Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tense debate on U.S.-Israel foreign relations begins ahead of J Street Conference

"The administration has made a point of meeting with a wide range of groups on the topic; Jones recently spoke to the American Task Force on Palestine, while Obama is scheduled to address the Jewish Federations of North America next month."

Tense debate on U.S.-Israel foreign relations begins ahead of J Street Conference

By Dan Eggen
Saturday, October 24, 2009; 11:21 AM

BBC NEWS: Price of Hamas principles in Gaza

"The local Hamas leaders speak of absolute certainty in total victory. It is talk not shared on the street. "

BBC NEWS: Price of Hamas principles in Gaza

My letter to the VOA regarding the headline "Abbas's Call for Elections Deepens Palestinian Divisions"

Dear VOA,

Regarding the headline Abbas's Call for Elections Deepens Palestinian Divisions

The article clearly and succinctly points out that "The Palestinian divisions pose a major obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which is the stated goal of the peace process sponsored by the United States. Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel, and Israel says as long as the group rules Gaza, there cannot be a Palestinian state."

So it is not so much Abbas's call as it is Hamas's refusal to renounce violence, refusal to recognize Israel, and now Hamas's refusal to respect the election process that is deepening divisions... I think your headline should reflect that rather helping Hamas achieve its goal of sabotaging peace talks by shifting the blame for Palestinian divisions onto Abbas.

Anne Selden Annab
Mechanicsburg PA USA

Abbas is absolutely right to call for long-overdue Palestinian elections | Ibishblog

Abbas is absolutely right to call for long-overdue Palestinian elections | Ibishblog

Refusing to submit to the cynicism or pessimism this conflict so often demands

"I have traveled to the region and remain humbled and inspired by the courage and tenacity of those Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to submit to the cynicism or pessimism this conflict so often demands." Rebecca Abou-Chedid

A Palestinian farmer, stumped again

A Palestinian farmer, stumped again

Palestinian farmers

Not much of an olive branch

Oct 15th 2009 | AL-MUGHAYIR
From The Economist print edition

The plight of rural Palestinians on the West Bank is as grim as ever

My online comment RE The state will happen 'Institution building' in Palestine (Washington Post)

'Institution building' in Palestine

Lally Weymouth's exclusive interview with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

annieannab wrote:
Palestinians are wise to simply begin the process of making Palestine a reality rather than waiting for justice, peace and Palestine to magically appear... and thank you for publishing this interview focused in on non-violent Palestinian response to the past 61 years of Israel/Palestine conflict.
10/24/2009 7:34:44 AM

J Street and the ATFP are norm breakers By Ghassan Rubeiz

J Street and the ATFP are norm breakers
By Ghassan Rubeiz
Commentary by
Thursday, October 22, 2009

In “Transforming America’s Israeli Lobby,” Dan Fleshler argues that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is not helping Israel’s long-term interests and it is not properly reflecting the progressive sentiments of the American Jewish community. Fleshler explains the complexity of the Jewish lobby in America and urges congress to listen to all shades of Jewish opinion, not only to AIPAC.

There are signs that challengers to AIPAC in the Jewish American community are gaining political muscle. J Street is a new Washington lobby that seeks to promote the interests of Israel through peace advocacy, opposition to colonial policies and dialogue with adversaries. This young organization is holding its first national meeting in Washington DC from October 25 through 28. Eighteen dovish Jewish agencies and movements, including American Peace Now, are participating in this event. The conference has an impressive list of speakers and a thousand participants. A sizable group from the House and Senate will attend. A number of Arab Americans are invited as speakers, including Dr. Ziad Asali, the CEO of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP).

J Street must have observed with satisfaction that ATFP, a dovish Palestinian American organization, recently convened an outstanding event in DC. On October 16, at the Fourth Annual Gala of ATFP, the national security adviser, General James L. Jones, affirmed President Barack Obama’s commitment to the formation of a Palestinian state and his eagerness to revive the peace process. The General said: “The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final-status agreement on two states.” Having the national security adviser a keynote speaker at ATFP reflects a new climate of understanding in Arab-American relations.

It is important for Arabs to pay serious attention to political differences within the American Jewish community. It has been said there are certain Jewish lobbies on Capitol Hill that are more effective in the defense of the Palestinian cause than the best of Arab advocacy groups. I am not sure of how valid this observation is, but there is a point to be made of the near-magical ability of the pro-Israeli lobby on the Hill, which often manages to integrate American and Israeli interests.

Departing from AIPAC’s hawkish approach, J Street has established a solid network of Jewish soft power in Washington, power that promotes win-win “pro Israel, pro Palestinian and pro-American” interests. When Israel launched its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza last December, J Street sent a sobering message:

“Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million-and-a-half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them,” said Daniel Trieman.

