Friday, September 7, 2012

Ibish: States define themselves without demanding a recognition of their “character” from their neighbors as a condition for peaceful relations

Musa Al Shaer / AFP / Getty Images

Sep 7, 2012

Recently Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced on twitter that he was launching a new “viral campaign” about Jewish refugees and migrants in Israel from the Arab world. From his official perch, Ayalon has jumped into a debate that already engendered much back-and-forthincluding on Open Zion, when it was introduced in the U.S. Congress in late July.
This new effort is part of a broader pattern on the part of some Israeli officials and their supporters to raise the issue of Jewish refugees from the Arab world to "counterbalance" or offset the issue of the Palestinian refugees. These efforts are also linked to Israeli-inspired efforts in the U.S. Congress to redefine Palestinian refugees to include only those who were alive during the 1948 war and to defund the UN agencies that care for the refugees. There is a broad-based campaign to try to render the Palestinian refugee issue irrelevant as a final status issue so that Israel need make no concessions because of it.
It's long been a shibboleth of Israeli hasbara that there was “an exchange of populations” between Israel and the Arab world of roughly similar sizes, and therefore Palestinian refugee claims are moot. But the analogy is flawed in many ways and the new campaign is politically and diplomatically pernicious.
There is no doubt that the mistreatment of Jews in many Arab states in the decades following, and to some extent preceding, the establishment of the State of Israel represents a terrible stain on Arab honor. In many Arab states, persecution, anti-Semitism, violence and even expulsions contributed to the exodus of Jews from the Arab world. But the mass migration unfolded over many decades, and a great many different experiences and factors contributed to the profoundly regrettable emptying of the Arab world of most of its Jewish citizens.
The analogy is both a red herring and a sleight-of-hand.
It's a red herring because when they first started negotiating in Madrid and Oslo, the parties agreed that there were four key final status issues: borders, security, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. Until recently, no Israeli government attempted to raise the issue of Jewish refugees and migrants from the Arab world in Israel in the negotiations, just as Palestinians have avoided bringing up issues involving the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
It's a sleight-of-hand because the political impact of the dispossession of the Palestinian refugees is precisely the opposite of the “ingathering” of the Arab Jews in Israel. The Palestinian Nakba of 1948 was the destruction of a national society. The migration of Arab Jews to Israel, by contrast, and especially from the Zionist perspective, was the realization of a national agenda. However painful and ugly the circumstances at times were, it was the realization of the very purpose of the Israeli state. And these Arab Jews make up a huge percentage of the Jewish Israeli majority, so their presence in Israel has been and is essential to the fulfillment and maintenance of the Israeli national project.
For this reason, Israel strongly encouraged Jewish migration from the Arab states, and was heavily involved in promoting it through various means. There is an ongoing and heated debate about whether an Israeli-supported Jewish underground movement planted bombs against Jewish targets in Baghdad in 1951 in order to sow fear and prompt Jewish flight. Given the 1954 Lavon affair in which Israeli agents attacked Western targets in an effort to try to poison Western-Arab relations, it's not unthinkable these accusations could be true (in 2005, the surviving conspirators in the Lavon affair were officially honored by Israeli President Moshe Katzav). But it's also not particularly relevant, since anti-Jewish sentiment and behavior in Arab societies, including Iraq, were independently making normal life difficult and sometimes impossible.
There has never been a groundswell movement for Jewish refugees and migrants from the Arab world to return, and Israel has rarely raised the issue except to try to counteract the Palestinian refugee question. There is a fundamental contradiction between regarding ingathering and “aliyah" as a glorious fulfillment of the promise of Zionism on the one hand and as a terrible human tragedy on the other.
The negotiating process is already overburdened with difficult emotional issues. During the Annapolis meeting in November, 2007, the Israeli delegation attempted to raise, for the first time, the question of the "Jewish character" of the state of Israel. Neither the Palestinians nor the Bush administration acquiesced to the introduction of this question. Both the Palestinians and the Americans understood that it had profound implications for the Palestinian refugee question. And they understood that in normal diplomatic relations, states define themselves without demanding a recognition of their “character” from their neighbors as a condition for peaceful relations.
However, since returning to office in March 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has harped on the issue so incessantly that he may have succeeded in making it a de facto fifth element, yet another complicating factor that makes achieving a final status agreement all the more difficult. It's probably the case that, thanks to his efforts, some kind of language will have to be found to satisfy Israelis on that issue, although it will almost certainly have to come at the end, and not the beginning, of final status negotiations.
Both the Jewish refugee issue and the “Jewish character” of the Israeli state are clearly efforts to undermine one of the few remaining aspects of Palestinian leverage in the negotiations. For decades, everyone serious about the achievement of a workable two-state solution has understood that the most difficult political issues facing Israel and the Palestinians are Jerusalem and refugees, respectively. There has been an implicit assumption that a quid pro quo of painful concessions on these issues is a sine qua non for achieving a peace agreement. All the Israelis and Palestinians who have been serious about negotiations have understood this from the outset.
So it's difficult not to see Israeli efforts to secure an end run around the refugee issue, foreclosing it as a practical matter of negotiations, as linked to a desire to stonewall on Jerusalem. However, since no Palestinian leadership is likely to accept an arrangement in which the Palestinian capital is not based in East Jerusalem, these efforts are fundamentally incompatible with the actual realization of a peace agreement.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon—who in the past launched an online campaign to deny there was any occupation of Palestinian lands at all—and his boss and party leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman haven't been coy about their lack of enthusiasm regarding peace with the Palestinians. The history of the suffering of both Palestinians and Jewish Arabs must be honestly confronted, recognized and honored. But deliberately trying to introduce ever more final status issues, and delve even deeper into the painful histories that peace must overcome, is willfully and deliberately unhelpful. No wonder the new campaign about the Arab Jews is being championed by those Israeli leaders who make no secret of believing that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is neither achievable nor desirable.


