Saturday, March 9, 2013

Omar Baddar: What It Will Take To Break The [Israel-Palestine] Stalemate

"If only a speedy transition to a one-state solution with equality for all were a probable outcome, we could all celebrate the death of the two-state solution together. Unfortunately, we’re far more likely to be looking at decades of occupation, oppression, and violence before any type of permanent solution arises; which is why it is hard to overstate the magnitude of this critical moment and what must be done to seize it." Omar Baddar

What It Will Take To Break The Stalemate

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo
After two decades of a U.S.-led “peace process,” we are no closer to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement today than we were in the early 1990s. Indeed, we’re probably much farther away now, as Israel took advantage of the so-called “peace process” to drastically expand its colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories (in direct violation of the spirit of Oslo), growing the settler population to more than 600,000 and making a viable two-state solution almost implausible...READ MORE

Omar Baddar is a DC-based political scientist and Mideast analyst. You can follow him on Twitter at @OmarBaddar


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

UNICEF: Israel mistreats Palestinian children in custody

The UNICEF logo is pictured on a building in Geneva November 17, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military are subject to widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law, a UNICEF report said on Wednesday.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged 12-17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.

UNICEF said it had identified some "examples of practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".

Israel's military and foreign ministry declined immediate comment on the findings.

According to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution and sentencing.

"The pattern of ill-treatment includes ... the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints," the report said.

It said minors, most of whom are arrested for throwing stones, suffer physical violence and threats during their interrogation, are coerced into confession and do not have immediate access to a lawyer or family during questioning.

"Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children, denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel," the report said.

Such practice "appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized", it added.

UNICEF based its findings on more than 400 cases documented since 2009 as well as legal papers, reports by governmental and non-governmental groups and interviews with Palestinian minors and with Israeli and Palestinian officials and lawyers....READ MORE 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ATFP's Ziad J. Asali: Ending the Israel-Palestine Conflict

"The real battle in the Middle East is between those who wish to see the region in general, and the Arab world in particular, modernize along the lines of universal values, and those who would impose their own versions of intolerance and authoritarianism. Which is to say: Values and ideas matter. The future of Palestine, Israel and the rest of the Middle East will be determined more by an ongoing contest of ideas -- just as it was in Europe in the decades after World War II -- than by the exigencies of the present moment." Ziad J. Asali

This Is What the Challenges for Israel and Palestine Look Like

As Obama prepares to visit Israel and Palestine, the region faces astounding obstacles to a lasting solution.


Dr. Ziad J. Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine
ATFP is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be.  The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.

Jerusalem man forced to demolish his own home


JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian was forced to demolish his own home in East Jerusalem on Monday after Israel issued a demolition order for his property.

Daoud Eseid demolished his home to avoid paying the fees charged by Israeli authorities if Israeli forces had carried out the demolition, he told Ma'an.

"I am unemployed at the moment and have seven children. We suffer daily from Israeli brutality," the Old City resident told Ma'an.

Since 2004, Israel has demolished 436 Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem, leaving 1,708 people homeless, according to the Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Israeli authorities have also revoked the status of 14,084 Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1967, no longer permitting them to live in the city.

There are around 360,882 Palestinians in Jerusalem, or 38 percent of the city's population.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967 and formally annexed the area in 1980 after passing the 'Jerusalem Law'.

Jerusalem is one of the key final status issues in any future peace agreement.

An overwhelming exodus from Syria

View Photo Gallery — Syria’s refugees: The United Nations estimates that within a week, there could be 1 million refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq as more people flee the Syrian civil war.

As Syrian refu­gee population nears 1 million, relief agencies cannot keep up

One-third of those desperate migrants have fled since January, the United Nations says, most into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Here in northern Jordan, the Zaatari camp has exploded from a modest cluster of 500 tents in August to a refugee metropolis with a population of more than 146,000 — larger than the nearby city of Mafraq and well more than double the camp’s 60,000-person capacity.

Yet aid officials say Syrians fleeing alleged massacres and Damascus’s fresh bombing campaigns are stepping into a growing humanitarian catastrophe, either in overcrowded camps with little to offer or, even more frequently, in urban areas that struggle to support them and where the welcome has worn thin....READ MORE

As the number of Syrian refugees nears 1 million, aid agencies say they can hardly keep up and warn of a humanitarian disaster.

The Telegraph: Good-and-evil caricatures of the Israel-Palestine conflict are costing lives...

Both sides in the Middle East conflict are fighting to sell their own narrative: us good, them evil.

But it's far more complicated 

04 Mar 2013

Is there another issue that generates as much sound and fury as the Israel-Palestine conflict? Last month George Galloway attracted derision for storming out of an Oxford University debate when he discovered one of his opponents was an Israeli. The fallout continued into last week, with students at the university voting on whether to join a blanket boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.

