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Thursday, September 8, 2011

US Congress loves being lied to about the Israel-Palestine conflict…

by Stuart Littlewood on July 17, 2011

when the truth is so easy to discover

By Stuart Littlewood * | Sabbah Report |

Here in the UK we have so many craven politicians paying homage to the likes of Rupert Murdoch and playing stooge to the pro-Israel lobby that there's little time to take much interest in US politics. So I apologise to American friends for briefly intruding on their grief; but somebody has sent me a copy of a letter from a US congresswoman to one of her constituents.
It says:
As the only democracy in the region, I believe that the United States has a special relationship with Israel... During my time in the House of Representatives, I will support our funding our ally and help to forward Israel's efforts to keep their citizens safe, which currently stands at 2.8 billion dollars in general foreign aid, and another 280 million dollars for a missile defence system...

Our foreign aid to Palestine is intended to create a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians towards peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance. Continued failure to reach a two-state solution, combined with lack of consensus on any of the alternatives, may also mean that the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza could continue indefinitely. In addition, with the West Bank and Gaza currently controlled by Hamas, an entity listed as a terrorist organization by US State Department and many other world governments, this may ultimately impact future aid our nation will provide.

Most recently, I became a co-sponsor of House Resolution 268, which reaffirms our support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states. This resolution also opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, as well as outlined consequences for Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations.[sic] This bill passed in the House on 7 July 2011 by a vote of 407 – 6...
Resolution 268 actually states that "Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good-faith commitment to peace negotiations". It threatens withholding US foreign aid to the Palestinian National Authority if it presses ahead with an application for statehood in the United Nations in September. It also calls for the Palestinian unity government to "publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with the government of Israel".

Senator Ben Cardin, who initiated the resolution, announced: "The Senate has delivered a clear message to the international community that United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state at this time does not further the peace process."

Israel is the only democracy in the region? The West Bank and Gaza are controlled by Hamas? An application to the UN for Palestinian statehood is "circumventing" the peace process? Representative Colleen Hanabusa's letter shows that she is poorly briefed. There is nothing on her website to suggest that she has a special interest in foreign affairs, let alone the Middle East. So why does this nice lady lawmaker from Hawaii suddenly find herself co-sponsoring a resolution that's designed to scupper the hopes for freedom of another people halfway round the world, who have suffered betrayal and brutal military occupation for 63 years?

Disinformation is a recurring feature of US foreign policy discourse, and I'm reminded of the twisted comments of Alejandro Wolff, US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, when he faced journalists' questions at the Security Council on that infamous day, 3 January 2009, when Israel's tanks rolled into Gaza to deal further death and destruction to a community that had already been air-blitzed for eight days and suffered siege and blockade for nearly 30 months before that.
Reporter: Mr Ambassador, you made no mention, sir, of any Israeli violation of those agreements that you've referred to, particularly in the opening of the crossings. And then there is a major development today, which is Israel's land attack and that's threatening to kill hundreds of civilians. Doesn't this deserve some request for Israel ... to stop its ground military attacks, sir?

Ambassador Wolff: Well, again, we're not going to equate the actions of Israel, a member state of the United Nations, with the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. There is no equivalence there. This council has spoken on many times about the concerns we had about Hamas's military attacks on Israel. The charter of this organization [the UN] respects the right of every member state to exercise its self-defence, and Israel's self-defence is not negotiable... The plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza is directly attributable to Hamas.

Reporter: But Hamas represents the people, because they voted, over 70 per cent of them, for Hamas in the last election.

Ambassador Wolff: Hamas usurped the legitimate authority of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
Even US ambassadors should know that Hamas was and still is the legitimate authority. Hamas was democratically elected in 2006 in a contest judged by international observers to be clean. The result didn't suit Israel or its protector, the USA, so, together with the UK and the EU, they set about trashing Palestine's embryonic democracy. Losers Fatah, a corrupt faction rejected by the people for that reason, was recruited and funded to do the dirty work, for which they were well suited. As John Pilger has pointed out, when Hamas foiled a CIA-inspired coup in 2007 the event was reported in the Western media as "Hamas's seizure of power".

Hamas simply took the action necessary to establish its democratic authority against Fatah's US-funded militia. This angered the US and Israel even more.

For Mrs Hanabusa's information, thanks to America's meddling Fatah controls the West Bank but has no democratic legitimacy while Hamas is holed up in Gaza. And Israel is far from being the full-blown Western-style democracy that many think.

"No equivalence" between Israel and "terrorist" Hamas?

The US uses a perfectly good form of words to brand, outlaw and crush any organization, individual or country it doesn't like. Under Executive Order 13224 ("Blocking Property and prohibiting Transactions with Persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support Terrorism"), Section 3, the term "terrorism" means an activity that:
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended
(a) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(b) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(c) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping or hostage-taking.
The order was signed on 23 September 2001 by George W. Bush. Its definition of terrorism fits the conduct of the United States and its bosom-buddy Israel like a glove, the irony of which seems totally lost on Congress.

