invite further terrorism and unnecessary wars.’

[Gilad Sharon, Eiland, Nadav Haetzni and Dror Edar wrote today’s articles in Yediot Ahronot, Ma’ariv and Yisrael Hayom, respectively.]”

There is oppression

How to describe the present situation?
For the truth to be told, there is no getting around it: one important aspect is the present occupation — the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory — and, whatever the expressed disclaimers, this has dragged oppression in its wake. Few Israelis deny it, when they speak about it — though most Israelis live their normal pleasant, loving, and sometimes stressful lives without dwelling too much on the subject.

Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who has lived among and reported on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza, reporting for Haaretz newspaper, wrote a few years back about the desire expressed by her Israeli compatriots that when they say they want “peace”, she believed what they really meant was “peace” as in “peace and quiet”.

Her recent reporting has taken on a more exhausted and impatient tone.
Continue reading There is oppression