Similarly, AFTP is developing its own reconciliatory advocacy on Capitol Hill and gaining access to the White House. Listen to Asali:

“It is up to both peoples to decide whether they will allow themselves to be driven by extremist agendas, or to pursue what is plainly in their national interests. Their past trespasses against each other, both real and imagined, have to give way to the recognition that Israelis and Palestinians clearly now need exactly the same thing: an end of conflict based on two states.”

Innovative thinking links progressive Palestinians and Jews. Both ATFP and J Street are self-critical and respectful of the adversary. Both are encouraged and influenced by Obama. Both believe in the US ability to be the honest broker of peace.

Moderation is a response to unsustainable realities on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide. Many Palestinians are desperate of an enduring occupation, growing Israeli settlements and a painful separation wall. Progressive Palestinians are keen to assure Jews that they are behind security for Israel. When articulated clearly, this Palestinian message resonates well with a large segment of the Jewish community, both in Israel and in America.

J Street is affected by an awakening of the American Jewish community to the consequences of the occupation, a provocative Israeli regime, Palestinian demography, a new American policy and a tarnished image of Tel Aviv. In J Street’s paradigm, Israel’s security requires ending the occupation; there is awareness of the natural capacity of an occupier to do harm to the occupied. A growing segment of the Jewish community recognizes that moderate Jews do have partners among like-minded Palestinians.

The cooperation of J Street with ATFP should be a model for wider Arab and Jewish reconciliation, if peace is ever to materialize. Arab and Jewish Americans are in a unique position to be norm-breakers; they live in a social climate that allows them to recognize the value of partnership across the dividing line. When Arabs and Jews become accustomed to self-criticism they would be on their way to conflict resolution. Both J Street and ATFP have already demonstrated authenticity and audacity, two rare qualities in Middle East politics. Both have a long way to become the mainstream.

Ghassan M. Rubeiz is an Arab-American commentator. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No peace without justice

No peace without justice

Apparently, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come and make peace.

Netanyahu wants to negotiate with Abbas while Israel continues to consolidate the very occupation it is supposed to negotiate an end to.

Apart from the obvious damage this would do to Abbas in terms of public opinion, it shows nerve to think that any Palestinian leader, in view of the past 15 years of ever-spreading Israeli colonies in the occupied territories, would even consider such a proposal for a second.

Netanyahu doesn’t really care to make peace. Or, rather, he would love to make peace but not in such a way that a minimum of justice is served.

What Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians seem to be forgetting is that there can be no peace unless a majority believes that peace also serves a sense of fairness. Offering maybe 45 per cent of the West Bank for a future Palestinian state does not qualify as fair.

Of course Israel is enamoured with its power. And why wouldn’t it be? It has nuclear weapons and the most modern army in the region. This, it got by and large free from its generous sponsors within whose domestic circles pro-Israel groups have played a clever game. These same groups have also shielded Israel from the laws of nations that others are asked to abide by.

Moreover, the idea that Palestinians, not Jews, could possibly have a just cause is so alien to the Israeli psyche that a school book that dared mention the fact that the Palestinians have a very different narrative from the Israelis on how the state was founded had to be recalled.

Might, of course, is not right, and Israel will learn to its detriment that the best possible time to make peace with the Palestinians - on a basis that preserves the Zionist idea of a Jewish state, however wrong that may be in a country where 20 per cent, the original inhabitants, are not Jewish - passed with Yasser Arafat.

There is still a small chance with Abbas, but it is slipping away.

This is not a marketplace; it is not a bargaining process. This is about freedom, national preservation and history. People will go a long way for those things.

Palestinians will not accept anything less than what is rightly theirs, and international legality is the minimum of that.

22 October 2009

My letter to The Independent regarding "No way home: The tragedy of the Palestinian diaspora"

RE: No way home: The tragedy of the Palestinian diaspora

Dear Sir,

Regarding the report " No way home: The tragedy of the Palestinian diaspora"... Some crucially important details were left out, shifting focus away from Israel's obligation to respect international law and the Palestinians basic human rights: The recent Arab Peace Initiative clearly points out that "Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194."

UN Resolution 194 dates from 1948, specifically affirming the Palestinian refugees rights "Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;"

Clearly from the very beginning of this 61 year long 'peace process' honoring the idea of two states goes hand in hand with respecting the Palestinians' basic human rights, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees' inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands all through out what is now called Israel.

Perhaps the future Palestinian state will be part of the process of welcoming the Palestinian diaspora home, as well as advocating for refugee rights worldwide, but it can not and should not be a substitute for compassionately and calmly insisting that Israel fully honor its legal and moral obligations to the men, women and children of historic Palestine.

