Clinton: U.S. Gaza aid tied to recognition of Israel

Some $900 million pledged by the United States to the Palestinians will be withdrawn if the expected Palestinian Authority coalition government between Fatah and Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, Western and Israeli diplomats said Wednesday.

During her visit to the region last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against forming a coalition with Hamas that will not meet the expectations of the Quartet.

Clinton told Abbas that Congress will not approve funding of a Palestinian government that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — According to the official narrative presented by the American and Israeli governments, a crucial sticking point in the stalled peace process is the intransigence of Hamas. Specifically, Hamas’ unwillingness to agree to three eminently reasonable conditions: that they recognize Israel’s right to exist; that they renounce the use of violence; and that they agree to abide by existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

This formula has been repeated ad nauseum and presented as the test and absent any such agreement the proof that Hamas is not interested in peace. At the same time, when Israel resorts to violence we are reminded that Israel has the right to defend itself.

The one principle that no one other than a Palestinian dare utter — at least no one will voice openly in government circles — is that Palestinians too have the right to defend themselves.

But imagine: put this at the center of the peace process — a mutual recognition that each side has the right to defend itself — and the whole equation radically changes. If Hamas was to acknowledge that Israel has the right to defend itself, then the issue of recognizing Israel becomes irrelevant.

Yet the right of self-defense has to be reciprocal. “I can hit you but you can’t hit me” is a game that wouldn’t fly in a kindergarden — why should it work in international relations?

Hamas issues rare criticism of Gaza rocket fire

Hamas Islamists in control of the Gaza Strip issued a rare condemnation on Thursday of recent rocket fire at Israel, saying their armed wing was not responsible for the action.

Rockets shot recently “are not being fired by the resistance faction”, said a statement from the Interior Ministry of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, referring to Hamas’s armed wing. [continued…]

Why Hamas is no ‘extremist’

In the mechanistic template imposed by western leaders on the Middle East, of ‘moderates’ who must be supported versus ‘extremists’ who must be isolated and undermined, Hamas has to be painted, by mechanical necessity alone, as ‘extremists’. Hamas has become the ‘extremists’ to answer in neat symmetry to the ‘moderates’ of Ramallah, who for other reasons American and European leaders wish in any event to support.

But such models, once generally accepted, force a deterministic interpretation that can blind its advocates to the perverse results of such narrow and rigid conceptualising: a defeated and humbled Hamas, western leaders suggested, was to be ‘welcomed’ as a blow to Hesballah, which in turn represented a strike at Syria, which weakened Iran – all of which strengthened the ‘moderates’; and, the model implies, serves to make Israel safer. It is a narrative that has reduced the Palestinian crisis to no more than a pawn in the new ‘Great Game’ of an existential global struggle waged against ‘extremism’.

The appealing clarity of such a simple, and simplistic, model-making has however obscured its overriding flaw. The pursuit of this narrow formulation of moderates versus extremists has yielded the perverse result – not of bringing nearer a Palestinian state – but of pushing it beyond reach, possibly for good. [continued…]

Is a right-wing government the answer?

A right-wing Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as spelling the end of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Given the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Netanyahu has promised to accelerate, no other outcome seems conceivable.

While this view is undoubtedly correct, the belief that a center or center-left government would conclude a two-state agreement is a delusion Western leaders seem unable to discard, no matter how egregiously the current Kadima/Labor government continues to undermine a two-state solution – with continued seizures of Palestinian territory, expansion of existing settlements, and closing off Jerusalem to West Bank Palestinians.

And yet, a good case can be made for the counter-intuitive notion that only a right-wing government of the kind now being formed by Netanyahu holds the remaining hope for viable Palestinian statehood. Such an argument has nothing to do with the popular Israeli belief that, like Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, “only Likud can make peace, and only Labor [or Kadima] can make war,” for it ignores the fact that Nixon wanted to go to China, whereas no member of a right-wing Israeli government wants a Palestinian state. What Netanyahu and his prospective radical-right coalition parties want is more Palestinian territory and a Palestinian entity emptied of every vestige of sovereignty. [continued…]

Has anyone in Israel asked why the Swedes hate us?

