Jerusalem and the wall
Editorial, Baltimore Sun 9/30/2003
THE WALL preoccupying thousands of Jerusalem residents these days is the one under construction on the edge of the city. These Jerusalemites are Palestinians, and their concern centers on a future Palestinian state and its capital. They have reason to be concerned.
The path of the Israeli security barrier is expanding the boundaries of Jerusalem and solidifying Israel's control and claim to the holy city. The peace process may be in a shambles, but Palestinians have yet to give up Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine. At the same time, Israel has never conceded that Jerusalem would be anything other than its undivided capital.
But as Israel bulldozes its way through the outskirts of the city and the security wall goes up, the future of Jerusalem is being dictated by only one side in this intractable fight. And that's plain wrong.
Unknowing what is known
By Miriam Reik and Fouzi Slisli, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 25 Sept. - 1 Oct. 20
Ran HaCohen and Jonathan Cook, in a recent exchange in the pages of Al-Ahram Weekly, explored a largely neglected aspect of Middle Eastern politics, namely the reasons why Israeli society has shown little opposition to the gross repression of the Palestinians by their army in the last three years.
HaCohen and Cook provide insightful and interesting perspectives on this problem. However, as studies of German society during WWII or of Afrikaner society under Apartheid show, the issue of society's response to the oppression of another people by one's government is complex and multifaceted. In addition, the accusation of anti- Semitism has made commentators cautious about looking at the Israeli occupation from the perspective of the moral complicity of Israeli society at large. For these reasons, and others, we think the discussion that HaCohen and Cook started deserves further exploration.
HaCohen and Cook agree that the state of Israel's gross human rights record, apartheid policies and well documented war crimes pose a critical moral issue to which the Israeli public has not responded adequately. The reason, according to HaCohen, is that the Israeli military establishment, especially its top brass, has kept the public ignorant. Cook, however, asserts that the Israeli public is fully aware of what is being done in its name, but their "Zionist training" prevents them from grasping its significance. Subsequently, HaCohen agreed, noting that withholding of information by the military government and Zionist training are but two sides of the same coin; internal "repression" by the individual and external withholding of information by the government.
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 25 Sept. - 1 Oct. 20
There is no escaping Israelis' collective responsibility for the atrocities committed by their armed forces and armed settlers against the Palestinians, writes Jonathan Cook in this second reply to Ran HaCohen -- I am loath to put pen to paper again to continue a debate with Ran HaCohen that doubtless appears more than a little self- indulgent to many outsiders. Maybe we do sound like two birds singing from the same tree limb, as one of Al-Ahram Weekly's more compulsive Zionist letter writers described us.
But it is not easy to let this correspondence lie, to allow the contents of HaCohen's second missive go unchallenged. The moral blindness, and complicit silence, of the Israeli people as its government and army set out on a project against the Palestinians that HaCohen rightly describes as "on the verge of genocide" urgently needs explaining.
I do not want to take issue with much of what HaCohen writes. His reply to my reply sets out the nature of the official information blackout imposed on the majority of Israelis: what the headline writer neatly termed "manufactured blindness". HaCohen is right that Israel, like any other regime, democratic or authoritarian, resorts to propaganda and disinformation in times of crisis.
Keeping a link to Hamas
Editorial, The Guardian 9/29/2003
Intelligence services like to speak of their agents as "assets" and rarely can that word have been more appropriate than in the case of Alastair Crooke. He is the MI6 officer who, until the last few days, was seconded to the European Union as a "security adviser" on the Middle East. In that role, he became a genuine asset not only to Britain and the EU but to the cause of Middle East peace. Through patient diplomacy, and drawing on his long service in Northern Ireland, Mr Crooke developed relationships with all parties to the conflict. But his most astonishing, and most valuable, achievement was his work with the Islamist militants of Hamas and Islamic Jihad: Mr Crooke provided perhaps the sole direct channel of communication between those groups and the west.
