Steven Salaita, an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, writes: In recent years, we have seen greater recognition in the United States that religious acrimony and ancient blood feuds are not the source of the Israel-Palestine conflict, whose progenitor in fact is Jewish colonization. As this recognition grows, along with corresponding support for Palestinian human rights, unprecedented pressure bears on Israel’s defenders to maintain the once-dominant narratives of Israeli victimhood and Palestinian terror.
These days, Israel is an extremely difficult state to defend.
It should be so. Israel continues to make a mockery of the “peace process” by constructing new settlements and insulting American leaders. It tolerates politicians who routinely make racist statements. And it continues to be in violation of at least 77 United Nations Resolutions and numerous provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The latest challenge to these violations comes from the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement, which has attracted the attention of pro-Israel advocacy groups and the Israeli government itself, thus validating the efficacy of the tactic. A specific element of BDS, academic boycott, was recently ratified by the Association of Asian American Studies and enjoys overwhelming support among the membership of the American Studies Association, whose National Council today voted to affirm a resolution honoring the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli universities.
Although at first glance academic boycott seems vengeful and arbitrary, its mission is rigorous and ethical, perfectly concordant to comparable boycotts that earned widespread support in the United States (against apartheid South Africa, for instance, or Arizona when it refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day). [Continue reading...]
Haaretz reports: Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer says that Israel is not looking for peace “to the extent that it should” and that it is “divided between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace.”
The rare public criticism of Israeli policy from the soft-spoken former governor, widely credited with navigating the successful Israeli economy of the past decade, came during a discussion of “Israel: the View from the Inside Out,” which convened on Tuesday evening at the Center on Law and Security of New York University’s School of Law. Participating in the panel alongside Fischer were former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Hebrew University Professor Moshe Halbertal and New Republic Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier, who moderated.
“The approach that we have to be strong because if we’re not strong we will be defeated is absolutely correct but it is not the only the part of national strategy,” Fischer said. “The other part is the need to look for peace, and that part is not happening to the extent that it should.”
“The country seems to me to be divided between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace. It is a huge challenge for the future for a country whose achievements are so extraordinary,” he added. [Continue reading...]
The Washington Post reports: A small but growing movement by Jewish activists demanding the right to pray at the site of their destroyed temple, in the heart of this disputed capital’s Old City, is creating a potentially explosive clash with the Muslim world, which considers the spot holy and bans Jews from public worship there.
Each week, hundreds of Jews ascend the creaky wooden ramp built above the Western Wall and enter what is often called the most contested real estate on Earth. Many then embark upon a game of hide-and-seek with their police escorts — whispering forbidden prayers while pretending to talk into cellphones, and getting in quick but banned bows by dropping coins and then bending to pick them up.
Their proposals, long dismissed as extremist, are now being debated in the Israeli parliament and embraced by an expansionist wing in the ruling coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
These political leaders, many in Netanyahu’s party, want Israel to assert more, not less, control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Old City, including the place known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.
“We’re looking for it to be divided between Jews and Muslims,” said Aviad Visoli, chairman of the Temple Mount Organizations, which claims 27 groups under its umbrella. “Today, Jews realize the Western Wall is not enough. They want to go to the real thing.”
Two millenniums ago, this place was the site of the Jews’ Second Temple, destroyed in A.D. 70 by Roman legions under Titus, who cast the Jews into exile. The Western Wall, visited by 10 million people a year, is part of the remaining rampart built around the raised temple complex. Together, the wall and the site of the destroyed temple are the holiest landmarks in Judaism.
The same courtyard is home to al-Aqsa mosque, one of the oldest in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, the golden landmark where tradition says the prophet Mohammad made his night journey to heaven.
For Palestinians and much of the Muslim world, any mention of changing the status quo at the site, the third-holiest in Islam, is incendiary. Protecting al-Aqsa has been a rallying cry for generations.
“This place belongs to the Muslim people, and no others have the right to pray here,” said Sheik Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that administers the site. Khatib said the mosque is a unifying symbol for the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims.
“If they try to take over the mosque, this will be the end of time,” Khatib warned. “This will create rage and anger not only in the West Bank but all over the Islamic world — and only God knows what will happen.” [Continue reading...]
Jonathan Freedland writes: There was no hesitation in pointing out the obvious loser from last weekend’s breakthrough deal between the world’s leading powers and Iran – and it wasn’t the scriptwriters of Homeland. True, the US drama has taken a blow: the current storyline centres on Tehran and its runaway nuclear programme, depicting a regime utterly beyond the reach of conventional diplomacy. Yet while Carrie and Saul plot and scheme, there’s secretary of state John Kerry shaking hands with his Iranian counterpart in Geneva – the actuality once again outdoing the talents of fiction, to paraphrase the great Philip Roth.