Was it a coincidence? The day after Israel’s Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden, played in a practically empty arena this week, a brief item appeared on the Haaretz Web site: Historians have discovered that Sweden, former tennis superpower, aided the Nazi war machine by extending credit to German industrial plants.

Coincidence or not, neutral in 1941 or not, 68 years later, public opinion in Sweden is definitely not neutral: Thousands demonstrated there against Israel, which was forced to wield its racket like a leper, with no audience in attendance. Did anyone in Israel even ask why it was considered a pariah in Sweden? No one dared question whether the war in the Gaza Strip was worth the price we’re paying now, from Ankara to Malmo. It’s enough to recall that the Swedes were always against us. The fact that there were times when they were awash in love for Israel was erased from our consciousness. [continued…]

Tennis without spectators

Matches always draw spectators, often generate controversies and sometimes provoke protests. The Davis Cup match Sweden played against Israel last weekend in Malmö, a port town south of Sweden, was a match with a difference. It generated lot of controversy, provoked a 10,000-strong demonstration but had no spectators at all. Baltiska Hallen, the 4000-seat arena was utterly empty during the weekend-long show. The spectators were banned weeks ahead of the match by the local authorities. The official pretext was: ” We have made a judgement that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials”.

But it was the mass mobilisation , wide-spread popularity and successful campaigning by a grass-root “Stop the Match” campaign, launched last December, that forced the local authorities to exclude the public frrom the arena. [continued…]

Britain’s contacts with Hezbollah vex U.S.

Signaling displeasure with a staunch ally, a senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the United States was puzzled by Britain’s announcement last week that it was re-establishing contact with the political wing of the militant group Hezbollah.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter, said the British government had informed the “previous administration” of its diplomatic overture, suggesting that the Obama administration felt somewhat blindsided by the initiative. [continued…]

On Chas Freeman’s withdrawal

As you might expect, I have a few thoughts on Charles Freeman’s decision to withdraw from consideration as chair of the National Intelligence Committee…

First, for all of you out there who may have questioned whether there was a powerful “Israel lobby,” or who admitted that it existed but didn’t think it had much influence, or who thought that the real problem was some supposedly all-powerful “Saudi lobby,” think again.

Second, this incident does not speak well for Barack Obama’s principles, or even his political instincts. It is one thing to pander to various special interest groups while you’re running for office — everyone expects that sort of thing — but it’s another thing to let a group of bullies push you around in the first fifty days of your administration. But as Ben Smith noted in Politico, it’s entirely consistent with most of Obama’s behavior on this issue. [continued…]

As U.S. weighs Taliban negotiations, Afghans are already talking

Even as President Obama floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban, Afghan and foreign officials here said that preliminary discussions with the Taliban leadership were already under way and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the United States.

The Afghan government has been exploring the potential for negotiations with the Taliban leadership council of Mullah Muhammad Omar and with a renegade mujahedeen leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, after receiving overtures from them last year, the officials said. The proposal for talks gained additional momentum from an endorsement by Saudi Arabia and the change to a civilian government in Pakistan, both of which increased political pressure on the Taliban to compromise. [continued…]

Student facing 20 years in hell

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country’s highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence.

The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan’s top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer. Instead, almost 18 months after he was arrested for allegedly circulating an article about women’s rights, any hope of justice and due process evaporated amid gross irregularities, allegations of corruption and coercion at the Supreme Court. Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh’s lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.

Afzal Nooristani, the legal campaigner representing Mr Kambaksh, accused the judges of behaving “no better than the Taliban”. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into Afghanistan’s legal system and 149 British soldiers have died there since 2001, but experts admit that state justice is still beyond the reach of most ordinary Afghans. [continued…]

Obama Afghan plan focuses on Pakistan aid and appeal to militants

The emerging outlines of President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.

