Saturday 14 March 2009

Messengers From Washington

Messengers From Washington

While Turkey and Iran are at the heart of any prospects for forward movement on the Middle East, Israel is the new US president's primary challenge, writes

A slew of senior US officials swept the Middle East recently to prepare the ground for President Barack Obama's new strategy of engagement and dialogue to address the challenging problems of the region. Led by new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the diplomatic pageantry included George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, the State Department's top Middle East expert Jeffrey Feltman, and senior National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro, both of whom were assigned to open up the Syrian track -- a member of the Bush administration's trilateral "axis of evil". Dennis Ross, the administration's special adviser to the Gulf, and Iran, is being kept in the wings for the right moment to enter on stage. They were all preceded by visits of four congressional delegations that focussed on Syria, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. In keeping with the plan to make the Middle East one of its top priorities, the Obama administration is launching an attack on all Middle East problems, albeit from the fringes. It remains to be seen if, in pursuing its agenda of engagement instead of containment, the Obama administration is biting off more than it can chew.

The United States' diplomatic offensive came six weeks after President Obama was sworn in. It has been arranged to coincide with the Reconstruction of Gaza Conference, held at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh where a community of 75 international participants pledged $4.5 billion for the effort. The conference also had a US-EU political agenda: to marginalise any role, and consequently credit, Hamas may earn for the reconstruction of the Israeli-devastated Strip and to bolster the Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas as the only legitimate Palestinian administration. However, the reconstruction of Gaza depends on a long-term and stable ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and the opening of crossings controlled by Israel that has put the Gaza Strip under siege since Hamas took over government in June 2007.

The PA and Arab governments involved, mainly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states, realise that without the active involvement of Hamas's administration no reconstruction will be possible. So, the question of partnership under the umbrella of Palestinian national reconciliation and a power-sharing unity government between Fatah and Hamas for which Egypt is acting as the interlocutor is a precondition. To pave the way for this possibility, Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the caretaker government of the PA, has tendered his resignation. However, Hamas's agenda commits it to resistance against Israeli occupation and expansion as a strategic option. By contrast, the PA of Abbas has gained acceptability and a modicum of respect only by submitting to the terms of the US, Israel, the European Union and the Quartet under the 1993 Oslo Accords. Hamas has taken the rough road of resistance and survived Arab isolation, international pressure and the massive Israeli military invasion and genocide that destroyed Gaza and left thousands of Palestinians killed, wounded or homeless. Hamas and its coalition of 13 resistance movements are unlikely to give up armed resistance as a price for partnership with Fatah or for acceptance by the so-called international community, and are supported by Hizbullah, Syria, Iran and a respectable number of Fatah's cadres.

This brings in Syria, a partner that is keenly interested in ending Israeli occupation of its Golan Heights and restoring the rights of the Palestinians. Syria's role is more central than that of any country in the region. Its cobweb of interests and relations spans a wide range of issues and parties. It is in conflict with Israel over the latter's 42-year-long occupation of the Golan Heights, it has a historical role and undeniable interest in Lebanon, it has strong ties with Iran and the resistance movements of Hizbullah and Hamas, it hosts two million refugees from Iraq and Palestine, it has vital partnership in joint water resources with Turkey, which is also mediating between it and Israel, it has its own domestic political problems with the Muslim Brotherhood and pro- democracy opposition groups, it is being courted by France and Russia and is under US sanctions because of suspected involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri. With this tall order, it was no wonder that US envoy Jeffrey Feltman said after four hours of talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim that Syria could play "an important and constructive role" in the region. Syria has been at odds with its "moderate" Arab partners, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. It endured pressures of ostracism, and only recently, after signals proposing dialogue came out of Washington, is being warmly embraced by its Arab opponents. With all new overtures, Syria will still have hard choices to make, including the prospects of a peaceful settlement with a radical right-wing Israeli government, future policies on Palestinian resistance, a Palestinian-Israeli settlement with all its guarantees and future relations with the US and Iran.

With all Middle East complex issues on the table, the administration in Washington seems to realise two things: there is no leading Arab power it can engage to address all issues, and that all political and security tracks point to Tehran, which the US is inviting to a planned international conference on Afghanistan as an opening gesture of engagement. So, it would seem its strategy would be to separate the tracks and tackle each one individually, starting from the periphery and gradually moving towards the core. For Syria, confidence-building and the restoration of relations would mark a good start, now that Syria has redefined its relations with Lebanon on the basis of mutual sovereignty and is willing to cooperate with the international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of Al-Hariri. For Hamas, the reconstruction of Gaza, a national unity government and a long-term ceasefire with Israel could be prelude to reviving negotiations towards a final settlement. The only obstacle will be the anticipated policies of the hardcore right-wing government that is expected in Israel. For the future of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, the option could be held in abeyance pending the progress of negotiations. After all, in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, George Mitchell did not insist that the Irish Republican Army lay down its weapons as a precondition for uncertain negotiations.

No matter how much the new US strategy will manage to segment the issues, it would seem that all tracks lead to Tehran. As a rising regional power, Iran has vital interest and varying degrees of involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, Lebanon, heavy US military presence in the Gulf and Israel's appetite for expansion and domination of the region. The US hopes that by disconnecting Syria from Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Palestinian problem through a settlement of the Golan Heights issue, the supporting lifeline to Palestinian and Lebanese resistance will dry up and Iranian influence will diminish. Iran would then be isolated and left at the mercy of US and Israel, loyally followed by the European Union. This is easier said than done since it means that Syria could not make such choices without suffering serious destabilising domestic and regional repercussions.

This calls for the involvement of Turkey as a regional power to counterbalance Iran. Turkey is a weighty Sunni Muslim country, a NATO member with aspirations to join the European Union and is uniquely positioned to be a moderating factor and an interlocutor between the Arab Middle East and Israel. And Turkey is not averse to playing this role that, it hopes, will strengthen its hand with the EU as a potential European member enjoying the strongest ties with the Muslim world. It has already renewed its interest in resuming mediation between Syria and Israel -- an effort that was torpedoed by the Israeli invasion of Gaza. That is why President Barack Obama is scheduling a visit to Turkey in April after eight years of estrangement from the US under the Bush administration.

For the Obama administration, the most serious challenge is not Syria, Hamas or Hizbullah but Israel, its closest Middle East ally. Israel wants territorial expansion as well as peace based on military pre-eminence and US pressure on the Arabs and the distraught Palestinians. To this end, Israel perceives Iran's development of nuclear technology as a mortal threat, not because Iran will inevitably produce nuclear weapons but because its rise represents a military deterrence to Israeli military supremacy in the region. In this sense, Israel should be the priority target of the Obama Middle East strategy. The problem is that both Israel and the US know well the limits of any effective pressure the administration can bring to bear on its close ally, compared to that it can exercise on its vulnerable Arab interlocutors.