Now his secondment has been abruptly terminated, his Foreign Office masters recalling him to London. The official explanation is the deteriorating situation and fears for his "personal security". This hardly seems likely for an agent used to working in conflict zones. Bureaucratic rivalry may well have played a part, coupled with a British desire to fall into line with US thinking on the war on terror: the view from Washington is that you do not speak to the likes of Hamas, but rather seek to crush them by force.
Mussolini, so what?
By Adar Primor, Ha'aretz 9/29/2003
What do Henry Kissinger, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, media magnate Rupert Murdoch and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman have in common with foreign ministers from Israel, Italy and Austria? All of them, decked out in their finest dress, took part last week in a gala held at New York's splendid Plaza Hotel. And, along with 500 other notables, they toasted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was awarded the Anti-Defamation League's prestigious Distinguished Statesman award.
...But Berlusconi is another story. It's not hard to find Berlusconi advocates in the Jewish world and Israel. In discussions with ADL director Abe Foxman, with top officials in Israel's embassy in Rome, with Likud Knesset chair MK Gideon Sa'ar (who recently initiated a pro-Berlusconi session in the Knesset) and with academics like Professor Shlomo Avineri, one hears the same refrain - nobody liked the Italian prime minister's "stupid" declaration about Mussolini. Yet they want to sweep the comment under the rug, or at least put it in a broad context.
Their defense relies on Berlusconi's support for the American war in Iraq, on his staunchly pro-Israeli policies (which refuse to draw distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism), on his support for boycotting and isolating Yasser Arafat, on his proposal to include Israel in the European Union, on his success in forcing European colleagues to include Hamas on the EU's list of terror organizations...
After Three Years
On September 28, 2003, Ariel Sharon visited Haram al-Sharif, sparking renewed violence and submerging the Middle East back into conflict. After three years, Palestinians are still subjected to Israeli attempts at defeating, humiliating, subjugating and demoralizing them through various measures of collective punishment enforced by the merciless might of the Israeli occupying military machine.
Today, the Palestinians remember the martyrs (Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupiers) whose numbers have reached over 2500, 700 of whom are women and children. Israel has carried out over 160 assassination operations, while imprisoning thousands either sentenced without due process or held in prolonged detention, in complete contradiction and defiance of international law. Moreover, 25,000 Palestinians have sustained serious injury, many of whom suffer from permanent disability, courtesy of Israel’s Apache helicopters, sophisticated tanks and trigger-happy soldiers.
As the prime minister designate Ahmad Qurie (Abu Ala) names his new cabinet, Palestinians continue to wander when will this abnormal life that they have been thrust into come to an end. The Palestinians are in dire need for a leadership that will uphold their aspirations and bring them a just peace. As we mark the third anniversary of this conflict, it is necessary to press the emerging Palestinian leadership to set their personal ambitions and differences aside and focus their efforts on ending Israel’s 36-year-old occupation.
Edward Said: Campus hysteria in the face of truth
By Naeem Mohaiemen, Electronic Intifada 9/30/2003
Through a simple campus lecture, Edward Said precipitated a rupture at Ohio's Oberlin College. But like many things in his life, the debate did not touch the substance of Said's theory or politics. Instead, his enemies were obsessed by what he stood for -- a Palestinian nationalism that scared them because it was not easily stereotyped or dismissed. Through this vignette, I also learnt about the limitations and myopia of liberal campus politics.
In fall of 1989, I arrived at Oberlin from Bangladesh. Through the vagaries of campus housing, I found myself placed in one of the student eating coops -- Kosher Coop. A small place with thirty-plus Jewish students of various observant hues, they were happy to have a Muslim student join. Historically open to both Jewish and Muslim dietary practices, the Coop had three Muslim students that year. The campus Rabbi in particular was very welcoming. Enjoying my liberal politics, Rabbi Brand encouraged me to write a letter on the "Rushdie Affair." The campus newspaper published it, several other Muslims wrote in agreeing with the defense of free speech, and so on.