No, the obvious loser is Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. His driving mission, the raison d’être of this, his second spell as Israel’s prime minister, has been the total removal of what he sees as Iran’s nuclear threat. To Bibi, Iran is the existential issue to which all other questions – including Israel’s relationship with its neighbours, the Palestinians – are secondary. For two decades he has warned that Tehran is within touching distance of acquiring nuclear weapons – in 1992, he gave it five years, max, before Tehran had the bomb – and he has been bent ever since on the total eradication of that danger, almost certainly by force.
But the Geneva deal does not guarantee total Iranian disarmament. The pact struck last week is interim and incomplete: Iran retains some limited ability to enrich uranium and the like. It is not an Iranian surrender. Which is why Netanyahu denounced the agreement as a “historic mistake”, making him a lone public voice against the international chorus of celebration and relief. (As it happens, the Saudis and the Gulf states also oppose the deal, which they think lets Iran, their great regional rival, off the hook: but only Bibi said so out loud.)
Bibi-watchers are focused now on how the Israeli leader will play the next six months, in which the Geneva agreement will either blossom into a lasting accord or break apart. But it prompts another question: what will be the impact on Israel’s conflict closer to home? Could the breakthrough with Iran somehow presage a breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians?
The wisest bet would be on no. Peace talks are officially under way, Kerry having pushed both sides to the table in late July. What got Bibi there was, chiefly, Iran: participation in Kerry’s talks was the quid, US support for Israel on Iran the expected quo. But now that leverage has gone. Bibi no longer needs to make nice to Kerry or Barack Obama: as far as he’s concerned, they’ve betrayed him and he owes them nothing. One western diplomat sympathetic to Israel explains that no leader of that country will ever dare move in peace talks unless reassured that “the US president has his back”. Bibi, he says, has lost that confidence.
A similar dynamic could operate in reverse. Obama knows he has angered his Israeli ally and that might make him reluctant to do so a second time. The US president already has a job on his hands winning congressional blessing for the Geneva pact. Given the wide support Bibi enjoys on Capitol Hill, Obama will only make his task harder by demanding Israel concede to the Palestinians.
Add that Kerry’s “bandwidth” for the next six months will be consumed by closing the Iran deal, and that Israeli-Palestinian talks are said to be stalled anyway, and you can see why few expect a Geneva bounce. The safest wager would be on Bibi “managing” whatever pressure comes from Obama, going through the motions with the Palestinians and waiting for the US president to be a certified lame duck. Meanwhile, he’ll do what he can to undermine the accord with Iran.
But there’s another, riskier bet to make. It says that Obama now has momentum in the Middle East, using diplomacy to solve problems previously deemed soluble only through military action. [Continue reading...]
The Economist: In the vanguard of the Islamist surge across the region a few years ago, Gaza’s Islamists now feel like the last men standing. Trapped between the Mediterranean sea and the walls of two hostile neighbours, Egypt and Israel, they wonder how long they, too, can survive. “It’s hopeless,” cries a senior man from Hamas, the Palestinians’ Islamist movement. “We tried democracy and we failed. We tried to reach out to the Israelis, accepting two states, and failed. We tried the armed struggle, and we paid the price.”
In olden times a crossroads between Africa and Asia, the tiny enclave of Gaza has rarely felt more isolated. Egypt’s generals, who took power last summer, have destroyed 90% of the tunnels through which Gaza got its fuel, shrouding the place in darkness. Mothers wake at midnight when the electricity briefly flickers on, to flush toilets and iron clothes. Lifts in high-rise buildings do not work. Sewage flows untreated. Farmers, unable to irrigate their fields, face ruin. “I should never have tried it,” says the owner of a hotel that opened last summer, overlooking Gaza’s picturesque port. Paying for his generators costs him more than he earns in a night.
Much of the mess is of Hamas’s own making. Carried away by the Arab awakening, its politburo abandoned its old patrons in Syria and Iran and rushed to embrace the Islamists who had taken power in Egypt. But the fall of its president, Muhammad Morsi, has left Hamas friendless. It has been kept out of the current negotiations, under America’s aegis, between Palestine and Israel. The only time the world seems to notice Gaza is when violence erupts. Gazans say they have dropped off the map. [Continue reading...]