* The writer is former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC. He also served as director of United Nations Radio and Television in New York.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 6:50 PM

All Israel Wants is Recognition

By Will

If they only recognized Israel's right to exist!

That generous $900 million in aid the United States pledged to clean up the remnants of the buildings destroyed by weapons it supplied to Israel is now coming with a big condition: any Palestinian unity government has to "recognize Israel's right to exist."

Here we go again. That same old dance is starting.

Just when it seemed American foreign policy might make sense again, they bring in this squishy, abstract, non-sensical demand. Such a request is the opposite of the nuanced, intelligent, indirect diplomacy that is needed right now -- it is making an issue out of the immaterial.

It is on the level of rhetoric only, yet is loaded with enough baggage to keep the cycle of Israeli procrastination and Palestinian shimmering going. It is the nonsense demand that comes up when things look like they may improve, yet it puts Hamas in an impossible bind. What political power would recognize the right of an occupying force that just killed one thousand of its civilian constituents, denies them rice, soap and chick peas?

It is simply politically impossible for Hamas to say "we recognize Israel's right." Why? Because Hamas is the party of refugees, and no refugees will ever, and I mean ever, accept the right of the usurper to keep the fruits of the usurpation. So why make that an upfront issue? It seems that again American policymakers cannot quite handle the power of the Palestinian narrative in their own experience.

Well, as a one-stater, that is all fine by me. Time is truly on our side.

Just to demonstrate how silly this demand of recognizing Israel's right to exit is, I am suggesting various responses Hamas could provide. Warning: they range in level of absurdity, a natural response to such a silly demand.

[I would never charge for such advice, and no one with any sense would pay for it; therefore I am not providing any material support to Hamas. So, don't arrest me and ship me off to Bagram]

1. We cannot recognize Israel's right to exist because no country in the history of the world ever had a natural right to exist. And certainly no state has such an inherent right that they can freely and perpetually violate international law since inception (starting with the UN resolution, 181, that drew its first borders). After breaking over 60 UN resolutions, Israel would be hard-pressed to claim any rights at all!

2. We cannot recognize Israel's right to exist because we have not recognized formally any other state's right to exist. If we just recognized Israel's, we would in effect be negating the rights of all other states since having a right means having an authority against another power. It would be bad for us to say only one state has such a right since it would imply that no other state's have that rights, and we are not prepared to recognize every state.

Also, if we recognized just Israel, we would be "singling out" Israel, and Alan Dershowitz would say we're anti-Semitic.

3. We cannot recognize Israel's right to exist. But let's make a deal. We will recognize the right of the Israel lobby in the United States to exist, even though the Washington Post denies their existence.

4. We do not recognize Israel's right to exist, but we recognize it exists. In fact, we had a truce with it for six months last year. And during that time, Israel committed extrajudicial assassinations, kept an embargo in place, and increased the suffering of the Palestinians. Should we recognize their right to do those, as well?

5. We recognize the right of Israel to exist so long as it does not discriminate between Jews, Muslims and Christians, starting with expanding the Law of Return (which grants Jews anywhere in the world nearly-automatic immigration privileges) to also include the rights of Palestinian refugees to return.

The international community did not deny South Africa's right to exist during the Apartheid sanctions movement, they recognized it should exist in a different, equal rights-based form. So there is international precedent for this position.


Perhaps the only way for Clinton to effectuate progress with this move is to pin Hamas's recognition of Israel, with America and Israel's recognition of Israel, which would means taking it off the terrorist list, and not killing its leaders. That's not going to happen.

What saddens me is that such idiotic posturing by the United States and Israel will only embolden the most inflexible and scary elements within Hamas.

The Case Against Israel's "Right To Exist

By Roger Tucker

An Open Letter to Representative David Price (D) 4th District, NC

As you know, Mr. Price, I was invited to join a group of activists who met with you Monday morning to urge you to take action regarding the siege of Gaza, the Occupation and American support for Israel. I declined to attend because my particular focus is on One State advocacy, and you have made it crystal clear that this is not your view, nor is it ever likely to be (unless and until, in the due course of time, it becomes politically expedient). You represent the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), fondly known as the pat of butter in a sea of grits, a highly educated, liberal, metropolitan area that votes heavily Democratic. You received 63% of the vote in the recent election, and fly under the "progressive" flag. Yet you voted for House Resolution 34, supporting Israel's massacre in Gaza.

Dr. Sarah Shields of UNC took you to task for that in her excellent article, but biting and accurate as that was, she only went halfway. All of the actions you were urged to take are mere palliatives .They would serve no other purpose than to apply a little band-aid to a wound so deep and life threatening that the patient belongs in the Intensive Care Unit (too bad the hospital was bombed out of existence). That sort of thing makes progressives feel good about themselves but doesn't even begin to address the real problem, which is the continued existence of the State of Israel. To say such a thing is the most blasphemous conceivable heresy from the Zionist perspective, which they have managed to convince most Americans is a sane and reasonable point of view. But, like the "official" version of the Holocaust, that other jury-rigged pillar supporting the edifice of the Rube Goldberg contraption called Israel, it is actually sane and reasonable to call such dogmas into question. From the point of view of science and history, of reason and the pursuit of truth, there can be no forbidden subjects, or we take the risk of returning to the Dark Ages.

So let us examine this curious notion that Israel has some sort of inherent "right to exist," a claim that no other nation-state has ever felt it necessary to make. We would all agree that human beings have a right to exist, although there are many who would make an exception for those who commit murder. Some even go further and say that all sentient beings have a right to exist, but only in this one peculiar case is there this insistence that a particular nation-state has such an inalienable right. Why is that? Is it, perhaps, because in this particular case the contention is on particularly shaky ground? Sorry, but methinks the lady protesteth too much. We can't, particularly as Americans, question Israel's right to exist on the basis that they commit mass murder - so many nations, including our own, have routinely done so. Nor can we merely point to the fact that Israel is an ethnocentric colonial-settler state - patterned on the now universally abhorred orgy of 19th century European colonialism - which has established itself through a long, ongoing process of genocide against the indigenous population.

Would pointing out that Israel is a xenophobic, racist state that has been practicing ethnic cleansing since its inception do the trick? How about making the case that Israel practices a form of apartheid that observers like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu say is worse than what existed in South Africa - would that suffice? What about the numerous crimes against humanity, serial violations of the fundamental principles of the UN enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Then, of course, one might say that Israel's flagrant flouting of International Law would be sufficient, or the fact that Israel has refused to even acknowledge numerous UN resolutions, let alone abide by them, or the commission of numerous war crimes, as perpetrated during the recent holocaust in Gaza,. Wasn't the not forgotten false flag attack on the USS Liberty in itself sufficient cause to change course? Still not enough? How about the clandestine development of nuclear weapons irrespective of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel refused to sign? These facts are beginning to add up - perhaps the combination of the above would be sufficient to make the case.

