Friday, April 23, 2010

My letter to the NYTimes RE Israeli Unassailable Might and Unyielding Angst By Roger Cohen

RE Roger Cohen: Israeli Unassailable Might and Unyielding Angst, It's not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in the pervasive Israeli narrative.

Dear Editor,

While Cohen focuses all of his concern on Israel's angst and survival I can not help but worry more about "putative Palestine hanging in limbo
"... and about how the Israel/Palestine conflict has morphed "from Arab armies to Palestinian militants to Islamic jihadists " in part because of Israeli policy: "Settlers are the direct beneficiaries of a state policy that says it is OK to occupy and steal another people’s land, to demolish their homes, to steal their water, to construct segregated roads and build entire cities behind the walls of an apartheid system that promotes settlements by stripping Palestinians of their basic rights and freedoms." Saeb Erekat Settler violence reflects Israeli policy

Narratives can and do change with time, and so do sovereign nations... but facts remain facts: I very much hope that Palestine has a chance to move beyond being putative and oppressed- and tortured from within by various religious extremists, angry radicals, and hate mongers on both sides who thrive on the continuation of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Anne Selden Annab

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem...

  • "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Settler violence reflects Israeli policy

Erekat: Settler violence reflects Israeli policy
Published yesterday (updated) 22/04/2010 10:55
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday condemned recent settler attacks against Palestinians, attributing them to a culture of violence, hatred and extremism that the Israeli government has encouraged by announcing new settlements.

"Settler violence and the wanton destruction of Palestinian property replicate what is being done on a much larger scale by Israel as it pushes ahead with illegal settlement construction across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem," Erekat said in a statement. "They bring into full view the violence that underpins Israel’s policy of illegal settlement construction and the cost to Palestinians."

The PLO official added that "Settlers are the direct beneficiaries of a state policy that says it is OK to occupy and steal another people’s land, to demolish their homes, to steal their water, to construct segregated roads and build entire cities behind the walls of an apartheid system that promotes settlements by stripping Palestinians of their basic rights and freedoms.

"The result is a culture of violence, hatred and extremism in which Israeli settlers, often accompanied by Israeli soldiers, run riot across the West Bank, driven by an ideology that glorifies such acts as serving the cause of Greater Israel, a cause which draws support from many in the current Israeli coalition," the official added, following a day of settler violence and vandalism across the occupied West Bank.

His comments followed the latest spate of settler attacks targeting Palestinians, including the uprooting of 250 olive tree seedlings Tuesday by residents of the settlement of Givat Hayovel, which had been planted by Palestinian farmers in the village of Qaryut to mark Earth Day.

On Monday, settlers attacked the General Union of Palestinian Workers' housing complex in Ein Sinyia, north of Ramallah, during which settlers destroyed water tanks and surrounding property, the statement noted, as well as last week’s attack on the village of Huwwara during which settlers vandalized a mosque, painting racist slogans on its walls, burned two cars, and uprooted more than 300 olive trees.

Rather than prepare Israelis for peace, Erekat said, the policies of the current Israeli government "encourage and enable these extremists to intimidate and destroy at will, armed with the absurd notion that they have a divine right to steal, to vandalize and to persecute another people. Beyond the enormous damage settler violence does, it is also an example of Israeli incitement pure and simple."

Referring to Israeli media reports on Wednesday, Erekat said that even some members of the Israeli military have recognized that settler violence is deliberately aimed to incite riots and provoke Palestinians. He said that Israel’s refusal freeze all settlements threatened any hope of salvaging the two-state solution, while settler violence threatened to escalate tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Settlements are the major obstacle to peace and the greatest threat to the two-state solution. Everyone in the international community acknowledges this. They are a black hole in which hopes of peace are fast disappearing, Erekat said.