Let us also look at Netanyahu's definition since he runs Israel's current government. His book Terrorism: How the West Can Win defines terror as the "deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends".

In an interview with Jennifer Byrne in February 2002, he said: "Terrorism is defined by one thing and one thing alone, the nature of the act. It is the deliberate systematic assault on civilians that defines terrorism."

It's like he's signing his own arrest warrant.

If terror is unjustifiable, then it is unjustifiable across the board. The Palestinians had no history of violence until their lands were threatened and then partitioned and overrun by a brutal intruder whose greed is never satisfied. Demands for Palestinians to cease their terror campaign (if you buy the idea that resistance equals terror) must be linked to demands for Israel to do the same.

As for the resistance movement Hamas, its charter is objectionable and the leadership are foolish not to have rewritten it in tune with modern diplomacy. Nevertheless the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, within days of being elected, offered long-term peace if Israel recognized Palestine as an independent state on 1967 borders. Previously, the Palestine Liberation Organization had unwisely "recognized" Israel without any reciprocal recognition of a Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords were supposed to end the occupation and give Palestine independence. "What we've got instead are more settlements, more occupation, more roadblocks, more poverty and more repression," he said.

Omar Abdul Razek, Hamas's finance minister, when interviewed by Aljazeera in May 2006, asked: "Which Israel would you want me to recognize? Is it Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates? Israel with the occupied Golan Heights? Israel with East Jerusalem? Israel with the settlements? I challenge you to tell me where Israel's borders lie."
Interviewer: "...the 1967 borders."
Omar Abdul Razek: "Does Israel recognize the 1967 borders? Can you tell me of one Israeli government that ever voiced willingness to withdraw to the 1967 borders?"
So, the question remains: why should Hamas or any other Palestinian party renounce violence against a foreign power that violently occupies their homeland, bulldozes their homes at gunpoint, uproots their beautiful olive groves, sets up hundreds of armed checkpoints to disrupt normal life, batters down villagers' front doors in the dead of night, builds an illegal "separation" wall to annex their territory, divide families, steal their water and isolate their communities, and blockades exports and imports to cause economic ruin – and now plans to steal Gaza's offshore gas?

Palestinians too have a right to defend themselves, and their self-defence, like Israel's, is non-negotiable.

As for recognizing Israel right to exist, no Palestinian is likely to do that while under Israel's jackboot. Nor should they be expected to. It would simply serve to legitimize the occupation, which is what Israel wants above all and what Israel wants Israel must get, even if the US has to make a complete fool of itself.

The terror that stalks the Holy Land

American and Israeli politicians love quoting the number of garden-shed rockets launched from Gaza towards Sderot. But can they say how many (US-supplied) bombs, shells and rockets have been delivered by F-16s, helicopter gunships, tanks, drones and navy vessels into the tightly-packed humanity of Gaza?

But at least we have an idea of the death-toll over the last 10 years. B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, keeps a close check.

 In the period between the start of the second Intifada (September 2000) up to Operation Cast Lead (26 December 2008) 4,836 Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the occupied territories, including 951 children. Two hundred and thirty five of these were targeted killings (i.e. assassinations) while 2,186 were killed during targeted killings although they were not taking part in hostilities. Five hundred and eighty one Israelis, including 84 children, were killed by Palestinians in Israel.
During Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009) 1,396 Palestinians, including 345 children, were killed by Israelis. In Gaza itself they killed 344 children, 110 women and 117 elderly people. Only four Israelis were killed by Palestinians in this period, no children.
Since Operation Cast Lead and up to the end of May 2011 Israelis killed 197 Palestinians in the occupied territories, including 26 children. Five were targeted killings during which 65 non-participants were killed. In the same period three Israelis were killed by Palestinians in Israel, including one child.

I make that 6,429 to the Israelis and 589 to the Palestinians - a kill rate of 11 to 1. When it comes to snuffing out children Israel is even more proficient with a kill-rate of over 14 to 1.
And it's not just the dead. The Cast Lead assault on Gaza is reported to have injured and maimed some 5,450. Israel also destroyed or damaged 58,000 homes, 280 schools, 1,500 factories and water and sewage installations. And it used prohibited weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorus shells.

Assassination has been official Israeli policy since 1999. Their preferred method is the air-strike, which is often messy as demonstrated in 2002 when Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed the house of Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, the military commander of Hamas, in Gaza City killing not just him but at least 11 other Palestinians, including seven children, and wounding 120 others.

I'm told resistance "terrorists" like Hamas account for less than a thousand victims a year worldwide, while "good guy" state terrorists slaughter civilians by the hundreds of thousands – some say millions.
The long list of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians – attacks that cannot be justified on grounds of defence or security and are so disproportionate as to constitute grave violations of human rights – puts Israel near the top of the state terrorist league. The demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes in the West Bank for "administrative" and planning reasons, the wholesale destruction of businesses and infrastructure, the impoverishment and displacement of Palestinians through land expropriation and closure, the abductions and imprisonments, the assassinations, and especially that 22-day blitzkrieg on the civilian population of Gaza who had nowhere to run – all this add up to mega-terrorism on the part of America's "special friend", according to their own definitions.