Anne Selden Annab

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ADC Releases Information Detailing Campaign Against Illegal Settlements

ADC Releases Information Detailing Campaign Against Illegal Settlements

Washington, D.C. | October 20, 2009 | | Today the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) released information detailing the on-going campaign against the funding of illegal settlement development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Recently, ADC was represented by Legal Advisor Abed Ayoub and Legal Fellow Uri Strauss at the Annual National Lawyers Guild Conference in Seattle, Washington, where the campaign was, for the first time, publicly discussed.

ADC has filed multiple administrative complaints with the with the US Department of the Treasury, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), requesting investigations into the activities of organizations claiming tax-exempt status under section 501(c)3 of the US Tax Code yet allegedly raising funds for the development of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Among other allegations, the ADC complaints allege that these organizations are using assets and income in direct violation of their addressed purpose, and to support illegal and terrorist activities abroad.

Each year billions of dollars are being funneled through American-based and registered non-profit organizations, also known as 501(c)(3)’s. Many of these organizations claim to be established for peaceful purposes, however through research conducted by ADC it was discovered that the resources are being used for programs, such as settlement development, that are outside of the organizations' mission. For example, some of these organizations are engaging in the purchase of military equipment. This is a violation of the United States Internal Revenue Tax Code. Further, activities, such as illegal settlement development, are contrary to public policy and disqualify a nonprofit from tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The ADC Legal Department began drafting and filing the complaints earlier this year (See here). ADC is working with a number of coalition partners, both nationally and internationally, in conducting this ongoing campaign. ADC has also drafted a comprehensive memorandum outlining the steps an individual can take in challenging the tax-exempt status of an organization supporting illegal settlement development.

ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “Israeli settlements in the occupied territories not only constitute violations of international law and the Geneva conventions but they also contravene the stated policies of every US President since the occupation began. Today, illegal settlements continue to expand unabated. The number of settlers illegally residing in the Occupied West Bank at the beginning of the Oslo Peace Process was 250,000. Today that number has more than doubled. The United States should work to enforce its stated policy on illegal settlements and not provide tax incentives for organizations that jeopardize our national interests and peace and security in the Middle East.”

The ADC Legal Department will continue to file complaints against non-profit organizations violating the IRS tax code. For more information about this campaign please email ADC Legal Advisor Abed Ayoub to

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.
Contact: Abed A. Ayoub, Esq.

The PLO, the Hijab, the Government, Security and Elections. October 17, 2009

Press Release: The PLO, the Hijab, the Government, Security and Elections.
October 17, 2009

Margin of error: +3 %
Field work dates: September 31 – October 3, 2009
Publication Date: Saturday - October 17, 2009

(1200 questionnaire in the West Bank and Gaza)

88% support the conduct of an election to resolve disputes
• Majority (56%) oppose the imposition of the Hijab in schools
• 81%: the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians
• Fayyad‘s approval rate increases from 55% to 64%
• PLC Election: Fateh (58%) and Hamas (27%) and others (15%)
• Presidential Election: Abbas (64%) and Haniyeh (36%)
• 51% evaluate the performance of the Police as (good) and 24% as (medium)
• In the West Bank, the positive evaluation of the Police reaches 85%.


A New Image of Palestine in Washington

Khairallah Khairallah
Al-Raya (Opinion)
October 17, 2009 - 12:00am

(a translation from Arabic, see below for Arabic version)

Thank God for the new face of Palestine in Washington, an image that the United States of America can respect along with the rest of the international community. This Palestinian image, which has the potential to permeate the American consciousness, operates under the rubric of an organization called the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). A few days ago, on the evening of Oct. 15, the Task Force, which is headed by Dr. Ziad Asali, held its annual dinner in one of the premier hotels of the American capital.

The event was noteworthy in several respects. First was the presence of Retired General Jim Jones, Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, and his announcement during his keynote speech that he was officially representing President Obama. This bespeaks the importance that the American President places on the Palestinian issue on the one hand, and the extent to which he is willing to go in his efforts towards finding a solution on the other.

Recently there has been a lot of speculation about the position of the Obama administration on the settlement issue. However, Gen. Jones -- who is knowledgeable about the intricacies of the West Bank, as well as the nature of conflict in general and of the Palestinians and Israelis in particular -- spoke of “ending the occupation that started in 1967.” One cannot fail to note the significance of this language, especially given that Jones emphasized that he came to the dinner as a representative of Obama and not just as in his capacity as the National Security Advisor.

His remarks made it clear that there is an administration policy that envisages the borders of the Palestinian state as being based on the lines of 1967 prior to the Israeli occupation. This strongly implies that the borders of Palestine will not be defined by the settlements. Benjamin Netanyahu, who does not want to hear about Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, would like to see borders defined by settlements and strives to impose Israeli conditions that would prevent effective Palestinian representation in any future talks.

In contrast to this Israeli position, Jones insisted that there is an occupation taking place in the West Bank, and that the solution is to have two states in historical Palestine. Herein lies the importance of ATFP's approach, which promotes the Palestinian issue by working within the American system. This is an effective strategy in an environment that traditionally provides Israel with maximum support by all means and at all levels.