"Palestinians want peace and freedom: the Israeli government wants settlements and apartheid. While Palestinians are building a state, Israeli settlers remain intent on destroying everything in their path. That is the basic equation we face today, and the basic challenge facing the international community," he concluded.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Tell Them, They Already Know By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH April 21, 2010


Don't Tell Them, They Already Know
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
April 21, 2010

It has always been my strong conviction that any real change in Israeli politics must inevitably come out of Israel itself and not solely as a result of external pressure. Don't get me wrong, the United States in particular could drastically change the balances of power with the swift stroke of a pen (across its Israel foreign aid check to be precise) and is thus in no way exonerated from its responsibility of playing a positive role in the resolving the conflict. My point, however, is that for the Israeli government to change, it must be pressured from its own people. It is not for us, the oppressed and occupied Palestinians, to teach them the ways in which they occupy us or the means with which they oppress us. That never has been and never will be our job.

Thankfully, I am not alone in my opinion. While many Palestinians may also think this way, there are Israelis out there who believe it is their duty to end the occupation of Palestine. Some take it from the standpoint that the occupation is corroding the very foundations of Israel and its moral compass while others understand it as the deepest violation of [Palestinian] human rights. In either case, their views corroborate my point exactly, which is that Israelis themselves will be the catalyst for a real change in Israel.

Take for example this last week. The majority of Israelis are celebrating their Independence Day. Colorful and I might add, very loud fireworks could be seen (and heard) all through Tuesday night in Jerusalem and I assume in other areas where Israelis reside. Israeli politicians made speeches praising the Israeli people and the Jewish dream while vowing to remain loyal to an undivided and eternally Jewish Jerusalem. The Palestinian question was not present, the oppression of a people, the occupation of the land and the denial of their rights was not part of Israel's Independence Day discourse, except in the context of Israel's "outstretched hand" for peace, a hand which has been repeatedly swatted down by the Palestinians.

In any case, for an average Israeli, it would be easy just to soak up all of the government speeches, the media coverage and the propaganda swirling around Israel's existence. That is why, those Israelis who dare to see further can only be commended for their courage. In Haaretz, for example, there is the interesting figure of Bradley Burston, who you may not always agree with but who you must respect because of his straightforward logic and his boldness to speak his mind. He is a proud Israeli who believes in the Zionist dream. As a Palestinian, I would have my own bone to pick with him if I were to sit across from Mr. Burston. But I would also be able to shake his hand at the end of our conversation. In a recent article, he ends with these lines:

This, then, is my mission statement for this Independence Day:

Let the Occupation end with me; May it end here. Let it end soon; May Jews and Arabs become again what they once were: Neighbors; True cousins; May this be the generation that outlives the Occupation; May we find ways to cripple it, take it apart. End it; This is Independence Day. Free Israel. End the Occupation.

While Mr. Burston may want the occupation to end because he believes in a sustainable Israel, he is still acutely aware of the injustices done to the Palestinians. He admits going every week to protest the settler takeover of Sheikh Jarrah and the devastating ramifications of the government's complacency towards the right wing settlers on the future of Israel as a whole. Again, as a Palestinian, I will not feign concern for Israel's moral character. To me, it is already denigrated. But if his concern for Israel's future means he also fights to end his country's occupation and accepts a Palestinian state as his neighbor, then by all means, I'll take it.

Bradley Burston is not the only Israeli who caught my attention. As a writer, I naturally get responses to my articles from as close as Palestinians in Jerusalem to as far as Jews living in Kenya. Just yesterday, I received a heartfelt email from an Israeli living, I assume from her email address, right here in Jerusalem. We will probably never become friends or even meet given the deep divide between Jerusalem's east and west sectors. However, I could not but admire her courage. She did not have to write to me, but she took the time to pen a response to one of my articles with the simple subject "Thank you." As an Israeli, she said how she had come to learn that her government does not want peace. She learned about the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and Al Nakba. Finally, she told me, a Palestinian stranger, that she does not want her son to join the army and that she supports Palestinians in their quest for peace.