Negotiations? "We have spoken to Israel for more than 18 years and the result has been zero"

Finally, what is this nonsense about Palestinians lacking good faith and somehow "isolating Israel" by applying for UN recognition rather than wasting more time on fruitless negotiations? Israel obtained its statehood by accepting the borders of the UN's 1947 partition, which was agreed without even consulting the Palestinians whose land was being carved up. The Jews didn't stop to "negotiate". Well before the ink was dry Jewish terror groups had ethnically cleansed and driven off hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from their lands and villages so that the new state's already generous boundaries were immediately expanded (example, Najd now Sderot). The land-grab had started and Israel's borders have been "fluid" ever since.

Why are US lawmakers now trying to thwart the Palestinians' dream of their own independent state? No-one is demanding the 1947 borders. They are willing to accept the 1967 armistice lines recognized in numerous UN resolutions and generally accepted by the international community. Even Hamas has agreed. So what is the problem?

The problem is that the Israeli occupation should have collapsed long ago under the weight of its illegality, but Israel shows no willingness to return the stolen lands or relinquish enough control for a viable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu heads Israel's Likud party, which is the embodiment of greed, racist ambition, lawlessness and callous disregard for other people's rights. In any other country it would be banned and its leaders locked up. Yet he is welcomed like a hero in the US and given 29 standing ovations by Congress.
Likud intends to make the seizure of Jerusalem permanent and establish Israel's capital there. It will "act with vigour" to ensure Jewish sovereignty in East Jerusalem (which still officially belongs to the Palestinians as does the Old City). The illegal settlements are "the realization of Zionist values and a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel". They will be strengthened and expanded. As for the Palestinians, they can run their lives in a framework of self-rule "but not as an independent and sovereign state".

So we can see where he's coming from.

Kadima, the party of Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, is little better and has also pledged to preserve the larger settlement blocs and steal Jerusalem.

In the 1947 UN partition Jerusalem was designated an international city under independent administration to avoid all this aggravation.

Rather than force compliance with international law and UN resolutions the international community, led by the US, has let matters slide by insisting on a solution based on lopsided power negotiations in which the Palestinians are at a serious disadvantage. During this dragged-out and failed process Israel has been allowed to strengthen its occupation by establishing more and more "facts on the ground", and its violations of human rights and international law have escalated with impunity. And that is what this dirty game is all about: Israel needs more time to make its occupation permanent.

Funny how we never hear the US talking about law and justice. It's always "negotiations" or "talks", buying time for Israel.

What the situation is crying out for is justice, and it's all set down in UN resolutions, international law and humanitarian law. Once both sides are in compliance negotiations can commence – if there's anything left to negotiate.

Fr Manuel Musallam, for many years the Latin Catholic priest in Gaza, recently told members of the Irish government:
We have spoken to Israel for more than 18 years and the result has been zero. We have signed agreements here and there at various times and then when there is a change in the government of Israel we have to start again from the beginning. We ask for our life and to be given back our Jerusalem, to be given our state and for enough water to drink. We want to be given more opportunity to reach Jerusalem. I have not seen Jerusalem since 1990.
Indeed, when I met Fr Manuel four years ago he had been effectively trapped in Gaza for nine years, unable to visit his family a few miles away in the West Bank. Had he set foot outside Gaza the Israelis would not have allowed him back in to rejoin his flock. So, he stayed put until he retired. This is just a tiny part of the ugly reality that America supports and applauds.

If Mrs Hanabusa and the rest of Congress were in the Palestinians' shoes would they bog themselves down yet again in discredited negotiations with a gun to their heads?

Or would they apply to the UN for long overdue enforcement of its resolutions and international law?
There is only one thing worse than being lied to, Congress. And that's acting on a lie.

* Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

A thousand-and-one reasons why Palestine must get independence

by Stuart Littlewood on September 8, 2011

and here's perhaps the most important

By Stuart Littlewood * | Sabbah Report |

The following report from Bethlehem University that academic staff had been attacked yet again, this time by Israeli squatters, reminds me of how the Israelis apparently resent the Palestinians' fine education tradition. They have seen to it that Palestinian universities suffer the severest restrictions in delivering knowledge.

Bethlehem University, which includes many Muslims among its students, has been closed a dozen times by Israeli storm-troopers. In 2002 it sustained 4 Israeli missile hits, three to the Millennium Hall and one to the Heritage Centre in the Library. 100 soldiers later stormed into the buildings and did further damage.

In January 2003 the university's president pleaded: "Can anyone do anything to change this systematic strangulation?" Nevertheless staff succeed and students continue to flourish against all odds.
On one of my visits I spoke with Brother Cyril, a kindly, mild-mannered American from Minnesota, who ran the University. He was about to go on leave. "What do your friends back home say when you tell them what's happened here?" I asked.

He shrugged. "They listen for ten minutes then switch off."

Report from Bethlehem University

It is unclear whether the British government intends joining the US and Israel in their spoiling tactics when the Palestinians' bid for independence is put to the United Nations later this month. I have asked my MP about that and I hope UK readers will press their own MPs on the subject.

* Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

American Envoy failed

08.09.11 - 16:29  
An American Envoy of David Hale and Denis Ross failed in their mission in convincing the Palestinians not to go to the United Nations. The envoy made it clear to the Palestinians that “the US is against the bid of a UN state”. Image
According to Palestinian spokesmen who spoke with “Al-Hayat”, Ross and Hale didn’t have any offer to appeal the negotiations; they only explained the negative consequences of going to the UN, including “cutting out the Aids from the Palestinians.”

The U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton spoke to Abbas and asked him to “cooperate with the US to avoid a negative scenario in New York by the end of September.”

The Secretary of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Abed-Rabbo, said in a meeting with some peace activists in Ramallah, that he “will ask for an International conference after the recognition of the Palestinian State in September to solve the case after the UN decision.” He also added that he will ask for state borders according “to the 4th of June, 1967”, announce the settlements as illegal work and start negotiations with the Occupation according to a given time frame.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, declared that “the US will use the Veto against any attempt for the recognition of the Palestinian State.”

Sherman said in a hearing session in front of the U.S. Senate that “in case there would be any decision concerning the recognition of the Palestinian State in the UN, we will use the Veto against it.” She also added that “the US President, Barack Obama, the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and myself will do our best to make sure this subject won’t move forward”.

EU diplomats tour village threatened by wall

Published yesterday (updated) 08/09/2011 20:01
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- EU diplomats visited the village of Walaja on Thursday to voice concern over the humanitarian impact and political implications of Israel's wall in the village.

Local officials briefed the delegation on the effects of the barrier, settlements and violence by settlers, an EU statement said.

Diplomats met residents who face hardships in their everyday life and risk to be completely separated from their work and agricultural land when the barrier is completed, the statement said.

PPSF member detained at Ramallah checkpoint

Published yesterday (updated) 08/09/2011 14:11
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained a member of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front late Wednesday after holding him at Atara checkpoint north of Ramallah.

PPSF member Monadel Hanini told Ma'an that Israeli forces detained Awni Abu Ghosh, 50, while he was on his way back to Jerusalem, where he lives, from Nablus.

Hanini demanded the immediate release of Abu Ghosh.

Israeli forces are implementing a widespread campaign of arresting Palestinian political leaders because of the upcoming UN bid, he added.

Israel detained 120 Palestinians, mostly Hamas supporters, in Hebron on August 21 in one of the largest detention operations in the city since 2003, Palestinian security officials said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said arrests were made in the Ramallah area Wednesday as part of routine "security procedures."

Pappe reassesses legacy of Palestinian dynasty

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 15:51
Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and dissident living in semi-voluntary exile in the UK. He is most famous for The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a seminal work which, although based on his own research, was more original for the sweep of its historical narrative rather than any groundbreaking new findings. It was a widely influential work in that it convinced people around the world that “ethnic cleansing” is the phrase that most accurately describes what Zionist militias did to the Palestinians in the course of the 1947-48 Nakba (Catastrophe).

Pappe’s latest book The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty, only appeared in this English translation last year; it first appeared in Hebrew in 2002.

The Rise and Fall is a political biography of the Husaynis: an aristocratic Palestinian family that dominated the Palestinian political scene in both the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. While Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the leader of the Palestinian national movement during the Mandate period, is probably the most famous, there are a host of other interesting figures here. They include Jamal al-Husayni, foreign minister in the “All-Palestine Government,” the first ever declared “state of Palestine” in October 1948 (340); Musa Kazim al-Husayni, Ottoman functionary and mayor of Jerusalem from 1918-20; and Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, the famous Palestinian guerrilla warfare leader and son of Muza Kazim.

In explaining the renown of Abd al-Qadir in Palestinian collective memory, Pappe quotes the following highly poetic account of his birth from a work in Arabic titled The Mother Palestine and her Noble Son Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini: “The sun entered the alleys of Jerusalem and lighted its streets, and in that month in 1910, in the neighborhood of the Husaynis, was heard the cry of a newborn baby. It filled the air of the holy city and blended with the ringing of church bells and the muezzins’ musical call — it was the voice of the heroic warrior Abd al-Qadir Musa al-Husayni” (145).

A primary strength of the book is Pappe’s fluency in Arabic, which allows him to make wide use of original sources, along with Palestinian and other Arab historiography — especially from the Ottoman era. The sections on the various Palestinian peasant uprisings against the Ottoman Empire (1824) and later Egyptian rule (1834) make for highly enjoyable reading (pp 60-77).

Effects of Zionism go unexplained

The pace sags somewhat during the account of the Ottoman reform period. A bigger problem here is a lack of explanation as to what Zionism meant for Palestinian peasant farmers (the fellahin) in practice during the late 19th century.

Pappe does analyze the duplicity of some of the notable Palestinians, including some Husaynis, who sold land to the Zionist movement (e.g. Rabah al-Husayni, 118). But the reader learns nothing about the all-too-common reality of such transactions. As Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi has described, the fellahin often had “long-standing traditional rights of tenure.” Yet the Zionists would often remove them by force (Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Columbia University Press, 1997, pp 98-9).