The Washington Post reports: As Secretary of State John F. Kerry resumes talks here Wednesday in the quest to create “two states for two people,” a vocal faction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is, more openly than ever, opposing the very idea of a Palestinian state — and putting forward its own plans to take, rather than give away, territory.
Ministers in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and leaders of his party, the Likud, are in revolt against the international community’s long-held consensus that there should be two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the process, they are seeking to overturn the commitments of every U.S. president since Bill Clinton and at least four Israeli prime ministers, including the current one.
While once content to simply voice their opposition to giving up what they see as Jewish land or rights in the West Bank, these two-state opponents have gone beyond shouting “no” and are preparing details of their own vision for how Israel should proceed unilaterally after the current round of peace talks fails — which they say is inevitable.
“The day after peace talks fail, we need to have Plan B,” said Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in the Likud party and deputy minister of transportation in Netanyahu’s government.
Instead of a sovereign Palestinian nation arising in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital — which has been the focus of on-again, off-again peace negotiations since the Oslo Accords in 1993 — the two-state opponents envision Israel annexing large swaths of the West Bank. [Continue reading...]
Chris Hedges writes: Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.
And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.
There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: Israeli military strikes killed four Palestinian militants from the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, late Thursday and early Friday after five Israeli soldiers were wounded in an explosion near the Israel-Gaza border.
It was the deadliest confrontation in the area since November 2012, when an Israeli offensive set off eight days of fierce cross-border fighting, which ended with a fragile, Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.
The episode began late Thursday when Israeli soldiers from an elite engineering unit were on a mission to destroy part of a mile-long tunnel running beneath the border from Gaza into Israel. The military discovered the tunnel last month and said it could have been used for an attack against Israeli soldiers or civilians.
The Israeli forces were apparently working on both sides of the border. The military said in a statement that during the operation, Hamas detonated an explosive device that wounded five soldiers and that soldiers fired back in response. Gaza security officials and witnesses said one militant had been killed and several injured when the Israeli forces fired a tank shell at a group of Hamas gunmen. [Continue reading...]
Ma’an News Agency reports: Prime minister of the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday called on Palestinians to oppose any new negotiations with Israel, arguing that they “jeopardize the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people’s rights.”
“These negotiations mark the violation of the Palestinian national consensus as negotiations are carried out as a result of US pressure and blackmail,” he said, urging Palestinians to protect Jerusalem and never abandon any Palestinian right, especially the right of return of refugees.
Haniyeh made the comments during a speech delivered in Gaza City on the second anniversary of the prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel which saw 1,027 Palestinian prisoners freed in a deal for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
In order to ensure the protection of Palestinian rights, “negotiations must stop and the Oslo approach must be ignored. Political forces must together find a new national strategy adopting diverse visions and means,” he continued.
“To confront any dangers or possible compromises emerging from negotiations,” added Haniyeh, “Palestinian factions and dignitaries should get together and build a Palestinian national strategy.”
This strategy, Haniyeh said, must include all possible options including armed resistance and popular resistance in addition to political and diplomatic means including academic and diplomatic divestment using all regional and international platforms.
Haniyeh also reiterated that his movement remained committed to reconciliation with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority on the basis of the agreements reached through Cairo dialogue.
M.J. Rosenberg writes: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a major speech the other day at Bar Ilan University. Most of it was saber rattling at Iran. But enough of it was about the Palestinians to steel my belief that negotiating with Netanyahu is a waste of time and that Kerry’s initiative is a charade.
The centerpiece of his discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was this: his demand that Palestinians recognize Israel “as a Jewish state.”
This is the nation state of the Jewish people….Recognize the Jewish state. As long as you refuse to do so, there will never be peace. Recognize our right to live here in our own sovereign state, our nation state – only then will peace be possible. I emphasize this here – this is an essential condition.
It’s a new demand, one that only became Israeli policy when Netanyahu came to office. Every prime minister prior to Netanyahu only demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel. But then, on September 9, 1993, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat sent this statement to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (in exchange for Rabin’s recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people). This agreement stands to this day and is recognized as binding by both sides.
The PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. The PLO accepts United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The PLO commits itself to the peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues related to final status will be resolved through negotiations.
This commitment — encompassing Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s three long-standing conditions – led to Rabin’s agreement to begin negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who was then leader of the Likud opposition, vehemently opposed Rabin’s acceptance of Arafat’s concessions and began a campaign of incitement against Rabin himself. He understood then, as he does now, that Palestinian recognition of Israel meant that the largest obstacle to a land-for-peace agreement was gone. [Continue reading...]