and/or explore

My letter to the NYTimes RE The Migron Settlement Myth by Shmuel Rosner

RE:  The Migron Settlement Myth by Shmuel Rosner

Dear Editor,

Many of the Israeli settlers removed from Gaza ended up in the West Bank, shifting as the Migron settlers just did from one settlement project to another amid much fuss and publicity all about "removing" settlers.  Meanwhile the UN reports that "tougher Israeli policies and settlement expansion were pushing the occupied territories and Gaza deeper into poverty." But Israel is not the only factor impoverishing Palestinians for the report points out that Palestinian poverty is also being. exasperated by a sharp drop in international aid. 

Israel's one-staters who seek to erase Palestine are assisted by Islamists and misguided 'pro-Palestine' activists who are convinced Israel will be erased.  Both sets of one-staters have their admirers and echo chambers convincing them that they are right and that one state victory is inevitable.... and step by step both sets of one-staters further normalize the continued disenfranchisement and destruction of the people of Palestine in multiple ways.

Anne Selden Annab

Israel's Ongoing Policy of Destroying Homes & Displacing Palestinians

The Truth is Stranger than Fiction in Palestine

Breaking the Silence: More than 30 former Israeli soldiers have disclosed their experiences of the treatment of Palestinian children during military operations and arrests, pointing to a pattern of abuse.

Ending the Israel-Palestine conflict: "It is the view of the United Nations that there is a responsibility not only on the parties themselves but on all member states to consider their action and their language in light of the goal,"

We Palestinian are locked in a fierce struggle for our make the matter straight and simple this is not a clash of religions...

Violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property, mosques and farmland had increased by 150% over the past year.

"If you have to modify it, it isn't really a democracy."

The Office of International Religious Freedom ( the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries

"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

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hanan Ashrawi: Israel's Cynical Definition of 'Refugee'

Hanan Ashrawi

In an Arabic-language article published last week, I argued that Israel's new campaign to artificially equate Palestinian refugees and Jews who either immigrated or fled to Israel from Arab states relies on a forced and false analogy. Zionist ideology contradicts the notion that these Israeli Jews are refugees, and six decades of Israeli policy demonstrate Israel's complete disregard for Palestinian refugee rights. Israel's manipulative strategy is part of a public relations campaign that is both cynical and hypocritical.