It was no accident that the theme of the annual ATFP gala this year was “Palestine Alongside Israel: Liberty, Security and Prosperity.” The tone was not a confrontation with the US government or policy, but instead an affirmation of the need to end the occupation under which Palestinians suffer. President Obama acknowledged the reality of the “occupation” and the need to end it through his advisor. The problem, as they outline it, is the occupation and how to end it.

The Palestinians will not free themselves from occupation without concerted efforts both on the ground in Palestine and in Washington. These efforts should ensure security in Palestine so that Israeli withdrawal will not lead to the formation of a Palestinian base for Al Qaeda or a Taliban-style emirate as is emerging in Gaza. What the Palestinians want is peace, justice, liberty, prosperity, and to live in tranquility and security with all their neighbors. The message was clear, and it was one of support for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and for the efforts of its government under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The Gala dinner honored Palestinian, Arab and American dignitaries with the sophistication their achievements deserved. The honorees were Dr. Najat Arafat Khelil, a nuclear physicist and daughter of Nablus and her husband Chekib Khelil, the Algerian Minister of Energy; the Palestinian cardiologist Dr. Fuad Jubran; and Prof. Shibley Telhami. There was also specific recognition of the contributions of both Palestinians and Americans towards peace, including Amb. Robert Pelletreau, who represented the United States in the first formal meeting between the US and the PLO twenty years ago. In short, there was a new and fresh image of Palestine presented to Washington DC, the political capital of the world.

The Gala showed that the Palestinians are both a people who believe in the culture of life and that they have contributions other than violence and the negation of others. It showed that the world cannot remain silent when it comes to the occupation. It showed that it is unfair to equate the victim with the victimizer. Above all, it effectively represented to those who matter in the United States that Palestinians, though suffering under occupation, have a culture far different from one defined by terror as claimed by Israel, especially its current government. Indeed, the government of Israel is terrorizing the Palestinian people by enforcing the occupation.

Most important of all is that is that this Gala proved beyond any doubt that ATFP knows how to play the game in the United States from within the system itself. It is a very encouraging that Palestinian Americans have begun to operate within the system, just as Israel and its supporters have. In the end, those who remain outside this system will stay on the margins and will never be able to influence the center of decision making in Washington. We should not exaggerate what the Palestinians have yet accomplished in this regard, but any journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

(a translation from Arabic, see below for Arabic version)

Click here to download the original Arabic51.71 KB

UNRWA Students Make a Stand Against Poverty

Refugee Stories

UNRWA Students Make a Stand Against Poverty

October 2009

This year 485,023 UNRWA school children in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, stood up simultaneously and shouted "No to poverty" in protest of their own poverty and the poverty of others throughout the world. The Stand Up events at UNRWA schools were organised as part of the global campaign calling on world leaders to tackle the issue of poverty.

The Palestine refugee communities served by UNRWA are profoundly affected by poverty. "The whole world must be made aware that growing poverty threatens the childhood of Gaza’s children," explained one of the girls at Gaza’s Stand Up Against Poverty event last year.

Unfortunately in the past year the socio-economic situation in Gaza has deteriorated further. The continued border blockade has meant continued economic stagnation. This has been compounded by the destruction of key industrial and civilian infrastructure during the three-week Israeli offensive at the beginning of the year.

A survey carried out by UNRWA found that this year the number of abject poor refugees in Gaza has tripled from 100,000 to over 300,000. Furthermore, the Agency has received 80,000 applications for additional help from 400,000 refugees.

In the West Bank, a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report found some reason for hope, predicting economic growth if Israel continues to ease restrictions on internal trade and movement of people. However, the report warned that failure to do so would mean economic downturn.

Even with some improvements many Palestinians in the West Bank continue to find themselves facing a difficult economic reality. The IMF puts unemployment at 20% and studies have shown that in the West Bank, as in all UNRWA’s fields of operation, refugees are more likely to suffer from unemployment than their non-refugee counterparts.

Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, also face economic hardships. Absolute poverty rates among Palestine refugees at the end of 2007 were, respectively, 12.0%, 3.0% and 7.0%.

All this means that poverty is a reality for the majority of children in UNRWA schools and the children themselves have a lot to say on the issue.

This year, in preparation for the Stand Up Against poverty event, every UNRWA school child was asked to make a poster and has been encouraged to discuss and express their thoughts and feelings on the issue of poverty.

In Shu’afat Girls School in the West Bank the debate was lively. "I’d like to tell the world that there is no shame in poverty" said Iman one of the 8th graders. "I wish that the world would raise its voice" chipped in Abeer from the 7th grade.