The Zionists chose to locate their Jewish State in Palestine, of all places. Actually, the idea was first cooked up by the British Home Office in the early 19th Century, one of many strategies contemplated to establish and secure the Empire. That came to nought, but the notion was popular in some circles and gained renewed momentum when Theodor Herzl popularized a paranoid scheme to create an impregnable ghetto somewhere, anywhere, where the Jewish People would at long last be insulated from the consequences of their actions. After shopping around, Palestine was chosen. This was the result of various coincidences; the sentimental attachment to their supposed origin in the Holy Land, as expressed in the venerable saying "Next year in Jerusalem," that it also happened to promise proxy control over the resources and markets of the Middle East, as well as offering a simple and convenient means for the Europeans to rid themselves, once again, of the accursed Jews (as they were nearly universally perceived).

The land, however, was already populated, and thus began the organized hasbara (Heb: propaganda) campaign that has reached a crescendo in our time, to the point that Zionism now has effective control of the entire Western world, with even the Vatican paying obeisance to their Zionist Inquisitors. They said, "A land without a people, for a people without a land" (coined by Lord Shaftesbury, 1853). The brazen self-deception and lying had begun, and has only gathered steam over time. And how were they going to reconcile a dream based firmly within the tradition of the Western Enlightenment, replete with democratic ideals and socialist idealism, with the stark reality of colonizing someone else's land against their will? The idealists at that time were in the firm majority, so, in the spirit of Cecil Rhodes and their own version of Manifest Destiny, they conjured up a vision of enlightened Westerners (never mind that the new settlers were the widely detested Eastern European ashkenazim , the scattered turko-finnic remnants of the Khazarian Empire, established by tribes allied with Attila the Hun) uplifting the primitive peoples of the Orient (never mind that the Palestinians were a highly cosmopolitan and civilized people consisting of Muslims, Christians and Jews - largely secular - who all got along rather swimmingly).

They would buy the land fair and square and build a veritable City of Light in Jerusalem, or so the story went. It would be a bi-national state shared between the natives and the newcomers. This was cultural Zionism, primarily a product of the idealistic Viennese and other Western European Jews, which predominated until the early days of the Third Reich, at which time a much darker form of Zionism (a near mirror image of Nazism) began to gain ascendancy among the immigrant Jews in Palestine. This was the political Zionism of Vladimir Jabotinsky, and with it came the original outrages of Middle Eastern terrorism at the hands of the Irgun and the Stern Gang, directed at both their Arab neighbors and the representatives of the British Mandate. The leaders of these terror organizations became the future Prime Ministers of Israel, Menachem Begin among them (Albert Einstein's warning was and is applicable to all of them), and this tradition has continued into another generation in the person of Tzipi Livni, the current Foreign Minister and daughter of Eitan Livni and Sara Rosenberg, both prominent former Irgun members. Israel is a terrorist organization masquerading as a nation.

Israel has been more or less continuously at war with its neighbors as well as the indigenous population since its inception. It has made no serious attempt to resolve the conflict other than through force, stonewalling and subversion (Oslo, Annapolis and Camp David were all charades), only a steady, seemingly inexorable process of bringing to fruition the Zionist dream of Greater Israel - either the more grandiose version that would encompass all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, or the relatively modest one, from the Jordan River to the sea. Through financial and political arm-twisting, relentless hasbara that has established the fanciful Zionist narrative as "history" in the popular mind, and using the Holocaust to guilt-trip the craven and gullible Western world, the secular fascist ideology of Zionism and its quasi-religious sibling, the Holocult, have, in a very real sense, also conquered the West. An extraordinarily successful campaign one might say, the ultimate real estate scam, but one that is doomed, as it is based only on lies and greed, violence, bribery and extortion.

Merely pointing out that the State of Israel is an abomination on moral, ethical and legal grounds (and religious ones) is perhaps insufficient, but we can do better than that. We Americans are known for being a pragmatic people, so let's look at it from that perspective. I'll use a few analogies from the field of medicine to illustrate what I mean.

Zionism has been compared to a virus, even to a viral meme complex. The latter usage is apropos, but I'm referring to its biological meaning. It is an adaptation by a primitive organism that allows it to invade a host body and then multiply many fold, often inflicting serious injury on the host and sometimes even death. The original host was Palestine, but viruses are often contagious and may even cause epidemics, and there is no shred of a doubt that Zionism has become a major pandemic. It has already done enormous damage to the interests of the United States, and it threatens the well-being of the entire human race - in the worst case scenario, which is not all that far fetched, it threatens to plunge the world into a major nuclear conflagration.

Sometimes a useful plant is improved by grafting on a part from a closely related species, resulting in a beneficial hybrid. Grafting is also used in medicine, as in skin grafts. It is elementary to observe that the practitioners of these specialties must take great care to avoid rejection of the graft, or organ in the case of human transplants - otherwise the graft does harm to the host or patient, and often leads to death. Therefore, one would suppose that a group of people, with little in the way of military might and intending to colonize a foreign land would take sensible precautions to avoid such an outcome. In the case of the early 19th century Zionist "pioneers" in Palestine there was a healthy awareness of such dangers and therefore a tendency to act like civilized human beings. But as time went on and the settlers became much stronger vis-a-vis the locals such precautions were cast to the winds, and were replaced by the hoary adage that might makes right. The logical result of such a malignant grafting technique is the death of the host, as we have been witnessing over the last agonizing 60 years. And what, then, happens to the graft - can it survive by replacing the host? Perhaps, if the host had merely been Palestine, but the difficulty here is that Palestine was in many ways the hub of the Middle East and remains at the heart of the Islamic world, the larger host in this case. Can the graft survive in the midst of 1.2 billion people that have been outraged to the point of vowing that sooner or later, whatever it takes, the graft will get the shaft? As they say in medicine, the adverse side affects far outweigh any benefit and therefore the procedure is contra-indicated.