At the end of the 19th century, such Ottoman-Zionist collaboration led to the Palestinian fellahin embarking on the earliest protests and even armed uprisings against their displacement or disenfranchisement.

Pappe’s book is a history of the Husaynis, not a history of the Palestinians as a whole, but a passing mention of this reality would have improved the chapter. This lack of context diminishes later sections of the book. For example, Pappe writes of Palestinian demonstrations and armed resistance in the Mandate period: “Wherever young urban and country men were frustrated in their search for employment and housing, political bitterness came to the fore” (218). This begs the question of why they were unemployed in the first place. If he had pointed out the simple fact that many of the fellahin (in a predominantly agricultural society) were unemployed precisely because Zionism had displaced them from the land by force, this passage would have made a lot more sense.

Reconsidering Mufti’s legacy

The pace of Pappe’s narrative picks up significantly during the British Mandate period, reflecting the fast-moving regional events of the time. The Husayni notables, always primarily interested in maintaining their class interests, tried their best to cozy up to the new British occupier and to pacify the wider population. In contrast to the common Israeli demonology of the mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, Pappe makes this key point quite well: “The calm [of 1921-29] was achieved thanks mainly to the creation of the Supreme Muslim Council” (222). The British created the Supreme Muslim Council and co-opted Hajj Amin to lead it: “With an annual budget of 50,000 to 65,000 Palestine pounds (drawn mainly from the religious properties), al-Hajj Amin was able to increase his influence throughout Palestine” (223). It seems this was done partly to undermine the more nationalist Palestine Congress — based on the nationwide Muslim-Christian associations — to which 27 delegates were first sent in January 1919 (175).

Ultimately, the British were not enthusiastic about the old notables. As the late Palestinian writer and activist Ghassan Kanafani put it in his brilliant study of the 1936-39 uprising, the formal Palestinian leadership had in the past eulogized Ottoman imperialism and praised the way it had treated them as compared with British imperialism. They had been the bulwark of the Sultan, but British imperialism removed them as chief agent, because it found a more highly organized agent in the Zionist movement.” (“The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine”, Committee for a Democratic Palestine, New York, 1972).

The Rise and Fall in general naturally shows that its original target audience was Israelis — Pappe was clearly seeking to provoke his society and make them rethink certain things. Often, figures and groups that would be familiar to an informed Israeli audience are dropped into the narrative with little or no explanation for the less familiar leader. For example, key Zionist leader (and future first president of Israel) Chaim Weizmann appears claiming to Kamil al-Husayni in 1918 that “the Zionists had no intention of taking over the country … Weizmann later wrote in his diary that Kamil had been polite but disbelieving — and for good reason” (173). Even the Balfour Declaration, under which Britain promised to set up a “Jewish national home” in Palestine, is dropped into the story without explanation.

History from below?

The Rise and Fall also suffers from a severe lack of direct quotes. The most damning evidence against Zionism often comes from their own archives, and critical Israeli historians like Pappe have been central in bringing these to light. But, for some reason, this book often lacks direct quotes, tending to prefer reported speech. For example: “[Menahem] Ussishkin was the paragon of the new Zionist leader. Unlike some of his colleagues, he openly discussed Zionism as a colonialist project and declared on more than one occasion that any indigenous resistance to the Jewish colonization of Palestine would have to be met with force, coercion and even expulsion” (172). Here, the reader would benefit from an example of what Ussishkin said in his own words.

One final point must be made. Since this book was likely being completed at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, Pappe’s aim to publish in Hebrew a more realistic historical approach to the extensive (and often hostile) literature on Hajj Amin was admirable. And his approach of looking at the wider family rather than an undue focus on the mufti alone is highly successful. However, compared to leftist Palestinian studies like Kanafani’s, I couldn’t help but think that his analysis is a little optimistic in places. He concludes the final chapter saying that at one point in history, notable families such as the Husaynis had “enable[d] social transformation in a moderate fashion” (341). For me, the wider findings in the book itself do no show that. That’s not to say Pappe is uncritical, by any means: there is a decent section on Hajj Amin’s failed attempt to work with Nazi Germany during the 1940s, when he was in exile and marginalized from the Palestinian national movement.
I do recommend this book to those interested in the topic, but as supplementary reading, alongside other more basic outlines of Palestinian history of the periods in question. Despite Pappe’s characteristic effort to orient the book as much as possible to a “history from below” approach (7), this is ultimately the history of the predominant aristocratic family in Palestinian history up until 1948: those who Kanafani refers to as the “feudal religious” leadership of the national movement.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His website is

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Israelis could face trial in The Hague if Palestinian statehood recognized at UN, experts warn

  • Published 01:59 08.09.11
  • Latest update 01:59 08.09.11

According to the statute of the court, the direct or indirect transfer of an occupier’s population into occupied territory constitutes a war crime.

By Tomer Zarchin 

Recognition of a Palestinian state could, in theory, lead to Israeli officials being dragged repeatedly before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for claims regarding its settlement policies in the West Bank, legal experts say. 