At the very core of Zionist ideology is the idea that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. If this is the case, and Jews living in Israel are citizens of their singular national homeland, then the state cannot consider them refugees -- they cannot be returnees to Israel and refugees from another homeland at the same time. Demanding that the international community treat Jewish immigrants as refugees is therefore an act of "dezionization." If, however, they are refugees and Israel is not their homeland, then their primary right is the right to return.

An article titled "Hitching a Ride on the Magic Carpet" in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz highlighted Jewish immigrants who have spoken out against the notion that they are refugees. Each one has indicated that an Israeli citizen cannot be both a refugee and a Zionist. The late Yisrael Yeshayu, a Yemeni-born former Knesset Speaker said, "We are not refugees. [Some of us] came to this country before the state was born. We had messianic aspirations." Shlomo Hillel, a government minister and an active Zionist from Iraq explained, "I don't regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists." Former Knesset member Ran Cohen, who immigrated from Iraq, uses even more direct language: "I have to say: I am not a refugee." He added: "I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. No one is going to define me as a refugee."

The intention of Israel's campaign is not to protect the rights of Jews, nor to deliberately "dezionize" Israel, but rather to undermine the rights of the Palestinian refugees, whom it uprooted, dispossessed, and expelled from their homeland. Israel has since continued to deny Palestinians our rights as enshrined in international law and in successive United Nations resolutions, the foremost of which is the right of return.

Responses to my Arabic-language article accuse me of denying that Jews suffered targeted persecution in many states. I do not. Jews and others who were forced out of the countries they call home, and who consider themselves refugees, should be permitted to return. We Palestinians are unfortunately well acquainted with exile, and we stand in solidarity with all people who struggle to return to the countries from which they were expelled.

What we cannot tolerate is Israel denying the rights of those whom it has itself turned into refugees while demanding refugee recognition for some of its own citizens for the sake of compensation and undercutting the Palestinian right of return to homes and lands from which our people were forced out in 1948. In launching such a deceptive campaign, Israel is not fighting for the rights of its people; it is seeking to distort the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and deny rights to the Palestinians it ethnically cleansed 64 years ago.

This Blogger's Books from Amazon
This Side of Peace: A Personal Account

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ATFP's Hussein Ibish: Is peace a “vital” American interest?


Is peace a “vital” American interest?

“Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vital national security interest,” the voice of the American foreign policy consensus has intoned, with its trademark gravitas, for the past decade. “But,” it continues sagely, “We cannot want peace more than the parties themselves.” Around Washington wise heads have nodded grimly at the self-evidence of this hegemonic dictum.

Few have stopped to notice that this formulation is internally inconsistent to the point of being an oxymoron. Either resolving the conflict is a vital interest or it isn't. 

If it is vital, then obviously the United States not only can, but must, want it more than other parties. What's vital, after all, can't be subject to the whims of others' perceptions.

If, on the other hand, this interest is subject to the needs, desires, political contingencies and caprices of other powers, how vital can it be? Handing “the parties” a veto of noncooperation is hardly consistent with genuinely deeming an interest to be “vital.”

There is, of course, a deeper complication. The primary reason for the caveat that undermines the assertion that peace is vital to the United States is actually that any American administration, because of the domestic political balance of power, is profoundly limited in the timing and nature of the pressure it can put on Israel.

The Obama administration began by gambling heavily on securing a settlement freeze, but proved unwilling or unable to apply the necessary pressure to secure and maintain a genuine freeze that actually slowed, let alone halted, settlement expansion. In retrospect, it probably would have been more helpful if they had avoided raising the issue entirely.

It is possible for American administrations to pick limited fights with Israel, although the fundamental American commitment to Israel's security is not the subject of any debate. But the Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and George H.W. Bush administrations all had carefully calculated confrontations with Israeli governments over specific issues and were fundamentally successful. Ronald Reagan, too, batted aside Israeli objections regarding the sale of AWACS observation planes to Saudi Arabia. So it's not as if the American government is unable to take on Israel and its American allies if it wants or needs to.