The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said. [continued…]

Treasury seeks billions more to aid ailing nations

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner yesterday unveiled a sweeping plan that calls on the United States and other nations to offer billions more to bail out economies in crisis and prods a reluctant Europe to prop up the reeling world economy with more aggressive government spending.

But the campaign is triggering controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, some officials doubt the wisdom of falling deeply into debt to create jobs and halt the plunge in consumer demand, as the United States is doing. On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have grown wary of approving still more money.

Geithner said the administration will ask Congress to make $100 billion more available — nearly doubling the current U.S. commitment — to the International Monetary Fund to aid struggling nations. U.S. lawmakers said yesterday that they are already bracing for the administration to request hundreds of billions of dollars in more rescue funds for U.S. financial firms, and possibly a second massive economic stimulus package as well. [continued…]

Geithner loves the market so give him banking vouchers

This week on Charlie Rose, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner said explicitly what has been implicitly all along in President Obama’s approach to ailing banks and financial institutions. Responding to Rose’s unusually tough questioning about why government has asked so little of the banks getting billions in bailouts, Geithner said the market is the solution to the market’s meltdown, and that any attempt by government to interfere via nationalization or overly intrusive mandatory instructions would get in the way of the free market as it dealt with the crisis.

Now real market fundamentalists have made clear that this would mean keeping government out of the crisis altogether and letting Citibank and other wounded companies follow Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns down the drain.

But Geithner doesn’t love the market that much: he wants it both ways – big taxpayer bucks into bank coffers, but let the banks decide what to do with them (OK, maybe lay off those publication relations disaster bonuses and corporate jets). All risk to those civic shareholders known as taxpayers, all profits to the bankers and their private shareholders known as investors. [continued…]

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP & EDITOR’S COMMENT: March 13

  1. DE Teodoru

    The real issue is insolence on the part of right-wing Zionists. There is so much alienating insult towards American sovereignty and free speech by Zionist activists that one can only wonder what fate will these few impose on the many? A recent Jewish study of American Jewish opinion notes that only 23% of American Jews consider themselves merely “pro-Zionist.” The reason is that Zionism, from the outset, is based on the rejection of Jews in 19th-20th Centuries Europe as Europeans. This was followed by the Holocaust, a time of great shame for American Jews because they had kept quiet about the fate of Europe’s Jews under the Nazis. This has come to be exploited to date as the Holocaust Industry, the exploitation of the guilt trip American Jews felt as a result of their silence after Krystalnacht. Yet, post-Holocaust attempts to imprison Jews in a fear based ghetto mentality has also been exploited by the Zionists. Though Ben Gurion, Israel’s “father,” had declared during the German persecution of Jew that his only interest is in young Jews that can be made into Kibbutz “New Jews,” the Holocaust has come to be seen as Jews at their weakest while the 1967 Six Days War as Jews at their strongest. After the latter date, expanding “Greater Israel” was demanding the adherence of Diaspora Jews, only offering them a vicarious sense of “mensch-hood” in return for obedient support. In this propaganda process, Zionism muddled the issue of dual loyalty demanding the prime obligation of Jews to be full support Israel’s interests. However, being that it depended on a fear ridden ghetto mentality, this kind of dual nationality Zionism has lost to “assimilation” almost a whole generation of Jews whose first loyalty is to the United States of America. The neocons argue that WHATEVER IS IN ISRAEL’S INTEREST IS IPSO-FACTO IN AMERICA’S INTEREST. Israel’s neutrality in the Cold War– except when Israel’s interests were at issue– had polarized many young Jews. As Israel went through its post-Zionist era of “land for peace,” many American Jews committed themselves to the Two-States solution. But as Israel became overtly expansionistic it came to be seen as moving toward the Haredi position of religious orthodoxy and lost many secular Jews who had by then been assimilated. It is worth noting that in a 2002 conference of Jewish students across the world, Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League apologized for not support Zionism actively because he was too preoccupied fighting against Jewish “assimilation” in the United States. This highlights that the problem is two-fold: (1) Jews are becoming increasingly secular and (2) they will not accept anyone denying them assimilation into American life. The Freeman scandal comes on the tail of two Israeli initiated wars directed, not at enemy forces, but at Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. More and more, Sharon’s instance that any Jew who does not move to Israel by 2020 will lose his “Jewish soul,” has put Jews into a very polarized position. An editorial in the Likudnik journal AZURE entitled “Losing Our Minds,” points out that, not only are few Diaspora Jews coming to Israel, but Israel’s educated are more likely to leave for the Diaspora. Again, the polarization imposed on Jews is shrinking the ranks of Zionism and forcing numerous Jews to unbind from Zionism out of American patriotism. There is a severe backlash to the neocon claim that their right wing Zionism is the only legitimate one and that Jews who question it are “self hating Jews.” On top of that, by denying President Obama the right to pick his own staff based on American rather than Zionist interests, these right wingers are losing not only Jewish sympathy for Israel but non-Jewish sympathy as well. It remains to be seen at which point Obama simply says: NO MORE and how then Israel’s friends will be forced to choose. One can only wonder when will enough be enough?