According to the statute of the court, the direct or indirect transfer of an occupier’s population into occupied territory constitutes a war crime. 

UN headquarters AP October 12, 2010 United Nations General Assembly Hall on Oct. 12, 2010.
Photo by: AP

“The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Hague is a complementary jurisdiction, meaning that the court will not intervene in cases when a war crime complaint is being investigated by Israel and those responsible are prosecuted,” explained Prof. Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and an expert in international law. 

“But in instances in which Israel is not conducting a war crime investigation and is not trying to ascertain the guilt of the accused, the court may get involved,” he said.

“The settlements are a prime example of this, since in theory one could say that we are talking about a war crime, that Israel is not investigating it and not bringing those responsible to justice. Thus, the court could get involved and investigate.” 

Sabelisn’t convinced, however, that the Palestinians will use this tool very often, if at all.
“Interestingly, except for Jordan, no neighboring Arab state [has accepted the court’s jurisdiction],” he said. “Why hasn’t Syria joined? Syria could have joined and asked that an investigation be opened against Israel for settling the Golan. The reason is that if Syria joined, it would also be exposed to having its officials being tried for war crimes. 

“It could be that the Palestinians will get caught up in the issue of the settlements, but at the same time, any Palestinian that, say, shot at Israeli civilians would also be subject to the court’s jurisdiction. Undoubtedly Israel could come up with a long list of terrorists that harmed Israelis and were never tried by the Palestinian Authority and turn it over to the court for handling.” 

Another issue is whether the newly minted “Palestine” could make claims regarding incidents that occurred before it was recognized as a state. The court has jurisdiction only for claims made by UN member states. 

Attorney Nick Kaufman and Prof. Daphne Richmond-Barak, both international law experts who have worked with the International Criminal Court, believe the Palestinians will certainly try. They may even ask the court to investigate incidents that occurred before 2002, which is when the court began operating, even though as a rule, such claims are not accepted, says Richmond-Barak. “The chances that Israelis will find themselves in court in the Hague will be much greater after September,” she said.
Kaufman, meanwhile, petitioned the ICC this week on behalf of the Regavim advocacy group, which asked the court to reject the request by the Palestinians in 2009 to investigate events pertaining to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. 

Regavim argues that the Palestinian intention to declare a state and ask for its recognition now proves that at the time they filed their request with the court, they were not a state. The court thus has no authority to respond to their request and must reject it out of hand, Regavim says. 

Meanwhile, attorneys Limor Yehuda and Anne Sucio, of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, issued a position paper yesterday on the possible ramifications of the recognition of a Palestinian state on civil rights in the territories. 

Yehuda disagrees with what she called the “impassioned” approach to the legal changes, including the possible involvement of the ICC. 

“You must remember that Palestinian ratification of the Rome Statute [which created the ICC] will obligate them to uphold human rights − for example, to refrain from torture and avoid firing on Israeli civilians,” she said. “It is liable to increase both sides’ commitment to human rights.”

Throwing blows in Beit Shemesh

  • Published 02:48 08.09.11
  • Latest update 02:48 08.09.11


Tensions rise as ultra-Orthodox extremists fight religious Zionist girls school.