As to ideas on how to tackle poverty, Ayat Hamden from the 10th grade knew exactly what she thought would help. "There needs to be cooperation, we need to be given education, job opportunities and freedom to travel".

Another 7th grader offered a closing thought on the theme of the need for cooperation to tackle poverty. "Everyone needs to work together, the Jews and the Arabs, all the people in the world, we all need to learn to live together." video is in Arabic. Read the English transcript

October 2009

Some half a million Palestinian children, all refugees attending UNRWA schools in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, last year stood up simultaneously and shouted "No to poverty" as part of the global campaign calling on world leaders to tackle the issue of poverty.

In 2009, every UNRWA school child from ages five to eighteen will, once again, stand up in protest of their own poverty and the poverty of others throughout the world. Each UNRWA schoolchild has been asked to make a poster in preparation for the day and has been encouraged to discuss and express their thoughts and feelings on the issue of poverty. Together with their teachers, students will debate questions such as "What is poverty?" and "How can we end it?"

The Palestine refugee communities served by UNRWA are profoundly affected by poverty. None more so than in Gaza, where a three-year border blockade has meant economic stagnation, and where the number of Palestine refugees living in abject poverty has tripled in the past year.

"The whole world must be made aware that the growing poverty threatens the childhood of Gaza’s children," explained one of the girls at Gaza’s Stand Up Against Poverty event last year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arab News: Obama committed to two-state solution in ME‭, ‬says aide

Obama committed to two-state solution in ME‭, ‬says aide
Barbara Ferguson I Arab News

CANDID TALK: US National Security adviser Gen. James Jones, left, at the fourth annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington over the weekend. (AN photo)

WASHINGTON‭: ‬The Obama administration is committed to creating a Palestinian state and determined to move forward with peace talks‭, ‬said National Security Adviser Gen‭. ‬James L‭. ‬Jones‭, ‬at the fourth annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine‭ (‬ATFP‭). ‬

‭"‬We are clear‭, ‬unambiguous and consistent‭. ‬The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states‭," ‬said Gen‭. ‬Jones‭, ‬adding that he was proud to represent President Barack Obama at the ATFP event‭, ‬held this weekend‭.‬

‭"‬The president is committed to achieving two states‭, ‬Israel and Palestine‭, ‬living side-by-side in peace and security‭. ‬Make no mistake about that‭. ‬He is personally committed to this goal because he believes that peace is in America's interests‭, ‬just as it is in the interests of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples‭. ‬The president has recognized that this will be a difficult task‭, ‬but he has emphasized that he will pursue it with the patience and the dedication that this task requires‭."‬

Gen‭. ‬Jones said ending the conflict and the occupation is‭ "‬essential‭" ‬because what is at stake is‭ "‬nothing less than the dignity and the security of all human beings‭." ‬

‭"‬The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states‭: ‬a Jewish state of Israel‭, ‬and a viable‭, ‬independent and contiguous Palestine that ends the occupation that began in 1967‭ ‬and realizes and unleashes the full potential of the Palestinian people‭," ‬Jones told the ATFP audience of over 650‭, ‬which included members of Congress‭, ‬current and former senior administration officials‭, ‬ministers and ambassadors from numerous states‭, ‬prominent policy analysts and journalists‭, ‬and noted Palestinian and Arab Americans‭.‬

In his welcoming remarks at the gala‭, ‬which was entitled‭: "‬Palestine Alongside Israel‭: ‬Liberty‭, ‬Security‭, ‬Prosperity‭," ‬ATFP President Dr‭. ‬Ziad Asali said‭: "‬The occupation simply must end‭... ‬For their own sake‭, ‬courageous Palestinians have begun a new policy to build‭, ‬in spite of the occupation‭, ‬the foundations of a society and state in which every citizen is afforded both the rights and responsibilities of liberty‭."‬

The black-tie gala in Washington‭, ‬DC‭, ‬honored three prominent Palestinian Americans‭: ‬Dr‭. ‬Najat Arafat Khelil‭, ‬professor Shibley Telhami and Dr Fuad Jubran‭. ‬It also presented a Special Recognition commemorating 20‭ ‬Years of US-Palestinian diplomacy to Ambassador Robert Pelletreau‭.‬

Khelil currently presides over the Arab Women's Council Research and Education Fund and is co-coordinator of the Dialogue Project between American Jewish and Palestinian Women‭. ‬

Born in Nablus‭, ‬Palestine‭, ‬Khelil obtained her doctorate degree in nuclear physics from the State University of North Texas‭, ‬Denton‭, ‬where she was the first woman to get such a degree‭.‬

‭"‬To me‭, ‬the Palestinian question was and still is at the center of my universe‭. ‬All the work I was doing did not satisfy my hunger to achieve results‭," ‬said Khelil‭. "‬I wanted to be part of all efforts and engage in all organizations dealing with the conflict‭."‬