Last but not least, Israel resembles most closely a malignant tumor. It exists in a state of war with its host, sucking the life blood out of it. There are various modalities for dealing with such a tumor. One is to cut off its supply of blood, but we do just the opposite. Another is to improve the health and bolster the immune system of the affected patient. We do just the opposite. In the end it will have to be killed. There are various ways of doing this, from poisoning it with radiation and/or chemicals to having it surgically removed. It would be good if such drastic and dangerous methods could be avoided, but they are inevitable if in the meantime the tumor is not only allowed, but encouraged, to grow. The benign method, not available to modern medicine but easily achieved through political intervention, is to transform the whole of Palestine into a healthy, thriving. multiethnic democracy. Isn't that what we preach to the world (except in this one instance)? All it would take is a worldwide movement, similar to that which brought down apartheid South Africa. It is very doable, but decent, compassionate, aware people - people who pay more than mere lip service to such notions as peace and justice - need to stop pussyfooting around and get on the same page.

Israel cannot exist except in a state of war with an external enemy. Those who have lived there, like myself, know full well that absent a unifying enemy, Israelis would go at one another like cats and dogs and the so-called State would quickly dissolve into chaos. After all, Israel is comprised of a melting pot population that is only nominally "Jewish" and has no commonality other than the mostly fictitious Zionist narrative, a resurrected dead language, and the dubious opportunity to lord it over the untermenschen. It is only the Zionist elite who benefit by this ongoing tragedy - ordinary Israelis and Jews worldwide are as much victims of this scheme as are the Palestinians. They haven't suffered to anywhere near the same extent yet, but give it time. History has a way of repeating itself, and we all know that what goes around comes around. I can tell you that Jews like myself, who are aware of what has been going on and can see the handwriting on the wall, have no great desire to be up against the wall when the shit hits the fan.

As in South Africa, when the bloom began to fade from the rose - ah, the romantic and inspiring tale of the Afrikaaners as the 13th tribe of Israel! - the Israeli government has been desperately trying to combat the demographic problem by importing many thousands of pseudo-Jews, as well as trying to bribe the Persian Jews (at $10K/head). That was the rationale for importing the Ethiopians, hundreds of thousands of Russians who merely have to declare that they are Jews no matter how far-fetched (or purely fictitious) the connection, and now they have gone so far as to ship in Peruvian Incas no less. They'll take anybody, as long as they aren't Palestinians (the rightful owners of the land) or Muslims from anywhere. In spite of all that, there has been a net loss of population in the last two years as the rats begin to leave the ship.

Congressman Price, isn't it high time something were done about this, that Americans finally stand up and stop acting like pitiful sheep with wool covering their eyes? And don't even think about mentioning the so called "two state solution," that fraudulent scam, that ridiculous fig-leaf for further ethnic cleansing, or any of the other lame excuses for procrastinating (I've heard them all), like waiting for the Palestinians to take the lead. Don't you think they would jump at the chance (70% support a one-state solution in historic Palestine where Muslims, Christians and Jews would live together with equal rights and responsibilities), or do you think they're stupid?

Little talked about are the obvious benefits to the Israelis (even the Zionists). At long last they could have the peace and security that they, like any other people, long for. They would have the option of living anywhere they choose in Palestine, without having to act like ravening beasts. In cooperation with the Palestinians and the neighboring peoples, they could develop a healthy, prosperous and respected country and region. And if this all happens voluntarily, while the demographics are still on their side, they could negotiate an advantageous deal that would leave them with much of what they now have, and without the enormous expense of an incredibly out-sized military or the threat of eventual destruction. That would truly be a real victory for the Israelis, for all Jews, for the Palestinians and for everyone else - what they call a win-win situation. But the clock is ticking.

The choice is, theoretically, among four possible solutions. Which among them would you choose, based on the best available information? It is, as they say, a no-brainer.

Roger Tucker is a writer and activist living in the Triangle, NC. He is a committed advocate for the One State Solution. He is thinking of moving out of the country, perhaps to Mexico, conceivably to Tierra del Fuego, maybe even off planet, although he worries that he might be getting too old to learn a new language. This essay was first published on his website on Mar 13, 2009.

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 10:31 AM

Shaaban to Al-Manar: Supporting Resistance Unquestionable

Shaaban to Al-Manar: Supporting Resistance Unquestionable
Readers Number : 80

14/03/2009 Syrian Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Shaaban renewed on Saturday her country's support for the Resistance choice, noting that the presence of countries that back the Arab causes such as Turkey and Iran was really important.

Speaking exclusively to Al-Manar, Shaaban pointed to the importance of supporting the Resistance groups in Lebanon and Palestine against the Israeli obstinacy. She noted that the Zionist entity was adopting the same anti-peace policy, recalling that the mentioned entity has always rejected the legal Palestinian rights.

Shaaban tackled the Arab mini-summit that joined in the Saudi capital leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait and Egypt. She emphasized that the quadripartite summit underlined commitment to the Arab rights, on top, the usurped rights by Israel, adding that the four leaders stressed the right of resisting occupation which is a legitimate right and the necessity of supporting resistance, and… in this regard, it is inevitable to regard Israel as an enemy.

The Syrian official also emphasized that the quadripartite summit emphasized the necessity of controlling the Arab conflicts and disputes in a way that would serve the national interest of the Arab nation.

Mr. Obama: Don’t let Israel destroy America

Mr. Obama: Don’t let Israel destroy America

[ 14/03/2009 - 04:48 PM ]

Comment by Khalid Amayreh

Two inseparable characters have identified Israeli behavior ever since the very inception of its existence in occupied Palestine: Criminality and mendacity.

As to the first, we all know that Israel itself is and has always been a crime against humanity. Israel’s very creation couldn’t have been effected had it not been for the numerous atrocities and terror committed by the legions of Zionism for the express purpose of driving the majority of the Palestinian population into exile.

Indeed, as the conscientious Israeli historian Illan Pappe asserts in his book, the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the 1948-war was started by the Zionists in order to terrorize the Palestinians into leaving their homeland.

Hence, the massive terrorization and subsequent dispersion of the vast majority of indigenous Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) from their ancestral homeland was actually the intended outcome of the war rather than its unintended result as the Zionists would claim.

Well, criminality and mendacity always go hand in hand, and since the Zionists couldn’t admit guilt for their shameful deeds, e.g. as post-war Germany did, Zionist officials resorted to the intensive use of “weapons of mass distortion” whereby the managed, mostly successfully, to turn the black into white, the big lie into a ‘truth’ glorified by thousands, and the criminals into victims and vice versa.

Some of the classical lies, which have been exposed by some Zionist writers, such as Benny Morris and Tom Segev, include the scandalous claim that the bulk of Palestinian refugees fled their homes voluntarily and that that the Israeli authorities actually implored them to stay.

Unfortunately, such scandalous lies were conveniently parroted by the western media from Australia to the United States.

Interestingly, some of the die-hard Zionist media are still shamelessly clinging to these anachronistic and thoroughly debunked narratives as if every immoral tactic was legitimate as long as the end is to serve Israeli interests.