But all of these confrontations preceded the era in which a two-state peace agreement was declared “vital” to American interests. Since then, no real fight has taken place as Israel has pursued policies, particularly settlement expansion, that make its realization more remote.

The Palestinians, of course, are also an important factor. Not only does an American administration require the will to act aggressively on peace, it needs some sense that there is a prospect of success. That depends in no small measure on believing that there is a Palestinian partner that can be relied upon. Yasser Arafat played just such a role with Bill Clinton during the Wye River negotiations, which ultimately set the stage for the collapse of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first term in office.

Now that he's back in the premiership, the Americans have once again found Netanyahu both personally and politically impossible to deal with on peace-related issues. But they've also found the Palestinian leadership to be, from their point of view, infuriating, particularly with regard to settlements and efforts to secure greater recognition at the UN.

Under the Obama administration, the United States has precisely come to see itself as “wanting peace more than the parties themselves,” whether that's true or not. It views the Israeli leadership as belligerent and intransigent and the Palestinian leadership as petulant and incorrigible.

To this are added the domestic political constraints that allow partisan and personal politics to trump policy and the national interest. The consequence has been that the United States has all but bowed out from the pursuit of an interest that has almost unanimously been deemed vital but is now becoming increasingly regarded as unachievable.

Obviously it's only unachievable, however, if it never was actually vital. Domestic politics, obstructionism or the interests of others couldn't really be allowed to stand in the way of the achievement of a genuinely vital security interest of a global superpower. Americans have to stop kidding themselves and decide which part of their contemporary mantra about Middle East peace is false: Is it vital, or is it subject to the will and veto of others?

If Israeli-Palestinian peace is not actually a vital United States national security interest, Americans are going to have to seriously and honestly count the costs of accepting failure for the foreseeable future. But if it is still considered vital, as it should be, then Americans are going to have to abandon the traditional caveat. 

Whoever wins the coming presidential election, Americans must indeed want peace more than the parties themselves, act resolutely on that understanding, and stop allowing domestic politics to trump the US national interest.

 Stream ATFP's Middle East News: World Press Round up and stay up to date with the latest news concerning the Isareli-Palestinian issue.

ATFP Resources on Palestinian State and Institution Building
ATFP's unique collection of online resources on Palestinian state and institution building, including hundreds of relevant documents

No Wall Against Identity Warfare


The past week was characterized by a break out of settler violence in many part of the West Bank. Angry settlers in protest of the recent court order to evict the residents of the illegal Migron settlement outpost built on private Palestinian land have interrupted daily life by blocking roads, throwing stones and damaging cars while injuring five Palestinians in what they say is a ‘price tag’ for Migron. In Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank, near Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron, reports of vandalism, hate graffiti and even physical assault were in the news.

For many people outside of Palestine, it’s hard to imagine a violent setting where Israeli “civilians” are the perpetrators and Palestinians the victims. For a long time now, Palestinians or Arabs have been portrayed in the international media as naturally more violent than Israelis who are seen as a “peace-loving people” who only really want peace with the Palestinians and neighboring Arabs.

What’s ironic about this stereotypical assumption which has also served as a pretext for, among other things, the construction of the separation wall, is how the years of occupation have proven otherwise. While Palestinians have largely embraced non-violence resistance to win their freedom, Israeli settler attacks, harassment, vandalism and hate crimes against Palestinian civilians are on the rise. The Israeli army continues to terrorize and raid Palestinian villages and Israeli teens set cars on fire and throw stones at Palestinians. But there’s no civilian law or an independent court to redress such acts. And there’s no impartial international community or a “separation wall” to prevent such violence or stop it.

Israeli settlements may be on the international or Israeli public agenda more so now than a few years back. But even in the 21st century where the concept of human security is at its apogee, the impact of settlements and settlers is rarely analyzed from the angle of disrupting the daily lives of Palestinians. In the international media, it’s the illegality of settlements or their hindrance of the peace process that’s more of a concern. In Israel, the expansion of settlement is only a minute element of the ongoing social protests. It’s the austerity measures stemming from expansion of settlements among other things that drive people to the streets; it’s not the harassment, abuse and lawless behavior of settlers against Palestinians. While heinous crimes such as the attempted lynching of a Palestinian by a group of Jewish teens have been publically denounced by public figures, the day-to-day attacks on Palestinians – the harassments, assaults, racial profiling, humiliation, religious persecution and vandalism – all attacks against Palestinian identity both by formal structural pillars of the occupation and “civilian” settlers, are not addressed.