She said that receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award‭ "‬does not mean my work is done‭." ‬Instead‭, ‬it would help to‭ "‬strengthen my resolve even more that the modest work we have started needs to continue as the Palestinian question requires our commitment‭, ‬support and attention‭. ‬More than ever before‭, ‬we need to solidify our efforts to bring a just and honorable peace to the Middle East where all people can live side-by-side in peace‭, ‬dignity and without fear‭."‬

The ATFP Award for Excellence in Scholarship went to Telhami‭, ‬whose family story is familiar to many Palestinians who have endured similar hardships‭.‬

Telhami said he came to the US at the age of 19‭, ‬with a one-way air ticket‭, $‬150‭ ‬cash and‭ "‬broken English‭."‬

‭"....‬My mother and father have been a driving force for me‭,.... ‬my mother‭, ‬Terese‭, ‬was a city girl‭, ‬born in Haifa‭, ‬who finished fourth grade but‭, ‬as the 1948‭ ‬war broke out found her family taking refuge in what was then a limited village on Mount Carmel‭. ‬

‭"‬My father‭, ‬Zeki‭, ‬raised by a widowed mother‭, ‬was one of the first two villagers to ever attend high school‭. ‬He was determined to be the first to finish college and planned to attend the American University in Beirut when war imprisoned his dreams‭, ‬limiting him to a life of a small village in which he rounded up children off the streets and offered free education‭, ‬ultimately becoming‭, ‬as the villagers called him‭ "‬Al-Ustad‭" - ‬the teacher‭.‬

‭"‬Despite the dashed aspirations that war brought‭, ‬the profound egalitarianism that my parents held was only reinforced‭. ‬Instead of bitterness‭, ‬there was openness‭. ‬Our home knew no difference between Christian and Druze‭, ‬Muslim and Jew‭. ‬It was always about human beings‭ - ‬above politics or tribe‭. ‬One must always defend what's rightfully theirs‭, ‬but never at someone else's expense‭. ‬Yes‭, ‬for much of my childhood‭, ‬I grew up with no running water or electricity with the biggest thrill being the donkey ride to the water well‭. ‬

‭"...‬When my parents let go of me‭, ‬their eldest of six‭, ‬to seek learning in the US‭, ‬it was about enabling the dreams that they could not fulfill‭, ‬and a belief that in America‭, ‬the sky is the limit‭, ‬regardless of color or creed‭."‬

ATFP's Award for Excellence in Science and Medication Education went to Jubran‭, ‬a doctor of cardiology and internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio‭. ‬

He spoke of the need to mentor young men and women‭ - ‬and give them hope rather than despair‭: "‬What I really do nowadays is very simple‭. ‬I pick up an intelligent‭, ‬underprivileged young Palestinian or other person‭, ‬and give him an opportunity for higher education‭. ‬You pick them one at a time and make their lives better‭. ‬It is just like lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness‭. ‬

‭"...‬It is amazing what you do when you pay special attention to a young man‭, ‬how much transformation you can achieve in his life‭. ‬You can bring someone from misery and make him a real contributor to society and hopefully to the world in general‭."‬

The ATFP's Special Recognition Award commemorated 20‭ ‬Years of US-Palestinian diplomacy to Pelletreau‭, ‬the American official who initiated the first formal contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization‭ (‬PLO‭) ‬20‭ ‬years ago‭. ‬

In his acceptance speech‭, ‬Pelletreau told the audience‭: "‬Today‭, ‬we have a new opportunity‭" ‬for peace in the Middle East‭.‬

‭"‬After eight years of passivity and neglect‭, ‬the United States is organizing itself for serious peace diplomacy‭. ‬We know that it will not be easy‭. ‬We know there are voices out there that are opposed‭, ‬in Israel and Palestine‭, ‬and here in the United States‭, ‬and will do what they can to derail this train and we must not allow that to happen‭. ‬All of us who are supporters of peace‭ - ‬all of us in this room‭ - ‬must be actively engaged in speaking out‭... ‬and never give up‭, ‬and never give up‭, ‬and never give up‭!"‬

My letter to the New York Times RE Painful Mideast Truth: Force Trumps Diplomacy by Ethan Bronner

RE: Painful Mideast Truth: Force Trumps Diplomacy

Dear Editor,

Bronner's article "Painful Mideast Truth: Force Trumps Diplomacy" seeks to goad both Israelis and Palestinians into using weapons and terror not words and diplomacy, as if even more violence and militancy will bring about victory.