Since 1948, lying in various forms represented the overall discourse of the Nazi-like state. This writer remembers vividly how the state-run Israeli radio, kol Yisrael, was insulting the intelligence of common listeners when reporting news of the first Intifada (1988-1992), when then War Minister Yitzhak Rabin instructed his soldiers to break the bones of Palestinian children, which is what the soldiers literally did on numerous occasions.

A mere mouthpiece of the Israeli army, the Zionist radio would report that troops fired into the ether to disperse Palestinian stone-throwers and that a certain number of Palestinians were both killed and wounded.

I don’t know if the Israeli newscaster was gullible enough to suggest that the poor Palestinian victims were actually flying in the sky because otherwise none of them would have been killed or wounded had they refrained from using their wings and contented themselves with remaining human.!!!

Nonetheless, such brash lies, which defied logic, were readily repeated by serious media outlets throughout the western world just as the same is happening these days when American and some European networks (e.g. the BBC), have not refrained from giving the benefit of the doubt to the pornographic Israeli lies about the recent blitzkrieg in Gaza.

Today, the general modus operandi remains unchanged, and the "hasbara" fabrication of lies has only become more sophisticated while the overall goals remain unchanged.

For example, Israel routinely justifies the wanton demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, especially in Occupied East Jerusalem, by arguing that the doomed homes have been built without a proper building license and that Israel, like any other law-abiding state, is duty-bound to enforce building and zoning regulations.

However, what Israel has been trying to hide from the eyes of the world is the fact that the Zionist state is using both the litter and spirit of the law!!! (the occupier’s law) to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, narrow their horizon, and force them to leave their ancestral homeland.

Indeed, the draconian discrimination against Palestinian license applicants has been the adopted policy since the first days of the occupation more than 41 years ago. And the goal is always to force as many as Palestinians as possible to leave in order to allow as many Jewish settlers as possible to replace the evicted victims.

The Israeli authorities actually lie as often as they breathe, and instead of adopting a reasonable approach, based on honesty, toward the Palestinians in places like East Jerusalem, Israeli officials spend weeks and months devising satanic tricks to dispossess non-Jews of their real estate and property, especially homes.

Thus if no problem exists with regard to the building license, the racist officials would concoct or invent other justifications for the demolition of the Arab home or property, such as claiming that the relevant area is an excavation park. And if all the inventory of legal tricks is exhausted, then the occupation authority would simply commit the act of rape by demolishing the home without any explanation. And when the oppressed Arab victims cry out for justice, an arrogant Israeli officer, or even an ordinary soldier, would simply confront him or her by saying… “you’d better come to terms with reality. No one will help you, the media won’t help you, America won’t help you…we control America… Even God won’t help you.”

This is exactly how thousands of Arab homes have been utterly destroyed under the pretext of maintaining law and order while every honest person knows deep in his or her heart that the real motive is simply to effect ethnic cleansing and obliterate the Palestinian identity of the land.

Last week, the Israeli occupation authorities said they were planning to demolish as many as 88 Palestinian homes at the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The plan is part of a master scheme to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes for the purpose of building Jewish settler homes in the traditionally Arab East Jerusalem.

In the meantime, the same Zionist regime is planning a phenomenally huge settlement expansion drive that would double the settler population of the West Bank, now totaling around a million settlers.

In light, it is obvious that the last thing Israel is really thinking about is true peace with the Palestinians.

This reality, which even the blind can see, should make the Obama administration decide, sooner than later, whether it will hold Israel to account or just behave as the previous American administrations did, namely give Israel caret blanch to murder whatever chance for peace in the Middle East there still is while babbling about a clinically dead peace process that is being kept alive through artificial means.

Finally, I am going to say this, which many pro-Israeli Americans don’t wish to hear. Mr. Obama, if you don’t succeed in getting Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, you won’t succeed in overcoming the monumental economic crisis now facing your country and the world.

The connection between the economic super-crisis in America and the unresolved and deteriorating conflict in Palestine is so real and so clear.

You know and I know that the so-called war on terror, which the Bush administration waged on a number of Muslim countries and movements, was conceived in Israel, the very same Israel that is now trying to bully or cajole America to start a new war, this time against Iran, a country that never invaded or attacked any other country in recent memory.

Israeli leaders think, probably justifiably to a large extent, that Israel and the Jews of America control the American government, including Congress as well as the main media.

It is incumbent upon you, Mr. President, to prove they are wrong.

Because if you don’t or can’t, you won’t be able to overcome the economic collapse haunting your country and shaking its foundations.

Leaving the Israeli stranglehold over American politics intact means one thing. It means that America is going to get itself entangled in more wars abroad, mainly to ensure and serve Israeli interests of military aggrandizement and territorial expansion.

Mr. President, don’t sacrifice America’s vital interests for the sake of Israeli hegemony and megalomania.

Don’t let Israel destroy America.
Discrimination, Ethnic Cleansing, Home demolition, Jerusalem, Nazi Israel, Obama, Racism,

Jews Ask Pope for Holocaust Studies in Schools

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Israel's religious leaders asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to make Holocaust studies a required subject in Catholic schools, saying it could help combat anti-Semitism in future generations.

The two sides resumed a dialogue that was interrupted by the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop, which brought Catholic-Jewish relations to their lowest point in half a century.

The Israelis also asked that the Vatican take a strong stand against the draft final declaration of next month's U.N. conference on racism, a statement some countries view as hostile to Israel.

"May we suggest for your consideration that the history and the moral import of the Shoah ... become a required subject for inclusion in the curriculum of students at all Catholic schools the world over," Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen asked the pope during a meeting at the Vatican, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

Cohen, who is chief rabbi of Haifa, said such a move would "reinforce your strong stand against Holocaust denial and declaring anti-Semitism as a sin against God."

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Congress, told reporters afterwards: "I hope a recommendation (from the pope on Holocaust studies in Catholic schools) will come out of this latest crisis. That will be a silver lining to the cloud."


The meeting between representatives of Israel's chief Rabbinate and Vatican officials on Wednesday and Thursday was to have taken place last month but was postponed by the Jewish side because of the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson.

On January 24, Benedict lifted the excommunication of Williamson and three other traditionalist bishops to try to heal a 20-year-old rift that began when they were thrown out of the Church for being ordained without permission. Williamson has said he believed there were no gas chambers and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, compared with the figure of 6 million accepted by mainstream historians.

The pope has since made several major declarations to repudiate Williamson's views and condemn anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

On Thursday, Vatican officials announced Benedict would pay a visit to Rome's main synagogue in the autumn. "There's no firm date fixed yet," the chief Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told Italian media.