All this changed one day with the announcement that Edward Said had been invited to give a Distinguished Lecture that semester. Overnight, the campus transformed into balkanized, opposing camps. Hillel, the campus Jewish organization, went berserk. To my total shock, people who were truly liberal on other issues were up in arms about Said being allowed to come on campus. All this controversy over an eloquent academic who composed classical music, wrote the classic "Orientalism", and defended Palestinian self-determination. Bemused, I wondered what the campus would have done if someone truly controversial (say someone defending the practice of hijackings) had been invited.
Edward Said: a study in counterpoint
By Samir Khalaf, Daily Star 9/30/2003
Edward Said finally succumbed to the treacherous disease he had been stoically battling for over a decade. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 1992 he did not sulk or curse the gods. Characteristically, he faced his affliction as admirably as he did the existential and structural pathologies beleaguering Palestine and the Arab world: with daring, imagination and insight. He transformed his pathos into redemptive and cathartic challenges. By his own admission, his disease made him more lucid and compassionate.
Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, the attention of Dr. Kanti Rai of the Long Island Jewish Hospital, the loving care of his family, but above all thanks to Edward’s redoubtable resilience, he repeatedly conquered the capricious disease before his resistance gave way. He maintained his daily routine and the demands of his commitments as a compelling public intellectual and engaging political activist. His piercing curiosity, inexhaustible energy, sardonic humor and hearty joie de vivre never left him. Even the relapses, the cycles of chemotherapy, became ordinary nuisances to be tamed or overlooked. It is a testimony to his spirit that his best works during the past decade were produced between such harrowing episodes.
This summer in New York, barely three weeks before he died, we spent much time together. Aware that his health might not allow him to sustain his driven intensity, Edward sought to exploit every moment. Even the drive to chemotherapy sessions became an engaging outing. As he navigated through traffic he would instruct his secretary about a manuscript, receive overseas calls regarding upcoming obligations, report to his wife Mariam that his blood count had improved and then remind me of works I must consult for my new research project. The momentary upturn in his blood count invited a flurry of activity and added commitments....
By outlawing Hamas, the EU sidelines Europe
By Khatoun Haidar, Daily Star 9/30/2003
The European Union’s council of ambassadors met in Brussels on Sept. 11 and agreed on a foreign policy decision of supposedly significant consequence for peace in the Middle East. The EU decided to place the Palestinian militant group Hamas on its blacklist of terrorist organizations. Last year the EU outlawed the Ezzeddine al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, but held back from condemning the political wing in the hope it could play a positive role in peace efforts.
This time it was Italy, using its position as current president of the EU, which pushed the EU nations to fall in line with the United States. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw found a strong ally in Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during the informal foreign ministers’ meeting held on Sept. 6 at the Italian lake resort of Riva del Garda. The issue of Hamas was raised. France, Belgium and Greece had previously argued strongly that marginalizing the political wing of Hamas would do more harm than good to the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace process. However, they shifted their position and sentence was passed.
On the same day the US State Department rushed out a statement praising the EU decision “to designate the Hamas leadership and its institutions (as a terrorist group)” considering it “an important step in halting the financing of terrorist activities.” Such a statement disregarded that legal modifications allowing for the freezing of the bank accounts of people or groups whose names appear on European terrorist lists were passed during the 2002 Spanish EU presidency. Whether any account or person will be affected by the latest decision remains to be seen, given that because of French reservations, the EU decision named Hamas as a whole, not individual leaders or charities suspected of fundraising for the movement.