Bronner's analysis is wrong. For everyone's sake we need to be noticing that it was the awakening of the global information age that forced Israel to recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and that was only possible because of the Palestinians' nonviolent resistance and outreach through the arts:

Mahmoud Darwish's first poetry collection "Leaves of Olives" published in 1964 included the poem "Identity Card". That poem has echoed through out the world, firmly refuting Israeli propaganda claims that there is no such thing as a Palestinian... And for those who have little patience for poetry Ismail Shammout and his wife Tamam al Akhal, both influential and talented Palestinian artists, helped us all notice and better understand visual symbols of Palestinian culture and traditions.

Anne Selden Annab

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Opening Remarks by Ziad Asali at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Opening Remarks by Ziad Asali at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to our Gala tonight, the theme of which is “Palestine Alongside Israel: Liberty, Security, and Prosperity.” These are our goals as an organization, and are also the foundations upon which peace can be built and sustained. Security and prosperity are the essential components and deliverables of peace. They are the facilitators of the quest towards peace and they are the fruits that all the people in the region will enjoy once it is reached.

Liberty, however, is the indispensible basis for ending the conflict. It is the moral engine that will drive security, prosperity and neighborly relations in the region. It is no coincidence that all the major political transformations in modern history – and our own Declaration of Independence stands as a shining example – have had the ideals of liberty as their core aim. Liberty has always been the organizing theme around which every burgeoning nation’s aspirations have coalesced. It is the authentic expression of a people’s need to assume mastery over their own fate. It is freedom and responsibility. It is choice and consequence. It is this sense of empowerment that allows societies to turn their energies towards building a better future for their children. Without liberty there will be despair, which inevitably gives rise to unrest, violence and extremism.

For Palestinians, liberty starts with attaining independence, but it does not end there.
Without ending the occupation, all progress achieved in improving security and prosperity cannot be sustained. The liberation agenda will continue until a Palestinian state is born. And it would not only be sincere and patriotic Palestinians who truly desire justice and liberty who will keep the dream of liberation alive. The present lack of liberty will continue to be cynically manipulated by many in Palestine and elsewhere to prolong and escalate the conflict, to undermine the state building effort and to erode Palestinian society itself. The occupation simply must end.

Yet many peoples have attained independence only to fall prey to despotism, chaos, bad or even failed governance, or close-minded obscurantism. For their own sake, courageous Palestinians have begun a new policy to build, in spite of the occupation, the foundations of a society and state in which every citizen is afforded both the rights and responsibilities of liberty. Through establishing the rule of law, good governance, efficient health and education sectors, and a free market, the Palestinians have taken control of their own future towards a democratic, secular state of Palestine. Their friends, and the true friends of Israel, and of peace, throughout the world, must support these efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This evening we are celebrating two things:

First is the commitment of our government and society to ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel in peace and security. Indeed, the presence of so many distinguished guests here tonight, including members of congress, current and former senior administration officials, leading journalists and analysts, as well as diplomats and high-ranking foreign officials is a testament to the deep belief in Washington – and indeed the whole world – in the necessity of peace. We at ATFP have always believed that our political system is open to all Americans who seek to advance the United States national interests. Tonight, we feel that this distinguished gathering amply demonstrates that we are on the right track.

Second – and I may even claim more importantly – this is an evening to celebrate the contributions of Palestinian-Americans. We are not only celebrating the United States as the land of opportunity, nor simply celebrating the resourcefulness of Palestinians in the face of challenges. We are also celebrating the marriage of the two and the resulting excellence and innovation. Tonight, as we have done in our previous three galas, we will honor three distinguished Palestinian-Americans. Yet in this room, and throughout the nation, there are countless other remarkable stories worthy of honoring. Tonight, we hope to give Washington and our fellow Americans a window into the story, passion, patriotism, hope and tenacity of Palestinian-Americans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you again. Thank you all for joining us, and I hope you enjoy this evening.

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Najat Arafat Khelil Accepts Award at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

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Hussein Ibish delivers a letter from Rep. Howard Berman

Next:Maysoon Zayid >>

Maysoon Zayid Performs at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Next:Dr. Telhami >>

Shibley Telhami Accepts Award at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Next:Dr. Jubran >>

Fuad Jubran Accepts Award at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Next:Robert Pelletreau >>

Ambassador Robert Pelletreau Accepts a Special Recognition at the ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Next:Abbas Letter >>

Ambassador Maen Areikat delivers a Letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Next:Gen. Jones Introduction >>

Ziad Asali Introduces Gen. Jim Jones at ATFP Fourth Annual Gala

Next:Gen. Jones Keynote >>

Remarks by National Security Advisor Gen. James L. Jones

As delivered

Thank you Ziad for that kind introduction. As Ziad mentioned, we first met in 2007 when I was appointed Special Envoy for Middle East Security and we also worked together on the US-Palestinian Partnership. Ziad has been a great friend ever since, and he has served this body as President with distinction. May ask you to join me in recognizing his record of service to this organization and the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Ziad, thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply honored to represent President Obama at the Fourth Annual Gala of the American Task Force on Palestine. For six years, ATFP has been an independent and influential voice in promoting an end to the conflict in the Middle East through a negotiated agreement for two states, Israel and Palestine. ATFP has taken a clear stand against violence, no matter what the cause, and no matter the victims or the perpetrators. It has partnered with USAID and other US agencies, NGOs and think tanks to help improve life in the West Bank and Gaza in very, very concrete and meaningful ways. It has worked to bring the Palestinians closer to fulfilling their legitimate aspirations for statehood, and to unleash the extraordinary potential of the Palestinian people.