The Jewish delegation also asked the pope to instruct Vatican diplomats to take a strong stand against the current draft of the final statement of the U.N. Conference on Racism due to be held in Geneva April 20-24, known as Durban II.

The Vatican has said it will attend the conference but hoped for a change in the wording of its final declaration. Both Italy and the United States have said they will not attend unless there is a change of wording.

Source article is here.

P.S. Rabbis to Pope: Think about it, is the world really round? Does the earth revolve around the sun? Think how much prestige your church has lost since it decided to go along with the world's opinions.

Gaza 2009: De-Osloizing the Palestinian Mind

By: Dr. Haidar Eid

Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive, but by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black, but they have also told him how to react to the kick. For a long time the black has been listening with patience to the advice he has been receiving on how best to respond to the kick. With painful slowness he is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit. - Steve Biko

One of the most important outcomes of the Gaza massacre (2009) has been the unprecedented tremendous outpouring of popular support for the Palestinian cause; something the signatories of the Oslo accords (1993) must have not been happy with. The return of the pre-Oslo slogans of liberation, as opposed to independence, have, undoubtedly, created a new dilemma, not only for Oslo political elites, but also for the NGOized, Stalinist Left.

The process of "Osloization"i.e, a combination of corruption, Ngoization, and a selling-out of revolutionary principles and sloganeering, fused with the fiction of the two-prison solution, has been dealt a heavy blow in the 2006 elections. Judging from statements made, not only by PA officials, but also by the Left, and even the Hamas government, the ultimate goal of the current river of blood has become the establishment of a Palestinian state in any dimension, i.e. the two-state solution. The contradiction between the tremendous international support, the revival of the BDS campaign, the outpouring of demos against Apartheid Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians of Gaza, and the reiteration, by most political orgs, of the two state mantra is a strong indication of the need for an alternative program that makes the De-Osloization of Palestine its first priority.

In order to understand the Oslo Accords and the extreme damage they have caused to the Palestinian cause, one needs a historical contextualization of the so called "peace process", or rather what many critical thinkers have called the peace industry. This understanding is a necessary step towards a process of De-Osloization, a term I will get back to at a later stage.

The Oslo accord was claimed to be the first step towards self-determination and an independent state. But it is clear now, 16 years after the famous hand shake on the White House lawn, that no state in the short run will be established because of the mere fact that Oslo simply ignored the existence of the Palestinian people as a people. In other words, these accords have offered Zionism what it has always been striving for. Golda Meir's infamous statement that there are no Palestinians is a case in point here.

And yet, to claim that ‘Oslo' and ‘Camp David' were great missed opportunities and ‘breakthrough', and that the so-called ‘peace process' was in track until the Palestinians (i.e. colonized victims) blew it is a deliberate ideological distortion of reality claimed in order to prepare Palestinians for more concessions. Real comprehensive peace was not created in Oslo and Washington; rather what was created is an American/Israeli plan to resolve the conflict after the destruction of Iraq and the collapse of the Soviet Union and their attempt to construct a "new Middle East"—to use Condoleeza Rice's words--a Middle East characterized by imperialist-Zionist hegemony and supported by despotic regimes. The Oslo accord was born dead because it did not guarantee the minimum national and political rights of 10 million Palestinian. As long as there are refugees, cantons, detainees, blockade, settlements, ‘legal torture' of prisoners, dispossession, assassinations and occupation, comprehensive peace cannot be achieved. It is an illusion in the minds of those who signed the Oslo accords.

These accords have led to the creation of a limited "administrative autonomy" in the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The local population was given "the right" to form an authority that they could call "national." Now the question is what makes the PNA (Palestinian National Authority) beyond questioning? What is the ‘legitimate' ground upon which it was established? Very simple: The Oslo Accords. It has now become very obvious that despite the famous hand shakes on the White house lawn and in Annaplois, and the optimistic talk of the ‘New Middle East,' these accords, in contradistinction with UN and Security Council resolutions, have not guaranteed the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, or the return of the refugees, nor even the demolishment of the Jewish settlements, and compensation for those Palestinians who have lost—and still losing—their homes, lands and properties; nor the release of all political prisoners, or the opening of all checkpoints, which have become daily nightmares for residents of the WB and GS; ...etc. In spite of all the hand shakes, kisses, and friendly press conferences, Israel launched one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the conflict against the civilian population of Gaza, killing in 22 days more than 1400 people, including 438 children, 120 women, 95 old people, 16 medics, 5 journalists, 5 foreign women, and in which it destroyed more than 40.000 institutions and houses, leaving many families homeless. That, of course, was not mentioned as an objective of the Oslo Accords, but nothing either was mentioned in them that would prevent such bloodletting from taking place.

This is the political reality that Palestinian officials who signed the agreement do not like to be reminded of. In fact, what has been created in parts of Gaza and the West Bank is a very strange entity—an apartheid-type Bantustan endorsed by the international community. Gaza 2009, therefore, is the mirror-image of Oslo. When we bear in mind that 75-80% of Gazans are refugees, the results of 2006 elections become more comprehensible not only in its anti-colonial context, but also in socio-political terms. What Oslo has created in Gaza, and the West Bank for that matter, is literally two different worlds, both of which have been led by undemocratic institutions, many security apparatuses, a Third Worldish military court (commended by the Clinton administration), corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and nepotism—to mention but few (neo)colonial qualities.

By winning the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars, and by getting international, Arab and Palestinian recognition, Israel--as an Apartheid settler-colonial state—has hoped to move into a new stage; a stage that requires the formation of ‘new consciousness' amongst colonized Palestinians. Herein lies the danger of Oslo; Osloization, within this neo-Zionist context, means the creation of a new paradigm through which you wash out the consciousness of your supposed enemy-the ‘Other'-and replace it with a one-dimensional mentality, through the construction of a fiction (two states for two peoples) whose end is unattainable. Even the fascist Lieberman has started singing the same song.

Put differently, to aim at creating the two-state Palestinian is to aim at creating false consciousness led by assimilated intelligentsia, some of whom have a revolutionary past record. Singing the slogans of "the two state solution," "two states for two peoples," "return to the 1967 borders,"--or even "a long-term Hudna" (as proposed by Hamas) -- is intended to guarantee the subordination and conformity of the Palestinians, especially those with revolutionary ideas. Gone are the right of return of 6 million refugees and their compensation, and the national and cultural rights of the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

This goal, however, never sees the antithesis it creates as a result of displacement, exploitation, and oppression; it ignores the revolutionary consciousness that has been formulated throughout the different phases of the Palestinian struggle. Nor does it take into account the legacy of civil and political resistance that has become a trademark of the Palestinian struggle. Hence the necessity of the formulation of Palestinian alternative politics. To be conscious of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and of the huge class gape that the Oslo Accords have created has definitely been the beginning of De-Osloization represented in the Al-Aqsa uprising and the outcome of the 2006 elections. This is an oppositional consciousness that the signatories of Oslo did not take into account. Both events represent an outright rejection of the Oslo Accords and their consequences.