  2. DE Teodoru

    As more and more Americans come to see Bernard Madoff as the prototype Jew and the Israelis as having moved from Zionism to Zionazism, case closed, I offer up for consideration Prof. Henry Siegman as the real model Jew, the type I grew up under. This is an old man, like me, but unlike me, one who devoted himself to saving Judaism from the murderous mutilating attitude of extremist Biblical Jews: kill them and then mutilate their bodies for God. Me, I really do not see the Middle East as my real interest. My war was Vietnam and I was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 to pick-up a book order that had come in. My real passions are neuroscience, molecular biology and their applications to medicine. I’m one of those guys for whom politics has been a disruptor of my life ever since childhood fleeing Stalin’s forces as they engulfed East Europe. Sure we fought back, but half way around the world, finally in America, we had to settle down to pursuing life’s goals. In the 1960s I happen to have fallen into the Free Speech Movement era of UC Berkeley. To my amazement, led by NYC Communists of Jewish ancestry, having beaten the Chancellor, the FSM did not ask for the campus to become a base for Red Revolution but instead asked for students to engage the world around them through MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE on the issues pressing our society and “relevance” to reality in our education. Though an anti-Communist, I came to fully support their cause because they spoke for RESPONSIBILITY AND LIBERTY, not for Communism. So Cal Conservatives for Political Action, also led by a group of Jews, stood with the FSM for that same cause: FREEDOM. While my parents were outraged at my “jumping into bed” with these Communists, all their Jewish friends, who had shared our refugee travails across Europe, defended me before my parents just as if they were the aunts and uncles I had left behind in the Red Bloc. Since childhood, at the request of my parents, these victims of a double Holocaust, Hitler’s and Stalin’s, taught me not to hate but to understand and to seek at all times a platform from which mutual understanding can ceaselessly be sought. These were typical of the Jews in that old saying: when you put 6 in a room you get endless debate of 7 opinions. These were my heroes. Wasting the vital contribution of such Jews as pillars of Western Society is the greatest sin of anti-Semitism, to my mind. I fell in love with Prof. Siegman because, like so many Jewish scholars, he has the Jewish ethic of my Jewish mentors in life. When some Zionists turned into Zionazis, these pear-shaped cowards sough to feel their “mesh-hood” ganging up on a sole individuals like him. All puffed up, these Neocons turned the debate arena of opinions in America into something oppressive, akin to what I lived with under Communism. Part of the reason may be that many of them grew their adult canine teeth as Communist “activists.” But part of it too is that they corrupted the American political process, the arena of debate and the public information channels by slandering all sides of the debate but theirs as “anti-Semitism.” And their campaigns to stifle would always happen at a time when Israel was doing something violent that grievously violate the Jewish ethic. Orders came from Israel to squelch all who question: what’s the use of a Jewish state if it exists only through total violation of the Jewish ethic? And what ties can a Jew have to such a state when his allegiance to his nation of birth is abrogated by demands to work for parasitic exploitation and deception of the compatriots in their native homelands on behalf of Israel? More and more, as the Zionazis took over Zionism, real Jews like Prof. Siegman are slandered and suppressed. The more Israel army became a murderous Zionazi