Another kind of Road Map: Living on the edge
By Christine Lane, YellowTimes.org
The road carves out its path like a long brown snake, slithering through virgin mountainsides, turning olive groves into concrete slabs. It's guarded by armed border police squatting on rocky outposts, positioned every 25 metres along the route. Bulldozers roar, churning up savage clouds of red dust, while earthmovers delve into volcanic-like ditches that herald the beginning of a 25ft. high razor fence. A young donkey with a foal in tow hesitates before the ditch unable to proceed further and obviously confused, its familiar journey no longer possible. There is no path for man or beast. Large tracts of fertile land stand marooned, and forcibly abandoned, their owners denied access. Patches of old green canvas, once a carpet for the olives, lie scattered here and there, together with remnants of perhaps what was once the scene of a picnic celebration. Olive trees harvested for centuries, their upturned roots now bared to the sky; plants and herbs, long used in traditional Palestinian cuisine, wither in the dry grass. Aside from the presence of Israeli police and Palestinian labourers, there is not a villager in sight. This is the scene of the construction of a small section of Israel's 'Separation Wall' encircling the beautiful, old northern Palestinian village of Qafin, near Tulkarem. Like hundreds of other villagers, the residents of Qafin are devastated as they helplessly witness the confiscation of their lands and destruction of the olive groves. A small scene from a larger picture.
The Fortifications: When the news broke in 2002 of Israel's intention to build a wall, whimsically referred to by the Israeli government as "a fence" stretching the length and breadth of Occupied Palestinian lands to separate Jews in Israel, and illegal settlers from Palestinians in the West Bank, some thought it a joke. Memories come to mind, the Wall of China, and, of course, the Berlin wall with its ominous connotations but this wall is twice as high and potentially thirty times as long. Israel was not joking. The inconceivable would become a reality.
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 25 Sept. - 1 Oct. 20
A kind of détente holds in the occupied territories just now -- buttressed by American disengagement, Israeli restraint and Palestinian denial. -- Whatever else Israel's decision to "remove" Yasser Arafat has done it has brought into clear outline the ground-rules for any future American involvement in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Chained to the post-11 September orthodoxy, this is no longer predicated on land for peace or even "engagement" for a Palestinian Authority (PA) enlistment in America's "global war against terrorism". It is regime change, a condition implicit in the roadmap, but now spelled out with brutal clarity.
"The Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power by feeding old hatreds, and destroying the good works of others," George W Bush told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, in a clear swipe at Yasser Arafat's role in ousting former PA prime minister (and great white hope of the US administration), Mahmoud Abbas. As for the solution this depends on the "emergence" of a PA leadership "which will commit itself 100 per cent to fighting off terror", he said on 18 September and again, reportedly, at the UN.
The only difference between this remedy and those already executed in Afghanistan and Iraq is that for now America is not interested in the Palestinian regime change being engineered through preemptive strikes or "preventive wars", including any action by Israel to dispatch Arafat into exile or worse. The preferred method is still isolation from without combined with "reform" from within.
Defending Palestinian homes: Tears amid the rubble
By Kathy and Bill Christison, Electronic Intifada 9/30/2003
18 August 2003 -- It's been a bad day today. Our taxi driver, Rajai, was arrested briefly early this morning. Then the Americans murdered a Palestinian cameraman in Baghdad (Reuters photographer Mazen Dana) who is much respected around here. And then we witnessed a house demolition and saw raw cruelty up close.
The day began with Rajai's detention at a checkpoint. At 6:00 a.m., he was driving a woman from his village outside Jerusalem -- the village is al-Azariya, known to most of us as Bethany -- for surgery scheduled for 8:30 at an Israeli hospital in West Jerusalem. Although Rajai has a Jerusalem ID card that allows him to be in the city, the woman, like most Palestinians, had neither a Jerusalem ID nor a permit to be in Jerusalem. So, despite having admission papers to an Israeli hospital, she was detained at a checkpoint into Jerusalem, as was Rajai himself for driving her. Rajai is no dummy and has made sure that he has an Israeli lawyer, so he called the lawyer, who arrived quickly to negotiate Rajai's release at 7:45. By the time Rajai picked us up at 8:00, half an hour later than we had expected him, the woman had been released, but at that point Rajai did not know whether she had been able to get to the hospital for her surgery. He later went to the hospital to make sure she was there and discovered that she had made it safely by skirting the next checkpoint. The standard punishment for Rajai's "offense" is either a fine of 5000 shekels (about $1100) or confiscation of the taxi for three months -- no due process, of course.