The Gaza Strip, however, is seen by the PA as one of three building blocks of an independent state, although it is geographically separated from the second block, i.e. the West Bank. The third block is, Jerusalem, is under total Israeli control. None of the Palestinians in the occupied territories believe that the ‘semi-autonomous' zones in the GS and the WB -that is, the ones that fall under category A—can lay the foundation for an independent state. What Oslo has led to is, in fact, a South Africa. When black South Africans needed to move from their townships to big ‘white' cities, they needed to get a ‘pass'. During ‘peace time,' Palestinians, not only those who work in Israel, but also those who wanted to visit the WB form Gaza, or vice versa, needed to apply for a ‘permit'. Beside the permit, Palestinians needed a so-called ‘magnetic card,' which is a computer card that has a password to its holder's security file. No one could work in Israel, or visit the WB, or even go to a hospital inside the ‘green line' without a ‘permit' and a ‘magnetic card'. If one was granted such invaluable cards, one was still not allowed to visit any other area except the one s/he was entitled to visit. If one was ‘caught' at another area, one's permit and card were confiscated immediately, not to mention the torture one was exposed to. Nowadays, no one is even given such luxurious ‘permits' and cards. How was apartheid South Africa different?

The tribal chiefs of the South African Bantustans used to believe that they were the heads of independent states. Luckily, the ANC, despite its many compromises with the National Party, had never accepted the idea of separation and Bantustans. The official Palestinian leadership on the other hand, at the end of the millennium, boasts of having laid the foundation for a Bantustan, claiming it to be an independent state in the make. Undoubtedly, this is the ultimate prize Zionism can offer to its ‘Other' after having denied her/his existence for a century, and after that same ‘Other' has proved that she is human. For Zionism's continued presence in Palestine, the ‘Other' must be assimilated and enslaved without her/ him being conscious of her/his enslavement. Hence the granting of ‘semi-autonomous' rule over the most crowded Palestinian cities, and hence the logic driving the Oslo Accords.

Oslo, then, brought an unprecedented level of corruption into Palestine; and security coordination with Israel, under the supervision of—irony of ironies—an American general, has become the norm. Repeating the two-state mantra, carrying the Palestinian flag, singing the national anthem and— more importantly—recognizing Israel, regardless of the rights of two thirds of the Palestinian people, are what Oslo is all about.

The lesson we learn from Gaza 2009 is to harness all effort to fight the outcome of the Oslo Accords, and to form a United Front on a platform of resistance and reforms. This cannot be achieved without dismantling the PA and realizing that ministries, premierships, and presidencies in Gaza and Ramalah are a façade not unlike the South African Independent Homelands with their tribal chiefs. The classical national program, created and adopted by the Palestinian bourgeoisie has reached its end unsuccessfully. Most political forces, including the governing party in Gaza, fail to explain how 6 million Palestinian refugees will return to the Israeli State of the Jews and an independent Palestinian state will be created at the same time.

Hence the necessity for an alternative paradigm that divorces itself from the fiction of the two-prison solution, a paradigm that takes the sacrifices of the people of Gaza as a turning point in the struggle for liberation, one that builds on the growing global anti-apartheid movement that has been given an impetus by Gaza 2009. De-Osloizing Palestine is, therefore, a precondition for the creation of peace with justice.

* Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, and a member of the One Democratic State Group. -

In loving memory of Elias Kawar


By Mary Rizzo • Mar 14th, 2009 at 8:52 • Category: Artwork, Biography, Mary's Choice, Music, Poetry, Events, Newswire, Palestine

Our beloved brother in the struggle and dear friend Adib lost a precious member of his family last week. We join his family in condolences and publish this beautiful poem in loving memory of another Palestinian who died without seeing his homeland once again. (artwork by Ben Heine)

"In the memory of my brother Elias who left us on Friday March 6th without fulfilling his dream to see his homeland liberated, may God give him the pleasure to see it from the other world…" Adib S. Kawar

عندما تكون فلسطينياً

When you are a Palestinian

By: every Palestinian

When you are a Palestinian…

No sleeping no awakening…

No work… no resting…

No conscience… no unconsciousness

Without the remembrance of Palestine…

And what was Palestine…

And what Palestine came to be…

And what Palestine shall be…

When you are a Palestinian…

An Arab you are in your homeland…

And out of your homeland…

You shall be stirring different sentiments…

Sometimes ones of pity…

Others of sorrow…

Sometimes of solicitude…

And mostly of admiration…

When you are a Palestinian…

You shall have a strong memory…

You shall remember the number of sand grains…

On the shores of Palestine…

The echoes of the chanting of each “muezzin”…

The ringing of Nazareth and Bethlehem bells…

The laughter of each Palestinian Arab baby…

You shall remember the seawater’s colors…

The taste of sleeping…

The smell of the first rain on Palestine’s soil…

Also you shall remember these dark nights…

With their wild beasts’ sounds and movements…

You shall remember the smell of death…

Mixed with that of gunpowder…

The whispers of passion of your concern…

They shall not be…

Or that of the stock market index…

Nor a festival here and there…

And the length of nights…

Or days that never break…

Even whether the year be twelve months…

Or even twelve watermelons…

And even astronauts landing on the moon or not…

Or should the moon descend to them…

Whether one party or another wins election or loses them…

Or the rise of a new state or the fall of another…

All that concerns you is that Palestine was stolen…

And it should return liberated…

فَبِقُدسِنا الغرّاءُ تَكمُنُ عِزّتي

احياء لذكرى شقيقي الحبيب الياس الذي فارقنا يوم الجمعه السادس من آذار 2009 من دون تحقيق حلمه الدائم، على أمل أن يحقق له الله هذه الأمنية الهدف في الدنيا الآخرة فيرى فلسطين محررة

عندما تكون فلسطينيا

بقلم: كل فلسطني

عندما تكون فلسطينياً

فلا صحو ولا نوم

ولا عمل ولا راحة

ولا وعي ولا غيبوبة

بدون ذكرى فلسطين

وما كانت عليه فلسطين

وما صارت إليه فلسطين

وما ستصير إليه فلسطين

عندما تكون فلسطينيا

ستكون غريباً في وطنك.. وفي خارج وطنك

ستكون مثاراً لمختلف المشاعر

ستكون مثاراً للشفقة حيناً

ومثاراً للحزن حيناً

ومثاراً للاهتمام حيناً

ومثاراً للإعجاب أحياناً

عندما تكون فلسطينياً

ستتمتع بذاكرة قوية

ستذكر عدد حبات رمل البحر

وصوت كل مؤذن

وضحكة كل طفل

ستذكر لون الفجر..