By Yair Ettinger

Outside, blood is boiling, emotions are seething, and the residents of Beit Shemesh are exchanging blows. But inside Moshe Montag's office, the answers are simple and cool.
Deputy mayor and holder of the building portfolio, Montag prefers to direct attention to the bigger picture: During the last month, he has authorized the construction and sale of 2,800 housing units in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, which is to be entirely populated by ultra-Orthodox Jews. Within a few months, thanks to Netanyahu's National Housing Committee Law, another 27,000 units will be authorized in Ramat Beit Shemesh, all of them almost certainly for the ultra-Orthodox.
Ultra-Orthodox extremists - Gil Cohen-Magen - 08092011
Ultra-Orthodox extremists clashing with members of the religious Zionist community in Beit Shemesh this week.
Photo by: Gil Cohen-Magen
"The battle going on outside is not over the character of the city," Montag said. "A city building 30,000 housing units for the ultra-Orthodox is not going to fight over a run-down old school. Certainly we won't fight over it. This is a city undergoing demographic changes, something that is neither simple nor easy."
"On our part, we're trying all the time to calm everyone down, to maintain a positive atmosphere," Montag said. "I promise you that this city will preserve a balance between the various populations. There is room for everyone in Beit Shemesh."
Montag's is one interpretation of the situation in Beit Shemesh, and certainly not everyone agrees, but first - the headlines:
The escalation began yesterday with a conflict involving the girls school Orot Lebanot. Orot Lebanot is a religious Zionist school, meaning it is Orthodox but not ultra-Orthodox.
Yesterday, Ultra-Orthodox extremists blocked the path of the Orot Lebanot schoolgirls while they were on their way home. They surrounded the girls and shouted insults at them. Some residents and parents accompanying their children responded, and a fight broke out. It took nearly 45 minutes for the police to restore order, which they did without detaining or arresting any of the troublemakers.
Meanwhile, before the fight broke out, a fourth-grader at the nearby boys school, Orot Lebanim, also was injured while he was playing in the school yard during recess. According to the school principal, an ultra-Orthodox man threw stones at the boy, causing light injuries to his leg.
Montag, a leader of the Degel Hatorah branch of ultra-Orthodoxy, the main branch in Beit Shemesh (with roots going back to Lithuania ), sharply criticized the extremists and asked police to get tougher with them. According to Montag, "For them, I too am considered secular."
One week after the beginning of the new school year, there was no compromise on the horizon, and the level of hostility was rising. Orot Lebanot's new building was filled as planned with female students only, at the order of the education minister and the interior minister, who imposed the condition on the mayor, Moshe Abutboul of the Shas Party. Abutboul, who has been abroad (for a meeting between Shas members and Palestinians in the framework of the Geneva peace initiative ), said that the girls had to be kept at a distance to prevent a "blood bath," since the neighborhoods where the extremists live are like "Arab villages" that police are afraid to enter. According to Montag's deputy, if the municipality had been allowed to handle the crisis, a compromise would have been reached - for example, having the girls school trade places with the religious Zionist boys school.
As the events unfolded, one of Abutboul's coalition partners, a Likud member, resigned. Another, the chairman of the modern Orthodox party Tov, Eli Friedman, criticized the mayor in the ultra-Orthodox paper Kikar Hashabat. Friedman blamed the mayor for not respecting agreements and called on him to "defeat the Sicarii [extremists named for Jewish zealots in Roman times] in Beit Shemesh once and for all."
The Orot school serves religious girls from the Sheinfeld, Ramat Sharet, Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph and other neighborhoods. Residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit, populated by anti-Zionist extremists who are opposed to the new school, are demanding that the girls be removed. They claim that the girls, who range from 6 to 12 years old and who wear skirts, bring promiscuity to the neighborhood. The small police force guarding the school did not make much of an impression on the 40-or-so ultra-Orthodox Sicarii, who ambushed the girls after school at the top of the street, 300 meters from the school gate, and blocked both sidewalks.
They shouted "shiksa" [non-Jewish girl], "pritzas" [prostitute] and "gevalt" at the terrified girls. Parents who accompanied their daughters quarrelled with the Sicarii. Within a few minutes, some of the drivers who were passing by joined in, and a fistfight broke out.
Moshe Friedman, one of the organizers of the protests against the schoolgirls, told Haaretz that he was confident the school would be removed.
"They won't be here," he said. "According to Jewish law, it doesn't matter that they are girls. The laws of modesty are an obligation from the age of 3. Their goal is to ruin the neighborhood; we won't agree to tolerate it. They are backed by the government, but from our point of view this is a long-term battle. Even if it takes years, we'll win in the end. Neither the government nor these girls will be here."
Friedman promised further protests, including a large rally by the ultra-Orthodox population and daily marches through the neighborhood that would create, in his words, "victims on both sides."
This week, the religious Zionist community began to take countermeasures. Some of the parents started accompanying their daughters to school with dogs. "They're not afraid to attack girls, but they are afraid of dogs," one mother explained. Others hung posters on the gates of schools in Rama Beit Shemesh Beit, including pictures of the Sicarii with the caption, "He likes to look at virginal religious girls."
This conflict is another chapter in the war between the various communities of Beit Shemesh, mainly in the new areas around Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph and Beit. In recent years, the city has been plagued by wrestling matches among Orthodox religious circles, causing constant tension sometimes to the point of physical violence; Abutboul has been unable to relieve the tension, and his enemies claim he hasn't even tried.
Paradoxically, in religious Zionist circles - where children, as someone recently remarked on the group's Facebook site, actually face a more serious threat than children of Israeli settlers on Shuhada Street in central Hebron - there are signs of optimism. After a series of blows in recent years - including the removal of fitness equipment from a public park, difficulties in establishing a hesder yeshiva (for army service combined with Orthodox religious studies ), and the restriction of many housing units to the ultra-Orthodox - the desire to open a school in spite of opposition by extremists and the mayor gave a new sense of power to members of the religious Zionist population.
"I hope that this is the beginning of the end of Abutboul's coalition," said Shalom Lerner, a leader of the opposition from the Mafdal Party. "What is happening today is a watershed in terms of the public's will to act in Beit Shemesh and its understanding that it can't rely on anyone."
Another activist in the religious Zionist community remarked, "The extremists understood for the first time that no one is counting them," and an ultra-Orthodox resident said that, "All the ultra-Orthodox deep down in their hearts hope that the religious Zionists will wield a fatal blow to the Sicarii."
"The extremists are a very specific group that mainly causes damage to the ultra-Orthodox public," said Zeev Moskowitz, the spokesman for the parents association at Orot Lebanot. Moskowitz is convinced that the school will remain where it is. "The way to win here is to unite the forces of the ultra-Orthodox, the religious Zionists and the police," he said. "People always say that the extremists are strong and they don't mind suffering, but that isn't so. Their lives can be made difficult."
Montag believes that the city's hands are tied because of the developing conflict, and that it was prevented from taking quiet steps against extremist leaders. He has called on the police to deal with violence "with a firm hand," and says that the fire eventually will die down. Meanwhile, he is concentrating on building plans.
"While all over the country people are involved with tents, with talking, in Beit Shemesh, we aren't talking, we are doing," he said.