The motion was defeated, but not before causing a storm of outrage that included hate mail, accusations of racism in both directions, and headlines in the national press.
As portrayed by diehard supporters of both Israel and the Palestinians, the conflict is set in a land that bears less resemblance to the modern Middle East than the Wild West of early Hollywood, with its good-versus-evil tales of cowboys and Indians. Certain of the justice of their cause, both sides shut their ears to the other’s views, resulting in a vicious circle of solipsism. Instead of a debate, there are two echo chambers, airlocked against doubt and nuance.
This is because the argument is an extension of the conflict itself. The Israel-Palestine struggle has always been as much a war of narratives as of tanks and missiles. Did the Palestinian refugees of 1948 leave their homes voluntarily or at Israeli gunpoint? ...READ MORE


Monday, March 4, 2013

Palestine's Maen Rashid Areikat: Achieving Peace Is the Priority... "My advice is to look at the effort of peace making as a win-win situation for all."

Maen Rashid Areikat

Achieving Peace Is the Priority

Posted: 03/04/2013 8:33 am

We frequently hear unfair charges of being anti-Semitic leveled against us. These charges have been propagated in an attempt to formulate policies favorable to Israel regardless of how twisted the approach is. Yet Semitic refers to a family of languages whose origin is largely Middle Eastern. It does not only refer to Hebrew but also to Arabic, Aramaic and others. Therefore, by virtue of this fact, I'm a Semite as well as all Palestinians and Arabs. In the 1980s, when I studied at Arizona State University, the pro-Israel student kiosk consistently accused us of being anti-Semitic. How can we be anti-ourselves?

As much as we condemn anti-Semitism broadly, understanding it includes us, many pro-Israel groups use anti-Semitism as a scarecrow to suppress and silence criticism of Israeli policies. By labeling scrutiny of Israeli policies as anti-Semitism these groups are conflating the complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and are doing themselves and Israel a major disservice. If Israel's conflict with Palestine, and the Arab and Muslim worlds, is to come to an end, there has to be a shift in the approach of these pro-Israel groups. One way to begin this shift is to end this misguided use of the term "anti-Semitism."

It is striking that the views adopted by some pro-Israel groups are, in fact, more hard line than some of those on the extreme of the Israeli society. Instead of playing the constructive role of bringing us -- Israelis and Palestinians -- closer, these groups have encouraged Israel to avoid reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict and sadly continue to do so. These groups cannot be more catholic than the Pope, and it is imperative for them to play a role supportive of U.S. efforts to broker a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace. Making peace in the region requires that many of us join hands in order to achieve that objective. It is no secret that the Jewish-American community generally supports a peaceful resolution based on the two state solution. Many oppose Israeli settlements and human rights violations against Palestinians, demanding that Israel live up to its commitments and obligations. Yet, some pro-Israel organizations falsely claim they represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Jewish-Americans while misrepresenting what that majority actually thinks.

Although, for some time now, this strong and vocal minority dictated the political dynamics of this issue in the U.S., we now have new Jewish American organizations advocating objective and realistic approaches which in turn are moving things in the right direction.

In the midst of our diplomatic and legitimate efforts at the United Nations this past November, Washington became home to a campaign devised to challenge our efforts. I was not surprised to learn which pro-Israel groups were behind advocating cutting aid to Palestine and shutting down the offices of the General Delegation of the PLO to the United States. What really struck me was that one of the co-authors of a letter that was circulated on the Hill at the time on behalf of a major pro-Israel organization was an acquaintance of mine whom I met regularly. I remember that we always agreed that their role here was to bridge the gaps between the parties and facilitate a constructive and vibrant conversation in order to resolve the conflict. Finding out that he was a co-author of the letter was very disappointing, and it reinforced my conviction that this flawed policy of unquestionable support for Israel whether it does right or wrong must be seriously reevaluated.

Settlers and other Israelis have long complained that they do not like Palestinians traveling side by side with them on their buses...

"If there is any sort of just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it will have to be more like a divorce settlement than a marriage. With this kind of racist mentality, which is unfortunately becoming the norm rather than the exception in Israel, Palestinians will certainly welcome their own bus lines and light rails – not en route to shabby Israeli jobs, but to locations in an independent Palestine." Joharah Baker for Miftah, The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy
Palestinian workers wait in line at an Israeli checkpoint... Maan News Report: Israel opens Palestinian-only bus lines in West Bank

Israeli racism is getting out of hand
Date posted: March 04, 2013
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

 The culture of hate and the demonization of the ‘other’ on which Israel was established has taken on scary new levels recently. Back in 1948, the only way Jewish, and later Israeli troops and gangs could have committed massacres and driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes was if they deemed them less than human.

The trend has continued over the past 60-plus years and has, frighteningly enough, become part of the Israeli mainstream, government and public alike.