وطعم النوم..

ورائحة المطر وستذكر ايضاً..

تلك الليالي السوداء

بأصوات وحوشها وحركاتهم

ستذكر رائحة الموت الممزوجة بالبارود

وستذكر زغاريد الثكالى

ونواح العذارى عندما تكون فلسطينياً

لن تعنيك كلمات العشق..

ومؤشرات البورصة العالمية

ومهرجانات تقام هنا وهناك

ولن يعنيك أن يطول الليل ..

أو يختفي للأبد النهار

ولن يعنيك أن يكون العام اثنا عشر شهراً

أو اثنتا عشرة بطيخة

لن يعنيك أن يصعد البشر إلى القمر..

أو ينزل هو إليهم

لم يعنيك خسارة حزب في الانتخابات ..

وفوز آخر

لن عنيك قيام دولة..

وسقوط أخرى

كل ما يعنيك هو أن فلسطين سُلبَت ويجب أن تُعـــــــاد

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Mary Rizzo is an art restorer, translator and writer living in Italy. Editor and co-founder of Palestine Think Tank, co-founder of Tlaxcala translations collective. Her personal blog is Peacepalestine.
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March 14, 2009 at 7:10 am (Associate Post, Corrupt Politics, Ethnic Cleansing, Illegal Settlements, Israel, Occupation, Palestine)

By Khalid Amayreh

Leaked Israeli settlement expansion plans prove that interminable peace talks are but cover for the material destruction of Palestinian horizons, writes Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem

While Israel never stops claiming that it has a sincere desire for peace with the Palestinians, the Israeli Housing Ministry, in coordination with other government agencies as well as the occupation army, is finalising plans to build tens of thousands of Jewish settler units all over the West Bank, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.

The plans, it is generally agreed, would put an end to Palestinian dreams of establishing a viable and territorially contiguous state that they could call their own. According to a detailed document by the Israeli Peace Now group, which monitors the proliferation of Jewish colonies in the West Bank, the Housing Ministry is planning to build more than 73,000 new apartments and settler units on occupied Palestinian land.

If implemented, the plan means that existing settlements would more than double, both in the sheer number of apartments and in terms of the settler population. That population now stands at more than half a million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, one major obstacle that could impede the implementation of the plan is the growing dearth of Jewish immigrants from abroad.

In 2008, less than 18,000 immigrants arrived in Israel. This is a mere trickle compared to the hundreds of thousands who arrived in the late 1980s and early 1990s following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the Israeli government hopes to be able to tackle this problem, at least partially, by giving “generous inducements” to potential settlers that would woo Israeli Jewish citizens to move onto the West Bank. These inducements include hefty tax reductions, preferential treatment with regards to income tax, and long-term loans.

Predictably, the Peace Now revelations drew furious reactions from Palestinian leaders who labelled the plan “peace killer”. “If this is true, then it will be futile to even think about peace, let alone the continued relevance of the two- state solution,” said Palestinian Authority (PA) official Saeb Erekat.

“I believe that if the international community is sincere about peace in this part of the world then it must force Israel to stop stealing Palestinian land. As far as we are concerned, we can’t allow this incessant theft of our land to go on and on under the rubric of a disingenuous process that has a form but has no substance,” he added.

Erekat said the PA would be closely watching how the Obama administration deals with the issue of settlements. The Palestinian official tacitly admitted that the Bush administration’s approach towards the “settlement issue” was scandalous, adding that the next Israeli government, led by Benyamin Netanyahu, would have to accept the principle of land-for-peace or otherwise there will be no peace process left.

Embarrassed by the leaking of the plan, which was applauded by members of the religious and right-wing parties, Israeli government reactions ranged from silence to half-hearted denials. Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Boim, a former deputy defence minister and a notorious hawk advocating an accelerated pace of settlement expansion, described the Peace Now document as “baseless and inaccurate”.

However, Boim did admit that at least 11,000 settler units were approved for construction in 2009 and that hundreds of other tenders had been issued for construction in colonies in the central and northern parts of the West Bank. He also indicated that more tenders might have been issued by other government agencies.

Boim’s defences were flatly rejected both by Peace Now and Palestinian experts on Jewish settlement activities as “sly and dishonest manipulation of statistics”. Abdel-Hadi Hantash, a veteran cartographer and noted expert on Jewish settlement expansion, described Boim’s pronouncements as “prevarications and outright lies”. “These people are pathological liars. They claim they want peace, but everything they do on the ground shows beyond any doubt that true peace is the last thing on their minds,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Hantash said Israel was following a master plan the implementation of which would render the creation of a Palestinian state impossible.

“We have to differentiate between official Israeli pronouncements on the one hand, and activities on the ground, on the other. In terms of activities on the ground, it is manifestly obvious that Israel is building new settlements and expanding existing ones, and in both cases more Palestinian land is confiscated, or more correctly, stolen,” he said.

Hantash described Israeli claims that most of the new building occurs within existing settlements themselves and is aimed at meeting immediate housing needs for the settlers as a “pack of lies”. “First of all, the settlements themselves are illegal according to international law, because the West Bank is not a disputed territory as Israel claims but an occupied land. Second, I have accurate information based on Israeli sources that the vacancy rate in settlements in the West Bank stands at 18-25 per cent. Hence, the mantra of ‘natural growth’ is merely a pretext, and for that matter a mendacious one.”

Israeli plans — both long-standing and new — to swallow up East Jerusalem, now accelerated, have drawn angry reactions from the European Union. According to a confidential EU report issued on 15 December, Israel is using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory policies as well as the West Bank apartheid wall to swallow up occupied East Jerusalem. The report points out that Israel is undermining the PA’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks among Palestinians.

“Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli- Palestinian peacemaking,” the report said.

The EU report also speaks of a systematic Israeli policy aimed at narrowing Palestinian horizons in East Jerusalem for the purpose of preventing their demographic growth or forcing them to leave their city.

“Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ including new settlements, construction of the barriers, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regimes and continued closure of Palestinian institutions, increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank,” the report added.

Palestinian officials have welcomed the report, calling it “a belated but welcomed recognition of the anti-peace measures Israel has been carrying out” in the Palestinian capital. “We certainly appreciate this report. But it is very important that the Europeans act on it, because without doing so, Israel will just continue doing the same thing,” said Hatem Abdel-Qader, a PA official in charge of the Jerusalem portfolio. “Of course, the Europeans won’t take an active posture if the Arabs themselves remained silent.”