army seeking lebensraum through mechanized terror and extermination of the indigenous, just as did the Nazis, through massacre of the defenseless people living on the land Israel covets, the more the small parts of the supposedly patriotic American Jewish Community that the Neocons controlled insisted that American Jews who did not share their view that Rabin “had it coming” when a Jewish fanatic assassinated him are “self-hating Jews.” Now, Jews like Abe Foxman of the anti-Defamation League– who used distinguish “anti-Semitism” as a crime and “anti-Zionism” as a freedom– now consider them both as ONE– CRIME– and seek to suppress it. The reason is that a lot of people who, for one reason or another, supported Zionism, especially after the Holocaust, now cannot support the Zionazi lebensraum thesis through massacre in practice today. Prof. Siegman is typical of the millions of courageous Jews who refuse to be stampeded into a Great Aliyah to Israel out of fear or polarization. He knows the ex-Leninist Neocons’ tactic of POLARIZE TO MOBILIZE is all the ex-Leninist Neocons know. He insists that Jews– like goyim– are not dumb, have a brain, and want to talk facts, not to panic. For this the Neocons have done everything to Siegman but assassinate him. And Siegman is not alone. Every day I read public discussions in Israel on the issue of Palestine that would not be allowed to see the light of day in the US. Today, Prof. Siegman has to talk to us from England because the Neocons have seized control of enough of the media to make criticism of Israel about as difficult as was criticism of Ceausescu in the Romania he ruled. WHERE ARE ALL THOSE JEWISH ACADEMICS OF THE 1960S WHO CALLED THEN FOR MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE? Why are they scared off by the pear shaped Neocons who feel like “mensch” intimidating others into silence? Where are all the rabbis who spoke out on the immorality of the Vietnam War but now, through their silence, indicated submissive complicity with the Zionazis? I WOULD NEVER WANT THE ZIONAZIS MUTED, NO, NO, NO….I WANT THEM ENGAGED IN MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE JUST AS THEY DEMANDED FROM THEIR FELLOW AMERICANS DURING THE VIETNAM WAR. I will not cease in my struggle because I owe that to the Jews that guided me growing up as a refugee; that is, to believe that MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE is our most precious asset as a democracy. Jews should praise, not decry, Prof. Siegman because he is fighting for the Jewish ethic on behalf of all Jews. Jews should decry Foxman, on the other hand, because this pear shaped hysteric is trying to prevent the raising of the Jewish ethic before the face of the Zionazis. I thank Prof. Siegman– as I thank so many other Jews and Israelis– for denying suffocation of the Jewish ethic by the Zionazis. I thank the real Zionists who stand up courageously and shout: STOP…NO…NOT LIKE THIS….THIS IS A CRIME! It is the moral courage of many Jewish heroes like Prof. Siegman that keeps me pounding on the tightly locked door of meaningful dialogue on the Middle East. The Jewish ethic has saved the West from darkness and ignorance; it will save Israel as well. So if you are a real Zionist ask yourself: was the Israel project just so a few ex-commies in the West can force us back to the life we knew under Communism? I urge Neocons to debate the Middle East openly and accept the opinions of your fellow Americans to be as legitimate as theirs. I urge Neocons not to desecrate the memory of the Holocaust’s victims by using them as a cover for crimes from embezzling to mass murder. We Americans will not let Israel fall. But we will not let the Neocons turn the United States of America into a silent helpless petri dish from which feed the Zionazis.

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