Yesterday, the Israel transportation authority introduced new bus routes for Palestinians. The official line is that this new measure would ease traffic and transportation pressures and ‘ease travel for Palestinian passengers” in Israel, mostly West Bank workers. We know better though.

Settlers and other Israelis have long complained that they do not like Palestinians traveling side by side with them on their buses. Mind you, settlers travelling in the West Bank are illegal squatters, even according to international law. There has been more than one instance in which Palestinians are asked to get off the bus and countless instances when they are harassed by Israeli passengers. Now, the government is solving the settlers’ problem for them, kowtowing once again, to the manic and racist extremism taking over Israeli society.

The transportation ministry insists that no Palestinian will be ‘asked’ to get off the bus, be we all know about persuasion and coercion. The Israelis want total separation and that is what their government is giving them. Israel’s government has learned a lot from colonialist and racist experiences throughout history. Apartheid aside, is this not reminiscent of a segregated United States when African-Americans had separate buses (or at least had to sit in the back), separate restaurants and separate bathrooms? At least white America called a spade a spade at the time. Israel does not even have the gumption to do that.

Still, the indoctrination of hatred is more than apparent in the mentality of its younger generation. Last week, a Jewish Israeli teenager physically assaulted a Palestinian woman at one of the light-rail stations in Jerusalem. Apparently, the Israeli walked up to the woman and asked her if she was ‘Arab’. When the woman, identified as Hana, responded in the positive, saying ‘you can tell by my clothes” [she was in traditional Muslim dress], the Israeli teen began punching, slapping and spitting at her. When other girls joined in, they tore off Hana’s headscarf, a Muslim woman’s symbol of modesty.

The policy of segregation and separation has become so ingrained among Israelis, it sometimes seems difficult to envision any coexistence between the two. East and west Jerusalem are two very different sides to the same city but, barring Palestinians in west Jerusalem shopping malls and Palestinian workers in Israeli shops and construction sites, the two peoples hardly mix. There is a distinct line between them, both literal and invisible. The seam line between east and west cuts, not only through geographic, but racial and social lines, revealing a stark difference between the residents of both sectors. When Palestinians and Israelis do meet – at bus stops or light rail stations, the mood is often tense, uncomfortable and foreign. And sometimes, the real feelings of the increasingly right-wing society in Israel rears its ugly face. Hate crimes against Palestinians are becoming all too common in Jerusalem in particular, with the perpetrators receiving a slap on the wrist, at best.

If there is any sort of just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it will have to be more like a divorce settlement than a marriage. With this kind of racist mentality, which is unfortunately becoming the norm rather than the exception in Israel, Palestinians will certainly welcome their own bus lines and light rails – not en route to shabby Israeli jobs, but to locations in an independent Palestine.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My letter to the NYTimes RE To Achieve Mideast Peace, Suspend Disbelief by Dennis B. Ross

Palestinian Statehood
 RE: To Achieve Mideast Peace, Suspend Disbelief By DENNIS B. ROSS

Dear Editor,

"Starting a Virtuous Cycle" certainly will not be easy, but there really is no other way out of the Israel-Palestine conflict.... And Ross is right to point out (as many others have before him) that "If the two-state solution is discredited as an outcome, something and someone will surely fill the void. Already the Islamists of Hamas, with their rejection of two states, seem primed to do so. The moment Islamists come to define Palestinian identity is the moment when this conflict will be transformed from a national into a religious one — and at that point it may no longer be possible to resolve."

In the spirit of actually ending the Israel-Palestine conflict I have to admit I think Ross's specific ideas on how to empower peace and Palestinian statehood at times miss the mark. The Arab Peace Initiative does a much better job of actually honoring international law and respecting universal basic human rights.... and convincing me that a just and lasting peace is not only possible- but necessary for everyone's sake.

As Ziad Asali wisely points out "The only way to honor our tragic histories is to create a future for our children free of man-made tragedy. This means making peace fully, completely and without reservation, between Israel and Palestine."

Anne Selden Annab

Understanding the Current Palestinian Financial Crisis: In the long term, the only cure for the PA's recurrent budget deficit would be sustained, productive growth led by the private sector—not one bankrolled by massive foreign aid in a highly constrained and heavily distorted setting

Dear Miftah- A campaign to talk up a two-state solution

Jordanian Diplomat Marwan Muasher (his country’s first ambassador to Israel, where he made many friends) points out the importance of The Arab Peace Initiative... & the fact that Obama Should Try to Help Solve Conflict

"We really hope everybody will step back a little and try to find a way to proceed very calmly and very thoughtfully in these next days (and) leave the opportunities for peaceful resolution open." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
What is an Israeli settlement

"Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom (   Given 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

Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

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

"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
Refugees and the Right of Return
Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside.  What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them.

UN Resolution 194 from 1948  : 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.

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.