Joseph Dana writes: As the Second World War reached its height in the early 1940s, the largest Zionist paramilitary group in Palestine, known simply as the Irgun (the Organisation), sent a young emissary to the United States. His assignment was to raise money to save the Jews of Europe but the task quickly transformed into raising funds and diplomatic cover for the Irgun’s campaign of terror against the British in Palestine.
While in Washington, Hillel Kook, the Irgun’s emissary and the nephew of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Kook, changed his name to Peter Bergson. By most accounts, Bergson was successful at his task but during the operation in the United States his ideology transformed from traditional proto-Likud thinking into something more akin to the debate about a one-state solution in contemporary Israel/Palestine.
Peter Bergson was one of the first to argue for a “Hebrew” republic that would grant full rights to Jew and non-Jew alike. His essential argument was that the people of the land of Israel had an equal stake in the reformation of an ancient Hebrew republic while those outside could elect to join but should not apply external influence.
In the short term, both Palestinian and Jew had a shared interest in fighting together against the British mandate and, for Bergson, this partnership could materialise into something deeper after the goal of independence was achieved. He wanted a democratic Israel, which didn’t use Jewish ethnicity as a pretext for rights and was thus a state of all of its citizens. As history would have it, Bergson’s concept of a Hebrew republic never materialised.
While in Washington, Bergson distributed a number of pamphlets outlining his radical new approach to the conflict in the Middle East including a slim volume titled Manifesto of the Hebrew Nation which announced, in no uncertain terms, that “the Jews in the United States do not belong to the Hebrew nation. These Jews are Americans of Hebrew descent”. [Continue reading...]
Jamie Stern-Weiner writes: Having declared independence in May 1948, the new State of Israel was lacking in international legitimacy. Recognizing the deficiency, Israeli officials invested tremendous effort over the course of 1948-1949 in securing Israel’s admission to the United Nations.
A recent paper identifies three arguments advanced by Israeli diplomats at the time in support of Israel’s application:
- Peace: “Holding the peace process hostage” to UN admission, Israeli officials argued that the latter would advance peace talks. This approach — of insisting that UN admission precede a peace agreement — was championed by Israel’s first ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban. Speaking before the General Assembly, Eban impressed upon delegates that Israel’s admission would “contribute to the rapid conclusion of [peace] agreements.” Indeed, “nothing could be more prejudicial to the prospects of conciliation and peace than…doubts regarding Israel’s international status,” for why should the Arab states recognize Israel “if the United Nations hesitated to do so itself”?
- Equality: The UN should accept Israel’s application in order to place it “on an equal footing with the Arab states in the ongoing armistice and upcoming peace talks.” “Surely,” Eban urged the General Assembly in December 1948, “the cause of conciliation would be advanced if both parties…had the same obligations, bore the same responsibility and enjoyed the same status.” It is “obvious,” he continued, that peace efforts “would be gravely undermined” without “a serious effort…to place both parties on an equal footing.” “At every stage of its checkered relations with the Arab world,” he repeated four months later, “Israel had felt equality of status to be the essential condition of partnership.”
- Prestige: The UN’s legitimacy as a body aiming at “universality” would be undermined should it reject Israel’s application. UN prestige was particularly implicated in the case of Israel, whose establishment and recognition the UN had itself recommended. In rejecting Israel’s application, then, the UN would in effect be “repudiating its own decision.” “It would be an extraordinary paradox,” Eban declared in May 1949, “if the United Nations were to close its doors upon the State which it had helped to quicken into active life.” If it did so, “the future authority of the United Nations” would suffer.
In September 2011, after decades of fruitless bilateral negotiations, the Palestinian leadership applied for admission to the UN. Facing a certain US veto in the Security Council, the request was never voted on. [Continue reading...]
Ground breaking research performed by Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian researchers examines for the first time the regional implications of the implementation of the two-state solution.
Under the auspices of the European Union Partnership for Peace program and co-sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Israel, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College, in partnership with Data Studies and Consultation and the Amman Center for Peace & Development, have engaged in a two year, tri-lateral research project to examine the regional effects of a two-state solution. The research is published as an edited book in October, 2013 in three languages (English, Hebrew, and Arabic) and is being presented to key decision-makers, opinionshapers, and publics in the region, attempting to affect regional processes, by illustrating to leaders what “the day after” a peace agreement would look like.
The participating researchers, leading academics, retired generals, and former diplomats, were divided into five research teams, each one comprised of one Israeli, one Palestinian, and one Jordanian, with each team given the task to examine how the establishment of a Palestinian state would affect a certain key fields, described as follows.
The following is a summary of each research group’s findings. [Read more...]