Sweden receives Palestinian ambassador

Stockholm holds first official welcoming ceremony for a Palestinian representative, expresses support for efforts toward Palestinian statehood
Associated Press

Published: 09.09.11, 00:38 / Israel News   

Sweden's Foreign Ministry has expressed support for Ramallah's efforts toward Palestinian statehood as the Scandinavian country held its first official welcoming ceremony for a Palestinian representative.

Palestinian Ambassador Hala Husni Fariz met Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Thursday as the Palestinians officially launch their campaign to join the United Nations as a full member state.

Like many European countries, Sweden this year upgraded the status of the Palestinian representation from general delegation to mission. Consequently, the top Palestinian diplomat is now titled ambassador.

Bildt said "Palestinian efforts for statehood have made great progress. To best express our support ... it has been natural for us to upgrade the Palestinian representation.",7340,L-4119944,00.html

Surat untuk Sekjen PBB Ban Ki-Moon dari Warga Palestina

Kamis, 08/09/2011 23:04 WIB

Warga Palestina mulai berkampanye untuk mendukung langkah Otorita Palestina di PBB. Kampanye yang bertajuk "Kampanye Nasional untuk Palestina: negara anggota ke-194" menandai upaya Otorita Palestina untuk menyerahkan permohonan resmi untuk menjadi anggota penuh PBB dalam Sidang Umum PBB tanggal 20 September mendatang.
Permohonan itu menjadi simbol bagi pengakuan resmi PBB terhadap berdirinya negara Palestina, yang selama ini hanya berstatus otorita.

Kampanye untuk mendukung langkah Palestina di PBB itu, juga diikuti oleh sejumlah aktivis internasional sebagai bentuk solidaritas mereka. Warga Palestina bersama para aktivis melakukan aksi jalan kaki ke kantor PBB di Ramallah, Tepi Barat. Sesampainya di depan kantor PBB, mereka menyerahkan surat yang ditujukan pada Sekretaris Jenderal PBB Ban Ki-moon agar mendukung langkah Palestina.

"Hari ini kami memulai kampanye kami dan kami memilih gedung PBB karena gedung itu mewakili organisasi Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa. Kami berharap PBB memenuhi tuntutan kami," kata Ahmed Assaf, kordinator kampanye.

"Kami (Palestina) sama pentingnya dengan 193 negara lainnya yang menjadi anggota PBB, dan pesan kami adalah meminta negara Palestina menjadi negara (anggota PBB) yang ke-194," tukasnya. Ia juga menegaskan akan terus melakukan kampanye sampai negara Palestina diakui sebagai anggota PBB ke-194.

Surat yang ditujukan untuk Sekjen PBB diserahkan oleh Latifa Abu Hamid, seorang perempuan Palestina berusia 60 tahun dari kamp pengungsi Amari dekat kota Ramallah. Latifa juga seorang ibu dari delapan anak--semuanya anak lelaki--yang pernah mendekam di penjara Israel. Putra kedelapan Latifa, dibunuh oleh tentara Zionis.

"Saya membawa pesan ini untuk PBB, untuk mengatakan bahwa kami berhak memiliki negara sendiri seperti bangsa lainnya di dunia, dan kami berhak untuk mengakhiri penjajahan Israel," ujar Latifa.
Dalam surat itu tertulis agar Ban Ki-moon menegakkan keadilan dan memberikan hak rakyat Palestina. "Pengakuan negara Palestina oleh PBB merupakan langkah penting untuk mengakhiri penjajahan (Israel) dan meraih kemerdekaan rakyat Palestina, serta untuk mewujudkan keadilan dan perdamaian yang komprehensif di kawasan Timur Tengah," demikian isi surat tersebut, yang diterima oleh Kepala Kantor PBB di Ramallah, Pascal Soto. Ia menyatakan akan menyerahkan surat itu pada Ban Ki-moon

Dalam kampanye tersebut, sekira 100 orang yang ikut aksi jalan kaki ke kantor perwakilan PBB, melambai-lambaikan bendera Palestina dan membawa spanduk-spanduk antara lain bertuliskan "Kami menginginkan negara ke-194 Palestina di PBB."

Mereka juga meneriakan slogan-slogan dukungan "Kami menginginkan identitas kami, kami menginginkan sebuah negara", dan menyerukan agar negara-negara Arab memberikan dukungan penuhnya dalam Sidang Umum PBB nanti.

Sementara itu, Presiden Palestina Mahmoud Abbas menggelar pertemuan dengan sejumlah perwakilan dari Komite Sentral Fatah, Komite Eksekutif PLO dan perwakilan dari berbagai faksi politik di Palestina.

Pertemuan membahas secara detil persiapan dalam Sidang Umum PBB pada 20 September mendatang. (aisyah/mn)