There are so many distinguished guests in the audience that it is impossible to mention everyone by name, but I do want to recognize the honorees, Dr. Fuad Jubran, Prof. Shibley Telhami and Dr. Najat Khelil who have done so much to enrich both American and Palestinian societies. I also want to recognize Amb. Robert Pelletreau, here to be recognized for his role in initiating 20 years of US-Palestinian diplomacy, as well as the PLO representative to the United States, Maen Areikat, and, of course, Dr. Asali himself.

Honored guests, the President is committed to achieving two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. Make no mistake about that. He is personally committed to this goal because he believes that peace is in America's interests, just as it is in the interests of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. The President has recognized that this will be a difficult task, but he has emphasized that he will pursue it with the patience and the dedication that this task requires.

He has backed up these words with action. On just his second day in office, he appointed one of our most trusted senior officials, Sen. George Mitchell, to be his special envoy for Middle East peace. Since that time, the President has traveled to Cairo to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict head-on, and has met and spoken with his counterparts numerous times to advance the cause of peace, as he did last month during the UN General Assembly in a memorable address to that body. All the while, he has fully supported Sen. Mitchell's diplomacy, because this is a clear priority for this administration, and because this President was not going to wait to do something about it until the end of his administration.

Throughout the past several months, I believe that our policy has been clear, unambiguous and consistent. We have called on all parties to meet their responsibilities and to take steps to promote an environment in which negotiations can prosper and succeed. These steps were never meant as an end in themselves but as a way to relaunch talks on the core issues of the conflict: security for both Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

For Israel, these steps have included stopping settlement growth, dismantling outposts and improving access and movement in the West Bank. For the Palestinians, it has meant continuing efforts on security and reforming the institutions of governance. And for the Arab states, it has meant reaching out to Israel to demonstrate the benefits of the Arab Peace Initiative as Israel takes steps towards peace.

But our approach has not focused only on addressing the political issues that separate Israelis and Palestinians. It is also based on building an infrastructure for peace through bottom-up efforts to help the Palestinian Authority ensure security, develop its institutions and provide for the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad has made great strides towards achieving these goals. I witnessed this progress firsthand in 2008, when the PA transformed Jenin from a battle-scarred hotbed of violence into the secure, hopeful city full of people with great expectations that we see today.

The PA recently took these efforts a step further with its two-year plan to build the institutions of a Palestinian state. We have strongly supported President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they have taken responsibility for their own fate and focused on what the PA can build now to shape the future, instead of waiting for the conflict be resolved before this important work can be begun.

As the President said a few weeks ago in New York, we have made some progress towards the goals we set out earlier this year both on these bottom-up efforts, and on getting the parties back to the negotiating table. But we must do much, much more. The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states: a Jewish state of Israel, and a viable, independent and contiguous Palestine that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes and unleashes the full potential of the Palestinian people.

Sen. Mitchell has worked hard with the parties over the past few weeks to find the right formula through which to begin these talks. We will continue that effort in the coming weeks, because it is our strong and unequivocal view that we must move beyond talking about talks and get to the hard work of addressing the core issues that separate Israelis and Palestinians.

As we do so, we cannot forget the people of Gaza and southern Israel. Just as we defend Israel's right to self-defense, we cannot accept the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And so, we call for a reopening of the crossings, with an appropriate monitoring regime, to allow for the entry of legitimate goods into Gaza, because progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must absolutely and unequivocally be a part of the road to peace. We also continue to call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.

The task ahead, ladies and gentlemen, will be difficult, there will be setbacks, there will be challenges, there will be false starts, but the people of the region have been suffering for too long for this conflict to be neglected once more. As President Obama has reminded us, what is at stake in this conflict is nothing less than the dignity and the security of all human beings.

As we meet here tonight, we know that there are Palestinian children who lack the hope and the opportunity that is their right, just as there are Israeli children who lack the security that they deserve. This is what motivates us to move forward. The United States will always stand for peace, and will always work to achieve it to secure the future for Israelis, Palestinians and Americans alike.

It is a great honor to be with you to share these few thoughts. I can assure you that President Obama's dedication to achieve these goals is unshaken, that he is committed, and that he will be relentless in the pursuit of achieving these dreams for our people, for the Palestinians and for the Israelis alike. Thank you very, very much.

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