It goes without saying that I was blown away by this email in particular. It may be a slow process and my people are destined to suffer so much more before they enjoy the sweet taste of freedom. The Israeli government is not willing to do what it takes to make peace and it is still stubbornly supporting the settlement enterprise even as the settlers themselves nastily turn on Israel's army. However, the weekly Sheikh Jarrah protests, the Bilin demonstrators, the journalists and bloggers out there who speak their minds and the ordinary Israelis who feel an obligation to write an email to a Palestinian to show their solidarity all point in the same direction. Israeli society will inevitably change and these people are the first soft breezes that precede the storm. I do not have to tell them about their occupation. My duty is to fight it. I have always known that. As for the Israelis? Well, ask them. A surprising number of them already know.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Murad Bustami: Violence will only end up harming the Palestinians

Violence will only end up harming the Palestinians
By Murad Bustami
Commentary by
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Covered faces, stones and tear gas: This was the scene on the streets of East Jerusalem in the “day of rage” last month, which was declared in response to the opening of a synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In the weeks that followed, Jerusalem refused to leave the headlines with the Israeli government’s declaration that it planned to build 1,600 new houses in East Jerusalem and a hotel in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Whether due to timing or substance, this time the Americans put their foot down, as did the Palestinian Authority, which considered that such a step would completely undermine negotiation efforts.

Meanwhile in the streets, the growing lack of faith in negotiations is translated into talk about the possibility of a third intifada. The clashes which took place across Jerusalem and the West Bank are seen by some as the potential precursor to a wider conflagration. The crucial question – are we likely to see a third intifada soon? And what will it look like in the context of barriers and a separation wall? What will prevail as a result, the gun or the olive branch?

These scenarios take us back to the debates from the 1960s and 1970s between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X about the use of violence or nonviolence in the struggle for civil rights. King demanded change through nonviolent means alone, while Malcolm X believed that change should come through all means necessary. In this context, it is important to mention Frantz Fanon who said that liberation could only be won through a resort to violence, and who came the intellectual inspiration for many violent struggles against colonialism in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically in the Middle East.

Today, many Palestinian and Islamic movements like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are still captive to such violent visions, or as Fanon would call it “the prophesy of violence,” which I consider to be “the Palestinian favorite sin.” Only these groups introduce religious discourse in order to justify their actions.

Another important although somewhat ambiguous voice in this debate is that of Edward Said, who both justified armed resistance – but only in a limited fashion and in the framework of international law – and advocated a nonviolent peaceful struggle. Said’s approach, which combined the ideas of Gandhi and Fanon, is a duet of violence and nonviolence that seems on the surface to be illogical. Perhaps there is some sense in his position if we consider that he refused to legitimize the targeting of civilians and, in fact, thought that suicide bombings contradicted the idea of “liberation.”

Unfortunately, Said’s stipulation that armed resistance must remain within the limits set by the rules of engagement was ignored by many Palestinian factions.

I believe the logic of violence completely contradicts the notion of nonviolence. The two cannot work together. In other words, Palestinian should use, if they must, an “amended intifada,” not only because it is the ethical and humanitarian response to occupation, but also because it is more effective, and in a language that many Israelis and people in the international community can understand.

An armed struggle which targets civilians, launches rockets, and does not abide by international law will only have a negative and burdensome impact on the Palestinians. It will radicalize elements in society, lead to more hatred and more suffering for both sides, and will also, no doubt, hamper the process of building Palestinian society.

Said once commented that even in the midst of a liberation struggle it is important for a society under occupation to begin planning for after the liberation, and to bear in mind that some of the characteristics of occupation will remain even after occupation ends.

In my opinion, using violence to achieve liberation will only lead to internal violence and corruption post-liberation.

Perhaps the experience of the nonviolent struggle in various parts of the West Bank, and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, where international and Israeli supporters work together with Palestinians despite the odds to build a future of mutual acknowledgment and acceptance, are the most prominent current examples for the spirit of nonviolence.

Murad Bustami is a nonviolent activist from East Jerusalem. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with the Common Ground News Service (

Queen Rania launches initiative to renovate East Jerusalem schools

Jordan's Queen Rania delivers a speech during the launching of ' Madrasati Palestine' , My school, Palestine initiative to disadvantaged Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, April, 18, 2010. Queen Rania launched 'Madrasati' Palestine Sunday amid fears that a complete generation of Palestinians are losing out on education in East Jerusalem.(AP Photo/Nader Daoud)

Making the world a better place.... How can I help?

Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place.”

Mary Robinson
Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented.

Our work

The Elders also continue to closely monitor events in Burma, Cyprus, the Middle East, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

You can read more from Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu on our blogs, as well as Ela Bhatt’s article on the importance of women’s economic empowerment. I recently enjoyed answering questions about The Elders for the Huffington Post, along with President Carter and Archbishop Tutu.

In Cyprus, we welcomed the recent statement made by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on progress towards a peace agreement. After decades of division there is finally momentum for a settlement, and this momentum must be sustained by the people of Cyprus and the international community.

What you can do

Many messages ask “How can I help?”

The best thing you can do right now is to help spread the word about The Elders - please encourage your friends to visit our website, join our Facebook fan page and follow us on Twitter.

Please keep sending your comments and thoughts as well – especially if you are affected directly by any of the issues we are working on. We hope this dialogue will continue to grow as our work evolves.

I am sorry that we cannot reply personally to all the messages that you send, but we are grateful for them and the inspiration and encouragement that they give us.

With my best wishes,

Mary Robinson

PS – Special thanks to Stefano from Switzerland who wrote: “I think this is great what you're doing, not throwing in the towel or just putting up your legs for what would be a well earned retirement, but using your experience and influence to help restore this world to what it was made to be.”

Yes, Stefano, sometimes I do think it might be a bit easier to put up my legs and retire, but with the help and support of people such as you, I do my best!


You're receiving this newsletter because you signed up at


Wednesday, the Washington Note's Steve Clemons reported on Jordan's King Abdullah II "sobering message" that another Lebanese-Israeli conflict was "imminent." Sunday, Clemons reported that the King met with Congressional member and explained that potential fallout is "not confined to the Lebanese border."

The Jordanian state spokesperson relayed the fruits of their meeting:

Please note that what His Majesty discussed with Congressional members was not confined to the Lebanese border.

The King told Congressional leaders that there is lot of tension in the region on a number of fronts; in Gaza, in Jerusalem, and on the Lebanese border given that some Lebanese say war could be imminent.

He added that the lack of progress in Mideast peace talks is likely to trigger another cycle of violence in the region, which, in turn is disastrous for all of us.

King Abdullah has been consistent in his support and advocacy of a "credible two-state track," and he is serious about the jeopardy facing Jordan, other Middle Eastern counties, and the US by the Israeli occupation status quo. The above video of King Abdullah at the Center for Strategic and International Studies covers many of the same concerns he addressed in his meeting with members of Congress.

Clemons says Congressional sources tells him that King Abdullah was "emphatic" that the status quo is not sustainable, and unless President Obama "and other statekholders" work swiftly to move the peace process forward, the region will be subject to "another wave of violence."


The Ugly Side of Israel's Independence By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Date posted: April 19, 2010
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

For Palestinians, some things can never be forgotten. On the contrary, we would not dare allow ourselves to forget them lest we do a huge injustice to our people and to our history. This week, as Israel prepares to commemorate 62 years of independence, we Palestinians also mark the flip side of that celebration, that terrible anniversary of Al Nakba, which will always be scorched in our memory as a reminder that some injustices will remain so, irrespective of the years that have passed.

Anyone who takes a peek into the Palestinian reality today and then listens to the gallant speeches given last night by Israeli officials on the occasion of Israel's Memorial Day would think the two sides were living in some sort of parallel universes.

"On this blessed occasion, I want to say in the name of the state of Israel at large: We do not seek war," Israeli President Shimon Peres told the families of fallen Israeli soldiers. "We are a nation that yearns for peace," he said, "but knows and will always know, how to defend itself."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also moved his crowd with his warm and sticky notions of peace. "Not a day has passed [since the two wars of 1948 and 1967] on which Israel did not extend its hand in peace to its neighbors, "and our hand is still outstretched." Since the man was basically speaking to the converted, there was no immediate rebuttal, no questioning of this so-called outstretched hand and no demand for an explanation as to why Israel continues to occupy and brutalize an entire nation.