The ramification of the settlement issue on the security of Palestinians can’t be more evident than it is in Hebron and the south Hebron hills. In Hebron, the settlers live right in the middle of the city and do not have isolated settler blocks like elsewhere in the West Bank. In the old city that is now divided between H1 - areas under the control of the PA and H2 – areas under Israeli control, not only the depth of the occupation but also a degree of lawless that is perhaps unprecedented in other parts of the occupied West Bank, exists. In Hebron, it looks like the “civilian” yet armed ideological settlers with Kippas, Tallit Katan or head wraps (for women) run the city, while the uniformed 18-year old soldiers with guns, bulletproof vests and helmets back them up instead of enforcing the rule of law.

This once vibrant old city now looks like a ghost town abandoned by its residents where stores are closed, roads are blocked, houses are demolished and checkpoints are scattered all over the city. Settlers forcefully evict Palestinians and squat in their houses. When a lengthy court decision orders their eviction, the settlers of Hebron are not afraid to bypass court orders and maintain their occupation. They throw trash and stones at Palestinians and even international observers, write hate graffiti and vandalize property. They live and act as if they are above even Israeli law and their government tolerates and sometimes supports it by arming and training them in combat. But what will protect Palestinians from settler terrorism?

One of the vendors I talked to who has a souvenir shop on a deserted street, told me he has turned down multiple offers for hundreds of thousands of dollars from settlers in exchange for his shop. When asked why he won’t spare himself the trouble, accept such a lucrative offer and leave, he said: “My father has been working in this store since I was a child. I grew up helping him in this store and now, I run the store. In my culture, the place where you grow up and spent most of your life - your history- is not for sale. It doesn’t have a price tag. It’s just part of who you are”. Thinking about what he said and observing the psychological, cultural and racial attack on Palestinians, I can’t help but ask what will protect Palestinians from a war waged on their identity? Surely one can’t build a wall against identity warfare.

Melkam Lidet 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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

9-4-2012: Israeli vandals attack West Bank monastery

A monk stands next to graffiti sprayed on a wall at the entrance to the Latrun Monastery near Jerusalem September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Vandals set fire to the doors of a Christian monastery in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday and daubed pro-settler graffiti on its walls in a possible retaliation for the eviction of families from an unauthorized outpost.

The name of the unauthorized Migron outpost, cleared of Israeli settlers following a court order on Sunday, was scrawled on the well-known 19th century Latrun Monastery, alongside the words "Jesus is a monkey" in Hebrew, said police.

Israeli security officials had said they were worried Sunday's eviction of 50 families from Migron, in another part of the West Bank near Ramallah, might provoke more attacks from a vigilante settler group known as "Price Tag".

The "Price Tag" name refers to retribution some Israeli settlers say they will exact for any attempt by their government to curb settlement in the West Bank, an area Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

The group has targeted mosques and, less commonly, Christian churches, seeing any non-Jewish religious sites as an intrusion on the land.

Palestinian Christian academic Bernard Sabella told Reuters the attack, and others like it, had been carried out by "groups of extremist Jews who do not want Muslims or Christians to remain in this country".

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat issued a statement accusing the Israeli government of not doing enough to prosecute the attackers...READ MORE

Monday, September 3, 2012

Political Realities ... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

The Dead Sea. Almost two-thirds of the western shore is in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Michael Melford/Getty Images/National Geographic

          Political Realities

One state
pillaging Palestine.

One state
to trick the naive
and the vulnerable
into undermining peace

One state
to sabotage negotiations
to free Palestine

One state

One state
to perpetuate
the Israel-Palestine conflict

One state
to give Israeli settlers
free reign over all the land

One state
where some people thrive
but many others don't.