For answers to these questions, one only has to look beyond the Israeli-manufactured wall that lines the de facto border (also Israeli-manufactured) and snakes along and inside much of the West Bank, completely encircling Jerusalem, where all of this back-patting was going on. For the Palestinians, Israel's Independence Day is an open wound, oozing and festering until it breaks open each year when Israel proudly raises its glass to its own birth.

For the past 62 years, Palestinians have been grappling to make sense of the reality they were forced into that fateful year of 1948. They have struggled, resisted, turned to violence, opted for peace negotiations and formed a government on a land that was still under foreign military rule. Through all of this, they have more or less maintained a unified stance when it comes to the right of return of the refugees who were kicked out or fled their homes during the war. Originally, some 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes in fear of massacres by Jewish gangs and found, just days later, that the borders had been closed to them, barring them to return to their villages, towns and cities. That was 62 years ago. Today, the only thing that has changed is their numbers, which are in the millions. Approximately five million Palestinians who are either first generation or descendants of refugees have yet to be allowed to return home or paid compensation for the homes, land and properties stolen from them. Theirs is the longest-standing refugee cause in the world and this week, Israel's Independence week, only rubs salt into a deep and painful wound.

Back to the other parallel universe and nothing seems awry. Huge Israeli flags adorn homes, cars and shop buildings throughout the country as Israelis (many of whom live in the original homes of the aforementioned refugees) prepare to barbeque, vacation and celebrate their good fortune of being born Israeli.

So, what will it take for the world to see that these two parallel worlds cannot coexist peacefully in this present form and that Israel cannot possibly, in all conscience, take such immense pride in its independence while it continues to oppress a another nation? Of course, there are those Israelis who see through the fa├žade and know that an injustice must be righted before Israel or the region at large can ever be graced with peace. The refugee issue, among so many other issues, is at the forefront of obstacles to any comprehensive solution. Israel refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing in terms of its establishment much less offer a fair solution to the refugee problem itself. Whenever approached, even the most leftist of Israel's leaders do not accept a refugee return to what is now Israel. The most generous of them may offer financial restitution or even a limited amount of refugees to be absorbed by the Israeli state but nothing more.

What is even trickier is dealing with this issue internally. Earlier this month, a number of Palestinian factions and individuals were up in arms over Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's interview with Haaretz in which he said refugees would be welcomed in a newly established Palestinian state. This was understood by some as Fayyad's relinquishment of the right of return, a compromise tantamount to treason in the Palestinian context.

Whether this is what Fayyad meant or not (he simply said refugees would have the right to reside within the state of Palestine), the fact remains that the refugee issue must be resolved for peace to prevail. It has been 62 years and the world has turned a blind eye to the plight of millions of Palestinians forced from their homes and barred from ever returning. Israel feels no obligation to account for the atrocity, probably because it can do so with impunity. Still, it is not hard for the world to see the horrors that Israel created as a price for its independence. All one has to do is look at the desolate conditions of Palestinian refugee camps both here in Palestine and in neighboring Arab countries. As long as refugees and their descendants continue to languish in squalid refugee camps, still stubbornly holding on to the original keys to their homes, Israel's "outstretched hand" of peace is no more than a slap in the face.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

My letter to the Guardian RE Ziad Asali: A peaceful strategy for Palestinian independence

RE: Ziad Asali: A peaceful strategy for Palestinian independence, Palestinians are adding a series of bottom-up tactics to augment top-down negotiations and diplomacy

Dear Sir,

The global information age has helped Palestine be heard, helped document and explain the very real plight and suffering of the children of historic Palestine, but it has also helped extremists, bigots and hate mongers bully people away from supporting reasonable and compassionate efforts to end the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Thus I am VERY glad to see Ziad Asali's wise and well informed "A peaceful strategy for Palestinian independence".

Asali's approach is all about ushering in
a Golden Rule Peace for the Holy Land. I very much hope that the people of Palestine and more of their supporters are able to channel their energies and their advocacy into positive projects for Palestine and positive attitudes towards shaping a just and lasting peace... for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

We need a Golden Rule Peace for Israel and Palestine

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt